In this episode, Tarmo Virki talks with Danny Flood, the founder of School of Growth Hacking, a platform that teaches entrepreneurs how to grow their businesses faster and smarter.
Danny is also the author of several books on entrepreneurship, marketing, and productivity, such as Hack Sleep, Hack Email, and Buy Your Own Island.
Tarmo and Danny discuss the following topics:
• How to apply AI for growth hacking principles to your personal and professional life
• How to hack your sleep, improve your health, and boost your productivity
• How a Yoga retreat in Nepal could boost your business
• How to use AI to hack climate change and create a more sustainable future
If you are interested in learning more about AI for growth hacking, or if you want to discover some practical tips and tricks to use AI to grow your business faster and smarter, then you don't want to miss this episode.
For School of Growth Hacking use code naturebacked23 for 15% discount on any product or course on their site.
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Tarmo Virki 0:07
Welcome to Naturebacked podcast where we are talking with entrepreneurs and investors about the green future. Today, my guest is an author and digital nomad, Danny Flood. Danny, tell us in a few words, what is the digital nomad? How did you end up living on the road?
Danny Flood 0:26
Yeah, sure. So first of all, thank you for asking. I started as a nomad about 15 years ago, around 2008, probably last year of university. And like many others, I read the book, The Four Hour Workweek, around that time, I kind of had like an existence and existential crisis where after university had to face the prospect of 40 years in a cubicle, which wasn't very attractive to me. So I set out to forge my own path. And I'm from San Diego, California, which is very nice place. But I started taking trips south of the border to Mexico a sort of living in other culture where I didn't really speak the language, I picked up Spanish pretty quickly. But I learned for the first time how to take a bath with a bucket of water, you know, for example, and if I wanted to, to have a hot bath, I would heat it up on the stove, and then you know, use a pail to bathe in my head. And so now 15 years later, and my lifestyle hasn't changed very much. I've been around 40 countries or so and five continents. And now I'm in call Pokhara Nepal, and just took a bath in a waterfall about an hour ago. So I'm, um, I guess you wanted? You ask them? How do I get started? Right? Or is that a good introduction? More about the business side of things?
Tarmo Virki 1:58
I mean, also, you're going to start a thing as a new mother in the university. What's What do you do to make a living? I mean, we would all be happy to travel around the world and see beautiful places, but you somehow have to make the have to sustain that lifestyle?
Danny Flood 2:17
Yeah, well, I mean, I learned from a lot of the Greek Stoic philosophers that, you know, if you want to be wealthier part of the equation is reducing the number of things that you want the number of things that you need. So I think a big part of it was becoming a minimalist. And, you know, I have nothing except what fits in a carry on bag and my backpack. So basically, my laptop, my phone, and abundant clothes, if you know, the 8020 rule, I mean, you probably were like four or five pairs of clothes like 90% of the time, at least, you know. So it's been a very, like simple lifestyle, but also fun and profitable, and basically doing what I want. In the early days, I had a car and a surfboard. So I had a little bit more. And so I would drive around and take road trips, like around Mexico, I also traveled across Mexico on a bicycle. And I've traveled a whole bunch of countries on a motorcycle as well. You know, we're just the same kind of luggage, you know, just a single pack and my backpack. I've traveled across Thailand and Vietnam on a motorcycle, for example, I've hitchhiked across India, a lot of adventures like this. And so I think that, you know, when when you want less, you also become wealthier. I think that's, that's part of the equation. I think that in the US. We're kind of taught, we're kind of indoctrinated to be locked into this system of debt and everything where we get like $200,000 of student loans, you know, when we're 20 years old, that we can't afford to pay off and car payments and phone payments. And so I just kind of decided that I wanted to do away with all of that stuff. And that's kind of when I booked my first one way ticket, it was to South America, and I was living in Buenos Aires, and kind of figuring everything out there. I studied tango dancing, and I was doing marketing services. I was doing like freelance marketing for clients back then I had a marketing agency. And I had clients back in the US. And I tried a whole bunch of stuff these last 14 years. So it depends on what time you got. But yeah, I mean, I guess I guess the thing is, I'm the kind of guy that I wake up every morning and I'm just like, I forget about the past. I'm just like, ready to do whatever's I want to do today, you know, so it's like, if I fail at something yesterday, I'm just gonna get up and try something new. today. I just keep tinkering and stuff.
Tarmo Virki 4:45
But these days, what would you say? What's your kind of core? What makes you in addition to you know, seeing new places, what makes you tick professionally?
Danny Flood 4:56
What makes me tick professionally? Yeah. Wow, that's a good question. I think as entrepreneurs and founders, I mean, a lot of us have like kind of ADHD. And kind of we want to do what's interesting to us. And sometimes we start something with a lot of enthusiasm. And then we kind of lose interest after a while. And I'm sort of certainly guilty of that myself, which is why I've really tried hard to create systems in my business. And I really got into growth hacking about several years ago, probably seven, eight years ago. And I've really worked to create lifestyle businesses that I only have to work like a couple hours a day, maybe. And this was no exception. When I started a growth hacking business. I was we had like, 60, Instagram accounts that we were managing for clients. And I was able to automate a lot of the processes and the work. So I'm really passionate about automation and technology and artificial intelligence, I have a course website where I teach a lot of this stuff called the School of growth hacking, where we show everything that we do in our businesses, the growth hacking side of things, we also have courses on viral content, marketing and public relations, as well as artificial intelligence, growth, hacking, and so forth. So I think that technology is really the enabler that allows us to enjoy these lives of these lifestyles that we enjoy him, and you're in Barcelona, I'm here in Nepal, and, you know, this would never have been possible, like 2025 years ago.
Tarmo Virki 6:37
Yeah. And to record a podcast, I mean, it's probably, yeah, I have to agree on you. It's so it would have been impossible when, when I was younger and younger. The the end, you talked about the technology, you're currently writing also a book about AI? How do you see the how do you see the kind of AI changing the world, many people are talking about the end of the world, the machines are taking over? We will be dumb and die, and they will kill us all? What's your take on the kind of AI influence on the humankind?
Danny Flood 7:16
Well, if it's gonna be the end of the world, I probably won't care anyway, because I'll be dead. So, you know, death offers a sort of peace, I guess, as I say, recipes, but I prefer to think of it positively and think about, you know, how we can use AI and technology to create a lifestyle of freedom, and abundance. And I bet anytime that we're approaching something like this from a place of fear, or even like a mild sense of terror, then we're kind of coming from the wrong place. And I really think that I think that what we get from AI is kind of a reflection of what we have, in our own minds, you know, I mean, AI doesn't really have a will of its own, it basically manifest whether or not yet, it basically does whatever you tell it to do. And at this time, I think that it's kind of like the discovery of fire, in a sense, like in terms of how important it is. And we all understand that the implications are, are very large, but we haven't found all the practical applications for it. And so as a growth hacker and someone who's trying to innovate in this space, I mean, that's, that's where I kind of tinker and try to find the the practical applications and so forth. And we teach this to people in our community. And I've always been a person that's very methodical, I like to create systems that are, you know, very, that are proven, and reliable. So that's, that's what I try to teach people like try to teach people how to use the technology in a way that can transform their lives.
Tarmo Virki 8:58
So today, there is still a strong human element, which is kind of, I don't know, protecting us from the machines taking over. Yeah, I mean, you know, in a way, right, but at the same time, of course, you know, for the growth hacking community and the growth hacking world, of course, AI is a great enabler and allow us to cut the costs of the human factor in the processes to almost bare minimum.
Danny Flood 9:31
Yeah, it's a good question. And honestly, like, sometimes I feel like the does AI actually make life easier for people or does it make life harder because now I mean, there's there's so much like aI content that you can create in like five seconds, that it kind of raises the bar of it, you know, in terms of, I've always been the type of person that I want, like, I want like a lifestyle business. I want my business to be like easy I want it to be Fun, I wanted to be profitable. And so there's a sense of like business minimalism there. And anytime when I have to be doing too much, it's kind of like the kiss of death. You know, if I have to be publishing like five articles a day, or something, that's a fantastic recipe for getting burnt out, even if you're using AI. And so when it comes to technology, I have, you know, virtual servers that run on the cloud. I like to set things up that kind of set it and forget it. In a sense.
Tarmo Virki 10:30
The Yeah, AI is something which is, of course, puzzling me. And I'm sure a lot of people who are listening also, and and of course, the the key question related to nature back should be the, you know, how can we use AI to preserve this planet in habitable form? Do you have any good tips?
Danny Flood 10:52
Um, yeah, well, it's a really good question. First of all, I want to say that, you know, I'm here in Nepal for the second time. And I think that, you know, people might say, like, Nepal is a poor country, right. But I think that people here know more about self sustenance than we and developed countries ever would, you know, they, if there was a zombie apocalypse, or if the grid was knocked off or something, they would probably be able to survive a lot longer than those of us in Europe or United States. And cash is basically just an extra bonus for them, basically, any cash they get from tourism. And so there's really a lot to be learned from, you know, embracing a simple lifestyle, a lifestyle close to nature. For me, that's absolutely critical. I suffer if I'm in front of a screen for too long. And fortunately, I am, as part of my work I spend, and I'm trying to spend more time in nature. But I think that in terms of AI, at least for for human development, and human growth, I think that it's kind of helpful when we can have aI kind of like do the difficult tasks for us, and allow us to become more human and to enjoy an abundance of time and a wealth of freedom.
Tarmo Virki 12:15
For the human, for the human chi, there are great potential to have an impact. Thinking about the little bit wider the humans relations to the planet, and the planet we have been destroying, with our Jose global lifestyle of economies or the global global economy, economic growth drives. Is there a way that we could somehow hack the hack the climate?
Danny Flood 12:46
Hack the climate using AI? Yeah. Oh, well, I'm just thinking out loud here, of course. But yeah. Well, I'm certain that's that's a possibility. I don't know if we've gotten there yet. I'm sure you're familiar with Peter Diamandis his work, right.
He's, he's got quite a bit to say about that. And there's certainly been some ideas being floated around out there. I do think that it's a problem that artificial intelligence will be able to help us to solve a I don't think that we're there yet. But I think that amazing things will come by 20 3040. So I choose to be optimistic. But I really also learned from the last almost 15 years now that human beings we don't really need a lot to to be happy and to enjoy our lives. And in places like this, like like Bhutan, and Nepal and northern India, they kind of show us another way, you know, like Bhutan, they don't measure their gross domestic product, for example, they measure the gross happiness, product, I think it is approach. And so, you know, happiness is can come from just embracing a lifestyle of one that's not based on perpetual economic growth. But, you know, here, people live close to nature. You know, you can walk in your swimming in a waterfall, or you can go 60 meters and swim in a lake or whatever. And so people really embrace that lifestyle here.
Tarmo Virki 14:19
Yeah, it's shocking for me that I couldn't reach you on LinkedIn, because you were, you know, in the waterfall at the time. It's the challenges of the 21st century. But it somehow nicely puts a picture on the on the kind of different lifestyles of this world. And also to your comment about the the how these nations will be probably surviving longer in this in the case of apocalypse.
Danny Flood 14:52
Yeah, I mean, for me, it's nature is the antidote, and I tried to make it a point to reconnect with nature everyday especially with the kind work that I do, I kind of feel like it takes a little bit out of me, you know, to be working on the computer and to be coding, you know, for several hours or, you know, working on my website or whatever it happens to be. I do feel like that's, that's not the natural state of things I always try to get outside I, I've published a course called The Sleep hacking masterclass. And I've published a book called Hack sleep. And I learned a lot about the circadian rhythm, for example, and how important it is to be outdoors and to synchronize your body clock and your circadian rhythm, you know, to get sunshine every day. And I think that that's kind of where human beings are meant to be to the outdoors. And I try to do as much of my work outdoors as I can. You know, when I'm writing, for example, I read books and courses, and I'll just go out for a walk at the park or something and I'll transcribe everything on my phone, I don't like being in an office, I don't like being behind a desk. And I think that nature is something that heals us. And it's something that I feel more creative when I'm, you know, walking on the beach or walking in a forest and I feel more alive than then.
Tarmo Virki 16:14
And I think sleep hacking is quite put a challenge for the for our generations and, and, and our our world. My best story about sleep hacking comes from maybe 10 years ago or something like that, when I was running a panel at the Finnish Health Tech, annual event. And the panelists were all asleep specialist, there was a sleep technology guy that was asleep professor and somebody the first person and I started off the panel with a question, how many hours did you guys sleep last night? And the officers were, you know, from five to six hours, I think. So I asked for the technician at the venue to switch off the lights and asked everybody to be quiet and we can solve the problem here together. Unfortunately, they didn't fall asleep and silence for very long, but at least we run the panel in the darkness. So everybody could, you know, put their sleep, visualize their sleep challenges.
Danny Flood 17:16
Yeah, I think it's a product of that monkey mind. And, and it's high cortisol production, you know, we're chronically overstressed all the time. And that's really not how human beings are meant to be, you know, when when we have cortisol being produced in our brain, it's meant to help us to solve a difficult task, like if we're encountered by a wild animal or something to get out of that situation, and you know, like 1520 minutes, and then go back to a normal state. And unfortunately, we're all like chronically overstressed when we're producing cortisol all of the time. And so it's really not natural. It really it takes a toll on people's performance and their ability to get proper relaxation.
Tarmo Virki 17:57
I'm sure your book gives a lot of answers to that. But can you give our listeners a short version of how to get rid of this extra production of cortisol?
Danny Flood 18:09
Okay, well, that's it's kind of a complex topic. And I have to preface that I'm not. But I do have a course called Hack time where I, in conjunction with sleep hacking, I try to help people to perform their best, and to get more done to be 10 times more effective and efficient. And so the book, Birth of the superhuman, which I'm launching soon, is kind of holistic combination of these different kinds of topics help you perform better, to help you be happier, to be more efficient, more effective, and also improve your sleep. And so cortisol, it's known as the stress hormone. And there are a lot of natural ways to counteract cortisol you know, cold exposure, for example, taking an ice bath. That's that's one of the reasons why I go out and swim in the river every day and ice cold water and it really helps to relax us listening to relaxing music, singing songs, dancing, actually, I have a whole list of things you can do to let me see if I can pull it up here. Give me a second.
Tarmo Virki 19:20
We can add it to that we can also add it to the show notes. So when the episode is published, if you if you have published I've got
Danny Flood 19:27
a whole list actually. It's for like leaders to perform their best. Okay, so it's a it's a blog post that are 14 strategies for leaders to cope in high stress situations. And all of these are designed to to help you to reduce cortisol to perform better to relax. So there's a number of things like personal practices that I try to do every single day. I think that as an entrepreneur It's a very stressful environment that we're constantly exposing ourselves to, you know, like high risk, high stress, high pressure. And so these are like a set of personal practices that I've tried to do every day because as an entrepreneur, like I'm used to waking up and then you know, getting the an email that I don't want to get or, or having something being rejected or having a customer cancel their contract or failing at something or the website is broken, you know, constant, like bullets flying past your head. And so the first thing is I try to get a lot of sunlight throughout the day, like as soon as I wake up, sunlight produces serotonin. And I try to get less sunlight during middle of the day, because that's when the sunlight is at the strongest. I also try to get some kind of movement every day some kind of exercise, our bodies are built to move, and our bodies and brains balance themselves through movements. And it also helps to release a lot of store tension. Third, I mentioned you know, spend time close to nature, appreciating the natural abundance. Fourth is breathing exercises. So breathing exercises help you to stimulate your vagus nerve. Sometimes I will do some squatting, actually, because that forces me to breathe into my gut and not through my shoulders, and chest, to kind of purify my gut and detoxify, I'll take long, deep breaths, holding for 20 seconds and slowly exhaling. Every day, I'll do fasting, for example. And fasting really helps me to stay focused. So I probably usually don't eat until like one or two in the afternoon. And that helps me to be a lot more focus in the mornings when I'm working. Six, listening to the sound of birds singing helps to reduce stress. And you can even do this on YouTube, even if you're not in the countryside. Seven is walking barefoot in nature, you go to the field where you can walk on some grass, or if you're near the ocean, you can walk in the sand. Eighth is trying to limit or reduce exposure to whatever it is that's bringing you down. So if you're having a crisis, with your website, trying to focus on something else that you could do productively. I speak from experience with that one. And often we find ourselves in this loop where we get a trigger and sets an impulse that can content constantly gets us down every time. So we have to reduce our exposure to the trigger. Nine like disconnect, you know, reduce the time you spend on social media, I think that's pretty obvious. I do that often on the weekends. 10 is self love. So you know, tell yourself that you love and accept yourself even as imperfect as you are. And maybe you know, write down positive things about yourself that you can remind yourself about. And 11 You know, write down, I'm enough somewhere where you can see it. And remind yourself of that often. And remind yourself as a privilege and a joy to serve other people with your work. For example. 12 says, listen to your favorite songs to sing to you or to dance to or to both 13 Listening to guided meditations. So I noticed that when I play like guided meditations on YouTube from like Paul McKenna, or Marissa Pierre or identity motivation. In the mornings, I'll listen to that for about 3045 minutes, I always have better days have more productive days when I listen to those in the morning. And there's a lot of free guided meditations on YouTube. And then 14 Have a good conversation with a friend or like minded positive person. I noticed that when I spend time around people I like to like me, it gives me this new sense of energy. And I feel motivated again. So there's there's a whole list and it was a long answer.
Tarmo Virki 23:50
No worries at all. And go all those points about the meditation and the breathing and the exercises. I mean, you are starting a yoga retreat now. Right?
Danny Flood 24:03
Yeah, so here's the thing. I'm about to start three week yoga retreat next week, and I'll be doing yoga from 7am to 7pm for three weeks, six days a week here in Nepal. And the reason I had an idea for this was because I started hosting retreats for entrepreneurs. And we've hosted to increase in the last year. And so I'm planning to host more of these retreats kind of where people can come like remote workers and entrepreneurs and just kind of work and disconnect in a beautiful location in the Mediterranean. And so I want to offer more more programs and services to people who come to these retreats. So I kind of got this idea to become to get yoga training certification as well so to offer to our guests.
Tarmo Virki 24:55
Impressive, impressive dedication
Danny Flood 25:00
So yeah, I mean, I kind of want to teach people like this more simplified lifestyle, you know, where they I knew I never wanted to be a part of the rat race. And so I want to help more people to get out of it as well.
Tarmo Virki 25:13
Yeah, I can totally agree with that. The challenge for us is, of course, that we cannot publish the episode during the free weeks, because you cannot share it to social media while doing yoga.
Danny Flood 25:24
I can share it, I will be free from 7pm. Afterwards,
Tarmo Virki 25:29
you just stay stay away from the social media, right. But all the lessons you just said. But anyway, from the readers perspective, we will add the link to that list of the if they forgot something about how to how to sleep better, we will add the list to the show notes, we will add the list to your kind of upcoming book when it's when it's published. And in addition to yoga retreat, what are the next challenges on your? I mean, you probably wouldn't like to call them challenges, but the next great things which you're looking forward during the next half a year or a year?
Danny Flood 26:07
Um, well, that's a good question, we plan on hosting more of these retreats. And I kind of want to introduce people to you know, this new way of lifestyle life and, you know, kind of help them to simplify their lives. Like we have these retreats in messinia and in the Peloponnese, in Greece, and we have this big house. Next year, we'll have two houses with 11 bedrooms. And people can come there for a month or even two months and just work in a beautiful location, we have like a big balcony with a hammock and couches and a desk with like 12 chairs. So it's a perfect place for people to just kind of common and disconnect and live close to the sea. And we got the mountains all around. And you know, you can work as much or as little as you want. So I do want to host more of these retreats. And I also have my site, School of growth hacking.com We've been featured on App Sumo. So I want to grow that as well and grow our community, we have about 2000 students now continue to serve that community. We also have a number of webinars that we do every month on topics like artificial intelligence and how you can use artificial intelligence to become more productive. And then I also have this book launch. So I one of my goals was always to have a, I probably have about 10 books that have self published myself, but I wanted to have a traditional publisher for one of my books. So that's the goal with this next one, the birth of the superhuman. And it's just basically helping people to unlock a new level of performance and to create that freedom through this holistic system that I've developed that blends like proven practices, technologies, AI and systems to unlock greater levels of creativity and productivity and potential.
Tarmo Virki 27:59
Danny, if a digital nomad, do you actually have a home? Oh,
Danny Flood 28:04
that's a good question. Um, well, I believe that home is wherever you make it. And I think that anywhere it can be home. I think that home is a place that that feels familiar to you, it feels a place that feels comfortable. And when I travel, I go to new places. And there's all this novelty and it feels like life speeds up. It's so exciting. But it also strips away your comfort zone. And so I think that to where you feel like you can just relax, you can kind of lower the armor. You feel like you're in a comfort space for the people that you love around you. And so anytime that you have those ingredients, I think that you have a good home.
Tarmo Virki 28:49
Do you think the physic do the digital nomads often have a physical home? Like I don't know, the house, apartment, whatever, where they keep most of their belongings or to people you meet on your own your travels, actually, you know, live in the backpack?
Danny Flood 29:14
Well, that's a good question. I know that a lot of I personally, I have some things that my mom's house that I left there several years ago like a surfboard and a bicycle. But I think it's kind of like layers of an onion, you know, the more that you travel and maybe you shed should you shed things that are not important to you anymore. And so you kind of arrive at a place where you're at your core, and you understand what your values are and what's what really matters to you. And I think that especially in 2023 with all the technology and social media, like we're constantly inundated, you know, we're constantly having our attention stripped away from us. We're focusing on things that are 1000s of miles away. And I think that leads to a lot of that stress that you mentioned, and a lot of unhappiness, a lack of focus and kind of a lethargy where If we don't really feel like we have a purpose and often think that traveling, booking a one way ticket somewhere, you know where you're kind of like reborn as a baby and you have to figure everything out all over again. You can really try to connect and understand what's really important to you.
Tarmo Virki 30:17
stuff. Thanks, Danny for this discussion and you know, enjoy the yoga retreat. That sounds amazing. I'm sure many of our listeners will be also googling how to find that few week yoga retreats in faraway locations.
Danny Flood 30:33
Yeah, I would like to encourage more people to come to Nepal as well. It's a lovely country. It's raining quite hard today. But normally, it's it's really beautiful. I came here about three or four years ago, and totally fell in love with the country. I was like, well, I need to stay here longer. Most people come here to do like trekking like they want to go to Everest base camp, or Annapurna. So they'll come for like seven days or 10 days, but I would really encourage people to stay longer. And this place really kind of goes on you. You can kind of absorb the local culture and lifestyle. And it's also very inexpensive here. It's a great place to remote work, but there's not really a lot of remote workers here. So you know, it's quite easy to live on, you know, 500 $600 a month here, because it's so inexpensive.
Tarmo Virki 31:19
From the climate perspective. Of course, if you have to fly to Nepal to do a one week climbing exercise, it makes absolutely no sense. Go for longer.
Danny Flood 31:29
Yeah, I agree.
Tarmo Virki 31:31
Good. Thanks, Danny.
Danny Flood 31:33
All right. Thanks for having me. Bye bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai