Hey Young and Shining reader, my name is Vincent Nguyen and I’m the author of Self Stairway, a personal development blog based off of my life experiences that tie into practical life advice. I’m running the blog while attending college full-time, working as an intern for 3 companies, and as a freelancer.
I realized that I had a mask on so I began stripping away that mask. Once it was off I realized I was great with providing a perspective that most people never have heard before and perhaps never will.
What about your move to Arizona from Southern California?
This is actually a rather difficult question to answer and it’s something I’m asked very often. “Arizona? I would never move from California to Arizona!” I hear variations of that phrase from people in both California and Arizona almost immediately after they learn I moved. It’s pretty funny because I don’t have a real answer for why I moved.
I had planned to move there since my first year of high school. The initial reasoning was because of family. My parents were separated since I was a kid and I never lived with either. Instead, I lived with my grandparents. Around 7 years ago my dad’s side of the family moved over to Arizona.
Although I now live with my dad and his family, I cannot be sure that I wanted to move to be with them. Truthfully, I just love change and testing my adaptability. What better way than to toss myself into a completely different environment?
It all paid off since all the opportunities that are opening up now were found in Arizona.
What/who inspired you to start Self Stairway and how did you decide about the name?
My main inspiration when I first began reading self-improvement was James Altucher. His storytelling that eventually ties into a life lesson was personal enough for readers to connect with him which is something I really try to draw from. His brutal honesty surprised me and influenced a lot of how I write as well. Some of my readers tell me that they appreciate my bluntness in my writing. I can’t say I would have been able to pull that off without being influenced by James first.
Another huge impact was from an article by Mr. Money Mustache on Stoicism. The philosophy became a big part of what was my most defining year. Both James and Stoicism went into inspiring me to begin writing to help others.
As for the name,I had sat down and opened a new Evernote, titling the list “Names.” Then I began brainstorming and just typed almost like a stream of consciousness for whatever had come to mind first. Self Stairway ended up sticking out the most by the end of my trialsof cutting and editing variations.
When did you start it and how has been the journey so far – growth, any setbacks and how you coped with them?
I started Self Stairway on January 23, 2013. Growth has been absolutely amazing and I saw nearly immediate results. It’s led to my three internships and freelance work, not to mention the fact that it’s led to some very interesting connections. I can’t specify any setbacks but I’d imagine that any would force me to power through with self-motivation.
It’s never enough to have others tell you something like “you can do it” while you’re suffering on a plateau. You have to push through yourself and having others cheer you on can only help so much. At some point, you’re going to have to realize that any minor hiccups have to be dealt with by you and you alone.
Which bloggers inspire you? Who are the people in other walks of life and what do you like about them?
James Altucher, Jeff Goins, Mark Manson, Jonathan Mead, and Jon Morrow are my biggest influences. James, Mark, and Jonathan Mead give interesting views into how life works and how other people think. Jeff and Jon Morrow are both excellent writers who have taught me to hone my writing.
As for people in my own life, I’d have to mention that one of my closest friends from California is the most influential person in my life. He has an entrepreneurial mindset, a philosophical mind, and a nonjudgmental attitude.
As a college student – how you do manage to be consistent with your writing at Self Stairway?
I use a method that Jerry Seinfeld had mentioned to an aspiring comedian. Jerry told him that he makes sure he writes a joke every day by buying a giant calendar with the entire year on one page. Each day that he wrote he’d get a big red X over the day. Days where he fails to write would mean he doesn’t get an X.
The goal for the calendar was to create the longest chain you can and you start to like seeing these chains. It’d feel weird to see a hole between the chain so you’d try your best to do it on a daily basis. I did this for a couple months and eventually it became a routine where I didn’t need it anymore. I’d just reflect on the day and ask myself if I had written yet. If not, I’d sit down and begin writing.
Do you follow a writing ritual?
I don’t have an actual ritual for writing. Most days are pretty different even down to the location where I’m writing from. I get tired of doing the same things over and over so I switch things up.
How did you get your first paid gig? Did you do some preparation or planning – or you got lucky and it just came by?
My first paid gig was actually unrelated to what I was aiming for. It was one of my internships when I first started out on this whole adventure of mine. I approached a CrossFit gym near my house because I knew they were looking for a paid intern. One of the qualifications was for you to be a graphic designer, something that I had no experience in. There was another part to it that was a bitmore related but I forgot what it was.
Anyway, I was really stretching it because the roles they were looking for were not things I did. They were so impressed with my presentation and what I told them I could do that they offered me a job there anyway. I basically was a copyeditor for them with a mix of random coding and other computer-related assignments.
My first job for them was to fetch a HTML code for a rotating ad. It was random and outside of my job description that they had assigned me, but hey.
As a writer, what is the best advice you have ever been given?
Always rewrite and edit. Hemingway says, “The first draft is always shit.” If Hemingway can’t create perfect on the first try then neither can we.
Your writing is completely different and much better each and every time you edit. I used to churn out articles in under an hour and ship them out. Looking back, they are much lower quality than my writing today. Of course a lot of time had passed so I had improved as a writer but every time I edit I think to myself, “Wow, my piece was terrible before I went and rewrote things. Now it’s PERFECT!” Then I rewrite and cut things again. The same thought runs through my mind over and over.
Some pieces take hours and hours now. Always be rewriting.
What are 5 items you never leave home without?
I never leave the house without my phone, wallet, keys, chapstick, and my boyish charm.
3 facts about your life – that not many people know about? More points for a funny fact?
Interestingly enough, my website is the biggest thing in my life that not many people know about. Only a few of my close friends and one relative of mine know. I don’t ever bring it up and when people ask me what I’m up to I’m usually rather vague. Of course, that also means all of my other ventures aside from the actual website itself goes unknown too.
The second thing is that I used to be very closed off even with my closest friends. I wasn’t ever one to share any of my experiences, thoughts, or much of anything throughout most of high school. What little I shared would be cryptic and vague. In some ways, I’m still a bit like that but you wouldn’t think so from reading my writing. Nowadays I’m a lot more open with my friends.
Third would be the fact that I’m not much of an innocent guy. People tell me I look very innocent and all that but I don’t know, I really don’t think I am. Most of my friends would disagree too if you came up and said I was! One of my first suggestions for a college club event was opening a kissing booth that I would run and maintain. I later became the president and co-founder of a branch off for that club.
What is your typical day like – weekday/weekends?
This is actually very difficult to answer because most of my days are pretty different. I’ve definitely got some routines that I run on a daily basis so I’ll go over that a bit.
I usually check my emails and respond to what I can when I wake up. I mark messages as unread so I can use them as a reminder for what I need to do. Then I go onto Feedly, my RSS reader, and check out what’s new. Usually this is accompanied by me commenting on articles I find really thought-provoking. The usual social media comes after this.
Of course, I try to get writing done each day but I do this at any time during the day or night so there’s no set structure. I used to have much more of a structured morning ritual but I’ve really lost most of it.
If there is one thing that you learned since you started blogging that you wish you knew when you first started out – what would that be? And can you talk a little about some mistakes you might have made as a blogger so that others don’t make the same mistakes?
Like I said in #9, I made the mistake of writing without editing obsessively. The actual writing process is the easiest but it’s also where you’re at your worst. If you don’t rewrite and edit over and over your piece is nowhere near complete. I thought I was this amazing writer who could complete things in under one hour but upon reflection, I think my earlier stuff was far from good. I still feel that way about a lot of my work until I rewrite over and over.
I might have made the mistake of being too formal earlier on as well. One of my fans emailed me and told me she loved my writing but felt it was too neat, almost as if I was writing it for an English professor. I know what she means now and formal writing just isn’t fun to read. Erase all the things you learned about structure from your mind in school. Remember proper grammar, spelling, and all that good stuff, but know when it’s appropriate to go outside of the traditional methods of writing.
If you’re not writing a novel, you don’t have to be perfect and formal. Go crazy, write with your voice like you speak aloud, and give yourself some personality. It’s what makes you attractive.
What’s your end game? What is your life goal – as you see it now?
I’m very clueless about what I want my end game to look like. I’ve got too much energy and passion to settle down for anything permanent. The closest I can get is talking about the lifestyle I want.
I’ve got too much of a taste of freedom. I work from a collaborative workspace when I want, I get paid pretty well for work that doesn’t cost me too much time, and I’m doing interesting things. I can’t ever imagine settling for anywhere close to minimum wage for pay nor can I be in a cubicle.
With that said, my ideal lifestyle would be a flexible one where I can work from wherever I want and travel when I want. Enough money to be comfortable but I don’t need to be a millionaire.
Really, I want spontaneity so I guess I can say my life goal is maintaining the viability of this all.
Your message to Y & S community?
The time you spend fantasizing about what your life could be like should go into working towards making it happen. You hear this all the time but I can’t stress how easy it is to make some sort of difference in your life. I had the idea to begin Self Stairway since 2011. I knew it’d be great and that it would lead to opportunities, but I procrastinated and made up excuses. It took me almost 2 years to go for it. Eventually I decided to jump right in and give it my all.
I didn’t know any of what I know today until I got started and began teaching myself these things. I played it all by ear and fine-tuned as I went along. There’s no excuse, no “I don’t know how.”
Unless you’re living paycheck by paycheck with work hours from 6am to 11pm so you’d have absolutely no time to do something on the side, you have no excuse.
I try to encourage people to do interesting things and I hear all sorts of excuses. It’s near impossible to convince someone who believes so strongly against themselves. Believe me when I say I have yet to hear a single legitimate excuse. They’re always waiting to finish something first and “do it later.” I used to be like that too and I know it’s hard, but damn it, get up and do something about what you want.
Where can Young and Shining readers and community members STALK you?