Resilience and living abroad with Zach Everton - Terminal Value

Episode 1

#1 Resilience and living abroad with Zach Everton

Doug and Zach worked together at Intel. Zach took a major risk and moved his family to the Ukraine so that his children could learn his wife's native language and see Europe from the perspective of a local.

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Welcome to the terminal value Podcast where each episode provides in depth insight about the long term value of companies and ideas in our current world. Your host for this podcast is Doug Utberg, the founder and principal consultant for Business of Life, LLC.

Doug: Alright, welcome to the terminal value podcast. My name is Doug and I have a guest today His name is Zach Everton. Zach can actually work together for quite a while back at Intel. And Zach has a very unique story. What he did was he actually left a major company in his hometown to go and live in Ukraine with his wife, who of course, is also Ukrainian, and their kids to give them a different life experience. And I brought Zach on because I think he's a really cool guy. And being he's kind of a hero of mine, just because, you know, he took a really, really big risk. And he's just figuring it out. Zach, how are you doing?

Zach: I'm good. 

Doug: Awesome.

Zach: Excited to catch up with you. It feels like we haven't talked in a while, like, I know, like three years.

Doug: Or so half years. Yeah. A little bit of background for all the listeners at home. So Zach and I both worked at Intel. I left Intel about right around 2018. And you Zach left shortly after that. But you know, it's been, you know, at the time of this recording is 2020. You know, the, the, you know, the year of everybody's misery, apparently memorable year in all of human history, probably. But yeah, it's been a couple years since Zach, and I've caught up, we reconnected on LinkedIn. And yeah, I'm just really interested in hearing Zach's perspective, just because the way that he has made his decisions is so different from the way that a lot of us do. You know, a lot of us are like, okay, you know, you need to get promoted, you need to make more money, you need to move to a bigger house, you need to get bigger cars, you know, you don't get more debt. And you and Zach actually made a very significant life change for the benefit of his kids so that his kids could learn about his wife's culture. That's just one of the things I've always really admired about Zach. So Zach, you just tell us a little bit about that. And you're a part of what I'm trying to do for all the viewers and listeners is to give them a perspective into some different ways of thinking just because of corporates kind of all tend to sound alike after a little while. And it's like, there's a lot of people and companies that are actually, you know, kind of regular normal salt of the earth kind of people. And I'm just really intrigued by people that think different from, you know, what, you know, what you see out of the 10ks and 10qs?

Zach: Yeah, well I get a, it's hard to know where to start with all of it. But basically, you know, the choice that we made in 2018, to, to move to Ukraine, that was a meeting of two very strong forces. One of them was my wife being very tied to her Ukrainian culture, and wanting her children to be exposed to that and to feel like they were tied to it as well. 

Doug: Yeah. 

Zach: And the other force was me feeling like I had taken every safe option in my life. And like, I had never tried to risk something that meant anything. You know, I've often said throughout my life, that like, I don't value things I value experience. And you know, if you think about education, pre, you know, industrial revolution.

Doug: Yeah. 

Zach: One of the most like, important things was that you traveled the world and that you saw their cultures and experienced other places. But I had never taken my kids. We did a road trip across the United States, which was pretty cool. But I never really, I really needed to put my money where my mouth was on some of that stuff. It's like, am I actually valuing experience over stuff because I just kind of pull in this paycheck and we're growing equity in our house, and we're, you know, we've got two cars, and we've got a 401k and everything's growing just the way that it's supposed to I'm meeting. I've met that scripted. 

Doug: Yeah exactly.

Zach: This is how you, you build a build wealth so that you can retire someday. 

Doug: I'm in chapter five of the typical American Life. Alright. I'm on track for my completely average 65 retirement.

Zach: So I was, I was feeling a little stagnant and bring in my wife in around 2016 2017, we decided it was time to, like, make ,make a big change. And we started making preparations for going to Ukraine.

Doug: Awesome.

Zach: And we thought it was gonna be so easy like, Oh, just apply for jobs over there. And they'd be like, oh, an American wants to work in Ukraine. Here's all my money. It didn't really go that way. I mean, I applied for so many jobs and just never heard from anybody. And we kept on having to, we kept on reaching these points in our progress towards our goal to move to Ukraine was like, okay, so I don't have a job. And we don't really know where we're gonna live. We still gonna do this? 

Doug: What's the worst that could happen?

Zach: And it took like, some major, major, I mean, the best, the only word I can think of for it is faith.

Doug: Yeah.

Zach: That everything would work out.

Doug: Well, actually, Oh, go ahead.

Zach: No, I just, we, I don't even know where I was headed.

Doug: I remember when, when we were talking on LinkedIn, you'd mentioned that are going through COVID. In, in Ukraine, which, you know, by your by international arithmetic is considered a poor country. You know, but by you, you figure that, you know, since you know, if you have, you know, if your earnings are lower, but your cost of living is lower, you probably not quite as poor, as you might think. 

Zach: No.

Doug: You mentioned that was actually a very unique experience. I'd love to get your perspective on that.

Zach: Well, so, so average income in Ukraine is $600 a month. And that is that is not a lot.

Doug: It feels low. I'm Americanized.

Zach: So the idea is, is around 25 to one here, and most apartments are going to go for about 2500 revenue. So you're spending just for your rent, like, one 1/6 of your your income, which isn't bad. But and the food here is, is super cheap, but anything else very expensive than any electronics, any clothing, everything is just as expensive it is in the United States is kind of crazy to me.

Doug: Well, so in that case, you'd have to try to figure out if there's some way to get a semi legal smuggling operation going of .

Zach: Oh, there's so much smuggling. We've crossed the border several times and noticed all the smuggling. But the they the one of the things about the culture that I actually appreciate is because they things cost so much here, they they got are actually able to get a lot more out of things. I've had, like, I had this pair of jeans that I moved here with that I keep I keep ripping holes in the crotch just sort of something I do to pants. I don't know how it works. But to get them fixed is very cheap. 

Doug: Yeah.

Zach: Really good job reinforcing that and putting it all back together. And they're like, yeah, we can keep these things rolling for another year.

Doug: Well, that is one of the things is, you know, in the US, there's a very disposable culture, you know, be like, Oh, yeah, I bought something on Amazon was five bucks. Oh, you know, it's, I have to fix it up. I don't have time for that. Just go buy another one.

Zach: There's, there's like a blending of culture is happening right now here. Whereas the, you know, there so we live in the L'viv is it's sort of the cultural center. It's not the capital of Ukraine, but it's the most kind of European. It's very, I mean, it's so crazy, the amount of influences here from Poland and Austria, Austria, Hungarian times, German influences, as well as all of the Russian stuff. But the there's a lot of, you know, America envy here and, and you can tell they're bringing in a lot of you know, Coca Cola, and just all of the disposable things that sort of are everywhere in our life in the United States. But then you have that kind of going on in there. They're like convenience stores. But then you have these bazaars, they're there. They're like farmer's market style. Markets, just scattered throughout town, where the local villagers will come in and bring their fresh produce. And they'll also like just lay out like random shoes they have for sale.

Doug: That’s awesome.

Zach: Or, or they're they have services that they do there. And it's like the Maintenance of that sort of older like we're making do with what we have.

Doug: Yeah.

Zach: Culture and mean that you will not find a scrappier bunch of people than then Ukrainians trying to figure out how to do what they want to do. Like, it's, they are just very creative. And very what's the word? Like? motivated or scrappy just, that's the only word I can think of.

Doug: I gotcha. No that's, that. That's awesome. That's awesome. Now I totally how it was like gone, kind of through the whole COVID experience. Because remember, yeah, you were just talking about kind of the scrappy culture that had to be really unique.

Zach: Yeah, I mean, so as far as scrappiness goes, I don't. So we closed down right around the same time.

Doug: Yeah.

Zach: They did in Oregon, actually. The like, around the, I think we only closed down maybe three days earlier.

Doug: Okay.

Zach: Like 12 or something of March. And actually, quarantines are pretty common here. If there's ever a class, like in the school, in the public school, my kids are actually going to public school here. If there's a class that has like more than, I think, four or five students that are sick.

Doug: Yeah.

Zach: Then they just, they just shut down the class, nobody comes to school for three days. It's just very

Doug: Wow.

Zach: It's, it happened, I think, three times before the COVID thing happened. So quarantine came and they're like, oh, we're gonna shut down the school for two weeks. And it was like, Oh, you know, it's another quarantine, it's a little longer than usual. And then it and then it started to sit settled in towards the end of March, like, Oh, this is not normal. And the ability to switch to an all online program in such a poor area, like the some of the teachers didn't even have a computer at home, let alone Wi Fi. So for them to be able to try and manage teaching students from their house, and putting together all online lesson plans on the fly. It just, it was a real, it was a real struggle.

Doug: Sounds like it like it.

Zach: And then going through the summer. There was not a lot of information. You know, there the mean, it feels like what I'm hearing out of US really, and maybe it's just an example of how none of us really know what's going on, at any given given time, in any given place. But, you know, we kept on waiting all summer for there to be some sort of announcement of like, Okay, well, this is how public school is going to work. In September, we're going to have these specific measures in place. And if you want to do school, from home, you can do school from home, but if you need to come to school, then these this is how this is gonna work. They there was like radio silence the till, like August 31st, which is literally the day before school started. And we were kind of left in this place. It's like we either send our kids to school, and it turned out they didn't have an online option. It just it failed so badly that our kids are we had to put him back in school, and we're just telling them to wear their masks and use their hand sanitizer as much as possible. It's a little freaky, honestly. But the numbers are not exponential here. As much as as COVID can be kind of a scary thing. It's, it's nowhere near any of the like New York's or.

Doug: Yeah.

Zach: Italy's or whatever. So we're just kind of going through it like anybody else. Yeah. 

Doug: Well, I have to say, I'm impressed by your resilience, and I'm kind of motivated. I feel like I feel like maybe if I need to figure out a way to step out, step out on the edge a little more, although I know, you might recommend differently.

Zach: Well, I'm not. I definitely. So I just, I had spent so much time idolizing like these stories. I listened to like a Rick Steve's podcast at some point. 

Doug: Yeah. 

Zach: Where they interviewed a family with school teachers. That took a year off. 

Doug: Yeah. 

Zach: And like, went to Italy and taught their kids about Julius Caesar and, you know, went to Turkey and taught their kids about Alexander the Great The Great or whatever.

Doug: Yeah. That’s amazing.

Zach: And you I was like, That just sounds so cool. And that is actually one of the big things that I feel like we've been able to do here is it's been a springboard for us to be able just travel places I had no idea I would ever go to, you know, we went to Slovenia.

Doug: That's amazing .

Zach: On road on a road trip to this Lake Bled with my kids. There's like, it's a lake up in the mountains. And there's on the lake, there's an island with a monastery on it.

Doug: Wow.

Zach: And it's like one of the most beautiful places in the world. And to be able to have brought my, my 11, 9 and 7 year old kids there and go out on a rowboat on that, that lake. And it's just you feel like you're winning at parenting. When you are providing that instead of, you know, another weekend playing video games.

Doug: Now, I'll definitely give you that year that is notch, one in the wind column for the parenting.

Zach: It's I mean it all but I guess the other thing is it definitely has its struggles and.

Doug: What you mean, it's not all just rainbows and unicorns.

Zach: Particularly that time when I was not sure when I was gonna have a job. 

Doug: I could see that. 

Zach: I got super antsy, there were, there were days where like, we were kind of, I was not yet comfortable enough to leave the house and try and like converse with people to like go shopping or whatever. And so we're just kind of staying inside a lot. And the house isn't really set up for the kids yet, we needed to go buy a bed for one of my daughters. And I just remember one day just being like,Oh, just, I need to fix this. I started like moving furniture from room to room, like not even sure what but I was like, I just don't feel like I have anything under control. And so moving furniture was like the only thing I could do to to feel like I had it all figured out. But But eventually.

Doug: Awesome.

Zach: You know, I had to put in the effort in my career to have a reasonable enough resume where I was a good candidate for, for a job and you sort of have to trust that your, your experience is going to be valuable somewhere.

Doug: Yeah.

Zach: And that that ended up working out for me. So I certainly feel like my my privilege paid off.

Doug: Outstanding. Alright, well ,well hey, Zach, let's, let's wrap it up for the folks but give us give us the last nugget of wisdom to to motivate us all to push our thresholds.

Zach: Last nugget of wisdom. If there was any wisdom in any of these words that I said. I just I, I am the most risk averse person. I really, really, really am. And one of the things that I did when when moving here, I insisted that we can't we pack our camping gear, because I wasn't sure if there would be a time we wouldn't have a place to sleep. And so we brought all of our camping gear with us. And in the end, that was a really silly, silly thing to like be worried about. Because the when you take the time to put like your concerted effort, particularly when there's, you know, a whole family of people moving towards a goal. You can really trust that. Like all of your, your plans. As long as there's that consistent, like effort and push and drive and like desire to make it work. It works out It really does.

Doug: Yeah.

Zach: Like it may not be I'm not like I'm not saving a bunch of money or anything. I'm not building a nest egg. In fact, we saved some money before we came and we've used that on our travel and it's been great. But and we'll see how the transition back to United States goes that's a whole other story. Well, maybe we can do another podcast.

Doug: Yeah exactly. We make it a series, we're gonna keep up on it..

Zach: But man I I'm, I'm just so, I'm just so proud of what, what we've been able to do. It's, it's been my wife and I look at each other all the time. I'm like, I can't believe we did this. I'm so glad that we did. 

Doug: Yeah, no, I must say I'm impressed. I'm impressed. I'm like, well, let's see. Maybe I can wonder if there's some kind of plot I can hatch.

Zach: It's, yeah, I'd certainly encourage you to, to hatch plots. Maybe not this specific one. What's the one the one that like, gets your juices going? You know.

Doug: Gotcha.

Zach: Is something that you've been thinking about for 15 years, like we were do it. 

Doug: Outstanding. Well, hey, I really appreciate your time, Zach and I'm sure that everybody listening to this will appreciate you also.

Zach: Yeah, no problem.


Doug: So following up after that conversation with Zach, there's a couple of things that really stuck with me. Number one is just the resilience and the...

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