Aug 17

Business Owners – How To Keep Healthy When Overwhelmingly Busy

I think all business owners will face this at one point or another. The demands of clients, staff, getting the job done, family at home, it all adds up leaving you with basically no time for yourself; for physical, mental and emotional health; sometimes even for sleep. Been there done that (and didn’t enjoy it at all).

Over my years in business I’ve found a formula that works for me, keeping my baseline of physical, mental and emotional health going. In the video I put together below (as an Instagram Story) I share my process for this. I hope you enjoy it. And feel free to share any of your own tips in the comments section on YouTube.

Video Transcription for the readers:

Business Owner Health – Keeping Strong When Busy

I think one of the things that we all face as business owners are those times when business can sometimes take over our lives a bit. And one of the keys to long-term successful business I think is make sure we keep fit and healthy during these periods. So today, I’m going to share with you my tips for keeping fit and healthy as a business owner during those periods where business encroaches on our personal lives. Is obviously this is not only key to happiness and health but also to business performance and creativity.

I think a really good place to start is, what I do is I look at my routine, my daily routine and I just see if there are subtle changes I can make to my routine that don’t impact my routine that can promote my health, and a great place for me to start is how I get to work. So today, for example instead of driving to work I’m going to ride and no, I’m not gonna wear lycra.  Now for most of us this may take a bit of planning. For me, obviously I have client appointments and things like that I need my car for… so I just got to look it up on my calendar and make sure that I acknowledge the days where I don’t need to go do stuff and pick those days to ride.

So, I think the next idea that you can consider as a business owner… is to find an activity of some kind that you love, And maybe go back to the things that you used to do as a kid and used to love doing as a kid to find some inspiration for that. But something that you really love. Because I think that one of the issues with this, you know the idea of going to the gym or running or working-out and exercise, is that it’s still work. You know, unless you have a real, real passion for it, it’s still work.

So I think what actually happens to us as business owners is when things get a bit overwhelming at work, you know, we need a mental break. So what we do is in the rest of our life, is we drop other things that are mentally work for us. So if exercise or going to the gym is actually work for us, as in “the workout”, you know that’s going to be something that we’re going to look to drop when work itself is overwhelming.

So you need to find something that you enjoy so much that when business starts to overwhelm you it gives you that mental break, it doesn’t contribute to your overwhelm, it relieves it. And for me it’s the ocean. Now I’m getting the ocean almost every day.

I’ve always got a pair of boardshorts in my car and this is just because sometimes I’m driving past and it calls, like I need to jump in. And when I’ve got a pair of boardshorts in the car I can. And I do lots of it, I do surfing, surf-lifesaving, ocean kayaking, freediving… I just love it all you know. If I’ve only got 20 minutes, I’ll just go for a swim. But the point is when I come out I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been a mental break for me.

So find something you love and from there, use your lunch breaks, use every single lunch break get out and hopefully do something that you’re loving. But just use it to get a bit of activity, get the blood moving. And you’ll come back, you come back to work a lot more creative, a lot more problem solving at work.

All right, the next one is super, super simple, In the course of your day-to-day just stop aggressively avoiding walking. It’s amazing how, the extent we go to, to avoid walking. Actually one of the things that I find really, really amusing is shopping centers. You know how we all hustle, hustle, hustle to get the car so close to that front door so we don’t have to walk a single step further between our car and the front door… and then we go through that front door, and proceed to walk for the next three or four hours. It’s pretty funny.

But anyway, one of the things that I I try to do is I try to deliberately and consciously in my day-to-day, park far further away than I have to from the front door of where I’m going. So it just makes me walk a bit further. It doesn’t impact my day or my appointments or anything at all. All it does is mean, it means that my body’s moving and constantly through the day and it just keeps that activity going and it’s a great way just to keep that that basic level of fitness.

Oct 16

Failure to Learnings, Learnings to Success, A Practice

This is probably only consciously, but recently one of the things I have been hearing a lot of are messages around the idea there is no failure, only winning or lessons to learn. Fail your way to success. Fail faster so you move quicker to succeeding etc etc etc. Its all perception, just change the way you look at failure, so you embrace it rather than fear it. I thought I’d write this post in reflection of this, a practical guide to failing your way to success, as I don’t think its that simple.

To start with, failure hurts. There is that ego thing there. Something we committed to, or were invested in isn’t working, we need to let it go both emotionally and also let go of any other investment we’ve put in. This is often difficult. The other challenge with embracing failure is that it costs. There is always a time cost involved with failure, more often than not there are other cost too. Money, love, relationship, confidence, reputation etc etc etc. This all makes failure hard to admit, hard to accept and hard to move on from.

That being said, if done well failure can provide real value building blocks on the road to success, if recognised and integrated. I’ve made a conscious habit to build this into my life and there are three parts to my process that I’ll explore in this post. These are:

  1. Balance the ledger
  2. Stepping back
  3. Crystalising your gains

Here they are:

Balancing The Ledger – Making Good on Failure

So how do we go from fear of failure, to the concept of failing our way to success? I think a big part to understand first is to look at integrity. I always look at answering the question: “Are my failures only costing me, or is there a cost to others that, in all reasonableness, I am responsible for?” If the answer to this is that I am the only one suffering a cost, thats a big bogey off my back. I can go back to failing till my heart is content. If other people are involved though, it becomes a weight to carry. It gets in the way of the next move as its a responsibilty you need to carry.

Once in my life this went wrong for me in quite a big way. I wasn’t the cause for the failure. It was actually caused by others who were dishonest, unethical and ruthless in their dirty business dealings. Nevertheless, it was my descisions that ultimately put me and a few investors in this position. I felt and took responsibility for the failure. What I did is make sure I made good on the cost others suffered, bringing these people with me, honestly and with integrity, on the next step of my journey which was a big success. In failure, if you feel you let people down, you need to make good on it. Not for their sakes, but for yours. You need to lift that weight off your shoulders so you can continue to learn and make better decisions. Note, this isn’t always financial too. Sometimes the impact on others is emotional, or other than financial. We all know when our actions cost people. We all feel it. The question isn’t whether its there, its whether we block out that little voice or make good on it.

In my internal language – I call this “Balancing the Ledger”. Its a good practise I find as it ensures I can always look people in the eye. It ensures I don’t walk away from a transaction with a karmic debt.

Stepping Back – Finding Creative Space

The next part in the equation for me is stepping back from everything, giving myself the space to see what is actually going on, removing the chatter of my own ego, and that of everyone else’s opinions and all those voices filling in those moments of silence. People hate silence don’t they!

You need to find a way to remove yourself from the noise and distractions and constant movement of what is going on around you. For me, it was actually at my lowest point in my life where I found this point. I found myself at the end of a big failure, about $3000 away from bankrupcy (which I avoided thankfully), and then my best friend died of bowel cancer. I found myself basically with nothing, losing 10 years worth of work, and was then given a decent dose of perspective in the same days.

When I hit this point, I just stopped struggling, I stopped struggling against the current. I stopped proving myself to the world, I stopped listening to everyone else’s opinions, I stopped clutching oh so tightly to obsessions around success, riches and reputation… and in letting go of all that I found the quiet, the breathing space and the room to look at things properly and also re-find my creative spark. In retrospect it was quite an amazing moment. Only in losing everything did I get back to the real me that could look at everything properly, through my eyes, with my wisdom and from there apply my courage to finding and activating solutions.

Since that time, some years ago now, I continually and deliberately give myself the time, the silence and the space to access this creative space, where I can learn, understand, create and apply solutions. Without giving ourselves this space, it is so easy to find ourselves in a cycle of repeating, repeating and repeating the same failures, never learning anything, never growing and losing large chunks of our lives, which is more expensive and irreplacabe than anything else I can imagine.

So the second step in my pratical guide to finding success from failure, is to create the space to truly understand the lessons from things that didn’t work, and the space where I am creative and courageous enough to let go and move forward from that point.

Crystalising Your Gains

Its quite easy to not bring the things we learn into our lives. Even when we recognise the lessons, improving ourselves or our situations requires change. And not just any change, but deliberate, conscious change. Not only is this difficult because change is scary, its also difficut because often we operate in “auto-pilot” mode, rather than consciously. This means that even when we have the best intentions, we are ruled by habits and reactions and never really get anywhere. So how can we crystalise the learnings from incidents of failure, to ensure we move towards habits more closely aligned with success?

In business, I have found this easier than in personal life. In business the answer is simple. Create proper, robust processes to manage your business. This is what I did. In doing this, I have immediately found that my business runs much better and the level of quality I deliver is much more consistent and of a higher level than before. I use an online service to do this called Sweet Process and have now processized my entire business. Product delivery. Human resources. Accounts and administration. Everything is driven by process. We even have a process to create and change processes.

What this means is that when something in my business fails, it points to one of two things. Either a process has failed or someone didn’t follow a process. In both cases it is very easy to pinpoint the reason and place of failure. When it occurs due to someone not following process (which can be an employee, contractor or even a client) we have the choice to train the person, or move them on if the situation is untrainable. If it is a case of a failure in a process though, we can pinpoint where this happened and then take a step back and brainstorm the best way to make a better process, so the incidence of the previous failure doesn’t happen again. Over time our processes and deliberate method of improving when things go wrong have built success into the business. Its almost impossible for our business to fail now due to this approach.

Dealing with so callled “personal” failure is a bit more difficult though as we can’t really processize ourselves, and because we often do operate in an auto-pilot mode, reacting rather than proacting to different stimuli that triggers emotion in us. In recognising this, this is where I start. When I do something that I perceive as a personal failure, it is usually because I was not happy with the way I reacted and then dealt with a situation. I know I could have made better decisions, but I didn’t. I just ran along headstrong down a path of destructve consequence as I’d always had. It reminds me of a poem I once heard – no idea who wrote it…

Here lies the body of William Jay

He died maintaining his right of way

He was right, dead right, as he sped along

But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong

So with the understanding that often it is “auto-pilot” reactions creating this failure in what I am doing, I try to start with the triggers. When I am on auto-pilot, what was the trigger that started me down that path? How can I recognise when that trigger is happening early, before I react or take ill-considered action. By bringing awareness to the trigger, I find I have given myself a chance.

From there though, it still probably takes me two or three “failures” before I catch it in advance. Each time I miss though I have an opportunity to explore it again. “Oh, there it is again. I should have seen it that time. I should have pulled up and done this better.” I even sometimes get into the stage of seeing it but heading down the failure path in an “non-caring” but conscious way. “I know I’m triggered but I don’t care as I feel aggrieved and angry”. Re-explore. Re-examine myself. Learn.

At some point I just end up catching myself, getting it right. When I do this, I am also conscious of getting it right. And boy doesn’t that feel good. Then I get it right a few more times, congratulating myself along the way. Then at some point its a new habit. The journey of failure, learning to success is complete. I’m a better person, the world is a better place.

So that is how it works for me. A practical guide to success through failure. Here are the three steps again.

  1. Balance the Ledger
  2. Take a step back
  3. Crystalise the gains

I hope you found these ideas useful. Failure only leads to success if you take the time to examine the pearls of learning there, then make real change to bring those learnings into your life. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and your ideas around the journey to success, from failure.

Dec 13

Technology – What a Wonderful World

I had a few meetings yesterday morning. One at 7.30 am Currumbin, the next at 9.30am at Coomera and then I had scheduled a Google Hangouts catch up with a contacts in Hong Kong and the Philippines for 11am. It was not an overly risky schedule, other than the fact I’d discounted the risk of holiday maker peak season traffic.

So here I was coming back along the M1 when I hit traffic. When I say HIT, I mean hit to the extent that I almost bounced backwards. It was moving at somewhere between 5 km/h and a standstill. Every now and then – I’d also get that annoying person ahead who thinks changing lanes actually makes a difference, as he pushed and squeezed in front of me.

It pretty quickly became clear though that I would not get back in time for the 11 o’clock Google Hangout catch up I had scheduled. A pity – coming into the festive season I probably wouldn’t get the chance to check in with these guys till next year now.

“Hang on though” I thought, “we live in an technologically sophisticated era. Lets see if I can figure this out” …while I was sitting, twiddling, waiting. What did I have at my disposal. My iPad. Great, I checked my glove box for the 4G wifi hotspot USB stick. Damn, that one is in my laptop bag at home. What else? – I know, I can create a personal hotspot with my iPhone.

That thought was enough to inspire me into action.

So I tore off the freeway and zipped up the closest exit. Found a nice tree to park under (it was sweltering here on the Gold Coast yesterday), set up my iPhone personal hotspot, connected to my iPad and was running. I logged into Google, jumped into my Google calendar and hit the video link on the Hangouts appointment.

Next roadblock, the Hangouts software wasn’t installed. No problems there, by the time I figure out the app wasn’t installed, I was already (automatically) taken to the Google Hangout page in the app store. 3 minutes later and its installed on my iPad. 30 seconds later I have joined the hangout and am happily connecting with my overseas friends. To say it aloud – that was free online video conferencing, in my car on the side of the road, sheltered from the sun under the shade of a tree.

Writing this post leaves me feeling exhausted from that frantic rush – but WOW. From conceptualising, taking inventory to execution, it took me less than 5 minutes to set up a free, international video conferencing infrastructure in my car, with no technicians or hardware other than a phone and tablet. It took longer to find a park than it did to build this remote communications system.

What an amazing world we live in.

Given its Christmas eve though – now I am really looking forward to simplifying my life for a few days by turning all these intrusive devices off and sitting with my family – just enjoying being present with them 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sep 13

Counting Your Blessings – Every Day

It’s been a pretty full on week this week. On such weeks, it is easy to get so caught up by the ho hum of the week, that you miss time to stop, reflect, enjoy. I was reminded of this this morning.

Last night, reasonably exhausted, I went to bed about 9ish. The kids were all asleep so I managed a good deep sleep also. I slept through to just before 6am. Nine hours, wow! For someone who typically exists on maximum 7 hours a night, that was a serious session of shut eye.

6am and awake, everyone else in the house still blissfully asleep, I got out of bed, put on some tackies and went for a jog. Within 3 minutes of my front gate there is a bridge over the Tallebudgera Creek. This morning sitting on the rail on the far side of the bridge was a magnificent Brahminy Kite. What a beautiful bird. As I approached it flew off the rail, under the bridge and settled on a tree stump on the side of the creek.

It waited there till I returned from my jog, at which point I stopped for a bit and just watched her (I am not actually sure it was a her by the way). When I got home I grabbed a camera and went to snap a shot, but she was gone, so no photo.

Back at home, changing out of my sweaty gear a couple of kookaburras started laughing in our backyard. My 2 year old son, now awake, was quite excited by this, “kooka-bugga” he exclaims.

What a great way to be welcomed to the weekend, the birds of my backyard greeting me with sight and song. All I had to do was wake up fresh, get out of bed and be present enough to enjoy.

Sometimes you really have to count your blessing though don’t you. And sometimes they are as simple as where you live and what is around you. Love living on the Gold Coast.

Sep 13

Never a Bad Time For A Vacation

I went on a vacation for the first 3 weeks in August. Before going I was a little bit nervous. It really wasn’t the perfect time for the CEO of our business to take off, and to the wilds of Africa no less, where telecommunications infrastructure can be scratchy at best. We had a lot of critical matters that were coming to a head during these weeks, we really needed all hands on deck.

The trip was completely paid for though and there were no refunds. So with no small degree of trepidation, off I went. In retrospect, boy I was glad I did.

One thing about taking a break, it clears a lot of crap out of your mind. The fog starts to lift and perspective starts to come back. Another thing I find (although this is location dependent), is that a good holiday fills me with the spark of life. This has been really important to me with this trip. I think we all agree that business has been quite a grind over recent years, its certainly been exhausting for me. Coming back from this vacation I am full of energy and raring to go again. My mind full of ideas and things to do, the only nagging question is how I’ll find the time.

These two benefits, clearing the fog and re-finding the spark, made it clear to me that there is never a bad time to take a well deserved holiday. You just have to take them and leave all the other stuff behind.

I am a week back now. One thing I noticed about the two benefits of holidays above is when you get back, you need to make an effort to keep and even nurture the energy you bring back with you. It is just so easy when you sit back down at the tools, to fall back into the emotion and habits you put down before leaving for the break. It takes a conscious effort to remember the bubbling emotion you returned with and put that into daily routine. It makes life worth living though. So back to it for me!!