2015: My growths, failures, and lessons, in review
Posted on December 20, 2015
Every year, at this time of year, my mind starts to drift — to what I’ve done and what next year’s going to look like — and I realise just how crazy the last 12 months has been. There’s been highs, lows, challenges, and adventures, and everything in between, and when you add them all together, this has been the biggest year of my life.
Buying a house, starting a family, building a new company, and finally finding the next purpose I want to build my life around for the next few years. Yeah. That kind of big.
Here’s how it all unfolded:
January was big for two reasons.
The first big thing was the start of Coaching Confidence. We had six guys progress through Coaching Foundations and start the next step of their coaching journey. I was nervous about this; really nervous. I’d never coached this program before and I’d never even coached anything like it. I knew the theory was solid, but I just didn’t know how well I could communicate this to the guys and help them absorb it. Exciting, yes. Scary, yes.
The second big thing was that this was the first month my new company made money. I’d been working on building an online marketing company with a good friend of mine since October 2014 and January was the very first month we had cash come through the door. It was only a little over $1,000, but it’s always a great moment when you get to see the hard work you’ve put in is going to pay off.
This was quite interesting because January was also the month I tried to end the business relationship with my business partner. We were friends and he’s a solid guy, but the partnership felt incredibly unbalanced. I felt like I was grinding away, putting in everything I had to make the business grow and he wasn’t matching me.
After a little reshuffling and some intense conversations about what we both wanted and what we both expected from the other person, we decided to continue going, but it was a big learning lesson. The lesson was: If you’re not 100% clear about what you want and what you expect, there’s a better than even chance you’ll never get it and end up being disappointed. Not because someone’s not interested in giving you what you want or they don’t like you, simply because they don’t know.
It’s funny how many times I’ve learnt this lesson in personal relationships yet I still didn’t carry it over into my business relationships. Lesson learned.
February – June
The next five months flowed with the same steady rhythm, no real noteworthy events happening. Coaching Confidence rolled into Coaching Success, as the guys continued to grow and develop. They transitioned from learning the subtle art of coaching guys through roadblocks and challenges to learning to build a coaching business.
My marketing company continued to go from strength to strength, with revenues increasing 20% – 40% per month and our staff building to over ten employees. Not bad for a company less than nine months old! It meant we started to face a whole raft of new challenges around structuring and building solid foundations, but they’re all high-quality problems.
The only big direction-changing event that happened through this period was in late March.
I was invited to a local entrepreneurs meetup by a local business owner. After the formalities had concluded, I met a woman who was thinking about running an entrepreneur workshop for high-school kids and was looking for people to volunteer. We swapped details and organised to meet up soon. It seemed innocuous enough; just an idea and a question and a suggestion and a polite “Sure, why not?”
It seemed innocuous enough; just an idea and a question and a suggestion and a polite “Sure, why not?”, but it quickly grew and grew and grew over the next three months until I’d volunteered to write and run a 2-day workshop and 12-week coaching program for 30 high-school kids on how to start and run their own businesses.
Didn’t see that coming…
This was where my life started to get really crazy, with July being one of the biggest months of my entire life.
At the start of July, my wife and I decided to start trying to have kids. Yes, huge decision. Business was going great; we were settled in a great town that we both loved; we had a great support network around us; and neither of us were getting any younger, so, we decided to take the plunge and start building our family.
It’s been interesting talking to people about this because there was one consistent message I got from a lot of people: You’re never really ready to have kids so at some point in time, you just have to do it.
Everyone I spoke to about starting a family was saying it and my experience is they’re wrong. I felt 100% ready to have kids.
I was sure. I was confident. Financially, we were in a better position than we’d ever been, my work was driving along smoothly and it gave me the flexibility to negotiate and my hours and tasks as I saw fit, and I’d just spent the last three years playing with my nieces and nephews and I was excited to have my own.
All this put together told me that anyone who says “You’re never really ready to have children…” just hasn’t put enough time and effort into thinking about what was necessary to be ready to have children and then consciously setting the foundations.
The funny part about this was that it wasn’t till we’d been ‘trying’ for two weeks that we found out my wife had been pregnant for two weeks BEFORE we started trying. Lucky we decided to try, eh?
July was also the first month we kicked off the first part of the mentoring program: the 2-day boot camp.
This pushed me to my edge; really to my edge. It’d been three years since I’d done any public speaking and I’d only ever participated in one of these camps before. Standing in front of 20 teenagers and trying to keep them interested is tough enough when you know exactly what you’re doing, let alone when you’re making it up as you go along…
Thankfully, despite some serious and unnecessary challenges, it was an incredible success. The kids not only loved the program and loved being part of the camp, but they also came out with great skills and even better business ideas.
Oh, and in case this wasn’t enough, this was also the final month of the Coaching Men coach training program. We ended up with three guys making it all the way through the nine months of training (Yes, you read that right) and complete the program.
This was HUGE. I’d never created and run something so intense, so long, and so transformational all at once. They say that the best way to make sure you truly understand something is to teach it to someone else, and I can back this up 100%. Trying to unpack how you brain works and the processes you naturally work through is incredibly challenging and attempting to create structured progressions from a blank slate forced me to dig deeper into my understanding of the transformational process and refine a lot of my ideas.
But in the end, the program we put down on paper was incredible and I’m so glad to have bitten the bullet and taken this program on back in October 2014.
And then, just to add one more thing to the mix, there was a big change in the online marketing business. Both my business partner and I had been controlling all aspects of the business since day one but, we also both knew that we’d be away for the month of August and so needed to put someone in charge of running our 10-month old puppy.
This meant that July was spent training a General Manager to take control of all aspects of business operations. To do this, we had to break-down and systematise the entire business from top to bottom and document every process from start to finish. We then had to train this manager up to run everything without any support or guidance for an entire month, in a month. Easy? Sure… Really easy when you’ve never done it before… Ha!
Big month. Really big month.
August was a bit of a cluster-fuck. You see, WAY back in February, I’d decided that by the time I reached August, I was going to need a break from the computer and from work. It’d been three years since I’d taken a real no-work holiday and the combination of finishing up the Coaching Men program and building the marketing business was sure to drive me loopy, so my wife and I decided to change gears.
I’d been trying to scout locations for a new book for months via the glory of the World Wide Web, but it was just too hard. All I got to see were pretty pictures of fancy tourist locations and out-of-focus tourist shots of strangers posing in front of idyllic seascapes.
So, we decided the best way to both get away from the computer and to do some real scouting work was to explore the NSW coast for a month in a campervan for the entire month of August. The plan was easy: jump in the van, cruise till we found a great spot, stop and take notes, before moving on to another exciting location.
All this sounds fun and relaxing until you throw into the mix one thing we didn’t consider when we planned the trip: morning sickness.
Morning sickness sucks hard when you can breathe your way through it in the comfort of your own home in your worn-in pajamas. It’s a nightmare when you have to wake your husband at 5 am to open the sliding door of your campervan so you can stumble over cold, wet gravel for 400m to the nearest group toilets.
The scouting went well and we saw some beautiful places, but it just wasn’t worth the agony.
PRO TIP: Don’t try it. Let our suffering be a lesson to you.
The final big event for August was the start of the 12-week mentoring program. This was another case of unnecessary and poorly thought-out complications as I wasn’t there to run the program I’d designed. Nevertheless, I shot some videos and some other people helping on the program delivered them to the kids in my absence.
Unnecessary and frustrating but we plowed ahead.
Once again, big month. Seriously big month.
September was fun because it was my first real chance to work with the kids through the mentoring program. Yes, I’d met some of them at the 2-day boot camp but this was my first real chance to get face-to-face contact with a lot of the kids and start pushing them towards starting their businesses.
We had two sessions in September and something really interesting happened to me: the more I coached these kids, the more excited I got about coaching.
One of the main drivers behind my lack of interest in AI was it felt like things were going nowhere. I was putting out everything I had into the world and a lot of what I was getting back was whiney little children telling me that everything was bullshit and I should get fucked. It’s hard to stay motivated when that’s all you’re facing every day.
But working with these kids was something different. They were excited about learning. They were open-minded and alive. And most importantly, they were ready to take action. It was such a breath of fresh air to share an idea with these kids, have them take it on board, see them put it into action, and then watch them grow through it. It was inspiring and got me excited to coach again.
The other big thing that happened in September was that I finally found a house for sale that fit my incredibly specific criteria. My wife and I had been sitting on a house deposit for the last 18 months trying to find the right property and in September, we walked through its front door.
I was the first to look through it and when I brought my wife through a few days later, she dragged me aside and whispered “Let’s buy it!” before we’d even made it through the first 1/3 of the house. It was light, airy, with water view, and split residences, and most importantly, it was within our budget.
Let the negotiations begin!
October was also a big month (are you noticing a trend here?). There are a couple of key scans that you have when you’re growing a human, with the first big one at 13 weeks. That’s when you find out if your child is showing signs of any intellectual abnormalities and have the option to terminate the pregnancy if you want.
This was always a tough time for me because I know both the incredible challenges that come from trying to raise a severely disabled child and also just fucking love children… Luckily, we didn’t have to make any decisions about what to do with our pregnancy because everything was great! All the toes, fingers, organs, and pieces were in the right places and everything looked positive.
To make things even more exciting, we had our offer on the house of our dreams accepted! We had yo go back and forward on the exact price and get a few small details sorted out but in the end, we locked it in.
It was a strange time for me because once the offer was accepted, all I wanted to do was lie down. I didn’t know why and I couldn’t work it out, but all I wanted to do was sit very still and just breathe. I tried to work, I tried to get things done, but every part of my body just wanted to stop and relax and take it easy.
It wasn’t till a few days later that I realised that this was because buying a house had been such a big priority for me for so long. I didn’t realise how much it was weighing on my mind till it was gone and once it was, I just wanted to recoup.
It’s funny how sometimes we can only tell just how big something is for us once it’s finished and wrapped up… Humans are weird.
If that wasn’t enough, my business partner and I decided that if we were going to grow our company as big as we both believed it could be, one of us was going to have to step up and take the role of CEO. As I’d had more experience than him in this capacity, it turned out to be me.
Being the CEO of a 16 person marketing company definitely was not something I expected at the start of the year but it was the right move. I’d been getting frustrated by the lack of control I had over some of the areas of the company and this change meant this problem was going to go away.
November was interesting. The big highlight was definitely moving into our new house on November 4th. It was a cold and miserable day that rained from 7 am till two days later and the removalists turned up 4 hours late so I spent 12 hours carrying boxes back and forward through the rain and lifting everything I could find, but it was still incredible. We were in our new house.
My excitement for moving into my new house was slightly dampened by the fact that I only got to spend six days in it before flying out of the country. My marketing business had grown to a point where we needed to formalise our arrangements, and it made the most sense to set up a company in Hong Kong. Great business infrastructure and incredible access to the Asian labour pool make it an incredible place to run an international business from. So, I boarded a plane, tucked into my business class seat (you have to try it, at least once in your life) and headed to a city I can only describe as ‘like living inside a fart’. It was warm, moist, and smelled, but oh wow, the food was incredible. I ate more mind-altering BBQ pork and duck than I ever thought possible.
So, I boarded a plane, tucked into my business class seat (you have to try it, at least once in your life) and headed to a city I can only describe as ‘like living inside a fart’. It was warm, moist, and smelled, but oh wow, the food was incredible. I ate more mind-altering BBQ pork and duck than I ever thought possible.
The final piece of the November puzzle started with an email from a teacher I’d met through the mentoring programme. She was looking for someone to give an inspirational presentation to her year 11 students and thought I’d be a good fit. I didn’t agree, but she was persuasive, and so a week later, I was standing in front of 100 year 11 students sharing my life and hoping to impart some wisdom to help them through their final year of school.
The speech went so well that the teacher dragged me off to meet the principal and then two days later, I was giving a presentation to all the teachers in the school on how to motivate and engage children. Unexpected, but also amazing.
And this brings us to December. We’re only three weeks in, but things are looking incredible.
Firstly, the presentation I gave to the school teachers in November struck some chords with them, and they’ve asked me to run an entrepreneur program inside their school next year. We’ve negotiated the details and from April next year, I’ll be working inside a school teaching high-school kids how to build and run their own businesses. This is HUGE. The coaching has been so rewarding and exciting and now I get to keep working with these kids as a paid job. This is definitely the most exciting work thing I’ve been through all year.
We still need to lock down specifics, but this is happening and I couldn’t be happier.
This will start in just one school, but I’ve already been approached by two more principals who’re interested in getting me in to teach at their schools next year as well so it could be even bigger.
Yeah, big month.
- I coached the first group of guys through Coaching Confidence and Coaching Success
- My wife is pregnant with our first child
- I ran my first ever Startup Bootcamp
- I ran my first 12-week entrepreneur mentoring programme
- I grew a marketing company from nothing to 16 staff and took over as CEO
- I bought my first house
- I flew business class to Hong Kong to setup a company
- I spent a month scouting book locations on the NSW north coast from the back of a campervan
- I’ve been invited to teach entrepreneurship to high school kids in local schools next year
- I’ve pushed myself far beyond the limits of what I thought I was capable of and discovered that I’m far more capable than I realised
- I found the passion to coach again and I’m getting ready to build a platform to change the world
What 2015 taught me
There were a couple of really big lessons I learnt in 2015, but the biggest has to be: The power of “Yes”.
At the start of the year, I had no grand plans to get back into coaching and to mentor high-school kids in entrepreneurship, but I didn’t need to. All I needed was one small “Yes”.
- I just needed to say “Yes” to attending the meetup (which I didn’t want to) and then see what happened
- Then when I was there, I just needed to say “Yes” to a conversation about mentoring and see what happened
- Then I just needed to say “Yes” to a meeting about that program and see what happened
- Then I just needed to say “Yes” to volunteering to the program and see what happened
And then I just needed to say “Yes” to the next series of events and all of a sudden, I’ve found the passion, excitement, and drive that my life had been lacking for the last three years.
Saying “Yes” opens doors and exposes you to opportunities that you’d possibly never even considered before and can take you to the exact place you’ve been trying to go without you even consciously trying to get there.
What will next year bring?
2016 is going to be an incredible year. My wife and I are in the middle of packing up our lives and moving to a new city so she can give birth with the care she needs so once we leave, the next time we come back, we’ll have our first child.
Read that sentence again: Our first child.
Holy wow. That’s so huge. I’m so excited I can’t begin to describe it. I’m going to be a dad. And while everything else is totally pale in comparison, it’s still also cool.
I’ve started drafting out the framework for the high school mentoring programme and the content looks great. There were a lot of lessons learned from the first version of the programme and they’re going to help make this next version even better. The program kicks off in April and will go all the way through to September (or something similar), so it’s going to eat up a huge amount of my time.
The one big realisation that’s come from this whole mentoring thing is that I’m ready to coach again. And not only that, I know exactly what form it’s going to take.
When I stopped working on AI in September 2013, it was because I’d just lost the passion for it. But now, I have the passion and drive, and I’m ready to put it into play.
Sometime next year, I’m going to launch a new book, a new website, and a brand new training portal designed not only for guys who want to take control of their life but for anyone who wants to take control of their life.
The company will have a strong online component, but my real goal is to build a company that has a training arm in every school in Australia. If we can do that, we’ll not only change the lives of some kids who’re in desperate need of help but also set them up to pass these lessons on to the generations that follow them.
That’s a really big thing – to not only have a big impact on one generation but to create a legacy that transforms the lives of millions of people for years to come. Wow. And that’s the plan.
What else? I don’t know. Most of the things that happened this year were complete surprises and so it’s hard to predict what other incredible opportunities will appear in 2016, but I’m excited to get stuck in.