Archives For Leadership Toolkit

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

Have you experienced burnout? If yes, what have you learned?

There were days where putting one foot in front of the other to come to the office in the morning was almost too much to bear, and when I did get to the office I spent far too long staring at the computer screen not doing much.

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

Absolutely yes. I experienced burnout 8 years ago and I remember it well. The biggest “thank goodness” at that time was that I had a coach at the time who helped me navigate what I was experiencing.

I was exhausted, fed up, lacked energy, and was overall in a negative state of mind and being. There were days where putting one foot in front of the other to come to the office in the morning was almost too much to bear, and when I did get to the office I spent far too long staring at the computer screen not doing much.

In spite of this, I felt I could not walk out on my team when we were on an “all systems go” mode in the middle of travel high season despite knowing in my heart of hearts that I needed a break.

Thankfully my coach at the time invited me to look at the situation differently and helped me craft my communication piece to my team, clients, and partners to advise them that after many years building the business, I was now at the point where I could step away from the office for a month to take a much-needed break.

To this day I can still remember how anxious I was hitting the send button.

The reaction I got was amazing. There were so many beautiful emails wishing me a well-earned rest, asking me to promise not to worry, and assuring me that they would go above and beyond to “do me proud” and make sure the business was as great if not better when I returned. And this is exactly what I found.

Taking a month away from emails, traveling, appointments, and feeling like I had to do things was the best thing I ever did. I would never hesitate to do this again should I feel it the right thing to do.

I have since learned to delegate, step away—even a couple of hours earlier than normal—without feeling guilty in any way, and understand that working crazy hours is not the way life is meant to be.

A healthy work-life balance is crucial to my success and my future and that of the business. If I am going to be the leader of the business that I want to be, it’s my responsibility to make sure I show up 100% always, and only I can put myself in a position to make that happen.

A business will always take everything you give it and want more. Set your boundaries and focus on the long game.

Ben Ridler. Founder at RESULTS.com. Auckland, New Zealand.

This is one that I’ve lived and learned from.

Entrepreneurs have appalling health stats. Start a business and expect to shorten your life by 10 years or so. Mental health stats are worse with two-thirds of us having one diagnosed mental health issue and some having 2.

After leaving my last business which was 4 years of major stress, my body shut down, I took time out to recover and learn and was fortunate to be living with a health genius, Dr. Vanessa Ingraham, a lifelong health researcher and born into a medical family. Amongst her many qualifications, she’s a naturopathic doctor with a fellowship in anti-aging and regenerative medicine.

As I got more interested in the health of entrepreneurs and my own health journey, Dr. Ingraham and I extensively researched having a business to support the health of entrepreneurs. The business never launched but as part of it, I completed year-long training as a health coach with the BulletProof Training Institute and as a human potential coach.

I have just turned 50, am in the best physical and mental shape of my life, and am getting ready for the intensity of another global play in the B2B software-as-a-service space. Here are a few of the key learnings in no particular order.

1. Doctors are traditionally sickness experts and not trained in nutrition, supplements, mindfulness, circadian rhythm, etc. Their primary role is to treat symptoms.

2. You need to take responsibility for your own health. No one else can do it.

3. What we do is stressful and you need healthy release valves. Alcohol is not a health release valve and it’s a poison consumed at the levels that we consume it at.

4. The gym won’t affect your weight. It’s what you eat and drink.

5. Fat is not the enemy; sugar is. The recommended food pyramid is bad science and has been long disapproved.

6. Good nutrition and health is a way of thinking. It’s adopting a philosophy and strategy, not tactics or magic pills.

7. Mindfulness is easy to do and easy not to do; like goal setting. It is the most beneficial thing that we can do if we choose to only adopt one new habit.

Most entrepreneurs sacrifice their health for their business then something happens and they are in the hands of the sickness industry. If one is serious about having a long career as an entrepreneur, one needs to learn how to manage stress and find healthy ways to release and take ownership of one’s own health. I’ve seen many of us go by way of heart attack and cancer—both lifestyle diseases—and I’ve done a lot of damage to my health with years of high stress, alcohol, an average diet, and extreme exercise.

Now I train very little, walk a lot, and my weight has been stable for 4 years (it used to fluctuate 10 kgs every year). I don’t diet, I eat amazing food, and I’ve slowly managed to get my hormones back into balance. I’m a biohacker, I track my own medical data, get blood tests done regularly, sauna, and get outside in the sun every day that I can. It’s not rocket science but rather mainly common sense. Look at how people live in blue zones and you’ll get the idea.

Finally, remember that a business will always take everything you give it and want more. Set your boundaries and focus on the long game.

The old adage that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, isn’t quite the whole truth. The whole truth is that you’ll never stop working.

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

The old adage that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, isn’t quite the whole truth. The whole truth is that you’ll never stop working.

Yet, indeed, it doesn’t feel like a “job”. These kinds of scenarios have never led me to burnout. My lived burnout experiences have been the result of politics.

There are many good reasons that many entrepreneurs dislike the organizational complexity cliff that occurs at about 30 staff, regret establishing a board, or even wish they’d stayed private. (Elon Musk famously regrets taking Tesla public.)

That’s not to say you shouldn’t do any of these things, but it’s important to go into them understanding what the ultimate costs of this kind of success can be… with the biggest price of all being that it might not remain something you love.

Doing something you don’t genuinely love, a lot is the clearest path to burnout.

A passionate life is like a candle. When it burns, it is so captivating and we are drawn to the flame. It is in that flame that we are captivated and when we focus too much on it, everything else dims in comparison, and yet we draw closer still. If we are not careful, we eventually get too close and we burn ourselves.

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

When I share with others what type of life I want to live, I oft state, “I want to live a life that is extraordinary in every sense of that word, and to live life as passionately as one can.” I apply this philosophy to every aspect of my life including entrepreneurship, and at times it has been to my own detriment.

A passionate life is like a candle. When it burns, it is so captivating and we are drawn to the flame. It is in that flame that we are captivated and when we focus too much on it, everything else dims in comparison, and yet we draw closer still. If we are not careful, we eventually get too close and we burn ourselves.

I have learned that passion is very much a tool that we wield. And like all tools they can be wielded to aid us in our goals and pursuits, or they can be wielded incorrectly and hinder or harm us more than it helps us. And so when I look at our I have utilized the tool of passion in my life (or any other tool for that matter), I also look at how I mitigate against its adverse effects. Often, the mitigation is in: (1) rest; and (2) making sure that all 4 areas of my life are balanced; personal, family, business, and community.

I worked weeks with only 2–3 hours of sleep because sleep was a hindrance to my success. Suddenly, I started making mistakes. I was tired during the day, and I struggled to make decisions.

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Burnout is something I experienced multiple times. To mention the words “multiple” makes me cringe in personal disappointment. Burnout is not fun because we get unmotivated, tired and our ability to think straight is impaired.

I burned out in the moments when I had a string of deadlines and felt that I had the responsibility of getting everything perfectly done. Even if a teammate completed the work, I still needed to be the one to put the cherry on the top and scrutinize the entire cake.

I worked weeks with only 2–3 hours of sleep because sleep was a hindrance to my success. Suddenly, I started making mistakes. I was tired during the day, and I struggled to make decisions. This general lack of productivity lasted weeks. The worst part? I sacrificed my health.

I learned the hard way that life is a marathon and not a sprint. We can push hard but we need to listen to our body and take rests.

I learned to have yin and yang; a balance of life. We work hard but we must also rest. I make sure now I get in a 30-minute high-intensity interval training session or a 5 km jog every day. I take time to read something that grows my mind, and I am diligent with my supplements.

Without health, we can’t do all the things we dream of doing. Health is the center of everything.

It took me a long time to realize that all the stress I felt was of my own design.

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I’ve certainly had burnout throughout my entrepreneurial career and it’s taken some time for me to reflect on why.

I experience most of my burnout during the time I owned a private physical security company.

Back then I was an entrepreneur with all the answers. Thinking you have all the answers causes everyone around you to ask lots of questions. As I starting to build the business, it was very challenging to keep up with the demands of those around me combined with wearing multiple hats in the business. It took me a long time to realize that all the stress I felt was of my own design.

The point of burnout and escalating business challenges forced me to allow others to have the autonomy to answer their own questions. This culture transformation was the first step and allowed me to step back from the day-to-day so that I could move to a different role of guidance and strategy. That was a journey in of itself and for another time. However, I can tell you that I’ve never looked back nor experienced burnout since getting the company culture right.

To me, business is a game that is meant to be enjoyed, and it is a game that I learned to play as a child, and that enjoyment has never left me.

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

To me, business is a game that is meant to be enjoyed, and it is a game that I learned to play as a child, and that enjoyment has never left me. The circumstances have changed, but so they changed when I went from the sandpit to play snakes and ladders, from riding my bike to playing Monopoly, or from crossword puzzles to computer games.

I often wonder how people can burn out from business; it is just playing a game. However, I do understand that we are not all born the same way. I personally don’t need a holiday, as my work is like being on holiday. I recognize that most others don’t operate the same way, as they play the game too intensely and emotionally.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

What is failure in its greatest sense?

Failure to me means not taking that risk at all

Adam Massaro, Partner at Akerman LLP. Denver, Colorado.

Failure to me doesn’t mean taking a risk and not achieving the desired outcome. Failure to me means not taking that risk at all.

When you embrace risk, you have the opportunity of learning something invaluable about yourself (or others).

Failure, therefore, is knowing that you had the opportunity to move forward or fix a problem, but not taking the steps to do so.

Failure is not living your days the way you want to live your life

Arnie Malham, Founder and President of BetterBookClub.com, Author and Speaker at Worth Doing Wrong. Nashville, Tennessee.

To look back on life (at any age) and realize you have more money than friends, more regrets than adventures, or more hate than love might all singularly qualify as failure. From my perspective, the culmination of all three might be the trifecta of failure in the game of life.

But life comes at you fast and failure on a daily basis might not be so easy to spot in ourselves. I’d submit the argument that failure, much like success, accumulates over time. It accumulates in the seemingly small daily choices of life. Our diet and exercise (#YoungerNextYear), our reading and conversations (#CompoundEffect), and how we prioritize our most valuable asset, our attention (#Indistractable).

The uncomfortable truth is this: how we live our days is how we live our lives. Therefore, failure is not living your days the way you want to live your life.

Failure is not living a life with intentionality

Finnian Kelly, Founder of Intentionality, Inc., International Keynote Speaker, Area Director for Entrepreneurs Organization. Aspen, Colorado

Failure is not living a life with intentionality but living a life by the conditioned state of your societal, cultural and familial influences. Failure is when you operate in a default mode and where you don’t fully live in the present and enjoy the wonder that is life.

No success in life can compensate for failure in the home

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

I am of the belief that no success in life can compensate for failure in the home.

The wonderful thing about life is that we have agency i.e., that we have the ability to choose, to craft a vision or determine our destination, to make intentional decisions that move us closer to our vision or destination, to reflect, learn and course-correct as we go, and to hopefully one day be at a place where we are at peace with our past, content with our present, and hopeful for our future.

Therefore, I suggest that life is not chance, but premeditation.

And with the basis that no success in life can compensate for failure in the home, we have within us the ability to build connected and successful families by giving the following: (1) love; (2) dedication; (3) patience; (4) sacrifice; (5) service; and (6) commitment.

P.S. Having a successful family is infinitely more fun than having a successful business.

Failure in its greatest sense is not trying, not starting that business, not approaching your crush, and not giving your idea an honest try

Randall Hartman, Founder at GROUNDWRK. Denver, Colorado.

One hears a lot of gobbledygook about failure in nearly every business success story and inspirational speaking event etc. For example: “My failures taught me insert-important-business-lesson),” or, “My failures made me the person I am today.”

In my opinion, failure in its greatest sense is not trying, not starting that business, not approaching your crush, and not giving your idea an honest try. The inaction is something you live with for the rest of your life and may be one of your greatest regrets when it’s too late.

If you are not failing you are not growing. I think this is particularly true for entrepreneurs.

Richard J Bryan, Founder at The Bryan Group Inc., Keynote Speaker and Author. Denver, Colorado.

I like the quote by Richard Branson, “If you are not failing you are not growing”. I think this is particularly true for entrepreneurs.

I remember needing to close a loss-making business and lay off all the staff in my home town of Bristol when I was 28. It was a harsh lesson about what can happen if one gets things wrong, but I learned a huge amount in the process that made me stronger going forward.

Failure is to not be the best to the people I care about, to never discover what my personal potential is, and to let happiness elude me in lieu of ego-driven activities

Ross Drakes, Founder and Creative Director at Nicework, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Keynote Speaker, Host of One More Question Podcast. Johannesburg, South Africa.

The first is to not be the best to the people who I care about. So often we get distracted and stressed and take it out on those people who matter the most. Family and friends should not pick up the burden of the business.

The second is to never discover what my personal potential is. I am not talking about living to the standards of others but to live to ones that I myself define.

The first is to let happiness elude me in lieu of ego-driven activities.

It’s when we neglect the ability to reframe the negative as opportunities for insight and inspiration that we fail

Stu Swineford, Founder at Relish Studio, President at Anabliss, Partner at Forty105 LLC. Denver, Colorado.

Failure is not living up to one’s full potential, and accepting setbacks as permanent. Every moment holds opportunity for growth and discovery. It’s when we neglect the ability to reframe the negative as opportunities for insight and inspiration that we fail.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

What does success look like to you?

Success on every front can often be tied to the books we read and the people we meet

Arnie Malham, Founder and President of BetterBookClub.com, Author and Speaker at Worth Doing Wrong. Nashville, Tennessee.

There are many forms of “success”: personal; parental; spiritual; spousal; and financial (just to name a few).

For me “business success” appeared when I began to understand the difference in being a “solopreneur” and being an “entrepreneur” #TheEMyth. “Entrepreneurial success” appeared when I began caring more about asking the “right questions” than having the “right answers” #ScalingUp. And “leadership success” appeared when I began thinking more like a “leader” in my company and less like a “boss” #GreatbyChoice.

Ultimately, success on every front can often be tied to the books we read and the people we meet. I certainly wish everyone great and abundant adventures in both.

Success is the ability to find time again so that you can do all the things you really want to do

Ash Rathod, Managing Director of Digital Focus Creatives. Leicester, United Kingdom.

I define success has the ability to find time again so that you can do all the things you really want to do. Whether it be personal or business, these are things that you do not because you need to do them, but because you want to do them.

The true meaning of success is asking yourself every day, “Am I living a life of Intentionality?”

Finnian Kelly, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Founder at Intentionality, Founder at Wealth Enhancers. Boulder, Colorado

Success to me is about not having regrets. This doesn’t mean you can’t have mistakes—mistakes are natural—but rather how you respond to the mistakes and set yourself up for a different course of action in the future.

For me, the true meaning of success is asking yourself every day, “Am I living a life of Intentionality?” This means deciding how you want to feel and then taking deliberate action forwards.

I believe that the key to success is when one can identify if their entrepreneurial journey is aligned with their spiritual journey. That’s much more important than scaling a company to $100M.

The amount of financial success won’t matter at all if my home life, my health, or my mindset isn’t good

Katty Douraghy, President at Artisan Creative, Author at The Butterfly Years. Los Angeles, California.

Success means inner and outer harmony; personally and professionally. The amount of financial success won’t matter at all if my home life, my health, or my mindset isn’t good.

Success means happiness, fulfillment and contribution to something bigger than me.

Success is the creation of a life where we all walk each other home

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

Success to me is the realization that every one of us have agency i.e., the ability to decide, and that we have the ability to determine how we see, and how we experience, the world.

Firstly, the understanding that when we change the way we see the world, our world changes. This understanding has given me choice in how I look at my life experiences, and subsequently how I experience life.

Secondly, the realization that we can’t change our past but we can create our future. And that we have the ability to envision a future; one that is hopefully so bright and vivid that it becomes a guiding light for all our life decisions.

Thirdly, the empowerment in knowing that the great thing about life is that we don’t have to look like what we want to become but rather, it’s all about heart and desire and skill. Satisfy those three requirements and the destination is inevitable.

And finally, the grace in knowing that as per the wisdom of David O. McKay, no success in life compensates for failure in the home.

And whilst home can mean “home” in the nuclear sense, if we include our friends, our communities and the lives we touch, and build a life where we lift each other, then perhaps we can create a life where we all walk each other home.

My philosophy is you need enough money to do the things you want to do but you also need enough time to enjoy it

Richard J Bryan, Founder at The Bryan Group Inc., Keynote Speaker and Author. Denver, Colorado.

Success is all about the freedom to choose how I spend my time both personally and professionally. When I became the CEO of our family business at the age of 28, I did it out of a sense of duty and not necessarily because it was what I wanted to do. My philosophy is you need enough money to do the things you want to do but you also need enough time to enjoy it.

I measure success in my late 40’s by what sort of legacy and positive impact I can leave behind

Steven Ziegler, Founder at Z3 Talent, Founder at ConstructionJobsColorado.com. Denver, Colorado.

In my 20’s and for much of my 30’s I was consumed with how much money and financial wealth I could create. Although those items are still important to me, I measure success in my late 40’s by what sort of legacy and positive impact I can leave behind. I’m certain this has a lot to do with the fact I have 3 kids and I am getting older!

I judge my successes by the positive effect I have on the wellbeing of others

Stu Swineford, Founder at Relish Studio, President at Anabliss, Partner at Forty105 LLC. Denver, Colorado.

I get the most joy out of knowing I have helped someone level up. Whether that’s making an introduction, shining a light on a solution to a problem they are facing, or helping them reach their goals and establish even bigger objectives, I get a ton of good vibes knowing that I was part of that success.

I judge my successes by the positive effect I have on the wellbeing of others. That and knowing I have given my all in an activity or objective. Because at the end of the day, that’s all we can do.

At the start I wore 20 hats. I drew a line in the sand and stated that once successful, I would be wearing 1 hat, and that hat is “owner”.

Tim Glennie, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at BridgeView. Denver, Colorado.

It is important to define success at the start of your entrepreneur journey.

My goal was simple. At the start I wore 20 hats. I drew a line in the sand and stated that once successful, I would be wearing 1 hat, and that hat is “owner”.

Success meant creating a business that could scale and have the proper processes and systems to operate without a dependency on an owner.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

How did your business come to be?

Old ways have got to give for new beginnings to happen

Ai-Ling Wong. Founder at The Decorateur, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

My entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 25 where I worked in one of my family businesses; a trading business which had no family members running it but only hired people. Thrown in to the deep end, it was a steep learning curve. In spite of the little experience I had, slowly but surely I increased sales 30% year-on-year.

After 12 years running the business, our Singaporean business partner started meddling and telling us “what to do”. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for us to reach the point where we could not see eye-to-eye.

Not wanting to cause more stress to my father–who was Chairman at the time, I offered the Malaysian Managing Director position to the Singaporean partner, and gave him 3 years to prove himself (as he claimed he could increase the business turnover). I then embarked on my new interior design business which took off swiftly.

Fast forward 3 years, the Singaporean partner did not manage to meet targets, and I was asked to return. By that stage, I was too entrenched with my growing interior design business to return to run the trading business.

A negative experience sometimes happens for a good reason. In other words, old ways have got to give for new beginnings to happen. In this case, despite my dissatisfaction towards the Singaporean partner, I have him to thank for the better opportunity to start my new business.

Little did I realize how much my company would grow to improve the lives of our supplier partners, team members, and many others around the globe

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

My business was created out of my love and passion for all things Italy and travel.

When my company was founded back in 1999, it was a great opportunity to live the life I wanted to live, that is, improving the lives of others through travel and all things Italy. This gave me opportunity to enjoy not only all that this beautiful country has to offer but be able to share the best of it with those from afar.

Little did I realize how much my company would grow to improve the lives of our supplier partners, team members, and many others around the globe.

My business came to be from of a mixture of: (1) a pinch of chance; (2) a hint of right timing; (3) a bag of hard work; and (4) the audacity of sticking through challenging times

David Fastuca. Founder at Ambisie, Founder at Locomote. Melbourne, Australia.

My business came to be from of a mixture of: (1) a pinch of chance; (2) a hint of right timing; (3) a bag of hard work; and (4) the audacity of sticking through challenging times.

My business partner and I almost gave up on our efforts to create a business for ourselves after struggling in our very early days with a variety of other businesses.

Sticking “with it” and having the courage to persevere led us to opportunities in industries we knew nothing about. Isn’t life funny?

Serendipity has been a strong theme throughout my career

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

Serendipity has been a strong theme throughout my career. I focus intensely on the things that I’m interested in, then keep an open mind about the opportunities that present themselves without deliberate planning. In the case of my most recent project, Trax, it came to be on these same familiar terms.

Trax combines esports, cryptocurrency, and digital product to capitalize on a gap in the market; each of which I have accumulated vast amounts of knowledge in during past years.

I deeply admire specialization yet having a “broad T” has enabled me to combine knowledge sets to identify and seize opportunities that would have otherwise been missed. I imagine this is how many of my future businesses will come to be, as the effects of a broad T only continue to compound positively over time.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it all again? Absolutely. Without question. Without hesitation.

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

WeTeachMe was born from: (1) a chance encounter between strangers at a weekend hackathon; (2) the sharing of an idea that the strangers believed in and could get behind; (3) a bag full of enthusiasm and dreams; (4) a sprinkling of youthful optimism and nativity; and (5) a willingness to throw caution to the wind and give things a good go.

The following years saw these strangers: (1) bond over weekly meetings at local cafés eating complimentary biscuits and cake the staff brought over; (2) spend their days, evenings and weekends hunched over dimly lit computer screens obsessing over the business, the strategy, and the product; (3) chatter excitedly about grandiose ideas and what the future could bring; and (4) experience joy as their vision came to life before their very eyes.

What these strangers didn’t anticipate, however, was: (1) the many hard lessons that would need to be learned; (2) the overwhelming stress would at times cripple one another and cause burnout; and (3) the difficult challenges that would need to be navigated as part and parcel of the journey.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it all again? Absolutely. Without question. Without hesitation.

The learning curve for me was steep… but life-changing. The relationships and friendships I had were tested… but the ones that survived will last a lifetime. The experiences tested me… but have changed me for the better. All these things are things that no amount of money can buy.

I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. I just started walking and just continued walking.

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. I started selling cookies when I was 14 to help the family, and a lot of the “entrepreneurial spirit” was learnt along the way.

In my working life, I could somehow never hold on to a job for more than a year. I would join a company, work to improve the systems and efficiency, and once achieved would get bored. After some years of this, I went into self-employment and established myself as an IT trainer. I started off by teaching Microsoft Project, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint.

After some years of this, a friend coaxed me into starting a business of my own and said that he would invest in me. I jumped on this opportunity and have never looked back.

Did I plan it all? Did I have a grand vision? Not at all. I just started walking and just continued walking.

Sometimes we’re hard on ourselves in regarding to having a plan. But do we even have enough knowledge to even have a plan? As a young 24-year-old, I did not possess the knowledge of business, and did not have enough life experience to create a grand vision. Is that wrong?

Perhaps it is more important to not stand still, and to take steps forward until one day you can see what your grand vision is.

My business came to be by asking myself one big question

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

My business—VIDA Living—exists to revolutionize affordable communities, and came to be by asking myself this one big question: “What if I had to restart the affordable housing industry? What would it look like?”

From there the second question was born: “What if we treated tenants like customers?”

The rest, as they say, is history.

My company was purchased for $1 and now has a market capitalization of about $80M. Not a bad return on $1.

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

I once worked for a publicly listed company, and started a division to rent out fax machines. The public company went into receivership, and I purchased the fax division for $1.

From renting faxes, we moved to water coolers, water delivery, ventilation systems, Solatube and hot water cylinders.

Just Life Group is now a public listed company in its own right and has a market capitalization of about $80M. Not a bad return on $1. (And I still own/control 80% of the company.)

My business started on a bet

Tui Cordemans. Co-Founder at Koh Living. Melbourne, Australia.

For some reason, I expect people to have serious and purposeful responses as to why and how they started a business. For me, it started on a bet. I was an unemployable twenty-something-year-old and wanting to live my highest values (travel and fun).

During my twenties, I left a business behind in Germany and when I moved to Australia, I had to get a job. 3 short-term jobs later, I decided I was not made for the employment market.

During that time, my best friend (now business partner) were planning our holidays. She wanted to go to Vietnam but didn’t have the funds. I offered to give her some to which she responded that she would only accept if I started a business when I came back from my 3‑month stint travelling Nepal and south-east Asia. With that at the back of our minds, off we went on our travels.

Towards the end of our respective trips, we reunited in Bangkok. Sitting outside an Israeli restaurant, we drank ice-cold beers and shared photos of our holidays. We were bent over with laughter, so much so that a lady approached us and asked if she could join us. She was curious as to why we were laughing so much you see.

As fate would have it, we ended up having way too many beers and started talking about business. This lady turned out to own a distribution company in Melbourne, Australia selling homewares. She had been travelling around the world sourcing new products and was on her way home.

We both thought that this sounded amazing, and sounded like the best job in the world.

After this encounter, my friend went home and I was left with the task of finding product. On a budget, I trawled the Chatuchak market and came across some colorful unique candles. Not having ever bought a candle in my life, I put $1,000 worth of candles on a credit card and my friend went about trying to work out how to get them to Australia.

We don’t sell those candles anymore, but a lifetime later, we have one of the most recognizable tourist brands in Australia. And true to form, our business continues to fulfill our highest values of travel and fun!

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Foreword

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people express the same idea but they express it in many different ways and with many different words. It is the details in the expression, the words, and combination of words used, that give a story its colour, its texture, and brings it–and its lessons–to life.

We are unique combinations of our beliefs, values and life experiences. Differences notwithstanding, we, and our experiences, are important. Therefore, there is value in compiling and sharing these stories and the multitude of ways in which ideas are expressed. Combined, these stories weave a wonderful tapestry that exemplifies just how rich and beautiful life can be.

And who knows? An inadvertent remark or detail in the retelling of a story can stand to attention and have an impact in the world of a reader. And with that exciting possibility, perhaps the most valuable thing I can do is create the space where the stories of those whom I admire and respect can be shared.

Below are people that I have come across on my own life journey whom I deeply admire and respect. Whether it be their tenacity or courage, or relentless drive or passion, each individual generously reveals a different lens in response to the questions I regularly pepper them with.

As we continue on our sharing over this anthology, I will share tidbits and anecdotes as to why I hold them in such high esteem, and what I love most about them. In turn, I hope that you do too.

What was your first entrepreneurial project? What was your biggest learning?

I had to learn to accept and work with differences in thought and methodology, reset my brain to embrace diversity, and to see the differences as opportunity and not a challenge

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO at IC Bellagio, Board Member at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Bellagio, Lake Como.

The first entrepreneurial project was becoming a tour guide in Italy. Italy was a country that was not my own, I was taking exams in a language that was not my own, there was non-stop paperwork, complex protocols, and never-ending answers that were not set in stone or black or white.

Back then, I wanted everyone to work in a way that was aligned with my brain and work methodologies. Experience in the field taught me that accepting other people’s way of work can bring the same, if not better, results.

I had to learn to accept and work with differences in thought and methodology, reset my brain to embrace diversity, and to see the differences as opportunity and not a challenge.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and if I had known the enormity of the task ahead, I may have been too frightened to go for what was in both by my heart and my gut

Daniel Dickson, Managing Director at Amarco Enterprises. Sydney, Australia.

My first entrepreneurial project was one that I was unaware would take me on a 23-year journey.

I, and my business partner, saw an opportunity to secure a distribution agreement for a product and service that we are passionate about, and we pursued the international headquarters located in the United States for 5 months before receiving the horrible fax message (yes a fax) that the idea of us being a distributor was no longer being entertained. They thanked us for our time and recommended that we continue our purchases through the normal distributor.

We were devastated because we were near-obsessed, and had formulated a clear plan on how we could make this venture work. I woke up at 11.30 pm one evening, went to a 24-hour printing business known as Kinko’s Printing, and I sat there with my 1 GB laptop and wrote my first business plan. I subsequently printed it, bound it, and by 11 am that same morning my sister (who was travelling to the United States) had it in her hand to present to Headquarters.

One thing I learned is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and if I had known the enormity of the task ahead, I may have been too frightened to go for what was in both by my heart and my gut; the knowledge of what we could achieve together.

My sister—naturally we did not present her as my sister—presented the case on behalf of our company, said that they needed to consider this business plan, and that we are not taking “no” for an answer. Headquarters agreed to a face-to-face meeting and subsequent training but with no promises. For the next 6 weeks while we prepared to go to the Los Angeles-based Headquarters, we borrowed $120,000 (23 years ago) against my parents house so that we could make the launch of this in Australia as big as we possibly could.

In that 6 weeks, we expanded on the business plan, hired the staff that we did not have, and invested in the infrastructure and resources that we also did not have. The preparedness that we put into the plan, combined with the enthusiasm and passion, enabled us to pull the entire thing off.

After coming back from our training in the United States, we executed on the $120,000 launch. We spent the entirety of the money in 7 days with not one guaranteed account on our books. We had media, we had PR, we had celebrities attend our launch, and within the next 18 months we opened 118 accounts with a 3‑staff business.

Fast forward 23 years and we now have nearly 300 high functioning accounts, a team of 40, and we have undertaken some amazing initiatives that allow our company to be one of the leaders within our industry. I look back at the lessons learned and know that if I knew all the things that were ahead, I may not have enthusiastically jumped into. However, the knowledge and passion we had for something that we felt was underdone was enough to fuel the creation of a team, a following, and an amazing client base, and a business.

I look back with a smile and a warm heart when I recognise the saying “fake it till you make it” has so much more relevance than what people give (with a caveat). Our moves were well-calculated, we knew our numbers, and we threw our inhibitions to the air and recruited like-minded, passionate people.

Greatness requires passion not just for the monetary ends, but for the means that gets you there

Jamie Skella. Chief Operating and Product Officer at Mogul, Former Chief Product Officer at Horizon State. Melbourne, Australia.

I left school at the age of 15 to pursue the running of my own small business. I created custom PCs for consumers, built networks for small businesses, and developed websites for anyone that needed one.

I learnt two key things in those early years of business. The first lesson, unsurprisingly, is that focus is essential. Spreading myself too thin meant a lack of specialisation and a lack of ability to effectively market myself as a credible expert, given the breadth of services being offered.

The second lesson was a reinforcement of the need to shed offerings that I didn’t love: while you may be good at something without loving it, you’ll never be truly great at it unless you do. Greatness requires passion not just for the monetary ends, but for the means that gets you there.

I decided then and there that I too wanted to be drunk with power

Kym Huynh. Founder at WeTeachMe, Former President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Melbourne, Australia.

I was 8, and there was a girl in school who always had extra pocket money to buy treats at the canteen for herself and all her friends; Sunnyboys that was a gift from heaven on a hot day, frozen oranges cut in half that felt like the first taste of water after a long day exposed to the desert sun and heat, salt and vinegar crisps that we would squash into crumbs so that they would last longer as our fingers grew tainted with salt and grease, Red Skins that would glue your teeth shut and colour your tongue a velvet red, and addictive sherbert lolly bags known as Wizz Fizz and would send you to the highest happiness peaks known to children aged 6–8. Oh how I envied the power she yielded every time she walked around the school yard with those golden $1 and $2 coins!

I decided then and there that I too wanted to be drunk with power.

I discovered at home towers of paper; white, beige, granulated and patterned, and spent my recesses and lunchtimes selling these sheets of paper to my classmates at 50c — $1 a pop depending on the perceived rarity of the paper in question. This venture lasted just under 1 week and I had secured enough funds that would make me king of the playground indefinitely, until I was called into the Principal’s office; to which promptly brought an end to “Kym & Associates Paper Co.”.

I learned a few things:

  1. Your world changes when you have resources at your disposal i.e. the $1 or $2 coin, and sometimes, the resource is a lot closer within reach than we think it is (it didn’t take long to acquire $1 and $2)
  2. People purchase based on relationships and whether or not they like you, even if the product is widely available
  3. The sale comes from the ability to market the product in a way that makes it interesting and unique
  4. Business longevity is a concern when the business is built on foundations that are contrary to rules and regulations #outlawlogic

The acceleration of success doesn’t come by choice, but rather, it comes when we have NO choice

Raymond Chou. Founder and CEO at Infront Consulting APAC. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I was 14 years old and my first entrepreneurial project involved selling cookies, that my mum baked, at school. Years earlier my parents separated, and the income that dad supported us with was really never enough. So I told my mum that I wanted to help.

Selling cookies in school wasn’t easy. My friends didn’t really have enough money to buy an entire box, so my teachers bought the cookies in support. Knowing that I couldn’t rely on just my teachers’ support, I floated the idea that my friends could buy an entire box if they pooled their funds.

Unfortunately, soliciting sales at school was frowned upon, and I was called up to the Headmaster’s office a total of 5 times. I consider myself blessed to be left off the proverbial hook with warnings in what I can only assume is the understanding of the Headmaster, who understood my intent behind this venture.

There were 3 key lessons here: the first being that the acceleration of success doesn’t come by choice, but rather, it comes when we have NO choice. It’s during times of crisis that we are pushed to move. And so we move.

The second being that if you have a way for people to get what they want and make it easier for people to get what they want, they will buy. My friends could not afford an entire box of cookies, and if I had fixated on my go-to-market strategy, I would never have sold any boxes of cookies. It was when I educated my potential customers that they could pool their funds, the deal was done.

Finally, if you ever get caught selling cookies at school, a good story will help.

Sometimes, one needs to look at opportunities from different perspectives to uncover value and opportunity

Ron Lovett. Founder and Chief Alignment Officer at Connolly Owens, Founder and Chief Community Officer at Vida Living, Author at Outrageous Empowerment. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The first entrepreneurial venture I did pertains to when my mom used to take us skiing in the United States. On these trips I purchased baseball hats bring back to Canada. I learned that I could sell them for the same price that I bought them, for but with the United States/Canadian exchange rate, I would make 30% profit. This was my first lesson in arbitrage.

On reflection, the key lessons I learned from this venture are:

  1. Sometimes, one needs to look at opportunities from different perspectives to uncover value and opportunity
  2. There are advantages in being able to provide products to people that they cannot normally get their hands on themselves
  3. Store your inventory in a safe place; a hard lesson I learned when my dog stumbled upon my baseball hat collection and bit the tops off all of them

Even when you are under time pressure, don’t sign any agreement without reviewing it carefully and preferably with legal advice

Tony Falkenstein. Founder and CEO at Just Life Group Limited, Founder and CEO at Just Water, President at Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Auckland, New Zealand.

Maybe not my first entrepreneurial project, but certainly my first entrepreneurial real business.

I was working for Polaroid as a Finance Manager, and was amazed at the cost an agency charged for placing employees. So I thought I would start a personnel agency, but stay at Polaroid until the new business was making enough money to employ me.

I hired 2 mature sales ladies who had experience selling medical insurance and had the attitude I was looking for, and I called the business “Vogue Personelle”. I’m quite proud of the branding; I utilised the French tricolour in my logo, and placed Vogue magazines at reception.

We had been in operation for 2 months, and I was thinking in another month I would hand in my notice to Polaroid, but then I got offered the job as General Manager which effectively would make me the youngest General Manager in the Polaroid empire. I decided to sell the business fast, and I got screwed by another larger agency, who not only got the business for virtually nothing, but also took the incoming fees from the placements my team had made.

My learning: even when you are under time pressure, don’t sign any agreement without reviewing it carefully and preferably with legal advice.

What do you think?

Do you agree or violently disagree with anything shared in this article? Or do you have any of your own stories that you want to share? Pop them in the comments and I will personally reply.

Call to action 

My goal is to help 1,000,000 people. My wish is to have these articles shared 1,000,000 times through the various social networks. For this reason, I provide this collection online for free and all I ask of you is this: If any of these articles have helped you in any way, please take a moment to share on social media, email to someone you think will find benefit, or print and leave it on the desk of someone whom you believe has the motivation, but lacks the tools to take themselves to the next level.

Don’t miss out on any new articles. Subscribe via email using the form at the bottom of this post and I’ll have the articles delivered straight to your inbox. Alternatively, you can also follow me on my various social media accounts: FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter.