Your time, your kindness and your No, is what creates success

a cup of self love

The Three Secrets to Building a Beautiful Business and Life

self esteem and kindness

Have you ever felt overwhelmed, frustrated or stuck in your business? My guess is that most of us have, and, if you haven’t, then you’re either knee-deep in denial or some kind of entrepreneurial unicorn. (If you fit into the latter category, feel free to move smugly on to another blog post… but not before you send me your secrets!)

When we first start out on our entrepreneurial journey, we’re told that success is all about the sensible, hardnosed principles and business buzzwords that you’ve likely heard a bazillion times: visioning, leadership, delegation, systems, planning, KPIs, and more. Of course, all of these things are crucially important, but there are three key principles that matter even more.

Three Unrecognised Factors for Success

I believe there are three undervalued and almost unrecognised factors for business success that are far more important than all those clichéd examples put together. These are the secrets to getting unstuck, stepping out of overwhelm and finally building the beautiful business and life that you deserve.

So, what must you learn?

  1. Your time is your business’ most valuable asset.
  2. It’s okay to say “no”, often.
  3. Be kind to yourself.

And that, my friends, is it.

Simple, right? Too simple for some of your sceptical minds, I’m sure. In fact, I can feel the eye rolls and smirks burning through the screen, but don’t write my theory off just yet! Your beautiful business (and life) is on the other side of listening to, and applying, what I’m about to share.

Maximising Time: Your Most Valuable Asset

In my experience, most business owners believe their most valuable asset is their staff, customers, intellectual property, stock, equipment or buildings. All of these things (or people) are incredibly valuable, for sure, but time is the only asset that is truly limited. You can never get more time – no matter how much you try to beg, borrow, hire, buy or steal.

Your time – spent fully focused on the stuff that really matters – is an asset almost as rare as rocking horse droppings.

In order to build a beautiful business and life, you must learn to become greedy with your time. You need to repeatedly check in and ask yourself questions like:

  1. Is this thing the best use of my time right now?
  2. What would happen if I didn’t do this thing?
  3. Is there someone else who could be doing this thing instead of me?
  4. What would happen if I did this thing later?
  5. If I do this thing now, what am I sacrificing?

Trust me: it pays to train yourself to ask these questions, often. Make it a habit. You will always have a “to do” list longer than your arm. You will always have more demands on your time than you can physically fit into a good day’s work. That is, of course, if you aren’t an aforementioned entrepreneurial unicorn (in which case, why are you still reading?!).

In short: learn to do only the stuff that matters most.

Saying “Yes” to Saying No

There is no more important skill for a business owner than knowing how and when to say “no”. Why? For starters, it will help you out immensely with achieving point 1 (maximising your time), but it will also pave the way for making your business stand out from the crowd.

Marketing 101 says that every business needs a unique selling point (USP). That’s why it pays to know your fortes and play to them by turning other opportunities down. After all, “a jack of all trades is the master of none”. Focus on your fortes and you’ll reap the rewards of presenting a highly differentiated brand.

Here’s some homework to get you started. Practice saying “no” in front of the mirror and then make a pact with yourself to say it for real at least once this week – or better yet, today! Remember, it is possible to say “no” respectfully, clearly, calmly and without feeling guilty. This brings me to my next point…

Less Guilt, More Kindness

Do you frequently beat yourself up for procrastinating? Believe you’re inherently disorganised, forgetful and lazy? Think your time management SUCKS? Does a cruel voice in your head frequently tell you that you’re not good enough?

You’re not alone. Absolutely everybody (except psychopaths!) has that critical inner voice. Everyone lets their worries, anxieties and irrational feelings of guilt get the best of them sometimes. However, us business owners are particularly hard on ourselves. In fact, I often jokingly say that small business owners are the most guilt-ridden people on the planet because I hear these kinds of self-deprecating words so often in my coaching practice.

That’s why I saved this particular pearl of wisdom for last, hoping you would remember and digest it well. In my humble opinion, being kind to yourself is not only the most powerful antidote to self-sabotage, but your fastest path back to JOY.

Being kind to yourself is not just the most effective way out of feeling stuck or overwhelmed in your business and your life – it’s the only way.

When we allow negativity and feelings of guilt to take hold, we give ourselves ever bigger burdens to carry. We set the bar impossibly high and then we punish ourselves when we don’t hit the mark. We lead ourselves to the paralysing place of overwhelm with too many tasks to complete in too little time and no plausible end in sight.

An overwhelmed brain is not pretty. It’s extremely inefficient, scientifically proven to underperform at every level and an enormous waste of your incredibly valuable time. And while the devil on your shoulder is, in fact, a protective mechanism designed to keep you safe, that doesn’t mean it ain’t a giant pain in the arse. So, how do we overcome it?

The good news is that you are completely capable of dialling down the negative voice and freeing yourself of imposter syndrome (feeling inadequate despite your success). Our brains are surprisingly malleable, and it IS possible to break the habit of a lifetime. Begin by noticing it and catching yourself in the act. Be inquisitive about where the self-doubt could be coming from. Remain compassionate, judgement-free and patient with your perfectly imperfect self while you reframe those pesky misperceptions and then continue on your merry way feeling 10 stone lighter!

I promise you; this soft, cuddly kindness stuff is the most crucial and hard-hitting work of all. Silencing (or at least muting because it’s a work in progress for all of us, including me!) that inner critic provides the space for creativity to flourish and a new level of clarity and productivity to arise. Plus, as soppy as it sounds, you have every right and reason to give yourself a pat on the pack. You’ve made it this far. You’re alive. You’re learning. You’re growing.

Your Permission Slip

So, here’s your permission slip to stop, give yourself a break and smell the roses. Look at what you’ve already achieved. Tell that little voice in your head to kindly move along because you’ve got this, and you ARE good enough. Now, make a note of my TLDR summary below and then TAKE ACTION on the good stuff today.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or stuck and you want to build a beautiful business and life, you must learn to:

  1. Accept that your time is your business’ most valuable asset – and act accordingly.
  2. Say “no” regularly, calmly, respectfully and clearly.
  3. Be kind to yourself, above all else.

This shit works. I promise you.

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More about these topics:

AY: Mental health and wellbeing for small business owners

A healthy small business needs a healthy mind

In 2020 I was interviewed about this topic of mental health and well being and learning how to be kind to yourself by Donna White of Build Your Best Business in the USA.

If you want to build a beautiful business, learn to become kind to yourself.

In 2019, the Federal Department of Jobs and Small Business launched a project to improve the support of small business owners in the areas of mental health and wellbeing.

I was asked to take part in this project in various ways:

  • I attended and spoke at the departments national roadshow Small Business Fairs in Launceston and Hobart
  • I took part in one of 4 workgroups run by the department on improving the support for small business owners in mental health and wellbeing
  • I took part in the creating of 5 videos by the department on mental health and wellbeing in small business.

You can read more about the project on the departments website here

The 5 videos follow below. Besides myself, the other coaches involved in the project were:

The pressure points for mental health and wellbeing for small business owners:
Managing stress for small business owners
Stress, overwhelm, balance and wellbeing in family business
Pearls of wisdom about mental health and wellbeing for small business owners:

My ego and the death of my mother

no desires presence lotus

presence no desires, nothing left to prove lotus

One year on, and all I care about now is Being here, it seems

I’ve written in the past about the death of my mother, most recently here:

It’s now a little over a year ago and I’ve noticed that her passing from my life has had a quite unexpected impact on me.

In the weeks and months leading up to her dying I’d tried to imagine what life would look like after the event. But no matter how hard I tried to imagine that future, it was as if I was looking at a black screen of a big television that wasn’t turned on, just a big black flat nothing. My imagination simply wasn’t able to create a picture of life without my mother in it.

And then, a couple of months after she died, I suddenly realised I was now on the other side of that big black screen and that, surprise surprise, life on the other side of the television looked very much like normal, life goes on.

People asked me how I was and how I felt, and if I missed her a lot and I wondered about that myself.

And the answer I generally gave, was that I felt at peace with how she’d died and how we had been able to complete our journey in life with each other and how much time and attention I’d been able to give her and the process, and I was ok, quite good even.

Don’t speak too soon

A little voice on my shoulder kept muttering things under it’s breath like: “Don’t you speak too soon”, and “I’ll talk to you in a while, you’ll think different then”, but it all sounded fairly harmless and I didn’t pay it too much more attention.

But now, a year later, I’ve started wondering.

Most of my life I’ve been interested in doing things differently than everyone else. Break the norm, stand out from the crowd. Whatever field of endeavour I went into, I felt the urge to do things differently, whether that was in boat building, home renovating, coaching or in any of the many other things I’ve occupied myself with in my life.

It’s always been Projects (with a capital “P”). Projects have excited me and kept me interested and moving. But I’ve noticed something change inside me this past year. And it might lead one to think that the little voice on my shoulder was right to be concerned after all.

My Ego-Projects

You see, I now think of these projects as “Ego-Projects”… Projects that were designed to stroke my ego, to convince myself how special, clever, creative and different I really was.

Or …

Projects that were designed to show my mother how special, clever, creative and different I really was.

And now that’s she’s gone, it seems like I don’t feel the need to convince myself or my mother of anything anymore.

Projects hold no interest for me at the moment. All I’m interested in is Being.

Being with myself and Being in relationship with family and friends.

Tuesdays with the grandkids

I wrote about my wonderful Tuesday afternoons with my grandkids here and I get engaged when working with my clients and I love investing time in my friendships and in my relationship with Lady D, but I simply do not feel the need to go and do anything beyond that kind of Being.

For example. Some years ago I set myself a big Project, to be talking on a global TED stage by the time I was 65. (I wrote about that Project in November last year here). But now, I have zero interest in doing that anymore. Quite apart from the fact that it’s unlikely I’ll actually get to speak from a global TED stage, I’m simply not interested. I have better things to do with my life than chase after such a thing. And even if I were to get onto that stage, what then? What’s next? Election to the USA presidency? (oh wait, there’s a thought)

But it’s very strange, It’s a weird experience for me, unsettling. I’ve never felt like this in my life before.

On the one hand I think it’s actually really positive. What else could I ask for than to feel good about just Being, to want nothing else than to just Be. To be here and nowhere else with the people that matter to me? Free from striving, free from feeling pressured and free from feeling I have anything to prove.

But on the other hand, isn’t that also dreadfully close to being depressed?

Aren’t we meant to be striving, and achieving and making things happen, building stuff, creating stuff, developing stuff? Isn’t that what sets us apart from the monkeys?

Striving for Sgt Pepper’s

I suppose there is little doubt that if it wasn’t for human striving the Beatles wouldn’t have created Sgt Peppers, van Gogh wouldn’t have painted “Irises” (or cut of his ear), and Bill Gates wouldn’t have created his Foundation, but by the same token, all that striving has led to all the wars that ever were, to overpopulation and to global warming, to loss of bio diversity and to looming mass extinctions.


And then there is this little thing called: “The need to earn money” (To be honest you could easily argue, that writing blog posts such as this one, don’t fit in any kind of regular marketing strategy for my business. Maybe if my business was a meditation retreat, blogging about giving up all earthly desires might prove to be useful, but for a business coaching business?… Not so much)

So… It’s been a weird year since my mother died. I imagine the changes it’s wrought in me, will continue for a while yet.

I wonder where I’ll be a year from today?

I’ll let you know how I go.


I used to be the smartest person in the room

throwing a tantrum

Why throwing a Big Fat Tantrum feels like a great option right now

Life feels a bit like I’m wrestling in a mud bath right now. There are a bunch of challenges and big changes in front of Lady D and myself and I’m not finding it all that easy to navigate my way through.

I know about emotional intelligence, and part of me knows that I can trust myself to ride through these challenges and changes, that I’ll come out the other end, and that life will go on. I tell myself that 58 years of living my life as I have, means I’ve earned the right to trust myself to manage, to decide and to do the right stuff.

But there’s also a hint of panic creeping in. What if this time I don’t get on top of the challenges, what if this time I slowly but inexorably spiral down into a deep black hole and what if this time I won’t find the way out?

I volunteer at a homeless support centre in Sydney called the Wayside Chapel, and I have met many people who have spiralled down into that black hole and many who don’t ever find the way out again.

Those people scare the bejesus out of me. I see them drag themselves through life, day in day out, and they freak me out. I’ve sometimes wondered how it’s possible that people allow themselves to disappear down that hole so deeply. I’ve always considered myself “better” than them, because I held the cocky belief I have the inner strength to pick myself up by the scruff of the neck and go and do something constructive.

But right now, I’m not so confident of that strength.

Crawling out of Trouble

And maybe that’s a good thing. To quote Graham Long, the CEO of The Wayside Chapel: “Whenever you find yourself thinking you are the smartest (strongest, most resourceful) person in the room… You’re in trouble.” Maybe I’ve been in trouble and now I’m crawling out!

And I remind myself that the last couple of years have brought significant change in my life and all of that change is bound to have an impact on me and to just allow it to take its course.

But it’s not that easy, is it?

There’s simple practicalities of life to consider.

It may be perfectly healthy to just let things develop as they will, but I need to get new clients, I need to find a new city to live in and buy a house, I need to make sure that things in our house in Holland go well, I need to support Lady D and I need to continue to develop my business and stay healthy.

And I’m not sure how to do all that. Actually, forget knowing how to do all that, I’m confused even about the steps to take, to arrive at that knowledge.

Lean into The Discomfort

In the past, in the days when I was more or less convinced that I was the smartest person in the room, I used to say stuff like: “Lean into the discomfort” and “Being lost in the wilderness is the only way to discover the hidden treasure” and “Trust you’ll have the answers deep inside you”.

There’s nothing like an Inspiring Facebook Meme to remind people you actually are the smartest person in the room, is there?

But it doesn’t feel so great when the shoe is on my own foot, and I’m not feeling so smart these days.

The Wave Form of Life

Graham Long talks about the wave form of life. We go from peaks to troughs and back up again. He makes the point that the impulse to stay on top of the peaks all the time, and never descend into the troughs, is the impulse of the addict.

wave form of life

And I get that, I really do. I accept that as soon as we find ourselves on the top of a wave, we’ll start heading down into the trough, every time. It’s just that these days I feel less certain about the opposite, about climbing out of the trough again. Or maybe it’s that I’m not so sure I’ve hit the bottom of the trough yet, maybe there’s a lot further to go, who can tell?

And while I’m here, what am I supposed to do? Swim? Or let the wave toss me about for a while?

One of the challenges I am currently struggling with is the fact that we’re going to have to leave Sydney, probably NSW, possibly even Australia. I won’t bore you with the reasons, suffice to say it’s a consequence of decisions we’ve made over the past 15 years. I am not regretting the decisions I’ve made, I believe they were entirely the right decisions for my life at that time, but ultimately it now means we can’t stay here.

Blind Freddy Could Have Seen This Coming

It’s not as if the situation we find ourselves in right now comes as a complete surprise. To be honest, Blind Freddy could have seen this coming 15 years ago, and what’s more, at least we have options, many more options than the people I meet at the Wayside have. But I don’t want those options. I resent being forced to choose one of them. What I really want is to throw a tantrum, stamp my feet, throw myself on the floor and scream at the top of my voice, until someone fixes things for me.

Not a good look for a big 58 year old, balding, overweight man (I tried it on my grandkids the other day, they were not impressed).

Lack of Conclusions

For the last hour, I’ve been procrastinating about how to continue this piece. One of the reasons I started writing this post was to help me clarify things for myself, and to make me feel like I was doing something constructive. But I’m stuck now. Not sure where to go next or how to finish up.

Normally, having arrived at this stage in an essay, I’d start drawing a conclusion and a lesson and then find a way to finish with my signature closing words: “I Promise you”.

But now that I’m not the smartest person in the room anymore, that formula doesn’t really work any longer. I don’t have a lesson, I don’t even have a conclusion for you…

Sorry about that.

I’ll just go and throw that Tantrum now… It will make me feel better… I Prom…


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10 Rules for Happiness in Business and in Life

chocolate happiness


The Rules I’d have if I didn’t hate Rules

I’d love to hear about your Rules in the comments below

I hate Rules, as a Rule (!!), but if we must have Rules, I’d rather we had Rules about happiness than about eating chocolate or wearing helmets.

I recently watched a great video by Robert Waldinger about a 75 year Harvard study on Happiness (watch the video here). It’s a fascinating talk and a fascinating research project. It got me to thinking about the good life and happiness and I arrived at these 10 Rules. As a business coach who’s focus is helping his clients feel great about themselves and build great businesses, my perspective is tilted in that direction of course. Robert Waldinger talks about the value of relationships and at some point in the video he says: “On the whole, the people who do best in their lives as they get older are those who have leant into building relationships during their younger years”. I am completely convinced that he is right, and so I offer these 10 Rules as additional to the findings of the Harvard study.

BTW, they’re not really Rules of course, think of them as food for thought and conversation starters instead.

Also, you need to know, that for me, there is little difference between Life and Business, so I suggest you consider these 10 Rules in whatever context suits you best.

And I’d love to hear about your own Rules for happiness… Please share your thoughts in the comments below… I dare you!!!

So here goes:

Rule 1 : If you know where you’re going and you’re in control of the ship, it’s easy to get up in the morning.

I believe there are two reasons we get to feel overwhelmed and stuck in life. The first is when we don’t know where we’re going and the second is when we feel that life is living us instead of the other way round. The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland told Alice: “If you don’t know where you’re going, My Dear, any road will do“. I’ve always loved that quote (as long as you keep Rule #2 below in mind as well), but what is just as important is that we have a sense of agency in our lives, of having our hand on the tiller. Nothing is more stress inducing in my experience, than feeling we are being pushed and pulled in directions that we have no input over. It is one of the reasons I believe we, as business owners, suffer from depression less than the average population, because even though business might be terribly stressful and frustrating at times, at least we have this sense of being in control of the levers.

Rule 2 : Goals are merely directions on a compass, not destinations to get to.

The self-development craze of the past 30 years has sent us up the garden path with it’s focus on goal setting. We’ve been told that you must set clear measurable goals in life and strive to achieve them (Remember SMART Goals?). But goals can never be anything else than a Hail-Mary: “Given everything I know right now and assuming my best efforts in the future, I am going to achieve XYZ”. You don’t actually know anything about the future. Tomorrow the world will be a different place than it is today; Tomorrow you’ll be a different person than you are today. You may well decide to change your mind about your Goal tomorrow. So Goal setting is indeed a very useful thing to do, as long as you treat the Goal as a direction, a course to travel in, not a destination. And when circumstances on the journey change, you should of course always be prepared to change your direction, if that is what’s required to keep your journey going.

Rule 3 : The smallest difference that makes a difference will change your life.

Forget Change with a capital “C”. Sustainable change in life or business happens by taking one small step at a time, one day at a time. Every day a tiny step forward is a much more effective recipe for effecting change than attempting to jump forward in big leaps. Small step change is much less risky, it allows for everyone to adjust to changed realities and if one of the steps doesn’t work out, it’s no big drama to take one small little step back again.

Rule 4 : Forget growth, concentrate on delivery.

The myth is that business must grow or else it dies. I’m not sure where the myth comes from, but it is a myth, and a dangerous one at that. Focusing on growth as the measure of success in anything is a recipe for disaster and many businesses have grown themselves right into oblivion. The trick is not to grow your business or your organisation, it is to do so while continuing to deliver the quality and consistency and reliability that you aspire to. Growth will follow automatically if you do what you say you’ll do by the time you say you’ll do it at the price you say you’ll do it for, every time, with a smile.

Rule 5 : If you want something you’ve never had before…. You’ve got to BE someone you’ve never been before.

Your business (your career, your relationships, your health) is what it is today, because of WHO you are today. It follows that if you want your business to be something else, you have to Be someone else first. Change in other words, personal Change with a capital “C” (don’t forget to take Rule #3 above to heart as well). You simply can not create the business you dream of and do so without putting your face right up close to the mirror, looking yourself in the eye until it gets uncomfortable, and stay there.

Rule 6 : Today’s plans are tomorrows toilet paper.

Someone once said that planning is guessing, and a famous general is quoted as saying: “No battle plan ever survives the first contact with the enemy”, and in my days as a builder I used to say that all project plans I’ve ever created were out of date before they’d come off the printer. But don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that planning is therefore a waste of time. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact. The conclusion to draw is that we must always be planning. Because planning is a verb, it is what we must do all the time. We must constantly ask ourselves “what-if” questions, imagining the possible scenarios we might encounter and how we’ll respond to those should they come to pass. The value of the plan is never in the piece of paper but in the work done to create it.

Rule 7 : Change is uncomfortable, and that’s OK.

Human beings don’t like Change, we’re scared of it. And that’s because change happens as a result of going on a journey. And going on journeys is scary. Think of the anxiety you feel before going on a big trip, especially a trip where not a lot has been pre-booked. And a journey of change is like a journey where nothing is pre-booked, it’s a journey out on the open ocean, out of sight of land. Journeys of change never take place in the safety of the harbour. It takes courage to leave the harbour behind.  After every visit to the harbour, we have to take a deep breath to push off again, set a course for the horizon and resist the temptation to turn back as soon as the first big swells hit. But then once the sails are set and the ship settles on its keel, we start to revel in the possibilities of the open ocean again (even if we might feel sea sick from time to time).

Rule 8 : Feeling fear and anxiety means you’re not a psychopath, and that is a good thing.

Fear, anxiety, nerves, worries… They’re normal human emotions. There is nothing wrong with feeling fear. Being nervous about the outcome of things is a good thing. Worrying about things means you’ll double check that your parachute is shackled on securely before you jump from the plane. Feeling anxiety before making a new investment, employing a new staff member or signing a contract is healthy. Love your anxieties I say; Seriously, they’ve gotten you this far, don’t knock them.

Rule 9 : Presence is a great thing to aspire to, but un-achievable for normal humans.

Yep I know, it is a great thing to be Mindful, to be “here and nowhere else” and to always remember that Now is all there is. I know it, I feel it, I hear you… and… I also know that I will not attain that state of mind until about 1.5 minutes before I die, and I suspect, nor will you. So by all means, remind yourself to be in the Now from time to time, but don’t give yourself a hard time when you’re not… Noone else is either.

Rule Last : You’ll never be as cool or as rich as Richard Branson, and that’s cool.

‘Nough said…

Here’s how I help my clients life and work by those 10 Rules

My Brain in Full Trickster Mode is a Sight to Behold

Tricks of the brain illusions

Emotional roller coasters as the facts of life in Sydney catch up with us

Lady D and I have lived in an amazing apartment in Sydney with sweeping views over the harbour for the past 7 years. Besides enjoying the space, the light and the view, I’ve felt at home there and possibly even “house proud”. As I was want to say to various friends and acquaintances: “They’ll have to carry me out of here in a box”. But the harsh realities of Sydney real estate and tenancy laws meant we’ve had to move a bit sooner than that, and on our own two feet.

We found a nice place in a new suburb and we’ve settled down again, three months since being confronted with the facts of life in Sydney. The past three months have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, as you might imagine, and it’s been fascinating to observe my brain in action during this time.

One of the first things I noticed, was that my whole outlook and appreciation of what had been our home for the past 7 years changed.

  • Suddenly, the apartment became just 4 walls and a roof.
  • Suddenly, I stopped looking at the view and where previously I’d always opened the doors to the balcony, whenever I could, now I couldn’t be bothered half the time.
  • For years I made a point of waking up around sunrise to see the sun come up over the water, but suddenly, I started sleeping in most mornings.
  • Suddenly, I felt out of place in the suburb and even Sydney lost some of its gloss.

Once the decision was made to move, I couldn’t get out fast enough.

Looking beyond Sydney

Beyond the short-term move we’ve now made, we also decided it’s time to look beyond Sydney for the next stage of our lives. The house we’ve moved into a month ago will only be our home for only a year or so.

And again, I’ve noticed my brain scrambling into action. Because we know we’re only going to be here for a year or so, I’m finding it difficult to get emotionally connected to this place. It doesn’t feel like home and where previously I would have gone out of my way to make our place feel homely, now I’m not even motivated to hang up any pictures. I have this sense of having moved into a furnished apartment.


It’s a fascinating process my brain is taking me through these months. It seems to me that it’s all about self-preservation. My brain is intent on protecting me from being hurt. Having to leave the apartment, having to move again in a year and having to leave Sydney, potentially involves a lot of pain, but if I don’t like the apartment, if I’m bored with the view or with the pretentiousness of the suburb… Everything changes, doesn’t it? I won’t grieve for something I don’t like anyway. And as long as I’m not emotionally attached to the new place, well it won’t matter so much to leave that behind later either.

It’s a neat trick really.

A con trick, but a neat one nevertheless. Especially when bundled with the other trick the brain plays to minimise pain. The trick of blaming the rest of the world.

Landlords and Carlords

I found myself getting incredibly angry with the rental property managers, with the government’s mis-management of the Sydney property market, with the pre-historic state of Sydney tenancy laws and with the property owners (I refuse to call them landlords by the way, as if I would refer to the owners of Hertz car rentals as “Carlords”).

Red hot angry.

Those moronic &%$**$% and corrupt @#%^$&& etc etc etc, you get the picture.

(Don’t get me started, I can work myself into a right frenzy here.)

But of course, it’s just my brain doing more self-preservation. It stops me from focusing on what’s really going on.

Righteous anger

My anger may indeed be righteous and justified, as I firmly believe it is, but it doesn’t alter the fact that I could have seen this thing coming for years. The Tenancy laws haven’t changed in any recent past and I made good use of the insanity of Sydney real estate myself, some years back.

Really what’s going on is frustration with myself for not having prepared better and possibly even some embarrassment that my business hasn’t become so successful that a little thing like a 40% rent hike is of no consequence.

The primary function our brain has, is to keep us alive and to protect us from any and all possible attacks. It all goes back to cavemen days in fact. If a sabretooth tiger is about to pounce, you don’t have the luxury to check in with your deepest feelings, to feel the disappointment in yourself for not being more careful in your choice of camp site. The only thing that matters is to preserve your life and the lives of those that are dependent on you. Time enough for recriminations and learning the lessons and feeling the pain later… As long as you make it out of there alive first.

A hundred thousand years on

And so it goes with our brains still, 100,000 years later. Our stresses and pains have different causes, but our brains behave in the only way they know how: preserve life, minimise pain, get out of there and live to fight another day.

I’ve found it really useful to realise that that is what my brain has been doing over these past few months. It’s allowed me to calm down more easily and it’s allowed me to make cleaner decisions.

Of course I can’t know what tricks your brain plays on you from time to time, but rest assured it does. I suggest you be on the lookout for them and see if you can’t catch your brain out some time. It’s quite wonderful to behold your brain in action… I promise you.

What Richard Branson Can Teach Us About Being Happier Human Beings & Business Owners

What Richard Branson Can Teach Us About Being Happier Humans & Business Owners

Let’s face it: You’re not Richard Branson

What Richard Branson Can Teach Us About Being Happier Humans & Business Owners

And that’s a good thing

Most small business owners I know, dream of being Richard Branson. I know, I’ve had those dreams, but I don’t anymore and I think you should start changing your dreams as well.

Let’s be clear, by any measure you’d like to put up, Sir Richard has done pretty well for himself. I saw a photo of him in an ambulance the other day with scrapes and blood all over his face, because he just hurtled himself down a massive hill on a mountain bike… I’m Dutch, I grew up on a bike, but I can assure you I never did stuff like that on my bikes, and he’s recently turned 66… Next week he’ll probably make another billion dollars on some new internet venture or donate some insane amount of money to a worthy cause or do a solo kayak trip to the South Pole and back. And to make matters worse it seems by all accounts, that he’s a truly nice guy as well.

As role models go, he makes me sick.


How are we ever meant to feel good about ourselves when we are forced to look up to people like that every day.

No matter what we do, we’ll never get that island in the Bahamas, nor look as good in a wet suit when in our late sixties. It’s just not going to happen.

Getting depressed

Pretty fair grounds to get depressed don’t you think?

Well no, actually. It turns out that feeling good about ourselves, about our lives and about our business has nothing to do with our achievements. Feeling good about our lives, feeling good about ourselves is about two things:

  • Relationships, because we are herd animals
  • The journey, because we are human beings

If Sir Richard Branson feels good about himself, about his life and his (many) businesses, it will be because of those two things only.

Firstly, as herd animals we actually are, we only get to feel really good about ourselves as a consequence of the relationships we develop with loved ones and family, with friends and with our community. The quality, intimacy and intensity of our interaction with the people around us leads us through life and allows us to feel happy.

Going on journeys that never end

And as the special animals called human beings we need to go on journeys. Journeys are about challenge and adventure and scary stuff; stepping out of your comfort zone and staying there. Journeys are never actually about getting there, sure you may need a rest every now and then and charge up the batteries from time to time, but the never ending adventure is where it’s at.

But the biggest journeys are not taken in a Kayak or on a mountain bike or in a hot air balloon.

The biggest journeys any of us can ever take, are in our own heads. There can be no greater journey for some people than overcoming the fear of public speaking, or for you as a small business owner, it may that learning to understand your Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss reports, are an ongoing struggle and source of discomfort.

For some of us the greatest journey we can ever undertake is to become a great employer of 1 or two people.

People and journey’s, your own personal journeys… Focus on those and you’ll feel just as good about yourself as Richard Branson does when he continues on his next crazy adventure… I promise you.

And if you ever need a self-assessment to give you some food for thought on whether you’re a small business owner who can juggle between the demands of life and business, here’s my treat for you:

Take the FREE Richard Branson Quiz!

You will get a score on my “Richard Branson” scale and I will send you back a short commentary on your score… I hope it will throw up some useful thoughts for you.

Richard Branson Quiz

Happiness, Positive Thinking and Acceptance


Let’s all go out and find some Happiness

Happiness: Positive thinking and other nonsense

How would it be if I told you that a lot of what you believe will make you happy in life, actually does the opposite?

keep calmHave a look at the following statements:

  • Do what you love and the money will follow.
  • The only things that hold you back are your beliefs
  • Positive thinking is easy.
  • Focus on the negative and that’s what you’ll get.
  • Your self-talk creates your success.
  • Your thoughts determine your outcomes
  • Happiness is a choice (so is unhappiness)
  • What goes round comes round
  • We only use 10% of our brains. (Trust your intuition to know what to do for success)
  • Success (wealth, happiness, love) isn’t a finite resource; everyone can have it.

If you focus on those statements every day, you will live a happy, fulfilled, rewarding life, right?


They’re all nonsense and harmful to your happiness.

The statements are myths and they set us up for feeling like failures.

The Happiness Myths

I will refer to them as the Happiness Myths from here.

The Happiness Myths have been popularised in books and seminars on ‘Positive Thinking’ and by movies such as ‘The Secret’.

I’m sad to say that I have done my share of perpetuating the Happiness Myths as well.

Goals at Harvard

harvard A classic example of one of the Happiness Myths is one that has been quoted as Gospel-truth for 40 years by anybody with a pulse in the personal development world. The myth is that people who set goals and write them down are much more likely to be successful in life than those who don’t, and that there was an important study done at Harvard University in the late fifties that unequivocally proved the Goal Myth.

The problem is: the study never took place.

Scarcity v Abundance

Another Happiness Myth that I adhered to enthusiastically as well for some time, is that what gets in the way of our success, wealth and happiness is our belief that there isn’t enough to go round for everyone. It’s called ‘The Scarcity Mindset’ and the myth is that we have to learn to embrace ‘The Abundance Mindset’ instead, if we want to live happy lives.

It is a nice myth, but sadly, no amount of Abundance Mindset thinking is going to change the circumstances of a starving farming family in The Horn of Africa.

In our turbulent lives, it is tempting to believe the various Happiness Myths. It would be so comforting to believe that if we simply set a goal, and change our self-talk, we will allow happiness and success into our lives. Who wouldn’t want to believe such dreams?

But they are dreams, and I believe it’s time for us to wake up. Belief in the ‘Happiness Myths’ actually sets us up for feeling deeply unhappy.

Making sense of our lives

Being happy in life has a lot to do with how we make sense of our lives. People who are generally happy tend to explain bad outcomes in life as results of their actions (I have done something bad); as opposed to people who tend to explain the same outcomes as a personal failure (I am bad).

This is how it works: If you decide that you have done something wrong, (‘I have to admit that I didn’t handle that argument with my wife very well’) then you are generally able to manage your diappointment, because you can decide to do better next time (‘Next time I am simply going to remind myself to take a deep breath and count to ten before…’). failure But if you believe that you personally are bad at something, it means you will always struggle to get a better outcome (‘Here we go again, I am just so bad at relationships’).

If you subscribe to the Happiness Myths, you will want to explain life as a result of your thinking, your attitude and your self-talk; If you are not successful in your business, the little voice on your shoulder will say: ‘See you don’t think right’.

  • If you are single, it’s because you are so negative.
  • If you are not as wealthy as you would like to be, it’s because you don’t want it badly enough.
  • If you didn’t win the running race, it’s because you don’t believe in yourself enough.
  • If your children struggle with drugs it means you haven’t been a good enough parent.

In other words: When things don’t go the way you’d wish them to go, it is your failure as a person that is the cause of it. And that is the perfect breeding ground for unhappiness in life.

The Secret to Happiness

So if positive thinking in all its many guises doesn’t lead to happiness… what does?

The answer is this:

Being happy means “accepting what happens”… The search for happiness is a ‘Contradiction in terms’. There is no activity you can undertake that will lead to greater happiness. Happiness can only come from accepting what is.

Acceptance is the key.

I mentioned the ‘Scarcity Mindset’ and how we are told that embracing the ‘Abundance Mindset’ will turn our lives around. It won’t… what will turn your life around (and mine too) is to learn to accept ‘Sufficiency’.

enough When we learn to accept ‘Enough’ in all aspects of our lives; when we accept that we are good enough, clever enough, thin enough, beautiful enough, good enough parents, rich enough and we let go of all the striving to make us happier… That’s when happiness comes-a-calling.

So… What I’m going to do is sit under a tree this afternoon and accept that a bird might drop something on my head.

What are you ready to accept?

Oh and by the way… Please don’t accept everything I wrote 

About Roland Hanekroot and the Small Business Masterminds Webinars

Roland Hanekroot is the founder of New Perspectives Business Coaching and the author of “The Ten Truths books for business owners”

To support small business owners take the first steps to building a business that sustains them for years, Roland runs a series of regular webinars called The Small Business Masterminds Foundation webinars. There are three different Foundation webinars, on Time Management, The Purpose of Business and How to have more Fun in Business.

The foundation webinars are totally free and you can find out more and register for the next one here: