16 hour days are for idiots

The story of most entrepreneurs starts with a frustration of the 9-5. Or in London (where I live) the 8-6. Add in a commute and you have a few quick moments to grab some questionable food, scroll past a few memes and get ready for the grind to repeat the next day.

Until one day you wake up and wonder to yourself. What the heck am I doing spending all this time working for someone else when I could slave away from day to night on my own projects.

Well no, perhaps that’s not the thought that crosses our mind.

We imagine this carefree life where we lie in, take an extended lunch and finish early whilst our business accumulates wildly passive income. All whilst you swan around in Bali.

Now neither of these two extremes are healthy.

We all know that passive income isn’t passive. Despite what the content creator influencer types are telling us – they’re spending tons of time very actively creating passive income.

And whilst sunning ourselves endlessly with the occasional mocktail sounds delightful, in actual fact it’s very boring.

Why do you think the super rich make such terrible life decisions? They’re bored of course.

An escape to paradise can be fun for a few weeks. But after a while you’ll crave the normality of home-cooked meals, church community (yes even the weird sort of friends you accumulate along the way) and the ordinary daily rhythms.

Whilst so many are trapped in the endless demands of the corporate life, just as many make the jump to start their own business only to find that their new boss is even worse.

Yes that’s you of course. Instead of enjoying and embracing the flexibility, left to our own devices we tend to overwork and never stop really.

Which leads me to my conclusion.

16 hour days are really for idiots.

(Bless you if you’re working 16 hour days – I’m not really calling you an idiot. But I am making a point that it’s not super clever. And not being super clever can sometimes be described as being slightly idiotic. Ok I take it back, I just might be calling you an eejit).

Who wants to work all day? Life is so much more than work. And by the way, I absolutely LOVE my work.

My favourite moments of this year have been:

  • Playing chess with my 9 year old daughter
  • Going on a mini skiing trip with my wife and friends
  • Playing ridiculous games (remember spoons?) until late at my friend’s house

Can you see the thread?

All of the best moments in life involve other PEOPLE.

Money can enable us to create great experiences and level up our quality of life.

But true freedom is the ability to be present with the people we care about.

This is where the paths of the corporate robot and the adventurous entrepreneur often converge. Neither of them know how to switch off.

And both are trapped by work instead of released by it.

But what if you could build a business that makes legit money AND figure out how to unlearn your toxic work/life behaviours.

Wouldn’t that be worth fighting for? What about investing in?

That’s exactly the life I’m living right now. I work hard. But I enjoy this beautiful thing called freedom.

Would you like to live that sort of life? That’s exactly what my coaching services are about. Find out if you’d be a good fit for coaching by clicking here.

Man in cap on a skateboard

Your business life is your personal life

Hot take coming up. Can we really call someone successful if their personal life is in shambles?

This post is genuinely not about judging anyone. Life is complex and we can experience all sorts of hardship and pain when we least expect it.

So let’s start with me.

I haven’t burned out personally but I’ve been on the trajectory towards it. I’ve made many mistakes where I’ve let others down and myself. There are seasons of life where I look back and regret or even cringe.

We’re all human and imperfect. But I see a worrying trend online and in today’s culture that I do want to talk about.

I’ve noticed that many of the people I admire and follow online for their business wisdom or creative insights often reveal that the rest of their life isn’t doing so great.

If it’s not said openly, it’s kind of obvious when you read behind the lines.

Of course worst case scenario, it’s revealed in a big way through some sort of public failure.

I still think we can learn from people who are imperfect. And I always look for kernels of truth from those who are further ahead than me in an area.

But I wonder if it’s time we stop glamorising and idolising people who have only succeeded in ONE particular aspect of life?

  • Business is one aspect of life
  • Relationships are another aspect of life
  • Spirituality is another
  • Fitness and nutrition
  • Parenting, marriage etc

We make a fatal area when we assume that one area of success represents all areas of a person’s life.

We consult <insert celebrity here> for their input on <insert topic of the day> even if it’s nowhere near their expertise.

  • Musicians know music
  • Artists know art
  • Business people know business

Here’s the problem for me.

I don’t want to succeed in business but fail in my marriage.
I don’t want a ton of influence on Instagram but lose connection with my kids.
I don’t want to get flown out to speak at conferences whilst my own soul is depleted.

I don’t want success in one area. I want it in all areas. I want health. I want balance.

I want to have influence and wield power but I also want to protect myself from the darkness of it all.

I definitely don’t want to sacrifice one area on the altar for success in another.

Not everyone who is succeeding is doing it in a healthy way.

I’m at different places across the different areas of life that I’m growing in. For example, I’m well versed in communication. And I’m relatively new to fitness.

The important thing is that we’re aware of our need to succeed as a complete human being.

We may fail because of course we are imperfect. (And if you’ve already failed then there is grace for you too).

But let’s get honest about what we want and what we should value.

It’s holistic health and success.

We don’t want to partially win. We want to truly win.

Here are some practical ways we can succeed across all areas, not just some.

1. Build slowly

Ah yes, the S word. Why would we want to get things slowly when we can get them quickly? Because in most (not all) scenarios, success that comes quickly often ruins us.

  • The lottery winner doesn’t have the fiscal capacity to manage his newfound wealth.
  • The young superstar musician hasn’t yet developed the character to resist being treated like a god.

Pride comes quickly to us when we succeed too quickly. Wealth can ruin us. Having wealth is good as long as your relationship with it is healthy.

Be mindful of your capacity to handle things and cautiously build the future. Yes, there are moments for accelerated growth and you’ll know when to maximise them. But don’t covet overnight success. It’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Just ask famous people who can’t go out for a coffee without being mobbed.

2. Work on your inner life more than your external life

The externals are where the fun is. Money. Influence. Impact etc.

But the internals are what sustains the fun.

  • There’s no point having more high paying clients if you can’t respond to emails on time.
  • There’s no point having money if you have persistent back pain (cos you never move from your desk).
  • There’s no point being known if you can’t sleep at night because of the incessant stress.

Build the back end of your life and the front end will flourish.

Build your character and your gifting will thrive.

Build the systems inside your business and you’ll make more money.

Whenever we try to do more than who we are, we compromise in an area. It may be slow or gradual but it is inevitable.

3. Face your weaknesses

The reason we fail in an area is because we don’t focus on it. And we don’t focus on it because it’s not our sweet spot.

When I started my first business teaching music, I noticed that students would frequently skip over the most difficult part of the piece.

That meant that they practised the easiest bits over and over. And rarely touched the difficulty ones

And of course they got better at the former and never improved at the latter.

But when you hear someone play a song, which bit do you notice more? The bit that sounds good or that awkward mistake?

If we can make the decision to face our weakness, we will always find ourselves growing. And the good news is that these basic growth areas will actually have a disproportionate impact on everything you do..

The impact of moving daily if you never exercise is huge. Much greater than the regular fitness guy who starts wants to go to the next level. Newbie gains are a thing and it translates into all areas of life.

So what are you genuinely weak in? Face it head on. Get help by delegating to others in your business. Or paying someone to help you in your personal life. Get mentored. Get stronger.

That’s all I’ve got for you. Thanks for reading this article. I want to encourage you to be an outlier to the rest of the world. Let your story be different. Dare to succeed in all areas.

Main kneels in the sun against a wall and paints it white. A ladder leans to the side.

Why you keep working for free (and how to stop)

It’s 2024 and it’s time for you to stop doing free work.

Now of course not all free work is bad. But let’s be honest about why most of us actually do it.

We do free work because we don’t feel like we deserve to get paid for it. Perhaps we’re trying to buy good favour and future opportunities.

Or perhaps we’re simply not sure how to ask for money.

At the root of it all is a mindset about how we see the value of what we do.

Let’s talk about this limiting mindset

Nearly always, we do free work because we actually enjoy doing it and we want to help people with our skills.

For example:

  • We take photos because we love capturing moments.
  • We design a brand because we enjoy the process of visually representing an idea.
  • We produce a song for a friend because we love music

Break the lie

But here’s what’s going on beneath the surface. We are often actively believing the lie that if something is easy or enjoyable for us to do, then it is not really true work.

Therefore we shouldn’t get paid.

Can you see how this is so deceptive?

Work is supposed to be delightful

This stems from all sorts of programming in our childhood and even in our churches.

We’re told that following Jesus is about hardship and to get anywhere in life you have to work hard.

We associate work with pain instead of with delight. Thus we give away our best work instead of charging for it.

There is of course some degree of truth in these ideas. There is always an element of every type of work that is less interesting or requires us to persevere.

But taken to an extreme, we can falsely believe that if we are good at doing something then we shouldn’t be charging for it.

No it’s actually the opposite.

The will of God makes you feel alive

God made you with gifts and talents. In fact who you are is a perfect match for what you’re called to do. It would be strange (and definitely cruel) for God to design you any other way.

The reason you are good at it is because you are gifted for it.

And that’s exactly why you should charge for it.

When you work for free, eventually you run out of availability or resentment will build.

Neither of those scenarios is good for the people you seek to serve.

Here are some action steps for you:

1. For chronic overcommitters

Write down a list of your current responsibilities including unpaid work. Now get honest with yourself and ask which are actually outside of your capacity to do.

2. For those afraid of conflict

There will be some areas that you can immediately let go of. Pick up the phone and apologise for having miscommunicated your availability. Be honest. People understand.

3. When you’re in too deep

You may have to finish a project if you’ve dug yourself a hole. But don’t make the same mistake again.

4. If you’d like to get paid

Simply explain that you don’t have the capacity to continue this work for free. Remember when you say yes to one thing, you also say no to something else. If the work you do is truly valued by the client/friend then they’ll find a way to pay.

Some final thoughts

You can still choose to do free work just to help someone or be a blessing (I do this). But just make sure you’re not doing it from a place of fear or scarcity.

Your work is valuable so place value on it. It will save you much disappointment and pain in the future.

How to create discipline

As I write this, I am celebrating a personal best when it comes to fitness. At the start of 2023, I set myself a goal to workout every single day.

If fitness is not your jam, don’t worry because this post isn’t really about fitness at all. It’s about how to create discipline.

I set a few caveats to make this achievable:

Weekdays only. Five days across Monday – Friday seems like plenty.

Holidays don’t count. I knew I wouldn’t necessarily have access to a gym or be on a schedule that would let me keep my habit going.

Intensity didn’t matter. I knew there would be some days that I didn’t really want to work out but if I could just get myself to the gym then I’d end up doing something which was better than nothing.

And today I hit a 150 day streak.

I’m not finished either.

What’s wild is that when I went on holiday for two weeks recently, I was actually genuinely quite sad not to be able to go to the gym and workout.

Please be assured that this is not a sentiment I have ever felt before.

Change your focus

Many of us have goals in all sorts of areas of our lives. In fitness, we might focus on muscle mass, weight loss, flexibility, strength etc. In business it’s nearly always profitability. In church we tend to gravitate to numbers such as Sunday attendance or small groups.

But I’ve learnt over the last 150 days that whilst such goals are not inherently bad, they’re nearly always very unhelpful to focus on.

I know that because my number one goal each day has simply been to keep the streak going. And without a lot of willpower, I have somehow quasi-miraculously turned into someone who goes to the gym.

It’s important to note that I would still class myself as a novice in this area. I’m learning plenty about all of the nuances around different exercises, rest, nutrition, intensity etc. But I would be lying if I said I haven’t felt the benefits.

💪Increased strength
💊No more back pain
☀️Greater confidence
🔋More energy

Doing a few perfectly executed workouts will always lead to lesser results than 150 days of consistency. In fact my real goal is much less about days and much more about years and decades. That’s where the real results and benefits are.

Why you fail

Whenever you start to focus on the wrong thing, we naturally lean into intensity and what we do becomes unsustainable. Here are some examples.

Money. When we only think about profit we start to see our customers as a means to an end. Ironically they will sense it too and it drives down business and hurts your brand.

Growth. When the goal of the church is to get people into a room, this quickly leads to a cheapening of ministry and watering down of the thing that makes the church so powerful.

Do we want our businesses to make more money? Do we want our churches to be full of people? Well yes of course. But these are the wrong things to focus on.

Try this simple 3-part framework instead.

1. Choose your direction

Yes we do need a vision and we will need to check in on it from time to time but NOT every day. Take time to reflect and envision the future and then forget about it. I’ll explain why in the next point.

2. Plot your route

Now that you have clarity about where you want to go, break down the steps of how to get there. The truth is that it’s easier to dream about the future than it is to do the work. That’s why so many of us are great at starting things but rarely follow through.

3. Make failure unacceptable

Now that you know where you want to be and how to get there, you want to make sure that you don’t give up. This is near-impossible on your own. You need someone to hold you accountable to the plan that you’ve made so that you’ll actually see it through. Because it’s the work in the day to day that gives you the results you desire.

We can also think of these three parts as vision, strategy & accountability.

I use this simple framework with my coaching clients and it works. If you think about every great project or creative idea you attempted that didn’t pan out, then you’ll be able to see why in contrast with the framework above.

So now it’s time for some questions.

How many dreams have fallen by the roadside because you simply did not follow through with the process?

And how happy would you be if you could turn just one of your dreams into a reality in the next 12 months?

This is exactly what my coaching programme is about. Whether business growth, church strategy or personal goals and projects, book a Clarity Call using the button below to find out if you’d be a good fit.

Book a Clarity Call

Growing crops in a field in the foreground with a distant city skyline in the background.

Why the church deserves our criticism

I have made a significant shift in the way I think and talk over the last few years about the church. But to frame this conversation, I must first give you a little background into me as a human being.

I am possibly one of the most optimistic people you will meet. I count it as one of my favourite characteristics. I have a certain ability to smile at the drama and difficulty of life and see the best in every situation.

There’s a certain ignorance that often comes with optimism (think about the captain of the Titanic for example) but largely speaking it’s a great quality.

Of course the reader may be tempted to assume that my optimism is a product of a sheltered or easy life. I must stress that this is not the case. Whilst there were many wonderful things about my childhood, I also grew up in an environment of violence and abuse. I emerged into my teenage years with a lot of emotional baggage.

I suspect my propensity for optimism comes from having had to work hard to develop it. Perhaps it was a necessary tool to deal with the difficulties of my childhood.

I find it interesting that society has a way of disregarding those who succeed in some way.

We assume the person with wealth inherited it.
We assume the person with a great physique has better genetics.
We assign time and chance to those who make it big

And perhaps we’re right some of the time. But almost certainly wrong some of the time as well.

The reason we jump so quickly to those assumptions is because it’s less painful to believe.
When we’re unhappy with where we are in life, we assume everyone else must have cheated in some way to get there.

Their success shines a light upon our failure. So whilst we love the idea of others succeeding, it’s not so simple when it actually happens.

I’m not telling you all these things in order to rabbit on about my wondrous qualities. I am simply attempting to paint a backdrop for the much more serious point I am about to make.

You see when it comes to dealing with criticism, it’s all too easy to paint people who raise such issues as overly negative, insufferable complainers. We smile politely but we don’t take it seriously.

And undoubtedly some of them are. And course not all criticism is fair, good or constructive.

But like me, just as undoubtedly some of them are NOT.

It’s easy to put all complaints in the same category of unreasonable because then we don’t have to really address them.

And many church leaders have made that mistake in recent years.

But consider this…

Criticism can certainly originate from a bad spirited person who hates the thing he critiques.

But criticism can also originate from a good spirited person who loves the thing he critiques.

The outcome can look similar and be distasteful to us (because who in their right mind likes complaints?). But the heart behind can be completely different.

I critique the church because I love the church.
Because the church is the bride of Christ.
The church is being perfected and made holy by him, eventually without spot or blemish in any way.

For if there is one thing worse than constantly criticising the church, it is never criticising it at all.

The parent that never corrects their child is not more loving but unloving.
The boss that never gives feedback is not kind but unkind.
The therapist that never challenges but always affirms the delusions of the patient is the worst sort of monstrosity.

Our lack of criticism actually leads to something much worse.

When church leaders themselves do not hold the church to proper account or criticise it fairly, we often inadvertently leave judgement up to the world.

And the world’s justice tends to be very heavy handed.

When we cover over extramarital affairs, bullying, emotional abuse and every other sort of evil because ‘they did a lot of good stuff too’ are we not falling into great error?

Just as God would hand over the people of Israel (in their sin) over to the neighbouring nations to be oppressed so God will let his church be torn apart in the media when we also sin.

Genuine persecution is a thing and I am not implying that getting smashed by the media is necessarily a sign of guilt.

But so much of what we call persecution is not really persecution. It’s the exact opposite – it’s actually judgement.

Consider this:

Did Paul only write nice things in his letters to the churches?
Remember how Jesus cleaned out the temple from extortion?
What about the massive amounts of doom and gloom of the prophets?

It seems obvious to me that to truly love, you must be willing to criticise.
And we need church leaders (such as myself) to move out of boundless optimism.

To become spiritually mature is to be able to feel and understand the full depths of positive AND negative emotion.

Not all anger is hate.
And not all angry people are haters.
In fact love and hate have an unusual relationship.

To love God is to hate sin.
To love the church is to hate its failings.
To love the church is to hold it to account.
To love the church is to dream of better.
To love the church is to build it up.

Tasty oranges lie freshly picked in a white box on a white table.

Four keys to foolproof decision making

Life ultimately comes down to the decisions you make.

Of course there are plenty of aspects of it that lie outside of our control. But this hardly seems like a good reason to give up all agency and abandon ourselves to the mercy of circumstance.

I believe that each of us will ultimately be judged on the merit of what we did with what we had. For me, this is the best definition of success that moves past the opinions of others or vanity metrics that so many chase after.

Whilst I’d love a Ferrari as much as the next person, here are four keys on foolproof decision making.

1. Get used to disappointing people

Oh yes, we’re starting here. Hopefully you’ve realised by now that no matter what you do, there’s always someone who won’t be happy.

Whether it’s your parents (you never chose to be the lawyer/doctor they hoped you would).
Whether it’s your pastor (who had big hopes for you in church ministry).
Whether it’s your friends (who preferred the old you).

Someone is always going to be disappointed.

The bigger the decisions, the bigger the disappointment.

Ultimately this comes down to the question of whose opinions you care about most.

I’m not suggesting that people around us don’t matter. Of course they do.

And we should weigh wise counsel and input from those who truly care about us.

But at the end of the day, only you are responsible for you.

It takes courage to make difficult decisions. But avoiding your future calling will create a whole new set of difficulties.

Think resentment, bitterness, grief over lost opportunities and dissatisfaction. The list goes on.

Over the years I’ve had to make many difficult decisions. From cutting certain family ties to leaving toxic organizations, it’s never been easy.

But when the disappointment fades, you’ll find that the boundaries have fallen in pleasant places.

2. It’s ok to change your mind

One of the things that makes decision making feel so intense is not feeling able to change course as you go.

But most of the decisions we make in life are actually reversible. And the worst case is usually not actually as bad as we think.

Of course we’d prefer not to look silly by backtracking. And this is perhaps much more the issue at hand.

Are we really worried about the decision or are we worried about what people will think of us if we change our mind?

Unsure about dating someone? You can always break off the relationship.
Worried about taking on that project? You can always drop it later.
Moving geographic location? You can always move back.

Funnily enough, many good things have happened to me by accident or by proxy. Because there’s still beauty and wonder around even when you don’t plan to find it.

So embrace the unknown. Make a list of the worst-case scenarios and potential paths for recovery. Then do it.

3. Consider the opportunity cost

When it comes to a new venture or change, most of us tend to compare our present situation with the potential.

But we nearly always make a colossal error in our calculations.

We assume that where we are is fixed and permanent.

But it’s not. It could change at any moment.

Your job could change at any moment.
Your church could change at any moment.
The economy could change at any moment.

Things that are familiar feel safe but that’s a purely emotional evaluation and shouldn’t really be taken into account with proper decision making.

The opportunity cost is about being aware of not just what you know but what you don’t know. Of course we don’t know what we don’t know but we should still include this in our assessment of the future.

We tend to look at present circumstances with rose-tinted glasses.

And we underestimate the possibilities of the future.

So we fret about the friendships that will change if we move, without considering the friendships that we will miss if we don’t move.

We hang on to a project we hate because it pays the bills. All the while missing new projects because we don’t have time to do them.

You don’t know what you don’t know. But just know that there is always a cost for staying still, just as there is a cost to your movement.

4. Evolve your identity

Change always challenges who we are.

I remember a few years ago when I started posting regularly on social media.

Before that I was a regular post-the-sky type of Instagrammer. But then I started sharing thoughts and insights that were deeper.

It was challenging because I could feel both the pleasure and displeasure of others.

Some were enjoying the content and encouraging me on.

Others were critical and judgemental. They may not have said it so specifically. But you would notice little comments here and there, designed to put you in your place.

My identity was changing and not everyone liked it.

Becoming a content creator was challenging how I perceived myself to be. I knew where my motivation came from but you’re still affected by what other people think of you.

And as I went on this journey, I began to see myself as a content creator. I truly began to believe that I had insights worth sharing.

I developed confidence to put myself out there, regardless of what others may think.

Any big change in your life will challenge your identity. That’s why it’s important to consider the emotional implications of your decisions too.

Allow yourself to become confident and secure in the latest iteration of who you are.