What's wrong with this statement?
“Instead of wondering when our next vacation is, we should set up a life we don't need to escape from.”
There doesn't seem to be anything wrong here, is there? And yet this entire line is based on a myth. And this is not the only business myth that circulates so well and widely.
Think about it, did you set out to create a life that's work, work and more work?
Join us as we explore three big business myths, and destroy them:
In this episode, Sean talks about:
Myth 1: Your business needs to constantly grow bigger and bigger
Myth 2: Somehow you'll have more time, and your business will be on auto-pilot
Myth 3: Vacation is the enemy and work is everything.
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“This transcript hasn’t been checked for typos, so you may well find some. If you do, let us know and we’ll be sure to fix them.”
Imagine you're a band, but not just any old music band.
Instead, you're the most popular band in the whole world. You've sold over 200 million records. You're in the Rock ‘n' Roll Hall of Fame, and probably only five or six bands have sold more than you in the entire history of pop.
Barry Gibb had never done this before, never taken the long walk to the stage by himself.
Speaker: Is it important for you to do this?
Barry: Yeah, it's everything to me. It's all I've ever known. I don't know how to do anything else.
Speaker: It went pretty well, though.
Barry: I can't get a job.
Speaker: He's the only surviving member of one of the 20th century's greatest vocal groups, and this night, at the TD Garden in Boston, he's about to begin his first ever solo tour.
You have to ask yourself why. Why would Barry Gibb, with all his success and all the money that they've earned over the years as the Bee Gees, do his first solo tour. It's not like he needs the money or the fame, because they're the only group in history to have written, recorded, and produced six consecutive number one hits.
As Barry Gibb himself boasted, “We weren't on the charts. We were the charts.”
In that spring, as he hit the road across North America for six solo shows, every show was costing him half a million dollars a night. He said he would be lucky to break even. But that's not the point. “I have to keep this music alive,” says Gibb.
To me, that's what embodies what I do. I want to keep the music alive. I think this is true for most of us. Most of us aren't really looking for this magic pill. We're not looking to double our customers, triple our income, do any of that kind of nonsense.
What we're trying to do is keep our music alive. We're trying to get some purpose in our lives.
The money, the fame, all that stuff's really nice, but does it matter in the long run? At the height of The Beatles' fame, John Lennon said, “Work is life, you know, and without it there's only uncertainty and unhappiness.” When you look at someone like the guy who runs Uchida, a little restaurant in Vancouver Island, the restaurant is only open from 11:00 to 2:00.
When you get there you eat some of the most delightful Japanese food I've ever eaten, and I have travelled to many places, including Japan. That magic is expressed in his work. He gets to work and he stays until the restaurant closes at 2:00. It doesn't open for dinner because from 2:00 to 9:00 he's preparing the next day's meals.
Every day the meal is just so amazing. It's different every single day. It's a big surprise, and it's always amazing.
Today I'm going to talk to you about three myths about business.
We've run Psychotactics since 2002, but the business goes back a long way when I used to be a cartoonist. I'm going to talk about three myths which I think are important. I think they're important because too many people are talking about more money, more customers, doubling your income, doing all that stuff. As I said, that's really nice, but is there a flip side to it? That's what we'll cover in today's episode.
—First up on the menu today is the fact that you have to grow. That's myth number one.
—Myth number two is that things get easier as you go along.
—Myth number three is that you have to create a life that you don't need a vacation from.
Let's start off with the first myth, which is you have to grow.
Once a year, we have a really important meeting at Psychotactics. My wife Renuka and I meet with our accountant Steve, and we go over our accounts. We look at how much money we made in the year. How much are our profits? What are the expenses? All the stuff that you do with an accountant before you sign off everything. We're in 2015, but when I look at the accounts, it looks exactly as it did in 2007.
2007 was a really good year. We earned twice, maybe thrice as much as we needed. Of course a third goes to the government. That's just what you do; you pay tax. Even so, you had twice as much as you needed, and our needs are not much. We take our breaks. We go on vacation. We buy little goodies here and there, but we're not flash people. We don't have the flashiest car. We don't fly business; we always friendly economy. We keep our expenses under control. But even so, having twice as much as you need, that's quite a lot.
The way that a lot of businesses go about this situation is to say let's double it, let's triple it.
Here's what I'm telling you. You don't have to double it. You don't have to triple it.
You don't have to enter that rat race. All you have to do is stay comfortable. That was your goal in the first place. Your goal as a business owner was to start up a business, to have control over your life, and be comfortable. It was not to struggle anymore. It was never to double and triple your income.
In fact, when you read the stories of business owners that have doubled and tripled, and I don't know, quadrupled, quintupled their income, you find that there is a huge sacrifice.
That sacrifice is their family, their life, their health, everything else.
When people talk about all of the extra stuff, the extra money that comes in, the extra fame, they don't talk about that part until a lot later when they're doing their memoir. The reality is you have to double or triple nothing.
When we look at our list, for instance, our list grew from 200-300 people.
Now there are 37,000 people. It might seem quite small when you think about it, because we've been around since 2002, to have only 37,000 people. I know it sounds like a lot if you don't have 37,000 people, but if you've been around since 2002, you should have 350,000 people.
Here's the reality. Those 37,000 people don't open the newsletter. Maybe 4 or 5,000 people open the newsletter at any given point in time. This is a reality. Out of those 4 or 5,000 people, probably 400 people generate more than 90% of our income. Most of them are our members at 5000bc.
At this point, this whole message seems very conflicting, even hypocritical, because what we're saying is we're very comfortable. We are earning thrice as much as we need. We've got this huge list.
I'm saying to you, don't do that. Don't go crazy over stuff.
We could have had a list of 350,000 people. We could have ten times the income. What would we do with it? How many sacrifices would we have to make to just do that kind of stuff. Instead, the sacrifice comes from other places. This is where the growth really matters.
When you look at many of the products at Psychotactics, you will find that they have been polished over time. When you look at The Brain Audit, it started with version 1, and then version 2, and then version 3, and then 3.2. that's where we grow exponentially. When you look at the courses, they improve by 10% or 15% every year.
How do we know this? Because we get feedback.
Every course has one full day of feedback where clients tell us what we did wrong and how to fix it. We have to fix it, and that takes a lot of time.
There there is the growth. We still take exactly the same number of clients for every course as we've always done. We never exceed 25. If you're in a workshop, it's never 30.
There is never this need to continuously grow and grow bigger, and grow fatter, and grow … I don't know. There is no need. The need is in making magic, in getting your work better. Why is this need so important? Because you as a person, you feel satisfied. You feel wow, my work has got better over the years. You're fixing it and it's improving and it's evolving.
Then you look at your clients and see that they are achieving these skills.
Their business is growing. They're more satisfied. They're taking more vacations. You think, my mission is on its way. It's not finished. It's on its way.
The benchmark needn't be the fame and the benchmark needn't be the money, and the benchmark needn't be the growth. That's one of the first myths that I want to take apart. Because almost every book out there is talking about something quite the opposite.
In fact, yesterday I was on Facebook and there it was again: double your income, lessen your work.
No, your work is interesting. Your vacations are interesting. I get the point. You can't sell a book that says stay stagnant with your income. Stay stagnant with your revenue. Stay stagnant with your clients. It's not going to sell.
Maybe it will, I don't know, but the point is it's a myth. You have to be satisfied first. Your work has to bring great satisfaction and you have to be comfortable. That's all that really is required from you as a small business. Let the Apple and the Google and all those big companies do whatever it is that they want to do. Let them double and triple and do whatever they want to do. That's probably not for you.
If you're the person that enjoys your family time, and enjoys your life, and enjoys the little things, then this is how you go about it. Because, as we saw with the Bee Gees and Barry Gibb, the fame didn't make that much of a difference. It made a difference, but at the end of the day, it's about keeping the music alive. It's about keeping the magic alive.
That brings us to the end of the first part.
Now we go to the second myth, which is things get easier.
Back in the year 2000, if you went to a site called millionbucks.co.nz, you would find our site. Yes, I'm embarrassed by the name, but that was what I wanted to do right at the start. I wanted to grow the business, make a million bucks, do all the stuff that we're told we are supposed to do.
Unfortunately, no one, or very few people were making money online at that point in time. The online space was not seen as some place where you could go and by stuff. It was always about information and sharing that information.
It's not until 2002 that we launched Psychotactics.
That's when we sold our first copy of The Brain Audit. That was a big surprise. We were forced to setup our credit card system by someone else who kicked us into doing it.
Then someone showed up and bought the first copy, took us completely by surprise. Then my wife Renuka would do a happy dance. She would get up from her chair and do a dance in the room. Then of course, as the months passed, we would get some more sales, and every time a sale came she would do a happy dance.
It does get to the point where you can't dance anymore and you have to sit down and do your work.
You also buy into this idea that things will get easier.
Because when we started out, we were working five, six, seven days a week. I realise there are only seven days in a week. But we were working all the time. We thought things will get easier, and they have got easier. But wait a second, we still put in five full days. We take the weekend off now but we still put in five full days, so how much easier has it got?
The point is that if you want to do superb work, things don't get easier.
Because you're always making it somehow better. You're always learning. You're always getting feedback, and feedback kills you. Because feedback tells you that your work isn't as superb as you think. That dish that you just cooked, that you've been raving about, that you think everyone should praise you for, it's too oily. There's too much salt in it. Or maybe there's just over the top salt and it tastes good but that's too much salt for human consumption.
You cannot take that feedback because that feedback means that you have to fix something.
Clients will come back right after we've written a book and they'll say, “You should fix this part or you should move that part.” They'll get onto our courses and they'll start to move things around. They'll suggest different types of technology.
We have to listen. All of that listening means all of that doing, and doing means that things never get easier. It's like the story of the Golden Gate Bridge. They say they start painting at one end and by the time they get to the other end, they have to paint it again. I don't know if the story is true, but that's approximately what your business is going to be like.
It's going to have lots of ups and downs, but more importantly, it's not going to get easier.
If you want to improve your work, if you want to make it magic, you're going to get that feedback. You're going to ask for that feedback and you're going to get that feedback, and you're going to have to fix things. When you fix things, it's work.
When you create new stuff, it's work. All of this work brings an enormous amount of satisfaction. I can look back at a lot of the things that we've done, and if it weren't for the clients, I wouldn't have done it. If it weren't for the deadlines, I wouldn't have done it. But all of it is work.
You look at the storytelling workshop that we did in Nashville and Amsterdam. I would never have written the notes. I've written a series on storytelling. It's available as a book. But this is more comprehensive.
This is more in-depth. I've had to spend weeks working it out. I sit at the café looking pensive, drinking my coffee. Then it's work. To me, it never gets easier, because you're always trying to explore that depth, as it were. You're trying to get that magic. You're trying to keep that music going.
We all start out with this dream of sitting on the beach and doing nothing.
That's not how the brain works and that's not how the body works. In fact, if we sat at the beach and did nothing, we'd soon be a vegetable in no time at all. If we don't do our daily walks, and we don't exercise, and we don't meditate, and we don't do all the stuff that we're supposed to do, we don't do all this “work,” there's no satisfaction in life.
Today I can write an article in 45 minutes. I can do the podcast. I can do webinars. I can do a lot of stuff. What happens is you get much faster and better at doing stuff, and you want to get faster and better all the time because it improvements your work. You put more cartoons in the books. You tweak the workshops.
You do stuff that only brings more work. Of course that's why you need the vacations as well.
Because you need to wind down. You need the weekends to wind down. That's really how life continues. It's not about the beach. The beach, that's vacation time. There's a separate time for it.
The third myth is that vacation is the enemy and work is everything.
Because we've been talking about work, haven't we? Let's look at this third myth, which is that vacation is the enemy. But is vacation really the enemy?
It seems like it, doesn't it? Because wherever you go on Facebook or on the internet, you run into this little saying by Seth Godin, and it says, “Instead of wondering where your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.”
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
It makes perfect sense to have a great life and you don't need a vacation.
It doesn't make sense to me at all. Because when you look at that saying, what it's saying is that your job, whatever you're doing right now, or your business, whatever you're doing right now, is so tedious that you're not enjoying yourself. It's saying that the enemy is that bad job, that unsatisfying job, that unsatisfying business that you're running right now. And that you need to find something that is satisfying. That's the enemy.
Look what happened here. Vacation came in as the enemy when vacation is not the enemy at all. That bad job, that's the enemy. The good job, that's your friend. Vacation is the time where you get better at what you do. You take time off just like a flight takes off, and it lands, and it has to refuel, and it has to be maintained. That's what vacation is all about.
It's about going to new lands, learning about stuff, learning the different types of food, enjoying yourself, reading, sleeping, drinking, doing stuff that we did as kids.
When we grew up, we weren't working all the time.
We'd go to school and then we had vacations. Vacations weren't the enemy back then. How did they become the enemy all of a sudden? It's because we've got this crappy job or we're doing this business that is deeply unsatisfying. Then you have a statement like this, which is probably just off the cuff, but it has made vacations the enemy, and vacations are not the enemy at all. They are the friend.
That's myth number three, that you don't need vacations.
You need the break. Think of yourself back when you were a kid and you just enjoyed the time of absolute nothingness. You would like to get that again, wouldn't you? What's the point of sitting at work the whole time? There is really no point. You can fool yourself, but the reason why we sit at work the whole time is because we get what is called work momentum. We work and we work and we work and we work, and then that momentum takes us into more work.
The moment we go on vacation, we're thinking of what?
Work of course, because that's what we've been doing for so long. Then when you go on a vacation, if you have enough time on your vacation, you get into vacation momentum, and then you get more and more relaxed. Then when you get back to work, it's very hard to get back to work. This management is important, this management of work and life. It's important not to just take anything you see on Facebook, this nice little phrase, just because it came from Seth Godin or some other guru, and then take it at face value.
You want to deconstruct it and understand why you did things the way you did. You want to see it from your perspective as a human being. You want to see it how you were when you were a child. Because vacations are like a drug. Once you take vacations, work becomes so much more satisfying. Okay, I'll stop ranting and raving.
This brings us to the end of this article.
What have we covered in this episode?
We covered three things.
1) The first thing we covered was this factor of doubling and tripling your income, and your customers.
At Psychotactics we've grown organically. We've just done things and the list has grown to quite a sizeable number, but it's very slow. It does matter. If you do what you love and you do it really well, and you will over time, then you will find that there are clients and there's enough revenue, and you live a very comfortable life. You're spending time with your family. You're doing things that you really want. That's what's important.
2) That takes us to the second myth, and that is that life doesn't get easier.
It gets easier if you do nothing with your work, if you don't take feedback, if you're not big enough to take that feedback. Because most of us are insecure and we feel like someone is attacking us when they give feedback, so we don't ask for feedback.
We ask for praise all the time. But praise doesn't improve your work so much; feedback does. When you get that feedback, you have to do some more work. Of course that takes more time, and so things don't always get easier. You just get better at it and your work gets better, but never easier.
The final thing is that vacation is not the enemy. It has never been the enemy.
We've made it the enemy because of crazy sayings that float around the internet. When you look into your childhood and your early years, vacation has always been your friend. You've just forgotten the friend and decided to adopt another friend, who's a workaholic. Well, get rid of the workaholic and go back to your childhood. Go back to your young years and you'll see that it's a lot more fun.
That brings us to the end of this episode. What's the one thing that we can do today?
One of the things that you can do today is make more work for yourself. Whether it's in your personal life, the hobbies that you have, or whether it's in work, you want to ask for feedback. You want to ask people to tell you what you can fix. Stop asking for so much praise. The praise is important, but the feedback is just as important.
Create a little more work for yourself and then take a vacation. Because, as Barry Gibb said, you want to keep the music alive.
Beca Lewis says
Love, Love, Love this podcast – and this particular episode. Thank you for standing up against the tide of MORE!
Sean D'Souza says
Thanks Beca 🙂
Bob Picha says
Great insight Sean. I have been blessed over the years to work and live in my zone. So I believe everyone can…
Find their zone
Go with the flow
Do what you love and love what you do…and you will make a difference.
Sean D'Souza says
And keep improving what you love. That’s important. It’s easy to create. But harder to maintain and improve.
David Alger says
As always – really good stuff Sean. Thanks so much for making the transcripts available. I prefer reading over listening though do both as time permits.
Sean D'Souza says
You’re welcome, David. I always wonder if someone is reading the transcript 🙂
David Allan says
I would love to know any shortcuts you have for doing your podcast Sean as it seems you don’t have any employees. Do you outsource any of it?
I was thinking about creating some sort of web app so that the blog posts for each podcast are fill in the blanks (in the HTML form) since its the same format over and over. Kind of like you said in one of the very early podcasts about text expander.
Sean D'Souza says
I outsource the music, but that’s pretty much it. I love to do the music overlay but it’s one more thing to do and that takes time. I don’t have any app for it.
Tony Winyard says
This episode really puzzled me.
When you commented on the post from Seth Godin, where he said:
“Instead of wondering where your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” and you then said “Look what happened here. Vacation came in as the enemy”. I’m surprised that is your interpretation of what he said, because I’d be very surprised if that was his point. His point is more about people doing jobs they hate, rather than criticising vacations.
Additionally earlier on in the episode you said:
“In fact, yesterday I was on Facebook and there it was again: double your income, lessen your work.
No, your work is interesting. Your vacations are interesting.”
Your podcast is called “3 month vacation”, you regularly talk about the importance of taking vacations and then you make a statement saying that you shouldn’t strive for working less! Apart from the fact that comes across as hypocritical, the more important aspect of that criticism is that you don’t seem to be taking into account just how many people work far too much and accumulate far too much stress because of those long hours. There are MANY people that DO need to work less, because their families never see them, they’re working themselves into an early grave and they work so much on such low pay that they have no time or money for a vacation.
I’ve listened to many of your podcasts and purchased a few of your reports all of which I’ve enjoyed immensely, but on this episode, my feeling is you’ve missed the point of what was being said on both issues.
Thanks for the time you put into all the content you deliver.
Sean D'Souza says
Hi Tony. It’s not my interpretation, but I’ve taken the words out of context on purpose. Why? Because when the words are quoted, they tend to be quoted out of context as well. There are several points that we can dissect in a single line.
Point 1: Instead of wondering where your next vacation is coming from.
Point 2: Maybe you should set up a life that you don’t need to escape from.
Point 2 is accurate. And it’s accurate because as far as possible we should not be living miserable lives in jobs we hate. In almost every case, or situation, it is either the boss or the task that’s the problem. It’s not the J-O-B itself. I’ve worked in companies as well, and I had wonderful bosses and great assignments. There was no need for me to escape because I loved my work. However, I also loved my vacation. Even at work, I was bound by the fact that I had to show up, whether or not I had any work to do. I had to ask for leave, I had to do things that were a bit like school, instead of work. Which is what takes us back to the first point.
Point 1: You should wonder where you next vacation is coming from. I wonder about it all the time. I’ve not been in a job for well over 25 years (barring a short stint when I got to New Zealand). That doesn’t stop me from dreaming about vacation, even though it’s more than evident that I love my work. In this context, Godin makes vacation the enemy. And I get it. It’s a random statement made in a blog, or at a speech. It’s not a phrase that has been cultured and cultivated over several weeks or years. It’s random. But it’s also something that’s taken out of context.
And it’s more so because a lot of people believe that vacations get in the way. I have some very successful friends, and also family who love what they do, but are burning themselves out in the quest from a life they love. Yes, that life is work, and work they love. By making vacation the enemy, they can barely spend a day away from the office. It’s a detox they struggle to be part of.
And that’s really the point I’m making. Though, to be fair, the point itself could be taken out of context 🙂
Sean D'Souza says
I didn’t understand the second part so it’s hard to comment on it. But just so you know, I appreciate this discussion.