Personal Reflection on 2018
New Year’s Resolutions
Everyone does them - or everyone is “supposed to” do them, right? Our plans for being a better person or achieving more, which we’re so passionate about on the 31st December… But often by the time the 31st January comes around, they’re usually long forgotten!
So this year, based upon some very good advice that I was given recently, rather than making New Year’s Resolutions for 2019, during my Christmas/NY holiday in Bali, I spent some time reflecting on 2018. Then, because as humans we’re often very good at doing nothing about these resolutions (because we don’t actually do anything to effect the change!), based upon those reflections I’ve then set myself daily and weekly habits to build - which should (no, WILL!!) result in these personal goals being achieved by the end of 2019. (FYI if you struggle to build habits, I can highly recommend a smartphone app “HabitBull” (it has a different name on iPhone, not sure what that is)).
Then I thought I would share them publicly (this post!!), because getting other people to hold you accountable is a pretty good way to achieve goals, I reckon! So, here goes…
“Hi, how are You?”… “Really busy, so busy"
Doesn’t EVERYONE say that these days? Every. Single. Time. That I see someone. They say it. I say it. But WTF does it actually mean??
Is it symptomatic of the world having become more hectic?
Have emails and smartphones made us so “connected” that we don’t have time to get stuff done anymore, let alone stop and smell the roses?
Is it because we’ve all become the “now generation”? Ever received a call from someone saying “I sent you an email, have you had a chance to look at it?”, to which you replied in your head “Oh, the one you sent me 15 minutes ago, seriously??!!” (remember the blissful time only 15 or so years ago, when you only received a couple of emails a day (if you had email yet!) and even those probably weren’t business related, because anything serious was either a phone call, or mailed and then followed-up days or weeks later, not minutes or hours?)
Is every business understaffed? (there’s a whole topic there on whether Australia’s very high wages (which in turn have helped drive our global record-setting house prices!) have necessitated us having less employees in businesses)
I’m in the middle of reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss - his interview with Derek Sivers said it perfectly: “Busy = Out of Control”.
So true. I can honestly say that for pretty much all of 2018, I have felt out of control. I’m not too ashamed of that, as I reckon most people would say that’s completely normal for owning a business that is 6-18 months old. But it certainly makes me think about what I want 2019 to be like. Have I been out of control because I’ve said Yes to too many things/people, have I taken on too much work or too many goals, or have I simply not stopped “doing stuff” and taken the time to plan out my priorities and tasks to do? I’ll hazard a guess that most people could get value in this reflection.
So anytime you see me or talk to me, if I tell you “I’m busy”, please ask me if I’m in control.
Continued Learning (y compris le français)
Just over 6 years ago, I graduated from UQ’s MBA degree - and guess what my first thought was when I finished? You guessed it: “Thank god that’s over, I’m never studying again!!”. Of course we’ve all heard that we should never stop learning; which is something that I’m becoming more passionate about. Of course just running a small business chews up a huge amount of time, so how is there time leftover to study? Well I’m not talking about formal study (forget that!), I’m talking about:
Good ol’ fashioned reading books. Ever since I was forced to read books at school, I’ve hated reading. I hated reading books at uni (and really struggled since most of them literally sent me to sleep!). But I’ve come to realise that I was just reading the wrong books. Given the journey I’m on, it’s probably no surprise that I’m focusing on books written by leaders in business, about building businesses. Habit (input to the HabitBull app to keep myself accountable): Read every day. Not a whole book, but at least a few pages.
Learning French. Little-known fact about Mark Trayner - up until the age of 13, I was fluent in French. I went to a French-Australian pre-school, primary school and high school, so from the age of 3 I did half my day in French and half in English. But then I stopped (being a shit of a teenager who didn’t want to do anything!). Suffice to say, my French is pretty damned average now. For years I often thought to myself “I really should learn it again, such a waste to have been fluent and lost it”; then one day earlier this year fate intervened… After enjoying a wine or four with a plate or two of cheese at the French Festival in Southbank, I stumble across Lingua Franca’s tent, a privately-owned French language school in Newstead (PS. Kat and her team are great, get in touch with her if you’re keen to learn French!) . Long story short (sorry I’ve already rattled on enough, time to speed it up!), I paid for a semester and then won another year of lessons in their festival prize - so now I’m on my way to getting my French skills back. But of course it takes some commitment, right? That whole studying and practising thing, in all of that spare time that I have (coz I’m so busy, right?). Once again, just make it a habit - to study every day, even if for just 10 minutes.
The buzzword these days, right? No I’m not going to grow out my hair so that I can get around town with a man-bun on a fixie bike (lycra on a bike worth as much as an entry-level Hyundai is much better, right?!), drinking organic kale & chia juice (um, well, only sometimes ok…), doing yoga on the beach (just limiting it to sauna and meditation, ok!).
But in all seriousness, anyone that has been unhealthy/stressed/drained/unfit/overweight at one point and then turned all of those things around, will tell you they notice a massive difference in their mood, attitude, energy and just how they feel overall. I’m personally vouching for that. Not that I’m a model of health and fitness, but I’m not too bad either; but enough to want to make a better effort, so that I can be a better in my work, as well as to my partner, friends and family. So, here’s my habits:
Exercise - going to the gym 3 times per week (Dale and I keep each other somewhat in check by having a joint PT session once a week!), and riding at least 3 times per week.
Healthy food - only eating whole/unprocessed foods Monday to Friday lunch. There’s the whole “have 1 cheat day” thing, but I need to be realistic - there’s a fair chance I’ll eat some rubbish at least a couple of times from Friday afternoon through Sunday, so one step at a time here!
Alcohol. My Kryptonite. I do love a beer or ten on a Friday afternoon, or a wine or five with lunch or dinner. Or a wine or five because wine (I’m a self-convicted Pinotphile - Pinot Noir really is God’s gift to humanity). But it really does make me feel like rubbish afterwards. Even just two red wines at dinner produces perceptibly poor sleep and a groggy awakening in the morning. A proper night on the drink results in the obvious hangover the next day, which one expects, but as the years stack up it has become very noticeable even 2 days later - a ride on the bike is much more difficult (and slower) than it should be. On top of that, my motivation levels plummet for 2 days after too many drinks; I don’t get things done at work or home that I really should. So, less alcohol. More specifically, no alcohol full stop between Sunday and Friday lunchtime. So I’ll let myself drink on a Friday afternoon or Saturday, but then only once a fortnight; and a “big night” only once every 6 weeks. Yes, this is a stretch goal.
Mindfulness (meditating) - ok call me a tree-hugging hippy or whatever (which is pretty close to what my partner, Laura, thinks of it!), so I’ll just start by saying “don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it”. But if you haven’t heard already, meditation is becoming very mainstream (and no, you don’t have to join an Ashram and sit cross-legged chanting Om for 7 days). In fact so much so, that what started me on it was actually driven by Executive Management at Macquarie Bank - they were strongly encouraging it (and providing training in it) to reduce staff stress levels and ability to cope with pressure. And it works, really well, for reducing stress levels and getting clarity on the macro and micro in life and business. I use the Headspace app, which makes it really easy by guiding you, anything from only 5 minutes right through to 2 hours (if you’ve never tried it before, don’t try for any more than 5 or 10 minutes, or you’ll stop very quickly). Habit: meditate every, single, day.
Ok so I’m aiming to put myself on a full cleanse & improvement, but if you’re reading this thinking that’s all too hard, I encourage you to just try one of those things above - I guarantee you’ll notice a material difference to how you feel, physically and mentally.
Friends & Family
I definitely dropped the ball in this regard in 2018 (again, “so busy!”). But what is life without friends & family? Pretty lonely and empty.
Family truly should come first, above all else. We’ve included this within STAC’s Values - of course there’s the old “clients come first”, except they don’t (but they come a very close second!). That doesn’t mean we’re going to give a client poor service or miss deadlines because we couldn’t be bothered working hard, because we want to be home by 4pm every day. Firstly its a reminder that there’s no point in having a strong business and happy clients if you lose your marriage and don’t know your kids, because you’re so committed to work.
Friends, well life is pretty empty without them. Yet I’ve definitely not made enough effort to spend quality time with good friends (different to drinking too much on Friday night). I believe social media has made us worse at this too - if you didn’t see a friend for a whole year, you wouldn’t need to say “what have you been up to this year, wow your kids have grown up so much” - seeing them online makes you feel like you’ve seen them more than you have (which isn’t particularly healthy, I think). Spending times with friends seems like pretty obvious stuff, but sometimes you need to make the effort to actually do it. Habit: organise a catch-up with friends at least once a week.
How many times a day do you look at your phone, and for how long? Do you not pay attention to your partner or kids, because you’re busy staring at something on your screen, which probably adds little to no value to your life. I know I’ve done that plenty of times, and I don’t like it. Habit: turn off the phone (or put it away) for 2 hours at night.
A Greater Purpose
Ok I’m not going to cure cancer, but I’m going to make an effort to continue supporting those who are working on it.
A bit over 2 years ago now, one Mr Stephen Russell (who is Brisbane’s (and now yours!) go-to man if you find yourself or your business being sued (or wanting to sue!) for commercial matters) convinced me, over a wine or five, to get on a bike to ride 650km over mountains in New Zeealand, helping to raise funds for cancer research, as part of Mater’s Smiling for Smiddy.
I have good reason to think that cancer is shit. Aside from the obvious fact that it is, my Father died of lung cancer when I was 13, my Grandfather died from Melanoma, my Stepfather died from Pancreatic Cancer, my Grandmother died from lung cancer (at 95 mind you). Finally, my Mum is incredibly lucky to be alive after coming very close to death from Breast Cancer - but thankfully had a miraculous recovery, only thanks to a new trial treatment that probably only existed because of someone channelling funds into cancer research. So I guess at the end of the day, I need to ask myself - shouldn’t I make an effort to help someone else or their loved one stay alive, as thanks for those that did for my Mum?
There’s three other things that keep me part of Smiddy:
Riding & Health - per above.
Mates - I’ve made some great mates (including said Mr Russell, with whom my journey started with him being a painful client!), and continue to make more, and spend good quality time with when out on the bike and enjoying a coffee (well, peppermint tea!) or beer post-ride.
Ross “Rossco” Noye - our good mate (and fellow colleague when I worked at Macquarie) who tragically passed away on our 4th night on our NZ ride in March 2017. His memory helps to keep us committed to the cause that he was so passionate about.
In 2019, we’ll be riding again, asking those we know to put their hands in their pockets to donate to this great cause, that has directly helped so many people fighting cancer. That may well be you! Each of us riders puts our hands deep in our pockets for the costs of doing the ride (the donations do not go towards our ride expenses, we pay for everything), and all of us have donated our own money in the past too. So please be generous (whatever that means to you, whether $50 or $50,000) and think of your loved ones, if I call on you.
Oh yeah, and business…
When building a new business, the early days are so much “spinning the wheels” to get things going (and keep them going). What I’m really thinking about now is - where do we go, what do we become and, more importantly, what is our purpose, what value do we add to our clients?
We’re fundamentally driven by wanting to help our clients to build their business (whether that’s selling widgets or building projects), build their legacy in to what they dream of. That might sound a bit wishy-washy, but at the end of the day it’s hard, or even impossible, to build a successful business without having sufficient and reliable funding in place. Quite simply, it’s becoming harder and harder to just call your bank manager and ask for money. But we’re really looking to help our clients at a deeper level than that, helping them build and implement strategy beyond finance.
More on that to be announced in the coming weeks, which we’re really excited about.
We’re also continuing to build the size and capability of our business. But we’re not going to do it too quickly - we’re really focussed on building it with the right people. And making it a place to work that people really want to be a part of - not just because they want to make good money, but because they believe in and connect with our Vision, Mission and Values, because they like who they work with, because they get to do interesting and challenging work.
Our focus is on continuing to build a business that is a lot more than a finance brokerage - rather, a true professional services advisory firm - strategic advice, based upon the strategies, opportunities and risks of our clients, not just “getting a deal done”.
Here’s to 2019!!
I’m genuinely keen to hear what you think about my reflections - and keen to hear what you’re aiming to achieve this year.
Happy New Year!
- Mark Trayner