It is not wrong to look up to other entrepreneurs to serve as guidance in building your business. However, relying too much on them and not working for yourself is a huge mistake. Paul Higgins sits down with Stephen Warley of Life Skills That Matter to discuss how to increase productivity and lead your business to the next level just by being true and honest to yourself. Stephen explains how to properly align with goals that excite you, having a smooth transition from the corporate world to entrepreneurship, and taking a break to rediscover your life purpose. He also elaborates his work with educating women entrepreneurs, helping them achieve success through an intensive accelerator and providing various opportunities.
Why You Should Be Working For Yourself With Stephen Warley
Build Live Give. Mentoring With Paul Higgins
Welcome to the show. If it’s your first time, a more special welcome to you. I would love you to subscribe if you enjoy the program and maybe even share it with others. If you’re a regular, thanks for your support. Remember, you can always ask me questions at PaulHigginsMentoring.com/questions. Our guest was thrown out of the zoo into the jungle. What do they mean? They mean in Corporate America in this case. It took them about five years to find their fate.
Now what they do is help other people, especially given what the world’s going through with COVID help set up their businesses to be a freelancer or consultant and run their own business to the beat of their own drum. Wouldn’t you love to do that? If you’re not already, you’re going to learn a lot from this guest. He also talks about how to work, especially around energy, how to gain clients, which I know for me was the hardest thing when I left corporate, and also some key habits that you should keep regardless of what business you’re running. What I’ll do is hand you over to Stephen Warley from LifeSkillsThatMatter.com.
Welcome, Stephen Warley, from Life Skills That Matter to the show. It’s great to have you on, Stephen.
I am excited to be here. I remember talking to you when we first met and it felt like you’re a long-lost friend on the other side of the world.
I know you’re well-known, Stephen, but not everyone knows you, so why don’t you kick off with, when someone approaches and say, “Stephen, what do you do?” How do you love to answer that?
It’s funny. The tables are turned because I always start my podcast like this and I’m like, “It’s the most dreaded question,” but now I’m excited about answering that. Once upon a time, I wasn’t excited, but I tell people I’m a solopreneur coach. I help people start solopreneur type businesses as a coach, freelance or consultant. Probably the sweet spot, the people I help most effectively are people who never thought they would end up working for themselves. I show them they have all the capabilities and everything that they need. They give college a try and it turns out, they’re like, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
I had a good friend who I used to work with Coca-Cola spoke to me. He finally took a package after trying to last the longest out of all of us. He said, “I’d love to do what you’re doing, Paul, but I don’t know if I could work that hard.” That was his comment. I’m like, “That’s interesting.” I’m sure you’ve heard people say that before. With all your experience, what do you say to people? Is it as hard as everyone thinks working for yourself?There are infinite ways to build a business today. There's no longer a one-size-fits-all. Click To Tweet
Everybody’s on their own journey. Another one of my big messages is that there are infinite ways to build a business. There’s no longer a one-size-fits-all. Growing up, you thought of an entrepreneur as building a mainstream business and that looks like hard work. It’s like, “I don’t want to go start in a restaurant.” That is amazing that those people do. Let’s go out and support the local restaurants, everyone. In many years, around the world, there’s this Silicon Valley view of building a business. That’s also not for a lot of people. I don’t want to have a new boss called investors. I want to build a business that isn’t aligned with my values, needs and abilities. That’s what I guide people toward. What is it that you want?
I have a lifestyle calculator for free. You can download it at LifeSkillsThatMatter.com/calculator because one of the first things I have people do is, “Let’s settle down here. How much money do you need to live the life, to do all the different things that you want to do?” Most of us have never done that before. We’ve been taught to look at salaries and look at them as status symbols, but I’m asking people to reverse engineer it. When I bring people through that exercise, a majority of them will tell me, “I need so much less money than I thought I did.” That is one of the first things I want to help people understand. The biggest part of building this type of business is starting to understand what is it you want to do? How do you want to express yourself? I always say working for yourself is one of the most elaborate self-development exercises ever created. Do you feel that way?
Totally. I look on a self-development junkie route. I’ve been doing it since. There’s nothing like when you finish the day, you look in the mirror and you say, “What did I achieve?” Yes, I’ve got a small team, but ultimately, I’m the guy that makes most of the decisions in my business from a strategy point of view and it’s up to you. Did you make the right one? Did you make the wrong one? You’re raw and naked in a non-visual sense. It’s hard, but for me, the enjoyment is greater than the work.
I always throw questions back to people and say, “How do you define hard? How do you find a lot of effort?” In the US, in some sectors of our society, we have a workaholic culture. It’s part of the identity. It’s almost another status of like, “How many hours I’m working every day, every week?” Most people find out that your body will rebel against you eventually. Worst-case scenario, people end up in the hospital from overwork. You need to define what that is. I’m a big believer in managing your energy, not your time. Just because you’re awake on an average of sixteen hours a day does not mean, Paul or anybody reading, that every single one of those hours is equal in terms of your available energy. Let me ask you. How many hours a day do you think you have of your sharpest mental focus or maximum physical energy to do your best work?
I would say four hours.
It’s 3 to 5 hours. I was a history major. I’ve read tons of biographies about philosophers, writers, politicians and artists about how they worked and most of them were about four hours a day doing that knowledge work. I’ve interviewed over 500 solopreneurs, same thing and same thing for me. My underlying philosophy I’m teaching people is we’ve been taught in terms of work and our economy is how do we constantly beat nature? How do we constantly overcome ourselves? I’m an advocate of learning about your nature, working within that, owning it, and saying it’s okay.
When many people had to work from home for the first time, they struggled with managing themselves. “How do I organize my day?” I often bring people through this first exercise that’s the foundation of your workday. Understanding what does the sweet spot for hours happen for you? When does it happen for you? What time of day on average do you feel like you experience that? I call it the peak performance period.
I live in Australia and most of my clients are from North America, so my peak is 6:00 AM to around 9:00. That’s where I get the majority of my work. I quickly exercise for ten minutes in the middle of every day, then I’d have a nice meal, then I meditate and then I nap for half an hour. That’s my routine in the middle of the day. I have a cold shower on the other side of that, and then that gives me at least another hour of solid work before I start to diminish into the afternoon.
Could you imagine if you, for some reason Paul, went for a job and in your interview, you told them, “This is my ideal workday. This is what I need to be productive,” good luck at the matchup. This idea of productivity, that is a term that works for corporations and organizations. They need to know how to squeeze out every little bit of resource including you. That’s why they want you in their line of sight as much as possible and make sure that you’re working for them.
When you’re an individual human, you don’t want to be productive. You want to be effective. You want to feel balanced. I’m going to admit something to you all. To bring myself, be present and bring the energy that I was allowed to bring into these amazing interviews that Paul’s doing, I took a nap beforehand. I needed it. I just felt it. I listened to my body, slept, gave myself a half-hour buffer. Now I’m so excited to be here. I would have been in a different state of mind if I didn’t take that nap and pushed it and try to squeeze more work in.
The cool thing that we’re all on the cusp of is learning about ourselves and realizing there’s no one size fits all productivity. At times, I’m sure you’ve experienced this, back to that question, how hard do you work? We’re going to be running a new program for teenagers in the United States, so we’re doing a lot of work to get that going, but there are times where I power down, usually in the months of July and December. I have this rhythm to how we run our business.Working for yourself is one of the most elaborate self-development exercises ever created. Click To Tweet
That’s the thing a lot of us don’t realize when we look at how everybody else is running their business and we want to build our business for the first time. We’ve been taught how to work for somebody else, but we haven’t figured out yet how to work for ourselves. We default to what other people are doing and we hear all about hustling, how much you have to work. Most of those people have to go pay back their investors. I don’t believe in hustling.
It’s finding the pace that you want in alignment with how much money you want to make. When you bake in hustle into your startup or into whatever business that you’re starting, it’s hard to pull that out. You’re going to always be addicted to having to work that way to make your business model work. In the beginning, if you can give a little space to yourself for 3 to 6 months, start experimenting with different ways of working, then you can start designing a business model that works for you.
How many people did you see, for me in my corporate life, that were incredibly busy? They were always doing things, but they never achieved anything. Strategy is about choice. Strategy is picking the right things to do at the right time, and then you don’t have to be busy. One of the hardest things I found with moving from a director at a corporate level into my own business was the guilt of not working all the time. If you’ve got some tips or some techniques on how you can get over that guilt of, “I’m used to someone watching me. I’m used to feeling like I’ve got to work 80 hours a week or whatever. All of a sudden, I’ve got a free slide, but it’s hard to make that transition.” What are some tips for it?
I faced that. It took me several years. I felt like I had to be at my desk by 9:00 in the morning or went to a coffee shop or whatever and had to work until 5:00. That’s what you’re supposed to do. What was happening was I was getting the work that needed to get done a lot of times quickly in 2 to 4 hours. There were a couple of times in the summer like, “I’m going to take the afternoon off because it’s a nice day. I got all my work done.” That’s when it started to click in.
It’s like, “I have a cool reward mechanism here. If I get all my work done well and what needs to get done, I can go do something else that I would like to do that fuels me, keeps me more balanced, and more energetic.” The other thought I would like to play some folks head as one of the mantras that I tell everyone, that if you’ll remember one thing from this interview, it’s this. You could wake up every morning as an experiment for the next week and say, “I’m going to stop asking for permission.”
I’m not inviting you to be a jerk and do whatever the hell you want at the expense of other people. What I’m asking you is to recognize how many little decisions in your life where you are worried about what other people think, what other people will do or you’re worried that they’re going to judge you. You feel guilty about not working because you feel like other people are going to do it, and it’s going to happen. I’ve learned the brunt of this. I was doing this before. It was a thing before there were terms like solopreneur, digital marketing or even podcasts.
It’s tough, especially when you are with your loved ones or close family members who are still deeply entrenched in the conventional work system. They look at you like, “What the heck are you doing? Why do you think you can do this?” I want to remind people that they do that because it’s all they know. The way that Paul’s working, I’m working, and maybe you’re thinking about working or already working is unfamiliar to people. Give your loved ones a break, communicate with them, let them know that you’re okay, and you’re not asking them for money.
I was lucky in a way because I had failing kidneys that I couldn’t work long hours. It was impossible. What happens is the toxins don’t leave your body and they sit mainly in your brain. It’s like having a hangover and no sleep for 48 hours. That’s what I felt like every minute I was awake. Therefore, I had to be absolutely precise when I was focusing. You talked about energy. It was a great lesson for me because I was forced to do it. It’s harder for some of you reading because you don’t have those force constraints. One thing that changed my world was working in 30-minute blocks. I just set one task, I’ve got an iPhone, at 30 minutes and that’s it. I’ll work on one task.
I’ve kept that to today but I also time it. For me, I’ve got two key things. One is I have an app called Done and it’s like streaks. I’ve got streaks on the most important things in my life, so that helps in getting those things. When you don’t feel like something, I count 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, straight into it, and then the other is that I track all my time where I spend in those 30-minute blocks. That’s been an absolute game-changer for me, but it was ahead for circumstances. What are some exercises and habits that people can build, Stephen, based on your experience that can help them get through it if they don’t have a chronic disease?
I want to point something out to you because after interviewing many people, I’m always curious about what gets people to want to go off on this path? It’s generally a health crisis that you experienced or an economic crisis like I experienced or it could be a family crisis, a positive or negative, a new baby or death in the family. There were some people who are starting to choose this. They haven’t experienced those things. Our system is starting to stress more of us out. We’re feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and anxious, but we all quietly think it’s our fault. There’s something wrong with us.
Let me tell you. We all need to start talking about it and we’re all starting to talk about it. We are overloaded like, “What are we all doing here? What do we all running around mad for?” The universe sent us to our rooms to do some deep thinking. We’re going to come out of this, hopefully, in a different way. I do something similar to you. I’m a big believer in work sprints. Even in our accelerator program, we will guide people through work sprints or work habits. I’m a big believer of habits and understanding your habits like, “What are the goals that you have for your life and your business? What are the habits? What are the regular activities that you’re going to have to do to get to where you want to go?”
What you do is you’re focusing on your habits and not the results, especially when you’re in the early days of your business. You and I were in a content creation habit. We’re going to record a podcast and going to get added to the show notes. I’m working on trainings, I’m doing outreach, and meeting new people. I’m sure you’re always doing that. These are the rhythms that we are building into our business. I do about 45 minutes for my work sprints. I listen to the theme song from the television show, Lost. Do you remember that television show?
I have found and other people have found this, too, that there are apps like Brain.fm where you can listen and there’s also on YouTube. There’s many of this music for positive energy vibes or focus or help you study. It’s usually music that has no words and it supposedly is aligning somehow with your brainwaves. It does keep more distractions, more of the chat, so I can focus on what I have to get done. When the alarm goes off, I’m always like, “I come up from where I am. I was so lost into it.” I’ll add, finally, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but having that alarm, I even took time off my laptop because I don’t want to look up what time it is constantly. It liberates me from that to give me the freedom to get into the work that I want to do and not worry about what else I have to do the rest of the day.
It’s funny. One of the ones that I use sometimes is airplane music, that soft humming noise because when I was in corporate, I used to fly a hell of a lot. Even when I ran my outsourcing business, I used to fly quite a lot to the Philippines. Sometimes, that was when I was most productive. I know some people that write a book by just flying a twenty-hour flight.
I used to love going on planes because it was the last place where nobody was on their phone. It was quiet. I know it sounds crazy because we always think about how horrible your travels have become, but there was also something liberating about it. Sitting in the airplane seemed like, “No distractions.”
How do you create that? The other thing is on your profile, you’re a minimalist. What does that mean to you? How does that play in your life?
I remember my mother tends to be maybe as a teenager. She said, “You are like a monk.” I’m hardwired for simplicity. Generally, human beings love complexity. We love to overcomplicate things. I probably still do that to a certain extent. I’m a recovering overthinker. One of the core ways that I move through life is my simplicity radar. The second a bunch of friends could be talking about going out to dinner and throwing lots of options, it’s like, “Hold on a second. We’re overcomplicating things.”
I bring that into my business. I love that I have this and I invite everybody to it. We’re not always taught to feel our feelings, especially men. This is a crucial aspect of yourself, especially when you’re working with yourself because your inner voice has a real different opinion about what you should be doing compared to your conscious mind. The conscious mind is always worried about what everyone else is going to think. You feel your gut, heart, or whatever. You starting to feel resistance and you’re starting to feel unmotivated.
Don’t feel that guilt. Don’t feel that shame about, “I’m not working. What am I doing?” Stop and be like, “Why am I feeling this way? Do I need a break? Do I just not like doing this work right now? I’m working for myself, so I don’t like doing this work. What is it about it that I don’t like? How can I change it?” That’s that other mechanism. Not that everything’s rainbows and unicorns every day. You know that but like, “I’m going to be working for myself. I want most of it to be like, ‘I’m excited about it. I’m curious about it,’ or even sometimes, dare I say it’s fun.”The number of hours you are awake doesn't necessarily equate with the amount of energy you can spend daily. Click To Tweet
We’re going to get into the other sections of the show, but the other key pressure is to prove yourself and prove that others that you’ve made this leap and it’s the right decision. Some tips around how do you get those first clients because ultimately, the client is what keeps this dream alive, any quick tips on ways that people can land those first few clients?
Starting a business is not easy, but I’m going to give you the simplest way to start one. Focus on what you already have, your resources, so you got to take an inventory of all of your resources. What are your skills? What are you already good at? Try to build a business or find a problem around that. A lot of you can probably take your profession and turn it into a consulting job or a freelance job or a coaching opportunity. That’s something, and then do it for people that you already know or you already understand or you are part of that community.
In my last business, I learned a ton about digital marketing. I came out of the television news world in the United States, so I knew a lot about creating content. Upped my skills by learning a lot about digital marketing in the late ‘90s, and then I ended up building a business helping broadcasters in radio and television stations how to use digital tools. I call that the niche tribe model. I’m focusing on a small group of people doing something that you already know you’re good at for people that you already know. They start referring you around, so that was when clients start coming to you.
A tactical recommendation is something because our brain can overcomplicate things, Paul. I tell people, “Make a list of everyone you already know. Scan your phone, email, and social media profile. The only other caveat I would offer is as you’re scanning these contacts and these connections, only put people on the list that you’re excited about or you think that they’re going to be able to help you and get what you’re doing. They’re going to support you or they might know people who could help you.”
People are going to want to feel that connection over energy. Do not reach out to people for the sake of reaching out to people. I know you’re working back at a corporation. You’re in sales and I was in sales. You got to reach out to everybody because corporations gobble up every fricking resource in the world like getting their profit. When you’re an individual, you don’t have to do that. Just focus on the people that excite you and the people that are excited about you.
I’ve got about 6 or 7 people that gave me my first year. They were good friends. It was still in corporate. They gave me a bit of a head start and that made a massive difference. A, it gives you experience in what you’re doing. That’s important. B, it gives you a belief that you can do it. That belief that you can do it is then the snowball that catapults everything. Stephen, I can talk to you for so long on this topic, but I am respectful of everyone reading because I know they’ve got stuff to do with what you’ve already said.
Remember, we’re with Stephen Warley from Life Skills That Matter. Before we go into the Live section, I’d like to ask you a simple question. Have you got a sales machine that will help you get 1 of the 3 high-paying clients a month? If you’re not 100% sure about that, let me help you. I’ve got a pulse check and there the nine simple questions that you should ask yourself. You can do that in about three minutes.
If you’ve absolutely got everything covered, you get the opportunity like Stephen has to come on the podcast and let everyone know your secrets so others can be successful like you. If not, we can have a call and we can work out a plan. Not a sales call but a plan to work through. You can go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com/pulse to get that. The next is the Live section and we covered this already around daily habits that make us successful, but is there any that we’ve missed?
I think a lot of it is difficult and challenging. This is the analogy I always use. I tell people that for some reason, I got kicked out of a zoo a long time ago. In the early days of hanging out in the jungle, it was frightening and it sucked because the food came to my cage all the time. I had friends and everything was designed and built. I had to look good for the people who came along in the zoo every day. I did my thing. They then threw me out to the jungle and I was like, “How do I survive every day?” It was tense.
I tell people we have a lot of awesome communities out here in the jungle. This is the funny thing about our brains. You might be like, “I know what you’re talking about. I feel like my job is a prison.” Your brain loves familiarity so much. It loves certainty so much. It’s obsessed with it. It would prefer if it had its choice to keep you in that prison and keep you in that job. It does not like risk. It does not like uncertainty. That’s where we have to do a lot of that journaling to bring us out of that.
For me, a big part of my day is making sure that I take care of my body and not my mind and not worrying about money. I do walk a lot, work out, and meditate. I have great conversations with friends. I haven’t bought a coloring book during the pandemic because I’m like, “I need something that’s not a screen.” I’m a big reader. I love reading before I go to bed. One thing I’m adding, I don’t know if you’ve done this, is have you heard of the Wim Hof breathing method?
Yes. I’m cold already because whenever I hear it, I think of freezing water, but I haven’t done it.
You don’t have to go into the cold weather. You don’t have to go outside or anything. You can go to YouTube and maybe throw a link on your website for it. Look up the Wim Hof breathing technique, this Dutch guy. I do that every morning and it does electrifying. It makes you feel clear. I feel like that’s a lot of what I’m doing, even after twenty years or so. I’m learning how my body works and how to maximize that more. I am not somebody who likes to get into supplements and do all these crazy diets. I like to keep things simple. That’s a big part of what I try to do.
The next section is the Give section. Let’s say charity or community that you’re passionate about and why?
What I always keep top of mine nowadays and even before everything that’s been going on, I enjoy supporting anything to do with girl’s education, women’s entrepreneurship opportunities. In fact, by accident, sometimes I love how you can put out that vibe to the world. We run a 30-day intensive accelerator to help you start your solopreneur business twice a year. In October and November of 2020, we had our first all-women accelerator just the way it happened and it wasn’t that we were even trying. Stuff like that excites me.
Dudes out there, I’m going to tell you, I love working with you, too. I’m somebody who’s been given a lot of advantages in life and I want to share that advantage. There are way too many people who don’t have access to what you and I have. Let’s be honest with ourselves, Paul. It was a little bit easier for you and I to start our own businesses than many people out there. Women’s and girl’s education is what I’m trying to keep top of mine.
I have a book called Build Live Give and all the proceeds of that go to PurpleHouse.org.au. It’s a fantastic organization that supports indigenous Australians to get access to dialysis. Being on dialysis in a city where I was privileged versus being in the middle of rural Australia trying to get that. It’s a great charity and that’s the one that I support. The last section is the rapid-fire section. I’ll ask you some questions, Stephen, and get some rapid-fire responses. What I liken it to is this is not a phobia. Australians, we love our beer. It’s just a sip. Think that the answers are the time it takes to have a sip.
You all don’t sip. I’ve hung out with people in your country. I have not seen sipping.
It’s a reputation that unfortunately we deserve. The first question is, what tech is essential to running your business?
It’s spreadsheets. They are free and they’re flexible. You can use them in every aspect of your business. A little secret, most mobile apps start out as a spreadsheet.
What’s your best sales tip?
Have an outreach habit. Think about how do you like to meet people? How do you want to make friends? Whatever your method is, if you don’t like social media, cool. Don’t reach them on social media, but whatever your thing is, bring attention to it, make it a habit, make sure that you’re doing it on a regular basis, you’re enjoying it, and you’re getting better at it.
The last one and it’s a big one for this reason and that’s why I always leave it to the end. What impact do you want to leave on the work?
This is a naive one, Paul. We’re all about honesty on your show. I believe that people can be paid for just being themselves. If we can stop feeling like we have to be somebody other than ourselves to fit and to conform because this is how our economic system is set up, I probably want to move on from that and help anybody who is interested.
It’s definitely something that is coming with age for me, but hopefully, a lot of people reading this get to it quicker than certainly what I have.Have an outreach habit. Don't think about sales but instead focus on meeting people. Click To Tweet
I will tell you one thing. You’re the sales coach I wish I always had. You’re so darn nice. I’d be like, “What has Paul done?”
Some people will say it a bit of what I call a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Ultimately, you’d leave your large corporate. You call it the zoo, which I love that analogy. You leave that to run your own business so you might as well do it with people you like and people that you can generally get a great result for, but you enjoy working with. Otherwise, you might as well just go back to the zoo because the jungle may not be suited to you or vice versa. You’ve given some so much wisdom, Stephen.
There’s a couple of resources that you give. One was the calculator and that’s LifeSkillsThatMatter.com/calculator. There’s also a get started. Stephen, this has been wonderful. I enjoyed having you on a podcast. That’s how I found you in the first instance because you do speak what the world is moving towards. COVID’s help fast-track that, but definitely, we’re moving to a world where you can be you. You can now serve people any way in the world with what you’re great at and what a wonderful way to live life. Thanks for leading the way on that. It was great to have you on the show.
Thanks for having me. Thanks for pressing on my passion button. I appreciate it. I can’t wait to talk to you again soon.
Same. Thanks, Stephen. Bye.
I enjoyed that interview with Stephen and I hope you did as well. The key thing that came out to me is the simplicity. I’m an overthinker and therefore, I’m an overcomplicater, so I love that part. I love to know what you enjoyed, even send it to Stephen. Take a photo of the podcast and send it to him. I’m sure he’d love to know what you thought of it. He’s also got some great resources, which he mentioned. As a reminder, it’s LifeSkillsThatMatter.com/GetStarted and also the same for the calculator. I’ll also mention the Sales Machine. If you want to know how to get 1 to 4 high-paying clients a month, go and do the pulse check. That’s PaulHigginsMentoring.com/pulse. Please take action to build, live, and give.
- Wim Hof
- Build Live Give
- Sales Machine
About Stephen Warley
Stephen Warley has been a serial solopreneur for the past 20 years. He’s the founder of LifeSkillsThatMatter.com. He’s a solopreneur business coach on a mission to help you create work that works for you in alignment with your values, needs and abilities. He believes work is fundamentally changing as you know it and we’re all going to have to manage ourselves whether you work for yourself or someone else. Learn the very first 5 steps to start creating your own work at lifeskillsthatmatter.com/getstarted.
Connect With Paul and Build Live Give
Thank You for Tuning In!
If you want to break through all the noise on LinkedIn and reach your ideal client without creating loads of content or breaking the bank on ads – go to blgclick.com to learn our three secrets.