This is what happened…
It feels strange saying this but after two decades of loving what I do in my business, I decided to walk away.
What makes this even more strange is that everything was going super!
I totally love my team, I love all the clients I work with, I love my partners and I love my work. Plus, I’m hugely privileged to have worked across different markets and industries with such an amazing bunch of super friends. I’m ridiculously proud of what we have created and achieved. Our professional business services and products have helped leading multinational corporations, government agencies, high profile individuals, small business and nonprofit organisations that reach millions of people around the world.
So if it’s working, why walk away?
There are five reasons, let me explain.
Why Would I Want To Walk Away From My Business?
Some situations stay with you forever, and change the way you look at everything, no matter how many years go by. In 2001, I was involved in a near death car accident. I was convinced no one would find me, fortunately for me I was rescued by an old wise gentleman (Omar) passing by. Months before this car accident I had given up on everything, I was reckless and wandering through life directionless and depressed because my ex-wife had independently decided to keep me from seeing our four young kids immediately after the separation (it was the lowest and most painful period of my life). This car accident is what I call one of “life’s too short alarms”, a second chance, so I began asking myself some very pointed questions.
Most of those questions were influenced by my father and Omar (who rescued me from the wreck). Both of them helped me to surrender to what had happened before my accident and challenged me to dig deep inside myself, question and re-evaluate everything else in my life to help me find a purpose to go on.
I tell this story because it was a turning point that changed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I clearly remember what Omar (my inspirational good friend) told me about a simple yet very powerful way to live life that had been passed on to him through his ancestors. I call it “The Power Switches” because it requires making 3 key decisions and then living by them.
Here’s the lowdown: the first switch, is the decision to be “Courageous” in life, meaning to live your beliefs and values openly… to also face up to challenges and fear, believing there will be a lesson to gain, or a new opportunity to come. The second switch, is the decision to be “Giving”, meaning – to give and receive from the heart in your own unique way, believing your heart must be in harmony with your head decisions (interesting how science has recently discovered there is a heart-brain connection). The third switch, is to “Inspire” your world, and you will feel happier, and driven to do more and achieve more. The Power Switches help me in more ways than one!
And then there’s what my father did. He guided me to question my activities and reconnect with the values and beliefs that really matter to me. He suggested I define “My Highest Purpose”, by making up a list and imagining every minute detail I can, around the goals aligned with my highest values and beliefs. He asked me to evaluate each carefully, rearrange them in order of priority then pick the top 3 only, and plan them into my calendar. After that he told me to go start working on those goals, plan each out with lots of little directional mini-goals and work on them like my life depended on it.
So that’s what I did. Since my come back, I have had a full load with large enterprises and the like hiring me and my team, to create transformational results on a large scale. Then one Tuesday afternoon at 1:37pm life did what it does and stunned me with another challenging situation. This time it was my father who was impacted by a serious health issue. His deteriorating condition hit me hard and shook me to my core. It felt like another one of “life’s too short alarms”. When I learned how serious his condition was, the activates that filled my schedule – once so seemingly urgent – became insignificant. I decided right there and then to drop everything and stay with him and support him through it no matter what.
While I sat in silence for countless hours beside my father in his hospital room, looking at him and replaying his life in my head, I realised how trivial those activities were, that only a few weeks ago had seemed so weighty and began looking at my whole life through the same new lens. I asked myself…
– What are the top 3 goals aligned to my highest values and beliefs?
– Which of my past works inspire me the most?
– Which were the ones that contributed the most towards the changes and impact I want?
– What important activities have I put on the back burner and wanted to work on but struggled to find the time for?
– Is the work that I’m doing right now providing me with any leverage to create the impact I’m after? What legacy will I be leaving if my time was up now?
The amazing thing about taking your time and going through this process on your own, somewhere quiet without distractions, is the clarity and insight you discover.
In my situation, I was sitting beside my father for days, even weeks at a time, so I had a lot of time to think by myself. There were occasions I was taking business calls from clients or the team, and listening to other peoples life stories in the hospital. But most days I had hours upon hours with myself while he was sleeping. It did not take long before I began to realise what I would otherwise never have imagined – it was unlikely I was ever going to focus on the areas I valued and believed most. I was like zigzagging between activities and taking way too many distracting detours. What I was doing right now was no longer in my top 3 choices.
Although I loved what I was doing in my business, I felt I needed to focus on my highest values and beliefs before it was too late. Look don’t get me wrong, there was a high degree of opposing emotions and doubt telling me:
How will this impact my family? Everything at home is settled and this is going to require reshuffling certain activities… how will that impact us and especially the kids?
How will walking away affect the relationships I have worked with for so long? Many of those friendships go back decades.
There are consequences to consider, will bringing in change right now hinder things? After all my father was going through the single biggest challenge of his life, and his situation required doing certain things that I believed I could help him with.
Why rock the boat and disturb what’s working? I enjoyed the work I was doing. There was also steady growth, and things were fine.
Fear, doubt and havoc was playing inside me.
Then one Thursday evening shortly after 6pm, while I was feeding my father my wife’s amazing veal piccata with olive oil mash potatoes and green beans for dinner (he didn’t like hospital food much), I took two phone calls. The first from Matthew about his property business, and another from Michael, he owns a financial planning and broking business. After those calls my father asked me a couple of questions; “What do they do?”, so I told him. He came back with, “Why aren’t you doing more of this?”, and I said, “more of what?”, he replied “more of what you’re doing now, you’ve got a real valuable gift for it”. So I said, “I’ve always helped people in business”. He replied, “No, there’s a big difference here, I’ve noticed it when you’re talking to certain businesses, it lights you up and I can see a lot of passion coming through.” And that’s when I thought… he’s hacking into my mind, again!
But who am I kidding, I needed to change the subject, this wasn’t the time or place for this type of conversation. I believed right now, my role was to focus on supporting the person I loved so much! The thing is, I couldn’t escape the subject, his eyes felt like laser beams pointing at me waiting for a response.
So I shared a few of my reasons with him, and finished with “it was too difficult right now” and I justified my position with “I already fit in what I can” hoping he’d accept that reply for now, until he got stronger. That response didn’t go down well because he said, “OK. Now, if you’ve asked me to believe and do the impossible here, why don’t you do it yourself? I think this is another reason behind you being here with me, because life’s not going to be there forever. Now is the time. I’ve seen how you are, you need to do this because it makes you happier. I’ve seen the excitement in you. And, I think that it’s more important to do what you believe inside of you, and if that belief of yours is important to you, then do it now before it’s too late… promise me you will do what you believe is inside you”.
And the promise was made. Within a few minutes, my wife (I eventually got married again) walked in and the first thing I said to her was, “I’ve made a decision to walk away from my business”. She smiled, listened to my reasons, then gave me a beautiful warm hug and whispered in my ear, “do what you believe with all your heart and mind, I believe in you”.
My wife and father always inspire me to be more. They love who I am and support me unconditionally. I’m so grateful that I have their love and belief in me.
My Reasons For Walking Away From My Business
1. I Needed to Support My Father With His Challenge – My fathers medical condition was serious. After much research and questioning, I realised the surgeons and doctors knew very little. The head surgeon admitted this too, in fact, he sadly lost one of his parents to the same condition. When doctors suggested I call friends and family together, saying the end was approaching, I got angry. It was obvious they gave up on him, and that WAS NOT acceptable as far as I was concerned. I strongly rejected that notion or anyone who gave up on him. As far as I was concerned, my father was no different to a wounded warrior that needed positive encouragement and support. I discovered his mindset would play a critical role. The right head space was key, and it would require ongoing positive management too. There was no doubt in my mind that I could help him, this is one skill I’m very good at. But what about my business? I loved it, and it required much energy and a lot of time away. But that kind of love doesn’t compare with the people I love. I believe this is the right thing to do… my father means much more to me than any business or career.
2. I Needed To Ease Back On The Flying – Family come first. When my kids were young it was easy for them to fly around with me wherever I was working with clients, however now that they are older the dynamics had to change. I couldn’t keep jumping between countries like I did. I wanted to ease back on flying so we could continue to do the things we enjoy together. Plus, flying was going to limit my ability to help my father.
3. I Wanted To Simplify Things And Zero In On My Creativity – I’ve had the privilege to work with a KAJILLION clients in different industries across boarders while also establishing contrasting business interests and ventures. Because of this, I was able to play with different business models, create and experiment with different ideas, and figure out rapid growth methods that help any business or individual to succeed. The challenging thing for me was working with inflexible large business, they were not giving me the flexibility or leverage I need to create the impact I want to achieve. I needed to free myself from the corporate routine that was slowing me down and not aligned to my objectives. By doing this I could dedicate way more time to unleash the creativity inside me.
4. I Wanted to Focus On The Things That Matter To Me – (slight rant here) – The small business statistics are alarming – around 50% of small business fail after just 4 short years. And, the failure trends gets much worse the longer they are in business, with less than 30% of the surviving ones still in business after 10 years. And if that wasn’t enough, apparently those with fewer than 20 employees have as little as a 9% chance of survival. It really annoys me that the odds are stacked against their success. It bothers me even more when I can see that many small businesses have amazing products and services, and passionate owners trying their best. My frustration is compounded even further because so few realise that many causes of failure can be easily avoided, it’s very clear to me. Heck, I’ve fallen into many of the same traps myself, and I’ve witnessed many, many more, so… I really get it!
And, I’m sick and tired of seeing this kind of thing go on. I’m also annoyed that many of the surviving ones are struggling to find effective solutions to boost their business. It’s not their fault when there are so many experts, speakers, authors and the like out there today who “only talk the talk”, and run businesses only in their fool’s paradise. I believe real-value small businesses deserve a better chance. We all depend on their success, after all they are the driving force and back bone to our economies and future. I felt I needed to help more small businesses and cut back on the larger inflexible clients. It makes me very happy and fulfilled to see more of them achieving success as a result of the help I give them.
5. I Felt I Needed To Play A Bigger Part In Doing More Good
Over the years I’ve worked on a lot of projects that have helped my clients generate phenomenal growth with millions upon millions in revenue, and that felt great, I was happy for them. But, there was another side to it that was missing something important to me.
Let me explain that a little more.
There’s a particular client who recently got us so emotional, we were reduced to tears after hearing what they were able to do. Sam and Maya (his wife) own a consulting business of six years and they have been struggling in a number of areas in their business.
It took us just 13 months to totally transform their overall business into a multimillion dollar per year generator. It gave them financial stability and the ability to redesign, modernise and stream-line their business activities how they wanted them to be. For Sam and Maya, that meant they were able to leverage their time, value and resources in ways that allowed them to serve their clients better, attract new ones and open new opportunities too. It also allowed them to spend time doing the things they wanted to do with their family and friends.
Actually, knowing what Sam, Maya and Paki (their oldest daughter) do to help people in need, is the bit that got our tears flowing. It’s truly inspiring! They currently help 152 families in Africa, and that in itself is tremendous. But that wasn’t enough for them, they decided they wanted to inspire these families to start something to support themselves. Well, out of those 152 families, so far 43 have started their own little business ventures that now directly support them and their families, and also help their local community. I love that!
I feel privileged to be able to say they are my friends. We’ve grown really close – so much so, they feel like my second family. I love having a role in the transformation of their business, it brings me much happiness and a great sense of pride in knowing I played a part in changing the lives of so many.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I didn’t change lives with what I was doing for the multinational corporations, government agencies and the like. But these types of projects like Sam and Maya’s feel different, I love how they touch people’s lives and directly help communities. They inspire me to help more and more businesses who help improve communities.
I really admire people who have the courage and get-up-and-go to create a business that improves their lives. Since my accident though, I have found that adding a lot of activity that I can see improving the world, provides me with the fulfillment I need to feel. I believe “doing good, is good for you and for business” and that’s very important to me.
My father’s challenge helped me to realise I needed to shift my business focus before it was too late. By specifically helping amazing people to market, modernise, optimise and improve their lives and communities, I’m able to be a part of the impact they create in the world, and that’s something very close to my heart.
Plus, when I think about the very nature of life, how we came into being… I mean right back to the beginning… the development of the first cell that divided into two cells and so on… I can’t help but think this whole purpose of life is to pass on what we learn.
Think about it – from the moment you’re born until the moment you die, you are consciously or unconsciously learning.
So when I got thinking about my life and what I should do with this knowledge, I felt I needed to pass it on. I needed to pass it on just like any cell traveling through time.
Pass on what you learn… I really believe there is no higher purpose! And, I find it extremely exciting to be a part of that.
The Look On Their Faces Said It All
The challenging part would be breaking the news of my decision to everyone. I didn’t expect it to be easy, and I wasn’t sure how they would take it. It got very emotional sharing my father’s situation and why I was doing this. After they heard the reasons, I was deeply touched by their kindness and support, I was overwhelmed. I will never forget the heartfelt emotions they each shared with me. The looks on their faces said it all, we were all reduced to tears. I was a mess.
At that moment, I realised everything we do has a cumulative effect built-on what we say and how we behave in everyday situations. I realised that no conversation or situation should be taken for granted, because everything impacts either positively or negatively on those around us. Every little interaction presents us with a valuable opportunity to tell someone how grateful we are for them and their efforts. If you do this, I assure you, everyone will feel valued (as they should be) and relationships will flourish.
This Is Where Your Story And Mine Intersect
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.