Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
Things I have learned in five years
My partner correctly points out I am extremely bad at acknowledging my own achievements. My approach is: yeah that was ok but what’s next? And also, look! Errors I made while achieving that achievement! Really should have done better on those.
So this week, some indulgent achievement chat. Happy birthday to the blog, it turns five today. 48 Tuesdays a year x 5. About a quarter million words.
To be honest I did not see it going this long. For those new to this, it started as a plea for attention, to find a publisher for a book I’d written as a result of a pub bet.
It was called Kill All MBAs when it kicked off. To be honest that is still my favourite name for it.
Two and a half years later, just as I’d kinda given up on publishing, Penguin Random House got in touch and asked if I’d ever thought about writing a book. Working with them was a lifelong dream. Even when the book got absolutely crucified by lockdowns the week it came out. And when an Irish rugby guy put out a business book with the same title three weeks before mine and I watched as my PR coverage sent his sales sky high.
He could at least have sent me a case of Guinness.
I could have stopped the blog after the book goal got ticked but I’ve grown to love writing it. I love the people who get in touch and tell me it’s helped them in some way. I’ve met some super-smart people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. We’ve invested in some of their businesses. It’s the journey etc.
So what have I learned in that five years? Here’s a point I haven’t pushed much but it’s relevant.
This stuff actually works
I sometimes wonder if readers think that because the blog has some low-key jokery in it, ours can’t be a serious business. That it’s a cottage-industry thing that might have happier staff than the industry average, but it’s not a serious role model for true scalable success.
And we don’t like to talk it up too much, because that’s what wankers do.
Last week we had some dealings with a public company, listed on the ASX. They were confident in their demands of our minnow business. Which is absolutely cool, we love being a humble supplier.
Out of interest I looked them up. Their coverage in financial media was that of a successful growth story. They just put out a bullish market announcement on their stonking revenue growth, a three-figure percentage rise on last year.
Well played. Also they were still smaller than us.
And they’re well in the red on that turnover.
(By the way if you work somewhere with a name like Pterodactyl Capital Partners* and want to help us “unlock the value” in our business, no thank you. No disrespect but IPOs or any other external interference are our worst nightmare.)
All the words I churn out about profitability, reinvestment, backing your staff, listening to your clients, investing in brand marketing consistently for years, not filling your business with a log-jam of unproductive middle management: they aren’t just blog-filler whimsy.
It’s not secondhand inspo I drew from reading about Navy SEALS or Steve Jobs.
We apply it every day, it works, we make good money and we lead nice lives. And we’re free to do whatever the hell we want: usually responsible things but not always.
It’s a total team effort, I’m just the one who writes about it.
It got us through two years of COVID beating the shit out of our industry. And that nightmare will make us a stronger business in the long-term, because we have an intact team that has each others backs.
If you read ideas in here and think, that’s entertaining but a little too weird for me, that’s fine. Entertainment is enough. But we’ve road-tested it all and it delivers solid commercial returns.
Don’t have many enemies, but a few is enough to sustain you
The whole reason I started writing was sheer annoyance that all the regular motivational writers don’t speak to me as a business owner. There’s no useful detail.
I read their work-astrology platitudes and think: you haven’t run a business or held a serious job in your life, have you?
I’m not proud of this, but the psychotic energy it takes to get the blog out for five years is fuelled by their bullshit.
Also all the LinkedIn hustle porn is all about the 4am starts, enduring more pain than your competitors, the denial of all pleasure in your pursuit of the prize. While I’m not denying there’s a lot of work involved, you seldom read how much fun it is.
I swear our business just gets more enjoyable every year. Bigger punts to take, more delightful new staff to bring on board, clarity on what sort of clients we work best with. I hope that comes across in the blog yarns.
How to stick to something like a maniac
Writing something consistently is hard. Every website has a blog and the last entry was in 2019.
Not going to get all Atomic Habits on you, but the only way to do it is remove all choice from the matter. There’s this idea that creativity comes when the muse strikes you. No, you are not Coleridge leaning back on your chaise-longe in the opium den, waiting for your muse fairy to wave their wand.
Like most forms of work, you must park your arse at a desk and churn out bad copy until you write something better. It will happen eventually.
For me, Monday is write-the-blog day, and that’s just how it is. I try to arrange things around that but if I’m travelling, then it’s Sunday. Aside from holiday breaks, in five years I’ve missed one, from a meteorite shower of mixed evil that I could spin out into a book of its own.
Putting something out reliably is a sign that your thoughts are also reliable.
I look at people who put out consistent quality gear, week on week, year on year, and we give each other respectful nods. I recommend getting in touch with someone whose discipline and endurance you rate, and swapping tips. Seeing their work can keep you going when you’re thinking: what is the point of all this? James D’Apice, whose Coffee and a Case Note legal show is the most durable one on my radar screen, was really helpful for me. Unless you’ve done it, you can’t know how hard it is just to come up with the topics.
So much advice is based around “hacks” and how to get there without doing all the work.
That’s a sign you don’t like doing the work, and if that’s the case, don’t do it. The world doesn’t need material done by someone who wants results without effort. You can tell it straight away.
It feels like ChatGPT.
You will not go viral but that’s ok
Nothing you write is going to “go viral” like you dreamed. Writing is a subtle, old-school craft that will draw a millionth the attention of any current TikTok dance and that’s just how it is.
Don’t let that discourage you, even if you don’t want to publish anything.
Writing is thinking. Learning to compress an idea into a sentence you can read is a good test of how good that idea is.
If you can express an idea clearly, that’s a skill that’ll take you long way. People will follow you, because they can understand what the hell you’re talking about in a world of managers spouting verbal porridge.
Thanks for the reads. I’m going to have a Moo Brew Pilsner now, Tasmania’s precious gift to the beer world, and tell myself well done. And I’ll do it again at the ten year celebrations.
* No joke the first seven joke names I thought up for this I googled and they were already real advisory firms. So much sturdy tree imagery.
Got a comment?
I’ve stopped moderating the blog comments because I get like 50 Russian bot comments a day. But why not drop your comment over on this story on LinkedIn? Keen to hear from you.
Also, if this story was useful or entertaining for you, why not help me out by sharing it? It’s a ton of work getting these stories out, and more readers really helps me justify the insane effort each week. Bless you.
Why not buy this nice book?
Want a book on how to break free of a job that sucks and set up your own business that you don’t even have to work in? We did that, and here’s the story: Undisruptable: Timeless Business Truths For Thriving In A World Of Nonstop Change.
Zoë Foster Blake said: “Ian is a cheeky, funny, disruptive (and proven: important) business rascal and thank goodness for that.”
Every week since it came out 15 months ago, it’s the #1 Review-Rated biz book on all of Booktopia. On paper, electronic or audio book with me reading it. Get it here:
Also I write a story each Tuesday, drop your email here to get it in your inbox.
For those of you in geo-blocked countries, here’s your non-Spotify audio: