[52/250] She goes like a beast!

And makes others get out of the way

Happy Saturday!

I’ve got a story for you that is about something really pedestrian, but it’s illustrative of how we can get so focused on some things that we forget the big picture.

Yesterday I bought a car.

And not just any car. It’s an almost-new car: A 2015 Ford Mondeo hatch/wagon. She kicks like a beast and grips the road like a race car. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did take her out on the open road today ahead of skimming around hairpin bends at high speed on the way home. May the gods bless my get-your-license instructor who, on realising I could already drive well at the tender age of 17, taught me how to drive defensively.)

This car handles like a pro and for a driver like me, is nothing short of Really Farking Exciting, and I want to tell the Entire World how brilliant it is.

Ahem. Back to the story.

I had enough money to buy the car in cash.

Which, really, wasn’t that much in the scheme of things. Like, $16,000.

But, like many conscientous women who are great at keeping the home fires burning, did not have a credit rating.

Making the decision to borrow $10k became an interesting psychological battle.

In fact, if I’m completely honest, making the decision to buy a car in the first place was a big deal: Cars are expensive, money-sucking things that serve only to get you around the place a bit more easily. But on top of that, I have had a very serious Debt Aversion.

It that Debt Aversion exists partly because of how my money patterns were established.

This Debt Aversion means that:

  1. I don’t have credit cards

  2. I don’t have any debts. (Unless you count HECS, but who does, right.)

The salesman in the dealership was gobsmacked.

‘What other loans do you have?’ he paused, hands suspended over a keyboard.

‘None,’ I chirped.

‘No car loans? Home loans?’

‘Nope,’ I replied.

‘Really?’ He frowned. ‘No loans at all?’

‘That’s what I said,’ I threw back, impatiently.

‘What about credit cards? Store cards? Other liabilities?’ he pushed.

‘Nothing. No loans. No credit cards. No store cards,’ I returned evenly.

‘Holy moly.’ His hands dropped, his eyebrows hit his hairline, and he whistled to himself. ‘Well let’s see how we go.’

Despite having been renting in the same location for the past five years; despite having grown a company from a fistful of dollars to something that’s looking to hit over $127k this year; he was skeptical that I’d be approved quickly.

But of course I was.

And I, meanwhile, was running a program of pattern interrupts on my monkey mind.

Every time something came up in my inner chatter about owning a car; about having a debt; about owing somebody something apparently so massive; I batted it away. Initially doing this using the word ‘no’, it got stronger. So I discovered pattern interrupts like feelings of excitement, or even actual laughter, to stop it.

Having lived the first 10 years of my independent adult life in an undesirable relationship; one in which I did all the earning and never had a cent to play with; and having perceived my life as Struggle Town for so long, getting into this situation was challenging, to say the least.

It turns out that that old relationship had created a deep-seated belief in me that I was rubbish at handling money. My partner didn’t work; I did. I paid the key bills (rent, utilities), and then he took the rest of the money and did the shopping etc. I never had a cent, always believed that this was mostly my fault. Actually, it was because he didn’t work and never encouraged me to learn how to handle the full breadth of household expenses.

Thus, when that all ended and I was relying on my parents for my rent at the age of 30, that belief persisted. Once I had a job and was financially independent, I became obsessed about tracking every cent. The very topic of money was deeply emotional, surrounded by guilt and fear.

For years, I scrutinised my cashflow and budgets every Sunday.

I read my balance sheets like an accounting autist with nothing better to do.

Eventually, I got my head around a budgeting sequence that made sense for me, and worked without fail. That’s when I became The Accumulation King.

It’s pretty hard to accumulate a red cent when your personal wage is $2,100 per month. But even out of that, all my bills are paid, I eat, and I indulge a dance habit. I’m sure that if I didn’t dance, I could be saving another two grand a year.

Earlier this year, a friend who did some cashflow work with me for free exclaimed:

‘You just paid $15,000 in taxes and didn’t even blink! You have way more money than you think you do.’

So you see, darling friend, the loan is nothing.

If you buy a new car, your debt is much closer to $30k.

If you buy a house, it’s hundreds of thousands.

Yet here I was, on the brink of borrowing a piffling $10k and realising my own limitations.

And then one day last week, my dad told me a story.

It was a story that he was told by an older colleague, when my dad was a young man.

Here it is:

‘Bob and Mary are rubbish at saving money. Bob and Mary are fantastic at spending money. And when they owe money, Bob and Mary are brilliant at paying money back. You will only get so far by saving and spending what you save. But you’ll achieve a lot more if you’re willing to borrow and repay quickly, and on time.’

Dad’s story hit home.

I think you can get really caught up in the idea of doing everything on your own, especially if you’re a stubborn and fiercely independent woman like me.

You can become very proud of that accumulating balance in the bank.

You can get very guarded and unsure if you are required to use it for something personal.

There is a lot of pride in it for me. I started my business with such a small volume of money. Every single cent that I have earned and spent, I have done so under my own steam. Nobody helped me earn it. I did it entirely on my own.

So the fact that I could take $16k of that money and pay it in cash was a potential moment of immense pride.

It says:

Look at what I can do, because of my own grit and talent, without anybody doing it for me; and this fancy-ar5e car I bought in cash.

Unless you’re in a financial business, you can forget the huge risk of not having been the recipient of a loan.

If you’re in your 40s and you don’t have a history of loans and repayments, life can disappear without you ever gaining such a history. Once you get to your 60s, then if you have to borrow money, nobody will give it to you.

It’s the ultimate paradox: The very reason why you’re extremely low-risk is also the reason why the system locks you out.

So what is your key takeaway today?

It’s this:

Don’t get so proud of your own work that you start tripping on the robes of your pride.

When you can build an infrastructure around you in a smart way, you should do it. And if you don’t know how to do that, ask as many people as you can until you find someone who can shine a light on the things that society is not interested in teaching.

And the spirit of money is more helpful than you think.

Though, I feel that that story—about the spirit of money—is for a day when you and I are sharing a meal, rather than merely communicating through letters.

~ Leticia Mooney

[51/250] What's your time worth to you?

Hopefully more than anyone else's.

Good evening, Next Five Years subscriber!

First up, let me say that next week marks the one-year anniversary of this publication! In celebration, consider becoming a financial subscriber:

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the question of Time.

Time is the only thing you have.

Time is actually what money represents.

Time is the most valuable thing in your life.

A shocking realisation and an immediate change

In thinking about how I assign and allocate my time for about the billionth time this year, I came to the realisation that I have essentially structured my entire life (and my business) with an eye-and-a-half on other people.

Then I read Why you should stop caring what other people think, which was shared by Tim Ferriss the other week. It went into my spam folder. It’s remarkable I saw it at all!

After thinking about the perspective in that article, it dawned on me how other people control what I do.

I don’t mean that literally.

I mean, that they do it by proxy.

That proxy is largely inside my own head. My own woolly mammoth, if you like. (That’ll make sense when you read the linked article.)

And so in Major Moves This Week, I pulled Brutal Pixie out of coworking for the third time, and am forcing all non-client meetings to take place via videocall.

It’s funny how you are tested as soon as you make a game-changing decision.

Not 24 hours after I cancelled the coworking membership and removed face-to-face meeting options from Calendly, I got a lovely connection request on LinkedIn.

The person is new to freelancing and wanted to have a coffee with me.

I took a deep breath.

Would I go for that coffee? I love spending time with people. In fact, I love it so much that it destroys my ability to get stuff done.

So I paused. I recalled to myself the actions I’d taken literally the night before. And I replied:

Actually, I'm not doing coffees any more, because each one takes up to 3 hours out of my day. BUT I'm happy to share a bit of time virtually… [link etc]

To which I got this reply:

Fair call - guess I'm old school. I prefer real coffee, vinyl records and face-to-face.

And this response shocked the crap out of me.

It wasn’t the brevity of the message.

It wasn’t the assumption that a meeting is pointless unless it’s face to face.

It wasn’t even the total disregard that I’d agreed to share my time in a way that would work for both of us.

It was the assumption that preferring vinyl records is incompatible with video calls.

Like, seriously.

I have more than 2000 LPs in my house. I listen to them while I work, and new ones arrive on an almost daily basis…

Safeguarding your time pisses other people off

We’re raised to be nice to others, and kind to others. We are instructed to put other people first in all regards.

There’s a massive problem with this.

It’s the problem that almost all women face, because they tend to be caring, giving people. Many men do, too, but nowhere near to the same extent.

It’s the problem that you put yourself last.

It’s an uncomfortable irony that if you’re going to achieve anything in your life, you have to put yourself first. You have to prioritise your own structure; your own way of living. You have to recognise that your partner and your kids (if you have them, and if they’re not toddlers) are self-actualising creatures and are capable of looking after themselves and each other. You have to acknowledge that if something isn’t working in your life, you can either fix it or suffer.

In my experience, almost all of my suffering has come from either putting someone else first; or expecting that, by putting others first, they’ll do the same for me.

Most other people can’t stand it if you put yourself first.

If you become someone who’s in good control of your time and your attention, other people will make snarky comments about you being ‘so busy’; that they can’t book a meeting with you for this week; that they’re just going to leave it because they can’t have their way right now.

If I had $0.10 for every snarky comment I’ve ever received from someone, I’d have enough money to buy a fancy steak pie with sauce.

And you know? That’s ok with me. At last.

So here’s my thoughtful takeaway for you this week

Find a way to be the person who puts the most important person in the world first.

That person is you.

Nobody else is going to do it.

And if you’re worried about doing it, recall to yourself that it’s probably just your woolly mammoth being a bully. So feel the fear and do it anyway.

You’ll be incredibly happy that you did.

[50/250] Get your ducks in a line.

Then shoot 'em.

Sitting at my wooden standing desk (oh my, what a contradiction) late this Friday afternoon, with the setting sun bouncing off the building next door and shining with a yellow richness into my office, I had a sudden realisation of the piles of stuff around me.

No matter how hard I try to be That Amazing, Organized Woman With Nails And Style And A Perfectly Clean Everything, my creative subconscious doesn’t really dig it. By the end of the week, I’m in a splurge of papers, pens, and scattered brainwaves scratched out on notepapers of all kinds.

I might run a fully digitized Office 4.0, with a handful of brilliant people who are remote, but you’d never know it from my workspace.

And the behind-the-scenes work I’m doing at the Pixie to solidify our systems and processes won’t change that.

Some of my clients proclaim proudly how they ‘used to be notebook people’ but are now ‘tablet people’. They’re the same clients who insist on face-to-face conversations, share files using Dropbox, send comments in emails, and have review processes that are as convoluted and archaic as the Big 4.

I might tell them that they suck at being digitized, but it’s not really my place.

In any case, they’d do better if they scribbed by hand, fast, at the speed of thought, while interfacing with the rest of the world seamlessly.

It’s an issue that I’ve written to you about a lot this year. The systems thing is top of mind, and it turned into action thanks to an innovation mentor who planted the seed.

So it is that I approved purchase of TheBrain.

So it is that I started comparing file repositories and pricing, and fell in love with Keybase. (Despite the risk it carries, given Keybase insists on providing services for free.)

So it is that I’ve spent time every day for the last two weeks cleaning up the services library in our digital proposals system.

The remarkable nature of taking action, darling reader, is that it brings everything into alignment in ways you don’t expect. For example, cleaning up the services library has forced me to really focus down on what we do extraordinarily well. That’s translated into more effective daily emails. And clearer services pages on our website.

By removing all content on our home page except for a mailing list opt-in, we are gaining subscribers at an incredible rate of knots. And that without any social media, or any podcasts, or continuous SEO service, or editorial, and without advertising of any description. Since 1 October we’ve gained over 100 subscribers.

Once the services are done and the file system reworked, we’ll be in a position to really kick some serious a!se.

That’s what I mean about getting ducks in a line.

We might be coasting along, doing our regular and fabulous thing.

We might be delivering excellent and unusual works.

We might be inspiring people like the Behaviour, Brain, Body Research Group at the University of South Australia.

But once we get everything in a line, we’ll be able to start firing.

It’s a funny thing, to be talking about getting started, when you’re thinking about the “firing” kicking off some six months into a company’s seventh year.

But I really believe that it isn’t until your business is 10 years old that it’s even in a position to make a serious impact on the world. By then, you’ve been around the block; you know what works and what doesn’t; you’ve got your sh*t together; you’re a mature business person; and you’ve got the confidence to know how, when, where, and why to fly.

It sounds like forever, doesn’t it, 10 years?

It’s really just the blink of an eye.

As I peer through the scope of the weapon I’m piecing together, I can see that I need more patience, more bait, a little more rectitude.

And as I rest with my elbows in the grass, knitting it all together, the ducks are taking their places.

Then,

soon,

when the time is right -

I’ll pull the trigger on Phase 2.

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[49/250] The secret to great performance lies in between

Movement is not performance

‘That was good you guys, but I want you to do it again. This time focus on the between.’

Chylie Cooper, our instructor, turned her diminutive back and went to reset the music as we turned towards the barre and back to the other side.

The exercise was relatively simple. Chylie hit play, then moved to the centre of the room, butt sticking out against the mirror, hands on knees, bent over and watching us intently. Her gaze swept from one end of the long barre to the other.

The dancers at the barre were in the full spectrum of ability. From Veronica, down the other end, who is clearly an independent dancer, with magnificent feet and a beautiful style; to Jess, who is a newbie but levelled up quick.

The rest of us were scattered along the spectrum in between.

Focusing on the between has a peculiar impact on you. No longer is it about where you’re moving to, or what comes next. It’s the quality of the movement.

When you’re focused on what’s between, you don’t have to ‘try’ to be mindful. You just are. Your mind fills every space. Your eyes follow your hands. You breathe as your arms move, and every muscle is energised in every moment of every movement.

You stop Doing The Barre.

You dance.

It became a theme for the rest of class.

In the centre, we were again exhorted to focus on the between. To stop thinking about practising the movement, and instead to dance.

Yesterday after class, I’d had a private conversation with Chylie; I asked her if she’d coach me once a month. ‘To knock the jagged edges off,’ as I put it to her. I told her that I don’t want to start this year, but at the beginning of next year.

She said yes.

I don’t know if I’ll have the money.

I didn’t even think about what it would do to my time.

The only thing I was thinking about was something Sharran Srivatsaa sent in an email about finding a coach for what you do.

It probably means nothing to you, I realise, but the two pieces came together for me today in the most remarkable way. That is owning up to the fact that, no matter what you do, coaching is useful. That, if you’re going to commit time, effort, and funds to something, it’s better to get insider input into what you’re doing so you stop just turning up and going through the motions and instead claim it as your own. Coaching brings it into your personal life, makes it something for between class.

So this week I not only asked Chylie to coach me, I joined Sharran’s Inner Circle. It cost a fortune. Somehow I’ve stopped caring so much about the spend, and have started focusing on the outcome of the investment.

That’s why, when we were asked to dance today, I did.

Heart first, soul first, I danced. I stopped holding myself back, and I unleashed my energy into the room.

Chylie watched me.

I didn’t look at her, but I could feel her.

I knew that for the second half of the combination, she didn’t watch anyone else.

When we ended, epaulement just so, completely finishing the movement, I caught her eye, and for the slightest of moments, we saw each other.

Then she pointed a sharp finger at me.

‘Great.’ Chylie turned to the rest of the group. ‘See what happens when you’re mindful? You can think about what you’re going to cook for dinner, but you shouldn’t. Especially not when you’re dancing with other people.’

When I dance like this, I feel expansive, expanded, larger than myself. Like I have an inner energy that grows and grows, and fills the room.

When I dance like that, I couldn’t care less if anyone is watching me. My body feels completely different; like it it’s separate from me. It was made to move this way, and all I have to do is enjoy it.

And sometimes, the entire world disappears.

And it’s in moments like this that I get my best feedback.

I might be a tiny little thing, but I will dance a combination right across the room if given half a chance, when everyone else is doing it twice or three times in the same space. And if I’m allowed to jump, I feel like I’m flying; lucky to be a dancer with elevation, in grand allegro I can pause time at the peak of a jump, can stay there for what feels like an entire second. In the retelling, it’s nothing; in real life, it’s a lifetime.

John Garrett asked me in a podcast interview recently (which will appear on his show, The Green Apple podcast, in a month or two) how dance affects my business life.

The answer is that every dance class is the best business coaching you’ll ever receive.

It’s not what you do, and in what sequence, it’s in the between. It’s not having this routine for this, and that routine for that. It’s becoming completely embodied in every tiny thing you do that comprises your performance.

Dance is about showing up, every day. It’s doing a terrible job but doing it anyway. It’s having negative, counterproductive self-talk, and getting past it. It’s a mind game equalled only to running your own business.

And when you’re with others, it’s in being focused enough to share space, heartbeats, energy and direction, that you find synchrony and joyous production.

Productivity isn’t about flogging yourself. It’s about being inside every tiny moment.

Matilda, a PhD candidate who dances in my class, commented over coffee after class that she’s currently doing four dance classes a week. She said that it’s the only thing that’s keeping her sane. That it’s the only place in which her work doesn’t intrude into her mind. She gives herself over to dance completely. She’s in that dark place in the second year of doctoral research when everything feels disgusting and impossible, and the end is too far away to grasp. Dance allows her to come back to her body and just be.

Dance might not be your thing.

You might not even be a founder.

But find the thing that allows you to find the between.

And then bring the between back to every moment of every day.

[48/250] Choose your cloud wisely

My fave is Monkey Magic's magic cloud

I don’t know if I told you, but I am unwinding my reliance on proprietary cloud.

You see, around this time last year I had a bright idea to back up the Pixie’s Google Drive. What I did was back up links to files that were locked into a proprietary format, without even really understanding it. Then I moved the files and poof! they were all destroyed.

Around that time, an accountant asked me why you’d bother backing up something that is in the cloud.

My response to her was: Because you have absolutely no control over it. You own your data, but if a company like Xero has some kind of meltdown for some kind of reason, or goes bust for any reason (including malpractice or, god forbid, fraud) then you are fucked if your data goes down with them.

Cybersecurity pros won’t argue with me on that one.

When I began thinking through the reasons why I just dived into a Google ecosystem without thinking, it was because of a couple of things. One was ease and simplicity. One was immediate sharing.

Yet, 99% of our clients are in a Microsoft ecosystem. Our team fluctuates from Just Me to Me And Contractors, and we use a self-hosted project system + repos.

Benefit of sharing? Almost zero. It’s so close to zero that it’s about 0.01% of use.

This means that even if we send our clients online docs, they will download them into their preferred formats, and then send via email.

(The fact that they are causing file proliferation doesn’t ever occur to them.)

Therefore, use for us requires thinking from a bunch of directions:

  • our clients’ systems and preferences

  • the six thinking hats

  • my innate Tinfoil Hat personality

  • storage, short-term and long-term

  • financial commitments

  • data access and behavioural patterns of use

  • … among other things.

The solution is that I’ve made a decision to exit out of proprietary systems and into Open Source formats for everything in-house. And I’m moving to a non-linear file system, one that not only provides visual representation of data relationships, but allows files and resources to be accessed from a single, central place.

Of course, it means that there are some knotty problems to solve around storage both hot and cold (short- and long-term). And there is ahead of me some epic work in exporting, converting, and stashing data.

But the pay-off.

Ahhh, this is the promised land.

It’s a time in which everything is owned, synced, on every device. It’s secure. It’s stored in ISO-compliant formats, meaning that it will be accessible forever, regardless of device or operating system or platform. It’s convertible for our clients’ needs easily. And the manufacturing side of the business takes up fuck-all space (because *.md files are literally 23kb in size).

That’s the land on the other side of this long, winding bridge that’s swaying in the breeze right now.

Between now and the end of the year, my job is just to take one small step after the other along that bridge. By the time the year turns, we’ll be in a place that looks very different, that is more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable, and that sets us up for Stage 2 of our epic systematisation campaign.

This week I took the first teetering steps towards that land. I steadfastly donned my blinkers, so I couldn’t see the drop underneath me, and I refused to look up and become daunted by the journey.

But every journey begins with a single step.

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