Category : Entrepreneurs


Freedom *Isn’t* What You Want. A Part of Being Human Is Doing Things.

Tim Denning Freedom

Photo by Nighthawk on Unsplash

You think you want freedom. But freedom can be a bad thing.

Quitting your job, or being a digital nomad, or living the laptop lifestyle won’t solve all of your problems.

How do I know? Last year I got fired and spent most of the year being an online blogger and doing nothing else. My friend said to me “Mate you must be loving life, eh?”

Not really. Spending the day on the computer and writing was nice for a few weeks. But when you do it each and every day to survive and put food on the table it changes everything.

Freedom from a normal job isn’t a bad thing, though. It’s just not worth becoming so obsessed with the idea that your life sucks until you achieve it. When you do achieve freedom from a 9–5 job you start to see the world differently.

A fellow blogger I follow online is Nat Eliason. He hasn’t had to work a normal job since March 2016. Like me, he found that freedom from a job or a typical life didn’t solve any of his problems.

As soon as you get that freedom, you realize that a fundamental part of being human is doing things — Nat Eliason

The Start of Freedom

It starts out being fun. You take what you love doing and do it full-time. Seems straightforward. Nothing in life ever is.

I spent the first few weeks waking up late and binging on takeaway Chai Lattes. Life was great, for a minute. Pretty quickly I figured out that life without work was boring. “I know, I’ll write every day,” said my brain.

It was a great idea. I’d learned in the years leading up to this full-time freedom phase of my life that I could in fact make money as a blogger. Writing could buy food and keep the taxman happy. Taking what you love and making it your job can take some of the shine off it though.

Writing started to feel like a chore real quick. That’s not how doing what you love is supposed to feel, is it?

Those Around You Can Warp the Idea of Freedom

This idea of freedom I was living was borrowed.

A friend of mine went from being a snake handler in the Australian desert to moving to Santa Monica with his laptop and being a blogger. I watched where blogging took him and fell into a whole new world. His idea of freedom tantalized me before bed. “I want to do that,” I said.

It took me years to learn that his life away from a normal job wasn’t so great at all. He admitted to getting caught up in many standard life problems. He also got divorced from the love of his life within fourteen days of getting married. It was a dream, and a nightmare, all in the same sentence.

I didn’t need to live in Santa Monica or have a life perfect for Instagram.

Chasing Rainbows

So you get your boss off your back and don’t have to take orders from anybody. Suddenly you’re going to be doing happy dances every day to McDonald’s, right? Nope. Not even close.

I thought my boss was my problem. While he was a dictator asshole who loved to use the phrase “mortgage motivation” he wasn’t really what I was escaping. What I wanted to get away from was having to delay my happiness for some future moment all the time. It was exhausting.

You can spend your entire life looking forward to retirement and it won’t do anything for you. As Nat said, “a fundamental part of being human is doing things.” If you get your freedom and do nothing then you’ll become miserable, fast. A 30-something retirement won’t change your life.

In fact, in the next 1–2 years, if I wanted to, I could retire as a 30-something-year-old. I’m not going to.

A new version of retirement

What if you thought about retirement differently? The way I think about retirement is that it’s a period in my life where I don’t have to do work that grinds my gears anymore to pay bills.

Freedom isn’t getting rid of the need to have a job.

Freedom is the ability to choose work that pays for enjoyment without thinking about how much I’m getting paid.

The guy I sit next to at work laughed when I said this:

“I want to reach retirement so I can quit the technology industry and go and work for the government on minimum wage. I’m fascinated by what it would be like. Then 12 months after that I want to work at an airport for shits and giggles to see what that’s like. Every 12 months I want to change industries and defy the boundaries of a resume.”

Maybe the wild choice of changing careers every twelve months is a better form of retirement. Maybe choosing work for shits and giggles is another form of retirement.

The Ability to Just Play and Goof Off

When I lived this digital nomad life last year everything became far too serious. Nat reminded me that you should never underestimate the ability to just play and goof off.

If all you do is obsess over passive income and becoming more ‘nomad’ by the day, you’ll have a nervous breakdown when the slightest setback creeps in. I found the separation between work and play disappeared. If I was watching a movie it had to be for money-making purposes. If I went for coffee it had to be with a mentor or somebody who could talk my ear off about business.

I couldn’t relax because my hobbies had made me a prisoner to them.

Have Multiple Sources of Meaning

Writing gave my life meaning. The problem was I depended on writing like a crack addict to give me my next hit of meaning.

Your life needs more than work to give you meaning. Meaning comes from helping other people. Meaning comes from falling in love. Meaning comes from spending time with your family. Meaning comes from travel. Meaning comes from learning about history. I forgot all these sources of meaning and so I relied solely on a blogging audience to give it to me. When they didn’t, I felt empty and alone.

Diversify where you get meaning from so you spread your risk.

The False Reality of Travel

It’s nice to travel. Travel is one reason people want to quit their jobs and become a digital nomad. I love travel too. It’s nice to explore the ancient ruins of Rome like I did two years ago. You know what’s weird?

After you travel a lot you start to hate it.

Two weeks into my trip to Europe everything began to feel the same. A city was a city. An ancient building was an ancient building. A bowl of pasta was just another bowl of pasta. A tourist attraction was just another place full of tourists who took photos of everything and didn’t know why. Many of them would never view a single photo they took ever again (I haven’t looked at any of my Italy travel pictures since).

Traveling the world won’t save you from yourself.

Traveling the world won’t suddenly make your life awesome and solve all of your problems.

What You Really Want

I realized that I didn’t want a lifestyle or material possessions at all.

Freedom was simple: I wanted the ability to have choices.

That’s what freedom is. It’s not quitting your job and never working again. Doing things is part of the human experience. Choosing what things you do and don’t do is a powerful experience. It shows you what is possible and acts as a compass that points to your next opportunity.

Now I’m back working a traditional 9–5 job again, four days a week. I don’t plan on leaving corporate life, yet. What has changed between last year and this year is that I work a normal job because I choose to, not because I have to. I’m aiming to ensure in each area of my life that I have choices.

Leaving work behind for good isn’t the answer. Turning your hobbies into passive income isn’t the answer either.

The answer: Replace the idea of freedom from work with the ability to have choices to do whatever work you choose.

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Why I Believe Business Deals Close Better In Person

Business Deals Close Better In Person - Tim Denning

When it comes to thinking about the way that business deals are conducted, I think we have lost our way a bit. It’s very easy to think that everything can be done on Skype or email or even telephone. Now I am not saying business can’t be done through these methods, but we need to think about it carefully.

93% of body language is not verbal yet the methods I mentioned above are all using technology where the other person is not next to you. Now yes you can see them through a video camera but it’s not the same thing.

Now a few weeks ago I saw an example that demonstrated this point perfectly. I was trying to fix a deal that was done over twelve months ago via email and phone – I was getting nowhere. I became frustrated because this client had the potential to help us build our business.

Then, as if some miracle had occurred, the CEO I was talking with said, “screw this, I am coming to Melbourne.” The next week he arrived, and we spent sixty minutes together talking through the issues on both sides.

Now that we were in the same room together he could see that I was a reasonable guy and wanted to make things work. What took us weeks to work out was now negotiated in one hour. We wrote it up on the whiteboard; I took a photo of it with my iPhone, and he was on his way with both of us very happy about the outcome we had reached.



Why did the outcome change face-to-face?

The reason I believe that the outcome changed when the CEO came and saw me face-to-face was because of body language. It’s very easy over the phone or email to come across the wrong way. It’s very easy to sound rude or like you don’t care about the other person’s goals.

When you do things face-to-face, it much easier to tell by the other persons body language what they are thinking, and whether you are in rapport with them. From the way they shake your hand, to their posture when they’re sitting down, there are so many clues.


How do I supercharge the results from a face-to-face meeting?

So if you want to supercharge your business results then not only should you consider doing bigger deals face-to-face but you should also try a few things.

Firstly, take the other person out for lunch. When you eat with another person, you get to build a greater level of rapport. People love eating out with me because they get to learn about my quirky sense of health and it always seems to be a great bonding experience.

Secondly, spend the first part of your meeting talking about where the other person is from and their culture. Knowing about where someone is from helps you with the way that you communicate with them. When it’s your time to share where you’re from, don’t hold back; let them into your world.

Thirdly, watch the way you dress. I have been to many first time meetings where there is someone present who is letting the way they dress alter their results. It’s not rocket science, but it does require you to think a bit.

For example, if you’re meeting a person who is a computer programmer then a suit and tie is probably not going to be appropriate.


A note on preparation

A great thing to do when you have a face-to-face meeting is to come across as prepared. This can be something as simple as having a room booked, setting a simple agenda, outlining what you want to get out of the meeting, and having some sort of structure.

Don’t go over the top, just be cool – show you care.


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4 Business Lessons That Are Transformational

Transformational Business Lessons - Tim Denning

So in my day-to-day business dealings there are some fundamental lessons that can change the impact you have and the revenue you have the ability to generate. I’ll give you the heads up, though; two out of the four lessons are not the typical things you will find in business books.

To stand out and cut through the noise of your competitors, you must have a different approach. Some of the most successful startups have learnt these lessons early, which is why they have been able to scale and grow so quickly.

Like anything that you will hear me suggest, they’re pretty straightforward concepts that make logical sense to any rational human. A lot of these lessons though are directly tied to personal development concepts, which is why they are not known or practised by everyone.

Here are the four business lessons that I believe can be transformational.


1Always have an open mind

In traditional corporate business, the number one trait that is missing is the willingness to have an open mind. I have seen this first hand and I don’t point it out to be negative. The reality is that a lot of the challenges that big business face are around getting people to be open to new ideas.

Many times I have seen ideas shut down even before they are properly explained. It’s this phenomenon that has actually caused some employees to leave and start their own startup (this is cool at the same time). Now the good news is that this issue is not hard to change at all.

It requires us to have the same approach that we use for brainstorming. If you follow the rules of brainstorming, then all you need to do is allow ideas to be read out and written down, without interruption, even if they are no good or not relevant.

Through this methodology, it allows ideas to be at least heard which is step one. Fundamentally, though, the reason a lot of traditional business people aren’t open-minded is because they have limiting beliefs. They think that change might create more work or expose the business to high risks.

In reality, I believe the exact opposite is true. Being open-minded creates innovation that allows more efficiency and less work. It also de-risks the business because in business today, the riskiest thing you can do is not be open-minded, not change, not innovate and then become less relevant to your customers – food for thought.

By understanding the need to be open-minded and ensuring you do it as much as possible, you have the potential to transform your business environment.


2. Look at other industries to find solutions

So this lesson came from Mat Jacobson of Ducere, who made the point to me that a lot of the time we are trying to solve challenges that have existed in our own industry for a long time. His belief is that you need to look outside of your industry.

By looking outside of your industry, you can find strategies that you may not have thought before and get a totally different perspective. I have been trying this out and found it to be quite powerful. I now challenge myself to go to the most left of centre industries to find innovation.


3. Meet lots of people

So typical business people definitely meet people and understand the value of this. My challenge to you is to do it more often with no agenda in mind. Don’t walk around an event with a big salesman sign on your face and tell people you came to network.

Try going to business events with no agenda and just asking what other people are doing. Spend as much of your time as you can asking about the other person. Not only does this create rapport, but it will give you much different results.

Some of the best contacts I have made have come from going to the strangest of events where I only went out of curiosity. Now all good entrepreneurs have curiosity so if you’re not naturally curious, then you should work on this too.

Similar to the previous point, try going to events that are beyond the realm of your industry. Sometimes I find that when I go to business functions within my own industry, everyone I meet is someone I have met before – this quickly gets boring.


4. Build reciprocal business (otherwise it’s all price)

So a concept I have been trying is only to build business where it can be reciprocal. A lot of the time, when business is not reciprocal, it can just become all about price. The question to ask yourself is, how does my company become a customer of someone that is already doing business with us?

This change in thinking means that you now have leverage. It means that for that customer of yours to leave you, they are at risk of you leaving them as a customer. Now you can’t do this with everyone but it’s another way to think about doing business.

In my world, it makes a customer what we call sticky. Now when there is value being exchanged both ways, it can lead to other opportunities such as partnerships, mergers, acquisitions, the sharing of databases, etc

“When two companies have a two-way exchange of value it becomes much more than doing business” – Tim Denning

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3 Ways To Be Ultra Successful At Any Startup

Entrepreneur Success And Inspiration

These days everyone is starting a business and the success stories are getting younger and younger. To create a startup that is successful takes a long time and you have to be one of those entrepreneurs that are prepared to do whatever it needed to succeed.

The biggest mistake I see is entrepreneurs who are trying to ride a trend or copy something that has already been done. Do you know someone who is always starting a new business and never sticks to any one idea?

The reason for this is that they are trying to make money because they think it will make them happy – as the cliche goes it won’t. If you are going to go to the trouble of building a successful startup, then you must choose a field or industry that you are passionate about.

Sometimes the best advice anyone can give you is also the simplest. Think about what it is that you do throughout your life that makes you really happy. Whatever that one thing is, that’s what you should start a business around.

For me, I have many passions but when I get to inspire other people and share wisdom with them, I feel on top of the world and like nothing can stop me. I know when I am in the zone because I get tingles down the back of my spine, and it’s in these moments that I am most likely to generate income from a particular activity.

So having said all of that, below are the three ways to be successful at any startup you create.


1. Build a solid network of people

When you are starting a business from nothing, you need to have a network of people that you can either bring into your startup or that can help spread the word about your startup. If this is your first business, then the chances are that you will have a long list of people you have worked with or that you have engaged on some level in a business proposal.

These people are critical to the success of your startup. Get out of the thinking that you should be trying to sell to these people that you knew when you worked your old job. While you may sell to some of them, you need to think of these people as door openers.

They may not buy your startup’s product or service directly, but they will lead you to people who will. For this to work, though, it’s all about the approach. If you catch up with people in your network and they feel like all you want to do is pitch them, then you will turn off the very people that can help you.

At the same time, it’s important to ask the other person what they’re up to and see if you can find a way to assist them. Nine times out of ten, I find that the best way I can assist is with an introduction to someone that is valuable to them.

Even though this is so simple, don’t underestimate the power of this technique.


2. Create A Vision That People Care About

I have heard it dozens of times before; “create a vision that is compelling.” This is true, but the thing that people forget is that it also needs to be something that people care about. Saving the whales out at sea is compelling, but for a lot of people, it’s just not that high on their priorities.

Whereas if you said something like “change the face of the American Diet” there would be an audience of people that would listen. The more you can create a vision that people care about, the bigger the market is that you can service.

Don’t underestimate the value though of niche markets. Even if the market is very small, there are lots of niches that are not serviced by anyone. If you can find a niche that is not serviced and that people care about, then you have a successful startup idea right there.


3. Test the idea to death

So one thing that I see a lot of startups do is go to market with an idea that meets their needs, but that is not tested in the real world.

“Just because there is something that you think is valuable, doesn’t mean that other people will think the same thing”

One piece of important advice I can give you on this one, is to always test the market, but here’s the catch; people think you need to test it with 200,000 people – you don’t. I have seen many example where investors are happy with testing your product amongst people in their hundreds.

So if 400 people like your idea, then there is a good chance that you are on the right path. Just make sure that those 400 people are not all your friends otherwise their opinion is obviously biased.

Don’t be afraid as the founder to be a bit weird and spend time with your customers too, without telling them it’s your company or that you’re the founder. This can yield awesome market insights that are helpful in the testing phase.

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