In 1992 I read a book that was to change my life for ever, well actually, I listened to the tapes (for those of you born after the mid-nineties, cassette tapes were our version of digital audio)
It was called The EMyth and it was written by one Michael E. Gerber.
I’d been in business just two years and had made almost every mistake in the book. Gerber explained in no uncertain terms, I was technician who had suffered an entrepreneurial seizure.
He also explained the only reason to start a business was to sell it, and if I hadn’t sold it, then I bought it… and he asked me was it worth what I’d paid?
A very challenging question that had me seriously considering my own sanity.
As I continued to read the book I realised I had spent the whole time building a business around me rather than independently of me.
Those tapes certainly had a profound effect on me, and I wish I could say, “I changed everything, followed his instructions, built a hugely successful business and became a multi-millionaire”…
But the reality was quite different. Truth is, whilst I read the book and recognised my failures, I wasn’t ready to really receive the profound messages within those tapes.
Yes, I began to understand the difference between the technician, the manager, and the owner within the business structure. I even began to think about innovation, quantification, orchestration and implementation.
But there was a flaw in my plan.
I rather arrogantly thought that I knew it all, and as a result missed out on the vital component of the path to success.
You see I didn’t realise that I was the lid on my business. I failed to observe that my business could never outgrow my current thinking.
I was quite a clever guy (some said!) and had a reasonable knowledge of a wide range of subjects. I could hold my own in a conversation with most people, whatever their expertise.
Trouble was, I had knowledge, but I didn’t have wisdom.
I read lots of books and developed my IQ not my EQ, SQ & PQ… I had never even heard of emotional, spiritual or physical intelligence!
Despite this naivety, I was still able to create and build a number of small businesses, stumbling from one to another but always with a logical reason for creating the new one.
Though several of them failed, some spectacularly, I was always ambitious. I always had a certain amount of self-belief and managed to build some fairly successful small businesses.
The turning point came in 2011 when I became seriously ill and was hospitalised. It was a wake-up call. I’d burned the candle both ends for way too long. I hadn’t looked after my health and was, according to the doctor, clinically obese.
I had to stop doing the same thing and expecting different results.
I spoke to my wife, Michelle, my business partner, Darren and my work colleagues. I explained I was going to slow down, take a step back from the business and I needed their support.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit…Wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato into a fruit salad
And so, the journey began…
I went to University. I blagged my way onto a Leadership & Management course along with 21 other business owners. Big move for me. My formal education consisted of 8 ‘O’ levels, 3 of which I did after leaving school at 16.
It was excellent. It was practical. There were no ‘exams’. Everyone on the course was a business owner and they knew what I was going through. We shared common goals, common challenges and common fears.
When I graduated from the programme 9 months later, I’d learned so much, made some fantastic business contacts, made great friends and, even more valuable, I’d experienced coaching for the first time and loved it. I wanted more.
I knew immediately I wanted to become a business coach. I wanted to help other business owners who were lost like me.
A spark had been ignited inside me and the resulting fire was, at times overwhelming.
I had always loved reading but my thirst for more went to another level. I was reading books, listening to audios, attending seminars and I researched all I could on what I needed to do to become a coach.
In September 2012, I became an ICF accredited Business & Executive Coach and so began the next wave of self-education. I also recognised that, if I was to coach others in integrity, I needed a coach myself.
You see, you cannot give what you haven’t got… so I set about looking for a coach.
I invested an incredible amount of money in my search for wisdom. I joined several mastermind groups and met many successful business owners and some incredible people.
I spent several years with the John Maxwell Team and studied with several excellent leaders and again met many fantastic people.
Then took all of this ‘knowledge’ and applied it in my own business. And that’s what I’ve found to be the key – application.
You can read books & magazines, listen to audios, watch television, surf the web and go to all the seminars you want… but knowledge is useless without application. It’s the application of that knowledge that develops true wisdom.
I spent time coaching those who ‘wanted to be coached…’ yes, you read that correctly. There’s a whole article in itself explaining that one!
I’ve been honoured to work with business owners and entrepreneurs from all over the world and much has changed for me since. Darren and I now have several successful businesses. We now work smarter, not harder.
But it never really stops there does it? We never stop learning… and I don’t just mean ‘knowledge’ of course… I mean true wisdom. One of my favourite quotes on wisdom is from the Serenity Prayer…
“God, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”
So, I will continue on my journey to seek true wisdom, to develop my emotional, spiritual and physical intelligence, and to pass on whatever I learn to those open and willing to receive such wisdom.
On a personal level, I’m sure it appears to some that I ‘work’ more now than I ever have… but, as I say to those who ask me when I’m going to retire, “I retired in 2012.”
The way I see it is this, when we retire we spend time reading, exercising, playing golf, travelling, spending time with family and generally doing what we enjoy right?
Well, I’m doing what I enjoy, so what’s the point of retiring?