2: Entrepreneur Geoff McDonald shares his story of business deals going wrong, depression, and how he got his groove back by walking and creating good habits.
"When you are in a desperate situation withdrawing is not a very good option because it actually makes things get worse. So that was the really hard part."
In this episode, I'll talk to Geoff McDonald, a former architect who now designs and builds ideas. Last year his world turned upside down when he formed a partnership with another businessman who turned out not being very trustworthy. Eventually, Geoff went broke and his frustration and anger turned into depression. This interview is all about that. What do you so when something goes wrong? Do you blame someone else or are you accountable for what happens in life? How do you deal with depression? How do you take your first step towards the light again? Geoff shares his tips and tricks of how he got his groove back through walking, meditation, reading and creating his own healthy habit to success and happiness. Make sure you listen to the end, where Geoff shares a very valuable gold nugget.
Today Geoff's current project is creating the world's best manifesto collection and writing the bible for how to create a manifesto for business.
In this episode, we talk about.
• Book: Now, Discover Your Strenghts, by: Marcus Buckingham (affiliate link)
• Book: Back from the Brink, by: Graeme Cowan (affiliate link)
• Mindfulness Program with Mark Molony,
Get in contact with Geoff:
• Main Website: http://geoffmcdonald.com
• Best known for: http://bookrapper.com
• Some artwork: http://designprobe.com/make/centaur.html
• Current Project: http://1000manifestos.com/
• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/geoffmcdonald
Thank you so much for listening to my episode today!
If you would like to email me some feedback and people or topics you would like to hear on my podcast please do so at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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A big THANKS to: Geoff McDonald for joining me this week.
See you next time!
Transcript: Interview with Geoff McDonald
Yenny: Hello Geoff.
Yenny: You are from Melbourne?
Yenny: I think we met at a business conference I think two years ago.
Geoff: Something like that.
Yenny: I am so happy we can meet up here in Buderim today and it’s the day before New Year’s Eve 2015.
Geoff: Two more days.
Yenny: Yes, yes two more days. I think it’s a good way of ending the year to have a chat with you for this project Light Warriors project I am doing. What I remember when I met you I met you and Roger the first time and I remember how much energy and happiness you guys had and...
Geoff: It's all Roger.
Yenny: So I was like "God, these guys are so wonderful" and when you called me the other day and you were like "Hey do you want to meet up" and I was like "Yes I had to interview you." And I was just wondering we had a chat yesterday and little bit about challenges in your life and I was wondering if you have anything you could share with the audience, one or two or three or four or five.
Geoff: How many challenges do I want to...
Yenny: We’ll start with one I think. Do you have anything in your personal life that you have gone through thought "This is little bit challenging"?
Geoff: Yes the big challenge has been in the last couple of years when my business was going okay but not great and then I formed a business partnership with somebody and unfortunately he turned out to be not a good partner and I eventually went broke and unfortunately I started closing down on my business to work on my new one and when no money was coming in the new one I effectively went with 4-5 months without earning any money which basically put me in a very poor situation. I have been sort of struggling with that since and I think...
Yenny: And that has affected your personal life...and I said personal because I think being an entrepreneur is kind of goal, in each other like personal business you know you have so much passion in what you are doing as well, so...
Geoff: It is sort of funny, I always had this conversation with people about work-life balance and it’s like well, if you looked at when I work and how often I work and what I do well, you’d go, "Really crap work-life balance, Geoff" and I’m not saying I got it perfect but in the same way I like what I do. So a lot of times it’s a not a challenge to work, so I enjoy work. So when my work and I guess money is not working for me it means the rest of my life is not working. Because I’m single and live alone that just compounds it because there wasn’t an immediate person to pick up the slack or help me get over the line. I think it is kind of interesting like when the breakdown like that occurs, first of all it is all the shock of "Oh my God! How did this happen?" and blaming the other person and all of the rest of it. As you go through it you start to look at "Okay what was my role in this, what did I contribute?" And that might be, maybe the other person did X percent but I was still part of it...I gotta use my hands as well, sorry.
Yenny: ...like banging on the table. Okay he is very visual, Geoff is like a Spanish dude...
Geoff: Yes with my hands. You can’t see them in podcast but I am using my hands a lot, just imagine and you’ll get the picture the Italian or the Spanish which is kind of funny because I’m English and Scottish and I don’t know what they do with their hands but I think regardless of whatever challenge you are going through there is a point where I think when I started to realise what was my contribution and what could I be responsible for here and even if I say 100% or 80% or whatever the number was I could actually claim what I actually would do differently. I think that is when you start to heal something and then you can accept it and then you can move on. Whereas when you are not in a point where you are looking for a lesson or looking for what you’re responsible I think the reality is you are actually pointing the finger still and ...
Yenny: But in the beginning though your problem...
Geoff: Oh I definitely was incredibly frustrated.
Yenny: Pretty angry and disappointed and frustrated and did you get depressed, down or just?
Geoff: Not immediately. I think I probably went through a period where I was clearly you know frustrated, upset, angry and all the rest of it and then it was just a case of "What the hell do I do? You know I have never been in this a situation who do I turn to?" And then I turned to several people who I thought would help including my family and I just didn’t the response I had expected which that was when I got frustrated. Then I thought okay this has happened, I can deal with this and this is what I would do. When I went through my first, second and third lot of options I thought "Okay bloody hell I’m not getting anywhere. This is getting super desperate." Then my throwing way is to actually withdraw, I’m an introvert. So my usual way is to withdraw and then recover and then come out and have another go. When you are in a desperate situation withdrawing is not a very good option because it actually makes things get worse. So that was the really hard part.
Yenny: You feel like you just wanted to shut the curtains and revive yourself.
Geoff: To go away right? So my natural thing to withdraw means I was almost doing it. I actually wanted to just go away. Please go away, I'll wake, go to bed and wake up tomorrow, it will be gone thanks. But the reality was it wasn’t going to. And it was then I had to just keep asking for help from different people so that was a big challenge for me. I am Mr. Independent, do things my way and do it on my own and that was my badge of honour.
Yenny: Did you feel lonely?
Geoff: Yes absolutely because I wasn’t able to get the help I wanted. I felt like I didn’t have partners to go through that situation.
Yenny: So what’s after that like? After you got over the worse kind of things and what steps did you do like what did you do like to move forward?
Geoff: The short term was I just had to keep asking friends for help until I got the help so that sort of it’s a bit like the medical thing we have to stop the bleeding here so I had to get some help to stop the bleeding and then I had to look for "Okay how do we get out of this situation?" So I was looking at how can I then earn money. And it was kind of interesting because in my past whenever I needed some money in my business I had cracked a project and launched the project and I’ll either be super successful or moderately successful but something would work. But because of my partner and I stopped working on my stuff for almost 6 months. A lot of my audience had sort of forgotten who I was and what I had gone back and then tried to replicate from what I had done six months earlier just didn’t work. And that’s what really threw me as well.
Yenny: It was really like going into the wall kind of a thing?
Geoff: Yes because it was like my winning formula was to go back and put either promotion or put out a new product and that would get me something and get it moving. And I was like it just didn’t work. I even tried to get jobs.
Yenny: Like normal jobs, like 8 to 5 jobs?
Geoff: Yes and the shocking part is I have almost never had a job in my life.
Yenny: Yes you have said that before. Can you tell people how many normal jobs you have or how long you have had a normal job?
Geoff: About eighteen months of my life I have actually had an official job and three months of that was in Australia before I went overseas and the fifteen months was in London whilst I was travelling around. So when I had been back in Australia I haven’t had a job, I’ve always been studying or working part-time or casual contracting or mostly done my own business with my own project. So to actually look at jobs was pretty disheartening because I couldn’t even get an interview. I eventually spoke to some recruitment people and they said "Look no one is going to give you an interview because the way it’s all done they get hundreds of applications for every job so unless you are applying for a manger job you need to have the word manager in your CV a number of times and they feed it through electronic system that scans how many times keywords are in it." Because I haven’t had any of those jobs, as in official jobs, I have done self-employed jobs so you tend to be good at a whole bunch of various things, I never showed up, no wonder I didn’t get any interviews. And they said "Anyway you’re going to get a job if you can get it through your personal network." And I realised if I’m doing it through my personal network I might as well be in my business. And I was like okay that’s the way that goes.
Yenny: So after that you taken a break a little bit or just to reflect a little bit what has happened and what’s your plans for the future?
Geoff: I think I didn’t really get a chance to take a break. There was no cushion made to take time out .It was a case of I just got to keep trying to do different stuff. That was difficult as well because when you are under stress and you are in a difficult situation you do actually need to take a break sometimes just and it could be just one day "Okay I’m not going to do anything today and just chill out over the weekend or whatever." Because there are nights when you weren’t sleeping and the rest of it. My saving grace was a couple of friends that I knew in my network that I started listening more to what they were doing. So one was Graham Cowan, Graham had a terrible battle with depression and he had written a book about what it took to be able to get out of depression.
Yenny: What was that book called?
Geoff: "Back from the Brink." So "Back from the Brink, Number One" is about Australian people who have had battles with depression and "Back from the Brink, Two" is about people particularly in US and a couple of people in Europe that have had battles with depression. And whilst I was sort of borderline not really well I wasn’t clinically depressed but I was certainly not happy and joyful. I wasn’t exactly excited about things. So what Graham was pointing to was that two things, one was the social aspect, so sitting at home and thinking about it was not what I needed, I needed to get out of the house. When I didn’t have money it was difficult but I realised I could go work in a coffee shop, or I could go and work in a library so I could at least be around people. Another one is physical activity, so that’s when I started walking...And the second part of that was the exercise. So I found walking to library, and I was walking 50-60K’s a week. So I was doing an hour of walk to the library and an hour walk back home.
Yenny: And the other day you showed me an app that you use so you can see how many steps you take up and down as well. What is it called?
Geoff: On the iPhone 6 I think it is to do with the new watch. They have got the app that measures the steps that you take.
Yenny: What is it called?
Geoff: I don’t know actually. It's just the health app. (That comes with the phone) So it is the health app that counts the steps and if you look at the steps, so when I go for a walk most mornings and up here with my sister at Buderim I was walking up and down and I have actually walked about 10 Ks and it was actually saying I've done 32 storeys as if I climbed 32 storeys flight of stairs and my calves tell me "That’s probably right." So walking was fabulous because it cleared my mind and also just being in a public space was good.
Yenny: Did you have to force yourself to get out?
Geoff: Some days I did.
Yenny: You just wanted to be home and you were like "Okay, let’s get out," so it did help a lot.
Geoff: Absolutely. I found on my down days that if I got up and then walked to my office and started working on my computer I might sit there for two hours and get nothing done. So I realised that to finish the way to work that is get up and get out of the house; it’s almost like you have 10 minutes to get out of the house. Grab your bag, have your shower, do what you have to do but get out of your house and quickly as possible and then just get moving. And the walking to the tram or the train or to the library worked because it got me moving and that’s when I listened to podcast and things like that. So that has actually worked. The other one was my mate Mark who does mind for life and meditation and rest of it and I had been dabbling in that for a long time and I guess I sort of saw it as a way forward but I really had to shift it in some way or get some learning around and Mark was generous enough to let me attend some of his workshops and I think that’s now a platform where...
Yenny: So what does he like...has he got a company or like what is it, is it anything or anyone could join?
Geoff: It is based in Melbourne. It is the Mindful Living Program, so he has partnered with a guy in the US who used to be a Buddhist monk.
Yenny: Okay is that online as well?
Geoff: Yes. So you can go to the I think it’s dot com. I'll find the exact address. It is a bit embarrassing I cannot remember. But that was really helpful and I got being it a practice around meditating but also, I’m sorry I am getting excited with my hands again..but also about being aware of where my attention was at during the day. So meditation in the morning is one thing but not much use of it if you getting angry and stay upset during the day. So I think that combination of obviously eating well and sleep and I have been reading a lot that sleep is probably the thing a lot of us underestimate the value.
Yenny: Because it heals. That’s what I found, like I had days that I just had to sleep and I didn’t know why and I did it and the body got less ache after a while.
Geoff: The neuroscience is now saying that sleep is required more for the brain than the body. Yes it does recover the body...so you have stressed out during the day out the way it shows up for most people is around decision fatigue. So the idea that is takes actually a man to brain pal and the energy to actually to make a decision. So if you are getting tired it gets harder and harder to make decisions or it gets harder and harder to resist something, so it is about willpower. And basic what I was trying to get to say at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and things start to go wrong. The computer would be [inaudible]. I was trying to go "No I have got to work till 6 and I have to keep going till 6."
Yenny: Yes that’s how we are programmed.
Geoff: Yes. And then I realised when I started reading around that I actually didn’t have the capability to actually make decisions. I was actually I had worn myself out. When I acknowledged that I could go "Okay instead of banging my head against this brick wall I might as well stop because the amount I’m going to actually going to get done from here for the next two hours is probably..."
Yenny: So what is your pattern there like in terms of what you do whatever personal stuff if you want to concentrate do you do it first thing in the morning?
Geoff: Mostly. What I have broken it down to if I can get 6 hours of work done during the day that’s done. And if I am feeling good and I’m excited I can keep going but usually I cap the time and if I have got my 6 hours I’m done I don’t have to keep doing.
Yenny: Yes and anything little bit over is waste of time pretty much?
Geoff: No it can be bonus. If I’m in a good space and I’m working on something that’s probably first of all I've got the energy but it's something I am excited about then I keep going, mostly I don’t. Because I get too much done and it might be I might just wake up and get firing and get four hours done by 12 o'clock.
Yenny: That’s the best time for me. I get so much done. After 12 o'clock is like, nah...
Geoff: Some days I might get nothing get done till 12 o'clock. And then it’s like I have to get myself moving and I might work till 9 o'clock at night. So there are times when I don’t work till 3 but then I’ll work from 3 to whatever. And as long as I can average that over the week job done. And I am not suggesting most people take that on because measuring the time you put into things is not high productivity. It is not about the time you put into it. But I think because I was a really low point that is something that worked for me just to get me moving.
Yenny: Is that something that you use now as well?
Geoff: I’m still using it at the moment but at some point I will stop because it is not a good measure of effectiveness. So if...partly it was a reward for my effort so if I sat down and I fluffed around for 2 hours that is as good as I've got less two hours of work. So it’s useful if you’re starting from a low base just to count it but when you are working to a higher base and you are working good hours you don’t just want to work just on hours.
Yenny: I am so glad I got to know this, I didn’t know this about you. Yesterday when we talked you said that you actually used to paint and that was a big passion of yours and can you tell the listeners a little bit? Because when you started to talk about it you couldn’t stop smiling and I think that’s a sign of self-care like something, like that makes you happy. So can you tell everyone a little bit about it?
Geoff: Sure. So originally I trained as an architect and I studied in the States and spoke at conferences in the States and when I came back to Australia I hooked up with some guys that I had studied with back here and started studying and ideally I was actually heading for art where I was doing sculptures and painting and the rest of it. I think for me I am a creative person and that conceptual challenge of how to put this sculpture of this thing together and particularly I like open-ended challenges that there is not one way to do it, so a closed challenge is like fixing a computer where there is only one solution or maybe two solutions whereas in art challenges there is always a thousand different ways you can do it and therefore all the steps along the way you are like "Wow, wonder where this is going to go?" and "Wonder where that’s going to go?" so I really love that space. Part of it why I loved doing it is most of the process is where is this leading me to. Whereas when I am working with my clients around business coaching I find that maybe I knew about 10% of the process is bad.
Yenny: Because that’s the part what you do business coaching and it does...
Geoff: That’s normally how I make my money. But it’s also the other one that I think that’s really important over the last 12 months is doing the strength finders test. So the strength finders was by the Gallup Organisation that surveyed a hundred thousand or a million people or some ridiculous number of people and the strength finder basically comes back to the idea that you are going to happier and more successful and produce results much easier if you are working on your strengths. So it is not about ignoring your weaknesses but it’s about managing your weaknesses so they don’t derail you and having you spend more time on your strengths. So when I did my mine, mine came out as strategic, futures ideation which is all about ideas, learning and about import which is about collecting something and I collect diaries.
Yenny: Yes and you incorporate that in the artwork a little bit as well?
Geoff: Yes a lot of that is that being in that space that all of those things come together.
Yenny: Yes put a link on my blog so many people can see some of your work would that be alright?
Geoff: Sure. Absolutely. I haven’t done any work.
Yenny: To show them because that shows what kind of a person you are as well that you like to find solution and put things together.
Geoff: Yes that’s who I am and that’s where I get excited.
Yenny: Yes people could see with your hands, the waving all over the place.
Geoff: Yeah, if you're sitting close you'd get a black-eye.
Yenny: So that’s part of your passion, the test what did they come out with, the result?
Geoff: The strategic, the ideation, the futures and learning and that. What I realised around the business coaching was that I was probably only working my strength about 10% at the time.
Yenny: Just focus maybe on the money and forgot the part of why you are here pretty much.
Geoff: I think so. I think I sort of built a world where I needed to do that for money and I thought that was a reasonable thing. It was certainly better than a job. As long as I have got some autonomy I was reasonably happy.
Yenny: True. And you can't get lost there too.
Geoff: Yeah. Absolutely.
Yenny: As an entrepreneur you know you are like "Oh yes I have to make money" and all that.
Geoff: So I think that’s brought me back to probably what my core thing is. It’s kind of funny...I don’t know how to say this but I get a sense I can do things that other people can’t. I don’t think that’s being arrogant I think it’s like I know I have unique set of strengths. When I did the program my top five strengths from the Gallup. So the strength finder thing is broken into 34 different strengths and then they are broken up into 4 different categories. And they say "Focus on your top five strengths." You don’t want to focus on 34; you want to focus on your top 5. So the four categories are execution, relationship building, persuasion and influence and strategic thinking and my top 5 were all in strategic thinking and I was like "No wonder." It sort of made sense that that’s what I love to do. That also made me wonder why I was getting bored with all the coaching because most of the coaching the first couple of sessions are strategic thinking then it is all execution. And I was like "No wonder I was getting bored, it shifted into a domain where I am less effective as." I am still reasonable execution but that is not my strength and therefore I didn’t enjoy it as much.
Yenny: Is this something that you can incorporate like in your personal life as well? You can do the test for that as well? What is the website?
Geoff: There is a website. The key is if you buy one of their books through Amazon for about 15 bucks you get the test with it.
Yenny: What is the book called? The company?
Geoff: Well its the Gallup.
Yenny: Like a horse galloping?
Geoff: Yes. The official name is The Clifton StrengthsFinder test. Book: “Now, Discover Your Strengths”. So Clifton was involved with Gallup and it has been used by over a million people around the world, so that’s not something that they made up it has got some solid research behind it. So that was very helpful. So I really recommend to people.
Yenny: I was going to try to maybe wrap it up a little bit soon but I was to end with it I usually ask people what they do a day in their life to like for self-care and just to make themselves happy, you have mentioned that you walk a lot, is there anything else that you do you could recommend for people? What do you do? Do you meditate or do yoga or just meet people?
Geoff: Not far off it. If you look a lot of the books are talking about habits now, but they all say the morning routine is the most crucial one because that sets the rest of the day. Whilst I do this everyday and my aim is to do meditation for about 24 minutes.
Yenny: Do you follow that strictly?
Geoff: Probably 5 days out of 7.
Yenny: What is your meditation? Is it just sitting or go outside in the forest?
Geoff: It is sitting meditation and guided meditation or a silent meditation. There is a couple of different ones I do there. Probably because I have a stiff back I need to do some stretching so I do about 5-10 minutes of sun salutes in the morning for yoga. Then I usually just get moving. So that is my plan. If I know what I’m doing for the day I either get moving straight away, maybe I could have a shower but I try to just grab my stuff when I’m going to the library, I just try and get out of the house as quickly as I can from there. Then it is like work in... I tend to work in 1 hour to one and a half hour blocks. So my 6 hour really is 4-5 blocks through the day and depends whether I have meeting or coffee or whatever. I just make sure to get it done. If you think about it 6 hours is actually not a lot of work from 8 am to 8pm. So if you think you have got to get only 6 hours done in 12 hours there is actually room for recreational coffee or even reading a book for me is work as well.
Yenny: I think a lot of people don’t think about that because that's research. What would you say to a person that is kind of in a dark space at the moment and very down and they don’t really know what to do and "Oh God! My life is crap at the moment" that they can't really see a lot
Geoff: Been there.
Yenny: Yeah, been there done that, what would you say to them?
Geoff: Funny one for me was my treat was to have a coffee. So I never traditionally have drunk coffee and even now I can only have one a day before I start getting the shakes. It was like "I need to be social so I am going to actually to a coffee place and I am going to sit there for half an hour and save a cup of coffee that is going to cost me 4 bucks" and I think it was the idea of having give yourself a gift and that was my gift for the day. I cannot afford a restaurant but I can afford a good coffee and I can afford a good place to sit in. And Melbourne where I am from has got a lot of good coffee shops. And so I was like I became a coffee snub on one cup of coffee a day because it is like a little treasure and I want it to be best coffee I can have for the day. So that is what I say, find the little thing that you can do each day that is like a gift or reward to yourself because then it is like at the end of the day when you look back at least you can go like "Hey I got to have my..." because if you think about it compared to say someone who is in India struggling in the slums maybe having a cup of coffee would be like taking a trip to Hawaii. So it is like how can you have something that’s your little miracle or something to be grateful for during the day. And mine was going for half an hour for a coffee somewhere. So find your gift. The gift for yourself.
Yenny: Oh, the man has spoken. Thank you so much Geoff. I really appreciate you meeting up with me and I hope everyone enjoyed our conversation.
Geoff: Thank you,Yenny. Enjoyed it.
Yenny: Thank you.