I reached out to my network for any questions about me they’d like answered.
The questions I got back were revealing, and I’ve done my best to answer them below. I talk about the best career advice I got (it was from my Mum), how I got started with my own business, what the road to mental health recovery really looks like, how working for someone can be rewarding, the kind of advice I’d give to my young self, and what it’s like looking out for your health each day.
What’s the best bit of career advice you’ve been given?
“Don’t take it so personally.”
This advice came from my Mum. I was working for Google at the time and an altercation with my manager was escalating in dramatic fashion. There were many things going wrong at this point, for both them and me.
Naturally, I didn’t heed the advice at the time. I got self-righteous. I raged. I threw all of my toys out of the pram. I ended up quitting and starting my own business. I even published a poorly thought through blog post recapping what happened (my friends telling me to take it down was probably the 2nd best bit of career advice).
That inflection point led to me relocating to Melbourne. Building new connections that led to jobs. Working at startups and connecting in the space. I met my wife.
Since then, nothing as dramatic has happened career-wise, but not because there hasn’t been fires, but because I’ve taken better care with how I deal with them.
Which brings me back to the advice. What my mother was saying, which I get now, is to not over-identify with business. It’s not the be-all, end-all, and at that stage I was taking everything personally.
Because of that, it didn’t matter who was right or wrong, because I’d already failed to prioritise things outside of work, and failed to get the balance right.
So my thoughts now, and they’re subject to learning more, is not to take things so personally. People will stomp on you, you’ll take umbrage, but you need to get better at managing what you can control: which is your response.
What’s my advice for getting a business off the ground?
It’s very, very easy to be a wantrepreneur. Trust me, I’m living proof. I’ve spent inordinate amounts of money on courses, books, and chasing the dream that it makes a very good case study on what not to do.
The way I see it, and the way it worked when I did it, is quite simple.
Get your first paying customer. Then get your second. Then see if you can get your third.
Now I don’t write this to be facetious. I write this to cut through all the noise and trappings that can come with getting a business off the ground. There’s business cards, email handles, websites, social media, and a million other things that can side-track you and get you off the right path.
The real mark of a business is it’s capacity to generate revenue, and you do that by getting your first paying customer.
So, rather than leave it at that, I’m going to break down how I would get your first paying customer too.
- Offer and create.
- Create and offer.
There’s probably more ways to go about it, but I think these two approaches will see you through.
The first approach is to make an offer and then create something. When I started my business I went and found customers (I was targeting startups that needed help with their marketing) and then got an offer in front of them as quickly as I could. Nothing else I did counted. Not my website. Not my business name. Not the number of times I Tweeted.
And after making an offer and getting accepted, I could create for my customer.
The second approach is to create something, and then offer it to people. My sister has taken this approach with her craft business. She enjoys drawing and painting wedding bouquets for people. She was creating these pictures that people loved, and started offering it to people for sale. I love it. It’s simple and to the point and her business is growing.
But you’re not going to get anywhere without making an offer. Start there and get your first customer.
How you keep moving forward and achieving so much while battling them mental things
(from a friend)
My friend is having a hard time at the moment. So I’ll answer it with this in mind.
My battle with mental health, while ongoing, is largely won. I didn’t go on and achieve things with one arm tied behind my back. I wasn’t carrying a massive burden. I slayed the demon, stepped over its carcass, and went on to start achieving.
Now I’m simplifying a complex issue. Slay a demon and walk away?
Is that all I’ve got?
What I don’t tell you is how I did it. When I was hit by mental illness, I had to learn to talk again. How to connect with people. How to socialise. How to hold a conversation for longer than a few minutes. How to buy a public transport ticket to travel to my friend’s house. How to communicate.
I also didn’t tell you that I need to learn how to work. How to explain an 18-month gap in a resume. How to apply for a job. How to continue applying for jobs. How to get a job. How to hold down that job. How to handle getting fired from a job. How to go and get another job.
I didn’t tell you that it took years to rebuild my confidence. That talking about mental health is really hard, and that talking about it with others is even harder. That I second-guessed what people were thinking about me. That there’s a lot of shame. That people can be insensitive, both intentionally and unintentionally. And that when it is intentional, it stings and undoes a lot of the work you’ve done on yourself, but not all of it.
I went on to get the fundamentals under control, transition out of a data entry role and into advertising, and “achieve” certain goals (and will keep on moving forward) but it wasn’t while battling mental things. I had to crawl before I could walk, and walk before I could run.
There were a million steps between getting to where I am now and recovering from a mental illness, and the way I got started is to take that first step. People don’t have visibility on all the steps you end up taking to get to the end result, and most of the time they don’t need to, but when a question pops up like this, know that there was a hell of a lot of basics I needed to get right in order to get better and start moving forward with momentum.
Would love your two cents on the decision when it comes to working for someone else vs yourself, what it means now and for future marshy?
I cringe when I read this question. In a good way. It’s challenging to think about and my opinion of working has shifted over time.
There’s an intrinsic part of me that resents having to work for someone else. It feels like paying rent versus owning a house. At least that’s how I imagine it to be, as I don’t own a house and that’s something I’m working on and will be able to do eventually because I am working for someone.
Which is a really clumsy way of saying that there are definite benefits to working for someone. Job security. Leave. Steady income. These are all things I need and will continue to need for the foreseeable future. Part of this is due to wanting to get into the property market, part of it is that I’m thinking for two people now (being in a long-term relationship and married), and part of it is that after a lot of career fluctuation, I really need to be settled for a while.
What does this mean for future Marshy?
I’ve still got that belief that I ultimately want to be working for myself. The path to getting there is a little less clear. One way I see this happening is starting very small, with something on the side, and nurturing its growth slowly and patiently. What I’m almost certain of is that it won’t involve jumping off a cliff headfirst and figuring things out as I go – I have done that in the past and it’s not for me.
What advice would you give to your 21 year old self if you could?
At 21, I was a graduate studying law, living in Perth, and feeling invincible. By 22, I was celebrating my birthday in a forensic hospital after a spectacular implosion with psychosis and bipolar. Looking back, there wasn’t much I could do to avoid it, but the advice I would give myself is the same.
Slow down. You don’t have to be in a hurry. You don’t have to rush to get to your goals. In slowing down, you’re going to find and notice things that you would otherwise miss. It’s also being kind to you. You don’t have to flog yourself silly.
Be kind. Not everyone will be kind back, but it will return back to you in ways that you can’t envisage. It’s less about the people you’re with now, and more about the people that start following you along the way.
You’re still working yourself out; so don’t be hard on yourself, as your own expectations will change. Seek to understand, rather than to correct. Drop the arrogance; it will get you nowhere very quickly.
What’s it like having bipolar disorder, is it a daily part of life?
These days, it’s not really like anything. I take a pill each morning, watch out for my triggers, ensure I get enough sleep, and mention it to the GP when I need a fresh prescription.
There’s no real ‘feeling’ – as I’m used to my dose, and have taken the same medication for almost 10 years. I’ll take medicine for the rest of my life, and it’s tapered down to such a manageable amount that it’s probably more for peace of mind than actual.
It is something I’m mindful of, and I introduced meditation around five years ago as it can only help. Meditation is beautiful, and is something I never regret doing.
It was quite the journey getting back to health, and I wouldn’t wish some of the bad experiences on anyone, but now that I’m out the other end I’m grateful for the perspective I gained and growth I had to go through.
Got a question you want answered? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org