Why I now think money isn't the true sign of success
As I looked around a restaurant I was at with my family last week, something odd struck me. Despite the picturesque surroundings, and the fact that almost all other diners were also families, I couldn’t see anyone who wasn’t using their phone.
Maybe it was actually me that was odd for not using mine I thought. What could I be missing out on?
That thought alone caused me to reach for my phone to check it, even though I wasn’t sure what I was checking for. And then I remembered that I didn’t have it with me. In fact, I try to have it with me as little as possible these days. Not just because I’m anti-social, but actually because being able to leave the house without my phone is now one of my true definitions of success.
Now before I start with this latest ramble, I’m fully aware that everyone is different and I don’t want this to sound like a lecture or that I’m talking fact. This is simply my view of what success is, having achieved what I thought it was and then realised it wasn’t. Clear as mud? Then let's begin.
Obviously true true success is getting a high-five with Goofy...
Prior to setting up Molzi, my definition of success was most likely similar to yours. The kind of success you read about on LinkedIn, Instagram and probably TikTok (I’m too old for all that). Promotion, progression, power and money. Lots of nice shiny material things like cars and big houses. I’m not ashamed to say they were the things that I sought when I started my business, and also things that I bought when I sold it.
But having achieved that view of success to some extent, my opinion of what success is has changed. Annoyingly, it’s probably more difficult to achieve than money.
Here it is, just in case you don’t agree and want to save time reading the rest of the blog!
True success =
1. Spending actual quality time with your children.
2. Being comfortable leaving the house without your phone.
If I had my time again, I would go into my business with those two goals on the wall of my office. That’s not to say that selling the business and making loads of money wouldn’t still be an aim too, but if I was aware that the two goals above would end up being the most important to me, then I could have started enjoying the success a bit sooner. The truth is I think I achieved both goals before I sold the business, but I didn’t realise they were goals at the time.
My life mission became making memories with my kids. Much more fun than just working!
1. Spending actual quality time with your children.
I have my wife to thank for this one. As I mentioned in a previous blog (view it here), when I was setting up my business the aim was for it to be a lifestyle business, allowing me to spend quality time with our daughter who was just 12 months old at the time. Despite what you read about founders needing to work 80 hour weeks, I actually started Molzi working 4 days a week. Tuesdays were my ‘Dad days’ where I had to push Molzi to the side, and I focused on being a parent. But as the company started to gain traction and grow beyond a lifestyle business, it became very difficult to maintain this. I would say that 90% of all my stress came from the fact that I felt I should be working but I was having to look after my daughter. Certainly not a feeling I'm proud to have felt, but I think it's important to be honest that it wasn't easy. I also believe that Molzi could have grown bigger and faster with me working five days a week during this time. But, there is absolutely no doubt that this created a bond between me and my daughter that wouldn’t have been possible with just breakfast and bedtimes.
Full transparency here, if it had been down to me I would have dropped this ‘Dad day’ pretty quickly, due to the stress it was causing. But my wife was adamant that I should dedicate time to my daughter as we agreed, and we set-up our weekly childcare routine around the fact that I would be doing Tuesdays. So, there wasn’t an option for me to get out of it last minute each week. This caused me to be a very grumpy husband for a while, but I will be forever thankful to my wife of making me stick to my word.
Eventually, as Molzi grew to 20 or so people and my daughter started nursery, I dropped from one ‘Dad day’ a week to a half day which I still continue now.
Now I totally accept that taking a day off to look after your child isn’t always financially or practically feasible when working as an employee. And even when starting a business, it’s not always possible depending on the type of business or size of the team you have. But I think if you are two years into your business and you aren’t able to make the time, then it’s a decision you’re making, not a necessity. If you’ve built a business that doesn’t allow you as the founder to take time away, then you’ve not built a successful business, no matter how much money you’re making.
The key is to treat this goal with the same importance (if not more) than you would treat a business or financial goal. Only if you agree with it of course!
The now infamous burner phone. An iPhone 13 but might as well have been a Nokia 3210.
2. Be comfortable leaving the house without your phone.
This leads on to the second goal. For the first couple of years of running Molzi I was glued to my phone. Emailing all through the evenings and weekend. Constant scrolling of LinkedIn to see what other people were doing better or faster than me. It was actually a mentor of mine at the time that helped me see the light. During the crazy times of running a business, travelling, missing bedtimes etc it’s easy to justify it in your own head. You’re building a business for your family. You’re making these sacrifices now so that your family benefit in the future etc. My mentor was the same, until his wife gave him a reality check. We’re not doing this for our families really. Of course, they will benefit from the financial outcomes, but ultimately we’re doing this for ourselves. For our own goals, our own ego’s and our own excitement. I’m sure if asked, our families would happily live in a slightly smaller house but have more time with you! As soon as I realised this it made it much easier for me to decide how much time to work. For the last couple of years of running Molzi I pretty much stuck to 9-5 hours and stopped working weekends.
It's a very difficult transition to make though and for me I needed some help. Rather than ask my wife to do it for me again, I opted for a less than obvious option. In order to reduce my phone usage, I bought another one.
Nicknamed the burner phone in our family, this additional phone only had a handful of contacts on (probably a sign that I need to work on making some new friends), no work related apps (even LinkedIn!!), no email etc. Basically it may as well have been a Nokia 3210.
As I left the office each day I fully switched off my work phone and moved to the burner. At first that didn’t work and I’d find myself turning it back on to just check my email ‘one last time’. So I started leaving my work phone at the office to remove the temptation. It was difficult for the first week or so, feeling like I was losing control, but it soon became normal that work was left at work.
I was amazed at how quickly I stopped thinking of work at weekends and evenings, just because I didn’t have something reminding me all the time. My mind turned to other things that started exciting me in the same way work things did. Like things we could do to the house, or upcoming holidays. The business didn’t collapse because I didn’t check my emails at weekends or when I was on holiday. To this day, Molzi always seemed to have its biggest wins while I was away on holiday. Hopefully some element of coincidence, but I think also because the team were empowered to make decisions and benefitted from me leaving them alone!
Now I often leave my phone at home when I pop out for a dog walk or to a restaurant and don’t even think about it. I can promise you it’s worth the short period of hardship to arrive at modern day peace. Sitting on a train, or in a café without a phone to distract you.