The MOST important step to create a career/business you love
Hello friend, and welcome to episode number 1 of my new 31 day series. I'm answering your questions about creating a career or business that you love. We are going to be deep diving into some really interesting topics, we are going to go big picture, a little woowoo, a little philosophical. We're also going to get super nitty gritty into the details, into the weeds of how to craft your first email to clients, how to run your finances, anything that you want to ask. So if you've got a question, please reach out to me, my handle across all of the social medias is @alexmakesvr and you can reach out to me on my new email address for this podcast: email@example.com
I've had amazing questions already and in today's episode, I want to start from the very beginning, the most important step that you must do before you decide on your next steps to pursue a career or grow a business, specifically in the immersive industries but this applies to all creative industries in general.
Read on for the full transcript or listen to the podcast episode here:
Let's dive straight in. Why not? Okay, so the number one thing that I suggest you do, and this covers everyone listening, whether you are just kind of deciding what to do with your career, or you're just kind of graduating or you're just leaving school and you're excited to decide what you want to do or you are really established and you're looking to go to that next level to kind of grow, to expand what you're currently doing. Or if you are quite established in one thing, but you want to completely change career, you want to change direction, all of this is going to apply to you - The number one most important step that you must do before you decide what you want to do with your career and your business is reverse engineer what life you want. Now, hear me out. I know that this sounds a bit wishy washy but it's actually the most practical tip I can give you to start off with. Without having a clear idea of what the goal is in future, there is just no way that you can create a path to that place. It would be a bit like asking for directions and when the person says - ‘well, where do you want to go?’ You're like - ‘I don't know, anywhere’.
So before we start, I can't give you specific business or career advice, unless you know what you want to happen in your life in general. Now, the reason I use the word life and not business, like the reason I want you to define what you want for your life, not your business, is because I think we've gotten into this place in society, where we've kind of forgotten that the whole point of life is not to work, the point of work is so that you can live your best life and maybe it's because for the past, four or five decades, there's been a push towards this capitalistic, superficial kind of putting success, whatever that means, on a pedestal, or whether it's about the kind of, the pursuit of materialism. Either way, we've really gotten away from this idea that the reason that you work, is essentially to create the life that you want and this is one thing that I never did. I was never given this advice when I started my career and I wish I did. Now don't get me wrong, this kind of goal, this idea of life that you want, it will change. The life that I want now, about to turn 30, is not the same life that I wanted when I was 22. It's not the same life that I wanted when I was 25. Even in that space of like a decade, my desire for my life, the things I wanted from life were very, very different. So this is an exercise that you really have to kind of keep coming back to, but if you're listening to this podcast, there's a chance that you are in a place where you are ready to either pursue something new or pursue the next level or pursue kind of, you know, your first steps and I really want you to take some time and reverse engineer what your dream life looks like. Now, when we're talking about your dream life, I'm talking about the things like - what are the things that are important to you? What do you want the most from your career or your business? Is it enough money to have a really brilliant work life balance? is it to have the kind of business where you can go anywhere in the world and still be making money? Is it a business? Or is it a career where you get to, you know, work on big projects and get to network and schmooze with the 1% of the industry? Do you want to work on those big glitzy projects that win the awards? Do you want a career where you get to work with fun small teams? Do you want to work on big productions? Now, like I say, so much of this will change as you go through your career. Again, when I first graduated, I pursued a career in television, my whole life, I kind of thought that that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to work on these big productions, I wanted my name in the credits, I wanted to be a part of a team that worked on, you know, multimillion pound projects. I did that and I was absolutely miserable. Because the reality for me of living that “dream” was overpaying for rent in a shitty little flat in London, not getting paid very much to work 14/15 hour days, constantly feeling the pressure of, you know, needing that next contract, looking for that next bit of work. And, and just ultimately, not really having much time outside of that to do things that I wanted to. I really love to travel and have hobbies, that kind of thing. So when I quit, and when I made the decision to quit TV and I went through one of the cycles of deciding what was important to me, redefining what I wanted for my life, that's when I found VR. And even since starting in VR, I've had to (especially you know, I'm sure a lot of you listening to this, you've probably been going through the same thing) really reevaluate what is important to them. So the number one step that you must do, in order to first decide what you want for your life is, is to define what your dream life would look like. And again, I'm going to reiterate this, and I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself, but this will change. Don't think that you need to create this, you know, idea of a dream life and that's the thing you're going to work towards forever. And once you get it, that's it, you'll be done. Because it won't, I'm telling you now, you will constantly redefine it, and you will constantly go through different stages in your life where you want different things and obviously, I realised for anyone over 30 listening to me say that, that's probably really laughable because you're probably thinking -oh god, you've got no idea, kid and there's probably people listening, that are younger than me, just starting out. I remember the difference between even just 2010 to 2019. It feels I've aged about 17 decades, even though it's only been nine years. So I'm saying that I totally recognise that different stages in life will require different things and you will kind of, you're depending on what's happening in society, depending on what happens in your personal life, that will change what you want. But the main reason I want you to define this, is because otherwise you will fall into the pitfalls that a lot of people do. Now, generally speaking, I feel like the two categories that people fall into when they want to start a business or pursue a career in the creative industries, they either want the money, or they want the fame. And when I say fame, I'm not talking like Spielberg level fame, I'm talking like, you know, pretty well known, like gets to make their own projects, gets to go to the award ceremonies and the film festivals, like generally speaking, I feel like people in the creative industries, they want to fall into one of those two buckets. Often actually, they think that you can get both, which is such a rarity.
Generally speaking, the kind of automatic thing is to think I'm either gonna grow a business to make a shit tonne of cash, or I'm going to make incredible creative projects that get me lots of notoriety without realising. For both of those, what that actually entails and what the kind of probability of you being able to do that without being miserable at all, and don't get me wrong, there are absolutely exceptions to the rule, but I'm talking for the majority of people. So reverse engineer the life that you want. So, do you want a work life balance? So if you want to work life balance, probably not best to chase absolutely massive productions that require mass amounts of people to work on them. And, you know, big long projects that take months and months to deliver. I found that out the hard way because for a long time, that's exactly what I wanted to do and it wasn't really until last year, when I took on a really, really big project that just burned me out. It took months, it was a massive project with loads of moving parts, it was very exciting to work on and it was very, very well paid but at the same time I came out of it like…never again, it was so draining, I cannot even describe. Also, another a big thing I want to point out is that often people think about a successful business and they think that you know, you need to be earning, you need to be turning over hundreds of thousands of pounds, and you need a big office and loads of employees. I can say from firsthand experience that now, my idea of a successful business is pretty much the opposite of that. I've actually done this exercise called dream lining and I think that you would find it really beneficial to do this this exercise. It appears in a business book that I love called the Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris and if you've not heard of that book, definitely look it up. There's some great book reviews on YouTube that will give you the gist of some of the biggest points that come out of that but there's an exercise in it called dream lining, which is exactly what I'm talking about. This idea of reverse engineering the life that you want for yourself and what that exercise forces us to do, is to realise that your dream life doesn't actually cost that much. It is crazy, right? Like when I first started, Cats Are Not Peas a few years ago, I for sure, thought that I was gonna grow it . I took on some employees, at one point I had two offices and I was going after, huge clients and I was creating big original projects. But you know, I was also doing original projects on the side and I thought, you know, this is it. We were turning over, hundreds of thousands of pounds at one point.
On one of these days where I was particularly burnt out, I just thought from the outside. From the outside, I look like I've done it, I'm running a successful business. This is what 99% of people would consider to be a successful business, we’re profitable, we’re growing, we work on big projects, we work on exciting projects, we've got loads of opportunity but I'm absolutely miserable. I'm burned out. I’ve got no time to see my friends, my family, I’ve got no social life. Every time I travel, it's for work. And I was in like one of those places where I thought - if this is what success is I'm not sure I want success. And so now, I've totally redefined that.
When you think about a successful business or career, people have this image in their head of multimillions, glitz and glam red carpets but now my picture in my head of a successful career, a dream life, is having enough money to be able to work maybe two days, three days a week, completely remotely from anywhere I want in the world, having at least half to be able to travel and at least have half of that travel time be for fun and not work related. To be generous and be able to give back to my family, my friends, to be able to do new hobbies and invest time in myself and my own world view. That's success to me now and if I told my 22 year old self that was determined to pursue a successful career in TV and work my way up and be a show runner of an American drama series life, I told that person that my idea of success now would be to earn 40 grand and do whatever I wanted, that person would have laughed and said - that's not success and that's crazy. That's why I want to really hammer home in this episode and that dream life is gonna look very different to everyone, you know hat dream life is gonna look different for you, personally, throughout different stages of your life, but it's also going to look very different.
You know, my dream life is not the same as my brother's dream life, is not the same as his wife's dream life, is not the same as my best friend's dream life, it's always different. And so the other thing is to not compare yourself to other people, this idea of keeping up with the Jones’s. You know, I was doing stuff in the last few years, and I've kind of only really been able to zoom out and realise it now but I was doing stuff, and buying stuff and kind of doing things in my company purely just to look the part, just because I was like, well, this is what a successful company does, right? This is what a successful business owner does. That's what they look like, this is what I have to do in order to fit that mould and then I realised how stupid is that? What a ridiculous notion, that's what you have to do, you have to really, really look at your life, really look at the life that you want and look at the kind of work that you want to do that is going to fulfil you, and you're going to be passionate about.
Once you've kind of got a good idea of where they're at that, well, where that is, now we can start crafting the journey to that goal. Because for example, if your dream life is similar to mine, at this stage, where you want kind of not have to work all the time, you want to do like, you know, a few projects a month, but also have the peace of mind to be able to kind of go on holiday or you know, not have to be specifically in an office, all of the time, you want the the ability to be able to do your work from anywhere, well, then the last thing you want to be doing is taking on big production based projects, because production will always require you to be location based. If you want to work with big clients, you will probably be expected to go, I mean, for me, it's like, you know, I was being expected to kind of go down to London at least a couple of times a week, purely just to have meetings and speculative meetings, sometimes about projects. So, you know, I realised for me, that's not necessarily the goal anymore. Those aren't the kind of clients I want to go after, because I want to be able to do my work from anywhere. So now I want to work with companies that want to work remotely, which again, has been made a little bit easier because of the pandemic, one of the few silver linings. But you will look at what do you want? If you want to work on original projects, then you have to decide are you going to go down the route of connecting with people in that industry to work on those projects and get the funding from multiple sources to create your original work? Are you going to create a side hustle like a virtual tour business or a 360 training business that generates money that you will then spend on original content? That was my original business model actually, using kind of corporate work to fund more original art projects. And ultimately, you just have to decide what once you've decided what kind of life you want, you can now start to realise what kind of work will and won't fit with that. So that's my first tip. So the tangible advice coming out of this is, sit down, give yourself an hour or say a glass of wine, cup of coffee, whatever you know, a cup of tea and a biscuit and just take some time to define what that life looks like. Maybe even put a finger to it.
You know for me it was working out what my outgoings were every month at my current kind of level of living, looking at those expenses and seeing what I could cut back on and then also then defining okay, if I want to travel six times a year you know, let me put a rough estimate on how much that costs, plane tickets, accommodation, food abroad. You know, be realistic about it, like a rough figure. Don't be overly conservative but that’ll give you a good idea and all of a sudden you'll realise that it’s really actually quite hard to spend a million pound. If that was originally your thought going into businesses that you wanted to build, like a multi million pound company and actually unless you're going to own 20 Lamborghinis and a mansion in LA and in South Africa and you want to own a jet ski and you want to have 1000 employees, like, you know…well, maybe you need to go and listen to a different podcast but for most people, I think they want to work for themselves because they want a creative career, because they want to do work that they're passionate about, and they want to live a life that they can sustain. Okay, I said I would try and keep these short and this is already running at about 20 minutes so I'm going to stop there, but that would be my first kind of that's, that's my first step for you.
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of creating and growing a career or business in this industry, that's the number one thing you need to do. Go do your homework, I can't wait.
Feel free to reach out to me, tell me what your dream lines are. Tell me what your ideal life is. It'll be fascinating to see if there's some commonality between you all and because I'm sure there are because there's only a finite thing. There's any finite amount of things that people really want to do in life really aren't there? Like, everything kind of boils down to adventures and family and love and materialism, and hobbies. There's only a certain amount of things really isn't there? Maybe reach out to me, if you want accountability, just to say that you've done it. That's it for this first episode. Exercise dream lining, it comes from the book, The Four Hour Workweek and the thing I want to just quickly end this episode with a quick parable that is in The Four Hour Workweek. This parable has stayed with me since I read it years ago. The parable basically summarises everything that we've just talked about and I just think it's so such a brilliant, clear, concise story, that I just wanted to share it with you. So the parable is called the fisherman and the businessman. Essentially, an American businessman, goes on holiday to Mexico, a little rural town in Mexico and he comes across one day, this fisherman and this fisherman has got a boat full of really fresh looking fish. And he says to the fisherman - wow, how long did that take you to catch that amount of fish? And the fisherman replied - only a couple of hour and he and the American businessman say - oh, what are you gonna do with the rest of your day then? And the fisherman say - oh, I'm gonna take the fish back to my village, I'm going to spend time with my kids, I'm going to have a siesta with my wife, I'm going to probably go into the town and cook my fish for my friends and family in the evening, me and my friends will play some music and then you know, we'll go home and then I'll start again tomorrow. And the American businessman spotted an opportunity here and he said - I'm going to help you, sir, I've got an MBA in business I am going to help you scale your business, I'm going to make you a very, very rich man. And the fisherman says - okay, how? The American businessman says - okay, well, instead of just fishing for a couple of hours a day, go out there for the whole day, you're going to get so much more fish that you're actually going to be able to sell that fish, and then once we've kind of built up a nice kind of base of customers, then you're going to hire other fishermen to come and help you fish, you're going to teach them how you fish and they're going to fish. So before you know it, we're going to franchise your fishermen business, you're going to have like lots of different areas, you might have to travel once a week to these different locations and double check, make sure everyone's fishing correctly. But before you know it, you're going to have this big successful franchise. In fact, you might even be able to export internationally, so then you're going to have international clients, maybe you want to even turn it into like an international chain, maybe you turn the fish into canned goods. And that's when you really start making the money because that can scale even bigger. And the fisherman says - okay, and then what? And the businessman says -oh, well, then you eventually you're going to IPO and you're going to you know trade your company on the stock market and you aren going to be a multi millionaire. You're going to be so rich. And the fishermen says - wow, and how long is that going to take? And he says - oh, well anywhere between 10 and 15 years, but it'll be worth it because then you get to retire and you'll get to come back to this village and you'll get to spend your days just fishing in the morning, playing with your kids, hanging out with your wife, going into town at night and playing music with your friends. The fishermen says - hmm, I think I'll carry on doing what I'm doing then.
Basically this parable, is outlining the fact that the fisherman was already living his dream life and he didn't need millions of pounds to do that.
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