This blog post is an introspective that sums up my journey over the past few years and looks ahead to the future. I make no apologies for this little exercise in self-indulgence.
Very Quick Recap
The longest-running client contract I’ve ever had recently came to a natural end, as the client is ready to step up to the next level of maturity and, while I was the ideal partner at the bootstrap & concept phase, they needed a different team for the growth phase. That’s why I have put little else out into the world since 2016, six years of near silence!
Now, as I prepare to embark on my second half century, it’s time to step out blinking into the sunlight once again, and also an opportunity to reinvent myself with a fresh start.
If you look back over previous posts, you will discover an eclectic mix of ideas and interests. I have written plenty about sustainable food and meat, marketing ethics, personal growth, and strategy.
Along the way over recent years, I have also been trying to find some kind of vehicle that could carry me (the whole me) forward into the future, ideally something that I could build on, like a real business.
However I’ve always had this problem. I have an old memory of driving back with my mum from Huddersfield towards Sheffield. I remember clearly her saying to me, “You know, Ben, you’re so intelligent and gifted, you could be anything you want.”
For a while now, I have carried the belief that that well-meant piece of advice was more like a curse. It seemed like, any time I tried to start something, after a few months I would get bored and antsy and start looking for a new project.
That’s why, in just the past eleven years I have launched or co-launched a bunch of different business concepts: The Pro Web Design Course, Open Source Marketing, Holistic Marketing, the Ethical Marketing Group, the Path Programme, as well as Chess Boot Camp, plus The Human Unleashed, and was heavily involved (for a time) with the Ethical Omnivore Movement as well as Barefoot Didgeridoos and my new bushcraft training brand Way Back Skills.
I have also written or co-written a bunch of books, including “How to be #1” and “Web Design is Dead” (which you can download from my home page), “How to Be Rich Today”, “Expert Liberation”, “The End of Therapy”, “Testimonials First” (which I never got round to launching) and later the groundbreaking “The Red Pill Revolution” and the forthcoming “The Red Pill Food Revolution”…
That’s enough different business ideas to satisfy a medium-sized group of entrepreneurs for a lifetime!
Here’s the point. I now realise that many of those concepts are excellent, truly brilliant. In fact, it has always been a frustration to me that I turned out to be pretty good at a lot of different things, from graphic design to business concept design to copywriting and teaching and even programming. It seemed that I could succeed at pretty much anything I turned my hand to, and that was annoying. I have always actually envied those people who simply knew their role and place in life.
What’s more each of those ideas seems to bear some relevance to the Big Question (i.e. “What do I want to do when I grow up?”) and yet you might argue that none of them quite satisfies it… or none of them alone.
If I had to boil it down, I know that one common thread that runs through every one of these interests is the exercise of taking highly complex situations and problems and boiling them down into simpler, more powerful essential ideas! But that can’t be a business idea, right?!
One of the core concepts in “Expert Liberation” is this idea of “Your One Thing”. That’s something that really defines you specifically, setting you apart from the rest of the marketplace (whatever kind of marketplace that may be). Yet I have always struggled to discover my own “one thing”.
Your “one thing” should be something that inspires you, has you bouncing out of bed on a Monday morning, something you love to research and write about, think about, practice, and teach others about. Of course you can also package your “one thing” in multiple ways to suit the varying needs of different audiences.
I know all this. I can coach someone else through the process, and yet, when it comes to my own life, I have always ended up going round in circles. Hence why I always described my approach to business as being like “a puppy in a field full of butterflies”.
So, on the cusp of turning fifty, I find myself asking that Big Question again, and also the alternative question, “Do I really have to grow up?”
Honestly, I think the answer is somewhere between yes and no. On one hand, I don’t agree with the way most of us were brought up, thinking our destiny was to get the best job we could, to earn money, buy property, and work hard so we could retire comfortably. My views of the way the world works simply no longer support the idea of being a good worker bee as a sufficient goal in life.
I know that working for the sake of money alone is not going to be enough, at least for me. Even the comfort that a big bank account balance can afford would not be sufficiently motivating. As I explored in “How to Be Rich Today”, what’s the point in giving up the best 50 years of your life in return for the home of a pleasant retirement? What do people want to do when we stop working? Travel, spend time in nature, be outside in the sunshine, garden, play golf, sail? Why not do all those things right now!
However, It is also a fact that I do choose to provide for my wife and family. I do choose to own property in the future and to be able to retire. And for that to happen, I know that owning or being a partner in my own business is the best way forward, and I also believe that having a “one thing” is essential to having a brand you can build on.
This leads me to face another question. Could it be that, for some reason, there is no “one thing” that can satisfy my curiosity or impatience? This is the issue I have been struggling with for the past few days.
Incidentally, I had a flash of clarity after a conversation with an old friend from a few years back, Dave Streen. Dave is one of those individuals who has entrepreneurship in his blood, starting out as a paintless dent repair specialist, then branching out into inventing his own range of PDR tools to make his job easier, and now moving into helping other entrepreneurs and inventors to launch their own brands. After our catch-up call earlier in the day, Dave was thinking of introducing me to a coaching brand that he’s involved with, and asked me a key question…
Wow, I realised I hadn’t asked myself that question for some time. But, every so often, answers to our questions pop up seemingly out of nowhere. I only needed a few moments to formulate my response.
I realised that my dream role is helping people to navigate exactly the types of issues I am describing here! How to take all your interests and turn them into a “one thing” that could become a business, one that properly and neatly reflects not only the multi-faceted make-up of the individual but also that strikes the right balance between work and play!
So perhaps all these things fit together after all. Maybe all it takes is a shift in perspective.
For example, take my new bushcraft teaching brand “Way Back Skills”. I created that for a couple of very simple — and very good — reasons. The first is that, since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be outside when the sun was shining. Now I understand that the desire to be in the sunshine is very healthy and connects directly to human evolution and ancestry.
The second reason is that I have also been fascinated with anything tribal and prehistoric since my early years. I now understand why that is. The satisfaction that comes from knowing how to take care of your needs and your tribe’s needs using what nature provides in the world around us is absolutely built into our DNA.
The Red Pill Revolution and Red Pill Food Revolution books explain all this in great detail, also how becoming disconnected from our ancestral way of life has come at a great cost to humanity, impacting our health, our happiness, and even our sense of who we are and where we belong in the universe, in ways that most of us cannot even begin to fathom.
My work over the past few years with my colleagues in The Human Unleashed and The Red Pill Revolution has opened my mind to new ways of looking at the world. I am now firmly convinced that we cannot ultimately rely on The System (including Governments, police, law, corporations and NGOs) to protect our best interests.
And yet, we are to some degree compelled to live our lives and to do business within that same System. Its rules are not quite all-encompassing, its power cannot reach to control every area of our lives, there are ways we can still thrive while dipping in and out of what we call “The Game” in the original Red Pill book.
In fact, maybe all these considerations points back to the same question: “How should we live?” and that brings along with it other lines of inquiry about how to relate to money and time, to family and to society. Each of us needs to decide for ourselves our ideal lifestyle, and within that choose goals and how to achieve them.
And that, at least in my mind and at this point in time, points to the answer I have been looking for.
I can now glimpse a way to synthesise all these diverse elements:
- My “special power”, which is to find simple threads running through complex problems.
- My very diverse range of experience across marketing, health, sustainability, and personal growth.
- My clear choice to earn sufficient money, within the next ten years, to buy property that will provide us with some security.
- The awareness that the business I do will exist at least partly within a System that I profoundly mistrust.
- As well as my basic desire to be outside working with natural materials (at least when the weather is nice).
That’s because my own personal situation is no longer unique. There are a lot of us now who are struggling to find ways to continue to take care of ourselves and our loved ones in a world that appears increasingly hostile and uncertain.
Many of us are looking ahead at the probable collapse of the old System and a new world that will replace it, one that will likely be based on different concepts of things like “economy” and “work”. That world will certainly need a new breed of leader and entrepreneur. And I am hopeful that it will also be built on a renewed appreciation of nature, divine natural law, and of humanity’s special role in creation.
It may also be that the future we choose for ourselves does not revolve around one special thing, but doing what makes us happy, what keeps us healthy, and what helps bond our tribe together.
A new world of work, a new definition of business, a new type of entrepreneur… all these things will need a new type of adviser or coach to help them make sense of it all, to create prosperity while maintaining balance and peace.
That’s a job description I find rather exciting.
Update 20th October
Now just two weeks off my 50th, I think I’ve achieved a further step towards harmony with this problem.
The new realisation is that the reality is that all those previously mentioned aspects, from marketing to bushcraft to soil to didgeridoos… they all do still revolve around a One Thing, and that, as I have mentioned in previous bios, is the drive to explore the question, “How should we live?”
It’s a biggie, I know. But, as I look back, it has always been there, from the bored schoolboy to the frustrated marketer, the food activist and author and everything in between. What really motivates me — and motivates everything I do — is that hairy-arsed question. “How should we live?”
It encompasses everything about work-life balance, diet, health, ancestral reconnection, money, sunlight, government, freedom, spirituality, ethics… it’s all there.
So each of those endeavours I’ve attempted in the past in fact has been a true expression of a very real One Thing, but at the same time has only expressed part of the truth. The ones that are closest to the core of Ben have been the Red Pill books.
Armed with this new insight, I now feel more free to accept the multifarious mix of ways I have chosen to occupy myself and to make a living. They are true expressions of me, and it’s okay if many of them are not true and complete expressions!
It’s okay to do more than one thing.
After all, that is surely the way my Ice Age ancestors lived. Being a great hunter wouldn’t preclude you from also tanning leather and making boots. You could be both a flint knapper and a shaman, both a midwife and a trapper, a herbal healer and a storyteller.
It is also fine to work with the seasons.
Ancestrally, summertime tasks will have been quite different to those carried out in the long, dark winter months.
So why not work on making money as a marketing consultant and an author in the wintertime and then carving didgeridoos, serving burgers at festivals, and teaching bushcraft out in the summer sunshine? Works for me.