← Back to episodes

You are not alone

Running a small business, especially solo, can be isolating, stressful, and frankly triggering. Nick Pomeroy knows that all too well, which is why he’s vocal in encouraging more of us to talk about our mental health.

Nick took the solo path after heading up a design team. And although he felt supported and cared-for by his previous employer, he’d only begin to realise how stressed he’d become after working for himself.

Things to consider

  • Letting someone know you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re being a burden.
  • Someone close to you may have seen the signs of stress or burnout before you’d acknowledged them.
  • For Nick, if he’s working late, something’s gone wrong in planning.
  • When you consider that being a solopreneur means being good at your job and also at running a small business, feeling like an imposter might not seem quite so outlandish.
  • Find your own contentment point for work and life.
  • We have to move past “hustle” culture and the idea that men need to “man up”.

Links

Let’s keep in touch

Occasional updates about new webinars, courses, and other things we create to make your podcasting life easier.

Transcript

00:00:00Mark
I would like to know about your shitty mood, and, and how it's , how it's been this week, your shitty week, I should say. Not your shitty mood. That sounds awful.
00:00:08Nick
It has been a bit of a shitty mood as well, to be fair, so it's absolutely fine.
00:00:11Mark
You're listening to Ear, Brain, Heart, and experiment in showing up. I'm Mark Steadman and I find the mind to be a complex and fascinating ball of yarn. Luckily I'm with someone who's got a good set of fingernails so they can hopefully help me pick it apart. That person is Nick Pomeroy. Nick is the founder and creative director of design consultancy Background. He's written about his own experiences with depression, talks openly about it and offers a friendly air to anyone who needs to talk.
00:00:46
Running a small business, especially so low can be isolating stressful. And frankly triggering I've experienced depression on and off since my twenties and I'm getting a little better at seeing the signs and asking myself what I need right now. And that's where we pick up the conversation.
00:01:08Nick
It's definitely something I've got better at predicting in recent years than I ever used to be. It's then just sort of knowing how to, how to address it in the right way when as busy people in a world that's busy, you've got limited time to do stuff that's just for that rather than, I've got a to-do list as long as my arm.
00:01:32
I've realized one slight trigger for this one actually, which again is something that I've been grappling with for a long time, is, uh, health anxiety. So I'm currently feeling quite anxious about my health, and have been for a few weeks cuz I, I've basically, to cut a very long story short, I've been having chest pains and chest tightness and things, which is probably anxiety, not always potentially. So then the catastrophizing kicks in and then you into that and then you can't get out of it cuz then as soon as the pain happens again, you're like, Oh no, I thought, I thought I'd move past this, and then I'm writing it again. Um, so that's definitely one trigger for this time. And I am definitely getting better at predicting it, and thankfully I've got a, I've got a family around me who I'm very open and honest with about what's going on and they tend to know when I'm starting to tip as well and know what I need when I am tipping,
00:02:24Mark
I wonder about this and it sometimes makes me a little bit self-conscious, uh, or, or, or which could then lead, lead to its own anxiety? Do you find that people notice things before you've noticed anything yourself?
00:02:36Nick
Sometimes definitely. So when I started my business, I, uh, had been working for an agency for seven years, and by and large it had been brilliant. I started as a the only designer on the team, works my way up to head of creative, running the team and managing all of that and introducing new services and things like that. So career-wise, it had been brilliant. Personally, it had been brilliant cause I'd met so many people I love that I'm still in contact with, made loads of good friends. Um, but in the years leading up to me leaving, going out on my own, I'd become very stressed, very anxious, carrying every, all the weight of a team on my shoulders when I didn't need to. And I didn't realize actually how bad it was.
00:03:19
I, I knew it was somewhat bad, but I didn't realize how bad it was until I left and I had my first day of working on my own and, and this, this is not me slagging off this business by the way, cuz they were brilliant and really supportive with my mental health stuff, cause I was honest with them as well. But I didn't realize how in it I was and a weight lifted as soon as I'd had a, had a new experience basically. I wasn't in the, in that, uh, waterwheel or whatever the hell that analogy is for being in that perpetual motion machine.
00:03:54
And I finished that day and was chatting to my wife and she was like, Yeah, I've known that you were insanely stressed and insanely anxious for like a year or two. And I tried to talk to you about it and you kept sort of being like, No, I'm fine. I'm fine. But yeah, cuz I, I think subconsciously I was just carrying on pretending it was okay to try and make, make it okay rather than actually addressing it.
00:04:22Mark
Wiley Coyote-ing uh, way through. Yeah. It's just as long as you, you can, you can run clear off the edge of the cliff. As long as you don't look down, you're absolutely fine.
00:04:31Nick
Yeah. So definitely in some instances people realize it before I do. Yeah,
00:04:35Mark
That, that can be such a, Well, for me anyway, can feel like such a double edged sword because then you are carrying the weight of other people's concerns and it's like, Right, okay, I must feel better now because people are relying on me to feel better. It's important that they feel that I'm, you know, and then it just, you just get into a whole, a whole cycle,
00:04:55Nick
Yeah, definitely. And it's then makes it worse, doesn't it? Cause you've then got the pressure of doing it. And it is definitely something I still struggle with is acknowledging that I'm feeling down when it's, when I can sense it hitting. What I should do is talk to people that I can sense it creeping up on me. But because I don't want to be a burden on people, I let it build and let it build and pretend it's not there. Hoping it'll go away in the short term, and then inevitably have to have that conversation at some point because it has actually landed.
00:05:27Mark
Yeah, I, I feel like it's probably easier to, to ask for a little bit of help than three months down the line go, Oh, sorry. About the last three months,
00:05:34Nick
Yeah. I'm sorry. I've been an absolute nightmare.
00:05:39Mark
I'd love to know about, um, the, the, the leaving of the job and the, the founding of Background and how all of that sort of played into your, to your mental health story, because that feels pretty sort of meaty, I think. Um, because I know myself, like, I often so often crave stability when I'm feeling, uh, you know, if I'm feeling unmoored, if I'm feeling depressed, it's like often stability is what I crave, but then sometimes I guess it's autonomy. So I'd, yeah, I'd love to know like how all that played in.
00:06:09Nick
Right. So for context, I set up my business in November, 2020. So third lockdown? Second lockdown? Whatever. I can't remember. Time is
00:06:21Mark
It is flat cycle. Yeah.
00:06:23Nick
Um, somewhere in there and during Covid and all the lockdowns, for some reason. Well, I know the reason really it, that was the, one of the best periods of my life for mental health. Contrary to what all the news was and what everyone else was saying about how terrible it was.
00:06:44
And I, it took me a while to realize it, but I think the reason for it was while I absolutely loved my job, while I loved my team, while I loved the people I was working with and was working on some fun projects and things, and had a career progression. I, prior to Covid took on, if I was in an office, took on everybody else's stress that was in that office. So if someone, even over the room, nothing to do with me was stressed, I was stressed and Covid allowed me to sort of take a step back and because I couldn't see that stress, I was only responding to the stresses that I was going through with projects and managing and all that sort of stuff. I was actually able to deal with that and was mentally fine because I wasn't, I wasn't allowing myself the capacity really to see that stress of the wider team.
00:07:37
And it could have been on fire, I dunno, I don't think it was, and nothing was ever on fire. I, I work in design and marketing and things. Nothing I do is critical of life, health, anything like that. It's, I'm selling things to people. Is, uh, in the crux, the industry I work in. So none of it's critical, but at times it felt like it was, and allowing to be, allowing myself to sort of, well, no, not allowing myself cuz it was forced by Covid. But having that space to just sort of be myself and go, uh, do what I wanted to do and not be reactive really helped me and it helped me create a sense of work life difference that I hadn't felt in a long time. And again, it was my own fault that I had not felt it, but that I hadn't had for a long time. so that was one of the reasons, and I can't quite remember your question, but.
00:08:32Mark
Well, we, we can, we can sort of put a pin in the question cuz I'd love to explore the effect of empathy, and the, the sort of the, the darker side of, of being, I guess, an empath, which it sounds like you might be. Because if, you know, if, if you are reflecting and feeding off the stress, not feeding, but definitely sort of reflecting the stress of other people who are physically around you, that compounds and that, that's so difficult to deal with. And so it makes a lot of sense.
00:09:03
And, I, I think one of the, one of the things that the pandemic has helped people realize is their, needs when it comes to an office environment. Some people, I think there's probably been a lot more ADHD diagnoses. This is a pure cod psychology guess. But I would imagine in the last couple of years there's probably been more people seeking diagnoses for ADHD because they realize they can concentrate and they can create and manufacture their own environments a lot easier without, you know, having to manage lots of different people and, and, and all of their specific needs. Uh, and you know, Janet wants the radio on, but Steve absolutely has to work in silence. And then there's conflict and then there's stress, and then you are taking that on and blah.
00:09:46Nick
Yeah, definitely. I, again, I'm not a psychologist, but I know firsthand four people that have been diagnosed in the last year that I had no idea they had ADHD. And I see a lot more of it on LinkedIn and things, and part of that's because the people that I know have been diagnosed talk openly about it. So I see their posts and see everybody else that's also in that community.
00:10:08
Yeah, it's, it's so interesting because I have loads of other friends and things that need to be in that office environment, but I very quickly realized that I, and I'm very routine driven myself. I need to be in my own space that I've curated and I've set up and my own technology and the distractions I allow into myself rather than allowing other people to, to distract that. Um, and from an empath perspective, I'd say I was an empath, probably. But the caveat to that is I also have quite a selfish streak at times, much to my loved one's annoyance. Um, and I don't always think of others, but I definitely feel their emotion, and then it, it, other people's vibe, shall we say, when I'm with them massively affects my own and I, I tend to mirror it back.
00:11:06
So being one of the great things I can do for my mental health is not having and being open about it really helps me. But being around people who are quite sort of chatty and excitable and optimistic and content rather than doom and gloomy type of people that tend to moan about a lot of stuff all the time. And I'm not thinking of anyone specific. but it definitely helps.
00:11:37
Like this evening I'm going out for drinks with a couple of friends and I, I know for a fact tomorrow I'll feel a lot more positive because I'll have had an evening with people that are me life rather than adding to my mood.
00:11:54Mark
Yeah, definitely. Um, okay, so we, we pick up the story then with you sort of realizing in November, 2020 that, um, you are, you, you feel far better off mentally working from home. And then at some point, I guess we get to a, we get to a a, a decision or a chasm has, has to be crossed.
00:12:16Nick
Well, November was when I launched, so November was the modified, transitioned into, uh, running my own business. Um, the, I, it's something that I'd wanted to do for a long time. I think at, at my interview for my previous job, I told them within where, where'd you see yourself for five years? Running my own agency. That's, I told them that in my interview. So it was always on the cards. What that looked like has changed over the years based on how my life changed and how my desires for work changed. Um, so it'd always been on the cards and it, there was a few months planning in there and things, but yeah, November was when I sort of left and started. Um, and it's been brilliant for my mental health. It's been the best decision I made. But I am also very strict about my own mental health with my business.
00:13:09
So, um, and I can send you a link to a, uh, article I wrote for Leeds Mind about this in terms of setting boundaries and working with people that I wanted to work with rather than other types of business that might put profit over purpose or just be about profit and things. I need something more really. I, so I've, I've kind of changed a lot about the kind of work I do, the people I work with. And my routine of work is quite regimented cause that's what I need. I need that routine to have the structure of my working day. And I'm very picky about sort of, well, no, not picky. I'm quite belligerent about not working, not working on projects that I know will be negative for me. Um,
00:13:56
So I was at a, I was at a wedding party a couple of weeks ago and there was a lovely chap there who ran, um, a business that was looking for VC and funding, and he needed a pitch deck doing for a round of funding. And he was chatting to me about it and I was like, It's not really my kind of project. That industry's not really my kind of thing, but we know common people like we get on. Um, and then he said, I need it next Thursday. I'm like, No, not doing it. Even if I was entirely free that week, I wouldn't have done it.
00:14:30Mark
Yeah.
00:14:30Nick
Cuz it's just not the pressure I need in my own head. I'm not about that anymore.
00:14:35Mark
How do you communicate that decision to someone who's looking to work with you?
00:14:39Nick
I don't really, um, but I'm just quite firm on timings. If, if they've got an unrealistic deadline or it's not one I can commit to, I'll tell them. And then if they don't wanna work with me, fine. And then I'm just realistic about timings and say, this is if, if we, if we're going ahead on this project, this is how long it's gonna take. And then I'm careful with how I put those timing plans together and make sure that's realistic for me ,not taking the piss in terms of taking too long. Um, and also then if I know I've got a, a busy few weeks with a load of meetings or whatever, I'll then deliberately leave space in that for me to have time off if I need it or not be running at a hundred miles an hour.
00:15:22Mark
So if you are presented with, um, an opportunity, uh, or an invitation to work with someone who you feel that is going to have a negative effect, maybe it's not necessarily on timing, but you know, a company that is putting profit over purpose, is that a conversation that you have with people? Oh, do you just say, No, I'm not available?
00:15:44Nick
It depends how busy I am. Is is the truthful answer. Uh, cuz there are times when everyone needs to do some work that doesn't tick all your boxes. Right? Um, but I'll always, if it's absolutely opposed to what I do, there's certain industries I wouldn't work in. If it's abs, if it's one of them, I wouldn't even entertain it. If it's one that's on the. Then I need a couple of other boxes ticked.
00:16:09
So the, for instance, I, I rebranded, uh, no named and branded someone, uh, last summer, I think it was, who was a HR firm new, a new startup HR firm. Um, and hopefully she won't mind me talking about this. The reason I went for it in the end and was really excited and passionate about it, it wasn't because it was HR, because HR, um, without offending all your HR listens. Uh, but what what struck a chord for me, and it's linked back to the first message you see on my website, is I like designing brands with a story greater than their own. And her story was incredible. She'd been super high flying HR person for years. And I'm gonna slightly butcher this story, I think, but, um, unfortunately had to give up what she did for reasons outside of her control. And over time she was getting the ability to do it again. And I don't, I'm trying to deliberately be light on details. Um, she was getting the ability to do it again and wanted to get back into that world. And I got the opportunity to make that happen for her, with her, to give her that opportunity and get her old life back. That to me, is purpose over profit even though her business goals are profit.
00:17:28Mark
Yeah.
00:17:29Nick
So it's why I always say it's about the story, not necessarily just the purpose. Cuz there is some well meaning purpose led businesses that don't have a story that will connect with anybody. And all of the branding work I do has to be driven by that story because otherwise what's connecting with your customers at the end of the day.
00:17:53Mark
So you, you've already mentioned the benefit of being able to work on your own, uh, and, and create your own environment as a, as a benefit to your mental health going freelance. What other positive, um, impacts has it had?
00:18:07Nick
Um, I think a work life balance means many things to many different people. There's a couple that spring to mind. For me, it's being able to have set periods where I am working and sort of hyper focusing, although I don't like the term, and then being able to completely switch off. So this room that I'm in is my office. It's also where my dog sleeps, but I also play some games in here with friends and stuff like that. Like it's a, it is a multipurpose room, but because of the way I've set up, I can easily turn off one versus the other. So in my mind, and I know that was a problem for a lot of people when they were working from home during covid, was multipurpose rooms you end up taking the work home with you even more so than leaving it in the office. For me, it was the opposite. Cuz I was very, I was able to set myself the boundaries and because I was starting my own business, set my own boundaries off. I'm not going to check emails on an evening. I'm not going to work late if, if I'm working late, something's gone wrong in the planning. So I need to be better at planning.
00:19:16
Um, so I'm, I'm strict with that. I'm strict with when I work. I think I've worked like three times in the last two years on when running my own business, which is, and I might have lost out on money by not doing that, but it's made me happier, which is the best thing.
00:19:32
And the other is allowing myself days where I'm not very productive or, and if I'm not productive. So if I'm having a rough morning, I'll get the priority stuff I need to do. And then even if it's a Tuesday, a random Tuesday, whatever, just stop. I'll come back to it cause I'm not in the right frame of mind. I won't do the best work I can do. I'll only end up making my problem worse if I try and power through and just get stuff done. I'm very deliberate in stopping if it's not feeling right and coming back to it.
00:20:08
And that might be swapping onto something that doesn't need the same brain power. So if I'm doing admin and struggling, then I'll swap on something creative or vice versa, or I'll go for a run or just leave and go play computer games or go play with my dog or whatever it is. And it might be two hours later I'm ready to do some more work or I'll just take the rest of the day off. And allowing yourself the space to make those decisions. Which is something I can do now obviously cause it's just me, right? it's, it's much easier to do.
00:20:38
What I need to try and what you have to be careful of with that is, Not allowing yourself to do that, just because you don't want to do something, and having a procrastination problem. It's doing it when you need it rather than when you want it. Cuz sometimes you just have to get stuff done, right?
00:20:55Mark
Absolutely, yeah. I, I watched a great video, um, last week about, uh, ADHD and motivation. And, um, how people with ADHD can, uh, find ways to bridge the gap between what they feel like doing, what they know that they're supposed to for whatever reason. And, and like there were, there were little things of ways that you can create urgency that are sort of healthy. Like, um, a great example is if you wanna get your house cleaned, invite a friend over. Because that will, that will, that will motivate you.
00:21:29
And, um, you know, because yes, artificial deadlines or, or those kinds of things can be unhelpful and unhealthy if, if you don't need them. And also smart people. So we can go, eh, that's not a real deadline. I know I can put it off until the real one. Because I think if you, if you speak to certain people in certain it can feel like you tell 'em, There's all this stuff I don't wanna do, and then they'll say, Well, don't do them then you, you should be able to have the kind of business that you just do the things that you wanna do. And it's like, well, sure. I don't think it works like that. Um, you know, there are things that, that we don't have to do. And so the ways that we can do them is finding, finding ways that make them, uh, if not fun and enjoyable, then at least not suck.
00:22:12Nick
Yes. Yeah, definitely. And there's, there's definitely some stuff that, like, I'm not an accountant, I've got an accountant. Like that side of stuff I don't want to do. That was a very early decision. Like I'm getting an account day one. And there's certain other things where money, money, allowing, allowing, sorry, um, that I wouldn't do myself. And it's finding those ones where, is it something that you don't wanna do and aren't good at?
00:22:41Mark
Yeah, and there's no benefit to you trying
00:22:42Nick
Yeah. Then see if you can outsource it. If it's something that you're actually quite good at but just don't like doing and it doesn't take that long, then finding ways to just get it done within your normal schedule is definitely the way to go.
00:22:57Mark
Yeah. Pomodoro techniques and, you know, all sorts of other little ways to, to do things. Yeah. And I, I, I really, I enjoy you talking about, Cause it's, I've become worse I think over the last year or so. I think because the last year I've, I've had this sort of scarcity mindset of I must get work in and I must do, you know, this, this, that and the other. And it's, it's all felt quite fraught and I haven't really given myself those moments. Sure, I've taken, you know, weekend, well, most weekends off, uh, well, most Sundays off, uh, well half of, you know, you start dividing at time. Um, but, but doing sort of less of a, of a good job of, of just saying like, Yeah, I'm, I'm, today I'm just, I'm not feeling it, or, or I just, I have the space today. Like I don't have to just grind something out. I don't have to move a bit of my website slightly to the left just because it feels like doing work. I could actually sit on the Nintendo Switch for a bit, or go for a walk or, or go out for coffee or whatever, and allow yourself to do these things because that's part of what we're supposed to be able to do as people who work for ourselves.
00:24:05Nick
Yeah, definitely. And it, I'm very fortunate in a lot of ways. So since I made the decision to start my own business, I've had a steady stream of contract work, which has meant largely, not every month, but largely my bills are covered. So it hasn't, when I've been able to soft switch off or not be frantically running at a thousand miles an hour to find that next piece of work, it's because I've had the reassurance that I've got continual work that isn't fully the work I want to be doing in terms of my own private clients, but it has so many other benefits, again, to my mental health that if I don't have to worry about money, I'm a lot happier
00:24:50Mark
Yeah.
00:24:51Nick
um, as I'm sure everybody is. So I'm not aiming to have no contract work cuz A, it brings me financial security, B it gets me to work on a lot of projects that I otherwise wouldn't have access to, which improves my ability to do my job, it makes me a better person at my job, and also it brings me an element of team as well. And that's not to be forgotten when you're working for yourself is that it's really bloody lonely sometimes it's really lonely. And if you allow that to consume you and only be alone during your work, which is what working in your own space, does it, that can get you down as well. So having those days where I am with others, I am in a team, I'm having communication does really help me from a mental health perspective and a business perspective.
00:25:40Mark
So if we can, I'd love to get into some of those. So looking at loneliness, some of those trickier aspects of working for yourself. Um, in terms of mental health, what are the kinds of struggles that, that you've, that you faced?
00:25:54Nick
So definitely loneliness at times. Um, especially in the winter months, uh, that affects me as well. I guess some of it, there's an element of imposter syndrome. I think everybody goes to every, uh, at a point in their life. But when everything is on you and you are charging fee, certain fees and things, and you're like, Am I taking the piss? Am I, is what I'm doing worth that amount of money to someone? Is that the right thing, is my process, right?
00:26:26
Cause again, when I'm doing it myself, you don't see as many other processes and you don't have input of other people. So you, you've got a lot of pressure to be making the right decision and be giving the right advice and to be doing stuff in the right way to get the result that the client wants. So there can be a lot of pressure in imposter syndrome stuff that comes out.
00:26:50
Um, and what I said before about contracting and things, when I get a sense that that might be drying up or whatever, that's when it's like, Oh, damn, Right. Okay, now that is potentially a bad sign. And how do we solve that? So that that can then become overwhelming and you start worrying and catastrophizing the next sort of three to six months of, where's my money coming from? How, who's paying my mortgage? Will I be able to do whatever? Like that sort of stuff. Um, and I guess in some ways it's the same fears that everybody has. They're all just human innate fears. Uh, providing for yourself, having a good time, being with other people, that sort of stuff, getting, sort of growing your life, right? But when, but when it's you and the only person that can impact it is you that can weigh heavy at times.
00:27:46Mark
bit. And there's, and there's that thing as well of be, of the jewel thing, of not only being the person who deli, you know, as a freelancer, not only being the person who delivers the widgets, you know, who, who designs the things, uh, you know, my case who edits the podcasts, but also. The, the person who is a business person and what that means. And you know, for me, like the, the, the sort of the stories that I've told myself about, you know, when, when things have been tight, that imposter syndrome then just comes in of like, okay, like I know I can do what I do, That's all right. But now I don't feel like I'm even a grown up, you know? Now I just feel like someone who's playing, running a business, like playing, being a freelancer, like I was, I dunno, however many years ago now, 12, no, 17 years ago when I, when I first, you know, did, did a little freelancing in my parents' bedroom, you know, my, my bedroom in my parents' house.
00:28:38
Um, yeah, there's, we can tell ourselves some, some awful things that because we have, we have this sort of jewel thing that we have to be good at the thing that we do. And we also have to be, uh, at least some kind of level of hot business
00:28:57Nick
Yeah, you're wearing about 20 hats, aren't you? And you're running your own business, cuz like if you are the IT manager, if something goes wrong, which is painfully frequent, sometimes and at the worst possible times, always. You are, you are an accountant in some ways cuz you're still doing all your invoicing, you're still chasing up parents. You, you've gotta do contracts, you've gotta have difficult conversations with people if they're not fulfilling their end of the bargain. There is a lot of stuff that working for somebody else just does not prepare you for.
00:29:30
And I was in a senior position at my old place and had a lot of that responsibility, which I'm very grateful for that I was able to do some of that. But some stuff I didn't like. Invoicing wasn't anything to do with me. Um, chasing payments wasn't anything to do with. Me and getting contracts, so it wasn't anything to do with me. All of that sort of stuff wasn't anything to do with me.
00:29:50
So there is a lot of going into take networking events. Going into networking events when you fresh as a freelancer or a business owner and standing in, like being in a room with people who, in your own head, you're like, these guys are seasoned professionals. They've got it all nailed. And eventually you start realizing no, no, they don't. What they actually have is a really good network of support and they might have a load of experience and have it nailed. Uh, in sort of the early stage businesses, they, the best thing is having other people in your position, or slightly senior or in different industries, whatever it is, that you can pick up the phone to or send a message to and just be like, I've got this problem. I've never encountered it before. Have you experienced it, and what did you do? And having that advice to be able to then go, Oh, right, okay. I, I, I feel like I'm equipped to do it again now.
00:30:48Mark
You've, you've written like on, I guess staying on the sort of the, the, the loneliness thing to a degree you've written about, um, having a weekly, uh, group that you can check in with. And I'd love, you know, I'd love, I'd love to talk about that because that's been so valuable for me. You know, I, I I, I was on a cohort based, uh, program in 2020, and then we, we did a follow on in, uh, the, the, uh, once that finished in, uh, early 2021 and we're still meeting every week now. Um, you know, that it started as a paid thing. We now all just, we meet over Zoom and we just, Yeah, it's like you said in your piece, like it's, it's not a sales thing, it's, it's, it's not really network, it's not networking. It's just, what's, what's on our minds? What do we wanna help each other with? And, and that feels so valuable.
00:31:38Nick
Yeah, it was something a friend of mine suggested and started through LinkedIn. He just put a post out there, I think, saying that we're gonna start meeting at Friday at 12 or whenever it was, over Zoom. Would anyone like to join us? And it was great. Uh, I met really interesting people. One of them now runs my sort of domain and hosting and that side of stuff. One of them I'm working with on Aweber project at the moment, but I didn't go into it expecting any of that. I went into it expecting to have a nice chat with some nice people once a week or once a fortnight.
00:32:08
And we barely talked about work. We introduced ourselves and said what we did. But all of the subsequent ones to that were just, How's your week going? What are you up to? Are you doing anything nice this weekend? It was, it was basically replacing the office water cooler stuff. And then during Covid it was also replacing the down the pub with your mates thing that you could no longer do either. Um, and having that freedom to just go, Oh yeah, it's not a very good week, and here's why. And then they'd like, do what all friends did, right? You'd all talk about. Or if it, if it was a work problem, then we'd all hash that out as well. So it was, it was really useful just to be able to have that connection again
00:32:50Mark
Yeah.
00:32:50Nick
with people.
00:32:51Mark
Sometimes it's just so useful just to be able to commiserate and, and not, it's like, I don't wanna come here to necessarily for you to solve my problem. I just wanna say that it's shit. And, and I just want you to go, Yeah. It is shit, isn't it? And we can all just sit in that for a bit and yeah. And
00:33:04Nick
Cause most of the time with certain problems, you know how to solve it. You're just looking for someone to agree with you that it's a crap thing to be going through and then you can solve it then cuz you've processed it.
00:33:14Mark
One of the things that you've, you've touched on, in, in, uh, a couple of your pieces is this idea of hustle. And when you are starting out, or even when you are so many years in that you, you've gotta hustle and. What is your relationship with that? With that word? With that whole idea?
00:33:37Nick
Uh, I actively fight against it. And if, if I could never do anything that's described as hustling in my life, I'd be the most content man in the world. I don't like rushing. I don't like the feeling that you always need to be doing something, and that's the only way to succeed, because I think that's really damaging to mental health. Because A, it's not sustainable and you'll burn out and then what you do? You, you've, the only thing you know is hustling and going. Too fast, your body can't do it.
00:34:13
And I think, I dunno what the exact statistic is, annoyingly, but I read something the other day that in the last 50 years or whatever, we've got like 300% more productive and efficient with work, but pays only going, gone up so much. And I'm not gonna go into all of that. But if we're getting, if, if all of our tools are allowing us to be this efficient with all the things we do, maybe we don't need to be working nine to five, five days a week anymore. Because we don't need continued perpetual growth of finances and of output to do what we need to do. That's detrimental because who's stopping and pausing to go, We've done a good job and this is enough? And being content, there's no time for that anymore. The hustle culture is about onto the next thing and where's the next money coming from and what's my next project? And you must have a side gig and you must do this. And you can't spend any of your time in your pants in front of Netflix eating cereal from the packet. And you should be able to.
00:35:20Mark
Yes, please. Yeah, a a, so I know there's a, I think it's the third or fourth law of thermo dynamics. It's something like a system based on perpetual growth is unsustainable. I only know that cuz there's a muse song that quotes it, uh, which goes into like a filthy bit of dubstep and it's absolutely brilliant. But it's, it's all about, um, the economic crash of, you know, that album's now, uh, 10 or 11 years old. It's my favorite one of theirs. Um, and, and it, it's, it's a whole thing about that, um, you know, like a society based on, uh, or an economy built on endless growth is unsustainable. And having run a software as a service business that was always felt like its head was just sort of above water, that led me to this idea that I can't, I can't stop. I have to keep pushing this Sisyphean boulder up this hill, instead of actually thinking, Okay, well, you know, it's easy to do these things with hindsight, but like, well actually you are making, your income is okay, but your outgoings are too big too, You know, so you've put all this money into infrastructure because you've had this idea of what size the business is supposed to be, rather than, Well, how about we take care of what size it is right now? And if I'd done that, then, you know, I'd probably be a little bit more secure and I'd have my, my nice little customer base that I had, and be able to sit contently and watch that for a little bit, rather than constantly feeling like I had to push and push. And so it's one of those things that can creep up on you. It can be hard to actually identify until after the fact, I think.
00:37:02Nick
Yeah, and I think the way I got around it, and this won't work for everybody cuz everybody's contentment point is different. Mine is being mentally in a good place and sustainably and like consistently in a good place. The ups and downs are what are not good for me at all.
00:37:23Mark
Mm-hmm.
00:37:23Nick
And then financial security of, I know if my boiler breaks, I can fix it. And we've got what we need and we can live the life that me and my wife have tried to build and want to live.
00:37:38
And I'm, I don't have any desires on becoming a millionaire and having more and more and more money. Because what am I gonna do with it? I'm gonna buy better equipment. I'm gonna buy more computer games. I'm gonna go on more holidays. I'm, I don't need more. Sometimes you've got what you need, and actually that's not, that's, that's a plaster over what you actually want. That'll make you happy.
00:38:08
And so I've set, I've set myself financial targets loosely. They are loose. And it's not a target, it's a minimum. And if I get above that, I've had a good year. so it's not about growth for me, it's about getting the life I want, which is a certain amount of money, will afford me that life. Anything over that Brilliant. Anything under that, I need to do some more new business. And obviously, and then you can predict that because you can forecast it and you know what, you know what you currently earn and you know what you want to earn. You know, that's business.
00:38:42
But software as a service, for instance, is a, is a good example in that where Netflix as a service, they are chasing subscribers and more subscribers and more subscribers and more subscribers, ignoring the fact that they're losing subscribers. They just need to see continual growth, but they're gonna, What's the end goal?
00:39:03Mark
Yeah. What happens when everyone's on Netflix?
00:39:05Nick
Yeah. So, and obviously that can't happen in the current geopolitical climate, but if we, well we on seven and a half billion, something like that, people on this planet, if everyone had Netflix, would the Netflix CEO and stakeholders be happy or would they be sad because their forecast for next year is, can only possibly go down?
00:39:24Mark
mm-hmm.
00:39:25Nick
They'd be sad because they're not getting growth, which is insane
00:39:29Mark
Yes. And Ceasar wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.
00:39:32Nick
Yeah. They'd probably start trying to beam it to Mars and hope that there's someone there that can pay.
00:39:37Mark
Or of, well, how can we pipe Netflix into the womb so we can get them at that, at that early stage, You know?
00:39:43Nick
Or have some weird genetic program from Netflix, which is favoring more children being born so the population grows and they'll get into that. Instead, there won't be a software as a service business anymore. There'll be babies as a service.
00:39:56Mark
Oh God. , They've pivoted to children.
00:39:58Nick
Yes. . Like it's unsustainable. So Especially when you look at the climate situation and the cost of living crisis and things like that. That level of growth. And I need more and I need more stuff and I need to be making more money than last quarter, it's bad for mental health. It's bad for the people that have to work in those businesses. And ultimately, it's not gonna make you
00:40:22Mark
mm-hmm.
00:40:23Nick
Because by and large, you're gonna have periods where you don't hit those targets and you've made up those targets.
00:40:30Mark
Yeah.
00:40:31Nick
Why? Why are you doing that to yourself? Why is the pressure there if, if, if you've got a sustainable business that's serving your needs and if you've got staff that's serving their needs, I would rather, and I'm not planning on having full-time staff necessarily, but I would rather have a business that if I did have full-time staff, if we overreached our targets, everybody else benefits from that cause they did the work rather than, yay, we've made more money. We'll keep that and pat ourselves on the back.
00:40:56Mark
Yeah, I really appreciate that actually, as, as a, because I think I, I've, I've set, you know, I've, I've gone with targets and, and that kind of thing, and, and you know, when I, when I sold that, that business last year, which always sounds grander than it really is, I then, you know, I set about sort of starting from scratch, and, and I really did, like, I, I pretty much had to, had to rebuild because I, I sort of thought this, there would be stuff that would sort of translate and, and I could take with me and it really didn't work out that way, so I kind of had to start again. And part of what, what that meant was then trying to basically guess at the numbers that you can get. Rather than sit there and go, Okay, well what do I need? Yeah, what is the, the, a good minimum, uh, at which everything else after that is a, is a really happy bonus or can be tucked away? You know, what, what do I need? And then maybe, yeah, what would be sort of nice to have, but like really starting from, from that basis of, you know, what do I need to be happy? I think, Or cuz yeah, cuz I think I was probably going on like, what do I need to survive? Whereas actually, what do I need to be happy? I think it seems to be a, a, a much, a much better way to do it and probably a lower number than, than we might imagine.
00:42:08Nick
Yeah, it, it will be, it'll definitely be a lower number than some people are thinking because if you really put it down to brass tacks, as long as an adult, I don't believe in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. But if we go with that style of thing, it's not far up that before your content, because you've got what you need and you, you find you're not struggling for anything. You, you, you're not having to get a loan out for stuff. Like you've got enough to do what you need to do, right?
00:42:38
And if that includes a holiday or several, if that's what someone's hobby is, then work out what that is for you and. Then build your business to give you that. Because if you're just building a business to get endless numbers, numbers increasing. When are you enjoying it?
00:42:54Mark
Yeah, When is enough enough? What's, what's the beef of Maslow then
00:42:58Nick
I mean I haven't really looked at it in many years, but I think I read something, and it might have been absolute Tosh, that basically disputed everything he ever said and I, and I think he even might have disputed it. I think he decided that like he spawned this thing and then looked back on it after a number of years, kind of like the guy who made the AK 47 and really regretted what he did because it was overly simple. There was something fundamentally wrong, but it was so widespread at that point that he couldn't take it back. And I'll need to fact check that. Cause I might have just thought out my arse.
00:43:32Mark
that's, that's, that's future Mark's problem. He'll, he'll figure that when he comes to the edit.
00:43:35
Well, this feels, uh, as good a time as any to, for future mark to interject into the episode. Hello, you might notice a slight tonal difference between future mark and pass mark. And it's that future Mark has, has got COVID, uh, is a longtime follower first time. Uh, infected. So, uh, hi. Um, So, yes. Uh, that aside, a wonderful conversation with Nick. We get into a little bit more as well about why it is so important for Nick to be vocal and open about his struggles with mental health. And there is, uh, an email address as well that Nick has given me. I'm not going to put it in the show notes because you know what it's like, you expose email addresses to the world, but it is in the transcript. And it is hello@studiobackground.co. So if you do, if you're going through something or if you just want to, if you just need to know that another human being is there and not even has to understand, but can hear, then hello@studiobackground.co, have yourself an email with Nick. You can also find Nick online on LinkedIn. And you will find links to him and all of that stuff, uh, as well as a reputation of the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, uh, Uh, in the show notes and also at earbrainheart.com. That is also where you can go if you'd like to sign up for occasional updates from me in terms of what I'm doing, what I'm providing events, uh, workshops and uh, other little offerings that I have to help solopreneurs and small teams use their voice to build trust and connect with their audiences.
00:45:23
And so we go back to the conversation then, and we'll, we'll pick it up as we started talking about social media and our own particular issues with it, uh, takes on it, um, where we are at the moment in the, in the social media landscape.
00:45:43Nick
Well, so if anyone fi, if anyone Googles me or searches me, I, I do have Facebook because I'm a member of one Facebook group for my business that I don't actually look at, but I set it up when I started my business. Cause there was one group I wanted to be in and I haven't looked on it in many months, sorry, Will.
00:46:00
Then Instagram, I fell into the trap of mindlessly scrolling a lot. Uh, so that's, I'm, I've still got accounts for me and my business, but I don't look at it anymore. It's not on my phone and I don't, I've never looked at it on a computer. Um, so I periodically post on it from the business, but I don't do anything on it myself.
00:46:18
LinkedIn I use cuz I kind of have to, and it is good for what I need it to do, but I don't really engage in it that much and tend not to post.
00:46:28
The social media. And I think a lot of people wouldn't say this to social media. Social media I use the most is Reddit. And I'm not some kind of weird Reddit user, but there's certain subreddits like cycling and for my sports team and that sort of stuff that I am actively involved in cuz they bring me joy.
00:46:46
But I, I. very early on realized that social media was nothing but a negative for me and my mental health. It was, I was comparing myself to other people's lifestyles. I was wishing my life was better. I was wondering why I didn't have the things that other people were seemingly doing, getting jealous. And after I'd got rid of all of them from apps and phones and deleted my actual Facebook account and all that sort of stuff, I realized there was nothing on there that I needed. And I left Facebook 2016, I think it was, and a load of my friends were like, Well, how will we invite you to your party? Well, invite me. If you're just ticking me on a Facebook thing, because I don't wanna come.
00:47:32Mark
Yeah.
00:47:33Nick
if if you truly want me there, you will reach out to me. I'm still contactable on all forms of phone, WhatsApp, all that sort of stuff. You can
00:47:41Mark
You know how we used to, you know, we used to ring around, We used to ask people, Do you wanna come to a thing?
00:47:45Nick
Yeah. So that, that was the only fear I had was when I was leaving that was, will I lose touch with a load of my friends? And all of the people at Matam host, you will reach out to you in other ways and they don't need it to do that. And yeah, I didn't, I didn't like the sort of Showoffy side of me that social media presented and then of others.
00:48:08Mark
Yeah. I, I, I recently took the step of, uh, I went through a huge thing last week, I think it was, of unfollowing pretty much, well, in fact everyone in my personal account that was to do with work. Um, so all these people that were in the space that I was in, cuz there's a, you know, podcasting there, there's, there's sort of two, there's very much two worlds. There's the world that I inhabit and then there's, which is sort of the larger, you know, bit between, bit underneath the, the, the of the iceberg that, that pokes out. And then the bit that is the loudest is this sort of, it's all about ads and it's all about money and success and, uh, all that kind of very gleaming, showy offy. Um, and, and I just, I I was getting like, you know, you've, you've given voice to a lot of the, the feelings I was having of, you know, it was bringing up these ugly feelings of, of jealousy and resentment and why can't I have that? And I'm entitled to this. And like, I hated those feelings inside myself.
00:49:12
And it just, yeah, it was that moment of, of just going, Why? Well, why, why am I doing that? Then why am I doing that to myself? Like they don't, I don't actually have that much of a Ben, so Twitter is the thing for me. That's, that's my ugh, that's my absolute, like gotta have it, Daddy just needs his fix. Um, and, and I'm trying to find ways to, you know, to wean myself off, but like, just unfollowing everyone on Twitter it, it, who was related to that was so helpful because I just.
00:49:41
I mean, I'm seeing a completely different depressing world now, uh, which is making me take a state further step back. Cuz everybody, you know, current events, everybody's got their take and it's all depressing and sad and everybody's angry at everybody else. And that's a lot. And, and that's just, I can't, I can't take that on now. So I'm probably gonna take a further step back. But just, just sort of realizing like, it actually doesn't really help my business anyway. I don't get business through social media no matter how hard I try. I d i, I really don't, you know, the odd LinkedIn posters worked has got me something. That's not to say it's all about conversions. Like you still gotta show up and you still do the things, but yeah. This all, all, all the sort of yeah. The engagement and then just being forced to, yeah, read about how what a spiffing b time, lots of people are having that, that you then compare yourself and, and, and it just breeds this sort of, yeah, unhealthy resentment and whatnot.
00:50:38Nick
especially when you, I mean, I'm a cynical man at the best of times, but how much of it's true? And then the people that are doing it and lying about how great their life is, Like you can rent a, the inside of a job boje to take photos like you're going around the world and stuff. Like, that kind of stuff. That without getting pop psychologists, that to me is the most depressing cuz that shows they're not happy. And this is, this is why, why are they doing it? And I, I'm very private so I never really shared on social media anyway. Apart, I'm very private, apart from talking about my mental health, which I do endlessly, um, but no, like I've, I'm private about the rest of my life, but the people that feel the need to put everything on there and then fabricate these illusions of a better life, without getting on my soapbox, that speaks to a bigger societal mental health problem than I think most people have faced up to yet. And I just wish people could, again, be more content with what they've got and not, It's part of hustle culture again, isn't it? It's striving for that next fix of thing that's gonna ma magically make your life better.
00:51:52Mark
And even if they are being completely, Well, I was gonna say, even if they're being completely honest, even if they're not lying, um, that doesn't mean that they are painting an honest picture. Um, because Yeah, you know, people are gonna share, and I think, we'll, we'll get onto this very shortly. Like people will share their successes. People really don't share, I lost that project, like I lost that client. Or, um, you know, I pitched for loads of different work this week and none of them, you know, panned out, or whatever. Like, we, we don't do that. We, we, we celebrate and we don't commiserate. And so yeah, we, we, we are led to believe that because of what we see, it's that whole thing of we compare our insides to other people's outsides,
00:52:34Nick
I'm sure someone's done it, but maybe we need to make a social media app that's like downer or something and it's just all your negative stuff and we can put it on there and people can say it's fine and they've been through it too. And we could just be a supportive group of Debbie Downers.
00:52:51Mark
Yeah. Down. Yeah. It has to be downer down r.com. Yeah. absolutely. it's 2005 again. Um, this was probably to, you sound like a silly question, but I think it's one that needs to be asked. Why are you so open about your mental health?
00:53:05Nick
Uh, because for 10 years I wouldn't, and I wasn't sorry. And I almost took my own life on several occasions. And it's that, it's that basic. If I'd have been honest about it then, I wouldn't have had 10 of the most miserable time years of my life. And if I knew someone that had been through it, cause I didn't think anyone had been through depression before in my network, if I'd known someone that had, I would've felt much more like I could have been open about it and confronted it. And instead what I did was pretended it wasn't there. And it got worse and worse and worse and worse and worse. Uh, cause I didn't seek help, I didn't. I didn't get any help from peers or medical professionals or anything for a very long time.
00:53:57
And I think what I'm trying to do by being open about it is even if nobody talks to me directly, they see me talking about it and learn not to do what I did. And that it's okay to talk about it because we're all going through stuff to varying degrees. And just because you're depressed doesn't mean that you're not worthy or a valuable person, cuz that's what I didn't feel like it took all my humanity away really.
00:54:29Mark
Yeah. Yes. Yeah. There, Yeah. There, there are, there are, There's no follow up sentence to that.
00:54:39Nick
Something that has always pissed me. About mental health is the phrase man up.
00:54:45Mark
Mmm.
00:54:46Nick
I hate that phrase cuz it implies anybody going through anything difficult is no longer a man. And toxic masculinity is the reason a lot of males take their own life. And it's two thirds of suicide is men. And a large part of that is because other men are assholes to other men and do not appreciate that they need support.
00:55:09
And we for some reason as a gender, have the idea that we have to have a shield that no emotion gets shown. And it's changing for the better, very slowly, but it is still there. I still hear the phrase man up. I still hear other things. There's a stigma around it, particularly in men. And part of it is being there for men
00:55:36
so a, a good friend of mine, he's had a mental health journey as well, and we bonded over it. We got really pissed and we talked about and had a little cry and a hug and just reminisced about how shit it was. And periodically now we just send each other the odd message just going, Are you doing alright? And it doesn't have to be anything. It doesn't have to be a big thing. Just that would've meant the absolute world to me 10 years ago when I was in my worst period. And nobody did it because nobody knew I was going through it. And I, I thought I had to present a manly vibe. And I was fortunate that it didn't end up as it could have done. But a lot of people aren't. So check in with your friends, even if you think they're fine, just ask them. You'd be surprised what they'll say back.
Load full transcript