292: Life Profitability – Building a Business that Can Serve Your Life with Adii Pienaar

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An image of coin money and the title of Adii Pienaar's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Life Profitability.'

Welcome to episode 292 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Adii Pienaar about his new book, “Life Profitability.”

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Angel Marie about planning and hosting webinars. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Life Profitability 

When starting and building your own business, it’s easy to get “tunnel vision” and put all of your time, effort, and thoughts into making it succeed.

But will all of that brain-space spent on your business make your life more fulfilling?

Adii is here today to talk about why that’s not necessarily the case, and instead, argue for the need of a healthy balance between life, business, and productivity. This interview will have you challenging your definition of success and inspire you to work towards creating a more mindful, value-driven life and brand.

A quote from Adii Pienaar’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'This thing that I'm doing here as an entrepreneur doesn't define me.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to stay in the moment
  • How Adii practices mindfulness
  • How to have a healthy work/life balance
  • Why it’s okay to have off days
  • Why you should align your personal values with your brand values
  • What Life Profitability is
  • How your values are connected to your time investments

Resources:

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community!

Transcript (click to expand):

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, hi, hello, and welcome to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. My name is Alexa and we are so excited and honored that you decided to tune in to the podcast today. You may have heard of Adii or the companies he founded, WooCommerce and Conversio, but he’s here today to talk about his new book called Life Profitability, The New measure of Entrepreneurial Success.

Alexa Peduzzi: When you’re starting and building your own business, it’s really easy to get tunnel vision and just put all of your time, effort and thoughts into making that business succeed. But will all of that brain space spent on your business, make your life more fulfilling? Adii is here today to talk about why that’s not necessarily the case, and instead argue for the need of a healthy balance between life, business and productivity.

Alexa Peduzzi: This interview will have you challenging your definition of success and inspire you to work towards creating a more mindful, value-driven life and brand. Without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Adii, welcome to the podcast.

Adii Pienaar: Thanks for having me, Bjork.

Bjork Ostrom: Excited to talk about something that I’ve actually been thinking a lot about. We have our three month old daughter, we have a two year old daughter and it’s caused kind of me to move into this, “reflect on life, reflect on business” stage. And my guess is that your book, Life Profitability, and kind of that concept, came out of some similar reflections that you had. At what point did you find yourself starting to see these thoughts pop up in your head in your entrepreneurial journey?

Adii Pienaar: That’s a really good question. What eventually became Life Profitability and what became the book really had multiple different kind of forces of nature or energy kind of you’re going into it. You mentioning your younger kids, Bjork, I have two boys, they’re six and nine. And this is hindsight now, because I don’t think at the time I would have said, “Hey, Adii, this is not very profitable of you.”

Adii Pienaar: But I can remember when Adii junior was very, very young at one stage, I was still with WooThemes and WooCommerce at the time. I was constantly multitasking. And I was constantly changing a diaper on my phone quickly trying to…

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Adii Pienaar: You get that right? At one stage, Adii was a couple of months old and Jeanne, my wife, came up to me and she said, “Do you realize that you’re constantly just managing your son in the same way that you would manage a team member?” That very conversation struck me so hard. It literally is that, you literally have to stand back and say, “This can’t be it.”

Adii Pienaar: As I said in hindsight, I don’t think I realized really the extent of the importance of that moment, but that’s definitely one of those moments that kind of, I now look back on and I see, that kind of contributed to me eventually becoming aware of these, what I now call, kind of life costs, that I was incurring along the way as I was building a business and being successful at that, but probably being a really absent father to a young baby at that stage.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re in the thick of that. So our youngest, I’ve talked about this in the podcast a couple of times, so much so that people who follow along will probably roll their eyes. But he’s really struggled sleeping, so I find myself and Lindsay, my wife as well, at all odd hours holding her and it’s getting better. But along with that, trying to also do work at all odd hours, from my phone and from wherever I can. Bouncing her with my foot as I’m sitting at the desk and her little bouncer.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s been the same thing where it feels I’m in those moments, I’m not really doing either thing very well, and how discouraging that is. So it’s like I want to be all in as a dad, but there’s also a piece of me that wants to be all in as it relates to the businesses. Or maybe it’s not all in, but just when I’m doing one of those things, doing those 100%, but the hard part is I kind of feel I should be doing work whenever I’m with my family. And I kind of feel I should be with my family whenever I’m doing work.

Bjork Ostrom: As you started to get into this place of thinking through what does it look to be life profitable? What does a life cost look like? Did you find yourself starting to draw hard lines and say, “Hey, I’m going to always go home.” I think it was Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook. “I’m always going to go home at 5:00 o’clock. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to draw a hard line.” Or is it not as simple as that?

Adii Pienaar: Hard lines don’t work for me, generally. I think I’m a bit of a rebel at heart. When I see a hard firm line, there’s that temptation within me to try and cross the line. Exactly. Those don’t work for me. But generally also, I think that kind of between those let’s just call in different states or different realms of our life, I actually think that when we keep things liquid, when we allow kind of energy to flow from the one to the other, then that is the way in which we kind of preserve most energy. Because energy is just flowing between those different things.

Adii Pienaar: I think that the key thing for me is then, because what I used to do, probably when I was kind of undoing this kind of subconsciously or unconsciously, was that I would allow that kind of ambitious energy, which was a very kind of strong, forceful energy. I would allow that to flow and I would allow that to kind of really kind of shape the narrative of any moment.

Adii Pienaar: For me now is, I just think that being aware of what is most important in this moment, and then ensuring that even if that other energy kind of pops up, I will try and just stay in this moment for just a little bit longer. Just a little bit longer. Over time, it’s almost, for me at least, it’s become easier to just be in the moment. When it is working, I am working. When I’m with friends or with family, then I’m doing that thing.

Adii Pienaar: By all means, I have boundaries and we can sort of get into kind of your boundaries, and how I think about those. But generally, I think there should be a softer, lighter playfulness to the way we think about kind of moving between these different states or different moments in our lives. I think we actually create more friction by putting up kind of barriers and walls between these things, because they are never completely separate.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Do you have an example of what that looks like? When you talk about energy, I’m guessing there are some people who are like, “Yes, I’m tracking.” And there were some people who are like, “What do you mean by energy? What does that look like and how does that feel?” If you look at a day for you or there’s no typical day, but how are you aware? It almost sounds getting into mindfulness and presence. Is that a piece of it? Curious if you could kind of walk through a day and how you’re even checking in with yourself and being aware of that.

Adii Pienaar: It’s great that you mentioned mindfulness, Bjork, because it’s a big part of the way I at least think about life now. And many of the concepts in the book has elements of mindfulness in it. Mindfulness changed the course of my life. I literally stumbled into it as kind of five, six years ago, as my life was literally kind of breaking apart. I worked with a therapist that helped me understand listen, if I don’t tame this monkey brain of mine, if I constantly allow it to be in a fight or flight mode, I’m going to struggle. Mindfulness is very much there.

Adii Pienaar: The way I now explain mindfulness to anyone is, literally for me it’s just that awareness. For example, I still meditate kind of on an ad hoc basis when I feel I kind of needed a top up or I need to exercise my mindfulness muscle. But for me, it is really just that awareness. Awareness of when I’m doing something or in a moment, in a space, but I’m not really there. That’s the awareness, right? Something else is distracting you from that.

Adii Pienaar: And I think that to just touch back on that energy flow, probably the best example I have, Bjork is, most people will tell you the way to have work-life balance, one example is don’t work on weekends. You can keep work nicely confined, 40 hours in a work week and that’s it. And sometimes, and this doesn’t happen every single weekend, but every now and again on a Saturday or Sunday morning, regardless of kind of what the family is doing, maybe we did some exercise the morning, the kids are playing, I played with them. And then something strikes me and I’m like, “You know what? This is actually a relatively quiet, peaceful, calm moment. I’m at home. I’m only going to get the go bash out in a few emails for an hour or so.” Just because that’s where my energy… And when I say energy is less, airy-fairy, it’s just that’s what I feel most compelled to do in that moment.

Bjork Ostrom: Verses restricting yourself when you’re being drawn in this way, then in saying, “No, I can’t,” because it’s a weekend and having a hard line and not moving forward with it.

Adii Pienaar: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: This isn’t necessarily bearing the lead, but we jumped in right away to talk about Life Profitability. Some helpful context around that as you’ve had some very successful businesses. That’s a piece of this story, and I would love to pull that apart because in some ways there’s the sun in the shadow of the sacrifice made to build significant things in the world. The sunny side of it is, you’ve had some successes and that translates into credibility.

Bjork Ostrom: It translates into you emailing me and being like, “Oh yeah, of course, Adii, I’m going to…” I recognize the businesses you’ve built, your name. There’s something to be said about that. And the life you’ve exchanged for that has created value in the world that you are then able to, whether it be purely cash, money or status, that maybe wouldn’t have existed if not for some of those sacrifices.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk a little bit specifically about your businesses? A lot of WordPress users here who will be familiar with them, and that’s not the only thing you’ve done. I know you’ve done other businesses after that. Talk about some of your businesses. And can you talk about what that was when you were in the thick of it? It sounds pretty consumed by those businesses.

Adii Pienaar: Totally. I think my elevator pitch as Adii today is, I bought and sold two software businesses. The first was as co-founder of WooThemes and WooCommerce. I built the very first theme that became WooThemes way back in November, 2007, which totally gives away my age as well here.

Adii Pienaar: I left WooThemes end of 2013, and I sold out at that stage, because I wanted to do something new. I wanted to challenge myself again. And ultimately got into a new world in between, had a failure, but ultimately got into my second successful business, which was called Conversio, where we built email marketing automation for e-commerce brands. I sold that to Campaign Monitor about 18 months ago now in the later stages of 2019.

Adii Pienaar: I think in saying that as well is, in between that I spent six weeks working for corporate just after university, before I went to work on WooThemes full time. Which means I’ve always been responsible for my own journey. Responsible in good and bad ways. Because in the good ways, it’s sure, “Adii is responsible for his journey. He can make his own decisions.” That sounds anyone’s dream that doesn’t have that.

Adii Pienaar: But then that also comes with loads of other responsibilities or kind of just challenges and baggage as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Like what?

Adii Pienaar: Multiple.

Bjork Ostrom: How long do we have?

Adii Pienaar: Exactly, right? I think at some stages, just this notion of, I’ve often felt this, and I don’t know whether anyone listening has felt this. But once you’ve had any measure of success, it feels like you should always know the answer. You should also always know what to do next. I felt like this when I built teams. I’m the leader of the team. It feels like we’re in this challenging moment in the business, for example, and it’s ultimately my responsibility to figure out how the hell are you getting out of this? How are we going to overcome this obstacle? How are we going to meet payroll the end of the month?

Adii Pienaar: Many of those, I often refer to it as the ultimate responsibility, came back to me. There is definitely that balance between the privilege, the opportunity, the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur, and shaping, literally carving out your own path and going on this journey. But it also creates loads of responsibilities along the way, that doesn’t always feel that great.

Adii Pienaar: Especially doesn’t feel great when things are kind of going on. And again, I said how much time we have? Many of, I think my challenges are very existential. I know kind of going through building Conversio, after having been so successful with WooThemes and WooCommerce, one of the biggest challenges I had was, “What if I fail at this thing? What are other people going to say about me?”

Adii Pienaar: I actually left WooThemes with the notion of feeling like a one hit wonder and wanting to prove myself again. “If I fail at Conversio, is that what people are going to say? Adii was just slightly lucky. He got lucky with Woo.” I think there are definitely those other challenges that I don’t think people talk about them often. Because it also feels silly to some extent, especially if everything is mostly going well. It sounds ungrateful. I don’t know.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Adii Pienaar: There’s a lot of shame there, probably.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And probably levels to unpack and layers to pull apart. At what point did you realize, “Gosh, it’d be really helpful to see a therapist.” Was that tied into business and did that impact business? And did Life Profitability come from some of those conversations, which we can get into next? It’s a personal question so…

Adii Pienaar: That’s totally fine. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I generally don’t… I love demystifying things to that extent. Again many successful people are more than happy to expose the tactics, the mindset, the beliefs, et cetera, that made them successful, but they don’t share the things that were much, much harder.

Adii Pienaar: Because both of those two things are true. So for me, my wife and I had spent time with two separate couples, therapists or psychologists early in our marriage. I’ve been married for 10 and a half years now. Been together with Jeanne, for about 11 and a half, almost 12 years. We spent some time in therapy there, figuring things out, in terms of communication, just kind of literally getting onto the same page. Nothing too serious.

Adii Pienaar: Then somewhere, and this was about five, six years ago and I mentioned the mindfulness, it got to a point where I backed myself into a corner. I was just constantly angry. I was angry at things not going the way I wanted them, feeling this discontent. And it was weird because even I could stand back in that moment and see, “Hey, I’ve got a good business going here.” Conversio was going well at that stage. “I’ve got a beautiful young family living in a beautiful home, great friends, et cetera.” I could feel that discontent, the feeling of just angry all the time.

Adii Pienaar: That’s literally, in a session where Jeanne and I both were, I completely lost my cool. And the therapist looked at me and she said, “We’re starting with you. Things need to change and you need to change.” Literally.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow, what a moment.

Adii Pienaar: Exactly. She told me afterwards that she had tried to provoke me because she thought that I would take the bait and then she could actually appeal to my rational brain. And she admitted it was a bit of a gamble.

Bjork Ostrom: Ho interesting.

Adii Pienaar: But then she’s the one that got me into mindfulness and ultimately understanding how, even though I was doing these really good things in my professional life, how it also had that dark side. That constant hyper vigilance, that constant way of having my brain switched on thinking about everything in business. That’s not very healthy, in the context of sitting down for a date with my wife or kind of having a family dinner, or going on holiday, for example. I spent a lot of time working with her to really change the way that I thought about my life at least, and kind of the person that I wanted to be in that life.

Bjork Ostrom: I would assume Life Profitability comes out of a lot of that processing and contemplation. When I talk to you now, it seems you’re a very Zen person. Do you feel different today than you did, than you were six or seven years ago? Or do you still have that piece of you, and it’s just like… I don’t know those things to provoke you like the therapist that you were working with.

Adii Pienaar: I still have the challenging days. I think the biggest differences is… And when I say challenging days, a challenging day in my mind would be where I, again, feel like this ambition of mine is pulling me forward in a way that I know will create collateral damage. That I know will incur these life costs. And I can just feel it, that it doesn’t feel great.

Adii Pienaar: What I’ve learnt over the years is, to also just acknowledge that, and know that that’s probably never going to change. Having those slightly off days is actually okay. And the way that I rationalize it, is by understanding tension and understanding how tension also shows up, literally, in the human body and muscles. I often joke as a enthusiastic runner and not a really great runner, but an enthusiastic runner, that I literally have to iron rods for hamstrings, because my hamstrings are incredibly tight.

Adii Pienaar: Which I know is not true. But effectively kind of you think about any muscle in your body, for a muscle to function properly, it always has to be intention. If it’s too rigid, if can’t move, if there is no tension, it will just flop around. It needs to be intention. That’s the way I essentially think about my life and at least ambition and my entrepreneurial pursuits, is it always have that tension with the harder parts. The parts that challenges my ego or the parts where it feels out of my control. And I need to acknowledge that and I need to just continue to kind of you’re moving on.

Adii Pienaar: For me, then kind of you’re acknowledging that, means that I can come back into my own being, my own self, my body, my mind, and just say, “You know what? I’m okay. This thing that I’m doing here as entrepreneurial, it’s not me, it doesn’t define me. This mistake I made does not define me, et cetera.” That part of it is better. The sensations are still the same. The challenges are still similar.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s awareness of them, would you say?

Adii Pienaar: Yeah, totally. I think 80% of it is literally awareness and the ability, if it’s uncomfortable, just sitting with that discomfort. It’s just not trying to necessarily change things, accepting that some things will always be like that. Something I love from Buddhism is, this notion of, we only know light because we know dark. Yin and yang. We know good because we know bad.

Adii Pienaar: We need these contrasts as human beings, these tension between two different things that are on opposite ends of a spectrum. Because that’s what keeps things in equilibrium. Both of those two things will always be true. It’s not either, or it’s just those two things are always true to some extent.

Bjork Ostrom: Well, I remember when I first started using the app Calm, and they would do these really simple explainers and they’d have these little characters that would walk you through it kind of a fourth grade level. Which is what I needed at that point in my journey with understanding meditation.

Bjork Ostrom: But one of the visuals that has really stuck with me is one of the characters was, there’s this cloud and it was raining, he was sitting underneath it and he was like, “Ah, this is just so terrible.” But it was like, you can also go up above it and see, that cloud is still there. It exists, but it’s observing the emotions and the feelings that you have as opposed to being defined by them. And that’s been such a helpful visual for me, as I think about even entrepreneurial pursuits. “This is really frustrating. This is difficult. I feel like imposter in this regard,” those are all valid feelings, but I can kind of sit above them and observe them. I don’t have to be them. which was a helpful concept for me.

Adii Pienaar: Exactly. Because, then I think that’s-

Bjork Ostrom: Go ahead, yeah.

Adii Pienaar: … that’s a trap, by the way. I think for entrepreneurs, whether it’s a business or the products we’re putting out there, the creations that you’re making, we aren’t those things. I think that we’re almost reducing our true magic by saying, “I am my business. I am this product that I created.” And then to your point of the cloud. I know exactly which visualization you were talking about right.

Adii Pienaar: It’s just abstracting that. Because the creation is still there, the business is still there. But we can view it from so many different lenses. We don’t have to look at it in this very kind of narrow way of saying, “This is the business and if I make a mistake in the business, that mistake reflects poorly on me. Or if business fails, I’m a failure.” Because I think that’s just a limited kind of a belief sets there, that is unlikely to serve anyone.

Bjork Ostrom: A lot of the people who listen to this podcast would have businesses that are very personality forward, even so far as influencer or a personal brand. Do you feel in the businesses that you’re building now, with that in mind, are you trying to have them be less you and more just the business? Or are you still letting yourself be a part of the business? Almost be a part of the brand? Or are you trying to separate those in order to make that distinction a little bit easier?

Adii Pienaar: That’s a great question. I think at a tactical level, having gone through the process of selling two businesses, Bjork, I think what is tactically important is that no single person in the business should be that important to the business, that you can’t detach that person from it. That’s the way I think about branding as well. When I think through my new business that I’m working on now, it’s called Cogsy, because we just went through the process of designing the brand guidelines, et cetera, I am happy to be part of the brand, but I also want to be able to eventually divorce myself. But that’s more of a tactical, logistical thing, in the event that I wanted to exit the business.

Adii Pienaar: I think what is more important there actually is, making sure that the there’s alignment. Specifically value alignment. Aligning your personal values with your brand values. Making sure that those things are tight and there’s clarity around that, I think that’s much more important. It’s just more sustainable to build a business in that way.

Adii Pienaar: I think you introduce unnecessary friction when those two things are separate. I would rather think about, if you are your brand, if I was my own brand, it was just Adii Pienaar, it wasn’t with WooCommerce, it wasn’t Conversio, that’s perfectly fine. But even then, I would need to figure out what are my actual values? Not the ones that I propose on the internet. Who am I when I’m at home? Am I actually just myself and making sure that those are the things that show up in the things that I do? Because actions always speak louder than words. I would probably think as I said, value alignment with branding, than whether I, myself, are kind of part of that brand or not.

Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. You’ve talked about businesses you’ve built, you’ve exited multiple times. And I feel you have almost a Groundhog’s Day. I actually seen the movie, but I would imagine this happens where Bill Murray gets up and then he gets better. I think that’s how it works. Gets better throughout the day knowing what’s going to happen.

Bjork Ostrom: But you’ve done that in a really unique way, for somebody at your stage in business building, in that you’ve built, you sold, you’ve built, you’ve sold. A lot of times people will build sell, and then they can kind of coast on that for a long period of time. But you’re in this third stage of it. Or third go round.

Bjork Ostrom: In this version that you are in right now of business building, how does Life Profitability fit into the decisions that you’re making around how you’re building the business? And we’ve kind of talked about it, we’ve talked about the book we’ve kind of circled around it, but could you kind of define what that means? What is Life Profitability, and then how are you manifesting that in the current business?

Adii Pienaar: I love that word manifesting by the way, which I will totally touch on. The idea of of the book of Life Profitability, is very much based on the term that we all know in business, which is just profitability, financial profitability. What I learned through the last couple of years, especially of my journey, was that by purely pursuing profitability in my businesses, I felt empty at times. I’ve mentioned kind of feeling discontent, feeling angry. Feeling like I didn’t have that kind of your higher purpose of meaning.

Adii Pienaar: What Life Profitability proposes, is how can you build a business that is not just profitable in the narrow sense of the word, i.e. financially profitable, but really profitable in the kind of the broader holistic, wholesome, hence the word, which is your whole life? What I really want there is, thinking through how to build a business that can serve all of my life.

Adii Pienaar: When I say all of my life, and again borrowing from another kind of financial term that people know is, if you think about a financial investment portfolio, where you have multiple different assets and stocks and whatever is in there, all of that’s “imbalanced,” using air quotes here, but imbalance somewhere, and you’re diversifying you. You don’t just have one thing in there generally.

Adii Pienaar: That’s how I think about kind of my life portfolio as well. My work and this new business I’m working on is just one component thereof. A book as another component thereof. But then there are so many other important things in my life that I want to make sure kind of gets the necessary investment. My family, my health, my passion for wine. Carve out some time to play FIFA, which is the only game that I play on my PlayStation. That’s been the case for the last 10 years.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you have a PS5? Have you gotten one? Have you made the…

Adii Pienaar: I’ve been tempted, but no. I’m still on my four. As soon as I can convince Adii Jr. to buy my four at a kind of overpriced valuation, then I can kind of upgrade to the five.

Bjork Ostrom: The best think about having that as an asset category in Life Profitability, is you can invest in it. Right? That’s an investment.

Adii Pienaar: Well, we can invest the actual money on it. Right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Adii Pienaar: But that’s the way I think about kind of your business. In the book, one of the central themes, it’s also on the cover really, is the idea of concentric circles. The way it really works is that, Life Profitably, my life profitability, starts with me at the core there, me being in alignment with my highest ideals. But then it ripples outwards. It ripples outwards to my immediate family and my friends. But it also ripples out to my team, the society, my community, the ecosystems in which we operate.

Adii Pienaar: That’s really the biggest change going from first to second to third business here, is to rethink through how my actions, your ripple, outwards. Ripples outwards in a way that ultimately as I said, is profitable and serves my whole life as well as that of others. Not just trying to figure out, “Okay, I can make some money over here and then I still need to figure out how do I live a life? How do I fund the life that I want?”

Adii Pienaar: Because I think that’s the trick here, is I’m not trying to propose people not make money. We live in a capitalistic society, money pays bills, et cetera. Money kind of buys experiences, buys nice things, buys PlayStation fives. Not saying that those are bad things. But I think in just doing that, that’s a very narrow definition of saying, “I will just make the money, then afterwards, I will think about how to live my life.”

Adii Pienaar: What I propose in Life Profitability is, how today, before you have that big exit, before you managed to sell your business, before you become a millionaire, how can you start pursuing at least greater or better Life Profitability in your daily life, right now. Without having to hope for that kind of one day where there is a pot of gold at the end of the road.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you think that in the beginning stages, would you have with the framework of Life Profitability, let’s say with WooThemes, WooCommerce, would you have been able to build those as quickly and to the same degree of success? Yes, no. And if no, would that be an okay thing? Would it be better because of it, because you would have been more balanced and those concentric circles would have been more even as opposed to just kind of this one big business one?

Adii Pienaar: Yeah. I guess it’s very hard and it would sound disingenuous if I said just kind of outright, “Yes. I could have done this differently.” I do think there are things that I can totally point to that I know I could’ve done differently and it would not have affected the extent of the success we had or the kind of pace at which it happened.

Adii Pienaar: The example that I have that comes to mind is, with WooThemes, we only ever had the single office, which was down in Cape Town because I was in Cape Town. And my co-founder, he eventually moved back to Cape Town. He and I worked at that office with about eight, nine other team members. I would generally be first in office. I would be there at 7:00 AM in the morning, because I liked the first hour or two when it was quiet. Then I’d be last to leave at about 7:00 PM.

Adii Pienaar: I was not productive for 12 hours. We had an Xbox and a table tennis table in the office. And I spent lots of time just doing that. Just that as a simple example of me not acknowledging that there are other important things that I should also spend time on and invest into. That’s change I could have made. Clearly, me playing Xbox did not influence the success of the business, for example.

Adii Pienaar: I think there are those tweaks that I would have made. Would the things that I had done back had been completely different? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s completely different. But maybe 10% or 20% kind of difference in my actions and crucially my experience going through those moments, if I had been aware of, lived through the collateral damage that my actions was causing in the rest of my life.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you feel even at that point, was there damage that the amount of time you were spending and energy you were spending around work, was that happening at that point in your life? Or did things shift and change in your life, where the amount of energy and time you should have been spending for those other things, shift and change, but then it didn’t?

Bjork Ostrom: To say more simply, I can imagine myself coming out of college, not married, no kids, no huge responsibilities, not as much damage if I’m working seven to seven, but then when these other things start to be introduced, that’s where the shift should start to happen. If I don’t shift with those, there can be damaged. Was that the case for you? Or was it like, “Hey, there’s actually ways that I should have been working different early on.”

Adii Pienaar: I think it should have been different earlier on. The reason I say that, I spoke about the experience I had when my therapist provoked me in session. Ultimately, that provocation wasn’t just in that moment, that was literally because the bucket was already so full and she just poured the last couple of drops in there. The bucket was full due to years of subpar thoughts, actions, decisions, et cetera.

Adii Pienaar: Maybe the way it would’ve manifested in those earlier stages of the journey, outwardly, it might not have been very different. But I think the kind of the internal psychology, my psychology, my experience would have been different and would have probably kind of eventually either got me to the aha moment in a faster or a better way. Because by the time I got to the aha moment, I had to change or my whole life would have been changed for me, effectively.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a version of fitness, but maybe mental framework or your view on the world. The earlier you start on a fitness journey, the more fit you’re going to be five, 10 years later.

Adii Pienaar: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: I can see that applying even for how you view and process things. This just happened this morning, this story was fresh as of four hours ago. We have our three month old, I was getting ready to go. I was heading out the door and our two year old Lindsey, my wife was holding our daughter and trying to get her to sleep. And our two year old barged in and she ran in and she jumped on the bed and she was rolling around. And she had done the same thing a couple days before. I was like, “How do I get her out?” I’m like, “Solvi, come on. I gotta show you something.”

Bjork Ostrom: I was trying all these different things. I couldn’t think of anything. Then I’m like, “Do you want an M&M?” She’s like “Yes.” She got up and she ran out. That was yesterday. Today, she runs into the bedroom again, when Lindsay is trying to get Lena to sleep, and she jumps on the bed and she goes, “I want an M&M.”

Bjork Ostrom: The analogy for that story is, I think in business, it can be the same thing. Especially if you’re having success where you start to have this Pavlovian connection to, “I do this work and I get this thing. I tweak the conversion on my homepage and more sales come through. I send out another email and I get a sponsored content deal for Instagram. I publish two pieces of content versus one, and I get more traffic.”

Bjork Ostrom: That can be an addiction much going into the room to get an M&M. How do you apply that same mindset? Is there a way that you can think about kind of a reward mechanism or even a metric around these other areas of Life Profitability, in order to increase the appeal of those things to try and win back some of the, “I send an email and I get an M&M?”

Adii Pienaar: Totally. By the way, what you’ve described there, Bjork, is exactly what my therapist helped me understand as well. This behavior that I’d become so accustomed to that became nature, it had its good parts in business. But as I mentioned before, in other parts of my life it was not as beneficial. When I think about Life Profitability, is actually, I think we should stop measuring things. And a big part of thereof is just to finding whatever is what is good enough for ourselves.

Adii Pienaar: I think good enough here is partly looking at that kind of broader holistic life portfolio. But then also just making sure that we stick kind of very close to our nature, to our core, to our highest ideals. One of the things that I absolutely love and I quote the author in my book, and I’m going to share here, the author has Benjamin Zander, the book is called The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional And Personal Life.

Adii Pienaar: The quote that I have here and I’ll explain how that fits into what I just said, the quote is, “In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.” What I actually love about that is it tries to get us away again that very narrow definition of how we measure success in our lives.

Bjork Ostrom: Followers, profit, revenue.

Adii Pienaar: Exactly. The worst part of it, it’s all kind of made up, human made.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. Money, yeah.

Adii Pienaar: Exactly. None of it is intrinsic to the universe or nature itself. We’ve made it up. We’ve suddenly decided that it is now okay, for us to be unhappy when those manmade metrics kind of don’t look up. Exactly. And I know that in the universe of possibility, because I think back to myself, regardless of whether you’re religious or biblical or whatnot. But if I was Adam or Even, and I was literally the first and only human on this universe, again, regardless of whether that’s a myth or whether I actually believe that’s the case.

Adii Pienaar: But say for example, I was the first human being on this universe, and I just imagine all this possibility, what would that actually look like? I think a big part of that is, again taking that step back changing this paradigm that we’ve been so brainwashed with. And brainwashed because, if you look at mainstream media, especially around success, again, those are the metrics that gets thrown at us, all the time.

Adii Pienaar: But taking a step back and just re-imagining what a universe of possibility would look like. In what other ways would I kind of your measure of “success” for me. I think that’s where Life Profitability comes in. One of my biggest goals with the book was, I truly did not want to write a “how to” book. I did not want to give or propose 10 steps-

Bjork Ostrom: Give the seven steps to…

Adii Pienaar: … blueprint. Exactly. Because I don’t believe in those things. I believe we’re unique, magical individuals. And no blueprint can just be kind of given to someone else and you can have the exact same outcome. The idea there with Life Profitability is really, again, stepping back into that universe of possibility and letting your context, your magic just unfold. That’s probably your definition of kind of success. That’s your definition of Life Profitability. Those are the metrics, whatever they look like.

Adii Pienaar: And they probably look way different to the metrics we use in our lives at this stage. But those are probably the metrics that if you wanted to measure something you should try and I would even take measurement out it completely. I would probably say, reference. If you want to reference the progress you’re making, reference those new things that you imagine. Not these metrics that get thrown at us so often.

Bjork Ostrom: How do you set the context? If somebody is like, “Yes, I want that. I want to be less aware of the number of comments on an Instagram post or the revenue from my blog or the traffic that I get to my site. I want to decouple from that and I want to set new context.” How do you do that?

Adii Pienaar: First step is just being aware of what your highest values are. There’s a simple exercise, and I repeat it in my book. But I got the exercise from the book is called The Values Factor by Dr. John Demartini, I believe is his name. And essentially, he takes you through 13 questions, literally looking at kind of on what do you spend most of your time? Where do you spend most of your money? Looking at your office or workplace, what are those things around you that you always keep in place, et cetera.

Adii Pienaar: Very different kind of questions, that essentially what he’s trying to tell you is, alludes to is, the things you are really invested in, they’re already in front of you. And they probably are linked to your values in some way. Again, I think that is just that context. I am my context. As I walk on this earth, there’s this kind of, again, not to get too airy-fairy, I’m not that airy-fairy, but there is this kind of energy field around me, and that is the context. Whatever I then touch, becomes part of their context. But I can only do that in a way that is efficient and effective, if I really know myself. If I really know what are the things that are truly important to me?

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. Even for myself, I would say, one of the things that I would need to be aware of, as I go through an exercise like that, is to be able to parse out the things that I’ve been fed, that I think are my values and the things that actually exist at my core that I know are my values. It’s interesting, I think it’s called the Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix, and it talks about the manipulation of what we believe to be true in the world., based on what we’re being fed through algorithms and social media.

Bjork Ostrom: And suddenly, I can find myself kind of believing things based on the things that I’ve taken in. It’s not so much a question just as a comment or an observation around how that could potentially be kind of a difficult thing to say, “What are my values, truly?” As opposed to, “What are the things that I think I value based on the things that have been fed?”

Bjork Ostrom: The point being, if you value creativity and building new things, I think of myself, I did the inventors fair in seventh grade. I just loved that. I think some of that manifests itself in the things I’m doing now, but I’ve also been fed Tech Crunch articles and Gary Vaynerchuk videos on hustle and businesses that report their revenue on bare metrics.

Bjork Ostrom: Suddenly, these other things start to come in and where it started as creativity, now it kind of becomes, I find myself leaning into the measurement side of things and there’s maybe value misalignment there. It seems it would be hard work. Did you find that to be the case for you that it was hard to figure out what those values are? Or was it pretty obvious when you did that?

Adii Pienaar: I don’t think it’s that obvious. No. I don’t think it’s necessarily hard work. I do think it’s an iterative, evolving process. The reason I say that is, because yes, I’m really great at rationalizing pretty much anything, especially to myself. Again to your point, it’s because we’ve been so programmed to believe that if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re not aspiring to build a billion dollar company, then you can’t call yourself an entrepreneur. That’s obviously very simplistic. But it’s that kind of programming that we need to be rework. I think the way to rework that, again touching on principles of mindfulness there, I think that our core, our true values are ultimately those things that mostly always feel good.

Adii Pienaar: They energize versus taking away, like drain energy. They come naturally. They come subconsciously right or unconsciously at times you find yourself gravitating towards those. So even if you said, for example, “Philanthropy is my highest ideal,” but you ultimately find that, “Philanthropy is really hard for me.” Or, “I just don’t prioritize this as much as I say I do.” Just going through that iterative process and then whittling it down and saying, “You know what? I like drinking a glass of wine and playing FIFA on my PlayStation 4.” That’s just the process.

Adii Pienaar: I totally get it. For me, it wasn’t that easy to figure everything out. I at least through my experience, came to the conclusion that my family is my highest ideal. I would, for example, rather not have my business, if I had to pick between those two. I did know I would never had to pick between kind of my business and my family. But if I really, really had to pick, if there’s no way to find common ground, I would always pick my family first.

Bjork Ostrom: When you talked about looking at each individual item and saying, “Energy giving, energy taking. Am I drawn this, am I not?” It reminds me of a book I read called Designing Your Life. One of the exercises they had to do was to audit your day and you’d write down what it is and there was a little gas gauge and it was like, “Empty. Full.”

Bjork Ostrom: That just being a really simple exercise to say, “Hey, what does that look as I go throughout my day?” Probably part of it is like, “Is this work that I’m drawn to or not?” Before we press record, I have this stack of CPA, two dudes, staff. It was like that’s definitely an empty. Which is not necessarily value related, but it does inform what are the things that you’re drawn to or not.

Bjork Ostrom: Side note, they addressed it to Brian Ostem. So they got my first name and last name wrong. Which is awesome.

Adii Pienaar: That, by the way, means you can send it back and say this wasn’t for you.

Bjork Ostrom: “You gave it to the wrong person. I’m not going to do it.”

Adii Pienaar: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: But that just being an important exercise that you do to, to think about where does that look like? As you were talking about it, it reminded me of a friend of mine who said, your checkbook and your calendar are moral documents. I think they could also be value documents. They are a reflection of the things that you are currently valuing most. If those get out of alignment with what you truly value, it’s probably time to reassess and re-Look at that again.

Adii Pienaar: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: As we close out, one of the questions that I have for you, let’s say you’re sitting across from somebody who hasn’t exited two businesses. They’re not starting their third businesses. They haven’t had these wins necessarily. They’re in the early stages. They’ve maybe been doing it for a few years. What would you tell them as you’re having a coffee or tea, in regards to considerations around business building, Life Profitability? Knowing that it can’t be the seven steps, but what would be some encouragements you’d give to people in order to make sure they’re aligned in a way that their entire life is profitable, as opposed to just their business?

Adii Pienaar: I would probably ask them to go back to that first moment that they decided that, “Hey, this is the thing that I’m going to do. I’m going to be an entrepreneur. I’m going to build my own business. I’m going to go down this path.” I would probably ask them, “What was the consideration in that moment?”

Adii Pienaar: And my gut feel is, they would probably give me some version of their pursuit of freedom. Whether they define freedom is wanting to kind of work on their own time, working on the things they want, work when they want, work with whom they want, et cetera. Then I would probably ask them, “How has that played out until now? And how many freedoms have you sacrificed?”

Adii Pienaar: I think the simplest, even though it kind of your biggest freedom that we give up these days, is the fact that we all have smartphones and our businesses live on our phones in our pockets. If you didn’t have a business, you probably would have that freedom. You’ve pursued many of these freedoms that comes with this entrepreneurial path and you’ve probably traded many other.

Adii Pienaar: I would probably ask them just to take stock of that. I would leave them with the thought of, especially given the success rate of most businesses it’s okay if this path is not for you. Sometimes the best decision many entrepreneurs can make, it’s actually just find that really great team, join their team, work on payroll, but do something they truly love where they’re not trading kind of all of these other freedoms or incurring all of these life costs. But that’s probably where I would start. Maybe slightly provocative, maybe not.

Bjork Ostrom: No, it’s great. I have this friend who his dad owned multiple different businesses. One was in manufacturing and he’d made springs for machines that made other machines. It was this super niche thing. He had a luxury dog babysitting. And I was like, “Hey, could I get together with you and your dad?” This is probably 12, 13, 14 years ago. “I just want to ask him about entrepreneurial stuff.”

Bjork Ostrom: He was super resistant, because he thought it was doing multi-level marketing, Amway. He was like, “I don’t want to get lunch with you and talk about business.” But ended up doing it. And eventually he was like, “Yeah, I can sit down with you and talk to you about it.” Essentially, it was just this open-ended question, “Do you have any advice for me? I’m trying to figure out, do I want to be an entrepreneur?”

Bjork Ostrom: He’s just like, “Don’t do it.” He was like, “Find a job you love, where you can work 9:00 to 5:00 or whatever it is, and go home and enjoy the evenings.” I think like you said, it’s a little bit provocative. It’s like, “Gosh, that’s not what I wanted to hear.” But also, I think his point was, if you’re in the pursuit of whatever it might be, freedom of time or not having the burden of certain things, the answer might not be building a business. Maybe it would be. But if you are building a business and my guess is implied within your response, make sure that the business is serving those values.

Bjork Ostrom: If the values won’t be served through business building, then you can look in other places and that’s okay. Which I think is a really helpful perspective for people to have as they process through stuff.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re coming to the end here. I want to make sure that people get an opportunity to check out the book. I have the PDF version, but I’m going to buy the hard copy version and put it up with all my other books in the office here. Where can people do that, and also follow along Adii, with what you’re up to?

Adii Pienaar: Easiest place to probably get the book is Amazon, both ebook on Kindle and paperback. Otherwise, most major retailers should have a copy of the book. If you can’t find it in any of those places, then my personal website to adii.me, A-D-I-I.me has loads of links to the book as well.

Adii Pienaar: And I’m also building my new startup Cogsy in public over there, and hoping to share that journey in a way where anyone that is keen will hold me accountable to my own Life Profitability as I also embark on this next phase of my life.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. One of the things that’s wonderful about that is, it’s not building it in public and exposing the metrics, which a lot of people do. We’ve done a version of that, others have. But to your point earlier in the podcast, building it in public with the context of Life Profitability, which I think is wonderful, as a way for us to feed into, to consume content that isn’t just about growth in numbers, but also about those other important considerations around Life Profitability.

Adii Pienaar: Totally.

Bjork Ostrom: Adii, thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Adii Pienaar: Thanks for having me, Bjork.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s a wrap for this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Thanks again for tuning in today. We hope you enjoyed this interview with Adii. I thought it was really interesting and kind of gave me a new perspective for becoming a little bit more mindful, more self-aware and to help me recognize my values, and how that can impact business. I hope that you had similar takeaways and if you have any thoughts or questions, you can head on over to the show notes for this episode at foodbloggerpro.com/292, and there you’ll find links to all of the other books or resources that Bjork and Adii mentioned in this episode. Thanks again for tuning in this week. We’ll see you next Tuesday and until then, make it a great week.

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