“There’s no difference between personal and business health”: 20 personal lessons from 20 years in business


BJM Digital founder and director Ben McIntyre.

As you might have gleaned from the business-focused part one of my 20 lessons from 20 years in business, for me, business growth pushes personal growth and vice versa. I firmly believe the two are inseparable.

But the old enemy ‘word count’ along with my desire to make use of the ’20’ theme has forced a divide, so I have made an exception!

So, here are the 20 lessons, observations, personal investments and lightbulb moments that have shaped me as a person over the past two decades in building BJM Digital

Remember, personal development is about so much more than the repetition of self-validating mantras, it’s critical to you and your business. Invest wisely.

1. Invest in yourself

Surely this is the best investment you can make… initially.

Everything starts with you, right?

From here you ‘build’ the ability and acumen to invest in others.

Over the years, I’ve invested heavily in my own development.

This is how I gained a clearer picture of my strengths, weaknesses, bruises, warts and all. It’s also how I learnt how to address them to ultimately help others, including family, friends and others close to me.

So I’ve learned that I am motivated to discover where improvements can be made, but am also happy in the fact that it’s perfect where I am.

2. Be vulnerable

Learning to open up and express yourself in the face of self-doubt, fear of judgment, or just plain timidity is the ultimate recipe for growth.

Once you learn everyone else experiences the same struggle, embracing vulnerability reveals itself for what it is: a necessary rite of passage.

3. Be honest

In any situation, dancing around the truth for fear of negative consequence will eventually lead to worse consequences.

Honesty is difficult, but undoubtedly rewarding, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It strengthens you while providing proof of life. 

4. Mindset is everything

Practice consciousness. Create time for yourself so you can create time for the things that matter.

Setting your mind to a specific mode of thinking for a specific circumstance will influence the way things play out.

Be grounded and clear.

But never set it in stone. Flexibility is just as important. 

5. Embrace your quirks

No matter how much we work on ourselves, our true natures are immovable.

The good news is that your idiosyncrasies can often be endearing or useful or both.

I usually have a million ideas in my head and that can be distracting. However, time and again, they’ve proven to be a strength too. 

6. Practice applied detachment

Needing every outcome to eventuate exactly as planned is like pinning all your hopes on a weather forecast.

Things don’t need to go your way, and if they did, you’d never get to practice resilience and adaptability and garner the accompanying respect and strengthens character.

7. Think long-term

The short-term matters, but focusing exclusively on two interlocking pieces from a 100,000-piece puzzle means you’ll miss the big picture.

Remain flexible, see what’s in front of you, and look to the far horizon. That’s called vision. 

8. Embrace failure

Reframe the way you look at mistakes or stuff-ups, and see them as notes in the margins of your life.

Then use those lessons to your advantage. 

9. Replace criticism with curiosity

Just as you redefine failure, you redefine criticism, which really, is the opportunity to consider another perspective, with calm curiosity.

10. Don’t be too self-critical

Mastering the art of receiving criticism is one thing, but learning to adjust the volume on the critical megaphone in your own mind is another.

I have at times been very self-critical for the simple human tendencies to lose focus or procrastinate. In that regard, I am a work in progress.

Spoiler alert: punishing yourself for procrastination is just another way to procrastinate. 

Take action and move on. 

11. Know where you are, to know where you’re going

There’s no GPS for life (yet), so getting to where you want to go doesn’t happen without a roadmap.

Plotting point A to B gives your year focus and purpose, clarifying necessary micro-decisions along the way. 

12. The grass is not greener

Peeping over the fence to other businesses and growing envious is counterproductive.

Every business is its own entity at its own stage of development and success.

Interestingly, almost all businesses face the very same challenges, so stay focused on yours.  

13. I’m not the best

‘My way or the highway’ stifles personal and professional growth.

I know I’m good at what I do, but I know it’s not the only way.

Be willing to let go, learn from others, surround yourself with people who might think differently.

The key is to use what you’ve learnt, but be willing to find another path, especially when it comes to creativity in business.

But make sure you’ve got people around who are willing too.

14. I don’t have to be liked

Wanting to be liked is part of my (and most empathetic people’s) nature.

Feeling it’s necessary to be liked to get anything done is, well, unhelpful.

15. Get up early

It’s not just about getting the worm, help yourself to the benefits of exercise, a sunrise or two, a longer run-up to the day and time to get your head right, so the body can follow.

Try 5.00am. I love it.

16. Value yourself

Stop, stand still, take a breath. Acknowledge your achievements and the fact your point of view is valued by your colleagues. This will help you to keep moving forward with confidence.

17. Practice makes better

Perfectionists are at war with their own unattainable expectations.

I suffer from perfectionism paralysis, but have learnt to realise that due to subjectivity, rarely is anything perfect.

Imperfect action trumps perfect inaction, every time.

18. There’s no difference between personal and business health

Work-life balance might be a misnomer.

Work is part of life, and investing in your own physical and mental health positively affects the health of your business.

How you show up each day impacts how your business shows up to the outside world. 

19. Go above and beyond

Those willing to do what they aren’t forced to, who focus on achievement over status, self as other, are usually the happiest and most successful.  

20. Put yourself out there

This article is proof of why sharing and being proud of who you (really) are is the only real way to live authentically.

Never let anything get in the way of that, or you.

Be vulnerable, be willing to be criticised, be willing to grow and experience finding out who you are and what you’re capable of.

That’s life, isn’t it? 

I’m a sensitive person. Most creative people are.

Twenty years ago, the mirror told me this was a flaw.

Twenty years later, the mirror admits it was wrong.

I never would have become who I’ve become or built what I’ve built without the ability to feel and consider and respond, deeply. 

That’s all from years invested in myself and our business, and that is what I call a return on investment. 

NOW READ: “Starting up and scaling are two different things”: 20 commercial lessons from 20 years in business

NOW READ: “Take the foot off the pedal”: How these Melbourne startups are putting employee mental health first


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