#ALB59 – The teachers who chose sanity over salary
In this episode we are going to be talking with a couple who chose sanity over their salary. Paul and Emily Hughes from Parent Guides to GCSE. Paul and Emily met in 2003 as trainee teachers assigned to the same school and have been happily married for 11 years. Now that they’ve both escaped teaching, they run Parents Guide to GCSE, supporting parents whose children are in year 11.
They made £11,000 pounds in their launch week so they must be doing something right. Emily has a Master’s from Cambridge in Maths with Education, while Paul has a Master’s in Information Management and Computing from the University of Sheffield and they both taught successfully for 15 years before taking the leap. Emily also runs a pop choir in her spare time, as she says she needs to be able to boss people around having left teaching.
Making the break…..
Paul and Emily are fairly new to business, it was a relatively slow process for them they say, Emily started the process by going part time, and started various different streams of revenue, in theory at least, in order to try and be able to get out of the teaching job, that was at the time making her thoroughly miserable.
Paul took slightly longer to take the leap, but he has and the last 3 weeks for him in his words “the best 3 weeks ever”.
They have realised that whatever they have been doing is working. The bills are paid, the children are fed, and they are still living their lives except how they want too now. They have the freedom to do what they want, when they want, how they want and if they want!
Let’s meet Paul and Emily, shall we?
John – Hey everybody, welcome to episode 59 of the Ambitious Lifestyle Business Podcast. Today we are going to be talking with a couple who chose sanity over their salary.
Today’s guests are Paul and Emily Hughes from Parent Guide to GCSE.
Paul and Emily met in 2003 as trainee teachers assigned to the same school. It took a few years until they finally bonded over divorces, and Emily’s motorcycle leathers. Apparently that’s a long but obvious story.
And the rest as they say, is history. They’ve been happily married for 11 years, and now that they’ve both escaped teaching, their words not mine, they run the Parent Guide to GCSE’s, supporting parents whose children are in year 11.
They made £11,000 in their launch week so they must be doing something right.
Emily has a Master’s from Cambridge in Maths with Education, while Paul has a Master’s in Information Management and Computing from the University of Sheffield, which would have been very useful when we were getting technical trying to get our equipment set up this afternoon.
But we’ll also probably tell you what each of them taught for the 15 years they were in teaching. Emily also runs a pop choir in her spare time, as she says she needs to be able to boss people around having left teaching. Paul says he thinks that’s already covered at home, but frankly, we’re not getting involved. Welcome to the ALB Podcast, Podcast, Paul and Emily. How are you doing guys?
– We’re good.
– Welcome, welcome, I’ve gotta say, I love the dynamics between you two guys, ’cause you love to have fun, you don’t take yourself too seriously. You come across as people who are genuinely enjoying the journey of running your own business. ‘Cause you’re fairly new to business, aren’t you?
– Yeah, yeah.
– A lot of novices get scared absolutely shitless in their first year or so. It’s very much rabbit in headlights and oh my God, what are we gonna do, how are we gonna make payroll? Am I gonna be able to survive? Have I done the right thing? And you guys just seem to be loving the journey, loving the ride. Speaking of rides, we spent last week with Paul at Alton Towers.
– Yes, we went on more than one ride.
– We did.
– But I’m keen to know, has that been hard for you guys to actually relax and trust that what you’ve learned and implemented is going to work?
– The journey has kind of been, been oddly slow. So I kind of went part time from a job and I’d started various different streams of revenue, in theory at least, or attempts at streams of revenue in order to try and be able to get out of the teaching job, that was at the time making me thoroughly miserable.
And so having gone part time and taking that cut from, I was on the leadership spine so I was up there in terms of earning potential for teachers and cut my hours back down to normal teacher and then cut down to part time. So we kind of had stages to get used to the whole, oh my gosh we don’t have two full paychecks coming in and we have to kind of make that work. It’s been fine.
Since that all started a couple of years ago and we’ve gradually just realised that whatever we’ve been doing is working. We’re still paying the bills, we’re still feeding the children, the lights are still on. We can still afford to do the things that we want to do, and it’s not been quite as scary as we thought. And so as this has kind of gone on, I’m now completely relaxed about it. I’m like, yeah, it’ll all be fine, the money’ll come in, it’s gonna be okay. Paul is recently not salaried anymore.
– I was gonna say, it’s literally very short, hasn’t it, the period that you’ve kind of stepped away from education altogether.
– Yeah, and it’s been about, what, three weeks since you officially stopped teaching?
– It’s been the best three weeks ever. When Emily was working full time and not having a great time with teaching, but the discussion between us, when she said she wanted to go part time, it wasn’t a big debate about can we do this, can’t we, it was just do it, write a letter, send it off.
And then about three months later, can I give up teaching because I’m doing x, y and z? Again it wasn’t a big, sort of, let’s get the balance sheet and the family finances out and like that. Just, yeah, do it. She’s that clever and whatever she does seems to work.
– That will be written now, it’s been immortalised on the podcast, that she’s knows what she’s doing, she’s really clever and what she says works.
– She tells me that all the time, but
– I’m glad we have helped you to come to realise that.
– Yeah, it’s a good job we’ve got a script here, isn’t it? One thing I need to pick you up on Paul, so we were at Alton Towers last week, and this may or may not work for audio listeners of this podcast, but Paul pointed out, that this “business” is going quite well. And there were air quotes around this “business”.
– I remember saying at the time, you have got a business, it is a business and it does work and it does exist. It’s not a thing that you’re playing at!
– I think that’s something that Emily hit upon as well. She has this confidence because she’s been doing it for longer than I have. Having only been doing this for three weeks, I’ve been out of this salary loop for three weeks. I just have more concerns about making sure that the money’s coming in, etc, etc… But what we are doing, the business we’ve created or Emily created and I’ve joined into, is, I think, fantastic.
– Yes, I think he still feels slightly like he’s on an extended holiday because he’s doing work but he’s doing less than he was when he was teaching. So I think he still feels like this is some kind of dream and he’s gonna wake up and have to go back to school.
– Can’t quite believe his luck really, it’s like this business thing is amazing!
– Spending Friday at Alton Towers, I was working, obviously.
– Of course, yeah it’s networking!
– We had loads of ideas!
– Emily I wanted to ask you a little bit about your dad. I gathered from what you were telling me before, that he’s been quite a big inspiration in the way you’ve designed your business. Because again, you’ve gone into this business very early on, very eyes open, that it’s going to be an ambitious lifestyle business–
– And I think a lot of that comes from your dad, is that right?
– Yeah, very much so. So, dad is a design engineer by trade and I remember as a kid, he’d be off working for various power tool companies and designing power showers and he’d occasionally do work for some kind of chocolate company, and he’d go away for probably about a week. And he’d come back with a big bunch of 54321 bars, don’t know if you remember those, they were good.
– And a block of chocolate that was about 6″x6″x6″ that we just chipped bits off for about a year, in the fridge. And I remember more that he came back with chocolate, than that he was away for awhile.
But I know that when I was younger he was working super, super hard for other people and we had a nice house and we were all fine, but it wasn’t what he wanted to do, it wasn’t his passion. He is a keen guitarist and he had a guitar capo, that you’d put the thing on the neck of your guitar and strap it across the frets and it changes the pitch.
So if you wanna sing a song that’s a little bit higher, and you want to play it the easy way, you put the guitar capo on and it helps. He had this hideous one that detuned his guitar every time he used it. And being a design engineer, and a very clever man, he thought to himself, do you know what, I can do better with this.
So he built a better guitar capo, which has been used by Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams uses them, KT Tunstall shouts about them on social media. They are the bees knees because he’s worked super hard to make them the best possible one that you can get.
And now, having gradually kind of started that in our garage, and then worked his way up to this, it’s now a global business which is run by him and my brother, who now does all the social media and artist relations. Which sounds very fancy. And a couple of other people that help out with things, but it means he can work when he wants to.
They have the grandchildren around, they hang out with them, and he takes naps.
And thinks that’s the best thing ever because he can do that, he’s designed his business around it, so that he can have the life that he wants, look after all of us as a family and not be spending all of his time working for someone else. So the way that he’s done that, has made us think, that makes sense.
That should be what we’re aiming for.
So we should really start that now, let’s not start with something where we’re grafting constantly and hustling and then figure out how to turn that into something where we get to actually have a life as well.
Let’s design it really, really intentionally from the beginning to be an ambitious lifestyle business. So that’s kind of where it’s all come from really.
– So what time is nap time for you guys?
– Well we do have Fridays, so Fridays we knock off at about, twelve, one? And then we have a bit of quality time, we’ll go out for lunch or something. And then when the munchkin gets home from school we get a bit of time with her, where it’s not all about, oh, I’ve still got some work to do. It’s very deliberately planned out, blocked off time.
And that’s been something we’ve not been able to do. When we were both teaching, you know when you get the phone call from school and you’re like , are they ill, what’s happened?
No, no, we just wanted to let you know they’re getting an award in the assembly on Friday, can you come along?
And as a teacher that fills you with dread, because you’ve gotta go to the boss and say, “Can I have that lesson off?” And you can often get someone to cover it for you or maybe you’re even free, but if it’s that first lesson, the pressure to get back to school for the next lesson so you’re not putting anyone else out, or letting the kids down, is insane.
So you’re sat there, with your child beaming at the front like this is the best thing ever, I’m so proud of myself, and you’re clock watching because you know they’re dragging on and your child is last. Just make them move on because I’ve got to run out of the door in a minute. And then you’re kind of sprinting back to the car park, it’s no fun at all.
– In a way there’s more to it than that, because you get a phone call saying you’ve got this news, an award. You know that you’re not only given the time, you go to your boss and say can I have that hour to… Well you can do, but it’s gonna be unpaid and only if you can get cover here, there and everywhere. There’s lots of hoops you’ve gotta jump through.
– And then you have to be back by 10 o’clock and if you’re not back by 10 o’clock, so again, you’re clock watching. You’re watching the other children getting an award, it’s like get a move on, where’s my child, where’s my child? And it’s not enjoyable, and that was a really, kind of light bulb moment in a way that we can’t keep doing this, this is not the way to go with your family.
– I love the fact that you guys designed this from the absolute start. You’ve gone right in at the beginning and said, this is what we’re gonna do, these are the rules.
‘Cause so many people would just say it’s all about the money. What was my salary? I need to replace this, and the only way I can do this is by working really hard and going all in above anyone else.
And I think the fact that you guys are coming from a teaching background where, for those who don’t know, I’m married to a teacher. A teacher who went part time a couple of years ago, so she now only works 70 hours a week, she’s not paid for 70 hours per week of course. But that’s classed as a part time teacher now.
But actually, it is, for anyone who’s in employment at the moment and looking to start their own business, or has that call, and says your daughter’s at the special assembly, we’re getting her an award on Friday, can you go? For the majority of people who are in employment that’s a hard thing, because you have to get permission from your boss, etc…
But in teaching as well, it’s regimented, you can’t say, oh of course you can because you can catch up at the weekend, or just do that work at 6 am before you slope off or work from home to cover it. You can’t do that ’cause the kids are sat there thinking, where’s Mr. Hughes? He was meant to be here. Meant to be teaching me how to reboot my computer or whatever it is you taught them.
– Have I oversimplified it?
– It’s accurate. You’re on the money.
– That’s if the computer can switch on in the first place, which in a school is about 50-50. Yeah.
– It’s not true though, because the times I’ve needed to have that one hour off, I haven’t been teaching, I would have had a free lesson anyway, but they still won’t let you go without making a massive fuss over it.
– That’s largely down to where you work, there are schools that I think, take much better care of their teachers than the schools that we have been in more recently. And it’s often down to an individual department head, that one person that is your boss, can make or break whether you enjoy your job or whether it is a soul sucking nightmare of a day.
– Yeah, I think that’s the same for any boss, isn’t it? And any job. So ultimately the decision whether you can go to the special assembly, or the sports day, or to your sister’s wedding, or whatever, is… Will the shackles reach?
– So let’s talk a little bit about leaving teaching, ’cause I was doing a little bit of Google research yesterday, and there’s a huge, huge number of people who are contemplating leaving teaching, they’re thinking about quitting teaching.
They want to know how to do it, they want to know what is the path? So from those that have trodden the path, and as I said, I’m married to a teacher who is on that path, maybe not as far along the path as I’d like her to be. But who is ultimately on that path, what is the consideration here? Let’s go right back to the beginning where you first had those seeds of could we leave, or could one of you leave? Could you go part time? Could we start a business? What was your mindset in your self-talk around that time?
– I know when I was looking to get out, I did an awful lot of sitting and looking through various job sites and going, could I do that, could I do that? And as a teacher you have a really broad skill set in terms of training and terms of the amount of work you’re able to put in, and the amount of preparation you’re able to do. There’s loads that you could, I mean if you can sell algebra to teenagers you can sell anything to anyone..
– That is the new snow to Eskimos, algebra to teenagers.
– Yeah, really useful. We use it all the time, really. But I’m looking through all these jobs and it’s either something that looks terrifyingly senior, and I’m thinking well I don’t have the experience in that sector to jump in. I don’t think I could do that, or I have to go really, really junior, which would be incredibly frustrating at having worked my way up to where I was in teaching.
So then you have to go back to being near the bottom of the ladder. And it would have obviously made a huge difference in salary. So looking at swapping jobs wasn’t ever really gonna be a goer. It didn’t appeal at all. I’d almost given up on the idea and resigned myself to being stuck in teaching until I was, I don’t know, about 83 given the amount of times the government keep moving the goalposts. And then mum and dad knew that I was thoroughly miserable and they read something in the paper that was a woman who had a Fulfilled by Amazon business.
So she’d set up this business, she’d designed her, I think it was some kind of beauty product, vitamins or something, and she’d sent them all off to the Amazon warehouse, done all the listings and then done a bit of promoting it and so on. But Amazon then did all the logistics, and I was thinking, oh, actually I could do that.
Because I could do that alongside, ’cause my first foray into the business world was classroom posters. So I designed some for my classroom, other teachers had said wow, I love that, can you do me one for my classroom? And it sort of started, and the school said, could you do them for the whole school? Can we have the things then we can print them? And I thought that could work actually. And they’re still available on Amazon. Search for all you math teachers out there. That was something I could do kind of on the side, a little side hustle that would start me off on the right track, and if I could build it up then it would maybe be something that would let me escape.
– You were still part time at that stage?
– I think that was even pre-part time, wasn’t it? And then my sister runs the original pop choir over in York that I now run a sort of franchise of within Peterborough, and she suggested that I started up my own to be a little bit of an extra side hustle. So again, I’m just at this point building up the different revenue streams to go, could we? Could we, could this be something?
Because with choir I love to sing anyway, I’m just standing up and teaching, I’m quite good at being fun and engaging, ’cause if you can’t do that as a maths teacher you’re gonna really struggle on a daily basis. So that’s what I do every weekend actually. It’s like three hours of therapy for me every week. I love it. And it brings in more in terms of income, or has done over the last couple of years than anything else we’ve tried.
So it’s just been chipping away at little things, coming up with ideas and thinking outside the box. That was the biggest leap, not just thinking I want to quit teaching, I need a different job, but thinking I want to quit teaching, here are the skills that I’ve got, how can I use those creatively? And when the universe then chucks you a little nudge in the right direction, going, ah, I’m gonna try that, and running with it. It’s all just kind of fallen into place, hasn’t it really?
– I think we’re lucky ’cause there’s two of us. Obviously both teachers formerly, and I just kept working. It was the salary, It was the guaranteed money–
– I was okay with that because I wasn’t in the dark place at the time that Emily was, in terms of teaching. So I kind of almost gave her the freedom to be able to do that because we knew that bills were still gonna be paid and all that essential family stuff. Gave her time and space to be creative, and that’s kind of brought us to where we are now really.
– So you were the safety net?
– Yeah, and then I could bully him into leaving because it was all starting to snowball nicely.
– I didn’t need much bullying.
– You didn’t.
– No arm twisting.
– Had enough of that in work I’d imagine.
– And that was just the students.
– I was watching “The Wolf of Wall Street” the other day.
– Oh yeah, yeah.
– Might’ve been two days ago in fact, And it was kind of that the only regret you’re going to have is not doing it sooner. Do you think that’s a regret you might’ve had or you may be having? I know it’s only been three weeks, now you’ve seen what it’s about and dabbled–
– I think that the age of the children, where the children are at, I think probably, it’s been about perfect timing. I’d love to have escaped earlier, but I just don’t think, money’s not everything, but certain things had to be paid and I think it was the right time, the right decision. Because did one day a week for the first part of the September term at work–
– Just to interrupt here for a minute, it’s because he wussed out. So at the end of the summer I said to him, quit, just quit, quit, come and work with me. And he kinda did the old, but what if you know, I just… What if we need the money? And–
– Well, no, no.
– Just one day a week. And got then talked into it by the school.
– Yeah, no, I had some people at college, at school. What are we gonna do if you’re not here? You’re gonna do x, y and z. And then a certain class was all, but we haven’t finished our coursework and there’s nobody else to replace you, can you just stay on a bit longer? I said, yeah, I suppose a day a week, you know, just for six weeks. It seemed like not a big deal at the time.
– Is there a lot of guilt there, that’s kind of–
– Oh yeah, yeah.
– Implied or putting pressure on you?
– Yeah, absolutely. I should’ve just said no, it’s a decision that I’ve made and I need to move on. Most people when you leave your job you don’t look behind and think oh I should’ve stayed a little bit longer. I should’ve cut the ties and gone in August.
– Somebody else has the same thing, it’s like I’m down to two days a week, but perhaps I just do one day a week, perhaps I’ll just do that.
– Do I want to rip the plaster off?
– I’ll just see this year through, I’ll just see this class through. I wanna just see how these children, and then before you realise you’re in the second year, and the third year.
– I’m very good at making excuses and not making a decision, so I’m glad I got quite severely bullied by my wife.
– What does the bullying need to be because John could take some lessons is what I’m thinking.
– We were doing our best on the coaching call to convince her that she needs to do it. There’s a lot to be said for getting rid of the safety net, because when you get rid of the safety net, it’s do or die.
There’s no hedging and there’s no, kind of, splitting your brain because Paul, I know, for the last six weeks or so, when he was working one day a week, his head was in school more than that one day a week. And it was taking his focus away from what he should have been concentrating on because it’s what we’re working towards. So she needs to do it, I’m just putting in another little marker there. Advice from teachers.
– She’s kinda done it.
– You know I’m gonna force her to listen, I’m gonna bully her into listening to this episode. It’s interesting because obviously here I am now, nearly two decades into running my own businesses and everything you say about removing the safety net, I know is true. I’ve seen so many examples of this and can tell you examples from my own life and it’s like, there was a guy the other day, it was on a coaching call, the trapeze artist.
His sister fell off the high wire and broke her neck quite seriously, I think she was out for six months. And as a result of this accident, they used the safety net. They always had the safety net but they never used it, and all of a sudden they had this safety net. And the minute the safety net went up he kept falling off.
And every time he would get up on the high wire he’d fall, and he never fell before, but all of a sudden. And he said, actually the reason I’m falling is because of the safety net, because normally I would be ultra focused that I have to get this right, and I would do necessary right, and I would make absolutely sure that everything is spot on.
When the safety net’s there, I just kind of get on the rope and try to wing it and go a bit faster than I should, and maybe don’t get my balance right. I don’t give the scenario the serious consideration that I should do because I’ve got that safety net.
There’s a very good example, I think it’s one of the Batman films. Bruce Wayne is buried in a cave somewhere, this massive deep cavern and it’s like a prison. And if you escape you’re free to leave, and they give you a rope. Basically it’s almost an impossible climb, no one’s ever done it, or one person did it once.
At some point Bruce Wayne then has this hallucination after several, several failed attempts, and the hallucination says to him, “You must lose the rope, forget the rope.”
And so the only way he can possibly escape from this hellhole is to climb out without a rope, knowing that if he falls he’s dead.
And that’s the only way he could possibly get out because that’s how he devotes the serious effort and focus required to the situation, is by knowing if I fall this is game over, rather than yeah, I’m gonna keep one foot in and I’m gonna be two days a week, one day a week, ’cause you’ll be suddenly going, what if this doesn’t work? Well, what if it does work?
– Paul, you are now Batman, isn’t that exciting?
– No, I’m Batman. Not negotiating.
– One day a week, it was on a Tuesday, and so on Monday I’d be doing my job but I had clients I had to look after, and they’re way, way, way more important than schoolwork. So it got to late Monday night, and I was thinking I’m just gonna have to let people down tomorrow.
But instead of doing that I pulled a sickie and unashamedly because I was on zero hours for so nobody’s losing out necessarily. But I just made that decision to, sort of take that day off school to make sure I stayed here and got on with the job that I was now doing. It got to the point where it was becoming a burden, I needed to cut the safety net.
– Which proves that who was right, dear?
– It was either you or I.
– Let me just check the script, hang on.
– I think it could’ve been me, it could’ve been me. Or.
– Yes, dear.
– It could’ve been, yeah.
– Could’ve been you. But you left it too late.
– I mean obviously I’m dishing out advice here about removing safety nets and climbing up things without a rope. Just take away that safety net, this is the guy who, again as a civil servant I went part time first, and then, only once I had six months wages in the bank, did I quit.
So I had that safety net. So I can preach and do what I say, not what I do. That’s the lesson from this.
– Cool. Staying on the education themes, let’s talk about the importance of education as a business owner, so you mentioned before that you’ve read a tonne of business books.
– So where did this love of business books and non-fiction come from?
– I can’t remember what would have been first.
– I think way back when I did “The Four Hour Work Week“, I think I tried that one–
– That’s great fun for a teacher to read, “The Four Hour Work Week”. So you had a VA doing all the teaching for you, yet, I’m gonna check my lesson plans once a week on a Monday and if it’s going to wait a week.
– Oh, that would be so lovely. No, I love reading anyway, and I have always enjoyed learning new things. I’ve always dabbled in stuff, so as a teacher I made my own website and coded some maths games to entertain the kids as starters and things to make life slightly easier.
So I like to learn new stuff, so whenever I see a recommendation, so I’ve been on your list of books, and I’ve gone through and I’m like, yeah, read that, read that, read that, ooh, that’s going on the list. Whenever I see a recommendation, I’m thinking, I should read that. I’ve got, I think, 227 business books on my Kindle at the moment that I’ve kind of worked my way through, and there are some I go back to on a regular basis.
Things like “Oversubscribed” gets read a lot. Your books get read a lot, we’re liking those, I’m making him do “Big Ideas for Small Businesses” now ’cause you haven’t read that one, had you?
– No, no, no. Shame, shame, halfway through, halfway through.
In terms of the mindset shift specifically for women in business, because I think we talk to ourselves differently than you do. I assume, never having been a bloke, I’m not certain, but, you know. Her books speak to me in a kind of very visceral way. Seriously, you’re a badass, stop pretending you’re not, just do the thing, eat the frog.
And then all of the books I’d read, have been kind of absorbed in, like a little sponge. And then it got to the point where we were designing this business and I just found myself going, oh, we’re going to steal this idea from here, I’m gonna make sure we build in this from here, and I’m gonna take this from here.
And if I hadn’t had that ongoing education all the way up to that point, I don’t think it would be what it is today, and I don’t think it would have worked anywhere near as well as it has done. ‘Cause it really has been a mishmash of lots of really different, but really good ideas from different people. We were listening to the Oversubscribed podcast, making notes while I’m driving, Emily’s just sitting there making notes even though she’s read it a hundred times.
– And she’s still sitting there scribbling notes, things that she hadn’t picked up on, things that we need to do, things that… So two hours later she’s got this plan.
– Whenever you read something you’ve gained, I dunno, two, three months worth of life experience and business experience in the meantime. Stuff that didn’t spark something the last time you read it, now you might have an application for it. So you’ve got to keep those things in mind, I think.
– Yeah, definitely. One of my go to books, I think it might have been the first personal development book that I read, was “Rich Dad, Poor Dad“.
– I think I’ve re-read it eight times now. But every time I’ve read that book, I’ve interpreted it differently, I’ve got something else out of it, I’ve spotted something that was never there before.
No, it was there before, the words have not changed in that book. I’ve picked up the same copy of the same book every time, but the person who first picked up that book in 2001 was just starting a business, who as you will read in “Big Ideas for Small Businesses” Paul, didn’t feel that it was a real “business” and stated to the Plymouth Evening Herald in 2001, that I’d like to run a real business one day.
– I read that book then, so that was a real novice business owner who was really still a civil servant who thought he was playing at running a business. Fast forward 10 years and all of a sudden I’ve been running 30 online businesses, I’m in a very different place, focused now, I’ve got two decades of experience, and I could probably quote you most of that book. But I guarantee, if I was to re-read that book, and it’s been a couple of years since I have re-read it, I guarantee if I pick up that book this weekend, it will spark something in me and I will take some action as a result.
– Yep, and that’s the important bit, is taking action as a result. It’s all very well reading and absorbing all the different ideas and thinking, oh that’s nice, that’d be a really good idea. But if you don’t then apply it in some way, then it doesn’t actually do you any good. So I’ve started, I’m starting debriefing books in a fashion, and as I’ve read them–
– It was Elaine who was saying that, Elaine Colliar wasn’t it, talking about debriefing and making notes.
– Making either a mind map, I’ve just discovered, I think it was Dean, I think it was who suggested WorkFlowy which is a really good note taking app kinda thing. You actually just write it down in your chapters and it comes up with a one page wonder kinda thing at the end.
Much the same as a mind map I guess, depending on how you kind of read and how you kind of process it. But again, you’ve got that one sheet of paper which is nice and easy to determine what it is, so you keep quotes, key takeaways, whatever. Whatever you kind of want, it’s a great plan.
– It’s one of those things again, this has come from a book, so this has come Charlie Munger’s, what’s it called, it’s that big book over there, Oh, “Poor Charlie’s Almanack“, that’s it. He talks about taking ideas from different disciplines and just applying them elsewhere.
So this is all about digesting those 264 books on your Kindle and taking an idea from this, and an idea from that and saying well, what if I applied that to this thing over here. And with the book debriefs, now it started off as just literally, I wanted to make my notes.
And then it started with, I’ll take my highlights, and then I think we had the podcast with Elaine Colliar. Elaine talked about how to remember things, how to make things move from your short term memory to your long term memory.
And this is something that I’ve played with over the years, kind of okay, I’ve got books over there, I’ve got a highlight system, now I make sure I’m re-reading just the highlights and I aim to kind of, ’cause remember, Elaine told us that to remember something you recall it after 10 minutes.
Then it was a day, a week, a month, a quarter, a year, I think.
So I’m trying to now make sure I stick to that schedule with my go to books. I can’t do that with all my books because there aren’t enough hours in the day.
But there are certain books that if I review them once a month, or once a quarter, or even for some that I know very well, once a year, I reaffirm that learning.
And I picked something else up the other day which was about recall, how we remember things. It’s better to use recall than it is to review.
So this was talking about study, and it’s maybe something you guys have come across before, with Parent Guide to GCSE is that, rather than cramming your revision in the night before and re-reading and re-reading and re-reading, you’re better off reading it once, putting it down then finding out what you can remember.
And I’ve got a real life example of this from last weekend.
Actually, by the time this comes out, I will have completed my first boxing match. At the end of this month I’m gonna be stepping in the ring. Two weeks tomorrow I will be stepping in the ring, so I’ve been doing a bit of training, a bit of sparring, and I have an extra session with Tom Boulden who was on an earlier podcast with Three Sixty Mortgages.
And Tom showed me a lot of different things that basically, I was doing wrong that will result in me either wasting my energy completely, or getting punched in the face. And this was an hour long session with Tom and he told me about 12 different things, and what I needed to do then was come home and try and recall all those things.
So I wrote down all the things he told me, but I did that an hour later.
So I very deliberately waited, sat down an hour later and recalled.
And all of a sudden now, I can recall what those things are. It was pivoting, it was jabbing the stomach when I should be hooking, and using a double jab, and it was pivoting the hips, and power comes from…
Lots of different things, but that now comes easier to mind because I used recall rather than reviewing, and I’m trying to do that with books now.
I’m trying to, for example, I listened to a Blinkist, so I listened to a summary of a book, 20 minute summary of a book. And then rather than just kinda going back over that or looking at the written highlights, I will try and write down what the six key takeaways were from that last 20 minutes that I listened to.
And for those listening to the podcast today, that could be something that you implement now, is you listen to this podcast today, before you go on to the next podcast on your playlist, just hit pause, grab a piece of paper, grab your phone, and just write down three things that you remember from this episode.
It could be a quote, it could be an action point, it could be a book that you need to read that we’ve recommended, but three things that you remember from this episode. Don’t write it down at the time, wait until the end of the episode and then do it. Are you guys aware of any, after you’ve done GCSE revision, are you guys aware of any kind of science, or anything behind this?
– No, just I think I’ve been talking recently with our members about how if your child is just reading through their notes, then it gets very easy to get to the point where you’re feeling like it’s familiar. Because you’re reading through your notes that you wrote, and so it’s all starting to feel like, oh yeah I know this, I recognise all of this, this is fine I remember this, because you’re reading the same thing over and over.
Whereas if you covered up your notes and asked someone else to ask you questions about it, or tried to write a short summary, that just goes entirely out the window, because you don’t have your little prompts in front of you, where your brains are going, oh yeah, I know that. That’s familiar.
And it’s something that students are really bad at, they tend to want to re-read their notes as their revision, because it’s comfortable, and it’s easy and it doesn’t make them feel stupid, because they’re re-reading their notes, they’re not being tested on anything. And that’s why a lot of them get to the exam and they can’t remember what they’re supposed to be talking about, ’cause they don’t have the prompts in front of them.
It’s not really science behind it, but it’s something that a lot of parents are saying to us is, my child doesn’t know how to revise, what should we be asking them to do? Because schools give a lot of advice to kids, and you know how communicative teenagers can be.
– Yeah, there’s a letter in my bag somewhere, yeah.
– As parents, if your child doesn’t tell you this stuff, you have no way of knowing. It’s all out there on the internet somewhere, but there’s also a lot of bad advice out there. So what we’re trying to do is combine all the good advice using our teaching experience and our parenting experience, because we have 17 year olds, an almost 11 year old.
By the time this comes out she will be 11, which is terrifying and makes me feel quite old. We’re taking what we know and putting it into practical parent friendly advice because as human beings we’re terrible at learning new stuff and remembering stuff. It’s not just teenagers ’cause they’re teenagers, it’s advice that everyone listening is going, oh, that’s a good idea John, I should do that, I should go back at the end of this podcast and write some stuff down, because it’s not something we train ourselves to do. Because we don’t have to.
– I think that no one gets how to use them either, ’cause here’s a whole load of tools you can use to do help with your revisions. Do your cue cards, do your revision cards, you’ve got your mind maps, you’ve got this and that ever.
Find something that works for you and go with it, but they don’t really kind of process which is the thing that will work for them, and how that can then be used to do the revision and then kinda crack on so you end up with your notes, read through them, yeah, I’ve done an over reading today, I’m off to the exam. And like you kind of said, that doesn’t work, and you but they don’t get those practical guides, here’s what you’ve got, here’s how to use it sort of thing.
– It’s the old, again pulling an idea from Ray Dalio now, billionaire hedge fund manager, the idea of meritocracy, that you can learn everything, but not everything has equal value. There are certain things you need to remember that are more important to remember than others, so have you structured that hierarchy?
– How has your mental health and your mindset changed over these last two to three years?
– Well, I’m coming from a history of, I had a couple of bad bosses in a row, and I’d gone–
– No names.
– Yes, I shan’t name names. And I went from the point when my line manager was someone who had previously been in my job and who trusted me, and valued my input, and talked to me as an equal, and helped me really understand what was going on, and then she left.
And my next line manager was not so lovely, and I just felt about this-big on a daily basis and along with all the pressure of the job, caused me to be thoroughly miserable.
And it got to the point where I was driving to school everyday in tears and just not seeing a way out. And we kind of, I think we had a Christmas break, didn’t we, and it got to the point. Normally as teachers you get to two, three days before you’re going to go back at the end of the holiday and the dread starts to sink in. You have the pre-work nightmares where you get put in front of a class and told to teach something that isn’t your subject.
Or you’re suddenly in charge of a school trip to somewhere really random and all the kids are running amok and you can’t do anything about it. For me this was a whole new thing, there was still a week and a half to go of the Christmas holidays and I was dreading it.
– But you were getting emails from this person saying, 27th, 28th of December, so you’re still full holiday mode, but you’re reading your work emails and it’s saying I want this on my desk, I need x, y, z and it needs to be presented like this, that and the other. You showed me and you just clearly couldn’t deal with it. I think that was a very short conversation, don’t go back, you’re being bullied–
– It’s come and gone from there.
– So I got myself signed off with stress, which as a teacher is a pretty big deal. I’m sure in every aspect of different work life, but as a teacher that’s very much admitting defeat. And it sounds like the kids have beaten you when it’s really not that at all. Because I’d stopped trying to cope, my brain kinda went, well thank goodness we can stop trying to cope, and I completely lost the plot. And I ended up off for about three months with depression. I couldn’t get off the sofa, I was fairly useless, I think, I’m very sorry. I’m climbing back now, and–
– The script here Paul says, “No you weren’t, you were absolutely fine.”
– Bless him, I’m very lucky that you put up with all of that and–
– No, go on, let’s talk more about that. Talk more about how amazing I am.
– I’m so lucky.
– So I kind of got better, and I got another job, and I went back in. I’d gone for the head of department job against this other person, and she got the job. And I’d then gone for a lead practitioner job, in most places a slight step above, it’s at least parallel with the head of department.
But she was not keen on working with a strong woman, and so nothing I did was good enough, nothing at all. And it got to the point where I had applied for secondment to the SOB and the head was stunned, you could see it in his face, totally surprised. Actually admitted, really surprised that you’ve gone for this, because all the things that I’d been doing in the department, all the difference that I’ve been making had either been ignored, talked down or taken credit for in some cases by this boss, who I just couldn’t cope with anymore.
And I could feel myself starting to wobble, I could feel myself starting to go back down that dark slide, that ends in misery. I thought, I can’t do this anymore, so I quit. I did the right thing, I went and talked to the boss, and they said, oh we’ve got to back the horse we bet on. Sorry, we’ve got to run with what she says, so I quit without a job to go to, which again, as a teacher, is a fairly big deal. I was reeling, the beginning of the end.
– Your husband must be really supportive
– He is.
– And amazing.
– He is, yeah. And modest as well, yeah.
– Again, you worked with that safety net, but as you alluded, you chose your sanity over the salary.
– Yeah, and so since then I’ve been very aware of the fact that depression is like, I think it’s like you dislocate your knee, it’s always that much easier to dislocate again in future because everything’s got a little bit stretched out of place. Depression is like that, once you’ve had an episode, you’re more likely to have another episode, and so on and so on. And I’m not going back there, not ever again.
Which means I’m not going back to being employed ever again, because I’m not running that risk because you can’t control your boss. Whatever happens, you can’t. You can go into a job having met the boss and think they’re really lovely and wonderful, and then five minutes down the line they’re gone and somebody else is in place. And you’re at the mercy of someone else. So this is going to work, it has to work.
– Indeed, so mindset wise, it’s been a case of being determined. And I have had a, I think fairly unshakeable confidence from the beginning that this was going to work.
Because between us we are hardworking and driven enough, we are smart enough, we are, I think, humble enough to know that we don’t know everything, and we need to surround ourselves with smart people who have been there and done this. And we learn from them, which is one of the many reasons we joined the One Percent Club, because it makes such a difference to have a group of like minded people to talk to and say that, we’re thinking of doing this, and they’ll go, don’t do it like that, I tried that, do it like this, have you thought about trying this?
– That confidence, that belief that it’s going to end up being a business that will not only support us in a sort of carrying on as we were when we were teaching, but will go further than that. That has meant it’s not been quite as scary to press go on those things. So I did a copywriting course ’cause I was trying to write weekly emails and content and kind of dreading it, because I didn’t think I was very good at it.
And I probably wasn’t. There was a copywriting free webinar, you know how it goes, you do the free webinar and they they talk you into the product afterwards.
– Yep, big push at the end.
– Yeah, I’m gonna do the webinar, it’ll be fine. And then she sent this series of emails and by the end of it, I was going, no, I need to find 650 pounds, I need to get on this course. Then I thought, hang on a minute, if she can do that in a series of emails, she is the person I need to learn this from.
– And I did it and it was terrifying, because that was money we didn’t have in the business at the time, but because I know this is gonna work, that’s something that isn’t negotiable. I’ve gotta learn it, because what, we’re gonna pay someone else to do that forever and ever? No, I’ve got to get better at it. So, the mindset there has always just been do what needs to be done.
– And that’s why I’m reading good books to encourage me to do that kind of stuff. I’m working on my money mindset at the moment, so I’m reading Rob Moore’s “Money”.
– God, that’s a big, big book, isn’t it.
– Exactly what Emily said yesterday.
– I said to Paul, I’ll do you a summary, it’s okay, you don’t need to read this one.
– Okay, I shall pop that on the list as well.
– Just to add, you’ve now got 266 books to get through on Kindle.
– You don’t want to run out.
– No, I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening.
– Nope. I think if I run out I’ll just write my own. I’ll be at that point. Can’t be that hard, right?
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