This Entrepreneur Told Us How You Can Slow Down and Be Successful

In July of this year I threw the ultimate uppercut to city life. I packed my bags (and by bags, I mean 56 boxes and two truckloads of belongings and plants. Mostly plants) and moved my life and my little family, to Coledale. A sweet little suburb just an hour south of Sydney's chaos tucked in behind the national park.

Life here is simple. We’ve got the towering escarpment to our West and beautiful coastline to our East, and only a few blocks of houses in between. We’re cocooned by stunning landscapes, cheap beer at the local pub and friendly locals with all the time in the world to chat about the weather. Our home is quiet, our mornings slow and our rhythm is finally settling into a more manageable pace of life. 

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. And I’m finally getting some real work done for the first time in years. My stress levels have plummeted, my budget for parking fines vanished and I’m almost positive my heart rate has actually slowed. After eight years in the big smoke, I’m starting to feel what it’s like to be ‘Tess’ again. Why am I telling you all of this? It's not just to brag about my awesome new life, although if anyone wants to listen to that, I’ll certainly give them an earful, but I wanted to share this slither of my life chapter with you to say loud and clear that as a business owner, your business depends on your health, happiness and productivity.

I love the saying ‘Happy wife, happy life’ and manage to cram in about four reminders of this saying to my boyfriend all before 9 a.m each day. And I think this adage can be applied to our business lives too. In business; Happy business owner, happy business. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but I can personally vouch for the truth in this statement.

My move to Coledale might seem small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things (hello Trump), but this move taught me some seriously big life lessons. The biggest was that I/you/we can all live the life we want, end of sentence. Regardless of the things you tell yourself are holding you back, regardless of the limitations we create for ourselves or the negative comments your sixth grade teacher had to say on your report card, you can do and be whatever the hell you want (spoken like a true millennial). 

The modern day office is changing—particularly, for us in the creative industries or working within innovative companies. We no longer need to slog out 100 hour weeks in the same building, at the same desk in our freshly ironed beige slacks. Even the most corporate companies are getting with the times and allowing staff members flexibility with working from home, reduced hours and more relaxed environments. As business owners, we need to harness the power of our creations and use it to our advantage, in order to create the life of our dreams. Because really, isn’t that why we got into business in the first place? To create our own mini utopia? Yes, damn right it is. 

When you're building a company, it's easy to think you'll fall behind if you don't keep your foot on the gas at all times. It’s easy to think that if you’re not whipping yourself into a state of burn-out that nothing will happen. It’s easy to think if you take a lunch break you’ll come back and your business will just be a pile of ashes on the ground. But frankly, it’s quite the opposite. When you create calm, give yourself time to create and make careful and strategic decisions, your business will move forward in leaps and bounds. Just like anything in life, balance is the key to growth.

Living in the city was full of opportunity and creativity, but the pace of it was not for me. I was constantly stressing about stress before there was even stress to stress about. Why couldn’t I work faster and get everything done in a day? And how could I possibility fit in social activities, exercise, being nice to my boyfriend all while green juice? I forever felt behind on my work-related projects and my life admin swallowed me up and spat me out on a regular basis.

I had obligations with friends that either loomed over my head like ghosts or, that consumed my entire weekends. On average I had about 120 unread emails that swirled as my head hit the pillow at the end of another marathon day. I had meetings with people I didn’t need to meet with, questions that could have answered themselves and tasks that kept me from doing the work that I really wanted to be doing. I was forever frustrated with myself for not being completely “on top” of my life. 

It wasn’t until I got here, to Coledale, that I realised I’d spent the last nine years racing around the city on high speed, even when there was absolutely no need. It had gotten to the point that even when I wasn’t in a hurry, I was. Whether it was walking from my car to my house or making my morning chai, there was a looming sense of urgency. To get it done so that I could simply hurry to the next thing. It reached a pinnacle at the end of last year. I began to wonder if there was some way I could just back away slowly from this whole thing and go live off the grid in a DIY tree house and sell home grown ‘greens’ for a living. 

As a kid, I was a member of the latchkey generation and had a few hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon. My brother and I would come home from school teach our dog magic tricks, play hide and seek in the yard, eat mulberries off the back tree and  chuck unripened grapes at people walking past our house, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day.

Those days were happy days. As an adult, I have intense cravings for that sense of freedom, unstructured time and slow living. So, it’s not much wonder that I am starting to feel right back at home in a small coastal town with only one set of traffic lights to pause my trip.

So, to help you swerve into the slow lane, here are some things I’ve learned about life in this  lane. Cue the confetti people, this is where the good stuff is.

#1: A support system is supportive to your system

The only way I was able to relinquish control and step back from being at my desk at the studio day-in, day-out was by hiring a General Manager. (Elodie, if you’re reading this, thanks for saving my life.) By hiring someone to take the reigns and ensure that there were no small fires burning in our storeroom or that no staff member attempted to fly from our balcony, I was able to transition south and now only commute to our Surry Hills studio two days a week. That’s not to say that you need to mortgage your house to afford yourself the Taj Mahal of staffing, but just build up your network as best you can. Make sure that you have a support system that is as tight as Freddie Mercury's pants—whether its your extended team of accountant, lawyer, and VA in the Philippines, or like me you have a physical team in a physical space.

#2: Slow(er) living is healthier than a green juice

When I'm stress free, I'm pretty much gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and chugging water and vitamins like there’s no tomorrow. The moment the cortisol rises, I'm inhaling donuts, nuzzling my face in pizza, doing lines of sugar and injecting wine and/or vodka into my veins. Slow(er) living means taking the time to make the right choices, healthy choices, it’s looking after yourself.

#3:The hiccups will be hard, but results worth it

Moving. I tried to come up with an analogy for something that incites suffering, dislodges your vertebrae, reduces you to a steamy hot mess and triples your phone bill with hotspotting charges. But, just like the whereabouts of my favourite watch after the move, I came up with nothing. Transitioning to slow(er) living—whether that’s two truckloads on the road, or maybe the promise to turn your phone off each Sunday—will be hard at first. But once you see the light, time, space and sanity on the other side, will be so worth it.

#4: It only works if you commit to the cause

Purchasing my house was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my life. So much so, in the thrill of excitement I misspelled my own name on the contract. Signing my life (albeit slightly misspelled), over to a mortgage was single-handedly the biggest, most adult thing I’ve ever done. This made even more exciting/nerve-wracking because we hadn’t even seen the house, (yes I’m crazy and blew a ridiculous amount of money on a house I’d never even visited). But I knew, that in order to truly seek out a slower life, I had to commit full throttle to changing my life.

#5: Baby steps, baby

You don’t have buy a house and move cities. And you certainly don’t have to buy herbal toothpaste and start milking your own goat to enjoy the simple things in life. Whilst I was stressed in Sydney, I sure did my bit to live the slowest life I possibly could there. I made an effort to not get in my car on weekends, I made a conscious effort to begin each morning with meditation and I only agreed to the bare necessities of social commitments. Oh, and each and every day I always partook in a little “Red Dog Therapy” and walked my Kelpie along the beaches. I made an effort to not take my phone with me, pause, to look at the beach in awe and smile to a few strangers along the way. You can start to introduce the slow(er) life just by doing small things, like not trying to stack the dishwasher, get dressed, make brekkie and plan your summer holiday all by the time the kettle boils (guilty).

#6 Simplify your friendship circles

When life gets busy, we all get sucked into our own vortexes of complex lives. We become a little self-involved and spend more time in our heads, calendars and commitments than we do nurturing the important relationships in our lives. Before you know it you’ve dropped off the Whatsapp group, the coffee dates land in your spam folder and baby shower invitations sent by carry pigeon died mid flight. And you know what? That’s OK. As a proud introvert, I can count my close friends on one hand. I love them dearly, and make time for these cherished people. But I don’t seek to have a million friends that I could never keep up with and be a good friend to those people. For me, it’s quality over quantity.

#7: Disconnect to reconnect

Everywhere you go, people are on their phones. Not making calls mind you, not actually really connecting with someone. But snapping and sharing and scrolling and wasting precious time. Feel free to point your finger at me and call me a hypocrite because I am a total sucker for this too, but I have been really trying to curb my habit and feeling so much better for it.

Being constantly connected on social media is a funny thing. Contradictory to its name, social media can leave you feeling very lonely despite having lots of “friends”. It’s important that we all tend to our friends IRL, not just our feeds.

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