In this episode, I tell some real-life stories in which I have made my own breaks. I define ‘making your break’ as creating your own opportunities that will significantly change your life, be it business or personal.
I want you to think about a time in your life when you actively went out and made your own break – you created your own opportunity or intentionally changed the course of your life and your business.
I’m fascinated by how successful people got to where they are today; what sacrifices did it require and what measures did they take in order to make opportunities for themselves?
I am also a big believer in being intentional, in the sense that opportunities won’t usually just come your way – you have to make them cross your path. This philosophy has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with intentionally creating your own opportunities. Whether that is deciding to be in the right place at the right time, making sure that you know the right people, or being aware of exactly what to say when it matters, you should always be intentional and have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. It is much easier to create your own break than to sit and hope that you’ll get lucky someday.
I was 16 years old. I’d recently quit school and moved out of home.
We grew up in government housing and there was a lot of domestic violence and drug use in my house and neighborhood, so moving at such a young age didn’t feel like a choice. It felt like the first step towards taking control of my life.
I got a job working as a laborer and the guy that I worked for didn’t pay any tax so everything was dealt with in cash. As I already knew that this job wasn’t going to last long, every afternoon I would go to the phone booth and cold call businesses from the directory in the hope of getting myself a real job. This was the second step towards changing my situation.
Eventually, I heard from someone at work that there was a huge new construction site in town and the team there was building a new art gallery.
So that afternoon I walked into town and bought some new work boots and the next day I rode my bike to my mum’s house to borrow her car.
I wasn’t even old enough to drive at that point but that wasn’t going to stop me from making my break.
I drove to the job site at the same time as all the tradesman at 6 am, walked up to the site office and, with my heart sinking to the bottom of my belly, knocked on the door.
The foreman was encouraged to see me standing there saying that I was ready to start my new job that very day. He questioned my age but after I showed him my car, he was convinced that I must have been old enough for the job.
I did get the job and I started work that day.
I knew what I wanted and I wasn’t going to leave it to chance. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me or give myself any excuse for why I couldn’t have that job.
That day changed my life, as I made my own break; even though it may sound small, it had a huge impact on the rest of my life.
I just visited my dad who was in rehab and really wanted to help him.
And I came to the conclusion that the only way I could help him would be to get him a job.
And I tried and tried. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t figure out how to get a job for someone that was essentially unemployable.
Again, I came up with a new idea: What if I became an employer? And I created a job for him?
Why can’t I run my own business?
So my girlfriend Leelou and I set out to start a café. We got friends and family to come and help with renovations and everything else that we needed in order to launch the business.
Unfortunately, my dad died of a drug overdose just two weeks before we opened the doors of the café. We lost the whole reason why we were starting it in the first place.
I didn’t know a thing about business when we opened the doors. I just figured that if I sold great coffee and food, people would pay us money and we would be able to continue to provide great coffee and food. I wasn’t actually too far from the truth; I just didn’t know all the other things that you need to know in business.
Although I made my own break and created my own business, we closed the doors 12 months after we opened and lost everything.
Hey, I didn’t say that making your own opportunities will always result in a success story! Sometimes you do things to change the course of your life and have no control over the outcome.
But I do see that time of my life as a huge success and I learned so much of what I know now from those first 12 months in business.
I was running the café and we had begun to lose money…big time. I realised that I was going to have to get a job and bring more money to the table in order to keep the café open.
The problem was, while I had finished my apprenticeship as an electrician before opening the café, my previous employer was withholding my Electrical Licence as a blackmail tactic to get me to come back and work for him. I’d finished a four-year apprenticeship and didn’t have an Electrical Licence to show for it.
So I started a job search online and found some great opportunities.
There was one electrical job that really stood out to me but I got a little disheartened when I read the description.
It said something like this:
I didn’t want this job, I needed this job – my business and future depended on it.
So I stopped myself from making up excuses why for I wouldn’t get it and instead just concentrated on getting the job.
I Googled the business name and found a direct email address and the owner’s name.
Then I wrote a simple email to him that went like this:
I’ve just seen a job advertised by you guys and I wanted to have a quick chat.
I don’t have a resume or a cover letter because I am too busy working hard in my own business most of the time.
But I can tell you this: I will work harder than anyone else and I am ready to start work tomorrow.
I promise that you won’t regret hiring me.
Looking forward to your call.
I got a call back within the hour. I went for an interview and started the job the next day.
When I asked him if there had been any other interest in the job, he said he’d had over 300 applications over that weekend and there were mountains of resumes to go through. But when I emailed him, I was the only person that had said that I would work hard.
(He never even asked me about my Electrical Licence but I did find out down the track that he knew I didn’t have a license but also felt that I was more ambitious than anyone else, so he couldn’t not give me the job!)
I recently took out a job ad for a Project Manager position in my business.
Within a week I had about 20 resumes to look through. It was hard work because most of the resumes didn’t even show me a picture of the person applying for the job. While I don’t want to judge a book by its cover, I do like to see what the person looks like when I’m reading their words; it just makes me connect with them on a different level.
I got an email in my direct inbox that turned out to be a job application, which was weird because I didn’t put my email address out publicly.
It was from a person called Zoi who had created a whole webpage on her website dedicated to the job application, which included a bit of her personal background, her core values and a statement regarding what she was going to do for me and what she can bring to the table.
This is what I had been waiting for: someone with enough ambition to reach out and take the job, not just apply for it.
Needless to say, I got her in for an interview and she started work right away.
She made her own break and, as an employer, that is exactly the type of person I was looking for.
Shoutout to Zoi who is now working for the workshop business and together we are going to create some amazing resources that will be available to you guys.