Adii Pienaar is someone who uses his strengths, gifts, and talents in a variety of ways to solve real problems for others. He has been able to implement self-expression into his career of building successful companies. He’s a family man, a seeker, and a learner. He’s also a founder of Cogsy, Conversio, and WooCommerce; which shows he knows a thing or two about building and growing a successful business from the ground up. One of the things that sets Adii apart is his ability to balance creating these successful businesses with the things he values most in life.
In addition to his success in the business and tech worlds, he is also a writer. His latest book is called “Life Profitability: The New Measure of Entrepreneurial Success”. He’s also written a book called “Rockstar Business”, another called “Branding”, and even a book of poetry. He’s been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Startups.com. He’s a native of South Africa, where he lives in Cape Town with his wife Jeanne and their two children. You can learn more about him and the work he does at Adii.me.
“Like the age-old question, what is the meaning of life? We should answer that question. And I don’t think you find those answers exclusively by building a business.”
This week on the School for Good Living Podcast:
Connect With The Guest:
Adii Pienaar [00:00:00] I really doubt that money is what anyone is truly after. All right. I think, you know, often when I when I say something like that, like people rightly question me…
Brilliant Miller [00:00:12] Hi, I’m brilliant. Your host for this show. I know that I’m incredibly blessed. As the son of self-made billionaires, I’ve seen the high price some people pay for success. And I’ve learned that money really can’t buy happiness. But I’ve also had the good fortune to learn directly from many of the world’s leading teachers. If you are ready to be, do, have, and give more. This podcast is for you.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:35] My guest today is someone who used his strengths, gifts, and talents in a variety of ways to solve real problems for others. And also to find some way of self expression and to earn a living in the process. I think that’s the dream for many of us. His name is Adii Pienaar. He’s a family man, he’s a seeker, he’s a learner. He’s also a three time founder. He founded companies, some of which you may have heard of, especially if you work in the tech-space. Cogsy, Conversio, WooCommerce, a couple of which had multi-million dollar exits. So he knows a thing or two about building and growing a successful business from the ground up. He is also a writer. His latest book is called “Life Profitability: The New Measure of Entrepreneurial Success”. He’s also written a book called “Rockstar Business”, another called “Branding”, and he’s written a book of poetry. He’s been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Startups.com. He’s a native of South Africa, where he lives in Cape Town with his wife Jeanne and their two children. I really enjoyed Adii’s book and getting to know him better through this interview. I hope you enjoy this conversation with my new friend Adii Pienaar. You can learn more about him and the work he does at Adii.me.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:35] Adii welcome to the School for Good Living.
Adii Pienaar [00:00:38] Awesome, thanks for having me. Brilliant.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:40] Will you tell me, please, what is life about?
Adii Pienaar [00:00:44] Oh is it the hard questions first? I think for me at least, and the way I think about life is really, you know, how can I you know, you wake up every single day and just be the kind of the truest version of myself? How can I manifest that kind of choice to myself? And, you know, part of that is in that manifestation, I think, is the learning and discovery. But sometimes I think, you know, as I’ve gone through life and matured and just experienced more things in the world and kind of orientating myself, and then you learn that those things like the next day, I kind of want to go out and I want to see with these new things that I have learned about the world of myself, how can you just continue that pursuit of manifesting kind of a truer and truer version of myself?
Brilliant Miller [00:01:31] All right, thank you for that. So, yeah, you’re right, starting with the hard questions, right, like what is life about, who are you, this kind of thing. But I understand that you don’t like labels. That’s understandable. But nevertheless, you have three labels that you strive to achieve and make your own. Family man, dad, entrepreneur, and writer. You say that those are labels that you’ve been striving to make your own for as long as you can remember. Tell me tell me about that. How, how and why?
Adii Pienaar [00:02:07] I think, um, partly I think partly when I think about the genesis of this and this is totally me culpa reflecting now, um, I’m not a hundred percent convinced that this was kind of why I attach myself to this label and why I decided to use labels, you know, when I did. But I think what is helpful with the label is that it really focuses kind of one’s energy and attention. And I think to that extent, like all of those three things are kind of weird at one stage, before I really became those things were aspirational. So they were like you focusing on that thing, like wanting to be that thing or wanting to use the label became the force then that kind of focused efforts essentially to pull me forward. So I think, like, that’s that can be a part of it. And then, you know, for the longest reason or for the longest time, I’ve wanted to be a dad, for example. I married really, really young, at least in terms of the kind of modern age I could manage that. Twenty five. Twenty six I went off and had kids shortly thereafter, our first son, Eddie Junior, was born a little more than a year later. So that’s that kind of focusing at least what it did for me. Right. Is like once I wanted to do the thing, like, it really pulled me forward and I really went all out for it. So I think that’s where it’s helpful. And then the other side, I think is helpful as well. Right. Which is when you use those labels, it is a simpler way of essentially allowing another person to orientate themselves towards you. Right. Like it is at least a conversation starter. That’s the positive part. The reason I don’t like labels is kind of everything else around labels. Right. But I think those are the two of the positive things that has kind of manifested for me with regards to those labels. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:04:02] You know, this is something I’m I’m perpetually fascinated by because I know, as you’re saying, that what we do follows naturally from who we know ourselves to be. And the labels, like you’re saying, there can be an upside. There can be a downside. Right. And there can be an aspirational component. There can be more of a declarative, declarative component that this is who I am now, not who I’m striving to become. But one thing I wonder is how fully do you feel that you have that you are those things now versus you’re still on that that journey of of becoming?
Adii Pienaar [00:04:42] Well, I think I’m still on the journey of becoming I guess the question then probably is for me, at least, is you know, is there a season where those labels are kind of more prevalent? Can you actually achieve a label? Is there that level you reach level three and then you kind of acquire this badge or this kind of set of stars and then that is it? I think, you know, I think probably the best way to describe that is some labels are achievement kind of related, like becoming a dad, not that being a dad is achievement, but that you have to do an actual thing. You have to conceive a kid or you have to adopt the kid, right? You can only really say you’re a dad until like once you do that thing.
Brilliant Miller [00:05:41] But just just to interject for a moment. There’s a lot of people that do that, that then kind of disappear. Right. And they’re not dads. So just having done that, is it really sufficient evidence that you are?
Adii Pienaar [00:05:53] Yeah, I really like that. I should have brought a whole bottle of red wine to the table. So you’re right. And I think, like what you point out there, is that part of that kind of you? I think that’s where the waters are a little muddied, right. As regards to kind of what is actually what these labels mean. And the best answer that I probably have there is when I think about, you know, kind of being an entrepreneur, I don’t necessarily think about the kind of successes, what I actually think about is the mindset. Right. And I think about kind of how I describe that kind of entrepreneurial mindset or like what that means for me, because I, again, like I think what I’ve learned is when I’ve gotten stuck, where I felt that kind of the label of being an entrepreneur has been toxic for me has been because I ascribe or I attach certain value to other people’s definition of what it means to be an entrepeneur, I don’t like those bits. If that’s true, then I don’t want the label. Whereas it’s not true, like we all define these things differently. And I think when, you know, if it is then a mindset, right, you know, another one that I can throw out there as I consider myself a maker of some kind, like I want to be creating something whether it’s writing, whether it’s business. I want to put some things out in the world. And that is more of a kind of a ritual, a habit or a thing that you kind of just never become, that thing never becomes you. It’s just a thing that you constantly show up. You do. You manifest. You rest and you manifest again. So it just constantly is that energy flow. And I like that more like I like that mindset more.
Brilliant Miller [00:07:33] Yeah, I love that. And I love what you’ve just said about rest and manifest. And there’s this alternation. Right. And I’m reminded of the thing Buckminster Fuller said about “I don’t know what I am. I seem to be a verb.” Right. And this about we try to put a label on things, we turn a verb into a noun, you know, this kind of thing. Like I’m an entrepreneur, not someone who practices entrepreneurship or is entrepreneurial, you know, but even then, it’s an adjective. So, yeah, it’s fascinating. Well, you talk about being a maker and you have written a lot, you write poetry, you’ve written business books that are really personal growth, I think books as well. And this is part of why I was really interested to talk with you is you’ve had some significant success in the world of business and entrepreneurship. And as I look at my dad’s entrepreneurial journey, my mom and dad have been very successful entrepreneurs. And my dad died 12 years ago at the age of 64. I think he worked himself to death, prioritizing his work above virtually everything in his life for a long, long time. And you’ve got a little bit of a different take, quite a different take, I think, from what he had. And I’m interested to explore that. So your latest book, “Life Profitability”, just even that concept is interesting because my dad would talk about work to live, don’t live to work yet. You know, saying and doing it’s easy to say one thing and then do another. And and he tended to do that. But your view of “life profitability” I think is really interesting and valuable, very timely for our world at this moment. What do you mean? What does this term even mean to you?
Adii Pienaar [00:09:19] Yeah, so the term itself, um, what I wanted to do is in term of sort of sharing the ideas, at least is the ideas I think that can catch on resonate with people, is where you’re able to remix things that kind of people understand. And the book is primarily written for entrepreneurs or those entrepreneurially minded people, whether you’re employed, you can sort of be employed as well. And what I wanted to do was I want to take the concept that everyone understands, which is profitability, where you kind of you take what you get top line revenue, whatever income. You subtract the cost and you’re left the profitability. But what I wanted to kind of do is I want to change the equation where, um, the question was like, how do I build a business that is not just financially profitable in the most narrow sense of the word, but really life profitable in the most diverse, holistic kind of widest kind of a way that I can describe that because I got like you used the words there, work to live, versus, you know, live to work. Um, I don’t like that, either of those. Right. Because it proposes that the one kind of is like it’s like black and white. Right. And like it’s very binary. And I just don’t like that. Like, it doesn’t gel with me. And I think your work should just be part of life. You know, one’s ambitious pursuits, one’s hobbies, the things that one creates, what manifests in that realm, at least in that realm where we do need to earn money to pay bills. Right. Is I think it’s just part of life. So orientating one’s attention to really living the most meaningful lives we can, I think that should always be the goal. Again, like the age old question, what is the meaning of life? We should answer that question. And I don’t think you find those answers by kind of exclusively kind of building a business.
Brilliant Miller [00:11:11] Dang,.
Adii Pienaar [00:11:15] Should I drop a mic on the floor there?
Brilliant Miller [00:11:18] Yeah, well, in fact, I think that many people this is just one of my theories as I go through life, that many people attempt to avoid answering the question by building a business.
Adii Pienaar [00:11:30] Exactly right, because it’s, you know, doing those things are considered a social good, right, like even working 80 hour weeks, like people wear that with a badge of honor, like I’m a hard worker, like, look at me work so many hours, it’s like. Like, we’re not criticizing you for the really crappy parent you’re being at home or really crappy partner you’re being to your spouse, but you know well, aren’t you working 80 hour work week? So, yes, it does become I think that distraction and the worst part thereof is that it gets validated by like the mainstream kind of it says that behavior is OK. And that’s the thing that we’ve just accepted, that this is actually OK. Like we’re allowed to do those things and that keeps us distracted. That keeps us distracted from kind of all of the other things, all of what I call now like life costs that we are incurring along the way because we are so kind of distracted with this pursuit, this ambitious pursuit of building a business, becoming rich, whatever, becoming famous, being relevant, like all of those things that one might kind of, you know, attach to the pursuit of business itself. Yeah, no doubt.
Brilliant Miller [00:12:46] And, you know, many books are written by people who have had significant success, and this is kind of a look at me. Here’s how I did it. You can do it, too. It’s a three step formula or something like that. But this book is a little different because you include lessons from, as you say, 14 years of some failures too. And I’m wondering, what what can people learn from you without having to go to the school of hard knocks, so to speak, and learn on their own? Tell me about those failures.
Adii Pienaar [00:13:19] Yeah, um, so many rights, um, the thing like one of the recurring theme in so many of those is literally my inability, especially in the past. I think I’m better with itr today, but, um, of being present in what should be the most important moment right now. Right. Because oftentimes I think life is kind of magically complicated in the sense that there are kind of at any given stage during a day, week, month, there are multiple interesting things that are attracting our attention for good or bad reasons. And I think, you know, having the awareness in almost real time to be able to do that prioritization and say, you know what, this is a thing that is most deserving of my attention, my true attention to presence right. Right now. And having that clarity, I think is absolutely freeing. And I think many of those, you know, the failures and those things, again, regret is not a word that I like using because I think it feels a bit like a limiting belief. Right. It feels like if I start thinking about things that happened in the past that isn’t favorable. If I call them regrets or if I view them as regrets, like I, I think I’m going to limit myself from trying things, making new mistakes in the future. So I don’t necessarily call them regrets, but there are things that I missed out on. Right. That I now can never have again, because there was a timelessness to it, because in that moment, I wasn’t clear about kind of where I should place my attention, like where I should show up as my whole complete self without the distraction of all these other things that are vying for for my presence and attention in that moment as well. Um, and I think kind of, you know, anyone listening, um, maybe I’m just a sample size of one, but the realm in which that happened most often was was in my home and family life. And that’s so contradictory. Right. Because, I mean, as you said, talking about labels. Right. I, I label myself as a family man. You know, even with that, the aspiration has always been there to be a really great partner for my wife, to be a really great dad for our boys and. Due to what is often that lack of clarity of where my presence, presence and attention is needed, I neglected them and I missed moments. Um. And I think I got to a point in the recent past at least, where I just decided that I don’t want that to be the case anymore. I don’t want to continue accumulating that kind of debt that I can never pay back because I can delay addressing those things forever and I can accumulate all these other things, my life, money, fame, friends, etc., but none of that I can use to pay back the debt that I created with the people closest to me.
Brilliant Miller [00:16:22] Yeah, well, and how fortunate, I think, for your family, for you to have that realization when you’re still pretty young, you’re still pretty young, I think that’s great. Let me ask you this, because you talked about being mindful, being aware, practicing that choice, you’ve talked about, you know, where you’re putting your attention and your energy. So much of that shows up or at least the potential the opportunity for it shows up in our goal setting. I was really intrigued by something you wrote about goal setting, where you talk about choosing goals that require you to prove something. Tell me about that. Tell me about proving something as like a condition or criteria for which to choose goals because I think most of us choose goals because we think, well, that’s what we’ll finally fulfill us. But what’s this logic of proving something?
Adii Pienaar [00:17:22] I think for me, many things start with a curiosity and ultimately a learning of some kind. And I think, you know, somewhere in setting a goal, I’m ultimately trying to answer a question of some kind. And I wouldn’t necessarily when I set a goal like it might be a simple goal of saying, like, what’s a good example? Um. I will use a concrete example from my past, but five years ago now, five years ago, I ran my first marathon, my first and only marathon, and I said, because I am the ambitious kind, I set myself the goal of running a sub-4 marathon, which I subsequently learned only 25 percent of people manage to to achieve that. And for anyone listening, I weigh about 100 kilograms. I know that kind of doesn’t translate for everyone into pounds and whatnot. And I don’t have your typical runners body. So running a sub-4 marathon was hard work. But in setting that goal, what I’m actually asking myself is. Can I achieve this? Can I persevere or can I be disciplined enough to do that? Can I work through the pain of getting there like all of those things? Like there’s there’s those questions. And if I continue down that path of asking those questions and I just ask why does question matter? Like, why is this important? Like, why that? Eventually I probably come to one of those bigger questions where I’m asking myself, you know, what does this say about me? And I think that’s where you’re proving something and ultimately only to myself. And again, like I think I say that now for the longest time, and I still do. And I still get into this trap. And I know when I get in that trap, I’m really unhappy. And it’s really kind of a distraction from what I should be doing because I start wanting to prove myself to others. And I’m like, I don’t have to, like none of us have to prove ourselves to eachother. Like I think in that realm, like we should only be, like we only need to be. And if we had empathy and respect for each other and acceptance, like all of us would only ever have to be ourselves. Unique, magical individuals. Um, but on the proving side, I said, like, when I set goals, like I’m ultimately trying to prove to myself that I can find an answer for some of these questions that I have about myself.
Brilliant Miller [00:19:58] What a beautiful perspective and, you know, I’ve been exposed to some thinkers who will suggest the reason to set a goal is what you become in the process or as you’re saying, what you learn in the process where I think a default mode, especially for maybe a little judgmental here, but people in business schools who want to get a degree and get a good network and get a lot of money, people who are focused on materialism, not that there’s anything wrong with material goods, but that if they think that that will finally bring them happiness and they neglect this component of what am I learning, what am I becoming even what can I contribute? You know, how can I serve?
Adii Pienaar [00:20:44] And, you know, and I think I often feel like, you know, when I go down this path of, you know, kind of because what I want to say is, you know, money does not solve those, to your point. Like, money does not suddenly buy happiness. I don’t think that’s true for anyone and there’s very few things that I will say that are these kind of meant to be these global sweeping statements where I propose some kind of universal truth. But I really doubt that kind of money is what anyone is truly after. I think, you know, often when I when I say something like that, like people rightly question me and say that it’s so easy for you to say that now, like, you’ve kind of built and sold two very big successful businesses. Right. Like you’ve got money. It’s not a challenge for you anymore. Like, why tell someone that still aspires to do something similar that is not going to make them happy? I think the key thing is just, because I agree with you, I you know, money, capitalism, all these things are parts of the world we live in. And I don’t see those things changing anytime soon. And I don’t think that they are fundamentally bad either. I do think and that’s kind of what life profitability, at least is, I hope that it is ultimately a conversation starter that we can kind of start augmenting and evolving our understanding of these things. Right. But what I do think is important there in that realm of kind of whether it’s setting goals in terms of kind of some kind of monetary achievements, is just really being clear about what you hope for that to mean for you. Right. Because oftentimes people want the stuff that money can buy them. They don’t want the money itself. The money is just a vehicle there, and I think when you look at it through that lens, you could probably get some of those things, at least in a much easier, attainable and less risky way in which you don’t have to incur all these life costs along the way. Yes, some things will still cost the exact same amount of money. I think if you want a Lamborghini, it costs x-hundred thousand dollars and like no amount of thinking through it in a different way is going to change how to get there necessarily. Right. Um, but even in that realm, like I’ve heard like people saying like people that are into sports cars, for example, like fair enough, you might not be able to buy one. You can probably save enough to rent one for a couple of weeks and then like you had it and then you realize this has been fun, like I’ll just drive my whatever other car I like, I’ll stay at home, whatever the case is like. So I think having that clarity, at least I’m thinking through what is it that I actually hope to achieve? And is there a less risky way of getting there? Because, again, like the thing that we – I love this, henry Thoreau said that the cost of anything we do in life is just life – I think there is that opportunity cost with every single thing we do and some things we can kind of sequence and we can get back to. Other things, birthdays, you know, births, deaths, like some things are just moments in time and there’s no way to ever repeat them again. And those are the things that I think like we don’t want to risk missing in this pursuit of these longer term goals that we set ourselves.
Brilliant Miller [00:24:02] Yeah, absolutely. And and having that awareness right, I’m reminded how much of this comes back to knowing ourselves, knowing our values, you know, and also having like like you’re saying about empathy or compassion that, you know, these things change over time. We’re not static beings. We’re very fluid. So being, I would say, gentle with ourselves, as some Buddhist teachers might say. I want to explore something that you just touched on a moment ago about, you know, now that you’ve built and sold two very successful businesses, global technology companies for multimillion dollar exits, which congratulations, by the way, that’s pretty awesome. Is, you know, in some ways, I think that you and I might be in a similar circumstance. Right, which is. Very blessed, a lot of options, a lot of privilege, and to share some of the things that I think you know, the things we’re talking about now, the things that you’re writing about, things that I blog about, things I talk about on this podcast, about you know choice, what it means to live a good life, choosing our values are prioritizing consciously this kind of thing. I’ve heard how people can say, well, it’s easy for you to say, you know, that’s really easy for you to say. You haven’t you don’t live where I live. You haven’t been what I’ve been through. And that’s true. But at the same time, I choose to believe that there is a certain perspective that comes with that of saying there is an authority that saying, look, if you think that being where I am is going to bring you happiness, I want to encourage you to rethink that and to see what you can do to find happiness where you are now. But where I’m going, part of this, I’m just exploring but part of where I think I’m going with this is you’ve also written some about privilege. Right, and especially in this moment, just covid and cancel culture and what’s going on in the United States, your country, South Africa, with a deep history of division and wounds. How do you think about privilege now?
Adii Pienaar [00:26:14] I think the hardest thing about it is, um. Like, even I feel supersensitive about it to the point that I’m very careful in choosing my words right, like there’s the very few things ever in my life that I hold close to my chest like I am very open person. I wear my heart on my sleeve. And when I communicate in whatever context, I am authentic.The same person that I am here is the same version you’ll have if you shared a glass of wine with me in private. The same kind of version of me would be in the sales call later. Um. And privilege is such a hard thing, because I think two things are true at least for me, the the one part of it is that there is no way that I can deny the fact that I have been not due my involvement in, but I’ve been the direct beneficiary of privilege, historic privilege. And what we understand about, you know, good and bad things in the world with time, things compound. And there is a very easy narrative for me to say, like, you know, all the way from, my dad owned a computer hardware store before the big box retailers came in. So first, well probably not the first. But at least in terms of telling my story right. As a young kid, I had a computer in my room that I could tinker on, like my own computer. And you start connecting those dots like from that moment and how that compounds to my parents putting me through university without study debt and how that meant that kind of post university, I took a corporate job for six weeks with corporate things that became eccomerse. I’d been working on the down side and I could essentially make that jump knowing that I had a safety net. Both my my parents, like they were upper middle class, like they were safe financially so I could fall back there. And at least I didn’t have studied deb. Like I said, if my income suddenly went to zero, I didn’t have mountains of debt that I would have to repay. In saying that as well, and I think it’s just probably the biggest privilege and all of that is the the freedom to not be stressed about all these things that I couldn’t control. And I could focus and I could think and I could practically pursue things that then created more priviledge in my life. Right. So. That’s the one part of it, the other part of it is that It’s also become hard to have been privileged, right, and that’s the hard thing to say, right? Like because how do I say in the same position, how do I communicate that I acknowledge my privilege? And then I also want to say that it’s hard to be privileged. It’s hard. It’s hard to be classified as a kind of a white tech bro. And it’s not untrue. I’m just saying that that is also not ideal. You know, in South Africa, you reference South Africa. I mean, I was nine years old when we had our first democratic election. And. You know, kind of integrated society is that’s the only thing that I truly knew, right? And I’m going to say integrated, most of my friends still mostly look like me. Vast majority. But I at least did not as a kind of even as a young adult, did not experience what segregation and apartheid looked like. And I wholeheartedly don’t agree with that. I think it’s I am shocked to this day about how intellectual human beings made that happen, right? But at the same time, it is sometimes hard to be a white person in a country where kind of where white people in the past created these laws that really disadvantaged other people, black people, you know, people of color in this country. Anyway, it’s just it’s a hard thing for me to talk about, and I have actually mostly tried to take the perspective of trying to say less and listen more. I don’t think this is my moment in time. For example, like I think even though I want to regard everyone as as equal, I don’t think my house is on fire at this stage now. And yes, I have challenges in the situation as well, but I don’t think it’s my moment.
Brilliant Miller [00:31:25] Yeah thank you for sharing it’s definitely something that I think a lot about. And I think many people feel deeply but don’t necessarily know what to do about it. And on the one hand, I don’t think there’s anything mysterious. Right, because we all go through the day interacting with people and we have choices. And there’s some point where it’s very human, one to one. Right. And then I think there’s another potential where we can become activists, we can push for legislation, we can share a message broadly, you know, on social networks or in gatherings and things like this. But ultimately, of course, each of us gets to choose where our responsibility is. But thanks for sharing that. It’s something I think a lot about. One of my last guests, in fact, a beautiful woman who’s been doing work with indigenous people here in the States and, you know, she’s not like a rabble rouser, she’s not in your face. But she just said really matter of factly, the United States was founded on genocide and slavery. And even if, you know, even though that wasn’t you, we’re still, like you said, we’re still the beneficiaries of that. And there’s something there to come to acknowledge, I think, to come to terms with to do something about. So anyway, thank you for sharing,
Adii Pienaar [00:32:46] we remain parties to the status quo, right? Like that doesn’t matter how we got into this, but we remain parties to the status quo.
Brilliant Miller [00:32:56] Yeah, no doubt. Well, let me ask you something that’s may be kind of on the other side of this, which is then what I would say comfort. I remember hearing an interview once with someone I admire quite a lot, which is Tony Robbins, and he was asked, Tony, what’s the number one most important quality for an entrepreneur? And I’m curious, by the way, how you would answer that. What do you think is the most important quality for an entrepreneur to have?
Adii Pienaar [00:33:25] Um. The biased opinion is probably perseverence, but I actually think curiosity, I think, you know that true curiosity, like I just want to learn, I keep asking questions. Because that translates into so many different ways across the spectrum of different parts of the machine within a business that you need to kind of, you know, to figure out. But but really curiosity. I think it’s such a fascinating both as a catalyst and also just as an enduring kind of force. If you maintain that energy, that curiosity. Yeah, that’s probaby where I would go to.
Brilliant Miller [00:34:04] Yeah, I love that. And I share that view. You know, what Tony said was his view as its hunger, you know, this kind of unstoppable desire for something. Right. And and I looked at that and I thought “I think of myself as an entrepreneur. I have a lot of curiosity.” I don’t have the kind of hunger I think Tony was talking about. But then what I thought is, you know, because I’ve had the chance to visit the Serengeti and when I saw it was near the time of the wildebeest migration and I saw lions after they’d made a kill and they’re eating and the wildebeest are walking right by them like 10 meters from these lions. They’re not afraid, because the lions aren’t hungry. Right. And it’s easy to not be driven when you don’t want something or you’re not trying to run from something kind of like we talked about already. But I’m curious, with your view, once you have achieved success and you have whatever, proved yourself, you’ve got the comfort or whatever. And here, maybe you’ve already answered because you’ve said for you, curiosity is a driver, how do you deal with having been successful? …Is that a question?
Adii Pienaar [00:35:16] Yeah, um, if it was written down, there would be a question mark at the end of the sentence. You know what Brilliant. I think, um. Two parts. So I think you’re thinking through success and being successful, I think is also just about evolution. I think you’re acknowledging that in nature, like the world will keep spinning regardless of what happens, which means that I never think about success as a kind of destination. Right. I just think about it as kind of a momentary status or state that I got to. And then the world keeps spinning. And the best way I think to tell a story is in the following way is with conversio, my previous business, which was acquired about 18 months ago. And to start at the very beginning when I left WooCommerce, I left with this question talking about kind of setting goals to prove something which I left with this kind of notion that I was a one hit wonder. And I wanted to prove I would say it back then, I would say to the world, I now know that I only need to prove this to myself, but I wanted to prove that I can build another successful business. I can take all these learnings, experience, context, capital, all those things, build another successful business. And then probably about 18, maybe 24 months into Conversio. We got a point where it was growing nicely, we were on the trajectory to kind of reaching a break even within the business, and I can remember the moment where it just felt like. I cannot check that box. This is not as significant or as big as WooCommerce was but I must tick that box, I can build another significant business. And then as soon as I had that, what should be a really positive thought, I also had so much meaning just evaporates out of my life, right, because suddenly, like, the reason I started the business was to tick this box. And now I have a team and I have business and I have customers and I am selling like well, from my perspective, I’ve checked the box. I want to check out and what actually happened is I had to rethink that and reimagine that. What helped me in that moment was a book by Dina Glouberman when she writes a book called The Joy of Burnout, and she describes burnout as the thing that happens when the kind of meaning gets lost from the structures that you had invested so much in. So. And I love that. And like in that moment in Conversio, like, I start thinking through kind of how do I create new meaning because the business was still there. Like that was a structure that I invested in. I just had to find new meaning. And in finding that meaning, that’s when my team and I started chatting more about how do we build the business? And we eventually stumbled onto communicating our culture as being Life and Family First, which is ultimately the predecessor to me, writing Life Profitability. That’s also kind of the testing ground. So that’s the first part of me saying is when I think about success, is you reach that state. And then things evolve, the world evolves, and you have a choice, like, are you going to evolve again and figure out what that next part of the journey look like? And the other part of what I want to show you is I recently saw working on a new software business and I have not yet found the meaning in what I’m doing. And that’s created a lot of friction for me personally, right, because, again, like the structure is there. I know that there is meaning in parts of this, but if you ask me that right now, like, why did I decide to do this again? I’ll probably give you things like, well, I’m a maker, I like building teams. And all those things are true. But it’s not to the point where it hasn’t come without those uncomfortable moments, right. And the reason I share that is I know that I am also just in that moment in my journey where I’m evolving again, and I’m figuring out this again, and I don’t need the answer right now, but I know that I need to continue working towards finding that answer again.
Brilliant Miller [00:40:00] Yeah, what an amazing awareness to know that. And I think this is something that I feel like I grapple with, which is the balance, for me it feels like the balance of the head in the heart. Because, you know, as we know, Simon Sinek and we can be very intellectual on what’s our why and so forth. But at the end of the day, we’re emotional beings, you know, and how to balance that or what to do with it once we sence some kind of an awareness, you know, like, hey, I haven’t totally found the meaning here yet, you know? And then is it ours to find or to create, you know, to declare and then live into. Ultimately again, I think these are pretty deep and important questions, but very individual ones.
Adii Pienaar [00:40:44] Yeah. And I’m not a big gamer, but I used to play more games as a kid. Right. And in the strategy games you always had the kind of the fog of war right on the map and you had to explore, go into the darkness to lift the fog of war so that you could see kind of the landscape and you could see what is there. And sometimes the enemy lay there waiting. Right. And I think in that regard, I totally think it’s possible to kind of artificially kind of create that meaning, right. And I think the challenge there is to really like once you come up with a narrative about what that meaning is to really kind of you know stress test it against the values that you have for yourself or have identified to make sure that there is alignment there. But I still believe that these things are mostly an exploration, like the way to lift the fog of war, the way to build the vocabulary around kind of who you are, what you value I think is an action in that sense. Like it is not a thought experiment. I think it is an action. I think we learn by doing, we will learn ultimately by putting ourselves out there, even if it is kind of intellectually in a conversation with someone else like you and I are having. This conversation kind of in beautiful ways, starts lifting the fog of war. Even if we’re not even aware of it, even if it comes like a week later, like, you know, in a chapter, like there is a light bulb moment. So I think it is doing. I don’t think it is just sitting in a room like isolette be independents. And again, I think you’re spot on. We should be careful about then taking those realizations and then constructing a narrative just because we are a creative kind of people that can do those things. Yeah, we should totally stressed that back again with what we at least understand already why that’s not the realization part, but the part that is, again, like values. I think values are the things that you’ve been aware of for more than three minutes. It’s like those things that have just been with you for for a longer amount of time.
Brilliant Miller [00:43:00] Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’m curious too, you mentioned something about team building, and this is, I think, an essential part of building a successful anything. You know, there’s only so much any one of us can do, so much talent. We have skill, energy, knowledge, like all that. What have you learned about building successful teams?
Adii Pienaar [00:43:30] Probably the biggest counter lesson to anything else that I will say that doesn’t sound ideological is even the most independent kind of person that loves working autonomously, they want some structure, right? Yes, they want ownership, but they also want to be held accountable. And I think in all those things, in the way we build our teams, we need to make sure that we are creating greater equilibrium. I don’t want to use the word balance, but essentially kind of both sides of that equation at all times. And that was definitely kind of a big lesson for me and I really only got to it much, much later, right, like doing the kind of the, um, the typical kind of corporate formal stuff. And again, I’m not very process driven. I don’t care much for KPIs and such acronyms. Um, but I acknowledge that to truly build a great team, you also need part of that. I think there is a way to have that conversation around metrics, for example, around being measured on performance. That is important. But most of me kind of falls into the kind of ideological realm where I believe that if you can find a diverse group of smart individuals. That are mostly aligned with kind of a bunch of shared values that the group kind of is clear about. Then all you really want is you want that smart person to pick up, show up at work as their whole selves, and then they should just be, like, magically unique. I think that’s like literally if I think about kind of your atoms, like just magically kind of – I always think about Alan Watts and how whenever he describes atoms, he goes “bippity boppity boo” and like really kind of in the most airy, very beautiful, playful manner. But I think when we do that, as those atoms kind of bounce against each other and interact, that’s how we create resilience and robustness. But that’s also how we spark kind of magic. Right. And the outcomes that we want to achieve. I think that happens, we need to create space to do that. I think the interesting thing about that is that structure and boundaries actually create space, it doesn’t limit, it if you can do it in a way that if you think about, um, this is going to sound completely left field, but if you consider any kind of intimate interaction with another human being, most people get themselves into trouble with their play partners because they kind of encroach on boundaries, and then by doing that, they are not getting the thing that they actually want, whereas if you can kind of create kind of your boundaries and kind of, not even create, just accept the boundaries and be clear about what those are, it actually creates a safe space where someone is more comfortable with being themselves. Which is in your favor as well. That’s the way I think about kind of creating space by instilling structure, process, those kind of things.
Brilliant Miller [00:47:01] I love that perspective. Thank you for sharing that. OK, well, in just a moment, I want to go ahead and transition us to the enlightening lightning round. But before we do. I’m curious if there’s anything else that we haven’t talked about that you want to talk about, whether it’s any big ideas from life, profitability, anything you’re curious about now, learning more about, anything you’ve changed your mind about recently, just anything that you want to discuss before we kind of move on to another part of the interview.
Adii Pienaar [00:47:32] Oh. Giving you me a blank canvas here without boundaries and just as you talk about right,
Brilliant Miller [00:47:40] because I was actually thinking that when you shared about how creativity thrives with constraint.
Adii Pienaar [00:47:49] I’ll throw one other idea out there, I’ll see whether you catch it. Um, probably the most airy fairy book that I think I’ve ever read in my life is a book by David Deida. The book is called The Way of the Superior Man. And it mostly has a kind of a very sexual perspective, I think that’s kind of what the book, the purpose of the book was. But what it did for me was it really unlocked my thinking around kind of masculine and feminine energy. And it really raised my own awareness about contextually when my masculine and when my feminine energy like is at play. Crucially, what I’ve learned about myself. When you think about masculinity, you think about the kind of the average male orgasm, it literally is point A to point B, your go, go, go release and then depletion, whereas the female orgasm doesn’t work in thatway. And again, I try to not alienate listeners because I’m not a sex therapist or any kind of sex expert. Right. But thinking like that’s a very narrow description of masculine and feminine energy. But as soon as I start thinking about that and I think about that in business, I also suddenly see where my ambitious pursuits in the past had that kind of very kind of hard grip to it, where I was like literally like, you know, trying to drive 200 miles an hour. And you’re just holding the steering wheel so darn tight and every bump in the road, like, feels like we’re going to veer off the cliff where it’s not actually the case. Um, whereas what I now understand and it’s a big part of what I try to do, both in my business and just my life, is that – again, I by the way, I don’t think masculine and feminine energy here is has anything to do with gender. I hope that that was very clear – But if you think through the kind of the traits that one would generally associate with the feminine, softer kind of kindness, empathy, like all of those things are things that I try and orientate myself towards in the way that I just kind of show up in this world, in the way that I then pursue these ambitious things in my universe.
Brilliant Miller [00:50:11] Wow I love that. I’ve learned a little bit I’ve read that book as well, and I’ve studied with someone that studied under Deida for 12 years, a guy named John Wynland. And I learned a lot about myself and I think I deepened the quality of my marriage, my wife went to the program with me and and so forth. And just what you’re saying, you know, one of the ways that I think about that is that a masculine frame tends to end things. It’s here’s an objective. I’m going to go get it. I’m going to kill it. I’m going to make it happen or whatever, where a feminine tends to open things and create and sustain and nourish. And this idea, which I again, I know some of these things can sound pretty simplistic, but some of them I’ve experienced is quite profound. I like I remember John would talk about the masculine, masculine role again, not gender specific, but when one is in one’s masculine and we all have both, and at times it makes sense to put one part in charge and at times it makes sense to really foster the other. But he would talk about, you know, the masculine as the master of time and space giving structure and form. But then the feminine is the creative energy that fills that space. And just how interesting that can be both, you know, for ourselves, for our work, for our relationships, you know, for the world. And I’m reminded, too, I had a chance to visit the Amazon and I thought, this is interesting when the masculine role often seems to be to end things that in the in the act with the Achuar Tribe in Ecuador and Peru, that I’ve had the chance to spend some time with, that the women will actually be the ones to tell the men when to stop, when to stop cutting trees, when to stop fishing, like when you have achieved enough that it’s in that culture, at least it’s often their role to kind of rein in that masculine force of go get it, make it happen. Really interesting.
Adii Pienaar [00:52:10] I I love that and I think I at least understand is masculine and feminine energies, at least, they’re always playful and essentially, when you acknowledge both of them, you essentially remove the friction and they can just play and they can loop as different polls. That becomes a very natural kind of self-sustaining cycle and I like the way you describe it. There is like, yes, you need that arg like we’re going to, you know, kind of “man make fire”. But then, hey, guys, like, we’ve got enough fire. We’re OK now. I think that’s just in those two different perspectives, two different dominant energies, you know, keeping each other in check
Brilliant Miller [00:52:57] How simple to, even the image of the yin yang, the dark and the light and that just a reminder that in this existence, at least in what we call it consensus, reality, normal, ordinary, like ordinary consciousness, that there is duality in all things and not even necessarily seeking for balance, but maybe acknowledging when we’re not in balance and then allowing or just acknowledging,. You’re right, I don’t drink anymore. I made the decision a few years ago not to drink, but I do suspect this is the conversation that could perhaps benefit from some wine.
Adii Pienaar [00:53:34] Yeah, totally.
Brilliant Miller [00:53:37] OK, awesome. Well, thank you for for bringing that up. OK, well, with your permission, I want to go ahead and transition us to the enlightening lightning round. It Is a series of brief questions on a variety of topics. You’re welcome to answer as long as you want. My aim for the most part is to ask the question and stand aside. Please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a:
Adii Pienaar [00:54:00] glass of perfectly aged red wine.
Brilliant Miller [00:54:03] OK, question number two here, I’m borrowing Peter Teal’s famous question, what important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Adii Pienaar [00:54:15] Oh, um not to be self promotional, I think very few people agree with me that it is possible to build a business and be successful and have a really meaningful life. I think most people believe that there is a strong trade off and the system is just set up in that wayand that what I am proposing is completely unattainable unless you start kind of with millions in the bank already.
Brilliant Miller [00:54:50] Let me just pull on that answer for a moment because I’m sure you’re familiar with the the four burners theory or the three burners. There’s an article. David Sedaris, I believe David Sedaris wrote a few years ago about this idea that in order for us to be successful, like highly successful in anything, we can only have three burners. And I might be getting this wrong, but I think it was like health, family and work. And he’s like, there’s you know, life is like a stove with three burners. And you can really only tend to two of those three. So something has to be sacrificed. And it’s this idea, I think, that you’re expressing now about there’s this false tradeoff that we must endure if we are to enjoy the success that we’re seeking. OK, question number three, if you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a T-shirt with a slogan on it or phrase or saying or quote or quip, what would the shirt say?
Adii Pienaar [00:55:51] Um. Be present.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:56] OK, question number four, what book other than one of your own, have you gifted or recommended most often?
Adii Pienaar [00:56:04] Siddartha by Hermann Hesse. Some context there is. I reread it a couple of times and I read it the first time five, six years ago. And without spoiling it, it’s just a kind of beautiful journey story and I often recommend it to entrepreneurs. It’s not a business book. Right. But I, like most often recommend it to kind of entrepreneurial friends and really love the book. Yes.
Brilliant Miller [00:56:34] What difference has that book made in your life?
Adii Pienaar [00:56:42] Probably acknowledging or being aware that, you know, as the world turns on its axis, um, like life and my journey and my experience of my journey crucially is also just cyclical. And that I don’t necessarily have the pattern match, even if I find myself in moments that feels like I have stagnated because it feels familiar, deja vu almost. That’s not necessarily the case. I’m still like with the right perspective. And I think the right presence, I can still be making progress on that journey.
Brilliant Miller [00:57:21] Interesting, I want to know more about a term you just used about pattern matching, “I don’t have to pattern match”. What do you mean by that?
Adii Pienaar [00:57:31] We live in a world where science, what we truly value is science, right? And I get it in the world climate that we find ourselves in. There’s also a lot of distrust with science, but we’ve mostly said, you know, kind of capitalism to an extent is more of a science. It’s where you said that, you know, the usual formula for success and we know what the formula is and we’re going to overlook the way to get more out of this formula is by optimizing it over time. And I actually think that what we’ve traded for that is art. The credibility, the quality of the things that are more subjective. It doesn’t have a formula to it. And I think when we as a result of that, I’ve gotten myself in that situation where, um, just because I am on this new journey and a new business and I suddenly feel something that feels similar to somewhere in the past, even if that led to a bad outcome, I think I should not be connecting those dots. And I think the bigger picture here, now that I say that, that’s how I would describe pattern matching. But the where that comes from is that’s what mindfulness like truly helped me do. Like, the biggest challenge that I had was in my most important relationship, in my marriage, I had gotten myself into this years ago before I got into mindfulness, but I got myself into this really bad cycle of telling a story about all the things that were wrong in my life and thus my marriage, and thus with my wife. And I started connecting all these dots because I could pattern match. Right. I’m a scientist. I am pragmatic. I’ve got a rational brain. I can do these things. That didn’t get me where I needed to be, in fact, that almost risked everything that was important to me. And then what I ultimately learned through mindfulness was how I should never have connected those dots because they weren’t as related to each other as I thought they were. Just because the sensation seemed to relate them doesn’t mean that they were factually related. So that’s kind of that pattern matching, connecting the dots.
Brilliant Miller [00:59:51] Yeah. Well, thank you for for breaking that down. Really curious about something you’ve shared there, but maybe I’ll come back to it, we’ve got a few things to cover still, so we’ll keep going. OK, so you’ve traveled a lot. What’s one travel hack, meaning something you do or something you take with you when you travel to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
Adii Pienaar [01:00:19] Um, probably my Kindle. I only read on Kindle, and for me probably, that’s just the biggest hack because I could stay away from my phone. Um, so from airplane to kind of being in transit, interestingly enough, hat’s still the probably the biggest one of my bigger challenges life is I need to love the need to love all parts of the journey. And being in transit is just not part that. There I’m very masculine still. Like I want to get to the destination but um my Kindle like whenever I travel, I do a lot of reading and like in those in-between times of not doing whatever the other purpose of the travel was awesome.
Brilliant Miller [01:01:05] OK, question number six, what’s one thing you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
Adii Pienaar [01:01:18] I go to bed earlier on average, and I try to sleep more. I think my biggest unlock is understanding the notion of sleep debt as well. And that’s like I can’t sleep only five hours on weekdays and then, you know, try and catch up on weekends because it doesn’t work like that. So I’m definitely nowhere near perfect, but I average a solid seven 1/2 hours a day worth of sleep. It is a discipline because I am easy to rise in the morning. I kind of like wake up between five and six. I’m not religious but kind of when I wake up in the mornings. But then I am also a total night owl, especially due to time zone differences while I have so many friends stateside. So as soon as the kids go to bed at eight, like it feels like the rest of my world is is awake, um, and I can be chatting with people, etc. until late at night. So it has been very kind of concrete discipline. Say, Hey, that’s fine. Well that’s good, but I need to get some sleep. And so I’ve really focused on sleep as a way to pursue some form of longevity and health at least.
Brilliant Miller [01:02:32] Yeah. Good for you. OK, question number seven. What’s one thing you wish every American knew?
Adii Pienaar [01:02:43] Where South Africa is. If we took, you know, kind of your stereotype, every single American, probably just get a world map. I think obviously most states, in the United States, single states are probably the size of the whole of South Africa or close to it, if you combine two or three kind of bigger states. South Africa has a Population of what I think 60 million people today. That’s context. But in surface area, it’s not massive. But maybe this is just me kind of feeling like the rest of the world doesn’t get the attention. In the last year kind of around the presidential elections, it just felt like the states so dominated all of the airwaves and at one stage I got to kind of this point was like, why does the rest of the world care so much? But I will almost flip that, I think that there is, you know, part of what I think makes America great, really great is that part of it is, you know, we are America. We can do everything that we want and that American dream, that I think that there’s real ingenuity and that kind of what I understand about that at least, but I also sometimes think that it lacks that empathy for the rest of the world which often plays out, and that we’ve all seen the kind of videos where they would ask the average person on the street, like, where is this country in the world? Just pointed to it on a map, like approximately. And it’s just like it’s just way off, like it seems to be. Some people at least have to have that kind of ignorance. So like South Africa was Tongue-In-Cheek there. I’ve just alienated all of all of my American friends there.
Brilliant Miller [01:04:37] Now, this is this is one of my favorite questions, just because many of my guests are not United States citizens. And and I’m always interested to hear people’s views clearly. We’ve got a lot to learn. You know, by the way, my answer to this question is how to speak another language. Because I think there’s so much that comes from that, including that other cultures exist, you know? Yeah. So, OK, question number eight, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about making relationships work?
Adii Pienaar [01:05:12] Um, the most recent one has been significant, if you have the ability to de-escalate a situation, de-escalate that situation.
Brilliant Miller [01:05:22] How do you do that? At least it sounds easy.
Adii Pienaar [01:05:27] I think what we see is that awareness. I think the tricky thing in relationships are normally the kind of arguments. It’s the bad parts. It’s like the good parts are the easy, but generally it’s the bad parts that leave the scar tissue and wounds. And I think a key there is to, you know, like in the moment when the conversation is not going well, for example, or interaction or situation is not playing out in a favorable manner, acknowledging that, like, how do I short-circuit this very bad kind of rabbit hole like loop that we’re on here? And I think if I have the awareness, even at a compromise to myself to do something or say something that can de-escalate things, that’s enough to solve things, just needs to de-escalate things. And oftentimes that is just standing back and saying “yes, there is something important here on my agenda, something that is about me”. But can I stand back for long enough so that the person on the other side of the relationship can just take up this space in a way that doesn’t take us down this path of going down the rabbit hole?
Brilliant Miller [01:06:40] All right. Thank you. And question number nine. Aside from compound interest, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about money?
Adii Pienaar [01:06:52] You can always make more. That’s mostly the sentiment there, and where this comes from is I’ll never forget an early mentor of mine, a gentleman by the name Heatenshaw. At one point he was regarded as the most generous founder in Silicon Valley. And I believe he still lives in the Bay Area with his with his family. And years ago, we kind of had this serendipitous connection at a conference and we got talking and I explained some frustrations and fears with him with my business at that stage, and he tells me like, Adii, what do you really fear? Like what? What are you worried about? I said, I fear this going to zero and losing all the money. And he actually said, you know, Eddie, there are two types of people in this world. You know, one of them knows how to make money and the other doesn’t. The one that knows how to make money will always figure out how to make more money. And perhaps that’s kind of, you know, thinking back, that’s slightly reductive to some extent. Like the bit about making money versus not making money resonates less today than it did back then. But what has stuck with me is that notion that you can always figure out how to make more money. Especially if you able to make money in some way or form initially, you can always make more of it.
Brilliant Miller [01:08:24] All right. OK, and question number 10, so this one’s a gimme. I do have just a few questions about writing and the creative process before we wrap up. But in the Enlightening lightning round, final question. If people want to learn more from you or they want to connect with you, assuming you’re OK that they do, what would you have them do?
Adii Pienaar [01:08:44] Yeah, um, what I love that people do, actually, is people that do go through the effort of finding my personal email address, which is not that hard, and sending me – don’t spam me with generic stuff – but sending me any kind of unique email. I am very good at responding. I’m not perfect, right, but I’m always open to having those serendipitous connections around certain things, even if it’s tiny. But I think therein lies humanity, as well. As sometimes having, you know, seemingly frivolous initial kind of conversations or interactions, even not even a full conversation. But without those, we don’t know what could have happened kind of thing. So, yeah, if someone tells me something kind of interesting and meaningful and that is related to me, it doesn’t have to be relevant to me in that moment. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness.
Brilliant Miller [01:09:46] Awesome. OK. And another thing I’ll share here is that as an expression of gratitude to you, Adii, for making time to share so generously with me and everyone listening of your experience and and your wisdom. I have gone on Kiva.org, the microlensing site, and I have made a micro loan, a hundred dollar micro loan to a woman entrepreneur in Kyrgyzstan named Ercan Erkkinoy. She’s 44 years old, she’s married. She’s got four kids. She raises livestock and she she has some agricultural practice so she will use this to continue growing her business, improve the quality of life for herself, her family, her community. So thank you for giving me a reason to do that.
Adii Pienaar [01:10:33] Awesome. Thanks for taking the initiative there.
Brilliant Miller [01:10:36] Yeah, my pleasure. OK, so the final part of the interview here, just a little bit about writing and creativity. So one of the things, you referred to yourself as a maker earlier and that reminds me of the article, pretty well-known article by Paul Graham about “manage your schedule, make your schedule” and about how any of us, every one of us, has the opportunity to choose how we’re going to spend the fourteen hundred and forty minutes we have in our day. And not all of us who have creative aspirations use those in a way that allows us to actually complete and publish or ship our creative work. How do you think about and structure your time so that, and by the way, I was reminded because you’re so generous and inviting people to contact you, but as you said, although there can be serendipitous connections, those are also interruptions and potential distractions. How do you manage your time so that you actually get your writing done?
Adii Pienaar [01:11:34] Yeah. So both in writing and general kind of work and kind of deep work where I need to do actual work, i.e. not the kind of management stuff or not the kind of connection part of things. I’m very impulsive, actually, and I tend to want to follow my my energy. And to the extent like I struggle with sticking to a writing schedule, which probably means I will never be a great writer, like part of me acknowledges that. But like, I think, you know, that’s the point. The point is I write impulsively and I just write in spurts and I do my best work in that same way where I can essentially, you know, check in with myself. But where I’m at and in this moment, and when I say in this moment, it’s airy fairy but I will often get stuck into something at work on any given day and then I would make so much progress and I would feel so good and I would cancel meetings, for example, or other obligations or shift things in favor of continuing down that path, because the energy is there at that stage and it’s just kind of seamless and frictionless. So that’s what I generally tend to do. Which means the other part of it at least, is because that is in itself would be to kind of scattered to make any meaningful progress on any project, is to at least once I come out of that, kind of take a step back where I can essentially be still very clear about what other kind of actual priorities here and what are the things that relate to that, because I still need to ensure that I am making progress on all those things. I can’t indefinitely cancel meetings, for example, in favor of doing this deep work stuff. But I think that in terms of kind of how I write, at least, like I do that. Set priorities, follow my energy. And then the other part is, um, you know, acknowledging where I need help. And the help is oftentimes in either unlocking some of the things that are in my head or through conversation. Right. Having some kind of you know muse or editor with life profitability. I had a really great editor that worked with me after the first draft of the book, and we essentially kind of evolved that into the book that was eventually kind of published. And part of that, as I said, was that unlocking function. And the other part was accountability there, because we had weekly meetings in which we kind of worked through these things. So it created a bit of that structure, again, talking about creating, you know, creating space by putting structure in place. And so I didn’t need that at the beginning of the project necessarily. That was for the second half of the project. The first part was more free for me, kind of also not necessarily having a timeline. That’s by the way, like it’s interesting. When I create I, and a lot of that business is not that’s, why it’s like there’s timelines and there is a sense of timeliness, and I still fall in the spectrum like, well, we don’t have to run at 200 miles an hour, but we also can’t kind of you sit still kind of thing like, you know, progress needs to be made. Whereas the other thing was the book, you mentioned kind of me writing poetry earlier. Like, I love the fact that there is no time goal with regards to those things like so I can just take my time with writing and if I write three sentences today and I write 30000 words tomorrow, – I never did 30000 words a single day, – but just like trying to kind of again, light and dark by comparing the two states. But I can do those things because it doesn’t really matter, because the only person to whom that matters is me. So that’s that’s a ramble. I think the answer is I don’t have it figured out, I don’t have a perfect recipe that I think anyone should should copy.
Brilliant Miller [01:15:43] Well, thank you for sharing that. And I suspect that what listeners might find valuable in that is this idea that you don’t have it figured out, at least as you’re saying it, yet you publish. And that’s something many people aspire to do, but for one reason or another, they don’t ever do. And there’s so many things. I realize people can take away whatever they’ll take away. Part of what I’m taking away from what you’re saying is that is very individual. So you find what works for you and you do that. And then something else I’m curious about, you talked about this a little earlier, that you had written the book. You’ve written Life Profitability for entrepreneurs. But I understand also that a lot of your writing, you say your audience is, initially at least, it’s yourself. You’re writing for yourself. So as you’re writing, what’s your relationship to your reader? What’s that like?
Adii Pienaar [01:16:42] Well, and to that point, since oftentimes I’m the only reader, which means these days I try to be very kind, to be honest. I try not to shock because words are harsh sometimes. So I try to be very, very kind, but kind of how I share ideas and especially you know, really, I think acknowledging that I am just a sample size of one and it doesn’t matter how great I think this idea I have is or how strong my conviction is for this, I have to accept the truth, which is there are seven, eight billion human beings on this planet of ours and they might not share kind of, you know, those ideas or the conviction with the same strength as I do and I don’t need to be polarizing. So I think thinking through that and through that lens, and it really is, you know, for anyone reading “life profitability” to that extent is, I try to write from a point of empathy and to me that’s really, really, really important. My wife told me this last night again, she says, um so Kristen Bell, the actress, she shares a story where her therapist at one stage told her that, you know, “honesty without tact is just cruelty”. And I think, you know, that kind of lens for anyone writing, for anyone sharing words. There is still a nice way of saying something, and you don’t have to fall in the way we’re like anyone reading, having read radical candor I fall in that rudeness empathy bit often with the way I communicate because I don’t communicate directly enough. But I think there’s a way to when writing and when sharing ideas, we communicate ideas. That having that empathy about where you are, where these words will find the reader and what impact it will have, and yes, sometimes I write to provoke and to inspire, but even in that there should be some safe landing built into it.
Brilliant Miller [01:19:14] Awesome, thank you for that. What do you experience as the biggest challenge, what was the most challenging thing for you as a writer and how do you deal with it?
Adii Pienaar [01:19:28] Probably relevance, right? Well, the question of like if I write this and I publish this, will anyone care? I think that there’s that imposter syndrome, built into that.
Brilliant Miller [01:19:47] You’re human. I think that’s all that means.
Adii Pienaar [01:19:50] Yes. Thanks for the right words. I think those are all better suited words here. Um, and we spoke about meaning earlier, right, and being clear about what is important and when I think about the book, I didn’t really write the book for the world. By all means, I mean, when I said earlier, I want the book to be a conversation starter where like, hopefully we can start like the book contributes to change the world in some way or form. That is totally true and I’m not being disingenuous when I said that. But the primary motivation for writing the book, for example, was I think about my my own mortality often. And I have two young boys that are turning 10 and seven respectively this year. And the book as a kind of first goal here was really to to leave those breadcrumbs for them that if something happens to me tomorrow and they could not get to know me with a more mature kind of vocabulary or experience of the world, they could somewhere, if they wanted in future, they could read the book and they can start kind of picking up those breadcrumbs and get a better sense of who their dad was and what he thought about. And I think not everyone’s real meaning of doing things should necessarily be that, it can be many other reasons, but that is the way to get beyond that relevance. Right, because that’s not about anyone else. Like, that’s that’s a goal that I have. Right. That I’ve left the breadcrumbs and by publishing a book, it doesn’t really matter about what anyone else will think about whether the ideas will resonate.
Brilliant Miller [01:21:38] All right. The last thing, just two last questions, one is about tools and technology. Let me ask this one first. What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?
Adii Pienaar [01:21:51] My Kindle. Hundred percent my Kindle, I mean, contextually at the time, um, I now have an iPad again, which I must use for coaching. Live coaching with the Apple pen, different conversation. But when I bought my first Kindle six, seven years ago, um, I often got stuck into kind of when I was reading books, the distraction to just click this other app and check email then go down a different level was kind of too much. But the Kindle is so lightweight. And I think for for me, at least as a writer, I like being able to like oftentimes books and other ideas, other people’s ideas have been the muse, have been the catalyst for me to kind of get into this kind of stream of consciousness almost, and then kind of do some of my best writing. So like, I think reading more has made me a better writer. And the single tool, the single thing that I’ve done to read more, has has been my Kindle.
Brilliant Miller [01:22:48] Yeah. Like the Paperwhite one
Adii Pienaar [01:22:52] Yes, and mine is six, seven years old. I still have the same one. It works as well.
Brilliant Miller [01:22:57] Yeah, I love it. You can read and direct sunlight. You can read it in bed you know. That’s awesome. What tools and technology make your writing easier or better than it would be if you just used a yellow pad and a pencil?
Adii Pienaar [01:23:19] Probably as a kind of segway from from the Kindle, and I think it’s a bit of indulgence at least. I did three years ago now, also fascinating, when I was at a conference and I saw this guy drawing on a tablet of some kind and it looked fascinating. And I could see it was e-ink. It wasn’t kind of, you know, some kind of Android or iris device. And I didn’t have the guts to walk up to him and say just tell me what this thing is, it looks like magic. And I ultimately Googled this thing and I actually found what it was and I bought myself one. And it’s called remarkable. I’ve got a generation one tablet and they just released The Generation two. And essentially what it is, it’s a tablet, so very similar to Kindle. But the actual pen has a soft tip. So the tips actually wear out after kind of writing. And it’s the closest digital device that has haptic feedback that feels like pen and paper. And I now do a lot. I do all my journaling on that instead of notepads. And for example, when I write stuff that I publish on my blog, I start there and what is great about it is I can’t write with my hand as quickly as I can type. But what it also means is I’m also forcing my brain to slow down slightly, which I think creates a little more purpose, a little more thoughtfulness about kind of how I’m structuring ideas, for example. Anyway, I love it. And it has all the other benefits, right. I can get digital copies very quickly on my desktop and it does kind of OCR text recognition or it can be turn that into text. And, um, I use that like it’s not perfect. So I have to do editing. Also because I don’t have the neatest handwriting, but um. Yeah I just, I love that. Beyond that, any software that allows you to kind of enter letters onto the page does the trick. Like I you know, it’s never the tool that’s the challenge. Even though switching tools that sometimes can create new impetus for of writing, I found that like different seasons where I’m like, I know I need to write a little bit more. Let’s change to let’s change the scenery, right, and that sparks that, but it’s never it was never about the tool and it’s just kind of a change of environment, really.
Brilliant Miller [01:25:54] Yeah, that’s awesome. You talked a little bit before about the editor you worked with and how valuable that was on “Life Profitability”. How did you find your editor and what advice do you have for others who maybe have never worked with an editor or they’ve had a hard time knowing which one to work with?
Adii Pienaar [01:26:12] Yeah, I think the best perspective to take on this, and I’ll throw another book recommendation out there as well, because the concept is borrowed from the book, a book by Dan Sullivan called “Who Not How”. And essentially what the book proposes is that for most challenges in life, it’s not a question of how do I kind of you achieve X, Y or Z? It’s who do I need to achieve X, Y, Z? And I think just that, you know, for the longest time I went through the process of thinking that I should publish my own book, I can actually do this. I know I can. I’ve done this before. And when I switch that to, like, who do I need to really create the best book here? And I start asking around. I ultimately found a publishing house that kind of specializes in kind of connecting you with this kind of news-like editor / kind of your ghostwriter to help take what I’ve done and just kind of add that last kind of 20, 30, 40 percent kind of polish on top of that. So I think they are out there. I think it’s just a question of like being very clear about kind of as a writer, where your strengths and weaknesses are and then finding like, literally just go out and find that exact person or company, agency, sometimes publisher that kind of augments or complements those things.
Brilliant Miller [01:27:42] OK, thank you for that. So final question I have here is what advice or encouragement you have for anybody listening who is either in the middle of their own writing project or in the middle of their own book, or it’s a dream they’ve been harboring for a while and they haven’t quite started yet. What do you say to them to help them get going and or to finish?
Adii Pienaar [01:28:02] Um, I would probably say, share things sooner. I think there’s only so much that one can do with internal validation and an internal conviction, eventually one needs to connect with other human beings. We need that feedback loop. We need that kind of high five or even critique at some times. I think we need that external energy to flow back into the process. And I think the hardest thing is like especially if it kind of takes you a long time. You’re writing a full book, right? 50, 60, 70, 80000 words. If you’re doing that kind of in an isolated manner, like somewhere in a basement, that is very hard. You don’t have to do this alone kind of thing. So share sooner like find ways to kind of share bits or share kind of behind the scenes stuff or share the journey, but in some way or form, just connect, connect to people.
Brilliant Miller [01:28:57] Now, I love that about share sooner and all the benefits that can come from that. Right. Like the potentially the motivation, like we’re getting feedback and we’re seeing what’s resonating, what’s not, what we’re finding in real time. We’re serving, we’re not just waiting for some day. Like, that’s that’s really beautiful.
Adii Pienaar [01:29:12] I mean, I think like what will either without going into tactics too much. I think when, like, one of the very prevalent things that’s popping up in front of my business circles, mostly tech business circles, or retail brands. Right. But what everyone is saying is if you want to sell a products, start building the community first. Right. The sooner you build the community around this thing, this journey that you have, the better it’s going to be. And I think you’re writing itself lends itself to that very, very well, because, you know, there are ways to start building a community that you can engage and make part of the journey. So by the time you have that book, you probably have, you know, communities where you have a thousand true fans built in really to kind of buy this this final project, because they’ve been invested in this in some way or form with their attention and feedback, et cetera, for for a period of time. So think about building community and share sooner, like even like what people in my circles call it these days is “building public”. Like with inperfections, show the behind the scenes things. You know people are voyeurs to some extent, but just kind of build in public. And that’s how you build a community from where their customers for the eventual product comes from.
Brilliant Miller [01:30:38] All right. Well, thank you for that. Well, Adii, this has been so much fun. I’ve learned so much from your book, from our conversation. I personally love what you stand for and what you’re doing. I’m grateful for the chance to connect. So thank you so much for sharing so generously today.
Adii Pienaar [01:30:56] Thanks for inviting me. I had an amazing time. It does feel like we could go on chatting for absolutely ages.
Brilliant Miller [01:31:04] Yeah, I think we could. Well and I know there’s more books in you so at some point let’s do it again.
Adii Pienaar [01:31:10] Yes. 100 percent
Brilliant Miller [01:31:12] OK, today my guess Adii Pienaar you can find him at Adii.me. His latest book, “Life Profitability: The New Measure of Entrepreneurial Success.” Thank you so much for listening and I hope to talk to you again sometime real soon.
Brilliant Miller [01:31:34] Hey, thanks so much for listening to this episode of the School for Good Living podcast before you take off, I just want to extend an invitation to you. Despite living in an age where we have more comforts and conveniences than ever before, life still isn’t working for many people, whether it’s here in the developed world where we deal with depression, anxiety, loneliness, addiction, divorce, unfulfilling jobs or relationships that don’t work, or in the developing world where so many people still don’t have access to basic things like clean water or sanitation or health care or education, or they live in conflict zones. There are a lot of people on this planet that life isn’t working very well for. If you’re one of those people or even if your life is working, but you have the sense that it could work better. Consider signing up for the School for Good Livings Transformational Coaching Program. It’s something I’ve designed to help you navigate the transitions that we all go through, whether you’ve just graduated or you’ve gone through a divorce or you’ve gotten married, headed into retirement, starting a business, been married for a long time, whatever. No matter where you are in life, this nine month program will give you the opportunity to go deep in every area of your life to explore life’s big questions, to create answers for yourself in a community of other growth minded individuals. And it can help you get clarity and be accountable to realize more of your unrealized potential. It can also help you find and maintain motivation. In short, it’s designed to help you live with greater health, happiness, and meaning so that you can be, do, have, and give more visit goodliving.com to learn more or to sign up today.
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