March 17, 2020
My guest for this episode is Adrian Drew. Adrian is a writer, publisher and owner of a fast-growing Medium-partnered publication about happiness and self-improvement. It’s called Mind Cafe. Check out the publication homepage here, and its instagram page here.
The only way to reach your targets in life is to get to work. But it’s easier said than done. Only a fraction of people in life are actively working towards their goals. They know how to create and use the right tools and processes to generate progress for themselves. A lot of these people have a ton of interesting things to say. So I thought I’d interview them.
Most of my weekly guests created their own business, and they got where they are today by successfully implementing self-discipline in their life. To each one of them, I ask questions about their life, their learnings, their tools, and sometimes about which celebrity they would like to have coffee with.
There are no rules for success, only consistency in the work you do. None of the people I interviewed are super-humans. They’re just dedicated, and they have a lot of awesome things to teach us.
Let’s get to it.
Do you have a morning routine?
I do, although it can vary. I train mixed martial arts every weekday, so I like to get up at 7:30 am and start my day with a coffee and some quiet time spent answering emails before heading to training.
Then I’ll get home and cook up some protein-based breakfast, make a coffee and get to managing Mind Cafe article submissions until I decide to eat again. I’ll also squeeze in the gym around mid-morning if I have the time.
Of course, somedays I’ll sleep in late, skip training and eat unhealthy food. That’s fine, too. There’s a common misconception that self-help writers have it all figured out. We don’t, we just try our best. I don’t get up at the crack of dawn and meditate for an hour. I rarely do yoga. I don’t journal. I’m a normal person, as we all are, and I treat myself like one.
I’m all for those practices, don’t get me wrong, but I believe in balance and being realistic. Do what you can, what makes you feel good. Don’t let your rigid morning routine stress you out. That kinda defeats the purpose.
What is the number one habit/principle you attribute the most success to in your life (online and/or offline)?
That’s a tough one. There are so many. Amidst meditation, exercise, journaling and all that other stuff, the single principle that’s driven me forward in life more than any other is the simple act of doing things that scare me.
If something makes me feel uncomfortable, I’ll do it. Talking to someone new, riding a 200ft rollercoaster, getting up before the sun. Anything. Will Smith was right when he said the best things in life are on the other side of fear. Fortune favours the bold, and rewarding tasks are rarely easy.
Whether it’s starting a business, going for a run or asking somebody out, just do it. You never know where it might lead.
What is the number one productivity item you can’t live without?
I guess I’d have to be pretty boring here and say my laptop since that’s where I earn my living. It’s also where I learn new things, engage with clients and readers and manage my team. I’d be pretty stuffed without it.
What's the one book you'd recommend for self-improvement and/or productivity?
Without a doubt, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. As a socially anxious kid growing up, that book transformed my approach to relationships and conversation. It skyrocketed my self-confidence and launched me into making hundreds of new friends. I don’t experience social anxiety anymore. I went on a trip to Prague last week, signed up to go to a social event on my own and met tons of people, feeling totally relaxed the entire time. That fear has gone, and I attribute my personal growth in that sector to Carnegie’s book.
Social skills are skills. They must be learned. Carnegie teaches us how to develop them in 231 pages.
Can you tell us about your use of journaling and goal tracking?
I’m afraid I don’t journal, though it’s a practice I’ve wanted to adopt for a while. To be honest, I don’t have a good enough reason not to other than poor time management. There’s a lot I want to try, so I prioritise the practices I feel I need to utilise each week and make use of those. If I’m feeling mentally cluttered, I’ll commit to meditation. If it’s lack of productivity, I’ll start mapping my weeks out and setting deadlines.
As for goal tracking, I tend to create to-do lists for the day ahead before I go to bed at night. By doing so, I give myself less to think about when I’m trying to sleep and know exactly what I need to do the next day when I wake up.
You have an Instagram account for your publication Mind Cafe. How do you tie Medium and Instagram together?
I haven’t seen many other publications with Instagram accounts. I think it’s a relatively untapped market. While Instagram is definitely better for photo-based content, there are still a lot of people over there looking for personal development content.
Our Medium audience is, of course, aware of our Instagram profile, but we do have a separate following over there too independent of Medium. It seems we tap into a different market through Instagram, which will come in handy when we come to launch new products in the future (watch this space).
In terms of my social media usage, I do feel I need to monitor it. It’s easy to open up the business profile and start scrolling for ages rather than actually posting content. You need to remind yourself of what’s important to you. When I start sinking hours into my mobile phone, I have to force myself to take a step back and refocus. There’s no magic secret to cutting down on social media consumption. You just have to do it.
Some people say the classic newsletter/email list model is dying when it comes to generating more online business. What is your opinion on this?
Good question. I don’t believe that strongly in the newsletter model. It does have value, but realistically, how often do you open spammy promotional emails from brands you didn’t ask to receive? You don’t. People can see straight through email marketing tactics, and they don’t fall for them so much anymore.
Newsletters only work if you’re providing genuine value to your subscribers. My good friend Niklas Göke runs a great newsletter called Empty Your Cup. There’s no sales intent or promotion, only useful advice at no cost. That kind of thing works great, and once you come to monetise that audience, you already have a passionate crowd waiting to support your work. It’s better to build that audience first, way before you start trying to sell stuff.
Our mailing list has definitely been helpful in regards to generating survey results, bringing more writers on board, those kind of things. I think the best place to turn to when it comes to generating more online business in today’s world, however, is social media.
You write on medium, own a top publication and also have a newsletter. How do you manage your time between work and your private life?
Haha yes, I do. Busy life. To be honest, it was becoming very difficult to manage all three. So I decided to drop the newsletter and cut back on my writing to focus solely on the maintenance and growth of Mind Cafe.
Time management is key. I have to make the decision to switch off after a while to spend downtime with family. It’s so easy to open up my laptop and do more, but it’s vital to make that distinction between work and relaxation. Doing what you love is a double-edged sword. Work doesn’t feel like work, so you want to do it all the time. But it is work, and it’s taxing on your energy and personal relationships, so you have to find time to switch off. That’s something I certainly struggle with, but I’m getting better at it.
You write a lot about happiness and the simple life. What do these things mean to you?
Happiness is a complicated subject, but in the context of my own life, it’s incredibly simple. I find it difficult to be unhappy when I work a job I love that provides me with both financial freedom and the time to do the things I enjoy. It’s also hard to be unhappy when you’re surrounded by fantastic friends and a loving family.
The tricky part, however, is getting those things in the first place. I was incredibly unhappy growing up, with no sense of direction and not a single close friend I felt I could count on. I had to work hard to improve my social skills, level up my confidence, expand my social network and become the person I wanted to become. Then I launched into business at sixteen and had to build Mind Cafe from the ground up. Only now, after several years of difficulty, can I sincerely say that I’m happier than I’ve ever been before.
People often look for quick fixes for unhappiness. There aren’t any. To be truly happy, you have to create the right conditions for your happiness to flourish. If you’re working a job you hate, you’re unhealthy, lack routine, good friends… you’ll never be happy. You have to create a life for yourself in which it’s almost impossible to be unhappy.
If you could have a coffee and talk about anything with a personality (dead or alive) you admire, who would it be and why?
It’d have to be Marcus Aurelius. An infinite number of things could be said about Aurelius’s leadership style, his disposition and his remarkable ability to remain grounded amidst the many trials that came during his reign as emperor of Rome.
Aurelius was one of the first Stoics, renowned for his cool-headedness and balance. What fascinates me most about Aurelius as a leader and entrepreneur was his ability to manage people and engage in diplomacy without losing his head. Rather than growing angry at people’s mistakes, Aurelius possessed a natural ability to understand people. Empathy is something I consider to be fundamental to effective leadership in any field, something Aurelius was an expert in.
That’s just one of his respectable qualities. There are a ton that I won’t go into here, but I feel like that man would have so much golden information to share about the intricacies of leadership, even if it came naturally to him. A coffee with Marcus Aurelius certainly wouldn’t go a miss.