Learn about living an enriched life and building a successful business with Adii Pienaar’s life profitability perspective in this LMScast hosted by Chris Badgett from LifterLMS. Adii is the founder of WooThemes and author of the book Life Profitability: The New Measure of Entrepreneurial Success, and he now works on a startup called Cogsy.
Adii attributes a large part of his entrepreneurial nature to his ambition, drive, and love of a challenge, along with a thirst for learning. Many failures in business happen when we get stuck in cliches around what an entrepreneur does or should be. We end up striving for a unicorn status in our businesses, which isn’t very helpful for seeing productivity in our work.
Often these cliches, mantras, and memes act as very limiting for our mindset around what we need to do to be successful in business. Forgetting about peripheral things and staying laser focused is what made Adii’s businesses successful. And this did cause him to incur collateral damage along the way and costs in life and to those around him that he wasn’t aware of, because he was focused on growth at all costs.
Encouraging your customers and team to work in a way and at times where they can build a natural flow definitely helps them feel energized to produce and for customers to purchase your products. Along with creating that environment where individuals can cultivate creativity and positive interactions, finding your Ikigai is important. Ikigai is a Japanese concept for anyone to find the intersection of what they’re good at, what they love doing, things that can make money, and things that are good for the world.
Triangulating what activities lie at the intersection of all 4 of those aspects is the thing in life that will make you the most prosperous. If you’re at a point of struggling to find prosperity and life purpose in your business, starting with your own values first as the leader of your team will help guide what your next move should be in your business and life.
To learn more about Adii Pienaar, be sure to head to Adii.me and check out his book called Life Profitability: The New Measure of Entrepreneurial Success. As entrepreneurs, it can be easy to get lost in specific projects rather than examining how you can reach true prosperity, and Adii’s book has some great insights on that.
And at LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!
Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to create, launch, and scale a high value online training program. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress. Stay to the end, I’ve got something special for you. Enjoy the show.
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name’s Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by a special guest Adii Pienaar. He’s the founder of WooCommerce Conversion. He’s now working on a startup called Cogsy, but I wanted to bring Adii here in front of you, the education entrepreneurs and the WordPress professionals that support them, because Adii is awesome, but also he has this new book out called Life Profitability. Welcome to the show, Adii.
Adii Pienaar: Thanks so much for having me Chris. Thanks for a wonderful intro there. By the way, I always love it when people throw compliments at me. And everyone in the WordPress space that knows me, knows that I love little compliments and moments in the spotlight.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. That’s awesome. I’m a huge WooCommerce fan. So this is like, I get to interview one of my heroes. I was thinking, four years ago I was listening to you on a podcast while I was cross country skiing up in Canada with my family. And you were talking about the origin of WooThemes and stuff. So it’s fun because we often look up to the history of WooCommerce for our WordPress plugin business for Cues, so this is an honor. So thanks for coming.
You’re an entrepreneur yourself, entrepreneurship, a lot of it is an inside job. And I was so excited when you sent me an early copy of your book, because I’m similar to you. I’m big picture, I’m integrated, I don’t fit in the box. Businesses more than just business. People are more than just cogs in a machine, whether I’m building it or somebody else’s building it. So you wrote this book and you challenge the entrepreneurial archetype. Could you speak to that? And just one more piece of context, entrepreneurship is hard. There is hustle involved, but there’s also a lot of death and destruction along the way of overdoing it. How are you challenging the entrepreneur archetype?
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. I would classify myself as an ambitious individual. I think that ambition, that drive, that love of a challenge, my thirst for learning, all of those things is a big part of my makeup and is probably a big part of why I gravitated to this entrepreneurial path. Because it gave me that space or framework at least to put those things to work.
And I think all of those things are great things. I don’t regret being that Adii, for example, what I’ve also learned across two successful businesses at least, and multiple failures in between and around those, is that when we get stuck in the cliches… When I say cliches, those ideas that get pumped out in the media about what it means to be an entrepreneur, whether it’s some kind of hustle pawn of you have to do this, you have a short-term pain long-term gain, or you have to strive for unicorn status in your business.
All of these cliches, these mantras, these memes that go gets thrown out, I find them to be very limiting. And if I take a simple example, when I think about ambition, what makes sense to me generally, is when you’re so laser focused on something, that increases your likelihood of achieving success for this thing that you’re ambitious about.
But being so laser focused as an entrepreneur, I definitely did… When I was so laser focused, I forgot about these peripheral things, these things that were in my periphery, that I didn’t realize what was going on. And for me that meant true collateral damage along the journey. It meant accruing life costs for myself and those around me that I wasn’t aware of, because I was so focused on growth at all costs, do this entrepreneurial thing, built this business, be successful.
You’re putting that out there as, “Hey, I don’t think that’s what being an entrepreneur actually means.” I think that’s just the version that we’ve cut it onto because that’s the only version of entrepreneurship that gets thrown at us on a day-to-day basis.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I have to ask you a side question related to that. Are entrepreneurs, in your opinion, born like this personality type, or are they made. And of course they can improve and become more well-rounded. But is there such thing as an entrepreneurial personality type? In your opinion, is it not for everybody? Is there a percentage of the population that’s born with this combination of ambition, opportunity seeking, problem fixation and stuff like that? Or is this something anybody can do?
Adii Pienaar: I think it’s a bit of both. I think it probably comes more naturally to some people, to the extent that… I don’t think you’re born an entrepreneur or made an entrepreneur. I think there are probably some character traits that if you were able to do a true research study around the world, both for highly successful entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs that had failed businesses, if you did a research study and you try to abstract that into character traits, you probably find that there are certain things that many entrepreneurs share. And they probably shares some mix of those things. A list of 20 character traits and most entrepreneurs have 12 of them, whatever the case is.
I think that for me, the question is more like, does this come naturally to some people versus others? And I think the way that I’ve at least conducted my own life… When my life is easiest “at best,” it’s when I’m doing things that are closer to my nature. It’s when I’m doing things where, if I do this thing it is actually energizing. It creates more energy versus draining energy.
And entrepreneurship for example, building businesses, building teams, also in a very specific way, because I think there subsets here, but doing those things, I naturally gravitate to that. So I would actually propose one of the things, and this is not to knock entrepreneurship, I think being an entrepreneur is a truly unique, exhilarating, rewarding experience.
But I think for many people they can have much better outcomes if they were to join a really good company, a great team working on a problem that they absolutely love and not have all this, the stressors of being an entrepreneur, for example. So to that extent, at least I don’t think being an entrepreneur is for everyone. I think most people could probably do it. It will just not come as naturally to some.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. You mentioned the word life costs, and one of the things I really like about you, or just find interesting is this, you don’t really fit in the box either. In terms of an accountant, you have a strong accounting background. You’re also a poet, you’re a wine connoisseur. You can go into abstract thought.
For me as an example, I have a big background in social science and anthropology, that’s what makes me a good team builder, marketer, et cetera. I’m also an entrepreneur nerd, but I’m not very numbers oriented like you. So when I look at people, a lot of people don’t fit in the box. They have this unique mix, can you tell us about how you married the frameworks of accounting into this full stack life profitability framework? Because it’s really interesting to me, these two worlds, you push them together that don’t always go together.
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. Maybe as an individual, but definitely as an entrepreneur, because I think that I would probably classify my superpower as two different things. One is the persistence. I think my ability, even on a tough day to show up and put in the reps, I guess something that has served me really well over the years. Until someone gives me a second nod, I will probably keep pushing in applied way.
So that persistence I think it’s part of the super or. But the other one, and it gets closer to answering your question, is I think I have an ability to take seemingly unrelated things and connecting seemingly unrelated dots. And a big aha for me, was in the last couple of years I really upped my reading game. Not that it’s a thing that needs to be improved necessarily, or measured even.
But I started reading more diverse things. In the past, I would mostly read business books for example, but then I got into philosophy as an example, and I eventually got into science fiction. I don’t even watch science fiction movies. It’s not something that [inaudible] me, but I started reading science fiction.
And when you see all these things, then you start almost triangulating back to nature. And I think that’s where I’ve probably had my biggest aha moment is saying, that there’s many things that we’ve seen many created as a capitalist society in our economies and the way we think about business that is very unnatural. It almost contradicts the way we would see nature itself and the universe, which actually has the universal laws of physics.
I didn’t make them up, but the way economy works, the way capitalism works, the way any business leader proposals you build a business, that’s human made at least, and probably not as close to nature.
Just recognizing, acknowledging that has been the fun part for me to think through, how then do I take those things in nature and then marry it with concepts that we understand. So even the concept of life profitability, I think what is helpful there and for anyone that wants to… Selling a new product, coining a new term like life profitability, it’s hard work. I often in business context, go back to… I saw a case study reports that might’ve been tweet, where HubSpot, years before they went public, they spent about $8 million doing one thing, which was to bold and educate people around what inbound marketing is.
And only it was only after that $8 million they spent, could they build software for inbound marketers, but they had to hype that up. Hype it up, build it up, people needed to understand what is inbound marketing before they’re going to pay for that.
And I think what is helpful is when you’re trying to do something slightly different signs renew, see it as a remix instead of reinventing the wheel. So in this context, life profitability, and for anyone listening, the idea of life profitability is to build a business that is not just financially profitable in the narrow sense of the word.
So that’s the concept that everyone should understand financial profitability, but instead broaden that out and say, how can I build a business that is truly life profitable in the most diverse, wholesome broader sense of the world? That’s the tactic, remixing a term that people know, but then trying to connect it to these other adults that are there, there are in the universe, other ideas, just different modalities. And we don’t seem to connect them as often as we should.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, before we go on that, I have to pull on a thread since you brought up two of my favorite ideas, which are pattern recognition and bio mimicry or modeling nature. If we zoom way out and we go to the high level and we look down on natural systems, how do we see expressions of life profitability in natural systems? Not so much human related, but could you give us a metaphor or what does profitability look like in nature?
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. Probably symbiosis. I’m not big on natural sciences. As soon as I got to high school and I could choose my subjects, those were the things that I dropped. I went with numbers throughout. But I think you probably have that symbiosis. We were in Safari a couple of weeks ago, and the ranger told us this great story about symbiosis, that I’m totally losing it. But the way I would think about that is, where a system works in a way that is actually a creative to everyone and it has this natural sustainability cycle to it. At the very core, for example, the way I think about businesses, business should never be a zero-sum game, business should not be about someone having to lose only for someone else to win.
Yes, I understand how debits and credits work, something goes out, something else comes in and I understand how that works across different entities. But I think when things are truly life profitable, we’re ensuring that that symbiosis and that flow, we’re not losing the magnitude over the thing we’re exchanging, or significant parts of the value as we’re exchanging a thing or as that energy moves.
That’s probably the best example. You’re probably more of the expert there, but that’s my high level understanding of how I would think about how life profitability plays out in nature and then how that could play out in our actual society and our actual businesses.
Chris Badgett: One quick comment, and then we’ll pivot it back into your book. I love that you brought up sustainability and there’s this concept of regenerative, beyond sustainable maintaining, how do we make it even stronger outside of the zero-sum game. Let’s stabilize, let’s make it even, Nassim Taleb would call anti-fragile, they can even benefit from challenges and disorder.
So pivoting that back into business, one of my favorite parts of your book and go check out adii.me, that’s A-D-I-I.me, and you’ll see more info on the book there. Part of natural systems and whatever, it’s not like a solo act, there’s a team. So how do we look at our team with a fresh set of eyes with life profitability, as a framework to see it at a deeper level and to get better results and also more enjoyment for ourselves and our team members.
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. That’s a great question Chris. Probably because you read the book, so you know this. But that very question was one of the questions that I asked myself, that I think sparked this conversation within my team, that eventually led to me discovering some of these ideas and concepts that eventually became life profitably and the book.
So the backstory for everyone is that when we worked in Conversion, one of our values was rebellion as well, and we truly went into congested space, building marketing software with many incumbents, much bigger than us long pedigree, et cetera. And we tried to change a bunch of things from pricing to limiting the product, so the people could definitely not spam ever kind of thing.
And the reason why we did that is we try to create e-commerce. That’s what we called it at the time. And what we soon realized was that, firstly we were literally getting our butts kicked in the ecosystem. People didn’t care enough about being kinder. They just cared about building our own businesses.
That messaging didn’t work for our growth. And ultimately the thing that we failed at then is we didn’t have that impact that we hoped to have, which was inspire more people to adopt this, as a hedge to consumerism. That’s what we wanted to hedge against as we didn’t want to promote consumerism.
And when I sat down, I realized that, I was like, “Oh, how do we restructure things here?” So we can still create meaning and be purposeful about what we put out there. And I realized that that old adage cliche and charity starts at home. And for me, what I realized is how can I… And again, I didn’t use those words exactly, because I hadn’t coined the term life probability, but the idea was could I restructure my life firstly, in a way that is life profitable, which means restructuring my family life, truly invest in that family life at home life, be a better leader, be a better entrepreneur.
And then from there ripple outwards and essentially build the business and team to allow my team members to also have a truly life profitable experience. I built the business so that they have a better life at home. And my theory was that if they were able to do that, then they also ripple outwards from there.
We’ve all thrown two pebbles into a Lake simultaneously, and you see the ripples from those chords rippling out and then they eventually get to a point and they both bump each other up. Then it becomes a bit of a exponential boost. That was that idea that if I start with myself and then focus on those immediately around me, we could all start rippling outwards and we can all impact the societies, the communities, the spaces in which we are operating and where we actually have influence.
So it doesn’t have to impact, then suddenly doesn’t become this either massive thing. Like I have to donate Bill and Melinda Gates money, to have an impact, or cure cancer or whatever the case is. I can actually just in my everyday interactions probably start creating impact. If the foundation was there to do it.
Chris Badgett: If you’re working with a remote team, what are some ideas to help improve there… What are some tactical things that worked for you? We all know people want it. We want to help our team make as much money as possible and help them grow professionally. But how else can you improve their life profitability?
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. I think tactically, the fact that you pay them well. Pay them what you can. One of the questions I always like asking people is, when pre hiring writers, how much do you need to earn to live the life that you truly want? Because ultimately that might be outside of budget for me. But if I can’t pay you what you need to live the life that you want, eventually that doesn’t work anymore for you.
I think that’s part of it, that’s where it starts. Then you and I can probably chat for an hour about the fact that I think flexible work i.e remote work definitely helps with that. But then I also think there’s simpler things Chris. I think encouraging your team, not to have Slack on their phone, or at least disabling notifications. We’re not going to ping you at a random time.
Encouraging your team to work at times and in a way that they can build that natural flow, I think definitely helps. When you feel energized to do something, sometimes for me I have some family time on a Saturday morning and then I feel like, “Oh, it’s actually quiet at home. I feel inspired. I’m going to bash out a couple of emails.” That’s my natural flow. And that should be totally fine. I think you should encourage people to do that.
And then on the other side of it, before we had the term life profitability in the Conversion team, we spoke about being life and family first. And I think one of simplest ways for example, that you can do that is, if there’s an emergency at home or not even an emergency, if you have a kid and they need attention and time, just say, “Hey team, have a thing at home, I’ll be online as soon as I can.”
You don’t need to ask permission, no leave request form, just go do that thing. Because that thing is definitely a hundred percent more important than whatever you were going to do at work today. So those are some of the more concrete ideas like an examples that I would throw out there of how one can start building that life profitability into one’s team today.
Chris Badgett: Let’s talk more about the other team, which is the family. And I think the most common thing that I think I can relate to from my past, perhaps you can, perhaps most entrepreneurs can, which is you’re at work feeling like you’re neglecting your family or you’re with your family and you’re thinking about work. So you’re having issues with being present, what’s underneath that, and how do we fix that?
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. Don’t have the complete perfect solution by the way, can definitely resonate. That disconnect by the way Chris, is a big part of my personal journey and realizing that, that’s about six years ago, where my life literally fell apart.
And part of what I learned, was inspired or heavily influenced by mindfulness. And I think today probably the way I try and address it is two-fold. I think the first part is constantly staying aware at least, about where my attention and mind is and bringing it back to the moment that I’m in. So when I’m playing Legos with my boys and I’m starting thinking about business, either put that business on the side or quickly get up, write it down and then come back to this moment because that’s the thing that’s important.
So really the awareness of what is most important in this moment and not acting like this headless chicken and allowing your mind to kind of rule that moment. I think that’s the one part thereof. And then the second part thereof is probably reminding myself on a daily basis that regardless of my ambition… My ambition probably influences my perspective on how quickly things need to happen or how important things, or how urgent they are. And I think those things are artificial in most cases, most things aren’t that important or that urgent. And I need to constantly remind myself.
That’s an idea that is massively influenced by the stoic philosophy. Right. Just to remind they’re in a different context. The Stoics would think about death, for example, a lot too, in a way to ground them. So I do something similar where I just like, “Hey, business is great, business is fun, business is a challenging, it’s not that urgent or important.”
I think reminding myself of that on daily basis, resets the barometer a little bit. So when it does suddenly feel like, “Oh, I can’t play Legos right now,” that doesn’t feel as significant in that moment as it did, for example, five or 10 years ago.
Chris Badgett: Since we’re talking about a stoicism and death and getting old and family, let’s bring up retirement. I think you and probably most people listening to this podcast read the 4-Hour Workweek and it talked about, the tragedy of working really hard to you’re old and can’t enjoy retirement or whatever. We need a new frame for retirement. How do you see retirement in your context? I’ll just leave it at that. Or never retire.
Adii Pienaar: So one thing I loved that I discovered and researching the book. First thing of the concept of Ikigai, which is Japanese concept and for anyone, I always butcher it, but it has this really lovely diagram where they propose, it has four main quadrants, which is things that you’re good at, things that you love doing, things that you can make money with and things that’s good for the world.
And then they find that for an overlap to figure out, triangulating what you’re doing and where that fits in. And when I got stuck into that, I found this anecdote, I’m not a Japanese cultural expert, but this idea in the Japanese culture and society, that people that are older of age don’t necessarily retire, they reduce their workload, especially craftsmen, they continue doing the thing they’re doing. And hence life expectancy in Japan is much more. At least that was the author proposed here.
The reason he said that, because when you continue doing the thing you love, that gives you purpose. And I think we’ve all seen it with either parents of ours, grandparents of ours, like in a couple, once one of them dies, then the other suddenly dies a month or two later, they didn’t have any other illness or disease and no forwarding.
Again people say, they literally die of heartache. I think that’s a similar kind of thing. They run out of purpose and meaning to actually stick around and then the body actually just gives up. So without a mind, the way I think about it as well is to tie both my retirement into my present day, every single day. And what that literally means is to not try sequence things here. To say those things that I would eventually do when I don’t have all these other obligations or balls in the air that I need to juggle, how could I start building some of those things into my everyday?
That might be going on that holiday that I’ve always wanted to go on. It also can just be like, “Hey, I’ve got the time to be the dad that I actually want to be, and I should spend time with my boys.”
In 20 years time when I’m older and am not well, I’m only 36 now. So in 20 years time, I’m not that old. But these things shouldn’t come in 20 years time. When I sit down, have a glass of wine with my boys and then have big philosophical conversations. Those are the things that I could be doing now as well. So I try and forecast or for bear. But that retirement, I figured out, how can I bring elements of those into my daily life today? Which also means that I’m extending that runway, which I would want to be productive and future.
I’m not going necessarily be a founder entrepreneur in the same way that I am today for another 60 years. Eventually, I would imagine I will develop other interests and I would want to slow it down. But I think there needs to be a better blend instead of trying to sequence each thing and say, for the next 20 years of my life, I am the professional, the entrepreneur, the person hustling. And then after that I’m gonna have money or space or whatever it is I’m going to do these other things. I think there needs to be a bigger and better blend of those things in the present day as well.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. A moment ago you mentioned rebellion being one of the company values you had and whether it’s a personal values inventory or a company values inventory or setting, and perhaps you’re not doing it alone, you’re doing it with your team, and you’re trying to figure it out. I’ve done this before too with our team, and sometimes these comments come up like, “Oh, I don’t want some cheesy corporate meaningless thing.” If you look at your life or you look at your business, maybe they’re different, maybe they’re same, how do we find those real values that matter?
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. I think for a business at least, the business values will always be a combination and a collaboration between the individuals that are involved in the business. And from either the process during the post we followed with the Conversion and the one that I recommend to other entrepreneurs and founders building businesses is to, you start with your own values first, because as a leader of your team-
Chris Badgett: What are yours, If you don’t mind me asking, what are some of them?
Adii Pienaar: The whole spectrum of values. I think I touched on some of those earlier. So for me, my values would need to include things like, the ability to do challenging things. I enjoy making things. I need to be able to do that. I have an absolute thirst for learning and experiencing new things.
So those things, I think are all part of my values then my family and my home life. My family is my highest idea, and my home life is super important. Without that in place, everything else would be out of whack for me. That’s one big investment, one significant investments of both your time, attention, energy, and money.
And then I have insignificant things, but they also balance out the portfolio. You called me a wine connoisseur, I’m mostly just the wine drinker. Geeking out about wine, you’re both on the commercial side and the actual art of making wine, those things are interesting to me. Including things like playing FIFA. That’s the only game that I play. I own a PlayStation, just so I can play FIFA.
Those things are important too. When I think about values at least, and constructing that life portfolio of mine, those are the things that I’m very clear on. They need to be in there and I need to be making due investments in them, on with a regular cadence, at least.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. You mentioned, I can’t remember if it’s in your book or on a podcast that I heard you on or both, when you wrote the book Life Profitability, it was important to you for it to be less of a how to business book and more of a principles book or something. Can you unpack that a little bit?
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. The simple answer is, I don’t believe in how-to books. I don’t believe in any author ever proposing years of 10 step way to accomplish X, Y, or Z. Because I think that lacks context.
And ultimately what I believe in Chris is, I believe in the unique magic of individuals. And I think therefore, yes by all means read the how-to book, read your 10 step blueprint to X, Y, Z. Because I think those things are helpful in terms of illuminating options, but then I think that the opportunity and responsibility is back to every individual to figure out what does that mean for them.
And for life profitability at least, one thing that I advocate here is that you can only build a truly life profitable business and have a life that is profitable, if you figure out that unique aspect to it. I can throw ideas out there, I can share frameworks that helps you illuminate parts of that, but the work is up to you.
Because I wanna honor that unique magic in every single individual, I do not dictate what that should mean for everyone.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. So this audience is full of people creating courses, coaching programs, aren’t just online training for various reasons. And that type of person is also fascinated with writing a book, some of them already have, what was your book writing journey like? And was the act of writing the book actually help you figure this whole thing out? Or was it more like, “I found this thing and I got to share it with the world,” or both?
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. So-
Chris Badgett: When did it start? What are the bookends here? How long did this process take?
Adii Pienaar: So thank you for your time here Chris. I probably wrote the first words of the book in late 2017, early 2018-
Chris Badgett: And we’re recording this at the beginning of 2021. So this is three years in the banking or so. Right?
Adii Pienaar: Exactly. So what effectively happened is I wrote about 40,000 words, all scattered, thinking that I need to be able to write about 50, 60 K words, and that makes a book. I got to the point and I realized that there’s something here I’m truly passionate about it, but, this is not coherent enough. This is not a book yet.
So what effectively happened is after Campaign Monitor acquired Conversion, and this happened in August 2019, I had a bit of capital to put to work and I had a little bit more time, and time in that sense, not of work time, but that mental overload time, because I was not the business owner anymore. I suddenly didn’t have certain stressors that I had before.
What I ultimately did is I hired a publishing team to help me with it and the bulk of from when we started in, I think late October 2019, until the book was production ready about a year later. And we delayed the publication by further two months, the book was published then in January of this year, but the bulk of that initial eight or nine months was me working with my editor to truly stress test ideas, to collaborate on that.
I think what was great about the editor I had Sonia, she brought a lot of very different person to me. Her background is in classical music for example, not in business and entrepreneurship. So she and I had that symbiosis where definitely we brought different ideas to the melting pot and that expanded on the ideas that I had. And that was a game changer for me. I did not think I could have written the book that I had without having that sparring partner that could truly add some uniqueness to the effort.
And to pull me forward, I think that’s… Again, having someone that has done this before with a book, multiple books, having their experience, that was absolutely critical for me.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Also want to honor the other part of the audience here, which is the WordPress professional, this is probably a really big question, but what makes the WordPress community special and what words of wisdom would you impart to somebody who’s either using WordPress to build client projects or is working on their own WordPress product, what would you tell them?
Adii Pienaar: Yeah. I probably didn’t realize that at the time, Chris, but one of the things that has shaped me as an entrepreneur greatly is my roots in WordPress and in this open source nature. And I think when I said earlier that I don’t believe that business is a zero-sum game. That is something that, before I had the words years ago… When I say years ago, this is ancient because I built the first product that eventually became WooThemes. That’s how I met Magnus and Mark in November 2007. So 13 odd years ago.
And before I knew it back then and understood this concept of zero-sum, what is zero-sum game is, building something with an open source ecosystem, changes the game greatly. Because you suddenly have very different market forces. You have to focus on different things and prioritize different things. So in that sense, the WordPress ecosystem has been a truly influential part of my life and a special part. I am probably a more unique entrepreneur as a result.
I think for anyone building something in WordPress still, the one thing I would double down on the open source part of this, and not in sense of open source in your code necessarily or contributing even to open source, it’s not that necessarily, but what I always got from that is how do you think about relationships and collaboration effectively. And I think when you can do that, and you can start thinking about doing that at scale, that’s when you start really winning.
Because if you think about it, that’s what an open source project does. Essentially it’s a product that gets built at scale because it opens itself up to have more relationships, to have more contributors. It’s not this, “Hey, we’re a small team and we’ve got opinion. And only this goes.”
I think finding ways to be more open, with regards to those relationships and what you put into those relationships, at least almost airy-fairy esoteric level, but that’s how I would think about it.
I still have amazing friends in the WordPress space. Some that I’ve gotten back to recently that have opened significant doors for me as an example. And I think it’s all because those relationships got built back then because none of us were closed. We weren’t that protective about things.
I just doubled down on that. That DNA is already there. If you had met Mullenweg on the podcast today and you asked him something similar, you would find that that DNA is still there. He was a big influencer and a big founder of that DNA. That’s not going away. So you might as well double down on that boulder relationships, figure out what it means to be more open as an individual and as a business.
Chris Badgett: Love that. So I was walking my dogs this morning, listening to you on another podcast, just doing my work and ready for the interview, I heard you drop a quote and I didn’t write it down so hopefully you remember it and you can correct me, but it was something like, “The cost of your life’s work is life,” or something. Do you know this quote?
Adii Pienaar: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: All right, go ahead. What is it?
Adii Pienaar: So it is Henry Thoreau and he wrote it in his book Walden, whilst he was staying in a cottage for about three years at Walden Pond. And he says, “The cost of anything we do in life is just life.”
Chris Badgett: So with that in mind, what final words do you have for the good people today?
Adii Pienaar: I think the thing we neglect Chris is the notion that everything we do in life has an opportunity cost and there’s always an alternative. Sometimes I think we’re so focused on just the goal, that we neglect to think through what those potential opportunity costs could be. And I think what inevitably happens when we’re in this go forward, run forward optimistic mode, we only think about opportunity cost, again in that very narrow sense, the word which is, if I do this thing in my business, if I invest this 10K on this marketing campaign, then sure I can’t hire that person that I need.
The question here that I think we should ask ourselves is what is a much more definition of potential opportunity cost here? And the biggest potential loss test that we have is probably in our lives, not in our businesses. And I think that’s what Henry Thoreau states so beautifully there, that’s the thing we’re giving up…
When you’re sacrificing yourself to your business, pulling 80 hour weeks, the thing you’re giving up for that business is not time, it’s not money, it’s life. Again, that sounds truly more about grandiose and all those things at once, but that is literally the thing. Coming back to Thoreau at least, and thinking through how to die a good death.
I’m not that more, but neither am I pessimistic. But again, I love that idea because it challenges me to think through, once I leave this mortal earth, what will other people say about me? And I would absolutely be gutted if people only said Adii was an entrepreneur. That would simply not be it for me. Because that would feel like I sacrificed my whole life to attain some title that at the time society deemed to be respectable, and rewarding.
I don’t think that’s it. As I said, I think that truly dilutes the fact that true life, meaningful life purpose, all those things happen alongside and outside of business. I don’t think much of it happens in business itself. I think that’s way too narrow. And I said, we often give up life in that pursuit.
Chris Badgett: That’s Adii Pienaar. You can find him at adii.me, that’s A-D-I-I.me. The book is called Life Profitability, the new measure of entrepreneur entrepreneurial success. Adii thanks for coming on the show, I really appreciate it. Thanks for shining your light and unpacking all this. This is a great conversation. I can’t wait to see what you do next and you out there listening, I hope this had some big unlocks for you in your life and the direction you’re heading in and how you roll. Adii, appreciate it. And we’ll catch you down the line.
Adii Pienaar: Yeah, totally. Thanks again for having me, Chris.
Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode and I’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Go to lifterlms.com/gift. Keep learning, keep taking action, and I’ll see you in the next episode.