David Brackin - @drbrackin - is a leading entrepreneur in the circular economy. As founder of Stuff U Sell, the eBay selling assistant and managing director of ReThread, the circular fashion marketplace, he deals with thousands of items of unwanted goods and clothing for people and businesses across the UK. After studying mathematics at Cambridge and spending several years at McKinsey, David has spent most of his career working in and around small businesses, including his own, and he believes that small businesses often reveal the truths about work that can be hidden in larger organisations. Outside of work he chairs his local council and runs a club for improving driving skills and an educational charity.
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[00:00:29] David: I have this idea of zombie jobs. Right if you don't kill it, if you don't kill a task, it'll come back and it rises up from your to-do list. Like a zombie lurching towards you. And that's fine. You can deal with one zombie. Zombies are really dangerous when there are 30 of them.
[00:00:42] David: I worry that a lot of my generation, some of the brightest minds did not go off to make those flying cars. They did not go off to cure cancer. They went off to try and figure out how to make you click more.
[00:00:54] David: Never wanting that to happen again, that rush of embarrassment and the heart starts pumping as you think. "Whoops. Maybe I should have thought through that question before"
[00:01:02] Scott: In this episode, I discuss with David, "zombie jobs". How your to-do list comes after you like the undead, his experience running the biggest eBay trading system in the UK and how easy it is to get distracted with anything other than your most important tasks.
[00:01:18] Scott: Hi, David, welcome to the Rebel Diaries podcast. Really glad to have you on the show for the benefit of everybody listening would you mind just giving a bit of background to yourself, please?
[00:01:27] David: Sure. So my name's David Brackin, I'm the founder and managing director of Stuff U Sell eBay's leading trading system in the UK and also Managing Director of Rethread a circular fashion business. I have been doing this now for nearly 20 years selling on eBay for other people.
[00:01:45] David: Early on, I was a mathematics student at Cambridge and went off to McKinsey and Company where I learnt about business had a great time there worked around the world and learnt a lot about how larger businesses worked when I was there. And then I got hooked on small businesses and I think that I think one of the interesting things about small businesses and one of the things that I find most addictive about them is that you can really see what's going on in a small business, large business, often very complicated beasts, there's a lot of cultural history in them. There's a lot of confusion, and a lot of complexity in a small business, you can see much more easily what's going on. I remember vividly my first day at a startup where, when the sales guy made a sale and there were eight of us in the room when the sales guy made a sale, he whooped and we all whooped with him and we were all delighted.
[00:02:33] David: And you could really feel the whole company lift cause he had a good sales call. And I think you lose that in some of the big organizations you lose, how you fit in. With everything else that's going on. And I think that's a really important thing to understand, to get a lot of satisfaction at work. I think for me, one of the challenges of leadership is to be able to take an organization, a business process, something you're trying to achieve for a customer and break that down into little bits that people are doing.
[00:03:04] David: And what you're doing is this is your objective is to do this. And let me tell you how that fits into the overall business and how that makes us a success. You know that if you have a good day, maybe you're not whooping across the office, but if you have a good day, that you've helped everybody and everybody knows what you've achieved and done, and being able to break everybody's bit of the business into those and then build them up into something that the customer wants. I think it's one of the one of the joys of leadership within a business. And one of the great things about small businesses is quite easy to do that. Big businesses work well, I think when they feel like small businesses stuck together, so you get lots of small teams who are responsive and quick and able to do good stuff and see what they're achieving.
[00:03:45] David: I think it's it's one of the reasons I absolutely love, small businesses.
[00:03:48] Scott: And how big is your business currently?
[00:03:50] David: So there's just under 20 of us in the business. So it is a small business. You can meet around a table, you can have pizza together and go down to the pub. And I like that size I think that's a great size to me.
[00:04:00] David: 50, a hundred people it's much harder to maintain those sort of personal relationships across the business.
[00:04:06] David: So I think you then have to work much harder at breaking down into the separate chunks, making sure that everybody understands how their part of the business fits together.
[00:04:16] Scott: You mentioned another business that you run, can you tell us a bit more about that?
[00:04:19] David: Yeah. Rethreads is a fashion business. It's a circular fashion business. So the idea is to allow people to bring their clothes in for sale it's very much a sister business to Stuff You Sell. We use eBay, we use our own marketplace to clear the clothing.
[00:04:33] David: I founded Stuff You Sell it was very much about raising money. It's about turning the things you've got in your house back into cash. We all got stuff we buy on impulse. That pair of shoes that you wore once it's the jacket that doesn't fit anymore.
[00:04:47] David: I think there's also a very strong driver that we don't want garments and fashion going into landfill and I think over time I see clients' objectives moving not just.
[00:04:59] David: "I want some cash for this" to "I want to make sure this goes to a good home" and trying to satisfy that circular need is very much what the Rethread marketplace is about.
[00:05:08] Scott: And I'm guessing you're seeing a growth in that area there's certainly the younger generations seem a lot more aware about that don't they, the whole fast fashion as they call it?
[00:05:18] David: Yeah, so we have a business that turns stuff into money. It's very tempting when you've got that, just to say that's what everybody wants. They want to turn stuff into money. Actually, that's not necessarily what everybody wants.
[00:05:27] David: And I think listening to what customers actually want and being lively to their feedback. And when they tell you that you've got it right there, and god bless them, customers will tell you when you've got it wrong. And they'll tell you in no uncertain terms that you've got it wrong and you'll be at the receiving end of, "oh, I didn't like this", or "I thought this was rubbish".
[00:05:44] David: What do you think? I'm doing my best. I'm making this business up as I went along. So I'm doing my best and I didn't try and annoy you, but they give you that feedback and then you work to improve and eventually they stop complaining about one thing and start complaining about another thing.
[00:05:56] David: That's brilliant. I often joke with other entrepreneurs if we did build flying cars, people would say "it's not really the right colour. It doesn't really go fast enough." How much more do you want? " I'd like it to be blue, please". And I think if you can learn to love the idea that people are going to be unhappy, then you can take their never satisfied status and " oh, great. That means I can improve. I can be better". And you have to take your ego out of that sometimes and be able to say, "yeah. I know it sounds like you're saying I'm a terrible person for not being perfect. Let me take my ego out of it and say, okay, let me hear it the improvement you're asking me for. And let me see if I can then start delivering that".
[00:06:33] David: You can't do stuff cheaper, better, faster all at once. You can't do all of those things. So you have to make it add up somehow, but it's very hard to take that feedback and not have a personal reaction to it. And I think feedback for me is one of the things that's always allowed me to grow.
[00:06:50] David: And I know your fan of agile and the idea of a safe place where you can receive feedback and you can experiment and grow and get better, I think is really important. For any kind of growth, any kind of improvement. You always have a human reaction to feedback.
[00:07:06] David: But the moment you allow that to dominate or not allow you to listen to it, I think it's the moment that you stop learning. So I think it takes a real effort to hear feedback well.
[00:07:14] Scott: And, do you think that's harder for companies as they get bigger to, stay close to the customer? Do you think there are too many layers potentially for getting that feedback?.
[00:07:23] David: It's not impossible for larger businesses to stay close to customers. They just have to work harder at it.
[00:07:29] David: So I think, yeah, it comes back to that. Do you know where you fit into the overall mission of the business? If you're producing something and you don't need to listen to the customer, you may just think "I never needed to talk to customers at all", but actually you can always get insight into how your bit of the business fits into the overall mission, which is satisfying the customer.
[00:07:46] David: If you are providing customer service then great. You're sitting right in front of them. But I think we make a mistake when we say that customer service are the only people who talk to customers.
[00:07:55] David: When you're leading a business I think that the leader of a business has three jobs that they can't delegate. So they've got to define the vision of the business. They've got to define the culture of the business and then how resources are deployed to deliver that vision. And the vision of the business must be driven by customers because you can't know what's going to get bought unless you listen to the customers.
[00:08:19] David: So I think it's absolutely critical that if you're in leadership, that you're hearing those complaints from the customers, the feedback.
[00:08:25] David: You know the bits you're doing well, though, when people generously say," I really love this" you can sit there and go. Brilliant that's something that's going well for that customer".
[00:08:33] David: "Now let me get back to beating myself up with all the bad feedback that I can use to, improve". But those three roles, I think vision, culture and strategy are three things that when you're in leadership, you have to you have to deliver on.
[00:08:45] David: I've another entrepreneur friend of mine talked about the culture piece and said you do not understand as a leader, you do not understand what impact you have on your team when you walk in there and talk to them.
[00:08:57] David: If you're having a bad day it might be the best thing that you can do for your business to stay at home and not come into the office, because if you're going to come in all grumpy, then everybody's going to think that something's absolutely terribly wrong or they've done something terrible.
[00:09:09] David: It might be nothing today, or you might've just burnt your toast that morning. But you have a disproportionate impact and you've got to be thoughtful about how you use that. I think we're all human right. We're all work in progress.
[00:09:19] David: I was listening to your previous guest and she was talking about how important sleep is. And I think if I've got a superpower, I think it's the lie in I think lying in would be my superpower.
[00:09:29] David: I think sleeping and therefore being more alert and more able to handle negative feedback or emotional situations I think is essential.
[00:09:41] David: I cut my teeth in the days when, the hundred-hour week was a macho thing that you did, if you were late in the office that showed that you were hardworking, I don't think we live in that world anymore. And I know the next generation don't believe in that stuff.
[00:09:54] David: If you have a clear mission for what you're trying to achieve and as part of that mission, you know what it is that needs to get done, then it's not about the hours that you do.
[00:10:05] David: 'Cause you can take pride in getting the thing done that drives your mission forward, as opposed to being at your desk at midnight.
[00:10:11] David: Now I happen to like working late it's dark, you don't get any interruptions and I am an absolute demon for being interrupted. If you come to me and I'm trying to work on something with an interruption, I'm like a butterfly I'll just flutter off.
[00:10:23] David: So at night I find that I have fewer interruptions. It's dark and no one's going to phone you up at midnight. So I quite like working then. And then I make sure I try and get my sleep in the morning. Different people have different styles of working. I think the last two years have seen us all undergo a great experiment on what we find good at work.
[00:10:40] David: What is the thing we're trying to achieve and can we achieve it in a better way by working from home rather than coming into the office.
[00:10:46] Scott: I'm similar to you it's like, "oh, a distraction. It means I don't have to do the hard thing. I'll go and do that".
[00:10:50] Scott: But I'm interested in the working late thing. Again, I find I kind of get in the zone sometimes in those hours, but I guess the danger is to your team. Some may form the perception that "oh the boss works, late I'm expected to work late?"
[00:11:05] David: When I was at McKinsey it's stuffed full of really intelligent, hardworking slightly insecure overachievers, who you've only got to show them roughly what you're trying to do, and they will shoot off and go and work a hundred hours a week and try and get it done for you.
[00:11:18] David: And therefore the management challenge is what's the target? What's our aspiration here. Great. Now let's go. And one of the things I learned very rapidly when I left as a first job, that's a weird place to work. When I left there and realized that actually most businesses are staffed up with human beings who, they like to be award-winning violinists in the evening or whatever it is they do that are their hobbies. And therefore they just want to work nine to five. And then at five o'clock, they want to put work behind them. And that's a really healthy attitude to have, to be able to just say, "I just want to, I want to do my shift. I want to go home. And I want to have that separation."
[00:11:56] David: So depending on the motivation of the individual, you might have to put guidelines around how much work is being done or how that work is being delivered or what exactly needs to be delivered.
[00:12:06] David: So if you've got people who can run and fly then brilliant. You just point them in the right direction. Say "that's where we're going to go". Other people might need to say "I need you sitting at your desk at nine o'clock please. This is how you do your work. Come and see me at 10 30 because. You should have done 50 of these by then". So different people are motivated in different ways because work fits into our lives in different ways.
[00:12:26] David: I think all of those are very valid and I think all of those are ways in which we can take in our work. And I think you can enjoy work in any of those modes. And I think it's a very healthy thing to draw boundaries around your work.
[00:12:41] David: I'm the world's worst procrastinator. If I've got a big task, I can tell you that I'm going to find every little task and try and do that first. If I've got a big job that I need to get done today, I'll probably start with the washing up first.
[00:12:53] David: And then maybe tidy up some stuff on my desk, answer a couple of emails, maybe write a, to-do list, tick a few things. I will avoid starting that big time. Now, once I get into the big task, I can feel it's a bit like walking through mud that first bit where you're like, "I just, I can't think my way through this get my brain up to speed".
[00:13:11] David: And then I find myself in it and I'm doing something and then I'm seeing things and I can get into the zone and I can be there for an hour, two hours, three hours really working through a problem, getting to an endpoint on it and saying "right there it is. I've closed that one off. "
[00:13:28] David: Those are definite different phases for me. And once I'm in there, I don't want to come out. So if it's midnight and I've got to keep going until one o'clock two o'clock in the morning, then I've just got to keep going and do that. And that's why I find that easier to do late, because if.
[00:13:43] David: Three o'clock in the afternoon. I'm going to go and pick up my son from school at five o'clock. I can't do a three-hour stint there. I've got real-life interruptions. And for me getting rid of those interruptions and allowing yourself to luxuriate in the zone to get a job done, I think is the key for me to personal productivity.
[00:13:59] David: Different people work in different ways, but for me, it's make a list, do a list. And then when I'm in that list, One thing a day. I think one of your guests before was talking about spending just 20% of your time on stuff you enjoy and stuff you find fulfilling and that's enough to feel fulfilled overall.
[00:14:15] David: So 20% of your time on that one thing on your to-do list that you pick off and kill off completely in a day is amazing. If you can do that every day, you achieve amazing stuff.
[00:14:25] David: You still to answer the emails. You gotta answer the phone calls, people asking you little questions about XYZ.
[00:14:30] David: Yeah. You got to do that stuff. You've got to sleep. You've got to eat you've got to do your exercise. So there isn't actually that much time in the day to kill these big to do's. I have this idea of zombie jobs. Right if you don't kill it, if you don't kill a task, it'll come back and it rises up from your to-do list.
[00:14:47] David: Like a zombie lurching towards you "oh, I haven't finished. I've got to get on with it." And that's fine. You can deal with one zombie. Zombies are really dangerous when there are 30 of them. When there's 50.
[00:14:55] David: So if you don't kill these tasks off your to-do list just gets longer and longer with these half-finished unsatisfactory.
[00:15:03] David: Oh God. I've only really not done, that task yet. Oh, I'm going to have to pick that one. If you kill them off, dead crossed off. Done. Never picking that one up again. Then one a day I think is the way forward for me. Different people work in different ways.
[00:15:18] Scott: So you're running two companies. And you're also on the radio as well aren't you?
[00:15:22] David: I like to keep quite busy. I lost my mother when I was very young and one of the things, that losing someone that close to you early on in your life makes you realize is that we are all mortal and we have a limited amount of time and I'm, I don't like to dawdle so yes, I fill my time and do a lot of stuff. I I run the businesses. I'm trying to build a house at the moment, I do appear on the radio from time to time. I chair my local council. I run a driving club. I run a charity. I have a family as well that demands the time time. And I just picked up a bass guitar the other day because I thought I might teach myself how to do that.
[00:16:00] David: I'm very frustrated that I don't get more time to sit down and read things. I'd love to read more books. I find I read too much short stuff these days. So Twitter and WhatsApp and all of these things, whereas I'd much rather be reading long-form and reading more novels, more books.
[00:16:16] David: But for me, I like to be busy and therefore being organized about how I get stuff done is very important to me. Otherwise, I find it a little overwhelming.
[00:16:24] Scott: That's a lot to juggle and, you know, you described being a procrastinator I don't know if you've seen Tim Urban's Ted talk about the mind of a procrastinator. It's amazingly funny. And I can resonate. I'll put up a link in the notes, but it's well worth a watch, but how do you, how'd you do it though?
[00:16:40] Scott: What's your secret? How on earth are you running all of these things at the same time? Does it feel like you're spinning plates? Or do you feel you're in control?
[00:16:47] David: So yeah, look sometimes it all feels like spinning plates, right? Because sometimes you don't get enough sleep and you don't get enough exercise and you don't eat well. Or you're sick. I had COVID earlier on in the year. And when that happens, there can be a lot of things get on top of you.
[00:16:59] David: I keep a lot of to-do lists. I have one to-do list with, different sections on it for different areas of my life. And I think the act of writing a, to-do list is a cathartic way of getting things out of your head that allow you to get into the zone to do jobs.
[00:17:12] David: I don't actually think to-do lists are lists of things that you're going to do. That may sound, that might be slightly controversial, but I know when I'm sitting there going, "oh, I've got so much, my head is full I'm panicking, I've got way too much". I can start writing a list. And it's a truth that you won't be able to write many things on that list.
[00:17:30] David: You won't be able to write as many things on that list as you think you've got on because your head will feel very full. You'll feel very panicky. But actually when you start writing stuff down and you'll go, "oh, is that it's just the 20 things I have to do". And then you'll sit there and challenge yourself.
[00:17:42] David: "Can I think of a 21st thing? No, I can't. Okay. It's just that, now we can see it. It's on a piece of paper." This problem has gone from being amorphous and in my head and causing me to panic, to. "Oh, it's just on a piece of paper. I guess I better get on with a job. I'll just do the washing up first and then I'll tidy up and then I'm going to get on with job number one and get that done.
[00:18:02] David: Job number two. And then I'm going to get the little endorphin hit from crossing something off my to-do list." So I'll have taken it from "whew. I'm spinning plates. I'm panicking" to, huh? "Actually. Now, this is under control" and the cathartic feeling of writing on the list, I think is more important than having a list.
[00:18:20] David: Whether you actually work through the list. It's not important. It's writing that list down, allows you to pick the most important thing of the day, allows you to stop the panic and go. "Actually, what's really important. What's really important today is this okay? That's what I'm going to do. And now my head is empty. I can do that. And I can pick it up and I can get myself into the zone and I can do that work".
[00:18:37] David: If you're thinking about "how am I going to approach a negotiation?", right? You can't do that with a full head. You're going to empty your desk and write it down. You're going approach. You're going to talk about your options.
[00:18:46] David: If you're in this mode of feeling like you've got too much to do, you don't have the luxury of being able to think. And I think it's our ability to think that defines how well we work through things. And that's what you add. The other thing about being very busy across lots of areas is that you have to delegate and you have to put rings around things and it gives you an excuse to be absent from some tasks. So if you're very busy, cause you've got six things on, then, you can't deliver everything within the business yourself and therefore it forces you to delegate. And I think one of the things where we all feel that we've got too much on is a failure to delegate.
[00:19:23] David: It's a failure to trust people to deliver things. And I'm the worst at this I look at something and I "only I could possibly do that". And then I'll give it to somebody else and they'll do it better than me and I think, " okay. I was wrong. Okay. I'm going to learn from the, I don't know, only I could do the next task."
[00:19:37] David: I'll give that to somebody and they can do it better than me, or maybe they won't. Maybe they won't do it better than me, but they'll have done it. And that's the important thing I can, I can move on to the other stuff.
[00:19:44] Scott: Do you find you're a bit of a perfectionist then in terms of "it's gotta be done really, really well" versus give it to someone else who would do an okay job or might do it differently to how you would have done it. But the end result is still the same?
[00:19:55] David: I think if you want to kill the zombie. If you want to really kill it, you've got to do something well. Now does that have to be perfect? Perfection is the enemy of good, right? If you're trying to make it stupidly perfect. I think that's always going to come back and bite you.
[00:20:11] David: You're just gonna spend too long on tasks. I think being short of time is helpful in some of these instances, just say, "I've got an hour I'm just going to do the best I can in an hour", and then forgiving yourself. Just having the ability to say perfect in this case, was not perfect on the task. Perfect in this case it was getting three things done in three hours.
[00:20:28] David: So slightly changing your objective. " I'm not trying to do an absolute gold plated job on this. I'm just trying to get the job done". And that's if you can get your head around that, that, that helps.
[00:20:40] Scott: I know certainly through, reports and presentations, you can potentially just keep doing them and never end, if you don't have that deadline, " oh, I'll rewrite that bit. Or it's not quite right. I'll rewrite that" I mean, I've been trying to write a book for about five years now and I've read the advice is just get it down, just write a bit every day and then you tidy it up at the end, rather than trying to just keep redoing and redoing.
[00:21:01] David: One of the things I, I try, never to do is never to write on the computer.
[00:21:05] David: The temptation to write into Word and format as you go, it's terrible because you spend half your time formatting and you know, you write stuff down on pieces of paper, then you translate it into a computer.
[00:21:18] David: It's much easier to be an editor than it is to be a creator. It's certainly true. So the first thing you should do is do your creation in the most natural way possible and create, and then everything else is an editing job.
[00:21:27] David: If I have a deadline that really helps me to start the tasks that we were talking about before, that's probably the one thing that will make me stop doing the washing up and go and get on with the task.
[00:21:36] David: I think in the back of my brain the way I approached deadlines is is to flirt with disaster with them and say "it might get canceled, I might not have to do this. I should leave it right until the last possible minute to find out whether I really do need to do this too, I know, oh, okay. I do need to do this task. And I've only got two hours to do it in, so I better well pull my socks up and get on with it".
[00:21:54] David: And now obviously, if something goes completely wrong at that point, you end up looking a bit silly or a bit late.
[00:21:59] David: But that's just the way my mind works when it comes to those tasks.
[00:22:03] Scott: Has that ever happened?
[00:22:03] David: One of the perils of being the boss within organizations you get, do you do get to change the rules slightly on deadlines. But outside of that for example, in my council work, you have to do stuff before a meeting and the meeting has to happen at a certain time.
[00:22:18] David: And you might be meeting with external people. If you find yourself standing up in front of a group of people trying to decide an issue and you haven't done the thinking yet. There's a very nasty moment when the floor won't swallow you up. Even though you're wishing it would.
[00:22:32] David: So I find that really drives good preparation is never wanting to do that. Never wanting that to happen again, that rush of embarrassment and the heart starts pumping as you think. "Whoops. Maybe I should have thought through that question before"
[00:22:47] Scott: Would you say then on your own business, you're maybe a bit less disciplined than when there's other people involved? Because as you said, you're your own boss.
[00:22:56] David: Yeah. You're your own boss and so you can always go, " not today. I won't do I, I'm going to wait until I'm feeling really perfect before I do this". And I think when you're running a business, you can go and solve other people's problems.
[00:23:07] David: If I turn up in the office, the first thing that will happen is six people will ask me to solve their problems for them. So for me being absent from the office is one way of delegating. Because if I'm not there I can't solve them, obviously you can contact me, they'll get in touch on WhatsApp or Slack or whatever and say, oh, what's this.
[00:23:22] David: But if I'm there, they'll just go, "oh, I'm just looking at this, could you help me do this?" And it's " isn't that your job? I thought my job was vision and culture and strategy. And your job is doing this bit of work, isn't it? Yes. I'm happy to help you because I like helping people do their jobs, but is this really helping us to build a resilient organization that can function?" So you can always do that stuff.
[00:23:42] David: The question is, do you then avoid sitting down and thinking more about visions? It's sitting down and thinking "are we really keeping customers happy here? Are we really building this business the way we wanted to is the culture within the business where I want it to be and what should I do about that?"
[00:23:57] David: And those questions are really easily avoided because no one will say to you, "why haven't you done that?"
[00:24:02] David: So I think yeah it's easy to do that stuff because there's always some other things to fill the time. So you can always and this is dangerous, you can always feel busy doing stuff.
[00:24:10] David: And particularly if you're busy doing stuff, you can always forget whether you're going to sit back and say, "was I doing the right stuff?" And that's awkward. If you get to the end of the week in the "What have I really done? I've cleared down some emails, but there were people I didn't really need to deal with. How did I move the business forward?
[00:24:27] David: Okay. Let's do better next week. Sit down. Let's do better next week. Let's forgive ourselves. We're human. I'm fallible. Let's do better next week. I think you'd have to do a lot of when you're writing a book, running a business, or working on your own personal goals.
[00:24:41] Scott: So do you actually allocate time to do that personal retrospective, or does it just happen over dinner? You're thinking about it or in the shower or whatever?
[00:24:50] David: No, I don't no I never have self beating up time. It just creeps up on me. And it, yeah, it will. It'll be it'll be in bed before you fall asleep, you think, "how did today really go?" I keep a pad and paper next to my bed. Yeah. So write it down and then write it down and get it out your head,
[00:25:07] David: Or send yourself an email whatever your message is get out of your head so your head can function again.
[00:25:11] David: I have I've failed horribly at it this week, but I try and have a cup of coffee in the morning and not have any screens. If the weather's good, I go and sit in the garden and listen to birds singing as that, just a little bit of clearing space where you can sit there and go, "okay, where am I? What am I doing? Where am I in the journey? So I think a little bit of that reflection is baked into that habit or whilst I'm doing exercise, sometimes your brain just churns through.
[00:25:37] Scott: Yeah, I've heard that morning routine can set you up for the rest of the day can't it and the danger is, you literally wake up and as you're getting out of bed, you check all the notifications on your mobile phone and then that's, you just gone for the day.
[00:25:49] David: I love my phone. It's great. I just, I wish I weren't quite so glued to it. And it is, you wake up in the morning, check Twitter, check WhatsApp do the Wordle or check your email. It's "what am I doing? What am I doing? These things, which are just not important and need to be put back in their box" which is why I said the coffee cup of coffee, listening to birdsong is my defence against that.
[00:26:12] David: But I don't do a very good job it and as I said before, the amount I can read if you think about the number of words I read in WhatsApp, Twitter email is virtually unlimited. I can read loads. I read all day long. And yet my ability to get through a book is shocking. I read more books when I was 10 years old and I've read in the last 10 years probably.
[00:26:32] David: And I find that frustrating.
[00:26:34] Scott: It's probably at least a chapter a day that could be a chapter in a book.
[00:26:36] David: Could be a chapter in a book and would I get more satisfaction out of that, because then over the course of a week, I'd have completed a novel. Yeah, I would. And when I go on holiday, I'll read a book a day. I'll just nail through books. If I can put the phone down for long enough to do that.
[00:26:51] David: So I know I enjoy it, but it's just building that into your daily routine. I think one of the things about humans that I notice is that we are creatures of habit and we are absolutely susceptible to dopamine hits and we're easily broken to dopamine hits and habit, and breaking habits takes a lot of effort.
[00:27:09] David: So a lot of thoughtful effort where you have to sit there and say I do not want, I'm going to force myself not to do that " I'm going to pick up my phone, I'm going to check it". It's almost a reflex. And you almost have to. Clasp your hands together, not to pick up your phone.
[00:27:22] David: You have to, it's really quite hard. And I think so many of us do this stuff without thinking it's why a lot of people check their phones when they're driving a ridiculously dangerous thing to do. It changes focus down inside the vehicle. But it's a reflex. They hear a ping they check their phones and it's a very dangerous thing to do in that instance.
[00:27:40] David: It's somewhat easier there to say, "oh, I'm going to make a habit not to do it". It's not dangerous to check your notifications whilst having a cup of coffee in the morning. Or at least it's not obviously dangerous, but I think it is dangerous. I think it, it damages us to do that. And I'm not preaching from the I'm preaching from the pulpits, then I've solved this.
[00:27:57] David: I am the biggest sinner when it comes to getting distracted by the notification I turn off the pings and the bongs and all the pop-ups because I know a complete butterfly and I still want to go in there and check and see what's going on. And I'm still trying to learn how to stop doing that.
[00:28:14] Scott: Yeah. , I've tried similar. So turn off, for example, email notifications, which means I need to go and proactively check to see if I've got an email, but then I found myself going to check more because I might have missed an email cause I haven't had the notification. So it's almost been like the opposite of what I'm trying to achieve.
[00:28:31] Scott: Well, you probably know the people that write the software certainly on Instagram and Facebook and the whole mindless swiping up is they employ people who are specialists in gambling machines.
[00:28:43] Scott: Pull the arm, see it spin. It's exactly the same thing going on in our heads, so you get that dopamine, it's like, "Am I going to win? I'm going to see something interesting. Am I going to see something exciting that can distract me from life?"
[00:28:55] David: Yeah, as I said it's so easy for us to fall into those traps, but I think that there are definitely ways of influencing people to do stuff which are highly ethical, there are ways to nudge people to do good things. I find that I will get more exercise if I have my trainers out.
[00:29:13] David: If I don't put, if I've been put in by the door, I'm more likely to put them on and go and do something. And that's just a that's a nudge right. So that's, that feels like a pretty highly ethical nudge. And there are definitely nudges which are pretty low rent, dark patterns in marketing.
[00:29:29] David: The way in which we swipe on social media, there are all sorts of tricks and techniques, which I think a lot of people within particularly tech businesses employ because they work without thinking about whether they should do them. And I think that's a shame and I think it's a failure of moral leadership within those businesses, not to say, "actually, this is a bad thing".
[00:29:52] David: I worry that a lot of my generation, some of the brightest minds did not go off to make those flying cars. They did not go off to go and cure cancer. They went off to try and figure out how to make you click more. That's some of the best minds of my generation are doing that. And I think we've probably got that wrong as a society when we're missing allocating resources into who can click most.
[00:30:14] David: I think it is beholden upon leaders within businesses to say "yeah, you can do that, but should you?" I don't think we're very good at that.
[00:30:21] Scott: Any regrets going it your own with a business? Looking back, you're like, "I'm glad I did this", or you'd have done it differently?
[00:30:29] David: Yeah, Would I have done anything differently? Did I do it perfectly? No, I didn't do it perfectly. Yes. I'd have done lots of stuff differently Scott.
[00:30:34] David: If you get it wrong as an entrepreneur you know who to blame you just get up and look in the mirror and there you are and that is both wonderful and terrifying. I think the fantasy about small businesses is that you'll start them and within a year, multi-millionaires going to be a success, flog it off.
[00:30:50] David: It's a unicorn and, that never happens. The other thing is it's you're going to start it and it's going to fail and that rarely happens either. And what tends to happen is you start a business and it does. Okay. It does okay. But it's not a huge success, and there are moments where you genuinely fear that you've got it wrong. And I've been running my business nearly 20 years and I still worry that I will make mistakes that see us have to get rid of people that see us fail. See us disappoint people and you've got to live with that every day that the buck stops with you and, it's tricky.
[00:31:27] Scott: Brilliant. Thank you.
[00:31:29] Scott: So, one of the things I ask my guests on the show is if you had one book that you could take to a desert island, what would it be?
[00:31:36] David: The book that I am struggling my way through at the moment is the biography of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro. It's four volumes. I reckon I could turn it into a raft it's so big if I was on a desert island, but if I had to read it it's the kind of book that if you were to fall asleep and it were to drop on your face, you probably find yourself in A&E it's an enormous thing.
[00:31:56] David: And it may be the reason that I'm not doing very well at reading books. It's just too big, to pick up and work through. But it's brilliant. It's really wonderfully written and you're getting a lot of insight into US politics from it, it starts very early, but from the sixties when he was president and it's fascinating.
[00:32:12] David: So I would take that and on my desert island, I wouldn't be able to check WhatsApp. I wouldn't be able to check Twitter. I'd be able to sit down and work my way through that. I'd probably miss the first two rescue boats 'cause I'd had my nose in the books.
[00:32:24] David: Yeah.
[00:32:25] Scott: Great. So final tip you'd like to share with the audience. One tip?
[00:32:29] David: One tip kill the zombies, kill your zombie to do's. If you've got something on your to-do list, you've got something that must be done. Make sure that tomorrow it's never coming back alive.
[00:32:40] Scott: How can people find your business?
[00:32:42] David: The business is Stuff U Sell, and I'm sure you'll put the link in the notes stuffyousell.co.uk, and you can find me on Twitter endlessly, first thing in the morning until the last thing at night @drbrackin and I'm sure you'll put that in the show notes as well.
[00:32:55] Scott: I will do.
[00:32:56] Scott: Thanks very much for being on this show. It's been great to chat with you, David.
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