Hear Bernard Huang’s Origin Story
We made eye contact a few times (ok, perhaps twice).
I was fairly certain he was who I wanted to speak with but someone had just approached him.
I waited until the end of the workshop. And still, that same person was chatting with him.
It was now or never. I walked the 5-steps and said “Hi.”
This was how I first met Bernard (in person anyway – we had conversed once over email when I asked him for a discount to his SaaS product). And over the course of the next few days, we had many deep and meaningful conversations.
In this episode, Bernard Huang, co-founder of Clearscope opens up about the long line of ‘failures’ that he has endured. He reveals how he believes in systems and how this belief in systems affects his everyday life.
We dive pretty deep into personal mindset and I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy what Bernard has to share.
DANIEL: So welcome to the show, Bernard. Welcome to Make SEO Simple Again, where we, ironically do not even talk about SEO.
BERNARD: Well, thanks for having me, Dan.
DANIEL: So tell our audience who may not know who you are, a bit about yourself and maybe what you’ve worked on to give some context.
BERNARD: Sure. I’m Bernard. I started a software as a service called Clearscope. Long story short, it does natural language processing on Google, helps content creators create higher quality, more relevant content. That then has a higher likelihood of performing on search. Before that, I just spent the last decade failing at trying to get something off the ground. I think from an early age, I’ve always wanted to start a business in middle school, like made up board game, you know, break dance club, always out trying to make something happen. And I wouldn’t have ever expected that I’d end up as CEO of all of the things, but it’s kind of go with the flow, right? Life took me here, and here I am.
DANIEL: Great. And I know you grew up in Austin, Texas.
BERNARD: Texas, Dallas.
DANIEL: Texas, Dallas?
DANIELL: Texas in general. And as a fellow Asian, I can only begin to imagine what that was like. Do you have a story around that?
BERNARD: Yeah. Honestly, I didn’t really like realize maybe that I was living in a segregated or whatever environment, right, because when you’re growing up, you just are surrounded by stuff, and then you just deem that to be your reality. And I’d say Dallas probably has like 2% to 3% Asian population, but my best friends growing up were all Asian Americans who their parents settled in Dallas, as well. But it was suburbs.
BERNARD: You run around, play in the trees, throw rocks, that kind of stuff.
DANIEL: Pre-internet days.
BERNARD: Yes, pre-internet days.
DANIEL: We throw emoji rocks.
BERNARD: Yeah, yeah. Those were…
DANIEL: And slander each other on Twitter.
BERNARD: More peaceful days because you weren’t inundated with stimulation.
BERNARD: But, yeah, grew up in Dallas and then I was part of this like rather competitive suburb in Dallas called Plano, where people do strive very hard to get good grades. And so it was all about getting good grades growing up in the Asian American household.
DANIEL: I can definitely relate. I never, however, got good grades. What about you?
BERNARD: I tried my hardest to get good grades, and I succeeded pretty much until senior high school, the last semester. I like went to a boarding school for my last two years in Texas, where you spend the last two years of your high school in college. So taking college classes.
BERNARD: It’s called like the Texas Academy of Math and Science, and it was always what my parents wanted. And so it was always what I did, even though I always felt inside there was really no application to this learning. And I would just be memorizing formulas for the sake of memorizing formulas, and I kind of broke at the last semester. I was like, “No, I’m not really doing this anymore,” and that’s when I started getting worse grades.
DANIEL: I see. And this pressure to perform well academically, I can only presume this also came from a culture and family background. How has that shaped you into your personal journey?
BERNARD: I think that I am someone who loves exploring possibility. And if we’re to take it to a metaphor and say that there are two types of people, not like everything’s a spectrum. There’s what one could call a pathfinder and one that could call like a road builder. So Christopher Columbus goes, “I’m gonna go and sail, and like find the path.” And then once he maps out the path, then there is a different set of people that would come in who would like build the road to that path. And I feel like growing up I was always interested in path finding, but the problem with path finding is that it’s just inherently risky. It’s uncertain.
You don’t know whether or not you’re going to strike gold or water when you dig the well. But that passion of digging the well and trying anyways, I think, has just been this guiding light in my life. But I think having a strict upbringing around academia did teach me certain skill sets that now looking back on it, I’m very glad that I have. But growing up, it was always just like, “Aah! Why? Why am I doing this?” My dad would have me come in and be like, Okay, well, you have a project. Like you need to break this out into discernible next steps. Like what is it exactly that you’re going to do?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, man. I just gotta do something [inaudible 0:07:56.6]”
He’s like, “No, this is how it works. This is how a scrum in that world works.” And so that taught me the importance of organization and standard operating procedure, and the importance of optics, really. Like growing up, I would hate wearing any sort of formal clothing because it felt constraining and restricting, you know, and boxing me in and fitting myself into like a contributing member of society. And I was like, “No, that’s not it.” But then I realized that it’s not ‘not it’, right. There’s a certain grain of truth to all of these things where to a certain degree, you do have to enter society and do these menial tasks to work up the ladder, to then be able to have the opportunities.
And I feel that was just a long way of saying that. Yeah, I really just enjoyed path finding but the strict upbringing that my parents did have for me, I think, taught me a lot of valuable lessons about how this all works and like why I should acquiesce to some things that I may not necessarily agree upon.
DANIEL: Again, I can relate because my dad was – he did very well academically and he achieved quite high success in his career. And I remember throughout formal education years he would tell me exams and what assessments, it wasn’t about the grade itself, but it was the training for life. And, of course, being 8 years old, 14 years old, 17 years old, I don’t know what the fuck he was talking about. What, training for life? I don’t know. But now, as an adult, like now I’m in 35’s, it makes sense.
DANIEL: If I couldn’t even apply myself in just passing or reading something and then understanding it, or writing it out, how could I deal with anything else in life that it will inevitably throw at you? And it has taken me decades, three decades to figure that out and to understand the wisdom of that. But of course, when you’re young and egotistical, you don’t understand that. You don’t see it.
BERNARD: No, no. I mean, you know, someone tells you follow these instructions, you’re 8 years old, 10 years old, you’re like, “Oh, hell no. I’m not following these instructions.” And I think, yeah, certain lessons may have been able to be conveyed better, but at the end of the day. Yeah, I feel like – and I can’t speak because I’m not a parent. I could imagine, right, if I had a kid and I see them suffering. Well, we’ll use the proverbial light. Burn their fingertips on the stovetop. And I really feel that for a parent, it’s really hard to allow for your child to burn their fingertips on the stovetop because you’ve been there and you’ve done that. And I think that, hopefully, as a parent in the future years, that I would be able to allow my children to burn their fingertips. And if not, allow it, like encourage it.
BERNARD: I’d be like, “Look, you need to learn this for yourself, and the only way to do it is to do it.”
DANIEL: Exactly how I feel. Although, of course, I didn’t feel at the time. Like I went through a whole bunch of shit myself and I don’t mind failing, and I don’t think I’ve ever called myself a failure. And I’m raising this because you said in the past 10 years, you know, a bunch of things such as failing, but you never described yourself as a noun, as a failure. And I think that’s an important distinction because growing up, formal education, there was either you passed or failed, and then that would have a certain prescription of who you are going to become. And so I guess I want to segue into talking about your failures if you’re open to talking about them, into what were they and how did it make you feel?
BERNARD: Yeah. Yeah, that’s – I would say bad. Really bad. So I got started with the whole entrepreneurial thing, we’ll say with like starting to make money in college, where I played some online poker. I had a high school acquaintance who made six figures in high school playing online poker. I was like, “God, I got to get in on some of that.” Like I’m all about trying new things and like he’s made money, and I’m sitting here listening to why a2 + b2= c2, which I still have no idea why. So I started playing online poker and my grades went drastically downhill. But what I learned through online poker was actually a very important piece that I think I come back to in life but oftentimes forget. And the important, the most important thing that I learned from poker is that poker is a system.
So when you think about playing poker, what you are actually doing is that you are implementing a system. Winning players have a winning system. Losing players have a losing system. That is the most important part because a lot of people will think at the first level, so and so is a losing player, but that implies that so and so needs to get better and educate themselves, and all of that. But when you think about it as a system, you say, “Okay, well, in this situation, I always do this action.” But when you’re then going back and analyzing your play, as one would and online poker, you’re like, “Okay. Well, why did I do that there? And is that actually like a good play for that particular scenario that panned out?”
And what you’re doing is that then you’re decoupling your losses from you being a failure, right. What is losing and what is a failure is your system, and then you’re making modifications on your system and then playing better. And so from that perspective, you could then abstract away failure, right? In the sense that, “Oh, I’m a failure” or what’s actually failing is the system that you’re implementing. And that works pretty much across the board for everything.
BERNARD: You’re in sales and you’re not closing as many deals. It’s not because you’re a failure of a sales person, but that for whatever reason, the system that you are employing is simply a failing system. So when you can then abstract the way the emotional side of like, “Ah, you know, I just couldn’t close that deal.” Then you understand, “Well, okay. The system is such that my close rate is 15%, and I haven’t closed 12 deals.” Well, that’s just variance, right? That’s, well, you’re now underperforming what your average statistics should be. But that’s exactly what poker is, right? You’re like, okay, in the spot when I do this, I’m going to win 66% of the time.
That never really usually happens. You lose some and you win some, and then that’s how it goes. So online poker really taught me like view things as a system rather than personally. From there, I made a little over six figures from online poker, invested in a restaurant, franchised a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit with a couple of my friends. We’re Texan. So Texan, totally. And long story short, the restaurant went out of business in 13 months.
DANIEL: Because of the system.
BERNARD: It was actually because of a system, except now it added on extra like layers of perspective. So one of the key problems was that the partnership that we had was five people. So five partners, say, everyone’s an equal owner, give or take 20%. One of the problems with a five-person team is that it’s very distributed in your accountability and your level of ownership. So you can imagine if you’re a 100% solo owner like you were. You’re a wedding photographer. Well, you’re going to bust your ass because you own 100% of the pie. At a five person distribution split, you own 1/5 of the pie. And so what ended up happening was what I call like least common denominators syndrome, where when you look at the other four partners and you say, “That guy’s not doing shit! Like why should I be coming in, you know, scrubbing the exhaust hood, mopping the tables, when he owns the same amount as me, and I literally don’t see him doing as much?”
And so in startup world, you have Paul Graham who is the founder Y Combinator, who everyone looks up to. And he’s like, “Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend solo funding because that’s very stressful on your mental well-being, but I will also wouldn’t recommend like beyond teams of like four or three.” And I feel like the rationale behind that is that simply the amount of ownership, usually, that a large team has distributed amongst themselves, just makes it very difficult if one person is not like up to snuff and bringing that amount of level to the table.
BERNARD: So that, and yeah, actually, the reason why the business failed was because there was no standard operating procedure. There was no system so things got personal, right? Things were it’s like “Ooh, we can’t open our store tonight because the floors aren’t cleaned” or we would fail fire inspection like pretty frequently, and the inspectors would be like, “You just can’t open.” And the reason was, was that there was no standard operating – there’s no system, right. So the manager wasn’t like, “Hey, employee, this is exactly how you close.” And the employee would be like, “Well, the manager didn’t tell me that this is how I close.” Just fingers point at everywhere because there was no like “This is exactly what you need to do. Did you do it? True or false?”
And so there was that and obviously the communication issues of me being a 21-year-old playing online poker and being like, “I could just make a couple $100 an hour doing this. Why am I going in and mopping the floor?”
DANIEL: Yes, that reminds me I had 100% stake. Yes, my title is a wedding photographer. But, you know, I had the upkeep of an office as well, and sometimes I am just cleaning. And like, is this really what it is? Yeah.
BERNARD: Interesting perspective.
DANIEL: It is. And I guess that has carried over into Clearscope essentially, because it is a very small core team.
BERNARD: Yes. Yes. So from there, I was like, “Okay, well, I still haven’t learned my lessons” or it feels like…
DANIEL: “Do we have them?”
BERNARD: Yeah. So there are, yeah, okay. Brick and mortar is the problem. Yeah, the brick and mortar, you know, all these like blue-collar workers and [inaudible 0:20:17.1] always turning over. I’m going to go digital. So I applied to accelerator programs across America and got into a third tier accelerator that no one’s ever heard of called Betaspring, because I wasn’t up to snuff for YC, Techstars, 500. And they gave us $20,000. We moved to Providence, Rhode Island, it’s in the New England area. And we, my technical co-founder, myself, and another non-technical co-founder, I’m a non-technical co-founder, we slammed it out. We built mobile apps and we literally just couldn’t find the ethereal product market fit.
But we literally also just couldn’t focus. Our idea changed like once a month and because we were suffering from white shiny object syndrome where it’s like some new bit of technology would come out and like, “Dude, that’s it! We’re gonna do that.” So we would do the pivots or we’d pivot here, we’d pivot there, and I would say that the core takeaway from that is that focus is a very key component to success, in the sense that, if you keep jumping around, yes, people have made great livelihoods with arbitraging, capturing new trends. But that in and of itself, you could even think of as like focus, right? You’re focused on just capturing short term value in very quick snapshots, and that’s like what you’re doing. But I just got like lost in possibility.
So we kept flipping around ideas. At the end of it, we raised an additional $50,000. Dragged it out for two years, just trying to make something work. At the end of it the investors were just like, “Yeah, you should do this,” and they gave us a business idea. And at the time it was a mobile CRM. Keep in mind, this was like 2010. It was actually a great idea and we built it, and we actually got adoption, but we just did not have the business chops to realize that, a, we had an opportunity and, b, how to execute and capture on it. So that then failed because, I would say, lack of focus but also lack of understanding of how business works.
At the gist, it’s very simple. You need a product or a service that somebody wants to buy. Either you have a large number of people that are willing to buy it at a small price point or a small number of people that want to buy it at a large price point, and that is simply it. That is then like product market fit. But I didn’t understand that. So after that, it failed. I was like, “It’s because my co-founders.” Of course, right. As the egotistical…
DANIEL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. “It’s not me! It’s you!”
BERNARD: Yeah, of course.
DANIEL: “It has to be you!”
BERNARD: Yeah. So [inaudible 0:23:27.6] no, no, I’m going to do this again. And so I moved back to Texas, joined up with my now co-founder and we worked on a marketplace for baked goods. And we you know, we did it for a good nine months. Basically, my bank account was $60 by the end of all of this. And that didn’t work out because, again, I don’t think we had the focus and the business experience to understand how to capture and like size the opportunity. So after that one failed, so it’s like, “Fuck it. I really don’t know what I’m doing.”
So I then moved to Silicon Valley and joined the criteria. I was like I had to be a Y Combinator startup. And so I just went on Y Combinator’s home page and applied to everyone that was listed in their portfolio. And this company called 42 Floors just took me up. They’re like, “All right, you played online poker.” You’ve done some growth hacks in the past because as the non-technical person you’re always the guy selling, trying to find traction and they took me in.
The craziest thing about 42 Floors and Silicon Valley is that, that place is insane. They gave me a blank job offer. It was like, “You fill in how much you want to make. That’s how we do these things over here.” And I was like, “Well, I want to make six figures.” So I filled in $100,000.
DANIEL: Why only a hundred? Why not 900?
BERNARD: Yeah. Well, they also like how to spreadsheet where you saw how much everybody else was making. So you’d be like, “Oh, the engineer makes this and the CEO makes that.” So I was like, “Alright, a hundred seems like reasonable,” and I want to make six figures so I filled in 100. They took me in, and then I just ran all of the things growth for them. Basically tried paid ads, tried all the spectrum, SEO really was the only thing that took off. And then from there… Well, I moved to Silicon Valley because I was like, I want to know how the how the magic happens, right? And the magic always seems to be happening over there. And after a year and a half really, my core takeaway was just that.
Silicon Valley is special in the sense that there’s a high density of talent and a high density of money, and the two of those factors combined tend to breed better outcomes. But I was like, “Okay, well, there was nothing super special about this.” Clearly, I think I have the chops too to spring out back on my own. And so then I came out again and started a tutoring for gamers, except again, right, I still hadn’t nailed in the concept that, okay, like there needs to be a business model and money needs to be made. And what we found was that, yeah, 15-year-olds did want to get better at playing League of Legends. But did 15-year-olds have money? No.
We’d look at the messages that would be happening across our gaming marketplace, and it would be like, “Oh, well, like sorry, I gotta cancel on you. My mom’s making me sleep at, like, nine.” And then we’re like, okay, we did some quick math. And now, you know, the VC, the private equity thing was just starting to make sense. Like, okay, if we took 10% of a transaction and say a coaching happens for $5 an hour, we would make 50 cents. And like, okay, to make enough money for, say, the both of us to live, say let’s call that $10,000 a month, like we need 20,000 of these to happen on our platform every month.
DANIEL: “We can do that! Sure!”
BERNARD: And that’s where it like hit home. It’s like “Oh, shit.” That is, a, very unlikely to happen and, b, even if it happens, platforms have leakage, so they’ll take the transaction off the platform. And so we’re like kind of fucked. At the same time though, I think the other thing I’ve learned as a non-technical founder is that network is net worth. So what I didn’t realize is that going in and becoming a part of that Y Combinator, the network, meant access to the Y Combinator network.
So I did a decent job doing the SEO at 42 Floors. They got a lot of requests. “Hey, you know of anyone who could help us do SEO at DoorDash, at Teespring,” at all of these other Y Combinator companies and they always point to Bernard or me. And it’s like, “Yeah, you should talk to that guy. He knows his shit. You see, we’re ranking number one for office space.” And so they would come. And for the longest time, my co-founder and I would turn them away and be like, “Nah, nah, nah. We’re working on this coaching thing.” But you know, the bank account runs dry, and we’re like, “Fuck! We should be talking to DoorDash.”
And so we then turned it into an SEO agency. And that’s where it was like, “Okay, now I know. We’re selling services now, but we’re selling services, but people want them.” A non-trivial amount of people want them, and they’re willing to pay some good money. And it’s like, “Okay, now we’re in business.” But the core business was never to scale around an agency, so we always just kept it as the two of us and we’re always on the hunt for products. And after doing a lot of consulting work, which I do recommend if you want to go down the path of being your own man, some amount of consulting exposure, whether you’re working at an agency or you’re just doing some freelance work.
It teaches you so much about packaging, negotiation, closing the sale, understanding unit economics, right. How much time is going in? How much am I getting out? You are running a business. Yes, it’s not very scalable, but you’ll learn a lot of the core skills that you would need to run a successful business. And you also get over your fear of rejection, which, if you’re like wanting to do your own thing, it’s a very tough pill to swallow. But when you have $60 in your bank account and you’re not going to eat next month, you fucking close the deal.
BERNARD: So yeah, we then transitioned from consulting to product, and I would say the core learning experience there was that we had to burn the boats. There had to be no Plan B, because as a consulting agency, you have your bread, like money that’s coming in from your client work. But it’s so easy to then just say, “Well, we should be doing more of that.” So when we made the switch, we were very conscious of not taking on any more clients, basically telling our existing clients that the engagements would be ending in the upcoming months. And we went all in. And I think that if we didn’t go all in, things would have moved a lot slower, right, because we’d just be saying, “Yeah, I mean, that’s not taking off, but we don’t need it.”
DANIEL: “We can always pull back. Let’s take another two, three clients.” [inaudible 0:30:57.0]
BERNARD: Exactly. Yeah. So that would then be like the spectrum, I think, in the early days. It would be system, right. Think in terms of systems rather than personally. Number two would then be, be careful who you start the company with and make sure that they’re aligned with the motivations and passions that you are aligned with. Number three would be every successful business needs a product/service and a market, and understanding the unit economics of that is how big your business can get. Number four – and that’s why I think VCs are always like, “Well, what’s the total addressable market?” And that’s actually how I think nowadays.
I like to study competitors. A big enterprise, SEO company, 3500, you know, if we got to then that which we could expect us, our floor of customers, right, because they sell it for thousands of dollars a month, then our business would be worth $10 million a year. But at the ceiling, right, you have a [inaudible 0:32:08.2] that’s a very massive company, maybe they service 10,000, 15,000. But we’re not going to quite get there because we’re a specialty tool within SEO. So now we’re looking at a band of 4,000 to 15,000 as the total addressable market. And then right then you can even… There you go. That’s the size of the opportunity. And I would say, just a lot of soft things around focus, burning the boats, making sure that you’re going all in and sometimes the path is just not clear, right. You could just go all in.
BERNARD: And it’ll just go up in smoke.
BERNARD: And that’s okay.
DANIEL: And that is okay. Cool. Let’s touch upon focus and how you find focus in your daily life. I would believe it’s a constant thing that you have to practice.
BERNARD: Funnily enough, I don’t do a good job nowadays. I’d say in the earlier days, when I was not really having any traction with any of our products, it was easier to find focus. There’s a lot less stress, a lot less expectations placed upon me as the person who’s like, well, running something that nobody cares about, right. So it’s a lot easier to just get up, take a nice hot bath. That’s what I usually do to ground myself. I’ll lay on the yoga mat, let it all dry off, and then I’d perform yoga anywhere between like 30 minutes to an hour and 30. Well, because there’s no meetings to take because no one wanted to talk to me. I’d roll into work when I wanted to roll in to work.
BERNARD: And I would be… I’d have like a framework, “Okay, this is what I want to accomplish this week. The objective is to talk to ten potential customers and breaking everything out as concrete next actions.” So to talk to ten potential customers, it means prospect on LinkedIn, collect 100 emails, and then send 100 emails, right? So it has to be as granular as possible. I’d go in and I’d be like, “Okay. Well, what does this project look like? What is the objective? And what is the concrete steps that I’m going to take to accomplish this as actionable as possible?” And that’s what I would do. And I do that, boom. I’d go home, put my phone on airplane mode. I don’t even have internet at home.
DANIEL: No way!
BERNARD: I was just living like as monkish of a life as I could. And I found great focus and like things were very peaceful. But nowadays, man, it’s like shit’s got off the charts. So I’m struggling with finding that focus because I’m always constantly the one where requests are being put in front of me. It’s like, “Can you do this? Do you want to do a partnership? I want you to speak at this event. I want you to do this,” and I still really haven’t found a great system to defend against the amount of requests that have been pushed my way, and I think that that’s frazzled my life to a certain degree. And I could imagine that this is why some executives will have secretaries, right. They’d be like, “Well, just talk to my secretary,” and the secretary will be like, “Well, Bernard’s first availability is four weeks from now at this state. Take it or leave it.”
But when the request are just put in front of me, right, say it’s coming from you, I just empathize with you. And I’m like I was once you and I once was the guy who was asking for help needing advice or needing some of your time and you gave it to me. And so I feel very compelled to pay it back, right? Look, people are getting started all the time. I was once you and so therefore I will help you, and that has gotten us to where we’ve gotten to. But at the same time, now it’s this like prioritization.
DANIEL: Who’s looking after Bernard? [inaudible 0:36:50.9]
BERNARD: Yeah. I mean, Bernard should be looking for Bernard. But yeah, I think that’s just then like hiring and turning that into a system where I don’t feel so personal by it. And I think you know the scheduling link. Like okay, if you want to chat, here it is, and people are like, “Ah, well, it’s like six weeks from now.”
DANIEL: That’s it.
BERNARD: Well, that’s what the system says, and then not like piling in more because people would be like, “Well, I want to talk next, too.” But at the same time, I’ve realized I have to leave room that’s like buffer room, right, because something really juicy will come in. And that’s where it would be like, “I got to squeeze that one in.”
DANIEL: It’s having that system so that you can have the freedom to make that choice.
BERNARD: Yes, yes.
DANIEL: Apart from feeling burdened to “I must say yes.”
BERNARD: Yeah, so I’ve been working on that, and it’s a work in progress, but I’d say these days I am… I’m just reacting to things like, “Do this, do that. I have a problem with your software. Come talk here.” I’m like “Yes. No. Okay, here’s how to do that.”
DANIEL: No, it’s great to hear someone with your status be candid about the things that you struggle with and to be able to admit that you don’t have a solution right now.
DANIEL: At least you’re aware of and you are taking measures against it.
BERNARD: Yeah. And I think the most complicated part is that it’s constantly changing, right. Systems break all the time and I think what a lot of people do is they get stuck in a standard operating procedure. And that’s where life feels stagnant and they’ll say, “Okay. Well, that’s where a change of scenery or breaking out of that current mould would make a lot of sense.” And that’s where midlife crises come from, was like stagnant systems that haven’t evolved to fit the mould of your current life. That’s the most complicated part. It’s like there’s no one size fits all and it’s also constantly changing, which is, you know, it’s a mind boggling to wrap your mind about, but that’s essentially life.
DANIEL: And that’s essentially life. So I guess to wrap things up or a more positive note perhaps, what are you excited for in the coming year?
BERNARD: Honestly, I’m excited to take a breather. To put things put my own like personal needs in more of the fore light. And that’s not to say, you know, slowing business things down. But I feel like at the end of the day, if we are just talking in terms of business success, I feel business success, for me, is an environment where I wake up in the morning and I’m like I am ready to go into work and I’m excited, and I want to be able to replicate that day in and day out. And I think as a result of my inability to have prioritized my own personal needs, these last few months have been rather – it’s mood swingy for me. I’d wake up some days and just be like, “Dude… Fuck. What have I gotten myself into?” Because I hadn’t had a proper system to capture all of this demand that had been coming in.
And I think for the next year, I’m really excited about “Okay, how do I put these correct systems and boundaries in place so that I can wake up again in the morning and be fulfilled, and ready to go into work?” And I’d say that’s something that for the rest of my working career is what I would like to achieve.
DANIEL: I love it. It’s great to get that perspective because it’s important. You need to take care of yourself. And I guess doing this podcast is a way that I’m doing that as well. It’s having the courage to step out and tell the world I exist, whereas, you know, the previous me would be hiding in some corner. I’ll just write a blog post, I’ll interview and write. That’s easier. There’s no skin in the game, essentially.
DANIEL: And it’s great to hear from you that it is something that you’re going to focus on. And from hearing your story, I feel encouraged and the respect is even higher because you recognize that’s something that you may not have addressed very well and you’re working on actively.
BERNARD: I think it comes and goes in phases, right. Nothing in life is like right or wrong, or good or bad, when you’re young or broke, you’re hungry.
DANIEL: It’s just a state of being. It is what it is.
BERNARD: Exactly. And yeah, it’s going to skew towards then prioritizing making money and like hustling over watching Netflix and laying on a yoga mat for an hour, right? But then I think it’s that that piece that I probably have not done a good job is that that self-reflection piece. I think like baking in a practice of… I think the best people do this fairly consistently, right. Bill Gates is known to fly to his lake house once a year for like one week with no reception and just read books, and take notes.
DANIEL: [inaudible 0:42:26.1]
BERNARD: Exactly, the documentary, right? And it’s like it’s very important to weave that into a cadence. And then I think the most important part is the discipline, but I wouldn’t even call it discipline. I would say like motivation. When it’s discipline, it feels like it’s…
BERNARD: It’s forced, yeah. It’s like, “Okay. Well, why am I doing this?” But it’s like something that you naturally just want to do and like finding how to cultivate that natural want to self-reflect is like an interesting piece of knowledge that I always toy like turning around in my head.
DANIEL: Fantastic. Well, I really appreciate your time.
DANIEL: I can only imagine what your time is worth, but thank you for giving me like half an hour and a lot more over the past few days.
BERNARD: Of course, man.
DANIEL: Thank you very much.
BERNARD: No, thank you for having me.
DANIEL: And all the best in self-care.
BERNARD: You, too. Namaste.
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I’m Daniel K Cheung and I produce Make SEO Simple Again, a podcast where I have real conversations with people from all walks of life who work in Search, Discoverability, and Marketing.