Blog - Brad Greentree

The rise of anxiety in our children and 3 things you can do to help them

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“According to statistics provided by beyondblue, it is estimated that in any one year, around 1 million Australian adults will experience depression, and more than 2 million will have anxiety.” (read the full article here).

This is an alarming statistic and a reason why there has been a lot of focus in the media on the rise of anxiety across society, but the rise in children in particular. The rise of mental ill health is having a huge impact upon learning outcomes, social skills and productivity, not to mention increasing suicide rates, drug use, and a whole host of other debilitating and negative outcomes.

Social media and its unrelenting, voracious appetite and attention seeking is a big contributor. Our kids are the first generation to be born into a 24/7 digital world and the constant connection it demands. Their exhausted, time-poor and distracted parents are equally attached and plugged in to the same online world. Facebook, Insta, Twitter, email, news, events, the constant stream of information is literally driving us crazy. And sadly our kids are feeling it too.

There are many things we can do to address this growing epidemic of anxiety. I’ll be talking about these in upcoming posts. But right now you’re reading this post because you have an anxious child or teen and you have no idea what you can do to reach out to them, to help.

Ideally, you need to adopt these strategies, anxiety impacted or not, as early as possible. Once your child is a teen, communication is exponentially more challenging and so introducing new strategies can be a test, but not impossible. In fact, your teen may be relieved at your attempts to reach out when they’re feeling particularly vulnerable.

If you’re a parent of an anxious child below are 3 things you can do to get you feeling a little more resourceful to help them and you address it:

1) Manage your own anxiety around your children. They model your behaviour. Do you suffer from anxiety that hasn’t been addressed? It may be that you did not even realise that you were projecting your own feelings if you are susceptible to anxiety. I have witnessed a parent who is extremely anxious about everything; their child falling over, spiders, strangers, eating hard lollies, playing with others, not playing with others, riding around the block, what they wear, the list goes on. It’s no surprise to find their child was too scared to even go to the toilet by themselves when young, but has now begun to act out as they get older, in response to their mother’s controlling and anxious behaviour. Not only is the child lacking in resilience or a strong sense of self determination and empathy, but their parent has no idea of how to communicate effectively through their own mental fragility.
Or it may be that seeing your child begin to suffer from anxiety that you’re affected, particularly if you have no idea of what to do or how you can help them. We are in a whole new, and often scary world where many of us are ill-equipped to deal with new and unprecedented challenges. You’re not alone but there are things you can do to build the resources you need for such circumstances. Understanding what you bring to the table,  how you’re going to respond, and what you’re going to project are good starting points.

2) Condition your child to think about things going well. This is more than positive thinking, it’s about using positive language. I suggest you begin to consciously clock the language you use when speaking with your children and pay extra attention to how they respond. I hear a lot of ‘be careful’, ‘stop’, ‘no’, ‘don’t’, ‘you’ll hurt yourself’, ‘what were you thinking?’, ‘calm down’. Set yourself a task to really listen to the words you’re choosing to speak to your kids with. Are you using positive, empowering language or negative, critical language? Once you’ve got a handle on how you’re communicating take the next step and begin the process of conditioning your child to think about things going well. Help them set their focus by asking things like ‘what’s the best thing that’s going to happen today, this week?’ and then at the end of the day asking them what were the 3 best things that happened that day. Get into a rhythm of your communication by focusing on the good things that are going to happen or have happened rather than all the things that aren’t going so well. Getting them to fill out a journal with the 3 things they’re grateful for and 3 things that make them feel happy/healthy begins to create new pathways for thinking as well as build more resilience when things don’t go as planned or they hit a road bump. Because let’s face it, things don’t always go as we’d like them to but those that bounce back from setbacks are those that choose how they’re going to respond when things get tough.

3) Get specific. Remember anxiety is a fear of something that has not yet happened. If the situation they were fearing eventuates, it then becomes an emotion of anger, sadness, or guilt, all of which need to be dealt with. However when anxiety rears its head (the situation has not yet happened), ask them what specifically they are anxious about. Use questions such as ‘what are you anxious about specifically?’, ‘how does that make you feel anxious?’ and ‘suppose it worked out well would you still feel anxious?’ instead of ‘why are you feeling anxious?’. For example: your child is facing an exam. This is a real event that’s going to happen but hasn’t happened yet. Understandably they feel apprehensive. However often it escalates to feelings of anxiety leaving them unresourceful. Using ‘what about the exam are you specifically anxious about?’, ‘how does that make you feel anxious?’ and then ‘just suppose you do really well in that exam, having prepared for it, would you still feel anxiety?’ or ‘imagine after receiving the results that you deserve, having prepared for the exam, would you still have anxiety?’These lines of inquiry will uncover and ultimately unpack what is going on inside their head with respect to their feelings around the impending exam, as opposed to ‘why are they feeling anxiety’ which enables them a justification with no ability to address the underlying feelings. These slight tweaks in inquiry can reveal completely different responses enabling an empowered approach to the future event rather than being overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues that I see at my trainings. I have helped hundreds of people to equip themselves with tools and resources to overcome and help others overcome anxiety. If you’d like to learn more check out my Make Anxiety History program. Click here for more.

Food as Medicine for Anxiety Disorders | Guest post by Joanne Van Der Linden

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The foods you eat have a profound effect on your physical, mental and emotional health. Most people know that when they eat well, they feel well. The “good days” they have can often be attributed to times that included the sufficient supply of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and good fats, whereas the “bad days” can be traced back to times when they consumed a diet high in sugar with too much caffeine, with the combination of unhealthy fats mixed with white carbohydrates, with too many missed meals and/or too many late nights with the excessive intake of alcoholic beverages. Eating well and feeling good have a far better outlook than the alternative. It comes down to making a decision to really look after yourself.

Getting into the habit of eating well all the time can be tricky when your life is busy. If you suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions, you will benefit from being more vigilant about what goes into your mouth on a more regular basis. The rule of thumb when doing your best to eat well is to work with a ratio that helps you to stick to your decision. Most people use an 80/20 ratio where 80% of the time they eat well and 20% of the time they “let their hair down!” If you suffer from any mental torment or trauma, what’s going on in your mind can be very connected to what’s going on in your belly. In order for you to live in your most well state, the ratio of GOOD : NOT SO GOOD foods needs to be higher. A 90:10 ratio works better for most people with anxiety or better still, 95:5. The more consistent you are with eating well, the better you will feel. When you provide the best diet for your body with good sources of macro and micro nutrients plus fibre, your body has a much better chance of standing up under the stresses of modern, everyday living.

While sticking to a higher good food ratio can be tricky, the rewards outweigh the effort by giving you more time when your mind and your body feel ok. This is step one in a process of change for dietary control of anxiety and depression.

For more information on altering your diet to live more comfortably with anxiety or depression, you can contact Joanne at her clinic using the contact details below.

Guest post by Joanne Van Der Linden. Naturopath, NLP Practitioner and Hypnotherapist @

Holistic Healthcare Services, Tea Gardens NSW

Nature: how we need it to maintain mental health

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This week marks World Environment Day (5 June) and World Oceans Day (8 June). As with these recurring annual days of celebration or recognition I like to use them to acknowledge and engage in new conversations and thinking, especially with respect to mental health.

I must admit, as a dive instructor for many years, and being married to an environmental scientist, I’m pretty passionate about the natural world. But with our busy work schedules I feel as though I just don’t get into it as much as I’d like to. I am incredibly lucky to live near a beautiful waterway where my old boat, Phoenix is moored which I like to potter around on as much as possible.

Having an old boat has given our family so many amazing experiences. My kids were swimming confidently much younger than most. My daughters have both experienced breathing under water (SCUBA diving) much younger than many would. I feel as though I need to take every opportunity to give them as much nature time as I can so they learn to love it as much as we do. But it’s not just about learning to respect nature that’s important for my kids, it’s essential for their mental well being.

You see, being ‘earthed’, where your bare feet touch the soft ground or sand, where you get to really breathe, where you’re away from man made constructs is essential for both your physical and mental well being.

Nature deficit disorder is a phrase coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Anxiety is way up there among them. Kids need to be outdoors, playing, jumping, exploring, just being and the rise of the micro-managed child means that they’re getting less and less time to be in nature. Screen time is dominating their every waking hour. Any parent can vouch for the fact that they struggle to get their kids off their device, with a range of negative consequences from tantrums and aggression to an inability to free play. And this goes for adults too.

But the lack of time in nature is having dire consequences for another reason. The constant and unrelenting pressure on our natural resources is leading to what scientists predict as being the 6th wave of extinction. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), some 41 percent of amphibians and 26 percent of mammal species are currently facing extinction. Some of the world’s most beloved species are among them. Can you imagine a world without koalas, polar bears, elephants, orangutans, or even the cutest little dolphin you’ve ever seen (30 Vaquita dolphins left in the wild)? We don’t know it enough to love it, to save it.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum, 1968.

That’s pretty heavy stuff. And we’re starting to see huge mental health challenges arise as a result. I know I’ve witnessed an increased level of anxiety and depression in my wife and her scientist colleagues over the past few years. In fact at global science conferences the mental health issues associated with those at the conservation coal face is a growing stream, not only for those working in the field but for humans that have an innate sense of a loss of connection to the natural world. There’s even a thing now called conservation grief for those who have witnessed species and habitats in the midst of the extinction process.

This is not about watching too much depressing news on the TV. This is about humans destroying their own home.

So what can I do I hear you ask? The problems are so huge, I’m just one person. It gives me anxiety just thinking about this stuff. I’ve got my own problems to deal with.

I hear you. Loud and clear.

But there is one simple thing that you can do right now, this afternoon or this weekend that will instantly make you feel better. Guaranteed. Whether you care about the environment or not, this will help heal your soul regardless.

Get back to nature.

The science on the role of nature to heal and improve mental health is in. We need to get out of the constraining, oppressive four walls that surround us at work and home and get some sand or grass under our feet. Frequently. We need to breathe pollution free air. Frequently. We need to lie on the earth and stare up at the clouds. As much as we can.

Check out this cute video for a laugh, but it’s so true.

Happy World No Tobacco Day?!

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Did you even know there was a World No Tobacco Day? No? Well you’re certainly not alone. But we thought it might be a perfect  segue way into talking more about anxiety and the various things that trigger it. And smoking is definitely a trigger, on so many fronts.

“Smoking is highly prevalent across most anxiety disorders. Tobacco use increases risk for the later development of certain anxiety disorders, and smokers with anxiety disorders have more severe withdrawal symptoms during smoking cessation than smokers without anxiety disorders.” Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders, Tobacco Use, and Nicotine: A Critical Review of Interrelationships. Morisette, S. et al. Psychological Bulletin 2007, Vol. 133, No. 2, 245–272

Firstly there’s the actual act of smoking. The ironic thing is that peak anxiety attack, and despite all the associated physiological effects, many people grab a cigarette to ‘calm them down’. What they’re actually wanting to do is to just stop and breathe. And stopping for a smoke is a way to to slow down and breathe. Only problem is what they’re actually breathing in and how it effects the body. Cigarettes contain an addictive stimulant drug, nicotine. Nicotine is known to cause excitement and intensify your worries to make them seem bigger than they are… which can lead to more anxiety (ref). The physiological effects mean that smoking is making your anxiety worse! Researchers have found consistent evidence that stopping smoking is associated with improvements in depression, anxiety, stress, psychological quality of life, and positive feelings compared with continuing smoking (read more).

Secondly there’s the nicotine withdrawal. Quitting cigarettes can be a very stressful process, particularly due to the nicotine being one of the most addictive substances there is. Common symptoms include: cravings for nicotine, restlessness and difficulty sleeping, irritability, anger, anxiety, depressed mood and even getting cold like symptoms, constipation and mouth ulcers ( But once you’re through the tough part, and it’s tougher for some than others, you’re done. You’ve got a better chance of reducing your anxiety and depressive mood once you’ve quit.

Thirdly there’s the global impact of the tobacco industry. The top 3 producers of tobacco are China, Brazil and India ( Massive amounts of land is deforested each year to make way for tobacco farms (4% of annual global deforestation, Pesticides and chemicals are used to maximise crop success but leach out into nearby waterways. Child labour is commonly used on farms in developing nations. And that’s all before the issue of butt littering and fires caused from tossed, lit butts. Cigarette butts are the most common item found in beach cleans ups, globally.

If you’re a smoker, there’s no time like the present to quit, for your health and the health of the planet. Hypnosis and NLP have tried and tested techniques to help you quit the cigs today. If you’re keen to quit and feel like you may need some help feel free to contact Brad.

Anxiety doesn’t discriminate

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In all my years of training and coaching there’s one thing that consistently stands out. Mental health issues: acute ones like anxiety, or chronic ones like depression, can hit anyone. They don’t discriminate.

I’ve seen all ages, all genders, rich and poor, executives, CEOs, teachers and tradies debilitated by mental ill health. Anxiety is one issue that crops up far more than most. And it’s no surprise really. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the western world. In any one year 2 million Australians experience anxiety disorders (Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing). In the US it affects around 40 million people per year. And based on current trends that number is set to rise.  

Sadly many people are too embarrassed to open up about their anxiety, keeping it to themselves, seeing it as a weakness or something that they need to carry alone, especially if they are successful. They’re worried about what their employer, employees, family, peers would think if they opened up about their anxiety or other mental health issues. And in its place they carry around a very heavy burden that is likely to be significantly impacting upon their quality of life.

I recently had a client, a truck driver who was as Aussie as they come, who opened up to me about his life long anxiety. He’d been carrying this around forever and now, coming into middle age, the weight was beginning to get too much. I had not spoken to him for very long, building rapport quickly to enable him to have trust in my ability to help him. It was a sad story. This big tough sounding truckie had suffered from anxiety since he was 3 years old. His mother constantly threatened to suicide, which as a child is pretty much the most frightening thing that could happen, other than actually losing your mum. You can imagine then that his school life was affected and his learning abilities sabotaged as he disassociated from normal life, totally stressed out about his home life. In turn, with poor learning outcomes and poor self confidence his employment opportunities became limited, and as a result, he struggled financially. This train wreck started for him before he was barely conscious and caused by something out of his control. Anxiety had become a part of him and for the most part he had learned how to live with its debilitating impacts. Until now.

He threw himself into work and worked 13 hours a day 6 – 7 days a week. His hard work led him to promotions that he would reject due to the anxiety of change and being able to do something different.  His own treatment was to self medicate with cigarettes and alcohol often dealing with the anxiety by drinking heavily at night. On the outside he appeared to be stoic and and strong. He looked as though he had it all together. He helped others. But on the inside he was a mess. Women were drawn to his kind nature but he would push them away with the feeling that that he was not equipped to be a husband or family man. He left a trail of broken relationships in his wake. 

Sadly this is not a unique story. It’s highly likely that if you’re reading this post, you are suffering from anxiety and may even have a similar, sad story.

The upside is that anxiety, life long held or recently started, is treatable. And pretty quickly. Since acquiring the training and skills to be able to help people in this area over 10 years ago, I have dealt with my own chronic anxiety. I still get stressed out but anxiety doesn’t take over and cloud my ability to function as it had done for the better part of my young life.

With anxiety rates rising exponentially, where I would say we are experiencing an epidemic, I’m determined to help as many people as I can to make anxiety history.

Reclaim your life free of anxiety. Start your journey on making anxiety history today.

Telling your boss about your anxiety – career suicide?

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So you have an anxiety disorder – should you come clean with your boss?

Despite more people than ever before suffering from anxiety disorders, it’s not really openly spoken about particularly in the workplace. I have had highly paid professionals, tradies, surgeons and lawyers tell me how they suffer from acute anxiety yet they  manage to mask it and carry on despite feeling like they can’t function, somehow they manage to still be able to.

The effort required to mask a mental illness can be enormously taxing and leave you feeling utterly depleted, on top of the exhaustion from fighting the mental health issue itself. Mental health issues such as anxiety disorders can be totally debilitating at times yet life doesn’t necessarily stop and wait. Bills still need to be paid, studies still need to be completed, children still need to be looked after. If you are working, a timetable not of your own making must be adhered to, to try and stop the wheels from completely falling off. And for all of that you need to present a self that appears to be functional, to ‘pretend’ that you are fine.

The most common thing I hear is that with a physical injury it’s easy, it can be seen. Any illness of the body presents some kind of symptom that can be seen and measured. But when the mind is unwell most are blind to it, except you.

At a recent workshop I learned that in Australia absenteeism from anxiety disorders cost the business community $2,500 per person per day. That’s not including lost productivity. Considering anxiety is one of the more easily managed mental health issues, not addressing it in the workplace seems to be a lost opportunity for employers. With the right tools in place both employer and employee can benefit from having their anxiety disorders out in the open within the workplace.

I heard a speaker at a workshop the other day say that ‘you can hide everything behind a smile’ when speaking about how his close mates didn’t even know he suffered from bipolar depression. And sadly he hadn’t known about his own father’s battle with mental illness over many years. After years of trying to hide his mental ill health he had been coming clean to his employers for some time, with great success. Not only had employers been receptive to his openness but his work colleagues were more than sympathetic, creating the space and flexibility to meet his varying and unpredictable needs. Although his story may sound like he struck it lucky with a very supportive employer, it’s actually not as rare as you might think.

But there may be barriers, perceived or real, about coming out about your anxiety to your boss:

  1. Weakness – the idea that because you suffer from anxiety you are fragile, weak or that you can’t handle it and therefore are not fully equipped to carry out your duties. This may be the case at peak times of ill health but that’s not all the time.
  2. Unreliable – when and where the anxiety takes its grip is unpredictable and therefore you can’t be relied upon to deliver or contribute when required.
  3. That you’ll be ostracised for being different or sub-standard. Many who suffer from mental ill health feel lonely and isolated thinking they are alone in their suffering, but the real story is that it is more common than ever before. It’s highly likely that a peer, colleague or even your boss could be unwell also.

Mindfulness and employee well being has climbed up companies’ priority list; to improve retention and avoid IP or skills loss. The relief you will feel by sharing your burden with your employer could enable you to be your true self at your workplace and provide you the support and flexibility you need to get you back to optimal health. The only way is up.

Anxiety about being a perfectionist

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Do you suffer from Anxiety due to your desire to be perfect? Is being a perfectionist causing you to not get things done which just leads to more anxiety?

The other day I was working with a client in a coaching session that had completed 10 blog posts on her LinkedIn profile that by all accounts was great content yet she was not comfortable publishing them as she wanted them to be perfect. The questions I asked to find out if this was warranted were as follows:

  • Have you had someone check them for spelling and grammar errors (one of my own personal issues)? The answer was yes.
  • Do you think that the content is of value? The answer was that she had a friend read over them who was in the industry that the content was intended for and her friend said it was very good.
  • So my next question was, if the content is good and will be of value to people that read it and you think it will help your business how do you sleep at night by NOT giving the information to those who will benefit from it? This was a bit of shift for her so as that question was working its way to an answer I asked her “are you a perfectionist?” She smiled and said “well yes I do believe I am”. It was at this point I rolled out my favourite line with our perfectionist.

“If you don’t put it out there how will you ever improve so you can get to perfect?”

You see by not letting yourself get feedback to improve you will never be perfect. Accomplishment and success are a process. You need to not be afraid to put yourself out there in order to improve. As a perfectionist you have to get feedback in order to be perfect (I would suggest that perfection is a worthy goal but shouldn’t be an obstruction), so by not publishing the articles you are not being a perfectionist.

What was interesting was that the real problem becomes apparent and that was that she had anxiety about what people might think so she wanted it to be perfect, however this was stopping her from putting her articles out for people to read and therefore get feedback and clients.

What is 100% for sure is that by holding back on tasks from being complete you are going to have more spinning plates and this burns up your energy and resources leading to anxiety.

So what do you do about this double bind, catch 22 about putting “it” out to get feedback vs being perfect? Well here are some steps.

  • Have someone who will be honest to give you feedback
  • Embrace feedback in whatever form to improve yourself
  • Understand that feedback is nothing personal, its feedback
  • When you are given feedback be it in person or via no response at all, say thank you!

This will enable you to adapt to improve. My last point is that in order to get to your destination quickly, whatever that destination is you need to take action. Taking action is not thinking, writing it down or talking about it. Taking action is doing something that is tangible, tactile and real. This creates completion towards feedback to improve. Now if you have anxiety about improving then get really specific with the thinking, take baby steps forward, they might be small however they are small steps.

One of the tasking options I give all my clients now is a 3-month task of setting daily goals towards their 3-month goal, whatever goal that is. This helps them get really specific on a daily basis. It also forces them to focus on what they want to achieve on a daily basis.

This eliminates anxiety, creates movement and taking action on the task in the future.

I suggest you do the same, set a 12-month, 9-month, 6-month, and 3-month goal in one context –  be it relationship, health and fitness or career and then set daily goals towards that 3 month goal; little action steps that move you towards the 3 month goal.

Now one way of making it real is to have someone hold you accountable, so if you are up for the challenge write your 3-month goal in the comments and like the Facebook post (link) here and we can all hold each other accountable.

What did I do with my client that was procrastinating on her LinkedIn blog post articles? I had her log in to her account and post one live! That’s taking action. Watching her fear dissipate at the time it went live was very interesting: “now that was not so bad was it?”

PTSD – Post Trump Stress Disorder

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Yep, the completely unexpected happened. Donald Trump, an openly divisive, openly racist, openly misogynistic, self-confessed sexual assaulter, climate denier and blatantly hostile candidate is now the President Elect of the United States of America.

Irrespective of your politics and just looking at the man himself, his values and his behavior, you’ve got to question where people are at to have enabled such a thing to happen. What has happened that has brought such an apparently immoral and potentially criminal character with questionable financial records to such a position as to lead a super power?

In the days following the election it has become apparent that Americans supported Trump as a protest vote; to air their grievances at a system or establishment that they feel has failed them. A king hitter from that very establishment is who they chose. It didn’t matter that he’s corrupt, a failed business person, a groper, a spreader of hate and division. It’s a pretty diabolical thing to do given what’s at stake.

I’m not sure about you but my FB feed has been in free fall since. The one thing that’s common is that there are many, many reasonable people all around the world who are now filled with a deep sense of dread and anxiety about what this means, not just for the US but for the world. And that anxiety feels very real for many. My wife was in a deep state of angst. She knows what he’ll do for the environment and climate change, and the subsequent impacts that will have on all of us, human and non-human.

So I wanted to share something that she found on her FB feed from her network and that helped her.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ has a call to action for herself at deeply challenging moments. And that call to action to herself is asking the question: ‘Who do I want to be in this situation?’

In a world that feels as though it’s lost its marbles (think Brexit, Syria, climate change to name a few) it’s easy to feel a sense of hopelessness, angst, depression, and even anger. But this doesn’t serve anyone, least of all you. Yes, crazy, horrible things are happening all over the place, but plugging your emotions wholeheartedly into those horrific things is not going to change the outcome, once done. That’s not to say you can’t feel emotions; of course you will, if you’re anyone other than Trump (and other psychopaths) you are going to feel emotionally affected about horrible things. That’s what normal human beings do. But you need not let it affect you to the point that you can’t function effectively. Being energetically depleted can exacerbate your feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and if not addressed, can lead to physical ill health. You need to feel empowered at challenging times so you can feel as though what you do matters, no matter how small or trivial.

The one thing you CAN control in out of control situations is how you want to respond to it.

This is simple but not easy.

Think of all those babies and children being killed and injured in Syria. Think about what’s happening to species around the world, being wiped out for human profit and greed. Think about people close to you, or maybe even you, going through ill health and potentially terminal illnesses. Think of Trump taking over the Western world. These are big, horrible, devastating things. But you can still choose how you are going to respond to them.

This is actually one of the things I focus on in my trainings and coaching. What Elizabeth Gilbert is suggesting is being at cause rather than at the effect. Are you at cause of what’s happening to you in response to a situation or are you letting yourself be at the effect of what’s happening? When I say ‘letting yourself’ I’m not saying it as a weakness. A lot of this happens at a deeper conscious level. It’s about how you habitually respond to difficult or challenging situations. Do you blame others or do you accept responsibility for what has happened and empower yourself to carry on?

In response to Trump’s win, Elizabeth Gilbert & her partner switched off all devices, lit candles, meditated to gain clarity of what was happening and consciously asked themselves who they wanted to be in this situation. As was their usual response (yours may well be different) they wanted to be: calm, strong, open-hearted, curious, generous, humorous and patient in response to this challenging situation. They chose the same response to a terminal cancer result in Elizabeth’s partner. It doesn’t get more challenging or distressing than that, yet they still chose who they wanted to be in that situation, which undoubtedly made the situation more tolerable, given the circumstances. 

To be human is to be a flawed and emotional creature. You will get plugged in to what’s happening around you but when it all gets too much ask yourself ‘who do I want to be in this situation?’. Take back control over your emotional response. It will make all the difference to you, and everyone around you.

And as for Post Trump Stress Disorder, take comfort that more of the world are feeling what you’re feeling than you can possibly imagine. Now it’s about projecting the person you’re deciding to be in this situation.


Mites vs Goliath : the 2nd of 3 small business coaching case studies

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  • Growing stock (beans and mites)
  • Harvesting
  • Shipping
  • Sales
  • Research and development


His problem was that large, rich multinationals had developed another 2 mite products and bundled them up into a “super bug team”; the powerful 4 bug species that can assist in the war on produce. They were in a position to discount and/or add value for the buyer by getting four species of bugs for the price of two. Very clever on their part, it’s just business, right? This has made it hard for our bug farmer as he is being priced out of the market. FYI a bug is worth .008c each and he ships in the 100,000s.

So on my recent trip up north, I randomly had the chance to get up close and personal with three small businesses.  The first was the rose farm that I wrote about in a recent post. The second was even more out there; a mite farm! This innovative horticulturist provides biological controls for some of the most common bugs that destroy produce. Yep little critters that make the need for pesticides & other harsh chemicals null and void which puts him in direct competition with some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Hence the title of this post! Interesting to say the least and certainly not one I’ve ever come across before. But despite the nature of this unique business I was still able to look at it with a small business coaching approach.

I was surprised that it too was going through very similar challenges of the rose farm and other more regular small businesses. Finding work life balance, hustling for the next customer and automating the automatable (my word) parts of the business were constant challenges and stopping this business from being able to do the necessary R & D it needed to keep on top of Big Pharma, its main competition.

So the farmer is a horticulturist who has taken advantage of a major gap in the market some 15 years ago. Bizarrely, I was Matt’s (the farmer)  SCUBA instructor many years ago. I had no idea he lived in the region and was informed about him by the rose farmers. Very small world.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at this classic David and Goliath story.


I think that the bleeding neck of this business (the thing that is most urgently needing attention) is sales. There needs to be a long term plan to build on the sales volume with multiple customers. This can be achieved by the mite man positioning himself as the expert in the field. As this is a one man band the only way to leverage opportunities is to be the authority in this market  and create the process of people coming to him as the expert. This will not stop the effect of the price cutting but will in turn allow customers to feel they are dealing with the expert in the field as apposed to a sales person of a multi national company peddling package deals that are not part of their core or original business.

This can be developed by having a number of case studies of customers with the positive, profitable result in switching from pesticide to organic bug control.

These case studies can be turned into white papers and reports which are then published and made into articles for industry news and magazines, with a call to action embedded into the article,. Typically these local papers and magazines are looking for easy, already prepared editorials and news stories about local farmers that they can add to their publications.

So you would run a public relationship campaign with the intention of having a launch style product release. For example people could go to a link that is listed in the article to have a cost saving analysis report on biological vs chemical control sent to them. This is basically a link to a survey finding out how much they are currently spending on pesticides (for example) the type of bugs they are combating, size of farm and crop. Having a preformatted report that our farmer fills in the gaps to work out the cost saving with a trial option or setting up a call for a consultation on the phone enables you to collect contact details for follow up. This would use the farmer’s strength of selling on the phone.

From here you would leverage the 1 to many model through established farmer associations. You would offer your product to association members with a value add. For example a long term or bulk order discount. The intention is to build the relationship with the customer, position yourself as an expert as you develop your product to directly compete with the bug bundle pricing model.

Then making the most of the information you have collected from your case study start an online marketing campaign that is highly targeted to address the client’s problem that you know you have the solution to. This can be fully automated leaving more time for the follow up and expert building stuff.

Building on your position as the expert, you can then bring in the story of the “underdog”; how you are competing against the cheaper alternatives from apathetic, large corporates. This is only established once you have captured a good part of the market and once you have a steady flow of new client inquiries. Many people can relate to the underdog and want to support you.


  • Learn as much as you can about the real problem that your clients have, on an intimate level;
  • Publish as much branded content both online and offline as you can – of you and your product or brand overcoming the major problems that your clients are facing;
  • Use this to position yourself and your brand as the expert in the field;
  • This in turn has people coming to you for advice, your product solves their problem;
  • This builds on your price value and market share;
  • This then builds your database, gives you to the ability to do further business development as sales have increased;
  • By being the individual brand you will relate better to the farmers then a multi national brand;
  • You can even have the value add that the client can meet their bugs as they are being grown to build on the relationship as an online gimmick!

Many small businesses underestimate the value of being personal, small and approachable. This really builds rapport and trust.

What was your biggest take away from this small business coaching case study, or what would you add? Feel free to share via the comments below.

My girls and roses

Stop and smell the roses: the 1st of 3 small business coaching case studies

By | Improving Performance | No Comments
On a recent trip to the north coast of NSW for a little break I had the chance to get up close and personal with three small businesses.  It was great to look at these business with a small business coaching approach.  All three are in a rural area and are based on primary production (you grow something!). Despite bumping into them quite randomly, I was surprised they were all going through very similar challenges, many of which could be overcome by adopting some new technologies to assist with improving inefficiencies to free up time to expand or improve their work/life balance, which is often non-existent for small business owners.
I found a range of learnings that I thought might be interesting and worth sharing in 3 different case studies. The first case study was a rose farm. This is a very well established business run with 2 full time people and 1 part time. Like most producing properties it had its challenges some of which include:
  • Inconsistent stock control, you can only sell what you have grown;
  • Labor of picking & packing;
  • Selling the product to end users;
  • No succession plan;
  • Very limited marketing, and what existed was very old school;
  • Zero use of technology including customer relationship management,  to make life easier.
What was clear from the outset was the limited investment going back into the business on a regular basis. The owners have bought a job, doing the hard work and handing the product themselves, from managing the plants to making customers happy.
The business had four components:
  1. Growing and maintenance
  2. Picking
  3. Packing
  4. Selling
Basically the owners are doing everything to save money and keep the profit for themselves. Now there is nothing wrong with this approach. However from a risk point of view, and a business point of view this is not sustainable in the long term. It also reduces the net worth of the business because if you take the owners out of the equation there is no business. The business needs to be able to work without the owners being in the business.
Now it is easy for me to say that having not worked in that particular business, however I was able to identify some easy to implement solutions to begin systemising and automating parts of their business. Like most business owners, I’m pretty certain they never really look at the value of working on the business vs working in the business. By getting a birds eye view on the way they do their business, I could begin to see how they could make life so much easier for themselves, with a potential to expand their business by anywhere from 5 – 10%, easily.

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The mid-north coast of NSW has high unemployment rates and a multitude of government programs and incentives to improve employment outcomes in regional areas, so labor is plentiful. Finding good quality labour is the ongoing challenge.
One solution to improve productivity and get the owners out from under the business would be to break down the picking part of the business and develop a training program. Picking the roses, although an important part of the process, is very repetitive and relatively easy to learn. By developing a fairly simple, automated training system, the owners could begin to step back from some of the most time consuming yet labour intensive parts of the business in order to reclaim some time for other aspects. The systemisation and training aspects could even be funded via government employment training schemes and internships. Effectively you are getting paid to create the training program for getting people employed.
Once the first picking recruits are competent you can hire another couple of trainee pickers as contingencies. You are going to have staff turnover so you use that to your advantage with a consistent hiring system that is fully automated. Using technology like web based learning and video you can create offsite training programs as the induction/ interview tools. Online tests can be used to funnel applicants. Spending a bit of time to develop the recruitment and training videos with accompanying documents for systems and procedures will save significant time and provide consistency each time the owners need to recruit new employees.
If there are new additions to processes or procedures, or for any gaps in training they just do another video and add to it.
In order to retain staff once they’ve been recruited there’s opportunity to implement a promotion plan. As employment is on a casual basis to start off, and as there is only really 36 weeks a year of good productivity, the goal take the best of the casuals and make them full time, after their 6 month mark. They then become the full time supervisor of the pickers. This gives them access to  further education on the maintenance of the property and potentially do continued education, again funded by the government.
During the off time the full timer continues to  pick the limited number of stock available as well as general farm maintenance.
This process can be repeated for the packing part of the business. With this model the training can be automated  (with some hands on at the outset) and completely scaleable, running 1 to 5 days a week. These processes can then free up the owners to work on the business. The best part of this concept is that once the business is showing consistency in the picking and packing, the business can be expanded and sales can be increased. This is the area that the owners should be concentrating on.
Can you believe the owners actually told me that they say no to orders because they cannot keep up or want to work that hard!
Best of all the farm is now a business that does not rely on the owners doing the job. It is producing income without the owners and having employees doing the picking and packing, the most labor intensive part of the business.
I’m sure that the owners would have fear and objections to these concepts and would themselves need to change their thinking about how they do their business and adopting new technology. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. Having someone help you open up your thinking to new ideas and concepts can make a very big difference. So often as a small business owner, you’re so caught up in the day to day running of your businesses you never have the time to look at what you’re doing to identify where you can replace yourself and free some some time and space to work on the business or give yourself some much needed freedom.

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