‘I made a promise to myself to return to The French Alps ‘one day’ after a dream trip with a bunch of crazy keen cyclist mates.’ANDY WILLIS
It’s easy to make a vow to change one’s life whilst on holiday. Making it happen is something else. No one will do it for you. You have to take action.
Andy Willis founder of Working from Anywhere admits that it took a ‘Carpe Diem’ attitude and a good look at his life to turn the dream of living and working from The French Alps every year into a reality.
Determined, he transitioned his successful Conference & Event Management business to one that not only allowed him to integrate work and life as one, it became the reason to help other business owners do the same.
Andy’s Carpe Diem (“seize the day”) attitude is not about throwing caution to the wind to tick off the bucket list before dying. It’s about taking control of your own life and your own destiny, not delaying until the “perfect” moment arrives to take action on your dreams. It’s the reminder we all need.
Read on for the latest in my ‘Everybody Has A Story’ series.
Lives: By the beach in Tathra, NSW. I think of The French Alps as my second home. Three words to describe yourself: enthusiastic, determined, entrepreneurial. Best time of the day: sunrise at the beach, I’m a morning person.Can’t live without: a long ride on the bike, hitting the surf on my SUP. All time fave food: keeping it simple peanut butter toast Wine: French Rose Best book: The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris. Current challenge: Writing a Book!Best travel memory: An epic 35km climb to 2645m to Col du Galibier by bike, crystal clear blue sky, catching my breath and soaking up the 360 degree views from the top, and the emotional descent back down the mountain. The mantra you live by: Carpe Diem (Seize The Day)
Karen: Lets take a step back to life before WFA. You were running a very successful Conference & Event Management business. It seemed to be the dream life, jetting off to work in places such as the Okavango Delta in Africa or on a luxury cruise in Alaska. I got a peek at that life when you kindly asked if I wanted to join you in Capetown for a conference. It took me about 3 seconds to say YES! by the way. What was it that drove you to make such a big change not only in business but in your life?
Andy: Looking back, I think it was a series of four events over a period of time.
- Picking up the book “The 4 Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferris on one of my many long haul flights. I spent a lot of time in airport bookstores. The concept of systemising your business to run without you got me thinking, could I do this to my business? I started thinking about WFA as a way of life.
- Life threw me a curveball when I least expected it, I became a single man again. I won’t go into too much detail other than to say it was a very tough and dark time in my life. However, out of the darkness came the opportunity to try to turn my WFA concept into a reality.
- I joined a post conference 7 night Alaska cruise. I was absolutely exhausted, but it gave me time to think, to put more thought into the WFA concept.
- Making a promise to myself to return to The French Alps ‘one day’ after a dream trip with a bunch of crazy keen cyclist mates.
It may have been the sea air, too many cocktails on the deck or really just having the time to think clearly, but it was during that cruise I decided to turn that promise of ‘one day’ into ‘some day soon’.
I’ve always been one to commit early and work out the rest later so no sooner had I returned from Alaska I was locking in flights and renting an apartment in the French Alps for a month. On one of my busiest years ever, I decided to run my business in Working From Anywhere mode.
Karen: That sounds like ‘Carpe Diem’ at work.
Andy: It was. That year was a turning point in my life. I decided to ‘seize the day’.
Karen: What has been the biggest awakening that WFA revealed to you personally?
Andy: I realised I was trapped in my successful business, and had got into the habit of ‘deferring life until retirement’. I was sacrificing time with family, friends and doing the things I loved, for the business.
‘We’ll travel when we retire’…… ‘We’ll have more time together when we sell the business’….. ‘We need a few more years to build the super fund’.
That awakening now drives everything I do. I see so many business owners in the same situation and I want to help, to show them that they can spend more time living life outside their business.
The sad reality is we all know of people who unfortunately either don’t make it to retirement or when they do, their health is not what it used to be. How often does this scenario play out….
(at age 35 ) I’m going to climb that mountain, do that trek to Machu Picchu, I’m going to go on that world trip, I’m going to get back to playing sport regularly.
(30 years later) Wait a minute, I’m in my late sixties, my body isn’t what it used to be, I used to be able to move so much easier, I was fitter, now every muscle hurts and I couldn’t possibly walk to the shops let alone hike to Machu Picchu. It ain’t gunna happen!
Karen: That’s a wake-up call for all of us. I think the Digital Nomad scene is a direct response to living and working in the now. Living in Bali I see DMs everywhere, in co-working spaces or tapping away poolside. It appears idyllic but I know it’s not for everyone.
Andy: I agree. Some of my clients own successful bricks and mortar businesses such as cafes. Not in their wildest dreams could they see a way to get out of the business for more than a week or so. With the right systems, tech and mindset in place they’ve taken extended overseas travel with their family. They can check into their business from anywhere, tapping it along as planned, enjoying the best of both worlds.
Karen: What I love about WFA is that you can choose to work when you’re at your best, whether that’s 10am or 10pm. But with the ability to work anywhere at any time there is the temptation to be ‘on 24/7’. What do you do to avoid falling into that trap?
Andy: I’m a morning person, happy and productive working at 4am. But I’m flexible. If the surfs up I’ll go for a SUP at sunrise. It’s rare that I work at night, in fact by 4pm I’m most likely out on my bike for a ride. A big one for me is when I’m socialising, I’m no longer taking calls or checking my emails. I don’t want to be that person at the table unable to put their phone down. We can all work 24/7 if we choose to, it takes organisation and a mindset change to switch off. This is a big one for me if you want to be successful Working From Anywhere. For that reason it’s a big topic in my Mastermind groups. WFA is not only about tech solutions.
Karen: There’s always a moment in business when we think ‘why didn’t I do this sooner?’ Do you have one to share?
Andy: Yep. Getting a Virtual Assistant was one of those moments. Outsourcing or delegating is one of the fundamentals of successfully transitioning to WFA. Instead of doing repetitive tasks or tasks outside your skill set, you hand them over, leaving you free to grow the business instead of working in the business, ultimately giving you more time to enjoy life. Not everyone is successful with a VA, and it took some tests and trials to get the best results for myself before turning it into a system for my WFA clients. Once you get it right, you don’t look back.
Karen: The dream was to spend time in the French Alps as a way of life. You made it happen. You’ve now built in small group cycling trips and WFA Retreats during your annual 3-month stay. I’ve spent time with you in The Alps, so I know first-hand how happy you are there. You don’t find the retreats to be an invasion of your personal life?
Andy: Helping people to spend more time living life is my sole purpose in life. The retreats obviously make financial sense but more importantly, watching on and being part of changing peoples’ lives is the biggest thrill of my life. I’m based in a small village and have an incredible network of friends there for support. Cycling and hiking amongst the most incredible mountains as part of my work day…. hey, I’m living it. In fact I’m in the midst of setting up more WFA Retreats around the world.
Karen: You’re famous for always being seen in your WFA.Life t-shirts. What’s the story?
Andy: I’m into simplifying life, not just business. I wear the same outfit every day. A WFA t-shirt with either shorts or jeans. Less choices makes the daily decision of what to wear so uncomplicated.
Karen: There’s always mistakes and regrets along the way in life and business. What was the toughest hurdle you had to overcome to get to where you are today?
Andy: I was starting with a customer base of zero. The greatest ideas remain as ideas until you convert people into clients. Then it becomes a business. I recognised the time and effort it takes to get the WFA word out there and decided to engage some expert guidance.
Karen: Is there one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out on their WFA journey?
Andy: It won’t happen overnight, build a solid foundation, don’t try and do it on your own, find a mentor and a peer support group. Don’t put it off, just take action. Carpe Diem.
Karen: Finally, how’s the book coming along?
Andy: Thanks to a brilliant writing adviser, I’m working to a structured program, and making good progress. I’ve never considered myself a writer, so I’m way out of my comfort zone, but it feels good to get my WFA knowledge and advice into a book format. Weaving my personal story into the book has led me to reflect on the ups and downs, the ‘aha moments’ and the unexpected curve balls. It’s been good to relive the story, giving me a few laughs as well as some proud moments.
Karen: My point exactly… Everyone Has A Story. Thanks for sharing yours. This has been a very cool WFA experience, both of us writing and chatting at the same time on a live Google Doc. Tathra to Bali. Amazing.
Inspired? Take up Andy’s offer of a complimentary 15-minute Work From Anywhere Kickstart call. It may just change your life.
Keen to WFA? Have a look at Andy’s 90-day “Work From Anywhere” (WFA) program that helps successful business owners:
a) spend more time living life outside of their business
b) work more efficiently with their staff and contractors
c) go on a 7-day WFA Retreat at a spectacular destination. (French Alps in July, Queenstown in Oct)