I wanted to share with you something special with you all today. It's a transcript of an interview that I did six years ago.
I shared my story of how I overcame depression, obesity and being broke. I also talk about how Cham and I started Authentic Education - our hardships and triumphs. How we almost went our separate ways, but fate decided otherwise.
As I read through my answers in this interview, I'm just so happy that they still ring true. Our mission, vision and values still remain the same, and we continue to grow and help more people every year from all over the world to live their love.
Hopefully, it will inspire you to make positive changes in your own life. Please enjoy.
How did Authentic Education come about?
Back in 2002, I found myself coming into my 5th year of chronic depression. I was unemployed for most of that time, heavily overweight, massively in debt, and all the medication the doctors had me on was not doing much to change my situation in life.
I decided to get a job in recruitment to get out of my debt and out of my house. I wanted to help people live a more fulfilling life, and I thought maybe I could make an impact by getting people jobs they enjoyed.
After four years of doing that, I realised I had a big problem on my hands… I was not passionate about the industry and therefore, incongruent with my own inner voice.
In 2005, I maxed out my credit card by investing a large amount of money, $17,985 to be precise, into attending educational seminars on personal development, energy healing, coaching and business, and a whole new world opened up to me.
I was still about $137,000 in debt at the time, but something had to change. I knew that whatever got me to this point in my life was not going to get me any further, and therefore I needed to learn something new in order to move forward.
By 2006, I had opened up my own coaching business, left the corporate world, and was well on my way to living true to my mission of helping people live abundantly on purpose.
In 2007, I met Cham Tang, my business partner and co-founder of Authentic Education, while working as a part-time contractor for an events company that had us touring around Australia every 3 to 4 months to support an international speaker.
I am a big fan of being 'paid to learn', and I knew in my heart that one day, I would become a speaker myself. So, I thought I had better learn how the industry operated as soon as possible.
While I was there, I put in 100% effort and added as much value as possible to the company, so it was definitely a win-win scenario. Plus, the speaker we were supporting was truly world-class, so I also learned a great deal about the art of presenting at the same time.
Cham and I were roommates on most of the national tours, so we got to know each other quite well over the years. Then, out of the blue one day in early 2008, Cham rang me up and said, "Hey, if you ever want to start up a training company, let's have a proper conversation about it," and then pretty much hung up the phone.
The seed had been planted.
We found ourselves sitting in a hotel room together in Brisbane on another national tour nearly a year later. We decided to take the next step and began to brainstorm some ideas about what kind of business we could create.
Cham asked me who I would want to help most, and I said, "People that help people". He then asked me what I wanted to help them do, and I said, "Help more people!" And that was all we needed to get started. Our mission at that stage was simple, help people that help people help more people!
We had seen a lot of what was going on in the 'education and events' space, and there were certainly many gaps preventing people from truly obtaining the results they wanted.
We found many people were spending too much money on mindset programs and learning tools for transformation but not enough money on business courses. That resulted in them having a huge amount of internal fuel but no vehicle to channel that into.
We thought to ourselves, what if we combined the two so you can get all the internal fuel you need while learning solid business skills at the same time to ensure you can create a commercial vehicle that allows you to make a difference and a living doing what you love?
So in late 2009, we launched Authentic Education, and over 12 years later, it has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people across Australia and the world by helping them find effective ways to live their love.
In 2013, Authentic Education was awarded the BRW Fast Starters Award. Now known as the AFR Fast Starters Award, this is an award given out by Business Review Weekly to the top 100 companies that achieve the fastest business success in the first 2-3 years of launching.
Just two short years later, Authentic Education backed it up by being awarded the BRW Fast 100 Award. This is an award given to the top 100 companies across Australia that achieve the largest yearly growth in a specific period. Authentic Education was ranked 38th in Australia.
Receiving both of these awards only two years apart is a feat that has never before been achieved by a company in our industry, and it's something that both Cham and myself are very grateful to have received due to the incredible success our clients have created in their lives.
What was it like being severely depressed, overweight and $137K in debt? Did you see a way out of it?
In hindsight, it was truly a blessing in disguise though it certainly did not feel like it at the time. Everything in your life can serve a grander purpose if you are willing to look at it through the right frame.
Nowadays, I choose to see everything through the frame of empowerment. What I mean by this is no matter what happens, I do my best to gently guide my mind to see how this event can serve me now and in the future to become a better person.
One of my favourite quotes in life is by a gentleman called Art Linkletter...
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”
This really is a quote to live by, in my opinion. Being severely depressed, overweight and in debt is somewhat debilitating. There really was no light at the end of the tunnel, and getting back on track seemed impossible to do. Plagued by suicidal thoughts on a daily basis and shedding friends rapidly left me feeling quite isolated.
I tried everything I could to get out of my situation, but nothing seemed to be working for me. Then, one day, I was sitting at home alone and realised that I had been 'battling' depression the entire time. So after five years, I tried a new approach.
I came up with the idea that my depression was like a guest in my home, and all I needed to do was work out how to ask it to leave.
I realised that for five years, I had been fighting with it instead of be-friending it and finding out what it had to teach me. I know it is way easier to ask a friend to leave your home than to try to get a gate crasher to leave.
I spent some time getting to know my depression, and I even gave it a name, Peter.
As I began this inner dialogue, things started to change. I began losing weight and also reducing my debt. Eventually, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I finally asked Peter, "What do you need to teach me before you are able to go?"
And a quiet voice in my mind replied, "Ben, I have only ever wanted to teach you one thing, and that is to love yourself."
At that moment, I had goosebumps rain down from the top of my head, all the way down my spine, and tears welled up in my eyes. I responded by saying, "Thank you, I have got the lesson now."
At that point, I heard footsteps literally walk out of my mind, and ever since that day, the depression, Peter, has never returned again.
What I learned from that experience is that the only way anyone can truly overcome depression is to fall in love with themselves and become their very own best friend.
We spend a lot of time helping our students realise that this truly is one of the most fundamental steps to success and living a meaningful and fulfilling life.
After years of studying everything I could about psychology and mindset, I have concluded that depression is predominately a symptom of not truly loving yourself, and the cure is therefore to love yourself.
What was the turning point for you?
Learning to become my own best friend was a big part of it. However, the real turning point for me came back in 2002. I was heavily medicated at the time, suffering from mental illness and long-term unemployment.
Late one night, while standing in a nightclub in Canberra, I bumped into an old school friend who let me know that my best friend from primary school had committed suicide.
After the shock of that settled down, I made a promise to myself. I said that if I ever find a way to fix my broken mind and get my life back on track, I will dedicate the rest of my life to helping people find a way to do what they love so this kind of thing doesn't happen again.
I really felt at the time that if people did things they enjoyed instead of chasing money all the time, a large number of the world's problems would be solved.
It would still be many years before I made good on that promise I made to myself.
Where were you working at the time?
After being unemployed for so long, I decided to take action. Life truly does reward only one thing, and that is ACTION!
So I got a job working for an IT recruitment agency called Icon Recruitment, part of the Adecco group of companies. I began there in 2003.
How did you go about changing your life in terms of process - did you start the courses and then apply those skills to your debt, weight and mental health?
The journey took a number of years. I spent a lot of my time listening to as many audiobooks (because I'm dyslexic) as I could find about spirituality, psychology, the science of achievement and all things mindset.
I practised meditation on a daily basis, learned visualisation processes, studied many indigenous healing practices and attended plenty of weekend courses on a variety of different energy healing techniques.
In 2005, I found myself standing inside the Sydney convention Centre with 2,500 people at a personal development event. It was a high-energy event with dancing, back massages and high-five slapping all around. It wasn't really my type of thing. However, I stuck it out and learned some incredible tools for becoming successful by doing what you love.
It was then that I invested in more education, attended the programs and then applied everything I learned to my own life. It almost seemed that making a big financial investment created the internal leverage to accelerate my personal transformation—definitely another turning point in my life.
Would you describe those initial stages of starting Authentic Education as a side passion? Why do you think having a project you're passionate about 'on the side' to your regular work is important?
I had already left the corporate world by then and was running a coaching business. The real battle was deciding how much time to allocate to this new idea, as it would certainly impact my coaching business. Cham worked full-time at that stage, so he needed to decide how much time he could allocate.
I convinced him to go part-time at his work, and we both started putting in 2-4 days per week, which soon turned into weekends, late nights and eventually became a full-time thing.
I don't think it was a side passion. It was more the natural evolution of what I had already begun. But please do not get me wrong - it was more challenging than anything either of us had ever done before.
In fact, in the first year of business, after hours and hours of sweat equity, Cham and I only managed to turn over $19,974 in total revenue.
It was a real blow to our confidence and truly disappointing to both of us because we had gotten into this to help people. However, for some reason, we couldn't seem to get people to understand the value we were providing or the effectiveness of our solutions.
Cham began to second guess his decision regarding going into business with me, and my coaching business was dropping because of all the hours I was putting in. So it was not looking good for either of us.
We nearly ended up going our separate ways because nothing we were trying seemed to be working. We just couldn't seem to crack the game in this education industry.
One of the most important traits an entrepreneur can have is "stubbornness" because it makes sure you never quit on a great idea. So I convinced Cham to have one last go at the marketing method we had been using up until now, and sure enough, we finally made it work.
The following year we turned over $286,364, the next year $496,179 and then the business accelerated and jumped up and over $1 million, turning over $1,563,739. But, best of all, we were now impacting thousands and thousands of people across the world. The mission had truly begun, and I was making good on my promise to help people find a way to do what they love for a living.
Since then, we have managed to have year-on-year growth of roughly 40%. In the financial year of 2014/2015, we managed to achieve business growth of 84.5%, placing us in the BRW Fast 100 as the 38th fastest growing company in Australia during that period.
When did you first notice that the depression was lifting?
I guess it was when I began placing people into jobs while working in recruitment. The sense of achievement and being of service really light me up inside.
You met your business partner, Cham Tang, at a work conference. Had you already decided, at that point, that you wanted to branch out on your own?
No, we barely knew each other. It took years before we finally took the next step. I think this worked out well because, by the time we launched the business, we had a rock-solid foundation of friendship and trust between the two of us.
How do you describe what you do to people?
We help people do what they love for a living. Our mission is to empower people to live abundantly on purpose.
Seeing people create a fulfilling life, do what they love and make a difference in the world is soul food for us. Everything we provide at Authentic Education is designed to accelerate your ability to achieve this.
Fundamentally we do three things:
1) Provide world-class education that empowers and enlightens through its application
2) Deliver highly effective self-development and business acceleration programs for Difference-Makers
3) Continue to form Australia's most renowned hub of globally accessible resources to further assist everyone on the Difference-Maker path
Our vision comes down to one simple sentence: "The World On Purpose."
Our vision is to live in a world where everyone is on purpose creating and contributing from a place of inspiration. A world in which each individual has complete alignment between their thoughts, feelings and actions. A world where shame, guilt, fear and judgement have been transmuted into empowerment, appreciation and authenticity.
As someone who was in dire need of self-help, what was your view of the industry and what is your view of it now?
I think every industry has good and bad elements. The key is always to measure truth by effectiveness. What I mean by this is everyone has their own unique way of healing and creating change in their lives, so the best way to work out what is true for you is to analyse how effective whatever you are currently doing actually is.
Be very careful falling prey to Guru-itus, which is when you blindly follow the person's advice on stage just because they are standing on a stage.
Always listen to your intuition and be willing to try as many approaches as possible until you find the one that works. As Jim Rohn says, "You must have an until attitude", as in keep going until you get the result you desire.
My advice is always watch what people do rather than listen to what they say. Quite often, people say one thing. However, when you inspect what they are doing to obtain the result, it is entirely different.
What is your advice to people who are suffering from mental health issues but have aspirations to make something concrete of a side passion?
Take some time to fall in love with yourself, to become your own best friend again. There was a time in your life when you loved your own company and when you giggled at anything the world threw at you. Work to reconnect with this part of yourself, and once you do, share that light with the world.
There is always a solution, and more often than not, all you need to do is be willing to ask for some help. One of the biggest misconceptions we find is that people believe they need to do everything on their own, or they will feel like they have failed in some way.
The truth is no one on planet earth has ever made it on their own. Everyone needs a coach, an advisor, or a team of some kind to bring out the best in them. Human beings, unless coached, will never achieve their full potential.
There is an ancient Native American proverb that sums it up beautifully, "You go faster on your own but further as a team."
People need to remember this.
So give yourself permission at the deepest level to ask for help when you need it. It is not a sign of weakness but rather the greatest sign of strength a person can express when they are able to admit they need help in life.
Once this is done, get on your mission and start to change the world in some way. You will be glad you did!
Be sure to dedicate your time to something that truly lights you up and makes a difference in the world. Passion is the single most important ingredient for success; if you have this, you are halfway there.
Anyone can make it in business if they allow themselves to:
• be highly coachable
• find great mentors
• get relevant education
• take little actions and refine those actions
• listen to qualified feedback
• believe in their product
Oh, and always remember, it's not about you. Business is about making the lives of your clients better in some way by solving meaningful problems for them. So stop thinking about yourself and start focusing on changing people's lives.
As Zig Ziglar once wisely said...
You can have everything you want in life if you help other people get what they want.
How did pursuing your passion help you?
It turned my life into the gift I always dreamed it could be.
What does your business offer to people who may be on the same path that you were on back then?
A highly effective combination of live programs that will help get you back on track, discover what you love and turn that love into a successful business.
These programs help people address key problems they need to solve if they want to succeed in a business that helps others improve the quality of their lives.
1. Productivity and systems
2. Building a strong mindset for wealth and happiness
3. Packaging and Marketing (end-to-end business lifecycle)
4. Presenting from stage
5. Education-based selling
On top of that, we have several online programs available covering everything from digital marketing to writing best-selling books to how to be your own best coach.
How has Authentic Education changed your life? Would you do anything differently?
It has certainly changed the way I spend my time and also afforded me an incredible level of freedom in my life. Thanks to all the hard work we put in in the beginning, the systems we have developed, and most importantly, the amazing team we have around us, I am able to focus on doing what I love while spending plenty of quality time with my family.
If I could do anything differently, it would be to have realised earlier that I can outlearn any problem.
There is a thought-virus that sneaks into people's minds all over the world, and it sounds like this, "Of course they can do it because they are naturally talented at XYZ," and it also sounds like this, "I am naturally talented therefore I cannot truly improve my skills because I was born with them".
Regardless of how it is expressed inside one's mind, this illness needs to be cured, and cured fast!
The reason this is such a regret of mine is because this thought-virus prevented me from realising early on that anything can be learned and that anyone who had achieved the levels of success I desired simply learnt something new and then applied what they knew.
It also prevented me from truly valuing the skills I had spent a lifetime developing because I had convinced myself I was born with them, and they were natural to me.
Believing in natural talent slows the entire human race from moving forward. Yet, most of us still love to hear about the next' naturally talented' overnight success, so it becomes a self-perpetuating issue.
There is plenty of research out there that suggests what most people call natural talent is nothing other than a large amount of something known as deliberate practice. Once we are able to wake up to the fact that anyone has the ability to be truly magnificent, a world of opportunity opens up to us.
The truth is you can outlearn any task and, in doing so, be as successful as you like.
I am not discounting that certain people have certain physiological advantages, personal values that support specific goals and core strengths that make it easier for them to progress in a chosen career. It is important to remember though that true success, as was pointed out by Kazuo Inamori, a famous Japanese entrepreneur, is nothing more than the combination of three key ingredients attitude, effort and ability.
And the great news is you have control over all three of them!
One of the fastest ways to increase your self-worth and ultimately get paid what you believe you are worth is to acknowledge how much time, money and effort you have put into whatever it is that you believe you are naturally talented at.
Once people actually sit down and list all the things they have done to get to where they are in life, they almost immediately realise how valuable their skills are, and in doing so, increase their value in the marketplace.
This also goes for when you are looking at someone else's success. Actually take the time to look through their history at everything they have learned and applied over the years to get to where they are today. This process will put things into perspective and ultimately help you to give yourself the permission required to go out into the world and make a difference.
Yet another turning point for me was the day I let go of the natural talent myth and replaced it with a brand new belief...
When inspired people passionately apply the right education, they can change their life and the world!
From that day forward, I committed to learning my way out of anything, and the results have been truly remarkable.
What have been your biggest lessons, setbacks and highlights?
My biggest lesson is to never again doubt the power of love, more specifically, doing what you love.
My biggest setback was taking so long to surrender to the fact that love is all you need.
One of my greatest highlights was when I had my baby girl up on stage with me while I was teaching some of our students, and my wife watched on from the back of the room.
My wife has been there right from the beginning of this journey. In fact, she helped start the company with both Cham and myself. She has always been my greatest support person and believed in me every step of the way.
None of this would have ever been possible if it wasn't for her, and I am eternally grateful for meeting her. To have our little family together at an event really is a dream come true in so many ways.
And what is your advice to business owners or workers who don't nourish their mental health and development?
Everything you ever seek to create in life is going to first occur inside your mind. In our company, we have a saying, "Everything in life happens twice."
What we mean by this is first, it happens inside our minds, and then it happens in reality. Therefore, if your mind is not a healthy and fertile incubator of creativity and passion, how do you ever expect to achieve anything great or even just live a fulfilling life?
Having good mental health and a strong focus on personal development is the cornerstone to having abundance in your life.
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