Fishing For Inspiration

Fishing For Inspiration

An interview with James O’Reilly, Director, Verse Wealth, by Glenn A. Williams


As part of my ongoing research and development into the subject of visioning, I periodically take the opportunity to sit down and discuss the different processes people use for visioning.

James and I were introduced in November 2016 by a mutual client. James read a pre-release copy of Visioning and was inspired to go on a visioning expedition into the wilderness in late December 2016.

James is a co-founder and financial adviser at Melbourne based Verse Wealth. James provides advice, coaching and leadership to enable his clients to get more out of life. He partners with clients to help them overcome financial challenges and seize opportunities so that they can save time, worry less and live more.

This interview was conducted in April 2017.

Q&A With Jame O'Reilly

What stimulated you to go on a visioning retreat?

Reading the eBook version of Visioning helped me pause and reflect.

I was coming to the end of a particularly busy 12 months and I noticed that I had been spending a lot of time working “in” the business and needed to take some time out to work “on” the business. A lot of exciting things were happening work wise.

The heavy workload had created a situation where I was oscillating between wearing my technician hat or manager hat but neglecting my entrepreneur hat, from an E-Myth perspective, if you are familiar with Michael Gerber’s book.

I was getting a bit exhausted by working too hard and recognised the need to step back. In reality, 12-months is too long for the owner of a business to not step back and critically assess their progress. It was the right time. I needed to make it a priority again.

I decided I needed to take a deep dive and refocus on how my business was an expression of my sense of purpose, to direct where I wanted to help lead the business forward next.

How did you prepare yourself for your visioning retreat?

I am lucky enough to be able go away alone every Christmas to a place on the edge of the Kosciusko national park in NSW, normally for about 1-2 weeks and do some camping and fishing, just trying to take it all in. It’s quite off the grid

My preparation consisted of mapping out a schedule of what I thought would give me the highest likelihood of getting the meaningful outcomes from engaging with the process of visioning that I was after.

But for me personally, it also meant that I had to feel like I was on top of everything from the workload perspective. I personally find that if I have got too many things whirling around in the business on a day to day basis and too many short-term challenges, I just find it really hard to settle my mind and focus acutely on the bigger picture. So, I personally made a commitment to myself when I was planning to go away for this retreat, that I would be on top of everything in a way where I didn’t really feel any guilt or concern about not focusing on some of those small issues. That was the first thing.

Secondly, the commitment to being on top of everything allowed me to make a personal commitment to really remove myself from my work. I suppose that I just recognised that I could create the right conditions to allow myself to do that. Being on top of things allowed me to confidently commit to myself that I could remove myself from work. Also, finding a place where I’m removed from my own day to day life. I am lucky enough to already have such a place, that comes to mind.

The act itself of taking a visioning retreat, using the process outlined in Visioning, occurred to me as an enjoyable prospect. There are many elements of business ownership that don’t carry the same excitement. I didn’t really have any reservations about my ability to do it. But I had reservations about my ability to do it well. So, I wanted to make sure that I could create as many favourable conditions as possible to allow myself to do it well.

What did your visioning process look like and how did it work?

I have always been a start with the end in mind kind of person. So, I guess it was done in pieces.

Firstly, as a business owner, it’s about personally ensuring that your business is still serving the needs of people.

On a personal level, asking myself that what kind of life do I want to facilitate for myself.

When you’re a business owner you take a very bold step to facilitate outcomes - most of the time and rightfully so - for others. The ability to create value for others. Often, it’s because there might not be something quite like what you’ve proposed that offers that value. There might be a need for that value. But it’s about a transfer of value in reality.

For me personally, there were certainly a number of points where throughout the year, when I’m thinking about the business and evolving the business, I’m not thinking about me. I’m not thinking about the value that I’ve had from the business, I’m thinking about the value that others had from the business - that our clients take, or our team takes.

So, I tried to make my visioning retreat as much as possible about myself. “What kind of life do I want to facilitate for myself?”

I’d taken this big bold step of starting my own business and facing all the challenges of running a company. Now was an opportunity to make sure that the business also serves my needs and interest, and serves my wife’s interest.

That was probably the biggest question for me, that I just continued to sit on. I did my best to ignore the temptation of jumping straight into problem solving mode, and just stayed with that question. I continued to think about the sort of life that I wanted to facilitate in three years, in five years, in ten years. The sort of life that I’d be truly proud of. The sort of life where I could do my best work.

I did my best. I must admit that I often got sucked into thinking about something for a little while and just going down that path of exploring all those possibilities like chunking it down. So, I just did my best throughout the process to just stay high level. “Don’t chunk down, don’t start to explore things” I’d tell myself, because you can get caught up. Well, I personally can get caught up. So, I took you advice Glenn and simply practiced suspending during the visioning process.

Did you have any insights during the process?

Yes. I did. My priorities have shifted. Which was pretty exciting to discover.

Some of the personal outcomes that I’d set out to achieve when I started the business either don’t exist anymore or were no longer drivers for me.

I’m so much more focused on family now, and on relationships, being able to travel and enjoy those experiences.

Thinking singularly about the life that I wanted to facilitate helped me learn that I now aspire to be a lot more minimalistic than I’d aspired to be when I started the business, which I am stoked to find. I am very grateful that I had that realization. But I’m even more grateful that it is the path that my mind is taking too. I personally feel like it’s a better way.

So, I suppose the insight for me more than anything, was the preciousness of time. The ability for me to create time in my life for what’s most important is the main driver that arose from my visioning retreat.

What did the insight help you to realize?

I don’t need the income that I thought I was going to need when I started the business. There are a whole host of things I previously thought that I needed for a complete picture of happiness, in reality they are not things I am going to pursue anymore.

What continues to be more incredibly important to me is using the business to facilitate more time freedom in my life. The ability to just have great experiences with other people.

How long did it take you to get to the point of clarity?

It took about a 3-4 day period. In saying that, time actually applied in really thinking about and engaging with my vision was cumulatively 5-6 hours, as I spent approximately 1-2 hours a day over four consecutive days.

When I did almost all of this visioning, I was out fishing. I do quite a bit of fly fishing and I really enjoy it. So being out in the middle of nowhere, with no phone reception, and not a great deal going on created a really great opportunity to be able to do the exercise whilst having a deeply relaxing and peaceful activity going on. I’d be walking along the stream looking for fish, softly dedicating some time to reflection. I personally found that I was much more receptive to applying myself to visioning, in an environment where it wasn’t an absolutely all consuming process. This way I didn’t have to try and apply 100% of my mind to the process of visioning. It was more of a passive process where the activity that was going on in the foreground enabled other work to happen in the background. As the activity of fishing often has no involvement from the fisherman – except waiting – I had plenty of time to just be present and stay in control of my thoughts.

What are the benefits of having a clear vision?

In the beginning, I was worried that my vision might be unrealistic. But I felt deeply connected to what came out of my visioning retreat and I had written down. 

My personal ambition is to use visioning as a process more regularly, as a way to assess progress towards my goals and periodically re-evaluate their relevance.

I see that as important to ensure I’m aligned, and that everything that I’m doing is consistent with the outcomes that I want in my life.

Probably the biggest benefit I have gained is in my own peace of mind. I noticed that when I returned to work. One insight that was actioned promptly was my goal around the optimization of my own time. As a team, we had to stop somewhere, and start taking different steps, even if they were incremental initially. It really allowed us to think more about what we’re doing and what our process is, plus seek to create more time for all of us as teammates. That has been really valuable.

Having clarity of vision has translated into a new level of confidence and conviction in the way I lead myself and my team. It helps us validate when we are on and off track.

I am actually doing the things that are going to give me the highest likelihood of achieving my intended outcomes, and being as satisfied as I can be. That personally for me, is something that I really found valuable.

What did you learn about visioning? What tips would you offer?

Well, I think fundamentally, it’s something that you need to devote time to. But I think it’s also something that you need to devote quiet time to.

The problem is that most people are (or perceive themselves to be) quite time poor. Most people wouldn’t automatically find the idea of dedicating 5-10+ hours towards visioning appealing or practical. They would feel like that would be too big a commitment. However, if you are seeking to get the best outcomes from visioning, it’s not something you can rush.

Think about how you can create the ideal conditions to give yourself the best likelihood of getting the outcomes you are after. Secondly, make sure that the outcomes that you do get at that time are going to give you guidance and clarity on what you truly want – in your life, your career, your business, etc.

They are going to be different for everyone. Mind you, I think you did a really good job of outlining the process in your book Visioning, Glenn. So that was incredibly handy because obviously without that, I wouldn’t have used the process that I did. I probably would not have applied myself at home on a Saturday afternoon reading the book whilst drinking a cup of tea. After a couple of hours, I probably would have become frustrated with the concept of visioning, the emotions it can stir up and the uncertainty of how to move oneself forward that it initially creates. So, I think you’ve done an incredible task of outlining the steps that someone should take.  

I would really encourage people to make the time for themselves. It’s an obvious tip but it’s also such a resounding one, from my perspective. It’s incredibly challenging for so many of us to make the time for this important kind of work. For me, visioning was one of the best investment of time that I’ve made in myself for a long time. I think the value of that, particularly over the long term could be massive.

Potential readers of Visioning should not be deceived about the value of this book by its relatively short length. Within its pages, you have done a marvellous job of presenting your ideas Glenn. To be able to read a book in under two hours about a very challenging concept and then go away and undertake the recommended steps is fantastic. I think Visioning is compelling, eloquent, practical, instructional and inspiring reading for anyone looking to take their personal leadership to a new level.

Glenn’s Observations & Conclusion

When I reflect on my interview with James, it occurs to me that he set himself up well for a success visioning retreat.

Takeaway #1:  He identified a place where he could create a boundary around himself, off the grid, completely separating from his current reality to engage with his desired reality, in a relaxing and natural settings that helped ground and center himself

Takeaway #2: Like hitting a golf ball, your body and hands need to stay relaxed as you approach the task at hand. James allowed his thoughts to intentionally meander and dance between fishing and visioning, allowing (rather than forcing) inspiration to rise up and get caught in a net, through the process.

Takeaway #3:  Take more time than you think you need. James placed himself under low time pressure, incorporating lots of resting and relaxing into his retreat, similar to the way elite athletes work, to help elicit their best performance.

Takeaway #4:  James went on his retreat without a companion. This allowed his conversation with himself to go deeper, quicker – uninterrupted.

Are you ready to walk the path to prosperity?

Would you like some additional help applying the ideas outlined in Visioning?

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