Nic Haralambous is the CEO and Co-Founder of Slow-Hustle, a community platform where side-hustle and start-up entrepreneurs get guidance on business basics, hustle history of the biggest businesses in the world, live Q&A, online courses, one-on-one coaching, and the help they need to build the business of their dreams. Over the last 20 years Nic has built business and side hustles, many of which were sold. He’s taken the hard knocks, dealt with failure, and overcame all the b.s. that comes with building the business you dream of. You can watch his free masterclass – How to Start a Side Hustle on his website academy.slowhustle.org
Nic is also an accomplished author and speaker. His books “Do. Fail. Learn. Repeat.” “How to start a side hustle” are available on amazon. It’s packed with great content like, what it takes to start a business, when should you start, defining success triggers and failure triggers, forgetting about formalities, your passion is not a business, start by building something, focus and cut the fluff, choose your audience, SELL-SELL-SELL, and much more killer information.
Mike and Nic cover a ton of great stuff in this episode like his ideas on self development and constantly reassessing things he believes, why it is not weakness to change your mind and view, why he’s stunned at how few people have a very clear idea on how they want to exist in the world, why you need to be careful about the goals and expectation you set for yourself, having self awareness of what you are capable of, why the longer term you think the less important day to day steps are, a viral article he wrote that created the foundation for a successful path, and much more.
And now here’s Nic Haralambous.
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Nic Haralambous, Mike Malatesta
Mike Malatesta 00:05
Hey Nic, welcome to the show.
Nic Haralambous 00:27
Thanks so much for having me.
Mike Malatesta 00:29
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to this because I got introduced to Nic through Rich Mulholland, who is on episode 150 I think, and I was really excited to talk to talk to Rich because a friend of mine had introduced me and I watched some videos of him and he was just had this great sort of storytelling mindset about personal, business and everything about us. I was really I was really excited about then he complimented me at the end of the podcast, which of course, I was very excited about to. And then on top of all that he offered to introduce me to Nic, and I’ve been following Nic. Ever since, and as you’ve heard in the introduction, he’s, you know he’s accomplished a ton of stuff in his life, and much more to go plus. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who’s well maybe, maybe not anyone who’s been as entrepreneurial from such a young age, as, as Nic has been so, so I’m very excited and I think you’re going to get a lot out of this episode Nic, I start every one of my shows with the same simple question How did happen for you.
Nic Haralambous 01:42
I’ve been giving this so much thought happened for me and I’m really, really young age, I don’t really know what it is at this point, whatever reason. I have been voraciously and obsessively curious from the youngest age that I can remember from six or seven years old. I have challenged religion from that age, my dad is a born again Christian, I was raised in a Greek Orthodox house I went to a Catholic school, but I’ve been an atheist since I was seven. I’ve been a writer since I was seven, I just writes, it’s an obsession of mine. That’s how I think and how I process thought, and then the pivotal moment looking back on my childhood, my parents at the age of 11 This was in 1994 or five. They got me a computer that was connected to the internet. And that’s where that’s where it started. I have no idea why they did this, and I’ve done the research in South Africa where I live right now. There were only about 30,000 internet connected computers at the time, and I happened to be one of those people that the ripe old age we live in. And I had an aptitude for it, so I started coding and 12, built my first websites, Sorry, coding it even built my first website at 12, against my better judgment, a friend of mine and I hacked a computer, when we were about 14 It was the first and last time, I ever did that because it felt so lucky. And then built my first business 16 finished high school, you know the cookie cutter model of what a kid should be like to say about high school that I am alert the rules but ignore them. I had to figure out how what they were so I could break them, and then went on to study journalism politics, philosophy and all the while both businesses got into a band continued to be entrepreneurial, all the way up until my age now 37.
Mike Malatesta 03:45
And so, so, so I’m really curious on the religion thing. So you said you decided to become an atheist at age seven. So I’m putting my I went to Catholic school too, and I, I’m putting myself in this my shoes at age seven. At that time, religion, Catholic religion was just what it is, that’s the only thing there was and there was no, like I just showed up and went through the motions and here you are at age seven, sort of challenging all of this and you linked it to towards curiosity but I’m but I’m wondering if there’s something more there how can you, can you tell me a little bit more about that.
Nic Haralambous 04:26
Yeah, it’s something very specific that triggered my curiosity and challenging the status quo. In the Greek Orthodox community in the church that we were going to at the time when you walk into the church there is an icon an image of Mary and Jesus. And you’re supposed to walk in and kiss the icons kiss the images and do your cross, and at the age of six or seven my mother picked me up to kiss them and I was like, No, I’m not doing that. That is ridiculous. He was like why. Well, that’s just a printed piece of paper, and 700 other people have just kissed that that is really good. And then you go into the church, and you, the way that the Greeks do communion is a spoon in some alcohol with some bread on it in your mouth and the same spoon in everybody’s mouth. Yeah, I just couldn’t fathom this mainly because my grandmother who’s super religious at the time, is also a CD and a germaphobe. But in her head. The spoon is blessed, so there are no germs and it’s seven years old, I remember saying to him, that lunch table that Sunday but, yeah, yeah, that’s not how germs work, we’ve just learned this in school. That’s not the way it works, religion doesn’t get rid of germs it’s, and that was it. That was the moment that I just thought, this isn’t for me. This will never be for me, because there was a disparate link between logic and faith right and I’m not, I’m not one of them, I am one of science and logic, and I knew that from a very young age.
Mike Malatesta 06:05
Okay, yeah germs are atheist, too. They feel that you have to say nothing, or you mentioned the bad the spoon and stuff, putting your hands in in the holy water to pleasure yourself and yeah there’s a whole, whole lot but for you to see that and act on it at age seven is makes you pretty unique I think because most people just go along to some point later where maybe they have that. That realization or and sometimes never, I mean, then, which is fine however you want to do it I guess is fine. Yes, so the hacking thing. Oh, go ahead.
Nic Haralambous 06:47
Sorry back to that it was gonna be something that I think my parents and specifically my father’s struggled with that might be fault is not my default is that I won’t do that. No, I don’t understand why you should not explain it to me that, and sometimes parents just want you to do what they want you to do. Yeah, and that’s just, I my brain doesn’t work, it never worked that way and it led to a lot of clashes with a lot of authority figures in my life, and luckily, I was never the aggressive rebellious type, I was more the intellectually anarchistic type. So like I said earlier, I haven’t learned the rules so I could bend them to my world, and I figured out really young, that that’s the way to progress is just get through stuff until you have control, and you don’t have control until you’re 18. So I just got through stuff.
Mike Malatesta 07:32
So you were one of those kids who someone said, Hey, Nic, do this, you’d say, why do you want me to do this, and then if they couldn’t satisfy you with an answer, I’m not doing it even now. Okay, so that’s. So, let me ask you how your parents dealt with that outside of the religious thing but just the, the, because, because that’s a that’s a, that’s sort of a combination it sounds like to me of curiosity and also resistance, I suppose. So, if you’re not satisfied so if your curiosity is not satisfied, so how did, because that can be tough on people who expect, you know, children or employees or whatever to just sort of do what’s asked of you, you know.
Nic Haralambous 08:17
Yeah, my parents did incredibly extremely young, when they had my brother and I, so I think by the time they were 24, they’d had two kids. I don’t have any kids I’m 36 I don’t have any intention of having children. I’ve had a vasectomy like it’s not my vibe. I can’t imagine what it’s like at 24 years old to have a kid and then at 30 to have a seven year old who’s going No I won’t do that. Explain to me why. So they handled it really well. They understood that I needed different kinds of attention, and they gave me the freedom. Once they understood that I wasn’t irresponsible they gave me the freedom to be irresponsible. So they let me paint my walls, they let me explore my curiosity, they let me do things that kids wouldn’t do so I chose which primary school I went to I chose which high school I went to without any information from my parents. It was my decision, and they gave me that kind of freedom, because they knew that I wouldn’t abuse it. So do they create it, whether they knew they were doing it or not, they did it, and they allowed me to flex and realize what worked and what didn’t.
Mike Malatesta 09:20
Me. So the hacking thing, can you get into just some, some, I without I’ve statute limitations are probably expired. But yeah, what so what. Yeah, I’m interested in like not only what you did, but your thought process because you were sort of saying this is telling yourself this is not right but I. But you did it anyway
Nic Haralambous 09:43
you want to see if you can do it right. And back then, there was no like WhatsApp and Facebook chat, there was, IRC MRC, which was very rudimentary chat platform where you can go and meet people with pseudo numbers all over the internet and my pseudonym because when you’re 13 you’re trying to be older and mysterious was Soul keeper and souls, and that was my first domain that I bought I kind of borrowed my parents credit cards to buy the domain and build websites and basic HTML. And in these chat rooms you start to dive deeper and deeper into things and again I don’t know why my parents thought that it was okay to have their 12 and 13 year old son on the internet in his room on his own. When they didn’t know they didn’t know what
Mike Malatesta 10:31
was out there, right.
Nic Haralambous 10:32
Yeah, exactly. I don’t think anybody did at this point, like pedophiles weren’t really a thing online when, when it’s 1994 The internet is only 15 or 20 years old. So, these chat rooms you get deeper and deeper into things like hey how do you build a website, hey how do you code, what’s the head tag once what the body tag, and then you start going a bit deeper oh cool, I know what the body tag is, what else can you use tags. Oh, you can use this, this program to get into this guy’s computer. Oh that’s interesting who can show me how to get that, oh you can collect the buddies, and three months later, you’ve terminated into someone’s computer and you look at his files and you both realize that this is not, and, and you backtrack quickly cover up your tracks and then never do it again and that’s kind of how it spiraled into that and literally happened once and never again.
Mike Malatesta 11:20
Yeah, okay, now I get it because, yeah, that you like, oh there’s a challenge in front of me here and you know we can, Let’s see if we can do it. Yeah, I like it, but I like that you also recognize Oh crap, this is, this is bad. I shouldn’t do this lets. yeah, let’s clean up let’s clean up the crime scene here and, and never do that again. The. So the decision that you made, reproductive decision that you made was that, just being flipped here was that because you didn’t want to have to raise a kid like you.
Nic Haralambous 11:58
No, I did so many knocks on reasons here, so I’m fundamentally selfish with my time and my resources. And I, I like building things, I like my freedom. I like my business, and life to be the way that they are. And I’m lucky enough to have found a partner at the age of 22 shares my views on the world. We don’t believe in the Institute of marriage; we don’t believe that we need to have children to be whole. We have a unique perspective on how to exist and I believe that there are not children, I don’t believe my spawn is special. I don’t believe in my masks on special. I think that nature and nurture take their place in the world is what it is. And my worldview doesn’t lean towards me, being selfish enough to bring something into the world when the world is under enough pressure as it is. I’m a nihilist by worldview. I am liberal in my view of personal rights, but I am relatively conservative in my economic approach to governance and the way the world should run. I’m more of a libertarian than I have anything else. So all of those things combined led me to go isn’t responsible for me to bring a child into the world where I feel like it might be a burden to me and the world. The answer is really simple, no. And outside of that if I do ever change my mind which everybody says I will even though I’ve had a vasectomy. I’ll adopt children without boobs in the world to me not to bring one into the world. Sure.
Mike Malatesta 13:37
And I, that’s a great perspective, by the way, thank you for sharing that. They. So I’m really curious about selfish. I’m writing a book now that has a chapter on selfish and I sort of, well I’m interested in how you think about being selfish because, you know for most of the world, selfish is in his ugly world, where it’s like, you know, selfish people are not good people, but I don’t think that’s how you. I don’t know. I don’t think that’s how you meet it, but I’d like to know how you think about it because it’s something that I feel, can you know it’s a semantic thing that gets a lot of people, keeps a lot of people from making progress in their life because they don’t want to appear to be what that word is typically associated with behavior that that’s typically associated with.
Nic Haralambous 14:35
Yeah, and so there are multiple layers on this word that I think are important to address, and your listeners who aren’t aware, I’ve just published my second book called How to start a side hustle, and it is a philosophical view on how you can build the life that supports in business. And one of the things that I talk about is what I call a sacrifice fantasy. We live in a culture of immediacy of what has been called hustle porn burnout culture, where it is cool to be tired all the time is cool, to not have enough sleep, it is cool to not have enough time to be bold and edified in your life. So I call that the sacrifice fallacy the fallacy that you have to sacrifice your mental and physical health, to build something of value, and I call it lotions. I don’t believe that that’s true and we need to start breaking that down. So this word selfish, I addressed directly in my book. And I like to tell people that self-care is not selfish. And there is a subtle but important difference within yourself at the top of your priority list is not selfish. There are many sayings that supersede me that are smarter than I can say, but one of them is you can only fill up someone’s cup and yours is full. And that to me makes sense when you are well rested when you eat healthily when you exercise, and your relationships are the best that they can be. You are a bit a human to be around, you’re able to do a bit of work, you’re able to be kinda if you’re fighting for your own survival, you are constantly in fight or flight mode it is not selfish to prioritize yourself to be okay. And once you’re okay, then you can start distributing your time, your efforts your wealth elsewhere, until you’re okay, how can you help anyone. Help yourself. So that’s my view on being selfish. I think it is absolutely appropriate to put yourself first, as long as it’s not, is not to the detriment of others. Right.
Mike Malatesta 16:28
I agree. You know it’s the, the servant leadership thing gets a lot of attention. You know good degrade. Sir, you know, level five leaders a servant leader all this stuff and I wanted to be that for so long when I read that book, I’m like that’s what I want to be, that’s what I want to be, but I don’t think Collins got into how you actually can become a servant leader. You can’t become a servant leader, I don’t think, by just being responsive to every single thing that comes your way, because as you said you if you’re not full, you can’t fill anybody else up you use the cup analogy for that, but if you don’t have direction. If you don’t, you know, if you’re not, if you’re not clear if you’re not clear how can you lead people in a way that, right.
Nic Haralambous 17:20
You took it out of my head, and I think we often mistake being honest, clear and straightforward with selfish arrogant and cocky, right, and I wish more people would say to me, you know Nic I’d love to work with you because here’s my goal, here’s what I want out of five years. I’m happy I can either cater for that or I can’t, that’s not selfish. That’s honest, and I really took this to heart when I started practicing radical candor in all the companies that I’ve started in the last five years, over 10 years of radical candor, really simple has personally been challenged directly. So I don’t like the work you’ve done, you’re great. I like you, you can stay, but this work wasn’t acceptable. It’s not personal, it’s not emotional, it’s factual, and I care about you so want you to be better. That’s not selfish. That’s not me being an idiot, that’s not me being arrogant. I’m telling you that you’re working with isn’t good enough you can take offense, or not, and rich Mulholland actually introduced me to this phrase that I use a defense has taken Luckily, I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m trying to be honest. You don’t like that, that’s on you, not on me, and I think that’s my version of selfish, and to be frank, this selfish thing is something that I get called a lot, but that’s because I’m rigid and honest about what I liked and what I don’t like and if you don’t fit in with that, I just move on. I don’t carry your baggage that is selfish and I’m okay with that.
Mike Malatesta 18:47
And how do you get what’s your process for getting clear about that neck like what your belief system is what’s your, you know, because a lot of times you can be me. That guy can be really clear on something, but someone says something to me and I’m like, No, I never thought of it that way so maybe now I have to sort of think about how clear I really am, where other people are like, you know, screw you, you don’t. That’s like, that’s not what I believe. I’m going with what I believe, how do you reconcile that.
Nic Haralambous 19:21
I am, I’ve spent the last five or six years working on myself. I believe that self-development is something that is overlooked, and we just assume that because we’re human, we improved hadn’t just fundamentally I couldn’t think of anything more flawed started with me seeing a psychologist, six or seven years ago I still see him. Very frequently, seven times a year, six, seven times a year, and helping that person helps me see the wood from the trees, our man likes to say you can’t read the label from inside the bottom. That is my life. That is how I approach the world and on top of that I’m constantly reassessing the things that I believe my one of my mechanisms in life is strong opinions loosely held. It’s okay to believe things so if the facts change and it is a superpower, if you know how to change your mind with the facts. Okay, believing something just because it’s always been there. I just don’t know how to do that. So, practically what that means is I read things that challenge me all the time. If I believe X I read about y. And if I believe enough that that why has changed my view, I adopt why, because it’s not weakness to change your mind and strength. Then I literally write down I have 10 mechanisms that exist, the rules for life. And they are my benchmark for how I make decisions for who I hang around with for how I invest and operate in the world, and I’m always stunned at how few people have gotten rooms for their lives and a very clear worldview. I have a very clear worldview on how I want to exist in the world, and how I see the world existing around me, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Mike Malatesta 21:05
But just as you were talking about the you know, having rigid belief system, I went back to like having a gross spoon put in your mouth after it’s been in 700 other people’s mouths, you know what,
so we’re gonna do that off the COVID.
Mike Malatesta 21:20
Oh my God, I hope not. I hope, I hope not sharing of anything is, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, really, when you look at it now, what we’ve been through, you’ll be like, why would I ever even like even a buddy’s swig of beer off of with buddies, you know, we did that all the time. But yeah, not. Yeah, so six or seven years ago, you started working on yourself what happened that made you think, oh you know what I, I need you call it help or I need introspection I need something different, what was going on,
Nic Haralambous 22:02
insightful observation. So, I had a business that I’d raised a lot of money for, and my business partner sold the business behind my back. And it’s absolutely broke me. And the thing that I realized coming out of that depression and the exit ended up being successful and ended up being a good thing because he and I obviously clashed, there was obviously a difference of opinion, fundamentally on how businesses get built. But the thing that I realized with enough perspective was, I had very firmly attached my self-worth. And my output. And I couldn’t separate them. I didn’t know how I didn’t have the skills and the relationships that I had around me when crumbling, and I didn’t know how to get on top of them, and I didn’t have the tools or the vocabulary just the words he used before my way back into the people that I cared about lives. So I think for a therapist. And in typical type a methodology I sought out all my friends who were entrepreneurs and CEOs and professional sports people and ask them, and luckily, I managed to find the psychologists who deal specifically with high impact individuals who are constantly on new clothes and di issues and want to achieve an entrepreneurial and within one session he broke me. And he said some very smart things that gave me immense perspective and shifted the way that I went to see everything. One of the things was Nic, do you understand how addicted to anxiety you know it’s like, are you kidding. What do you mean, he said well do you know what happens to your body physically when you are anxious, and I was like No of course not? He said your body floods with dopamine, it focuses you, and you work at a more optimal level, because you are anxious. So he said when you don’t have anything to be anxious about you manufacture it, and then you get a hit of dopamine, and then you work at a bit and then that’s the only way you can work and just that one sentence just unraveled, everything that I believed about the way that I exist in the world. And this just snowballed into this relationship with my psychologist that helped me unpack all the broken boxes in this warehouse in my mind, and I never looked back. Getting help mental health is equated to having a professional football sports person having a coach for the diet or kicking coach, why would entrepreneurs, not have a mental coach. It makes no sense to me now back. So that was the start of a 10 out of the gates in typical Nic fashion I just became obsessed and obsessively learning about how you can change your mind how you can develop your emotions, how you can become more efficient, and it just spiraled into a whole bunch of experimentation and openness about this journey that I was on to be a better version of myself.
Mike Malatesta 25:04
That’s really interesting what you brought to you what you shared there about, you know, if you thrive on anxiety, and it’s not there, you have to create it, because that’s the only way you know how to operate is what I’m reading in between the lines right.
Nic Haralambous 25:19
And from a very young age I mean, my jumping back to high school when I got into the first grade of High School in South Africa it’s grade eight. My mom made me write down some goals that I wanted to achieve by the time I matriculated and She then took those goals from me, and gave them back to me when I finished my last day of high school, and without fail, I hit every single goal without knowing it and without realizing it, so I’ve always been a high functioning and anxious and stressed out person because I’m always striving towards something, and that is paid in my favorite to a point, and one day my psychologist said to me, do you understand that you can’t brute force your way to happiness. And again that broke me. That’s the only way I knew how to exist. So I’d have to rethink how I do everything, our benchmarks and success and failure, how I benchmark achievement and ambition and how I work towards those things.
Mike Malatesta 26:16
So those, let me get back to those goals for a second so you wrote those down your mother kept them. You never looked at them the whole time. You just check them out afterwards she gave it back to you and you’re like, yep, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun. Okay, so that speaks to how important it is to write goals down. Whether you focus on them on your mirror every day or whether you put them in a drawer. Your brain is working on what you want to accomplish, I that’s what I believe at least sounds like that’s exactly what happened I
Nic Haralambous 26:52
absolutely agree and I think the more important lesson I took away from that when I look back on it was Be careful what goals you choose. Are they yours, why they thrust upon you, are they societal goals, okay that’s the definition of success? Like are you choosing the things you aspire to, or are they just happening to you. I’ve gotten the more I’ve wanted to not let life happen to me. But let myself choose the paths that I’m on. So yeah, I’ve become much more conscious, on which goals I’m aspiring towards like having a nice big fancy car is meaningless to me it’s a headache. I don’t want that cost I don’t want that experience I want to kind of gets me from point A to point B, my definitions of success and my goals have evolved over the time. And it’s important that I reassess them.
Mike Malatesta 27:39
And those goals that you had in high school; can you think back to how many of those were anxiety driven goals as opposed to goals that Nic actually sort of wanted without the attachment of anxiety.
Nic Haralambous 27:55
I’d say that maybe two thirds of them were society thrust upon me. They were, what the world expected of a high functioning male teenager in a private Catholic school that is all boys at the time, maybe one or two of them were anxiety induced like getting straight A’s, that was just invitee induced, the others were B head prefect first team rugby. Playing provincial rugby. Like, those sorts of things that typical teenage boy would aspire to be sure. And looking back, that’s the part that you go on, that was me, learning the rules and then later figuring out that I shouldn’t implement them.
Mike Malatesta 28:33
And this, this, this event where your business partner sold the business without you knowing so you were a minority partner in the business, I’m just understand trying to understand how the how the like the fundamentals of that execution go.
Nic Haralambous 28:50
Yep, so we were equal partners, me and him had. Let’s think it was that he peeked in each and then our venture capital investors, they had the remainder, a minority stake. And basically, what is fine, what has transpired was he wanted out of the business because he was risk averse 10 years older than me, the kid life cavity. I didn’t want to do that, I had to pay myself a salary in six months, where’s he had, I was fighting to build this crazy big business and he just wanted stability. And so he found a buyer didn’t believe that I was back the acquisition, sold, basically showed them our books, showed them our strategy I had no leverage, and then when our investors found out about this ad right, he said to me, what are you going to do that, like, the partners are broken down, the relationship is over. So vote in favor of this deal, and a 25 That’s what I did, because it was the smart thing to do and to be frank, I spent two years trying to save a business and I was emotionally benched, so I just went along for the ride and that was the end of that. Okay,
Mike Malatesta 29:56
so he was, he was working on this with the VC investors and, no, no, so that, oh so they decided they were blindsided too, but they were like well what do you what are you going to do next, like hey, you know,
Nic Haralambous 30:10
you can sue him because he’s broken his fiduciary. Or you could just be mature about this and understand that he doesn’t want to be in this business anymore. And we backed two founders up two founders, there’s no business now.
Mike Malatesta 30:27
Right right right right.
Nic Haralambous 30:29
In fact it was the right call they pressured me into the right decision,
Mike Malatesta 30:32
even though they may not have wanted to actually sell the business at that time. That is super interesting because that’s, that’s rare that someone can pull something like that off. Then, at least in my experience,
Nic Haralambous 30:46
it’s stunning to me that it happens but looking back is probably the best thing at the right time for me because, take me on a path of being very specific about who I worked with how I negotiate deals what contracts I signed, very cheap listen to learn in your early 20s.
Mike Malatesta 31:00
Yeah, so let’s get into that you, you, you know, from the time you’re 16 up to, you know 25 or whatever your, your, you know balls to the wall. Right, exactly, you know, cortisone driven anxiety driven success driven person, and took a toll. You go to the psychologist, you start to understand, maybe, I think people might call that unpacking now, that sort of thing but, but, but, you know, so, so the outcome of that, how did it change you specifically what, how did your mindset change what mean, you, you sort of made, you know, a significant shift from what I’ve, from what I understand from reading about you.
Nic Haralambous 31:53
Yes, I did make a significant shift and I think it was an important one that comes along with age maturity and patients. One of the things that really helped me evolve, my approach to building things, again, my psychologist said to me. Do you understand that waiting is an action? And I just, I, that shattered the way that I see thing, because the way that I see things is you have a plan you put it a patient push through, make a sale you get the money and done, They said to me, like, you can’t brute force your way through there, sometimes you have to wait and it can consider that waiting as an action, it’ll be easier to wait. And it just blew my brain. So, instead of in my 20s thinking, month to month, year to year. my 30s I started thinking decades. And that perspective, significantly changed the way that I’ve frantically panic about things today. Add to that, my expansion of my thinking into stoicism reading lots of sci fi futuristic sci fi and lots of dystopian futuristic sci fi, you start to understand that the billions and billions of people that came before you and the trillions of people that will come after you, each one individually makes very little of a dent on the world. And that is a good thing for me being a nihilist is a good thing. Every day I wake up and the choices I make today are mine, and the important ones I need to make today, and never pay with. I don’t believe there is an afterlife, and that’s okay with me. I don’t believe that I’m going to be a billionaire, and that’s okay with me and in my 20s It wasn’t okay with me, because my ego was so overwhelmingly present and part of my identity that I went to become something and show people that I’ve become that thing. Now, I want to do cool work. I want to do the best work I can do; I want to be prolific not perfect. I went to have enough, not too much. And that is a significant shift for someone like me, and no doubt I’m going to build more businesses in my future, but they might become billion dollar businesses but that’s not my intention and I think that is an important difference. starting out, to become stinking wealthy, is the wrong motivation for me, but lots of other people that works but for me, I’m not motivated by money, I just went to NASA, and realized that was an important thing that I’m much more intrigued by the idea of the work, work that you’re doing right oh can you do that work. Now that’s 60 for me and that’s why I’m writing books and researching deeply and reading vast and broad. And that’s why I stopped building businesses for the time being because I want to refine the other things in my life that I can add to my ability.
Mike Malatesta 34:48
Got it. And this shift is a very interesting shift from in thinking from, you know, basically, what do I need to accomplish today what you know what I need to accomplish this week, this month this year, like businesses need those kinds of goals, I think, to rally people around but this shift to, you know what can, let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s think about longer time periods you know so in 10 years if I have 10 years to do this, as opposed to two years will I, well I actually build something much bigger, better, more important, more impactful whatever, then I would be able to do if I was focused on this narrow to two year window for example.
Nic Haralambous 35:33
Yeah. And that perspective is interesting to me because two years of burnout culture hustle porn intense startup work where you don’t sleep you don’t need to break a body or 10 years of slow, careful, building and planning. And don’t get me wrong, there is a time for the burn off work and I get it’s Jeff Bezos worked his backside off for five years getting Amazon off the ground, but it wasn’t the default, it was the action. And now they’ve spent 25 years building this behemoth of a business. Same thing with Elon Musk, he’s a little bit different of course because he’s batshit crazy. So he sleeps in this boardroom and he’s trying to get people to Mars, but I think that the longer term you think the less important, the day to day steps is as long as they’re informing that big goal, and I think there’s a book called The Rockefeller Habits. Yeah, and John D Rockefeller is famous for this. What is your 10 year goal, what is your five year action, what is your one year action your six month action, one week action and today what are you doing to hit your 10 year goal. And I think that that’s the right way to go a little aside. When I turned, 30, and genuinely broke my brain, I struggled with the idea of being an old founder because there were 17 year old servers investing and who were cutting and doing amazing things. So I wrote an article to myself advice from 30 year old me to twin over the winter crazy. It literally has been read more than a million times it was picked up by all sorts of crazy things and I finished that article off of the phrase that haunts me to this day, and I’ve now adopted it as part of my worldview is that in decades, living years and decades thinking years, governments, building days. And that’s the idea right as I’m not planning in decades, thinking in years working in months and living in the day, because if you’re not thinking about where you’re going to be in 10 years then you’re going to be fat unhealthy broken shattered, but you’ll be wealthy.
Mike Malatesta 37:37
It also. Yeah, it actually, you know, creates a construction path too because if you, you know, if you’re looking at something you say I want to be a billionaire by the time I’m 50 Let’s say, Well, I don’t even know what the first step is to get there. But if I say, you know what eventually I’ll be a billionaire. And in order for that to happen. All I need to do is take one step today, towards that which we’ll build into weeks and months and whatever, I don’t even have to take the right step, because I don’t know what the right step is I just have to take a step and if it turns out to be the wrong step. Then I regroup and I take another step in a different direction is that kind of how you’re thinking about it.
Nic Haralambous 38:21
Exactly. I’m thinking about it with one addition to that, that is maybe a recent addition, and that is expectation. So, there is a privilege, you expecting to be wealthy. There is a privilege, you’re expecting to achieve your goals. And that privilege. It’s used a lot of the things that I used to think, my expectation now is that I will be successful in the way that I define success not in the billion dollars, the fancy car the fancy you know so I think if you balance your expectation of what you’re actually capable of and that requires self-awareness. I, I don’t want to have a business with 5000 employees. It’s not for me. So my idea of success. My expectation of success is different. I want to have an Angel fund when I turned 45 in eight years. Great, that is completely achievable to me in my life, I can make conscious steps every day, week, month, year to it, there will be $1, based in there, like there is literally a fraction of a fraction of percentage of humans who have ever gotten that never mind we’ll get that. So why set that up as one of my big hairy audacious goals because for me it’s overwhelming for other people maybe it fits them but for me, my expectation is, that’s not what I want out of life if it happens amazing but it’s not what I want,
Mike Malatesta 39:40
right, and I’m not one to say what’s the right approach or what’s the wrong approach but it seems to me that the right approach to that or anything that has to do with money is have an idea and be willing to work on executing it that’s going to change the lives of a lot of people, and the money. If you’re successful will come as opposed to having a dream or a goal to have a certain amount of money. Just like we were talking about on, you know, the longer time periods, it’s kind of like if the goal is to money, it’s kind of like you hacking the goal is to get in. Alright so I’m in, but I don’t like the way I like the way I got here, right, this is a problem.
Nic Haralambous 40:25
Did I really make this right you can only wear one pair of pants at a time? Yeah. So, what do you do after that? I’m not a billionaire by a stretch of the imagination when I have enough on imagine one outside of me.
Mike Malatesta 40:38
Right, right right. So let’s, um, let’s, let’s talk about your book, your newest book, actually let’s talk about both of them because I love the title of the first one “Do, Fail, Learn, Repeat.” And then this whole, you know how to how to start a side house for your second one. That’s a very sort of popular thing now right and you. So I guess, first I want to get some insight on what made you want to write the first book, And then on the second one, what’s, you know, you mentioned this sort of, I don’t know if Renaissance is the right word but from going through with your from breaking at, at age 30 And I’m very, very familiar with what that means, You know, to having this, um, you know, I’m, I’m not going to be I’m not going to act with anxiety, first I’m going to do something else and you know to how that sort of led to this side hustle and slow hustle revolution that you’ve put together.
Nic Haralambous 41:42
Yeah, So the first book was a logic relief that I needed to get off my chest. Because I’d gone through so many traumatic businesses. So basically, it’s a chronological talent of 10 years of back to back, business failures. From the age of 16 to 26. Everything I did failed, and if you’ve ever experienced that and not sure if you’re listening you have, that’s hard, and culturally South Africans have very conservative, we don’t talk about failure we avoided at all costs. It’s just not something that is a comfortable topic of conversation. We’re culturally emotion people when we see success, we berated instead of asking the guy in the Ferrari hey how did you get your Ferrari, we pointed assume that some dude’s dad would have the Ferrari, like we’re very negative about, okay, so I decided to bare my soul to be the guy who took the lead, and just spoke about my failure. And it was so freeing that I just never stopped. Now I’m brutally honest about what I go through in COVID I launched the business in the first two weeks of everything locking down. Two months later I haven’t made a sale shut the business down and don’t get to look back, like, once you live and comfortable with the idea of failure just becomes part of the process of getting to success. That’s what this book was about, how do you get comfortable with failure. And basically, I was like, just the light on me. This is how I got comfortable with failure and explained it in very brutally honest terms,
Mike Malatesta 43:13
and what was, how did that feel when you were, you, you mentioned it was, I think you said it was cathartic but or something like that, but it also had to be more than that, right, like as you’re writing it maybe it’s cathartic but when you like push publisher, you know, you actually get the book made. Seems like there might be some doubt about whether I want to get this thing out there.
Nic Haralambous 43:39
The major doubt was, am I going to piss off with this, because I don’t pull any punches, I spoke about my business partner and what we went through and spoke about my investors and the trouble I’d had with them and forwards that I had to dissolve and like really intense stuff, businesspeople normally shy away from my thought screwed up assuming it’ll make me more sales. And then it was done, and it was this immense release. On top of that being a writer, just by nature, it was quite a relief to have my first book out in the world successful failed. It was just nice to get the first one under my belt, and if he then unlocked all this thinking of okay what next, what else can you write about what else can you do, and yeah this was very cathartic.
Mike Malatesta 44:22
So from a mechanic’s standpoint and I’m just kind of curious about this myself. How long did it take you to write the book did you have this assistance, the process or how did you actually go through it?
Nic Haralambous 44:35
Yeah, I am. I took three months, every day for about six days a week, three months between the hours of 6am and 9am. I’m just writing every day I would wake up and write, and I’ll put safeguards in here I said God likes to say nobody’s ever had talkers block to just write, right, that’s right. And I do I love that. So I just write whenever I’ve got something to do, I just write, even if it’s arable edited later, just every day for three months I wrote and then the first book was done. Okay,
Mike Malatesta 45:06
got it, I’ve heard that called vomit, you know like a vomit draft you know you just you just spray. You just write. And, and so that so that book got you out there got notice got your, I’m sure. I don’t know I shouldn’t say that I’m sure, but did you get some pushback from people that were in the book that didn’t really appreciate the candor,
Nic Haralambous 45:35
or they actually did a funny story what I did get with one of my ex bosses who I spoke about in the book, who was quite vitriolic about me when I resigned from his business, he wrote about me in his book, years later, he’s a great guy. Brilliant entrepreneur, we made a men’s posters, but he wrote about me. They phoned me to tell me that it had been published, and then subsequently a few months later died of cancer. So this was his last gasp was his book. So that was the only pushback ready, and that was it. Okay, let’s just move on.
Mike Malatesta 46:15
Okay. And is that the book, was that what got you started as a speaker and all the other things that you’ve become or were you into that before that?
Nic Haralambous 46:26
Even before I was into that stuff before. So as I mentioned during my first real public speaking events at the age of 17, I’m not sure if I did.
Mike Malatesta 46:37
I don’t think you mentioned that now unless I’ve forgotten.
Nic Haralambous 46:40
No, no, I’m so in this big as you call divinations, I started to think about what are the things I really love doing that I could see myself doing for the next 20 or 30 years, and into things where I love speaking in public, and I really like writing, so how do I make those things my career and my first speaking event ever I was head prefect of my school and Nelson Mandela had come to my school in a partnership with an ultimate did his Children’s Fund, and I needed to do a welcome, and speech about him to him, and the 1000 people. I’m 17 at the time, and stood up, gave a talk sat next to him for 45 minutes had a conversation didn’t that neither then still regard that as one of the best days of my life. And I thought, Well, why am I doing.
Mike Malatesta 47:26
this yeah right if you can do, yeah.
Nic Haralambous 47:29
Yeah, so I decided that it’s time to focus on it more firmly. I have been paid as a speaker since I was about 2425 Back then, lots of imposter syndrome accompanies that sort of event it’s getting paid to speak when you’re printing four or five, but it’s something I’ve done with my businesses, and I did debates in school. So, it’s always been there. Only recently over the last few years have I decided, yeah this is what I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.
Mike Malatesta 47:56
Okay. Because maybe along the way you saw, you know the grind, I call it the grind of continuing the life that you had as maybe the only way for you to have new stuff to talk about, I don’t know.
Nic Haralambous 48:11
Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of that. As long as the speaking for me was personal experience. Yeah, this is how you build the business, this is how you do that and now it’s much more about accounting I’ve got something to say I think I’ve got this perspective on the world and that’s actually where the second book comes from is, I think I’ve learned enough of between years of building side hustles and startups that I can help other people figure this out, I can give them a shortcut so that they don’t lose their hair, they don’t hospitalized themselves with a stomach ulcer.
Mike Malatesta 48:40
So let’s talk about side hustles because, like I said it’s sort of a popular thing that a lot of people throw around now but I’m always curious what it means to you, what is, what a side hustle or slow hustle, what does that all mean to you, Nic.
Nic Haralambous 48:56
The first thing is I absolutely hate the phrase side hustle, it is the accepted one in the world. So what I chose to do is launch the business called Slow hustle, because I believe that it’s an interesting juxtaposition. You should be hustling, you should be filling your life with things, but you shouldn’t be doing it at your pace at a pace that is sustainable, that is consistent, that is intentional. You shouldn’t be hustling so that you damage your existence with no sleep, no exercise all of that stuff. That’s kind of a slow hustle movement based on four very clear principles that I cover in the book, your mindset, your ideas, your lifestyle and the effort you put in, and I call those four things your side hustle mile. Nice and simple. That’s the book, it’s the four things that I believe you should cover, if you’re trying to build the kind of life that can sustain the side hustle. And that’s the premise of the slow hustle movement that I’m trying to build. Britain is retrofit some business random idea into your existing life, you have to make space for it and be intentional about that.
Mike Malatesta 50:02
And so those four things again were mindset ideas, lifestyle and
Nic Haralambous 50:07
Mike Malatesta 50:10
Is that a word, turn it?
Mike Malatesta 50:16
So, uh, I saw you, I saw a video that you put out that impressed me, it was about, you know, getting it out there in the world, so it was like two minute video, by the way, congratulations on our 1000 YouTube subscribers now I think I saw so good for you. So when you. What’s so important about getting it out there in the world. So, yeah, I’m not going to say what I think about I just want to know what you think about it.
Nic Haralambous 50:48
Yeah, this, this is something that I battled with all the time and I think everybody does that there’s so many different cognitive biases that are at play here, the main one that I talk about a lot is imposter syndrome. I have a lot of micro scripts that I try and help people understand the main one is perfect just parents, if you’re waiting for protection, you get in the water. There is no such thing as perfect it will never be perfect, whatever it is that you’re thinking about the YouTube content you’re writing your business idea of whatever it is, if you’re waiting for protection you’re really behind and you’re reading, and it’s hard to take your own advice, so I decided to take my advice and COVID kicked in, I just started publishing videos as terrible as they were just by putting them out there. And that evolves your thinking rights and I’ve evolved that thinking into what I call the Gollum effect. I don’t know if your listeners have read The Lord of the Rings or like the Hobbit, watch the movies, there is a character called Gollum. And he takes the One Ring to bind everybody, and he buries it with himself under a mountain for decades and decades and decades. And he keeps this thing so close to his chest, that it makes him mean and angry and depressed and frustrated. And the worst version of himself. That is what we do with our ideas. We hold them too close to our chest. We don’t get them out into the world, we put roadblocks in front of us that prevent us from showing this thing to the world, in case they don’t like it, in case we fail in case we struggled in case it’s hard. We just don’t put it out there and then everyone and everything because of this, and I thought that lesson really young. And they took from my dad. My dad is an ideas guy. And one day we were driving down a neighborhood in Johannesburg and we stopped at a traffic light and look to the right and there’s an empty field and he looked at us and he said you know; the Holiday Inn would do so well there we drive on. Three years later, you stop at the same traffic light we look to our right and there was a sign that says Holiday Inn coming to a kitchen knife. And he looks at us, my brother, my mom and I, and he says, if someone stole my idea. And I thought to myself. No, nobody stole your idea. There is nothing unique about building a hotel on a popular corner right you just didn’t execute, and that there is, and I understood ideas of worth and secure. Is everything, and to create a bit you have to put it out there and you have to wait to have more sleep, take the risk and put it out there. Yeah, and that I wouldn’t just roll on that for a second. There was something that I’ve recently come across the psychological understanding of our relationship with trauma and failure, called Post Traumatic Growth. If you retrofit post traumatic growth into your experience of failure and you understand that failure is a trauma. What post traumatic growth tells us is almost all people who experience a trauma of any kind, after the trauma will report, improving as a human being. Because of that trauma that completely shapes, my way of thinking about failure and ideas. If you look at failure as an experience to improve yourself as a trauma to overcome that provides you with lessons to become a better version of yourself and what are you waiting for,
Mike Malatesta 54:12
Nic Haralambous 54:13
what are you afraid of, get your ideas out into the world and if they find another one, because you’ve had one idea you can probably have to, but we’re also protected with that one good idea because we think it’s going to make us a billionaire. But back to the expect expectations. Your expectations are low, and you just want to get the first sale, then you’re golden get it up there and see what happens.
Mike Malatesta 54:33
when I was listening to you talk about your dad and the Holiday Inn thing, I thought to myself, well, like you said while they didn’t steal the idea that you actually left it on the curb for someone to pick up and they walked along and saw the same thing you did and saw your idea sitting there and said, I think I’m going to do that.
Nic Haralambous 54:51
Yeah, exactly, exactly. And I get this a month on my coaching clients and people who take my courses. What if someone steals my immediate replies if they can steal your idea, it’s not a good one. Right. She’s not a good one. It’s all about execution.
Mike Malatesta 55:07
Yeah. And Seth Godin says that all the time too. He’s like ideas are, you know that it’s, it doesn’t matter if someone steals your idea. The worst thing you can do is just keep an idea protected and never do anything with it right just so then it’s just as it’s probably just as likely that someone’s going to help you improve your idea. I thought about when you were talking about Lord of the Rings and The Gollum, I thought myself. When you it’d be interesting to see what you think about this but goals so a lot of people, even people that set goals and I did this for a long time, Nic, I keep the goals to myself. I don’t share them with anybody. And so they, they’re like mine, you know, it’s like my property, but it’s also my way to excuse myself let myself off the hook because if nobody else knows. And I don’t make progress towards the goal. Then, have I really not accomplished the goal, you know, it’s like a way out.
Nic Haralambous 56:05
Yeah, absolutely. There’s this new movement that unlike Elon Musk is really at the forefront of. It’s only new in popularity, the building public idea. If you look at SpaceX, they’re building the future of space travel, in public, right every time a rocket blows up, everybody goes, Okay, when’s the next one. Not only are we invested in their failures, but we are definitely so invested in their success. When that last rocket landed, I cheered as if I built the dam, sure, building and positive. So, this all ties into ego, expectation, failure, upset upon success. If you get rid of all those things as benchmarks for the way you live in the rest is easy. Then you strive towards creating not exceeding the success comes as a result of the creation, not as the outcome of the creation. Right. It’s an interesting debate. And,
Mike Malatesta 57:01
yeah, like, Musk is like, you know, Edison and Ford and a lot of other people that you don’t, you know, so now you’re actually living through this but when you’re at when, when we are going to Mars, let’s say, nobody is going to be like, do you remember that the rockets crashed when we first tried to do it. Yeah, of course they did. Because we’re trying to do something that nobody else has ever done. But he, and you mentioned in your video like Joe Rogan and a lot of people go to do something that it’s not good, and it’s, and that’s the way it should be, because if it was the best you could do before you got any input or any experience or whatever it, what’s gonna keep you moving forward, right. So,
Nic Haralambous 57:46
yeah, it’s such an important feeling, that feeling when you feel out of what that means. And one of my podcast guests eliminated this, what that means is you’re learning, that feeling of discomfort, it means you’re understanding that it can be there, that you should be trying hard and that you could practice a bit more. Most people feel that and run away. The good ones feel that go all there’s so much growth here, Joe and I really mean this, go and look at Joe Rogan’s first YouTube video, it is horrific. It’s horrific. But he obviously sparked something and that means I’ve got to do more of this, right, and that feeling is the one that you’ve got to become comfortable with, and that’s why I tried to help people learn about post traumatic growth is, when you’re about to fail, don’t shy away from and lean into an experience that fair they get comfortable with that feeling that you’ve got in your chest, let down or down. And if you still aren’t gaining traction, two years, three years, four years and maybe you should be considered, but in the beginning phases, learning anything new is hard and uncomfortable. It should be otherwise, it’s not something to work with learning.
Mike Malatesta 58:50
Yeah, it’s kind of what we were talking about before you know if you, it’s that first step, and that first step isn’t always going to be in the right direction could be in the, in the complete opposite direction, but the fact that you’ve taken it has started the process of you figuring out the rest when you don’t take it, because it’s not going to be good enough, you just give up. I mean really just give up; you just leave the idea on leave the idea on the street corner for somebody else.
Nic Haralambous 59:18
And now let’s tie in long term thinking to that and let’s use my YouTube channel as the example, if my goal was to publish the perfect YouTube video today. Why would I continue on tomorrow, but my goal is to get to a million subscribers and do 1000 videos. That means that every day I’m just working towards that today’s video isn’t about getting a million views it’s about working towards a million subscribers. And that’s what the long term perspective does. That’s also why I read fiction, why are we dystopian things to try to help my brain understand that today isn’t the most important thing, there’s more out there than business and learning lessons, there’s lots of fun stuff that adds up, but I like to say to smashing together of unexpected things that makes the most interesting businesses and people.
Mike Malatesta 1:00:05
So you, you mentioned Stoics, that I’ve read extensively on the stocks but I do read from Ryan holidays book every day, the daily stoic and I, and so I first I do want to know like who you who you’ve read or what books, maybe you’d recommend on Stoics, but what I love about reading that book is all of the, you know, the, the, the, you know the emperors and philosophers everybody that’s in there. They’re saying what you are saying, it’s slow, you know, slow the world down. Now, be very methodical about how you approach things be selfish. Know what you want to accomplish. And that way, what the world can’t, can’t knock you off base when you have those things ingrained into you, even in a, you know, even at a Twitter fueled world, they can’t it can’t knock you off base because you have a base, the people,
Nic Haralambous 1:01:13
especially in Twitter. Yeah, these are the things that you should be focused on in the world of immediacy and urgency and do scrolling. I leaned on Stoics, because they asked them, because there’s intense right because it’s cautious and careful. And in that word intentional again and present in today. So yeah, you’re right, Ryan Holiday is the only place to start for modern stoicism. He’s just by far and away interpreting the Stoics, in a modern way that’s understandable and relatable but once you’ve read his stuff, you then need to start going into the stoics themselves, okay. Yeah, okay. And all those essays and added to that the stoics were some of the best orators in the world, to the world has ever seen. So, I’m reading them to learn how they write and how they speak, and what they write about. Because I’m honing my craft and holding my brain, and there are some basic premises that I just love the one that really helped me understand. I haven’t control is the dichotomy of control that they talk about that you. There are two ways to look at everything in the world, there are things you can control and things you can’t control, and your attention needs to go towards the things that you can control. That’s it. I can’t control shots at me on Twitter, I can unfollow them, I can block them, I can mute them. That’s my control, that’s helped me so immensely. Just driving, but I think makes me so anxious. I hate driving. But now I understand that I can control my driving, I can’t control people who kind of kind of got to take a step back, it really does help.
Mike Malatesta 1:02:51
Yeah, and the driving picture, there’s no yelling at getting mad at someone who cuts you off or whatever, it doesn’t, doesn’t help anybody. It just creates. Yeah, so just wasted, you know, preserving energy. That’s what stocks do preserve energy right.
Nic Haralambous 1:03:09
preserve energy for things you can control that add to your existence. A big part of what I talked about in my book is your side hustle should be additive not subtractive, and I think that that applies to bigger things, relationships, wave the new experience of everything should be additive not subtractive, if that relationship is subtractive talents. How did you get to choose your agency, you can move you’re not a tree?
Mike Malatesta 1:03:35
Make this has been a fascinating conversation I really have enjoyed spending an hour with you today and learning how you think and learning about your experiences as well for people who want to connect with you, what would you like them to do.
Nic Haralambous 1:03:52
To really only two places to go. The one is LinkedIn where I do most of my best thinking, and LinkedIn, just search for Nic Herod ABIs, and then you can find me on every social media platform that, just go to a central place go to my website, which is in Harry’s calm,
Mike Malatesta 1:04:08
okay. Yeah, so check it out it’s, he’s definitely worth spending some time with. I enjoyed my preparation for this and following you, as I mentioned since rich. Since rich recommended I do so. So Nic, thank you so much for what you’re doing for yourself and for the world, I appreciate it.
Nic Haralambous 1:04:27
Thank you so much for having me.
Mike Malatesta 1:04:32
Okay, I hope that was all right for you.
Nic Haralambous 1:04:37
Oh man, that was great fun. Thank you. I appreciate you giving me the time.
Mike Malatesta 1:04:40
Yeah, my pleasure. My pleasure. Okay. I will let you I’ll let you know when it comes out and we’ll, we’ll take it from there.
Nic Haralambous 1:04:50
Mike, thank you so much.
Mike Malatesta 1:04:52
Thanks. My pleasure. All right. You too, bye.
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