Episode 117: How to have effective meetings at work – with Mamie Kanfer Stewart

Weekly team meetings are a great way of getting your colleagues together but all too often they feel like you’re having meetings just for the sake of it.

Do you come out of these meetings thinking that they were productive and worthwhile?  Or that they were a boring waste of time that’s just about going through the motions?

In this week’s episode, we’re joined by executive coach and meetings expert Mamie Kanfer Stewart to discuss how we can make meetings more productive, effective, and enjoyable.

Today’s guest

Mamie Kanfer Stewart

Website: Mamie KS

LinkedIn: Mamie Kanfer Stewart

Instagram: Mamie KS

Twitter: Mamie KS

Pinterest: Mamie K Stewart

Mamie Kanfer Stewart is passionate about helping people thrive at work.  She is the host of The Modern Manager podcast which explores how to create a team environment where people get to be their best selves and do their best work.  Mamie is also the author of Momentum: Creating Effective, Engaging and Enjoyable Meetings and founder of Meeteor, a training firm focused on productive meetings.

In addition, Mamie is an executive coach and trainer who works with entrepreneurs and managers to build the habits they need to successfully manage themselves and their teams.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [1:44] How Mamie identified the problems with meetings and how to fix them.
  • [3:34] The value of working in multiple different businesses before focusing on one company.
  • [5:31] The most common problems with workplace meetings.
  • [6:48] What meetings should and shouldn’t be used for.
  • [10:04] Alternative tools you can use instead of having meetings and the power of voice messages.
  • [15:28] How to decide which type of forum is the best to use to achieve your goals.
  • [18:13] Who to invite to meetings and who doesn’t need to be there.
  • [20:28] How to decide the right agenda for a meeting.
  • [24:24] What you can do to make team meetings more effective.
  • [27:40] Why the extra work involved in planning a meeting agenda is worthwhile.
  • [30:44] How to manage meeting behaviours and keep people engaged.
  • [36:50] How to make remote meetings as effective as possible.
  • [40:35] How to persuade people that there are more effective ways to carry on meetings.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 117: How to have effective meetings at work - with Mamie Kanfer Stewart

Jeremy Cline 0:00
The dream of many entrepreneurs is finding someone who supports your project and who believes in your product and who's willing to back you financially to make your product a success. But what happens when things change? What happens if the person who invested in you apparently loses interest? That's what we're talking about in this episode. And also, if you're getting at all interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, then this week's guest is a great place to start. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:45
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Back in Episode 91, I interviewed Kyle Maurer. Kyle, you may remember, started out as an entrepreneur running his own business, only to realise he wasn't really enjoying it. And so, he got a corporate job where he's been much happier. This week, we have another story of someone moving from owning their own business to being in corporate. But as you're here, in this case, it didn't turn out quite the same way as it did for Kyle. My guest this week is Gerbz, who is the founder of BitLift. Gerbz's mission is to accelerate crypto adoption through education and everyday use. And through BitLift, he helps people responsibly navigate their way down the cryptocurrency rabbit hole. Gerbz, welcome to the show.

Gerbz 1:33
Thanks, Jeremy. Nice to be here.

Jeremy Cline 1:34
Can you start by telling us a bit more about BitLift? So, what's its aim, and who is it for?

Gerbz 1:39
Yeah, BitLift, the starting goal was to create like an e-commerce platform solely focused on cryptocurrencies. It's something that I've tinkered with in the past. And doing like development, web development in the e-commerce space has always been something that I've worked on for quite a while. And kind of creating like a playground for where we can kind of experiment at the intersection of crypto and commerce is what BitLift is all about, and helping people really with crypto. For a long time, I've been the crypto guy in our circle, and everyone comes to me with crypto questions. So, helping people kind of figure that out, I've been doing this since 2013, so I've got a lot to share on that front.

Jeremy Cline 2:15
Cool. Well, let's talk a little bit about how you've got to where you are now. So, you mentioned that your background was in sort of software development, that kind of thing. Was this something that you did straight out of college?

Gerbz 2:27
Actually, in school, I was a graphic designer at start. And it was kind of early web days. And so, all the graphics I was making were for catalogues. And slowly the graphic started to become more and more needed for the web. And one of the company I worked with at the time, the IT guy at that company, they tasked him with creating a website, and he knew a little bit about coding, but he was mainly like the IT guy, right? When he needed some graphics, we kind of worked together a lot, and he's like, 'I need help with this website, I'm going to teach you how to code, so that we can build this thing.' So, that was my first kind of foray into coding.

Jeremy Cline 2:59
Oh, well, and so, how did you go from there? Did you just discover that you really, really love coding, and so decided that that was the way forward, as opposed to graphic design?

Gerbz 3:08
I did. I'm nowhere near sort of classically trained as an engineer. I mean, far from it. I went to business school. But coding is like the ultimate brain food. It's just like thousands and thousands and thousands of tiny little like tweaks and things that you need to learn along the way on the journey. You're googling like 500 things a day, like if it's a coding day, my Google history is just like littered with the strangest queries you've ever seen. And there's something about that kind of feedback loop of trying a million things and saving and trying again and trying again. And then, eventually, the thing you're building works, and it's very gratifying. And yeah, coding is a lot of fun. Anything you can dream up, you can build it.

Jeremy Cline 3:47
So, what did your first coding position look like, after you decided that it was the thing for you?

Gerbz 3:52
Yeah. So, that website that I built, we ended up building that website in the company I was working at, the IT guy and I, and then him and I went on to found a company together after that. That was like directly after college, sort of wide eyed and bushy tailed, I wanted to do the Silicon Valley start-up thing. Like that was always my dream to do a start-up and be an entrepreneur. But I was super young and pretty inexperienced. But it didn't matter, we were going to take it on. And it was kind of the early days of the iPhone. We all had iPhones, and I think, at the time that we came up with this idea actually, the iPhone didn't even have copy and paste. If you remember the early versions of it. In fact, all of the apps on the iPhone, were Apple's apps, you couldn't even download an app. But we knew that this app store was coming. So, we were kind of brainstorming ways, what would be the coolest, most fun thing we could build, if we're going to dedicate the next X amount of years of our life to something, what sounds like the most fun. And we came up with this concept of real world gaming, which is like the combination of using GPS and photography to create like fun outdoor activities using our mobile devices.

Jeremy Cline 4:52
So, did you come across this idea just because you thought it sounded fun and interesting, or had you identified a real demand for this kind of thing? Where did the idea come from? I know that there's things like Pokemon GO these days, but that's a long time afterwards, I guess.

Gerbz 5:08
It was a long time afterwards. In fact, that's what we were trying to build. But this was like 2008. I think Pokemon GO wasn't until, man, 2018. So, we were like a decade too early. As far as demand, I mean, it was a terrible business idea, I should lead with that. Like, as far as business goes, it sucked. But we were big gamers. And we just loved playing games, and we knew that if we built something fun, people would play it. What we kind of hadn't anticipated, though, is that gamers love the game, but they like to do it sitting on their couch. They don't like to get up and go out and do just about anything. In fact, you usually think of a gamer as someone who never goes out. So, we had this strange confliction right out the gate, which was everyone was trying our game, but we would call it like the foot monsters, they would just take pictures of their feet, sitting in their chair at home, and they would never leave their house and go play the actual game. But we had a lot of fun kind of playing with that intersection of real world and gaming.

Jeremy Cline 6:01
How did you actually get it out there? How did people discover this thing that you'd created?

Gerbz 6:06
It was a slow go, but you know, it was early days of the App Store. So, if you were an early app, you got pretty good distribution just for being there. Because people were browsing the app stores looking for things to do. And yeah, it was mostly word of mouth, people would create these sorts of missions within the game, and then they'd share them with people. So, there had like this viral component as well. And if you showed up in a new city, a really fun thing to do would be to fire up the game and go on a little scavenger hunt, looking for things to find and taking pictures around the way.

Jeremy Cline 6:32
So, when you first embarked on this venture, did you have a plan in mind? Did you know what you were going to do with it? Was it just going to bankroll you and make huge amounts of money? Did you plan on selling it? What, if anything, was the plan at the time,?

Gerbz 6:45
The plan was to build the first ever real-world gaming engine? We had these first games, these were like the examples of what we could build on this new platform. But the real idea was to build a system, so that anybody could build real-world games, games that needed leader boards, that needed like GPS, that needed photography features, and then theoretically, a bunch of games, and then maybe like a gaming company would acquire the platform or something in the future. We also had plans, there was a big advertising angle to it. Because we were driving real-world foot traffic, people were like out on a scavenger hunt, like moving around their city. So, if there was a scavenger hunt that took place at your local pub, or at an amusement park, or whatever, we could partner with those companies, and help them drive foot traffic and engagement.

Jeremy Cline 7:28
And how did things pan out? What did happen?

Gerbz 7:30
Well, a lot actually happened. So, I moved to San Francisco at the time, just to kind of plug myself into Silicon Valley and try to raise some money, quite frankly. We needed to raise some money to build out our team. And I met with, man, probably over 50 venture capitalists, I had partnered with this company called Plug and Play out there, they had introduced me to tons of VCs and were really helping me out, because I was very new to the scene. And along that journey, we got approached by a telecommunications company that wanted to acquire us. We were looking to raise money to get to the next stage, they were looking to incubate companies in the States, and they offered to acquire us and then fund our project moving forward. We could still get the team and everything we needed, but we were going to kind of build it in house with them was the was the pitch.

Jeremy Cline 8:14
So, when you had that decision, either to carry on looking for VC funding, or to take this offer, what was going through your head? What led you to take the offer of being part of this telco company?

Gerbz 8:26
Yeah, you know, we'd been at it, at the time, for I think about three years. And it was pretty slow going, it was me, my co-founder, and we had a couple developers come through here and there, but we couldn't really pay anybody. So, no one was really, except for me, I was the only one really doing it super full-time at the time. And raising venture capital is hard. Like that was one of the most difficult challenges of my life, and meeting with all these people. And I must have been, I was like, you know, early 20s. So, I really didn't know what I was doing, quite frankly. Looking back, I realise how little I knew. But it was an incredible learning experience, and I think I saw that we'd given this a really good shot, as far as on the fundraising front, the product still had so much potential, and we didn't really care how we were going to get it there, we just wanted to see it happen. And the idea of getting paid again sounded nice. Yeah, selling the company to them and being able to continue following our dream, as far as the product went, it seemed like a good match.

Jeremy Cline 9:21
What was the promise when you were approached and when you went with these people? Were you expecting a lot of interferences, sort of real integration into this company? Or did you think it was going to be more, 'Okay, yeah, you guys own us, you guys pay us, but otherwise, we've basically got free rein about what we do'?

Gerbz 9:40
Yeah, the promise was very different than the outcome. The promise was, 'You guys are going to be your own independent group. In fact, we're going to be investing in and acquiring lots of different companies and incubating them, and you guys will be able to work together with these teams that we're putting together, but you're going to have total autonomy and funding, and we're going to grow your team, and we're going to see this product through.' That was the pitch. What ended up happening was, we were now part of this massive conglomerate, quite honestly, of companies, and what you start discovering at that level is there's a very strict hierarchy, and as people kind of get swapped in and out within that hierarchy, the ideas and visions and plans change. And everybody underneath gets impacted by those things at the top. So, that happened to us a lot. The VP, for example, that acquired our team, he would get replaced by someone who had never heard of us, didn't care about that plan and had a new plan of his own. So, we were constantly struggling with having to re-pitch our idea that we'd already sold them, we'd have to continue to pitch these new people as they'd come through on keeping us funded.

Jeremy Cline 10:42
So, was it ever like it was promised. I mean, was it like that from day one, and then just kind of got worse as people changed? Or was it from day one, never like it was promised to you?

Gerbz 10:52
It really was never like it, from day one. And the most obvious time that we realised that was, we were ready to hire people, the whole idea was we need to frickin' build out this team, because we have so many big ambitions. And they were like, 'Well, we could start putting out flyers to get interns from the local college.' We were like, 'Wait, wait, wait! We need to build an engineering team here. We need a sales team, we need all of this infrastructure.' And we realised really quickly, even though they had promised us these budgets, for example, they didn't explain exactly that they were going to be the ones holding the purse strings, and that we'd have to beg them for every dollar, for everything that we wanted to do, we'd have to, you know, set up a meeting to spend any of the money that was promised to us.

Jeremy Cline 11:33
I know that hindsight is 2020, but looking back, is there anything which you think that you could have done differently to kind of realise what you were getting into, and that it might not have been what you were being sold?

Gerbz 11:46
I think I definitely would have focused more on going in an angel investor route, versus venture capital route. The VCs are really looking, they do want to invest in the next big thing, but they really want to see traction. The T word, we would joke about it all the time, is traction. And the definition of it changes depending on who you're talking to and really, just what they're looking for. Like one VC would say, 'Oh, sorry, you need more traction, you guys haven't generated any revenue yet.' The next person would say, 'Oh, you need more traction, you only have 100,000 users, you need more traction, your engaged users is only like 20% of your overall user base.' So, they would continuously change kind of the definition of what they were looking for. And I think an angel investor, especially like a strategic angel investor, someone maybe who'd been in the gaming industry previously, I think that would have been a much better angle on kind of helping us kind of reach the next levels, to the point where we could have VCs coming to us. If I did it all over again, I would definitely have that angle.

Jeremy Cline 12:46
So, now you're there, what effect does it have on you, personally, emotionally, intellectually, now you're in this environment?

Gerbz 12:55
I was just spending a lot of my time working on things that were not the product. A lot of meetings, a lot of pitching, all that mattered at the time was making our product amazing and growing our customers. And those were the things that I was focused on the least. So, I think that that was probably the biggest struggle, along with the fact that, because I had this lack of focus on the product, our numbers were hurting from that. And then, when our numbers were hurting, my chain of command, so to speak, they had less confidence in the project. And then, they'd have their own ideas. They're like, 'You know what, you guys are really talented. We've got this other idea for an app. Maybe we should just put you guys on that.' And I mean, this was like within six months of being there, after having gone through this acquisition, it was pretty demoralising, to be honest.

Jeremy Cline 13:39
So, how long did you stick it out? How long were you there for?

Gerbz 13:42
So, we sold them the company, and along with that acquisition, there was a three-year sort of payout. So, I had three years to get paid our acquisition, so I stayed for the three years. And it was quite a journey. I mean, I was living in San Francisco too, so it was a fun place to be. I was kind of building my life there. And kind of slowly, over the course of the three years, the amount of energy I was putting towards the business was just dwindling, because I had no more control over my own destiny. And when I kind of find myself in that position, I was just kind of like a 'yes man' at that place. And so, I sort of shifted my energy towards my life a little bit. But San Francisco is a very like, 'go, go, go!' place. And there was lots of different opportunities, and yeah, I was just having fun there, but I was definitely wondering, and I didn't know what it would be, but in the back of my mind, obviously, I was not going to be here forever. That's for sure.

Jeremy Cline 14:36
It does sound like it was the antithesis of the entrepreneurial start-up. I mean, you know, that kind of scrappy, do everything, things coming in from a thousand different directions, but ultimately, you've got, what do they say, you've got the freedom to choose which 16 hours a day you work as an entrepreneur. Then you go into corporate, and it's much more rigid, much more structured. I mean, it sounds like it was inevitably going to fail because entrepreneurs don't want necessarily this rigid, structured hierarchy. Was that what you found?

Gerbz 15:09
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think my lack of experience in corporate and/or a start-up world at that time was probably the reason I just didn't really see the writing on the wall during the early days of it.

Jeremy Cline 15:19
So, what happened at the end of three years?

Gerbz 15:21
So, three years was up, I was now, you know, so many things had changed. The company that even acquired us had now like sold us to another division within the company, everyone around me was different. Even my co-founder had been laid off by corporate at one point. So, it was pretty much just me now. I had a pretty cool gig though. So, they built what's called the app factory. And they were going to fund tons of internal app ideas. And since I had been like one of the early app guys within the company, it was my job to decide whose ideas were good and who should get funding. So, I had a lot of people within the company coming to me with their ideas, and we were always brainstorming ideas. The job almost became pretty fun, quite honestly, at the end. But my wife at the time saw, like I was working so hard on this, like random stuff that had nothing to do with where my initial kind of vision was. And she started nudging me around the three-year mark to switch things up. And her idea was, let's go travel. A lot of people straight out of college kind of go on some sort of global adventure, or kind of see the world a bit, and we've never done that, because I've been working so hard. And the idea, honestly, scared the hell out of me, to travel the world, and especially, to quit my job. I was, you know, great, over six-figure salary, I somewhat enjoyed what I was doing, I was in Silicon Valley where I wanted to be, so the idea of just quitting, leaving it all behind, was so scary, but that's what we ended up doing.

Jeremy Cline 16:42
So, what did she see that perhaps you didn't see that made her think, 'Yeah, Gerbz, you need to quit your job'?

Gerbz 16:49
I think I was under a lot of pressure. And I think she's seen me under pressure a lot in the past, but it was like self-imposed pressure. And the pressure I was under now was just from all these people that didn't necessarily have my best interest in mind. And it wasn't helping me probably get towards where I wanted to be. But we were comfortable, and we enjoyed it there, so there was a little bit of a confliction. I think we've had this in the past, where every kind of three to four years, you just kind of get antsy, and you're ready to switch things up. And I think it was just time.

Jeremy Cline 17:21
So, there's switching things up, and then there's quitting your job and doing something, which is a great adventure, but doesn't necessarily pay the bills. And you talked about the fear of doing that. So, how did you get over that fear and decide that, 'Yeah, I want to go travelling'?

Gerbz 17:36
I didn't get over it. I just went, I think that was the interesting part. The thing I was afraid of was I'd been so tuned into the app, the mobile app industry, I remember saying I was afraid I was going to forget how to code. That was one of my first things, I was like, 'If I'm not staring at my computer for the next six months, I'm going to forget how to code, and then I'm going to come back and I'm not going to be able to do anything.' That was one thing. And then, being sort of super caught up, like in the news cycle of the mobile industry, I was super plugged into that, I thought, "Six months? I can barely spend six hours without looking at my phone. How am I going to spend six months?' I never got over it, I think. And then, even once we started travelling, it probably took a few weeks for that to kind of fade away. And then once it did, I could really kind of enjoy the adventure we were on. And I really did.

Jeremy Cline 18:21
So, why did you do it?

Gerbz 18:22
I did want to get back to building my own business. In the back of my mind, I knew that, corporate was great for what it was, but it was a great chapter, so to speak, but it wasn't for me. I wanted to get back to my roots. I wanted to build a business. And part of the deal with my wife, who I think was my fiancé at the time, was somewhere along our journey here, let's find a place that we really love, let's hunker down, and maybe I'll tinker with some new ideas that I have in the back of my mind.

Jeremy Cline 18:52
So, how long did you go travelling for?

Gerbz 18:54
We spent six months on the road. We started all through Southeast Asia. I think Japan was actually the first place we went, which was like the most just culturally shocking and interesting place I've ever been. And then, we travelled through Southeast Asia. Somewhere along the way, we like won a 'all expenses paid' trip to Paris. Like my wife entered some Facebook page contest, and it was like, we woke up one morning to find out that we'd won this amazing trip. So, there was just all sorts of like, I never knew what the next day would be. But yeah, it was six months. And we ended up that the deal of working on a new business, we ended up hunkering down in Chiang Mai in Thailand. And that's where I kind of started playing with some new ideas.

Jeremy Cline 19:33
When you started travelling, had you planned to do it for six months, or was this going to be an open-ended, we're going to do it for a period and see where we end up, or would you set yourself a sort of a stop date? What was kind of your agreement with your wife when you started out?

Gerbz 19:48
Yeah, I think six months was in the back of our mind, but also, so was our budget, right? So, we'd saved up a certain amount of money, and once we kind of started hitting some of those caps, we had to start thinking about coming home. And we always knew that we were coming home. And we told our parents we were coming home, so we had to hold to that. And yeah, I think we had the six-month plan, but we were travelling pretty scrappy. The funniest thing was like, the very first hostel that we stayed in, the night that we flew into Tokyo, was probably the shabbiest, worst place we stayed in the entire six-month span. I think we learned more that very first night about how to pick the place to stay than anything else.

Jeremy Cline 20:30
As you were travelling, did you consciously think about what you were going to do at the end of it? Or was it intended that this was going to be a complete let go, live in the moment, not think about it until you get back?

Gerbz 20:47
I've started something from nothing many times. So, I always know that I have that toolkit to just start from zero with an idea and take it somewhere. And now, at this point, I now had some experience with the quote-unquote, 'taking it somewhere', I had gone in a bunch of different somewheres. So, I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to build something like a web company, but I wanted it to be simple. I realised, in a lot of my first business ideas, they had very convoluted business models. Like driving foot traffic to local businesses using GPS gaming, like my God, that's the most complicated business on earth. And I was super young and inexperienced. This time, I was like, what if I just built a business that just had a product, and we sold it for money? Like, let's try that as a business model and see how that goes. So, I knew that I had like this, let's try to simplify everything that I've learned up to this point.

Jeremy Cline 21:43
Was this an idea that you had before you started travelling? Or was this something that developed whilst you were travelling? Or not until you got back?

Gerbz 21:50
Honestly, neither. In fact, the thing I spent all the month long in Thailand working on is something that I ended up totally scrapping later on, when I got home. When we did get home, all of our stuff had been in storage for six months, we actually didn't know where we wanted to live. We went back to our hometown, because that's where our family was, and we wanted to see them. We got like a kind of a month-to-month apartment there, as we were sort of like transitioning back into the real world, it seemed like. And along, when I was doing that, I was building this other company, I needed to sell something now for money, right? And so, I was playing with all these different online payment gateways, just things like PayPal, and WePay, different ways to accept payments online. And I kept bumping into all of these problems with it. I was looking for a solution to, how can I just accept money online without having all of these sort of gatekeepers in the way, and all these people scraping fees? You know, I was selling like $20-a-day worth of stuff, and they were taking $2 of it. So, like, how was I going to get over this? And that journey is kind of what led me into Bitcoin. And once I discovered Bitcoin, it didn't matter what I was working on, it was getting scrapped, we were going to do something Bitcoin-related. I didn't know what it was, I didn't care what it was. But I needed to stack as many Bitcoins as I could as quickly as possible. And that's when that new adventure began.

Jeremy Cline 23:11
What were you selling in this company?

Gerbz 23:13
So, the early days, again, I didn't actually care or know what it was going to be. And my idea was like, that actually doesn't matter, I have this new vision, let's just get people to pay with Bitcoin, and who cares what it is.

Jeremy Cline 23:24
Going back to the original company, you knew you wanted to sell something, and so, you started selling things, and you're doing it with PayPal and WePay, so what was the business at the time? So, before you sort of got stuck on PayPal and WePay?

Gerbz 23:37
Yeah, that project was actually, it was software. It was a tool for people who trade stocks to help them track their portfolios. But it was kind of more like spreadsheet based. And I was actually taking a lot of what I learned from the gaming industry, and I was trying to apply like gamification to managing your portfolio and helping you kind of focus on your goal as you kind of trade. And so, I was building a tool to kind of help people with that.

Jeremy Cline 24:02
When you came back home, so to speak, what were people saying to you then? Were your parents saying, 'Great, glad you had a nice time, now, get a job, start earning money', what was the reaction from family?

Gerbz 24:14
No, my family and friends had learned at that point that my journey was not going to be a very typical one. Straight out of school, I moved away, I started this weird business. They all thought I was nuts. But I ended up selling it and doing pretty well with that. And then, travelling for six months, they were like, 'Who does that?' So, coming home, they were just ready for another 'what's he going to be doing now'. And yeah, there was really no pressure from my family or friends on kind of where to go next.

Jeremy Cline 24:42
So, you have this business, you identify that it really sucks getting paid using these more traditional payment gateways, if you like, and do you remember what was the first discovery of Bitcoin? Was it something that you'd heard about it? Was it something read? What was the thing that you saw and thought, 'This might be the solution to my problems'?

Gerbz 25:05
Yeah, I mean, what really sucks is, I remember vividly, the first time I heard about it was way back with my co-founder buddy, when we were working together in the IT department, at that one company, he sent me this article on Slashdot, because I was trading stocks while I was at work, and he sent me this article about like Internet money. And I was like, 'Oh, that's cool. I'm busy over here trading stocks with the real money.' And we just totally blew it off. But then, when I was looking for this payment solution, I think that's how it kind of re-entered, and I had an atypical entrance, like a lot of people come into crypto because of the mania around investing and speculation, and I was looking to solve this really real problem with payments. And I just started Googling around, I think, and that's what made me discover this idea of, I really wanted to get rid of these middlemen, this idea that I was like getting rid of PayPal, getting rid of WePay, why do I need these guys to accept money? It's silly. And this idea of like a decentralised money with no middleman, maybe I was just searching that, I don't know, but I stumbled into Bitcoin, and the first day I read the Bitcoin white paper, which even people who've been in crypto for a decade, most of them haven't even read the damn white paper yet, but the first thing I did was read the white paper, and it was just, I knew immediately that this was something that was going to be huge, and I wanted to get involved in it.

Jeremy Cline 26:22
And what did your first involvement look like?

Gerbz 26:24
I kind of realised that there's only three ways that I could get more Bitcoin. I could mine it, because mining Bitcoin is a big thing, which is pretty complicated. And I'm a technical person, but managing hardware and managing like hardware computers, that's just kind of out of my wheelhouse. I'm more of a software guy. So, that really didn't feel right. The second was, I could invest more of my own money in it. But I kind of already done that. And then, I was like, well, maybe I should just accept it as payment as a way of acquiring more of it. So, that's where I came up with this idea of, let's just try to sell things. And at the time, fiverr.com was like this big, it was this up-and-coming thing, but no one had heard of it yet. I don't know, have you heard of Fiverr?

Jeremy Cline 27:06
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've used it. Yeah.

Gerbz 27:08
Yeah. And back then, things actually costed, they would only cost five bucks to use Fiverr. Now, it's like every product on there is 50 bucks or more, it's weird.

Jeremy Cline 27:16
Actually, just to explain, I mean, Fiverr is basically a freelance platform where you can buy gigs. So, you want someone to design a graphic for you, go on Fiverr, you say you're prepared to spend whatever it is, $40, $50, and you search for people who might be able to help you. And that's essentially how it works.

Gerbz 27:35
Yeah, and when I saw that, I was like, 'Oh, this is just a perfect, this is a whole universe of things to sell.' That's the way I saw it. They see it from their side as they're the place to go to do all this stuff. But no one knew about them yet. So, my idea was, what if I just find some of the coolest things I can find on Fiverr, and then I just put them on my website and sell them for $10 worth of Bitcoin. And now, I'm marking things up 100%, I'm accepting Bitcoin, and I have this never-ending pool of products to sell.

Jeremy Cline 28:06
And this this was in 2013, something like that?

Gerbz 28:10
It was, yeah, 2013.

Jeremy Cline 28:11
So, who's paying you in Bitcoin?

Gerbz 28:15

Jeremy Cline 28:15
I mean, that's the thing you need, well, you need two things, you need the people who want to buy what you're selling, and presumably, who haven't realised that they could actually get it cheaper if they just went straight to Fiverr themselves, and then, you also need people who, as well as being willing to buy that from you, they need to be prepared and have the understanding and the technical know-how to pay you in Bitcoin. So, who was doing that? Or was anyone doing that?

Gerbz 28:39
That's great. Two things come to mind. The first is, my very first customer was a buddy of mine, and he's actually a pretty technical guy, he's a software engineer himself, and he wanted to buy something on my site. And he's like, 'I'm ready to rock, but I don't have any Bitcoin. Can I pay with PayPal?' That was my very first customer. So, I was like, 'Huh, I mean, I guess I should be able to accept payments in other ways, if the customer refuses', and I was offering discounts to the people who would pay me in crypto, that actually did end up helping a bit, but yeah, people really, I had a lot of educational content, and I was really pushing people to kind of go down the crypto rabbit hole journey with me, as a way of onboarding into buying this new thing, but it was a stretch, to be honest. But it's funny, because what I came to realise later was I don't have to accept the money directly in Bitcoin. I can still accept payments other ways, and then convert it into bitcoin at the end of every month. So, kind of as the business grew, in the early days, I had more crypto payments as kind of a percentage of my payment, because I was promoting mostly to the crypto industry and companies that were already in crypto, who I didn't have to educate, they already knew how to do it. So, starting there kind of helped. And then converting the dollars that I received into Bitcoin at the end of every month helped, and sort of as the business grew, it became sort of like 95% PayPal money and 5% Bitcoin, and I would just convert the rest of it.

Jeremy Cline 30:07
What was the thinking at the time for acquiring more of this stuff? Because you said you had the initial problem, which was getting paid, these payment gateways. So, what was the motive then for basically just converting a certain amount each month into Bitcoin?

Gerbz 30:26
You know, I didn't want to do that. But this was the business that I was working on. And it needed to make money. If it was going to be sustainable, and I had learned this the hard way with my last business, if all I did was focus on trying to get people to buy Bitcoin and send it to me, that's an uphill battle. And I needed to just be flexible and listen to my customers, and go where they wanted to go. If there's a product that they want, I could sell that product. If there's a way they want to pay me, I'll figure out how to take that money. Just kind of my first, that real-world gaming idea, it was a very rigid idea, I wanted to build this platform, and here's the thing, and it's very specific. This time around, I just kind of went with whatever my customers wanted. And being flexible like that, especially early days in a new business, I think is like the most important thing you can do. And that's what really helped us grow up. I didn't even care what the business was going to be. I just went with it.

Jeremy Cline 31:19
And what was driving the underlying desire to continually acquire Bitcoin?

Gerbz 31:24
Oh, man, Bitcoin, it just made, since the moment I read about it, it made perfect sense to me. This is a thing, this is something that is needed badly in the world, and it doesn't exist. And even, there had been previous attempts for different types of cryptocurrencies, so to speak, to come into the world, but they were always created by like a centralised company, or there was a person with their name on it. And the way that sort of Bitcoin was inspired by Satoshi and this anonymous figure who disappeared around the time that I came onto the scene, and now, it was just kind of this open-source software, run by like an open network, managed by now everyone in the industry, it was just a new approach to how to create something in the world. And I just knew that that was the future of business, the future of money, and I just wanted to be at the centre of it.

Jeremy Cline 32:13
It's a heck of a risk. I mean, by that stage, Bitcoin has been around for five years, and okay, it's gone up in value, but that is still only five years. I mean, what made you so sure that all this stuff that you were acquiring wasn't going to turn around and be worthless or be surpassed by something else?

Gerbz 32:33
The funny thing is, the first few years, it was depreciating into worthlessness. When I started, it was like $1,000 in the first per Bitcoin, around the time that I launched my company. And then, for the next two, almost three years, it just had dwindled down to like 2-or-$300, and was just running sideways in the $300 range for years. And there was definitely moments where I was pretty bummed about that. But you know, I realised how long things take. I'm kind of someone that jumps on a new innovation, like really, really quickly, and it doesn't matter how powerful something is, it takes forever for the world to catch up. Like just forever. And I learned that with the gaming thing. Pokemon GO came out a decade later and became the biggest game of all time. And it's something I've been thinking, I was like done thinking about it, it had been so long, so I just knew that having a long-term approach to something, I think, is the way to go. And I was just along for the ride.

Jeremy Cline 33:31
Did you ever fear Bitcoin was going to be the next Netscape? So, yeah, right idea, just wrong implementation.

Gerbz 33:38
I didn't. No, and honestly, it never even crossed my mind. I've been so bullish on crypto since the moment I discovered it, I've never seen a world without it. And here's the reason, I think a lot of people get into crypto, they just get into it because they hear about it from the media. They hear like, 'Oh, the price is up, and things are soaring or there's new crazy legislation and someone's trying to kill Bitcoin', for the 1,000th time. Like that's kind of what gets people in. What got me and was like this practical need, and I've been using Bitcoin to operate my business, to pay my employees and my suppliers, to pay employees in all parts of the world without having to worry about banking, infrastructure or anything like that. I've been using this thing and it's been solving my problems for years and that's not going anywhere. No one's going to solve that problem for me. So, whether the price is up or the price is down, it never mattered, Bitcoin has always solved my problem.

Jeremy Cline 34:32
So, what happened to the e-commerce business? Do you still run that or have you wind that down or sold it off?

Gerbz 34:39
Yeah, I know. I don't work on it anymore. What I ended up doing was, Bitcoin has done a lot since 2013, and crypto has been good to me, and I've been just really deep down in that world for a long time, so I was able to kind of just shift my energy towards, kind of go back to my roots of this a little bit. I still wanted to do e-commerce, because that's where a lot of my experience and development knowledge is. But what if I didn't have to accept PayPal payments? What if my first customer came to me and said, 'Can I pay with PayPal?', and I could say, 'No.' Now, I'm in a position where I can do that. And it's much more fun to me to help people on their crypto journey and get them using Bitcoin for the first time, get them investing in cryptos for the first time, and so, we've been building a community at BitLift to sort of just help people do that. And if you don't want to pay us in crypto, that's fine, but you know, BitLift is a place where we like to innovate and tinker and play around with kind of the future of money. So, that's what we've been doing.

Jeremy Cline 35:35
And I have to say, I mean, I've started getting interested in crypto, but not really since the start of this year. And it's the information on BitLift that I've found particularly useful. So, your sort of Beginner's Guide to Bitcoin guide. It's absolutely invaluable. So, anyone who is interested in, if you're just getting started and want to find out a bit about what this is beyond the media, then I'd definitely recommend having a look at the BitLift website. Bitcoin and crypto has been extremely good for you. What's the plan? What does the future hold? What's your five-year vision, your 10-year vision, your lifetime vision?

Gerbz 36:13
That's a big question. You know, I don't necessarily have a 5-10-lifetime plan. I really just enjoy what I'm doing. And I think that's the difference. Going back to when I worked in that corporate gig, it was fine, it was just fine. And also, working really, really, really hard on my little baby thing that no one cared about, that was really hard. And so, I've kind of just found this place where I'm comfortable, I'm working on something that gives me a lot of energy and something I really enjoy. And I'd like to keep it that way, quite honestly. And I think investing has definitely picked up, there's so much more that can be done in crypto now. The Bitcoin Rabbit Hole eBook that you read on the site, that was like the very first thing I did with BitLift. And that's probably what gets me like the most feedback from people is they read this and they loved it, and they're like, finally, a simple entrance into all of this madness, thank you for that. But honestly, writing is really hard for me. Especially, this sort of long form type of writing with lots of detail. The new adventure is, what if I can still get this information out there, but I've been doing it through podcasting. So, we just launched the BitLift podcast, and I think that's been kind of a really nice way to get this information out. I've had on my back for so long that I want to write more Bitcoin Rabbit Hole kind of stuff, but maybe doing a Ethereum Rabbit Hole, a DeFi Rabbit Hole, there's all these things I want to write about. But it kind of weighs on me. So, now just speaking about it, it sort of like lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders.

Jeremy Cline 37:45
This is perhaps a question for a future episode, and maybe I'll dedicate an episode to this. I've had an episode, which was all about how property, real estate, can change your life, and so the different ways that people get into that, and they can use it either to provide extra retirement income, or in some cases, they have found it as a way that they can transition out of their career and go full-time into property, whatever that might look like. And we've also had an episode which is all about trading. And that doesn't necessarily have to be crypto, but that could be trading any kind of financial products, and whether or not, again, that is something which you can use to effectively replace your career, replace your income. If someone is at the stage where their job is also 'fine', but they're looking for the thing that excites them, and they're looking for the thing which they think, 'Okay, yes, I can see me, not just being interested in this, but this being something that I could turn into effectively my career, my source of income'. Do you see opportunities in crypto to do that sort of thing?

Gerbz 38:54
Oh, big time. You know, but I think it's a little scary when you say like, someone who's looking for the thing that lights them up. And the reality is, what lights a lot of people up is the speculation. And so, I hesitate to advise that crypto is the answer to finding the thing that's going to give you energy, because it's not necessarily a positive energy. However, there's so much going on, there's a burgeoning crypto industry. And I think that's a really fun way to think about it. It's like, maybe you want to switch it up, you know, and enter an industry that's in its infancy and has huge, huge, massive, global potential, and maybe transitioning into something in the industry, as opposed to just putting all your money on orange, so to speak, maybe that would be a better way of kind of dipping your toe into the crypto world. And then, people who are first time investors, they should be very cautious and realise it's a journey, and there's a lot to learn, and you can take baby steps, and I think, starting with a little Bitcoin, if you wanted to start to dabble with it, is a good place to start, but realising that this is going to be a long-term journey, versus like a get rich quick, so to speak, opportunity.

Jeremy Cline 40:04
Something that I have realised, and I don't know why it surprised me, but you know, I've got friends who've talked about getting into Bitcoin. And when you talk to them, it's apparent that they don't have a clue what Bitcoin is, they don't have a clue what it does, they don't understand the economics behind it, how it's created, all that kind of thing. They've just heard in the media that they should get into it, and so, you know, they've thrown, whatever, couple of hundred quid at it, probably, when it hit its absolute high, and now that couple of hundred quid is worth about half what it was when they put it in.

Gerbz 40:38
Yeah, they're trying to forget about it now.

Jeremy Cline 40:39
And yet, you know, whereas I've taken the trouble to read your guide and pay attention, learn some stuff about it, and it's so much more rewarding. You actually understand what's going on. And so, I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this, but I think I'm just urging people, yeah, don't just listen to the media and go for it. Take the time to learn a bit about what's going on. There is a heck of a lot to learn, but yeah, take that time, and you get an awful lot more out of it.

Gerbz 41:07
Yeah, I mean, one way of thinking about it is, do you think Jeff Bezos was like thinking about how much money he could make investing in internet stocks when he started Amazon? Or was he thinking about how e-commerce is going to shift from brick and mortar to virtual, and how no one has really created a brand in that space yet. He had a very fundamental approach to how he was going to build what's now become the biggest wealth-generating opportunity on planet Earth. It's the biggest company in the world. But he didn't care. I doubt he's cared much about the money along the way. He had this fundamental understanding about what e-commerce was and where it would be. And that's what made him the wealthiest person on earth, not that he's been chasing the money along the way. And I think you could draw similar parallels to crypto. The people who have done the best in crypto, even though it's an investing thing, it's a money industry, the people who have done the best, they're looking at it from a technological perspective as a use case perspective, and the money just sort of finds them that way.

Jeremy Cline 42:09
So, as you've been through your journey, are there any particular resources which you can point out and maybe point out to the audience that have helped you as you've gone through your career path?

Gerbz 42:20
Yeah, I mean, there's been a few. Probably one of the first, when I left on that six-month journey with my wife, I think I'd had The 4-Hour Workweek as a book, I'd had it on my shelf for years, I think my dad gave it to me when I was a kid. And he probably read it and thought it was great, so he wanted to pass it to me. I read the title and thought it sounded silly and just threw it on my bookshelf. And it stared at me for years. And I never read it. I honestly am not sure what the impetus was to finally read it. But when I did, it was around the time I was going to go on our six-month adventure. And it couldn't have been more of a perfect time. And The 4-Hour Workweek is a terrible, terrible title, about how to convert your life into just a four-hour work stint every week. But it's nothing like that. The book is much more about freedom, and how to free your time, how to think about your time, how to free yourself from the work that you do. And that was really inspiring. And that was a lot of where the inspiration I got for like building a new internet company, that with a simple model of just selling something for money, that's where all of that kind of stemmed from, reading The 4-Hour Workweek early on. So, that would be the first resource. If you're even the slightest bit technical, even if you're not technical, there's plenty of people who've done really well reading that book and implementing some of the strategies there. And then, the second one was, it's a similar story, actually, there's a book called The Bitcoin Standard. And you know, I've read every Bitcoin book there is, which for a while, there wasn't very many out there. But I'd heard of this book 100 times, because I've been in crypto industry for so long. And I'm like, I don't need to read another book about how to Bitcoin, what Bitcoin is, how it works, but for whatever reason, I did. And it was really, really eye opening. And that's because the first three quarters of The Bitcoin Standard is not about Bitcoin at all. In fact, I don't think the word Bitcoin even shows up in the first 75% of it. The book is really about money, and what money is, how money works, like fundamentally, how it's a tool for just storing value and trading value and exchanging value, and how these tools have evolved, and which ones have failed and which ones have succeeded. And then, in the final chapters, why Bitcoin is the best tool that's ever existed as money. I think that was really, really eye opening. I've always fancied myself as like understanding money, but I realised I didn't know anything about money, until I read The Bitcoin Standard. So, I think those two are probably my favourite resources.

Jeremy Cline 44:40
I will put links to both of those in the show notes. And where's the best place that people can find you? Where can they find BitLift and all the information that you've got going on?

Gerbz 44:49
Yeah, BitLift is easy, bitlift.com, bitlift.com/podcast is where we've been releasing all our new episodes. And yeah, I'm just helping people along their journey. We're starting with just the basics. Like where do I get the stuff? And how do I do it? And what's a wallet? So, bitlift.com is the spot for that. And we use Twitter quite a bit, twitter.com, our handle is BitLift on Twitter, so you can find us there, follow us. And we also have a community where people who are kind of entering the rabbit hole for the first time, they join us on Discord, and we talk crypto 24/7, and we help people out with all their questions there.

Jeremy Cline 45:23
Cool. I'll put links to those in the show notes as well. Well, Gerbz, thanks for coming on and for telling your story. And best of luck with BitLift.

Gerbz 45:30
Cool, thanks, it's been fun, Jeremy.

Jeremy Cline 45:31
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Gerbz. The bit of Gerbz's interview which most stuck out for me was when he described his corporate gig as 'fine'. It wasn't awful. He was kind of enjoying what he was doing. But it wasn't spectacular. It wasn't giving him energy. It was, as he said, just 'fine'. So many of us settle for just 'fine'. But as regular listeners will know, I genuinely believe that there's more to life than just 'fine', that we can find those things that give us energy, that excite us. Gerbz has found that in the crypto space, and I'm sure it's something which you can find too. Now, obviously, this isn't a podcast all about cryptocurrency, but I can't ignore the fact that, over the past 12 months, Bitcoin and crypto generally has been getting an awful lot of press. It's been something that I've been taking an interest in, and Gerbz's resources have been enormously helpful in enabling me to understand what's going on and how these things work. So, if you're at all interested and want to find out more, then I highly recommend starting with the resources on bitlift.com, Gerbz's website. There are only at starting point, but they do give you a great introduction to the subject. As always, you'll find the show notes for this episode on the website at changeworklife.com/114 that's changeworklife.com/114. And whilst you're there, it would be amazing if you'd go to the Support page, changeworklife.com/support, that's changeworklife.com/support, where you'll find details of all the ways that you can support the show. These range from subscribing to the show, leaving a review on Apple podcasts, spreading the word or helping out financially. I love producing the podcast, but it does come with a financial cost, and so, if you can support me with either a one-off or a recurring donation, then that would be amazing, and there's details how you can do that at changeworklife.com/support. As always, well, you know what I'm going to say next, we've got a great interview coming up next week, so make sure you subscribe to the show if you haven't already, and I can't wait to see you in next week's episode. Cheers. Bye.

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