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Press This Podcast: Mental Health & Hyper-Growth Entrepreneurship with Cory Miller

Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.

David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogel Paul, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode we’re going to be talking about mental health in hyper growth entrepreneurship this season like opposing ideas and joining us for that conversation is someone who knows this quite well, like to welcome to press this Mr Cory Miller.

Cory Miller: Hey David thanks for having me on the show today I’m excited to talk about these, these topics with you.

DV: I know I as well I know you have some really interesting points of view here. For those unfamiliar Corey is with post status if you don’t know anything about post status go to post status, calm if you’re into WordPress development, or just getting heavily involved in the WordPress community I could not recommend a status more I’ve been a member for years. Of course he’s also built sold multiple successful WordPress businesses including ipmns, which I’m sure many in the audience. Even still use today are familiar with. Certainly from the vein of Corey growing it within the WordPress community as a whole. I’m really excited to have you here Corey to talk through your thoughts on developing these strategies, but within the excuse me within the lens of doing that in a healthy way that leads to a healthy lifestyle, because I think you know again people kind of lean too much in the growth side and not really pay, pay attention themselves and kind of take care of themselves as part of that strategy. Chris, talked a little bit about your background here. And actually, I’ve never learned this from you but like what is your WordPress origin story.

CM: The first time I used WordPress is right around 2006, I believe is in the summer. And I wanted to start a blog for the profession I was in at the time, and I started actually on Google, Google’s blogger, and then quickly found this thing called WordPress where you could like change, you know, keep the copyright notice in your footer updated every year all year in perpetuity. And I just fell in love with this thing called WordPress and so it was as a blogger was my first experience with this awesome software we called WordPress.

DV: So it was the copyright auto updating that was the killer feature that got you to embrace WordPress.

CM: That was one of the Mini. You know blogger I think they might still do it this way but you would basically I had it where it would FTP my HTML files over. And actually, sometimes really missed that, you know, from your work at WP Engine you know security is always on the web, like it’s a non negotiable. So the idea of just being able to publish these supersonic fast HTML pages that are also secure kind of lends itself to some styles your for me, but really just being able to use this thing called a content management system that was native Manos like CMS okay I love it. Yeah, this makes sense to me. and then WordPress you know it just goes on every day, every year, use it.

DV: That’s really interesting my own origin story has a little bit of a connection between blogger and WordPress as well. It’s similar kind of meaning or capabilities type views, my interview originally I kind of talked about the fact post status, and I talked about like your community, they can help people understand like what the status is maybe some of the other things you your other notable ventures either right now or.

CM: Yeah. So, this is a community of WordPress professionals and we think about it is like, you know you do WordPress full time. And you use it probably as your primary tool. And so, that encompasses entrepreneurs developers support people I product WordPress product companies, and everybody in between, but mostly it’s the kind of WordPress entrepreneur that is our big part of our audience set of status. So we’ve got everybody from cofounder, WordPress, all the way to you, David. to, you know, Someone that created, you know ninja forms or an agency that markets just to for instance like you know, schools and things like that. So it’s a pretty wide range of people that are somehow using WordPress to make a living. And I love it, I didn’t start it but I joined it post that is back in January of this year, 2020 has been awesome I’ve long respected the community I mean it’s where the conversations between typically I would say word camps happen. But, in our, in our slack post membership slack is very, you know, busy, one in the channels but more so themes because you know you’re not even I think we’re thinking up for the show over process slack. So it’s a powerful part and then we have a weak weekly newsletter that goes out that is the too long didn’t read version of everything going on WordPress.

DV: I read every line in that newsletter and I never read newsletters. I call it the I call it the WordPress Christmas letter it’s like the list of things that happened that week.

CM: Yes, it’s a great rundown that you’re too busy to go like, if you were to try to check all those conversations, you wouldn’t get your work done but now you can get a little summary of it so that’s great feedback appreciate that.

DV: I always love it if I see myself or someone I know mentioned in there and then coming post and post status newsletter famous is like. It is it truly is. Yeah, proud moments all around and then you mentioned you’re kind of founded and ran and ultimately sold I VMs. Just a little. Just a little bit about that and I’m going to get into kind of the mental health and entreprenuer side of this journey.

CM: Yeah so started I think January 1 2008. We originally started it to be themes that was the first thing we we wanted to do and be known for themes after you know a year or two in the business got to be competitive more and more competitive. We saw an opportunity with plugins and for the bulk of my career and nine teams. We really built, you know, plugins that did backup security and remote management were precise with the big. And it was a fun run and then just saw like the space is getting so competitive and go, you know, we’re the bootstrap Kids on the Block. So we eventually sold to mainland WordPress host that you know could integrate or software and we’ve been partner for about a year. And, but it was a great read WordPress change on life is both a blogger and then eventually been one of the first WordPress product companies out there to help bring great software to the masses was a lot of fun and obviously I’m still involved in WordPress with my role of status, but I beaver beaver WordPress

DV: there yeah and I know you kind of alluded to the fact that you were, you know, in a sense, he doesn’t six was right after themes right before widgets, but kind of kind of coming up in this moment of change in WordPress and being one of this really prominent kind of entrepreneurs. And so I’m sure that was both exciting and stressful, which is kind of bringing us kind of to our topic today, which is well how do you build this this business a business focused on growth but balance that with the mental health aspect of running the business. So you started I think back in 2008 It sounds like you might have had some entrepreneurial, you know, things before that. But did you always in your, in the way you were operated your business and the way you tried to grow Did you always do that through a lens of mental health or is that something that came later.

CM: No, not at all. In fact, I, I have largely my stories largely not practice good self care and mental health practices as much, they’re trying to do better in this version. And that’s where my story begins just the, you know, was chasing the idea, not necessarily money just for money sake but chasing the idea of can we make this a sustainable business can we continue to grow and be relevant in the marketplace. And, you know, all of that you know very well firsthand David. It takes a toll on it. The, especially when you’re starting something. Starting is the hardest part I think because you’re trying to get something off the ground, there’s all these scenarios in place. And, you know, when I started, I themes I was in my early 30s. Well, now I’m 44. And I’m like, I can’t stay up until 2am cranking on something I’m trying to get out the door anymore like I’m, I’m ready to go to bed at 10. Things have just changed now I have two young kids at home. And, you know, I just can’t work insane hours like he used to. So, yeah, definitely short answer is definitely did not practice these in the why I tried to talk about them because I’ve learned some hard lessons.

DV: Yeah, as here, you’re like, as you’re starting it kind of this mountain of work is probably against a mountain of opportunity, you’re kind of thinking about it through the lens of like well how it’s going to impact your life, and you’re doing this today and it sounds like you might not have done this in your early 30s and you’re thinking about the workloads, you can handle them. I wanted to dive a little bit deeper into that we’re gonna take a quick break.

DV: hello everyone welcome back to press this WordPress community podcasts on debut Mr. Is your host David Vogel poll interviewing Corey Miller, about mental health and hyper growth with entrepreneurship. Cory right before the break, he told us a little bit about kind of being in your early 30s starting ipmns and having, you know, it seemed like maybe unlimited energy and like being okay with this two and three nights that you said that maybe wasn’t the best decision. Why was it just because it was difficult, businesses, some way and we understand like why you thought that was a bad decision.

CM: entrepreneurship is one of the toughest jobs. I know of. Certainly some high stress high risk jobs you know out there but entrepreneurship is not definitely not for everybody, it’s, it’s been able to be okay, for the most part with him, ambiguity, with fake ness with walking in wandering in the fog, for the most part, especially starting starting a business. Most of us don’t just have like a golden Midas touch that everything turns to gold we have to work pretty dang hard at it. And so I think also as entrepreneurs, so many friends that are entrepreneurs and so, and heard stories over the years and my own story and it’s just, we, we tend to think you know we’re starters. We everything kind of rests on our shoulders I call it, you know, superhero syndrome. We think that like, it’s the term referred to as rugged individualists entrepreneurs are just that you know we’re, we’re used to bucking the, the norms and the trends and starting something that maybe only we can see right now. And, you know, I tell the story a lot my parents weren’t entrepreneurs aren’t entrepreneurs. They didn’t, you know, kind of knew what I did. They often thought it just worked on computers and my mom worked towards me for about six years but don’t really truly know all the stresses of, you know, being ultimately responsible for. Am I going to get a paycheck this week kind of thing. And what the way I person the first version wasn’t, you know, I’ve always cared about mental health and thought about mental health, but I got into this gig and didn’t realize how tough lonely, it would be. And, you know, David, I can’t help eliminate things so like. Now, having journeyed alone, went through divorce went through depression, multiple times over the years. There’s three C’s, I don’t walk without. And it’s counselor, so I see a counselor, right now, every two weeks, every three weeks is better our cadence. So there’s counselor first second as a coach and I’m a coach we meet every single week to 10 me up, nine o’clock, actually. central time on Tuesdays are time so I just have my coach meeting this morning. And the third is comrades, people that get what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. Now like I said my parents don’t get it. Don’t really know what it’s like stresses, but other entrepreneurs do you know and I’ve talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years, real quick, easy like we have the same problems just with different names attached to it so I say counselor is vital to everything I do now. Coach, and comrades, a group of entrepreneurs that are on the same or similar mission with the same or similar values as you, I, I never leave home without those three things. Don’t do this tough gig called entrepreneurship that those three things.

DV: So it sounds like maybe one of the mistakes and sounds like something that you’ve evolved your thoughts on over time as you found maybe gaps in how you were managing your business and then managing your own kind of selfie well, and you landed at this notion of counselor coaching comrades, to kind of work on the parts of being an entrepreneur, so maybe that guess that was perhaps one mistake you made early on. Earlier it was like you’re also talking about like, you know, the superhero syndrome the rugged individualists, the responsibility for making sure you have that paycheck i mean i’ve you know, run my business. Well, I wore this badges of honors like everybody else. And I would use them as armor to defend my overworking and to defend the time it was spending on myself. Did you find you did that as well. I mean you you were totally wearing this badge of honor like five minutes ago and just like brought back all this memories and using that as an armor,

CM: He did on the head, and just here. I know we’ve talked about this that you’ve, you’ve started businesses in the past and are an entrepreneur, and you get it like right out stretch sort of modeling some like David gets it like he knows. I know David like, you know, this is how we, we do it’s like, it’s, it’s relevancy you know so if I, if everything depends on me I feel special. I feel needed, you know, and and that doesn’t always play to our health, and certainly not our mental health. When we like, want to take a vacation, but we’re the bottleneck for everything. You know, and so you said earlier to this was derived absolutely out of my pain own pain mountain of your own mistakes, where I was laying, you know, metaphorically I guess on the pavement, face down on the pavement and being drugged that’s where I fell, because I didn’t have those infrastructure supports you know support systems, and they’re of, you know, my first partner I should say this is always my spouse. I happen to be married and she’s you know, my wife is definitely my first and most essential partner. But all of those support systems I know I have to build around me, to protect me.

DV: I love that analogy the kind of care itself, I think, it plays into your ability to be successful in your business as well. And so it kind of think about that for a minute though because, you know, when we talk about things like you know trying to maintain that good mental health when operating a business or being an entrepreneur device, a lot of people get is like well take time for yourself, make sure to take those vacations and so on and so forth. But I feel like there’s a strategic aspect of this as well, like what strategies have you discovered that you think are well aligned with maintaining good mental health, a bad example might be like doing all the work yourself like what’s a good example where like I can actually do something in my business that leads to less pressure or better, better mental health situation for me as an entrepreneur or anyone entrepreneur.

CM: Most of us entrepreneurs think everything has something we really believe like no one else can do it it’s only me on certain things. And, and that’s not true. I’m sitting here talking to you today, and the team and I themes that I helped build, they’re operating just fine without me in fact I think they just had one of their best months ever. So like, it’s simply not true. We’ve seen evidences of no business past but I think that’s so detrimental to think that everything has to turn to. Ultimately, rests on my shoulders. There was a point that I changed where I go I finally I was just frustrated I was trying to take everything in my own shoulders and I said, Listen, I hope you’d love to work here. I love to work here, but we’re all in this together, and I’m not the one that’s going to be, you know, pushing all of these initiatives forward for all of us by myself. And it was just it was, it was a shift where I said I’m not doing this by myself meaning, meaning, I need you in I’m going to put more responsibility on you. And we did it as a team because we all have something to gain from this endeavor called entrepreneurship. We want it to last we want to have, you know, security in what we’re doing. We want to have consistent revenue and all those type of things. So that was a big shift for me as you’re saying like, it really doesn’t all land on me like we have a team, then they’re in it with me too. We all have to be caring about this and so that was one big shift. You know, I lead with the counselor because I know for me it’s insurance. It’s knowing that I had a buddy that we know. He said hey you talk a lot about mental health, depression or is that all good now. I’m like, it’s every day. It’s not a one and done that Mike, you know my health, just because I did 30 minutes a month on this, on tape, you know Monday that my mental health is going to be perfect. It’s something I continually have to wake up and think about act on to ensure continual like if I don’t get sleep that affects my mental health, I get a bad night’s sleep or missing sleep. It’s a bad, you know, it’s going to have negative effects, so it’s a continual thing that we always have to work on. For me, having a counselor is, insurance, like imagine something big happens like I didn’t plan out my exit from my themes for instance, you know, for 10 years until it happened. It happened pretty fast all said said and done, well, I had familiarity with the counselor so that I could talk to issues and not have to start from square one or even go looking. So, even if I don’t meet two to three every two to three weeks. Back then I would say at least once a quarter just to check in with my counselor, just to make sure like. I mean, we go to the physician, you know we have primary cares the US, mainly has to do with this weird crappy insurance industry we have. But, but we go and we get checkups like if I have, if I have COVID or something that’s happening with my body I’m gonna go call my doctor in the same sense I think that’s what their middle we have to have. I believe all of the should have a primary therapist that has familiarity that we can call when emergencies, can and will happen.

DV: All right, that’s excellent advice kind of this notion of like always working on it, it sounded like from the business strategy perspective, it was really this notion of like not doing everything yourself, empowering leaders. I mean, I think, I think about and I have a similar it’s similar horror stories from from my past right and do it all my own, but I discovered over time was that my job wasn’t to show people how to do things my doc. My job was ultimately to support them in becoming better at the thing they do then I am. And that was, that was the big shift for me and what you know kind of realizing that oops I was doing the wrong thing I’m not an instructor. I’m really a kind of a coach supporter. And my goal is that they kick my butt at whatever it is that they’re doing and not the other way around. So really interesting to hear that also be a part of your story. We’re gonna dig in a little deeper but we’re going to take one more break and we’ll be right back.

DV: welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on w EMR we’re in the middle of our interview with Corey Miller about mental health in entrepreneurship, Corey right before the break you were talking about business strategies that you felt were well aligned with maintaining good mental health. You talked primarily in that area around kind of building up leaders and contributors that are able to deliver value kind of on their own, so you as the entrepreneur doesn’t take it all on. I thought that was a great example of a good strategy. That’s that helps maintain mental health, what’s the strategy the cash strategy I think it’s just poison like you see people doing it all the time and you’re like, and you’re just killing yourself doing that thing that way.

CM: Yeah, chasing money for money. Money sake. You know we we’ve all been insane, or I should say seen, maybe been in organizations that were at one core value and that was making money that was their only core value. I believe you should make money and if you do really really good in the world for your customers and clients that you should be rewarded handsomely. But when money and making money is your only core value there’s some really poisonous terrible things that happen. I think, you know, to each his own, as always, but I think you can do good and do really, really well in the world. By doing good for people and, but when you have seen it. You just chase money for money sake, it’s it’s a it’s a pretty big poison in fact I think it’s the opposite way. The backwards way of really actually making money in building a great business and and we’ve seen it a lot where we get tripped up on, you know, just the almighty dollar and everything suffers and I think that’s where we get some abuse of entrepreneurs. As leaders, when that’s only the core value.

DV: So that was that plays out though like in terms of mental health for you taking on projects you probably shouldn’t take on and therefore maybe have more work than you than you normally would have because you went outside your bounds because you just wanted the project if you’re saying agency isn’t taking out things you might think are ethically shady or is it all combination of all those things maybe also kind of driving you to work all those kinds of hours, because you’re just trying to increase the, you know, that was that month’s revenue rate.

CM: I think it’s how it can be detrimental to your health is like think about. We spend the most time with the people we work with have our 24 hours a day and the other side of it when we’re with their family is, you know, bulk of that is finished sleeping. So, you know, I looked at my team is more than just a coworker. I wanted to like them. I wanted to enjoy time with them, you know not everybody at the same rate maybe but we’re doing life together and I think if you have that core value you can end up in this very socially isolated feature, like Mr Scrooge. That’s one detrimental effect I always thought, you know, like these people that I work with, I really care about that was the hardest thing to leave in teams. It wasn’t the job. Wasn’t the it was the people. It was the friends that made that I would knew I wouldn’t see them every day or you get a chance to touch them every single day. And so that was a tough part for me when I left because so much my own identity have been wrapped up in the team. But, you know, when, when you focus only on profit to the exclusive nature of it, then you end up being a bulldozer in relationships there for part of it. And, and that that’s a that’s a big one. Also you just make that, you know, I think, not the best decisions actually long term and that all has effects on you know your finances are a big part of I think your mental health and, and, you know, if you, if you’re always constantly worrying about money for instance, you’re going to have problems but. So I think there’s some moderation in there. But, you know, I just think, leaving a swath of carnage in your wake is a good practice as a human and especially to other to other humans.

DV: Yeah, I definitely can parrot that say that my worst mistakes in business have been optimizing for the financial outcome versus paying attention to the human factor that kind of goes into it. And again can also echo that when you do that, those decisions often are hollow and without purpose and he talked earlier about being okay with the ambiguity. I love that I use that line actually all the time as well. But it sounds like for you, thinking about your business strategy and how that might connect to mental health, health is having the higher purpose other than just profits which is a wonderful place to end on here in December our big how into your holiday month. But thank you so much for coming on today Cory This is amazing. Good.

CM: David great questions and I’m glad for the conversation and to get to talk to you again.

DV: Awesome. If you’d like to check more about what Cory is up to visit post status.com, if you make your way into slack Say hi to me there. Thanks everyone for listening, press this WordPress community podcast on w Mr. Again, this has been your host David Walpole. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine. I love to bring the best of the community to your everyday.

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