Jack of all trades, Master of none

Thats me! The guy with the huge smile and thumbs up

You see it all over the internet;- gurus who claim to have made millions of dollars in a short period of time, retired early, drive exotic cars, travel the world, own multiple houses and sell expensive courses to help you get rich quick.

Well, that’s not me! (sort of)

Mine is a story of working hard, selling a business and living comfortably while I continue to develop software and blog part-time.

I have a wonderfully supportive family, live in a rented house and drive a beat-up old four-wheel drive car to get around. I love hiking, teaching self-defense to kids, and visiting the gym to stay healthy.

However, don’t get me wrong…

I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve made a lot of money in the past, sold a business or two, owned a couple of expensive cars, an airplane, and bought (and sold) a few houses. But I haven’t let it go to my head and I’ve tried to invest wisely to live a relatively normal life and to make my money last.

I’m a husband, a father, and a grandfather. But most of all, I’m just a normal guy who made a few mistakes along the way and found ways to overcome them to keep moving forward.

I want you to know who I really am. This is my story…

A Deep Thinker?

This is a photo of me as a kid.

I’m pretty sure I was on the autism spectrum with mild Aspergers. If it wasn’t Aspergers, it must have been an unusual ability to focus on a single task at the expense of everything else.

Even today people comment on how I think about things differently to everyone else. They see this as one of my strongest assets. I just think I have the ability to look at things from different angles.

One thing is for certain; If I put my mind to something, I’m like a dog with a bone and I never give up!

Before my teenage years, I had an intense interest in Meccano and architectural drawing. My grandfather bought me a Meccano set for Christmas one year, and I was sold on the idea of collecting parts and plans for all the advanced models.

I was fairly sure I wanted to be an architect when I grew up and had a fascination with designing the inside of circular houses.

The designs always had everything you could ever wish for in the most elaborate homes. There was never enough room. With a cinema, bowling alley, indoor swimming pool, games room, lots of bedrooms and hidden rooms my designs quickly ran out of space.

If you can name it, my house layouts probably had it.

Bullied at School

Being a bit different to the rest of the kids meant I was constantly bullied. (Did I forget to mention that I hated school?)

If I could avoid going to school, I would. When I was really young, I used to hide in the overgrown fields near my house and sneak back home after my mum and dad had gone to work for the day.

Maybe I was bored, or maybe I was just always in trouble – but I don’t feel like I learned much until I got to high school.

I didn’t know it at the time, but being bullied would eventually give me the motivation to learn self-defense and to teach it to school children as an adult.

My First Computer (and electronics)

As I got older my interests turned from Meccano to old TV sets and electronics.

I used to unsolder components from old TV sets to try and make the circuits I found in old electronic magazines.

To be honest, I don’t understand why I’m still alive today. Digging around in the back of an old cathode-ray TV sets is not recommended if you don’t know what you’re doing, and I certainly got my fair share of bone-jolting electric shocks.

Getting hit by 1,000 volts was always a big wake up call.

I had a keen interest in how electronic circuits worked and like most kids from my generation, I made crystal radios and all sorts of other devices from electronic kits and the components I managed to salvage from broken TVs and radios.

A fortunate series of events in 1980 would change my life forever and set me on course to business success.

My parents asked my brother and me what we would like for Christmas. My brother really wanted a drum kit, and I was fascinated with computers.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents went into debt to buy us what we had chosen – for which I am eternally grateful.

My First Business

It didn’t take long before I started to write my own games and by the time I was 17, I had written my own word processor and sold it to my first customer.

I was convinced I wanted to be a software developer and never looked back.

Over the next few years, I wrote software for a huge range of industries. Some of the industries included managing car yards and selling cars, quantity surveying and estimating, accounting software, marketing, project management, debt factoring, and insurance underwriting (to name a few).

University always took a back seat and soon I dropped out to pursue my business interests.

Things didn’t always go as planned. On a couple of occasions, my income didn’t cover my living expenses. Having the electricity cut off while you are preparing Christmas dinner for family and friends is never a good look.

I quickly learned about budgeting and how ruthless the taxman can be. It took a couple of years of hard work to pay my overdue tax and to get things back on an even keel – but it was a lesson well learned.

A Simple Life

It wasn’t long after leaving University that one of my jobs meant that I ended up living in a Samoan village for three months.

Living off the land without modern amenities doesn’t suit everyone. If you’re not careful, you can quickly get sick and medical care is not always available. I was lucky to come out of the experience with a new understanding of minimalistic living and how little you really need to survive.

Married Life

After returning to New Zealand, I met a wonderful woman who was soon to be my wife.

I was overjoyed to find someone who could put up with the long hours, the volatility of being self-employed and my intensity and focus on succeeding.

Two Children

Our son was born in 1988 and our daughter was born a year and a half later. Bringing up a young family while you are running a startup business is a real challenge.

Looking back on things now, I realize how much of their childhood I missed. In hindsight, I wish I had spent more time with them in their impressionable early years.

I am a strong believer in nurture over nature. I think that if you can bring up your children to be sociable and surrounded with love, you can build a foundation that will help them overcome any obstacles thrown their way in later years.

Sometimes I think the emotional cost of running a startup business on a young family is far too high. The first 3 years of their lives are so important, and I wish I had spent more of this time with my kids.

A Successful Business Sale

Between 1991 and 2003 I spent every waking moment building a software business.

It started in the days when computer-based accounting software was relatively new, and the market opportunity was huge. Selling the software was easy and some days it felt like the business was printing money.

The business ended up huge (by New Zealand standards). It had tens of thousands of customers and more than 50% market share. I had managed to buy out my business partner at the end of 1999, and when I was approached by a major competitor in 2003, I was the sole owner. The payout was huge and I realized my dream of selling my first business and retiring early.

Retiring Early

Everyone says that retiring early is a dream come true.

However, the problem with retiring early was that my friends were still working and I had no-one to spend my newly discovered free time with.

When I got my chance to retire, I was only 38 years old.

I suddenly realized that most of my friends and associates had come from my business dealings. Once the business was sold, most of them continued with their busy lives and moved on with the new business owners. It took a long time to come to terms with this.

I had been so invested in the business that it had clouded my understanding of the difference between true friends and business colleagues.

To make things worse, my kids were both teenagers and starting to do their own thing.

My business had taken over my life for such a long time that I had missed the most informative years of my kids’ lives. Now I was free to spend time with them, they were getting ready to leave home and to start their own lives.

It seemed that even though I had achieved financial success, life was not as happy as I had hoped.

Depression

I’m fairly sure I lived on the verge of depression for the first two or three years after selling my business.

My Kindle became my new best friend.

Having never really been interested in reading fiction, I started to read every startup business book I could get my hands on.

I think I was beating myself up looking for the next big thing. I wanted to experience the rush of another huge success.

I really needed something I could throw myself into to pass the time and to be successful again. Most people never get to experience the big payout, and I was already searching for the next one. I wanted to create another vertical market software product to sell to the masses.

It took me a long time to understand that my accounting software business had been a success because of a unique set of circumstances, finding the right business partner, and perfect timing. (Postnote: Over the coming years, I would eventually experience several smaller wins and ending up selling three other small businesses)

For now, I was bitten by the success bug and was not ready to slow down and accept early retirement yet.

Fast Cars, Boats, Aeroplanes, and Houses

Where I couldn’t find fast business success, I more than compensated by learning how to fly, getting my boat skippers license, jumping out of planes and going on an extended overseas holiday.

My 6 seater airplane. I spent many hours travelling the country

My son and I in one of two Ferraris I would end up owning.

After splurging out on a couple of toys, I made sure I invested in assets that would stand the test of time. I wanted to make sure the money I had left would last my family through to retirement.

One of my proudest moments was when, more than 23 years after my parent went into debt to get me my first computer, I got the chance to pay them back and to make sure they are comfortable for the rest of their lives.

Re-Education

My first University degree would have been a BSc in Computer Science. Unfortunately, I dropped out before it was completed. So in 2007, I decided to go back to university to study biology, genetics, statistics and computer science. (No point doing things by half)

I loved university life! There’s nothing like eating a bowl of noodles in a cold courtyard late at night surrounded by friends studying for an exam.

As an adult student, I had a different outlook on life. Instead of playing cards and hanging out at the campus bar, I threw myself into my studies and I quickly became a straight A+ student.

I never did finish the degree (but that’s another story). However, I did learn an extremely valuable lesson from my time at University.

It was like a Eureka moment!

As an adult student, I found that a lot of students would gravitate toward me when they got stuck on their assignments or preparing for exams. My real-world math and computer science knowledge meant that I could tutor or mentor other students.

Suddenly (and unexpectantly) people were once again coming to me for help and advice. I had not experienced that feeling since selling my business.

For the first time in a few years, I felt useful again, people relied on me and came to me for help and advice.

I had finally discovered what I was missing in my life. I needed to focus on helping others. (In hindsight that’s what made my accounting software so successful – I just hadn’t recognized it. The software I had written helped business owners succeed)

Book writing

Turning my hand to book writing was always on my bucket list.

Fiction writing has always been a challenge for me. I guess my personality means I’m more of a “facts” type of guy. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to embellish a fiction story with enough narration to paint a scene or build emotions. I always wanted to write a science fiction book with a time travel theme. I haven’t been able to achieve my goal yet, but maybe I’ll get around to it one day.

In the meantime, I elected to write several non-fiction books.

Even though it took a lot longer than I thought, I knew I could achieve my goal with perseverance, and I soon ended up with two titles listed on Amazon and several others titles produced through self-publishing.

Tragedy Strikes – Loss of a Child

I remember the day like it was yesterday.

Nothing can ever prepare you for the loss of a child. My son was 23 years old and I never got to say goodbye to him. One minute he was here and the next minute he was gone forever.

Mark Davey : 26 July 1988 – 3 August 2011

Not only did it destroy me emotionally, but it also made me reconsider everything else happening in my life.

Two years earlier I had left university and ditched my degree to start a new business. I was traveling between New Zealand and Australia for two days every week. Without a doubt, the travel was tough on the family. The business was booming and I was making significant income – but now my son was gone and nothing really mattered anymore. My family had fallen apart and it felt like life was out of control.

Within three months, I walked away from my share of the business and left everything on the table.

I had decided that being away from my family every week was no longer worth it. It was time to reflect on life and to ensure my family came first.

Getting Fit

Losing a family member really makes you reflect on life.

Suddenly you become aware of your own mortality. You wonder what would happen if you were no longer here. Would the people you leave behind be able to cope and would everything be in order for them to carry on without you?

Years of working long hours had taken their toll on my general health and I decided that needed to change.

I made my wife a promise that I would do everything in my power to outlive her so she doesn’t have to deal with the turmoil of my death. It’s going to be a really tough challenge as she is two years younger than me and statistically 80% of women outlive their husbands.

My new mission in life was to get fit. Not just a little bit fit – but super fit!

Like most things in my life, my new goal received 100% of my attention (Remember that Asperger’s attribute?). Once again, when I set my mind to something, nothing would stop me from achieving my goal.

I started running, hiking and competing in sports events, marathons, tough mudder, boot camps, and cross fitness. On top of that, I lost 23kgs (50 pounds) and started healthy eating to reduce my cholesterol and blood pressure.

More recently I’ve taken up boxing, Muay Thai, MMA (all for fitness), rock climbing, and Self Defense training. I have qualified as a self-defense instructor, a REPS instructor, and an entry-level boxing instructor.

Not bad considering I’m in my mid 50’s and can outperform most of the people that are half my age in the gym.

Becoming a Grandfather

On 26 June 2015, I became a grandfather for the first time. It was one of the proudest moments in my life.

Lucas (age 3) and Grandpa (me)

Lucas has given me a new lease on life and made me even more determined to be around for as long as possible. He has an amazing sense of humor, loves me unconditionally and knows how to wrap his grandpa around his little finger.

Giving Back

For a long time, I wondered what the purpose of life was. I think I may have finally figured it out.

I noticed that I felt the happiest and most fulfilled when I was helping others. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you own or what you have in life.

It turns out that everyone is going through their own journey in life and many people are struggling to cope. I’ve made it my mission in life to always smile and say hello to people. You never know what they are going through and a simple smile can make someone’s day.

These days I donate my time to teach self-defense to children and to help others in the gym.

I no longer drive a Ferrari;- instead I drive a beat up old 4WD. I live in gym gear (other than when I have to work in an office).

My life is satisfying and full of joy. My wife and I go hiking almost every weekend. My daughter and I have a fantastic relationship.

Us at the top of Mt Ruapehu on a recent hike

We live for the day and try to live a simple life where friends, family, and love are more important than anything else.