My Business, My Prison

March 29, 2018

In my last piece, I gave you the outline of how we spotted a problem, solved that problem and turned that into a six-figure side hustle, a side-hustle that became my full-time focus in August 2017.

What I didn’t tell you is that the day I decided to leave my previous business, I felt like a free man again – a man who had escaped a prison, a lifestyle prison.

Until August 2017 I was lost. In the couple of years running up to that, I felt frustrated with my professional life and I didn’t know why.

After all, I was the co-founder of a successful design & digital agency that enjoyed being situated in a grand Victorian studio just a few minutes from my home in the North of England.

The business was prospering and we had a number of high-quality contracts that paid well and that I enjoyed working on.

But something wasn’t right and I didn’t know why. Heck, I didn’t know something was wrong for a long time.

Instead, I became antsier. I became short and snappy, I was quick to burst and slow to engage.

I was bored.

But more than that, I felt trapped.

The agency was winning wonderful design work across the globe, largely thanks to the efforts of our fantastic Creative Director Kyle Wilkinson, and I was responsible for the UK based digital division of the business.

Working with local authorities, regional tourism attractions, nationwide organisations looking to scale through software development and more, we were designing and creating solutions that worked for businesses and had real, tangible effects on their bottom line.

But it was a treadmill; a hamster wheel.

If I took my foot off the accelerator, the car slowly began to slow down and eventually began to meander side-to-side before risking hitting the central reservation.

I’d given myself a job.

And I didn’t want a job.

I’d quit my last job ten years earlier because I couldn’t abide the thought of other people telling me where to be, when and what I had to do when I got there.

But suddenly, working so hard in my business I felt the very same feelings.

Sounds like an easy fix right?

We’ve all read the books, so surely all I needed to do was to start to work on my business and not in my business.

The problem?

I was bored with the model.

No, I wasn’t bored with it. I was fucking sick of it.

I was sick and tired of having to pitch to potential clients and convince them that we were the right people for the job.

I was tired of our business being treated as a supplier and not a valued partner and I was tired, so fucking tired of the arrogance of 60-day net payment terms from companies who “support small business”.

We have a laugh, don't we.

Honestly, I thought that was that.

Those were the problems as I saw them and that’s what we needed to fix.

I was wrong.

Remember the hot dog story?

(If that’s a “no”, go and listen to the first three episodes of The 7-Minute Mentor)

The fact that I experienced such public shame and embarrassment at a young age which in turn led to me developing a huge discomfort with anyone that I don’t know or trust controlling any aspect of how I feel and conduct myself, plus that I’d spent my corporate years having my days dictated to me means that it was the control aspect of the agency that I had an issue with.

When I say “control” in this context, I don’t mean that I wanted to control the agency, we had a team of directors and a democracy in place that worked. Kinda.

No, I mean control in MY life.

My personal decisions. My limitations. My ability to do what I want to, when I want to.

The ability for me to control how I spent my days. Days that right then, were being spent on what was effectively a job.

In 2012, a series of unfortunate events occurred that I learned from, hard.

The effect of these events was this: the agency couldn’t pay its directors their monthly remuneration.

But I had a mortgage to pay. I HAD to take that money, didn’t I?

I was the ONE director with no option to not take that money out of a business that needed that money to stay within.


Because I’d built a lifestyle that completely relied on me being pedal-to-the-metal and that relied upon things moving along very nicely in order to meet my monthly obligations.

That month, I felt like shit.

I had caused resentment from my co-directors, I had put undue pressure on them and myself to take that payment and I had made an already difficult time, even more difficult.

I vowed never to feel like that again, just like I did on hot dog day.

Sounds great, right?

Sure it does. But mentally, I didn’t know where to go, what to do or even the first step to take.


Because every single version of that meant me working harder, faster, longer within the agency.

It meant running faster and faster and faster on the very same hamster wheel that was causing me to already be bored of the job that I’d created for myself.

I’d built myself a lifestyle prison. And I didn’t know how to escape it.

Lifestyle prison: the feeling of being trapped with no options because the very lifestyle that your business has allowed you to become accustomed to now imprisons you in what has become nothing more than a boring, unfulfilling job within that business and is something that you feel you cannot change for fear of severely disrupting your lifestyle and that of your family.

But I found a way out. I managed to escape and I’ve never been more fulfilled or happier in my entrepreneurial adventures.

I won't lie, it's not easy but if you're feeling like I did, then I need you to realise that there IS a way.

You can escape, you can prosper, you can flourish.

All without destroying the lifestyle that you’ve built for yourself and all whilst creating a new existence that you’re passionate about, that you get excited about again and that puts that fire back in to your belly – the same fire you felt when you started the very business that right now, has become no more than a job.

Ready to take the first step in escaping your lifestyle prison?

Don’t forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel!

Mark Asquith

That British podcast guy, Mark is co-founder of, the world's only growth-oriented podcast host. A Harvard, TEDx, Podcast Movement and Podfest speaker (amongst many more!), he's a wildly approachable Brit and Star Wars/DC Comics geek.

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