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Episode 14: ‘How freedom farmer David was able to enjoy a 9-week holiday with his family’

In this podcast I interview David Westbrook, a member of our very first Platinum Mastermind Program.

By following our proven system over the past 3 years, David is well on his way to achieving a ‘Freedom Farm’. He was recently able to ‘test the waters’ by enjoying a 9-week holiday with his wife and 3 young children.

David very kindly agreed to speak to the members of our newest program ‘Take Control’ and this podcast is a snippet of that interview.

Andrew: Firstly, mate, thank you for coming on and sharing a bit of your story. Just a bit of background, David and his wife Becky have been clients of ours for three years, they’re a part of what we call a ‘Platinum Mastermind Program’. He’s very much gone through this ‘Take Control’ journey and is very aware of the mindset required to not just make more money on the farm but also have more time with family.

I really wanted to bring Westy onto this as he’s got so much to offer because he’s done a lot of work on his mindset. He’s been able to set his business up so he can take a lot more time out with his family. He’s got a very inspirational story. He’s just been on a 9-week holiday with three young children.

Do you want to start by sharing a little bit more about you, what you farm, where you’re based? I wanted to dive in a little bit about what life was like for you before you made that commitment to ‘Take Control’.

Westy: We’re based on Kangaroo Island, which is an amazing place to farm. I came from a cropping farm on Yorke Peninsula. It wasn’t my cup of tea, so I decided I wanted to get into livestock.  I had absolutely no clue about any of it, I just jumped in really in 2010, and our first son was born in 2010.

Livestock farming on Kangaroo Island, life on Kangaroo Island and becoming a father all happened at the same time. Definitely, a steep learning curve. We probably went through that first 5-6 years just unconscious, really, just doing the day-to-day stuff.

We had some great people around us in the community that helped me understand livestock farming. There was a lot of things that I just didn’t know and wasn’t implementing, so I just didn’t have the freedom to do anything. People would ask me to go fishing or surfing and I just couldn’t do it. And obviously, just wasn’t having that family time.

Andrew: Yes. Let’s go back to that. I just wanted you to really share a bit more about this. Let’s keep it in line with this message of ‘Take Control’. Did you feel like you had control back there?

Westy: Funnily enough, I probably did, Andrew, because that was my mindset. I thought if I made a conscious effort to always be home at 5-5:30pm to have dinner with Becky and the kids. Then, make sure the batteries on the torch were good and go back out to work for 3-4 hours after dinner.

I believed I had control because that’s how I thought I had to operate. I was getting plenty of work done but just didn’t have any clarity on the next day or the future going forward. I definitely had that 2-hour bracket with the kids and Becky over dinner, which is what I thought was good. Eventually, I realised that’s not how it should operate.

Andrew: Let’s talk about that, too, because I’m assuming you got most of your experience or knowledge from your parents, correct? They teach you a certain way of what you need to do to be a successful farmer; which is work hard?

Westy: Absolutely, yes. I’ve put a lot of thought into this over the last few years, Andrew. Why is it that they had to work hard and we can actually reap the rewards a little bit, and delegate, plan and run a better business? Absolute credit to my parents and everyone that’s a bit older than me.

2010 was the start of good land prices. That’s given me the opportunity to make more profit definitely from the way that the commodities have gone and to be able to set up this ‘freedom lifestyle and a freedom business’.

That way of thinking of those older generations was not their fault by any means. That’s just how farming was. There wasn’t much money in farming. To be able to learn off of it and to be able to now adapt to what farming offers, and create an amazing business and amazing lifestyle is great because there’s not too many jobs out there that give you the freedom of a farm.

If you can get your mindset in the right spot and set up your system, set up your business, and your visions to allow yourself the money and the time to be able to actually live that life that you want.

Andrew: I want to drill into that a little bit deeper. Particularly, that word you just said before which is mindset. Particularly, starting with ‘Take Control of You’. I just want, from your perspective, to share how important it’s been for you to work on your mindset.

What are some of the shifts that you’ve had to make in your thinking to start reaping the rewards of, not only just increasing profitability on your farm, but also having extended holidays with family and taking a significant amount of time off.

I want to talk about the ‘how’. Some of the decisions you’ve made that have helped you set things up. I know you’ve employed people. Let’s just start with the mindset. How important has this been for you?

Westy: Massive, and through the tools that you’ve given us through programs like this, Andrew, it’s allowed me to actually have the mindset to do it. That comes back to mindset and allowing yourself to do it. I used to feel really guilty if I was in the office. Now I feel guilty if I’m out working after dinner.

That mindset of thinking I was proud of working hard in the dark with a head torch on; now I feel guilty doing that. I feel prouder if I’m in the office doing those more important jobs. It’s allowing that mindset to say “Right, I can do this. This is my vision, and I’ll make that work”.

Andrew: I completely understand, from a business owner perspective, this guilt that comes when we’re not working. This feeling that in order to get ahead, I have to work harder. How did you start changing that mindset to “You know what? I’m allowed to have more time out with my family. I’m allowed to work less and work smarter as opposed to harder”?

Westy: It comes back to your belief. If your belief is that you need to be in the sheep yards drenching sheep or on the track ploughing paddocks and you believe that its wasting your time being in the office, it was definitely a massive challenge for us to overcome that.

Through what you’ve taught us and slowly, gradually, building that belief to be able to say “Okay, actually, I can live the life that I want. I can work out a plan to fill in the gaps that I can’t be doing”.

Another big struggle for me was getting my workmen to move sheep or to drench sheep or plan shearing whilst I was in the office marketing lambs or writing my 10-year business plan, which initially, I felt really guilty doing.  He was out doing the labour and I was inside having a cup of coffee with my feet up on the computer. It’s a hard mindset to get your head around.

The best way for me for that that scenario was to get him clear on my business values and our business direction. Then he understood how important it is for me to be in here, and for him to be outside making sure those sheep are in good health and that all those other general day-to-day jobs are getting done.

Andrew: When you use the word ‘belief’ do you find that you needed to believe that you could take time out with your family before you actually did it?

Westy: Yes, absolutely. Initially we had planned four weeks to go away and do the Red Centre and then come back. It then turned out that we needed to be on the Sunshine Coast and a week or two after that, we needed to be on the Gold Coast. I just thought, “why don’t we just extend it, we’ll take the caravan and the car, and we’ll keep going from the Red Centre.”

I had absolutely no idea how that was going to happen, but I had belief that I could make it happen. I just had to let go of control of the farm and stop my mind from thinking “I need to be on the farm because we’re lambing; we’ve had a late start and pasture’s going to be tight; and everything needs to be implemented perfectly”.

Once I’d controlled my thoughts, I had the belief that it could work. That was step one.

Andrew: I want to talk about that a bit deeper because as a coach working with clients outside of farming, the first stage is ‘if you don’t believe something can happen it never will’. You’ve got to at least entertain the idea that something’s possible.

There’s that great saying that ‘some people need to see and they’ll believe, but successful people get that they first need to believe, and then they’ll see’.

So, you had to change your mindset from “I have to be doing everything” to “maybe it’s possible that I can actually improve the profitability of my business and work less”, correct?

Westy: Yes, absolutely. When we first learnt that concept through yourself and Greg, it was very hard to get your head around. How can you pay someone to do your fencing? How can you pay someone to do your landmarking etc and still make more money? It didn’t make sense, but when you actually free up that time to make better decisions, our business completely changed.

Three years down the track, I’m working a lot less and profiting a lot more.

Andrew: That is a big breakthrough that I believe business owners need to reach. It’s quite extraordinary and very hard to get your head around, but often the lesser you work, the more you can make.

I want to come back to the conversation that you and I have regularly around, I call it ‘vibration’.  A certain energy that we’re giving off and when you’re giving off a good energy, good things seem to happen. When you’re giving off a negative energy, bad things seem to happen. I’m sure you can relate.

So, when you’re working really hard, and you’re not spending any time with your family and you’re stressed, what sort of energy can you be giving off?

Westy: Poor energy, and then that’s when things start to go wrong, sheep get mixed up, gates get left open. All those sorts of things. A lot of them are based around your energy. I think you talked about morning rituals in the webinar, didn’t you, Andrew?

Andrew: Totally, one of the main things that creates the fastest change in you is implementing a morning routine. Let’s just talk a bit about yours. What are some of the things that you’ve changed to start that morning in a positive frame?

Westy: Getting back to your vibration there, my morning routine has a massive impact on the vibration that I give throughout the day and how my day unfolds. For example, we’re all human, we all have lapses in the structure in our life.

When morning routines don’t happen for me, for whatever reason, I just feel “something’s not right here”.  But when I get back to my morning routine it all starts to fall back into place for me.

Your morning routine has to have that structure; you have to have it on paper. You can’t just set your alarm and say “right, I’m going to get up and do a morning routine” if it’s not written down its an excuse to just press the snooze button on your alarm. You have to be clear when you get out of bed, be clear on what your objectives are.

Basically, I get up early. We’ve got kids and sometimes it changes, but usually 5.30-6am rise. Firstly, I’ll make sure I’m hydrated so I get up and have some water. Then I’ll journal; I’ll go through my to-do list and match that up on my calendar; I plan my day and then I’ll go out to the shed and make sure I spend 30-45 minutes in the gym.

There’s so much science behind morning exercise to set yourself up for a great day. I think it’s Tim Ferriss or Tony Robbins who says “If you win your mornings, you win your day”.

Andrew: I think there’s a direct correlation between your motivation for exercise and your motivation for life and business. I personally find that if I rate my exercise out of 100, often my motivation for work matches that number. If I’m a 50 out of 100, I also have just 50% motivation for work, because exercise gets the blood moving, gets us pumped, gets everything happening. It’s so easy to use the excuse “Well I’ve got three young kids” or “I don’t have enough time, I’m too busy.”

How do you find the time and what have you done to set things up so you can exercise? You’re working on an isolated farm; how do you do this? How often do you exercise? I know you’ve been traveling for the last nine weeks, but in general, how you do it?

Westy: I would exercise pretty much 7-days a week, but that’s not all physical exercise. A lot of that is yoga or stretching. At the moment, just to frame it up, I’ll do 3-days cardio, 2-days strength, and the other two days it could just be taking the dogs for a jog; 6:30am just a 10-minute jog down the laneway and I come back feeling pretty amazing. Fitness-wise, it’s not much, but it’s giving you the mindset and energy to get through the day.

To create that time initially, our kids used to wake early, so I used to take in turns with my wife. Our morning rituals would be one day on, one day off. I would get up with the kids while she went in the gym and did her journaling, etc. Then the next day would be my turn. That was one way of getting through it when our kids were younger, but now our kids can get themselves out of bed. They’re happy to go down to the lounge room and play with their toys for half an hour. Basically, 7am is when we start cooking breakfast and getting organised for school. We make sure the kids know that before 7am is their own time and we know that our morning rituals are done and dusted by 7am.

Andrew: If I was to take away your exercise, if I was to take away your morning routine, if I was to take away the time that you’ve been spending with your family what would your energy levels be like?

Westy: I’d be very drained. You end up being the mouse on the wheel or chasing your tail and not really getting anywhere. You might feel like you are, but you don’t have the time to step back and look into your life from a distance and see where you’re going wrong and where you’re going right.

Andrew: In your experience, work on yourself has to come first, correct? You’ve learnt this has to become the highest priority?

Westy: Absolutely, yes. You might think it’s hard to get up at 6am and go to the gym, but it’s a lot easier to get up at 6am than crawl out of bed and go through a day without having the exercise under your belt. That’s been my key. Even Becky, she’s always been a healthy person but she’s never exercised daily. Now she’s doing that, she absolutely loves the benefits of it. Once you start, you can’t stop.

Andrew: Would you say compared to the person you were 3-years ago, you’re happier now?

Westy: Absolutely, yes.

Andrew: Would you say you’re a more confident person?

Westy: Absolutely, yes.

Andrew: Would you say that you’ve got way more belief in your abilities when it comes to growing a successful career?

Westy: Yes, and that comes back to confidence. Confidence and belief are your two biggest drivers really. When you’re happy and healthy, you’re unstoppable.

Andrew: The reason I wanted to interview you is because Westy is also one of the coaches that works with us in our Farm Owners Academy program. The reason we’ve chosen Westy is because he implements. He hears what we teach and rather than ‘ums and ahs’ about it, he just implements it.

That’s one of the biggest takeaways for this program is we don’t want you just listening to this stuff, we want you to, actually, give it a go and see what happens

Westy, it’s not like you can start training, and then the next day everything changes. There’s quite a delay from working on yourself to when you start reaping the rewards. Would that be a fair call?

Westy: Absolutely. There’s 60 days or something to be able to create a habit. For example, there’s been a few people in our group that had some habits they wanted to change, whether it was stop drinking coffee or start exercise in the mornings. It’s making sure you get those 50 to 60 days under your belt so it just becomes normal to you.

Journaling was a big one for me. Journaling was something you opened me up to. I didn’t understand the benefits of it, initially. But people like Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Michael Jordan, all the superstars in the world, they all journal.

That was my biggest eye opener to say “If they’re journaling there’s obviously a reason to do it”, that’s why I stuck at it and eventually it cracked for me, it was just a lightbulb moment. It’s not just journaling, it’s everything.

That initial period is the hardest bit. That’s where we fall into the trap of “It’s too hard; Nothing’s happening, Not getting results”. They shut the door on it, rather than just persisting. Then all of a sudden, it becomes easy.

Andrew: I think it’s like the farming analogy of you plant a seed. You need to water the seed and have the patience for it to grow. I think that’s the key thing, a lot of people might start planning a week. They do it for two or three weeks. They think “Nothing’s happening” and they quit. Then, unfortunately, that seed dies, but if you persist, the breakthrough seems to come three months down the track. That’s when you really reap the rewards of working on yourself.

Westy, I really want to talk about this nine-week holiday, which in many people’s worlds would be just like “How do you do that? How do you take 9-weeks off and pack up the family and off you go?” Of course, it’s not something that three years ago you could have dropped in two weeks later. This did need some work. This did need some planning. This did need your business to get to a certain level to enable you to do that.

Let’s just talk a little bit more about that. What was some of the work you had to do to make that happen? You’ve obviously worked on the mindset. You had to plan that trip in to make it happen. I’m assuming there was a lot of fear around “Can I really take that time out”?

Westy: Absolutely. Fear is the biggest one.

Andrew: Yes, and then a lot of questioning going on “I probably shouldn’t. It’s bad” or whatever that thought process is that challenges you on it. What are some of the things that you had to put in place that gave you more peace of mind to take that trip?

Westy: We obviously talked about it earlier, the belief. The belief of being able to do it, and we didn’t exactly know the how. This trip was actually planned about three years ago, just not down to the finer details. It was a vision for us and then we needed to work out what those steps were to get there. To be able to create the freedom to be able to do it.

When we first started 3-years ago, I was running this farm on my own and working two and a half labour units which was quite embarrassing when those figures come out and we had to put them up on the big screen in front of the rest of the group!

Then I needed to work out the scale of my business to be able to set up the freedom business and all the little one percenters that had to be put in place. I couldn’t afford to go out and put a full-time workman on. What I did is I manifested, in a way, a part-time workman and got clear on what I needed him to do, and how it was going to work out, and then that fell into place. I found a local guy that could do three days a week for me which was perfect.

He worked for me for a couple of years, then I needed to take the next step. We up-sized our business labour-wise to be able to get to a full-time workman which, for me, was downsizing my cattle enterprise and increasing my sheep numbers. These is just a few of the little things that had to happen along the way. This was getting the scale right to be able to afford a full-time workman.

Then that was just the perfect balance. He’d been working for me four months before I set him up for us to go away. He wasn’t a highly skilled technical farmer, but a good, passionate farmer with good stock skills is what I needed. Then everything else had to get into place, got your shearing times, you had lamb-marking times, you had ram-joining times, all those business structures throughout your yearly calendar, you could just simplify.

You don’t want to have five different enterprises happening, so we simplified. We went to a more of a meat, a prime lamb enterprise…

Andrew: You focused.

Westy: …and ran bigger mobs was one of the things to allow us simplify. Some fencing, new sheep yards, sheep handlers, all these sorts of things that had to come into place for him to be able to manage a farm on his own.

Andrew: Then, of course, the learning of the skills on how to induct and train this farmer on what you needed him to do, so you had the confidence to let that farmer get on with the job. Would that be a fair call?

Westy: Yes, definitely. For me to have a clear 10-year plan, broken down to a 3-year, 1-year, and then 90-day plan on paper, that I could show him to give him a clear vision of where we were going. Then, obviously, the systems that go into place around that.

Andrew: So, you’re traveling around Australia… How did you find the confidence that you’ve got a guy back on the farm handling things while you’re away? You’d agree with me that without that Westy, people won’t do it. They have too much fear to step away?

Westy: Yes, absolutely. It was definitely something I had to work through. Having the confidence to let myself go from the farm was a big challenge. It took a good couple of weeks into my holiday. Basically, I had all the systems in place and we’d obviously walked through it before I left. We touched base once a week just to make sure he was on track, but probably three weeks in, I just instantly noticed a big relief. I just let go.

I told him “Ring me if you’ve got any troubles”. The one time I heard from him was just to reassure me that everything was good; it was raining and dams were filling up and the sheep were good”. It was believing in him and believing in myself that I’d put the systems in place for him to implement it. He had some pretty significant roles. He had to set up all their lambing paddocks and all our ewes were still on grain, still sup-feeding by that time. He had to divide all them up, and put them out into all their lambing paddocks and make decisions on pasture management.

The first couple of weeks, I was going to bed worrying “what if he’s got sheep on 500 kilos a hectare and they need to be on 1500 kilos a hectare with twin bearing ewes?” and all that sort of stuff. But in the end, I just completely let it go. I really enjoyed my holiday and started getting clarity on some other ideas and some other thoughts.

The great reward was to come home and drive around the farm and see that everything he had done was pretty much better than what I would have done. All the pastures were amazing. The sheep were in amazing health. We actually broke records this year with our lamb-marking percentages, through what he had implemented while I was away.

Andrew: Wow, I mean it’s a great story. Greg, do you have any comments right now around this mindset or questions for Westy?

Greg: Yes, thank you very much. Good day, everybody. Nice to be on the call.

Westy’s story is a fantastic story. When I first started working with David a number of years ago, he was flogging himself as most young farmers do. He came from a position where he believed that the way to get ahead was to work yourself into the ground. I come from that background as well. I know exactly what it’s like; and to see the transformation in him and Becky and his family.

When David & Becky started with Farm Owners Academy, one of Becky’s issues was that he just wasn’t spending enough time with the family. Good on him for at least coming home to have dinner with them, but she wanted more than that, obviously. Young family, she needed support. She needed time for herself away from the family, so that she could refresh her mind and so forth.

To watch the transformation from where he was at 3-4 years ago to where he’s at now is quite mind-blowing really. It’s just come on the back of having a much better understanding of what he’s doing, what’s driving the productivity and profitability in his business, understanding which levers to pull and really having the confidence and the mindset to move forward and pursue the type of business that he wants.

He wants a business that’s not reliant on him being there all the time. So, if you want to create that type of business you have to make it a priority. You have to do the things that need to be done to allow that outcome to manifest. If you just say it and don’t take action towards making it happen, then it never will happen.

Andrew: It’s so much about firstly, making the decision and believing that it’s possible. Correct, Greg? If you don’t make the decision or believe it’s possible you’ll never do it.

Greg: Absolutely, you have to believe that you can do it. A classic example, 10 years ago, my whole mindset and target around my veterinary business was to gross a million dollars. I kept telling myself “if I can gross a million dollars, then I’ll be happy. I can retire and I’ll be happy. That’s what I want to achieve.” I had a radical change in my own thinking and my own vision about what was possible. I’m in the business now, grossing over three times that much.

It all comes from just changing the way that you view the world, and you view your capability and understand what it is that you actually can do. We all tend to put limits on ourselves. We have limiting beliefs in terms of what we think we can achieve, and what we think we are capable of doing, and what we think we deserve. Those things do hold us back in a lot of spaces.

Dave, just thinking back now, how would you feel if you had to go back to the way it was three, four years ago?

Westy: Stress. That’s what it was, it was stress but you don’t realise it at the time, you just think that’s what life is. You don’t realise that there’s a better and easier way of doing it. It’s just letting yourself; allowing and actually believing you are capable of that.

I remember right back in the early days, Greg, some of things that you and Andrew were saying we should be doing. I was thinking “well, imagine how good that would be” but I just couldn’t see it happening. That’s now what day-to-day life is for us.

Greg: Just to be clear about that, you’d would probably never allow yourself to go back to the way it was, would you?

Westy: No. When things do go wrong or you are busy or something doesn’t happen the way it should, then you’ve got to take responsibility. We create our own reality, so everything that goes wrong – your truck breaks down, or you get a flat tyre or your sheep get out because your fence is not quite right; you have to take responsibility for all of those things and work out the solution. There’s got to be a better way of doing it.

For example, if you’re busy, you’ve got to take responsibility for being busy. Maybe your business is too complex. Maybe you need to simplify. Maybe you need to bring in extra help.

There’s always an answer. It always comes back to not blaming others. Blame yourself, and then work out why it’s not happening like it should.

Greg: What you raised there is great, let’s bring it back to the seasons. Obviously, quite a few people that are on the call here might be experiencing drought or less than average seasonal conditions.

Bottom line is there’s nothing you can do about that. That’s what it is. That’s the environment that you’re working in. The environment isn’t always perfect. All you can do is the best you possibly can. It’s the decisions you make. It’s the mindset you have and the decisions you make when times are tough that actually define who you are as a business owner.

Anyone can run a business when it’s going well. When everything’s fine, it’s easy to run a business, but it’s when things get tough, when things happen that are out of left field that’s what really defines who are very good at running a business and who aren’t.

Westy: Absolutely. I discovered that last year. We’ve never been through a drought, but we had a really late start. We actually started lambing ewes in July on dirt before our opening rain. There’s two ways I could have looked at that. This is where I really noticed my mindset had changed. I could have got stressed everyday feeding sheep grain and having skinny ewes and lambs on dirt. The massive positive for me, it gave me an opportunity to speak to other people around Australia. I made an emphasis to call people around Australia that had been through this before and learn what ways to handle it. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about how to handle stock in tough situations which is a massive positive for me out of a negative situation.

Can I just touch on a couple of things that might help as well? Probably one of the fundamental beginnings for me that freed up time was actually writing down what was in my head. I’d go to bed with a job list in my head, but one day I just wrote down everything because I thought I had so much to get done before shearing came. When I got all those jobs out on paper, I just crossed off all the ones that weren’t important. I thought I had to get all these jobs done, but in reality, they could be done next week, or even next year. There were things I thought had to happen like putting a fence up to make a big paddock, split it in half. That can happen in 10 years’ time. Yes, it’s an advantage and beneficial, but it doesn’t have to happen tomorrow. I didn’t see that until I put all the jobs that were in my head on paper.

The other one was just being super clear on what we want. What do we want to be doing? How much time do we want to spend with our families? What jobs do we want to be doing on the farm? I could walk off the farm tomorrow and never have to do a day’s work. I could bring in another employee and completely set it up, so I don’t have to work on it but that’s not really what I want. It’s getting clear on what we want to be doing on our farms. If we want to be doing those labour jobs, we’ll make sure we’re doing them first.

Understanding what we want to do personal-wise and business-wise and making sure if you picture them on a see-saw that they’re working together, making sure they’re level and your business isn’t outweighing your personal life.

If something is happening in your business that’s having implications on how much time you get to spend with your family you need to work out what that is and adjust it, so then you can get that balance right.


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