The founder and host of Screw The Naysayers Podcast, Tim Alison, joins Patrick Veroneau in this episode to share his life’s story and talk about his legacy project. As he aged, Tim realized the most important things in life, and he talks about them in detail here. Learn why it’s important to have the courage to live the life you want and have no regrets in your later years. Know the signals you need to watch out for that triggers opportunities for you to make significant changes in your life. He also gives a reminder on how to use your time wisely in figuring out what’s important to you and gives some amazing life tips on what to expect when you put in the time and effort with good intent.
Listen to the podcast here:
Tim Alison Discusses Why You Need To Screw The Naysayers
If you’ve ever had somebody around that’s told you that you can’t do something or maybe he has said it about yourself that you talk yourself out of doing something, then this episode is for you. I had the great honor of interviewing a friend and a mentor of mine, Tim Alison, who hosts a wildly successful podcast called Screw The Naysayers. Before that, he had several other successful businesses. What we’re going to talk about is how to get over either our own negative self-talk or this negative self-talk that somebody puts in our head about why we can’t do something. If ever there was a time, if you want it to make a shift, this may be it.
Tim, I want to thank you for being on the show. In the amount of time that I’ve known you, I’ve gained so much respect for you and you’ve been a mentor to me on many levels. To have you on as a guest with the environment that we’re in is important. I was hoping you could talk about your journey, where you started out and how you’ve gotten to where you are because there’s a lot in there that I think a lot of people could gain value from.
First of all, Patrick thanks for having me on. It’s an honor to be here. I guess most people tend to think of my story starting in my late twenties. I was doing what a lot of people were doing at the time that was chasing the bell at the top of the corporate ladder or whatever is hanging in there as hard as I was. I was successful from the outside looking in the poster trial for what success was supposed to look like for people of my generation. At the age of 31, I was in the top 2% of wagers in the country. On the surface, I had everything I’d set out to get.
I was married. I had two kids. I had a house backing onto a park in the City of Toronto and when you have income in Toronto, it’s a wonderful buzz then but it was a wonderful place to live but I was miserable. I no longer blame it on the job. It was my inability to manage the job. I take all the ownership. There are a lot of people that did well and excelled in those kinds of jobs but I couldn’t balance it all. I was still learning how to be a husband, a father, and everything else. At the same time, I was trying to kick ass and I was so driven to be at the top of the heap and to move up as fast as I can.
Long story short, I quit. Not only did I quit but my wife and I, and our two kids moved from Toronto up to a little rural fishing village in Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s a tiny little community where my wife has roots that go back on 250 years. Back in 1988, these hands were not a guarantee of much business success because mostly everybody was working on fishing boats and many still. That’s still our primary income around here or in the woods or in construction. Men had a good solid blue-collar, hard work and jobs and I have a world of respect for everybody who does those jobs and my friends are living around here, but it wasn’t for me. I started an educational software company.
I remember clearly this conversation where I went to meet with the economic development officer for the province of Nova Scotia. I drove up to Halifax, which was a three-hour drive. I sat down with him and I explained what I was planning to do and that I was going to start this company in this little fishing village. We were going to sell software and he leaned back in his recliner, he crossed his arms, he shook his head and these are his exact words. He said, “Your business will never succeed in that community.” This guy was getting paid to encourage economic development in the province. We did okay and I’ve been here for many years. I’m self-employed every single year.
You’re being modest in terms of you did okay. How okay did you do?The only thing we regret as we get older is the things we didn't try. Click To Tweet
We had about $10 million in sales. It took us about 4 or 5 years to hit the seven-digit line and then from there it ran quickly. We did that for eighteen years. It’s like a lot of industries. Here’s one of the things that people don’t think about as entrepreneurs, sometimes businesses run their cycle and I had caught a niche. I was right in the early days of computer-based training. By the early 2000s, it was going through quite a change and massive publishers. People like Pearson Publishing would buy Simon & Schuster, who would then buy all these software companies, mostly with the intent of closing them because they didn’t like the competition that all of the software was bringing to the industry. The technology was changing so fast that I remember building the last product that we created and I had co-produced it with Houghton Mifflin publishing company. I sold it to them for not a whole lot of money at that stage, but we’d had an amazing eighteen-year run and at that time our kids where either out of the university or off to college. I’m on my fourth business and in this day and age would screw the naysayers.
You mentioned at least your first example of a naysayer when you went official from economic development. What was that like leaving there because I think that’s an important lesson for people?
I’m always cautious at this stage when I’m thinking back that many years to make sure I’m not just remembering what I want to remember as opposed to what happened. It does happen. I’m upfront to acknowledge it, but honestly, it bounces off me. I thought you don’t know what you’re talking about. I did not have a clear vision and I know that everybody will say, “You got to have the vision to know exactly where you’re going.” I didn’t have a clue. What I knew was that I was good at sales. I knew that for my time, I was one of the most well-informed people in Canada when it came to educational technologies, not in terms of building it but when I saw educational technology, I could tell you what was good about it, what could be improved, what needed to be improved or if it was crap. I had built a lot of relationships.
I did that on the one side. I was confident in my ability to do something and then the flip side was that we were so determined. My vision in those days was about my family and it was about that we’re not getting dragged out of this community. This is where we want to live. We built our house. It’s on the land that had been in the family forever and that was my determination. If you’d have asked me in those early days, what was my business going to look like or if it suggested to me that I would end up selling $10 million worth of software in an education marketplace, I would’ve said you’re crazy. I started the business selling the corporations and helping them set up. Back in those days, they were called information centers. They put on computers to teach their staff how to use computers for the most part. That’s the way the technology started. I ended up doing okay there but I made all my serious money in the field of adult literacy education, literacy numeracy education for selling to schools, colleges, and nonprofits.
You have a quote on your website, Screw the Naysayers that says, “Know the life you want and have the courage to live it.”
That came to my mind in about 2005 when I was writing my first book. It did sum up the message that I had then, and I still have for everybody that’s out there in particular young people, but I’m realizing now it applies to all ages, whatever your belief system is. Most of us believe that at least on planet earth here, we’re getting one trip through. There are certainly others that have different views, but I think it’s such a shame if we don’t go for the things that we want. I think about how my life changed when we decided that we were going to come down here and moved to Nova Scotia and the friendships that I made. There’s no sign of humanity out of this window.
There’re no power lines or anything. Even now, many of our young people leave these communities and it’s true in every rural community. They’re leaving not because they want to leave the community, but because they don’t think they can get the economic opportunity. Whereas my goals in the early days were centered on solidifying my family’s ability to stay. I’d say within about 4 or 5 years, my vision had evolved to my purpose, which was about inspiring and educating other people on the fact that you don’t have to move to accommodate somebody else’s vision of what success should look like. For some people that means moving to a different community, it might be in a different career. It might be getting the perspective that you need to prosper in your current career.
Whatever age you are, try now. At my age, there’s a study on happiness that I wish everybody would have a look at it. It’s from a lady named Jennifer Aaker and she’s a psychologist at Stanford University and she had identified five stages of happiness. She did it based on her research team. They went out and they studied millions of blogs and things that were in the public domain. They searched for words that were associated with happiness, sadness, and those kinds of things. They looked at ages and stuff like that and what she identified were five stages that everybody moves through at different paces and at different times.
The fifth one, which is the last one. I’m old enough and I filter into that stage. I pulled myself back. The last stage is savoring. That’s when we start to look in the rear-view mirror and we think about the life we’ve lived and we start asking, “Did we do the things that we want to do?” What I can tell you now is I’ve had failures. Everybody has lived life and had failures. I’ve had a life of taking a lot of risks and things like that. I don’t even think about them when I look in the rear-view mirror. I’m largely satisfied because what I look at, I see that there were things that I wanted and we when we went for it, but there are a lot of awful people my age and older.
They’re now looking back and say, “I stuck at something that I wasn’t enjoying.” “I was afraid to try something because I couldn’t convince myself that it was possible. I refuse to believe in the possibilities.” People regret it. The only thing we regret as we get older is the things we didn’t try. Nobody will tell you that they regretted trying something that didn’t work out. It’s been my mantra for years or probably my whole life. That’s the purpose behind Screw the Naysayers and everything that I do these days.
You may have heard of this as well as a book that was published and it was The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. It was a woman that had started a blog that was a hospice worker. What she did was she was interviewing people as she was going around in their homes and asking them, “What are the things that you wished you had done?” One of them is I wish I had taken more risks when I was younger. I think it’s Les Brown that I heard him say once that most people die in their 20s or 30s, but they’re not buried until they’re in their 70s.
Just think of the number of people that we know who are 40 years old and already counting down the days to retirement and saying, “I can’t quit the job.” Here’s the thing that happens, especially for people but I’m not telling everybody that works in a corporate job that you’re stupid. People make their own choices. What I observe in the corporate space is that people get to a certain stage and in the early days, were motivated by promotions, by progression and by increasing our salary. It’s all external based things but they are achievements and they are enough even if we’re not enjoying the job.
A lot of people wake up in their late 30s or early 40s and that pyramid in the organization has gotten awfully small. All of a sudden, there aren’t any more progressions there for them or they’re not willing to do what you would require in order to get to that next stage. Now you’re sitting there saying, “I’m making $200,000. I got all these bills. I have my pension tied up here. I can’t.” You can. You might not like the short-term consequences, but if you write that out for another 25 years, you’re not going to like that anymore. You are liking in a lot less, once you get to that age.
You know some of this story from the work that we had done was worked in an environment that was much around in the biotech industry that many people were financially making multiple six-figure incomes. The majority of them are unhappy with what they’re doing, but feel as though, “What do I do? I don’t know what else to do and financially, where am I going to go that’s going to provide me with this type of security?” It was difficult on one level to step away from that and on the other end knowing, “I’m never going to be happy if I stay in this world.”Know the life you want and have the courage to live it. It's such a shame if we don't actually go for the things that we really want. Click To Tweet
It’s the same thing for me. In 1988, 31-year-old kids didn’t quit. I was in the top 2% of wage earners in the entire country in those days. I hesitate to say this, but I’ll put it in perspective. In today’s dollars, I would have been making about $375,000 a year as a 31-year-old kid. People didn’t quit those things and I’m not saying that was easy. What I will say in hindsight is there are some things that you simply cannot put a price on like time with your family and your mental health. I talked to people on my show all the time and you do it too or we meet them elsewhere. It’s a recipe for heart attack. It’s a recipe for divorce. For a lot of people, it takes that infrastructure rattling event. I know what’s going on now isn’t going to get fixed real fast. Big infrastructure, rattling events, is so hard for us to see it at the moment. They present the biggest opportunities for us to make significant changes in our life.
When I look at the people that I’ve had on my show like Marcus Aurelius Anderson, he was preparing to go overseas with the US Infantry and had a training accident. He spent his 40th birthday in the hospital, paralyzed from the waist down, divorced, broke, had died twice on the operating table and the doctor said to him, “You’ll never walk again.” That guy is now going across the country, he’s one of the most inspirational, informative speakers you could ever get in a room. He studies martial arts under one of Bruce Lee’s disciples. He’s mobile and moving around and all these things. We see these big examples. I’m concerned a bit. I think people need to realize that it’s not the superheroes that can do this. Every day, people are making these kinds of changes all the time. I do also know that when you get to 40, 50 or 60, when we look in the rear-view mirror and start thinking about what’s gone on and the pivotal moments, if somebody says, “What was the pivotal moment, Patrick?”
Most of the time we’re going to point at something which at the time we wanted to wish away. I’m sure Marcus would have given anything not to have been in that accident. Now he’s written a book called The Gift of Adversity and says it’s the best because it woke him up and he said, “I’ve wasted 40 years of my life.” This is a guy who was serving in the US Military and taking on some dangerous missions and I’m thinking, “That’s not wasted.” He says, “You don’t get it. I was going through life, taking things for granted. I wasn’t JT McCormick would say that when he lost his first million that I realized that I was becoming like my father. I wasn’t respecting the people around me and all these kinds of things.” I hear these things over and over again. Take control of it yourself or the universe is likely going to do one of two things for you, either kill your spirit or cause something bad to happen. I was talking to Jack Canfield, Chicken Soup for the Soul and he was saying, “Stop looking at the challenge, look at the opportunities.” Mark Victor Hansen, who is the co-writer of that series with Jack. This guy’s got a lot of credibility.
He’s done some incredibly amazing things aside from co-authoring books that have sold 500 million copies, but he says the twenties are going to make the roaring twenties from 1900, the last century that people hear look like nothing. He feels that with the technological advancements that are there, that we’re sitting on the cusp as hard as it is to see some of the biggest innovations and the biggest positive change that mankind’s ever seen. If we’re at home and we’ve got time if we take this chance to ask the question, “What’s going on right now? What problems are existing in this world that I would do I care about? How can I help somebody solve that problem?” Now you might be helping them solve it for free or whatever. It doesn’t matter in the short-term unless you’re starving. The opportunities are there. It’s mentally tough and I get it. The mindset’s always been important but I think now more than ever, the people that can focus the next ten years, as long as we come out of this with our family and loved ones, healthy and safe, we know some won’t and I never would minimize that. The rest of us can’t live in fear. Dig because there’s something there.
It makes me think of a couple of different things. One is we are at historic levels in terms of unemployment because of this. Many of those jobs may not return and it is an opportunity for people to reflect and say, “What do I want the next chapter of this to be?” I’m a firm believer in what you talk about. One of the episodes that I did, which was a solo episode, I talked about the three deaths in my life that I continue to learn from. That was the death of my parents at a young age, the death of a marriage, and the death of a career. Each one of those things in their own places, I would not want to revisit any one of those, but I wouldn’t be who I am now if it wasn’t for all three of those.
It’s going to be the same for everybody. There are going to be these moments for younger generations 30 and under, this is the first time you’ve ever been presented with this global opportunity. When I hear people say it’s unprecedented, it is. This rapid unemployment hasn’t been seen since the depression, but it’s not unprecedented. It did happen in the oppression. I was in the Royal Bank Tower, which is the largest bank in Canada on a Black Monday in 1987 prior to was the single biggest drop in the Dow Jones, the TSX, and all the major exchanges in a single day. If that office tower’s window were open that day, people would have been jumping out like they did a night 1929. We lived through 9/11. We lived through the Dot-com crash. We’ve lived through the 2008 financial crisis. It feels by scope bigger.
I know that we’ve seen massive changes and massive problems before. Out of every one of those changes, we’ve seen people prosper. The choice people have to make is a choice. Are you going to spend your time binge-watching Netflix, drowning your sorrows in a bottle, or whatever your source of inspiration or that failed attempt at inspiration? Are you going to use the time to reflect, use our time alone a bit to figure out what’s important to us? Look around us as well. I think there’s going to be lots of opportunities for local businesses. Everybody’s focused on building these global empires. I don’t know this is going to come to a sense of community and figure out what people are going to want to change and even around employment.
One thing I would also add, like some of those jobs may not exist. I got a newsflash for a lot of employers. There’s a whole lot of employees that aren’t going to want to come back. There’s a whole lot of employees that have been doing their work at home who are going to say, “I don’t mind if you want to let me keep doing this and wearing my casual clothes and all that. If you want me to do the two-hour commute every day and report for duty and salute you, then no.” It’s going to be a big change. It’s going to come at a pace that we need to be ready mentally and physically.
It reminds me of a quote Abraham Lincoln once said, “One can succeed is evidence that it’s available to all of them.”
I keep bringing on all these inspiring guests but there’s such a tendency in society to say, “That’s Jack Canfield.” Jack came from nothing. His parents are long gone but he didn’t have a lot of respect for the attitudes, the negativity, and everything else that he grew up around. Somebody I know that’s crushed it, they weren’t handed to it. We’re born into it. They’ve got two legs, two arms, most of them, not all of them, most of them had a brain. Nobody knows. I’ve carved out this life. I’m telling you what education from top to bottom, you got parents sitting at home realizing, “The kids don’t have to be in front of the teachers and the teachers are not doing that great.” Some of the teachers that I’m hearing are doing a better job Zooming their kids so they weren’t in front of the classroom. No offense to the teachers, but the system they’re in is badly broken that it needs to be destroyed.
How about the colleges that are still charging the full weight and everybody’s sitting at home doing it on their own? We know that that sector has been ready for massive disruption. It’s got to happen here. I think people are going to say not to mention the fact that in the short-term, there’s a whole lot of investment portfolios that were put in place to try and pay for education and stuff like that that have taken a pretty significant hit. My advice to people is to think long and hard. If your son or daughter wants to be a doctor, a scientist, those kinds of things by all means. They are leaning at all towards the future of jobs seems to be in self-employment, to be honest. How many of us are going to be working for ourselves in another ten years, Patrick? Not at all are sure that traditional education is the way to go.
There’s a tagline that I will often use in some of the work that I’m doing with youth at times, but it resonates with adults as well is this idea that your past is your power. As it relates to your past, anything that you think about from where you are that you would look where you can trace that and say, “My past is my power.”
It goes all the way back to my childhood. I was born with brittle bones and it’s like having osteoporosis for life. My bones did not absorb calcium well. As a kid, I probably had fifteen broken legs by the time I was fifteen years old. I spent most of my childhood in white plaster casts. I’m the guy who couldn’t get a date to the senior prom. I guess it turns out that girls in high school are not all that turned on by the hunk of a guy that’s on crutches all the time and hopefully, maybe some of that’s changed now. At that time, I hated it. It took me a long time to understand the gift that it gave me. The question I used to get so often is, “How did you find the courage to quit that job and do what you did against all the advice and putting the financial future of your family and everything else at risk?” It didn’t feel risky to me. I realized now that for a long time, my risk filter people said, “You’ve got a much higher risk tolerance.” I do when it comes to money.
It doesn’t mean I don’t respect money. I like money a lot and I’m careful because when I’m presented with something and I think I would like to do that. That sounds fun. That’s something that would align with my values that would be meaningful. The risk filter that I’m paying the most attention is a simple question. What are the odds of me ending up in the hospital meeting surgery for a broken bone or something? Most of the time in life, we’re fortunate enough not to have to be faced with that risk and it allowed me not to freak out. The other thing I’ve learned in business is if you put in your time and your effort with an open heart and with good intent, you always get paid for what you do, but you don’t always get paid at the same time you’re putting in the effort. There are times when you’re working your butt off and you’re not making money or an idea didn’t work and you think, “There’s $50,000 that I’ve spent a year in my time.”You should be working not only for the money but freedom of lifestyle. Click To Tweet
It’s not gone. You’ve put it out into the universe. You’ve learned all this stuff, but you’re going to get over doing something else, and then all of a sudden that thing’s going to hit. That thing only hit because of what you did before and it’s the same in the sales game. Somebody can be sitting in the office and you get a phone call, “That’s a Bluebird. I haven’t talked to Joe in two years.” Except for those two years you talked to Joe ten times that you forget these things. I don’t want to say put our head down and grinding because I’m not a believer in that, but it is about persevering. The other question I get is how did my business succeed against all those odds when almost all of the other businesses in this community and in this province that started the same year as me are long gone? I can’t tell you because I don’t know what they did. I don’t know that I did anything special as a business person, but I know the one thing I didn’t do is I didn’t quit.
I found a way to persevere and it doesn’t mean I didn’t pivot and change tactics. I don’t believe in just doing the same thing over and over again. If it’s not working, you got to figure something else out. There was no quit in me. I was not going to give up on the dream of living here in Nova Scotia and raising our family here and inspiring other people to do the same. If you can find your north star, if people could figure out what that is, then you’ll go through walls and it’s not near as painful. If you’re agonizing about maybe that job’s not coming back and you’re worried about how you’re going to support yourself, it’s wasted energy.
What you need to do is to say, “What’s my north star? What would I be willing to fight for? What do I feel so strongly about that I’ll do what I need to do?” Our human mind has such capacity that if we could figure out it was Michael Hyatt when he was talking about vision. When he was saying that if the vision is strong enough, do you on anybody else you’re working with are leading the human mind, they’ll find a way to make it happen and it’s true. What happens is that most people, if they’re refocused on, “I need to make money to support my family.” That is it of itself isn’t going to drive you enough because you’ll be aware that there are other ways of doing it. You got to find that north star.
To me, it’s almost the difference between willpower and why power. That will power is it can wane out whereas if you have why power, that’s to me is that star that keeps you.
There is the occasional exception. Ruben Gonzalez, an Olympic athlete is one guy I think to have that pure willpower of never quitting, but almost everybody else that I know it is. It’s why. People sit there and say, “I don’t know what my why is.” Don’t overcomplicate it. If you get back and think about the things that you care about, those are the things you fight for and that you want others to have. Also don’t be afraid to put yourself first, because that’s the other thing. When I talk to entrepreneurs, especially early-stage entrepreneurs, I’ll ask them, “What do you hope to achieve with your business?” Almost everybody’s going to have some version of, “I want to have an impact.”
Good for you. I want to have an impact too, but that in and of itself isn’t going to get you out of bed on the days when you’re discouraged, the news is all bad and your spouse has gotten depressed about something and everything seems to be closing in or your partner. It doesn’t work. What would get you out of bed is something internal. What’s in it for you? What’s in it for you is to be able to have freedom of lifestyle, independence to make sure you can control your calendar and spend time with your kids. Put that right in a Post-It Note in your forehead and say, “That’s what I’m working for. I’m not working just for the money I’m working for these things.”
Tim, thank you so much for taking the time. You are someone I’ve grown to have a great deal of respect for, I love what you’re doing now and I’m glad you had the opportunity to share your experiences and inspiration to help other people find a way that in this challenge, we can all grow from this.
Thank you for having me. The respect is coming right back at you.
Tim Alison is the man. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to his podcast, you’re missing out. It is one of the best podcasts out there in terms of the interviews and the guests that he has. I have learned so much listening to that podcast. In regards to his story and how you can find success in your own life, there were many things that you can draw from that. If you know somebody that you think might be interested in this, I’d ask you forwarded on to them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please go ahead and subscribe. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or a comment about this or any other issue because that is how this message of helping each other to rise above our best and to lead like no other happens. Until then, I hope you’re able to do both. Peace.
- Screw The Naysayers
- The Top Five Regrets of the Dying
- Marcus Aurelius Anderson
- The Gift of Adversity
- Chicken Soup for the Soul
About Tim Alison
Entrepreneur who has started and scaled four businesses. At the age of 31 Tim walked away from one of the highest paying sales jobs in the country, moved to a tiny fishing village in Nova Scotia Canada, and started an educational software company. The naysayers laughed. They stopped laughing when his sales topped $10 million.
Profit Whisperer for bricks and mortar businesses where I specialize in helping business owners identify opportunities for improved financial outcomes.
Host and Executive Producer Of The Screw The Naysayers Podcast where I have interviewed and amplified the voices of guests from around the globe including the likes of Jack Canfield, Seth Godin, John Perkins and an eclectic mix of Thought Leaders, WSJ and NYT Best Selling Authors, CEO’s,Olympians, Paralympians, Professional Athletes and other women and men who have overcome great adversity. All are seeking to change the world.
Harvard Speaker, 2019 Women of Inspiration award winner in the Support Her category
Featured in CBC, CTV, Macleans, Globe and Mail, Halifax Chronicle Herald, and more.