Find people who can help you through this journey. As the inventor, you’re going to have natural skills and preferences that while great for inventing products, are not great for building businesses. So, find someone whose skills fill the gaps in your personality profile and together, build something far greater than you could on your own.
As a part of our series called “Meet The Inventors”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leigh Louey-Gung.
Leigh Louey-Gung is a Life Coach from Sydney, Australia. He founded his first company in 2006 to help others overcome the same social anxiety issues he struggled with throughout his childhood and has since reached millions of people around the globe. You can read the latest evolution of his work helping people experience happiness on demand at his website https://lifeoperatingsystem.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
My childhood is very much intertwined with my journey as an entrepreneur.
Growing up, we had nothing.
I’m one of four children raised by a single mother. We were homeless when I was young and were elevated to the lofty heights of government housing just before I started school.
Every day was a struggle for just about everything — food, time, attention, happiness. We missed out on a lot and even with the things we had, we never had enough of them.
Being poor made me stand out in all the wrong ways at school.
I was the kid in the dirty clothes from yesterday when every other child was parading around in their nicely pressed uniforms. I was the pathetic kid who had to go to the principal’s office and ask for an exemption every time there was an excursion or cost at school. I was the naughty kid who misbehaved so that people would laugh at my actions and pay no attention to the fact my shoes were about to fall apart.
All this made me incredibly anxious. I wanted nothing more in the world than to just fit in. I hoped that one day I would find the strength to just be myself and the fortune to find someone to like me as I did.
I didn’t have that strength, though. I spent my days stuck in my head trying desperately to work out why some people were popular and cool and what I could do to be more like them.
That worked out just as well as you would expect.
My anxiety continued to build through my teenage years and reached it’s crescendo sometime after my 19th birthday. It was that point where I decided to take control and the foundations of my invention and company were put into place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Favourite quote: Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing poorly.
Why it’s relevant: I’m a perfectionist at heart. I have an obsession with doing things really well. This has been a blessing in many areas of my life and has helped me achieve many great things, but it has its drawbacks. The most significant for me is that I often waste huge amounts of time trying to learn everything I can about a topic before I take any action.
I’ll often sit and research new tasks I need to do for days or weeks before launching into even the simplest tasks and it’s incredibly unproductive.
This idea that ‘anything that’s worth doing is worth doing poorly’, reminds me that if it’s worth doing, just do it. Get it out. An ordinary version that’s available is FAR more useful than theoretical perfection, so just start.
You don’t know what you need to know until you run into your first obstacle so go find that first obstacle before you waste time learning.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book that had the most impact on my life is probably The Tao of Pooh.
I’ve always known that I saw the world differently from most but I haven’t been able to articulate that difference. The Tao of Pooh was the first time that difference was put into words.
It really sums up my philosophy on life and has helped me communicate my thoughts, desires, and opinions in a much simpler way.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. What was the catalyst that inspired you to invent your product? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
I never set out to invent a product. I was just trying to solve my own problem — my crippling social anxiety that had haunted me throughout my teenage years. It wasn’t an ‘ah ha’ moment where I saw an opportunity. It was just my life.
Every moment of my day was spent stuck in my head constantly scanning my environment for threats to my fragile self-worth and none of the commonly available solutions provided any relief.
I tested various ideas of my own over the next few years, throwing myself into scary and confronting situations to see which solutions provided relief and after more attempts than I can count, I finally found some that provided relief.
When a few members of my local social anxiety meetup group saw my progress at one of our monthly meetings, they were interested in what I’d been doing and how I’d been able to make progress.
Their questions turned into an email group, which grew into a Google Group, and eventually a forum. Commonly asked questions were answered as blog posts and when we had enough blog posts, they were stuck together as the first of two books.
As interest grew, we developed live coaching workshops and then online courses to help reach our global audience and before I knew it, our growing reputation meant we were reaching millions of people per year.
There was no ‘ah ha’ moment. Just a common problem, a willingness to keep pushing till I found something that actually work, and a commitment to getting results.
There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
This is one part of my story where I was extremely lucky.
I’m not a natural business person. Like I said, I didn’t want to sell products, I just wanted to solve a problem.
If I was alone on this journey, I probably would have given the solution away for free to anyone who asked, got a ‘real’ job to earn money, and never had the opportunity to make an impact on the world.
Luckily, though, I was fortunate to meet a 6’5” Ukranian man who convinced me to turn my ideas into real products and eventually we partnered to form a company. Even when he left a few years later to launch the personal branding company Arielle with his wife, he was still an invaluable advisor who helped me to continue to grow the company.
Without him, I would just be another guy who had an idea and solved a problem and then vanished into the bustling crowds of our major cities.
So, to answer the question: find partners.
Find people who can help you through this journey. As the inventor, you’re going to have natural skills and preferences that while great for inventing products, are not great for building businesses.
So, find someone whose skills fill the gaps in your personality profile and together, build something far greater than you could on your own.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
The thing about this wide world of ours is that it doesn’t actually matter if there’s more than one person building a solution to the same problem.
If you don’t know the other solutions exist then there’s a good chance that other people also don’t know this other solution exists. This means there’s a space for you to fill.
And even if they do know, there might be a space for you to add additional value that the existing solution doesn’t.
Can you provide a more personalized service? Can you provide a more automated service? Can you make it cheaper? Can you make it in a wider variety of colors? Can you create it for a different age group or a different country? There are always ways to do things differently so just because a solution exists, it doesn’t mean you can’t develop a solution to the same problem.
Facebook was the third social networking site and since then, Snapchat and TikTok have both surged to become major players in the social media space. Just because one version of your solution exists, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another.
Did you have a role model or a person who inspired you to persevere despite the hardships involved in taking the risk of selling a new product?
My inspiration hasn’t come from a person, but from an idea.
I saw the way problems were being solved in the personal development world and I thought it could be done better. People were still in pain. I was still in pain. No-one should be living in a constant state of frustration and doubt.
The solutions weren’t working and I’ve always believed that if you want something to change, then change it.
So, that’s what I did. I found the solution.
It was tough and scary and confusing and overwhelming, but if you want something to be different then you have to make it different. Waiting on the world to give you what you want only results in more and more waiting. YOU have to go after what you want.
That was the idea that inspired me to keep going through the tough times and it’s the idea that keeps me inspired today.
For the benefit of our readers, can you share the story, and outline the steps that you went through, from when you thought of the idea, until it finally landed on the store shelves? In particular we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
The process of turning my ideas into a product was very natural.
I was getting inundated with requests for social anxiety coaching from a few guys and so started working with private clients.
The more time I spent working with them, the more patterns I started to notice. The more I spent helping with these patterns, the more comprehensive solutions I found. The more solutions I found, the better results I got, and the more clients wanted to work with me.
Eventually, I packaged up some of these solutions into an online course and my first product was born.
I didn’t get any kind of distribution because the product was sold on my website — which at the time, was primarily visited by people who’d been referred by those I was already assisting.
We’ve since grown our traffic channels to include SEO, social, and referral.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When my business partner and I first started what is now LifeOS, I was responsible for creating the products and services and he was in charge of the business development, including the website, marketing, booking presentation venues, and managing the accounts.
When he left to start Arielle, I inherited his entire portfolio. This was a challenge because I had no idea how to do any of it. I didn’t know how to manage a WordPress site, run the accounting software, do the marketing, or even how to access the bank accounts.
Those first few months on my own were filled with stupid mistakes.
I crashed the website more than a few times by making small and stupid changes. I thought I deindexed our website from the search results when our traffic dropped to zero only to find out I disable Google Analytics. I paid 20,000 dollars for a 2,000 dollars invoice. There were a bunch of very silly mistakes made…
The lesson I took from all of these is that I do need to ask for help. My default mindset is to solve every problem for myself, but these mistakes proved beyond any reasonable doubt that asking for help is a far simpler and easier option in the long run.
The early stages must have been challenging. Are you able to identify a “tipping point” after making your invention, when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
The first time I became aware that what we were doing was really going to work was when someone took a 10 hour train ride to come and see my first ever seminar. He was so convinced that I was the solution he needed that he took time off work to travel to see me speak.
He then tried to sign up to a workshop I hadn’t created, let alone named yet, and wouldn’t leave me alone until I added him to a waiting list that didn’t exist to secure his spot.
It just blew my mind. I had no formal training and no concrete idea what I was doing, and this guy wanted whatever I was selling. It was crazy.
That was the moment that I knew I had something special to offer the world and while it wasn’t a tipping point in terms of revenue or sales or traction, it was the tipping point in terms of my belief that what we had was worth pursuing.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Invented My Product” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Thing 1: It will never be perfect
As I said before, I’m a perfectionist and if I’d waited till my product was perfect before I accepted my first client, I never would have created a product. You can’t make it perfect without getting feedback from your clients because what you think is perfect and your clients think is perfect will be two different things. You can only give your clients what they want when you put a version in their hands and get them to tell you what they want.
So, create one version, get their feedback, and continue to improve what you’re doing.
Thing 2: Surround yourself with great people
You have limitations. This isn’t a knock on you, it’s just a fact. There’s too much to learn and do for you to be able to cover every base.
When you find a hole in your business abilities, you can either learn how to do it or find someone who’s done it before, has a natural aptitude for it, and has probably studied it.
My personal preference is to do it myself, but I’ve also been able to see just how much that attitude has cost me: in time, money, energy, patience, and happiness.
It’s far simpler, easiest, and much more rewarding to just surround yourself with people who can fill in these holes. Hire them. Partner with them. Even just bring them on board as mentors.
Whatever you’re trying to do, there are thousands of people who’ve spent many more years than you’ve been alive doing it and have overcome just about every problem you’ll run into, so surround yourself with these people and accelerate your growth dramatically.
Thing 3: Ask for help and listen to the answer
Surrounding yourself with great people is an excellent start, but just being surrounded by people will do nothing for your business without two additional steps: asking for help and listening to their answers.
When you’re surrounded by great minds with years of experience, it can be intimidating to ask questions. It’s easy to think that they’ll think you’re stupid and so you try and solve the problem without their help. THIS is the stupid part.
You’ve brought them close to support you so lean on them for support. Ask their opinion, throw ideas across their desk, get their input. That’s literally what they’re there for.
And, when they give you advice, listen to them. Don’t waffle on about how your intuition tells you something different and how if you look at it from this one random, inconsequential perspective, they might get a different answer. Actually listen to what they have to say. You brought them in to support you so listen when they do.
Thing 4: Numbers matter
When I first started running the business side of my operations, I thought I was smart. I just knew what was going on and what people wanted. I didn’t need to research or get stats or numbers. I could see it without even knowing.
What I couldn’t see was just how destructive that mentality was.
I couldn’t see just how blind I was, how many mistakes I was making, how much time I wasted taking the business in the wrong direction based on unfounded guesses.
It wasn’t until a good friend of mine (and founder of Terem Technologies) sat me down and gave me a thorough education in basic business fundamentals that I started to see the error of my ways.
He introduced me to basic analytics and testing frameworks and for the first time, I was able to see just how wrong my assumptions were.
Your perspective is always limited. Your hunches are not based in reality. You can only ever really see one side of an argument because you only have one view point. If you want to know what to do and where to take your business, you need data.
You need to collect, analyze, and interpret data to know which is the right way to move your company because moving it any other way will always be nothing more than a guess.
Thing 5: Everything is impossible until it isn’t
As you progress along your entrepreneur journey, you’re going to run into challenges and hurdles. That’s just life and it’s part of every journey.
When you hit particularly tough challenges, you might feel like you want to throw in the towel and walk away because it’s all too much.
As you have that towel balled up in your first and your arm cocked back ready to hurl it into the corner of the ring, just remember one thing: everything was impossible until right before it was done the first time.
Flight was impossible. Super computers were impossible. Eradicating smallpox was impossible. Making almost all of the world’s collective knowledge available on a device small enough to fit into your pocket was impossible.
It was all impossible, until it wasn’t.
So, when you’re staring at a challenge that just seems too large to tackle, remember that just because it seems impossible to solve right now, it doesn’t mean it won’t be impossible tomorrow.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
The first and most important thing is to talk to as many people who have the problem that you’re solving.
Ask them questions, understand their pain, learn about their troubles and desires, and get them to tell you what they want.
At the end of the day, your product is only going to be as successful if it helps real people in the real world and so get out and learn about the people you’re trying to help.
For bonus points, try to get them to buy it before you’ve even built it. If you can get pre-orders then you know you’re on the right track.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
I’ve never worked with a consultant so I cannot comment on the benefits of working with a consultant. But, if you’ve read this entire interview, you will have read that I HIGHLY recommend working with people who’ve walked your path before you.
Their knowledge, experience, and insight will help prevent many headaches in your journey.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
I’ve only ever bootstrapped my businesses and so can’t speak on the comparison between bootstrapping and getting funding. In saying that, I’ve managed to build two companies to more than 6-figures per month while bootstrapping them so can definitely say it’s a via path.
My personal philosophy (and my investing philosophy) is to use capital to pour fuel on the fire, not to collect the wood, but each business is different and requires individual consideration.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Literally, the only thing my product does is make the world a better place 🙂
Seriously, though. Getting to hear of how people’s lives have changed dramatically for the better is one of the greatest perks of my industry and I’m always excited to open my inbox and see emails from people who’ve benefited from my work.
It truly does make everything worthwhile.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
One of the most frequent comments I get from people who have changed their life through our programs is “Why isn’t this taught in schools???”
I’ve also frequently wondered what I could have achieved if I’d known what I know now when I was 14.
So, this is the movement I would like to start: I would like to bring serious personal development into the school curriculum. I would like it to be a foundation that education is built upon.
It’s no secret that insanely successful people think differently so let’s give everyone that edge and really start to push the boundaries of what we can achieve.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’d love to meet Martin Seligman. His work on positive psychology has been instrumental in the change I’ve been able to create in the world and I’d just like to shake his hand one day.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.