What the hell is happiness, anyway?

Happiness is seven billion endless lists of things for seven billion unique people on the planet.

What’s on your list? How do you view happiness? What is important?

Take this 30-second survey and I’ll post the results every now and then. 🙂

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Tom Brady’s Motivation: 17 Inspiring Quotes, Thoughts and Musings from the Tom vs Time Facebook documentary

Tom Brady is widely regard as the GOAT of American football, the greatest player in the history of the game. He offers a unique brand of motivation. Here’s a list of 17 of my favourite motivational quotes, musings, segments and thoughts from the 5-part series Tom vs Time, which aired on Facebook Watch shortly before the 2017 Super Bowl.

1. Tom Brady on his parents

“I was always fairly self-motivated and my parents just opened the door for me. They never managed my expectations. They never tempered my enthusiasm. They always built on that.”

2. Brady on deeper purpose and miracles

“Spirituality means a lot of different things to different people. For me it’s your deepest purpose. I do want to know the whys of life. I want to know why we’re here. Where we’re going. Trying to find that deeper purpose. To live it through sports in a very authentic way makes so much sense to me. Having these dreams and goals and aspirations, and waking up and putting in the work, and miracles happening, and all this magic that sports creates, and I’m in the middle of it. I get to live that through sports.”

3. Brady on criticism

“I feel that I have a belief in who I am. I chart my own course and then I live the life I want to live. Being physically fit and emotionally stable and spiritually sound. Are there times when I’m frustrated that things are said about me that I wish I could defend? Yeah! But I don’t want to go in that mud every day. Because I know that once I engage I’ll have to re-engage. And I don’t like fighting. That creates inner conflict in me. So I do need to protect myself. If I’m putting my energy out in 20 different areas, then I don’t get to be who I want to be … because I don’t have anything left.”

4. Tom Brady’s throwing coach Tom House on old age

“Old age and treachery always overcome youth and exuberance.”

5. Brady on learning

Brady: “I’ll never let go of losses. That scar tissue is too deep, too thick.”

Off-camera: “Why would you put yourself through it?”

Brady: “Still a lot to learn.”

6. Brady on preparation

“If you want to perform at the highest level, then you have to prepare at the highest level.”

7. Brady on putting yourself to the test

“You never really know what you are. You create this hypothesis of what you are, what you think you are. And then you go test it out. When you finally go up against competition you’re faced with realities. [And it’s] not what you hoped you were, or hoped you would be. You find out where you’re at.”

8. Brady on losing

“I think about losing for days. Days you wake up thinking… It’s too painful. And I could feel like, “It’s just a game”. But because it’s more than just a game for me, I feel like I’m losing in pursuit of what my life is. Thank God there’s another game next Sunday.”

9. Brady on motivations

“I know what my motivations are. And it’s not to satisfy other people. It’s to satisfy myself. And if I’m satisfied with myself I’m good. I feel good. I’m going to live a very purposeful life. I’m going to create change and positivity in a big way, and I want to do that being who I am. People will find negative things to say about that, absolutely. But I’m just going to keep charting my own course.”

10. Brady’s wife Gisele Bündchen on time

“The only thing I believe that limits us is time. What do we want to do with this time? And see what’s important. It’s about priorities.”

11. Brady on expectations

“No-one gives a shit what I’ve done [in the past]. They want me to do it now.”

12. Brady on togetherness

“One of my coaches said something great. He said, ‘I want to look in your eyes and know that you want to same thing that I want. Once I see that I know we’re going in the right direction.’”

13. Brady on leadership

“My connection with [my team] is through joy and love. It’s not through fear, or insults. That’s not how I lead. When you have a group of people who hold each other accountable every day, those are the teammates that you’re looking for. You can keep building on your success, because nothing’s going to change at this point.”

14. Brady on “work-life balance”

“The hard part for me still playing is that my kids are getting older and I’m not available to them. Things still revolve around my schedule, my day. And it’s hard because so much is about their dad’s life. And their dad’s life is great but it’s just their dad’s life, it’s not their life. It’s challenging and you’re always juggling what the right balance is. There’s so much to do with so little time.”

15. Brady on surfing as a life lesson

“I think in a lot of ways surfing is like a metaphor for life. As a beginner I just want to get in there and go out and paddle. When you do that you find yourself in a lot of whitewash. You’re wasting all your energy when there’s nothing to accomplish. In order to be good at it you got to go with it. You can’t fight the force of mother nature. You got to find the rhythm of it.”

16. Brady on continual progress

“I don’t feel like I’m on the last half. I still feel like I’m on the first half. I still feel like I’m charging ahead.”

17. Brady on what’s important

“When you’re young you don’t have perspective. You hit this point when you’re like ‘I’m not a kid anymore’. Then you have a little more perspective in your life. You know what’s important and what’s not important. I’m not putting energy and focus on things that I don’t deem are important. Even though other people might say, ‘Man, this is really important’. I’m like, ‘No it’s not. That’s not important at all.’ I’m going to determine what’s important for me.”



What the Dalai Lama and Gary Vaynerchuk say about patience

Shane Breslin

By Shane Breslin

“He that can have patience can have what he will.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Here are two things that I do every day.

  • I make my bed
  • I brush my teeth

Here are two other things that I also do every day.

  • I listen to podcasts
  • I engage on Twitter

This week, listening to podcasts and checking in on Twitter, I was struck by a common theme that ran through pronouncements from two people I admire greatly, but who we might usually think of as being poles apart: His Holiness the Dalai Lama and foul-mouthed modern communications kingpin Gary Vaynerchuk.

The Dalai Lama will probably not be negotiating seven-figure deals with sports stars or media brands any time soon, while Gary Vee is unlikely to be leading any spiritual retreats – at least not before he buys the Jets.

But cut through the tone and drill down to the content, and you might find a lot of common ground.

On Monday the Dalai Lama tweeted about patience, while Vaynerchuk was a guest on Lewis Howes’s School of Greatness podcast.

Here’s what they had to say about the subject of “patience”.

The Dalai Lama

Gary Vaynerchuk

It is the disease of our society, The lack of patience, bro. Patience and insecurity are 90% of the unlock for everyone listening. Their mom shitted on them their whole life and said they’re going to be a loser, so they believe it. Coz that’s what parenting is.

And they just want to have a Maserati now, and they’ll do whatever it takes to do it.

Do you know how many kids are doing something smart, like doing a good retail arbitrage on Amazon right now and making $100,000 by buying on Alibaba and selling on Amazon. Took a year and a half, three years to get good at it. Now [they’re] taking every profit and buying some random cryptocurrency because they’re playing the Lotto!

We have to have these conversations.

There’s a kid who spent three years being disciplined and getting good at retail arbitrage. That’s a real skill, to have an eye for what to buy in China, how to set up on Amazon properly, how to run ads, it’s a skill! They did it for three years meticulously, they made $13,000, then $47,000, now they’re finally making $300,000 and they could be on their way to 10 million.

Yet, they’ve chosen to kind of stop. Jump on the short-term bandwagon of buying some weird cryptocurrency, hoping it’s the next Bitcoin or Ethereum. I’m seeing that every day, and it’s being predicated on short-term … The ‘follow the leader’ shit, completely predicated on short-term.

Patience is, I believe, a core element of happiness.

This post is part of my Happiness Project.

I send two regular emails: a Happiness Bulletin every Saturday morning, and a slightly longer, deeper newsletter on the theme of happiness on the first Friday of every month.

Sign up for my Happiness Bulletin here


The Outcome vs The Process: Hal Elrod and Padraig Harrington Have Something in Common

I have to confess – I’m a podcast addict.

I listen to perhaps 15-20 podcasts a week. When I’m walking the dog, driving the car, sitting on a bus or a plane – chances are, I’ll be listening to a podcast.

I have my podcast app filled with categories, from Business to Personal Development to Digital Marketing to Sport.

Something struck me when listening to two podcasts from very different sources on the first weekend of 2018 – two people, from completely different backgrounds, talking about completely different things, but they each said something that was so close to the mark.

Call it part of the recipe for success.

Perhaps one of the most important ingredients in the recipe for success.

The people:

  • Irish golfer and three times Major winner, Padraig Harrington
  • Motivational speaker and Miracle Morning author, Hal Elrod

Now, on the face of it, Padraig Harrington and Hal Elrod don’t have a huge amount in common. There is perhaps almost no overlap in their spheres of influence – apart from the fact that I subscribe to Hal Elrod’s Achieve Your Goals podcast and Irish radio station Newstalk’s Sunday Paper Review podcast, a weekly round-up of the sports pages in the company of guests from sport and media.

On Sunday, on the long weekend walk required to take the edge off my half-cocked Irish Terrior Mrs Dalloway, I listened to two episodes back to back: Hal Elrod and co-host Jon Berghoff talking listeners through their top tips for achieving your goals in 2018; and Padraig Harrington joining campaigning Irish sports journalist Paul Kimmage and host Joe Molloy to discuss the Sunday back pages.

The interesting common ground in this particular podcast Venn diagram surrounded the outcome and the process – and both Elrod and Harrington had interesting things to say.

I listened to Elrod first, and as he spoke I found myself making a mental note (since my paper and pencil were about three miles and four fields away…) to remind myself to jot this down for future recall.

He said:

This is what I would personally call the secret to success – to commit to your process without being emotionally attached to the results.

So what does that mean? It means that every goal that we set this year and anytime was always preceded by a process. So, whatever goal we’re trying to achieve, there’s a process that is required to achieve that goal. I’ll give you an example. This is how I’ve been achieving my goals every year for the last 18, 19 years. It was 1999 or 2000 actually, spring 2000. I was making sales calls one day and I had a terrible day on the phone where no one scheduled with me, some people were rude, and I got off the phone just feeling not great.

I was like, ‘This sucks!’. I started thinking, ‘I’m going to get a different job that doesn’t have to do with the way I feel right now. I feel hurt and rejected and it doesn’t feel good and I don’t like it and I want to get a regular job where I just clock in and clock out and it’s easy.’

So, that’s what I was thinking. And then I had a realization that night falling asleep. I realize I’m focused on my results. I’m so focused on my results that all of my emotions are invested in my results.

So, if I have good results, I feel good, and if I have bad results, I feel bad.

And I thought, ‘That’s not a winning game,’ because I’m not in control of my results, not directly. I couldn’t control that no one scheduled in that day. I could do my best, but I can’t control if nobody wants to schedule that day. I can’t control how many will pick up the phone when I call. I can’t control their attitude or their mood on the phone. I can’t control what they decide to do. I can’t control if they show up to the appointment. I can’t control if they buy from me.

And so, I had this realization [that] my goals this year are really dependent on how many times I pick up the phone and dial the number.

If I make 20 calls a day and make X amount, if I were to double that and make 40 calls a day, well then I would double my sales.

On average I double. So, I just started to realize, ‘Wait a minute, why don’t I just commit to the process and just make the conscious decision that I’m not going to be emotionally attached to the results anymore?’

This applies to every area of life. This is what you have to do. You have to define your process first. Before you commit to it, you have to know what it is.

So, I decided I’m going to make 20 calls a day, five days a week and that should get me to my goal. And if I’m not at the end of five days, if I’m behind on my results, I’ll make an extra day or two of phone calls, but that was it. 20 calls a day.

Here’s how this shows up for you in your life. It just minimizes stress and it allows you to be really focused on what matters most. Here’s what happened. I made 20 calls a day, five days a week and at the end of my 20 calls, I didn’t care if anyone set with me. I didn’t care who showed up in appointments that day. I didn’t care if they bought or not.

I was never attached emotionally to my results because I knew that the process over the long-term, over the next 12 months, it would work itself out.”

It’s easy for us to get emotionally attached to results.

It’s not easy for us to define a process that will likely get us results.

And if we do manage to define the process, it’s not easy for us to commit to that process.

And if we do manage to commit to the process, it’s definitely not easy to divest ourselves emotionally from the results.

But if we can focus on that, if we can commit to the process, then it’s very likely that the results will take care of themselves, as Hal Elrod outlined in his “I make calls, not sales” approach.

Put another way, committing to the process is a way of intentionally focusing our energies on the present moment.

When we’re in the process, we’re in the moment. We’re not dwelling on what we’ve done in the past that didn’t go as well as we would have liked. And we’re not worrying about what we might do in the future.

I think, when it comes to succeeding in any area of life, that maxim – commit to the process, not the outcome – is well worth paying attention to. It’s a vital part of success, and I believe it’s a vital part of happiness too – which is arguably even more important.

Which brings us back to Harrington.

Speaking on the Off The Ball Sunday Paper Review on Newstalk, he said,

I hit a shot in Spain last year, beautiful shot, little fade. Then someone asked me to hit a draw, and I hit a magnificent draw, 20 yards further, down the fairway, everything great about it.

The two people who were watching, and they were golfers, they were saying, ‘Look at that! Harrington’s in good form’.

I walked off the tee and I was pissed off. I was annoyed. Because I had hit a great shot, but I hadn’t made a great swing.

And I knew the difference. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have known the difference. I would have just hit a good shot and that’s all that counts.

The process.

Not the result.

There’s a difference.

Do you find yourself getting emotionally invested in results?

Is your process defined?

Or do you think it doesn’t matter – once you achieve the outcome, it doesn’t matter how? Is hitting a good shot all that counts, or does it matter how you hit it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below, or message me on Twitter.

30 on 30: I Decided to Give Myself a Six-Month Review (In Public)


So, we’re halfway through 2017.

Generally, in the past, I was always preoccupied with the next destination, and not taken enough time to enjoy the journey. So I’m trying to change that.

Today, on June 30th, I decided to take 30 minutes and give myself my first ever public six-monthly review. (I had six-monthly reviews in some of the jobs I had in the past, but this one has been much more enjoyable…)

I reflected on four questions:

  • What I’ve Done
  • People I’ve Met
  • Places I’ve Been
  • Progress I’ve Made

And then share it with you here. I hope you might do it too.

Things I’ve Done

  • I started January with one client and not many ideas about how I might get more. I now have seven and have a couple of proposals out for high-impact projects for great customers in the second half of the year, so really excited about everything.
  • Back on January 2nd, I wrote an article on Medium about my problems with depression over the last 10 years or so. It was the first time I was fully honest with myself and everyone around me. It opened up amazing, liberating conversations with family, good friends to whom I’d previously hidden the real me, friends I hadn’t seen in years and people I’d never met before who I can now call friends.
  • Twelve months ago I hated networking — I felt like I was the guy who was always the one not talking to anyone. I’ve got much better at it. Like a lot of things, it comes with practice.
  • I’ve done some public speaking, about digital business and depression (and sometimes both!) at three events in Belfast, Dublin and Cork
  • I have been included to speak at a TedX later this year.
  • On January 1st I knew literally no-one in Belfast, Cork or London but set myself a goal of getting one client in each place by the end of the year. I now have a client in Belfast and one in Kerry (okay, not Cork, but it is a Corkman!). So, London’s next 🙂

Places I’ve Been

  • London. The British Museum and Natural History Museum with my wife Lorraine and children Cara and Shay (there’s so much free stuff in London!)
London, with the crew
  • Gweedore. I shared two days in March with about 25 other businesspeople as part of Moira Ni Ghallachoir’s Gnó le Croí retreat. It was two of the most empowering days I’ve ever experienced. [Update: There’s another Gnó le Croí taking place at the end of August. If you’re a small business owner — or thinking of becoming one — you should come. Here’s the detail.]
  • Cork. Strangely, I don’t think I had ever been to Cork (certainly never as an adult). I spent 24 hours there in April, spoke at an event and continued a conversation with someone who has since become a client.
  • Tullamore. (Meath walloped by Kildare. Say no more.)
  • Belfast. I love it there. There’s a great energy about the place. Looking forward to spending more time there in the rest of the year and beyond.


Belfast, home of good energy

3. People I’ve Met (and Got to Know a Little)

I’m going to miss loads but here goes.

  • Finbarr Bradley. Writer, academic, educator, tangent-explorer, thinker, motivator. I hope to start up a podcast soon and I hope to have Finbarr as one of my first guests. (He doesn’t know this yet!)
  • Conor Devine. Living with MS and running 26.2-mile marathons as preparation for Ultramarathons. Ironman triathlete and source of apparently endless good energy.
  • Graham O’Rourke, CEO of Aphix Software, a bright young B2B ecommerce solutions startup based in Drogheda but branching out to UK, Europe and the rest of the world. Announced 25 new jobs recently and currently recruiting for a Product Marketing Manager and a Mobile App Developer (details here — you should apply. They’re great!)
  • Tony Heffernan, Founder and CEO of Bumbleance, an amazing charity that provides ambulance services for seriously ill children all over Ireland. Recently launched a dedicated service in the north-west. I believe there’s a big Bumbleance milestone this weekend (which I’m not sure I can speak about, so I won’t. But … look out for it!)
  • Eve Earley, part of the team at Tangible Ireland and professional change agent. The best of Ireland and the United States in human form.
  • Mags Boland Murphy. Owner of Bofin Consultancy, a Wexford-based strategic sales and marketing company. Honest, open, warm, helpful in every way.
  • Emma Boylan. Owner of a Donegal-based marketing company and the possessor of relentless drive and energy. Going places!
  • Patrick Keeney. MD of a Green Golf Travel, an ambitious golf tour company based in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, and dedicated to showcasing the golf courses of the north-west to golf tourists all over the world.
  • Orla McLaughlin, nutritionist, who has helped me lose weight and find energy. Thanks Orla. [Here’s more on Health by Orla.]
  • Robert McKernan, who has helped me more than he’ll ever know. As generous with his time as he has been intolerant of my bullshit. Top quality sales trainer and business coach.
  • Emily Gowor, international publisher, author, speaker, inspiration, who has been to the brink and now brings light to thousands.
  • Sally Murphy, storyteller, coach, communications expert and very funny amateur comedian. Another of my weirdly growing Donegal circle!
  • Gobnait O’Grady, life coach, empathy specialist, purveyor of calm.

4. Progress I’ve Made

  • I’m dealing better with depression. I’m not out of the woods. The day I feel on top of the world is always, always, always a day closer to a dark low. But I know that now. And I know that it will pass. So far it always has.
  • I’m grateful for every morning. I’m grateful for sunshine and for rain. I’m grateful for good health and physical strength and clean air to breathe.
  • I’m learning every single day. The day I think I know something is the day it will prove me wrong.
  • Surrounding myself with great people who instinctively think “Yes!” and reducing time around people with negative leanings is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
  • I don’t think happiness is a choice, but I realise now that our choices have a massive bearing on our happiness. So I’ve been paying close attention to my choices — food, sleep, exercise, work, people. And it’s been great.
  • I’ve helped maybe half a dozen people remove their own limitations. (I’m not sure I’ve properly made this is as part of my business yet. And I know that’s a limitation I need to remove from myself.)

Thanks for reading.

Now it’s your turn. Take 30 minutes out and try it.

And Happy Part 2 of 2017.

Me, D, McG and Gary Vee

This blog first appeared on Medium.com

This is a story about a life and a career.

My life, my career.

Hi, I’m Shane, and this is my first personal post on Medium.

I remember, 10 or 12 years ago, talking with a friend about our individual daily grind. He had what you might call a laissez-faire attitude to career — he was driven, no doubt, but he didn’t really mind which direction in which it took him. He had — has! — ideas growing out of his ears. Scarcely a week goes by without some new concept grabbing his attention. Often it flounders within days; very occasionally it takes root and becomes something on the road to great.

Me, I’ve always been much more circumspect. Cautious. I’ve been guilty of, as one particularly Irish saying goes, knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. There was a time when I saw every outlay as a cost, not an investment.

That invidious mindset permeated every facet of my life. Routinely I would notice, dwell upon, half a dozen things that were wrong before I had even made it downstairs for breakfast.

The voice

The voice was a permanent presence.

  • “The leak in the shower extractor fan is getting worse.”
  • “Why didn’t you get up when the alarm went off the first time? Now you’re already behind.”
  • “You see that gap in the tile in the corner of the bathroom? It’s going to cause problems if you don’t do something about it.”
  • “You should go for a run.”
  • “You should boot up the computer right now — you’ve already lost time.”
  • “What age are you now? If you don’t succeed in the next two months it’s going to get harder and harder for you.”

It never stopped, never went away.

At different times it eased, but it was always there.

I’ve played Gaelic football since I was 12, for more than a quarter of a century. I’m a goalkeeper. It can be a thankless position — if you make a mistake it’s rare that someone gets you out of the shit.

When I stood in that square I felt at home. In control. I talked and hollered and roared. Occasionally it went wrong, as things always do, but in general while the ball was anywhere in my sphere I was content. Sport at any serious level —and it must be said that the seriousness can bear little relation to the standard — is meditation in motion. But when there was no motion — before the game, perhaps, or when the play was at the other end of the field — The Voice would never be far away, fixating always upon the area of doubt.

  • “You don’t want a high ball to drop short.”
  • “You’re getting old — you can’t get off the ground like you used to.”
  • “You’re going to cost your teammates this game, you know that?”

But when in motion it was never there. The football field was the place I felt most comfortable, where the proper demons couldn’t get me.

Elsewhere, though, they could really take a grip.

“As cottage industry as media got”

Almost seven years ago now, I was editor of an Irish football website that had hit its peak around 2006. I had coded (Classic-ASP-DIY-style), designed (very rudimentary) and written all the content for the site, which went live in 2002, just in time for the World Cup in Korea and Japan. That was a strange and wonderful time to be launching a brand new football site in Ireland — Roy Keane and his Ireland teammates were just arriving in Saipan for a pre-tournament camp and were about to cause the biggest schism in the history of the sport in Ireland.

The website was as cottage industry as media got: we had no budget for design, none for development, none for commissioning content. Marketing? Forget about it.

Neither did we have free content distribution systems so integral to digital media in 2016. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube did not yet exist. Neither did Google Analytics. “Social media” was our (self-built!) bulletin board. I remember buying the .com domain name over the phone at the end of a lengthy conversation. Imagine!

Early in 2010, after another great Irish football controversy (courtesy of Thierry Henry’s hand) had ended our hopes of reaching a first World Cup since 2002 and with it spelled the end for a website desperate for the attention boost that might have given it an advertising lifeline, I landed a job on the desk of JOE.ie (the capital letters were part of the brand; we had deep discussions about this).

And while I wouldn’t have known a line of PHP if it had bitten me on the arse, my exposure to code helped to build a friendship with the affable, a-little-strange French programmer who was responsible for programming, from scratch, our entire CMS.

Niall McGarry

I first met Niall McGarry in February of that year. He insisted he had been a regular reader of my football site — meeting a reader! in the flesh! — and I was the third staffer to join the desk. (Much later he reflected on my interview and told me that the only way I wasn’t getting the job was if I came in and shat on the boardroom table. Hearing a boss speak this way a massive eye-opener for me.)

McGarry has risen to national prominence over those seven years. I remember the day we introduced him to Twitter. Initially a reluctant tweeter, he quickly mastered it, instantaneous feedback and rapidly growing followership giving him nourishment in his pocket 24 hours a day (the iPhone was still just three or four years old but already well down the road to changing everything about the way everyone does everything).

While our characters were wildly different, we got on well. He saw me, I think, as this strange individual who didn’t enjoy nights out or spending time in groups of lads (itself an oddity in a team working on a website aimed squarely at Irish men), but who could point his fledgling business in exactly the right direction to help it work.

To most people, the business was crazy. A number of online content “businesses” had started up between 2007 and 2010, quickly gaining traction as the earliest waves of the social media revolution broke upon the shores of human behaviour. Several of them sneered openly at the pretentiousness of this upstart based out of the west of Ireland. JOE was aimed squarely, unashamedly, at Irish men in their 20s and 30s (or “the 18–44 demographic” in ad-agency-talk). We deigned to cover hurling as easily as tech as easily as style. It didn’t always work, often it didn’t work at all, but it was out there walking its occasionally ungainly walk while others were talking their talk.


We were an easy target. “Begrudgery” may well be an exclusively Irish phenomenon, but in those early days we ticked way more boxes than the minimum required to be “begrudged”: we “had airs”, as our grannies used to say. We (or Niall, mostly) approached things with a sort of bald and crazed ambition. We were busily building a publishing brand that consumer brands might take seriously. Early client meetings invariably opened with the welcome of “How long did it take you to come from Galway?” We were outsiders in every possible way.

The business was crazy because only crazy people did this in Ireland in 2010. It was crazy because it was being bankrolled not by angel investors or venture capitalists but by the profits of a west of Ireland-focused, medium-sized web design and marketing business McGarry had built from scratch. Those profits were fine, but enough to foot the bill for the long, hard road to build a media brand in an already (it seemed) overfull media landscape in a small country on the edge of the Atlantic? Not likely.

People looked at what we were doing, openly admired McGarry’s bravado and counted the days until we went out of business.

And for virtually anyone else, going out of business would have been a certainty. Try to gain ad money on a new media platform with a tiny audience. In those early days, cashflow was so uncertain that we never knew when we might get paid. (We always were, in the end, we just didn’t know when — which was still a lot better than a lot of the country, who were either queuing at the dole office or heading abroad in search of work…)

The Brief

Promoted to editor of JOE in April 2011, I was given a brief that was, in all respects, brief: (1) grow JOE’s audience; (2) do it fast.

At this stage the site had been live for a year, but heady early aspirations of having a suite of corporate sponsors for every section of the site turned out to be almost comically misplaced. The vision was too new for most agencies, who were still, if they gave digital much thought at all, locked into a world of display ads. Branded content partnerships were not on the radar of many in the game, but McGarry was ahead of the curve. He saw the explosive potential in branded content — it was a year or two before this became known globally as “native advertising”, a term he hated. Native advertising is still advertising and as Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg character in the movie The Social Network said, “advertising is not cool”.

Branded content, on the other hand, opened all sorts of doors: it was much closer to product placement than traditional advertising, theoretically creating great content that enhances rather than interrupts the user’s experience. Later, a Netflix arrangement with the New York Times and Purina’s thing-of-beauty catfood story “Dear Kitten” by BuzzFeed were held up as the gold standard, and we were reaching for it.

But all that was to come: in 2011, as we moved from west of the Shannon to leafy Dublin 2, people were beginning to take us seriously. Tasked with growing audience quickly, I foraged about in Google Analytics — data is the most important voice in every 21st century media room, after all — in search of patterns in stories that spiked.

Armed with the info — which took maybe two hours to find — I implemented a shift in content strategy away from lengthy articles that were (1) labour-intensive, (2) traditionally-minded, (3) economically-unsound and (4) most importantly, completely unwanted, in favour of quicker, snappier, Ireland-centric stories that often had an element of user-generation about them. It yielded sensational results. Publishing 8–12 times a day was not what most young journalists dream about, but the game was cut-throat — to bring in revenue we needed an audience, and to bring in an audience we needed stories that spiked, and we needed them every day.

From a dozen or so pieces per day in the supposedly tried-and-tested news-plus-features model we were suddenly hitting “Publish” on 50–60 pieces every day that all aimed to tick two boxes:

  • Is this interesting to a lot of young Irish men?
  • Will they want to share it with their friends?

Online revolution

At the same time a revolution was happening in online behaviours. From a virtual non-entity three or four years previously, Facebook was suddenly becoming indispensable. The JOE community grew lavishly in the space of six key months in 2011–12 (and organically too; it was a long time before a cent was spent on advertising).

Still, whether it was the uncertainty of being part of an early stage media/tech start-up, whether it was because I was overseeing the generation of reams of stories I myself would never actively seek out, whether it was a discomfort with the outlandishness of McGarry’s vision — the great successes of day 5 invariably becoming the baseline for day 10 — The Voice was never far away, and with it seismic effects on my physical and mental wellbeing.

Most days as I headed into the office, first in a business park in Oranmore, Co Galway, later in Merrion Square in the centre of Dublin city, I fought the urge to run.

  • “You can’t do this. You can’t do this. You can’t do this.”
  • “You’re in charge! Ha! How laughable!”
  • “You know they’re going to see through you soon, right?”

Eventually, after a couple of false starts and a couple of years of hiding myself in front of everyone, I ran.


My personal brand of fatalism was rubbing off on my team. I had had enough of walking aimlessly around a park avoiding my desk, enough of working on things I didn’t believe in, enough of sobbing uncontrollably in an array of toilet cubicles. (Starbucks in Blanchardstown was a particular favourite.)

Itmay sound stupid, but I only recognise that as depression now, six years and two diagnoses later. One psychologist put me on the severe end of the scale after a €90 an hour session of listening. A second, a year or so later, placed me at moderate, to which I reacted particularly badly. “How dare she describe me as moderate? Haven’t I already been diagnosed as severe?” The unmistakable subtext was “Why can’t she just leave me alone so that I can wallow in my severe depression?”

Which brings me to the end of 2016, and another career in another media-leaning, rapidly growing tech startup, and eventually to Gary Vaynerchuk.

I knew the guys behind Square1 for a couple of years, having worked with them indirectly as they built the rock-solid foundations for the Maximum Media suite of sites. When an opening came up, seemingly at just the right time, I jumped at it. They brought a deep skillset in building the most robust high-traffic websites in Ireland, which fed into their media-focused Publisher Plus ecosystem. I brought a knowledge of the challenges and desires facing the publisher. It seemed like a perfect match.

I recognised the symptoms within a month. My success in the role was directly proportionate, I felt, to the success of a number of online media companies. But they were media companies whose content I was not just indifferent to. I found, to my surprise — because the client list was known to me in advance — that I was actually hostile to some of them. I would have to spend my days helping people to succeed whose business models I strongly disliked.

This time I was aware of what those symptoms were, what they could do to me, what needed to be done to prevent them wreaking havoc on me again.

had to get out, and I did. Within seconds of leaving that office, I was more content, more convinced than ever of the skills I possess and those I don’t, and choosing to focus on what I am rather than what I am not. At around this time I discovered Vaynerchuk, the single most visionary mind in the business world as many of us sleepwalk into 2017.

Gary Vee

Gary Vee has wowed conference audiences all over the world with his expletive-laden keynote talks. With the urgency with which he is making hay in this once-a-century industrial revolution, he is no respecter of the media dinosaurs that stand in his way.

I recognised so much of what he says. Niall McGarry was saying many of the same things in 2010 and 2011. Back then, a lot of people thought he was a bluffer. Me, struggling to see any hope through the permanent haze of depression, I could see no path that I could navigate in order to implement the breadth of his vision.

I’m proud to have worked alongside Niall McGarry, no matter how much I hated a lot of those days at the time. I suspect it must be similar for a few of those who find themselves at the centre of the hurricane that is Vaynerchuk’s rapidly expanding VaynerMedia right now.

There’s a clip in a recent episode of his DailyVee vlogs, where Vaynerchuk says to some members of his team, including his personal and permanent videographer, “Do you know how amazing this is going to be to look back on?”

I look back, and that’s the way I feel. But more than that, because I know now that this big D will not go away but that by doing the right things I can keep it under control, I look to the future and for the first time ever in my adult life I feel the same way.

It starts with talking

For years, the vision, energy and urgency of others brought out the worst in me. I first spoke openly about my depression and its effects on me in October 2016. It’s the best thing I ever did. Now, after more than 15 years when this illness did its worst on every facet of my life, taking the enjoyment out of every single day, through honest conversation, without a doubt the most powerful drug I’ve ever known, I’ve finally found my own vision, my own energy, my own urgency.

I’m doing my best to make up for lost time. Not only do I look back and think how amazing it was, I look forward and think how amazing it can be. Everywhere I look I see possibilities not pitfalls now.

I have found a niche as a freelancer, helping businesses, nonprofits, startups, entrepreneurs, individuals leverage digital to help them achieve their goals. I find that I when it comes to doing anything in a digital world, I instinctively know a way. The way always revolves around the stories we tell, and knowing how to read the data so that our next story is told better, presented better, promoted better, measured better. And repeat.

We are riding the crest of a wave of global, free communications which makes everything possible once the stories are good. Gary Vee’s “everything is possible, you just need to work fucking hard” mantra is my constant companion.

There was a time when I looked to the future and wilted. Now I see how I can make maximum impact. Now I see the value in everything just as easily as the cost.

And my future will be my own form of amazing: with a beautiful, gifted wife and two incredible children, with vision, with urgency, with honesty, with integrity, with doing things because they’re worth doing and doing nothing only for money, and with darkness always around the edges but never again in the centre.

Thanks for reading.