Brendan Baker

Brendan Baker

Hi this is Morty Lefkoe with another edition of the weekly podcast, Conversations with Top Personal Development Bloggers. Each week we have a conversation with a blogger who has a slightly different take on personal development. There’s so much valuable material being offered by personal development bloggers.

This is the best place to find out which ones might provide you with just what you’re looking for. What’s unique about each blogger, why they started writing their blog, how their personal experiences inform their writing, why you want to be reading their blog, and lots more.

Today I have the pleasure to speak to Brendan Baker who writes a blog called, The Start of Happiness.


Morty: Well thank you so much for being with us today, Brendan.

Brendan: Thank you very much for having me. It’s great to be here.

Morty: And I’m talking to you from Australia, right?

Brendan: Definitely. So I’m here in a nice sunny day, Sydney, Australia. It’s middle of winter but winter for us is pretty warm so it’s still about 15 degrees Celsius. So it’s all looking good at the moment.

Morty: Great. So thank you for taking your time to inform our audience and a lot of other people about you and what it is you’re doing. So let’s start with what was your impetus to start the blog?

Brendan: Great question. The reason I started the blog was a couple of years ago, I was in the corporate world. And I was a talent manager for a large organization, large multi-national. And basically what that means is I was looking at the people processes within the organization. And a big part of that thing, your training and development and your leadership and development portfolio.

And so I have this experience in leadership and development and I always had this idea of doing my own thing, starting my own business. And the reason I started the Start of Happiness was to put up a list of resources and tools I’ve learned throughout my life, and throughout my career. And just have a repository online. So if I did start my own training organization and start doing my own personal development workshops, I’d have a list of resources already there with instructions, step-by-step guides, that I can simply call upon and then utilize and implement into my workshops.

I figured I had to do it in a blog format because obviously, then it’s all there online so I could access it at any point in time and also for anybody else to come and utilize resources from around the world. And before I knew it, within a few months, it started to actually pick up some good traction. And I started to see things from a different perspective, and see that maybe there’s an opportunity to not do face-to-face workshops and such but to build something online being a blog and got a really strong audience there. Because that was the reason I got started. That’s the work I’d been doing ever since.

Morty: It sounds like it actually wasn’t even your intention to create this as a business. It’s just something you were interested in getting started, and then it turned into a business before you knew it.

Brendan: I’ve always been very passionate and very involved in a personal development space. But my thoughts have always been to have a one-on-one salutary coaching or through providing workshops. So we’ve got a group of people taking them through a whole framework to living their best life.

But then the format, and being able to do something online is just so appealing because at this rate so many people, been hearing so many people from all backgrounds and when you can get your message out there to more people, why not? Why not? It helps to build your brand as well and there’s always that opportunity in the future or any point in time to start doing something face-to-face as well.

Morty: Yeah for sure. How long have you been writing your blog now Brendan?

Brendan: It’s coming up to two years. So I’ve started the blog on the first of September 2012. So yeah it’s nearly two years. It’s been a good bunch of years.

Morty: Of all the people I’ve talked to, that’s the shortest. That’s the youngest of all. Many of them started back in 2005, 2007, 2009. But yours has been around less time than any of the other bloggers that I’ve talked to in this area. And you’ve done very, very well in terms of your ranking the number of people who visit your site is very, very high. In general it’s very high compared to everybody else. And for being only around for two years, you probably rose faster than almost anybody else.

Brendan: I actually didn’t know what a blog was until a few months before I started the Start with Happiness. I’m sure I would have read thousands of blog articles beforehand. But I was thinking is this different websites and didn’t really think much of it. But then it wasn’t until that June, July 2012, a couple of years ago, that I really thought oh hang on. There’s this thing called a blog. That’s a great idea to start and I thought that’s a great way of putting all these tools online.

I think what’s really helped it grow really fast is the fact especially in that first six months was the fact that I was just putting very detailed guides and articles together which I think really resonate with people, are really quite useful for people to then implement into their own lives. So just providing that quality content which I think resonated quite a lot with people.

Morty: Okay. What was your background in personal development? You talked about the work you did in organizations, in HR, in courses and training. So was it mainly your business experience or was there something in addition to that that gave you a background in it or interest in it or knowledge of it?

Brendan: You know what? The whole story around my life kind of begins when I was seven years old. So when I was seven years old, and it’s going to be like a couple minutes’ story.

Morty: I read it so I know it but I think my audience would be interested so, go ahead and tell the story.

Brendan: Yeah it’s basically a story around a time when I nearly died when I was seven years old. And what happened was my family and I went to Central Station in Sydney, Australia. And we were there to see the last entrains to ever depart the station. And my brother and I through it would be a great idea to race the train as it’s departing.

So the train starts taking off very slowly, and my brother’s in front of me and he starts jogging along the platform. And I’m behind him. And the train starts picking up speed, and then, he starts going faster and I start going faster as well. Before we know it, we were going as fast as we can on our short little legs.

I remember looking across at the train to my right. I remember seeing the door is like flapping open and shut and seeing this brown carriage just going by. And then that was the last thing I saw and the last thing I knew. The next thing I know, I’m huddled up in a ball beside something firm against my shoulder and I can see the train and feel the train just whisking past my left shoulder like literally centimeters, centimeters from my body.

I realized I’d fallen in between the gap, between the train platform and the train itself. And somehow I just landed in a little ball, huddled up, just watching this train go past. And it was such a surreal feeling and a surreal experience. It’s really hard to describe. Anyway, as I was waiting for the train to go by, and eventually, it whisked past, it went by, and everything just went quiet. So loud, so loud, and then it just went quiet.

The train goes by and I remember looking up onto the platform and seeing this old lady that’s sitting on the bench, and her hands were cusped over her mouth, just eyes wide open and shut. And I was just thinking what’s just happened, I had no idea what happened. My brother’s there and he just picks me up onto the train station. And puts me back onto the platform and he puts his arm around me as we start racing back to my parents. And he quickly takes his arm off and I looked down at his arm and he’s just got blood all over his arm. And so I realized that I was bleeding really heavily from my head.

Anyway, so we made it back to my parents, who were back at the start of the platform. We were racing up to the hospital and honestly I was okay. I’m here today. But what had happened was, as we were racing the train, my brother had stopped in front of me, and while I was looking at the train, I bumped into him, went rolling on the platform, hit my head on the train and fell in between that gap, between the train and the platform. So that was a very close experience to death. And basically the doctor there had said if it had been an electric train, being a faster train, and a harder train, I would have most likely been killed.

So it was very much an awakening for me and even though I was very young at the time, only seven years old, I kind of had this little journey just around what if I just died, has my life even mattered, have I lived and what I really want to make from this life. And it kind of just shifted my perspective on everything that I did. So that kind of started my personal development journey.

So really from then, I started just reading books around personal development. My dad would invite me to workshops like free workshops and seminars that were getting put on the area just around things to do with finances, things to do with personal development, things to do with career. And I just really started to get into that scene and I just loved it. This is a great scene.

I guess the two passions that I developed throughout my teenage years and through university were a passion for business, and a passion for people. And so I felt that the right career choice for me was to go into human resources. I was looking after people and start a business. That’s the career path I took down that HR, talent management space, hooking up the leadership development programs. And that’s what I loved. That’s kind of led me to doing what I did today in the personal development space.

Morty: It sounds like a great background. It’s exciting. And it’s interesting childhood for a seven-year old to actually have that sense what’s my life about, what can I make of my life, how can I create it rather than sort of have it happen to me.

That might not have been the words that you used but that’s sort of what you’re describing. How can I have my life matter? How could it be something? How can I create I somehow so it’s not an accident? That’s a hell of an insight for a seven-year old to have.

Brendan: Yeah definitely. You always hear in the media, when I was growing up, in my generation you’re always hearing and obviously the books that you read a lot because personal development has come such a far way in the last 50 years or so that you can make your life. It’s about doing what you love. And so that was always part of what I was learning about doing what you love, just getting out there, trying, taking action, having a vision for your life, and all of those kind of principles.

So it was quite ironic though because back in the corporate world, I was there for seven years or so. But it was after seven years, I started to realize well is this really what I wanted to do with my life. Is it building a career in a corporate world that I really want to do? Or is it do I want to take a chance, take a risk, and build something doing what I really wanted to do? And that is in the personal development space and that kind of led me to start the blog in the first place. And then since then, a year ago, I actually quit my corporate job and I’ve been doing this and pursuing this full-time.

Morty: Good. That’s great. I actually do notice that I would say maybe half so far of the personal development bloggers I’ve talked to were very similar in a corporation and they were doing well. But it just wasn’t their soul. It was just something that wasn’t them.

It was just some dissatisfaction despite the conventional success that they were having. And then they found the way out and this is where they end up. Was there anybody in particular? Were there any people in the last 10, 15 years that you read about whose courses you took that had a particular influence on you?

Brendan: I think the biggest person would be Tony Robbins. So obviously everybody knows who Tony Robbins is. And I think it was just being aware. I didn’t go to any of his courses but I did read a couple of his books and I’d listened to a couple of his audio programs. And he was obviously quite influential in the last six years around the personal development space. And I think just growing up in that era, I guess that was what led me to building my passion.

Morty: Okay good.

Brendan: Typical audience is obviously it’s quite broad. Being the title, being the Start of Happiness, I do talk a lot about happiness. And the happiness that I talk about is mostly to do with three things. It’s around making a difference in this world so finding and pursuing a career and doing something that you love on a daily basis and that is making a difference in this world, and then secondly, it’s around earning income as well.

I talk quite a lot around the need for earning an income and the need for building something, building a career and building a business around doing what you love. Because I feel as though one of the key principles of happiness is the fact that if you’re spending most of your time and energy, say nine to five, Monday to Friday, doing something that you loved and that you’re passionate about and that you’re energized about, then that’s obviously going to be a key contributor to happiness.

So I try to steer away as much as possible from general personal developments and happiness tips such as talking about gratitude and things like that. Which are obviously very important but I take a more holistic approach and look okay, how can you actually make it meaningful and impactful to your everyday life and actually build something that’s more tangible and actually develop a career and an income from doing what you love that can sustain that happiness for a longer term.

Morty: Got it. But have you ever checked what the male or female or is there a particular age or that’s something you’ve never checked?

Brendan: I looked at it very, very briefly at a couple points in time. It is quite broad. So I found that it is actually really quite so I get people from being in their 20’s through to their 60’s. So it’s really anybody looking to develop something that’s made more meaningful in their life following their passion and deriving an income from doing that.

Morty: Got it okay. How often do you post Brendan?

Brendan: At the moment, posting two time a week. So I normally write an article every week and then at the moment, there’s quite a lot of other people, other personal development bloggers out there that are submitting articles to my site as well. And which I find is quite useful to get a different perspective coming in on different topics.

Morty: Okay so you have one a week and then you have one guest blogger a week?

Brendan: Yes.

Morty: Okay great. What would you say is unique? You started to talk about the essence of your message that it’s more holistic. You talk about not only how to live well but to make money doing what you’re doing etcetera. But how would you say yours is unique?

You’re obviously aware of a lot of the other bloggers and I’m sure you’ve read some of their posts. What would people find in yours that they don’t find any place else or in very few other places?

Brendan: For me I try to bring in a lot more around the topics of happiness. So I do talk around happiness a lot. But the key thing is as I mentioned before really happy develop a business or a career doing what you love and actually get that income from doing what you love. I’m actually developing a lot of content at the moment which is not up on the site at the moment but will be shortly around how can you actually get paid for showing your knowledge, advice, and your expertise with other people.

I feel as though everybody in the world has obviously experiences, knowledges, and skills in some particular area and that’s valuable to other people. So wanting to help people to really understand how they can monetize what they know.

Morty: Got it. Thank you. Do you have a long-term goal for your blog?

Brendan: Yeah I think for me my blog, I’d like to turn it more into a community blog so getting more guests posting there and providing more variations and different perspectives on different personal development topics. And then also bringing in a lot more around the getting paid for your expertise and I think that’s kind of the avenue that I’ll be taking around helping people build a business. But more of an online business the way that I’ve approached it around selling information products online.

Morty: Very good. Okay do you accept comments on your blog?

Brendan: Do I accept comments? I do indeed.

Morty: And do you respond to them?

Brendan: I do. I do indeed. So pretty much every comment that’s put up, I respond to it.

Morty: Okay that’s more than most. A lot of people don’t respond, don’t accept comments. And a lot of the ones who do, don’t respond to all of them at all. The other major thing that I really want to look at is what’s your mission in life and how does writing a blog contribute to it? That may be part of what your long-term goal for your blog is but like what do you want to do with your life, what’s your vision or your mission and how does the blog sort of fit in there?

Brendan: My mission and my vision is just to simply help as many people as possible, start to make a difference and an income from doing what they love. So I believe that we’re all here to make some kind of difference in this world. And the best way to do that is to actually financially support yourself in doing that.

So if I can help just one other person or a couple other people start to live their passion, and get an income from it, and that passion is actually helping somebody else, doing something without thinking has that ripple effect, that zone effect. That’s kind of my mission in life. And the blog has helped me dramatically in terms of being the catalyst for that because now I’ve got a bit of a grand behind my website. It’s obviously a good leverage point to start doing speaking engagements and put other engagements together. So it’s definitely helped in that perspective.

Morty: Great. Is there anything else you’d like our audience to know about you or your blog? Basically as I indicated before we started the interview, my goal is to get at least 50 to a hundred personal bloggers interviewed all on one site to make people aware of other people who are saying interesting valuable things that they didn’t know about. So is there anything else you’d like to tell people if they’re looking into getting some more help in the personal development area? Is there anything about you or your blog that we didn’t cover that you’d like people to know about what you have to offer?

Brendan: I do have a great starting resource for people who are looking at the personal development space. So I put together what I call the Launch Your Life Academy. This is an online academy that people can join. And basically it takes them through a process that really guides somebody through the initial stages of personal development.

It’s all around developing your self-awareness. It’s around developing a clear vision and mission for your life and setting goals that you can actually achieve. It’s around developing a strategy and a plan to get there. And it’s also around then developing strong habits, surrounding yourself with the right people and actually measuring the results to take place. So it’s a good starting resource for people in the personal development space.

Morty: Great. Well thank you so very much. What is your URL so that people will be able to find your blog?

Brendan: It is www.startofhappiness.com.

Morty: Start, S-T-A-R-T of happiness.com. And even though you’re out of the UK, you still have a .com.

Brendan: Yes. Out of Australia, still just .com.

Morty: Right. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. I think you’re doing some interesting things. I think there’s a lot of people who are interested in exactly what you have to offer and hopefully my audience and other people’s audience will find out about you and more people will visit you and start following you and not only reading your blog but taking advantage of some of the courses or programs or other written material you have to offer.

Thanks so much for speaking to me from down under today. I really enjoyed it. And I look forward to talking to you again at some point real soon.

Brendan: Sounds good. Thank you very much for having me. It’s been great.