with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

Listen on

“In the second half of life, you shift from focusing on serving the self to focusing on serving family and community. That's what it means to be a true Chief, to be beyond self.”

In today’s minisode, I give to you my top 15 lessons and learnings from this year. And what a year it’s been!

This year we passed 300 episodes, and we passed six years as a business with Chief Maker. And what I like to do at the end of every year is sit back and reflect and ask myself some questions. One question that got raised this year was by our podcast guest Jay Abraham: “What got you here?”

And I thought, what better way to finish the year than a conglomeration of lessons from chiefs, from our own experiments as a business and as individuals, to see if some of the things that we have tried have played out. Because if there's one thing we know through coaching is that you're not alone. You very often feel like you're the only one going through the chaos, but the truth is that you're not alone. Everybody's going through these challenges, so I hope it gives you some processes to follow and at the least some inspiration. 

Furthermore, at Chief Maker we use a coaching method called MPS, which stands for Mindset, Process and Skill. When you're on your journey to mastery, these are the three main elements that you will need to work on. 

It’s the same with feedback; these 15 learnings below are either a mindset, a process or a skill acquisition that has helped me master a particular thing this year. And where we haven’t quite got there, we just keep trying, we keep coming back, and we just keep trying to make things a little bit better every single time.

So where am I at personally at the end of this year? I'm now the fittest and lightest I’ve been in a decade. Our business is the most stable it's been in probably five years and we’ve created some fantastic products that we are scaling our coaching business with. We now have some wonderful clients and partners that are lining up to work with us, which is just wonderful to have at this particular point in our business life cycle. 

So here is my list of 15 lessons from 2023.

1. Use music as a reset

I learned the power of using music to reset the tone and atmosphere at home, especially with kids. I'll often work with great music, but when we're trying to get our kids out the door or they're having a whinge or they're in the car and they're screaming at each other, we have gone to music time and time again. And we get in the car, they've got their own playlist and they get to take turns being the DJ. And I just can't tell you how many times that has turned a horrible drive or a horrible process of getting kids out the door into something that was fun and enjoyable.

2. Understanding your sleep chronotypes

I explored the insights from our fabulous guest, Dr. Michael Breus, on sleep chronotypes, emphasising the importance of honouring individual energy rhythms for optimal performance so that you use the power of your brain at the right times of the day. For instance, I love to get up and go to work at six o'clock in the morning as my best and most creative work is then. So I'll often get up at 6, I'll go to work at a cafe down the road from me that's really quiet, I'll sit down there and get about an hour and a half, two hours work done, and then I'll come back and take the kids to school. As a result, my energy levels are better, my recovery is better, and my emotional stability at home and at work is really good.

3. Recovery through flow

I rediscovered the significance of flow, engaging in activities like mountain biking and tennis to enhance biochemical release and energise the body. What this does is release biochemicals into our body every single time we get into that state. Chief, there is no substitute for this. It's like a beautiful shower for our entire body. But it energises us, not just for those few minutes, but for a full 24, even 48 hours afterwards. So chief, put flow in your life. I don't mind if it's music, it's dance, it's yoga, pilates, it's going for a ride, it's surfing, it's playing tennis or a game of cricket, whatever it is for you, get it in your life. It's certainly something we have re-instigated this year a lot more this year and it is paying dividends in the quality of our work. 

4. Commitment to fitness

This year, I shifted my mindset on fitness, treating gym sessions as integral to the workweek and embracing the philosophy of pushing physical limits for improved results. So if I work 45, 50 hours a week, and I go to the gym for five hours, that doesn't mean I work five hours less. That's a part of my work week. It's deep thinking time, it's zone time, it's what an elite athlete would do, it's what the best of the best do, and you should be doing it yourself.

I also started leveraging from the interview we did with Dr. Jeff Spencer where he said that most of us don't go anywhere near where we're capable of physically; we pull out of a session well before we hit our limits. But he spoke about seeing how much pain you can endure, how far you can go and I revisited that more this year than ever before. Not for 10 years have I done this level of training. And what has been amazing is watching my body respond to that, even though now I’m into my 40s, no problem, my body responded. As long as you feed it the right nutrients, give it the right amount of sleep, you will just be amazed at what level of fitness you can achieve once again.

5. Utilising a fitness tracker

I embraced the power of fitness trackers like Garmin Phoenix for data, insights, and accountability in tracking fitness progress. Not only have I watched my fitness improve but because a lot of my training sessions get posted on Strava or Zwift, I have other people giving me a little bit of encouragement.

6. Embracing ice baths

I introduced ice baths as a regular practice for body recovery, rejuvenation, and mental reset, drawing inspiration from the methods of Wim Hof. It is a wonderful way for you to build into your schedule a process that revitalises the body, calms the mind, and forces you to breathe properly.

7. Voice and tone mastery

This year I recognised the impact of voice and tone, with insights from one of our guests, Roger Love, and I implemented changes in communication both professionally and personally. As a coach, voice and tone are absolutely vital. The tone you take when you walk into a room is as a result of becoming aware of your ego, Chief. Listen to your tone and make a change. As Roger Love said, “Your voice is an instrument. Play it well.”

8. Harnessing power in crisis

Another key change has been embracing crises as opportunities for growth and change, deriving positive outcomes from personal health challenges and business setbacks. There is an old saying that in every crisis, there is an opportunity and this year we had a few. In May, I had emergency surgery to have my appendix removed, which put me out physically for about six weeks. But what came out of that was a new love for mountain biking, because I couldn't run, but I could get on an indoor trainer and build my leg muscles. And before long, I was on my mountain bike and hitting the mountains around my home a lot more. And later in the year my lower back went, but I really found swimming again.

Likewise, COVID crushed our business, but out of that came the Mini-MBA, the product that we scale our business through and is now the number one program when you measure NPS in Australia. In other words, the above crises gave me something new.

9. Balancing remote work

This year I found from time to time we were working from home too much and what happened was that the energy, motivation and the inspiration got lost just for a couple of weeks. But then I forced myself to get on a plane and go to Sydney or Melbourne or even down to Brisbane city and see clients, take people out to lunch or whatever I had to do. And guess what? The energy came back.

However, you need to pay really close attention to what works for you. As a start, I had to acknowledge the negative impact of excessive isolation from remote work, emphasising the need for social connection and inspiration from human interaction. We are social beings and we need to be around other people.

10. Leveraging gratitude as luck

Mark John, whom we had on the podcast very recently, gave me a little gem, which has just been wonderful. I've practised gratitude for years, and that has been good, but I wouldn't say it's a life-changing kind of process for me. But Mark said his gratitude has shifted to a mindset of feeling lucky, and appreciating personal and professional aspects of life. He’s lucky to live where he lives, he’s lucky to have his family and the job opportunities he’s got. That little change from merely having gratitude for what you have to saying that you’re actually really lucky, could be life-changing for you, Chief.

11. State of receivership

Dr. Jeff Spencer explained that the best performers have adopted a mindset of receivership, staying open to opportunities and consciously interacting with the world and what it is trying to provide them. I often start my week with that now, thinking, if an opportunity comes across my desk, am I really open to it or am I too shut off? 

12. Discipline in saying no

By contrast, while I recognised that the state of receivership is a wonderful space to inhabit, the importance of saying no and maintaining discipline to stay focused allows for strategic decision-making. You simply cannot do everything, you need to balance the two. And this year, I've pushed away quite a lot of distracting things and made some strong decisions strategically and at an individual level that have kept me focused a lot more than in previous years.

13. Commitment to inner work

Over the last two decades, I have emphasised the ongoing journey of inner work, urging others to explore self-help, personality models, and shadow work for emotional intelligence and self-regulation. I've read Nathaniel Brandon, James Hollis and Pema Shodran and as the latter would say, I've gone to the places that scare me, the darker places of my personality that I’m not that comfortable with.

It will be profoundly important to your emotional intelligence, to your self-regulation, to your ability to interact and have meaningful and deep relationships with people. No-one is perfect, not even close, not even CEOs. So don't try to be, do the inner work and learn to be comfortable with the great person that you are.

14. Power of the negative

I utilised the concept of the anti-vision and setting non-negotiable standards, understanding the value of focusing on what one does not want to achieve. Ben Ikin, the rugby league legend, said that he turns values into standards and that the most important thing is less about what the aspirational standard is, it's more about the things that you absolutely will not accept in your team.

15. Foundational elements: Identity, Awareness, Values

When I wrote the Chief Maker book, I made a big mistake; there is a big section missing, and it's at the start. It’s the IAM or Identity, Awareness, and My Story. The book talks about the GREAT Method (Game plan, Rhythm and routine, Entourage, Assets, and Track record) but we didn't include Values or Identity or your Story and that's the foundational element. We've actually since updated all of our infographics, our models and our online modules.


In closing, I strongly encourage a shift from a self-centred mindset to a focus on serving family and community, embodying the true spirit of leadership and entering the second half of life with a commitment to giving and creating positive impact.

It was JFK who said, “Don't ask what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Stop asking what you can get out of this world and start asking what you can give to this world, to your community, to the people around you and strive to be beyond self. That's what it means to be a true chief.

Stay epic,