Interviews‎ > ‎ Interview: I am into flow state again

posted Dec 21, 2008, 4:28 PM by Seeby W

 Seeby appears to have had a dream run of it. He doubled the size of his company Orcon for most the years that he ran it, and then last year sold off his start-up for $24.3 million to state-owned network operator Kordia. You could be forgiven for believing that he landed with his proverbial bum in the butter. This couldn’t be further from the truth however. He tells us how it wasn’t all plain sailing, how he is overcoming his demons and how he is pushing himself to his next level to prove to himself that he is not a one-hit wonder, all while sticking to his ‘work hard , play hard’ maxim.

Things were running smoothly with Orcon, but the regulatory environment changed and I turned 30 and thought, what do I want to do with my life? What’s happening in the world? I had done Orcon for nine years. It’s been ten months since the Orcon transaction, and I have had six months off.


I used to have goals that scare me. I need to go back and expand on them. When I first started Orcon I used to dream about the biggest things I was going to take on. I keep my goals in my head. I know what they are. With Orcon, the master goal was to double the size of the company every year. Seven years out of ten we did. It shows you the power of setting goals. I came up with the name Orcon even before I knew it was going to become an internet company.


I knew the internet was going to be big, and I had to be in it. I didn’t really know about computers. I think the reason I succeeded is that I always viewed it as a business, not an IT thing. I wasn’t an IT geek playing around. At one stage there were 160 ISPs in New Zealand, but many were started by very technical people that just thought it was cool, and didn’t necessarily know how to sell to people or grow a customer base.

I got into a kind of flow-state where you can’t think about other, distracting things. If you are not thinking about anything in particular your mind starts to wander to all the problems in your life. When you are focused it’s difficult to be miserable. You get practiced at flow-state. It is like a muscle. I believe all truly successful people aim to get into that state. The things that do it for me are communicating with people and mulling over ideas.


I think flow state is one of the most enjoyable human states. It’s not happiness, necessarily, but it’s transcendent. The first few years I would sleep under my desk and do 16-hour days, but I’d be super-excited when I woke up. It would be go-go-go all day and suddenly it would be 2am and I’d think, I’d better sleep or I’ll collapse. Then I’d do it all over again. In the beginning I burned the candle both ends. I worked really long hours, but it was not a conscious decision to sacrifice anything. I had a purpose. I couldn’t have done it if I was frying burgers, for example. I mentally carried my body because I was so excited.


My own personal demon is that I am a one-hit wonder. My identity was wrapped up in Orcon and my success personally was tied to Orcon’s success.  We all have stuff we worry about. For six months I didn’t have a business because I was looking for the right idea. There were some real interesting moments during this period. Some good, some not so good.


I am an only child – so am very comfortable with my own company- but am equally able to push myself to besociable. I like to think I can see things from different (opposing) perspectives. I pride myself on being open-minded. I am getting more and more in tune with my intuition. It’s a growth thing.


I think I am a naturally good at visualization. You need to be able to build those pictures in your brain of where you are going. If you doubt yourself, your chances of success will be a lot lower. This is something I also focus on.


Hard work on its own is not something that produces results. There are plenty of brilliant scientists or people that go to university, but I’m not sure there are many university professors that turn out to be millionaires. It is not necessarily intelligence or hard work that creates success. It is something indefinable.


I could probably trace back the success of Orcon to a few key decisions. One decision a month that turns the company into something else, or an email you send.


The first year I did every single thing under the sun from the banking to customer service to technical things like setting up the service and doing the web site. I used to be a sales rep for Eriksson, selling cell phones. I cut my teeth on salesmanship and understanding the customer.


One of the secrets to my success is that I am a real generalist. I don’t specialise in any area. I learned to delegate quickly, and to get other people up to speed quickly. I had to rely on others to tell me how the internet worked.


I was eleven in 1987. The sharemarket crashed, and my parents, who were plumbers, had got in two months before because everyone had been saying how much money you could make – but the people that really made all the money knew it was going to pop and got out. I remember thinking that my parents didn’t understand what was going on.


I was interested so I would ask my uncles, who are lawyers, what is the definition of a company? What is a partnership? How does the law work? What’s bankruptcy? I basically became a sponge. As a simpleton I just ask all of the dumb questions over and over again.


There is no one thing it takes to be successful, but there’s a need for desire. My hero is Richard Branson. He has fun. I don’t understand the idea of working yourself to death. I would rather have less money and less success, and still enjoy myself. I tend to keep my work separate from my personal life. I work very hard, but once I switch off I want to play very hard. You need work to drive you.


I met Richard Branson when he came to New Zealand. He had an event in Auckland, and I talked my way in and went up to him and introduced myself. I knew he wouldn’t want to hear a whole lot of bull so I just asked for two minutes, and then he could get on with the rest of his life. I had the idea at the time that there was a deal in it.


I am not completely driven and consumed by things. It’s satisfying to see something growing, but for a lot of rich people it’s not about the money, it’s having the ability to build something and make a difference.

I’m a Libra, the scales. I’m a very balanced person. I’m ambidextrous, and I play music.


I will never read a romance novel because I would rather do that stuff in my own life. I enjoy reading politics, history, business and science. I don’t see much point in fiction, apart from The Lord of the Rings and the classics and science-fiction stuff. I want to read a book to learn something.


I have started a new company buying and selling carbon credits, and focusing on emissions reduction and sustainability. I want to do some good and be a pioneer and prove to myself that I’m not a one-hit wonder. It is a calculated risk, but it doesn’t matter much whether something is risky, just that I am passionate about it. The feeling I have about global warming and related technology is the same I had about the internet. It’s good to be back with that feeling.


I believe in humanity’s ability to engineer our way out of problems. We just need to focus on it. There is a huge industry around petroleum, and in the next twenty years that will shift to sustainable hydro, wind and other sources. Now that petrol is going up in price the solutions are starting to appear, and I want to be part of them.


If we don’t do something we are going to be screwed. Experts are saying that less than one percent of global GDP will solve the global warming problem. One percent of everyone’s salary is nothing.


Business is about making money and doing some good. I don’t want to have 20 houses on the side all losing money and putting a strain on civilization, just to save tax. I wonder why some businesses do that sort of thing.


I feel like a dummy sometimes but I know I have a really high IQ. One of my skills is to take all elements of a problem, put everything into my head, and come out with an answer. It’s like playing chess.


The key to success is figuring which are the right people to keep on board and which are the wrong people. A lot of my business partners have had opposing value sets or been personally difficult to work with, but they have had skills that were not my own, so it has worked.


It comes down to gut feel. I can read a CV, do phone interviews and spend hours thinking about whether someone is right for the job. But the impression I get in the first two minutes will be right, and only recently have I started to follow that. Staff are super-important, and I’ve always focused on hiring great people. I got to around 100 staff, but you can’t be the one good person in the company and have 99 losers.


I have always been right but I have not always trusted myself. I have hired some people where everything seemed to be perfect on paper, but when I first met them I thought they might be a bit a problem– they were introverted or mousy, or they complained as they walked in that they couldn’t find a car park. Those tiny little things make a difference.


Some of the more difficult times - I had an accountant that committed fraud, and the company nearly went under. Problems with the IRD had been hidden. That taught me never to abdicate responsibility. You might not like accounting, but you must always keep an eye on the money.
Seeby Woodhouse At a Glance:
·         YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme) Alumni.
·         Cashed up the tune of $19 million following the sale of his internet business Orcon.
·         Managing Director of Green Carbon Limited at
·         Seeby has been involved in starting and running numerous businesses over the years encompassing Internet, mobile, IT, hospitality, radio, property and finance. 
·         He was the New Zealand Young Entrepreneur of the Year and HiTech Young Achiever of the Year in 2004.
·         Futurist and investor, accomplished public speaker.
·         Not a dull boy – regular feature on

Goalgetting Tips for Today

 Learn how to get into “flow state”- practice the art of concentration on something that you love.

Always be willing to create new goals that excite you, once you have achieved the ones you  set  out to do.Try to surround yourself with people who complement your skills – not carbon copies of you.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! – as the saying goes. Remember to find balance.

Be prepared and have a plan to handle positive and negative stress– even in times of major success.

Always continue your education – in whatever form that takes – even if it involves teaching yourself.

Learn to listen to your “little voice” –your intuition.

sourced from an interview on Live My Goals Blogs done by Dwayne Alexander