Hitting ‘Pause’ To Take 10 Steps Forward

Mark Scully
Jan 20 · 5 min read

The past five years have been a rollercoaster of emotions for me since I launched my own company in 2015. To date, Learn Inbound has hosted more than 50 events which have included monthly meetups, classroom training courses, and an annual two-day digital marketing conference. As a small team (me) and a handful of volunteers that help out on the day, I’m incredibly proud of all that we have achieved since I set out on a journey to create a digital marketing community here in Ireland. I’ve been fortunate to have met, worked with, and built friendships with some of the brightest (and nicest) people in the industry.

In the past I’ve spoken publicly about the emotional toll this has taken on me while balancing full-time consultancy projects, and the struggles with finding time to step away from work to live a happy, fulfilling life. Back in the earlier days of Learn Inbound, it was something I thought about less as my ambition and drive were so strong that it got me through all of those lonely weekends sat in a dark, empty office with nothing but a cup of coffee and takeaway for company. But as the drive slowly starts to fade and my default mindset for managing events has switched from positive to negative, I have circled back to the difficult decision that I’ve been dodging for nearly 18 months: I’m putting our two-day conference on hiatus until 2021.

Last year alone I was responsible for hosting 11 digital marketing meetups (Pint-Sized Marketing), 10 classroom training courses and a two-day conference in a larger venue than the year before. I should be proud of this achievement but there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head that can’t see anything beyond the faults from all of those events — that’s not a healthy or sustainable mindset I want to hold onto going forward. I believe that if your default way of thinking switches from positive to negative over a prolonged period of time, you need to take a step back to ask yourself, “why am I feeling like this?. Is there something different I should be doing?’.

It was during one of our meetups towards the latter half of last year where I sat in the audience and asked myself if I really wanted to be there as I was burned out from our two-day conference a few weeks before it (I still am). We had around 80 people in attendance at the meetup and three speakers who had flown themselves to Dublin to speak at it, but I didn’t want to be there. For anyone who has known me for a couple of years and interacted with me on multiple occasions, they were able to pick up on how disinterested I looked about the meetup. I had gone from someone who possessed unmeasurable enthusiasm in the early days of Learn Inbound to someone who was unsatisfied with everything, and unthankful to those who were supporting me. It was following this meetup that I took some time to myself to really ask myself, “what if I took a year off from hosting a conference to give myself time to recalibrate?”

For any small company, moving at a pace which exceeds your current resources, you will stumble a lot. I’ve scaled up the output from Learn Inbound over the past five years by giving up more and more of my free time which was unsustainable. It was last year when I finally decided to prioritise my personal life over Learn Inbound by choosing to spend more of my evenings and weekends on myself. I was lucky to meet someone amazing (you know who you are ❤️), visit some great places, and get back to hobbies and interests I had 5 years ago.

With that came a number of unfulfilled promises and a backlog of work which I’m still catching up on as my drive hasn’t returned to 100%. Typically, following our annual conference I’m ready to go again after two weeks off, but this wasn’t the case this time; my energy continued to dwindle without any solution being found. Hosting such a huge event by myself on top of full-time commitments elsewhere took its toll on me on ways I hadn’t expected. I turned into a person I didn’t like anymore and with that, the person solely responsible for being Learn Inbound’s main brand ambassador had disappeared.

What’s Next?

2020 will be a continuation of last year by making improvements to my personal life. A company is only as good as the people behind it, so if I want to make meaningful improvements to Learn Inbound, I need to get back the passion I had for it back in the early days. For the first time (in a very long time), I’m planning to take time off to enjoy a proper holiday, rebuild our website from the ground up, rethink what event marketing is (I’m tired of talking about ‘Early Bird’ tickets 🤦🏻‍♂️) get involved in some exciting new projects, and make time for people that have supported me from the beginning.

That’s not to say we won’t be hosting any events this year. Similar to 2019, we have 11 of our Pint-Sized Marketing meetups scheduled, as well as a number of classroom training courses. I also have a few smaller projects in the pipeline too which I’ll be excited to reveal later in the year.

Thank you to all of the amazing speakers, sponsors and attendees we’ve had over the past five years. Learn Inbound wouldn’t be possible without you ❤️ I’m looking forward to catching up with you all at other events this year before I get back to work on our annual two-day conference in 2021.

I’ve learned it’s ‘Ok’ to take a break, it’s fine not to be growing each year, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to prioritise yourself over everything else. You only get one life so be selfish about how you live it as you’ll never be remembered for the long hours you worked at the office, but for the person you were and how you supported those around you.

See you all at an event soon 👋

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Some of the conferences I recommend you check out this year:



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Women in Tech SEO Festival

    Mark Scully

    Written by

    Inbound Marketing Specialist and Co-Founder of Learn Inbound

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