Mitch Bowler is an artist, web developer, and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Pencil Kings and and co-founder of Evolve Artist Training. Bowler is the host of the Pencil Kings Podcast.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up in Treherne, Canada – a small village of about 650 people. I spent a lot of time in the summers with my grandparents on their farm which was an amazing place to play. It also taught me a lot about work ethic which I have carried with me for my whole life.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

To start thinking in terms of systems, especially when it comes to managing finances. It’s common knowledge I think to save 10% of your income, but it wasn’t until I got a system set up to automatically save and invest the money that things really started to improve.

And to clarify, I didn’t have 10% to invest when I started… I just started with what I could afford at the time, which was about 3% of my income. The most important thing is to start – it doesn’t matter if it’s only $5/mo to begin because once you have started you can continue to grow it; but if you never start, then nothing happens.

I strongly believe that having a system like this for finances should be in place before students graduate from high school so they can continue to receive the benefits of this for the rest of their life.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

I mainly work with creatives, and I think there is an over-emphasis on skill development and an under-emphasis on all of the other skills that are required. For example, how to speak to people, network, build friendships and community… these skills don’t get talked about nearly enough, and I would say that most of my own growth and career advancement has come because of these soft skills.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

I had a depression come on at one point which was really scary as I was at the time living abroad and realized that I would most likely need the support of my family because I could feel my thoughts changing.

Basically, I realized that my usual ‘happy-go-lucky’ attitude had disappeared, and in a lot of ways it was like when Austin Powers had lost his ‘Mojo,’ and wasn’t sure how to proceed.

The experience wasn’t anything like I had imagined depression would be like – I would simply describe it as an absence of purpose.

To come out of it I tried everything I could:

  • Listening or reading books on rediscovering happiness
  • Therapy
  • Daily exercise
  • Eating healthier

I wish I had an answer – but I tried all of these things together and then one day suddenly my ‘old self’ came back while I was on the treadmill at the gym. It was basically like a light switch had been turned back on and I was back to normal and knew that I had come out of the depression.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Honestly, I believe it’s been following my passions and curiosity. Because these areas are so strong I 100% look forward to my ‘working’ days, and the reason I look forward to them is that for the most part, I’m just playing.

I wonder what the world would look like if more people followed their passions and put that as the #1 driver of their career decisions.

What is your morning routine?

I wake up usually at 6 am and plan my day based on my weekly priorities, and then from there usually get the day on the go. I’ve tried various systems, but this is the one that feels good for me at the moment so I can use the most productive time in the morning to get a head start on the day before most other people come online.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

I believe that for the past few years it’s been working on getting the financial systems in place. I’m constantly amazed at how long it truly takes to develop a habit, and how easy it is to get ‘knocked off’ your game.

Perhaps I’m just slower than other people, or perhaps unrealistic expectations have been set and bought into, but from my own honest experience, I can say that simplicity is the way.

Even though it’s been a few years to get solid systems in place it’s absolutely worth signing up for that multi-year journey if that’s what it takes. This kind of discipline can be applied to other areas as well, but if you try to do too much, my experience is that progress is very slow or non-existent.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

I’m actually in the process of advancing my thinking on this by doing an in-depth time study of my days for the past 6 months and what I can say is:
1 – Get help and whenever possible, delegate what you can
2 – Say ‘No’ to more things by having true clarity on what your target is
3 – Track your time and see where you can improve vs past performance

If you’re interested in doing a time study on your own – you can learn more about my experience with time tracking and get the same google sheet I used where I had my biggest time breakthroughs for free. Full details and the free Google timesheet and training are at Tick Tock Lab.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson – This taught me how to relax
Conversations with God by Neal Donald Walsch – this book gave me a sense of peace with my place in the universe
Profit First by Mike Michalowicz – Taught me a simple system for growing my personal net worth
Traction by Gino Wickman – Taught me how to run my businesses

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

It depends on what is going on at the moment, but these days there are two: ‘Where is the bottleneck,’ and ‘What is the question behind the question.’