For Mark Hutchinson, the path of developing Bamboozle into one of Australia’s most respected suppliers and installers of timber & bamboo flooring did not involve only business development but also the harsh tempering of his will and the perfection of his character.
As Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, famously said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Each step of achievement that he has gone through until today would seemingly amount to one time of renewal.
Harsh home environment undermines self-esteem
Hutchinson experienced a strict home environment during his childhood in the rural south of Western Australia. He shared, “The stuff that we endured as children were difficult,” and his father “belted his children for not brushing their teeth or working hard or making the bed properly.”
The unpleasant experience affected him deeply. “Your confidence is down, and your self-esteem is down,” he commented.
Further down the road, Mark and his three brothers were ultimately all raised by their mother alone. As the second of four brothers, Mark had to start working at an early age to support his mother. At the age of 14, he embarked upon a life working in the field of construction, where he laid brick and tile, made bicycles, planted crops, and worked in a large hardware store. This life of hard graft continued for several years.
His low-confidence and low self-esteem also played a part in his school life. He said, “I didn’t do well at school. I had developed an attitude problem.”
When he was 18, he started reading at least one self-help book per month from authors such as Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins.
“That personal growth side, I loved it,” he said, “that’s what gave me the confidence to think that your situation can change, and you can change it.”
He started taking classes at a community college, and after working hard to catch up after years of performing poorly in school, he was able to get into a university horticulture program. Hutchison started his own landscaping and viticulture business to pay his way through university.
But, halfway through this program, when he was 20 years-old, Hutchison was diagnosed with a life-threatening genetic condition resulting in a dysfunctional heart, among other problems. He was told he likely only had 10 to 15 years to live.
Instead of giving up, however, he decided to take full advantage of the short time he had left. He told himself, “You might as well live a decent life, and give it a shot.” He didn’t want to end up using his horticulture degree to just tend the garden at a local school. He wanted to achieve something with a greater impact.
Every beginning is hard
Eventually, after graduating from university, at 25, he and a local entrepreneur developed two new business ventures, a tree plantation and a bamboo flooring business. Mark dedicated much of his time to his business.
Only one year later, it was suddenly made known to him that the company’s other owner had cheated him on his partnership contract and financial protocol. Furthermore, there was no legal basis for Mark’s fortune to be guaranteed.
Facing that, Mark said, “I deleted everything from the hard drive, every evidence that I ever existed in that business,” Hutchison says. “I literally walked out of there.”
Hutchison then had a choice to make. Did he want to be an employee, always answering to someone else’s orders, or did he have the confidence to go out on his own? He founded Bamboozle, a bamboo flooring company that has now grown into Lifewood, a company that works with many kinds of sustainable-wood flooring.
Thanks to the opportunity that he managed to grasp, it wasn’t long before the company was turning over millions. He won business awards, became a well-known and respected figure in the business community in Australia and started a family… he was happy.
However, just as he was reaching the pinnacle of his success, a nagging health problem emerged, knocked him off-kilter. His stomach hurt almost all of the time and he lost more than 50 pounds in just a couple of months, but the doctors couldn’t figure out why. He spent a lot of money, tried all of the recommended protocols, and even hired a private health and fitness coach. His library was full of self-help books that also couldn’t provide an answer. In desperation, he cleaned out all his self-improvement books but kept the book his brother Lee had given him: Zhuan Falun.
Two of Mark’s brothers, Lee and Sean, had been practicing this traditional Chinese meditation practice called Falun Gong, of which Zhuan Falun was the main text. His brothers were happy, healthy, and at peace. One day, he talked to them about his unusual stomach symptoms. They suggested that he take up Falun Gong and told him there was a practice site in a park near his house, where he could learn the exercises for free.
Hutchison recalls thinking at the time, “quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve got too many options right now.” So, he began going to a local practice group every morning at 6 am, but his symptoms initially worsened. After a couple of weeks, he questioned the little Taiwanese lady who was teaching the exercises. “Where is the magic? This is not working for me.” She said, “Well, Mark, I’ve only taught you the body exercises, but you’re responsible for the mind exercises.” She encouraged him to read the core book of Falun Dafa, Zhuan Falun, which teaches the principles for improving one’s moral character.
Hutchison began applying these values to his life, while also doing the exercises every day and astonishingly within three months, he returned to full health.
“That helped me in my business and my family, and helped me become extraordinarily enduring under pressure,” he said. “[My ailment] seemed like a very big deal at the time, but it was actually really just a stepping stone.”
Each step of the way, major tribulations in Hutchison’s life have motivated him to do better and accomplish more. After reaching the pinnacle of health, success, and happiness, everything fell apart again.
Like a lotus in the mud, spiritual beauty emerges from hardship
He discovered that his wife — who was his childhood sweetheart and also his company’s CFO — was part of a web of romantic affairs and corruption among some of the management staff in his company. “They were scheming to take over the company,” Hutchison says. He and his wife split, and he became a single father. He fired all his management staff involved in the corruption.
“Your whole world collapses — business, money, and marriage. You’ve got nothing again,” Hutchison says. He told himself, “Just do the ethical thing. Do what you think is right, and everything will work out.”
“When you lose a business, your money, and your wife, you’ve got to let go of ego,” he says. “It’s a constant process of becoming more heartfelt,” Hutchison says the inner growth was extremely painful. “I felt like I was burning alive.”
Falun Dafa helped him let go of the anger and resentment building up inside himself and strive to look to the future in a positive manner. He refused to give up on his company. That was when Lifewood came into being, he says. “Lifewood is like the lotus flower that’s grown out of the mud.”
Since that last big tribulation back in 2013, Hutchison has brought together a team of employees with strong moral fiber. He’s used all of his knowledge to “create something beautiful and sustainable … that contributes to society in a wonderful way.”
He has had many opportunities over the years to do the right thing, to put ethics above profit. For example, he once helped a developer break a contract with a fraudulent builder. As a result, he lost money in the short run — the builder didn’t pay him for work he’d done, to the tune of $130,000.
But that developer was so grateful that he gave Hutchison lots of business, and Hutchison ended up coming out on top financially as well as morally.
Hutchison says, “I think that if we can get more business owners and more entrepreneurs to follow traditional morals, then we will see a stabilization of much of society.”
(According to reporting from Taste of Life and Minghui)