In our Dare to Dream series, we invite 12 inspiring individuals who have courageously stepped out of their comfort zones to dream about a future they can truly call their own.
Autumn’s CEO Mike Kruger is passionate about building products that help people find long-term, sustainable happiness. “The kind of impact I want to make in the world is to help people find happiness,” shares Mike. “I like making a difference, a meaningful difference.”
Managing big life decisions like money and family finances can feel daunting. It’s something Mike can attest to, having had to unlearn the money attitudes he held on to in his youth, or figuring out his way around fatherhood and the aftermath of his divorce.
Through Autumn, he hopes to create a product that gives people the clarity they need to plan their life and work towards their dreams. In short, the very tools and guidance he wished he had years ago.
For Mike, #daringtodream is about creating a positive impact in people’s lives. Below, read on to find out what Mike’s best investment to date has been, what he’s most excited about building at Autumn, and what a day in his ideal dream future looks like.
If you could choose a soundtrack to your life, what would that be?
“I did it my way.”
What’s the best investment you’ve ever made in yourself?
Setting aside time to meditate regularly. And anything in the realm of personal mastery, whether it’s about self-awareness or about overcoming personal limitations, fear, trauma, or insecurities.
Learning a musical instrument is also a good one. I also recently learnt how to cook – I should’ve done that much, much sooner. I get a lot of happiness out of creating (and eating!) food – particularly with friends and family. At one point during the pandemic, I was baking a loaf of sourdough bread a day. My poor neighbours would have loaves of bread randomly turning up on their doorstep because I had too much. I hope they enjoyed eating them as much as I enjoyed baking them!
Autumn’s CEO Mike Kruger
it seems to me that the kind of impact I want to make in the world is to help people find happiness. And often, that’s about helping people with mental health issues or coaching them to find or adopt better, healthier habits. Whether that’s habits about ways of thinking or the way you manage stress, this is the kind of space where I really want to have an impact. It really appeals to me. I love helping people be happy. I like making a difference, a meaningful difference.
Something consistent across your most recent ventures is the idea of overall health and well-being. Why is this such an important topic to you?
From a very young age, mental health has been very important to my family and to me. I grew up in a family that was really into practical philosophy. My parents have been volunteering in this space for 30, maybe 40 years. It’s a philosophy that allows one to live a happy life, and find sustainable, long-term happiness. It’s about stuff you can put into practice and action, not about theorizing or navel gazing. Through that, I learned to meditate quite young at the age of 10, and I’ve been practicing ever since.
But (mental health) has not always been a theme of my start-ups and businesses. In fact, a lot of them had nothing to do with mental health. But, increasingly over the last few years, the impact I want to make in the world is to help people find happiness. And often, that’s about helping people find and adopt better, healthier habits. Whether that’s habits about ways of thinking or the way you manage stress, this is the kind of space where I really want to have an impact. It really appeals to me. I love helping people be happy. I like making a difference, a meaningful difference.
Is there a habit, belief, or behaviour that in recent years has impacted your life?
I grew up watching a lot of Disney films... There’s a whole bunch of really unhelpful ideas that come out of that, and one of the ideas that I operated under for a long time was all you need is love. As long as you love each other, you’ll find a way, right? Well, that is just not true.
It’s perfectly possible for you to love someone and for them to love you and to have incompatible worldviews, values, financial habits, beliefs, ways of operating and habits that make each other miserable. I’ve learnt to understand the practicalities. If you can get that right, it can make a big difference. Be romantic, fine, but also be pragmatic.
When did you first learn about money and how do you think that shaped your relationship with it?
As a child, you pick up some ideas that are idealistic and make them part of your worldview. In my family, we had this idea that money isn’t everything. In fact, focusing on material possessions is detrimental to health, mental health, physical health, happiness: this was the thinking that I grew up with. I didn’t respect the importance of money or the people who pursued wealth. This meant that I made lots of really unhealthy decisions when it came to my relationship with money, whether that’s negotiating my salary or investing. Disrespecting the importance of wealth is obviously mistaken, but I held onto this mistaken idea for a long time.
And then years later, I realized: Why do I believe this idea? This idea is wrong. Ok, money isn’t everything, but it’s very important! Life is a continuous learning process of identifying any limiting and unhelpful ideas that shape our idea of who we are and our place in the universe, and replacing them with better ones which are more likely to lead to success and happiness.
Also read: For Ee-Ling Lim, entrepreneur and Head of Business Development at 500 Startups, empowering a next-gen of thinkers is her life purpose
Fast forward to today, you’re an entrepreneur and talking about finances or the bottom line is something you can’t run away from. How did your ideas about money change?
I think it’s become increasingly important to me over the last decade or so. In particular, I remember having a very clear moment of realization when my son was born – I have a 15-year-old son, Tom – where I was standing in the hospital. He had just been delivered and the doctor handed him to me, not even an hour old. I remembered looking at him and very clearly thinking, “Okay Mike, you need to have a stable job for the next 21 years. No pressure!”
It was a moment where I kind of realized I have a responsibility and I can’t just take my career in the direction that I want to take it. I have other people to consider. That was really it was a big inflection point for me.
Even working on Autumn and being part of the financial side of things, I found that whole process hugely rewarding. I love the idea about helping people grow and helping people find happier and healthier ways of thinking, feeling, and doing.
What tools did you wish were available to you then?
I would’ve wanted a better understanding of me and my partner’s relationships and attitudes to money. Being able to work out a harmonious way of managing our finances and planning for both of us would have been fantastic. I’d loved to use a tool to have that kind of conversation; provide information in a non-judgmental way, but also enable both of us to move to a healthier way of financial planning and develop a healthier set of financial habits. That would have been amazing. I feel like those tools right there would make married life so much easier and happier, with less friction and less stress.
I am very excited about Your Circle. I love the idea of sharing aspirations and financial situation with loved ones, whether that’s with a partner, parents or my children or siblings… I don’t know what your family’s like, but with mine, money is a no-no subject to go towards. I’d love to have a pretext to kick off and master those kinds of conversations, and we’re building a tool to do just that.
This brings us very nicely to the next question: what is your favourite Autumn feature?
I am very excited about Your Circle. I love the idea of sharing and working towards aspirations with loved ones, whether that’s with a partner, parents or children or siblings. Being able to understand where I’m at and where they are in their plans and what they’re working towards, and how we can help each other. I’m very excited about that. I also love some aspects of (the feature) that are not quite ready yet but coming soon – things like planning towards shared goals.
The reason I love this is because it’s empowering. It’s about helping people navigate those tricky conversations around finances. I don’t know what your family’s like, but with mine, money is a no-no subject to go towards. I’d love to have a pretext to kick off and master those kinds of conversations, and we’re building a tool to do just that.
What does your dream future look like?
I love having family around. I think I’d love to have a much bigger family, more children, ideally all living together in a big house.
I’d want the opportunity to make music with people and perform on a regular basis, to travel on the regular, make beautiful things with wood, metal, even make art… Probably do some teaching of some sort – but no, not musical instruments, I’ve done my time. (laughs)
Also read: For entrepreneur and co-founder of The Kind Friend Jamie, true success is simply ‘inner peace’
Lastly, what three steps can our readers take to become #FutureFit?
First of all, you need to think about what your dream future is. Ask yourself: what’s important to you? What makes you happy, what brings you joy, and how can you create a future where that’s present?
Secondly, you need to have clarity about your current situation – your financials, health, lifestyle, and to recognize the gap between where you are now and where you want to get to.
And finally, you need to create an action plan – starting with small steps! – which will take you from now to the future you want to create, the future of your dreams.
One bonus item: share what you’re doing with friends and family and ask them for their help – their love, support, and occasional butt-kicking will keep you motivated along the way to make sure you reach your destination.
Follow Mike’s #DaretoDream journey on our socials. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Enjoyed this article? Take your little step today – write your dream pledge card for 2022 here.