meaningful work podcast

Episode 9: Stories of a fantasy future

May 31, 2023 | Podcast

In this podcast we’ll be exploring the importance of finding a balance between personal goals and contributing to the larger society.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to balance personal and societal goals: The podcast explores the perspective of “bleeding hearts,” who prioritise societal goals over personal sustainability, sparking a discussion on finding a balance between individual aspirations and contributing to the greater good.
  • How an overly idealised vision of our future can hinder our present joy and hinder our progress. The importance of personal narratives and how they might limiting your potential or preventing them from finding fulfilment in your lives.
  • The power of storytelling and the influence stories have in our lives, shaping our perceptions, goals, and overall happiness.
  • How the narratives we create and believe about ourselves, our work, and our relationships can directly impact our satisfaction and success.


Welcome to Meaningful Work for a Remarkable Life. I’m your host Brook McCarthy and I’m a business coach, trainer and speaker living and working on the unceded lands of the Camaragal people here in Sydney, Australia. In this podcast, we explore the paradoxes inherent in working for love and money, magnifying your impact and doing work you feel born to do. We explore the intersections of the meanings we bring to work and the meanings we derive from work. Let’s dive in.

Today we are talking about stories of a fantasy future. Now, if I could couple this episode with stories of growth, I think they are a great compliment. And perhaps if you twisted my arm, which I just thought of in the last couple of moments, stories of growth could perhaps be for the meaningful work. And then stories of a fantasy future is for remarkable life perhaps, if I can be so bold as to distinguish between work and life, which I think increasingly is pretty tricky or like a false boundary really. But let’s dive in. So stories of a fantasy future, and why are we talking about this? Because stories of your fantasy future are very much perhaps bleeding your happiness and enjoyment of life, work, family, friends, everything, and also possibly bleeding your business with some missteps or false starts that I think are easy enough to course correct once you’re aware of them.

So I want to kick off with bleeding hearts because this is a segment of people that I see a lot of. It’s a segment of people that I consider myself part of. And certainly it is something that distinguishes my clients from, you know, other people perhaps, is that there is a desire to change the world. And I know that sounds big and grand and possibly ill-conceived or, you know, whatever, blah, blah, blah. But, you know, at its essence, I think a lot of us would love to feel that our impact went beyond our own small circle of influence, that our impact was felt like a ripple effect in broader society and that we were pivotal in changing the trajectory of our society. So with bleeding hearts, and of course, like all things in life, this is a spectrum.

This is not a yes or no, black or white kind of thing. You know, there’s a spectrum of bleeding hearts and I guess at one end of that spectrum would be people who are social activists who, the most important thing, there’s almost a singular tunnel vision is, you know, the future of the planet or the future of animals or the future of children or whatever it is that they’re focusing on. And what is lost in this tunnel vision, for want of a better word, what gets lost is the immediacy of our own personal sustainability. And I see this all the time in people who are most in need of finances, most in need of actually looking after themselves, and they’ll give everything that they own away in pursuit of the larger goal. That’s not just about money here, that’s not just about, you know, lack of ability to feed yourself or pay your rent or whatever. It’s also the self care and the selfishness and the time away. It’s the fact that you are unable to be sustainable and this is perhaps the paradox at the heart of the bleeding hearts.

The paradox at the root of the bleeding hearts is that in order for you to create a sustainable future you need to create a sustainable self. And part of that personal sustainability is the ability to finance your needs and to finance your wants. And of course finance is not just about money, it’s about time. It’s about focus, it’s about self care, it’s about time away, it’s about holidays, it’s about hobbies, it’s about, you know, having something else, apart from that tunnel vision. And then, you know, another kind of key group that I see with this fantasy future is those that are working really, really hard but not earning enough money. They’re putting in the hours, they’re putting in the grind, they’re grinding it out, but they are not earning enough. And, you know, they’re kind of working with this view that in the future they will have enough to down the tools and stop or down the tools and slow down. And, you know, this kind of fantasy future that they cultivate takes them away from the hassles of their daily life. In the same way that the bleeding heart can be fixated, the fantasy future of when, you know, climate change is, you know, reconciled and when, you know, women and children and, you know, minorities have equal rights and, you know, etc, etc.

This fantasy future, you know, takes you away from the hassles of, you know, paying your bills and needing to sleep and all the rest of it. The everyday hassles, the everyday realities that we all, you know, are privy to. And this is problematic for a few different reasons. And the first and perhaps most obvious is that it squanders the good things that are right in front of you. It squanders the joys and the wonders and the rewards of your efforts that are right in front of you because you’re constantly fixated on the future, the future, the future. And of course there’s another part of that as well which is kind of a little bit delusional and this is, this is always fun.

This is always good times when Brooke talks about delusions, but you know I do, I do see a lot of it and I don’t think you, you know, I don’t think you’ve solved something by pretending it doesn’t exist. I think pretending, you know, that people aren’t deluded makes them less deluded or makes people stop being deluded. And, you know, I’m thinking in so far as, you know, the person in your life, you might think of somebody who’s under the delusion that they have more money than they think they do. So they’re spending all the time and I think that’s, you know, unfortunately a byproduct of a lot of online business propaganda and online business gurus, this kind of abundant mentality where, you know, you’ve gone to a Tony Robbins seminar on wealth and you get yourself a printed certificate and you display it in your rented accommodation while you miss your rental payments. You know, it sounds silly but this is actual examples that I’ve seen.

This is, I have seen the Tony Robbins. Here is my certificate of wealth because I spent a lot of money attending a Tony Robbins weekend. So, I think the reason why, you know, fantasies are brilliant, right? I like, I don’t want to, I don’t want to rain on our parade here. I’m a huge fan of fantasies. I have an active imagination, but that is different from delusion, right? I might have an active imagination, but that is different from believing that, oh yeah, this is, you know, right around the corner. I just have to max out my credit cards and I have to spend beyond my means because, you know, good times are just around the corner. No doubt, you know, I’ll be making heaps of money if only I just attend this Tony Robbins wealth creating seminar.

And I think one of the reasons that we feed our fantasies and they become fantasies rather than, you know, goal visualizations or goals that we’re working towards, they’re not reality yet but they’re something we’re actively working towards, is because we have a lot of stories of business growth, of remarkable lives that don’t show the grit nor the privilege that is the reality behind these success stories. So, you know, we don’t hear enough about the business owner that gets a head start through being given a family business such as in the situation of Gary Vee and many, many others. We don’t hear about the business owner who got the head start through family connections, or the head start through access to capital, or the head start through and when I say family connections I’m not talking about, you know, normal kind of family connections huge fan of using your network and using your network’s network, you know, and growing your connections, but there are some people, there are a small tiny minority who are born extremely privileged with extreme awesome connections to the right people who can, you know, with a phone call or two, get in touch with people that are massively powerful and able to help them leapfrog, you know, forward a decade in one fell swoop.

We don’t hear enough about the people that have a massive shortcut through access to capital. We don’t hear enough about the real details of who helped and how this worked. You know, this is something I think that we would all benefit from to have access to the real stories behind okay well how did this come about exactly who knew who, and what exactly transpired, and what was the deal that was struck, and what did it cost you and I’m not necessarily talking about money here you know, you scratch my back I scratch your back, like how are we going to learn this stuff.

We never hear the behind the scenes information. We don’t hear enough about the real deal details of setbacks of slow progress of unsexy mistakes and failures, you know, and that’s why it’s commented on so much you know that’s why people, you know, call me honest and I’m very happy to talk about mistakes but most people are not, and if they are, you know, they’re doing it in a very deliberate coached kind of a way you know they’ve engaged a speaker coach for example, or they’ve gone through some speakers program to turn, you know, to kind of create a story of failure, or a story of, you know, mistake to make it sexy and to make it part of the schmick part of the story.

And the thing that I think feeds these, you know, not useful fantasies of our future is the how behind what success looks like like what is success actually look like for many of us. So we’re not just a failure of an imagination we kind of grab something that’s convenient, you know we grab some reality TV show we grab some celebrity reality TV show. Oh, that’s success you know success is having a private jet success is flying first class. It’s only having a private jet. And when we do that, we miss out on creating our own success and making it more to the point, making it meaningful, making it meaningful success because I don’t know about you but I guess you would agree with this.

I don’t want to be one of those successful people that I meet, where by a minute in their company and I can tell they’re deeply unhappy, I can tell they’ve got a grasp be what’s in it for me kind of personality. I can tell they’re not a well rounded individual I can tell they haven’t had a really good bonk for a long time. You know I don’t want success. If it means that I never see my kids, I never see my partner. You know I don’t have any friends or if I do have friends I never see them. I don’t want that, and I’m, you know, again, taking liberties here but I’m pretty sure that you would agree. I hope that you would agree.

We all have our own definitions of that of course some people, you know may love not having children, great, good on you, wonderful. But, you know, we want success on our own terms right that is the definition of success is deeply personal to each individual. Sometimes it’s worth thinking about whether these ideas these random ideas of which we all have we all have random ideas that aren’t kind of built in fact or rationality random mishmash of stuff we picked up from popular culture and other places and we’ve gone into our picture of what success is.

So for example when I was a tour leader in Southeast Asia I caught the plane quite often I was constantly getting onto and out of an airplane. And I quite enjoyed that it you know it made me feel successful it made me feel like I was, you know, traveling has always been something that I’ve loved ever since I was a teenager, and it made me feel fabulous. Every single airport I turned up to, I would always have at least one plastic bag. And in my head, success did not look like getting on a plane with a plastic bag in my hand. And, you know, I remember the, remember this for some dumb reason. But I obviously didn’t care enough didn’t bother me deeply enough to actually do anything about it to actually go and buy a couple of nice looking, you know, right size bags to handle the overflow that inevitably made it into a plastic bag.

Another one was having a nanny when I had two small kids so when I had two children in quick succession to under two, and I had a busy business. I had a very firm entrenched detailed fantasy involving a nanny, whereby she’d turn up she was delightful it was a she, don’t ask me why. She’d turn up, and she’d be a delight, and she’d turn up for I don’t know five hours a day. And, you know, I would get on with my work. Now, that was the fantasy. I obviously didn’t care enough or if I didn’t care enough, I wasn’t bothered to dig in my heels and have a big argument with my partner because we also had a giant mortgage at the time we were both self employed and we were working like demons, trying to pay it down as quickly as possible.

So, if I had advocated for a nanny and if I had my time over maybe I would, you know, if such a thing existed as a rewind button perhaps I would care enough but at the time, I did not care enough to dig in my heels and have a giant big argument because that’s what it would have taken and my partner is excellent at arguing, you know, which means it kind of, it takes a lot of resilience, right, so I’ve got to really care. I’ve got to really care about what I’m arguing with.

Then the other thing is diamonds, you know, another kind of fantasy that wasn’t really a fantasy on further examination. I love diamonds, they’re sparkly and pretty what’s not to like. But when it comes to actually spending money on them, I’ve gone in and had a look and I’ve looked with my partner, we’ve both looked, so isn’t that pretty isn’t that nice. But at the end of the day, I would rather take that giant chunk of change and spend it on flights and overseas accommodation. I don’t care enough about diamonds to actually want to pay for them and this is, you know, this is a good measure of the depth of our desires. Yeah, we like the idea of things. I like the idea of having a diamond on my finger and I could afford to have a diamond, I could go out, go off today and buy myself a diamond, but I don’t value it. I don’t the desire does not run deep enough for me to take that money out of our investments out of our bank account away from our next holiday and into a diamond ring. I don’t value it enough.

You can 100% that you know, enjoy something, admire something without necessarily wanting it for yourself. So, the other thing that you know one of the one of the major reasons why the stories of a fantasy future are not necessarily useful and in fact maybe harmful maybe you know maybe stopping you from from progress is that we waste a lot of time, right, we, we waste a lot of time trying to predict the future, and this is, this is especially true for those of us who tell ourselves.

Oh, you know what, like, this is useful I need to I need to fantasize in great depth and detail I need to take that fantasy further into Google, and I need to procrastinate research and procrastinate plan and procrastinate right and, you know, do all this stuff and this goes double for those of you who are thinking about starting a business and never ever ever could have would have should have, but haven’t quite managed to do it yet is we’re trying to predict the future we waste so much time planning or attempting to plan for eventualities that never ever come.

And lots of research and creativity demonstrates that your existing knowledge will limit your ability to envisage new things. So, oftentimes the research that we’re doing is entirely inaccurate. Right, even with the best of intentions even with the University of YouTube. We’re still limiting limited by the algorithms by the search results. And, you know, what we tend to do is we tend to focus on things that we already know about, you know, and then we try and predict so how will this evolve in the future but we don’t do a very good job of predicting the events, or the opportunities, over which we have no precedence. And this I think in business is, you know, this is kind of at the heart of so much of what I teach and train and coach on is that we, you know, we cannot predict so much there is an element of out of control this that so many business owners or want to be business owners that they really struggle with, and want to be business owners struggle because they never ever do it because they’re looking for this sure fire guarantee that is impossible. And, you know, existing business owners, the stress of being self employed, even when you know they’ve got great products and services, even when they’re getting great results from their clients great accolades they’ve got profit they’ve got sustainable products, and yet, the stress of the uncertainty eventually undoes them, they can’t survive or thrive with the stress of it.

And therefore, they go and they get a job, and of course you know if you decide you need to get a job that’s you know who am I to judge you on that you or your, your, you know, personal life but this is what I’ve seen. What I’ve seen is a lot for a lot of business owners. The stress just kills them in the end. Yeah, and the stress caused by the uncertainty. So, your fantasy future, of course, is created in the present. The small steps now that you can do to predict or not to predict rather to create that future that you’re fantasizing about. They start now. Yeah, and this is, you know, this is a big indication of whether it’s a fantasy whether you’re diluting yourself, whether you’re busy on the procrastinating planning and procrastinating research and procrastinating visualization, or whether you’re actually doing the thing that you’re doing.

What have you done research is not doing the outcome of the research the action that you take from that research is doing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a conversation or a meeting you’ve lined up or an introduction, whatever it is you’ve done something you’ve taken some small step now to create that future that you want. The other thing of course that you can do is you can visualize and act in your new identity so for us to create a future self, a future business a future meaningful life remarkable life.

We need to grow into a new identity of ourselves. We need to loosen the straight jacket of our existing identity and visualize and step into that new identity and this is not cerebral. This is a verb. Yes, we are beings but we are also doings and this is again with the delusion. You know you you say you want to exercise you say you want to be strong, but when was the last time you actually pick up a set of weights. You say you know you want to write a book but when was the last time you actually wrote a sentence, wrote anything towards that book.

I want to talk a little bit now about my own personal successes and the hope that I might inspire you to start your own success list to start defining and making this you know idea of success more meaningful for you. For me, what I define as success is having a slow start in the morning. If I don’t feel it. Yeah, some days for some weird reason I just I don’t know hormones or whatever weather, whatever’s going on in my life I just kind of wake up with endless energy I kind of my eyes open I’m excited and I’m out of bed and it’s not difficult. Other days most days. I want to take it easy I want to, I want to languish in bed I want to take it out of a slow start, ideally I want to coffee in bed and I want to read in bed. And I do this, I pester my partner until he makes me a coffee until he gets out of bed and makes me a coffee with our new or new, it’s about a year old now machine. And I read a novel in bed. When I’m reading a novel in bed on a week on a weekday morning drinking coffee I feel like a million bucks.

I’m like, yes, loving myself sick right now. Another thing you can do is, and this is a really, this one is kind of a fun one I hope you enjoy this anyway, is doing things on days that you wouldn’t normally do things so we think of like Fridays and Saturdays is fun days right and Mondays are your serious days where you do serious things in your business. Well recently I took one of my favorite clients to Sydney’s best spa, and we had a VIP session in the spa on a Monday, and she commented to me how fabulous it was particularly because it was a Monday, and it doesn’t seem like a Monday kind of thing right doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you do on a Monday. So how to think about how you could use that. How could you do something on a Monday that seems bizarre and indulgent and amazing and wonderful and successful. How could you create your own success ritual your personal success ritual with all the tiny idiosyncratic individual details that are so wonderful for you, and do it in a time, such as a Monday, that it seems like a bizarre thing to be doing.

Now, research shows that gratitude and mindfulness is going to help our enjoyment our happiness, our everyday, you know moment to moment happiness. And we can do this in the moment, in the next minute in the next hour. Because when we are constantly fixated on stories of our fantasy future on these stories of, you know, in future, I will be happy in future I will be successful in future I will do the thing that I really desperately want to do.

We are losing the joy of the moment we are losing, you know, the, the fabulous good fortune the privilege that we have right in front of us now is moment to moment awareness of our thoughts of our feelings of our surroundings. The joy of all of our good fortune is such a powerful simple and powerful tool to reducing our stress and anxiety building our resilience, boosting our concentration boosting our focus, boosting our flow. And, you know, stop that fixation on the future the future the future the future is now the future is happening moment by moment by moment.

And of course, I need to leave you with that famous quote by john Lennon which of course I’m going to stuff up because I didn’t plan for this life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, there you go I didn’t need Google after all I just needed a moment of mindfulness. And that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, it is happening right now, and now, and now, and now, and the future is speeding into the past breath by breath by breath. And slow down, practice gratitude, practice mindfulness, be extreme in our, in our discernment of when we are sponsoring the good things that are right in front of us when we are allowing a bad attitude and a feeling of resentment to squander the great things that are in front of us right now and know again with that discernment when we are tipping into delusion. Then we can start experiencing so much more joy, so much more capacity, so much more happiness, so much more gratitude for the future that we are creating right now.

This podcast was produced by Morgan Sebastian Brown of Brown Tree Productions, and the original music was produced by Sean Windsor.

Brook McCarthy Business Coach

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We acknowledge the Cammeraygal people, the traditional and ongoing custodians of the lands that Hustle & Heart creates and works on. This lush land is just north of Sydney Harbour Bridge. We also acknowledge the traditional and ongoing custodians of the land, skies and seas where you are, and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. We recognise that these lands were never ceded.

Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

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