meaningful work podcast

Episode 10: The stories of adolescence & the boyfriends we keep

Jun 7, 2023 | Podcast

Like Gerry Seinfeld and Elaine, Brook and Jacko were always destined to be friends, not lovers. In this episode, Brook interviews her first boyfriend Jacko, who’s way too smart and compassionate for his own good, to uncover all the stories we tell ourselves as teenagers, how they shape our identities, and what endures. From geeking out to Shakespeare and goth, and the melancholy of 90s music, Brook and Jacko traverse what it means to become an adult.

What you’ll learn:

  1. Brook and Jacko’s (most excellent) 90s taste in music
  2. On not fitting in and why it’s good for you
  3. On not being good enough and the old ‘I’m not the kind of person’ dialogue
  4. Cambodian adventures
  5. What changes between ages 22 and 42
  6. On doing mid-life pivots
  7. Australia and Norway: socialism, responsibility and rampant individualism
  8. Brook’s enduring story that’s keeping her lonely
  9. The stories that have kept Jacko feel stuck and unhappy
  10. How your view on your upbringing shapes your attitude
  11. Brook’s quick trick to reduce feelings of overwhelmed
  12. How to measure your abilities
  13. On being the worst in class


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  unneeded 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.

So, I’m so pleased to introduce you to my very first boyfriend, Mark Jackson.  Good morning.  Would you like to tell us where you are right now?  Thank you for the intro, Brooke. Yes, very nice. Yeah, I’m right now I’m in a place called Moirana, which is in northern Norway, just under the Arctic Circle. Yeah, indigenous peoples, the Sami people of the Ildegirubin and Enbeti district.  And thanks for that first boyfriend line, by the way, I always thought we were more like Jerry Seinfeld and Elaine, you know, a disastrous couple but much, much better dear friends.

What are you talking about? You break my heart a second time? I can’t believe.  I’m sorry.  Yeah, well, you know, I was just talking to Peter, my lover, and the father of my children, and he said, Oh, you’re interviewing Jaco. Oh, good.  And, you know, Jaco’s qualifications are and I’m like, we’re gonna have fun.  He’s gonna give good conversation.  Okay, now I feel like flattered and a little bit nervous. Okay, yeah, just don’t put the pressure on.  It’s also early in the morning here the time difference it’s seven o’clock in the morning.

Yeah, so on the other literally on the other side of the world we couldn’t be farther apart.  And when you said let’s do the podcast I thought oh great at least we’ll get to chat because we never can seem to line up our schedules to have a conversation.  And I’ve been proposing a synchronism a sin of Christmas. How do I synchronize. Oh, for God’s sake I always stuff that up. I cannot say that word.  So we’ve been sending each other voice messages from, you know, the other side of the world, because yeah, it’s a very incompatible time zone.

But those voice messages just like it’s a different kind of communication but I think I kind of like it, I enjoy it it’s, it has its advantages, because you get to sort of compose and reflect and go on a sort of stream of consciousness jack Kerouac style,  without being interrupted or worried about if someone’s going to interrupt you or come on with that not that that’s a worry because but at the same time, you miss that that to and fro that back and forth that that banter so it’s a bit of a shame but I think it’s a it’s  it’s unique it’s special it kind of works. I like it.  It kind of works in lieu of you living next door, which is a, you know, bummer, but it kind of works in lieu of that.

So this afternoon, I was sitting around listening to my melancholy playlist, which I’ve been thrashing.  Thank you. Thank you. And I was listening to Hey Jealousy by the Smashing Pumpkins. My favorite track on that list.  Really, thank you. Oh, totally. I love that song.  Completely. When you move overseas you lose things, and that song. Oh my god that could that just fell completely off my radar for 20 years until you put it on a playlist and share it with me I’m like, Oh my god I love that song.  Thank you. I felt the same way I’m like, Oh, this song. I remember this song. How I haven’t I heard it for 20 years, and then I would have thought that hands down you would have said Pearl Jam was your favorite on that playlist.

But no, I mean yeah I mean, of course you know, it’s so hard to pick a favorite. Yeah, it is. The whole list is a list of favorites really. Yeah, indeed. So it’s 1994.  And we’re both wearing oversized jeans with holes in the knees. And we’ve got listening to Pearl Jam listening to Pearl Jam. My neck has never been the same since the mid 90s and all of that.  And I’m marching and it was, it was kind of so easy to be like, hip and groovy wasn’t it because it was so low maintenance you just chuck on an oversized jacket and some big clumpy boots and off you went flannel shirts.  Doc Martens, didn’t I teach your little sister how to mosh they had had a headbang.

Yes, in the living room. Yeah, I remember that it was fun. I remember that too. This sister is currently pregnant, sitting around my swimming pool right now.  She was. So we would have been 15, she would have been six. Was that right. No, she would have been younger. Was she younger. She couldn’t have been she’s 11 years younger than me. Geez Louise so that makes her four.  Okay, race would have been four. So there you go.

So, yeah, so I want to kind of take you back to that time. And I want to ask you, what were the stories that you remember that we used to tell ourselves and each other.  Yeah, great question. I seem to remember us having a mutual story and that we didn’t really fit in.  We weren’t really part of the mainstream. Yeah, that’s so true isn’t it. Yeah, that’s just that not feeling of the feeling of not belonging, that everyone else seems like they’re so confident and they’ve got it all figured out and they just have this.  They’re just crushing it socially and you feel like you’re kind of wondering around going, Wow, how do they do this. I don’t know how they had it. What do they, what do they know that I don’t. Yeah, you wonder you wonder how they’re doing it.  And the funny thing is I’ve had some, you know, some honest conversations with, you know, those people.

When we’re after we’d matured a little bit, you know, early 20s or later on and and you talk to them about that time and you know they were just as clueless and hopeless and vulnerable and desperate as we were.  They just hit it better. They faked it better. Yeah.  I don’t think I’ve ever been very good at faking it or I don’t feel like I’ve been very good at faking it.  I wish I was better at it or. Yeah.  Yeah. Yeah. So, so yeah, it was an it was a good time though because, you know, and you feel like you don’t fit in grunge music is, you know, solace right.  Definitely, definitely.

That song you mentioned black and that album 10.  Yeah, that was my, that was my album that was my, what is it. This is my, my groove my track my, my jam. That’s the word I’m looking for this my jam.  I don’t think the kids anymore. They don’t say.  They didn’t say jam showing our age.  My daughter calls me a boomer.  Oh, God, you have to inform her that a boomer is not your age.  I have I’ve told her the whole baby boomer where that concept comes from. She still isn’t she’s and her answer to that was whatever boomer.

Well, even before even before grunge before I discovered grunge, I discovered baby king and I remember being maybe 12 or 13.  And there’s this baby king song every day I get the blues, and I remember thinking, Oh, wow, it’s like this another person there’s one other person that feels like me.  Which you know is outrageously naive and retrospect but that you know these were the years for being outrageously naive right.  I always envied your music taste as well you seem so sophisticated with your jazz and your blues.  I always felt a little bit, a little bit out of my depth when you had all your wonderful I left it sterile records on and stuff. I think that kind of also that also fed into this, this story of, I think we all tell ourselves this, not just when we’re teenagers  of not being good enough.  Yeah.  Yeah.  We’re, we’re not smart, we’re not smart as everybody else, and just sort of feeling like a bit of a fraud.

Yeah. Yeah, that, and that can be not just with music tastes or art but just at school and in relationships and sports like, I’m not good enough with everyone else is better at this than I am I should just give up, find something else to do.  Or, if you do find something that you’re good at or you quite enjoy, you still kind of worried in the back of your head. Someone’s gonna catch me that I’m going to get caught out.  They’re going to uncover my little secret that I am not that smart, or I’m not that good at this.  I mean, it’s like an easy thing for you so it’s, it’s not worth as much because it’s easy so even though it’s your natural talent, and it’s your natural strength, you kind of undermine it because you think well, it’s not difficult for me it’s easy.

So therefore it’s not worthy it’s not valuable because if it’s difficult then it’s valuable and if it’s easy then it’s frivolous and it’s play and it’s you know fluking fluking something.  Well we had our, we were good at literature and English you know we loved reading and we loved writing. Oh my god.  Did you keep those letters? I do. I still have them, of course.  Macbeth, Hamlets.  We entertained a correspondence over many years.  Handwritten, I might add.  This was before the days of computers and mobiles, you actually have to get you’re running to write to somebody to sit down and write a letter by hand.  Yes. I think I reflected on this before. Yeah, while studying. That was studying like that was the study notes for Hamlet for me, he was writing about Hamlet to you.

Yeah. I think I reflected on this before it’s reading someone’s handwritten prose. It tells you so much more than something that’s been typed. You can tell if they’re angry or frustrated or sad or in a hurry or whatever you can you can tell you can read  so much into somebody’s handwriting. I fear it may be a lost art, but I really enjoyed those those letter writings and and sort of the inevitable, even though we lived in the same city who was still writing letters.  And I must have boxes and boxes like I call I tell the kids, you know, put this in your sentimental box.

I’ve got so many goddamn sentimental boxes. I’m like, I don’t think I love Marie Kondo and the, you know, the art of tidying up and all that.  But gee whiz I’ve got this big kind of sentimental thing with like boxes and boxes of stuff, all kinds of stuff, you know, that means something. So nostalgia, huh? Nostalgia.  So now I also remember telling myself what I had one more thing and this you hated me for this because I was always like, you know what, we live in Sydney. I’ve got everything I need. I am not the kind of person that needs to travel overseas.  I did hate you for that. I was like, you’re an idiot. Why would you go overseas? You got everything you need here.  What’s over there that we haven’t got here? I’m fine, you know. I forgot.  Yeah, thankfully that got over that. You got well over that. Yeah. And I think that when you unpack that, that’s just really fear of the unknown, challenging a comfort zone.  Really? I think so. Why? What would you say?  Oh, look, I just thought it was unworldliness.

Like I don’t think you traveled so you didn’t see what the big deal was and you didn’t have parents like me that were saying, you’ve got to travel. The only thing worth spending money on, Brooke, is travel.  So yeah, that’s true. I’d never been on an overseas flight until I was 22 and I took that plane to Cambodia.  Yeah. So tell us, tell the good listeners about Cambodia and about meeting me in Thailand and then that we had like a 32 hour journey to get back to Phnom Penh and arrive what 5pm on a Saturday night, Phnom Penh?  Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Cambodia. I think when I look, when I think back on it, I’m thinking like you kind of, I’m not going to, this is going to sound nasty, but it’s like you kind of did what I did, Brooke. You did. I moved to Southeast Asia, you copied me.  Yep.

You came over, we met our life partners there. I met a beautiful Norwegian girl. You met Pete and we established ourselves in our respective parts of the world. I had two kids in quick succession about the same time as well.  I copied you.  You totally did.  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.  But that was a wonderful time that year and a half in Southeast Asia. Sort of bumbling around in Sydney, working in big office buildings and sort of foot in at uni as well as wearing suits and ties and doing the rat race.

It got old pretty quick.  22! You couldn’t have made it that long.  I know. It didn’t suit at all. I was faking it, definitely faking it, but not really enjoying it. You know, it was like, and then this opportunity came along. It’s like, look, do you want to go to Cambodia?  Well, you know, this, you can work over there and put on pen and help out at uni. These expenses paid and sound like something you could think of. You know what? Yeah, let’s do it.

And I never, I always remember how liberating that feeling was about just packing up how little I actually owned or how easy it was to just get rid of all of my stuff, reduce my life to the contents of a backpack and just go.  That was probably the most liberating feeling ever. Yeah.  About how little actually holds us down and how easy it is to just change your environment completely. Yeah. That was the best feeling ever.  And we had a great time over there. Yeah. It wasn’t, I wasn’t installed long before you popped up and you’re like, Hey, Mark, I’m a tool leader. Let’s, let’s go around. Yeah, let’s go.

You gave me a massive, massive head start because you picked me up in Thailand. We traveled around Thailand for, I can’t remember a week or two. And then we crossed the border and you made it really easy. This horrendous journey.  I think at like 24 hours into it, I was hysterical and I was like, I just need to sleep. And you were like, just keep going. We just have to get on this bus and then we’ll be, you know, and we arrived at 5pm on a Saturday evening.  I remember it very well. We went out to a bar along the riverfront and you said, this is this person and that person and this person. And you introduced me to about, I don’t know, 15 young, you know, expat people from all over the world.  There are a lot of Scandinavians, including your future wife. And that was the start of a lot of fun and good times.

The expat community. I love, I love those two words when you put them together. If I’m ever in a foreign country and someone says, oh, there’s an expat community. I’m like, take me, take me James.  It just, especially in Southeast Asia, it’s just, it stinks of gin and tonics and riverside cafes. White Russians, of course. Yes. Cigarettes and thongs and ugly shirts.  Yeah. I drank some rat poo up a straw drinking a white Russian on the riverfront one evening. That was nice.  So that was such good fun. That was such good fun. And what happened? What changes between the age of 22 and 42?

Yeah. It’s a bit of a blur, isn’t it? Well, the rest of the twenties were just a blur. Yeah. A big blur. I don’t know if everybody else has that idea. They just kind of whisked very, very quickly.  Well, we landed, I landed back in Australia and Mary-Anne, my Norwegian wife, now wife, she tried Australia for about 10 months.  She met the local Australian wildlife whereby she got a huntsman, tried to land on her head while she was on the balcony and we met a snake bushwalking. That pretty much sealed the deal.  She’s like, yeah, no, I’m going back to Norway and you can come if you want. Like it was pretty much that drastic.  And I said, you know what? Yeah. With well with the knowledge of that, how easy it is to just pack up and leave and move.  Of course, it was a big, it was a big choice. It was a big decision. But I was very, at least more experienced in, okay, you know what? I can do this. This is possible.  This could be, this could be cool. And it’s Europe. It’s Norway. Sure. What the hell? I’d never been to Europe before. Let’s go. Let’s try. Let’s give it a year and see what happens. And I loved it. Yeah. I still do.

Norway, Northern Norway is an absolutely fantastic place.  How many, how many years as a history student, I always want to know chronology and years.  2000 and Christmas 2003. Yeah. You know, the reference point I use to remember that year world idol.  There was a world idol. There was this guy called guy something. And it was like, it was like Australian idol. And that was that year, there was a world idol, a competition.  So it was Norway, Australia, America, Britain. It was an absolute fast, but Australia competed and Norway won it actually.

This little guy called Kurt, Kurt Nielsen actually won it. And I remember that’s, that’s the reference point I use when I, when I, when Norwegians ask me,  when did you move to Norway? I said, oh, do you remember Kurt Nielsen won the world idol? They’re like, yeah. Yeah. Then.  Oh, well, I don’t know. I’ve missed that reference because I can’t recall that at all. But so there was 2003, I would have still been in Cambodia, Cambodia then.  And so you, but this is not the first radical thing you’ve done. Like you’ve done several, you’ve done several pivots for one of a better word. It’s such a 21st century word pivot or 2023, 2020 word.  You’ve done several pivots and you have gone back and studied teaching recently. So tell me about that because I think that’s pretty radical. I think, have you heard of the fallacy of sunk costs or you heard of what sunk cost is?  Please enlighten me.

Okay. Well, a sunk cost is this idea that you invest time, effort, money in something and it becomes a sunk cost and then it becomes really hard to change or move away because you’ve invested all this effort and money and time into something.  And I think this is big when it comes to careers and work because we’re, you know, we’re oftentimes many, many decades into a particular career path before we realize actually I’m deeply disinterested in this.  And then it’s hard. It’s really hard to change direction because of that, I believe, but you’ve done that. You’ve done that several times. So tell me about the more recent change towards teaching.  Yeah, not so much a sunk cost in the sense that I’ve pivoted completely away from where my education and experience lay. I’ve kind of built upon it. If you, if you kind of think, yeah, I’ve kind of, I haven’t left anything behind.  I’ve constantly been building on the strengths that I already have.

Yeah. So when I got to Norway, basically, because I love cooking and my, my education and training is in hospitality management.  So it was natural that I ended up in a hotel kitchen and started cooking and got work easily as a chef and really loved it and took my Norwegian chef’s qualification and kept working and yeah, different places.  So I was getting up a fair bit of experience before it eventually crescendoed in being the general manager of a fairly big restaurant here in the town that we live, that we live. And that’s 110 seats open all day, seven days a week, 362 days a year.  So that’s about 20 staff. Yeah, it was a big job. And that was kind of my, my, my test. Can I do this?

This is, we’ve talked about that idea of flow where, you know, the challenges, the challenge meets your abilities.  And this was definitely, yeah, at the peak of my abilities. I felt that the water was just at my head. I wasn’t in over it, but yeah, it was, it was hard work.  Was it enjoyable? Yeah. Interesting you say that. Yeah. I enjoyed parts of it. Like the parts I enjoyed most probably were getting the apprentices through their training.  Like I was there for five years. So I put four, three guys and one girl, helped them get through their chef’s exam and get their commercial cookery certificate. And that was really rewarding. That was probably the best part of the job.  Yeah. And that’s possibly what’s sowed the seed to get into teaching afterwards. Yeah. And top of the fact that, you know, it’s, it was pretty exhausting. That’s constantly being on call.  Somebody’s sick, something’s gone wrong, something’s broken. Holidays more than a few days at a time, it was pretty hard to turn off the phone because there was always be something going wrong.  And staff management was always a challenge to put it delicately.

Yeah. So whilst I loved the job, it was great cooking and running the place and getting involved.  Eventually this, this opportunity came up to teach at the, at the local upper secondary school, the cooking college, and I jumped at it after five years. Yeah. It was sort of, hmm.  I think we talk about the stories we tell ourselves that way. Yes. And that story that I just mentioned there, that was kind of like the, the water cooler version, you know, right. The nice one.  Yeah. Tell me the real one. Tell me the other one. Yeah. It was, it was incredibly stressful, especially around the busy parts of the year, which was summer and the lead up to Christmas.  Yeah. It was, it was incredibly long hours, physically demanding. I feel like you’re just being assaulted on all sides. Some men, there would be sickness amongst the staff and then you’d have to try to cover them and you couldn’t get people to cover.  So I’d have to cover them. I was smoking cigarettes. Yeah.  And drinking far much more than I should to cope. Yeah. So that’s the kind of the, the contaminated, the contamination story, I think, as opposed to the redemption story, which was the first version.

I was looking at this guy called Dan Adams and he talks about this thing called a narrative identity. You know, just how we form our stories about our past, that we frame it in a certain way.  You make, yeah, you make choices.  You can highlight the positives and turn it into a positive story that you went on and built on your strengths and saw as an opportunity and that’s often synchronous with people that believe they lead meaningful lives and want to contribute to society.  Otherwise there can be, you know, the contaminated, the contamination story, which is you frame the negatives and you put it into a sort of negative, not negative, I hate that word, but it’s like, yeah, you sort of, you know, those people when they’re telling a story, there’s, there’s a way you can tell it where it’s like, really?

That’s, you could have put a positive spin on that because there were good parts there.  Yeah, it’s always interesting the details that you choose to highlight and also like I highlight different details to different audiences. I do it really without thinking.  I kind of just assume what I think they’ll be interested in or I assume what’s going to be relevant to them and I kind of change the story slightly, you know, to, to make it more appealing, I guess, to the audience.  But there must have been a fair amount of adrenaline in that kind of work by the Sounds of Things as well.  It was running on adrenaline, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol.  Yeah, everything. Yeah.  Long days.  I felt like as well I wasn’t, my kids were young, and I felt like I wasn’t being present enough, either physically or or mentally. Yeah.

And after five years when, when they called from the cooking school, it’s like, could you, could you, would you consider being a teacher here?  It was, I talked to Marianne, it was a very short decision making process. She’s like, yes, do it. Yeah.  Plus I got to go to uni, I got to get back to uni, I got to study. Yes.  Fun.  Yeah, it was. But like, seriously, I was like, I think there’s an episode of The Simpsons when Homer Simpson goes back to uni, and he’s just like running around doing the beer thing, beer kegs and trying to be a, I was that guy.  I was like, come on, let’s go to the bar. Everyone’s like, um, nah, I kind of got to go home. I’m like, what? No, come on.  I was like trying to be the social animal that trying to relive. Yeah. Yeah. University days, it didn’t quite work, but it was still fun.

I think just that taking that step to, to, I’m going to go do a university degree at the age of, what was it, 38, 39. Yeah.  A lot, a lot of raised eyebrows from, from people like, what, really? You got it. That’s yeah, you got good on you. I wouldn’t do that. I’m like, what are you talking about? This is great.  Yeah. Study. Yeah. Reading. Just getting in that mode again, that university study mode of reading and writing and discussing and lectures.  It’s so fun.

But also, also I need to highlight that I’m assuming because Norway is such a kind of a socialist country.  And I think it’s a, what is it, a democratic something, something.  It’s not a constitutional monarchy, but you mean it’s a social democratic country. Thank you. A social democratic country. So I’m assuming, because I remember when the children were tiny when we both had tiny children and I was like, oh my God, the cost of childcare is astronomical.  And you were like, we have it, you know, it’s all, it’s a flat fee, no matter where you are in Norway, you pay $400 a month for full time daycare. And I was like, what?  Yeah, it’s a great place to raise kids, childcare.

We call them the kindergartens, don’t we? Yeah, preschool, whatever.  Not only are they the fate, the rates controlled either it’s a private kindergarten or a public one or a council one.  They actually have like a proper pedagogical program for these kids. They start teaching and stuff.  It impressed me. Like, you know, I remember talking to a mate in Sydney and like the kids would come home from kindy and it’s like, what’d you do today? Oh, I sat in a puddle.  And we’d go to and we’d have a meeting with the manager of these kindies from my kids and they talked about our child’s social development and the motor schools.  So impressive. It’s so impressive. And can we just talk about that for a moment?

Because I think Australia is heading in a very dangerous direction towards privatizing everything, user pays, you know, all of a sudden, well, not all of a sudden, but gradually and surely and gradually  free health care is becoming less and less available. And, you know, this is a real I have a lot of issues with this. I think it’s a fabulous, fabulous ideal to have large government.  And, you know, the this story that goes with with that viewpoint with that worldview is that we are all collectively responsible for each other. We are all responsible for looking after the most vulnerable, the, you know, those that most need the welfare.

You know, this is like everybody’s everybody’s responsibility.  I couldn’t agree more. I was at a conference last week with a Norwegian researcher on Stein Mikle Tung, and he actually spends a lot of time doing his research in Australia.  So we of course struck up a conversation and in the in the field of international health research user expert on health and especially mental health.  And often his experience is like if you could design a health system for a country, what would it look like. And often it comes to it would look like what Norway has exactly the way it does because it’s a very strong, well funded system, whereby you get the care you need  regardless of how much money you have.  And that’s also the same for the education system. It is where we live, there’s no public private schools, especially where I am.  They split up, they split up education they have a junior high school, which is grades eight, nine and 10 as the council run.

And then the county, you know the state takes over for for high school upper secondary school 11, 12, 13 and that’s where I am.  And the cool thing about this school where I’m at right now is that we have the vocational students and the preparatory students in the same place. Yeah, you think what does that mean tell us what that means.  Basically when we went to high school it was everyone was going to uni basically yeah, and the kids that were going to be tradies they were going to they went off to TAFE or some other private college or whatever.

It’s all in the same place we’ve got the kids going, going to uni sitting in the cafeteria next to the kids studying to be an electrician. My students training to be chefs and waiters.  Having or serving lunch to the guys that are training to be mechanics, the guys and the girls I should say. Yeah, and that’s a really good little illustration in this little microcosm of the social democrat democratism, I’m saying that wrong, in action.  Yeah, and that Norwegian ideal that we are all equal. Yeah, it doesn’t matter. Yeah.  It’s so refreshing and we need that.  It concerns me that the news when I when I read about Australia the news and talking to you and other friends colleagues family. And when I go back.  It’s, yeah, it’s not a good feeling it’s not a good thing it’s going in the wrong direction, the wrong direction.

Yes, it is absolutely going in the wrong direction.  And I think it feeds into this, I, this story that we are all, you know, independent and responsible for ourselves only and if you are, you know, succeeding in life that is due to your own ability.  And, you know, time and time and time again research shows that that’s a load of bullshit, and that you know privilege and opportunity and you know where you’re born and you know your skin color and all kinds of different factors come into play when it when it comes to, you know, the person getting ahead  so to speak, and oftentimes that kind of underdog story of like well you know they came from nothing and now they’re the president, you know those stories are so popular and they’re popular because they’re really really rare, you know it is very unusual.

You know for somebody to do that, so very real structural, you know systemic reasons. And this emphasis that it places on the individual to figure everything out, including their own health and happiness is, you know, what is the word I’m looking for here  Jacko.  What are the words individualism.  Yes, it’s, but I want to say wrong but that’s not the word surely.  There’s a better way.  I like to that.  I’ve never felt that sense of community.  Till I moved to Norway and raising children.

I live in a town or small city it’s 25,000 people. I think I saw the Alice Springs has 25 to 6000 people maybe barrels about the same size to sort of right.  Wow. And living where we live, I’ve never met I haven’t obviously raised children in Sydney, living in a big city but I feel that growing up raising my children here we have a sense of a very strong sense of community.  Yeah, whereby we know all of the kids in the neighborhood we know all the parents.  We know what they’re doing where they’re going who they’re with. We look after each other they’re going to their houses they’re going to their houses and we all sort of, it’s a very strong close knit community.  And as my children are getting older they’re getting into their teens now that that is that’s maintaining yeah it’s it’s keeping it still exists.  So it really does take a village, and the kids are more robust, and they get all that all the benefits that go along with that automatically.  Yeah.  And that feeling that you feel part of something that you belong. Yeah, you know what we were talking about earlier about not belonging. Yeah, I feel like I belong, even the me and an immigrant in this context.

Yeah, totally. I’ve never felt more at home and yeah like part of something. And my children do as well they perhaps don’t reflect on it yet, because they haven’t felt otherwise but yeah they really do belong and getting involved in, I coach swimming  and involved in sports that you know the kids are doing of course but you volunteerism, getting involved in local activities really really gives it gives feeling you feel good about yourself and you feel like contributing and you contribute so that feeling  I got fired from the last volunteer job I tried.  How is that possible.

Well I kind of feel like I was you know, politely showing the doors.  I keep trying to be a joiner, I do try, and I think that’s one of the stories I have is that you know I’m an outside slight one of the enduring stories which I would desperately love to rewrite.  And I’m not a joiner and that you know I’m just not good with, you know, groups, and I know it’s not true rationally I know it’s not true. But yeah this last experience of, you know, volunteering was like, okay here we are again.  Yes, anyway, anyway, tell me about the stories that have that you’ve been telling yourself and they don’t have to be recent stories that could be old stories that have kept you feeling like, you know, on the outer feeling stuck feeling unhappy feeling  like you don’t belong you don’t have that sense of, you know, I don’t know sense of self or sense of flow or sense of progress or dare I suggest happiness.

What are those kind of broken record stories.  Yeah.  Having grown up in a bit of a dysfunctional home in my younger years.  That’s, that’s a story I can tell myself I think you’ve talked about this when you in the context of your father, when you overtook him his earnings, when you started when you realise you’re earning more than him.  ourselves.  And I go she’s doing something wrong.  We kind of compare ourselves to our parents inevitably.  Either we’re trying very hard to not be them, or we find ourselves for better or worse. Yes.  Yeah, growing up in dysfunction with with alcoholism and and bipolar manic depressiveness it was, it was pretty easy to, I feel, overtake or like, okay, by the time I was union, you know, I’d already exceeded any expectations or where they ever as far as they’d ever  been. And using that telling that story it’s like, you know, okay, I come from a dysfunctional home so anything I do as a bonus but also using that as a cop out. It’s an excuse to do something dumb or something lazy or self centric.  It’s like, ah, bloody hell I’ll just do this because you know, look at look at where I came from it’s just an excuse really.

But afterwards after after you really think about it and really unpack it I was like, you know, my parents, they did the best they could and they were, despite their faults and still are my mother still alive.  Very loving and very supportive. So it’s not like this.  When you say dysfunctional home with with mental illness it’s like it paints a pretty bleak picture but it wasn’t all that. Yeah, and they must have done something right because I’m sitting here breathing and talking and yes doing doing pretty well so it’s not despite  of I like to think it was more as a product, a product of and picking the best bits that you the positive things from their parenting and trying to carry those on to my own children.  I’m so mature. So mature.

You know what that quote there’s a quote floating around. I don’t know if David Bowie actually said it but it’s attributed to him. And he said, aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.  Right. And I love that quote because it’s, I feel lucky enough that it’s just getting better and better. Yeah, I feel that.  Good. Because we’re, you know, we’re barely halfway. I think my kid my children keep calling me middle aged because they know it gets a rise out of me. I’m like, you just stop already.  But yeah, no, we are halfway and look, that was a really interesting point you just made because you said that you are where you are.  Not despite your upbringing, but because of it. So even that, you know, you’ve always been like from the moment I met you, you will always the glass is half full, even in the height of your depressive grungy 90s.

You were always a sunshine guy, you were always someone who was looking, you know, and the bright side of things, you know, and I think I have, I, you know, on the other perspective was somebody who’s taught myself to stop looking at the glass being half empty  and to focus on the glass being half full, you know, and I would like to hope that you were an inspiration for at least some of that.  Well, thank you. I think so. That may me and some vodka, I’m thinking was a helped help that process. But yeah, I think the way you’re talking, it’s like, yeah, you can train yourself.  Through the stories you tell framing them positively. Yeah, and that will affect how you feel about things and how you feel about yourself.

Yeah, 100%. And that’s the thing like I see that all the time. I see that a lot with overwhelmed people constantly telling me I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed.  And I think you know what telling yourself that you’re overwhelmed does not make you feel less overwhelmed, it makes you feel more overwhelmed. Telling yourself that you’re stressed and busy does not make you feel less stressed and busy makes you feel more stressed and busy.  So, you know, when people kind of come up to me and they kind of bowl me over with that manic look in their eyes and they say, how are you going? You busy? I love saying no, not busy.

And that just really stuffs with them, it really, you know, stops them in their tracks and they look at me like I’ve just grown a second head, but I feel better saying that even if I am feeling similarly manic, you know, saying oh yes I’m busy I’m overwhelmed I’ve got so much going on.  That doesn’t help me, you know, it doesn’t make me feel better.  So, yeah, definitely. Our attitudes live in language and the way, yeah, what we articulate about ourselves and about our lives, about our current experience.  That will influence how we feel about it and what’s going on.

But what about if we say you know what, I really love my job. I really enjoy what I’m doing. I love working with my colleagues, I’m absolutely crushing it and it’s awesome. Yeah. And suddenly if you say that enough, it kind of happens.  Yeah, weird thing. That’s very, that’s very unpopular, Jaco, that is not a socially acceptable thing to do. It is way more socially acceptable to complain about your life and your work and your business than it is to say, actually everything’s going swimmingly and I’ve got some really awesome clients and things have been, you know, really good lately.  It is, and I think that would be true, I believe this is true also of Norwegian culture. It’s, you know, in Australia, certainly, it would be very, you know, unusual to say, okay, you know, everything’s great.

I remember working at a hotel in Sydney and one of the department managers, she’d often say this like, I’m really good at my job. And it was just so unusual to hear, like, especially in the early 20s.  I remember that, it was a sucker because I’d never say that. Yes, but she said it and she said it confidently. Yeah, she actually was very good at her job. Yeah, and she said it and she was very successful then and I’m sure she’s very successful now.  Because if you say it in Australia, you kind of sound a bit up yourself. Yes.

And similarly in Norway, in our wonderful egalitarian social democratic society, you’re not supposed to do it in Norway either. We have this thing called the Jonte  Corvin that says that you are not better than anybody else. Don’t dare stick your head out or go and say that you’re how great you are and how fantastic you are and many successful Norwegian businessmen and artists have gone over to America and become successful  and reported on exactly this phenomenon here.

To be successful in certain fields, you do have to put your head out, you kind of do have to stick it out and say, you know what, I’m really good at this.  Yeah. And it’s often difficult to measure, I guess. Yes, especially if you’re delivering services like courses like training. Yeah, like education, art, fashion.  Yeah. Like I said, I coached swimming and it’s a lot easier to measure your progress and your success and compare with others because you’ve got time at the end. Yeah, you swam 100 meters freestyle in this time.  That’s it. It’s there in black and white. 100%. But when you’re delivering these things, how do you measure how successful you are and how good you are compared to others?  Is it the reviews you get, the people come back, do you run evaluations, are you successful financially? Is that a measure? Or what about measuring it by how much did your participants actually get out of it?  Yeah. In my case, how much did my students actually learn in that class in that year?

Which is hard to measure, like, and especially for training, you know, for teaching training, which is also what I do coaching, you know, it’s oftentimes it takes a while.  Like, it’s not like you can teach a lesson and the student automatically, you know, gets it straight away, applies it straight away and, you know, or doesn’t like it can take a it’s a process.  It’s it time is required and, you know, so it’s not easy to measure, even with the best of kind of intentions or the best of measurements. But yeah, it’s really it’s an interesting point you just made because I found myself recently, you know, adding another to yet another testimonial to the page where on my website that I’ve, you know, published all the testimonials in one place.  And I was like, gee, whiz brook like there’s a lot of testimonials here.

Do you think maybe you don’t need to keep collecting them with quite the vigor and enthusiasm that you have?  You know, it’s like I’ve been looking for this validation and the Google reviews and the LinkedIn recommendations, you know, while they’re useful, of course, as a business owner, you know, how much is enough and how much is like, okay, you can probably just, you know, move on.  Yeah, give us the greatest hits because this is reeking of insecurity.  Yeah, yes, I’m like the page is too long. It looks insecure.  If there’s anything that I’ve sort of learned in my I’ve been teaching for five years now. It’s it’s been just not to worry. What is that screw? Don’t worry about about the white noise but have the guts to just really work hard at what you’re delivering. Yeah, I know that it has value and the rest kind of seem to take care of itself.  If you’re constantly having to justify yourself and get external validation or compare yourself to what others are doing.

Yeah, I think the chances are you you’re you’re in the middle of the pack. I think when you’re at the front, you’re the one making the bow wave, and you got you haven’t got time to sort of look at the side and worry about am I doing this right you just doing it.  And when you’re in that zone, then I know then you know you’re doing something good in the flow in the flow. Yes, but I mean this is a big conversation for another day I think conscientious people think you know, deep thinkers, we do tend to, you know, waste a lot of time perhaps looking  for that you know, am I good enough, how you know where are my strengths where are my weaknesses what should I be working on how can I improve myself, you know that tends to kind of come with the territory of somebody that’s highly conscientious, a deep thinker and you know perhaps, you know, I don’t know perhaps  is too much emotionally my sister today just told me yet again that I’m too emotional, you know, perhaps we’re too emotionally involved in the work, you know there’s that validation that we’re kind of seeking, or there’s some kind of an emotional, you know it’s like using your  business or using your career for dopamine hits, you know so you can get that feel good factor.

That is oftentimes a little bit more obscure when you’re parenting teenagers, for example.  Yeah, but that’s okay it’s okay to get emotional about your work, especially if you enjoy what you’re doing you can’t avoid.  You can’t I think if you’re not getting emotional about your work and that’s yeah must be a little bit sad. Yeah, yeah, especially when it’s something like teaching or training.  The better it is the more heart you’re putting into it. Absolutely. Believe that and the relationships that you have. Yeah, with, with people that you’re trying to teach are really really decisive factor in how successful.  You know what you’re going to do what you’re delivering is 100% 100%.

I don’t know if I’ve told you this I can’t recall. I’m doing a songwriting course. And I am the worst student in the class.  Every song that I write is, you know certifiably terrible. And I am loving it. And I’m feeling, oh my god I’m feeling a hell of a lot of empathy for, you know, various students participants I’ve had over the years that have found what I’m teaching is very difficult. I’m having renewed renewed empathy in these people, because that initial stage of learning when you are so out of your depth and you are so far from comfortable.

It’s really easy to quit.  There’s so little validation there is so little kind of certainty, you’re flailing around, you know drowning in the pool, trying to figure out, you know the most basic of stuff.  And, you know, the rate of just kind of quitting or, you know, I can feel my brain kind of the floating out the window during class because it is so hard to focus because it is so goddamn, you know, uncomfortable and unfamiliar to me.  And I feel just yesterday I’ve been rehearsing a choreographed dance and singing number.  And I don’t dance at all.  Oh, these are goals. I love it. Yes.

Four other guys are going to do a song and dance number and for the for the yearly show, and I just this first, we have a wonderful dancing teacher here at the school of course we have music, dance and drama, and she’s taking us through the steps and these are all these  guys in our 40s and 50s. Yeah, never danced before.  Exactly in that place that you’re talking about. There’s a voice in your head going, Yes, this, this isn’t right. You should be here. Yeah, you can’t do this. Yeah, but just telling that shutting the door on that voice.

And there’s a wonderful Norwegian expression story you have a hug it literally means stand in the uncomfortableness. Yes. And it’s so true because you have to stand there and endure it because what happens afterwards.  I did that. I got a little bit better it’s of course it wasn’t great because you know we’re not great songwriters we’re not great dancers Brooke but how cool is it.  How cool is it. I’m a great dancer.  You are yes.  I feel confident saying that too like I didn’t even hesitate there.  You’re getting better.

I think this is a fantastic place to end this conversation on it has been so much fun and I am immensely enjoyed hearing about your song and dance troop at the end that’s just been the cherry on top really.  So, thank you so much.  Thank you for having me Brooke. Yeah, it was really, really cool to be contribute to your show and well done on this podcast, by the way.  I think that’s also incredibly brave to just do it.  Yeah, but what an inspiration and good on you. I’m very proud of you.  Thanks, Jackie. I’m proud of you too.  Thank you.

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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