Excavating Memories

“Excavating Memories, archaeology and home, touches on how we construct identity through things we keep by choice and by accident”, says Elizabeth Mosier.  Crucially it spotlights how we construct identity and express what we value through the things we keep by choice or by accident.  True treasure isn’t the object It’s the stories the object tells, the information about people and the relationships. Often the stories sitting   in the margins speak about the people who don’t have a voice, who don’t own property and who are not in the public records. 

Archaeologists uncovered the foundation wall of George Washington’s house. People had forgotten that it had been there.  The Archaeologists are stewards of our cultural artifacts showcasing personal stories that mean something to us as humans.

Elizabeth wanted to be part of the recovery process.  “I learned from the archaeologists how to wash, label, catalogue, organise, document the lives of nine enslaved Africans. I need to say their names, Oni Judge, Moll, Austin, Richmond, Giles, Paris, Christopher Shields, and Joe Richardson.  I ended up staying for seven years.”

 Jed Levin, the head archaeologist, gesturing to the ground said, “this foundation isn’t just bricks and mortar, it’s a tangible link to the people who lived in this house – a link between the enslaved and the free”.

A key lesson is that if something’s broken, because it’s been used every day, this is important. If an object is scratched up that’s evidence of use.

Elizabeth started thinking about objects as revealing something, about digging and processing artifacts as a process of recovery and repair.  This is similar to dealing with grief.  The method and the lens of archaeology supported Elizabeth as she was losing her mother’s to Alzheimer’s.    The archaeological perspective gave Elizabeth, a way in to process her grief, equipping her to have the conversations she needed to have with herself and her loved ones and to see the wealth of grieving cleaning.

Elizabeth leads sessions with physicians on everyday objects as tools in the practice of listening, witnessing, and healing.

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and your co host, me, Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, to hear, and to tell your stories and experiences. Tesse and I get super curious about the dilemmas that we all face. And we love to find out and hear from you how they shape the future and the journeys that we are all on. Today, we have an amazing guest and very inspirational guest. Her name is Elizabeth Mosier. Let me tell you about her. She’s a novelist and she’s also an essayist and she has logged 1000 volunteer hours processing artifacts at the Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park Archaeology Lab for her latest book which is called “Excavating Memory Archaeology and Home”. That book was published in 2019. So this experience trained her to see how we construct identity and express what we value through the things we keep by choice or by accident. She’s a graduate of Brian Mars College and the MFA program for writers at Warren Wilson College, where she explores the complex ways our lives are entangled with objects. She writes about that. And she also teaches workshops on the role artifacts play in family, in community, or in history. And she also leads sessions with physicians on everyday objects as tools in the practice of listening, witnessing, and healing. You can get more information on her and her work at her website, which is “elizabethmosier.com”. Thank you for saying yes to being a guest on “TesseLeads”. 

[00:02:18] Elizabeth: Oh, thank you so much for having me. What a pleasure to spend the morning, or my morning, your afternoon, Tesse, with both of you. 

[00:02:26] Tesse: Yeah, Elizabeth, I am so overjoyed that you said yes to coming on the show. And I had the privilege to read your book, “Excavating Memory, Archaeology and Home”. I totally loved it from the first page. Maybe because I love history, maybe because I love archaeology, maybe because I love people, and maybe because I love being curious and finding out new things. A combination of all. Your book had it all. But you know what? I left looking at your book and reading your book with a deeper question and that’s a curiosity about you. What brought you on this pathway of support, of inquiry? Because it’s not easy, it’s not the easiest of things. Tell all, hold back nothing, say everything. 

[00:03:17] Elizabeth: How much time do we have? That’s a good question. Because I’m not an archaeologist. I have so much respect and admiration for archaeology and archaeologists. But this project that I got involved with was something, I think, because of my love for Philadelphia and my interest in Philadelphia’s history. I volunteered as a technician at the lab just after the National Park Service in Philadelphia. Archaeologists had uncovered the foundation wall of George Washington’s house, which when I was in college, was a women’s bathroom for the national park. Like people had forgotten that it had been there. You know how things, once you tear them down, you just, people forget that they were there. So I had no past experience with this building and the dig was a very exciting event in Philadelphia. And when I took my daughters who were young, they were in middle school at the time, downtown to see the dig. It was this big hole in Independence National Park and Jed Levin, who was the head archaeologist, stood in the pit for 45 minutes in the hot sun and talked to me and my daughters about their dig and told us all kinds of interesting anecdotes. He said that they’d been digging for five weeks and they had found nothing and they were afraid that when they renovated the park, they’d scooped all the artifacts out and they, you know, never to be recovered. And then they’d found a penny from, I think he said it was 1830, which was what masons would lay a penny in the ground when they were putting a new floor in. So that’s how he knew that that floor was preserved, they were getting into the colonial part. He also made the space real for me. He told us that the bow window, which you could see the remnants of in the ground, was something that Washington had added to the house, so that he could meet people, citizens, at an equal level on, you know, equal footing, not on the throne like a king. And then he told us that that bow window where Washington stood meeting the public was what architectural art historians cite as the precedent to the Oval Office in the White House, that they’d taken that idea and brought it to the White House. What was striking to me about it as a writer and as a human being is that it was five feet from where the enslaved African named Hercules was cooking Washington’s meals. So the juxtaposition of that symbol of liberty and the symbol of enslavement is irresistible to a writer. I wanted to get to the bottom of that and to have some part in telling the story of those lives that were lost without going into it wanting to write about it per se. I wanted to be part of the recovery process. Looking at the objects, what my job as a technician, as I said, I’m not an archaeologist, they trained me, everything I know. I learned from these people, to wash, label, catalog, organize, document the lives of nine enslaved Africans, whose, I always feel like I need to say their names, Oni Judge, Moll, Austin, Richmond, Giles, Paris, Christopher Shields, and Joe Richardson. In some cases, the only evidence that they lived in Philadelphia is from that dig. So I commended the archaeologists for the work they were doing. I wanted to be part of it. And because I am a writer, I think my supervisor might have been a little suspicious of me that I would just come in and just write about it, I had to make very clear that I was in it for the long haul. I wasn’t there as a writer I was there because I was going to put my hands in dirty broken greasy water that I was, you know washing and mending, we also mended things and I ended up staying for seven years and during that period as we were documenting these objects, building a memorial, which you can see in Philadelphia. It’s on the corner of 6th and Market Streets. And it tells attempts to tell the stories of these Africans who lived in the house, using artifacts and documents and letters even if there was only one fact, that’s included in the memorial. It’s just called the President’s House Memorial. While I was there, I had the benefits of just listening to archaeologists talk and learning from them why they do what they do. And as I said, I wasn’t intending to write about it. But when Jed Levin, the head archaeologist, told my daughters, you know, gesturing to the ground, he said, “this foundation isn’t just bricks and mortar, it’s a tangible link to the people who lived in this house and a link between the enslaved and the free”. That made the hair on my arms stand up and just elevated the project for me. Made me feel kind of zealous about it and about what they do to recover these stories. It’s very similar to what a writer does. And so even though I wasn’t technically writing about it, I was sitting there engaged in a process that is very familiar to me. Tedious work of attaching things to people, thinking about meaning, all while my own mother In Arizona, so 3, 000 miles away, was descending into Alzheimer’s, and I was coping with the loss of her memory, and therefore, you know, some of the shared memories that, from my childhood, and also the loss of her, because there was a point, of course, as anyone who’s had a loved one with Alzheimer’s knows, there was a point where she forgot who I was which immediately just unsettled my sense of identity because I am her daughter. Who am I if she doesn’t remember who I am? So none of this was spoken really. I was sitting at the lab, as I said, for seven years, washing broken pieces of glass and writing little numbers and thinking, thinking about what memory has to do with archeology, what the purpose of writing is and recovering stories and telling them or writing them and passing them down. Why we keep what we keep and why we throw away what we throw away. And some of the things that I started to see as connections with my own work were, the archaeologists explained to me, especially in urban archaeology, they said the true treasure isn’t the object at all it’s the stories it tells. So they’re looking at these objects as information about people, not about just a pretty thing to put in a case. So that became sort of a, that was a paradigm shift for me. I always thought it was sort of Indiana Jones and like finding whatever the, you know, the relic. And they’re like, no, this is just people. We want to know about people. So the, whatever can help us tell the story. So that resonated with me as a writer, we construct identity through things we keep by choice and by accident. So if you look in a person’s desk drawer, you look at the way they decorate their home. A lot of it is choice about identity and the way we put that together, sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally. And I started thinking about how when you spend your entire day washing and labeling things from the pretty pit, this is where all of this stuff comes from. You realize that the things that are most important to people are the things that they used and broke and threw away. Not the things that were carefully preserved in a display cabinet. So the things that we put in display cabinets might speak to our status, or people like to have things that show that they’ve arrived. That’s a different kind of identity, but if something’s broken, because it’s been used every day, that was actually important. And so I, it sort of flipped my sense of, in my own home one consequence of that is I went home and took my wedding china, out of, you know, it’s very plain China. Like, I don’t know why I was not like using it, but, you know, you bring it out on special occasions and I said to my daughters, how will you know that this was important to me unless we use it and break it? Like, so it actually had a consequence that was, I started using these plates that I had been given when I was in my twenties. And there’s been kind of brought out at Christmas and Easter every day. And if they break, they break that shows what’s important to me. If they’re scratched up that’s evidence of use. And then the other thing that they let me see is that the archaeological record is often created in a crisis when we’re, you know, moving to another country or we’re divorced and splitting our things or we lose someone and we have to clean out their place. So because it’s a crisis situation, there is necessarily emotion involved. This is not a sort of cold, scientific process of deciding what to keep and what not to keep. It’s both pragmatic and forensic, and often that’s how writing is. I never, for example know what, and I’ve written novels and essays and, you know, interviews, and I never really know what I’m writing about until I’ve done the research. I go in with a vague idea of something i’m curious about, and while I’m in there digging around, I discover that there’s something that, some truth that I’m avoiding that is really the subject, or something that I think is true but that actually isn’t true, and I find that out, you know, through research. So that is what sitting there for seven years processing archaeological artifacts helped me to see, and it allowed me, and it was a gift really, to write about the painful process of losing my mother in a way that I had been avoiding. Why would you want to write about something painful that you’re actually going through? Then you sort of suffer twice, right? But archaeology gave me a lens in, so that I could start thinking about objects as revealing something, about digging and processing artifacts as a process of recovery and repair that is similar to grief. And once I had that method and that lens, it wasn’t easier to deal with my mother’s alzheimer’s, but it gave me a way in that I am so grateful for. My book, “Excavating Memory”, has one essay that’s very specifically about that. It’s called “The Pit and the Page”, and that’s the first one I ever wrote. And I showed it to the archaeologists and I said, I want you to read this and make sure I haven’t, you know, misused the terminology or the intention of archaeology. Does this feel to you like I’m misappropriating your field for my grief? And because they’re kind, they said, you know, it was important to me that I got their approval, that they didn’t think I was using what they do in some inappropriate way. I think they were moved by it, because as I said, their work is very much about people and about relationships, and that is not what I had thought before. Obviously, Jed Levin, who inspired, the head archaeologist who inspired me to volunteer, was telling me about the tangible link. That’s what makes him get down in the ground and dig and brush things off and literally, you know, our job, my job was like separating pieces of brick from pieces of burnt bone. Like, it’s very tedious. And these people are stewards of our cultural artifacts, as well as, you know, these personal stories that mean something to us as humans. So they did understand, and they did somewhat approve. And then I started writing the other essays in the book, which were really just my using an archaeologist lens to look at the objects in my life, everything from a date book that I, this sort of was a record of my life to a friend of mine who had to bless her had like on super eight film had filmed her nine year old birthday party, which is I had remembered like it was yesterday, and then to find out that she actually had the film and I could see it and compare my memory with what was actually on film. So it was a way of looking at my own life as though I were in a, in an archaeological dig and my life was a feature. And so it did help me, you know, writing, not all writing is therapeutic. Often when I’m writing it is hard and sad, but finding that lens helped me to do what I needed to do, which was process my grief about my mother and really about myself, right? You know, I’m human too. I’m mortal. I will someday not be here anymore. What do I want to what’s my legacy? How do I want to be remembered? What is important to me that I can pass on to my children? All of those things are things that you cannot avoid thinking about when you’re in archaeology lab digging through 250 year old broken stuff and contemplating what’s important in life. And then as a writer, too, to remember that the stories in the margins, the people who often don’t have a voice, or who don’t own property, or who aren’t in the public record, you have to work to get those stories. You have to go find them. You know, I think writers are, that’s why I am a writer. I’m interested in those stories. But it’s a good reminder that there, sometimes those stories can be found, and can be told, and that it’s worth the enterprise of doing it for lots of reasons, including cultural memory, you know, and so we’re inclusive, but also so we don’t make mistakes we’ve made in the past for a variety of reasons. So does that, does that answer your question in a long writerly roundabout way? 

[00:17:03] Tesse: It’s a beautiful narrative, you know, as you’re speaking, I usually think in pictures and as you’re speaking, I see a river meandering and sometimes hitting the stones. Sometimes flowing downhill, sometimes going over, and it’s hitting the rocks and it is, that’s how you’re telling this. That’s how it’s touching me. Paula. 

[00:17:29] Paula: You know, she’s the poetic one. And so I sat there listening to you and saying, you know, because “TesseLeads” is a personal story, which you’re doing such a great job excellent job at. If you don’t mind, would you share with us at least one or two things that you are planning, and let me know if this is too personal, that you’re planning to leave for your children. So, you know, through grief cleaning, as you said, it’s the objects that mean something to those who are left behind or those who are still present while remembering the past. Do you have one or two things that you can share with us? 

[00:18:10] Elizabeth: Big question. And yeah, of course I do. You know, I have a whole box of my writing, that’s a big part of my identity. But this process has forced me to come home. You know, I’ve cleaned out five houses in the last ten years. And dealing with those, all those objects has made me a little zealous about my own things. I’m not going to leave that to my daughters to do. They’re tired of me saying when I die, but you know, I think it’s useful to talk about death because we will all die, and I have put together a box of artifacts and I’ve said to them, everything in this box is important to me, but it might not be important to you. So you might want to get rid of these things. Give them away. But I want you to know that it’s all in the box so that you don’t have to go through the house hunting for what was important to me. Your task will be to hunt for what’s important to you. And then my part is done. I’ve done it for you. And I will try to get rid of as many things as I can, you know, so it’s not a huge organizational task. And some of the things in those boxes, the writing is everything from, you know, I have things I wrote in first grade up to like books I’ve published, you know, so it shows a journey. You know, it shows somebody who was writing from the time she was a kid who thought of herself as a writer as a kid, to pictures to certain artifacts that are important to me. And one example is, you know, one of the last times my father visited before he died, I took him to a Phillies game and we sat in two seats that one of my students, I don’t have season tickets, but one of my students did and she let me sit in her seats with my dad and it was a great memory. And now whenever I go to the Phillies, I usually go once a year before they’re winning when I can still get a seat. I sit in those same seats because I’m very much about rituals like that. So those tickets are in there. So I know exactly what seats, what date, and that’s something that my daughters may not be important at all, except that I’ve told them the story. So they’ve got the story whether or not the thing is something they need to hold on to. Objects, to me, are a way to access people I love. In my drawer, I have my father’s watch and my mother in law’s watch, so I can remember them. They still, my mother in law’s, the leather of her wristwatch still smells like her Charlie perfume. And that, you know, I can conjure her up immediately. But those, my daughters may choose to remember their grandparents in other ways and it seems to me important to have that conversation while I’m living to say, I have done this. But you may need, you know, you may for whatever reason, make sure you give my writing to Brynmore College, or keep it if you want. But the other stuff, it’s, you know, it’s up to you. 

[00:20:59] Tesse: Wow. What a beautiful response to a really elegantly crafted question. I mean, or of both of you really. Cause we are kind of in this trajectory, and I’m smiling right now because it’s not often you are in a place of talking about grief and having a smile. This is actually a very new place for me to be, you know. But it’s what you’ve created Elizabeth with the kind of way you’re expressing objects, the way you’re expressing what could happen, what is possible. So in the spirit of knowing what could be possible, I’m thinking of you, objects, reimagining the future and next steps. You know, what lies ahead for you? What are the objects telling you about you and your journey ahead? 

[00:21:47] Elizabeth: That’s a great question. I often when I think about my life, it often is a writing project. I think I’m a writer because it gives me an excuse to talk to people and they will answer my questions. And it gives me a sort of project. So sometimes like as with the archeology, I didn’t know it was a writing project. I just wanted to be part of the memorial project. And then it became a writing project because I found a way in to something that was personal to me. Another project that I had to put on hold during the pandemic shutdown that I’ve returned to, is telling the story of the demise of my father’s hometown. It’s this tiny little farming town across the border of Ohio and Indiana. I scattered his ashes there after he died with my daughter, my eldest daughter, and I was so upset by what had become of this town. You know, it’s one of those, you know, towns that just existed for a while because it was on a train line, and there was industry. In fact, the biggest industry is coffin making there, which is sort of ironic from a writer’s point of view. I was doing a fellowship in Indianapolis called Religion, Spirituality, and the Art, where we were creating a writing or art project based on reading Genesis together with a Rabbi. It was people from all different religions gathering to do this project. And it gave me proximity to my father’s hometown and the upset, it’s sort of symbolic of a lot of small towns in the United States. But really, I see it as a grief project. You know, it is very obvious to me every time I go back there and I interview people, I’m really just trying to access my father, who I loved. And the ethics of doing a project like this as a writer have to do with my proximity to the material. You’re sort of like a participating anthropologist. People tell me things that sometimes they shouldn’t, simply because that’s my father’s hometown, and I have a map that he drew for me. So, the main project, this is what I was doing when I was visiting our mutual friend, Marta Maretich I was resurrecting interviews that I’d done, and trying to think about how to do this work in a way that’s responsible, that tells a story of a town that where my father grew up, but never went back to, so he’s part of the exodus from these small towns that sometimes fail because the work was elsewhere. We have to tell this story with love and respect and without exposing things that people told me because I have proximity to the material that they would rather not see in print. So, that’s what I’m working through now. This is a personal story, is what a friend told me. When you’re writing memoir you’re always following yourself through the story. So it might be about my dad and about my dad’s hometown, but it’s really about me and my grief. And the demise of this town is really, you know, obviously the demise of my father, but it’s also an interesting story. So that is my current project. And as I said, just a way of working through it. At this point, you know, when I was in my 20s, this is not what I wrote about. I joke, like, if you want to talk about death, come sit by me. Like, this is like where I am, you know, now that I’m 60 a lot of water under the bridge, you know? So people who’ve seen my earlier work think, what happened to the, you know, that writer? But this is the subject matter that I have now, you know, is a lot of, it is grief and hope and love and the cultural context of the world we live in now. My sense of social justice and trying to be responsible as a writer, but also, you know, work through my feelings, which I always do on the page. This is just how I do it. I don’t think I would know how to grieve if I weren’t a writer. This is just what I do. 

[00:25:45] Tesse: I love it. Oh, I love it. I wouldn’t know how to grieve if I wasn’t a writer. You know, I love classical music and one of my musicians, my favorite musician is Mozart, and Mozart’s Requiem, when his father died, and the change in gears and everything. Now you’re speaking to me, I’m remembering Mozart that had that really jolly, fast moving, you know, music and then his dad, the love of his life dies and everything gets dark. But you know, what you’ve done differently from what Mozart did is that you brought a shade of light and hope and optimism. And I love the way you’re talking about this, it’s absolutely beautiful. Paula. 

[00:26:29] Paula: I echo you, because when Elizabeth speaks, there’s hope. You know, looking at death as inevitable, but also looking at it as ways that we should cherish what has gone on in the past and put stories to it. I love that so much that, you know. One thing that you suggested, I don’t know whether it was here in an earlier conversation with you, is that when we have holidays, because sometimes those are the hardest times if you’ve lost someone. We can spend some time remembering them through an object or objects and how much that object meant to that person when they were alive. You know, I think that is so helpful. 

[00:27:14] Elizabeth: Absolutely. And though it’s not a national holiday, my going to the Phillies every year to watch the Phillies versus the Mets and sitting in those seats. I have invented a holiday. 

[00:27:25] Paula: Yeah.

[00:27:25] Elizabeth: And it’s what I can remember my father and sit in those same seats. And, you know, as we talked about grief being kind of a spiral, I keep returning to that moment and experiencing it a little differently as I journey through the spiral of grief rather than the line that we, you know, wish it were. And it is just a, you know, it’s a way of laying pleasure over pain or joy over sadness and having them all mixed together instead of it being one thing. The both and as opposed to the either. 

[00:27:58] Paula: Yes, yes. 

[00:27:59] Elizabeth: So you’re welcome to celebrate the Philly’s, Philly’s versus Met Day yourselves if you’d like to. But I think it’s important that we have these personal rituals that, you know, are commemorative, you know and in a joyful way. 

[00:28:15] Paula: Absolutely. And so that’s why we do “TesseLeads”. And to our listeners, we want to thank you so much for listening. And as you can see from talking here with Elizabeth Mosier, your precious stories and your lives matter. We ask you to continue to share them with us, and we also ask that you know or hope that you realize that you’re supported and encouraged and nurtured when we hear each other’s stories, because none of us is without a story. And so we ask you to head over to “Google Podcasts”, “Spotify”, or “Apple Podcasts”, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, please subscribe. And If you have found what Elizabeth has said or any of the other stories helpful, we ask that you write a raving review for us. And if you have any topics or questions that you’d like us to cover, please send us a note. And last but not least, if you’d like to be a guest on our show, “TesseLeads”, that’s this show, please head over to our newly developed site, which is “TesseLeads.com” to apply. Elizabeth, this has been awesome. 

[00:29:30] Elizabeth: Thank you. 

[00:29:31] Tesse: Yeah. Thank you, Elizabeth, for giving me back Tony. You know, I can reimagine him in a different way. Thank you. Love what you’re saying. Thank you. 

[00:29:40] Paula: Absolutely. 

[00:29:41] Elizabeth: And the gift was the chance to spend time with you in this weird little Zoom room, which feels somehow, because we’ve spent some time together, now it actually does feel like you’re right there.

[00:29:53] Paula: Yes.

[00:29:53] Elizabeth: I know you’re a ways away. 

[00:29:55] Paula: Yes, this has been really good.

Dreams for the Future

Debra  Allcock Tyler’s dream for the future involves people being a bit more thoughtful and intentional. “It’s not that we have to agree with each other.  It’s about the way we engage. I’d really like to see, some kind of kindness.”

“I am the eldest of four children. I come from a massive mixed race Anglo Indian Catholic family.  My mother’s one of seven. I have loads and loads of cousins.

I struggled a lot with mental health in my young years. I had a massive breakdown when I was in my early thirties.

I’m turning 60, my mother’s turning 80. My parents celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. My nephew is 18, my niece is, 21”.

Asked what her older self would say to her younger self, Debra replies “ I would say to myself, pay more attention to what you think about you rather than what other people think about you. I would go back to myself and say, tell the truth about how you’re feeling , get the help that you need rather than just keep going. My grandmother used to say, what other people think of you is none of your business.”.

Let’s ask the question, “ how do we  move forward?  How do we fix this? How do we see people as human beings? I worry so much about the language that we use.  I do not like  witnessing the hatred that people have  against certain marginalised groups.

The younger generations seem more compassionate , tolerant, understanding and more willing to stand up for what they believe in.  This gives me hope for a brighter future”.

We coined the word “Debrastic” , putting Debra and fantastic together. Debra’s parting words are a reminder of her optimism In the face of adversity,  remember, “ this too shall pass”.

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki and me, Paula Okonneh, who’s her co host. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, to hear, and tell your stories and your experiences. We and our audience always get super curious about the dilemmas that shape our lives and shape your lives and your futures. And this is the place to talk about that. The theme for today is “Dreams For The Future”. And our guest is Debra Allcock-Tyler. Typically, I give you the audience a synopsis on who my guest is, but today it’ll be different. Debra, why don’t you tell our audience who you are? 

[00:00:54] Debra: Okay. Hi, Paula. Hi, Tesse. Okay, so my name’s Debra Allcock-Tyler. I am the eldest of four children. I come from a massive mixed race Anglo Indian Catholic family. So my mother’s one of seven. For example, I have like loads and loads and loads of cousins, many of whom Tesse has actually met, interestingly. So I come from this big family. My birth name is actually Debra Alcock, that’s my name. The Tyler is my ex husband’s name. What happened was when I was married, I started to like, do a lot of writing and sort of build up a bit of a public, you know, not massive public, but you know, a bit of a public profile. And so I became known as Debra Allcock-Tyler. And so when we got divorced, it was really, I had to do this thing that if I dropped the Tyler, you know, people are going to know. And so I just thought, oh, I’ll just keep it. It’s just a name. I don’t care. So interesting my family always like nagging me, say drop the Tyler, drop the Tyler, he’s your ex husband. I’m like, I don’t really care about it. For me, the surname is irrelevant anyway, because it’s always the surname of the father, not the mother. And I just have issues with that. So, you know, I’m Debra. You know, so yeah, so there you go. So that’s some weird personal stuff about me. 

[00:02:04] Tesse: I’m laughing so much because Debra, I love that introduction of yourself to us. And yes, you’re right that I met your family, a number of times and love them all. Love them, every single one of them. There’s no one, I really love them. And the dog and your dog, and your dog love. Love your dog. You know, and so, you know, I’m super curious, one thing you don’t know is that I’ve got a term for you or a name for you, which I’ve shared with Paula and that’s “Debrastic”.

[00:02:36] Debra: “Debrastic”. 

[00:02:36] Tesse: And that is putting Debra and fantastic together. 

[00:02:39] Debra: Oh my goodness. I don’t think that’s going to catch on, Tesse. 

[00:02:44] Tesse: That’s my way of seeing you, that I see you as a catalyst for excellence. I think of you and I think of you as sunshine. And I also see you as somebody who continues to hone greatness, goodness in others. And that’s why I coined that term. And my question is, how do you see yourself? 

[00:03:01] Debra: You know, that’s so funny you should ask that, Tesse. So I’ve got a board meeting next week, and we’ve got five new trustees coming. And my chair and I were talking about like, kind of the ice breaking, like getting people to know each other. And he came up with this idea that everybody has to say, how would your friends describe you? So if I met one of your friends in the street, what would you say? And I got thinking about myself and I had to laugh, because my friends would say, well, we love Debs, but you have to be really careful about her in public spaces, cause she’s always on it. Which is really true. I actually find it incredibly difficult to like, let things go. And that’s not a strength. You know, I often end up, I can see people glazing over, because we’re like, well, you’ll be having a lovely chat about something, you know, like perfume or makeup or whatever thing happens to me. And then somebody will say something and I’ll be like, well, actually I think you’ll find that that’s not true. Or I think you’ll find that that’s the eternalized misogyny or why, you know what I mean? It’s like, I’m always on it. And so I dread public spaces. I’m not, I’m gregarious, because I’ve learned coming from a big family and the, you know, the sort of nomadic background I come from, you have to be able to speak out and perform. But actually I’m quiet. My favorite thing to do is just to sit quietly by myself, to read my book, not to speak to people. I really don’t like parties. I hate social gathering. I’m not great with strangers. I always feel like that I’m not particularly good fun and that people are going to find me difficult to be around. And sometimes they do. So I tend to sort of, you know, one of my strengths is the fact that I’m so passionate about things and I want to change it and I don’t let things go, but that’s also one of my weaknesses because it puts people off of me, you know. And like, they’re not so keen to hang out with me, you know, so yeah.

[00:04:36] Tesse: The way that I see you as somebody who I’ve known for over 20 years now, and every time it’s refreshed is I love your honesty. I love your truth. I love your standing up to and calling things out. I also love your calling things in. And I think sometimes when people are uncomfortable with that, it’s because they’re uncomfortable with the truth, you know. I remember Debra, and I shared this story with Paula a couple of years ago when I’d had a really horrible time with a group of people. 

[00:05:09] Debra: I remember. 

[00:05:10] Tesse: Who were on the religious side. 

[00:05:11] Debra: I remember. 

[00:05:12] Tesse: And I had gone into a space of ego deflation, and also I’m not going to go there again. And I said, let me meet you.

[00:05:21] Debra: Yeah. 

[00:05:22] Tesse: And you said, yep, I’m coming over, and you came over. I remember we were in a little room and you talked to me and you said, what feedback did you get from the people who commissioned it? And I said, they said it was good and you said, don’t you believe them? I said, but see what those people are saying. And you said, who do you believe? The people who commissioned it or the other ones? Because you were doing what you were doing so well, that’s why they got upset. And then you went there and I said, what about you? Would you work with these people again? You said, yeah, it’s too important not to. And then what I’m trying to say is that there’s that piece whereby some things are hard because they need to be done. They’re not easy, because if they were easy, everybody would be doing it, like behavioural change, like culture change. So coming back to you, I sense that I love what you’re saying about how you energise yourself, and I hear that you might not be fun, but sometimes your truth, and truth is sometimes not fun.

[00:06:13] Debra: That’s very true. But when you’re at a party drinking and people want to talk about what they watched on telly last night, sometimes, you know, I need to suppress the truth. I’m just not good at letting people just have a good time. I’m terrible. Yeah. 

[00:06:28] Tesse: Sometimes life is much too short, you know, you know, sometimes.

[00:06:33] Debra: Yes, I have time for Miss morality. Do you not realize the state of the world? You’re giving me a good time laughing at this wedding. Why are you laughing at this wedding? Do you not know what’s happening over there in Yemen? 

[00:06:46] Tesse: You’re a faithful, you’re a faithful. 

[00:06:50] Paula: That shows your heart. 

[00:06:51] Tesse: Yeah.  

[00:06:52] Debra: But then, it’s five and it’s my birthday. I don’t care. Pay attention to them. 

[00:06:58] Paula: But then we need people like you. I mean, we need people who in parties where everyone wants to forget what’s happening, to remind them that look, if each one of us care, things we can be the voice that can create the changes that we want to talk about, you know.

[00:07:15] Debra: I think you’re both being far too kind to me. My brother would be saying, no, she needs to let, when to let it go.

[00:07:25] Paula: So we recorded right at the beginning of 2024. What would you like? I mean, we’re talking about dreams for the future. So December 31st, what would you like to have experienced between now and the end of the year? 

[00:07:39] Debra: Oh what would I like to have experienced? 

[00:07:43] Paula: Between now, what are you looking forward to doing this year in 2024? What’s occurring for you? 

[00:07:48] Debra: Well, there’s a lot of big events, big anniversaries in my family this year. You know, like I’m turning 60, my mother’s turning 80. My parents celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. My nephew is 18, my niece is, 21. My uncle is 70. My cousin, other cousin is 61. Yeah, so there’s loads of those. So I’m really looking forward to, yeah, us all being together. I mean, my big, wide, mixed, you know, race, Anglo Indian Catholic family is very important to me. And we’re very close, and we stay in touch and things like that. So like being around them is like, you know, so that’s, so I’m really looking forward to experiencing that this year. In terms of personal dreams. I don’t really have sort of personal ambition in that sort of sense. You know, I’m like, there isn’t a thing I particularly want to do. There’s no different job I want to do. There’s no, you know, I’m incredibly lucky that I feel I’ve managed to do a lot of stuff. Like if I, you know, rolled over dead tomorrow, I wouldn’t be full of regret. Well, I’d be dead, so I wouldn’t be full of regret, anyway, but you know what I mean? I wouldn’t be, you know, I wouldn’t feel like, well, I never got to, you know. And there are things I regret, of course, I was never able to be a mother. So that’s really sad for me, you know. So, yeah, but I wouldn’t. So in terms of dreams myself, not really, I want dreams more broadly. I want to see, like people thinking more reasonably about things, you know. People being a bit more thoughtful about stuff. It’s not that we will have to agree with each other, but it’s about the way in which we engage. I’d really like to see, you know, some of the kind of like, the hatred that people have certain marginalized groups. So I’m really uncomfortable and disturbed and upset by the sort of anti trans hatred that we have in the UK at the moment. I find it distasteful and difficult. I don’t really understand what the, you know, what the. I understand, I hear what people say, you know, on whichever side you have to be looking at, but I just hate the whole sort of rhetoric and nastiness and like pushing people down. And I would like to see that, and that’s just one example. There are other examples. I just like to see that sort of narrative, you know. You look at things like Israel, Gaza conflict, and you have like people saying that you’ve got to take a side, you know, you’ve got to, and I’m like, the side I’m taking is the babies and the children. That’s the only side I’m interested in. You know, and I was talking to somebody the other day and saying, actually with this, you don’t have to take a side. You just have to say, this is a horrible conflict. I don’t really properly understand it, but please stop killing babies on both sides. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, I would just like people to be a bit more about not who wins, not who’s right and who’s wrong. But look, how do we just move forward? I would love to see more of that. You know, how do we fix this? How do we, how do we see people as human beings? You know, I worry so much about the language that we use, you know. Or like, you know, when we talk about illegal migrants and it drives me crazy, there’s no such thing as an illegal migrant. There’s a migrant or there’s an asylum seeker. And if they come and their asylum is rejected, then they go back to wherever they came from. They’re not illegal. You know, I really dislike that kind of rhetoric and language that we use and things like that. So I would love to see that change this year. I’m not sure it will because it’s an election year. So I think it’s probably going to get even more polarized. But, and I think that the work that we do in the voluntary sector can really help with that actually. You know, and I’m not saying about, you know, when I say don’t take sides, I’m not saying that some things clearly aren’t wrong, or aren’t right, sorry. And some things are clearly wrong. I get that. But it’s just that whole sort of, I’m in this camp and therefore this camp can do no wrong. Well, I’m in this camp and therefore this camp can do no wrong. I just, I’ve never experienced that as being helpful, you know, so that’s what I really hope for this year. But I mean, Paula, you and I were chatting on a different occasion, weren’t we? About young people. You know, I feel so much hope with young people, because they just, I mean, okay sweeping generalization, but they just seem so much more compassionate and tolerant and understanding and more willing to stand up for what they believe in and more. And they seem to have a more global outlet, which I think personally is healthy. I always think about, it seemed like buy local, shop local, only local. I think that’s all very well and good. But what if you come from a country where the only thing you can grow is oranges? You know, so saying like, we’ll just do in this area, it’s not helping that law. You know, can’t survive on oranges or like, you know, you mustn’t go on holiday to these places, the places that rely on tourism. Do you see what, you know, I’m also, and I love the fact that our young people are very global in their outlook. And I think that’s one of the big benefits actually of modern technology. You know, when I was growing up, we didn’t know what was going on on the other side of the world, you know. Most of the young people I know now have like regularly in communication in their video games with somebody who’s in India or who’s in Japan or who’s in some other America, some other parts of the world that we would never typically, unless you’re pen pals, you know, and like took weeks to get something back. So I love the fact that they seem to have a more global outlook. And I hope that, well, I don’t hope I don’t dream. I know that that will permeate through, and I’m confident we will have better leadership in the world. with the next, you know, the next generations of young people who I think are just better people than my generation largely is, and certainly the generation ahead.

[00:12:51] Tesse: You know, when you say don’t hope, don’t dream, it’s just as what is, that’s a hope and that’s a dream, you know, it’s, but the fact that you’re saying that means that it’s a possible thing, you know. Walt Disney’s often quoted as saying, “if you can dream it, you can, you can see it, you can be it”. And I think, I believe that to be true. You know, our discourse has got so uncompassionate. 

[00:13:12] Debra: Yes. 

[00:13:12] Tesse: And when I think of you, I think of you as kind and caring, and kind and caring is actually looking at people and being empathetic, seeing how they can be in their shoes. And also seeing on stuff, you know, and so one of the things I’m pretty curious about is given the life that you have led and you’re leading, you’ve mentioned to us that this is going to be the year where you turn the big six o.

[00:13:40] Debra: Yeah. 

[00:13:40] Tesse: Yay. And what would your older self say to your younger self knowing what you are experiencing now and you have experienced, what would you be saying? 

[00:13:50] Debra: This too shall pass. You know, that don’t get too in despair about the bad times because they will go, and don’t get too excited about the good times because they will also go. You know, that life has a habit of doing this. I would say to my younger self, listen more, Debs, you know, don’t be so. I mean, I’m dogmatic now and I’ve softened Tesse and Paula. Can you imagine what I was like when I was in my twenties? 

[00:14:14] Tesse: Dynamic

[00:14:15] Debra: Well, I’m such a know it all now, you know, and let me tell you my twenties, I knew everything better than anyone else, you know? So I would go back to my younger self and I say, listen more and get the, actually, you know, very little, be more open to those sorts of things. I would say I struggled a lot with mental health in my young years. I had a massive breakdown when I was in my early thirties. And it turned out that I’d had a mental health issue since I was very young, but it’s just never been picked up because back in those days it wasn’t recognized in young people. Now that when I ran away or disappeared, I’d lock myself in my room. I wouldn’t get out of bed for days, you know, put that down to just being a teenager or tantrum. And actually it was much more serious than that. I would go back to myself and say, tell the truth about how you’re feeling, you know, and go and get the help that you need rather than just keep going. And I would also say to myself, don’t believe what other people say about you, whether it’s either good or bad. You know, my grandmother always used to say, what other people think of you is none of your business. And I just think that, yeah, it’s super helpful, actually. If they think I’m amazing, if they think I’m terrible, that’s about them, not actually about me. What’s much more important is what I think about myself. You know, and so to not be fooled by the people who say, you know, you’re fabulous and then turn around and stab you in the back or, and not to be broken by the people who say you’re absolutely awful, who may end up, you know, being, it’s like. You have to look yourself in the mirror and say, right, Debs, these are the bits of you that you know are not nice and you could work on. And these are the bits of you that you’re proud of, and you can enhance those things. And I think that’s also real proper, which I think I’ve come to now as I’m older, but when I was younger, I’m not sure I was properly self aware. I’m not sure I really understood. You know, it’s like, I always felt I was in the right. I always justified my own behavior even when that behavior was really poor. And instead of being able to say, actually, Debra, you said that horrible thing because you wanted to hurt that person. You know, and being honest about it and recognizing that we all do those things sometimes. And yeah, so I think I would say to myself, paying more attention to what you think about you rather than what other people think about you.

[00:16:15] Tesse: Oh, I think that’s an amazing response. Paula, you know, you’ve met Debra. Debra was one of our first ever podcast guests on “TesseTalk” and kindly has come back and I stopped our discussions and our conversations. How do you see, how do you experience Debra? 

[00:16:33] Paula: Oh my word, she said something that her grandma said and then she ended the last sentence saying it about, you know, pay more attention to what you think about yourself than what other people think about you. And so I wrap that up with saying, I see Debra as funny, but pragmatic, very wise, probably not recognizing how wise she is. You give a lot more tip and you always say, do I talk, you ask sometimes whether you talk a lot. No. You don’t talk a lot. You say a lot of things that make practical sense and are very impactful to many people. And so what do I think about Debra? I think that she’s, and now you have to believe this because one thing you said. 

[00:17:18] Debra: If you’re going to say something negative, Paula, I’m not listening. I’m not listening. 

[00:17:23] Paula: Oh my gosh, I think I’m going to borrow Tesse’s word. She said at the beginning that “Debrastic” , which means fantastic and Debra. You’re unique. You’re yourself. You’re truthful. You believe in saying the truth, but saying it in ways that are not just practical, but they’re helpful to those who you are speaking with. And I believe in listening to you that you know you are someone who also is very good with taking feed forward. Is it what we called it?  Feedforward? Yeah. 

[00:17:58] Tesse: Feed forward. 

[00:17:59] Paula: You believe in feedback, but in the way that it should be helpful. And so I can see, I asked you this question, what do you think your experiences would be when you look back at, on December 31st, 2024? I see a woman who was always willing to learn. And to me, that’s more of what the world needs. People who are willing to learn, take what they hear, muse on it and spit it out or give it back in ways that can help mankind. So that’s my summary of Debra. 

[00:18:27] Tesse: Debra. Can you believe it? 

[00:18:30] Paula: And please believe it.

[00:18:35] Debra: I believe you believe it, Paula. Whether it’s true about me, I’m not so sure. 

[00:18:38] Paula: Aren’t we all? 

[00:18:39] Debra: I’m in my own head. I know all the horrible thoughts that I think about. 

[00:18:43] Tesse: You know, Debra, I’m so glad that Paula reflects back what she sees. And I, at the beginning, I reflected back what I saw and what I still continue to see. But when I think about you and that ray of sunshine that I was thinking about, Is it the heart that you have, but you are unconditionally yourself, and that helps others around you, including me, to be unconditionally ourselves. Because that kind of embrace, that kind of acceptance, you know, of you as you, knowing that perfection doesn’t exist, but knowing that you can be and strive to be your best self, knowing that there are days when that is not always going to be the best version of you on the day. I love that. And when I thought of the kind of topic, dreams for the future, I actually thought you are a dream, because if we are that, then the world would be a much kinder, much brighter, much more compassionate and functional space, a place to be. 

[00:19:37] Debra: Oh wow. 

[00:19:38] Paula: I say amen to that. A double amen. 

[00:19:41] Tesse: Yeah. 

[00:19:41] Debra: We just need the young, don’t we? We need the young, brave and bold and kind and compassionate. 

[00:19:47] Tesse: And you have the competence to go with it. Competent, you know. 

[00:19:51] Debra: I thought after this, bits of my body are falling apart. You know, I’m constantly needing to pee. It does not belong to me. It belongs to the younger lot, honestly. 

[00:20:01] Tesse: This belongs to you, not me. Paula over to you.

[00:20:12] Paula: Oh boy. So as we wrap up this conversation, I mean, we’ve heard, I mean, I’ve learned so much more about you today. What words of wisdom do you think you would like to share with our visitors? There I go, with our viewers and our listeners. Okay. Let me rephrase that. Now, because we’re talking about dreams for the future, just give us two words that you would like to share with our listeners who are thinking about the future that you can see that will be practical. If you were the prime minister today, that would be practical for 2024. Just two words. 

[00:20:46] Debra: Well, two words is too hard for me, Paula. 

[00:20:48] Tesse: I love it. I love it 

[00:20:52] Debra: I would say, firstly, be flexible. I can’t bear it when people say, stick to the plan, stick to the plan. It’s like plans are nonsense. Planning is all right. But like, you know, stick to your principles, but change your plan because circumstances change. And I think that’s true for you in your own life. Like if, for example, when I was very young, all I wanted to be was an actress, and I also wanted to write books. Those were my two dreams. And I never ended up being an actress, and I never ended up being an author of fiction books, which I always wanted to. But I have ended up being a public speaker. So doing a lot of performances on stages, talking to people about stuff. And also I’ve written a lot of management books. So the universe has a very strange way of delivering for you what you wanted, it just doesn’t necessarily present in the way in which you imagined it would when you were 10, 20, 30, 40. So like, so get that you’re probably are achieving your dreams. It’s just not necessarily manifesting the way in which you thought they would. So that’s the first thing. I think the second thing is, which refer, you know, to the thing you said before, but it’s about just don’t stop hoping. You know, it’s like without hope, the situation is hopeless. You know, it’s like, you’ve always got to have hope, because there always is hope. As long as you’re breathing, there is hope. As long as there is, you know, yeah, that there is always, always hope. Yeah. And I suppose really practically get a reputation for being somebody who people want to work with. So think about who are the sorts of people you want to work with. And most of us want to work with people who are enthusiastic, positive, willing to roll up their sleeves. Like, don’t do it. It’s not my job. It’s your job. You know, most of us want to work with those kinds of people. And if you want to get on in your career, being that kind of person is what’s going to get you promoted, you know, for all, everybody thinks otherwise, you know, it’s not brand nosing or anything like that. It’s about the fact that if you just enthusiastic, if you’re somebody who’s always like points out why it can’t be done, or what the problems are, or all the difficulties are in the way. Nobody wants to work with people like that because they drag you down. We don’t want to be dragged down. We want to be dragged up. So have a reputation saying, yeah, that’s a massive challenge, but we’ll find a way around it. Or, okay, I know that’s gone wrong, but what we need to do is think about how we can fix it. You know, be that person, have that attitude and you will, and even if you don’t get to the, you know, run the blooming country or ever who’d want to, to be fair, you will always feel good about yourself because you’ll always know that you gave everything a good go and you tried it and you didn’t sort of give up, so it can’t be done, you know. It’s too difficult. I haven’t got enough money. I haven’t got enough people. I haven’t got enough resources. And then show me somebody who says, I’ve got plenty of everything, you know, even rich people. Well, definitely rich people never ever have enough money. You know what I mean? So need that kind of person. So Paula, you said two words. I think that was about 202. 

[00:23:45] Tesse: I think Paula suspected it wouldn’t be that. I’d call it a trick question. 

[00:23:56] Paula: I’m a mathematician. I love 

[00:23:58] Tesse: Inspirational, Debra! 

[00:24:00] Paula: That was exponential. You took two and you took it to the 10th power or more. I love it. So I love, what I’m going to end with is summarizing the three things that I heard from you. Change the plans, but stick with your principles because life continues. Life goes on. Don’t stop hoping. That’s the essence of life. And be the person that people want, get a reputation for being the type of person that people want to be around because of your quality. What better way to end this show.

[00:24:30] Tesse: Wow. So “Debrastic” . 

[00:24:32] Paula: Yeah. So thank you so much. We want you all, our listeners, to continue listening and tuning in to “TesseLeads”, because on this show, you hear people in their authentic, authentic way. We ask that you head over to “Apple Podcasts”, “Google Podcasts”, “Spotify”, anywhere that you listen to podcasts and click subscribe. We’d love when you do that. And if you have found “TesseLeads” helpful, who hasn’t? Please let us know in your reviews. If you have any questions or topics you’d love us to cover, send us a note. And if you’d like to be a guest on our show, head over to our website, which is simply “TesseLeads”, and you can apply there. Debra, you are the best. What is it? Debrastic? 

[00:25:18] Tesse: Debrastic, yes. 

[00:25:20] Debra: It will never catch on. It doesn’t matter how many times you say it. 

[00:25:23] Tesse: No, I know it won’t catch on, but it catches on for both of us. And I mean, you just need a few to change the world. So you are absolutely Debrastic, honestly. 

[00:25:32] Debra: Saying that word makes its way into the Oxford English dictionary.

[00:25:39] Paula: There you go. Uh huh.


From Hope to Inspiration

“Hope does not come out of denial. Failure comes out of denial, I’ve learned in the last few years to acknowledge the awfulness of what is going on and to say it’s really bad.  Things do get better.   There have been times in my life when I’ve been full of despair, when things have been really, really bad for me, and I look back and remember I got through it.   When there are people, there is always hope.   In all the awfulness, there are always the helpers.  I remember an old colleague of mine used to say, this is not all of life it’s just part of life”.

Debra Allcock Tyler summaries the concept of hope, beautifully, “When you’re feeling really down and miserable, the best thing you can do is to do something for somebody else. You can’t help but feel better about yourself when you’ve done something nice for other people. “

Debra’s Leadership Style

“Most of the leadership things I’ve done right are because of the things I did wrong.  I’m not more important than the people I lead, I just have a different role and a different level of responsibility. My style is to bask in reflected glory.   I can create a space for others to shine so that they can do what they need to do well. I am creating the conditions for them to be able to do the work “.


Debra’s story

“I had a massive breakdown in my early thirties.  I was off work and therapy twice a week, medication had to be supervised all the time.

I’m always very conscious of overthinking.  The minute I start to feel like a victim, the minute I start to feel like the world isn’t fair, or why don’t they appreciate me, or doesn’t everybody realise how wonderful I am? That’s what makes me ill. The minute I stop worrying about what people think about me and worry more about what I can do for them, the healthier I feel. So that’s how I look after myself really, by looking after other people, because that makes me feel better mentally, physically, emotionally better than demanding that people look after me.”

Debra’s Tips

  1. Just being around people that I love is a way of caring for myself.
  2. Do something for somebody
  3. Remember “This will pass. Most of us do tend to survive things “ 
  4. You have no idea what’s happening for somebody. Everybody has got some battle, some demon, something that they’re battling in their own lives.  None of us is unique in that.
  5. Be a healthy helper.

Jess Baker, a psychologist and experts on the wellbeing of helpers has co-written a book, “The Super-Helper Syndrome. A Survival Guide for Compassionate people.  The guide focuses on healthy helping.   Jess stresses the importance of taking care of ourselves, otherwise, burnout comes as we get exhausted. No one can pour from an empty cup”!

TL – Debra Allcock-Tyler

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co host me, Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, to hear, and to tell your stories and your experiences. We get super curious about the dilemmas in your lives and how it’s shaped your future and our futures. And also the journey of those telling the stories. Today, I have a phenomenal woman as our guest, her name is Debra Allcock Tyler, and I’ll tell you a bit about her, a bit, because there’s so much to talk about with her. Debra has worked in the charitable and voluntary sector for over 30 years. She must’ve started when she was 10. And among numerous other roles, she is the co chair of the Soldering on Awards alongside General the Lord Danet. She also is a trustee of Inkind Direct, one of the Prince’s Foundation Charities. And a trustee of the Berkshire Community Foundation. I said there’s a lot, so hold on. She’s also an Africa Advocacy Foundation Ambassador for women and girls at risk of or affected by female genital mutilation and has served as a trustee of several charities, including being the founder of the Small Charities Coalition and was its first chair. She served on the Charity Commission’s SORP committee for over seven years and was the Vice Chair of Governors of White Knights Primary School for six years. I told you there was a lot to talk about her. And so today’s topic is going to be on Hope,  Welcome to “TesseLeads”. 

[00:02:14] Debra: Ah, lovely to be here. Lovely to be hanging out with you two.

[00:02:19] Tesse: Hi, Debra. You know, you’re one of my favourite people, and your hope, the hope I see, I feel when I connect with you turns into inspiration, so I call it from hope to inspiration because that’s what it is. I’m so curious, Debra, I’ve known you for so many years and I’m intrigued by your leadership style. How would you describe it? How did you get there? 

[00:02:40] Debra: Oh, that’s a big question, Tesse. How does anybody get into it? By accident half the time. You suddenly wake up and think, how the hell did I end up in this job? You know, somebody at some point obviously gave me an opportunity. My leadership style has changed over the years as I’ve made mistakes, as I’ve, you know, wrecked people’s lives, ruined their days, you know, made shocking mistakes in the ways in which I handled them. So I can’t say, I would find it hard to say that I have a style. I think what I prefer to do is to be responsive. If you know what I mean. It’s like to recognize when I’ve got it wrong and try and get it right and to be honest about getting it wrong. I mean, you often hear people say like, I learn all the time and you look at them and you think you don’t really believe that you’re saying that because you think that’s what you’re supposed to say. Cause it sounds arrogant, you know, to not. But actually I’m most of the things, most of the leadership things I’ve done right are because of the things I did wrong. You know, I didn’t march in. I mean, I’m, you know, my, I say this in my book, it’s tough at the top actually at the very beginning, you know, I don’t think anybody’s born a leader. My mother says to me, darling, you were born bossy. It’s not the same thing. Which is absolutely true. You know, I was born bossy.,I wasn’t necessarily born a leader. So I mean, others might say I have a style, I don’t know. But for me, it’s just it’s more a way of thinking. It’s like, I think that everybody I work with and, you know, work alongside in my organization, all adults, that I’m not more important than them, I just have a different role and a different level of responsibility. So I have a different set of tasks to do than they do. Most of them are much better at doing their jobs than I am at doing their jobs. Which is why they’re there and I’m not. You know, the most I can do is create a space for them to shine so that they can do what they need to do well. And of course, the thing is, if you create a space where other people shine, inevitably you get reflected in that shine. So there you go, my style is to bask in reflected glory, you know, to let them do brilliantly and then take all the credit. And say, well of course it’s brilliant, my leadership allowed them to do this fantastic piece of work that I had absolutely nothing to do with.

[00:04:40] Tesse: I love reflective glory. Lovely.

[00:04:47] Debra: Joking aside, essentially, with the leadership, you’re never doing the work. All you’re doing is creating the conditions for other people to be able to do the work. So in a sense, all you ever can be is reflected in glory, which is why I get really a bit irritated with, you know, all these very senior, very wealthy people who say like, you know, I got here because of my own hard work, or I’m rich because of my hard work. And like, no you’re not, you’re rich because of everybody else’s hard work. And like, you got to your senior position because of what other people did, not because of what you did. So yeah, I get, I find that very disingenuous. So thinking that it was my brilliance that got me to this when it wasn’t, it was other people’s brilliance that I just rode off the back of, so to speak.

[00:05:23] Paula: As I said, Debra is so, is a dynamic woman. I love how you’re so human in your responses and your answers. I mean, you say it as it is. I love your mom’s, I love what your mom said. Though I don’t agree because probably, I don’t know you very well. The only side I’ve seen of you is this very funny yet very intellectual person. So bossy, I don’t know if you, but your mom knows you better than I. So whatever my opinion is, it doesn’t matter. But you know, last two or three years, the last three years have been so different. I mean, COVID kind of shaped our lives. And now we look at life before COVID and after COVID. And so I wondered now we’re talking about hope, what hope have you seen arise from a disruptive last three years?

[00:06:14] Debra: Yeah, it’s a really, it’s a good question, Paula, because actually, you know, it has been awful, awful. People have died, they’ve died from the pandemic, they’ve died from hunger, they’ve died from, in wars. You know, the state of the world is really in so many ways so dreadful and it’s incredibly difficult to hang on to hope. You know, and it’s, I always used to sort of say this thing about, you know, kind of optimism. It’s like the trouble is, so often optimism is like, you know, you’ve got a pile of dog poo and it’s really stinky and smelly and you squirt a whole load of whipped cream over it to make it look better but the dog poo is still there and it still stinks. And so I think sometimes when we sort of say to people like be optimistic things will get better I think we dishonor the fact there’s a whole steaming stinking pile of poo that smells really bad and it’s really disgusting. I think one of the things I’ve learned in the last few years is you’ve got to acknowledge the awfulness. You know, you’ve got to be able to say it’s really bad. What’s happened to you is really bad. What’s happened to your family is really bad. What’s happening in the world is really bad and not pretend that it isn’t, you know. Because I don’t think hope comes out of denial. You know, I think failure comes out of denial, actually. If you deny the circumstances in which you’re in, or if you dishonor people’s pain or anguish or the awfulness that’s going on, you know, you can never lead to hope. So I think you have to start by recognizing, you know, the awfulness that people face are facing and have faced. However, I also think that, you know, if you look at, which I like to, like, I try to keep like the big picture in mind as often as I possibly can. And so for me, if you look at the whole of human history, or even actually forget about the whole of human history, just in my own life. There have been times in my life when I’ve been full of despair, when things have been really, really bad for me, and I look back and remember I got through it. You know that I remember an old colleague of mine used to say, this is not all of life it’s just part of life in any bad moment. And there was a time about 14 or so years ago when I was in a very bad way. I was getting divorced. I was completely broke because I was trying to buy my ex husband out of the house. I was under threat of losing my job at DSC. I’d had a massive falling out with my trustees, and I thought I was going to lose my job. I had came home one day to a letter from the police saying that a woman had accused me of running over her baby in the supermarket car park. I hadn’t, but there was this letter she, God knows what, anyway, so I was under this like fear and threat of, you know, being prosecuted for running over somebody’s baby when I hadn’t been there. Anyway, and it was a really, really bad time and I can remember calling my father and it was on a Friday and I remember sobbing and saying, Dad, you know, when is this ever going to get better? It’s just literally, I just, everything was so bad and all coming at me. And I’d also realized I’d never be able to be a mother or, you know, anything like that. So it was a really bad time. And I can remember my father said to me, he said, don’t worry, Debs, it’ll all get better next Tuesday at four o’clock. And it just made me laugh, because of course that was a ridiculous thing to say, that wasn’t good. What it was basically doing was saying things do get better, you know. And in fact now this has become like a family saying, you know, when any of my family’s like, oh it’s really bad, it’s really terrible, you know, we’ll all say, don’t worry, it’ll be fine next Tuesday at four o’clock, you know, and it was that little, firstly it was that humor, and then that little glimmer of actually time does pass. And I think the older you get, the more you realize that most of us do tend to survive things. Not everybody does. You know, there are people for whom life simply isn’t worth living and they can’t carry on, so I don’t want to diminish that. But for most of us, I think we do realize that things pass. I mean, I look at young people and I see, you know, the anguish and despair of failing that first exam, not getting that first job, having a heartburn for the first time, and you feel for them. And you sort of, I sort of think to myself, well, after I thought you think that’s bad, it’s going to get worse, you know, you wait until you get to your fifties. But then I also think that this will pass and that as you get older, you realize things will pass. So I find a lot of hope in that. I really do. And also, I think you and I, Paula and Tesse were talking about it on a separate conversation, but it’s about the fact that in all the awfulness, there are always the helpers. However bad your life is, there’s always somebody to reach out to, who will reach out to you. Whatever’s going on, you know, like during the pandemic, all of those incredible human beings who came out to help and to do vaccinations and to take food parcels and. You know, all those nurses and doctors who sacrifice their home lives in order to be in the hospitals helping people to survive. So, yeah, and so when there are people, there is always hope. Always hope. 

[00:10:50] Paula: I love that answer. When there’s people, there’s always hope. And I even love even, even more. It’s going to get better.

[00:10:58] Tesse: I love that. I love that. I love it. 

[00:11:01] Paula: I gotta keep that safe. 

[00:11:02] Tesse: I love it. This is absolutely beautiful. Debra, what are your hopes? What are your dreams? You know, what dreams do you have? What hopes, personally, professionally? 

[00:11:16] Debra: Well, what dreams do I have? I don’t know. I just… I don’t want babies to die. I don’t want children to die. And I want to do what I can to have that not happen. So my hope is that, you know, people come together to not kill each other, basically. My hope is that, you know, women aren’t oppressed. You know, and they stand up for themselves, but also they stand up for each other. You know, I feel like so sad and angry about Afghanistan and what’s happening to the women and girls over there, it fills me with anger, but I also have hope because I know there are people campaigning and there are people. So I believe, I fundamentally believe that these things will get better, that it will change. Because as I was saying earlier, it’s about human beings, isn’t it? In terms of personal hopes, I hope I don’t die too young. You know, I hope I live to a bit of an older age. I hope I make my partner feel happy and fulfilled and, you know feel good about himself. I hope he feels good about himself. I think he does. Yeah, I don’t know really. I can’t ask that question because I’m not particularly ambitious. There isn’t anything I feel I ought to do. To be honest, I’m knackered. You know what I mean? It’s like, I might have to retire if I’m honest. Yeah, so I don’t, I don’t know how to answer that question, Tesse. I’m sorry. 

[00:12:30] Tesse: You’ve alluded to it and I met your partner and he adores you and you do make him happy. That’s me and I’m not biased. But you know, it’s kind of when I think of you, I wonder about success and what success means to you. Because I’ve known you now for so many years, and I’ve had the privilege of being one of your associate trainers as well, and it’s been a wonderful experience. You know, being alongside you, seeing your style, feeling better when I leave your presence, and when I, you know, you just have this sunlight, and just a real genuine human being. So what does success mean for you? You know, what is it? 

[00:13:09] Debra: What does success mean for me? I think it, I don’t, again, I don’t know how to answer that question. I’m sorry. This is probably the worst interviewee ever. 

[00:13:18] Tesse: No, you’re not. 

[00:13:19] Debra: I think it kind of links a bit to, you know, they say that when you’re feeling really down and miserable, the best thing you can do is go and do something for somebody else. Because that, cause like, you know, like people can do things for you and you might feel briefly better, but when you go and do something for somebody else, if you make somebody else feel good, if you give them a gift, if you go and volunteer, if you do something that improves somebody else’s life or their day, it makes you feel better. And I think it’s kind of that for me. So, you know, Tesse, you saying that, you know, every interaction that we’ve had makes you feel better and good about yourself. That makes me feel quite emotional. And I feel that’s successful. It’s not money. It’s not job titles. It’s not anything like that. It’s, you know, and I think about it because I do a lot of public speaking, as you know, and I hate doing it. I always feel sick, even doing this podcast, hands sweating, like cramps in my belly. Cause I feel very self conscious, why people don’t like me, all those normal sort of things. But then what happens is when I’m there and I’m speaking to people and, you know, I’m sharing a story or I’m, you know, giving some feedback, feedback, you know, giving some advice or something like that. If I feel that people have gone away and that they felt better as a result of it, I feel okay. So I think it’s that really, it’s, and I don’t want to, cause that all sounds a bit like, you know, you know, other people would be honest and say it’s the job title and the money, but it generally isn’t for me. It’s like I’m at my happiest when people say to me what you’ve just said, Tesse, which is, I feel better because of what you said, or, you know. Like in all my, all the books that I’ve written, you know, they’ve all been about making people, that’s what I’m so, I think that’s also partly why I’m so honest because I’ve sat and listened to people giving speeches, you know, basically saying how brilliant they are, all these really great decisions they made. And I’m like, but I’m flawed and rubbish and hopeless. And so when I listen to people telling me what they do, that’s really, you know, I took this on board and I, it didn’t make me feel better. Whereas when I listened to people saying, you know, actually I got that horribly wrong. That was a real mess, and I was so embarrassed. I feel better. Do you know what I mean? Cause I realized that it’s not just me. So, yeah. So for me, successes, it’s that really. 

[00:15:22] Tesse: Yeah. And that’s very, very powerful. It’s very powerful to be helping. It’s very powerful to see that other people’s lives are shaped and framed by some of the things that you’ve done. And that, that is definitely true that, you know, you’re writing “The Battle on the Board” is one of the best books I’ve read on governance, you know, it’s one of the best. And what did I like about it was the humor. It was actually the fact that I’m an ABBA lover, and it was an ABBA, and you made it fun, you can laugh at yourself, and the way, you know, just the way that you are, that Brené Brown would say you’re authentic. She would say that you are, she would say that you are vulnerable, and that is success. That is really, really success. So Paula, what, as you hear Debra saying this, what comes to your mind? 

[00:16:10] Paula: I listen to Debra and I see that she really cares about people, you know, you care about how they feel and how, you know, we talked about feedback at an earlier conversation and I sense a very deep love for people. So I want to ask you, how do you care for yourself? 

[00:16:32] Debra: Gin. Gin and rum. 

[00:16:38] Paula: Gin and rum and coke. 

[00:16:40] Debra: Again, I have my family, I have my friends, like just being around people that I love is a way of caring for myself. You know, doing things for the people is a way of caring for myself. I’m very, I’m an over thinker, you know, an obsessive thinker. And, you know, that’s why I find it very difficult to meditate or, you know, to walk or things like that. And I’m not very good at listening to podcasts, ironically, or audiobooks, because, you know, I need to read it for myself, you know. And because I overthink, that means I have to try very hard to distract my mind. And so one of the ways I care for myself is, like, not overthinking, and that’s about doing things for other people. You know, it’s like writing something or making a phone call or speaking to my mom or, you know what I mean? It’s like I try not to. Because if I have too much time in my own head, I end up getting ill, you know, I do struggle with mental health and I have done for years and, you know. I haven’t been hospitalized, but I had a massive breakdown in my early thirties, which was very serious and I was off work and therapy twice a week, medication had to be supervised all the time. And so I’m always very conscious of like overthinking and, you know, and I’ve also, the minute I start to feel like a victim, the minute I start to feel like the world isn’t fair, or why don’t they appreciate me? Or doesn’t everybody realize how wonderful I am or whatever? That’s what makes me ill. The minute I stop worrying about what people think about me and worry more about what I can do for them, the healthier I feel. So that’s how I look after myself really, by looking after other people, because that makes me feel better mentally, physically, emotionally better than demanding that people look after me.

[00:18:08] Tesse: What a joy. 

[00:18:10] Paula: Thanks for sharing that, because just you being so vulnerable I know has helped people too. Because people look at you, they look at you as a woman, a successful woman. So for you to say what you just said means a lot. And I know that, I shouldn’t use the word know, but I assume that those early years have shaped you into who you are now, because there’s authenticity written all over you and taking care of people because of what you’ve gone through comes out as authentic and genuine. So thank you for saying that. Thank you for your words about yourself? 

[00:18:48] Tesse: Two reflective women. I’m in really good company here. You know, helping being a way of actually staying well. Helping being a way of internalizing our own wellbeing, reaching out to others in a way of just expanding the space inside and coming outside with more joy, more happiness. I’m simply loving it. And the people who will be listening to this podcast, Debra, and they would be saying, you know, maybe they are going through a tough time. Maybe they’re struggling. A lot of people are. What words of wisdom or insight do you have for them? Maybe they’re at that point that you were when you talked to your dad about everything, the balls are dropping and I don’t know even how to put one foot in front of the other. It’s that bad. Any words for those people? 

[00:19:39] Debra: I think really what I’ve just said, Tesse, is do something for somebody else even if it’s just, you know, when you do the shop, buy a bouquet of flowers for your neighbour and just leave it on the front door. Or, you know, tiny, tiny little acts of kindness to someone else make you feel better even when things are really bad, or at least they have done for me. You know, it’s like my neighbor who sadly passed away at Christmas, but you know, she was on her own quite a bit. And so I frequently used to just buy her flowers and she’d say, Oh, you know, and I’m like, everybody deserves flowers. You know, you should have flowers in your life. And if you’re not going to buy them for yourself and your sons aren’t going to buy them for you, I’m going to buy them for you. You know, and that, and that always used to make me feel better. You know, there’s kind of a selfishness and altruism in some ways. And I, but I think that’s okay. I think if you feel better about yourself or doing something for somebody else, so I would say when all the balls are dropping, when you feel there’s nowhere to turn, go and do something for somebody else, even if it’s a tiny thing, even if it’s just a text message saying, I love you mum, or I love you my daughter, or, you know, I was thinking about you today Tesse, or whatever, even just those tiny little messages, it will massively please the person who comes, you know, who receives it. You can’t help but feel better about yourself when you’ve done something nice for other people. 

[00:20:52] Tesse: Wow, I love it. I’d like to just drop in a few, you know, some comment on that, listening to what Paula said and what you’re saying. There’s a woman who I encountered, her name is called Jess Baker, and she’s a psychologist, but she’s also written a book, which is on healthy helping, healthy helping. I love her work. I totally love her work. But the important thing that I took away from going to a workshop she ran was the importance of taking care of ourselves as we take care of others otherwise, burnout comes in and, you know, other things come in. But for me, Debra I have known you for so many years, as I’ve said, and I’ve always experienced you as a healthy helper. I love you so much. And I see how your staff care for you. I see how your trustees generally, you know, embrace you. But one of the things for me that stands out as a star in my sky is how you give feedback. I love it. How you encourage, how you actually, and you said this to me, I don’t know if you remember, but I remember it very well. I was very despondent about a piece of work that happened when, you know, it just didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. But the people who commissioned it thought it went the way they wanted it to go. And you actually looked at me when in a little room and you looked at me and you said, Tesse, listen to the people who said it went well, that you did deliver it for them. Listen to your intention. Did you achieve it? And I said, yes, I did. Did you do the best? You said, yes, you did. And you said, that’s all you can do. And more than that, it’s because you were successful in doing what you intended to do that the client asked you to do. That’s why some of the stuff that is coming back is coming. Take that away and I listened to that feedback, I listened to it and it’s helping me today. So today, I’m an advisor to two bishops in London and in Willesden. Kind of like, because of what you said to me, because you said you did what your heart, you did what the client wanted. So if others were cheesed off by that that’s on them. And I remember, you’ve changed my life and Paula knows how much the Church of England work is making me happy. She knows, I tell her, but part of it was you giving me that piece of feedback. 

[00:23:02] Debra: Oh, Tesse. Well, it was probably true, you know? Yeah. Cause that is a thing, isn’t it? About, you know, like, when you can say something to somebody and genuinely mean it, it lands so well, doesn’t it? When you’re able to. Yeah, it does. I mean, all I was doing to you, Tesse, was reflecting back, exactly what you’d have said to me if the situations were reversed. You know, we do tend to focus ever such, well, I definitely do. You know, I remember years ago, I was giving a speech, and it was about communication, but it was to about a hundred headteachers. I mean, headteachers are scary when you’re a kid. They don’t get less scary when you become an adult, do they? If anything, they’re scarier. And not only that, it was in a lecture theatre in Warwick University, where it’s one of those lecture theatres where you’re at the bottom and all the seats are above you, like in the Coliseum or, you know, in those kind of like arenas. So all of the people you’re speaking to are looking down on you, which I found very intimidating anyway. And I was giving the speech and there was this chap who sat sort of a few rows up on the corner and the whole way through, well, most of the way through my speech, he was twitchy in his seat. He was frowning. He kept crossing his arms and all the rest of it. It was really putting me off. And I was like, oh my God, this guy’s really unhappy with what I’m saying. And then about 10 minutes before the end of my speech, he got up. And because of the way the lecture theater was designed, he had to walk in front of me to get out of the lecture theatre. And I was absolutely mortified. I’m like, oh my God, like I’ve done such a bad job that one of these head teachers actually left the audience. It’s going to be awful. You know, anyway, it was terrible. Anyway, I got to the end of my speech and then people came down and they were like, oh, that was really great, really inspirational, blah, blah, blah. And I thought, well, yeah, what about that one guy? Because he was the only one I could think about. But what was really funny is as I left the auditorium after everybody had gone, he was stood in the corridor waiting for me. And my heart went, oh! He’s going to say something awful. I can’t cope with it. You know, you know me, I’ve already said, Tesse, I’m not very good at receiving negative feedback. I don’t want to hear it. If you’re going to tell me something rubbish, go away. And then he apologized to me. Said I’m really sorry. I think I had something dodgy at lunch and it was really affecting my tummy. And I just, I said, I was really enjoying what you were saying, but I had to leave because I had to get to the toilet because I was in a really bad way. And isn’t it interesting. And I’ve never forgotten that story because it’s always said to me. You have no idea what’s happening for somebody. If somebody’s given you bad feedback about something, it’s probably actually not about you at all. It’s about something that was going on in their life. And if you can just start from, you poor thing, what happened to you to be so cross with me? I mean, that’s not to say you should absolve yourself of responsibility of, you know, because we do do things. We’ve got to be alive to the fact that we can upset people, but you get my general point. Never forgotten that experience. Never forgotten that gentleman. Now, you know, sort of middle age, slightly balding, slightly reddish nose. You know, I remember that, obviously, because he hadn’t been well, I’m guessing that’s what the red nose was. You never know what’s happening to other people, ever. And so, yeah, I try really hard just to start by everybody has got some, some battle, some demon, some thing that they’re battling in their own lives, you know. Yeah, none of us are unique in that. And if you can start from when people are acting up or being ugly or being nasty or unkind to you, a good place to start is thinking something really bad is happening for that poor person. And I don’t want to make it worse, even if I can’t make it better. 

[00:26:14] Tesse: Paula. Wow. I’m just in awe.

[00:26:17] Paula: What a story and what a visual story and what a lesson, you know. You learn that I have even learned from that, you know, looking, not judging people by what you see, but what’s actually happening in their lives. Wow. And that’s why we do “TesseLeads”. And to our audience, you see, your precious stories and your lives do matter to us. Please share them with us, just like you heard Debra share that story and her story and how it impacted her life. So many people have been encouraged and nurtured when they know that they’re not alone. So, if you just enjoyed that, please head over to any way that you listen to your podcast, whether it’s “Apple Podcasts”, “Google Podcasts”, or “Spotify”. And please subscribe to our show. And if you have found this helpful, we ask that you leave us a review. And if you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, please send us a note. And last but not least, if you’d like to be a guest on our show, please head over to our new website. Which is “www.TesseLeads.com” to apply. We’d love to have you on, just like we so enjoyed having Debra Allcock-Tyler today. Thank you. 

[00:27:41] Tesse: Thank you, Debra. Awesome. Awesome. 

[00:27:43] Paula: What a powerful story. 

[00:27:44] Tesse: Awesome. You’re gold. Always, always gold. 

[00:27:47] Debra: Thank you.

Surviving and Thriving

When asked about surviving and thriving, adventurer Erik Seversen says:  “In my triangle of life, there’s work life, family life, and the self. I wake up excited to get to work every single day.  I trained for the real mountain every day.  When I climb big mountains, I go alone with guides, but I alone. I spend time thinking about how much I appreciate family and how much I appreciate easy things. I’m a better husband and father when I do the things that are exciting for me. It makes me more well-rounded as a father and a husband and for myself, I like a challenge “.

“Happiness is like a backpack. You either put it on or you don’t, and it’s absolutely a choice.   Just getting things that are easy doesn’t make us feel fulfilled.  The nature of challenges and continually working towards things that matter to us gives meaning to our lives and make us feel fulfilled. As we embrace the struggle something good can be coming from it. Purpose is something bigger than yourself. Meaning could be a by-product of happiness.”

Erik refers to Emily Esfahani Smith’s four pillars of meaning – Belonging, Purpose, Storytelling, and Transcendence. These four things create happiness.  People are so concerned about seeking happiness that they forget that happiness is a byproduct, really what we need is meaning in our lives.

As long as we’re conscious we can choose our mental state.  I strongly believe that if we seek meaningful relationships, we feel a sense of belonging. Life is so much better.   We can do so much more together. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to make great connections around the world that bump my game up and as well as help other people as well. 

Sometimes when we’re going through pain, we don’t know the impact that that pain is having on us.  The impact of loss and grief can be trickling out in a way that is positive to someone else who’s looking at it and saying, if you can go through this, so can I.

Following constructive feedback from his editor who read the earlier draft of his first book, Ordinary to Extraordinary, Erik confesses, that he spent a year reworking that book. The version that got published is more reader focused rather than’ me’ focused.  “Ordinary to Extraordinary” ended up taking off and became a best seller. It led to multiple public speaking requests. Erik ended up leaving his job doing international business development for a company to speak full time. That was January 2020.  It was great for two months., Then in March 2020, everything disappeared.

Erik started going into a depression. This was unfamiliar territory for him. He opened his speeches and read what he had been telling people for two years.  Happiness a choice. Success a choice. This immediately turn his depression around “Yes, I believe these things. Let’s get to work.”

Erik worked out that readers who are now desperate for quality mindset stuff are thinking about things about making the planet a better place for humanity.  “I feel like my place on earth is finding these amazing people who have time to write one chapter and combining them into a book.”

One of them is Peak Performance mindset tools for leaders, winning mindset, the successful mind.

On his imposter syndrome

“I was thinking every single one of these people is smarter and better than me.” Erik shares about his imposter syndrome when he started attending UCLA.

His teacher, Dr. Peter Hammond, recognised this.   He took Erik under his wing a little bit. “First we had a coffee together, then we had lunch together. Then he would actually invite me to the teacher’s lounge and we had meals together once in a while. He really showed me that I did belong at that table. And not only that, but he also showed me how to really excel and fast forward a year and a half from that, I ended up winning best undergraduate research at UCLA. That would have never happened if this professor wouldn’t have recognized my imposter syndrome thinking that the other students were better than me. All he did was encourage me a little bit and foster this idea that not only do you deserve to be here, but you can also really excel.”

“Sometimes my self doubt is in fact self-doubt. It’s not that I’m not good enough, it’s that I think I’m not good enough, but you know what? It’s not over. I still have imposter syndrome from time to time.  Now I tell myself, “this is me growing. I want to be in a room with people who are super successful. I celebrate when I feel imposter syndrome. I tell people, if you don’t feel imposter syndrome from time to time, if you don’t doubt your abilities from time to time, you might not be pushing yourself as hard as you could”.

On the death of his father

When his dad died suddenly, Erik asked himself, “how am I going to respond to this?  My dad taught me the value of hard work. And I knew that’s what he would want me to do. I celebrated his life and what he had taught me in his whole life about hard work by mowing the lawn moments after I learned he died. And that’s, how I processed it.  We can choose to be happy. I thought I believed it, but I didn’t know I believed it until that day”. 

To Erik’s younger self

I would just tell myself, keep taking these one steps at a time and you’re moving in the right direction. 

“I would say, don’t change much, just keep going. Admittedly, it wasn’t easy, that’s why I would say, don’t worry, it’s all going to be all right.  I struggled, lots of times.  My advice to others is whatever you’re doing, even if it’s not perfect, is an important part of your journey.  You’re taking the right steps towards your destiny.  I wouldn’t want the imposter syndrome to go away. It helped make me who I am. I wouldn’t want my rejection from UCLA to go away because it helped make me who I am. All of these things,  the good and the bad, the beautiful and the dangerous were me taking the right steps for me.”

Erik Seversen is a TEDx Speaker, Best Selling Author, Book Consultant and Adventurer. Erik enjoys shining the light  on others. He scours the world for talent and treasures. His latest collaboration is The Life Coach’s Toolkit , Vol 2 to help coaches get amazing results with their clients

My Story Live and Uncut

Telling her story live and uncut, Rachel Schofield, author of The Career Change Guide, Five Steps to Finding Your Dream Job” reminds us we are constantly evolving.  There is so much of our careers that is down to being in the right place. We’re human.  Careers are messy things.  That’s what makes them interesting. Career shifts whether these are big or small are  not necessarily monumental. 

What do I want to do with these precious years on earth? What feels meaningful?  What will help me earn money that I need?  What will help me feel I’ve done something useful on this earth?  “Where does what I do intersect with my interests.  What might that mean for my career?”  

Rachel proffers a new campaign “Lets campaign for being ordinary and go for micro ambitions.   Start with some kind of micro ambition, micro goal, micro idea and take it from there.  Discover where your micro steps lead. “

 Micro ambitions

1.      What would be a really fun thing to do this week?

2.      What would move me forward  in my thinking?

3.      What would be a really small goal to set myself just for this month?



“I’m not a great believer in the world of Instagram quotes that make everything sound easy. Walt Disney clearly is a creative genius.  There’s a quote often attributed to Walt Disney “if you can dream it, you can do it”.  It’s motivational. It’s exciting. But, when you’re sitting in a tiny bedsit and things are one huge struggle, this may not help.”   

Career communication is one of the skills that will help you take control of your own career is.   Being able to talk about what you do and what you’re good at and your career journey convincingly, can help you show up well   in conversations, interviews, LinkedIn and on your CV.   Career storytelling and career communication gives people confidence.  

Rachel cautions on being carried away by social media “Things aren’t always perfect. You’re seeing someone else’s highlights – their curated version of their life.   Be honest with each other and with ourselves.  What do we want?   Who are we?  We shouldn’t be afraid to say, I’m not enjoying this, or I’m not sure I’m as good at this as I thought I was.  

“We’ re fumbling away in the dark a lot of the time. “We need to have that honesty and authenticity rather than thinking everybody else seems to be so sorted and perfect. However it looks on the outside, most people are stumbling along, trying a few doors, stepping through, making some detours and track backing. 



Sometimes things go really pear shaped through no fault of our own.  At other times, gifts can land beautifully in our laps that we don’t necessarily deserve.

Be honest about your fears, how often you’re fighting   yourself  and your circumstances.   How are you being brave?   What are you trying?  What risks are you taking?  What are you getting wrong?    How many time are you worrying what other people think?   

Rachel offers this piece of advice from her personal experience, “Instead of holding back, stick your hand up.  Try new things.  Offer to do things.  That’s how you’ll learn about yourself. That’s how you will get noticed. We grow new skills and develop new aspects of ourselves by having a go at stuff.”

To her younger self, Rachel says, “I wish I had been more experimental. Don’t be scared to try out more things”.

“There’s only so many spaces on Graham Norton’s sofa and sometimes my sofa at home is just as nice.”

Rachel has turned her journalist passion for asking awkward questions onto the field of work, helping individuals think creatively and embrace the discomfort of change, while trying to figure out what fulfilling and impactful careers look like in our rapidly changing world.

Through her coaching, workshops, and speaking, she helps people become efficient and confident drivers of their own career development and address both the practical barriers and behavioural patterns that hold them back.

Inspiration - Live, Lead, Leave

Taking the time is like slowing down to speed up is the right answer.  It is about the legacy we live, lead and leave.

Inspiration can be found in how Stephen Sidebottom tells his story.

Finding happiness in the place you are, is the thing that matters the most.   You have a choice, which is what’s your next step, and you have a choice of, am I going to be happy, or do I choose not to be?  Success recognises where value is created and takes the time to think and to shape.

Everything is a question of the steps you take and what you make of it. I’ve never been someone who has some regrets about things. I quite like nostalgia; I like thinking back about things. I grew up in with a lot of exposure to travel and spending time in other countries, and that gave me a real perspective on different values and the joy of new ideas about how the world could be and how life could be.

I was always very keen on travel, living and working in different places and experiencing them. And as a child, I spent lots of time in the Caribbean and in the US, as a teenager.  That felt a very natural part of the world to be in.”

I joined the international staff group of Standard Chartered Bank with the idea that you would be posted all over the world. That seemed like the most amazing adventure to me, I didn’t even get to pick it. In a funny way the even better thing was that they decided for you, so you might be absolutely anywhere. In fact, they posted me to Bahrain in the Middle East.

 I’ve always sought to work for organisations with international context for them. Working for Naura and spending time in Japan and learning about Japanese culture was such fun and so interesting to challenge some of the stereotypes.

I got to spend time a lot of time in our key markets across Africa and the Middle East, and India, and Southeast Asia. It was a huge privilege to have the opportunity to work for a truly global organisation that acts and think in a truly global way, and to learn so much about how to bring diversity together to achieve common commercial outcomes.

Once you’ve learned about a range of things you can then start to deploy them and become a much more rounded person at work. I moved into thinking about people and change and performance.   This has been the theme through my career.

The thing that matters is the step that you take from the point that you are at. And if you pick it up and you mend it, then you achieve something new. 

A golden message Stephen shares is on being mindful and intentional.

“Waiting is okay.  Busyness is no virtue.   Slowing down to speed up actually is the answer. The work of leadership is speaking and holding space and being deliberate about how you do those.”

Stephen is Master of the Company of HR Professionals.  The Company brings people together with a common belief in the importance of opportunity, inclusivity, and putting people first in the world of work.   He is fellow of the CIPD, the RSA, a Founder Member of the Guild of Human Resource Professionals and Chair of the Institute of Risk Management (IRM).  He has an MA in History and Economics from St John’s Oxford and an MBA from London Business School.

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki, and co-host me Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, hear and tell your stories and experiences. We get super curious about the dilemmas shaping people’s futures and the journeys that they’re on and that’s what “TesseLeads” is about. Today the name of our guest is Stephen Sidebottom, and our theme is on inspiration. I’ll tell you a little bit about Stephen, he is the “GEAPP”, Chief People and Operating Officer. He’s had over 30 years of international experience of building organizations primarily in global financial services and in both the private and public sectors. I’ll tell you a little bit more. He led the people aspects of Nomura’s  acquisition and subsequent integration of Lehman’s European business in 2008, before becoming the global head of business HR at Standard Chartered Bank, where he was a member of Global Executive and Risk Committee. He’s also the chair of the Institute of Risk Management. He’s the warden of the Company of HR Professionals, and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Welcome to “TesseLeads” Stephen.

[00:01:36] Stephen: Thank you very much.

[00:01:37] Tesse: Stephen thank you for coming on “TesseLeads”. And you know, one of the things that stood out for me as I read your bio, was that you have lived and worked in the United Kingdom, in Asia at several times. I’m curious about learning from you what your range of experience evolved from being in different parts of the world.

[00:01:57] Stephen: I mean, it’s a great question. I mean, I was always very keen on travel, living and working in different places and experiencing them. And as a child, I spent lots of time in the Caribbean and in the US, as a teenager, I should say. So that felt a very natural part of the world to be in. When I finished university and I decided to go to university in the UK. I joined Standard Chartered Bank for the first time and I joined their international staff group with the idea that you would be posted all over the world. And that just like seemed the most amazing adventure to me, that you could have that kind of experience and then you’d go one place and you didn’t even get to pick it. Even in a funny way, even better thing was that they decided for you, so you might be absolutely anywhere. And in fact, they posted me to Bahrain in the Middle East, so that was why. So my first experience of living and working overseas, I’d spent time overseas, but that was my first proper, I am now here for a number of years. That was wonderful. I mean, it was an amazing experience to spend time in an Arab culture, and in particularly in Bahrain in those days where there was a, the sort of separation. And Bahrain doesn’t have the wealth in equality. It doesn’t have the high level of wealth of other parts of the Middle East. So Bahrain is a part of the workforce. You work with them there. There’s a developed merchant class in that society, which had been, it’s a 3000 year old society, had built its wealth as a regional center from trade and pearls. So it had a real history and resonance to it. So that was just an extraordinary way of connecting with that part of the world. I’d spent time before going to university, volunteering in the Sudan, so I’d spent, that was my first experience of living in Africa, which was a real foundational experience for me. I mean, people have things that happen to them, things that they do that just the chart who they become and both of those were critical experiences for me in my journey. And then since then I’ve spent time, I’ve always sort of sought to work for organizations with international context for them. Working for Naura and spending time in Japan and learning about Japanese culture was such fun and so interesting to challenge some of the stereotypes. I mean, all of the stereotypes are true, but a level about Japan, and Japanese people. And also they are incredibly funny. And really, really interesting, and really mischievous, but you’d never know that from the stereotype until you start to work. So, and then I more recently spent eight years with Standard Charter again, but based in Singapore and in a global role, which meant I got to spend time a lot of time in our key markets across Africa and the Middle East, and India, and Southeast Asia, and Asia as well. So it was a huge privilege to have the opportunity to work for a truly global organization that acts and think in a truly global way, and to learn so much about how to bring a diversity together to achieve common commercial outcomes. So it’s just a wonderful place to work.

[00:05:21] Tesse: Well, I love that. Paula, what’s coming into your mind? What kind of questions are emerging for you as you hear Stephen speak?

[00:05:28] Paula: I can hear really that he’s global. And so in your bio, you are described as the Chief People and Operating Officer of “GEAPP” tell us a bit about “GEAPP”. What does that stand for? Can our listeners learn about “GEAPP”?

[00:05:41] Stephen: So “GEAPP” is the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, and it was launched at cop 26 in Glasgow as a big philanthropy backed by the “Rockefeller Foundation”, the UKFoundation, and the “Bezos Earth Fund” as a fund, which is acting at the nexus of climate change and energy. The focus being that around energy access for people in developing economies, an expectation that people in those economies should have the same access to energy as a driver of economic development and wealth, as those in development markets already enjoy. But If that is done without taking a deliberate and clear green approach to it, the impact in terms of carbon would mean any chance of achieving one and a half degrees is simply impossible. So it’s part of a thinking in just and equitable way about access to energy in a low carbon future. And so GEAPP works uses its status as a philanthropy to work with governments and global organizations to drive energy access, to reduce carbon emissions by transitions to green technology and to create new green jobs. So it’s a huge privilege to be involved in that work on one of the most important and pressing issues of our time.

[00:07:10] Tesse: So Stephen, that being in the place where things are happening, in this pivotal place of change is so important. So I’m really wondering about your pathway, your career till now, in terms of what your story was about the road you took. I’m thinking in particular about Robert  Frost’s poem called “The Road Not Taken“, where roads less traveled. What kind of threads running through your story about, from where you came from to here?

[00:07:41] Stephen: Yeah, that’s fun, isn’t it? I mean, I guess the question of what choices did you make? What does that mean and why, and how well did you make them? I mean, I believe in chance that’s not the same as believing in fate, I don’t think I believe that things are preordained and predestined, I think at all. But I do think chance plays a significant role in everything. One just has to roll with that. I think people who are successful are successful because of chance, and people who’ve failed because of chance, not because of any inherent merit necessary. I mean, there may be life choices that they made. There may be things that happen that you could say chart that direction, but all of us start with the same worth, with the same opportunity to grow and achieve things, whatever those are, and they will be very different. So how people end up, how happy they are, how unhappy they are, how successful they’re, how well paid they are. However, whatever your different measure is, is so driven by chance and fortune, and of course the most significant elements of that are the fortunes of birth, the fortunes of your family, the launchpad that they provide for you. So when you thinks about this question of the Road Not Taken, you also have to recognize the starting point not given, and the starting point is so differentiating. So everything then is a question of the steps you take and what you make of it. I’ve never been someone who has some regrets about things. I don’t believe in that. I mean,I quite like nostalgia, I quite like thinking back about things. So I mean, I can be as emotive as anyone on those kinds of things. But I mean, there’s nothing that I think if only at that stage I’d done this, it would’ve been, I think from any point in your journey,  And I wanted always to step away from a, an idea that there is a single convention of that kind of thing. So I was aalways exploring what’s next and new. I went to university in Oxford, which was really fun. I mean, my family had been there, so it was no tradition of going there but it was an extraordinary experience to see that world and to work out that you could fit into it and succeed in it, but also sort of rebel against it too. I then left university and joined a bank, I joined Standard Chartered. I mean, there was no thinking about that. I mean, that’s what people were doing, they were either becoming consultants or bankers. It was the time. It was the late eighties, that’s what you did. So did I choose that road? Not really. I chose Standard Charter because it was international and that really appealed and that was completely compelling. But then I realized I had no idea what I was doing in work. I mean, I’d been educated, so I knew about the stuff I knew about, but I had no idea how to be good at work. I also realized I didn’t want to be a banker. I mean, I did spend most of my career in financial services, so I liked bankers and I liked banks, but I thought the work was not the work I wanted to do. And then I went and did an MBA at London Business School, which was about educating myself in what work meant. And it was important to me to be able to understand when people were talking about strategy, what did they actually mean? And when they were talking about operational delivery or they were talking about marketing things that I had no idea about. That was great because it turns out, once you’ve learned about those things you could then start to deploy them and you become a much more rounded person at work. And then after that I moved into thinking about people and change and performance, ever since then, been the theme through my career. Working as a consultant in the Middle East and then coming back to the UK and working in HR consulting and learning the mechanics of HR around how do you build jobs and how do you build skills within people? I mean, that’s what I learned when I worked for Pay consultants, and then I went into line HR and banking. Now, that was actually the single most difficult transition that I’ve done in my career. Because I turned up, you know, I thought I was pretty good and I was hard because of my consulting skills. And they all thought, oh, this would be great. You can help us rethink these. And I went and worked for investment bank for “Visa w Barclays”, and I turned up thinking, oh yeah, I’m, I know all this stuff. It’s going to be great. And I could do that, but I trouble is I couldn’t do any of the other stuff. I couldn’t do any of the other things that you need to do to be successful in HR. I had zero idea about, you know, how do you manage maternity leave? What do you do about this? What do you do about that? So that first six months was the, an extraordinary learning curve for me. Fortunately, I had two outstanding colleagues who taught me everything I know about HR and who are still both great friends, and I’m a fast learner. So I sort of mentioned, but that six to nine months was really tough. And then since then I’ve stayed in that space, that space of thinking about people, both in line HR in different contexts and in the other work that I’ve done. And now I have people as part of my responsibility at GEAPP. But my work certainly in recent years has been much more around strategic leadership, around an organizational change, around purpose and about culture values and things like that , deployed through all sorts of different aspects, but because it’s work, you’d get to do stuff. And that’s one of the things that I’ve always loved about HR as a profession, is that it’s the context in which you work, means that you are able to think multilevel at the same time. So you often engage with a person, a leader, about an issue. So they’ll be talking to you about a person issue that they want something on, that’s great, and you can talk about that. And then you sort of lift it a little bit and you start to talk about, you get them to think analytically about the issue that they’re dealing with and put it into a context and say, well, you do think about or you think, well, if you do this, then of course this happens, then this happens. And you draw a series of connected, a linear, analytical view of how this stuff connects and help them think through their strategy and their thinking about an issue. And then you do a little bit of conceptual stuff and you go, but what about this? How does this different frame into this same issue go? So that’s what I’ve always enjoyed about HR, you can go in for a conversation with a leader, which they think is going to be about a specific thing, sometimes quite trivial, and you [00:14:51] Tesse: I’ve seen you at work and you know your crafts, and I’ve noticed curiosity, your persuasion, to ask questions, how you reframe stuff and lean into other people rest and perspectives and that can be extremely powerful. Paula, do you have thoughts on this?

[00:15:07] Paula: Actually, I’m curious about something since this is “TesseLeads” and it’s, you know, we tend to talk about personal stories. I noticed that Stephen, when you talked about Japan, your face lit up and you said, there you go, there you’re smiling. What is it about Japan that’s really you really enjoy?

[00:15:28] Stephen: Oh, well, I mean, to be fair, Paula, my face would also light up if I talked about Kenya. Or if I talked about Egypt or if I talked about, Washington. It would light up in thinking about any, all of these places. But Japan was, I mean, the thing that was most fun about Japan for me was that it was completely unknown. At the point where I started to learn about it, I didn’t really have any sense of it. I probably thought it was a place I would never visit and certainly not a place I would spend time in. And the idea that I might get to know Tokyo really quite well was not something that was I’d ever thought about. And yet it is glorious. I mean, what’s great about Japan apart from the food? Amazing, apart from the architecture, extraordinary, apart from the people, just utterly beguiling. So, and an ancient culture connected into so many things, and then the modernism of it, the way subtly Japanese culture, visual references have changed so much about what we see around us the whole time. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place. It’s also a place I would thoroughly recommend to go as a tourist. It’s very safe, very easy to get round, stunningly beautiful, very welcoming.

[00:16:39] Paula: So Tesse Japan is on our bucket list.

[00:16:42] Tesse: Put together.

[00:16:43] Stephen: You should do it. You should do it.

[00:16:44] Tesse: Yeah. Yeah. That struck me about a Japanese craft, which is when they used to mend broken pottery and the pot becomes so beautiful because nothing is thrown away. Broken made whole golden kind of thread. It’s so powerful metaphor

[00:17:01] Stephen: I love that too. I think I find it very moving. I think of objects like that certainly speak to me enormously, in the same way that in English culture, you find pottery, of 18th century pottery that’s been mended with metal rivets and I find those compelling. The story of someone owning it, loving it, treasuring it, breaking it, mending it, continuing to treasure it. And here it retains that sort of sublimation of the point of breakage into a point of new beauty, new substance reinvention into something clearly flawed, but even more compelling and beautiful than the original was an extraordinary metaphor.

[00:17:45] Tesse: Called kintsugi. I think it is. And when I heard about it, it lifted me that nothing is ever wasted. There can be beauty and there can be transformation in pain. And I embraced it.

[00:17:56] Stephen: Yeah, I mean, it’s back to the point that I was trying to make less beautiful beginning, which is the thing that matters is the step that you take from the point that you are at. And if you pick it up and you mend it, then you achieve something new.

[00:18:10] Tesse: That’s cool dust, absolutely Stephen. Cool Dust, Paula?

[00:18:14] Paula: I’m still amusing over what he said. The steps that you take when you are in, you know, in a position that just doesn’t seem right to get you to the place where many times that step is never wasted. The people you meet along the way who you influence, and sometimes you never get to know who they are until you know years later or somebody else comes back and tells you. But those steps are important. Thank you so much for saying that.

[00:18:40] Tesse: Yeah, I think, Stephen, what you said that struck me was when you said you don’t spend time in regret, you know. I know my fault,  is I spend a lot of time regretting what if, what if. And yeah, it’s kind of looking to the past or looking to what happened at the launchpad for something next or something new and not spending energy too much on looking back really, Paula.

[00:19:02] Paula: Yes. I mean, and that makes me think about, you know, the agile environment we find ourselves in. And you know, I sense from speaking with Stephen that there’s a lot of inspiration and transformation that he talks about that, you know, impact lives. As we are in this, you know, fast moving environment and what we are talking about your personal life, how do you kind of bridge those, your personal life with your professional life in this fast move in society that we find ourselves in these days?

[00:19:32] Stephen: We are in a very fast moving world and we  are compelled to busyness and I think about that quite a lot. I mean, I have a capacity to work quite fast so I can process data and I can do things pretty fast which is a blessing. I’m also blessed by what I would consider a level of innate laziness. So if I was not only made to work fast, but was driven to work fast, so that would be even worse. So I think it’s around slowing down to speed up actually is the answer. To recognize where value is created and to take the time to think and to shape. I mean the work of leadership is speaking and holding space and being deliberate about how you do those. It was interesting when I first started working as a banker at Standard Charter, one of the lessons that I learned then and of this is about many decades ago, so it may be those things are not true now as they were then. But particularly when there were issues with customers and you know, and sort of what was going to happen with accounts and stuff, there was this thing that we were taught informally, let’s just wait and see. Let’s see what happens tomorrow. Let’s just wait. Will they repay us? Will they, I mean now of course, algorithms will get in the way of all of that, but there was a whole thing about, well, if you wait, it may not be the same. I’ve actually quite enjoyed that as a frame of reference, which is not everything requires us to act. Not everything requires us to act urgently. Sometimes waiting is okay, and that is analogous to this point around slowing down to speed up, taking the time to think. Be then deliberate about what you say and do how you listen, and then don’t drive the action, as a leader hold the space for others to act.

[00:21:18] Tesse: That’s really beautiful. Hold the space for others to act. Waiting is okay. Are there any last words of inspiration for people who are listening in to this? Steve, before we wrap up. Because I’m making notes because tonight I’m kind of like waiting is okay.

[00:21:34] Stephen: Waiting is okay. Taking the time is like slowing down to speed up is the right answer. And this should be fun. I mean this life should be a life of fun and joy. So if we are moving too fast to take pleasure in the things that are around us, the people we work with, then we’re doing it wrong. Busyness is no virtue. Virtue is outcomes. Virtue is relationships. Virtue is exactly Paula, as you said, the thing that you never know, you never knew you did, the conversation you don’t recall. Those are the things that are worthwhile. Those are the legacy leads.

[00:22:04] Tesse: Beautiful. The legacies that we have, the legacy we live, the legacy we leave. These are all beautiful things. Paula, I’m going to hand over to you now while I mull over what Stephen has been saying. It’s very, very rich.

[00:22:19] Paula: I’m mulling over it too. Legacy we live. Legacy we leave. And that brings us up into why we do “TesseLeads” because to our listeners, your precious stories do matter, and we ask that you continue to share them with us. Many are supported, encouraged, and nurtured when they know that they’re not alone, and that’s why we do “TesseLeads”. So if you would like to be a guest on our show, we ask that you head over to our website, which is “www.tesseleads.com” to apply. And if you will have enjoyed what you just heard, which I’m sure you did, we ask that you leave us a raving review wherever you listen to us, whether it’s on. “Google Podcast”, “Apple Podcasts”, “Spotify”, or wherever else you listen to your podcast. Thank you Stephen, for being a guest and for sharing such great tips, like slowing down to speed up. There’s one you just said Tesse.

[00:23:17] Tesse: The legacy we live, we lead, and we leave.

[00:23:20] Paula: Oh, all the Ls.

[00:23:22] Tesse: I’m telling you.

[00:23:23] Paula: Thank you, Stephen. It’s been a pleasure.

[00:23:25] Stephen: Thank you.

[00:23:26] Stephen: Thank you.

Uplifted Under the Bonnet

Uplifted under the bonnet is about bringing your authentic self to life and living.   This shines a spotlight on human flourishing. the kindness, compassion, hope and empathy.   Our stream of consciously considers, where we are trying to get to in our journey through life.  We reflect on what needs we are trying to satisfy.  The reality is that most of us are trying to satisfy very simple needs such as living a peaceful life with our families and  going  about our daily live in a calm, focused, intentional and meaningful manner.  Conflict often arises from unmet needs and expectations.

When we enhance our conversational capacity and our compassionate embrace to accept ourselves and others, we can be more focused and better able to handle challenging and difficult situations.  Healthy relationships are built through individual and collective efforts.

Questions you can ask yourself.

1.How do I keep myself psychologically safe?

2.How can I initiate difficult conversations?

3.How can I build and sustain a healthier connection?

4.How can I consciously be intentional about my choices? One of the crucial things is making this could involve making a choice between love and fear.  When our core is centred on love, we can operate in an open-hearted leadership space and place.

5.How can we create compassionate spaces of honesty, authenticity, forgiveness, understanding, belonging and wellness?

Jane Gunn’s mission is to create a community of resolutionnaires equipped to lead and inspire others in times of change, in times of challenge, and in times of crises. She’s the author of two popular books. One of them is “How to Beat Bedlam in the Boardroom and Boredom in the Bedroom”. The other is The Authority Guide to Conflict Resolution (A revolutionary approach to effective collaboration).

She has spoken at the United Nations, at the White House, and at the European Commission. And she’s got a powerful Message to share supported by practical tools and techniques that apply to organizations of all sizes and across all sectors. A fun fact about her is that she’s called Bear by her grandchildren.


 “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk is a book that explores that phenomenon, if you like, of the impact trauma has on our body and our ability to stay fit and healthy and well. 

My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem focuses on racialised trauma and the pathway to mending hearts and bodies.   Menakem reveals a path forward for individual and collective healing.

[00:00:00] ​Music

[00:00:05] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co host me, Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, hear, and tell your stories, your experiences, and everything about you that you’re comfortable sharing. We get super curious about the dilemmas and shaping their futures, and the journey we are on with our guests. So today I have a phenomenal guest, her name is Jane Gunn, and she’s also known as the “Barefoot Mediator”. Let me tell you a bit about her. She’s an expert in the field of conflict resolution. She’s a trained mediator and facilitator, and she’s known to her clients as the “Barefoot Mediator”. Jane enables people to deal with difference and diversity in ways that are non adversarial and are solution focused. Her mission is to create a community of resolutionnaires equipped to lead and inspire others in times of change, in times of challenge, and in times of crises. She’s the author of two popular books. One of them is “How to Beat Bedlam in the Boardroom and Boredom in the Bedroom”. Did I get that right? All right. And second book is “The Authority Guide to Conflict Resolution”. Jane has spoken at the United Nations, at the White House, and at the European Commission. And she’s got a powerful Message to share supported by practical tools and techniques that apply to organizations of all sizes and across all sectors. A fun fact about her is that she’s called Bear by her grandchildren. So we are in for a treat today. Welcome to “TesseLeads”, Jane. Glad to have you here.

[00:02:03] Jane: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much. 

[00:02:06] Paula: Tesse. 

[00:02:07] Tesse: I can’t tell you how excited I am Jane, to have you on the show. I mean saying yes, that’s a gift. And because of the brilliance you bring, you know, the expertise, the experience, the kindness, the compassion, we’re calling today’s topic “Uplifted Under the Bonnet”. Because we want you to bring your authentic self to this conversation. You know, over the time, and you probably don’t know this, but I have listened to a number of your videos on YouTube. I’ve actually listened to a number of webinars that you’ve given, and I’ve read your books. And I can’t wait to read the one that is coming out soon. And what I take away from reading your books and listening to you is how you lay bare the way that crisis is hurting the world, hurting communities, hurting people, and how you offer guides, stepping stones to ways of dealing with those. So I’m so curious again to hear how this passion for mediation developed in you and how it continues to evolve.

[00:03:16] Jane: Yes. Thank you, Tesse. Well, it’s interesting to think back to where the gem of an idea come from. You know, where do you actually find your passion for dispute resolution? I mean, one of the things is I trained as a lawyer, and even while I was working as a lawyer, people would say to me, “oh, there’s a very difficult client”, yeah, in inverted commas, because what is a difficult client, but send them to Jane, she can deal with them. I’d say I found even in my legal practice that I somehow had the mindset or the technique or whatever for managing people that others found difficult or others found, and I didn’t necessarily find these people to be difficult or challenging. I actually found them to be quite interesting. We often became good friends. So that was something. But you know if you go further back, it’s to think what in your formative years creates an interest in dispute resolution. And I’ve spoken before, and I did tell you this, that you know, I think my mother had a complex childhood, probably with some trauma in it that I’m not fully aware of. But she described her childhood as just about bearable. And one of the things that I know for sure had happened to her is that she was beaten at school for being left handed, for being wrong, if you like. You know, there’s a right way to do things and there’s a wrong way to do things. And if you do things the wrong way, we’re going to beat you. And that was also seen in those days, being left handed was seen as a sign of the devil. In other words, you’re less than, less than human, less than good. So I don’t know exactly what my mother struggled with in childhood. But she described the childhood as just about bearable and she never spoke about it. So something there, something there that I have never been able to fully understand because she didn’t speak about it. But one of the things with a family trauma is that it repeats itself or the patterns of behavior continue until we recognize what they are and manage to stop them. And one of the challenges I found with my mother is, she wasn’t an angry person. She didn’t shout at us in particular, but if she was unhappy with us as children, she would just go silent and she would stop talking. And that silence might last for, you know, a few hours a day, but it might last for several days. And I think when you’re a small child, and your mother stops talking to you, that actually, although it wouldn’t have been intentional, is a form of abuse because that’s how it impacts on the child. The child doesn’t know why it is no longer loved, why communication isn’t allowed, why you can’t speak to your parent, why you can’t share your thoughts and your feelings. And so I think then as a child and you develop coping mechanisms. How do I survive? Survival mechanisms. How do I survive? How do I keep myself psychologically safe in this situation? Because I don’t feel safe, because I don’t feel that I’ve got someone looking out for me. I feel I’ve lost that connection with my mother. Now I look back, I think, I’m sure that that sense of not knowing how to initiate difficult conversations with my mother, the outcome of that was that later on, when maybe I was a teenager and I wanted to share something or ask my mother a difficult thing, you know, something that I thought she might be displeased about, I would then rehearse different ways in my head of doing that. I could either not talk to her, or there was option A, I might use these words this time, or option B. So I would run all these scenarios through my head and think. What shall I do? Shall I not say anything? Shall I use option A you know? And that would be again a coping mechanism, a survival mechanism to say, you know, and it’s a good one, because when you then move into the workplace, what of course running scenarios and options through your head is a great technique to have. But some of these techniques I realised I was actually practising in childhood, long before I knew what mediation or dispute resolution or even a career in the law would look like. 

[00:07:38] Tesse: Thank you for sharing that. Because as you say, it touches my heart that as a child the message may have been, don’t ask this or you don’t understand and you don’t know, so you make up different scenarios. 

[00:07:50] Jane: Yes. 

[00:07:51] Tesse: And not just for coping, but also the narrative, the story you’re telling yourself about why mum’s not talking to you today and so on. Did you actually get to a stage where you were able to have a healthier connection with mum when she actually stopped doing that or minimised doing it? 

[00:08:09] Jane: Oh, much more, I think probably when I left home to go to law school. But then when I became a mother, then, and I’ve found the same with my children because as you know I’m a grandmother, then you begin to find a different bond and the relationship changes. And I think that was true for me, it’s been true for me with my daughters. One of my daughters said to me when she had her first child. “Oh, now I see”, “now I understand”. The complexity of trying to nurture and guide a small child’s development is beyond compare, shall we say. And you need all the skills you’ve got. And if something in your background, or in your family background, or in your long family background has prevented that ability to, I suppose treat your child with love and humanity. You have to dig deep and find out what it is. And we can stop the cycle of trauma once we know that, that we have the ability to do. 

[00:09:14] Paula: Well said. Yes, as a mom you know I realize, yeah our parents were different generations and did things differently. And behind the scenes before we got on this, I was with Tesse and Jane how my mom used to tell us “if you don’t hear, you will feel”. And so the only thing that I understood when it came to feeling was physical because in those days they believed in smacking and keeping a child in order by letting them know who is the parent here. And you know, as my children grew, I realized something that, hmm parents are really human beings who just happen to have children. It doesn’t come with a playbook. It doesn’t come with instructions. And every child is so different. You’re trying to figure it out with yourself as the parent and with that child, that is your responsibility and trying to figure them out. So, you know, I really see that grandparents sometimes are better parents. 

[00:10:08] Jane: Yeah, I can agree with that for sure, Paula. You know, you are able to be a little bit more detached. You’ve got that wisdom. When you have your child first, you just think that nobody has taught you that. I mean, I think we learn all the wrong things at school, don’t we? We don’t learn about humanity and human relationships and children in childhood. We learn about ridiculous things like how to add four and two together. It’s like, what’s that about? We don’t learn the skills that we really need to survive in life, and certainly nobody teaches, so all we’ve got to go on is what we’ve experienced in the past. And that could be from our own parents, it might be from seeing other parents, you know, friends and other relatives. But very much what was our own experience, and then a choice to, if we are conscious. So you come to this sort of idea of conscious parenting, am I conscious of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it ? We’re mostly not, we’re mostly not doing conscious parenting. We’re doing survival parenting. How do I get through the next 24 hours? 

[00:11:22] Paula: Absolutely right. You know, and so I’m curious as to then, your grandchildren call you “Bear”. There must be a reason for that. 

[00:11:32] Jane: Well, it partly came from me. So my daughters had a nickname for me and they called me, now wait for it, “Bernard Bear”. Don’t ask me why, but my nickname was “Bernard” and then it became “Bernard Bear”, or “Little Bear”, or “Little B”. So when it came to sort of choosing a name, actually my mother, well,she was granny. She was still granny to me. I didn’t want to be another granny. I didn’t want to be a grandma. So I chose the name Bear and they rather like it. So I think it’s a nice thing because a bear gives hugs, don’t they? 

[00:12:10] Paula: Oh, yes. That’s a good one. 

[00:12:14] Jane: You know, what are the nice qualities of bears? Well, they can be fierce, but generally they’re, you know, they’re large, furry, huggy things, aren’t they? 

[00:12:23] Paula: I saw a sign in one of my friend’s houses that said, “if I knew what I knew now as a grandmom, I would have been a grandmom first, before I was a mom”.

[00:12:32] Jane: I think so. 

[00:12:36] Paula: I know. She said, you figure it out. But I love being a grandma. That’s what she said to me.

[00:12:47] Tesse: You know, I’m loving this conversation and Jane, you know, I pick up and I read about your love, your passion, the practicality of harmonies in relationships, you know. And again, I’m curious about skill set and love set and mindset. You know, I’m curious about all that package of different you know, mindsets we have. Can you kind of share your own you know take on these love set and mindset and different sets? 

[00:13:16] Jane: Well, in a very simple way Tesse, I think we end up having a choice between love and fear. Are we going to react from fear? Now, actually, you know, sometimes we do react from fear. So for example, if my child or grandchild runs out into the road and I shout at them, I’m doing that from both love and fear, actually. I’m afraid they will get run over, but I’m doing it because I love them. But I think one of the things I feel very, very strongly at the moment in society is that we just live in a fear based society. Everything is about fear. Everything we read is about fear, everything we think is about fear, and so then we become defensive and adversarial. And it’s about a lot of the way we operate in society and particularly in the workplace is about, am I right? And therefore is somebody else wrong? And seeing things as black and white rather than shades of grey, you know, there must be one way to do things and the other way is the opposite. But actually, if you look at the world through the lens of love, and actually I have a sort of acronym for that, which is, you know, love means to listen, to observe. What am I observing about the other person? And what am I learning about them? When I’m in conversation or in relation with them. And then V, to verify, very often we have to verify what you know to feedback to someone. You know, what I think I’m learning from you or seeing from you, is this, am I right? So it’s what we might call in mediation skills, “checking”, but verifying that, you know, am I on the right track with where we’re at or where we’re going? And then the final thing is to empathize, but to really connect with the feeling that the other person has. So, you know, there is that meaning to, for me, you know, if you want to sort of say what might love mean in a more structured way, it’s that. But it is one of the core values that I try and apply in the work that I do, but it really means treating people with, humility and respect, and with courtesy and respect. And I think we easily forget that, especially in this era of social media, where it becomes okay to sort of say exactly what you think without anything to stop you really. You know, you’re hiding behind your title, whether it’s the title of mother or whether it’s the title of boss or hiding behind a social media doesn’t mean you’re entitled to say what you want to say without thinking about the impact of it. And we’re all guilty of that. You know I’m no saint. I don’t, it’s not that I never have harsh words with people, but it’s just understanding that we do that, we all end up in a spiral, like the wrong spiral. So in conflict, we talk about, it’s actually the interaction or the connection between people that has broken down, and it breaks down because we spiral into this way of seeing people as the enemy and we become very defensive about that. So you’re sort of in a bubble of self importance, if you like, and all you can see is your own narrative, your own sort of version of things, and you need to defend that. And what we need to do is we need to make small shifts to being able to be responsive to the other person. That’s all you need to do, is be able to respond to the other person, who they are, where they’re coming from, what their story is, but we don’t do that. And, you know, that’s the hardest thing. I certainly found that recently, you know, I think we’ve all got very strong narratives about things and it’s very easy to get drawn into that black or white thinking, again without thinking, but where does that other person come from? What is their story? Where are they trying to get to? What are the needs they’re trying to satisfy? That’s part of it. Most of us are trying to satisfy very simple needs, which are to live a peaceful life with our families, to go about our daily lives. And, you know, that’s what we’re trying to preserve, I think mostly most of us, not all of us, but most of us. Yeah we simply want to live in peace really. I think we do. 

[00:17:40] Tesse: I love what you’re saying, Jane. What comes to my mind is non violent communication, or compassionate communication, and also vulnerability and authenticity. You know, a woman called, she’s actually become quite famous these days, called Brené Brown. And she writes a lot on vulnerability, and she writes very much on authenticity. But she cleverly touches on shame and guilt. You know, that’s where she started from as a researcher. So, you know, I’d welcome your take on the vulnerability and the compassion. But also what I picked from your book, which is about tips or stepping stones at home and at work for doing communication better, better communication at home and at work.

[00:18:27] Jane: Yes, I mean, I think vulnerability, it’s something which is still alien to most of us, because and certainly if you’re of a certain age, you know there was, I suppose in my family again, if you go back to family. So my parents would have been in the war generation, generation of the Second World War, where you know you had to, I suppose, the phrase was have a stiff upper lip,.You just carry on, you don’t share your thoughts and feelings. You maybe never revisit what you went through. So my father, for example, although he was born in London, was evacuated to the countryside for several years. So again a different story to my mother’s, but to be put on a train with a little suitcase with a little label around your neck and to be sent off into the countryside to go, you know, away from your mother and to live with a family that you’ve never met is a huge trauma. And you know, who knows what impact that has. Now, my father Gaily told parts of that that he enjoyed. He enjoyed going to live on a farm. But you know nevertheless, even that initial parting from your mother who is saying goodbye to you and you’ve absolutely no idea where you’re going or why you’re going or when you’re going to see her again, that’s not a normal state of affairs for a small child. And so that has an impact. And I know many people who lived through, like my mother didn’t speak about her childhood. My father didn’t speak about his so much, you know, you don’t speak about those things, you just carry on. And the carrying on means that the trauma is buried. And I forget there’s a book, Tesse you probably know it “The Body Keeps the Score, isn’t it? “The body keeps the score”. So 

[00:20:17] Tesse: I know that. Yes. 

[00:20:19] Jane: No matter how much you bury the thought, the feeling, the memory, the body keeps the score. And it does, it comes out somewhere later on. My mother was actually quite ill later in her life. She had a neurological condition, multiple sclerosis. And she lived with that for quite some time. But you know, who knows what impact stress and trauma has on your body’s ability to fight something that is, you know, is attacking it. I don’t know. But “The Body Keeps the Score” is a book that does explore that phenomenon, if you like, of the impact that trauma has on our body and our ability to stay fit and healthy and well. 

[00:21:02] Tesse: I love what you’re saying. Totally love it. And there’s a lovely book that I read and I don’t read it all the time. I stop, I read and stop, and it’s called “My Grandmother’s Hands”. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful book of trauma, and it brings in the racial elements, but it is so, so beautiful. Grandmother’s Hands. One I’m reading at the moment, which is called, “It’s Not Always Depression”. And it touches on issues such as the body, you know, how the body actually can get ill and does get ill because of unresolved trauma that you’re speaking to. So you actually are touching on something very powerful. And the final one that I’ve seen the headlines just came out in September. was a book by a guy called “Thomas Hubl”, HUBL. And it talks about collective trauma and stuff like that. But what I love about these books is just the way that you’re explaining it, is that they’re things that are really happening to us, but helping us to be more aware of the impact those things do have. And not just be aware of it, committed to doing something so that we’re not traumatized and frozen in things that are not useful to our mind, to our spirits, and to our body. So it’s about the whole person. And people have testified that when they do this work, they are actually less ill. 

[00:22:23] Jane: Yes, yes. I think so. And my sense at the moment, Tesse, is that we do live in a time of terrific change and crisis and global conflict. But we also live at a tipping point of global trauma. And I do feel that this ancestral trauma, that this family trauma that’s been unhealed, that’s gone on for generations. And I read, I have an article to read, which is “Looking at the Impact of Family Trauma on Authoritarian Leadership”. Now, that would be interesting to explore deeply is, you know, authoritarian leadership we experience sometimes in families, sometimes in organizations, and sometimes in our, you know, in our national governments. But where does that really come from? And is that a model that actually is serving humanity? And if not, what are we going to do about it? Is the question. 

[00:23:18] Paula: Yeah. I mean, I have read about, you know, when studies being done on populations that suffered oppression and seeing that, you know, it’s in the DNA, it affects the genes. I mean, you know, that we are influenced by our environment, and of course, many of those things come out in stories or even the way we are parented. And if there’s been trauma, you know, generational trauma, it is going to impact us in one way or the other. And mentally, we are more aware now mental health is being discussed a lot more openly and people are, you know, being more handed about experiences. You’re seeing that there is connection between the physical and the emotional and the, you know, they impact each other in ways that go way beyond what we thought so many years ago. But there’s a story that I read on your blog about the “dancing goats” and this may seem.

[00:24:18] Jane: Yes, yes. 

[00:24:21] Paula: Tell me more about, I read it and it interested me, you know, about this person going after their goat and finding the goat’s chewing on a red bean, can you elaborate on that? I thought it was so funny. I love coffee, so. 

[00:24:37] Jane: Ah, yeah, well, this is a cafe that’s very near to where my daughter lives and it’s called “The Dancing Goat”. I was just, we were thinking of going there the other day, so I was looking on their website and there’s this story about the dancing goats. And it is just a lovely story about, you know, how the goats possibly, and it’s probably a myth, but discovered or knocked the can of beans into the ashes of the fire and there ended up with roasted coffee beans. It’s a lovely example of how sometimes something which is an accident or is a crisis can be turned into an opportunity. And I think that’s where we are right now. We can look at trauma and a conflict and a global conflict as an absolute disaster and a crisis, but we can also look at it as an opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to actually for once become conscious of where it comes from, why we’re where we are, and what we as individuals can do. Most of us are not going to become national politicians or leaders even of organizations. But I do believe, which goes back to this sort of sense of being a barefoot mediator, or as I say, a resolutionary rather than a revolutionary, is that understanding the roots of trauma in our own lives, even if it’s not extreme trauma, understanding that, how it impacts us and making a conscious effort to overcome that. And to put some of these skills, in fact, really simply to focus on putting love instead of fear at the heart of our lives and our responses and our relationships is the way forward. And that if we do that individually, we will create a different energy in the world, which will take us forward to a time of regeneration rather than one of, as we were just saying, you know, authoritarianism, which doesn’t allow the human spirit to flourish. And I love this idea that when we are looking at what we’re trying to create, it’s human flourishing.

[00:26:44] Paula: I love it. And how out of mistakes, God can come out of chaos. Yes, God can come. You know, coming back to that blog, I just could imagine and I could envision in my mind, that aroma of a coffee bean. Roasted coffee.

[00:27:00] Jane: Exactly. And if you hadn’t kicked the beans early, you would have never. 

[00:27:04] Paula: Never would have discovered that, right? Oh boy. I can’t believe that we’re 30 minutes into this show. And so, is there a parting gift that you can have for our guests, our listeners? 

[00:27:16] Jane: You know one thing, I do have a series of videos that your guests may sign on for, which are for managing in times of change, challenge, and crisis. Also though, I have got down with the hip hop rappers this last couple of years, and a friend of mine called George, who’s also known as Gory Gang, and Mr. Has, have adopted me and we have done a series called “Journey of a Lifetime”. It’s very much looking at telling the story of your journey, how that’s part of healing. So we’ve done two series of Journey of a Lifetime and we’re about to record the third one. But it’s a very important project that I’m involved in, as I say, with two young hip hop rappers. So I will give you a link to share, and yeah I think that will be fun. 

[00:28:08] Paula: I’m looking forward to that. I’m so looking forward that. And so to our precious listeners, as you can hear, all stories matter. Every one of them matter. So continue to share them with us. And we encourage those of you who have listened into the great, the wonderful, the exciting, the very interesting Jane Gunn to share your stories because we encourage them, we support you. And we through what you are doing, sharing your stories with us many lives are changed. And so we ask our listeners at the same time to head over to “Apple Podcasts”, “Google Podcasts”, “Spotify”, or anywhere you listen to podcasts and subscribe to our show. And if you have found what you just heard on “TesseLeads” with our guest Jane Gunn helpful, please let us know in your reviews. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, send us a note, please. And if you’d like to be a guest on this show, “TesseLeads, please head over to our website, “www.tesseleads.com” to apply. Jane, this has been phenomenal. 

[00:29:17] Tesse: Jane, you’re always down on building bridges, not walls. Lovely to hear from you.

[00:29:24] Jane: Thank you. I’ve enjoyed it very much. Thank you both. 

[00:29:27] Paula: Thank you.

Adversity-From Knock Down to Triumph

Adversity is hard, painful, challenging and unsettling. Confronting crisis, chaotic situations and developments can be overwhelming.  One woman, Juliet Lamin used her personal tragedy to find her purpose and passion.   From Knock Down to Comeback is her personal story of the steps she took to come back from the ashes of despair. The road is towards triumph. The journey is by no means an easy one.

On 5th February 2013 Juliet received the most devastating news any mother could receive.  She heard that her adorable and gifted Philip had collapsed while playing football.  He was rushed to hospital.  When Julie Lamin got there, she beheld the lifeless body of her son. Philip who was 16 years old had no previously diagnosed heart conditions died tragically through sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)

Through determination, fortitude and her faith Juliet has bounced back.  From Knock Down to Comeback, she used her personal tragedy to find her purpose and passion.  Juliet’s promise to Philip ‘to take care of his friends’ has been a driving force in her everyday experience.   PL9 Forum for young people to come together to discuss topical issues affecting them.   The goal of this community is to Listen, Encourage and Develop (L.E.A.D) PL9 stands for Philip Lamin and the number 9 was Philip’s number on his football shirt . Juliet encourages people to engage with young people and demonstrate belief in them, tap into their passion and vision for the future.  Juliet is passionate about helping young people become great leaders of tomorrow. 

Jane Lamin

[00:00:00] Paula: Well, welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host, Tesse Akpeki and co host, me, Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” encourages people to tell their personal stories. This episode is going to be one of which “TesseReads” meets “Tesseleads”. The book that we’re going to be reviewing today is by Juliette Lamin. Her book is “From Knockdown to Comeback. How I use my personal tragedy to find my purpose and passion”. So before we go into the episode, let me tell you a bit about Juliet. Juliet is an author, she’s an educator, and she’s an activist. She’s also a community activist, as I said, youth mentor, and a licensed Grief Recovery Specialist. Ms. Juliette Lamin has worked with adults and young people with different complex needs across the United Kingdom. As I said, this episode is about “TesseReads” meeting “TesseLeads”. So Tesse, the main host, is going to be doing a review on Juliette’s book. Welcome Tesse. 

[00:01:35] Tesse: Hi, Paula. It’s always a delight to meet you, and I’m really excited that my book club, “TesseReads”, is now meeting “TesseLeads” and with my favorite co host, Paula Okonneh. And I’m so glad to be talking about this book. You know the theme of today’s episode is “Adversity”, you know, meeting personal triumph through adversity. And It just gives me a lot of heart and compassion to talk about how people can be in a valley and from the valley get to the mountaintop. 

[00:02:18] Paula: So I’m going to ask you about this particular book. What are the highlights of this book?

[00:02:25] Tesse: Well, where do I start? I’m going to start with a little story and then you can see why this book, how this book actually came into my hands. 

[00:02:33] Paula: Okay. 

[00:02:35] Tesse: As you know, Paula, and my brother Tony was killed by a drug addicted driver in a hit and run incident in Dover. Following that, there was a court case and again that was tricky. And his son went into hospital with a sporting injury, which he had got because he’d just been recruited as a student by a football club, a premier football club in London. So he was in their network and he had this horrible accident on the pitch and suffered catastrophic injuries to his leg. He had a broken femur bone which later got into complications and became a compact syndrome situation. And he started having spasms, and he was in and out of intensive care for over two and a half months, Ufo had to bear that. The other thing that happened with her was her sister died very suddenly, her younger sister, she had to bear that. She herself had a lot of health issues and she had to have operations as well. So there was just so much going on in her life and she bore it with such courage and such fortitude. The first time she came to visit me since my brother’s death, because I live in Wembley, was a few weeks ago. And I was just in awe of her. And I said to her, “Ufoma, how are you getting through all this pain that you’re going through? It just isn’t fair”. And she said, “Tesse, God is fair, and sometimes life isn’t”. And she had the most amazing smile on her face as she said that. And I said to her, Ufo, I’m in so much pain with Tony’s loss, and you’ve had so much more to bear. What resources have helped you along the way? And she said, Tesse, she said, “I was in a Christian network and one of the people there brought a book to me and said, Ufoma, this is a gift from me to you”. And we want to give this to you because we’re sure that it will encourage you. And I said, what is the name of that book that was put into your hand as a gift? And she said, the book is called, “From Knockdown to Comeback, How I Use My Personal Tragedy to Find My Purpose and Passion”. Smiling at me, she said, “that book by Juliet Lamin has really encouraged me in my loss, in my griefs, in my pain, and in my suffering”.

[00:05:51] Paula: Wow. And that led you to search the book on Google, find the book and order the book. And now you’re reviewing the book. 

[00:06:04] Tesse: Absolutely. But even more, even more, Paula, you know me, I love people. I love connecting. I went on LinkedIn and I searched and I found her and that’s Juliet Lamin. And I told her I was reading her book and I’d love to connect with her. And she connected with me, but what she did next was even amazing. She said, what story do you have to tell me? And I said, I have a story of my brother and his wife, Ufo. My brother who was killed while serving others and his wife who is left behind with four children. And she said, “Tesse, I would like to meet you and Ufo”. 

[00:06:49] Paula: Wow. 

[00:06:50] Tesse: And when I told Ufoma that she couldn’t believe it, that Juliette Lamin wants to meet both of us. We haven’t met yet, but we’re going to meet up. 

[00:06:59] Paula: Oh, my word. And so that makes this book review even more special, doesn’t it? 

[00:07:07] Tesse: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s so special. I mean, it’s wonderful and it’s just brought the whole book to life. 

[00:07:16] Paula: Cause I was just about to ask you, what do you like about the book?

[00:07:19] Tesse: Oh God, what don’t I like about it? It’s this book, I’m going to start with the story of Philip Lamin, who was the only son of Juliet. And in the month of June 2012, she received a phone call from the manager of Fulham’s under 16 football club. Like any parent, she was overjoyed when she was told by the manager that her son had been scouted to join the side as a professional footballer. Unbeknownst to her, within the next 12 calendar months, things were going to take a turn for the worse. So on the 5th of February, 2013, Juliet received the most devastating news any mother could receive. The person at the end of the call told her that her adorable and gifted Philip had collapsed while playing football on the day. He had been rushed to hospital. When she got to the hospital, she saw the lifeless body of her son lying in a bed with doctors present and unable to bring him back to life. You can understand Paula, that she was devastated beyond words. 

[00:08:36] Paula: Absolutely. 

[00:08:38] Tesse: And at that moment, her greatest wish was to die so that she could join her lovely son in the great beyond. So knocked down through this trauma and through her determination and fortitude and her faith, she bounced back. So this is a true story of the months that led to Philip’s death and how she coped ever since. She had made a promise to her son, Philip, and that promise to her son was to take care of his friends. And this has been the driving force in her everyday experience.

[00:09:22] Paula: And that she has honored. 

[00:09:24] Tesse: And that she has honored. 

[00:09:25] Paula: Through this book, I assume. 

[00:09:28] Tesse: Through this book, but even beyond that, Paula. Even beyond that. If a defibrillator had been on the pitch, at the side of the pitch at the time when Philip, he was only 17, he was a strong lad without any knowledge of, without any known health challenge, he was fit. But if a defibrillator had been there at the side of the pitch, he would probably still be alive with us today. And Juliet Lamin campaigned tirelessly for defibrillators, and that is something that has changed in so many events, so many circumstances, their defibrillators. Even in our church, you know, we have two defibrillators. And without her standing up, standing out, shouting out for practice to change, that would probably not have happened in the time that it happened. So out of sorrow came that. In addition, she actually set up a network for young people. Yeah, and this network has been an amazing way of young people getting together and supporting each other, you know. She turned her tragedy into a place where young people got together in that, and their lives are changed forever. Because they’re in a place where they’re loved, where they’re cared for, where they shall, they share their stories, where there’s compassion and where love simply reigns. So really, Juliet has done so many things through this pain she has felt to make it better, to make it more reassuring, to make it more comfortable for other people who may face darkness and need to navigate through that valley experience.

[00:11:31] Paula: And so that’s the takeaway. What’s the takeaway, Tesse from this? 

[00:11:37] Tesse: Oh wow. The takeaways are many. But I’m going to actually be succinct about what I distilled from her book. First of all, that emotions are allowed. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to be sad. She wanted to die,You know,.She wanted to die. As you know, when Tony passed, I didn’t want to be alive. You know, it’s just living those emotions. So, you know, she talks about her darkest days, and she talks about how she turned her pain into a project. She turned her pain into a project. And she’s talked about when life is not fair, what can be helpful? So she talks about, how heroes can inspire us. She looked to other people who had been through suffering, and those stories also inspired her. She talked about, she talked to the friends of Philip and she listened to them as they paid tribute to the life Philip had lived. Because Philip in his lifetime touched many lives. And she talks about how those many lives that he touched came back to comfort her as she began to get reasons to get them together, to support each other, because they were so impacted on through the life of, the death of Philip and through the life of Philip. So these are things that came through. It’s not just a concept, it’s not just a self help group, book. It really is a book that lives through how adversity can lead to triumphing through pain and suffering. 

[00:13:28] Paula: And on that note, I want to say that even me who hasn’t read the book but has experienced grief in my life, and the life of my children when my husband passed away, this is a book that I want to read. And I have gone on to Amazon. I’m laughing not because, I mean, the laughter may sound inappropriate, but what I’m saying basically is that because I’ve heard about this book and how much it has helped Tesse and more especially Juliett’s purpose for writing this book. I have looked online, I’ve gone to Amazon and I am going to buy this book. Thank you so much Tesse, for sharing. Thank you for, you know, showcasing Juliett’s work. And thank you for being willing to share your personal story and the effect, the positive effect that this book has had on you. 

[00:14:28] Tesse: Yeah, I wanted to say that the network, because I would be remiss not to name the network that she, you know she actually encouraged to come together. It’s called “PL nine”. It’s called PL, P for Philip, Lamin, nine. It’s called “PL nine” is the name of the network. And it’s community engagement for young people. Encouraging, supporting each other, doing it for themselves. And this network has been so instrumental to young people feeling seen, feeling heard, being supported, feeling encouraged. So that, and the last bit on that is that Ufoma’s, you know, analysis that God is fair, life often isn’t fair. And for me the takeaway is when life isn’t fair, how can I be strengthened in the valley, so that I may be able to make a pathway and reach a mountaintop? 

[00:15:37] Paula: I love that. I love that. And so for you our listeners, this may be short, but it’s sweet and we want you to know that your precious stories and your life matters. We also want you to know that we encourage you to share them with us on “TesseLeads”. This is a special episode, as we said, “TesseReads” met “TesseLeads”. So we encourage you to head over to “Apple Podcasts”, “Google Podcasts”, “Spotify”, or anywhere you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe. And if you would like to have your stories on “TesseLeads”, reach out to us on our website, which is “www.tesseleads.com” and apply. Thank you Tesse. Thank you “TesseReads”, and it was a pleasure to have “TesseReads” meeting “TesseLeads”. 

[00:16:30] Tesse: Thank you so much, Paula. And as I tell you, you’re always my favorite co host, and it’s wonderful to be on the platform where “TesseReads” meets “TesseLeads”. You’re awesome, Paula. Thank you. 

[00:16:44] Paula: And so are you.

From Adversity To Triumph

Adversity can lead to triumphing in the face of challenges and suffering.   Deshauna Barber is doing good in the world from a place of knowing what it’s like to serve. She is doing her story, being her story, telling her story.   Pretty Ugly Lessons: empowering strategies to transform adversity into triumph by a former Miss USA and Army veteran is a treasure trove.   Highlighted is the importance of getting balance in life through strategies for investing our energies and overcoming our fears.

Deshauna Barber is an American beauty pageant title holder. She’s a motivational speaker and captain in the United States Army Reserve. On June 5th of 2016, she was crowned Miss USA 2016 by the outgoing title holder, Olivia Jordan of Oklahoma, and Deshauna represented the United States at the Miss Universe 2016 pageant and finished as a top nine finalist.

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to Tesse Leads with your host, Tessie Akpeki, and me, the co host, Paula Okone. Tessie Leeds encourages people to tell their personal stories, but this episode is slightly different. In this one, Tesse will be reviewing Pretty Ugly Lessons by Deshauna Barber. Deshauna’s personal story leads to changes in her life and is impacting the world.

[00:00:32] Paula: And for this reason, Tessie Reads, a book club set up by our very own Tesse, is meeting Tessie Leads. The theme of today’s show is adversity, triumphing in the face of challenges and suffering. So welcome Tessie to Tessie Reads with you as the reviewer of your book club, Tessie Reads. 

[00:00:59] Tesse: Wow, Paula, what can I say?

[00:01:01] Tesse: It’s always a joy and a privilege to have this show with you and to do different things and I am super excited. 

[00:01:12] Paula: Yeah, so let me tell you a bit about Deshauna. Deshauna Barber is an American beauty pageant title holder. She’s a motivational speaker and captain in the United States Army Reserve. On June 5th of 2016, she was crowned Miss USA 2016 by the outgoing title holder, Olivia Jordan of Oklahoma, and Deshauna represented the United States at the Miss Universe 2016 pageant and finished as a top nine finalist.

[00:01:47] Paula: So Tesse, what made you decide to choose this book? 

[00:01:51] Tesse: Wow, Paula. First and foremost, I’m going to say I’m super excited to be doing this with you. And actually, it’s one of the interesting things that I never knew that one day Tesse Reads, which is a book club, would meet Tesse Leads, which is about people’s personal stories.

[00:02:08] Tesse: That’s how things happen. You follow your heart and things come together. But actually, before I say… what led me to lit to go to this book. I want to talk about you and I’m sure that you, I’m sure that you weren’t expecting that. 

[00:02:22] Paula: I certainly wasn’t.

[00:02:24] Tesse: But this is, this is my personal story about how meeting you and being coached by you led to meeting Deshona.

[00:02:34] Tesse: Okay. So how, what happened? You were coaching me on how to use social media, how to do LinkedIn, and how to actually be a generous leader. And being a generous leader means it’s not all about you. It’s about other people. And one of the things that you said about LinkedIn was that when I, um, on, on LinkedIn to spend some time.

[00:03:02] Tesse: each day to read other people’s posts, to encourage other people and to engage with other people, to learn about birthdays and people’s pets and so which they choose to share on LinkedIn and get involved with people’s lives in an appropriate way through a professional platform. And I followed your tips to the T and I have now developed a whole network of people who have become friends and family, but also knowing about people’s work.

[00:03:36] Tesse: So it was while I was doing this wonderful scrolling practice that I scrolled and I came across this clip by Deshauna talking about her personal story. And I thought, Oh my word, this person’s story is actually so brilliant. So I actually sent it and reposted it to other people and said, you need to hear this woman’s story, which is so awesome and so inspiring.

[00:04:06] Tesse: And then I read her Wikipedia and went to her website and found out more about her and found out that she was launching a new book. And so, and so I did a backorder because as you know, I live in the UK and the US books come out earlier than in the UK. So I did a backorder on the Pretty Ugly Lessons.

[00:04:29] Tesse: And so I got her book on the day it came out in the UK. So that was how this thing literally landed because I followed the tips of my co host. So, yeah. 

[00:04:40] Paula: Wow, you surprised me. This is supposed to be about Deshaunna’s book, not about me, but I get it. 

[00:04:46] Tesse: I love surprising you, Paula. You are so humble. If I had said that it was about Deshaunna only and not about you, you wouldn’t have done it.

[00:04:55] Tesse: I know you, so well, I’m, I’m, I’m kind of like egotistical to say I know you, but I do know you, and I thought you wouldn’t do it. So you led me to her. Thank you for being the bridge. 

[00:05:07] Paula: What can I say about, okay, thank you. Thank you for that,. But, um, yeah, not but. 

[00:05:14] Paula: That doesn’t take away from why you found out about Deshaun, and now we’re having the opportunity to review her book. So tell me some of the highlights of this book. 

[00:05:23] Tesse: Okay, this book blew me for all kinds of reasons. First and foremost, I’m going to talk about the structure. Then I’m going to go into the story. You know, I love storytelling and she’s a wonderful storyteller. So what she does in her book is that she goes in and out of personal professional.

[00:05:40] Tesse: She weaves it together. She’s in and she’s out. So she has a personal bit and then she has a professional bit and then she bridges the two. That’s the first thing she does. The second thing she does in this book is that she actually has a, at the end of every chapter, she summarizes what she has said in the chapter.

[00:05:58] Tesse: So this is what I said. This is what, this is, these are the key things. And then she has a question piece. So she asks questions. And then she had the place for reflection. So what she does, which a lot of people say is not maybe a best practice, but I think it’s an emerging practice, is that she turns this book, which is a personal story into a workbook and you don’t have to have a separate workbook to enjoy this thing.

[00:06:24] Tesse: By the time you finish the chapter, you’re good and ready to do the exercise. You’re good and ready to do the reflections. And I think that’s awesome. Awesome. Awesome. And I think that’s what I’ll be doing more of in my own work. That actually the workbook and the story, they’re all one line, you know, it’s just polarities of the versions of what is going on.

[00:06:45] Tesse: So she does that very beautifully. So in saying that, what I really love about her is that she talks very, very powerfully. In fact, the strap line of the book is called Empowering Strategies to Transform Adversity into Triumph. And given that she’s, yeah, I repeat that. 

[00:07:03] Paula: Repeat that please. 

[00:07:04] Tesse: It’s called Empowering Strategies to Transform Adversity into Triumph.

[00:07:10] Paula: Wow. 

[00:07:11] Tesse: And the fact that it’s by former Miss USA and Army veteran makes it even more interesting because she’s the first veteran to become Miss USA. 

[00:07:22] Paula: Wow. First veteran or first black? 

[00:07:26] Tesse: Both. 

[00:07:26] Paula: Wow. 

[00:07:29] Tesse: Because really what is really wonderful. I’m so glad you said something about her is that she makes no apologies for highlighting the plight of veterans because she was a serving officer in the U. S. Army, and she makes no apology about highlighting the plight of serving officers. And she talks about post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and she uses her platform, which she has now, to encourage us all to pay close attention to mental health of our service members after deployment and their service.

[00:08:07] Tesse: in the country. So she’s set apart for me because she’s actually doing good in the world from a place of knowing what it’s like to serve, but also doing her story, being her story, telling her story. 

[00:08:23] Paula: That’s impressive. 

[00:08:25] Paula: I know that books, I want to say are your life, but books are an integral part of your life.

[00:08:31] Paula: And so you chose this book primarily because of the fact that she was unique. She’s a veteran. You love the structure of the book and you love her 

[00:08:42] Paula: story. 

[00:08:43] Tesse: Absolutely. And I went on YouTube as well. And I listened to clips of YouTube presentation she has given. And I just thought, guess what? This woman is a complete package and she’s young.

[00:08:55] Tesse: Paula, she’s still 33 and she’s a young person. And, and, and I just thought, my goodness, you always believe, as I do, that our future is in good hands. Yeah. And she’s lived life. She’s lived life. And I just think, guess what? No better person to review the book than myself for her, you know, I see her through the eyes of my age. I won’t say what it is, but many decades after her, decades before her.

[00:09:33] Paula: Before her.

[00:09:33] Tesse: Yeah. Many decades before her. So this is peer support, right? This is peer support. 

[00:09:40] Paula: Well, I mean, I love it. And I especially love the fact that I saw that she is local to me. It 

[00:09:45] Paula: looks like she’s based in Washington, DC, Maryland. 

[00:09:49] Tesse: Yeah, absolutely. Who knows? You might actually catch up with her sometime or better 

[00:09:54] Tesse: still bring her on your new TV show.

[00:09:56] Paula: You know, that may be something I could consider. 

[00:10:00] Paula: If you. want to do that, of course, it’s totally up to you. And so Tessie, oh my gosh. Um, what can people take away? What are the key messages that you can take away from this? 

[00:10:10] Tesse: Well, before going to key messages, I’d like to actually, because I talked about the structure, I’d like to touch on some of the things that she touched on.

[00:10:18] Tesse: I’m not going to give away spoilers as such, but it’s an encouragement to people to, to dig more deeply. into her story by, by actually getting the book or getting the, the, the, the digital version. She touches on how she turned from an ugly duckling to becoming a beauty queen. She talks about reclaiming your power.

[00:10:42] Tesse: And in this, she talks about healing and recovery because she was abused sexually as a child. And she had to overcome adverse events. And I think that’s really important for people like me, like you and others who have actually had a lot of trauma in our lives about how we engage with trauma. And she goes on to talk about peace and happiness as inside jobs that enable us from the inside to actually operate on the outside.

[00:11:08] Tesse: Then she goes on to talk about change management or change agency. So she touches on the power. of persistence and meeting with resistance. So she actually goes into resistance. persistence and that’s wonderful. Now what I love, because I thought what a book for me is in this cycle of my life for now, because dealing with a lot of grief and loss, how would she deal with that?

[00:11:34] Tesse: And she does a wonderful job at talking about the weight of grief, of loss, of death, of recovery. And she talks about the power of regrets. And so she covers these really not much talked about subjects. She makes them normal by putting them as part of the cycle of life. And she now goes on towards the end of the book to talk about getting balance in life, how we have strategies for investing our energies and for how we actually overcome our fears.

[00:12:12] Tesse: And now she gets professional. So in getting professional, she moves on to talking about trusting the process, which as a mediator, I always talk about trusting the process and facilitator trust the process. She talks about biases at work. She talks about bouncing back from criticism and how feedback can become so.

[00:12:34] Tesse: positive and strengthening and become feed forward and vice versa. She goes into all these sorts of things. Then she gets personal again and she talks about good friends and bad friends. She talks about not all advice is good advice. And she talks about the interplay of good and bad and how we can embrace life’s duality of good and of bad.

[00:13:01] Tesse: So you see what I’m going to like on the platform of professionals. She talks about the dark side of leadership. She talks about personal growth. She talks about compassionate leadership strategies, but that’s on the professional side. Then she does the other side and she talks about personal development.

[00:13:18] Tesse: She talks about low bars and low self value. She talks about recognizing and owning our value. She talks about techniques to increase self worth. And she also talks about businesses and the talent that can make a business successful, sustainable and nurturing and flourishing. Wow. So I love this book. You can see.

[00:13:42] Paula: I can hear it, I can see it, I can feel it.

[00:13:45] Paula: I’m, I’m almost like, yeah, where can I get this book? Not almost, I am there. This is a must read,Tesse. Yeah, it is a must read. 

[00:13:56] Tesse: Yeah, it’s kind of like she really navigates that very tricky pathway between adversity. to strength and backwards. And actually life is life. She talks about how life can be tough, but she talks about not giving up and becoming Miss USA.

[00:14:14] Tesse: She actually went to the pangent. Yeah. Competition. And five times, she lost. 

[00:14:22] Paula: I love her persistence. 

[00:14:25] Tesse: I think she might have even done it five to six times and she was just losing and losing and losing and losing. I think it was actually the seventh attempt that she won Miss Columbia. I think it was, and she went to the platform, but by that time she was already seasoned in learning the craft of being a pageant queen.

[00:14:44] Tesse: You know, she learned that the hard way, but more than that Paula, she said, and this was in her book, you get so many more no’s. than you get yes. So many more no’s than yes. And then she went further to say, respect and learn from your no’s. 

[00:15:03] Paula: Respect and learn from your no’s. 

[00:15:05] Tesse: Respect and learn from your no’s because you will learn more from rejection than you sometimes learn from success.

[00:15:13] Tesse: And I was taking notes, Paula. I was taking notes. Seriously. I was taking notes because I thought, Oh, if there’s a note that I haven’t succeeded, but her motivation is different. Actually, it is your nos and your rejections and other things that make you the person that you use that when you do get the success, not only are you valuing the success more, you are actually able to encourage other people to take. failures to take the no’s, to take the rejection as building blocks to their yes to success and to the balance of the personal and professional. I love this book, Paula. I loved it. 

[00:15:51] Paula: I can tell. As I said a few minutes ago, this 

[00:15:56] Paula: is a must buy. for me. 

[00:15:58] Paula: So with that being said, where did you get, you ordered this book all the way in the UK.

[00:16:03] Paula: Were you able to get it? Yeah. 

[00:16:04] Paula: So it must be on Amazon. 

[00:16:06] Tesse: I actually think it’s on all kinds of bookshops. It’s definitely on Amazon. And actually I think that it’s very easy to get, you know, because now that it’s out, it can be put in anybody’s hands. It’s a lovely thing to give to people, to encourage them when they’re feeling low, that it’s not the end of life.

[00:16:24] Paula: Yes. 

[00:16:25] Tesse: When people die. It’s not the end of life when things in you don’t want to live, you know, this is a book to say you can actually embrace that and be stronger through your adversity. 

[00:16:39] Paula: Yes. 

[00:16:40] Tesse: Not deny it. Not deny it. 

[00:16:42] Paula: And you know, and the title says it all ” Pretty Ugly Lessons “. 

[00:16:47] Tesse: Absolutely. 

[00:16:48] Paula: Wow. And so folks, this was a review by Tessie Reads, a book club set up by Tessie Leads.

[00:16:57] Paula: And as we always say in every episode of Tesse Leads, your precious stories and lives 

[00:17:04] Paula: matter. Please share them with us. And we’d love for you, if you haven’t already done this, to head over to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts, and please click subscribe. And if you have found Tessie Reads and Tessie Leads helpful in any way, please let us know in your reviews.

[00:17:30] Paula: If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, send us a note. And if you’d like to be a guest on our show, Tesse Leeds, head over to our now dedicated website. And I say dedicated because prior, we were sharing the website with tesseakpeki. com. So head over to our dedicated website, which is www. tesseleads. com.

[00:17:56] Paula: Tessie, thank you for being such an excellent and passionate reviewer on Tessie Reads as you reviewed this incredibly helpful book, Pretty ugly Lessons by Dashauna Barber. 

[00:18:12] Tesse: You know, Paula, I couldn’t say more how excited I am to be doing this with you. And it’s, uh, bringing this platform, Tesse Reads, to life and raising awareness and education, but also talking about the importance of embracing the whole parts of our lives.

[00:18:29] Tesse: So thank you so much, Paula, and I’m excited to be doing this with you. 

[00:18:34] Paula: Thank you.

Rays of Hope

Rays of hope focuses on how emotions and perspectives can affect our whole being and can go into a physical injury in the body. Self-love and a sense of belonging from blended communities can be healing and restorative.

“I thought that I knew who I was as a mother and as a therapist and everything, and I wrote the book and I thought, God, who am I? Cause I didn’t really know who I am. I’ve discovered self-worth, and that’s key. If you’ve got self-worth, you can ask these questions” says Olukemi Ogunyemi.”

Writing Brown Girl in the Ring, a story of discover, paved the way for Olukemi  to put down on paper the pain that she didn’t realise she still held.  Now, she is better able to understand the reason why people would behave in the way that they behaved.

Her driving mission now is that children of mixed heritage live in a better world. “Our children often feel shame for who they are. We need to share our stories with the people that we know.   With the right conversation and compassion, I think that we’ll get there” remarks Olukemi.  

The compassionate dialogue Olukemi advocates for involves having the right combination to feel comfortable, sit down to have conversations, and to move forward.  Enhanced understanding and appreciation  benefits everybody. 

Olukemi narrates her momentous struggle growing up as a mixed-race child in Scotland.   In graphic details, she describes the treatment she received and the acts of racism that continued into adulthood, which affected her life as a wife and a mother of four children.  Interesting until she met her mentor  David, she  didn’t even realise that the things that were happening to her weren’t okay.

Olukemi finishes with gentle and reassuring calmness, “I have some joy in my life and some peace. That’s the journey to be peaceful and to be sane. I need to continue talking to make sure that that’s a reality”.

It’s stories like Olukemi’s that not just matter, they impact and change the world. Recently  Tesse and Olukemi met in London to learn even more about each other.

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki and the co-host me Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to tell your story, to hear other’s stories, and to share your experiences and stories. You’ll hear how our guests are creating opportunities, navigating diverse challenges, confronting their dilemmas and shaping their futures. So our guest today is, Olukemi Ogunyemi and I’ll tell you a bit about her before we go into the podcast. Olukemi Ogunyemi is proudly black and Scottish. She’s a best book author and award winner in 2022 for her memoirs of a brown girl living in Scotland. This is a beautifully crafted personal memoir. She tells of her momentous struggle growing up as a mixed race child in Scotland, and she tells this in graphic details, where she describes the treatment she received and the acts of racism that continued into adulthood, which affected her life as a wife and a mother of four children. And with that I want to say welcome to “TesseLeads”, because I know Olukemi has a lot to share with you, because reading her book impacted my life as I know it impacted Tesse’s for sure. The theme today is?

[00:01:46] Tesse: Rays of hope.

[00:01:47] Olukemi: Thank you for having me.

[00:01:51] Tesse: Yeah. Olukemi, I’m really curious and as always about you and what you do, and you were described in something I read as a “leading body therapist”. Please enlighten us, what do you do?

[00:02:04] Olukemi: Well, I specialize in injuries, in trauma in the body. You know how emotions can affect, we think they just affect our mind, but they don’t, they affect our whole being. Sometimes that can go into a physical injury in the body. Sometimes it can just be just emotional stuff that goes on. So I help people work through that and understand it. And if there’s pain there, I can alleviate that as well. So yeah, it’s basically just helping the whole of the person really. Although they might just present with a sore back. There’s always more reason than bending down to pick something up of why somebody’s back could go out. Yeah so we do that.

[00:02:56] Tesse: You’re making a difference in the world right, with this work you do.

[00:03:00] Olukemi: I hope so. Yeah, yeah, I am.

[00:03:02] Tesse: Well, Paula did say that one of the ways you’re making the difference in the world is through your writing and “A Brown Girl In The Ring”, which you wrote, and which others recognize as such wonderful work that you got there. You know, an award for it has and still is changing the way people understand the impacts of racism in your life, in life of your children and others. So, you know, one of the curiosities I have about your life since you wrote this book, because I’m aware that you know, you published shortly after 2020 pandemic started.

[00:03:40] Olukemi: Yeah. 2020. 2021.

[00:03:43] Tesse: Yeah, and I’m sure that you know the things that have happened since then. Tell us a bit about this, share, you know, sort of the things that you have been witnessing experiencing and things that have become more alive for you since you published the book.

[00:04:01] Olukemi: Well, it’s definitely changed my life in a way that I didn’t expect, personally. I still very am on a personal journey of discovery, which I didn’t think it would bring up for me actually. But what I realized was I put down on paper the pain that I didn’t realize I still held. And as you both understand, I didn’t think that it would ever be able to be healed in this lifetime. I just thought it was something that, I didn’t know why I endured all that I endured. But now when nearly two years on, there was a reason. Now I feel as if the reason for me understanding why people would behave in the way that they behaved, to be able to understand it. You know, you can be angry, you can be frustrated, but we need to understand it so that we can know how to maneuver around it. And when you look back after writing a book and having done something, been through something like that, it makes more sense for me to share with other people, because primarily my children need to live in a better world. And that’s always been my driving force, and everybody else’s children really. And I think that we’re at a point in time where we are in living history. You know, I really do think things are changing, the mess that we see and what is on the table, before that wasn’t so clear, and especially in the UK it wasn’t so clear. So I think that the mess is good. It means something’s shifting, something’s moving. And I do believe that the voices that you hear, or we did hear for so long, were like the negative shadow, that’s where Mafia came from. But I think that’s much smaller than the bigger populace. And I think that if the bigger populace can be the louder voice and the shadow stage is small as what it is, then I think that we can live in a better world. Because we’re always going to get people that don’t want to change. But I think that the majority of people do want to change, but it’s having the right combination for people to feel comfortable, to sit down have conversations, and help us move forward basically.

[00:06:30] Paula: Yeah, that’s brilliant, isn’t it? And you know, you said something about yes, the world is changing, the masses that are accepting of, you know, changes, growing. So how would you encourage, because of course, awareness brings sometimes more interaction. So how would you encourage, or people who are interracial relationships, how would you encourage them to go into that? Now there’s more awareness, and it’s a twofold question. And other question is, how can they, people in general build more inclusive environments?

[00:07:11] Olukemi: Well, I think firstly we do have a responsibility. I know that there is some, I think everything is relevant, so I think people can be angry and upset. And I also think that people can be saying, I don’t want to talk to white people about this anymore. And I think that that’s okay, but for me, unless we have people that are prepared to talk, we’re not going to move forward because white people do not know how to fix racism. If we’re not at the table, it’s not going to happen. And I think it’s very uncomfortable for white people to invite us to the table, because it is openly recognizing that we’ve all lived in this society and all, we’ve been victims of it, but there’s a role there. So to bring the awareness of what that looks like, we need to share our stories with the people that we know. I think that that’s really important. And I think that for me, if I see a mixed race couple, I live in a small community, so I’ll always introduce myself, you know, whether they want to speak or not. Because I think that for me, if I have my children and went to school Tola went to school with black boys, and he was living up here with his mom and her white family, and he was so distressed. He had been brought up from London. People were using the N word to his face. He had no voice, nothing at all, and he couldn’t speak to his mom. His mom would stand up for him, but she couldn’t understand and he didn’t feel comfortable enough to speak to the person that he probably loved more than anybody else in the world, because our children feel shame for who they are. So I think that the adults roundabout, whether you’re of color or, it’s the awareness it needs to be in people’s mind that this is how mixed race people, people of color, live on a daily basis, because then there will be more conversation about it. It needs to be in the awareness all the time, especially in education and places like that. I think that is fundamental that we are teaching our children like, Graham that we spoke about, like he is in Glasgow just now. They are looking at George Square, so they’re looking at all the statues because you have Bell who invented the telephone, but all of his wealths was on the back of slavery. Glasgow was built on the back of slavery. There’s so many different things where we’ve been present and functional, but it’s not there in the history. So they’re looking at the statues to see what is appropriate to stay there, but what does stay there is that there’s an explanation of how their wealth was made. Like it’s, this would be a slave owner, if you like. Things are quite secretive in the UK. Do you know, it’s like you’re presented with something and you don’t question anything. So I think that this is really good that Glasgow’s doing this, and it’s going to put it out to the population to ask their opinion. But even by just asking people’s opinion of what they think, some people won’t even realize that there’s any connection in those statues at all. So I think just even starting the process and putting letters out to people, It already starts to educate and open up a different narrative. So it’s all these little things that make a massive difference, especially to the generations just now that are still in school. Because if we introduce that now that becomes their norm and it’s easy to do. There’s so many black people out there that could go in and add so much to our education systems, to our health systems, we already do, but it’s just not you. It is just not appreciated in a way that would benefit everybody.

[00:11:30] Tesse: Yeah, I like the way that you’re making these links, you know, and I’d love to build a bit more on that. Because, Paula was saying how your book impacted on my understanding and my framing of certain issues. And I would describe the book “A Brown Girl in the Ring” as a guide to people who want to confront odds and who want to find joy in living.

[00:11:56] Olukemi: Absolutely.

[00:11:57] Tesse: That’s how I would describe it. It’s kind of like for me, reframing stuff and say “we cannot control what happens to us a lot of the time, but we can control how we respond to it”. We can control that. So I would really love to hear the jewels that you can share in this kind of reframing and repurposing of our lives so that pain can become a launchpad for, I would call it post-traumatic growth, because a lot of the things you described were traumatic.

[00:12:26] Olukemi: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that if I look back at where I was in the book and before I met David, it’s like when I met David, I didn’t even realize that the things that were happening to me weren’t okay. I’d already accepted them as a young woman that that’s just the way it was, and he came in and said, this is against the law. You can’t do this. I learned through the things that were happening to me that they shouldn’t be happening to me. So I think that what I’m trying to say is that, ask me the question again. Sorry.

[00:13:08] Tesse: Okay, so I’m going to ask the question again. Reading your book, I think how it impacted on me was that it’s a guide for people to confront all odds and find joy in living. In a way it’s a launchpad to see the things that we go through, which may be sad and painful, as a way of strengthening ourselves and repurposing those things in a way that they strengthen us rather than minimize us. So I’d be interested in your ideas about what you learned through writing the book, and ways of encouraging other people who may be on the same journey.,

[00:13:46] Olukemi: I think that there’s so many things out there now that everybody should be realizing that the race situation is being looked at. And what I’ve found with different individuals and people of color that have came to me, mixed race people, and actually specifically men since I’ve wrote the book within my community that have just broke down, because until they read something or heard something, there wasn’t a stop there to say like, what happened with me, this isn’t right. So I think as soon as you can see that within yourself, as soon as you can see that you are not within yourself leveling up, that’s where you can start to explore. As soon as you feel like that, it’s explored and take in as much as you can. Even laws, you know, look at the laws just to see that you are a full functioning society member. Because I think that black people and people of color don’t feel that way, and I think that we learn that very young. It’s not our families instill in us  love hopefully that gives us a foundation to question that. But like with my family, with my mother, that wasn’t instilled in me, so I do believe that mixed race children it’s where I keep coming back to. It’s like they can be lost in our society if their black parent doesn’t know or feel, like if they don’t have the self-worth, then the child’s not going to get the self-worth. But if society can recognize that that’s a problem, then it’s like everybody’s involved. Everybody needs to be involved, but, the hardship part of it that we go through when you realize you’ve been through it, especially at this point in time, sharing that awareness really does help, and it will help your community that you’re in. Because not everybody in your community feels that way and not everybody in your community knows that that is happening to you. So is about still awareness, but I think my message would be to people that feel that way is that you feeling that way is wrong, and I think just even to have that, to know that you’re wrong feeling that way. There’s something that happens within the constitution of a human being when the narrative changes. It’s like there’s an expansion that happens and how we think and how we feel, and we can see that happening all over the place just now. So yeah, I think it always goes back to the self for me.

[00:16:44] Tesse: Wow, that’s so powerful. Paula, you have reflections?

[00:16:48] Paula: Yeah. So I listen to you talk and, reading your book and seeing, the listeners can’t see you, but reading your book and looking at you, I can see transformation has happened in you. You know, you have transitioned into a new space and something has changed. My question is, that something that changed with the, something that has changed I want to say, what hope can you give to people who have experienced what you have, or even those who haven’t, and we’re talking about mixed race children or people, what hope would you give them? Because there’s something that has changed in you.

[00:17:31] Olukemi: Oh hugely, that I would say to them that no matter how scared they might be in this moment and feel overexposed that this is good. I have never in my lifetime seen or heard people talking so openly about things, even if the racists seem to be more open about it, you know? And I think the over-exposure is a good thing in that sense. And it’s like, I would say, hang on in there because you are worth it. I thought that I knew who I was as a mother and as a therapist and everything, and I wrote the book and I thought, God, who am I? Cause I didn’t really know who I am and in the last 18 months, I think what I’ve discovered is that I’ve discovered self-worth, actually, that’s what I’ve discovered. I’ve discovered self-worth, and that’s key. And if you’ve got self-worth, it’s like you can ask those questions. You know for me it’s about I’m going to start some meetings because I have quite a lot of people within my community that have read different books, and one of the books that they have read is a book on white supremacy, which tells them that black people aren’t going to speak to them or educate them or anything. And in my community, I’m finding that it’s a bit of a lay off, because they still wouldn’t speak to me about race. And it is like, well, how’s that working? It’s still uncomfortable. I still walk into areas and get looked at and maybe not. I’ve decided to take it to them. I’m not waiting to be invited anymore. I’m going to invite them in. Because, and the community that I live in, well I think I believe in human beings, I really do, no matter what’s happened. I believe that we are born good, we have good hearts, we have compassion. And depending on life, sometimes we can lose that. But it’s still there, it’s still there. And with the right conversation and compassion, I think that we’ll get there a hundred percent.

[00:19:43] Tesse: Wow. Yeah. Wow. Because Paula, you have asked her about the hopes and dreams of that she can feed for other people. I’m really interested in what are your hopes and dreams for yourself with this post publication, you know frame that you’re looking through?

[00:20:00] Olukemi: Well, I’m definitely continuing writing. I’d quite like a publisher this time, so I don’t need to work so hard. I decided to self-publish because I didn’t want anybody telling me I couldn’t put that in the book, because the book was very much about me finding my voice that I had never had before. So the thought of anybody critiquing it in the actual information, it was something that I felt I just needed to do myself, and luckily, I had a fantastic editor. My husband has done so much marketing for this book, so yeah, I’d like a publisher, please. You know I just think I have some joy in my life and some peace. You know that’s the journey to be peaceful and to be sane, which means I need to continue talking to make sure that that’s a reality. Yeah.

[00:21:04] Tesse: So love it. Finding your voice, you know? Now that you’ve found it, other people need to hear it. Paula?

[00:21:11] Olukemi: Yeah.

[00:21:12] Paula: Yes. I mean, as Tesse rightfully said, your voice, even what you went through is not in vain, because other people, you’re inviting people to your space. You’re not waiting for people to invite you to the table.

[00:21:26] Olukemi: No.

[00:21:27] Paula: Inviting them to your space.

[00:21:30] Olukemi: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Definitely. And I wouldn’t change anything at all in my life. Not what, I have no regrets and I totally accept what’s happened to me even to this date of what I’ve been able to change with my experience. So it’s like, yeah, I wouldn’t change it. Somebody says you could do it a different way. I would say, “no, thank you”.

[00:21:56] Paula: Oh, that’s so powerful. And so with that, I have to say again to all the listeners that your precious stories and lives matter, as we can hear from Olukemi’s experience, Olukemi’s voice, and from reading her book. So we ask you our listeners to continue to share those stories with us. And know that you are supported, encouraged, and nurtured when these stories are shared cause you’re never alone. So we ask also that to our listeners, head over to “Apple Podcast”, “Google Podcast” or “Spotify” and subscribe to our podcast and hear so many other encouraging stories like Olukemi was. And if you would like to be a guest on our show, please head over to our website, which is “www.tesseleads.com” to apply because it’s stories like Olukemi’s and others that not just matter, but the impact and change the world. Thank you so much Olukemi for being a guest on “TesseTalk” and “TesseLeads”.

[00:23:06] Olukemi: Thank you so much. It’s been fabulous.

[00:23:08] Tesse: Olukemi as always, anytime I connect with you, it’s brilliant. Thank you for being so generous and sharing your time with us. Thank you.

[00:23:18] Olukemi: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Road Trip

“It is a road trip; I feel that I’m at my peak. I’m at my peak because I’ve had so much experience and now, I can take all this experience from my professional and personal things that I’ve done and really step it into a higher gear in things that I can do.  I feel very optimistic for the direction that a lot of things are taking in the  professional corporate aspect”.

Max Ekesi describes himself as super excited about a lot of things, and one of those is the opportunity to serve on his “Agile Austin Community” where he’s been an active member since 2009 and has proudly served on the board as the vice president and now president.  He is presently an IT manager at PayPal.

Celebrating life brings energy to him.  This year he felt particularly special on his birthday…

– more poignant because people could not come together during Covid 19.  He still pinches himself to wake up from all the excitement about the fact that now we can be around people, be around big crowds and embrace people we care about.

“It’s been really a year of reconnecting with everybody both present where I live in Austin, Texas, but also globally with traveling to Nigeria, seeing family there where my parents live, traveling to Rome in June, because I’m half Nigerian and half Italian. So, I have a lot of family in the city of Rome”.

We travelled in June. We were not only in Rome, but also in Spain where my brother lives and Portugal.   We were seeing places I’d not seen before. 

“This year was just a year of just new excitement, new things, fresh starts. In March for spring break, we went to DC. It was my first time going to Washington, DC, and we saw all the museums and to share that with like my family and to do it with my kids who are now 9 and 11, my two daughters, and they’re growing and they’re starting to get to that age that they can absorb a lot more.”

Last words

1.Be yourself. Be transparent. And when you are like that, the main thing you have to focus on is how to manage the differences among ourselves.  When we are ourselves at least we know where we stand. And then from there, we work towards the common goal.

2. Focus on is respectfully managing our differences, managing the relationship.  We manage the conversation in a respectful manner.

3. Be prepared to be able to manage consequences. Be more aware of people’s needs within the workforce. Psychological safety, mental health, a lot of things like that are accepted in the workplace. This is progress.  These are no longer seen as non -high priority items.  We have forum groups at work that talk about how we can be more psychologically safe to express ourselves, to be able to work together in an environment where if I share a different opinion, I can feel that I will not be marginalised”.

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host, Tesse Akpeki and co-host me Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, hear, tell your stories and your experiences. And we get super curious about the dilemmas shaping the future and journeys of our guests. Today our special guest is Max Ekesi. This is Max’s third or fourth time of being on our podcast, and we are thrilled to have him again. Max, he’s also very excited to be here. He is, in fact, describes himself as super excited about a lot of things, and one of those is the opportunity to serve on his “Agile Austin Community” where he’s been an active member since 2009, and has proudly served on the board as the vice president and now president. In his 20 years of IT enterprise experience in Austin. He is been a people manager, an Agile coach, is Scrumb master, a program portfolio manager, and is presently an IT manager at PayPal. Well, today we are going to be talking more about his personal life, so I need to share this with you. In his spare time, Max loves to play, watch and coach soccer of his daughters, and also to travel the world with his wife and two daughters. So welcome to “TesseLeads” where we are going to be talking about road trip with you, Max Ekesi.

[00:01:49] Max: Thank you Paula and Tesse. Always a pleasure to be here. Always a pleasure.

[00:01:55] Tesse: Hi Max. You can see from my brilliant smile that we always happy to speak with you. We last spoke with you in January, and we are curious about what’s been happening with you since then. What have you been up to Max?

[00:02:10] Max: Oh my goodness. It’s been a fun 2023. Yes. So just a few highlights. I always start the year off in a very positive note, because my birthday is on the 18th of January. And my birthday is the one day that I feel special, so I always have a huge party. So had that, I turned 47 this year. The young shall grow. Young shall grow. As we used to say always in Nigeria, the young shall grow. And so with that, it was just incredible. I still have to just pinch myself to wake up from all the excitement about the fact that now we can be around people, we can be around big crowds. We can be like, I didn’t celebrate my birthday for two years, so I am still on that sometimes PTSD of I went through so much, but now I can connect with people, with crowds. And so it’s been really a year of reconnecting with everybody both present where I live in Austin, Texas, but also globally with traveling to Nigeria, seeing family there where my parents live. Traveling to Rome in June, cause I’m half Nigeria and half Italian. So I have a lot of family in the city of Rome. Which I think is the most beautiful city in the world due to historic architecture, which I’m passionate about,.And it was just beautiful. And then we even traveled in June. We were not only in Rome, we were in Spain where my brother lives. We were in Portugal and, you know, seeing places I’ve not seen before. So this year was just a year of just new excitement, new things. In March for spring break, we went to DC. It was my first time going to Washington, DC, and we saw all the museums and to share that with like my family and to do it with my kids who are now nine and 11, my two daughters, and they’re growing and they’re starting to get to that age that they can absorb a lot more. And Paula Tesse has just been great. This year has been great, thankfully.

[00:04:28] Paula: Wow. I mean, this podcast is titled “Road Trip” and it’s literally been a road trip for you. And you’ve told us all these things that have happened, but did anything in particular stand out for you? Apart from your birthday.

[00:04:45] Max: Yeah, apart from my birthday. Yes. It’s not just about me and celebrating me. Yes. It’s about, no, I would say that the big thing that happened this year, in the last few months has been, I would classify it as transition, if I could put it in one word. And I say transition because there are key things in my life that I’m transitioning from one aspect to another. And one perfect example is outside of my nine to five job, which I work as an IT senior manager at PayPal. Outside of my work, it’s very important for me to be active in my community, my society, right? To give back a lot of value to a society that has provided so much for me, right? I have lived in United States of America now since 94. So in a lot of ways I’m quite very much like an American and I like to give back where I live, where I’m at. And so in Austin, I was actually very involved in the parent-teacher association of my daughters elementary school, has a volunteer parent teacher association, and I was president for the last two years. My term just ended in June. But a big thing that I did, I really want to emphasize this cause I’m very proud that I did this. I put a lot of focus on transition plan. Because what happens is that when you transition out of a key role, it’s very important that you set things up so that a lot of the advancements, a lot of the progress that has been made can be continued. And in order to do that, you have to ensure that you have some really good quality people taking on from where you left off. And so a big thing for me that started it back in January, even though my term was going to end in June, is finding people that would be very good at being president of the PTA, vice President of the PTA and other board members too. I was so happy to be able to have done that, not only to find very good candidates that then were voted into the position, but setting up the transition plan, right? We had meetings about the particular things we have to transition, how to be able to run meetings more effectively. Things we had progressed in, things we are supporting the school in doing. It’s the first elementary school in our district that has become a candidate for the “IB program”. The “IB program” is the “International Baccalaureate Program”, which is a global program, and we are the first elementary school out of like dozens that has been able to do this. But we have to support this financially and there’s so much going on with that that you want to make sure that these key achievements are continued. So, I could go on and on because of the excitement of this, but me transitioning off a role, seeing some really quality individuals that are coming in and already doing things and still being active in post transition stuff. And I will still be active in the PTA in fundraising and some other aspects. But again, this transition that I talk about emphasizes how change management, the way that we go through change is very important. Because change is inevitable. And when I came into that role on the PTA, nobody transitioned anything to me. It was like, here’s the role, okay, I’ll send you an email to some of the folders that we have on Google Drive and that’s it. There was no meeting, there was no discussion. And I think that, you know, that stood out to me and I definitely wanted to improve on that and that was the great thing. And as you transition, you also personally find out there are some other things that you might be able to take on. And so that’s been a big part. Now that I have this chunk of time, where am I going to transition that time and dedication to.

[00:09:04] Tesse: Oh wow. That’s wonderful. I particularly love when you talk about transition as something that is empowering and enabling when done well. Because usually in my experience, people and consultants, thought leaders link in transformation very closely with transition, and this it’s a quick hop into transformation and they don’t do the transformation very well. So hearing you talk about is brilliant\. You know, this being your road trip, talk to us about your hopes and dreams and how they’re shaping up professionally, personally? You know, you’ve lovely post Covid celebration where you could connect with people. You are super excited about people and “Agile Austin”. What, how are other things shaping up for you, Max?

[00:09:51] Max: Thank you for asking that Tesse, because yes, there are definitely so much that I want to get done now, and I want to do it now. Not in 10, 15 years when I’m thinking that, oh, it’s time to slow down, retire transition into more like, you know, slower pacing. Like now I feel that I’m at my peak. I’m at my peak because I’ve had so much experience and now I can take all this experience from my professional and personal things that I’ve done and really step it into a higher gear in things that I can do. Specifically, I look at the “Agile Austin Organization”, which is an IT nonprofit. And what it is is that, there’s so many people out there, the masses, like there’s so many people that could benefit from things that we do in the organization. So I really definitely want to double click on this kind of an opportunity and really step it up a notch or two. And I’m already very much getting involved in the conference that we’re going to host in March, 2024. And we’re doing a lot more initiatives and programs every month, virtually because we have members virtually. And just very briefly, If I may, because some people they hear this might be saying, agile. What is agile? Example, you’re a president of “Agile Austin”. What does that mean? So in a very quick sense, agile is a term that came around in 2001, like actually as a term. But it’s a mindset that has been around for centuries, forever. And it’s very much the fact of when you approach something, a problem, a project, or anything that you want to do, you shouldn’t sit and plan that forever. You have to kind of approach it with a mindset that things can change dramatically very fast. So you take like an iterative approach, do a very specific small chunk of work according to what your customer needs are for that customer, and then you stop and you get feedback on what you’ve done in a form of a demo. I mean, it’s very popular in the IT world, cause we can demo our software, right? If a customer needs a website to sell shoes, right? They’re like a small mom and pop shop that want to sell shoes online, okay? I’ll just create a very simple site in two weeks, show you some of the functionality and then I’ll demo it to you. I’m not going to ask you to go build document with all of your requirements because you might not know exactly what you want and you don’t know what the capabilities are. So, but when you see demo, when you see something work, then you can say, I’d like more of the options to click on to be at the very top. I don’t want to scroll down. I want to be able to move to the right. Then you take that feedback and you build on that feedback in like an iterative way. So that is the whole concept. There’s more to it, but generically speaking, it’s how can you be more agile, nimble, be more very customer focused about how we build and deliver value. Is that concept of anything you do should be adding value. And it is a very powerful concept, especially now that technological disruptions have made us capable of being able to develop and deliver software IT products in a very short amount of time, right? Very short. And you can just tell, in the industry we use Netflix and not Blockbuster, because Netflix adapted much faster to something. We use Apple and Samsung phones and not Nokia, because Apple and Samsung adapted much faster to the smartphone technology. A lot of people might not remember that Nokia had over 50% of the market share in phones over in 2005, 2006. I’m not talking about 30 years. I mean that recently, and now they don’t exist in the cell phone industry. So it’s almost like to conclude this, you really want to have an agile mindset, because as Darwin also said, it is the most adaptable species. Just like as the most adaptable company, the most adaptable people will be the ones to thrive the most. Adaptability is important in this day and age. Sorry, I get excited when I talk of Agile and everything I’ve been doing in it. I’ve been doing it for 15 years. Like that’s why they hired me at PayPal. That’s why, that’s what my career is based on. My ability to help large companies transform, transition, as we say.

[00:15:13] Paula: Transform, transition, key words that are very important. And as you say, I can see the passion, the authenticity. I can hear it in your voice. And our listeners will as well, about what you’re doing at Agile. And I know it wraps into Agile coaching. But because we have limited time , I think we’ve heard a lot about your passion. What words of wisdom would you give to, I wanted to say the up and coming generation, but I think it’s to all of us, because as you said, yes to everyone. Because as you said, what you do at Agile, Agile coaching, you are looking at things in real time as they’re changing and it’s impacting everyone. So what words of wisdom would you give to all of us? The young, the up and coming, and the not so young, but still young.

[00:16:09] Tesse: Young at heart.

[00:16:10] Paula: Young at heart.

[00:16:11] Max: For young the young at heart. People who still believe in a growth mindset.

[00:16:18] Paula: Yes.

[00:16:18] Max: That you continuously have to grow, right? No, Paula, thank you for the question. There’s one particular thing that comes to mind, and it’s that simple fact in that wherever you are professionally especially but also personally, is be yourself. Be yourself. Be transparent. And when you are like that, the main thing you have to focus on is how to manage the differences among ourselves. Because if I’m myself and I come to, whether it be an organization, a company, a relationship with someone, or whatever the case may be, and I’m myself, that other person might conflict with me because of certain viewpoints I have, because of certain characteristics I have and that’s okay. What we have to focus on is respectfully managing our differences, managing the relationship, because at the end of the day, we a lot of times have a common goal. So we focus on the outcome. Everybody I work with in my organization, in my company has a common goal. We want to deliver value to our customers. We want to work to progressively get products. For example, I work at PayPal online payment products to customers better and faster. That is our goal. We have different viewpoints about how to do it, but first of all, when we are ourselves at least we know where we stand. And then from there, we work towards the common goal. Now, this mindset, honestly, can really be used in so many ways. Think about what is really hurting our society a lot of times, our political differences. You know what? Let’s be ourselves. We have different viewpoints on different topics. Then we manage those conflicts, we manage the conversation in a respectful manner. What I see is that sometimes people start tweeting, people start saying things, and a lot of things are not very respectful of other folks. Even when you don’t agree, you can get some points across and then maybe you reach a point where you’re like, okay, I am who I am, you are who you are. We have differences that we have. Maybe we are not really trying to achieve the same goals and outcomes. Right? You discover things like that is something that. I would say to everybody, whether new into the workforce or has been around for a while, something that has helped me very much. And there are consequences.   You have to be prepared to be able to manage those consequences. Because sometimes I will say I have been in scenarios in my corporate America career that I was myself and that impacted my career advancement within an organization or a company. But I was okay with that, because at the end of the day, I was still myself, right? I have a lot of pride in just being myself and being very transparent about it. And that sometimes wasn’t really aligned with the political bureaucracy structure that was going on at that point, the hierarchy structure and everything. So there are consequences to it, so you’ve got to be aware of it and manage it very appropriately. And the last thing I like to add in there, is that what I’ve seen that is very encouraging in the last, I’d say five to seven years is that a lot of corporations that I’ve been involved with, not only that I work in, but that through the “Agile Austin organization” and other things that we speak to, are a lot more aware of people’s needs within the workforce. So a lot of topics that may be when I started my career 20 years ago, would never have been discussed. For example, psychological safety. I mean, that is something that when I bring up now we have forum groups at work that talk about how can we be more psychologically safe to express ourselves, to be able to work together in an environment where if I share a different opinion, I can feel that I will not be marginalized, right? My opinion, idea might not make progress, but that should not reflect on me per se. 20 years ago you say psychological safety, people would say, we don’t have time for that.

[00:20:54] Paula: Yes.

[00:20:54] Max: That is not important right now, we have some other priorities. And they might say it in a very respectful way, but they’d shut it down. Now, psychological safety, mental health, a lot of things like that are accepted in the workplace. And this is progress.

[00:21:10] Paula: It is.

[00:21:10] Max: This is progress. Let me tell you, a lot of people take these things for granted. Some people come into the workforce and they’re like, hey, of course yeah, we can talk about these things. We can be open. No. There was a time where, no, I wouldn’t bring that up myself, because they’d be like, Max is spending too much time focusing on non-high priority items. Maybe we should assign him to more projects, right? Like it would almost be that kind of aspect. So I feel very optimistic for the direction that a lot of things are taking in that professional corporate aspect, and that rolls out into society also. Talking about mental health, you have a lot of, whether it be actors, tennis players, everything, say I’m taking time off to focus on, I mean, my mental health. I mean, there are athletes that say that without a problem. Nobody like says, what are you talking about? It’s understood. You know, in this post pandemic world where there’s still a lot of PTSD going on, it’s key to openly be yourself and talk about that.

[00:22:20] Paula: Oh my word. You know, we can be talking with Max forever.

[00:22:25] Max: How about if we do a marathon? A marathon podcast, just go nonstop.

[00:22:33] Paula: Well, at least you’ll know that you’ll be being yourself if you do that marathon.

[00:22:38] Max: All the time.

[00:22:39] Paula: That’s max.

[00:22:40] Max: All the time.

[00:22:42] Paula: And so that’s why to our precious listeners and our viewers,, we tell you that your precious stories and your lives matter. As you heard from our guests, be yourself. Because the holistic view on each one of us matters. How we think, how we work, how the people we work with, the environment, it matters, because we are human beings. And so, we encourage you to please share your stories with us and know that stories are supported, encouraged, and our listeners are nurtured, whenever your precious stories and lives matter, please share them with us. Others are supported, encouraged, and nurtured when they know that they are never alone. And for our listeners, who have heard what Max Ekesi said, be yourself. That was his words of wisdom. We ask that you continue to support us by going over to “Apple Podcasts”, “Google Podcast”, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts and subscribe. And if you would like to be a guest on this show, “TesseLeads”, please head over to our website, which is “www.tesseleads.com” and apply. So that we can have these continuous, invigorating, and supportive conversations with people just like you heard Max Ekesi, thank you for being a guest on “TesseLeads”.

[00:24:13] Tesse: Always a joy Max. Always a joy.

[00:24:16] Max: Thanks for having me. And as always, I’m happy to come back. And Paula and Tesse, it’s always good to see that you two are doing great and making progress. I follow your podcast, I follow you online, and so happy there are people like you adding value in this way. Keep on going, my sisters, keep on going.

Gifts in Pain

Ray Martin, author of Life without a Tie,   also known as the Daily Explorer  brought a “Ray” of Sunshine into the studio,. He’s an interpreter and an award-winning business leader, a coach, a mentor, a facilitator, a speaker ” 

In life without a Tie a random unforeseen series of events helped Ray  strengthen his inner guidance, deepen his humanity and forge a new authentic path.    He shares the highs and lows, the tears and laughter and the pricniples which guided him. 

Ray’s  reminder is stark,  “There are always gifts in pain”. The best gifts don’t come wrapped nicely.   Sometimes the gifts reside in tough, chaotic and messy situations.

“I started to see the parts in me that were needing attention, patterns of behaviour that were destructive. I have invested time and energy to make  change that those close to me have pointed out.   These good friends have not colluded in keeping me the same.  They know I am capable of better.  By creating my guiding principles and staying connected to them I am able to be me better.  Supported by the Hoffman process, I have been able to forgive my past, heal my present and take steps to transform my future. “

How can I do me better?   Jim Dethmer is a coach, speaker,  author   and founding partner at the Conscious Leadership Group (CLG)  he wrote a beautiful  book called “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership”.  The book starts with a story of two successful leaders and what a good day looks like.   One leader is conscious and the other is not. Conscious leadership offers the antidote to fear. Jim offers a comprehensive road map towards a shift from fear to trust based leadership.  When he runs a workshop with executives, he draws a horizontal line on a piece of flip chart paper and he says, do you live above the line or below the line? Of course, everyone says, I don’t know, what’s the line? 

 “Be curious, they’re not curious, not dogmatically attached.  Are you helpful, kind and generous?   Do you have a good set of habits, building intentional relationships that are powerful, sustainable, supportive.  Are you able to find your tribe?   Your real friends will not collude with you to keep you the same.  Instead, they will constructively challenge you and support you as you find your purpose and travel along your path.  Such friends offer radical support and radical challenge.

TL – Ray Martin

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki, and co-host me Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, hear, and tell your stories and experiences. You’ll hear how our guests are creating opportunities navigating diverse challenges, confronting their dilemmas, and shaping their future. We have a fantastic guest today, his name is Ray Martin, and I’ll tell you something about Ray. Ray Martin is also known as the Daily Explorer. He’s an interpreter and an award-winning business leader. He’s also a coach, a mentor, a facilitator, a speaker. He’s a writer and a mindfulness teacher. He’s also considered to be a torch bearer for greater human consciousness. He’s created the calling “All Angels Foundation” and runs marathon to raise money for causes he believes in, which have included an orphanage in Nepal and an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. Whatever he does he says his mission is to bring more joy and happiness into the world. So today’s theme is “Life Without a Tie, Finding Your Path”. And we will be exploring how to do this amidst the noise, the chaos, and pressure to conform that we find ourselves in, in this busy world today. Welcome Ray to “TesseLeads”

[00:01:52] Ray: Thank you. What a lovely introduction. Beautiful

[00:01:56] Tesse: Ray, we are so delighted to have you on this show. I loved reading your book,” Life Without a Tie”, and what struck me was your life-changing relationships, how you’d shared the stories about that and the friendships you made all over the world. I loved your insights, your wisdom, the unpredictable and random events that took place through 28 countries. That struck me. And you know, I’m curious, as I think about what I was reading, what came to my mind was how you can guide people to live bravely, to make bold decisions, and how those things can be able to bring deep joy and happiness in people. I.E, what Jewels, can you share with us about how this works for others and where it’s coming from, from yourself?

[00:02:55] Ray: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. That’s so much to say about that. That’s why it took a book to even put it down on paper. Let me see if I can pick out some things from what I’ve learned myself, which is, first of all, I think curiosity in any context is hugely underrated by most people. Most people just truck along with their life as it is, without being curious about what else is possible. Just even in their own thinking, let alone whether or not it can actually bring it about or make it happen. You know, what am I settling for? What else could I do? You know, what’s the gift I’m holding back here? Things like this, you know. Like I’ve always been curious and reflective on what I’ve done, and I would think nothing at all about coming to one of you if I worked with you and saying, do you know what? I’m really interested, is there anything you could see in me that I could improve? Or how am I showing up for you? Can I do anything better? Because I’m curious to know from any place I can get information, how can I be me better? I don’t see that in a lot of people. So I think, you know, for a start, just being curious about oneself, about the world, about others, and how many conversations do we have in our social lives or in our work lives where we’re just waiting for the other person to stop talking so we can say something about ourselves, you know? And so they might say, “oh, I had a really rough weekend”. And rather than say, “oh, really? What happened”? Most people might say, yeah, me too, I had a really rough weekend. But then it’s a competition who had the worst weekend, you know? And it’s like there’s no real learning. And that’s why I think curiosity is something I advocate for whenever I can. It’s a massively underrated tool. And there’s a guy called Jim Dethmer, an author, he wrote a book called “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leaders”. I don’t know if you’ve come across it, it’s a beautiful book. And he’s got a really simple model when he runs a workshop with executives. He draws a horizontal line on a piece of flip chart paper and he says, do you live above the line or below the line? Of course, everyone says, I don’t know, what’s the line? You know. They say, well, when you’re living below the line, you are committed to being closed, defensive, and being right. And when you’re living above the line, you’re committed to be an open, curious, and wanting to learn. Where do you spend most of your time? So most people say, oh God, about 80% below the line, I’m afraid, or maybe even more. And so that’s a great start point, and I think that’s a really, that’s something to think about. I mean, it’s just the first thing. And then once you become curious, how do you articulate what your needs are and where you’re trying to get to, and who do you have around you to support you to do that better? Have you got someone? Could you find someone? Is there someone you know, even a friend who could help you do that better? And of course, what are the steps you take? And I talked about having supportive relationships in my book as one of the rules for happiness, build empowering, supportive, and sustainable relationships. That’s a condition for happiness. Because I think our friends should be people that say, Tesse, come on you’re not living your purpose here. This is not in alignment with who you really are. I think it’s more is possible from you. It’s something I think as a true friend would say to you. But in our friendships, we tend to collude to keep each other the same, and we certainly do that at work as well, I’ve seen that a lot. But I only remember through my career, I just remember the people that pushed me really hard in a good way and said, you are capable of so much more than you are doing at the moment. I can see it in you. You are way more capable than you think, you are underselling yourself. You know I think we want friends in our lives to give us that kind of radical support and radical challenge sometimes. Carry on. I mean, how hard, how much you want me to say about this.

[00:06:58] Tesse: Paula, I, you know, I look into Paula’s eyes and I see her curious, and you said invite curiosity. So Paula invite your curiosity about what Ray shared so far.

[00:07:12] Paula: I’m curious as to how many people are actually brave enough to be vulnerable. I think vulnerability has become a word that we’ve heard more often now because, I like to give kudos to the millennials. The millennials have made things a lot more acceptable. I talked more about mental health and wellness. We didn’t, and we were like, get over it. And so you know it when you talked about, you know, curiosity and having friends that push you and encourage you. I love that. But I was just really curious about how many people are open and vulnerable to say yes, I actually do live below the line. Cause people like to build themselves up, you know?

[00:07:55] Ray: I think that’s what leadership is. You see, I think a lot of people think being a leader is a position or a role in a job. But to me, being a leader is a state of mind. In other words, I’ve seen people in a non-business situation, like at an airport when there’s a flight canceled and there’s a hundred people milling around the desk or wanting something to happen. Well, eventually one person steps forward and starts being the spokesperson for that group and demanding something change, you know, from their company. And they assume a leadership role in that moment. They’re just being a leader. They’re going first, they’re not waiting for someone else. And to me, that’s what being a leader is. You start doing it yourself. You have to go first. So if you start in your own friendships, being radically supportive and radically challenging your friends, you’ll eventually get people doing that for you. But you don’t wait for someone to do it, you choose it as a way of showing up. You know, this is for me what being a leader is, it’s about going first. I think that’s always how I’ve thought of it. And I had that role when I became a CEO of my own business. I’d never been a CEO before. I’d never owned a business before or run a company. Never started one. So I had to learn really fast, you know. I thought, God, I can’t wait to be taught this by somebody. I’m just going to have to do what I think’s right, and go first and do it this way. And I remember people ask me, when would you know how you know the company’s a success? I’ll say, well, because I’ll be proud of it, and people will speak about it in those terms. Yeah, it’ll be financially viable, but it’ll be a feeling that I’m really proud of how the people here come to work. And that’s really what, where my target was. So as I think these things are important, I don’t know if I answered the question, let me just check that I have.

[00:09:40] Paula: You did. Because I’m curious as to, you know, as you said, you were the CEO of your own company, you had no rules to go by. So how did you go about like writing those rules, encouraging. We talked earlier on for those who have listened to other podcasts, we talked about empowering our employees, whoever works with us, you know. So how did you go about writing those rules? Rules of encouragement for work.

[00:10:06] Ray: Yeah, it’s good. I mean mine’s a mashup of everything I’ve ever learned, you know. Because you know there’s only a certain amount of wisdom in the world and everyone can speak about it in different terms, but we all essentially come back to the same place always. The fundamentals are pretty clear. Now when I watch people who have been really successful in business or in any walk of life as an athlete or anything, they model a certain kind of behavior and belief system, and I’ll run through it. Having core strength was the first one. Taking full ownership for everything that happens. They never ever let blaming someone else or conditions or circumstances stop them. If those things aren’t working how they want them to, they find a way around it. They just don’t waste any time on blaming someone else. The third one I would say, is having what I call a conscious mind. Because if you’re not aware that you think thoughts and you can step back and see yourself thinking those thoughts, if there’s no separation, then you are fully enmeshed in what you’re thinking, you become the thought. So if you are angry, you become fully angry. If you are sad, you become fully sad. But anyone who’s got any success in life is able to step back from that and go, I notice at this moment I am having feelings of sadness. How do I want to deal with that? They are separate to the thought in the way they speak about it to themselves, in the way they act themselves. And they might even say, I notice I’m thinking thoughts of revenge and getting my own back with this person, and I’m aware that that isn’t probably the best way to go. What else could I do here? Whereas someone has just got the desire for revenge and they’re fully identified with that, it’s just going to be lashing out and kicking out of that person. There’s no space, they’re reacting. They’re basically an automatic pilot and we are not always aware when we are on auto  pilot. So we’ve got to build that muscle of, I call it being the observer, conscious mind being the observer. And then the next thing that all successful people have, is they have habits and routines that they repeatedly do. So let me give you a couple of examples. You know, one would be what’s your relationship with failure? I encourage anyone I coach to fail forward and fail fast. Fail as many times as you can because you’ll learn more. Don’t be embarrassed about it or have any shame about it. Treat failure and success as the same. They’re just learning. They’re just like data gathering. You get some data from succeeding, you get some data from failing, all of it makes you a better person. So that’s one habit. Another habit would be look at the raw facts, how often do I just do that? Or do I get caught up in the drama of the event? Another one might be, hold your opinions lightly. How many business meetings have you been in when you just see people are not willing to let go of the opinion they’re holding? They’ll die for that opinion. They’ll literally walk out the organization rather than just change their thinking or let it go, or just be a bit less attached to it. Be curious, they’re not curious, they’re dogmatically attached and there’s others. So there’s having a good set of habits. Building intentional relationships is another habit I encourage. In my book, I call it building powerful, sustainable, supportive relationships. But you’ve got to build your relationships for the long term. I can give you really good example of that. When I was running first place as a CEO. I had one person, a young person in their twenties on my team, was brilliant, really genius person, but young and not much experience. But she was gaining experience working at first place for five or six years, the amazing contributor. And when I saw that the company was going to come to an end because of the events that happened, I discreetly went to a rival company and said, I’ve got this fantastic person on my team. No one publicly knows this yet, she does, but our company’s got to cease functioning at a certain point because of a certain personal events that happened. I’d really like to find her a great company, she can continue her path. And I had no reason for doing that because I wasn’t getting any financial reward and didn’t ask. What was driving was a sense of, I just wanted to do the right thing for her and have her be safe. Because that was living my value of integrity and honoring that value in myself and my value of love and integrity, and that was my motivation. So she eventually got a job offer from that company and she went to join them, and they loved her. She loved it being there. It worked brilliantly, really worked out brilliantly. What about four years after that and I’d gone off to Asia now, I was like four or five years into my 14 year journey. I was off in Asia, lost contact with her. But eventually I met a woman in Poland who I fell in love with and I moved to Poland and I was much closer to London. So I reached out to this woman and just called her socially and said, how are you doing? You know, this is about 15 years after all this had happened. She had two kids, got married. She was in her forties now, much older, wiser person. A different version of herself, yeah, but brilliant still. She said, oh yeah, that was great. I had some brilliant years at that company I took the job in. But it got sold by a much bigger company, and now me and the founder we’re going to launch a new business and it’s called, she told me the name of it and she said, we’re going to be teaching emerging leaders about leadership principles and we’re going to build a team of coaches. And I said, you know what? I said, that would be my dream work based on the journey I’ve been on, there’s nothing more I’d like to do than to coach those people. Can I be on the team? She said, yep, you’ve got a place just like that. And that was 13 years later. Just magic. I mean literally, I came back to Europe and I thought, where am I going to find a team to work with? Where’s my tribe? And one call to her and I was in the tribe. And that’s because I have that relationship and I’ve got other examples I could throw in here, similar. I’ve never struggled to find people to help.

[00:15:58] Tesse: So powerful reciprocity. Yeah, kind of.

[00:16:01] Ray: And that’s Patrick Lens. Who’s the reciprocity principles from, is it Daniel de Martini? I can’t remember if John Martini.

[00:16:09] Tesse: I know that it’s highlighted very strongly by appreciative inquiry.

[00:16:13] Ray: Yeah. Right. Yeah.

[00:16:14] Tesse: And reciprocity and mutuality. But I’m sure it comes across in different kinds of ways. As you say that, Ray, I remember my late brother, Tony. He was one of my guides and he was one of my teachers, and he used to say, “to build the bridge that you don’t know whether you’re going to cross, you just build it”.

[00:16:35] Ray: Yeah. I believe if you are just being helpful, kind and generous to whoever you can do that with, as long as you genuinely mean it, rather than you’re pretending to do it as a technique. If you’re genuinely like that, you’re always going to be okay. Even if it doesn’t come back from the same person, it’s coming some other way. You’re always going to be okay, because you’re putting that energy out into the world and it’s going to vibrate with people on that frequency. And people on that frequency will find you and know that you are a person they want to help.

[00:17:06] Tesse: Absolutely. And it mirrors back to you, your heart, your heart to do that, like your heart, to make sure that woman was safe. And little did you know that that bridge was something else. And the values piece that you’ve been talking to Paula and I about, it comes alive in the integrity, the selflessness by making sure somebody else is okay.

[00:17:30] Ray: I think so. And I just want to qualify, I’m not saying this from a sort of textbook or a theoretical perspective. I’m saying this because I’m 62 and I’ve put this into practice for now. I went to work at 16 so I’ve got 45 years of practicing this. And I know directly from my own experience this is working, and I can give you a thousand examples. Like even when I wrote the book, I thought I want 15 or 16 people to review this book early before it goes into the world and tell me honestly, radically honestly what needs to be changed. And you know, I had a queue of people wanting to help me with that. I had to narrow it down to 15. I had loads of people who wanted to do that for me.

[00:18:14] Tesse: A queue people, is that not a demonstration of how people see you. I mean, when I read your book, one of the things I was very intrigued about were your relationship the romantic relationships that failed. And I thought, I’m going to ask Ray about one or two in particular that you know I could feel the pain coming out. You know, like, woo, you know, and the question I have here is really about when relationships, particularly the romantic ones, don’t work. When there is a breakdown of those and there’s an exit and whoever does it exiting, but that’s what things crumble and the pain is there. Sharing your learning when you talk about life without a tie in those situations, what would you say?

[00:19:03] Ray: Well, there’s a couple of things I wrote in the book that are worth, I think flagging. One is we meet people throughout life, we never know exactly why we’ve met them until much later usually. But I would say you could put every person into one of three camps, which is you meet people for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. But it’s not important to know at the moment you need them, which it is because it’ll all be revealed later. So for example, I had a really difficult and challenging short relationship with a woman I met in Shanghai called Dancy in the book. And you’ll remember her because she was the first person I’d ever encountered in my life who had a narcissistic personality, and it was incredibly distressing for me. I was in tears every day. I didn’t understand what was going on with her and why she was treating me in a certain way. It all made sense much later when I read about narcissism and that kind of thing. It all fell into place, but at the time it was very distressing. Yet at the same time, she was the person that showed me how to structure all the chapters for my book, and it was through a half a day working session with her. It was the first time I ever saw what my book was going to look like as a structure. I couldn’t write anything before I met her because I had all the thoughts jumbled up in my head, but I couldn’t organize them in my own head. What she did, she showed me how to organize it on paper and into different chapters through facilitating me, and I ended up with a blueprint, literally like an architect’s blueprint for the book. So there was a reason that I met her

[00:20:55] Ray: But there was one reason I met her and it was to get that, because after I left that encounter, I was able to make a really good start on the book and start writing. And I knew how to write and what to write. I knew how to set it out. So that’s an example. Now a season, reason season, lifetime, a season would be someone like Annie. I met Annie in London just before I went on the journey, and she invited me to join her and travel to Thailand, and I thought, fantastic, why not? And I didn’t know whether Annie and I would be together for life or a week or anything. But turned out we were together for a year and a half when we left, and then came back together again for another year. And so that was a relationship with my life for a season, because it was through that encounter with her that I started to see the parts in me that were needing attention, patterns of behavior that were destructive. She really helped me see what I could do to improve my life as a man in the world. But I didn’t make the changes speedily enough to save that relationship with her. So she showed me what I needed to do through the relationship itself. Then I invested time and energy to make those changes. But by then it was too late for her, she had to go. So that was a season, that relationship was for a season like two years, two intense and lovely years. I’m a much better version of me because I had that time with her than I would’ve been, I think. And a lifetime relationship is my relationship with Charlotte, because we’re not married. We’re not husband and wife, but we’ll be friends forever. You know, we’ve just got a very deep and very powerful connection in our lives. So similar values, similar ways of looking at things. You asked me about relationships, so that’s one perspective I hold for all relationships. So if it’s not working out how I think it should, I’m not too bothered. That’s one thing. And then a second for romantic relationships, I think I love this metaphor. You’ve got one sheet of A4 paper and another sheet of A4 paper, and you put glue on the fronts of both. And when you start a relationship, it’s like you put these two sheets of paper stuck together like this, and then if you want to separate, they never come apart exactly how they were before they were glued together. There’s always tearing and you know, it’s just the way it is. That’s just how life is. But I believe there’s some value in that pain because for both people, usually it highlights, it shows us where we are not on our path, or we’re not living our values, or we’re out of alignment. And it shows us where we can see ways we can make changes to our own belief system that’s going to help us in the next version make it work better.

[00:23:44] Ray: Wow.

[00:23:45] Ray: You know, there’s always gifts in the pain always. Perhaps some people will argue sometimes those most painful encounters are the ones with the most learning, and there’s some truth in that. I think it certainly is for me, and I’ve highlighted in each of the encounters I had in the journey that I was in, I’ve highlighted what I learned. You know, there was one relationship with a woman called Sylvia, where I forgot about my guiding principles. I felt I was wronged by her, and I made at the time an unconscious choice. I made a choice to get some revenge and get my own back on her, and it didn’t work for me very well. And then afterwards I realized I lost my guiding principle connection and I’d acted out of a kind of small part of myself and seen the consequences of that. But that helped me sort of commit again to being the best, most principled version of myself that I could be. Because I saw the damage I’d caused by not being that version.

[00:24:43] Tesse: Paula what are your reflections? Because I’m saying I wish I’d read Ray’s book before it was written. But what are your thoughts?

[00:24:53] Paula: I love those categories. I love people coming to your life for a reason. I love it. The reason, the season, the lifetime, and then that analogy with the romantic category, two A4 papers stuck together, once you pull them apart, you have parts of the other person in you that infects you positively and negatively, and the other person, again, has the same. I love all of that. I mean, it was so vivid in my mind. And of course, this being the podcast in which we focus on the personal side of our guests, I’m curious as to what are your hopes and your dreams for your future?

[00:25:37] Ray: Yeah, well, of course there’s several strands to the answers to that question. I wrote this chapter in the book. I did a program called The Hoffman Process, and we had to literally articulate our vision for ourselves in four areas. Home ,work, how I show up as a man in the world and relationships. So I’ve got a picture of like, what do I want my home to be? And I actually, it’s really weird because even though I did that process, what was it, 13 years ago, this week I just committed to buying a home in the UK. So in the weekend I found a house and I’m going to start building my own home. For the first time in 20 years, I’m going to have a tie of a home and I’m really thrilled about that. So I’ve gone from life without a tie with any ties to now going to have a tie again, and I’m very, very happy to be building a home. So that part was missing for me. In the area of work, I’ve made a decision, which is I’m not going to interfere with that. In other words, not going to use my rational mind to determine where I think it should go. I’m going to just observe and listen and feel the universe and based on what people will come to me and ask me for, I will serve them in the way they wish to be served. You know, so that could go any direction as long as it’s meeting the needs that people have of me, and I’m serving them in the way they wish to be served. It could be workshops, it could be seminars, it could be talks, it could be another book. But I’m going to be guided so that I am in service to what’s needed, rather than me determining what I want to do and then pushing it out like that way. I used to do that, and I don’t want to live that way anymore. So that’s an area of relationship. I’m obviously dreaming of meeting a partner, a love partner who I could see out my life with. That would be my ideal scenario. I’m not in that situation. Available.

[00:27:30] Paula: That ties in with one other category, area of a man.

[00:27:37] Ray: Then there’s a man in the world. You know, I realized that I’ve spoken to a lot of men since I wrote this book who’ve sort of confided in the similar thoughts to the ones I had, and certainly their marriages are not ideal and things like this. So maybe I’ve got some role that I can play for men, fellow men, to help be in service to them and especially the men that go through these transitions that we go through when people divorce and their family life changes and the impact that has on everything. Cause I’ve lived through that now, so I kind of feel like I’ve got something useful to bring to that. And I don’t know, I’m still exploring it, because early days the book’s only just come out and I’ve had chats with three or four men like that and I’m just working out what they need. It’s a bit uncertainty even for me, but one of the things that’s different for me in this era is that I am so okay with the uncertainty and not knowing. Whereas as a businessman in London years ago, I had to be certain about everything. I had to control reality by being certain, and I don’t have that need anymore. So I don’t mind not knowing as much.

[00:28:41] Paula: That’s absolutely brilliant. It also means looking at you, there’s going to be another book to follow this one.

[00:28:48] Ray: I’ve got an idea in my mind, a clear idea for a second book that I want to write. Yeah. But it’s honestly, it’s such a big effort writing a book. It’s a nightmare on one level. It’s like it takes every night and every weekend. It’s such a big job. It took me six years to write this book. Oh, I’m not sure I’m ready for another commitment like that. But the second book is a bit, going to be quite a bit shorter than this one.

[00:29:15] Paula: That’s amazing. I mean, you know, I say you’ve achieved what you need to achieve for now.

[00:29:20] Ray: Yeah, for now.

[00:29:21] Paula: And as we read your book, we would know and that would encourage you to know what the next steps are. I mean, just listening to you break this down, homework relationships and, you know, showing up in the world as a man, I can see four books coming out of this.

[00:29:37] Tesse: I can see the same. I mean, for me, when I read the book, to be quite honest I thought you know, I would have liked to read more about your experience and your journey coming back to the UK and you met the pandemic, Covid.

[00:29:51] Ray: Yeah. Oh my God. That was horrendous.

[00:29:52] Tesse: Yeah. And that’s a piece I thought, oh, the book has come yet to that you know, it just a thought. The Post pandemic.

[00:29:59] Ray: That was the last page of the book, wasn’t it?

[00:30:01] Tesse: That was the last picture of the book. And I’m saying another chapter would’ve, you know, but, you know, I’m going to hand over it to Paula because, you know, you can see I’m intrigued everything you’ve said resonates with me. And that last bit that you said about emergence and being in that emergence with divergence, for me that’s a really rich journey and it takes a lot of trust.

[00:30:25] Ray: Can you imagine what it would be like if our political leaders were like that? I’m here to serve you the community, you tell us what you need and we’ll do that for you.

[00:30:34] Paula: That’s called Utopia.

[00:30:35] Ray: I mean, that would, wouldn’t that be an amazing world to be living in if political leaders were truly in service to the community that has elected them?

[00:30:44] Tesse: Amen. I hope this is,

[00:30:45] Ray: I mean we’re just so, we’re just such a million miles away from that. I don’t see that ever changing, by the way, cause.

[00:30:51] Paula: I know.

[00:30:51] Tesse: I hope it does. I hope it does. I mean, I think that Jacinda Erden and you know, and other, they showed the possibility of what that humble kind of leadership in service of others, empathetic leadership and compassionate accountability can look like. And so I’m kind of hopeful.

[00:31:09] Ray: Yeah, I mean, it’s one of the reasons I do what I do in the leadership space, because I think the only way I could be valuable as part of the wave of change would just be to help individuals learn the skills of principled leadership. And hopefully they’ll be a next generation of leaders that won’t be corrupted by the usual crap that these leaders sort of get sucked into. But I don’t know, I’ve got to do something with my life that’s valuable. So that’s what I’ve chosen, so that’s the best thing I can think of.

[00:31:38] Tesse: Keep doing what you’re doing, Ray. It’s great, it’s great. Paula, you know.

[00:31:44] Paula: This has been incredibly enlightening. Thank you so much Ray, for being a guest on “TesseLeads”. And then to our precious, precious listeners, we thank you for listening in. We want you to know that your stories, just like Rays and your life matters to us, so we encourage you to share them with us. We also encourage you to head over to “Apple Podcast”, “Google Podcast”, “Spotify” or anywhere else you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe. And if you find that “TesseLeads” has been helpful, we’d love you to write us a review or send us a note. And of course, if you’d like to be a guest on our show, please head over to our new website, “TesseLeads” and apply. Thank you so much again.

[00:32:32] Ray: My pleasure.

[00:32:33] Tesse: Ray, you brought a “Ray” of Sunshine into the studio, so thanks for being on our show.

[00:32:38] Ray: Fabulous.

[00:32:39] Paula: This has been fabulous.

Coloring Life

Inspirational speaker  Dr. Alise Cortez spoke with us about  “How Loss Invites Us To Live More Vibrant Lives

Loss gives such a beautiful bountiful connection in ways that ignites purpose, passion, forgiveness and love. The achingly beautiful colour of life does not fade as adversity leads a way towards purpose. We realise we don’t get forever, and we don’t know when the exit ramp is coming.  With that insight comes an increased urgency around purpose.”

We move forward with renewed value and appreciation for life and the love we share with others.  Death is a great teacher.   We can be inspired to treasure people we love….

…honour or have relationships with and also to expand our consciousness and live more fully.  Increased awareness and a stronger urgency enables us to fulfil our wishes, our own dreams and to be of service to the world, the way that we burn and ache for.

The narrative reads like a front row seat because it was a front row seat.  Alise wrote day by day as she went through the experiences of losing both parents 28 days apart.  

Her parents had a beautiful love story.  “My mother was working three jobs, you know, in the restaurant business, cocktail waitress, various things just to make ends meet. She married my dad, number five, who adopted us. She realised much more her potential than she could have ever realized without him”.  Her father did not want to live without his wife and largely died of a broken heart.

Trauma and loss

“We have the capacity to decide and choose what trauma means to us.  Does it give us access to something else? “ . Alise experienced unparalleled closeness with others by realising the value of her human connections.  In the words of Authur P Ciarmicoli Ph.D  “Alise shows us how to manoeuvre life’s greatest challenge, how to learn from the wisdom of those dying and how to make their wisdom our own”.

Dr. Alise Cortez is an inspirational speaker, a social scientist, an author and host of the “Working on Purpose Radio Show”. She’s the author of “Purpose Ignited, How Inspiring Leaders Unleash Passion and Elevate Cause”.  Her latest offering “Coloring Life: How Loss Invites us to live more vibrant lives provides much needed inspiration and comfort”.  

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to ‘TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki and co-host me Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, to hear, and to tell your stories and experiences. You’ll hear how our guests are creating opportunities. You hear how they’re navigating diverse challenges. You also hear how they have confronted their dilemmas while shaping their future. Today our guest is Dr. Alise Cortez, and the theme of today is “How Loss Invites Us To Live More Vibrant Lives”. Now, before we go into the podcast itself, I want you to familiarize yourself with Dr. Alise Cortez. She is the Chief Purpose Officer at Alise Cortez and Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in the activation of meaning and purpose. She’s also an inspirational speaker, a social scientist, an author and host of the “Working on Purpose Radio Show”. She’s the author of “Purpose Ignited, How Inspiring Leaders Unleash Passion and Elevate cause”. She’s also the author of “Passionately Striving In Why, An Anthology of Women Who Preserve Mightly to Live their purpose”. This coloring light, how loss invites us to live more vibrant lives, and the great revitalization. How activating meaning and purpose can radically enliven your business. Welcome to “TesseLeads, and I’ll let Tesse take over from here.

[00:02:14] Dr Alise: Thank you Paula.

[00:02:16] Tesse: Hi, Dr. Alise.

[00:02:17] Dr Alise: Hi Tesse.

[00:02:19] Tesse: Hi, glad to have you in this show, I’m excited, I don’t even know what to do with myself, because you said yes to us and you come bearing gifts of, you know, coloring life and that it’s so amazing. Thank you so much. I’m going to read some reflections from your book. “Death is a great teacher losing the ones we love the most can inspire us to treasure our relationships, expand our consciousness, and live more fully. Alise, I’ve been loving the sharing of your journey towards writing this wonderful book. What led you to write this, about loss and vibrant living?

[00:03:10] Dr Alise: Thank you, Tesse. I don’t think I would’ve set out to write a book like this, just like I didn’t set out to become a radio show host. I knew I wanted to be an author, but I wasn’t sure to be writing about this. But it really started when I got the phone call on New Year’s Eve in 2018 when my baby brother called me. And when I saw the phone ring, I figured he was just calling to say, happy New Year. But instead, he called to say that our mother was in the hospital and that I might want to come home because we don’t know how long she might be around. And that set into the motion, I’m the oldest daughter, I’m the oldest of the four children. I immediately called friends who had lost people and I looked for their advice. I hadn’t been through this for quite some time. And they said, “well, when you go up there, write everything down”. And that was golden counsel. So, you know, once I went up there and started the process of being with my mother, I wrote everything down that transpired as she took her leave, and that’s how the story begins. But it reads like a front row seat because it was a front row seat. I wrote the book literally day by day as I went through the experiences of losing both of my parents, then what turned out to be 28 days apart.

[00:04:18] Paula: Did I hear that correctly? You said 28 days apart.

[00:04:23] Dr Alise: I did. You heard it right. 28 days.

[00:04:26] Paula: That’s tough.

[00:04:28] Dr Alise: There’s real magic though, and beauty and love in the story. The second loss really does indicate the power of love. My mother died first. She wanted, she was ready. She had her backpack on jet fueling her tank. She was ready to take her leave, she had enough suffering. But my father really, in many ways, really loved her so much. They had a beautiful love story, which I also talk about in the book. And he really just didn’t wanna live without her. And so he really largely died of a broken heart. And it is profoundly beautiful to imagine that you love someone so much that you literally cannot live without them.

[00:05:06] Paula: That’s a beautiful love story. Really beautiful.

[00:05:11] Dr Alise: And an unlikely one, Paula, my mother was married five times by the time she was 28, and I was in second grade when she hit number five. And so I’d seen the other four come before. But number five was the jackpot and it was unlikely, and it really was a fairytale. My mother was working three jobs, you know, in the restaurant business, cocktail waitress, various things just to make ends meet. You know, she married my dad, number five, who adopted us, and we went to middle class. She realized much more her potential than she could have ever realized without him. That’s why it was a fairytale. It was unlikely that they met. It was unlikely they came together, but they made a beautiful life together and it was completely a beautiful love story.

[00:05:54] Paula: Oh my word. That explains the title of your book, “How Loss Can Invite Us to Live More Vibrant Life”. Because even in the loss, there was a last story embedded there.

[00:06:07] Dr Alise: Yes. And that he wouldn’t have wanted to take his leave if he didn’t have such a strong connection to my mother. The events that I share about, you know, losing her and the conversation that I had with her on her last day, and then all of the activities that we had and helping to handle her estate and. I became much more connected to my father and my brother again through that loss. Another thing that happened from that is that loss gave such a beautiful bountiful connection in ways ignited it. My brother and I are still four years later, stronger connected than we ever were in over the course of our entire lives and youth and as adults, and that happened because of his loss.

[00:06:52] Paula: So you’ve touched a bit on the surface of the vibrancy that comes from the loss. That was one story. Are there any other stories? Because it did something to you, it seems like that it has inspired you to write this book. So, I’ve lost my husband, Tesse has lost her brother. Tell us a bit more about this vibrancy that occurred through the loss please.

[00:07:16] Dr Alise: Well, as you might know about me, Paula, among other things. And so my PhD is in human development, and then I’m also an organizational logo therapist. And so Logo therapy is really the line of existential psychology that really celebrates the notion that as human beings, our chief concern is finding meaning, and meaning is our chief source of motivation. So one of the biggest things that I got from experiencing these two losses was an increased urgency around purpose. Purpose works in life, in part because we don’t get forever and we don’t know when the exit ramp is coming. So when we lose people that are important to us, what it can do when we’re paying attention to it. And what I was trying to also ignite in the book is it can make us become much more aware and give us a stronger urgency to fulfill our own wishes, our own dreams, to be of service to the world, the way that we burn for, ache for, and make us treasure that which still remain. So that’s what I mean by awakening, that it opens the loss and really moves us into transformation when we’re able to embrace that loss and let it work with and through and over us so that we actually get elevated and can be present to the opening that’s on the other side of loss.

[00:08:29] Paula: Wow. Well said. Group us, the openings. Wow. Tesse.

[00:08:38] Tesse: Yeah, I’m sort of leaning in, you know, because that opening at the other side of loss, it’s a journey to get there. Cause often the pain of the loss can be so overwhelming and so deep without journeying through that pain. And getting to the side where we have this connection, this vibrancy, we can lose ourselves along the way. Sometimes by physical death, sometimes by just not having the focus that can help us to bring the vibrancy forward. So, you know, again, another reflection from your book is you’ve lost someone you love, or maybe you’re about to. Your whole life is changing, possibly turning upside down. How do you make sense of it? How do you go through the pain? How do you carry on? I mean, these questions which arise from your book are so deep, and also existential. And you talk within the book about whispers and you know, I’d love you to share with people listening in about your seven whispers. Unpack that for us, because that connected very much with my heart and my head.

[00:10:09] Dr Alise: Oh, thank you, Tesse. So once I wrote this story of losing both of my parents. Well, first what I did was I captured all of the events as they happened and then I went back. And I layered in what did they mean to me. And that’s the storytelling piece that you came in, that you read and got from reading it. Once I did that, I thought, gosh, you know, that it’s a story, but what else can I do to help readers with this? And that’s what I had some reflection, I’d had a few years reflection between the time I lost my parents in 2019 and when I set out to finish the book, which is 2022. So then I thought, well, what did I learn from those experiences? And that’s when I came on the idea of the second part of the book being the seven whispers of wisdom that I got from those losses. How those losses actually allow us to live more vibrant lives. And so, you know, just one of the whispers of wisdom is to love, is to love deeply. And that notion of to, you know, give yourself over, if you will, to love. I think one of the things that I got out of the experience of losing my parents is I was much more courageous in my willingness to be open to love, to love someone else, even if I know they didn’t love me back or they wouldn’t love me back. But to know that I had the capacity to love because there’s such bigness in this thing of being able to love. One of the things I learned also, which I talk about in that particular segment. That whisper that I’ve come to understand is that when we are the lovers, we become bigger when we love someone else. When we receive love, often it occurs as being very soothing and calming and grounding, right? It’s such a beautiful thing that the ways that we participate in this thing called love. And when you get present to that right, you can see why that increases the vibrancy. Then when if we just take it all for granted or we’re not willing to give ourselves over to it, or you know, we don’t let someone else love us or we don’t let ourselves fully love someone else. So that was what I was trying to do and just that one whisper was to really open the spigot on this beautiful, the power of this little four letter word that we oftentimes take for granted. So that’s one of the whispers. I see you smiling.

[00:12:22] Tesse: I’m greedy. I want to hear the rest.

[00:12:25] Paula: 6 1, 1 of the second and the third.

[00:12:29] Dr Alise: One of the other ones is to really pursue your pursuits with courage. Right. So one of the things that I got from loss and from death is that it’s kind of that thing that stares you in the face. I know when my parents both died, I looked at myself in the mirror and went, all right Cortez, you don’t have forever either. You don’t know when the extra ramp is coming, let’s get to it. You have things you want to do, let’s get on with it. And so one of the other whispers is to pursue your pursuits with courage. Go for it, go for the gusto if you will. And it’s kind of a nice way, you know death has a nice way of reminding you and kind of prodding you of okay, you know, I know the couch is really comfortable right now, but you have stuff that you want to do. And if you get to the end of your life, if you didn’t even attempt those things, you are going to be pretty mad at yourself, and pretty disappointed in the life that you created for yourself. So it kind of gives you an urgency to start to pursue them and embrace that, use that channel that sense of urgency that can come from loss. It elevates your understanding, your recognition that, you know, people don’t say, well, I have time for that. No, you don’t necessarily have time for that to get to it. So that’s one of the other whispers. Another one is to forgive, is to forgive generously. This one was hard for me, really hard for me. I didn’t have any forgiveness issues with my family, but I did with other people that came into my life along the way. But what I’ve really discovered about forgiving is it sets you free, right? When we forgive someone for whatever they’ve done or haven’t done for us, however they’ve hurt us or whatever it’s been, when we forgive them, we set ourselves free and it gives this open, beautiful open space for us to be able to live more vibrantly, to have energy to direct toward those other pursuits rather than hanging on to whatever we’re hanging on. This very negative emotion around, you know, not being able to forgive, you know, it’s the albatross around our neck. And so really it liberates us. And so the power of forgiving, and it’s really hard work let me tell you. I can’t tell you that I’ve got it all down perfectly because I don’t, but I do know that the power of forgiving is something worth striving for and worth trying to fold into your life, especially if there’s a big sort of ache that you have in your life that you’re hanging onto. So that’s another. One of them of course, is to live like there’s no tomorrow. We’ve been talking about that, so that really speaks to, again, allowing yourself to go for the gusto. Really just, you know what if today is the last day we have on the planet, would you be okay with that? Would you be satisfied with who you were today with what you strove to do? Would you be satisfied with that? I wouldn’t, I’m not ready yet, but I want to live though in the present so that I can feel like I can, and what that really speaks to is be true to yourself, be true to your values, live your purpose to the extent that you can. Activate those meaning systems so that you’re vibrant and alive. Because when you do that, you can touch more lives, you can make more of a difference with whatever you’re doing in life. I don’t care if you’re an architect, an accountant, if you are a landscape designer. Whatever you’re doing, whatever, if you activate on those levels, everything that you do magnifies. So that’s another whisper that I got was just, and it has to do with presence and just being right here with life and not letting any moment pass you by.

[00:15:56] Tesse: You know, the thread there is so, so rich, you know, and those whispers are whispers, but they can amplify so much, can’t they?

[00:16:06] Dr Alise: That is exactly why I used the word whisper. Because what I’ve discovered is that there are so many things in life that are really right there in front of us that are available to all of us. And they’re trying desperately to get our attention and to help us understand. And they really are kind of whispers. But once you listen to them, to your point, the amplification of their message is so profound when you take the time to really listen to them. And that is exactly why I call them whispers, a whisper and not calls or, you know, acts or anything like that. It’s like a whisper

[00:16:40] Tesse: you know, there’s something about whispers too that is very powerful, because you have to reach a certain place of silence, of quiet of stillness in order to hear a whisper.

[00:16:51] Dr Alise: That’s exactly right. And so what I appreciate about what you just said there, is that means that you need to be present to yourself. So what happens, and I know this too, is we can get so caught up in that hamster wheel of life that we’re moving so fast that we can’t hear our own voice at all, let alone someone else who’s trying to help us. So when we’re quiet enough and centered enough, we can actually hear those whispers, and there’s so much utility and value in those whisper.

[00:17:17] Tesse: Reading your book too, Alise, and also I did some more research. You’ve had other losses as well in addition to your parents, haven’t you? I remember having done some follow up research that I thought, oh my goodness, there’s a lot here. A lot of loss.

[00:17:34] Dr Alise: Yeah, so you know, and thank you for saying that, because I really wrote this book about loss in general. Yes, I’m writing about a loss of my parents, so people. But as we’ve spoken about before, Tesse, this book also speaks to people who lose really treasured pets, people that lose careers that they cherish. And in my case, I’m divorced. I’ve been divorced for seven years. I lost my marriage. It was one of those things that really quietly died, because we didn’t, neither one of us nurtured. But it still absolutely occurred as a loss for me. Still does. It doesn’t mean that I would want to restore it per se, but that loss still lives for me and I’m still learning from that loss. And it wasn’t my idea to get a divorce, but it was a really good idea. But it still hurt like a son of a gun, right? Oh my gosh. And the pain still continues to reverberate as I take and consider and continually realize, you know, my part in the destruction of the relationship. And that’s where I really want to emphasize that I really do believe that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. And so it’s really messy. We’re just messy at this stuff called life and relationships and it’s just part of it. So that’s one of my losses. I certainly lost my beloved grandmother in 1997. She was, my sunrise and my sunset. I loved her really more than anybody in the world. And I only realized actually that the end of 2019, my biological father came back into my life and he helped me understand that she had raised me until I was three years of age. Well, no wonder she was so important to me. And then the other thing that I would say for a loss, and everybody has losses, right? And, but the other thing was, my sister who’s two years younger than me, she and I were so close in our twenties and my thirties. We spent a lot of year living together as adults and under the same roof and just being uber connected, and she disowned all of us, the whole family. She had a big disagreement with my mother and she just felt like she didn’t need any of us. And I have to say, that felt so much like my heart had been cut out of my chest and you know, sitting out there for everyone to see and throb. And so, you know, and I say in the book, you know, she never did reconcile with my mother. She had a little bit limited contact with me over the years and it was me who reached out to her via LinkedIn cause it was the only way that I knew how to tell her, hey, mom’s on her deathbed. If you have anything that you want to say, you might want to call my cell, here’s the number kind of thing. So those are some of the major losses that I can think of that have left their mark on me. And of course I’ve lost pets as well too, but, and I’ve been fired from great jobs, although none of those occurred as losses for me cause they were necessary and they yielded something again that the opening on the other side. But those are some of the losses that I do actually mention throughout the book.

[00:20:30] Tesse: Really, you know, in many ways what you capture are the hearts of other people who have been on similar journeys and that’s really fellow travelers. And as you said, the people talk about constants of life and some of it is taxes, we know those. And some of the losses will always lose things, because of life and what it is. I wonder if you can touch a little bit on trauma, you know. Cause one of the things that I’m interested in is trauma informed environments, trauma informed kind of understandings alongside loss as well. And I wonder if there’s any kind of insights you can share with us from your experience and from your personal professional life that might be helpful for people who are connecting with your work and with your story?

[00:21:22] Dr Alise: As I mentioned, and, and I say in the book too, is, you know, something, not an expert on death or anything like that. My education is in psychology, sociology, and in logo therapy. And I’m not a clinical psychologist, however, what I like to say when we talk about trauma, this is really important and a critical part of my book, it’s anchored in logo therapy. And what I love about logo therapy and what I align so strongly with logo therapy is that it’s a way of life. It’s a perspective of philosophy that teaches that there are no negative aspects in life that can’t be transmuted into positive accomplishments, but for the stance we take to them. So that’s, again, that’s the stimulus and the response, how we choose to respond to them. There’s so much power in how we choose to respond to things in life, including trauma, what’s happened to us. When we start to recognize that it is only us that has the capacity to decide and choose what that trauma means to us, are we victims? What do we learn from this? How did we get access to something else? How did that trauma help us become something else? One of the paths to purpose is adversity. When we can transform ourselves into something else because of something really hard and atrocious that we’ve gone through, we know that is victory. So that’s the kind of thing that I like to be able to celebrate and help people understand that they have access to all the time. When they can see that whatever it is that’s got them, that just is hurt them and that they feel so trapped by. They have some agency in that to get through the other side. And that’s the journey that I’m trying to also steward in this book, is to really take people by the hand and say, let’s go together. And on the other side of this, there’s an opening for you. There’s something more for you and there’s something brighter for you. And so for me, trauma, what I’ve come to understand is that, we need something to catalyze this in life. We have a tendency to want to be asleep. We want to be comfortable. And so, you know, I’m not saying that I’m wishing trauma on anybody, but it has a very necessary role in our lives to be able to catalyze a response to it. And that response is what can allow us to be able to better experience that vibrancy, to be transformed by that growth. That’s the kind of relationship that I would want to be able to put in the hands of people that have experienced trauma.

[00:23:47] Tesse: Wow. I cannot say how meaningful that is. I mean, when you explain about the kind of default to sleep rather than towards awakeness or woke in that way. But also, I love what you’re saying about when we can be at choice even in our trauma, which we had probably no parts in bringing about. I hope we can invite you back to speak a bit more about that thing being at choice in situations that you did not create, but actually knowing that you can create a way towards a different future, because you are more connected with your purpose through the trauma that you may have experienced either individually or collectively. That is so powerful. Paula, I’m going to hand over to you now while I mull on that point.

[00:24:45] Paula: Very powerful words as I use over what you said. I love the fact that you, Dr.Alise said, loss happens, bad things happen, but we do have to make a decision whether we are going to be the victim or the victor that can make a big difference. We can’t erase the past, we can’t erase things that have happened. We live in a messy world, but we do have choices.

[00:25:12] Dr Alise: Thank you. There’s power in choice.

[00:25:15] Paula: There is power in choice. Yes. Thank you. I’ve learned so much about you. I’ve learned so much about loss, and I also can’t help but comment on the fact that even though your book was about losing your parents, through Tesse, you were able to expand on other types of losses, which are all part of life. Thank you so much. And as Tesse says, I would also love to have you come back on again a second time to expand on some of the things that I know we could have gone deeper into. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things, emotions I think a lot of us struggle with. We know that we shouldn’t, but we do.

[00:26:02] Tesse: Paula, just as if you knew that the back of my mind. You know me very well. At the back of my mind, I say forgiveness because my brother was killed by somebody who killed him and left him to die. Until today she has not said sorry to me, to his wife, to his children. She’s not voice sorrow. And I know that I needed to forgive her before moving on, but that forgiveness is a struggle. It was so deep. The most precious person in my life. This person treated him like nothing and cared for nothing about the family. So, but forgiveness is key and I’m aware of that. Not easy.

[00:26:46] Paula: Oh, yet another beautiful session. To end on this note to our precious listeners, you have just heard Dr. Alise Cortez, you’ve heard about her story, you’ve heard her journey, you’ve heard Tesse and I talk about our experiences. And so we want you to know that your stories matter, your life matters. We ask that you share them with us. We ask also that. If you’d like what you just heard, please head over to our website. We have a new website, which is “www.tesseleads.com” to apply. And we always cherish your reviews because it encourages us to continue to do what we are doing. Thank you again, Dr. Alise Cortez for coming on to “TesseLeads”.

[00:27:45] Dr Alise: Thank you for having me. It’s been just beautiful.

[00:27:47] Tesse: You’ve touched our lives. Thank you so much for that, you’ve actually given it more color. Thank you.

[00:27:54] Paula: Yes, you have.

My Story, My Treasures and My Gifts

Jane Duncan Rogers shares with us her story of grief and how it’s become her treasures and gifts to others.“My husband was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2010.  It stops you in your tracks. He got treatment, we hoped for the best, but actually the worst happened and  I ended up being a widow.”  This was the beginning of Jane’s grief journey.

Jane’s greatest fear had come true.  She was on her own at age 54.  How could she be gifted by this terrible loss?   Louise L Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life” comforting words “what you feel you can heal” helped Jane get through pretty difficult feelings.  A willingness to face grief and to face one’s own mortality can be helpful.

Having an open heart and not letting fear stop you from doing what you want to do can help navigate loss. This often requires vulnerability, openness and being joyful in the face of sadness.  Philip, Jane’s first husband used to say, “In vulnerability lies your strength.”


Front door, back door thinking aided Jane as she  dealt with the emotions that were coming her way,   “I learned to open the front door of my house, so to speak, and open the windows and let it in, and open the back door as well so that the feeling could come in, inhabit the house for a little bit or however long it was, and then easily go out through the back door and the back windows. Because that is what happens with feelings. They come and they go always, all the good ones that we wish would stay and all the bad ones that we don’t want to have at all”  recalls Jane. Journaling, stomping and shouting helped.

Jane recounts ” Plenty of times when I was awake in the middle of the night Googling, ‘ how long does grief last?’  I never got an answer”

Jane concludes, “the more that one can be accepting of what is happening, that’s impossible to start with, the more it becomes part of the grieving process. “

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co-host me Paula Okonneh. Tesse Leads is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space where guests share how they are navigating a diverse range of challenges, and also how they confront their dilemmas and shape their futures. Our guest today is Jane Duncan Rogers, and the theme for today is ” My story, my treasures and my gifts “. So I’ll tell you about our wonderful guest, Jane. Jane was devastated when her husband died. This was not their plans. Her greatest fear had come true, and she was on her own again at age 54, very young. However, little did she know that three years on, she would’ve published a book called “Gifted by Grief”. How could she be gifted by this terrible loss? And yet she was. And that has led her directly to what she now does. Her background of 25 years in the coaching and training field has been perfect for the now six figure business she founded in 2016. And together with her worldwide team of end of life planning facilitators, she offers products and programs to help people complete their end of life plans, which 90% of people say is essential, but only 14% actually get around to doing. So welcome, Jane to “TesseLeads”. This is a topic that everyone needs to hear.

[00:01:54] Jane: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. Wonderful to be here.

[00:01:59] Tesse: Hi, Jane. It’s really lovely to meet you, and I’m a great admirer of the work you do. As Paula saying death and dying really difficult sensitive topics for people. And I know that lots of people, including myself are sometimes avoiding discussing these things. I’m rather curious about your journey, how you came to seeing this work as something that was important to do. What was your journey like along the way?

[00:02:31] Jane: Well, my husband was diagnosed with stomach cancer, this was in 2010. And you know when something like that happens and it’s a life-threatening situation, you’re stopped in your tracks. So we did what people do, which is he got treatment, we hoped for the best, but actually the worst happened. So I ended up being a widow. Oh God, I hated that word. I found that really difficult. I didn’t want to be called that. But that was the label that society was putting on me. And I knew that I would always write about it. Because I had been a writer, I had been a blogger. And sure enough, that’s how “Gifted by Grief” came about. It just poured out of me one day. Literally, I woke up one morning and I thought, oh my God, this is the time to write, and it was reader’s responses to that book, which I did feel gifted by the grief by this point. But they responded to something else in the book, which was a different kind of gift, and that was about the questions that I had asked my husband before he died. And the very practical ones about what kind of coffin do you want? What are your passwords? How do you want your body dressed? Really practical things. And lots of people said to me, oh my goodness, I need to answer those questions too. And really that was the birth of what I do now running before I go solutions. So that was definitely not in the plan. I can tell you.

[00:03:58] Tesse: Paula, I see you pensive.

[00:04:04] Paula: Because I’m also a widow, and so I can relate to what you’re saying. You know, your whole life changes. And the first day I had to fill in on a form widow, I cried because I was like, I’ve never had to write that. I’ve always written, married, still a mother, but widow. And you know, I was going in to see an orthodontist and I went by myself. Now I think that was foolish, but I went by myself and I went in there and they were like, your blood pressure’s very high. And I realized why it was very high, and then they’re like, we can’t do anything for you today. So I just went and sat in my car and started thinking, okay, I can’t make my children orphans, so I need to figure out how to get this down. Yeah, immediately or as quickly as possible.

[00:04:55] Jane: Yeah. It’s really interesting that I can remember, because I didn’t think of myself as a widow until I had to fill out that forum, like you just said. And I also cried on the very first time I had to do it, because I didn’t want to be a widow. Who wants that? You know? But anyway, we had not had children, so I didn’t have that reason, you know, to have to continue. But there were plenty of times when I, I Wouldn’t say that I felt like doing away with myself, but I certainly didn’t want to be living. The grief was so strong, and even though you know my background as a counselor, I had learned about grief. Theoretically, I had worked with people who were grieving, but my goodness, me, after Philip died, I was completely blindsided by the extent of the emotion. It was so strong, and I, the only thing I knew was that I had to allow the feelings to be there. I thought I was going a bit mad actually, but I have since learned that that is not an uncommon way to be thinking. But I don’t know if you have heard of Louise Hay, Louise El Hay. Author of “You Can Heal Your Life”. But I trained with her way back in 1990 and she said something that stuck with me in that time, and it was “what you feel you can heal, what you feel you can heal”. So I really hung onto that to get me through some pretty difficult feelings.

[00:06:22] Paula: Yeah, I can even see now that you’re still emotional and you think about it because yeah, that feeling never goes away. And as you said, what you feel you can heal leads me to my question is that what gives you that deep conviction that your work is something that is really, or can really make a difference?

[00:06:41] Jane: Well, I’ve always done work and I really care about making a difference. It doesn’t really matter in a way what way I do that. But I would say my bigger purpose in life for many, many years now has been to make a difference in a positive way to one person or many, or whoever it is. At the moment this is the way it is showing up. And because I have had my own experience with my husband, but also with my parents who have now died and other people as well. I know the difference between when somebody has faced the elephant in the room of their own death or their parents’ death, or somebody else in the family and have been willing to prepare for that. Because when you don’t prepare for it afterwards, there’s potentially and often is a terrible mess left behind from an administrative point of view and trying to make decisions and everybody in the family may be wanting to know what to do, but nobody has been left any instructions. So the potential for arguments is enormous, even in families that say that they would never do that sort of thing. So I know what people need to do in order to avoid that. So whenever there’s anybody who takes up that mantle, if you like to think about it and be willing to face grief to face the fact of their own mortality, then I know it’s going to make a difference. They don’t know that until a bit further on down the line, but they do get there.

[00:08:12] Paula: Absolutely, Tesse.

[00:08:15] Tesse: I’m listening very deeply to Jane to what you’re saying. And you know, I’m sensing you’re a compassionate person, care and you like people and you say you have counseling expertise as well. Are there other things in your life’s journey, you know, that have contributed to where you are now and are you prepared to share them with us?

[00:08:39] Jane: Sure.

[00:08:39] Tesse: I was curious. Yeah.

[00:08:41] Jane: Well, yeah, I only just realized the other day that, you know, I was 54 when Philip died. And whenever I’m telling my story, maybe on a podcast or whatever, I quite often will say, it sounds as if the story starts when he died. But of course there was 54 years before that. And I would say that I’ve always been a spiritual seeker since a teenager when I had what I might call an awakening experience one day in nature. It was a glimpse of another way of being. A glimpse, some might say, a glimpse of God, some might say a glimpse of love of the essence of life. It doesn’t really matter what the word is. But it was just a glimpse. And so then I started out seeking, but one of the benefits of this seeking journey is that I was doing a lot of personal growth work and understanding myself, lots of stuff about communication and allowing my heart to open more and more, and that’s been quite a journey. When I was married, I was married for 20 years and we had a good marriage. It was quite a tempestuous marriage, let’s say that, but it was a good marriage. And yet afterwards I felt on reflecting that my heart had been broken open in a different way with the grief, and I realized that I had not been fully able to have such an open heart in my marriage. And I promised myself that if I ever got the chance again with another man, that I would do what I needed to do to keep my heart open. And I’m really incredibly lucky to be able to say that I have found another man and I have married again just two years ago. And I have had to practice keeping my heart open. Because we would, in the early days, we would describe me as being spiky, you know, like putting little spikes out to keep him away, cause I was. I was afraid, you know, of getting involved again cause he might die too. But I haven’t let that get in the way. I’ve been quite good at not letting fear stop me doing what I want to do in all areas of my life, so.

[00:10:49] Tesse: That sounds beautiful, elegant, very gentle as well. Curious and discovering type tones coming to my mind. And you know my curiosity leads me to ask this question, which is what does an open heart look like? Or what does it feel like, you know, for you from your perspective?

[00:11:11] Jane: Well, nags, I’ve practiced it a lot, I can tell I think a lot in images. So if I’m aware of an image of, and it’s usually a set of gates across my heart, literally inside here, sometimes there’s no gates there at all, that’s when I’m fully open. Then I’m usually vulnerable, but not necessarily vulnerable in a painful way. It could be vulnerable in a very open and joyous way. And then there’ll be other times when the gates are there and they are open, and there are other times when the gates are there and they’re closed, and sometimes they’re even locked. But if I notice that they’re locked, I know what to do to unlock them and to open them up again. Because it doesn’t work closing down your heart, it doesn’t work locking it away, it really doesn’t work. Because you separate yourself from not just other people and the love that other people want to give you, but you separate yourself from being love itself, which is one of my beliefs that we are manifestations of love. So yeah, I don’t usually talk about all this on podcasts. I don.t know what it is you’re saying to get it out of me.

[00:12:20] Tesse: This is what we love doing. We actually love Paula and I, we love creating spaces for people to have their voices amplified and explore things safely. And you can see our viewers are listening, so they can’t see us. But I can see you, Jane, and I can see Paula, and I see that kindness coming out from you. And actually you’re speaking into things that Paula and I care about, you know about caring about people in our lives while they’re alive, you know. And singing the song that we want to sing when they’re there to hear it. We care about that. Paula, your thoughts?

[00:13:00] Paula: I absolutely agree with you, especially when you mentioned Tesse, that this is a safe place. Because we’ve had many of our guests say, oh my gosh, I don’t know what happens when we come here. But at the end of the day, this is a space also to help people. And so, you know, I know our generation, Tesse and my generation, we weren’t openly vulnerable. We could be vulnerable in private, but being openly vulnerable was something that we were taught from a young age that you don’t do. But I’ve seen the difference that makes in so many other people’s lives, because many times they feel alone that this is only happening to me. When one has an opportunity to say, and me too, this is also happening to me. It’s amazing the trickle down effect that it has, and that in turn helps so many others and helps the world and helps you know. Now we talk so much more about mental illness and we realize it’s all part, it’s holistic, you know, spiritual body. It’s not just physical. But we also have emotions and emotions and our minds and, you know, we need healing there. Being vulnerable opens up a wide, wide, wide range of healing practices, I believe for people to know we are not alone. We are all the same, really struggling with similar things, but sometimes at different stages of different times, different seasons. So thank you. Thank you.

[00:14:26] Jane: It’s a pleasure. I like it. My first husband, he had a saying which was, in your vulnerability lies your strength. And I’ve always remembered that, cause it’s like, oh yeah, that’s right. You know, because we have in our culture have this idea that vulnerability is something that is, you know, you shouldn’t do it. But it’s not true, it really is not true. And so I’m happy to be out there. That’s how I am in my book, “Gifted by Grief”, the first book, because I couldn’t do it any other way, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way, you know?

[00:15:00] Tesse: You come across as authentic, you know, and, you know, personable, likable, connected, as I said, with the broader world. And you know, when, you know, just seeing you, you know, I can see us having a cup of coffee and a croissant, you know, and just sharing and joining Paula, you know, not remotely getting her to come and join us over as well. But you know, there’s a question that comes to my mind, Jane, and that’s about success. You know, given what you have been through your journey in life where you are now, what would you describe success as? What was, what’s it mean for you?

[00:15:35] Jane: Yeah, that’s really interesting one, isn’t it? Because I definitely used to equate success with having lots of money in the bank, and that’s what I thought it meant. But I have learned along the way that looking at the outer things on our outer level, which traditionally society says is the marks of success, like money and cars and holidays and all that kind of stuff. That’s all nice if you like that kind of thing. But that’s not the hallmark of success. I think the hallmark of success for me now would be being able to wake up in the morning and feel grateful that I’m here and that I’m alive and that I have my health, and to go to bed feeling like that as well. And to be able to have learned enough about connecting and communicating with people that we are not playing games with each other. There’s no room for game playing. So we are authentic and vulnerable and open and joyous and having a good time. And when emotions like anger, or grief, or fear or sadness come, they’re all welcome as well. So in my book, I wrote about what I call front door, back door thinking, and this was how I dealt with the emotions that were coming my way cause there were so many of them. And I couldn’t understand it, because it was even one day, about 10 days after Philip had died, I was walking in the woods, it was a winter’s day, but it was blue sky and sunshine and I heard the birds chirping. I was on my own, but I felt happy and I couldn’t understand how I could feel happy when I was going home to an empty house, but that was just one part of me. The essence of me was feeling joyous and happy, which was wonderful. So to come back to the front door, back door thinking, I learned to, whenever a feeling came, whatever it was, it didn’t matter whether I liked it or not. I learned to open the front door of my house, so to speak, and open the windows and let it in, and open the back door as well so that the feeling could come in, inhabit the house for a little bit or however long it was, and then easily go out through the back door and the back windows. Because that is what happens with feelings. They come and they go always, all the good ones that we wish would stay and all the bad ones that we don’t want to have at all. So I didn’t frame it like that at the time, but afterwards reflecting on it, that was a useful metaphor for me to think of and to speak of. And that is what I do now, you know? And it’s kind of second nature to me now.

[00:18:18] Paula: I love that. I love that. The front door, back door, I love. So you allow the emotions to come in and you give them space to leave.

[00:18:28] Jane: Exactly.

[00:18:28] Paula: Because they are going to come. I love it.

[00:18:31] Jane: Well, cause the thing is with the ones that we like, like we like feeling loving, we like feeling happy. We like all those kind of things. Usually if you take the metaphor of the house, what we want to do is we want to welcome them in and keep them locked in there. We want to have them forever, but it doesn’t work like that. So we have to let those go as well. And the ones that we try and keep out, it doesn’t work to try and keep them out because they will find their way in eventually and they will cause damage as well if they don’t get a space. So that’s the whole point really, is giving space to the emotions and that allows us to blossom.

[00:19:06] Tesse: This is such a powerful thing.

[00:19:08] Paula: Yeah, it is. I was going to ask if she could think of words that are powerful or useful or helpful or soothing to anyone who’s gone through grief of any kind, what would those words be? I mean, I thought when you started talking about the back door, front door, like yeah. And then these other words too.

[00:19:31] Jane: Yeah, I think knowing that it will change because others before you that has happened for them. That was very helpful for me. It didn’t necessarily make me feel any better in the moment, but I knew that it was happening. Now, the person that I knew that I held onto as somebody who had done this was a very famous person indeed, Paul McCartney. I knew that he had been in love with his first wife, Linda, and that when she had died, we hadn’t heard of him for at least a year. You know, we, he must have been grieving, but I thought, if he can do it, I can do this too. And that was helpful, very helpful. Because there were plenty of times when I was awake in the middle of the night Googling,” how long does grief last”? You know,? Well, I never got an answer, of course, but there isn’t an answer to that.

[00:20:20] Paula: There isn’t.

[00:20:21] Jane: No, no.

[00:20:23] Paula: Tessie?

[00:20:24] Tesse: Yeah, you’ve been so real in saying things, and even in the examples you give, they’re very relatable examples. How long does grief last, you know, what practicalities from your experience would you say to people who are grieving that can at least help them on the journey. And as Paula said, I love the front and the back door analogy. I’m going to hold on to that. You know, it’s very powerful. What other things that from your experience could be helpful?

[00:20:59] Jane: You know, I love writing and I always have a journal on the go. In those days, my journal was getting a lot of very angry words, lots of scribbles, lots of rage, and that was okay with me. You know, that’s the purpose of a journal. You pour out your feelings into it. It’s not meant to be read by you unless you want to, and it’s certainly not meant to be read by anybody else. So that’s one thing. The other thing that I did a lot was expressing myself through color on paper, big sheets of paper. That was also really important, you know what? Cause I was quite angry quite a lot of the time. That was one of the emotions that came for me. So stomping when I went out for walks and I loved walking, so that was fine. But allowing myself to stomp angrily, you know, and to also to wasn’t necessarily shouting, you know, because you don’t want to shout if you think that people might hear you. But it’s amazing how well you can shout in your imagination if you need to. But I think the thing that I want to say about the journaling is that when I came to write my book, I was going back over my journals to see what had happened, I was of course confronted with the pain, the rawness of the feelings that I’d been writing about, and the very first time I did that was probably about a year on, maybe a bit later than that. And I realized that I wasn’t feeling as intensely as I had been. I was still having really bad days. But they weren’t as intense as they had been in those first few weeks, and that was actually really helpful to know because I’d forgotten, I’d just forgotten. That showed me that I was on a journey and that I was actually healing from grief and I was living into this new life that had been put on to me, not of my choice, but that it was happening and I found that very helpful.

[00:22:59] Paula: Yeah, great points. You know, two of the things that you mentioned, I also had to do the journaling, and I’m not much of a writer as Tesse would let you know. But my journaling came in the form of saying I wanted to write a book and I actually wrote the book, but I never published it. But it was so therapeutic for me. And then the coloring, yeah we got some coloring books and colored, you know. I had been introduced to that some years prior to my husband passing, but the coloring came in even more handy after he passed. And I also did Sudoku. I guess it was something to occupy my mind, but it was so thrilling and so helpful. So, wow, those are some great points as we are wrapping up. Tesse, is there anything else?

[00:23:52] Tesse: This is so real. I’m touched by what you’re saying, Jane, about intensity. You know that the pain remains, but intensity can over time reduce so you don’t feel you’re suffocated every day. This is just such a moving thing to talk about cause as we started, so we’re finishing, people don’t talk about these things and I think because there’s that silence alongside such pain, there are not many gains to be had in the journey that is not actually thought through in some intentional way.

[00:24:33] Jane: Yeah, yeah. I think just one last thing on this is. Somebody had told me this, I think, but it was also my experience, which is that it wasn’t, especially in that first year, it wasn’t necessarily the intensity that felt less, but the gaps in between the bad days grew longer. I could see that, which was helpful because those days that were relatively speaking okay, and they weren’t maybe still brilliant, they somehow gave me strength to get through the really bad days. And sometimes the really bad days were so bad I just went to bed, stayed under the duve, hugged my new little cuddly toy that I had bought and read ridiculous novels that nearly always ended up with somebody dying. It was awful. I don’t know how I managed to do that. But that’s all I could do. That’s all I could do, and I just let that happen.

[00:25:31] Tesse: Well, Paula, to you.

[00:25:33] Paula: Yeah. So I was wondering if there are any key takeaways that you can give to our listening audience who have gone through this? We know we’ll go through this at some point. I mean, death is part of life.

[00:25:46] Jane: I think it’s this idea, the sooner that you are willing to accept that, whether you like it or not, you’re having a different life, the easier it is to go with that different life. Because the man that I’m now married to, he was also a widower, but he dealt with his grief in a very different way. He fairly soon, I would’ve said after his wife died, he came to the conclusion that if somebody had told him when he was 20, cause they met when they were 20, that they would’ve had 43 years of marriage together and then it would’ve been over. He would’ve said, well, that’s fine, thank you very much, that’ll be great. And of course that is what happened. She also died of cancer, and he came to the point in himself where he thought, oh well, It was a bit like video games, you know, game over bonus life. I have a bonus life now. The difference between me and him was that he was, he felt good about having a bonus life. If I had thought that, I think that I would’ve thought, but I don’t want to have a bonus life, you know, this is not okay. So the more that one can be accepting of what is happening, that’s impossible, by the way, to start with. But that is what happens as part of the process.

[00:27:02] Paula: That’s powerful. Willing to accept that your life has changed forever. I think that’s something that we have to process as we can. Because that’s the reality, you know, you wake up every day and you try to, oh, that was a dream. Oh no, it wasn’t a dream. It’s real.

[00:27:21] Jane: Yeah,

[00:27:21] Paula: Yeah. And so to our wonderful listeners, we want you to know that as Jane has shared, all stories are important and all lives do matter. So sharing them with others could support, encourage and nurture them. We want also our listeners to be reassured by knowing that they are never alone. And we encourage our listeners to head over to “Apple Podcast”, “Google Podcast”, “Spotify”, or anywhere that you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe. And if you have found “TesseLeads” helpful, please let us know in your reviews. If you’d like to have any questions or topics covered, send us a note. And if you’d like to be a guest on our show, “TesseLeads”, head over to “tesseleads.com/contact” and apply. And with that same note, I want to mention to our listeners, we now have a new website dedicated to “TesseLeads”. It’s of course, “www.tesseleads.com”. Join us in celebrating. Thank you, Jane.

[00:28:35] Tesse: Thank you, Jane.

A Treasure Trove and Fragrance

Erin Randall is indeed a treasure trove and fragrance.  When asked how she would like people to notice about her, Erin answers humbly “I want to be noticed as the coach who will be with you and stay with you.  The coach who reflects back your loveliness so that you can work with that. “Ever the skilled and compassionate coach, Erin reminds us of the work of Caitlin Walker PhD, Director of Clean Learning and the Developer of Systemic Modelling.  Dr Caitlin uses clean language, asking clean questions and encouraging clean work.  The impact of this approach is to ask move towards curiosity without judgement, creating safe spaces for systems to respond.

Erin espouses the value of reflective spaces and creating opportunities for off line processing that are  unique and special .  All parts of the system are different and special.  I will definitely be watching Bird Cage the movie through a more thoughtful and considered lens.



The concept of transformation also takes on a new glow as Erin uncovers catalysts for change  the gentle step and the considered stage that brings clarity about the change we seek, the ability to sit with questions and the capacity to help us settle and step into uncertainty and ambiguity with the right level of space and attention that enriches our thinking, our productivity and our work.  Ironically this means that we need to slow down in order to speed up. No mean feat in a fast-moving world!


The effervescent Erin turns her attention to the concept of stewardship.  How do we care for and with someone or something else?   On a personal note, how do I want to be in those moments?  How do we listen well with care and dedication.   How do we   listen?  In what ways do we listen? What questions do we cook up?   Co active work is deep work. Curiosity leads to creating the conditions for sustained change. Nudging a person, a system, a team into the behaviours they seek can lead to sustainable impact.


The conversation moves on to moving from sadness towards joy. . Joy is an effervescent emotion coming in when it is possible. For every system and every person the blessing can be on the other side of comfort as  relationships, systems  and process work towards improvement.  Erin is reflective “You can’t know joy if you don’t know sadness.  As we go through painful and as situations,  we can see ourselves on the other side”. Erin shares how she had several years of challenge as she was diagnosed with breast cancer.


She experienced joy only because she had walked in something else. Paula shares as she went through a sad and challenging time following the sudden death of her husband. What got Paula through in her words was, “ putting one foot in front of the other,  helped me to get closer to where I needed to be”.  Erin is empathetic encouraging listeners to listen well, saying “I am listening and I am here to be of service to you.”


This was a beautiful time together.   Erin reminds us that “Beauty is on the inside and the outside. Beauty is not a special occasion.” The question about what do you want others to notice in us” can be a place of us to reflect and to grow as we see our beauty within and consciously consider  how this is reflected to others .

[00:00:00] Paula: Hi everyone, I’m Paula Okonneh and I want to say welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki and co-host me Paula Okonneh. The “TesseLeads” podcast is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share hear and tell your stories and experiences. You’ll hear how top experts and thought leaders have created opportunities, navigated a diverse range of challenges, confronted their dilemmas and shaped their futures. Our guest today is Erin Randall. I’ll tell you about her. Erin Randall describes herself as a longtime coach, organizational coactive and agile, so that much of her work revolves around being, doing, experimenting and showing that you, her client, have gotten the work done. Erin has a deep passion for helping people transform from humdrum to remarkable. Creating lasting change and joy in their own lives. And she grounds her work in humanist principles with a simple goal in mind. Happy people doing great work. Thanks for saying yes, Erin, to being a guest on “TesseLeads”.

[00:01:26] Erin: How could I not? I so enjoyed our conversation the last time that I was here, that I was overjoyed that you wanted to have me come back.

[00:01:36] Tesse: Erin, I’m so excited to have you back, and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way at any other time. You know, you remind me of the fragrance, which I have taken the liberty of renaming Erin Fragrance. And that is about your presence, about your kindness, about your compassion, about your care. So thank you for saying yes to us.

[00:01:57] Erin: Well, if I’m a fragrance, I don’t think I’ve ever been thought of as in those ways. Because I’m thinking of all the times when I’m at my parents’ house during the summer up in Montana and the first thing I do in the mornings is go down to the barn and clean some stalls and feed some horses and move some horses around. So I don’t think I’m very fragrant in a way that you want me to be fragrant at that time of day.

[00:02:22] Paula: Tell that to a horse. They may differ with you Erin.

[00:02:26] Erin: Yeah.

[00:02:29] Tesse: Yeah, Paula there’s something you were noticing. Do you have a question for Erin?

[00:02:33] Paula: Yeah, so unfortunately listeners can’t see this, but Erin came on Zoom with such a beautiful scarf. And we started talking about scarfs and their significance. And Erin has a story that she would love to share with you all.

[00:02:53] Erin: Okay. So I’ll try to also describe the scarf a bit for those people who are listening and cannot see it. But this scarf is the first beautiful thing that I ever bought for myself as an adult. And it’s a great big orangey red scarf with a beautiful print on it. And I have it tied just so, because I watched the Pinterest tutorial that I was able to do it. And it kind of has a big loop and a bow off to the side, so that when I wear this scarf, I am reminded to be my best self and to bring that forward. So for me, scarves are not only a way to save a bad outfit, but they also reflect kind of what’s going on inside for me. So they’re kind of a bellweather for internal happenings and the like. And so this one is just beautiful, because beauty, it’s like I told a friend the other day, beauty is not a special occasion. It’s not a special occasion. So the scarf reminds me to step into that today and every day.

[00:03:57] Tesse: Wow. Beauty is not a special occasion. I really, really love that. It’s so touching and you know when I said, you know, something that comes to my mind when I see you, is beauty on the inside and beauty on the outside. Erin, what would you like people to notice about you?

[00:04:19] Erin: For those playing along at home, that is perhaps one of the deepest and most personal questions I think I’ve been asked in a long time. What do I want people to notice about me?I want them to know my heart. I want them to notice the care and the craftsmanship with which I do my work. I want them to know the regard and the care that I have for all of them as they go about their work. I love that question and it’s one of those that I could really take back and reflect on on my own for quite some time just because it is so big. And I can’t help but think how often all of us could use a question like that. What do we want others to see in us? What do we want them to notice? So thank you, that’ll be my question for my own reflective practice later this evening too.

[00:05:20] Tesse: It’s a kind of a treasure trove and thank you for your honesty in answering that and reflecting on that. Because every encounter we’ve had, whether you know, virtual on Agile Austin, or even the pre recorder, even now you bring a certain level of joy all the time. And you know, it’s sort of one of those things where you think that what you say is what you act out. I went to your website and I noticed that you stand for “Joy”.

[00:05:54] Erin: I do.

[00:05:55] Tesse: People living their best lives and people doing things that scare them most. And I’m so curious about what brought you along this path of standing for joy and people living their best lives.

[00:06:08] Erin: I think the follow up to what the, you know, I stand for joy for people living their best lives. You know, I fall seven rise eight is the follow one piece to that. Happiness is one thing,okay. Joy for me is an effervescent emotion that capture there. It’s like trying to hold onto lightning and the like, but I want that for people. I Don’t want them to just take of happiness as commonplace that day-to-day, you know existence. I want joy to be coming in whenever possible, okay. But to understand that the fall seven rise eight means that we also need to be resilient. And where we don’t fall joy, where we fall down, how do we get back up and continue forward so that we do find it and the like. Joy comes in so many different flavors, containers, experiences, but it’s all personal too.And I want more than anything for every system, every person with which I interact for them to have that for themselves, to know what that is. And not to just be seeking, but to know that they can find it too.

[00:07:25] Paula: I love that. And on that same note, I wondered if you could explain what you meant, that blessing is on the other side of comfort.

[00:07:37] Erin: Have you ever done something really hard, really difficult, and you didn’t know what you were doing or why you were doing it, but you kept pushing on through, pushing, pushing, pushing, and all of a sudden you broke through and you’re like, oh, this is why I did it. That for me, that is the blessing on the other side of comfort. I think I was thinking about that. Several years ago, I used to have a really big soul cycle habit, really big, like I was there a lot. And I loved it because it was so difficult, because it was so hard for me to do all of the time. But the blessing of finishing a class, knowing that I gave my all, that I gave my very best, that I left it all there on the mat. And there wasn’t anything that I wished that I’d done differently or at all. That was the blessing on the other side of comfort. And that I take forward now in our relationships, in systems work, in working to improve my own skillset and just being. Knowing that the blessing is on the other side of comfort. We can all be in discomfort now, it’s transitory, it’s just for here, there will be something else later. And that’s what I mean by that. Also very Buddhist of me, isn’t it? .

[00:08:56] Tesse: Very, very deep. Very deep. As you say that there is something that comes to my mind as well, which is joy, which you mentioned and sadness. And I’ve heard that saying about joy being at the other side of sadness, those kind of polarities happening. I’m curious about your thoughts on that. I’ll speak for myself when I’m in a really sad place, and I’ve recently a lot of very sad experiences. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever experience joy again, and those polarities how do they work?

[00:09:37] Erin: I don’t think, would you know joy if you didn’t first know grief or sadness? It’s because we know one that we can only know the other. And by fully standing and fully experiencing, knowing, then it’s also easier to see ourselves, at least I believe on that other side. It’s kind of like that old, you know, Sesame Street, you know, which one of these is not like the other? Well that is. You know, a few years ago, I think I was telling you earlier, I was really sick, okay. I had breast cancer and it was not a fun couple of years. And it wasn’t just being sick. It was like things kept piling on. It was, you know, the house was trying to like kill us, that we had this happen and we had this happen. So much so that people were just kind of looking at me like, oh my Lord. I mean, what’s going on over there? And all I knew was that the blessing would be on the other side of comfort. I just had to keep going. The universe at some point would go pick on someone else. But it made it easier for me to grasp, to stand in to fully experience joy, only because that I had walked through something else. Only because I’d walked through something else. And it gave me an appreciation for and better understanding of what that was.

[00:11:09] Tesse: That’s powerful, very.

[00:11:12] Paula: Oh, very true. I have never heard someone express it as well as you have. Because that has been my mantra. After my husband passed away, I was like, all of this, I mean, it was one thing after the next. But I knew putting one foot in front the next would get me closer to where I’m supposed to get to. So that now that things are better, I can look back and see where I came from and appreciate where I am even better. And also be able to empathize and help people who are going through similar things to say, yeah, it’s rough.

[00:11:51] Erin: Yeah. And to realize, you know that’s honestly one of my favorite things about maturing, about getting older, is that, I feel like I have a better idea of what to say sometimes when a person is going through something. I don’t need to give advice. I don’t need to tell them what to do. I can just tell them simply that I’m listening. Or it’s like,” hey, I’m going to bring this over” if it’s helpful, great, if it’s not, let me know and I’ll take it back. It’s better able to be of service to someone else, and to me that’s also a form of joy. And knowing that I was able to meet a person where they were and to make it a little bit less awful for them. And I’m really sorry about your husband, Paula. I’m really sorry.

[00:12:40] Tesse: He was a fantastic guy. Good man. Kind, caring, competent. So many things. I’m so sorry about it. One of the things that comes to my mind, the question which I hadn’t prepared, but I’m putting it out there. Your story, like your upbringing, you know, how your parents, you know, your growing up, your early years, was there anything there that had led to where you are now and how you’re thinking about life and the world?

[00:13:14] Erin: I think for all of us, however we grew up, wherever we grew up, I think that influences and begins the story for whomever it is that we become. I will say that I use so much of that early experience you know. You all  I’m not kidding, where I grew up every morning before school we would go over and clean stalls and, you know, feed horses and feed cattle and the like. You know, we had a lot of agricultural responsibilities. But that also taught me stewardship. How do we care for something else? How do we care for someone else? And I cannot help but carry that forward now into my work here. You know, knowing what it means to be a steward of skills of the trust that people put in me when they’re asking for help with their systems, with how they’re working and the like. Plus, I mean, I’ll be honest, the ability to know what hard work really is. That has been invaluable, because I don’t know about everyone else, but working out on ranches and the like, that is a lot of hot, dry, dusty work. And yeah, it’s a little bit easier here, being inside sometimes.

[00:14:30] Tesse: I love that, you know, you can see your systems thinking here and your design thinking about connecting the knowledge of different things, experiences that one can go through that you’ve been through. And sort of making sense of that about how you arrive at where you are and seeing those interconnections between them. It’s just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Inspiring, inspiring.

[00:14:59] Erin: Well, you know, I think about how you work with a horse, a dog, how you work with that animal shows up in my other work, okay? So if I might be out riding or something, working with that horse. How I ride is how I will coach. How do I want to be in those moments?How do I want to be in those moments? So you asked the question earlier, what is it that I want others to notice about me? It still goes back to the care. It still goes back to the dedication, that I’ll put in the practice and the hard work. Something isn’t where I want it to be, I’m going to go back and work on that more and more. But also I have to pay really close attention, and that I think has really influenced how I listen and in what ways I listen. Because it’s not just an auditory process. You know, listening, there’s that listening with your whole body. Oh yeah, that’s a thing. You know what’s coming up, as I think about something, ooh, now I better go pay attention.

[00:16:05] Tesse: I love it. Paula, you’re looking reflective.

[00:16:10] Paula: I am listening. I’m listening to every word she says.

[00:16:14] Erin: I know. But we’re also afraid you’re cooking up a really big question back there, with which she stopped me and I’m going to be like what.

[00:16:22] Tesse: You know her. You know her well.

[00:16:26] Paula: That was a long laugh. I’ll make it simple. There were two things that jumped out at me. I love the fact, this is very simple but impactful. Now you want to help people transform from humdrum to remarkable, and create lasting change in their own lives. That was impactful to me. And so my question was, is that what it means to be a proactive coach?

[00:16:50] Erin: She wasn’t kidding on the stumping part. I think that is. When I think about coactive work, that’s when I do the deep one-on-one work with an individual, and that is there. But it’s also calling on my skills as an  All Score systems coach. Because I’m trying to create the successful ground conditions for sustainable change. I’m not, I’m always, and maybe I should go back and revisit that word transform in that overview right there. Because really what I’m trying to do is help people nudge themselves, or help systems nudge, you know, just tiny step. What’s the tiny thing that you can do that gets you in the direction that you want to go, Okay. Because for me, those big transformational changes where it’s like, I’m going to walk through the water and be reborn on the other side. Okay, that sounds wonderful, okay. But we’re human and we take all of our experience and all of our knowledge and all of the things, the habits that we’ve built, and we keep doing them on the other side. So how can we nudge a person, a system, a team into the behavior that they seek. And sometimes it’s asking them, you know, what do you hope others notice? But then how do you want to make that happen? How do you want to make that happen? So yeah, I do want to help people transform or nudge from humdrum to remarkable. But the thing is, their idea of humdrum and their idea of remarkable is undoubtedly different than mine. But I want them to step into whatever it is or whoever it is that they want to be. And I want that to be a sustainable lasting change for them, not something that’s going to fall apart the second that we aren’t working together. Does that make sense?

[00:18:39] Paula: A lot. You are remarkable. I wish we had recorded this video recording, because it encompasses everything about you. I mean, you are very, our listeners can’t see the interaction we are having together. But Erin is very warm, you are very inviting. There’s a deep understanding that exudes from you. And I’ve never met you before, but that’s what I pick up.

[00:19:03] Erin: You made a bottle that more, put that in the bottle that Tesse’s got over there. We can spray it on people as they walk in, because it’s true.

[00:19:09] Tesse: With a perfume. Yeah, absolutely true.

[00:19:12] Paula: It’s true. It means a lot to help people nudge themselves out from a humdrum to remarkable lives, cause life is tough.

[00:19:23] Erin: I think we need to be really careful about that word transform. I definitely need to go back and revisit, you know how I’ve written that there on that page. I’m thinking about catalyst for change and even that sounds, I love that word, catalyst, but nudge. Maybe it’s that gentle step. It’s like, okay, well what if this morning I walk the dogs for another 20 minutes? Meanwhile, Eleanor and Beatrice who are back here are like, yeah, let’s do that. I think the question that comes up there iswhat is the change you seek? And I don’t know it’s different for all of us. But I think we need to be able to sit with that question and really be with it, and to listen for what’s coming up there to pay attention.

[00:20:08] Tesse: I just love that concept and applying that to coaching, which is very powerful of sitting with something, not rushing on. I recall last year I was actually working with a counselor, psychologist, and he would just sit. And it was so hard because what I wanted to do was to rush onto some action or to rush onto something. But what he taught me to do was to sit with stuff, even when that stuff was uncomfortable and difficult. When it was painful, when it was, I would use the word chaotic and messy. You know, is that something thatresonates with you in coaching as well?

[00:20:57] Erin: Very much so. I was working with a system last week and we were talking about the value of reflection. And sitting with something in its messiness is giving it that reflective space. And we were talking about it kind of in three ways. So number one, you know, by giving its space for offline processing, that’s when I literally will go sit on some yoga blocks and just be with a system in my head, in my heart as I think about what’s happening there for them. But by giving that offline processing, it takes it out of all the storm  and drama  right there and brings it back down. And it’s just to be with it there for a moment. But the second way that reflective work, it stops work. And this is more from somatic coaching. It stops that somatic grab, okay. So think about it, when you have someone come up and grab your arm unexpectedly that’s obvious physical form of a grab. But what about when you get that unexpected email that’s asking you to do something that you hadn’t planned for or someone dropped something in a Slack channel? Again, different kinds of grab, all right. And by having that reflective space, it helps you just settle. Think about that for a second, take a deep breath and how do you want to respond to that? You know in Agile for a long time, we’ve talked about react versus respond. We want to respond, but that space there gives us time to step into response. And the third way that I was thinking about this, was a takeoff from the American poet “Mary Oliver”, and she has a line in her collection Upstream where she writes “attention is the beginning of devotion”. And I bastardize that a little bit. You know, what is your intention that you are taking forward with either that team or that system or that person. Intention can also be the beginning of devotion too and how do we want to incorporate that? What is our intention for that work? And that’s where I think sitting with something sometimes and really being with it and getting clear on that nudge that change you seek can be really helpful. And to slow down so that you can speed up later, or even continue to slow down more.

[00:23:22] Tesse: Wow, Paula, I’m going to give, because I need to sit with this thought right now.

[00:23:28] Erin: Just wondering, like, I’m going to take this back for myself.

[00:23:30] Tesse: I’m going to sit with this thought, you know as I spray my Erin fragrance. I’m doing this Paula.

[00:23:37] Erin: Remember you call it the Erin fragrance, seriously, still in my head. I’m like, you haven’t smelled me when I’m walked out of the barn. I’m not kidding. Because my mom has a horse named Doug, and Doug has his own emotional support pony named Jazzy, and she’s a terrier So literally my mom has the Doug and Pony show, not the dog and pony show. She has the Doug and Pony show. And I’m sorry, even a well kept barn, which is a beautiful place, you know because they smell like hay and everything. But you still wind up smelling like the barn, all right. And I’m like going, wow, that’s an interesting fragrance you’re going to be having if you’re pulling it from me.

[00:24:15] Tesse: Yeah. But you know that reminds me of that thing about realities, isn’t it? You know, kind of reality of that smell and the memories that are with it. Plus, when you’re talking about effort and work and all those things, that’s the fragrance. That is a fragrance. That’s what makes that unique. That’s what makes that special and memorable, and that’s what we embrace. That fragrance is what it is. And when I’m thinking of you, it’s all those things. You know the barn Erin, the coach Erin, the all the different parts of, she’s all these things. All these things, you know, and you know

[00:24:57] Erin: Know that old, it’s that Robin Williams, Nathan Lane movie, the Bird Cage.

[00:25:03] Tesse: I’ve heard of it. I never, yes.

[00:25:04] Erin: Yeah. Well there’s this great scene in there where Robin Williams, he’s on stage with Nathan Lane, but Robin Williams is, you know, imitating all these different styles of dance. He’s like, you know, Fosse, Fosse, Fosse, Martha Graham, Martha Graham, Twila, Twila, and they keep it all inside. Yeah. It’s like all these different fragrances and you keep it all inside. And I highly recommend that movie by the way. If you do not laugh yourself sick, I don’t know what will make you laugh.

[00:25:35] Tesse: I’m going to definitely, that’s on my to watch list, it is. The different parts of you, the different parts of you. I’m going to, Paula as I said, I’m sitting with the Erin’s fragrance, and I leave you with the last word, the last question, Paula.

[00:25:52] Erin: I’ll let you get the last question.

[00:25:53] Tesse: She does.

[00:25:56] Paula: I have a statement.

[00:25:58] Erin: Oh, you have a statement? Okay. Let’s hear your statement Paula.

[00:26:03] Paula: The Erin fragrance is real.

[00:26:06] Erin: The Erin fragrance is real. It’s real earthy.

[00:26:14] Paula: I love the work you do.

[00:26:16] Erin: Thank you.

[00:26:17] Paula: I mean, it’s not superficial in the least.

[00:26:20] Tesse: No.

[00:26:20] Paula: It touches the soul. And we need that. We need that.

[00:26:26] Tesse: We all do.

[00:26:27] Erin: Yeah. Nothing would make me happier than being, you know, you asked me how I wanted to be known. How do I want it to be noticed? I want to be known as that coach, that systems coach who will be with you. She will walk with you. She will stand with you. I cry with my clients. I sometimes make them angry. I show them things. I reflect things in their system. I read what’s there. But I want them to have those skills going forward so that they can share that with the world too.

[00:27:01] Paula: And on that note, what else can we say, so that they can share that with the world.

[00:27:06] Erin: Let me say one more thing on that. I was asked earlier today about some of my work, and I think as a systems coach part of my job is to reteach a thing, it’s loveliness, and that’s a line from a “Galway Canal” poem. And by the way if anyone’s paying attention, this is where you start to get those humanist principles that I bring into all my work. We’ve already gone through at least two poets here, probably a third, so that’s where it’s coming in. But “Galway Canal”, you know, to reteach a thing, it’s loveliness. All systems are beautiful. Sometimes we just need help seeing that. How do we work with that? How do we want to be in that? So that systems can see it again for themselves, and they become healthy and whole and productive and nudged in the direction that is joyful for them. Yeah. Oh see, I figured that out for myself now too. Nice job, Paula. Well done.

[00:28:07] Tesse: I told you Podcast Paula, not to be toyed with. .

[00:28:13] Erin: Well, there’s a bumper sticker in that in there. “Podcast Paula” not to be toyed.

[00:28:19] Tesse: Exactly.

[00:28:21] Paula: No, I mean, Erin, as I said, the fragrance is real. The different fragrances that Tesse outlined there, Erin, the organizational, the coactive and agile coach person.

[00:28:35] Erin: The powerful elixir, the three of them combined. I think going forward I want to add more work, you know around the somatic side. I’ve done a bit of work there. I want to add more of that. You are lucky Tesse over in the UK you have a really wonderful coach, Caitlin Walker. And she does a lot of work around clean language. And I’m going to be adding of that work too.

[00:28:58] Tesse: Yeah, yeah. And we’re bringing you back to talk about clean language and clean questions and that’s another one.

[00:29:06] Erin: Oh, yeah, I’ll bring you guest too.

[00:29:08] Tesse: We’ll be, yeah, please do. Cause I want to bring Paula, I’m big on that. And I think I got big enough because of you actually, because I came to your session on clean questions.

[00:29:22] Erin: No, that work, you know, I was actually talking about that earlier today. Blank access questions with an ork of the tie is so, you know, it’s right there with that clean work and really asking a question free of judgment that doesn’t have my own metaphor. It’s not freighted with my own work to be able to ask that of a system and then give it space to respond. Yeah. Do you ever notice that systems are often just waiting to be asked a question. They’ve been overlooked, shunted put down quieted for so long. But to ask the question and then to wait for the answer. Oh yeah.

[00:30:01] Paula: And I think that’s what happened here today.

[00:30:04] Erin: Yeah.

[00:30:04] Paula: We got answers. And so again to our wonderful guests, you noticed your precious stories and your lives matter as shown by Erin Randall. So we ask our listeners and we ask anyone who wants to be on this show to know that in “TesseLeads”, you’re supported, you’re encouraged, and you’re nurtured by our guests and by the quality of questions and answers that we get. So please head over to “Apple Podcast”, “Google Podcast”, “Spotify”, or anywhere that you listen to podcasts, and click subscribe. And if you’d like to be a guest on a show, reach out to us on our new website, “TesseLeads”, which is “www.tesseleads.com/contact”, and we will definitely get in touch with you.

Celebrating Max Ekesi

Podcasters united cross three countries, United Kingdom, United States  and  Nigeria.   Paula Okonneh, Tesse Akpeki and Sade Marriot joined podcast guest Max Ekesi, President / CEO of the Agile Austin Organisation and IT Senior Manager at Paypal.  Max has been leading Agile Transformations since 2007 in large enterprises specifically leveraging Agile & Kaizen principles.

Max’s 47th Birthday visiting Disneyland California was special.   He spent quality time with his family.   Turning to work, Max shares how the agile mindset that focuses on value, being fluid, adaptable, purposeful, nimble and committed to making a difference has given so much value to his life.  

“You are either adapting or being disrupted as you are choosing to be proactive or reactive.  Creating high performing teams in Bangalore, Singapore and Lagos and doing these together meet the hopes and dream of people in developing countries. “

“Clarity of expectations and a focus on potential underpins agility.  ChatGPT which is the human interaction with AI is an exciting development towards adaptability and growth.   What is essential is learning and growing together.”

“Taking the best part of experiences in any situation can advance the fortunes of people in different countries. As digital  entities  such as Paypal and Dell share their expertise, help out, spark interest and give back to developing countries, young people are better supported, have opportunities to connect and   better enabled to leverage their huge potential even in the face of infrastructure issues. “

Voicing her encouragement, Banana Island Living podcaster Sade Marriot says, 

“A bank of experiences become currency as people are able to function at every level as IP is shared. “ 

Agreeing, Max replies that mining potential in Lagos, Nigeria for a better tomorrow to offer support and good jobs has formed part of his celebratory memories.  

“Regardless of the circumstances, people in developing economies contribute to the future I can see.     Together we can identify and tackle inequity by applying democratization approaches.   I can use my life to get things done and make a difference through utilising an agile agenda looking through a realistic lens of what becomes possible as we do this together.”

Finding My Way Dealing With Burnout

Lisa Hammett talks about how she dealt with burnout and found a way out. “My mother, was bipolar, diagnosed late in life.  It was chronic anxiety related. There were periods in my life growing up where she wouldn’t talk to me for like a week. If I did something to really upset her, she would just completely shut me out. I developed people pleasing tendencies and hyper achieving tendencies. I was always pushing myself really hard to get good grades and doing everything to please her.” For my mom I would tell myself she’s doing the best she can and give her some grace”.

“My experience, reaching burnout has really led me to where I can serve my clients to the best of my ability now”.

“Success is different to everybody. We’re so used to playing small that it’s hard for us to envision what our life can look like if we really were to be successful and allow ourselves to be successful. We all have that capability within us.”

“A misguided view of what success really looked like can add to a skewed world view.  “Being happy, healthy, and fulfilled really to me is successful.”

The right brain is love and the left brain is fear.  “I was so afraid of being vulnerable and being judged.  A better approach is using more empathy as opposed to judgment and blame.”   

When asked what words are meaningful to her, Lisa recalls these as “pause”, “limitless possibilities “  and “grateful”. “When we practice gratitude consistently, we are happier and healthier. We can better impact the lives of others. Why we were put on this earth, is to impact others in our own unique way”.

Lisa Hammett, is an author, a TEDx speaker and a success coach, and helps stressed and burned out business owners and executives develop mental fitness, manage stress, manage anxiety, and ultimately get healthy.

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki and co-host Paula Okonneh, that’s me. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share your story, to hear stories, and to tell your stories and experiences. Here our top experts and thought leaders are creating opportunities, navigating diverse range of challenges, confronting their dilemmas and shaping their future. Our guest today is Lisa Hammett, and her topic today is “finding my way towards dealing with burnout”. I’ll tell you a bit about Lisa. She’s an author. She’s a TEDx speaker and a success coach. She helps stressed and burntout business owners and executives develop mental fitness, manage stress, manage anxiety, and ultimately get healthy. After 26 years in the corporate retailing industry, she reached a burnout. So she left the corporate sector in 2005 and started her wellness journey and lost 65 pounds in the process. Fastforward to 2021, she completed an intensive global coaching program with high performing coach or HPC. And she’s currently working on her positive intelligence certification. She has a book, she’s an author, and we’ll let her talk about that as I welcome her to “TesseLeads”.

[00:01:55] Lisa: Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here.

[00:01:59] Tesse: Hi lisa, I am so excited to have you on the show. Thank you for coming along. You know the first time I saw you, I was saying to myself, if we get you on the show, that will be a boon. And when you said yes, I couldn’t contain myself. So thank you for coming. And meeting you again is just so exciting. You know Lisa, what comes to my mind is your journey that led you towards this track of the best life. And you know, I’m curious, and I’m sure Paula is as well and our listeners will be, about your personal journey. What was growing up like? You know, what were the things that, the highlights that led you to this pathway where you are helping others to go towards their best life?

[00:02:49] Lisa: That’s a great question, because I never in a million years thought I would’ve ended up in the coaching space or professional speaking, let alone writing a book. I think all of our life circumstances happen for a reason. And as you mentioned I spent 26 years in the corporate retail sector and I reached burnout. And I felt like I had hit a wall and was miserable and unhealthy. My relationship was challenged, and I left and went through some major personal development. And during that period I realized about myself how a lot of my behavior stemmed from situations with my mother when I was growing up. My parents adopted me older in life, they were from the depression era. And my mother, she was bipolar basically and was never really diagnosed until late in life. And it was more chronic anxiety related. But there were periods in my life growing up where she wouldn’t talk to me for like a week. If I did something to really upset her, she would just completely shut me out. So I developed people pleasing tendencies and hyper achieving tendencies so that I was always pushing myself really hard to get good grades and, you know, doing everything to please her. Because, oh my gosh if I didn’t, you know, she would shut me out. So this manifested in a lot of stress and unnecessary stress that I placed on myself as a young adult and then older in life. And it, you know, transitioned into the workplace, and it was difficult and I realized that that is no way to live. We can’t please everybody. And then it all stemmed you know really from fear, fear of being successful. And I just, I had to do a lot of personal work to get through that. And I think, you know, my personal work and then my experience, reaching burnout has really led me to where I can serve my clients to the best of my ability now, and why I’m so passionate about it. Because I just, I don’t want them to go through what I went through. Because it’s not a good place to be in.

[00:05:14] Paula: Wow. I’m speechless. There’s something that you said that really touched me or jumped out at me. The fear of being successful. You know, we hear a lot more about the fear of failure. That fear of being successful is a big thing. Can you talk a little bit about that?

[00:05:32] Lisa: Yes, you’re so right. You know, you hear of failure, you know fear of not doing well, but fear of success. Because we’re so used to playing small that it’s hard for us to envision what our life can look like if we really were to be successful, and allow ourselves to be successful. Because we all have that capability within us. We’re all on an equal playing field. We don’t feel that way often, but we all have that within us. And it’s literally our fears that hold us back. And fearing success is basically saying, well I haven’t been really successful before, so what makes me think I could be really successful now? Or maybe you were successful but you had a misguided view of what success really looked like and you attached it to what other people, you know, how they measured success or how you perceived that they were successful. When really, yes, they might be doing well, but in their mind they might not even be fully successful. So it’s all this mind trash that we tell ourselves and this misperceptions that we have of other people and our environment, that just really can create a lot of stress and trauma.

[00:06:59] Tesse: Yeah, I mean there are lots of people, including myself, that would be thinking this fear of success and be able to relate to it. And there are not a lot of sessions like teaching sessions or others that actually go into, as Paula was saying, into the fear of success and what that mean. So I’m rather curious in linking that fear of success with fear of failure and your role as a success coach. What does a success coach do? We’ve heard of life coaching, executive coaching, but success coach, excuse me, what does that mean? Enlighten us Lisa.

[00:07:34] Lisa: Okay, yeah, cause it does encompass a lot of different things. And to your point, success is different to everybody. Your version of success could be vastly different from what I feel success is. Some individuals attach monetary success to their wellbeing, and they want to reach a certain income, and when they’ve reached that certain income, they feel like, okay I’ve finally arrived I’m successful. And for me, I found that being happy, healthy, and fulfilled really to me is successful. And yes there is the monetary component to it, but that’s not the most important piece of it. So when I work with clients it’s really defining for them what does success look like to them. And for them to really visualize what it’s going to feel like when they reach that point in their life. And to realize that just because they lose weight, for example, doesn’t mean that they might be happy, successful, and fulfilled. So it’s not like a destination, it’s really an emotional mindset that needs to be developed over a period of time. So that’s why I love working with clients because it’s a process and it’s different for everybody. And the mind is such a powerful piece in the puzzle.

[00:08:58] Tesse: I love this, you know, kind of the mindset. A few days ago I was on LinkedIn, Paula is at the brunt of my exciting moments. Cause when I see these things, I just send them onto her. And there was something like, there’s a picture of an umbrella and you know, what was happening with that umbrella and asking a different kind of question about, oh, these are the challenges we’re facing. What would success look like and who can help us? And then the other thing was a funnel, and this funnel was actually kind of like towards convergent thinking and saying, oh help we’re getting outta here. So the two different shifts. So over to you Lisa, about what kind of things have you been seeing from your experience as being barriers that can get in the way of that best life? What kind of things? Cause you’re saying these things to me and I’m thinking, yeah, we can do it. I can do it. Paula can do it. But sometimes I think we might sabotage ourselves. So what do those sabotage things, what do they look like? How can we experience those things that create, you know, kind of walls or, you know deep pitfalls for us?

[00:10:00] Lisa: That’s a great question and that’s why I love the mental fitness piece of this, the whole positive intelligence mental fitness piece. Because what it does is, it’s a science between your left brain and your right brain and all of your negative emotions. All those saboteurs that you just alluded to, those reside in your left brain, your left analytical brain. And in the positive intelligence sector you know, some of our saboteurs include, well, first and foremost our judge, which is judgements that we feel about ourselves. How we judge ourselves, but also how we judge others. And that is like the ringleader of all the saboteurs and then the others attached to them. And it can be the controller, it could be the hyper-rational. It could be the hyper-vigilant. It could be the pleaser. It could be the hyper achiever. It could be the stickler. There’s so many different ones. But it’s recognizing where you fall into that and creating awareness and the whole mental fitness piece of it is being able to recognize them when they appear, intercepting them and then shifting to a positive mindset, which we call the sage perspective. And that’s where peace, clarity, calm, reside. And when we are making decisions or having conversations from the sage perspective, we are looking at things from love basically. So the right brain is love and the left brain is fear basically. So when we’re looking at things from love, we have a whole different mindset and we can look at challenges as what is a gift and opportunity in this? Or let’s look at this situation with empathy, you know. Is there somebody who’s really challenging that is triggering us, but being able to say, okay, if I were to put myself in their shoes with what they’re going through, how would I feel? You know, really relating to that. And then learning to look at the big picture and understanding and being curious, you know when your saboteur arises. Huh, why is it doing that? Why am I feeling that way? So it’s just, it’s a fascinating science and you know the actual technique that we use to shift that mindset is very simple and you can do it in the moment. So if you are triggered instead of just automatically responding, which is human nature, it just causes us to pause and engage on actually one of our senses. So it could be sense of sight, touch, hearing, taste. And doing that for like 10 to 15 seconds, so that it takes the focus off of that issue and just kind of puts us into a space of where we’re really not thinking about anything, and then we can respond from the right brain.

[00:13:07] Paula: I’m just loving this Lisa. You know one of my mantras or my daily mantra is, I learn something new every day. And I love that I’ve learned today that the right brain is love and the left brain is fear. I need to figure out which one I am.

[00:13:32] Tesse: Paula, I know from what I’ve seen of you, you have so much love going on. That’s

[00:13:46] Paula: So Lisa, we live in the age where we have so much information at our fingertips and you know there’s so many things, new things to learn. I knew I’m a baby bloomer, so let me just say this. But I wanted to learn things. When growing up I had to go to the library, probably look for an encyclopedeia, you know, and spend some time there. Now we do not have to do all of that. I mean, we can, that’s one of our options rather than our only choices. And so listening to you talk about your early life. You had a mom who was bipolar and how it affected you. If you were to talk with your mom or if you could talk to your younger self, what would you say to yourself now that you know what you know?

[00:14:29] Lisa: I would say to myself that she’s doing the best she can, and that it is the illness and it’s not her, and that she loves me. And I know that now, and I knew that to a point, but I would get so angry and resentful and then would just retreat. And then, you know, it took me years to really feel comfortable to communicate in a more intimate way, you know, with someone in conversation. Because I was so afraid of being vulnerable and being judged. So it’s really using more empathy as opposed to judgment and blame. And just, you know, say she’s doing the best she can and give her some grace.

[00:15:23] Paula: What you just said is important because as I said, we know now what we didn’t know. And so I still come across young people who have been parented by parents who didn’t know what we know now. And that’s a great thing for people to know that they did the best that they could with what they knew. That’s very helpful. It’s healing almost, you know? Cause then you know, we don’t spend a lot of time, as you said, with the mindtrash, you know, in second guessing ourselves or second guessing somebody else’s motive when we understand that they did the best that they could with what they had.

[00:16:04] Tesse: That’s so beautiful. So beautiful, Lisa. You know, you’ve given us such a gift from your heart. And I can really feel hearts coming through. And you know, what’s coming into my mind is back to that best life. And for you, you know, if you were to do like three words for your best life, for Lisa. Now it’s you. I’m encouraging you, we are inviting you to be selfish and tell us your three best words for your best life, what would they be?

[00:16:33] Lisa: My three words for living my best life would be, “Pause”. The word “Limitless” comes to mind, and it was actually my word during the pandemic. And it really resonated with me because we all have so many possibilities in our life and so many opportunities. They are truly limitless. And we often get so buried in the weeds that we don’t see those. So to recognize that life is full of limitless possibilities. So I guess pausing first so that you can recognize that. And “Grateful”. Practice gratitude. Because studies have shown that when we practice gratitude consistently, we are happier and healthier, and we can better impact the lives of others. And I truly believe that is why we were put on this Earth, is to impact others in our own unique way. And when we can express gratitude, we’re better able to do that.

[00:17:53] Tesse: It is just swan like. Beautiful.

[00:17:59] Lisa: Thank you.

[00:18:00] Paula: So beautiful. I love all that you’ve pause, so that you can think of your limitless possiblities. You’ve sumed it up.

[00:18:16] Lisa: Thank you. That was a great question.

[00:18:19] Tesse: That’s the umbrella. That’s the umbrella, Lisa. It’s not the funnel. Not the funnel.

[00:18:25] Lisa: Agreed. Agreed.

[00:18:29] Paula: I was gonna ask for highlights, but you sumed it up perfectly. Pause, Limitless Possibilities and Gratitude. So we’ll close out by saying, your precious stories and lives matter. And to our listeners, we say continue to share them with us. This also applies to our guests. Others are supported, encouraged, and nurtured when they know that they’re never alone. And so we ask our listeners to continue to head over to “Apple Podcast”, to “Google Podcast”, “Spotify”, or anywhere you listen to podcast, click subscribe, share it with your friends. And if you have found “TesseLeads” helpful, please let us know in your reviews. Again, if you have any topics or questions you’d like us to cover, send us a note. And if you’d like to be a guest on our show, “TesseLeads”, head over to our new website, which is “www.tesseleads” to our contact page and apply.

Thriving On Vulnerability

“I just kind of stopped having shame. I thrive on vulnerability. I get to just be me , I get to make mistakes, and I get to learn from people who have a lot more experience. I think any particular wisdom that I might have at this point in my life just comes from being willing to talk about all the things with people, and hear what they have to say”  

Trust, leadership and ethics speaker Dallin Cooper, author of Get On The Bull

Answers to meeting our goals in life probably depend on trust. We model what we see and reciprocate. Vulnerability is the other side of trust.  Vulnerability extends trust. Trusting calls for vulnerability. We need to trust others first.  We are trusting them not to hurt us.  Scarily, there are no guarantees!  We have to put ourselves in a spot where we run the risk of getting hurt. Ironically, to build trust, we have to give others the chance to become trustworthy. 


This leads into a whole field of research about how to develop trust, what trust is, and what are the unifying characteristics of the people who you want to be around, identifying who are doing great things and who are able to make differences in the world.

“I am not achieving 100% all the time. I’m trying to do my best. Reality check – we are all going to make mistakes.  Honesty is a fundamental ingredient for building trust. Nothing’s destroys trust quite like lying to people all the time. Most of us would also say that honesty is a core element of ethical behaviour.  A very important part of building trust is accountability and taking responsibility for your actions.  What helps? “Caring about how other people are feeling and what they’re thinking and trying to understand their needs.

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host, Tesse Akpeki and co-host Paula Okonneh. Our podcast “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space. Here guests share how they are navigating a diverse range of challenges, confronting their dilemmas, and shaping their futures. Our guest today is none other but the awesome Dallin Cooper. Dallin is a speaker, he’s a consultant, and he is the author of a leadership book called “Get on the Bull”. He has founded and sold both a marketing agency and a sustainable dog chew company. And he also just launched his own podcast called “Ethics for Humans”. There’s some fun things that we found out about Dallin, and one of them is that he grew up as a shepherd. Can you believe that? A second thing is that he has lived in China for some time. And the third is that he onced rehabilitated two traumatized rescue Al Packers. Today we are going to be talking about rising to the challenge, and we will have none other than the amazing, awesome, wonderful Dallin Cooper tell us all about that. So welcome to “TesseLeads” and I’ll turn it over to you and Tesse.

[00:01:45] Tesse: Hi, welcome Dallin, and I’m just so excited to have you on the show. Thank you for saying yes, .

[00:01:54] Dallin: Thank you for having me.

[00:01:57] Tesse: You know, you are amazing. I’ve read your work. I heard you on sound view, and I just thought, wow, you’re just someone who I want to connect with. And when I talked to Paula, she agreed. And you know, I’ve listened to a number of shows where you’ve been a podcast guest. And I have come across a book called “Get on the Bull”. And there’s something that stood out for me. And this is a saying, “when you become a person that can be trusted, you become someone that can lead, uplift, and make meaningful change”. Please say a bit more about that.

[00:02:39] Dallin: So I think that trust is probably one of the most important things in the world, period. And there are a few other people who have done some really cool things in the trust space. One of the first attempts at writing a book that I made, and that book has not yet come into existence, and maybe one day it will, was very much all about trust. Because the more I thought about what is it that makes people happy? What is it that makes strong relationships? What is it that makes people fun to be around? To make them good leaders? To make them good bosses? No matter what question I asked, the answer ended up coming back to trust, right? Like, do you wanna make more money? Well, then you need to trust people and they need to trust you. Do you wanna have more free time? Well, you need to trust people to handle things, and they need to trust you to take care of things with a flexible schedule. Like insert whatever your goal in life is here, and the answer is probably trust. And I said that quote at one point, because it really is, if you want to accomplish most things, trust is one of the prerequisites. And obviously that leads into a whole field of research about how to develop trust and what trust is, and that becomes a big thing. But It’s very much a unifying characteristic of the people who you wanna be around and who are doing great things. Who are able to make differences in the world. We were chatting briefly before the show that many of the governments were in different countries. But one unifying factor we have is that governments tend to be really dysfunctional sometimes. And a lot of the population is sitting there being like, wow, why can’t our government just get it together? And it’s because a lot of times half the population doesn’t trust them at any given point in time, right? Can you imagine if you just literally trusted every politician in our current world, I would call you an idiot if you trusted every politician. But wouldn’t that be awesome if they were all trustworthy? They made campaign promises and then they all did them. Like, wow, how neat would that be? And a lot of our governments and our systems and our structures are just completely paralyzed. They’re kind of cut off at the knees because they don’t trust each other. The different people within the system, the administration, the government, they don’t trust each other. The people they’re supposed to be helping don’t trust them. They don’t trust the people they’re helping. And so then you just create this giant mess and nobody actually gets helped, and nothing is actually made better.

[00:05:26] Tesse: I love that answer, cause sometimes another thing that happens is paralysis analysis. You know, people just analyze things to death and do nothing. And it gets so hard to have access and all those kind of things. But you’re right that it all starts with trust. Trust the competent, the capability, the likability, the humility, the echo rather than ego. All those things go into trust, and I really like what you’ve said. In fact, I don’t just like it, I love it. Paula. I love it so much. I’m kind of like gonna sit with that love. I’m passing over to you.

[00:06:00] Paula: Yeah, I mean, I love it. Especially when I know that Dallin talked earlier on prior to this podcast recording, about ethical leadership. And when we think about trust, you think it goes hand in hand with ethics. And I know you place a lot of emphasis on ethics and all, but is still ethical leadership. So tell me about that. You’ve gave us a very good apt description on what trust was. Where does that come into play with ethics? Are they one on the same thing or not? And I know this is a bit unfair. This seems like a very complicated question, but it isn’t. It’s just what I know one of the things you are passionate about.

[00:06:42] Dallin: So this feels kind of like one of those, a square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares type of things. I’m not sure which one is the square and which one’s the rectangle though. Right? It’s like trust and ethics go together a lot, and many of the principles are the same, right? I would say that honesty is a fundamental ingredient for building trust, right? Nothing’s gonna destroy trust quite like lying to people all the time. And most of us would also say that honesty is a core element of ethical behavior. I also believe that a very important part of building trust is accountability, right? Taking responsibility for your actions. We are all going to make mistakes. That is life. Often you actually build more trust by making mistakes than if you do everything right. Because if you let people see you make mistakes, and then you let them see you fix the mistakes, now they know how you handle mistakes. So if all you’ve ever seen from someone is the perfect shiny surface, you have to ask yourself like, okay, what are they hiding? What’s it look like when everything goes wrong? Because is this all front? Is it all fake? Is this like manicured? So when I was doing digital marketing, a lot of my local marketing clients, you know, a dentist or whatever, would work really hard to get all the five star reviews on like Google. I would tell them like, don’t try and get rid of the one star reviews. You actually want one star reviews, because a business that has 4.8 stars or 4.9 stars actually performs better than one that has all five. Cause if you have a thousand 5 star reviews, it’s sketchy. It’s like nobody has that many customers and never messes up. Right? It’s like, did you buy these? Did you bribe people? Are they all your family and friends? Like It feels off to us, and it’s like nobody’s that perfect. You know if you only have like three or four or five star reviews sure, that’s fine. But when you’re up into the hundreds, it’s like really? You’ve never messed up? You’ve never had a misunderstanding that made a customer angry? Yeah, right. What’s more likely is that you have a handful of one star reviews and then people go to the one star reviews and they read the review, and then they read your response. Because they know that you mess up. Like that’s implied by being a person. You aren’t gonna convince someone you don’t make mistakes. They wanna see how you handle it. So I think accountability is a crucial part of building trust, cause people want to see how you handle your mistakes. I would say that accountability is a crucial part of ethics, because, again, if you’re wanting to be a good person, if you’re wanting to be responsible to those around you, you’re gonna mess up. But it’s how you handle those mistakes. It’s how you own them. Take responsibility for your actions. Ethics is kind of a scary field to be in. Because at some point, I’m gonna say something, probably a lot of some things and people are gonna really hate me for it. They are going to be like, but Dallin you are supposed to be this good person that did all the things right. And like, why don’t you practice what you preach? And it’s like, I’m probably gonna lie at some point and someone’s gonna be like, Dallin, you always talk about honesty and how important it is. And it’s like, yep, it sure is important, but that doesn’t mean that I am 100% at it all the time. Like I’m trying. That’s kind of the terrifying accountability thing of this entire field. It’s like trying to build your reputation on helping people to be better people. And it’s like, I don’t know if I’m even a good person yet. So I’m talking in circles a little bit. But you can take these principles. Honesty, accountability, I would say compassion also. Whether you call it compassion or empathy, consideration, perspective. I’ve used all of those words in different ways of caring about how other people are feeling and what they’re thinking and trying to understand their needs. All of those things are things that build trust. They are also things that make you a more ethical person. I would say that ethical people are likely more trustworthy. I would think that there’s probably a correlation that people who are trustworthy are usually also ethical. But it probably isn’t always the case. I think we’ve probably all trusted people before and found out that we shouldn’t have. Because they were not being morally upright, and that’s how it goes sometimes. So there’s a lot of overlap, and there’s a lot of overlap in the principles for sure. A leader who is trusted and worthy of trust is more likely to be unethical leader and vice versa. But they aren’t like quite exactly the same thing, maybe that’s just pedantic.

[00:11:36] Paula: I love your answer. What was going through my mind is that he’s answered it as a true millennial, and why I say that is that. One thing I love about millennials is their honesty and their ability to be transparent. And that has worked in the favor of baby boomers. In that what millennials have done is to say, “hey, we are all humans, we’re gonna mess up. But what we can work on is seeing how we can correct our mistakes and try not to make those mistakes, knowing fully well that you may make those mistakes. But the effort seen in making the correction is what makes you a lot more approachable. And in some ways makes us more compassionate, so that people can see us as who we are. Because I think better leaders are leaders who show those that they’re leading that, look, I’m human. I’m going to err. I’m gonna make mistakes. But I’m here because I wanna help you, and we can grow by me growing. So I love your answer. Thank you for that.

[00:12:41] Dallin: It is interesting. I feel like we’ve really developed that level of, okay, we’re gonna mess up. We’re gonna make mistakes. It’s okay. You need to just, you gotta own those mistakes and grow and move on. And that seems to apply up until you reach a certain level of fame. And then it’s like if you’re really famous, then like cancel culture kicks in, and it’s like, no mistakes or you’re out. And I don’t know how that happened, where it’s like everybody gets mercy up until this level of famous. And then if you say something that we don’t like 10 years ago. It’s over. Your career is ruined. Okay, hopefully I just never end up that famous. Hopefully I’m.

[00:13:26] Tesse: You know I love what you’re saying Dallin. In fact, you can see I’m a fan of yours. You know, I’m super fan of Dallin Cooper. And you know what you’re saying and what Paula has mentioned about you being a millennial, and I think for me that is so rewarding for our future. Cause you know, our future is in good hands because of millennials today. I’m a big believer in that. But, I’m going to make a comment and then ask a question. Cause I’m a big fan of Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability. And being a fan of her work on vulnerability. And she’s also written a book, co-written it on “Shame and Guilt in the Black community”. And that also touched me about how race and vulnerability are tied together. So I’ve read that. And I also recently came across Gary Chapman’s book, which is on Apologies. And the types of apology, how to say sorry and actually mean it. Now, what these things are doing is a revelation to me, because I try and practice what these books are saying, and I’m finding out not easy. Not easy to say, sorry, and admit I mess up and I use what I’m gonna do to put it right and all those kind of things. But on a more kind of deeper level, I’m actually enjoying my life more now, because of that space of release of not being perfect. I never was. So the thing about being, I would ever be perfect in itself was a myth. It was never, never true. So that release of I’m human, I get it wrong, I mess up, I can cause correct, you know, all that. As long as I have a cause, I have a purpose. All those sort of things are so helpful. So I’m gonna come back to you, and this is my question. How did you get to be with this mindset at your age? I mean, I’m kind of like, whoa. How did you get here? What was your journey like coming to this place where you are now?

[00:15:15] Dallin: As my wife would say, it must be terrifying to live in my brain. And that is the thing that she has told me on multiple occasions. You wanna talk analysis paralysis. I am not fun to go to lunch with. Menus are just terrifying to me cause there’s so much to think about. And one of the things that’s kind of hard is we have no clue how other people think, right? Like I’ve often wished I could switch brains with my wife for a day, just like see through her eyes. Because it’s like you must have a fundamentally different view of just like the world than me. And it would be very interesting to be able to see and feel and think how she does. The amount of like compassion and perspective that would give would be so cool. Cause all we have is like our own little brain and narrative. So I don’t know if I actually think that different from like my wife. But I just think about stuff a lot. Like somebody asked me on one of these things, like, how do you come up with these ideas for like this book and these videos and all the things you do? And I was kind of stunned. I was like, I don’t know. You see things happen and then I just think about them for a long time until stuff comes out, right? Until I come up with ideas or answers. And I don’t think that I have extra special insight powers or anything. But I actually really love vulnerability as a topic, because it is the other side of trust, right? We talked about trust and like vulnerability is extending trust. It’s trusting someone else, not getting them to trust you, but you are trusting them not to hurt you. And so it’s like giving someone else the chance. And I have for a very long time just loved that idea. If Brene Brown didn’t already just have it on lock, I would have pursued vulnerability as a topic of expertise more. But it’s like, you know what, Brene, you got this covered way better than I think I ever could. Because I quickly realized after the awkward teenage years, which are just a tough time for everyone and nobody’s comfortable with themselves. I just kind of stopped having shame. I thrive on vulnerability. Like I think it’s a blast often to the concern of everyone around me, because I don’t have any topic that I feel like is off topic. Like I’m comfortable talking with anyone about anything, and vulnerability is something that I really enjoy. I like the act of trusting people. And I think that has caused me to put myself in a lot of situations where I get to learn from other people. Because I don’t have a lot of barriers. I don’t have like the shell and the mask that many people put up to try to protect themselves from that vulnerability. And because of that, I get to just be me and I get to make mistakes, and I get to learn from people who have a lot more experience. And I think any particular wisdom that I might have at this point in my life just comes from being willing to talk about all the things with all the people, and hear what they have to say. Because there have been a lot of times that I’ve said, oh my goodness guys, like here’s this crazy idea. Wouldn’t it be cool if this were the case? Or have you ever thought about this neat concept? And then somebody says “Dallin that’s idiotic, right? Like you couldn’t do that and that would never work. And you say, “oh, you’re right, that is idiotic”. But what if it were this way? And then that version’s better, and they’re like, “okay, maybe that makes sense”. But a lot of times if you’re scared of the vulnerability, you never get past that first step. First, you might not be comfortable sharing the idea at all, so you never get the feedback. Or you share the idea and you get the response down, that’s idiotic. And that shuts you down. Because nobody likes being told that their idea that they think is cool is not cool. I don’t know if you’ve heard the stereotype of like, you know, the kid in their physics class. It’s like their freshman physics class and they’re like, wait, but what if we put a race car on a train and it creates infinite energy and we solve the energy crisis forever? And it’s like, okay, I know that you’ve learned one month’s worth of physics. But I don’t think you actually can solve the energy crisis like way smarter people than you have tried. I was that guy. I was that guy who was like, “hey, it’s one month into ethics class, guys what if this revolutionized ethics forever”? And you know, ethics professor is like, “okay, Dallin that’s a fun idea and all, but there’s some bigger pictures here”. And being willing to just put the stuff out there and get feedback and get criticism, and keep going despite that. Not letting that make you withdraw and quit being vulnerable. I don’t know if that, that’s a very interesting question.

[00:20:11] Tesse: We thought long and hard to ask you that. Cause the things that you’re bringing up to my mind and that is vulnerability to practice it. It’s kind of scary. But as I said, for me, I found it quite liberating. So one of the things I did, I went for counseling, and for the first time in my life I invited my friend to come to this counseling session. I’ve never ever ever ever taken anybody with me to my counseling session. But this was this year. And taking her to this session was taking a risk. But we have drawn closer because she came to that session. We’ve actually become even closer friends because she saw the vulnerability. And just today she just dropped by and said, you are my mind, I’m just thinking about you. Guess what? She was right. I needed her with me today. So there’s something about what you’re saying about the barriers come down. You’re extending trust. But more than that, people see each other rather than see past each other. They actually see you. Obviously not everybody that you can do that with. But when you do it, and when you imagine extending that to our workplaces. Imagine how we are when we are saying, actually, I’m not coping today, I’m struggling here. Imagine how it is when we celebrate together and we know what we are celebrating. Envy and jealousy doesn’t become part of that equation. Just imagine what becomes possible. And with you Dallin, I think we should do more of it. We should actually take the risk and be vulnerable in a safe way, but actually be in that space. Paula, what do you think? What are your thoughts here?

[00:21:50] Paula: I love everything you’re saying. Because yeah, when barriers come down, lots of things float to the top, you know. It’s almost like a little child who says what’s on their mind, but you get really honest answers. You know, when you are vulnerable, when you’re open to hearing things from a different angle and hearing different perspectives. For example, I know we talked about being in different countries and how the cultures differ. There’s some things I’ve sat back in my quiet time and thought, “hmm, that’s a better way of doing what I’ve always known all my life”, you know? So, but Dallin, I love what you said about being vulnerable, because it’s allowed you to be you. You know, people now know this is who Dallin is. And so some of the questions or some of the ideas you put out there, people are thinking it, but they’re not brave enough to say it. And when you do say it, you now put it out open for discussion. And change comes about by being honest and saying things and looking at things from different angles. So I’m happy that you are talking about it. I’m happy that you are comfortable with being vulnerable. Because that’s where change comes about. Many times people talk, in my opinion, negatively about millennials. But I love millennials. I love Gen Z. Because I think they are addressing things that have been there and not been talked about, but need to be talked about.

[00:23:12] Dallin: So the secret is I’m just, I’m barely a millennial, just barely. I’m right at the bottom edge. That shows you how old millennials are now. It’s like, I’m like the youngest millennial. I’m like, there are some, depending on where you draw the line, there are some who would say that I’m the next one, is that Gen Z? I don’t even know.

[00:23:34] Paula: Yes, it’s Gen Z. Yeah. But you’re setting the stage so that Gen Z can do some of the things that you guys haven’t been able to accomplish. Because sometimes what happens is that as we get older and especially when we start families, we are like, okay, that was a great idea when I was 24, but now I have two mouths to feed or more responsibility. This is not such a great idea.

[00:23:58] Dallin: That’s the reason I sold the marketing agency the first time. That was the first business I started. I only sold it once. But that’s the first business I started and you know, we were doing pretty good and it was a blast. But it’s that whole like, I don’t know how much money I’m gonna make next month type life, right? Like that entrepreneurship life of some months are really great, and then some months are really tight. And when my wife was pregnant with our first son, it was like, you know, just the two of us, we make enough to at least get by all the time. But suddenly, once there’s a tiny person that relies on you in the equation, the idea of not knowing how much money you’re gonna make next month or whether you’re gonna be able to buy all the food, it suddenly becomes a lot more terrifying. It’s like, all right stability would be good. Just a little bit .

[00:24:50] Paula: Absolutely. Well, Dallin all good things do have to come to an end. I mean, we could have this conversation for hours, but it looks like we’re probably gonna have to have another podcast recording with you. But I do have one last question, and that is, what are your key takeaways for our listening audience? I know what I’ve gotten from this. But what do you wanna share? So that when the podcast ends, they can say, “hmm, he said something that has stuck with me”.

[00:25:19] Dallin: Oh man, the pressure is on. You may have noticed I am not the best at being succinct.

[00:25:26] Paula: You are.

[00:25:26] Tesse: Yeah, you are.

[00:25:28] Dallin: So I would say from our conversation here, and it’s is such a dangerous one to paint with broad strokes. But in situations where your safety isn’t at risk or anything, push the boundary of what you are comfortable being vulnerable with. Because everybody wants to be trusted, right? There’s a lot out there about how can I better relationships by helping me trust me more? How can I be more trustworthy? But we also have to remember that everyone else feels that way too. And nobody can ever be trusted if we never give them a chance to prove themselves as trustworthy. And the only way we can do that is by being vulnerable. We have to put ourselves in a spot where we run the risk of getting hurt. So that other people have the chance to become trustworthy. And often that will end up putting them in a situation where they’re willing to be vulnerable with you. And just the last thought, again, I think of it so much with my kids, that often if I want them to be honest and open up with me, I need to be honest and vulnerable and open up with them first. We model what we see, we reciprocate. So if you want someone to trust, be vulnerable and trust them first. And that’s really scary. But it makes a big difference in relationships and in life. And like what’s the worst case scenario? Again, outside of extreme circumstances, like you get hurt and you find out that that person isn’t super trustworthy and you can move on and that’s how it goes. But the best case scenario is you make a lifelong friend and grow and learn and become a way better person. And personally I think that’s worth the risk.

[00:27:16] Paula: I am leaving with that phrase in my mind, that no one can be trusted if we don’t give them a chance to be trustworthy. So push that boundary. I love it Dallin, I do love it. And so to our precious listeners, we want you to know that your stories and your lives matter. Just like Dallin said, give everyone an opportunity to prove themself first. Don’t make them guilty first. Innocent until proven guilty in other words. And so sharing your stories with others could support, encourage and nurture them. Listeners may be reassured by knowing they’re never alone. And so for our listeners, please head over to “Apple Podcast”, “Google Podcast”, “Spotify”, or anywhere you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe. And if you have found “TesseLeads” helpful, please let us know in your reviews. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, send us a note. And if you would like to be a guest on our show, “TesseLeads”, head over to “www.tesseleads.com” to apply. We would love to have you. Thanks again Dallin. You’ve been amazing.

[00:28:32] Tesse: You’ve been amazing. Awesome. Refreshing

[00:28:34] Dallin: Thank you for having me.

[00:28:37] Paula: Refreshing. I love that.

[00:28:38] Tesse: Refreshing, honestly. Re-energizing.

Sara Comes Dancing

The choreography of life leads to a growing realisation that dancing in leadership is more relevant as ever.  Dance like no one’s watching,

Sara Ramsey’s love of dancing led her to dance in the world amateur championships at the Royal Albert Hall. During the Covid lockdown she reconnected with her love of dance.  Bragging rights?   She did her fair share of Fox trotting with Anton Du Beke pre his fame. While people baked sourdough bread, she studied the psychology of dance and has developed a course for teams. “Dancing is really good for connecting people. People dance in sync with each other, build trust and connect with others” says Sara.”

Leaders need to be more agile, responsive and adaptable.  There is a choreography of people doing different things and thinking differently.  

People who work together start dancing together; especially important when they are co-leaders. Watch who tends to lead and who tends to follow. How are you dancing?   Sara also fell in love with open floor dancing which she feels embodies emotions. By moving in sync with each other you build that trust connection and start getting into real co-creative moments. Our body tells us a lot.  Listen to it. What is it telling you?

Sara’s last words? 

“Dancing in sync builds connection between you and your team members. Freestyle dancing enhances creativity, encourages problem solving and sparks innovation. So before you go into your next strategic planning session, you might just want a bit of freestyle dancing. “

[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host, Tesse Akpeki and co-host Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space where guests share how they are navigating diverse ranges of challenges confronting their dilemmas and shaping their futures. The theme today is “Sara Comes Dancing” because our guest is none other than Sara Ramsey. And off Microphone we had a good laugh, because we realized that we are part of a club called “Lipstick United”. And Sara, what do you have to say about that? 

[00:00:48] Sara: Yeah, we’d all put our lipsticks on we noted as we came into this. So I asked Tesse and Paula, I said, cause you know what happens to a woman without lipstick and which they replied no. And I said, nothing.

[00:01:07] Tesse: You know, it’s so funny.

[00:01:12] Paula: Right. So that’s why “Lipstick United” or is it Lipstickers United. I don’t know which one we’re gonna keep. But yeah, we definitely have a bond, don’t we? 

[00:01:23] Tesse: Yeah, I like Lipstick United.

[00:01:27] Paula: Lipstick United. 

[00:01:29] Tesse: Oh wow. Sara thank you so much for bringing such a sense of fun. Now I get rather curious, what has led to your love of dancing?

[00:01:41] Sara: Yeah, it wasn’t just the lipstick, honestly. It wasn’t lipstick. I mean, I started dancing when I was six years old. I was the youngest child. My mom was like, this girl has too much energy. We need to do something. So I was sent off to the local dance class and I just fell in love with it, and it became my, became my life. I just loved going and I competed and there was all sort of friends there. And I was competing until I was about, I don’t know, 19 I think. I danced in the, I didn’t come anywhere. But I danced in the world amateur championships at the Royal Albert Hall. So that was very special. I love dancing. And then I reached 19, decided that I wasn’t gonna be a professional born dancer after all. And went into the world of work and sort of taught a little bit. But kind of went into it. So went completely from being something sort of very physical to went all into a left brain world of just thinking and doing all that stuff, and sadly, sadly, didn’t really dance very much at all. Until a few years ago. So I think probably falling in love with dance actually happened a few years ago. I think for me it was other people were baking sourdough in Covid lockdown, I really fell in love with dance. 

[00:03:01] Tesse: Wow, that’s amazing. And you know in that time of your dance passion and everything, did you meet anybody famous or anybody who we could recognize. Now I’m gonna put it out there that I am a Strictly Come Dancing fan. Was there anybody whose faces on strictly that you know you actually met on that journey? Come on. Bragging rights, bragging rights. 

[00:03:25] Sara: Yeah, I’ve competed against a few of the pros. But Anton Du Beke, I have done more than my fair share of Fox trotting with Anton Du Beke. And he is a pure gen and wonderful man to foxtrot with. 

[00:03:38] Tesse: Anton. Wow. Yeah. I wonder how anybody can top that. That’s fantastic. Paula Anton du Beke is one of the judges on “Strictly Right Now”. But he’s one of the nation’s favorite judge you know people, as a professional dancer and now as a judge. He actually won an award recently on NTA for the best judge of the year. . 

[00:04:00] Paula: Wow. Wow. So we are hubnobbing with the best here, right? 

[00:04:05] Sara: I know. I’m so pleased. I, yeah, I’m so pleased for him. I knew him pre  fame and, no it’s great. He’s doing what he loves, which is fabulous . 

[00:04:15] Paula: Well, it’s obvious that you love dancing. How has that enriched your life? Again, this is a audio podcast. I can see the smile and the energy stewing from you. But tell our audience how dancing has enriched your life, and I’m sure they can probably glean something from that. 

[00:04:33] Sara: Yeah, absolutely I do love dancing. I’ve always loved it. You know, I’ve always been first one up to move around and just the joy of the dancing and the music. I love that. I think where it’s really enriching my life beyond a good boogie with friends, is just kind of, I think we all go around a bit on our heads, like on the sticks of our bodies that moves us around. I think it’s amazing to just really get back into your body. I get up now in between, like during the day and you know, I’ll wander around and have a dance. Cause it’s just, there’s something about just feeling really grounded in your body and just feeling your body. I’m so fascinated by the mind and body, cause whereas we can try and think everything through rationally, actually we need to connect with our body. Our bodies know a lot, and there’s a lot of instinctive there. I think we can make much better decisions. And manage our own emotions and ups and downs if we can really sort of stay in our bodies, and dancing is a brilliant way for doing that. In lockdown, I did a course on, everyone was doing their different things and how they were trying to spend their time. With me it was dancing, I studied the psychology of dance. And how dancing as well is really good for connecting people. So there’s one thing, we’re just moving. They say dance. If you’re gonna get up and do something, dancing is one of the best things you can do. Better than sort of reading or going cycling. Dancing is much better for you. But the power of connect is just fantastic. I developed a course that I did for teams, so at the start of their weekly meetings, they would get up and do some dancing. Which is really fun and just a good way to get up and just the more when people dance in sync with each other, it helps to build trust and connection between people. So that’s what I really love about dancing. That’s the most thing. It’s the way it can connect people to themselves and to each other. 

[00:06:26] Paula: I love that. Tesse? 

[00:06:28] Tesse: I love what Sara was saying, like you do Paula about connect people to themselves and connect them to each other. You know, connecting to ourselves, sometimes we don’t connect to ourselves. And how can we connect with others if we don’t connect with ourselves? So I just love that. And how dance can be that channel to do that connection. I’m just loving it Paula. I’m just loving it. As Sara is speaking, I’m actually thinking about leadership. And Sara, I’m curious about your thoughts on how the concept of dancing and leadership can be shaped up? You know, how as a metaphor for leadership, how does dancing shape effective leadership? Do you have any thoughts that you can share with us on that? 

[00:07:11] Sara: Yeah, I love the analogy for, I think dancing in life, but also dancing in leadership. I think as we go around, we all need to be more agile and move. And I think there is something about dancing. We don’t know what’s coming up to us in life, but we can sort of dance with it. Good, bad changes. We can move around, we can learn to lead, we can learn to follow in different situations. So I think there’s something about sort of the joy of dance as well. Just that sort of movement. We’re all working with each other and I think if we can see ourselves as in a dance with each other. And sometimes maybe it’s a tango and it’s a bit of a big thing. And other times it’ll be a jive and sometimes we’ll just be doing a sort of a slow dance together. So I think that’s just kind of quite a fun way to look at it as we’re all trying to work with each other. 

[00:08:00] Tesse: There’s something as you’re saying that Sara, that comes to my mind. Cause sometimes when I’m listening to the judges on “Strictly”, sometimes they’re saying things like shade and light. Sometimes they talk about containing themselves, the dances containing themselves. And sometimes they talk about pace and they talk about positioning. Shed some light on these things in relation to leadership, what are they talking about? 

[00:08:27] Sara: Yeah, I think there is something. You know, when people start saying, I used to think that life was about, sometimes I used to say the black and white, sort of the polar world we have. And sometimes I used to say, oh, it’s navigating the gray, right? Working out which gray. And I’ve kind of gone away from that recently to go, life’s about being zebra. It’s about being like blacks, you know? It’s like, it’s about, you know, being both extreme sometimes. So it’s about, you know, shades and light and dark and gray and energy and stillness. All of those things are important in life. And I think for organizations and leadership as well. I think it’s not about being full on the accelerator and drive all the time. It’s about sometimes having a real energy spur. Sometimes sort of stepping back and reflecting and looking around at different areas as well. It’s about different people, you can all be at different sort of energies and it’s sort of a choreography of people doing different things rather than everybody all at the same time. And I think there’s a rhythm, one of the sort of analogy that tend to use with organizations now is finding organizations rhythms. What’s its rituals and rhythms, just to keep a pattern that everyone can run to as well, and keep everyone in line really. 

[00:09:36] Tesse: Honestly, I love this choreography of life. Having people know what positions they are going to be in. Who leads, who follows, all those kind of things. You’re just shedding so much light on what obviously is your passion.

[00:09:51] Sara: Yeah, absolutely. And I think around decision making, I think as organizations become much more collective and much more self organizing, really understanding about, you know having the rhythm of how decisions are made and when are they made. And just creating those structures for people so that everyone can then dance and do their own pirouettes as they need and be their own beautiful selves. But doing it in harmony with the group as well. So knowing when to come together and to do a group piece and when to go and do their own thing as well. 

[00:10:22] Tesse: So the June pandemic, you say that you went to the place of dance. What did that place of dance give you? Cause that was the pandemic at the worst of times. It was very isolating. It was a horrible time for the world in general and for particular people, it hit them even harder than others. What was dance able to give you at that point? 

[00:10:41] Sara: For me, it was suddenly I’m an extrovert. I was suddenly completely on my own. So dancing for me was the way to connect with myself and connect with others. You know, we’d have dance zooms and things like that. So for me, dancing was the way of connecting and just getting up, and I was just dancing around and connecting with the music, and really getting out of your head as well. I think we sort of live in our head. And particularly I think when it’s difficult times and there’s anxiety to just completely sort of just feel life and actually process the emotions. I was recently on a workshop, I’ve fallen in love from doing very structured dancing when I was young, to now doing what’s called open floor dancing. Which is really sort of just letting your body move and the emotions through that. And it’s so good at just processing your emotions. Shaking out, shaking out the nails as some people used to say, and just sort of feeling that through and processing it. So I think there’s something about just embodying emotions. I think you can, sometimes you can think things through and you can deal with things. Maybe if you are, whether you angry, frustration, whether you’re sad, whatever you are feeling, you can try and work it through in your mind. But actually just letting your body feel it and just process it, then the emotions kind of wash through you. And you can kind of, you know, and if you went through and then get to a sort of a more joyful of happier place at the end it.

[00:12:07] Tesse: I’m loving it. Paula, what’s coming into your mind as we listen to Sara? 

[00:12:11] Paula: I mean, it has, I mean, fascinating. And I’m just wondering if, without giving any names, if you can, you know, just tell us a fun story about someone in leadership who you saw dancing transform.

[00:12:27] Tesse: Yay. Great question, Paula. 

[00:12:29] Sara: Good question. 

[00:12:31] Paula: Yeah. 

[00:12:33] Sara: I think probably, and just with names, I think there is something about people getting into their bodies. I think that the most sort of powerful thing I’ve seen in a work situation, I think is when people who work together start dancing together. Especially when they are sort of co-leaders. And it’s really interesting to understand there’s something very basic about people moving together and how they move. And I think sometimes what shows up on the dance floor is how things happen in real life, and they can see who tends to lead, who tends to follow. How are you dancing? And I think just moving, by moving in sync with each other you build that trust, you build that connection. You can start really getting into those sort of real co-creative moments. You build quite a strong link, which it would be very hard to do that without, physically it could take you years whereas actually moving together. There’s something quite sort of primal I suppose about that. So I’ve seen people really co-create who don’t know each other well and just. Because to co-create, there’s a vulnerability there, and I think once you start moving and building that trust, it’s very powerful. So I think that’s the things that I’ve really seen. And I’m keen to explore that more. I’ve been doing some work with Hermann Muller , who’s a mind body therapist. And really it’s kind of getting people into that co-creation space and moving together and seeing what comes out of that. It’s an adventure. 

[00:14:03] Paula: It sounds like an adventure, which is exactly what “TesseLeads” is all about, you know?

[00:14:09] Tesse: Adventure yeah. You’ve  got it Paula. You never know what’s going to come out at the end, but you just kind of stay open and vulnerable to find out. 

[00:14:19] Sara: I’m fascinated as well. One of the things that I’d love to do, I think is particularly quite a lot of women, I think, who sort of, probably my generation I suppose, going into the workplace, going very sort of left brained, kind of very much in our heads and trying to work things through. And I think there can be a bit of a disconnection really. And I think starting to really kind of reconnect with that and be more embodied, which I think is quite a female way of being as well is really interesting as well, I think. 

[00:14:51] Tesse: That’s fascinating being back into your body, connecting with parts of your body. As you’re saying that Sara, one of the things that strikes me in Africa, there’s a bit about knowing what part of your body, your emotions are, you know, and locating where that is, you know. And often for me, mine is in my stomach. It’s in my tummy. When I’m really nervous my stomach gets so tight, you know. And so sometimes when I’m in meetings and stuff and that my stomach is getting tight, I’m kind of thinking, what’s going on here? What do I need to do? Because it’s actually speaking, giving me a message. Does that sound just totally not making sense or what do you say ? 

[00:15:33] Sara: I think that’s true, and I think it’s when we override our body, our body tells us a lot. And I think it’s when we override that. I know with me it’s when I override that and think, oh no, I’m just being silly. That’s the things I don’t regret a lot in life. But often I think, oh, I kinda knew that. I think there is something about our body and tuning into that is really important, I think. 

[00:15:55] Tesse: Yeah. Paula well thought you’re very quiet. 

[00:15:59] Paula: I am intrigued and bowled over by you know the interconnectivity between, you know, leadership and dance and the rhythm. And you know how, especially as Sara said in some organizations where people are just put to work together and once they start dancing, they get in sync. And I may be wrong. But they get in sync and so it seems like they come out of the dance session or whatever with better synergy than when they went in. That’s what I’m really kind of thinking about. 

[00:16:34] Sara: There’s a real connection. There’s a real connection there. That’s really kind of quite amazing to see. I was doing some work with one organization where it was a team all around the world that never met each other. And you know when everyone’s dancing to Stevie Wonder in sync. Not only is it fun, there is a real connection there. 

[00:16:54] Tesse: Yeah, I mean I love the idea of dancing to Stevie Wonder in sync. And you know, as you say that one of the words that comes to me in relation to dancing is somatic dancing. Focusing on inner experience of dancing and movement. Does that kind of resonate with some of the things that you are sharing with us today?

[00:17:14] Sara: Yeah. I dunno much about somatic dancing actually. That’s a new one on me. I need to explore that one. 

[00:17:21] Tesse: I think we’ll talk a bit more about that. But you know, I used to be very skeptical, I have to say about somatic dancing. Until I met a lovely woman who lives in San Francisco and she was into it and she got me curious about it. And now, I just think that sometimes it’s really an interesting way of doing exactly what you’re speaking about. Actually being in the movement, and actually intentionally focusing on an internal experience of movement rather than external experience or result of movement. So sometimes, particularly now that I’m kind of a bit stressed, et cetera. I actually do this with myself where I’m listening to music and I’m dancing on the inside.

[00:18:06] Sara: Oh wow. Amazing. 

[00:18:07] Tesse: Yeah, and it actually helps me. Paula sent me some music yesterday and it’s kind of like finding a way to listen to the music and then it’s an internal movement. I find it very, very de-stressing. 

[00:18:23] Sara: Okay. That sounds amazing. And so it means you don’t actually have to get up and move as well. You can just, I think I need, cause otherwise I just dance everywhere at the moment, I don’t care. 

[00:18:33] Tesse: It’s kinda of relieving of trauma as well, you know. And what I find for me, it’s actually introducing a kind of lightness around the thoughts. So like thinking of a thought as a feather. 

[00:18:47] Sara: Yeah. 

[00:18:47] Tesse: And like, and then you’re listening to the music. What I find is it actually helps detaching the thought from the intensity. This somatic stuff is quite helpful. I started from being quite skeptical, so let me put it that way. Quite skeptical. 

[00:19:03] Sara: No, I think that, I think it makes a lot of sense. Absolutely. And I think it’s interesting with the trauma, you know, different levels of trauma that people go through. I think that is something where, you know, that disconnection from the body, it’s more of us doing that than we realize, I think. And I think anything that sort of help embody us and to help sort of help process those emotions and then also sort of help us stay grounded to sort of help us moving forward, I think is just really, yeah, is really fundamental. And dancing isn’t for everyone. I kinda get that. I think it’s an easy route, you know, into things. And it’s good physically, but I think to me, it’s more about this thing emotionally and mentally of what it can do. And I think it’s interesting about the emotions is how you can, you know what the body does affects the mind, but the mind affects the body as well. And so just sort of starting to express different things through your body and just letting yourself dance like no one’s watching, isn’t it? It’s always the expression. 

[00:20:06] Paula: That’s so true. That’s so true. You know, I could stay and continue listening to you till dark. It’s dark.

[00:20:13] Tesse: So could I, Yeah. 

[00:20:16] Paula: It’s not dark where I am. But are there any other things, I mean, we heard about somatic dancing from Tesse. Is there anything that we don’t know that any little thing that you haven’t told us about? 

[00:20:29] Sara: Yeah, to me it’s like getting people, I think sometimes people are frightened by the word dance. But just getting up and moving, right? Five minutes here and there is the thing. And putting on the music, whatever it is that you like and for the mood that you are in as well. You know, I think sometimes we get stuck in emotions. It’s like, if you feel angry, if you feel sad, just shake it out, really. Shake it out, have a clearance of it. And with your teams as well. You know, like, I think it is, you know, people are often online. I think we’re sitting there in long zoom calls. It’s like, let’s have a dance. There’s like two types of dancing. If you dance in sync, it will build connection between you and your team members. If you dance freestyle, that will create problem solving and innovation. So before you have anything, you might just want a bit of freestyle dancing. 

[00:21:20] Tesse: I love it. I totally, it’s very fascinating, you know. Rich, rich things that we can do. You know, anybody can get up and do free dancing, you know.

[00:21:33] Sara: Yeah. Enjoy it and your will move. It just, the key thing is to get out of your mind. I think just your body kind of knows how to move to what it needs to do. So just go with it. 

[00:21:43] Tesse: I love it.

[00:21:45] Paula: Absolutely love it. So we’ve heard something different today from Sara, haven’t we? I learned something every day and I certainly haven’t been disappointed by you Sara. Thank you. And to our guests, your precious stories and lives matter. Sharing them with others could support, encourage and nurture them, just like we heard from Sara. Listeners may be reassured by knowing that they are never alone .To our listeners we ask that you head over to “Apple Podcast”, “Google Podcast”, “Spotify”, or anywhere you listen to podcasts, and please click subscribe. If you find “TesseLeads” fascinating, please let us know in your review. And if you have any questions or topics you’d love for us to cover, send us a note. If you’d love to be a guest on “TesseLeads”, head over to www.tesseleads.com to apply.

Selfless Caring

“Emotionally it’s very difficult to start seeing the person that you love slip away. This is my second round of caregiving. My heart goes out to all carers of patients with dementia. It’s hard for the carers. Really, really hard. It’s hard for the person being cared for too. I can’t, you can’t take care of someone else unless you take care of yourself. I’ve been out five times in the evening in the last two years without my husband. That’s not much.

 As Frank’s ability to do things has decreased, my need to spend a little more time away to go to the theatre or whatever has increased.” Carol’s honesty is heart-warming. Something most people will relate to is her Covid experience. “I’m a very social person, and so being at home alone has really been difficult. And I wasn’t alone, I was with my husband. But having been on the road for 28 years and doing a hundred to 150 cities a year, this was really just like the door slamming in your face. And I’m sure a lot of people experience that and much worse.” Carol shares her story of coping with Covid, running a business and dealing with a much-loved husband with Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s disease. He also has spinal stenosis. She includes tips for self-care, caring for a loved one while running a business, and at the same time not losing your mind.

The Accidental Doctor

Dr Mick Rogers or “the accidental doctor “as he describes himself says “It’s all about the people, not just process”. Anywhere people are part of the process, they’re the most important part of the process. The soft aspects of people are the tricky stuff, the stuff that you can’t apply a model for, or you can’t work out on the spread. It requires engagement and trust and risk and exposure with people. This is where story telling matters. Stories are so important because it’s how we relate to each other. 

“We still create stories that help us explain what’s going on around us. And it’s the engagement in those stories, I think which is important and exceptional “stresses Mick. Rich discussion can start us thinking and talking differently about what good looks like and what progress look like. Our considerations can rest on how we like to be with the other people in the organisations we find ourselves in. Accidentally Mick stumbled into being accepted for a doctorate course. “I had a kind of commercial agreement with my company and I had an emotional agreement with my wife to do some more studying for a few years’’.

Carole Levy - Skits, Cartoons, and Trust

Carole Levy is an avid cartoonist with a unique combination of wit and depth. She loves analyzing the tricks of the human ego on her popular blog. And she’s published a humorous illustrated book called “The Bumpy Road To Collaboration”
(paperback, Kindle, iBook) She is a culture change partner and a senior executive coach and facilitator. She shares her life map.

A Home Away From Home

A home away from home describes Marta Maretich. Marta was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. “I thought it was the best thing ever. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.” “We had a different background. I always felt different – like we knew about a bigger world. When you spoke to people in Bakersfield, you were met often with incomprehension. 

They really didn’t get it. There is something about being someone like me, where none of it is obvious. If we don’t have a conversation, you’d never know. So you have to know me.” “I feel I spend a lot of my work trying to explain my life and get people to pay attention to its details. You can look at my life in a superficial way which is the tip of the iceberg. You can say, oh, she’s just this girl from California, went to Berkeley, it’s all fine. But when you start picking it apart, nobody’s life is really like that.” The Possibility of Lions”. It is a story about loss, love and the difficulty of finding a home in a changing world. The fictional book speaks about an American family, the McCall family, and they’ve always lived in Nigeria. The Biafra civil war comes in 1967 and they have to flee Nigeria as refugees and return to the United States, where they returned to a small town in San Joaquin Valley, California.

From Acting to Facilitation

As an actor, I watched amazing people struggle with life. I was interested in helping people see each other through the experience of each other and hope that they are going to now together do really important work in the world. Sharon talks about DEI which stands for “Diversity Equity and Inclusion”. “During the pandemic, my heart broke and changed shape. It had more capacity for courage. I had lots of conversations with my courage in 2020. And I invested in the education. I wanted to have bravery and to have a voice, and to take up space, and to know how to stand much stronger in my dignity. And I did that with deep support, from many sources and many people and other leaders who have gone before me.”

Renee Reisch - My Personal Story

Renee Reisch’s personal story is honest and vulnerable. Thoughts about care, compassion, and kindness soak through Renee’s voice. “Showing kindness, compassion and caring to yourself is not selfish, it’s selfless. It is not possible to pour from an empty cup. You need to you fill your own cup for and then pour from the overflow. Sometimes we need to go within, rather than searching outside of ourselves. 

The journey is not just about the losses, it’s the total picture – what we find along the journey of our life.” says Renee. “ I lost my voice. My voice was a metaphor for what I needed to find in my own life.” “ I didn’t know what the new normal would be for me, with no voice interacting with people. I had learn a new way to communicate from all the years of just speaking my own voice but never speaking my true voice. And then losing it was to be able to find the true voice that was always within.” The Wizard of Oz, an American musical fantasy produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is close to Renee’s heart. Dorothy is directed to follow a yellow brick road that goes to the Emerald City, The Wizard of Oz’s home. “The first was a “Scarecrow” who was looking for a brain. He was the smartest one there. Then they came across a “Tin man” desires a heart. He had the biggest heart of all “The Cowardly Lion” lacks courage, but turns out, has all the courage and more. The Wizard is revealed to be just an ordinary man when Toto (the dog) pulls back a curtain.” reminds Renee. The Wizard reminds the three friends that they always had the qualities they sought. Dorothy always had the power to return to Kansas with the help of the ruby slippers, but had to find that out for herself. “There is no place like home” Dorothy gratefully exclaims.

Loving Better - The Power of Conscious Thinking

“ Everybody’s life is precious, if we can come from that place to give ourselves a chance to remember that sometimes. Be really generous and kind with ourselves when we don’t remember it. “ Becoming human is the phrase that really resonates. Becoming, evolving and developing is something that never stops. Deborah has lived in rural Sussex most of her life. She had her son at 27, and then another two children at the time she was 33. “I’ve always really valued the family life, and friends, and making meaning.” She has been driven by wanting to make a difference. 

When I encountered the arts, it helped her find an important way of making sense and understanding the world.” She was the first person in her immediate and extended family to go to university. That was a real gift, It took a lot of courage to go, because there wasn’t any history of anyone having had any academic achievement and she experienced a lot of imposter syndrome. She absolutely loved it and she loved the learning. Today, her youngest daughter is doing her PhD!

My Balancing Act

Andy Temte’s take on second chances. Most of us are out of balance, and most of us need that kind of heavy introspection at times, and really need to look inside and ask ourselves questions about who we are, who we want to be, and the impact that we’re having on others. “If somebody that’s placed me in a box actually spent the time to really understand what makes me tick, they would find a much, much more complicated story

. I’ve only been married to one woman, but I’ve been married to her twice “Andy opens up. “In my late thirties, my very early forties I had a lot of success and was wildly successful by most people’s metrics. Money, family, cars, boats, all the usual societal metrics that people use. But something was really missing from my life, I was all work all the time, not as present as I should have been in my family. And my wife and I split up and it was a real wakeup call, the process of divorce. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I realised I really had to do something different.

Professor Kandola Live and Uncut

As part of an inclusive environment, how can we start? How can we, how can I create an environment that is inclusive, that is generous, that is caring, that is kind and nourishing and also produce the goods? 

Professor Binna Kandola admits “This is a process of learning and learning, being self-reflective, getting feedback and actually trying to do better is the most important thing. “I had to educate myself when I was writing the book Racism at Work; the Danger of Indifference. I am learning myself. There’s lots of other things that I don’t know about. I am learning about myself! Sometimes I just need to listen. When somebody tells me something, I need to pay attention. Obviously its up to me to make up my own mind. That’s the big, biggest thing I’ve learned”.

Why Relationship Matter

Relationships matter to Desire Anderson because as a young recruit Desiree was exposed to fantastic pieces of work where she helped with diversity and equity programmes and leadership development. 

She was inspired by Nelson Mandela who having been released took the whole quality of forgiveness, collaboration and diversity to a different level. She mirrored this devotion by implementing practices not only in society as a whole, but in organisations. . Forging new relationships and connections with people became part of her DNA, and part of her superpower.

Amazing Coach Max Ekesi

Today we celebrate an amazing coach – Max Ekesi. “I put myself in other people’s shoes” recounts Max. Empathy is speaking to courage and boldness and forgiveness and the capacity to be agile and to diversify. I learned to navigate those different cultures.” He connects multi-generationally across the generational gaps.. Max fosters an understanding and a respect for older people. His approach has helped him in taking a more positive and optimistic approach. 

In tough times he invites us to ask” how can you create an opportunity out of the situation? By helping others it’s incredible how much you help yourself.” There is nothing he loves more than getting involved with people outside of his professional work and helping to solve problems.

If You Can Dream It, You can be it

“Everybody has something to give and you don’t have to be a Beyonce or, you know, a Rhianna or someone huge to be able to give, just give what is within, what you have to offer, what you can afford to offer, no matter how small it is, it’s still valuable What you think is really small might actually be really huge to someone else. We hear success stories, what we don’t know; the story behind these success stories. Often success does not come overnight. There are struggles” says Tomide Awe.

Tomide has been raised to find ways to be persistent and to be creative – keeping her eye on the price. When she was in school, especially in high school, she failed a lot of exams, especially in junior school. Her parents were great, ensuring that the opportunities that she did not have materialised. Her mum did not let her give up and would sit her down, and work with her to find out what she was good at, whilst continuing to improve in areas she was not so good at.

Resilience Through Adversity

The story of Robert McCrea – a successful producer and actor, reads like something out of a Hollywood movie. His personal journey screams “resilience through adversity .” Rob’s father managed to escape from the prison camp. He was a refugee from Burma at the end of the second world war whose reference for fathering was the Japanese prisoner of war camp which wasn’t much fun. His grandfather was executed in front of his father. Rob’s grandmother managed to escape from the women’s prison camp with two of her daughters. They managed to collect Rob’s father and his slightly older brother from the men’s prison camp. With all of the guns, they actually had to cross the battle plane to get to the other side. 

The two week walk through the jungle, from a place called Michiana in Burma through the jungle to Lido road, which is where the allied forces were based could only take place at night time. Unfortunately, they didn’t all make it on that journey. This environment that Rob was born into with very high achieving brave and strong women. His grandmother underwent hardships that you can’t even begin to imagine! Brought up by a father who knew anything can happen in the world, Rob become a very resilient child who grew into a very resilient young man. Rob and his sister lived in a lot of different Asian countries without actually going to Burma. His father was keen that his children had the opportunity to live and be schooled in those countries, not as expats, but as locals. While they were in touch with where they came from, they had no understanding of prejudice. For an early age Rob and his sister realised the importance of being non judgemental.

Switched On with Compassion Accountability

During the pandemic, a new meaning came to Dr Nate with compassion mixed with accountability. This is even more valuable, and the work with clients is more important at that time, when compassion needs to be reconciled with accountability. Every day with Covid -19 opens a different chapter. The need for balance has never been more important as every day it takes on a new meaning.

Dr Nate admits that his personality is not naturally compassionate or naturally empathetic. “I’m self-centered. I want to work on things. I prefer to work on tasks than be with people by nature. So I’m a pretty selfish task-oriented person by nature, by personality. So it’s a constant journey of constant struggle. But I grew up around a family that had amazing values and showed me these things.” How he treats people depends on whether his compassionate switches are on or off.

Poetry In Motion

Life can be Poetry in Motion as Kate Hammer invokes the call of Madonna ( as mother ) “not about performance or conformance, the invitation is to walk, step in, or step out with compassion, care, soothing and empathy. “ Inside the rings that Kate and her husband exchanged were the letters WWO the number 2 and the letter B, which stands for where we ought to be from a Quaker song based on the tune of an old Anglican hymn called “simple gifts”. “I can turn and turn and come down just right. If I am lucky and find where I ought to be.

” We can suffer losses or face the horror to a loss that is impending. There’s a different kind of horror to a loss that’s totally unexpected. Trauma kicks. A dream turns into the nightmare that you were not expecting. The heartbreak opens a window of grief. For Kate this happened when her mother died unexpectedly. Kate promised herself to bear that responsibility with grace. Quite strangely she realised that she had become the mother. She had always had a mom who she had been close to. She mothered her daughter who had a grandmother. Kate’s promise was to do something that her mother had never been very good at. This is to invite people in, to ask for help, to seek support, to admit when she did not understand things. Learning how to do that asking has been one of her greatest gifts.

Self Love Matters

Self love matters! Nancy White tells us why. It not only empowers us, it also helps us to be able to love and empower other people. We’re all unique and different. If we can’t love ourselves first and foremost, we can not love anybody else. Part of self-love is those things that are not only in our physical and financial arena, but in the spiritual and emotional arena. Whether it’s setting goals, going through healing processes, making these things a priority in this season in life, self-love is the fuel that enriches our lives. Sometimes poor self image gets in the way. It is so important for us to have around us people we know, like and trust.

Esua Goldsmith and Being An Only

Award winning author, Esua
Goldsmith grew up
“being an only “ in a
white working class neighborhood in the 1950s in south London. She was the mixed race daughter of a white single mom and a Ghanaian father who she never knew as a child. Often being “an only one”, Esua describes the feeling of being “an alien dropped
from outer space”.
This pervasive emotion ran like a thread
throughout her life.
She did not see herself, in
books she read , or on the television,
in stories told
or anywhere else. Esuantsiwa Jane Goldsmith (Esua) was the first and only woman of colour elected as President of Leicester
University Students Union in the 1970s. She talks
about her first book called “The Space Between Black and White”, which was published by Jacaranda#2020.

In Search Of Meaning

In search of meaning, looking for new experiences, moving to new place, having fun, learning new languages led Chinese born Melody Song, co founder of Do Good Here to Canada and then to Berlin, Germany. Her mum, a translator for cultural ministries took her to ballet as a child which gave her access to ballet shows. She lived in Canada for 20 years, 15 of those years she served as a fundraiser at Alberta ballet.
To Melody names matter ‘You’re given a name for a reason. Learning how to pronounce someone’s name correctly I think is the first step of empathy, – the act of trying to understand and connect with someone can start here. Our names have interesting stories and unique meanings’ she told
TesseLeads. Providing meaning and purpose has become paramount for Melody who finds she cannot live without purpose. She worked for an oil and gas company but found that was not rewarding enough. Her fun job was working for a zoo as a fundraiser, where she felt she had made a difference in preserving wildlife that were extinct in Canada for 75 years. When the conservation director said she had ‘helped wildlife today and helped to make the world better’ she knew she was in her ideal job.

When It's Make or Break

For Sade Marriott, Podcast Host at Banana Island Living it was either make or break It was either break down and cry. I was the only Black woman in my village. It was lonely. I had a little baby, so I volunteered, I reached out, I made connections and I cared for other people. I genuinely felt most people were positive because I am determined to find positivity wherever. I became part of my village community. Providing solutions rather than problems is key. If there’s anything I’ve learned is humility. When I did my PGCE my mentor who was younger than me, marked me down for interaction with the other staff. 

My daughter who was home from school at that time saw I was really having a hard time said, “mommy you’re too well dressed. Honestly you’re going to this school and you’re dressed like this? You have to fit in.” Once I took my mentor on board, I began making her cups of tea, I began rolling in baggy pants. I became sloppy and her new best friend. It worked. I did what I needed to do! In light of the Black Lives Matter conversations that we needed to have. I realised the importance of making other people comfortable and being more aware and better prepared to be inclusive and supportive. It is a fine line between being aware and making excuses. I believe it is critical to treat everybody as you would want them to treat you no exclusions, everybody. “

Nadine Robson-Mum's Inspiration Lives

Nadine Robson’s mum’s inspiration lives and is the theme of her conversation today. At heart Nadine’s mum was all about love and just being a mum. That was what she really wanted to be. She went through her own experiences of mental illness. 

Unfortunately, through some of those experiences, she made some decisions that were really difficult, and she made some poor judgment calls. The side effect of that was that Nadine was taken into care when she was 11 years old and taken out of the family home. This meant she didn’t grow up with her brothers from that age. That was really tough. It was not easy to go through that experience. Nadine Robson and Darren founded the MOE Foundation, an empowering coaching community that screams love and care.

My Delicate, Balancing Act-Sarah Giles

Sarah Giles’ delicate, balancing act is the constant juggling of motherhood, career and everything else. After a 15 year plus career in HR she quit in the lockdown, resigning from her head of HR position. “Looking from the outside, I probably looked like I had it all together, but inside I didn’t. I have to set clear boundaries, focus on being a mum and have time for myself as well. “When you are so busy looking after other people it’s very easy to lose yourself in the process. We put our own self-care off I’ve learnt so much about myself. A lot of that is through my own coaching journey.

I think it’s things that I might not have ever done before.” remarks Sarah. Sarah constantly asks herself the question “Who am I? “ She finds she is constantly evolving. As soon as she gets to a place where she thinks she is the person she wants to be, she discovers that she is growing again.

Changing The World With Wellness

We all want to change the world with wellness, but it helps to remember that “Resilience helps us to stay grounded no matter what happens to us” – Resmaa Menakem “My Grandmother’s Hands. We close our expectation gaps by actually acknowledging each other, acknowledging ourselves. 

We acknowledge what we do well and learn what we do not do so well. Rather than see failure as something that is bad, we see failure as something that helps us to do even better. In fact, some people say of failure that it’s the first attempt in learning. Agility is using this time as experimental space to fail forward, to succeed more, and to sustain success through purpose, intention, commitment, and impact.

Bonnie Marcus - Not Done Yet

Bonnie Marcus, author of Not Done Yet recalls her first big job “I had no qualifications what so ever for that job. I was barely managing my own check book, let alone running a business with 30 doctors. I somehow did really well in the interview, convincing them that I was the right person; or let me say that I was smart enough to learn. And they hired me. And a year and a half I ran eleven centers up and down the East coast in the U S for that company. 

And that was the beginning of my business career. So I often say I’ve always learned business on the job. And I had mastered how to show up confidently and own the value that I could bring. Not faking it by the way, because I couldn’t”

People's Precious Live Matter

“People’s Precious Lives Matter” says Steve Morris, Vicar of St Cuthbert’s, North Wembley. “I made a decision when I became a Vicar that I actually would not cover up the fact that I’ve had problems in the past, sometimes with depression and anxiety, I just wasn’t. I was going to be honest about it, cause I didn’t want people thinking that I was some kind of superhero and I found it one of the most useful parts of my ministry is just to say, 

if you’re feeling bad, talk to me about it, tell me what’s happening says the gifted Steve Morris.” His sharing with TesseLeads takes us through the highs and lows of life, his father, his wife and himself. Yet these struggles have served to strengthen his resolve and to cast a light on what really matters to him.

When It's OK not to be Okay

20 year old Presence Plumb inspired Tesse and Paula as she talked about when ” it is ok not to be ok.” Presence Plumb launched her podcast “It Starts with Action” in a spirit of curiosity and an intention to bring about change. Presence charts her journey from the United Kingdom where she was born to Hong Kong. What was meant to be a short stay 

turned into a seven year stint, with young Presence being bullied for poor grades. She become obsessed with fitting in and with becoming excellent. She was criticised for ‘being fat’. It was no surprise that in the face of such criticism, Presence became anorexic at 14 years and had a 3 months stay in hospital.

The Magic of Thinking and Transformation

Our guest today is David Taylor-Klaus
and we will be talking about Experiencing the Magic of Thinking and Transformation. David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) in a spirit of vulnerability, authenticity and high level of self-awareness, shares with #TesseLeads his relationship with depression, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, high levels of anxiety, limiting self-belief, workaholism and inappropriate diet.

Lisa Richards - Resilience Finding Hope

Lisa Richards talks about Resilience.
As a grief specialist, Lisa enables business people to thrive rather than to be weighed down by the pain of loss following any life change.
 Lisa shares stories of loss and courage to give comfort to those who mourn.
May those who have loved and lost be comforted.
We all suffer loss and experience grief in different ways.
Life happens as we lose people through death.
Covid-19 has snatched people from us.

TesseLeads Launches

TesseLeads was inspired by Tony Akpeki , the late brother of Tesse Akpeki. It is a safe, sensitive, supportive place and space to share, hear and tell your stories and experiences.

Be Our Guest

Your voice matters. Your story is unique. TesseLeads creates the place and space to share your story with the world.

Be Our Guest

Your voice matters. Your story is unique. TesseLeads creates the place and space to share your story with the world.