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This is Part 2 of our conversation with Junior Smart, youth leader, ex-offender and much much more. This episode covers Junior's time in prison and his journey from disorder to Order of the British Empire.
Junior Smart is a youth leader, an ex-offender, an academic and a couple of months ago he added father to this list. If you don't believe people can change, listen to this. This is a story about the power of belonging. A need we all have to belong to a group. A lesson in how we often attach importance to the wrong things and end up in the wrong group, the wrong Club. It's a lesson in how, with an open mind and good people in your support team, you can change beyond your imagination. This is Part 1, more to follow . . .
Welcome to our conversation with Matt and Lucia Long. Matt and Lucia are both professional musicians and both lost their income overnight when COVID hit back in March. This is a story about fighting and rolling with the punches. It's about fighting when you have a plan and energy and rolling with the punches when you don't. It's the story of how, out of the chaos, they created Mini Music Makers; fun, energetic, educational music classes for pre-school kids and how it might yet lead them to the Costa Rican jungle dressed as Shady the Raccoon.
Welcome to our conversation with Ben Ivey. Ben is a coach to Entrepreneurs but what makes Ben interesting is his attention to the Entrepreneur as a person, the whole person not just as a business person. He's as happy talking about love as he is margins. He wants you to live the best life you can, one where regrets are minimised and magic moments are maximised.
Tom Libelt is a digital nomad. He lives between Thailand, Poland and the US. He's lived in many different countries and the path he's taken has not been conventional. Born in Communist Poland, Tom moved to the US aged 11 and by his mid-teens, he already had experience selling everything from marijuana to music. He had a successful departure into making music and had his fifteen minutes of fame before going back into business, the coffee business and then after a life of exploring, Tom started to focus on the business of digital marketing and the business of balancing healthy routines with reluctant adventuring.
Hi All - I was going to describe this as a COVID-19 special or as a pop-up episode but things that pop up, by there very nature, pop down again and I’m not entirely sure when that’s going to happen and we’re not discussing COVID-19 itself, more the way it’s affected us . . so I think we’re going to call these episodes. . . change uninvited In this episode, Neil and I are just getting our bearings on the whole thing. More will follow.
Our guest in conversation today is Clare Farrell, a leading voice of Extinction Rebellion and a Lecturer in 'sustainable fashion' (if there is such a thing) at St Martin's College, in London. Clare was a joy to hang out with.
Hi all - this conversation with Katey Wiseman was a bit of an impromptu experiment. A friend and I got chatting to Katey in The Walrus pub in Brighton. I'm sure Katey won't mind me saying this but Katey is a normal person, she has to balance work, being a mum and relationships in the same way we all have to balance things. But Katey was waiting to rehearse with La Bordello Boheme, a beginners burlesque show (not normal!) and once Katey had worked out we weren't complete weirdo's she started to share her story of how she'd moved from 12 years in a not very nice relationship with confidence at a low point to taking her clothes off in public. It was clear Katey is no extrovert so I wanted to find out more about the steps she took to rebuild her confidence and this is the conversation that followed a few weeks later.
Hello and welcome to this conversation with Damian Keyes, Musician and Entrepreneur. Big thanks to Jake at The Sneaky Panda which is a secret cocktail bar hidden behind a bookcase within the Artist Residence Hotel in Brighton. If you haven't been there it's absolutely worth it. The Artist Residence describe their hotels as an eccentric bunch of fun and friendly places to eat, drink and sleep - and we reckon they should add 'have interesting conversations' to that list. There's a big difference between being in a conversation and listening to a conversation and it's a real privilege being able to both. Listening to our conversation with Damian I was most struck by his 'burn the ships' approach. It's an approach that many guests have taken but I'm not sure anyone else has been so conscious, so deliberate about their own approach to life. In 1519, The Spanish Conquistador and explorer, Captain Hernan Cortez landed in Veracruz, Mexico. On his arrival, he ordered his men to burn the ships on which they'd arrived. Cortez and Damian both recognise that retreat is easy when the option is available. Damian does not believe in Plan B. Damian throws himself into his music industry ventures like Cortez did against the Aztecs, it's all or nothing, do or die - He makes it difficult for himself to step back into his old comfort zone. I think we can all learn from Damian's willingness to perform without a safety net. We've talked before about these 'crossing the threshold' moments but we've never talked about actively blocking the path home. It's not for the faint-hearted but it makes huge sense because one option makes decisions so much simpler. As Cicero said 'More is lost by indecision than wrong decision. Indecision is the thief of opportunity. It will steal you blind' We bring you Damian Keyes - Fuck Plan B
In this episode, we talk to Dave Cornthwaite who, a few days after we spoke to him, turned 40. Dave is an Adventurer and Community Leader and he'll be something else soon. Fifteen years previously, on the morning of his 25th birthday, Dave woke up at home in Swansea and spoke to his cat Kiwar. He had a 10 hour a day Playstation habit (Dave not Kiwar), a job he hated and a girlfriend he didn't like. Despite having everything he'd been told a successful adult needed. He didn't see any reason to be around. He was in his words . . . a loser. That was the moment . . . the moment he decided to swap negativity for positivity, the moment he decided to say yes more. Very quickly Dave was exploring Swansea on a skateboard . . . his first-ever skateboard. This was the start of a journey that lead very quickly to him breaking the world record for the longest journey by skateboard. . . Perth to Brisbane . . . 3618 miles. Many adventures have followed including paddle-boarding the Mississippi with alligators and Marathon DeSable, the world's toughest race. Many more have followed. It would be wrong to assume that Dave's conversation with his cat was a turning from which everything panned out just fine. What Dave has experienced is 15 years of real adventure . . . and all that comes with it. Dave has learned that the periods he feels most alive will inevitably be followed by periods of gloom . . . like long hangovers. But . . . on balance, Dave considers the ups to be worth the downs because he knows a 'just existing life' just isn't enough. "My mother went through all that pain bringing me into the world. The least I can do is make the most of life" Dave Cornthwaite
In this episode, we talk to Kim Slade. Kim is Dad to Dexter and husband to Nicola. He runs Touch Video Academy and Unlost He's brave and he's honest and he's decided to do what he can, to. . . in his own words . . . lick the lid of life. Like many of the people we've spoken to on this podcast, this is not a story of unadulterated success . . . yet. It's a real story with highs and lows. From mountain adventures and desert islands to living on a leaky boat with nappies on the ceiling, grief and depression. What I love about Kim is the clarity of his direction. He knows how he wants to spend his time and he also knows it's going to be a hard slog balancing that with the need to earn money. He teaches us that asking for help and conversation are good ways to react to rock bottom and he teaches us that swapping thinking for action . . . in his case . . . restoring Barry the Campervan . . . is powerful therapy too. I have very little doubt that Kim will succeed in the way he wants to . . . but there will be more peaks and troughs to come before he finds the balance he's looking for. Kim is one of life's adventurers who simply wants to avoid regrets and understands that discomfort is a necessary part of the process.
This episode is one of our wrap up episodes where we (Ray & Neil) discuss what we've learned from our conversations with guests over the last six months or so.
Mike Dicks is an Illustrator, Designer, Author, Satirist and the man behind The Mayor of Trumpton, The Brexit Comic, Mike & Scrabble. My particular favourite can be found on Linkedin where Mike describes himself as the CEO of Camberwick Analytica. But Mike's third career has been borne out of necessity. Mike was a very successful TV & Web guy whose bleeding edge technology and bleeding edge thinking had clients queueing at his door but he needed a job he could do from home in his pyjamas because one day Mike received a diagnosis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia or CLL or Cancer. Mike had no choice but to slow down. Mike's story is about energy. For the first 50 years he had it in spades and used it to good effect. He's been one of those people who consistently spots something new and translates it for the rest of us. When we see a new-fangled technology, Mike sees solutions and opportunities. An early career in computer sales (when most people hadn't ever seen a computer) lead to a career in TV, which lead to a career in website development (when most people thought a website was an electronic brochure), which lead to a part-time career training and then Mike was forced into a career as a designer, author, cartoonist and now artist. These days Mike's work is delivered through his series of Avatars. The whole idea of using pseudonyms as a lubricant for creativity and in Mike's case thoughtful, important, purposeful creativity seems obvious when you hear Mikes story but it wasn't obvious to me before this conversation so thank you Mike. At the very beginning of this conversation, Mike suggests he doesn't bring out the real Mike Dicks ever. I reckon he got pretty damn close during this conversation. If you're vaguely interested in the idea of spending your precious time doing what you want to do - I'm pretty confident you'll enjoy this. As Mike says "Who's saying you can't do what you want to do?"
Pablo Woodward is a busker, street artist, storyteller, actor and is better known as the Disco Bunny. He lives in the Bunny Bus, an old Talbot campervan, where we recorded this conversation. Pablo who grew up living on the streets of Brazil until he was table height when he was adopted by an English couple living in Luxembourg. This was a culture shock of epic proportions and one his adoptive family never understood. After Luxembourg, Pablo and his family moved to a farm in Gloucestershire where he went to Sherbourne School for Boys, one of the posher public schools, where he was introduced to the actor's craft. Pablo spent years experimenting with a conventional life but it wasn't for him. This is really the story of why he left his partner, kids, home, job and Australia to become the best sort of father he could become - a happy one. As the Disco Bunny, Pablo's purpose is to unite people through positivity, he wants to bring a smile to your face and for you to share it with others. He came to the world's attention in April 2016 when a life-affirming YouTube video of him dancing with an old lady went viral with 80m views. His stage is the street, his equipment is glitter, chalk, lycra and music. Pablo is smart, eloquent and charismatic but it's his faith in himself and the human race, that makes him so inspiring. He's been on the receiving end of some utterly unacceptable abuse but he still keeps doing what he does because, on balance, his experience is that people respond positively and smiles are spread.
This is a conversation with Rik Turner and Henrietta Jadin aka Rik and Hen. Rik and Hen lived in Brighton, which is regularly crowned as the UK's 'happiest place to live'. Rik worked for Propellernet, which for at least 5 years running, has quite rightly been recognised as one of the UK's best places to work and Hen had some purpose in her role as a Mental Health patient adviser. But something was wrong. Hard working weeks were mostly followed by hard-drinking weekends and so it continued. When Rik and Hen got together, things started to change. They packed in their jobs and travelled through Asia where their mutual support allowed them to explore a life that was slower, a life where 'time' not 'money' was the currency of choice. This is the story of their journey and how they ended up living in Arrabida Natural Park, 45 minutes south of Lisbon in Portugal, where they've built SlowCowork, a co-working retreat for entrepreneurs and creatives which focuses on work, life and balance. Rik and Hen provide genuine inspiration. They were unprepared to go with the flow and created time to discover the crucial difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. I'm pretty sure their philosophy of slowing down is one we can all benefit from and I'm pretty sure they'll add to it over the next few years
This is Part 2 of our conversation with Liam and starts with Liam auditioning for Big Brother and takes us up to the present day and a bit beyond. For Part 1 see the previous episode.
Liam McGough is a polite Tree Surgeon and Storyteller who grew up in Durham in the North-East of England. His mum's impression of a peacock was the only thing that would get him out of the local woods. Liam could climb all trees and most garage roofs which allowed him to reacquaint balls with their owners. Liam is a good friend to have. A career with trees was a given, but his consummate ability to 'be himself' allowed him to experience something different when he landed himself a spot in Channel 4's Big Brother 8 where he spent 77 days with up to 22 other housemates. He earned £30 per day, podiumed, won £100k and met some people that are still good friends today. Life in the 5 years that followed Big Brother was spent making personal appearances where his only rider was his own Instant Ready vodka and red wine cocktail. When Liam woke up he went back to his trees and now he's going to combine his experience of Trees and Documentaries and make documentaries about trees. It makes good sense to me. I liked Liam. I just spoke to him whilst writing this. He's in Cornwall with his brother and his Dad. l like Liam's confidence and his consideration. I hope you do too.
The adventurer and author, Alastair Humphreys could have accepted the offer of a job as a Science Teacher. He enjoyed his training and was a good teacher. Alastair wrote a letter to Mr Walker thanking him for the job offer but explained he was off to cycle around the world instead. It was more of a letter to himself. A written statement of intent which lead to four years sleeping in a tent. Many adventures followed including a row across the Atlantic and walks across Iceland and India. The South Pole almost made it onto the list but the next adventure turned out to be the adventure of a family, responsibility and being needed. Alastair's travel adventures weren't over, they just became much smaller. These days Alastair designs his micro adventures for himself and others. He's looking to make them short, simple, local, cheap, fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding. If you want to understand where Alastair's adventure philosophy is going it's worth listening all the way to the end of the episode when he plays his violin. This is his philosophy of adventure going beyond travel. Travel is what used to take him outside his comfort zone but do it as much as he did and you lose your fear because you're confident you can handle whatever travel has to throw at you. But busking in Spain without money or credit cards as backup. Sticking to his self imposed rule that he'd spend everything he'd earned before the day was out. That means waking up with no money every morning for a month. That's quite an adventure when you've been learning the violin for just 7 months and on a good day have got as far as Grade 1. Alastair is a man who understands that the ordinary needs to be balanced with the extraordinary. That fear is the adventure. He doesn't seem to think of terms of success and failure. This is a man for whom sharing his warts and all experience is what's it's all about. Now that's what I call a Teacher.
Hamish McKenzie lives and works on the highly unique houseboats he designs and builds. Think Mad Max more than the quaint canals of Amsterdam. Hamish is as an engineer by trade and an artist by nature. The first thing you notice when you meet Hamish is his stripey beard and the words fate, hope and clarity tattooed across his face (he traded the tattoo for a raptor skull). Then, as soon as you start talking to him, the tattoo and the stripes disappear. We only thought to ask about his tattoo as we stepped off the boat. He's a frugal doer. When he has an idea he gets stuck in and then works out how to fill the spaces that remain. They might be gaps in the structure he's building or gaps in his knowledge, either way, he works out how to fill them. He's a natural recycler which explains why so many gaps need to be filled and how he's developed the knack of seeing beyond an object's current form. When we see a bus for sale. Hamish sees all the windows he needs for £200. He sees money as fuel. When he's running low he'll work for others to refill the tank but he has no interest in money unless he knows exactly what he's going to use it for.
Laurence McCahill is a co-founder of The Happy Startup School, an antidote to business as usual. The Happy Startup School provides an online school and off-grid gatherings for purpose-driven entrepreneurs and leaders seeking to balance money with meaning. Laurence's story is particularly inspiring for anyone who's struggling to find their purpose. Anyone who finds themselves with the feeling that this is not as good as it gets. We talk about his time travelling the world, the period he spent temping, a spell working for a financial corporate, self-employment, the trials and tribulations of building an agency and beyond. Laurence has spent 20 years or so as a business sculptor, chipping away at the things that don't allow him to align what he thinks, says and does. When something doesn't feel right he doesn't ignore the feeling, he changes something, he removes some rock and slowly the image or vision that he has is revealing itself. At the moment it looks like The Happy Startup School but that's evolving too. Laurence founded The Happy Startup School with Carlos Saba, his mate from school and they have spent much of their working life together which says a lot about the way they see and do business.
Bruce is European Vice President Twitter and was UK Managing Director of YouTube in its infancy. His book: "The Joy of Work", is a Sunday Times bestseller, and “Eat Sleep, Work Repeat”, has been the UK most listened to business podcast. Bruce grew up on a council estate in Birmingham. He started his working career in fast food restaurants to help him pay to become the first member of his family to ever go to university. After dozens of rejections, Bruce landed his first career role by taking a gamble and drawing a cartoon CV of his life. 20 years on, having worked in radio and magazines, he’s made his way to work in technology firms like YouTube/Google and Twitter. Today now runs Twitter’s business in Europe. Bruce is passionate about happiness at work and workplace culture (and runs a podcast on this very subject: eatsleepworkrepeat.fm).
It is very easy to hear the story of multiple world record holding, vegan since 6 years old, one kneecap only, endurance athlete Fiona Oakes and think she's crazy or superhuman. Watch Keegan Kuhn's 'Running for Good' or listen carefully to this podcast and you'll discover a shy, honest woman who simply wants to end suffering for humans and animals alike. Fiona has a very straightforward, old-fashioned, action-orientated approach that we can all learn from.
This is an experiment. This episode follows the Oliver Daley, episode #5. If you haven't already listened to that, we'd suggest listening to it first, and then coming back to listen to this wrap-up conversation. After we've recorded an episode Ray and I always tend to chat through how we think it went, what we picked up on and what we learnt. We're wondering whether it would be useful to record these conversations as 'wrap-up' episodes. So we've tried it here. Please tell us what you think.
Oliver is the Harry Potter obsessive behind Oliver’s Brighton, the award-winning Wizarding Shop. Still in his 20’s Oliver has managed to create a magical environment that JK herself would be proud of. His story is also fairly magical. He started out selling mobile phones and then became an estate agent. When he set off for a trade-show in China he did so expecting to find the next big technology. It didn’t work out that way. Sitting in a bar wondering why he thought it was such a good idea to come all this way looking for ideas he stopped thinking about his next big step and picked up his favourite Harry Potter book. Then it hit him.
In this episode, we spoke with a school friend of mine who set out to live a Miami Vice lifestyle and through his own hard work achieved it. These days he introduces me and other school friends to people like Anthony Joshua and Shane Warne who count him amongst their friends. Private jets and glamorous locations around the world are now the norm. Professionally he’s known as Hong Kong Tom. He’s an Asian online gambling pioneer known best for brands like Dafabet, sponsors of Fulham and Celtic. When we were teenagers Tom frustrated the hell out of the teachers because he was bright but not particularly motivated by school. He left school in the UK with one A-Level. A spell in London and then Hong Kong provided him with an opportunity to experiment with entrepreneurship. A lifestyle of risk followed. Tom’s ability to withstand the losses that come with taking risk is why his story stands out. Three weeks after getting married, and well before any significant wealth, he was sued and had to borrow $3.5m from a friend to avoid going bankrupt. So motivated was he to repay the debt, he risked his marriage by working 24/7 for two years. It showed him what he could do when he put his mind to it. What I like most about Tom is his ability to focus but never lose sight of the bigger picture including a super-skill in bringing his wide circle of friends and colleagues together.
Mark is the CEO of Action for Happiness, a movement designed to helps people increase wellbeing in their homes, workplaces, schools and local communities. His journey of awakening from a typical middle-class ‘go with the flow’ mentality to sharing a stage with the Dalai Lama is one that sets him apart. Mark is a very thoughtful and considerate man. When he applies himself to a task he does it consciously, he does it with care, deep thought and diligence. The fact that the movement he’s helped build is so focused on action . . . is why we so admire him and his team of volunteers. Richard Layard may be the inspiration behind Action for Happiness but Mark is the person that’s made it happen. In this conversation, you’ll get a taste of why and how.
Monty is a modern day renaissance man. Today he spends his days hanging out with tech titans and royalty. A well regarded journalist for the likes of the Economist, the Telegraph and the BBC but who also writes novels. He's also a Bollywood actor. He recently opened the London Stock Exchange. But perhaps maybe most interestingly, he's an expert in talking to anyone regardless of class. Growing up in West London, Monty honed his 'gift of the gab' which quickly took him from running a betting shop to supporting his global travels by ducking and diving. After being kicked out of Australia, he experimented with going off grid for 7 months, with no explanation or contact with friends or family. This experiment almost ended in disaster when he found himself on the edge of a Mexican cliff, bottle of Tequila in hand, and car hand-brake off. That wake-up-moment led to another reinvention, this time head down, and focused on building a more conventional life. But with Monty convention never lasts long. When Monty's interest is piqued he goes all in, which is both a blessing and a curse. We talk about how this way of living can be really dangerous, but it's also how he creates inspiring stories that continue to punctuate his life.
Alan Phillips is a self-described anarchist. Growing up in the hedonistic 60s, Alan found his way into Architecture. But he's not your everyday Architect. His life long passion for design has taken him around the world to teach and to design houses for all kinds of interesting people from princes to U2 front-man, Bono. Now in his early seventies, Alan reflects on the stabilising role that architecture plays in his life. This is a story of yin and yang. Where Alan's passion and drive for the creative art of designing buildings meet his OCD behaviour and how he organises his everything in his life right down to the very specific way he makes his bed every morning. Without this creative passion for his work he'd likely be dead, with it he finds the balance to live his best life. This is where the benefits of a blurring, between work and life, really comes into focus.
We talk to Gina Lyons, Gina is an award-winning director and producer working in TV and Film. We discuss how the 12 year old Gina bounced back when her Dad left with her Mum's best friend. Her Mum's battle with alcohol and depression - and a few years later her brother's tragic death in car accident. Rather than letting this adversity define her, Gina found a positive way to harness it. This led to a career defining job in TV when she won Channel 4's 'Get Me The Producer' in 2007. From there she quickly moved through the ranks at Graham Norton's TV production company, SoTV, ultimately seeing her produce TV and films independently that now are enjoyed by millions worldwide. Gina discusses the reappearance of her alter ego Anxious Annie and the recent global news story of 'drunk couple buy Sri-Lankan hotel while on honeymoon' - which of course features Gina and her husband Mark and is now generating serious interest from Hollywood. Where next for the fearless rude working-class girl from Northampton?
This episode is different to the others. We (Neil Witten and Ray Richards) discuss the Do Something Different methodology, why we started Life Done Different.ly, how we met, what we've learned and what we're learning from the conversations we're having.