Welcome to the Freedom Fridays Project podcast. I'm Pete Clark, your host, the Whispers Guy. It appears that work expands to the time that we give it and I started to explore how I was investing my time and effort, particularly on Fridays. It's evolved to an exploration and experiment with time, energy, attention and identity and a mindset shift from I have to, to I choose to. So if you're interested in exploring some changes to the way that you invest your time and energy, if you'd like some tips on the way as you make some changes, perhaps to your identity, if you would like the freedom of I choose to, away from I have to, then this is the podcast for you. So welcome to the Freedom Fridays Project podcast.
So welcome to this week's episode of Freedom Fridays podcast where I look at things in a slightly different way and ask questions of people who've moved from I have to I choose to. This week's guest is a relatively new colleague, and I'd say friend, we connected quite by chance in some ways, but have found lots and lots of similarities. So welcome to this conversation, Howard.
Thanks, Pete. Glad to be here.
How are you this morning?
I'm very good, thank you. Sun shining on me, which is always a good thing for a Yorkshireman. As you know, where I grew up, the sun didn't shine very often.
Yes, me too, sir. And so that's one of the ways in which we connected, we realised we'd both spent time in Leeds in England for a while. And so Howard I start these very broadly at asking, people that you and I know, relatively ordinary people who are doing or have done extraordinary things. What's the big change that they have made or executed? How have they gone from I have to, to I choose to? And can you share with us what the big change is that you've gone through?
Yeah, there's a couple of things. One is that I grew up really, in poverty. So there were days when I know, my mum struggled to feed me.
Yes I grew up in the back streets of Leeds in a very working class area, we didn't have hot running water, we didn't have a toilet inside we had to walk down the street to a shared toilet. So I've gone from that to living here and I'm living beyond my dreams, way beyond what I ever dreamed possible for me. So that's one massive change and the other is that I am also dyslexic, and so for me at school and for the early part of my life, the first 20 odd years of my life, I actually believed I was stupid, and that I didn't have any opportunity to do anything academically or in any way to do with being bright or clever, or creative or anything like that. And now I run a very successful marketing company, coaching company. So they are two massive changes that have happened.
Wow. Can I pick up on the poverty thing first, what decade was that? I'm being kind.
I was born in 1962.
Right? So that would be the 60s and 70s.
Yes particularly the 60s though, we moved from that house when I was four.
Right, I was born in the 60s as well. And I have no recollection of housing that didn't have inside toilets and didn't have hot running water. I didn't even know those existed.
We were in the council houses just up the road. At what point did you realise or do you have any recollection of at what point you realised that wasn't the norm?
I don't think I did realise, it was only when we moved to a new house and it had hot running water and indoor plumbing that, we were in this luxurious place. And this is a story about how we got there. Something that happened to my dad and he came into a little bit of money and my mum forced him to spend the money on the house because my dad was a gambler and if she'd not really pushed him to do that the money would have been gone. So at that point in his time he'd overcome an addiction in order to do the right thing and we went from extreme poverty to what seemed at the time luxury. I mean, when I go back to that house now, and I've not been there for probably a decade, but it's this tiny little place, but for us it seemed like we've moved into the Hilton Hotel. It is a tiny little house, I could fit it inside my lounge room, probably. But at the time we'd gone from one room downstairs and I believe two rooms upstairs, it was a back to back house. So there was no back door, it was a wall and the neighbors behind us their back wall was our back wall. You know what I mean? So they were, it was tough times, it was tough times. There wasn't a bath indoors, they used to bring a bath that was stored in the cellar into the living room. They'd stoke up the coal fire and heat water, which was put in there and that's how we had a bath once a week.
Well, I mean, my story isn't quite as dramatic as that. But I do remember quite vividly getting a bath in the dishes water. So like many of us who grew up then the family would do the dishes, there was no dishwashers. And then my mum would plunk me in the dish water and clean me up, I didn't know any different. And so I do want to pick up on the dyslexia thing, I think that's the conversation I'd like to have with you. But can I just another question about the poverty aspect, given both of us live in Australia and it's a very, relatively, it's called the lucky country and we both live out of our dreams lives with what we do, where we live, et cetera, et cetera? To what extent are you aware of how the your poverty upbringing has shaped your perspective?
Yes I am aware and there's a couple of things as well, and we might touch on Margaret Thatcher at some point in this conversation. She was a pivotal person in my life, not necessarily for a good reason. But yes the poverty thing, I am a very grateful person. So I do obviously take things for granted, because familiarity breeds contempt for everybody. However I do recognise the wealth that I have in living in a nice place and being able to walk to the beach and that, to me is wealth. But the other thing is that we were told, right from probably being 15 years old, through to 25 years old, that if you didn't work and work really, really hard, your job was on the line. I remember Norman Tebbit who probably means nothing to anyone listening to this, but he was Margaret Thatcher's right hand man. I remember him saying, if you don't work hard, there's 6 million people that want your job. That was 10% of the population of Britain at the time. And so we had an unemployment number of 10%. I mean, in Australia right now it's 5%. And people are saying, woah that's getting a bit up there when we had 10%. And we were told, if you work your arse off, you're out and there's 6 million people queuing for your job. So we just worked and worked and worked. So when I got to this country, that's more laid back and really indulges in what we can do as a family and barbecues and beaches and things like that and work is almost secondary, almost, that I felt like I died and gone to heaven. You know? Wow, I've come from this place when I'm whipped to work to a place where people go, Yes, works important, because it provides money so that we can go out at the weekend and we can do what we want to do. So I am very conscious and grateful for that. And even though in comparison, I live in the life of luxury I've brought my daughter up to, even though she's always lived in this life of luxury, I've always brought her up to realise that not everybody has this. I'm going off on a tangent here.
No because I've got a couple of other questions. I want to keep with this if that's okay. I know a little bit I've read a little bit about intergenerational beliefs and exactly as you said, certainly if you're a Brit, I'm guessing it's maybe a global thing, but I don't know. But certainly, as a Brit, if you grew up in the 60s in the 70s, that was the belief, you had to work hard. And I feel myself and I know, I still have a lot of that running through me that my success is driven by the harder I work, the more successful I become. And part of me likes that and that's partly what's driven my subjective success. But I recognise there's a threshold that I would often cross and it's not good. Do you feel that? And if so, have you managed that? Have you been able to shape that in a more balanced way?
Yeah, so there's a belief that I was told, and it was drummed into me by my father, which was a fair day's pay for a hard day's work. And so the other side of that same coin is, you don't deserve pay if you don't work hard. And so it's a belief that I have wrestled with over the years, where I am now in my career, it doesn't drive me that much. I've got to a stage where most of my survival needs are handled and now I work for money that provides extras if you like. So I don't have to be so driven by that and I now get to choose who I work with, and how I work and so on. But for a long, long, long, long time, I would turn up for work when there was no work to be done. And I would sit in front of my computer at nine o'clock, because that's what you did, whether or not I had anything to do, I'd sit down and make work in order to fulfill that belief that was running beneath the surface, like a little computer program. And what I see now, because I do a lot of coaching is that a lot of people struggle with that one, and they don't even know it's running them. They're not having the belief, the belief is having them, it's running them. And I see that often, much of my work is to illuminate these beliefs that are not actually doing good service for the person. So I do know about that one and it's something that I've worked on over the years.
And given your shaping and upbringing in this world of poverty that you were exposed to in Leeds, have you gone through any exercises where you've worked out how much is enough? And I don't just met necessarily mean financially? Obviously, that'll be a big one, but have you worked at how much is enough in terms of freedom, happiness, depth of relationship? Have you gone through any of that, given your perspective on, here's where I was and look where I am now, there is a tendency to continue growing and evolving and not necessarily chasing, but I'm wondering if you've worked on that.
If I said, Yes, I would be lying, I have never sat down with an exercise to work out what's enough. However, I've gone through exercises and processes within some training that I did, that really fractured my paradigm. So it might be if my paradigm was I had to work hard to be good, and good enough, and to be worthy of payment. those beliefs were were shattered by me going through some exercises that I can talk about as we move along. But it wasn't necessarily focused on those kinds of beliefs. But I think the other thing that broke those paradigms was losing my parents individually, my dad first then my mum, and realising that what I was working towards, a pile of money or whatever it was, actually didn't matter at all once I lost the love of someone that I kind of took for granted. And I got to see that connection with people that you love and care for is much more valuable than a pile of money. So I think, yes, I went through some exercises, but I also experienced loss that woke me up.
Okay, have you got siblings?
So there's another connection. I didn't realise we're both only children. And I lost my dad when I was 10 and so we've had a very similar shaping experience that still drives me today. I've called it the worst and the best day of my life. I wish I could bring it all back, I'd give all this up for that and yet because that happened, it's shaped who I've become, what I've done where I am, etc, etc. Have you reflected on the loss of your parents as something that's shaped you in a good way or not so good way?
Yes I think my relationship with my parents shaped me anyway. And a lot of what I do and what I believe and how I behave good and bad, comes from them. But the loss of them was a catalyst for me to change as a person without reflection. So when I was growing up, I had no idea that I was doing the vast majority of things that I was doing to prove to my dad I was worthy and to hear him say, I love you. And even though I'm dyslexic, I got myself a master's degree in education and the driving force behind it was to finally hear him say he was proud of me, and he loved me and he never did. The bugger died without saying it. So I had to resolve that after his death, actually, that I am a good person, and I am good enough that I'm worthy of love, even if he wasn't capable of saying it. And it wasn't about me being bad, and it wasn't about him being bad. It was just the way that he was put together as a man, as a person. That wasn't him. He was capable of displaying love in lots of ways but for him to say it wasn't his way of being as a person. So that was, that death my father passing away was a catalyst for me to then have to look at well if I'm not doing my life for his approval, because he can't approve anymore, why the hell am I alive? Why am I doing this and without going to suicide because it never got that dark but I went through a few days of being bereft of meaning not just bereft of my father but what's the point, literally what is the point And I don't mean that in a suicidal way. I mean, I was just lost I was like this rudderless boat out on the ocean not knowing why I should do anything so that again without reflection that happened inside my body and my feelings in my psychology within moments of him dying it lasted a few days and then when my mum passed away many years later I got the insight that life's short and I want to be doing what I want to be doing. I don't want to be doing what I feel I need to do so moving from have to choose to. So if I'm going to die in the next anything from moment to 20 years, how do I want to spend that time because we don't know how long it's going to last? And so I literally thought about who do I want to be around and who do I not want around me and that included clients that meant saying goodbye to people that were putting money in my pocket. Also what kind of people do I want to attract in my life personally and professionally. And also what do I want to give what do I want to be, not known for like in the newspapers, but if somebody said What did you think of that Howard Tinker guy they would say he was a really good guy because he did this and he did that and helped me with this and he listened when I needed to speak and if I ever was in trouble I knew that that was the guy I could ring and he didn't judge me, that kind of thing. So what did I want to give what service could I give to other people? So my mum's passing made me reflect on that and I actually went through a year where I focused on what is meaningful to me so what really matters and I came up with healthy wealthy wise you remember that rhyme when we were kids and happy healthy wealthy, wise and happy and I thought typical me ex-engineer, I'll break the year down into four three months and focus on each one and had this kind of inkling I might write a book about it. I never did. So I looked at where am I at with my health. So I did intermittent fasting I went to the gym, which I don't like exercise, but I pushed myself to go to the gym, I did a paleo diet, I gave up alcohol. Wealthy, I looked at, what are we doing with our money investments, shares, that kind of thing? Wise, I actually looked at can I experience wisdom beyond what I can get intellectually? So I booked myself on an Ayahuasca retreat, so jungle medicine. And we can talk about that either, in this call for like, five minutes, or we can talk about it for an hour or two at another time. But basically, it gave me the opportunity to get beyond the threshold of my conscious mind. So I had experiences that I couldn't literally think through, they came to me because I was in an altered state. So I went and did that I went to India, spent time in India. And then happiness was again about who or what makes me happy. So I spent a whole year after my mum passed away, doing that I walked away from my business, I just let it run and I thought if I come back and it's gone, it's gone. And if I come back, and it's still working great. And we had systems and people in place, when I came back, it was pretty much doing what it did, we'd lost a few clients, and we hadn't replaced them because I had no sales process in place without me there. So I wasn't bothered, I came back a different when I say came back, I didn't go anywhere much. I mean, I went off for weeks or what have you and came back to my house, but I wasn't focused in the business. And I think, since then, that was the beginning of it. But we've had COVID, and again that got me to reflect on why am I here? What do I want to do? What do I want to contribute? So I think I'm a very different person, but not through exercises, it's more through, things that were catalysts for me to change.
It had been the catalyst, I think, and you've taken the space and time to reflect. I will get to the dyslexia thing, because I really want to talk about that. But there's a couple of strands I want to try and pull together there. Prior to us recording this Howard, you said that you had done a lot of work on yourself. And I was reflecting that when I work with leaders and teams today, they use this kind of I'm time poor when really it's a space poor thing. They don't give themselves enough space to work on themselves. For whatever reason, I don't know how to I don't, I don't want to, but you've described many examples of what you've done to work on yourself. The second strand is I read years ago that there is a really high, 70-80% of entrepreneurs who've had some childhood trauma. They've lost a parent, they've lost a sibling, they've been in an accident and that's been partly a catalyst to drive them forward. And so I'm wondering if you've got a view? Do you need to lose a parent to work on yourself? Do you need to have trauma to work on yourself? Are there examples of people that have had no trauma and are able to work on themselves?
I don't believe you have to lose a parent. I mean, I didn't lose my dad until I was older. It wasn't in my childhood that I lost him what it was when I was older, but he was still a primary figure in my life, unbeknownst to me, I didn't think so, I was a grown man. But funnily enough, when I reflect back, I'd gone into business but daren't tell him and I was a grown man, because I didn't want his negative, pessimistic critical view of what I was doing, because I knew I was very vulnerable and going into business, because I still believed I was stupid, remember, because of the dyslexia thing, and every time I tried to do something, he was critical. And in the moment, it was awful and those years of that were awful. But in retrospect, when I had lost him and I look back on it, I can see lots of positives about why he was critical. He just had, three tools in his tool bag and that's all he had and he used them from a point of view that he didn't want me to be hurt in life, but all he had was a hammer and a chisel and a big wrench. Whereas we might have really delicate, fine tools that we use. He wasn't equipped with that, he came from abject poverty, and it makes my poverty look like riches I mean, his father was a dock worker in Hull who literally had to queue up on the dock gates and physically fight, like physically fight to get a job for the day. My granddad had half his ear bitten off in one of those fights. And then my granddad had alcohol problems so he'd worked for a day go to the pub come home drunk and can beat my grandmother up. And my dad at 14 jumped in and fought with his dad and all of that, so he'd had an horrendous life. And then, that's his model for fathering and then I come into the world and he never physically abused me. Scared the bejesus out of me a lot through his criticism and his anger, but he never did to me what his father did to him. So we're making progress. As I say, he had a massive influence on me, not necessarily in the most positive way, because I was, I was affected by his criticism, right through to into my 20s and 30s. That changed later, but I don't think you have to lose someone. And we could look at that now and say, well, that must have been a traumatic time in your childhood, there's your trauma, this is what you acted against. But I didn't even know that that was traumatic Pete, I thought that was normal. It's like fish in water, I didn't know anybody else was having a different experience. Same with dyslexia, I didn't know that other kids couldn't read and put words together or remember the shape of words. I thought everybody was like that. I thought I was like that, I thought you were like that when we sat together in class, if we'd known each other, I'd have had my Janet and John book, and you'd have had yours and I'd be looking at the page and not making any sense of it and I would think that you were. It wasn't until I got labelled a problem child, that I knew that I was a problem. But coming back to the trauma and working on yourself, no, I think you can can work on yourself, no matter what your background, the way that I stumbled across it, I'd worked in social work and therapy for about eight years, and I'd been at the very high end, the pointy end of it with juvenile offenders. So I worked with kids who are in danger of going into custody, they'd had all the chances, they blown everything, and they'd committed horrendous crimes. So I worked with kids that had killed other people and all that stuff. And I've worked there for four years. Not particularly wanting to go into this, but I also worked with the juvenile sex offenders as well, so I was right at the pointy end and I did that for years. And I'm just about burned out, just about on my last legs and I got an opportunity to move to a mental health team in another town, and work in child and family mental health, and become a family therapist. So I went there. And I went to this interview, and I met this other candidate there and they chose both of us. So we were both working in this team and I was telling her a bit about my background and she said, Oh, there's this course you should go on, I think you'd love it. And I'd just done my master's degree. It cost me about 2000 pounds back in those days. And I said, Well, how much is that? And she said, Oh, it's 200 pounds, so a 10th of what I paid and she thought this course was going to be fantastic for me. And I had no idea of seminars or workshops I'd never come across it I didn't know what personal development was. So I thought it would be like school or university. So I said Well, where is it, where do they hold it and she said, Oh, it's in a hotel ballroom kind of thing and I was really confused, but I trusted this woman. So when along, paid my money, I went and I turned up with an exercise book and a pencil and that sort of thing. And they immediately say, there's nothing here to write, put it all away, this is experiential. And I'm like, I'm never going to remember this. Still dyslexic remember, I'm never going to remember this. I've got to make some notes even in my scrawl and it was a Thursday evening and my motivation was mainly to become a better therapist so that I could be better for other people, it was not to look at me. And I went in there on a Thursday night and the thing around Thursday night, Friday night, all day Saturday, all day Sunday, and by the Sunday, I was a different person, I changed, the stuff that they put me through, I felt for the first time I was truly unconditionally loved. The love that I got from my parents was conditional. I was unconditionally loved in that room, my body was vibrating, like tingling as it finished, I felt like I was almost hovering off the carpet. I was just completely changed.
It was visceral, you felt it all over your body? Really tactical question, how did you, apart from the physical sensation, who were you unconditionally loved by?
Everybody in the room. I bared my soul, all of my deepest, darkest secrets. I bared it all, now I understand Jungian therapy, I understand about the cave and the shadow. Well, in that room, I dug in the shadow, and I brought it all out all the gooey, awful stuff I didn't want people to know and I had it in my hands and I just said, This is me. And they looked at me and I'm almost close to tears telling you this, it was just the most overwhelming sense of acceptance of me as a person. And I think it was the first time in my life, that I'd been totally accepted just for who I was and not criticised for who I wasn't.
We can catapult anywhere with that one, because I think that is such, people are starving for acceptance. And almost, I sense in the professional work that I do, even more so because there's so many boundaries and policies and masks and rules and regulations that, certain industries should be bound by. And yet, how do I wrestle free from that and be fully myself as I am imperfect now and be accepted for it so I can grow. So I sense there's almost this, one of the things that prevents us from growing is acceptance of where we're at and who we are now.
Yes and ever since we realised we weren't good enough, or we're told we weren't good enough, we've built a layer to protect ourselves. And it's like the Russian dolls. So right in the middle is this innocent, vulnerable, beautiful thing that we are. But somebody says that's not good enough, you're stupid, you're ugly, you're fat.
I find this amazing that we pick up those beliefs, almost like random post-it notes consciously, unconsciously, overtly, covertly, as we move through life. So I'm going to pause there and I know that sounds a little bit of an abrupt ending. But Howard and I got talking, we got in flow, and we talked about many more things. So I'm going to pause it there for this week's episode. Tune in next week to hear Howard and I talk about his dyslexia and the labels of him being called stupid and how we overcome that. We'll see you next week.