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.
Welcome to this week's Freedom Fridays podcast, Episode 36. This is part two, actually, when I've had a conversation with Howard Tinker about some of the things he's overcome to get where he is, a highly published author, highly successful entrepreneur, living the life beyond his early years dreams and so we pick up the conversation and we talk about the label of dyslexia, and how he overcame being told on many occasions that he was stupid. Please welcome to the next episode of the Freedom Fridays podcast. This is a good time to pivot to the dyslexia, Howard, because I want to share a story with you. So back in the UK and here too, I used to work for, a success company and we would do seminars in hotels and it was predominantly around mindset. One of the things that we used to do right up front, was to provoke people into remembering 20 words, in order forwards and backwards. Right, so you've got your Howard Tinker's in the room going, I can't do that. That's not possible. And then because of the way we did it, we did it in a very experiential way, without going into too much detail became a story and you acted it out, and what blew people away, not whether they got 20 out of 20 but almost every single person got more than they thought they were going to get. And I remember one person specifically, privately coming up to me and saying, Pete, what you've just done, and it wasn't me, it was more the process, but what you've just done has changed my life because for years, I've been told that I was stupid and you've just shown me a way that I'm not. When did you, when you were told you're a problem child, you're stupid, when did you get a sense of the significance of that?
Because I was so young, it happened to me when I was six or seven, I don't think I knew it was significant. I just knew initially, I just didn't know what that meant really. But then I started to have different experiences once that judgment had been made so I got moved from the table. I don't know if you remember in infant school used to be like four of you around the table. I got moved from the good table to the difficult table. And then I got moved to the back of the class, basically, because I wasn't worthy of being taught, I guess and I wasn't a bad kid. It wasn't like I was doing bad things. It's just that I didn't contribute. And I didn't follow the instructions. So rather than have that problem right at the front of the classroom, and disrupt everybody else, because she's constantly having to teach me five times what everybody else got the first time, they put me to the back. and whenever they asked questions, if my hand went up, I was never chosen. And it was really interesting, we got a relief teacher one day and he asked a question, I put my hand up and he chose me and I was so shocked. I just put my hand up just to see, just because I wanted to be involved, and I didn't know the answer. And then he got it that I didn't know the answer and so walked me through this long mathematical thing, I can't remember if it was addition or subtraction, and he coached me, we're going back many, many years on how to get the answer and I was so proud of myself. And then the other teacher came back that didn't like me and so even being like seven years old or eight years old, I can remember that moment when I was taken through a process and taught something that I could achieve, but the rest of it was like, I was told so many times stupid child, stop daydreaming. And I actually did some work that I was very proud of it was a poem about Bonfire Night, and I was only little. And I took it to the teacher and she looked at it and said, You didn't do this. And as I got a little older, I went to middle school so I was over 10, I couldn't spell and I can remember in one class a teacher making me stand up and spell somebody's name and it's somebody that I had a very close friendship with, and I misspelled his name. And I can remember not only feeling stupid, but feeling sad that I hurt him by not being able to spell his name, it was a good friend of mine and he probably didn't even care and he probably laughed along with everybody that has screwed up his name. But to me, my world was I just hurt somebody, but through my stupidity. And I can remember in French being stood up for made to talk in French and I couldn't remember it because I've got no visual memory. So I don't even know my number plate and I've had my car four years. I used to have to have my mobile number written and stuck on the back of my phone in case anybody asked me what my number was, because I can't remember I have no visual memory. That's why I can't spell because if I say to you, how do you spell x in microseconds you will have a picture, maybe you don't recognise you get a picture but then you can spell it, I don't get a picture. And that's a deficit but I've learned to overcome it with coping mechanisms, which are fabulous and that I've learned later, all my coping mechanisms are what's called accelerated learning. And my coping mechanisms is what other people get trained in so they can think in an accelerated way, I've been thinking in an accelerated way since I was seven because I can't think in the linear way that people are taught at school. Now, I'm not at school now, maybe they're doing different things. But that time in my life, when I was criticised and made to feel stupid, for my inability to learn in the way that they were teaching, had a massive impact. And to the point that I left school at 16, factory fodder, basically went straight into a factory. And, it could have been that I would have been there for the next 50 years. I had insight that was the other thing, I wasn't stupid. I wasn't capable of doing academic study in a way that taught, but I wasn't stupid. And I remember vividly one day, I was in front of this machine that I was working on and I looked at the ground, I was stood on a rubber mat, and it was about a metre and a half long and about a meter wide and I thought, I am not going to stand on this for the next 50 years. I can remember thinking that and then starting to look, what could I do with my life, and made the decision that I was going to go grape picking in France, that was my solution. Everybody at the time wanted to go grape picking in France, and I'd have got there and I'd have been bent over, I'm a tall guy bent over for half a day and I would have known that was a really bad idea within half a day, but that was my solution. It didn't happen something else intervened. But I can remember vividly, at say 17 years old realising, I can't do this for the rest of my life. I can't be in a factory with very sexist very racist men, Neanderthal kind of people, stood on this mat getting covered in oil and dust and it just wasn't for me.
I know that we've talked before about the work of a chap called Howard Gardner who was possibly one of the first to recognise and reverse the question, how smart are you into how are you smart, very different way of looking at it and giving hope to kids like you, and probably me at that time because I was probably more sporty. Academically getting through school was if you had a good memory, and you could count therefore you're probably pretty good at exams and therefore, as a blunt way of saying you could kind of get through school, whereas others have intelligence in different forums. When did you recognise that you were smart, but just in a different way.
I wouldn't say I recognised that. So to answer your question, probably maybe only a few years ago, that I was smart.
Literally a few years ago from today?
Yes maybe, seven or eight years ago. But I was good, I was lucky in that I found, one of my escapes from my childhood, which was quite as I said, quite traumatic in a psychological way, was that I went to the youth club, 13 years old, I went to the youth club. And most of it was to avoid having to be at home in this hothouse atmosphere where I was walking on eggs, not knowing what I'd done wrong, but I was often criticised for it. But if I could get out of the house and go somewhere, then that was good, because then I'd come home, go immediately to bed and I don't have to be in this environment. So I used to go to the youth club and we were so lucky, we had this middle school that had just being built, and they built a youth wing. So it had the disco area and the coffee bar and table tennis and all of that and it was just beautiful. And the people that worked there men and women were such lovely people that cared about kids. And I started to learn that I was a good person, because they never wanted to judge me about my academic ability or lack of it and it was more to do with who I was, rather than what I could do and so I started to learn that I was good. And, it was funny, I got to 18 years old, and they took me to one side with these youth leaders and said, You can't come anymore, you're not a youth. And they said, Would you like to volunteer? Or would you like to become a youth leader. And so, because I knew I wasn't going to be academic, I went on these experiential courses, fell in love with all of that, that's probably the first taste of personal development without me knowing. Eventually, years later, I went and did a full year at night school to become a youth leader and was given my own youth club as I finished and it was in one of the most disadvantaged areas of Leeds. So Leeds is a working class town and this was one of the most disadvantaged areas. I won't say it because I don't want anybody to be stigmatised because that's where they are or that's where they grew up. But it was like second generation illiteracy, third generation unemployment, lots of crime, vandalism, all that sort of stuff. I used to have to pack my car so far away, so it wouldn't get vandalised while I was working in the club. So then I'd walk to the club from my car and then I work with the kids and my girlfriend at the time, my wife now used to work with me. So she and I would work together there and I was able to bring this different masculinity to what those kids were used to. So those kids were used to the hard end of masculinity, I was able to bring this caring side, I've quite a lot of feminine qualities, I'm quite a caring person. And again, I'm being stereotypical and I apologise for that. But what we know generally, I think I imbue quite a lot of the things that we value in female energy. I think I have a lot of that as opposed to the aggressive energy. And so I was able to demonstrate that with these kids and I was brave at times, I took away their equipment because they didn't pack it away. And these were kids that could riot, these weren't sensitive little flowers. I knew what was going on when I walked in the place for the first time and instead of table tennis and pool and snooker there was a boxing bag hung in the middle of the place, with somebody's face on it, it was that kind of place. And I remember we took all that away. And they came in and they went, Where is the whatever it is that they wanted. And we said, Well, you didn't put it away last time. We told you if you didn't put it away, we weren't getting it out. Oh, what are we going to do then? And we sat them down in the coffee bar area and we sat and talked and we got some modeling clay and they were talking and playing with that. And I said to them, Look, if we're not going to do this, what would you like to do? And they said could we go to the cinema I said, I'll see what money we've got and yes I'll take you to the cinema, that was so funny. Many of them never been, because they were poor, so we took them to the cinema in the minibus, and they were so excited yhey got upon the stage at the front with the film going, and they were dancing. I mean, it probably annoyed the hell out of everybody else. But it was so lovely to see these kids celebrating something that had been withheld from them. And we took them ice skating and so on, and we run out of money. And then they'd come back and say, Can we go x and I'd say, We haven't got any money they'd go Oh, and I said, Shall we work out how to make money and we ran jumble sales and things like that. And I actually got a couple of them onto the board. So all these old fuddy duddies were on the board, I actually got a couple of the kids on there, and I'd go with them and we'd talked through the agenda, and so on. And by the end of it, after Bev and I had left, one of those kids was working in accounts in plumbing business, another one was working in a bank, another kid was running his own business. Now these were kids that were destined to failure. And I'm not saying I'm the only one that was involved but I think what Beth and I did, and the other workers there was we gave them an alternative to what other men in that area would have done. I think this is a pattern that's gone through my life is been a pivotal person. Because I've had them in my life, I've had people have turned up and done something, or said something, or taken me through a period of my life and it changed and I think youth workers were the first ones. And then, from youth work, I went into working in children's homes, and I met this guy called Les Clark and he said to me, You are really good at this. And I was like, What? and he said, Those kids would do anything for you. This was in children's homes. He said, You really inspire them, we struggle to get them to do things, and you have a way of influencing and inspiring and he said, you really should be beyond this, you need to go to university and qualify. And I was still stupid, remember? And I do that with inverted commas. So I said I can't go to university, and I explained what a failure I was at anything academic. And he was saying, university is not about that. It's about you learning and demonstrating these skills and abilities, and I just put it off and put it off, and he harassed me for so long that in the end I want Oh go then I'll go, and he helped me fill in the forms and sent them off. And I went and I got there, and I was still in the mindset of being stupid, I thought that I was going to get thrown out. And at the end of the first year, I was getting distinctions and so on. And I convinced myself that they were giving me somebody else's marks. I know it sounds funny, but if you truly believe something hard enough you will...
You will find the evidence to prove it.
Or you discount evidence that says something opposite.
Howard, do you have a view to what extent your upbringing, your labelling of being dyslexic - and whether that's true or not, or just a different form of intelligence - do you have a view to the extent to which that shaping has helped you connect with others who are less than perfect?
Yes, I do. I also think the bullying that I encountered through teachers that bullied me, as well as my dad, as well as other kids, allowed me to have empathy for people that are downtrodden or disadvantaged. When I was working in some of the very dark areas of my social work life, so with some of those of the worst crimes, the thing that I had to do was have empathy with people that no one wanted to have empathy for. But the only way to reach someone is to be able to see them to say, I see you and to say, I don't judge you I judge your behavior. You don't say this, but you've got to be able to go to the darkest place and say It's alright I see you. It's okay. And I'm sure you've done worse than we're talking about.
And we come back to our, almost the start of our conversation around acceptance. I remember writing about this recently. It was a film that my daughter actually introduced me to, I didn't really know anything about it, called Just Mercy. I think it is Brian Johnson, I'm not sure. But he was a lawyer who would defend people on I think, death row, I might have got that wrong. But what he said was, which really, is a confronting thing to consider, we're more than the worst thing we've ever done. Which, obviously, in certain situations, extreme situations, that's challenging in many, many ways. But for you, and I've certainly done some things that I'm not proud of, and I can go I'm more than that. And I'm sensing what you were able to do for those kids and adults, is you were a beacon of hope that Yes I can be more than the worst things I've ever done, or the worst labels I've ever been given. Or, despite you thinking I'm stupid, I can be more than that.
I can be that pivotal person that I had them throughout my life, I've had them. And I can be that for other people.
And so maybe, a quick acceleration onto today, the life that you live today, I know that you're immersed in coaching and helping people and being pivotable, pivotal. I can't even say it now, pivotal for other entrepreneurs. Here is a guy who's written a number of books, one of which, Bums on Seats, which is just the most electric curious novel title and you're immediately going to open up that. How do you go from being labelled dyslexic to working in youthwork, to being an entrepreneur that writes a book called Bums on Seats?
It's More Bums on Seats, actually.
I think so the reason that I wrote the book, I went on a course about growing my business, and one of the elements of it was that you will improve your stature in the market if you are published. And so part of that course was that you write a book. So let me now set that as a bookmark and let's go back a little bit. When I started doing personal development 25 years ago from now, one of the things that we were taught, and I know that you like to know what people's maxim's are that they live by, but one that I was taught, which I live by is my word is the law in my universe, my word is law in my universe. So if I say I'm going to do something, and I don't do it, then what I've just done is corrupted something inside me. My inner world now knows I'm not trustworthy. So I always now, when I say always, most of the time now, when I say I'm going to do something, 99% of the time, I'll do it. Even if I'm halfway through it, and working out I don't like this, I'll do it just to get to the end of it. Because I feel that the process of doing what I said, showing up who I truly am keeping my word to myself to the world to the other person is more valuable than the hour or two or three of doing the thing I'm not enjoying anymore. So I can get to the end of the content but the context of keeping my word is so important. So when I went on that course, to help my business, and I said I would do the book, I actually posted on Facebook, and you could probably look back if you really wanted to. But I posted on Facebook, that I was doing a 30,000 word challenge and I would be writing 1000 words a day. And I posted it out, not knowing who was going to see it. But the thing was, it was out there and I'd given my word. So I was up at 5-5:30 every single day for 30 days and I wrote 1000 words a day, and I wouldn't get up from my chair until there was 1000 done and I kept doing that for 30 days and there was well over 30,000 and my book was written in 30 days. How did I do it? I think one of the things about me is because I don't have the abilities that are taught in school about how to write properly or structure things properly, I've got a very good narrative way of being. So I know you're supposed to talk on this podcast and I realise I've taken up about 70% of the air but that's the way that I am. And so when I sat down to write and I let go of any expectations of it being, Charles Dickens and just got on with the writing, it just flowed out of me Pete, all the things that I'd learned about marketing and about restaurants and about influencing other people, it just flowed out of me. The thing that I had though was a really good teacher, there was a guy called Andrew Griffiths. He's not the guy that wrote the kids stories he's a business writer and he gave me a process to write the book. So I'll do it really quickly for people in case anybody's only interested in writing the book. And he basically said that you get a mind map and you put the central theme in the middle. And the central theme for restaurant owners is how do I get more people in the restaurant? And then the next thing that you're going to write is your introduction. So who are you and why should they listen to you? And then the next thing is and then I stopped, and I had like, a million ideas of what could be the next thing and he was stood there. And I said to him, How do I know what to do right? I could tell them this, or this or this but what comes first? And he said, If I was a restaurant owner and I sat down to you and said, Howard, can you help me? What's the first thing should I do? And I went, Oh, that's easy, it's mindset. And he said, alright, that's chapter one. And once I got mindset, what's the next thing? Oh, that's easy, I need to teach you what marketing really is not what you think is. And then what? And so basically, he gave me the steps and there was about seven steps. And I just mind mapped out what would go in each of those steps. And by the end of it, I had so much on this mind map that if I ever hit a speed bump, I would look up at the mindmap and go, Oh, yeah, that and then I'd start writing again and it just flowed out. And what I realised is, it stumbles out of my mouth, I'm a really good writer, I could easily write a book every six months if I wanted, I have so much in there that's just waiting to spill out. Normally, I do it in talking but that's how it happened. Number one was, my word is law. And number two is having a good teacher. And number three, just allowing the process to come through. [1hr14m]
Howard, I think that's really helpful. And as I reflect on, one of the reasons I'm doing this podcast is to turn up every week, and the value I get for me in just committing to doing it and doing it. As you and I've talked about I've no idea where this is going to go and it doesn't have to go anywhere. But the fact I can get to the end of this year 2021 and say, Yep, I turned up every single week, 52 times I turned up, and I recorded something, and I gave it away. The same with my weekly whispers blog and so, we have a very similar modus operandi there, our word is our bond. And so I find myself sometimes not committing to too much, because I know once I do, that's it, I'm kind of all in for that commitment, so I think that short 1-2-3 tips and we know that working on ourselves is beyond, here's the seven tips to working on yourself, right? It's more just, tidbits and snacks to almost get us interested in to go a little, we know it's much deeper than that.
The thing that I learned throughout my life, basically, because of labelling that I endured when I was younger is that it can turn into a belief unless you've got a belief that becomes like, a filter that you look at life through. So if I believe I'm stupid, then I look at whatever's in front of me and going and I'll say, Well, I'm not going to understand that, so that's just one example. But in order to grow, you have to dismantle those beliefs. And yet, as much as those beliefs might be damaging, or limiting, they have benefits. So my belief about being stupid gives me the benefit of saying to my wife, I can't do the accounts, can you do them? Or I'm not going to stand up and make a fool of myself because I know I'm going to stand up and make a fool of myself. So I'll sit down quiet and let other people take the risk so I don't have to take the risk. So the benefit is I get to hide, I get to delegate. We've got all the evidence we need with that belief that I am incompetent and stupid, I've got years of evidence of that if I want to choose it and see it that way, and I can use it as a tool to avoid responsibility. The growth comes when you say, I am willing to dismantle this and give away those benefits and grow beyond that belief. And that's why death's very important, the death of a loved one or a divorce or a failure, business failure, whatever, they are very important moments in life, from a growth point of view, because a lot of what you believe about yourself is reflected, if it's a wife, or a parent, that leaves in one way or another, you have certain beliefs about yourself, based on what's reflected back from those people, when they gone, there's a very vulnerable time when those beliefs can be addressed. And I think, that that's why people jump out of airplanes, or they bungee jump or, or they do things that are dangerous, because I think, for moments or hours, there's an opportunity to develop a new me. Out of those crisis situations if you like, life and death situations. And so the working on myself, you can't do it with a piece of paper, you can't do it with seven tips, because you're looking at the seven tips through your filter, your belief. You have to have a teacher I think, you have to have a coach, and they have to push you beyond what you don't want to do. And so the teacher, student relationship in that has got to be very clean, the teacher has to be a very clean mirror. It's no use looking in a mirror that's an ego that's doing it for their own purposes, because it's a faulty mirror. And they might reflect back to you, No you're not doing that right. But that's about them having their ego needs met, you need somebody who's worked on themselves at several levels, beyond you, who is kind enough to take you on as a student. And then standing in front of that mirror when they say you need to do X and everything in your being is screaming, I don't want to do X or I'm scared to do X, and they're strong enough to say, Am I not your teacher? Without ego, just a mirror reflecting back to you. What's going on for you around X? What are you telling yourself around X? You know, what capabilities are beyond X that you're not willing to reach out and take hold of? So you need a teacher and personal development is for me is about that it's not about the seven tips to become wealthy or loved by other people. It's about working on myself and having somebody there that can reflect it back. I can't do it for myself. It's not self development, because I'm a dirty mirror for myself. I need someone who has done the work before me and I think that's where you and I and other coaches, and mentors come in, they become those pivotal people that are willing to say the things to the student, they're willing to say the things that could get them rejected. So they put their vulnerability on the line to say the thing you don't want to hear. Because the good reaction is, Who the hell are you to tell me to do this? Who are you to judge me in that way, that's the student talking. And so the teacher has got to be brave enough to hold his or her space and be willing to say the things that the student doesn't want to hear in order that the student wrestles with it and then grows through it. So you know, I think that you can't do it three ways or the seven ways.
Howard, I'm conscious of time and I'm really grateful for your time and that's gone really quickly. There has been so many examples, tips and tools and questions and things that I think people will pick so many things from that. What came to mind with the last thing you said was one of maxim's that I started my business with was when the students ready the teacher will appear. And I believe that throughout my life, and the teacher doesn't necessarily have to be a person. It could be a book, it could be a movie, it could be, it could be anything if we're looking for it we'll fine it assuming that we're ready. So for anyone that's listening, thank you for being if they're ready, perhaps one of their pivotal teachers.
You're welcome. Thank you.
Howard, I always finish with some, perhaps a lighter couple of questions just to kind of surprise you and keep you on your toes. So if we can do that I'd be grateful for your time. What's empties your soul?
Can you rephrase that question?
Okay, what pisses you off?
That's a hard question to answer because I'm working on myself to not be at the effect of things. I know I sound like a princess saying that. But when somebody is hurtful, purposely hurtful to someone else, I think that gets under my skin. However, there's that part of me that then wants to understand what's going on for that person that needs to be hurtful. But I think, when I can see somebody doing something that they know is going to be damaging, and they do it anyway, that gets under my skin.
And so on the opposite side, what something that gets you going creatively, what kind of fills your soul?
Well, it's actually the opposite when somebody is willing to give to someone else who has no way of repaying them and lift that person up. So I can see, as silly as it sounds, The Voice or something where someone's so nervous, and they do their thing, and they get lifted, on a TV show. Or it could be watching a documentary or watching a little snippet of something where somebody's just being incredibly kind to someone. You know the reason that kindness and love is the way.
You said you live by the beach, are you more sunrise or sunset?
I'm more sunrise these days, I used to be a night owl. But I'm done by 10 o'clock now. And we're in the spring at the moment. So the light is starting at 5:30am and my eyes are starting to open and I'm ready to go.
What's your favorite Yorkshire word?
I didn't know anybody in Yorkshire did that.
Well I'd say to you Pete, Hey love how are you going? So I'd say it to a man, I'd say to a woman, I'd say Thank you Love. Which can get me in trouble here because it's seen as potentially sexist. However, it's just part of my culture and upbringing that everyone's Love. And it's just a sweet thing that Yorkshire people say to other people.
And final question for me, Howard, what's a book that's changed your life?
The War of Art, which is by Steven Pressfield, it's not the art of war. It's the War of Art It's about resistance and Steven Pressfield is an author, beyond this book he's an author. And what he talks about is that when you enter the field, that gladiatorial field of creativity, and putting yourself out there, that resistance crops up inside you. And it will give you every excuse on the planet, including illness, pestilence, earthquakes, you'll end up drunk when you should have been working, all those things, resistance will throw all these things at you to stop you doing a higher level of work. And working on yourself, your job is to overcome resistance. So in my world, we call resistance IT I-T the Inner Terrorist. So it will get in there and undermine you, it will cause you to have an argument with your wife so that you can't think straight afterwards. And it's an amazing book, looking at IT and how IT controls us instead of us controlling ourselves, it is a brilliant brilliant book. It's only thin, sometimes the chapters are only half a page. But I definitely recommend it to anybody who's interested on working on themselves and being able to overcome that inner inner self talk or that self saboteur. That's what the book is really about.
Howard, I think that's a really great way for us to pause our conversation. Certainly the recording of because I know that we'll chat further. Thank you so much for your time. Even more gratitude for your transparency, and I'm sure there are many overt and covert lessons and insights that people will get when they listen to our conversation.
You're welcome, Pete. I hope it's useful to people.