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The Tim Smal Show
23 minutes | Sep 21, 2020
Katie Lyon – Some Things Take Time
September 21st, 2020 Katie LyonSome Things Take Time Katie Lyon talks about her latest release ‘Some Things Take Time’, as well as her live performance at The House of Machines in Cape Town. Katie Lyon is a singer-songwriter from Southwest Florida. She is influenced by the sounds of Brandi Carlile, Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves, as well as George Strait, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell. Katie’s music resembles the easy listening side of country, where you can kick back with a drink on your back porch and let your mind drift into a song.Visit Katie’s website TRANSCRIPT – PDF Tim Smal (host): Aloha and welcome to the show today. My name is Tim Smal, thanks for joining me. My guest today on the show is Katie Lyon. She is a singer-songwriter from Southwest Florida. Katie is influenced by the sounds of Brandi Carlile, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, as well as George Strait, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell. Katie’s music resembles the easy listening side of country, where you can kick back with a drink on your back porch and let your mind drift into a song. Katie, welcome to the show. Katie Lyon (guest): Thanks so much for having me Tim. [00:55] Tim Smal: So Katie, we actually met in Cape Town a few years ago. You were traveling with your family and I happened to actually serve you guys on a wine farm while I was working there and that’s how I met you.[01:11] Katie Lyon: That was an awesome day. I drank a lot of wine, thanks for that. [01:17] Tim Smal: You’re welcome. And I thought to myself “Hey, I should hook you up with a gig in Cape Town while you’re here”, seen as you were just on holiday. And I spoke to one of my friends at the bar in town called House of Machines, and Andy let you borrow his guitar and you got to play an open mic.[01:38] Katie Lyon: Yes, that was an incredible night too. I mean, the whole day was amazing, but by that time it was just… I wasn’t even… I think I was flying out the next morning too, so it was one of our last night’s in Cape Town and everyone was super nice. I’m sure it was very weird to have an American at an open mic night like that.[01:59] Tim Smal: Well, I guess what happens a lot is that, musicians come to South Africa on holiday for a couple of days and they don’t really intend to play shows. So often they’ll come and go and then when you speak to them in the years ahead they kind of say “Oh yeah, you know, I was in Cape Town and I was just hanging out, but I didn’t play a show” so I always think it’s super cool if the musician can just at least say that they played one show in Cape Town. So now you can tell all your friends that you’ve played a gig in South Africa.[02:31] Katie Lyon: Yeah, honestly, when I tell people that, they’re really amazed by it, so thank you for introducing me to your friend Andy and everyone I met there that night was, super nice and kind. So, you know, it kind of felt like home. Andy did say one really funny thing though, I think, when I got on stage, because he was… I think he was leading the open mic and he goes “Now this is Katie from America and don’t judge her for that” or something to that extent – I thought that was pretty funny.[03:00] Tim Smal: Yeah, Andy’s a real character. He’s put out a couple of records himself (Andy Lund & The Mission Men) and he’s also certainly toured in the states, so he’s got a lot of live experience. But Katie, you have a new record out, it’s called ‘Some Things Take Time’. Can you tell us more about your latest record?[03:21] Katie Lyon: I’d love to. I’m really excited about it. I released it in the middle of last month and I’m seeing some pretty good results from it – it seems to resonate with people. I typically record in Nashville, Tennessee, but I kinda took a step back on this one. I went back to my hometown and I recorded this in Cape Coral, Florida with a good friend of mine at his home studio Juniper Recordings. And honestly, it was such a fun experience because it was so relaxed. We got to really dive into each song in detail and we had a lot more time, mainly because, you know, I don’t think he really billed me by the hour. So it was a really great creative experience.[04:05] Tim Smal: Yeah, I guess it makes a big difference if you feel that that pressure is off your shoulders when you’re making a record. Of course, it’s good to have deadlines and so forth, but if you feel like you have the creative space to just do the work that you need to do, it’s certainly a really awesome environment to be in, right?[04:26] Katie Lyon: Yes, I was so thankful for that and honestly, I think we had… we did five songs and we gave ourselves three days – which isn’t a lot, but they were really long three days. But all the musicians were just on it – they were on their game and we all got to collaborate a little bit. So the songs that I used to play out live by myself, kind of, started to turn into this collaborative thing with the other musicians in the room. Mainly, like, you know, we ended up coming up with some really cool guitar lines and bass lines and things like that. And really, it was them, not me. I was just like “Yeah, that sounds great, keep going.”[05:04] Tim Smal: Yeah, it’s always great to work with other musicians in the studio and to experience the songs coming together and taking shape in the studio environment. But in terms of how you actually wrote the songs, did you compose them all yourself or did you collaborate with other songwriters?[05:24] Katie Lyon: So I’m on this, I guess, journey with collaborative songwriting, but I’m at the very beginning of it, so all of these songs are written by me and me only. Honestly, I take a lot of pride in that and I take a lot of pride in my songwriting abilities, I suppose. But I’m working on trying to get better at co-writing, because to be honest with you, I’m not very good at it.[05:52] Tim Smal: Yeah, I guess getting used to the idea of co-writing takes a bit of time, especially if you’re used to writing on your own, it can feel a little bit unsettling to have to open up and I suppose, you know, share your vulnerabilities with another songwriter. But I guess over time, you get better at that right? It’s a muscle you have to, kind of, work at. And I’ve heard a lot of stories of how songwriters have actually managed to develop that skill and to improve as songwriters, because ultimately when they collaborate with others, it’s like iron sharpening iron, right?[06:31] Katie Lyon: Exactly. Yeah, I’m working on it. It’s one of those things that I know I need to do. But to be honest with you, I have been traveling so much and haven’t really stayed in one place for very long in the last few years. So in order to book those co-writes and things like that, it’s been difficult and not something I’ve super prioritized, so moving into the next chapter of music for me, I think will involve me writing a lot of music with my friends, which I’m excited about.[07:00] Tim Smal: Well, being based in Tennessee, you certainly have access to a lot of really good songwriters and a great music culture. I’m sure you’ve spent a lot of time in Nashville and I understand that you’ve actually recently moved to an area called Chattanooga in Tennessee, which I’m not familiar with, but maybe you can tell me a little bit more about what it’s like to be living there and what the music scene is like in Chattanooga? [07:27] Katie Lyon: I would love to. Nashville is growing… it’s growing so fast, it’s become this big beast of a city. And to be honest, I mean, I love Nashville and I loved my time there, but just about two hours east is Chattanooga. So there’s… it’s more mountainous, it’s more based in nature and you can get outside and go explore nature’s wonders a little bit easier than you can if you lived in the city of Nashville. But Chattanooga is smaller and the music scene there is something I’m still trying to tap into, but it… to me it seems like there’s a ton of opportunities to play at small local businesses and things like that. And they take a lot of pride on the local music community and even, they have a lot of – maybe not a lot, but they have programs for people even to go out and busk on the street and make money doing it that way. That was of course before the COVID-19 pandemic but, still some pretty cool options. [08:32] Tim Smal: Cool. Yeah, I’ve certainly chatted to a couple of musicians who don’t live in the center of Nashville itself, but who live an hour or two away from Nashville. So it’s certainly a great thing to be based in Tennessee, and at least you can get to Nashville when you need to be there. And yeah, you know, a two hour drive in America – that’s not too bad. I remember once being in… let me see if I can remember this correctly – I think I was in the city of… oh my gosh, I think it was… Ohio… I think I was in the city of Columbus, Ohio and I needed to get to Nashville, Tennessee to watch a gig of a band on the same day and it was a 7-hour drive. But actually just because of, you know, how things are set up in the states, the roads are really good – the seven-hour drive didn’t feel like a seven-hour drive, you know. We left Columbus and we got to Nashville and I was like “Hey, I’m ready to roll. It doesn’t feel like I’ve even been on the road.” So I guess, it’s something you get used to, right… being in America, just kind of being on the road and traveling… and even seven hours is not as bad as say, fourteen hours, right?[09:44] Katie Lyon: Oh, I love a good road trip. Actually just recently, I drove from Nashville, Tennessee up to Burlington, Vermont where I am right now. I’m just up here temporarily and I’m going back to Tennessee in a couple weeks. But that is a… I think it’s a 20-hour trip and we took it – we just drove it straight through and, you know, I guess it isn’t bad. It’s so nice to see the country and see all sorts of different cities that you go through, you know. I had a really good time and I do a lot of driving actually. [10:17] Tim Smal: Yeah. And of course, the longer you drive in the states, the more plush dolls you collect from those crane machines at the trucker stops, right?[10:27] Katie Lyon: Actually, it’s so funny you mention that. Last night I was in the middle of nowhere in Vermont, like in the… I don’t think there was even any cell reception. And the car that I was driving started overheating, so I had to stop into a truck stop. And I was in there and I had to buy coolant and I put that in my vehicle. And then they had this really goofy looking trucker hat – I was like… “I need that.” So I just bought it, brought it home as my souvenir, so maybe I’ll start collecting those instead.[10:59] Tim Smal: Awesome. Well, you came out with your first major release in 2017 called ‘No Matter Where You Roam’ and then in 2020 you released ‘Some Things Take Time’ which we spoke a little bit about. But I believe there’s actually quite a special message regarding this album, or EP that you released, should I say. Would you like to tell us more about the special message behind this record?[11:26] Katie Lyon: Yeah. 2020 has been pretty unique for all of us, I think. But for me, specifically, I wasn’t sure when I was going to release this album, because I’ve been going through some, I guess, I should say quite a lot of personal turmoil. But my mom actually was diagnosed with breast cancer just about the time that I started to think about recording this album. And it’s pretty unfortunate situation where, you know, it was really aggressive, so I didn’t get a whole lot of time with her between diagnosis and unfortunately she passed away this March. But in the meantime, because I was in Florida – because that’s where she lived – I was actually able to, kind of, include her in the process of recording these songs and get her perspective on what each recording day, you know, whether this little note was bad or this little, you know, groove if she liked it or not. So a lot of times when I listen to this album back, it reminds me of those really precious moments of her being like “Ah man, I love this part.” So I’m always going to think really fondly of this EP.[12:36] Tim Smal: I’m very sorry to hear about the passing of your mom, but I guess at the same time, as you mentioned, it’s a really special experience to have worked with your mom on this record and it will always be very close to you in your discography moving forward. So I think it’s also great that the listeners can have more of an idea of what was going on at the time and some of the hidden meanings with regard to the album. Because to be able to have your mom around and have her be a part of the, I suppose, the writing and the recording process, if you will… yeah, it’s just a really special moment in time that you’ve been able to capture, so I’m really glad to hear that. Do you think that moving forward from here, you’re going to need some time just to, sort of, take a time out with that and the coronavirus complications and so forth, in terms of what’s happening in the world? Or do you feel like you’re actually ready to start writing or do another album – where are you at, in terms of your career, at this point in time?[13:41] Katie Lyon: Honestly, I’ve been writing more now than ever. You know, when my mom passed away, it was… it still is a really devastating, tough thing for me to be dealing with. But the only thing that keeps me going, is the fact that I know she would want me to keep writing. And everyday, you know, I’ll pick up my guitar and I’m like “Man, sometimes I’m just not feeling it.” But the next day, it’ll just spark a song and I’ll have it written in like 30 minutes. And I really do think sometimes, I’m like “Well, someone’s giving me a little creative tip from somewhere” and I credit that to my mom on most days. But during the coronavirus, I was actually able to be a part of something called ‘The Songwriter Quarantine’. And it was a songwriter collective actually out of Southwest Florida, where a bunch of musicians would get together and they would write a new song every week and there would be a deadline every Sunday night: you’d have to have the song written and uploaded to YouTube by 9 p.m. And it was all based off a different prompt every week. And that really actually helped me get my creative juices flowing again when I was like, you know, going through a lot of phases of depression and grief and anxiety, it really helped me get my basis and get back to stuff that I love to do, so I’m very thankful for that.[15:03] Tim Smal: Now I’ve been listening to ‘Some Things Take Time’ and I’ve really been enjoying it. So I just thought I would just choose one song that I really like and perhaps you can tell me just a little bit more about that. So I’m going to choose ‘Suits You Just Right’ – that’s the track I’m going to choose today that I really like, and I thought maybe you could just tell the listeners a little bit more about that song specifically.[15:29] Katie Lyon: Oh man, I love that you picked that song. This is a special one, because it’s one of the first songs that I wrote truly about my own life. Normally I just, you know, write on other people’s experiences, because that tends to be the easier thing to do. But this one is about me and it gets right down to it. I mean, the first lyric of it is: “I didn’t grow up with no daddy, but that’s not a tear I cry. He rode out in the middle of the night, at least he let me say goodbye.” And that really happened. But to me, it’s a way for me to turn what you would think might be a really terrible experience into something like, you know what, I’m good, I’m okay – like we’re okay here. And I actually played this song that night in South Africa, so it’s been in the works for quite some time and I just now put it out into the world, you know, on a record. But it’s definitely important to me. And I guess another very important lyric would be in the second verse – see this song is all about, you know, feeling comfortable with yourself and who you are and who the world basically perceives you to be. And the line in the second verse is: “Closets don’t tell secrets, but I would if I were you.” And it’s basically saying, you know, I’m a gay country singer, I’m married to a woman. And in that song, I’m just kind of owning that, because I think it’s important to be part of the conversation and for people to know exactly who I am.[16:57] Tim Smal: Great. Well, thanks for sharing and I’m glad I chose a good song for you to talk about. I’m really interested just to ask you about the genre of country music. Of course,country music is really popular in the United States and its growing in popularity around the world. But one of the aspects of country music, is this idea that the songwriters have a great opportunity to tell stories – that’s really an important fabric of country music. So I’m just really interested, in terms of how you gravitated towards country music – was it the stories that the songwriters were weaving that attracted you, was it perhaps the sound of the genre itself, or a combination of both? Can you tell me more just about your interest in country music and how you felt drawn to this genre.[17:50] Katie Lyon: Yes. So I started listening to country music, I mean, pretty much as soon as I could hear, because that’s all my parents would play growing up. They didn’t really know anything else – I mean, they grew up in the middle of Iowa, which is, you know, like the Midwest to its core. But I’ve just always listened to country, I only knew… I thought “Wow, this must be the only genre out there” until I, you know, probably transitioned into my teens and then I was like “Wow, there’s pop music, rock music, all this other stuff that I started learning about.” And I do listen to all genres now, but I always come back to country because of the stories. I love obviously… sound is important, you need to like the sound of the song… but I love getting lost in the story that someone’s trying to tell me.[18:38] Tim Smal: And I did mention a couple of artists that you really like listening to, but if you had to tour with somebody or, you know, write with somebody, do you have any artists that you can think of that are really inspiring you right now, that you perhaps would like to go and watch or even work with or tour with one day?[18:57] Katie Lyon: Oh man, it’s actually the first one you had on your list: Brandi Carlile. I actually didn’t start listening to her music up until, maybe like, three or four years ago. But then I started, just really… her music really resonates with me. I think she’s from Washington. But also, she does a lot of humanitarian work and uses her music for those purposes. So, I mean, I would just really love to follow in those footsteps and honestly, I think our music is in the same like country / folk / maybe Americana-ish vain.[19:33] Tim Smal: Yeah, I’m personally not all that familiar with Brandi Carlile’s music, but I do know that she’s very popular and that she’s been on the music scene for quite some time. And so, perhaps I should dig up some of her old records and just, you know, do a deep dive into her discography. [19:51] Katie Lyon: Oh man, yeah, you will love it – well, I think you’ll love it. My favorite album of hers is probably one titled ‘Bear Creek’. It’s really beautiful, so if you want to start somewhere, that’s my suggestion.[20:06] Tim Smal: Great. Yeah, I love getting suggestions from musicians. So do you have any other suggestions of artists that we can listen to, some records that you’re spinning at the moment?[20:19] Katie Lyon: What am I listening to at the moment? I’m kind of all over the place, but my recent obsession is the new Katie Pruitt album. She’s very good – I’m not exactly sure what genre I would consider that, but it’s definitely in the ‘singer-songwriter’ genre, I think, would apply. And let’s see… who else am I listening to a lot lately?Oh, this is a great one: Larkin Poe. They’re a rock band made up of two sisters – one rips on the guitar and the other riffs on slide guitar. And it’s like blues / country / folk / rock – they got it all going on. That album’s called ‘Self-made Man’.[21:03] Tim Smal: Yeah, so I actually do know Larkin Poe quite well. A couple of years ago, they had a series of EPs that they put out – I can’t remember what the name of the EPs were, but yeah, I know Larkin Poe and I really enjoy their music, so I’ll definitely check out that recommendation.[21:22] Katie Lyon: The day before Jesse and I got married, there was like a concert right outside of our venue and Larkin Poe actually played there in Chattanooga, Tennessee and that’s kind of how I started to listen to their music. And now it’s just… it’s a good memory. [21:37] Tim Smal: Awesome. Well, Katie it’s been super cool having you on the show today. I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you and I know the listeners are going to enjoy listening to your latest release ‘Some Things Take Time’ which I’m sure they can find in a couple of different places. But would you like to just let the listeners know how they can get hold of you and where they can find you?[21:58] Katie Lyon: Absolutely. I’m pretty much on all streaming platforms – Spotify is probably the most popular one for this record. As well as my website, I’ve linked out pretty much everything. But if you’d like to purchase a CD or t-shirt of sorts, I definitely have merch on my website too, so that’s katielyonmusic.com and then the album is ‘Some Things Take Time’ on Spotify.[22:21] Tim Smal: Awesome. Well thanks again for joining me on the show today Katie, it’s been really, really cool. Enjoy the rest of your day there in Vermont and all the best with the year ahead. I wish you all the best with songwriting and recording and touring in the future, until we meet again.[22:40] Katie Lyon: Yeah, it was so good to catch up with you Tim and stay safe over there in Cape Town and I can’t wait to chat again.
24 minutes | Sep 9, 2020
Dr. James F. Zender – Recovering from a car accident
September 9th, 2020 Dr. James F. Zender Recovering from a car accident Dr. James F. Zender talks about road safety in reference to his new book ‘Recovering From Your Car Accident: The Complete Guide to Reclaiming Your Life’. Dr. James F. Zender is a clinical psychologist, certified brain injury specialist and certified traumatologist. His Psychology Today blog, The New Normal, made Healthline’s List of best traumatic brain injury blogs of 2019. For the past 15 years, his private practice in the Detroit Metro area has focused on vehicular trauma injury recovery. He has lectured at the The World Psychiatric Association, Harvard Medical School, The International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, and The American Psychological Association. Visit Dr. Zender’s website TRANSCRIPT – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi folks and welcome to the show today. My name is Tim Smal. My guest on today’s show is Dr. James Zender. He’s a clinical psychologist, certified brain injury specialist and certified traumatologist. His Psychology Today blog, The New Normal, made Healthline’s List of best traumatic brain injury blogs of 2019. Dr. Zender was the founding director of The Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Psychological Trauma at Detroit Receiving Hospital and University Health Center and was a full-time Affiliate Instructor in Psychiatry at The Wayne State University School of Medicine. For the past 15 years, his private practice in the Detroit Metro area has focused on vehicular trauma injury recovery, and he has lectured at The World Psychiatric Association, Harvard Medical School, The International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, and The American Psychological Association. Dr. Zender, welcome to the show Dr. James F. Zender (guest): Thank you Tim, it’s my honor to be here.[01:21] Tim Smal: Dr. Zender, you have a brand new book coming out in October 2020, which is titled ‘Recovering From Your Car Accident: The Complete Guide to Reclaiming Your Life’. Would you like to tell the listeners a little bit about this new book of yours? [01:38] Dr. James F. Zender: I’ve worked on this book for over five years, and it deals with all the nuts and bolts of recovering from car accidents: from the emotional, psychological, physical, legal, and preventative aspects. So hopefully if someone has been in a serious car accident or they have a loved one, they’ll find some useful information here.[02:07] Tim Smal: Can you tell us more about how you became interested in working with people that have been involved in automobile accidents?[02:19] Dr. James F. Zender: Yes. As I worked my way through the years of helping car accident survivors, I became increasingly impressed with the neural cognitive aspects of their injuries. Even though I had taken a year of neuropsychology classes forty years ago, a lot of the neuropsychological understandings of injury didn’t really translate that much into day-to-day clinical practice. And I would have to say, it really wasn’t until the movie ‘Concussion’ came out and I saw that and was so impressed by the issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy that Dr. Bennet Omalu identified in NFL players – which had devastating consequences for their lives, sometimes leading to suicide or violent behavior, definitely depression and early dementia – did I start to really study current developments and brain injury. And it’s really an area that the medical profession really hasn’t, as a whole, gotten a good grasp on. So often with car accident survivors, even though they’re showing a lot of cognitive problems, often they’re not recognized by their medical practitioners. [03:42] Tim Smal: And certainly, some of these conditions that the survivors experience, only show up days or weeks or, perhaps, months after the car accident. And so, perhaps they are discharged and they return home, only to find that they have new challenges that they have to face. And would you say that for many of these individuals, they don’t necessarily have the support that they need, as they move into this new chapter of their life where they have to wrestle with life after their car accident.[04:16] Dr. James F. Zender: Yes, you really – you touched on quite a few issues that are very important to recognize about brain injuries in car accidents. One of the subchapters in my book is called “Treated and Released.” Basically, in the typical post accident emergency room, if the brain is not thought to be bleeding, there’s not going to be any kind of imaging studies. They basically do a very cursory kind of examination. Maybe do a couple x-rays and the person is perhaps given a pain medication and released, and told to follow up with their family doctor. Often, you know, people are released and they go home and they just don’t feel like themselves anymore: they’re having problems doing very simple things – things that prior to the accident, they would have done very, very easily. For example: just being confused about where things are in the house or how to do things – everything’s an effort, there’s extreme fatigue. So we now identify that there are both primary and secondary injuries involving brain injury. So the primary is the blunt force trauma to the brain tissue – the brain colliding with the skull and being bruised to some extent. You know, the brain is such an amazing organ, there’s a hundred billion neurons and a hundred trillion neural connections. One neuron can have six or seven or ten thousand neural connections. So it’s quite an amazing organ, the brain and it’s basically the consistency of toothpaste or Jello – you know, it’s very, very soft with this hundred trillion connections inside of it. So these neurons can experience damage very easily with the rotational force traumas or blunt force traumas. We call it “coup contrecoup” when the brain is snapped forward and back very, very quickly. So the primary injury is the actual injury to the brain tissue. And then the area that is really not receiving the recognition that it does in the medical community is what’s called “secondary trauma.” And that involves changes to the hormonal endocrine system that can result. The pituitary gland is particularly vulnerable to rotational injuries. And sometimes, the deficits in the human growth hormone that’s produced by the pituitary will not show up for three to six months after the accident. So these injuries can continue to unfold for months or even years after the initial trauma. And as I talked about the movie “Concussion” which showed the effect of cumulative brain trauma, it is compounded so that if you have one brain injury, you know, the effects of a second brain injury can be much greater and so on. So you have these professional athletes who are sustaining dozens or hundreds of traumatic events and you see the degenerative functioning that is depicted in that movie.[07:34] Tim Smal: I’ve certainly watched a number of movies about related topics. I remember watching a movie called “The Crash Reel” which was about a snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who received a traumatic brain injury in the run-up events for the 2010 Olympics. And it was quite an eye-opener for me because, of course, Kevin really loved the sport that he was involved in. But, of course, once he received the brain injury, you could definitely see there was a change to his personality and, of course, many other challenges that he had to face. But he really wanted to return to the sport and it was controversial in the sense that his family didn’t want him to continue, because they saw the effect on him, but he wanted to get back to doing the sport because it meant so much to him. And so, I just remember that film and certainly the one that you mentioned, I will watch too. But I think that films are a great medium to communicate this message to individuals, because people, of course, don’t think about what it would be like if that happened to them, in the sense of: if they’re in a car accident, they don’t necessarily think about what that would feel like until it happens to them. And so certainly, when you consider the mantra that “prevention is better than cure” I think that that is very relevant to the topic that we’re talking about today. And so, what I find very interesting, is that your book that is coming out is really the first book to offer comprehensive evidence-based information on how to overcome these physical and emotional traumas that individuals sustain in auto accidents. But what are your thoughts on actually working proactively to prevent these car accidents in the first place?[09:22] Dr. James F. Zender: Well, there’s a number of things that can be done in way of prevention… but before we go to there, you mentioned something that triggered an important thought. You were talking about how nobody ever expects how an accident is going to affect them until after it happens or until they see a loved one affected. And just imagine, you know, you’re a highly functioning successful professional, for example, and everything is going great in your life. And in the blink of an eye, you’re broadsided or you’re involved in a head-on accident that isn’t even your fault. And all of a sudden, you can no longer function in your job – your profession that you spent years to build up, you’re no longer able to carry out your high-level skills. So yeah, the issue of: in a blink of an eye, everything can change – and nobody really wants to think about that, but unfortunately it happens to millions of people every year in the world. So okay, so we can come back to the issue of prevention. It’s estimated that, maybe roughly, ninety percent of accidents are preventable by looking at human factor, human behavior issues. So I would say the number one thing that would have a huge positive impact on preventing accidents is: a zero tolerance for alcohol and driving. Alcohol is involved in a large percentage of the accidents. It really affects behavior, it affects judgment – people become reckless, they speed. The loss of judgment and coordination become huge factors in accidents. So, you know, knocking out alcohol as a factor would have a huge impact. The other big one is distracted driving. In the United States, everybody’s on their cell phones and even though we have laws about not using cell phones with driving, people still do it and that’s a huge problem. Then there’s other issues like fatigue. You know, fatigue plays a factor in a significant number of accidents. Condition of vehicles is another factor – people driving unsafe vehicles, not doing routine inspections. Then there is the condition of the roadways: there are some areas of the highways that see a large number of accidents due to the construction of the highways and those are certainly things that can be addressed, but can be more difficult to address because of the expenses involved.[12:12] Tim Smal: It’s really interesting to listen to a list of reasons as to why accidents may occur and all the likely scenarios that could contribute to these incidents. And I actually thought that, perhaps, I could contribute another possible cause, which you didn’t mention. And it’s slightly difficult to articulate, but I’m sure you will agree with me, hopefully, that: Many times when people drive motor vehicles on the road, they might be in a headspace where they are in a bad mood, they might be angry or perhaps having a minor fight with a partner or they might be experiencing road rage – they might take out their anger or their frustration of the day. There’s many scenarios where individuals are not being mindful when they drive, just based on the personal emotions that the individual is feeling in that moment. They might not be on their cell phone, they might not even necessarily be speeding, but they might just be bringing a really poor attitude to driving on the road. Do you have any thoughts on that observation?[13:23] Dr. James F. Zender: Yes, that’s a really good observation. I think that we’re talking about another more subtle form of distraction, in terms of just not being mindful – being preoccupied with one’s emotional state. And if we could, in the way of prevention, also just indoctrinate… get indoctrinated, that when we get on the roads, we’re dealing with a shared space – that we don’t have more rights than anybody else, that we have to share the rights of the roadway and to be in a mindset of being helpful to other drivers that we encounter… being courteous, cutting people some slack. And this is something that, unfortunately, we don’t see enough of it. We don’t see enough kindness on the road or maybe somebody’s just trying to get out into traffic and, you know, 10 cars pass before someone slows down and allows them to enter. Or using turn signals, very simple things like that… being courteous, mindful, looking out for the other driver. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement in that area, which you highlight in your question.[14:39] Tim Smal: I like the phrase that you use, that “we are entering into a shared space when we drive on the road” because I think that’s what it’s about: it’s the idea that we are sharing the space with other people – it’s not just about me getting to where I need to be. And perhaps if people could start to think about that, it would help them. Because as you mentioned, today is Labor Day in the United States. It’s a holiday that you celebrate every year as an American. But when you mentioned to me, in our pre-interview, that it’s estimated that 400 people will die in motor vehicle accidents today, that really hits home. And I think that’s a statement that nobody can really ignore, right?[15:29] Dr. James F. Zender: Yeah, it’s very, very sobering… very sobering. And it’s truly a global pandemic that has gone on since the beginning of the automobile, and fortunately organizations are working to increase awareness. For example, the United Nations – every year they have the World Day of Remembrance for auto accident victims and their families and survivors. And, you know, this is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention – it would be great if every country would get behind the promotion of increased awareness on that day, November the 15th. It’s always the… I think, the third Sunday or maybe it’s the second Sunday of every November – but this year, it is November the 15th. There’s just such a need to increase awareness about this and yeah, I mean tragically, we know the estimates that, pretty much, prove true: that 400 people will die. How many people will be injured – you know, many times that. You know, families will be destroyed, lives will be destroyed and many of those deaths could have been prevented.[16:43] Tim Smal: And of course, your approach in the book, and in your work, has always been to focus on empathy and positive psychology, because, of course, it’s a journey for individuals to recover from their car accident. They have to attend to their physical and their emotional well-being, and it certainly takes time. So could you perhaps speak a little bit about the importance of positive psychology, empathy and the related arenas when dealing with recovery?[17:16] Dr. James F. Zender: I would say, the number one thing for accident survivors to remember is: it’s vitally important to stay positive. Because if they have been seriously injured, their recovery is not going to be a week or a month… we’re talking a year – a year and a half, two years, three years, five years. These are long-term recovery scenarios if you’re dealing with physical and certainly emotional injuries. And again, often the emotional injuries give people more problems than the physical injuries, even though they may be severe and serious. So it’s vitally important that people have compassion for themselves in how long it’s taking to recover, particularly when it comes to a brain injury.The good news about the brain is that it does heal. It does recover through a process that everyone is familiar with now called neuroplasticity, that the brain is indeed malleable and can change. The neurons can rewire themselves around damaged areas. Going back to the issue of hormones and the endocrine system, once it is determined that there are deficits, there are things like hormone replacement therapy that can be brought on board or… Someone that I got to know through, actually Andrew Marr, who wrote the “Tales From The Blast Factory” book (A Brain Injured Special Forces Green Beret’s Journey Back From the Brink) is Dr. Mark Gordon, who’s done some really amazing work with hormone replacement therapy and nutraceuticals. And he’s doing work with veterans primarily. You can see a really good podcast that he and Andrew did on Joe Rogan’s program, talking about the treatment. And it’s also highlighted in the movie “Quiet Explosions.”So the other issue that’s really important to touch on is: when someone is in an accident, it’s not just affecting them, it’s affecting their entire social circle – it’s affecting their family members, it’s affecting their employer or employees. It has ripple effects and profound ripple effects. And often, one of the really difficult challenges is for the accident survivor to learn to relate in a different way to the family, and to deal with role changes in the family. Often the sole provider is now totally dependent on everyone else who, prior to the accident was dependent on them. And these can be very difficult changes, hard for everyone in the family to accept. And there’s a real need for psychoeducation and compassionate relating and assistance with the entire family in coming to terms with a severe accident situation.[20:18] Tim Smal: I’m sure for the listeners that are listening to this episode that perhaps know someone in that situation, your new book is going to be incredibly helpful to them. So they’re welcome to find out more information on your website which is drjameszender.com – there are also a lot of other blog posts that you have there, so an incredible amount of useful information.But I imagine that for individuals that perhaps haven’t considered this arena – that are only starting to think about the implications of car accidents in the general population – it will be helpful to them too. So would you recommend that the book is read by any individual, regardless of where they are in their journey in exploring the implications of car accidents in the general population?[21:14] Dr. James F. Zender: I would hope there would be something of interest for everybody, because again, we’re dealing with a global pandemic of auto crash injuries. And it’s affecting the whole world. I read, for example, in South Africa, the economic impact of injuries from car accidents is, I believe, 3.4 percent of the gross domestic product. So we’re talking about, in the US, for example, half a trillion dollars in economic impact from injuries every year. You know, just on an economic level, imagine what we could do with those resources if we weren’t dealing with helping people to recover.[21:58] Tim Smal: Well Dr. Zender, I really appreciate your time today, it’s been very interesting speaking with you and I certainly wish you all the best with the launch of your new book in October 2020. I’m sure there will be many opportunities to talk about the book and have people ask questions, so I’m certainly going to follow the journey of the book release. And I hope you have many more opportunities to talk at length about this very important topic. But in terms of wrapping up the show today, I was wondering if you have any closing thoughts or messages to the listeners today regarding this particular topic.[22:39] Dr. James F. Zender: Again, I think we all have to work to monitor ourselves in traveling on the roads. As Gandhi said “We need to be the change.” So as we stay vigilant and work to make our behaviors more preventable, in terms of these horrible accidents, then we can make a better world for ourselves and our children.[23:06] Tim Smal: Great. Well, thanks again Dr. Zender and all the best for the year ahead and the launch of your book. Thanks again for joining us today.[23:16] Dr. James F. Zender: Thank you so much Tim. Thanks for the opportunity.
33 minutes | Aug 25, 2020
Kristina Murray – Southern Ambrosia
August 25th, 2020 Kristina MurraySouthern Ambrosia Kristina Murray talks about her second full-length record ‘Southern Ambrosia’ as well as her latest single ‘The Great Unknown’. Georgia-bred, Nashville-based artist Kristina Murray plays Americana and country music rooted and steeped in troubadour storytelling and southern-rock grit. Kristina currently lives in Nashville, active in the independent country and Americana music scene. One listen and you’ll believe every word that drips from her honky-tonk hewn, yet honeyed vocal style. Visit Kristina’s websiteView Kristina’s discography TRANSCRIPT – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi everyone and welcome to the show today. My name is Tim Smal. My guest on today’s show is Kristina Murray. Kristina plays Americana and country music rooted and steeped in troubadour storytelling and southern-rock grit. Kristina currently lives in Nashville, active in the independent country and Americana scene. Kristina, welcome to the show.Kristina Murray (guest): Hey Tim, thanks for having me. [00:41] Tim Smal: I’m glad to have you on the show today, Kristina. You were originally from Atlanta, Georgia and then I believe you moved to Colorado, and now you’ve found yourself in Nashville. So I’m sure you’re very happy living there now, because Nashville is certainly a hub for musicians these days… but what has your journey been like, in terms of relocating from various parts of America?[01:08] Kristina Murray: Oh man, that’s a great question. You know, when I moved to Colorado, I was moving from rural South Carolina – that’s where I went to college. I grew up in Atlanta and I never really lived outside of the South before. So when I moved out to Colorado, I was young – I was 21, and I was really looking for something really different. And most people… a lot of people that I knew that had traveled outside of the South had said “You know, it’s very important to get out of this region and live elsewhere in the country, just because America is so varied in its regions and its ideas and what’s happening in different parts of the country, so it’s pretty good and healthy to explore those different things.” So I was pretty young and when I moved to Colorado, I was really… I had been into bluegrass for a few years and there was kind of a buzzing little progressive bluegrass scene that was out there and I wanted to explore… you know, becoming a better musician and what that meant – it was mostly motivated by that. And so I moved out there and got really into the bluegrass music scene, which then eventually evolved into wanting to learn more about traditional country. I knew some traditional country growing up, you know, my parents listened to a variety of music – mostly rock and roll but, a variety of stuff. So I knew some country music and I need some popular country music growing up, but I never really… hadn’t really delved into the old stuff. So when I was learning bluegrass and studying bluegrass when I lived out there, I got really into country music. And then at some point, it kind of became clear that, just due to the locale of where Colorado was and, you know, it’s so far from my whole family that lived in the South still and just the kind of music that I was wanting to make, you know, which was… I wanted to start to discover and explore how to write my own music and meet other young people that were doing the same thing, that were influenced by some of the same influences that I had musically. So, you know, I kind of reached a peak place in Colorado and actually just got really fed up with the weather too out there, because it snows a lot. And then, you know, about six and a half years ago, I decided to move to Nashville. So it’s been a very varied journey and sometimes I get frustrated with myself that I feel like I maybe wasted time in Colorado, but I also learned how to be a musician out there. I learned the national number system and I really studied music and music form. I wrote and recorded my first record out there… [I] performed, [I] learned how to play three-and-a-half to four hours worth of covers, which was important for, you know, musical education. And then when I moved here, I got a little bit frustrated with my lack of knowledge on the business side of how to run myself as a small business or as an independent artist, as a small business, and how to network, you know, things like that. So it’s been an up-and-down journey and just in the last… I don’t know, maybe two years, have I felt like “OK, I’m starting to grasp how to do this” and then, of course, in March everything got upended, so now it’s a new challenge, I guess – a new… I don’t know, it kind of feels like a left turn in the journey almost, right? Pandemic… so….[04:57] Tim Smal: Your latest full-length record ‘Southern Ambrosia’, I’m sure you’re really excited about this record. I mean, it’s an absolute masterpiece. The songwriting is fantastic, just from a sonic point of view, it just sounds incredible… wow, I’m sure there’s lots that we can talk about here. So I’m just going to give you the opportunity just to tell the listeners a little bit about Southern Ambrosia.[05:20] Kristina Murray: Sure. It is a record I am extremely proud of and “for better or worse”… all the emotions that go along with that, so it’s almost now, I guess, it’ll be two years old in September, which I guess, relatively speaking, is not that old yet. So that album, I had about a third of the songs written as I was moving to Nashville, so I had… you know, when I moved to Nashville ‘Unraveling’ was a little less than a year old, but nobody in Nashville cared. So it’s almost like, if it didn’t… if it wasn’t recorded in Nashville, nobody really gave a s**t. So when I moved here, I had a few songs written and I had my eye towards like “OK, start to think about a new record in the next year or so” because, you know, the process takes so long of finding people and booking dates and making the record and then doing the artwork and like, getting the promo together, you know… before you know it, it’s been two years and you don’t have a new album or new work or anything to put out. So when I moved here in 2014, I was looking to, you know… co-writing and meeting people to write with and really, you know, diving into writing my next full-length. So I had a few songs and then I met a few folks and wrote a couple more songs. And then when I looked at the collection that I had, right at about 2016, I felt really ready to record the album. It felt really… it felt really cohesive. It had a lot to do with life as a Southerner and especially in, you know, the 21st century and all the, kind of, juxtapositions that go along with that: being proud of being Southern and some of the, you know, traditions and cultural piece that goes along with that… being proud of the diversity of this region, but also being torn completely and heartbroken by the legacy of this region. So I feel like a lot of that is explored on there and, you know, a lot of… there’s some political commentary on there: there’s one song ‘Slow Kill’ that I didn’t write until about a month before we recorded it. So it’s the most recent song on that record. But anyway, so about 2016… mid-2016, I had a majority of the songs that became Southern Ambrosia. I was making plans to record with a producer in town. And then my relationship with my then boyfriend fell apart and just came to a crashing halt, you know, end… tragic end. So that, kind of, derailed my life for six months or so. And then within that time period of, you know, kind of grieving the end of that relationship and, you know, going through that, I met Mike Rinne… or I knew Mike Rinne through a couple of mutual friends. But we were at a show at The Cannery Ballroom and he said to me, he was like “I really want to produce your album – please let me produce your record.” Because I had talked to him about playing bass on my album – he’s an incredible bass player, but he said “No, I want to produce it.” And so I was like, you know, I wasn’t… you know, I was just… my head was so cloudy because I was going through this grieving period of my breakup. And so, you know, a month later or so, he called and said “Listen, I’ve booked some studio dates. I’m going to get some session guys – we’re just going to go in and I want to cut these four songs.” He’s like “And if you like how it turns out, we’ll talk about recording the rest of the album together. If you don’t like how it turns out, then ‘no sweat’ – you don’t owe me anything, we’ll just call it a fun weekend and we’ll go from there.” So that’s kinda how the genesis of that record happened. It was December – I think the last two or three days of December 2016 – we went into ‘Welcome to 1979’, which is an analog studio here in Nashville, and we cut four songs… four or five songs, which then ultimately became half of Southern Ambrosia. And then a few months later in May of 2017, we finished the rest of the record. And in that time period, I wrote ‘Slow Kill’ – I wrote it about two months after Trump was elected. And yeah, so that’s really how that album came about. I am very proud of it. Like I was saying before, I think there’s a really strong thematic element in that album. I feel like it showcases some of my best songwriting, but also a lot of my influences: you know, there’s some blues in there, there’s some straight folk, obviously a lot of country – it’s country album. So yeah, that’s really… that’s Southern Ambrosia. I mean, I could probably talk about it for a long time. But that’s it in a, you know, 5-minute nutshell, I suppose.[10:35] Tim Smal: One of my favorite tracks – if not my favorite track on the record – is ‘Strong Blood’. So I believe that the title Southern Ambrosia actually comes from a line in this song. Could you maybe tell us more about that?[10:53] Kristina Murray: So that song, I wrote it… I started writing it in the summer of 2016. I was bartending and I would finish my shift and I would come home and the house I was living in at the time, also didn’t have AC (air conditioning) – central AC. So I would sit in front of the window unit and then crank it on and I’d pick up – I was playing… I was messin’ around on electric guitar a little bit at that time and I’d sit in front of the AC unit and I’d mess around and that’s how I wrote that song. So Strong Blood… I suppose the idea of it is behind ambrosia, you know, being the food from the gods, you know, the nectar of the gods. And the idea there is that: there are things that the American South gives us – or the state of Georgia in particular, with regards to me, because that’s where I’m from – give to us that are, you know, are unique to that region. And I highlight Georgia peaches (the fruit), which is a perfect food. And then The Allman Brothers, which is one of my favorite bands and a band that I grew up hearing all the time. My parents were big fans of that band and just living in Georgia, you know, you hear that music, kind of… its kind of, the background music of your life, in a lot of ways. So, I kind of give a nod to both of those in there and I call them Southern Ambrosia. But yeah, that’s a very autobiographical song, you know. I talk about my dad there: “The only thing that daddy left was a little dust on the shelf” and that’s literally talking about his ashes. You know, he was a working man and he died suddenly and, you know, that’s kind of that, I suppose. I wrote that song… I started writing that song a couple weeks after the Pulse nightclub shooting, so the second verse about, you know, news: “The newsman on the radio today said it’s worse than yesterday. There ain’t no sweet relief.” That line is directly from, you know, the feeling of despair that you get when you listen to the news – especially now… holy cow. Yeah, but, you know, there’s a quiet hopefulness in it too because, you know, sometimes as artists the only relief maybe we can get, is through the creative work that we do and that’s what I was trying to convey in that song is that, you know: singing and writing and – you know, especially performing – bring me a lot of joy and a lot of relief for those kind of heavy emotions. And that’s what I was trying to say there. You know, and I nod to the fact that my… you know, my dad was stubborn, but he was also an empath and very courageous and a hard worker. And I hope that I have those qualities in myself. You know, some days I recognize that I do, and some days that I don’t. So that’s kind of what that song talks about, and is about. [14:07] Tim Smal: Well, it’s certainly great to hear that your father has influenced you so much and that his presence is strongly felt on Southern Ambrosia, both sonically and lyrically. I believe that he actually gave you your very first guitar at the age of 16, and a couple of really cool records too – so he’s been a really big influence in your life.[14:32] Kristina Murray: Totally. Well, so my folks didn’t have a… they didn’t have a vinyl record player in our house growing up, so we just had CDs. And it wasn’t until, probably like 10 years ago, I was in the attic of my mama’s house and I opened this old trunk and – oh my gosh she had… it was, like, full of amazing – all this incredible vinyl. And I was like “Mom, you’ve been hiding this.” You know, when I finally got into vinyl and collecting vinyl albums and… Anyway, so yeah. So they were big music lovers and we always had some really incredible CDs. When I was – I think when I was in fourth grade, I got my first CD player. And I got The Space Jam soundtrack, The Spice Girls album, and Cat Stevens ‘Tea for the Tillerman’. Those were my three first CDs. And then from there, you know, my dad, he was always – we always had a cassette tape of ‘Graceland’ (Paul Simon) in the car. ‘Live at the Fillmore East’ that was always – The Allman Brothers ‘Live at the Fillmore East’ was always on. You know, I grew up thinking that a 20-minute song was normal because of ‘Mountain Jam’ on that record. Yeah, so we had some really incredible music growing up. My mama was a big Jessi Colter fan, she had a couple of Emmylou Harris records. So yeah, so they were very influential, you know, musically for me, from a pretty early age. And yeah, that Graceland record is so… you know it – for the first several years after my dad died, I couldn’t even listen to that album, or pretty much a lot of Bob Dylan – it just reminded me too much of him. But now it’s a very happy memory to be able to sing along to all those songs. [16:25] Tim Smal: Yeah, it’s incredible to discover how successful Paul Simon’s Graceland has been. Of course, with me being from South Africa, I heard that record when I was younger, because of course, it was recorded here. And Ladysmith Black Mambazo have had a great career as a result of the exposure from recording with Paul Simon. And my brother and I used to listen to that record a lot growing up – in fact, he’s got a poster of it now in his house. And I laughed the other day, because my cousin only heard this album, I think for the first time in her life, a year or two ago. And I thought to myself “Wow, you know, like I was listening to that when I was a kid, you know.” So there are still people that are discovering that record.[17:12] Kristina Murray: Well, that’s the great thing about, you know, classic timeless music, and I always hope that can be true for my music, is that: for someone that has never heard it, you know, it’s brand-new. And that is what always continues to blow me away about music as an art form is like: this never-ending treasure trove of music. Like I, just this summer, really got into Nick Lowe – I hadn’t really listened to a bunch of his music, but I’ve been like, you know, consuming it this summer, because it’s new to me. So it’s just… I don’t know it’s… I feel very blessed for music to be such a big part of my life. And I don’t even really say “blessed” all that often – I feel very fortunate, you know, that music is such a huge part of my life and something I love to do. [18:02] Tim Smal: And speaking of classic and timeless music – I mean, you certainly had some classic and timeless albums: Space Jam, Spice Girls and Tea for the Tillerman.So Kristina, I noticed on your Instagram account, that you have a really lovely photo up there, where you have chosen a couple of timeless tracks for… I believe it’s your nieces? Can you tell us more about this project? [18:34] Kristina Murray: Yeah, so… well, that was definitely a “I was super bored in quarantine” kind of project. And the idea started was: my boyfriend and I were coming back from a show of mine and we were listening to a Malcolm Gladwell podcast where he interviews Booker T., and it’s an incredible interview – Booker T. is like, the most zen motherf***er, I mean, he’s just like… he has such a soothing voice. Anyways, so we were talking and I was just so amazed by, “Oh my gosh, like, I forget how much incredible music he was a part of.” And they were playing ‘Green Onions’ you know, in the background and I was like “god, this is such an iconic song” and that’s kind of what… So the project for my niece and for my nephew, kind of, was born out of that. I was like “god, there’s so much incredible music that I even forget about because I don’t have like a couple towers of CDs staring me in the face and, you know, I’ve got, a handful of albums but I don’t have, you know, a 200 vinyl collection by any means.” So all of our music is streamed online, right? So it’s not… we’re not looking at it in the face – I can’t see like “Oh man, this B.B. King Live CD that I haven’t played in 4 months, you know, I forgot about it, let me put it on right now” – that just doesn’t happen with non-tangible music anymore. So I was thinking like “How can I make all the important music, you know, presentable to someone that’s eight years old?” So, you know, my eight-year-old niece, she likes Billie Eilish and that’s great and, you know, she likes music that’s on the radio and that her friends like. But to me, there’s just so much – a musical education is so important and there’s… it’s so vast – it’s almost like, where do you even start? So I came up with like: “Well, let me do a full month’s worth of songs and pick from various genres and influential, like incredibly influential artists – genre defining artists and bands.” And so what I did was, I picked, you know, songs like… oh gosh… I picked, you know, a song from Paul Simon and Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin and Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Chuck Berry and just all sorts of artists that I thought are important for kids to know that they may not know. And I picked a song and I wrote a little bit about the artist or the band, and I took a postcard – so you know, a 3 x 5 postcard – and I wrote a little, you know, fun factoid about the band or the artist. And I wrote a little bit about the song and then on the other side, I drew a picture that either correlated to the song or a picture of the artist. And I did 30 of those and I sent them to my niece and the whole idea is that: every day for a month she would pull a card out and say “Hey…” – I think they have a Google, not an Alexa – she would say “Hey Google, play ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash” and then she would hear… you know, she would then read also the information on the back side. So it’s kind of a multiple… you know, multiple… multiply beneficial, because she’s practicing reading and reading aloud. And so she would read that aloud and my sister would film it she would read it and then she would say “Hey Google” and then they would listen to the song. And it would be things like, you know, on Ring of Fire, Johnny Cash is known as “The Man in Black” and this song features a strong horn section, and listen for that. And this song was written by a woman named June Carter Cash. And so yeah, that was kind of the idea behind that. I keep forgetting that I did that, because it was such a labor of love, and when I got about halfway through, I was like “Oh man, this is a lot of work” but it… I was really proud of that. And a few people have been like “You should patent that and sell it”, so maybe if I get really hard up for money, I’ll do it again because it was such a joy to… it was really hard to narrow it down. But obviously, like I said, it’s just… there’s even more music to be discovered at all times, so I could do it again and again.[22:50] Tim Smal: Yeah, I can see you’ve put a lot of effort into that and it’s great to hear the back story regarding the project. And I think I’ll certainly pull this up and do “The 30-day Kristina Murray Tastemaker Adventure in Music.” Well, speaking of quarantine, I know that you have released a single recently – did it come out during quarantine? Can you tell us more about this latest single?[23:16] Kristina Murray: Yeah, it actually came out at the beginning of July. I think I put it out July 3rd. This song is a song called ‘The Great Unknown’. So back in January, I was doing a lot of co-writing – I think I had four weeks straight where I was doing a couple co-writes a week. Just because that is something that have fallen off for me in the last year. I hadn’t been doing that so much and I wanted to get back into it just to see if I – just to remind myself that I do like co-writing with certain people. And my friend Leo Rondeau – he is a country singer here in town… he used to live in Austin, but he moved to Nashville a couple years ago. And I was a fan of him and his music for a few years and then when he moved to Nashville, he and I got to be friends and we did a little tour last year together – a couple dates together. And I told him that I wanted to write with him, because he has a very distinct writing style that’s really conversational and can be, kind of, funny and witty – but sometimes in a tragic way. And I really wanted to explore that for myself. So anyway… so I had him come over to the house and it was our first time writing together and we, kind of, mustered out this song called The Great Unknown. So this was the end of June – excuse me, end of January. And I really liked it a lot – I thought it was just a really simple musing on being grateful, and I feel like we wrote it in a way that isn’t cheesy. So I wanted to record it, because I hadn’t really done any recording in a while and my friend Thomas Bryan Eaton (he lives in North Nashville), him and his girlfriend have a house that has a studio – and he called me up a few days before Super Bowl Sunday, I think, which is basically a national holiday here in America, and he was like “Hey, do you want to come and record some songs this weekend?” And I was out of town, I was like “I’ll be back Sunday evening – if we can find some guys that want to record, I have a song that I really want to record… it might be kind of tough, because it’s Super Bowl Sunday so…”Anyway, I was driving back to Nashville that morning and I was hitting up a few friends: my bass player Jonathan and my friend Taylor who plays drums and I was like “Hey, can y’all… what y’all doing tonight? Do you want to come record a song instead of watching the Super Bowl?” And everybody was down, everybody well… and it was just really casual. We went in and we listened to the song – it’s a pretty easy, mellow tune and Thomas got our mutual friend Aesop to come and play steel. Anyway, we just laid down The Great Unknown that then became a single. And I feel so grateful that we did because, you know, a month later we went into quarantine. So I don’t know… it’s just – it’s funny to me… Mike Rinne, my producer on Southern Ambrosia, when we were recording the song ‘Tell Me’ from that album, which is kind of a heartbreaking song, I was in the vocal booth and I was getting upset because, you know, I was recently… I had recently broken up with my boyfriend and this song is a little bit about that. But I had written it before we broke up and Mike Rinne said to me “You know, what Johnny Cash told Rosanne Cash was that: songs are like little postcards from the future.” And I thought that was such a beautiful idea. And I think that is so true and I feel like that’s really true with this song The Great Unknown, because, you know, we wrote that in January… I recorded it in February and then, you know, quarantine and the pandemic happened in March. And the song is just really about being content with, and okay with, you know, the way that your life is. And realizing that: as humans, we’re just here for this tiny little – not even a wisp of a blink of an… you know, not even an eyelash on a blink of an eye – and in this vast, vast universe. And so, it’s all those kind of elements swirling together, you know… being happy with a beautiful Sunday morning and a cup of coffee, and I think that… I don’t know – I feel like between me and Leo, it was certainly a piece of art by collective, you know, it couldn’t have come to fruition without my friend Leo and, particularly, my friend Thomas that recorded it as well, who kind of captured the ethereal nature of that song. So yeah, so that’s The Great Unknown. And then, you know, when we recorded it, you can hear me laugh at the beginning and then when my friend Justin was mixing and mastering it in the initial round, he took out my laugh and we were all like “No, you got to put that back in there, because that’s part of the… that’s part of the song.”[28:24] Tim Smal: Yeah, well, 2020 has certainly been a bizarre year and I think the listeners will agree that we’re really fortunate and lucky to have musicians such as yourself just creating amazing art for us to, essentially, consume during these difficult times. I mean, I’ve been listening to Southern Ambrosia now a lot over the last few weeks and it just makes me really happy to hear the record – I love listening to it when I’m driving in my car or, you know, walking around a wine farm. So yeah, I’m a big fan of your music and I’m sure many of the listeners that are listening to this episode are too, but I’m sure there’s some that are discovering your music for the first time. So if they want to go and check more of your work out, they can visit your website at kristinamurray.net – of course, all of your music is available on the streaming platforms, but if they want to get a good sense of your entire discography, they can also visit your bandcamp website which is kristinamurray.bandcamp.com – what else do you have in store for the future for the fans?[29:29] Kristina Murray: Well, first of all, thank you so much for listening to the album – it’s always exciting to know that anyone, anywhere is listening… especially, like, halfway across the world – how rad is that? I just really love that and I appreciate all your kind words about the music. But as far as what’s coming up: I’ve just been writing – not a ton – but a fair amount and I’ve got some songs that I actually think are decent, so I’ve been demoing with my producer for the last few months and the hope is that, by the end of the year to get in and start recording the new record. But this producer is a little bit more… he likes to take things at a bit of a slower pace and I am learning how to work with that and I think that’s really healthy, because I want to obviously write the best – absolutely best album then I can write. And so that’s a matter of writing a bunch of songs and distilling it down to what are the best ones. So for me right now, it’s just a bunch of writing, a bunch of work taping and working with my producer. And then, as far as, you know, since none of us really know when we’re going to get to go back to performing live and in person at venues and bars and all that, I’m hoping it’ll be next summer… but, you know, who knows? So I believe that I’ll be doing a few livestreams here this fall – I did a couple in the spring. But yeah, I would like to do another livestream in the fall and probably September or October – maybe one or two. So I would just advise fans and new fans and friends to look out for that on the socials and yeah, maybe a release here or there – I’ve got a handful more kinda stored away, that I could put out… so we’ll see. [31:24] Tim Smal: Awesome. So lots to look forward to from Kristina Murray and I certainly will dream about some time in the future where I could perhaps catch a live concert of you at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.So Kristina, thank you so much for joining me today on the show – I really appreciate it and I know the listeners do too. So I know that you are getting ready to go kayaking today – I hope you have a great time on the river. Where about are you going to be hitting the river? [31:59] Kristina Murray: There’s a couple options: The Piney River, The Harpeth and then we were also talking about going to The Duck River, so I’d be happy with any of those. It’s looking like it might rain, but it hasn’t yet, so I’m hoping we can get out there soon and avoid any sort of downpour. But yeah, thank you so much for having me Tim.
23 minutes | Aug 13, 2020
Edythe Richards – Emotional intelligence
August 13th, 2020 Edythe RichardsEmotional intelligence Edythe Richards from A Top Career, talks about emotional intelligence and her work as a career counselor. As a career counselor, Edythe has helped thousands of individuals locate and sustain meaningful employment. Edythe’s passion is working with Career Changers – helping individuals identify their ideal careers and empowering them on their paths forward. Edythe is known for being an authentic, truthful, and humorous speaker, as well as an individual of tremendous goodwill and integrity. Visit Edythe’s website TRANSCRIPT – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi folks and welcome to the show today. My name is Tim Smal. As always, thanks for joining me on the show. My guest today is Edythe Richards. She holds a Master of Arts in Counseling (MA) and her passion is working with career changers, helping individuals identify their ideal careers and empowering them on their paths forward. She is a Global Career Development Professional (GCDF), a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), a Gallup-certified Strengths coach, a Myers-Briggs Master Practitioner (MBTI®MP) and a certified My Everything DiSC® facilitator. Edythe, welcome to the show. Edythe Richards (guest): Hi Tim, thanks so much for having me. [00:57] Tim Smal: I’m really excited to have you on the show today. Edythe, tell me more about your work as a career coach.[01:06] Edythe Richards: Sure. So it’s not necessarily a career path I thought that I would be getting into, but it’s one I, sort of, found myself in, like a lot of people do. And what I really love about being a career counselor is actually working with the underdog – working with people who don’t fit neatly into one population or another. And these are the folks that I’m most passionate about helping. When I was working in the school system and at the employment centers, what I found was that there were a lot of resources available for people who were, for example, former military who were transitioning into civilian life, low-income populations, immigrant populations. There were a lot of resources and tools available for people who fell into certain populations, but the vast majority of job seekers didn’t fall into any of those populations and therefore did not have the scope of resources available to them. And I became very passionate about helping these people – many of whom are educated people with multiple degrees and just needed someone to guide them through this very confusing process of re-careering or finding the right career path for them.[02:33] Tim Smal: I’m really interested to know more about your own personal journey in discovering this area of work. So can you tell me more about how you stumbled upon this interest or how you came upon this passion because I’m sure there’s a backstory to, essentially, arriving at this point in your life where you realized “I really want to help people. I really want to make a difference in their lives, in terms of guiding them or helping them or assisting them on their path towards a career.” [03:08] Edythe Richards: I’m naturally a curious person and I’m very curious, in particular, about how people communicate. And when I graduated from college, I had some opportunities to travel – I had some opportunities to live abroad, travel abroad. And I just became very interested and curious about multicultural populations and diversity and just, people in general. I’ve always had an interest in psychology and helping people – motivating, empowering people and so I think that was what led me to the career path that I chose. So I went back to school and got a master’s degree in counseling. And then found myself in the career counseling field and had a great deal of success with that for many years. And ironically, I found myself being laid off – this is about, a little over three years ago now. And it’s just one of these cases where it’s… I just found myself in the same situation as so many of the clients I had worked with. And the thing that really struck me about that experience is: when I shared it with other people I know – or even acquaintances – the number of people who rushed to my defence and rushed to help me. And it really spoke to the quality of relationships that I had built over the years. And this was something I always stressed in my work is that: a large part of your success is going to be very dependent upon those relationships that you build along your journey. So to me, having experienced that myself… I mean, now I’m better able to truly empathize with many of the clients that I’ve helped over the years, having experienced the exact same things myself – the exact same range of emotions and frustrations… questioning yourself, questioning your abilities and how that translates into the job search. And then having been able to locate another job by practising my own advice. And I tell you, it is one of the… it’s one of the hardest things to do – to look at yourself in the mirror and see your flaws and find a way to overcome them. And I’m very fortunate that I was able to locate another position straight away. [05:45] Tim Smal: It’s not something that you really think about when you go into the working world, that perhaps one day you might lose your job – you know, that you might be laid off. I don’t think it’s something you really think about and I’m sure for many, many people it often takes them by surprise – it catches them off guard. And so even though they might be incredibly competent, highly-skilled, have lots of experience and qualifications – individuals are not quite prepared for that moment when they realize that they’re going to lose their job. And certainly in a time that we’re in now – with the coronavirus and so forth – it must surely be a feeling or a scenario that many people all over the world can relate to. [06:32] Edythe Richards: Definitely. And I have been… I’ve been saying this for years, that just the way the world is going, the way the economy is – people need to start looking at “the gig economy” and thinking about, you know, a side gig or something else, because these days of working for one organization for 30 years and, you know, getting a nice retirement pension and all of that – they’re slowly disappearing. So we, as individuals, have to take that onus on ourselves and think about our own well-being. And we’re in the driver’s seat now, so to speak. [07:13] Tim Smal: And you’ve certainly done a lot of work in your own personal capacity, if I consider all the different qualifications that you’ve gained over the years. I myself am very interested in the Gallup Strengthsfinder and the Myers-Briggs framework. So you’re a great example of somebody that has developed a side hustle, an entrepreneurial effort, your own business – and I’m sure you have lots of stories to tell about what it’s been like to set that up. But could you tell the listeners a little bit more about what that journey has been like for you, in terms of getting something off the ground as, essentially, a side hustle that has turned into a business over time, where you’ve been able to attend workshops and give lectures and talks and coaching, etc. What has that journey been like for you in terms of, essentially, moving away from the standard model of the safe job, the 9-to-5 and then immersing yourself in the somewhat scary world or the unknown terrain of starting your own endeavor? [08:20] Edythe Richards: It’s such a great question here and I’m really struggling in how to answer it because there’s so many different factors that go into this. I think the first one is that: I thought about it for many years before I actually took the plunge to go get a business license and set it up. So in that several year time frame before I actually took action, it was a lot of self-doubt and I found myself having to come to terms with those things. And then one day I just told myself “Hey, you know, I’m gonna jump off the deep end of the pool here and just get this thing started.” And then I felt like I was still – and still to a certain extent, feel this way and this is speaking of the Coronavirus pandemic and what the world is going through – there is so much of this anxiety in the world now. But, you know, when you’re acting out of fear or you’re trying to do something out of fear – make a living out of fear because you’re afraid of not having enough or losing your job or whatever it is – I’ve found I never get my best results that way. And speaking of Gallup Strengthsfinder, Myers-Briggs and all of these things I’m familiar with – quite a lot of assessments – I use a lot of assessments in my work. And what I keep going back to is: when you are working from a place of comfort yourself, when you are who you are most naturally and comfortably and you’re using those those skills, you’re not going to be operating out of a sense of fear, you’re going to be operating out of a sense of – in emotional intelligence world we call it “self-regard” you’re going to be confident in yourself and you’re going to be working from your own abilities. And that’s where you’re going to get your best results. And that has certainly been true for me. [10:23] Tim Smal: And one of the instruments or assessments that you use in your work is the EQ-i 2.0 instrument from Multi-Health Systems (MHS). And this is a really incredible instrument because it’s an inventory with a focus on learning competencies in the arena of emotional intelligence, or EQ for short. And from the research I’ve done, I have discovered that this is a really key area for you, in terms of the work that you’re doing, and that you believe that the key predictor of career success is emotional intelligence. [11:00] Edythe Richards: I really, really do and I use emotional intelligence a lot in all of my work. And there’s a lot of, I think, misunderstanding of what emotional intelligence really is. And how I like to sum it up is: you’re getting your emotions to work for you, rather than against you. And that requires that you have an understanding of your own emotions. So if you don’t even have an understanding of why you’re acting the way you’re acting, or insight into your own emotional landscape – we’re really not even going to be able to make any change in this area. So if you can’t state what you’re feeling and identify the emotions, that just says you’re unaware. So the first step, to me, in building emotional intelligence and practising emotional intelligence is that self-awareness piece – just being aware of what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way and then what you can do to either continue on the path that you’re on, or stop and take a different path. And then once you have this knowledge, you’re going to be better able to manage your emotions. And then you’re going to be better able to make decisions that are the right decisions for you. And you’re going to be able to communicate more effectively with people. Essentially, just that one step of being aware of what you’re putting out there into the world – what you’re feeling and what that looks like and sounds like to other people – that can be so helpful for everything that we do. And I think people underestimate that – they underestimate just taking the time to check-in with yourself, to be aware and understand what it is that’s going on with you at this particular moment.[13:03] Tim Smal: Yeah, that’s really interesting. And there are certainly a number of individuals who have done extensive research in this area. I’m sure you’re familiar with Daniel Goleman – he’s written a number of books. And I was watching one of his videos on YouTube and he was just talking about how important EQ really is, when you are looking at the work that people are doing in corporations, because EQ (or emotional intelligence) seems to be a greater predictor of success. And it seems to be even two times more important than IQ, which is quite a bold statement that Daniel made. But I’m sure it’s not unusual to hear statements that compare the importance of EQ to IQ. And we’re certainly not going to say that one is better than the other – individuals have all kinds of different strengths and we all need to work together in the world. But I think what I’m really excited about when it comes to emotional intelligence specifically – if we look at the EQ-i model – is that: we can learn and improve our skills. So even if we have certain competencies that we’re already good at – that we have a natural affinity for – we can work on other competencies and other skills that are perhaps weaker, if you will. And so if I’m not mistaken, the idea with developing one’s emotional intelligence is that: if you can develop these competencies across-the-board and improve your EQ as a whole, you can then combine that with your skills in the IQ domain and be a lot more effective – not only in your job role – but also in your relationships and your personal life too. [14:51] Edythe Richards: It’s so true. And to speak to what you mentioned about IQ versus EQ, I hear this argument a lot. And there is this perception out there that, you know, IQ is more important and then this one here I’ve heard that: being right is being smart. And I’m sure you – and everybody who’s tuning in too – has this experience of having worked with or been around some of the “smartest”, the quote-unquote “smartest people”, people with the highest IQ’s – the people who are very cognitively intelligent. And these people tend to fail miserably when it comes to life or to work. And, you know, back to self-awareness, it may be because they’re not aware of how they’re coming across – they may not be aware of their own biases. And we’ve heard this quote here that “smart people are very good at rationalizing things that they came to believe for ‘non-smart’ reasons.” And there’s so many different elements of emotional intelligence that this speaks to. You know, it really goes back to – talking about biases, talking about my own bias in this regard – I believe that: in life, whether it’s personal or professional, is all about emotions. And our emotions are what drives our behavior – if we let them. But on the other side of the table is the fact that we live in a data-driven world and people do place a lot more emphasis on numbers and quantitative data than they do on emotions. And that very word “emotions” tends to be scary to a lot of people. We aren’t really taught how to deal with our emotions when we’re growing up in school. You know, we can argue about whether emotions – emotional intelligence can be taught at school or by your parents or whomever… but emotions are essentially… they’re a basic part of us – they’re what makes us human. And it’s not going to help us to eliminate our emotions or suppress them. We need to learn to deal with them in a productive way and that’s essentially what emotional intelligence is all about here. [17:15] Tim Smal: Wow. Yeah, you’ve certainly given us a lot to think about there. And for the listeners that perhaps haven’t looked into this model, I do encourage them to perhaps just pop onto the internet and search for the EQ-i 2.0 model, just to have a look at it – it’s a really easy to understand colorful circle. And it’s just really interesting to me how all 15 of these different emotional skills or competencies are really important for everyone. No one can really say “Well, I don’t really need to explore optimism or stress tolerance or flexibility or problem-solving, etc.” All competencies are important and so we can all do some work on ourselves. And I’m really excited about exploring it more myself and seeing which areas I can work on because, you know, there are certainly going to be areas that I can improve on where I will definitely experience, you know, change in my life and be able to work better with others and, essentially, just lead a better life. Because there might be some blind spots – I guess, we all have those blind spots. And I think that’s what a model like this really helps us to explore. And we certainly don’t have to feel bad if we have lower scores in certain areas because, of course, there are going to be natural areas that we are strong in and that’s really, really awesome – much like in the other models like the Gallup Strengthsfinder, for example. But what I really like about this model – the EQ-i 2.0 – is that we can actually improve, we can grow, we can work on these competencies. And I guess, you know, in terms of wrapping up the show I think that’s what I’d really like to just ask you is that: do you believe that, if an individual explores emotional intelligence and they work on these different competencies, that they ultimately will experience more success in their life? Whether they consider that success to be in terms of a business or a career or perhaps, in terms of their relationships or their general well-being – do you feel as if the more effort they put into doing this emotional intelligence work, that on the other side of that, there are going to be some rewards for them, in terms of success in life – in terms of whatever that means to them as an individual? [19:34] Edythe Richards: Yeah, I really do. And again, it does need to be intentional and it does need to be paired with goals of what it is that you’re looking to achieve. But along those lines, it’s important to remember that it does not measure whether we are a good and ethical person or not. So that’s another misunderstanding of what emotional intelligence actually is – it doesn’t measure someone’s ability to be a good person. But by developing our emotional intelligence, [absolutely] paired with goals and intentional goal setting, it can absolutely help us to achieve more and to lead a better and happier life. [20:17] Tim Smal: Interesting. Well, perhaps this is a good time in our discussion for you to just let the listeners know how they can reach out to you. Perhaps some of the listeners would like to take this assessment or get in touch with you. So where’s the best place for them to find you? [20:34] Edythe Richards: Sure. I’d love for them to reach out to me on my website, which is atopcareer.com [20:47] Tim Smal: Great. Well, it’s been really wonderful speaking with you today. I’m sure the listeners have really learned a lot from you. And before we wrap up, I just wanted to mention that, of course, you do have a number of different podcasts that the listeners can check out. So can you just tell the listeners where they can find you and how they can get hold of you and what your plans are, in terms of podcasts for the future? [21:13] Edythe Richards: Sure. So I have a weekly podcast series called “Myers-Briggs Question Corner” and for the listeners out there tuning in, if you do have a question related to Personality Type Theory or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, I would love for you to get in touch and I’d be glad to feature your question on air. I also have another series in the works right now called “EQ at Work” and this one is focusing on emotional intelligence. [21:44] Tim Smal: Wonderful. Well, Edythe it’s been really awesome speaking with you today. I really appreciate your time and I really look forward to following your work in the future and seeing what you get up to. I’m a big fan of your podcasts and I really enjoy all the work that you do. So thanks again for joining me today on the show – I’m sure the listeners really appreciate you coming on and chatting with us. So yeah, thanks again and I look forward to speaking with you again in the future. [22:15] Edythe Richards: Great, thanks so much, it’s really been a pleasure talking to you. And, you know, I appreciate all the kudos too – so yeah, thanks very much. Have a great rest of the day.
28 minutes | Aug 9, 2020
Nibs van der Spuy – Life in Lisbon
August 9th, 2020 Nibs van der Spuy Live in Lisbon with Guy Buttery Nibs van der Spuy talks about his latest releases ‘Live in Lisbon with Guy Buttery’ and ‘A Circle of Swallows’.Nibs is one of the most extraordinary and exciting world acoustic guitarists to come out of South Africa. Raised in the fertile province of Kwazulu-Natal, he immersed himself in his natural environment to create a truly consummate and original sound. A few years ago, Nibs spread his wings and migrated north, making a second home on the Lisbon coast of Portugal. Now after an 8 year silence on the recording front, Nibs van der Spuy and Guy Buttery announce their sophomore release as a duo. Recorded at the end of 2019 in Europe, “Live in Lisbon” see’s their return with a stripped-down performance beautifully captured beside the mighty Tagus River just outside the capital city of Portugal.Visit Nibs’ websiteView Nibs’ discographyDownload Live in Lisbon TRANSCRIPT – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi folks and welcome to the show. My name is Tim Smal, thanks for joining me today. My guest on the show today is Nibs van der Spuy. Nibs is one of the most extraordinary and exciting world acoustic guitarists to come out of South Africa. Raised in Kwazulu-Natal, growing up listening to The Beatles and learning first hand from traditional Zulu Maskandi guitarists, he quickly soaked up a rich tapestry of his close surroundings and has formulated a truly consummate and original sound. Nibs, welcome to the show. Nibs van der Spuy (guest): Hi Tim, thanks for having me on, it’s good to be here. It’s, kind of, crazy that I’m sitting in 38 degrees Lisbon while you in the Cape, in Cape Town – so thanks for the invite, thanks for having me on.[00:59] Tim Smal: You welcome Nibs. And I’ve certainly seen you perform many times live, so I’ve spent some good quality time with you face-to-face. But even though we are now oceans apart, we can still connect and chat, thanks to the wonders of the modern age and the internet. So Nibs, you have a new album out today – it’s a new live record called “Live in Lisbon” and you performed it with Guy Buttery. So would you like to tell us a little bit more about this album?[01:30] Nibs van der Spuy: Well, it’s our first album in eight years – our first release in 8 years. I mean, we are solo artists in our own right. Guy is an extraordinary fingerstyle guitarist – world-class fingerstyle guitarist, also from Kwazulu-Natal. I actually was his guitar teacher when he was at school for three years. And then, I mean, he always had the special “mojo” in his music from an early age, so I encouraged him. He brought his first album out – solo album out when he was 18. And I had been making albums with the band Landscape Prayers and I embarked on a solo career, pretty much, at that time, in the early 2000s.And then we did plenty of shows together – I mean, as a duo – but, kind of, promoting our own brand of music. We’d used to do a Nibs van der Spuy / Guy Buttery concert, but afterwards they’d say “Which song was that? OK, that’s on Guy’s solo album” and “which song is that? OK, that’s on Nibs’ last solo album.”And then we were doing a festival in France in 2010 and then we decided “Why don’t we do a duo album together? We’re always doing all these shows together playing in weird and wonderful places around the world.” So we hit the studio during a tour in 2011 and then we recorded our first album “In the Shade of the Wild Fig” which was really… it was critically acclaimed – it was nominated for a SAMA (South African Music Award) and it got wonderful reviews across the world. And that just happened, you know – we released it, we toured it, then we went on our merry way releasing solo albums again. And then Guy came to visit me in Lisbon – my new home of the last six years, last year and we booked a wonderful place at this venue in Belém, which is, kind of, the cradle of Lisbon where it’s where all the ships of discovery left 500 years ago. There’s a wonderful venue there called Espaço Espelho d’Água which means “a space of the mirror on the water.” So we booked a show there and it just… the ingredients of what makes a chemistry between the two of us so great – I mean, the sum of the two of us together is bigger than both of us individually and the magic was in the air that night. It was beautifully recorded and, I mean, we forgot about it – we actually… that’s the beauty of doing a show: we didn’t know it had been recorded, the engineer had set everything up. And this concert was last September but we only got the masters… we heard that the show was recorded, so I got hold of the engineer and he said “Yes, we recorded it.” So he sent us the separate files and Guy beautifully mixed them. But the source was so incredible. And it was such a good thing that we didn’t know we were recording, ‘cos you consciously aware that the tapes are rolling. So yeah, Guy has been mixing it the last three weeks and today’s release day, which is wonderful (August 7th, 2020).[04:09] Tim Smal: Nibs, that’s absolutely incredible. I had no idea that you had no idea that the album was being recorded. I mean, what a classic story. I mean, that is absolutely incredible, right?[04:22] Nibs van der Spuy: It is. It’s a good thing. I mean, we knew the sound was great because we had a top engineer doing the sound for us [Salvador Miranda]. And I mean, it was only afterwards like – the lady who put the show together (the promoter) she said “Did you ever hear the recording?” I said “What recording?” She said “No, it was recorded.” So I got hold of the guy on Facebook and he said “Yes, it was. Would you like the [recording]?” I mean he did a lovely mix of the show, but obviously Guy has got his little studio in Durban, so we just improved on what Salvador the engineer did. And it just came out incredibly, incredibly well – we really, really happy about it. And Guy just did a wonderful job of mixing it and mastering it and editing it. You know, so we… yeah, we are “over the moon” with the result. It was really… it’s lovely to know that, like, well, something happened – a moment of time, we weren’t even aware of it. We just remember that the night was magical, so it was just an added bonus to get a message to say “Did you ever hear the recording?” and I said “what recording?” So here we are on the 7th of August and the album has gone live this morning exclusively on Bandcamp.com so people can pay their own price for it and it’s also free. So people can receive a wonderful big fat audio file of it and not be compromised by tedious MP3 files… put it that way.[05:45] Tim Smal: I’m just really intrigued at the concept of discovering, only afterwards, that your show has been recorded – that’s really incredible! And the artwork for the album, as well, is really incredible – who was the photographer that took this shot?[06:00] Nibs van der Spuy: It was a guy called… it’s friend of Guy’s who happened to be around so, the name eludes me now. But it’s a beautiful, classic shot and, kind of, epitomizes that evening big time, you know… it really does. I mean, it was a beautiful setting and the lighting was just perfect. And you know, when everything just fits. And it was an intimate audience, I guess – about 50 people could only fit in that room – there was a lovely, beautiful energy. I mean, people that came around… well, there were South African people who happened to be in Lisbon who saw the advertisement, who came out that night. So you had a mix of South African people – some fans of ours, who had seen us around in South Africa – they happened to be in Lisbon, as well as new Portuguese people who had discovered our music. And the concert was even introduced by the South African Ambassador in Lisbon – it was beautiful! She gave us such a beautiful plug and we felt really proud to be South African doing our thing in a foreign country. Well, it’s not too foreign for me, because I’ve been here for six years but, it was good to share music with Guy and in a different country again. I mean, we’ve done many shows across the world, but this was really special – it was just a special vibe. And I hadn’t played with Guy for a really long time and you often wonder “Well, we haven’t practiced.” Well, we did play a few days together, but we hadn’t been on the road for, like, 12 days straight and then you push the record button because you really know your stuff so well and it’s like you comfortable with the arrangements and music. So I was a bit worried as we haven’t played the songs and we’re playing a whole bunch of new songs, but the magic was there that night, for sure. And I had been playing a… I just got a brand-new ten-string guitar called a cuatro (a Puerto Rican guitar) – I’d been playing one for years, but this was a new one. So it was the first concert I did with it and I’m so glad I did because it’s such a beautiful, rich sound as well. You’ll hear on most of the tracks – I mean, 75% of the tracks I’m playing the cuatro. So it’s got this shimmery… almost sounds a bit like a 12-string fretted – I mean capoed at the 7th fret, you know. So it’s got that really sparkling, undulating sound to it, which fits perfectly with Guy’s beautiful textural playing.[08:18] Tim Smal: I’ve definitely heard you play the cuatro live on some of your South African tours – I’m not sure if it’s the exact same model that you played on this album, but it certainly is a beautiful instrument. Let’s talk quickly about the tracks on this new album, Live in Lisbon. Obviously there are a couple of songs that you have written, a couple of songs that Guy has written – perhaps even a track or two that you’ve composed together… I’m not sure. But let’s look at the tracks that you have composed on this album first: I noticed that “Trample on Lions” and “Madala” are on this album and, of course, those are taken from one of your most recent solo albums “Natalia.”[08:58] Nibs van der Spuy: That’s correct, yes. My solo album was “Natalia” which I’d recorded in England. I recorded with a wonderful producer called Mark Tucker, who had worked with Portishead and… PJ Harvey is another artist he had worked with. So I was really happy to work with him – especially a track like “Trample on Lions.” I mean, when you hear it on the Natalia album, it’s got such a huge production. I mean, massive production – I’ve never had such a massive production done to a song of mine ever. But the song started off like a Dylan-esque inspiration – say from from “Masters of War” from his “Freewheeling” album. And that’s how I, kind of, envisioned to play it live. And then, I mean, Guy loved that track [Trample on Lions] and he didn’t play… I mean, we’ve played on each other’s albums, but he wasn’t present for… although he did play on a track on that album [Natalia] but he didn’t play on this track. But he loved the track so much and he just put a wonderful part to it, which isn’t on the Natalia album. When you hear his guitar part, it’s such a great hook, which kind of reels the song in. And that’s the beauty of music, you know – like Guy and I write individually, but a lot of the songs, when we compose them, we can hear the other person in mind and you can hear the part they’re going to put in beforehand, because we know each other so well. But it always happens when you swing an idea to one another – we always, kind of, bring the best out of the song. Like Guy will say “Oh, I mean, on what you did on my, for example, the first track ‘In the Shade of the Wild Fig’ is when I heard a part but I didn’t hear it as beautiful as that.” So we, kind of, put our own personality to each other’s compositions. So in theory, they’re actually Nibs and Guy’s songs – most of them, because we composing parts for each others’ songs. But because we tour as solo artists, in that we on the road, our songs have to breathe in a different way when the other guy isn’t there. [10:44] Tim Smal: And isn’t it interesting, when you think about how certain tracks emerge as crowd-pleasers or crowd-favorites as time goes by, because when you released Natalia in 2016 – on that album, every single song is incredible… from “Paper Rose” to “Peace in Our Time” to “Zululand”… it’s a really incredible album. But somehow, “Trample on Lions” always stood out to me as one of my favorite tracks. And so I’d always request it at the live shows and I thought it was just me – I thought it was just me that loved this track so much. So it’s really exciting to see how that has emerged as a really popular song in your repertoire.[11:26] Nibs van der Spuy: To be honest Tim, when I released Natalia… because the production [of the song “Trample on Lions”] is so huge on the album – I just didn’t play it. I thought “OK, well, that’s an album song.” And then I thought “Well, I always just love playing it.” And it’s got a, kind of a, weird rhythm. I’m a huge fan of The Allman Brothers Band – a Southern rock band – and on their debut album, they had a song which is… actually, I was so happy, I heard it on “A Star is Born” [a film] in the one bar scene with Lady Gaga… it’s called “Whipping Post” – I love that song. And “Whipping Post” – OK, the intro is in 11/8 – but the main body of the song is in 12/8, it’s got a 12/8 rhythm, which I really loved. And a lot of Zimbabwean music is actually in 12/8. So I thought “I’ve gotta write a song in 12/8.” Well, it kind of naturally evolved. I think “we are what we eat” – we’ve got such huge inspirations and it’s a part of our life fabric: you’re going to emulate what’s in your heart and soul. So “Trample on Lions” is in 12/8 for sure. And if you listen to The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” you’ll hear why – you’ll hear where the inspiration comes from. Even though it’s, kind of, written that in that Dylan-esque feel of “Masters of War” from the “Freewheeling” album. So I never used to play it, but eventually people say “Well, I really dig that song” so I thought… and I think I was playing it for my mother on the veranda one day in Durban and she said “Why don’t you play that live?” so I said “Well, I didn’t think of it.” So I think it was my mother who prompted me there. And yeah, I love playing it live now and people really seem to dig it, you know. It’s quite a Biblical song, so I’ve plagiarized Psalm 91, which is kind of “being protected while you’re on the road” and that’s exactly what I do: being protected doing what you love in different parts of the world. [13:08] Tim Smal: Well, speaking about “being in different parts of the world”, as you mentioned earlier on the show: a few years ago you spread your wings and migrated North and moved to the Lisbon coast of Portugal. So you’ve been living there for a few years – I’d love it if you could tell the listeners about what it’s been like living in Portugal, making it your second home, and even lead into a discussion about the record you released this year in 2020 called “A Circle of Swallows” which is essentially a “best of” album.[13:41] Nibs van der Spuy: I, kind of, had a revelation… I mean, I have playing in the North for a long time and just doing so many trips a year from South Africa. And I always thought “You know what, I love South Africa so much – but I also need a… I would also love a little lock-up-and-go Northern home.” And I always had dreams and visions of buying an apartment in Paris, because I love Paris so much and “the French connection.” But I’ll never be able to afford an apartment in Paris, let alone the rent. So yeah, over the years I saved money and I mean, the time was right. I mean, I arrived here just loving Lisbon – my younger sister had moved here from England a few months previously. I came after a French tour, I came to visit the Lisbon coast. And there was this familiarity – I mean, I love Mozambique and I’ve spoken Portuguese for years… language is my second passion.So for me, the communication was really good and I just loved the way of life here – it was so slowed up and I loved living on the ocean. I loved the architecture, the tiles, and I loved… there was like “an Africanism” about it as well, you know. And it just happened, you know. Within 4 months, you know, when fate happens and within four months you get your residence card and you’ve bought your apartment and you can’t understand what happened… it just happened! And I love living here – I’ve got such a wonderful creative space here. I don’t have a car – I’ve got a bicycle, so I live on the river where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean. And that’s where… it’s got this ancient charm… that’s where these ancient caravels, 500 years ago, set off to discover the New World. It was between Spain and Portugal, so the Portuguese left from here. And there’s a connection: Vasco da Gama left, pretty much, where I played the concert with Guy – in Portugal they say “Belém”, English people say “Belem” – and Vasco da Gama left the shores of, pretty much, where we played the gig, in 1498 and set out on route to India. And on Christmas day, he arrived in Durban Bay – the Bay of Port Natal where Durban became a city. When he arrived, Durban wasn’t a city – there were indigenous people at that stage. So for a week, he set anchor in Durban Bay. And people in South Africa don’t even know it. First of all, OK, it’s called Kwazulu-Natal – Kwazulu means “the place of the Zulu” or “people” in Zulu. And Natal is the word for Christmas in Portuguese. So it’s because of Vasco da Gama, I live in the province of Kwazulu-Natal – the place of the Zulu Christmas, basically. And that’s because of Vasco da Gama. And yeah, so definitely a connection there. He decided to go north and he was en-route to India. And people always think “Well no, he was on his way to Mozambique” because Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony – but no, the Portuguese arrived in Mozambique, I think a decade later, for real. So it’s quite interesting… kinda interesting, the history. And also, while we’re talking about my albums – I released a compilation album this year called “A Circle of Swallows” which is, kind of, a “best of” album. There are two sides of the story: I mean, I’m not good with what’s happening now with the whole streaming business, so I’ve got a young team who helped me get my stuff online. And they said “Instead of putting your last album (which was like five years ago), just do a ‘best of’ and put the best songs from all your albums on and then it’s a good way of, like, repackaging old stuff with maybe a few songs from Natalia (which I did) and then just putting it out there” which I’m glad I did. So I thought “I needed another connection.” And in Kwazulu-Natal, the swallow is such a powerful bird, which… I mean, I go every year to where the barn swallows roost in the… close to the Umhlanga Rocks basin in a place called Umdloti (Mount Moreland). And I always see them and then all of a sudden, they migrate north and I’m thinking “Are the same swallows I’m seeing in Portugal from that same basin in Kwazulu-Natal?” And I called it “A Circle of Swallows” because you always return – they always return, I always return home. And also, the swallow is such a spiritual symbol of Portugal – it is the most spiritual symbol of Portugal. It signifies unity, family and belonging and good luck. So I thought “That’s a pretty cool title.”[18:13] Tim Smal: Incredible. Now Nibs, a few months ago when you were in Cape Town, I managed to catch a live show of yours at a lovely intimate venue – in fact, it was a house concert that was organized by Paul Kahanovitz from Slow Life. You performed a couple of songs that you’ve been working on for a new album, and if I’m not mistaken, you mentioned that many of those songs were written in Portugal and inspired by a lot of your time living in Lisbon. So I’m really excited to hear more (if you are able to share with us) about plans for a new album, because those songs that I heard were absolutely incredible.[18:51] Nibs van der Spuy: Yeah, thank you so much. First of all, I say I’m on my bike… I mean, after this interview, I’ve got my guitar ready and I’m going to get on my bicycle… OK, it’s really hot weather – we’ve been having, like, between 35 and 38 degrees days here… beautiful long summer days. The sun sets at 9:45 pm here. So I’ve found my new creative grounds along the river here – pretty much, a little bit down river from where we recorded the concert. I live in my little village, which is actually eight kilometers from Belém, where we recorded the concert. So that’s, kind of, closer to Lisbon and that’s, kind of, where the… that’s at the… deep within the river mouth. I live exactly at the river mouth where the Tagus River – which starts in Spain by the way, a few hundred kilometers past Madrid – it comes out in Lisbon and I live at the river basin where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean. I mean, as I’m doing the interview now, I’m looking out of my window and I’m seeing all these beautiful old wooden fishing boats… it’s like glass – the ocean is like glass at the moment… it’s beautiful. So I’ve got this beautiful “nooks and crannies” along the coastline which I go to on a daily basis.A lot of my new songs have been born from sitting… I go to this late 17th century park, it’s called Jardim de Cascata – it used to be the Queen’s summer garden. And it’s on the… it’s pretty much like, a little setback from the ocean, but you can see the ocean there. And it looks like Versailles – I don’t know if you’ve seen, like, the patterns of The Gardens of Versailles? So a lot of the gardens in the late 17th century were based on Versailles. So I go there everyday and I sit under these oak trees and these old, old structures, and sometimes I’m the only person there for an hour – I mean, sometimes you’ll have a senior citizen walking their dog through there and you think “Oh cool, well that’s a bit of action.” But sometimes I’ll have the park to myself. So this little garden was flourishing 250 years ago and it’s remained dormant for over a hundred and fifty years. And they’ve redone the garden to its old specifications in 1999, as well as some other landmarks on the river.I mean, it’s either that or I’ll go to this 16th century fort on the river and I’ll go and sit on the walls of this fort and take my guitar there. And I’ve been inspired by this ancient spirit and ancient culture, which is so powerful. And so a lot of my songs have to do about destiny and fate: the swallow, the ocean, the ship, the boat plays a big role in my new lyrics, you know. And it’s, kind of, I’m meant to be there at the right time.So going back to recording the album: I was meant to record it in May and I’m recording with, funny enough, Guy Buttery – the guy I just recorded the live album with. He’s got a beautiful home studio. He did my rough demos of the songs, which I’m going to send to you after the show. And so we’re going to go for a very intimate bedsitter album with maybe, very close-up vocal and intimate guitar, with some string arrangements. And I’ve also been discussing doing some vocal… I’m using this beautiful a capella choir from Kwazulu-Natal – they sing all the traditional beautiful Zulu songs and I just hear them in the mix. My songs are written here on the Lisbon Coast, but I’ve got to have a reminder of home within them as well. So that’s the plan. And I’m so glad I’ve, kind of… I wasn’t meant to record in May – although it was my intention, because I’ve written a whole bunch of new songs which I’m really proud about and I would have been quite angry if I recorded the album without including these new ones. So, there you go. [22:38] Tim Smal: Well, I’m certainly looking forward to the new record. I hope it will come out this year, but perhaps next year in 2021. But I’m sure the listeners will be able to get hold of it in due course. But just to mention, of course, for the listeners that they can find your entire discography on bandcamp.com and the website link for that is nibsvanderspuy.bandcamp.com – so they can go and hear all of your albums from over the last decade or so.Well Nibs, thanks so much for being an inspiration to so many people – you’re an excellent songwriter, you are a world traveler with lots of stories and so much to offer the world on so many levels, so thank you so much for joining me on the show today. And I really look forward to hearing your new album when it comes out, with all those amazing songs that you’ve written… and I can envision what it must be like living in Portugal. And hopefully one day I can even make the trip myself to see what’s going on in Lisbon.[23:35] Nibs van der Spuy: That’ll be great, you’ll always be my guest Tim. And thank you so much for your time and thanks for thinking of me today. And especially on release day with Guy, with our “Live in Lisbon” album. But yeah, thanks for having me on – I really, really appreciate it, it means a lot.[23:49] Music: “Trample on Lions” from the album “Nibs van der Spuy & Guy Buttery: Live in Lisbon”
26 minutes | Aug 4, 2020
Marie Thouin – Mindful dating
August 4th, 2020 Marie ThouinMindful dating Marie Thouin from Love InSight, talks about mindful dating and overcoming obstacles on the path to love. Marie is a PhD candidate in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She is also the founder of Love Insight, a mindful dating coaching practice, where she helps people of all backgrounds navigate the path of intimate love in a growth-orientated mindset. Visit Marie’s website TRANSCRIPT – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi everyone and welcome to the show today. My name is Tim Smal. Thanks for joining me today. My guest on the show today is Marie Thouin. She is a PhD candidate in East-West psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She’s also the founder of Love InSight, a mindful dating coaching practice, where she helps people of all backgrounds navigate the path of intimate love in a growth-orientated mindset. So Marie, I’m really excited to have a dating coach on the show today – can you tell us more about what that is? Marie Thouin (guest): Yes, so a dating coach is someone who supports people on their path to love and that can look so many different ways. When I first designed my practice, I thought I was going to mostly get people who are having trouble with online dating – which I do have a lot of clients who need help navigate the online dating scene – but what I found out is that, it also goes deeper than that: it has to do with people’s emotional journeys around finding love and cultivating love in their lives to begin with, and ultimately finding a partner. So it basically encompasses many aspects of somebody’s journey to having fulfilling romantic relationships – from the emotional to the more logistical, technical aspects of how they go about it.[01:55] Tim Smal: So I’m really interested to find out how you decided to start this company. I believe one could say that you have studied love from an academic perspective – would that be accurate?[02:10] Marie Thouin: Yes. I’ve always been really interested in love and when I decided to go for my PhD in Psychology, I had to decide what my focus was going to be for my dissertation and my own research. And I decided to study consensually non-monogamous relationships for the reason that: usually people who are non-monogamous or polyamorous, really approach love from a creative point of view – they don’t resort to the default way of relating (which is monogamy), and they, sort of, make their own path. So that’s what I’ve been researching academically and that’s also, in general, what I’ve been reading about, is: how people conceptualize their romantic lives – that is so fascinating to me.[03:10] Tim Smal: So some might say that you are a true “love doctor” – would you consider that to be a good representation of your work?[03:19] Marie Thouin: I love the title! I can’t call myself a doctor just yet – I need to graduate first. But yeah, that’s what I aspire to. That’s definitely one of the biggest titles that someone can have. And really, love is the thing that, I find, really matters in the world – it’s the solution to all of our problems and our social ills, you know. I always felt like finding a path for more love is the core of any legitimate spiritual path as well. So love is where it’s at for me. [04:04] Tim Smal: And if I think of all the different kinds of people in the world, it must be really interesting to study love from an academic point of view, because it puts you in a really good position to help individuals from all different backgrounds. So how would you start the journey of helping an individual that comes to you with any kind of concern around the pursuit of love?[04:29] Marie Thouin: I mean, it has to start with empathy and compassion – it has to start with understanding where their personal blocks might be. So there is a beautiful quote from Rumi, I believe, that says: “Your job is not to seek love – it’s to seek where the obstacles to love are and then go beyond them.” And that pretty much summarizes my work as a coach: it’s to help people identify where have they shut down their flow of love. Because we’re all born with this huge desire to love each other and to, you know… we have many instincts, but one of them is definitely connection and belonging – we’re wired for love. But we do grow up in a society that teaches us that some expressions of love are okay and some of them are not okay… some expressions of our sexuality are okay and some of them are not okay. And we also grow up in a very shaming society, to a certain extent, where when we do things that are not okay, we get told that we’re “not good.” So often times these points of pain for people are where it becomes really difficult to live with an open heart and to magnetize a romantic partner. So does that answer your question? [05:59] Tim Smal: Definitely. And I’m thinking of some examples of these obstacles, such as: rejection, or frustration, or fear, or doubt… and I can imagine that for some individuals, those obstacles might even stop them from seeking out help or assistance from someone like you?[06:20] Marie Thouin: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the path to love and to romantic / sexual love, in general, can be the most exhilarating and the most painful part of somebody’s life. And when it becomes painful, it is usually because of those blocks and those wounds that come up in relation to looking for a significant other or relating to them. So those wounds that we have – like rejection, fear of rejection, fear of humiliation, fear of looking stupid, fear of being called ugly or just fear of basically not being loved completely for who we are – comes up very strongly.And it takes a lot of strong intention and a lot of self-compassion to get to the other side and seek love anyways. There’s never going to be a point where life is without pain. We’re always going to have to face challenges on our path – that’s, kind of, what this reality is about. But how we face those challenges and how much resilience we bring – and can we bring a growth mindset to them? So there’s a big difference when you look at your own points of pain and challenges, and you frame it in a way that you are the victim and you are powerless and you don’t know what to do – versus framing those challenges in a growth mindset that says that “I do have some power over my reality and I am willing to keep my heart open. And I’m able to learn tools of emotional resilience when things hurt and I’m basically working actively on my own healing and openness.” So a lot of what I do too is to help people get into that frame of mind, into that growth mindset.[08:38] Tim Smal: Once an individual has taken that first step to visit you (or another dating coach) and they’ve started to develop a growth mindset and started to look at some of the issues that are holding them back – or the obstacles that are holding them back – what would be the next step in the process?[08:59] Marie Thouin: So a lot of it would be tool building. So once you’ve eliminated what the challenges are, then it’s time for the more “action-oriented” coaching to begin. And that can look different ways for some people, like – let’s say, for example, someone is really shy and for them to approach a person out in the world is super, super painful and difficult and they’re really terrified of rejection. One thing that I would support them in, is to take “baby steps” and to come in those situations with a plan, so that they can overcome the freeze that they might be experiencing. So basically, when you approach your challenges with a plan that is based on love and support and empowerment, then you can conquer anything – like, you can conquer a mountain if you have a plan that makes sense. And it’s going to look very different for every person.For someone who’s shy versus someone who, for example, has a lot of options – is maybe online dating and just cannot decide or cannot determine what person might be a good fit, you know, then I can help teach them: How do you recognize who is a good fit for you? How do you know that from a profile, from a picture, from a small conversation? So there’s a lot of skill building as well implied. So it’s a combination of having a supportive environment and then having tools and skills to fuel your journey.[10:54] Tim Smal: It’s really interesting to think about the concept of “shyness”, because it’s sometimes very obvious when an individual is more of an extrovert or they’re more of an introvert. And I sometimes wonder “Are extroverts less shy and introverts more shy, just by the nature of their personality preference?” Or when we talk about “shyness” in the context of dating, I wonder if shyness is something that is shared as a common experience, regardless of your personality type?[11:33] Marie Thouin: Mmmm, that is a really good question. There are people who are more naturally introverted versus extroverted, and one of the best definitions for that general categorization is: people who are extroverted derive energy from their contacts with others, versus people who are introverted – they have to put out more energy, so they have more of a need to recharge being alone. So I think that definition does not apply directly to the romantic path. I think that when you’re talking about dating, someone who’s naturally extroverted can become shy all of a sudden, when they are in contact with someone that they’re attracted to. So that’s an interesting phenomenon. And I would think and suggest – although I don’t have any research to back that up – but my experience is that: shyness in the realm of dating and relationships happens because of fear of rejection.So the person is making themselves small, is contracting, is having a hard time speaking and expressing themselves to this potential partner because they are afraid that they’re not going to be loved and accepted. And that is one of the main issues – even if someone doesn’t have a very extreme shyness issue, I think that most people can look at their behavior on the dating front and see that they might be “playing small” or not completely expressing who they are, because they want to be accepted. And that is something also that is a double-edged sword: it’s not wrong, it’s certainly not wrong to do that – but I’m trying to always encourage people to be authentic and to approach this with an open heart and with pride in who they are, to reinforce that sense of “Oh my gosh, like, I have something to offer. I’m not just looking at somebody else as the provider of love in me as the potential receiver.” That’s, I would say, like “the beggar’s attitude” like someone who’s begging for love, like “Please love me!” versus approaching people from a perspective of “I have so much love to give. I want to share. I have a heart that’s full and anyone who would come into my life and be the recipient of my love would be very lucky and very fortunate.” So that’s the givers attitude.[14:26] Tim Smal: Yeah and it’s really interesting to think about the concept of “rejection” – fear of rejection, the perception of being rejected. Because if I think of my own life, I consider myself to be quite a friendly guy, in the sense that I enjoy spending time with people. And I feel like sometimes when I go out into the world and I interact with people, I receive that [friendliness] back from people and sometimes I don’t. And sometimes when I don’t receive that back from people, it can feel like rejection. If you are being friendly to someone and they’re not friendly back to you – if they have an attitude of “Why are you talking to me?” or “Why are you approaching me?” you can feel rejected. And I suppose if that happens enough times, you start to question yourself and you start to think “Well, maybe I should not be so outgoing or friendly if I’m getting these reactions a lot.” And this is just an analogy that I’m using in this context, but I think it must be incredibly challenging for people to overcome that fear of rejection if they’ve got memories or learned experiences in their own personal lives that prevent them from moving forward and overcoming that – even when it does happen from time to time, because it seems inevitable and unavoidable in this world that we live in.[15:57] Marie Thouin: Right. I mean, even people who are otherwise very confident in life, you know, might hold onto a story of “Oh my gosh – I always get rejected by the people that I’m attracted to.” And then, you know, like it might be that it just hasn’t been the right time, it hasn’t been the right match and there’s many ways to conceptualize that. But it is one of the main hurdles that people have to overcome to go back out into the dating world with an open heart, is to: rewrite the script so that it’s not a script about them being undesirable. Because that’s usually how our brains interpret rejection – it’s like, there’s something wrong with me.It’s really hard work, but it’s also feasible. It’s definitely feasible, especially with support. I think the support of a coach can be instrumental in that kind of rescripting and moving forward. And I also think that having a strong community and strong friendships and cultivating love in one’s life can help somebody, kind of, get out of that narrative.But I think you described it so well. I mean, it is something that I experienced as well for a big part of my life, was the feeling that: every time I would fall in love with someone – or even have a big crush on someone – they would end up rejecting me. So I had this narrative of being unlucky in love, or just not desirable to some extent. And I had to really make a different decision at some point. I had to make the decision that “I was ready for love, that I deserved it, that I had a lot to offer and that I was going to only let people in to my life that could recognize that and that could appreciate that.” So I basically upped my standard of people that I would date and I made a decision that I was ready and that is really what I wanted. Because there is a weird psychological thing that can happen too when people have been rejected enough times: they might start telling themselves that they don’t really want a relationship – that they don’t really want to date or that they’re not sure what they want. Because then, not getting a relationship doesn’t feel like a failure as much, if you’ve been telling yourself – or maybe even telling the world – that “ Oh, I don’t really know what I want” then you’re not as susceptible to feeling like a failure. But once you really clarify your intention and declare to the universe that “Yes, this is what I want, this is what I have to offer” that can be a humongous shift in energy.[19:10] Tim Smal: Yeah, so I guess this leads me to my next question, which is: I wanted to find out more about what the term “mindful dating” means – can you tell me more?[19:24] Marie Thouin: Yes. So I have been really involved and interested in spirituality for many years and “mindfulness” for me, is the idea that you always look at things from a certain distance – you look at the big picture. You are present in the moment, but you also are mindful of why you’re doing things, why are you attracted to a certain person and what is the result of that. So you’re taking into consideration more than just your first impulse. So mindful dating is about really cultivating that awareness of what is going on in my romantic life and how can I align my love life with my growth, and me becoming a better person and someone who’s more empowered and happier and healthier. And to integrate that into your life in a positive way, rather than have this be the place where you are confused and in a cycle of pain or dissatisfaction. So I also feel like romantic love is the biggest window we have into our motivations as human beings – it’s involving our DNA. You know, like, our DNA tells us to survive, eat and mate. And the mating part is something that has taken such a life of its own – you know, it’s been socialized into certain socially acceptable ways to date. So we have, of course, the biology and the social conditioning part pulling on us at any given point. And then we have the awareness of all that going on and how does it play into our life and our growth as a human being. So to be able to hold all of these parts and move forward with intentionality and awareness is what I would call “mindful dating.”[21:51] Tim Smal: It’s really exciting to talk about the ways in which dating and relationships are such fertile grounds for personal growth, so I really appreciate all the information that you’ve shared today – you’ve certainly given me quite a lot to think about. But in terms of wrapping up the show today, I was hoping you could just tell us a little bit more about why it is important for people to invest in this area of their life. I can imagine that for some people they might be thinking “Well, they’re not necessarily looking for a relationship” they might be happy being single. I suppose there are so many different scenarios of how people are living their lives, in terms of their romantic interests. But could you just tell us a little bit more about why it is important for people to pay attention to this area?[22:41] Marie Thouin: Absolutely. I think that in our very secular world where, you know, religion is not that present in most people’s life and spirituality might not be that present… the idea of romantic love is one of the main entry points where people can start really unraveling who they are and really healing their deeper wounds. I might be repeating myself here, but I think that is such an opportunity for anyone to do – whether or not they feel like they want a relationship, a serious relationship at this point of time or maybe they want to look at their patterns. Maybe someone is dating casually and they are not totally satisfied – there is a little voice in them that says they want more… that’s a really great thing to look at. Someone might choose to be single and that’s totally cool and beautiful… but maybe there is a little voice in them that is looking for something else or to understand themselves better – that is absolutely valid. And it’s important to listen to those voices and to have a safe space where you can express yourself and start investigating yourself. And really, love is happiness. I just read about a 75-year long study about happiness from Harvard University, and the bottom line was: love is happiness, happiness is love. So if your love life – and I’m using love in a broad sense, not just sexual love, but your love life in general – is a source of pain for you, there is room for more. You could cultivate happiness through that channel.[24:40] Tim Smal: Wonderful. Yeah, that’s a really great way to wrap up the show today: love is happiness and happiness is love.Marie, thank you so much for joining us today on the show – I really appreciate your time. It’s been lovely speaking with you. As I say, you’ve given me lots to think about and I’m sure the listeners appreciate your insights too. Let us know how the listeners are able to get hold of you.[25:10] Marie Thouin: Absolutely, thank you. So my website is www.loveinsight-dating.com and that’s the best way to get hold of me – just go on my website. You can read my blog, you can look at my services, you can read more about me and then you can book a free introductory session to see if we might be a good fit working together.
32 minutes | Jul 28, 2020
Paula Rogo – Diverse perspectives in storytelling
July 28th, 2020 Paula RogoDiverse perspectives in storytelling Paula Rogo from Kali Media talks about diverse perspectives in storytelling and her work as a journalist.Paula is the founder and CEO of Kali Media, a Nairobi-based media company that creates content for women in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University and has worked for Thomson Reuters, PBS, Washington Week and Time Inc. She is also the co-founder and director of communications for Africa Podfest, the region’s first podcast festival. Visit Paula’s website TRANSCRIPT – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi everyone and welcome to the show today. My name is Tim Smal. Thanks for joining me. My guest on the show today is Paula Rogo. She is the founder and CEO of Kali Media. It is a Nairobi-based media company that creates content for Millennial and Generation Z women in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda through digital media and highly sought-after events. Paula, welcome to the show. Paula Rogo (guest): Thank you for having me, Tim. I’m excited to be here. [00:45] Tim Smal: We certainly have a lot to talk about today on the show. But let’s kick it off with you telling us a little bit about your media company. [00:53] Paula Rogo: Right. So Kali Media, like you said, it’s really for the East African woman of today. And I created it because I’m a journalist by training and I quickly realized, a couple of years ago, after having moved back from the US where I’d lived for quite some time, that content – really good content for the women that I was seeing out and about in Nairobi and in and around East Africa, were not really being reflected in the media. And for me, I really believe that media is a great indicator, or also a form of feedback, for a society, right? So if you don’t see yourself in your media, or see yourself fully envisioned in the media that’s fed back to you, there is a disconnect, I believe. So for me, Kali Media was a company in which I just wanted to create content for that woman – for that modern woman who is thriving and trying to survive in East Africa today. [02:08] Tim Smal: So your journey with creating Kali Media has been really interesting because you were born in Sweden and you lived in Kenya until the age of 13. And then you moved to the United States of America where you went to high school and university and graduate school. So you’ve certainly got a lot of life experience. Would you like to tell us more about your journey from your childhood through to the work you’re doing today?[02:35] Paula Rogo: Yeah, it’s very strange, Tim, to consider… I’m not good at reflecting. I tend to be someone who is very forward-thinking, which is also a pro and a con. So it’s very strange to look back and consider my life. And in many ways, in looking back, I do actually feel quite disconnected because I’m so… I am very good at compartmentalizing. So I think it’s actually really difficult for me to figure out a through line of my life, because there is Sweden life – which I barely remember. And there’s Kenya life, when I was younger. And then even within the US, there’s these specific periods for me. And I always think – and maybe that’s why I ended up being a journalist, that the one thing that I’ve always felt connected through, no matter where I was, is my work as a storyteller. And the way that showed up was the fact that I became a journalist. But even if I didn’t become a journalist, I really feel like I would be doing some form of storytelling somewhere. And for me, I think I really enjoy listening to people and hearing people’s stories. And hearing how people came to be and their motivations and why they are the way they are. Something about that human expression is really key and important to me. And maybe the fact that I’ve been able to – I’ve had the privilege to live in so many places and experience so many different types of people, has then also opened me up to being open to their perspectives, I think. Yes, I think that’s really what it is for me.[04:22] Tim Smal: Well, I’m certainly very impressed that you hold a Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University. And I’m really interested to find out whether journalism and storytelling was something that you always felt you wanted to get into when you were younger. Or if perhaps, you experienced a lot of influences from the world around you or your family that led you down that path. Can you tell me more about your journey into discovering this interest and passion in journalism?[04:56] Paula Rogo: Yeah. And you know, I don’t know if you’re one of those people Tim, they’re people who like, come out of the womb and know exactly what they want to be – I want to be a doctor, I want to be all these things. And I was never that person. In fact, I think even though I’ve loved it, I think I fell into journalism, mostly because it’s the thing I was really, really good at – writing. And I excelled in writing throughout school and it felt difficult… I have a very accomplished family – both my parents have PhDs, I have a sister who’s a doctor, another sister who’s a lawyer who’s about to go get her PhD – as in I come from that kind of, very accomplished family. And even though I never had any pressure, the idea of just being a writer didn’t sit well with me at the time when I was, sort of, pursuing careers. And the one area that allowed me to do that that, quote unquote “I could hold onto and was a career that I understood” was journalism. And then because of, I guess, the pressures of the accomplishments I came from, I couldn’t just be a journalist – I needed to go to the best journalism school in order, to sort, of prove that point. And so I think… it’s funny – I was telling a friend the other day when she asked me something about if I always knew I wanted to go into business or journalism and I actually remember a time in high school: I think I was in my French class and we had to do an assignment in French talking about what we wanted to be when we were older. And I always hated that question, I was like “What do you want to be, what you want to study?” and it just was never interesting to me, or I struggled with answering it. And I remember at the time saying “I don’t know what I want to do, but I know whatever I want to do does not exist yet.”And I think there was some foretelling there, because the digital space we have today, and being an entrepreneur around digital media and around podcasting – well, that wasn’t around in circa 2004 and so forth. So I think there was some foretelling there. So I think journalism for me – even though I still proudly hold on to that title – I think journalism was a transit point for me towards the eventual work that I will end up doing. Because even I… I don’t even think the work that I’m doing with Kali Media and my other company Africa Podfest is actually, quote unquote “final destination career-wise” – which kinda sounds terrible, because I would like to be figured out at this point. But intuitively I just know that whatever I will end up doing or whatever will end up being my legacy is still, kind of, being created or is coming.[07:54] Tim Smal: Well, it sounds to me as if you have a personality type that likes to do a lot of different things or try a lot of different arenas of work. Because even within journalism itself, you have worked for a lot of different companies. You’ve worked for Reuters, you’ve worked for PBS. I’m quite interested to find out what it was like working on the Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. She really sparked your interest in journalism and I believe that you actually interned on the show in 2008, which was the year when she was the moderator of the vice presidential debate for the U.S. election.[08:31] Paula Rogo: There’s journalism and then there’s journalism in Washington, D.C., within the American context, which is politics – you know: hard news, White House, Congress, etc. And it’s a very small, really established circle. And the queen bee, to say, of that circle was Gwen Ifill, at a particular period in time. She was a moderator for Washington Week, which was a decades-old political roundtable that all the insiders in Washington used to watch on Friday nights – that’s how you know it’s a big deal. And she was also the co-host of PBS NewsHour, which is another really well known TV news show. And then she was also a black woman, which in the circles we were moving in for politics and news and journalism, was rare. And so, even how I interned with her was serendipitous, because I remember it was 2008 and I had come home for the summer. I, at one point, actually thought I was going to go into finance and was even looking at interning on Wall Street and… that was a long time ago. And so I remember that summer, I was actually aiming for an internship somewhere in Wall Street and I had got an offer and I said “No” because it didn’t feel right. I’m very much about intuition and so forth, and it didn’t feel right. And also just… it was forced. I would do my journalism because I was part of the school newspaper and magazine, and then I’d go for my pre-finance classes and it was just not fun. So I had come home for the summer and my mother did not want me sitting in the house doing nothing. And so down the street there was a… in the area there was a TV station and she told me “You’ve always liked journalism and news – go find something there.” I went in and asked if they had any internships and they mentioned that their documentary program had some openings. And this particular station was a PBS affiliate, WETA – it is actually the home of the Ken Burns documentaries, if you know that world of documentaries. Ken Burns is usually edited out of WETA. And so I came back and I didn’t even know who Ken Burns was – I was just there because my mother sent me. And I ended up going for the interview and when I arrived for it, I entered the elevator and there was this black woman who joined me. And we were going up and she asked me where I was going and I mentioned the executive producer I was going to interview with for this documentary potential internship. And she… we got to the same… we ended up getting off on the same floor – the fifth floor, I remember this very well. And then she just, sort of, grabbed my hand and just said “Can you just wait in this room?” And then I never saw her again. But someone – this other lady came in and interviewed me. And I barely remember the interview because I was just there, to be quite honest. And I ended up hearing that I got an internship, but I got an internship with this show called “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill” and I was so confused because I’d come to interview for something else. And it turned out the lady on the elevator was actually Gwen Ifill herself. And that is serendipity, right? Because I didn’t know who she was – I didn’t know how she was a bigwig, I didn’t even know the show. For whatever reason, she picked me on the elevator. And for whatever reason, I interviewed and said the right things to be picked. And that was a really big year for me because, like you said, she was… this was 2008 – this is Obama, the first black president – that’s his campaign. And this was around May and the election was in November. So that whole period where he beat out Hillary Clinton, where the debates that happened that year… that year, what it meant to be black and in America and to see the first black president and to work for a black woman who was such a firestorm and such an influencer, changed my life. And that was what brought me into journalism, because I don’t think I would have really picked it as my number one choice if I hadn’t seen the potential of it. Because it matters. It matters seeing people like you – or you identify with – doing a career or work that you could do. And I don’t think I’d known anyone as intimately as I ended up connecting with Gwen, who was doing the work that she was doing. And I think she just showed me “Hey, this is a career you can consider.” And then so, the work that then came afterwards, in working at Reuters and in working at all these different places, was actually me trying to figure out “Okay journalism, but there’s so many types of journalism.” Reuters is hard, fast news – your deadline is now, your deadline is now, your deadline was a minute ago. I’m not that type of person who moves quickly like that. So I quickly realized “Okay, Reuters isn’t for me – even though it’s a really great place and career”. And I tried broadcast, I tried different sleeves – I tried different parts of journalism to see what worked for me. And I think, they’ve all helped me, because I think I can go into pretty much any newsroom – whether broadcast, print or digital – and jump in pretty well and pretty easily. And that was all started from Gwen Ifill who was… she passed a couple of years ago – but who was one of the biggest influencers in my life.[14:24] Tim Smal: Wow, that’s an amazing story. And it’s always really incredible to hear a personal story like that, where a mentor has guided you through a season of your life and you found inspiration in working with them, or even looking up to them, in some respects. So I imagine that your experience working with Gwen Ifill, has really shaped your journey moving forward. And after your time in the U.S., you decided to relocate back to Kenya. In terms of the work that you’re involved in on the continent of Africa, if you consider all of your experience in the U.S., studying and working in journalism – how do you feel that that has impacted the work that you are doing now?[15:14] Paula Rogo: Strangely enough, I’m tearing up. I don’t know if you can hear it in my voice, but I’m tearing up because I also realize I haven’t talked about Gwen in a very long time, and had a chance to tribute her in that way. Maybe it’s part of the compartmentalism that I was telling you about earlier but, excuse my voice – you already brought out the tears, Tim.But to answer your question: I think, for me, you know, I moved to the U.S. when I was like 12, 13… and I was always very connected with home and with Kenya. But it was also very difficult to access the continent from that side of the world – especially during that period of time. And when you’re in the diaspora, you’re always so hungry for news from home – for any connection with home. And sometimes, the only – especially at that time – the only way you could get it was through news. And a lot of that news was… you know, the African story is very limited in its storytelling. And so for me, I’m very much the type of person where if I… if there’s something I want to see, I do it – I create it. I don’t wait for anyone else to do it. And I think that ended up being a thread, even in my journalism. I ended up going to places that would allow me to – even if, just in limited forms – allow me to report or do work on Africa. I think that’s also a thread, in terms of the places I was allowed to go, or the places I considered working in. And so my choice in actually coming back is that, I realized that there are very few companies in the West that would allow me to do the type of journalism about Africa that I wanted to do. And the type of storytelling that I wanted to do – this is storytelling that is nuanced, this is storytelling that gives us dignity. This is storytelling that’s diverse in perspective. And there were places I worked where I was allowed that, but I still felt that there could be more. And because I’m the type to just create my own thing, I was like “You know what – let me do this.” So I think what I’ve learned is that: what I’ve tried to do with my companies is create the spaces that allow other people to do more storytelling of themselves. So Kali Media is “content creation for East African women” and my goal is to bring in East African women to do that storytelling, right? The goal with Africa Podfest is to allow space where hundreds and thousands of other African podcasters and listeners can connect, and that’s storytelling in itself. Because I guess I always felt very limited in the range of stories I was allowed to put out there and share and tell. And I was always pitching and being turned down and being told “We’ve already done this and so forth.” And so this is where this comes from. I don’t know if I’m going to be successful with it, because also making money – choosing to make money in this way is very, very difficult. Media is a very tough space. But, you know, I think the attempt matters. [18:27] Tim Smal: Well, let’s chat some more about Africa Podfest. It’s the region’s first podcast festival that was set to take place in Nairobi, Kenya in March 2020. But of course, the event was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Can you tell me more about Africa Podfest and what it’s going to look like in the future?[18:50] Paula Rogo: So the fact that Africa Podfest even exists is because I ran into a roadblock when putting together Kali Media. One of the key strategies Kali Media was going to follow was creating “Kalipods” which was supposed to be – or is supposed to be – this women-only podcast network, with women hosts and women-focused topics and so forth. And as I was building it, I quickly realized the roadblocks in investing in this space, in that there are just certain parts of the podcasting ecosystem that were not in place specific to Africa, that just had to be created in order for me to even consider Kalipods being a success, or even start doing the work I want to do around it. So I had to like put Kali down briefly and run over to and create Africa Podfest. And the reason it came together is really: we’re both African, we understand radio is king and the reach of radio on the continent. And here is a digital aspect of that platform of radio and the opportunities then are similar to the potential of radio. But also, like I said, the ecosystem and certain structures have to be in place for podcasting to really flourish in Africa. And you know, there are pockets – there are really great people doing great work in different parts of the continent, but they’re not talking to each other – they’re not sharing information. They’re not coming together and innovating together. Because there are things happening in Nigeria that Zimbabwean podcasters could really benefit from and vice versa and so forth with other parts of the continent. So that’s really what Africa Podfest was supposed to be: it’s a place that brings people together to convene and to ideate and to connect, as it pertains around African podcasting. So like you said, we had to cancel it due to COVID-19 – like, five days before we had to cancel it. And it was a curse and a blessing to do that – the blessing of it is slowly starting to show itself now. But really, with the Podfest just crashing to a halt, my co-founders (Melissa Mbugua and Josephine Karianjahi) and myself – we’ve actually been using this time to restructure the company to make it a year-round program, a year-round company for podcasters in Africa. So yes, Africa Podfest is the main attraction, is the main product out of our company – but we’re also looking to create a lot of other great services, trainings, grants and so forth, specifically for African podcasters that allows for learning and connection year-round, likely in a digital way.It’s interesting because… well, I’ve only ever created two companies – but I’ve never had to have created one company, come to a halt quite quickly, and then restructure it for different goals. And so hopefully Podfest can come back. A lot of people have said “Why don’t you take it digital?” and we are considering that amid the new restructuring. But for now, we really hope that sometime in the future, we can all come to Nairobi to connect and talk about podcasting in person. Because I really do think, the person-to-person conferences and festivals are really important for connections, other than just the things that is on the topic of the festival itself. So that’s what we’re planning to do.[22:41] Tim Smal: Yeah, it’s really interesting to learn more about Africa Podfest. And I’m sure there’s so much room for growth – there’s so much room for trying out new things. And so I guess, in many ways, you are still in the very early stages of a really exciting endeavor, so I will certainly keep my eye on Africa Podfest and hopefully even attend one of the festivals in the future.But, right now, in the current times that we’re in, you do actually have a podcast of your own, which is an African podcast for women in business. I love the name of your podcast – it’s called: “I have no idea what I’m doing.” Can you tell me more about this podcast?[23:25] Paula Rogo: Yeah so… I really don’t know what I’m doing. So when I moved back to Kenya and decided to start Kali Media – like I said, I’m a journalist. It’s one thing to produce content and to produce media – it’s another thing to produce it and monetize it and make it a company. And even though I was very connected to Kenya, I had been living outside the country for more than a decade. There’s just things I did not know – like how to move within the country and so forth. And one of the benefits of being a journalist is curating media and creating content. And I felt like, if I’m struggling with finding information, because that was my issue: finding information about just how to start my company. Because I kept having to, sort of, go read what’s happening in South Africa, or go read about what’s going on in the US or what’s going on in Europe business-wise and then bastardizing that research to, sort of, fit within Kenya. And so I thought “You know what, I have no idea what I’m doing, why don’t I talk to women – other entrepreneurs who actually have done what I’m doing and they can also share what they’ve learned, what they know with other women.” And so that’s what the podcast came out of.And the podcast was two-pronged: I’m all about being efficient, so it was selfish in that, it was a chance for me to just interview all the people I needed to talk to in order to, sort of, start my business. So lawyers, accountants and so forth, about things I needed to know in starting my business. That was one – and then also, like I mentioned, I was considering Kalipods, this podcast network. And I knew there was potential in podcasting in Kenya, but I needed to test it. So also the podcast in many ways is a testing tool for me. And the result of that first season, which was actually supposed to be one season – a limited series podcast, 8 episodes… put it out there and see what happens. But the result of that showed me “You know what – podcasting is a route you can go to create the content for women that you aiming for.” And I then think also from this podcast Africa Podcast then also grew and evolved. And so yeah, it was supposed to be a limited series – 8 episodes for the first season. It came out at the end of 2018 and then now, just during COVID-19, I’ve relaunched it again. And it’s a little different, a little bit more personal, all about business – has aspects to do with money. And is also East Africa – but also probably expanding to the whole of Africa. And I’m just talking to women about what the journey of starting their business is, and just how difficult it is and lessons they’ve learned, so that anyone coming after us doesn’t have to run into the same roadblocks. Which I think, actually, is something I picked up in the U.S. among black women – and maybe it shows up in the example with Gwen Ifill. Maybe it’s because of the plight of African-Americans in the U.S. and what they’ve had to struggle with in that country. But they’re very… especially black women – they will reach back. If they’re in a room or at a table where they see you’d like to be, they will reach back and pull you towards that table or through that door. They will hold your hand through it – sometimes even if you don’t realize (as in the case with Gwen) that you would like to go through that door. And I’m hoping that this podcast is that for other African women – that they’re women who I get to talk to and who get to share their highs and lows and what it took to start their businesses – can learn and also do it themselves much easier.[27:22] Tim Smal: Yeah, that’s really interesting to hear more about that. So as we come in for a landing today with the chat that we’re having, I’m wondering if you have any advice for the folks listening out there, in terms of encouragement for people that are perhaps wanting to get into podcasting or who have really connected with your story. Maybe they’re interested in journalism, or even specific takeaways for individuals living on the African continent – I’d just like to give you the opportunity to share some of your thoughts, in terms of encouragement and advice for the people out there.[28:01] Paula Rogo: Two things come top of mind. The first thing is: really go the path less traveled. Is that a Robert Frost poem? “Road Less Traveled…” I don’t know if you know, Tim? But yes… if you would like a life that – and I recognize I am coming from an extreme place of privilege to be able to share this, but I think it applies for everyone in whatever world or space you’re in. But if you want a life of interest, a life that will excite you, follow the road less traveled. It’s a lonely road, it is a scary road, it is filled with a lot of doubt. It is a road with a lot of thorns – but it’s never boring at all. And you’ll get to meet like-minded people, exciting people and you’ll also learn to just be okay with yourself. And I think that’s really, really important. So always – even in the smallest way – try consider the road less traveled, because you never know where you’ll end up. And sometimes it’s a dead end – but sometimes it’s really exciting. And then the second thing is: to just trust your gut, to trust your instincts. It comes to mind… why does it come to mind today? It comes to mind because there’s certain decision-making I’ve had to make in these recent weeks that are just bananas – they just do not make sense to anyone, even to me. But I know what my gut is saying. So maybe trust your instincts – or if nothing else, learn how to listen and connect with your instincts and your gut. Because usually it’s telling you something that you need to connect with and respond to. And I think with those two things: the road less traveled and trusting your instincts – life can be quite exciting and full of verve, and full of just magical things.[30:21] Tim Smal: Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciate that. And of course, it’s been really wonderful to have you on the show today – thanks for coming on and sharing your wisdom with us.If the listeners would like to get hold of you, your website is kali.media – that’s probably the best place for them to reach you. But is there anywhere else where they can find you?[30:49] Paula Rogo: Yeah, they can. I’m on all the socials and I respond. So they can find me at kalibawse which is @kalibawse. And I’m on Twitter and on Instagram, so I’m really accessible in that way. And if not, just go to the Kali Media website: kali.media – and you can find my email and I read all the emails. So feel free to contact me, I’m very accessible.[31:23] Tim Smal: Great. Well, thanks again Paula for joining me today on the show. It’s a real privilege to have you on and I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you. Of course, I wish you all the best for the future and look forward to attending Africa Podfest.[31:37] Paula Rogo: Thank you so much Tim. This was fun and revealing. Thank you for having me on the show, it was such an honor.
19 minutes | Jun 8, 2020
Kristin Meekhof – Healing from grief and loss
June 8th, 2020 Kristin MeekhofHealing from grief and loss Kristin Meekhof, a resilience and gratitude expert, talks about healing from grief and loss. Kristin is a speaker, writer, and author. She spoke at the 2017 Harvard Medical School’s writing conference, and appeared at the United Nations headquarters. Kristin wrote about the healing power of gratitude for the “Live Happy” book and is the co-author of the best-selling book “A Widow’s Guide To Healing.” Kristin is a licensed master’s level social worker with twenty years of clinical experience. Visit Kristin’s website TRANSCRIPT – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi everyone and welcome to the show. My name is Tim Smal. Thanks for joining me today. My guest on the show today is Kristin Meekhof. She is a resilience and gratitude expert. She’s a speaker, writer and author. She co-authored the book “A Widow’s Guide To Healing” with James Windell. So Kristin, welcome to the show. Kristin Meekhof (guest): Thank you so very much Tim, it’s an honour to be here. [00:29] Tim Smal: Well Kristin, you certainly have an interest in how people deal with adversity. So would you mind just telling the listeners a little bit about your own life story, to kick off the show today? [00:40] Kristin Meekhof: Sure, well, let’s start – I can go all the way back to 1974. I don’t know my birthday and I’m probably one of the few of the people that you may have had as podcasts guests that don’t know their birthday. But I was born in South Korea and I was orphaned and so there wasn’t a birth date assigned to me. And I was adopted by my parents James and Nancy in the United States in June. And so I came about four months later to the United States. And then in ’78, I became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. And unfortunately, in ’79, my father died – he was 30, from cancer. And so that changed everything for me, really. I moved in with my mother (it was just her and I) to Grand Rapids, Michigan of all places – that’s where her family was and my father’s family. And I was very, very fortunate from there to be able to attend Kalamazoo College and then graduate school at the University of Michigan. And I then went on to write the book, as you mentioned, “A Widow’s Guide To Healing.” So that’s about me in a nutshell, thank you for having me. [01:55] Tim Smal: Thanks for sharing your story, Kristin. Now, this book that you authored has been a big part of your life journey and I would love it if you could tell the listeners a little bit more about the book and of course, why you wrote it. [02:09] Kristin Meekhof: Unfortunately in 2007 my husband died from adrenal cancer. I spent three years after, reading everything I could about grief and loss. And I couldn’t find a book, really, that had the narratives of women – they would mention loss here and there, but it didn’t really capture those narratives that I was looking for of how women not only survived, but how they coped with their loss and how they were able to heal. And I remember reading, shortly after my husband died, something from C.S. Lewis that said “We read to know that we’re less alone.” And I couldn’t agree more with that quote. And I thought “If I can begin to learn from other women – I didn’t care about their background, where they lived, the cause of death, their age, education, etc. – I thought it would be helpful for other women who might be going through something similar, as far as learning to heal after loss.” And so I spent three to four years interviewing as many widows as I could, to put their stories together. I travelled all over the globe: I went to Kenya – Nairobi specifically, a slum called Kibera, where widows live on less than $1 a day. I went to the UK. I went all over the United States – to the backwoods of Montana to Boston, Massachusetts to interview a widow whose husband died on 9/11, to women who live in my hometown Michigan. And just really learned how to capture their stories and hopefully help others, give them a sense of resilience when they read the book. And there’s also practical advice in the book. So one doesn’t have to read every single chapter like a typical book, you can go right to whatever chapter that you’re wanting to know about – whether it’s “solo parenting” or “finances” or “how to cope everyday in the very beginning” – there’s something for everyone in it. [04:02] Tim Smal: Yeah and I love the way that the book has been described. So on amazon.com (where you can buy the book) it’s described as: “An inspiring, accessible and empowering guide for how to navigate the unique grief and challenges of widowhood and create a hopeful future.” So a really lovely description. Now with your travels around the world, do you have some stories that you could share with the listeners about widows that you met and their stories that really impacted you? [04:33] Kristin Meekhof: Sure. I think one of the most memorable conversations I had, I spent three days specifically with a widow who lives in the slum, as I said called Kibera – it’s in Kenya. And the UN actually has deemed it “one of the most dangerous places for women and young children to live” because of the lack of running water, the lack of electricity, the violence and other things that make it very unsafe for women and children to live there. And yet this woman that I spent about 3 days with, she really exemplified grace. And I held her baby for her as she did some other things during the day and she was always so, so gracious and grateful to me. She always said “thank you” and really exemplified true, true beauty. And I’ve never actually met anyone like her – I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of women, but no one as special as her and as brave and courageous as her. And her story has stuck with me. She gave me a bracelet, actually, that she made that I wear from time to time and I keep near me – it just reminds me of her and my time in Kenya. And so that’s really a story that’s always resonated with me and really has motivated me to continue when things get tough. [05:55] Tim Smal: And I think it’s really commendable that you had the opportunity to travel around the world and meet with different women in order to write your book. And subsequently you actually had the opportunity, a few years ago, to appear at the United Nations. Could you tell us more about that experience? [06:11] Kristin Meekhof: Yeah, so I’ve been there three times, I think – yeah, three times. So I was invited actually by Lord Loomba (Rajinder Paul Loomba) the first time. He’s from India and he lives primarily in the UK. His mother was a widow very early on in his childhood. And he noticed how widows were treated in India and that she was no longer allowed to wear the bindi, she couldn’t wear bright coloured clothing – she wasn’t even allowed at his wedding because widows are viewed as a curse to a new couple. And so he has made it his life’s work actually to help and empower widows at an economic level and a social level. And he occasionally goes to the UN as an ambassador. And so I had the great pleasure and honour of, not only meeting him before I went to Africa, but then again in New York City at the UN Headquarters and I was able to introduce him as a speaker – it was the privilege of a lifetime. I was also there because I wrote a chapter in a book: the “Live Happy” book (Ten Practices for Choosing Joy) about gratitude. Many other people are in it: Ariana Huffington, Alanis Morissette, Jason Mraz, some other notable writers and then myself. And that book “Live Happy” was actually introduced at the UN bookstore for World Happiness Day. So I was introduced as an author or a contributor to that book – I believe it’s still there. And when I go to the UN, it’s for the conference on the status of women. I go as a voice to help to elevate and to learn about women empowerment and how to help them throughout the globe and what they’re doing and on a microfinance level as well. [07:51] Tim Smal: Ah, sounds like a really incredible experience. And thanks for telling us about the “Live Happy” book – I’m certainly not surprised at all to hear that Jason Mraz was featured in that book… he’s a very cheerful chap! [08:03] Kristin Meekhof: It’s interesting, you know – when I wrote the chapter, I didn’t know who was going to be in it. So when I got the book, I was really surprised that my piece was included. So it’s a huge honour. [08:17] Tim Smal: Yeah and speaking of surprises, I guess if we look back on your life: you graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Kalamazoo College, with a major in psychology. and then you went on to complete your Clinical Masters in Social Work at the University of Michigan. So you’ve become a licensed social worker, but I imagine back in those days you probably weren’t thinking about being an author. Has that been a bit of a surprise to you – what has your journey been like, in essentially moving from your studies through to the work you’re doing today? [08:52] Kristin Meekhof: Yes, it’s a huge surprise. Never in a million years did I think I’d be speaking with you. And I know that when we first talked, I asked how you found me and it was because you saw me on CNN – I was on CNN speaking about resilience. So the path that I chose is something that I never guessed in a million years. And I look back at it and I say “even though I had a master’s degree in social work, really nothing prepared me for the loss of my husband.” I was 33 at the time in 2007. And it was only because I have always believed that the narratives and learning from other narratives of women can change the trajectory of one’s life and in particular, one’s healing after loss – regardless of what the loss is. And that’s why I decided to write the book. But never, never did I think I would be speaking about a book I wrote. [09:49] Tim Smal: Well, speaking about loss, it’s certainly an interesting time at the moment in the world with the coronavirus and everything surrounding that. People are certainly experiencing loss in a variety of different forms. Now, you’ve been speaking about healing and that healing is possible – can you talk about resilience and how that can contribute to healing during difficult times? [10:15] Kristin Meekhof: So I think that resilience is really something that one has to look at in small steps. Sometimes it’s difficult to take a big leap towards one’s healing after your life has been hit by a loss – whether it’s an economic loss, an emotional loss, or a death, or a relationship loss, or a career loss, whatever it is – that there’s a point at which it is possible to begin to start to take small steps to rebuild one’s life. It doesn’t have to be a big leap and that’s part of just taking that initial first step, really, is part of healing and part of resilience. And so when I do individual coaching with clients about resilience – and it doesn’t have to be necessarily, the loss of a spouse – but nearly everyone I know has experienced some type of loss. And I work to help them to understand that small steps really do add up to significant changes later on that can help to put them on the road of healing and also to rebuild and restart and start a new life. And I think in the time of COVID-19, people are experiencing loss on a level like nothing else has ever happened before. And it’s very scary and fearful. And it’s okay to ask for help, to ask for guidance. [11:38] Tim Smal: So would you say that developing skills like staying positive, having a gratitude journal or even a gratitude buddy – these are skills that one can practice to essentially experience healing and build resilience? [11:55] Kristin Meekhof: Yes. You know, I talked about getting “a gratitude buddy” on CNN and I got some weird comments after that – I mean, not on the show directly, but I mean, after the segment aired. And what it is: it’s nice to have a time in which somebody checks in with you and sometimes just shifting your focus to something that’s going well, is a way to see your day in your life through a different lens. And that small micro shift in changing one’s perspective can make all the difference. And so “a gratitude buddy” really – you know, is someone to share things with. It’s someone that you sharing things that are in common with, because you both want to have a positive outlook. And not everybody has a good day all the time – that’s not what it’s about. But it’s really – especially now – nice to remember that some things do go well and there are some things that are positive to take note of. And it’s very simple things: this morning I went for a morning run and that was something that I’m very grateful for, you know – the sun is out here and it was peaceful. So you know, it doesn’t have to be huge accomplishments to make it on to your gratitude list. [13:04] Tim Smal: Yeah and I guess every little bit counts, right? If you’re spending time with friends (in terms of social support), if you’re finding a way to be creative, to express yourself, perhaps you’re learning how to meditate or speak to yourself with compassion… as you build all these skills, you’re essentially growing your mind to be stronger and more resilient, right? [13:26] Kristin Meekhof: Yes and sometimes, you know, it’s very surprising because it’s not until we look back later that we realise how those small steps added up. So meditation is very powerful: we know from scientific studies that the minds of – or the brains of those who meditate, the grey matter looks different. And my dear friend, Dr. Deepak Chopra, has studied this extensively, as have others. It’s well-documented that meditation really is a portal to healing and also to happiness. [13:58] Tim Smal: Yeah, meditation is definitely one of those important skills. And everybody can practice it in slightly different ways. Because as long as you are ultimately, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and you’re slowing your body down and you’re being present in the moment with whatever it is that you’re doing – whether you’re sitting outside or perhaps even just listening to some music… whatever you find relaxing – it’s doing a lot of good work for your body. It’s like you’re teaching your body to be present-focused and to really be grateful ultimately, for the life that you have. [14:32] Kristin Meekhof: Absolutely. And everybody has a different way of doing it. And I think that, you know, find what works for you and continue to look for that, if the first time that you tried something didn’t work. There’s various ways people meditate – various apps, for example, that one can use and you don’t even need one. You know, I started and I didn’t have an app, I didn’t have a specific place in mind I was gonna do it – I just started in my living room one morning. And it is something that I started before the book came out and it’s really changed the way that I’ve been able to experience things. [15:11] Tim Smal: Yeah, I like the way that you put that. And if any of the listeners are wanting to reach out to you and find out more about your story, of course, they can visit your website at kristinmeekhof.com – but I wanted to recommend a video to them which is your talk that you gave at Rochester Hills public library and that’s on YouTube. It’s a 45-minute talk and you do dive quite deep into a lot of information around the topic that we’re talking on. What was the purpose of that talk, specifically – I’m just trying to get some context?[15:41] Kristin Meekhof: So, that in Rochester, Michigan, it is a situation that I was invited to because widows wanted to learn from me about ways to heal. So the audience were primarily widows and what really struck me about that – I offered tips for healing – is that, I believe the camera was off at this point during the Q&A… I can’t remember because I’ve done so many things since then. But I remember afterwards, a gentleman walked up to me and his wife was several feet behind her and he said “I wanted to bring my wife here, because I knew that I’m going to die before her and I wanted her to know how to heal afterwards.” I’ll always remember that because it really was so bittersweet that moment, that he was offering her – my book and this talk that I was doing, as a way to help her beyond the time that she would have with him. And so that’s really something that I’ve taken with me. I take something with me from every single thing that I’ve done – and often something very unexpected, you know, something that you don’t necessarily think is going to happen to you or something that someone is gonna say and that’s the one thing I remember from that talk. [17:00] Tim Smal: Wow, well thanks for sharing that story – that’s really amazing. I’m sure you’ve done a lot of interviews over the years and so you’ve spoken about the topic a lot. But I suppose as time goes by, you certainly are probably gaining new insights or even learning new lessons perhaps, for a new book that you might be writing in the future… I’m not sure. But at this point in time, do you perhaps have any recent insights or takeaways for the listeners that you’ve been thinking about in recent times? [17:31] Kristin Meekhof: I think one of the takeaways that I have is that – well, certainly, nobody predicted a pandemic – but I think one of the takeaways is that: healing after any loss, whether it’s a health issue, or a financial issue, a relationship issue, a personal issue that crossed a boundary for you… that it is possible. And I think that that’s a really important message now because lots of people are very fearful – they don’t know what the next steps are, they don’t know if they can rebuild their life, they don’t see that hope for their lifestyle to continue the way it once was before COVID. And so because of that big change that affected at all of us, I think that it’s important, now more than ever, to express the message that healing is possible. [18:26] Tim Smal: Wow, thanks for sharing – that’s really helpful. And you certainly have a number of really useful resources on your website, including lovely articles that the listeners can get hold of. So once again you’re welcome to visit Kristin’s website at kristinmeekhof.com Kristin, I thank you so much for joining us today. I hope the next time that you visit Africa that you will give South Africa a visit. [18:52] Kristin Meekhof: I will. I really thank you for this opportunity – it’s beyond anything that I thought would ever happen, that I would be speaking with you. And thank you for finding me. [19:04] Tim Smal: Yeah, thanks so much Kristin. Have a lovely day and I look forward to actually reading your book, because I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But I’ll certainly follow all of your activities online and I encourage the listeners to do so too. [19:17] Kristin Meekhof: Thank you so much, I really appreciate this Tim. My best to you and your family.
34 minutes | May 24, 2020
Nidhi Chaitow – Conscious rhythm, self-care & eldership
May 24th, 2020 Nidhi ChaitowConscious rhythm, self-care & eldership Nidhi Chaitow talks about conscious rhythm, self-care and transitions to eldership. Nidhi is a psychosocial counsellor and facilitator living on the Garden Route of South Africa. She ran the Drum Cafe on the Garden Route for several years, and discovered first-hand the remarkable healing power of individual and collective rhythm. She has taught transformational drumming, life skills and spiritual awareness to individuals, groups, institutions, non-profit organisations and NGOs across South Africa. Visit Nidhi’s website Transcript – pdf Tim Smal (host): Hi everyone and welcome to the show today. My name is Tim Smal. Thank you so much for joining me today. My guest on the show is Nidhi Chaitow. She is a psychosocial counsellor and facilitator living on the Garden Route of South Africa. Nidhi, welcome to the show. Nidhi Chaitow (guest): Thanks, Tim. It’s really great to be here, thank you. [00:25] Tim Smal: I’m really looking forward to speaking with you today about the work that you’re involved in. Could you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and the work that you do? [00:35] Nidhi Chaitow: Sure, with pleasure. And thank you for the opportunity Tim, this is really great. So I call myself a psychosocial counselor and that means that I work with the physical, mental, emotional, social and relating, as well as spiritual aspects of a person. And very much about: coming home to wholeness and bringing the different aspects of the self together into becoming a whole human being who can have a whole human experience in life. My practice is very person-centred, meaning that I work with people at their own pace in a very gentle, loving, safe way. And I’ve been working as a psychosocial counsellor for four years now. I went to study at the age of 52 to do a degree in applied psychology. And based on many years of working with people and working with drumming as a therapeutic tool and seeing the need of having different ways to reach people and allow them to feel safe and express themselves. So going to study at the age of 52 was quite a big thing and I was very blessed to find an institution in Cape Town that allowed adult learners to go and learn in a very quiet, uncluttered environment. So I did a degree: a Bachelor of Applied Psychology. It took me three and a half years and it was a huge step to go back to studying at that age. I had to do a lot of “brain gym” – my brain was very tired. And through that and my experience of working as a facilitator over the years, I created a practice. And what was interesting is that, when I started studying, I was going to work on doing a master’s in drumming as a therapeutic tool for trauma, because I saw the need of that and I saw what a wonderful medium it was for helping people to release their pain and get in touch with their own rhythm. And then while I was doing my internship at the end of my degree, I took on the role as the counsellor at SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology) for the students and I ended up doing a year there. So I did my internship and then I did, sort of, 8 months of counselling as a volunteer and realised that this is something that I’m really good at. And that I have an ability to walk with my students because I’m an older woman, that I have more experience – I have big life experience. And it helped me to make people feel comfortable and people were very much drawn to me. So that’s how I got into doing this work. And I just worked in Cape Town for a while and started a practice and it was a slow start – which it always is. And then in June two years ago, I moved back to the Garden Route (which is where I’ve lived for many, many years before I went to Cape Town to study) and started a practice here. And again worked with the clients that I was working with. So I went online and set myself up as an online counsellor and that’s grown and developed up until now. And as the lockdown happened and COVID-19 happened and people needed to work at home and needed to have their practice online, it was a very easy transition for me to go into because I was already set up. And I’m very grateful for that and feel blessed. And since the lockdown, my practice has started to grow at quite a fast rate. And I’m working with people all over the world which is quite an amazing thing. So experiencing what life is like in different cultures and different countries, which is quite wonderful. I’m able to meet clients where they’re at and help them along and work with deep, emotional stories. Also just dealing with daily life, how to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, trying to stay present. And just each story and each client, there’s a common thread – but there’s also differences. And it’s a really huge privilege and honour to really be able to meet and work with people in the way that I do. I just want to mention my name because it definitely causes a lot of questions. So my name is “Nidhi” which is N-i-d-h-i. It’s a Sanskrit name and it was a name that I took on. It was given to me at the end of 1993 – in fact, on the 1st of January 1994. It’s a spiritual name and I legally changed my name to “Nidhi”, making my birth name, which is Amanda, as my second name. And the name means “treasure” and it’s a very beautiful gift to get another name and to grow into it and accept it and make it part of your life. And so the lesson in my name was very much to treasure and honour and love who I am. And also beautiful is that by having discussions about my name, often it encourages people to look at the meaning of their name and to see how powerful that is. Yeah, so that’s me in a nutshell. [06:35] Tim Smal: Wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story. That was really lovely to hear about where you’ve come from. I wanted to say, firstly that I’m really proud of you for going back to college at the age of 52 and completing your bachelor’s degree – I’m sure it must have been quite a lot of hard work, so congratulations on that. But I just wanted to touch on a topic that you brought up during your story and that was: the drumming aspect of the work that you’ve done. You’ve been involved over the years in conscious rhythm. Could you maybe tell the listeners about what conscious rhythm is and the work that you’ve done within the drumming sphere? [07:24] Nidhi Chaitow: With pleasure. So as South Africa was going through it’s changes in 1994, I was living in Johannesburg at the time and I went to visit a friend. Across the road from where she lived was a, sort of, an old church community hall where a lot of artisans and artists used to work. And I went across the road to her studio and there was this man sitting under a tree working with this huge big piece of wood. And I asked him what he was doing and he said he was making a drum. And I was absolutely fascinated by that. And then discovered, through conversations, that there was a drumming circle at a house in Oaklands (which is a suburb of Johannesburg) and went along with some friends and was absolutely blown away. And at this house, there was maybe 75 to 80 people. It was a Tuesday evening. People came from every walk of life. There were [people] of every colour, of every culture, of every socioeconomic level – people just came and drummed and made amazing music. And it was unbelievable and it touched me so deeply. And then I bought a drum, which everyone in my family and friends thought I was absolutely mad, and started drumming. And I started having lessons and it was just immense fun. They used to have big drumming circles – it grew and then they’d have big drumming circles at a hall, Sandown Hall, and 200 – 300 people would come once a week and they would just play. And it was the time when we were building the Rainbow Nation (South Africa) and it was just so healing and powerful to connect with people through rhythm and through music without even needing to talk to each other. So it changed me and I went from being a very shy, conservative, contracted, young person into a much more confident person. I started feeling the benefits of the drum and what it did to my body and my soul. And also being able to interact with people. And I wasn’t that good. And I started meeting a lot of drummers who’d been playing for years and during apartheid and had been in Europe and had learnt from master drummers. And this whole new world opened up for me and I didn’t realise it. And I think it opened up for a lot of people during that time. And I left Johannesburg at the end of 1997. And at the time, a man called Warren Lieberman had started “The Drum Cafe” and I had been going to that – that was where we’d go in the hall and drum and he opened a little shop and he had drumming lessons, etc. And that’s where I’d gone to learn, etc. And when I left Johannesburg and moved to the Garden Route, he said to me “Do you want to open a Drum Cafe in the Garden Route?” and I said “Yes, I would.” And we started and one of the first things we did was: K-TV phoned and said “Please won’t you do some drumming in the forest, we want to come and film you.” And we had no drums and we had no experience. And I remember phoning friends and saying “Please help, I need your children and have you got a drum?” And we did this little drumming in the forest, which is so fabulous and things started to shift from there. And I started to work with… we started facilitating and running drumming circles and we got drums and we built it up. And then what started happening is – beside the corporate work and the working with school groups and the working with different events, etc. that started emerging from drumming as a team building event – I started using it as a therapeutic tool. And it started with these street children that used to sit on the side of the road and drum on these plastic drums. And they would drum for money. I started connecting with these children and I started taking them drums and we would play together and they were amazingly good. And I just got caught up in their story and their sadness and the fact that they… you know, most of them didn’t go to school and they were really down and out, sleeping on the street. And we started a little project called “Beats of the Street” where we tried to get these kids to drum for tourist buses, thinking that they could perhaps earn some money and start uplifting themselves. But we were quite naive at the time and it didn’t really work. But it did work, in that, I started to see the benefit of drumming as a tool for helping to help people feel more safe as a release for tension and stress and trauma. And then I was approached by a hospice in Knysna. They were doing a research project for three years that got some funding and they were doing different modalities to care for the carers. And one of the aspects was to use drumming as a tool for caring for the carers. So I participated in that project and wrote a program called “Finding Your Rhythm.” And that was the beginning of where this immense creativity started to flow from me and I started to see more and more how drumming was actually more than just a team-building tool – it was deeply therapeutic and a lot of my language around the time was that “How do I express in words what I was witnessing in the shift and transformation it was having in people’s lives?” I was also contacted by a drug rehabilitation centre – actually, a few of them – and I started working at different drug rehabilitation centres. Working with the drumming, I’d go and drum with the people who were in recovery and that was a very beautiful experience. They don’t use music – or they didn’t use music at the time, during the rehabilitation process and it really touched these young people’s lives. And they loved the concept of just “letting it out.” I had The Drum Cafe [on the Garden Route] – we lived on a farm and we had a big hall and often addicts from one [drug rehabilitation] centre that was close to where we lived would come once a month and just come and play. And they never wanted to go home – they just wanted to play. And they would just use this drumming as a tool to just release all that pain and addiction trauma from their lives. And it just evoked such joy and opened their hearts. And they started having a very positive high experience from their own energy and from the energy within the group. And that motivated me to go and study because I really wanted to give it a theoretical basis. I wanted to be able to write on a piece of paper what the good was, that drumming was having. So that’s how that started. And I’ve worked in it for many, many years and I’ve done very many programs. I still do it, I still work – I haven’t now because we’re under lockdown. But I have a group of adults at a centre in Cape Town called Astra, which is for slow adults. And they live in a residence and when I’m there, I go and drum with them and I’ve been doing that for three years. And that’s one of my biggest motivations that I go to Cape Town every two to three months, to work with the group. I take drums and we play and we close our eyes and feel our energy and our heartbeat and it helps to open up conversation. It helps them to feel safe and it’s a lot of fun. So it’s therapy with a different beat. It’s something that has changed my life. It’s a deeply healing, amazing modality that came into my life and that created my ability to be a facilitator: to be able to listen and hear, to be able to hold space for people, and contributing again to where I am right now. [15:38] Tim Smal: Yeah, that’s a really amazing story. Thanks for sharing. And just listening to you talk about your history in working with people and drumming together, it’s interesting to think about how each individual person has their own unique rhythm and you’re essentially helping them to discover these parts of themselves. So it’s just a really wonderful way to connect and interact creatively with others. And I’m just imagining the television show on K-TV when they announced: “Nidhi Chaitow in the Knysna Forest with the drumming circle” – that must have been quite humorous, hey? [16:18] Nidhi Chaitow: We never, ever saw the video – that was the sad part. [laughs] We didn’t have television, we were living in the forest. And we never, ever saw the video from K-TV. But it was seen and enjoyed by people. It was just an amazing thing to get things moving. So yeah, it’s a long time ago.[16:41] Tim Smal: So if we fast forward a couple of years to the present time and space that we are in now… Of course, with the lockdowns around the world, there is a lot of change at the moment. Can you tell the listeners about what you’re involved in, in terms of your work at this point in time? [17:01] Nidhi Chaitow: Sure, Tim. So there’s two things that I’m doing currently which have happened because of the lockdown. And the first thing is that: I could just feel the angst and the fear in the environment once the first COVID-19 statistic was given in South Africa, and I just had this idea and I started a mindful sacred circle online. And in the beginning I was gonna do it everyday and then I thought “No, I’ll just do it once a week” and I got a Zoom room and I opened it up and I made a little flyer and I put it online and I said “Let’s meet once a week on a Friday at 12:00 noon (SAST) in a safe space.” And I started doing that and you know, the first time 14 people came and I was really excited ‘cos I’d never done an online workshop before. And this was a free offering and I am still running it. I will continue to do it every Friday and really, it’s just about creating a safe place. So people check in and then we do a mindful meditation moment where I bring everyone into being present. And then just give people place to share what they going through. And just that has meant so much to have a safe place – it hasn’t got any particular agenda, it’s just a safe place to share and let off your chest what you feeling. And that really has made a difference and gave me the confidence to do the next thing that I’m busy doing and that is: to write, based on what I can see from my clients – the stress and the uncertainty and the anxiety and isolation and fear that people are going through – is to create a workshop which I’ve called “Being okay with where you are right now.” And from that, I came up with this concept of: first of all, the core of the workshop is about exploring and honouring your inner freedom. That was because my first one was on the 27th of April, which was Freedom Day. And I think just also because we’re not free on one level, it’s really important to check in with the self and see where you’re at and how you can grow and honour your freedom within. And what came out of that, is how important self-care is. And so I took the concept of self-care – not just self-care, I took it to the five different psychosocial levels. And I looked at the physical self-care: it’s about how we talk to ourselves, our language within ourselves, how we treat ourselves. And then moving into the mental aspect: how we think and then what is going on in our internal world and what is going on in the external world and that we have no control over the external world, but we have control of our inner world. And then moving to the emotional side: and that’s about honouring and allowing the emotions to be there. And then almost stepping into the role of being a mother to your own emotions and allowing them to be there and to comfort and nurture yourself. And then to feel strong enough to let them go, so that they don’t inflict others and it doesn’t spill out into the environment. And then moving to the social which is more about: relational and it’s more about how we are present with ourselves. And the concept of just really “What does it mean to be present? What does it mean to listen?” And that’s all part of care, because when we are present and we listen to others in our lives, they feel held and supported. So we need to start to do that for ourselves. And then we move into the centre of our circle of self care, which is about the spiritual aspect of ourselves and that’s the part of: creating an inner sanctuary where we can hold ourselves and have a place to go to find refuge and stillness, and connect with our higher purpose. And that by really honouring these aspects of the self – of really taking care of ourselves on these different levels, we start to feel that we can cope with what’s going on because we are nurturing and loving ourselves. And I just want to share something with you that actually really was at the core of this workshop, is that: I was busy doing counselling and I was witnessing sadness and deprivation and immense poverty and starvation in South Africa. And I started to really spin out and think “How am I going to manage this? Being OK for my clients and at the same time witnessing what’s going on.” And I was in a dilemma, which I think many, many of us are, and still are, because of what we see that’s going on around us in South Africa. And I realised that if I don’t take care of myself and I don’t fill my cup and I don’t make sure that I am replenished and nurtured and looked after and supported by myself, there’s no ways that I’ll be able to do the work that I do. And that was a huge shift for me and that motivated me to create that workshop. And that has changed my life, because my practice is growing and I’m feeling far more confident and strong within myself. And I have a very deep personal self-care practice that I put in practice every single day, in the fact that I take care of how I sleep, how I eat, how I move, what’s going on inside my body, my thoughts – I have things that I put in place that support me and can hold me when I’m feeling overwhelmed. And so the workshop is very much from a personal space. And the way I run it has really helped the people that have done it to really find practical tools to help them to connect with themselves and just to feel more present. And now I’m going to take each of those items and go deeper with them. I want to run workshops on each one and go deeper on that. So that’s “The Circle of Self-Care” and that’s how that has come from dealing with what’s going on right now. [23:52] Tim Smal: So I’m very intrigued with this work that you’re doing and I’m certainly going to dive even deeper into it after this conversation. But for the listeners that are interested in the work that you do, what is the best way for them to get hold of you? [24:08] Nidhi Chaitow: OK, so everything that I do and focus on, is on my website, which is premnidhi.com and that’s premnidhi.com – I have a conscious counselling psychosocial practice Facebook group which is private and you need to ask to join. Yeah, I think that’s a good start. On my website is all my details: there’s information about the workshops, there’s information about my practice and the conscious rhythm work that I’m doing. And this other work that I’m doing called “Transitions to Eldership” – can I talk a little bit about that, Tim? [24:56] Tim Smal: Of course, I’d love to hear more about it. [24:59] Nidhi Chaitow: Okay, so based on my own journey – again, which is what the core of my work always is, and the fact that this year I’m turning 60 – but for a very long time, I’ve had this calling to grow into becoming an inspired elder, so that when I do get to my eldership, to the age when I step into and transition into being an elder, that I age with consciousness. And that I can then be inspiring to the younger generations, because I believe that that is what we do as we get older: we offer an inspiration and a wisdom that can really invigorate and inspire the younger generations – just like they have energy, which we don’t have anymore. And because of this, I did a lot of research and work on eldership and ageing. And there’s definitely more of a movement towards ageing consciously, of longevity, of people having a long life after they retire – and the quality of life is so important. And again, it’s very much about our self-care: it’s about “How do we care for ourselves? How do we be present in our lives? How do we be inspirational?” And there was a couple of inspired conversations: I started working at various old age homes when I was in Cape Town and having deep conversations with older people about… I also did drumming with older people – and I would ask them like “What gives you meaning in your life? What makes life meaningful for you at the age of 80 or 90 years old?” And besides the fact that they absolutely loved the drumming, their families gave them meaning – that was what they held as important. And so I created a body of work called “Transitions to Eldership”. And what I did was, again on the psychosocial level, looked at different developmental stages that we go through in our lives where we transition and how important is for us to connect with those parts of ourselves and bring the wisdom and gems into our current way of living, so that we can move forward into our eldership, healed and whole. And there’s one thing that none of us want, is to have too many regrets, because it can really make one sad and lonely and unhappy and isolated. And so how do we let go of those regrets and come to terms with the things in our lives that we might not be so proud of or that we feel uncertain about? Or there could be trauma sitting in different stages of our life that we’ve never dealt with. And so the developmental stages that I work with is: the inner child, which is very, very important work, on how to deal with our emotions. And there’s so much that we let go of when we are little children: that innocence, that curiosity, that excitement, that presence that we have. And so the process is to look at that part of ourselves to see where we were let down,where there’s sadness – and how to bring the inner child into current relationship with ourselves.And then the next developmental stage which is a huge transition time, is when we become free-spirited adolescents when we move from childhood through puberty into our teenage years and young adulthood. And where our ego develops and we become invincible and strong and we start forming our own opinions and standing up against things that we don’t believe in. But in that time, we also lose parts of ourselves – we silence our voice sometimes through relationships and comparison, of a sense of not belonging or not fitting in. We drop some of the important and integral parts of who we are. And then, the third developmental stage is the creative adult and that’s the part of being a creative being. And whether it’s creating a family or creating a business or creating art as an artist, or you know, some people have children, some don’t – but they still create and they formulate their adulthood and they step into this really strong passion and power. But there’s also parts of us that we lose along that way and forget about and explain away or apologize for. And then the fourth part of the developmental stage is to become a graceful elder and to work with our “shadow” and the parts of ourselves that aren’t so great, but very much part of who we are and I believe teach us, and are part of our team that hold us in our life. And then we move to the centre of our world, which is our spiritual connection. Our connection with the earth, our connection with our ancestors, and our connection with our higher purpose and with the Divine. And so I work a lot in circles as you can hear, and I use the medicine wheel as a beautiful tool to create work in these different stages of development in Transitions to Eldership. And I’ve been running workshops face-to-face for nearly three years now, in Transitions to Eldership. I’ve done some workshops where I’ve done a workshop with all the phases and then I broke it down and I’ve done quite a lot of work with inner child work. I’ve done some talks at SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology), where I think you came to one of the talks. I run workshops on the inner critic, working with the critical part of the self. And part of my journey at the beginning of this year was to take these workshops online – to make it accessible for people all over the world. And I was busy creating that and starting to write modules of the different work, looking at how I could take it online when lockdown hit. So that’s really where I’m at now is to further develop that. And what I’m trying to do and hope that I will finish this year, is to write a book on this work – like a blueprint of this process. And that’s where I’m at now. So hopefully within the next couple of months I’ll start my first online workshop with that and that is… I’ve called it “Inner child, inner critic.” And yeah, we will see how that goes. So that’s that work that I’m busy working on and creating and developing right now. [31:51] Tim Smal: Very interesting and thanks once again for sharing. When I think about the work that you do, I’m very impressed with the fact that you are able to work with many different people from many different backgrounds, but also people of different ages and different stages of life. I think it’s really a skill to be able to relate well to people who are at different stages of their life and come from different backgrounds. So I just wanted to commend you on the work that you’ve been doing and I will certainly put your website in the podcast description for anybody that would like to get in touch with you. But Nidhi, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your time. Is there anything else that you would like to tell the listeners out there today before we wrap up? [32:39] Nidhi Chaitow: First of all, thank you so much, Tim. Just that: life is an incredible journey and that even in the darkest places, if you light a candle, it creates a huge amount of light. And that there is help there. You know, there’s a lot of ways that you can get support, that you can find the answers that you’re looking for. And just to keep trusting in the process of life and to know that we are all in this together. [33:15] Tim Smal: Great. Yes, I love those closing words: “We are all in this together.” So Nidhi, once again, thank you so much. I really hope you have a lovely day today in Knysna. Once again thanks, for your time and I look forward to seeing you again at some point in the future. [33:32] Nidhi Chaitow: Thank you, Tim. It’s been great to talk to you and thank you for what you doing, spreading the word. And I wish you lots of success for your adventure.
32 minutes | May 14, 2020
Frank James – Comedy sketches based on MBTI
May 14th, 2020 Frank JamesComedy sketches based on MBTI® Frank James talks about his comedy sketches based on The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®. Frank is a video creator on YouTube who focuses on the arena of personality. He creates comedy sketches based on two personality models, namely Meyers-Briggs and the Enneagram. His YouTube channel has grown considerably since it’s inception, as Frank enjoys taking information related to personality typology and making it accessible and fun for his audience. Visit Frank’s website TRANSCRIPT – pdf Tim Smal (host): Hi folks and welcome to the show. My name is Tim Smal and my guest today is Frank James. Frank has a YouTube channel where he does personality comedy sketches, so we’ll be chatting to him today about those videos. Frank, welcome to the show. Frank James (guest): Tim, thank you so much for having me. I am really looking forward to having a conversation with you. [00:25] Tim Smal: Awesome. Now Frank, you’re very into “personality typology.” Could you tell the listeners about what that is, and why you’re interested in it. [00:35] Frank James: Yeah. So typology is a way of, basically, grouping people based on… different typology systems have different ways that they do this, so I focused mostly on Myers-Briggs. And the way that that categorises people is, not so much based on traits or behaviour, but is based on inclinations of how people see the world, how they perceive things and then how they make decisions. So that’s Myers-Briggs. There’s also other typology systems that we can get into – they have different different methods of typing people, but yeah, that’s my bread and butter, Myers Briggs. [01:22] Tim Smal: Yeah, so Myers-Briggs has 16 different personality types and you base a lot of your comedy sketches on Myers-Briggs. Can you tell us more about these comedy sketches? [01:36] Frank James: Yeah. So I mean, it’s just taking any kind of situation that people could maybe relate to, or maybe a parody of something. And I look for concepts for videos where it’s like, you can see a wide breadth of reactions to one thing or one situation. And it all started back with “the types at a job interview”: basically, the 16 different ways that you could ruin a job interview – the 16 ways that you would not want to do a job interview, blowing these personality types a little bit out of proportion. [02:17] Tim Smal: Yeah, you’ve done a couple of really good sketches. So “16 personalities at a job interview”, “on a coffee date”, “calling customer service”, “playing Monopoly”, “at the doctor’s office” – even some more recent variations like “social distancing”, “as moms in quarantine” and even “16 personalities react to 16 personalities”… you gotta love that one, hey? [02:43] Frank James: Yeah, I was really proud of that one… the layers going into it. I think it’s a general kind of genre on YouTube to make videos like “types of… blah blah blah.” So then, just bringing that to Myers-Briggs, you got 16 personalities built in – so in some ways, it does part of the work for you. [03:08] Tim Smal: Now according to Myers-Briggs, I identify with the type “ENFP”, so whenever I watch your videos, I always have to laugh when the ENFP comes up. So for example, in the 16 personalities at a job interview sketch, if I can remember correctly, the ENFP gets questioned about all the gaps on his resume. I always have to laugh at the ENFP because I can really relate to that. I think there was another video… I can’t remember which one now, but I always love the way ENFP dresses – it’s always a very, kind of a, casual, carefree kind of, dress sense, if you will. So would you be able to, kind of, type me, in a way, just to give an example to the listeners of what an ENFP would be like as an individual? [03:52] Frank James: Yeah. In the most broad senses, an ENFP is gonna be someone who is generally gonna get bored easily. They always want new things – and not new things like in the physical world, but they always want to be like, latching onto, kind of, newer… new abstract things. Like you with your podcast: you have a bunch of different guests that you bring on from all walks of life, because you just want to keep gathering these different ideas really. And the second part of your personality, is that, it’s all about, what do you like – it’s very subjective. Like, “what do you think is good, what do you like?” So the ENFP is very fun. They’re generally fun people to be around, because they’re always going from one thing to the next and they’re always all about “having a good time for themselves”, “creating a good vibe within themselves” that then can spread to other people. So I know that’s like, a very general start to it. But the other side of the ENFP, like the weakness is that, they are really not good at organising. When it comes to things in the actual physical world, you probably will struggle with just getting it all in order. No one really likes doing chores, a lot of people struggle with it. But for an ENFP, that’s like their weak spot – is just getting the cabinets organised or making the bed. So yeah, that’s my sketch of an ENFP. [05:25] Tim Smal: Yeah and I find all those chores so boring – that’s the main reason why I don’t want to do them, because I just find them so boring. And I guess that’s part of my personality, because I am somebody that loves fun. And I guess that’s why I’m also just attracted to your channel because you’re taking something like “personality” and you’re turning it into something fun and relatable. So for the folks that have never really looked into this, they can go and watch your videos and start to learn about, what some might consider a fairly serious topic – but have a lot of fun with it right? [05:57] Frank James: Yeah and I think that is the way to go about it when it comes to something like this. Because before I did “personality types”, or before I had done the comedy sketches, I had been on YouTube for a while, doing more like “educational kind of videos”– which I still do now, but I was doing basically that before. And you have to get someone who already wants to learn to click on a video where I am in a bit more of a “teaching mode.” But when it’s a comedy sketch – yeah, they’re just able to laugh at it. But then they could pick up on – I mean, they’re just stereotypes, basically – but they can pick up on that to begin with and then be like “Oh, that type reminds me of my brother or my husband or whatever.” And then from there, they can be like “Well, let me read a little bit more about this. Let me learn what makes this type like this, what makes it different than other types.” So yeah, you’re right there, that it’s a good way of bringing people in. And maybe they just watch it for a laugh, but maybe it can actually – in a roundabout way – teach them a thing or two, or at least lead them to wanting to learn more. [07:10] Tim Smal: Yeah, your work is certainly very entertaining and I always look forward to watching the latest sketch that comes out. So for example, today you released “16 personalities up all night” which was pretty funny, because I actually didn’t sleep very well last night. So I was watching it and I think the ENFP kicked off the show. And he was talking about going to sleep and then he remembered that he had to feed his cat. And I was just laughing because I have a cat and I was like “Yeah, ENFP starting off the show today.” [07:40] Frank James: Yeah, the ENFP is always a good one to start with because we usually… so me and Holly, my writing partner, will usually give ENFP the wildest, goofiest joke or scenario. So yeah, it’s funny that you haven’t been sleeping well – I’ve haven’t been sleeping well either, so that’s, sort of, where it came from, the idea. [08:04] Tim Smal: Well, let’s chat a little bit about the scriptwriting process. When you started doing these sketches, I imagine you were writing the scripts on your own and then somewhere along the way, you got Holly to start helping you writing the scripts. Tell us more about what that process has been like for you. [08:21] Frank James: Yeah, so Holly has been a viewer of the channel for a while and then we became friends. When she started watching I had, I don’t know, maybe 15 thousand subscribers – which sounds like a lot, but in practice on YouTube that’s still a very small channel. So we got to know each other and yeah, I did start writing the sketches just all on my own. And one day she sent me a script, without me having ever, you know, said “Hey, write a script.” And she’s like “Hey, why don’t you see if you like this, if you want it – go ahead and do it.” And that was the “16 personalities as substitute teachers” because she’s a teacher, so she was like “I’ll just write what I know.” And it went really well – people loved it. I liked having someone to work with. So I said to her “Hey, why don’t we keep doing this.” And so now every week we have a schedule of talking about what we’re gonna do next week. She goes away, writes a draft, comes back, we go over it. I edit it and then record it and we do it all over again. So it’s been a great partnership so far… I don’t know why I said “so far”, but I’m sure it’ll be great for a long time. [09:37] Tim Smal: And have you enjoyed having the opportunity to, essentially, have yourself freed up to focus a little bit more on the acting side of things? [09:46] Frank James: Yeah. See, that is the great thing about it, is just the extra time to work on other things. And I also do one to two other videos on my channel a week, which may or may not be comedy – sometimes I do, you know, like I said before, more “educational videos.” So yeah, being able to delegate the script out to someone else has been a great time saver. Plus I find, I don’t know what it is, but I find that I work better when I have a starting point. When someone else gives me a script, it’s just easier for me to come up with more jokes too. Because by the end of it, a script can be… it changes, but sometimes it’s 30 – 50% stuff that I came up with and it’s just easier for me to have a starting point that someone else started. Something about my personality type – I wonder what that is, I don’t know… [10:44] Tim Smal: Well yeah, speaking about your personality type, what exactly do you identify as, Mr Frank James? [10:51] Frank James: Well, as far as I can tell, “INFJ” is my personality type. I feel embarrassed talking about it and I don’t bring it up in real life. Because even though INFJ is quote-unquote “the rarest type” it’s, sort of, like the type almost everyone gets on the tests – you know, with some exceptions. So it makes me feel like… I don’t want to sound like I’m just… I don’t know… A lot of people get attracted to “the INFJ’s are special, INFJ’s are rare thing” and I have moved past that, so I don’t really talk about it. I’ve never talked about the rarity or “special thing.” And so I guess, that also leads me to just not bring it up much. But I think when you can actually look at each type for what they are, and forget about the whole “rarity thing” and like, why each type is so “awesome and special” and actually look at what the types mean… While it can like rub away some of the magic of it, it actually makes it a lot more useful. So the short answer is INFJ to your question. [11:58] Tim Smal: Well, I guess that’s where it gets really interesting and what makes MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) really interesting, is that their whole concept is that there are eight different cognitive functions. And each person, essentially, has four cognitive functions operating in their brain, I guess. So the theory behind MBTI is that, each of us has a ‘dominant function’ and an ‘auxiliary function’. So those I guess, are the two strongest ones. And then a ‘tertiary’ and an ‘inferior function – which I guess, are on the lower side. And all four of those work together to, essentially, create a framework for your personality. And that’s why I really like MBTI, because if I think of myself as an ENFP, I’m leading with a dominant function of extroverted intuition, so that’s something that I can really relate to. And I guess with you as an INFJ – you’ll just have to remind me of the dominant function, but perhaps you can speak a little bit about your experience with the cognitive functions of the INFJ.[13:00] Frank James: Yeah and this all goes back to Carl Jung who first came up with these functions in his book “Psychological Types.” So he laid out the 8 different types and then Myers and Briggs, in the early 1900’s – it was the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, something like that – they took his theory, which honestly, was not very fleshed out. That work “Psychological Types” is very general and difficult to use, like to type people or whatever. So Myers and Briggs took that and made it into a system with the 16 types and made it a bit more structured. So you mentioned we all have four… you explained it very well – we all have four cognitive functions. We all have “thinking”, “feeling”, “intuition” and “sensing” and we use all four. And so thinking and feeling are the ways you make decisions. Thinking being “what works, what makes sense” and feeling being “what is good, what do I like, what do others like.” And emotion is part of feeling, but it’s not really the same thing. Then sensing and intuition are how we perceive the world. And sensing being the actual concrete world – intuition being the abstract world of meanings, patterns and concepts. So you and I being “lead intuitive”… so the INFJ’s dominant function is introverted intuition. Yours, the ENFP, is extroverted intuition. So our main way of perceiving the world for both of us is abstract. But mine is “introverted”, meaning: I’m trying to like, limit the number of meanings I see – I’m trying to draw everything down into like, one abstract pattern or concept, that is kind of, subjective. So it’s something that I’m just coming up with for myself. Whereas, you being extraverted with the intuition, you’re trying to find as many different patterns and abstract connections and meanings as possible – it’s not personal to you, so you’re just going from thing to thing to thing, trying to see how everything is connected. But you’re trying to find as many connections as possible. So like, I brought up the example before just like with the radio show: you’re just trying to see as many different meanings out there that people have – as many different patterns and connections with what people do in the world. Yeah so, I mean, it sounds a bit hard to understand at first – when we talk about intuition, because those words have common meanings that don’t mean what the Myers-Briggs terms actually mean. But when you actually break it down, it’s pretty simple: like perceiving the world first and foremost in an abstract way – like the physical world, the concrete world doesn’t matter as much as the meaning underneath it… the patterns underneath it. [16:08] Tim Smal: Yeah and I’m certainly fond of some of the resources out there today that help to simplify the concepts or, essentially, introduce newbies to the concepts of Myers-Briggs. So I’m not sure if you’ve been to truity.com but they seem to have a very easy-to-understand approach – nice pictures, easy wording and you can do the tests there. So I always use this as a starting point if I’m trying to speak to friends or family who really haven’t had any experience in personality typology. So do you find these various resources like truity.com for example quite helpful? [16:44] Frank James: So I haven’t dug deep into truity.com as an example, because every site or every teacher of typology is gonna have a slightly different approach, which is one of the problems of typology: is that there’s no unifying theory – it’s basically like, everyone doing their own thing. But going to somewhere like truity.com is a good place to get your bearings and at least get started. And what I always tell people is that you have to go out there and look at all these different places you could learn typology and just find something that makes sense for you. Because everyone is teaching something slightly different, slightly different methodology and different goals too – like what they think typology should be used for. And you’ve got to do something that is gonna make sense for you ultimately. [17:42] Tim Smal: Yeah and I guess one of the reasons why I found typology so interesting is that it’s helped me to understand other people. So I think we spoke about this – or we touched on it a little bit earlier – but all of a sudden, it starts to make sense why your friends behave the way that they do. Because if somebody is leading with a dominant function of say, extraverted sensing, that would be really different to both myself and you. So all of a sudden, you start to understand why people behave in the ways that they do. And so, what I really enjoy about it is: looking at my friends or colleagues or acquaintances and saying “Oh OK, so that behaviour that I thought was a little bit weird, or a little bit strange or not quite ‘my scene’ is actually completely understandable.” So if you think of a personality like an ESTP or an ENTJ for example, I would perhaps have looked at their behaviour and gone “Wow, like, I’m not quite sure what that’s all about.” And now I can really understand why they behave the way they do. [18:39] Frank James: Right, yeah exactly. I’ve found that since I’ve gotten into typology, I’ve just become way more patient with people because I realise that, it’s not that they’re weird – it’s just that they have a different personality. And I think, in practical terms, what I have seen this help the most with, are people who are, kind of, argumentative – people who are thinkers. You know, you and I, we’re feeling types, so we can engage in the logic, but it’s not our preferred way of making decisions or talking about what we should do. So when people come along who are thinkers, and thinkers tend to be more blunt, it used to like, really upset me – it used to make me think “Wow, this person is kind of a jerk” but now I just realise “Oh, no, that’s just how they do things.” And they expect me to come back at them and engage in the logic. So I’ve just started doing that. It’s almost like you’re trusting the math – it doesn’t feel right in the moment, like “Oh man, I really don’t like engaging in debate. I don’t like doing things that I’m not used to doing. I don’t prefer talking in this more blunt, logical way, but I’m just gonna trust that that’s what this person wants me to do – hey, it turns out it was right. All I had to do was ‘talk their language’ and I got along a lot better with them.” Yeah, so that’s what I think typology can really unlock for everyone: is this better understanding of people. And even like, you talked about an ESTP – someone who has lead extraverted sensing… now an ESTP is the exact opposite type from me. So I would have thought before “Oh, you know, how can I relate to this person?” But now looking into it further, I realise “Even though they’re the opposite type, we have all of the same cognitive functions.” So in a way, they’re who I should be trying to learn things from, because they can do things that I don’t do well. Their dominant function is my inferior function, so I need to figure out how to do what they do, a bit more. And I never expected that – I thought it was just some kind of arcane knowledge so I could group people together in my mind and make sense of why some people were the same, why some people were different. But it’s actually had a very practical impact on how I interact with others. [21:10] Tim Smal: Yeah and I love the way that you put that, because sometimes when I’ve tried to speak to friends in my city about typology, they’re not always that interested. They might say “Well, I’m not really into that stuff and I don’t like putting people in boxes.” But in terms of how you described the last question I asked you, for me that’s what I get really excited about, is this idea that: I can actually connect better with the people around me. Because I can see with all my friends – they’ve got vastly different personalities. And for a long time it completely baffled me, you know, trying to understand the INTJ or the ISTP, or what not. And now that I have a better understanding, I can connect better with them – have better relationships and do really awesome work with them, when I not only have a better understanding of their cognitive functions and how their brains work, how they interact with the world – but also from my own perspective, in terms of my own personality. And for me, when I think about those possibilities, in terms of minimising conflict and friction and misunderstanding… and maximizing “awesomeness” – I just get really excited, man. [22:17] Frank James: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s the potential that people miss out on. And you bring up a good point, like people say “I don’t want to put people in boxes. Man, people aren’t like that”, because they don’t really understand what’s going on. And yeah, to a degree, you put people in a quote-unquote “box” when you give them a type, but just because someone is a feeler, for example, doesn’t mean that they don’t think. Everyone does everything. And these preferences that we’re talking about – they’re not 100% of the time that you prefer one thing over the other… it might only be like 55% of the time, but it’s still a preference. It’s like, just because you’re right-handed, doesn’t mean that you don’t have a left-hand. So once people can understand that – that we’re not actually putting people in boxes – we’re just trying to understand their preferences… that can be like, the gateway to opening them up to receiving it. But I totally relate to what you’re talking about: people like… they’re not open to it, either because of the “box thing” or because MBTI is not scientific. Some people don’t have a very good understanding of it, so they think it’s just like a horoscope. And that is all wrong – those perspectives are based on like, just not a very deep understanding of what typology is and what it can do for people. [23:40] Tim Smal: Yeah and I can certainly understand the skeptic’s point of view, because if they are thinking to themselves “Well, you gonna put me in a box – I’m just like the next person and the next person… where is the diversity?” But if you think about it, I could meet somebody else who is an ENFP and they might identify with a different type on the Enneagram or a different outcome on the Big Five Personality Test [different personality typology models]. There’s still a lot of variety and there’s still a lot of scope for diversity even within say, an ENFP. And what’s also really interesting is that – and I’m sure you would agree with me, that: no one personality is better than the next personality. It’s not like “this one is better than that one or what not.” Because ultimately, that’s the way you were born – you have this personality… you come into the world and you experience the world a certain way. And so each personality, I guess, has ‘pros and cons’ – if you wanna put it that way. Like you have your “good side” when you’re fully actualized, and you have your, sort of, “darker side”, if you will, or your weaker side, that you can work on, if you become more self-aware. And so it isn’t really a competition and no two people really are the same. But the frameworks just help us to, essentially, lead better lives, right? [24:46] Frank James: Yeah. Well, one of the interesting things is, you can think of it like: instead of, necessarily, a good side or bad side – and you might even think of these preferences as being more like “What do I feel most responsible for? Do I feel responsible for making decisions when it comes to a value system with feeling? Or do I feel responsible for making decisions and making sure they’re logical? Do I feel responsible for the facts, which are the sensory observations? Or do I feel responsible for the meanings of them, the intuition?” So when a person becomes like “self-actualized”, as you said – in a way, it’s them just taking responsibility for every part of their personality, including their lower functions that they’re not naturally going to want to feel very responsible for. So in a sense, if a person becomes very well developed, a very well-rounded individual – they could be an ESTP, but you might not be able to distinguish them anymore from an INFJ because they take responsibility for the intuition and the feeling, not just the thinking and the sensing. So I think that’s another way to look at it, to look at typology in a positive way is that: it’s not just about “This is my type, I’m stuck with it forever – I’m stuck with these bad things about it.” But you can actually do the work to take on your lower functions and become an all-round better person because of that. Because you’re becoming responsible for every area of life. [26:34] Tim Smal: Yeah and that’s why I think it’s a helpful framework, because ultimately I’m sure people out there in the world that are doing really good work – some of the folks that are really excelling and contributing to society – just have a good idea of who they really are, what their strengths are, how they can play to that. And they’ve put some effort into developing… you know, working those muscles. And so, speaking of which, some of the good work you’ve done, is you’ve launched a merchandise store and a “fun club”. Tell us about some of that stuff. [27:04] Frank James: Yeah, well, you know, it’s the typical YouTube thing. I actually… my artist – my friend Maria who designed my shirts and stuff that I have on sale – she just came to me out of nowhere, I had never met her before and she was like “Here’s some designs, you can sell them.” I was like “Oh, OK.” She was doing the smart thing that the entrepreneur-gurus tell you to do, is just reach out to someone and say “You’ll do something for free.” So that started the merchandise store, where I have several different shirts for sale. And I think, you know, it’s an interesting thing because you see some YouTube channels… I don’t want to ‘throw shade’ here, but you see a lot of YouTube channels where it just seems like “Why do you have merch?” Like, I don’t understand why someone would buy a t-shirt and it’s like very little effort put into it. But for me, I wanted to make sure that the… when I was selling shirts and mugs and stuff, it didn’t just feel like, you know “Here’s some crap you can buy”, but more like “Heres’ how you can feel like more a part of the group – more a part of the channel. You’re already a part of it ‘cos you’re watching, but if you want to have a physical piece of it… here you go.” And we’ve had that store going for several months now and we’ve got a lot of cool designs – some of them we just came out with. And then yeah, “The Fun Club”… I know you’re into music, so maybe this will interest you: I got the name “Fun Club” from… I got a old Wings album, I got “Red Rose Speedway” from 1973. And on the back of it, it’s like “Join the Wings Fun Club” ‘cos you know, back then they would actually have a letter – a physical letter sent out. And so I was like “Oh, that’s cool.” So I made “The FJ Fun Club” – which is really just an email list that I haven’t utilised very much. But if you sign up for it, you at least get an email on your birthday. So yeah… and you can find links to all that stuff on my YouTube channel. [29:09] Tim Smal: Yeah, well I was just going to ask “What’s the best way for folks to get hold of you?” But I guess they just pop onto YouTube, type in “Frank James” and they’ll find you right there. Speaking of my email that I will be receiving on my birthday… I’m looking forward to that. And I’m also looking forward to the eventual release of the ‘ENFP coffee mug’. [29:32] Frank James: Oh yeah. You know, the ENFPs… they’re always showing up in the comment section. So I think it would be fun to have a series of mugs or whatever with a bunch of different types. So I have got that now in the mind of possible future designs, just for Tim. [29:54] Tim Smal: Cool, well Frank it’s been really awesome speaking with you today. I must say before we wrap up that, I think you’re an excellent actor. I’m not quite sure how you are able to change between all these different personalities and clothes and different senses of humour. But I guess, if you check out the videos and all the different personalities put together, you get this really unique, creative, fun experience – so I really encourage the listeners to go and to have a watch. But in terms of the future and projects coming up in the not-so-distant future – what’s on the cards for Mr Frank James? [30:31] Frank James: Well Tim, first of all, thank you for your kind words – you’ve been a great host. What’s coming up next? You know, I don’t really look that far ahead. I’m kinda like gearing up to the point where I can plan out further ahead. But I think, in terms of the “16 personalities videos” we’ve got maybe a few more coming up that have to do with the whole current quarantine and everything – just trying to get a few laughs out of that. And I’m also gonna be… I started focusing on my channel more about the Enneagram, which is a whole different personality system. So I have done some teaching videos on that. And I think, I’m also going to start a series on MBTI that’s like, just the very basics – like 101 stuff for people who don’t know anything. So that should get started in the next month, yeah. So if you head over to YouTube and type in “Frank James” – my face will show up everywhere, that’s me. And if you don’t know anything about typology and you want to learn more, go ahead and subscribe and I’ll be getting some videos out for you soon. [31:41] Tim Smal: Awesome man. Well, thanks again. It was really great speaking with you today. And I’m gonna keep following your channel with all the new videos. And I look forward to my birthday email and my ENFP mug. But Frank keep up the good work – really, really awesome speaking with you. And I guess, I look forward to speaking with you again in the future and learning a bit more about the Enneagram . [32:03] Frank James: Yeah Tim, I’d love to come back on the show – just let me know and we’ll make it happen. It’s been great, thank you so much for having me.
27 minutes | May 9, 2020
Candice Winterboer – Codependency and self-care
May 9th, 2020 Candice WinterboerCodependency and self-care Candice Winterboer, a life and business coach, talks about codependency and self-care. Candice trained at the South African College of Applied Psychology as a Coach Practitioner and is a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation), carrying an Associate Coaching Credential. She started and ran her own business for 8 years in the online marketing industry, and sold it in 2018. Candice’s life story involves a lot of travel, as she lived in the UK, USA and Switzerland for various lengths of time. Visit Candice’s website Transcript – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi folks, welcome to the show today. My name is Tim Smal and my guest is Candice Winterboer. She is a life and business coach currently living in Hoedspruit in South Africa. Her life story involves a lot of travel – she’s lived in the UK, in the USA, in Switzerland. She also started and ran her own business for eight years in the online marketing industry. So Candice, welcome to the show. Candice Winterboer (guest): Great, thanks. Thanks for having me Tim, it’s great to be here. [00:32] Tim Smal: So Candice, you’ve lived all over the world, but currently you’re staying in an area called Hoedspruit in South Africa. Can you tell us what it’s like to be living there? [00:42] Candice Winterboer: Yeah, of course. I think it’s supposed to be the second most visited town in South Africa, besides Cape Town. Because a lot of people fly in here to visit the Kruger National Park, so we get a massive amount of foreigners coming through the town. So it actually feels quite cosmopolitan – which is, I think, why I chose it over Cape Town. I don’t know if I’d live in very many other small towns in South Africa, but this one felt very ‘vibey’ with lots of different influences and cultures. But of course, now it’s all dead, with the coronavirus. And people are just hanging on and hoping that things kick-off again soon. [01:30] Tim Smal: Sure, well, it’s certainly a time for self-reflection, no doubt. But you’ve got quite an interesting life story. You’ve been involved in the marketing arena, with copywriting, you’ve certainly got a creative slant to your work. But somehow you’ve landed up working in coaching, which is a passion and an interest that you’ve developed over time. Can you tell the listeners a bit about your life story and your journey through all the different arenas that you’ve been involved in, in terms of your work? [02:00] Candice Winterboer: Sure. So when I left school, I didn’t know what I wanted to study and I didn’t wanna waste time or money studying something just because I needed to choose. So I left South Africa and I went overseas for a couple of years and when I got back, I still didn’t actually know what I wanted to do. So I went to a career guidance person at University and he said to me, at that point, “People were changing their careers at least three times in their lifetime.” And so he suggested I just choose something that I enjoyed at the time. Because I felt paralysed trying to choose something that I’d be doing for the rest of my life – that was the thought I had. So I studied a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing and Tourism Management. And then I moved to Cape Town and worked in marketing. And then I had the opportunity to go overseas again, so I went to America and I was there for a couple of years, just working randomly on ski resorts and in hotels. And when I got back to South Africa, I thought “Now I must get a real job” and I started in traditional marketing. And I just moved from there into social media – it was when social media was really just taking off and I had started a blog to try and motivate myself. I had committed to running the Comrades Marathon and I wasn’t a runner at all. And so I started a blog and through that experience, I got a job as “Head of Social Media” at a media agency. And in that position, I realised that content and copy was gonna become massive – there was gonna be a massive need for it. And I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial-minded and so I thought, “Awesome – this is a great business idea, let’s go for it!” So I set up my business, which was called “Alfalfa Content Generator” where I had a whole bunch of freelance writers writing for me. I profiled all of them, so I knew exactly what they were good at – I knew where their experience lay. I knew what their interests were, because of course, you’re a better writer if you’re enjoying the topic that you’re writing on. And then from the clients side, I approached agencies and businesses and said “Look, if you need copy, if you need blog posts, web content, newsletters and later, if you want social media, then we can provide you with the content.” So that’s how my business started, that was in 2010. And we grew and ended up hiring a full-time salesperson and a full-time operations manager – it kinda just grew organically. But I never really felt like it was my passion. I felt like I was doing it because it was a ‘gap in the market’ and I knew how to write anyway and I knew what to look for in good copy. So I guess I had like a – I don’t know if you’d call it a quarter-life or a mid-life crisis, but I just felt like “OK, I’ve been doing stuff… not out of obligation, but I’ve been doing stuff that’s not perfectly aligning with my passions for too long and I need to now make big changes.” So in 2018 I sold my business. I was actually lucky enough to sell it to the person I had hired as my operational manager, so the transition was quite seamless. And I moved into coaching. I studied throughout 2018 and I was just finding my feet and making sure that I became a proficient coach. And that’s kinda how I got into coaching. And of course, I have clients who come to me for business stuff because they know that I started and ran my own business. And then I have clients who coming to me for life stuff because I feel like I’ve had a lot of life. And so that’s how it kinda all fits together. [06:10] Tim Smal: What I find quite interesting about the work that you do is that, you’re not only focused on the business side of things, but you’re also bringing the arena of self-care into that too. Can you tell us about your interest in, essentially, looking at both of those arenas at the same time? [06:30] Candice Winterboer: Sure. I mean, we’re not either “at work” or “not at work” – how can I explain this? We’re not perfectly siloed as human beings. Our lives, sort of, melt into the different areas. So our career is not separate from our life. And our life and career are not separate from our relationships. It all intertwines, because what is a business without the person, without the human element. And often, if that business is yours, it does get very enmeshed – or it can get very enmeshed. And so I like the topic of self-care, because for me in my personal life, I feel like it’s had a massive impact. From when I didn’t even know what self-care was… When I was in therapy and my therapist asked me, “What do you do for self-care?” and I actually didn’t even know… I had nothing for her. I was like “Well, I go to the hairdresser every six weeks to make sure my hair is neat” and she’s like “yeah, that’s maintenance, that’s not self-care.” And I began this journey of unpacking “What is true self-care?” And then I realised, “Well it melts into all sorts of areas of our life.” And it’s really interesting to see how it all fits together. If we’re not feeling good in ourselves, our businesses can suffer. Plus, if we’re not feeling good in our business, our home lives will suffer. So it’s just about finding that balance: How do we feed ourselves in a way that’s nourishing, that helps us stay motivated and on track, and keeps us connected with ourselves? Because, for me, that’s the key: The more connected we are with ourselves and with our own needs and wants and dreams – the more likely we are to live happy, fulfilling, joyful lives. [08:26] Tim Smal: Yeah. And I like the way that you put it, because if I think of all the different people out there in the world – of course, everybody is different… they’ve all got their own individual dreams and aspirations, which are an outworking of their personality and worldview, etc. But there’s this idea that people can become quite self-critical, or they can be hard on themselves – essentially, they tend to hold themselves back from their full potential. And there’s really nothing more wonderful than seeing somebody at their best – operating at the highest level of their potential. But often there’s this, kind of, block or this challenge that people have, because they can’t quite figure out what it is that’s holding them back. They have an idea of what it is, but they, sort of, fall into the trap of self-sabotage, if you will. And that looks different for each individual person. So would you say that, at least an aspect of your work, is helping people to move past those blocks – to identify those areas where they are tripping themselves up, so that they can have a breakthrough experience and start to live within their full potential? [09:41] Candice Winterboer: Of course. Awareness is the key here, right? We don’t know what the problem is without actually just bringing our awareness into where we’re struggling and then trying to figure out the ways to lessen that struggle or to modify that behaviour. I can say, categorically, one of the biggest issues that I deal with on a daily basis as a coach, is helping people with negative self-talk. You know that voice that just tells us “We’re not good enough. This isn’t done perfectly enough. We should be doing this. We must be doing that.” We are our own worst critics. And if you can bring awareness to what you’re saying to yourself and how you’re bringing yourself down… and if you can modify that, your experience is 100% different. I’ve seen it in my own personal life and I’ve seen it in clients lives – just changing your negative self-talk, can mean the difference between depression and living life with lightness and joy. [10:51] Tim Smal: Yeah. And that’s when you experience a breakthrough. Because let’s say, for example, an individual has that “block” – they have those issues that are holding them back and they’re aware of it to an extent, but they can’t figure out a way to actually move past that. Once they are able to minimize that negative self-talk – essentially disarm the self-critic, then they’re to break through into their true potential. And I think that’s when life gets really exciting, because now instead of being held back, the individual is able to truly realise their potential and work on exciting projects and really have an even bigger impact on the world. And essentially, just experience more success in all the aspects of life – so not just business, but also, say, their personal relationships. And even their relationship with themselves. So I get really excited about that concept, because I find people that are operating from that place in life to be very inspiring. And the more people we can have living in the world with that kind of mindset – it’s just really inspiring for everybody, because we’re going to see good work, we’re going to see good collaborative relationships forming. Would you say that, some of the people that you’ve worked with in your career, you’ve actually seen this happening – you’ve seen people have these breakthroughs and you’ve watched them actually achieve amazing things as a result of being able to break through those barriers? [12:21] Candice Winterboer: Of course. It’s the most beautiful thing to be with somebody as they realise, “Oh my gosh – this is the block and this is how I can move through it. Or this is how I can reach what I want, knowing now what this block is.” Their whole being lights up. It’s physical – you can actually see it in somebody. Of course now everything is online – you can hear it. It’s unmissable. And, you know, blocks don’t need to be these massive stumbling things. They can just be tiny – they can be very nuanced. But once there’s awareness there – once there’s a realisation of “Oh, OK, this is what it is,” access to the solution is so much easier. So I’ve definitely seen it happen in a business context – how to manage a business. I’ve seen it in life context, I’ve seen it in relationship context – I’ve seen it in my own life many times. The one interesting thing I’d like to say about blocks, is also that sometimes they’re hidden – not hidden, they’re in a blindspot, let’s say. And you can just feel this dis-ease, or you feel like there’s something wrong, or this is where patterns come from – patterns in relationships, patterns in behaviour. And even if you think about “Where is this coming from? I just don’t understand why I keep going for the same guy,” for example. Or “I don’t understand why this keeps happening in my business.” Often it points to a block that is unseen. So then it’s quite useful to talk it though with somebody, because they would act as a mirror. And often just that acting as a mirror can show you suddenly where that blindspot is, or what is in your blindspot. [14:14] Tim Smal: Very interesting. And just reflecting on relationships in general and patterns of relationships, I believe that one of the areas that you are quite interested in, is this area of codependency. Could you tell us a little bit about what that is and the work that you do within that arena? [14:35] Candice Winterboer: Sure. Codependency is a – you know, they put it, I think, in the psychological realm. In everyday society, codependency is a tricky thing, because in my experience and how I’ve come to look at it and frame it, is that it’s not… you know, they package codependency often with addiction: you have the addict and then you have their codependent which helps keep them in addiction. But codependency has many faces and you can see it across many different things. But in society, specifically our society with gender roles being quite firmly entrenched as they are, we’re taught – and I’m not saying this is just a female thing, this goes across the board – but we’re taught that: to be selfish or to turn inward, or to first provide for your own needs is wrong, or is somehow selfish. And because of this conditioning, the way it displays later on in life, or it can display later on in life – is this giving… this giving, giving, giving, but not expecting anything in return. It’s not so much an expectation, but not feeling like you’re important enough or good enough to have needs, or to have expectations. So this often turns up in relationships, that’s the easiest place to see it. Where you have one partner that just gives and gives and gives, and another partner who doesn’t give all that much, or just takes. And the result is resentment and burnout and failed relationships. And the remedy is self-care, which is how those two now fit together. So certainly in my own experience, I was in a relationship with somebody who had struggled with an addiction. And while I never felt myself the true codependent, because I never felt like I enabled him to be able to act out… what I did do, is I didn’t have very high expectations of men, in general. And so there were certain behaviours that I never called him on. There were certain behaviours that I never stood up to. And certainly, my needs, I never expressed. I never communicated, because I didn’t know how. And when I felt like I needed to, there was this struggle in myself, like “Am I asking too much? Am I allowed to ask? What happens if he leaves if I ask?” And then, of course, boundaries comes into anything to do with codependency. Boundaries a very common challenge that many people have. So learning how to communicate my needs, learning appropriate boundary-setting. I count myself extremely fortunate to have had that experience – while quite intense, I would have never learnt this stuff or I wouldn’t have learnt it as quickly, I think, if it hadn’t been that I was married to somebody who was struggling with addiction. I think to go back to codependency… It’s also, in my experience – or the way I’ve framed it, I feel like it’s “You’re not codependent – it’s not either or.” I think lots of people have ranges of codependency that are acceptable. It’s when it goes beyond that range that it becomes damaging – not just to yourself, but to the person that you’re maybe codependent on. So a healthy person is able to give, but doesn’t give to the point where they fall over. Whereas, if you’re on the negative side of codependency, or the unhealthy side of codependency, you’re just giving and giving and giving, and you’re heading for a breakdown or a burnout or a relationship failure, because you’re getting so resentful. [18:48] Tim Smal: So what I’m thinking about as you’re speaking, is this interesting concept, that as a coach, you are working with people that come to you from all different walks of life. So people of all ages and genders, at various points in their lives and their careers and their relationships. They would come to you with a variety of issues from: figuring out their work-life balance or their business values, or making life decisions, like whether to have kids or not. And I think – or at least the way I see it is that, based on your own personal experience that you’ve mentioned now, with regard to your relationships and learning more about codependency, it’s almost as if it has helped you so much in order to understand the process of decision-making, to understand how people are making these life decisions and why it’s difficult for them. Perhaps for one person, making a decision is easier than the next, but for the person that is struggling, it’s a really big issue – they’re not sure whether to move countries, or whether to have kids or not, or whether to start a business or not. So it might be a very obvious question that I’m asking, but would you say that your experience of your life, I guess, has really helped you to relate better to people and to empathise with them and to essentially assist them on a practical level, in helping them to make better decisions and move forward with their life. [20:23] Candice Winterboer: Absolutely. I’ve mentioned to you before that I’ve always known that I would be in a helping profession. I’ve always known that I would be in mental health of some sort. But I just never felt when I was younger, I just didn’t feel equipped enough – not just from a skills point of view, but from a life experience point of view. The theory of psychology and counselling and coaching, is that you don’t have to have gone through that experience to be able to add value to your client. OK, that’s the theory. However, in my case, I feel like it’s really helped to add that extra level of value. Just thinking about empathising with somebody – it’s so much easier to empathise because I’ve been through that thing. That’s not to say that I can’t empathise with them because I’ve not been through that experience, but I think my rich life experience has helped me connect much better with my clients. It’s certainly helped me to empathise with them. As a coach, it’s not my job to tell you what to do – it’s my job to give you the space and offer the structure and the framework through questioning and through listening really attentively, that will help you figure out what the solution is for you – because you’re the expert in your life. I’m not the expert, you are. But what it does do, is if a client wants to know what I did, or would just like some direction, then it’s very easy for me to call on my own life experience to be able to offer something that’s valuable and that isn’t just random advice giving. This was obviously the approach that I took and it’s not everybody’s approach, but for me it was really important to have a lot of life experience before entering into or embarking on a career in the helping profession. Not just that, but also I think it was really important for me to have dealt with my baggage. And I’m not saying that my bag is empty – not at all, because this is a journey. But it was really important for me to make sure that I had gone through the issues that were causing behavioural stuff, faulty thinking stuff. I basically needed to make sure that I had dealt with my big issues before moving into helping somebody else. Because, let’s say, I hadn’t dealt with my codependency stuff – it would have been so easy for me to fall into that “I’m saving them” kind of mentality.” Which is the reason why a lot of people go into these, sort of, “helping professions” – they want to help and I’m sure in some cases, they really can. But you have to manage yourself so fastidiously, when you’re dealing with somebody else and their emotions… and their lives and their dreams and their goals. Because you don’t want to put your stuff on them. You certainly don’t wanna push your values and your dreams on them. You don’t wanna live through them. But all of this requires awareness of the self and of your own stuff, your own baggage. For me that’s been really important in this journey of becoming a coach. [23:59] Tim Smal: Yeah, I like the way that you’ve put that. Would you like to connect with the listeners and just let them know a little bit more about your services at this point in time. I believe you are offering some free online coaching sessions? [24:17] Candice Winterboer: Yeah. Because of COVID-19, hundreds and thousands of people have lost their jobs. And then they’re thrust into a really difficult situation – there’s a lot of uncertainty with us being locked up at home with partners and children. You know, working… not working… you know, insecurity around jobs, the future of your career – all of that stuff. I think a lot of stuff is bubbling to the surface. But because money, for a lot of people, is an issue… I decided to offer 100 hours of free coaching to anybody who is interested. Obviously it is online, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from – I’d be willing to coach you in whatever it is that you are looking to, to look at. The offer is open to anyone – if you don’t feel like this is something for you, but you know somebody who may benefit from this, then please just pass this on. Because I think it’s really valuable at this point, especially if you’re feeling a lot of uncertainty – if you’re feeling a lot of “stuckness.” If you’re feeling quite despondent or unmotivated around your life at the moment or where you gonna go or what you’re gonna do, then a couple of coaching sessions can really help you get back on track and give you a couple of actionable steps to take, which helps with motivation and gets you moving. So that’s my offer and it’s open until the 100 hours are done. [25:48] Tim Smal: Great. So what’s the best way for the listeners to get hold of you? [25:53] Candice Winterboer: So you can email me at email@example.com – I have a website which is Candice Winterboer dot com – I’m also on social media, all under my name. It’s pretty easy – you can drop me a line on any of those platforms or just directly on e-mail. And I will respond and we can set something up. [26:17] Tim Smal: Candice, thanks again for coming on the show. I’m sure the listeners really enjoyed finding out more about your life story and the work that you do. It certainly makes me quite excited just to think about all the people that you’ve worked with and how they’ve gone out into the world and been able to realise their full potential, ultimately making an impact on others around them. So it’s certainly an exciting arena of work to be involved in and I wish you all the best for the future. [26:45] Candice Winterboer: Thanks Tim. And thanks for having me here. I really appreciate it and I appreciate the work that you’re doing on this platform and helping people – just connecting people with what’s going on. [26:58] Tim Smal: Great. Well, enjoy the rest of the day in Hoedspruit and hopefully we will see you in Cape Town at some point in the future. [26:07] Candice Winterboer: Yes, you will. Thanks Tim.
24 minutes | Apr 26, 2020
Rob Arnold – Customer service and business culture
April 26th, 2020 Rob ArnoldCustomer service and business culture Rob Arnold from RCA Consulting, talks about customer service and business culture. Rob is the founder and director of RCA Consulting in Cape Town. Rob started a business in 2010 that today has engaged with over 500 retail and hospitality brands in a research and training capacity. By learning from a multitude of different customer-facing environments, RCA Consulting have been able to reshape their clients’ approach to their customers, enhance their value proposition and consequently create customer-centric cultures. Visit Rob’s website Transcript – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi everyone and welcome to the show. My name is Tim Smal and my guest today is Rob Arnold – founder and CEO of RCA Consulting in Cape Town. They operate as a customer experience consultancy to best-in-class brands across the retail and hospitality sectors. So Rob, welcome to the show. Rob Arnold (guest): Hey Tim, great to be here. [00:26] Tim Smal: Thanks for joining us today. Rob, I thought we could start off our conversation with you telling the listeners about RCA Consulting and what it is that you guys get up to. [00:36] Rob Arnold: Yeah, thanks for the opportunity Tim. Yeah, in a nutshell, we started this little mission about ten years ago in 2010. And interesting contrast to the time we find ourselves in now, because in 2010 I think we were all coming off the high of the Football World Cup and I think the economy was perhaps in a better state than it is now. But, be it as it may, we started this little endeavour – and when I say we, at that time it was really just me – started this belief that we could make customer experiences just a little bit better across initially retail and hospitality. And just try to make… or to enable people to make more impact on the customers they serve. Because we all customers at the end of the day and we all have good and bad experiences. And I’m sure your listeners, you and I, can draw on both good and bad experiences that we’ve had as customers. And what I’m really fascinated in and what I’m really curious about is, what actually creates a good or a bad experience. The end result, which is the person smiling at you and having good product knowledge and engaging with you, is really just the end result. But there’s a lot that actually happens on the back end, in the culture of the business and in the skill set of the staff, that actually enable that to happen more often than not. And really my mission in the last ten years has been, trying to understand what those secrets are. Ultimately how do you build a really consistent and strong culture in a business and therefore be of the optimum value to your customers. And I think if you can do that right, from a purpose level, you really do create something which people latch onto, which people love and people ultimately support in perpetuity. So the last ten years has just been one ‘trial and error’ after the other, trying to work out how best to do this. And we’ve been evolving for the last ten years. If I think about where we started, we started by just working in the golf business. And we were training staff in the golf clubs because we identified that as the most needed area where there just was no training and no skills development at that time, in terms of customer experience. But yet they were charging a lot of money for customers to come and play golf or to be members of clubs. So we started there and things evolved. I guess we got a pretty good name in that space and then the demand came to get more into other areas where customer service is really important. So yeah, today we’ve – up until 2020 – we’ve created an amazing client base which… clients we absolutely love to work with. We’ve built some really strong relationships with these guys and I always believe “You do business with people, you don’t do business with companies.” And the ability, or the learning, of how to build relationships over that time has been absolutely invaluable. And that’s not to say that we haven’t had some really challenging times along the way. We’ve made many mistakes, but the great thing about those mistakes is that they’ve created a roadmap for us of where to improve and evolve. I’m very proud of the team that we’ve built to the point where we’ve got a culture in our business which we’re very proud of. A listening culture where it’s not about ‘who says it’ but ‘what is said’. I believe in this notion of an idea meritocracy, where the best idea wins rather than the person whose saying it or bringing the idea forward. And by doing that we’ve been able to quite quickly adapt and iterate what we do to suit the current need of the landscape of clients that we work with. And for that reason we’ve been able to jump across or learn from one industry and then take it into another. When we started in hospitality, we learnt the hospitality game. We decided “Well, retail actually needs a lot more hospitality in it – especially the bricks-and-mortar retail.” So we started training people in stores like we would train someone in a five-star hotel. And all of a sudden people that were coming into those stores were being treated like they were walking into 5-star hotel, rather than the transactional approach that you’ve become accustomed to in the retail space. So I love that notion of challenging the status quo, of doing things differently and not accepting the norm. And this journey has been all about that – it’s been about just looking at a problem and going, “How do we solve this better? How do we make a better go of this?” And I think I’m not the first person to say it, but “The more problem-solving you can be in your approach to business, especially as entrepreneurs, the more successful you will be.” [05:10] Tim Smal: Yes it’s certainly a fascinating area of work to be involved in. As you mentioned in your example, where a customer goes to a company and they receive a smile from the person that is serving them – it really makes the customers day and they feel really connected to the brand, even from such a simple situation like that. But in order for the customer to actually have that profoundly positive experience, a lot has to go into the back end of the business. And it’s really interesting to me how companies can spend a lot of money in certain areas and have certain aspects of their product focused on, but then of course when it comes to customer service, they somehow dropping the ball. And I think of my own experiences over my lifetime, perhaps even travelling outside of the country to other areas of the world, like the United States, and just being really amazed at the dedication from some of the customer service representatives that I’ve dealt with and how I’ve actually felt really proud to be associated with that brand. So it sounds to me as if you’re really focused on the psychology of delivering good customer service and all the effort that goes into that, which of course is a major need in South Africa. What has the response been like from companies that you’ve worked with? [06:36] Rob Arnold: Yeah Tim, it’s a very good question and the answer is varied, in the sense that, our are model stays relatively consistent and I’ll quickly delve into that just for the sake of context. We believe in three very key relationships, in terms of the successful establishment. And that is, the relationship that you have with your fellow colleagues, being number one. The second is the relationship that you have with your product, with the thing that you actually physically sell. And the third relationship is that you have with your customers or with your guests. If you can get those three dynamics right, you invariably create something of value to your end user, to your customer. And I’ll start very quickly with the first one. The relationship that you foster with your colleagues is so pivotal. If you think about walking into a retail store as a customer, if you think about walking into a restaurant as a guest, you can immediately see the dynamic that exists within, or the culture that exists within those staff that work there. Are they happy? Do they communicate positively with each other? You can just see it in the body language alone – they don’t even have to say anything. And that translates into the value you feel as a guest or as a customer. So to get that right creates more productivity, it creates a happier workforce, it reduces staff churn – it just creates a far more consistent culture. So we work incredibly hard at that first relationship. The second is that of a product. And you might say, “Well, how can you have a relationship with a product?” But the reality is that, the more affinity that you have with a product – with an item that you sell, and the more that you understand how that fits into someone’s life, the more you can connect the dots, so that product or item or service actually does add value to the end-user or your customers life. So product knowledge, and I think you would attest to, is something which is very inconsistent in customer service. You find some people who have amazing knowledge of what they have to sell, but then they also just don’t deliver it in the right way – they don’t communicate the knowledge in the right way. So as a customer we kinda ‘switch off’ and we don’t really listen to what they have to say. And then you might find someone who’s got very low product knowledge, but very good empathy or EQ [emotional intelligence], so they can, kind of, navigate their way around what they don’t know. But the point being is that, you’ve got a know enough about the product and you’ve got to know how to connect that with the type of person you speaking to. So we spend a lot of time – for staff being able to connect those dots. And then on the third side, it’s that customer, that human being you talking to. Because I think the one thing that I’ve learnt in these ten years is that, human beings are incredibly diverse. What we see as value, what we love, what we don’t like – is really dependent on our personality. And yes, there are some common commonalities, I guess, between people. But you’ve got to have an affinity for the person that’s in front of you. I always love an individual – a waiter, an attendant – whoever it might be… even someone giving me petrol at the petrol station – is someone who’s willing to ask questions. Because “If you ask the right questions, you get the right information. And if you collecting the right dots, you can connect the dots.” And that’s a philosophy that we’ve always believed in in our business: is teach people how to collect the dots, ‘cos if you do that, you enable them to connect the dots and when they do that, they’re of value to the customer. So that’s been our approach to – I think really trying to make sure that whatever we do with companies (and you asked me: how do different people or how do different companies latch on or not latch onto this), it really comes down to the culture that lives or exists within that business when we approach them. Is this someone or is this a group of people that are willing to listen and adapt to someone from the outside? Is it someone who realises that they truly need to be customer-centric and people-centric? Or is it just something that they do on a marketing side to make people think that they are. Because one thing I can tell you very honestly is that, there are a lot of companies out there that promote customer-centricity – but at the heart of it, they are nothing close to it. And I think what we’re seeing at the moment during COVID-19, is we are seeing the true colours come out in a lot of companies. Where if they are truly customer-centric, if they are truly people-centric, now is the time that they showing it. So it’s very, very interesting times we are in at the moment, in that sense. But I can take the same model to two different companies and get two completely different results – just purely based on the intrinsic culture, which we ultimately try to change, and move towards more customer-centricity when we work with them. [11:04] Tim Smal: So hearing you chat about your approach at RCA Consulting reminds me of a book that I read recently called ‘Question-Based Selling’ by Tom Freese, who’s a salesperson in America whose had quite a lot of success with, not only his own sales career, but developing sales methodology. And he felt that sales is one of the areas that is not actually widely studied and he can’t quite understand why, because there’s, in his opinion, quite a lot that you can learn from really diving deep into the concepts of what it means to be a good salesperson. And of course, the name of his book says it all: ‘Question-Based Selling’. And if I was to summarise his whole approach, he said “Well, the best sales people in the world are good at two things: They’re good at helping people and they’re good at communicating well.” And so really, what Tom is teaching is this concept where you are there as a salesperson to help the customer develop their needs by positioning your product and creating value for them. And so I just found that concept quite interesting, because obviously if you are a good salesman and you’re good at communicating and you’re there to help people – you are going to make an impact on the customer’s life. [12:29] Rob Arnold: Absolutely Tim, I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head there. I’ve always believed, and the more I’ve been in this business, the more I believe it rather, is that: Great customer interaction is about anthropology – the people that are really brilliant in the space of customer experience or customer service, are the people that understand others the best. It’s not just about understanding another person or another personality, it’s also about actually understand what makes them tick and being willing to put their needs in front of yours. Because if you think about it, when you see bad service happening anywhere, if you define it, it is most often “an individual who is serving another, who is putting their needs in front of the customer or guest.” And I’ll give you a very basic example: Let’s say a waiter: A waiter is tired, they’re at the end of a long shift… if they’re putting their needs in front of the needs of their customers, they’re going to show that tiredness, they’re going to show that willingness to want to get off shift. And that’s gonna come through in their body language, in their tone of voice – even how much product knowledge they actually offer. But if they are willing to put the guests need in front of their own, they gonna suck it up – they going to realise that by serving more people, they actually serve themselves. And by doing so, then actually come out the better. And you can use this analogy across any job or any profile, really. But if you are willing to put the need of the person you’re serving in front of yours, even when you feel like your need is more important – those are the people that in the long run, I think, are more successful in the long-term. [14:07] Tim Smal: And so with this approach to developing a healthy business culture, at RCA you have actually started a podcast called ‘The Business Culture’ podcast, where you are interviewing successful individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. Could you tell us more about the podcast? [14:27] Rob Arnold: Yeah, sure Tim. It’s something which, as an avid podcast listener in the past and continually so, I’ve always been fascinated by the medium and by the fact that you can listen to something whilst doing another thing – whatever it might be that you doing from day to day. So I really wanted to get into that space and see whether we could create something and curate something which would be of value to our listener base. And what I realized quite quickly is that, we’ve built up a really good network of influences of people in various industries who can really add value through their story to listeners. The great thing about podcasting is that there is also not a lot of capital investment necessary that has to go into being able to start it. So the risk is pretty low and I just thought “Why the hell not? Give it a shot – let’s start interviewing a few of our associates and clients and friends, and let’s see how we go.” And really what I wanted to do, was unlock their story. And through delving into their story, is actually try and listen to some of the – pick out some of the lessons that we could extrapolate and, sort of, unpack and see whether we could help others not make the same mistakes. I really believe that in all of our journeys we’ve been confronted with certain mistakes or failures that we’ve made and if we can if we can help the future generation to avoid some of those mistakes, I think that’s of value to people. But at the same time, I think story is such a brilliant way of bringing a message across. I mean, Malcolm Gladwell, etc. can obviously attest to the success of that. But I think, we called it ‘The Business Culture’ podcast and I think the idea there was to help individuals – whether they are employees within a culture or the leaders of a culture – understand what are the key elements that make up a brilliant business culture. And also enable people to be more self-motivated, to aspire to be better in their roles – to look to achieve what their potential is. And that’s really been the overriding mission of it. This season we’re in season 2 and this season’s all about impact. So we’re interviewing… I actually got off an interview yesterday with an associate from the United States and it’s all about how he’s made impact in his career – how he started in South Africa and went over there in a completely new space. He was very nervous about it, but today he sits as one of the most successful managers and general managers of the global golf industry. So it’s just amazing how many successful South African stories there are, which we don’t tap into enough. You know, we so good at looking at the negative, but we don’t realise how many positive stories are coming out of this incredible country. [17:05] Tim Smal: Yeah, I’m really enjoying the podcast and I’m looking forward to the next episode, so keep up the good work on ‘The Business Culture’ podcast. Of course, for the listeners, they can find the podcast in any directory, so just go and have a look there. But Rob, let’s chat about what is happening now in the world with coronavirus and the lockdowns around the world. It’s certainly had an impact on the economy. We, of course, are watching on TV all the world leaders chatting about when they should open up the economy and so forth. What are your thoughts on what’s happening at the moment? [17:43] Rob Arnold: Yeah, Tim, it’s such a pivotal time at the moment that we find ourselves in. You’ve got on the one hand this, sort of, humanitarian need of preserving life and the health of the population at large. And then at the same time, you’ve got this lingering issue of the economy and the longer that we stay in lockdown, the longer obviously that the economy suffers. And someone said it to me, I think, almost a week ago, maybe a bit more – they said that “It’s not about trying to eradicate, necessarily, the pandemic. I think it’s more about learning to live with it.” And I know that sounds much easier said than done, but I think if we get into an approach and perspective where we try and mitigate it as much as we can, and at the same time learn to live with it and get the economies up and running again in a, sort of, staggered process, then we doing the best we can. But I really feel for the leaders out there at the moment. I feel for the guys who have to make the decisions at the very highest level, because it’s very unprecedented times and very unprecedented decisions that have to be made as a result of that. So there’s really no secret sauce at the moment – it’s trial and error to the large extent. And I think the guys are doing a really incredible job. I actually saw something on Facebook just now, before we came on the podcast. And it was a gentleman on a global scale that was sharing how well South Africa have done in our approach up to today. And there’s so many people criticizing what we do in our country, but there are global people that are praising us. I think our president has done an incredible job so far and I think we can be very proud of it. There’s still a long way to go, but I think we’ve mitigated this thing pretty well so far. [19:29] Tim Smal: Yeah, and it’s certainly an interesting time for people to start side hustles or entrepreneurial efforts, or perhaps even passion projects of a creative nature. Do you have any advice for the folks out there that are looking to level up and go to the next step during this time? [19:47] Rob Arnold: As you very rightfully say, it is a time where people are looking at different options and opportunities. The one thing that is always gonna be very important when you are doing that, is relevancy. And I think in order to achieve that, is having a very keen eye for what is truly needed. Someone once said to me, very truly that, “It’s not about whether there’s a gap in the market – it’s whether there’s a market in the gap.” And I know at this time it’s not, potentially, the right thing to be thinking about “how can you make the most money?” At this time, it’s about “knowing how you can make the most impact.” And as a result of that impact, generate the kind of funds that you require. So I think it’s very, very important at this point in time to be thinking about “how can you make impact on a sustainable basis.” And when you find that answer and when you find that there’s a market in that gap, you can really find something which you can push on with. But if I can just go back to my story in the last ten years. I mean, I’ve been paying school fees for the better part of those ten years, in learning and understanding how to scale a business, learning and understanding how to build relationships. If you are in entrepreneurship for a quick fix – I will tell you right now that you’re wasting your time. Because there are, maybe less than half a percent of the people that have gone into entrepreneurship, and just made a massive success overnight. It’s something which you’ve really got to put your head down – you’ve got to absolutely love what it is that you doing. And I know a million people have said that, you know, “you gotta be passionate about what you do.” But more than passion, you’ve gotta just have an innate feel for it. Tim, if you think about what you really passionate about, you could tell me about that subject for hours and days. Not because you find it laborious, but because you actually truly are interested in that subject. And therefore, when you are working on that subject, it doesn’t feel like work. You know, my dad’s a winemaker by profession and he said he’s “never really worked in his life.” He’s just been doing something he is really passionate about. It doesn’t feel like you doing an 8-5. And I think the hours that are required for entrepreneurship – you can’t feel like you’re doing an 8-5… you’ve got to feel like it’s just something which you can’t wait to get back to. And that’s really why I love what I do, is I don’t feel like it work. [21:59] Tim Smal: Thanks Rob, a lot of useful information there. Some great thoughts to ponder on. Rob, thanks for joining us today and just to wrap up the show – do you have any resources that are available to the folks out there? [22:14] Rob Arnold: Yeah Tim, we’ve got a couple that I can share with you. We run a – obviously you’ve already mentioned it – the podcast is available on a number of platforms. And we also have a free resource and app, which if you go to rcaconsulting.biz you will be able to find the app on there. And we share numerous videos and articles, all these relevant topics on leadership and management – on just being a more productive individual. And we’ve got a number of really cool courses that we’ve released during COVID-19 as well, which if you go onto learn.rcaconsulting.biz are available to the public there. And we just really trying to stimulate as much progressive thinking as possible, so that when we come out of this, people are ready to take the next step in their career. Because I think there’s gonna be amazing opportunity once this thing blows over – is being ahead of the market, or ahead of the pack, as it were. [23:08] Tim Smal: Great, well thanks for the inspiration. I’m looking forward to following your journey with RCA Consulting into the future, so all the best for 2020. And I guess, we look forward to chatting with you again sometime in the future.[23:22] Rob Arnold: Yeah Tim, thank you so much for the opportunity as I said. It’s always great to chat to you and I wish your journey on the podcasting side every success as well.
28 minutes | Apr 16, 2020
Carol Williams – Podcasting and entrepreneurship
April 16th, 2020 Carol WilliamsPodcasting and entrepreneurship Carol Williams from The Stellar Effect, talks about podcasting and entrepreneurship. Carol co-founded South Africa’s first full-service podcast production agency The Stellar Effect in Cape Town with Jason Skippers in 2017. Both performers in their own right, Carol and Jason understand the power of sound and bring a wealth of experience to the table at the creative audio agency. Coupled with a passion for storytelling, The Stellar Effect captures sound as a way to transform both the teller and the listener. Visit Carol’s website Transcript – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi everyone and welcome to the show. My name is Tim Smal and my guest today is creative entrepreneur Carol Williams. She recently opened The Stellar Effect, which is a creative audio agency in Cape Town, with her entrepreneurial partner Jason Skippers. And she has been involved with a lot of different projects over the years, ranging from music therapy, community development, small business development. And we have her on the line today in Cape Town. How you doing Carol? Carol Williams (guest): I’m doing good, thanks. Life in the time of Corona – but yes, I am well, thank you. [00:41] Tim Smal: Have you been keeping quite busy working from home over the last few weeks? [00:46] Carol Williams: Definitely. Yeah, I think for me, I’ve also tried to embrace the opportunity to rest a little bit and to not try and get super busy. Yeah, so it’s been a mixture of regular work and hardly any difference, in some ways, to normal life. And then some real changes and I think just taking time out to also think about the next little while and what that could look like for me, both in terms of personal life and business ventures as well. [01:24] Tim Smal: Great. Well, as a podcaster myself, I’m really excited to have you on the show today. I see you as an authority in South Africa on podcasting, so I’m certainly going to be asking you a lot of questions about the medium. But before we get there, perhaps you could tell the listeners about The Steller Effect, which is a creative audio agency, and what you guys get up to there. [01:48] Carol Williams: Sure. So we started in about 2017. Both myself and Jason are musicians and we write music as well. And we’d worked on a small film project together and we thought “OK, this has worked quite well. We’ve enjoyed working together – why don’t we start a music agency or a music production house?” So that was the start of Steller. And then over time we felt that music… firstly, that’s quite a busy space already, and we started exploring other forms of audio content and that kind of thing. And we came across podcasting – this was, yeah, as I say, in 2017 where, I think, obviously around the world it was already quite big, but it wasn’t really very well known in South Africa yet – well, in my circles anyway. And we started exploring this – I remember somewhere near the end of 2017, saying to Jason “Come, let’s just try this podcasting thing.” We recorded our first series just to try and learn and figure out how to do this thing. And that’s really when our – I guess, what our business is now, where it started developing from. We then, at the beginning of 2018, we started working with a business coach and we started developing our ideas, ‘cos we had a lot of different ideas. I remember back to those days and we literally had walls full of Post-it notes with all our ideas and we were sure that we could do all of them, all at once. And our business coach was very kind and allowed us to think that for a little while. And eventually we kind of narrowed it down to storytelling and audio storytelling. We had film as part of our offering for a while. We had storytelling workshops as part of our offering for a while. And then, I want to say, sort of, midway through last year we made the move to purely focus on audio. We found that we were spreading ourselves too thin with having film and a few other things on our offering. We stopped with the film and we stopped with some of the other things that we were doing and we decided to focus purely on audio, mostly in the form of podcasting. And then also developing audio brands sounds which is, I guess, what people would think of as jingles. I guess there’s this developing thing in the world at the moment, which is quite exciting, around the potential of branding in the audio space. So visual branding is something that we are very well acquainted with, but the use of music and sound and audio in that space is, kind of, untapped in a lot of ways. So that’s a space that we’ve ventured into as well. We have a collaborative business model, we call it ‘The Stellar Umbrella’, and we work with other small businesses, other creatives that have complimentary services. So for example, we work with scriptwriters, because part of our service offering is the script writing for podcasts. And there we work with writers. We work with graphic designers. There’s a whole lot of different people that we end up working with and we can pull them into projects, which is also great ‘cos it just broadens the expertise and the creativity available to us and that obviously benefits our clients as well. [05:05] Tim Smal: Great. So essentially The Steller Effect is South Africa’s first full service podcast production agency. So you guys are doing everything from the strategy development, the script research and writing, the design of the podcast logo, all the technical and creative production, the post-production, and of course, composing the audio brand sound. So this is very exciting because podcasting is a growing medium. The last estimate on your website stated that about 124 million people globally are listening to podcasts and that’s growing exponentially every year. So 2020 is gonna be a big year in the podcasting space. What do you think is so exciting about this medium that you connect with – why is it becoming so popular? [05:55] Carol Williams: So I think for me, I don’t really necessarily see it as a new medium. Well, it is new and it’s also not – I mean, storytelling is as old as humans. I think just the way we do it has changed. I remember as a little girl listening to storyteller tapes – I don’t know if you listened to those? And then I would also record my own stories on my little tape player and there’s something magical about listening to a story or hearing a story. If you think about radio, in the heyday of radio, and even the series that were on radio – the stories, the non-fiction stories that were told on radio. And the whole family would be huddled up around the radio and listening to that. And then obviously there was the invention of TV and it, kind of, moved to more visual things. But I think the reason why podcasting as a medium excites me so much is because there’s a lot of creative potential with audio, which I think a lot of people – they can see that when its visual and audio, but there’s something quite wonderful about allowing someone’s imagination… it’s, kind of, the same as reading: when you read something… I don’t know if you’ve ever had that experience then when you watch the movie and you either love it or hate it, ‘cos the character isn’t quite how you would have portrayed them or it’s not quite how you imagined them to be. And so there’s something with audio that still leaves something to the imagination of people. I think there’s also – if I look at the advent of social media, say over the last… about ten years – even when social media started, there was a bit more authenticity there. And I think there’s a generation of people now who are finding social media quite fake – OK, I’m generalising here, obviously. But there’s this desire for authentic stories and I think the medium of podcasting – it’s really hard to fake something that is thirty minutes long or forty minutes long or an hour-long. I think there’s a real place of authenticity and authentic voices and stories that come through in podcasts. So those are, I guess, on that level things that really excite me. In terms of South Africa, the thing that excites me a lot about podcasting, is the fact that it’s a lot cheaper data-wise than video. And so if you think about the potential of podcasting in the education space, in the development space – I think it’s infinite. You can just think about how many people can access… maybe access information that they wouldn’t necessarily have been able to access in the past and for a lot cheaper – for a lot cheaper than than YouTube or whatever. So I think in South Africa, particularly, there’s an accessibility thing which is quite exciting. And brands being able to access markets that they maybe haven’t been able to access in the past and really add value – I think that’s a big part of our hearts, anyway, is: We don’t ever wanna create content just for the sake of it. We want to make content that really matters and really makes a difference. And there’s such a powerful medium in audio in being able to do that. [09:05] Tim Smal: Yes, podcasting is certainly a very special medium. It creates a way for you to connect with the person behind the scene, behind the show. So not just the podcast host, but their guest and all the material that they have produced. So I have a really good example: Yesterday when I was doing my washing, I took my cell phone, I logged onto Spotify and I started listening to a couple of different podcasts. And I found myself listening to a podcast called ‘The Curious Cult’ which is by Nic Haralambous, a South African podcaster. And his guest on the show was Mmusi Maimane, the South African politician. And while I was hanging out my washing yesterday, I was listening to Mmusi’s voice in my ears. And I learnt so much about him and I really felt like he was there with me while I was hanging out my washing. And I just learnt so much and it was so great to I suppose connect with him in that way, that I just really enjoyed that experience. And I realised that the possibilities are infinite, in terms of connecting with various people around the world. So it’s not just in South Africa – you can listen to podcasts from all over the world. But have you had experiences like that, where in that moment, whether you washing dishes or washing clothes or whatever, you’ve had this experience of connecting with someone through a podcast? [10:29] Carol Williams: Definitely. I think there’s something so powerful in hearing people’s stories. Yeah, there are a few podcast that I really enjoy listening to which… it kinda allows me a space into the process that someone has been through. So, for example, there’s one that I really like called ‘The Second Life’ and it’s about women entrepreneurs or creatives who have had more than one career. I mean, there’s really big names on there like Cindy Crawford and that kind of thing. But I think that there’s a generosity in the storytelling, in that if you can listen to someone else’s journey of a start-up business or even a songwriter or someone who has been through the process to get where they’re at. And I think sometimes we often look at people and we’re like “Oh, they just got there” or like “that must have been so easy for them.” And we actually don’t understand the process of how hard it was or the lessons they learnt along the way. So I think the medium actually really, like you said, affords you that really valuable insight into someone’s journey in something. So that’s obviously in terms of interview-type podcasts and then there’s knowledge-based podcasts and there’s, I think, the ones that are just purely entertainment or comedy or whatever. So I think even within that there’s just so many opportunities to engage with stories in different ways. [12:00] Tim Smal: Yeah, I guess there is something for everyone. Whether you listen on Spotify or Google podcasts or Apple podcasts or Podchaser, you can create your own list of podcasts that you like and then keep up-to-date with whatever you want to. But speaking about people’s journeys, you yourself have been on quite an interesting journey over the last decade or so, in terms of your work and your life. I mentioned earlier on the show that you come from a music therapy background. You’ve done a lot of community development work and you moved into the small business development area. You’ve certainly become an entrepreneur in your own right. So would you like to tell us a bit about what that journey has been like for you? [12:43] Carol Williams: Sure. I definitely wouldn’t call it a normal… bunny ears that “normal”… journey. I don’t know about you or anyone listening to this, but I think the expectation I had, anyway, of life after school was: Go to university, you study and then you work – and then you… that seems to be where it runs out, in terms of what people know. And I think I found myself finishing university – I did a master’s in music therapy and then after three years of working in that I was like, “OK and now… I’m kind of bored.” And I guess people would say, “Oh, you know, like millennials or whatever…” But for me it was more about a thing of like, I knew that I had more potential, I had more capacity and I didn’t quite feel like I was going to meet that – especially ‘cos I was working in the NGO sector. And I think for me, also just seeing how necessary it was to create environments where social change… I think, a big vehicle of social change is actually in creating businesses and creating employment and also opportunities for people to get dignity through work. And not necessarily just in a feeding scheme or whatever – although obviously all of those things are super important… super, super important. But for me, I just felt like it wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Yeah, I then went and worked at an entrepreneurial development academy. I was there up until the end of last year. I was there full-time for two-and-a-half years and then I went part-time to, kind of, figure out what I wanted to build. So that was amazing. I think anyone starting an entrepreneurial journey, having some form of regular income is super important because you don’t want to put the pressure on your business too early to pay you like a full salary or whatever. I think a lot of people actually… their ideas don’t work out because they put the financial pressure on their start-up or on their venture too soon. So for me, that was quite a key. And I was developing other skills at the same time. I had always performed as a musician and started writing music as well and continue to do that. And then started Stellar. So I’ve worked in Pollsmoor prison as a music therapist. I’ve worked in theatre. I really have had a lot of different experiences. I mean it’s been a different journey, I think, to a lot of my friends and even my siblings. I think my poor parents have been… I think they went through a patch of being really worried and now they, sort of, starting to get it. But for me, I just was like “You know, I can’t just be satisfied with doing this one thing – I know that there’s more and I want to explore all of those things.” And I think, for me, it’s become more and more refined over time. Like where I’m at now, I would say is … yeah, it’s a lot more refined than where I was a few years ago. But it’s been really exciting… and scary a lot of the time, you know, walking away from a full-time job and the security of a salary and all that stuff is never easy. And I would say, “Only do that if you really sure you want to, because the demands of that journey are huge.” But I think if you’re someone who is creative and you have a lot of different ideas, I think it’s really important to allow yourself to to explore those things. And something like for us getting a business coach – that was wisdom. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know and thinking that you’re gonna be able to figure everything out on your own, I think, is not necessarily the wisest thing. And so obviously there are people along the way that will help you do what you want to do. Again, this is a personal preference. I know for me, I just can’t do one thing – I know that it’s always gonna probably look like a few different things at the same time. I think a big part of that was letting go of this idea of “OK, now finally I’m just gonna do one thing.” Whereas actually maybe I’ll never just do one thing and that’s actually OK. And even if I do just end up doing one thing, that’s also fine. It’s letting go of certainty and this, sort of, weird control that we try and exert over knowing everything about how our lives are gonna turn out. I don’t think anyone knows that really. And obviously you can exercise wisdom in how you go about making those decisions. But for me, it’s been really cool to explore and discover all of these things – as a person, obviously that’s been an internal journey, but then obviously the expression of that, in terms of business and creative projects and all of that, has also been really cool. [17:35] Tim Smal: Yeah, it certainly is a journey of exploration. The way I see it, is that it comes down to trial and error. Because when you’re younger, you think to yourself “Well, I like doing this or I like doing that – I’d like to be, so and so when I’m older.” But in reality, until you try those different jobs and you experience what it’s like to be in those job roles, you don’t really know. And so when you leave school, as the years go on from college into your first job and so forth – you’re really experimenting with what makes you come alive, where you feel competent, etc. And one of the most useful tools for me when I was working for a company was the Clifton Strengthsfinder, where I was able to identify my top five strengths. And that really helped me to identify the areas where my core gifts were. In other words, where I was able to contribute to the team doing work that was of an exceptional quality. And I think that’s the journey that everybody is on, because everybody is different and they’ve all got these different strengths. But they really want to feel like what they doing matters and it matters to other people. And when you doing something well and you enjoy it and other people notice that, you get this real sense of satisfaction. Would you agree with that? [18:58] Carol Williams: Hundred percent. I love the Clifton Strengthsfinder actually. I remember doing it and almost bursting into tears ‘cos suddenly I was like “Oh, this makes so much sense.” My top strength is ‘ideation’ and for me, you just basically think of ideas all the time. And I knew that about myself, but I didn’t realise that it was a strength. I didn’t realise there was something that I could utilise and it was probably why I got so bored, so quickly once the ideation part of something was done. Yeah, and I I think even within building a business, both my business partner and I have done the Strengthsfinder recently and then looking at how we can structure the business around those things, instead of trying to build something that actually doesn’t suit us, in terms of our strengths and that kind of thing. So, I so agree and I think I often fear keeps people back from really engaging with the life that they want to have. And I think for me, that’s also been such a powerful thing to recognise is: I’m not a victim – no one is a victim. Yes, you’ve been through hard stuff or sometimes you don’t necessarily get to choose your situation, but you always get to choose your response. And so for me to sit in work that I wasn’t necessarily loving, I realised that I actually had a “victim mentality” there, ‘cos I was, sort of, allowing myself to be a victim to the situation, instead of being like “OK, well what kind of life do I want to live and what kind of work do I wanna do?” It takes a lot of humility, I think, to do that ‘cos for me I was… Flip, when I made that decision, I was working a full-time job and then working at a coffee shop on the weekend and you know, it’s so easy to be like “Oh, well I have a master’s degree – why am I serving people coffee?” But actually for me, I was like “If that’s part of how I get to where I wanna be, that’s fine.” And eating ‘humble pie’ every once in a while is not a bad thing, because, I think, if you know why you doing something, then it doesn’t necessarily make waking up on a Saturday morning, super early to go to this job you don’t particularly want to do, when all your friends are eating breakfast because they actually have “real jobs” – again, I use that term loosely. But for me, I realised I needed to have a long-term view of what I was building. I can’t just have a short-term view because otherwise I’m always going to feel like I’m failing, you know. Whereas actually, if I have a view of like twenty years or thirty years or forty years of my life and recognising that what I’m building now will probably, hopefully set me up for better things later on as well, and not kinda just building for the immediate future. [21:41] Tim Smal: Yeah and I guess what it comes down to for everyone, is that they need to develop a certain amount of self-awareness. So in other words, they need to have a good understanding of who they really are – not what other people want them to be or what their parents think that they should do, because when they really have a good understanding of their personality type, their core gifts, then they’re able to make decisions that are in line with where they want to be in the future. And it’s going to make them happy. Because ultimately everybody has to work – whether you have one day job, a side hustle, a passion project – whatever you call it… everyone has to generate income and everyone has to work. But if you are engaged with your work, if you enjoying what you doing – you are going to feel more fulfilled. Your happiness levels are going to rise and that’s going to impact your whole life, because people spend so much time at work, that their happiness is linked to the way that they feel about their work. [22:47] Carol Williams: Hundred percent. And I don’t get the point of being unhappy for like, forty years and then what… and then you saved and then you – it seems like people in retirement are also kind of unhappy, from what I can tell. [laughs] It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. And I think for our generation, especially, I think retirement is not really, necessarily even going to be something we get to experience. And I think that’s kind of cool – I kinda want to be like, 95 years old and still doing gigs, you know what I’m saying? [laughs] But maybe I’ll feel differently when when I’m that age. But I think, for me, it’s not necessarily just about happiness, but it’s about purpose. And I think, generally people want to feel like they have a purpose. And if you feel like you’re in your purpose, you going to probably be happy. But I think, it’s about knowing what you’d like to build and then it doesn’t matter if it’s hard to get there – you actually know the direction that you’re headed in and so you can, kind of, take the hard stuff with the… ‘cos it’s not going to be… not everything is going to be easier, you’re not going to necessarily feel happy everyday. But I think, overall there’s the deep sense of like – I describe it more as like, peace than happiness. So even on really tough days or days where I’m like “What the heck am I doing? Why am I doing this?” I still have a peace that I know means that I’m in the right place. I don’t know if they make sense? But yeah, I think people in general are wanting to live in a purposeful way and feel like their life has meaning. I don’t think you can have both – I don’t think you can live in a way that is just to please other people and have that. I’m not sure that that’s possible. [24:37] Tim Smal: So in line with all these ideas that we’re speaking about today, do you have any advice or tips for the listeners out there that might be grappling with some of these issues? [24:49] Carol Williams: I think it’s about letting go of your own perception of what life should look like and having more of a curious outlook. So being like, “I wonder what it would be if it was this? Or I wonder if I did that, what would happen?” For me again, taking the time to find out what really makes you come alive is super important, because it does – it takes time, it takes effort… it’s a lot easier to just numb yourself. It’s a lot easier to live vicariously through other people. It’s a lot easier to compare yourself or to get trapped in comparison and kinda allow that ‘victim mentality’ to settle. So I think, just being like “Cool, do I wanna choose the hard route or am I happy with just sticking in this space – where I’m maybe not thriving but, you know, I get to pay my bills every month and that’s actually enough for me.” I think it’s just recognising – what do you want? And then making choices according to that. Yeah and I think the other really important thing is to not try and do stuff on your own. Like I said a bit earlier – you don’t know what you don’t know. So especially if you’re wanting to start a business, for example – get people who know more than you do to help you, to come alongside you. Ask lots of questions, ask people. And I think to just try stuff. And I know that this maybe a bit cheesy, but if you can get into your head that “something isn’t a failure – like you’ve just worked out how not to do something.” And instead of linking your self-worth to whether something works or not, which is difficult – I do get that. But then it stops being so scary. Or maybe it doesn’t stop being scary, but you’ll do it anyway – like you do it, in spite of that thing. [26:41] Tim Smal: Wow, there’s certainly a lot of takeaways there. I particularly enjoyed the comment on collaboration. I always think about working with others and working together on teams and you know, sharing knowledge, sharing experience – coming together to create something wonderful that’s bigger than just the individual. So I’m very excited about collaboration and speaking of which – if any of the listeners would like to get hold of you Carol, your website is thestellareffect.com [27:14] Carol Williams: That is correct, yes. Or they can email at firstname.lastname@example.org – that will also get to me. [27:21] Tim Smal: Wonderful. Well, it’s been really great speaking with you today Carol. My mind has been going crazy with all these cool ideas that you’ve been talking about. It’s gonna be really fun listening back to the show and reflecting on all the ‘pearls of wisdom’ that you’ve dropped today on this podcast, so thank you so much. [27:39] Carol Williams: Cool. Thanks so much for the opportunity, it’s such a pleasure. [27:43] Tim Smal: Awesome. Take care and all the best for 2020. [27:47] Carol Williams: Thanks Tim, you too. All the best.
18 minutes | Apr 8, 2020
Audrey Delbarre – Wine and well-being
April 8th, 2020 Audrey DelbarreWine and well-being Audrey Delbarre from La Petite Nénette, talks about wine and well-being. Audrey is the founder of La Petite Nénette, a company based in France that runs wine and well-being workshops. Passionate about oenology and emotional intelligence, Audrey has created workshops that explore concepts such as energy and resilience, the pressure and performance curve, mindfulness and self-awareness. She offers seminars for teams in companies to help promote well-being in the workplace. Visit Audrey’s website Transcript – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi everyone and welcome to the show. My name is Tim and my guest today is Audrey Delbarre from La Petite Nénette. Audrey is passionate about oenology, which is the study of wine. Audrey, welcome to the show. Audrey Delbarre (guest): Thanks, Tim. And thank you for inviting me. I’m very happy to be here and share a bit of my story with all of you. [00:26] Tim Smal: Wonderful. I’m glad to have you on the show today. Perhaps we could start off our conversation with you telling us a little bit about who you are and how you became interested in the world of wine. [00:40] Audrey Delbarre: Yeah, of course. First of all, I’m French. I live in a wine country, which is very famous for wine. It’s in our education and culture to drink wine quite regularly. But if you look at my professional career, I do not come from the wine industry at all. Because I used to work for a major pharmaceutical company for more than nine years, where I was in charge of procurement activities. So it was radically different from what I am doing today, because I used to develop market strategies, source suppliers and negotiate big contracts for the vaccines industry worldwide. I used to travel a lot and work with big companies as well, setting up strategy and project management with multi-cultural teams across the world. And in 2017, I needed a change from this career and the “fast-paced, under-pressure” work environment. So I applied for a humanitarian mission for six months within my company and I got the chance to be one of the selected candidates. And I was deployed as a volunteer for an NGO named ‘Care International’ in Zambia in Southern Africa. And there I was working for a social enterprise and my purpose was to improve access to medicines for local Zambian people. This six-month experience made me see life differently. I received some answers to my big questions: “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?” And while I was in Zambia, I registered to do some courses at The Cape Wine Academy in Cape Town. And I decided to take some courses and I passed the Certificate Course at the Cape Wine Academy. I learnt a lot about South Africa wines, because I didn’t know South African wines at all – you know, French people drink a lot of French wine, but not a lot of wines from outside of the country. And just for the story – it’s not very easy to find international wines within wine shops in France. So it was a really nice discovery for me, these South African wines. And I really fell in love with the country, with the people, with the beautiful landscape, with the climate conditions – which are amazing. And The Cape Wine Academy, which I really recommend, gives high quality courses. I really learnt a lot. And it was not easy, because I was the only French girl learning and studying in another language other than my mother tongue. And I had to get more familiar with some aromas and flavours which are very local. Some flowers, for example, do not exist in France – like “fynbos.” And it was really a nice discovery for me. And I loved it so much, that I decided to learn more about South African wines later on. So one year later, I came back to South Africa and I volunteered at a wine farm in Stellenbosch, called ‘Vredenheim’ farm. They also have a cat park there and it was very family-orientated. And there I had a very nice role, because I was hosting clients, and also French clients. I was giving them tours within the winery and the wine farm. And I was also teaching wine tasting techniques and explaining the food pairings with the wines in the restaurant. And I enjoyed it so much, that once I returned to France, I decided to quit my job and launch my business around well-being and wine workshops. Because when I was in Africa, I reworked the purpose of my life and I decided that I love human relationships and I love well-being. I worked a lot on psychology concepts around well-being. And I love wine. So I said, “Why not combine all these things by creating and developing workshops around wine and well-being.” And this is how my company started last year. [05:15] Tim Smal: So what I love about the workshops that you do, is that you combine wine with the concept of well-being. So, of course, when people drink wine, it helps them to relax. But now you’re taking it a step further by introducing aspects of psychology – like activities in self-awareness, for example – to help people discover more about themselves. Can you tell me more about how that works. [05:43] Audrey Delbarre: Yeah, sure. First of all, when I started the business and I said that “I’m creating well-being and wine workshops,” a lot of people looked at me with big eyes – they were quite surprised. Because for them, well-being can not be compatible with the word “wine.” But I say, “Why not?” Everything in this world, if you take it moderately, it not harmful for you. You just need to drink moderately. And this is what I teach in my workshops. Sometimes we spend an hour just to drink one small glass of wine. Because we spend a lot of time on learning to listen to your body and to your five senses. So I use mindfulness practises and techniques around the eyes. We first work on the colours of the wine. Then we play also with touching some different fabrics to liase some typical wine with some typical fabrics. And we play with this. And we play with also the nose. I create some games for team-buildings around nose and aromas to recognise. I also created a game that I called “Olfactory Mastermind”, which is memorising flavours in a certain order. And then you have to set up again the aromas in the right order in a team, and then you gain or lose points, and it’s very entertaining for the group, and it creates a team-spirit among the people, while you’re really working on your memory in your brain. Then after, only then you start tasting the wine. So for the people who come here only for drinking wine – yes, you will drink wine, but at a very slow pace. And you will learn to develop each sense, one by one. And once you have the wine in your palate, we spend a lot of time working on how you feel, what are your emotions. I let people also express themselves, because it’s also a way to gain confidence in yourself, to express yourself through words and emotions. Sometimes through poetry, sometimes with music – we can do wine and music pairings as well, to release emotions within the people. And with the food pairing, it’s also another way to test the infinite combination of food parings with different flavours, like saltiness, sourness, sweetness, bitterness, umamis. And I also have created some workshops with the environment, like the fact that decoration around you – a woody decoration or a grassy and herbaceous decoration, can affect the perception you may have of the wine you’re drinking. So all these kinds of activities are tailored depending on what people want to develop in their mindfulness or well-being expectations. [08:56] Tim Smal: So what you’re doing essentially, is you’re bringing the concept of mindfulness to the world of wine. And perhaps that is a new concept for people, because generally speaking, people tend to drink their wine too quickly or perhaps they drink too much. But they’re not necessarily being mindful and present in the moment, in terms of connecting with the beverage in front of them and how it makes them feel internally. [09:27] Audrey Delbarre: Yeah, I totally agree. And I used to be like that, I remember. Before I used to drink a bottle of wine quite quickly with friends, without paying attention to what I was feeling, without putting any words behind the flavours I could feel. And since I’ve been practising these techniques on myself, my relatives and friends, I’ve never drunk so slowly. Really – I consume the wine at a better pace. And I really study the wine behind the label – I want to understand the story of the winemaker behind the label. I want to get images in my brain of the places, of the vineyards, of the sunshine, of the weather conditions – to bring me more emotions while I’m drinking the wine. And I think that these workshops will help people to increase the quality of the experience that they have when they drink wine in the future. According to the feedback I got so far, people now see a glass of wine differently after attending one of my workshops. They said that they spent more time analysing the wine, but analysing themselves as well. Because they see things differently afterwards. They can express their emotions, they can put words to their feelings. And they can also practise their memory. So it’s also a good exercise for brain memory, to memorise flavours and aromas, because it’s one of the more complex parts of our brains. Our nose is able to detect one billion different aromas compared to our eyes, which can detect one million different colours. So we can practise and practise everyday with our nose, and there is an infinite combination of possibilities of exploring aromas with our nose. Developing our self-awareness to better reload our batteries. I’m pretty sure it’s helping us to also be more resilient in our continually changing and fast-paced environment. [11:46] Tim Smal: So I have an interesting question for you: When I go to a wine festival, where there often over 100 different wines to try, I can feel a little bit overwhelmed, because there’s such a huge selection – and of course, I want to try as many as I can. Is there any merit in trying to slow down and focus on just a handful of wines, instead of trying to get through as many as you can at the event? [12:17] Audrey Delbarre: Yeah, I totally agree with what you are saying – it’s not a marathon. And here, you just need to bear in mind, why you are here: You are at the festival for your own pleasure. You are here to have pleasure and enjoy the moment – enjoy the instant moment. If you want to enjoy the instant moment, don’t rush like a competition – you are not in a competition. Indeed, there are so many wines displayed on the tables and you cannot drink everything. If you really are an expert and looking for a specific wine – yes you will to tempted to try different wines. But then you will spit out and, I guess, you will be with your little book to take some notes to measure and assess each wine. But if you are here for pleasure and spending a nice moment, then maybe try a couple of them – spit out on some of them and just select the ones that you really enjoy. And then take time to really discover the wine and the atmosphere around you – the environment will play a lot on the appreciation. The music, the weather, the conditions, the decoration – all of these factors will influence the pleasure you will have in your palate and in your brain, and will bring you some specific emotions that you will not be able to reproduce in another condition or environment. So taking notes also, or memorising some pictures of what you’re tasting is also a great way to develop your self-awareness and your search for pleasure. [13:59] Tim Smal: One of the most loved aspects of the wine industry is, of course, the travel. And you’ve been running wine and well-being workshops in many different countries all over the world. What has the reception been like so far? [14:16] Audrey Delbarre: Yeah, indeed. So I introduced myself to different wineries and companies offering, first of all, team-buildings – just to entertain the team and create a team-spirit. I also used to be a trainer in well-being within my previous company, and to give me more credibility, I wrote a book around this. And also attended a Buddhism retreat in Japan to really learn the techniques around mindfulness and meditation, which I combine now and use in my workshops. My business is quite recent, so I’m just starting and getting some contracts in different wine regions – in France, in Belgium. Because in Belgium there are also wineries now, as the climate in changing and also in Portugal. But I would love to develop that also in South Africa, like with the wine farm Vredenheim in Stellenbosch that I’m working with and I used to work for. I think there is a place for this kind of workshop. I just need to convince people that we don’t need to see things in the extreme opposite that “wine is bad” and “well-being is good”, but as long as we practise things moderately – whether we are consuming alcohol or even practising sport moderately. Things moderately anyway, in general, is a rule for the well-being and the good balance for everyone. And I just need to convince people. But once people attended the workshops, I received very good feedback and some people drastically changed their way of consuming food or consuming drinks. And it makes me happy to see these changes and more self-awareness, because the world of food and drinks is just amazing, with so many combinations and pairings possible. And we underestimate the capacity of our five senses, especially the nose and the palate. It’s something that makes our brain work more, our memory to work more – so it’s even good for on the long-term perspective for everyone, because you create images in your brain and memory. And we underestimate quite too often this capacity. [16:43] Tim Smal: Wonderful. Well, if the listeners would like to visit your website, it is lapetitienenette.com – there will be a link in the podcast description. But I wanted to ask you, how exactly did you come up with the name La Petite Nénette? [17:00] Audrey Delbarre: Yeah. I was looking for a name for my company, but I didn’t want a generic name. Usually big brands, big names – there is always a story behind the label. And I said, “Well, “I lost my grandma in a tough time for me, but it was also an event that changed my life in a positive way.” And I decided to honour my grandma by using her nickname when she was a little girl, which was ‘La Petite Nénette’, because she was small – “petite” meaning “small” in French. And I said “OK, let’s try this nickname for this company.” And this is the story behind it. [17:46] Tim Smal: Alright, Audrey. It’s been really wonderful talking with you today. I’ve learnt a lot about your background and the work you do. So thanks so much for coming on the show and I wish you all the best for the future. [17:58] Audrey Delbarre: Thank you so much and have a great day.
23 minutes | Mar 21, 2020
Andrew Maunder – The rise of the no-code movement
March 21st, 2020 Andrew MaunderThe rise of the no-code movement Andrew Maunder, a digital product designer, talks about the no-code movement. Andrew is a product and experience designer based in Berlin who over the past decade has been using a variety of human-centric design approaches to craft digital experiences that delight customers and solve business problems. His PhD studies in Human Computer Interaction sparked a passion for designing mobile applications and services and since then, he’s had the privilege of working with many talented researchers, designers, developers, and data analysts both in corporate and startup environments. Visit Andrew’s website Transcript – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi there and welcome to the show. My name is Tim and my guest today is Andrew Maunder. He is a product and experience designer based in Berlin. Over the past decade or so, he’s been using a variety of human-centric design approaches to craft digital experiences that delight customers and solve business problems. Andrew, welcome to the show. Andrew Maunder (guest): Hi Tim. [00:29] Tim Smal: How are you doing today in Berlin? [00:32] Andrew Maunder: I’m doing well, thanks. It’s a home office day, so both myself, my wife and my dog are all at home. So, besides the overcast weather and the current COVID-19 things going on with Corona, yeah, otherwise all – it’s kinda good. It’s kind of fun being at home and not having to worry with running around on public transport and things like that. So given the situation I think all things are pretty okay with us, pretty good. [01:06] Tim Smal: Great to hear it. Now, Andrew you did a PhD in human-computer interaction and that sparked your passion for designing mobile applications and services. Can you tell us about your studies and how you moved into the field that you’re working in now? [01:24] Andrew Maunder: Yeah, for sure. I started, I guess, as a teenager becoming interested in computers. We had a computer at home – of course back then it was mostly for playing computer games. But, in the mid-nineties, my dad upgraded our computer with a sound card and CD-ROM and made it this more multimedia, enhanced, sort of computing experience. And that really got me interested in, essentially the extended features of using a computer and what kind of immersive experience it could create. Round about the same time, one of our neighbours in the neighbourhood that we lived in, started running an internet service provider from his house, which completely blew our minds. And he offered us a connection to his network at just a couple of bucks a month. And so we had access to broadband internet in the mid-nineties in South Africa, which was quite a thing. And I think that combination of sound, digital media, CD-ROM’s at the time, and the internet, really got my mind hooked onto what kind of interactive experiences you could create on computers. It sort of got my attention and then when I started university, I was really on a mission to try and find a way to get into the sort of interactive multimedia field. But because I went to university and did a Bachelor of Science, it wasn’t a direct road there. But I was interested in design and so what I did was I tried to figure out a road to get to the interactive multimedia space. And essentially what I did was I studied scientific computing. So I majored in physiology with this interest in the human body, but then also in an emerging field called ergonomics, which is essentially the study of how the human body relates to a working environment. And I had applied to do my Honours in ergonomics at another university called Rhodes. I got accepted for that, and essentially as I was about to leave for that, one of my professors said to me “Hey, you know that ergonomics in South Africa (at the time) wasn’t a huge field” and he said “well, why don’t you rather stay in Cape Town, work with me and we can look at an emerging field which was called ‘everyday usability’ and essentially human-computer interaction”, which was his field of study and he said “that’s, kind of, the digital equivalent of ergonomics”. And I was like “Woah okay, that sounds pretty interesting.” And at that time, more and more people in South Africa were buying cell phones and starting to use cellphones as part of their daily lives. And that was my professor – that was his area study, was sort of, human-computer interaction but with mobile devices. That became my main topic during my honours degree and then when I started my masters, I really focused on that. And then my masters, sort of, morphed into my PhD and I spent four years looking at the design of mobile services and particularly how designers apply different design processes to achieve that and to make design services that are locally relevant and appropriate. And that was kind of – yeah, that’s how I got into the field. [04:56] Tim Smal: Wonderful. So, over the last decade or so you’ve certainly been involved with a number of different projects that I imagine range from working in rural areas of South Africa to academic institutions and corporate companies in Germany, for example. Would you like to talk about your journey working in this area over the last decade? [05:25] Andrew Maunder: Yeah. Like you said, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on quite a variety of projects over the years, ranging from designing multimedia services in rural areas, where connectivity and bandwidth availability is quite limited – to working for banks and startups in a whole variety of different companies. I’ve always tried to focus on mobile service design. And really, the first – probably the first two or three companies I worked for – that was their major, major focus. So, in the late-2000’s I worked for a company called Mxit, who created a mobile application for feature phones at the time, and their main application was an instant messenger. So that was really a good look into the early days of technology impacting society in South Africa. And that was really a privilege because we had five million people logging in every day and as a young designer coming into the industry, you know, being able to design changes that five million people will see the next day when they log in is quite a… responsibility. So that kept me on my toes and that was my first, sort of, foray into designing products at scale. Nowadays designing internet services for millions of people seems like the norm, but back then, you know, scaling products out to millions of users wasn’t an everyday thing. So after my studies that was, sort of, the first major project I worked on. Yeah, then after that I was fortunate enough to co-found a startup that we received some seed funding to do, which was again a mobile service. And in that case, it was designing a digital marketplace for tradesmen to market their services within their local neighbourhood or local digital neighbourhood. It was a ‘Twitter’ for micro-ads in some sense – you could think of it that way. That was really interesting. I think your first startup happens in a blink of an eye – but that was really, a really great experience to take a new product to market and to learn about all the nuances of an early stage business. And then after that, I did a lot of freelancing and consulting on quite a lot of new product developments, so I wouldn’t quite put it as R&D, but taking new products to market and working with teams and product owners who want to take new features and new products to market. So that’s kind of, really, over the last ten years, really been the focus of what I’ve been doing, is really mobile and new product development. [08:11] Tim Smal: Awesome. So in the last decade you’ve been doing some really exciting work. Perhaps you could tell me more about some of the projects that have been particularly exciting for you to work on. And then also lead into a discussion about what it’s been like working in Berlin for the last year or so, as opposed to say, Cape Town in the previous few years. [08:35] Andrew Maunder: Yeah, sure. I’ve worked on quite a few interesting projects, but probably the most interesting in the last while, was I started working in the digital finance space, in particular a digital finance product that was running in Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi. It was a mobile-based service that essentially started as a money transfer service, where a person in a, sort of, a rural part of Zambia could go up to a kiosk, deposit cash and then that money would then be sent to a family member or a business connection in another part of the country, or in a, or in another country. So that was, sort of, my first digital finance project that I worked on, but I really enjoyed that time. It was about – I worked on it for about a year-and-a-half to two years. And I was fortunate enough to be able to work on a mobile wallet project and to design that from scratch, which was really, really cool. So it extended their money transfer service to enable users to be able to store money digitally on their account. And what was great about that, like I said, was I managed to be part of the team who designed the product from scratch. But also it was challenging in that, the digital service wasn’t just aimed at a particular type of mobile phone, like a smartphone – it had to work on all types of mobile phones, including older feature phones. That was a challenge because I had to adapt it for an older mobile technology called ‘USSD’. If you remember on older phones, the sort of, very rudimentary, sort of, numerical menus that you used to engage with when you dialed a, what’s called ‘a short code’ – so the sort of, ‘star 1-1-1-hash’ type of code. So yeah, so that was really interesting. So working in an another country – like I said in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. But then also working on services that I had to adapt across to work on different types of mobile phones. So yeah, so that was, that was really interesting. And also understanding the digital finance ecosystem, the product had to also be compatible, all work together with their – some of their other newer products that they were designing like a micro loans product and things like that. So these, sort of, complementary services that had to connect to each other and stuff like that. So yeah, it was a really interesting time designing a – I wouldn’t say a complex customer experience, but certainly a customer experience that had some complex elements to it, like I said – it had to work across different types of devices, it included a human interface at a kiosk and a digital interface. Plus, yeah, I was designing for an ecosystem that I was quite unfamiliar with. So yeah, it was an interesting project. And then if I had to transition to my time here in Berlin… My wife and I moved here – we had been talking about moving to a new country for a while, just as a, sort of, a life experience. I had lived and worked in the UK for about six months, but besides that I travelled quite a lot and worked in other countries, but I had never lived for long periods of time in another country. And we decided that at the end of 2018 was a really good time to do that. Yeah, so 2018 was really a transitional phase where I started taking less contracts to give myself some time to look for work in Berlin. So I managed to secure a job at the end of 2018 and once I had locked down the job, it all kinda happened quite fast and I moved over shortly after that in November of 2018 and my wife came over in December of that year. And I got a job working for a startup here in Berlin. It’s a startup that works in the academic conference space and they provided a range of digital services to support the academic conference space. Obviously moving countries, there are quite a lot of new things to get used to. But for the most part, the startup I worked for had a very diverse international team. Yeah, it was a reasonably smooth transition. Berlin is quite easy to navigate – even if you can’t speak German. And English was the language of business at this startup. So, yeah it was actually quite a smooth transition and I felt quite comfortable and welcome in the team. I think in terms of transitions to a new work environment, it was quite smooth and I’ve enjoyed it thus far. [13:21] Tim Smal: Great. Well, it certainly must have been to your advantage to have worked in a number of different countries on different projects. So your work experience covers so many different phases of product design. You work on user research, concept development, information architecture, interaction design – so there’s a lot of different areas of focus for you. I know you’re quite into visual design – the UX side of things. So, in terms of all those different areas of focus and working with many different researchers and designers, developers, data analysts, all over the world – if you were to summarise an area of your work that you’re really passionate about, what would that be? [14:13] Andrew Maunder: Yeah. Right now, certainly the area that I’m most interested in is the prototyping side. So that would be where you’ve got an initial concept and you want to create, sort of, an immersive prototype that your team members can try out, so it can help communicate a concept or an idea. But also where you can get other people (external users) to try out. I think prototyping is an area that I’m – it’s probably my favourite part of the design cycle. It’s the part I enjoy the most. And the reason why… particularly, I would say – I can say having fun at the moment is, the range of tools that are available now just make it so easy to rapidly prototype. There’s a movement that I’ve been keeping my eye on for the last 6 months or so – it’s called ‘the no-code movement’. So ‘no-code’ really is: the evolution of the tools where you can quickly create a, for example, a website without having to write code. So a very simple example would be products like WordPress, Squarespace, Blogger – those kinds of things, where you can use a visual user interface and create a website for yourself. So if you think back to the mid-nineties, to create a website you’d have to know how to write some HTML – basic HTML code to be able to get a website live. And then in the early 2000’s, there were products coming out that would allow you to design and publish a website without having to code. But what’s interesting in the last year or two, is there has been a massive shift in gear, in terms of the number of tools that are available. So for example, now you can create your own basic Android app that serves multimedia, without knowing how to code – there’s some really nice online tools for that. There’s a tool that I actually used at the end of last year – the product’s called “Webflow”. Right. So Webflow I used recently to create a new website for my client, or for the company that I was freelancing for. What was interesting about that is, they have a visual interface for designing and creating and publishing a website. But what makes it interesting is that, the content management system that underpins this Webflow is really, really powerful and really easy to use. But what it allows you to do, is it allows you to link or connect parts of the website to this content management system in a more flexible way than you could with products like WordPress, for example, and in a more powerful way than with products like Squarespace. So it takes the best pieces of all those online web publishing tools and it makes a cleaner, more powerful tool. And what’s interesting, [is that] it also encourages a designer to think more like a web developer. So, it’s just super, super powerful and probably the next iteration of that is a product called “Bubble”. So Bubble is an online tool where you can actually build what’s called a “web app.” So you can – instead of just creating static web pages that connect to a powerful content management system, you can start visually designing web apps that have logic built into them. So you can start defining business rules and stuff like that. And then probably the next, or the additional piece of that puzzle is: There are loads of independent services now. So for example, there are online services that provide a payment interface or a profile service that you can then, without having to know how to code, connect to your Webflow website, for example. So this interoperability between services is now becoming possible without having to code. And I think that becomes super, super powerful. So for example, you take a product like “Stripe”, which is a service that provides a really robust, powerful payment service that you can connect to your website, that’s designed in Webflow, which is a really powerful front-end web design tool, where you can do really advanced interaction design and connect it to a CMS – all without having to code. And there are other services, for example, where you can host videos behind a pay-wall, creating subscription services – all without having to be able to code. And all of these services can interoperate really cleanly. It’s absolutely phenomenal. I don’t think – I mean, I know I say this every year, but it really is the best time to be an interaction and UX designer now, because the number of tools that are available to quickly create prototypes and even quickly create working, deployable web services and websites – we’ve never lived in the time like now. And I think, maybe just to summarise… The reason why this is such a fundamental, game-changing time is that: Over the last five to ten years, designers – UX designers or interaction designers – they’ve had to hand over a lot of their designs to a software team to build it for them, which requires a lot of communication, a lot of documentation. And it requires teams to really synchronise, you know. Development teams that have to synchronise with design teams and that’s challenging because, if I think about, for example, the micro-finance product I worked on – a design teams’ design cycles are not necessarily in sync with the development teams’ cycles. So the things that the development team want to work on first, or what they want to work on now, might not be the things that a design team has available or things that are ready. So for example, I might be doing some field research and the particular feature they wanna build is not ready yet. So the way that would have to work in the past was I would have to then negotiate with my product manager saying, you know, “That stuff that the ‘devs’ want to build, it’s not ready” and there’d be a lot of negotiation and trade-offs and – a lot of basically, complex communication. When now we’re heading towards a phase where design teams can actually build the front-ends themselves. They can start to, almost – we might describe it as ‘decoupling from a development team’, for a lot of the front-end products and they’d be able to change them and modify them when they want to – rather than having to, sort of, lodge a request or a, what you might call a ‘development ticket’ with the ‘dev’ team. It just simplifies things so much, I mean – the next five years are gonna be, there’s gonna be a massive, massive shake-up in how digital teams work and it’s gonna be fantastic. I mean, I’ve been waiting for this for ten years. So, it’s yeah – the whole ‘no-coding movement’ is certainly something to keep an eye on, if anyone out there is interested in digital products and UX – not just from a prototyping point-of-view, but also from a deployable, real front-ends and real services point-of-view. And especially for startups. Especially if you’re working in the new product development space, these tools are – they look fantastic. I unfortunately haven’t deployed a service using a product like Bubble yet, but it certainly looks like it’s moving in the right direction and the tools look reasonably intuitive, given the complexity of it. And the ways that you define logic within the app seems really good. So yeah, it’s a really good time. And I think that’s why prototyping and the actual building of things that people can interact and test – and do that very rapidly, is certainly one of your most powerful tools in a design process. Because getting feedback from real customers, as quick as possible, has always been the route to creating great products and great experiences. And the quicker you can do that, the quicker you can hone in on the best design. And it’s essentially – I mean, what we’ve been trying to do for the last 15 years. I think we just now have better and better tools so we can move, fast and faster because, you know, markets are changing quite a lot. And also designers are designing for international markets and environments where they don’t know and don’t have a lot of, necessarily ‘on-the-ground experience,’ so being able to build prototypes quickly and get feedback fast is changing that and making it a lot easier to build good products. [22:37] Tim Smal: Great. Well yeah, thanks for joining me today Andrew. For the folks out there, you can get in contact with Andrew at his website theplatformstudio.com – he’s currently in Berlin. So if you’re in the area why not connect with him. Go for a drink, shoot the breeze and you never know – you might be hanging out with the future CEO of… well, who knows what the company will be. But anything is possible in this lifetime, right? [23:06] Andrew Maunder: That’s correct. I mean, if our friend can be the CEO of Siri – anything is possible. [23:13] Tim Smal: Great. Thanks a lot again Andrew. I hope you have a great time there in Berlin and I look forward to seeing you in the flesh, sometime in the future.
15 minutes | Mar 18, 2020
Gavin Gold – From Cape Town to New York City
March 18th, 2020 Gavin GoldFrom Cape Town to New York City Gavin Gold, a singer-songwriter, talks about moving from Cape Town to New York City. Gavin was born in Cape Town, South Africa and was impacted by music at a very young age. He has recently relocated to New York City where he is currently writing songs with off-Broadway hit singer-songwriter, Steve Schalchlin. Visit Gavin’s website Transcript – PDF Tim Smal (host): Hi there and welcome to the show. My name is Tim. My guest today is Gavin Gold, a musician originally from Cape Town, who has recently moved to New York. Gavin, welcome to the show. Gavin Gold (guest): Thank you, Tim. It’s great to be here. Thanks for asking me. [00:18] Tim Smal: Is it nice and early in the morning there in New York City? [00:22] Gavin Gold: Actually not that early – it’s 11 a.m. [00:25] Tim Smal: Well, unfortunately at the moment, there’s a lot going on in the world with regard to the coronavirus. How are things going for you there? [00:34] Gavin Gold: Well, New York City, as you know, is a very crowded place. There’s a lot of people around and we got to be very careful here. There subways that are very crowded. The streets – even the pavements, when you walk on the sidewalk, you got to dodge people. So you got really be careful here and keep your social distance. My wife and myself, we’ve been very much at home, you know, trying to keep out of the thick of things as much as possible. [00:57] Tim Smal: Speaking of ‘keeping out of the thick of things’, you’ve had some shows coming up in New York that you’ve now had to cancel as a result of the coronavirus. [01:08] Gavin Gold: Yes, we were gonna play a show – in fact, it was supposed to happen tonight. But we had to cancel, as a result of it. [01:18] Tim Smal: It’s quite ironic that your most recent album that came out in 2017, had the title ‘World Upside Down.’ Tell us more about this record. [01:29] Gavin Gold: Yeah, that it is quite amazing… that title. In fact, you mentioning it, has made me think, for the first time, that it actually is quite relevant in the times of today. That album was recorded in Cape Town with a good friend of mine, Mark McCree. It was a, kind of, EP. We did about five or six songs on that record and made a couple of videos for YouTube from that. I do quite a few of those songs now – I actually incorporate them into my repertoire. I have written quite a lot of fresh stuff, quite a lot of new stuff since I’ve been here. I’ve been on this creative mission… ideas are just exploding upon me – I feel so inspired. And I’ve written probably about thirty songs since I’ve been here for the last few months, collaborating with Steve Schalchlin, who’s my partner who writes songs with me – we just churning them out. So the work that I did in Cape Town on that album, I still perform a couple of them. But I think my fresh stuff now that I’m busy with, I’m more involved with and I’m incorporating that more into my live playing.[02:42] Tim Smal: I’m excited to hear that you’ve been writing a lot of new material. It’s also great to hear that you’ve been feeling really inspired living in New York City. As a musician moving from South Africa to the United States, what has your experience been like, in terms of integrating into the music scene in New York? [03:01] Gavin Gold: I arrived here knowing nobody and I didn’t know how the system worked or the music scene at all. I didn’t know how to get from A to B – I absolutely knew nothing about what was going on. And as I stepped onto that subway, that first subway, I just love it. I fell in love with the way things work here – how eclectic it is, the mixture of people, the different languages. And the city just has such an amazing energy and I just absolutely fell in love with it straight away – it was really inspiring. I love the lifestyle in Cape Town – the surf and the sun and the mountain and the beauty. It’s completely different in New York – it’s just a lot of people, high buildings… ‘the city that never sleeps.’ It really is a very energetic city. And I came here not knowing, as I said to you, not knowing anyone. And before I left Cape Town, I went for a dentist check and my dentist David Novis, said he knew a musician that lived in New York City and I should contact him. So that’s the first person I contacted and we had a long conversation and he gave me a lot of good points of what to expect in the music scene in New York City. And that, kind of, set me and gave me a nice head start and gave me some insight into what was happening. Basically, you know, I needed to get out and play. So I started doing a lot of open mics and just every opportunity I had – I played. And I started networking, really putting myself out there. I was really dying to meet musicians to play with. And that, kind of, came together. I’ve met a couple of amazing people that I’m working with at the moment. There’s a guy that I’m writing songs with, Steve Schalchlin, whose an off Broadway hit songwriter that really loves my stuff. And he writes a lot of the lyrics and I write the melodies. And we’ve formed this very strong bond and partnership in our songwriting. And then I joined a songwriting group as well, that’s called the ‘Jack Hardy songwriting circle’. Each person gets a chance to play the song in the group and then you get feedback from the rest of the members in the group. And that actually is quite amazing, because in my experience, nobody’s really given me true feedback on my stuff – it’s maybe because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. But in this circle, we really give constructive, true feedback and that’s really helped me to develop my songwriting to a large extent. And so, yeah, my songwriting has, I think, really gone up a notch or too. I’m really proud of some of the stuff that’s pouring out of me. And then meeting… I’ve met a really great player, a multi-musician that I’m partnered with and we formed this band called ‘The Rebel Nerds.’ We just recently teamed up with a drummer. We rehearsing and well – up until this coronavirus hit, we were getting ready to play our first gig as a trio this evening… unfortunately that fell by the wayside. So I think, in a nutshell, it’s all about networking – getting out there, playing, speaking to people and yeah… it’s just about hanging at all the gigs and supporting other musicians – when they play, go watch them. And through doing that, I’ve met some incredible – not only people that I’m collaborating with, but just friends, you know. I’ve met incredible people here that are really so friendly and encouraging and have really been encouraging towards me. So yeah, that’s it in a nutshell – well, maybe not in a nutshell, but that’s been my experience so far. [06:49] Tim Smal: Wonderful. Well it sounds like you’re having a great time in New York. I’m glad to hear about your involvement in the songwriting circles – it certainly must be very helpful to receive constructive feedback on your songs. I’m also amazed to hear that you have written over thirty songs since your arrival in the States, so I guess we can look forward to a new record from Gavin Gold or The Rebel Nerds in the not-so-distant future. In fact, I’d like to know a bit more about your plans, in terms of your new project The Rebel Nerds, where you are collaborating with musician Jake Adams. [07:24] Gavin Gold: I plan to really take it quite seriously, this project. I really think that we are a great combination and that we can put a smile on people’s faces – really go out there and play these songs. It’s a kinda quirky, pop-punk genre that we play. And I think, the reaction that we get is that we hear lots of giggles and lots of people laughing while we playing the songs, you know, ‘cos they listen to the lyrics and it’s fast, fun music. And I think, we would like to share the joy – these songs are quirky and happy, and we want to share that with with our fans. And we are taking this seriously – we really want to reach as many people as possible and share our music. At the moment we just trying to find creative ways of virtual rehearsing and that kind of thing, just to prepare through this difficult time, while the coronavirus takes hold. [08:17] Tim Smal: One of the new songs that you have written since your arrival in New York, is called ‘The Flintstones’ and there’s a video clip on your website of you performing it with The Rebel Nerds. I really enjoyed this song, so I was hoping you could tell me a bit more about it? [08:33] Gavin Gold: I don’t know how many of you listening have watched The Flintstones, but it was pretty much like The Simpsons – The Simpsons actually took over from The Flintstones. And when The Simpsons was on the box, everybody started watching that and The Flintstones, kind of, melted away. But it was as big as that at one stage. It’s just a fun song about the first love. When I was at school, I thought girls were contagious and that all changed, but unfortunately voice crack and teenage pimples got the better of me. And then all I wanted was a girl, but I couldn’t get one. Then I met my first girlfriend and that’s what the song is basically about – your first girlfriend! And just the awkwardness of having that first kiss and so on and so on. [09:18] Tim Smal: That’s a great story. I actually watched the live-action Flintstones film from ’94 the other day and it was heaps of fun – I haven’t seen it in years. Well Gavin, I must say, I really enjoy your style of songwriting – you inject a lot of humour into your music and the songs certainly appeal to a variety of different generations. Out of the shows that you’ve played in New York City so far, which have been some of your most memorable shows? [09:46] Gavin Gold: I did the Newark Porch Festival, which was quite a nice experience in New Jersey. Most memorable… I think, some of the open mics that we’ve done with The Rebel Nerds have been the most memorable. The last time we played at Pete’s Candy Store, we had such a great response, it was really encouraging. For me, the proof is in the pudding – when I go play a song live and people are raving and they singing before we even hit the second chorus… and then the third chorus, we took the house off – and that really tells me that I’m doing something right. [10:22] Tim Smal: If our listeners would like to find out where you’re playing in the future or listen to more of your music online, where is the best place for them to go? [10:31] Gavin Gold: I have a website – it’s gavingoldmusic.com [10:35] Tim Smal: Well, thanks so much for speaking with us today Gavin. It’s been really cool to find out how things are going for you in New York. I’m sure it’s just the start of an awesome journey for you, in terms of your musical career in the US. Of course, once the coronavirus pandemic passes, I’m sure you’ll be back on stage with The Rebel Nerds doing your thing in no time, so we look forward to following your progress into the new decade. [10:58] Gavin Gold: Thanks Tim. Thanks very much for the opportunity. It’s always good speaking to you as a friend and now as a radio interviewer. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
22 minutes | Mar 14, 2020
Stephen Aspeling – The streaming service revolution
March 14th, 2020 Stephen AspelingThe streaming service revolution Stephen Aspeling, a film critic at Spling Movies, talks about video streaming services. Stephen Aspeling, better known as “Spling”, has been a film fanatic since he first watched the psychedelic elephant dance from Dumbo in the early ’80s and a movie critic since 2007. Now a trusted independent South African movie authority, he’s turned a lifelong passion into a full-time pursuit: reviewing, writing, presenting, promoting and adjudicating film for a host of websites, radio stations, magazines, newspapers, TV shows, festivals and events. Visit Stephen’s website
26 minutes | Jan 18, 2019
Jono Le Feuvre – The South African wine industry
January 18th, 2019 Jono Le FeuvreThe South African wine industry Jono Le Feuvre, a wine critic at Han Drinks Solo, talks about South African wine. Jono Le Feuvre is not a bean counter. He is a bean roaster. Bean roasters carry far more street cred and get to speak at bizarre niche gatherings of enquiring-but-unhinged-minds. They also usually have addictive tendencies. When he is not roasting beans he is pulling corks. Or deftly removing screwcap enclosures. Visit Jono’s website Transcript – pdf Tim Smal (host): Hi there and welcome to the show. My name is Tim and our guest today is Jono Le Feuvre from Han Drinks Solo dot com that’s right, it’s a pop-culture wine blog, very exciting. So Jono, how’s it going today? Jono Le Feuvre (guest): It’s an honour to be here. Yeah, I’m hoping that I can share a little bit about what excites me about wine. The reason, I guess – actually I suppose, you don’t know why you have a wine blog, right? It’s kind of a weird thing to do, but hopefully by the end of it we figure out where the passion lies and what I think is so incredibly exciting about wine in South Africa. [00:39] Tim Smal: Awesome. So why don’t we kick things off – tell us a little bit about what Han Drinks Solo dot com is all about, how it started and what people can expect to see if they visit the website right now. [00:50] Jono Le Feuvre: So I am – for ten years I have been… I founded and I run a specialty coffee roastery. If you’re looking for somewhere to drink coffee we did just win ‘Best Coffee Roastery’ in South Africa. So that is Rosetta Roastery – but that’s a story for another day. I have been in coffee for 10 years and it’s very much a sensory, serious kind of thing – you’re talking about Bergamo and citrus and acidity and balance and finish. And it’s a super pretentious field. And my place in it has always been trying to shake off the pretention. But at the same time, being fascinated by really boring stuff. So like organic chemistry, acidity, sweetness, balance – like what happens when you cook a green, insoluble bean and you make it brown and then soluble and then you add hot water and then these amazing flavours come up. So that whole thing has always fascinated me. And then I had kids and started drinking heavily, so you know how goes, right? That really is how it went. And I realised that from nonchalantly going “Well, coffee can be like wine” and really not knowing very much about wine… I remember one particular interview for a local magazine I said something about “How coffee is just like wine” and I made some bizarre comment about a Merlot. I think I said “A Merlot being, you know, something – a really, a really full body, tannic wine like a Merlot” because I thought that was the truth. And I was wrong. And I felt like such an idiot after that and I thought “I don’t really wanna feel like an idiot – maybe I should start looking into this wine thing”, seeing as I was casually drinking it. And I just went like “Woah, these parallels go deeper than I could have possibly thought”. And actually there’s – yeah, there’s too much to talk about there. So it kind of sucked me down like Alice in Wonderland, down the rabbit hole. And I realised that there’s this entire field with a far deeper sense of history than coffee has, but with all the same kind of sensory and organic chemistry attributes. And so I found myself, almost torn between these two and I’m still torn – I do coffee all day and I do wine all night. So I kind of got into it out of my love for coffee and sensory and organic chemistry and smell and taste. And then realised that there’s a far bigger world in wine and that I wanted to explore that. [03:05] Tim Smal: I was checking out the blog earlier today and one thing I found really interesting was that, even though there’s a lot of great information about wine for newbies and seasoned wine drinkers, there’s also a lot of really interesting humour and fun in your blog. So for example, I see pop culture references to films, to music and it’s something really unique and something really interesting, because I couldn’t help laugh a lot of the references there. Tell us more about what that’s about. [03:30] Jono Le Feuvre: I was saying earlier how sometimes the pretension can turn people off. With coffee I got so excited about the product but realised that a lot of people were even too scared to set foot in our roastery. One old lady said “I’m never bringing my husband here, his jeans are not skinny enough”. And I realise that happens with wine all the time, in that people almost – they don’t want to say anything. I run wine tastings where I get people into my home and then I ask people “What do you taste?” People are terrified to talk. It’s usually by about the fifth wine when everyone’s just chilled out a little bit, then people start talking. But I was like, “Why are they so slow or scared to say something wrong?” And I really want to get rid of that as soon as possible – the sooner you realise you’re wrong, the sooner you can learn. So the whole tone of the blog is trying to say, “Hey look – none of us are geniuses here” and the more I can make fun of myself or my references, the more comfortable I think readers will be to go “Okay, this is a place that’s not – first of all, it’s not pretentious, and second of all, it’s not snobby.” People say, “I’m a wine snob or I’m a coffee snob” – why would you want to claim that for yourself? A ‘snob’ looks down on other people instead of sharing joy with other people. So that’s kind of… the pop culture thing is: everyone loves movies, everyone loves music – if I can reference that, if I can tap into your love for Mickey Mouse while sipping on a wooded Sauvignon Blanc then heck, you almost forget that you were supposed to be serious and you can have fun with it. So for me that’s partially just a natural passion and partially something that – everyone’s watched Mary Poppins right, but not everyone has drunk a 20 year-old Bordeaux. So if you can reference one to the other maybe there’s a way that people can feel more comfortable talking about it. [05:05] Tim Smal: Well I guess that’s the interesting thing about the wine industry, right? If I think of the film “Somm 2: Into the Bottle”, you can watch the film for an hour and a half and they tell you about a whole bunch of aspects of the wine industry and the history and how it’s made and you can experience everybody’s passion throughout the film and so forth… And everybody has their opinion and it’s always interesting hearing different opinions. For example, in the film they’ll say – one of the guys will say, “Well, you know, Chardonnay is such a flavoursome wine it should be consumed on its own, it shouldn’t be paired with food”. And then the next person will say “Well, Chardonnay is such a beautiful wine with so many flavours, it’s a perfect food pairing [wine].” So there’s all these different opinions and I like what they say at the end of the film, if I remember correctly, that “Ultimately we talking about fermented grape juice here” – at the end of the day it’s about pleasure, it’s about joy it’s about being with people and enjoying the wine for what it is. So I think that’s what’s coming through in your blog and it’s great to see that. And I guess everybody should go and check it out right now. But let’s talk a little bit about the wines that we’re drinking today. At the moment we are tasting a really lovely Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend. Tell us a little bit about that. [06:07] Jono Le Feuvre: So we’re drinking the Strandveld Adamastor 2016 wooded Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend. So I first discovered this wine at WineMag – they released their top ten ‘Sauv/Sem’ blend wines of the year and I was attending the tasting. And it was just one that stood out to me as being particularly representative of it’s terroir. Okay, so now that’s probably one of the most pretentious things we’ve heard all week. But what I mean by all that, is that it just – it was so different. It wasn’t necessarily better [than others] – in fact, I think there were other wines that were better. But it was so distinctive – I mean the saline, the savoury notes, the crazy elderflower, which I’ve talked about… This kind of, elderflower reference in Sauvignon Blanc which I’ve always associated only with the ‘Old World’ – this mystical, you know, these herbal Sauvignon Blancs that we’ll never grow ‘cos our climate is too warm. And to have your mind blown and go: South Africa has got some crazy cool climate regions that are producing these insane Old World-style wines right on our doorstep. And it’s like, South Africa at 350 years of winemaking – we are the oldest of the ‘New World’ and it kind of puts us in pole position for being the most interesting wine region in the world. Because we’ve got the tradition of the Old World, we’ve got the kind of ‘go-get-it’ attitude where we can break the rules and do what we want because we’re technically ‘New World’. And then we produce a wine like Strandveld’s Adamastor which has just got waves of fruit and clever use of oak and it’s just got everything in there. One thing I will say about it, is it’s not at all easy drinking – you’re not gonna casually sip this in the jacuzzi because there’s so much going on. It’s got this gorgeously elegant acidity – oak is not invisible, it’s very deliberate (the use of oak), even though it’s only had 10 months. So for me, what am I enjoying? I think I just enjoy that it feels like an education in a bottle. You sip on it and you go “What on earth am I tasting?” And you have to ask questions about how the wine is made and how it’s blended. And for me, what I do with the blog is: If a wine can educate me just by tasting it, that’s fascinating. So I wanna ask questions, I wanna go “How long was it in oak? How did they do that? What was the bâtonnage? Were they stirring up the lease? What on earth were they doing?” And so that’s why I chose this wine because there’s just so much to talk about. So I was gonna say, you should ask me some question seeing as you’re drinking it as well. [08:28] Tim Smal: Well I’m glad we’re drinking a white wine to start off today, so just to repeat the wine: It’s a Strandveld Vineyards Adamastor. It’s a Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend 2016. So it’s made and bottled by Strandveld Vineyards in Elim, South Africa – is that correct? Which is close to Cape Agulhas. And what’s really nice about this, is the blend is interesting – it’s Sauvignon Blanc 54% and Semillon 46%. So a nice even balance. You often find that the [white Bordeaux] blends are either 75% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillon or the other way around – so often, three quarters of one of them. But it’s nice to see a… almost 50-50 split. Interestingly enough, I’ve become quite fond, or grown quite fond of the white wines. I guess, typically I was a red [wine] fan, but living in the Constantia area and appreciating the cool climate and the white wines that are produced there, I’ve really, started to enjoy my white wines, I guess. So I’m really enjoying this. Did we talk about what was on the nose here? [09:28] Jono Le Feuvre: I was talking earlier about that… about the elderflower on the nose, which for me – I mean, obviously there’s not just the fruit, there’s the secondary stuff as well, but just that reference to elderflower I think is incredible because it’s not something that’s super readily detected on South African Sauvignon Blancs. Often what we drink is a slightly warmer climate and we every reference pineapples and we reference, like at best, cut grass and gooseberries – if it’s gonna be a Constantia Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps it’s gonna be that more gooseberry, cut grass, herbal element. But as I was saying earlier, I’ve always associated that elderflower, kind of, herbal sweet element as being a totally Old World thing, so for me that’s amazing. And then to add in the complexity of what is almost like a toasted, um… well, it’s like a piece of bread, but… piece of toast. [laughs] It’s almost like a toasted piece of bread. But the lovely oak inference that comes through fascinates me. People are always trying to hide oak in minimal intervention or that which is going down and we can talk about that with the red wine. I enjoy… If you gonna use oak, heck – use oak, I wanna know about it. And I think that’s what I love about this, is that it’s not a wine trying to be on trend. It’s a wine trying to express it’s region and it’s wine making practice – it’s not trying to hide anything. And I think that’s, kind of, what makes it’s so elegant. [10:49] Tim Smal: Obviously we looking at the Adamastor from Strandveld today. Or Strandveld, as the Americans would say… Strandveld. But while we are on whites, are there any other whites that are in heavy rotation at this point in time of noteworthy mention? [11:04] Jono Le Feuvre: The Cape Point ‘Isleigh’ (or Islead, if you want to pronounce it like that). It is Isleigh, but it’s spelt i-s-l-e-i-g-h – is a blend from Cape Point Vineyards. Also a wooded Bordeaux white blend, is probably the highlight of last year for me as far as wines in general go. And I think that’s funny, you were saying earlier you drink mostly red wines but you’ve been getting into your whites – I would say the same thing. Probably 65% of what I drink is red and yet if I would to list the best ten wines I’ve had over the last five years, probably the top five would be white. When when South African white wines are good, I think they are some of the best in the world. So some of them that I’ve discovered recently I would say that Cape Point Isleigh is up there. Highland Road from Elgin have produced a ‘Sine Cera’ which is another white Bordeaux blend with some oak in there. Sine cera is spelt (sine cera). And Elgin generally as a region is incredibly exciting. If you’re shopping internationally and you’re looking for white wines to explore – you must hunt down stuff from Elgin (e-l-g-i-n) and Elim. So the other white wines that are exciting me enormously are David Niewoudt’s Sauvignon Blancs. He’s got a ‘Ghost Corner’ Sauvignon Blanc and he’s got a ‘Wild Ferment’ Sauvignon Blanc. I mean, he’s just killing it. So he is the winemaker from Cedarberg. But he also has chosen to make a range of wines called ‘Ghost Corner’ which is exclusively from Elim. And I think he’s one of the finest wine makers in South Africa at the moment. So if we were to just quickly list four to sum it up: Highland Road Sine Cera, the Cape Point Isleigh, and then two of David Niewoudt’s the Ghost Corner Sauvignon Blanc and the Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc. And obviously this Adamastor from Strandveld would make a nice round five. [12:56] Tim Smal: Alright, so it’s time for us to move on to our red wine of the day and we are tasting the Arendsig Shiraz ‘Block A12’ red wine, so Jono has poured this for us and we’ve had a bit of a taste. Jono, tell us more about this wine. [13:14] Jono Le Feuvre: I chose this wine specifically because the philosophy annoys me. And you to have to just give me a few minutes here, because otherwise you’re going to tune out and think I’m saying bad things about Arendsig and I’m not. What I often object to in the new very trendy, minimalist intervention, only natural wines, no sulphites, only old oak, neutral vessels, neutral flavour, neutral everything… I’m like – “Can we just make some wine?” Like, there’s so much tradition, why are we trying to rebel against it? And the minimal intervention school is rife with people rebelling against a past for no reason other than for the sake of rebelling. And to me that kind of angst, I’m like – “I don’t need that in my wine, I don’t want angst in my wine”. So Arendsig are actually – they are some of the leaders in South Africa for minimal interference [rambling]. And sometimes I find these wines, not Arendsig specifically, but wines can be like – “Wow it’s so minimal, you almost forgot to make the wine”. It’s like, “What have we got here, we’ve got some weird tasting fruit juice. There’s no tannins, there’s no alcohol, there’s no… [rambling] Wow, it’s so minimal it’s not even [wine]…” So as a school of thought, which is very ‘cool’ right now, so I’m aware that saying this makes me sound super ‘uncool’ and I’m sure the ‘fashion wine police’ will be at my door, but it’s a concept that I find problematic. But if you’re gonna be a good journalist, if you’re really gonna do your job in your field, you have to engage with the things that you don’t necessarily like. So I bought this wine having never tasted it, in order to challenge my own preconceptions and as we were saying earlier, it’s an incredible Shiraz. That’s the ultimate win. And we were saying earlier, if you really want to get the best out of South Africa as a wine territory, you have to constantly challenge your own preconceptions. And partially because of what I was saying earlier, people come from Europe to South Africa thinking “Oh, the New World, the New World” – we’ve been making wines for 350 years. We’ve got plenty of Old World in us. [They] also think “Oh, South Africa, it’s hot, it’s dry” – we’ve got some amazing cool climate regions. And we are so varied, that honestly you have to be ready to be surprised. In my blog writing, I would ten times out of ten, choose a wine I’ve never had before, over a wine that I know that I’ve have had and love, because it means the chance to experience something new. So this Arendsig Block A12 Shiraz is an insane example of a minimalist intervention wine that still delivers incredible concentration. For those of you who – I don’t know, maybe you’re not that familiar with minimal intervention: It’s almost like some guys are too afraid to even look at the grapes in case they scare it into producing some tannins or something, so they treat them super gently and they only use free-run juice and they don’t press anything and they – It’s almost like they are… giving the grapes gentle massages prior to harvest, or whatever, to make sure that they don’t get bruised. And the end result is often a very soft, very gentle, very light, very neutral wine. And Arendsig have shown me today, at least, that you can produce a concentrated, really imposing red wine that is also beautifully soft at the same time. So I guess it’s, kind of, “Thanks for teaching me a sensory lesson” and I can’t recommend this A12 enough. [16:41] Tim Smal: Yeah, I like what you say about challenging your preconceptions and, I guess, if I think about a Pinotage wine, for example, Pinotage is unique to South Africa and many South Africans have consumed a lot of Pinotage over the years and often just view it as a cheap wine. And often they’ll say “ Ahh, you know, Pinotage… you know, whatever, Pinotage – give me something else”. And often they don’t realise actually how exquisite some Pinotages can be, and when they taste a really high-quality one, it changes their whole perception of Pinotage. And it’s interesting seeing tourists coming to South Africa tasting high-quality Pinotages and really just being completely blown away. And so it just shows you that challenging your preconceptions is really an important part of exploring South African wines. If we look at this Shiraz that we’re tasting now from Arendsig – it’s quite different to say, the Groot Constantia Shiraz. I find that the Groot Constantia Shiraz, for example, to be quite full bodied, quite heavy – it’s a very powerful wine. Whereas this [Arendsig] Shiraz is – it’s actually very different, it’s very different to that Groot Constantia one. So even for myself, my preconceptions have been challenged – even just exploring Shiraz. And we were chatting earlier about Syrah and Shiraz. Tell us a little bit more about how you see the difference between the two and your opinion on classifying Shiraz versus Syrah. [18:03] Jono Le Feuvre: To be clear, I’ve formed – as a journalist, I’ve a formed my views based on what I see in South Africa. So in Australia, everything is Shiraz. In France, everything is Syrah. In South Africa, again because we’re such a fascinating mixture of, you know, grabbing from wherever… The most prominent distinction I see, is that often a lower, more accessible, made to be drunk young, type wine will be called Shiraz. It’s also a term that is very accessible – it’s probably more familiar to the South African public than Syrah. And Syrah is often reserved for more expensive, more premium, reserve style wines. So to be clear, genetically it is the exact same thing. It’s not even identical twins – it’s the same person. It’s like, this is Brian from Benoni and he is Shiraz and Syrah at the same time. I suppose it’s more like, you know what it is – it’s Bruce Wayne and Batman. It’s like asking who has the better haircut, right? It’s the same guy. It’s not even like, twin brothers – it’s the same guy. So Strandveld [Vineyards], who we we spoke about earlier, have a Syrah. And that Syrah is their flagship red [wine]. Where they also have a lower tiered ‘First Sighting’ Shiraz. Same grape, same exact clone, but one is a Shiraz, which is a supermarket range (which is insane value and you should find it) and the other is a far more expensive, and also far more sensory – it’s like a sensory adventure, but that’s their Strandveld Syrah. So for me the difference in South Africa – I think people are almost, it’s almost as if no-one even argues about it anymore: If it’s expensive and fancy, you call a Syrah; if it’s cheap and accessible, you call Shiraz. [19:47] Tim Smal: Alright so, in terms of this Arendsig Shiraz… Can we describe just a little bit of what you’re picking up on the nose, what you’re picking up on the pallet. I’m quite interested to hear you talk about that [19:58] Jono Le Feuvre: So the most common element you probably expect from a South African Shiraz specifically, is an element of pepper and an element of ripe black fruit. And really it’s the kind of ratio of those two which will… Let me put it in simplest terms – will define what kind of Shiraz you’re getting. And this particular one has got this amazing hint of clean, white pepper, but also some fairly ripe blackberry fruit. And I think it’s that lovely contrast of ripe fruit with stark spice and there’s an ever so subtle hint of non-fruit flavours – so what you would call ‘secondary’, which is the result of winemaking. Now I really don’t wanna upset the guys at Arendsig and say that I smelt anything other than just pure fruit, because that’s what the minimal intervention guys taste. But I think there’s an ever so subtle hint of an ‘oakiness’ to it. Yes, so and that – but sorry, just to go back on minimal intervention: That’s kind of why I object to that school of thought because what it says is “Unless you’re testing fresh fruit and fruit only, then you’ve done something wrong” and “oak is an additive and people are messing up wine with oak”. Whereas I feel like the history of oak and wine is so entrenched that it is part of what the wine experience is. So, to sum it up: Tiny bit of oak, lovely layers of concentrated black fruit on the nose – even some lavender, floral elements. And what makes a Shiraz a Shiraz – some white pepper spice. But the spice in no way overwhelms the fruit – the fruit is the main player here. [21:29] Tim Smal: Great, will there we have it – Jono Le Feuvre from Han Drinks Solo trying out a white a red wine today. You can check out his blog at handrinkssolo.com – And any last messages, any last… you know, anything you want to tell the folks out there? [21:48] Jono Le Feuvre: We’re talking about Pinotage early and I’m working on a feature called ‘Wine as seen on TV’ because I noticed – I was watching an episode of ‘The Green Arrow’ the other day (don’t judge me), but I watched an episode of The Green Arrow and in this nightclub scene, in the background was Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc up lining the shelves of this night club in this episode of The [Green] Arrow. And I’m also part of a number of international Vivino groups or WhatsApp groups or chat groups, and guys will often send me [messages] like, “Wow I just found this South African wine, it’s amazing”, and you look at it and you’re like “Oh, that’s…”, Pinotage specifically, like “Oh, that’s, wow that’s really entry-level”. But they got it in Europe somewhere and paid four times the price and that is what Pinotage is to them. You know, it’s like the chocolate Pinotage or the coffee Pinotage or the… where it’s like, you don’t even know what they did – or you do know, but you don’t wanna talk about [it]. Really all they can say is like “I can taste coffee and chocolate”, and you’re like “but can you taste wine?” A lot of the wines that get exported are… We have no idea how much wine gets – that we’ve never heard of, that gets exported – you know, out of Wellington and Robertson and those regions. And that is often what people experience of South African wine. So if people are listening internationally, you have to know that there is a huge spectrum of slightly more expensive South African wines that are amongst the best in the world. And that regularly, international wine writers are praising these wines as some of the most groundbreaking wines that are being produced – especially in the New World. So if you are a wine lover internationally – go to a specialist store, don’t buy the cheapest South African wine. Take a step up and realise that South Africa is a producer of fine wines. Our perception internationally, and this is a big problem, is that we are on a level with Chile and Peru for great, kind of ‘bargain-bin’ wines, like “Oh, great value.” And what guys are not seeing is that you’ve got producers who are amongst the best in the world. You’ve got Groot Constantia, who produce Chardonnays that are finishing in the Chardonnay du Monde, like the best Chardonnay in the world. You’ve got people like Andrea Mullineux from from Mullineux wines (M-u-l-l-i-n-e-u-x), who was last year’s Wine Enthusiast’s, or two years ago, Wine Enthusiast’s International Winemaker of the Year. Samantha O’Keefe from Lismore Wines, who is producing a Shiraz 2014 – it was one of the top twenty reds in the world. You’ve got Kleine Zalze, their family Cabernet Sauvignon who’s been listed by Decanter as one of the most exciting New World reds. You’ve got South African wines who are literally topping the charts around the world – not just in South Africa, not as a value proposition, but as an ‘out-and-out quality solution’. And I think the perception of South African wines need to change from, in inverted commas, “great value” to “just great”. And that’s something that I’d love to see and I know a lot of South African journalists are pushing to see us progress beyond a value proposition into just pure meritus. [24:05] Tim Smal: Great. Well thanks for joining us today Jono Le Feuvre from Han Drinks Solo. And if any of the listeners would like to get in touch, what’s the best email address for them to contact you on? [25:15] Jono Le Feuvre: email@example.com – but Instagram is also great. Especially you just – it’s easy to interact. My handle is [updated] @han_drinks_solo You can find all the Han Drinks Solo images and links to the blog. [25:33] Tim Smal: Thanks for listening and cheers – take care everyone.
22 minutes | Sep 14, 2015
Doug Keith – Pony
September 14th, 2015 Doug KeithPony Doug Keith talks about his journey from playing punk rock bass guitar to becoming a singer-songwriter in reference to his record ‘Pony’. If you’ve never heard of Doug Keith but think you’ve seen him somewhere, it’s probably because you have. Although he’s an accomplished solo artist—his first full-length album, Here’s To Outliving Me, was an NPR and Sirius XM favorite—he’s spent much of his musical career on the sidelines supporting other musicians. His first touring gig, playing bass for San Francisco-based punk band The Gods Hate Kansas, started his lifelong love of playing live and touring. Visit Doug Keith‘s website
25 minutes | Aug 24, 2015
Simon van Gend – Suffer Well
August 24th, 2015 Simon van GendSuffer Well Simon van Gend, a singer-songwriter, talks about overcoming writer’s block in reference to his record ‘Suffer Well’. The Simon van Gend Band are an introspective indie/folk/rock band from Cape Town, whose music has been described as “a unique blend of folksie foot-tapping red wine fireside poetry.” This trio, with Simon on vocals and acoustic guitar, Eric Michot on bass and Ross Campbell on drums, has released 5 albums to date. Visit Simon van Gend‘s website transcript – PDF Tim Smal (host): It’s Simon van Gend on Assembly Radio with “Be My Echo”, a song off his new record “Suffer Well”. Simon van Gend is a songwriter from Cape Town, South Africa and between February 2014 and February 2015 he challenged himself to write a song every week for a year. Each week he posted a brand new song to his blog until all 52 were released into the world wide web. On completion of this mammoth task, he connected with Johannesburg-based artist Sanette Stegman, who took on her own challenge to make an ink drawing for each of these songs. Each illustration is inspired by the stories and the mood they invoke and include a line of the lyrics. At the same time Simon and his introspective indie folk-rock band called ‘Simon and the band apart’ has teamed up with producer Chris Tuck to record the best of the blog songs for a new album. And this will all come together at a joint exhibition opening and album launch on the 3rd of September at the Youngblood gallery in Bree Street, Cape Town, as part of the First Thursday initiative. Each illustration will be box-framed with the CD of that song and the event will feature a live performance by the band of the songs on the new album. And we are very privileged today to have Simon live in the studio. How you doing today Simon? Simon van Gend (guest): Yeah, I’m good thanks. [01:24] Tim Smal: Thanks for joining us. [01:25] Simon van Gend: It’s my pleasure. [01:27] Tim Smal: Right, well let’s talk about this new album. Obviously it’s been a long time coming, you’ve been working really hard at it. Let’s go back to the beginning, the genesis of the project and talk about how you came up with the idea. [01:38] Simon van Gend: Okay. Well I actually gave a talk on this the other day. I don’t know if you know these ‘Pecha Kucha’ talks, in fact they have them here at The Assembly usually, but this one was in the city hall. And so if I end up sounding like I’m giving a Pecha Kucha talk it’s ‘cos I memorized this stuff last week. So it started with something that… I don’t know if you know the podcast “This American Life”, well it’s a radio show in the States and Ira Glass is the guy who presents it. And I heard an interview with him and he was talking about becoming a writer and what makes people become writers and what they go through. And basically he talks about this thing he calls ‘the gap’ and he says that when people set out to become artists, the thing that inspires them is that they have good taste. So they know what great art is, and they love it, and they wanna be able to do it – they want to be able to emulate that great art. And so they set out on their journey and start creating. And the first thing they realise [is], because they know what great art is and they can tell the difference between good and bad art, it immediately becomes apparent to them that there is this huge gap between the art that they are creating and the art they are aspiring to create. And basically they realise that ‘they suck’ and because that’s such an unpleasant feeling, what happens to a lot of people is that they give up right at the beginning of the journey thinking that the ability to make that great art is some god-given talent that they just don’t have. But what Ira Glass explains in this interview is that the only way you can close that gap, is by putting in the hours and doing the work. So I basically wanted to put that to the test and see what would happen if I found a way to make myself work really hard at my songwriting. But I knew that it was going to be hard to discipline myself and I needed some clever trick to force myself to work hard. And that’s where I came up with this concept of ‘a song a week’ and the trick is to go public – the minute you tell everybody you gonna do something and go onto Facebook and tell your friends, then if you don’t follow through with that you gonna end up looking really bad and that was the whole idea of setting up the blog, announcing it on Facebook and then I basically couldn’t back out of it and it forced me to carry through with the process, even though it was incredibly stressful. And when I was in the middle of it I wish’d I hadn’t done it – there was no way I could not do it ‘cos I would have looked stupid. So that was how – what got me into it and how I managed to do it. [04:03] Tim Smal: So you had to get a ‘pro’ SoundCloud account to enable you to upload all those hours of audio. [04:07] Simon van Gend: Exactly, yes. That’s what I realised about halfway through when I started running out of space. [04:12] Tim Smal: Alright, so you essentially wrote a song a week and uploaded it onto SoundCloud for an entire year. So what was it like in the first month or so? Did it flow quite easily? When did it start to get difficult for you? [04:23] Simon van Gend: No, it was difficult from the beginning – it never got harder or more difficult in a general way. There were weeks where it was harder and there were some weeks where I would just write the song without even really trying. It’s like that, you know, sometimes you’ll really have to work hard for that song and it won’t end up being such a great song even. And sometimes it’ll just happen, it’ll kind of fall out of you and you’ll think “Oh, that must be a rubbish song ‘cos it was much too easy to write.” And then you play it to people and you realise “Actually no, that was a good one.” One of the great things about the whole process was that you end up with a lot of songs, so you can’t really control when a song is gonna be a good song. All you can do is write the song and find out later if it was a good one or not. And writing a lot of songs means there’s more likely to be good ones. So for example, I heard this interview once with Beck on another podcast I love to listen to called ‘All Songs Considered’ – I don’t know if you guys know that podcast, it’s an NPR show. And Bob Boilen, who’s the host said to Beck “I don’t believe you’ve ever written a bad song”. And Beck said “No, I’ve written plenty of bad songs – it’s just no-one ever hears them. But to write the good ones you got to write the bad ones.” And that’s really what I discovered. [If] you mass produce in this way, you’re gonna end up with lots of good ones. And also, if you go into a studio to record an album – say you’ve got 15 to 20 songs, which is kinda what I would have done in the past, it means you’re gonna end up putting songs on the album that maybe you’re not entirely sure should go on. But in this case because I had 52 to choose from, it meant [that] I didn’t have to compromise at all on that – on the quality of which songs ended up on the album. I mean, I really feel like every single song is like a strong song, you know. And yeah, I mean basically I’ve got to do this for every album that I ever make from now on because there’s no going back. I’ve seen how well this works. [06:28] Tim Smal: And so, essentially you are living proof of that concept that creating a body of work really does pay off, in [the] sense of being a creative and trying to get [those] good quality songs out there. You have to keep producing a whole massive of body of work, that’s the only way that you get to the end goal. [06:46] Simon van Gend: I guess, yeah. You know, and also writing a lot of songs gives you leeway to mess around with crazy ideas, ‘cos if one idea doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter, ‘cos there gonna be so many other songs to choose from in the end. So I started just taking a chance and writing songs about things that I’ve never written about, you know. I mean, I wrote songs about climate change, and I – I’ve got a song there called ‘Suffer Well’ which became the title track, which when I wrote I thought, “This is a helluva heavy thing to write a song about – should I really be going so deep into this thing?” But I thought, “No, what the hell, you know – there’s so many songs that I’ve got to play with; I can just write the thing in and take a chance on it, you know.” And very often the ones I did take a chance on ended up being the better ones, which is quite interesting. [07:33] Tim Smal: It must have been a very interesting experience though, looking at 52 songs that you’ve written and then deciding which are the ones that you want to choose for the album because with so many songs – and an album normally being, what – 10 to 15 songs – that’s a massive reduction of the songs. So let’s talk about that process of actually choosing the ones that appeared on the album. [07:53] Simon van Gend: Well, that’s very easy to answer. All we did was, we got all our friends… [rambling] There’s a bunch of people we know that love the music, that we could trust with their opinions – some fans, some friends. And there were most probably – I don’t know, about 10 or so people, that we got to make lists of which songs they’d like to hear on an album. And all I did was, I got them to make A-lists and B-lists. And then anything that was on a A-list, got two points, anything that was on a B-list, got one point. And then I just added up the points and made a new list, based on those lists. And that’s how we worked out which [songs] were gonna be on the album. But there was still a little bit of leeway – I mean there was one song which didn’t make that list with my drummer Ross insisted be on [the album] ‘cos it’s his favourite. You know, things like that. [08:49] Tim Smal: So you actually relied, essentially, on your friends all your fans, if you will. [08:53] Simon van Gend: Well, I generally do, you know. I’ve got such a hectic internal critic that it’s very hard for me to actually appreciate my own music until someone else tells me, “Okay, that’s a good song”, ‘cos that critic in me has destroyed that song for me in that way. Like… it’s hard to explain. I kinda tend to run my own work down so hard and it’s really something I need to do something about ‘cos it’s a big obstacle to the creative process. But in fact, that’s really why it was necessary for me to do something like a song a week because it forced me to finish the songs, despite what that [internal critic says]. You know, the thing Ira Glass said, “that feeling of I suck” – well, I mean, that’s essentially what “writer’s block” is, I think, in my case at any rate. It’s like you start writing a song and then there’s this voice in your head saying, “This song sucks. You suck. You’re an imposter. You’re not a real artist. Who you kidding?” And that voice, for whatever reason, I don’t know where it comes – from probably some rubbish from my past, you know. But having a weekly deadline meant I couldn’t let that voice stop me because – I don’t have a choice. And so it became very clear to me that writer’s block is really just the fear of making bad art. So you just carry on writing no matter what and that’s the trick for me, is to just keep doing the job. It’s like: “I know how to do it. I can do it.” And it doesn’t require that I be feeling fantastic about the song, although that helps and that’s definitely a fuel that keeps you going. But you can also keep going just by keeping going and that really worked, you know. [10:27] Tim Smal: And did you find that as you did “keep going”, that that voice got softer over time – that critical voice? Or did you find it was always kind of there? [10:36] Simon van Gend: No, it was always there. I mean, that voice is to do with unconscious stuff that’s not gonna change just because you keep beating it. If you gonna fix that you need to go to therapy or something. It’s like… that’s what I think. [10:50] Brian Bohlin (co-host): I’m very familiar with that voice. [10:53] Tim Smal: Yeah, I think songwriters or artists are familiar with that voice. I mean, I know from my own perspective when I’ve tried to write songs, I always feel, “This is not a great song. This is…” [rambling] There’s so many different things you can think. “Oh, this sounds like something else. The lyrics are weak. The melody is average…” [11:12] Simon van Gend: Yeah, but you’re learning something. No matter how good the song ends up being, by sitting there and plowing through the process of finishing the song, trying your best every time – you’re learning something. So even – it might be a song that’s not so good, you know, [it] doesn’t matter. You’re on that journey up the mountain to where, you know, where the great songs are. [11:32] Tim Smal: Exactly. I mean, that was the whole idea behind ‘the body of work’, is that you’re only gonna write your best songs if you produce a big body of work, ‘cos how else are you gonna know – how you are gonna be able to differentiate [between the songs]? [11:44] Simon van Gend: And also you’re learning new things along the way. Every song I wrote, I learnt something: I learnt a new turn of phrase or I learnt a new way to sing over that chord progression, you know – or a new way to find an idea. I discovered a great trick for finding song ideas when I really had no ideas. In fact, the song ‘Suffer Well’… I found – I almost think I shouldn’t say this ‘cos it’s supposed to be some ‘mystical thing’ where you find ideas for songs, but I was… I had this guitar part that I really liked and I thought, “Okay, I’ve gotta write a song this week”, and I had no idea. So I went onto… I just started… you know, this thing called ‘Stumble-Upon’ where you just, it just throws random websites at you. And it landed me on the quotations website and there was a quotation by Muhammad Ali and he said that “he hated every minute of his training” But, you know, he just didn’t enjoy being in the gym – he hated it. But he knew that if he wanted to be a champion, he had to suffer that. So this is a quotation about suffering and I thought, “Hang on – that’s great. What other quotations are there gonna be on this website about suffering?” So I just typed ‘suffering’ in the search bar, and it threw up all these amazing quotations by Dostoevsky and Keats and Nietzsche. So I just basically collected the quotes I liked and started writing a song based on those quotes and some of my own ideas. But there’s a great way to find song ideas – go to a quotes website and start reading quotes until you find somebody who said something that resonates with you and would make a good song. There’s one idea – that’s one trick I learnt. And I learnt that by doing the ‘song-a-week’ – I wouldn’t have learnt it any other way. But, you know, there’s lots of tricks. [13:23] Tim Smal: Yeah, I actually remember chatting to you at… where were we – ‘House Of Machines’ a couple months back and you’re giving me some tips on songwriting. And I just remember saying – well, you saying that “You have to come up with an idea and then you can brainstorm different ideas that are related to that”. [13:36] Simon van Gend: There’s two ways I’ve got of writing songs, that I also kinda discovered in the process, was: The first is where you start with an idea. So you look for an idea, like that, like ‘suffer well’ – you hunt for an idea and you just stay on the lookout everywhere you go, things people say. You know, often you’ll hear a song and you’ll go, “Wow, that’s something I think all the time, but I never thought of writing a song about it”. So these things are always passing through our minds, but we never catch them. So you’re always on the lookout for ideas. And then when you find an idea, then there’s that method that I explained, where it was just something I learnt on a songwriting course that I did online last year through Berkeley in Boston, I think. There are these free online courses you can do – the website was ‘Coursera’ and there you can find hundreds of these online courses about anything from universities all over the world. But anyway, so this was a songwriting course and the method they describe is: You start with an idea and you start brainstorming keywords around that idea. Say your song was ‘suffer well’, you could say “pain”, you can say “heartache”, you know, you could just brainstorm ideas. And then you write down these keywords and you make sure that your ten keywords don’t rhyme with each other – that’s very important, because what you gonna do next is go to your rhyming dictionary and find as many words as you can that rhyme with each keyword. So you start with your first keyword and you just start finding rhymes – you look that keyword up in your dictionary… [15:10] Tim Smal: So if “pain” was a keyword… [15:12] Simon van Gend: Yeah, then you would see “rain” and you’d think, “Mmm, could ‘rain’ be in this song? Yeah, well, ‘rain’ is a great metaphor for sadness – I’ll stick that on my list.” “Gain” – okay, obviously ‘no pain, no gain’ – that’s a word that might appear. And the great thing about that process is that each time you see a new word on that list in the rhyming dictionary and you’re thinking, “Could that be in a song?” that word will often get you thinking in a way that you wouldn’t be thinking about an idea for that song, because it might be a word which you’d never have dreamed of putting in the song, but suddenly there it is and it suggested a line about “stain”, you know, about ‘the stain you left on my heart’, for example. So each word sparks an idea and it’s an ‘idea generator’, that method. So you end up with this sheet of ten keywords – or how ever many, more-or-less ten keywords and as many rhymes as you can for each keyword and then that’s what you use to build your verses. You just got all these words you can start chucking in verses. You can use them as end-of-line rhymes or internal rhymes, you know, they’re all there. So that’s the one method. [16:7] Tim Smal: And I used that, I actually wrote a song and I saw it all the way through. So just so that you know, I’ve been taking your advice. [16:42] Simon van Gend: So that’s the one way of writing a song: You start with an idea and you build a song up around the idea. And the other way is to just have no idea. And you’re playing your guitar, you’ve got a feeling and then you just start writing whatever-the-hell comes outta your head. And trust that your subconscious can create something. You know, every night you go to sleep and you dream and your mind effortlessly creates these incredible things. [16:51] Brian Bohlin: I’m literally… I’m about to lose my skull from nodding so much in agreement because… Look, I can vouch, first of all, about the whole ‘just nothing’ – you know, getting a song [out of nowhere]… I mean, I’ll sometimes sit with my guitar for a few hours, without even noticing, you know what I mean? Because the time just flies by. And then all of a sudden, you start playing something, you get an idea in your head and you start talking. And then it just works out. [17:16] Simon van Gend: Exactly. To me, those are the best songs, ‘cos they’re the most honest in a way, you know, it’s like… You can construct a song using your left brain, but to me, that’s not the interesting part of the brain. The interesting part of the brain is the right [part], is the part of your brain that creates dreams at night. And those are the songs that I love the most. I’d rather hear a Bob Dylan song like ‘Tambourine Man’ or whatever, where the lyrics are just crazy and they don’t have any logical sense – than a well-structured country and western song that tells a specific story. Although I love them both,w hich is why I try and write both kinds of songs. But always my favourite, the one that set me free when I hear it, is the Bob Dylan-kind, where there this crazy, dreamy story, that isn’t really a story, that’s just a bunch of wild images. [18:02] Brian Bohlin: Where everything that’s said in the song is almost just another message, you know. It’s all emotional… it’s not like it’s calculated. [18:09] Simon van Gend: It’s unconscious stuff. Yeah, it’s stuff that makes you feel and allows you to dream your own dream on top of it. It allows you to think your own meaning, you know – it’s not prescribing a story. [18:22] Brian Bohlin: It’s almost like the difference between constructing a song and like, expressing a song. You know what I mean? It’s two different things. It’s two different skills really. They’re both admirable. If you can build up a great song just from calculations… [18:36] Simon van Gend: Yeah and it’s not ‘black and white’, I mean, the one method always involves some of the other method. So that’s the great thing about being able to do both, is you can actually use both in the same song. [18:46] Brian Bohlin: Synergy. [18:48] Simon van Gend: Yeah, you know, often I’ll be just doing the method of writing without thinking – you know, the ‘unpremeditated method’ with just letting stuff come out of my brain. And then suddenly I’ll go “Wow, hang on – that’s a good idea.” That song you just played ‘Be My Echo’ was one of those – I just started writing. And then for whatever reason, I just started singing “be my echo”. I didn’t have any idea why that came out of my head and suddenly that became a great focus for the song. [19:14] Tim Smal: That’s incredible. Very, very interesting. Well, why don’t we take a listen to one of your songs Simon? You’ve got a beautiful Larrivée guitar here today. I’m a big Larrivée fan – made in Canada by John Larrivée and the [Larrivée] family. So we gonna have a live performance now from Simon van Gend playing a track off his new record ‘Suffer Well’, which I mentioned is being released this coming Thursday – no, not this Thursday – Thursday a week… 3rd of September. So we’re gonna have a live performance now from Simon. What is the name of this track? [19:46] Simon van Gend: It’s called ‘Meerkat and Cobra’ and this is actually the last song on the album. [Simon performs the song] [24:24] Tim Smal: It’s the exceptionally talented singer-songwriter Simon van Gend live with the track called “Meerkat and Cobra” from his latest record “Suffer Well” which comes out September 3rd. Cool, well [it was] a real privilege to have you in the studio today. [24:39] Simon van Gend: Thanks very much for having me. [24:40] Tim Smal: You’re a really awesome singer-songwriter. And if people wanna get hold of your other albums, they’re all… [24:45] Simon van Gend: Yeah, they can all be found via the website. There’s a link to Itunes and there’s also… if you go to the website simonvangend.bandcamp.com – all the albums are up there. Otherwise, just e-mail me and I can always make a plan to get an actual physical copy to anyone that wants one. [25:01] Tim Smal: Awesome.
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