Walkachi, this is a great story.
It starts more than 35 years ago. I had purchased a bankrupt engineering firm and sheet-metal factory that was in debt for $500,000. The owner of that that was a German air-pollution control company that I wanted to work with and so I promised them that if they gave me three years to pay it back I would. And on that basis my first major business began. I had an engineering degree, had worked in the field of air pollution control in fact I owned a patent on a particular air-pollution system. And, the environment, especially the air quality of the world was my passion. Within six months I had paid back the money and we were making profits.
The practicalities of running a business this size were easy. Just simply fly to Germany, designed the system, sell the system, build the system, transport the system and install the system. When I took over the business I inherited some brilliant engineers who could build it in our own factory and eventually I gave a partnership to one of those people. It made it so much better for me to focus on my priorities which was designing systems for air-pollution control and leave the building and transport and installation to someone else who loved that.
Why all this was going on our personal wealth was growing and we both bought new cars and new houses. Our kids went to better schools and our holidays were overseas instead of in a tent at a local river. The most challenging part was managing the cash flow. We worked with some very big companies and therefore had some very big bills. And those companies very often held back payments for their own cash flow management and we were often caught struggling to pay our suppliers. This topic neither my partner or I were good at.
And it was this aspect of the business unexpectedly that bought us the most stretch. And we hired a financial controller, his name was Ron, and he was big and strong and tough and did a brilliant job. But he couldn’t work miracles and when there was a big cash flow problem my partner and I had to become involved in collecting money from big companies and filtering that money to small ones. With all this financial management came stress.
What most people don’t appreciate is that as you build something, whether it is a career or a business or even a sporting ambition, stress increases as the job increases. If you are being paid $100,000 and suddenly you get a job with $200,000, there is roughly twice the stress. If you don’t handle that stress, and stop coping with that stress, that stress starts to become a an attack.
The human body is built to handle massive stress. The president of the United States or the CEO of a company or an Olympic athlete such as Usain Bolt, can handle much more stress than the average person. They are not better than the average person they have adapted. And this adaptation process is automatic if you evolve at the speed of what is called the golden mean. If you look up the golden mean on Google you will see what that means. Simply put its of pace around about 25%.
Nature grows in cycles. And so it’s very easy to grow slow and then grow fast and average 25%. But ambition can get the better of us. We can have an appetite to grow at 50% per year.
When a company has a slow growth period, such as Covid times, they will try to balance out the slow grow with fast grow. And right now there are a lot of very stressed people who are involved with businesses that are trying to grow fast to compensate for the slow over the past three years. Therefore there are both structural, and cultural challenges that most of the leaders who have led their business through the c Covid times are not well suited for.
To lead a business through a fast growth period is a brutal requirement. And in the case of my business, we had a few years of steady growth, then we had a few years of slow growth and then we tried to outgrow the golden mean. To suggest that the wheels fell off the cart is probably an understatement. Fractured relationships in the factory, challenges with quality control with clients and some mismanagement of our cash flow put everything under enormous pressure. We even bought one of the first computers with a disk the size of an LP record. I wrote software for design trying to automate some of the process. And we got the business through the challenging fast growth period. But I didn’t make it.
With all this fast growth challenge on my leadership my own personal growth did not match the business growth. My engineering and design was not a problem because I was backed by the Germans and they were very Conservative. So that was fine. It was managing my life, managing the pressure, and I had not morphed into or adapted to the new pressure of the new turnover and the volume of business and therefore challenges we were facing.
I tried many things including having my fair share of scotch whiskey before I left work. I tried Hipnosis, meditation, holidays, office renovations and everything you can think of to try to deal with this pressure. But the thing I threw most at the pressure was time. I worked most weekends and I was really out of the office by 7 pm. But there was something else going on. Are you see, a person who works long hours could work less if the time they would gain by working less hours would lead to something they loved to do. And what took place for me was that my home life became less and less stimulating.
I was president of the school council. We had a big property that required maintenance and I loved that labour. My kids were champions and we had given birth to a new baby. But there was one thing I just couldn’t come to terms with.
My wife at this time. As my business had grown and my travels around the world had expose me to different cultures and I had started to see the world through different eyes, my wife had stayed at home looking after the children and doing some part time work. Nobody was wrong and nobody was doing anything wrong it’s just that we drifted apart because we didn’t grow together. To try to repair this we had ménage à trois, and other interesting experiments to try to rekindle the flame. But it didn’t work. And we both drifted into affairs with other people. I have no shadow of doubt that this was for both of us a coping mechanism with stress we just could not handle. Everything had happened so fast.
So, when stress happens we get a series of choices. We can take it personally and say I am stressed by this thing or we can say something is wrong with this thing. When you take stress personally you miss out on the golden gift that the universe is offering you. What nature is saying when you are stressed is something is wrong with the thing. Not you. You can handle massive amounts of stress as long as you morph or adapt to that stress over a period of time called the golden mean. When you become overly stressed or better put distressed there is something wrong with the thing not you.
I really wish I’d known this information back 35 years ago when I was running this business because, the amount of drama my partner and I went through unnecessarily, and the impact on the business of my unresolved stress was inconceivable.
There are three aspects of the thing. Strategy structure and culture. There are three aspects of you body mind spirit. You don’t need to look any further when you are stressed. When you are not coping with reality and you start thinking something is wrong that you have to change in order to deal with reality I would strongly recommend you first look at reality.
What I mean by that is, if you are running a business and it is stressing you look at the business not at you. Don’t run away from stress into holidays and weekends away that will just make you weaker because it will break your adaptation process. Instead first look at the business.
I recently coached my own partner which is the same risk as putting your hand in a hungry sharks mouth. But I did and what we did is we booked an appointment time, I got her to ask for the coaching and be willing, not that I would ask, to pay for it. That is the only way in a domestic environment that you can guarantee the coaching will not bite you in the arse. Coaching in your own home with your own partner is like a bear telling a tiger how to eat.
The reason we did this coaching session is because she was struggling with her work environment. From all observation her boss was being an absolute shit and very very closed minded. The boss wanted to take her to the pub as a form of engagement process but then practised really ignorant interpersonal skills in the process. The company had decided to do nothing about this and were in a way encouraging the boss. My partner was taking everything so personally she was starting to become tired and lose a little bit of sleep. And that’s saying something because she is so calm and sleep so deep under the most stressful situations.
Instead of coaching her to change I suggested we look at the business. Her company had gone through significant retrenchment and had changed its strategy without making those announcements to the staff. What we recognised is that my partners role had changed completely even though her job title and her team were being asked to be accountable for the same things. The reporting structure had been moved but nobody had announced it and this is the new process consultants are using to cut costs. They remove pieces of the infrastructure and let the games begin with the infighting. All that infighting of course results in more retrenchment and a restructuring of the business by people who could have if they knew what they were doing, restructured the business properly but instead just let the wolves eat themselves. Once my partner saw that her role had changed and her accountability had changed everything made sense. In one blink of an eye, it went from taking everything personally to realising it was the thing that had a problem, not even a problem, it had changed but she was unaware of it.
The thing is always outside of us. The thing can be a marriage and how we are managing the manic marriage, it can be a business and how we are managing the manic of the business. But you can break it down into three essential elements, strategy structure and culture. It is really easy for leadership at the top of the business to change the strategy. It is really easy for consultants to rip the guts out of a business and retrench people and not be methodical in the restructure. And as a result the culture becomes a dog eat dog environment. Then suddenly people start coming home saying I am stressed, something is wrong with me I can’t perform well at work.
Quality of change consulting in Australia is atrocious. Very few people let alone companies understand the holistic nature of changed. If you look up on Google change models most of them are nearly 30 years old. And companies like culture amp are living in the past with metrics they don’t want to change because it is the metrics that give them the relativity of their benchmarks. But the world has change in the benchmarks of changed and changing change has changed. Engagement is no longer measured by the number of beers a person has all the trivial conversations you have at the pub after work. It’s no longer measured in the jokes people have about each other and it’s no longer measured by how much fun you have at work. It’s measured by how quickly you can get your job done get home have fun and be with the kids. If you want to get the highest engagement score in a business right now give people more time to get the job done by letting them work from home. Then when they’re working from home make sure they have really clear outcomes that don’t fluctuate with nappy change.
The thing is always the problem. When the spark went out of my marriage probably five years before it finished, my partner and I at that time took it all very personally. But it wasn’t about us ultimately. We had met each other when we were 17 and 18 years old respectively. We lived together since the day she turned 18. We have grown through university study, absolute free spirited living, surfing scuba-diving and everything that young people should do until we started having children and settle down. We purchased 10 or 12 houses and lived in all of them while we renovated them. And now here we were living on 5 acres of land that required maintenance and spending time and energy isolated from the sports we loved. For the 10 years at the start of our marriage we live near the water never more than a 10 minute drive from being inside the water or on the water playing. It is really what welder does it really allowed us to grow together. But all that changed.
In the daily power hour the Back In Track process the third step is environment. As a change agent of nearly 35 years experience I can say that if you want to change a person change their environment. And I meet many people who live in a great suburb in a tiny house they’ve outgrown but they don’t want to leave the suburb. I meet people who are aspiring to build castles in the sky when really they be far better off to buy a shack in the bush. It is the most underestimated thing in bringing up children and family. Environment.
One of the things I often forget when we had our business in the engineering world is that the bankrupt business I took over had a factory in North Melbourne. I stayed in that factory using the machinery for 12 months and the business went well. But eventually we found a factory with an overhead crane, and offices that didn’t smell of welding fuel, and we moved in the business took off. When our environment changed the business changed.
When people talk to me about their children and the struggles with young adults the last thing they talk about is moving house. The last thing they talk about is change. The first thing they talk about is fixing the child. But I can vouch for the fact that if you take a child with some mental stress and move them to a different environment or even separate the parents into two separate houses, that stress goes away. But people think you can change people by changing the way they treat them. And it is true but boy, is it a very slow process and do people resist when they find out that you’re trying to fix something in them? Absolutely.
Sometimes people talk to me about changing their job. They talk about moving from one building to another building with a different view. Same fluorescent lights, same elevators, same bus trip to the city etc. This is not a change, because if you don’t change the environment you don’t change anything.
When we do the 30 day challenge you are encouraged to change your appearance because a person who does some work on themselves to find their vision or purpose but looks the same, will be treated the same. And when we are treated the same it’s hard to fulfil our ambitions so even the environment includes the clothing we wear any underwear underneath.
Stress number one. Overwhelm
Overwhelm is the sense that there is too much to do and not enough time. The first thing to deal with when there is overwhelm is not allowing yourself to fall into the trap of using time to solve the overwhelm. The second thing to do is to recognise what overwhelm means from the universal laws point of view. Overwhelm, from a universal lowest point of view point directly to structure. The structure has not kept pace with the strategy. Too much to do and not enough time is not something you should take personally but rather look at the process and the structure of that process and see what has changed that you have not recognised.
Stress Number two. Lost motivation.
Now I know we talk a lot about inspiration being much better than motivation but don’t be confused. Inspiration sits on top of motivation. In other words you can’t be inspired if you’re not motivated. Motivation covers the bottom three rungs of the consciousness cone, got to, should do, and need to. You won’t get through to the top three rungs of the consciousness cone if the bottom three rungs are unstable. Know if you’re not feeling motivated and you think it’s got something to do with you and you can change yourself think again. From universal and nature point of you not feeling motivated its a strategy issue with the thing. The thing can be your marriage, your business, your career etc. Anything you want can be called your strategy and if your strategy or the strategy of the thing is changed you will most likely, if it change rapidly, become demotivated. And then you won’t have discipline to do the things that keep your life stable. Such as getting out of bed early.
So instead of saying I’m demotivated or I’m not able to have discipline think again and say the strategy of the thing is wrong. Now strategy must change constantly. If there is one constant in the universe it is change and that change is change of strategy. How are you thought you were going to build your fortune will be different constantly. And if you don’t change the strategy and you get stuck on an old strategy on a new thing you’re going to lose motivation for it because somewhere deep inside you know you’ve given up hope. You can’t bang your head against a brick wall without getting a headache. So if you’re working for a business and you’re not feeling motivated check whether the business strategy has changed and whether you’ve recognise that change. When things change rapidly it doesn’t give you time to adapt or morph. And that is always the cause of demotivation.
Now there are very good reasons why businesses and leaders do not publicly announced change of strategy. The first one is they’re not sure about it and so they don’t want to be seem to be foolish by doing it and secondly they don’t want to project that information out onto competitors.
But if it’s a relationship that you are losing motivation for look at how you are going about things and where you are going and what you are doing in that relationship and maybe you’ve outgrown the Energy for keeping you both engaged. For example for the first three years of relationship sex fun and rock ‘n’ roll can be a really engaging strategy but after three years you might have to morph into something a little more sustainable and little less requiring infatuation. Infatuation dies.
Much of mental health problems come from the fact that people are blaming themselves for being unmotivated when the world around them has shifted and they haven’t been able to adapt quick enough. The problem is not mental health the problem is that the world is changed. The best solution for mental health problems is there for an environmental one.
Stress number three. Anxiety
When people get anxiety they most often blame themselves but it is most often the thing. Anxiety is when the environment has changed so rapidly that the familiar has become foreign. The culture of the environment has changed. Now, this is not to suggest that there is something wrong, culture must evolve. And the individual must evolve with it. But there is nothing wrong with a person who has anxiety it is just that they haven’t evolved, or recognise the need to evolve because it happened so fast. If the culture had evolved slower than they would’ve adapted. But it didn’t. Let’s take a relationship for example. A relationship has a culture people speak to each other in certain ways and operate and cooperate in certain ways. But if one of those two people suddenly is required to perform at a much higher level than they were before and they are able to morph and adapt, their partner might be left standing like a shag on a rock wondering what happened. That individual might start blaming themselves. But there’s nothing wrong with them they just have not recognised that things have changed and they’re trying to operate with a steam engine in an environment where electric cars have been invented.
So there is strategy structure and culture and they are the variables in the thing. Doesn’t matter what the thing is they are the variables. So if you’re feeling stressed it’s because one of those three things have changed in the thing and you haven’t had the time to adapt or morph.
Once you recognise this you can stop beating yourself up about being overwhelmed or unmotivated or filled with anxiety and say goodness me something is changed out there and I haven’t. You can witness the change of structure, culture or strategy. So things might have changed in the old culture is you and the new culture is what you need to adapt to.
The bottom line of this is to stop taking things personally. If there is been a rapid change in the environment it will trigger anxiety, or overwhelm or lack of motivation. Once you recognise the cause you can adapt and that’s easy to do because you have a coach and that coach knows how to help you adapt quicker than you would if you just morphed.
So the closest story I’d like to finish the one about my family, my first marriage. One day, I was flying to Tasmania to visit a cement plant to do some air-pollution’s control sales. Ironically, this cement plant was exactly 10 km from where I was born. From Melbourne, the plane was a small twin engine and and we flew directly to the small airport. I rented a car and drove it to the cement plant right past the hospital where I was born. While on the flight I read the in-flight magazine which was raving about a new health retreat that had opened, called camp Eden. I laughed about this health camp dishing up hippy food and therapy and massages and helping people with life balance. Ha ha ha ha Ha I thought. Anyway I arrived at the cement plant and a man I was going to work with was not there. I had flown all this way seemingly for nothing. But the person I was meant to see had appointed somebody else.
The somebody else that was appointed was a guy dressed too well for a cement plant. Nice pants nice shirt nice tie at a cement plant. Something was weird. After I did all the necessary work and took all the measurements I needed for the quotation we sat down to lunch. So it turns out this guy, the two dressed well guy, was the ex CEO of Vickers, our conversation was intriguing.
This guy was sent to this remote cement plan to recover from what was called at that time a nervous breakdown. People don’t have nervous breakdowns any more there are new words for called mental health. But at that time it was called a nervous breakdown. I asked the guy to describe the process and he said well there is no such thing as a nervous breakdown but there is a journey into hell.
It all started for him and starts for most people with feeling tired. The feeling of exhaustion during the day forces them to want to sleep. For him this was quickly followed by the desire to stay away from any form of crowd and this got worse and worse until he couldn’t even catch the bus or train. Then, he described waking up in the middle of the night sitting bolt upright wide-awake. Insomnia started to become a regular part of his life and these sudden wake ups had no rhyme or reason.
Then he lost his appetite and started to eat sugar. Then he had a bout of alcohol. Then he got headaches. Then his decision started to become clouded and he second-guessed himself. As this guy describe the process that he described as the descent into hell, I started to recognise that I was on the same path. My face must’ve gone white. I left that cement plant to go back to the airport and on the way I picked up my cell phone which at that time was the size of a toolbox and about the weight of a bowling ball and rang that camp Eden place I read about on the aeroplane. I booked in and change my flight and went straight there.
Camp Eden was a weird place. Firstly there was a lot of touching and some of it quite interesting. Secondly the food was spectacular although it was not my normal meat and three veg. It was in this beautiful environment in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. But each day we sat in a circle and shared stuff. It turns out that it was the second week the retreat was open and everybody else who turned up was Italian. I had joined the Italian mafia. Interestingly, I felt really connected to everybody. But most of all to the guy who just came out of jail for committing a robbery.
In the process of this circle I declared that I was having an affair, that I wasn’t coping at home, that I was running a business that was successful, and that my wife and I had lost a spark. The advice from Gary, the course leader, was to go home and say to my wife I am worthy of being loved for who I am and I’ve been fucking somebody else. Probably the worst advice I’ve ever received but at the same token it brought to head five years of absolute trauma between us.
Our marriage went into self-preservation mode and of course, triggered my wife to go and have her affair to pay me back for the insult. So we ended up in a really shitty place.
Because of that I am here. Because of camp eden, because of Gary’s shitty advice, because of that flight to Tasmania to work in a town where I was born, because of that in-flight magazine I am here. I am here talking to you about love and consciousness and human behaviour. I am here with 60 trips to the Himalayas of Nepal under my belt. I am here having lost and made over $67 million in my life. I am here with two beautiful children and a magnificent woman as a partner. I’m here 35 books later. I am here having lived in seven countries in the world and being probably the worlds leading life coach. All of that because of camp eating and the bad advice of Gary.
Sometimes we say that it things that happen that lead us into pain are wrong. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The advice is irrelevant. The fact that we are off track and not living our purpose is relevant and whether it’s advice or a slap on the back of the head or a broken foot or a broken relationship we get put back on track because that’s natures intent. No use blaming Gary. He was a messenger. Ultimately, I love to believe that there are angels. It’s really not true. But for me the concept of an angel is nature guiding me whether I like it or not to my purpose.
So Walkachi came about because of an aeroplane flight to a remote town which just happened to be the place I was born, and an airline magazine, and a guy who is in recovery from a nervous breakdown, and Gary at camp in and my wife having an affair with a guy I eventually faint deeply. When we are going through shit we think it is the end of the earth but when we get to the end of that shit we realise it wasn’t shit it was simply guidance and it wasn’t painful, it was our resistance to change that caused our pain.
Sometimes, when I sit on my balcony I contemplate the alternative path I could’ve taken and stayed married to the love of my life of 17 years old. I could’ve stayed loyal and faithful, I could’ve slowed the business down and evolved slowly so that I adapted to the stress rather than reacted to i. I could’ve denied myself the stupidity of an affair. And I would now be the proud father of three children who really like me. But that is not what happened. And the reason it didn’t happen is that I thought I was somebody else.
I’d like you to meet the real Chris Walker. I am a fire sign. My entire family is not. And so in my entire family my appetites my desires my process the way I go about things is completely foreign forced. Even my wife at that time thought I was somebody else because I wanted to be somebody else, in fact anybody else, because I didn’t feel right being me. As a fire sign I love travel, I love change, I love living in hotel rooms, I love aeroplane flights, I love standing on stage, I love meeting new people, I love love. I love changing things. I love the colour red. But when I grow up I thought I loved the colour blue and I thought I was somebody else. How else could I know.
When you stand on a cliff in the morning and do Walkachi you are nobody. You just stand there and suck up the energy. You just be neutral and absorb that energy and feel the vitality of youth within you. Finding that neutral place is the most beautiful experience in life. So it’s wise to do it instead of asking your partner, your business, your children, food or anything for that matter to make you you.
That’s the end of this episode. Live with spirit. Chris.