Bruce & I

And hard times come, and hard times go
And hard times come, and hard times go
Come on and take your best shot, let me see what you’ve got
Bring on your wrecking ball (Wrecking Ball)

I love this song by Bruce. “Hold tight to your anger, don’t fall to your fears”. It is not up there with any of his classics (Flood, Incident, Rosie, NYC Serenade, Thunder Rd, Backstreets, Jungleland, BTR, Drive, BITUSA, Hometown, Tunnel, Philadelphia, Ghost of Tom Joad) but it provides a metaphor for the realities of life. The good and bad. The joy and sorrow.

There have been plenty of successes.  As a trainer, facilitator & coach I’ve brought disruptive capability programs to respected companies including Asahi, CUB, BlackRock, Mondelez, Pepsi, SAB Miller, Fonterra, Cadbury, Heinz, Coles, Schweppes, Laminex, AFL, Treasury Wine Estates, Golden Circle and Kraft. Several workplace achievements include helping create and launch Pure Blonde within 90 days (a half-billion dollar beer brand), and create and develop “FAME”, a globally-recognized capability program. Both these successes continue to inspire my teaching and facilitating.

And there have been many lows. Throughout, the Boss has provided a beacon of hope and inspiration. A connection. An exploration. An understanding. Tales of loss. Tales of redemption. Pride, tears and exhilaration. I have always been a fan, yet the last five years of fragility has brought untold resonance, depth and perspective. Total congruence.

Yeah I lost my faith when I lost my wife
Them things don’t seem to matter much to me now
Tonight I’ll be on that hill `cause I can’t stop
I’ll be on that hill with everything I got
With our lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
I’ll be there on time and I’ll pay the cost
For wanting things that  can only be found (Darkness on the Edge of Town)

October 2012 it all changed. Two weeks before my eldest VCE exams, my wife said our marriage was over. Suddenly, my world turned upside down. I lost everything that counted in our separation. My time with my 3 wonderful children was cut in half. I lost meaning & the identity of everything that I thought I was. I left a successful corporate career with the dream of bringing passionate work to people in corporate life. I had just started a consultancy – “The Storytellers Group” and before I could bask in momentum, I began to lose my zest for life and my deeply-held passion for helping people.

God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he’s sure of (Brilliant Disguise)

Instead of being razor focused on my newly formed consultancy, I dabbled with other concepts such as ‘Loveology’, ‘Fuego 3’, ‘Cos I’m Free’ and I even took up the management of a high profile Australian icon. From being someone who exuded confidence and self-belief, I soon became devoid of my true purpose. I felt I was letting down all those around me.

I was spending my days struggling even with many administrative tasks, knowing that whilst I was doing serviceable work I wasn’t contributing to the greater good of society. I was used to be on stage igniting the passion of the audience. I now found remedial activities overwhelming. I would procrastinate with whatever distraction held sway.

She’ll let you into the parts of herself
That’ll bring you down
She’ll let you in her heart
If you got a hammer and a vise
But into her secret garden, don’t think twice (Secret Garden)

The first connection who made an impact on my heart, post my ex-wife, was a woman who was told that she had a brain cancer. Our friendship evolved when her marriage was over. She was there for me as I adjusted to life as a solo dad. Always ringing. Always caring. Always last call of the night. We explored cures. We explored hope. I was there for her as she endured a horrific separation. Everyday we would regroup as she had to deal with either an IVO from the police, an affidavit from the court or ‘never ending’ correspondence from her ex-husbands’ lawyers (that all demanded reply). The bitter separation process took a whole year to be settled and throughout our bond was iron clad.

It wasn’t all stress and intrusion. We dined at the best restaurants, sung at every high profile touring act and enjoyed many money can’t buy experiences. However, the prevailing, intolerable shadow of the ex, continued to dwarf the joy. The Boss said it best: “You’ve gone a million miles. How far’d you get. To that place where you can’t remember. And you can’t forget. She’ll lead you down a path. There’ll be tenderness in the air. She’ll let you come just far enough. So you know she’s really there. Then she’ll look at you and smile. And her eyes will say. She’s got a secret garden. Where everything you want. Where everything you need. Will always stay. A million miles away”.

Only in hindsight can I now see that self-destruction was in play and that personal rationale had been eroded.

But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this whole town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart (The Promised Land)

I was in a spiral that I could not stop. I was more focused on helping others rather than salvaging life for my kids and my career. The tipping point was when the police came to my door in front of my kids with a court order. The police knew the accuser and were horrified by the imposition. Yet process is process. I was not concerned with the order. I was concerned by the deep pockets of the accusers family. This was the same man who at had served his terminally ill wife more than 20 affidavits. Just to make a point. If I had my wits I would have laughed and said ‘bring it on’. Unfortunately, reason was not a friend. The panic had set in so much that I was paralysed by the thought of making a speech at my eldest daughters 21st two days prior to the hearing (incredulous for a self acclaimed attention seeker. Ha!). The charges were dropped the morning of the court appearance. I could not rejoice as I was in free-fall.

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse (The River)

I did not want to get out of bed. I did not want to leave my house. Hallucinations were beginning to cripple me. Over the previous three months, the most sleep I had in a night, was 2 hours. Did this cause the free-fall or did the free-fall cause the insomnia?

The only thing that made sense was parenting my kids. I had now become a solo dad and I had to lift for them. When they were not around, my anxiety would overwhelm. I would spend my day walking up and down four flights of stairs of our rented townhouse. For no reason. Up and down. It could take me 30 minutes to pick the right brand of toothpaste at the supermarket. It took me two days to choose a birthday present for a loved one at Chadstone. In and out of every store. And even then my choice was absurd.

Paranoia had taken a grip. I was in a workshop where I wanted to run and hide because I thought the audience was laughing at me. I was later told the workshop was a resounding success. I felt humiliated at meetings only to be told my proposal was far and away the best. I hit rock bottom when realizing that organizing my son’s ‘simple’ birthday was way too much for me. Even more devastating, I was called the ‘worse umpire ever’ at the parties scratch footy match. I was riddled with so much fear and self-doubt that I would have to get my brother to write texts and emails for me.

Cant see nothing in front of me. Cant see nothing coming up behind.
Make my way through this darkness. I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me

Lost track of how far I’ve gone. How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone. On my shoulder half mile of line
Come on up for the rising (The Rising)

I became a shadow of myself, and suffered a total breakdown. I lost feeling. I had become numb. Uncomfortably numb.

One day, my brother took it upon himself to “disrupt” what my life had become. He gathered family and friends to stage a loving intervention. One friend flew in from New York just to be by my side. One friend would pick me up at 7am for breakfast just to make sure I would get out of my house. A friend from Sydney along with his beautiful family would daily reinforce the belief & love. My ‘Mart’ family kept my brain, heart and stomach nourished. The adoring support of a special female friend will never be forgotten. She made me believe again. Others helped me reconnect with talents assumed gone. From that day forward, they gave me the support and determination I needed to disrupt my path of self-destruction, so I could rediscover my passion for life.

Along the way, I realized the professional talents I had built in disruptive capability were exactly what I needed to rebuild my life from the inside, out!

Poor man wanna be rich, Rich man wanna be king,
And a king ain’t satisfied,’til he rules everything,
I wanna go out tonight,
I wanna find out what I got (Badlands)

As Bruce bellowed “These are Better Days”. The journey from self-destruction to self-disruption has begun. Rationale has been restored and distractions kept at bay. Today, I share the tools of disruptive capability to make marketing teams shine. But, deep down, I know that these tools can also help the humans in your corporate workplace “disrupt” any doubt or complacency that they may be feeling – within their careers, or in their lives.

Beyond my work, I’m now a solo, full time dad to 3 amazing kids who are my light, inspiration and joy. I’m also a massive Hawks footy fan, have an Aboriginal art collection, and spend many days in semi -religious devotion to the musician, singer and songwriter, Bruce Springsteen. (If I didn’t mention it a few times already!). “Tramps like us, Baby we were Born to Run.”

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls
I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing
People get ready for the train is coming

You don’t need a ticket, you just get on board (Land of Hope & Dreams)

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