Wouldn’t it be awesome if life was a straight path where with every step, things just got better and better? Well, truth is, life is complicated. There’s a lot that is unforeseen and unexpected. Sometimes it gets challenging.
So what do you do when those tough times are upon you? And how can you better prepare yourself to make the most of this journey called life? How do you turn the act of going through adversity into growing through adversity?
This week, my guest is Jack Taylor, who shares his story of the many trials and tribulations that he has encountered in recent years and the transformative events that were the catalyst for his own personal growth and development. It’s a story with many chapters, which is fitting for someone who’s now employed writing as a path out of self-purgatory.
From a seemingly innocuous joke to the busy world of sales and marketing in a hyper-growth and fast-paced tech company to burnout, breakdown, and a complete rebuild. Jack’s line through life has seen its fair share of twists and turns. But as mentioned, this is a story of triumph, of rising to overcome challenges, working through problems and emerging out the other side, resilient, resolution, and re-energized.
Jack shares how he took stock of his situation, the processes he has used to refocus, and how this has helped him move onwards and upwards. We also speak about the importance of sleep, why starting small is a big deal, and detail the daily practices that have helped restore Jack’s mental and physical health. Spoiler: it’s all about the long game.
Quick note, we do touch on the topics of body image, weight, burnout, and breakdown. So if those issues are distressing for you, then I invite you to skip to the next episode. We also mentioned SaaS, which is fancy tech talk for Software as a Service, and SMEs, which is small-to-medium enterprises.
For anyone who’s feeling stuck in their life, who’s looking to begin or renew their own journey of personal development, this is a great listen and well worth your time. There’s also some helpful tips on how to reset your relationship with social media and better navigate the attention economy.
All right, episode six, here we go.
The transcript of this episode has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jack, welcome to New Ways.
Jack: Thank you very much for having me.
Very much been looking forward to speaking with you, Jack. Now, if you were to write your own biography, where would you begin? What are the plot points we need to know about your unique backstory to understand you?
Well, first of all, Russell, thanks so much for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be speaking with you today. I think, where does my backstory begin? I guess taking it right back to the start, I’m British, as my accent might give away. I was born in London, but I was raised in the County of Kent, so that’s for anybody that’s not in the UK, that’s right in the southeast corner of the country. Since I’ve been, I guess, in my mid to late 20s, I’ve been effectively living back in London. Fairly regular guy, went through this traditional schooling system, ended up going to university.
Personally, my interests lie within… I’m a huge music fan, big foodie, and a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, which I don’t like to scream too loudly because to be honest, they’ve done nothing but make me miserable over the last 30 years. But I think to go alongside that professionally, I’ve got a sales and marketing background and I’m currently working as a freelance business consultant, specifically working closely with SMEs who are looking to scale. That’s, I guess, the one-stop shop for myself in terms of that professional and personal background.
You’ve spent some time in the business world, which is a beast unto itself. I’d like to double-click on that for a second and understand your role there as it relates to your background. What did you normally do in the industry?
Yeah, absolutely. As I touched upon, my background is sales and marketing, and I effectively came out of university and jumped straight into that world and naturally picked up a whole host of experience working with businesses. I actually worked predominantly as a sales and Marketing Manager within a fast-growing SaaS startup business. Naturally, the pace of change in those sorts of businesses that are in that hyper-growth phase means that I was exposed to a huge amount of change that happens within an organisation that’s scaling that quick.
The customers that we were working with themselves were actually SMEs. I started to get a real flavour for the sorts of things that SMEs were looking for. Actually, having since left the, if you like, full-time job that I had working as a sales and Marketing Manager, I decided a couple of years ago, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, that actually I picked up probably enough of a skill set to start providing value specifically to SMEs. Since then, I’ve been doing some freelance consulting, working predominantly with, like I say, small businesses who are ultimately looking to grow and double down on all of the good stuff that they’re already doing. That’s where I find myself professionally, if you like, at the moment.
Was it your time in business that first led you down the path of transformation and personal development?
I think. There’s two key transformations, if you like, that I’ve probably gone through in my life, Russell, today. The first will be going back around about 10 years. That was when I entered into my 20s. I’d not long headed off to university, I suppose. The truth is I found myself in quite a destructive behaviour pattern of habits and behaviours, I suppose. Like many people, I think when they go off to university and they leave their parents’ home for the first time, I probably got carried away in doing a lot of the things that I probably shouldn’t. I was party in four or five times a week. I was smoking, I was drinking to excess, and ultimately, I just found myself in this real destructive behaviour pattern.
Now, I’m not saying that any of those things are inherently bad as standalones or if they’re done in moderation, but actually what I found is that I ended up into this negative spiral that ultimately was really not allowing me to reach the potential potentially that I had at that moment in time. Actually, what I found that that led me to do is to self-loathe to tell you the truth.
I naturally put on a lot of weight. When I was in that stage of my life, I’d never been a skinny or an in-shape kid. I didn’t really play many sports, certainly in my late teens, early 20s, or anything along those lines. I naturally found that that act and behaviour led me to put on a lot of weight. It was my physical appearance, I suppose, that initially I recognised created this element of self-loathing and I really hated how I looked in the mirror. But also, a lot of the behaviours that I was partaking in, I realised then starting to have a real impact internally as well on the side of me that people maybe couldn’t see.
Actually, there was almost a penny drop moment for me when I went on a holiday with some friends, which would have been in between, I think, the first and second year that I went to university. Actually, I ended up being the butt of a joke, which was between my friends, but also between a group of strangers. I think it was at that moment that there was a real stark realisation that I needed to make a change.
I recognised I needed to make a change if I was going to turn things back around.
And from that moment on, as I say, it really was a penny drop moment. My focus completely shifted. I recognised I needed to make a change if I was going to turn things back around. And fortunately, since then, my health improved tenfold. I’ve stopped smoking naturally. I guess as you get older, you stop partying. And university, I suppose, is conducive to that because it’s everywhere. But nonetheless, even for the last couple of years that I was at university, I really started to turn that back around. I think that’s the real turning point for me, setting down that path of personal development. That’s certainly the first story, I would say, of personal transformation that really kickstarted everything for myself.
Okay, you’d mentioned that there was a degree of self-loathing. I’m curious as to what you were thinking or what you were telling yourself back then. What was your internal dialogue like at the time?
It’s a really great question. I think whenever you find yourself in that negative feedback loop and certainly the way that I guess I’m wired, I’d almost carry out a lot of these behaviours to forget about the fact that what I was telling myself was along the lines of, You’re not good enough. You’re not going to be able to turn things back around, particularly with regards to things like my weight and appearance.
I just almost… I was telling myself that this was going to be it now. Getting into shape and I guess seeing any large-scale improvement was for other people, it wasn’t for me. I was almost in this process of accepting where I was at, trying to battle that and therefore not doing anything about it. I felt very stuck. I think that was ultimately where this feeling of self-loathing came from. To me, it really seemed like I wasn’t going to be able to get out of this spiral, if you like, that I’d start to find myself in.
Was it difficult to take that honest inventory of yourself, where you’re at?
Yes, to tell you the truth, I think it was actually. I knew that things were going downhill. However, I think there was an element of being in denial about that. And like I mentioned that, that penny-drop moment when that specific event happened on holiday, I think for me, that was a real wake-up call to things. And at that point, I actually recognised that I had to get real with myself before I could potentially look at making a change.
And I had to accept that where I found myself was a result of many micro-decisions, perhaps, that I’d made over the past few years. At that point, it was stark to me that the only person that was going to be able to make a change was myself. And fortunately, that was ultimately what I did. But it certainly was hard. And I think it ultimately comes down to that awareness piece, which we can so often overlook. Having that awareness about ourselves, I think, is often something that we don’t necessarily gravitate towards without being pushed.
Okay, so you’d mentioned that this was the first moment of transformation, the first event. What was the second?
The first one, I suppose, is very much a personal transformation for me. It really took me to take my health seriously in my life. And naturally, that started to lead me down a bit of a path of personal development. But the second transformation in my life that I would say is one that’s really important to me, actually came much more recently, and that was a more professional transformation, if you like. I mentioned that I was working as a sales manager at a high-growth startup, and I worked within that business for close to five years.
And it was a pressure cooker of an environment, to be perfectly honest. I joined the business as an individual contributor, salesperson, and had really good success. Naturally, that led to me being promoted within the organisation. I, fortunately, after a couple of years, got the opportunity to manage the team that I initially joined. That team was about seven or eight individual contributors.
For me, I decided that whilst I maybe don’t feel hugely qualified, I suppose, to take on that level of responsibility at that age because I was only, say, 26 or something at the time, I recognised that it was probably a really good career move and I’d learn a lot.
But what I found was that as a new manager, I guess the challenge of going from managing myself to effectively managing a team of eight people overnight proved to be a huge hurdle. I worked that job as a sales manager for two years. Whilst I had actually I had a significant amount of success and recognition at periods, I just knew that deep down to me, something wasn’t quite right. And it was within about six months of the COVID-19 pandemic that, of course, happened in 2020, where I first-hand experienced burnout. I hadn’t realised at the time, but I think now when I reflect on it, burnout really is a silent killer, if you like. It really crept up on me very slowly. And it very much felt like throughout that period, I was treading water in the role. And unfortunately, it led me to break down in front of my boss at the time. And that was then another real key penny drop catalyst of a moment that I recognised, I must make a change in this.
So it was at that moment, I actually left… I left that job without necessarily having anything concrete lined up, should I say, following it.
And that’s when I then ended up down this path of being a freelance business consultant, where actually since then, I have been far better at managing a work-life balance, which has been absolutely key to me. I think, again, that period, when I reflect on it now, has proved to be a real catalyst for me, doubling down on my self-development journey because it wasn’t just the physical symptoms of burnout that I was recognising, it was actually far more taxing, I guess, on the mental side of things. And that really then opened up that door for me to then start diving down that path of personal transformation and self-development.
It sounds like if we put both of those events together, then you’ve got the complete picture at both sides, a physical and then a mental transformation. It’s almost like one needed to happen for the other to occur. How do you feel about their sequential nature and how they relate?
Yeah, I think that’s a really good way of looking at it, to be perfectly honest. It’s almost the full circle, I suppose. That physical transformation that I went through, I think there was maybe an element of there being a gap in that whilst I’d gone through this physical transformation, and naturally, you work on yourself and your mindset. Certainly with any physical transformation, as anybody knows, there’s a huge amount, I guess, of discipline and what have you that comes with it. But I think there was definitely still an element of me that really came to the forefront during the period of burnout that I found, which was far more taxing on that mental side of me.
Actually, since then, I’ve recognised that, yeah, do you know what? I reflect on that period and I think it probably needed to happen to give me a far more rounded approach to personal development. Because whilst I was probably then in the more physical side of things, actually, the more mental side of things didn’t necessarily materialise until I found myself in that really difficult period a few years ago when I burnt out work in my job.
If we zoom out for a second, most of what we’ve talked about has happened in the past. But what’s your life like today and in recent times? How do you apply the lessons you’ve learned from the past events into your everyday life?
There’s probably a lot of people going through a similar experience to myself, and there might be some parallels that other people can draw from that.
The things that I’m trying to do today is recognising that actually what I’ve gone through is likely going to resonate with other people to tell you the truth. I think we can be quite insular, can’t we? And think that this stuff only happens to ourselves. But actually, what I’ve recognised is there’s probably a lot of people going through a similar experience to myself, and there might be some parallels that other people can draw from that.
And that has led me down this path of deciding that actually, I want to start sharing my story. I want to start sharing it so that I can hopefully have an impact on other people and help other people that might be going through some challenging things in their life. I’ve always been somebody who loves helping people and I thrive off encouraging people to be the best version of themselves. Often, actually, that came at a detriment to probably myself because I maybe wasn’t always in my own corner as such. I was probably almost always in other peoples. But what I found is that actually there’s room for both of those. The reason that I’ve decided to begin sharing this story is just to bridge that gap, I suppose, between what it is that I’ve gone through and actually how other people might be feeling.
Writing naturally becomes a really good vehicle for that. At the start of this year, I decided that whilst I’d never been a writer before, it was something that I was going to give a go. Fortunately, that led me to the opportunity to speak to yourself today. Just starting that process and looking to build a relatively consistent writing habit has ended up with opportunities that 12 months ago I never thought would have come about. So it’s proved to be a really good vehicle for that, and hopefully, it can end up helping more people further down the track.
And how do you go about reaching those people? Where do you find your audience? What platforms do you use?
The one ultimately that I’m using at the moment is Twitter or X, as it’s now recently been called. Yeah, which I still can’t quite get my head around. So if I refer to it as Twitter, I apologise. But yeah, it’s… But yeah. I initially started writing on X at the start of the year. And I think the thing that I found with writing is that at that moment in time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to write about to tell you the truth.
But actually the beauty of digital writing is that you can be agile to the topics that you want to put out there and you want to tackle. I think that’s tended to be why during the last six to seven months, I’ve ended up writing about pretty much whatever’s on my mind or anything that I’m specifically trying to work on in my personal life, be that mindful eating to productivity to morning routines to whatever that might be. I think ultimately I’m still on this journey of self-development and self-discovery, and it’s not a journey that ever ends, is it? It’s a journey that we’re ultimately on for the rest of our lives.
And I think the beauty of using a platform like X is that actually you can start to build a baseline of people who are similarly trying to be the best version of themselves. And for me, I found the fluidity of that platform really helpful in actually just not rabbit-holing myself, I suppose, into a specific topic and allowing me to be quite fluid with the things that I do cover, albeit then wrapped into those transformation stories that we’ve touched upon already.
That’s a great point, actually. Posting on such a public platform does lend itself to feedback, which I imagine would also serve to help with your evolution as a writer and speaking to what you touched on earlier, keeping yourself accountable and consistent. Have you found that to be the case?
Yeah, I think all of the points that you probably mentioned there very much ring true. I think with something like Twitter, I think, sorry, X, the beauty of it is that ultimately you do get real-time feedback into what are actually some of the topics that your audience enjoy you talking about. Whilst I think engagement on these platforms does sometimes get a bad rap in terms of people trying to chase likes and comments and what have you. I think the great thing about X and the platform that exists there is that if you put out a bit of content about any topic in particular and that topic ends up having a huge amount of engagement, you actually know that there’s maybe quite a lot of people out there that are really interested in exploring that topic a little bit more.
And I think the through route from there, which I’ve certainly been trying to then access or tap into, is that I’ve then trying to take some of that short-form content that I’ve been putting out on X and using that as a real starting point to then create some longer form content via a weekly newsletter or blog that I’ve been putting out on Substack.
I think community is really important on Twitter and engaging with people on there, but also just looking into the topics that are actually performing really well, particularly with the audience that you’re starting to build. I think it does end up being a real nice, real time feedback loop that you can engage from that platform.
Look, it’s really refreshing, to be completely honest, to hear someone speak with such high regard about how they’re using social media and the effect that they’re getting from it. Certainly, it’s a different narrative than what we normally hear about the attention economy, time sinks, and the negative mental health aspects. It sounds like you’ve got a good handle on things. I’m curious as to how you ensure you don’t fall into any of those pitfalls when using social media?
It’s a really great question. To be honest, it is something that I find challenging. I think the nature of social media and as you mentioned, the attention economy at the moment is something that has an impact on all of us. And you’ve got to be really, really disciplined in being able to fight against the level of engagement that these apps can provide you with. I’ve been dipping my toe, I’ll be totally honest, into the world of TikTok. Not yet as a creator, but certainly as a consumer.
And no wonder people are spending hours on end on the platform because it’s so engaging. I think 10, 20 years ago, even slightly longer, people would sit down for the entire afternoon, evening, and watch the television. I think today you effectively have that level of engagement in your pocket, if not something that’s more engaging. So no wonder people find it really difficult. I think the way that I try to manage it, if I useIf I use actually TikTok as an example, because that’s a platform more so where I’m a consumer at this stage, I think I really try and limit some of my usage.
So for example, at the moment, I’m trying to balance a professional job with a personal life, and then obviously this writing piece on the side. TikTok for me, as a consumer, I very much recognise that I need to limit my time on that platform. So it’s almost about like scheduling in time where I say, Do you know what? I’ve got 30 minutes and actually I’m going to enjoy consuming some content on that platform. I think with the likes of the writing that I would do on X, again, it’s about recognising that it’s very easy to slip into being a consumer instead of a creator on there.
Being a consumer is not inherently bad. I certainly don’t think that if you’re not a creator, then there’s not value to be had on those platforms because there’s a huge amount. But I think it is definitely just about recognising that the way that these platforms have been created ultimately want you to stay as a consumer and consume as much as you possibly can. It’s about having awareness over that and then setting yourself some limits and being quite disciplined with those limits. I think that’s certainly the best way that I’ve tried to, I guess, manage that level of engagement that they can otherwise provide.
I love that analogy of the TV. Except nowadays your TV is in your pocket. For most people, at least, you need to have your phone on you to do your job or to navigate daily life. In a way or in essence, we’re walking around with TVs on us at all times. Speaking of time, you also mentioned finding healthy balance for the different projects you’re working on and your writing and things like that. Can you walk us through how you approach that?
Yeah, I certainly can. I think this is… I touched upon it, but I’ll be honest and say this is something that I definitely find most difficult. In my day job at the moment, for example, I’m working with a client that’s trying to secure funding for their business, which for anyone that’s gone through that process, they know it takes a huge amount of time. There’s a hell of a lot of admin to jump through when you’re going through that process. I found actually my day job creeping into some of my evenings and occasionally into weekend work as well.
Once you start to let people in and let people know that you’re working on something that’s important to you, there’s a far greater understanding on where you might be spending your time
I try to naturally have a personal life as well like many other people. We’ve been going through the Great British Summer here at the moment in the UK. Whilst the weather’s not necessarily been playing ball, I’ve had, for example, a lot of close friends and family get married and… And actually what I’ve been finding as well is that for a lot of my close friends, actually, not many of them have a side hustle, for example. So for them, work is work. They effectively leave their work at work. And one of the big things that I’ve been really trying to implement over the past three months is actually letting people know that I am working on something outside of work.
At first, I kept the side hustle to myself, I suppose, but my advice certainly to anybody that’s trying to balance a side hustle and a day job is actually be quite open about it. I’ve got a really good working relationship with the client that I’m working with at the moment in my professional life. I’ve even then started to let him know that I’m working on something as well outside of work. Because I think once you start to let people in and let people know that you’re working on something that’s important to you, there’s a far greater understanding on where you might be spending your time away from just a specific day job, which I guess is the more norm aspect of society.
I’ve really found that at first, when I was trying to juggle everything and not necessarily have that support network around me that knew that I was working on something else, that was when it proved to be really difficult. Whilst I’ve had a busy couple of months whereby I’ll hold my hands up and say that I haven’t been as active on socials and I haven’t been as active on my blog as I’d like, actually starting to reach out to my close-knit support network and people that I’m actually working with and friends and family and letting them know that I’m also looking at trying to build something in the background.
I’ve actually found that that’s proving to be really important. I’m working on some exciting stuff that’s going to come down the track and I’m looking forward to jumping back into that with two feet.
So to take a step back there, using honesty and transparency with yourself and those around you as effective guardrails against the things that may otherwise tip the scales back into the realm of burnout?
Yeah, I think so. I’d say it’s really important, again, I think I’ve touched upon it already, but just to provide some structure to how you’re going to work on, let’s say, a side project. Because ultimately, let’s say you work at 9:00-5:00, within those hours, there’s going to be very limited time that you can work on your side project. It’s then about dissecting the remaining hours that you might have in a day. You might be that you’ve got a couple of hours in the morning, you might have various hours in the evening.
But also, it’s about making sure that you’re balancing that with actually time to decompress as well. I think there has been a bit of a, I guess, hustle culture movement that’s become apparent over the last 10 years, where everybody now thinks that they have to be an entrepreneur. To be an entrepreneur, that means that you’ve got to work for 21 hours of the day and only sleep for three hours of the day and what have you. But I think ultimately, the key thing is recognising that if you’re building something, it’s never going to be an overnight success. I think with regards to that, it’s important to make sure that actually you recognise consistency over time is going to compound into something that perhaps you never even dreamed that it could become.
Actually, you’re not going to build the next rocket ship within three months or six months, actually. The key thing is making sure that what you’re doing is enjoyable because you’re taking the time to fit it into a busy schedule, a busy life, and therefore you’re not then burning out because you’re trying to spin too many plates at once.
And is that your message of warning for people who may have fallen victim to the whole grind set mentality, which may then naturally lead into things like burnout?
I think so, yeah. I think back to when I burnt out in my previous job, and whilst I wasn’t necessarily working on a side hustle at the time, that job effectively really started creeping into a lot more of my life, but it was very much not on my terms.
And I just let that happen. I think what people have got to recognise is the key is being intentional. If you’re not intentional with what you’re doing, then ultimately, before you know it, things could end up creeping into various aspects of your life and effectively being a real disruptor to maybe the equilibrium that you’ve built over the past however long. I think it’s really important to make sure that you’re taking time away from any pursuits that you’re doing and focusing on yourself, I guess, and self-love for that term, analogy, to make sure that ultimately you’re building from a really strong foundation. I think recognising, as I say, to go back to what you were asking, Russell, I think you’ve got to recognise that actually any of this stuff, the best thing to do is to play the long game. There’s no such thing as an overnight success.
The best thing to do is to play the long game. There’s no such thing as an overnight success.
Whilst we might be accustomed to that potentially on the likes of social media platforms, sometimes it’s very much not the case. What you don’t realise is that a lot of people that seem to have sprung up from nowhere have been building something in the background for 10-plus years at that point. I think the key thing is assessing what you can do on a consistent basis every day or every week and then building from there. And if you can do more, great, and if you can’t, then don’t beat yourself up about it. I think consistently is ultimately going to be key. And that’s the way to look at building something, whether that’s a business or anything, to be perfectly honest.
I love that because that is pretty much thematically you. Because you’d gone through those transformative events, and they didn’t result in complete overnight changes. What I’m hearing is a reinforcement of the message that change takes time and overnight success is really the result of many gradual changes, many decisions. How did that play out in your own experience?
Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think any transformation that we go through is rarely an overnight success. I think back to my health and weight loss journey when I was in my early 20s and I ended up losing, it was around about 28 kilograms in weight, which is a huge amount. That ultimately took me about 18 months to do so. And again, I think back to how I managed to do that. And it wasn’t about reinventing the wheel. It was just about incrementally improving the daily habits that I was doing and really finding that once you get onto a path where you start to see some degree of results, there really is a snowball effect. And that ultimately led me to transform physically, but also really start me down this garden path of, okay, what else in my life can I look to then change from this point on?
From everything that you’ve mentioned, I think I have a pretty good idea, broad strokes at least, of how you might answer this next question. But how do all these components come together for you on a daily basis? What’s a day in the life of Jack look like?
I think for myself, I’m a big believer in… Well, the phrase eating the frog, I think, always is one that sticks out to me. I’m a big believer in effectively tackling the most important things that I need to do early on in the day, particularly because that’s generally when I feel most energised. But also I find that by tackling some tricky things in the day, it really does give me an element of momentum. And therefore, for me, a morning routine is really, really important.
Actually, those are my initial six, seven hours of the day for myself. If I know that I tackle a morning routine within that or a half-day routine within that, then the rest of the day for myself can be a little bit more fluid and a little bit more flexible. I think for myself, I try to access probably three key things each morning, and that’s an element of physical activity. Whether that’s go for a run, go to the gym, get out on the bike, or even just a walk. I find that the foundation for a successful day for myself is doing some degree of physical activity. I always make sure that I have an element of that in there.
Some degree of mindfulness, I think, has proven to be really important to me. Actually, this is something that’s really materialised since that second transformation when I burnt out that we’ve discussed this. I certainly try to do something along the lines of meditation practice or journaling, something to just get my mind in gear and something that’s ultimately going to complement that degree of physical activity. I personally find physical activity to be pretty mindful. Something like going for a run is fantastic for that. But I also love to try and do something with a little bit more mindful intention as well. I’ve had a real great success with journaling and with meditating.
Whilst I hold my hands up and say I’m not consistent with it every single day, I know again, it’s a real key pillar for me to having a successful day. Then the final, I would say, pillar within that is then some degree of deep work. We talk about, I guess, or I’ve talked or spoken about, sorry, should I say eating the frog? For me, I know that if I don’t, for example, go to the gym or do some degree of physical activity, it becomes a lot more challenging to do it once the day gets away from me.
There’s much less of a chance of me probably going to the gym in the evening than there would be in the morning. I find this translates very well to professional work as well. I really try to do a degree of deep work, I suppose, first thing in the morning between that 7:00 AM and 12:00 PM period, because the priority tasks that I’ve recognised that need the most probably brainpower for myself and are the ones that are going to move the needle, I’m going to have the most degree of success doing them during that period of the day. The longer I leave them, the less likely they are to complete.
Actually, I know that from the level of awareness, I think that I’ve built over the last say, 10 or so years that that period in time is when I’m likely to be at my best. Those three are probably the key foundations for a successful day for me. Then after that, things can have a little bit more flexibility.
It sounds like what you learned during and following those big, transformative moments have carried on that you were able to capitalise on your shift in mindset, foster some beneficial behaviours that are now paying dividends in both your personal and professional life. Do you see any similarities between the physical versus the mental transformations that you’ve been through and how that’s shaped your life?
Certainly. I think all of this, I would say, is interlinked. Whilst, for example, a physical transformation might seem quite different to going through that process of a mental transformation, I think they’re naturally all interlinked. Once you recognise the importance of the two and actually how they play a part together, that’s when you can really start to then look to incorporate it within, Okay, how does this translate across to the professional environment that I find myself in? And when is it that I’m at my best?
I think all of this comes down ultimately to having that level of awareness, which for anybody that’s looking to go through a transformation, one thing that I will say is the level of awareness that you build about yourself, which you maybe didn’t have before, is astounding. That’s something that I really hold very dear, I think, from the challenges that I’ve faced in my life, is that now I feel so much better equipped to tackle anything that comes my way. I’ve got a real good baseline to be able to build upon, to have a successful day, which can then ultimately lead to a successful month, year, period, you name it.
Let’s say I’m sitting at home or wherever our audience is right now, I’m hearing your story, everything that you went through, all the challenges, the changes, the benefits that you’re now getting to join your life. You seem to be in a really good place. What tips would you give to people who are looking to begin their own journey of personal development?
I would say, I guess there’s probably a myriad of things that I could say here. I’m going to try and focus specifically on maybe some of the ones that specifically work the best for myself. I think a book that I would say actually really changed my life, and I’m sure it’s changed a lot of people’s lives. I know it’s a popular one, but it is Atomic Habits by James Clear. The real premise of that book, I mean, there’s a whole host of information in there and there is so many nuggets that I won’t be able to pull them all out. But one of the real things that I took away from the book is that starting small is better than not starting at all. I know that that sounds really obvious, but actually, I think whenever we’re looking to make a change in our life, it can often present itself as trying to climb Mount Everest.
But actually, the way that you climb Mount Everest is you put one foot in front of the other and you move slowly up the mountain. I think the way that James Clear frames starting small in his book, Atomic Habits, which naturally is all about creating good habits or getting rid of habits, perhaps that don’t serve you so much, is that you’ve got to make the habit that you wish to carry out almost too small to miss.
For example, I think one of the ones that he does touch upon in the book is, if you’re looking to create a reading habit, you just read one page at a time. You don’t say, I need to read a chapter of a book. You just read one page. Naturally, from there, what you’ll probably find is that you end up doubling down on that and you end up reading two pages and two pages becomes four pages, etc, etc. I would say starting small is one of the key things that has really helped me with any transformation that I’ve gone through in my time.
That also leads back or circles back into the consistency piece that we’ve touched upon. I think by starting small, it’s impossible not to build consistency. And consistency over time then I would say builds momentum. And that’s when the compound effect of any change that you’re making in your life can really look to take hold. I think starting small is a real key one for myself and one that I would recommend people take a look at specifically with regards to James Clear’s book because it’s superb. A second one I would say is actually set yourself some goals.
So set yourself some clear goals. Starting small is all well and good, but actually, if you maybe don’t know where it is that you’re heading, things can be a little bit more difficult. I think setting some goals is really important. So, determine what you want to achieve in that transformation journey, whether that be improving confidence, your health, your career, relationships, any aspect of your life. I think setting some clear and specific goals will actually help to give you a bit of an anchor point and give you that sense of direction whereby you can then start to build a consistent set of small habits off of the back of it, which is going to help you get there.
I think another one, again, I think we’ve touched upon it, but surround yourself with positive influences. Surround yourself with people who are supportive or are like-minded, who can ultimately encourage you to be the person that you want to be. I think things like community are really important. If I think back to my certainly physical transformation that I went on, I really started to build a bit of a network of friends that I knew were really into going to the gym or being physically active.
Actually, that was a real help for me because there’s that element of accountability that comes with it when you’ve got people that are in your corner. And also it just spurs you on. I think there’s a real element of encouragement that comes with tackling anything as a collective. I would say having that support network and community, I think, is really, really important.
Yeah, those are three really great tenants upon which to build a focused life. And interestingly, you’re actually the third guest, I believe, this season, who has mentioned Atomic Habits. James, if you’re listening, let’s talk. But if we were to flip that on its head, what are some of the biggest hurdles to self-optimisation and personal development?
Transformation isn’t easy. If it was easy, I think there’d be no reason to transform because we’d all be living the lives that we probably wanted
Well, transformation isn’t easy. If it was easy, I think there’d be no reason to transform because we’d all be living the lives that we probably wanted. But I think there are naturally going to come with, or there’s naturally going to be a huge amount of challenges that try to get in your way with regards to this self-improvement journey. I guess to flip maybe a couple of the tips that I’ve put forward on their head, I think one certainly that I found difficult is having a lack of clarity. I’d say many people struggle actually to define specific goals for self-improvement. I think at the time that was very much the camp that I found myself in.
Without having this clear direction, making progress or measuring success is challenging. To flip that on its head, I would certainly go back to saying, What actually is it that you’re looking to achieve? Who’s the person that you want to become? What identity do you want to be known by? Both personally, internally, but also potentially from other people. I think that’s a really good starting point. Don’t feel that you’ve just got to amble through things. Try and be intentional and set some goals against where it is that you want to go.
I think another one I found certainly challenging is a degree of overwhelm. I’m actually trying to probably tackle too many aspects of self-improvement at once. I think that is something, again, that can likely lead to burning out and actually doing things maybe a little bit below their potential. If you’re trying to spin as many plates as possible, inevitably you’re going to drop a few.
Again, going back to that goals piece, it’s recognising, okay, what are actually the key things that I want to achieve? How can I then make sure that I’m prioritising those that are most important to me? I heard something really interesting on a podcast actually, which is a podcast by, I think it’s Chris Williamson who carries out the Modern Wisdom podcast. I’m not sure if it’s one that you’re familiar with, but he actually said, You’ve got to recognise and actually be real with yourself that perhaps if you’re working on something that some other aspects of your life might slip at that moment in time.
For example, if you’re trying to build a six-figure business, perhaps you’re going to have to compromise and say, Do you know what? I might not be able to maintain having a six pack at that moment in time as well because there’s going to be a lot of time that I’m going to need to dedicate to building this business and carrying out that goal.
I think it’s also about having compassion with yourself and recognising what are the goals that I want to prioritise? And then not beating yourself up because maybe some other aspects of your life are somewhat slipping a little bit further away than maybe you once had them in your grasp. But I think it all comes down to setting goals and then being able to prioritise.
And then finally, it does come down to, I would say, probably starting small. We too often stay in our comfort zone, I would say, because we see an insurmountable task. There’s that classic phrase that how do you eat an elephant? It’s one bite at a time. I think with any transformation that we’re trying to do, it’s really about starting small, putting one foot in front of the other or taking one bite at a time. And that’s the way that you can then break out of that comfort zone and that degree of overwhelm that otherwise is probably making you feel a little bit stuck. They’re the things that I certainly found.
A moment ago, you spoke about taking action, and often action is born of discomfort. We’ll do something when we have to because we’re pushed or pulled or otherwise compelled to do so. Otherwise, leave it be. We’re also told to avoid the comfort zone. But do you think you can ever get too comfortable with leading an active life? Do you see rest or taking a break from improvement as an important part of someone’s development as well?
Usually, yeah. I think you certainly can. I think you can get too comfortable and bogged down in, I must be switched on at all times because that’s the only way that I’m going to make progress. Actually, I’m name-dropping a couple of books here, but another book that I would say has had an incredibly profound impact on my life is Why We Sleep by Dr. Matt Walker. Again, not sure if it’s one that you’re familiar with, but it’s an incredible insight into why sleep is effectively the eighth wonder of the world as such.
The human body, the human mind, the way that we’ve been created from an evolution standpoint, we have to sleep. It’s completely and utterly fundamental to staying alive, but also to performing at our best. I think rest can come in many forms. Rest doesn’t necessarily have to be sleep, albeit that is definitely something that we should be prioritising. Rest can actually be active rest as well. I think there’s got to be a degree of recognising that you can’t stay overstimulated to perform at your best. And therefore, with something like rest, it’s about recognising that sleep is that foundational point for creating momentum in your days and in your lives.
But actually, how can you also then look at finding ways that you can rest a little bit more actively, for example, in your leisure time, so that you’re actually switching off and not just constantly working? Because I would say that’s the one way track to burning out, which I’ve certainly recognised in my career so far. I think it’s really about making sure that you’re taking time for yourself and doing some of the things that you enjoy, spending time with people that you love and not just constantly having your head buried into a laptop or a project?
Because again, I think it comes back to that consistency piece. Whilst you might be able to deliver a project doing that, are you going to be able to deliver 10 projects doing that over the course of a year or over the course of 10 years? I wouldn’t have thought so. I think it’s about recognising that actually rest is not something to shy away from. It’s something that is going to allow you to continue performing at your best. For that reason, it’s again got to be a fundamental part of how you create your days and your months and your years.
It’s something that we’ve all tried to cut back on. As we look at the available hours in the day, isn’t it? We rationalise, or at least I have in the past, Well, what am I doing with those eight hours? Literally nothing. Perhaps some of that time could be borrowed from. We can borrow from sleep to fund other activities, failing, of course, to realise until it’s too late that downtime is crucial. Rest is fundamental. If you don’t sleep, you won’t be spinning very many plates at all.
For sure. Absolutely. Yeah, I think that’s it. I think without sleep, we’re all accustomed to how a bad night of sleep makes us feel that following morning, aren’t we? I think ultimately, the flip side to that is we know how we feel once we’ve had a restorative eight hours or what have you. I think without having a sleep, no matter how much caffeine you’re potentially running on that following morning, I just think you’re never going to perform at your optimal.
So sleep is the key foundation, I would say, to actually any of these habits. I think Matt Walker in his book pretty much says that sleep should be the number one priority for your health and wellbeing in your life period, because without it, it ultimately disrupts every single other thing. Are you going to be able to drag yourself to exercise the following morning? Are you going to be able to perform as well as possible in that critical business meeting that you’ve got without adequate sleep? Probably not. Actually treating sleep as a task within your working day that’s going to make you better, I think, is a really, really good and healthy way to look at it.
Sleep as the platform, or rather the bedrock upon which all of your aspirations can be built; entrepreneurial, professional, personal, or what have you. Speaking of bed, that dovetails nicely with your approach to social media, which many people access at bedtime or in bed. As you said, set aside some time for social media. Then when that elapses, set aside your phone or a device, and get down to the business of sleeping. Sleep. Get it, guys. You need it. It’s there for a reason.
I vouch for that for sure.
The question I asked just now, or at the least how I framed it, was about people at the beginning of their journeys, wanting to take or perhaps retake that first step. My question to you is, what’s your next step? What’s on tap for Jack in the years ahead?
Self-development is a lifelong process. It’s not like a video game. You don’t complete it.
It’s a great question. I think, Russell, the truth is to keep practise in what I preach. Self-development is a lifelong process. It’s not like a video game. You don’t complete it. And I think it’s actually also about recognising that it’s going to web and flow, and therefore not being too hard on yourself if you fall off. And to tell you the truth, the last couple of, well, probably the last six or so weeks, like I’ve touched upon, has just been a really busy period in my life outside of the additional projects, if you like, that I’m working on with regards to, say, this side hustle. I’ve had to check myself, if you like, and just say, do you know what?
Don’t be too hard on myself because things haven’t necessarily allowed me to spend as much time as perhaps I was at the start of the year on my side project. Actually, it’s still about just doing something and doing little and often and recognising, Okay, what is it that I can achieve today? It doesn’t have to be this huge mammoth task, for example. For me, I think keep practising what I preach, recognising that things aren’t always going to be as you probably want them to be when you’re building any project.
There’s going to be hurdles and roadblocks that become apparent. Also, I just want to continue writing. Like I say, I maybe haven’t been as active as I’d like to have been over the last six weeks with regards to that. But it’s important to me that I get back into the swing of that writing habit. Therefore, that’s going to be a key focus for me when things quiet down a little bit on that personal and professional front. I would say they’re the key things for myself.
A question that I like to end each episode with, one that I think really helps to get into the mental, inner workings of our guests, how they tackle life while also providing some hope for the future. That question is about challenges and how we can chart path through them. What would you say is a modern remedy for the many issues that are facing people and the planet today?
I love this question, by the way. I think it’s superb. Having consumed some of your other content, Russell, I think it’s excellent. I love the platform that you’re building that tackles this question. Looking at it personally for me, one of the big game changes actually has been clearly defining what my values are. I think a modern remedy for some of the issues that we’re facing in life at the moment, I think, is for everybody to go through this exercise of actually defining who we are and what we stand for as individuals.
And the beauty of it is that everybody’s going to be different. But I’ve spent a decent chunk of time over the past few months recognising, okay, what are the values that guide my life? What’s my North Star with every action that I look to take? And I found that by setting some values, both personally and professionally, about the person that I want to be, I found things really easy to get back on track when inevitably things go a little bit skew whiff at times as such. I would say something that I would urge people to do is have a real think about what are the values that you want to embody, who’s the person that you want to become?
I believe that if we all live by our values, then we’re going to be much, much better off for both people that we come into contact with and the planet that we inhabit as well. So yeah, the values piece for me.
I love that insight. Discovering yourself and being values-driven, not just winging it, but living intentionally, which is something underpinning a lot of what we’ve spoken about today. And thank you for your feedback. Really, I do appreciate that. And for people that want to leave feedback for you to check out your writing and to keep up to date with all your happenings, where can people find you? Where should we point them to?
Best place to connect with me would be on X. My handle on X is the_jacktaylor, so simply just my name. Then the other platform actually that people can connect with me on would be via Substack. The handle there is simply thejacktaylor. I would love to chat to anyone who wants to swing by.
Jack, thank you. Not only for this conversation and your time today, but also for your honesty and openness. We’ve spoken at length about overcoming some heavy challenges about vulnerability, looking deep into oneself, and asking some pretty tough questions. It’s my hope that what we talked about today can help be the catalyst in someone’s life to spark some real and positive, lasting change. So again, thank you for coming on the show and offering that to the world.
Thank you so much, Russell. I really appreciate the opportunity to come and speak to you today. Again, just to say a big thanks to what it is that you’re building because I think it really, really is important in today’s society. Thank you for the work that you do and thank you for having me.