Stories of Men

Why you’re working without purpose and how to fix it

I want you to try something: I want you to take a moment to reflect on how you ended up doing your current job or business.

  • Did you get into it because your parents told you it would be a good idea? 
  • Did you fall into it because it was recommended to you by a friend? 
  • Or did you randomly apply for it because you saw an advert online?

Some people know exactly what they want to do in life from an early age. An example being Nick Danzinger, who tells his fascinating story of going solo travelling abroad at the age of just 13; an experience that would become formative in his career as an award-winning travel writer.

Alas, not all of us are struck by such early inspiration.

However you got into your current job, to what extent would you describe it as a passion? Or a mission? Or even a vocation? In other words, to what extent does your job truly represent the beliefs that you hold and the person you want to be?

My journey into starting and growing my online English exam academy, Swoosh English, is an interesting one that didn’t really follow a typical trajectory.

In 2010 I went to Hong Kong to spend a year teaching English. I wasn’t initially inspired to become a teacher because English was my dream vocation or passion. The real reason that I got into what I do now with Swoosh started with…Bruce Lee. Random, right?

I adored Bruce Lee films as a kid after my dad introduced me to them. I watched all his films and he quickly became my hero. Still is, actually. His home city of Hong Kong got me interested in going out there to live for a year. This led me to see English teaching as a vehicle to achieve that
It’s fascinating to look back and reflect on how your life turns out. 

Am I passionate about my business now? Absolutely. I love the fact that we help non native English speaking doctors and nurses to achieve their dreams of working in the NHS.

I’m passionate about helping people and medical professionals passing an exam that can lead to them radically changing their lives as well as their families which ticks this box.

Was it my dream when I was a kid though? No. I wanted to be a footballer like many boys do.

I’d love to hear of a random journey that led you to do what you love so send it through by replying to this email.

But let’s go right back to the questions I asked at the start. I don’t know what your answers are but what I’m almost sure of is that they are questions that you probably haven’t deeply considered before, at least not for a long time.

Yet there probably is something inside you telling you that the path you’ve been following throughout your career might not be aligned with your deeper values or desires.

And you probably told yourself that it was normal to feel that way. After all, it’s work, right? Who’s supposed to enjoy that? It’s only 8 hours of your day, 40 hours of the week, 48 weeks of the year. i.e. the vast majority of your waking life. Who’s supposed to enjoy that…

Do you work to live OR live to work?

I believe that the reason so many of us fail to find work that fulfils us is not because our dream job doesn’t exist, it’s because we never truly spent the time trying to work out what that dream job would actually be.

Too many of us are told that we need to follow the money. As if money by itself was the foundation of human happiness. When I solely followed the money (especially when I did all the sh*t jobs I’ve done that I documented in this blog post) it left me feeling empty, sad, and unfulfilled. It was a necessary part of my journey and I wouldn’t change it but it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

Yes, money is important. Life ain’t too great if you’re without it. But the amount of money you will earn is not by itself a sufficiently broad consideration for something that you will be required to dedicate so much of your life to.

So how should we work out what we ought to be spending the majority of our waking hours doing? Well, now I want you to try something else. Have a go at answering the following questions:

  1. What do you love? 
  2. What are you good at? 
  3. What does the world need? 
  4. And what can you get paid for? 

Write your answers on a good old-fashioned piece of paper.

Now spend some time thinking about an activity that would link the answers to these four questions together. Write that down too. 

Did you come up with anything?

If the answer is “yes” then you have discovered your Ikigai, a Japanese term that translates as “reason for being”. And the beauty of it is that each person’s Ikigai will be unique to them.

That’s because your Ikigai is not just a job: it’s your passion, your mission and your vocation. It’s the activity that you should be pulling out all the stops to pursue.

Discovering my Ikigai was one of the most profound steps I’ve ever taken. The act of reflecting on these four vital questions has helped shape my life and my career. It’s woken me up to where I need to be and what I need to be doing.

Doing the Ikigai exercise allowed me to start and develop the ‘Stories of Men: Beneath the Surface’ podcast

I’ve found it so useful that I’ve done it on many occasions. In fact, each time I start a new project, I’ll do this activity, just to make sure that I’m making a decision that will be right for me.

Also, just the simple act of taking the time to reflect and put pen to paper has helped me get into the habit of actively thinking about what I want from life and the things I want to achieve. And it’s encouraged me to set goals, real goals.

Do you know how many people actually take the time to do this? And, no, I’m not talking about New Year’s Resolutions. We all know loads of people make those and virtually just as many people break them.

In fact, it’s been reported that around 92% of people fail to achieve their own resolutions.

I’m an example. I’ve done New Year’s resolutions in the past and pretty much never stuck to them.

I’m talking about the people who write down what it is they want to achieve and actually reflect on how and when they plan to achieve it. Go on, have a guess at a percentage figure.

Whatever you guessed was probably too high. The answer is 1%. If there was ever a clearer way to set yourself apart from the crowd than getting involved in genuine goal-setting then I’ve certainly never come across it.

Let’s face it, time is short. Who wants to spend so much of it doing something they hate? And while it’s easy to recognise the things we don’t want to do, very few of us take the time to genuinely work out what we do want.

So give Ikigai a try and discover your true calling. You may not be able to make all of the changes that you want to at once but knowing where you want to be makes it that much easier to get there.

For further inspiration, why not have a listen to Steve’s moving story of discovering a new sport and a new vocation that he never previously imagined he would have embarked upon. It’ll show you that making significant changes in your life is far from a pipedream.

It’s hard to say this without it sounding cheesy but time really is too short to do things that you don’t want to do and don’t align with your life’s purpose. 

I can’t recommend this short little book by Seneca enough: On the Shortness of Life: “How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!”.

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           PROFESSIONAL
 

Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights

           PROFESSIONAL
 

I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.

           PROFESSIONAL
 

I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

          PROFESSIONAL

 

Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  

 

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: 15 YEARS

                 PERSONAL

 

Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.

           PROFESSIONAL
 

I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: 10 YEARS

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

           PROFESSIONAL
I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 
 
INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE: 11 YEARS
                 PERSONAL

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

           PROFESSIONAL
 
I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 
 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.