Cat Man – an interview with Jack Stewart (30th of May 2006)

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Introduction

I received a request from Jack some weeks ago – he wanted to offer his book,  The Coaching Parent: Help Your Children Realise Their Potential by Becoming Their Personal Success Coach for the contest we run on this site. Well, after that was sorted out, I wandered over to his site and and I was impressed by much of what I read. As for the title of this interview, I’ll leave you to figure out why. Without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you, Jack Stewart …


Aneeta: Thank you, Jack, for agreeing to this interview.

Jack: Thank you Aneeta for asking. For reasons we will touch upon, I’ve been blessed with a life that has enabled me to develop in many areas, and any opportunity to make the world a better place I’ll grab with both hands. Whenever this kind of chance comes along, the only thing that bugs me is the number of sentences that begin with ‘I’.

Aneeta: Please, let us begin with a little about you. Please tell me a little about your family, the place you live and what it is you do?

Jack: I was born 53 years ago in a suburb of an old industrial town called Warrington, which for your overseas readers is half-way between Liverpool and Manchester.

I was adopted, something my [late, wonderful] parents kept from me. However my [late too, I hope I’m not a jinx!] best friend told me when I was 21. It wasn’t until I was forty that my wife Anne told my mother I knew.

I have two fantastic step-daughters, Karen and Janet, and three fantastic grandchildren, James, Nicola and Josh. We have five cats here in sunny Dutton, just south of Warrington, where I [at the moment] run a plant nursery and do other things you will ask me about…

Aneeta: On your website http://www.organisationalhealing.org/ , it says that you are an author, psychotherapist and coach, trainer and organisational consultant. The thing is, I’ve read that before this you were at one time an accountant. Hmmm … do tell. What happened? Why leave such a ‘lucrative’ career? I’m curious about this because I too left a lucrative career to pursue my dream of writing and I’m fascinated by others who’ve done the same. What happened? Are you happier now? Did you get lots of unnecessary comments and how did you deal with them?

Jack: I used to rationalise being adopted by saying it had given me inner strength. I’m done now making an issue of it, as I chose this life. I’ve had a lot of jobs, and a few careers [accountant, office manager, part-time DJ {disc jockey}, personnel specialist, lecturer, trade union and labour party activist, consultant, author, publisher, nursery owner, CD creator, trainer…]. Accountancy? Not for me. I had nightmares for years after scraping a third class degree at university. I reckon if someone had asked me questions after leaving the examination room, I would have blanked them [I later discovered this is a universal phenomenon-cram the answers, then forget]. I did it probably because my parents had no understanding of careers and university [my dad was a wire worker, my mum a cleaner], and how many unemployed accountants does it take to change a light bulb?

I like people, so personnel was the obvious route [more nonsense. I had a chance to do a full-time diploma in personnel management, and get paid for it. Yes, they did that in the mid 70’s] for my first career change. Happy? Maybe. Don’t regret any of my decisions. There’s a lot in this question. I worked at Liverpool Council when Militant [Derek Hatton etc. Fascinating if you are into the history of British politics, ignore it otherwise] were in control, and at Manchester Housing Department I was a hero to half the workforce, a villain to the other half-I had to go! ‘Interesting’ fits better than happy! Comments? When the talking stops, you only have one life, and it’s you who has to live it. I’ve had some idiot bosses, and some stressful jobs. I’ve learned from the idiots, became one myself for a few months, but always got out in time. You have followed your dream, and you have my admiration. Ever read the ‘Alchemist’ by Paolo Coelho?

Aneeta: Thank you for the compliment. No, I’ve not read the ‘Alchemist’ but, I will put it on my Amazon.com wish-list now. O.K. Let’s get down to what you do now. I’ll start with the books and cds you’ve created. Please tell me a little about each of them.

Jack:

1. The Learning Organization in The Public Services

I was into this big time in the early 90’s. To me any organisation should be a place of beauty, of creativity, learning, and a means to inspire people to create a better world. Through my research, I studied Organization Development [OD], a 1960’s American approach to change which was revolutionary. OD people were and are geniuses. To them, organizations were either perceived by the owners and managers as machines or biological organisms. Every management theory/practice/flavour of the month will be one or the other. Every famous ‘boss’ will see his/her empire as a machine or living thing. I can’t stand the term ‘human resources’. I suppose machines can be resourceful. OD worked then, and still today nothing comes close. Any management approach which works has a short shelf-life! The Learning Organization [OD by any other name] will re-emerge under another label. I’ve lost touch with all this, it probably has already. The book? You’re going to start worrying soon, because the person [Derek Staniforth] who asked me to co-author it died a few years ago! Derek, Janice Cook and I made the case that the public sector had many, many examples of cutting-edge practice. I feel proud of it. Am I really 53? It cost £45, is now a classic, and I haven’t seen a copy of it for years.

2. Purrfect Symphony and Relax With Cats.

After seeing animal carnage on the TV in Zimbabwe in 2002, I went to bed feeling depressed. I dreamt in the middle of the night, seeing one of our cats, Tommy, and the idea of putting cats purring to music flashed through my mind. Ridiculous? You bet.

So absurd was it that I only told my wife a few weeks later, and a close friend Jeff Moran, who is a sound therapist, one year later. If there was one person on the planet who could turn the idea into reality, it was him. Another year later we released it. It gets rave reviews. But like Dyson’s vacuum, and the wind-up radio, the challenge remains to get it bought by enough people. It works for people and cats! Cats purr at a frequency that relaxes and heals, the same frequency that heals humans. Simple eh? But to most people who hear about the concept, even cat lovers, they are reluctant to buy it, thinking they will hear a bunch of screeching cats. It is truly beautiful music, and the purrs are barely audible, as they [and several tracks of sound therapy] do their work.

Relax With Cats is an hour of relaxation music, Purrfect Symphony is eight tracks of relaxation, energising and healing music. Different appeal, different markets.

My motivation? Realise animals are far more than furry, passive and occasionally greedy creatures. They possess wisdom, are in tune with nature, can help us all to become better people. Relax to cat purrs and change the world. Jeff’s? Get everyone to fully relax. He’s fed up with me going on about wanting to change the world, but he does too, he just doesn’t like talking about it! Reward yourself www.purrfectsymphony.com.

3. The Coaching Parent

David [Miskimin, my co-author http://www.thedirectorscoach.com] and I met on one of my NLP courses. We got on very well. We both kicked around ideas which would allow us to work together. We ran coaching courses. Neither of us remembers how the idea of coaching parents came about, we just knew the technology of coaching and NLP could help with the most essential job of all-bringing up kids. We created a pack of cards, then a CD, then we realised a book had to be written. We are very proud of it. We have endorsements from some of the best people in the field. Parents can help their kids become the best they can be and remain friends. It’s also a brilliant book for self-development. Practical, easy to read and you know what’s coming next-it works. www.thecoachingparent.com

4. Moving For A Change

A friend [Paul Kerr] I met in Colorado in 1994, when I did my NLP master practitioner course, taught me the power of movement in human change and development. The book begins with changing by standing still, and progresses through a series of 30 odd techniques to quite vigorous ones. They all work, some are very dramatic. I’ve been using them all for 12 years. The book will be out later this year.

Aneeta: I understand that you are a Coach and you have NLP certification. For the benefit of my readers, can you give a brief run down of what NLP is and how it is of help to people.

Jack: Most of us [me for decades] go through life blissfully ignorant of what actually goes on inside us [apart from too much thinking] after we have taken in information though our senses. We have been told that real, high quality talent is mostly God-given, and is not available to the majority of people.

We have also been led to believe that the best way to improve things is find out what is going wrong and put it right.

The essence of NLP is that the early pioneers found out by close study of world-class therapists and healers, that what they did could be broken down into principles and techniques and learned by anyone.

NLP is a set of tools and techniques that enable the practitioner to model [copy] just about anything they admire in others, and realise their own unlimited potential. Is it powerful? Just ask people who pay £500 for a couple of days with Tony Robbins. Ask those who Paul McKenna has helped through his books and CD’s..

NLP is a multi-sensory toolkit, not a theory, and as such is difficult to describe. It is something you do. Firstly, ask yourself the life-changing question, ‘What do I want [out of life]?’ NLP will help you get it, yes even if you don’t believe you deserve it, because NLP can help you with that too!

Aneeta: On your website, you state that you provide therapy. Now, please, can you explain what is the difference between coaching and therapy?

Jack: I have worked with world-class rugby players and judo people, and other highly motivated sports people. ‘Therapy’ hasn’t quite the same cachet as coaching has it?

I like the dysfunctional to enhanced function model. At some time in our lives, all of us will be dysfunctional, that is, unable to cope. Many of us will also excel at something during our lives, the most dedicated becoming famous. So to me coaches help those who want to be even better at what they do, i.e. move from being merely functional to very good or excellent [enhanced function]. Therapists usually begin by getting people out of being dysfunctional to functional [coping, getting back to ‘normal’]

It’s obvious even world-class people have issues which can render them unable to cope, it is rarely made public, except if it is, it becomes sensationalised. Equally, you can leap from dysfunctional to enhanced function quickly too. That’s what I like to think I do!

Aneeta: As you know, my website’s cateres for storytellers. How important do you think storytelling is to what you do and what advice would you give to other storytellers?

Jack: Storytelling? Fabulous! Milton Erickson, widely regarded as the world’s greatest hypnotherapist, and possibly the most influential of those modelled for NLP, told stories to achieve the most amazing changes in his clients. I can’t run a course, work with a client, or be interviewed without telling stories, both true and from folklore.

Advice-what do you want to achieve by your stories? To amuse, enthrall, entertain, change, delight? Use as many senses as you can with your language, shine a light in dark corners, create harmony or temporary discord [underpinned by a sound motive] with your words, grip the reader. Smell and taste success. Open loops like Billy Connolly, tap into cultural norms like Meera Syal and Peter Kay, write for the heart like Paolo Coelho, inspire like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, and offer others the chance to shine like Aneeta!

Aneeta: Oh my God. My name’s in the same sentence as Gandhi’s! (*blush*). Well, I think we’ve covered everything. Is there anything I’ve left out? If I have, please add it here.

Jack: Yes, a penultimate piece. A couple of weeks ago, I met my birth mother for the first time. She came over from Boston [USA] for 10 days. From having no blood relatives for 50+ years, I now have three [half] brothers and a sister, god knows how many nephews and nieces, and I haven’t started to track my American air force father.

Life is rarely boring. Keep up your wonderful work.

Aneeta: Jack, thank you so much for agreeing to this.

Jack: You’re very welcome. The most significant book I have ever read [and I’ve read a lot] is Eckhard Tolle’s A New Earth, [Penguin 2005]. So I’ll close with something from it:

“Fulfilling your primary purpose [to awaken] is laying the foundation for a new reality, a new earth. Once that foundation is there your external purpose [destiny, mission] becomes charged with spiritual power because your aims and intentions will be at one with the evolutionary impulse of the universe.”

Cette Vie T’Aime.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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