Today’s Guest Mark Buchanan
Mark has had a remarkable career, spanning multiple sectors and roles. Starting as an electrical engineer, they moved on to become a leader in the charitable sector before transitioning to consulting, coaching, and founding his own company. With experience working with clients in 60 countries, he has become an expert in leadership, problem-solving, and instilling a culture of strategic execution. His passion for social responsibility and sustainability led him to found We Are Fair Trade Ltd, and he's also a Churchill fan who never gives up. When not working, he can be found on his motorbike or pursuing his other hobbies like photography.
- Mark's diverse experiences and logical approach to problem-solving have shaped his leadership and business strategy. He enjoys consulting and coaching, focusing on empowering individuals and harmonizing their efforts to achieve business success. He believes that people are fascinating and all have unique stories and cultures.
- The biggest challenge for Mark is finding a balance between having a strong sense of self and humility, which allows him to be confident in his beliefs but also open to the perspectives of others. He acknowledges that this balance takes time and practice, and that it is important to always be open to the possibility that his beliefs and opinions may be incomplete or incorrect.
- Mark explains the concept of 4DX, which is a set of four disciplines of execution that help businesses achieve their goals. The four disciplines are painful behavior patterns that require discipline but lead to positive outcomes. The concept comes from the Franklin Covey organization famous for the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which provides a foundational platform for 4DX.
- Most people start with good intentions, but over time, they fall back to their default ways due to lack of discipline and familiarity. To achieve above-average success, one needs phenomenal determination and courage, and mutual accountability is pivotal to staying on track. Groups of people working towards a shared vision outperform individuals working alone.
- Mark finds spending time alone in nature and photography to be energizing and centering, helping him recharge and repair. He also finds meditation and prayer helpful in reminding him of his own smallness and insignificance, which reduces stress and helps him focus on his part in a bigger picture.
- Mark is involved in starting a new fair trade company called We Are Fair Trade, which is the successor to Trade Craft in its mission. He was inspired to take on this challenge due to his involvement with Tradecraft and the importance of the fair trade mission. The new company aims to use digital opportunities to continue the mission and involve a younger audience in ethical practices.
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Mark: I'm inquisitive, I'm stubborn, and I'm incredibly logical. And I think that's probably the underpinnings of it. Take the approach I'm just gonna take the opportunities that come my way. And assume I'm gonna be good at it.
Matt: Welcome to Push To Be More with me, your host. Matt Edmundson. Now this is a show that talks about the stuff that makes life work and to help us do just that. I am chatting with today's Guest Mark Buchanan from practicaleyes.com. Oh yes. About where he is had to push through what he does to recharge his batteries and where well, basically where he sees the future going really.
So the show notes and transcript from my conversation with Mark are available on our website pushtobemore.com On our website. You can also sign up for our newsletter, and each week we will email you the links along with the notes, uh, from the conversation, uh, direct to your inbox automagically, and it's totally free, which is amazing.
Now this episode is brought to you by Aurion Media, which helps entrepreneurs and business leaders set up and run their own successful podcast to grow their own business. You know what? I have found running my own podcast to be insanely rewarding. It opens doors to amazing people like nothing else. I have seen.
I have built networks, made friends, had a platform to champion my customers, my team, and my suppliers. And I genuinely think that just about any entrepreneur or business leader could benefit from having a podcast, uh, firstly because it's had such a big impact on my own business. Now, of course, this all sounds great in theory, but in reality there is the whole problem of setting up distribution, getting the tech right, knowing what the right podcast strategy is.
I mean, the list goes on. As you know dear listener, I love talking. I just genuinely love talking to people, but I'm not a big fan of all that other stuff, all the production, all the promotion, all that sort of stuff. Uh, so the team at Aurion Media take it all off my plate. I get to do what I'm good at, and they brilliantly take care of the rest. So if you are wondering if podcasting is a good marketing strategy for your business, do connect with them at aurionmedia.com. That's Aurion, a u r i o n media dot com. And of course there will be a link on the podcast website as well, which is pushtobemore.com.
Now, our guest has had a remarkable career spanning multiple sectors and roles starting as an electrical engineer. He moved on to become a leader in the charitable sector before transitioning to consulting and coaching, uh, and founding, well his own company. We're gonna get into all of this. He's ex he's worked in over, uh, with clients in over 60 countries. Lemme get that statement right. Uh, and he's become an expert in leadership, problem solving and instilling a culture of strategic execution, which I just really like as a phrase.
Uh, he has a passion for social responsibility and sustainability, and that's led him to find and start we are fair trade. Uh, he's, uh, mark is also a Churchill fan and who's not a Churchill fan, uh, you know, who never gives up. When not working. Mark will be found on his motorbike and pursuing other hobbies like photography and an occasional interest in woodwork, which we share. Uh, we may talk about all of these things. Now. Mark it's great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining me, man. How are you doing?
Mark: I'm doing really well. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Matt: Oh, no, it's great. I'm, look, I'm, I'm, I'm absolutely looking forward to this. Now, the back, I'm looking at you on, on video, obviously on the video camera.
I can see you. And if you're watching this on YouTube, uh, listener, uh, you a listener, you'd be a viewer. Technically, uh, you can see a background to you,Mark. Now, is that a green screen background or is that your actual background?
Mark: This is the, the first honesty test, isn't it? Yeah, I'd love to say this. My own woodwork job just over the weekend, but no, that would be up. It's actually a green screen backdrop.
Matt: Yeah, well I was gonna say, it's a very beautiful piece of, uh, joinery going on in the background there. And so, um, if you did make it, can I just say right here at the start talking about full honesty? Uh, I'll share this with you, Mark. Cause I think you'll appreciate it.
Sorry, listener, if you're not really into woodwork, but, um, my daughter, Zoe, she's 16 years old. Or coming up for 16 years old next week, and she said to me like five years ago, dad, I want you to make me a bed. Okay. With all the stuff that I make in the workshop, it's like, she's like, dad, I want you to make me a bed.
And we've been talking about this for years. Eventually I'm like, right, I've now got the space to start making you a bed. Let's design the bed that you want. Okay. So I, um, I sat down with my daughter and with Pinterest and we, we went through copious amounts of images and we're like, we like this bit, we don't like that bit.
And so we started to sketch out what we wanted and we drew up this bed. I then design that bed in 3D software so I can figure out the wood that I need to make the bed. And I'm just, I've got all the wood, it's in the warehouse, right? It's in a little workshop in my warehouse, and I've got all the wood there waiting to be milled to the right size.
And the day before, the night before I start chopping that wood, I thought, I just wonder. So I went onto, um, an AI image generation website and I said, design me a wooden bed that's dot, dot, dot, you know, the criteria that Zoe had. Uh, and it we came out with about 20 different images, but instantly Zoe saw one that she, she liked and she went, actually Dad, can, can I have that?
Wow. So AI Mark is a better furniture designer than I am apparently. So, uh, I am now taking this design from AI and making it so you can actually manufacture it. But yeah, can you believe that?
Mark: Well, here's, how's this for a segue though? But of course, it's all about the execution, isn't it, Matt? So let them design it, but it's your ability to execute that will make her happy. So there you go. Yeah.
Matt: Well, thanks for making me feel better,
Mark: isn't it? Some piece of code replace 20 years of, uh, trial and error and frustration and skill building. Hey?
Matt: It's really interesting, isn't it, where AI is going and how it sort of gives you these interesting stuff. I don't think it solves the problem, like it didn't gimme the furniture plans, but it starts you thinking down perhaps ways that you never would've conceptually thought, or at least I didn't conceptually think about where it was going.
Um, and so that I found fascinating and interesting. So, Speaking of AI, uh, Mr. I dunno, I dunno what the segue here is, Mark. But your career has taken you from electrical engineering right? To leadership roles in the charitable sector. Um, now you're a consultant coach and you are fi you are sort of starting, we are Fair trade limited.
It's an interesting career, isn't it? And it's, it's sort of, it's, I'm curious, how has sort of all these diverse experiences shaped your approach to, um, leadership and business strategy?
Mark: Yeah, so I, I'd love to say this has been a fiendishly cunning scheme that I cooked up when I was 12 and I've followed it and look at me now, but that wouldn't be true.
Um, I think there's a few things. I'm inquisitive, I'm stubborn and I'm incredibly logical. And I think that's probably the underpinnings of it. Take the approach that I'm just gonna take the opportunities that come my way. Yeah. And assume I'm gonna be good at it. Um, I, I had a very, very strong father whose own father and grandfather and great-great-grandfather were emotionally stunted people.
And for some miraculous reason, he became a firebreak father and instilled tremendous confidence into me, my sister and my brother. And because I think without that, it would be a very different story. Um, and it's not that I can do everything a brilliant standard, but I've always approached things assuming that I will be able to do it rather than assuming that I won't.
But then when opportunities have come along, I've just said yes. And I, I like learning new things. I like change, I like chaos. I like tumult. I'm not brilliant at stable state. So the engineering just sort of honed. My fundamental logic. So in left brain, right brain terms, I sit right in the middle. So I'm very logical, but with creative flair.
So if I'm with logical people, I'm surprisingly creative. I'm with creative people, I'm surprisingly logical. Um, but the, but things happen for a reason is there is reasons why we get the results we get. And most of those reasons are actually our own decisions and our own paradigms. But that was a brilliant few years.
I did an apprenticeship actually as a systems wireman. So we were building control panels for power stations and trees. And then I moved into building the control systems for British Telecom satellites, you know, to take telephone conversations over to the states. And that's a very ruthlessly logical world.
It doesn't matter what you say and what you give, either the red light comes on when you flick the switch or it doesn't, and there's no getting round it. So, and if it's not coming when it should, that means there is a fault somewhere and you have to find it. So then you have to find up tests and all that sort of thing.
But that made sense to me cuz you know it works or it doesn't work. Yeah. And you know, there's only a certain number that can have gone wrong and you know what connects to what. So it is just slowly eliminating all the things it's not, and what you're left with is what it must be. Um, and that really set me up for pretty much everything else that I've done is that, you know, stuff isn't random, you know, and being a Christian on that score as well, I think it's not random.
Nothing is random. Nothing's accidental and therefore in human interconnections, in business or in woodworking or electronics or photography, you know, what we are seeing is the result of things we've decided to do or decided not to do. So the outcome, it's reverse engineering that and saying, okay, what is it we're doing that's getting us the outcome we don't want?
And what are we doing that's getting us the outcomes we do want and let's learn more of that. So, Although it seems like a weird segue from electronics into consulting, it, it does sort of make sense.
Matt: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I can see that as well. You know, uh, listening to you talk, my dad, uh, is, is quite a, well, let's just call him an electronics boffin, um, uh, would be a fair, a fair phrase to describe my dad.
And, um, and it's a, as I'm listening to you talk about your approach, I'm like that Yeah, I can see that. And that makes sense. You know, and you're sort of reverse engineering, so this is not getting the results that we want, so why not? And so you, are you enjoying the consulting and the coaching now?
Mark: Yeah, I do.
I love it. Absolutely love it. I'm fascinated by people. People are absolutely fantastic. They're amazing and they're all different. So I've worked in 65 countries, I think it is now. I've done a few more since I wrote that bio. And everywhere you go, people have got stories, they've got history, uh, Just learning other people's culture of why they do what they do and how things work for them.
Yeah. And people want to do a good job. You know, there are very, very few people on the planet who actually say, I think I'll just rip off the boss today if I can get away with it. Or what's the least f I could, people aren't really like that. But people have very muddled ideas about who they are, what they can do, and how to interact with other people.
But I've come to see that there are principles, so they're not rules, they're principles, so there's fuzziness around them. But fundamentally, if you look just from a socio ethical point of view, every religious text in the world will contain some version of do unto, unto others as you would have them do to you.
Yeah. It's in everything. The Geeta, the Quran, the Talmud, the Bible, um, and it's a principle how you actually apply that in this given situation might vary depending on whether you're in France or Dubai or the States or whatever. But fundamentally, people will react to you the way you set them up to react to you.
Yeah. Whereas a lot of time think, God, you know, that's random. Why are they not getting on with this project? Or why don't they understand this education piece we're trying to do? Um, but as soon as you stop and say, okay, let's start with me. What am I doing that's helping? What am I doing that's not helping?
How do I switch from one to the other? It just becomes very principle based, nuts and bolts. And I love the fact that I get dropped into a situation. I might know nothing about the business that I'm just about to go into. And very quickly, you've gotta sum it up. You've gotta work out what, what's going on here?
What are the challenges? What have we got to work with? What's the mood and the tone? What's the corporate culture? Um, and then working out, okay, how do I liberate the people? Because if I liberate people, then they would deliver what the people who pay them really want. So, sounds terrible and hope none of my clients are listening.
But in a way, I'm not that much motivated by helping company X, Y, z make another billion dollars over the next five years. I'm happy for them if that happens, but what turns me on is how do I make your people really believe in themselves? How do I help them understand each other? How do I help them understand that there's lots of different people and different people types need different treatments.
And I've got a lot of relatives in, uh, in Holland and there's a Dutch saying, saying, happy cows give you more milk. And it's really funny saying, but fundamentally if you get the people sorted, and I don't mean fixed as in let's get you, you're a problem. I get empowered. The empowered individual is the key to all business.
And then it's just how do we harmonize these individual efforts into something that hits the bottom line? Yeah. So that's the chat. I really get a buzz out of.
Matt: It's, uh, and I can see why too, because I, when you put it like, like you've just put it, you, you kind of go, well, yeah, it just sounds, that sounds amazing.
You know, the, the ability to sit back and think about those kind of things always sort of sounds fun. But I'm curious, Mark, over the, the span, you know, you've worked in 65 countries, you've worked in industry, you've worked in the third sector. You've worked in for yourself, you know, you, you, you've done all of these sort of things.
What's the biggest challenge that you've had to sort of go through in all of those things?
Mark: I think there's two, and they're in a tension. You've gotta have a sustainable core of your own self. So I've spent years and years and years in hotel rooms and on planes. So most of us take our stability from home and our street and our town and our local football club and our TV programs we like and our family, you know, our partners.
But you have to carry that with you. You know, at, at its peak I was away two or three months out of every two or three weeks, out of every four. And it could be, you know, one week you're in the Middle East, the next week you're in China. The next week after that, you're in the States. So having a really strong sense of self.
That you carry with you, um, is really important. And that gives you the confidence to stand up in front of people you've never met and say, Hey, have you thought about doing this or that? But then you have to temper that with incredible humility because the people you're talking to probably aren't like me.
And if I over present my rock solid core, that could be quite off-putting. So yeah, for my own sake, I have to be ruthlessly strong and for their sake, I have to have a really permeable outer core around myself so they can get me, they can understand me, attach to me, and then I can introduce them to the principles that I'm excited about.
And I think that's been the challenge for me is you have to be motivated by things that come from yourself. You can't afford to be too dependent on what other people think of you, their opinion of you, what they say about you, how happy they are with you on the day. You've gotta be able to sustain yourself without those things, but humans are sort of wired to need them.
You gotta do that in a way that doesn't make you so icy that people just don't feel they can attach to you at all. Especially when you culture to culture to culture where it's so different.
Matt: Yeah. No, that's really fascinating. So the, the strong sense of self mixed with humility. How many times have you got that combination right.
Because it sounds, I mean, I I I, I get what you're saying, but I'm, I'm just sort of looking back over my own working life thinking I'm, I'm not sure how many times I've got the balance right on that, you know, sometimes I've quite often, I've probably been too sure about what I think, um, and not had the humility to ask what other people think.
Um, that's got me into a few problems over the years, but I'm, I'm just kind of curious, how do you, how do you manage that tension?
Mark: I think I've, well, you, I don't wanna seem boastful, but I've achieved that at least twice and possibly three.
If I could get a fourth, that would be great. Yeah. That's you, you, it's a pendulum, isn't it? So you was never in, in the right place and it takes a long time. So I, there's two schools of thought. There's the school of thought that people don't change. I don't think that's true, but I do think it's true that people change incredibly slowly.
Yeah. And it takes vast amount of insight or necessity to get any change in them at all. And people change the most when they realize they just made an almighty cockup of something. That's their, they become the most malleable in their inner self. Um, so I would say over time that I'm getting the balance better and better and better.
And in between it's coping strategy. So I'm incredibly opinionated. Lot of people like that because they want reassurance and security and clarity. I'm really good at giving those things, but it can come over as really arrogant and insensitive. Yeah. And I've took me year somehting like that, um, and about 400 people saying, you're an arrogant get, you know, why do you present like that?
So then you, it is coping strategies. You, it feels a bit fake. But I've just learned to say, in my opinion, I say that as a, almost as a mantra, just as flag look, I really believe this is absolutely true, but I also know that it's possible, it's not true. So I'm gonna behave and act as if though it is true, because that's my beliefs.
Those are the principles I think I'm seeing at work in the world. But then you have to keep putting the balancing bit in just to acknowledge. But I could be wrong. My certainty could be misplaced. So I'll present with utter confidence, but allow for the fact that nobody's got it right all the time. Um mm-hmm.
And always having your L plates on. So my, my dad was the pastor of a church in Liverpool and he had a little, an L plate cellotaped to the wall of his study. Uh, and he said, soon as I take that off, I'm gonna be in serious, serious trouble. He said, you can never, ever take your L plates off. I keep thinking about, yeah, I'm giving the best I've got at the moment whilst trying to acknowledge that it will at least be incomplete.
Hopefully rarely, but it is still possible that it could be just flat out wrong. Um, so yeah. I need lightly
Matt: Yeah. No, I like that. I like the idea of having L plates on my office wall, just to remind me. Yeah. Uh, it's, um, That's a good tip. It is a good tip. So happy cows give you more milk. Uh, the famous Dutch saying, uh, which I, I quite, I quite like that.
Um, I, I, I dunno if it translates as well, but it, it's interesting, isn't it? So if you make people happy, um, happy is maybe the wrong word, maybe fulfilled or give them a sense of meaning, perhaps is a, is a better sense of, um, the word, isn't it? Yeah. And so when we were talking in the pre-call Mark, one of the things that you mentioned that you sort of got involved with, um, is 4dx, right?
So Yes. Um, and I'm intrigued by this partly cause I've read the book. Um, and, uh, for those that don't know, just explain what 4DX is.
Mark: So 4DX comes out of, uh, training and consulting organization in the states called the Franklin Covey Organization. And the four Disciplines of execution, four dx. So they're four disciplines, and by discipline we mean painful, probably repeated behavior patterns. So discipline is never fun, but it gets you what you want, you know? Mm-hmm.
I think he's a guy, Jim Rohn, r o h n, said, in life you get to choose between two kinds of pain. It's either the pain of regret, which is the default, and that's what will happen to you unless you do something about it where you look back at the end of your life and say, I wish I'd done this, or I wish I had not done.
So if we wanna avoid that, we have to opt for pain type two, which is the pain of discipline. It hurts as well and is inconvenient, but it gets us the outcomes that we want. Yes. So pain's not a popular term, but if you talk to an athlete, or even, even if we're talking woodwork, no one ever makes the first joint right do they? You know, the first time we try and do duck joints, it's just embarrassing, frankly.
And be the first printing, maybe that's autobiographical, but, but it takes discipline to keep coming back and say, okay, what did I do wrong? How do I do better? Yeah, that's discipline. Yeah. Execution is the ability to get things done, and more importantly, the ability to get the right things done.
So the underlying principle is if you've got two companies and one's got a grade A strategy, but only grade B execution, they will do a lot worse than the next company that's got only a B grade strategy that executes it at an A level. So a brilliant execution of a reasonably good strategy will always outperform rubbish execution of a brilliant strategy.
So hence the four disciplines, which when they work together and you get those into the business cycle, into the pulse of the business, then they start to migrate your results in a positive direction. Takes time to set some of them up and you've got to maintain it. That's the discipline bit. They're not quick results.
But that's what will get you the outcomes that the businesses set up to achieve. And most of the business situations I get dropped into it isn't that they don't know what to do, it's just that they don't do it. Mm-hmm. And then on top of that, people spend a huge amount of their day doing stuff that actually doesn't really matter.
The boss asks for it or they enjoy it, or they feel that they're good at it, but they're not good reasons to allocate that bit of your precious time to that particular task. So 4DX is designed to give people a vision for what they're doing based on wing them, the connection between their efforts and the outcomes that matter to them and their boss and the business.
Matt: Right. And it, you said it's come out of the Franklin Covey organization, which is famous probably I, the most famous thing I think it's well known for is the Seven Habits. Right?
Mark: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is sensationally good material. And if I had my way, I was ever president of the universe, I would make everybody do that course because it's, it's just common sense.
Mm-hmm. But really, really well organized. And loads of people afterwards say, look, I've always thought that, but I didn't know I thought it because no one's ever actually put it that clearly. And it people instinctively sense, you know what, this is absolutely right. Mm-hmm. And I've delivered it literally all over the world.
And I've got people from all kinds of religious faiths, all kinds of political backgrounds, say, oh yes. Yeah, yeah. You've obviously taken that from us because that's exactly what we think. So it, it's genius level material, and it makes you think about things that in our busy, loud world, most of us never give enough time to, like, what's really important to you?
What really matters to you? How do you work effectively with people who are not like you? And dare we say people you don't even like, how do we get the results then? How do I have integrity? How do I act true to myself? How do I maximize my capabilities? So in many ways, 4DX sits on top of that foundational platform of the seven habits.
Matt: I was gonna add, that was one of my questions actually. Are they somehow connected, um, the seven habits and 4DX or are they, are they significantly separated?
Mark: Yeah, they're not formally connected in, except that they both come from the same source. Um, seven Habits started off as a book, um, and then became a course and then that really took off. So they had time management and then they had the seven habits, and those two were the sort of foundational, uh, stones of the business.
And it was a long time afterwards that 4DX came along, um, and came along in a few different versions and we had to feedback how it went. And it iterated over time. Um, so it's not that you have to do the seven habits and then you can do 4DX, but it makes it a lot more sense if you do do that. Right?
Because once you realize how potent you are, but how much effort it takes to really be you, once you've got that sort of awareness of that the 4dx makes an awful lot more sense than if you come from a cold start. Um, cuz it was all about saying no to nearly everything except the things that really matter.
So that's all, every time management course in the world is basically when to say no. That's all it is. Yeah. Yeah. My opening line always tends to be, there is no such thing as time management and frankly, time doesn't need managing. It's doing great. You know, it ticks away at 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour, and it does not need our help.
Mm-hmm. What we're really talking about me management and most of me management is of time and effort and money and energy and passion on things that don't really matter. And if you stop doing that, all of a sudden. You've got the time to do the things that are really important. Um, well, 4DX is a way to get teams to stay focused over long periods of time on what is really important and to work out what is it that we do that actually gets us these important results, which is often quite obtuse.
It takes a long time to work out. The actions that are really driving business performance. Um, so wildly important goals is, is the start. What is the wildly, wildly important goal? Only have one wildly important goal. At the most, maybe that might go to three. But if I walk into a business and they say, look, here's our 20 goals for the year.
Yeah. I always just, uh, be facetious say, that's great. No goals. They say, no, no, no. We've got 20 goals. Yeah. But that is having no goals. Humans cannot gradate their effort or prioritize their effort over 20 possibilities. Nobody can do that, especially not under pressure. So that's in some ways the easy part is to say, okay, let's really think about what is wildly important.
And nearly always that's attached to money, certainly in the business world, but even for a charity, it could be, you know, projects completed or donors signed up. Um, but money's always there somewhere. But then where it gets interesting is we have absolutely no choice over what actions will generate a particular result that we want.
Yeah. That's already designed. So, and that's the hard bit is where we think, well, no, I should have some choice in that. But you don't. You just have to discover of all the things I do, what are the few things I do that actually impact the bottom line? So if you're in sales, for instance, like most of us have to be in sales at some point.
It is not rocket science, but the more people you talk to about your product, the more people will ask you how much is it? And the more people ask you, how much is your product, the more people will actually ask for a demonstration. And the more people you demonstrate it to, the more people will finally say yes.
So I can like that or hate that, but it is what it is. I can discover it, but I don't see choice over what it is. And then we, we also get into what we call dashboarding, which is, how can I show people in as close to real time as possible the impact that their actions are having on the bottom line of the business?
So again, lots of call centers or sales operations. How, what's your pipeline like? How many leads have you got? How many hot leads, how many closings are you gonna do so that they, you get the sense of, the more I do of this, the better the business does. And showing that visually in a quirky way can really help.
And then the really interesting one is we had the first three for quite a long time and it was working okay, but not great. Yeah. Something missing. And in the end it was, we realized its mutual accountability was the missing piece cuz saying, you've got to do this because the boss says so. That's a pretty tough sell in any business.
But if we are saying, listen, I don't wanna let my teammates down. I don't want to be the weakling in this operation. Holding us accountable to one another suddenly ramped up people's focus and passion and attention to the metrics that we were providing. And that really, uh, became the catalyst for some pretty astonishing results.
So realizing that we work for each other, that we should be ruthlessly focused on metrics, which should be showing us the connection between effort and outcome sourced all around, preferably a single goal. When you get that wrapped up and. Applied meaningfully to this particular organization that's about the best that humans can generate in, in my opinion.
Matt: Fascinating. And, and, and, uh, it's, it's really fascinating to hear you talk. So I remember reading the book, the 4DX book, um, and I appreciate this is a slightly different type for push, but I, I thought I've got you here. Uh, I'm not paying for your time, so I'm gonna ask you some questions.
I remember reading the book, um, 4DX and I, I thought this is, it's the same feeling I got when I read, um, the seven habits, the same feeling that I got when I read Good To Great. There are a few books out there where you just go, this is timeless. This I should give to my kids to read. How to make Friends and Influence people would be another one.
Mark: Yeah. Um, absolutely.
Matt: And I remember reading that book and going, this is brilliant. And then it. And I remember making changes in my business as a result. Right? And this is full transparency here, Mark. It wasn't until you and I connected and you mentioned that you were with it, I then thought, man, it's been five years since I thought about that.
And it's amazing to me how something that I know is good and transformational for me as a business all five years later, mission creep or whatever you want to call it. You know, me returning back to the default. Well, it's a bit like everybody does a diet and it's great for the first six months, but then they sort of return back to the way they were.
Uh, yeah. And that, that's my story, right? So we kind of return. So now I've met you and I'm thinking, oh, I must get back into that. And I'm thinking, I'm starting to think back around them again. We've got some conversations line about it this week. So why do you think people like me do that? As in we start off, this is great. We start off going down the right road. But then over time we, we sort of fall back to the way that we are.
Mark: Yeah, yeah. And, and you are in the same category as, ooh, approximately 99.9% of, all people attending like the seven habits or the four disciplines, or Lean or Six Sigma, or whatever the, you know, there's a raft of phenomenal business principles out there.
They're mostly slight repackaging of the exact same principles if we are really, really honest. But I think there's two things. One is, and this is where Jim Rohn come, you come back to him saying, it's the pain of discipline. Most of us don't have enough discipline to achieve what we could achieve. And then you could try and blame it on media maybe, or like, you know, all you have to do is go on the X factor and you're gonna be a major star and you know it's all gonna be done for you.
And you think, well, actually no, it's really hard graft to be successful at anything to get into the 1%. Is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but you can actually survive reasonably well achieving 30% of your potential. Mm-hmm. Because humans are, that 30% of my potential, I can bring home money, I can have a house, can feed and clothe my family.
So then the motivation to push for the next 30% and the next 10% and the final 5%, and that gets harder and harder and harder. And the truth is, if you scanned everybody in the world, maybe only between 1 and 5% of us naturally have the discipline to become a hundred percent people. Hmm. It's probably not even that many.
Um, and then on at the same time, my old life, my pre 4DX life, my pre seven habits life, my preconversion life, even in a, in Christian terms, it's just waiting there to welcome me back. Oh, I've missed you, my darling. Come back. Come back to how we used to be. And we know how to do that. We are really familiar with the practices and principles of living an average life.
So you got two quite tectonic forces keeping you average. Mm. And then we, the reasons why, like I love Churchill because he was worse than average and he was a Flatout failure multiple times pre second World War or Oscar Schindler, you know, of Schindler's List. He was a nobody before the story and he chose to become a nobody after the story.
Mm-hmm. So it takes phenomenal determination and discipline and courage to say, I've got a fairly good life here, just being average. But instead of that, I'm gonna push to be above average. You're gonna have to take knocks. You're gonna have to face the fact that you dunno what you're doing, you're not familiar, you haven't got routines.
And all the time there's this little voice saying, but you could come back here and just be average and it'll all be fine. You know, why are you killing yourself, pushing yourself? Um, But that's why the mutual accountability piece was so pivotal for 4dx. Yeah. Because truth is on my own, I, I can't do it.
You know, when talking to you on the Precall, you know, you're saying, oh, I must get back to 4dx. And then I've seen your woodworking shop and thinking, yeah, I need to get stuck in there. And the I, I promised my wife some bookcases ages ago. And they're finished in my head and I haven't even bought the wood.
So that's the beauty of accountability, isn't it? It's just friendship, communication or conversation. That's how we get the accountability. And groups of humans will always outperform multiple individual humans. And even the examples of individual success, they're not true. They're only successful because of a thousand people supporting them anyway.
So I think on our own, we will fail. That's almost certainly the outcome. And it won't be a disaster. We'll just be average. Yeah. But I think if you get a group of people who are all bought into a shared vision that matters to them that they see as having meaning. They will outperform individually and corporately, the same number of people working on their own.
Matt: Yeah. That was fantastic. Well, thank you for inspiring me, uh, Mr. Mark. Um, so switching back to the, to the task on hand, which is the podcast Push to be More, I'm curious, with all this going on, right, the, um, the travel, the, the, the different organizations and, and, and the consulting, et cetera, et cetera, how do you, how do you take care of you?
What do you do to sort of recharge your batteries?
Mark: So, I've got a few things, but they're all versions of spending time by myself. Um, so I live in the middle of nowhere. So I walk out of my conservatory door and I'm confronted by nature, you know, and. I find that incredibly sustaining. Um, just to be, you know, my mind is always firing really quickly about all kinds of things, but taking care of the land, you know, we haven't got a vast estate or anything, but I've got a bit of a wood.
I've got a stream that has to be kept inside it's banks. I've got a lot of lawns that need mowing and communing with nature. I just find incredibly energizing and recharging and repairing. Um, and then it's really an extension of that photography. It's, it's got this combination of technology. So yeah, I've got my fancy digital mirrorless camera, natural lenses to get all excited about, and then my wife takes out her phone and takes a picture that's like, it's three times better than mine.
Once I get a, I like fiddling. I like, you know, I don't want a camera with only one button. I want knobs and switches, and I wanna go through the rigmarole of choosing an aperture and whatever. And then, I love the fact that it, you know, especially with a long telephoto lens, I've got a very, very expensive canon lens.
Incredibly sharp images with beautiful background blur. And then I'm looking at a huge mountain called Ingleborough. When I look out my back wall, you know, back windows and it's just a vast landscape in front of me. But with a long lens in particular, I end up taking a picture of a bit of a branch of a tree or a sheep in the field, and it's that zooming in onto one small piece of the big picture.
I find that very centering, um, and then quite meditative. So again, my dad used to teach Bible meditation with rolling a verse of the Bible round and round and round in your head, just chewing on it and chewing on it, and chewing on it. So I'd like to do that, to just have some thoughts in my mind when I set up.
And then in that calming atmosphere, Stop trying to think about how to, you know, save the world and start thinking about, you know, why is grass green or you know, how many sheep is optimum number for a field of that size? Or look at that flat. Isn't that incredible? Um, and I think that stills me. Um, you know, and then meditation, Prayer, they're so closely linked.
You sometimes can't tell which one are you, you're actually doing. Mm-hmm. And just being reminded of my own smallness. And my insignificance is actually very, very helpful. Cause I tend to think how to do this and I've gotta do that. And I love projects and I work well trying to achieve the impossible.
But I remember being in Yosemite National Park years ago, standing at the bottom of a mountain called El Capitan, and you can look almost a mile straight up and you feel like a absolute speck. Yeah. And it felt great. And I just thought, you know what, I'm not the most important person around here. It's not all on me.
I don't have to do everything. I have to do my part, and I'm a small cog in a very big wheel. Mm-hmm. And I find that really, really helpful and centering.
Matt: Well, yeah. It's, I, I, I get that, you know, I get the same sense I think when I look at the sky. Um, I, I like to go for a walk around our local park, and if you get it on a clear night and you can just see so much of the sky and you just, you look at that and go, it's massive.
And I'm so tiny, but it feels quite lovely all at the same time. You feel like, yeah. I, you feel like a sense of belonging in a, in a lot of sense. Uh, which is, is quite, it is quite intriguing. So the next Oh, it is, I, I, I don't quite know how it works, but somehow it seems to, and um, like we were designed to think that way, maybe, um, which I as maybe a story for another podcast.
We could get into that. Um, but listen, Mark, you've been involved, right? And I'm, I'm thinking now, this is normally the part of the conversation, where I move on to what does the next few years hold for you? Um, but let me preface this by saying part of the reason we got in touch actually, and the reason we connected was cuz of a lovely man called David Neil.
Uh, David and I worked with each other when, uh, I worked at a company called Trade Craft. Uh, and David also worked at Trade Craft. We were both non-exec directors for Trade Craft PLC. Um, I left a few years ago. My, my time was up and, um, uh, needed to focus elsewhere. David stayed on, obviously you connected with Tradecraft, you got involved and now you're sort of involved with the founding of We Are, We Are Fair Trade, uh, which is hopefully the successor to Trade Craft in its mission.
So what's inspired you to take that challenge on? Because I mean, that's a challenge right there, right?
Mark: It certainly is. It certainly is. Yeah. Well, I, I, um, I came into, um, Tradecraft again via David Neil. He, uh, he knew my brother and then ended up talking to me and said, look, we're looking for a non exec.
One day a month pro bono, what we could do with your import. And I have a e-commerce background. Um, so, so yeah, sure. And then about, literally it was less than two weeks later, the then CEO for personal reasons had to take an extended leave of absence. So David and I started traveling up to Gateshead where Tradecraft is based.
Um, and then over time it became clear there were quite a lot of things needed sorting. And again, the whole 4DX and seven habits type stuff and getting focused on the right things. And most companies that have been around along as trade craft get into bad habits is a bit like if we have had to take our driving test, I, I know I would fail cause I've generated certain, um, bad habits by now.
And I think companies need refreshing and getting back to their core. And I think it was overdue for that at Tradecraft, frankly. And then it became clear that the previous CEO probably wasn't coming back at all. So I stepped in as interim CEO, and we did some tremendous work and the team there responded so well, but the, to get it stable, um, before cashflow became an issue.
So I, uh, very unpleasant responsibility and this generator put them into administration. But by that time, I'd just come to see how crucial that mission actually is. And there are other fair trade resellers out there in, in the UK, uh, quite a lot of them. But the thing about trade craft was they were inviting people not just to be customers, but to become members of the cause, to become co-laborers in this sort of, uh, great justice field.
And that sometimes was doing talks at schools and clubs and churches. Sometimes it was having a little shop at the back of a church. Um, and they have this really committed group of people who'd been with tradecraft, some of them since it started 40 years ago. And it just seemed wrong to let that just totally die and disappear.
Partly cuz then some of the heritage would possibly be lost. But also cuz the job is clearly not over, not complete. So it absolutely was not what I thought I was heading for. Um, but over time I just became more and more convinced that I was actually there for that reason. Um, and talking with David and some of the other members of the board, they felt very much that they couldn't sit down and say, yes, we've achieved our mission, so it's okay.
And somebody else will come up and do some of the element of the trade justice mission. Um, so myself and a lady called Joanne Cotton, who was giving us some, uh, financial input, said, okay, let's start a company. Um, And let's see if we can pick up the assets, um, and let's carry on. And it's also a chance to bring the company up to speed.
Cuz you know, when Tradecraft was founded there was no internet, you know, and yeah, websites weren't even a thing. Whereas now there are lots of ways and means of doing business digitally. It's very hard to change as an organization to catch up. But if you're starting again, you can implement a lot of change in a very short amount of time.
So at least the next few years I see that as the challenge is how do we keep the mission, not mess with the mission, with looking after the same people in a very similar way. But how do we make the most of all the digital opportunities there are and how do we get a younger audience to take their ethical outrage and channel that into something really productive, um, and collective.
So I think that's the exciting part of the challenge.
Matt: Yeah. And it's, it's great that you are doing something with Tradecraft, like you say. Cause the mission's not over yet. And actually the, the reason you and I met was cuz I called David and said, David, what's going on with Tradecraft? It's going into administration.
If no one's doing anything with it, let me do something right, because I, yeah, I like you. I'm like, there's a heritage here that I was, I thought needed to carry on. I'm glad you are doing it. Uh, Mark. And it's, it's, um, it's, it's awesome to hear about that. So fantastic. The next few years would be really interesting to see what's going on.
But for now, Mr. Mark, we've got to that time where we are gonna do, uh, the question box. Dun, dun, dun. So if you're listening to the podcast, you can't see what I'm doing. Basically, I have a box of random questions which we flick through, uh, where Mark says stop we're gonna ask whatever question we stop on.
Oh yes, here we go.
Mark: Ready. Close my eyes and stop.
Matt: Stop there. Okay. Okay. I'm just gonna write your little name on the card. So, question, and I still need to sort out the sound effects here. Have you ever had a recurring dream?
Mark: Uh, yes. I have had actually one or two recurring dreams. Um, neither of them are particularly business related, I have to say. Um, recurring nightmares, that's, that's a different story, but, uh, a recurring dream. Yeah. Which, which should I go for?
Yeah. Well, this, this, this will seem unpleasant, but it, it, it taps into something. But when I was very, very young, I woke up, let's call it a dream, but it felt incredibly real to me. Hmm. Um, and a hand was offering me like a medieval goblet that was made of gold. You know, the traditional thing is curves up from the bottom and then yeah, you have a little ring of diamonds or precious stones, and then a sort of chalicy, goblety sort of shape.
So I took it and I drank it and it was full of blood. Um, and that, I think that's what woke me up because it was like so shocking. But I dunno why I woke cause obviously I didn't actually drink a cup of blood, but it was enough of a shock to, to wake me up. Um, and that I was probably 12 or 13. And I still, when I talk about it, I see that, instantly.
Um, so I talked about that. My parents were great. You could talk to them about anything. So the next day I said, look, here's a, here's a weird thing. And, uh, explained what I'd seen and said, what do you think? And instead of saying, well, we think it means this, this, we didn't have coaching in those days, but it was almost like being coached.
Um, and there's lots of layers, some of which are probably a bit too private to share, but the, the, the core of it though was the outside being so beautiful and so valuable and precious and the inside being so harsh and so bitter and that juxtaposition. And I think that's where, you know, to get into the Churchill motto about never, ever giving up.
Mm-hmm. Most things that really matter come at tremendous cost. And that could be all kinds of cost, it could be emotional cost, it could be financial cost, could be opportunity cost. Look, if you wanna do this, you can't be doing that, that and that, um, So that sense of the need to willingly embrace, let's say, pain and suffering, even in the pursuit of meaning and purpose, is a constant tension for me.
Um, and there are lots of things I could look back in my life and say, you know what? The cost of that was so high. Yeah. And sometimes that's my stupidity. But there's been a thread all the way through of saying, but that's the cost of taking this life on. That's the cost of agreeing to do certain things.
So even forming we are fair trade limited. That's really exciting and I think it's gonna pay off and I think it's gonna do tremendous good. But it also means repairing my 200 year old farmhouse is probably gonna take at least twice as long as it was going to, and the energies that I could have been putting into just lying about and enjoying myself.
I'm gonna have to put into doing a lot of grunt work, like getting websites working and dealing with customers and finding stock. Um, but everything in my life that I would like to write down of as an achievement has come at a horrendous cost. Actually, not all of it, you know, physical, but I've never had anything that I consider of any value that didn't cost me a lot.
Yeah. Um, versions of that dream I have on a almost annual basis. And then when you get talking like this, it just reminds you again as well. Yeah. It's like, it's the willingness to embrace pain and suffering. Sounds a bit, you know, arty, farty, but let's say discomfort or inconvenience or loss of peace or lo well, not, not peace, loss of enjoyment and relaxation.
That's always a price that needs to be paid. And again, it's back to the pain of discipline again, isn't it? It's like, it's uncomfortable, not something you'd say, oh, thank you so much for that, but you're motivated because you believe that that is the route to get to something that is the golden goblet. And you say, okay, that was actually worth it.
Matt: Yeah, that's powerful. That's a really powerful dream. Um, and it's intriguing, isn't it? I I, there I think there are two schools of people. There's people that never pay any attention to their dreams, and there's people that actually pay a lot of attention to their dreams, uh, and, and what they mean. And so really, really fascinating.
Well, listen, as you know, this show is sponsored by Aurion Media, which specializes in helping good folks just like yourself. And by the way, love the shirt. Uh, good folks in great shirt set up and run their own podcast. Um, so I'm curious, right, if you had your own podcast, out of all the people that have sort of impacted your life, past and present, who, who would you interview? Who would you want on the show to talk to and why?
Mark: Ooh. And how many can I have?
Matt: Let's go with three.
Mark: Three, okay. Um, well my childhood hero is King David from the Bible. Mm-hmm. I went for six. Something went wrong with my knee. I couldn't walk, couldn't go to school. My mum bought a copy of this translation of the Bible called the Living Bible that was so readable and she was smart.
Read me every war story in the Old Testament that she could find most of all King David. Um, so he is an absolute legend in my thinking, cuz on the one hand, he's a hero, and on the other hand, he's a complete charlatan. Yeah. And you think how can those two things work together? You know, and I can look back on parts of my life and say, you know, what a moron, why on earth did you do that Buchanan, you know, what were you thinking? Um, but the fact that even after some debacles, you can still be an achiever. You can still be somebody who can motivate himself and keep going. That I wanted him about all kinds of incidents that I read about as a kid.
Um, my own father would definitely be there. Um, I call him a firebreak father because his father was terrible. Never ever told him he loved him, never showed him any affection, never encouraged him. Uh, was a very bitter man in many ways. And yet my dad wasn't. And you think this thing of what everything genetically should have sent my dad one way and he went a different way.
And as he became, Remarkably well known and remarkably effective without any qualifications. Can't hear. All kinds of things. You think, wow. How, how did that happen? Um, to him a lot. I videoed his autobiography before he died, but still, I wish I'd asked him more questions. So I definitely, definitely hear, have him on the, the podcast. Um, for sure.
Um, and then I'd like to interview, there's a whole raft of them, but leaders from countries that we consider to be dubious countries. So I've spent 25 years in and out of the Middle East for one reason or another, and the view in the west of the Middle East is generally quite negative.
Mm-hmm. And yet out there I've enjoyed the hospitality and I've found it fascinating. So just because they're people who we probably are subliminally programmed to see as bad, I like to sit with them. Even today, we say the likes of a Saddam Hussein and say, look, Whether we'd ever get a clear answer or not, I dunno, but what was motivating you?
Why did you do what you did? Yeah. And it may be that I then make notes and say, here's 12 things I'm never, ever going to do. Mm-hmm. But it's just the, the labels of good and bad. And I've done some things in my life that I am really ashamed of. So sometimes I see pictures of myself, you know, with a label of bad person over me.
Um, but I don't feel like, you know, I didn't do it to be bad. I didn't set out to be bad. Um, and you think, I wonder how much of that is true with some of our textbook villains and just to see why did you do what you did? How sincere were you? You know, if I understood you better, would I actually label you as evil or would I just disagree with you?
So that's a more nefarious, nebulous one. But uh, just this sense of we pigeonhole people without remarkably little evidence sometimes. So I wouldn't mind being confronted with a, a villain and see if I really thought they were one.
Matt: Wow. Well, you're the first person to ever mention having villains on your podcast, Mark.
So, uh, I'm intrigued. Uh, the first person to mention King David, definitely not the first person to mention their dad, but, um, yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? Listening to you talk about that. I was talking to somebody earlier on about the life of Martin Luther King. And how they were inspired by Martin Luther King.
And, um, in fact it was, uh, Ed Walker who is, um, is gonna be on one of the podcast. Anyway, Ed and I were talking about that, and I think about Martin Luther King and I think about his speech, you know, that I have a dream and the impact he had on the US in the sixties, but then when you reconcile that with his family life and how it wasn't great. Do you know, what I mean?
And it's like, part of you is like, how can you hold such a man in high esteem? And then part of you is like, we definitely need to hold this guy up in high esteem. But then exactly like you say, we do the same with people like David, King David, don't we? And, and, um, definitely had his, definitely had his flaws. Uh, you know, and, um, fascinating. No human beings perfect, right? So,
Mark: no, that's right. That's right. Yeah. And it is, it's imperfect people doing extraordinary things. It's attention, isn't it? And the other thing, and we do insist that our politicians are either all good or all bad, but mm-hmm. I think with nearly everybody we have to sift, you know, uh, so I'm writing a bit of a semi autobiographical novel called A Speck of Gold with a handful of dust. It is largely, I spent so much time in and out of the Middle East and I, I was trying to process things that I'd seen and done. So the, in a novel, I can bend it and shape it and make it a lot more coherent than it really was.
But it's just this concept of, you know, in your hand it looks like dust, but if you do, you know, blow on it and shake it around a bit, there, there's a speck of gold in there. And that's the bit that's interesting that mm-hmm. To find it, you have to wade through all this other stuff. So yeah, it's a bit of a scene for me is, uh, can, can you find the good in what appears not to be good?
Matt: Well, well, and on that bombshell, uh, Mark, listen, it's been great talking to you, man. How do people reach you? How do they connect with you if they want to do that?
Mark: So you can get me at firstname.lastname@example.org or if it's particularly around the sort of fair trade and, uh, trade poverty. And trade justice, it is email@example.com.
Matt: Fantastic. We will of course link to Mark's info in the show notes, which you can get along for free, along with the transcript on our website pushtobemore.com, uh, or that will be coming to your inbox if you're signed up to the newsletter. You can just check it out on the notes in the podcast app. Or if you're on YouTube, check out the description.
Mark listen mate, I always enjoy our conversations. It's been such a treat getting to know you over the last couple months, and, um, thank you for joining me on the podcast, allowing me to pick your brains. Uh, it's been, honestly, it's been great. Loved it, loved every minute.
Mark: Thanks, Matt. I've enjoyed it too. That's been fantastic too. So let's do it again.
Matt: Yes. That's funny. You should say that, right? Huge thanks to Mark for joining me today. Also, a big shout out to today's show sponsor Aurion Media. If you are wondering if podcasting is a great marketing strategy for your business, then it probably is. Do connect with them at aurionmedia.com. That's A U R I O N media dot com. We will of course, link to them on our website, which is pushtobemore.com. Uh, but yes, check them out.
Now be sure to follow the Push To Be More podcast wherever you get your podcasts from because we've got yet more great conversations lined up and I don't want you to miss any of them. And in case no one has told you yet today, you are awesome. Yes, you are created awesome. It's just a burden you have to bear. Mark has to bear it. I have to bear it. You've got a bear as well.
Now, Push to Be More is produced by Aurion Media. You can find our entire archive of episodes on your favorite podcast app. The team that makes this show possible is Sadaf Beynon, Estella Robin and Tanya Hutsuliak. Our theme music was written by the fabulous Josh Edmundson, and as I mentioned, if you would like to read the transcript and show notes, well, they're on our website pushtobemore.com. So that's it from me. That's it from Mark.
Thank you so much for joining us. Have a fantastic week. I will see you next time. Bye for now.