Aligned and Thriving Podcast | Strategies for Work Life Balance

How novel writing became a creative life raft during challenging times? With guest speaker Michael Nest

January 29, 2024 Judith Bowtell | Career Development for Achieving Work-Life Balance Episode 5
Aligned and Thriving Podcast | Strategies for Work Life Balance
How novel writing became a creative life raft during challenging times? With guest speaker Michael Nest
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome to "Aligned and Thriving," where today our guest is Michael Nest, an award-winning author and consultant in the anti-corruption and anti-fraud field. Michael was born in rural Australia, completed his studies at the University of Melbourne, and has lived in various places, including New York, Dili, and Montreal. He has recently published his first novel, "Take Out the Jocks," and will be sharing insights into his approach to work life balance and the creative process.

Podcast Episode Summary:

  • Michael Nest discusses his approach to work-life balance, emphasizing the importance of taking breaks and setting boundaries.
  • Michael Nest, a former consultant and author, reflects on a career shift to a less interesting job for practical reasons. 
  • This change causes them to fear losing their identity and becoming mundane. They emphasize the significance of creative projects in maintaining a balance between an engaging life and work, resisting being solely defined by economic roles.
  • Michael reflects on the differences between writing nonfiction and fiction, the role of creative projects in maintaining mental well-being, and the impact of structured timeboxing on his productivity.
  • He also highlights the significance of balancing personal responsibilities, such as caring for his mother-in-law, with his professional and creative pursuits.

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[00:00:00] Welcome today our guest to Aligned and Thriving who is Michael Nest, who is an old friend of mine, not that we're old but we have known each other for some time.

[00:00:10] I'll just tell you now a little bit about Michael, so our guests get to know who you are and then we'll dive into some questions about your more broader approach to work life balance. So Michael was born in rural Australia and he did his undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne and his PhD at As well as living in Sydney and Melbourne, he has lived in New York. Dili, and now in Montreal. He's also spent quite a bit of time in Africa. Michael is the award winning author of four nonfiction books and one novel. Corruption, Mining, and Conflict are the theme of the first two. And the third, which is called Still It Piqued Me, is a collaboration with a Congolese activist, Isaac Bacirongo. The first Indigenous pygmy to ever publish his memoir. The fourth, Cold Case North, is about the search for James Brady and Absolom Halkett. And there's another collaboration. It's a cold case investigation into the disappearance and alleged murder of two Indigenous activists in Canada in 1967. But now he has just published his first novel called Take Out the Jocks. And here's from the blurb. Ever wondered what would happen if people were afraid to go out at night with young men and not young women? Take out the jocks is a dark comedy of female vengeance that blows open literally a small American town. And Michael's day job, as he said, is preventing corruption and fraud. So besides that information, which we can find online, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself? How's life with you? 

[00:01:43] Good. I'm in Montreal in Canada and we're. Moving into the depths of the winter, it hasn't been very snowy, but it's cold, and that really changes the way you live life and the way you work but going well. Good. 

[00:01:57] So, what have you been doing lately to improve your work life balance?

[00:02:02] I mean, something that I try to do all the time, but I'm really focused on it now because I've gone back to consultancy work after having been in a full time job for two years is I always take a break in the middle of the day, typically that's some kind of exercise. So at the moment, as I said, it's winter in Montreal. So I got ice skating for about 40 minutes on an outdoor rink. So I'm outdoors in frequently in sunny weather and it's minus 20 in better weather, warmer weather. I'll go for a bike ride or I might have a nap, but I very rarely work for eight hours straight. I always break it up. 

[00:02:39] Fantastic. Skating sounds so exotic when I'm sitting in 80 degrees humidity in the middle of a Sydney day here in the middle of summer.

[00:02:47] So I'm just going to imagine that. That sounds fantastic. 

[00:02:50] Thanks for the question. I guess the two things that have really shaped life and work recently I moved to Canada in 2017, and that was to look after my mother in law. So she's now 93 and she has dementia. And basically there was a family crisis about her care. She couldn't live alone. We decided to throw in our jobs and our lives in Australia, and we moved to Canada to look after her. I had already been a consultant in the anti corruption and anti fraud field in Australia, and I was able to carry that through. Initially into Canada, which is great. So I was a consultant for 9 years. And then during the pandemic, I could no longer travel for work. I really had to pivot. We wanted to apply for permanent residency in Canada, and I needed a full time local job. And that meant that I got a 2 Permanent job full time job in Montreal, which had some good things about it.

[00:03:44] But overall, it was not a good match. And I was pretty unhappy in that job. And I quit that in October and I've just now gone back into consultancy work. But the move from consultancy. Where I've done that for nine years and have a lot of freedom and a lot of choice and of course, a lot of uncertainty because that comes with being a consultant. And then moving back to a full time job Monday to Friday and like regular daily hours. It really caused this kind of existential crisis for me. I really felt like I just had these constraints and I was going to be stuck in Canada, but I needed to do it. It was during the pandemic. I needed permanent residency and that was actually the spark for the novel that was just released a month ago.

[00:04:26] Wow. So, there's quite a lot going on for you at the time you started writing the novel. Why did you choose to use fiction at that time, rather than doing another non fiction book? 

[00:04:37] To be honest, I probably could have written a non fiction book. But I do think that there is an escapism with writing fiction. So I hadn't written fiction before, and part of what interested me about the process, apart from it being a fun process, is that writing fiction I found was very different to writing nonfiction. So, my first four books were all nonfiction. And in nonfiction, while you have to create a narrative and create a compelling story, to some extent, you really are constrained by the facts. You have to tell a good story about the facts, but the facts of the facts with fiction, it really is just this liberating creative zone that you can step into. And I think that while I could have written another nonfiction book it may not have been as satisfying as the escapism that fiction allowed for me. When I could run home from work and get stuck back into my writing. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:05:33] So, you're saying that this was a place where you could escape to, you could run home from this kind of constricting space that was a nine to five job for you at that time. And get back into a world outside of that. So how did that escapism and that ability to enter a creative zone really support you during this necessary, but slightly challenging, well, quite challenging time for you? 

[00:05:59] Yeah, I think the main thing is that Because I knew that I had this project, I was able to bear a job that I, in the end, I really just detested. I didn't like it at all. And I think knowing that I simply had this other project allowed me to continue like literally to get out of bed and think I have to go and do this job. But I know that at the end of today, I can come home and I can spend 2 hours writing and I know that on the weekends frequently on the weekends, I would get up early and start writing maybe at about 6 or 6 30 a. m. and then do it for like, you know, perhaps 4 or 5 hours that I could do that. And I think without that outlet, It just would have brought everything crashing down on me, to be honest. And then the other thing is, we frequently don't talk about lunch times at work, so we had an hour's lunch break and I could have just sat at my desk and continue to work, but I resist doing that. And I resent doing that. And it would not have been good for my overall morale. So I wanted to get out during lunchtime, but I'm not really into shopping. And then it was, well, what do you do? So, I can read a book, and I often had a novel, and thankfully, I was literally 200 meters from the McGill University Library, and at lunchtime, I used to go and write, or I'd edit, and then when the editing process was coming towards an end, I'd just get back into reading my own books. So, it's funny, this lunch hour was actually this real problem for me, because I needed to have a break during the day. I did not want to give up this time to an employer who wouldn't notice and I think wouldn't really care. And I had this real struggle about what to do with it. And then I thought it's the novel. So, I used to bring my laptop in and I'd go to the library and I would do like 50 minutes of incredibly intense writing or editing. And then I'd go back completely refreshed, even though I just spent, you know, this intense period actually doing some kind of work. Yeah, 

[00:07:54] isn't that interesting? I work with, I'm a career coach by training and that's my profession and one of the first exercises I get my clients to do is to describe their ideal working day. Like, you know, what time do you get up? What do you do before you go to work? What do you wear, carry? How do you get to work? If you travel at all, you know, what's your workspace like? All of that. And then I asked them to describe what they do in their mid work break, like at the middle of the day, which, you know, considering it's an ideal working day, it might be lunch, but it could also whose ideal day is to start work at six of the evening it could be the middle of the night, but it is that mid work break. And for some people, this is revelatory. This idea that you take a break, one, and two, that you move from your workplace. Workspace to another space and that you can create that space in any way you do. And for some people, that's quite challenging because I have never done that or never had the opportunity to do that. So I'm as guilty as anybody else from my corporate days and even, you know, working for myself. It's only recently I've scheduled into my diary a lunch time where I walk away from the desk and do something else. And I work from home, you know, I've got all the freedom in the world, but still needed to shut up scheduling that in. And it's interesting that this seems to be something that you've. Developed as a practice throughout your working life, even when you're in your consultancy world. 

[00:09:27] Yes. Yes. I think that's true. I think the other thing with a creative project and I know other people who write or simply have a creative element to their day job. You know, they say the same thing that when you're doing something like exercise, for example, I might be riding my bike or I might be ice skating. And well, ice skating is different because I'm not very good. I have to really focus on not falling over. So, like, I'm really in the zone and focused. We're not doing that. But if I'm riding my bike or walking the dog In my head, I'll be writing. I'll be writing a paragraph. So, it doesn't look to somebody like I'm writing, but actually that's all I'm doing is polishing it, polishing a paragraph. But it's actually very, very relaxing. And the, mild physical activity can actually really help you, I find, really help me do that. In a way that with my, Regular work. I would have felt very resentful if I was doing that kind of work in my head while I was riding my bike or taking the dog for a walk, for example. 

[00:10:21] Yeah. Yeah. So, if you're headed, if the mind space was still occupied by work, you're working in your paid job, but by able to reintroduce something new, your mind's still able to be occupied with something, but something more that is better for your mental health basically, it's processing different parts of the brain. It's using those creative neurons rather than the worry and the stress neurons, I guess. I am not a neuroscientist. So using your lunchtime, getting up early on the weekends, being able to have time to yourself afterwards. Those are things that worked for you in the project. Is there anything you would have done differently if you'd had an opportunity, had a chance to do it again? 

[00:11:05] Well, something that I didn't do that I think was a good thing is that on a work day, when I had to go into the office I wouldn't start writing early. Because, so doing the book project early, because I would just get sucked into it like a vacuum and I would arrive at work late. But I would also want to think about it all day. I mean, there are in the novel, like, there are key moments when characters are doing things that I'm not quite sure what they're going to do. And I distinctly remember, like, almost running home from work one day. Thinking, I need to know what the character is going to do next, even though it was me who was writing the character. It was this very strange experience. But I really had to put limits around it because I knew that when I was at work, I had to be switched on and I had to be productive. So it was knowing when I had the freedom to really relax and escape, going back to that word, escapism. I think with the project itself, I mean, it came together fairly quickly. So I don't think in terms of the time frame, I would have changed much. But I needed it. So I literally started it the day before I started back in the full time job. So I came up with the idea about a month before and I thought, I'm not going to start writing this novel until I know that I'm going to start work because I know that I need this. So if anything, maybe I could have strung it out a little bit longer until I finally resigned back in October. There are some things that the polishing stage of writing a book when you're really editing and you're doing communications with proofreaders, for example, or editors, and you can't always squeeze that very well into a lunch hour. And you just have to really think about it and focus on it. But there are other bits of it you can actually do quite well. So I think there isn't much that I would do differently, but I think really paying attention to making sure I had specific time slots when I knew that I was free to work. For me, that was the key, even if it's sometimes if they were short, that was okay. I mean, maybe it's like, you hear stories of mother with a young baby who's writing something and gets up and she knows she can only write between 5 a. m. and 5:30. And that's what she's got. So I think, for me, it was a little bit like that experience. I had longer time periods in which I could do it, but it was knowing that there was a start and an end. Oh, great. 

[00:13:16] So, that structure, these external structures that actually felt quite constricting to you when you started it, would you say they actually, in the end, could give you some support for this as well?

[00:13:28] Definitely. I think it made me productive. It forced me to, switch off and do other things in some cases, like with the lunch hour that was actually going back to work. But in other cases, there's things like walking the dog or going to do the shopping or going out for dinner with the neighbours. And like, those things are important. And I think they're important for a balanced life and it's very easy to get kind of consumed by it all. So even though it sounds like I was putting restrictions on myself. It actually freed me up within those times. I mean, people work very differently, right? But for me, that worked. 

[00:14:03] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. This idea of time boxing is, yeah, people do talk about that and sort of not multitasking. You just mentioned, other duties that you have in your life. You've got to shop, walk the dog. Et cetera. You've mentioned you have a partner and caring responsibilities for your mother-in-Law. How did you negotiate these times with them? How did you, you've kind of had permission from your workplace but how did you negotiate the more personal responsibilities or daily responsibilities of family life? 

[00:14:35] Some of that was. unspoken. So I do, I mean, I definitely did ignore my partner sometimes because I just had to finish the chapter. And I would be grumpy and close the door and say, I just need to finish this sentence, please. But other times for example, if my mother in law who's watching television in the room next door, if she gets up and goes to the bathroom and my partner is out and I'm at home, you need to check on her. You need to check that she's okay. You need to check that she doesn't fall down. So even though there can be some resentment at the interruptions at the same time, they actually just completely make you like pull your head in and focus on what's going on in the rest of the world too. And that's not a bad thing. So, like with the dog, the dog will put up with a certain amount of delay into going out, but after a while, I mean, she will really just pester me and let me know she needs to go. And it's true that that does, can break the thread of a particular idea or a sentence or something. But I think that those interruptions. Again, like going back to some people, especially people with lots of little children have those kind of interruptions all the time. And they're used to switching on and switching off. You know, like, boy, I really admire them for doing that. But I think there is something that it does give you a discipline about. All right, let's just sit down. Let's just figure out what I was doing an hour ago or 2 hours ago or yesterday. And refocus. And it's true that sometimes you do completely lose the thread. But I mean, in the end, it's probably not the end of the world. It probably wasn't the world's best sentence you were about to write before you were interrupted.

[00:16:07] So, so, so that's okay. , 

[00:16:09] I, sometimes people say when you lose a document, you go, Oh, no, I've lost all that work I've done. And then you rewrite it and it's always better than what you've done the first time around anyway. So, yeah. Oh, that's fantastic. So what values do you think you were fulfilling or aligning with that this creative project or this creative life raft gave you?

[00:16:34] Hmm, that's an interesting question. I mean, I've reflected a lot on why I needed it so much because I mean, let's face it, a lot of the world works Monday to Friday, nine to five or some variation of that. So part of me can look back and think, God, you know, it's such a princess or so egotistical that for some reason this caused this huge problem for me, this existential crisis when other people just put up with it all the time.

[00:16:59] And I think that a lot of it was about having been a consultant. It's not that I liked every consultancy project to the same degree, some were more interesting than others, but on the whole, I really like my work. My work was interesting. All my friends, everyone I met thought the work I did was interesting. I had written books at the same time. So I brought out two books. Two books during the previous nine years while I've been a consultant and then I suddenly thought I'm just going to be this salary man who goes off to an office and comes home and does a job that isn't particularly interesting because that's the job that I could get here to fulfill those things I needed, like permanent residency and being unable to travel during COVID. So it was like this shattering of my sense of who I was, that I was no longer that person, and I remember emailing people and saying, I'm going to be so boring. Sometimes people are very nice and said up, Michael, you're gonna be boring. Don't worry about that. But I just couldn't see that. And having always since I started writing books pretty much, which was, I think, the first one came out in 2006. So that's nearly 20 years now. I've always had a book on the go or some other kind of creative project. And I realised that was part of the way I define myself. That I did have this balance between interesting work and interesting life, and I felt like it was all about to end. And I just needed this thing for a sense of self. So, people, when they're writing novels, and I was the same, often be very cagey and they're not quite that really tell a lot about the novel. And then as the novel started to come together, then I could say some things about it. And then people say, Oh, you know, that sounds really interesting. So that's all very encouraging, but then the pressure's on, right? You actually have to deliver, you have to deliver this interesting, good, high quality creative product. But nevertheless, while the writing was happening it just helped me balance out that I'm not just, what's the word, homo economicus or salamary man, but that's all, yeah, yeah, 

[00:19:02] That all you are is a machine of productivity for economic benefit of some part of the community. So for you, there wasn't necessarily the same value that maybe other people do get from that kind of work. Doing work for clients, for the company ethos, for the benefit that this institution brings to the community, et cetera. There's all sorts of reasons to sign up to that. But for you, that was a loss of self identity. That was too much to take. And the book managed to bring, or the novel managed to bring you that extra sense of self, that sense of what was right for you. 

[00:19:41] Yeah. Yes. . That's right. I mean, another interesting thing is that for my entire working life, I had never said, thank God it's Friday. I've always liked all my jobs not all the time, but most of all I've liked my jobs. And then in this job my colleagues who I liked a lot, I think they also had lower expectations of their work. It made me feel like that I've been spoiled. I had really high expectations of my work that it should be interesting and fulfilling. And it was really like it was my problem. They were much more relaxed about that. And many of them were younger. So they were doing things like saving for a mortgage and they just thought, well, that's what they have to do. But also they thought differently about work and life compared to what I did. And then yeah. In the end, I used to say, thank God it's Thursday because tomorrow is Friday. Everyone would say, all they wanted to do on a Friday night is go out and drink alcohol. And then I used to think, I can go home and write my novel. That's all I wanted to do. And I can do it all of Saturday and Sunday. And then I'll deal with Monday when it comes around again. 

[00:20:42] Wow. Yeah. I mean we've got to admit both Michael and I are in our mid fifties. And I've known Michael for 30 years. But also we've had the privilege of education, free education being able to have fairly flexible and mobile lives and to follow interesting work. But I guess I've had times when I've had to do the 9 to 5, the 9 to 5, most of my working life is 9 to 5 for various reasons. But there was a call to be able to be more independent than that, which I guess is one of my values that I wasn't expressing. So I get that yours as well, when you find yourself in a situation that may have worked for you 10, 20 years ago. Finding it not such a good fit. So I think it's really interesting how you then found something that was such a good fit. It could compensate for the rest of the time. 

[00:21:30] So would you do it again?

[00:21:34] Well, I wouldn't do that kind of full time job again. In which case I wouldn't necessarily need a novel as the compensation and as the life raft. But I mean, if I continue on doing consultancy work, which I'm doing right now, because I literally resigned from the old job in October then I could definitely see myself writing another book or having another creative project on the go. So I'm not against going back to do full time work Monday to Friday if the right job came along. But I think I do feel scarred by that experience. And I think I would really choose carefully and make sure that I had the right thing right kind of other project on the side. 

[00:22:14] Yeah. Great. Great. Now, we haven't talked about the novel. We've just given the teaser of a dark comedy of female vengeance. Would you like to tell us a little bit about the novel? Where it came from? Why this became such a passion project 

[00:22:30] for you? Sure. So the idea for the novel came during the pandemic. And the people probably know that incidents of domestic violence soared during the pandemic because people were stuck at home together and there was some very violent outcomes sexual assaults and other assault in public spaces plummeted because no one was there and because of all the curfews. And there was a particularly terrible murder and sexual assault of a woman in the UK that I just followed in the news. And you know, it really affected me and upset me. And I started to think how you could create a situation where after the pandemic sexual assault in public places remained at very low levels and I thought, well you'd put a curfew on males between 15 and 60 and that would make 99 percent vanish. So we're just talking about public spaces not in the home. We know that's never going to happen politically. So then I wondered, what would make men stay at home? And then I was kind of just thinking very idly and then I thought, well, okay, if what if they were afraid to go out? I thought, well, what would make them afraid to go out? And I thought, well, what if someone was killing them? And like doing it deliberately to reverse the gender freighters in the community. And then I thought, bing, this is the idea for a novel. So the novel is about what happens when the people afraid to go out at night are young men, not young women. And there are three central characters who are women in their early fifties, and they are fed up with the lack of progress with the Me Too movement in their conservative American town they're outraged at the acquittal of a rapist that a conservative judge let off. And they're fed up generally with their town. So they decide to reverse. The situation in their communities, and it starts a bit slowly and unexpectedly. They don't quite realize initially that what happens is going to lead to the death of a young man. So, the title of the book is Take Out the Jocks. So, they target jocks, young athletic men in that cultural American sense in Hollywood films the guys who swagger around the locker room who are 18 and 25. And in American pop culture, they really have this unassailable role. And it's just really transgressive that it's young men. Who are targeted not young women, because in books and movies in, I think, generally in the Western world, you can kill as many young women as you like, and no one will bat an eyelid. And this is just so transgressive because it does the complete opposite. So in the time frame of my book, no woman is hurt or assaulted or raped or murdered but Many men become afraid. It's interesting. So, like, if I think about the three main characters, you know, people always talk about you should write what you know. And I didn't quite realize this at the time. But the women are writing out of frustration at their community. And I realized that mapped perfectly onto what I was feeling in my job. It was actually the frustration at work. So, even though our frustration is channeled in very different ways, I don't genuinely believe that jocks should be murdered. And, like, the book is, it's a dark comedy, right? It's a satire on what happens in this community when the gender freedoms are reversed but there's a similar feeling of frustration that's actually driving what's going on.

[00:25:41] Yeah. 

[00:25:41] So, yes, we're not condoning murdering young men, just making that absolutely clear, but I remember that some of the discussion, I guess, that came out of the Me Too movement and that idea of the lack of freedom that young women or women in general have in the community, especially at night especially in certain areas. To feel freedom to walk down the street. Yeah. And mentioned that the incident happened in the UK in London. I've lived in London and felt it was quite a safe city. And I think there was sort of a bit of an outpouring of grief and public. Demonstration around that murder as well, because many young women felt safe on the streets in that area and worked or walked at night. And to have that feel that bubble of safety breaking it's enormous when you found a pocket where you can feel free and then that's taken away from you.

[00:26:31] I went through a process of using. So I've always used beta readers or test readers and I use sensitivity readers for different characters. So I use 12, which is a lot. Most people would use maybe 1 or 2. And I mean, part of the response of the beta readers. With that they said there was one man and 11 women. Some of the women didn't realize that men never felt scared when they go jogging alone and that if a man jogs on the street and someone's coming towards him, he doesn't cross the road. So one beta reader. Had always crossed the road, and she didn't realize that men didn't do that. Wow. And we had this conversation, so she read the manuscript, and I said men don't do that. And she was, she was amazed. Yeah. And I think it's that thing that became grist for the mill in terms of the book itself about what happens in the community. That it's both men don't realize some of the fears that women have, but also. Women don't realize that men don't have those fears. And they're really floored when they find out that they just operate very differently. So, like, for example, I've gone jogging at 5 a. m. in the morning, 5:30, 6 a. m. in the dark. I have never, ever in my life felt under threat or insecure and it's true. It is because I'm a man, but that is why. 

[00:27:42] Yeah. Yeah. So, that safety bubble whether it gets burst. So that's obviously what happens with the men in your novel, their safety bubble of feeling invulnerable in this. Well, not even having to think about it. And then all of a sudden having it brought to their awareness and it's interesting because I think some of this work also about work life balance is also, as you say, all of a sudden you bring an awareness of what is our work costing us and what is possible to bring forward a more working life, but it can be done within all I guess your story tells us it can be done within even when you are in a situation which may not be ticking any of your career goals or any of your aspirations, it's not necessarily about what you're doing. It's more about how you are approaching that sense of balance in your life. Yeah. 

[00:28:32] Yeah. Yeah. And I think with the conversation about work life balance, people frequently don't know that other people are unhappy or they're feeling that they're unhappy is somehow wrong is actually very normal and other people are feeling the same thing. So, it's a bit like the men and women not understanding the freedoms that others feel or don't feel. But it's like that as well. And it's actually having this kind of conversation. That makes people realize that people's thresholds around work life balance are different. But I think people really carry a lot around because it's not talked about.

[00:29:06] Mm. Mm. 

[00:29:08] Another sort of parallel is that. In the novel, Michael makes reference to or parallels an incident that many women in Australia may have remembered when Scott Morrison previous Prime Minister stood up and said. In Parliament that the women who had organised a protest rally about the MeToo movement and sexual harassment and safety. And he said, well, it's a good thing you should appreciate the freedoms in our society that you could do this rally and not get shot. And this was the same man who had to have his wife explain what the trauma of rape in terms of it relating to his own daughters and therefore he could connect to perhaps his what that might be if he imagined his own young daughters going through that situation. So that was his barrier to connected to what the trauma of rape could be. And then it came back that he actually had to have an empathy consultant on his payroll to teach him a bit more about this. But when you sit back years later and consider that situation which we're just me and my peers were just so enraged about at the time, but when you sit back and go. He just didn't have a clue. This was not in his life journey that somebody could feel vulnerable, threatened fearful powerless, helpless, that these emotions could be happening and also that they would have no agency to deal with them. He could not relate to that in any way or form, and I still don't think he can. And his biography will be coming out in March and we will find out if he is autobiography his memoir if that is so but it's like that imperviousness. And if you're coming across it, I guess, in your workplace that the management seem fully locked into the corporate spiel that everyone is kicking goals and having a great time and the enforced socialising is and you don't feel that you are in that place. Yes, Michael said, it's not you. Well, it is you, but it's also okay. It's completely okay and you can do things about it, maybe not changing your job. Not everyone has the privilege to do that or the resources to do that, but it may be that you can take another approach, even a small step that might just start to bring a little bit more balance into your life. Yeah. So on that, Michael, what would your advice to our listeners 

[00:31:48] be I mean, I think in terms of work life balance and thinking about. What I needed to do this arduous job which I'm now out of. So it does vary a lot from person to person. I mean, I wanted to write a novel and that worked well for me. For somebody else, it will be something different. It may not necessarily be a creative project. It might be I don't know, like building something out of a kit, you know, where they're just like assembling IKEA furniture because that's what they love doing. But I think definitely set parameters. I think breaking up the working day as best you can whether that's with some kind of exercise or if you're at work in the office, just have a friendly conversation with a colleague that is not actually about work, even if it's short. If you really do just focus, and like, I really know this because I do have periods where I just focus on the one thing for a really long time. But you're actually not better at it when you do that. It's really when you have breaks that your mind needs those breaks. When you go back to it, you will be better. You will get back into it. So I guess be confident that a break won't detract from the quality of what you do. It will actually help you whatever you're going to do, even if you continue on to work. Also, I do identify a time when I simply switch off. So that includes from creative projects. So even though now as a consultant I frequently work on the weekends, but that's okay because I'm spacing my hours over the whole week. On a Friday, I still call an end to the working week. So, whether that's going out with neighbours or going to a movie or going for an extra long walk with the dog or it might be having a drink, for example. But I think that's important to mark these beginnings and end, and endings. 

[00:33:25] Yeah, absolutely. I work from home, I work for myself and it is important to have your going home routine, even if it's walking out the door and saying hello to your partner and letting them know that you've now stopped working and signalling that really clearly to them and yourself as well. Or if you live alone, again, just signalling it really clearly that work has stopped and now, non working life can start again. Yeah. Excellent. All right. So thank you very much, Michael, for sharing your insights into work life balance and the creative life raft. We wish you all the best with your novel. If you want to read take out the jocks and I encourage you to do so. It is a really fun raid. It's a great summer raid. If you're here in the Southern hemisphere, it's a great way to read. If you're cuddled up warm somewhere in the Northern hemisphere and you can purchase it on amazon. com and I really encourage you to give it a go. It is a fun exercise in what life might be like if some people actually acted on some of those frustrations and then you go on the ride of the consequences of that as well. Yeah. Okay. So thank you very much, Michael. We look forward to seeing you again and take care.

[00:34:42] Thanks, Judith. It's a pleasure. 

Discussion about Michael's current life in Montreal and his approach to work-life balance.
Michael talks about his routine of taking breaks during the day, often involving outdoor activities.
Michael discusses his transition from consultancy work to a full-time job, the challenges it brought, and the inspiration for his novel.
Michael reflects on the role of escapism and how fiction writing became a way to cope with the challenges of a full-time job.
Discussion on the importance of breaks during the workday and the impact of external structures on creative productivity.
Exploration of the values fulfilled through the creative project and the impact on Michael's sense of self.
Explanation of the novel's premise, targeting young athletic men, and the main characters' motivations. The title of the novel is revealed: "Take Out the Jocks."
Comparison of men and women's fears and the lack of understanding between genders.
Importance of open conversations about work-life balance. The variation in people's thresholds around work-life balance and the need for dialogue on the topic.
Advice on work-life balance, setting parameters, taking breaks, and identifying a time to switch off.
Closing remarks and thanks to the guest for sharing insights. Encouragement to read the guest's novel, "Take Out the Jocks," available on Amazon.