This is a very special episode for lots of reasons.
Firstly because it’s shorter than usual.
Secondly because much of it was recorded live at one of the most memorable book launches I’ve ever attended.
Thirdly because Michael Brown, the author of My Job Isn’t Working: 10 proven ways to boost your career mojo is not only a Practical Inspiration author but a graduate of the very first This Book Means Business mentorship programme.
And fourthly because something unimaginable happened while the book was in production that changed everything.
Books really do matter, and today’s episode is a reminder to keep our attention and focus on what matters and not let our life and our life’s work slip by.
JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/charliebrownchagford
Michael’s site: https://myjobisntworking.com/
Michael on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MBrownTraining
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
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Transcript of interview at launch of My Job Isn’t Working, London, 10 July 2018
Alison Jones: So, Michael, firstly congratulations.
Michael Brown: Thank you.
Alison Jones: How many people in the room have actually written a book?
See? It’s…. Oh, no, Beryl, yes. But, it’s a challenge. It’s a deep sustained work. It changes you as a person, which is one of the best reasons for doing it. And most people don’t write such a bloody good book, so I’m absolutely delighted to be publishing it. How many of you have actually read it yet? Yes, right, it’s good, isn’t it?
Alison Jones: So congratulations just on achieving that, which is really something.
But I wanted to ask you though, why this book? Why My Job Isn’t Working? Who’s it for, and why do they need it?
Michael Brown: So, this is a book that I have felt in a way kind of obliged to write. I’ve been privileged to work for so many people for 20 years in a training room, and people tell you stuff in a training room that they don’t tell you outside a training room.
Alison Jones: It’s like a confessional.
Michael Brown: It is like a confessional in a way, and I set that up very carefully, and we always eat the flip charts afterwards. And it’s sort of a private environment. But people do open up, and I have felt all the stories and personal anecdotes that people shared with me, somehow I wanted to, before I depart, to get it onto paper, to pass onto other people for their benefit really. To learn from all that experience that I’ve been exposed to. 10,000 people over 20 years is a lot of people.
So, it’s designed for people who have been around for a while, who maybe are asking themselves questions, slightly not sure how to go about this. Maybe sometimes sadly giving up on it. And really it’s saying don’t give up on it, you can do a lot to improve your situation and make it a more positive thing in the workplace. So, that’s who it’s for.
Alison Jones: Yes, and it’s so true. I think some people have given up, and they’re plodding along, they’re getting through every day, and they’re living for the weekend.
Michael Brown: Yes, that’s a missed opportunity really, isn’t it?
Alison Jones: Yes. And it matters to them obviously for their quality of life, but it matters hugely to the country, because economically, that’s a really bad thing if you’ve got that level of disengagement. Absolutely.
Just about the writing for a minute, so there’s going to be people, possibly people here, certainly people listening to podcast, who are thinking I want to write a book one day, and Michael makes it look very easy. So, tell them what you learned in the process of writing this book?
Michael Brown: Right, well I learnt how much fun it is actually, which I did not expect it to be.
Alison Jones: Tell us a bit more about that, what flavour of fun?
Michael Brown: The flavour of fun was being able to decide on what the messages were going to be and having a lot to choose from. There were things that were fun and painful at the same time. The title drove me mad, I spent a day on that s you well remember, struggling with that. But it’s a vehicle of creativity in writing, which… yes I blog and so on and so forth, but I think actually a 55,000 long blog is a lot of room for telling a story, and I thoroughly enjoyed that.
So in a way I was surprised with that. What did I learn? I learnt that doing it with other people is a very helpful thing to do. I couldn’t have done it sitting at my kitchen table. I could have done it, but it wouldn’t have been that great. So, having other people critique and support and share was a really helpful. So, get yourself with a group of people who are trying to do the same thing.
And a third thing, as you probably remember the moment, when it took me about two months to recognize how the book was going to help my business. It took a while for that penny to drop, and I think looking back, I should have been really clear about that right at the beginning. In my case I’m going to build a two day training course, which is the book, and that will be a fantastic vehicle for me, access to new people.
But that took a while, and I should have thought about that at the time when I started thinking about why I was writing the book in the first place. So you got me to think about it, but I was a little bit further down the line than I should’ve been.
Alison Jones: Absolutely, brilliant. Any top tips? What would be your best tip for somebody listening who’s thinking about writing?
Michael Brown: Well, get into a routine. For me that was get up early, walk the dog, make a coffee, and spread down in front of your spreadsheet. Which as you remember, you made me make, which was a spreadsheet with the whole contents of the book mapped out section by section with what message was going to go in what section with what resource, and how many words it was going to take. And having that, and deleting things and adding to it as I went through was just the best thing, because as I had a new idea, I just interested it into whichever bit I needed, I didn’t have to think about it anymore.
Alison Jones: I hate to say I told you so.
Michael Brown: I know, I’ll give you credit for that. A table of contents it’s called.
Alison Jones: Yes, it’s the working table of contents.
Michael Brown: Yes, what a marvellous document that was.
Alison Jones: It is brilliant. When you actually start drilling down and saying well if it’s going to be 55,000 words and I’ve got 10 chapters, and you start working it out like that, then you know when you’re finished, which is a bit of a gift, because otherwise you can just carry on writing yourself into a hole, can’t you?
Michael Brown: Yes, quite.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. And I know everybody knows from what we’ve just been talking about, everyone here in the room today will know that your wife, Charlotte, died very suddenly while the book was in production. And you were also just talking about how you wrote and sent over to me an epilogue that day, Easter Saturday, which I was literally staggered to receive. It was quite a moment. But tell us a little bit about how you have turned that devastating grief into something that is such a positive force for good in her memory?
Michael Brown: Well, how did I do it? The answer to that is I don’t really know. It’s all a bit of a blur of course. I think you do find you’ve got resources inside you that you don’t know you’ve got until you need them, and something I was able to unlock there that got me through that moment. I think the voice in my head which was telling me that giving up on it was not an option, and that was Charlotte talking to me. So it didn’t take me long to realize that if I walked away from it, I’d somehow be letting here down.
And the fact that the book has now a purpose which it didn’t have, which was that it potentially can save lives because I’m donating my proceeds to the British Heart Foundation. So therefore it’s not just a book, it’s actually something that serves a higher purpose. And that’s given me as a human something to work towards, and is why I feel inspired to do more actually, because it doesn’t just have to be something that’s pragmatic and that you can use in your job, but actually it’s been something wider than that, and that’s very motivating.
Alison Jones: Yes, and on several levels I was very moved by this, that epilogue, that basically just said you don’t know how long you’ve got. Life is very precious, please don’t waste a minute of it being miserable. But also the fact that it’s very hard as an author sometimes to market your book, to keep shouting to the world, “Please buy my book.” “Did you know I wrote a book?” “Please buy my book.”
And what’s wonderful is you’re saying buy this book, because it could save lives. Actually it’s really important, it matters at all sorts of levels, and it’s given you a real fire in your belly for the marketing effort, which is just a wonderful gift I think for Charlotte.
Michael Brown: Yes, I think it’s important not to be cynical about it. It’s not a sales opportunity, but it certainly has allowed me to feel more okay with banging the drum, which as you and I know, we don’t naturally do.
Alison Jones: Exactly, and it’s not a self-conscious thing anymore. It’s like do you know what, this matters. It matters on lots of levels, and I’m just going to talk about it because it matters, which is wonderful.
Michael Brown: And I think people are very forgiving and tolerant of that.
Alison Jones: Well, yes, absolutely. And they should be. And it was fantastic to see it just shoot to the top of the bestseller list when it came out, there was so much good will and support there, which was fantastic.
So, obviously there’s quite a few people here today, there’s lots of people more listening. What would be your message to them? What one thing would you like them to take away from this conversation?
Michael Brown: Can I have two?
Alison Jones: Yes, go on. It’s your launch.
Michael Brown: Thank you. So, it’s this whole thing, I was saying earlier, this energy and passion I have for the message of the book, which is don’t let your career slip through your fingers. So two things are, one take nothing for granted, because we all become lazy and complacent and do that. I certainly did do. And secondly, make it count. Literally why would you look back and say well that was five years that you weren’t doing at work? Because every day is a precious day, so that is my message. Wake up.
Alison Jones: What a brilliant, brilliant way to end it. However, before we do finally end it, what’s next?
Michael Brown: Well, more books for certain.
Alison Jones: Excellent. What have I done?
Michael Brown: Well somebody, my brother in law actually, I finished renovating a barn just recently and that was a Charlotte project as well. And the book has been another project that’s kept me going. And I know if I stop, that might not be good. It’s helping me to get through things to have purpose in this way. So I need to do another book, and I enjoyed it so much the first one anyway. And I’ve thought through was that was, and it came to me at 5 o’clock this morning after I checked on Amazon how we were doing on sales, which I realized we’re out of stock. Oh goodness, better tell Amazon.
Alison Jones: Yes, I’d already clocked that.
Michael Brown: Yes, she was on it before.
Alison Jones: Half past four, yes.
Michael Brown: You were ahead of me.
I realized that actually the next book, and Peter you alluded to this earlier in your opening words, one of the biggest blockers of career mojo for employees is their manager. The managers who are managing because they were good technically, or because somebody left, or they’re old. They’ve reached a certain grade and their skills that were relevant to them being successful lower down aren’t necessarily that of managing people. And I think there’s an absolutely crucial book out there waiting to be written, which is how do you give your people what they need as a manager? And the crucial skills of things like coaching, setting objectives that mean something, getting clarity of direction. How to give good feedback, how to manage performance. All of those good things.
There are tons of people that I’ve met over the years that don’t … that need those skills and they know they haven’t got them. And actually, again, as you said, those people tend not to get … they don’t get sent on the training course. You’re supposed to know this stuff. And so I think it will kind of be an associate book to this one, but it’s actually a different message for a different audience, going deeper. It’ll be a bit more how to do something. Read the book and you ought to be able to be a lot better manager than you are at the moment. So that’s coming out, through you I hope.
Alison Jones: Okay…
Michael Brown: It won’t take 18 months this time. I’ve already started drafting it.
Alison Jones: And shall we have a conversation about how it fits with the business sooner rather than later?
Michael Brown: Let’s do that over a glass of wine and talk about it now.
Alison Jones: Okay we’ll do that, marvellous.
And here you are, all privileged to be at the birth of a new book. Isn’t that exciting? You heard it here first, that’s very exciting.
Michael Brown: Yes, I’ll have to write it now.
Alison Jones: You have publicly committed.
So, that’s it from us. It is now thankfully back in stock on Amazon, so if you haven’t bought your print edition, you will get one tonight. But heck, why not go and buy one anyway. And obviously you’ll have read the book, so at some point if you can, I know it’s a pain, I know it takes time, but if you could leave a review, I can’t tell you how much it means. It’ll mean a huge amount personally to Michael, but also in terms of telling other people about the book, because of course my publisher blurb will be positive, I would say nice things about it. But if they see from readers that this book matters, that it’s a good book, that’s it’s going to change lives, then that’s the biggest thing that you could do to support Michael with this really fantastic book.
I give you Michael Brown.