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Break Down. Wake Up.

Author: Meg Mateer

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Break Down. Wake Up. is about discovering the world changing wisdom within our distress. I’m Meg Mateer, a psychology nerd turned business consultant and entrepreneur. Join me to hear from leaders about when things in their lives were breaking down and to listen for the wisdom waking up. Along the way, we’ll explore fresh perspectives like (1) how distress is a driver of success, not a barrier to it, (2) how our personal and professional lives are inherently connected and (3) how our individual experiences can help solve broader societal challenges. When things are breaking down, important wisdom is waking up.
26 Episodes
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How we can use the experiences we have been trying to control to uncover the answers we have long been searching for - an unique approach to create sustainable change in our personal & professional lives, our organizations and our world. We've spent too long framing our experiences from a narrative of control.We've been taught to manage, contain, push down, jump over, fight, things like our physical pain, our vices, challenging emotions, conflicts, and marginalized stories.And it's not surprising that we have digested this way of operating.After all, a number of religions and other community doctrines disperse the idea that that, deep down inside, if left to our own devices, we would behave and feel in ways that are ultimately not good for us.But by trying to control our experiences, we suppress them. This leads inevitably to more tension, pain, challenging emotions, conflict, and marginalized stories. Even worse, it silences the insights coming from these alarm signals.It's time for us to take a different approach.In this episode, I discuss how the control approach actually plays out in our attempt to create sustainable change, and introduce a alternative, discovery based frame that unlocks deeper understanding and effects lasting transformation. 
There's a new type of activism on the rise....one whose action starts with listening...and why it is fundamental for moving beyond the rising polarization within ourselves, our relationships and our society. In this episode, I share more about how inner work is necessary for outer change, how polarization reduces complexity and keeps us fighting on the surface, the importance of sharing untold stories and how our distress helps us discover new perspectives forgotten under the surface.If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, its all at our website: www.breakdownwakeup.com.  If you want to begin doing the inner work and discover the wisdom within your own distress, check out our latest program www.breakdownwakeup.com/programs
How her own pregnancy and postpartum depression sounded the alarm for Vivian Acquah about workplace discrimination and the need for deep listening in inclusion effortsVivian Acquah was a successful professional working in finance and technology. But when she got pregnant, she started to sense something off about the reactions she was getting. Prior to her pregnancy, she was one of the top employees at her company and afterwards, she felt devalued, experiencing a heightened level of comments and jokes insinuating things about her identity as a mother and a black woman. When she tried to speak up and share her sadness, frustration and embarrassment at these experiences, her intelligent senses were belittled, being told that what she was upset about was simply a joke, or was not meant to be negative. She learned quickly to bottle her feelings inside.  So when she experienced post-partum depression after giving birth, she could no longer ignore the signs: she had to move on from a discriminatory, unsupportive work environment. And when she did, she dedicated herself to humanizing the workplace so that her son and the next generation could enter the workforce feeling safe, supported and included. In this interview we discuss the many complex factors that can lead to experiencing prolonged distress, how the buildup of continuous smaller disruptive events can be just as painful (and sometimes more) than one big tragedy, and the importance of explicitly creating safe spaces that encourage people to share their distress with each other and with the organization so that it can learn and evolve from the wisdom within these experiences. "Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community." - Bell HooksYou can find out more about and connect with Vivian here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vivianacquah/ and more about her business, here: https://vivalavive.com/.If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own distress, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.     If you are interested in learning more about the wisdom within your own distress when it arises and using that wisdom as fuel for new projects, deeper relationships, and maverick activism, check out our latest group program: Breaking down is wisdom waking up (www.breakdownwakeup.com/programs) - we are now receiving applications for the 2nd cohort!
How suddenly losing her income in the pandemic inspired a serial entrepreneur to help other people over 50 start their own businesses. Suzanne Noble had a successful 20 year career in public relations - but when she decided to sell her business and start a tech company, she faced blatant skepticism and discrimination for being an older female founder. After years running her own business, it was the first time she felt really excluded. So she wondered whether she was the only one feeling this way, and decided to build a community that celebrated the wisdom and importance of older age. Then, after launching several businesses that focused on serving the over 50s market, in the midst of the pandemic, she lost all of her sources of income. After pivoting her business and her skills several times throughout her career, she was challenged to, once again, find new paths forward. So when she listened to the wisdom waking up within her, she realized that she could take a new business idea online - one that helped other over 50 year olds who had lost their jobs learn the ropes of building their own businesses. In this episode, we explore the importance of lived experience in life and business, how diversity in the startup ecosystem boosts the level of possible innovation, and the value of creating networked intelligence that move beyond typical siloed ways of creating new ideas and products.  You can find out more about and connect with Suzanne here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/suzannenoble/ and more about her businesses, here: https://www.silversharers.com/ . If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own distress, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.     
What if professional development actually looked more like a balance beam than a corporate ladder? In the latest episode, I introduce this concept and highlight some of the other biggest insights that have been inspired from the last 10 episodes. I also share my perspective on how these themes can help us solve personal, professional, and broader collective challenges. In the last ten episodes I interviewed business leaders, entrepreneurs, coaches from sectors like wellness, health tech, finance, education, consulting and philosophy who shared a range of break down wake up stories, from altered states to workaholism, and from gender challenges in the workplace losing a parent. In my reflection, I note some of the broader perspectives that arise from these stories. For example, I touch on the importance of paying attention to our breakdowns in order not only to listen for the wisdom waking up in ourselves, but to find wisdom that can shift organizations and societies. I also highlight themes that came up in these stories, like how understanding high performance can act as an escape survival strategy to manage challenging personal experiences,  why balancing our connection to our own emotions and our connection to the values and norms of society can help keep our institutions in check, and how "embracing the suck" - being with difficult emotions in the moment without asking for wisdom can be a counterintuitive first step to finding key insights. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, its all at our website: www.breakdownwakeup.com. 
How his experience hearing voices helped an ambitious rising leader find inner peace and explore a variety of perspectives on how to foster broader harmony.From an early age, Dmitriy Gutkovich had his sights on politics and public service - he dreamed of being a senator and making an impact for the broader world. His ambition took him to an Ivy League school and set him up on the fast track to traditional leadership. But during his studies, he began hearing voices, an experience which opened him up to radically new philosophical phenomena. While he experienced his voices as an interesting and rich aspect to his life, posing insightful challenges and interesting perspectives, he quickly realized that the rest of the world had a limited understanding and view of this experience. So he shifted his social impact focus from the public at large as a politician, to being a public voice for voice hearers and educating the broader collective about this experience. In this episode, we explore the inner diversity that exists within all of us and how acknowledging and engaging with this helps us become more whole, the importance for everyone of holding our beliefs and thoughts lightly and considering different perspectives, and how experiencing personal paradigm shifts builds skills to manage broader, global upheaval. You can reach out to Dmitriy via his email, dmitriy.gutkovich@gmail.com. If you would like to learn more about his book, Life with Voices: A Guide for Harmony, you can check it out on amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Voices-Harmony-Dmitriy-Gutkovich-ebook/dp/B08CS4HBBX. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own distress, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.     
How a sudden physical injury helped a former healthcare leader see the impact that a fear-driven management style was having on his wellbeing and performance in a high stakes environment. Marcel Schwantes was set up for an accelerated career leading human resources departments in a hospital group. He was put through a two year leadership rotation program that demanded a lot from him - and he was up for the challenge. But pretty soon he began to sense signals of an unsupportive, critical team that was supervising him. His interest to contribute and share his ideas were met with disdain and rejection - he felt isolated, discouraged, and full of fear. At first, he could not sense how much this toxicity was impacting his health. But then he had a sudden injury that sent him to the hospital, of which the primary cause was stress. It was then that he realized that his stress was not because he was not strong or smart enough to perform in a challenging environment, but about the impact that the attitude and lack of support that his superiors had on his ability to be at his best. He now has transformed this wisdom into helping companies make a transition from restrictive management to servant leadership. In this episode, we explore how early stress warning signs can fall below the radar in high pressure environments, the need to balance responsibility between individuals to take care of their wellbeing and an organization to provide a supportive environment, and how top-down, autocratic management styles can lead to a culture of passivity and disengagement that ultimately impacts the bottom line. You can find out more about Marcel by visiting https://www.marcelschwantes.com/. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own distress, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.     
How an educational trip on diversity and inclusion helped a grants consulting partner realize her own complex experiences with gender inequity as a female corporate leader and inspired her to create change in her organization and beyondHelene Geijtenbeek had a successful 20 year career in corporate grants consulting when she attended an educational trip to Silicon Valley to learn about Inclusion and Diversity and learn how the big tech companies address it. During this trip, she had a wake up moment - she not only realized that her own fears and insecurities were also shared by many of the top tech female leaders, but she learned about gender inequity in the workplace. It was then that she realized that throughout her career she had several experiences where her strong female leadership style was challenged simply because of her gender. When she had this realization, she began making a difference both within her organization by serving as a representative standing for diversity and inclusion and as the lead organizer at TEDxAmsterdamWomen. In this episode, we explore the importance of involving both men and women to bring awareness and shift the gendered narrative that shapes the picture of a leader, the power that personal story has on helping organizations support diversity and inclusion, and how the gendered expectation of what it means to be a "good mother" still today impacts the decision for women to pursue leadership roles. You can find out more about Helene by visiting  https://www.linkedin.com/in/helenegeijtenbeek/. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.  
How my leap from corporate consultant to entrepreneur brought me close to some of my biggest wake up calls to understand myself and follow my gut in business. This episode is an interview I did with Agnes Bilik on her podcast, Raw and Real. In this interview I share a bunch of my own break down wake up stories - the big life changing ones and the small daily ones! I dive deeper into my experience with depression and also share the break down wake up experiences I had when I started my own business. You'll also hear how my own discomfort with going to bars alone actually played a key part in my decision to move abroad. In this episode we talk about how to embrace the suck when things in life are hard, the power of community and connection during periods of distress, and how small experiments can lead to big life changes. You can find out more about Agnes and her company, Raw and Real media, by visiting www.linkedin.com/in/agnesbilik/. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com. If you would like to apply for the Break Down. Wake Up. online program, please sign up at www.breakdownwakeup.com/program 
How my own breakdowns, when I finally payed attention to them, inspired and facilitated my transition from corporate consultant to social entrepreneur. I spent the first eight years of my career working in corporate consulting, climbing the corporate ladder, and living a very traditionally successful life. But something was missing - I could feel the subtle dissonance between what I was spending my time with and what I was really called to do. It wasn't until I began to really listen to my wake up signals that I found real alignment and power in my career and life. I now live my life connected to the wisdom within my breakdowns - the big rock bottom moments ones and the small daily discomforts. And I have FINALLY put together all of my tools and resources to share with you in the first ever Break Down. Wake Up. online program!!!! Are you ready to listen to your wake up signals? Get on the list to find out more about the program at www.breakdownwakeup.com/program. 
How experiencing extreme states of consciousness helped a non-profit chief operating officer process childhood challenges, improve his marriage and shift his approach to leadership Oryx Cohen was a leader in an organization training people to better support those in an emotional crisis. He knew about the value of these periods because he experienced several extreme states of consciousness throughout his life. So when he entered an altered state of consciousness suddenly at the end of leading a large conference, he saw this as an opportunity to wake up. In the midst of psychological space travel, he processed the devastating grief of his parents divorce and realized that his wife was indeed his soulmate. In this episode, we explore the value that extreme states of consciousness have in processing unresolved trauma, how we can ground ourselves when we are feeling disconnected through physical touch and present attention, and how feeling connected to people and things influence our care and investment in them. You can find out more about Oryx or his documentary Healing Voices by visiting https://power2u.org/. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.     
How the unexpected death of her mother at a young age helped a futurist thinker and philosopher finally pursue her professional dreams and realize her potential. Lene Rachel Andersen almost always felt like she did not fit in. She was brilliant and had a lot to offer, but growing up she felt really different from the other kids. She spent years trying to have the "normal package" - a normal job, a normal family, a normal house. She was working as a secretary after finishing her business degree, on the path to normalcy, when her mom suddenly fell ill. In the 10 months that she was caring for her mother in a coma, Lene had a wake up call. She came so close to the impermanence of life and she realized it was time for her to live up to her potential. Within one year of her mother's passing, she began her dream of writing comedy and studying theology. She now writes and speaks about some of our biggest global challenges and how we can shift the foundation of education and development to further our societies. In this episode, we explore the importance of balancing connection to ourselves with connection to our social groups with collective norms and values, the importance of engaging with aesthetic material like stories, art and music in order to better understand ourselves, and how personal development of a critical mass of people can shift the success of an entire country. You can find out more about Lene by visiting  https://nordicbildung.org/. If you are interested to learn more about the Break Down. Wake Up. program to help transform your distress into a catalyst for personal and professional growth, click here to schedule an intro with me here. If you want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.
How finally paying attention to his physical and emotional pain helped a senior finance director reconnect with himself and support key relationships in work and life. On the outside, Mark Harris had it all: he was a talented athlete, was an incredible student and had a successful career, wonderful girlfriend, and supportive family. He was used to keeping calm and performing in the most challenging situations, taking care of the people around him and carrying the burden of stress. But when his relationships were disrupted, Mark began to experience a variety of things including panic attacks, memory loss, anxiety, depression and migraines. He discovered that he was staying busy with a crazy work schedule and social life to avoid those difficult feelings and realized that avoiding his own pain did not make it go away but instead increased it, manifesting in a variety of ways. When he finally paid attention to this struggle, he began to heal himself and be more deeply connected to his relationships. In this episode, we explore the tendency to take care of others to avoid our own vulnerabilities, the role that high performance plays in aiding this avoidance, and how external success does not indicate inner invulnerability. You can find out more about Mark by visiting https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-harris-cfa-82a18a10/. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.     
How coming to terms with her own relationship doubt and a part of herself she did not want to see brought an executive coach deep compassion for herself and others. Nadja Tarancezewski had a degree in psychology, was working as a successful  organizational coach, and needless to say, had quite a high level of self awareness. But it was when she was face to face with her own self doubt about her love for her partner that she had to listen to a side of herself that was everything she did not want to be - judgmental, traditional, and closed. In this process, she was able to see exactly how the culture and environment she was raised in had been embedded in her own psyche, without her even being aware of it! In this episode, we explore the role of fear within organizational systems as an outdated strategy for motivation, how addiction functions as a survival strategy (pssst...and how high performance can serve as an addiction) and how we must listen to and integrate our "nasty parts" if we really want to make a big shift in global consciousness. You can find out more about Nadja by visiting www.conscious-u.com. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.     
How simultaneously losing both her business and the health of her partner showed an ambitious wellness entrepreneur that her stability started with herself. Elisabeth Kristof had poured herself into her business for years until she lost it. It was then when she realized that she had also lost herself in the process of vigorously building the company, losing both identity and her health. But it was in the search for solutions to her partner's unexpected diagnosis of cancer where she found a new perspective on her approach to business and life - from seeking safety and value outside of herself to getting back to basics and listening to her body. In this episode, we explore how the tendency to attach our personal value to our businesses or professions can push us to overwork ourselves, the body's incredible creative ways to bring itself back into a state of balance and safety, and how trauma works itself both through the body and through our relationships. You can find out more about Elisabeth by visiting https://brainbased-wellness.com or connecting with her on Instagram @elkristof. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.
I recap the major themes that arise in  the guest interviews and share my perspective on how these themes can help us solve personal, professional, and broader collective challenges. It's been 6 weeks since the podcast launched and we've covered a lot of ground and had a overwhelming enthusiasm for the project. In the first nine episodes I interviewed business leaders, entrepreneurs, coaches from sectors like science and technology, learning & development, impact investing, healthcare, consulting and innovation, and journalism who shared a range of break down wake up stories, from addiction to mental health challenges, challenging upbringings, grief and loss, physical pain, and non ordinary states of consciousness. In this reflection, I touch on some of the broader perspectives that arise from these stories like the power of compassion in approaching personal and systemic transformation, how we can pay attention to the more subtle signals of when things are breaking down, and what the happy hour culture in the organizational world says about our deeper needs for creativity, play and exploration in the workplace. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, its all at our website: www.breakdownwakeup.com. Last and certainly not least, I want to hear from you! If this podcast resonates with you, please get in touch (meg@empatiko.org).  
How a ski accident gave a practical philosopher the insight to liberate his own self worth from the judgments of others and to discover his own career path. After years of social anxiety and self consciousness, Jules had an unexpected awakening experience that renewed his faith in his innate value that could not be boosted or diminished through the opinions of others. Although incredibly profound, Jules realized that this epiphany alone would not create sustainable change in his life. He then went on a search for practices to integrate this experience into his daily habits. This search resulted in two books that explore the importance of both ecstatic experiences and instrumental rationality. After a second meaningful and challenging experience, Jules edited a book that compiles real life stories of spiritual emergencies that brings to light these complex, difficult and insightful states of consciousness. Jules continues to hold the tension between opposites in both his life and research. In this episode, we explore the role that altered states of consciousness have in the business world, how we might create safe collective spaces for out-of-the-ordinary experiences, and the importance of incorporating both the rational and the ecstatic into our own lives. You can find out more about Jules and his books by visiting www.philosophyforlife.org. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.
How his own madness inspired a psychiatric nurse practitioner to cultivate human connection, community and meaning in the mental healthcare system. When he was just thirteen years old, Matt Ball saw a terrifying and unusual scene that called him to protect his community. This and other experiences were diagnosed as psychotic. Years later, as an award winning psychiatric nurse practitioner, he would make the connection between the voices he heard and visions he saw and a collective atrocity that he as a child was also subject to. He discovered that within his altered states of consciousness were important messages not only for him, but for society. In this episode, we explore the life-changing role that listening has in transforming difficult experiences, the importance of patience and discovery in our own meaning making processes, and the necessity to look at cultural, historical and contextual elements when trying to understand someone's distress. You can find out more about Matt by visiting www.humaneclinic.com.au. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.    
How an unexpected business rejection launched a quest for a successful entrepreneur to understand his personal pain and protective strategies. Hesham El Gamal had it all - passion for his work, a successful and growing business, fame and fortune. So when a new business partner told him that he was not a fit to work with them, his ego was bruised. But instead of denying the feedback he was given, he chose to use it to discover what lay beneath this blindspot. What he discovered profoundly impacted both his relationships at work and in his personal life. In this episode, we explore the power that our own stories have over how we think and behave, the importance of personal connection in business, and finding unique ways to recover when political, personal and financial disruption hit all at once. You can find out more about Hesham by visiting https://www.linkedin.com/in/hesham-el-gamal-b2927b/. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com.     
How a surprising solution to surgical complications helped a business director process her grief and embrace a new calling to help others heal themselves. Despite very healthy habits, Debbie Knowlton found herself needing not one, but possibly two shoulder surgeries. To avoid having a second operation, she dared to try an unconventional healing technique that she had to simply trust without knowing how it worked. After it did, she was inspired to learn how to heal herself and others. But what she didn't know was that her healing would not just be at the physical level, but would help tremendously with healing her grief after an unexpected family crisis. In this episode, we explore the power of being present with someone in their pain, how we can create an environment for our bodies, minds, and organizations to heal themselves, and the importance of letting go and trusting the mystery of things we don't yet understand. You can find out more about Debbie by visiting https://www.linkedin.com/in/debbie-knowlton-sphr-32352146/. If you like what you've heard and want to be part of our podcast community, participate in special events, or discover the wisdom waking up in your own breakdown, check out our website at www.breakdownwakeup.com
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