Come Down From the Corporate Ledge w/ Simon Stephen

Updated: Jun 17, 2021


Have you ever thought you were on top of the world, only to discover you were actually teetering on the edge of self-destruction? By all outward appearances, Simon Stephen (@intorcida) was winning at corporate life. But when he found himself leaning out the window of a 10th floor London hotel room, he realized just how far he was from his own definition of success.


Highlight Reel:

0:45 Corporate Stress

2:00 You'll never know what hit you

4:00 Are you in an abusive relationship with your career?

12:00 On the ledge

15:00 Your possessions won't save you

17:00 Taming the monster within

22:00 Listening to the tough-love feedback

26:00 Untwisting

37:00 Signs of burnout

43:30 The smell of happiness


Adrienne MacIain 0:01

Hey everyone, welcome to the That's Aloud podcast. I'm your hostess Dr. Adrienne MacIain. And today we're here with Simon Stephen. Please introduce yourself, Simon.


Simon Stephen 0:12

Adrienne, hi. Hello from Portugal. My name is Simon Stephen. And I love the format of this podcast. I love what you do. I was listening to one earlier on today, I was listening to the Joel Nest objectivity one. I love it. I'm really, really stoked to be here. So thank you for having me.


Adrienne MacIain 0:30

Fantastic. I'm so happy to have you. So the first question that I always ask, I'll just put it right out here: what story is the world not getting?



Simon Stephen 0:43

I've heard one or two of your listeners say the same thing and I'm gonna have to repeat it: I tried to condense this and failed. I thought, you know what, I'll put a couple of sentences together, it will sound great. But actually, it's a bit more complicated than that. So my belief is that, whilst there is a an increased awareness of mental health conditions, and particularly suicide, which, you know, the rates are on a huge increase. Coming from a corporate background and being involved in that high-intensity, high-stress environment, I don't think enough is being done to address what I would call corporate stress. And whilst businesses are paying lip service to Mental Health and they're talking about providing counseling and support for employees, the truth of it is there's still a huge stigma attached to saying: I have an issue. And if we can't change the companies, then I think what we have to do is we have to educate the employees to recognize what the signs of burnout are. And I am absolutely hell-bent on making sure as many people understand that as possible.


Adrienne MacIain 1:49

That's beautiful. Thank you so much for saying that. I know there's a lot of people listening right now who are feeling a little burned out, who are feeling a little stressed. And I think you always know that, like, in your body, in your soul, you kind of know when something's not right, don't you?


Simon Stephen 2:06

You do, you do. I think the problem though, is it's a bit like the boiling frog analogy, if you're involved in it, it's so subtle, and it creeps up on you. And you don't even realize that it's cumulative. And when you look back on it, as I am now, and I'll take you through my story, but when I look back on it now, now I can see it. Now I can see where it was happening. When you're deep in that illusion of what the corporate world defines success as, you simply don't see it creeping up on you. And it led to me to, again, to a point where I cracked open the window of a 10th floor hotel room in London, and was about to throw myself out. And it felt like it came from nowhere. And for me, I think you're absolutely right, there are so many people who are suffering from this, but can't quite put their finger on why.



Adrienne MacIain 2:59

Right. And I think there's people around them, just like when you're in an abusive relationship, being in a toxic environment, you're surrounded by people who are telling you: No, no, no, this is normal. This is good. You're fine. Don't worry about it.


Simon Stephen 3:15

I think you're right. And your book, interestingly, you know that sort of, I don't know what do you want to call it, it's almost like it's almost like Stockholm Syndrome.


Adrienne MacIain 3:27

Yes.


Simon Stephen 3:28

You're involved with this thing. You're being told what defines success. And so you start to validate it, you start to think to yourself, Hey, you know, I'm doing the right things here. I lost track of the number of times my wife, my family, my friends would say to me, Hey, son, you're not being yourself. You know, you're not being a nice guy. You're being a real asshole in many cases. And my wife would say, You're not the man I married. And I'd dismiss it out of hand. I'd go, What do you what are you talking about? I'm providing for you. I'm working myself to the bone here. How can you say that about me? And it becomes this incredible indignance, where you start to defend the very thing that is actually destroying you. And that for me is, that's terrifying. That's really scary.


Adrienne MacIain 4:15

That's so true. And I really, I want to go back to that idea of Stockholm Syndrome. That term, by the way, is kind of problematic. But the idea is that when you are in a situation where something or someone else seems to have the power, you really look up to them. And you really start to admire the pain that they put you through, in a strange way.


Simon Stephen 4:41

Yeah, yeah, you can be, I was talking to an ex-colleague of mine the other day about a trip we made to India. We went out for a week's business. I went out to India regularly and, you know, to give you a little bit of context if that's okay, because they're probably thinking, who the hell's this guy who's preaching this stuff?? I'm a Scotsman, I come from a really nice background, I've got great parents who worked hard, that put me through a private education. I did the usual kind of mucking about thing in my late teens, got into working in defense and that kind of stuff. And I kind of fell into a corporate life because I met a girl, she had our beautiful daughter, and I suddenly felt I had to provide, I had to be the breadwinner. And I want to say at this point that there's nothing special or remarkable about me. I haven't walked up Everest on my hands and knees, I haven't rescued hostages from death, been in horrible situations. And in a sense, that's what almost makes it resonate. Because what happened to me could really happen to anybody. And I got into this corporate world and started off in sales. Everything was target-driven, everything was about achieving targets, everything was about getting the bigger car, the bigger house, the bigger whatever it may be. And you, before you know where you are, you're caught up in this trap, and I do see it as a trap, Adrienne. And it's something that you you think at the time, I'm in control of this. But you realize, subsequently, you were never in control. The bosses were in control, the corporation was in control. And I was reading about, I don't know if you saw, I don't know if I'm allowed to mention brand names on this, but a very well known at Goldman Sachs, were in the newspaper just a few days ago. And a bunch of analysts had snuck in a PowerPoint presentation to a management meeting where they say, Hey, listen, this is tantamount to slavery. We're doing 95 hours a week, we're having breakdowns here. And amazingly, the chief exec comes out and says, I'm so glad you brought it to my attention. Thank you so much for doing this, we're going to make rapid changes. Now, of course, the last thing he wants to make is rapid changes, because for as long as those guys are pulling 95 hour weeks, they're increasing shareholder value. But when you're in it, it's very, very hard to see it. And I think that's for me whether, and I use the term again, Stockholm Syndrome comes in, because it is like you're falling in love with your captor. You think you're doing the right thing because they're giving you a little bit of praise here and there. And that is as close as I've come, however, to recognizing Stockholm Syndrome and myself, that's for sure.



Adrienne MacIain 7:28

I'm just seeing, it's so interesting, I'm seeing so many parallels here to my story and abusive relationships. And it really is, it's those little love kernels, right, they give you these little validation crumbs. And you live for that, you live for that, and you will do just about anything, and you will betray your own values, betray your own integrity, do anything to get more of that.


Simon Stephen 7:57

The worst bit about it is, and I recognize with a sense of, I say shame but I've actually used my shame, my guilt as a, as a series of lessons which which have really helped me in terms of my own recovery and how I've come out of this. And there's a positive story behind all this, I want to make sure everybody knows that. But what happened for me is the more I was abused at work, and when I say abused, I mean manipulated, controlled, led to believe that by doing certain things, you get certain results. I started to manifest those same behaviors at home. So I became really difficult. I became a bad husband, a bad dad, a bad friend. I hurt people along the way. I made decisions that, looking back now, I think, How did I ever get to that point? And it's this weird thing where there seems to be a correlation between the worse you're abused, perhaps you start exhibiting those same behaviors, the abused becomes the abuser.



Adrienne MacIain 8:57

Absolutely. Yeah, I talk about that a lot, actually how, after an abusive relationship, you often start to become the abuser in other relationships in your life. It's like they say, Shit rolls downhill, and you find those people who you can shit on and they will still stay around. And they do. Because it's like, there's so much pain, and you don't know how to process that pain, you don't know what to do with that pain. And so you use the model that you already know, which is, Oh, well then I put it on somebody else.


Simon Stephen 9:27

Yeah, exactly. And the shit rolls downhill is spot on. I am, you know, if I think back to conversations I had with my wife, or conversations with my children, or with my friends, as I said earlier, I have a deep sense of not shame now, but regret. But what I've chosen to do is to take that and say, Okay, so what am I going to learn from that? How am I going to make myself better? How am I going to improve myself. And, you know, if I think back to some of the things that were said to me when I was working, and you know, I had some big roles, this was not a small career. I ran the international arm of a major management consulting firm, global consulting firm. I helped, with a half-billion dollar transformation premium banks, I helped write and implement a counterespionage system in one of the biggest banks in the world. I've had some big, big roles and was rewarded accordingly. So I flew everywhere business class first, had a big car, the house, the whole thing. That was all cool, right? That's what I thought. But when I think about the conversations I have with people since where they've said, the more you had, the worse you became. The more you got, the more obstreperous, the more difficult, the more, in my wife's words, the more of a bastard. And it got to a point where, I mean, if I think about the week where I intended to take my own life, I had had a really, a typical week. I was working 15-20 hours a day, my five days a week away from home were becoming seven days a week, because I find, you know, I need to stay in London this extra day, I'll stay till the Saturday, and then you get to the Saturday and go, Well, look, I've got early morning meetings on the Monday, so I might as well stay in London on Sunday and prep. And then the next thing is it's Monday and you've not been home for a week, whatever it may be. So I'm doing that, been out for a big boozy dinner with clients, you know, one of these ones that cost 1000s of pounds, and the majority of that spend is booze and alcohol. By this point, I'm addicted to painkillers and meds. And I'm not getting enough from my own doctor, so I'm now buying them off street dealers in London, in LA, in New York. Wherever I was, I was able to find dealers who were selling me painkillers. Somazipam was my drug of choice. You know, this is, this is getting serious, drinking a lot, the whole thing. Been up at this dinner, came back to my room. I remember checking my email, and it was 11:35 at night. The next thing I'm aware of, I hear a siren. And I'm thinking that must be an ambulance or something. And I suddenly realized that I am literally hanging outside my hotel bedroom.


Adrienne MacIain 12:13

Wow.



Simon Stephen 12:13

I had forced open the window, I was sitting on the ledge, my feet were dangling over the air, and I was leaning forward. And I had a moment where I thought, 'Oh, I'm about to jump.' And I thought, 'What a mess I'll make for the ambulance crew.' So I came in from the window, kind of, it was almost like I'd come out of this trance or woke up or something, right. And realized that I had written a letter to my wife and my children, which I still have to this day, where I had confessed all my sins, I said how sorry I was, that I was ashamed of my behaviors, that I'd been an awful husband, an awful Dad. I folded my clothes, I'd left money for the housekeeper because I knew they'd have to clear up my stuff the next morning when I wasn't there. And I sat and sobbed. And I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. And I just, everything hit me at the same time. It was huge. And for me, the thing that upset me the most, and I think the reason it started me on this path to try to talk to people, was that it came from nowhere. It felt like it came from nowhere. I realize now that it was the boiling frog thing, it was just a little bit after a little bit after a little bit. It was all added on until one night, that perfect storm in my head, where I didn't want to go home because my wife hated me, I didn't want to be at work because I hated my work, I didn't want to... And it was awful. And if I if me talking to people in a medium like this, if one single person says, 'You know what? I heard what he said, and I went and spoke to my wife, I went and spoke to someone.' For me, that's job done. That's what it's all about for me now. Was that too rambling? Did I go on too much there?


Adrienne MacIain 13:57

It was beautiful. No, no, I'm just letting that settle for a minute. And I have so many follow-up questions.


Simon Stephen 14:03

Fire away.


Adrienne MacIain 14:04

But first, I want to say, you know, that frog in boiling water thing, that is a real phenomenon. And I think people who who haven't found themselves in someplace quite that extreme have a hard time wrapping their brain around that. But I want to say, once you're on a road, once you find yourself, it's like your feet are pointed this way, you know, it takes a lot to kind of knock us off of that road. It takes a lot because momentum is a thing, right? Once you start going in a direction, it's like you're gonna keep going in that direction until something stops you. And as long as something's tolerable, we tolerate it. Until something happens, and it's no longer tolerable. And then we realize, now I have to change, now I have to change direction. But once you realize where you're headed, once you realize what your feet are pointed toward, you have an opportunity in that moment to change before you hit that rock bottom moment, before you find yourself on that ledge, which was quite literal for you.


Simon Stephen 15:08

And you have hit the nail on the head for me. I know, so now part of my reinvention, which is a bit of a grand expression, I hear people using that all the time - reinventing oneself, but part of that is looking at how I can take what I've learned and my experiences and the skills I have to help other people. So whether that's through motivational speaking, whether it's through coaching, which I love, talking to individuals and so on, the very fact that they're talking to me, says that they have had that moment of perspective that has prevented them getting to that window ledge. Now for me, I had to lose everything, pretty much. Now I say lose everything. You know, I'm still sitting here, right? I've got a beautiful little hill farm in Portugal. I've got a great family, kids, all this good stuff. I'm a lucky, lucky, lucky human being. But what I mean by that is that I lost everything temporarily. I, my wife was red-flag, red-flagging, I'm out of here, I'm done, I don't like you, you're not the man I want. My kids didn't want to engage with me. My friends didn't like me. There was nothing I had from material sense that made any difference.


Adrienne MacIain 16:14

Yeah.


Simon Stephen 16:15

That was a huge one for me, was going you know what, the cars in the driveway, and the holidays, the rest of it, that means nothing.


Adrienne MacIain 16:21

Nothing.


Simon Stephen 16:22

It means nothing. It's extraordinary how it hits you. But for me, it meant losing pretty much everything. If I can help people avoid getting to that point, to that extreme, then I'm happy. That feels to me like the right thing to give to people is that opportunity to disengage, to point the feet on a different road, as you put it.


Adrienne MacIain 16:46

Absolutely. Yeah, there's an old Turkish proverb I love to quote, which is, 'No matter how far you've gone down the wrong road, turn back.'


Simon Stephen 16:55

Great. Great. Well, I'll take, I'll take your quote and I'll raise you one. One of my favorites is: The sincerest form of apology is a consistent change of behavior.



Adrienne MacIain 17:07

Hmm, that is gorgeous.


Simon Stephen 17:09

I love that. I absolutely love that. My wife went, when this all transpired in the days that followed, my wife and I talked, really talked for the first time in years. And she said, You know what? You can't say sorry to me. You can't say I apologize, I'm gonna do this. You can say that to the blue in the face, it's not going to make any difference. What I need to see is the monster will change.


Adrienne MacIain 17:31

Yes.


Simon Stephen 17:32

And for me, that is it. That takes time, it takes effort, it takes energy. But every day you do it. Every day, you change your mindset towards one of love, and kindness, and care. It gets a little bit easier, and you feel a bit more fulfilled by it, and you feel a bit more grateful by it all. And it is the most remarkable place to get oneself to. And I'm still, I'm early days, it's three years. That's it. It's only been three years since I was on that window ledge. But the joy and the satisfaction I'm getting from having a different approach to life is just, it's fundamental for me, and I recommend to anybody, if you start your day and end your day with gratitude, and love, and kindness, it's amazing what you get back from it.



Adrienne MacIain 18:24

And I want to talk more about that journey from the ledge to here, I want to hear more about that. But first, I just want to say, I think it's so, you've touched on so many just deeply important things, and I don't want those little gems to get lost in here. And so I really want to reiterate when you say that your wife needed to see change, and you said change takes time. It isn't that change takes time, we can change our minds in a moment. But what takes time is habits, creating new habits takes time. And your mind gets into this little rut. And it's like a record player, it's stuck on one little thing and it's playing over and over and over again. And you have to deliberately pick up that little needle and put it somewhere else. You can't just be not there. Right? You can't leave the needle hanging, the needles got to go somewhere. And so I always say to people, you need a new game, you need to re-engage your brain in a new game. And so you talked about gratitude. You talked about, I'd love to hear more about the specific new games that you created for yourself and tools you used to get to where you are. Now tell me about that journey.


Simon Stephen 19:49

So the first, I mean, the first thing that for me was the most important of all was a realization straightaway that I couldn't remain in that career. I couldn't be half in half out, it would drag me back down again. And so I had to do something that would take me out of my comfort zone, I had to do something that would take me away from that comfortable life. Because part of this demonstrable change thing that I wanted to exhibit to my wife was a willingness to do something completely new. That we as a couple, as a family had to make a huge, radical change, so to speak. So the first thing was, we know what let's sell the house, let's go do something crazy. What are we, what are we going to do, and there's this, this, this hill farm in the Alantejo in Portugal, which is between Lisbon and Faro. And it's old country, I mean, real old country, there's nothing modern here. This is, this is old school. It's like it's been trapped in time and hasn't moved on past the 1900s. It's wonderful and brilliant at the same time. That was step one. Step two was to really try and get to the bottom of the causes. It was all very well to say I need to understand myself, but I had to understand how I'd allowed myself to get there. What were the drivers? What were the things that were that were so important to me that caused me to lose all the stuff around? And of course, that was money. That was material. That was all the stuff that big corporate say that you should be interested in. It was the Gordon Gekko greed is good stuff.


Adrienne MacIain 21:26

Yeah.


Simon Stephen 21:27

And none of it brought me happiness. Not one single bit of it. Now, I'm not saying that it is easier to live without money than with, I'm not saying that. And there will always be people, quite understandably, and I'm a great believer that people should try and do as well as they possibly can do, but it should never, ever be at the cost of your happiness. And that's a huge part of it. Third element for me was talking to my friends and family.


Adrienne MacIain 21:53

Yeah.


Simon Stephen 21:54

What was I like? Tell me what I was like? And you know what? That's hard.


Adrienne MacIain 21:59

Oh, yeah.


Simon Stephen 22:01

When your friends and your family is saying, 'Mate, we hate you. We don't want to hang out with you. We don't like you.' When your kids are saying, 'We don't even know you properly. We don't want you to take us to school. We don't want to see you.' And when your wife is saying, and this is a big one, forgive the crudeness, when your wife says, 'It actually makes me feel sick, the thought of having sex with you.'


Adrienne MacIain 22:27

Wow.


Simon Stephen 22:29

I dislike you so much that I feel I have to do it out of duty. Wow, that hits you. But you've got to do it. Because if you don't hear those things, if you don't get the warts and all, if you don't have that time period afterwards to go, Oh, my God, and hold your head and think, I can never let myself get back to that situation again, you'll never get yourself through it. But then for me is the sort of the key part is I started saying, Okay, so how can I take all that stuff and how can I start applying it to my change? How can I stop? So habits, you talked about habits. So let's start thinking about my fitness, about my diet. Let's start thinking about what time I go to bed at night, what time I wake up in the morning, what my activities are during the day, how I speak to people, how often I speak to people. Making things like, you know, actually making a list out of when was the last time I spoke to my friend John, when was the last time I spoke to my friend Dara, when was the last time I... Becoming more religious about maintaining that communication and talking to people. And what I found was that the more I did this, the more I felt in control of myself. The more I felt healthier as a whole, the better and the more responsive my wife was, my children were, my friends were. And that in their happiness, in their smiles, in their kind comments, I was drawing strength. It was beautiful, actually, when I look back on it. It was... I heard you talking to one of your guests the other day about what color energy was flowing out of her body, and she's talking about multiple colors flowing out of her body. And I'm a 47-year-old guy who for years was really cynical about all that kind of spiritual stuff. But I'm kind of warming to the idea of it. But it was almost visual. You'd feel people's wants, in a sense you feel strength, and you think, I'm on the right track here. I'm doing the right things here. And my relationship with my children has never been stronger than it is right now. My relationship with my mum has never been stronger than it is right now. Now, and to tell you a sad part about all this, is that in December just passed my wife and I sat down and she said, You know what? I've dedicated my life, so many years of my life to helping you, supporting you, managing you, I've never had any time for me, any life for myself. And we've agreed to, we actually separated. And she's now living in another country. And she's really looking after herself. She's doing what she should have done for years, but I never gave me the opportunity. Because I was so, she was so, everything was so encompassed around me, everything was around, How do we manage him? How do we keep him straight? I never gave her the opportunity to live and breathe. And because of this change in me, and because I'm a different, very different person now, I can actually support her decision. I miss her. I hurt, of course. But you know what, she deserves it. She absolutely deserves an opportunity to grow and flourish and thrive. And actually, I'm going to be okay, Adrienne. I'm going to be okay, I've got a good life. I've got good friends, good family, I'm going to be great. Now, if you've done that to me, if she'd done that, or we'd come to that conclusion three or four years ago, oh, boy.


Adrienne MacIain 25:58

Would have devastated you.


Simon Stephen 26:00

Oh, I would have been aggressive, belligerent, difficult, argumentative. I'd have thrown the toys out of the pram.


Adrienne MacIain 26:06

Yeah.


Simon Stephen 26:06

So if I can see where I am now compared to then, and I know I'm on the right path. And so I'm just gonna keep doing the same things I'm doing, just maintain the habits, the good habits.


Adrienne MacIain 26:18

Yeah, it sounds like you're making really deliberate choices. And just making sure you follow through on that. It's such a simple thing, but it makes such a big difference.


Simon Stephen 26:28

It does make a big difference. And at the same time, I've been in a number... I've read a wonderful book, which I recommend to all your listeners by guy called Shaka Senghor, and it's a book called 'Righting My Wrongs.' When he was 18 years old, he was involved in a homicide, and he was found guilty of second-degree murder. And he spent 20 odd years in jail, rough, hard jails, in which a large portion of that he was in solitary. And he wrote this book, because his journey through prison was about learning to forgive himself and understand the causes and how he got there. And then it was about giving back. He realized that the key to a happy future, to a balanced future was about how much he gave to others, rather than how much he took for himself. And I've take that as a bit of a mantra. So I look at my farm, and I think, Okay, well, I've got this great place, and I get... it's usually calming for me, and it's this reconnecting with community and my family, and I can disengage from the world. Well, how can I give that to others? Well, I could open it up as a retreat. I could let people come and stay here. I actually, you know, what, I'm starting a winery and I grow grapes, and I've got olives, I've got an olive, you know, a load of olive trees and cork trees. And what if the people came out here, and they helped with the olive harvest? Or they help with a grape harvest?


Adrienne MacIain 27:48

Yesss.


Simon Stephen 27:48

All this kind of stuff. And that process of getting back to nature, and back to community, you turn your phone's off, and there's no Wi Fi. You know, there's Wi Fi in the house, but there's no mobile signal. If you want a mobile, if you want to make a mobile call here you've got to climb a tree.


Adrienne MacIain 27:52

Yeah. So healing.



Simon Stephen 28:05

Perfect, right. And if I put that with my motivational speaking, and my coaching, and other things, you start to go, This is awesome. This is really cool. I can actually help other people. The sense of satisfaction, the sense of fulfillment, is unlike any contract I ever signed, it is it is better than any deal I ever struck with anybody anywhere in the world. It makes those seem paltry by comparison. And it's, it's a wonderful, wonderful feeling. And I'm genuinely excited. Yeah, I'm, you know, as I said, I miss my wife, right. But I'm so excited about my future. So excited. It's brilliant!


Adrienne MacIain 28:48

So you know, that my dream is to have a retreat as well. So I just feel that so deeply, just the beauty of... you know, what I want to do is create a food farm where people can just come and, you know, pick their own food and make their own stuff. And so... ah. But there's so many things you said that I wanted to, I didn't want to interrupt you because you had such a beautiful flow.


Simon Stephen 29:09

No, I'm sorry. I was in sales, you know, what can I say?


Adrienne MacIain 29:13

It's great. And I, that's why I have this podcast is to get stories and to have storytellers on, so you're a natural storyteller, and I absolutely love that. But I did want to say a few things. So, you talked about the comfort zone. And this is one of those things that people say all the time, but the thing is, it didn't sound comfortable to me at all, where you were at, right? It sounded very uncomfortable. It's just the familiar zone. It's the zone that you're used to, the Devil You Know.


Simon Stephen 29:39

Yeah.


Adrienne MacIain 29:39

And so often we get caught in this trap of feeling like, Well, this is my comfort zone. No, no, no, that's just your familiar zone. Comfort is something you haven't even experienced yet. Because when you're in alignment with your true self and your true desires, that's when you experience true comfort. I wanted to say I totally relate to the feeling of, you know, you shine a flashlight on all your faults and say, Hey guys, tell me what's really going on. And there was a period where you know, my my best friend in the world, my adopted sister, Rebecca stopped speaking to me, because I was just being awful. I had just gotten out of this terrible abusive relationship, and I was treating everybody like crap. And she just couldn't be around me. And she said to me, 'You know what love is, but you don't know what respect is.' And that...


Simon Stephen 30:29

Really, yeah.


Adrienne MacIain 30:31

...blew my head open, because I thought I knew what love was, until she said that, and I realized, oh, wow, respect is a prerequisite for love. If you don't respect yourself, how can you love yourself? If you don't respect others, how can you love them? And vice versa. So that was a huge thing for me was just recognizing that I needed to understand respect before I could understand love. And when you said that about your wife, and respecting her space, and letting her finally have that moment to align to her true self, setting her free to do that. That sounds like love to me. That sounds like love to me. And that's beautiful.


Simon Stephen 31:17

Yeah, I think you're absolutely right, as I'm not gonna lie to you and say that in the initial moments, you don't revert to type. When you make a decision, suddenly you go, wow, hold on, I'm glad to be on my own again. Because my kids are grown up, right. I, you know, if my daughter listens to this, she'll be horrified to hear me say this, I'm kind of hoping for grandkids in the next few years. You know, I'll be a young granddad, I kind of like the idea about being quite a young granddad. But you know, those initial two or three weeks after we sort of came to this conclusion, you know, I was in a lot of pain. I cried, I was upset, I was angry. I was, I think, but what was fascinating for me was that my anger, literally lasted a day. I was amazingly, emotionally hurt. I was very emotional because of that loss of familiarity. How am I going to be here? And I'm, Everything's gonna remind me of you and songs are gonna remind me of you. And what about the dogs? And what about the olive trees? And all this stuff, right? Everything seemed to have a connotation. And then I flipped into the next phase, which is anger. And I recognized it instantly. You just went, Whoa, no, not doing this. Not doing the anger thing. Let's get out of that one. So then I moved into the acceptance phase. And went, Okay, okay, so what does this actually mean for me? So how do I, how do I live on my own? How am I going to go forward? And then that beautiful one, that transition, where you suddenly go, Actually, I'm going to start being pleased for you. I'm going to start actually supporting you. Now, that doesn't mean I want us to be best friends and I want to hear about your new boyfriend.


Adrienne MacIain 32:55

Right, of course.


Simon Stephen 32:58

That apart. But you know what, I want to meet you in a year's time or two years time or five years time. And I want you to say, I loved being married to you. You were you know, I loved what we did, we accomplished something amazing. And I've gone on to have a great life. And the likewise, course the egotistical bit of me wants her to go, 'Wow, you look so good. Why did I leave you? Why did I do it?' Because I'm human, I'm a human being.


Adrienne MacIain 33:22

Of course!


Simon Stephen 33:24

But just knowing, just being able to spot and recognize that anger and flip out of it. That for me was, it was brilliant. It was just a, it was a huge signal to me, you're on the right track. And that, that was awesome.


Adrienne MacIain 33:40

Well, you recognized what you do and do not have control over. Right? What you have control over is how you respond to things, your emotional response. So you recognize that anger, you go, 'Okay, hi, anger. What are you doing here? What do you have to teach me? Okay, well, I got that. So you can go now. I'm good. I can move on.'


Simon Stephen 34:01

I've been it's the recognition been about things faster. You talk about Rebecca, your sister. And the there's some signs, there are some signs that I've spoken to a lot of ex colleagues. And I've also actually done a lot of homework on this sort of research into this assault. And there are some signs that exhibit whether it's a work related stress or relationship stress or anything else that you know, the typical ones were massive changes the behavior, weight gains, secret, whatever erratic behaviors and so on. But there are some that I do feel are work or more specific to a corporate environment and it's when your views about what is right and wrong. Your ethical, moral compass is so skewed. And you start treating people in ways that you would never have ever thought about doing before and subsequently look back on and go, 'Oh my god, I can't believe I did that,' when you're hurting people. That, in my experience of talking to people, it seems to be a consistent theme. A lot of a lot of partners of corporate employees will talk about how mean their husband or their wife, or their boyfriend or their girlfriend or whatever it may be had become, that they didn't care about who they stepped on, they didn't care about what they said to people that they become rude of a tolerant, secretive lot of secretive behavior stuff, hiding their bonuses, hiding how much money they had, and becoming resentful about their partner spending money. These things seem to be common within that corporate stress, breakdown that spiral. And it's so vital that our loved ones tell us what we were like. It's vital. And you might not listen to it at the time. There were 1000s of occasions where my wife said to me, you're not the man, and you're not being a nice guy, but didn't listen to it once. But it doesn't mean that she was wrong to keep repeatedly telling me she had to keep trying. And that's what I would say to loved ones who are listening to this, you recognize some of these signs within their loved one or family member? Don't stop trying. keep knocking on that door, keep... Because one day, the hope is that that person will go 'Shit, really? Yeah, you're right. Actually, I recognize it myself.' That's that's a key moment.


Adrienne MacIain 36:22

Yeah, I often say, even if someone can't hear you, when you tell them something, it gets in there somewhere, and at the right moment, it will fit into that little slot. And they'll go 'Ohhhhhh, yeah!'


Simon Stephen 36:37

'That's what they mean.'


Adrienne MacIain 36:38

Yeah, 'That's what they meant.'


Simon Stephen 36:41

You know, some huge lessons learned over the last three or four years, but that the value the value in listening to your listen to your loved ones and friends to understand what you were like, or how you were being, I think is invaluable.


Adrienne MacIain 36:57

Some other takeaways you want to make sure people walk away with today, before we go into my favorite exercise.



Simon Stephen 37:05

There are three or four, kind of big ones. I've written a course which I coach, people through around lessons lands, and the science of spiral and all these kinds of things. But there are three or four key takeaways. And for me, the first one is that you'll hear lots of people talk about saying, Oh, you should speak to someone, if you're feeling a bit unwell, you're not feeling right, you should talk to someone, before you can talk to someone, you have to recognize it. You've got to recognize their signs before you get to a point where you say, you know, I recognize and now I can go speak to someone. So for me, it's about understanding what those signs are, write them on a board, I'm happy to send what I've learned and my learnings to anybody who emails me, don't our email world, put those signs up on the brick on the fridge in the refrigerator so that you check them off regularly. So first one is to recognize your signs. The second one, and it's a it's a bit of a strange woman is put value at the heart of everything you do. Think about how does this thing I'm doing give me value? And how does it give value to someone else? If it only gives value to yourself, if it doesn't benefit anyone else and it's purely selfish, kind of ask yourself the question, 'Do I really want to go down this way?' If you start start attaching, if you start doing things that are valuable to other people, as well as yourself to loved ones or whatever, you'll get far better results in my experience. And the third, the really big one, and it was something was taught by my wife. And and I will love her forever for teaching me this. She said every day ask yourself the question, 'Does the good outweigh the bad?' The day you wake up and the bad outweighs the good, you have a responsibility to yourself to make that change, and no one else is going to do it for you. You have a responsibility to yourself as a human being. And I love that. So I do that every day. When I go to bed at night, I asked myself that question, does the good outweigh the bad? And if there's a bad bet, I work out what I need to do to change it. And I think there were three key takeaways, and this is appropriate and valid. That's the dog's record of my conversation already.


Adrienne MacIain 39:14

They're just chiming in, they just want to be included.


Simon Stephen 39:16

Maybe, maybe that's what they're doing. It's a practice that this is this is useful in my view for anybody who's thinking of going into that high paced, high intensity, high pressure, corporate world use or people who are in there and maybe listening to this and recognize via their signs. But in other ones I think we'll get the most from this and the people who see those signs in loved ones.


Adrienne MacIain 39:36

Yes.


Simon Stephen 39:38

They'll hear this and go oh my god, that's that's just for my husband's being like. That's just what my, you know, my girlfriend's being like or whatever it may be. And with those people, I will happily speak to them all day and tell them and give them advice on what they can do to reach their loved one. And if we can save a life doing that. Great, awesome. And even even the dogs agree, as you can hear.


Adrienne MacIain 39:58

Absolutely. So let's take a moment. Now I want you to, if you can just sit back, relax, close your eyes, if that feels good. And just take a nice deep breath in. And let it out. And this time, when you breathe in, I want you to see colored light come in to you. What color was your light?


Simon Stephen 40:31

Blue, my favorite color blue.


Adrienne MacIain 40:34

I love blue. Wonderful. So do that a couple more times, just love that blue light. really fill up all your nooks and crannies. And then let it out. And as you're breathing, I'm going to wave a magic wand over here. And now everything is exactly as it should be. And I don't just mean in your life. Everything is exactly as it should be. There is no more of that scarcity mindset that is making people do these terrible things to other people to try to get stuff that they don't need. That's all done. And I want you to just look around this ideal world. And tell me what you see what you hear what you can feel, taste, touch, smell. What is here.


Simon Stephen 41:38

Still here, I'm still at the farm.


Adrienne MacIain 41:41

Beautiful.


Simon Stephen 41:48

I can see a grandchild running in two bags. not to put too much pressure on my daughter.


Adrienne MacIain 41:57

Everything's possible in this world. So she's she's delighted in this ideal space, right? So you've got this beautiful grandchild, and what emotions come up for you when you see this child?


Simon Stephen 42:11

That she loves me. Or he loves me. That they love me being their granddad. I'm here and I know I'm about to have a really good day. I've maybe got some calls and coaching calls on this. There's people here that working in that, that maybe during the grape harvest, there's people here, and I'm with someone who really likes what I am and who I am. And I can see the grandchild running in and saying granddad and jumping on the bed. And it just feels love and warmth and joy. And it's it's simple, but useful, I think is the only way to describe it.


Adrienne MacIain 43:05

So you're there kind of cuddling with your grandkid. And I want you to smell the smell of amazing delicious food being cooked. Someone who is here has decided that they're going to surprise you with your favorite food. What can you smell?



Simon Stephen 43:30

It's a full cooked Scottish breakfast. A really good Scottish breakfast. It's heaven on a plate. It's coffee, it's the smell of coffee. It's the smell of toast, it's the sound of a radio. It's maybe my daughter or my partner, singing or listening to the radio, and it's just warmth. It's just... it's just the smell of happiness, if that doesn't sound too obscure. I know when I get up and I go through, they're all gonna be smiling and they're relaxed and everyone's chilled out and happy and enjoying being each other's company. And it's just, yeah, it's complete boundless love and care and affection. There's a Portuguese word, colo, and it means care and affection. It's perfect for this: colo.


Adrienne MacIain 44:29

Yes. So I want you to let that wash over you for a moment. As you're enjoying this perfect breakfast this person has decided to nourish you with and then I want you to go for a walk. And you're gonna find a spot that you've never been before that you didn't even know was here. But it's just the perfect spot to stop and contemplate how beautiful this farm and this world Willie is to tell me what you see.


Simon Stephen 45:06

I see in one direction I see the view over the valley at the back of the house just miles and miles and miles of rolling hills and oak trees, and Little White Houses, on the hills. And then the other way I turn and I'm looking over my farm and the dogs are running around like idiots. And I love leaves and grass blowing in the wind, I love being able to see the wind when you when it moves across a field and you can literally see the wind moving. And I get that here sometimes. And it's mesmeric and beautiful. And it's as close to you as you can get to touching God in my views, you're actually watching his hand just moving the wind over your over the land, I do all that. I love that vision.



Adrienne MacIain 46:11

That just gave me chills. That just gave me chills. I love that. So now you find someone who is somewhere on your property, maybe picking grapes. And they say to you, 'I just want to tell you how much this is helping me and how this is changed me just just being here.' And and you can see in their eyes, how sincere they are, and how much you've really helped and changed them. And I want you to soak that feeling in for a moment. As they're just saying, 'Thank you. Thank you so much.'


Simon Stephen 46:54

It's indescribable. It's like your whole, it's like every sense of your body comes alive. It's It's like you can almost see it. It's radiant. It's wonderful.


Adrienne MacIain 47:11

Yeah, it's radiating out of them and into you. And you just feel that feel of that. And then something unexpectedly wonderful happens. Something you weren't looking to have happened, but it just fell out of the sky. Pure grace, nothing you did to deserve or earn. It just came to you. What has happened?


Simon Stephen 47:40

My friend and neighbor has just arrived with my first case of red wine. He's just arrived. And he said, hey, look, it's in the bottles.


Adrienne MacIain 47:55

Wonderful.


Simon Stephen 47:56

It's a case of red that's been produced from my farm.


Adrienne MacIain 47:59

So there's a party happening tonight?


Simon Stephen 48:02

Oh, yeah. Absolutely.


Adrienne MacIain 48:07

Absolutely. So I want you to see you've strung up lights and the you know, you've got the neighbors are there people from from from around, but also your family's there. Everyone that you really care about has come for this moment. Yeah. And you crack open that first bottle. And I want you to just take a whiff.


Simon Stephen 48:38

Yeah. You can just taste it. Yeah.


Adrienne MacIain 48:46

And let's have a toast.


Simon Stephen 48:48

Yeah.


Adrienne MacIain 48:52

All right. You can open your eyes.


Simon Stephen 48:55

If I want to...


Adrienne MacIain 48:57

If you want to. Yeah, you don't have to.


Simon Stephen 49:02

I heard you doing that with one of your guests. And I thought to myself, I wonder what I'll think. And I've made a point of thinking, I'm not gonna think anything, I want to do it on the day and see how it feels. But the wonderful thing about it, is that everything I've just said is achievable. Yeah, there's nothing outrageous. I didn't turn around and say, you know, I'm looking for a 50 foot clipper going around the Caribbean with a host of you know, all of Hugh Heffner's exes. Everything I've said is achievable. And for me, that's just really something, do you know what I mean, it's wonderful.


Adrienne MacIain 49:41

It is really magical.


Simon Stephen 49:43

That was lovely. That was really lovely.


Adrienne MacIain 49:45

Good. It is really magical, I've discovered, when you find that thing that you truly desire, and then you realize, wait, that's not that much to ask. That's not so crazy!



Simon Stephen 49:59

Yeah. That's great. That feels really, really good. And yeah, as I said, my daughter will listen to this and be like, oh, my Lord, oh boy. But I know how much I'm looking forward to it because I can't wait to be great granddad. Not great-granddad but a great... grandfather. I'm so excited.


Adrienne MacIain 50:27

Do you think it's because you sort of want to do over? Is that part of it?


Simon Stephen 50:33

Now that just shows how sharp you are. A whip brain, I think someone described you as having a whip brain. Yeah, I think so. A bit. Yeah, I think there were years where I look back now realize an awful lot of time was wasted on not being there enough for my kids. And I love my daughter and my son with all my heart. I'm proud of them both, unimaginably proud, they're very different kids, but they kind of got there themselves a lot of it. Because I wasn't there for a lot of it. And so yeah, I guess you're right. I think you're probably right, there is a certain amount of it is like a bit of a do-over, I've got I got another chance here to make a bit of a difference. So well spotted, well spotted. That's why that's why you got all the PhDs and all the letters after your name, and all the other things. I know, I know.


Adrienne MacIain 51:31

Well, and there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, I think a lot of us want to do over you know, we were looking for the rewind button, we're looking for the reset button. But the beautiful thing is that life does give us do overs, we just don't always see them. And you know, you may not get grandkids right away, but you may find other people to nurture and to help raise them in a sense, you know, like you're talking about coaching I think that's part of what you do is you help our inner children.



Simon Stephen 51:57

Yeah, I think there's that feeling when we were doing that exercise and the feeling of the energy that resonates or comes out from someone who's saying thank you for helping whatever. I've never really experienced that before. I've had people say thank you for this when you by them a present, or you give them something or you remember their birthday or you helped them change a flat tire, but I'm talking about that feeling you get when, you know, you've actually changed the course that person's life. Do you know the Ralph Waldo Emerson definition of success? Do you know this?


Adrienne MacIain 52:39

No.


Simon Stephen 52:40

I have it on my wall. Forgive me. Ralph Waldo Emerson, what is success? 'To laugh often, and much, to win the respect of intelligent people, and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate the beauty to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition. To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.'


Adrienne MacIain 53:11

Well, that's perfect.


Simon Stephen 53:15

That's perfect. And that's the feeling you get when you help someone else. And I My only regret is that it took me the best part of 45, 46 years to get there.


Adrienne MacIain 53:27

Right there with ya.


Simon Stephen 53:30

However, we got back we got a big bright future ahead, so...


Adrienne MacIain 53:33

Absolutely, we do. Absolutely we do.


Simon Stephen 53:36

Better 47 than 47, right?


Adrienne MacIain 53:38

Ah, I just, these, these can be so powerful for me, and thank you so much for really opening yourself up to the process. I know, sometimes people kind of pull themselves away from it, you know, it's like a little bit scary and they kind of step back from it and intellectualize it and stay up in their head. And I really felt that you, even though I know this can be hard, especially for men, you really came down into your heart space for this and I just really want to honor that and thank you for that.


Simon Stephen 54:06

That means a lot. Thank you very much for saying that.


Adrienne MacIain 54:08

Yeah. So thank you so much for being here. And can you please tell the folks at home where they can find more of your wonderfulness?


Simon Stephen 54:18

Well, thank you. So I'm on, at the moment, website and Instagram. So Intorcida is the name of my company, which is a bastardization of a Portuguese word: torcida means twisted. And so I put the word 'in' in front of it just to annoy my Portuguese friends and make a non-existent Portuguese word so intorcida means un-twisted. So www.intorcida.com is my website where you can find lots of information about what I do. And @intorcida is my Instagram feed. Facebook, still waiting to pluck up the courage to do that, slightly concerned there may be one or two many skeletons in the closet to do Facebook, but I'm going to take a brave pill at some point this year and do a Facebook page. But, and this is a final thing to say. It's for me, it's not about promoting the brand. If people want to find out and get involved, that's great. But if someone phones me or emails me and says, 'Hey, listen, do you have that list of signs, that shows someone's having a breakdown?' Just get in touch. I will share it with them in a heartbeat. Everything I've learned, everything I know, I'm happy to share with anyone.


Adrienne MacIain 55:27

That's wonderful. So I'm just gonna, like give you one last little coach poke, like coaches do. You know that everything you want is on the other side of your fear. And so you know, now, what you have to do next, right? It's the thing that's scary. I know you're gonna have a Facebook page soon, and you're gonna invite me to like it, and I'm gonna be the first to like it.


Simon Stephen 55:49

Absolutely. You have my word. I would love a Facebook page.


Adrienne MacIain 55:52