Welcome to the Join Up Dots business coaching podcast interview with Michelle McQuaid.
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Introducing Michelle McQuaid
My guest today, on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots free podcast interview is a lady from Melbourne Australia who has one belief in life.
That all of us are capable of being a bigger, brighter version of ourselves than we give ourselves the opportunity to be.
Her official bio states that she is “is a best-selling author, workplace well being teacher and playful change activator” which is of course true but is not something that occurs by magic.
Back in 1994, she was working for PR Works as a general manager where she built a profitable IT portfolio, as well as creating a media training service for CEOS.
Which I find fascinating, as someone who is now firmly entrenched in the people development world, this wasn’t an area of her life that just burst into being after several decades.
It was there right at the beginning, which grew larger in her next job as a PR Manager for Sausage Software.
But it seems to me that things moved up a gear when performing the position at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, as their international leadership coach, where she worked across the world to implement the companies brand strategy using Positive Psychology theories across their culture.
And then there comes the time where our guest could have continued to rise up the ranks in corporate land, gaining the salary and working tirelessly to build someone else dream.
How The Dots Joined Up For Michelle
But our guest had other ideas, and left to create her own company and her own dream, after completing her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) at the University of Pennsylvania
And with a career history scattered with roles lasting a couple of years or so, it appears that she has truly found her thing, as she has stayed where she is ever since.
Developing her company, bringing in bigger clients and well……loving it.
As she says “I’m passionate about bringing out the best in people, particularly at work. Fusing Neuroscience and Positive Psychology into tested, practical actions, I create happier, more rewarding and more profitable workplaces for employees, their bosses and their organisations.”
And who wouldn’t love to do something that you are passionate about everyday.
That is the dream after all.
So when did she get the inkling that building her business was awaiting for her? And was it scary time or “Hell yeah, lets get going?”
And is there a similar theme that stops most companies, and the employees of those companies operate at the highest level?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Michelle McQuaid.
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Michelle McQuaid such as:
How she remembers taking the corporate ladder to the very top, but then knowing in her heart that it was time to leap as her values started to be a mismatch with the company.
How she was sure that she was going to love her life after leaving the corporate life, as she set off to build a life based around her core strengths. Great decision!
Why she feels that she made a big mistake when first building her business, as she did everything other than focus on earning money. Not a great decision!
Why it is so important to focus in on yourself, and look to develop your personal strengths. This only needs to be ten minutes a day and can make such a big difference.
How To Connect With Michelle McQuaid
You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here – enjoy
Audio Transcription Of Michelle McQuaid Interview
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. join up dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:36]
Yes, hello there. Good morning to you. Well, good morning to you, all you, you sexy listeners, wherever you’re coming from. And I’ll tell you what, I think officially I’ve got the sexiest listeners known to man, I’ve been seeing images of view. And every single person that connects with me, I think to myself, if I was single, if I were single, even the men, I don’t care, we could we could get something going. And we’re going to get something going on today’s guest not not in that way. She’s married, married mother, she just put a daughter to bed, or it might be a son. Not sure I’m going to ask. But um, because she is somebody who has. She’s got one belief in life and it makes it perfect for join up dots. She believes that we’re all capable of being a bigger, brighter version of ourselves, then we give ourselves the opportunity to be an official bio states that she is a best selling author, workplace well being teacher and playful change activator, which is of course true, but it’s not something that can occur by magic. Back in 1994, she was working for PR works as a general manager where she built a profitable it portfolio as well as creating a media training service for CEOs which I find fascinating. As someone who is now firmly entrenched in the people development world. This wasn’t an area of a life that just burst into being after several decades. It was there right at the beginning, which grew larger in the next job as a PR manager for sausage software. But it seems to me that things moved up a gear when performing the position of Price Waterhouse Coopers as the international leadership coach where she worked across the world to implement the company’s brand strategy using positive psychology theories across their culture. And then there comes a time where our guest could have continued to rise up the ranks in corporate land, gaining the salary and working tirelessly to build someone else’s dream. But our guest had other ideas and left to create our own company and own dream after completing a master’s in applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. And with a career history scattered with roles lasting a couple of years or so, it appears that she’s truly found her thing as she has stayed where she is ever since developing a company bringing in bigger clients, and well loving it. As she says, I’m passionate about bringing out the best in people particularly at work using neuroscience and positive psychology into tested practical actions. I create happier, more rewarding, and more profitable workplaces, for employees, their bosses, and their organizations. And who wouldn’t love to do something that you’re passionate about every day? God I’m a podcaster, and get paid for it. Now that is a dream after all. So when did you get the inkling that building a business was waiting for her? And Was it scary time? or How? Yeah, let’s get going. And is there a similar theme that stops most companies and the employees of those companies operating at the highest level? Well, let’s find out as we bring on to the show to start join up dots with the one and only Michelle McQuaid. Good day to Michelle.
Michelle McQuaid [3:22]
Good day. It’s great to be with you, David.
David Ralph [3:26]
I’ll tell you what do you get fed up with people saying good day? Imagine it’s all right in Australia, but us as long as I think you called us It does it just great on you.
Michelle McQuaid [3:35]
Not at all, mostly because nobody in Australia says it to each other. It’s highly when you speak to people from other countries. And we love that you think that’s entertaining? So it’s always easy to say Goodday, good. I back.
David Ralph [3:47]
You don’t say Good day put another porn on the barbie over?
Michelle McQuaid [3:50]
No, generally No.
David Ralph [3:53]
I would have thought that’s how you start every single day because in your life is it’s playful time isn’t. And that’s that’s what I loved about you. When you first connected with me, you’re doing something and as your skype little sort of message says, and they always say a lot about the people stop functioning start flourishing, and you’re doing that. But you’re doing it in a kind of playful, it sounds like every morning you wake up and go Yeah, this is a good day.
Michelle McQuaid [4:17]
most mornings, absolutely. I mean, I still live in the real world. So there are some days where I wake up and go, okay, deep breath. Here we go again. There are definitely Thommo days where I wake up and guy, this is what I get to do today. And I’m a huge advocate of play. I think unfortunately, one of the things we stopped doing, the older we get is playing and yet our brains are wired to play, it’s actually how we learn at our best. It’s how we figure things out. And it gives us that permission to pull things apart and put them together in different ways and to learn as we do it without being too attached to the result. So I’m a huge advocate of play, particularly when it comes to creating change in our life.
David Ralph [4:51]
I agree with that totally. And I find that everything that I do, the more I enjoy it, the more I feel like I’m playing, the more I’ll be honest with you, me, I think to myself, I shouldn’t be earning money. But doing this, it seems to be better, the quality seems to be better somehow, is this something that organizations are missing?
Michelle McQuaid [5:10]
Absolutely. And your brain is wired to play. And we’ve seen such fascinating studies over the last decade about how different emotions actually impact the way your brain is working. And I actually think you should be paid to play in fact, you should be paid more if you are great at playing. So I wouldn’t feel guilty about that at all. But what we’ve seen is that when we experience more of those heartfelt positive emotions that can we play curiosity, or interest, pride amusement, for example, that it actually broadens your field of peripheral vision. So you taken about 75% of what’s going on around you versus 15% when you’re in a neutral or negative mood. So you see more opportunities, and you flood your brain with a feel good chemicals of dopamine and serotonin. These are really important for thinking outside the box being innovative, doing complex problem solving and analysis. And because your brain the safe, you much better in terms of thinking about we say how do you collaborate and co create and work better with other people, rather than being in survival mode, where it’s just all about you. So there are lots of awesome reasons why in any workplace, we want to create more of these heartfelt positive emotions and play is probably one of the easiest ways to authentically access that state.
David Ralph [6:21]
But the trouble is that companies don’t want that to happen. today. I’ve worked in companies where I used to try to play every single day, unfortunately, when I got into sort of the training environment is quite easy to play. But before then I was a customer service manager, I was a sales manager. And I was always playing and I got kind of tarnished as a maverick, or I didn’t take things seriously. And I look back on it. And I think, couldn’t you see can you see I was driving? I was doing better work because of it. But companies don’t want that to happen. How do you overcome that are saying play play play? And the listener going? So right, if I Michelle to say that, but she hasn’t worked with my boss?
Michelle McQuaid [7:00]
Absolutely. I think the good news is companies are starting to change some of their thinking on this not all companies and not all at once. But we’ll look at organizations like Google, for example, their culture is quite intentionally built on things like play. And I think the reason we’re starting to see some of the shift going on. And where you help move a very traditional thinking company forward on this is to show them some of the brain science and the research that we’re discovering about what actually happens inside our heads with this, unfortunately, given that people are the most valuable resource that most organizations have, leaders very rarely have been trained to understand how to work with their own brains, number one, and number two, how to bring out the best in their people’s brains. And yet, of course, so much of what we do is directed by the brains that we have. And so understanding how this works, I think there is a growing appetite in workplaces, to help leaders have this information to help employees have this information. And you really don’t have to scratch very far into the surface of that, to see how important things like my I think it takes a little time to get that transition to really kick in. But once you start seeing you in action, it’s pretty hard to imagine working any other way.
David Ralph [8:08]
I’m going to say two words to you, Michelle, which is going to terrify me These are the words that probably just just fill you with dread. And they are the worst two words that any person can hear you ready for them?
Michelle McQuaid [8:21]
I braced myself.
David Ralph [8:23]
middle management now maybe they’re not gonna help you do that. Or I can, I can totally see that you can go into a company, you can speak to the leader, the top guy, and he goes, Yeah, brilliant. This is what our company wants, because they seem to be more creative and more willing to take chances at the top is their middle management. And they were the ones that basically drove me out of corporate land. How do you overcome those two scary words?
Michelle McQuaid [8:48]
Yeah, look, those are two scary words. And they can be really challenging. Unfortunately, people who are often at that middle management level, a surrounded by world of fear, I, you know, they’re they’ve got scarce opportunities move up. Because the higher you get, the fewer positions there are, they’ve got a lot of really capable and talented people competing for those positions, there’s a lot of pressure on them in order to meet whatever indicators, key performance indicators or outcomes they’re being measured by, they don’t understand how to get the best out of the people that are working with them quite often. So they try all sorts of motivational tricks that really work. And they’re often really push like many of us are for time. So you know, middle management, unfortunately, is often not a very happy place. It’s a place that breeds a lot of fear and anxiety. And that doesn’t tend to bring out the best in any of us. I think the other thing that’s really hard about middle management is again, often these managers have not been given the kind of training and information that would make dealing with all of that a whole lot easier. Now that said, I think most of us have had an experience where as challenging as middle managers can be, you do find you know, the middle manager who’s ready to go against the grain and try something different, or work in a bit of a different way, and break that down. And in workplaces. We talk about these as positive deviance. And so often what we will do in the workplace is really encourage senior leadership to find their positive deviance, who are the managers who, despite all those pressures, all the things in the culture, the system, the strategy that might be making good management hard, are finding ways to do it anyway? And what do you learn from that? And how do you teach other managers to follow that, so I know that they’re definitely more the exception than the rule, but they are out there. And ultimately, the top leaders know that they rely on those middle managers to be effective to achieve the outcomes that companies trying to get through. And so increasingly, a lot of my work is we’re onboarding to train middle managers. And actually, middle managers want to be happy in their work just like any of the rest of us, they just don’t have the skills and we find once you start giving them the skills, most of them are really keen to start playing with them and trying them out and trying to do better in their jobs. Very few managers go to work with the intention of being happily a bad manager, most of them want to do a good job just like this rest of us.
David Ralph [11:01]
Oh, you’re the kindest person I’ve ever met. And I’ve worked with hundreds of managers, I think they’ve just gone there. To get through the day, they had no interest in trying to shake it up, it was just getting their head down like a large lumping turtle, and hopefully that nobody sees them so that they can get out at five o’clock and then go again the next day.
Michelle McQuaid [11:21]
But you must work with so many, many middle managers who have had the same kind of aha or the join the dots moment that you interview people about on your show all the time. And then I know you coach people around. I don’t think middle managers are any different from the rest of us. But I think when our brains are under pressure, when we feel scared when there’s a lot of anxiety, sense of scarcity around us, none of us performing our best. But I truly don’t believe that any of us go to work every day going. I’m just okay. dredging trees day after day after day. I know, I see too many people and you must as well, trying to break that pattern. Oh, absolutely.
David Ralph [11:56]
Yeah, I’m just being devil’s advocate.
Michelle McQuaid [12:00]
Always advocate today. And I think it’s really important that you leave you are an employee, the middle manager like that, to be that devil’s advocate, but maybe start looking for the best in them. And they might be really tiny glimmers. But actually, we all just want to feel respected, valued and appreciated. It’s a deep psychological need. And middle managers are no different from the rest of us and being able to give them some of those little moments where it’s warranted. And that even the smallest of those moments that you can give, might actually help your middle manager be a better person overall, as well. Of course, some you know, nothing makes a difference, but you might as well try their your manager, rather than going to work every day having to deal with them. Absolutely, yeah. So
David Ralph [12:39]
if we go back in time, which is what we do on join up dots and look at your career, you were one of those people that I think you could have just gone the corporate route, you had a good career, you were at that position that most people would have probably said, Michelle, Michelle, don’t rock the boat, stay there for another 25 years. You’ve got the company coming. You’ve got this, you’ve got that. Was it scary time when you decided to sort of jump out? Or were you just ready where you were coiled spring by that time?
Michelle McQuaid [13:08]
I know it was terrifying. And certainly my husband was absolutely saying what are you doing just a you know, we’ve got a mortgage to pay, and and quite reasonably, and he’s still in the corporate world. And he says to me, some mornings, I’m off to go to the salt mines. And I’m like, good luck. So no, absolutely, it was scary, I was ready to go and had more than a decade in particular with Price Waterhouse Coopers, which was where I finished my corporate career traveling all over the world for them holding senior leadership roles. And I climbed to the top of the career ladder with them. And so, you know, it was kind of time to jump off anyway. But if I’d wanted to stay, they would have kept sort of finding the next role and move on in the next role. So part of it was made easier because I felt like I’d done what I set out to do, I’d lived and worked for them in London and New York. And back here in Australia, I had all sorts of roles through public relations and marketing and branding, which was my technical background, I then moved into more of the positive psychology in the HR and training space, and done that for a number of years with them. But I think the thing that did make it easier was I started to realize that perhaps I wasn’t fully aligned with the strategy. And some of the values that the leadership team members held in terms of how they were developing their people, and actually worried that some of the positive psychology things I was introducing around helping people thrive at work or to flourish at work and be the best versions of them was actually being taken advantage of by the company. And so that made that leap a whole lot easier, because from an integrity place, didn’t necessarily feel that I wasn’t doing harm the people there anymore, but absolutely after so long, big corporate salary move around the world, we looked after wherever you go, to look into that absence of going okay, where is the money going? Again? Very scary moment. Of course, had I known that that was going to be the least scary moment of the following is that would come I probably would have liked much easier that I remember so clearly that last day walking out of that building, and going okay, now my life really begins.
David Ralph [15:07]
But will you class as a positive deviant? Were you somebody that was trying to do different things? And that’s what sort of stuck in your throat somewhat?
Michelle McQuaid [15:15]
Absolutely, I was seen as a positive deviant, I was known to be a bit of a rule breaker in a firm like PwC. I think in most partnerships where you’ve got a lot of leaders, right, you know, every partner in the firm is considered an owner of the firm and therefore has a certain lead way that how they follow the rules. So in a partnership, cowboys and deviants actually get rewarded quite often. And that had worked well for me, particularly if you’ve got the right sponsorship as you break those rules. And that have given me a lot of incredible opportunities as challenging as PwC, like any other large workplace can be, you know, that organization had, you know, moved me around the world aside requested opportunities. When I went to them and said, I wanted to study my masters in positive psychology. And they’d supported me so much in that that actually, I was living back in Melbourne at the time. And I wanted to do my Masters, the program I wanted to do was in Philadelphia. And so it meant that every three weeks for three days, I had to be in Philadelphia for that you to go to class. And they’re amazing. They created a role that let me had half my job in Australia, and half in the US while I did that travel, they flew me back and forth. They supported me as I worked full time and studied full time. And so it wasn’t that I wasn’t looked after. Well, there was just that corporate bigger ization like that. Yeah, I got to a point where I think there were a couple of factors. One was the integrity piece that I suddenly realized that perhaps what I thought was helping may have unintentionally been doing harm to others. And I didn’t feel I wasn’t able to sleep well at night feeling like that’s what I was part of. Part of it was i’d reached a level of technical mastery doing what I was doing there. And I needed new challenges. And I kind of run out of places to go within PwC to find that next level of challenge as well. And I think part of it, I was just ready to do something different. I needed decade in a very large workplace. And I was ready to have a change.
David Ralph [17:05]
Can I ask you something? Can I ask you something? Michelle, between two friends, right? We’re going into bedroom territory now. You’re You’re like,
Unknown Speaker [17:12]
hey, go for it?
Michelle McQuaid [17:15]
Should I brace myself? Again?
David Ralph [17:16]
Not as much as your husband probably did. But still, you’re laying in bed, he’s snoring by the side of you, you’re looking at the ceiling thinking I want to do this, I want to do this, but you hadn’t brought that subject up to him? Was he openly supportive? Or was he a whole? You’re just going through a phase? Let’s have a weekend away? How did you bring that up? Because I find more often than not, that the people that love us the most are the ones that sort of hold us back, was he openly supportive.
Michelle McQuaid [17:44]
He was actually very supportive. I think, you know, we both grew up in families without entrepreneurs, you know, we both had parents, they’re always, you know, went to a workplace every day got paid their salary, and felt grateful to just have a job. And so when you don’t grow up in a family, where running your own business is something that other people have done, it can be very scary place. And my mother certainly had very strong opinions about why I was doing an incredibly foolish thing. But my husband really believe that, you know, if one of us had that corporate job, and there was stability in salary, that ultimately the best way for us to get ahead as a family was going to be for one of us to take a risk. And if I was ready to get out there and take that risk, he was completely open to backing me. So I was very fortunate in that regard. Or that I society to have other family members who didn’t necessarily feel the same way.
David Ralph [18:32]
It’s challenging mothers and your mother yourself. And certainly I got it wrong at the beginning is a daughter, boy, you got
Michelle McQuaid [18:39]
two boys, I’ve got 11 and six years old,
David Ralph [18:42]
seven and six. That’s perfect before they get really stroppy. And you can’t have the Xbox on. I know what it’s like. It’s fortunate it gets to a little bit later, and then they sleep all day. So you don’t see them anyway. And that’s it. Make that pot.
Michelle McQuaid [18:55]
David Ralph [18:56]
So you moms, moms are wonderful, these people that are so limited in their thinking, or maybe that was the old generation because when I quit my corporate job, I quit in when I was 30. And then I did it again when I was 40. And each time even though the first time I could almost understand my mom going, you know, this is a bad idea. I can accept that. But when she saw I flourished afterwards until I did it again. She still Winfrey me she still went you know, and I’m 40 years old For God’s sake. And she’s still telling me, oh, what a stupid idea. You had a job for life. Now you’ve done it. So when your kids grow up, and they say, Mom, I’m going to grow my hair long. I’m gonna get tattoos all over me. I’m gonna go and create a business on an island in Fiji, will you go to them? No, hang on, let’s think about this. Let’s talk about it. Or will you go? No, I will tattoo you myself. Off you go.
Michelle McQuaid [19:49]
I think I might be somewhere in between, I’ve definitely hope I would say you know, that’s your dream, then go for it. Because I know, you know, most of us don’t go after our dreams following a dream stand so simple. But it’s actually scary to do and I think gets scarier the older that we get. I would probably though still ask them all kind of what’s your plan for how this is going to work? Not in the need to dampen it down, but probably in the excitement of wanting to help them figure out how, where they’re going to pull it off? And what were the steps. And I certainly wish that I’d had that kind of counsel from closer family members around me as I’m back on the journey, rather than kind of flying quite sidelined, it could have saved some mistakes that didn’t need to be made in those early years.
David Ralph [20:29]
It couldn’t have done because I think that no matter how planes you are, I look back on everything that I’ve done. And literally all a huge successes with total mistakes. And planned just kind of didn’t go anywhere. So do you need to sit there and say to them? Or do you just need to like a mummy bird just push them out the nest and see them fly?
Michelle McQuaid [20:50]
I think again, it’s a bit of both as a coach and you would appreciate this is well, the inner coaching me would probably want to kind of coach them through some of the thinking on that. And you know, for me, you know, I took that big leap. And I was going to change the world all at once and do everything when I left PwC and six months later and nearly bankrupted the business because I wasn’t focused on the things that would actually bring in money initially. And then give me a base from which I could build and grow into some of the more adventurous things I wanted to try as well. And so, you know, other people having run a business might have given me some of that coaching advice. Right out of the gates, I was a little slow, and I think overly optimistic in those days as to just how much I was going to be able to pull off and how fast some of the pieces of the business would move. So I think again, it’s a bit of and, you know, I’d love to be able to say, you know, set loose and fly. But I do think the coaching me would probably have a few questions to try and help them along their path.
David Ralph [21:44]
Let’s play some words now that I would love both your 11 year old and six year old to hear hear us Jim Carrey, my father
Unknown Speaker [21:50]
could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
David Ralph [22:16]
And the question that I always asked basically after that is, did you know you were gonna love it, or at the beginning was it just to do something but you found the love after a while you kind of found the angle that really made you wake up every morning with a Yay.
Michelle McQuaid [22:32]
No, I was pretty sure I was gonna love it. I knew by the end that I loved being in rooms full of people where I could teach them about how their brains work, how they could have more well being how they could flourish at work, do more of the things that they did best. And I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve done enough of that in my last role at PwC. That I’d really felt like that was my calling, which was kind of ironic, because I grew up, my mother was a teacher, my grandmother was a teacher, my great grandmother was a teacher. So even though all I used to do is make my little sister play schools for hours and hours, as we were growing up, I swore I was never going to be a teacher. So my mother is hugely amused that after all of that the thing I decided I loved doing was actually teaching, I just had to find the content that I wanted to teach. So I knew I loved that part of it. And that’s what I’d be moving into. I wasn’t so sure they’d love all the running the business parts of it. And again, I’d had a decade in big companies where there’s a lot of support and make stuff happen. And suddenly there was just going to be made to do the accounting and do the new business development and do the marketing of it. As well as doing the teaching. So wasn’t quite sure how all those bits would come together, I just hope that I’d be gritty enough to be able to pull it together as I went. And the thing that really
David Ralph [23:43]
struck me and I think so many people struggle with this right at the very beginning is going from that corporate job into an entrepreneurial business. And at the beginning, there’s so much involved in getting it going. But I hear from time and time again, what you said, you were focused on everything other than making money, it was almost like money was kind of it was just going to happen naturally before you suddenly realize Hang on. It’s not the I will build it and they come I’ve got to do some other things around the back back side of it. How did you transition from that? How did you actually get to the point where you think, hang on, I’ve got to actually start flexing the old hustle muscle here, it’s not going to naturally occur.
Michelle McQuaid [24:24]
Yeah, I think all of us have that secret desire that will be the overnight success will be the exception to the rule. And you’ll put up the website or you’re hanging out the shingle and business will boom in and you’ll never look back. And of course it is so really that for most of us. And that should come with a big health warning. I think when you start your own business, as I mentioned before I sort of six months in, and I’d had a little bit of work as I left PwC sort of you know, there’s a little safety net to get me started. And then you know, those jobs were completed. And I was getting a bit of word of mouth traction. And people were finding me for bits here and there. But I was spending so much time. So my main revenue stream is built by teaching face to face still in the business today. But my dream was to really make it scalable and affordable and accessible to as many people as possible, which meant doing it online. And so trying to build that online presence to grow a following in a list and have offers for them and things like that takes a huge amount of energy and effort when you’re getting off the ground. And I’d had no idea just how hard that was really going to be. And so six months in, there was no more money to pay to do anything online, other than what I could afford to do with my own time. But there was also no more money to be paying what I was trying to contribute back to the family still, and to support our way of living. And so there was this moment where I went well, I’ve either got to go back and get another big corporate job now and call this a failure or it’s just the wrong moment in time. And I need to do this later. Or I can get some part time paid work and scale this bag, or I need to get out now and just focus 100% of my energy on delivering face to face workshops until I’m in a financial position and to be able to afford doing more the online things. And so for six months, we put all the online stuff, I put all of it on hold didn’t do any of it. And I just went out and talked and talked and taught didn’t matter if you paid me or you didn’t pay me. I just tried to build a reputation and to build my experience and expertise as a great teacher. And six months later, I was in a position to start being able to bring back that online things. And these days, we have a beautiful balance between those two parts of the business. But yeah, it was a hard lesson to learn it was a bit of a shock, I have to say, when I realized it was nearly about to all be over six months in
David Ralph [26:33]
is an interesting story that you’ve actually created something that is an online business, but it is it’s you as well, because we hear that people want everything to be scalable, they want to do online courses, they want to do videos, but you feel that you’re super talent is actually being there.
Michelle McQuaid [26:51]
Yeah, again, I think it’s an end. So I think there is an incredibly learning face to face as an incredibly effective medium. And because I look at so much research on the teaching of well being and what’s the most effective way to do it, I’m very aware that the further the teaching moves away from the master trainer, often the less effective it becomes. And so delivering it face to face in a room where I can read people’s faces, and I can see what they’re responding to. And I know where we need to add more context where I know something’s you know, sparked something in somebody’s excitement and delight or fear and, you know, discuss where we can kind of mold those learning experiences within the group. And so we still do that. And again, I love teaching face to face and miss it, we might have a week where I haven’t been out doing it. But I do also still believe that to be able to get it accessible and scalable, is the next part of the puzzle. So we do both. And again, for those people, I can’t be there face to face, it can be a really effective way still to do it online. But it is I think, you know, there are better ways to learn online. And we continue to play with those mediums. One of the things that fascinates me, as new technology evolves at things like virtual reality classrooms, were with the help of some affordable virtual reality glasses, now they’re getting so much cheaper, you might actually be able to see in an online classroom environment that feel almost like you’re having the same face to face encounter. So be interesting to see how the space continues to mature and evolve. And I think it will get better and better as time goes on.
David Ralph [28:21]
Right? I’ve never heard of these before virtual reality glasses, what?
Michelle McQuaid [28:25]
Oh, yeah, you have to go get yourself up here. So they’re around about $200 us these days. So you know, they’ve sort of just in the last 12 months become more affordable for the average person. But there’s a whole booming market around virtual reality opportunities. So you can fly around the world and visit different cities as though you are actually there in those cities with your virtual reality glasses on. And it’s quite spacey feeling you can play games with your virtual reality games. And the funny thing is, if you watch video footage of people doing this, they’re moving like their whole bodies and their arms they go because you know, it feels so real there, the glasses on your eyes, but we feel like we’re in that three dimensional world. And so our whole body responds in kind, the interesting thing from a learning and coaching and psychology perspective, is that our brain doesn’t necessarily differentiate memories that are imagined versus memories that actually happened. And so it’s a very interesting space that is evolving around that Stanford University, and has a lot of work going on around virtual reality and behavior change and the impact it has with people because of the impact on memory. And the fact we don’t necessarily distinguish between the two, well,
David Ralph [29:35]
I’m instantly thinking, can I buy a pair and see loads of naked ladies? Is it that does it work?
Michelle McQuaid [29:41]
I’d have to be amazed if there wasn’t that application already.
I haven’t investigated that particular aspect of it myself. But I would have to imagine that those applications are out there.
David Ralph [29:53]
I tell you what, we’re going to pose this, I’m going to go straight on to Amazon. I’m going to do a bit of shopping and then I’ll come back later. Now sounds brilliant is because I’ve done some training online. I’m actually a trainer by by business. And that’s what I used to do for many, many years stand up in classrooms and do some training. And then I went into podcasting world and then a couple of people said to me, would you train or do a presentation and I kind of beamed in on Skype. And you can do it. He wasn’t brilliant. I like to be in the room moving around and stuff, but you can still do it. And it made me realize that literally, whatever you want to do, to create something and to create something where customers are waiting for you. It’s doable, isn’t it? It’s more your mindset and your hustle muscle more than anything?
Michelle McQuaid [30:40]
Absolutely. And I think again, you know, the technology on this gets easier and more friendly to us all the time. So I do think this learning space in an online environment will change massively over the next few years.
David Ralph [30:53]
What excites you greatly? Does it excite you the fact that you can create something from scratch? Or is it the fact that you are connecting with people because your core, it seems to me that you are simply a very nice people person that wants to develop individuals, and the more individuals that you develop the you know, you ultimately develop the world. But what excites you most?
Michelle McQuaid [31:18]
Yeah, I think for me, what excites me most is that ability to take what we’re learning in the science of human flourishing and how our brains work, to find really practical ways to apply it, particularly in workplaces. Having spent most of my career there and knowing how challenging those environments can be, I have a huge passion for figuring out how do you apply that practically, in a workplace with everything it has going on. And part of that is I really believe that with all the challenges and opportunities that world faces, workplaces are actually going to be key in terms of how we figure out and respond to those things. And I really want people in those workplaces to be able to come to work each day and do more of what they do best. So that we can figure those things out for the generations that have followers. And part of that is finding ways to make it playful. So for me, those three things have to come together. It’s not enough just to go in and teach you the science, if I can’t help you do something with it. And if you don’t have a bit of fun as you do it, because I don’t think the change last otherwise, I think we’re all too busy, we’ve got too much money that’s not really engaging and energizing for you. Then when I leave the room, chances are within 24 hours, you’ve gone back to doing what you’ve already done. So that’s what lights me up and gets me going. The interesting thing though, is I’m actually an introvert by nature, and so roomfuls of strangers, you know, as most often my idea of health rather than heaven. But when I’m doing what I love, and I can come in and figure out what what brings out the best in you and how can I help you do more of that at work, all those introverted tendencies tend to melt away. But there’s that very common hope that together. With each of us doing more of what we do best we can make our world a better place as motherhood and apple pie as that may sound. No, I
David Ralph [33:00]
agree with you totally. And I hear this all the time about introverts and extroverts. And what you do. And I only found out about this little while ago, and it’s some excites me, I talk about it all the time. But an introvert is, it’s all to do with power, really, you have to remain quiet, you have to recharge yourself so that you can go into these rooms and be big and be bold and present your best side, because I can do this with my eyes closed. And you get me in front of 300 people I’m well away, I love it. You put me into a party, my wife’s always inviting me to these parties. And it’s always her friends and husbands and I don’t know any of these husbands. And she says to me, oh, you’re all right, you can talk to anyone hate it. I hate going into these kind of social anxiety places, because it’s just not me. I’m an introvert as well. So I agree with it totally with you. But what what I was thinking as well, when you was talking was with you being a mother, does that ability to be there all the time? Does that take you away from your kids is wench for you pulling yourself away from you two young boys?
Michelle McQuaid [34:04]
Yeah, again, I think like many things, it’s all about finding the balance. For me, I’m a much better mother. When I’m out teaching and doing this work, it means I come home at the end of the day, and I’m more fulfilled and satisfied. And so excited to see the kids and talk about their day and what they’ve had going on. Increasingly in workplaces, I’ve had lots of organizations asking us to teach these skills through a parenting lens. And so actually, often now we run positive parenting classes, where we really look at this as as parents, because it’s one of the things that creates a lot of stress for employees. And also, I find that when it comes to applying some of these ideas about looking after our own well being and understanding our strengths and how we flourish, we much quicker to make those changes when we’re doing them for our families than when we’re just doing them for ourselves or for our team members. And the interesting thing we find is once you start doing it in one domain of life, it naturally flows over to the other as well. So my Portugal a movie in therapy for the rest of their lives, because their mother experiments on them constantly. But it’s a it’s a beautiful blend for me. So I know that I’m happiest and at my best when there’s that and I get to go and do this work, but the right amount of it. So I’m not losing too much time away from the kids. And then also having the energy so that when I’m with them, I can try and be as present as I can. Now some days, that works beautifully. And other days, it doesn’t always hit the mark, because again, not live in the real world like everybody else. And it doesn’t always go the way that you hope it will.
David Ralph [35:31]
I’ve started going home I’ve got four daughters and and a boy and I never had this issue with the daughters. But the boy wants to beat me up all the time. And we become like two rotting steaks that actually have to go and we end up my wife go Stop it, stop it, you’re gonna hurt each other, you’re gonna hurt each other. And I’m sort of digging my elbows into him. And he’s trying to fight me back. What will happen? If that occurs in your life? Will you say no, let’s use psychology to sort of work this out. Or will you just fight back and go dirty?
Michelle McQuaid [36:00]
My boys and my husband like to have that good wrestle, we don’t have a very huge house. Normally getting them out to the park where they can do it, one of their favorite things is actually go to the park on the weekend and play poison ball. Because they can throw the ball as hard as they can at each other. And it may all my husband. So no, I think that’s very natural. It’s a very natural expression of testosterone and growth and development and feeling of strength and boys. And you don’t want to dim that down at all. But the other parties and I have two very different children. One more introverted one more extroverted, one very confident in take on the world and do anything one much more sensitive. And the beautiful part is when things don’t go well for them at school, or they’re struggling, you know, one of my, my eldest one, the other night was really upset and disappointed. He loves maths, God help him and he hadn’t done well. And he’s messed his that day. And so he was beating himself up about it. And so what I love as a parent is knowing that I can talk to him in those moments and help him work through those feelings and understand that. So can you be disappointed? And it’s not the end of the world if we get something like that wrong, but what can you learn from the experience? And what would you do differently next time. And I think for many of the adults that I work with, you know, our parents didn’t know to be able to have those conversations with us. And yet the level of self awareness, and I work in lots of schools where they do this work now with kids as well, the level of self awareness and the confidence to be able to navigate the highs and lows these kids are experiencing, is quite staggering when we start to give them the skills at an early age. And so it’s my hope for them is that they can be more fully present in their lives in whatever it is they choose to do as they go forward.
David Ralph [37:39]
You ever screw companies up Michelle, I was thinking about this as he was talking because I come from a corporate background. And we used to have to go into these training courses. And they were run by UK guys. And more often than not, they were really boring. And you would just go in there long to like a get out. And then we went on this one course, the five days, and it was run by this American company. And I was saying gung ho and so sort of inspiring, that we all came out and quit our jobs, because we thought we could do anything. And the company had to sort of get rid of them. So we’ve used developing individuals to be bigger and bolder and flourishing. Is it a possibility that the company could say to you, Michelle Michelle, which is we just want to do it as a tick box, we want to show that they’re being trained, but we don’t want to lose them as well.
Michelle McQuaid [38:24]
It’s such a great question. Now, number one, I try not to screw companies up as much as like n. Number two, I can’t tell you the number of times I have an organization call me and go, we need someone to come in and prove the resilience of our people. And you’ve got three hours to do it, can you sort that out? Or we need someone to come in and help out with female leaders be more confident and you’ve got an hour to do that. So you know, what will you do. And so then it is a tick box exercise. And I try and say to those organizations, you know what, yeah, I can come in and do something on that content in that time. But it’s not a magic pill, we’re talking about rewiring people’s brains and changing behaviors. And that takes time and practice and effort. So here’s what I’m going to suggest works better in my experience. But if you just want to plant a seed, then I’m happy to do that in a way that will exactly do that. It’ll plant a seed, give them some ideas and tools that they can use. But I want you to be realistic about the amount of change you could expect out of it. Most importantly, to sort of the experience you’re describing there with that American company, when I go into do this kind of work, because you’re exactly right, if unsuccessful, their employees are going to walk away feeling more confident, resilient, knowing what they do well, having more sense of purpose and meaning and what they want to do in their work. And so yeah, if an organization can’t respond to that, if they can’t find a way to harness that potential, then people will leave. And so I’m very upfront with them to say this is part of a training program, that you need to be thinking about culture and support. And the way you’re going to harness the potential these people on the other side of the training or you are, you know, putting yourself at risk that they’ll come out the other side of this and suddenly one not putting up with this, you know, I’m worth more than this, I feel I can navigate more than this, I’m going to look for a workplace that supports me on this. So I try to give them an informed challenge that they can respond to, you know, some of them take that on beautifully. And there’s maybe not so much. But I’m really cautious about raising employees hopes, where I’m just sending them back into an environment where those things are going to be dashed. Because that’s where like my experience at PwC. My concern there was, we start to do more harm than good with these ideas.
David Ralph [40:29]
I used to run induction courses. And for years, I used to get the new member of staff on their first day all quaking and shivery. And then three or four days later, I’d throw them out as a fully sort of realized member of stuff. And I was working for a high street bank in the United Kingdom. And I used to get about 16 or 17 people come in. And it was it was that that 30 year old mark, when I decided I was quitting, so it must have been in my mind. But I can do better things in this and you know, I don’t need to be in this company, I can create my own life. And I did this industry course. And I left them all and it was the Monday and they all went off to lunch. And they never came back didn’t see anyone I thought this is strange. Where’s everyone and not one person come back. So I had to go back to the training manager. I said, I don’t know what happened there. But they haven’t come back. He went well might be like got lost and said that kind of got lost a found out to get you in the first place. But you can’t get lost halfway through a day if you’ve already got you in the first place. And he said, Well, we’ll have to sort of find out. So he contacted the recruitment consultants and stuff. And apparently I powered him up so much that I decided on that first morning that I could do better than the job that they were getting. And I lost all 15 of them all 15 of them in one go. And I’m quite proud of that fact.
Michelle McQuaid [41:42]
That was some great work. And clearly,
as we work with people in workplaces, one of the pieces of work I love doing out of this research and evidence based kind of area pas psych is helping people discover what their strengths are the things they’re good at and enjoy doing. But as we do that one of the ways I’ve learned that’s quite important to start, you know, on a more gentle path is helping them figure out their how they like to work. And there’s a wonderful free survey. And if people are wondering about their strengths, they can go take it at the character.org takes about 10 minutes, and then identifies your character strengths. And your character strengths are things like curiosity, humor, kindness, love, for example. And these are related to how you like to work. And so I find by focusing on the how you like to work rather than the what you like to do, that people can generally incorporate that into any job they’ve got, and into any boss that they’re working for as well. These are often small changes that are within our control that we don’t need permission for, we don’t need to change out, you know, what we’re delivering for our bosses for, we don’t need a budget to do, we just number one need to know what the strengths are. And most of us struggle to name them. And number two, one of the little things we often teach people to do is just create a little daily strength habit even just for 10 minutes a day. And this, for me was a really important shift. When I moved out of the work, I wasn’t enjoying it PwC and started moving towards the work I did want to be doing there was just 10 minutes a day taking a strength like curiosity. And first thing when I got to work, I’d spend 10 minutes using the strength, learning something new. And it created this lovely ripple then throughout the rest of my day, and started making work a lot more enjoyable. And the beautiful thing was, the more I started actually doing what I do best, the more other people started to notice that and that was really instrumental in helping get PwC moved me from branding and marketing roles into HR role and teaching those skills across the business. So you know, I think yes, you may, you may suddenly have that I’m in the wrong job. I’ve got a move kind of moment. But I think it’s also better if you can do it as a bit of a journey step by step, unless you’ve already got that perfect plan in your mind about what it is you want to leap to. And playing with your strengths is a really easy way to make this kind of shift, while you figure out what that next step looks like.
David Ralph [44:00]
So here’s some words now from a guy who quite frankly, says that there is no great plan to it all, you just do stuff,
Steve Jobs [44:07]
Steve Jobs, of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leaves you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [44:43]
Now, Michelle, I must have listened to that speech a million times. And it’s one of the first times I thought God, he’s talking about 10 years, he’s talking about a journey that he’s been on for 10 years, where most people think that they’re going to quit their job. And within three weeks, they’re going to be a global success. And their Steve Jobs who was you know, any years legend going on, this takes a bit of time you you have to do different things, some of your work, some of it doesn’t. But you’ve got to have faith in yourself. What was your big dog, when you look back on everything that has got you to here normally it’s a conversation or it’s a book you’ve read or what has led you to the realization that you’re on the right path.
Michelle McQuaid [45:19]
My my big moment came when I was in New York with PwC. And we’d been there about six months and I had thought the job I was going to there was going to be my dream job. I was the global brand director for their consulting business. And I kind of climbed to the top of my professional traders in the city of my dreams. You know, we had our eldest son at that stage was about four years old, I was in good health, good friendships, good relationships around me. And I thought, you know, life wasn’t going to get better than that. And I went through a period where it started to get harder and harder each day, to drag myself out of bed and into work. And I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. And I thought, you know, is mentally unwell. You know, I’m I just I’m grateful for all these good things that I’ve got. And I started to realize that I think and it’s not dissimilar for many of us, keeping up with this amazing life that I created, was actually wearing me down. And even though there was so many good things in it, I still wasn’t actually doing what I loved. Like it all looked great on paper, but it just didn’t feel great inside of me and I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. Anyway, I remember being in a New York apartment, slumped one night after work eating takeaway out of a container on the couch and watching the jon stewart show. And he was interviewing a professor from Harvard that night. And because the professors course it become the most popular course on campus at Harvard University. And it was the first time ever in history of habits, something was more popular than accounting and economics. And the course this guy was teaching was positive psychology. And I still remember kind of sitting bold up right on the couch and going what there’s a science to human flourishing. There’s a science to how we could be at our best. Why had nobody told me this before now. And what could I learn and that professor was a gentleman called tell Ben Shahar, so braced up to Barnes and Nobles. The next morning, when I opened, I grabbed his book, which is called happier. And it opened me to this whole field of research about being able to be the best people that we can be. And that for me, both personally and professionally at that moment, was a massive join the dots moment
David Ralph [47:18]
where you look at it now, are you still on the path? Or do you go now this is pretty good. And if it stayed like it is now, because what happens is you start building the dream. And then you find the real dream on the way as I say, and so when you start off, it’s kind of within that realm of what you think is possible. But then once you get the success, the belief becomes bigger, and then you start tapping Hang on, this was just a starting point, I could go, would you be happy with where it is? Or is that a that fire inside you to actually create bigger and bigger.
Michelle McQuaid [47:48]
I feel so grateful for where it is. Although I do have to say there are days where I go, you know what, this could be a lot simpler if I just taught face to face. And I didn’t worry about all the online stuff, I’d have a nice little business, reasonably comfortable life. But I also know that I’d be bored in about six months time. And so and there’s absolutely still that fire burning. A really good friend said to me on New Year’s Eve actually said, you know, what are you hoping for this year, and I outlined where I was hoping the business was going to go? She said that all sounds great. Michelle, she said, but I don’t think you’re dreaming big enough. I think you’ve got better in you. It was such a moment of shock for me, because I expected I just to go, Oh, that’s fantastic. It sounds great. Good for you, like most of our friends do. And it wasn’t that she wasn’t being supportive. But she was also asking me a really pertinent question at that moment. So it’s taken me about three months after that attorney different things around to go well, okay, if it was bigger, what does it look like? And what fills me with delight and joy? And what’s the right pace for that, because again, I think in you, and I know that in your about page on your website, that you never work harder than when you work for yourself. And you never work harder than when you’re building your own dream and making the difference that you want to make in the world. But I also see lots of people in this space on the verge of burnout, which means fascinating in the field of well being where you would hope that people who teach well being would have the most well being. And in actual case, it’s often the reverse, because they’re so driven by their dream, their sense of purpose, the difference they want to make for other people that they stopped looking after themselves along the way. And so beautiful piece of research around the difference of an obsessive passion versus a harmonious passion and what that does for our well being over time. And so, you know, part of my journey, particularly this year has been knowing, okay, I’m in that kind of obsessive passion state, where actually this is starting to be detrimental to my well being or to my family’s well being what to the way I want this business to be and just finding the right way. You know, as you pointed out the Steve Jobs It was a 10 year journey doesn’t all have to be done at once, just because I can see the picture of what I might hope it to be. And how do I make each step of that? I’m joyful and energizing as I go rather than punishing
David Ralph [49:59]
up and I elephant one bite at a time? Isn’t that what they say?
Michelle McQuaid [50:03]
Apparently so. But why is anybody eating an elephant is what I want to know.
David Ralph [50:08]
And this is a lady who eats basically roadkill that’s the things that have been served up to me in Australia, and you’re complaining that people are eating elephants?
Michelle McQuaid [50:18]
Well, I don’t personally eat kangaroo or crocodile things. But it’s just why the elephant it’s like killing two birds with one stone. Why are we killing the birds with the stones. And we freezer up for at
David Ralph [50:30]
least six months with an elephant be perfect? Well, this is the end of the show. And this is the bit that we’ve been building up to which we call the Sermon on the mic when we send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to the young Michelle, what age would you choose? And what advice would you give? Well, we’re going to find out because I’m going to play the theme tune. And when it fade, you’re up. This is the Sermon on the mic.
Unknown Speaker [51:00]
We go with the best bit of the show
Michelle McQuaid [51:18]
hated four year old Michelle, it’s much older Michelle here, I just wanted to take this moment to tell you not to worry so much that you’re not good enough, you are good enough. And the world needs you to go out and do what only you can do best. So trust that process. Don’t be worried about failing, take the criticisms on the chin and learn from them. And get out there and make a difference for yourself and for others, because that’s what this life is really all about.
David Ralph [51:49]
Sure, what’s the number one best way that our audience can connect with you?
Michelle McQuaid [51:53]
Yes, I head on over to Michelle mcquaid.com. And if you’re interested in figuring out how you use your strengths at work, we have a great free global strengths challenge kicking off on the 12th of September, at strengths challenge. com. So come figure out what you do best at work. So you can find some little ways to start doing more of that each day.
David Ralph [52:10]
Now what I do well, I’m an idiot. And I keep saying that every single day. But it makes me smile because I know at my core, it’s true.
Michelle McQuaid [52:19]
And if you’re an idiot using that strength to the best of ability and providing great questions and insights to people, because you’re coming at it with a beautifully open minded simple perspective that that You deceived me enable for you, then I think you’re using your strengths wonderfully.
David Ralph [52:34]
I said I’m an idiot. And you called me simple. I don’t know if that’s the that was nice.
Michelle McQuaid [52:41]
Well, it was intended as nothing but nice.
David Ralph [52:43]
Brilliant. Well, thank you so much for spending time with us today, joining up those dots. And please come back again when you have more dots to join up. Because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Michelle McQuaid. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me, David. Well, another guest bites the dust. And I really enjoyed her, I thought she was somebody but at its core, she understood what life is all about. And it is about providing value to individuals. And if companies could understand that an individual is what makes a company powerful. It’s not the collective, it’s an individual and allow them to flourish and be bigger and bolder in their decision making and just enjoy themselves and everything will be a better place. That’s what I think. So if you’re in a company and you think to yourself, this is a bit crappy, you know, contact Michelle and get to come across and inspire your stakeholders and your directors to do better things because it will be a win win. It’d be a win win for all of you. And you will start believing that a company is a good place to be and companies are good place to be. It’s all very entrepreneurial we show but at the end of the day, we can’t exist without our company. So make it as good as you can have. Thank you so much for listening to the show. Thank you so much for being part of join up dots. And we we’ll speak to you again soon. Cheers. Bye.
Are you tired of the same routine that nine to five the mundane? Or perhaps have lost touch with the dreams and passions that led to a life that’s a wow and simply don’t know where to start? Then join up dots has the answer. Dream starter Academy is the number one group mastermind online today showing our members how to create their own business lifestyle or dream job teaching you how to find your thing teaching you how to build income around your passions and giving you a life where you leave out of bed with a
Unknown Speaker [54:37]
set of a
Unknown Speaker [54:39]
we surround you 24 seven with the greatest entrepreneurs, business owners and dreamers online today who are ready to help you get going. They followed the simple steps laid out for them and saw their lives changed forever and you can do the same. So are you ready to change your life explode your income and create the dream life you’ve always dreamt of enjoying with us today by heading over to join up dots.com and look for dream starter Academy. We look forward to working with you see you on the inside. David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self you are wants to become so he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to join up dots.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on join up dots.