Born in 1964 in Newport, South Wales, the second son of a vicar, I had a very religious upbringing, which has affected me in negative as well as positive ways. I have always had a strong sense of self, and a confidence in my ability and skill set, and growing up in church certainly contributed to that, giving me many opportunities to speak or read in public from a young age and an ability to relate to all ages. However, I also learned I needed to behave in a particular way that suited the “vicar’s son” role; living up to my parents’ expectations and the image they wanted our family to project to the parish. I learned to split my behaviour according to the environment I was in, which is typical for every child, but a little more extreme for those who grow up in families where religion is so central. As an adult I have sought counselling and spent quite a lot of time processing and finding vocabulary for what I experienced growing up.
At 19 I headed off to university in London with ambitions to become a Dentist and have an affluent life away from where I had grown up. Unfortunately, I was recruited into what I thought was a “normal” Christian student group, but what turned out to be a cult. At the time I had no idea what I had got myself into, but I got “loved bombed” and was hooked. The “pseudo personality” I had begun developing as a child kicked straight in - which I am certain saved me from being completely brainwashed. I knew how to live a “double life” quite effectively, having done it for years at home. So I walked the walk and talked the talk, benefitting from the straight white man privilege within this patriarchal conservative organisation. I then did as I pleased when away from the eyes of my cult peers, never losing my ability to think critically or be my own person, albeit behaving in ways to fit in, never feeling 100% that I belonged there.
In October 1983, at the very first meeting of the cult that I attended, I met my wife Jess. With a no dating policy, (which I ignored) Jess and I finally went on our first date in late 1988, got engaged in May 1989 and married exactly a year after our first date because there was a strict no-sex-before-marriage rule and certainly living together was never an option for us. I had a lot more freedom than Jess. Men rule the roost, are head of their families, leaders of the organisation and it is totally patriarchal. So, while I had more freedom (and authority), Jess’s experience was one of a mostly arranged courtship and marriage. (For Jess’s perspective on this please do read her blogs at https://jjccbg.wixsite.com/website). Thankfully by our first date we were both in love and 34 years later are stronger together than ever, but not without a lot of work, heartache, tears, shouting and counselling. We left the cult in 1998 after our three children were born. And the work continues.
I turned away from faith about 20 years ago as I slowly but steadily shed the “pseudo personality” and moved into living a more authentic, aware, autonomous life through the help of a professional counsellor, as well as education and research. I'm a primary healthcare practitioner (Optometrist) and an accredited Foundation Coach. I study psychology, social science and neuroscience, and am influenced by the research and writings of Brene Brown, Daniel Kahneman, Susan David, Adam Grant, James Clear, Simon Sinek, Gabor Maté, and Matthew Walker. I strive to implement the things I am learning into my day-to-day life. This is the personal work I have done and part of what I am able to help others with through coaching and leadership development. I am convinced that with focus, effort, support and education we can change the way we think and behave - I am a personal testimony to that (ask Jess).
Career-wise, after a failed year at Guys Hospital Dental School I transferred to City University Optometry department. I graduated with a 2.2 BSc (Hons). I did a pre-reg year and then became a member of the College of Optometrists. I worked in high street practices for 8 years, then joined Bausch & Lomb Inc., a US Eyecare company, as Professional Services Manager. After a few years I was Training Director, EMEA and then IT CRM Director, EMEA. Hard working, fun, yet toxic corporate life was not for me, so I took voluntary redundancy in 2008 and have been self employed since. I now have a true portfolio career as a locum optometrist, coach and entrepreneur.
My experience of toxic leadership in a cult was paralleled with experience of toxic leadership in work situations. As a tall, straight, cisgender, white man I have a full house of privilege. This is also an area of focus for me, as I strive to better understand what it is like to NOT have such privileges. This work, of developing empathy through courageous, curious, compassionate conversations, really helps me connect with people and hear their stories. I have come a long way, and still have a long way to go. It is something I am passionate about and helping people embark on a similar quest is a daily motivation.
Away from work I am mostly found walking - locally in the Cotswolds or further afield hiking up one mountain or another. I love being outdoors!
To champion courageous, curious, compassionate conversations so that people connect wholeheartedly.
My 7 Keys of Connection:
With self, others and beyond.
Nutrition: Eat and drink well
Sleep: Quantity and quality
Mindfulness: Develop a practice
Learning: Never stop
Service: Give time and resources
Creativity: Let the juices flow