#1: Redefining Success with Jonathan Cave

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Meet inspirational performance coach JONATHAN CAVE – a man who had it all yet felt empty inside. He shares his extraordinary journey of walking away from a very ‘successful’ career to transforming his life and helping people bridge their ‘Happiness Gap’.  He reveals how, by discovering who we truly are and learning how to bring out the ‘extraordinary’ in ourselves and others, we are able to lead lives of purpose, impact and fulfillment.

Key Themes

Bridging The Happiness Gap

Your Core Values

Your Fundamental Needs

Creating Allyships

Becoming The Very Best Version Of Yourself


Legacy by James Kerr
What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life


The Matrix written and directed by Lana and Lily Wachowski


‘Be happy for this moment, this moment is your life’
~Omar Khayyam


Read Full Transcript

Welcome to the LifeWise Show. If you want to feel truly alive, this podcast is for you. There is nothing I like more than to see people overcome a health or performance challenge, to do things in their life that they previously believed impossible.
Today, I feel so honoured to be able to introduce you to someone who really understands how to live life with meaning and purpose. Someone who helps people redefine how they measure success, and in terms of achieving that success, Jonathan Cave has a very unique ability to unlock hidden human potential.
I was introduced to Jonathan by the authors of a book called 10 Good Reasons to go for a Walk. Thierry and Mary Anne Malleret. They knew how passionate I was about helping people move and connect with themselves and nature, in a way that can have a significant impact on their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Before meeting Jonathan for the first time, I looked at his website and saw his website was entitled ‘MyPhy’, and I jumped to the conclusion in my haste that Jonathan was a fellow healthcare professional, but actually perhaps that’s not so far from the truth. I embarked on the first call to action on his website and took the Happiness Gap test. What a refreshing way, I thought, to begin a physiotherapy consultation.
Then, as I delved deeper, I discover that MyPhy stands for my philosophy and that Jonathan Cave was not a physio therapist. He was a man on a mission to help people lead extraordinary lives, and by chance, Jonathan and I were both invited to speak at an ideas dinner, where 20 of us in turn had to stand up and present an idea in three and a half minutes. Jonathan challenged us all to redefine corporate CEOs as Chief Empowerment Officers. His message was simple, clear and powerfully presented without any trying-to-impress frills.
He stands at nearly 7ft tall, yet Jonathan comes across as a man completely comfortable in his own skin at his full height and is extremely approachable.
After this event, Jonathan came up to Geneva, from Geneva, to meet me in the mountains near Chamonix for a walk and talk. I don’t know where those four hours went, yet there was something remarkable about this walk and talk experience. Now, I’m used to asking the questions and trying to understand what’s important to the person I’m with, the challenges they face and how I can help them.
Jonathan immediately turned the tables on me. He was interested in me and my mission. He wanted to find out what lit the fire behind my compelling purpose, how was I able to help people and what was my vision for the future. It wasn’t so much that he asked the questions, it was how he listened, and he challenged me to look inside myself and search for answers that I had never expressed before. I was struck by how unusual it was to be really listened to and feel really understood.
It was then that I realised that we shared a fundamental core value, to understand people within the context of their lives and how to bring out the best in them.
A very warm welcome to you, Jonathan, and thank you so much for coming up to the mountains once again for a day of exploration and adventure.

Jonathan Cave:
My pleasure. Great to be here.

Tania Cotton:
Now, I believe that core values are not something we write down and decide to do. They are something that lie deep within our being and form the foundation of how we live our lives, and sometimes, I think you know that life doesn’t allow us always to express our core values in a meaningful and purposeful way.
So, may we begin by talking about your journey from training to be a lawyer, and how your journey took you now to leading and living your philosophy?

Jonathan Cave:
Okay. So, my journey can be summarised in three main steps. The first step was when I was 18 years old. I took a decision with the heart to go to Pakistan and I taught small children English for a year, in the Karakoram mountains. It was one of the best years of my life. I felt I was living my purpose and time flew by, and I went from boy to man.
The second decision that I took was one taken with my mind, in the sense that I chose to do law at university because there was nothing that really interested me, and I was terrible in maths and no good at science. So, I chose law as a default, and the result of that decision was I did seven years at university and then practiced law for 13 years, rising to become a partner in a prestigious Swiss law firm based in Geneva.
The third decision I took was to leave the law, and that decision I took with my heart, which reconnected me to my initial purpose which was to help people grow and succeed.
The experience of being a lawyer taught me an enormous amount of things, the first being that success, as defined by society, is not necessarily success as we define it ourselves.

Tania Cotton:
So, how do you define success? What does success mean to you?
Jonathan Cave:
So, to answer that, I’m going to tell you what it doesn’t mean to me first, and this was the situation I found myself, aged 40, 3 years ago, when I was a senior partner in a law firm, had amazing clients, great financial benefits, prestige – I was respected in the industry – travelling around the world with wife and kids and a house, and I’d worked my whole life for this.
So, you could say that, objectively speaking, I was successful, but inside I was feeling all but successful. In fact, I was feeling miserable, which is a strange thing to say when you’ve got, you know, a good salary, etc., etc., but the reality was I wasn’t feeling good in who I was. In fact, I was pretending to be someone else, and probably aspiring to be someone else, and there was this huge void inside me, which made me feel sad, and it was reflected in physical ailments I had, and a general, sort of, lack of excitement.
So, what was interesting was outside success, which everyone told me I had, wasn’t what I was feeling inside. So, to define success, now that I have a bit of ‘recul’ as we say in French, a bit of hindsight.
True success, in my opinion, is feeling comfortable in who you are and expressing who you truly are, your values, your talents, your aspirations, the things that define you in everything you do, in your professional role, in your family and with your friends, and your sporting activities, etc. That, for me, is true success.

Tania Cotton:
Something that has really driven my sense of purpose is seeing too many people who are alive but not living, and is that how you felt when you were a lawyer?

Jonathan Cave:
Totally, totally.

Tania Cotton:
Now, with the work that you do going into corporations and within families and seeing individuals, is this something you come across a lot? Do you feel that this is a very prevalent problem of this day and age?

Jonathan Cave:
Absolutely. So, a lot of my clients are people who, on the outside, appear extremely successful, CEOs or entrepreneurs, where money’s not an issue and they have fantastic lives, it seems. For some reason, they share with me pretty quickly what’s actually happening on the inside, maybe because they sense that I’ve been there and I’ve gone through this experience and I know what it’s like to have that kind of emptiness and that feeling of not living fully, of not realising yourself and not being aligned with your mission and your purpose.
So, they often share things with me which I would never have imagined, and no-one else would’ve, but which I realise is hugely prevalent in the society in which we live, because there’s different criteria of success. We’ve been bombarded with the external criteria of money and recognition and things, yet, at the end of the day, there’s a bit gap, it seems, between the objective success and the subjective success, which is what we feel on a daily basis.
What I do with my clients is I work to close that gap with them. Now, I can’t do it for them because that’s not how it works, right? Everybody is unique. Everybody has their own situation. So, when I talk to clients, I act as a handrail to them walking up their steps of their evolution, which helps close their gap between outside success and inside success, to make them merge together.

Tania Cotton:
If you were to share with us what you felt, where the gap was, the three things people think success are, that don’t make them happy, and the three most important things that really should be part of what success are, because they meet people’s most fundamental needs. What do you think those three things are?

Jonathan Cave:
So, the three things that people think success is, number one is money, financial comfort. Number two is a professional position which they have aspired to, be it, you know, a certain level in an organisation or a lawyer or something. The third is probably, and I’m sorry to say it in this way, but, sort of, the house, wife or husband and kids, you know, and the picket fence. They seem to think those three things in general, and I am generalising, if I’ve got those, then I will be successful, and they’re disappointed that those three things aren’t guaranteeing the success that they’ve worked so hard for.
Now, turning to things which actually make people successful in terms of how they feel, number one is being comfortable in who they are. No longer pretending, no longer using their energy to be someone else or to pretend to be someone else. So, comfortable and accepting of who they are would be number one.
Number two is being aligned with their purpose and their mission, in the sense of having found their talents and being able to use them on a daily basis, you know, because we’re good at certain things. It’s not hard for us, and to be able to translate that into a job or a profession or a company, you don’t feel like you work anymore. You’re just expressing yourself, right? So, that would be the second true criteria of success.
The third is probably knowing that we’re on a journey, and the journey is one that takes us through challenges which help us grow. So, anything that happens is an opportunity for us to grow, which takes us to a next level where we have a new perspective, and so it goes throughout our lives, our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and this is the key thing. Those that are truly successful on the inside, in my experience, are those that keep on growing on the inside.
What happens is that we reach a certain point of success in our jobs, and we might have a house and a family and what not, and we’ve been on this amazing learning curve which starts to flatten out, right, because you don’t keep on getting promoted necessarily.
This disconnect between the success on the outside is explained through this growth curve slowing down and flattening out, and people go, “Well, why aren’t I feeling happy?” and I say to them, “Well, has your growth curve slowed? Are you learning something new every day, and what’s the next step for you?” Some of them say, “Well, to be honest, it’s probably retirement,” which is in 10, 15, 20 years.
So, they’re in a mindset now where they’re going, “Well, I’ve achieved everything I wanted to, but what next?” and it’s those that turn their attention from the outside, where they’ve been working so hard, to the inside, which they’ve probably ignored or haven’t spent enough time with. That’s where you find true success going forward.

Tania Cotton:
Now, does this relate to what people experience when they go through a midlife crisis?

Jonathan Cave:
So, that’s a good question, and I like your choice of words because society says ‘midlife crisis’. I say ‘midlife opportunity’.

Tania Cotton:
I love it.

Jonathan Cave:
Opportunity where a series of factors and your age conspire to give you a choice, a choice which was my choice as well, and so many other people’s choices, where I was asked to take a more senior role in this very exclusive Swiss law firm. I saw this as an opportunity to ask myself one very simple question, which was the key criteria to whether I stayed in law or left, and the question is this, will I be happy and fulfilled if I stay on this course in law and in the law firm? After nine months of deep reflection, the answer was as clear as a beautiful day. Absolutely not. I would be unhappy and unfulfilled if I carried on on this track of staying in law and being a lawyer.
So, I quit without having the faintest idea of what I was going to do, which shocked a lot of people, let me tell you, because people change all the time. You change careers, you change jobs and companies, etc., but when you quit something, you normally have a Plan B. I didn’t. I was so sure that the law and being a lawyer was not my path, without having any idea of what my true path was, but I knew I’d be fine, and for the first time in my life, probably since being a child, I let go. When you let go, truly amazing things start to happen.

Tania Cotton:
What a courageous journey. It takes real courage to let go and begin again. I think letting go is a life skill, and I think it’s one of the most overlooked life skills, and to step away from what appears to be a comfort zone of safety, but in reality is a discomfort zone.
Now, on your website, one of your first call to actions is why don’t you just try and fill out this questionnaire and discover what your happiness gap is. Describe to us, what is the happiness gap?

Jonathan Cave:
So, the happiness gap is the gap between who you are and how you live, okay? Imagine who you are is my left hand, and how you live is my right hand. The distance between my left and right hand will create the happiness gap. So, if I’m all the way over to the left in terms of who I am, and my daily life is at the end other of the room, all the way to my right, this disconnect is going to cause tension, stress and pain because I am not being myself in my daily activities.
When you close the gap between who you are and how you live on a daily basis, that’s when you close your happiness gap and find an alignment. Where the alignment is, and your listeners can’t see this, but I’m doing a vertical line starting from the top of my head, taking me all the way down through my body. That alignment is the alignment of who I am as expressed in everything I do.
That’s my guiding North Star, and when I’m in this state of alignment, where who I am is reflected in everything I do, I’m not using up any energy pretending to be someone else or aspiring to be someone else. I’m keeping all of my vital energy. It’s creating more energy, as if it’s an infinite source of energy, which allows me to do things which I wouldn’t otherwise do.
When I was a lawyer, my alignment line was about two or three metres away from me, okay? So, all the energy I had to use up to play the role of the lawyer, two or three metres away from me, was energy that was sucked up and used just to play a persona that didn’t correspond to me, and the result was I was an exhausted lawyer all the time, on holiday, at work. I was tired, simply because I was using up all my vital energy.
So, the happiness gap is the gap that we should aim to close, so that everything we do is an expression of who we truly are. To do that though, you need to discover who you are, and I asked myself some simple questions to discover who I was. What’s my vision of happiness? I asked so many people that and 95% can’t tell me what their vision of happiness is. What are your core values, your greatest talents, your deepest aspirations?
All of these questions, the answers to which you’d think that we would know, but most people don’t have the time to ask themselves this. They don’t have the answers to the fundamental questions of who they are, which explains in a great sense why people aren’t being themselves because they don’t even know who they are. I want to be one of many who changes that, so that we find our identity, we find our purpose and our mission, because each one of us can be so much more effective and impactful if we find our alignment and then just choose to express it in every single way we can, because that’s where real change happens.

Tania Cotton:
So, Jonathan, for you, what are your core values?

Jonathan Cave:
So, my core values are love, honesty and making a difference. Love, if I may, I have this wonderful problem that I love people. I love every single person I meet, whether I know them or not, and here I am sitting in from of you, Tania, and I’m going, “What a gift it is that life has given me, that I’m in front of you and I know your story, and I’m lucky to know you and we’ve been speaking at conferences together,” etc., etc., and that, out of the eight billion people, I’m privileged to be here with you, alright?
You have so many extraordinary gifts. You’re unique and that’s wonderful, and my instinct is to say, “Right, how can I help you bring out your uniqueness? How can I help you use your talents for the benefit of yourself, your family and the world at large?”
So, love is my first value, which I’ve transferred into what I do. It’s my vocation in terms of my coaching and facilitating. My second value is honesty. Now, this is an interesting one, especially for you who’s a world expert in movement and body posture, etc.
I discovered honesty by reverse actually, meaning when I’m dishonest, when I tell a lie, even a white lie to my 10-year-old son and my 7-year-old daughter, I get a physical reaction in my neck. I get, like, a little rash, which means that my body literally tells me, “Oh, you have broken one of your core values of honesty by telling a lie,” and the body’s an amazing thing that’s telling us things all the time, but we’ve unfortunately learnt to turn the volume down on. One of the things I do, and I know you do so well, is to turn the volume back up on the body, which is acting as a conduit to so many things, telling us messages that we should be listening to and acting upon.
So, long story for the second value. The third value is making a difference. I don’t know why I’m here, Tania, I don’t know why you’re here, but I’m pretty sure you’re here to be yourself and I’m here to be myself, and to make my passage on this earth as positive, as impactful, as embracing and as loving as possible. I don’t know how I’ll end up being seen later on, but who cares. That’s for later. Right now, it’s about every day, getting up and saying, “How can I make the world a better place, person by person, company by company, experience by experience?”

Tania Cotton:
That is a wonderful, wonderful answer that really, really resonates. You’ve been working as a lawyer with very successful, extremely wealthy individuals, and now you really have changed the way you look at what makes people happy from the inside.
I was very interested to learn about the economist, Manfred Max-Neef, who looked at people’s most essential needs because as Marshall Rosenberg points out, most of our negative emotions and feelings really are founded on our most fundamental needs not being met. So, the question is, what are those fundamental needs? So, what, for you, are the most fundamental needs of each human being to be happy and fulfilled within this life?

Jonathan Cave:
Woah, that’s a big question, Tania. We’re all different. So, we’ll all have different needs, and we need to put that question into a perspective that, you know, here, you and I are sitting in a beautiful part of France. You know, a very nice chalet, heated, etc., and a lot of people around the world who are struggling to eat, don’t have clean water, living in dangers of violence, etc., etc. So, I always try and keep a perspective in terms of the needs of people.
In terms of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, which is another way of calculating, I’m closer to the top of that pyramid in terms of where I act, right? So, people have food, they have sustenance, they have safety. It’s more about purpose and their mission, okay?
In terms of the fundamental needs at that level, just to position it, I think number one is self-love. We are our own worst critics, whether it comes from society, sort of, giving us pictures of what perfection looks like. Perfection doesn’t exist. Nature is perfectly imperfect, yet why do we assign a criteria of perfection to ourself when there is nothing perfect in this world, apart from the perfectly imperfect world that we live in?
So, self-love is number one. I think a lot of people have difficulty loving themselves and accepting themselves with their strengths, their weaknesses, their experiences, what they have, what they don’t have. The reality is, the situation I am in and you are in and your listeners are in right at this moment as they listen, that’s reality, right?
There are a lot of things they do have. There are a lot of things they don’t have, and it’s about saying, “Right, well this is the picture, this is the screenshot of my life at this moment,” but in five minutes it might change, and in two days it might change as well, and to go that, “This is actually a journey.” I know it’s a bit cliché, but it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and really being on an idea that, right, life is an experience to be lived, and there’ll be good things and there’ll be bad things, but everything is an opportunity to grow.
The final core fundamental need I suggest is self-worth. A lot of people have delegated or abdicated their worth to other people, telling them that they deserve something or that they’re nice people, etc. I think that’s a very dangerous thing to do because people will disappoint you.
So, my self-worth comes from me. I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m a good person. I feel like a good person. I could be better, but my self-worth comes from me, and when you change that perspective and you take possession of your self-worth, it’s lovely to hear compliments from other people, but they should be a bonus. Not the foundation of who you are because, otherwise, you’re constantly being knocked by people and no longer trusting yourself, believing in yourself, etc. Does that answer your question?

Tania Cotton:
Yes, thank you very much, and I would just like to add to that: I mentioned Manfred Max-Neef because he came up with nine essential needs, three of which I think, to both of us, are incredibly important; meaning, purpose and creativity. I think we live in a society where conformity and control enforced through systems of punishment and reward kills creativity, and the ability for people to move confidently through life. How important do you think creativity is and the ability for people to be able to express themselves?

Jonathan Cave:
I think it’s absolutely critical, and to give you a concrete example, I have lunch with… I have a lot of banker friends because my wife’s a banker, and especially a lot of women bankers. I call them the ‘caged lions’, caged lions in the sense that they’re in these wonderful banks and in good positions, but they feel that they have so much more to offer and to deliver in terms of creativity and new ways of doing things, which is not being heard necessarily, which is not being expressed. So, they have this huge sense of power inside them, but there’s no, kind of, vector to translate it into reality, alright?
So, caged lions, and a lot of them had said, “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel. I feel like a caged lion,” and the terrible thing is that we all have so much creativity inside us, and it’s about being able to tap into it, number one, and then express it in the environment in which we are in. The problem is the system is not really geared towards your creativity. It’s more based on your performance, your output of a certain skill that you do better than others, be it sales or marketing or admin or whatever. It can be anything.
We all want more creativity, more innovation, but I think the system is against that and people get very frustrated because they know that that’s a way to move things forward and they’re not given a platform to be able to express it.

Tania Cotton:
It’s interesting you talk about the banking world. Certainly, as a customer of banks, I am more and more frustrated that I can never speak to a person, and that being able to just have that human moment and that conversation now has been taken over by me having to talk to a robot, and just pressing numbers after being given options. I mean, surely there’s suffering on both sides of this robot. How does your wife feel about this?

Jonathan Cave:
So, my wife who’s a banker, luckily for her, she absolutely loves her job. So, she’s been a banker for 20 years, but I think that one of the keys to her success is that she’s very much a people person, and she’s in sales, and so every day, she goes out and meets people, listens to their needs and then tries to fill those needs.
So, she’s managed to stay away from the technology, away from the admin, the paperwork, and spends the day talking to people, and I think a lot of people would love that kind of job, right? To talk to people, to learn from them and to try and help them solve their problems, and if you think about it, that’s what I do, that’s what you do, and that’s what a lot of people do. So, it just has a different packaging, and she’s now 20 years in the same company and still very much in love with what she does every day.

Tania Cotton:
That’s wonderful, and I’ve met your wonderful wife, Melina, and she is a very caring and compassionate person, not at all how many of us imagine a banker, it has to be said.
Now, I was really intrigued and impressed at how you organised a women’s leadership conference, a MyPhy women’s leadership conference. Now, why? What was your inspiration behind this incredible event that you hosted in Geneva?

Jonathan Cave:
Yes. So, I get asked this question quite a lot because why did a man organise a women’s leadership conference, right, and I think the question is fair. It’s not common, let’s say.
The reason is very simple. I had the privilege of growing up in the household of my mother who changed the education system in New Zealand. She’s known as a bit of an Erin Brockovich of education in New Zealand, forcing the government to change a policy which has now allowed hundreds and thousands of young teenage mothers to have an education and to go on and get PhDs, amazing jobs, and changing the landscape of New Zealand, which is absolutely fantastic.
So, when you’re brought up in an environment with a woman leader who won’t take no for an answer when she sees an injustice, who will go out and fight against the government on multiple occasions and eventually win, you get your inspiration from a very young age. So, for me, it’s perfectly natural to have organised a women’s leadership conference because I’ve seen the extraordinary power of women’s leadership and it’s absolutely incredible. Even talking about it, I’m getting a little bit emotional, just because I’ve seen the faces of the women whose lives have been changed.
So, it was perfectly natural to organise this conference, and we need to promote and develop women’s leadership. I think men’s leadership has failed, generally speaking, okay?
Women’s leadership needs to be promoted and developed and representation needs to increase, but that’s not the end of the journey. I think that that’s just a step. Women’s leadership, development and promotion is just a step, and my vision is to create an allyship, an allyship between women leaders and men leaders. I’m not talking women managers or men managers. I’m talking true leaders, men and women, that come together in an allyship – not a partnership because allyship is even stronger – to solve the problems of our time, to solve the problems of the companies we work in and the societies we live in.
We are men and women living together, and the solutions will come through the combined talents of men and women. For me, it’s perfectly clear, and I want to be a major actor in making that happen, through women’s leadership and through allyship going forth.

Tania Cotton:
That really, really speaks to me. That resonates so loudly, and, yes, it’s something I feel very strongly about. I think life is about balance. Every area of life is about balance, and it’s not about men or women or black or white or tall or short or fat or thin. We’re all in it together and we need each other, and we know in the human race and in nature as a whole, that diversity is what makes us strong, and diversity leads to durability and to adaptability. Together, when we can become adaptable, that is the key to our survival.

Jonathan Cave:
I totally agree. I would add, if I may, on the subject of diversity, diversity’s great, as long as each person, diverse from the other, is able to be themselves, and not pretend to be someone else, in terms of religions or sex or background or culture. It’s true diversity. It’s, “I am at this table surrounded with 20 other people, and all I have to do is be myself. I don’t have to pretend,” and just by doing that, you create a magic of synergy because you’re with aligned people, coming back to the alignment I was speaking about.
If you’ve got people pretending to play other roles, even though there’s a diverse group, you won’t get the same result as if people are truly aligned and comfortable expressing who they are.

Tania Cotton:
That brings us to the ‘A’ word, authenticity. Authenticity is at the heart of all who we truly are, and we’re allowed to be who we want to be and who we are deep inside. That is when we are out our most powerful.
Now, something else that helps us to express the power within, if you like, is something your mother talked about, and that’s the importance of mentors. Her challenges she faced in what she was trying to do, we haven’t actually mentioned what she actually did. Can you just describe to us the problems she identified and then went out to change and, in this way, change the education system?

Jonathan Cave:
Sure. So, I’ll try and keep this story short, but 30 years ago, she was a deputy principal in a school in New Zealand, in one of the lowest socioeconomic areas, and two things happened. One is that she witnessed a 14-year-old girl giving birth to a child in a school toilet, and, secondly, she noticed that the school roll was going down, meaning she was losing students, and mainly female students.
The two events were actually related because the school roll was going down because young girls, aged 11, 12, 13, 14, were getting pregnant, falling out of the school system, never to come back. My mother knew that there was a law in New Zealand, like in many countries, including Switzerland and France and elsewhere, that every child has a right to an education until at least the age of 16, in some places it’s 18.
So, she approached the government to say, “Well, what’s your policy in respect of these teenage mums who are falling out of school and not coming back because they’ve got children now? So, it’s very difficult to come back to a normal school.” The government said, “There’s no problem. On your bike,” you know, basically, but my mother’s not the type of person you say that to. So, that just doubles her efforts.
To cut a long story short, she realised and got the statistics in New Zealand to prove that this was actually a major problem, not just in her school, but all throughout the country with, as it turned out, over 25,000 young women affected by teenage pregnancy and falling out of the system 30 years ago. So, it was a huge amount, and she also got a scholarship, an Eisenhower Fellowship, to go to the US and go and visit schools who had acknowledged this problem and were finding solutions.
So, she travelled through 13 states, visiting 55 schools in 7 weeks, to find the best practice, to bring it back to New Zealand, seeing that there was no problem in New Zealand and no expertise in New Zealand. When she came back and approached the government with all of this, even then they said, “No, carry on. There’s no problem, there’s no budget,” etc.
So, she created her own school in an abandoned pub. She called up retired teachers saying, “Right, come and help me educate these kids.” She went door-to-door, knocking, getting these young girls back to school, saying that they could bring their babies with them and she would provide a free lunch if they came, which was a big thing in that community, alright, because there wasn’t much wealth at all. Rather, the reverse.
So, these girls came into the school with the retired teachers. I didn’t see my mum for a long time because she was off at rotary clubs getting financing, because there was no funding from the government. So, she was raising money herself from businesses, etc. So, my brother and I learnt how to make lasagne, pastas and toastie pies because she was out raising money, and the media got hold of the story saying, “Who is this woman doing this thing?” and she became quite well-known in New Zealand.
Finally, the government relented, accepted there was a problem. There was a $50 million budget. There were dozens of schools like my mum’s schools around the country. She’s the honorary president, and New Zealand’s society has moved forward, through the power of one woman not accepting an injustice and just doing what it takes to make it happen, despite everybody saying, “You can’t do it, you shouldn’t do it and you should go back and just be a comfortable deputy principal with a nice salary,” etc. Some people aren’t made that way, and I think a lot of people aren’t made that way, and we’re starting to realise it more and more.
So, I hope that wasn’t too long. That’s the story.

Tania Cotton:
It touches me every time, and it has to be said, as you probably realise, it was the one reason I really wanted to be at that conference. I really wanted to meet your mother because I find her a complete inspiration.

Jonathan Cave:
Yes. So, can I ask you a question? So, you know the story of my mother. You met my mother at the conference. What came out of that meeting, for you?

Tania Cotton:
You know, there are people in this world who are just givers. There are givers and takers. She’s such a giver, and, you know, I’d heard the story, but when I heard it, when I met her, and we were at this conference, and I realised the struggle she must’ve been through and how she must’ve fought so hard for those girls. Then when I heard some of the success stories and about the lives that had been transformed by the work she did, even now, you know, it really, really moves me, that there are people in this world that care enough and that have that much love inside them.
I am so glad that I met her because I just think people like that, you know, we really need to learn from them, and it comes back down to, you know, love being the most important driving force between us. Yes, and she is really just an example of real love, and I don’t know if… when you were a child, I mean, you must’ve felt love, but of course, she wasn’t there a lot of the time. Was there something deep inside that you just knew she was doing something good to help others?

Jonathan Cave:
Yes, there was, there was. I didn’t understand what at the time, but I knew that what she was doing was right, even as a 10-year-old boy. You know, you have a sense for these things without being able to describe them in the words we would now with experience, but I knew she was a special woman, not just because she’s my mother, because she remains my mother at the end of the day. That’s first and foremost. It’s the rest of the world that says, “Right, she’s actually someone who is a woman leader and who changed the lives of so many people.”

Tania Cotton:
Something that she really highlighted that I think it would be good for us to talk about here is how important mentors in her life were for her, and, of course, my goodness, there must’ve been some really tough times. How important do you think mentors are for all of us?

Jonathan Cave:
It’s a good question because I don’t know whether… I’ve probably had mentors, but I’ve never called them mentors, if you want, and that’s probably one of the things. We have these people, these secure bases, these people we look up to, who we know we can get non-judgemental comments from, which come and go in our lives.
Was my mum a mentor? I mean, I ask the question, but I think between mentors and coaches and sponsors, because there’s a bit of semantics in there, we can always use someone to talk to who doesn’t judge us, who doesn’t impose their agenda on us and who’s – as you were saying in the beginning – just a really good listener. Really tuned in to what the other person is saying, with an ability to ask questions, to prod, to challenge, just so that the person who’s speaking comes out and goes, “I’ve never looked at it from that point of view,” or, “I’ve got a clarity that I’ve been struggling with.”
Whether it’s a formal mentor or coach or just friends or people we know who play that role, I think it’s absolutely fundamental to helping us grow, and the great thing is we can do it to each other. It’s not a mentor and a mentoree. It’s a shared experience, and often the mentoree is helping the mentor with a lot of things, just as much as the mentor is helping the mentoree.
Finally, I think mentoring or coaching is a form of love, if you want. Not necessarily in a family way, but it’s a form of, “Right, how can I help this person in front of me, truly help them, to be happy and be more successful?” or whatever they want.

Tania Cotton:
Yes, I agree, and I would go so far as to say that during our walk and talk together, I really felt, even though it was the first time I’d really had a deep conversation with you, that you were nevertheless mentoring me. You know, you listened and then you told me, not what I wanted to hear, but you tried to tell me what I needed to hear. You were thought-provoking. I was putting all my energy into raising money to make my next film on the power of play, and you pointed out to me, “You know, Tania, you have made 15 films, yet no-one can hear you and no-one can see you.”
At that time, the MovementWise.org website hadn’t even gone live, and you told me that I needed to find my own voice and run my own signature workshops, and then you invited me to speak at the MyPhy Women’s Leadership Conference, and, of course, the only reason I came was because I wanted to meet your mother. The truth is that I had discovered that making films was my way of being able to be wonderfully creative and being able to express myself, but without having to expose myself.
You know, like many people, I’ve come to realise that I suffer from imposter syndrome, and I’m quite happy to sit behind the camera. I feel very comfortable, being behind the lens and being an anonymous storyteller, and I thought about your words very seriously and came to realise that you were right. You know that say that when you’re inside a jar, you can’t read the label, do you believe we all need someone perhaps on the outside to bring us face-to-face with the facts sometimes?

Jonathan Cave:
Absolutely. I think the fact that we’re living our experiences so powerfully, so emotionally, means that we just don’t have that perspective to take a helicopter view of what we’re doing, what we’re saying and the direction we’re going in. I love your analogy about being inside the jar and not being able to see the label, whereas everybody else might be able to.
So, to be able to have someone who plays back your words to yourself, so that you’re hearing them rather than saying them, is huge. Also, I mean what I do is I play back to people what they say to me, just to make sure I’ve understood it, and then I go, “Ah, but there’s a connection between this that you’ve just said and what you said five minutes ago. What does it mean?” and I ask the question. I just see the connection and then play it back to the person, and that prompts huge reactions, “Oh my God, there’s a pattern and, you know what, I’ve been doing it since I was seven-years old,” and, bang, a huge breakthrough.
From that comes the experience of, oh, I’ve just discovered a success process that I’ve actually been doing my whole life, or a failure process, something which I’ve been doing over and over again with the same result.
So, this whole process of being able to talk to someone else and get them to play back and suggest maybe connections takes you on this internal journey, which we were talking about before in terms of discovering who you are. The insights and the discoveries you make are absolutely unbelievable. It’s just like looking at the pyramids in Egypt or standing on the Great Wall of China. There are these lightbulb moments where you go, “Wow,” but instead of it being a beautiful outside environment, it’s a big revelation about who you are on the inside, which you’ll never forget and you’ll be able to use it as a foundation to take you to the next level of where you want to get to.
That journey, that internal discovery is absolutely incredible, and everyone can do it. That’s the great thing. It’s not for some and not for others. Everyone can do it.

Tania Cotton:
Self-discovery and self-awareness, it seems that we are all subject to patterns, patterns of behaviour, patterns of movement. Many patterns that, they feel so natural and normal, yet sometimes, it takes someone or something to highlight to us that these patterns aren’t serving us, and that there is a better pattern that can help us feel nourished and to grow and to feel fulfilled. Have you ever experienced this?

Jonathan Cave:
Have I experienced that? I mean, you know what, it’s easier to see the patterns in others than to see your own, I’ll be very honest with you, and I try and see my own patterns. In the last three to four years, since I’ve quit the law and I’m now a coach and facilitator, they’re much more visible than they were, just because I’m open to them and I’m constantly in environments of self-discovery.
These patterns, they’re so difficult to see when they’re your own, and that’s where I think a coach or a mentor is so useful to just trigger the reaction to go, “Oh, there is a pattern which I’ve probably felt, but it hasn’t been expressed or it hasn’t come out.”

Tania Cotton:
In your way with working with people, is there a way that you’re able to break down barriers and build bridges in this area?
In terms of equal opportunities in the workplace, regardless of gender or colour or age. Purely based on, really, a focus on people’s strengths, rather than, really, being put down for either their weaknesses or being discriminated against by social status.

Jonathan Cave:
So, two reactions to that. One is in terms of equality of opportunity, there’s definitely a trend towards more opportunity, certainly women empowerment. I’m thinking of one bank that has launched an internal network which initially had 15 women and now is 400-strong, and doing conferences and speeches, and really providing a forum to discuss issues and challenges, and just really raise a voice, but a positive voice. It’s not against the 40-year-old white male, right, which might dominate in Geneva banks at least, but it’s actually to lift up untapped talent.
That brings me to my second point which is, I think the system is not geared towards leveraging the talents of individuals as much as it should be, because the things we do really, really well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Tania, but we do them easily, right, these talents. People say, “Ah, but Tania, you do that so well. For me, it’s so difficult,” but you're going, “Yes, but I’ve just always done it that way,” and I believe that the things we do really well are because there’s an alignment with who we are. They just match, they correspond, they align, which means that we do them without even thinking about them, right?
So, you leverage the workforce in terms of those great talents, where, yes, we have to work hard, but it doesn’t have to be slaving away. How about just using our talents that come easily to us and the talents of this person and that person and that person, and putting it together in a way where, actually, you know what, we’ll be so much more effective. We’ll be giving expression to our uniqueness towards a common aim, where so many of the issues of burnout and boreout, and stress-related diseases, and feeling that you’re in a box, and being a caged lion and not being able to grow, etc., would disappear.
Maybe I’m a bit idealistic saying that, but I think that it’s a question of mindset and we are heading towards that, but unfortunately, too slowly.

Tania Cotton:
Now, I mention this because, certainly in the sporting world, looking at how teams really work well together, there’s a trend towards using strength finders, like the Clifton Strengths Finder. Is this something you think is of value, you know, really focussing on and highlighting and making people aware within the team and creating a ‘we not me’ mentality within that team, of recognising people and their strengths and using their strengths, and not focussing on their weaknesses?

Jonathan Cave:
Yes. So, to answer that question, I’m a New Zealander, as you know, and we have a famous team from New Zealand called the All Blacks, and, arguably, this is one of the most successful sporting teams of all time. They have just under an 80% win rate going back 120 years. So, there aren’t many teams in the world in any sport that have that kind of, you know, rating, and do you know what the mantra of this team is, okay? The mantra?

Tania Cotton:

Jonathan Cave:
The mantra of the All Blacks is ‘Better people make better All Blacks’, ‘Better people make better All Blacks’. Think about it. This is a team where it actually doesn’t matter who’s in the team. They have what I call systemic success over 130 years. So, the generations change, they keep on winning, and they are world renowned, even for people that don’t know rugby. ‘Better people make better All Blacks’.
If you’re a better Tania, you will be at what you do. A better Jonathan as a person will be better at what he does, and this from the most successful sporting team of all time, and what they do is that they are all about creating conditions so that you can be yourself. This is proven. This is in plenty of books, plenty of interviews by All Blacks and All Black coaches. Be yourself. Create a culture of authenticity. Add on top of that a growth mindset.
So, you're not comparing yourself to other teams. You’re comparing yourself to yourself yesterday. Can I be better tomorrow than I am today, and the next day than I am tomorrow, and so on, and when you have that kind of attitude, that growth mindset, and the authenticity to go with it, each step you take takes you to the top of Everest, in the sense that you’re at the top of Everest, you’re looking around and you’re going, “How did I get here?” Well, you know what, I was myself and I took one step at a time and it took me to the top of the world.
If we translate that into people’s lives, anybody can do that. Be your authentic self, adopt a mindset that helps you to grow and not compare yourself to other people, because there’ll always be someone that’s richer than you or more successful or more this or more that, and there’ll always be people who are less successful and less this. It’s like comparing apples and pears. How can we compare Tania and Jonathan? It doesn’t make sense. However, if you have the attitude that I’m Tania and I want to be a better Tania and I’m Jonathan and I want to be a better Jonathan, then the world will be a better place for both of us, rising up and being our better selves.

Tania Cotton:
So, really, it’s about how we can be the very best version of ourselves, and we should all help each other become the very best version of ourselves, and really, that is what being a team is. You know, we’re not individuals within a team. We are linked and we are one body working as a team, and also, everybody within that team. We all take ownership and responsibility for our own lives, but also for those around us. Do you think this ‘we not me’ mentality is something that we all need to become more and more proactive in nurturing?

Jonathan Cave:
Absolutely. The ‘we not me’, in a sense, it’s, ironically, “I will be better off when we are better,” but a lot of people have, “I want to be okay and better,” and the consequence will be the ‘we’, the world will benefit. Actually, if you have a ‘we’ mindset, meaning we’re all in this together, we’re all connected. It’s not my world or your world. It’s our world. We’re all interrelated. Actions and thoughts and emotions that I have will have an impact on you and vice versa, and with all of the listeners.
If we have a ‘we’, meaning we have problems, we need to find solutions. How can I help towards the ‘we’, then the world will be a much better place, and if I may, you referred to my talk, the ideas dinner, where I talked about a chief empowerment officer, right, CEO, and here’s the thing. Chief executive officer gives the idea of I have executive power over you. I have power over you, right? Chief empowerment officer says that I am here to help you be empowered, whether you’re my deputy or the janitor or whoever, whoever in the organisation – and apologies to janitors – everybody has a role which is important.
If we all have the attitude of, “Right, I’m here to help someone else grow, a company of people grow,” etc., the world will be a much nicer place, because the ‘we’ will automatically come because I’m helping others lift up. It’s not about ‘me’, it’s about ‘we’. So, the chief empowerment office is at the service of every single member in that organisation, and that’s the attitude the chief empowerment officer should have.
One of my goals, which I’m happy to share, is that on Wikipedia, where it says ‘CEO defined as chief executive officer’, I will have succeeded, or we will have succeeded, because I’m not the only one with this idea, when CEO becomes chief empowerment officer, the world will be a much better place.

Tania Cotton:
I really love that, and I so agree with that. Tell me how I can help you get it into Wikipedia because I really, really do believe that that should be there, and I’ll share a funny little story with you. When I was working with the CEO, and he was a chief empowerment officer of the Swiss Olympic Medical Centre, and I was a consultant there on helping them with developing their new Centre of Excellence, and he said, “Tania, I want to call you the CCO,” and I said, “Really?” He said, “Oh, I don’t know whether you're going to like this,” and I said, “Oh, why? What does CCO stand for?” He said, “Chief cheerleading officer,” and I said, “I love it. I want to be the CCO.”
Really, chief empowerment officer and chief cheerleading officer, I think if we had those, I think the world will be a better place.

Jonathan Cave:

Tania Cotton:
Now, Jonathan, I’m going to ask you three questions, and you can answer all of them or just one of them.

Jonathan Cave:

Tania Cotton:
Do you have a favourite film, a favourite book and a favourite quote?

Jonathan Cave:
So, my favourite book is ‘Legacy’ by James Kerr, which is all about the success of the All Blacks, why this team is so successful and how we can apply it in our roles as leaders, as team leaders in companies.
Favourite quote, this is by Omar Khnayyam in the Rubaiyat – I hope the expression is good – and the quote is ‘be happy for this moment. This moment is your life’. ‘Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life’, and favourite film, ‘The Matrix’.

Tania Cotton:

Jonathan Cave:
‘The Matrix’, Keanu Reeves. It was about leaving the artificial world of machines, and going into the underworlds of humans and human emotions.

Tania Cotton:
Oh my goodness. Right, I’m going to watch that film. I’m going to find someone to watch that with. Well, I’m about to watch a film I’ve not seen yet, which is called ‘Resurfacing’, which is Andy Murray’s story, and of course, for me as someone who’s fascinated about how movement can either break your body down or make you more robust and resilient and able to resurface, I’m really looking forward to seeing that.
I think Andy Murray has shown an awful lot of resilience and shown a real human side of himself that I think, at the beginning of his journey, he found hard to express. I think he was given a tough time and I think it’s wonderful to see him really blossom in his journey of great growth.
A book I’d love to share with you that I’ve really enjoyed is ‘Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All’ by Tom Kelly and David Kelly. I really love this book, and, yes, it was really where I was at the time that I read it, and I really urge everybody listening to think about how in their lives they’re able to express themselves creatively. I really believe this is so important for us all.
A book that just came to mind when I was looking at your happiness gap, and it’s a book I read really quite a while ago, was ‘The Happiness Advantage’. Really, it’s about how we all strive to be happy by really perhaps thinking a success is going to come with just working harder and, you know, earning more money. Actually, all real happiness, you know, it comes from within, and when you find that happiness, everything else begins to flow. Everything else begins to resonate with what truly is meaningful to us in our lives.
Jonathan, is there anything else that you particularly feel at this moment, you’d like to share with the audience?

Jonathan Cave:
Just, I think it’s all about… and just hearing your words, it’s about alignment. It’s about aligning yourself and that the effort to put in is about finding that alignment through discovering who you are and understanding how you function and merging them together.
Then it’s about trying to stay as close to that alignment, this vertical line which goes through you, as much as possible, knowing that it’s a moving line. We’re not fixed. We’re constantly in different environments. We’re growing and when we go away from the central alignment, we feel it. Our body starts telling us. We start getting ailments. Our mind, we become unhappier, stressed, etc.
It’s about just having the tools to come back to that central alignment, that helps you breathe again, be yourself again, be comfortable in who you are, in your body, tuned into yourself. Also tuned into others and your environment, so that you feel as one with the world because, at the end of the day, we are part of something much larger, but we are a little beautiful ball of energy, and how we direct that energy, how much energy we direct is how we create impact and, eventually, a legacy when the time comes to think about that.
So, I just invite everyone listening to accept who they are. Every single one of us is unique, with our own experience, our DNA, our character. There’s never been anyone like you in the past, and there’ll never be anyone like you in the future, and I don’t know why you’re here, but I’m pretty sure it’s not to be someone else.
So, I just invite everybody to be themselves and express it in as many creative ways as they can find, and that is a nice path to take.

Tania Cotton:
Thank you so much for that. A really wonderful LifeWise message. Now, Jonathan, how can people connect with you and how can you help them?

Jonathan Cave:
So, people can connect with me by email, jonathan@myphy.com, which is M-Y-P-H-Y.com, or come onto the website. There are films, little snippet films of key learnings. There are articles. There’s the Happiness Gap test you referred to. There’s news updates about future conferences, because we’re going to do the Women’s Leadership Conference 2020. We’re also very keen to do the Allyship Conference that I talked to you about, which I’ve never heard of before and I think is the next step. So, we’re very excited about that, and we’ve got all kinds of workshops going on all the time.
So, if people are interested in that and want to reach out, then happy to answer questions and chat with people and, you know, help if possible, if there’s a fit.

Tania Cotton:
Now, a little bird tells me that you’re perhaps writing your own book. Is this something that we can look forward to?

Jonathan Cave:
Absolutely. I am writing. Luckily, you’re not asking at what speed I’m writing. I have the great problem of being extremely busy right now, a lot of work, which isn’t work actually, which, like I said, is just a great pleasure. I’m hoping that 2021, there will be the book, at least of all the learnings so far, in a very digestible way, very practical, because the Cartesian lawyer in me is still deep down. So, I’m all about practical tips and processes that people can apply. If we can’t apply it and can’t translate it into our daily lives, then it’s great words, but it doesn’t actually mean much.
So, the challenge of writing the book is to make sure that everything is very practical, implementable and makes sense in a logical process towards going to a better place, whatever that looks like to the person concerned.

Tania Cotton:
Well, we really look forward to that, and thank you so much, Jonathan, for coming here today.

Jonathan Cave:
Pleasure, pleasure.
It’s been a privilege and an honour, and I’m delighted to be here with you, and I just feel we’ve had a very special moment. I have no idea how long it lasted because we’ve been out of time in a sense. So, thank you Tania, and for everything you do. I think it’s absolutely wonderful, and I’m loving witnessing your journey. So, thank you on behalf of everyone.

Tania Cotton:
Thank you, Jonathan. I look forward to our next meeting already.

Meet Tania Cotton

Tania Cotton avatar

Tania Cotton is a Movement Analyst and Chartered Physiotherapist with over 25 years' experience helping people overcome pain, injury and disease to lead a happy and fulfilling life. After 12 years as a consultant for the Swiss Olympic Medical Centre in Geneva, Tania began making films on health and human performance to show people what is possible and to inspire them to take action.

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