Important Note: In this conversation Adam Pierno and guest Mark Pollard discuss depression based on their own observations and experience. Neither is a doctor or medical professional. This is just a conversation, not medical advice. If you need help, we encourage you to call your medical provider.
The original post on Twitter. https://twitter.com/markpollard/status/936706220098015232
Check out Joe Rogan’s podcast on iTunes.
Know someone who would make a great guest on The Strategy Inside Everything? Drop us a note here.
[00:00:23] Adam Pierno: Welcome back to The Strategy Inside Everything. I have the privilege, the honor, the excitement to present- today’s guest is someone that I got to know via Twitter, but I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with over the past– I don’t know, how much time, Mark? Six months that we’ve been spending a little bit more phone time and hanging out together?
[00:00:45] Mark Pollard: Oh, yes. It’s been a good six-month dating period, yes.
[00:00:49] Adam: [laughs] It did sound like that, but I’m okay. I’m comfortable with my masculinity. I’m good with it. Today’s guest a lot of you guys know from all the writing he does. From the the talks he gives. From the training that he employs and through his company that he founded called Mighty Jungle. This is Mark Pollard. Say hello, Mark.
[00:01:11] Mark: What’s up, hey?
[00:01:12] Adam: I’m really glad we finally got to do this. I don’t know if- you probably would not know this exactly, but when I started the show you- I think you were one of the first few guests that I reached out to. You put me off and you were waiting for the right topic. I’m glad that we finally got on the same page for a topic here.
[00:01:31] Mark: Well, yes. The Strategy Inside Everything. it’s a big call. Isn’t it? I was like, “What am I into? Clash Royale, chess, I do a lot of parenting stuff.” I was like, “I’m not sure if any of these would actually make a podcast.”
[00:01:45] Adam: That’s the beautiful thing about podcasts. Actually, any one of those would be a good one. That’s why I was like, “No no. Anything will work, Mark.” Because you’re interesting, what you’re interested will work.
[00:01:56] Mark: [chuckles] That’s very kind of you [unintelligible 00:01:58].
[00:01:59] Adam: You guys should know, Mark is actually a hilarious guy. I think you can get it from his- if you just look at his Twitter you’ll get the cheeky nature of his writing. Mostly, Mark, and correct me if I’m wrong, a lot of times you’re trying to provoke. You use humor and cheek to kind of provoke people and get them to feel just uncomfortable enough to have a thought they haven’t had before. That’s how I interpret it.
[00:02:26] Mark: I think that’s a fair interpretation. When I use the blog– I can’t even remember when I started. It must be 11 or 12 years ago now. It’s at least 10. Probably 2008. Before then I didn’t want to be that guy, writing about the industry. I was doing more of the hip hop stuff. As I started to write- that was relatively early in the blog days, relatively early.
People would write journals, and then publish them and hope people would read them, but unless you’re well known, no one really cares about your day. It’s still a worthwhile writing effort. I would notice that on one hand and then on the other hand, I noticed people being very, very theoretical and businessy in the way that they wrote. I said, “No. That’s not interesting either.” I wanted to write to be read.
I know you haven’t asked me a question, like a big question in the first few words, but I wanted to write to be read and I wanted to be provocatively useful. I wanted to provoke, but in a way that was also useful. Because otherwise, you’re just provoking for the sake of it and that’s a bit of a party trick, and it’s not that hard to do. The challenge, especially with people who think for a living, it’s like “Hey, I’m going to provoke you, but here are two or three things that might change your day.” It’s the same thing on Twitter.
[00:03:47] Adam: It’s always directional, though. It’s not always obvious to me right away, but you’re trying to get people into a particular corner or against a certain feeling that– Are you conceptualizing that or is it just, “Oh, here’s an interesting thought, let me see what kind of reaction I get?”
[00:04:07] Mark: Well, I think for a while you don’t necessarily- even though I can explain what I do. I sometimes help people. I help people riot and help them do something similar. I do try to jam people a bit. That’s what advertising is supposed to do, to a degree. It’s just different types of emotions around that. I talk about- I want to poke someone in the brain, and it can get misread.
Especially- if you don’t know I’m Australian, for example, or if you haven’t met Australians or you haven’t met a cheeky Australian. That is a definite type of Australian. I’m just writing something. Then you might go, “Who’s guy? What’s all that about?” Most people might think that anyway, but when you understand that it’s coming from some kind of character- which it totally is.
Because the rest of the time I can be very verbose in this interaction and then I could be silent for a day or two. Yes, I’m trying to jam. I’m trying to jar people. I’m trying to get them to think differently about something. I do look into the things that make me angry, and that excite me. A lot of the stuff that I’m writing about the industry or strategy, it’s because I might have had a conversation with someone who has just gotten shat on in their company. I’m like, “That’s just not good enough. Why does this still happen?” I’ve heard hundreds of these stories. Therefore, no it’ll just come up.
[00:05:35] Adam: Yes, well, it seems like you’re always gunning for a discussion. You’re trying to build up to a greater discussion to elevate something or to shine a light on a topic and get people to really respond in a thoughtful way by asking a question that provokes thought. Not just provocative for the sake of provoking, which is a lot of what social media, and media in general is.
[00:05:59] Mark: Yes, it’s easy to disappear into a robotic life. I don’t think my brain is capable of that. That leads to some challenges, right? As you would not have- but the roboticness in what’s supposed to be, “A creative industry.” That’s not sanity. It’s a lie.
[00:06:20] Adam: No, it’s bad for the work and it’s bad for your mental state to get into that copy paste repeat methodology of doing this job is not a healthy place to be.
[00:06:36] Mark: It’s not healthy and then especially if you’re working in an expensive, high stake city like New York, you might be working in- whether or not you’re working in an independent agency or not, you might be working in a corporate agency. There’s this tension in most places where you’re supposed to be creative, and that means you’re supposed to be mischievous and rebellious, but you’ve got to be really obedient.
You’ve got to get your timesheets done. Don’t talk back. Make sure you send up that follow up email. Have you got the agenda ready? It’s a complete dissonance. The thing is the people who are senior in it, they can’t really point it out in public. That’s what I find interesting, because now that I’m out on my own, I can say stuff. Because I find it’s deeply true and I’m also happy to be wrong.
To me, it’s not even about being right or wrong. It’s just, “Here’s a thing. What do you think?” It’s interesting to see how people interact with it when I know they can’t really be on record agreeing with it, but you see the little likes pop up. Or a little retweet pop up. That’s been interesting.
[00:07:38] Adam: Yes, that’s an interesting signal. This is a lot of context actually to set up a post that you shared. Again, I reference a tweet that you posted, but I think you may have written this in longer form somewhere else but it was about ways to cope with depression. It was basically- I’m paraphrasing it, but it was basically like, “Hey, if you’re in a funk right now, if you find yourself in the midst of a depression, here’s some very easy things to kick start your way to moving forward.”
It was things like- and you’ll probably remember some of these more than I do, but the one I wrote that stuck with me, was- I think you got exercise, take a walk. Just sit down and write. To me, when I read it, I just thought, “Oh, that’s a very positive thing,” and you and I have talked a lot about emotion, and depression, and things we both do to keep our brain sharp and to keep ourselves in the right frame of mind. I was interested in how you got to that list, because I thought most of the things on there were useful. There wasn’t anything objectionable in and then what kind of feedback did you get about that?
[00:08:48] Mark: It’s interesting. I brought it up just so I can be accurate. What’s interesting is, first of all, this is two months ago, and it was the start of December. I wrote a blog post long ago about dealing with depression at Christmas. I went through some pretty dark Christmases, and the thing is a lot of people do. Because whether or not you celebrate Christmas in a secular way or a religious way, it’s the end of the year. You look back at your year. When you look back at your year sometimes you look back at your whole life.
You think about the people who have come and gone in your life. You think about the year you want in the future. It can be very- and you might have family visiting. You might have a lot more stress in the family. You’re spending money that you maybe shouldn’t, and so on and so forth. It’s all pretty well researched. What I was trying to do is just express a few points about what I had read over the years. I often do forget the sources of the research, because I’ll just binge on videos, or books, or academic papers and then go, “That’s interesting. I’ll try that. That makes sense.”
I’m going to read you the list but also what’s even more interesting is the past two months I have totally binged on so much stuff on depression and psychology. Whether it’s looking at Carl Jung, whether it’s listening to, and he’s– I don’t even like introducing- this guy is controversial but he is Jordan B Peterson. I’ve spent tens of hours with him, and Carl Jung, and Alan Watts, and Joe Rogan- and it’s mostly male voices, I know. Some yoga podcasts- I’m just listening the science around depression.
What I’ve learned in the past two months brings some of these points, which I just borrowed from other people into even a sharper focus. The thing that you’re referencing is just this post that says “Around now depression kicks in for many. Try these things. It’s a bit intermittent fasting. Minimal dairy gluten sugar. Move like your life depends on it. Spend time with people who excite you. Reach through sad memories for good memories. Know you aren’t alone, we’ve got you.” That was the actual post.
[00:10:59] Adam: My memory is terrible, but I did remember it, which is amazing. For two months, for the lifespan of a tweet, I did remember the existence of the post but I think it’s funny that I took away- and I’ll share the actual post in the show notes here, but it’s funny that I took away things that applied to me that I was like, “Yes, exercise I do feel better when I walk around. Intermittent fasting, that makes sense. Reduce sugar,” the things that I do, those are the things I remembered.
That’s what people naturally gravitate to, is these are the tools that will work for me and other tools may work for other people. Your point on holiday depression is well-taken and I’ll add some documentation there as well in the notes.
[00:11:40] Mark: Definitely. We can go deeper into these topics. What I’ve found very interesting over the years is when I’ve talked about mental health, there are also issues of masculinity- well, the idea of masculinity. Which is so controversial. A lot of people roll their eyes, especially in New York, I find, it’s almost taboo topic to use the word man or men or masculinity, and I think that’s dangerous.
What is interesting is when I’ve shared these topics, whether people interact with them, whether they interact with them in public, and how- whether it’s on an article, blog post, or a tweet gets shared, often what I found is unless I’m using the trigger word strategy there might not be that much interaction. This one got a lot of interaction, but I didn’t really expect it.
Because often people with a depression post, it’s like they try to duck it. It’s like “Here’s a ball coming up at my head, duck it, didn’t happen.” Then I also posted this on LinkedIn and caught some flak for it. That was also surprising–
[00:12:43] Adam: Yes you were telling me about that. The reaction you got on one platform versus the reaction you got on another one. Can you go into that a little bit, since that just blows my mind.
[00:12:54] Mark: Yes. LinkedIn, you can pick up more strangers, I think, and more strangers who don’t know where you’re coming from. I know that’s true on Twitter as well, but I found it more so on LinkedIn. There were a few people who were trying to suggest that I was being irresponsible and that I lacked empathy. That was really surprising. It was almost the idea that unless I was a doctor, you just shouldn’t talk about it because you don’t understand my experience.
I find that a little- that kind of makes me angry. Just a little angry, because I don’t think that’s cool. I do think there need to be more voices from people who’ve got something to lose, about these ideas. I’m not doing it–
[00:13:45] Adam: Especially when you’re saying something that- I don’t know what negative could be taken away from it, except someone projecting their own identity on it and saying, “Well, I have my own thing going on, don’t preach to me.” If I read the list of what you shared, it’s a hundred percent constructive and hopeful. That’s like, “Hey, we’re going to get through this together. Here’s some things that work.”
[00:14:10] Mark: Yes. There’s a lot of science behind this and obviously we aren’t scientists, but there’s a lot of new science behind this stuff. I also think that’s just the sign of the times where- especially as we get older, we often become more and more fixed in our ideas. Then if we see a trigger word, or phrase, or an idea all we do is repeat the thing we’ve already thought in public. Or at least to ourselves, and then sometimes out loud.
It’s useful if you want to stay a little bit open-minded to try to catch yourself before you do it. I’m sure we all do it, but that was the behavior that I saw. Because it wasn’t an interaction where people were trying to understand more. It was simply, “You used the trigger word, you don’t understand me, you shouldn’t even talk about this, go see a doctor.” I’m like, “Well if you’re just saying go see a doctor, just say go see a doctor. That’s fine.”
It’s totally a valid thing to do.
[00:15:05] Adam: There’s probably nothing wrong with me going and seeing a doctor, not a bad tip.
[00:15:10] Mark: So some of that kind of back and forth definitely felt like that dark rumination that can go on in some of our heads, but it was in public. It was surprising, it felt like the least scandalous thing I’d tried to do that year. It was one of the few times where someone’s really tried to almost take me down. It was funny almost. Almost.
[00:15:28] Adam: Yes. That’s why I wanted to give the context about your provocative nature, this is not that. That’s what blew my mind. This is one of the safer, outwardly kind like, hey there’s no malice here. There’s no mischief. This is all good and somebody was like, “No.”
[00:15:47] Mark: Yes. That’s it.
[00:15:48] Adam: That’s the Internet.
[00:15:49] Mark: It was like a two year old child going, “No.”
[00:15:52] Adam: [laughs]
[00:15:53] Mark: I know I shouldn’t even say that. Maybe we should take that out, because I didn’t mean to be mean. I get this is a difficult concept.
[00:15:57] Adam: I will. I will strike that, hold on one second.
[00:16:00] Mark: [laughs] I actually don’t mind.
[00:16:03] Adam: I know you don’t mean to make fun of the person, that’s what’s so crazy about it. Hey, can I ask you a question about the names you listed? You listed Joe Rogan right in that foursome of Watts, and Young, and Peterson. Do you regard Rogan as helpful, as it relates to depression and mental state?
[00:16:28] Mark: I just listened to his podcast with Johann Hari who wrote a book. I think it is called Lost Connections. I came late to Joe Rogan. I watched the UFC in the 1990s and I was familiar with him then. Then I had a friend in Australia, Tom Donald, like first few years going, “Hey, you should check this guy out and his podcast.” First of all, after I did– I did radio for a long time and I just burnt out with a lot of everything. I was like, “I don’t know about podcasts, most of them seem pretty hokey.”
Then, “Oh, Joe Rogan, the guy from UFC, I don’t know. I don’t know.” Then I really came across in about a year and a half ago when I was going through– I was definitely in a down period and I have these down periods. Someone had mentioned Ayahuasca to me. So I started to try to discover Ayahuasca and try to research it, and that led me to trying to understand DMT.
When I was a teenager, I said to myself I was never going to do anything addictive or hallucinogenic. I’ve never smoked a cigarette, and I never wanted to do anything that would completely mess with my mind. Obviously caffeine and alcohol are probably addictive. Anyway, I try to set some kind of moral standard. It was really through that kind of research that I stumbled upon him and his podcast and the documentary he’d done about DMT that led me more and more into people adjacent who are close to Alan Watts.
That led me to on researching M-A-P-S, MAPS, which is an organization in Colorado I believe that funds psychedelic research. That lead to more and more to places like Ram Dass and Terence McKenna and all the talk about psilocybin. I haven’t done any of this stuff. I’m totally open to it, I haven’t done it, I want to do it responsibly. The point is that that helped me see Joe Rogan a little bit differently. I have listened to a lot of his stuff interviewing comedians despite the fact that I gouge on stand-up comedy.
When he has people there are a little more psychologists, or physicists, or neuroscientists et cetera I think he is an important delivery mechanism for some of these ideas. I really do.
[00:18:47] Adam: Yes. He’s open-minded. He’s very thoughtful in the way he considers things and he has a point of view, but he’s willing to receive a message that’s counter to what I would project on him as his point of view. Sometimes he surprises me when he hears something and has a different reaction than I’d expect.
[00:19:10] Mark: Yes. It’s interesting because I’ve been in America for seven years, so someone looking at Joe Rogan from the outside does seem like a pretty alpha bro fat boy kind of guy. I don’t think he’s necessarily like that. He probably has parts of that but he’s definitely not only that. I think he identifies as a liberal, but also in this sort of free American way that I didn’t grow up thinking about. The idea of the individual and responsibility, individual responsibility I think is part of what he believes.
In Australia we didn’t really grow up with the nuance around political ideology that exists in America, so I find people like Sam Harris– Who else is there? There’s sure other people that they’re exposing may not just new ideas, but how Americans think about these ideas. I get like a double angle into some of these things.
[00:20:05] Adam: That’s interesting and a little bit terrifying, if I’m honest. That there is American angle on it versus a human angle, but I know that there is.
[00:20:14] Mark: Yes. We can comment– [laughs]
[00:20:17] Adam: I know, that can be a different lesson. Let’s not right now. Today is not a day for it. I want to go back and talk about the list that you provided. Two of the things have to do with food. One of them does have to do with exercise. “Move like your life depends on it.” One is about spending time with people who excite you. Then the other one was really mental. “Reach through sad memories for good, and know that you’re not alone.”
If this is you and you’re working your way through this list, is it a combination of these things? Can any one of these things offset one of the other things for you? I know you can only speak for yourself. Neither of us are doctors or qualified to talk about this, or prescribe anything for anybody else, but how do you approach this when you get– I get into these down periods too, and I try to figure out- or I’m going to shake up the order because something’s just not clicking for me today. I’d better figure out. Let me try to do something different.
[00:21:23] Mark: If I channel some of the things I’ve listened to in the past two months- and there are tens and tens of hours of things I’ve read and listened to. I’ll do my best to actually cite the source so we can follow up with it. But a lot of the times it’s just the idea stuck with me more than where it came from. So apologies for not being the researcher, the academic. I’ll tell you why some of these things are interesting.
Intermittent fasting, so much science about it, what it helps– That’s basically the idea of eating within a certain time period and not eating out of that time period. I’ve been doing it for about a year now. I played with it years ago. Especially on long flights. I’m on fast for 24 hours. It’s interesting because most cultures have some kind of fasting. Almost all cultures have some kind of fasting ritual in them.
There’s some old quotes that get used. A lot The TED talks, which I will completely ruin which are that– It’s something like a third of your food is for you, and two thirds is for your doctor. It’s something like that.
[00:22:29] Adam: Oh, God.
[00:22:29] Mark: This is a couple thousand years ago so they knew this back then. I’ve had a dear friend get breast cancer and she mentioned that in Asia breast cancer is, I think, seen as a disease of the rich. The science around intermittent fasting is about trying to reduce the amount that your insulin spikes. It helps I believe clean out your gut, your micro biome, because we have lots and lots of bacteria down there and the gut brain connection, there’s new science from the past few years and that is showing it more, and more, and more. That your brain–
[00:23:11] Adam: Yes, I’ve been reading that as well.
[00:23:14] Mark: A lot of this stuff is out there in the pop culture now, which is great. There was something also about- at the start of last year when I started doing it, that- and Jordan B Peterson talks about this. I know saying his name will trigger people who are familiar with him and who don’t really like him. Just allow me the space to talk about the issues. He talks about like– Well, first of all he talks about a set of really difficult– Accept a really difficult challenge. That’s what life’s about. Take responsibility.
He talks about this sort of stuff. But also within that, then set small goals. What I found when I started to do this, and I would go for these long walks around Central Park, is just getting through the day I was like, “Oh that was good.” I got to midday, I got to noon without eating. That’s great. Felt good. It’s probably releasing something in the brain, some chemical in the brain that’s like, “Hey, well done, man.” There was something about a little loop that I was starting to fall on. A positive loop, just by doing that. Let alone the other benefits, as far as I understand them.
[00:24:15] Adam: Right, but it was a small measure of achievement in making it to that time. I don’t know if it was– It must have been right around the time you posted this. You were inquiring, looking for people to talk to you about depression in advertising and I don’t know where you ever got with that, with those interviews that you’re doing. I had come up with a theory, and just reading some of the responses that were public–
That it is probably a lot, for me, it’s triggered by, I want to set goals but I’m totally out of control of deadlines, and timelines, and projects that I can put tons and tons of energy in, can just disappear because a client leaves, or a budget gets squashed, or they get a new priority. I think there’s a lot too tied- again, just for me, for setting goals and really striving to do that. When I’m not in the driver’s seat, on some of those goals, those big projects, that can sometimes just be like a real mood killer.
[00:25:23] Mark: So [unintelligible 00:25:25] in his book. I think it’s less connections, talking in general and talks exactly about this. He cites a lot of statistics around unhappiness at the workplace, and it’s high. Again, in a country that boasts about optimism, depression and unhappiness are really, really high. It’s almost like you’re not allowed to admit it, because it becomes taboo.
One of the reasons is- especially for people who have certain types of jobs, you want meaning in life, and we get that in many ways. Having goals, knowing who we are, having an identity, having an identity in a group, and having autonomy and improving. What you’re talking about is not having autonomy. It’s you turn up to work and you can’t control everything because that’s what corporations exist to do. They exist to minimize people causing problems.
Agencies in creative industries do that too, which I think it’s deeply ironic but at the same time maybe it is required. I need to think that through a little bit. But what you’re talking about is absolutely– Can, I shouldn’t say absolutely. Can lead to feeling not so good, because it reduces your sense of meaning.
[00:26:43] Adam: Yes, that’s probably it.
[00:26:46] Mark: The other thing is with depression, is there’s a few different ways to look at it. One is that there’s something wrong with you, that you’re broken. I felt down from a very young, a relatively young age. It took me- I read this book called Manhood by Stephen Biddulph. He talks about how a lot of guys, when their parents split because they’re not getting a lot of that eye contact, and touch, and time, or constructive time, that they can develop sad brains.
I was 19 or 20 when I read that. I was like, “Oh, well that might explain a lot of stuff. But then is that because of me? Is there something wrong with me? Is it genetic? Is it my brain? Is it serotonin?” That’s sort of one framework, that there’s something wrong with you. There’s two ways to look at that. One is, therefore, fix yourself. Therefore, second way, sort of more of a support of, “Let me help you.” But then there’s a lot of the original thought is– I’ve had people say this to me. I’ve had a family member say it to me, it’s like, “I just don’t understand it. I’ve never felt like that.”
[00:27:54] Adam: [laughs] That’s so damaging. That’s so hurtful.
[00:27:58] Mark: Well yes, I mean that probably explains some stuff as well. Then there’s this other idea, which is that depression is a wake up call, and that regardless of what’s going on in your brain, because to really move through it- and it doesn’t mean to fix it but to work out how to adjust to it or to minimize it or whatever it is, you do need a combination of mind, body, community, goal, identity. Kind of restructuring. I think that’s a really- like the people that are depressed to think–
What I like about the idea that depression is a wake up call is that it’s not forced optimism. It’s not telling you to be happy. It’s not telling you there’s something wrong. It’s like, “Hang on, what if I’m feeling like this just because I haven’t been asking myself the right questions or listening to myself? Okay, interesting. Let’s spend a little bit of time going through that.”
[00:28:54] Adam: Just as a means of self examination and just trying a new way to do that, versus making big assumptions and making big changes. Doesn’t have to be that. None of these things you list are big, and I don’t think you need to make big changes to have big impact.
[00:29:09] Mark: No I agree. I agree. I think sometimes you have to do this journey. A lot of people have to do the journey by themselves, because it’s an increasingly isolated society and culture that we live in. If you’re with someone who feels like this, really do your best to work out how be patient, and loving, and supportive of them, because a lot of people who go through this, even if they’re in a long term relationships, feel very isolated because the other person just won’t get it.
[00:29:39] Adam: Yes, it’s real. Even culture’s isolating but I think in this situation people tend to isolate themselves. They don’t really want to– I don’t know if the method of communication is always there to say, “Hey, this is going on. I don’t know what to do with it.” It puts people in a real strange spot.
[00:30:00] Mark: Yes, I agree.
[00:30:04] Adam: Can you speak just a little bit about, “Reach through sad memories for good memories?” The idea of it sounds lovely, but it sounds like you have a very specific thought in mind. Can you talk about that little?
[00:30:15] Mark: There are two examples that come to mind. I was fortunate enough to be with my grandfather when he passed away. He went into a hospital. When I was a little bit younger, I must have been 26 or 27? Yes, 26 or 27. When I was a bit younger, he would go in and out of a hospital. I’d always try to get there. The night I proposed, actually, I was planning to propose and he went in. That was a few years earlier. I sprinted to the hospital. He’s stabilized, and everything was good.
I managed to propose in front of the Sydney Opera House, sweaty, and in bad clothes. We had a good night. I was 23 at that time, so it was all good. He then went in, and we started to realize that he probably wasn’t going to come out. I decided, do you know what? My initial reaction was I’m really not feeling comfortable. I’ve not seen death before. Old age is a bit foreign. I’m like, “What’s all that about?” Those initial reactions is kind of to run. I said to myself, “Hang on, hang on. If there’s one thing you can do, is to try to be there, right?”
Wouldn’t that be beautiful? I spent the last few days with him. A lot of people go through this. I spent the last days with him. I don’t really have a lot of spiritual guidance or training growing up. I don’t mean that in a religious sense, but just in a ancient humans, we’re all connected kind of sense. He was knocked out. He was knocked out unconscious. Not coma, but knocked out, in a palliative care situation.
I was riding next to him. It was raining outside in Sydney. I’d massage his feet sometimes. Massage his hands sometimes. I’ll never forget, when I was in the room with my auntie. My grandma was- I think she was just outside, and we were going to get down and get some food. He opened his eyes. He hadn’t opened them in several days. He sat up just a few inches and looked at us both, left right, and then he fell asleep. I just felt myself breathing him into me. That’s to me, a beautiful memory from what is, for many people, a very sad situation.
[00:32:36] Adam: You scanned that whole story to find that beautiful moment where you may be able to make eye contact with them and then remember all the positive, the touch, and the time that you were able to spend.
[00:32:48] Mark: Yes. I do think there are other societies that deal with death better and talk about it in a more practical or spiritual fashion. I had to reach that realization, that epiphany of “Hang on. If you’re with him, that’s great and maybe you can make it spiritual, whatever that means to you.” That’s one example. Another example, my mom and I had pretty traumatic– She’s had a lot of stuff happen to her.
We’ve had a pretty toxic relationship over the years. About three or four years ago, she came to New York. She loves going out. She’s 75 now. She can’t walk that well, but she does travel a lot. She does like the couch surfing stuff at [unintelligible 00:33:33].
[00:33:32] Adam: Right. [laughs] That’s pretty crazy.
[00:33:34] Mark: She was wearing like a big red dress. She’s on a cruise or somewhere [unintelligible 00:33:39] big red dress and likes to show off and perform. We had a lot of pretty bad moments over the years. One night, I just had this moment while she was here. I was like, “You know what? We should go out and I’m going to fuck you up.” Because she thinks she’s this big party girl. You might need to rephrase what I just said, but that’s actually what I thought.
[00:33:58] Adam: [laughs] Did you challenge her? “That’s it. We’re going. We’re doing this.”
[00:34:04] Mark: I don’t know how. I don’t know if I said it to her but in my mind, I was like, “Okay. Fine. You think you’re really hilarious and you like to perform.” She doesn’t have a lot of filter and says some pretty provocative things at times. I said, “Okay. I’m going to take you. We’re going to have drinks. I’m going to take you to stand up comedy and then we’re going to hang out.” We were out till 2:00 AM. We managed to steer away from all the conversations.
[unintelligible 00:34:28] drunk at 2:00 AM. She was mortified by the riddance of the stand-up comedy which I found deeply [unintelligible 00:34:34]. It was just one of those moments that I’m so happy that I did. It came from that idea of– I came across this idea through yoga which is about leaning into it. Finding your edge and leaning into it. I’m not creating [unintelligible 00:34:48] That’s an example where I now have that in my head. I’m glad that it happened. There are examples of that.
[00:35:02] Adam: Yes. I really like that. I like that story about your– Both those stories are great, but the story about your mom cracks me up. Just that you dove on it and said, “No. This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to go headlong into this together and see what happens.”
[00:35:14] Mark: Both of those, they’re not necessarily reaching through sad memories for good memories. They are creating good memories by actually fighting the– Both of those, they’re really fighting the flat instinct like, “Oh, I shouldn’t here. Let me just go to my room,” or, “I’m not comfortable in this hospital right now.” It’s like, “Hang on. What if you were really comfortable? What if you really enjoyed it, what would you do?” It sounds easy. It’s easy for me to say that now because the rest of the time, I could be a complete piece of chaos but I’m glad that those two things happened, in the way they happened. Not that–
[00:35:53] Adam: [laughs] Obviously not. So much of what strategy is, is finding the one thing that we want to fix or that one issue that we think we can build work around, build an idea around, build the solution around and then deciding, do we run headlong into this thing? Do we build a campaign that goes directly at us? Or do we run away from it and focus on something that hides this. It seems to me that you’re able to– They say when great basketball players are really in the zone, that the game slows down for them.
That everything else around them is moving in slow motion and they’re in that kind of matrix world. It seems to me that you have the ware with all somehow. At least after the fact to recall saying, “Wait. Hold on a second. I don’t want to be in a hospital. How can I turn this on it’s head so that I can make it positive, or make it a useful experience?” I don’t know that everybody is able to do that. Is that something you’re conscious of, or do you remember it after the fact that, “Oh, this must be the logical loop the I went through to get there?”
[00:37:04] Mark: I remember it when I’m in it, but it often comes from a high emotional state. It’s not something I can do every single time. I’m sure everyone’s got examples of these times. It’s just that I guess the two examples I gave you were quite drastic in some form.
[00:37:21] Adam: That’s what makes them good examples.
[00:37:23] Mark: Yes. A lot of it depends on who I’m around as well. If it’s just me and I’m out and about, most of the time I can play with these kinds of decisions. But I still have people who trigger me, and situations which trigger me, and types of people who trigger me which is a very– If I’m calling from the same type of person, I’m aware that that’s a shallow way to approach humanity.
[00:37:52] Adam: [laughs] Were you that nervous about blowback? I think the type of person is okay.
[00:37:59] Mark: No. I’m not nervous about blowback. I just do believe that that’s probably a shallow thing to say in this part of the conversation. A lot of it is just setting little creative constraints, picking up little comments, or phrases, or even affirmations or questions. Then hopefully, they stick in your brain and you can get them when you need them. If you can do that a little bit more than before, then surely that’s better than before. I have low expectations.
[00:38:32] Adam: Any incremental improvement is an improvement.
[00:38:37] Mark: I think it does connect to the mental health thing. One of the questions that I started to ask myself a few years ago, maybe four, five years ago, is “What’s the best where I can spend my time?” The answer might be, “Go to the library for three hours,” or it might be, “Go to a movie,” or it could be, “Write a thousand words,” or it could be, “Send up all the follow-up emails.” But the thing is just to ask that question and ask it in a kind way.
To me, that’s trying to jolt the anxiety and the constant rush that I– I worked my ass off through the school and through my 20s and 30s. Really long hours, I’ve burnt out all the time. I didn’t have these kinds of questions or frameworks to fall back on. Now, I’m trying to unlearn. I don’t want to be that guy who’s working– I always sleep at work, often, under the desk. Sometimes, I was working on the magazine, I was doing it on the side or sometimes just because I was like, “I don’t know what I want to do when I go home.”
[00:39:37] Adam: Yes. You might as well just stay.
[00:39:38] Mark: That’s not healthy. I was trying to [unintelligible 00:39:40]
[00:39:41] Adam: No. It’s a dangerous thing for people like us. People in the creative industry where your hobby and your job are basically the same thing. Sometimes you get to a point where like, “Why would I stop?” My wife would call and she’d be like, “When are you coming home?” Well, I would but if I come home, I’m just going to open the laptop and keep writing, so why–
[00:40:02] Mark: Yes, the hobby and the job can be very similar. Because of the guts of the many people who think for a living in the way that we do. You are constantly researching, constantly analyzing, constantly thinking about stuff. Often your hobbies reflect that. Even if it’s just, you like to play board games or chess, for example. That’s probably less of the natural break compared to some other careers. Does that make sense?
[00:40:32] Adam: Yes, right we have to- it makes sense and you have to find ways to give yourself space by injecting other stuff into it. That makes a lot of sense.
[00:40:42] Mark: What are some of the techniques that you use to get that kind of distance or get the barriers in place?
[00:40:53] Adam: Well, I make plans. I have two kids, and I make plans to do different things with each one that are not my interests. I make plans to do things that they’re interested in, and then that gives me a goal. Sometimes I’ll go figure out what the thing is we’re going to do. Because they’ll say, “Oh, I’m interested in this or that.” Then it gives me obviously quality time with my kids which is time you can’t get back. That’s something that’s been really- just stupid little projects. Painting bird houses or whatever the idea they cook up.
[00:41:26] Mark: That’s correct. They can be quite meditative and I guess you get your sense of community in your biological needs met that way, it’s good.
[00:41:37] Adam: Yes, you get something out of it. Then it’s also- I try to do quiet activities too. Because my son just wants to get out and do- he would go to theme park every day if he could but [laughs] that’s not really- I prefer something that involves some quiet as well. You do yoga. I prefer to run, but it’s same. I think it achieves the same goal of flow, of getting your brain tuned into something else besides the grind.
[00:42:04] Mark: Yes, it’s funny because the tweet that we’ve referenced, there’s the idea of move like your life depends on it. This has come up in some of the things I’ve listened to recently. I don’t know where I read this, but I saw this headline, and it could be an article that talked about, “End your day by tiring yourself out.” Now, you can take that to the extremes and that’s silly, but I think I understand what that means.
That’s interesting. There’s definitely- I do believe that there is research in depression around two things. One is the way that exercise affects the brain, and also the sense of achieving a goal, and some movement is important. We’re animals, we’re supposed to move, we absolutely– The thing we’re not supposed to do really is to live the way we’re living now. That’s probably the thing we’re not supposed to be doing. But we are supposed to be moving.
Johann Hari was quoting some research out of Chile that moving and exercising does affect people but actually when they exercise in nature, when they move through trees or- for example, that’s even better for them because they’re getting that sense of- there’s a lot of research around how being in nature can affect humans as well. The idea of moving and exercising, but doing it in nature is getting a lot of, well, apparently some scientific backing right now.
[00:43:37] Adam: Yes. I noticed that too. If I’m outside more than I’m inside on a treadmill or something I definitely feel that. You have Central Park, here in Phoenix I’m pretty selective with when I’m spending a lot of time outside because of the ridiculous heat, but same idea.
[00:43:56] Mark: There’s a silly joke about, maybe you could create some indoor garden and charge people lots of money to get a real, natural, non-desert like experience?
[00:44:06] Adam: Yes, there you go. Like a mall or something, with trees inside. All right, well, this has been awesome. Thank you very much for making time here. People can find you on Twitter, you’re @markpollard, but any other places you want to send people? mightyjungle.co?
[00:44:23] Mark: Yes, I haven’t got a lot of stuff up there yet but yes. @markpollard on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn. I’m out there. I’m upping my output and don’t forget, it’s all just fun and games, until Adam gets there.
[00:44:38] Adam: Yes. Yes, that’s right, I’m taking it to the next level buddy, thank you. [laughs] All right man, thank you again for- I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.
[00:45:04] [END OF AUDIO]