In this episode, we meet Megan Macedo, writer and marketing entrepreneur.
Megan grew up in Northern Ireland at the tail end of The Troubles, an experience that has shaped her story and career.
She runs a marketing and storytelling consultancy in London and writes and speaks about authenticity in marketing and taking an artistic approach to business.
Megan hosts workshops and retreats in the UK, Ireland and the US and has shared the stage with the likes of Jay Abraham and Perry Marshall.
In this episode we talk about:
- Authentic story-telling and actively being yourself in the world;
- Using experimentation to find out who you really are and what you care about;
- Why most of us are artistic entrepreneurs trapped in traditional corporate bodies; and
- The fear of scaling our ambitions.
Connecting with Megan Macedo
Thanks to Perry Marshall for recommending Megan.
On what growing up during The Troubles taught her
- We internalise the environment that we grow up in. People go through traumatic things and it changes how they interact with their family and their loved ones. It changes how children are raised. How it relates to my work is that I have this understanding, or curiosity at least, around this stuff and around Northern Ireland because I grew up in it, and I can see the stuff playing out at a cultural level. I can see it playing out at a family level. I can see it play out at an individual level.
- Quite often, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t get spoken and there is a whole side of ourselves that we don’t show out in the world, and our work suffers as a result of that.
On having a sense of identity
- When people feel unfulfilled in their work, or they feel like something isn’t quite right, I think a lot of that is because they are not letting themselves be seen in their work. I think that one of our most primal needs is to be seen and to be known.
- Erik Erikson did a lot of the seminal work around identity formation. He talked about something called psychosocial reciprocity, which says that in order for us to have a fully mature, grounded sense of identity, it’s not enough for us to know who we are on the inside; we also have to have the world respond to us as that person.
- We have to actively be ourselves in the world. And then the world gets to see who we are and respond to that person.
- But…most of us are in some degree of kind of misery because we keep that part of ourselves a secret. So we show up as some kind of professional persona in the world and that’s who the world thinks we are.
On the value of having an authentic story
- If you take a load of vitamin tablets, most of it will just end up down the toilet. Your body will pass it because it doesn’t recognise it as food. This is why it’s better to eat the whole food. In a way, the story combined with the work that we do, are like the whole food.
- Most of us strip our story out of our work and out of our skills, and that’s what stops people seeing our value. But if you put your story back in, it’s the story that makes your skills and values and talents available to people. That’s what makes them connect with you and understand who you are, your context, your perspective, and then they become much more interested in what you’re actually doing in your professional life.
- And so my clients go through the process of telling their story and usually come away with this much deeper understanding of who they are and where they want to go and why they want to go there.
On knowing yourself
- When you’re a child, you have parents or authority figures. Essentially, they give you an assigned identity, which is made up of part of their identities. They hand down these values and beliefs to you.
- When we come of age, we’re supposed to interact with different people who have different worldviews and different identities and value different things. And each experience that we have acts as a mirror and we get a glimpse at a little bit more of ourselves. So we learn what values and beliefs we agree with or disagree with.
- Eventually, we get to a point where we have a grounded sense of self. And that identity could be exactly the same as the one you were given as a kid, or you might completely reject it. The important thing is that you have acquired it for yourself.
- And some things you will have direct experience of and you can speak from a position of power on those. But other things you don’t so you experiment and ask for help. And it’s through years and years of living like that that you get to expand your field of genuine expertise and wisdom.
- I think one of the things that people should do first is to ask themselves, “What questions do I care about?”
On being artistic in your business and career
- I think there are two types of entrepreneurial thinker. You have the traditional businessperson type, and they are really passionate about the game of business and the whole corporate game. And then you have the artist type entrepreneurial thinker. And they are really passionate about the actual work that they do, about building a body of work.
- I actually think that more of us are the artist type than we think. We are trained, both in the education system and then how the working world works, to be the traditional business type, but the artist type I think makes up most of the population.
- How artists work is that they start with some kind of curiosity or some kind of question they have about a topic that they’re interested in. They’ll go and research that and then they make a piece at the end of it.
On getting away from it all
- I will quite often go to the park for a walk for 20 minutes and then I’ll pitch up in a café or a pub, and I’ll write for an hour, or until I run out of steam. It’s during the walk that I actually process everything and figure out what I’m going to write.
- Something else I do is go to the cinema. I find watching films, immersing myself in someone else’s work, to be very restorative, and it fires off all kinds of ideas in my head.
On choosing a mentor
- I think it’s important to lean on mentors for advice on ideas. Get a sense of permission from them if that’s what you feel like you need. Or just have a sanity check and bounce it off them. But it’s really about getting that confidence to take action.
- The reason that I went to my mentor and not some other people is because I looked at his whole life and thought, “That’s a guy I could along with.” A lot of the other mentors that were around at the time were workaholics.
On the fear of the scale of our ambition
- In order to do the things that we really want to do and have the impact that we really want to have through our work, we’re going to have to show ourselves, make ourselves vulnerable, and that is terrifying.
- Instead, focus on how you are going to take the next step today. Think about the person that you think you’re going to be when you get to that goal and how you could be that person today.
Her final message of wisdom and hope
- I think that having the courage and willingness to share your story and your wisdom from a place of direct, lived experience is the most important thing.
Books and resources mentioned in the episode
Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families by John and Linda Friel