This is the fortieth in a series of podcasts where Judy interviews people who have a track record of successful collaboration. This series is for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of real-life collaboration, especially collaboration among creative, intelligent, free-thinking individuals who are geographically dispersed.
The interviews go well beyond the obvious, as metaphor master Judy Rees explores the hidden thinking that inspires collaboration that works.
Judy: Hello and welcome to the Collaboration Dynamics podcast. I’m Judy Rees and with me today is Nick Williams. Hello, Nick! Great to have you here!
Nick: Hi! Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m looking forward to this conversation.
Judy: I’m very excited to have you on the podcast. I want to talk about all the things that I know about you, but the tradition on this podcast is for me to ask you to introduce yourself. Would you like to say a little bit about yourself and the kind collaborations you get involved in?
Nick: Oh, that can take up the whole half hour just answering those two questions. What I do in the world is I write, and I speak, and I coach, and I mentor, and I run a community. My passion is about helping us unwrap our gifts and potential. I do believe there’s work we were all born to do and we’ve been put on this Earth to do. That’s what I’m passionate about. I work a lot with leaders and helping leaders unwrap their gifts and the next chapter of their pioneering leadership. That’s where my high is drawing me much more these days.
I was thinking about this whole idea of collaboration and I can see so many different levels at which I see myself and see other people collaborating – collaborating human to human, collaborating with inspiration and perhaps even different realms of consciousness, collaborating to create beautiful things in this world. I see myself as learning to be a better collaborator by having come from a place of thinking I needed to do everything on my own. I would love to talk more about that journey from what I would call unhealthy independence to learning to be a better partner and collaborator than I’ve ever been.
Judy: That’s a journey I suspect we’ve all on to one extent or another.
Nick: I think so. Certainly, I have been and I think many of us are.
Judy: Given that it is a journey and given that it’s incomplete, thank Goodness, in the moment, when you are collaborating at your best, you are like what?
Nick: I wish you could give me a multiple choice. The word that came to mind is “I’m a producer”. What that means I’m not necessarily sure. I’ve got a friend of mine who is a TV producer. To cut the long story short, I went on set, on a location to see her film set producing a scene. I sat in her chair watching the TV screen as the scene was being filmed. As I sat in her chair, the producer’s chair, watching the scene being filmed, I realised everyone was gathering around me watching the scene being filmed as well.
What I realised is everyone looking at that screen was looking at different aspect of it. Heroine make-up was looking at heroine make-up, props were looking at props, lighting was looking at lighting, the wardrobe were looking at wardrobe.
I realised and I asked my friend afterwards, I said, “Liz, you’re the only one who sees the whole picture, aren’t you? Everyone else is a strand of the tapestry. And you see the whole thing.” She said, “Yeah, that’s my job as a producer – it’s to have a vision and to see how everybody needs to collaborate to cause that vision to exist in the world.” I thought, “Wow! What a great way of looking at collaboration!”
When I’m thinking about being a producer, that’s often how I think of it. It’s like I have a vision of how things can be and my job is to collaborate to cause that to exist.
Judy: You have the vision of how things could be. You have the whole picture.
Nick: Sometimes. Even though I’m saying that, I realise often I don’t see the whole picture, but I see the picture unfolding or emerging. I see a little bit more of the picture.
Judy: Is there anything else about that, how it emerges like that?
Nick: I don’t know if you’ve heard of it – because I know a number of people who’ve quoted it – Stephen King, the fiction writer, also wrote a book called “On writing”. Have you read it?
Judy: I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard about it. I had it quoted to me before.
Nick: It seems to be doing the rounds of people quoting. I love the metaphor that he uses, which is when he’s writing a story or telling a story, he sees it as like being an archaeologist. He’ll look and he’ll see a little bit of something poking out the ground. And he sees that as the beginning of the story.
As he is excavating, he doesn’t know whether it might be a skeleton of a sparrow or a skeleton of a dinosaur. It might be a long lost city that he’s excavating. He has no idea – he just starts with that small idea. And then by getting the dust and dirt away he sees what it is that’s underneath that wants to be told.
I often feel like it’s that. I think there is a realm of consciousness where everything exists. And we just get to see a little bit of it, and we get to see the next bit to exist. That’s how I often feel my collaboration is like. Okay, I’ve got my instructions for the next chapter. I’ll carry these out, and then I’ll see what follows that.
Judy: So you’ve just got the instructions for the next chapter.
Nick: That’s the idea, yeah.
Judy: When you are a producer like that, and everyone is gathering round, and everyone else has a strand of the tapestry, and you’ve got more of the whole picture, is there anything else about the strands of the tapestry that other people have?
Nick: They are all vital for the whole pattern, I guess. But I guess it’s important. I remember when I was talking to my friend Lis about it, and she said, “It’s important that nobody take it over, that everybody can think their bit is the most important bit.”
That’s the collaboration I think – it is to realise that collaboration is about everybody having their voice and everybody having their part, their strand in the tapestry. And some strands are more obvious than others, but without any of the strands the whole thing wouldn’t work.
Judy: When you are a producer like that, and it’s important for everyone to have their strand, and without all the strands it wouldn’t work, how do you know you are a producer like that?
Nick: I guess is there an outcome at the end of it? Is there something to put into the world? Because I certainly see part of my collaboration as being collaboration with – I use the language of inspiration. I feel like I’m often inspired to do something. And my job is to produce that and get it out into the world. And there can often be a lot of work involved in that. I can have an inspired idea that might take six months of writing a book to produce that into a book, and then put it out into the world.
But I’m also fascinated by the impact. I might get an inspired idea – I’m sure you’ve experienced this as an author as well – you have an inspired idea, you produce a book or a program, or whatever it’s going to be, you put it out into the world – and years later you’re still getting feedback from people saying, “That thing you wrote changed my life”.
I also feel that this level of collaboration where we don’t even know we’re doing it, it’s almost like we’re acting in faith. I’m sure you’ve done it with your book – you’ve put your book out into the world, it’s had an impact that you’re not even aware of.
In a way, there is two things. One – we collaborate in ways we will never even realise we’ve collaborated, because we’ve had an impact on people. But also I think we act to some extent as human middlemen/middlewomen for inspired ideas to exist in the world. They are obviously impact us and grow us as we produce them. But they are going to have impact out there in the world that we can’t anticipate and shouldn’t necessarily even try to anticipate.
Judy: Is there a relationship between that and the levels of consciousness that you mentioned?
Nick: My personal map of the world – whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but it’s certainly worked for me – is that there is a level of consciousness where everything exists energetically right now. Whether it’s my next book, whether it’s Adele’s next song, whether it’s Bruce Springsteen’s next album, or Salman Rushdie’s next book, whatever it’s going to be, that already exists somewhere as an idea. And inspiration is always looking for human collaborators to bring that idea into existence. For me there is a relationship between that realm of consciousness and us.
I think what most of us are good at doing – I was certainly good at doing it for years – was crossing my arms and saying, “You can’t make me. You can’t make me do this. It’s too scary, it’s too big. I refuse.” We can refuse to collaborate with inspiration. We can refuse to collaborate with each other. We can go rebellious and say, “No freaking way!”
Judy: And then what happens, when you cross your arms and say “No”?
Nick: One of the ways I tend to think of it is I get to be king of my own misery. I get to be in charge. I get to be in control and not collaborate, but the consequences are generally not very happy. I’m generally frustrated, I’m not nice to be around, I’m holding myself back. I’m not happy about myself in life particularly.
I tend to be happiest when I’m collaborating either with inspiration, with other realm of consciousness, bringing stuff into the world, or when I’m collaborating with other fellow human beings to do interesting projects together, or when I’m just hanging out, like having this conversation. To me this conversation is a collaboration. I love the way that the conversation emerges.
Judy: When you are saying “No”, you get to be king of your own misery. What happens to king when you are collaborating, when you are that producer?
Nick: Seems like a multi-layered question there.
Judy: I’m afraid it is.
Nick: Whoa, this is taking me off in the whole other direction, but let’s try this. I’m interested personally in the kind of archetypal energies of king, or queen – obviously it’s not gender-specific – warrior energy, and magician energy, and lover energy. I think that the ultimate sovereign energy whether that’s king or queen energy can ultimately be a conduit between divine realms of consciousness and human realms. But I think the shadow side of that is when we become a tyrant, and we become over-controlling.
To answer your question – I can be a producer who’s trying to do it all himself, or I can be a producer that’s producing something from another realm of existence into the human realm of existence. I don’t know if that really answers your question, but it’s the answer that comes to me when you ask that multi-layered question.
Judy: It’s a very interesting answer. I suppose what I’m now curious about is how do you know which you are doing? And how do you find the right place to be in that energy?
Nick: Good question. For me, one of the ways – is it hard work or is it flowing? Generally, if it’s hard work, I’m trying to do it all. Generally, if it’s flowing, I’m being more of a conduit. Also, looking to see whether if I’m trying to control people around me, or force people around me, they tend to back off. But if I’m truly inspired and doing something really collaborative, people tend to want to get onboard and want to help. They want to collaborate with me. For me they are the signs. Am I flowing? Are people moving towards me, as opposed to running away from me, or backing off from me?
Judy: You mentioned earlier this was a learning journey for you. How was all that changed over the years for you?
Nick: Some of the ideas that I have been sharing with you, I originally got from a teacher of mine called Chuck Spezzano, who founded something called the Psychology of Vision. He talked about the evolution of human consciousness, from being incredibly independent to being much more collaborative and inter-dependent.
I’ve certainly been on that personal journey myself. Growing up, I thought even to ask for help, or even to need help was a sign of failure. I should be a self-made man. I become increasingly proud of the amount of collaborations that I’m involved in today. To me, a badge of honour is how much help I do ask for as opposed to how much help I don’t ask for.
Judy: Is there anything else about that journey?
Nick: It’s ongoing. I just find today it’s much more fun to collaborate than it is to try and do all myself. One of my peak experiences over the last few years has been about – five or six years ago, I can’t remember exactly when it was – I ran a six-months training program called “The message you were born to share”.
By that time, six years ago, I’d written a number of books, and a number of people were asking me for coaching support. What I saw with this theme was a lot of people are messengers – they have big messages to get out into the world, to inspire people with them, to educate people with them. They struggled, and I realised that was what I’ve been doing for 15 or so years at that point. So I put together a program.
It was probably one of the best collaborations I’d ever done, because on one level I was inspired to do it. I felt like that higher realm of consciousness was saying to me, “This one is to exist in the world, and you do it, please”. And I went, “Yeah, I’ll do this”.
So I got to collaborate with spirit, I got to collaborate with people that came. I got incredible feedback for the program that I ran. I also got to be in that producer role, where I invited friends and colleagues to present their bits of expertise. It was a six-month program, which I divided up into 24 modules. I probably presented 16 of those modules, and the rest were presented by friends and colleagues that I really like, and I love working with and collaborating with.
To me it just felt like a wonderful collaboration between spirit, between the clients, the people that were on the program and learning from it, from working with friends. It was one of those high-point periods, where I went, “I want to do more of this collaborating stuff. It’s much more fun than doing it on my own!”
And I think actually to be honest, if it’s a true collaboration, it’s much more effective than doing it all on your own. If you think of Bruce Springsteen, who’s the boss, he collaborates with presumably inspiration to get the ideas for his songs. Then he collaborates with his band, and with producers, and record companies, with concert promoters.
I think everything is so much more of a collaboration than most of us even realise. Even when we are self-made, it’s a lie to be honest. We tell ourselves we are self-made – and it’s crap. We’ve had so many people influence us.
Judy: Assuming that there are going to be people who are listening to this, who are afraid to ask for help, and are in that place that you were a few years ago, what changed – obviously you were in touch with Chuck Spezzano and you heard what he had to say – but is there anything else that changed?
Nick: I’m trying to find the language and the right words to use here. I think it was realising how defended I was. I thought my defences kept me safe. But I think what I realise was that my defences were actually keeping me lonely, isolated. It’s become a conscious choice to choose appropriately to dismantle my defence and to let down my defences.
One of the influences on me, one of my collaborations in a kind of funny way has been the book called “Causing Miracles”, which is my spiritual path in many ways. I just find it a book of great comfort, about how to undo fear and return to love. One of the lessons in the “Causing Miracles” says, “In my defencelessness does my safety lie”. I remember when I read that, that was like, “Oh, so the less defended I am, the safer I am. That’s not how I was brought up.”
I’m not saying I don’t have defences. I still have defences. Just because somebody wants to collaborate, it doesn’t mean that this is the right thing to do. I’m still navigating that, I’m still learning, I’m still on that journey. But generally my journey is to be less defended, more open and more honest about what I think and feel and need. And for me sometimes to even be aware of what I need – that sometimes is a journey for me. It’s like, “I don’t even know what I need. I know I’m stuck or I know I’ve got a problem, but I don’t even know what I need.”
It’s that increasing emotional awareness, emotional intelligence – whatever you want to call it – to understand myself, my needs, where I’m hurt, where I’m wounded. For me it’s been a long journey and I’m still on that journey of realising that I had defences, because I was feeling hurt, and I was feeling pain.
The answer wasn’t just to have defences. The answer was to let go of the pain bit by bit, so I would no longer need the defence. Does that make sense?
Judy: What strikes me in relationship to that has to do with either a king or a queen energy. One can archetypally imagine a king or a queen in their castle, being strongly defended. We’re recording this on the occasion on the Queen’s 90th birthday. She’s probably safer not in a castle. The Dutch monarchy is probably safer because they don’t have those kind of defences.
Nick: Yeah. Obviously I guess there are risks, because there are crazy people in the world that want to do each other harm. So yeah, we’re never going to be totally safe. But generally I find that the more I’m dismantling my defences the more I can feel engaged with life, connected to other people, part of things. For me it has been a long ongoing journey of breaking my own walls of what has sometimes been isolation, which I put up for good reasons. And now I’m dismantling for equally good reasons.
But life for me gets more fun and more juicy the more I realise where I’m defended and let mount down my defences – if gets more juicy and more fun, and more enjoyable.
Judy: Then what happens to the picture? Way back when we were talking about the producer having the big picture, having the vision and that kind of thing – the more you let down your defences, what happens to the picture?
Nick: As you asked this question this time, it came to my mind that the big picture is about my big picture of why we are here – we are here to undo fear and guilt and restore this world to love. That’s the big picture. And I think we do that by doing that in each of our own consciousnesses to start with
I suppose when I say I’ve always got further instructions and next chapters, it’s like I know the big picture is about how I help play my little bit in restoring this world to love. Then I’m given my next chapter of what I’m being asked to do towards that bigger goal.
Judy: Having explored all of that, is there anything else that strikes you about how you collaborate that you haven’t already mentioned?
Nick: I was just scribbling down a few thoughts. One here is that one of my great inspirations has been somebody called Patañjali – he was the founder of the Yoga-Sutras who lived about I think 2300 years ago. I have been so inspired by a particular set of his words, a little quote that I came across about 30 years ago. I’m just fascinated by the fact that in a way, he and I are collaborating 23 centuries apart. His words still speak to me so deeply, even though he wrote them 2300 years ago. Part of me thinks, “Isn’t that an incredible collaboration?”
I just get fascinated by the impact that we can all have on each other that we’re not even aware of, across time, across place, across history. That just fascinates me. We just have no idea of the impact that we’re having on each other.
I’m also fascinated by things like prayer, where you can pray for people and they get better, and all sorts of stuff. And they may not even know they are being prayed for. Unconscious levels of collaboration where we all appear to be so interconnected. I just find that fascinating.
Judy: Yes, and the whole thing about Patañjali’s book resonating down the centuries. He’s been dead a long old time. Playing that back and connecting it to what you were saying in the beginning, where your books will influence people that you’ll never know about and my books influence people that I will never know about.
There are also influences that we don’t know about at the time, and then discover much-much later. It is a really fascinating interconnected web. If we treat all of that as being collaboration, to what extent can we have the big picture of collaboration, when there is a lot of it that we will really never know?
Nick: And I guess the word that really comes to mind there for me is that we simply have to have faith that if we’ve been given some kind of inspired invitation, instruction – whatever language you want to use – that we follow through, hopefully we’ll see some of the impact of it. But really we are doing a divine job down here. And it’s not our job to know what the impact of that has been. It’s just our job to have done it.
Judy: There’s a lot to think about there.
Nick: Yeah, it can be a whole other conversation.
Judy: Whole other conversation. I don’t want to open up another box, because we are coming towards the end of our time.
If people want to hear more about the stuff you do and read more about you, find out about your thing, who should contact you and where can they find you?
Nick: I’m happy to hear from pretty much anybody, as long as you don’t want just to moan and complain, and tell me I’m wrong.
The best way to get hold of me is through my website, which is iamnickwilliams.com. Nickwilliams.com was taken, so I have iamnickwilliams, so it’s also my branding. And you can e-mail me at email@example.com. There’s free stuff on my website, all my books are available there. I’m happy to hear from pretty much anybody.
Who I tend to work with – if people are interested – I tend to work with people that are either in leadership positions, or have chosen to take up leadership in the world, who are pioneering into the next chapters of what they are doing. My experience of pioneering myself for the last 30 year has been lots of challenges and potential problems involved in pioneering. I’m very aware of many of them. And I love helping people get through those challenges and problems and really show up in the world.
Judy: With all thoughts of exciting consequences – no doubt.
Nick: Yeah. My belief is that the world needs all of us to show up with our gifts more. I’m just doing my bit to help us all do that.
Judy: Brilliant. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. It’s being lovely to talk to you.
Nick: My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Judy: Who knows what will happen as a result of it.
Nick: Who knows what collaboration this might have triggered in the world.
Judy: Thank you very much!