42. Rob Lawrence: Connecting sound, language and emotion to create change

Sue Stockdale talks to Rob Lawrence, a podcast producer, coach and mentor, about how the combination of sound and language can influence our emotions and can be a catalyst to create change.  Rob talks about how he changed his career from being an IT professional into podcasting and coaching. He says he is ‘obsessed’ with creating highly engaging listening experiences, and supporting aspiring leaders and coaches towards finding their own voice, audience and message.  Rob’s successful podcast, Inspirational Creatives, reached over 130,000 downloads in 2020 and taught Rob that you can create an audience organically, by consistently producing content you care about. It contains interviews with over 120 creative entrepreneurs, artists and producers on “how to create a successful living doing what you love”.

Find out more about Rob Lawrence on his website www.roblawrence.co and LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram

Connect with Access to Inspiration on social media via Twitter  and Facebook  and Instagram and LinkedIn

Key quotes in this podcast:

[3.29] Whatever it is, I’m listening to, I am having an emotional experience of sorts. And as that sound varies, my emotional experience varies too. And what I can say is I don’t feel the same depth of experience with visual stimulation necessarily.

[10.47] And what was really interesting to me was within the time that it took to walk from one end of the beach to the other, in my mind, he asked me three or four questions which completely changed my perspective on everything I did and how my life was at the time.

[14.08] I love the ripple effect of podcasts. It’s instant, it’s global it’s growing.

[15.54] In order to make a positive difference, I think we have to think more consciously about everything that we do.

[18.45] Is the next hour that I’m going to spend with this person, something that has the potential to lead towards positive change? If the answer is yes, that’s the only measure I need on a day-to-day basis to keep going.

[19.34] To me to be inspired means to be moved. Perhaps a little bit more than that. It means to be moved positively towards wanting to create something.

[21.50] It’s really important we listen to ourselves and what we think. We all deserve the opportunity for our own voices to be heard, but not just by somebody else, but by ourselves too.

[22.32] We all deserve that opportunity to be heard, but we also deserve the opportunity to create opportunities for others to be heard.


Rob Lawrence Transcription – Connecting, sound, language and emotion to create change

[00:00:00] Sue: [00:00:00] hi, it’s Sue Stockdale and welcome to the access to inspiration podcast. The show where you can get inspiration from people who may be unalike. You. We hope their stories and insights enable you to transcend to day-to-day challenges and reflect on what you are capable of achieving today. As we continue the theme of 21st century, change-makers in this series, I’m going to be exploring how the medium of sound, the skill of listening. and, the practice of paying attention to others are three ways that can facilitate change. My guests to talk about this is Rob Lawrence, a podcast producer, coach, and host of the inspirational creatives podcast, where he has interviewed over 120 creative entrepreneurs, artists, and producers on how to create a successful living doing what you love. His podcast has had over 130,000 downloads in 2020, and continues to go from strength to strength. Welcome to the podcast, Rob.

Rob: [00:01:11] Thanks, Sue. Thanks for having me on the show.

Sue: [00:01:14] Now I know that you describe yourself as a podcast producer, a coach, and a mentor, and we met initially because of working on podcasts together. I guess I’m curious to know, first of all, which one for you is most important?

Rob: [00:01:29] I love podcasting as you well know. I love coaching and I love the idea of being a mentor as well, because I myself have coaches and mentors and to feel that I am also that person to somebody else is a position of privilege. I feel, but also something I’ve aspired to be not consciously necessarily, but somebody who can support other people to reach their own dreams and goals. That’s something I’ve always aspired to be. But I like the podcaster label too. I think some point in my childhood growing up, I always wanted to be a broadcaster of sorts. So to be able to wear that badge with professional pride is an achievement of sorts.

Sue: [00:02:10] And what is it about the medium of sound that particularly appeals to you? Rob,

Rob: [00:02:17] a hard question to answer for me because it’s an emotive relationship that I have, if not a spiritual relationship that I have with sound. For whatever reason, it’s the medium, I suppose that moves me most. My earliest recollections and curiously, I can remember way back to the point of being about two and a half. And the reason I can remember it was around about the age of two and a half is because before the age of three, we moved house and I have a strong recollection of sonic experiences if you like. In the house where I was at that very young age, to give you some examples. I remember my father [00:03:00] playing the piano. I remember wearing his headphones, just like the ones I’m wearing now and listening to his records. And I still to this day, remember the sound, the look, and the feel of the actual amplifier and moving the various levers and controls and changing the sound.

What I also remember about that very early experience and this hasn’t changed for me is the way that when those levers and those knobs get moved around and pushed how it changes, how I feel. So, whatever it is, I’m listening to, I am having an emotional experience of sorts,. And as that sound varies, my emotional experience varies too. And what I can say is I don’t feel the same depth of experience with visual stimulation necessarily.

Sue: [00:03:48] It’s fascinating to get a sense of that because I can already hear in my mind or see in my mind the connection between the emotional sense of podcasting and also coaching and mentoring. So it seems that that could be at the heart of all of those things as I’m listening to you, Rob, I also know that perhaps in your career from school onwards, you weren’t necessarily going down that route. Tell us about when you did leave school and how did your career take you to getting into podcasting and really being able to indulge in that love of connection, the emotional connection that work gives you.

Rob: [00:04:21] thats an interesting question Sue because I think as I was listening to you ask that question and the way you asked that question, just there you reminded me, the way that experience is playing out in my mind is a bit like a pinball in a pinball machine and bouncing around a little bit. And I know listening to your podcast that actually to some degree, maybe my life experience that journey you’re describing there mirrors somewhat the experience of other guests that you’ve had on the show, which is. I think if you had asked me at an early age around about the age of eight, I’m saying I would have probably had more of an idea then about what I was going to do then I did in the following years, if I’m frankly honest with you, I think that as I went through the education system and I listened to those that I respected my teachers, my parents, my friends, parents, even and those whose opinions I valued. I think I actually became more and more confused about what it was that I wanted to do or perhaps more accurately what my possibilities were. I remember hearing quite a lot and maybe this is somewhat amplified now in my mind, in hindsight, I don’t know, but I remember hearing, well, you might wanna think about a safer career or you might want to think about a career in this or in that.

And one of the things I was very lucky with growing up is I was always quite good with technology and computers. And I know that was recognized by people overseeing my development. So my teachers, my parents, again, and I was strongly encouraged to go down that path and perhaps no [00:06:00] surprise. I mean, if we look at how important computers are in our day and age now, I think if you’ve got a skill that leans towards that, then it’s a very valuable skill and you can earn good money and a good lifestyle off the back of that.

And sure enough, I think that’s more or less what happened for me. I went down that path, leaving school. I didn’t go to university. I have been since and got a degree in audio education, but that was more from a place of enjoyment actually, rather than necessarily a strategic career move. But I ended up in IT and had a very successful career.

I would say I worked with some amazing people in some amazing brands. And actually nowadays I look back on those 15 years in that corporate world. And actually I realized how much valuable experience I got in leadership roles, but also how much I learned about technology itself and the interaction it has with humans, but also at a higher level, service management and service levels and stuff like that, which is really important to me running my own businesses today.

So there was lots of valuable experience gained then. And so by the time I was 30, I was already quite a way up the ladder. There was always this kind of niggling that was going on in the background that this isn’t, it there’s something more to all of this and that used to frustrate me. And as time went on and as I went further up the career ladder, that niggling became more niggling.

And I got to the point where it was almost too painful. Actually. I was just like, I’ve got to kind of scratch this itch and learn more or find out. There’s something more. There’s a calling here that I need to follow. But the scary thing was, I didn’t know which way to go and quite how to take it from that point forward. Particularly when I recognized I was in a role in a job with an organization that so many people would have given their right arm for

Sue: [00:07:42] I wonder whether that niggle, as you describe it, Rob was back to this point about emotions that we were mentioning earlier. My sense, as I’m listening to you talk is I’m wondering whether you found a way to find your own voice and to connect in with those emotions.

Rob: [00:07:57] It’s a great spot, Sue, because I think knowing what I know now as a coach and a mentor, I think that was one of the challenges I was experiencing at that time. I didn’t know what my own voice was. And again, going back to that eight year old, I think that eight year old would have had a much more confident and louder voice at that time than the one that did at 28. For example, because I think the 28 year old in me was somewhat confused. Didn’t know who his voice was. Didn’t know what he wanted to say. or how to say it. Here’s the interesting thing for me about coaching is that I hadn’t, by that point, discovered coaching necessarily. And I was trying to express myself to people and it’s not that I wasn’t necessarily being heard.

I think people were genuinely trying to help and trying to listen. But I may have not been being asked the right questions, which again, it says a lot about why I feel coaching is so important in the world today. I’m not sure if I was being asked the right questions at the time. It’s hard to say now because it’s all a bit blurry, but I didn’t perhaps know what the right questions were to ask myself. So it was definitely somebody who is a [00:09:00] bit confused about his own voice and message and so many different levels in so many different ways. It was a bit of a tricky place to be and a tricky place to know where to start. But what I did know, and I think this is perhaps a starting point for many. What I did know is that actually not knowing what it is can tell you a lot about what it is. So it’s a case of starting with, okay. So it’s not all of these things. So what does that leave me with? And then kind of exploring those things to take it to the next step.

Sue: [00:09:31] And did a coach  play a role in your changing from the technology career into podcasting or what was the pivotal moment? If there was one that made you then change what you were doing

Rob: [00:09:43] there absolutely was a pivotal moment and it’s perhaps no coincidence that it involved a coach of sorts. So I was what I would say a high point in my technology IT career. And by this point I’d moved to Australia and I kind of gone to Australia, partly to find out who I was and to explore myself. But curiously found myself behind a computer with Microsoft Office in front of me, thinking, hang on a minute, I’m on the other side of the world, but I am now back to exactly where I was, but some 12,000 miles away.

And I couldn’t understand how I manifested this somehow. But curiously, I happened to be over in Sydney with some family and friends and I was walking along. I think it was Bondi beach or somewhere like that. And I was chatting to this chap called Steve, and he’d had a previous career in the city in London, in finance. He’d done very well for himself, given that all up and moved to Australia with his family to explore being a rowing coach. So that’s how I knew he was a coach. I don’t think I made the link at the time, but in hindsight, it’s an easy link now to make. And what was really interesting to me was within the time that it took to walk from one end of the beach to the other, in my mind, he asked me three or four questions. Which completely changed my perspective on everything I did and how my life was at the time. And I can’t even remember what those questions were, but I can remember how I felt. It was a huge turning point. Now I’ve had many turning points personally and professionally, so many we all have, but this was one that was right at the center of all of them, for me at that point in, I think it was 2006 and it blew my mind actually.

Because I knew that from that point onwards, my life, wasn’t going to be the same again. But I also knew that I wanted to be able to do what he just did with me. And I wanted to find out what it was and what he knew, what his secret sauce was, whatever it is. I wanted to learn that skill because I couldn’t believe how in a short conversation how much my life could or my perspective, my view of my whole life could change so profoundly and so quickly. So that was the turning point for me. Sue, and without [00:12:00] doubt in my mind, that was the beginning of what I do now. And the transition from that corporate career in technology to this life. I now lead as a coach, mentor and podcaster.

Sue: [00:12:13] Hi. And if you’re enjoying this episode, you might also want to delve into our back catalog to hear more episodes. In episode 32, I spoke to another podcaster Joni Deutsch about why silence is just as important as sound. And in episode 5, Celia Garland explains how she used curiosity to create her ideal career. There are more than 40 episodes now, all with transcriptions. So hop on over to access to inspiration.org and take a look.

So it sounds like it was such a profound experience for you going along that beach, having that conversation being asked those questions, and you wanted to learn those skills. I’m wondering now in the work that you then do, are you able to, in some way, recreate that experience for others through helping them to create impactful podcasts or through asking them the right questions it really changes their field of the world.

Rob: [00:13:13] I hope so is the answer. And it’s one of those things that. I endeavor to do and will endeavor to do for the rest of my life. My measure isn’t so much. Am I doing that all the time? The measure for me is, am I doing something that has the potential to create that opportunity for something in some shape or form in some way, big or small is what I’m doing today going to lead to the potential of somebody being able to have a life changing conversation. And the way I measure or make decisions around the work that I do on a daily basis is a very conscious effort. It’s quite strategic in the sense that with the podcasts, they are all meaningful conversations in some shape or form that either teach or support people with personal and professional life decisions or their own personal or professional life development. And I love the ripple effect of podcasts. It’s instant, it’s global it’s growing. And I can’t imagine the potential for people having that possibility that opportunity that I had through a podcast is very real, but it’s exponential in terms of the reach and the leverage that you can get through digital media.

So I know that my work in that field has that potential. But I also know as a coach and as a mentor, and I’m very lucky to have wonderful clients and they reaffirm to me regularly, the shifts and changes that they themselves are having. And just to be part of that experience for me is reassuring enough to know that I’m doing meaningful work in the world.

Sue: [00:14:49] I can see how all of these experiences are connected to what’s important for you, Rob. I wonder if we could almost just turn our attention to the future. And one of the questions I know [00:15:00] I often ask in a coaching capacity for people is if you were looking at the end of your life and thinking, what was the difference that I’d made? What was the legacy I’d like to have left the world? And bearing in mind that our theme for this series is 21st century change-makers I’m wondering what sense of change you want to have influenced by the time that you’re a little bit older and grayer and wiser.

Rob: [00:15:22] Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great question. And I think about this stuff often, usually when I’m out having a walk in nature somewhere, I’ll start to think at this sort of level and wonder about what it is that I’m doing and what I’d like to do.

And as you asked me, when I’m looking back on my life, Actually with nobody present. I think that’s the nice way to sometimes think about it because what would I be satisfied rather than trying to please somebody else in terms of what I’ve done, what would I feel satisfied with? And I think the kind of answers and conclusions that I often arrive at are to at least made a positive difference.

So in order to make a positive difference, I think we have to think more consciously about everything that we do. So I try to think on a daily basis more consciously about what it is that I’m doing and the impact that I’m having on the world with everyday type decisions in terms of what I eat, what I buy, who I work with, how I work with them and the balance of all of those things too.

So that’s one of the things, and it’s quite a broad measure, I suppose. There are more tangible measures that I can consider as well, such as the podcast that it was definitely from the beginning for me, a legacy piece. One of the exciting things for me about recorded audio, particularly digital, recorded  audio is the potential for it to still be around in 200 years time.

And I love the idea that I can recall conversations with you with others, and people can listen to those conversations. Let’s hope in 50, a hundred years time. And get a sense of the time we’re living in, but also the conversations that we’re having. And I like to think that most of the content on my own podcast series is of a timeless quality.

So strategically again, quite consciously when I’m planning that series and the interviews that I have with people, I try to make sure that we talk about not necessarily fundamental truths, but perhaps some fundamentals that are timeless to all of us, because I think we’ve all got very unique and interesting experiences.

And I don’t think that really changes across time and space. So to be able to have those types of conversations for me is a really nice feeling from a legacy point of view. Hopefully I’ve been a good husband, a good father too. And there they are my other measures of success as well. So I’m constantly checking in with my own family to make sure that I’m meeting expectations at the very least. And let’s hope creating more positive change in the world.

Sue: [00:17:44] I can really hear a sense of connectedness. That ripple effect is not only for your clients, it’s for the world, it’s for your family as well, and that you really want to be making a difference. So I hope that our listener today is getting a sense that podcasting can be a [00:18:00] conduit towards that ripple effect and changing people’s lives.

We don’t have to be doing enormous groundbreaking world leading changes. We can be doing smaller things that are going to still make a ripple effect and a difference in the world in a very different way. I don’t know if that’s the sense that you get from what you’re hearing or what you’re talking about today, Rob?

Rob: [00:18:19] Absolutely. I think you’ve made the point really well there Sue, which is when I think about my own personal measure for success is to make sure that I am doing something that a, I am enjoying of course, but also is having a positive impact on somebody somehow. And I think that’s easier for me to measure than the actual impact itself.

I think it’s a much more tangible thing is the next hour that I’m going to spend with this person, something that has the potential to lead towards positive change. If the answer is yes, that’s the only measure I need on a day-to-day basis to keep going,regardless of what that may be larger contribution could be.

Sue: [00:19:01] Now I know that we all sometimes get jaded. And that’s why the role of inspiration is so important. I’m wondering who or what inspires you when maybe you’re having one of those down days and not feeling a little bit as motivated as normal.

Rob: [00:19:13] I love inspiration and the more I’ve studied it. And it’s perhaps no coincidence that the podcast I have is Inspirational Creatives, inspiration fascinates me. I mean, it means different things to different people, but. Perhaps to my earlier point and maybe that two and a half year old, Rob, what he didn’t realize at the time is that he was being inspired. And I think. To me to be inspired means to be moved perhaps a little bit more than that.

It means to be moved positively towards wanting to create something. And for me, that’s positive change. But to your question there Sue, about what inspires me. The more I’ve studied inspiration. The more I’ve realized how abundant it is and how I find that everywhere. It blows my mind. Actually, there are sources of inspiration in the tiniest of things in the biggest of things.

Sometimes it could be something you read or a piece of art. Often it’s a podcast I’m listening to, but sometimes it’s just a simple gesture or just watching one of my two boys play and something that they’re doing. I just, it helps me to see things in new ways all the time, but it also moves me in a way that I want to perhaps go and try something.

It might be frivolous and fun, or it might be actually, that’s a good idea. I wonder if I mix that idea with this idea, and maybe I share that with this person and maybe even on a podcast, a conversation around that. Where that could lead to. And it’s that sense of curiosity? I think that drives me. And many of those that I work with

Sue: [00:20:42] as I’m listening to you, Rob, I’m thinking you must listen to an awful lot of podcasts. And if there’s little nuggets that you take from them, if they provide some inspiration for you, I’m wondering if you can describe to us how you’re listening, what are you listening for? So if somebody is listening to this podcast and they’re looking for [00:21:00] inspiration, is it a secret sauce to how one listens.

Rob: [00:21:03] Is there a secret sauce to how one lessons? I think we can all become better listeners. That’s something I believe. I believe one of the exciting things about experience in life is the fact that we all listen differently. We’ve all got very unique life experiences and those life experiences shape the way that we listen.

And I think that presents us with some uniquely valuable opportunities when it comes to conversation. Be it a recorded one on a podcast or a live one today. The way that we listen, tells us a lot about ourselves and our life experiences indeed. But I would also say that we can all become better listeners too. One of the listening experiences we often overlook and this perhaps comes back to one of your earlier reflections and questions Sue, is that. It’s really important. We listen to ourselves and what we think. We all deserve the opportunity for our own voices to be heard, but not just by somebody else, but by ourselves too. And I think it’s important that reflection time and offering ourselves that reflection time to hear ourselves.

And I think one of the fascinating things for me about creating a podcast and I didn’t realize this at the time of creating it was that you get to hear your own thinking. So when I listened back to a podcast interview, just as I will with this one, I will now be listening back to this, which is a bit meta, but I’ll be listening back to this, hearing my own voice and expression.

And I’ll be reflecting on that and asking how true that is for me. And what’s changed since the last time I had a conversation like this. So I think we all deserve that opportunity to be heard, but we also deserve the opportunity to create opportunities for others to be heard. And through that conversation for us to explore who we are uniquely as individuals, as well as hopefully helping others to allow them the space and opportunity for their true voices to be heard. And through that process, let’s hope them being able to realize their own full potential.

Sue: [00:22:59] Wow. I can just hear, as you’re talking the importance of sound and listening to the whole experience and to you as a person Rob.

Rob: [00:23:09] Yeah, I think when I became a coach, one of the things that I realized quite early on, which fascinated me is that because of my relationship to sound and audio and how it affects me emotionally, a talent, I didn’t realize I had that somebody else pointed out to me, perhaps unsurprisingly, was that I have a sensitivity to people’s intonation and the way they say things, the pace, the pitch. And I’ve found that to be a very useful tool as a coach. So when I’m coaching, I can kind of pick pieces out for people. It sounds like a detailed analysis.

It’s not like that at all. It’s more of a hunch and intuition. If you like. And it seems to be remarkably accurate to the point where it fascinates me. And it gives me an opportunity to support others, [00:24:00] perhaps in a slightly unique way. Because I can challenge some of their thinking and what they’re saying in a way that they wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to do in an everyday conversation.

So I see your point there. We all have to some degree that ability it’s about paying attention one level, but another level just zoning in a little bit more to not so much what somebody is saying, but also how they’re saying it. And it can be quite a powerful conversation to have with somebody. And to qualify what it is that they’re actually saying and saying is really what’s going on for you, or just listening to the end of what they’re saying and then asking them, is there anything else you want to add to that?

Or it’s those types of questions? I think if we really zone into what people are saying, they often give us clues as to what’s really going on for them. And I think we all have the power. We don’t have to be coaches to do this. We all have the power to check in a little bit more with each other, just to learn a little bit more.

Sue: [00:24:58] Well, I think you have given us some secret sauce there. Rob you’ve given us perhaps a new way to listen to podcasts. Maybe the listener can pick up by the intonation of the guests, something more behind what they’re actually seeing that can lead us to get more insight into that person.

Rob: [00:25:14] Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things that really excites me when I listened to podcasts, indeed, any conversation. Is when you get somebody speaking about something that they enjoy, something that they’re enthusiastic about, you can’t substitute that. So in any conversation that you are having, look for those, look for where the energy, the pace picks up the energy, picks up in the voice and then keep probing there. Because I think that can be some really exciting territory to explore sometimes. And I love. Particularly when I listened to your podcast too, when you’re interviewing guests, what they reveal in terms of their own energy enthusiasm.

Sue: [00:25:49] Brilliant. I hope that our listener  today has picked up here energy and enthusiasm for making change for creating that ripple effect in the world and for creating and helping others to create memorable and inspirational podcasts. So it’s been fantastic to talk to you today, Rob, thank you for your time. If people want to find out more about you and the work that you do, how might they connect with you?

Rob: [00:26:13] And I’d love to hear from anybody interested in this conversation. I’ve got my own website, which is Rob lawrence.co there’s. Also the podcast, InspirationalCreatives.com and people can find me on LinkedIn. Just have a look for Rob Lawrence or Rob Is listening. Curiously is my little tag on there.

Sue: [00:26:29] Fantastic. Well, I’m sure that you’ve inspired them to take some action today and maybe hop on over to social media and connect with you there. Thanks again for your time today, Rob, it’s been wonderful to get behind the voice that does the podcast, inspirational creatives, and to hear more about you and what really drives you and inspires you. Thank you.

Rob: [00:26:48] Thank you so much Sue..

Sue: [00:26:50] Thanks for listening today. I hope you will agree with Rob that taking time to listen to others is something that we could all get better at [00:27:00] Next week, I will be talking to Dr. Leanne Armitage, who will explain how an early childhood expedience inspired her to become a doctor and how she has gone on to create a charity that offers medical outreach programs to students from underrepresented backgrounds. I look forward to connecting with you then.

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