50. Sue Stockdale: Insights from fifty episodes of inspiration

In this special 50th episode of the podcast, co-founder  Clive Steeper  interviews the host, Sue Stockdale to discover the key insights she has gained from the experience of producing and hosting 50 episodes, as well as learning about her background as a polar explorer, executive coach and TEDx speaker.

Sue’s mantra is “we all can achieve more than we imagine is possible – but often the only person stopping you… is you”, which was echoed in her recent TEDx talk on “Transformation begins in the mind’.  In 1996, she became the first British woman to ski to the Magnetic North Pole, and has been on expeditions to Geographical North Pole, Antarctica, Greenland, Chile and Kenya. As an athlete she has also represented Scotland in 3000m, and cross-country events.

Today as an executive coach, motivational speaker, author, and podcaster, Sue brings a unique blend of business expertise and psychological insight to her work with CEOs, senior leaders, FTSE 250 and Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organisations and ambitious entrepreneurs.

Connect with Sue Stockdale via her website or LinkedIn and Twitter.

We’ve now published 50 episodes and would like your feedback about the impact that our podcasts have had on you:

Take our 3-minute survey here or leave us an voice message


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Key Quotes:

‘I realize how important inspiration is. It’s a bit like free energy’.

‘Part of the excitement of our podcast and why inspiration is so important is because we’re all interconnected. You do something that I see as admirable or that I never imagined was possible, and then you tell me the story, I begin to think to myself, maybe I could do that too’.

‘I often ask myself, well, what’s the worst that can happen. Being prepared to face into the worst possible consequence. And if I’m prepared to accept that then why not? Why not just take the first step?’

‘I’m always using curiosity and interest to guide me. Being prepared to say, I’ll accept the consequences of what happens. It’s not failure. It’s just learning. And I’ll use that learning to move forward and grow as a person’.

I think for almost a third of our guests on the podcast, it’s their first ever experience. And seeing them have a positive experience and getting value and enrichment from being recognized and sharing their story that is hugely motivating for me and really enjoyable, because I think we’re opening the door like that first step for them’.

‘Many of the guests have said afterwards how enjoyable it was that they learned something about themselves through telling their story’.

‘Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self. You don’t have to be the same as everybody else and that we all can achieve more than we actually realize’.

‘I think that it’s far easier for people to be pulled towards wanting to change than to being pushed along, needing to change’.

Sue Stockdale transcription

Sue : hello again, it’s Sue Stockdale and welcome to the podcast. Our aim is to provide you with inspiration through conversation, whether it’s a composer or a charity worker. their stories have the power to strengthen shape. and challenge our view of the world. We hope each episode ignites new possibilities within you, makes you think, and take action. As a result with this being our 50th episode, we wanted to mark that in some way and find out the impact that all of these episodes have had on you to date. So we’ve created a short survey. And there’s a link in the show notes. So we’d love you to go there and take a few minutes to answer the short number of questions. You can also leave us a voice note if you’d prefer to have an audio recording. And today it’s my turn to be the guest for the 50th episode, I’ve asked back Clive Steeper who was our first ever guest and is co-founder of the podcast to be the host for the conversation too. So that he can find out more about what I’ve learned in the last 18 months as a podcaster. I hope you will enjoy it.

[00:01:23] Clive: Sue, welcome to our 50th podcast.

[00:01:27] Sue : It’s great to be here. Clive. Lovely to speak with you

[00:01:29] Clive: Certainly it is and its great now that here in the UK, the COVID restrictions. are eased, and we can meet face to face and outside on this brilliant sunny day,

[00:01:38] Sue : lovely to have a conversation. And it’s odd to be in the guests seat rather than the host seat. I must say .

[00:01:43] Clive: I’ll try to make it easy for you, Sue. What’s your first recollection of being inspired?

[00:01:49] Sue : Oh, well, I’m having to think back a few years about that. There are a couple of things spring to mind. The first thing I used to love reading in Enid Blyton books, particularly the famous five and the secret seven, series because it seemed to me that in her writing, she made it an ordinary day out with friends and a dog turn into an amazing adventure. And I imagined that I could be on those adventures too. And that really inspired me to think about what was possible. And then the second thing that came to mind and in relation to perhaps being inspired as back in 1976, I was watching blue Peter and avid young girl watching television programme in Britiain. And they had a lifeboat appeal on for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. And somehow my sister and a couple of friends across the road, we all got inspired to put on a concert for our parents to raise money for that lifeboat appeal. And we sent off our two pounds and we got a letter back that said your money is making a difference to this appeal. And you know, it’s a funny little thing, but it does remind me about how even back then when I was a youngster. [00:03:00] Making a difference was really important for me.

[00:03:02] Clive: It was quite fascinating how even at that young age, you were beginning to recognize what inspiration can cause you to do. I wonder if there are other examples of inspiration that you had through those early days that became part of the sort of motivation process for some of the things that you’ve achieved later in life.

[00:03:21] Sue : In 1988, I went on an expedition with a charity called operation Raleigh as it was known, then it’s now called Raleigh international. And I went to Kenya for three months and I had an amazing time carrying out scientific community and adventure projects came back and realized that maybe I could achieve more than I had ever imagined. So that was a bit like a big adventure that then led me to applying for a north pole expedition, going to the magnetic north pole. In 1996, there was a whole series of selection tests we went through in processes and ultimately I became the first British woman to reach the magnetic north pole. Something that I had never imagined was possible. After that expedition, I thought to myself, well, there must have been a bigger reason for this, for doing this expedition. Surely if I had never imagined I could do something like that did accomplish that. Maybe that story, that experience could inspire other people to get to their north pole.

And then it was a number of months later if I, found myself in Antarctica, co-leading an expedition with Robert Swan, where we took 35 young people from 25 countries around the world down to Antarctica. So they could be inspired by being in that environment and realizing how important it is to remain pristine for the future. So I saw what he was doing was using firsthand experience for people to inspire them, to do something different. So all of those little expeditions, if you’re like adventures that I’ve had along the way more and more, I realize how important inspiration is. It’s a bit like free energy. If I can trust it with say motivation.

I think motivation has to come from within. You have to be motivated to get up early in the morning, put your trainers on and go to the gym. Inspiration is pulling you. It’s pulling you out of your own situation with a kind of innate belief that from what you’ve heard, what you’ve seen or experienced, there’s something more that you can do.And I was speaking to somebody recently about this Southern African philosophy of Ubuntu, which in essence means I am because you are. And that we can achieve ourselves because we share ourselves with others. I don’t know if that makes sense. That’s what I see as part of the excitement of our podcast and why inspiration is so important because we’re all interconnected. So you doing something that. See as admirable or that you never imagined was possible. And you tell me the story. I began to think to myself, well, maybe I could do that too. That’s a free energy that really excites me. And I listened to those stories of the wonderful guests that we have conversations with. And that really inspires me.

[00:05:57] Clive: Absolutely. It’s it again with [00:06:00] what you’re saying? That the draw and you described it as a pull. I wonder though, for those who are listening, there are many who would think there’s no way I’m going to the north. There’s too many risks there. And I wondered with all the adventures that you’ve done, how in amongst that inspiration, you manage the fear of the unknown, the fear of risk of consequences of what might happen.

[00:06:24] Sue : One question I often ask myself, what’s the worst that can happen. Being prepared to face into the worst possible consequence. And if I’m prepared to accept that, then why not? Why not just take the first step? And I think that’s another important thing I’ve learned Clive. Just take one small step. I’m not my, only to the north pole. I’m only opening the book to see what it looks like perhaps. And we’ll be making a phone call to speak to somebody who’s been there. That’s one first step, but then you take that first step and if it doesn’t seem that risky, then you learn something and then you take the second step and then maybe then you build up a bit more confidence. And if you think in a week you can take seven steps forward from where you were before. You’re going to learn something. And then. Experience is going to compel you to take even more steps. So I’m always looking forward possibilities. I’m always using curiosity and interest to gauge me and being prepared to say, I’ll accept the consequences of what happens. It’s not failure. It’s just learning. And I’ll use that learning to move forward and grow as a person.

[00:07:29] Clive: The small steps are the things that take you on the big journeys and with the journeys. Now that you’ve had an enjoyed in hosting 50 episodes of access to inspiration, what have been the major learnings for you so far on this journey?

[00:07:45] Sue : Well, there there’s been masses and that could be a whole podcast in itself. Perhaps some of the highlights that spring to mind is we aim as you know, not to have celebrities, not to have major influencers on our podcast. We’re about real people who have got interesting, unusual, extraordinary stories to tell. And I find those that perhaps do have more experience of communicating their story, a little bit more polished. Sometimes it can be a little bit harder to get to the essence of them, which I think is where the magic is. Compare that to many of the guests we’ve had in, I think almost a third of our guests, if not more are first time guests on a podcast. Its their first ever experience. And seeing them have a positive experience and getting value and enrichment from being recognized and sharing their story. That is hugely motivating for me and really enjoyable because I think we’re opening the door like that first step I was just talking about, we are opening the door to people to take that first step into doing podcasts. And I know that several of them have either gone on to start to record some podcasts for themselves, or it’s given them a greater level of confidence to do another podcast in the future. So we are being a catalyst [00:09:00] to take them into a new world of communication with that catalyst.

[00:09:04] Clive: If we hold that thought for a minute and think about what have been the things on this journey so far that have surprised you, perhaps the unknown or the unexpected.

[00:09:15] Sue : Well, there have been a few and I must say on a practical level, once I was doing a recording with a guest and I use it a more audio podcasting software called squadcast and later I couldn’t find their recording track and it was really panicking. And then I remembered that Squadcast have a backup process and of course, went to the backup and sure enough, there was a backup record. And, you know, it’s those technical difficulties that sometimes can really get in the way just as just now we can’t plan for noise in the background. So we always have to expect the unexpected and those are the sort of things that surprise me, but you just keep going.

[00:09:50] Clive: And just briefly on that aspect of surprise was the learning for you from all these adventures and explorations. That must have been quite a sort of sweaty situation when you can’t find a file. How do you manage to keep yourself calm in those moments? Because those are often the moments that put people off actually exercising their inspiration.

[00:10:11] Sue : On one hand, it’s back to what is the worst that can happen. It’s not the end of the world. If we have a background noise or we lose it accordingly, we might just have to record again. Well, we’re inside now. That was a great opportune segue for surprises. Wasn’t it. When we have a background noise, it’s a little distracting.

[00:10:27] Clive: Yes. So just returning to the question of how you manage to cope with those surprises, the unknowns or the unexpected, like that situation with the file that you feared was lost. How did you keep your focus and keep that motivation, that inspiration up and not get downhearted about it?

[00:10:46] Sue : There’s something about limiting or being cognizant of our imagination. When any of us get in a stressed situation, there’s the unknown. And then there’s the imagination about the consequences of being in that unknown. And I was listening to my podcast recently where the guest was talking about the idea of not being a psychological splasher as he described it. And by that he was talking about when we go into this in the sea, when it’s cold, some people run into the cold water as quickly as they can get the pin over quickly, and then they can hopefully enjoy it. Whereas others tip toe in very slowly and all the time they’re saying to themselves, oh, it’s really cold and it’s going to be frozen. And what they do is they’re experiencing pain. And then they’re imagining the consequence of that cold which ultimately causes even greater pain. So the thing I’ve learned is not to be a psychological splasher, I’ve tried to just face up to the challenge or the situation that needs to be resolved and deal with it as quickly and as best I can. The conversation continues in a few seconds after this.

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[00:12:54] Clive: One of the things that we’ve been discussing here, access to inspiration and I know it’s very close to your heart is how to measure impact. And I know we’re going to be asking listeners to complete a survey to tell us about the impact that the podcasts have had on them to date. I wonder if you could just spend a few moments to tell our listeners what’s important for you and for access to inspiration about the impact?

[00:13:19] Sue : Well, I think you would agree with me Clive because when we set up this podcast, originally, we both agreed it wasn’t about spending money on time on something that was just for our own self-indulgence. We both agreed at the outset, it was about making a difference and having some degree of impact on the world in a positive fashion. Now, I know I’ve heard many anecdotal stories over the year, and so we’ve been doing this. From guests. From listeners from our sound editor, from others that have been involved in the project to date that the experience of the messages coming from the guests has really had a positive impact on them. It’s caused them to want to change a behavior in some way, or look at the world in a different way. Now, just like in a business, you don’t necessarily say yeah, we’re doing really well. Well, how much money have you made people want to have a definite measure of what an impact is a level of success?

Therefore, we’re going to embark on this exercise to measure the actual impact from taking those anecdotal stories, getting a sense of the , degrees of value that people have gained from the podcast, because that in itself, I think will be motivating for listeners in the future. And also we’ll give other people who maybe want to support our podcasts in some way, a measure of the value that we’re bringing to the world in a small way. And hopefully in an impactful way.

[00:14:38] Clive: And so to that, the impact could be that they just enjoy the podcast that half hour, it just takes them out of their world and gives them a chance to just, if you like relax, it doesn’t have to be that the impact has been there. Been inspired to go and do something different.

[00:14:53] Sue : Yeah. We’ve had lots of different stories from listeners and for example, even from our [00:15:00] guests, many of the guests have said afterwards how enjoyable it was that they had learned something about themselves through telling their story. And we even had a student from India who was helping us on an analysis project who listened to a whole series of the podcast. And we asked him to think about what he learned from the experience. He learned how to listen in a different way. And out of it, he realized that nobody trains you on how to listen. And as a result, he was actually having better conversations with his friends because he was listening in those conversations in a different way.

So I think that’s hugely impactful. And perhaps one of the things to say is I’m not a parent, so many people that are parents measure that impact on the world by the effect that they will have on their children or are having on their children. I don’t have that. So partly my own motivation is that what effect can I have on the world in a positive way is by seeing that benefit around those that are interacting and engaging with the podcast.

[00:16:05] Clive: So just following on from that and to help our listeners get to know you just a little bit better. How do you measure success? Both personally, and you’ve started to touch on aspects for access to inspiration, but if you could just expand a little on how do you measure success for yourself as well as for access to inspiration?

[00:16:23] Sue : It’s a great question. And perhaps a little difficult one to answer in some ways, what resonated with me was from one of our previous guests. Navi Radjou, and I think he, the way he described. Impact and success really resonated with me. He talked about living a soul print, and that’s not the sole of your shoe, but it’s about the ideas and the thoughts that he leaves behind. And the lives touched along the way in the form of ideas or inspiration or as a catalyst for change. And I really resonate with that these days in the world, many ways that success is measured is by the number of followers you have. The level of profit, you have the number of downloads you have, and an aspiration very often, there are the intent behind that is always to increase that. And that, that means it’s been successful. Sometimes for me, less is more it’s about, we could have a small number of listeners who are impactful people in the world. And by as a result of what they’ve heard, they will be making big changes. So I’m a great proponent of the ripple effect. My experiences that I have shared in my TEDx talk, for example, talking about my north pole expedition, that will have an impact on the people that have listened and watch that. The books that I have written on you and I I’ve, co-authored several books together. Clive those will have an impact on those that have read that the coaching work that I do. So all of these different methods for me are throwing little pebbles in the sea and creating a ripple effect of positive change in the world. And through those that are on the receiving end of those experiences. [00:18:00] They will be the way that my success is measured by how they conduct themselves in the world differently.

[00:18:06] Clive: Yeah. And thank you for reminding certainly me of that soul print. I thought that was a wonderful metaphor. I think there are on this, our 50th episode, it would only be right. Cause you’re very good at asking our guests and great questions that perhaps I just ask you some of those questions. And one of the ones I was thinking about is if you were to go back and give your 16 year old self, any advice. What would it be?

[00:18:32] Sue : Well, let me tell you Clive, that I started work two weeks after my 16th birthday, my first ever job. So maybe my advice then was to get better work clothes. I’m not sure. I think the advice I’d give myself is embracing every opportunity that comes along. Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self. You don’t have to be the same as everybody else and that we all can achieve more than we actually realize. And that perhaps to have a greater belief in myself,

[00:19:03] Clive: you raise a thought in my mind. Sometimes with some of the people who I’ve talked with that around inspiration, they see it as a, a major pull in almost a long-term sense. It’s something big that they’ve got to do. And I wondered for you Sue, if you’re inspired to do something, how do you decide when good is good enough?

[00:19:25] Sue : Well, sometimes it’s not me deciding it’s an external source, so it could be a deadline. It could be a budget. It could be. Some other external factor. Sometimes it can be doing you’re bored with activity, and that was good enough. So I’ve learned over the years that I’m not a perfectionist nor I think are any human beings. We are human beings. We have flaws and frailties and that to bring head and heart to knowing when the end is insight and when it’s good to good enough. I think it’s really important. The head in terms of looking at it objectively and dispassionately and the heart is that emotional element. So I’m always trying to balance both of those things.

[00:20:16] Clive: And in that concept would the gut, then be the audience.

[00:20:21] Sue : Well, I tend to use the word intuition and I’ve come to learn that intuition is really pattern recognition. Is what is our gut feel? Telling us? Our gut feel is alerted when there’s a signal is generated within our body. That’s telling us we’ve been in this situation before we’ve seen something similar and it’s at that subconscious level. So one of the things that I like to do is to have a range of experiences. And that richness of range from all the different things I’ve done from sport to business, to coaching, to podcasting. And so on that range enables [00:21:00] me personally to see a lot of different patterns. And that’s perhaps the essence of my intuition or gut feel is really honing pattern recognition and trusting it. When I look at it,

[00:21:12] Clive: You mentioned there that you’re a coach and perhaps in that role, more than as a speaker, I’m curious to know how, or if indeed inspiration plays a role when you are coaching.

[00:21:24] Sue : I think what I’ve observed. Coaching is often about helping to bring out that potential in somebody else. I think John Whitmore from performance consultants, very eloquently described a formula -performance equals potential minus interference. What as a coach we’re endeavoring to do is to help people to minimize the interference and maximize their potential. That interference can come in many forms. Back to our question about risk taking. If any of us are going to change our behavior in some way, it requires letting go letting go of your belief, the old habit, the old way of doing something, and that can be risky.

So I think that it’s far easier for people to be pulled towards wanting to change than to being pushed along, needing to change. So how do I help inspire people? To take that step and to be pulled is to work with them, to create a really strong vision of what the new or the different could be like. So if they can imagine themselves with a different belief about what it means to be a leader with a different sense of energy, about how they could run faster, whatever it might be, helping them to get energy and focus around that vision enables them in my view to feel more confident to let go of the old ways and take one small step just as I mentioned before into the new.

[00:22:45] Clive: And with that self visualization, people may get, I want to just as we’re coming to the end of this podcast, Are there other top tips that you would offer to our listeners about how to explore more of their own potential?

[00:23:00] Sue : Well, I think I would take some of those insights from our coaching experience and maybe for a listener to think about at the end of every podcast they listened to is to think what have I learned from listening to that podcast? And what is the one action that I might take to do something differently as a result? Or how am I viewing the world differently as a result of what I’ve heard? And in essence, I think it’s just taking a moment or two to reflect. So not allowing the conversation to go in one ear and out , the other, and nothing changes if just taking even a moment or two, that’s a small step, perhaps a moment or two to reflect after the podcast, who knows what’s possible as a result of that reflection.

[00:23:43] Clive: That sounds quite sagely. Finally, how can listeners find out more about you and the work that you do? Because I’m sure that a lot of people are very interested to learn more about you.

[00:23:53] Sue : The easiest way is on my website to stockdale.com. I’m also very active on LinkedIn and [00:24:00] on other forms of social media on Facebook or Twitter at Sue Stockdale is mostly how I can be found.

[00:24:06] Clive: Great. Well, thank you very much for your time today. I hope our listeners have enjoyed having you sit the other side of the microphone there’s time. So thank you once again.

[00:24:14] Sue : Well, thank you Clive for an opportunity to have this conversation. I look forward to how we progress with this podcast and continue to make impact with it into the future.

[00:24:23] Clive: Absolutely onwards to a number, a hundred.

[00:24:27] Sue : Well, I hope that’s given you more food for thought about the power that inspiration can have on you, as well as other people remember, you’ll find transcriptions of all the episodes on the website, access to inspiration.org. Please keep in touch with us by signing up for the newsletter which you can do at the foot of the website homepage. And if you look at our show notes, please take a moment to complete our impact survey or leave us a voice note about the effect that this podcast has had on you. Next time. I will be speaking to Thomas Andren who asked himself over 900 questions in a bid to discover what his dream job was. And the result was he transformed his life from working in it to becoming a massage therapist. I hope you can join us then.