Alexandra Patel 0:08
Hello, and welcome to our new podcast. So today, I Alex Patel. I'm going to be talking with Tracy Dix, my colleague about how to pick yourself up after failure. So this is in the context of both life and academic development. over to Tracy, what would you like to start with?
Tracy Dix 0:31
The topic for today's podcast episode, I suppose, was inspired by our last brainstorm. So we started holding brainstorms, which I think we're going to be doing are we doing Alex? Are they going to be fortnightly or monthly, fortnightly? Okay, we're going to be doing them fortnightly. And the idea is that we're going to be brainstorming your essay question. So if you are not yet analyzing your essay question before you start working on assignments, then do come and join us and see what it has to offer. But yes, so in the last brainstorm, we ran, I was talking, I can't really remember the context of this anymore, but I was talking about how I basically completed three English literature degrees to some people that might be seen as success. But on reflection, on hindsight, I actually think I sort of failed my way to three degrees. And the reason for this is because after I completed my first degree, I didn't particularly know what to do with it. Everyone said, Aren't you going to become a teacher? What you're going to teach kind of studying English literature, you are going to become a teacher. So what you said, Dear God, no, I do not want to become a teacher. Exactly. Well, being the very petulant young adult that I was, of course, the moment someone said that that was what I was going to do. I was adamant that that was not what I was going to do. However, I didn't really know how to find a job. And I didn't really know how to what to do with an English degree. So actually a lyric from if anyone has watched Avenue Q. And they're from Avenue Q springs to mind, what do you do with a BA in English?
So basically, that was my situation. So from there, I decided to apply for a Master's, because I was very into Shakespeare and Renaissance drama at the time. So that's what I did. And when I completed that, I got a studentship at the University of Loughborough, to do a PhD. So I guess you can say I kept putting off finding a job and entering the real world because I was able to so in some, in some ways, I was very privileged to have been able to do all that. But in others, I feel like I also just ended up putting off what was going to be eventual. Anyway, I was going to have to go find my way somehow, after doing three degrees.
Alexandra Patel 2:21
Okay, should I tell you my experience?
Tracy Dix 2:27
Alexandra Patel 2:27
I also did not have a direction. At the end of my A levels, I thought, I want to try and understand myself and other people better. So I'm going to do psychology. But luckily, I ended up on a psychology and neuroscience course. So it was joint honours. So that's quite difficult because you're trying to balance the two different things. I hated psychology. In the end, there was a lot of, I guess, assumptions about the black box of the brain, and what that might actually mean. So lots of experiments. It's hard to relate to, I guess, concrete findings. Psychologists will hate to hear that. But I did really enjoy the neuroscience part of it. So end of degree, not sure what to do. But like you, Tracy, I went for a Master's, a master's in research. I absolutely loved it. I worked super, super hard, really got into it. And then obviously, I was like, okay, PhD is next, I would like to go into research, it's fair enough. So I did have to apply for a load of different PhDs ended up the ones that I wanted, were very hard to get so contacting people and saying, Oh, do fancy bit of research on this didn't work, however, applying for something that has already been established. So we've got the title that was aimed limb movements in insects. And at the time, I was really interested in movement and how the brain controls movement, particularly around kind of like Parkinson's and things like that. And I thought, okay, maybe this is a way into that area. I'll start off with understanding it in insects. Turns out that was not quite accurate. But anyway, four years later, I have a PhD in named limb movements in insects. Sorry in a sink kill insects, the locust.
Tracy Dix 5:02
Well done, Alex, I haven't shared what my PhD was in, and perhaps I should. So my PhD was on the banquet course there was, I can't remember the title now. But I think the title was appropriations of the early modern banquet course, in the place of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. It was kind of similar to that anyway. And actually, at the time that I undeterred the PhD, I really wanted to be like a food consultant here, like a historical consultant. And I think along the way, I realized exactly how obsessed about food I was going to have to be in order to pull that off. And I think the thing with you and I Alex, is we're both pretty interested in lots and lots of things. But I wouldn't exactly say we are single mindedly obsessed about any one thing.
Alexandra Patel 5:54
No, no, yeah, it's not good to be totally obsessed. Because I mean, England movements, appropriation, of what banquets period era? Those are very specific things. We don't want to get more into a topic than that.
Tracy Dix 6:13
No, but I think in my in my kind of idealistic young mind, I thought, when people were, for example, producing films that were set in a particular era, they might want to consult with a consultant, which surely they should. Yes, and I believe they do. So it is.
But I realized it wasn't me because of the lack of single minded obsession with one particular thing, you know, because I went to a couple of food conferences, and they were, they were quite good fun. But even for me, I think a few days where all people wanted to talk about was food. And I just kind of realized, actually, I think my interests are a little bit more diverse than that. And I don't know if you'll agree with this. But I think perhaps from there, we sort of fell into, you know, we fallen into roles that suit us a little bit better. Because we're supporting students with the academic attainment, I feel like we get to learn about lots of different things. Because we're not subject specialists in every area, you can't be really, but at the same time, so when a student comes and says, Oh, I've got an essay, or an assignment that I would like some help with, they have to tell us about that subject area. And so while we're supporting them with academic writing, and how to interpret the question, and those sorts of things that students are teaching us about their discipline,
Alexandra Patel 7:34
and they had a full, I enjoy that so much. Yeah, so
Tracy Dix 7:38
I really enjoy that aspect of the job, you know, and we get to learn new things, like almost every day because of that, which is really cool. But for years, so So I believe you did, this is what I like. So after, during, while we were working on our PhDs, we both did some teaching, didn't we?
Alexandra Patel 7:57
Yes, I used to demonstrate in practical classes, and I also ran tutorials. Yeah, stuff I didn't necessarily know that much about which is quite intriguing.
Tracy Dix 8:08
Well, yes, yeah, I taught seminars while I was doing my PhD in poetry, which I didn't realize I was particularly interested in until I had to teach it. I mean, a lot of Shakespeare is poetry. But anyway, so it was a module that I had taken in my first year. And then I went on to teach it when I was doing my PhD. And I got extremely familiar with IBM's and trill keys. And I can't remember the other rhythms now. And so after, after graduating with a PhD, I suppose the natural progression was to try and pursue an academic career, which I did for a while, and then it didn't happen. And I got distracted by other things. So
Alexandra Patel 8:47
what did you do? Did you get a job as like a researcher or something? Or were you pursuing that? And
Tracy Dix 8:55
so Okay, so I was an international student. And so for kind of visa complications, I wasn't allowed to work for six months. And I'm not sure if this is the case, still, but I was applying for a marriage visa. And one of the requirements of a marriage visa is you're not allowed to work for six months. So in the process process of having to prove that you can sustain yourself your economic work, yes. They just, they don't allow you to work and they basically do away with your career. Like if you're basically throwing your career away on us then as a young academic, because to not be able to work for six months, I feel is quite detrimental. I mean, people did say, Oh, we you know spend the six months writing your book and your PhD and your book and things like that on the log. Yes, I'm on on them. But I mean, if I'm honest, I was far too tired for that after finishing the PhD and for anyone who is thinking considering this route, or if you're already in it, I mean, you
Alexandra Patel 9:59
Do you it is exhausting. It is so, yes. And some, some people really thrive in that situation. But I would say that probably 90% of PhD students I've spoken to are exhausted, and I can't think of a single person who has not been exhausted. So I work closely with Lee with another PhD students. And she finished and she just couldn't handle going back into research straightaway. So she I think she went traveling for a year, and then she came back after that.
Tracy Dix 10:37
See, traveling for a year is quite nice, isn't it? I think by that time, having been a three time student, I really felt like I couldn't just go traveling for Yeah, on someone else's money because I didn't really have my own. Yeah. And Oh, also, I believe I had to stay in the country. Anyway, so I suppose I could have traveled within the UK. But anyway, I didn't. So I got distracted. So during that time with post PhD fatigue, I found a book that was all about making stock dolls. Do you know this story, Alex? Oh, okay. Alex was speechless. I mean,
Alexandra Patel 11:16
the the sock
Tracy Dix 11:17
creation thing. That was what happens in your six month interlude? Yes, it was. So I was I was mooching about in Oxford. We live near Oh, so that the time and I picked up this book on how to make sock dolls. And they were great. And so I kind of started out an obsession when I made sock dolls and decided I wanted to start a business out of it. You know, just to throw my parents yet another curveball. On top of it, first of all, wanting to study the subject in the arts, wanting to do a master's in it and then wanting to do a PhD like oh my goodness. And then oh, by the way, Mum, I want to start a business making some goals. Anyway, I just thought okay,
Alexandra Patel 12:04
okay, but I have seen your sock dolls. They're actually I don't want to say cute. They're quite I don't want to say morbid. They they have personality is what I'm trying to say. I guess. Not your average sock doll.
Tracy Dix 12:20
I would describe them as edgy. Okay, we'll go. I have seen some far more morbid things out there. It's okay. So when I was making myself dolls, I know if someone had a commercialize these stuffed toys that were basically on a roadkill theme. Oh my goodness. So you could get so yeah, I'm sorry, everyone. I'm not I'm not sure where this episode is going today.
Alexandra Patel 12:47
We might have this
Tracy Dix 12:54
Well, I think there is a point to all of this anyway. So yeah, so So someone is making toys that were like roadkill raccoons with you know, that eyeballs popping out? And oh, guts. Yeah. And then they were and then they were packaged in a body bag. That was like the whole marketing concept.
Alexandra Patel 13:15
Well, can I get this for my young daughter? Is the question that many of our viewers are asking, Hey,
Tracy Dix 13:22
you know, I really think there will be some people who are probably thinking right now like take my money. I want this. Anyway, I don't know if they're still in production. But I'm sure you can you know, Google is your friend. If you
kill stuff toy or something. One day, Sophie. Sophie isn't lucky go. So okay, so I went on, I went on to make sock dolls, and basically gave up on an academic review. From there. I just really wasn't into .
Alexandra Patel 13:51
OMG You gain on an academic career to make sock dolls!
Tracy Dix 13:57
Yeah, I got that reaction a lot.
And it's very interesting, because at one family gathering, I was about 32. At the time, I showed off these beautifully packaged dolls. They were in like shoe boxes because they were made out of socks. And I spray painted the front of them and they were very well presented. And everyone said how amazing it was. And then I can't remember how but the subject on my age came up and people went kind of speechless. And one guest at the party said Oh, I thought you were 18 years old. You may think okay, so perhaps the reason you were so encouraging and so enthusiastic was because you thought I was an antique enterprising. 18 year old and so in that context, it's like, wow, this is such an amazing achievement. But now you're 32 and really the kind of framing of where your life should be at that point in time. To many people I guess would be quite different, wouldn't it because so you know the edge of
Alexandra Patel 14:58
that is no You know, no one should be framing your life apart from you.
Tracy Dix 15:05
Well, and thank you, Alex, I completely agree with you. However,
Alexandra Patel 15:10
maybe maybe your partner has a constructive suggestion as well,
Tracy Dix 15:14
perhaps I mean, he's not here everywhere he is in the house at the moment, but he's not up here with us. So yeah, so my husband, Andy has always been very supportive, which I think is quite an achievement, considering the things. So he has, you know, he has lived in a small terrace that was full of enormous cardboard boxes all the time. And he has lived with my mess and my stress when I've been rocking assignments and all kinds of things. So shout out to Andy. Well done, Andy. Yes, Well done, Andy, and your support is much appreciated. Your patience, and your street face SNESs. When I say, Hey, I've got an idea is very much to be commended. But actually, on hindsight, I learned a huge amount from running that sock doll business because I was, you know, marketing it on my own. And we were taking it to fairs and selling basically practice of selling. And one of the things about essay writing is it's a persuasive skill. You're trying to talk someone around to your way of thinking. So whatever the situation is, because you know, many students are not actually going to go on to postgraduate,
Alexandra Patel 16:31
or several days for the rest of their lives.
Tracy Dix 16:34
No, you're not are you like most most?
Alexandra Patel 16:39
Well, would be the worst nightmare for a lot of people, I'm sure.
Tracy Dix 16:43
Well see now that you've heard about the future that Alex and I have progressed on to having done our first degree, pretty well, pursuing postgraduate, but anyway, yeah, so I was I was saying about how essay writing is a persuasive skill. And this is something that you'll need in any undertaking that you go into, after you graduate. But in within different contexts, it really is about always understanding who your target audience really is, and speaking to them in a way that resonates and makes them in my situation, then to buy from you. And as part of you know, them in liking your personality. So you're kind of injecting your personality into your work a bit as well. I think that that has a lot to do with communication. And it's the outside
Alexandra Patel 17:31
world shape. Well, rock in my head a little bit. So with essays,
Tracy Dix 17:36
no. So I would say in essays, it's a little bit less about personality, but I think, I would say that is, that is the nice thing to have, but you need to get you know, you need to get the relevant evidence you need to be able to write fluently. Yeah. So such that, you know, as when, when a marketer is reading your essay, it's not hard going to understand what you mean.
Alexandra Patel 17:59
Yeah, subtle amounts of personality can help it float.
Tracy Dix 18:04
I think so. But yeah, I would agree that genuinely in the realm of academic writing, it's not really about personality, it's about reading and evidence, and it's about creating evidence based on human. But the idea of persuasion is still then. So you still have to be persuasive. But without too much personality.
Alexandra Patel 18:25
But in the real world, you can use the persuasiveness that you've learned in essay writing, whether it has a sprinkle of emotion and personality, and we hook on the heartstrings of the people you're trying to convince. Yeah,
Tracy Dix 18:40
and I you know, and I think in the very digital age that we're living in at the moment, you know, on Instagram, Tik Tok, or wherever it wherever you are, it is about personality. And, you know, whenever I find myself, this, this happens, whenever I find myself distracted in the evening and scrolling through stuff on social media, that is the thing that grabs me, you know, it's always about someone's personality, that makes me want to see more of them. So anyway, why was that conversation going?
Alexandra Patel 19:10
It's about picking yourself up from failure.
Tracy Dix 19:13
It is about Yes, it is about picking yourself up from failure. And we digressed with my sock dolls a little bit and this and the things I learned from that. So okay, so the point there is that sometimes sometimes the benefit of hindsight is what helps you to kind of understand where certain challenges that you faced in life have helped you have kind of brought you variances that you wouldn't necessarily have had. But I think it's very much the case that failure is stepping stones to success. Because if you think about so think about a metaphor that's very physical. So I think we're studying most of us. We feel the struggle, but we particularly don't see other people's struggles. So I think it's Not so well recognized. And for some reason, a lot of people just kind of expect to be able to do something. So in their first year, they just expect to be able to do it when actually you should still be, you're learning the skills, and you're learning the kind of academic rigor and the expectations. And there is a lot of growth during a university degree that I feel a lot of students don't quite appreciate. Whereas, for example, a baby who is learning to walk, you see the failure, you see this fall over? Yes. And you see how it's not a linear process. So they fall over, they pick themselves up, they try again, but they fall a lot more than they walked successfully at the very beginning. And then some days, you know, and they have better days where they can walk a few steps more, and then other days when they're tired, or, you know,
Alexandra Patel 20:54
into danger. That is my experience of children learning to walk. Like it started an iPhone for that I'm gonna run it that
Tracy Dix 21:04
and launch themselves into things because they haven't quite refined them. Reflexes yet. Oh, Alex, you are the expert on this movement. Very good. Yeah. controls movement.
Alexandra Patel 21:16
Tracy Dix 21:20
It does. So Well, I was I was just saying about how you when you look at children, then how are babies now to walk the failures, the growth is so visible, whereas when it comes to studying, especially for 18 year olds, and older, I don't think we acknowledge the challenge as much and and I would say this is true of students as well as teachers and people who are going to mentoring them. So you
Alexandra Patel 21:51
were saying about how children, babies falling when they learn to walk is a lot more visible than young adults learning to write, which, you know, is quite obvious, because you know, writing is a mental process you're putting on paper, whereas you can visually see the physical development of a child.
Tracy Dix 22:12
Yeah, and actually, something else has just come to mind as well. So often, I see students who will compare themselves to their peers, which is completely natural. So they'll say things like, Well, I don't understand. And so because of that comparison, they'll also say, and they'll feel very inadequate, because they don't get the same things that their peers do. So for example, I saw one student who said, I'm not very good at x. You know, I'm not very good at understanding the stuff in my textbooks. I think there was something like that, that she said, whereas one of her classmates was that oh, yeah, this is what it means. And it's just there. And it was easy for that person. But so, okay, let's do an 18 year old is not exactly the same as a two year old. But
Alexandra Patel 23:02
recognize that for our audience.
Tracy Dix 23:08
Sarcasm? Yeah, so I was saying about the student comparing herself to one of her friends who seems to get everything, which they might do, but then again, you know, their backgrounds are completely different. And so I feel like they can't compare each other. But using that metaphor of using very small children as a comparison again. Now, both you and I have very have had young children, you also a little bit older now. But they are very different, aren't they, in terms of the pace of development, and small children are very good at different things. And because they're still developing very fundamental skills. I think that difference is very obvious in the early years. Okay. So take for example, when children start talking, or when children start walking, it can be or when they start rolling around, it can vary a lot. And I I'm not an expert in early years,
Alexandra Patel 24:11
but as it happens, I did study that at university.
Tracy Dix 24:14
Go on Alex, you fill us in child development. Yeah, he
Alexandra Patel 24:17
got rolling. You've got movement stuff. That's about all I remember from my degree. Yes.
Tracy Dix 24:30
But that's the other thing, isn't it? That you learned something or you feel like you've mastered it, but actually, if you don't kind of keep it in your mind, if you don't use that knowledge for periods of time it goes,
Alexandra Patel 24:42
but you know what, actually, I never felt like I knew I'd learned stuff from my Yeah, my degree, but it's come to me over time. It has been in there.
Tracy Dix 24:54
So my elders has been what many people would say kind of I say late with a lot of things. And so genuinely his style is just as you know, everyone around us in every child of the same age around us is going through certain developments. Ralph isn't and he might kill me for this one day.
Alexandra Patel 25:18
When your world famous, yes, yes,
Tracy Dix 25:21
my mum will famous. So and but the thing is, but his style is just simply just as you kind of think it's not going to happen. It all happens at once. That's Ralph style. So for example, we met up with some friends the other day, and that otter is the same age as Ralph. And she's got several of her adult teeth already, whereas the Ralph's got two tiny little ones. So like some, we had a dentist who actually said, Did any of you have this problem, which I was not very happy about, because I believe that he is going to grow his teeth in the perfect time for him. And also, Ralph is quite small for his age. He's eight, but their five year olds are taller than him. So my theory about this is that there's no point in him having bigger teeth when he hasn't got the grace to match it yet.
Alexandra Patel 26:09
He hasn't got bigger daughter,
Tracy Dix 26:13
tiny child, and he's got a small jaw. So what's the point in having too big teeth to fit the jaw and then you're going to have to have lots of work done later on to correct it. So I think it shouldn't be age related. And so back to the point earlier on that we're making that all of a sudden my achievements at the age of 32 making any sort of goals and creating them? Well, less impressive, because people deem that not an age appropriate undertaking. Yeah. But so but it did teach me a lot of things like how to market and I even looked into commercializing it. So we approached factories in China to design to create samples to see if we could scale it up. And that teaches you a lot that you do not learn at university. Yeah. Yeah. And I would say, I would say to some extent, that was how would I frame it? So I would say, that taught me a lot more about life than what I learned at university.
Alexandra Patel 27:14
Okay. Okay. Would you like to hear about some my spectacular failures?
Tracy Dix 27:20
I would love to hear about your spectacular failures.
Alexandra Patel 27:23
Right? Okay. Okay, so we've got a range of options here. We've got being 13 year old, like being arrested for drugs. We've got being at university and walking out and have an exam without writing a single thing. We
Tracy Dix 27:47
go, I'm interested in both those stories. So, okay,
Alexandra Patel 27:52
we've got being married for 19 years. And then thinking, wow, okay, no. Okay. And then we've also got, I guess, the last couple of three years at work,
Tracy Dix 28:06
I've got a very similar story to tell about that, too. I think I'll go with whatever you'd like to tell. But also, I was going to say that for our listeners out there, if you're you are interested in more stories from Alex, maybe we should put it to a vote. So I don't think we have time for all of those stories days. But if you'd like to hear them all, I'm sure we'll find a way to tell. So please subscribe to our podcast. So you send
Alexandra Patel 28:34
us a message, because we need to, if you if you're interested in this kind of sordid level of detail.
Tracy Dix 28:41
Yeah. So send us a DM on any of our social media platforms. We're on Instagram, Facebook and tick tock. So send us a DM to vote Oh, which of Alex's stories you'd most like to hear? But also subscribe, because then you won't miss it. You know, it comes through on the RSS feeds and you'll, you'll be sure to know when when Alex's stories come out. Okay. Okay,
Alexandra Patel 29:07
so, as a bit of a teaser, I'm not gonna go into the the past ones. I'm going to go into what's happened more recently. So the experience of having a major restructure work. It's been very, very dramatic. Virtually all the people I used to work with were made redundant. All of a sudden, I was racing. Tracy was one of them. Luckily, she was able to apply for another job. So I still get to see her pretty face. So that's good.
Tracy Dix 29:44
Now we work and then we set up with earnings.
Alexandra Patel 29:48
Because because this is my Get out roots, I realized that the institution I worked for didn't really give a damn about how good my work was. They We're interested in the bottom line profits, the future direction of the company. They weren't interested in individual workers and what they contributed. So that was really eye opening. And as part of this whole very, very scary situation, just after a pandemic, I somehow ended up being co chair of the Union, which was a big surprise. So I'd started off being equalities. Officer, because equalities is quite a nice thing to work for, because everyone says they believe in equality, even the management, so that was that was lovely. But then it turns out, everyone else from the union was pretty much made redundant. So I ended up as co chair, and for a while it was just cheer on its own. And wow, was that a learning curve? So learn? Go on.
Tracy Dix 0:00
So would you say in that case you kind of got promoted from against your will?
Alexandra Patel 0:05
I never wanted to do that. I wanted to take on a bit more responsibility, learn a few things, but all of a sudden, I was in this leadership role. And it was actually because the other person he was the chair had quit, because, you know, too difficult after the first kind of meeting, but I I stayed in the role for a year and a bit, and it was difficult. So if we're talking about failure,
Tracy Dix 0:36
challenge, I don't think you've Yeah, it
Alexandra Patel 0:39
wasn't a failure. It was. But it was a challenge. Yes, I had to learn how to chair meetings, I had to learn how to have members being somewhat difficult and challenge me and say, This is not how our meeting is run. It's like, I don't know, first time doing this.
Tracy Dix 0:59
The other thing is, it's also a very thankless role, isn't it? Because people's like employees are the Union. But there is this conception that employees join the union and the union sticks up for them. And they don't really think that it's a voluntary role. Being on the committee for many apple. Yeah. And that people are giving that time to members like, yeah, a lot of members don't see it that way.
Alexandra Patel 1:24
Yeah. So there were several meetings when I wanted the floor to kind of open up and swallow me. But that was not my job. I just had to hang in there and get through it. And what's that? What that has taught me is that I can be pretty much invincible, I can get through this stuff. So even the most traumatic experiences can be really reinforcing after obviously afterwards, when you look back and think, Okay, wow, I got through that. I now know how this works. But I also know how strong I am. Hmm,
Tracy Dix 2:03
absolutely. And that's, you know, I think that's the thing, and sometimes people feel like, oh, maybe I didn't want to be that
Alexandra Patel 2:11
strong. But oh, yes, definitely. But
Tracy Dix 2:16
I think very often, these kind of more extreme situations are thrust upon us like nobody. Nobody really chooses those leaps of faith. We choose, like tiny steps off the just, yeah, I guess I can't speak for everyone. But I think most people don't really choose to be in very uncomfortable situations. And it is often thrust upon us. Yeah, yeah. And they can be very
Alexandra Patel 2:42
teacher. So I did a PGCE. And it is quite uncomfortable you eventually and even at university you learn to become comfortable with uncomfortable situations. So nowadays, if students refuse to cooperate, or you get the, the, the wall of silence, sometimes I'll just step back and observe for a bit because so happens.
Tracy Dix 3:12
And I think, especially at University, students are responsible for their own learning. So if they don't want to take part, they don't get to them, you know, because it's not, it's not the teacher's responsibility to feed or the knowledge to them. Talk about feeding at school, but not just that. It's not
Alexandra Patel 3:32
a person's responsibility to manage the feelings of another person or a class of people. You know, it's we do what we do, how people react to it is down to them.
Tracy Dix 3:47
It is down to them. And speaking of which, you know, we're talking about like, leaps of faith versus tiny steps. And I don't think okay, so striking up a conversation with the person next to you, in a classroom full of strangers might be quite intimidating.
Alexandra Patel 4:02
Used to be for me. Yeah. Yeah. But
Tracy Dix 4:07
it is doable. I would say it is doable. It can just start with a simple hello. And I think very often, you'll find that the person who sat next year is very grateful for that. Hello.
Alexandra Patel 4:18
Yeah, yeah. So I used to struggle with self esteem, self confidence, stuff like that. And then I realized that the only person's opinion about me that matters is myself. Because if I feel bad about myself, it doesn't matter if everybody else in the world thinks I'm awesome. I won't believe it. Whereas, fundamentally, it's if I know what I believe, makes a good person. And if I try and achieve those things,
Tracy Dix 4:51
well, it's good. Yeah. So speaking about, you know, the the only person session with the person
Alexandra Patel 4:56
next door, person next door have nothing now. That's just like, I think I'm a friendly person. I'm a nice person. So I'm just gonna say hi. They don't respond.
Tracy Dix 5:10
But you have chaired meetings, and you've now been in some very tough negotiations. So take off. Oh, yes, I would say that compared to that saying.
I would say that's probably why. But so I want it to come back to what you were saying earlier on about, you know, the only person's opinion that matters is your own, or the only person's opinion about you that matters is your own. And pick up on what you're saying about, I suppose, yeah, kind of the last three years, although I wasn't very involved in the union, other than hearing your news about. But I wanted to talk about the workplace and meetings. And in particular, because speaking about speaking to the person next to you, I think meetings and group work can be quite intimidating situation sometimes, because you often get a few dominant voices that overshadow people who are perhaps a little bit more introverted. And I was certainly one of the more introverted Yeah,
Alexandra Patel 6:15
I used to be.
Tracy Dix 6:16
Yeah. And I've been, you know, on a couple of teams now, over the years where I didn't really understand where I fit in. And, but I kind of held with me, I kind of remember that I was the candidate who got the job. So I was I knew I was there for a reason. But I wasn't always able to put my finger on what that reason was. Yeah, and on hindsight, I think now I do understand that I think the reason I was chosen was because I had a different perspective. But I just want to point out that sometimes it's being the one person with a different perspective in a group full of people is very intimidating. And it can be quite difficult to, you know, want to speak up when no one else in the room is even touching on the thoughts that are going through your mind.
Alexandra Patel 7:07
Yeah. But the thing is, often when you do speak up, other people kind of come in and say, oh, yeah, yeah, I thought about that. But I Yeah, but I didn't want to say,
Tracy Dix 7:20
Yeah, because people don't want to rock the boat. One of the ways I've kind of found around that is through one to one conversations. I mean, I'm an introvert anyway, so I tend to thrive more on one to one conversations to perhaps kind of test out am I thinking and get that validation of people. And, you know, Ale, youx've certainly been that sounding board for me on many occasion. And yeah, and also, so this is something I wrote about in our sort of weekly emails to our mailing lists. So if you're interested in more of these mailings, then do subscribe to our mailing list as well. I try to send out useful stuff as much as possible, or, you know, things that I feel would resonate with people. And yes, so and, and for a long time, as well, I wasn't investing in my own personal development, because having small children, I felt it was very not conducive to being able to sit down and read a book, especially because at that time, when I was fairly new to my previous role, I started off by reading, you know, these academic publications, which are incredibly dry, and they take a lot of concentration. So I struggled a lot with that, and I made very little progress. And for a long time, I felt very ignorant, and kind of out of things. But one day, you know, as I was just listening to the radio, and there was this author giving an interview, and she talked about audible, so I bought her book on Audible that day, and started listening to it. And I would say, that was a bit of a turning point for me, I know, it's not even a big deal.
Alexandra Patel 8:58
But it's actually, so you've, you've talked a lot about the influence of audible kind of like books, so being able to do something or drive and listen to literature at the same time. And you are literally always quoting something to me. So it's a difference.
Tracy Dix 9:16
Thank you. Well, so when I talk, so when I speak particularly to other mums, they do say that it's very transformative to them. But for some reason, you know, it took me a long time to kind of rediscover that. I mean, years ago, I was trying to I was learning languages through audio books and stuff, and then I just kind of fell out of the habit. I guess it's because, you know, having to drive to work because for a long time, I was like walking or cycling. And so I don't, I wouldn't listen to anything while I'm cycling. That's so I picked up this kind of audio habit again. And alongside books, I started listening to podcasts and stuff like that. But one of the things I wanted to say in relation to being at tables at meetings and feeling intimidated was something that I learned from Michelle Obama. So this is when I'm going to be giving a quote, Alex, because I probably can't replicate this in its entirety. But Michelle Obama says that, you know, she's been on every important table, you can think of NGOs, exec boards, whatever. And when people have asked, How does it feel sitting with all these very accomplished people, what her observation is, that is, they're really not that smart.
Alexandra Patel 10:28
Yeah, yeah, my, my reaction would probably be, you know, screw you, I deserve to be here, you know, you wild people.
Tracy Dix 10:38
Absolutely. And that's the thing. You know, we all deserve to be at the table and our opinions all matter. Especially if it's different, I think it's more important to learn from someone who has a different opinion than to just keep parroting the same thing over and over again,
Alexandra Patel 10:55
because one of the problems with the world at the moment is that we just have the same people the same opinions in all of the key positions. So when decisions are made, yeah, we don't make progress. We don't try and think of things in a different way. So we just keep repeating the same mistakes of the past. Yeah.
Tracy Dix 11:16
And something that we found, I think both of us sort of started testing things out at the same time was that, you know, in professional circles, when you have these meetings, people use throw in a lot of jargon, and a lot of acronyms. To the point where I think it's, it came to light that most people don't really understand what they mean, because they're just so many of them floating around. But nobody likes to ask because nobody wants to be the person who appears stupid. And but Alex, you started challenging.
Alexandra Patel 11:47
I love that role. You sometimes I just ask questions, because I know, other people, I've understood it, but I know other people haven't. But yeah, you just say, Oh, can you give an example of that? What do you mean by the phrase such and such? You just get them to explain a bit more.
Tracy Dix 12:10
Yeah. And, and the thing is, it's a very non confrontational way of asking questions, because then people don't feel challenged. And actually if they do, and that's up to them to reflect on.
Alexandra Patel 12:23
Kind of worrying if they think that
Tracy Dix 12:25
but it does, it has happened sometimes has to talk about website repeatedly, or they talk about an acronym. And then when you ask them, oh, hang on. Wait, what does that acronym stand for? Yeah, yeah. All of a sudden, you realize they don't actually know. It's something that they had within a particular context from somewhere else. And they just keep repeating it without you knowing what it is because they have never made themselves vulnerable by trying to find out.
Alexandra Patel 12:52
Yeah, so I think I was in a meeting where somebody threw up the phrase, like, racial literacy. Okay. And so, for me, my thoughts, they were like, somebody else came in and tried to give an explanation. But it's it's important that when people are talking about specific terminology, that everybody in the room understands what they're talking about.
If somebody asks that question, it's really valuable for everyone else.
Tracy Dix 13:29
So you would probably our listeners will probably have heard this, you know, your lectures will probably encourage everyone who asked questions by saying that, you know, when you do everyone benefits, and that is absolutely true, although we get that it can be the it can be difficult to be that voice that pops up and ask the question, but yes, I mean, most people don't know the answer, either.
Alexandra Patel 13:54
I would say, think of it a bit like a game, you're trying it out, just you know, put your hand up, ask a question a couple of times, see what happens. It doesn't reflect badly on you, whatever. The lecturer says, it's not on you, you just all you're doing is asking question.
Tracy Dix 14:11
That is true. Although I have had some situations as an undergrad, where I asked questions about the essay topics. And I remember one particular lecture and I, I feel he was quite patronizing. Like, I always felt like, I always felt stupid around him. And I don't think that was me because I didn't feel stupid around other lectures. So just bear in mind that if that's how you feel as a result of how a lecturer has responded, then they should be doing better teaching.
Alexandra Patel 14:43
Yeah, yeah. Think about the fact that everyone else in the audience has seen and what has happened. And so are they going to think that the lecture was unfair on you, or that you were being unfair on the lecture?
Tracy Dix 14:57
Well, I think that can really depend Don't count it on
Alexandra Patel 15:00
it can it can I mean, you're not the only one in the room. You want to feel bad. It's quite often they're actually just embarrassing themselves.
Tracy Dix 15:12
Yeah, so so Anyway, coming back to Michelle Obama, when I heard her first book becoming I read her second book as well, highly recommend it. I like I really love all of her work. And I think she is a brilliant person, great personality, very compassionate, very empathetic. And one of the things she talks about is how, you know, when people approach her, nobody ever wants to talk about how she was first lady, but they're interested in, for example, her sassy daughters, or the fact that she went to therapy. And so for me on my audio journey, I think what helps me a lot listening to that book was the realization that if Michelle Obama has the struggles, then it's completely fair enough that I should as well, you know, it just normalized all of these things is kind of feeling alone at a table, and stuff like that. And so I suppose, you know, maybe what I'm trying to say, in a roundabout kind of way is it happened to Michelle Obama. So, you know, it's normal for all of us to feels sometimes a little bit alienated in the crew,
Alexandra Patel 16:18
it's totally normal. And I might go as far as to suggest that if somebody doesn't have any of these concerns, that they're a little bit deluded, maybe a bit narcissistic, sociopathic?
Tracy Dix 16:31
Well, perhaps that I think that's a little bit harsh as
Alexandra Patel 16:36
it is, but these are normal concerns that normal people
Tracy Dix 16:39
have. They are normal concerns, and perhaps some people might not admit it. Okay, so if you've always been in groups, or at meetings, where you felt perfectly confident to make your point, then yes, I am very happy for you. But at the same time, I guess the question I would want to ask in that situation is have you pushed yourself outside of your comfort zone? Or is it because you feel at that group that everyone thinks the same as you or everyone is willing to listen to you? And you know, it could be that perhaps other members of your group are a little bit more reserved. But if they're not saying something, perhaps they are in the situation that Alex and I found ourselves in where your thoughts did not reflect our own? So there are voices that you might still want to extract from your group? Exactly. And so find ways to do that, rather than take a step back and don't dominate the conversation? Because that's how you can learn something new.
Alexandra Patel 17:32
So if you are that sociopath, or narcissist is dominating the conversation, or just you know, because because I'm that person now, in that I'm, I'm quite confident and relaxed in these situations, it's all about it. I know my own opinion, I don't need to hear myself say it. What I want to hear is other people's opinions. So my job is actually to make them feel comfortable to share their views, and to ask them about their views if they're quiet. Yeah, friendly way.
Tracy Dix 18:05
Yes. And you can always respect people, even if you disagree with them.
Alexandra Patel 18:10
Tracy Dix 18:14
Alex, are you a sociopath?
Alexandra Patel 18:17
Tracy Dix 18:22
But the thing is, you can't you can't necessarily exercise influence. If you don't really know where someone else is starting from, you can't
Alexandra Patel 18:31
listen to people's opinions. Yeah, you can't
Tracy Dix 18:35
exercise your powers of persuasion, because that's what we started talking about in this episode,
Alexandra Patel 18:39
you can exercise them
Tracy Dix 18:41
know, Hey, I've finished yet. I meant if if you don't know where they are at, because you can't, you can't kind of pitch your ideas to them at the right sort of
Alexandra Patel 18:52
pace. Yeah, that makes sense. You have to understand where people are starting from reach to them
Tracy Dix 18:59
in order to realize from where they are. Yeah, exactly.
Alexandra Patel 19:03
Yeah. Yeah. But if they don't agree with you, at the end of the day, you know, you have to accept that.
Tracy Dix 19:09
Yeah, I think that is true. Okay, so we've gone in quite deep into lots of different issues and scenarios today. One of the key takeaways for me that I've learned from myself and from other people, is that very often exponential growth and confidence. And you know, this self assurance comes from very deep vulnerability, and from the fact that you have navigated your way from very difficult situations in the past and found found your peace with it made your peace with those situations, recognize the growth that came out of it, and I
Alexandra Patel 19:49
would agree things. Yeah, so for me, it's about you have to expect that 50% of the time or a large proportion of the time Things are not going to go smoothly, especially if you're working with digital tools or anything like that, or public presentation, but
Tracy Dix 20:08
also with research, also with research,
Alexandra Patel 20:12
and about 10% of the time it works, or even percent properly.
Tracy Dix 20:17
But also as research, you know, sometimes there is lots of, sometimes there's lots of material available on a certain topic, and other times there isn't. And sometimes you have to kind of go back into primary data or like create your own findings out of, you know, you just have to cobble things together a little bit when it comes to research, because I feel there's perhaps not quite there yet. I have to think of a better example, in future
Alexandra Patel 20:42
Well, I can give an example from my own research. So I used to dissect the nervous systems out of locusts. So we're talking about teeny tiny things that you have to dissect under microscope, and then I would have, it would be already stained. But I would have to run it through and like an elaborate alcohol series. So I could then slice it up and view it under an electron microscope. And it would take like, you know, two days to do this. First time I did it. Awesome results. It worked really well. And then I spent about, I don't know, six months trying to replicate it never worked. It was horrendous.
Tracy Dix 21:27
Yeah, so sometimes research doesn't quite work out. But you know, I suppose in my case, because I did English, it was more text based. And then the whole kind of in terms of food history, when I started that was that were fairly limited sources. So we had to go into primary quite a lot. And we had to in so I looked at a lot of kind of 16th century recipe books, when I extracted information from the place like all the references to food and try, just try to work out what they meant. A lot of it is was quite metaphorical, that was related to appetite, kind of physical appetite, sex, that sort of thing. So we you know, when you think about it, I suppose nothing has changed. You know, food is always a little bit raunchy.
Alexandra Patel 22:13
I don't tend to think about what I'm cooking the dinner meal.
Tracy Dix 22:18
I certainly don't when I'm trying to cook three different recipes for fussy eaters. I don't think it's very raunchy at all about the male dramatist because that was the dominant voice during Renaissance period, or what food was extremely raunchy. And I suppose there is that saying the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. So maybe there was something in that. Anyway, on that note. Shall we finish here for today?
Alexandra Patel 22:43
Yes. Okay. Thank you for listening, and spending part of your day with us, we would love to engage with the further so please send us a message if there's any topics you'd like us to discuss in particular. But thank you very much. Goodbye. And
Tracy Dix 23:01
also, don't forget to vote on which of Alex's stories you would like to hear in subsequent episodes.
Alexandra Patel 23:07
Yes, yes. My life is an open book.
Tracy Dix 23:13
Yes, well, I think it always has been today, definitely. So yes, thank you again for listening. And until next time,
Alexandra Patel 23:21
well, see you bye.