Today, we meet Shaun, architect, world traveller, photographer, yogi and blogger, based in Sydney Australia. I met Shaun via a course that we both are following. We’re study buddies, and so we have regular Skype calls to exchange our experiences and ideas.
Shaun wants to take another direction in his career, and he wants to be the example for others who are stressed out and feel stuck in a 9 to 5 treadmill.
That’s why next to his travel blog 2guystravelling.com, he created ‘Project Palm Tree’, a website and blog, interesting for any of us, multi-potentialites, who are stuck in one career path and want to change. Project Palm Tree was launched just last weekend. But let’s talk with Shaun to know more about it and head over to the interview straight away.
Architect and Sagittarius
Hi Shaun, thank you for the interview. I’m happy that Passions Pilot was so lucky to be one of the first to interview you about your new project. First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what your story is?
I am an architect. I am 51, and I live in Sydney, Australia. I grew up in Perth on the west coast of Australia.
From a young age, I have always loved construction sites and how buildings are built. Eventually, I wanted to understand how to design a building from scratch. I love learning new things and seeing things from new perspectives. I began studying in 1984 when I had just turned 17 and graduated five years later.
I started off working in boutique design firms designing houses for rich people – interiors mainly. Beautifully designed kitchens and bathrooms and living rooms etc. Very much bespoke joinery and panelled walls etc.
Then I took those design skills and began working with large architecture practices working on hospitals, etc. who at that stage were doing very boring interiors for hospitals, so what I was doing was pretty new then, but everyone was feeling the same way, and now every new hospital is like that.
But buildings take a while to design and even longer to build. One hospital I worked on we started to master plan in 2007, and they moved into the building gradually from 2014 to 2015 – that’s over seven years. Luckily I was only involved for the first year.
I also really enjoy writing and photography, and I REALLY love to travel. Ideally, I would like to combine all of those three things into my career going forward. I still love architecture, but I would prefer to be an observer than a participant. Most importantly, I love to learn new things.
That’s awesome! I’m very impressed with what you have achieved in your architecture career. But as a multi-potentialite myself, I also understand that after many years of working in the same field, you would like some change. Actually, when and how did you discover the term multi-potentialite?
I only discovered the term ‘multi-potentialite’ this year, through the Passions Pilot website and via Twitter. I’m not sure if I’m a multi-potentialite, but I sure have some characteristics of it.
I often use my star sign(s) to describe my behaviour. I was born on the cusp of Sagittarius and Capricorn. Sagittarius is my dominant star sign.
I describe my behaviour like this:
Sagittarius has the body of a horse with huge feathered wings like a giant eagle, and in place of a horse’s neck and head, he has the torso, arms and head of a man, holding a bow and arrow.
He stands in a field, wings outstretched, places a bow in the arrow, rises up on his hind legs and shoots the arrow high in the sky. The arrow rockets across the field and strikes a tree for example. He gallops across the field towards the arrow in the tree. All the other people in the field see him galloping, excited and whooping, wings flapping, chest puffed out, hair streaming in the wind and they run with him, excited to be in the process and running towards the common, exciting goal because Sagi has told them it’s exciting.
Then, when a huge group has formed running towards the tree, all motivated and excited to be heading towards the tree, Sagi stops. He Turns at 90 degrees to the path to the tree and shoots another arrow towards a new, shining goal.
Keep going, he says. Go to the tree; I have a barn to run to. I will be back later to see how you all got on…….
Project Palm Tree, to live a life you love
Hahaha, I can see that happening in my imagination as if it was real. That also explains why from time to time you want to change direction or go back to the barn 🙂 How did you get the idea for starting your Project Palm Tree?
Well, when I was 40, I quit my job and went travelling. My boss at the time said I wasn’t the best architect. He said that I had no partner and no kids. No obligations. He had all those things. He said if he didn’t have those things he would be travelling the world. Working for UNICEF in Africa, or some exciting cause away from an office.
When I was travelling, I thought about how I could make myself a better architect, but I also thought about staying in Spain, learning Spanish, and becoming a travel writer.
I returned to Australia and worked my butt off proving to everyone that I am in fact a very good architect. But there has been a cost – stress, anxiety, poor eating. And I’m now ten years older.
I read the “4 Hour Work Week” from Tim Ferris and realised that if I didn’t get off of the ‘work till you are 65’ treadmill, I would be 65, exhausted, without the physical capacity to do all the things I wanted to do with my life but had not yet gotten to, and might never get to.
I also realised that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. I wanted to learn from others, and teach others who might not realise that there is, in fact, another way….
I see. So, that was what got you to start thinking about making some changes in your life. Please tell me more. What is the main problem or issue that you handle in the Project Palm Tree blog? What is your target audience?
My Website tagline is ‘Reduce Stress, Replace income, and (then) Live a Life you Love’.
My target audience are mid-lifers; early 40 to late 50, who feel trapped in their job. They love their income, but are bored or stressed by their jobs and are just waiting to retire, even though that’s a long way away. And they probably don’t want to retire; they just don’t want to sit in a cubicle till they are 65 or even have to deal with annoying people.
But they probably don’t know of any other options, so this causes stress, anxiety, even fear and anger. That’s a terrible way to live. I lived that for quite a few years.
Reverse engineering life solutions
Well, I can see that comes from the heart. I had a similar experience until I quit the job I had back then, and till now I don’t regret it for one second. I guess there are a lot of people living their life like that, multi-potentialites and others. What is the main theory or model that you explain on your website?
I share my own experience. That’s it. I have tried all sorts of things. Some worked okay. Some went nowhere. Some have worked well.
As an architect, I reverse engineer solutions. I am using that in my own life. The end goal is to live a life I love. How do you reverse engineer that outcome, coming from a place of stress and anxiety?
The biggest fear, and what keeps us stuck in our jobs, is money. We need the money to pay off our mortgage and have enough money to retire. Do we actually need so much though? Can we get it from other sources than our 9-5? Do we need to be spending our money on treats to offset the pain we get from our horrible jobs? When we should be doing everything we can to have enough money to retire.
And then there is stress – which is a blanket term for the fog in our head. Stress at work. Anxiety about money, about not being employable after 50, or being stuck in our horrible job because no other employer would want us, or would pay us as much, or whatever.
So, number 1 – we have to have the dream – what is the life we want to live? What are ALL the things we want to do before we are too old to do them? This is what drives us. The thing we are drawn to and most of us have forgotten what that is.
Number 2 – how do we pull our selves out of the fog of stress, anxiety and fear so that we have the positive attitude, resilience and resourcefulness to take steps towards living a life we love? And…
Number 3 – how do we replace the income from our 9-5 so that we can be free from that world and able to pursue the life we love?
It’s not sequential. It’s not 1, then 2, then 3. You just need to take 1 step toward living the life you love. You find that spark in your heart. You take steps around the stress at work. Opportunities for new income come to you. You meet good people.
And most importantly – you begin to help other people, and that gives you the biggest lessons of all. It’s such an exciting process.! What’s not to love?
Inspiration and role models
That is so powerful! They say what you give attention, expands. It makes a lot of sense. You help people, meet other good people and opportunities arise. What or who inspired you to take this approach?
The biggest thing for me has been seeing people of all ages and backgrounds finding a different path in the world. Some great role models. I find women in particular to be the most inspiring. Men of a certain age still seem wedded to ‘the old ways’ and how ‘men are (were) supposed to be’. Younger men or younger thinking men like Tim Ferris or Jonathan Fields are real role models for me. So too is Joanna Penn though, and her book ‘Career Change’ was what finally motivated me to get off my butt and use my time outside of the 9-5 to really live a life I love.
I want to be that example to others. The biggest block for me though was the ‘poor me’ conversation in my head.
What opened things up for me was yoga and meditation. It’s what stopped my mind wasting time, going over and over why these people were so bad and rude, and what I was going to say to them, or do to them, or whatever. Blah blah blah. Always thinking about the terrible future.
It’s taken a while. I practice yoga at least five times a week. I love it. It pulled me up out of a dark place. And now, my head is full of a whole bunch of other conversations, podcasts mostly, filling me up with ideas. And motivation. And role models. I absolutely love Cathy Heller. I am more mindful. And I’m focused in the moment.
If you could give us just one advice, what is this one and best advice you can give multi-potentialites and of course also other people having the same issues?
Give yourself deadlines. Short ones. Reasonable, attainable deadlines.
Last week I slept in till 4:45 am (I get up super early these days). By the time I made a cup of tea and opened my laptop, it was 5 am. I had to leave for yoga at 5:45. I had an idea for a blog post. I wrote a title, the problem I was addressing, and 5 points to discuss.
By 5:30 I had written about 3 of the points. I picked up the pace and had the other two points covered in 10 minutes. I was so ‘in the moment’ I didn’t want to go to yoga. But I got the post written and its one of the best so far (can’t wait to share it).
Try to be present. Don’t be thinking about all the other things you want to be doing. Focus on the one at hand. Start it – that’s hard enough. Finish it – that’s even harder but easier if you give yourself a deadline. Be your own boss. Be your own client. Be tough.
That’s brilliant advice, very simple and very easy to put into practice for everyone. I’m sure people will want to get more tips and advice like that. If someone wants to get in contact with you, where can they find you?
Well, there are a few places online where you can find me:
Great! We know where to find you. I wish you lots of success with your new ‘Project Palm Tree’, and I also invite all Passions Pilot readers to take a look at your new blog. Thank you so much for the interview.