#9 Ex Richmond Football Club CEO at 24 years old – Cameron Schwab, CEO DesignCEO
DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE
- Growing up in a famous AFL family, and becoming the CEO of Richmond Football Club at the age of 24.
- Cameron’s failures –including when he got fired as a CEO
- How ‘it is the hard days that define us’
- Sports teams can only sustain success if there is a culture of care, and people feel like they belong.
- The two things a successful executive only has to focus on: Talent leadership, and System leadership
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Transcript from the interview
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Graeme Cowan, Cameron Schwab
Graeme Cowan 0:09
It’s an absolute delight to have you here today Cameron, thanks for joining us.
Cameron Schwab 0:13
Thanks, Graeme. And thank you very much for the opportunity. I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Graeme Cowan 0:17
Yeah, me too. Cameron what does care in the workplace mean to you.
Cameron Schwab 0:24
Care for me is what I would consider the most fundamental objective of any leader, any organizational team is being able to say to someone, you belong here, and you belong here on the basis of, of the character, you bring, you know, your integrity, your intent, your your reason for being here, you belong here, because there’s actually something you can do, which is helpful to us, you know, you’ve got an experience or an expertise, track record, which helps us as relates to the performance of the organization and probably those two things then from that, create a connection between you and what we do and who we are. And, and I think if you it was interesting, I heard was actually Ricky Ponting, his his coaching in the IPL. And he talked about his four values that he was seeking in the IPL you know, they’re only together for 10 or 11 weeks, and so to actually build a really strong team ethos in a really short period of time is, is would be a challenge. And he talked about the usual things you would assume in terms of the attitude the players bring and get the most from every session, all those sorts of things. And he finished with the word care. So one of the four ways it’s care. And he says, I’ve never been a part of a team, which has been successful, which hasn’t had care, either as a player or as a coach. And in so here is a person where, you know, obviously, Australian cricket has been up for grabs in recent times in terms of its ethos, and its values, he’s a person who is a product of that system, who is now taking those learnings to into a high stakes, high performance, high expectations environment, and spoke out and with people from all walks of, the teams are made up of one culture, they’re made up of many cultures. But he he spoke of care as one of the we will only be successful if we have care. And I think probably come back into that, that thought that we’ve got to build belonging really quickly here. And we won’t do it without.
Graeme Cowan 2:43
I really like how you brought blogging into that as well as connection. When you think back about your time as CEOs with some of the football clubs, how did you go about promoting that sense of belonging?
Cameron Schwab 2:58
I failed often. That would be that would be my first thought. And and I think one of the failures was that firstly, I think I made an assumption that it would happen. And the one thing that the football clubs are is that there there is an obvious sense of the greater good that the community are involved in, particularly in the clubs I was involved with one of the clubs in Melbourne Football Club was actually the creator of the game of Australian football. So in 1858, the original person basically holding my job on there called the CEO, but in those days, they’ll call it the Secretary A guy by the name of Tom Wills wrote, the very first rules of Australian football and the Melbourne football club was formed. And so you’re being you’re immediately part of something which is bigger than you there’s a folklore, there’s a heritage there are, there are there are many people who have been under the roof of their house, if you like. And sometimes I took for granted. And I think particularly as the diversity of organizations change, and I think there’s probably a there’s a danger that you can get stuck between old ways and new ways. And, and probably as a reflection, I would say, I made my worst choices when I got stuck in the old ways. And, and I think it, might have been a bit risk averse or feeling threatened or my ego was gonna take a kick or I was feeling vulnerable or I was feeling like an imposter, all the things that you do when you are a CEO and I think that probably created a selfishness in my behaviours, which then inhibited. Then I reflect on the times when it was at its best was when those things were there. Then, then it’s it’s a even the reflections of those times as I sit here and I haven’t some of them haven’t thought off for a long period of time, there’s almost a feeling of warmth, which comes over me, as I’m sitting here, you know, remember the relationships, I remember the times, and how we, when we faced into some really difficult situations, you know, we managed to show enough care for each other, but also recognize that we’re going to ultimately be measured by the performance of the organization as well. And then I want to bring those two things together caring and performance, or I don’t think as Ricky Ponting pointed out, you can’t have performed without care. The times I reflect on , pride is probably too strong word, but almost there is that feeling of almost a warmth. In high performance environments that I was always involved with
Graeme Cowan 6:04
For the purpose of our listeners, can you just give a brief overview of how you got to where you are now in your career?
Cameron Schwab 6:11
Yeah, I can I use the word before, under the roof of the house, or the roof of my house was the game of Australian football. So in the AFL I grew up in the game, my father was a well known person in the sport, had a cousin who played 200 games of a football and coached, so I was very much part it. So almost some sense of inevitability, I suppose our family sort of in the game, and initially, as an office boy then as a quite quickly, I started recruiting, you know, talent scout. And that was a wonderful opportunity work with some outstanding people in the sport. And then at 24 years of age, I was given the opportunity to be the CEO of the Richmond Football Club, which is the club I grew up supporting. The next 25 years I was a CEO of the three AFL clubs and, and they probably all of them given me the best and worst of times, but there were there were certainly under that roof. Then I got kicked out of the house and I got the sack in 2013 as the CEO of Melbourne football club and, and probably come to terms way too, too slowly with the fact that I had to try and build a life beyond it. So I was almost like the, the player who try and create a, a second identity for yourself when you’re pretty comfortable with the first one in your eyes. And, and I’ve spent probably the time since doing that as in a couple of forms, firstly, end up studying fine arts at Victorian college of the arts always enjoy drawing and creativity. And over the last four years, I’ve established a business called designCEO, which is really having on a daily basis, the conversations that we’re having now which is how do you how do you build organizations which can align a group of people to a, an idea or a vision thought, which is, is gives us the opportunity of performing at a high level, but also gives people the opportunity of aligning their careers to whatever the best that organization can provide? I really enjoy it.
Graeme Cowan 8:27
Being appointed as CEO of Richmond at 24 years of age is extraordinary. When you took it on, how did you feel?
Cameron Schwab 8:39
There’s one part of me which was very confident because of I thought I had an insight into the game itself. And which then gave me a platform to have conversations, which are the most important ones, if you’re talking about performance organization has to how do we get people performing well in the context of that, but I had no concern, I was still very much growing as a person. And it often would be reminded me because I then have to deal with, you know, young men for the next 25 years and the ups and downs of their lives. And often behaviours which are outside of the expectations were. And I remember one of our performance psychologists saying the male brain doesn’t kick in until it’s about 25 or 26. I’ve taken on this responsibility, and I wasn’t any No, I wasn’t a prodigy or anything like that. So I think probably the I was immediately surrounded by some excellent mentors, one of which in particular a guy by the name of Neville Crow was the president of Richmond at the time and whilst he always had expectations of me and particularly at a behavioural level. He never made me feel young. I think that was it. And I didn’t have that reflection probably for another 20 years. I, I hadn’t really thought about how challenging it even the courage that he showed to appoint someone that I did it for the next six years. And I think I could almost there were times where, really I thought I was outside my depth. But then I could almost physically feel myself growing each day it was it was that extreme. But it had its ups and downs, there’s no there’s no question.
Graeme Cowan 10:37
Lot of trying and learning and setbacks and that sort of thing, would you say?
Cameron Schwab 10:42
Yeah, and you don’t want for advice, you know, when you’re CEO that’s for sure, it was actually making sense of it, you know, and also understanding even at the most basic level, who to trust, who not to trust, who’s in it, for the right reasons? All those things. And knowing that what you were doing, it wasn’t it was never going to be a popularity contest, you’re always the decisions you make when you’re in a in those roles are going to affect the lives of people. And then often you’re sitting down with people and explaining to them that they no longer playing for your football club, or they’re no longer working for the club. It might have been for them, you know, the pinnacle of their careers, the pinnacle of their working lives, and, and more for a lot of them it was more than a career it was their vocation. Really, and and to actually have to sit down and have that conversation. And very early in the piece. We really were a struggling club. And then later on in the piece I had that decision made for me years and probably in that way gave me a different appreciation for that as well.
Graeme Cowan 12:04
You have a cross your LinkedIn banner, which says it is the hard days that define us. How did you come to really believe that
Cameron Schwab 12:16
There’s a wonderful book called Greenlights, I only recently read it by Matthew McConaughey. And you know when you get unexpected insight from unexpected places, and he was a guest on a podcast, I like to listen to, and he’s, he’s gone deep, you know, I’m, I’m, it might sound like a crazy statement. But I find it difficult to hold sustainable relationships with people who haven’t actually gone deep into their life at some point, they haven’t actually taken time out to grow, extending yourself. And Matthew McConaughey has done that. And one of these lines he uses he says there’s angels of truth everywhere. Angels of wisdom agents of truth, simply just we just don’t tend to access them until we’re facing into an ordeal. And and I think one of the challenges for all of us is how do we access those angels of truth, those angels of wisdom when we’re not going through anything to do because we tend to be distracted by something else well, so the our ability to respond so I have a little simple formula, that situation happens sh and some people might say shit happens with situations. doesn’t equal outcome situation happens multiplied by a response equals the outcome. And generally as as leader, we’re almost in the business of ambiguity. If we’re not doing ambiguity, we’re not doing leadership in lots of ways if not for ambiguity. We don’t need leadership because stuff sorts itself. And so the first thing you always have to face up to as a leader is your life is going to be incredibly ambiguous, you are going to be faced, if you’re doing your job properly, you’re you’re faced with what I call the 5149 decision, if you’re not making the 6040 because someone else really should be making those decisions for you, because you’ve got a team which has that former capability. So if you’re in the 5149 business, well you’re 49s, going to get up a lot. So you’re going to you’re going to you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to make errors and, and often then as a CEO, when you make those errors, they have consequences, in not just plainly not just for you, they’ll they’ll have a material consequence on the performance of the organization or the lives of those who have been impacted by that. And so, if you’re not prepared to actually build a mindset of learning into that, somehow you’re you’re trying to pretend you’re not human. I think in your own way. And I look back on, I think most of us, it’s all we’ve all got to a so fast story, but we’ve also got a what next story. And it’s sitting in that little space in between where we can actually try and build and draw, meaning. We can’t change what’s happened, but we can draw meaning from it. And people would say, hindsight is 2021. It’s not, because you’re you’re, it’s your recall that your way of thinking about what’s actually happening, it’s not not putting on a DVD and pressing rewind and playing it. That’s whatever our take is. And I know that in life, whether it was I lost my father in difficult circumstances, I was diagnosed with depression when I was in my 20s or early 30s. Yeah, I’ve got a child who has changed gender. I’ve been sacked from my roles. I know their the times I’ve built the most insight. And I think it’s the, then I hadn’t come to that realization. It was why am relying Why should I rely on on an ordeal to create that way of living? Why can’t we bring a system of learning and understanding into our lives without the ordeal? And but I’ve got no question that those moments and it’s probably four, or five,I’m 57 now, so you do accumulate over time, the moments that, I know, that insight was forced upon me, and that’s where you have a choice. And I’ve got a personal trademark, which is called finding something. And I that was, wasn’t finding something to do it was finding something to know was finding something to be it was just relied on having to do deep really.
Graeme Cowan 16:58
When you took over three of your roles as CEO for football clubs, they weren’t in great shape. And what do you have insight now about the best things to do when a leader takes on a role where the group isn’t going great?
Cameron Schwab 17:19
They all have it’s interesting because people have often said, Well, how come you took those roles, and there was no, that was never by design. So it was three clubs in crisis. Basically, the reason I take those roles is because they’re the club looking for CEOs they have a situation for vacant written on there. So there’s a job in the paper. Generally, you don’t take over role as a CEO of a major Sporting Club, when they’re going well. You know, people are very responsive, they’re enjoying the fruits of their labour, really, so that unless there’s some peculiar situation or circumstance, so they do create a great opportunity. The first thing is never let a good crisis go to waste. That would be, that’d be one thing, if you actually have got a little bit of a burning platform where you can, you can make a choice, but I would say the very first thing you actually got to do is, is never underestimate the importance of hope that you actually provide by, by being someone who is coming into the organization. In the terms of its CEO, in quite a, it’s not a quiet appointment, it’s not a little appointment, it’s you know, it’s, it’s in the papers it’s talked about. And so how you present as the person who, first of all, can create hope and expectation, but very, very quickly, you need to be able to back it up the, the if you can’t, if you can’t match the words with your own behaviours as a leader and model those. It’s not what you proclaim, it’s what you permit. It’s what you practice. And if you’re if you’re not backing it up really quickly, you’re quite clear that that initial energy that you bring will evaporate, the chances are, you’re still going to perform badly for a period of time. Unless there’s just, you know, just something which is clearly out of line, which is just, you know, you can click the fingers, and that’s that, generally organizations are in those situations because a multiple things aren’t working well. And I would say you’ve got to get as much talent into the place as quickly as you possibly can all aligned to a clear understanding of what you’re seeking to achieve. And building agreement around that. And recognizing that, you know, there’ll be timelines associated with that. There’ll be trade offs that we have to make in terms of that. So you build it as a person but you also build In regard to the strategies that you seek to create, but get good people good behaviours happening as quickly as you possibly can.
Graeme Cowan 20:09
We both spoke at a conference called LearnX. And so I had the chance to listen to you, which I really enjoyed. And one of the things that really struck me was that you talked about talent leadership and systems leadership. Can you just explain a bit more about that? And how that applies in reality?
Cameron Schwab 20:31
Well, first of all, they are the reality that the only two leaders you have as a leader, your talent leader and your systems leader. And your talent is a product of the system, as well, how do you how do you go about recruiting, retaining and developing the best people you can. And so recognizing that those two leaders are always going to be in motion. And so you are, if you are going to have like those hands on, leader, you can’t rest, they are forever, there, that’s your that’s your daily checking is how am I going on both of those things. And, and, also, I’m all for setting goals and having visions, and we need to have a light at the top of the hill unless you can quite quickly build a system which is actually going to meaningfully take progress you in the context of that. And, and by system I talk about strategy as a system. And with outcomes, which require you to even think of strategy, if a strategy is not compelling for us, it’s not going to, it’s not going to encourage the opening enthusiasm that we spoke of previously, if the strategy isn’t making the best use of scarce resources, then in this in this, there’s always going to be a scarcity of resources in one way whether it’s access to finances, access to talent, whatever it might be, the system that you’re creating is not going to support the vision you actually had. And ultimately, it then relies on the talent that you bring in. And talent is measured by the behaviours of those people. And the most important aspect of any form of strategic execution is the day to day behaviours of the people who are required to execute. And, and so when we talk about things like care, as an example, care then encourages selflessness, selflessness then relates to the behaviours which are required to, to elicit the level of performance that we’re talking about, particularly in elite sport. And so you can’t, so you’ve got to drive that right from the start, but it’s a simple little formula of leadership drives culture, which drives behaviours, which drives performance. And, and I don’t think you can outperform your leadership. And, and so that’s, that’s, it’s really that feeling as a leader, as a CEO, when you when you walk in the room, and you and, and you look around and you say, Have I got the right people in the room? If I was sitting down if I was sitting down here again. If I was sitting down here again in two years time, who who would have liked it? Who would actually like to have? Who should be in the room? who shouldn’t be? Whose behaviours can I trust here? Because ultimately, that’s what culture is, can you trust the behaviours of the people who then have to draw the performance of the organization?
Graeme Cowan 23:42
I remember you also saying, as onstage that, you know, when you watch the football game, you could tell whether it was a talent problem or a systems problem if something went wrong. How do you go about that assessment?
Cameron Schwab 23:59
Probably a fair bit of it’s just the way I’ve grown up. As a from the outset, I think of if I watch a game of football, and I don’t think of it as club versus club, I do think of it as system versus system. And, and the system is, you know, how is that team seeking to play to give yourself the best chance of beating whoever they’re playing against? It’s, if you and I are in business, we might be competing, but we’re not competing once a month, you know, we’re not competing in front of 80000 people at the MCG. So it’s, it’s a different form of competition. You’ve got someone who is who’s who is developing a system to try and break down your system in a very active and in time way. But then I look at it and say, well, is what about there system of developing talent? Are they the players who are on the field? Are they there to win today, which you would like to do that. Or are they trying to build something which will give them a really good chance of winning tomorrow. If you’re in neither of those two places, and it’s a wonderful metaphor for any business, or probably any, any life, you either want to be in a situation where you can be successful now, or you can be successful within a time frame, which you’re prepared to, you’re prepared to see your way through. And when you’re in neither of those two spaces, you know, that’s, that’s where the energy evaporates. And, as a leader, often you, you know, you’re in one of those two phases, but other people around you might not sense that so much, they don’t have the same, they don’t have the same view, you’re a little bit higher up the hill, your views are a little bit different what someone who might be just feeling the losses, you know, acute, whereas you say, I’m prepared to wear that loss on the basis that I see where the improvements actually coming from. And again, comes back to what we spoke about before in terms when you come into the organization, you being in even have to be, that’s not a one off story, you’re telling us you’re telling that story all the time, you almost become a little bit of a cliche in itself. In some ways, you have to keep reinforcing the story, you have to keep explaining, we’re on track, you have to keep celebrating the small wins. And so you might be watching, one team get beaten by ten goals on a day. But you know, their closer that the team that lost is closer to winning the Premiership than the team that won. And I think that that assessment, and that’s part experienced that. But I think it’s mainly mindset that you actually, are you bringing a learner mindset into the organization to actually sense, you know, when, when it’s on track when it’s not on track, or are you coming into the room, as a know all who just keeps wanting to tell people what you want to do, rather than teach them what to do those sorts of things, I think, a fundamental winning form of leadership.
Graeme Cowan 27:04
Now, I know now that you help organizations and senior leadership teams to operate better, what are some of the foundations that you put in place to improve that performance?
Cameron Schwab 27:21
Well I think it starts with the leader themselves in the attitude they bring, because they’re going to be I mentioned before, you can’t outperform your leadership. And I just have a little simple framework I go, it comes back to that what I’ve mentioned before situation happens times response equals outcome. So if your response is one of blame is it one of criticism is it one of deflection, you’ve just taken yourself below the line. And in by below the line, I’m talking about behaviours, which they find friends easily all of those things, criticism, blame, deflection, but there’s no solution in any of them, no solutions. So the first role of the leader is to take responsibility. And that’s often taking responsibilities when there is something to buy. There is like even what we’ve experienced over the last 12 months, a pandemic is to blame, perhaps, but it’s not a solution. In blaming. So the core of it is to take responsibility. When we’re in a situation, what happens is we often we our response to that situation will be one of which we didn’t think we would respond in that way, you know, we think we’re always going to respond in an optimistic positive, take responsibility, way, but we don’t. So how quickly you can take yourself back above the line and by above the line, I talk about radical responsibility, not just a form of responsibility, but radical responsibility. And from that, you can actually build either resolution as in we know what we’re going to do next, we’re going to actually work out how we deal with a situation, or at least resilience to see our way through it. And so the radical responsibility to two responses one a resilience or, or, or a, you know, a response, which is appropriate to that circumstance. And the only way you will do that is if you stay calm, if you’re brave, and if you’re humble. And, and even in the context of that. So my advice, when to any leader when they’re facing into such challenging situations, is first of all pause, because your first response is unlikely to be the best one. And just write down on a piece of paper, what is the situation expected of me now as a leader, and then write those three words calm humble, brave. And then go and then write a sentence out of each of them as it relates to the context and the content of whatever you’re facing. And you mightn’t get it right, but you’ve just increased your chances of getting it right by a significant amount just by doing that. Because I mentioned some of my reflections before I look back on my time as a CEO when I wasn’t those things when I walked when I wasn’t brave when I walked past standards that I should have called out when I wasn’t humble when I let my ego. And that happened more often. And probably almost out of the sense of insecurity rather than necessarily any anything else. Yeah, or, you know, was I did I stay calm. And I had a wonderful mentor, a fellow by the name of Neil Craig who coached Adelaide football club. And whenever we faced into a difficult situation, and the one thing that sport is great at is reflecting on why something actually happened, we won because we lost because business doesn’t do that, as well. So sport is very good at what happened. This now we can build as much learning. But with recriminations we’re just learning. And the first question, Neil Craig would ask was, did we stay calm? Did we stay calm? And we’d walk around? And so the first question wasn’t anything to do with what the outcome it was related to our behaviours in that moment. And we basically, if we were, in our assessment of that question, we said, No, we didn’t, we, we fundamentally have reduced our chances of creating the optimal outcome by some significance. And that’s the same in negotiation, that same conversation about someone’s career about all the things you’re likely to face into as a leader. So when, when, when so in terms of the work I do, now, it starts with the leader themselves, and quite quickly extends into their teams If the leader themselves is not taking responsibility for their own behaviour it is unreasonable to have any expectation of the behaviours of others. And, and ultimately, performance is a product of both. And so it starts with it. And, and it’s a hard job. And I have I have, the one thing I’ve got a really strong view on is I’ll never forget how hard the job is now that I’m advising people who are in those jobs. It’s not where you know, where the where that sense of responsibility sits with you, where the next day you have to make a choice on someone’s life, someone’s career, change the business model change, you know, deal with a difficult customer, whatever. deal with those ones in particular.
Graeme Cowan 32:36
You mentioned before Cameron, about, you know, being very open about ups and downs in your career. Can you recall, even your personal life or work life something that really shattered you that was incredibly challenging, and then how you how you got around that and reflected on it
Cameron Schwab 32:58
Well the most shattering events were, were well when I got sacked would be the most shattering. But then there were those ones in the moment. I’ve got a little way of thinking that you think about as a leader, there’s going to be things happening around you, as in the world, that you’re living in the circumstance situation, which are then likely to have an impact and there might be other things going but what then is happening inside you either in response to that or just inside you because of how you feel about yourself or how you what’s going on in your family or well being. And people might have a certain degree of empathy for those, those things. But it’s really how you show up, which is how you imaging. And so sometimes, it could be that just face into it. We’re just the team might have been thrashed, and we might have lost five games in a row. I was totally bereft of ideas and thoughts as to how we turn it around and you know that you’re going to take up the back five pages of the Herald Sun. And I can remember driving home. My wife Cecily would be beside me. And I’d say to her, I think I’m stuffing this whole thing up but think I’m making a mess of this. And she’s a clinical psychologist that was probably handy at that moment. And I remember saying it was early she said you are allowed to think like that for the next two hours events. And that might be the best advice I’ve ever had. Because what would happen is I’d then go home or I might even put the game on again, even if we’ve been thrashed and generally wasn’t as bad as it seemed. That would be that would be. And it was you’re watching it without all the noise and all of those things, you know, I’d even turn the commentary down, so it wasn’t difficult. And then within about half an hour, I’d find my mood started to change. I’d start thinking about what is 123 things that I can do, when I show up tomorrow, how do I best show up. And if you can’t take responsibility for your own emotional states, during those times, therein lies your opportunity for growth as a leader. Because that is the what was happening around he was using the terminology I’ve mentioned before was pushing me below the line was actually behaving in a way which I would never expect to I was sooking, I was taking it personally, I was doing all of these things. And the most, the worst person to blame in those moments is, you know, the most toxic version of blame is self blame. there and the only the only positive way of moving forward is to take responsibility. And so even and that’s, a micro version of the macro, that being sacked that that the first time I was sicked, I was at a really vulnerable stage of life and in an emotionally struggling at a whole lot of levels. And it was at the same time. And as a result of that got diagnosed with clinical depression, which is, I now call it my gift depression because it was actually I think, in many ways a trigger, which encouraged me to go deep because I didn’t, I didn’t want to have depression, or, or if I was going to it was going to be part of who I was, Can I at least use it as something which is a form of growth, or at least I could, you know, I could still be a good father or I could still be a good husband or whatever other things. And the only way you can do that is by taking responsibility. And then so for me, it was very much about you know, what, there was more meditation or exercise, it was diet, it was all those all those sorts of factors. So it was just a question was taking responsibility, you know, the cavalry wasn’t coming over hill and saving me. I knew that. And yes, there would be certainly there were people who could help me. Ultimately, it was up to me. And I hope that doesn’t sound too indulgent. It’s, it’s that sense of particularly, if you’re employing a whole lot of people, because they feel like you’re feeling and they need to see something from you. And that’s not coming in as the person with the answers that’s coming in with the person saying I’m confident the answers are in this room. Yeah. Yeah.
Graeme Cowan 37:57
And it’s a big difference, isn’t it?
Cameron Schwab 38:00
And how do we actually how do I help how to because often, people want you to come in with the answers. And so it’s sometimes it’s just that you just got to move you just got to move one inch forward. And that’s enough to feel better. And we finished the meeting by saying have we made the Melbourne football club better today? Have we made in the in the last two hours that we made those clubs better? And that little check ins are really important and and because what that actually does is it takes it outside of this room. Because everyone’s feeling a bit sorry for themselves. Everyone’s feeling a bit wounded.
Graeme Cowan 38:37
Where do you consider yourself on the introvert/extrovert scale, Cameron and what impact does that have in the way that you work?
Cameron Schwab 38:48
Probably hadn’t really labelled it that much. I’m, I’m probably more introverted than extroverted, um in that’s where I get my energy from, my natural energy. I’m more likely to get my energy from a one on one conversation such as this or a really good book or a great podcast or than I am from a room full of people. And so I had to always, even when I was entering into a room full of people and you’ve heard me speak is I’m quite open when I speak. Is I do have to I do give myself a little pregame prep to make sure I do show up in a positive way. But I’m also not hopelessly. You know I haven’t, you know I don’t have those, you know, I’ve certainly had experience with people who have struggled with the anxiety that I haven’t. I’m always being on just on not probably on the introverted side is probably been a bit of a blessing because it means that I do prepare myself. You know for those situations.
Graeme Cowan 40:01
When you reflect on your life and career, what do you wish? You know? What do you wish? What advice would you give your 20 year old self, if you could speak to that person?
Cameron Schwab 40:24
Probably the first one was would be that it’ll be okay. The worrying about anything is a waste of energy. Coz you, you can’t worry about something which hasn’t happened yet. And something which has happened, which you’re worrying about, you can’t change so it is that it would be about staying, staying present. It would also be about conversations you might never get to have, you know, that, that I think about. See I lost my father when really important stage of life. And we still had 30 years of talking to do. And I think about the conversations we had, which were really unimportant. And I still think even today, 30 years on, are still very mean and find out what happened in trying to build any was complicated person and who probably, I needed to be the age, I am now to have the conversations that I would have liked to have had. And so I think about that with my own kids. About what should we really be talking about. And, and I did a drawing recently, and it was in the drawing looks a lot like my grandfather. And as I’ve got older, I think I’ve skipped a generation. I don’t look a lot like either of my parents, but my Mum’s father, who he taught me how to draw. He got it with butcher paper, and those old trading pencils, and he taught me how to draw horses when I was about, and horses are hard. They’re always hard to draw, and a bit of a system of how to grow a horse, you know. And so and I loved comics and, and so all of my, my artwork today is quite comic book like. And he was my first sense of loss and in life he died when I was 15. And, and so this drawing I’ve done I’ve told her we still had talking to do and it’s and it’s it could be him, ah he’s just got an ice cream in his hand. He used to go to the he served in World War Two and used to go to the RSL. And it wouldn’t matter if it was 40 degrees in Melbourne, he’d always have a suit the tie and braces. And he was a gardener. He wasn’t like a guy who would get in a suit and a tie, um and he’d come round to our house and he’d bring a tub of Neapolitan ice cream around. My eldest sister would get the chocolate, I’d get the strawberry and my brother would get the Vanilla, you know. And that was a big thing. And so it’s an old man with an ice cream, a strawberry ice cream. But it’s me, it’s me really in 30 years time. And I would just like to think that I’ve had the conversations that are the important ones with the people who are important to me, and you’re never going to to look at my grandfather didn’t die young or anything like that he died suddenly, but it was he wasn’t young. My father did die young. And was and it is then the conversations but I also think about other mentors. I’ve had Allan Jeans who was a great coach was a wonderful mentor. And I and I actually got to have conversations at the end. And and maybe you need to get to the point before you have them. But they were really powerful and actually one of the was because he asked me to speak at his funeral and, and it was actually about that. So that I think that’s so if you’re talking about the advice of the young person is that to deliberately and practically put yourself in conversation with wise people is one of the great gifts and the people who have an insight but also people who will have integrity for the conversation that you’re going to have. And then that’s that would be much is just continue to seek people out in your life who can give you who will have that integrity and will have that insight. And you can give each other a hug at the end and know that it’s been good for both of you.
Graeme Cowan 44:53
It’s been an absolute pleasure catching up with you today. Cameron, is there anything else that you just wanted to add about, I guess um performance care, and, and legacy, I guess?
Cameron Schwab 45:08
Look they’re all related, I think we’ve all we’ve all had a before stage of life, we’re all currently at our because stage of life, you know with me because then we’ve all got a bit of a beyond which might be our legacy B’s. But I think to have that, a couple of other B’s, if you like your belief and belonging are two really powerful ones, which actually take you there. And, and to realize that, and understand that, you know, there’s ways in which you can build that into your own life by being in the conversation we’ve had, by deliberately putting yourself in conversation with people by trying things which are different by my understanding, and these, sort of the metaphor of the game of football was my house if you like, and all of a sudden, it wasn’t my house anymore. And I, I was probably still part of me, which is grieving that house. But that might be that it forced me to climb a second mountain and the second mountains actually, in so many ways better than the first now. Because of that, and so to always be in search of that, that belief, belonging piece. And, as I mentioned, I’ve got a transgender daughter, Evie and I, I saw with her someone, she changed gender when she was 17. And so I saw someone who spent the first seventeen years of their life trying to fit in whereas now she belongs, and I see a different person because of that. and fitting in is a terrible waste of energy, belonging is energizing, and to go to find people who do and so really almost that search for wise people is almost search for people who care isn’t really? They care enough to give me their insight, they care enough to have integrity for the conversation. And so the work that you’re doing, the stuff you’re doing here is an example of that and you’re doing this because you care. It’d be easy for you just to say I love Seth Godin stuff. He says it’s one thing about an artist and because I practice as an artist, you’re not an artist until you ship your work, you know, and he uses the term ship, and what you’re what you’re doing Graeme is you’re shipping your art, you’re making it available for other people. Otherwise, it would have just been a little idea that you had yourself.
Graeme Cowan 47:28
It is a real privilege to speak with people like yourself and to share that message. And I think one of the lovely things that have happened already is how many people have commented on the really often authentic and deep discussions. And I think that’s, you know, at a certain stage, you know, you’re not pretending anymore, you say it, how it is. And it does differ, of course, depending on your life stage, but I really appreciated so much, how honest you’ve been the ups and downs. And then how you, you know, show up when things do happen, you know, the SH and the response, give you the outcome. And, you know, it’s a message that we all need to be reminded of and I, you know, continually try to remind people in my resilience speech about that. It’s not what happens to, It’s what you do. And real wonderful to hear your perspective on that. Thanks very much, Cameron. Really appreciate it.
Cameron Schwab 48:28
Good on your Graeme. Thanks for the opportunity.
Graeme Cowan 48:31
It was great. Cameron. Really? Yeah, really enjoyed. It was nice to be able to dig into some of those areas. And, yeah, it’s, it is it’s a real privilege to, you know, getting other people’s perspective. And there’s a lot of alignment and the stuff that I’m doing talk about as well, because I think it is a fundamental truth. You know, that the that the importance of, you know, being authentic, being there, showing up. And all of those things you mentioned about, you know, being calm, being courageous, and being brave, you know, great lessons. So, really appreciate your perspective on that.
Cameron Schwab 49:11
So good luck with it all goes really well. And it is about shipping your work. And I’ve only picked that up the last few weeks. And
Graeme Cowan 49:19
Actually, the funny you say that I’ve just bought is a book called Presenters or I’ve got a book by Seth Godin where he talks about shipping.
Cameron Schwab 49:30
The Practice, is it the Practice or the practice? Is it the practice so I got it from Yeah, yeah, yeah, like it. I’m just reading that at the moment. And interesting because I had my sister, my sister-in-law so they’ve got ten kids. I said ten kids is like really unusual these days. And so, and they’re all really clever the kids. One of them got into poetry. And, and I just asked her to see one and she wouldn’t show me one of the poems and eventually she sent me a little email with one, it’s quite beautiful. She’s only twelve or thirteen I’d say. And it’s really quite unusual because she’s she’s left space inside the poem, where’s kids at that age normally really obvious, you know I’m doing, but she’s actually left space inside the poem for people to make up to create their own view inside it. And that’s one of the real challenges for any artist is its hard to not be obvious because you want you want people to say no, this is what I’m trying to say. And even when people might think What are you doing? What are you saying there, you know, I go it could say whatever you want it to say really, you know, I know what I want to say. It could be interpreted in anyway. And and, and so that little line I use with her is it’s you know, you do have to show people your art and you do have to because that’s it otherwise it stops being the it mightn’t be right it mightn’t be Yeah. And some people might say they don’t like it but doesn’t matter, because it’ll get a little chance to change someone at some stage. And that’s really what art’s all about. It’s about changing something.
Graeme Cowan 50:58
Fantastic. Alright, well have a wonderful day.
Cameron Schwab 51:00
No worries, you too, and then
Graeme Cowan 51:02
Hopefully we might have a chance to catch up in person.
On the circuit mate, on the circuit.
The circuit could start again, who knows? It is starting to which is easier now.
Cameron Schwab 51:12
Yeah it is. There’s been a couple of times through in the last few days within the last few weeks, which has been great.
Graeme Cowan 51:18
Good stuff. All right. Well thank you.
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