For one year a project is underway where one Hero Shot & Story is published weekly to Facebook.
Nick Sutherland was one such participant. We captured what was needed for the project, and in the process he discovered he liked the suite of pictures you see here.
The Humans. In business project is an exploration into literally, what it is to be human in business. Turns out there’s a lot going on behind the curtains that explains the passion and persistence we see in business leaders.
Enjoy Nick’s story:
“I’m Nick. When I was a kid and people asked me ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’, I didn’t want to be a fireman. I’d say ‘I want to be free’.
I remember being on my nature strip, thinking I could be Superman and fly and leave. I remember feeling I nearly defied the laws of gravity and physics. I nearly did it!
My parents separated when I was four and I only saw my dad once after that because then he passed away. He had manic depression which is now known as bipolar. He was undiagnosed and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. There was violence, I’d get left at the pub. It was a toxic environment.
As an adult my first taste of freedom was after the army. I’d gone from being really structured and regimented to having no boundaries on a one-way ticket to England. Dyed my hair blue and went on an adventure.
I’d made a promise to my best friend that we’d join the army. His name was Dion and he was a couple of years older than me. I looked at him as a role model, being a bit younger and with no direction, discipline or purpose – I wasn’t adding much value to the world. I admired the way he treated people, he lit up a room without trying. You know those silently strong people? He didn’t have to say a lot but when he did it resonated.
He took me under his wing and taught me how to do things properly. Like the way he attended to his job was … he was in landscaping. With pulling weeds, he’d do it properly, not half-assed, it was done to a level of satisfaction. He had a standard and I’d never had a standard before. I really valued him and respected him. He passed away on the 19/2/1999. He was hit by a motorbike. I had the date tattooed on my arm.
After the shock of Dion passing wore off, I went through a range of emotions – feeling sad, angry, alone, afraid, then I finally saw it as an opportunity to stand on my own two feet and do something positive with my life…something that would make him proud of me. So it was a no-brainer to follow in the footsteps that he never got to put down. It was the hard path to go to the army – because that’s what he would have done. He was my first teacher.
The army was my second teacher. I’m not a black and white person so I don’t want to say it was good or bad. But I had to find the value for being there. I learnt a lot about myself there, but even more about other people.
I injured my knee. To put it bluntly once you become injured you’re no longer valued in the army, you go on the scrap heap. I went from being part of a collective to being an outsider. I was on restricted duties where before I was super athletic. So I was naturally mourning that loss. I could no longer perform my work duties to the same capacity, so I was mourning that too.
My so-called peers started treating me with degradation and bastardisation – I was physically humiliated by them. That, coupled with being treated differently by the corporals and sergeants above me – I was getting charged with things that were out of my control – then it got really hard to handle.
After my knee surgery I was on base, in my room, and the fire alarm went off. I was on medical leave, dosed up on Panadeine Forte and morphine. The sergeant ordered me to stand in front of my unit. I was on crutches and he didn’t get me a chair. I had to stand there and wait for the fire brigade. There was no smoke, it was a false alarm. I went back to bed. I was almost passing out and the knee was swelling up. He came back and charged me with disobeying a lawful command.
So that sort of stuff became a constant. The biggest thing was everyone’s perception of me changed. They thought I just didn’t care or respect the rules. They didn’t understand what was happening on the inside.
That’s where I started learning lessons. I could react to them or I could move into a space where I could choose how I felt. I developed a trust within myself. I knew I was a good person and responsible for my own happiness and health. I became emotionally self-sufficient at that time.
Years later I found Viktor Frankl. He was a psychiatrist that went through the POW camps and wrote many books. Something of his resonated with me: Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. I realised I’d done that in the army. I didn’t let them control me.
We were on 24 hour notice to move to East Timor so our unit was in a fully heightened state of awareness. With all of that going on I still went into depression and anxiety. My basic human needs were compromised so then I got medically discharged with no support.
I went from having a direction, career and focus to pretty much losing everything.
After the army I didn’t know how much of me was me, so I went and saw Mum. We had a really good chat and I had a huge emotional release. It was really weird it was like I had all these internal scars that were infected. I just cried and cried and cried and the tears flushed out all the toxicity. I called it ‘septicemia of the emotions’.
A lot changed after that. I stopped looking at my dad as a horrible person and being afraid of becoming him. I learnt that he was a beautiful man with issues. He actually cared about us and for the first time I looked at my childhood through the eyes of an adult. I used to hate my childhood but I learnt to love him and now I wouldn’t change a thing. I forgave him. I forgave myself for being a shit. Same with Dion’s passing and what happened in the army.
I had to decide, do I want to keep lugging shit around or let go of it?
I’ve learnt that everything has an expiry date. It’s like having milk in the fridge. If it goes off, and I keep drinking from it and get sick, I’ll wonder why? It’s not the milk’s fault, it’s my responsibility to throw the milk out.
The longer I try to hold onto the milk the more sick I become. So I have to learn when to let things go by knowing when they have met their expiry date.
It used to be scary to let go. I held onto things out of fear.
I started searching for what was important to me. My two keys to happiness are acceptance and forgiveness. I accepted it’s all a part of life, it helped shape me and none of it was personal. I learnt to let shit go.
Last year, my Dad passed away the night before he was going to retire. He literally worked himself into the ground. I like to think he’s happy of how I’m helping other blokes to not follow his path, and that he, Dion and my biological Dad are all looking down and are proud of me.”
#hib (Humans. In business)
Nick Sutherland helps blokes that run their businesses better than they run themselves, create a more balanced life. Nick can be found at: www.nicksutherland.com.au
‘Initially sharing myself personally was strange because usually I’m the one doing the prying, but then it was fine. It was helpful that Beth kept bringing it back to me, not how my experiences could help others – which I kept trying to explain. I learned that I don’t actually have to help everyone to be happy…I need to be light and smile again.
My community really enjoyed seeing what was behind the curtains and learning what I was about. I think it really helped them to appreciate that I am able to help them because I’ve been where they are. The photography process was comfortable and enjoyable. I’d love to suggest something to Beth to improve her process, but to be honest, it was just an all round fantastic experience. 🙂 ‘
Would you like me to help you show what’s behind your curtains so your market can better understand why you do what you do?
Let’s have a chat to see what’s possible.