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Episode 5 – Tracey Korsten

#SeriouslySocial The Podcast

with Simone Douglas and special guest Tracey Korsten


Chris Irving 0:01
Welcome to the seriously social podcast with your host, Simone Douglas. This episode features an interview with Tracey Korsten.

Simone Douglas 0:12
Seriously Social Podcast and today I’m joined by the fabulous Tracey Korsten, who has had a career that is pretty much more entertaining than mine. And it’s not often that I will say that so Tracy maybe as a quick kind of segue and intro, if you can give us the backstory on your fabulous multi divergent careers and interests and a little bit about what you do and then we can launch into it.

Tracey Korsten 0:37
Yeah, thanks Simone. Um, I think I was one of those children who right from a very young age wanted to be, you know, an actor. And so from quite a young age, I got very heavily involved in theatre. But I was also a fairly academic kid, and very aware that acting might not you know, pay the bills, so I’ve sort of ended up with these sort of careers that have gone along side each other over the decades. So I’ve been a lawyer, I’ve been a teacher, I still am a registered teacher. I’ve moved into training and working for tapes and RTOs and things. And then also the whole time I’ve been performing bit of directing, writing, and public speaking, because that’s always been a passion. So I’ve had all these things going along at once.

Simone Douglas 1:26
What have you found has been the secret to your success in juggling those kind of multiple career interests and life interests? Really?

Tracey Korsten 1:35
Um, yeah, interesting presumption that I have succeeded in juggling. And certainly, the last few years I have, it’s taken me a long time to really learn how to juggle it all and I think the key to that is, it’s really about priorities. It’s really about working out what is actually really important to me and working out what your true passionis because you know, you can say all my passion is the theatre, my passion is law or whatever it might be, but really fundamentally what is it is your passion communicating with other people is your passion connecting is your passion creating? And I think that when you really kind of drill down and work out, what is the fundamental, you know, overuse term, but what are your fundamental values, then you really know what’s driving you and then you can really work out your priorities. You know, aside from the average priority of I need to keep a roof over my hidden food in the, you know, at least in the cat’s bowl.

Simone Douglas 2:39
I think that’s a that’s a really interesting point in that about three years ago, I worked out what was my fundamental core purpose for being around and I managed to get it down to connecting people to people for mutual benefit at the end of the day, so long as I can do that every day of my life I’m going to be happy and then outside of that all of my business interests, everything that I do it has to tick that box somehow by creating a space for me to do that, but I don’t know that as business owners, we often take time out to actually work out what that is like often we’ll fall into a career or fall into something. Because we good at it, so I think, yeah, taking that time. So once you worked out so what was your, what was your core purpose or core passion or core value?

Tracey Korsten 3:28
Well, I think I think the the big drivers for me were, I narrowed it down to three and I sound a bit cliche, but it was love, humour and creativity. Yeah. And, you know, in their broadest senses, and I’ve found that going back to those really does help me work out what’s my priority here and what can I bring to this or, and you know, loving that I’m using love in the broader sense of almost that kind of biblical term of charity rather than love you know, that it’s about connecting with people and all of that, which of course, is what I like to do with things like public speaking or coaching other people in that, and so on. It’s about connecting with people and I am an attention whore, but that doesn’t fit in with values. That doesn’t sound very that doesn’t sound very sort of, you know …

Simone Douglas 4:15
It’s very honest, though, it’s I think, and I think that there’s two, there are two types of people in the world there are people who are very comfortable in their own skin, and people who are not so much and you strike me as someone that’s comfortable in your own skin yet in the in the short five minute chat that we’ve had so far, but for me, and I don’t know whether it’s I’m always careful of bringing gender into the argument, but I think that for me, I didn’t work out how to be comfortable in my own skin and unapologetically myself until I was about like 42. And um, so I’m not sure if it was an age thing agenda thing. In terms of your life and your experience. Were you always comfortable in your own skin in from, you know, an unapologetically yourself or was it a process?

Tracey Korsten 4:59
That’s, oh, no, it was definitely a process and and i think gender does come into it in the sense that, I mean, I, you know, many men are uncomfortable in their skin and struggle and all of that, of course, but women are far more put into a cultural framework, a cultural sociological framework of constantly being apologetic for the very existence, you know, let alone you know, saying the wrong thing or wearing the wrong thing or being a bit fat or some other crime that a woman commits, you know, so, it was always a struggle. I was always very outgoing and very confident, seemingly superficially confident, child, adolescent, young woman, but I think like yourself I only really felt like I dropped into myself in my in my 40s. Yep. And, and, and a lot of that is experience. And but it’s also I think it’s not just living the experience. I think you do have to, I think it was Aristotle talked about the examined life some one of those clever philosophers. And I think that if you haven’t examined your life, you can still be struggling in your 40s 50s 60s.

Simone Douglas 6:06
Yeah, very true.

Tracey Korsten 6:07
You know, I think you have to do the work.

Simone Douglas 6:09
Yeah, absolutely. I think and it’s something, doing the work is something also that we don’t talk about enough. So, you know, often I’ll be having conversations with people in in business and people that I know and they’re like, Hi, you know, I don’t know how you do all the things you do. And you just so amazing, and I go five years of therapy, and they’re like, what?

Tracey Korsten 6:28

Simone Douglas 6:29
And I was like, it’s called working out your shit, but I think that there needs to be more conversations about you know, going and saying a psychotherapist or a psychiatrist or a mental health practitioner to help you work out the things that aren’t working for you shouldn’t be a taboo subject. That’s wrong.

Tracey Korsten 6:48
No, I absolutely agree with you. I think it’s still very much about you go to see a counsellor of any sort. You know, when you’ve got mental health issues or mental health problems or whatever and you don’t necessarily have to have a very a mental health distress or illness that’s writ large that’s manifest large in order to go and as you say work you should out, and you know like yourself I see as I see a psychologist regularly you finally found one that’s just amazing and and she really is great for me, you know, just pushes me where she needs to and, puts up with my tantees and all of that. And but years of that and got also going to groups and doing a bit of 12 step and all of that stuff and and you take what you need, you leave the rest, you know, and everything I’ve done, I think has has helped me. Absolutely. Yeah.

Simone Douglas 7:47
So if you perhaps were talking to someone who is struggling with the disparity between their true self and the veneer or the mask, that they were in life and in business because I think in business even like if it puts us under even more pressure to be seen to be a certain way, it’s it’s a whats the word a false pressure, but if you were giving advice to someone, let’s say someone in business in their 30s that hasn’t hasn’t done the work and hasn’t, you know, maybe excavated themselves and rebuilt themselves, what would be your top tips for them in terms of starting that journey?

Tracey Korsten 8:28
Gosh, I think I mean, obviously, it depends on the person but I think that a good start is just to do some reading to find the right reading material. I mean, I think there’s even a term for it now isn’t called book therapy or literary or something, you know, reading self help books, and there are certain ones that I would guide people to have a read of this. And and one in fact, one that I read recently actually review because I review books, because it’s where getting free books. I’ve got no shame. I reviewed a book by Paul Dolan. Okay. And he’s reasonably well known more in England. He’s a very kind of extroverted eccentric academic, but he he writes around human behaviour. I think his background is, I think it’s psychology, I’m not quite sure. But he wrote a book a couple of books on on happiness. And of course, you know, you think, Oh, another book that, that that is absolutely brilliant. And the last one that he wrote that I really, really looked at the narratives that we put around happiness and the really accepted narratives that for instance, being well educated is going to help you be happier um, you know, being married and or monogamous, being comfortably well off all of these things and he takes these narratives and just deconstructs them

Simone Douglas 9:50
That’s awesome.

Tracey Korsten 9:50
A nd deacons. Not to say this might not make you happy, but don’t assume that it will don’t assume that grabbing someone who left school at 15 and put them back through university is going to make their life any better. Don’t assume that and so a book like that, or other things, similar things, I think that’s that’s the way to start because from there, you start to feel what, what twangs with you what resonates. And from there, you can then go actually, there’s a group that talks about, you know, acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or there’s a psychologist that specialises in in CBT, or whatever it is, and I think you go from there.

Simone Douglas 10:27
Yeah, no, that makes sense to me and I think I used to have my own counselling practice for a couple of years.

Tracey Korsten 10:33
Oh Wow.

Simone Douglas 10:34
Feels like a lifetime ago because I ended up transitioning into marketing instead, because one business took off faster than the other. But one of the things that we got taught when our very first word, you know, transpersonal counselling was don’t overlay your expectations on your client, but let them find the toolkit that works for them. And so you know, it was very much for me, you know, holding space for someone else to be themselves without that judgement so that I can explore what’s going on and I think when it comes to happiness, it’s such a dangerous word.

Tracey Korsten 11:09
Oh, oh, so loaded.

Simone Douglas 11:12
So I’m very, what’s the word? I’m big on joy. So I’m big on finding the, like daily. You know, what are the little things that you know make me smile? What are the things that I can find beauty in what am I grateful for? And then my grand forever ago, like she would have been 100 this year, she was still with us. So, but she, she just used to have this really amazing knack for waking up and then she’ll get she would get into her routine so she had a happy bubble, I call it and I do the same. So I’m a routine in the morning. that guarantees that I start the day well,

Tracey Korsten 11:45
Mm hmm.

Simone Douglas 11:47
And it never changes. And it’s I think it’s different for everybody. But you know, I have music that I play that has the right cadence for me to set me up for success and I don’t watch the news God help me. But then she used to go out into the world in that state of being and just random acts of kindness, which is what she did. You know, and and they weren’t random. They were just daily practice for her telling people you know, they’d be a young 16 year old serving or at the cafe she got a darling your nail polishes that is just beautiful, you know, and I used to say to a grandma, you always give me compliments and things all the time. And she goes because it costs me nothing to be the ray of sunshine in someone’s day.

Tracey Korsten 12:26
It’s really interesting you talking about that? Because I was some I saw something recently was probably a TED talk or something like that. And about the the top 10 factors for people living long, but also quite healthy and engaged lives. And there was standard ones, you know, like exercise and eat well, and blah, blah, blah, all that boring stuff, you know, but number one, the absolute top one was making everyday connections with people. I think they’re probably used a better term than that. So it wasn’t close relationships that was number nine. So having those close intimate relationships, you know, good relationship with your spouse, children, grandchildren, whatever. But the number one factor was was that it was the fact that people that could you know, have a chat to the to the girl behind the counter or the bloke that they always catch the bus with, or say hello to their neighbour and know that that’s Marge on one side and Fred on the other there that those little every day, seemingly minor social connections are seen to be absolutely huge, statistically, in living long and well.

Simone Douglas 13:36
Well there you go.

Tracey Korsten 13:37
Which I find really interesting.

Simone Douglas 13:39
And yet, we’re consistently now finding ourselves in a society where we’re stepping back from that connection with people. So you know, if you look at kids, young kids, younger kids, you know, and I have a 13 year old and a 10 year old right now. So I make them go out and have conversations with people, but they’re not willingly going to do that they’re happily going to Skype their friends and Facebook their friend. You know, God knows 10 other platforms that they can have those conversations, but if these people aren’t picking up the phone and ringing their friends or catching up in real life.

Tracey Korsten 14:16
And that’s that’s an emotional issue, I think or it can be because the the current research has shown that when we are face-to-face with somebody, when we are in the same space with someone, there is a certain level at which the brain start to move on the same kind of way. This is not new age stuff. This is actual scientific stuff. And I’ve thought that’s really interesting that you don’t get that even over Skype. You certainly don’t get on the phone. You don’t get it with text. I mean, I think all of those platforms are fantastic, and they all have wonderful implications for people who are isolated and all of that and, and we love them, especially during shutdown. They’ve been a bit of God send but it’s really important, I think, to be in the same space as people. And and as you yourself said, I think that it’s it’s very hard to, to hold space for people when you’re not actually in that space.

Simone Douglas 15:13
No, yeah,

Tracey Korsten 15:15
You can to some extent over Skype and phone, but it’s not the same.

Simone Douglas 15:19
And I think you raise another interesting point, it’s been my experience that the people that have the strongest and most successful networks are the people that have the capacity to hold space for other people.

Tracey Korsten 15:31

Simone Douglas 15:32
You know, I often say and allow them to have some oxygen.

Tracey Korsten 15:36
Absolutely, yeah.

Simone Douglas 15:38
So in this game, what would you say has been your approach to building your networks either from a digital or from a real life perspective, that has led you to have lots of interesting experiences in your life?

Tracey Korsten 15:56
It is that it does get back to that holding space and listening, listening and, you know a very overused word. But, you know, I always laugh I think everybody thinks they’re a good listener, just like everybody thinks they’re a good driver and everybody thinks they’re good in bed. Now statistically, it kind of be wrong on a few of those you know, and people are terrible listeners, people, you know, a lot of are terrible listeners, as in a lot of people think that listening means just being quiet and letting the other person speak. And it’s so much more than that. And so, when I go into networking, whether it’s formalised networking, whether it’s informal, whether it’s, it’s, it’s whatever it is, I don’t know what this person is going to be for me down the track or vice versa. I don’t know, this person might end up fixing my electrics in my house, they might end up married to my daughter, they might end up I don’t know that and so I have to approach every connection with somebody you know until I’m you know, pushed otherwise I’ll approach it with respect, I approach try to approach it with interest with genuine curiosity about the person and about what they do. And you know that I’ve just made some lovely connections with people over the years, you know, that may or may not result in me getting work or whatever it might be. You can’t go in with that attitude. You know, even even if you are going to a formalised, you know, this is a business networking function, there is nothing worse than somebody who comes up to you guys. Hi, I’m Mary, look, let me give you my business card. What do is blah, blah, blah,

Simone Douglas 17:37
I can’t stand it.

Tracey Korsten 17:38
I can’t stad it. Yes. And that’s not what it’s about. No, you know, it should be more like your grandmother. Hi, Mary. I’ve just got to say, I just love your shoes when you get them from, and I’m saying that not because I think it’s a good approach because I’m genuinely going to love those woman’s shoes. I’ve got to go and ask her. And you chat and you get on, you know, and I’ve come away from even from so called business networking things we’ve just another, you know, chick don’t want to have a coffee with Yeah, you know, which is great or you know someone who I think could help my son with something or …

Simone Douglas 18:14
Yeah, well and I think that’s definitely been my experience I always go into everything just looking to make new friends. And then I think there are different types of friends so I have business friends, sometimes I have business family, I suppose I have different types of family as well. But the amazing thing is because I’m just always looking to make their lives better somehow. Okay, because the making their lives better I get to feel good about myself anyway, let’s be honest, there’s pay off. But also, in doing that, what happens is then randomly, something goes pear shaped for me and all I have to do is pick up the phone. And it’s really funny, so we had that with the pub, you know, during COVID and being shut down. What was meant to be a two day rip the vinyl up in the kitchen putting the vinyl down turned into a six week exercise where we needed concrete tilers to come in, um, and you know, but what was amazing was just being able to pick up the phone and in an hour I think at five o’clock on a Friday night, ringing one of my friends Damon and being able to go to him, You brought a concreter to a networking function, you know, eight months ago. What was his name? How well do you know him? He’s like, he’s my best mate. I will ring him now and then like when the concrete is ringing me at 530 on a Friday night after what already done a full day with his crew. Going I can meet you at the pub in half an hour and have a look and we can quote it. Let’s see what we need to do. You know, ringing the Tiler at the same time Dion, who I’ve known for years again, again, through business networking not like it’s family ties or anything like that. And going Dion and how much do you love me? He’s like, you know, I do why I’m like so I need you to come we’re gonna have to completely retile the kitchen, and he’s come and had a look and then him and his crew worked an entire Saturday, just to get it done, so it was just, you know, who can pull trades like that and plum it, you know. So I think I always like to keep putting favours in the bank because I never know when I’m going to need them, so if I can make connect someone to someone, and it puts a favour in the bank, even though I’m not conscious of what that bank account looks like, I just know I’m always making deposits.

Tracey Korsten 20:30

Simone Douglas 20:31
Then, you know, life becomes way more fun.

Tracey Korsten 20:34
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, it does. And, and it is an art, you know, this is just my own non scientific layman’s theory about that whole, you know, the smaller connections giving us a longer life. I think that one of the issues is that every time we talk to somebody new, we’re opening up new, new, new that’s very hard to say, new neural pathways. And and that is why one of the, you know, one of one of the sort of semi preventative measures for things like dementia and stuff will not preventative it, but helps is that opening up new neural pathways, but it’s also just as you said, it’s really exciting. I mean, I love sometimes I’m, I’ll start talking to somebody in a networking thing and they’re writing a thesis or they’ve written a book called their done something and you find out what it’s about. And you go Oh, is that kind of like related to that? Oh, wow, oh my god, that’s so interesting. And it’s just, it’s great. You get and I think that when you’re in networking / businessy kind of settings, you get to have different conversations with people to the ones that you might have at a cocktail party or a dinner party or, you know, someone’s barbecue. I think that you approach people slightly differently. And you are more likely to be asking about their work, which might not be appropriate at a cocktail party or whatever. And so I think you end up having different and and not necessarily better but different conversations with people. And that’s really exciting. Really interesting.

Simone Douglas 22:05
Yeah, absolutely. I think too that’s why I have lots of different events that I do. So, you know, a great example is Dr. Fiona Kerr, so she’s a neuro hearing physicist. I think I’ve got that right. I’ve met her at a networking lunch so she was the keynote speaker, and she’s just bloody fascinating. And so, you know, had a really good conversation with her and then I said to her, oh it’s been really great to meet you, like, can I grab your email address so she handed that over and I sent her an email probably about two weeks later going, I hosted you know, dinner for the driven which is just for really successful business women who would like to get to know each other outside of a business setting are you free and she came along to that and it was just, you know, that epiphany of if I had, if I chose to make the time, shouldn’t say if I had the time, but if I chose to make the time I would be so tempted to go and study, you know, neurology and the brain and how it performs and all of those things and how they tie together, because it’s just fascinating to me. You know, things like the impact of touch on people and their brainwaves. And you know, like you were saying before just being face to face with someone and having that conversation. So, yeah, I’ve also been really passionate about, don’t be afraid to ask someone for permission to get to know them better because I think that’s where we miss the boat.

Tracey Korsten 23:31
Absolutely. I think that, you know, I’ve certainly, even at times just contacted people that I don’t know, particularly women. I’m not saying I’d feel more comfortable with women than with men, but I feel sometimes more comfortable approaching women out of the blue. And I’ve contacted them and just said, look, I’m just wondering if you’ve got some free time in the next couple of weeks. I’d love to buy your coffee. I’m interested in what you do. I’d like to have a chat. So I’ve done that a couple of times, and I’ve never had anybody turned me down. They’ve always been happy to meet me and have a chat to me. You know, and I’ve made it clear that I’m after maybe a little bit of advice or a bit of guidance or want to learn something more about how they go about doing things. And, you know, I think again, and I’ve met women at networking things and gone on top really love to, to chat to him and yeah, yeah, let’s swap phone numbers. Yeah, you know, and sometimes you don’t follow that up. Sometimes you forget. But, you know, most of the time I try to I try to at least send a text and say thanks for giving me your number and all of that. Yeah. Yeah. It’s great. I mean, what’s life about if we’re not out there, connecting with other people?

Simone Douglas 24:36
That’s, that’s a good spot to end on. I think because one of the advantages, I suppose, of both you being really forward and happy to do those things and me being the same is this is how we ended up on the couch today, having a conversation.

Tracey Korsten 24:50
Yeah, exactly.

Simone Douglas 24:51
Thank you very much for joining me today. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our chat and I think we could talk for hours. But I’m aware that you know podcasts have a certain set a time limit to them with people’s attention spans. So Tracy thanks again. I really appreciate your time.

Tracey Korsten 25:07
Thanks, Simone.

Chris Irving 25:10
Thank you for listening to the seriously social podcast. See our website for more details at Check the show notes for credits music used in the programme and more details about our guests.

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