In this episode, Alex Lau catches up with Rev Dr. Brian Birkett, from Springboard Consulting. The two take a deep dive into how you can recalibrate emotions and adjust to this unprecedented season of life.
Alex: Hey friends, it’s Alex again from SeeSharp. Welcome to another episode of Surviving at Home Series. In this series, I interview a whole bunch of business leaders that I know, and I’m committed to doing this until COVID-19 becomes history. Today, I’ve got a mentor of mine. His name is Dr Reverend Brian Birkett or Brian Birkett. I like to call him Pastor Brian. He’s a mentor of mine for many, many years and I’m really glad to have him on the show. How are you going, Pastor Brian?
Brian: Yeah, doing really well. Thanks, Alex. It’s just a pleasure to be able to join you and to be able to join your listeners.
Alex: Yeah, great, okay. Well, Pastor Brian, tell me a little bit about what you do and what does your life look like right now.
Brian: Yeah, well, look, life has changed significantly as it has for so many with COVID-19. In fact, I was just reading about some of the work that’s being done in India for reaching the poor and supporting them as it is suffering some of the hardships that COVID has created as well as people in Manila. So, I get to travel around different places when there are no restrictions on international travel and as part of that, I’m involved in both mentoring and training, teaching, speaking and community development work as well as within community organisations.
Alex: Right, okay, great. Are you running an organisation called Springboard Consulting?
Brian: Locally, I run an organisation called Springboard Consulting. Globally, there’s a group called Asian Outreach that I’m involved with. In terms of the business side, Springboard Consulting comes alongside business leaders, churches, community groups, seeking to help them to flourish and to do life better.
Alex: Right, okay, cool. So, just talk about before COVID-19, what was your day-to-day, well, I’m really talking about, you know, there’s Springboard Consulting side and I obviously know that you help a lot of individuals. Not only in Church Ministry or in Christian leadership but a lot of business leaders as well to develop themselves individually and personally. Before COVID-19, what did that look like?
Brian: Yes, so that tended to look like workshops coming and visiting business leaders, meeting with them personally, listening to them, having cups of coffee or tea with them and being able to share a meal together and just go on the journey. Sometimes, that journey had to do with their business life. More often, it had to do with their personal life, sometimes their marriages or sometimes their own needs and so as a counsellor or pastor being able to come alongside people, a lot of listening and encouraging and supporting people through the journey of life. So that tended to be face-to-face, very little zoom, very little just on the phone, but the value of being able to sit with a person and to be able to hear that part of their journey was something that seemed precious.
Alex: Yeah and obviously, I’m one of the beneficiaries out of what you do, you know, over the years, I think you started seeing me when I first got married and you know I had my first child and all that sort of stuff. I don’t believe I had an emotional issue per se, but it was really refreshing to see you every single time to give me perspective on things and working through some of the struggles and just different things, you know. So overall, obviously, you know, I respect you a lot and thank you for helping me to become a better person. And obviously, I still got stacks of things to work on, but you know, I’m really glad that I’m walking this journey with you. So, thank you.
Brian: Thanks Alex. It’s been a pleasure and joy to be able to be part of that journey with you and to come alongside you and your family and to really see you flourish and become the person that you’re becoming. I’m just seeing the growth that’s going on in your life through both your faith in God as well as your business capacity and your entrepreneurial spirit. So, it’s as you’ve picked up today, you talked about you didn’t feel you had an emotional issue per se and that’s very true. It wasn’t that that was the issue. It was strengthening you needed for the journey because all of us have different emotional challenges and struggles and different things, highs and lows, including myself. All of us go through those and as we discover them more and more deeply, reflect on them and then we can really see healing and more freedom. In those areas, we are more effective people and then, of course, the business can flourish, life can flourish, the people around us flourish.
Alex: Yeah. So, let’s talk about this current season right now, alright. So obviously, you know, we can’t do coffee catchups or anything at the moment. Do you find yourself doing a lot of Zoom calls? And obviously, without reviewing a lot of, you know, personal issues and whatnot, have you come across people who are sort of depressed or, you know, down because now they’re isolated and a sense of loneliness and all that? What does that look like right now?
Brian: People are responding really differently in different situations. So, some people who may be more social introverts or introverts are coping quite well. They’re saying, hey, this is free time and a little bit of space, whereas others that may be a more extrovert or ambivert, they’re kind of saying, hey, I’m missing those relationships and I’m feeling isolated and I’m struggling. There’s no doubt that my particular work with Springboard Consulting has decreased quite significantly, which is very natural. Just today, I had one couple who lead a community group; it’s a large church or fast-growing church. I was scheduled to meet with them personally and they were looking forward to it, but when COVID hit, they indicated, look, catching up with you online wouldn’t be the same, so we don’t really want to do that, we’re going okay. Whereas there was another couple last week that we’re doing it tough, I’m just going to say and one was a leader, another was on the journey and I spent some time talking with them in some fairly deep ways with the husband, then with the husband and wife and that seemed to really bring help and assistance too.
Alex: Right, okay and just so that you can shine some light into how we should be dealing with this season. I wouldn’t say how have you prepared yourself because none of us have actually prepared ourselves for a season like this. How have you adjusted your lifestyle and maybe in your daily routine and habits, to react to what’s going on right now and to make sure that you stay emotionally balanced?
Brian: Look, honestly Alex, I reckon it’s pretty hard. For me personally, I’m going fine, so thanks for asking, but I think for all of us it’s pretty hard. Sometimes, anxiety comes in, sometimes depression sets in, sometimes fear of the future, sometimes health fears or fear of loved ones. I’m very conscious so many people have lost jobs or businesses have had downturns. So, my heart goes out to all business leaders who are having to put staff off or having to make decisions as to how to manage the business and the clients that creates.
So, for myself personally, I was reflecting with my daughter who lives with us with my grandson this morning. It was about 11 o’clock and I hadn’t really got my day started. So, productivity wasn’t high this morning for various reasons, but I’d had a lovely chat with my daughter and that was really good and so that was a gift that the opportunity had given. Since then, I’ve graded, as you mentioned I’m a doctor, so I graded academic papers, master’s papers and I’ve been working in all the rest of it. But how did I…I guess its sort of coming to the question about emotional health and wellbeing for people, so applying it just off myself for others as well. In this season, emotional health and wellbeing are so important. That’s why the government put $50 million towards mental health. They put another $50 million to help families, particularly women, from domestic abuse and violence. If anyone is hearing this and is concerned about those areas, I think accessing support is so important. So, this area of emotional health and wellbeing in this season is really vital that we find support and find help.
Alex: Yeah, I think you’re spot on because, you know, we’re all adjusting to this season. Obviously, you know, for us young parents, there’s an extra layer of homeschooling today. Thankfully, it was a relatively smooth ride for us this morning. But, you know, just through internal like parent chat groups and whatnot. You can certainly feel the anxiety, oh my goodness, we’ve got kids at home and they’re all young and you know, how do I go about keeping them occupied and getting on with working from home, schedules and things like that? And as you said, you know, I think we just need to take it one day at a time and give ourselves grace as well. Correct me if I’m wrong, because some days, I find myself super productive. I’m actually in a season that I’m more productive than ever because I’m not wasting time commuting and all that sort of stuff, right. But there are some days that your day doesn’t start until 2 p.m. because of all that stuff that is happening around the house and things.
So what would be some of the practical tips that you can give for someone who’s finding it hard, especially for people who are single or living by themselves or, you know, facing all these challenges of either loneliness or a sense of being overwhelmed or things have changed in their financial circumstances. What can they do now to stay above water?
Brian: Yes. Well, look, really good. I mean, you’ve opened up a number of fronts of areas to explore there. Thinking about young families with schooling for children, being gracious to yourself and to your spouse is really important and being able to understand that this is an unusual season. It won’t last forever, but let’s work together and try and capitalize on the opportunities of the journey and try and be forgiving and gracious and understanding. When I was grading this morning, I could hear a screaming baby who must have been just less than six weeks old. So, someone’s had a baby in the neighbourhood, my window was open. We have a second storey, so the sound was travelling, so I didn’t know where it was, I don’t know the people. But coming back to your question, it’s being gracious to ourselves and to one another. It’s finding local support, I mean, really local. So, my wife and I and my daughter and grandson put together these little cupcakes filled with Easter eggs and dropped one at everyone’s front doorstep. We live in a court, so that was 11 that I delivered with a little card, just kind of saying where here. We got a couple of texts back and a phone call and someone shouted out from their front yard and those sorts of things just to say thanks. But of course, we kept the distance. So, where I’m going with that though is – incidental contact with people that are local. I’m not one who goes out to the supermarket everyday and kind of tries to drop around a loophole because really that’s not helpful for us but trying to find ways that a person can replenish. So, make sure you’re still getting enough sleep and doing some exercise. Myself, I’m a bit frustrated because I love swimming, you know Alex, and I can’t do that because the pools are closed. I used to swim in a lake nearby and it’s got too cold for that. I don’t have a wetsuit and didn’t really want to buy one. So, it’s being fit, being healthy and having wellbeing in our minds. I think coming to emotional health, which, you know, is a specialty area. I would say it’s being authentic to ourselves. So, if we’re not doing well and you mentioned about people who are single. It’s calling someone, having them on FaceTime, talking with them, seeing them. Not just a phone call, but not just a text either or just an e-mail, reach out for support and help. But also, look at creative ways to do different things. I need to clean up my study. You’re sitting in my study with where you’re seeing me here. I’m not going to show you all papers on the floor that I’m processing through. That’s one of my goals for instance. Maybe that answers a few thoughts.
Alex: Yeah absolutely. You know, it’s really practical and yeah, definitely we’re spending more time at home and we can no longer put up with some eyesores that we’ve been putting off for a while now. You know, go clean up the garden, you got to make sure everything is tidy, otherwise, you’re just going to live in this scramble for the next few months. Hey, I’m going to go really bold in this episode to talk about spirituality and religion if you don’t mind, right? So, for those of you who are watching out there, don’t mind me. I’ve made it no secret from day one that I’m a proud Christian, but I’m also a business owner and an entrepreneur. A lot of my friends and the people who are close to me, we share the same faith and obviously Pastor Brian doing what he does as well. Have you found Pastor Brian, in this season and in your circle, do you feel like people are drawn more to spirituality and starting to ask these big questions more in a crisis like this?
Brian: There’s no doubt if we’re looking at it from an existential point of view and something bigger than ourselves, people are looking and starting to ask some questions. Why has this happened? How do I respond? What’s meaning in life? How do I respond to that meaning in life? What’s my identity? Who am I? What’s really important to me? What do I really value? I mean, we can have a fancy car or a few fancy cars, but we can’t drive them a whole lot right now. We can have a big house, but we can’t share it with anyone. We can have all sorts of things, jewellery and fancy clothes, but we can’t show people unless you can see it on a screen. I think that there’s a recognition that some of those things have been stripped away and right across the globe, over 200 countries are affected by this. So, there’s something there where for the first time perhaps or certainly one of the first times in global history, we’re working together against an enemy instead of against one another. That starts to ask questions about faith and about spirituality. I’ve talked with people from probably over a dozen different faiths, whether it be Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, I could go on and on and on. The Jewish faith, etc. Some of these are major faiths. They’re even caring for their communities; I remember seeing some Sikh people handing out meals to people in Melbourne here. Buddhist people in Thailand would be helping some of their people and so I think that’s tremendous that faith communities are doing that. Do you know, interestingly, you mentioned about religion and spirituality, over 80 per cent of the world’s population are religious or have a spiritual faith. Now, I’m not saying they’re all Christian. My faith is as a Christian believer – loving God, loving Jesus, loving people.
My faith is the one true and living God, Jesus. Yet I was talking with a Buddhist person just recently, and as I was chatting with this person, what was clearly coming out was the need to be able to draw in faith in this situation because of fear and because of other challenges this person was having. So, I would say it’s increasing. I don’t think the media will pick this up. Not in a big way, because the media doesn’t want to pick this up because the media sees atheism and agnosticism as something that they want to espouse rather than a need for God.
Alex: I do totally agree. We’re all spiritual beings and a lot of people are spiritual per se, right. Also, I’ve said on this show repeatedly, I really feel like in this season God is recalibrating humankind, right. To help us to rethink what it means to be human, what it means to have relationships and what’s most important. Would you agree with that?
Brian: Well, the only danger in saying that, if I may, since you’re asking me. The only danger in saying that is it sounds like God may have created the pandemic so he could recalibrate humankind because there are some people who may say that, even some Christian people say that. I think they’re misguided personally. I’m not referring to one particular person or anything like that, but there’s a few that have come on the airways saying that. I don’t see it that way. I see this as a human thing, maybe it was through wet markets, maybe it was poorly managed, or whatever, but it was a human thing that now God gives us the opportunity to respond. So, I can go with that thought Alex, so I could really run with you on that one. Now, God gives us that opportunity to respond. Humankind has the chance to be able to say, hey, what is the real purpose in my life? Who am I really? What do I really value? How can I love my family more? How can I see restoration in relationships? How can I see a purpose in what I’m doing so that I can benefit other people? How can I find well-being in myself? As we’re talking, there may be some people who are listening to you that are shaking on some of those areas. Well, they can contact you and then you can pass them to me, you can pass them to other people. What’s important is that people have support from one another. And personally, as we’ve talked about, I’d see faith and love from Jesus that really cares for us. God’s giving the opportunity for recalibration for humankind. How do we respond to that? That’s up to each person.
Alex: That’s perfect. Well, who knows, I’m getting a free counselling session here, right. That’s the power of just having a mentor, you know what I mean, I could just be slightly off-the-rail, not completely off. But if I go too far in this sort of thinking that, you know, I might be imbalanced and whatnot and that really is the value of what I was talking about. Sometimes we may not have a major issue or major crisis in life but having someone regular and consistent to speak into your life and help you to process these things through and use a right direction is super, super powerful. And, you know, we’ve basically just witnessed that and now you have helped me to have more clarity around what I’m working, so thanks for that.
Brian: You’re welcome, Alex. Look, I think mentoring has so much value. I think every person would value from having a mentor. I’m part of a group called Australian Christian Mentoring Network, I’m part of a national leadership group for that, so acmn.org.au and these resources and opportunities to draw from there, but that is a second area. The first one was authenticity for emotional health and the second one is having a circle of friends around us, so they help us. A circle of friends ideally would include a mentor and they can help us on the journey. And especially at a time like this, we need to draw on those friends. So my wife and I had a Zoom call with three other couples a couple of nights ago just to be able to check in on each person and their families and what else, so yeah, that’s a great thing.
Alex: Pastor Brian, as we conclude this call, what are some of the words of encouragement that you would like to pass on to the viewers that are viewing right now and a little bit later as well?
Brian: A few thoughts briefly. I would say this will pass; we will get through this. What opportunities are created by this situation? How can you grab a hold of those opportunities? And what will be formed in you during this season? And what will you look like and what will your close relationships look like? And for business people, what will your businesses look like at the other end of this? So, it might be 3 weeks, it might be 3 months, it might be 12 months. We don’t know, but how will you respond both in yourself? How will you find encouragement? There have been times I felt lonely, I felt down, I felt discouraged, I felt whatever.
But we’ll get through this and life will go on. And for those who’ve lost loved ones or who’ve had people who’ve been sick, my heart goes out to you. I mean, the percentage in Australia is very low but every person who has suffered or has lost loved ones, my heart goes out to you and across the world. But we’ll come through this. So that’s my question. What does this give an opportunity for you to do now and how will it look for you the other side?
Alex: Wow, okay. Pastor Brian, it’s been an honour to know you, to work with you, to be led by you and you know me and Vivian are so grateful for having you in our lives. Yeah, all the best, I mean we’ll keep chatting. We’ll keep the conversation going, you know, for many, many more years to come. But thank you so much for coming to the show. How can people find you and engage you if they do need to speak to someone?
Brian: Thanks for asking, Alex and it’s a pleasure to know yourself and Vivian and your family and exciting to see you growing and flourishing and just doing so well. It’s a pleasure also to be on the show with you. In terms of contacting me, springboardconsulting.com.au, you can see on that website, you can make contact, my phone numbers there, emails there, very happy to have an initial conversation with someone and then follow-up Zoom. By putting something in place this side of COVID finishing, then a personal set up ready for afterwards, so very happy to do that. I’m sort of this sort of person that I’m not going to promote it and chase it and run it. Oops, I just lost my screen, see, I’m not going to chase it. I keep losing you. Yeah, I’m back again. So I’m not going to do that. But to be available to people, I think springboardconsulting.com.au will do that.
Alex: Great. Thank you, Pastor Brian, for coming on and for those of you who are listening out there, you need someone in your life, you need a sounding board. springboardconsulting.com.au, you’ll be able to connect with not only Pastor Brian, but his team as well. He and his team will be able to help you stay in balance not only for this season but beyond as well. Pastor Brian, thank you so much. All the best have a great day and I’ll speak to you again.
Brian: Thanks Alex, okay, see you. All the best, bye.
Alex: Okay, there you have it guys. Where’s my screen? There you go. There you have it guys, Pastor Brian, a great mentor of mine. Once again, springboardconsulting.com.au. I’ll obviously put the link in the show notes. Before we go, today, I actually wanted to end today’s call with a little quote. Well, it’s not really a quote, it’s actually a statement that I’ve read today, because, you know, a lot of us young parents, we’re doing homeschooling as well, on top of trying to work from home and keep up with whatever is going on. I saw this little statement, which I think is very good because it’s, well, I’ll just read it out without just …anyway. So this is a statement from public service announcement, okay. Parents, what we are being asked to do is not humanly possible. There is this reason we are either a working parent, a stay-at-home parent or a part-time working parent. Working, parenting and teaching are three different jobs that cannot be done at the same time. It’s not hard because you’re doing it wrong. It’s hard because it’s too much, do the best you can. When you have to pick, because at some point you will, choose connection, pick playing a game over arguing about an academic assignment, pick teaching your child to do laundry rather than feeling frustrated that they aren’t helping, pick laughing and snuggling and reminding them that they’re safe.
If you’re stressed, lower your expectations where you can and virtually reach out for social connection. We’re in this together to stay well. That means mentally well too, right. So, what I learned from this is it’s okay to be not okay because, you know, we’re not trained to do this. We were not prepared to do this. So, I just wanted to leave this call with an encouragement out there for those of you who are sort of in the same boat, young parents, juggling kids, work, so on and so forth. It’s okay not to be okay and it’s okay to give yourself some grace. Okay. Thank you. I’ll be back very, very soon. I’ve probably got about 6 people lined up now to keep doing this show and I am committed to doing this until COVID-19 becomes history. See you guys.
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