We all have to sometimes wear different hats in our lives and careers. You’re often required to wear different hats in your career if you’re balancing different professional identities or just trying to maintain a certain image at work that doesn’t always reflect how you’re truly feeling inside. In Career Relaunch episode 69, Sophie Scott describes how she balances the work she does as both a psychotherapist and founder of Balance Media.
We had a nice conversation about wearing different professional hats, managing your own wellbeing, and of course, maintaining balance in your life. I’ll also describe how those people who seem to have it all figured out in their careers may still struggling with their own issues.
Key Career Insights
- The losses you experience in your life can be a huge tragedy but also a blessing that can inform the career choices you may that can provide the most meaning.
- It’s so important to connect with not only others but also with yourself. Use your purpose as your primary motivator to guide your decisions.
- All of us are still works-in-progress. Although it may seem like someone has the perfect life, earns an incredible income, or has everything figured out, the reality is that most of us are still trying to figure things out.
- Having several career changes is not unusual these days. If the idea of switching careers feels “weird” to you, consider thinking about your career as a series of chapters rather than as one continuous vocation.
- There’s incredible strength in being an adaptable generalist rather than a specialist because you’re able to connect the dots amongst disparate disciplines.
- When you’re burnt out, it’s not a good time to make a decision. Instead, it’s a time to rest, recuperate, and ask for support.
Tweetables to Share
- Sophie mentioned that psychological projection and transference both have useful applications to understanding professional relationships in the workplace. Here’s a helpful article from Psychology Today about projection and another on transference.
- Sophie mentioned the Thought Diary app, which can help you manage your emotions and thoughts. Download it from the Google Play store and iOS app store.
During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, I talked about the importance of acknowledging to yourself that the struggles you’re going through may not have to do with a bad choice you’ve made, approach you’ve chosen, or talent you don’t possess. Instead, your career struggle may just be a very normal part of the situation you’re in, a struggle that many other people would also have if they were in a similar situation. Consider cutting yourself some slack and reminding yourself you’re doing your best with the resources and energy you have.
That’s all you can do.
But if you need a boost, or if you need support, to go ahead and take that step to ask for help. To ask for help from a friend, mentor, or professional who can help you sort through it.
About Sophie Scott, Psychotherapist & Founder of Balance Media
Sophie Scott is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of BALANCE, leading the award-winning, high growth media and lifestyle brand into the top tier of UK publications. She also regularly advises brands on go-to-market strategies and delivers wellness workshops for the likes of L’Oreal, Mediacom and Accenture. She’s coached and mentored at every level, from students to Fortune 500 CEOs, and has completed her 5-year training in Psychotherapy at the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education.
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Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): At one point, I really did reach burnout and ended up in a psychiatrist’s office. Wellness can be synonymous with needing to lead a perfect life and having everything sorted, but all of us are works in progress.
Joseph: Good morning, Sophie. Good to talk with you again. Welcome to Career Relaunch.
Sophie: Thanks so much, Joseph, for having me and for asking me to do this.
Joseph: I know, having followed you on social media, that you have been very busy lately with a lot of different things in your life and your career.
I was wondering if you could just start by telling me about what’s keeping you most busy in your career and your life recently.
Sophie: Absolutely. I am the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of BALANCE, which is a UK based media and lifestyle brand, very much focused on wellness. Our mission is to make wellness accessible to mainstream audiences.
We had our latest issue out last week and a series of events that we ran in conjunction with Fora, which is a big co-working space over in the UK. We had our wellness week. We had podcast lives. We did a podcast live event every Sunday. We did influencer breakfasts. We had events every day. It was lots of fun.
The business is evolving. We’ve just brought on a CEO, which is quite a big step for us actually and something that I feel very excited about not just for the business and helping the business to scale up but also on a personal level, for me to now slightly be able to step back from running the business and focus more on the brand. I’ve also had my psychotherapy work as well that I juggle on a Tuesday.
Joseph: You’re busy with the magazine. You also are running your own psychotherapy practice once a week. Just talking about the magazine briefly—and we’re going to come back to the magazine in a moment. I picked up my first copy of BALANCE in a hotel lobby in London, I remember, a couple of years ago, and it’s got a very cool lifestyle take on this idea of wellness—for those who are not familiar with BALANCE, can you just give a sampling of the types of topics you cover and the angle that you have the magazine take?
Sophie: The first thing is that we are called BALANCE. We try not to be preachy in any way. None of us are perfect. Our philosophy is do your best, live well, live your life to the full. Everybody has to find their own sense of well-being.
We cover mental health a lot, nutrition, workout plans, very much work-life balance, and travel as well, looking at sustainable travel and also spa destinations, guilt-free travel, combining new experiences with philanthropic endeavors.
I suppose it’s all the main areas that you would see across any magazine. The difference is the lens that we look through.
Joseph: Well, this is a show a little bit about wellness, and at the same time, it’s about career evolution and career change and trying to make career choices that allow you to have a life that is full of wellness and fulfillment.
I know you haven’t always been a psychotherapist and the Founder of BALANCE Magazine. Can you take me back to the days when you were involved in the world of film? I’d love to hear a little bit about that chapter of your career, and then we can move forward and talk about your own career evolution and hear a little bit more about how you founded BALANCE, and also how started your own psychotherapy practice. Let’s start at the very beginning.
Sophie: I’ve definitely not had a linear process, a linear journey. I think actually I’ve realize that that’s more normal than I thought.
I started off and went to a pre-academic girls’ school and decided off my volition that I wanted to go to drama school, which I think they were none too pleased about. I took myself off there for a few years and actually went into the world of acting originally, which I suppose had been a childhood dream but also very much linked to my mom who I lost when I was a teenager. I think I was probably playing out something that she would have really wished for herself.
I went to drama school, and I went into acting for a couple of years, but I actually soon realized that I didn’t derive so much fulfillment simply from performing. I felt a little bit like a kind of prop in many ways.
What I really loved was actually writing scripts and screen plays, and I also loved editing them. My sister had setup a film production company called Fahrenheit Films, and I began working with her very, very closely in script development. I also was working freelance for different film companies in the UK and also spent some time over in the States.
The film world is an incredible world, but it’s also a world of make-believe. Unless you have very good people around you, it can get you unstuck and you end up thinking that you’re going to have meetings that are going to change your life and things they promise to you, etc., and they don’t necessarily always follow through.
That led me actually to deciding that I wanted a more grounded and psychological approach to things. I’ve decided to train and to do a foundation course in counselling and psychotherapy. I had also done quite a lot of coaching over the years, more so on the kind of presentation skills front.
What I realized from that was that, regardless of your background and your situation, what people really wanted was someone to listen to them and fundamentally counsel them and help them to get over certain restrictions, barriers that they had in their own life that were kind of prohibiting their confidence.
Anyway, I came back from Los Angeles and decided, ‘Okay, I want to train in counseling.’ I’ve completely fell in love with it and decided to on and do this full five-year training.
Joseph: So you just walked from the original idea of becoming an actress or becoming a screen writer and came back here and pretty quickly pivoted into the world of counseling?
Sophie: Certainly for the first year or so, I still very much had a foot in the film world. I was still working in script development. At that point, I was really enjoying my counseling training. I was starting to become quite inspired about the world of personal development.
Actually, that’s when BALANCE started to slowly but surely take fruition in my mind. I wouldn’t say that there was a kind of clear stop. There wasn’t one definitive moment where I made the decision. I think, for a while, I was juggling to the best of my ability a couple of these different things. Through that process, I was able to make the best decision for my life.
Joseph: I’ve been trying to figure out the best time to ask you about this, and this feels like the right moment to ask you about something that you eluded to briefly earlier. You said you lost your mother when you were a teenager. I think when we spoke before, you said at the age of 14.
Before we get into your transition into becoming a psychotherapist and the rest of your career, I’d love to just take a moment and talk about that. I was wondering if you could take me back to the moment in your life when that happened and explain exactly how things played out at that moment for you.
Sophie: As you said, I was 14. I was at this private, all-girls school. My mom had been ill on-and-off since I was very young, since I was five. She was diagnosed with cancer and went into remission for years. We knew that it was getting very serious. The cancer had moved into her liver and her bones, and we sort of, at that point, knew that it would be a matter of months, if not weeks.
My sister, to whom I’m incredibly close, who is a decade older than me, said, ‘Just go and see a counselor.’ It ended up being a massively defining thing for me, because of course now, I’ve gone on to become a psychotherapist myself, but also the particular strain of psychotherapy which she practiced was the one that I’ve ended up pursuing, which is an integrative transpersonal psychosynthesis approach, very much looking at a person as whole, I suppose inspired by—what’s that roomy quote? The wound is where the light enters you. I suppose that’s been the basis of my own experience, as someone experiencing therapy but also giving therapy.
Through that process, I was able to process the huge loss that I’d experienced, which I think never leaves you. It’s very much an on-going process. It also helped me to very much grow into the person that I am. Yes, I would say that losing my mom has been my greatest curse but also a blessing in so many ways, as strange as that may sound.
Joseph: I know this must be tough, but can you describe in words exactly what impact losing your mother so early on in your life has had on your outlook and perspectives?
Sophie: It may have taken away some of my fear. I would say, naturally, I can be quite an anxious person, but I never let that hold be back, in terms of the way that I lead my life. Actually, it’s made me take risks. I think a lot more than perhaps the next person.
Also, without going into it too much, my mom, I think, wasn’t fulfilled in her life and her career. I have been very committed to living my purpose. Of course, that’s an on-going thing. That changes all the time. Your purpose isn’t fixed, but very much I’m having a kind of self-actualizing approach to life, which is that I want to lead my best life and be as true to myself as possible because it could all be over quick.
Joseph: It must be so hard to lose somebody so important to you so early in life. At the same time, it must instill into you so much perspective that you just wouldn’t have otherwise, I guess, if you hadn’t gone through that. Thank you for sharing that.
I’d like to go back to your career, because I think this does relate to another question I was going to ask you, which was how you ultimately decided to pursue a full career as a psychotherapist. It sounds like some of the seeds may have been planted from a very early age.
Sophie: I think it’s important to say I don’t do it as a full-time career. My training and everything has taken a lot longer, and it took a lot longer than I would have hoped, because at the same time, I was setting up BALANCE.
Joseph: Right, of course. No small feat.
Sophie: I set a new field that it formed the basis of BALANCE. Although I wear very different hats between the different roles—and maybe that’s something that we can go onto in a bit—fundamentally, I think that they go hand in hand. I don’t terribly see one as starting and one as ending. I wouldn’t say that there was that definitive moment in my life where I thought, ‘Right, this is what I want to do.’
These days, I think it’s just quite normal not to just have one career or one job. Most of us have dual careers or even triad careers which give us a greater sense of balance and fulfillment. Perhaps that means that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket, at least not to begin with.
Joseph: I’m very curious about this exact point that I think you’re making about what some people describe as a portfolio career or where you have multiple interests. How did these two worlds co-exist for you? Because I know you only see clients once a week, and you’re dedicating quite a bit of your time to running BALANCE.
I’m just speculating, but I’d imagine that you have to show up very differently when you show up in front of a patient or client versus your team at BALANCE. Can you just explain how the two co-exist for you and how well that works for you?
Sophie: I think it’s something I’m still navigating. I definitely don’t feel that I already have got the magic formula for that yet.
Actually, it’s been a bit of a personal struggle at times for me, and it’s made me question my own boundaries and ethics around this. Certainly, the hat that you wear as a therapist when you’re with clients is different to the one that you wear especially with your team.
I’m hoping that what it does give me is a genuine interest and capability and capacity to listen to people and really try and support team members when I know that they’re going through their own struggles. I can empathize. I have the ability to put myself in other people’s shoes quite easily. I think from that perspective, it’s been tremendously useful.
Learning about certain theories and principles such as projection and transference has been very useful, because of course when you are a boss lady, so to speak, there are all sorts of projections that you get which is very different to, I think, when you’re just part of the team.
I like to think of myself as just part of the team, but the reality is I think I’m seen as the Founder and the Director. That’s a difficult one, actually. It means that you have to make difficult decisions as well. How much you may wish to share with your team is a real question, and we try and be more transparent at BALANCE rather than less transparent.
There does need to be a limit to that because you do bear the brunt of quite a lot of stress when you’re running something, and you can’t always let that show. In that way, I’ve learned some kind of really good skills. Being poker-faced, I suppose, from being a therapist and taking that into the world of business can be quite useful.
Joseph: How much of some of the things that you do in therapy do you feel are also in line with the tips that you eventually share in your publication in BALANCE?
Sophie: I would say very aligned actually. One of my greatest pleasures has been commissioning other therapists, psychologists, coaches that I really rate, that I personally kind of learned from by getting them to write for BALANCE. I suppose that’s what I mean when I say it’s really underpinned what BALANCE’s mission is. Absolutely, it’s a core part of what we write about.
Joseph: Let’s talk a little bit more about BALANCE. I know that you’re spending quite a bit of your time on the magazine. Although it sounds like you’re now handing off some of the responsibilities that you’ve been in charge of. You’re doing some psychotherapy. You’re finding that some of the tools can be useful to a broader audience.
How exactly did you go about creating the magazine? Because I’d imagine there are a lot of people out there who think they want to start a magazine, but it involves so many different things that probably aren’t so obvious on the surface. I’d just be interested to hear about the actual creation and the inception of the magazine.
Sophie: I was, as I said, sort of benefiting from a lot of learnings at that time, a lot of theories, meeting amazing experts, and having really fascinating conversations. I thought, ‘Wow!’ I reckon a lot of people would be interested in this type of content, in being involved in this kind of conversations. Actually, where will they go to get such a thing?
I remember there was a morning where I was going on to Tube. I was looking around me and thinking how different that world seems to the world that I had experienced the night before when I was at college and we were talking about psychology and the idea of awakening. On the Tube, people tend to look kind of really disconnected and really dead almost, like we’re boat sick. We can all fall into that, right?
Joseph: Yeah, it’s miserable sometimes on the Tube.
Sophie: I was looking, and I’m seeing what they were reading. The vast majority of people were reading some of the free newspapers that you get.
A lot of the headlines are kind of really fear-mongering and I wouldn’t say a very positive affirmations for people. They definitely focus much more on the shadow and the dark side of the world as opposed to trying to give people a sense of hope or even a sense of perspective.
I thought how amazing if what I’m learning and some of the experts that I’m speaking to could actually contribute to a publication of our own that was free, that was actually going to really be of value to people and may help them to connect not just one another but more so to themselves.
I came up with this idea. Every June, we have a free newspaper. We’ll turn to the newspaper for London and brainstorm names. At the time, I knew somebody who was heavily involved in the distribution side of City AM, which is kind of London’s business newspaper, and basically managed to get pretty much free distribution across London outside the underground stations in these sorts of boxes. I don’t know if you’re familiar with those boxes.
Joseph: Yeah, everybody, literally thousands of people, millions maybe of people are passing by those spots.
Sophie: Yeah. Right. We had much smaller circulation at that time, but I felt very proud actually of the fact that I could see that the issues were going. I was getting a lot of very positive feedback from readers, but also from brands who were saying things like, ‘Oh, we love to be involved in this, but how big is your circulation? If you were to do it a bit bigger, we’d love to back you. We’d love to advertise.’ Actually, Planet Organic said, ‘We’d love to stock your magazine or newspaper. Let us know when it’s ready.’
I shopped the concept around and ended up going into business with a publishing house who had been around for 30 years or so, family-based publishing house. They’re still my business partners today. We re-launched it as a magazine, went out there on the hustle to get advertising because all of our revenue comes from brands and from sponsorship.
Together with some investment from the publishing house, we managed to bankroll the first issue or so. Really from there on in, it’s been a case of building a brand, building a loyal customer base, and a team to serve that.
It happened organically, but it was definitely part of my master plan as well.
Joseph: That’s the business side of it. I’m also curious about what it’s been like for you to start your own magazine, having gone through all that hustle and reaching out to different people you knew and gaining the distribution.
I’d be really interested to hear about the impact that this journey has had on your life as a whole.
Sophie: It’s been, by large, very positive. I have got to live out a lot of dreams and fantasies that I’ve had. I feel tremendously proud of every time I, let’s say, get on the underground and see somebody reading a copy of BALANCE or people who come along to our events and tell us how much it means to them being part of a community of like-minded individuals.
On the other hand, it’s been an incredible amount of hard work when you’re starting up from the bottom. I entered an industry that actually I hadn’t really been a part of in terms of publishing. I’d always been in the media, but more on the production side of things.
I’ve had a lot of learning to do, and there’s definitely been a lot of needing to prove myself. I think that’s not just based being a newbie to the industry but also being a woman sadly and a youngish woman. Although I think I probably look younger than I am. There’s been quite a lot of needing to prove myself, which has been pretty challenging at times but has also given me a kind of fire in my belly.
However, in terms of my own health and wellbeing, that’s definitely suffered at times, which I suppose is the ultimate irony.
Joseph: I was going to ask you about that, because I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the challenges that you faced trying to balance it all, not only the psychotherapy practice with running a media company but also what I would imagine is the on-going hustle that is required whenever you’re trying to create and build something and scale it.
Sophie: At one point, I really did reach burnout and ended up in a psychiatrist’s office in tears, begging him for help, anti-anxiety medication. I had some CBT therapy which really helped as well actually, because I’ve obviously been in a form of psychotherapy for years and years, which has worked perhaps on a much deeper level.
I needed some tools day-to-day to help me navigate the kind of sheer busyness of my life and feeling slightly pulled from pillar to post. I think it is really important to talk about this, and especially as somebody who works in wellness.
I think wellness can be synonymous with needing to lead a perfect life and having everything sorted, but that’s obviously far from the case. Actually, it’s people that are struggling and trying to fit lots in that actually really need to be honest and focus on their wellness, perhaps more than the next person.
I’m quite passionate about focusing on mental health as a core tenet to wellbeing and saying, ‘Hey, the people on Instagram – those influencers, those wellness authors, they’re also just trying to figure things out. It’s just that maybe they have benefitted from certain training courses and education experiences in their life that give them the stature and the confidence to go out there and share what they’ve learned, but all of us are works in progress.’
Joseph: In the work that I do, I’ve actually found some similar theme, Sophie, where things are not always as they seem on the surface. On the surface, it may seem like, ‘Hey, BALANCE magazine, it’s taking off.’ Everybody’s heard about it. At the same time, there’s a lot of challenges that go on behind the scenes.
I found that with a lot of people, it seems like they’ve got it all figured out, but actually if you dig a little bit, everybody’s got something going on that they may not be either very open about or just the people just don’t know about.
Sophie: It always strikes me how many companies, whether they are startup, scaleups, or big, established companies behind closed doors, it’s kind of always a bit of a shit show. There are processes that aren’t as neatly tied up as they should be. There’s conflict there, conflicts of vision and purpose. I think that it’s really important that we can just be more honest about that and say that we’re all trying to do our best.
I definitely think, though, that naivety can be a gift. I think particularly when people are starting a new career, you do often feel a bit like a fish out of the water. ‘I don’t know anything. I’m having to start from the bottom up.’
On the other hand, you are also not having to overcome years of preconceived ideas about an industry or about ways of working. I think that’s also really important to say that – that actually, you can build something much more in the vein of how you may want to build a career or a company, because you’re not coming at it with a lot of history.
Joseph: That’s a great segue, Sophie, into a couple of the last things I was hoping to talk with you about before we wrap up here, which are just some of the things you’ve learned along the way of your very interesting career journey.
I think you just eluded to this, this naivete. I’m curious. What’s something that you didn’t think would be tough but has been tough about either running your own psychotherapy practice or starting your own magazine or balancing both?
Sophie: I have toughened up. I’ve had toughened up quite a bit, and I think the process of getting there has been more difficult than I would have anticipated. In terms of letting people go when they’re not a cultural fit for the company or actually just in terms of the actual output, that’s been really tough to me, but it’s also been a tremendous learning.
In terms of things that I wish I’d have known, I wish I’d have known that I wasn’t a freak for wanting to change careers, that I wasn’t alone and that actually, maybe 10 years ago, it was less usual, but these days, it’s very typical. I think they say that you should prepare yourself for four to five careers in your lifetime.
Actually, if you think of your life in chunks as opposed to as a whole, it certainly makes it less stressful. That’s very much something that I try to do these days.
Joseph: What about when you think back to your own life journey of losing your mother early on to the struggling with anxiety at moments to eventually becoming a psychotherapist yourself and ultimately becoming a media entrepreneur, what’s something that you’ve learned about yourself along the way?
Sophie: I have learned that I’m a lot more resilient than I realize but also that I’m a lot more flexible and open. I think that flexibility is really key. I always say I’m a generalist rather than a specialist, but actually there’s tremendous strength in that, in having those transferable skills and being able to spot opportunities, join dots. I’d say being a quick learner and being flexible and being adaptable.
I think that that probably does go right back to losing my mom and having to adapt to no longer being part of a 2.4 family, which I was really for the first 14 year of my life. As eccentric as my family was, it was relatively conventional at the same time.
I’ve proven my adaptability to myself. I can’t stress enough how important I actually do think that is as a skill. When we hire people, that’s something that I really look out for, because obviously in a startup, you don’t just do one role. There’s often all hands on deck. You have to be flexible, willing to learn, throw yourself in on something new.
We’ve got to keep going, working things out, being flexible, changing with the times, changing with our evolving needs, because we’re not fixed entities. It’s just about making that promise to yourself that actually I’m going to keep using purpose as my primary motivator and checking in if at any point that gets lost.
Joseph: That’s a great tip, just to keep that as your North Star and your compass when you’re dealing with some tough times.
I guess last question for you—because I know you’ve eluded to this a couple of times, Sophie. It was on this topic of burnout. I know that you mentioned you went through a period where you were feeling some burnout—what do you feel was one of the most important steps that you took to manage that more effectively?
Sophie: I know it sounds really silly, but I went on holiday at that point. I ended up when I could only go where I think it was for a week. I literally just disappeared.
One of my favorite lines is ‘When you’re tired, learn to rest, not to quit.’ I would say that’s been a massive learning for me. When you are burnt out, it’s probably not a time to make a decision. It’s a time to stop and to ask for support. I’m lucky I have a fantastic support network around me.
I would really encourage people to go to their GP before it’s too late. Spot the warning signs as well, things like headaches, aches and pains, struggling with sleep, blurred vision, all of these, loss of appetite, all of these things are just to check in with yourself and notice that, and then take action. Tell a friend. Tell your GP.
If you can, get some help. Get some therapy. There are also plenty of amazing tools out there that are free. I use things like Thought Diary as an app, which basically is a CBT-based app. It helps you to work through your problem yourself, gain perspective, and help you with any core beliefs that may be limiting you at that point.
I’d say the main thing is take some time out and don’t make any quick decisions.
Joseph: If people want to learn more about you, Sophie, or BALANCE Magazine or even uncover some tools that you just mentioned to maintain a good balance and wellness in their own lives, where can they go to learn more?
Sophie: You can go to our website which is www.BALANCE.media. Also, please follow us across social, @balanceldn, at BALANCE London. If you want to personally follow me, although I’m not as good at posting on my own personal channels as across BALANCE is, but it’s @sophie.b.scott. Hopefully, you can find some of our content really valuable and insightful.
Joseph: Thank you so much, Sophie, for telling us more about your life a psychotherapist and magazine founder and sharing your personal story with us, and most of all, talking about how you maintained balance in your own life and career. Best of luck with BALANCE, your psychotherapy practice, and everything else you have going on in your life. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Sophie: Thank you so much, Joseph.