Sometimes, your career can evolve in surprising ways, and you can either fight those changes or embrace them. In this episode of Career Relaunch, Julian Mather a former army sniper turned TV cameraman turned magician discusses the importance of letting go and embracing the twists and turns of your career. I also share some thoughts on the importance of putting yourself out there to create new opportunities in your career.
Key Career Insights
- When you’re exploring a new career path, you really have to immerse yourself in every aspect of that new path in order to understand whether it can fit into your desired career trajectory.
- Even when your career takes a turn for the worse, you always have the opportunity to bounce make, make the most of the hand you’ve been dealt, and reinvent yourself.
- New opportunities often emerge when you take the initiative to bravely put yourself out there and just give things a shot, especially during those times when you don’t quite feel 100% ready.
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About Julian Mather, Cameraman & Magician
Julian Mather wasn’t at school the day they taught conventional career planning. A chronic truant he self educated and read between the lines to find the secrets to turning his obsession into his profession. From high school failure to Army sniper to globe trotting TV cameraman to kids entertainer to online entrepreneur he really hasn’t felt he has a worked a day in his life. And at 55 he says he’s only just beginning to hit his straps. Julian uses his simple truths and life changing resources to inspire and educate mid lifers and halt the 45-65 year old mental health decline and rising suicide rate among men at his site TailorMadeCareer.com. He now runs the world’s #1 training academy for professional children’s entertainers while re-inventing himself as a speaker & expert on midlife career change.
Be sure to check out Julian’s hand picked podcast episodes that will inspire you and teach you the art of change. Also, watch a few of Julian’s Magician School videos on YouTube to learn a few magic tricks like this one . . .
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Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): I use that sniper analogy of a bullet ricocheting. That’s my life. I’ve just been on this ricochet – off that side and barring to the left and to the right. The target is long gone, but I’m always going forward.
Joseph: Welcome, Julian. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to join us here on Career Relaunch.
Julian: You are most welcome, Joseph.
Joseph: Can you just get us started here by telling us a little bit more about what you’re focused on right now in your career and your life? You’ve got a very interesting story, and there’s a lot of pieces to get to. Let’s start with what you’re doing right now, and then we’ll go back in time and work for it from there.
Julian: Right now, I’m passionate about working with 40 to 60-year-olds—I’m 55—about getting them digitally literate. There’s wonderful opportunities online, but it’s been my experience that a lot of people don’t know that these are there. There’s also a problem that if you’re white, if you’re male, if you’re 45 to 65 years old and you’re a Westerner, you are most likely to suicide. I think that’s just crazy, I don’t understand it, and I’m trying to, in my small way, be a part of the jigsaw that solves that problem.
Joseph: Very interesting. I definitely want to come back and talk at the end about Tailor Made Career a little bit more, but I would love to go back in time because you’ve got one of the most interesting career trajectories I’ve ever seen. We get some really interesting people on the show, but I have never had someone on the show who was an army sniper. Can you take us back in time a little bit? We’ll start from there. You’ve got some other interesting chapters, but I would love to just kick off by talking about your time over there in the Australian army.
Julian: I’ve really got to go back to where it all started. It all started at school because I did really well at school if you don’t count learning. I did so poorly, I had to repeat my final year at high school, and then I ended up doing worse in my repeat year. I became a chronic truant, and I self-educated myself at the State Library because I knew what I wanted to do, Joseph. I want to be a photo journalist.
I studied by myself months and months and months, pouring over these photo books. I realized, to be a photo journalist, I needed to have a camera in my hand at all times, and I needed to be where the action was, which was not in my home town of Brisbane. I saw an army recruiting poster, and I went in and asked, ‘Could I be a photographer in the army?’ They said, ‘Certainly, sir. Sign here.’ To my naïve surprise, that’s when the yelling started, and it didn’t stop. They put me in the infantry. I was being duped.
When I was in the army, I looked for some way where I could get some peace and quiet and get away from all this yelling, and I found a place. I became a sniper. My job description read verbatim, you must have a personality which allows you to kill calmly and deliberately. Honestly, my heart wasn’t really in it because that part of me that’s designed to kill people is not very big.
There I was, lying and waiting, looking through my crosshairs, but I’m still dreaming of being a photo journalist, which is simply telling a story with pictures. I realized that looking through my telescopic sites, it’s like I was looking through a camera, so I started the process of making imaginary movies. Essentially, I self-educated myself in filmmaking. I went from being trained to shoot people with a rifle to shooting people with a camera, which is much more socially acceptable I might add.
Joseph: Hang on just a second. I got to stop you there because I would love to hear a little bit more about you being in the army and the fact that you became a sniper even though that wasn’t what you had in mind. How did you reconcile that?
Julian: How I reconciled that was that I’m male, and I have this brain which is compartmentalized. I just open a box, and all the information and the knowledge goes in that box. I worked with that box, and then if I move on to the next thing, I close that box and open another box. I’ve just got a very, very project-driven mind.
Joseph: Where there any aspects of being a sniper that did sit well with who you were?
Julian: Gosh, yeah. I could indulge in my antisocial behaviors. Essentially, Joseph, I’m an introvert. You’re going to hear a part of my story later, how I’ve trained myself out of that, but I’m a cave dweller. This is what I love doing. I love getting by myself with my own thoughts and essentially not talking to people. That part really, really suited me.
Joseph: You’re right. There are all sorts of roles you could have in the army, but it’s a very introverted role. I never thought of it like that. You’re spending a lot of time by yourself I would suppose.
Julian: You work by yourself. You also work in teams of two, which I got to tell you, it was really, really hard, because when you work with someone in a team of two, you’re tasked. You might be tasked for 48 hours, and you are literally side-touching this person for 48 hours. You’ll hide side by side. It’s a very unusual situation to be in.
Joseph: What happened next for you? You’re an army sniper. You spend a lot of time by yourself or with your partner there. When did the gear start to turn for you and how did they start to turn that maybe you should go off and do something else?
Julian: I still wanted to be a photo journalist. I started this process of training myself in filmmaking. It was pre-internet. I used to go and get whatever books I could at the library and start training, because this is first step of what I always do, and I’ve had many career changes: I immerse myself, and so whatever the next project I’m going to move on or next phase I’m moving into, I literally just get in and I read and I listen. I get every bit of information.
When I went into cinematography, because what I did was I left the army and I joined the ABC TV in Australia, I ended up doing this for 25 years, where they put money in one hand, plane ticket in the other, kick me out the door, and said, ‘Go tell people stories.’ In a sense, I had made it, what I wanted to do – be a photo journalist. It was not with still cameras, how I originally set out to be. It had evolved and had gone into motion picture.
Joseph: One of the things that we talk about on the show is how people make these shifts. I have to say that going from sniper to TV camera man, to me, seems like quite a shift, although I know you’re still looking into some sort of a view finder or a scope of some sort. Can you just explain, what was that transition like for you?
Julian: It’s interesting because being a camera man is both problem solving and creativity at the same, which are two strengths that I really, really have. Even though I didn’t have the creative side in the army, I certainly had that problem solving. There was that transition across that was quite a natural flow. Really, the transition from being a sniper to camera work was not as big a transition as my careers I did further on.
Joseph: Speaking of which, you did have another transition after that, and I’m really interested to talk about this because I know you eventually ended up becoming a children’s magician. Before that, when we talked for the first time, you described to me the emotions that were involved with leaving your camera man world behind to go do something else. Can you walk us through that transition?
Julian: After 25 years, I’d met so many VIPs, and that’s ‘very inspiring people.’ They were out there making a difference. That just infuses me, and that’s what I wanted to do too. Even though I was doing little projects here and there, nothing was gaining traction. I started to think it was just me, that I wasn’t good enough to do the things that all these other people seem to be able to do.
One day, I had the simplest of realizations. I realized that all these people who are making a difference, they were in front of the camera, and that’s where I needed to be. But I was behind the camera, and the only way for me to be in front of the camera was to leave behind the camera. I couldn’t be in two places at once. So I left, and I cried. I mourned my career. I was leaving 25 years of everything I had worked so hard for. It was really the very fabric of who I was.
But you know what? That morning, that was the best thing because it’s incredibly important to let go, because it’s only when you let go that you can start a fresh job, a fresh life. Just get out there and give it your all.
Joseph: People talk about this process of mourning when it comes to loss of a loved one or when you’re breaking up with somebody. You got a relationship you’re walking away from. I don’t know if people always think about that when it comes to careers. Yet your career is such a big part of life, and of course, there’s going to be emotion that’s involved when you let it go. How did you get through that?
Julian: I suppose there’s a difference between a career and a job as well, because if it was just a job, I don’t think I would’ve mourned it. Really, photography was just a part of my being. It started back prior to that because my father was an amateur photographer, and he got me into this world. Really, up until that stage, it was my whole life that I was giving away.
Joseph: How did you know that it was time to move on from that?
Julian: When my learning plateaus, Joseph. I really get to stage where I would just think, ‘I’m starting to do this day after day, and I’m not learning anymore.’ Even though it’s a great job, it was seriously a good job, the pull for me to be challenged, I’m a risk taker, but I’m a slow-motion risk taker. My transitions from career to career normally take me about five years. It is risky leaving your job and doing something completely new, but I’d sort of put steps in place to counter that, but those steps don’t always work.
Joseph: What were some of those steps, just to understand how you were mitigating that risk?
Julian: One thing I do when I’m changing careers, I’ve got this thing called the 1852 rule. That is essentially that change is this whole thing of small steps. For me to change careers, it takes me five years. That’s my rough rule of thumb. There’s 365 days a year, and I only need to make one small change a day to do that. That’s 365 by 5 years, it’s 1,852. For me to change careers, I know that it’s going to take me 1,852 small changes.
I’ve got this thing called the perpetual motion formula. It’s really simple, but it works really, really well. There’s only two steps to keep going forward, to take these steps. Step one, roll up your sleeves and take the next step. If you’re confused, go to step two. Step two says, your one and only job is to find out who can teach you what the next step is, and then you refer back to step one. If I don’t know anything, I just know my job that day is to find out who can tell me what I need to know. I never stalled.
Joseph: I guess when you break it down like that, it becomes a lot less daunting, because I know that change can sometimes be a little bit overwhelming.
Julian: People wait for motivation to start, ‘I need the motivation to get up and start my plan and change my career.’ Motivation has never ever started the process. It’s the two D’s: desire and discipline. If you’re lucky, you’ll have desire. You’ll wake up one morning and just have this burning desire, overwhelming passion. You want to do something, and nothing is going to stop you. I rarely ever get that.
I have to go to the second D, which is discipline – setting a plan and taking those steps and breaking it down into bite-size pieces. Once you do that, then the motivation comes, because once you start taking a few of these steps, you start to see results, even small results. If you have a plan, it’s there every day, the next day, and the next. A plan never runs out.
Joseph: Interesting. It’s almost like you’re flipping things on their head because people normally wait to feel motivated to take action. You’re saying take action, which creates the results, which then generates the motivation. It’s much more in your control. You’ve taken this motivation, this desire, and this discipline after you’ve departed from your camera man world. What happens next for you?
Julian: I had three other passions apart from photo journalism. It was my family, magic, and juggling. I had another one as well. It’s actually four. I had teaching philanthropy to children now. It’s a long story how I got to that point, but I just had this idea that I could teach philanthropy to children. In my mind, this was how I was going to make this difference.
I planned on going into primary schools, working with 10-year-old kids, teaching in simple terms that philanthropy is smarter than charity. I left the ABC, and I launched this new program to deafening silence. Schools would not book me, and I said to me, ‘Hang on a minute. I ran this past you. You said you like the program.’ They said, ‘We do like it, but we didn’t say we needed it. What we need is math and science and literacy. Have you got any of those?’ I learnt my first marketing lesson – never open a restaurant unless you’ve got a starving crowd.
There I was, and my whole TV career was sailing off into the sunset. I had what was essentially a magic and juggling show with no audience. Through necessity, I had to reinvent myself again as a children’s and family entertainer.
Joseph: What was that moment like for you when you worked so hard on relaunching your career, I guess attempt number one, and it just lands with chirping crickets? I’ve had that happen to me before, and I can tell you that it’s not the most pleasant feeling. Can you just describe what that day was like for you when you found out that, ‘Gosh, maybe people don’t want the thing that I’m selling’?
Julian: It was embarrassing and it was humiliating. I had no way to go. I had my family, a wife, and I had two younger children. My wife was working, so we had some money coming in. I use that sniper analogy of a bullet ricocheting. That’s my life. The bullet came out of the rifle, and it’s supposed to be heading towards the target, but I hit something on the way, and I’d just been on this ricochet – off that side and banging off that way, and then another barring to the left and to the right. The target is long gone. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m always going forward.
When I don’t know what to do, my first job is to find out the people who can tell me what I need to know. I knew how to do the magic and juggling show. I had that, but I needed to learn about basic business. I can’t believe how naïve I was about the world of business. I knew nothing about it, but I had to learn.
Joseph: You learn that and then you start to reinvent yourself in another way. Can you just describe what that reinvention was?
Julian: That reinvention was a local children’s and family entertainer, doing family shows, school shows, birthday parties. I did that for seven years. The more and more I got deeper into the world of magic, the more and more I realized that there were these long-held beliefs in the world of magic that I didn’t subscribe to about the way you structured shows.
I started this thing. It was called Julian’s Magician School, and it started to get traction. Now, it’s got about 140,000 subscribers. It’s got over 30 million views, but I started to make a difference where I never expected it. The thing was, about a third of my audience was actually adults, and they were right into this confidence-building aspects of being able to take simple tricks and stand up in front of people and just tell a joke and be the life of the party. I started to get emails. This need I had inside of me to want to make a difference was happening where I least expected it.
Joseph: I was just thinking, as you were talking about that, have you heard of Patch Adams? The clown that went into hospitals. Actually, I met Patch Adams many years ago when I was in my high school years. I just think that what you’re describing using magic as an enabler, as a vehicle to have an impact on these audiences, to me, is just really inspiring. It’s not an aspect of magic that I always think about.
Julian: People have to understand that there are no gatekeepers online. If you’ve worked in a corporate job all your life, if you need to have something done or you got an idea, you’ve got to take it to someone. You got to ask permission. When you start working online, these gatekeepers go. It really is democratized out there. The speed of implementation, if you have an idea, if you have a point of view, if you have a business idea that you want to run and test, my goodness, you can get the thing up in a couple of hours if you want, and you don’t have to ask anyone.
Joseph: This whole process of putting out your personal brand is very much democratized, whether you’re using Facebook or YouTube or Instagram or whatever. Yet, a lot of people hesitate to do that. How did you work through that? Was that an issue for you at all?
Julian: It was a huge issue. I came from a background of very low confidence, of very low self-esteem. I don’t mind talking about that. Starting to be confident in my own opinions and putting them out there, doing it in the world online where you get trolls and haters, it all kicks you. You know what you learn after a while? You don’t bleed. People would criticize me online with a particular view, but I’d go up and my family would say hello to me, and my wife would hug me, and my dog would wag its tail. Life goes on. I think we put too much weight upon what other people think, and it’s just what they think.
Joseph: When we spoke before, you had described to me your five steps to making a career change. You’ve alluded to three of them already: immerse yourself, the 1852 rule, never wait to be motivated. What I would be really interested to hear about now, because I think it relates to the topic of what we’re talking about is this idea of pushing send. Can you explain to me how you push send?
Julian: It’s just this idea of push the send button. Have you ever driven off in your car, and you think something’s wrong, it doesn’t seem to be driving right, and then you realize you got your parking brakes still on?
Joseph: Yes, that definitely happened to me.
Julian: That is what not asking questions is like through life. Once you start to ask questions, all of a sudden, you’re freed up, and it’s not going through life with the parking brake on. Because you go back into this beginner’s mindset, it’s a blessed thing. When you ask a question, when you push send, quite often, you’re going to get no as the answer back, but no does not mean no. I always thought it did. I was very sensitive. If someone said no, they meant no. No, they don’t mean no.
If I contacted you, Joseph, to be on your podcast, and you had said no to me, I would have thought that could be for any one of a thousand reasons. It doesn’t mean Joseph doesn’t like me. He doesn’t think what I’m doing isn’t worthy. It could’ve been the business was in a thing. It could’ve been your podcast sequence was full up for the year. There’s a whole heap of reasons. No does not mean no.
Joseph: I think that what I struggle with the most, Julian, is when there’s no response at all. You reach out to somebody or pitch yourself, and you just hear nothing. Do you have a tactic or a strategy of dealing with whatever you want to call it, rejection or lack of responsiveness from people?
Julian: I just don’t take it personally anymore. I used to. I used to take it so personally. I just don’t take it personally now. I’ll actually make a spreadsheet up, and there’s my series of dates that I’m putting in there. I’ll send out an email, and if I don’t hear anything back, I’ll do a follow-up email in a week. If I don’t hear anything back, I’ll do another follow-up email in a week. Then I’ll do one in three months, and then I’ll do one in six months, and I’ll do one in 12 months. Probably if after a year I haven’t heard, maybe I’ll give it up then, but I don’t take it personally.
Joseph: Finally, Julian, before we talk about your current projects, I’ve just been listening to your story here, and I’ve just been really fascinated about how you’ve been able to navigate so many career changes in a way that has left you stronger, wiser. Do you have and advice that you’d like to share with people who are considering to make a career change?
Julian: One thing I do tell younger people these days is to go out and lead an authentic life, because online, you get people who go, ‘I’m going to travel every country in the world in six month,’ and they make a blog about it. It’s not all authentic. That’s just going to wear out. You’re better off with just something you are passionate about, just going out and start living your life, because that’s where the stories are going to come from. If creating a personal brand is what you’re about, it just takes time.
Joseph: It does take time. You’re absolutely right. It’s not something you can really accelerate or speed up or short cut. I’d love to wrap up by talking a little bit more about Tailor Made Career, which I know is all about showing 40 to 60-year-olds how to discover hidden knowledge assets and turn them into income. Can you just take us through a little bit more detail what Tailor Made Career is about?
Julian: What I’m doing is I have a site. It’s called Tailor Made Career. I’m offering a training for 40 to 60-year-olds. The first step of that training is getting them to realize that they have knowledge in their head that people are willing to pay for. It’s a brave new world out there online. They just don’t understand that yet. If you go to Tailor Made Career, the first thing you do is you’ll get a guide which will help you release and unlock that knowledge in your head and show you you’ve actually got something to say, and people are willing to pay for it.
Tailor Made Career is offering different tools, and one of those that people can get is a free 12-part course on how to create your podcast if you want to do that. It’s really easy, and it’s actually quite cheap.
Joseph: Julian, where can people go if they want to learn more about Tailor Made Career?
Julian: Go to TailorMadeCareer.com. If you want to find out other projects I’m working on, you can go to JulianMather.com.
Joseph: Fantastic, Julian. We will definitely include all those links in the show notes, including your YouTube channel, which is very fun to browse through. Thank you so much for taking us through your fascinating career, walking us through the importance of motivation being within your control, discipline, breaking things down into manageable steps, and also just giving us a glimpse into some really unique and interesting industries. Thank you so much for your time today.
Julian: Thanks, Joseph. Bye now.