Living an Authentic Life is One Less Thing to Worry About
Louise McMahon is a climber, caver, diver, occasional photographer and a trans woman she/her. So says her Twitter bio, and I like the order she has chosen to list things in. Once Louise had unpicked and identified the problems she faced, the big change of committing to transition was a sudden release and huge relief. Committing was, in the end, easier than hiding. And none of the worries she had beforehand came to pass. I began this podcast to ask people about worlds that overlap with my own but are also very different. Louise's open, thoughtful explanations of realising that she was not living the life she wanted to lead - and then summoning the boldness to make a massive change - are the very epitome of what I wanted on this living adventurously podcast.
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- Louise is on Twitter.
- Neither climbing or caving is scary - if you're scared you're probably doing it wrong.
- High consequence actions versus the low risk of those high consequences.
- The notion of consequences versus likelihood of happening are different things and useful in business
- Once Louise had unpicked and identified the problems she faced, the big change of committing to transition was a sudden release and huge relief.
- Committing was, in the end, easier than hiding.
- None of the worries she had beforehand came to pass.
- Humans are cautious creatures and we tend to focus a lot on the worries beforehand. Yet we don't realise what all the benefits might be until we have committed.
- Spin-off benefits and enhanced self-confidence.
- Living an authentic life is one less thing to worry about
- "Sometimes I think 'oh, I'd quite like to do it one day', then just say 'oh, sod it, and do it!'"
we met via Twitter originally and on there you say you're a climber and a caver. which is more scary.
I don't think either is scary.
If you getting scared you're probably doing it wrong or doing taking too many risks. Or not managing the risks well enough as like caving. If you get it wrong, it can be really dangerous.
But you're not doing it for the adrenaline.
no. I do the climbing because I enjoy it. So I like being out in the hills and the caving is exploration often find new cave and new new things
Have you gone somewhere No one's ever been before?
not no one's ever been before. But never in the last several hundred years. We do a lot in 17th century mines.
Wow. That's a Amazing, isn't it? Well within an hour of massive city. how did you get into caving?
I was a climber before that. And then so driving around the Peak District to these kind of moody people with harnesses with the equipment that looks a bit like climbing and I thought I'll give it a go. And so I found my newest book, to me is a technical psychological group and consultant. I went along and loved it just and just carried on doing it. And so I've been doing it unit now.
decliners in cave is like each other.
Hmm, interesting. I do both. There are the climbers in our club. And they don't tend to mix too well, because climbers like to get up quite early and got climbing and cables don't care what time of the day is and will drink until four in the morning because it's going to be dark anyway. So I'm a headphone, you know, having my in?
what's the what's the difference in mindset between someone who is a good cave and somebody who's a good climate.
I think good cavers are happy to suffer but also a doing it for a different reason. Often, we're doing it to extra, whereas a lot of climbers are just doing it because they like climbing and and that's fine.
So it's okay. So it's more of a
yeah. You know, I am, before I started taping, I build things, I'll do things and now in a power drill, and, you know, all of these things, so we do a lot more work and making things even if it's just us late on it, or something. Okay,
so you brushed off my question about it being scary. And I strongly disagree that because just the thought now of being squished under cave, bending my head on one side to fit my ear through a gap gives me the shutters and climbing. I love it. But it terrifies me. So is this example? Is it a case of perceived risk versus actual danger?
Is that part of it? I think so. I think caving there's been very few people being killed as more and more people killed climbing and there are caving. And the problem with caving is if you do have an accident is because are more likely to be fatal then then climbing unfortunately was one in a day or so few months ago. But it's we we do everything we can to make it safe. So all the caves are valid bolted on resin bolts that can take like 40 kilometres. And you know, the you've got two cows tales to click the wire and you've got the sender and the backup, and you're doing things like that, to offenders through yourself centres to be. So it's very rarely dangerous. And especially with modern weather forecasting and things like that you don't get flooded in as much unless you really ignore the weather forecast. And kind of asking for it at that point.
So it's a case of you're doing something very dangerous, but going about it in a way that
makes it not dangerous. So I think we're doing something that could happen hi consequence, but the risk of that happening is very low. And when it goes we also have very good rescue services. Quite a few of the people that came with our MK rescue.
But you don't do it for the thrill of the consequence. I think because I think some climbers are Yeah, certainly that certainly the good climbing books, there's there's quite a degree of
possibly a little bit on it's not it's not the reason we're going out there, we're not going out there to do something dangerous. And partly because the consequences are so high. If you do get it wrong, that we tend to be quite safe. You know it in your eyesight, hundred friends I was climbing with a few weeks ago, a few months ago who fell and broke his leg and mountain rescue were there within about 20 minutes. in a cave, you're depending where you are. It could be eight hours. So don't get me wrong. Yes.
So the reason that I started doing these interviews is, is not actually because I'm trying to find out about climbing and adventure stuff I've spent most of my adult life kind of interested in the world. what really interests me now is how these people's adventurous things transfer to, to real life. And so what what does caving or climbing that that notion of perceived risk versus actual danger? What do you what do you think that would transfer into people in real life? wanting to do something that seems scary? And therefore commit to doing things? teach you everything?
Yeah, I think it teaches you how to kind of look at risk and and things like that. So I keep in business, I use the same methods really I look at what the consequence of doing a thing is versus the chance of doing it rather than just looking at something and saying, Oh, that's fine. Risk is okay. Well, it's like what he probably knows is high consequence. If it goes wrong with marketing and business, well, how can we mitigate all of those risks? How can we? What can we do that? And what's the chances of it even happening in the first place?
That's an interesting thing, looking at the difference between consequences and risks? That is interesting. And can you give me an example of something that from your, from your work life you?
Okay, so it so I, I work for a bank, and I write software. And so if we decide to implement a new feature, we might spend three months building that feature, and that might be a lot of money and development time and people and things like that? And if no one was to use that feature, it wasn't wouldn't be profitable, obviously. Or, you know, we would make any money off of it. So there is the, the there's the risk of doing that. And the consequence of is with those attacks, hundreds of thousands of pounds. And but in the you know, the reality is that we've done all the research to say, yes, users want this feature. Yes, it's profitable, we think I don't pay X amount for it. And so we know you're about to do it. And it's quite simple cost benefit analysis.
I love your ice cold caving, approach to life. And I met a while ago, one of the guys who did the Tai Chi rescue
trying to Oh,
you're so amazing. This is brilliant, what an emotional thing. And he I couldn't get anything out of it was that we did what we had to do risks and consequences, which is why I'd be terrible cave rescue and, and one of the, you know, move away from caving. Now, one of the things that I got really interested in, in recent years is that people want to do this in their life, they want to be there in their life. They, they like the idea of so and so in their life, but they're in this different position. And I think that's often the reason people read adventure books, or come to adventure talks is living vicariously. So you you want to be there. We're actually here. Yeah. And that's so that's a really interesting aspect of I think trying to day yourself to live a bit more adventurous Lee. So we first the first I new viewers, when you got in touch me on Twitter and your Twitter bio says, and Louise McMahon, climber caver photographer that's a little bit boring, because I hang around with those who people are trans woman, she slashed her. And that got me really interested in terms of you want your hair in life, but you want to be there. So can you tell me a little bit about the the process of feeling frustrated and wanting to be in a different position?
Okay, I can kind of see the gap. So yes, I'm trans I transitions three years ago now. And yeah, that was supposed to survive it. There is a similar sort of thing. And it took me a while to work out that that was a thing for me. And then I
I did yeah. Yeah. Not a cave as approach.
No, no, I am. It was a thing that once you realise often with people that it's okay, yeah, this is the thing I need to do. And once I did that, a lot of the mental health issues and things like that, that I had just kind of disappeared, which was quite nice. Once you committed to to action. Yeah, yeah.
So how long did it take you to? To? To figure out that there was this thing in your life? That wasn't? Right, that you wanted to change? Was that was that a
is that they're all your life? I think so yeah. It's probably not something. It's not something I've worked at realised until I was about 18. But probably when I look back at it's been there since at least most but it definitely has been there my whole life. But something that sort of manifested itself around like 1213, around p, which is the same thing for most times people start saying, Okay, what do you start changing that age, and you start to realise that this is something isn't right. First, and then Yeah, so? Yeah, yeah. And let's say about 18, I kind of worked it out, probably with the help of other people I knew, I sort of had over friends that had certainly done sort of had found a similar thing, strangely. And also, around that time, you start to see various people in the media that were trans, who started to see a lot more from Caitlyn Jenner, and various people know that this is a very useful role model. Yeah. You know, and you kind of okay, that may be that me. And maybe that's what a problem I have. And when you start thinking of it all, yeah,
I think that's one of the difficult things that loads of us face isn't that of, of having this kind of sense of life should be. This doesn't feel like how life should be I think loads of us feel that in our in our own different worlds, and then to identifying that really hard, but important first step, isn't it? And then the next thing you do have, what was there any specific action you did? Or moment or event that tipped you into thinking, right, I'm going to commit to
making a big change? Yeah, I suppose I is, there's the coming out process. With all about that I sort of, I couldn't find it really hard, I still find it kind of hard in no way to tell people, which is why I just tend to be open about it. And it's easier.
It's so much easier way to like, yeah,
then hide, I'm saying
it's taken me decades to realise that.
And then just kind of I wrote a letter from from my mom, because I just couldn't tell her. And that was kind of that was probably that, that there's no going back from this point. And after that, I just kind of decided to start doing that. But I wasn't I didn't have a job at the time. So rather than having rather than sort of, I thought, well, I may as well, while I'm looking for jobs use the right name and the right pronouns and things on my CV. So I did and that kind of just forced me to, to transition properly. And buying a property is not the right word. But you know, fully because it was, it was easier in a way to then to rather than hiding,
it's really interesting. Is that how we build things up and ahead, we worry about this. And we worry about this and worry about this.
she? She was fine. I mean, we all have one cried and everything but it was you know, it wasn't a problem. It is his son funny. So the first thing I do bring you closer together? I think so yeah. Yeah. The first people I told was a bunch of friends that I used to play games with online. And I, we were all in a channel together. And there was some other people in that I didn't realise it was other people in that channel, I took me out, right, this whole message to post them and I posted it. And the first person to reply to someone I didn't know, completely freaked out, deleted it, and then sort of went to a final city. He told me that was okay, and so they made another channel for just our friends. And I posted it, and then they all just kind of went
I find that the parallels of this is so fascinating with people who I get emails all the time from people who are wanting to quit their job to start a business or they're wanting to change, sell their house, they can go cycle to China and things and they were in they were in the world. And a lot of it is this notion that society expects one thing they expect one direction. People like me are supposed to do this. Yeah, in my life. And we worry what people think, or I didn't know anyone else like this. I'm a weirdo, no one else will do this sort of thing.
Then commitment comes in is that.
So what what advice would you offer to someone who in whatever sphere is themselves is wanting to try to be a bit bold and live a bit more adventurous in their own way, but isn't doing it because blah, blah, blah,
Were you thinking about? This might here with this might go wrong? This might be bad, this might go wrong? Or you thinking? This will be good, this will be great. This would be a way of my shoulders. Were you feet thinking of the positives? Or do they the worries?
The worry is?
Probably not to listen? Yeah,
I think that is kind of human nature. To an extent. We are kind of cautious creatures. But yeah, I think Yeah, I was thinking about the worries but in reality that they've paled in comparison to the benefits, but you don't often see that the other benefits until you don't realise what the other benefits are until after and look back and go. Okay, now I'm a lot happier now. Now. I've been I am doing the things I wanted to do now. And things are okay. So you've been that you've noticed, spin off benefits that you hadn't anticipated? Yeah, yeah. Such as well, yeah. So I was really depressed at the time. And that's kind of gone away. But also, I've just got the point of now I just kind of go Oh, well. I did that. To do that. Yeah, go I started caving, and just kind of because I think I wanted to try doing. And so I did. And
kind of easy to just do this. Do you think then it's helping you build a habit of
boldness going out? Yes. To an extent, probably over
Yeah, I'm try my natural tendencies to be quite pessimistic and nervous in life. But I've spent about 20 years now trying to train myself to be more optimistic and to be more bold and try new things. And it's hard. But the good thing is because I've been doing at 20 years of this, I've built up this habit of, and through experience of seeing that wasn't as bad as I thought it was, oh, that wasn't as bad as I thought it was, Oh, I'm more capable than I thought I was. And it's it becomes you get some good momentum. Yeah. takes time, doesn't it? So do you feel now that you're, you're living a more authentic life? I think so. Yeah.
Yeah. And that fails me not as some pretending to be something I'm not. It's good. You know, it is one less thing to spend your life worrying about, and why spend your life worrying about those things when you can get rid of them.
I think it's brilliant, really brilliant. And one of the things I'm doing on this trip cycling around
the need to earn money or do what you want to do to earn money.
So is my terrorising
I need money to do the things that I want to do. But I don't mean I need money. I need to be some funds to do things but I don't go chasing money just for the sake of money. And it's a tool to allow me to buy things but my biggest problem is of money as time. Okay, a full time jobs is is good because you own a decent way because you often but you don't have the time to do things. 20 something days holiday a year is not that much. A big trip. So big exhibition. What would you do if I gave you a year? free time? That's a really good question. I if I had a year's free time, I would probably I'd probably spend a lot more time exploring the UK. And there's so many more. Today, even the UK I've not hardly done any of Scotland. I've done that North Wales have walked into mountaineering, and I probably finish my mountain leader. Keep me need to do that. Now, I think that's a factual thing. And so many people that did not finish this thing. And but yes, I probably do that. Okay, cool. If you had an extra every day all to yourself, how would you spend it?
So that's actually slightly different to having a year of one hour a day?
That's a good question. I won't say something. I can't read a book or I've learned to do another scale. I probably use it to sleep. Because I don't get no seems. No i if i if i but if I purposely spent an hour doing something else today, it would probably be reading more for building things more. I don't spend enough time actually working on projects, perpetually starting projects and not finishing them. So okay. Yes, I would probably try and do that more.
I spent years because I'm also desperately searching more time in life. And I always find sleep such a waste that I'm wasting. So for years, I thought sleep was for wimps. But one thing I've done that's been really good was accepting that sleep is not for with no sleep this for champions. And now just making myself say this is a non negotiable chunk of time. And it's a good investment.
Yeah, definitely. I think I definitely notice if I don't get good sleep. Get ready to go into the entire competition. Yes, yeah. Yep.
I think I think one thing that really worries me a lot is the prospect of getting old. And looking back and regretting having done a bit of a half assed job on it.
So how do you
in terms of just trying to live a life that feels, but I think it's more than being fun and exciting. It's with some sort of purpose to it as well. Yeah. Does that does that sort of thing? cross your mind? Yeah. It's something that I often perpetually get worried about in the middle of the night.
When he should be sleeping, I should sleeping is like,
So does that consciously project
to action? Sometimes? I think so if I look at something quite I quite like to do that one day, I'll probably do self study. I'll just do it, then. You know, if you have funds to do things, it's quite easy to try Chinese.
I suppose that's the con. You're saying you've got job you earn sufficient money, but you don't have enough time. The flip side of that is being aware that
Yeah, I earn enough money, therefore, might as well use it feels important. Okay, do a couple more.
This is a conscious of time because you, unlike most people have to be to actually have a proper job. You have to go to
work, and not until 10 o'clock. It's not really a proper job if you don't have to start.
which is basically the same as riding around the village and inviting seen friends. Is that, is it not? It hasn't particularly
it's not many can you think? Yeah, the things have changed? Yeah, the actual content, the reasons you're doing them.
That's interesting, because I think that
I'll think of you my morning meeting. Why do you not act when you know what to do?
Okay, that's a big one to end with not act.
So things that
the times when you know what to do? Yeah, this is what I want to do my life better if the
YG not get on and do that
voice? Does that not features an issue for you getting
down to time, probably for me probably time on under the risk as well. If something's missing in whatever way that might mean. But no, or at least me pretending I don't have enough time. Which is probably often also at the end. I'm sure I do. I'm sure I could do more. The bike really focused on certain things. But
yeah, that's a very good phrase, pretending you don't have enough time is often just the excuse for you because we're scared of x,
y, and Zed, isn't it? I think so. Yeah.
Yeah. You acknowledge that, that sometimes you do that?
Yeah, I definitely do. procrastinate. Yeah, I think another thing we all do when we're recognising that it's also quite important. Yeah,
it certainly is. Louise, thank you so much for talking to me. So honestly, and eloquently.