Change Interview - Jamie Black

Next up for our Change Interview, sharing his #Storyofchange is our #Humansofchange Jamie Black. 

Jamie  continually re-defines himself by seeking out new knowledge sets, skills and challenges. To date, he has worked in communications, strategy and leadership roles within architecture, branding and education across four continents. Thriving in cross-cultural environments, Jamie is curious and passionate about generative design and platforms that can support individuals, teams, and communities in creating the opportunities to effect desired changes.


1.  What major change has happened in your life?

I  underwent a significant period of change following a car accident at the end of 2012. Riding in the rear of a taxi cab that crashed, I hit my head and shoulder and sustained a concussion and whiplash.

2.  What happened during this period of change?

More or less, I experienced chronic physical pain for just under a year following the accident. Most days were filled with debilitating headaches and not many opportunities for joy. While originally diagnosed with a concussion, I was not treated for whiplash and this led to what seemed like a never ending spiral of pain combined with the emotional and cognitive challenges presented during post-concussion syndrome. At the time of the accident, I was finishing up a project and transitioning to new work, which subsequently went on hold, leaving me unemployed as I tried to heal. This in itself presented its own challenges, on top of those from the injury. There was a good stretch of time where I felt, that my life as it was, was as good as it was going to be.


3.  How did you navigate yourself out of this change period?

Well, to be honest, I am not yet entirely out of it or done navigating. I still experience side effects from the lengthy period of time “off” - physically, cognitively and emotionally. An interesting thing about a challenge like this is that it is systemic and when a system is shocked or fails, weaknesses in the system become exposed. So the change period also triggered a philosophical shift of a personal dedication to resolve weaknesses in the system, to cultivate a stronger sense of resiliency and prepare ones self for the bounce back from the next potential shock to the system. I share this with readers, as I feel strongly that many lessons around change can be applied across diverse experiences - whether they deal with loss, like an injury, a break up or a lay off, or if they deal with action, a new business, going back to school, or a new lifestyle.

In reflection, I really only started to make head way, when I realized that what I was experiencing was a journey. I was not going to wake up one day and everything would be fixed. It was a healing journey, and I spent time in shock, denial, anger, fear, and loneliness but eventually made my way to a place of empowerment. A place where I was able to propel myself out of that spiral I had been experiencing.

As for how I specifically got myself out of this period - I tried so many things. I leaned on my brother a great deal as he is highly informed in things like nutrition, strength training and will power. I leaned on my parents. I stayed with them during my recovery and it is not easy to live with someone experiencing what I went through, but day in and day out they were compassionate. I went to athletic therapy, osteopathy and cranio-sacral therapy on a regular basis. I overhauled my diet and changed my relationship with food. I read books. Books to empower myself with knowledge, books to engage my intellect and books for fun. I did what I could each day even if everything else went wrong. It was as simple as walking around the block or doing this four-count breathing exercise I do. I created rituals, like a Wednesday lunch with two of my best friends. I discovered the amazing duo of Kelly and Jane McGonigal - sisters, working in different fields that taught me so much, even though they don’t know it. I was fortunate also to workshop with Deepak Chopra towards the end of rehabilitation, which was perfect timing. Even though I did not see it as such at the time, I just had to keep hustling. Actioning my way out of what I was going through. It was the only way. And perhaps, most importantly, the narrative I had developed for myself through the injury had to change, from one of victim to one of owner.


4.  Has the change impacted the way you approached life and work today? 


Definitely. As I eluded to in my previous answers, my work is not done. Of course there are times when you feel more prepared to take on new challenges and there are other times you feel a bit more fragile and tend to mitigate risk. I hung out in the latter for a while and but now am continuing to move forward, tackling what I can.

I also channel a mantra I have adapted from Steven Pressfield’s book, “Do the Work”. It is about getting on with things and actioning yourself in response to any resistance you may face. I like it, it’s a great reminder for what it is all about. We are hear to work. And I don’t mean that solely in a career or professional sense.


5.  What one thing do you wish you had during this time - or what one thing was missing during this time that could have helped you?

I would have liked to have had more confidence and feel a more positive self-narrative would have helped me. Especially in reducing the length of time this period of change took. This said, I think of experiences like this, as the ones that have got me to where I am today and tend to focus on the the things I learned to help me out of it.

It took a while to get there and say this and mean it, but, for as bad as it was, I know I am better for it in the long run.


6.  What are your 3 main take aways from this change period?

  • There is not one fixed state to a change period. It’s a journey.
  • Don’t wish or wait for change to come, action it.
  • Be careful of the narrative you construct for yourself. It is a lot more damaging and limiting than you may realize.

7.  What one piece of advice would you give to someone going through a similar point in their lives?

Don’t underestimate your ability to lead yourself out of whatever challenge you are experiencing.