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Louise
 

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.

PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO THE LIVING ADVENTUROUSLY PODCAST

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THIS PODCAST IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY KOMOOT

Komoot is a route planning and navigation app that inspires and enables great outdoor experiences and you can see my ride’s route on komoot here.
Your very own outdoor experiences are waiting for you. Go explore more with komoot. Use the voucher code ADVENTUROUS to claim your free region maps bundle.
The personalised planning and navigation tools ensure you plan the adventure that’s perfect for you. Komoot is Europe’s number 1 outdoor app, with route planning and navigation functionality, and strong community-driven inspirational features in the form of recommended Highlights and inspirational route Collections. It is used by nearly 10 million adventurers worldwide. Komoot is becoming the app of choice for cyclists and hikers the world over, with rapid community growth in the UK, the US and other parts of Europe.

SHOW NOTES

  • If you enjoy listening to this episode over a cup of coffee and think it might be worth the price, you can buy me a coffee here: www. ko-fi.com/al_humphreys
  • Keep up to date with future episodes (and my other adventures, projects and books) with my free monthly newsletter: alastairhumphreys.com/more/subscribe
  • Say hello on Twitter and Instagram: @al_humphreys
  • 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!'”

TRANSCRIPT

Below is the transcription of our conversation. It’s done by AI so is perhaps a wee bit ropey here and there. If these transcripts prove sufficiently useful then I will make the effort to clean then up and make them better. Do let me know if you think it’s worth my time to do that. (Or, better still, do it for me…!). If you’d like to listen as you read along you can do that here:

https://otter.ai/s/AIc7-qqzRgiT6zgYLoOhcQ

Alastair Humphreys
we met via Twitter originally and on there you say you’re a climber and a caver. which is more scary.

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
But you’re not doing it for the adrenaline.

Louise McMahon
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

Alastair Humphreys
Have you gone somewhere No one’s ever been before?

Louise McMahon
not no one’s ever been before. But never in the last several hundred years. We do a lot in 17th century mines.

Alastair Humphreys
Wow. That’s a Amazing, isn’t it? Well within an hour of massive city. how did you get into caving?

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
decliners in cave is like each other.

Louise McMahon
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?

Alastair Humphreys
what’s the what’s the difference in mindset between someone who is a good cave and somebody who’s a good climate.

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
So it’s okay. So it’s more of a

bit more of a mission to Yeah, baby and purpose perhaps Yeah,

Louise McMahon
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,

Alastair Humphreys
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?

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
So it’s a case of you’re doing something very dangerous, but going about it in a way that

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
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

not not suicidal tendencies, but improperly just, I’m really going to push push the edge here, I think,

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
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?

Louise McMahon
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?

Alastair Humphreys
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?

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
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

a speaking event. And me being me, I was

Unknown Speaker
trying to Oh,

Alastair Humphreys
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?

What does that mean? Does that apply in your situation?

Louise McMahon
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

sort of jumped at it with two feet and said worked it out.

Alastair Humphreys
I did yeah. Yeah. Not a cave as approach.

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
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

Louise McMahon
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,

Alastair Humphreys
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

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
It’s so much easier way to like, yeah,

Louise McMahon
then hide, I’m saying

Alastair Humphreys
it’s taken me decades to realise that.

Louise McMahon
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,

Alastair Humphreys
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.

And we

believe so many of the barriers are outside our own head. Have you found that? So the stuff you were worried about before?

How many of those worries

actually came to fruition now?

So what did your mom say when she read your letter?

Louise McMahon
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

okay, cool. Are you freaking out?

Okay, and that that kind of made me like, Okay, this is okay. Yeah,

Alastair Humphreys
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.

Louise McMahon
Then commitment comes in is that.

Alastair Humphreys
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,

Louise McMahon
I suppose

is to move. If you’re someone that sat there going all but this might go wrong, or this might go wrong on this might go wrong. At the end of the day, just just try it. Just do it. You’ll you’ll make it work, whatever that is. And if there’s problems along the way, then you’ll find ways to fix them. Yeah. I think that’s that’s kind of what I did threats, then.

Alastair Humphreys
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?

Louise McMahon
The worry is?

Alastair Humphreys
Probably not to listen? Yeah,

Louise McMahon
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

Alastair Humphreys
kind of easy to just do this. Do you think then it’s helping you build a habit of

Louise McMahon
boldness going out? Yes. To an extent, probably over

wanting to do things and not not worry about

not worrying about consequences, right way to put it but like, not worrying about the what might go wrong. What Yeah, just

just try it.

Alastair Humphreys
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.

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
I think it’s brilliant, really brilliant. And one of the things I’m doing on this trip cycling around

trying to solve the meaning of life.

And I’ve done that through a series of questions and playing cancer, one of the few that

do me a favour of answering a few so

take card off the top. And

if ignore it if you don’t want to answer it in

Louise McMahon
the need to earn money or do what you want to do to earn money.

Alastair Humphreys
So is my terrorising

so do you need to earn money? Or do you want to earn more? Okay, interesting if you approach this so today’s topic now this money is it something that for you, you obviously need a bit and but you feel it’s something you need or something you want.

Louise McMahon
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?

Alastair Humphreys
So that’s actually slightly different to having a year of one hour a day?

Louise McMahon
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.

Alastair Humphreys
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.

Louise McMahon
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.

Sounds so me making the most out of life.

making the most out of life. What do you mean?

Alastair Humphreys
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.

Louise McMahon
So how do you

Alastair Humphreys
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.

Louise McMahon
When he should be sleeping, I should sleeping is like,

you know, I don’t want to be it in a retirement home going. I wish I’d done that. And that’s often an excuse. I used to do things really to try things. Because otherwise, I don’t want that that point. And all wishes will not we should not affect them not not, not want to regret not doing things.

Alastair Humphreys
So does that consciously project

Louise McMahon
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.

Yes, no, no. Yeah, of course notes here.

Alastair Humphreys
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

Louise McMahon
Yeah, I earn enough money, therefore, might as well use it feels important. Okay, do a couple more.

Alastair Humphreys
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

Louise McMahon
work, and not until 10 o’clock. It’s not really a proper job if you don’t have to start.

But what does living adventurously mean to you, as that definition changed with time? What does it mean to you as a child? Okay. So as a child, it was riding around on my bike, I grew up in little village in New Hampshire. And so I was able to ride around on bank and see my friends and do all those things. As an adult, is trying to do more stuff that I enjoy, really, I, I don’t see the stuff I do as adventures or expeditions or anything like that. I mean, some of them get called exhibitions, because that’s what we call some caving stuff. But I just see it as fun collection time. They’re just things I enjoy doing. And I’m trying to fill my life with things I enjoy doing anything, and massive the things I don’t enjoy doing,

Alastair Humphreys
which is basically the same as riding around the village and inviting seen friends. Is that, is it not? It hasn’t particularly

Louise McMahon
it’s not many can you think? Yeah, the things have changed? Yeah, the actual content, the reasons you’re doing them.

Alastair Humphreys
That’s interesting, because I think that

I spent years and years and years thinking adventure has to be this, this and this. So I must keep doing this, this and this. But after 20 years of doing this, this and this. So it’s changing. Yeah. And it’s taken me a long time to I can still try and be bold and curious. But in different ways. Yeah. Yeah. Right. We’ll do one more question. And I’ll send you off to work. Someone’s got to keep this, this economy running while I’m riding my bike.

Louise McMahon
I’ll think of you my morning meeting. Why do you not act when you know what to do?

Alastair Humphreys
Okay, that’s a big one to end with not act.

Unknown Speaker
So things that

Alastair Humphreys
the times when you know what to do? Yeah, this is what I want to do my life better if the

Louise McMahon
YG not get on and do that

Alastair Humphreys
voice? Does that not features an issue for you getting

Louise McMahon
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

Alastair Humphreys
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,

Louise McMahon
y, and Zed, isn’t it? I think so. Yeah.

Alastair Humphreys
Yeah. You acknowledge that, that sometimes you do that?

Louise McMahon
Yeah, I definitely do. procrastinate. Yeah, I think another thing we all do when we’re recognising that it’s also quite important. Yeah,

Alastair Humphreys
it certainly is. Louise, thank you so much for talking to me. So honestly, and eloquently.

I’ve really enjoyed it.

But I do think next time you have eggs, you should eat the green bits. Very good.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

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