Businessman Greg Cawley has shared his story on how he went from thinking about ending his life, to creating Brikman Yoga.
Brikman Yoga is for men only, so they can feel comfortable and get the most out of the experience.
While in an unhappy marriage and increasing pressure from his businesses, Greg Cawley got to a point where he thought about ending it all.
“Absolutely, yeah – I lived on the beach, and there were times that… I’d worked out I was just going to walk into the sea,” Greg said in the podcast interview above.
After getting to this point, Greg explains how he turned his life around through yoga.
“So, there’s two aspects,” Greg explained.
“There’s the physical, which is amazing.
“I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, coming to yoga.
“I don’t do any other exercise apart from walking, and I just do that for aerobics, really, for aerobic fitness.
“Obviously, I’m more flexible and mobile than I’ve been before.
“But from a mental perspective, and this is really why I got passionate about bringing this to men because of my own experience.
“The ability to get your mind quiet for just an hour a day or every now and again, it can help you focus, it can help you just process stuff.
“Even just being quiet in a room like that and breathe and connecting with your breath, it can help bring stuff to the surface as well.”
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Read the Greg Cawley podcast interview TRANSCRIPT:
McCarthy-Wood: Thank you very much for your company once again. Look, listen to the story, and just think to yourself, “Is this you?” While struggling in a yoga class at the age of 55 to touch my toes and to bend my body into unimaginable positions, the thought came to me that I was not alone and that there were multitudes of guys. Now, this is a guy that is just a… So, he’s looking at people that might be just like him. So, can’t bend, can’t touch the toes. Now, worse than that, can you imagine stepping foot into a place with a whole heap of bendy women that are having no problems touching their toes and doing things like yoga?
McCarthy-Wood: Well, we have somebody that is trying to deal with that in the best way that he possibly can. His name is Greg. Greg Cawley, how are you?
Greg Cawley: I’m great, thank you.
McCarthy-Wood: Now we also have Daryl Nicholson on the line. How are you going, Daryl?
Daryl Nicholson: Oh, happy and joyful, mate. Happy and joyful. Another Monday and another podcast, and this one is going to be a really good one.
McCarthy-Wood: So, can you reach your toes?
Daryl Nicholson: No, mate, and I haven’t gone to Greg’s classes yet. It’s on my list of things to do, but I’m just so busy at the moment. But I will need to make time for that.
McCarthy-Wood: Well, really good question for you: how would you feel going in, having not really been flexible because you haven’t had to do that for such a long time, going into a class full of women that are probably in all of those… What do they call it? Active wear? And they’re very, very flexible. Not only can they reach their toes, but they can probably reach past their toes.
Daryl Nicholson: Yeah, well they could, and it could be very intimidating and a bit embarrassing for me. So, I love what Greg… Greg’s got an affectionate catch line on his business card: No Shelias, no Lycra, just blokes. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Greg Cawley. How are you, Greg?
Greg Cawley: I’m great, Daryl, thank you. And thank you for both having me on the podcast. I appreciate it.
Daryl Nicholson: Oh, no worries. You’ve been on 4350 T.V., and we’ve talked about what you do. So, you’ve got yoga for men. Tell us, how did that all come about, and how are you travelling with it at the moment?
Greg Cawley: At the moment, very well. I’m just in the process of starting my first term of the year. The first men’s only class starts today. I run on four teams per year, and we run for 11 weeks a term. So, the numbers are starting to fill up, which is good. But, as with most things, people don’t commit ’til the last moment, and that can be a bit stressful when I’m waiting to see the numbers come in. But the last couple of days, the wave is starting to come into the shore, which is cool. So, the question was how do I get into this?
Daryl Nicholson: Mm-hmm (affirmative), please. Yes, how did it all come about?
Greg Cawley: Okay. Well, a long time ago, 10 years ago, I was 49. I’m 59 now, and I was going through a major crisis financially and emotionally. What happened was I had a fairly large manufacturing business, and we were affected very badly by the global financial crisis. So, there was that, coupled with a marriage going west at the same time. So, it wasn’t a good time, and I was in a real kind of emotional, mental mess and didn’t know how I was going to (a) save the business and (b) the marriage, et cetera.
Greg Cawley: Then one day a great friend of mine walked into my office just out of the blue. I hadn’t seen him for a long time. We talked, and I clearly remember having my head in my hands, shaking it, going, “I don’t know how I’m going to change this.” He said, “You need to go to Nepal on a personal development course. I know this person who’s taking it. She’s amazing. You’re at a crossroads of your life, and you need to go. It’s in three weeks.” I went, “Right. Okay. So, yeah, mate. I would love to go to Nepal,” because I’d been to Nepal before, but I had no money, no time, et cetera. I just said, “No, I can’t go.”
Greg Cawley: Anyway, bless his heart, Graham pursued me for three weeks. He kept ringing me twice a week saying, “You really got to go. You’re at a crossroads. This is pivotal for you.” I went, “No, no, no.” Then finally, a week out, I said yes. I felt something was happening. I trusted this guy, and I just felt something about his insistence.
Greg Cawley: I went, and what happened is every day, and unbeknown to me because I didn’t even know what it was about, I just knew I had to go to Nepal on this course because a friend had told me to, every morning we would do yoga for an hour. It might be on a rooftop of a hotel in Kathmandu-
McCarthy-Wood: Oh, wow.
Greg Cawley: … or in a little hut down in Southern Nepal or under the Annapurna ranges, 8,000 metre peaks rising above you, which was just mind blowing. I loved the yoga.
Greg Cawley: Came back from the course, I’d got my head clear, formulated a plan. But I decided I needed to go to yoga because I liked it and I felt it was doing me some good. Didn’t really know. I liked the physicality of it. I started going to yoga classes three times a week. What I found was I would end up craving the hour of peace that I could have at the end of the day when I went to yoga because the whole rest of my life was chaos and this one hour when I could move and do a really, really good physical workout, I’d come back exhausted. But the mental quietness was just amazing. While it didn’t solve any of my problems, it gave me the fuel to keep going for the next day and the day after that, if you know what I mean.
Daryl Nicholson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And in fact, then, Greg, we spoke to Samantha Moyers about women and the struggles they have and just about talking, and I’m going to ask you a really tough question. Were you suicidal at that stage before you did the yoga? Were you thinking of suicide?
Greg Cawley: Absolutely, yeah. I lived on the beach, and there were times that… I’d worked out I was just going to walk into the sea. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Reginald Perrin? The TV programme?
Daryl Nicholson: No, I haven’t, no.
Greg Cawley: All guys, I guess, would know that. But anyway, that’s the programme he runs down to the beach, takes all his clothes off, and walks into the sea and disappears. He was trying to start a new life. So, yeah, absolutely. It had come to my attention, and why I did not, I don’t know. Maybe not brave enough, maybe had too much will. I’m not sure. But yes, that certainly crossed my mind. There’s no question about that.
Daryl Nicholson: I heard Jimmy Barnes in an interview once. He said he thought about it, but he said it hurt when he tried to do it. Andrew, I’m going to be really deep here. It’s come into my mind over my life, and at certain times you just think, “I’m not worthy.” When that happens, you think, “How can I get out of this deep hole I’m in?” This is when I was very interested with Greg. As I said on the Toowoomba Safer Regional Partnerships, suicide is a big problem in the Southern area, policing area for Toowoomba. I think they figured out Toowoomba… I think it’s 155 suicides in five years in this region.
McCarthy-Wood: Oh, gee.
Daryl Nicholson: And a lot of them are men. Throw in any time you like, Andrew, but geez, men talking to each other… My dad went to Vietnam with two brothers. They only spoke to each other, but they wouldn’t talk to anyone else. So, talking is important, isn’t it?
McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, right. Greg, look, you have mentioned that you have had those tendencies and feelings towards giving up on life, but what would you say was your turning point? Was it the trip itself or the coming back and bringing together this programme and maybe contributing to others?
Greg Cawley: Those tendencies were back at that time. So, yeah, the trip was part of it, but also the actual ability to get my mind quiet and clear things away during a yoga class and not starting the next day in the same state in which I finished the previous day. Do you know what I mean?
McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. If we can, can we go into a bit of the background? You mentioned your business and your relationship. For the listeners, just to put a bit of context around this, what was the outcome on both those things?
Greg Cawley: For the business, I had a number of different operations. One of them I particularly didn’t enjoy because I didn’t understand it particularly well. I would go in and buy businesses and run them. I’m an accountant by profession, and I did that for 25 years. I was pretty lucky, and I picked the right ones at the right time. I took a step too far at one point. I had a window manufacturing business, which was a really hard operation to run because it’s very industry specific, and I didn’t have that industry specificity. So, I had to rely on other people to really run the business properly, and it didn’t happen.
Greg Cawley: I was sitting in the room in Nepal, talking to the coach who undertook the course. I was saying I really hate this thing. It’s really bringing us down. It was dragging down everything else. She said, “Why don’t you do your staff a favour and sell it?” “What?” Like she’d hit me with a sledgehammer, because all I could think of, “Well, I’ve got to [inaudible 00:09:18].” … said, “Why?” “Because other people rely on me, it’s my business, blah blah blah.” But she said, “Just get out. They know you don’t want to be there.” I went, “Huh. Okay.”
Greg Cawley: So, that was cool. I came back, and I put it on the market within a week. It took a year to sell it, but that took the anchor away from everything. Everything then started to fly. I think the marriage split up probably about three or four months after that business was sold and went through a long process of about 18 months because we both worked in the business, which was difficult.
Greg Cawley: So, in the settlement I ended up with the business. I just basically worked it really hard for the next three years, I think it was, and sold it for a reasonable sum. By that stage, I don’t want to be there anymore. I’ve had enough of all this stuff. I don’t want to go back through another financial crisis, so I don’t want to employ people anymore. I just got to get out of this and do something different. Now, I had no idea what that was going to be.
McCarthy-Wood: Greg, we’ll come back to the yoga in just a moment because I want to explore this a little bit more because there are many men, and probably women too, but you probably really got the perspective from a man and there may be people that are listening to this and identifying with your story and going, “Ah, well, that’s me, and I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.” So, if we can take the time just to have this conversation and go through each of those steps.
Greg Cawley: Sure.
McCarthy-Wood: What’s your life like now?
Greg Cawley: Unbelievable compared to what it was.
McCarthy-Wood: So, you have come from that. Now, let’s put a little bit of context around it. You’re an accountant, so you’re a professional. You understand numbers. You’re not just some kid off the street that has jumped into a business and gone, “I’m good at this trade, so let’s see what we can make of it.” You have gone into many businesses. You’ve been very successful at that. This one has hit you like a brick wall. There’s a global financial crisis. Let’s just move forward to 2020, and there are commentators out there in the financial world that are saying the global financial crisis is nothing compared to what we’re looking at now.
Greg Cawley: Exactly.
McCarthy-Wood: So, there are probably plenty of men that are going through what you were going through back then. Let’s go through that. Can you take us through? Maybe take a step back and just walk us all through that. Take your time to do that so that somebody may be able to really understand what your journey was and where it’s taken you to now.
Greg Cawley: Yeah, yeah, sure. So, I’ll step back to probably two or three years prior to the GFC. Everything is going like a train. I’m making more money than I ever dreamed I could make, doing everything I ever wanted to, pretty much, from a financial perspective, but was anchored by the business, no question. But it didn’t bother me overly because I was really happy that we were growing in our opportunities. But what happened is I went from… I had one really, really good profitable operation, and then I started branching out because I think it’s about ego, to be quite honest with you. I wanted to keep growing. I wanted to keep challenging myself. To be honest, I got bored pretty easily. The business I bought, the first one, was going really well.
Greg Cawley: Then the window business came on the market. It was at a reasonable price. I bought it, thought we can integrate these two. My other one was a shower manufacturing operation. We integrated them, and we can integrate staff doing the same kind of… It’s aluminium and glass. Same kind of stuff. Anyway, the aluminium business just took off as well. We turned it around into something really profitable very quickly. So, then I started adding staff. I went from about 12 staff to 20, 26, 32 staff. By this point… And this is where I learned about myself actually. I’m a really, really good operator when I can stay hands-on and keep everything close. But once I started to need to have intermediary managers and to manage staff successfully, I’m really not very good at that. Unfortunately, the lessons you learn in business always cost you money.
Greg Cawley: So, I learned pretty quickly that I had just put the wrong people in the wrong positions. That didn’t matter for a couple of years because the economy was booming. It was going great, but when the GFC came in, well, things change very quickly. Of course, we went and bought a house at the beach with a big mortgage. The bank wanted me to buy two because there was so much cash around. Thank God I didn’t. But the income stops and the expenses stay as high as they are and the debt doesn’t disappear. So, that’s what happened.
Greg Cawley: I went from an amazing position, doing really, really well and pretty happy with life mostly. In truth, probably my marriage wasn’t very happy, but I had two kids at that point. My kids are now 24 and 22. So, it was good, and then through the GFC. What happened was, I think my ego took a massive dent because I started to realise it was out of my fit. If you’re trying to turn a business around like that, you can’t do it overnight. You’ve got to take small steps, or some large steps, and wait for the Titanic to turn. It’s like an old tanker, and it takes a long time to turn around.
Greg Cawley: For example, I couldn’t liaise with my manager at the bank that I used to. It was taken up to Auckland to some guy who really didn’t understand me or know me, but he was just looking at numbers and he was hammering me weekly. It was just bloody awful. I just didn’t want to be there anymore, and I didn’t know what to do.
McCarthy-Wood: What about your relationships at that time, your broader relationships? Did you continue to keep the exact same amount of friends? Did they all stick by you? How did that work?
Greg Cawley: Yeah, pretty much. I’ve always had a pretty tight, small bunch of friends. It’s interesting, though. I’ll tell you something interesting. Since I’ve actually been on this yoga trip and getting publicity and talking about the story, one of my friends from back then, he said, “Oh my God. Oh, I wish I’d have known what you were going through,” because I didn’t tell anybody.
McCarthy-Wood: So, you were fronting up and basically putting a stony face on, smiling when you needed to, presenting the way that you needed to, and the friend that may have still cared about you probably had no idea on what you were going through.
Greg Cawley: He had no idea. We’d socialise and spend quite a bit of time Christmas holidays together, and he had no clue that was going on at all. And to be honest, I wasn’t smiling a lot either.
Daryl Nicholson: Andrew, I can relate to this being in real estate. I went through the global financial crisis. There was a lot of times I was in the foetal position in bed because the deals kept falling over and the bank account was running down. Then floods hit Dalby, and I couldn’t sell anything. I’d call it smoke and mirrors. I’d be happy and joyful on Facebook, and deep down I was just like, “Where is this going? What am I going to do?”
McCarthy-Wood: Quite often, whether it’s you’ve got a job or you’ve got a business, you’re in real estate or you’ve got like your business, Greg, you actually not only have a responsibility, if you turn up and you walk into the office and assume the foetal position, that is going to spell the end of your business right there and then, isn’t it, because there will be a loss of confidence.
Greg Cawley: You’ve just got to keep driving and making it look like you’re there. That is absolutely true. But one of the interesting things how I changed, I thought you can’t tell them anything. You can’t tell your staff anything. But part of this thing I had been through in Nepal, this coaching I went through, she said, “You really need to tell them where you’re at so they can understand.” So, I told them, ” We’re selling this part of the operation. These are the reasons.” I thought there’d be negative connotations from that, but I think everyone was actually relieved to know something was actually happening.
Daryl Nicholson: Yeah, yep. That’s a good way to do it. Involve the team. Yep.
Greg Cawley: Yeah, and when I came to sell my overall operation after all this stuff had cleared a few years later, I told them right from the word go, “I’m listing the business. This is the reason.” I said, “I don’t want to be here anymore. You guys know that. You know I don’t want to be here anymore. I’m not committed, and if you don’t have someone committed at the front of this operation, it’s going to go backwards. So, I need to get out for the sake of everybody.” And that was really, really… I wouldn’t ever have done that had I not got that previous coaching because I was all about secrecy and don’t tell them anything because it could be bad. But actually telling them where I was at, and they knew that I didn’t want to be there and I wasn’t lying about it anymore, it was really good. So, when I left, it was quite a really joyous situation. They were like, “Good on you. Just go and do whatever you want to do.”
McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. Look, Greg, a lot of people, when there are these sorts of conversations being had, there’s a lot of advice that’s given out. I’m sure that you probably would have heard a lot of advice on the way into the dilemma that you found yourself in. But maybe for somebody listening to this that is maybe at the start of all of this, they know they’re not happy with the way things are going, they’re having very negative, concerning thoughts within their own mind, maybe their self worth, they just can’t measure any of that. Just your words, what would you say to them right now?
Greg Cawley: Well, this is something someone said to me, and I’ve said this to people many times. And this was also about if you’re in a bad relationship, you don’t want to go for whatever reason it might be, or it’s too hard. We focus on, generally, if we change or let stuff go, what have you got to lose? What are you going to lose? Well, I always say to them now, because I’ve gone through this and understand this clearly, you need to focus on what you have to gain by making a change or getting out of your marriage or your relationship or changing your job or moving or whatever it is. Think of what there is to gain. Focus on that, as opposed to what you’re going to lose.
Daryl Nicholson: And Greg, you’ve done that. You had a son in New Zealand. You came over here, and your son was in New Zealand struggling. And mate, he’s now in Toowoomba performing as one of the… I see him on Facebook. He’s really doing some great work in real estate in Toowoomba.
Greg Cawley: Yeah, he’s doing amazing, and I’m very proud of him. And funnily enough, my daughter, she and her partner just moved over from New Zealand on Wednesday. So, they’re actually camping at my place at the moment, and now heading to Brisbane to find jobs.
McCarthy-Wood: So, do you think that because of calling it a day on the relationship your family is actually in a better place?
Greg Cawley: Oh, yeah. My kids said to me, “You know, dad, it’s much better at home now you’re gone.”
McCarthy-Wood: I take it you took it the right way.
Greg Cawley: Oh, yeah. It was not a good environment for these kids. No, no, and I think my ex-wife would say the same things. It’s probably the best for everybody. I mean, there’s a huge amount of upheaval. Mine was probably more difficult than some because we had businesses together, houses, mortgages, all that stuff, which had to be unravelled. To be honest, for me, sitting in a place where I think, “Oh, I probably should get out of here,” I would keep looking at it and going, “This is just too big. How is this all going to… Where are the cards going to end here? Am I going to end up without a job, without my business?” My baby was my business. I’m not a workaholic, but I’m very passionate about what I do. That whole business was my baby, and that’s where I put my… And detriment to my kids, I put more effort in my business than I did my kids. I’m kind of working pretty hard… well, I have been, to make up for that now. We have great relationships, and I’m really happy with that side of things.
McCarthy-Wood: Would you say that you need to get yourself right first to be able to be present for others, like your family, your kids, and that?
Greg Cawley: Yeah, that’s fair. Look, I’m a totally different animal to what I was when I owned my own operations. I moved to Toowoomba maybe five years ago to be with my partner Michelle, who I met in the States. She’s a massage and Bowen therapist and a yoga teacher and a very holistic type person, gentle in some ways. By even just moving, by cutting all those ties that I had back there, I could be anything I want to be here. This is the interesting thing. I could never have become a yoga teacher back where I lived because I was known as the businessman, and that was my persona. Maybe I could have, but it would have been really difficult. But I came here with an open slate. I had no idea what I was going to do, and it’s kind of just evolved naturally with a bit of prompting from Michelle for me to go down this yoga track.
McCarthy-Wood: Greg, to come back to the BrikMan yoga, first and foremost, can you reach your toes now?
Greg Cawley: Yeah, reasonably, some days. To be honest, some days I have trouble.
McCarthy-Wood: So, for somebody listening to this, just make the case as to why a middle-aged man might actually reach out and join your organisation and give yoga a go.
Greg Cawley: Yeah, sure. I believe that yoga is on most guys’ horizon. They understand that it would be good for them, but they don’t know why. And they sure as hell won’t walk into a studio full of Sheilas.
Greg Cawley: The paradigm is work hard, sweat, pump iron, jump on push bikes with 20 mates and ride around the hills. I did that too. I did that for five years. But as we get older, our muscles get shorter. Most of us are going to live 90 plus. That’s just the longevity of these days. If I’m going to go to 90, I want to make sure I can still move, get up off the floor, and be mobile and not have to rely on people to push me around. If we don’t start doing this stuff now, it’s just going to get harder. I started at 49. It’s hard enough at 49. I’m 59 now, and I still suffer from aches and pains. I do 10 classes of yoga a week, which is cool, but it’s still hard on my body. I’m not a young fellow anymore.
Greg Cawley: So, there’s two aspects. There’s the physical, which is amazing. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, coming to yoga. I don’t do any other exercise apart from walking, and I just do that for aerobics, really, for aerobic fitness. Obviously, I’m more flexible and mobile than I’ve been before.
Greg Cawley: But from a mental perspective, and this is really why I got passionate about bringing this to men because of my own experience. The ability to get your mind quiet for just an hour a day or every now and again, it can help you focus, it can help you just process stuff. Even just being quiet in a room like that and breathe and connecting with your breath, it can help bring stuff to the surface as well. Because, I mean, we’re all probably pretty good at burying stuff, right?
Greg Cawley: I’ve seen this in my classes. At the end of a class, someone will come up to me and start talking to me, and they’ll be emotional because something has come up. And these are guys. They’re not naturally happy to walk up and be emotional with another bloke we don’t really know that well. But yoga creates a bit of a release. As far as a stress release, I think it’s probably the greatest thing that you can do.
Greg Cawley: It’s a sense of meditation, if you like. I call it a moving meditation. We try and keep our minds as quiet as we can during the class and just move based on instruction. It doesn’t let any other stuff come in. Meditation has been proven to be very beneficial for you.
Greg Cawley: So, mental quietness, strength, the ability just to, even as you get old, to get up off the floor properly. Apart from that, it’s a fantastic complement for other sports. If you’ve got someone who is riding bikes and quite competitive, all your hamstrings are getting shorter by the day because of what riding does. If you start lengthening them, you’re going to increase your longevity on the bike and your strength and your pedal stroke and stuff. Even guys who are pumping iron and getting really strong upper body, if you come to yoga… You will naturally find that the shoulders come forward. Yoga will bring it back. And I’m seeing this. I’m working at a couple of gyms, and it’s interesting. A whole lot of guys are starting to come to my classes now, which is really cool.
McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, go ahead, Daryl.
Daryl Nicholson: Yeah, this is really great. So it’s BrikMan yoga, B-R-I-K-M-A-N yoga. Guys, check it out. Also, if you’re not sure about going to yoga, catch up with Greg at Bar Wunder, because he runs sessions where the boys get together and have a beer down at Bar Wunder and just talk about things as well.
McCarthy-Wood: Sounds like a good combination.
Daryl Nicholson: Check out his Facebook page, and you can see when they’re meeting at Bar Wunder if you don’t want to go to yoga to start with. Have a beer and meet some of the guys down there as well.
Daryl Nicholson: So, Greg, here’s your opportunity to just tell people how they can contact you.
Greg Cawley: Yeah, thanks, mate. The website’s the best place, brikmanyoga.com.au, B-R-I-K-M-A-N yoga dot com dot au. Brikmanyoga is one word. On my mobile, 04-357-55033. I’m on Facebook and Instagram as BrikMan Yoga, so I’m trying to be as visible as I can.
McCarthy-Wood: Greg Cawley, thank you very much for spending time with our listeners and sharing your story.
Greg Cawley: Yeah, awesome. I really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.
Daryl Nicholson: Thanks, Greg. Take care, mate.