March 22, 2023
In this episode, Brock speaks with Neville Johnson. Neville is the first EX US vet that I've had on serving in the British infantry, and the author of the newly published book Sangin, Then and Now published by Dead Reckoning Collective. We talk about the value of family and managing one through chaotic times. We talk about how to handle your personal priorities, knowing what true defeat looks like and how that differs from a change in direction. We also get into finding purpose in things outside of our service. Neville mentions that many people want to ask how many doors you've kicked in, but aren't interested in that next phase of all of our lives.
(01:41) - What Neville is most proud of
(04:22) - Changes he would make to parenting looking back
(06:13) - Two poems from Sangin and drawing parallels from early childhood to parenting
(10:13) - Regrets and things he would have done differently during service
(13:10) - Comparing who we were to who we are
(19:51) - Arnold Schwarzenegger as a hero along dad; why are heroes aren't everything/how to hero select
(29:27) - Balance of pursuit of goals with optionality for new opportunities
(37:58) - How to stay hungry - a lesson in self reflection and self management
(51:08) - Writing as a process and early submissions to Dead Reckoning Collective
(01:02:20) - Lessons from first submission to publishing a book
(01:07:29) - Life after service; working and influencing at risk youth
The Scuttlebutt Podcast - The podcast for service members and veterans building a life outside the military.
The Scuttlebutt Podcast features discussions on lifestyle, careers, business, and resources for service members. Show host, Brock Briggs, talks with a special guest from the community committed to helping military members build a successful life, inside and outside the service.
Get a weekly episode breakdown, a sneak peek of the next episode and other resources in your inbox for free at https://scuttlebutt.substack.com/.
• Brock: @BrockHBriggs
• Instagram: Scuttlebutt_Podcast
• Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Episodes & transcripts: Scuttlebuttpodcast.co
Brock Briggs 0:00
Hello and welcome to the Scuttlebutt podcast, the show that will make you a better person, help you think more clearly, make better decisions and earn more money. How do we do that? Every week I bring you a conversation with a badass vet to explore their unique knowledge. Today is no exception because I'm speaking with Neville Johnson. Neville is the first ex US vet that I've had on serving in the British infantry and the author of the newly published book, Sangin, Then and Now, published by Dead Reckoning Collective. Shout out to Keith and Tyler for helping bring vet writers to the surface.
In this conversation, we talk about the value of family and managing one through chaotic times. We talk about how to handle your personal priorities changing, what true defeat looks like and how that differs from a change in direction. We also get into finding purpose and things outside of our service. Neville mentions that many people want to ask how many doors you've kicked in but aren't interested in that next phase of all of our lives. Several big lessons there, I'll let him uncover. Two quick things: if you liked this episode, tell me, tag me in a post, keep sharing those, that means a ton. And you can also go subscribe to the newsletter at scuttlebuttpodcast.co. Get a free weekly drop on breakdowns of the episodes and other interesting related content to keep learning. Please enjoy this conversation with Neville Johnson.
What is the thing that you are the most proud of?
Neville Johnson 1:47
That's another great question. I would say my family. I'm proud of my family, the fact I've got three beautiful young kids and an amazing wife. And yeah, they've been through a lot with me. And I would say, the most proud of just them, you know, of what my young kids and what they've achieved. And what they've been through over the last few years with all the COVID restrictions, lock downs. And yeah, I'm just proud of my little family. Of all the other things I've achieved in life, I would say I'm mostly proud of my young family. It made me a better person. It made me rich in many ways I thought I would never be.
Brock Briggs 2:34
In what ways, if you don't mind me asking?
Neville Johnson 2:39
Brought me happiness, which I don't always show. It might be filled full. It's filled my cup, so to speak, it made me want to get up in the morning. It made me, it was making me want to be a better dad, want to be a better husband, a better partner. It's a moment that I know that I'll never achieve again.
Brock Briggs 3:07
That's really fantastic. I hear very similar things and kind of an extra important topic in my life right now. My wife and I have recently just found out that we're pregnant and I've gotten our first firstborn on the way and it's yeah, it really is. It comes at a time too when we were really deep in discussion about whether we even wanted kids to begin with. And everybody I talked to said, you know, it's this different kind of love that you just don't really know. And I think that I had a really hard time comprehending what that actually meant.
Do you think that you believe that? Like, is it actually different than is it worthwhile in that way?
Neville Johnson 3:53
I would say yes. I mean, many years ago, we spoke about and we just knew it was what would be the right decision at the time. Obviously, we had no idea that thing like COVID and those restrictions and what was going through would appear. But at the time and still we feel it was the right decision at the time to have young family, to be together. So I would totally agree, yeah.
Brock Briggs 4:22
Has there been anything that you have taken away from parenting that you look back on maybe your own childhood and say, oh, I want to do this differently or want to like maybe kind of change in different outcome just based on your experience?
Neville Johnson 4:39
Totally, I would say spend more time with your kids. I wish my old man would have spent more time for whatever reason that wasn't the case. And that's told me to spend more time with the kids you know, put your phone down, spend more time with them because it will come to a point where they won't ask you to spend time with them. They won't ask you any more. They won't ask you to go and throw the ball in the park. They won't tap your shoulder and say, dad, can you please do this? Can you please do that? They will come to a point where they are much older where they won’t spend time with you. They would rather wanna spend time with their friends.
And I feel it's told me to compare it to my child what I've been through, spent more time with your kids, put the phone down, you know, put the devices down and just listen to them and build that connection. And also the things that you do. They pay attention to you. They're like very small sponges, you know, so they take in all the things that's occurring in the house, you know, my demeanor, if I'm grumpy or if I'm happy, you know. And so they take it all in and that's how they learn. It's not so much in what I say to them, it's more so in my actions, what I do, so they'll copy that. So it's those things that I tried to implement in trying to be a better dad or be a husband, you know and fix those things and spend more time because the moments that you waste, you're not gonna get it back.
Brock Briggs 6:13
I wanna talk about your book a little bit later. But this seems about at the time as any to bring up like a specific subject that I had written down to ask you about. You had two poems from your book that really struck a chord with me. And both of them kind of highlight the relationship with your dad. One of them was it was talking about like, don't waste time. And then like the very next one, you talked about, like walking the same path as your dad like and kind of like I'm guessing kind of a militaristic context. Can you maybe like, expand on those a little bit? And kind of draw that connection with your kids now?
Neville Johnson 6:56
Yeah, for sure. It was, I think, comparing what I've been through and what I'm going through now, I just try not to waste any opportunity. Because I think back then, I've been through various moments where I felt like it was wasted. I really longed for certain moments, certain times to be with my old man. And I want him to ask me things spend time with me. And a lot of times that weren't the case purely because it was either I’m away working or operational tours back then.
And that really stayed with me, those moments, the feelings of him not being there, of not spending time with me, of not having the proper father and son relationship, I think, struck a chord with me. And he's been there in the past, you know, many, many times. But then comparing those with what I'm going through now is that I want to be there for my son, you know. I want to be there for my two daughters, you know. I want to be there for my wife. So I'm not saying he was a bad father. I'm just saying I wanted certain moments and for whatever reason, he wasn't there if it makes sense.
Brock Briggs 8:15
It's interesting because, obviously, hindsight bias, that kind of really gives us a different perspective about things. You look back and you say, oh, this is actually what was really important during this circumstance. But during the moments of just kind of going through life, you're kind of maybe just trying to make it. You're just like, well, I don't have time for that at this moment. Whether it be maybe your kids, maybe it's relationship with your family, however that works out there's a million usually it's the emotional kind of relationship driven things that suffer the most in those. How do you think about slowing that down and kind of putting that off, that you're like maybe getting behind at work or you're giving up other things for something that has much longer duration than whatever the temporary thing is that you need to do?
Neville Johnson 9:13
Totally splits this slide down. It's about realizing, again, I've got to make a choice here. Either I go do things that makes me happy, be selfish about or I just focus on things that can make us happy as a family. And I think that's crucial. And I've learned so much from my own kids and things and the things I do they make me realize like, hey, can I need to put my phone down or I need to spend time with them? Which is crucial, because the time that I waste I'm not going to get back. You know, I remember I was in school. I was very young. I remember a teacher saying that to us. And you know, you sit down yeah, you're mucking around the time that you're wasting, never going to get back and that struck a chord that stayed with me throughout my whole life and the fact the things that you're going to waste you're not gonna get back. I will not be able to go back in time and say, okay, I'm gonna spend time with my son or my daughters or my wife, you know, it's a wasted opportunity, I think.
Brock Briggs 10:13
Do you take that kind of thought process? And if you had to do it all again, would you change or do something different other than your time in service?
Neville Johnson 10:29
That's a good question. I think if I do, I might not be sitting here. I'll be somewhere else or things. I will be in different location with a different person. I think things would have been vastly different. I don't think I would have joined the British army. If I could, I would go back and give my younger self maybe some tips or advice on things I've been through. I like how to manage money, on to just forgive and move on. And don't dwell on things in the past, if I could, but I wouldn't change much. Because I think a lot of things I've been through with the ups and downs and most of the downs, it's made me rich, it's made me wiser, I think.
Brock Briggs 11:20
It's really, really easy to like compare outcomes between maybe yourself and other people or like, a historical or maybe like a current hero that you have and like aspire to be. But at the end of the day, like the most important thing is like it's your journey and how much different that is and like the things that you are having to overcome as that's like the value is that right there. It's not actually this end state of wherever you get to it's kind of you couldn't be sitting here today without kind of having gone through that, I guess.
Neville Johnson 11:57
Totally, it's the journey, it's not the end product, you know. It's great to region and having that trophy or the middle of the book to show, but it's the journey is getting there, it's going through the basic training, it's going through the hardship and it's the journey. It's not so much the end result, you know. It's me going through parenthood and it's difficult, it's hard work, but you have to put in the hours with the kids in there and the family to make it work, you know. But it's the journey because in the end, my wife and I will be sitting there, hopefully, and the kids will be out the house. They've grown up and they've moved on, you know, and that's why for me, it's so crucial to enjoy each and every moment with them.
And to cherish those moments and to be there for them. Because it's going to be a point where I don't want to sit there and have regret saying I should have spent more time with them. I should have done this. I should have done that, you know, that's what I want to avoid. But yeah, it's the journey, it's going through that all these different chapters in my life, all these different books, all these different characters, all these different moments, you know. It's the journey that the makes you.
Brock Briggs 13:10
You have this really interesting Instagram post that I really enjoyed and look come back to and looked at several times, it's like this kind of collage of different photos of you like throughout time. And it's like talking about exactly what you're saying. You're kind of like who you are at each one of these individual places and kind of each person is fighting kind of something different, you know, externally, internally all of that.
Neville Johnson 13:38
Yes, so it's different characters, you know, from a book or reforming that is different. It was different me back then, you know, the person that I was when I grew up was different in character and when I served in the Defence Force, you know and the person I'm now in the single naval and it's all different characters in a book and went through this journey and still going through a journey, but it's all these different characters in the past, yeah.
Brock Briggs 14:16
Is there a specific trait or part of your life that you think has changed the most? Because obviously, we've got all of these different characters, but there's kind of like, maybe you start out with a through z and then maybe you change a letter and add a different one and like the next one and you kind of have like some residual things that are like consistent throughout and I'm kind of curious if there is an area maybe that and maybe take the inverse of that question, too. Is there something that is still the same about you throughout all of that and or what has changed that you know, kind of got dumped off early on in the process?
Neville Johnson 14:59
I reckon the biggest change is the person that I would say the biggest change was the person that stepped on their plane that left South Africa to the person I'm now, still the same name, same face, maybe but older, a bit more gray hair. But very naive, very shy, very quiet, introvert, caring, I'm still caring. But that lived experience of slipping on the plane living abroad, serving for Queen and country back then, that changed me a lot. I'm not saying that it made me a bad person. But there was a significant change. But I think it's more subtle, I've experienced the problem that I experienced.
Again, you know, living abroad, going by myself, that was the biggest change. It made be a bit wiser. But I think with my short seven years in the Army, that's changed a lot as well. But that was expected, you know, the fact that I left. And I knew that. And there was, there wasn't any way going back. You know, I think it was, would have been foolish to think that I would stay the same person, the same character, you know. I knew it was time for a change. And I knew that I would go through this journey of change. But I think yeah, the person that they knew my family, my mom, my dad, as a different person now much wiser, a lot of life experience being through alone. Yeah, so that's the thing, that is the biggest change.
Brock Briggs 16:51
It's interesting that you're so aware of the fact that you are going to undergo change. I was very, very arrogant when I joined the Navy. And I feel like I don't think anything was going to change. Like, I was kind of like looking for this kind of higher purpose. But I was kind of anticipating that I would be a little bit of the, you know, the same person, but just kind of, you know, a different job, so to speak. You also joined a little bit later, though, so maybe that kind of I joined at 21. And I think, a year you joined at 26. So you had a little bit more life perspective, maybe about kind of you had already gone through that kind of maybe the young, arrogant man stage there.
Neville Johnson 17:44
It definitely helped, I think, you know, because I was 26. I was always in my intake in my platoon section, you know, and our training staff, he was, I think, we were the same age, but that definitely helped a hell of a lot, you know, the life experience, the maturity helped a lot. But I think for me at that stage, I was ready. I knew things will change and it will change rather quickly at a rapid rate of knots. And I thought, okay, I'm ready, let's go. Even though week one, day one of basic training, I knew things would change. And I was accepting of that because I could, I remember the changes in my dad when he went to, you know, on his operational tours in the South African, you know, border wall and come back. And over the years, you know, I knew I would change but I welcomed the change. I thought, you know, that's what I wanted, you know. I joined for specific reasons. And I thought, I want that, bring on the change. And I just went for it.
Brock Briggs 18:55
What do you think that you were after changing the most? Was it just kind of like a work ethic thing? Was it values? Was it like maybe aspirational of kind of like, maybe living up to dad's shoes?
Neville Johnson 19:13
Well, I always wanted to follow in his footsteps, you know. When I grew up, I remember seeing him in the uniform and it's the uniform that stood out the fact that he served in the South African police. And it was like looking up to a big idol, a Euro does the image in a vein in the uniform. And I knew that was what I wanted to copy in and I felt there was this sense of purpose in that sort of dream that I wanted to follow.
Brock Briggs 19:51
Do you have any other heroes that you maybe look up to other than him?
Neville Johnson 19:57
Growing up, I had. I was very much into weightlifting and bodybuilding growing up purely because for me, it was a way of working on my self confidence because it's a sport where it's just you. You don't have to rely on anyone else. You don't have to go and work together as a team yourself. And I was more than happy to do that, you know, very introverted, very shy. So I would go into the gym train all day and I got into bodybuilding and I looked up to all the sort of, you know, famous bodybuilders at the time.
And I think Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was one of them. I was like, I wanted to be like him, you know, but I think that was a dream that I knew I would never ultimately reach, you know. That was quite high, you know, but I just loved going in and training and yeah and try to copy certain traits or certain things that he achieved in the past. But deep down, I knew joining the British Army, there was an ultimate, you know, the ultimate sort of dream. I felt like there was a sense of purpose and there was a duty that I had to go in and follow.
Brock Briggs 21:21
How do you think about hero selection now? And maybe your interests and kind of priorities have changed quite a bit especially taken on a family and when you have mouths to feed that are reliant on you, kind of brings it into reality and check there. Who do you look up to now? And how do you think that we ought to go about finding those people that are actually worth looking up to?
Neville Johnson 21:53
Vastly different nowadays, there's not a specific one person I look up to and I want to try and copy this. There will be a variety of people that I would then look at and see what they've achieved and how they've overcome some problems, whether it be mental health, whether it be physical, whether it be spiritual, whether it be work ethic and career wise, so then if there's certain people, personnel in that field, I will then look at how they've achieved that, you know. What did they do to overcome that, whether it be parenting, you know. I'll be looking at maybe people, that's a dad and then what they do to be better at that job, you know. It's a job, it's to be a better dad, you know, so there's not one specific person that I look up to and I think that's my hero, there will be maybe a group of people or that I think that I might try to copy because because they obviously successful and they've achieved it by doing certain things.
So I'll try to copy those things or mold it and change it to suit me, you know, in my daily routine, you know, how can I be better at my job at work? How can I be a better dad, you know, focus on those things to be successful. So it's not a specific person that I look up to I think. I would like to meet them. Thinking now, what I would like, what I'd like to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger, it might be nice, but if I don't, no big deal, you know. Because there's the old saying, you don't wanna meet your heroes, you know, because you might be if you like, lay down. So I don't want that dream to be broken, you know that boyhood dream of growing up like I aimed. And because I remember sitting in my mom's and my dad's house, growing up at this big book, I think it was called the Encyclopedia of Modern bodybuilding. And I would spend hours there looking at the pictures and we had no internet then. I had no mobile phone, nothing. And I would just look at this picture and study and think how can I develop the same chest muscles in the back and delts and biceps and triceps? How can I be successful?
I would spend hours trying to do the same, be successful and I think okay, cool, in order to be successful, I need to go to Venice Beach. And that was a dream that I had. I thought okay, cool. I'm gonna go to Venice Beach. I'm gonna go work in Gold's Gym, work in Venice and in Walter gym, you know, back then, you know and I had a game plan that I wanted to follow and when I left South Africa, it was purely to go to America. And somehow the universe steered me away from that towards the UK, you know. So nowadays it's not just one particular person, it's a variety of people so I would look into how to be a better parents and I would go and seek that out. Yeah.
Brock Briggs 24:57
I think that that don't meet your heroes piece is such good advice because a lot of times when we see somebody who is at the top of their craft in a certain area, maybe it's Arnold, maybe it's another famous bodybuilder, they maybe they're top 1% of that thing. But behind the scenes, they've sacrificed probably that other 99% of the things in their life, maybe that's their relationships or their sleep, their health, what you know, whatever it may be, to get to this top 1%. And those are like, ironically, the people that we look up to but in reality, we wouldn't want to model after them at all just because that it's unrealistic and kind of some more balance to your life is maybe more admirable.
Neville Johnson 25:51
Yeah totally, exactly. I mean, thing is that there's many things that he's done. And then I would not want to do but I think looking up, it's definitely helped me to reach personal goals and dreams. And it's helped a hell of a lot. But I think deep down, it wasn't the main goal and the main dream and it definitely helped, it definitely steer. But again, there was one character that was one, you know, I was young back then. I had these big dreams and I've changed over the years, you know, living abroad, working abroad and learning the hard way that definitely helped. And I thrived on that, you know. And I loved it. And it's made me a much wiser and better person.
Brock Briggs 26:42
What do you think about your goals changing over time? I think that like, I know just in the few years that I have kind of considered myself a functioning responsible adult. My goals have changed and sometimes like it feels like you're maybe giving up on them. But it's a tough thing to square because it kind of feels like you're turning your back on something. Was there like a particular moment that you realized that like bodybuilding wasn't gonna be your thing? You were talking about the universe kind of guiding you to what your next mission was?
Neville Johnson 27:24
Oh, yeah, totally. It was I think at that stage, when I realized I couldn't get into America, it was difficult then because I left South Africa in 2000. And going to Europe or going to the UK was easier. And I think because it was difficult not impossible, because it was difficult that I thought I got a while for me back then I thought that's impossible. You know, that's big hurdle. I can't get over it. I don't have enough self confidence. And I thought no, no, it's just too difficult. I'm going to look away. I'm going to maybe tried to go to the UK. And from there, go into the states, you know. I think it was that specific moment, that sort of, there was a guiding light way source that steered me away, then I thought as well thinking back now it was good that it happened that way. That steered me away from that because I went over to the UK and experienced the life there, trying to find a job, trying to pay the rent, you know, learning the hard way. And that helped me a lot.
But yeah, it was that moment that the universe powers to be steered me away from that and go over to the UK because I thought going over to the UK and then from there going over into the States would be easier. And but it was difficult. I thought it's difficult. I can't do it. And so instead of getting over the hurdle and working harder and finding ways to get there, I didn't. Because I thought it's just too difficult. So I thought I'll put that in the too hard basket and then move on and go over to the UK because it's easier, you know. And I had my friends there and I thought cool. They were able to help me and guide me by you know, you get there. And that helped me for a little bit. But you still have to struggle by yourself and find things to find your way and find what works for you.
Brock Briggs 29:27
It's such a difficult balance thinking about the traditional wisdom of what everybody says to be great at something to kind of pursue what you think maybe your destiny or your goal or whatever you want to call it.You just gotta pound the pavement and go hard at it and be willing to give everything up and just block everything else out. And that certainly I think that that's true. But along the way there are these interesting life paths that kind of open up along the way. And some of which may be even actually better than the path that you're currently down. But you have to actually be open to seeing them.Like if you're just so kind of narrow minded and I hate even saying narrow minded because it takes a tremendous amount of discipline to do that, to just focus on your one thing. But I guess my question there is, how do you think about being diligent and pursuing your goal while maintaining an open mind to new opportunities?
Neville Johnson 30:39
Well, I would say that's, you know, yeah, it was great going through all those challenges and ups and downs, but yet, I had to pick the things that worked for me, you know, that would help me on my way. And it was going over to the UK, that was the thing that sort of helped me and then I would then I pick things that would be suitable for me, that would work for me at the time and I think that time spent there helped hell of a lot. And it made me wiser, it gave me a life experience, the fact that I do everything by myself, you know. And I think had I gone over to America straight from South Africa, it would have been much different, you know, but I think in the past that I followed, that I walked on, it was worth it, you know, all the ups and downs all the times why struggled with to find a job and to budget the money. And that definitely, there was a phenomenal experience, just this living abroad there and living that life and growing richer.
Brock Briggs 31:49
One of the reasons a lot of people join the military is for this, you know, to travel, particularly in the Navy, everybody says that they want to travel and, you know, see new places or whatever. But I think that the more underrated part of the travel that you get to do is the exposure that you get to new ways of thinking, coming to a new country as a young man. I can't imagine the amount of just bombardment like mentally that you're probably going through to just new ways of living new ideas, new ways of dressing like everything, I'm sure was completely new to you. And it's kind of overwhelming because it makes you rethink, like, well, what about all of this stuff that I've just grown up, like believing so and holding so true? It's kind of I think that that's good for people.
Neville Johnson 32:50
Totally for me, it was sensory overload, you know, when I started my basic training because I left South Africa in 2000 and I went over to the UK, worked in London and in those places and it was in 2003 that I joined. So it was yeah, I was still very much new to living abroad. But then joining up, it was sensory overload. It was a different culture, even though they spoke English, all but different accents, you know. And my training staff, they were, I think, from a Scottish regiment, you know, so I had to really focus hard in trying to understand what he's saying and yelling and you have to do things fast paced because it's, you know, it's basic training.
So it was sensory overload, you know, this whole environment, you know, but I wanted to be there and I knew that I would be successful, deep down I knew and I welcomed the hardship. I welcomed all the crap times, all the crawling, running and crawling and dirt. And in all the precepts and all the writing in endless hours on the ranges, you know. I welcomed with open arms because I felt I was at home. It was home for me, it was a place that I knew I wanted to be in. I knew they would only be a small fraction of my time, you know, in the defense force or in the army. And yeah, it was definitely, it was a lot to take in. But then again, I welcomed all the difficulties, all the hardship that was thrown at me at the time.
Brock Briggs 34:29
Were you accustomed to a state of kind of general discomfort already before you got there?
Neville Johnson 34:40
Yeah, definitely. It's those it was a couple of years before being exposed to having to do everything by myself who did trust what to do, where to go, what to do. Before that, I had that support in place. I had that around me, but going over it was either you do it or and be successful and have a meal tonight or if you don't pay your rent, you can be on that on the streets, you know. And there were times where the owner will then knock on the door, say, well, if you don't pay rent, you know, I'm gonna bring you out because there's other people that want accommodation, you know and I thought, no worries, great work, after my shift, I'll pay you at the end of the week. You know, you're not gonna kick me out, you'll get your money. I never placed myself in that position of being kicked out, you know, I always worked hard to get that done and to be successful. But I learned the hard way, you know, it was difficult, but it made me wiser, so to speak.
Brock Briggs 35:55
Now, that level of discomfort, as they call it, or kind of just being hungry and kind of in another way of like you are on the edge of destruction, sort of. And it's unbelievable how big of a motivator that is like, you know, if this ends up kind of coming to fruition, it's gonna be really, really bad. And it's shocking to me the things that you're capable of physically and mentally when you know that the alternative is really, really not good.
Neville Johnson 36:30
For me, there was no other way, there was no plan B, there was no second option. I thought to myself, I'm gonna get through this. I'm gonna take one step at a time. I want this and I'm gonna go and achieve it, you know, in the back of my mind, I knew that after the six months, I will be finished with basic training and I'll move on to my unit, you know. For me that, you know, failing giving up, that was an option. I knew I'm going to push through this, you know.
And I watched various other people around me giving up, crying, failing and I pushed through injuries and I thought I'm not going to be back squatted where I'm going to be pushed back and spent seven months there, just take one day at a time, push through. For me, it was not an option. I'm gonna get through this. I'm gonna, it was a drop in the ocean. I knew that I'll be there for a short time. And then the rest of my time will be once I you know, hit the ground with my unit. And I knew that that's when things would start, you know. For me yeah, there was no other. I had no plan B. For me, it was planned, I get through this, be successful in this, pass basic training and then move on.
Brock Briggs 37:58
How do you think that we can keep that sort of mentality, even when we're maybe not in that position? Like thinking about coming up on being a dad, like, I want to be as hungry as I am now and not get kind of complacent when it comes to like providing for my family. And like taking care of that. Is there any thought process or way that you think about continuing to kind of strive for big things?
Neville Johnson 38:30
Yes, there is. It's things nowadays, I have to think slow down and make sure that my cup is full, that I’m well mentally, physically, that I'm in a good space because I've got my young kids looking up to me and I need to be in a good space. And it's great to you know, giving to others and helping kids do this and at work working with youth and young kids, but I need to slow down and stop and fill my cup first and work on my mental health and in my physical well being. Because how the hell can I help others if I can't help myself, you know? So I would make sure that my nutrition is good. At times it's going to dip down and they will notice. I'm eating this bag of chips or I'm eating chocolate I need to get back off but everything in moderation, you know.
So I will then back off and then readjust and get back on to my healthy eating habits, you know. And then I would make sure I spend time in the gym if it's you know, twice or three times a week. And at times it's difficult, you know, I might find myself, I don't want to get up. I want to stay in bed. But then I would force myself and then get in the gym and then I would have the best workout or I would make sure that I spent time reading or I spent time with my kids and I slowed down so I need to look in for my cup before I can help others you know. Back then, when I served in the Army, it was different. It was only me that I had to worry about, you know, working on me and getting through. I had an end goal that I wanted to reach. But nowadays, it's having to slow down and look inward. Again, if my cup is almost empty, I need to stop, follow up, look at my nutrition. Am I sleeping enough? Am I resting enough? What's my mental health like, you know? If it's dipping down, I need to pay attention to that and get that fixed, you know.
Brock Briggs 40:34
It's ironic, a lot of the things that you mentioned are a lot of many people would say like, oh, you know, I don't have time for that. And it's like, well, I work two jobs and I've got a family to feed and all of these things, but the sacrifices that we make to take care of those around us are often the things that even allow us to continue operating. It's the sleep, it's your nutrition, it's staying physically fit, like, you have to have those things before you can even go out and think that you're going to do those things well.
Neville Johnson 41:13
Totally, it is ,you know. I've noticed that if I don't look after myself and then what goes wrong is not so much for me, but my kids. I can see it in my kids if I don't spend enough time with them, you know. If I'm grumpy, you know, they notice and there's a massive change in the home environment, the whole vibe, but it's just awful, you know. And that just breaks me because they don't deserve that, you know, they want their dad. And if I'm grumpy, if I'm in a bad mood, a lot of times don't realize that. You know, so my wife, she will realize that she will, she noticed, she sees it. And then she say, well, just go to bed, you’re tired, you know.
Brock Briggs 42:00
I’m not tired. What are you talking about?
Neville Johnson 42:02
Yeah, I'm not tired. I'm not grumpy. I'm good, man. It's not me. It's you. I mean, sorry. I'm okay. It's not me. I'm good. I'm fine. I'm fine. And then she will just sit there with her eyes like dinner plates. And then I realized, oh, shit, it is me. But then I'm just too stubborn to admit that. And then I'll say, no, I'm good. I'm fine. I'm fine. And I'm there, trying to like and one thing I would say to her, I'm not gonna justify that I'm fine. You know, it's not me. It's not me. And then she won't say a word. And then I realized heck, it is me. I need to just go to bed. I'm tired.
I've been up since three in the morning because I went to the gym and I try not a great session, not a great day but it was a busy day, was productive. But then it's my kids, when because I get an arm just don't, I'm flat and then my cups empty. And I'll just sit there. And I’d picked them up from school and then I'm close to empty. I just want to sit there and sleep. But I need to be there. I need to take them to the park to kick the ball to go to the playground and focus on them in the homework, you know and they when my wife gets home, it's even worse, you know. So yeah, it's looking inward. It's putting in the time, putting in the effort.
Brock Briggs 43:26
It's funny, you look back at a lot of those times when you're somebody like your spouse or a friend or somebody in that same sort of like closeness to you is kind of pointing out like, oh, no, you know, maybe you're not okay. And probably anytime that you're jumping to justify, like, oh, you know, you're probably because the clear headed, calm, you is probably going to stop and think for a second about like, okay, take an account, am I okay? How am I feeling? Recognize, oh, I didn't get good sleep last night, whatever. But if you instantly jump on that, that defensive thing, that's probably not a good sign.
Neville Johnson 44:10
Exactly. That happens a lot, then I would have to physically remove myself and then there's been a few times, then something might happen then. I say to myself, okay, I'm sorry. I'm gonna go to bed now. And then she says, yeah, good idea. And then it's fine. And then but they, I've been in a situation where I don't go to bed and then I would stay in there. And I would try and argue trying to justify things in that I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm good. And then it just goes from bad to worse, you know. And then when I go to bed, I'm in bed and I'm thinking oh, shame what I've done, you know and then I have a bad sleep and I wake up in the morning and then we don't talk. I don't say anything.
Then it's a bad start for the day. But yes, those moments where I have to physically remove myself so I could get on I'm off to bed. It's me, but then I'm just too stubborn to actually point the finger inwards. And but deep down, I know it's me. Because my cup is empty, I need to fill my cup, I need to get some rest or just readjust and think about is it a good idea to get up early every morning? Or can I just get up very early, say twice a week, you know, and spend the other times with my family and making sure my kids that they've got the dad that that's not half asleep or grumpy or just, you know, just full of nonsense, you know.
Brock Briggs 45:40
It's funny, I'm imagining from a parenting perspective to your kids, like you're putting them down for bed or a nap or something. And they're just screaming and crying like I'm not tired, you know. And you're like, oh, yeah, you are. And it's funny because we're the same way. It's like
That's the adult version of like, oh, I don't want to take a nap.
Neville Johnson 46:00
Yeah, yeah. But the thing is, and then when they go to bed, they just fall asleep instantly, you know, but you know that they didn’t you know because they get all grumpy now and then they're fine because my boy will then tease his younger sister, you know, and then they will end up fighting, you know, and they won't listen. And I said, well, it's good. Maybe you should abate if someone's tired, you know. And he said that like, I’m not tired. I'm not grumpy, you know, but then I'm exactly the same. So yeah, it was just yeah, the adult version of it.
Brock Briggs 46:31
I think that there's a lot of interesting ways that we can kind of intervene in our own lives because we almost have to find ways to predict how we're going to act and like kind of do something to counter it when we're thinking clearly. I know something that I have had a lot of success with is if I start to get frustrated or kind of need a reset, I will go, I probably take like two or three walks a day. And like, we'll just go and like, go for like a 15 minute walk just around the block. And for some reason that kind of like, gets you like a new baseline gets you like kind of realizing where you are fit kind of emotionally. Am I thinking clearly? Am I tired? What do I need because we're a lot of times taught to just kind of keep charging forward without much mental account for if we're going to operate at 100% or not.
Neville Johnson 47:31
Actually I found out lately ever since you know, I moved from the UK over to New Zealand and I find that I operate better or work better I'm a better person if I get out there and I do some type of cardio some type of reflecting. For me it is when I go for a big walk, you know, an hour or hour and a half, you know. I can reflect. I can spend time with nature, you know, breathing the fresh air and then just reflect on everything and then to spend time with me and recover and re regroup and focus. And then I'm a better person. I operate better. But you know, like, when I served in the Army, it was full charge. It was nonstop 24/7. You're always on edge.
Always something happening, you can never really fully relax, you know. I could just feel my shoulders all tensed up. But I could never fully just relax and I'm having to ever since I've left, I'm having to force myself just to slow things down. And I can feel like my shoulders, it's always been tight, you know, the tension in my neck and my doubts, it's always there. And I'm having to slow down and think I can slow down. Just relax. And I can feel the tension, just ease. So having to go for these walks, having to look inward and reflect on the good things, the bad things, on things I wanna do, things that I haven't done and how I can fix things and all those things, it definitely helps so much.
Brock Briggs 49:07
When I talk with people that are still in the service, there is kind of an ongoing conversation about the mental health of people that are in the service and like it is absolutely no mystery to me why it's such a struggle because there really isn't, that isn't talked about. It's not encouraged. It's not. And in some respects, I get it. Like there is a certain level of kind of readiness and meeting the mission requirements that have to be there. But when it comes to that kind of like off time when they're never really is off time. It doesn't surprise me that there's such a struggle with that.
Neville Johnson 49:53
Oh, yeah, for me personally, it was never spoken about even when, you know, on my two deployments to Iraq on my one deployment to Afghan it was never spoken, it wasn't a thing that I think it's yeah, it wasn't spoken about. It wasn't something that they would say, okay, go and see a therapist or see a doctor or see some more, let's talk about the sit down, it wasn't a thing, you know, you would rather want to go in and have a few beers with your mates, you know. It wasn't a thing that was worked on or looked at. It wasn't even a topic back then, you know, maybe nowadays it is different. But for me, it was nonstop, you know, if not working hard, you playing hard, you know, in the, you know, accommodation, drinking with your friends. Or you on the range, you know, during your weapon system, ready for the next operational tour or for the next exercise.You know, it wasn't something that they encouraged at all back then.
Brock Briggs 51:08
You've talked about your start writing, while on deployment and kind of the evolution of that and other interviews. Would you attribute writing as a big part of like you figuring that out for yourself?
Neville Johnson 51:26
Yes, yes. When I did that, it was at the time, it was just to lock down certain events. But then subconsciously, it turned it into something so much bigger. You know, it was an explosion of emotion of thoughts and feelings on paper that I had no idea where it came from and thinking about, it was a good thing. It was a release, it was a big help back then. And I wished that I have done more of it. You know, looking back over the same years, I should have done more of it like a journal. But again, anything like that wasn't encouraged. It wasn't discussed. It was because when I started that it was something that I kept to myself, I kept it quiet. And after I felt that, that journal, I've placed that in a shoe box. And I left it for many years. But yeah, I wish that I've done it more often. But for whatever reason, it wasn’t.
Brock Briggs 52:45
You've talked about your experience when you kind of answered the call from Dead Reckoning Collective to submit your work to that. I know I have to imagine that there was some hesitancy around doing that, you know, kind of fear of putting your work out there or fear of just probably countless things and doing things publicly is very hard just in general, you're kind of open to criticism. And I don't know, kind of with anything fear of maybe looking dumb to some respect too. Looking back, how crucial do you think that being public with your work has been to maybe your improvement as a writer? And or maybe the publishing of your book?
Neville Johnson 53:37
Yeah, it was really difficult. Yeah, but it was crucial because it's taken me on a path that I dreamt of to get out there in the limelight. But I always had this, you know, low self confidence, thinking that I can't do it. It is too difficult. But then people would see it in me, but I wouldn't see it myself. But then it gave me exposure to improving that craft working with Keith from Dead Reckoning Collective and it's still, you know, I've improved somewhat but there's so much more to improve, so much more to work on. And it's taking me outside my comfort zone, it's taking me to a place that I knew would improve me as a writer. It would help me but for me, again, it was something that I placed mentally placed in the too hard basket. I'm not going to even try.
But it's taken me to a place that I'm grateful now that I've been there because I remember when I submitted the initial poems to them because they put out an email or an ad for veteran writers to submit or put in poems for the second authology of poems, worry poets and getting there was this instant connection this instant yeah, I can do that. And I did it. I wrote the three poems but it's said in the email, and all I had to do was just click send, but I hesitated. I thought nuts, I can't do it and they're gonna laugh at me. And I told no one at that stage, you know, that I wrote something and for the fear of being laughed at, for the fear of having the stuff out. They think that's personal. And yeah and it's one day at work, I thought, I need to send this. And once I clicked saying that it was this, I could feel the tension release in my shoulders, in my neck. And it was this big release of, okay, it's done. And I felt better. And then I moved on, you know, with the day.
Brock Briggs 55:53
Did you submit those poems to them for the purpose of like, thinking that maybe one day I like want to have a book or something like that? Or was it more personal, like, hey, this is something that I need to overcome of just like this willingness to kind of like, think about failing or being scared.
Neville Johnson 56:18
I would say it deep down, it was something I needed to overcome, to put it out there. What I've experienced and to deal with things and how to deal with things. At that state, it wasn't anything, I've no dream or no goal set to put a book out, no content. I had only three poems. But I think it was so much more, there was deeper. I had to overcome something, you know, put it out there. I think once I've done that, then there was again, there was an instant, it was like an audible click. It was something that occurred, something happened, you know. And then I thought, okay, it's gone out. And then I thought, what else can I write about, you know? Then I reflect back on what I experienced in Afghan, you know, and then that's when it all started, you know. Then I started to write more, reflect more and then I went back looking for that journal that I kept in afghan.
And I think, yeah, I wrote a few poems in there. But it was more about what I experienced when I felt the, you know, because after that, I left it in a shoebox with a couple of photos with my medals and it was locked away, it was stored away. It wasn't until I think it was in 2019 that I submitted those three poems. And then I went back and looked at the journal and that's where it all just, it was just this big waterfall of emotions, thoughts or feelings. And then I just thought, like, I need to get this out on paper or on my laptop. And then it was the start.
Brock Briggs 57:56
It's funny how that like first kind of click of like traction, I want to call it but it's like, you know, you had just submitted or whatever, but like it was internal traction. It was you feel the gears turning of progress, internal progress. Was it at that time you were like, okay, it's, you know, I need to start putting this on paper and like, this needs to be a book? Or can you kind of walk through like, your path from getting there to there to, you know, just last week, like the book being published?
Neville Johnson 58:33
Well, things at that stage after I've submitted, those were the three poems, I thought it’s cool, it's done now. And I couldn't care less if I received an email saying that they won't be accepting the three poems or the wall. For me, it was a release, you know, the feeling I had was so much bigger than wanting to get the poems, you know, published. For me, it was bigger. And then when I started to write more and then for whatever reason, I had the I placed it, it was all I made it available on my Instagram account, you know. I just thought like, I'm just gonna put out you know, I'm gonna write it in a book and then put it on my laptop and then type it out and set it up. But then I kept it quiet. I told no one. It wasn't on my Facebook account, it was super quiet. And then I just don't you know, submitted more and more and I thought instead of putting out things that's not me, I'm gonna put out stuff that's me.
So all these thoughts or feelings or all these bits of poetry, I will then put out and then it wasn't until a British veteran came across my work and then said that he wanted to self publish a book, which will be a collection of stories and poems by British veterans, you know. Do I want to submit work, you know? And I thought, yeah, I'll do it. Yes, again, that was horrible. I can do that, you know, I feel comfortable with that, you know. Again, way out of my comfort zone because why do I want to go put what I've been through on paper and then have it published by someone else and putting up photos of me. But I was fine with that, you know? And then I said, yes. And then he self published. And two more books, there was a collection called The Veteran Collective.
He self published those books. And then it wasn't much later than I thought, well, hang on, I could put out my own book, I could put my own things. And I looked into Dead Reckoning Collective and then yeah, they published exclusively for veteran writers. And then I thought, hang on, I'm a South African born British veteran now living in New Zealand. Well, they even look at my stuff, you know and so I went out. And I thought, okay, cool, I need to get it all in, make sure I can have enough content to actually submit, you know. Then I thought, I've got no idea what I'm doing. I need to go and look at the meaning behind the word, manuscript. I had no idea what it was, you know. I thought there was a script, I thought it was something they use in Hollywood movies, you know, but it was not. And they've got a very strict set of guidelines for anyone that submitted stuff, you know.
And I looked at that and it was, yeah, many hours trying to get the whole thing set up. And then I thought, okay, cool. I'm gonna do this again, where it's in my comfort zone. But again, it felt right. It felt there was this connection of, yep, I'm happy with this, you know. I felt confident that I could submit something and it was the same as that initial email, you know. Once I had my manuscript and it was all there and I thought, okay I've got enough to make a book. Again, it was in my inbox and it sat there for a while, you know, the whole manuscript and all the email, all the information that they required. Again, I could feel my shoulders tense up. I could feel like, you know, the confidence slipping itself. Before it slips totally, I need to click send, click send. And I thought, okay, cool. It's gone now. And the rest is history.
Brock Briggs 1:02:20
What do you think is the biggest takeaway that you've had from hitting send there to publishing? What do you think you've learned the most?
Neville Johnson 1:02:34
Keep moving forward. Just keep moving forward. And, yeah, knowing that I'm gonna get to a stage of, I need to make a decision either I do it or I don't. And it's just moving forward, getting outside my comfort zone. Because I knew that I won't grow out of my comfort zone. I'll grow and experience things outside my comfort zone. And that's exactly what occurred, exactly what happened. And I've moved on and not hesitate in knowing that I have the ability to do things because it's happened my whole life where people would see it in me. They would see I would have the capability or the ability to do things, but for whatever reason, I won't see it in myself.
And that's the thing that I hate, but then I moved on from that. It's about just do it, you know, just click send. If you're unsuccessful, so what? You can just try again. And I had stuff that I submitted to them on other occasions, you know, which they declined, you know. I submitted stuff to other publications, which got declined, you know. And I thought, okay, I'm gonna keep those emails. So I can look back and I can see, okay, cool. Yep, I've got these things that got declined, not accepted. But I've got other things that they accepted. It just to have the guts to push through and move forward once upon a time.
Brock Briggs 1:04:07
It certainly seems to me that there is a direct correlation between personal growth and the willingness to be uncomfortable.
You really need to be okay with hurting and feeling embarrassed like and drawing to kind of like the physical analogy of like physical fitness like growing muscle, it's hurt, like you come back from a workout and you physically hurt. And in the same way, like working through publishing work, especially creative stuff, where you guys must have gone through hundreds of revisions on the book, I'm guessing.
Neville Johnson 1:04:46
I mean, yeah, some initial estimate of things and I worked with Keith and he's a phenomenal editor. He's a phenomenal person. He helped so much and I've learned so much. And going through the whole process of explaining to me that sort of things need to change, like titles or certain stances that I need to or they thought for the book, for what would work for me, for them, for us need to change or taken out to actually, you know, rewrite a few stanzas.
Or then he would say, the next four or five poems would need to go, you know. It was. yeah, it was a very interesting time because you would have all these things, all these thoughts, feelings, stuff that's personal to you and someone else is looking through it and telling you, not this one, not that one. We'll keep this one. I love this one. This one's great. This line needs to be replaced, We need to rewrite this or how about we just take it completely, you know, interchange things up? And then obviously, there's a reason behind the changes. Yeah, it was a very interesting process to go through, by the way, he was phenomenal with it, you know. And looking back, yeah, it's been a great journey.
Brock Briggs 1:06:08
Well, my hat is off to you, I really enjoyed reading it, I am certainly no literary critique or know much about that space. But I really enjoyed reading it. And it reads like a novel to me, like a very clear progression. And like, kind of this journey that you're brought on through the whole thing and I really enjoyed it. So I'm very thankful. And I'm sure many of the listeners who have also read it will be thankful for you being willing to push send on that.
Neville Johnson 1:06:40
I appreciate the kind words. Yeah, thank you so much. Yeah, it's a great feeling and a weird feeling at the same time knowing that my words, my experiences, it's out of my hands and it's now available in the world. It's gone. It's not mine anymore. It's out there, you know. But again, it's all of that is where it's on my comfort zone. You know, it's sometimes I think it's not me, it made sense. I want to revert to being quiet, being shy, staying in my lane, not bother anyone, and just do my own thing. But then again, what kind of life is that? So yeah, thank you
Brock Briggs 1:07:29
I want to kind of start to close out the conversation and hear about some of your work now. You are working with a high school program taking kids that are maybe in a disadvantaged area or home life and helping them, growing them, teaching them. Can you kind of explain what you do there and why that's important?
Neville Johnson 1:07:54
Sure, the last seven years I've been working with the youth, high school kids and a program. It's a military design program, working with some kids that's at rescue. And then you find a minority of kids that they want to use that as a pathway, say, to get into the armed forces or police or fire brigade, you know, and helping some of these kids because again, a lot of them, they from a very broken, you know, home life, been exposed to alcohol, drugs, violence at a very young age, and then there's a fraction that they find they're good kids. They just need some guidance or they want to eventually get into the Defence Force or police. So this program is designed for them or for those someone who's that, you know, but then again, I've been exposed to some of these kids where they've got no father figure. They've got nothing. They've been exposed to gangs to violence is such a young age.
And they've really struggled, you know, I think the programs help them or it's guided them to show them they do have a choice, you know,. They can resort to a better life than having to stay in, you know, in a particular sort of field. So it's the program is designed to help those kids or help those that want to get into the Defence Force and police or fire brigade, you know. So it's literally designed. There’s military history, military fitness and so I've been facilitating and running these programs for the last seven years working with kids ages between starting 14 all the way to 17, 18, you know. Again, something that I never thought I would do, working with high school kids, instructing and teaching and standing in front of a group and telling them about self confidence about getting outside your comfort zone.
And then knowing that this is outside my comfort zone standing in front of a big group and they're judging you, they're looking at you, and you're trying to build that gap, trying to build that relationship with them, trying to get that trust there, which is super difficult with some of these kits because they just block off once they build the brick wall, it is so hard to get over to get to know them. Because they might be street smart. But they don't have the life experience. You know, they put up this fake persona, this fake front that, yeah, they're tough and all that. But once you break down the wall and get to know them, they are just this young innocent kid. They haven't gotten any self confidence, you know, they are afraid, but they don't want to show it. And working with these kids, it's taught me a lot, but it's been phenomenal.
Brock Briggs 1:10:53
You said that, you would have been like never thought that you would have like ended up with this type of job or teaching kids like this. And it's so ironic because you're hearing a bit about your story today and just what I know of you prior, like, you're probably the perfect person to do it, just knowing like some of these things and that makes it so much better. Like you could speak to, you know, you've got that personal experience and I have no doubt that they probably hear some of your stories and kind of your learnings and have more buy in into you because of that.
Neville Johnson 1:11:31
Yeah, and I think they see that because they are smart when it comes to the street, when it comes to when someone is fake, you know, or if someone is pretending or someone is or they're just reading from a book or they're making things up. But as soon as you’re genuine and you build that trust, you know, you can see in the face, you can see it in the body language, you know, the way they're sitting, the way they're looking. And as soon as you've got them, then it's this, again, the audible click okay, I've got you. I've got your attention, you know. And then there's just the way they talk to you when they see you before class or after class or in the street, you know, and because on the program, they call me staff Johnson. And then I say to them, before school or after school, if you see me in the street or in school, just call me Neville, you know, but they don't because they've got that respect. And some of them even years later, people that I taught or instructed some of these kids, they've got their own kids now.
And then when I do bump into them, they still call me staff, staff Johnson. Or it’s naval, it's fine. How are you? And then they would cross the road and come and see me or speak to me and then some of them tried to connect on social media and they would follow me, you know. It's a great feeling. Then there's some of them that they just refuse to connect and bolt and I think that that's where there should be more programs or more help for those, you know, but ultimately, it's something that I never thought I would do, you know, standing in front of a bunch of high school kids in a class of say 30, 40 and trying to build that trust, trying to get their attention, trying to get them to quiet down, trying to get them to get stay off their devices, you know, just to sit up straight, to push the chairs in and to go and do military drill to stay in sync or march at the same time.
It's a hard, hard job. But it's so fulfilling once everything is in place. And they do listen to you and you've got that trust and you've got that relationship, you know, but it's the hard work in the beginning, you know. But yeah, it takes a special person to do that, to build that relationship with them, to get them to listen up and pay attention. And yeah, they’re very street smart and they can see through you if you're talking beers and they will be the one running the class or they will just walk out, you know.
Brock Briggs 1:14:12
Working with these kids, how much do you think that their outcomes have been tied to their past environments that they've grown up in?
Neville Johnson 1:14:25
Well, loads, it’s massive you know. You could see it in the whole demeanor. You know, I've worked with some kids that have been exposed to weapons, that seen violence, that seen other people getting shot, you know, and then when you see that change and you see that outcome and it's a good outcome, you know, and it's just phenomenal. You know, it makes me happy knowing that I contributed a small bit to that person's life, you know, because many times in the past and they will go to school.
But they won't go to any class but mine. And I think for me, that's when I've got them engaged, they're in school, they're in a safe environment, you know. But seeing the change and seeing how that affects them in a positive way is phenomenal because all they want is someone to listen to them. All they want is someone that they can look up to in a positive way and they need that, you know. And there's not a lot of that because once they fall through the cracks and they disappear, that's when they go and they join the gangs because the gangs when they teach them values, but it's the wrong values, you know. The gangs will use them, abuse them and discard them. And that's, it’s sad.
Brock Briggs 1:15:44
There are some interesting parallels, I think, and thinking about being a product of environment, we've got these kids that are growing up in kind of really bad areas and kind of all it takes is kind of a certain catalyst to kind of unlock like a different path. We were talking earlier about knowing what path to take and you're dealing with people who maybe don't exactly, you know, they don't have control over that yet. And being able to intervene early on in those kids lives to kind of alter that and show them something different. And I think that that parallels a lot of the military, like your history. Anybody who's listening who has served the military sometimes can be that catalyst. But sometimes there's also a need for an additional thing outside of that where it really your environment can be a really, really good thing for you or it can be or for you as well.
Neville Johnson 1:16:48
Exactly. And I think for those kids being exposed to that, you know, you can show them, listen, you do have a choice. You don't have to go down that path of gangs, violence, all that, you know, you can go through this path. And let me tell you about this. But before I tell you about the actual path, let me tell you what I've experienced and what I've gone through. Let me tell you about my mistakes. And I'm going to tell you how to avoid them so you won't make the same mistake, you know. And where you are sitting right now, I've been there. And I know what it feels like, you know, I've been in that situation. And let me tell you about this. And then you could see that connection, you can see that hang on. If you've got them, you've got the trust, but then to build the trust, you get the ticket, the trust. It's so difficult.
Brock Briggs 1:17:38
If you had to sum up your kind of life's experience, military time with your family, time working with these kids and kind of boil that down to one big takeaway that we can kind of implement in our lives. What do you think that that would be?
Neville Johnson 1:17:55
Yeah, that's a good question. One thing that pops up, I would say if there's opportunities that present itself, don't let let it go by. Whether it be good or bad, whether it's from the bad, you'll learn. But if there's an opportunity for you to improve, to be a better person, to learn something, go for it. I've had many opportunities in my life that I hesitated and I never went for it. And I regret it somewhat. But it's the opportunities that went by that I never went for, you know, I was standing there, you could see that opportunity. They’re coming, it's approached and then there it goes, it's gone. It's not gonna come back, it's not gonna present itself again. It's having to take hold of the opportunity.
And signing up with Dead Reckoning Collective, working with Keith and Tyler, going into the military working with these young kids with the youth, it's opportunities I went for. Its opportunities, it was difficult, but you had to put in the time and effort. You have to put in the time. You have to put in the work. Same with being a parent, you know, it's an opportunity that came in and I went for it. I knew it was gonna be difficult, but then it's the journey, you know. It's the journey going through it. It's the opportunities that I went for, I thought I'm gonna go for it, you know. I'm gonna jump on that wild ride. It's gonna be a wonderful wild ride and just go for it and learn something. And then at the same time, tell my kids and again, they learn from me that my kids and then the youth I work with, again, hopefully they can learn from me. Hopefully they can go on and take bits and pieces away but it's the opportunities. Don't let them go by because once they go, they’re gone.
Brock Briggs 1:19:57
I got a couple of questions. I got fielded on Instagram just from sharing any if you submitted a question, I really appreciate it. Or two, that I wanted to hit here. Thoughts on the PB Abbate book club?
Neville Johnson 1:20:12
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, PBA, yeah.
Shout out to PBA!
Yay, place to be, place to be. Go and follow them, join them. It's a great organization, especially the book club, especially the book club.
Brock Briggs 1:20:30
What are you guys reading right now? What's the
Neville Johnson 1:20:33
Something by was it's the author? From Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls. I've missed the first two zoom sessions. But that's the one that we are reading right now. And then every now and then, there's a zoom session where we get together and discuss the previous chapters, you know.
Brock Briggs 1:20:54
Awesome. I'll be sure to include a link to that in the show notes. Another question from Instagram. This is actually something I usually ask anyway. But so I'm glad that it was asked. What are questions that you wish that people would ask you?
Neville Johnson 1:21:12
That is a good question. It's all the military questions was a great job. And I think we spoke about this earlier. And, you know, a lot of people wouldn't know, you know, I'm indoors you've kicked in. And in many rounds if you've put downrange and so forth, but I think it's the other things that I think at this stage in my life, it's the things that make you tick, the things that make you happy, the things that fills your cup, so to speak, you know. Yeah, it's all good.
And well, you know, talking about the past, but my military it was a small chapter of my life. It was just one of many characters, so to speak. But I suppose it's things that make me tick now in the present, you know, my family, passions, writing, things. It's those things and I think writing is it's one of the many passions and working with young kids, having a family. I would reckon would be nice but I'm not going to shy away people when I ask about you know the army and prior to that.
Brock Briggs 1:22:26
And then one last final question for you. This is coming from me. What can the listeners and or myself do to be useful to you?
Neville Johnson 1:22:38
Useful man, that's again another great question, useful, sure. Probably advertise the book, my book and advertise Dead Reckoning Collective, that's one.
Go and pick up a copy
Talking about Dead Reckoning Collective, talking about BP Abbate and what they do, it's a great organization. The fact that when I asked if I could be a member, I thought, Thomas Schueman, which is, you know, the main person that started the whole organization.
I thought, he's not gonna say yes, you know, it's more of an American run organization for American veterans. I thought but I liked the idea of having a book club, of getting together and talking about it and getting veterans together and not just a book club. They've got, I think, a Fight Club hunting and so forth, you know. But he said, yeah, if you've served, the lines open, you know. And yeah, talk about that and talk about PB Abbate and talk to one another, being open, talk about my book, talk about Dead Reckoning Collective. Yeah, I would say that.
Brock Briggs 1:23:56
That's a pretty easy ask around these parts. You're among friends on all of those subjects. I'll be sure to include links to all of those things in the show notes. Neville, I really appreciate you coming on. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing with us.
Neville Johnson 1:24:10
You're welcome. Yeah, thank you for reaching out. Thank you for your time. Thank you for the great chats. A lot of times it's way, again out of my comfort zone but sitting down and discussing this and talking this and recording as it's great and then something for my kids to maybe listen to one day or see one day. So yeah, thank you and appreciate it.