From humble beginnings to becoming a successful author and an award winning researcher, Zachary Stockill has had an incredible journey in discovering his life’s purpose. Part of his fascinating journey include a 10-day silent meditation retreat to a stumbling into becoming an author and entrepreneur. Today Zachary is a leading figure in confronting and overcoming jealousy in our relationships and recently launched his first podcast, Travels in Music, a show dedicated to sharing stories about music from around the world. Zachary strongly challenges traditional notions of jealousy being a ‘normal’ feeling, rather a sentiment we as individuals need to confront and deal with to develop a pure relationship. You can read more about Zachary below and at his website, or you can follow him on Twitter @zfstockill.
What do you do? (Work)
I wear many hats; perhaps, at the moment, a few too many. I write articles and books, create courses, build websites, and do a little bit of coaching and consulting. I’m currently experimenting with my first podcast, called Travels in Music.
Aside from writing about music and culture, I run a website called RetroactiveJealousy. I try to help people overcome jealousy and possessiveness in their romantic relationships.
Why do you do it?
I think this is work that needs to be done. Retroactive jealousy, obsessive jealousy aren’t things that people talk about very often, and in my view there isn’t a lot of information available for people on how to overcome it, and how good life gets once you do. We take certain things for granted in our society, and there are models that I believe deserve to be challenged; among them, that expressions of jealousy and possessiveness are healthy expressions of love, and are a “natural” or “normal” aspect of romantic relationships. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. And I try to show people, through sharing my story and the stories of others, that life gets a lot better once you develop effective methods of confronting and dealing with jealousy and possessiveness.
I write about music and culture because I want to share stories that deserve to be told, and again, challenge perspectives and pre-conceptions which I believe deserve to be challenged. The common thread linking all of my work is a deep-seated curiosity about people, and the way the world works. I’m absolutely fascinated by human beings. We are a strange bunch.
How do you make a difference in the world? (Work, business, life, family, self)
I try to inspire people to think a little differently, and challenge their perspectives as I question and challenge my own. I am working to be a better brother and son, and for me this has involved being more self-critical, and honest about the parts of myself I don’t like, and that need to change. I try to be a good and loyal friend to my friends, and the most crucial part of that is, I think, committing to being honest with them (and asking the same of them in return). And I am working to become a more thoughtful and generous lover and partner, always.
What are 3 defining moments in your life?
– I have a very clear memory of stepping out of the airport in New Delhi, India, when I was 20, having just begun my first trip overseas. I remember the smell so clearly—an aromatic orgy of cowshit, exhaust fumes, curry, dust, incense, you name it. More than anything, I remember thinking “This smells like the oldest place in the world.” I was hooked. And although adjusting to life in India was initially a challenge, I quickly grew to love the country. More importantly, I think that initial experience awoke me to the joy and wonder of traveling.
– Another moment involved a 10-day silent meditation retreat, depression, and some serious emotional baggage being lifted. At the risk of sounding like some sort of spiritual/new-age poseur, I think I had a brief experience of what Zen Buddhists call “kensho,” or “satori.” Basically, it felt like an ever-so-tiny glimpse into enlightenment. I remember feeling intensely, inordinately connected to everything around me—people, the earth, the trees, people I once thought I was mad at—and overflowing with love and appreciation for being alive. It was the most powerful, healing and transformative couple of hours of my life, and in some ways I think I’ve been chasing that experience for the past five years. Time to stop chasing.
– I also have a couple of very vivid and precious memories of falling in love for the first time. But these are moments best described in a different, more intimate venue, I think.
What is your life purpose?
In a word: evolution. It’s important to me to work at being a better, more honest and giving man than I was a year, a month, a week ago. And I hope I can inspire others to evolve as well, whether it’s in terms of their personal development, or just in terms of the way they think about certain things. It’s exciting to me to be able to inspire others to appreciate things—whether it’s sex, or music, or even just a good whiskey—that they didn’t fully appreciate before.
How did you tap into it?
I fell into this line of work largely by accident. A few years ago I wrote a book about jealousy under a pen name primarily as an exercise in catharsis, and very quickly things started to naturally evolve into the work I do now. I’ve been fortunate to have some kind and generous male mentors throughout my 20’s who have challenged me, and inspired me to grow. And my love of culture and music has always been there—my parents tell me I was singing and dancing before I could walk—so I’m not sure I “tapped into” it; maybe it tapped into me. Writing has also been a constant in my life. I’m introverted by nature, and this lends itself well to sitting alone in a room for hours at a stretch trying to work out your thoughts.
Who is your Role-Model or Mentor?
Can I give you a few? My father and maternal grandfather come to mind; they’re very different men, and I’ve learned some important lessons from them about being a man, acknowledging your flaws, and trying to grow into a better man. I have a lot of respect for the Canadian writer Zan Perrion, his approach to women and romance, and his adventurous spirit. I also admire Anthony Bourdain, not just for his travels and his talent as a storyteller, but the way he thinks about travel, the way he approaches it. I think Leonard Cohen is just about the coolest human being on the planet. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Buddha; no other teacher has taught me more about life and living.
Do you have any daily habits? If so, what are they?
Enough of the spiritual, woo-woo stuff, something practical: a habit I picked up the first time I was in India was drinking a lot of water. I start every day off, immediately after I brush my teeth, with a protein shaker bottle filled with water. It’s a revitalizing ritual to start your day off with. And wherever I am, at any time, I always have a glass or bottle of water on the go. (This is especially helpful when you’re imbibing. Your liver can thank me later.) It might seem excessive or unnecessary to some, but it’s made a big difference for me in terms of weight loss, appetite suppression, energy level, etc. And yes, you’re peeing all the time, but that’s good too; it’s good to stand up, take a little walk, and get away from the computer on a regular basis.
I also pick up my guitar or ukulele and mess around for at least a few minutes every day. I try to dance, take a walk or swim, lift weights, or just get up and move at some point every day. It’s important to engage different parts of your brain at different times of the day, and doing something physical every day is important to me.
When do you know your work/life balance is off?
When my eyeballs start to ache. For me, this means there have been too many hours, for too many days in a row, staring at a computer screen. Also, my social skills start to go to hell; even the simplest, shortest conversation with the barrista at the coffeeshop start to seem laborious when I’m working too hard, and keeping myself isolated. It’s usually around that time that I determine a cocktail is in order.
Vulnerability is a challenge for most men – share a vulnerable moment from your life with us.
Over the past year I’ve talked and written more about meditation than I’ve actually meditated. I feel slightly ashamed when I extol the virtues of meditation to others, when I don’t have a regular practice going myself. It’s time to change that. I was involved in a motorbike accident in early 2015, and for whatever reason, since then I’ve found the process of parking my posterior on a cushion and meditating especially challenging.
What did you learn from it?
It’s almost painfully clicheed, but the accident taught me that I am not, in fact, invincible. And no one else is responsible for my physical well-being and safety. Don’t be an idiot, and take unnecessary risks. Take care of yourself, as physical health is everything, really. I’m only 28, and I’d like to spend a lot more time on this rock of ours.
If you are or were going to be a mentor for another man, what is one piece of advice you would give him?
That you, and only you, are responsible for the quality of your life. No one is coming to “save” you; not me, not some woman, not your parents, not another self-help book, not another motivational quote on Instagram. You. Focus on what is in your sphere of control, and disregard that which is not. You are enormously powerful, but you have to direct your power and energy in ways that serve you. Anything else is a waste of time.
How do you be the best partner (Boyfriend/Husband- past or present)
Needless to say, I am still trying to figure this out. Again, it’s clicheed, but I think it really does come down to empathy, understanding. One thing I’ve discovered through my work is that what people want, more than anything else, is to feel recognized, seen, understood. Most people don’t really want you to tell them what to do, or for you to override their pain and anger with your guidance or instruction. I think this is especially true in relationships. Many problems are solved, and conflicts avoided, when you can simply look your partner in the eye and say “I understand,” but the catch is you have to mean it. This takes a great deal of reflection, practice, patience, and just shutting the hell up from time to time. It took me too long to learn this, and I still have a long way to go.
Do you support any charities or not-for-profits? (Which one(s) and why?)
I support Kiva, which is an organization that offers micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. I also support the World Wildlife Fund, as I’m quite fond of polar bears (from a distance, of course). I think Musicians Without Borders does wonderful, very important work. And with the ongoing horror in Syria and Iraq, at this moment in time UNICEF is as essential an organization as it’s ever been. Those people are doing critical, lifesaving work, day in day out.
If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
I’ve told friends that I want “This Is All I Ask” by Harry Nilsson played at my funeral, as it captures a certain spirit, an energy I aspire to in life: ease and delight. And I have long felt a powerful connection to the song “Hoppipolla” by the Icelandic rock band Sigur Ros, even though I have no idea what they’re singing about. To tell you the truth, I don’t want to know.
Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
Living in a warm climate in a well-lit flat with a well-stocked bar, surrounded by good music, good friends, and beautiful women, doing challenging, meaningful work that I enjoy.
What legacy do you want to leave for future generations?
More than anything, I want to make the lives of the people I love a little brighter. I hope, through my writing, that I will have inspired some people to think a little differently. (As William Zinsser once advised, “Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.”) I hope that I turned people on to possibilities and experiences—in terms of art, relationships, and life in general—that perhaps they weren’t aware of before, and which have improved their lives.
Which one book would you recommend for any man?
I’m currently reading Meditations by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, and would encourage other men to do the same. It’s a compelling read, and offers lessons and perspectives that are just as valuable now as they were when they were first set to parchment nearly 2000 years ago. Not a book to read too fast; this one requires constant breaks, and deep reflection.
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