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Blog Podcast interview with Andrew Middleton

Podcast interview with Andrew Middleton

Blog Podcast interview with Andrew Middleton

Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast.

I’m delighted to be joined by Andrew Middleton, founder of INDY (I’m Not Done Yet).

Janina Neumann (00:32):
Hi, Andrew. How are you?

Andrew Middleton (00:35):
I’m fine, thank you. Enjoying the lovely blues skies and sunshine at the moment. Feeling very, very lucky to be out in this weather.

Janina Neumann (00:44):
It’s beautiful, isn’t it? It’s very uplifting.

Janina Neumann (00:46):
Very uplifting. Yes.

Janina Neumann (00:48):
So tell us a little bit about yourself, Andrew.

Andrew Middleton (00:51):
Well, you’ve already mentioned, I’m the founder of an organization called ‘I’m Not Done Yet‘, and it’s for INDYs. The I’m Not Done Yets. It’s the over fifties who are living life to the full, they’re living life with vibrancy, and INDY exists to help people live their lives to the full basically.

Would it be useful to say a little bit about my life and career and where I’ve come from?

Janina Neumann (01:18):
Yeah, we’d love to hear about it.

Andrew Middleton (01:21):
I’d set-up INDY after a sort of checkered and long career. I’ve worked out, I’ve been in business for 44 years, but it’s been a very varied sort of portfolio career, and a lot of it has sort of facilitated cultural insights for me. I started out in the travel business, in the late seventies, and then I found myself working for large European and North American companies doing management consultancy, I.T., process management.

Andrew Middleton (01:52):
And during that time I was process manager for a large multicultural processing center, so it was a lot of cultural insights there. And then I had a period in charity management, and more recently, as I mentioned, I’ve set up an SME to work with the over fifties, I’m Not Done Yet, as well as doing marketing support for SMEs and a few other portfolio elements, such as being a film extra. So quite an odd career, really, several different paths I’ve taken during that time.

Janina Neumann (02:28):
That’s really interesting, and you’ve experienced so many different cultures as well through your career.

So when do you think you first experienced a different culture?

Andrew Middleton (02:40):
Well, I know that it was actually before I started work in the early seventies, as a very spotty long-haired young schoolboy. I was placed with a French family in the Des Moines Valley, the Marchais, and suddenly I was kind of thrown into French culture, which was very different, you know, to an ordinary English schoolboy. Different food, different ways of behaving.

Andrew Middleton (03:10):
I went to school with Alan, my pen friend at the time, and I was part of French life for two weeks. And it was an amazing experience as you can imagine, just learning different ways. And I think most importantly, you know, starting and understanding that you know, there are different ways of living. Just because I live one, it doesn’t mean it is the one and only way to live, you know, the one and only culture. And as a young schoolboy, I found that absolutely fascinating to see almost like a parallel universe. And of course, Alan, my pen friend coming over to the UK, lived that parallel universe for him, experiencing British culture.

Janina Neumann (03:55):
Yes. That’s fantastic.

So what kind of differences did you find when you lived over there in France?

Andrew Middleton (04:03):
Well, food was the first one.

Janina Neumann (04:06):

Andrew Middleton (04:07):
The whole idea of eating many different courses, you know, as a good Brit at the time, I was used to, you know, a plate of food and then a pudding. But suddenly over there I was having many courses and you know, salad, then maybe a meat course and then cheese and, and interestingly, wine during the meal. I mean, I almost became a bit of a young drinker, I guess, because it was much more acceptable for younger people to drink wine in France, which of course wouldn’t have happened in the culture I’d come from.

Janina Neumann (04:44):
That’s really interesting. So do you think there were any differences when you went to school, like in how people communicated, how the classes were structured?

Andrew Middleton (04:56):
Do you know it’s funny, but the memories I have of school are, you know, very, very similar. So you expect a divergence of cultures, but, you know, there were some things that were quite safe, the waiting for the bus, traveling in on the school bus, the getting there, the waiting in the playground to going into classes. I think the structure maybe of the classes were slightly different, what was being taught, but the feel of it felt very similar. And that was quite interesting because, you know, you tend to think everything’s going to be different, but to actually find it’s quite similar was quite interesting at the time. And yeah, I’m very grateful for that because I went back several times and eventually when I was in my sort of late teens, I was going back and my pen friend was working in a garage and I was seeing, you know, how business was done.

Andrew Middleton (05:51):
And we were traveling around on his motorbike and it was quite an interesting thing. And it sent me set me up incredibly well because in the late seventies, early eighties, I went into the travel business. I worked for Thomas Cook. And I guess, it developed a sort of, I don’t know, I’m trying to think of the word, a interest for me in other cultures. So then to be working as part of the travel business and being able to go and see more cultures, you know, to be able to travel to Greece, to be able to travel to the Caribbean, to travel to Spain. And I think without that first sort of cultural experience, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so eager to go into the travel business, But what was quite interesting going into the travel business was the fact that I’d had a very intimate kind of experience with French culture. I’d lived the life.

Andrew Middleton (06:52):
And I think what I did realise is much of the culture that certainly in the early eighties was being delivered to people traveling abroad was a very stylised version of the cultures of different countries, you know, going and seeing the flamenco display, you know, buying a sombrero, it’s almost quite polarised. And that was quite interesting because, you know, realising that cultures have so many depths, so much depth to them, different depths, to actually see, you know, a stylised version was quite interesting. And then when I started working more in a business environment in the nineties, in France and across Europe and in North America, that was another sort of insight in I was seeing business culture, which wasn’t necessarily home culture, which wasn’t necessarily the stereotypical culture of places.

Andrew Middleton (07:56):
And I started to work with teams of people from different cultures, particularly, when I was working, in the multicultural processing center, we had 16 teams each from different countries, and it was so interesting to see how different teams, different nationalities reacted to the same problem. And seeing from a business perspective, the different ways teams would work. So for example, quite often, if we were dealing with a problem with our Italian team, the whole team would come to us on mass and talk to us. If we were dealing with a problem with one of our German teams, quite often, we would have quite a stark letter or an email. It was just phenomenally interesting. And I found the works of a guy called ‘Geert Hofstede’, which I found very interesting. He’d worked for IBM, in fact, in the sort of fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties, and he’d noted patterns in cultures.

Andrew Middleton (09:06):
And it was really interesting to be able to sort of apply that and see there’s sort of similarity between certain behaviours and certain different groups, and the differences. Geert Hofstede I think is still very relevant today. And then in the sort of noughties, I ended up in the charity sector and rather bizarrely, the organization I was with had really strong North American connections. So I got to see the cultural differences in giving, so for example, in North America, it’s a much more accepted thing to regularly give, much more than it is in the UK. You know, people will give to programmes, there are all sorts of organizations set up to encourage regular giving much more than the UK and there were other cultures. And then coming all the way back to where we are sort of through the 2010s and up to today, running a small business has been really interesting because I think the general sort of reduction in size of the world, plus technology, has enabled me to work far more with different cultures.

Andrew Middleton (10:31):
So for example, my website was written by a web designer in Montpellier. Some of my training courses were written by a trainer in Morocco. I think now we’re getting more used to working with people from other cultures as a norm, just part of our everyday working with businesses, even as an SME. So it’s been quite an interesting journey through learning about cultures and different aspects and coming right the way around to right now where, in fact, one of my clients who I’m doing some marketing work for is actually based in France, using me to do their marketing for a donkey sanctuary. And the sort of evolution of my awareness of different cultures is helping me help them market their business to different cultures across Europe, to bring them to their donkey sanctuary and their gîtes.

Janina Neumann (11:36):
Oh, I really love what you talk about, and what I’m just getting, that you have a fantastic worldview and the ability to adapt and to be open to things and that’s a real strength. And just processing all the things you talked about, know from like, for example, the charity management, the different ways that people give is so important, especially now where people are struggling to raise funds. That’s a really interesting point.

Andrew Middleton (12:09):
It’s been like reading a book. I don’t think I designed my career like that. I think some of it is I’ve just been lucky, but some of it is, I think over the last sort of 40, 50 years, our awareness of different cultures has changed. And I think we’re at the moment you cannot afford to not have some level of cultural awareness. And you used the worldview, which I think is very important, you know, just acknowledging that you as an individual have a worldview and someone else, be they somewhat of a different culture, or even the same nationality as you, may have a different worldview, which is equally valid as yours, it’s just different. And I think that’s an important concept to take on board, you know, particularly for businesses, who are going out there, that will have customers who will have different worldviews.

Janina Neumann (13:00):
Yes, certainly, and also with the worldview comes a mindset, which is so important in business, but also, you know, the types of books we read, who wrote them, you know, whose books get published by a publisher, who self-publishes. All that information, how it’s spread and what people read and take on board as, like the so-called ‘business culture’ and the best practices, I always find really interesting.

Andrew Middleton (13:29):
It’s interesting because one of the reasons I set-up I’m Not Done Yet is I kind of noted a tribe with their own culture. The INDYs, I’m Not Done Yets. And they were the ones who were saying, well, we’re not going to have a traditional retirement. We’re not going to behave as perhaps our parents did. You know, we want to be more vibrant. We want to achieve more. We want to keep working. We want to set businesses up. We want to travel, you know, all sorts of things, but it’s almost like a culture within the British culture, if you like, or the culture of older people, and that, you know, to some extent, that’s why I set I’m Not Done Yet up because, you know, I noticed a particular sort of subculture that I felt, you know, I could support and I could help.

Janina Neumann (14:24):
Yes and I just wondered, why do you think this generation particularly wants to keep on growing rather than kind of take a more of a steadier pace of life?

Andrew Middleton (14:41):
I think it’s some of it is down to what they lived through. So I think if you look at older people, there were some who grew up and had their formative years in sort of the fifties and perhaps early sixties who are more traditional. But if you look at those who are hitting 60 now, they had their formative years during the punk rock revolution. So they’re not going to be as compliant shall we say, as the people who went before them, even those who are in the slightly older sixties and seventies grew up during the summer of love, you know, the sixties, and I think it’s just a more rebellious generation, you know, there is a distinct subculture and I don’t believe that we’re going to behave like our parents did. And interesting, I’ve had conversations with people at care homes and they’re kind of seeing this change of attitude.

Andrew Middleton (15:49):
And it’s not the same for everyone. It’s like all cultures, I guess there are different subcultures and there will be those who basically just want to retire and have a quiet life. But there does seem to be this kind of rebellious streak that is going through, certainly the tail end of the baby boomers and probably into the sort of start of generation X as they get into their fifties and their sixties. And I think they’ll take it beyond. You know, I’m already seeing people in their mid-seventies who are running, you know, quite advanced technological businesses, you know, using social media, using membership sites, and they show no signs of stopping. And I think 10, 20 years back that wouldn’t have been the case, you know, people would have said, you know, you can’t do that. You’re too old.

Janina Neumann (16:46):
That’s really interesting.

So what happens if you’re an INDY, but you don’t recognise it, will your like mental health suffer from that? Tell me a little bit more about the consequences of not recognising it.

Andrew Middleton (17:02):
The reality is you probably won’t live the life you could. You won’t take the opportunities. You know, it’s almost like if you don’t, you shut yourself up into a box. I think the more dynamic and outward-looking, the more you’re going to get out of life. I think there is the potential. I mean some people are very, very happy. You know, I guess it’s like different cultures across the world. You know, some people are happy in a quieter life and some people are not. But I think if you are kind of that rebellious nature and you’re forced to live, shall we say a quiet life, I think you might not feel quite right. You know, it might lead to depression, whatever. Life is for living. And I think, you know, if you’ve got that rebellious INDY streak, then you should get out there and live it.

Janina Neumann (18:03):
That’s really cool.

So do you think that building the tribe could work across cultures as well?

Andrew Middleton (18:11):
Yeah. Well, I’m really interested actually. I mean, you know, for me the INDY tribe is very much a UK, British tribe at the moment. But recently I’ve been talking to people running sort of INDY type projects elsewhere, particularly in the States, and one of my favorite INDYs of all times actually comes from the Czech Republic. So I think there are similarities. I’m really interested to see the differences as well. But I think certain groups, certain countries, certain cultures are waking up to becoming INDYs. Going all the way back to Geert Hofstede, I’m sure there are certain communities where being an INDY, being rebellious, is probably not the thing to do. And therefore you won’t see that sort of trend, but certainly sort of North America, I’m seeing a lot of it, and Australia.

Janina Neumann (19:17):
That’s really cool.

So tell us a little bit more of some of the projects that members of INDY get involved in.

Andrew Middleton (19:24):
There’s a lot of authors out there. There’s a lot of people starting Start-Ups. I have a film on my website, the I’m Not Done Yet website, and I talk about the seven tribes of INDYs, because it sort of describes some of the things that people are doing, and the different tribes are setting up businesses, there are some who are traveling, learning new skills, there are some who really start to develop the relationship with their family. There’s one tribe, which I particularly like, called ‘the Eco INDYs’. The Eco INDYs are those people who are trying to save the world. You see those sort of extinction rebellion events because they actually realised when they get to a certain age, they could be arrested and it doesn’t really matter.

Andrew Middleton (20:21):
There are those who go into education. You know, one of my favorite INDYs is a chap called ‘Charlie’, who got his degree aged 83.

Janina Neumann (20:38):

Andrew Middleton
I probably haven’t done all seven tribes of INDYs, but the film is on the website. But really it’s quite wide, and one of my favourite INDYs is someone who left corporate in his late fifties. And he was feeling lethargic, didn’t know where to go. And he did one thing. He got a personal trainer and five years later, he’s running or competing in triathlons. You know, he’s managed to get his fitness up and completely changed his life. So there’s all sorts of things. There’s some interesting Instagram influencers out there, I don’t think you can put them into a set kind of mold if you like. You know, there’s all sorts of things being done. I think that the key thing is they’re going out there and saying, “I’m not done. I’m going to do this”, whatever it is and really enjoying life.

Janina Neumann (21:52):
That’s really important. Also, that’s something that connects everyone universally, you know, as much as they are different cultures, we all have ambitions and the need to feel fulfilled. So that’s brilliant that you’ve ingrained that into INDY.

Andrew Middleton (22:10):
Well, the interesting thing was, I built an approach for INDY to help people with change because one of the things I’ve found is that quite often people get stuck at a place in their lives and they just need a little bit of help to get past it. And interestingly, the trainer who built it, who was in Morocco at the time, as I mentioned earlier, was a millennial. And as she was building, she said, this is really good. And she talked me through the problems that millennials might face. And I think we all sometimes get stuck and need a little bit of help. And there are different points in their life where this might happen. I kind of concentrate around the sort of mid-fifties to mid-sixties, which is, you know, quite a difficult transition point. But, you know, there are lots of points where people suddenly think, well, actually, is this, all it is?.

Andrew Middleton (23:09):
And part of the INDY philosophy is sort of almost sticking two fingers up and saying, “Well, I’m just going to go out there and I’m going to do this”, and bringing that energy to the problem and getting past it. And I don’t think it matters if you are in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, or beyond, you know, sometimes you do just have to give yourself a bit of a kick up the pants and sort of go out there and do stuff that works for you, that you enjoy, and that energises you. So I suppose it’s not just an older person thing.

Janina Neumann (23:43):
But that’s a fantastic view because also you bring all that flexibility and that energy that you have built from yourself, obviously, but also from your experiences that you can change and you can adapt and move through transitions. I sometimes think some people can’t see beyond the transition and that’s where they need a coach, like you, to help them through that.

Andrew Middleton (24:09):
Well, it’s interesting you should say that because I’ve kind of highlighted three things that I think are really important. One of which is having some sort of purpose or direction. I think without that, you’re kind of lost, you know, it’s like your compass that helps you. The second thing is actually having a plan and taking some action. It’s very easy to think, you know, I’d like to do that, but you just become a dreamer. Unless you do something about it, it’s not going to happen. And then the third thing is I think a lot of people write themselves off. They say, “It’s too late for me. You know, I might have been able to do that in my youth. I can’t now”. You know, and I can show you, people, who are in their sixties, who are skydiving, for example. You know, it’s never too late. Well, there is one point in your life where it will be too late and you won’t be able to do it. But you know, when you’ve got people in their eighties who are doing degree courses, kind of makes you pull your socks up and think, well, maybe I could do that. So I guess one of the messages of INDY is don’t write yourself off.

Janina Neumann (25:24):
That’s really powerful. And it’s great that you have this tribe going that can connect people from all parts of the world.

Andrew Middleton (25:34):

Janina Neumann (25:34):
Because also I can imagine that some people might have been living in a different country as expats, you know, and also still connect with that feeling and need a tribe to spur them on.

Andrew Middleton (25:49):
Well, it’s interesting. I mentioned I was doing some marketing for a donkey sanctuary, but the couple who run it, who are living in France, Tracy and Mark, are actually INDYs. You know, they’re in their sixties and basically, they have changed their lives. They were working in the UK, they’ve moved out to France, they set up a gîte business, they started rescuing donkeys. It kind of shows you, you don’t have to be here doing the standard thing, it is whatever you want to do really. If I’ve probably thought about it, I could think of INDYs in Spain. I can think of INDYs, you know, in several other different European countries who have said, “No, I’m going to do something a bit different. I’m going to push myself, you know, this is what I’m going to do, and this is how I’m going to do it”.

Janina Neumann (26:37):
That’s really powerful.

So tell us a little bit more about how you helped your clients in France with the donkey sanctuary.

Andrew Middleton (26:45):
Oh, the donkeys. I love the donkeys. Basically, they set-up a gîte and they fell into a donkey sanctuary. They had some Woodlands and they needed clearing and they thought they would do it ecologically. So getting some donkeys to do it seemed like a good idea. And they managed to save three donkeys from going to the abattoir, because in the Provence area where they are, donkeys sometimes get turned into meat and donkey sausages are a bit of a delicacy, but that’s a different cultural aspect. So they save these three donkeys and they’ve built up, they don’t have a vast number of donkeys, but they have several. And they have some platoon donkeys, which people might know them through the fact that they’re the donkeys who wear pajamas on the Ile de France, but they’re an endangered species and they’ve started breeding them.

Andrew Middleton (27:51):
But one of the issues they have is that because often the donkeys have come from some form of maltreatment or, you know, they haven’t been looked after, they often come with medical issues. So they need a lot of medical help. What I’ve been helping them do is build up a tribe around their donkeys to help them with the cost, but also to make them more accessible. So they do donkey walks and have people come from all over Europe. Now they have people come from Holland, Italy, and Spain and the UK, and they’ve got some gîtes there where they stay. And what they actually do is donkey walking holidays from their gîtes now, which helps them look after the donkeys and helps them live, and I’ve been doing some marketing for them. But I mean the interesting thing for me is I’ve had to go all the way back to my days, working in business, because the way that you market to a French client might not be the same that you market to an Italian one.

Janina Neumann (28:59):

Andrew Middleton (29:00):
You know, it’s subtleties. As a total aside and something that has really, really interested me is using things like Facebook and some of the Europeanisms that have appeared when you use Facebook. So for an example in France, it seems to be okay to say “likey”, if you want likes on Facebook, you know, so you take the word ‘like’, and put as a ‘z’ on and turn it into a French verb so to speak. And it’s been kind of interesting to learn that subtlety. I mean, I speak some French, but you don’t understand the subtlety of the cultures and how cultures are changing and how people are referring to things on social media. So I suppose, you know, for me, that’s my next generation of cultural learning through the donkeys in terms of how things like social media and generic social media, like Facebook, are perhaps diluting cultures a little bit, but changing them. Definitely.

Janina Neumann (30:09):
Yes. And also I can imagine, although there’s one, you know, usual way of marketing on Facebook, huge efforts must go into your ways of marketing to different cultures, on the languages, on the wording, on what they might be interested in.

Andrew Middleton (30:29):
Well, one of the things that seems to be quite interesting, and this is more a theory, but we started out on their website with different language pages. And now we’ve gone to a single language page with Google translator because what it seems is people want the width of information. They want to be able to get information and they seem to be more forgiving about the language not being a hundred percent correct. So we’ve kind of subtly changed that in that you don’t have to have 100% correct grammar. What you do need to do is get the information to people in a language they can understand quickly. And that I think helps businesses because I mean, initially the website was English and French, now it’s about eight different languages that will translate into and the same with the donkey site. And people seem to be more forgiving and understanding, particularly if they’re not a mainstream language, if you know, it’s not a hundred percent,

Janina Neumann (31:42):
Yes. Especially if you’re wanting to reach a number of cultures, you know,

Andrew Middleton (31:48):

Janina Neumann (31:48):
then I can understand that it’s a better tool because people just want to have that reassurance that they understand it from that perspective, to then make the decision of coming or supporting the donkeys or staying there to have a holiday. So I understand that.

Andrew Middleton (32:09):
It’s been fascinating for me because I never thought if you told me two years ago, I would be learning so much about culture and language and how Europe works via a donkey sanctuary in France, I perhaps wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s been a fabulous opportunity. And I guess to some extent go back to the INDY methodology. Sometimes you’ve just got to go out there and experience and see what comes. You know, if you don’t jump in feet first, you’ll never know if you’re going learn something, if you’re going to enjoy it, whether it’s going to be fun.

Janina Neumann (32:42):
I also think that you really need a supportive community behind you to do that. And I think INDY really provides that, and I think that’s really important, especially nowadays where we can actually communicate digitally and reach so many more people through our philosophy, and that’s fantastic because it uplifts people and it helps people grow into something more or experience things that they enjoyed before, which is really good.

Andrew Middleton (33:13):
It’s interesting, there is some really interesting work that has come out of, I think it’s the London School of Economics called ‘The 100-Year Life’, which was a book written by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott. Relationships, really, really important. Having a good support structure. And I’ve kind of developed that in INDY to what I call, ‘As having your posse’, because in The Wild West, you know, Outlaws used to ride with a posse. They were a group of people around who basically had their backs, you know, would protect them. Were on their side, would drink with them, would laugh with them, would ride with them. And I think it’s quite important as, you know, an INDY or anyone really to make sure that you have got that posse around you, who support you, that community. And one of the things that you can do, particularly with social media and more globally is you can have several posses. Now I’ve got about four or five different support networks around me, in different places, doing different things. And I think that can be really, really useful.

Janina Neumann (34:20):
Yeah, it can be. And it just gives you the energy and the faith as well to try things that are new.

Andrew Middleton (34:28):
Sometimes that’s the hardest thing, isn’t it? It’s maintaining that energy. It’s that belief. And I think that’s where actually having a strong compass, a strong purpose is really important. And there are people out there, like me and other coaches, there are some really good coaches out there, who can help you along the way. You know, if you are finding it difficult, you know, maybe we have a few ideas that might help.

Janina Neumann (34:57):

If someone feels like their compass is slightly off, how can they connect with you and perhaps also work with you?

Andrew Middleton (35:04):
Yeah, well, there’s two ways. I’ve got a website And that’s got all sorts of resources for people who are over 50. I also, as I said, do some marketing work and different sorts of coaching work through And either one of those will get to me.

Janina Neumann (35:26):
That’s fantastic. I really enjoyed talking to you, Andrew, and I’ve learned so much from you and I will continue to expand my worldview. And it’s great to see how you’ve used all your skills throughout your career, and that it’s a never-ending journey and that you can continue to develop. It’s fantastic to see that.

Andrew Middleton (35:48):
But equally, it’s important for me to learn from you, and you know, just by having this opportunity to talk, it helps me get my mind together and other conversations we’ve had. So I’m very grateful to be able to have the conversations with you and expand my sort of horizons and knowledge and worldview.

Janina Neumann (36:07):
Oh, thank you, that’s very kind of you to say. Now it’s been absolute pleasure to have you on my podcast. Thank you very much, Andrew.

Andrew Middleton (36:17):
No, thank you.

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