I can't tell you exactly when I came up with my ‘40-year plan’, but I must have been around 15 or 16. The first inklings of the plan coming together after I appeared as a contestant on a TV cooking show called Ready Steady Cook. While watching TV after school one day I saw an advert seeking contestants for the show, thinking it would be a bit of fun, I applied, along with my friend Ryan. We both got an interview, and a couple of months later we found ourselves on the way into downtown Auckland to film an episode. For the show, Ryan and I would be pared with a chef and given 20 minutes to cook a meal with some ingredients ‘we’ (ahhhh the magic of television) had picked up from Woolworths. The show was filmed in front of a live studio audience and hosted by the one and only, Kerre Woodham (now McIvor).
Long story short, I fell in love. As far as I was concerned I had found my place in the world. And that was in front of a camera and with an audience hanging on to my every word. Ha! I’m pretty sure I said to Dad before we had even left the building, “When I leave school I want to do what that lady Kerre does.” Dad went on to explain that not only was she on TV, she was also on the radio. And so it must have been that night, for the first time, at the tender age of 11, I listened to Night Time Talk with Kerre Woodham on Newstalk ZB. While all my friends were listening to music on Mai FM, ZM and (at touch later in life) Channel Z, I was listening to Kerre discuss the news, politics, and whatever else came up with the general populace on ZB. And talk about becoming a habit of a lifetime. I listened to talkback from that point on every single night before bed. After a time I couldn’t get to sleep without it. The habit only coming unstuck when I left the country at 26. And not out of choice, but because there was no way of listening to it whilst staying in hostels in South East Asia. There were a few sleepless nights initially, but it was definitely for the best. It was a somewhat weird conversation to have when people stayed over, “yeaaaaah, I can’t go to sleep unless I have talkback on, sorry." And yes, weird as a kid, and even more so as an adult.
With a new career goal in mind (becoming a pilot was now on the back burner), research was done, people in the media spoken to, and it was decided to realise my dream of working on TV/on the radio, the New Zealand Broadcasting School in Christchurch was where I needed to head to once I had finished high school.
And so somewhere between appearing on Ready Steady Cook, and getting into Broadcasting School I formed what became my ’40-year plan';
1. Get into the New Zealand Broadcasting School
2. Graduate and get a job on-air at a radio station
3. Move into TV
5. Return to New Zealand and host Talkback
Looking back on this now it actually blows my mind that all of this 'plan' actually came to pass. It's crazy enough that it happened, but the bit that really blows me away is just how quickly I achieved what I set out to.
I graduated from Broadcasting School in 2005, I was working at The Edge in a part-time on-air capacity by 2006. By 2007 I had my own show on ZM. And by 2009/2010 (it’s starting to get blurry…) I was filming stories for TV2’s The Erin Simpson Show.
And then came the decision of a lifetime (at that point anyway), to throw it all in and venture out into the world. And as difficult as leaving ZM and The Erin Simpson Show was, it was the best decision I ever made. Not only did those four years floating around the world change me irrevocably, they increased my awareness on so many fronts that in a way, I believe, set me up to nail that final piece of the ’40-year plan’, and land a show doing talkback on Newstalk ZB
But why am I telling you all this? And why am I leaving ZB?
Doing Afternoons with Kerre on Newstalk ZB (as you now know) was a dream come true. And it has been amazing. Yes there have been some trying times - in all honesty I don’t think anything can really prepare you for your first few months hosting talkback. It is like nothing else I have ever experienced, and/or ever will. But even through those first few months and without a doubt every day since, man we have had some fun.
But as much as I do genuinely love the job, love Kerre (I don’t think there are words for how much I love that woman), love hearing from all the people I get to on a daily/weekly basis, I’m not done with the world just yet.
I currently have absolutely no regrets. If (and I do hope this doesn’t happen) I die tomorrow, I’m actually not fussed. In my mind there is nothing more I could’ve done with my time on this planet. I really have had the most incredible life. And so I guess from having felt this way for so long, my worst case scenario is getting to a point where I do have regrets. Inevitable you might say, but I am going to try and stay ‘regret free’ for as long as possible. And although it would’ve been easy to stay on at ZB and continue on this path, it would’ve meant not realising so many dreams that have come about since I was a teenager.
If hosting talkback on Newstalk ZB was living 16-year-old Mark’s dream, I’m leaving to realise what the 27-year-old me (and the current version) wants. And that is (in short) to see Africa (I’ve only been to Morocco), to get to 100 counties by 35 (I’m at 63), finish off my Spanish (I want to be fluent and that is going to take a few months of full immersion, probably in Mexico), I want to return to India to learn how to be a yoga instructor, and spend summers with my friends in Toronto, Berlin, New York, and of course a few more in my beloved London. Hosting a talkback show Mon-Fri 12pm-4pm and doing/achieving the above is not really possible. And so, it was one or the other.
Am I an idiot? Deranged? The stupidest fool that ever lived for leaving such a plum job to try and cross off a few more ‘dreams’? Maybe. Probably. But you know what? Playing things safe is boring, go big or go home I say. It is possible I may end up looking back on this decision and thinking, ‘you bloody idiot!’, but I doubt it. Like everything, this next phase of my life will either work or fail miserably but whatever the outcome, it's going to be one hell of an adventure giving it a go.
And how am I going to fund this, you ask? Well the plan is to go full digital nomad. Blogging, travel writing (I have already locked in some stories with the New Zealand Woman's Weekly), some digital advertising/social media consultancy, and managing my various business interests remotely. My plan isn’t to leave NZ for good. I want to return for (at minimum) the summers each year. All things going to plan I will be back in the country each December to catch up with friends and family and (hopefully) do some fill in work on Newstalk ZB while everyone is away for their summer break. Just like i used to before I got the full-time gig with Kerre.
So yeah, sad news in a way. The end of an era - that is if you can call a couple of years an era. But exciting times ahead. FYI Kerre and my last show together will be December 21st, but my last will be January 19th. I am going to work through Xmas and NY and take a break post.
And finally, for those that are concerned, don’t worry, Kerre isn’t going anywhere. And I'm sure there will be an announcement around the future of the show in due course.
As I mentioned before, the plan is to go full-time blogger (especially once I start travelling again). In preparation for this I have recently started a mailing list and would love for you to sign up. If you are keen, you can do that here.