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Late Starters Club Podcast
Late Starters Club Podcast

This is the place for inspiration, motivation, and mindset resets. You will walk away ready to take action with practical and informative advice from some of the most amazing “Late Starters” on the planet.


Ep10 Transcript: Interview with Dr. Philip Merry

October 24, 2022

Andrea Vahl: Have you thought about getting your degree and then life got in the way? Maybe your plans got derailed for getting that master’s or that PhD and you decided it’s too late now? I think you are going to love today’s episode with Dr. Phil Merry, who got his PhD at age 69. We’re gonna talk about why he doesn’t think about age, his views on work, and how he’s going to give back.

Intro: Hello Dreamers. Welcome to the Late Starters Club, giving you the inspiration mindset and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Andrea Vahl: Welcome, Late Starters. I’m your host, Andrea Vahl, and I am so excited to have on my show, Dr. Phil Merry. I am so excited. I met Dr. Phil about seven or eight years ago in Singapore when I was speaking at an event there. He is amazing. He is had a 42-year career. He’s spoken in 63 countries, right? 63 different countries. He talks about leadership, synchronicity, team leadership. He’s a coach, facilitator. He’s written several books contributed to books and most exciting is he just recently got his PhD at the age of, what was it, 71? Is that when you got it?

Philip Merry: At 69.

Andrea Vahl: 69. Yeah. You got your PhD. That’s wonderful. So welcome Dr. Phil.

Philip Merry: Welcome. Very nice to be here. What I like is this is a sharing of what I think got me to where I am now and doing.

A PhD later in life, which I’ve never talked about before. So as an honor to be here on this great show, I love the title of the show.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah, that’s wonderful. And I love some of the things you were sharing before, so I’m excited for this interview. So let’s start with, my question I ask all my guests is, if you could sum up or describe yourself in one sentence, what would that be?

Philip Merry: I thought a lot about this and then I just went intuitively. My answer is, you’ve heard of the phrase, Rebel without a Cause. I describe myself as a rebel with a cause and my cause is helping people connect with the miraculous, and so connecting with the miraculous in my life, I don’t do anything, work with other people that I haven’t done myself.

So rebel with a cause, and the cause is helping you understand where the miraculous is in your life and how to find it.

Andrea Vahl: I love that. I just literally got chills from that. That’s so great. . So great. Awesome. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about why you started this endeavor and what caused you to go back and get your PhD?

At this stage what drew you to that?

Philip Merry: The interesting thing I’ve been in team development and I’ve worked all over the world, but I always follow what comes to me in my life to take me deeper and learn more stuff for me, cuz if I understand what I’m talking about and how it affects me, I’m gonna be a lot more effective in helping other people.

Now the strange thing was that I thought I want a PhD. But I put it on hold. So in, I think 1991, I applied for a PhD, was accepted, but then didn’t take it up because I was busy building the business and working and doing all sorts of stuff. And then what happened to me was that, what year would this be?

Around about 10, 15 years ago, I began to notice, this notion of synchronicity, meaning stuff that somehow you wanted and needed came your way out of the blue. And it happened to me so many times and I thought, What the heck is all that about? And then I talked to other people. They also were interested and had synchronicity happen to them.

And so I said, This is my PhD. And so in 2008 when I would be, gosh, how old was I in 2008? My maths has gone from my head, but I’m 72 now, which is, so in 2008 I would’ve been like, what? 63 64.

Andrea Vahl: I can’t do math this early, I dunno, .

Philip Merry: So in 2008 I went with vigor to say, “Let’s get to the bottom of this synchronicity stuff.”

Now the interesting thing for me, I don’t really think about age, Andrea, so I got responses from people. Which surprised me cuz there’s a, “Wow! You’re, you are 65 and you’re starting a PhD.” As if this was an issue and it just never occurred to me. . So literally we’re so lucky in so many ways With the PhD.

I got David Cooperrider, I don’t know if David Cooperrider number one organizational development guru in the world. He masterminded and invented appreciative inquiry. I got him to be, he offered to be my supervisor, and I had such a wonderful time. And what I found was when I did my synchronicity and leadership PhD at Tilburg University in the Netherlands I became the first person in the world to have a grounded theory PhD in synchronicity and leadership.

And so I guess I like breaking new territory. But the interesting thing for me all the way through this, I’ve never thought about age . I actually got, it took me 10 years to get the PhD because the first university didn’t work out. And I got my masters from them and then I actually switched university.

So it took me longer than it would otherwise have done. But I never thought about giving up. I never thought about, “I’m too old.” Cuz age doesn’t really figure too much in, in how I approach whatever I wanna do. I’m gonna be 73 in December and for me, I’ve got the best work in my life still to come. And I’m very comfortable with that.

Andrea Vahl: That’s, that is wonderful. I just, I love that idea cuz I think there are people who think about retirement and coasting. I think it’s important to still think about what you have to offer and give and how you serve the world and people around you.

And I love that.

Philip Merry: And I think that’s just such an important lesson for everybody. Let me think about it. By the time you are 65, you’ve had fantastic experiences which have made you very wise. So at the age of 65 or thereabouts, you’re ready to do your best work. I was in a coaching session the other day and this guy said, “I’m 42 years old now, so I’m now thinking about retirement.” And I thought, oh my God, , I think society teaches us that’s what it’s about.

And the guy was quite right. That, that’s how it happens in corporate world, but. And say by 65 years old, you are at your wisest and therefore you’re at the point when you’re gonna give your best to the world and to society.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah.

Philip Merry: And so I, I very much believe in that.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah.

Philip Merry: Which is why I love this podcast you have. Cause it really, so it really is so important what you doing.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Thank you. It’s I’m so excited about it and I’m excited to have you as one of our first guests, cuz you’ve got some great mindset shifts for people, I think. And it sounds like you’ve had a great attitude about aging and how you live your whole life.

But if you could go back and tell your younger self something, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Philip Merry: I wrote down cuz you gave me these questions. I just wrote down “Live more boldly.” Now, I think I’ve lived pretty boldly anyway, but I think I wish maybe my younger self would’ve lived more boldly earlier.

. Because I think that’s really what life’s about in the sense for me anyway, is actually becoming who you are and you don’t discover all the possibilities that could open up for you if you don’t take chances and live boldly. So that’s what I’d say to my young self.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah, that’s great.

That’s great. It’s interesting because I think that is something that I hear often is that, people wish they would’ve taken bigger risks, but at the time it feels scary, right? It’s…

Philip Merry: I think that’s true and I think that’s why I love my topic. Synchronicity is about somewhere, somehow things come out of the blue to give you answers to issues in your life, and I think whatever you think that is, and I think there’s some spirituality in that. Some people say that synchronicity is like a nudge from the universe. So in terms of people not living their best lives, because so many of us can either say yes to things that come our way.

Things come to you and you feel, “Yeah, I should take that because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.” And then they say “Yeah, but I’ve got this responsibility and this responsibility.” Nothing wrong with responsibilities, but I think that opportunities come to people and they often turn them down.

And so I’m just remembering now cuz this is live and things are occurring to me. What I always said was, I don’t want to get to my deathbed with serious regrets about things I didn’t do. And I said, I’m gonna try and let that guide me.

I actually, I just remembered that I’d forgotten that, Andrea. And so my my, my message to people is, don’t take crazy risks that put yourself and other people, out of safety. But when these little things come your way in your life to say, This is the way for you, or this is the thing to do, take them because otherwise you regret them later on in your life.

Andrea Vahl: Yep. That is so true. So true. You shared a little bit about the obstacles with getting your PhD, but as you were working on it, what other unexpected obstacles came up that that caused you to maybe wonder if this was still gonna happen.

I don’t know if that, if you just always knew it was going to happen no matter what or what other obstacles came up. Now, you were taking, you were still in Singapore when you were doing this PhD, even though, was it remote or…

Philip Merry: No, Singapore’s my home for 30 years and probably to be the place where I end my life, who knows?

But Singapore is home. And no, I traveled to my first university, which was in the UK. And then some of my second university where I did the full PhD. First university, I did master’s, second university, I did the full PhD that was more online. And basically it depended on my relationship with my supervisor.

So all of that was online. The biggest challenge as I said, was my first university. For various reasons it didn’t work out. And I’m thinking, “Oh my God, my dream has gone.” And I said, I never doubted it for one, one moment. I thought okay. So

Always believing that whatever you need, If you’re on the right path, whatever you need will just turn up and I never for once thought about. Cause I could have said, as some of my friends were saying it didn’t work out and you now are 67, so maybe it’s not meant to work out.

Why don’t you just give up this crazy dream and just live a normal life type of thing. Now that thinking just never crossed my mind. When I left the first university, great university, but it wasn’t where I wanted to be. Came to the next university that really, got me going and I never doubted that I would actually finish up the degree, the PhD and things just fell into place.

So I guess, I’m an optimist. Andrea and I don’t think I’m an optimist that doesn’t see the difficulties cuz I, in, in my team development stuff, I help people understand their personal style. So I’m an optimist, but I look when you’re on a path that, this is what I’m meant to be doing and what I’m doing is a benefit to the world. Age doesn’t really come into it for me.

So maybe I was born with that mindset. I don’t know. I think maybe I got that, some of that from my mum and dad who were very positive, optimistic people. But I racked my brain when you showed me this question, I’m thinking, No, the only issue I had was switching university, and that just seemed to happen outta the blue easily.

Andrea Vahl: So it, it happened, but maybe just, obviously just a little later than you planned, you just kept going, .

Philip Merry: Yeah. Yeah.

Andrea Vahl: I took a little longer.

Philip Merry: Yeah. I was on the path of my dream. Nothing’s gonna stop me doing this no matter how old I am. I people, I often say to myself, One day I’ll grow up. But I hope, oh, I hope not too soon. . And I don’t know whether it’s because I say it that it becomes true. I sometimes feel like I’m 16 years old inside and I look at people who are, I’m 72, 73 in December when I was a kid. If you were 50 years old, you were already over the hill.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah.

Philip Merry: And I have to say, I, I really don’t feel like that. I feel like I’m just living the life I’m supposed to live and age doesn’t really come into it.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. So you mentioned your parents. Who have been some of your greatest influencers and teachers and what have you learned from them along the way?

Philip Merry: I think that I have to say David Cooperrider the man who I’m sure many of your audience will know he is the foremost guy when it comes to appreciative inquiry. He invented appreciative inquiry, which is actually all about looking at the positive side. In terms of what you want to do, appreciate who you are and what you can do, and don’t take no for an answer.

Why I’m mentioning him, there are probably many others. Andrea, in my first university, they had a fairly conservative view about doing a PhD, which was about looking at what other people have done and building on their work. Now, there weren’t many people who had actually studied synchronicity, but when I started working with David, David said to me, “Yes, by all means, look at other people, but I want to inspire the poet in you. And I would like you at the end of this PhD to look on yourself as one of the foremost thought leaders on synchronicity.” He there shifted my mindset about what a PhD should do. A PhD when you do it, and I encourage people to wait later in their life to do a PhD on a topic that they’re really interested in.

It can be done very conservatively in the sense of, again, you just build another people’s research and take it a little bit further. Whereas David said, “Dream Big! You’re bringing something to the world which the world needs and you can be, an important thought leader in that area.” And I hadn’t thought.

So David, I can’t thank David enough in terms of the inspiration he gave me to live a bigger life and not a smaller life.

Andrea Vahl: That’s, That is wonderful. Live a bigger life. I like, I love that. All through your life, it’s. That’s not just…

Philip Merry: Yeah, I guess so.

Andrea Vahl: It’s not just up to 20 and 30 year olds to live a big life.

We can we can live a big life and that can shift. So tell us a little, tell me a little bit about what you’re planning on doing with this PhD. I know you’ve spoken, what was your vision for what that would then launch for you?

Philip Merry: I always want, in my work to focus on things that help organizations, but also help individuals.

And so my vision always was when I found out that this thing called synchronicity happens to many people. But they don’t talk about it. Or they may talk about it quietly at parties with friends, but it’s not central. And that’s because the world is governed by the mindset of Newtonian physics, which says we are separate from each other.

We’re not connected. The world is a great machine, which you can take apart, and it’s all mechanical and linear and logical. Quantum physics came along a hundred years ago and said, We are vibrating balls of energy that are connected with each other, so straight away. That just got me excited in the sense of, I think one of my missions in life is to introduce leaders to the fact that they can get free of all of that stuff.

And a quick story, Andrea, that came to me in a synchronicity. I was in a shopping mall in Singapore having a coffee with my financial manager. And I was chatting to him saying, last week was my 66th birthday.

And. I had a dream last night about being a freedom fighter, so remember 66 Freedom Fighter. I looked to my left and walking through the shopping mall was a man with a T-shirt saying 66 Freedom Fighter.

Andrea Vahl: That’s really wild.

Philip Merry: And I took a photo, I took a photograph. Cause I knew people wouldn’t believe me.

So synchronicity happens where a thought in your own self manifests and what could be more powerful. And so what the synchronicity was that. Now it focuses on age. It gets us clear on age. I was 66 and I just submitted my dissertation. Now 66, 6 in Chinese is luck. So 66 is luck luck.

So I reckon that meant that what I was about was gonna actually be successful in my dissertation. Freedom Fighter took a little bit longer as to what it meant, and this is what we do with synchronicity when things come. Why did that happen? How did that happen? I realized that what I’m about, and this is answering your question, is a long way around to answer your question, , but what I realize is that I’m a freedom fighter to help remove the blocks that stop people in the workplace living their full life in the sense of being able to talk about this stuff that nobody talks about, which is actually bringing the spiritual and the divine into the workplace. It’s there already, but people don’t talk about it because they’re afraid of what people might think. So when I say I’m a rebel with a cause I feel like I’m a freedom fighter helping people really uncover their own reluctance and fear of really showing their true selves.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah,

Philip Merry: So I literally on, on a mission I launched the book, published already Nine Keys of Synchronicity. As already, Nine Keys of Synchronicity.

Andrea Vahl: Nice.

Philip Merry: Already. I’m launching it in December, but I’m launching the masterclass in December. And I’m getting a great deal of interest from North America, so I’m now for the next however long God gives me, I’m now traveling the world, sharing this story of, live your fullest life because the universe is there to help you with these out of the blue synchronicities that if you open your heart and mind to them, let them in. You live more miraculously.

Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. That’s awesome.

Philip Merry: So that’s my mission statement.

Andrea Vahl: That is a beautiful mission. I can see why it keeps you going and has so much excitement around it, cuz it’s definitely a needed message out there.

For sure.

Philip Merry: So that’s, and that all comes in a situation where I don’t really think about the age. I mention it because people will, wonder why I’m doing this where I am at the moment. And it really, it comes back to this thing, which is why I think your Late Starters Club is fantastic, Andrea, because it brings this notion that when we are in our sixties and seventies, we’re at our wisest, and therefore, how are we gonna spend this wisdom to be a benefit to other people.


Andrea Vahl: Yep. For sure. And I, yeah, that’s, I love it. Love it. . So I forgot to ask if you had, you just told us a great story about how a pivotal moment in realizing what this was all about for you. What this purpose was. Is there something else that you were gonna share around…

Philip Merry: Yes, there’s a story I want to share, which is a synchronicity story, which is one of the most amazing synchronicity stories. I used to appear on Singapore TV. And a program at seven in the morning called Views on the News.

And so they brought us in at six in the morning to give us the stories for that day. And so then we’d be live at seven o’clock on TV giving our views like they’d say to me, “So Philip, who’s a greater threat to World Peace Obama or Putin?”, I literally had that question happening now one day. Got up at five in the morning ready to go to the TV show.

And I looked down at my phone and there on my phone it says, Message from your father. And I looked twice because my father had died a year before. And it was a message from a professional psychic, good friend of mine in the States who said “Phil, your dad’s been bothering me to get a message to you.” And I read this email and it’s, and she actually literally gave the words that she downloaded as a psychic that my dad has said.

“Son, I’m doing well. I’m okay where I am. We do a lot of dancing where I am and I’m very happy. I like the work you’re doing on the television box. You’re gonna be doing more of this.” Now, I’m about to appear on tv. Television box was our parents’ way of talking about tv. They didn’t call it tv.

They called it the television box because it was a box. So that authenticated to me that this was a genuine message from Dad. Now, it still amazes me as I tell this story and at the time as well, because think about it, I’m about to appear on tv. My dad who’d passed away a year before knew exactly what I was about to do, and somehow the Divine had arranged it so that I get that message an hour before I’m about to go on tv.

So it says, Don’t worry about death. Your loved ones go on, but they are still in contact with you somehow. They can still see you. And it gave me such a sense of peace and reassurance and still does in the sense of, death is just a word because actually your loved ones pass to another domain, but somehow they still know and can understand what it is that you are doing.

So that’s the story that somehow, there are many stories I could have told, but that’s the story that I think somehow somebody in your audience needs to hear that story.

I, my, I have got goosebumps. That is amazing cuz clearly knowing that language television box, most people don’t call it something like that.

And so I’m also guided to say something, Sorry to Andrea.

Andrea Vahl: No.

Philip Merry: There is somebody in your audience who’s grieving over a loved one. I can feel that. And I just want to say grieving is there’s no way around it, but I’d like to just say in the bigger perspective, they just moved to another realm where somehow that story tells me they’re still in, in touch with you.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. And I I love all the dancing. I am a big fan. I’m. I’m ready. I love dancing, so there we go. I’m glad to hear about that.

Yeah. It was so that was the story that kinda,

Philip Merry: And there are many others that could have shared obviously, but

Andrea Vahl: yeah, that, that is just wonderful. Wow. That is just, yeah, definitely gives me chills for sure. What a great way to go into that. Interview with it on tv for sure. Perfect timing. Yeah. Oh yeah. So great. So we’re we’re just about to wrap it up. I would love to hear one of your favorite quotes. This is, I love quotes and I love to hear new quotes.

I love quotes that inspire people who are doing amazing things such as yourself. So I would love to hear your, one of your favorite quotes.

Philip Merry: Synchronicity. Out, out of the blue events suddenly coming your way that help you with issues that you are facing. And so my favorite quote can I do two quotes?

Andrea Vahl: Yeah, you can. Yeah. Yeah.

Philip Merry: Okay. , and these are on the, these are on the front of my book and they’re original quotes, which I wanna share. The first one is “Open the doors to possibilities. That are all around you hidden in plain view.” “Open the door to possibilities that are all around you hidden in plain view.”

We often, when we’re looking for solutions, go all over the place and actually they’re in front of us. That’s the first quote.

And then the second quote, why I believe synchronicity is so important because “Behind every synchronicity. Is a miracle waiting to happen.” So in your day when you are prompted, if you meet somebody or your heart tells you, “Go this way, not this way”, don’t ignore it, because that’s a synchronicity knocking at your door and behind that synchronicity is a miracle that’s gonna open its way for you to lead that sort of life that you’ve been longing to lead.

Andrea Vahl: That’s beautiful. And this is the message I needed to hear today. So thank you so much for sharing that with me, with the listeners.

I am so excited to reconnect with you after so many years and I love the work you’re doing and the inspiration you are giving to the world, really. So thank you.

Philip Merry: Listen, I enjoyed so much Andrea, because you’re a great interviewer. This clearly Late Starters Club is inspirational in the name itself, and this is gonna help so many people.

So if I’ve played some little part in doing that, it’s because you started this club and it’s because you set an atmosphere. Where I felt just very comfortable. It’s like I’m talking to an old friend, which I am. Yeah. But great style of interviewing Andrea and I really appreciate that. Thank you.

Andrea Vahl: Oh, thank you so much. Thank you so much. And Dr. Phil, tell us where people can find you. We will have all these links in the comments, but I’d love to have you just share.

Philip Merry: Very simple. You can see my name here, but it’s Philip with one “l”. That’s my website. You’ll see the synchronicity book there and all the other work that I do.

And by the way, if any of your listeners have synchronicity stories they wanna share with me, please do I’m very happy to be in touch with people and talk to them if they’re interested about what their synchronicity.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. That’s so great. Thank you again, Dr. Phil, and thank you listeners, and hopefully this was as inspirational as it was to you, as it was to me,

So thank you

Philip Merry: To me. Thank you.

Outro: Hope that was helpful. And make sure you grab the free guide, Top Tools for Late Starters on the website at, and let’s turn dreaming into doing.

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Late Starters Club Podcast
Late Starters Club Podcast

This is the place for inspiration, motivation, and mindset resets. You will walk away ready to take action with practical and informative advice from some of the most amazing “Late Starters” on the planet.

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