Overwhelm, Underwhelm and Not Giving a £*?@


Overwhelm, Underwhelm and Not Giving a F*?@

When there’s too much to do.

    Not that I feel like writing today, but you can see that I’ve somehow managed to begin.  I’ve written previously about tricking oneself into action and it seems that Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*?@, may agree.  It’s a book I’ve read a few times, what prompted me to flick through his reams of wisdom today I’m not sure; possibly kismet?

‘Don’t just sit there.  Do something.  The answers will follow…Action isn’t just the effect of motivation , it’s also the cause of it.’

    Over time I‘ve realised this, not through reading books about being more productive or books on the paralysis of overthinking, but verified via tried and tested thought experiments. Thinking and acting can occur simultaneously, results are usually variable but surpass the benefits of inertia. 

    Overwhelm is mentioned frequently at work; for frontline staff the reality of demand management can be a stressful experience.  A head full (and handful) of tasks can all feel equally important.  Sometimes I’m much busier in my head than in reality, the art is to notice what’s real and what’s blown up.  I’m reasonably good at getting things done and solving problems only because it’s where I choose to focus my attention.   There are plenty of tasks I’m mediocre at, or quite frankly disinterested in.  I’d like to write fiction and yet my ability to write creatively is directly linked to the time I spend inventing stories — arguably it’s another experiment for another day.

‘Happiness comes from solving problems.  The key word here is ‘solving.’  If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems then you’re going to make yourself miserable.  If you feel like you have problems you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable.  The secret and source is in the solving of problems, not in not having the problems in the first place.’

    Clearly the concept of freewill applies here, we get to choose which problems we want to solve when, even if we don’t believe this, we choose nevertheless.  And how effective we are is determined by how much time and energy we apply to any aspect of work or life.  Much of Manson’s book explores the paradox of being human.   The more we are preoccupied with the overwhelming nature of what is ahead of us, the less inclined we are to set about planning, problem solving, working our way out of our current scenario.    There’s an NLP technique that can help.  Visualise yourself dealing with whatever problem you’re grappling with, the protagonist of your own movie or novel, what would you have them do if you were writing the scene? Play it through using different plot  endings.   When you have the answer that feels right – go do that.

‘Whether you realise it or not you are always choosing what to give a f*?@ about.’

    Choosing badly can become a self-limiting strategy, therefore the ‘do something principle’ can include a number of other associated skills according to Manson;

  • Commitment
  • Saying no
  • Setting boundaries
  • Building trust
  • Making choices 
  • Managing expectations
  • Accepting failure as learning

    My own strategy might involve all of the above, but it most definitely involves making a to-do list.   I get to choose the non-negotiable components of the list for that day, month, year or years.  With consideration these might change, it’s a conscious process and will certainly involve a period of reflection and consultation with those affected.   The key is in the title, TO-DO.  Even a To-Be list involves doing something differently – I might choose to be kinder.  There are people who may disagree with the following quote, believers in the path of least resistance.  And yet, therein lies the paradox of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: 

‘To become truly great at something you have to dedicate shit-tons of time and energy to it…Who you are is defined by what you are willing to struggle for.’

                                                                                                  Mark Manson

Manson, Mark (2016)  The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck   A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.  Harper Collins.

*All quotes by Mark Manson.


Finding Your Voice – Writing Your Way Out Of It by DBC Pierre

For Prisoners Everywhere

Which also means Us 

DBC Pierre 2016

    This blog was going to be about writing. To be exact, what DBC Pierre has to say in his book Release the Bats – Writing Your Way Out Of It.  I’ve read the book numerous times, and the more I read, the more I notice how his wisdom can be applied to almost any venture; but something of interest to me is the act of  finding your voice.

‘I started to write.  It wasn’t a lifelong wish.  I didn’t train for it, didn’t know any writers, editors or publishers.  I just had a strong feeling with nowhere to go… Thankfully it’s a knack you can practise over time.’

‘The Gods of writing weren’t waiting for another impeccable tomb from some learned technician, they were waiting for a shout from the rooftops.  For mine and for yours.’

    The issue of finding your voice comes up regularly in management and leadership, as does the art of active listening.  It seems that one’s voice needs to be heard by people willing to listen.  Like the writing of a Booker award winning novel, it’s a grind: an  artful, stoical and delusional journey demanding fortitude.

‘My feeling was that shout and by isolating it, wrestling it, and building it a cage, I was harnessing the only thing I had to give.  I couldn’t compete with theory or craft, the shout was all I had.  But take note if you mean to write: it was enough.’

    I was inspired to write recently, by Dr Matt Morgan, he’d written a patient story, one of many that had meaning for him.  And yet there are so many humbling experiences to honour.  The children who took their last breath because science wasn’t enough, the children that lived because science won, the children that lived against all the odds; the child that woke up on intensive care and ate six Weetabix in the middle of the night, the teenager who refused to enter the MRI unless I held onto his foot talking him through it, the children who legged it into the lifts causing dignified scuffles around the hospital: as a student, the old man who gave me a pound for looking after him, his crumpled face on its return.  Along with the people who shared these experiences with us, all these people live in our hearts.

    There are two requirements of writing according to DBC Pierre:

  • Something to say
  • Patience to write it  

    Pierre began by writing a page in anger and found he liked it, all it needed was a spark  doused with rocket fuel to keep pushing through. How will you find your voice?


Release The Bats, Writing Your Way Out of It (2016) DBC Pierre, Faber and Faber.

Vernon God Little (2005) DBC Pierre, Faber and Faber

The Call To Adventure 


    Today, typically, I’m writing at a coffee shop, it’s noisy and full of chattering people, there’s an extra buzz belonging to the bank holiday – who doesn’t relish a four day week?  I’ve been churning over something I want to say;  the noise is distracting, I’m arguing with myself, can I write or not, are the conditions good or bad?  Being human I can find a downpour of excuses not to start regardless of reasons to be begin. I’ve started writing anyway. The Procrastination Monkey hangs his head refusing to make eye contact and is swiftly replaced by Perfectionist Monkey  – now you’ve started you’d better make this good, she grins and squeals with mischievous delight;  I choose not to be distracted by my monkey brain, it’s difficult.   Thoughts are formless, we apply meaning to them – or not; I tell them to shut up, a trick I learned, from Richard Bandler.

    I wonder how many times I tell myself that I can’t do something when  I probably can?   It’s a personal call to adventure, I know this from a man called Steve who lives in Arizona, Steve Hardison – The Ultimate Coach.  Steve has a thing about commitment, it’s serious, he’s serious.  You’d think he invented commitment, not just the word, the act.  I asked him once, ‘How do you know what to commit to?’  His swift and concrete reply, ‘You Choose.’   Oh hell, it’s all on me, no excuses.  There are days I wish it weren’t.

Studying creative writing I stumbled upon Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, The Hero’s Journey, more recently modified by Christopher Vogler (1998). The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers.   It’s an essential read for anyone interested in mythology but also personal transformation.  Workforce advisors  tell me that people can’t change, fundamentally they are who they are, you might be able to change their behaviours but not the person, officially people don’t change.  Therein lies the nugget, the insight the ‘old chestnut.’  

    In organisational terms, change is something that can be externally applied, the same truth applies to individuals, we can change peoples’ behaviour by applying a set of principles or rules of engagement, and we uphold these rules or principles usually through policies and procedures – the primary business as usual management methodology.  Transformation, on the other hand, is a process of change from within, true of organisations and people.   Transformation is not a process of learning but one of realisation.  It has a deeper, more sustainable feel about it.  Our role is merely to provide the conditions necessary to catalyse  this deeper more transformative change either in ourselves, our teams or organisations.  

The transformation journey is a call to adventure.  Many, understandably, refuse the call.  Nevertheless, for those who have the courage to set out on this journey, the path is paved with necessary obstacles, some real others illusionary; this journey can often involve a process of letting go – of something familiar, comfortable or predictable.  It’s a very personal experience, and whilst nobody can make the journey for us there will always be mentors, allies and providence to help you along the way.

    ‘We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’

                                                                 Jospeh Campbell

Vogler, Christopher (1998) The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers.

Is Fear the Death of Creativity?

Editing A Blank Page

I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been learning to write fiction. Who’d have thought learning to write fiction could be as difficult as learning any other new skill? On some days it’s been rather a slog, and it feels more difficult than it should. As Gene Fowler once said:

    ‘Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.’

It occurred to me more than once, as with any other endeavour, it is the fear of failure that is more likely to grind us to a halt. I learned from the masters, that it is better to write poorly than not write at all.  After all, as Jodi Picoult once said, ‘you can’t edit a blank page.’ 

An Inconvenient Truth

Notes On Nursing A Blog by Paula Goode

Paula Goode is a Coach, Author and Healthcare Transformation Specialist. Founder of The Coach Hub at Goodeinsight Ltd (goodeinsight.co.uk)

Opening the book by Steven Pinker – The Sense of Style. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, there is a sense of impending discomfort. There won’t be any escape in this attempt to become a better writer. Taking a deep breath the reading progresses.

The opening chapter hints that all might not be lost:

‘“Education is an admirable thing”, wrote Oscar Wilde, “but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.””

Does Pinker believe this an untruth? He describes the character and skills of a good writer, it doesn’t sound like me but there’s hope.

“I would not have written this book if I did not believe, contra Wilde, that many principles of style really can be taught. But the starting point for becoming a good writer is to be a good reader.”

There are writers everywhere, some who can’t start, some who started and became stuck and some who just can’t stop writing. What makes a great writer, a popular writer?   Who knows, maybe Pinker might just tell me. There’s a theme building, as a coach I seem to be able to inspire other people to at least write, should they hanker to be an author.

It would seem ever more apparent that there is a common denominator, it isn’t unique to writing. The unconscious and conscious scripts that act out in our minds. What we say to ourselves, the conclusions we artfully craft to explain what holds us back, that which keeps us stuck.

Our state of mind creates our experience of the world. It’s nothing new, we know this really but it’s an inconvenient truth. Inconvenient because it is we that script the experiences that we may not wish to own.

Conveniently even a glimpse of this insight can change our lives. Even just one thought…

 Paula Goode is the author of Notes on Nursing a Thought


Ref: Pinker S (2014) The Sense of Style. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Allen Lane, London.