This Little Thing Inside

Everyone’s afraid. Not everyone lets it stop them.

No Fear No Career Gaping Void

The best business people, artists, etc., live in that uncomfortable space of never feeling quite good enough.

They know that the biggest rewards lie in the things that terrify us.

Everyone’s afraid. Not everyone lets it stop them.

The above picture and words appear courtesy of the lovely people at gapingvoid. Thanks for the permission to reproduce them here.

One Day At A Conference…

I spent a day last week in some lovely company at Workplace Trends 2014. In the middle of the conference – the first ever Workstock popped up. Workstock 2014 was a series of pecha kucha stories – each only just over 6 minutes long, bound together by a series of even shorter tales, written by someone thousands of miles from the event, who had never met any of the speakers. Confused? I don’t blame you – so maybe hop over to Neil Usher’s blog or Richard Byatt’s and get a feel for what when on at the event. 

Creativity Constrained

I’m a fan of the pecha kucha format – 20 slides, each on the screen for 20 seconds – 6 minutes and 40 seconds to tell your story. Constrained by the timescale, your creativity is driven to the fore. The format doesn’t appreciate umming and aahing, you need to be on your game, and you have to be prepared. PK is just not a format that tolerates winging it. And it’s hell on your nerves.

Nearly my turn. I stood at the side of the stage, nervously waiting as my short story was read out loud. Words I’d not heard before now – but somehow strangely familiar. Truthfully I struggled to take them all in as my heart pumped, blood thumped, nerves jumped. It’s only natural to be a little scared. This little thing inside.

I was nervous for three reasons. One – the PK players that went before me were excellent. Despite the constraining format everyone had breathed their own life into their tale. Two – I could sense that everyone in this group of 11 storytellers was on edge, I think we were subconsciously fuelling each other. Three – I was planning to do something for the first time – a PK mix of slides, live music and live drawing. Why make life difficult when you can make it even harder?

Feel The Fear – And Do It Anyway

Time to go. I can’t quite recall what happened next – I just fell into the performance and blended a rehearsed sequence of thoughts with adrenaline, and a wonderful sense of support from the people in the room.

Pecha Kucha Clash City Rockers

photo c/o Rose Haslem

I rattled, buzzed and hummed, and I was done. My final words as I left the stage – ‘Thank f*ck that’s over’. This little thing inside – subsided again. As I sat down – a lovely lady handed me a piece of paper:

Workstock Appraisal

This sheet of A4 instantly and forever became the best appraisal I’ve ever had. Timely, encouraging and to the point. Thank you. I enjoyed as much of the rest of Workstock as my gratefully slowing heart would allow me, and the day went on. We were all filmed so I look forward to reliving the whole thing again soon in a slightly more relaxed state.

Since Workstock I have been bowled over by the reaction to it, both as a complete performance,

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and to my contribution.

Speak To My Soul

Currently I am struggling, at times I find it hard to process why my work, particularly the work I’ve done in recent months, has provoked such strong reactions in the people around me. I am both excited and scared by what is going on. This little thing inside.


A bit like how the hotel staff gently slide the express checkout envelope under your room door, its arrival barely detected, so I’ve gently snuck this little thing inside into a few recent conversations. And it turns out that most people I speak with about this feel similarly, to a lesser or greater extent.


Does this make you or me me feel any better? I’m not sure – I suppose a doubt shared is a doubt halved. It certainly won’t make the little thing inside go away, which on reflection is a good thing. As I am finding out – when we feel the fear, and do it anyway, we are making a difference.

The best business people, artists, etc., live in that uncomfortable space of never feeling quite good enough.

They know that the biggest rewards lie in the things that terrify us.

Everyone’s afraid. Not everyone lets it stop them.

Not good enough. Says who?

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

7 thoughts on “This Little Thing Inside”

  1. Truly outstanding post, Doug. It made me think of one of my favorite gapingvoid drawings that reads: “Only talented people fret about mediocrity.”

    Your work provokes strong reactions because it resonates with people on a very unshielded human level.

  2. Doug, it was such an honour to be there. Isn’t it funny how in less than 7 minutes people can put across so much more than with 20? The essence of it for me is that you can tell that people CARE about what they are doing.

    I always have that little thing inside. My husband calls it ‘flapping’. It comes on usually about 3-4 days before an event, and whilst sometimes there’s a dissipation leading up to the allotted time, I’m always terrified. I think it makes me better at what I do. I’m certainly proud to have never delivered the same talk twice, though many other people think I’m mad!

    When I was a postgraduate at university, one of my mature student friends landed the job of admissions tutor. She told me at the time she was just waiting for someone to catch her out, point out that giving her the job was a mistake. I think many of us feel that way, that we’re only here by some kind of accident, and are duty bound to therefore give it our best shot, every time.

    1. Thanks Su. It’s interesting what you say about dealing with the fear and uncertainty – I’m certainly not a fan of people who try and convince others to ‘conquer your fear’, as like you I think a degree of uncertainty helps us to be better. And I think your student friend shared something that a lot of us feel too.

  3. Doug you not only create conversation and change when you present, you capture it so well in your blogs. It was a privilege to see you at Workplace trends doing things that some of us just dream about.

    You really are a #LeadingLight that we can learn from. Hope you don’t mind me sharing the link to the interview we did – I’m sure everyone who reads your blog would love to know more about you!

    1. Thanks Katherine. It was lovely to see you too – and I appreciate the feedback and support. I think there is more to all of us than meets the eye, and a genuine reason why I put myself up for a challenge is the hope and belief that someone in that audience will see what is going on and think – yes, I can do something a little different too. Small things can make big differences. Thanks for sharing the link.

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