The confession of a former pain in the ass.

December 8, 2015

Things really get on top of me sometimes and the truth is, regardless of how much I try to deny it, I worry about upsetting people and I worry about how what I do affects people.

But, I’m also someone who makes decisions quickly and who has no trouble being frank, open and honest, even when being honest can mean things are very hard to say, or very hard to hear.

When I was younger, my moods were bad. I mean real bad – I was a nightmare to be around when I was in a bad mood, in fact I believe that this was a symptom of / contributing factor to the burnout I had in 2012, overlaid with a layer of low self-esteem that made a bad day into a terrible day.

Looking back, I had the low lows and the high highs – from the outside this is something that could have been interpreted as a sign of mild depression and as I think about it, that could very well have been the case.

You know the story, when I came back from my 2012 burnout I resolved to work less and make myself more impactful in all areas of my life but a curious by-product of this, that I’m only just starting to appreciate, is that I’m now much more aware of my mood and as such, I can counter a bad mood whilst thankfully, turning it into a great mood.

The very curious thing about this realisation is that it crept up on me. I didn’t set out to achieve this and I’m almost surprised that I’ve recognised this change in behaviour so recently when, in actual fact, my mood seems to have a direct correlation with my overall peace; something that has been so much better since I took control and overcame my burnout in 2012.

However, one of the challenges that comes from being a former pain in the ass is changing the reputation that being a pain in the ass can leave you with.

Only last week I was working on a very tight deadline and, having worked late the night before to help this along and chat through things with the client, I was having a fantastic day of extremely focused working with one of our superb web developers at HACKSAW™.

At around 4:40pm, 20 minutes before a very important call I had scheduled, we were faced with needing to make a change in an online system that would ensure the website went live on schedule.

At that point, I realised that unbeknownst to me, the password for the system I needed access to had been changed by someone in the team. With a very, very small window to get this done, I grabbed our Technical Director, Daniel Maw, from mid-way in a casual chat with someone else in the studio, as he was the one with the new password.

Sensing the urgency, Dan helped out and things were made live – the client was over the moon and all was well with the world.

But something startled me: Dan mistook my urgency for me being in a bad mood and that was my fault: a symptom and misconception that was there because I’m a former pain in the ass, whilst also being very results oriented and very direct in my approach to moving things forward.

I really thought about this later that day and came to the conclusion that despite being 95% chilled and relaxed every day, people still assume that my default state under pressure is to revert to being a pain in the ass; to being in a bad mood.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact I’m working on more than I have ever done right now, with much more significant results, but spending much less time working.

The lesson: you can change your spots – but you need help

The reason I decided to write this post is because I know from interviewing so many entrepreneurs on my podcast that this is not something that is unique to me.

Regardless of whether your “default perception” is that of reverting to a bad mood or whether you have some other behaviour that people associate with you, that you know you need to work on, there are steps you can take to change that whilst assuring others that you’re working towards something new.

In my opinion, the first step towards this is declaration of your intent.

Accountability is a key factor in any change or habit formation process and a declaration of intent provides a stake in the ground that you have to respect, work towards and measure against.

Without a declaration, the way that you approach this change is with an air of flexibility and flexibility only serves to make your change more malleable, allowing you to easily let excuses to creep in.

A declaration of intent is a surefire way of exposing yourself to being held accountable, measurable and ultimately, successful.

The next challenge you’re likely to face is that of avoiding your “default behaviour”.

For example, my default behaviour when faced with someone calling me out on being in a bad mood (my pre-transformation state), is to hit them with a bout of sarcasm in order to “score a point”.

I’ll be honest, I’m a fan of dry sarcastic humour but using this to score points is not a good use of quick wit. I learned this years ago and constantly fight against this, my default behaviour, having overcome it successfully.

The problem is however, that when you’re tired or under pressure, it is very easy to slip back into that comfort zone and allow your default behaviour to take over. This often results in guilt, feelings of remorse and counting the event as a “relapse”.

The only way that I have personally found to overcome this default behaviour auto-pilot is to give yourself space. When you feel this behaviour creeping in, it is vital to remove yourself from the situation even for the shortest of periods, to allow yourself the chance to “recalibrate” to your intended new behavioural state.

These two small tactics are without a doubt very effective and by allowing people around you in to this process, you can begin to shift your behaviour from that which you realise isn’t helping your journey to success, to that which you know will change your life for the better.

Nothing in this entrepreneurial life is a sprint, your own personal development is no different so be firm but fair on yourself.

That old saying about old dogs and new tricks? Well, I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you.

Don’t forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel.

Mark Asquith

That British podcast guy, Mark is co-founder of, the world's only growth-oriented podcast host. A Harvard, TEDx, Podcast Movement and Podfest speaker (amongst many more!), he's a wildly approachable Brit and Star Wars/DC Comics geek.

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