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Episode 84 | HEADSPACE

A great quote which kinda represents what I’ll be talking about today comes from former professional American football player John Riggins, who said

“When things are going awry, it's time to put the blinders on and do your job. Just do your job. Don't worry about the other guy, don't worry about the wins and losses, just worry about what the very next play is.”

Today I’m doing a kind of update episode as it’s been 6 months since the last show was released, but as I would literally bore myself and I am sure all of you if I was simply to say what I’ve been up to this last few months. Instead, based on what I’ve been through recently, I will talk more generally about headspace and how being in the wrong frame of mind can destroy your plans and hopes if you don’t get a handle on it.

Michael Arndt is an American screenwriter who wrote Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3 and The Force Awakens. He says that

“Every problem offers an opportunity for a solution; if you are in the right frame of mind to find it.”

And if we accept that as a truth, means that if we are not in the right frame of mind, then we will never find solutions, or at best we will find an second rate or incomplete one.

My year so far has not only failed to go according to plan but in some ways it has been a complete nightmare. Coming off the back of the year that shall not be named, cough cough 2020, meant that I was not exactly rolling in dosh but I had hopes for a better year ahead and went all out to make it happen. This was helped by the 10 days I got on an amazing gig at the end of the year directing fights on a feature starring James McAvoy. I also got a couple of days on season 2 of Guilt which is a really terrific show that’s shot here in Scotland.

For those of you not in the know, I work as a full time professional fight director, choreographing fight scenes for film, tv and theatre. That’s how I pay my bills. I occasionally direct stuff but that work doesn’t come my way too often, and to be frank, since I’d burned my fingers badly on a couple of directing jobs in 2019 I’d given it a wide berth. My fitness was good at the end of last year too as although I’d been missing out on my swimming due to the lock down restrictions I had taken up DDP Yoga in its place. That I shall cover in another episode because it’s really rather good. So by the start of this year I had a Best Year Yet strategy in place and had high hopes for 2021.


On December the 12th I’d bought a second hand car with the money I’d made from the James McAvoy gig. My old car was giving me real trouble and I felt that in order to keep working reliably I needed a slightly newer car, with a few less miles. So I wasn’t loaded but I bought another car with pretty much all the money I’d just earned as I have to be able to reliably turn up, if and when work becomes available. You just can’t get to film jobs by public transport. If I’m called to a field in Fife for 8am in the morning I need a car to get there and I need a car to carry my gear. It’s just the way it is. So after looking about I bought a car from a car dealership so that it was covered by what is known as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which meant that if I had any issues with the car within the first 30 days I could have them remedied by the dealership or without quibble ask for my money back. If I’d bought it privately I’d have had no rights. Can you see where this is going?

The car was a disaster. The exhaust fell off 6 days after I bought it, and I could not get hold of the salesman. After paying for that repair myself. The car broke down altogether on Boxing Day after the engine overheated to the point where the engine cover that keeps it clean, melted into it. I needn’t go into too much detail from then on in, but in effect I asked for a refund but the guy that ran the business had left the country and I worked with Consumer Rights Scotland to resolve the issue which took 2 months during which the guy refused to play ball, and eventually I had to take the car dealership to court which will only initially be heard now on the 15th July. So I’ve had 6 months of hell and it really brought me down. Not only did it devastate my finances which off the back of 2020 had already been decimated but spending 6 months interacting with a sociopath was incredibly destructive to my mental and physical health too. All that time and even now I pay tax and insurance on a car that I can neither drive nor sell. It’s not been fun.

I’d imagine that I’m not the only one who has suffered from a series of unfortunate events like this. I think that the reality is, if you work in the creative industries, that somewhere along the way real life problems will intersect with our professional lives and shatter the vital work life balance which we find ourselves having to steady.

You see, although this sh*tstorm still hangs over me, here I am. I’m recording this episode which is a bit of an achievement in itself, I’ve finally got new plans in place and I’ve taken action to counter all of the bad luck that has rained down upon me.

Your karma should be good, and everything else will follow. Your good karma will always win over your bad luck. Rohit Shetty

The problems I have been dealing with stemmed from perhaps 3 or 4 specific areas.

1. Bad luck

2. Financial difficulty

3. Dealing with a sociopath

4. The resultant poor headspace

Luck, whether we like it or not, comes into play in much of what we do. Sometimes things go our way and sometimes they don’t. I try not to get too focussed on it as it’s not something that can be controlled but it definitely comes into play. Sometimes a run of bad luck can really impact on our ability to motivate ourselves and our ability to overcome other obstacles. The reality is though that all of us have bad luck and good luck but the one who persists through the bad luck - who keeps right on going - is the one who is there when the good luck comes - and is ready to receive it. I’m bastardising someone else’s quote there but it’s worth bearing in mind.

The second issue of financial instability was much harder to overcome. Although I did have a few gigs this year and they were on high profile shows and films, I’ve not worked more than 2 days per month this year so it’s been really pretty atrocious. Luckily I was able to get a hardship grant from the Film and Television Charity here in the UK and it really saved my ass. It didn’t make me rich but I didn’t lose my house and I could eat. Applying for grants such as that one are not in my makeup btw, but I just had to get over my own squeamishness about asking for help. Without that financial aid I’d have been right royally fucked. Besides that grant I wasted a helluva a lot of time attempting to sell - well anything that wasn’t nailed down frankly - on Ebay and Facebook groups and that I can tell you is a time consuming minefield. But all things said and done and still with literally no work on the horizon as I record this, I feel it’s been not too bad. The greatest stressor in fact has been that throughout this time I’ve had to pour more and more money into the bloody car I got scammed on. Taking someone to court isn’t cheap and this guy did everything in his power to draw the process out and cost me money. I’m now into the car for getting on twice what I paid for it.

So that brings me to Dealing with a sociopath. Regular listeners will know that I recommend cutting people like this off and moving on, but when that person is tied to you financially, say through a business deal like this, cutting them off is not an option. I mean it would be if it wasn’t for the financial situation I find myself in. Of course the other reason I don’t want to write it off as this guy has made my life hell and I ain’t giving him a free pass for the misery he’s put me through.

Sociopaths are people who demonstrate a pattern of disregard for others, especially in terms of their rights and feelings. It is estimated that one in every 25 people is a sociopath. With such a high percentage of people considered to be sociopaths, it is likely that you have encountered at least one person with sociopathic personality at some time in your life.

Typically they are recognised by their deceitfulness, consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to honour financial obligations and their lack of empathy and remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

I’ve been dealing with this guy for 6 months and he hasn’t apologised once that I can remember. That in itself has aggravated me more than I can say. Reason doesn’t work with sociopaths. Nor does the presentation of facts and evidence. A sociopath, when faced with truth will simply ignore it. They will not respond at all or they will talk about something else. Another thing they will do is blow up in anger when their strategies to throw you off fail to work. They will, in short, try any tactic at all as they have no feelings or empathy towards others and they are inherently deceitful. This is going to court now as the guy also refused 3rd party mediation. That was my one hope of resolving this sooner, and it failed as he simply refused. I really have been through hell with all this. I came to really hate this person, and I really don’t use the word hate all too often about people.

As a result of having to deal with a sociopath who has a hand in my finances I’ve been unable to focus on my own plans for 6 months. I have also felt bereft of passion and drive and creativity. There’s not been an episode for 6 months not only as I was taking the year off, present episodes excluded, but because I was losing the will to live dealing with a nutcase.

I allowed it to control me. And that is what brings me now to HEADSPACE.

My headspace was a mess. I wasn’t completely losing it but many of my waking thoughts at times and frankly many nights of lost sleep came about as a result of the headspace which I found myself in. This bad luck, this financial nightmare and the actions of this one sociopath were destroying my frame of mind. I mean I was still getting day to day things done, I’d been able to borrow a car from my brother for example, after only losing one job as a result of having no transport, and I did work towards more positive things but always underlying every day and every night I had an anger burning in me that I couldn’t control. I was speaking on the phone recently to Stevie from Scare Scotland and I really got angry because he told me that even if I win this case, which I will, I will still have to send bailiffs out to get the money at my own expense. After wading through shit and preparing evidence which amounts to some 40 pages, it really wasn’t what I wanted to hear. A neighbour moaned to me about the car that’s been taking up space for 6 months outside my house and although I controlled my temper I was absolutely furious as he knew my situation and that the car didn’t work. This anger was there bubbling under the surface and it had me, for a full 5 months of this year at least, as its slave.

One day I saw a quote which said something like “Any time you allow someone to have a negative influence over the way you think, feel, or behave, you give them power over you.” And although I could not immediately get my head to fully process it at the time, that is the thing which eventually allowed me to break free. I said it earlier. I hated this guy. That hate came from Anger. Anger at my bad luck with cars, frustration with the lack of work and regular income which could have helped me to extricate myself from the situation, and most of all anger at the bastard who’d put me through all this. Dealing with this prick was like continuously banging your head off a brick wall. It got so bad that I cracked a tooth gritting my teeth on one occasion. I eventually realised what it was doing to me, and I finally regained control. I don’t mean I got control of that situation, it’s ongoing, but I got control of my life back.

As I was researching this episode I came across a short article on anger management online dot com. It talks about just this problem and points out that:

· Giving away your power leads to helplessness. You become a victim of your circumstances. You become the passenger in your life rather than the driver.

I’m not the sort of guy that is happy to be a passenger. I am not the sort of guy who is content to be a slave to someone else’s manipulation. Most of all I am not a victim. I hate victim mentality and I’ll talk about that in a later episode. I really feel that victim mentality is becoming a bit of an epidemic right now and it needs to be brought under control.

Some of you may be amused that one of the last episodes I put out actually covered this sort of topic but believe you me it was harder than hell to overcome. Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius said You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. Unquote – I knew this well but as the months went on this year and I found my time and energy getting sucked further and further into this nightmare I found it more and more difficult to look coldly upon it.

Today though is a different matter - I am back in control. I am far more stoic about the whole affair as I simply couldn’t let it control my life any further. Another quote from, the last episode helped me to stabilise.

Epictetus said

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”

I have chosen to move forward before the matter with the car is settled. It’s not neat and tidy as I like things but I’ve packed it away in a file in my head marked pending. I’ve submitted my evidence to the court, and I’ve stopped all communications with the sociopath. To me he is a known entity. He will do everything in his power to cause me bother, so I will move forward expecting that.

At the start of the year I wrote my Best Year Yet plan and part of that was to take massive imperfect action – it was a plan as I say that has fallen by the wayside this past few months. Last month though, with that paradigm in mind, I committed to something big. Despite having really little or no income to speak of right now I have taken a one year lease on a new office space. I’ve cleared my office out of the spare room at home and moved it to a building not too far from Glasgow Airport. I am recording this from that very office. I did this as my girlfriend and her daughter will be moving in with me August. It was one of the major tasks I had set up in my Best year Yet plan. It has been achieved. Their moving in in August will be a second part of my plan that has been achieved. I can’t say I’m back on schedule to achieve al my goals, I’m not, but I am moving in the right direction and I can honestly say that I am back in control.

Today I find myself still fighting minor fires every day but I am taking action every day too. I have been doing a lot of reading which I find relaxing and I have been tackling all the smaller tasks that have been hanging over me these last few months. This gradual wearing away at on-going problems eventually leads you to a sense of freedom –That in turn allows me to be more creative once again and to allow me time to achieve my larger goals.

Here are some tips about headspace which you may find useful.

· If my desk is a mess, or my house or my car or even my pc’s desktop, it is almost always a sign that my mind is a mess too. Spending a little time sorting through these things and organising them, possibly making a few calls that been putting off too or even just filing them will in turn mean that your head may become a little less cluttered too.

· I’m a fan of whiteboards and have recommended before a brain dump onto them. It’s something you should do too, as getting stuff that’s in your head out of it and onto paper or a whiteboard will allow your brain a little more space to sort itself out. When you see it written down you can start to delete the unimportant, file the stuff that isn’t imminent for “later” and tackle a daily to do list of what really needs to get done right now. Then just do one thing at a time.

· Take breaks. I recommend reading fiction too as it will allow your head to take a bit of a holiday to someone else’s world where it can enjoy itself and relax for a few minutes.

· Get some sleep.

· Eat well.

· Take a walk. Smell a flower. Watch a sunrise. Life is too short to miss out on what’s right in front of you so grab it while you can.

Summing up.

The biggest task in the morning is to try to keep my headspace from being invaded by the outside world.

Austin Kleon unquote

I hope this episode has perhaps helped you to consider some similar issue you have in your own life and illuminated a potential way for you to get passed it. I don’t like talking about myself really but I quite often find that the shit I’ve been going through is not a million miles from similar problems which listeners find themselves in.

This sort of stuff is often referred to in productivity terms as the success mindset. Remember that:

· there is a relationship between your state of mind and success

· your thoughts create your reality

· your emotions are your guidance system and that their management is a step towards success

· you must acquire the skills to motivate myself

· your goals are achievable as long as you maintain the right frame of mind

Next time:

This is a precursor to a micro season of 6 further episodes which starts next week with episode 85 - 10 indicators of self sabotage.

Call to action:

Your call to action this week is to consider this statement. “Any time you allow someone to have a negative influence over the way you think, feel, or behave, you give them power over you.”

Think about it and use this thought to get control of your emotions and take back control.

End quote:

I’d like to thank all of the sponsors for this season. Today's episode was sponsored by long time supporter and good friend Petra Kolb.

I’ll finish today with some wise words from Mark Twain who said

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.

Now take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on FILM PRO PRODUCTIVITY AND SUCCESS!

The music you can hear right now is Adventures by A Himitsu

You can view the show notes for this episode on the official website

You can follow my personal account on Twitter and Instagram @fight_director or follow the show on Twitter @filmproprodpod or on Facebook @Filmproproductivity

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Thanks: A Himitsu Music: Adventures by A Himitsu


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