Mind The Gap! (Or what Ruby Wax taught us from the Pendulum Summit stage) This week’s “Coffee with Colm”

Stress is good.

According to Ruby Wax at Pendulum Summit 2019 in Dublin recently stress is good. And she’s right!

Stress is what keeps us alive and vital.

The Amygdala (ah – MIG – d’lah) is an ancient part of the human brain that is responsible for the fight or flight response that we are all familiar with.

It’s an almond shaped cluster of nuclei located deep in the frontal portion of your brain, right in the middle and sort of half-way between the back of your eyes and your ears.

You know the score. Something startles you and you go from cruising through your day (or even your night fast asleep) and instantaneously you are wide awake and ready for fight or flight; The brain becomes hyperalert, pupils dilate, the bronchi dilate and breathing accelerates. Heart rate and blood pressure rise. Blood flow and stream of glucose to the skeletal muscles increase. Organs not vital in survival such as the gastrointestinal system slow down. Daniel Goleman in his wonderful ‘90’s tome on Emotional Intelligence, refers to this as an ‘amygdala hijack’!

Historically its function was to save you from getting eaten by a dinosaur and the fact that you are reading this means your forebears have consistently made the right call for millennia! (Don’t break the chain; just sayin’)

So, stress is good.

But we also know that too much stress for too long can kill! How can something be both good and bad at the same time?

To find out, watch the 5-minute video, listen to the 5-minute podcast, or read on below…

Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search For Meaning” gave us a clue when he said that “…between the stimulus and the response is a gap – the gap is where our power to respond resides.”

The answer lies in the gap.

Mind The Gap!

Can you hear it? That pre-recorded male voice playing incessantly in many London Underground stations warning us to “Mind the Gap” – can you hear it? I can.

The question is are we trained, have we trained ourselves to Mind the Gap?

“How do we do that Colm?” I hear you ask


Ruby Wax asked us, “What is mindfulness?” and answered by saying, “Mindfulness is you checking in with you as to how you are… Where you are in your mind is WHO you are at that moment.”

I’m sure some of you can relate to Ruby who spoke of her proneness to getting angry with stupid people and her subsequent, life-enhancing decision to learn how to “Calm the red mist down.” She learned how to Mind The Gap.

This year, we need to learn how to mind the gap better than we did last year by thinking more  about self-care but perhaps some of us have to first learn to accept that self-care is not selfish.

Indeed, Dr. Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children, alluded to it in his keynote at the IPPN (Irish Primary Principal’s) Conference earlier this week, when he put up a slide with L.R. Knost’s quote, “Taking care of myself doesn’t mean ‘me first’ it means ‘me, too.’” How wonderfully clarifying is that?

Recently I coined the acronym POYOOMF which stands for “Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First” a phrase we are all familiar with from the safety demonstrations on flights. The premise is very simple – we need to put on our own oxygen masks first SO THAT we can look after others around us should there be an emergency on the flight.

Surely the same is true of life in general? We can only truly be of service to others if we take time regularly to take time for ourselves.

As Ruby left us she admonished us lovingly – “Fix yourself and then go fix the world!”

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First – Mind The Gap!

To help you through the year graduate where you are today to where you want to be, I intend to end every “Coffee with Colm” episode by asking ‘The Big Rock’ and ‘The One Thing’ questions

“The Big Rock” is the element of your looking after yourself that needs most work now.

You need to figure out what The Big Rock.

Then ask “The One Thing” question.

This will help you take incremental steps, make incremental improvements week by week for the year.

“The One Thing” question is very powerful. Ask yourself what One Thing you could do this week that would have the biggest positive impact on that Big Rock.

And then go do it!

And Ill see you here this time next week for another “Coffee with Colm”


Click the link for more on the Big Rocks Theory

More… if you’ve enjoyed it and you think someone else would benefit, I’d be delighted if you would pass the link on. If it’s your first time here and would like more of this type of stuff, pop to my homepage and leave me some details and I’ll make sure you get a link like this on a weekly basis.

Most importantly please consider what’s been shared here and apply it into your thinking in this next week and then equally as importantly, come back next week and we’ll share another coffee together and I will ruminate on some other aspect of life and business.

Between now and then grab some good coffee, get some fresh air, get some R&R.

If you spend a lot of time alone, I recommend you go meet some people, conversely if you spend a lot of time with people, I recommend you spend some time alone.

And then when the time is right, and only when the time is right get your head back in the game, get organised for the week ahead, make next week count and I’ll see you here this time next week for another “Coffee with Colm”

Thanks for thinking with me.

Yours truly.


Watch | Listen | Read | Think.

Did you enjoy that? Fancy a sip of some of my recent “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:

  • An Admiral Never Makes Suggestions! (Or how to coach your reports to make better decisions) – click here.
  • How To Be A Dream Doer (Or how to make 2019 work better than 2018) – click here.
  • Many people live their lives like they read a novel – waiting to see how it all turns out. WRONG! – click here.

HIRE ME TO SPEAK. Consider me speaking at your event, launch, awards, or as your after-dinner keynote. Find out more here.

WORK WITH ME OR THE COBM | SOUNDING BOARD TEAM. Need help with your business? Check out the areas I and The Sounding Board of trusted experts can assist with. Find out more here.

FREE AUDIO BOOK. If would like a complimentary copy of my book “Feeding Johnny – How to Build a Business Despite the Roadblocks” in audio, narrated by yours truly so you get all the nuances, feel free to grab one here.

DEEP DIVE. If you would like to go deeper in your own personal journey, you can review the first step in my “12 Steps to Create the Life You Really Want” for FREE. Check it out here.

LinkedIn. Perhaps the thing to do right now is simply to hook up professionally on LinkedIn – if that’s of interest, click here.


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One Response to “Mind The Gap! (Or what Ruby Wax taught us from the Pendulum Summit stage) This week’s “Coffee with Colm””
  1. Teri Donaghy

    Thankyou! This is a great article that resonates. I love your quotes and how true and relevant they are.
    I’ll be putting your suggestions into practice.

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