Lucky enough to hear an amazing woman speak this week: Jo Fairley, co-founder of Green and Black’s chocolate. She champions passion, values and intuition in business and puts the emphasis on playing to our strengths – and outsourcing the rest. She’s almost certainly a PR genius I reckon and she’s definitely that rare entity : someone who has integrated their beliefs and personality 100% into their work role.

Notably honest, she told us that one of her key criteria for hiring is whether someone would be a pain to sit alongside in the office, or a pleasure. Now that criteria won’t be on a lot of HR recruitment forms…but of course, it’s a critical one. And she got me thinking about other high achieving people I’ve encountered and what distinguishes them from the rest of us.

A few years back, the BBC hired me to run a workshop on giving and taking feedback. It was aimed at producers, but an extra person turned up, a director, who we might call Surf Dude. He’d heard about the event and had wangled his way on it. Compared to some of the cynics there, he was hugely enthusiastic and engaged and stayed behind at the end of the workshop to discuss a problem with a new project he was working on. Surf Dude went on win Bafta awards and to create some of the UK’s most exciting tv.

In the 1990s, I taught for a short while at a drama school. In one of the dialect classes there was one student who was obsessed with getting stuff right – who would stay behind and quiz me about his interpretation and accuracy. He could be a bloody nuisance if I was rushing home, but his ardent desire to learn properly was disarming. Now he is the most acclaimed actor of his generation from that school – and one of the most interesting, in that he has retained strong regional roots of his origin.

Obsession May be Good for Us


What these three have in common, I reckon, is an understanding that problem-solving is learning, that this may hurt – but what the hell? – and a wholeheartedness about their pursuits. You don’t hear people talk much about wholeheartedness as a quality, and who knows when it becomes obsession… but give me the company of the fixated over the disengaged, any time.

Jo Fairley reads many business books and she talks about a most useful idea she got from one: how helpful it is to zoom out in your thinking about your goals and get the big picture and to be able to do the opposite – to come in very close with your mental camera and review detail and minutiae.

To want to do this, we need wholeheartedness/obsession. Indeed the most useful priority of education could be to help students find these obsessions, stuff they really want to immerse themselves in. Who needs advice on motivation then?

By szcz

3 thoughts on “Pain, Pleasure and Wholeheartedness”
  1. Wholeheartedness is an unusual concept in the working environment but I think it is a great one. I have just returned from a remembrance gathering to a wonderful colleague who died in a road accident aged 25. She had wholeheartedness in spades, lived life to the full, worked hard, gave her best. It is a quality that sets some people apart and it deserves to be recognised.

  2. Thanks so much for commenting on your wonderful colleague and condolences to you. Your personal reaction is much appreciated.

  3. I often manage ‘the zoom in’ so that all the problems/difficulties/challenges overtake the creativity/fun/spark…. BUT I can readilty zoom out if I ‘zoom away’ physically… ie geaographically….. A holiday, a new perspective where you can look ‘back’ at your life, problems you are encountering and suddenly it’s “what was my PROBLEM?” I can see it all clearly from here… Visiting another counrty, experiencing a different culture, new people, tasting new food….changes your perspective on everything…

    See you Monday 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *