Backstory to “Go With the Flow Until You Are Hungry”

How I learned to use the flow to feed myself

James McIntosh
Jul 31 · 5 min read
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I did my fair share of jumping with mind closed, of going with whatever flow would float me. (John Leech Sketch Archives 1841–1864)

More than a decade ago Dr Wally Johnston asked me to “stand in” for him on public radio. My immediate thought was, “How do you stand in for someone on radio when listeners cannot see you?” That ridiculous thought was what I now call a “hush” thought. A hush thought is a thought we think in self-defense to prevent a damaging or embarrassing thought to surface into public hearing.

My hush thought was trying to stop me blurting out, “You must be joking!”

Dr. Wally, it seemed, wasn’t easily fooled by unspoken hush thoughts. “Don’t worry,” he smiled, “your strange accent will protect you. Listeners won’t care what you say, as long as you say it. They want to hear you, not hear what you have to say.”

That’s encouragement? Well, I must have thought so, because I jumped. I closed my mind and jumped.

I should have kept my mind open a bit longer until he explained how this radio thing works. But I jumped before I heard his simple but brutal instructions. “You have 60 seconds on air to make your point. No more. No less.”

I immediately thought of Blaise Pascal who, more than four centuries ago, apologized to a friend for the length of his letter. “I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Like Pascal and even Mark Twain, who had apparently said something similar, I understood my now inescapable predicament. When you must say something meaningful within a specified time, time speeds up and you run out of time before you run out of words.

Within days I was writing and recording. I laboriously wrote and recorded two 60 second radio pieces every week for 10 years. It even became less laborious. But that took years.

How did I do it? I jumped. Every week I jumped again. Here’s what I learned from jumping the second time, and the time after that. The first time, when Dr Wally asked me to stand in for him, I closed my mind to what could go wrong. I jumped with my mind closed. But once I had committed, I had to jump with my mind wide open. Mind wide open is the only way I can access ideas to turn into possible 60 second radio pieces.

The first jump, with mind closed, was a decision to let go and go with the flow. Any “Okay Boomer”, and even not-so-okay Boomers, will remember the youthful excitement triggered by the mere thought of going with the flow.

But a funny thing happened to Boomers on the way home from their particular Woodstock. They realised that Going With The Flow was only Step One. If we had treated Going With The Flow as the Only Step, we would have become perpetual Peter Pans. And then? And then next generations would not have had amazing technology to play with today, nor benefited from countless inventions and the wisdom of experts.

That funny thing happened to me as well, although it took more than a few personal Woodstocks for me to “get it.” I did my fair share of jumping with mind closed, of going with whatever flow would float me. Yet, I learned that it was the jumping with mind-open that started journeys that mattered, that gave me access to amazing ideas. Ideas for radio pieces.

But….

And it is a Big But.

But I had to write down these amazing ideas before they floated away. I had to grasp them and expand on them. I had to edit them for grammar and spelling. I had to cut them to fit into 60 second spoken recordings. And I had to speak them, sounding natural and clear, to capture them as 60 exact seconds fit for public radio. Take 1. Take 2. Take X.

The process was simple, but not easy. I had to shut my mind to overcome my initial fear. But from then on I had to open my mind and shut it, over and over, week after week. Open to catch an idea, shut it to grasp the idea before it floated off.

Going with the flow works. But it works wonders if you harness the flow to feed, not your hopes, but your actions.

Here’s the blog entry:

Go With the Flow Until You Are Hungry

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Make a little effort to feed yourself. (free public domain: clipart-people.com)

I am confused. I read something on the internet recently that has me questioning one of my favorite seven rules to easy success. I have to take it seriously, because, as we all know, if it’s on the internet, then it must be true.

Here’s what I stumbled onto: Only dead fish swim with the current. Wow! If true, this destroys my belief that easy success comes from going with the flow.

My limited biology knowledge had me admitting to some logic in the statement. Plankton drifts on current; fish swims against current with mouth open; fish feeds.

Trusting the internet as I do, I immediately searched for The Truth. But the only answer I could find was “yes and no.”

To counter my confusion, I have now modified my success rule as follows:

Go with the flow until you are hungry, then turn around and make a little effort to feed yourself.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

Listen/follow on Spotify or on Apple Podcast or on many other platforms.

Insights to boost your career prospects and job satisfaction while dealing with the nonsense of pleasing a boss, playing nice with colleagues, and making subordinates productive.

This backstory was originally published on Patreon.

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James McIntosh

Written by

Born in RSA winelands. Earned 3 degrees drinking red wine. Chased by lioness, ran with elephants, got bored, moved to USA seeking adventure. Ex-CEO now coach.

The Innovation

A place for a variety of stories from different backgrounds

James McIntosh

Written by

Born in RSA winelands. Earned 3 degrees drinking red wine. Chased by lioness, ran with elephants, got bored, moved to USA seeking adventure. Ex-CEO now coach.

The Innovation

A place for a variety of stories from different backgrounds

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