Tim Underwood

I have no idea what to write about. 

Sitting in my spare bedroom-come-office at home, surrounded by piles of washing, all moved urgently into mega-piles, like the mounds of leaves in the garden ready for the wheel-barrow, to be out of shot for the umpteenth TEAMS call of the day.

The staring-at-a-blank-word-page disease affects us all from time to time.  The cure is really rather simple, say something, anything, and get started.  So that’s what I’ve done. A couple of sentences of rambling and I have an idea of something to talk about. I’m going to tell you about a course I’ve been doing for the last 10 weeks and what it means for me and those around me.  Its title: “Playing from the Heart; how to win when there is not finishing line”.  I’ve shared a Zoom call and a series of interactions on Slack and Twitter for 10 weeks with some fascinating people from industry, science and business. CEO’s, senior managers, people in charge of billions of dollars of capital. Guess what? They all share the same insecurities and burn-out inducing leant behaviours that we do. 

Our thinking has been challenged.  We have been asked to look at our careers through the lens of success and to work out what it was that determined our “wins” as a means to build deep seated confidence in our value to ourselves and our organisations. We have been challenged to define success and failure, both acceptable and unacceptable, and where our personal preference lies for unintended consequences. We have talked about effort and the deployment of effort consciously and with purpose.  Why are we running at 10/10 every day? It’s not useful and it leads to damage. We really don’t have to prove to anyone that we can work the longest or hardest. Most of all, we have developed a clear picture of what it takes for each of us to perform at the highest level. Included in these episodes of performance, is an explicit recognition of the importance of rest and recovery. Planned into the diary and executed faithfully, because we know how important it is.

My day has changed for the better. On my desktop now lives a small “sticky” with my daily “Launch Sequence”. I take 10 minutes at the start of the day to look at what’s coming and prepare, this is what it says: 

Daily Launch Sequence

1. Confidence Check
2. Success Check
3. Effort required (out of 10)
4. Perform


1. Compassion
2. Work-rest
3. 100% mentality
4. Self talk 
5. Thinking out loud


Kind – acceptance of self
Inclusive – common humanity
Mindful – In the moment

Do this just for today…..and then again tomorrow…….

End of Day

How well did I do what I said I was going to do? Intention…

During our final session I understood what this was all about, legacy. I’m unlikely to cure cancer or even make a massive breakthrough. I might publish a handful of papers that will be read by a few and consigned to history (hopefully they were useful for the REF…) What I leave behind will be my impact on others. If I perform from the heart with real purpose and integrity, true to myself and with compassion and inclusivity, I might just leave behind something worth having. That doesn’t need a finish line.

How to win when there is not finishing line by Professor Tim Underwood

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