The HR Juggler

Day 12: Coming Back From The Dead

Posted on: December 12, 2013


I’m delighted that today’s post has been written by Doug Shaw (@dougshaw1) who has always been one of my encouragers par excellence and has become a good friend through originally meeting on Twitter and lots of face-to-face interactions since. If you want to read more from Doug, check out his blog.

Artwork for today (and every day!) is by the brilliant Simon Heath.


I’m hugely grateful to Alison for a third chance to write for this ongoing advent series.

In 2011 I scribbled about being open to possibilities.

In 2012 I wrote about Dad’s death.

In 2013 my story is about coming back from the dead.

Checked Out

My Dad’s affairs took a good deal of time and effort to sort through. I had help from my sisters but I was the executor, aka the paperwork guy. I made a promise to Dad that I would take care of everything, but trust me when I say that ploughing your way through a mountain of bureaucracy is a most loveless way to grieve. On reflection 2012 was much much harder than I realised at the time.

2013 started with Dad’s affairs resolved, and very little else for me to do. I’d focused so hard on getting Dad’s estate sorted that I’d neglected the business. It was almost like starting over again, and I made it worse through spending a couple of months in denial about the lack of productive work.

In my lost wanderings I was fortunate to come across many work friends who vitally helped keep my spirits up, and one in particular in whom I confided more deeply. I began to talk a lot with Meg Peppin and I explained my situation to her. I also explained that I felt a lot of my best work arose from collaborations and I was interested in exploring collaboration with her too.

Checked In

Despite my somewhat vulnerable state, Meg kindly agreed to talk more and so we did – not specifically about working together, more about work in general. And these conversations, this ability to check in with someone periodically, began to help me refocus and redevelop.

As I came back from the dead I realised I had let basic things go. For example, I used to keep a chart showing how much revenue What Goes Around was generating, month by month, quarter by quarter, year by year. I’d stopped this practice and I needed to restart it. I very carefully added a bunch of zeroes to the chart, determined to use the displeasure I felt for each one as a reminder to move forward and away from this time.

With Meg’s help, and the undying support I get from Carole and Keira too, things shifted back into gear. The simple act of having people to talk to and to explore possibilities with again is a mighty catalyst.

Moving Up

Getting out of a rut again has been enormously helpful. I’ve made decisions to stop looking for certain kinds of work so that I can focus on what I enjoy and what others tell me I’m good at. And in the past few months I’ve found more good work than ever before, and it has found me too. Meg and I have done some fascinating work together, I love finding opportunities for other people as well as me.

After years of tolerating what I knew wasn’t good enough, I’ve dumped my expensive unresponsive accountants and found much better ones. Ones who help me make informed business decisions.

I know I need to work even harder on my clarity, and I love it when people now ask me ‘So what do you do?’ and I confidently reply, ‘I help people collaborate more effectively, help them explore better ways of working, and get comfortable with creativity and experimentation’. Not clear enough but so much clearer than before.

Shipping It

In September I brought Stop Doing Dumb Things to market. The idea has been partly formed for a long time, talking with others helped me push this curiosity over the confidence gap and into reality. As a result of taking courage and shipping it I’m generating new ideas for myself and others and helping people explore better ways of working all over the world. In the time they’ve been around, Stop Doing Dumb Things have sold across the UK, Canada, the USA and Australia. I could write a whole post about what I’ve learned and am learning about product development, marketing and fulfillment.

Moving On

2014 starts with some solid commitment from clients, some excellent conference gigs booked, and a head full of ideas about how to help make work great.

Never Forget

My loving memories of Dad are now of a life well lived, not a mountain of paperwork.

Never forget the importance of keeping in touch. Never forget the importance of curiosity. Never forget the importance of our network. Never forget. I nearly did.

My hope for next year and beyond is that we truly unlock the potential of choosing to do things with each other, instead of to each other. I wish you great things in 2014.

7 Responses to "Day 12: Coming Back From The Dead"

Great post Doug and thanks for sharing it with such openness and honesty; wish there were more like you.

A beautiful, honest post that says it how it is. You are brave and I admire you for it. Like a spring bulb, that needs to be exposed to harsh weather before it can grow and develop flowers, you have endured and survived tough times (and learned from them). There are people around the globe who love you for who you are and what you do with them. I am sure that 2014 will be a good year for you and for all who work with you.

Doug, I Couldn’t have put it more eloquently than our Kate has about your post. From knowing you briefly a couple of years ago, the last year has showed me how generous you are with your time with others. I’m richer by having you in my life. Here’s to a happy 2014. X

You are stronger when you are open and vulnerable. Thanks for a loving post Doug and all the very best for 2014. Man hugs Peter

Thanks for your supportive feedback folks. I hope you don’t mind – but I’d like to add a little something that bubbled up on Facebook in response to this post.

My friend Heather Bussing commented:

I love this. There is so much out there about how to succeed, but so little about how to make it through a hard time. Learning how to rest, grieve, change, and get through difficulties are the essential ingredients of any success. Thank you for this!

I thanked Heather and added:

Something I was mindful of during this time was how inadequately the world of employment often helps people with things like this. In most cases, you might get a day off to attend the funeral, compassionate leave it’s often called, and then wham – you’re back to work. Almost as if nothing happened. As in all things there is no one right way through a hard time but I’m left wondering how we might find ways to do it, if not better, at least differently?

Doug, I do so admire your courage in writing this; one of the things that brought us together was my own loss, so hard to say it. We walked along side each other at a bleak time, and it is wonderful to see and feel the shift, and what it offers.

You inspire many my friend.

[…] offender, the man on a mission to proceed until apprehended, Doug Shaw provided post number 12. Doug is an instinctive gift-giver and, although the post covers the difficult recovery from […]

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