Me in a Little Nutshell
Things that occupy my time, energy, and excitement: making music, podcasting, working as an undertaker, coaching, appearing at TEDx, writing.
I am an introvert, highly sensitive person, and have developed a stoic and minimalist philosophy that underpins my relationship with life. I started The Haven in 2014, which is a creative community for people who resonate with those values and aspirations to live with more meaning, calmness, and peace.
And after a crazy life changing season, I am currently in a state of limbo…I’m awaiting/planning/working out what happens next in my life. This is a bit exciting, slightly terrifying, and a mostly quite liberating. I live in the middle of the UK.
To see what I’m doing now, visit my Now Page.
Me in a Bigger Nutshell
“The About page on your website isn’t about you, it’s about your readers. They will use it to decide if your website is useful to them. Don’t talk about yourself.”
This is what I was once told by an online marketing ‘guru’. I followed the advice for years, just using this page to speak to the experiences of introverts, highly sensitive types, and aspiringly creative people. It was more of a landing page, to tell people what their problem is and how I can help them overcome it with my podcasts, articles, and coaching services.
But then a reader got in touch and said, ‘I don’t think I’m the only one here who wants to know about YOU!’ So then I got a bit confused and didn’t know what to do.
But I knew they were right.
I mean, when I land on websites like this, I want to know something about the writer. I want to hear their story, and see if I feel a connection to them as a human. Are they real? Or are they just trying to sign me up to some funnel that will end up selling me endless products that promise to make my life complete.
So, if you’ll forgive what feels like the self-indulgence, this page is where I will tell you a bit about who I am, what I care about, why I made this website, and generally what makes me tick in life.
You never know, it might help you decide whether this website, and indeed my voice, can be of any assistance and support to you.
1985 – I was born in the town of Stockport
1986 – We moved to Swindon
1989 – In a surprising move, my parents bought me a ‘first drum kit’ from Toys r Us (it wasn’t even my birthday or Christmas…I think they were sick of me smashing up pots and pans with wooden spoons – I was OBSESSED with the drums)
1990 – We moved to Leamington Spa and I started school
1993 – Did my first gig, drumming along to ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’, with Mrs Smith in school assembly
1996 – Had to step in as substitute goalkeeper in a county 5 aside football tournament – I didn’t concede a single goal throughout, and we won the cup (I was petrified the whole day)
1997 – started secondary school (threw up all over myself on the back of the bus at the end of my first day)
1998 – did my first proper gig (a Battle of the Bands competition in a local school, for which I ended up both singing and playing the drums, after our original front man quit a week before the show due to creative differences with one of the other members)
2002 – finished school with pretty decent grades, carried on into Sixth Form and did A Levels in Psychology, English Literature, Politics, and Music – did pretty well
2004 – I worked at Blockbuster video for a month, then at a call centre (worst job ever!), while writing and producing The Final Scene (my first solo album)
2005 – I moved to Southampton and went to university to study Politics and International Relations
2008 – graduated with a 2:1. I worked at Borders bookshop, bought and intended to read a lot of books
2009 – BORDERS UK WENT BUST (not my fault)
I released my second album
2010 – BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO WENT BUST (not my fault)
I released One World Less (a 4 part album) and The Prisoner (a novella)
2011 – I discovered what it meant to be an introvert
2013 – I got married
2015 – started work as an undertaker (I had always been curious about how people end up working in that kind of profession)
2016 – after tearing my trousers at work bending over to do my shoe laces, I decided to get fit rather than ordering the next size up – I lost 3 stone and did a 10km run for the first time in my life
2018 – also the worst year of my life (was put in the picture about last year and my world turned upside down – marriage down the crapper)
2019 – moved in with my parents and started two professional coaching qualifications with The Coaching Academy UK
Went to Australia for Christmas.
2020 – played first bunch of gigs with my new band, Earlybird. Completed the first diploma, and launched the coaching business
I have always been drawn towards minimalism both aesthetically and as a life philosophy. In 2018 when my life turned upside down, I found myself using it to focus myself on what truly mattered. I spent time identifying the values, relationships, and stuff that add value to my life. And I began the on-going process of ‘letting go’ of things I’ve been holding too tightly over the years.
When I wrote the song, Hold On, in 2008, it came from this image I had towards the end of my time at university…’if you want to get a better grip, sometimes you’ve got to let go’. I’ve never forgotten that.
I’m a happy person and feel great when I’m working on projects that matter to me. I have also spent time kind of confused about what I’m doing with my life. I sometimes get paralysed by fear of my own ambition and potential success. Oh the frustration!
As a kid I really enjoyed spending time with people. Especially people I knew. I had big dreams, I wanted to be a rock star, a footballer, a painter, a writer, a builder and a shop keeper. And I spent a lot of time in my imagination, creating elaborate worlds in my head. As far as I was concerned, anything was possible. I wanted to do it all. Perhaps everything at once. I have fond memories of painting and cross-stitching with my grandparents, though one day decided to throw away anything that linked me to cross-stitch, when I experienced a deep crisis of shame.
An Alienating Self-Concept
I was often called ‘shy’, ‘sensitive’ and ‘quiet’. Every school report provided the same feedback:
‘Andy needs to put his hand up more in lessons and contribute confidently to class discussions.’
Something began to happen as I got older…these observations began to sink in. ‘Shy’, ‘sensitive’, and ‘quiet’ were criticisms that cut deep. I developed the feeling there was something wrong with me and it needed fixing. I had to be louder, more outgoing and more ready to throw myself into new situations without thinking.
But it was difficult. I wasn’t that person and I couldn’t see how I could be. I wasn’t the person I needed to be. Other people seemed much better able to navigate the world than me. So I got my head down and processed my experiences in the only way I knew how…on my own, in my head, creatively. I would often withdraw from view by quietly fitting in or spending great amounts of time alone, which I found was the most productive way to spend my time.
Then Something Clicked
In 2010 I stumbled on this article: 10 Myths About Introverts by Carl King
All of a sudden it all made sense. There was a name for my experience of the world, and I wasn’t alone.
I started lapping up all the information I could get my hands on. Everything began to make sense.
Then I took this test by Elaine Aron and read her book, The Highly Sensitive Person. That was a big missing piece of my jigsaw…turns out I’m a ‘highly sensitive person’ (hmm, it didn’t sound like something I necessarily wanted to be).
But it was a welcome arm around my shoulder. I was finally able to see how I fitted into the world. It was great to discover that I wasn’t alone and that there are millions of us who relate to the world in similar ways.
As I began to discover new things about introversion, high sensitivity, creativity and myself, I shared my findings on my website.
The more I shared the more I heard from people who resonated with what I was writing. I found myself writing more and more about introversion, high sensitivity and the impact my temperament had on my own life and creativity. And that’s how this website came to be what it is today.
Labels and Tribes
I’m not interested in boxing people in with pigeonholes, labels, and stereotypes. Though I think we can use things like Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, and other personality tests, to direct how we understand who we are deep down. Labels can help when they assist in self-awareness and self-acceptance. But they can become a hindrance when we become attached to them, defined by them, and use them to distance ourselves from others.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have many! I’ve got a few…at least things that I’ve learned about myself that have helped me grow. But I don’t think we really need answers. We need courage, vulnerability, and humility. We need to see one another, the world, and ourselves with compassion, gentleness, and acceptance.
I would love us to let go of the need to be right, to play the victim, or to prove our worth. To release ourselves from the outrage and blame we point at others, and rather than doing nothing but tearing down and destroying, to ask what can I create? What can I contribute? How can I connect? We don’t need solutions, answers, and secrets. We need to let go of our ego, and see this life and our world for the beautiful fleeting opportunities they are. It’s our chance to experience something remarkable.
The Gentle Rebel Podcast comes out at the end of each month. I talk about a particular theme, and perform a few of my songs.
The Extended Play Private Podcast is available exclusively through Patreon. It is a more candid, off-the-cuff exploration of stuff happening in the world and in my life. I share more about my own experiences of introversion, sensitivity, creativity, music, minimalism, and personal growth. I often connect themes with stuff I’ve written about in songs over the years, and I talk about some of the meaning behind certain aspects of my work.
Start Here: Articles and Podcasts
Popular Articles From Over the Years
Inside No 9 Podcast (a podcast about the BBC TV series that I produce with my good friend, Steve)
Earlybird (my latest band)