March 8, 2022 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

So here I am, feeling, yanno, a bit guilty.

I’ve been busy the last week and didn’t get around to writing an email every day (I know, excuses, excuses).

Then yesterday (Monday) I was honestly tired as hell. So I decided I needed a rest day. I got EES member lessons out, did the day’s MEFA feedback… and that was it.

Spent the rest of the day cleaning the apartment, reading and doing a supermarket run.

Then what happens?

That’s right.

I get an email with a subject line that left me OUTRAGED, that’s what.

It said:

“No, Jules – you don’t rule today!”

How dare you!?!

I’m already feeling guilty.

No need to have a go at me and rub salt into the words!




Triggered, as the cool kids would say.

Now, the email was from my friend Vicki LaBouch and I’m being tongue in cheek here. I’m not the kind of sensitive snowflake who’d be bothered by that… and anyway, it obviously wasn’t directed at me personally even if it did seem to call me out by name just as I’d spent a day sitting around not doing much.

I’m copying the email in its entirety (with permission), so have a read:

Hi Julian

When lockdown hit and I couldn’t use the local gym, Kev very kindly built me a gym in the back garden.

Well, it’s not just a gym. It’s part gym – part office. We call it The Gyoffice.

It’s great – it is fully equipped with weights, mats and my lovely Peleton bike.

I bloody love the Peleton!

If you haven’t seen a Peleton before, it’s a stationary bike with a screen attached in front of you on which you can stream online fitness classes.

In addition to seeing your instructor and your stats for the ride, there’s also a Leaderboard on the screen, where you can see how you’re doing compared to other people who’ve taken the same class in the past. There’s also another tab that shows people who are “Here Now” – all the people around the world who are tuned into the same class as you at the same time.

On low energy days, one of the best ways I find to get me going is to toggle to the “Here Now” display, and watch my performance compared to other people.

Now, I know they say it’s bad to compare yourself to others, and most of the time I agree with that, but there’s something about the leader board that can bring out the beast in me (that wasn’t a typo!).

It’s interesting to note how my competitive spirit changes depending on who I’m competing with.

If the only other people on the ride at the same time are like, say, “StuProCyclist Male (20’s) Brisbane” then I get a little defeated from the outset when they stomp ahead at double my 5 minute output in their first 5 seconds, I’ll just do my own thing and enjoy the ride.

And if I’ve only got “MurielCrochets (70’s) Kent” as opposition, then I’m not likely to push myself particularly hard – in fact I’m more likely to dial it back a bit so she doesn’t feel left behind!

But this morning I had JulesRules (40’s) Epsom on the same ride as me and we set off at virtually the same time. I eyed her output with interest to see if she pulled ahead dramatically or lagged behind from the start, but we seemed pretty much level pegging.

Then she started pulling ahead…

Oh, no you don’t JulesRules!

I cranked the resistance on my bike up and pedalled faster, taking the lead. I was 2 points ahead, then 3, then I ran out of oxygen and had to slow down.

Sweat was pouring off me 15 minutes into the 30 minute ride and I was gasping hard. We were neck and neck. I needed to get ahead so I dug in deeper – more  resistance, faster pace…

She was right on my heels all the time, sometimes ahead…

Of course, she may not have been looking at the leaderboard at all – you don’t have to put it on, but in my head she was doing the same as me – pushing hard – sweating buckets – glancing up to see how she was fairing against VickitheViking (50’s) Dorset…

I’m not proud of myself for this bit, but I was kind of naughty at the end of the ride. In the final minute, they take you on a cooldown where you lower the resistance and get your breath back before stretches.

This was not happening today – I dug in hard right till the final second and ended up 4 points ahead of her. She’d have been able to tell I was screwing with the results in the cooldown, but I didn’t care. My name had to go above hers and that was that.

“You don’t Rule today, Jules forties from Epsom!” I screamed at the screen, beetroot faced, raising my sweaty hands in victory, “Eat my yoga pants!”

So, the moral of today’s tale is to notice the comparisons you make, and see how it affects you. The right kind of comparisons are the ones that bring out the best in you. If you’re always comparing yourself to people who seem miles ahead, then you’ll get discouraged easily. If you have healthy competition against people who are at a similar level to you, it can be really motivational and feel like fun.

Of course the best person to compare yourself with is the you from yesterday, and make small advances every day. You should see me celebrate when I beat a personal best! (I cheat the cooldown when I’m close to that, too. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t do the same…)


Vicki x

P.S. If you’d like to apply to work with me in one-to-one coaching, then please apply through the form here

P.P.S. If you know anyone else who might appreciate these emails, point them to my home page to sign up here

Links and shit intact because Vicki’s stuff is great, and you couldn’t do better than have a look.

In fact, Extraordinary English Speakers members will find an interview with Vicky (A Phoenix From The Ashes: Overcoming Your Mental Barriers With Vicki La Bouchardiere) that I recommend you check out …. if you’re a member, anyway.

It’s on the site and in the app.

But the point is, it’s easy to see something and get, well, a bit pissed off (even if I was joking by saying I was outraged).

Especially when it seems to match something that’s going on in your head at the time.

Like when you make a mistake with your English and someone says something.

Or when you’re tired and explaining something just doesn’t come out clearly. And a co-worker comments on people in the office creating extra work.

But I can tell you this from long experience:

While there will be the occasional asshole, nine times out of ten that comment that upset you wasn’t directed at you or even anything to do with you. It was about something else entirely, and the person who said it wasn’t aware of your mistake, your not explaining something well or even that you were feeling sensitive about it.

And even when it WAS directed at you, it STILL wasn’t anything to do with you. No. It was still to do with them and what’s going on in your head.

It’s important to understand this.

Otherwise, you end up stuck in a spiral of doubt, avoiding speaking up in meetings or doing anything at all with your English.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re fucking up regularly and causing people hassle because of your English, it is your responsibility to improve it. But as long as you are working to improve, and getting better (even a little at a time) then you’re doing your duty.

And you don’t need to get a shit what people think.

Just keep working, a little bit at a time, consistently, day to day.

Then you’re fine.

Now, if you need some help getting that done there are still 6 places left in the next MEFA group (starting April 4th, and although I haven’t decided when the next group will be it probably won’t be until July so this could be your last chance for a while).

The place to go is here:

Dr Julian Northbrook