About this episode

Most of us are plagued with the fear that we're not doing enough—it's practically the fuel our culture runs on. We're pressured to constantly do more and more, and we're taught that suffering is necessary for success. But where is the finish line? And does "enough" exist? Tune in for this episode of Bewildered to learn why doing enough is NOT the way out of the fear of not doing enough—and the wisdom from nature that Martha and Ro rely on instead. There's even some impromptu coaching, so don't miss it!

Image for Episode #52 Not Getting Enough Done for the Bewildered Podcast with Martha Beck and Rowan Mangan
Not Getting Enough Done
Show Notes

Click here to watch the full episode on YouTube!

Are you plagued with the fear that you’re not getting enough done? Martha and Ro can relate, and they’re talking all about it in this episode of Bewildered.

Our culture pressures us to constantly do more, more, more, and we’re taught that suffering is necessary for success. It’s the left-hemisphere obsession with material acquisition that’s part of 21st-century capitalism, and it permeates absolutely everything. 

The productivity “advice” we get is to wake up every morning terrified that we’re not doing enough. Yet as Martha points out, our culture is headed off the edge of a self-destructive cliff because there is no such thing as enough, and there is no finish line.

If you are worried about getting things done, and you try to make the fear go away by getting things done, the fear only gets worse.

Instead of working day in and day out at full capacity, what Martha finds she’s capable of is the slow accumulation of tiny efforts, and interestingly enough, this ends up looking like productivity to other people.

To find out what’s more important than being productive, learn what Martha means by “don’t slap the baby,” and hear Martha do some impromptu coaching with Ro, be sure to tune in for this illuminating conversation. 

 

Also in this episode:

* sexy cold sores and sleeping on sloops

* getting terrorized by Tracy Chapman

* extendable lips and waves of shame

* a joke about a lion and a mouse

* the Malthusian horror of Martha’s bird feeders

 

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Transcript

Please note: This is an unedited transcript, provided as a courtesy, and reflects the actual conversation as closely as possible. Please forgive any typographical or grammatical errors.

(Topic Discussion starts around 00:10:40)

Martha Beck:
[Intro Music] Welcome to Bewildered. I’m Martha Beck, here with Rowan Mangan. At this crazy moment in history a lot of people are feelings bewildered, but that actually may be a sign we’re on track. Human culture teaches us to come to consensus, but nature — our own true nature — helps us come to our senses. Rowan and I believe that the best way to figure it all out is by going through bewilderment into be-wild-erment. That’s why we’re here. [Music fades] Hi, I’m Martha Beck!

Rowan Mangan:
And I’m Rowan Mangan. And this is yet another episode of Bewildered, the podcast for people trying to figure it out. How are you doing, Marty-Moo?

Martha Beck:
I’m good. I’m good. I slept, I got up.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, isn’t that great?

Martha Beck:
Yeah. It’s amazing when I can do those two things. How are you?

Rowan Mangan:
What was the second one?

Martha Beck:
Getting up.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, right. Yeah, yeah.

Martha Beck:
We’re just working on getting up. That’s pretty much all, but how are you?

Rowan Mangan:
I’m good. I also slept. I’ve got a cold sore right now, so I’m feeling super sexy. And yeah, life is good.

Martha Beck:
That infectious smile of yours.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s so infectious.

Martha Beck:
Every day, this is a big deal for us. Every day we get up and we’re like, “Did you sleep?”

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
It’s a huge deal for us because we’ve both had experiences with not sleeping.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. We’re not great sleepers. It’s not among our top skills, is it, Marty?

Martha Beck:
No. I keep reading about these sailors who can fall asleep instantly.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
It’s a thing you get when you’re a sailor, I’ve read.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. Better to do it though, in your bed than on top of the mast.

Martha Beck:
In a rotting hammock in the belly of a three-masted sloop.

Rowan Mangan:
What are you trying to figure out, Marty-Moo?

Martha Beck:
I don’t know what I’m talking about. Because when I can’t sleep, I just listen to novels about sea going, very slow seas.

Rowan Mangan:
Sloop. Sloop is a good word.

Martha Beck:
Sloop is an excellent word. I sleep on a sloop. There’s a really good song in that. All right. So yeah, in your deeper heart of hearts, where you do your big work, what are you trying to figure out?

Rowan Mangan:
Where I do my big work in my secret heart of hearts. Aw. I’m always just trying to figure us out in our strange ways and how-

Martha Beck:
In lark.

Rowan Mangan:
… we in our family, in our little house in the woods, how weird actually are we?

Martha Beck:
Very weird.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s usually what I’m trying to figure out. So a few days ago, and I’m really sorry about this, Marty, I’m really sorry I am this way, but we had an interaction and I just had to say, “Marty, stop singing that one line from that one song.”

Martha Beck:
Oh yeah, I remember this. The shame burns. It burns, Row.

Rowan Mangan:
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. And I also burst out with it, in a rude way, because I just couldn’t anymore.

Martha Beck:
It was more like, “Shut up,” kind of way.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. It very much came out that way. And I am really sorry. But in fairness, it was one of the most boring lines of the… I can’t remember what line it was now, but it’s not… It was like one of the procedural lines of the song. Not like the, “Yay, let’s re-sing that,” you were just focused-

Martha Beck:
Most procedural song lines.

Rowan Mangan:
And so then you said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” And I said, “I’m sorry. I did well for the first hour and I didn’t say anything and I did.” And then you said, “I’m so sorry.” And I said, “I just couldn’t handle the repetitions.” And you said, “Me too.”

Martha Beck:
I did think that.

Rowan Mangan:
And I loved that moment, because I was like, “Oh my God.” And I suddenly thought, “Wow, Marty, we’re actually sharing this, the two of us right now.” And I said to you, “So we’re actually both being terrorized by the same person, thinking, yeah, you’re not just terrorizing me, you’re also terrorizing yourself.” And you just went, “Yeah.” And then with this evil that rarely shows up in your voice, you just said three words that I’ve never heard said before and never expected to from you, you just went, “Fucking Tracy Chapman.”

Martha Beck:
Who I love, oh, that’s wrong. I did not mean that.

Rowan Mangan:
I love that, for you, we were both being terrorized by Tracy Chapman with you singing this one line.

Martha Beck:
Whenever anyone thinks up a really great song, and then gives it great lyrics and then sings it in a great way so that it sticks in your head and you cannot not think it, and then you end up with it having to be medically removed from your head. That’s not my fault, right?

Rowan Mangan:
Fucking Tracy Chapman, sorry about my language, but-

Martha Beck:
Stop writing such great freaking songs and then singing them. And in such a great way.

Rowan Mangan:
Fast Car, I mean, it’s a masterpiece. It’s a classic.

Martha Beck:
Fast Car. I mean, now get ready for another week of it because it’s in my head again.

Rowan Mangan:
And you’ll just be like, “So I quit school. So I quit school.” Very strange.

Martha Beck:
I’m going to [inaudible 00:05:16] again.

Rowan Mangan:
I don’t think we have to pay her a royalty for that.

Martha Beck:
After like 400 years, I finally quit school.

Rowan Mangan:
What are you trying to figure out, Marty Moo?

Martha Beck:
Oh, Lord. This is just shame upon shame because I was singing that song in a way that was galling and horrifying to my darling, darling partner. And then my own thing is also shameful because I went on a podcast, a popular podcast.

Rowan Mangan:
You cheated on Bewildered.

Martha Beck:
I did. I went on a podcast called, Go Ask Ali, with Ali Wentworth.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, she’s great.

Martha Beck:
Who is one of the most brilliant, hilarious women in the world. If you haven’t watched her podcast or listen to it, go listen. And her friend was on and her friend is Marishka or Mariska Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson on Law and Order.

Rowan Mangan:
SVU.

Martha Beck:
SVU, not SUV. I have to always say, not Law and Order-

Rowan Mangan:
Dong, dong, there’s a very big car and it burns gas.

Martha Beck:
… off-road vehicles in the criminal justice system, off-road vehicles are considered particularly elusive.

Rowan Mangan:
The Prius’s have to investigate their use of fossil fuels.

Martha Beck:
The dedicated officers who chased them through the subways of New York, investigating SUV thing centered in New York.

Rowan Mangan:
Lord, not an SUV.

Martha Beck:
They were both there. And now I don’t know if her name was Marishka or Mariska because it’s spelled Mariska. I thought I heard Ali say Marishka. I said Marishka through the whole thing. And usually the thing is usually I can let things go. But I was so infatuated with these two women. They are great. They’re so smart and so fun.

Rowan Mangan:
I’m feeling a bit threatened by this new relationship you’re forming.

Martha Beck:
Listen to me, I had this little cup of water, like right now, I have a Tic Tac in my mouth because it keeps my mouth from going dry. But I was like, I’m not even going to do that. I’m just going to do this one naked. I’m just going to go without a Tic Tac. So then it starts in my mouth-

Rowan Mangan:
But with clothing?

Martha Beck:
No, I never wear clothing. Only on this podcast I wear clothing. No, I’m still naked under all these. Anyway, then it started and my mouth goes so dry. As soon as I realized how cool they both were, I got really nervous and my mouth went so dry and I’m like, I’ve got to grab a Tic Tac. But I couldn’t, I couldn’t started feeding myself on camera. So I had a little cup of water. I thought I would give myself a drink and I raised my hand and I was trembling like an aspen leaf in the fall. And so I kept lifting my cup and thinking I can’t drink it without literally spilling it in my face. So I would put it down as if it didn’t matter. And then I’d pick it up because I could not talk, I was like spastic, like that.

And finally I just had to have water. So I raised the cup as far as I could without trembling convulsively and spilling. I kind of pushed, I tried to reach it with my lips by extending my lips outwards. And so my head is shaking, my hand is shaking, my lips are reaching. It’s like some sort of weird monster movie where the monster is trying to suck someone’s blood violently. Mariska and Ali are trying to not notice, but they can’t help it. And I’m like spilling water. And then I put it down, and then but I was done and it’s on camera and-

Rowan Mangan:
Oh my God.

Martha Beck:
… I can’t sleep. Well, I did sleep, but I couldn’t that night because the waves of shame. Waves of shame.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh my God, I love that so much.

Martha Beck:
It was so brilliant. And I was like some crazed evil plant from Little Shop of Horrors, “[inaudible 00:08:55].”

Rowan Mangan:
I love the idea of you thinking, “Well, my cup of water’s on the table, so instead of lifting it to my mouth, I’m going to make my lips extend from mouth,” that was the best.

Martha Beck:
It was my head, my whole head was off camera because it was [inaudible 00:09:12] to drink.

Rowan Mangan:
While being interviewed and talking about the difficulties of aging.

Martha Beck:
We didn’t end up talking about that anyway. I don’t even remember what we talked about. But they were brilliant. And I was an idiot that was I was there.

Rowan Mangan:
I’m sure it went great.

Martha Beck:
No.

Rowan Mangan:
I am absolutely like 110% sure it went great, because I know what you’re like. I know what you are like when you show up naked and then fall in love with the interviewers.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. It’s true, it’s true.

Rowan Mangan:
We’ll be right back with more Bewildered. I have a favor to ask. You might not know this, but ratings and reviews are like gold in the podcasting universe. They get podcasts in front of more faces, more eyes, more ears. All the bits that you could have a podcast in front of, that’s what they do. So it would help us enormously if you would consider going over to your favorite podcasting app, especially if it’s Apple and giving us a few stars, maybe even five, maybe even six. If you can find a way to hack the system, I wouldn’t complain. And a review would also be wonderful. We read them all and love them. So thank you very much in advance. Let’s just go out there and bewilder the world.

Martha Beck:
Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
All right. So well I think we’ve got plenty to be working on, but today we’re doing something a bit different for Bewildered.

Martha Beck:
Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. So it’s a special kind of episode. It’s not a Bewild Files episode as such. We don’t actually have a name for this kind of episode, although we have done it a few times. I guess if I had to find a name for what we’re doing here, it would be something like, “Ro’s, cry for help.”

So all right, so here’s the deal. Sometimes, as I’m sure our listeners can imagine, I go to Marty and I just go, can you fix me? I have a problem. And this has come up, regularly comes up, and sometimes the problems that I have are weird and individual, and I won’t be sharing those with you. But then there’s this one that recurs. And I know this isn’t just me. I know that other people have this. So I thought, let’s save it and let’s do it. I come hat in hand to Marty, hat in hand or is that asking for money? I just want to be humble.

Martha Beck:
Hey, just bring some item of clothing in your hands.

Rowan Mangan:
I choose a sock. I come here-

Martha Beck:
Sock in hand, there.

Rowan Mangan:
Sock on hand, like a little puppet going, “Help me, help me, Marty, help me with my weird problems.”

Martha Beck:
Imagine if you wandering around the house with a sock on your hand, and like, “Oh no, she’s falling apart.”

Rowan Mangan:
“That’s my emotional support sock.” All right – And look, I will also say as a disclaimer that we have talked about this kind of thing before, but the fact that it keeps coming around for me and it’s all about me, tells me that this is kind of a pervasive cultural thing. So I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say, I’m not the only one stressing out about this issue. So Marty, to kind of get us rolling on this topic, can you tell our listeners what happened yesterday in our house?

Martha Beck:
Yes. A virus ran abroad, ran rampant through the household. Not COVID, thank God, but something that made us feel very sick for a day or two or three. Lila of course gave it to all of us. And then-

Rowan Mangan:
Thank you, Lila.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, thank you, Lila. And yesterday we had no energy and we lay about having slept, but waking up feeling absolutely crappy, trying to get the day going. It didn’t really work. And then you did come to me sock on hand and say, “Am I going to just dwindle into the grave and leave Lila motherless and never accomplish anything in my life?”

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, because-

Martha Beck:
And I said, “Of course.”

Rowan Mangan:
Are you just realizing this now?

Martha Beck:
The way we all go.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, I have a thing where when I don’t have access to a lot of physical energy, which does happen periodically for me, which we’ve also talked about before. It’s that where you universalize it, where right now I have no physical energy, therefore I will never again. It’s like when you’re depressed as well. It’s that same thing where it’s like I will never be happy again and I never have been happy. So yesterday it was like I don’t have any physical energy and I never have ever in my life, I have never stood up. I have, I’ve never strolled about or done a single bit of work. And of course it ended up focusing on work because that’s the bloody culture coming in.

Martha Beck:
Well you did the fear of bad parenting as well as work.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, for sure. For sure. So yeah. So that’s where I was, I was just like… And what it culminated in and is what is still there, even though I feel a lot better today, is the classic, that old chestnut, “I’m not getting enough-

Martha Beck:
“Enough-

Rowan Mangan:
… done.”

Martha Beck:
… done.” Oh, God.

Rowan Mangan:
So Marty, will you please help? Help me, Marty, help me.

Martha Beck:
Help me.

Rowan Mangan:
Sock says, “Help me, Marty, please. Please.”

Martha Beck:
“Help me.” First of all, I have to, just for those of you who are feeling sick and have your sickness glasses on, it is true that whatever state you’re in, it seems to generalize. And in your defense at the moment, the person who is saying that at that moment in time like has no past and has no future. You’re just very present. So it’s kind of, “Ooh,” so it’s a different you.

And it reminded me of a story, a joke about a lion and a mouse.

Rowan Mangan:
Of course it did.

Martha Beck:
Yes, so the lion is sleeping and the mouse tiptoes past it, and the lion wakes up and rose, thump and traps the mouse’s tail under its big paw.

Rowan Mangan:
I can see it.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, and then it picks the mouse up in its claws and it dangles the mouse in front of its massive head. And it says, “Oh my God, you are the puniest, most pathetic, weakest creature I have ever seen in my life.” And the mouse looks at the lion and says, “I’ve been sick.” And that’s how I feel most days of my life. Anyway-

Rowan Mangan:
So hang on, but I feel like there’s a problematic moral to this story because the mouse thinks that she’s just been sick.

Martha Beck:
The mouse claims being sick on its… what I’m telling you is you are as weak and puny as you appear when you’re really sick.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, that’s what I’m taking from it.

Martha Beck:
It’s a cultural reinforcement of the general message, which is that we’re all supposed to have tons of energy all the time.

Rowan Mangan:
And this is what the culture says about getting enough done, right?

Martha Beck:
Yes.

Rowan Mangan:
Is-

Martha Beck:
You have to get a lot done. A lot done. A lot done. I remember when I used to… I stopped reading self-help books at a certain point in my life. And I mentioned this, one of my children said to me, that’s because you self-helped, you stopped reading self-help because you self-helped.

But back when I used to read self-help books, I remember one that was about this woman who was always, always doing something. She would travel a lot for work and on the plane she would not relax. She would either work or she would read books about the place where she was going. And she always arranged to have a driver from the area, a historian, an historian, pick her up, drive her around the town or country or whatever it was, learning information about it that she would go to the opera or she would go somewhere and take in more information. And then she would get up in the morning and do more. And she only slept five hours a night because that’s the way you sleep, five hours a night, and you’re doing things the rest of the time.

And we haven’t traveled very far from that being the advice that was given specifically in this book. And-

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, I don’t, I think if anything, we’re traveling in the opposite direction.

Martha Beck:
You think so? Say more.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, yeah. I think those messages are stronger than ever.

Martha Beck:
Say more, like what message is hitting you? Because I no longer look at social media, for example. But-

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. Yeah.

Martha Beck:
Because it’s very busy.

Rowan Mangan:
And that’s where it all is. That’s where it all is. It’s just unremitting. I’m thinking of podcast bros and just how you have to be all over the stock market. Don’t go to a restaurant and think, how can I afford this meal? Go to a restaurant and say, “I’m going to buy this restaurant,” and just that. And then do get up at 2:00 AM, half an hour before you go to bed and all of that. And, oh, actually in the show notes, we should link to the five Yorkshiremen, I think it’s called. There’s a Monte Python skit-

Martha Beck:
Oh, right-

Rowan Mangan:
… about this-

Martha Beck:
… I remember that one, that’s good.

Rowan Mangan:
… that we must do. And yeah, but it’s just even more like achieve-

Martha Beck:
Do, do, do, do.

Rowan Mangan:
… create, make, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce.

Martha Beck:
And you know what? We’re all held to the standard of people who are freakish by nature. And I refer to our friend Liz, I do, because she is freakishly productive.

Rowan Mangan:
And energetic.

Martha Beck:
Energetic. She did this a 30-day walking tour through France. She walked like 20 miles a day, finished it, and then the next day was in St. Louis doing a… In Missouri. It’s Missouri, right? Yeah. St. Louisville. I don’t know where she was, but she was in the American Midwest.

Rowan Mangan:
Louisville, I think is Kentucky,

Martha Beck:
Louisville. I almost missed a plane once, because I thought I was going to Louisville and it’s Laville. But, and then she was giving this speech and then she was… And then I wrote to her and I said, “I’m going to draw things. I’m going to draw a picture every day.” Three days later, she emailed me back a 76-card tarot deck that she had drawn and labeled, publishable quality, all 76 laid out that she had done. Because I said, “I’m going to draw one picture.” So-

Rowan Mangan:
Liz, Liz, Liz.

Martha Beck:
And she feels weak because apparently in her family, people are made of titanium and never break down and just do incredibly high quality work all the time. And it’s very-

Rowan Mangan:
Maybe that’s why she likes us. She just comes to our house and we’re like, “Hello-

Martha Beck:
Yeah, I know she’s like, I know-

Rowan Mangan:
… help us now,” – she always ends up coming over and then making us soup.

Martha Beck:
That’s so true. We’re always just like, “We’ve been sick.” She’s like, “No problem. I just finished another novel in four weeks, I’m going to make you some soup, then I’m going to go out to the back and build you a tiny house where you can rest. I’ll be back in 20 minutes. Boom.” And it’s always like perfect. So, people like that. I’m just saying they are able to live up to the mythology that that’s how we should always be.

Rowan Mangan:
But that’s not the problem. It’s the mythology that’s the problem, right?

Martha Beck:
Yes, yes. I mean, you go, Liz, we love you and your incredible energy.

Rowan Mangan:
And there’s that thing about how world leaders are often that archetype of people who only need three hours sleep a night and all of that. They often are the ones that can end up with those sorts of unrelenting positions. Because most of us, well, I mean you and I wouldn’t last-

Martha Beck:
Oh God, no.

Rowan Mangan:
… five minutes.

Martha Beck:
I was doing research for a novel that I’ve not yet written because I’m not productive enough. But one of the characters was supposed to be the CEO of a company. So I went and I read all these biographies of CEOs, really successful CEOs, and there was a competition to see who could sleep the least. Like three hours, two hours a night, “That’s fine, I take a cat nap for 30 seconds at lunch and then I just need two hours at night.” It’s inhuman and cruel and I think morally wrong, but that’s just-

Rowan Mangan:
Absolutely.

Martha Beck:
But yeah, the culture is what they always used to tell me at Harvard, “Sleep faster.”

Rowan Mangan:
Shit. Oh, all right.

Martha Beck:
So yeah, everything-

Rowan Mangan:
Sleep faster, so far I’m feeling much better.

Martha Beck:
From what? From just like-

Rowan Mangan:
From you’ve given me the advice, sleep faster. You’ve given me an example of Liz Gilbert trumping around France and building tiny houses left, right and center as she goes.

Martha Beck:
I think it was great-

Rowan Mangan:
So I think we’ve kind of captured what the culture says about this.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, it’s deadlines, it’s schedules, it’s the general left-hemisphere dominant obsession with material acquisition that is part of 21st century capitalism and all capitalism. And it just permeates everything.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. Well, just for the love of God and all that is holy, can we get to figuring this out? Please.

Martha Beck:
Absolutely, right this minute after a break.

Rowan Mangan:
So Marty, in this very special, “Ro’s, cry for help,” episode, “Help me, Marty. Help me, please,” I hate the feeling that I’m not getting enough done. I feel it all the freaking time. Not just when I’m sick, though it gets stronger then. But please help me figure this out right now. Help, help.

Martha Beck:
Help.

Rowan Mangan:
Help.

Martha Beck:
Okay. First of all, you have to just listen to a Tracy Chapman song and sing it over and over. And until you feel so mesmerized, you forget the culture. It really works well.

Rowan Mangan:
Okay, got it. All right. I’m taking notes.

Martha Beck:
I just want to tell you a story because this was at a turning point in my own life. I was invited to go to a gathering at the home of Norman Lear, who is a legend in American television. He has created so many great shows. He created All in the Family that was really progressive. He put all these shows on the air that dealt with real issues and they were hilarious, but they helped people bring difficult issues into the public spotlight. And he just made show after show after show. And when I met him, I think he was 97.

Rowan Mangan:
He’s still going strong, at least at the time of recording.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, he is. And he was working. I met him and he was in this room working away on another show. And there were a group of us and we’d all come there to work with Byron Katie, the spiritual teacher. And we went into Norman’s film screening room.

Now, first of all, let me tell you that Norman Lear does not live in Beverly Hills. He lives on an entire Beverly Hill. It’s this incredible compound. They put me in someplace that was by the coach house or something, and I had to walk half a mile to get to the main house. And it’s beautiful and it overlooks LA. And then we go into this film screening room and it’s huge. And all around the walls are bookshelves, floor to ceiling bookshelves, and all in them are couched or ensconced, countless volumes, bound volumes of scripts of TV shows that Norman has created. Okay?

Rowan Mangan:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Martha Beck:
Changed the culture. There are hundreds of these scripts, thousands. So we were all sitting around and I was in awe of him, and he’s like working away at 97 in his little straw hat, and he’s being hilarious and sharp witted. And then we start doing the work with Byron Katie, the spiritual teacher. And she says, “Okay, so somebody bring up a thought that tortures you.” And he waves his hand, Norman Lear, and he says, “I just don’t get enough done.”

Rowan Mangan:
Oh my God.

Martha Beck:
“I’ve never gotten enough done. I can’t get enough done.” I was like, “Okay, either I’m going to kill myself right here and now, or I’m going to stop thinking that thought. Because if he can do what he has done for 97 years and create what he’s created and still be dogged by this thought day and night, there is no escape. Like doing is not the way.” That’s what I realized doing enough is not the way out of the fear of not doing enough.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, wow. Hang on. Okay. Doing enough is not the way out of the fear of not doing enough.

Martha Beck:
Not doing enough, no.

Rowan Mangan:
Wow. Okay.

Martha Beck:
Straight to that one.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s amazing.

Martha Beck:
That is not the way to feel this.

Rowan Mangan:
Can I just… I have a question that’s a little bit of a detour, but I’m really curious.

Martha Beck:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rowan Mangan:
So some of our listeners will know about the work of Byron Katie, and it’s this amazing reprogram your brain process for sort of neutralizing negative thoughts. And I just wonder at those sorts of get togethers, I know you’ve had a lot of experiences with Katie and watching her work and everything. Do people come to her and her work with the explicit agenda of using it to become more productive? Have you ever heard? Because I just wonder, is that how people are using her as another hack?

Martha Beck:
I don’t know. I couldn’t answer for them, but I did… It was really interesting that she started working with him. And the idea is could it possibly be true that you have done enough? I mean, it doesn’t sound like an earth-shaking proposition, but the way she goes at it, it actually gets at the core structures of the belief and starts to shake it loose. And this other very famous dude, a comedian who was in the room, jumped up as Norman Lear is questioning his thought, “I didn’t do enough.” And he said, “I’ve got to get out of here. If I start thinking like that, I’ll never get anything done.” And he left.

Rowan Mangan:
Huh, interesting.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. And he also said, “I have to stay depressed or I won’t be funny.”

Rowan Mangan:
Wow, we see this quite a lot when we start dissecting cultural messages that people are trying to set themselves up in a state of unhappiness, stress, frustration, because there’s this belief that that’s the only condition under which we can be as productive and as whatever, productive I guess, as the culture wants us to be. Remember there was that guy, that banker or stockbroker or something who was saying, “Always put more on your list than you’ll ever achieve and always be stressing out about it.”

Martha Beck:
Probably all of them. And then in fact-

Rowan Mangan:
But it’s fascinating, isn’t it? So the comedian was saying, “If I start questioning the thought, I’m not getting enough done. I’ll get-

Martha Beck:
“I really won’t get enough done.”

Rowan Mangan:
Wild.

Martha Beck:
“That’s the whip that keeps me moving forward.” And by the way, as he ran out the door, he was like, “And I have to stay depressed or I won’t be funny.” And I remember thinking, “You’re not that funny.” Now he’ll hear this and hate me, but that’s all right. I’ve already shamed myself publicly on the Ali Wentworth podcast. So yeah, people, that’s the ego’s tricking us, “Here’s this thought that will persecute you for the rest of your life. And the biggest danger to you is that if I go away and stop driving you, you will really fail. You need your suffering to achieve what the culture wants you to achieve.”

Rowan Mangan:
This is really blowing my mind open because now that you’ve put it that way, I can just see it everywhere.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, it is everywhere. And the question I would ask you, and I would ask anyone, I would ask that comedian dude, I would ask Norman Lear is doing enough for what? What are you headed for? Where’s the finish line? So I’m going to ask you right now, yesterday you felt like you didn’t get enough done but done in what way? What is done? When are you done?

Rowan Mangan:
Okay, so we’re going to actually do this. Am I’m going to-

Martha Beck:
We’re going to do this.

Rowan Mangan:
All right.

Martha Beck:
When are you going to do be done?

Rowan Mangan:
So for me, it is there is no done. There is a state in which I am producing regularly to the amount where it is not a challenge for me to do this weekly. All right, so where I get anxious is that I feel like because I can’t rely on my physical energy day in, day out to be consistent, I feel like I can never plan to be reliable. I can never rely on myself to produce anything or keep promises or that sort of thing. Does that make sense?

Martha Beck:
Yes, and when will you know that’s enough? Because I have known you to be very productive in one area and then say, “Oh, but I didn’t do this other thing.” We’ve talked about this too, the contradictory roles and the different things that we tell ourselves we have to do. And how we do one and then it’s still not enough because we haven’t done the other. But when are you actually going to be able to get up one morning and say, “Oh, I’m done. I’m there. I’m perfect. It’s going great?”

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. I mean, I think I would have to have been on a roll for like, I don’t know, six months of a perfect attendance record for the various things that I’ve told myself I’m going to do daily or weekly or monthly. And then I would feel like, all right, I can trust myself. I’ve held it for six months.

Martha Beck:
Okay, and then suppose you slip and now you’ve got people expecting weekly productivity. You’ve got people who are writing your little emails saying, “Thank you for doing your Substack because it really, really made my day. I need this every week.” And then you can’t do it one week. How do you feel then?

Rowan Mangan:
Absolutely terrible.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. You create a false economy like I’ve done with my bird feeders. I just keep putting more birdseed out, which means more birds come, which means it runs out faster, which means I’ve got to get more birdseed out there because the poor things have now reproduced it at a natural level because the availability of this surplus food, and I have to keep it coming, but it just keeps driving more bird population. It is a Malthusian horror.

Rowan Mangan:
So you are saying that I mustn’t send out my weekly newsletters on time or else I’ll be setting people’s expectations up?

Martha Beck:
Yeah. Exactly, no.

Rowan Mangan:
And they’ll become reliant and then they’ll have babies who have only ever known a time where Ro has a weekly Substack day in, day out, week in, week out. And then they’ll die.

Martha Beck:
Save the damn children, Ro, you don’t want parents spiritually expiring because they don’t get your weekly Substack and then their children go unparented, that’s on you.

Rowan Mangan:
Well, I must admit I hadn’t seen it that way before.

Martha Beck:
I’m not saying you don’t have to do it weekly, what I am saying is there’s no done, there’s no enough.

Rowan Mangan:
There’s no done.

Martha Beck:
In the culture, it’s an open-ended more, more, more. I mean, look at the way we’re consuming the planet, more, more, more, more, more. Look at the way we want to put money in the bank, more, more. Now, Jeff Bezos says to his employees, I read this thing where he said, “Every morning wake up terrified that you’re not doing enough and terrified that the customers won’t be pleased. And that’s how you keep being sharp,” which in that case means being the richest man in the world. I think at many points, maybe it’s the lead changes, but do you want to be the richest person in the world and still wake up terrified every morning and tell your employees to wake up terrified every day of their lives so that more and more and more keeps getting done?

Rowan Mangan:
Wow.

Martha Beck:
So I refer you to Percy Bysshe, never known how to pronounce that name. Bysshe

Rowan Mangan:
Bischi, Bysshe, Percy Bysshe.

Martha Beck:
It’s B-Y-S-S-H-E. Bysshe.

Rowan Mangan:
Yes, Bysshe.

Martha Beck:
Bysshe.

Rowan Mangan:
I’ve always said, Bischi.

Martha Beck:
Percy Bysshe Shelley, which is really kind of a… It’s not the greatest name. I mean, I don’t know who his parents were, but Percy Bysshe Shelley, you want him to get beaten up at school? The great poem, Ozymandias. Remember that?

Rowan Mangan:
I do. Yeah.

Martha Beck:
Speak of it, you classics nerd.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, no. You tell the story the way it needs to be told. I’ll just bugger it up.

Martha Beck:
But you produced on it, about somebody, a traveler comes from a distant land and he’s seen this huge statue in the desert, but it’s fallen apart. It’s just got these stumpy legs and there’s an inscription on it and it’s in like… I will render the last few lines, on the pedestal, these words appear, this is a quote, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works ye mighty and despair. Nothing beside remains round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare. The lone and level sands stretch far away.” So he freaking did it. And it’s nothing. It’s a desert. It’s a pair of broken legs and an arrogant, narcissistic inscription on a rock.

Rowan Mangan:
I wonder if he woke up every morning terrified. And that’s why he got so much done, even though it didn’t last.

Martha Beck:
That’s right, yeah. Actually that’s probably how he got this poem written.

Rowan Mangan:
Not Shelley.

Martha Beck:
Oh my God.

Rowan Mangan:
Ozymandias.

Martha Beck:
Ozymandias. So the first thing is pointless. I mean, if you zoom out and look at it from a logical perspective, this culture is headed off the edge of a self-destructive cliff. And all it wants is more, more, faster, faster to where? To the lone and level sands, to the end of all things. Like there’s no finish line. Never enough.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s true.

Martha Beck:
So given that I have a policy when I am sick and I can’t get much done, and the policy is in the negative and it goes like this, “Don’t slap the baby.”

Rowan Mangan:
I heard you say this before.

Martha Beck:
I came up with this when we didn’t know each other well at all, right? We were living in California on the ranch.

Rowan Mangan:
No, no. It was just before I arrived to the ranch. You got really into this.

Martha Beck:
Okay, so you were brand new when I first thought this up. So I was sitting in my little house thinking, “I’m not getting enough done. I’m not getting enough done. I’m not getting enough done.” Because I think that every single second of every single day… Do I? Not anymore. But I used to and I thought this is mistreating a creature. It’s like if you had a baby that could get a lot done, like Lila, she gets a lot done. She gets a lot done. She moves everywhere at a run. So you had this baby, and it is your productivity and your energy, and it’s this innocent, joyful creature, like all little babies should be, should be allowed to be. And it doesn’t do the right things at the right times. It stops producing enough for you, the adult. It’s like a child in a sweat shop. And so when your productivity starts to slip, you go inside your psyche and start bashing it around, slapping it. Why aren’t you doing more? I mean, what were you thinking yesterday when you were lying there, right before you said, “Marty, I need advice.”

Rowan Mangan:
What was I thinking?

Martha Beck:
Yeah, what was going on in your head?

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, I was just running through lists of all the things that I wish I had been able to achieve in the few days previous and yesterday.

Martha Beck:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), and did you have judgments of yourself when-

Rowan Mangan:
I had some choice judgements of myself. Yes.

Martha Beck:
May you please share them with us all.

Rowan Mangan:
Useless, lazy piece of shit. There was a lot of lazy. Lazy was a big part of it.

Martha Beck:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rowan Mangan:
Worthless. What are you? Who do you think you are? Just the classics, I guess.

Martha Beck:
One of the classics of this, yeah, of lots of cultures, but really, really, really classic of our culture, and that’s the culture is in your head, you’re using its voice and you are lifting its mighty hand and you are slapping the baby inside you half senseless, right? There should be – you are abusing yourself when you sit around saying, “You lazy piece of shit. Just because you’re violently ill does not mean you shouldn’t get up.” And I don’t know what, “Write a Substack thing,” or whatever. Because I said something like, “It’ll be okay.” And you’re like, “So I just shouldn’t write my Substack today?” And I was like, “It wouldn’t be the worst thing that ever happened, Norman Lear.”

Rowan Mangan:
It would, it would.

Martha Beck:
I remember. I was so pleased with this thought. Don’t slap the baby if you’re feeling like it. So I told these people, I told people about it at the ranch and we all got together for dinner and you had just arrived.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. And our friend Boyd was staying there and he was, I think he must have been, we were talking about you. You guys were introducing me to the sense of this is what it’s like living at the ranch. And I can’t remember what Boyd said, but you came in with, “And don’t slap the baby,” as one of the… And I had never heard this before, but it was very clear that everyone else at the table… that you’d been treating them to this new phrase.

Martha Beck:
And I think I said something like, “Boyd, you have got to stop slapping the baby. You slap the baby constantly.”

Rowan Mangan:
“And we’ve agreed we don’t do that here.” And I was like, Shit, all right.” And I’m from Australia and we are an uncouth people, I think that’s probably fair to say. And I swear to God, I was absolutely convinced at that moment that slap the baby was some sort of American slang for masturbation, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. And anyway, so that was one of our interesting early misunderstandings.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, it was a strange way to get [inaudible 00:41:07].

Rowan Mangan:
Don’t slap that baby, not in my house.

Martha Beck:
“You, stop slapping the baby. You’re here now. That is not something we’re doing here.”

Rowan Mangan:
Oh my God.

Martha Beck:
That’s where I grew up actually. Seriously. Oh my God. I grew up Mormon. I don’t know if y’all knew that. But-

Rowan Mangan:
You never mentioned it.

Martha Beck:
… there literally was a handbook that was passed out I think to the young men, which meant between 12 and 16 in Mormonism when I was growing up. And it had ways to prevent yourself from masturbating just for the boys. I guess they thought girls couldn’t do it, but included, they included, and I am going to quote, the suggestions were read from the scriptures, work so hard and do so much sports that you’re too exhausted, when you feel the urge, get up, go to the kitchen and eat a sandwich.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh my God.

Martha Beck:
And then the last one was, and I am not joking or exaggerating, tie your hands to the bed frame with a tie so that you cannot. Look to me, it’s just putting a little S&M on top of the regular baby slapping procedures, right?

Rowan Mangan:
Wow. That is kinky.

Martha Beck:
Right?

Rowan Mangan:
I think whoever wrote that handbook had a little too much fun.

Martha Beck:
I think so.

Rowan Mangan:
Wow. I was expecting you to say, but if you’re really, really struggling, go find a baby and slap it.

Martha Beck:
You do not slap her. So there’s the whole, don’t slap the baby, you’re torturing yourself. There’s no end goal. These kinds of thoughts over the years, let me slowly, slowly, slowly let go of the fact that I get in my own eyes, almost nothing done. I mean, I literally drew one picture and Liz Gilbert did 76.

Rowan Mangan:
And yet I’ve heard people come to you and say, how is it that you’re so prolific?

Martha Beck:
And I have the key to that actually.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, thank God.

Martha Beck:
Just like schlub a little every few days because that’s all I’ve ever done.

Rowan Mangan:
Schlub?

Martha Beck:
Schlub, and I remember when I was schlubbing my way through my PhD program with my, I was spawning right, left and center, literally reading Aristotle while I was in labor. And I got my PhD in sociology. And the great sociologist of all time is Max Weber, the German sociologist, Max Weber, as we might call him in America. His name was Max Weber. And he wrote massive tomes. He wrote this book called Economy and Society that is literally thousands and thousands of pages of tiny like-

Rowan Mangan:
How did he get it done?

Martha Beck:
What?

Rowan Mangan:
How did he get it done?

Martha Beck:
Here’s the thing, I read his biography because I always read the biographies of philosophers and scientists, because I think they’re biased. Anyway, he suffered from what looks in retrospect like bipolar disorder. He would get so depressed, he would be productive for a while, and then he would have to go lie down in a dark room for years. He would spend literally years just lying down, no doubt, slapping the baby.

Rowan Mangan:
Probably from time to time.

Martha Beck:
But he got these massive things done and he’s like the father of sociology and he’s like… And I thought, “Wow, if he could schlub his way through that, that’s okay.” And then I heard that Leonard Cohen would take a year to write a song, a single song, you know Leonard Cohen better than I, is that true?

Rowan Mangan:
I don’t know, they’re good songs. I wouldn’t put it past him.

Martha Beck:
Well you should read more biographies. He wrote these incredible transcendent beautiful poems, but are also songs, and he wrote beautiful music too and he would spend a whole year. And I just think of him as this massively productive songwriter. Right?

Rowan Mangan:
Well, in fairness, I think Hallelujah at one point had 65 verses.

Martha Beck:
80 verses.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh my God.

Martha Beck:
Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
There you go.

Martha Beck:
But still, still in all, he only… Like one song a year. You’d think that’s just nothing. That’s like… Because the culture tells you that’s not enough. But actually the slow accumulation of tiny efforts is what I’m capable of. And it ends up looking like productivity to other people.

Rowan Mangan:
I’ve got to write this down. Hang on, because I’m genuine here. I’m genuinely in this place, people. So I’m typing this down. Slow accumulation of tiny efforts.

Martha Beck:
Yes.

Rowan Mangan:
Okay.

Martha Beck:
So write down first what are… You’re going, you’re racing to nowhere. There’s-

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. All right. I’m going to get a transcript.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, there’s no getting it done. You’re racing to nowhere. You just want to be Ozymandias, king of kings.

Rowan Mangan:
No, no, no, no. But also I don’t want you to skip over the thing that blew my mind most, which is the way… That getting enough done is not the way out of worrying about getting enough done. That is, that to me is the holy crap moment [inaudible 00:46:12].

Martha Beck:
That is more explicative. If you are worried about getting things done and you try to make the fear go away by getting things done, the fear multiplies. It gets worse and worse and worse. I promise you.

Rowan Mangan:
I don’t think our dogs are especially worried about how much they’re getting done. At least they’re catching up.

Martha Beck:
No, but they are worried about something. I think they feel they have cornered the FedEx man and this time he’s going down. So another poet, Leonard Cohen was a great poet, but Mary Oliver’s beautiful phrase, “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
She said something else in another poem, which I love, she’s talking about productivity. And she says, “No, let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.”

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, I love that.

Martha Beck:
Feel the way that just lets your body go. That’s nature talking. She was like bathed in nature her whole life. And she realized that the real point is to stand still and learn to be astonished, to let the world soak into your pores. Whatever is happening, you’re here to gather, not to produce. You’re here to be astonished.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, and you can see how when you read her poetry, how it couldn’t possibly exist without extremely long times spent in silence, learning to be astonished and standing still.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. And I recently did my one month of… that I defended by doing it as an experiment for a book I’m writing, but I did a month of letting myself just work on what I wanted to. And I sort of watched our two-year-old run around and I started to do things that I did when I was two. I ran around with her. That was helpful. I started drawing, which I’d done a lot when I was two, listening to stories, audiobooks, stuff like that. All of a sudden the appetite for doing became this – my appetite for doing at my advanced age started to match Lila’s like I was a two-year-old again, but with decades of experience and a driver’s license. Like holy crap, to be two years old and able to do what an adult does.

And the appetite for doing was voracious and joyful and everything seemed to taste wonderful. And I actually sought therapy to get myself out of it because I was going to disappear from the culture completely. And I did think, “I want to go back and be with my people, but I don’t want to slap the baby.” But you haven’t had that experience of letting it all go. And then seeing that the appetite for doing comes from nature itself, but not… It doesn’t do what culture tells you to do.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s fascinating. We talked about appetite on another recent episode and-

Martha Beck:
Yeah, yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
… I wonder, I feel like we might be onto something with that, just following tracks, that appetite is something that we can sort of use.

Martha Beck:
It’s real. It is the mechanism with which nature says to us, “Move this way.” And then-

Rowan Mangan:
And that it’s thing that we’ve said before of, “Wake up, terrified, never get enough done.” That the punishment ethos is the culture and the stick whacking your horse with a stick to get it to move. But instead of holding out a carrot, which is what you’re saying nature does, is it’s just like, “Here’s a delicious carrot. Come over here.”

Martha Beck:
And you’re in the flow of it. You can’t even stop it. And remember what I told you yesterday, “Don’t push the river. It runs by itself.” And the little jump you have to take is not into doing, it’s into trusting that the river runs by itself.

Rowan Mangan:
“Don’t push the river it runs by itself,” and trusting that. When you said that, that was when I was like, “All right, we’re doing the podcast on this because that’s freaking brilliant.”

Martha Beck:
And just getting to these last few things like, “Stand still and learn to be astonished.” “Don’t push the river, it runs by itself.” And then everybody says, but you’ve got to pay the rent. Here’s the thing, I have been so sick and crippled in my life that I have had to do this over and over and over again, and life has taken really good care of me, and I can’t push the river.

Rowan Mangan:
And she’s not full of shit about this. I see her, she actually genuinely has physical issues that make getting a lot done hard. She lives this. It’s something to see. And I’m very grateful that I get to benefit from your wisdom, Marty.

Martha Beck:
Oh, thank you. And I just hope that soon you can stop slapping the baby so much.

Rowan Mangan:
I will never.

Martha Beck:
It’s taking too much time out of your day. So anyway, I hope that people out there can identify with this. It’s a pressure we’re all feeling all the time. And so I thought let’s just go through it with each other the way we do, and then the peoples can come listen.

Rowan Mangan:
I think that there’s a lot of people who will get as much out of this conversation as I have. So thank you very much.

Martha Beck:
Thank you, Rowie. Just stay Rowie and all of you, stay you, and stay wild.

Rowan Mangan: 
We hope you’re enjoying Bewildered. If you’re in the USA and want to be notified when a new episode comes out, text the word ‘WILD’ to 570-873-0144.

We’re also on Instagram. Our handle is @bewilderedpodcast. You can follow us to get updates, hear funny snippets and outtakes, and chat with other fans of the show.

For more of us, Martha’s on Instagram, themarthabeck. She’s on Facebook, The Martha Beck, and she’s on Twitter, marthabeck. Her website is, MarthaBeck.com. And me, I too am on Instagram. Rowan_Mangan. I’m on Facebook as Rowan Mangan. And I’m on Twitter as RowanMangan. Bewildered is produced by Scott Forster with support from the brilliant team at MBI.


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