It’s easy to waste your time on a whim
One hundred hours is just over 4 days. That’s the amount of time my fellow panel member on the BBC Sunday morning radio show had spent in the TV show ‘Big Brother’. Contrary to popular belief in the UK there are in fact more people in the world who’ve never heard of ‘Big Brother’ than are aficionados. So for those not ‘in the know’ it’s a show that locks up a group of hand-picked people in a house full of cameras to record their every waking, and sleeping, move. They can spend up to thirteen weeks voluntarily incarcerated in a weirdly decorated house, sharing a bedroom, and even a bed, with strangers. Originally pitched as a social experiment, the show soon degenerated into a combination of an often crude imitation of psychological group evaluation, a lurid game show and a cruel expose of an individual’s poor behaviour. 2010 is its eleventh and final annual outing. Over the years the producers have manipulated and cajoled participants to engage in all manner of activities to excite audience voyeuristic tendencies; from vile sexual deviation (there was a particularly unsavoury incident with a young ‘lady’ and a wine bottle), to budding ‘real romances’. Real that is, while in the confines of the Big Brother house.

Z-list or hate-list?
We’ve seen participants regularly join the ranks of z-list celebrities, (those that pay the paparazzi to follow them), and one or two actually use their exposure to become well known in their own right; from the tragic Jade-“I thought Norfolk was another country”-Goody (not the sharpest pencil in the box academically) who tragically died from cancer, to a few who’ve found on going work as TV presenters or assistants on day-time TV shows. None however had achieved the hard won status of Big Brother ‘housemate’, having beaten tens of thousands of ‘wannabees’ in the process, only to leave a mere 100 hours later. This did not go down well. Big Brother fans in forums all over the country vented their anger and outrage that this person could squander such an amazing opportunity. They screamed ‘foul’ that she had taken the place of someone who really wanted it, only to throw it back in their faces. They said some pretty unpleasant things about her. It wasn’t nice and it wasn’t pretty.

Why, why, why?
Her name is Laura and she’s very sweet. She’s only twenty, the same age as my daughter Georgia, so I admit to feeling somewhat paternal when she clearly needed a helping hand on live radio. She’s also very bright. There is a spark behind her shiny bright blues and her responses to some quite tough questions were lucid and sensible. That’s more than can be said about some people I’ve sat alongside! So why did this bright and sensible young woman put herself in a position where people she’s never met now dislike her? What do her actions really say about her, and how did she find herself in this situation? Speculation abounded, but having actually spoken with her about it I can confirm that the answer is very simple; she just didn’t really think it through. As lame an as excuse that might sound, it’s true; she just didn’t think it all the way through. What started as a jolly-jape; a ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could get on Big Brother’ outburst turned into a spur of the moment trip to open auditions in Cardiff. Once there her focus was on getting a proper audition. Having got the audition the next goal was to get on the show. The rest is, as they, history. Through a convoluted voting system she was ‘picked’ to become a new housemate. It was the achievement of a series of small goals stimulated by a not-very-thought-through idea that got her there. Once in the house she was faced with a stark reality.

Reality is different to the perception
It’s very bright. Viewers don’t see the banks of fluorescent lights just above the coverage of the camera screen; lights that stay on all the time except in the bedroom area at night. Most people aren’t used to bright lights all the time; they can easily make you feel stressful and ill at ease.
It smells. The towels don’t get changed every day like in a hotel. The housemates are often young and lacking in household hygiene management skills; so they leave dirty laundry and damp towels all over the place. The sleeping quarters are subject to the same bright lighting during the day as the rest of the house and there are no windows to ‘air’ the room, so sweaty bed linen adds to the unsavoury aroma. The kitchen isn’t cleaned by anyone other than the housemates, of which none of the younger is likely to have experienced having to keep a kitchen clean. Not only are there the unfamiliar odour of strange people, there’s also a mix of strange and often unpleasant smells.
It’s hostile. Joining a group after it has formed is a tough call. Doing it in a situation where bonds have been formed in a hot-house environment will inevitably lead to a lack of open acceptance. Not only is it difficult to fit in to the group but when the warmth and welcome initially portrayed by the production company is found to be insincere and shallow, there’s also a feeling of rejection and hurt. It dawns on participants that no-one really cares about you personally. There are no loved ones to turn to, no caring voice to hear on the phone and no shoulder to cry on; you’re on your own in a hostile environment.

The choice of pain v more pain
Never mind the other trials and tribulations ;’Big Brother’ forces on the housemates in the name of viewer entertainment, and no matter that each participant has chosen freely to be on the show. The reality is that for sensible, sensitive and ordinary (in the nicest possible way) girls like Laura, it’s not worth the pain of staying. She didn’t have a goal. She hadn’t set out to try and become well known or to claw a career out of that notoriety. If she had, then the balance of pain versus more pain would have kept her in there. It would have been more painful to lose the chance of fame and fortune than put up with the pain of a bright, smelly, hostile environment.

Laura isn’t the only person ever to act on a whim
Laura’s experience happens to have been in the public eye. When a business owner goes ‘off on a whim’ it’s less public but can be equally damaging. Something that seems like a good idea at the time but hasn’t been thought through, market tested and rigorously examined is probably going to be a mistake. If that spur of the moment idea gets translated into a series of short term goals its even more dangerous. More dangerous because most of us like goals and do well at challenges. Business owners love getting their teeth into something new and exciting. So it’s easy to get caught up in the illusion of winning. Achieving one small goal after another in pursuit of something that might not actually do you any good, or indeed be what you really want, is not big and it’s not clever. It’s a mistake. It’s a waste of effort and it’s a diversion from what you ‘could’ have been doing to take you closer to your real goals.

So what have been your most remarkable 100 hours, and did they take you closer to your real goal?

Author's Bio: 

Martin is an experienced and high profile professional coach. As well as working with TV shows such as ITV's 'Jack Osbourne Adrenaline Junkie' and Channel 4's 'Fit Farm', he is a sought after corporate and business coach. His regular insights into the business psychology underpinning the news can be found at and more details about Martin at