Stories of Men

People-pleasers are at a higher risk of burnout —how to spot the signs


Have you ever gone out of your way for someone to find that, at the moment you need their help, they’re nowhere to be found?

Have you made sacrifices for others that went underappreciated or even unacknowledged?

Have you ever asked yourself why you allow people to take advantage of you again and again and again?

It doesn’t feel good when we are used by others. But, the truth is, it can only happen if we allow it to happen. A new realisation for me.

Which means that we have the power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But, the question is, if we have this power, why don’t we use it?

A lot of it is to do with our upbringings. I’ve spent pretty much my whole life trying to please other people: my parents, my siblings, my friends, my colleagues, my employees.

It’s just so tempting to think that if we do right by others, then they’ll do right by us but that is far from always the case.

As a business owner, I’ve experienced my fair share of unfair outcomes.

For instance, I started my teaching business in Hong Kong in February 2014. People there regard a quality education as an absolute must. We started out teaching kids English and their parents would pay up to a quarter of their entire income on extra classes! Crazy, right?!

This meant that I was able to make good money by attracting clients to my school and the teachers I employed benefited also.

One teacher I employed did particularly well. She was loved by young and adult learners alike. So, I gave her more classes, and more classes, and more classes. I was loving the positive reviews I was getting from the students and also wanting to do my best to keep my teacher happy too.

The students were pleased, and so was my teacher, or at least I thought she was.

A strange pattern started to emerge when the parents of her students would ignore my calls and messages when it came time to renew or they’d just say ‘sorry, we’ve decided not to continue with classes’. This all seemed strange when previously they’d told me repeatedly how much they had loved the classes.

Out of absolutely nowhere, she ended up resigning. But this was far from the worst part of the story.

When she left the school, she ended up taking a whole chunk of these students with her. This meant literally thousands of pounds per month leaving the business. Parents used to pay for a huge block of classes in advance so over a year I’d say I lost £70,000.

Despite all of this, I went out of my way to make sure she was paid in full for all the work she had done. Just because she hadn’t done right by me didn’t mean I wouldn’t do right by her. This was my mentality back then.

However, despite all she’d done already, she went on to leave the school a scathing online review, no doubt hoping to deal my business a final blow.

Did I learn my lesson from this?


Many times we don’t learn until an epiphany hits us one day.

At this point in 2018 in India I hadn’t learned.

I went out there to start some partnerships with English language schools. A school in Kerala, in the south of India, agreed to meet me at their office for ‘a meeting’.

A meeting it wasn’t.

They swiftly took me to a classroom where 10 teachers were waiting for me. The owner left the room and I was then bombarded with questions about how to teach English grammar, top exam tips, pronunciation, you name it. Hot sweaty room with no air conditioning….FOR 3 HOURS.

I can laugh about it now but the situation could’ve been cleared up very quickly by me in the exact moment it was happening. The problem was that I didn’t set my boundaries. As well as establishing expectations; dealing with communication gaps…the list goes on.

When boundaries aren’t set, pleasing people can kick in. I’ve since learned the importance of this from my counsellor. Even if you risk upsetting someone, at least you’re not upsetting yourself in the process.

The even funnier thing about all this was that the owner had taken my colleague and I out the night before for food and we both got food poisoning from the dodgy meat. I wasn’t as bad as him, thankfully.

He got whisked off to hospital and I felt terrible for the whole time I was at that school. To drive home the point of people pleasing further, the school never ended up partnering with us and they ended up ghosting me after I got back to the UK.

They were the winners. They got a FREE teacher training session out of me 😂

Now, things like this can happen in business but the worst part of these 2 situations was that I could see that things weren’t going the right way in advance. The signs did not look good. I facilitated what was happening when I had the power not to.

When I look back, the red flags were there and I chose to ignore them. I didn’t want to upset anyone.

Instead, I did all I could to keep everyone happy. Ultimately, I ended up being the sole loser of the situation.

Being too focused on pleasing others doesn’t just have financial consequences, it can have psychological impacts too.

I’ve got OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and I found that pleasing people led to me doing something called ‘scripting’.

This is when you take a minor offence, such as someone hanging up on the telephone too abruptly or sending you a slightly blunt email, and you blow it up into a major issue by creating imaginary conversations and situations in your mind. It just does not leave your mind unless you have strategies in place to surrender and let it go…easier said than done though.

These imaginary dialogues I would create would involve me having a raging argument with a person I felt had wronged me in some way. I’d imagine them saying all sorts of insulting things and, essentially, making them out to be the devil himself.

This had almost nothing to do with the person I was having the imaginary conversation with and everything to do with my avoidance issues. I didn’t want to confront people in real life and so I exaggerated things in my head. Hardly a healthy way to go about things, is it?

The most important thing I needed to learn is that there are some people you just can’t please. I also needed to learn that the person who most needs to be kept happy is me.

If this means risking upsetting people or even hurting their feelings by not being able to make accommodations that do not suit me, then so be it.

This doesn’t mean you can go around being an a*sehole to people; it just means having non-negotiables that you stand by in terms of what you will and won’t accept.

It’s better to be authentic and to be willing to deal with situations openly than to be secretly building resentments that risk spiralling out of control. For another story on the importance of opening up to others, listen to Luke here talking about how a vital conversation with a friend saved his life.

Selfishness is a virtue. Those aren’t my words but the words of author and philosopher, Ayn Rand. And she has a point.

After all, you can’t give from an empty cup. You need to take care of your own needs before you can meaningfully address others. I loved what Jed Irving said on this. He suffered for a long time before finally expressing his long suppressed needs here.

Let’s go back to that previous teacher who almost ended my business. I’d allowed her to get into a situation where my meeting of her needs almost ruined my entire enterprise. What about the needs of all of my other teachers and all the other members of staff who worked for me?

The business has to come first. I have to come first. There will be nothing left to give if I allow it all to be taken away.

So being more selfish means that not only can I take care of my own needs better but I’m also in a better place to deal reasonably with the needs of others.

I say ‘selfish’ but it has negative connotations relating to ego. I like the word ‘self-focussed’ instead.

That’s why now I aim to please myself first and please others after. Getting this in the right order has made a major difference in both my personal and professional life. Could you benefit from making this change too?



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Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3


Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights


I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years


Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.


I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years


Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt



Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  





Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.


I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.



Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!


Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.