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Keep it Happy! Something from nothing.

Every day we make super-fast interpretations, assumptions and decisions about the thousands of things we see, but sometimes it is good to explore a little further so that we don’t miss the real story. Written by trainee Ollie Coach, Deborah Stephenson

“There is beauty in everything, just not everybody sees it.” – Andy Warhol

A picture may tell a story, but the story behind a picture can often say as much as the picture itself.  Take the one that goes with this blog…

 There are many reasons why I love it.

I love it, because the single tree seems strong – its branches confidently outstretched in the sunset.

I told my daughter I thought the tree was strong.

“No,” she replied, “it is joyful!”, which just goes to show that we shouldn’t assume that everyone feels the same as we do about things! A picture may be worth a thousand words (I’ll come back to that later), but those words will be different for everyone.

I love the picture because the tree is joyful… but I also love it because the story behind it also teaches us something.

So you’ve seen the picture, yes, but have you really looked at it? At a quick glance you might see that it’s a kind of mosaic collage of a tree in a field under a red sky, but look closely and you will see other things.

It was actually made by my children in the second week of lockdown – a completely accidental activity driven by the need to do something different on a chilly damp Sunday morning in March. My daughter was plodding round aimlessly. I was busy. Could she help? Strange as it seems, she likes doing a bit of shredding, and as it’s something that always slips to the bottom of the priority list, there was plenty to do.

The shredder is temperamental and works to rule, cutting out regularly for ten minute breaks, but she persevered and before long two large bags were bulging, overspilling with torn strips of paper. Ordinarily, this would go in the recycling or on the compost heap, but somehow, a short time later, it was all over the floor! Both children then had a good time rolling in it, hiding in it, and flinging it into the air, and eventually, this…



You’ve probably noticed the words and logos from company letters and bills by now, but who knew that by rooting around carefully in that pile of boring plain shredding there would be enough colour to make a beautiful picture.

So I love the picture because it came from nothing, and the paperwork, originally important but now useless, was torn up as rubbish, but then became important again in a new way. It was a real lesson in finding something good in something I had thought was worthless. “Repurposing” I think it’s called, like those TV programmes where someone makes a camper van from an old plane cockpit, or a summer house out of a rusty horse box, only on a much much smaller scale!

You don’t have to be a coach or a therapist to know what I’m going to say… so I wonder, when you look inside yourself, what lovely colourful bits you will find? What rich things are hiding, waiting to be discovered or repurposed? Maybe they are smothered, but they will be there, and I wonder, when you find those best, most colourful bits of you, what picture you will make?

The really lovely thing is that there were an infinite variety of pictures the children could have made from the shredding, and given that same pile, we would all make something completely different but equally as amazing. It is the same for you… there are infinite ways you can arrange the colourful pieces of yourself to make the most beautiful you you can be – and I’m not talking blusher and eyeshadow (although that sometimes helps!).

Now you know some of what this picture teaches me, why I love it, and why I use for this blog.

And there’s something else too…

Every day we make super-fast interpretations, assumptions and decisions about the thousands of things we see, which in many ways is great, because if we had to think hard about absolutely everything, then we’d never get anything done, but sometimes it is good to explore a little further so that we don’t miss the real story.

As promised, let’s go back to the proverb  “A picture is worth a thousand words”. While checking I was using the correct phrase, I discovered that it isn’t ancient Chinese wisdom after all, but a saying invented at the beginning of the 20th Century used by people in the advertising world!

Discovering that made me smile – things really aren’t always what they seem!

And isn’t that the truth – because the image we have of another person is not the full picture. There is always a story behind it. For example we might be surprised when someone we see as very confident, gets nervous about something, but there will be reasons we don’t know for that. It works the other way too, when we see amazing qualities in other people that they don’t see in themselves. They see a pile of white shredding, where we pick out colour – let them know about the beautiful picture you see in them.

It is amazing what you can make from a bit of old rubbish isn’t it, because the shredding inspired the picture and now the picture has inspired this blog.

On a practical note, if you do shred your bills or important documents, and you have a a piece of paper and a glue stick, then I thoroughly recommend this as an interesting summer holiday activity with the kids, although of course anyone of any age can do it. I could show you the picture my husband and I created on the same evening that the children did this one, but it involves a rather long story about a mouse under a cupboard so I think I’ll save that for another time!


Deborah Stephenson, Ollie Coach trainee

I am an Ollie School trainee and a Director at an Independent Prep School for boys. I am a trained journalist and worked in BBC Local Radio for more than twenty years as a reporter, bulletin reader, news editor and programme maker. It was a great job, but I wanted to do something to support my own children’s wellbeing with a view to taking that on to support others and, in pursuit of a better work life balance, I resigned as the Assistant Editor of BBC Essex last year. Inspired by the Ollie School concept I was excited to be accepted for the training course and it has been a fascinating and enlightening and journey so far. 

To get in contact with Deborah, email

To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to

Caroline Chipper

Caroline Chipper


Co founder of Subconquest Ltd, that trades as Ollie and his Super Powers. My many years of commercial experience is being put to good use managing the business side of Ollie, including working with our Ollie Coaches, and managing our contracts. In everything we do its about making a difference to those we work with. To find out more go to