In the spoof rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (high up on most people’s lists of the funniest films ever made), there’s a famous scene where guitarist Nigel Tufnel shows off his customised Marshall amp, on which all the dials go up to 11 rather than the standard 10.

Now on the one hand, this scene is

“An illustration of the idiocy that human thinking can reach when symbols are mistaken for the things they represent, without any understanding of the true relationship between the symbol and the referent” 

as ‘Yoism2’ who put the clip up on Youtube describes it (this led me to the amazing site, by the way, and I’ll be returning many times).

On the other hand, there is something gloriously dumb and rock’n’roll about Tufnel’s desire to transcend the limitations of normal amp technology – so much so that the phrases “one louder” and “these go to eleven” from this scene have passed into rock’n’roll mythology.

So could there be something useful in “going to eleven”? If we apply the idea to scaling in the Solution-Focused approach to coaching, therapy and personal development, I believe the answer is “yes”.

If I ask you to rate how good your life is on a scale of zero to ten, you’ll come up with a subjective assessment of how you rate your experience. It’s purely subjective – your ‘six’ could be someone else’s four, or vice versa. If I ask you to imagine what life would be like at 10, you will start thinking about the best life that you can currently imagine.

So what would happen if I asked you to go “one better” and turn the scale up to 11? What would your life be like then?

A real stickler might object that going to 11 on a 1-10 scale is a logical impossiblity – in the same way that they would poke fun at those candidates on The Apprentice who were always going on about “giving it 110%”. In one sense that stickler would be right; but in another, they would be limiting themselves and missing the important point that over time, our capacities and our ability to make things happen can easily increase, to the point where they are 110% of what they used to be. It’s just a 10% rise!

We often tend to limit ourselves by thinking only about what is possible ‘now’ – within the span of our current time horizon. By asking ourselves to go “one higher” than what we think the best possible outcome would be, we stand at least a chance of looking beyond our typical time horizon, and of moving past any self-imposed limitations, limiting beliefs, or false identifications that might be limiting our thinking.

Try it and let me know how you get on!


Going “one louder”: what if you scale your life up to 11?

2 thoughts on “Going “one louder”: what if you scale your life up to 11?

  • Thanks for posting this Andy it really made me laugh! Of course it "makes sense" that there are limits and I love Tufnel supposedly illogical thinking about "going to 11"

    I guess that we'll all have a ambivalent attitude to limits. I guess we'll have an idea where they are and I suppose that they'll be hard/impossible to overcome. However the experience of watching those remarkable people who seem to go beyond what is apparantly logical or reasonable to achieve "11".

    The funny – and my experience is of being tickled – response to what Bill O'Hanlon calls "Possibility" land helps to monkey around with the way in which we represent our life – maybe we don't know what we want but maybe it's just more. It's pleasant.

    On the other hand there's the "stickler" – oh boy what a drag…


  • Love this Andy suspend all thoughts of impossible just imagine freely. Hard for some people and just giving it a go may be all that’s needed to get beyond a fence.

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