Video and transcript from John Fitch’s talk at Austin’s 2nd Annual Facilitator Summit, Control the Room

Please join us for the Control the Room 2021, which will be held Feb. 2-4, 2020. You can find out more and buy tickets here.

This is part of the 2020 Control The Room speaker video series.

In February we hosted the second annual facilitator summit, Control The Room, at Austin’s Capital Factory. We launched the summit last year in partnership with MURAL to create a space for facilitators to gather, break down the silos, and learn from one another.

The three-day summit is a rare opportunity to bring together an otherwise unlikely group of highly experienced and skilled professionals across various industries and crafts—from strategy consultants and negotiators to Scrum Masters and design thinkers.

Anyone interested in deepening their knowledge on how to successfully facilitate meaningful meetings and connect with other practitioners is welcome. Together, we dive into diverse methodologies, expand upon perspectives, and learn new insights and strategies that enrich our expertise.

This year we had the pleasure of welcoming 24 speakers, all innovation professionals, who shared their insights and strategies of successful facilitation.

One of those speakers was John Fitch, the Chief Product Officer at Voltage Control and Co-author of Time Off.

 John spoke about the importance of rest in facilitation practices.

He presented on rest ethic and the importance it plays in the facilitation of culture. Through breathing activities, John demonstrated the ebb and flow of work and rest ethic and how to navigate and balance them in our own lives and professional practices.

Each inhale represented work ethic: how to get things done, execute, coordinate, manage, and fulfill tasks and duties.

Each exhale represented rest ethic: space for deep, internal work, expanded awareness, creativity, and time off. He explained that we need both ethics to avoid burnout and help individuals be effective facilitators for their companies.

John challenged the room to apply their rest ethic more in workshops and business culture.

Watch John Fitch’s talk “Rest Ethic in Facilitation Culture”:

Read the Transcript

John Fitch:

Sweet. So I’m sorry. You thought you were signing up for a facilitator summit, at least with my talk. Welcome to Workaholics Anonymous. I’m a recovering workaholic and this whole talk is around that topic. So everyone please stand. Let’s move those blood vessels.

And on a count of three, we’re going to take a deep breath. You’re going to hold your breath. So one, two, three. Deep inhale and hold. Okay. Hold as long as you possibly can. The moment you have to exhale, you sit down. This is a competition of sorts. Don’t feel bad if you have to exhale, but right now you’re holding. After you have to let it out, your exhale, just sit down. We’ll see who’s got the tightened lungs. Dang. Dang. Dang. Some of y’all are impressive.

We have some like Wim Hoff practitioners in here. Okay. Okay. Okay. Exhale. Exhale. Cool. Cool. Okay. Now real quick. We’re going to do like Solomon did this morning, a big inhale as a group.

Hold for three, two, one, group exhale. Ah, nice, nice. Good stuff. So that picture that I showed at the beginning was a moment in Greece that really changed my life where I had this epiphany that inhale and exhale is of course the duality of breath, yin yang with fung shui. I looked at it as inhale is our work ethic. exhale is our rest ethic and both are needed.

And our work ethic is where we get shit done. We coordinate, we manage, we email, we make, we fulfill and I’ve worked a lot in building AI applications. And most of these things about work ethic are being handed over to the machines, in my opinion, for the better, because what we don’t know how to automate and the genius of our humanity is in our rest ethic. It’s ideation, it’s human connection. It’s having that sudden epiphany. To Justin’s point. We don’t have ideas, ideas have us. And when we’re in a rested state, we’re an open channel.

So both of these are needed just like you have to inhale and you have to exhale. Very rarely do you have a perfect balance like this. For most people, this is what’s going on. For some people, they find a way to have an interesting back and forth on a micro sense of inhale, exhale, work ethic, rest ethic.

This is my preferred state. Very focused, deep work, expanded creativity and time off, which I consider the most important work actually. But the reality is most of us tend to forget the importance of the exhale and before we know it, boom, we’re burned out. Aside from that feeling real shitty, we can’t tap into the benefits of rest ethic. We can do all the hard work, but have nothing actually work.

Anyone read any of these books? Raise your hand. There’s some good ones up there. So again. So again, red background. These are books about work ethic, super important. All these work. Some of the methods I’ve even practiced, but then there’s a few books you can find, they’re hard to find that are around rest ethic, but there’s not enough of them.

So I spent the last year and a half adding to that part of Barnes and Noble. And it’s important because again, why are we burning out? It’s because we’re forgetting to exhale. We’re forgetting our rest ethic. In the book, we look at people throughout history and modern times that literally emphasize it’s a part, it’s their first step of strategy is leading with rest ethic. Brunello Cucinelli, half a billion dollar fashion, empire, 90 minute lunch, no emails after 5:30 PM. Cultural allowance for everyone in the company. Doing well and also making a significant amount of money that he calls it, investing in human dignity.

You’ve got ancient composers who went on forest walks and that’s where they were the open channel for the song and the supplies modern times. We have Terry Rudolph there at the bottom left. He’s one of the leading experts in quantum computing. Rest ethic was the first thing their entire company of scientists emphasized because he says, “If we’re just doing what everyone else is doing, how are we going to make ourselves different?”

So they have group runs. They go on off sites and go traveling together for the sake of traveling, knowing that the gift of it will be a breakthrough idea that’s going to push the way we handle computing. I want to make the point that just like these people, we all here in this room are facilitators of culture. That could be facilitators of our company’s culture about we handle vacation time or time off.

Also, when we are hosting people in a workshop, you facilitate that culture there too. Are you giving them enough breaks? Are you ending maybe what feels like a little too early? That might be the right thing so that they can show up the next day with enthusiasm. So first let’s discuss rest ethic. Who in the room finds rest through creating art of some kind? Please stand up.

Awesome. What do you make? What do you make?

Speaker 2:

I’m a gardener.

John Fitch:

You’re a gardener? What does that do for you?

Speaker 2:

Connects me to the earth and to possibility, growth.

John Fitch:

Teach me how to have a green thumb. I could use it.

Speaker 2:


John Fitch:

Attention. Attention. Thank you. Thank you. Please take a seat. Stand if you’re someone who finds rest in sweating, getting the heart rate up. Awesome. Wendy, what does that do for you?


It gives me a sense of connection. Not only with others, sense of connection with others. Also just it taps into the neurons in your brain and body that allow you to feel more joy in the world.

John Fitch:

Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. Please sit again. You’re getting your squats in. So Chris doesn’t have to run around when you speak, just speak loud. Who takes forest baths? Stand up. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a Japanese term around just walking in nature aimlessly. Okay, great. What does that do for you?

Speaker 4:

Calms my heart, mind and soul.

John Fitch:

Calms your heart, mind and soul. Beautiful. Also leaves you smelling a little nice and natural. Please take a seat. My most favorite one is who shuts it down. You have some strict rules of when you turn the phone on airplane mode or you know when to end work and you really end work. Stand up if you know how to shut it down, that’s your way to find rest. Cam, why is that important? What happens when you do that?


Communication is exhausting and I love just sitting down.

Speaker 2:

Awesome. Thank you. Please take a seat. Who travels for inspiration? They make it a point to get out of town. Hank what does that do for you?


I think a change of scenery allows you to kind of just see things in a different way so that when you go back to your usual surrounding, you [inaudible 00:08:34].

John Fitch:

Nice, nice. A new environment, new ideas, lovely. Stay seated, stay seated, please sit. All right, and stand up if you felt burned out lately. I’m like if I could stand up even more, I would. I’ve been more burned out than usual. You’re not alone. Even as a person who’s writing and thinking a lot about this, I still get burned out and thank you for being vulnerable and sharing that. But the good news is those who just stood up, you also stood up in some of the other categories, so you know what to do. Please take a seat.

 So what we’re going to do now is I’m going to play one of my favorite songs. And it’s just like, for me, channels some really awesome ideas. And what you’re going to do on a piece of paper is in two minutes, I want you to think about the thing that gives you the most rest. That’s the first part.

So maybe you take 30 seconds or a minute. You could draw that out. You could write it as a phrase. And then I want you to think about as a facilitator of culture, of workshops, of teams, of loved ones, how can you incorporate that more? Because you know the value of it. Does anyone have any clarifying questions about this task? Chris, play that song.

But I want to finish with an important question. Has anyone read this book? The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying by Bronnie Ware? So she worked in palliative care. This is a very powerful book. She’s helped guide thousands of people to their crossover, into the other realm. And there’s a lot of wisdom in this book. And one of the top five regrets of the dying is I wish I wouldn’t have worked so hard.

Time off. Exhale. Rest ethic can help with this, but the other four, it can help with as well. So you could have been true to yourself. The things that you just talked about at your table, that’s you. That’s really who you are. That’s your creative genius. Do more of that. It will feed into your work. You can catch up with others, have the human connection. The rest ethic is to not only help you as a facilitator not have regrets, but everyone that you facilitate, you don’t want them being case studies in this book.

They have the opportunity now to prevent that. Our book comes out next month. You can find more about it. We have a podcast too, as Daniel says, had to put out some shameless promo. Time Off literally works. One of my jobs is building products for facilitators. Control The Room is the summit. It’s now a product brand to build physical and digital tools for all of us in the room.

And we’ve been doing a lot of work on the digital side. Most of my background’s in software, no problem there, but when Douglas was like, “We need to make some physical products for people,” I was hitting my head against the wall, like where’s creativity? And my partner, Sarah, hey, gorgeous. She helps me not be a hypocrite.

 I’m guilty of only inhaling. And she’s really good at saying, “Hey, this weekend let’s have a tech Shabbat. Phones are off. Airplane mode. Away.” And when I did that, when I took that time off, I did things like catch up with Thich Nhat Hanh’s how to series. This great approachable Buddhist series on how to eat, how to walk, how to love, how to fight. And then I also tapped into my inner child and played with some Legos and built some stuff. And none of that felt like work.

But those two things combined allowed us to come up with one of our physical products series, which is the Control Of The Room handbook series, which is open to all facilitators to work with us so that less in a month’s time, you can take one of your methods and publish. If publishing a book’s intimidating, we’ve built a system to help you. And if it wasn’t for Time Off, I would not have done my job of coming up with some of our new physical products. So Time Off I think is some of the most important work that you will do.

Let’s keep it calm. Let’s exhale. More blue than red. It’s not a Crips, Blood thing, but inhale, exhale, but thank you. And thank you for also holding so much space all you speakers. Again, that was a big exhale last night was us all realizing we’re all just as flawed. We all deal with the same stuff. And I feel more confident as a facilitator just by holding space together and being able to know that there’s other people that have a shared experience and you all deserve rest. Don’t forget that. Thank you.