Today I had a bunch of meetings to go to so I figured I’d use my driving time productively and listen to the latest episode of The Spaceship Earth. It’s a phenomenal podcast by Dan Burgess - creative strategist, co-designer, nature connector & all round epic human being. I was lucky enough to work with Dan last year on an awesome event in SF called Ocean Hack, and he’s been a fellow Wavemaker at our events in Portugal - so listening to his podcast always feels like such a joy.
His interview today was with Will Skeaping, former creative strategist in the ad industry, who quit his job six months ago to work full time with Extinction Rebellion. He’s one of the four co-editors of This is not a drill - The XR Handbook.
I just got back from a 10 day trip to a crazy little island called Mustique in the Caribbean. We were running a pilot for the Ambassadors for the Planet curriculum and shooting a bunch of content for the island about their amazing sustainability initiatives. 100% dream work.
I’m packing for a trip. Tomorrow morning I leave for a ten day work trip to the Caribbean. We’re running a pilot for the environmental education program I’ve been working on for the last year. It’s a project I have poured blood, sweat & tears into. Something that (I really hope) has the potential to make a dent - a way to engage kids in the environmental issues we’re facing with optimism & curiosity. I haven’t seen the finished print workbook yet - it’s being couriered to the airport tomorrow morning in London so I can grab them before I get on my next flight.
We might never fit in. We will always be the ones with cuts & bruises. Both literal & metaphorical. The ones with wet hair & sunburnt noses. The ones who couldn’t care less about the car, the house, the holidays. The ones who never wear make up & barely brush their hair. The ones who will say it how it is, even if it makes everyone uncomfortable. Who throw the rule book out the window whilst feeling a sense of absolute relief and pure terror at the same time.
I’ve got to admit it. I’ve never been good with rules.
I’ve never coped well with environments that have conditions of entry or specific guidelines that must be followed. I sucked at working for the government - I had a seemingly epic job (creating environmental awareness campaigns) but when it came down to it, I felt like I was being asked to jump through hoops for the sake of jumping through hoops. So much red tape. So many meetings. A dress code. Specific working hours that needed to be adhered to regardless as to whether or not you’d actually done the work or not.
And so here I am writing this after what I could only describe as a day of wrangling. When I say wrangling, what I mean is one of those days that makes you feel exhausted, where everything just feels a bit harder than it probably needs to, and when every task on your list suddenly feels heavier and more urgent than normal.
So it was perfect timing for an email to show up in my inbox from a designer whose words resonated with me so deeply :
You can love what you're doing and be so.fucking.over.it at the same time.
We just spent an hour and a half looking at all the work I'm doing from a fresh perspective. We realised how easily I get excited about stuff and how that excitement seems to generate more ideas which turns into this runaway train of rad work. Ha ha. Yes, it's rad, but please note, I also said 'runaway'.
And so, with the help of someone super smart (and who, importantly, is not currently a passenger on this runaway train), I've been able to step back and see the tweaks that need to happen. I'm able to realise what needs attention, and where strong foundations need to be built.
There's a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that I love :
Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.
And for me, it's always a reminder of when I'm in the right room. Because the conversation is exciting. The kinds of conversations that go deep and ask big questions of you. The kinds of conversations that can go on for hours but feel like minutes. And most importantly, the kinds of conversations that inspire action.
There are days when I feel like my alter-ego should just be called Rocky because I swear if you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll do whatever it takes to show you I can. Now don’t get me wrong, I love that side of me, but it can get me into some serious trouble.
I was racing to the beach to fit a surf in between two clients. I pulled on my wetsuit and ran down to the water's edge as fast as my legs could take me. I paddled out, in a pretty frantic, over-excited manner and could feel my adrenaline & heart rate rising by the time I got out the back.
I spent the next 15 minutes zipping around, trying to pick off good waves, but somehow missing a whole bunch, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time for the rest. I looked around…. I remember thinking… ‘ahhhhh what am I doing ?? I need to get some waves… I’m running out of time !! ‘
A friend paddled out, and I said to her ‘Oh man, I’ve got that over-excited need-to-catch-a-wave feeling going on’. She laughed ‘So you haven’t caught one yet huh ?’. Haha, she knew exactly how I felt.
What the hell am I doing up here? Everything down there is so secure and comforting.I feel like I don’t belong anywhere… maybe I’ll just be floating up here forever ?!There are so many options and so many possibilities that trying to make a decision on which way to go feels insanely overwhelming.Am I the only one up here freaking out? Does everyone else have their shit together except me ??
Ahhh even writing that makes my heart beat a little faster…. and not in a good way. As entrepreneurs, we go through different stages. There are times when everything is flowing and synchronised and rad. And then there are these panicky, oh-my-god-what-am-I-doing moments.
And so right now, the thing I want to write about is this - Doing work that matters. Playing an active role in the world and the issues that we're facing.
For me that always starts with recognising our privilege. Sometimes this happens through a conversation, through travel or simply through a new perspective on the world, whether that comes to you through a documentary you watch on tv, an interview you read or simply a quiet moment of reflection.
Take some time to see what is actually happening in the world right now. To see how damn lucky you are. How unbelievably fortunate you are. How your 'problems' in life, really don't rank on a global scale of problems that the majority of the population are dealing with.
There’s a term used in the tech world called ‘Vanity Metrics’ and unfortunately, way too many of us become totally focused/obsessed with the wrong stats. Vanity Metrics are those things that make us look good and sometimes feel good, but that has no real meaning when it comes to your business growth.
I can totally put my hand up and say I lost my integrity for a while. When I was running festivals, my business was projecting this image of such an awesome lifestyle, but the reality looked very very different.
In a world that is filled with opinions of what your business should be doing, and how you should be showing up, it’s easy to lose track of who you really are and end up not being totally authentic.
But to me, in that moment, I made another promise to myself. I never want my business to go in that direction. I never want to treat people in a way that makes them feel small or unimportant. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to reply to every email or respond to every FB message, but holy smokes, it’s worth it.
These people are your potential customers & clients. They’ve taken the time to connect with you. They deserve to feel important because they are important.
Sure, some people will make a decision based purely on price or specific features, but the majority of our choices are actually based on feeling, not reason. Interesting huh?
But how does knowing that help us as business owners? Because if we can grasp the concept that people don’t buy facts, they buy feelings, then we understand the importance of sharing more of who we are and what we believe.
Fact: If you wanna become a really good surfer, you’re going to need to get good at paddling. And if you want to create a business that you ADORE? Find ways to enjoy the ‘paddle’. Lean into what makes it fun. Train hard, educate yourself so it becomes easier. Seek out your tribe. Identify your best path.
So why are boundaries so important when it comes to building a brand?
Because (as my smart cookie of a mastermind buddy told me this morning) we teach people how we want to be treated. This can be a hard truth to swallow because it involves radical responsibility, but if you’re dealing with any icky issues in your business, it might well be that you’ve been a little slack on your boundaries and allowed stuff to go down that just isn’t ok.
Good boundaries mean self-worth & self-respect… and both of those things are mighty useful to any entrepreneur. They’ll stop you from saying yes to clients who aren’t a great fit. They’ll make sure you get paid what you’re worth. And they’ll ensure that you make smart decisions at every stage of the game.
Wow, the jet lag has worn off and I'm finally starting to process the whirlwind of the last few weeks. Last Sunday night I arrived home after 2 weeks in San Francisco, working on an incredible event called Ocean Hack. It was a 48 hour hack/design sprint based on 4 of the biggest challenges our ocean is facing right now. We brought together an amazingly diverse group of about 50 or so scientists, technologists, storytellers, strategists and creatives to work together in finding innovative solutions.
I felt like I’d been duped into something. I had imagined it would be this uplifting, inspiring book that would leave me feeling stoked, but suddenly I was getting the impression that this would perhaps be one of those journeys that only feel positive in hindsight. When I started delving into the book I recognised something pretty massive within just the first chapter.
Of course, I’m good at being in the now when I’m in the freaking surf. Or watching a sunset. Or SUP’ing solo around the coast. It’s e-a-s-y to be in the now when life is good. To breathe in those rad moments, to lean into what’s happening and not let anything distract you. But it’s being present when life is ugly that actually takes some work.
Note: As always, I’ve learnt some of these the hard way. It’s taken me a good chunk of time to figure out that these rules are actually non-negotiables for me when it comes to partnering up in business. So if you’re about to launch into a side hustle with a friend, or join a team of like-minded entrepreneurs to create a product, service or event, then take 5 minutes to check these ground rules out.
Most entrepreneurs have ended up as entrepreneurs because they didn’t want to follow anyone else’s rules. They’ve probably broken a whole heap of rules along the way. Rules set by former bosses (you must sit there from 9 am till 5 pm), rules set by society (you must have a regular, stable income) and rules set by peers, colleagues & friends (work sucks, none of us like our jobs, just deal with it).
We’re surrounded by so many myths of overnight success, of stories about tech entrepreneurs who came up with an idea for an app and 6 months later were pulling in millions of dollars of investment. So we’ve ended up in this crazy space that looks a little like Disneyland for entrepreneurs. Full of colour & magic & big dreams. Polished, shiny and seemingly real.
And you know what it’s done? It’s made entrepreneurship sexy. Everyone wants to do it. Suddenly it’s cool to be an entrepreneur.
But so many people are starting up businesses and building brands with completely ridiculous expectations in their heads. And with ridiculous expectations come painful reality checks.
For those of you not familiar with it, the Hero’s Journey is seriously worth a look. Whether you dive into the book, or just read an overview of it, or watch this movie — check it out. You won’t regret it.
And so the place I’m at on this particular loop around the Hero’s Journey is called the Belly of the Whale. It’s the point where the hero has transitioned from the known world into the unknown. When they’ve made the commitment to journey and there’s no going back. It’s a point in the journey where, as far as the outside world is concerned, the hero has been swallowed into the unknown. They have disappeared altogether. Perhaps never to be seen again.
Mantras, crystals, meditation and more. It was a rad list, but it left me feeling … um…. not good enough. Because let’s be honest, we don’t always follow through with our best intentions. So I figured today I’d share with you two of my morning routines.
One is my rad morning routine. The shiny version. The one that I’m happy to tell you about. The one that sets me up for an awesome day, no matter what else is going on in my life.
The other is my sucky routine. The one I feel guilty about. The one I’m embarrassed to share. The one that is guaranteed for a not-so-stellar start to the day.
I didn’t respond… but if I’m honest I really wanted to. I really wanted to say, ‘Um, no…. you can’t add me to your mailing list and you can’t send me information about your business…. because I never asked you for it.’
And it made me realise how many businesses make mistakes like this. Assuming that people want to hear. Shouting about their latest product or service to everyone and anyone. Ramming things down people’s throats. And guess what happens? We actively ignore them. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you actually put a metaphorical black mark next to their name.
saw this photo of street art in Rio on a blog last week and it summed it up perfectly.
The moment I saw it, I smiled and agreed. Yes. Fear is a liar. Fear will make up stories in your head. Fear will stop you in your tracks. Fear would rather you shrink than grow.
This is my new mantra for those times when I feel like fear is running the show. It reminds me to look carefully at whatever it is that I’m fearful of and question it. What is it that I’m scared of? Is it even true?