What's keeping you in 'the box'?

We need our people to 'think outside the box'. 

I hear this a lot.
I read this a lot.
I get asked by directors & biz owners
to help their people do this a lot.

And so we should.
As experts, executives & entrepreneurs,
as directors, leaders, freelancing creatives, 
There is no greater task,
no greater opportunity,
no greater advantage,
than developing our ability to
'think outside the box'.


But here's the skinny.

Forget about the studies & stats,
the tips and techniques,
the experts with all answers on how to,
'unlock your capacity for innovation'.


Here's the truth of it.
Let's just call it as we see it. 

You're afraid of what I will think,
about what you create.

You're worried that your idea,
might render you obsolete,
to me

You're terrified that if you really revealed
that silly, incomplete, first attempt
at an 'innovation,
I'd laugh,
then pack up all my love,
and leave.

Make no mistake, 
your self-expression is stifled,
your creativity is clogged,
your ability to 'think outside the box' is stopped,
because of how you feel
about how I feel
about you. 

But it's okay.
You're not alone in this.
I'm scared to.
Of you.

Of what you'll think of my idea.
Of whether you'll laugh at my two cents.
Of how quickly you'll wind back your love for me,
and give it to someone else
who is better, smarter, cooler,
more creative, more fun,
more everything.

Than me. 

Despite everyone's best efforts,
we can't outrun our humanity,
we still can't hack our biology,
we care an awful lot
about each other's thoughts.

The truth is,
the breakthrough innovations
that will transform your company,
the left field ideas
that will skyrocket your career,
the once in a lifetime opportunities,
that linger in the atmosphere of your life,
are being lost.

And as a result,
everybody loses. 

So what can we do?
The obvious answer is to put some
skin in the game.
To put your hand up and to play, 
say yes to karaoke,
and why not to every opportunity,
that comes your way.

But that might be a stretch,
there's a lot we have suppressed.
We've got some ground to cover,
to recover
all of our liberated selves.

So in the meantime,
try this.

Look for those around you,
who are stepping beyond their known.
Who are inching bit by bit to somewhere unfamiliar.
Listen for those that are trying,
that are somehow finding the courage to play,
even when every cell in their body says
'no farken way!'.


Find those people and LOVE them hard.
Let them know that you see them.
That you are inspired by them.
That who they are and what they're doing is magnificent.
That who they are and what they're doing makes a difference.
That who they are and what they're doing makes it easier for you,
to do the same.

Cause remember, 
in that moment,
they're probably terrified,
of you.

When they share their idea,
however messy and unkempt,
they're on a ledge,
naked and alone,
and the best thing you can do,
is let them know,
how much they move you!

That'll keep the conversation going,
keep the group's ideas flowing,
 keep the vibe alive
for sharing without caring.

And over time,
when you're ready to have a crack,
to throw your hat into the ring
and sing,
those that went before you,
will have your back. 

Why do we need proof?

We all need proof. 
 

Before we work with someone, or attend an event
Before we click on a link, or consume some content.

We read the reviews, we ask around
We do our due diligence to determine
If this right here is worthy
 Of our time
Of our attention
Of our hard earned cash.

There’s nothing outrageously wrong with that
Our time is precious, our lives are important
Our choice of who, to give ourselves to
Shapes the essence of our experience. 

But as the earth is to sky, there is shadow and light
And by holding on so tight to our pretty little lives
 We might be giving away more than we realise. 

 

Let’s say it worked. 
That I believed in what I bought before I bought it
My work is done
Now it’s up to them
To the event, to the content
To the device I paid a hefty little price for. 

Or let’s say I’m still not sold. 
But alas I have been told
I must attend this team event
There is no way to circumvent
So with arms crossed and furrowed brow
I wait impatiently to be wowed
And again, my work is done
It’s up to them.

 

Either way, I am a passenger
Waiting to be driven. 
Waiting to be taught, to be told and to be led. 

Either way, I play no role
Take no responsibility
 For contributing to that which seeks to serve
The softer side of me. 

 

My expectation of the world
To save me, to entertain me
To fix, shift and change me
Is stopping it from ever happening to me. 

I might’ve bought a ticket
Paid for seats up front or even
Gone as far as finding something that is guaranteed to work. 

 

But then I wait.

 

 

 

 

To be taught, to be told, to be led. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not working. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s their fault. 

I WANT MY MONEY BACK

And I’ll tell everyone how terrible they are.

 

 

 

Waaaaaaaaa

 

 

 

HMPH!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hmm…

 

Maybe proof has less to do
 With them and more to do with you

Sure we all want to get value
Get the most out of our buck
Know that they, the ones that sold me
Really do give two f@#ks
But truthfully
You can find a Phd in anything
If you’re willing.

 

You can learn before, beyond and between
What you paid for.
You can turn a waste of time
Into the moment that defines
Your future life.

 

That’s how powerful you are.

 


If you are willing…
 

Shift your body side to side of what you’re facing
Move from waiting, to participating
Be a consumer and a contribution
And you’ll amplify and own your own evolution.

From there
The whole wide world becomes every possible solution
And then some.

 

I love listening to great songwriters
Speaking lightly of their lyrics
Never giving up the meaning
That they found embedded in them

See they’re wise enough
And selfless enough
To leave the meaning
Up to us

Inviting our own heart and mind
To feel, to seek, to connect and find
The authentic subjective significance
Of our own embodied experience

Then the song becomes ours
The meaning we make becomes ours
The action we take becomes ours
We get to own ourselves again

 

Let us not wait
To be taught, to be told, to be led
Let us learn out loud together
Side by side with every teacher
Build on all that we are given
All we pay for and we sit in
Go beyond the proof
And turn each moment into moments we will remember.

The Art Of Ownership

As leaders it’s vital to keep one eye on your organisation, one eye on the market and a third eye on growing your own leadership capability.

Traditional leadership models and methodologies have served us well but as our economy shifts from industrial to information to experience we need to look further.

One area that has been largely overlooked is the Arts

 

Art and business have long been at odds. Outside of the creative industries, investing in your imagination has been a hard sell. Especially when measured against leadership qualities like productivity and efficiency. 

But all that is starting to change. According to the Foundation for Young Australians, which looked at the data of over 4.2 million job listings in the last 3 years, any job that listed creativity as an attribute had an average salary boost of $3,129 p.a

Couple that with the World Economic Forum placing Creativity as the 10th most important skill for contemporary leadership in 2015. And even more important, predict it will skyrocket to number 3 by 2020. 

 

The world has spoken. Creativity is in and Art is a great place to go to get skilled up.

 

Problem is, learning to play an instrument, or work with watercolour, takes years. But as leaders, we don’t have years. We need to find ways to lead more creatively TODAY and preferably without having to hammer out scales for hours on end. 

Thankfully there is something we can do. And it’s less about learning and all about owning that we already are an Artist.

 

Truth is, you don’t have to make Art to feel, act and lead like an Artist. Art is largely just an attitude. In the words of a talented young gypsy and acclaimed author of Just Do 5omething, ‘Art is not something you do, but something you are’.

Even more interestingly, just entertaining the idea that you are a ‘Creative type’ you’ll open your mind up to thinking in more creative ways. 

In a recent study called, The Creative Stereotype Effect, researches at the University of Georgia found that thinking of yourself as an Artist (or Creative Stereotype) before being tested resulted in significant increases in divergent thinking. 

 

By owning your Artistry you allow it to emerge. 

 

It's kind of like Morpheus beloowing at Neo in the Matrix, 'stop trying to hit me and hit me!'

Perhaps it's time we stopped thinking of ourselves as uncreative, and just owned that we are...

We’ve seen similar cognitive hacks in the way an athlete would mentally rehearse for a big race. By imagining every detail of a successful run they hope to pre-emptively embed the experience of high performance into their neural pathways. 

To be clear, there is no substitute for time and experience. Just like a long marriage, there is a depth to lasting love that can’t be hacked or hurried. For real results in building your Creative Leadership I recommend actively engaging in more Art. 

But in the meantime, when faced with the mayhem of next Monday morning, why not strut into the office like Hendrix and let the voodoo magic of owning your Artistry drive a different & divergent kind of result. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Than A Book Launch

Where do I begin. 

Of course with gratitude.

THANK YOU to all the beautiful, gorgeous, fabulous, delightful, stunning, extraordinary people who came out on a cold, rainy, Tuesday and who absolutely, positively got real for a few hours. 

Extra special mention must go to my darling wifey Kate for (wo)manning the merchandise. Julia Archibold for taking the snaps. Davey Dixon for shooting the film. Trig and Jez for laying down beatnik Jazz vibes for me to glide on. Nigel and Xav for spinning wax. Rahul for bringing me a globe. 

Extra Extra special mention must go to anyone who took just a moment to reflect on, sink into and commit to bringing more creativity into their daily lives (which was all of you).

Here's a few snaps

 

 

 

But superdupercalifragilisticexpialidocious THANK YOU to the 7 brave creatives who shared their story and their soul in service of the space. 

 

This is what the whole night was about.
This is what the whole book was about.
God damn it!
This is what my entire life has been about!

 

That moment.
That electric, magnetic, dangerous, delicious, spontaneous, splendid moment when someone steps out from who they were and into who they now must be.
When someone gives up looking good and ends up looking fucking fantastic!
When someone hears the call within and surrenders to what the world wants to happen.

This is how it all went down. 

 

I spoke a few times, we chatted, I read a poem or two, we drew closer, we had a second wine, we sunk into ourselves and then.... I made way to the side of stage and waited....

For you.

And we waited....

Some of you worried....

Still we waited....

Until....

Onur Ekinci made his way to the stage.

He spoke so eloquently of his journey. Of what was missing and why. Of what he longed to bring back and the value of sharing in nights like these. 

And just like that, he started a movement.

But first....we waited....

Until....

Adam Murray stepped into the spotlight

He told us that he made a promise he would start speaking more in public. He made that promise a good 3 minutes before fulfilling it. And the roof was raised. Then he enlightened us of the legacy that lives in Birrarung Marr. A sacred space that has held speakers for thousands of years. Look for him there from now.

And then he was gone....

Until....

Anelia Heese spoke nothing but truth. 

Overcome by recent events she spoke of her outrage at the Stanford Rape case. She shared of her desire to becoming bolder as a feminist, to standing taller for gender equality, she shared what was real for her and made it real for us. 

It was raw, an honest, and authentic...

And then...

ZHANGZHENGRONG FENG just couldn't help himself.

This pocket rocket was flying solo. He knew no one in the room but was so overcome with emotion and feeling he had to make his way to stage and share his appreciation for nights like these and people like us.

And that he'd love to stay longer but his wife is at the door waiting for him. 

And off he went....

Until....

The Boss came to town

Mark Truelson is no stranger to self-expression. But he'd been a stranger to himself and now, through the words of Bruce Springsteen he would make his return. He shared of a broken marriage, of a heart turned cold through living. But those days are done. There is a new love in town and when he declared to love his date, harder than she'd ever been loved, everyday for the next 50 days.... 

We lifted the roof off....

And then....

David (dreamboat) Elston went where no dreamboat has gone before. 

Centre stage. 

He stood there like he belonged, like he was born for bringing the brave. He spoke about what he'd surrendered since he got serious and found some success. Then told us that it's time to bring back the guitar that gave him what lit him on fire.

And then....

16-06-07_MIKE_BOOK_LAUNCH_DIG_NEGS-0074.jpg

Kate McCreedy took us to church

The day before this moment Kate's beloved friend, mentor and singing teacher passed away. She said that she'd promised to sing a song for her and was yet to do so. Now was as good a time as there will ever be. And so, together, she lead us in a sermon of 'Amazing Grace'

It got spiritual....

Until....

Everybody's favourite Thom Mann went dancing.

As a professional creative Thom shared of how far from creativity he often feels. How making a living making Art for others has meant he's made little for himself. But that now, he would place his expression in the centre of his attention. And everyday he'd chip away at the symphony that's lived in his head for so long.  

 

And that's what it's all about people. 

Radical people coming together, to make things and share about them, to hang out, open up, let go and step into the biggest, boldest vision and version of ourselves. 

The world is busy now. Busier than it's ever been. If we're not careful we'll miss the opportunity that is written in the time that we are living.

We do this because we can, because we need to and because it makes the difference. 

 

Wednesday July 20th we'll be doing it all again.

In a new venue, with new guests and a new opportunity to unleash your self-expression. 

To find out when (limited) tickets are available subscribe to the 'Backstage Pass' and join your fellow mavericks, rouges and pioneers for a collective experience that goes well beyond the brochure.

 

Yeow.  

This Is Your Time (and how to blow it)

This is your time. 

Never before have things been so perfect for your potential. 
Never before have you had the infinite at your fingertips with just a few clicks.
Never before have you had access to a global collective intelligence that updates itself in real time seeking to serve your insatiable drive for aliveness.

Right here and now you have, 
The tools, the techniques and the teachers
To dream, design and deploy every
Intricate intent of your imagination. 

You can do anything

They’re doing it. 
And so is that guy. 
And that mummy blogger just got a book deal. 
And the young dude that used to work with your cousin...
yeah, he just made it big with his start up. 

Everyone is doing everything all at once. 
What are you waiting for?
This is your time!!!

 

um…

No pressure. 

 

This might be your time,
It might be mine, 
But I’ll tell you the best way to blow it.

Get caught up in all that stuff and forget to rock out for a few hours.

Yep it’s true. 
There’s a whole lot of opportunity out there.
There are people winning, succeeding, achieving. 
There are people living the dream baby! 
Everything is possible…

Just don’t forget to rock out for a few hours.

Seriously.

I’ve seen a lot of people sacrifice the simple stuff, 
Get carried away on the complex stuff,
Forget that all they really wanted
Was just to find a way to rock out for a few more hours.

So before you set off on your next great adventure,
To triumph in the world in ways that tickle your wildest wonder,
Between the product launches, beyond the list you'll build with this,

Lay on the floor
Put on an album you adore
Listen to every note, to every beat, to every line
Listen from start to finish without ever opening up your eyes
And breathe
Let it all soak in.

 

Your welcome.

 

This is your time. 

Don't forget to enjoy it.
 

 

How to save the world.

It’s no secret, we’re facing some monumental challenges as a global community. The rising polarity that surrounds our politics, the accelerating divide in wealth equality, the deepening impact of our technological advancement. 

Many of us are asking what can we do as individuals to help shift things in the right direction. How can we contribute to a better conversation, make choices that represent a higher value, act in ways that serve all of humanity.

Well my dear friends, I have the answer. 

 

Go and see some Art. Go and make some Art. Go and buy some Art. 

 

Don’t wait for Science to tell you how important Art is (even though it is). Don’t wait for the government to invest more Art (because it won’t unless you’re Canada). Don’t wait until there is no Art left to reminisce about how much you miss it. 

Be an impassioned advocate for the culture of your community. Support those who seek to share their self expression. Act on the impulse that you were born with and I promise you many of the solutions we seek will emerge. 

 

Making art is not a nice to have, it is not reserved for a chosen few nor something to do on weekends. It is your right and your responsibility. Using your head, hands and heart to shape the world around you in unique, beautiful and thought provoking ways is a gift to us all. 

Immersing yourself within Art’s liquid embrace is as vital to our survival as it is nourishing for our health and happiness. Throughout all of human history it is the cultures that valued Art (and culture) that were most successful. Why? Because life is an evolving work of Art.

Nature represents the purest form of artistic expression. To take the vast complexity of possibility and channel it into simple, beautiful, effective and efficient outcomes…well that’s just magnificent. 

 

If you want to be an innovator, a disruptor, an original thinker, then look to the Arts. Da Vinci, Bowie, Warhol and Wilde were all rogues and mavericks pushing boundaries and breaking rules.

If you want to develop your empathy, your acceptance and understanding of others, look to the Arts. Empathy is the cost of entry when writing music, literature, theatre or prose. 

If you want to restore a sense of community, bring greater intimacy and connection, then look to the Arts. Our ancestors used the power of story to embed an awareness of our interdependence for thousands of years. Through story we find meaning, we experience our lineage, we embody our legacy.

 

Stop fucking around with Facebook. Book a babysitter, find a band and go shake your booty.

Stop listening to the TV. Join the library, borrow the classics and learn from the best we’ve ever had.

Stop supporting corporations that don’t care. Save the money you were going to spend on mascara and throw a few bucks to the busker.

Be a champion for the Arts. Be a champion for your self expression. Be a champion for a world that values the unique contribution we were all born to make. 

 Then buy yourself a canvas, call up all your courage and paint your infinite essence because you can, because you should and honestly, because it feels so good. 

The Key To Personal Branding

The future for all of us is blurry. 

The line between work & life, personal and professional, employed or entrepreneurial has been smudged. The respite of retirement, the hope for home ownership, the safety of superannuation are all up for grabs.

Big companies are downsizing, startups are being swallowed, and self-employment is now the fastest growing sector in most developed countries. We are all scuttling further and faster into the unknown. Together.

So what security could we hope to find in such an atmosphere of uncertainty? What actions can we take to ensure our survival as employees or entrepreneurs in such a volatile job market? What will give us an edge when we find ourselves standing on one? 

 

Positioning. 

 

Otherwise known as personal branding. Your rep. Street cred. Brand You. The vibe that surrounds the mere mention of your name. If who you are in the hearts and minds of your peers, potential customers or preferred employer is rock solid & water tight, you’ll be alright. 

You’ll get given the best projects, have a steady queue of clients and forever be in demand for who you are, what you do and how you do it. Sounds pretty cool huh?

 

But what is a rock solid, water tight personal brand? And how the hell do I get one?

Well, how about I start with telling you what it’s not and we’ll take it from there. 

 

It’s not just about visibility like some ‘branding experts’ would have you believe. Armed with only an intent to be seen, you might be gaining front of mind awareness, but is your brand one that really serves you? Or us?

Cue the endless barrage of semi-inspirational quotes placed on entirely incongruent istock photos and posted ad nauseam.

Sigh.

It’s not just about authenticity either. Without knowing who you are, what you stand for and why, the application of this ideal is often paper thin. Superficial at best.

Cue handwritten email signatures and bio lines like ‘when I’m not transforming company culture you can find me on the yoga mat, deep in savasana’.

Sure. 

It’s definitely about distinction. To be known as someone for something it pays to be clearly defined and delineated. But sometimes trying too hard to be different we lose what makes us different. 

Cue wildly inconsistent content that changes in style and tone with the wind. 

 

No, a rock solid, water tight personal brand is all about integrity

 

To be clear I don’t mean morality. I mean the consistent expression of your congruence. The unfolding essence that emerges only when it is entirely embodied. It is this continuous state of being whole and undivided that makes it easy to remember you.

Whether we like you or not is another story. But there are no mixed messages. We know exactly who you are and who you aren’t. There is a familiar thread that links our every experience of you. Even when you aren’t physically there.

 

This approach to your personal branding is far from easy. Sure, it requires that you know who you are, what you stand for and why, but that’s just the cost of entry. Once you have that understanding, you must then align every choice, behaviour, outfit, email and offering to it. 

This is where the real work begins and why so many of us fail to maintain a rock solid, water tight personal brand. It’s hard. It’s takes sacrifice. It takes letting go of who we were in service of who we must become. 

 

A good friend of mine, Peter Cook, told me a story recently that illuminates both the power and possibility of living with such integrity. Among many things, Peter is a grown up Karate Kid. And once while deepening his practice his master told him ’Peter, just remember, 99% in is hard, but 100% in is easy’. 

Once you’re in, once you commit to who you really are or hope to be, the choices that will define you in the eyes of the market become easy. The shape of your uniqueness becomes clear cut. The future of your personal brand position becomes as effortless as it does eternal. 

Go all in. I'll meet you there. 

 

The Power of a Mentor (And what we can learn from Sister Act II)

With self-employment increasing at a rate of 3.5% it is now the fastest growing sector in our current business landscape.

This means that many of us have already or will soon make the jump from building someone else dream, to building our own.

There are countless books, courses, articles and podcasts on how to make a successful leap into the world of entrepreneurship. But nothing compares to having someone close to you, who has experienced all that you are about to, standing in your corner and nudging you in the right direction.

I’m talking about a mentor.

Someone who has already lived the story you hope to live. Someone who has succeeded through waves of uncertainty and doubt. Navigated the isolation and insecurity that often accompanies such a voyage. And can offer deep insight, real-world experience and powerful inspiration for your quest.

I have been lucky to find and know many mentors in my personal and professional life. Whenever I have worked with one, my business growth has accelerated and my sense of self elevated beyond what I could have done on my own.

This post is a reflection on what I’ve seen in others and experienced personally when utilising the power of a mentor.

 

And to do this, I’m going to use the wonderful 1993 film, ‘Sister Act 2: Back in the habit’. 

Yup. 

Doing it. 

 

Firstly, this is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE films. The message, how it’s delivered and the performances are exceptional. The cast were young, soon to be superstars. It was a sequel that surpassed the original (which rarely happens) and it changes me every time I watch it.

For those that haven’t seen it, do it today.

For those that have, a quick plot summary.


Deloris Van Cartier aka Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) is drawn back to the church that once housed her while she was in hiding from mobsters. This time to help teach the music class and somehow save the school that will soon be demolished to make way for a parking lot.

It’s a low socio-economic area, the kids have no positive role models, they are rude, crude and full of attitude. But we discover they can sing. And over the course of the film, Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi) teaches them to sing together, stand in their truth and take control of their destiny.

They transform the community around them, relationships with their family and go on to win a choir competition which inevitably saves the school from closure.

I want to highlight 3 key moments that capture the journey of working with the right mentor.

 

Stage one 

A good mentor balances their experience, their intent to serve and a series practical frameworks, ideally they have developed, that you can use to develop your own business or practice. 

Whoopi Goldberg brought these kids together as a choir by getting back to the basics. They started with scales. They learned to sing in harmony by following a prescribed set of tools she laid out as the foundation for their vision. 

Imagine they’ve developed their first offering. They’ve written the copy for the website, had a professional photo taken and are putting themselves out there for the first time. 

They’ve been comfortable within the safety of their mentoring relationship but now they have to suck it up and share their ideas, their IP and they’re intent with the market. Watch

Initially they’re shy and timid. They want to keep hiding out and fitting in. It’s insanely hard to trek out on your own.

Whoopi (their mentor) recognises the fear and immediately brings them back to basics. She reminds them of the foundation they used to build their initial offering. We hear her say ‘alright you guys, take your cue from me’.

She runs them through a scale, they become grounded in their purpose again. They find their rhythm, they gain in confidence and inevitably, they cut loose.

A good mentor is there for you when you take your first steps out into the unknown. They anticipate any roadblocks and return you to the fundamentals when necessary. All in service of your own unfolding truth.


Stage two

Now imagine you’re a little further along your new venture. There are people in your life, often those closet to you, who don’t understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. They offer ‘well-meaning bad advice’. They believe they’re looking out for you but may not have your best interests at heart.

This is captured in the beautiful moment between Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount.

Lauryn has just received ‘well-meaning bad advice’ from her mother. She now finds herself in comparison. Judging her own worth compared to those around her. 

She questions giving the up her business or practice. Throwing in the towel. Getting a ‘real job’. Tanya reminds her that her dream matters by asking her what she thinks. Reminding her to trust her instincts. And to never surrender her power.

But the best part after that is, she creates a framework for her to get in action. She doesn’t launch into a long, convoluted motivational speech. She invites her to step back into what she loves. Get back into action. Dive into her process and sing. 

Through this, Lauryn finds the conviction she thought she had lost. Not by planning, or writing a manifesto or repeating a daily affirmation. But by doing the work. 

A good mentor is inspiring, full of deep insight and motivational speech. But they are always focused on getting you back in action. Because that is where we learn. That is where we remember why we wanted to do this in the first place. And that is where we find results. 


Stage three

Now imagine you have have arrived at your moment of truth. This is the biggest pitch you’ve done to date. This is the gig that will open doors for you in ways previously unimagined. You have done all the work. You’ve busted your ass and this proposal is make or break. 

But just as you’re about to begin, just as you are standing on the verge of truly breaking through, the ghosts of your past appear.  A phone call from a family member. An email from a dissatisfied client. A post from one of your competitors locking in a deal with someone you hoped to work with.

It throws you. You stumble. 

Just as Lauyrn is about to sing her mother walks in. Full of judgement and contempt. Sometimes our ascension throws the life choices of others into question and they will stop at nothing to stop us.

At this point Whoopi orders the kids to take of their robes. In order for them to step into the fullest expression of themselves, they have to be and own their uniqueness. Without regard for how they will be perceived. 

The point is not winning the competition, the point is who they became in order to get there. Making it in your own business is pointless unless it is a reflection of what you want and who you are. 

Surrounded by others on a similar path, we see all the kids overcome their background, their influences, their conditioning. We see them collaborate whilst maintaining their individualism. We see joy. Unfiltered, unashamed, unbridled joy. 

A good mentor is not trying to get you somewhere. They merely create the space for you to explore, to own and to share your magnificent self. Turned up to eleven.

 

A final thought. 

Almost every good mentor had a mentor of their own. They know they will never repay the contribution that was made to them, by them. The only way to show gratitude is to pass their wisdom on. To help someone else in the same way they were helped. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone that inspires you. Someone who has lived what you hope to. Perhaps they’re currently too busy, or too expensive, or too whatever. But perhaps, they’ve been dying to find a way to give back to the world that gave so much to them.

Perhaps you are the vehicle for them to express their gratitude. 

Perhaps they want to work with you just as much as you want to work with them. 

So pick up the phone and ask em.

The Innovators Advantage

In life, change is the only constant. Our natural world exists in a state of flux and to survive all living things must evolve. This is equally true in the world of business.

Innovation is no longer a nice to have, it is essential to our success.

Over the last 100 years, we have seen unparalleled technological advancement. Every facet of our lives has been touched by innovation. But our journey is far from over.

Most of what we developed and relied upon to bring us where we are, is longer effective as a vehicle for where we need to go. 

We changed the world and are now being asked to change ourselves.

 

The real difficulty, however, is not necessarily what we need to build, but why. Through our dogged obsession with making bigger, better and faster machines, we often overlooked the point of having them. And as Marshall McLuhan pointed out “we make the tools, now the tools make us”.

Our preference for science and technology as the foundation for understanding has birthed a world that values efficiency over elegance. Product over process. Data over dreams. And as such we now have instruments that influence us to think, act and become more like them.

 

But we’re not like them. We are emotional, unpredictable and temperamental. We feel, sense and intuit. We are spontaneous, dynamic and capable of unforeseen creativity in the most arbitrary of ways.

It’s time we started celebrating this. Not as a feel-good mantra but as a strategy for unlocking true innovation. As leaders, we must cultivate the creative development of our people and leverage our imperfection.

In a world driven by data, that calls us to find new meaning between the measurable things, the smartest thing we can do for ourselves and our organisation is to foster that which makes us human.

 

How confident are you with your creative capacity? How connected do you feel to the infinite mystery of your true nature? How supportive is your organisation to those who feel before they think?

Your next great innovation will not show up in sequence nor will it be the result of an anticipated outcome. It will emerge in the most unlikely of places. It will speak in a language that disregards standard procedure. And it will ask that you dance in order to receive the truth you so desperately seek.

Can you hear the music?

From Mastery To Artistry

Our world has an overwhelming obsession with mastery.

On some level, we’ve all subscribed to the idea that doing more of something will equate to more of everything. 

 

Revived and popularised by books like Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’, we’ve been told that anyone can master just about anything by applying enough effort over enough time (10,000 hours to be precise).

Maybe, but I’m not interested in challenging the length of time it takes to master something. I'd like to question whether we focus on mastery at all.

See mastery for all it’s confidence and charm has never been a guarantor of success. Being technically proficient or exhibiting unrivalled skill over an instrument is commendable but hardly memorable. 

There are countless talented and technically dexterous guitarists who can move effortlessly around the fretboard but there will only ever be one Jimi Hendrix. And he played it backwards and upside down. 

Despite his unorthodox style and somewhat unconventional approach there’s no denying he exudes complete mastery over his craft. But with something more, something else, something intangible and unique to him.

 

To stand out in todays competitive marketplace we must move from mastery to artistry. We must unlock and unleash our authentic expression if we are to stand any chance of cutting through. 

By no means am I advocating we throw away all we’ve learned, paint our faces and hold hands in our sales meetings. But stretching our attention beyond our technique, loosening our grip on protocol and focusing more on what it means to put more of us in our work is a great start.

When we dance in conversation with a prospect rather than running through the sales script. When we surrender to what’s emerging rather than fight for what should be happening, we go to places that neither of us have ever been. It’s intimate and addictive and unforgettable. 

When we trust what feels good over what worked before, when we build on ideas and reveal our weaknesses with conviction, we enter a new realm of risk and reward. A space that can only be occupied by ourselves that is as magnificent as it is magnetic. 

Take for example this clip of Kurt Elling performing with the SSO earlier this year at the Sydney Opera House. Every single one of the musicians on that stage is a master of their craft. They have all spent an stupid amount of time developing and refining their skills. They are all world class.

Now tell me who are the masters and who are the artists?

And as we barrel toward a new year, tell me this, for your customers, for your colleagues and for yourself, who would you rather be?

Have you mastered the art of you?

We are living in an era of unprecedented disruption.

Our relationship with change is vital to our success in modern work and life. 

If I were a betting man, the only thing I'd put money on regarding our future, is that sometime soon everything we've worked for will be thrown into question by something out of our control. 

Maybe we run into someone we haven't seen in years. Someone we used to know who is visibly excited about their new career opportunities. This spontaneous interaction disturbs something deep within us and it's now harder than ever to keep towing the company line.

Or maybe while spring cleaning the study, we find a bunch of old journals from when we were young. After reading a few pages, we soon discover the dreams we had for life look a whole lot different to what we're living. 

Or maybe someone we love has just been told their health is not what it was and will never be again. All the someday, one-day wants we've had crystallise at once. The fragility and impermanence of our lives has never been clearer and yet we're paralysed by all the potential possibilities. 

When we hit a transition point and change is the only way forward, how do we know we're making the right choices? Where do we find the courage to leave what was in search of what could be? And what do we tell the people around us?

 

The key to any smooth transition in career or life is to rebuild our relationship with ourselves. To listen for, engage with and act upon our own unique expression of the truth. All the answers we seek are already speaking, we've just forgotten how to hear them. 

 

Unfortunately, much of the self-help industry has damaged our view of personal or career development. Many of us are cynical of the self-proclaimed gurus and their tasteless prescriptions for mindfulness or meditation. 

 

But unless you actively participate in your own progress; unless you get interested in who you are and why, you'll never know what you're capable of or what Is standing in the way.

 

Here are my 3 cents on how to start a conversation with yourself about yourself.

1 -  Make room for space. Unless you carve out a minute, an hour or a day every now and then, there ain't no way you'll change. As time rolls on your life might look, sound or feel different, but it's just the same stuff wrapped in a different package. In the same way you make time for others, make time for work, or make time for shitty TV, make time for you. Quiet, quality time whatever that looks like. 

2 - Stop looking, start noticing. I wrote about this in my last blog post. When you look for something there is an agenda, you're hoping to find an outcome. When you notice things you're just present, curious, deepening your awareness of what's around and within you. This is the gateway to hearing your deeper self and learning your deeper desires. Just notice how you feel about the unfurling world around you.

3 - You gotta give it up to turn it loose. Who f@#king cares what your people think. You don't have to tell them that you've bought a book about desire. They don't have to know you're speaking to a life coach. It's none of their f@#king business if you keep a journal about your feelings. It's your life, not theirs. And you've only got one of them. And if you're not strutting enough, then get over it, get responsible and take some action. 

Just don't let anyone or anything stand in the way of you returning to your truth. We need you to find it, own and express it just as much as you do. You have Art in you that will change us!

And remember that finding yourself, getting clear about who you are and what you want in life is not the end...it's only the beginning!

How Does Your Business Feel?

Let me be blunt. 

In today's economic climate, your culture will make or break your company. 

The way your employees feel about themselves, about each other, about the work they do and the organisation as a whole, greatly impacts the quality, quantity and consistency of their output. 

The way your vendors, customers and competitors feel about your company will define the value, length and profitability of those relationships. 

The way you feel about this conversation will shape the choices you make after we’re finished having it. 

 

In other words, the way your business feels is now just as important as what it does.

And the individuals and organisations brave enough to explore this with enthusiasm, vigour and intent will be the leaders in tomorrow's business landscape.

But where do we start if we want to articulate and amplify the feel of our organisation? And how on earth do we begin a conversation about the feel of our business without sounding like a new-age, psycho-spiritual w@#ker?

 

Firstly I'll answer the second question.

Choose your audience. Just because you know the importance of culture and the need for fresh thinking about it, doesn't mean your team does yet. So unless you're courageous with your conviction and can withstand the jokes and jabs, I'd start slow, ask more questions and do lots of listening.

And as for where to look to understand the feel of your business?

Stop looking. Start noticing. There is a subtle distinction between the two that allows for vastly different experiences. When you look for something there is an intent. An agenda. You're searching and hoping to find something. And sometimes, this can get in the way of seeing what's already there. 

When you notice the world around you, you are giving it your full attention. You're observing things as they are. Present to what is around you. Once you reside in this place of awareness, you can begin explore how it makes you feel. 

 

Notice the reception area, the boardroom, the kitchen. Your business card, email signature, job title. How does the atmosphere of your office change at different points in the day? How do you feel before a meeting? In a particular person's company? Or after a spontaneous disruption? 

This process is not about fixing, changing or even understanding the events around you. It’s merely a practice of curiosity and awareness. Learning to listen to both the world and yourself and the intersection between the two.

 

Developing soft skills like these are now vital to cultivating cultures that thrive. To succeed in today's business environment, leaders must read the energy of their people and sculpt the atmosphere of their workplace accordingly. 

For some, it might still be too progressive to talk openly about our feelings, but that doesn't mean they don't feel. Knowing how to work with and in the energy of things is now as imperative as it is an advantage.

So how do you feel about that?

 

Your Imperfection Will Be Your Advantage

As our lives become more digital, more sanitised and more impersonal, a new opportunity emerges. 

While the rest of the world seeks robots, programmes and automation, remaining human will be both our defining characteristic and our most valuable asset. 

At first I loved the online check in. The unstaffed bag drop was bliss. 

No queues, no missing tickets, no…human interaction. 

But now this computerised convenience is compounding.

We email more than we speak. We share more with our apps than we do with each other. Our social feeds have become our social lives.

And it’s not enough. 

As hard as we try to systemise our souls we will forever seek the untamed beauty of imperfection.

We are eternally drawn to the sweaty hot mess that is our humanity.

And those who are brave enough to own their dusty edges and share their unfinished selves will stand out like neon stars on a jet black sky.

In the future, your imperfection will be your advantage.

5omething

I am no stranger to the creative process.

I've spent my entire life seeking and surrendering to it. I believe it holds an unparalleled power to heal, to elevate, to inspire and transform.

When you give yourself over to make something, the process will make something out of you. 

In 2014 I wrote a song a week for 50 weeks.
In 2015 I'm writing a poem a week for 50 weeks. 
Today I'm starting to write a book that I will finish in 50 days. 1000 words everyday for 50 days. And all of it done by rising at 5am every morning. Ouch.

I'm calling it #5omething

It's a celebration of and an invitation to the wonderful world of creativity, commitment and conviction.

If you want to join me, pick something you love to do, something that brings you closer to your creative self and do it every day for 50 days. 

Take a photo, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #5omething and we'll voyage through uncharted water together.

It's not important what you make, all that matters is that you...

Just . Do . #5omething

Show Me Your Stuff

To all our wonderful content creators, 

(especially me)

This is your time.

Don’t waste it.

And please, don’t waste ours. 

We don’t need another blog post on Leadership. Another white paper on Culture. Another ebook on Collaboration. 

We need you.

We want to hear YOUR ideas.

The juicy stuff that emerges from the uniqueness of your experience. That subtle blend of choice and chance you've ridden all your life. That one in seven billion kinda thing.

The stuff behind the stuff you think we want to hear. 

The stuff that leaves you open to debate, to criticism, to disagreement.

The stuff that you are absolutely positive will cost you a large portion of your 'target audience'.

That’s the stuff we’re looking for. That’s the stuff we need. That’s the stuff that will make a difference to you, to me, to us and to them.

So write, make, create and share that.

I’ll admit it’s not as easy at first. It’s hard to know the stuff from the fluff.

But here’s a hint. 

If it flows when you know there's no threat of being published; if it's placed in the crate labeled 'soon as I've made it'; if you're clouded in doubt and the only way out is to lay your pen down...

You’re probably in the right place. 

Start there and you'll take us somewhere new.

And whether we remember to tell you or not, we'll love you for it.

Your turn. 

Artisan Thinking

It doesn't take a genius to see the world is in a very volatile place.

Every market, industry or sector is facing unparalleled disruption.

Every business owner, shareholder or employee will soon be facing challenges that have never been seen before. 

We're all about to be thrown into a swirling mess of uncertainty.

You, me, us and them.

Are we ready?

As dire as that sounds there are some among us who will thrive. Some who will ride the waves of disruption to bold new shores. Rich in possibility, promise and profit. 

These people embody a style of thinking that has been overlooked for much of the last few centuries. But it's value is becoming more and more clear. And the sooner we can learn to adopt this style of thinking, the safer our future will become.

I've written a black paper that outlines what I believe will make the difference in the world we are now living in. Please download it, enjoy it and share it with whoever you think might gain value from it.

And if you're interested in learning more about Artisan Thinking and how you can apply it to your life, your team or your organisation, please don't hesitate to reach out.

There is nothing I love more than finding ways to bring us closer to ourselves.  

Download your black paper here.

I'll show you mine if you show me yours

Whenever I fall off the exercise wagon, getting back on is the toughest part.

Once I've committed, if I stand any chance of working out the following morning, putting my gym clothes next to the bed is good.

But sleeping with my sneakers on is better.

That 2.4 secs it takes to put on my shoes seems to matter a whole lot more at 6 am.

Similarly, if I stop sharing my work. If my focus shifts from creating to consuming. If I once again find myself in a familiar maze of procrastination, perfectionism and paralysis, clearing my schedule to make something meaningful is good.

But setting a deadline is better.



Not a reasonable one. Not something I can tweak, or skim or blur the edges of.

Something brutal, like an hour from now. 

And this deadline is not to finish said piece of art, but to ship it. The task is to publish what I create within a horribly short timeframe so that real people can read it and judge me accordingly.

I need a deadline that gives me no possible chance of creating my best work. 

Once I have no choice but to surrender my ego, embrace my fate and accept that the world might not recognise, understand or appreciate just how wonderfully unique I am...

I am free.

 

In the knowledge age, we're all creators. Our success in tomorrow's economy will hinge on our ability to ideate, iterate and innovate on demand. 

Becoming comfortable with the tension of imperfection is key.

Becoming a master of your process is vital.

 

Worry less about how you look and more about what you ship. A photo of a sunset could never outshine the swirling, burning evolution of the real thing.

Your process is where it's at baby.

So what will you publish today?

I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

 

The Road To Somewhere Else

You know that somebody over there…

 

The one who has it all figured out. 

Smooth lines and elegant choices.

Imagine.

How different life would be

If you were more like them.

How much…. better.

 

Look at that jacket. What a fabulous jacket. 

Look at the way they stir their tea.

So…

Very….

 

Put down what you’re working on

And give yourself over to their experience.

Surrender yourself.

To them. 

Observe, imitate, become. 

I've heard it’s the quickest way to where you want to go.

 

Wait, they’re leaving.

In a cascade of confidence and charm.

But the jacket remains. 

No one is watching.

Try it on. 

See if the sucker fits. 

Oooh it’s so nice. 

Feel the fabric of your fantasy.

Hands in pockets, get comfortable. 

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Walk out into the night. 

Following footsteps

You’re guaranteed to find your way home.

To theirs.

 

Until…

 

You catch a glimpse 

Of someone you once knew.

Buried beneath a 3 part series of foreign dreams.

 

The penny drops.

 

A pure white shrill 

Of falling copper on steel

Moves like fishing wire through butter through your heart

 

F@#k.

You’ve built yourself around the shape of someone else

 

It’s not as pretty as you thought

It doesn’t fit like you believed

How could you be so wrong

When it felt so right?

 

Sigh.

 

To my darling self,

There’s no need to squirm or fret

If you once again forget

Who you are, who you were and soon will be.

 

It is what it is.

And you are what you are. 

You have what you have

And what you have is all you need

To run and stretch and dream and dance and live.

 

So shake it off

And off you go

There’s a big bag of fun with your name written all over it

 

Just

 

            Over

 

                                 There…

The Cultural Architect

The new world of work organisations will require a new breed of worker. 

As new challenges emerge so do fresh opportunities for never before seen roles.

These roles will require skills, behaviours and mindsets that have previously been laughed or locked out of the boardroom. 

These roles will predominantly be filled by people who have ignored, avoided or survived the corporate conditioning. 

People who have reawakened their creativity, who are driven by a deeper purpose and are seeking meaningful ways to channel their unique essence.

Companies would do well to start exploring the idea of what these roles might look like. And who might fill them.

One such example is below. Inspired by the miraculous work of Tim Leberecht and his Job Description for The Business Romantic, may I introduce an emerging role in the modern business landscape I like to call, The Cultural Architect.

 

Job Description: The Cultural Architect

 

Reporting directly to the CEO The Cultural Architect is responsible for exploring, understanding and articulating the unseen elements of our workplace culture.

You will design and deploy evolving physical, mental and emotional spaces for our people to show up as the fullest expression of themselves.

You will craft meaningful experiences through spontaneous moments of play that realign our people to their passion and our company to our cause.

The applicant must possess high levels of Empathy and Intuition 

Previous experience as an Optimist and Social Artist is essential. 

We are looking for someone who is masterful at not only connecting to our people but connecting our people to each other.

We will look favourably on gypsies, seekers, healers, lovers, dreamers and believers who live the stories they tell and tell stories that inspire people to live. 

And anyone who has shown the courage to love despite countless broken hearts will be at a distinct advantage.

The Cultural Architect is the beat of the heart of our company.

Apply how, when and by whatever means calls to you.

 

* Taken from a Keynote written for and delivered at 'The Future Of Leadership Conference: Workplace Culture', Wednesday 22nd July, 2015 at Deakin Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne. 

* Concept of Job Description inspired by Tim Leberecht and his book The Business Romantic.