The below blog was last edited on July 25 2016, referencing an experience 18 months before – I guess I didn’t have the balls to post it! – well hear it is 🙂
18 months ago I had a life shaping revelation
I took a journey to Costa rica and made my way to a mountain top on a rainy day, I could view a whole region of coast line and not one person in sight.
I guess I was on a pilgrimage of sorts, I was looking for a space with no framing where I could find out what I believed to be real. I left my phone and went off the grid!
This quote I found after the trip speaks to how I felt…
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” ― Cynthia Occelli
I got to the top of the hill and started to shout at God! It seems I was angry!
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?”
And other more colourful phrases to that effect 🙂
Growing up in an evangelistic christian community I had learned about something called ‘speaking in tongues.’ There are many explanations to what this very odd sounding activity is but on top of that mountain that day I found myself making all kinds of sounds not too dissimilar from what I had learned about. My guess is that I probably sounded like a very very angry south american tribes man!
I went off for about 10 minutes, wailing and crying!
What is it?? I don’t claim to know, does it make sense in a language? I don’t presume to know but it does feel real, i felt like I transcended my cognitive self, my learned behaviours, my circumstantial self, to a sound that fitted my face,
After a massive jaw operation at 18 I know very well the feeling of something fitting my face and something that doesn’t, when something is comfortable and when it isn’t and this was.
At the end of my incomprehensible rant I began to speak in english again and that’s when the the moment hit me. I didn’t sound like ‘me’. I realised that the sound of my english accent was a bit sterile and ‘learned’ a bit robotic. I had always thought that the way I talk was ‘me’ but now I could see that it was a framework like all the other layers I had learned to interact with the world around me.
Speaking these sounds is funny because it is very comfortable to me but desperately uncomfortable to talk about. It is difficult to bring ideas to a medium that is governed by a different paradigm.
Making these sounds with no interest in logic or language processing is like body movement. It is a global language, almost anyone can make sound or move regardless of their environment or learning.
These real moments of connection are what I think is worth pursuing and experiencing.
What a joy it was yesterday to finally share my journey and learning in my first time as a guest lecturer at UCL university, sharing intelligence as a super concept. The video will come soon…
What I want to articulate here is my response to the great, open minded, articulate questions I received at the end of the session, that were looking for clarity with a deep sense of curiosity, it was a privilege for me to be in such a culture at UCL’s Arts & Sciences Course run by the unmatched Carl Gombrich.
There were 2 questions that stumped me which you will hear if you watch the lecture. The first was asking ‘How is Learning different from ‘Intelligence?’ and the other was something like ‘Is creativity a prerequisite for Intelligence?’ My responses were slow and completely non-commital, mainly because the differences between the words are so nuanced, I needed more time to consider and clarify.
Upon sleeping on it I am happy to say that the 3 interrelated stages of the intelligence flow (1. perception of stimulus 2. metabolisation 3. expression) can be otherwise described as a system’s process of learning and creativity.
Learning makes up the part of perceiving and metabolising information to create understanding and creativity seems to kick off in the metabolisation part and becoming obvious in the expression part which clearly in turn creates new information to learn from. This trinity is a flow and is not easily separated but worth thinking about distinctly.
I think looking at the relationship between learning and creativity and how to get the most effective flow between them is a fascinating area for discovery, if there are any learnings out there please do share them.
To you wonderful BASc students, thank you for collaborating with me (without even knowing it) I must find your names so that I can credit you on helping me find this language – Red jumper man on feedback loop, Bali woman front left on learning and 2nd or 3rd woman in on left block 3rd row I believe on creativity – Oh and the two of you who mentioned good studies on cellular intelligence please please do send! – Thank you.
*Added – Cheers Katie Rawlins, Jina Lim, Lucas Stanley & Alia Cachafeiro Maiz
If you are interested in forming part of the working group looking further into this and fleshing it out please email firstname.lastname@example.org
I cannot tell you the joy I feel when I struggle to utter a murmuring of something new bubbling up inside me, a new risk, pursuit or odd interest and someone actually hears you!
Not blocked by their own preconceived ideas of you, or them, or perceived success or failure but they recognise this seed is in you and regardless of its end it desires to be nurtured
Then once they have recognised this new mini chapter in my book they seek ways to encourage it.
I have been on a journey becoming increasingly fascinated by intelligence and our perception of it, here are 3 examples of those friends who have heard me and are creatively showing that they believe in my journey.
Kate bought me a new notebook with a picture of Einstein on it and a quote on the inside cover
Nat bought be a book from Oxford on intelligence and scribbled a note of support
Carl offered me, a chance to share my thoughts publicly with his audience
All 3 of these dear friends have heard me reaching for a new story and have creatively fed into it, making creative space, inspiring my learning and setting me a goal, sharing in my risk with me.
Nobody manifests alone.
There are very few gifts greater than the gift of creative belief, Thankyou friends, I will aspire to do the same for others
I’ve had these notes for 6 months, I guess I was writing a talk or a book but never shipped it, so now I found it, I am shipping 🙂 – If you want more information please let me know, be happy to elaborate, just ping me on twitter http://twitter.com/daveerasmus
Below are things I think are relevant in understanding what you bring as a founder.
Amongst the top of the list is ‘taking people with you’ which @digates my partner in crime in Newcastle taught me as she joined me through the givey journey. I have found her wisdom to be true on any creative journey but especially true for those long hard journeys with multiple stakeholders.
The idea of a ‘Founder’ is not readily understood in the UK as it is in the US and I only really hear of CEO’s or quitters which I think can be unhelpful. For me, learning about the role and value of being a founder through my US VC David Cremin from http://draperfrontier.com has helped me take a kinder view of myself.
When I view my role in the ‘artist’ ‘founder’ or ‘innovation’ mindset, I feel proud of the determination and commitment I have shown over the years for the projects I have helped lead. This is polar opposite to the guilt complex that I can accrue If I view my work through the ‘CEO’ lens or ‘production’ mindset.
This Rainforest curve really nicely shows how founders mindsets go from being highly useful to highly distracting from effective production.
Check this list out, see which resonates more with you.
If you resonate with the right hand list then I suggest that you might want to look for incredible individuals you see trying to put stuff together with the traits on the left, they will probably be forever thankful that you help them from getting stuck in an innovation rut and into successful production mindset.
Sharing a founding journey is not the same as sales, it’s intimate and requires a high level of trust. Founding any team requires discipline, bravery, authenticity and a dexterous approach to personal and social boundaries.
Below are 10 skills and types of awareness I believe are worth cultivating in maintaining
1. Presenting VS Being Real – To maintain trust over the long term it is vital to know when you are giving the glossy story vs the real story. In some rooms the listeners are expecting you to share your ‘best’ self but people already on your journey just want the truth. know the difference.
2. YOU are the Medium – Big Companies have TV ads and billboards, new companies do smart internet advertising. Your project has YOU. YOU are the marketing for your project. How you speak, dress, thank, apologise, keep time and integrity IS your brand. Be consistent. If people know what to expect from you they will know what to expect from your brand. This is most helpful for those working closely with you to absorb the culture.
3. Presence is everything – There is always more to be done, you cannot be everywhere at once. you can only solve one problem at a time. When people are working in the dark for YOU their motivation depends on a few honest moments, they know you are busy but they want SOMETHING to believe their work matters. When you are with someone BE THERE.
4. Ask Questions and Listen – Know that everyone you speak to holds keys and secrets you need to be able to move forwards. Ask them questions and LISTEN to the answers, write notes and learn how to ask questions based on the answers not just more random questions. This helps you go deeper, learn more, and go on a journey with the person you are sitting with.
5. Single Message for all stakeholders – The challenge of running complex projects is the number of different stakeholders with different things that keep them happy. Family, investors, employees, partners, influencers, existing customers and potential customers. It is easy to fall into the trap of saying different things to different people leading to fragmentation, stress and disintegration, hurting your project’s life source, your authenticity! The harder but more efficient work is to create one story that can keep even the most diverse group of stakeholders aligned. – This is the core story that powers ANY marketing activities.
6. Do it publicly – be vulnerable – To be a leader worth following you have to put your neck on the line with your money where your mouth is. Once you have figured out one core story that you believe in that achieves the goals and will bring all stakeholders with you, find somewhere to share it with everything you have! Hold nothing back! – if no-one will give you a stage then make a raw youtube video! – Learn more from Brene Brown ‘Power of Vulnerability
7. Start with the ‘Why’ & GO BIG. When you are sharing your project in the early stages don’t get caught up with the what, when or where but focus on the WHY. This is where purpose, passion and adventure comes from. Once you have a WHY cast out a vision that is BIG, clearly much bigger than you could achieve with your current resources. Note : If you aren’t scared by what you are saying you probably aren’t thinking big or deep enough. Make sure you ASK clearly for help from the listeners and show where they can go to do it. – Learn more from Simon Sinek’s great talk on ‘start with why’
8. Past > Present > Future – Make sure your story shares what has lead you to this point, what you are doing now, and what you are hoping from the future. A clear chronological story that makes it easy for the listener to follow and join you on.
9. Leave with shared responsibility – Make sure the story which started with ‘I’, ends with ‘we’. Letting others know that they can be involved that they can be ‘in’, that they can be ‘we’ with you. Make sure you leave them with the truth that this WILL NOT happen unless others make it their problem too, and that today, the ‘others’, is the listener.
10. Your job is conversations – When your job is holding and sharing the story, your main job is communications. 20% is sharing the core, general message of ‘what’s happening’ but 80% is listening to how this impacts the person you are with, what ideas or concerns they have, and wiggling through them to get to actions. This is hard to do on email or what’s app. Real, Analogue, Listening, Present conversation is the context which, in my experience allows the most growth and development happen in the shortest time. One could say that if as an early stage founder you aren’t having 4-5 quality conversations a day you may not be doing your job effectively.
Once you have shared your initial message and got your founding crew aligned the journey will continue to develop and evolve with every experiment you conduct. Every meeting, every message, every interaction is something to reflect on and learn from. Your message will grow as you find others who help establish your story.
An excellent example of an argument builder is John Oliver, who weekly creates robust stories to inform and entertain around subjects which matter. As a reward he has received over 1 billion views and I cant freaking get enough!!
Oliver keeps our engagement with an masterful mix of tools, moving dextrously between information, comedic analogy and ridiculous imagery with every point he makes. This 3 pronged cycle keeps us grinning and keeps us learning. The TED model is also predicated on this ‘edu-tainment’ model.
When it comes time to share your story on stage, in podcast, on radio, on youtube, in pitches or at bars or airports just remember, Be present in the room, break the walls, at all costs, connect with the audience, move yourself in the space so you can be heard, step down from the stage, swap seats, ditch the microphone or grab it. It is your moment. You may be nervous but know that you have done the work, you do believe it, it is in your head! get a great night’s sleep, relax in the morning. As my friend Mike once told me in a pre TEDx pep talk….