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*Filtering posts tagged Do Lectures

  • Making Crazy Happen: The Stress Report

    It was a crisp Tuesday morning at the end of February. I was sitting around the table in David Hieatt’s farmhouse in west Wales. The fire was burning, candles were lit and coffee was poured.

    David announced his lofty vision to those of us around the table: for The Do Lectures to create a series of printed reports, each on a single-theme, in 134 pages. Reports can be boring, David’s idea was to make these ones engaging and accessible via stories, data visualisation, research and experiments. This first report would be on the subject of stress.

    David told us we had three months to get it done. So we started there and then, mapping out a plan with a pack of Artefact cards. After lunch we relocated to the chicken shed and mapped out ideas on the whiteboard.

    It wasn’t until the long train ride home that it hit me. A very small team, with only one full-timer. A 134 page publication in three months? I’ll be honest, it seemed over ambitious.

    Friends of mine who worked in publishing said it sounded crazy. “That’s impossible,” one told me.

    And it was crazy. But David is good at getting the right people together to ‘make crazy happen’. After all, he’s spent eight years building a not-for-profit global event/ community The Do Lectures alongside starting a made-in-Wales jeans brand, Hiut Denim.

    David is a visionary, but he also knows when he needs to be brutal. As publisher and editor, he was brutal about what we had space for, and what we didn’t. He appreciates the beauty of the edit. For example, there were some brilliant pieces I’d commissioned that were left on the cutting room floor, but it was David’s job to wield the knife (so yes, The Stress Report was stressful at times….).

    The Stress Report is out now (buy it here). Inside is the tale of the London commuter who takes the boat to work to cut down on stress. The story of the creator of Moshi Monsters who’s building a movement around calm. An essay by Tim Leberecht, artwork by Anthony Burrill, words of wisdom from Derek Sivers, experiments from our very own guinea pig Mark Shayler, tips, resources, insights and much more.

    I’m proud to be part of it. Credit to David, Kacie, Joby and Mark for making it happen.


    Here’s to the next crazy project.

  • Turning it inside out: extracting the real story

    As a storyteller-for-hire, brands and organisations ask me to capture and craft their story, whether it’s an external marketing piece, or internally helping employees and new hires understand what the organisation is and where it’s headed.

    I sometimes think about this process as ‘turning it inside out’. It’s my job to look under the bonnet, to be curious, to ask questions and to turn the spotlight on those hidden corners that haven’t been exposed before.

    Sometimes in those hidden corners lie difficult parts of the story: perhaps the first iteration of the product fell flat on its face or the co-founders fell out. I have learned that capturing and sharing these imperfections is an essential part of the process. These imperfections are what gives a brand its purpose but also its personality.

    The same applies to individuals. Over the last few weeks I’ve guest lectured at universities, my advice to students is to put themselves at the heart of their career and business plans. “Don’t let anyone knock the You out of You,” I told them. Part of that is being honest about your real story. And just like those brand stories, it is the imperfections that might make their offering more distinctive and allow them to stand out from the crowd.

    Whether you’re a student, an executive, an entrepreneur, a startup or a big business, telling your real story is rarely easy. Sharing everything - including the ups and downs - means you can emotionally engage with your audience.

    I’ve just been through this process myself. Last year I was asked to speak at The Do Lectures. The brief was to tell a story I hadn’t previously told, to tell the truth and to be vulnerable. The talk went online this week (you can watch it below. If you'd rather listen to the audio podcast, here's the version on SoundCloud).

    It’s a very personal - and sometimes raw - story, but it’s a reflection of who I am and what makes me tick. Like the best stories, it’s a reflection of the truth: I turned myself inside out.

     

  • Changing How The Story Ends - the 2015 Do Lectures

    “It’s time to stop tiptoeing around my past. To take back my narrative and insist on a different ending to my story.”

    This is what Monica Lewinsky said in her recent TED talk - I shared these words when I stood on stage at The Do Lectures last Friday.

    When I first attended the Do Lectures in 2012, I was there as a storyteller. Not standing on stage telling stories, but in the audience, writing an article for the Financial Times and reporting for Monocle radio.

    Those who met me at Do in 2012 might have viewed me as a journalist or a writer, but the part those roles played was just the tip of the iceberg, a tiny part of The Ian Sanders story. It was great to be invited back in 2015 as a speaker and given a brief to share a story I had never told before. I decided it was time to change the narrative, to tell the real story about who I am and why I do what I do professionally today. It was time for me to stop tiptoeing around my past and to be honest about the roadblock I encountered fifteen years ago that forced me to change direction in life. And most importantly, I decided it was time to shine a light on the parts of the story I had previously edited out - the depression and other struggles I faced as a young man.

    Speaking at Do was a great experience, but also one of the hardest things I have ever done: not only to nail my story in twenty minutes, but also to stand up and talk openly about facing and overcoming adversity.

    It can be hard to stick your head above the parapet and expose your vulnerability, it’s not a very British thing to do. But it was made easier because of the environment. The Do Lectures is special. And yes, that may sound cheesy, but it is really like no other event I have been to. Held on a farm in the Welsh countryside, sleeping in tents under the stars. 90 minutes from a main railway station, the hard to reach location means the event attracts a different kind of attendee. But still they came, and not only from the UK but also from the Netherlands, the US and South Africa. The people who come want to make a change in their life or do something different.

    Some of my fellow speakers had products and businesses to talk about, others just had a story to share: Matt Lane on starting his online beer club in a shed; Anna Jones on becoming a food writer; CJ Bowry on starting a charity that finds new feet for outgrown kids shoes. And then Ryan Holiday, a former director of marketing at American Apparel surprised us all with his passion for the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Yes, there were plenty of surprises, even for me (including the moment I choked up on stage talking about my eight year old self).

    A few years ago I would have run a mile from speaking on stage. I’d lost my confidence and my voice. But now I’m back, back on stage and feeling back where I belong.


    I’d like to thank: David and Naomi at The Do Lectures for inviting me to speak; the Do attendees who listened to my story in the barn; Nilofer Merchant; Sarah King; Michael Townsend Williams; Mark Shayler; Nancy Duarte; David Sloly; Hannah Allen; and Zoë Sanders who provided me with the fuel and confidence to find and share my story.

    [Thanks to Andy Middleton for the photograph]

  • The Do Lectures: getting fired up

    Three years ago I made the three hundred mile journey west to The Do Lectures. Twenty speakers and just eighty attendees sharing ideas in a big tent in the Welsh countryside.

    It’s not your average business conference. There are no name badges, the dress code is wellies rather than suits, everybody stays in tents spending the evenings around a fire. Oh, and there’s no wifi.

    And these are the reasons I liked it so much. The speakers don’t disappear on their flight home as soon as they come off stage, attendees don’t spend lunchtimes huddled over their iPhones checking Twitter, there are no VIP parties. Everyone is here together to inspire each other to DO, to get fired up, to get inspired, to make changes in their business or work life (what’s it all about? Read my post ‘Why The Do Lectures Exist’)

    In 18 days I’m back at The Do Lectures. But this time, it’s different. I’ll be on stage as a speaker.

    I’m currently putting some ideas together for my talk. Their brief:

    “Be human. Be vulnerable. Don’t do the talk that you normally do.”

    This is going to be a big one for me, putting my head above the parapet, telling my real story of how I got to here. Telling a story I haven’t told before.


    Videos of the talks will go online later in the year, but in the meantime tickets for June are available here: http://www.thedolectures.com/events/do-wales-2015


    I recommend it.

  • 14 people, curiosity, and a tapas bar in Geneva - the launch of Ideas Tapas

    Last Wednesday night I was in a bar in Geneva listening to an amazing story from a woman who’d ended up running a business in Sierra Leone, hearing how curiosity had informed much of her strategy. I was in  ‘Manifesto’ on Geneva’s Rue de Stand, where fourteen people had gathered to discuss what it means to live a life driven by curiosity. Welcome to Ideas Tapas, a concept I launched with my friend DJ Forza.

    Ideas Tapas is a ‘pop-up’ ideas club - a Salon/ dinner party mash-up - where two hosts and twelve guests unite over tapas & wine for a lively discussion, hearing and sharing inspiring stories. Having initially developed Ideas Tapas with Zoe Sanders to trial in my hometown, the opportunity for a collaboration with DJ Forza meant we could aim higher, and her current home of Geneva was the perfect place to prototype. DJ and I met around a campfire at The 2012 Do Lectures; we discovered a shared passion for curiosity and kept in touch with a desire to collaborate - Ideas Tapas represented a good opportunity to try something together.

    Often, partnerships and ideas can get paralysed by the need to have a big plan. Fortunately DJ and I share a similar mindset - we didn’t  do stacks of research or planning, we just thought we’d give it a try. Geneva gave us a great mix of guests from a start-up to NGOs with so many different voices, cultures and disciplines around the table.

    The evening started with people getting-to-know each other, aided by ice-breaker “I’m curious about....name tags. DJ and I then gave a talk about the power of curiosity before hearing stories from everyone else. We all agreed how refreshing it was to sit around sharing stories and experiences face to face, as an antidote to an age where we tend to do so much of that online. One of our guests said that against this digital always-connected lifestyle, Ideas Tapas is what slow food is to fast food.  It reminded me the importance of a bar or coffee shop in generating ideas. In the 18th century, people would meet at the coffeehouse to shoot around their ideas; in 2013 we’d chosen a tapas bar, not just for the food and the vibe, but also with tapas as a metaphor for sampling not only plates but also ideas. We’re currently thinking about how we’ll roll this out - certainly there will be events in London and other places later in the year, you can sign-up here to be kept in touch and follow us on Twitter.

    There’ll be another post on what we learned about curiosity from the tales around the table. But this is not just a story about what happened in a bar in Geneva, it’s a reminder that if you have an idea, however fluid that maybe, you don’t have to make it perfect or fully-formed to launch - you just need to do something, to take action. We could have deliberated on paper for months about what Ideas Tapas is and what it might become; much better to test it for real, and then work out the plan as you go...

  • James Victore: putting ‘you’ into your work

    I’d not heard of James Victore until I saw his name on the bill at last year’s Do Lectures; but arriving there a day late meant I screwed up my chance to see him (you can watch his talk here). We shared a ride back to Heathrow and that piqued my interest enough to check out some of his work, I started following him on Twitter and love his weekly ‘Q&A Tuesday’ videos.

    James is a designer, artist and teacher whose work has appeared in The Museum of Modern Art. But whilst on the face of it James’ world might be art & design; it’s clear this guy’s advice is valuable for all of us. His advice on being courageous and adopting a ‘warrior not worrier’ approach really spoke to me and helped get clarity on a work problem I was facing. When I was in NYC last month I went to visit him in his Williamsburg, Brooklyn studio. In this little video I recorded with him, James talks about the importance of putting ‘you’ into your work; not only for your authenticity but also if you make your work personal, it can talk to a greater audience. I think this is a lesson for most of us, whatever we do in our work.