Monthly Archives: August 2013

Tea, Cake & Inspiration

Image

‘If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you.’

Lewis Caroll – Alice in Wonderland

You are all cordially invited to a global tea party. Here in my head, as at the Hatter’s party, ‘It’s always tea time.’ I imagine that at the most monumental moments of history, someone somewhere in the world was having a cuppa. And there’s really no bad time for tea. For those of you with me from the beginning, you may remember a wee Facebook post of a picture about a month ago announcing a tea & cake launch party. The date cometh this week – the 30th August. For those of you who think it’s mighty stingy inviting someone to a launch party without putting on the refreshments, I totally agree. So, for anyone who lets me know they’re ‘coming,’ or lets me know afterwards that on the 30th day of August they did indeed drink some tea and/or eat some cake that could be construed to be in the honour of Right Ink On The Wall, I shall put some pennies in a teapot for my chosen charity, Room to Read. If you ‘post’ me a wee pic of your tea/cake, I’ll double your personal contribution.

I’d like to reflect on the last four weeks and talk about four beams of inspiration that have played parts in them. I’ve come into contact with a lot of material to encourage and inspire – I’d like to list the best of business, books, blogs and bits of ‘making the world a better place.’

Business – How often does a branding business ask you to lead from your heart rather than for your pocket? Thought Cloud does just that. Its founder, Kat Kinnie, inspired the launch of my blog as well as being the writer of the first blog I ever subscribed to (not counting Bunny). Kat is writing a book on conscious branding and I connected with her to explore the most important aspect of setting up my business – not what I was doing, but why. Before our sessions, while I was in no way treading water, I’d equate my exploration of the idea of branding with snorkelling. Perhaps, every so often in my musings, there’d be an element of free-dive. What I experienced with Kat was a deep-sea dive, discovering a colourful reef at the bedrock of the business and spotting previously hidden species of fish. Kat is an inspiration in herself, being the first British woman to set up her own business in Australia, while on a holiday working visa, and through that business gain sponsorship for herself and sponsorship status for her company in the tightest of timeframes. She asks you to imagine a world in which you make a healthy living doing what you love and doing good at the same time. She shows you it’s possible.

Book – Actually, let’s say ‘author,’ as I’ve attacked her entire back catalogue in the last wee while and don’t want to focus on just one book here. The writer is Anne Bishop – expect another blog post on the inspiration to be found in the realms of her books – there’s too much to say here!

Blog There are so many blogs I’ve come into contact with in the last month that have made me smile, laugh and learn. One entry has even made me cry – and that’s the one that tops my list. Mary Louisa Locke wrote a guest post for Joe Konrath’s amazing blog, ‘A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.’ It is a tribute to her father and to the idea that it is never too late to follow your dreams. There are always second chances. Click to read: On Second Chances and Role Models: A Tribute to my Father

Making the world a better place – I mentioned my chosen charity above, so a word about what I’m supporting. I’m supporting the hope that it’s possible to change the world, even if it’s only bit by bit, brick on brick. I’m supporting the belief that ‘world change starts with educated children.’ I’m supporting the idea that the greatest impact can be had here by focussing on literacy and gender-equality in education. Room to Read asks you to imagine a world in which every child has access to an education. This non-profit NGO was founded by John Wood, who left Microsoft to do so after a life-changing experience in Nepal. Of everything we make at Right Ink On The Wall, 10% is donated to changing the world. That’s 10% of revenue, not profit. Imagine a world in which every business does the same.

So, please join me on Friday – whether it’s my Friday, over here in NZ, or your Friday, somewhere else in the world (how weird is it that someone’s yesterday can be your tomorrow?). Raise a cup of tea and take a bite of cake and think how sweet it is that Right Ink On The Wall is in the world – encouraging you to pause for thought / sugary treats. Oh, and your question for the week – RSVP?

How To Lose A Lasagne & The Art Of Winning

Image

‘If at first you don’t succeed…’

– Thomas H. Palmer

I was never much of a cook – I lacked the patience when younger to learn from my epic Chinese MasterChef of a mother and, when I was older, lacked the time to cook in and audience to cook for, except occasionally. I cook all the time these days and I like to think I’ve mastered some dishes. Lasagne’s not been one of them, though – something always goes wrong. It’s usually the cheese sauce. But, today, everything went perfectly – the sauces, the layering, the cheese top. I was pretty excited when I placed the above in the oven. I then burnt my fingers on its way in and dropped the whole thing.

It hadn’t been my favourite Monday and, having spent money and time preparing the pesky thing, I admit to getting momentarily tearful over this travesty. I had to remove my rings due to my first (/fifth) degree burns and had to scape the remnants of lasagne from the oven door. All those layers lost. Hunger, however, dictated that we patch the mess back into the dish and put it in to bake.

The above is a prime example of ‘first world problems’ and a loss of perspective. Also, a lack of learning – I’d badly burnt my hand placing a roast in a couple of weeks before. Anyway, dinner ended up tasting pretty good. One day, though, I’ll defeat lasagne – which brings me to the art of winning. At least I’m trying. That’s how you end up winning in the end.

I do feel the pinch of jealousy when someone achieves something I long for. I’ve connected with many bestselling and award-winning authors recently and I hunger for their success. You can’t win, however, if you don’t compete. You learn by doing. Sometimes, by failing. One day, I’ll write a brilliant book that you’ll all want to read and, one day, I’ll make the perfect lasagne that you’ll wish you could eat. Neither would be the same as they will be without the practice and the patience that will have gone before.

So, in summary (and a collection of cliches), you’ve got to be in it to win it; risk it to get the biscuit; start in order to finish. You might make a bit of a mess on the way, but it can still taste good, and winning will be worth it. What do you want to win? And when are you going to enter?

What’s In A Name?

Mene Mene

‘What’s in a name?’

– Shakespeare

When it comes to naming a book or a business, it’s an important step. You want something that represents the being of what is to be presented to the world. I thought I’d share this week the history of the naming of Right Ink On The Wall – partly because naming is storytelling in itself, and partly because the name has meaning to me. I’d like it to have meaning for you, too.

I wanted something that was punchy and played with words. Words and writing are so visually engaging – I could see inkwells and quills, pens and paper, books and shelves, typewriters and blotters, scribes and scripture, stone and chisels… graffiti and walls. I wanted to be a wordsmith, to tinker with words and their meanings, their spellings, their etymology. From the above, I bet you can guess many of the names that I searched, finding many taken. None of them were quite right anyway. They didn’t write well. And there it was, the writing on the wall. Suddenly, a whole host of wall imagery appeared – familiar walls and famous walls. And I thought about what walls can mean.

Walls can divide but they can also protect. Walls can be built but they can also be broken down. You can sit on one side of a wall or the other. You can hit a wall. You can overcome a wall. They can be associated with writer’s block and building blocks. They can be used for good or evil. And the best walls have strong foundations.

‘The writing on the wall’ is a tragic phrase whose history lies in scripture (Daniel 5). It’s a moral tale in which God plays with words, which are written on a wall by a disembodied hand. The sinful king, Belshazzar, has Daniel provide meaning where his wise men can only offer translation. The words are not a warning – they are a judgement. God has numbered the days of Belshazzar’s reign. He has been weighed on the scales and been found wanting. His kingdom will be divided.

I’d like to reclaim ‘the writing on the wall’ and create a shared understanding of my version, or vision, of The Wall. To me, The Wall is the infinite space where anything that has ever been written is recorded. It’s like the library of the world, or the facade of the world. And I want to invoke a feeling that The Wall is permanent. I suppose it’s a personification of history. The Wall is where you make your mark on the world and you want it to be right, as marks on The Wall, whether words or actions, go down in posterity.

The foundations of Right Ink On The Wall are not just about making the mark you write on the wall accurate but also leaving the right mark on the world. And encouraging people (much like myself not so long ago) who haven’t had the self-belief to act yet or make any mark at all, to actually make a move to write ink on the wall of the world, by whatever means. This message and mission can hark back to the implications of the doom-laden origins of ‘the writing on the wall’ and it recalls Steve Job’s third story in his Stamford address, in which he comments, ‘Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.’ Yes, life is transient, we are temporary beings, i.e. life is short. So, we have the chance to pass out of the world with a whisper or to leave our mark on The Wall for others to read. And if we want to stamp ourselves on the world before we go, hopefully we want our mark to be morally good – leaving the right sort of ink on The Wall.

There is a fascinating history to the power of naming. It crops up time and again, from sacred texts to fairy tales. Why does Rumpelstiltskin’s name have such power? Why does Voldemort’s? There is consideration of the concept of ‘true names’ in philosophy, folklore and fantasy.  A true name is considered powerful in that it expresses the true nature of a being. I hope that my name expresses the true nature of my business.

When it comes to business and branding and successful names, how have ‘Google’, ‘Skype’ and ‘Apple’ become so catchy? How have ‘Virgin’ and ‘Amazon’? There can be power in the naming of things, but I believe there is more power in the substance of things. The names that become important are not necessarily the ones we are bombarded with, through as much advertising as possible. Perhaps this works for some household names, but the names that have the most power are the names that have the most meaning, that are connected with ideas that connect with people.

So, the question isn’t: what’s your name? But, rather: who are you? As Shakespeare’s Juliet wonders, ‘What’s in a name?’

Rabbits & The Corporate World

Image

‘To come to the end of a time of anxiety and fear!

To feel the cloud that hung over us lift and disperse –

that cloud that dulled the heart and made happiness no more than a memory!’

– Richard Adams

Watership Down and the lesser-known Tales From Watership Down are two of my all-time favourite books. I’ve read and reread Watership Down and fall in love with it every time, which means I relished the chance to revisit the world when I discovered the tales. I popped down the rabbit-hole again when writing my dissertation at university. My question was: ‘Is fulfilment possible?’ And the work was a discussion on utopia, dystopia and the theology of hope, composed partly because the subject fascinates me and partly as an excuse to read as much utopian literature, fact and fiction, as I could get my hands on.

At Cambridge, there was a wee group of us known amongst ourselves as the bunnies. I’m not exactly sure how this evolved, except perhaps out of the habits of my then roommate, who 1. loves bunnies, and 2. addresses everyone with this endearment. The bunnies were my close-knit fellowship in college. Perhaps if we’d pursued Footlights, The Bunnies could have been the next Monty Python. Anyhoo, this post is dedicated to them (the bunnies, not Monty Python).

But, what does this all have to do with the corporate world? I hear you wonder. Well, that’s where I left idealistic Cambridge to go. I struck forth for The City, the big-smoke, the bigger pay-packet, the twinkling lights, the buzzy brilliance. It’s known as selling out for a reason and the corporate world was not for me. However, while it’s not where I’m supposed to be, connecting with that world was an important and valuable step on my journey.

The same can be said for Hazel and his companions when they touch other warrens on their quest for Watership Down. Although Efrafa is a dystopic nightmare of a warren, with safety bought at the price of freedom, the rabbits met there by Bigwig and the lessons learned there are beyond valuable for the warren founded by the wanderers.

Fiver has a vision. It’s not just for somewhere where the grass is greener and not just for somewhere that isn’t under imminent risk of extermination. His is a dream of a better place – a safe, peaceful, just society, where it’s possible for someone like Hazel to be made Chief Rabbit. On the way, they encounter Cowslip’s warren. There is certainly peace and plenty here and nearly all of the band are seduced by it, but they discover that the cost is the risk of death and the disconnection from those who meet it.

Life at Ernst & Young hit its peak when I was sent to Edinburgh, seconded to Lloyds Banking Group to work for Scottish Widows. For me, this was a prettier place and I was happy, to a point. I even found myself thinking, I could be happy here, less stressed, I could stay. But there were still the snares of long hours and work I wasn’t passionate about, which could jump up and grab you at a moment’s notice. I’m not saying that EY is the corporate equivalent of Efrafa, by the way, I very much enjoyed my time there and learnt a lot. Some of the people I met there are among my best friends. And many thrive in the corporate world and love their work. Equally, however, I know many who feel lost and trapped. It wasn’t the warren for me, and in this post I’m writing for others who wish they could escape somehow and end up somewhere they love.

I’ve now found my Watership Down. I’m as far away from The City as you can get over here in New Zealand’s South Island. It’s not just the place, though, it’s what you do there. I’m building a business so that I can make a living doing something I love. It’s not been easy, but it’s been worth every hop of the journey to get here. I extend the warren of my work every day and I hope for others to follow their dreams too. So, I ask you this: Where is your Watership Down? And how are you going to get there?