Category Archives: childhood

Are you passionate about your job?

On Tuesday I went to listen to wildlife film producers Patrick Morris and Huw Cordey tell their stories about the making of the BBC series Life and Planet Earth at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

They told stories of rats and leeches, caves and deserts, rivers and jungles. We saw the Tibetan fox with a strangely square head, watched monkeys in a hot tub at Hells valley in Japan and were wowed by breathtaking aerial shots of sand dunes covered in snow.

We learnt about some of the challenging conditions that Patrick, Huw and their teams had encountered; filming emperor penguins at minus 70 degrees, cameras broken by giant prehistoric fish and living inside caves for days with no daylight. And let’s not forget learning the process involved to make a cling film ‘burrito’.  (I’ll let you use your imagination with that last one)

Patrick and Huw’s brief with Life and Planet Earth was to raise the bar on previous wildlife films. They were tasked with enthralling the audience with epic cinematography and capturing the beauty and wonder of the planet in which we live by weaving stories around central lead animal characters to make the audience care about the wildlife they were watching.

They highlighted the importance of failure, how you need to have money to take risks and fail in order to push boundaries. They shared some of their failure stories, featuring eccentric Frenchmen in hot air balloons and giant trees (you may also imagine how that played out).

What struck me most was watching them effortlessly present, enthrall and capture the hearts of the audience, simply because they were talking about something they were passionate about. Their enthusiasm and passion was infectious. Can you say that about the work that you do? I hope so.

As if Patrick and Huw were not enough, he event was introduced by Sir David Attenborough.  And I got to meet him. Which was very exciting as he is one of my lifetime heroes. (Not that I had anything intelligent to say because I was too much in awe).

Thank you Patrick, Huw and David for your curiosity about our planet and the animals that inhabit it, and for inspiring the audience this week. Big thanks also your teams who fearlessly venture with you to some of the most remote places and tolerate extreme conditions in order to capture, share and inspire more of us to learn about the planet on which we live.

The event was organised by Epilepsy Action in memory of Octavia Morris who died age 27 as a result of her epilepsy.

Plan your story

I’m a bit of a fan of the work of Plan, ever since I used a Plan funded toilet when I was in Ethiopia.

Plan UK work with children in the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future. The majority of Plan’s voluntary income is from child sponsorship, I was amazed to discover that donors can go and visit the children and communities that they help and are encouraged to share their stories. From the Bramelds in Ghana to Cathy’s trip to Zimbabwe Plan are doing a great job of connecting people just like you and me to the cause by demonstrating the difference that sponsoring a child can make, not just to that individual child but to the whole community.

With so much reliance on income from one fundraising stream, it seems that Plan are looking to diversify. Their newest campaign is called “Plan your story”. It is an online video application that takes your key information from Facebook to create a personal story of your life and how it may have been impacted if you did not have a birth certificate. It aims to put you in the shoes of the millions of girls around the world whose births are not registered, for example you are asked to consider being married at the age of 14; as an inability to prove your age could result in being married off whilst a child. It is part of Plan UK’s Because I am a Girl campaign and aims to test Facebook as a platform for raising money, gain insights on what works and what doesn’t –from an online fundraising perspective and gain a greater understanding of Plans’ online audience.

So I gave it a go. I was uncomfortable with giving an application access to my information on Facebook, especially with all the media coverage about privacy. I still am anxious about it, but decided to do it anyway as I was curious to see my story.

While I waited for my story to load, there is a counter on the screen that showed me the number of people born without birth certificates while I was waiting. Nice touch.

Then accompanied by emotional music, I saw my story unfold. Using my images and information on Facebook, I was asked to remember what it was like being at school, studying for exams; exams that many girls are excluded from taking, the exams that change a path in your life. I was reminded of the friends I made and not forgetting the time I got a detention for chewing gum. I loved the page in the book that showed an album of my friends profile pictures. However when asked to picture what life would have been like without certain people, selected at random from my friends list, it didn’t work for me as they were people I do not know very well, so their non-existence would not have made an impact at all. If there is a way of selecting more active friends, that would have worked, or perhaps it’s a lesson for me to take my own advice and reconsider the friends I have on Facebook. 

One page reminded me that some people are not able to express opinions; they don’t have a voice, and then linked to my latest status updates. Great idea although somewhat ashamedly my latest update was,

‘There is a prawn at the bottom of the escalator at Angel. Think he is too small to hop on. Hope he is ok.’

It talks about your first crush; how did they know about my crush on George Michael in 1987? and asks you to imagine, at that point in your life what it would have been like to have had no choice but to marry a stranger more than twice your age or older, like thousands of 14 year olds without a birth certificate are forced to do.

I really like Plan your story and whilst there is room for improvement, its leading the way in showing how Facebook can be used to help donors feel a personal and emotional connection to the cause, which is what fundraising is all about.

I felt quite moved by this application (prawn aside), it did make me consider the life choices that I have been lucky to have. It made an emotional connection as well as providing solid facts and figures and there is a clear ask for a donation. Did I make one? Of course. I want to know how you are going to steward me….

The app is streamed in real-time so I can’t link you to mine, but you can try for yourself here or check out this sample. I would love to know what do you think?

Will you donate just £1 for my birthday?

So its my birthday, I’m another year older. 38. How has this happened? Seems like only yesterday I was hanging out at Virginia Water Lakes with Stan Gower in my knee socks and sandals.

My priorities have changed a bit over the years. These days I’m a marketers dream; anything that says anti gravity or anti ageing or age defying and I’m there.  Can’t get enough.

This birthday I have to admit that I have been very impressed with the direct marketing I have received. Lots of organisations are helping me celebrate. Facebook Causes are onto me and even Next are offering me £5 off my ‘birthday’ order. This is a big improvement from the birthday direct mail I used to get a few years ago.

From about 1997-2003 I used to get mail from one of those companies that take free ‘glamour’ shots of you in Vaseline edged lenses and then charge you hundreds of pounds for the prints. I think they were featured on Watchdog once.  Every year the letter started, Dear *Harriet, Have you ever wanted to look really beautiful like the models in the magazines…? one year the letter made me cry real tears.

So my point? I’m getting to it. I treat my birthday like many people treat New Year, as an opportunity to reflect on what has happened in the last 12 months and hatch fresh plans for the future.

So this year I have been thinking about who has inspired me. Who has made an impact on my life. One such person is Simon Berry.

Simon and his partner Jane are the inspiration behind Colalife, a charity that hopes to be able to use Cokes distribution networks to get vital medicines out to rural areas in Africa in order to save lives. Simon and Jane have given up their day jobs and are about to move to Africa to get the Zambia Colalife pilot up and running. Awesome.

So, if you were thinking of buying me a birthday present, and actually even if you weren’t, please can you help Simon and Jane help children who are dying in Africa because they don’t have access to basic medicines that you and I take for granted.

Please sponsor the Colalife cyclists Nigel and Bill who are cycling 400 kilometres across Normandy to raise a target of £6,000  to save lives. So help them out.  You can sponsor them here. 

Just £1 will fill an AidPod with simple medicines to help a mother in rural Zambia rehydrate her child and save her child’s life (there are only 70 retail pharmacies in the whole of Zambia – and public clinics can be a 20 kilometre walk from home).

You can also tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter and perhaps some of them will donate £1 too. Or maybe more…….

So together we can help save lives. We don’t need to look beautiful like the models in the magazines. We just need to make a difference. Right now.

That’s all.

*yes according to my passport Harriet is my first name.

Are you an Eater or a Baker? The Art of Enchantment

For me the word ‘enchantment’ conjures up images of scenes straight out of a fairy tale; beautiful princesses, handsome princes, mysterious breadcrumb trails, charmed forests and magic spells.

Guy Kawasakis latest book ‘Enchantment’ explains all the tactics you need to enchant in real life.

‘Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale’ Hans Christian Andersen

Guy defines enchantment as the process of delighting people with a product, service, organisation or idea. Enchantment is also about inspiring action and changing hearts and minds. Guys’ theory is that if we enchant, we will be more successful at ‘getting things done’ and as a result we can make more of a difference.

So to me enchantment sounds like it could be another word for fundraising.

Enchantment is a quick read and a checklist full of practical tips and stories that will help you to become an enchanter; from realising your passions and goals, use of positive language, building rapport, telling stories, tactics to nudge people to choose a preferred solution, overcoming fear and resistance, practicing your genuine smile and a formula for the perfect handshake (yes a formula!).

Key to the philosophy of Enchantment is building relationships and always considering, in any interaction, how you can help others. I love Guy’s analogy that people fall into two camps; you are either an eater or a baker.

  • Eaters want a bigger slice of an existing pie.
  • Bakers want to make a bigger pie.
  • Eaters think that if they win, you lose, and if you win, they lose.
  • Bakers think that everyone can win with a bigger pie.
  • True enchanters are bakers

Twitter, where anyone can provide news and updates and Google making advertising accessible to small businesses are examples of organisations with a bigger pie philosophy.

So team, are you an eater or a baker? I dare you to take some action, get baking, and make your life, and the lives of others more enchanting.

If you like the sound of enchantment you may also like the following;

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard – Chip and Dan

Heath Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh

Nudge – Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness Richard H Thaler, Cass R Sunstein

Whoever Tells The Best Story Wins - Annette Simmons

The Book of Awesome - Neil Pasricha

Confessions of a Public Speaker - Scott Berkun

 

Change is the natural state for the earth – it will never be finished

On Friday I went to Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin. Down House is a stunning property with beautiful gardens and a museum of Darwin’s life.

Apparently Darwin wrote The Origin of the Species here; his controversial masterpiece introducing his theory of evolution rather than the perceived wisdom of the time of divine creation, i.e. that life is designed by some divine power.

“Change is the natural state for the earth – it will never be finished.” Darwin

Darwin did not conceive his theory of evolution by natural selection in a vacuum. He was a collector of ideas, things and theories. He considered and developed his thoughts over a period of time, many of which were inspired and consolidated by his findings on his epic voyage of discovery aboard The H.M.S Beagle’.

Some ideas that fed Darwin’s imagination included;

  • Economic theories of supply and demand
  • The theory that scarcity led to competition between individuals for survival and that war disease and famine prevent over population.
  • Calculations by a number of scholars that the earth was indeed very old. In the 1600s Bishop James Usser calculated from the Bible that the earth was created on 24 October 4004 BC. (Love the specific date of 24 October!)
  • Fossils being proof that other species formerly existed and that they must have either died out or changed significantly.

The Origin of the Species was published 1859, the result of two decades of careful and cautious thought. Darwin delayed making his theory public for nearly 20 years. He knew that his view that life was not designed by a divine power would be controversial. Darwin wanted to have clear thoughts on how to counter arguments and he spent time evidencing his theory in a number of ways.

For example he investigated how plants spread from place to place. He immersed seeds in salt water for long periods to see if they could last the time it took to travel across the ocean and still germinate. He also sought opinions from a range of academic and professional disciplines.

As Darwin predicted, many were passionately opposed to the concept of evolution of the species. Including Emma, his wife who was deeply concerned by Darwin’s lack of religious faith.

My particular favourite opposition to the theory of evolution is based on the watchmaker argument. The watchmaker argument is that if you found something as complex as a watch lying on a path you would assume that someone had designed it. Therefore complex living things must have been designed. Brilliant.

I would place Darwin in the innovators of all time category for several reasons.

1. He had a sense of natural curiosity and bravely asked “why?”  - to challenge fundamental beliefs on creation itself.

2. He was a collector of things, theories and ideas. He wasn’t a lone genius, it was the combination of these ideas that inspired his first thoughts of the theory of evolution.

3. He was brave, even though it took him 20 years to share his thoughts and findings.

4. He was inspired by Rev John Stevens Henslow (1796-1861) who was a professor of Botany at Cambridge. Henslow advised his students to go out and ‘observe for themselves’.

5. He found a subject for which he had a passion and natural aptitude.

6. He remained focussed and continued to experiment to prove his theories after Origin of the Species was published.

Darwin described life as a constant struggle for survival. More creatures are born than the worlds resources can sustain. Any individual with an advantage over its fellows would be more likely to endure long enough to reproduce and pass on advantages to the next generation. Brutally described; those who did not adapt to circumstance will perish. Life is survival of the fittest.

So if we apply Darwin’s theory to business evolution.  Business is then also survival of the fittest. Those companies that cannot adapt to circumstance will perish. That’s why if companies are going to be successful, and survive they have to be innovative. They must be able to change to be better than their competitors and adapt to the needs of the customer and the marketplace environment in which they live.

Ask yourself – Are you adapting to survive in your environment?

If you are interested in this you may also like

Origin of the Species – Charles Darwin

The Element – Sir Ken Robinson

Where Do Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson 

Stop caring what the other kids think

Last week I happened upon the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. To be honest it’s more like a museum of nostalgia as the core audience seems to be thirtysomethings peering at their old toys in glass cases.

There were some children there too, playing at being giant vegetables in the Food Glorious Food exhibition and acting out their own Punch and Judy stories with the help of Mr and Mrs Punch puppets.

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