Chris Savage and his post inspired me to post this piece I wrote whilst in India. I’ve resisted posting it for nearly a year now and I have to say I’m glad to finally push it out to the world! Chris’ post is about not letting ‘the conditions’ become your valid excuse for failure and I guess that’s exactly the type of resolve and positivity I witnessed in India. It’s what keeps India going. I wrote this piece to sum up my experience with the Indian people and their attitude towards daily life.
India in abundance
Welcome to a country where anything is possible. A land of constant reinvention and rejuvenation. To say India is a work in progress would be a serious understatement; this country is permanently ‘under construction’. The problem is, no one person, religious group, or government seems to be running ‘project India’. From my observations, India is the people’s project and everyone from the humble chai wallah to the regal Raj is involved and playing their part. It’s organised chaos, it’s important, it’s life threatening, it’s breathtaking, and it’s all for fun. I’ve never seen so much urgent work being carried out in such high spirits. Forget ‘whistle while you work’ these people sing and dance.
Once you spend a little time with the locals you soon realise that India has an amazingly cheeky sense of humour. I didn’t recognise it as humour at first, mainly because I’d never seen this strain before. It’s fun loving, naughty, down to earth, forgiving, empathetic, inclusive, and altogether welcoming. I don’t think sarcasm exists and the notion of self-deprecation is assumed and automatically implied. No, this is a jolly humour steeped in humility and acceptance. No wonder everyone is smiling in India.
I’ve never witnessed so much concentrated excitement in my life. You can see it bursting behind their eyes and dancing across their lips… Indians have no poker face.
India is safe; in fact, I’ve never felt safer walking the streets of any country. Sure, people want your money but they don’t want to take it, they want to earn it. Indian’s are always on and they’re always selling. Marketplaces are like a giant party where you have two choices – You can either stand still in the middle of the dance floor and wonder why you feel out of place and pushed around, or you can grab a partner and join the dance. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had conducting everyday business and I just hope I can bring some of its essence back to my agency in Australia.
I love the way local people make you feel in this country – instantly part of the fun and in on the joke. The idea of family is sacred and ruthlessly protected yet completely open to new members, friends, and ideas. It’s normal to be invited into a stranger’s home, offered chai or lunch, and engaged in deep and exploratory conversation. The concept of small talk doesn’t exist here. Indians want to know who you really are and what makes you tick. They are curious, knowledgeable, and endlessly enthusiastic… just like a child prodigy.
The whole world may be looking at India from an economic, social, and cultural point of view but let it be known that India is looking at the rest of the world too. The average person on the street in India has incredible general knowledge, instinctive mathematical skill, and a flair for understanding human nature. I’m constantly blown away by the intelligence of India.
There’s an amazing gift waiting for you in India but first you must loosen your grip on normality, dilute everything that you think you know, and eventually submit yourself to the people. India will love you when you let her.
We were in Rio De Janeiro last week and it quickly shot into our top 5 cities in the world. If you’ve been you’ll know why, if not, imagine a beautifully dilapidated city on the beach, in the jungle, surrounded by mountains. Simply breath taking.
With the World Cup Soccer coming up in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, I guess it goes without saying that Rio is on the way up! And that goes for the real estate prices too – Rio is quickly becoming unaffordable for locals with even the newly reclaimed favelas being bought up by rich investors.
We were lucky enough to make some local friends and they put it like this:
“Rio has been tomorrow’s city for way too long… now is our time to grasp it and become today’s city”
Their perspective on Sydney was also insightful:
“Sydney is the Rio that worked”
Here’s a bit of love from Rio.
On a recent trip to Uluru, aka Ayers Rock, my girl and I were faced with a serious dilemma… to climb or not to climb.
Surprisingly, the guides (local Australians… not Aboriginals) we met out there hadn’t climbed it, which I found incredible considering they spend a large portion of every day walking tourists around its base. Aside from the unenthusiastic guides, you’re also faced with a large sign at the bottom that reads:
“Our traditional Law teaches us the proper way to behave. We ask you to respect our Law by not climbing Uluru. What visitors call ‘the climb’ is the traditional route taken by ancestral Mala man upon their arrival at Uluru in the creation time. It has great spiritual significance. We have a responsibility to teach and safeguard visitors to our land. ‘The climb’ is dangerous and too many people have died while attempting to climb Uluru. Many others have been injured while climbing. We feel great sadness when a person dies or is hurt on our land.”
Yes we thought about it but as you can see from the photos below, we climbed it. We felt like the best way to learn about Aboriginal culture was to actually experience it. We wanted to walk in their shoes, or lack thereof, and do so with respect. By walking in the path of the Aboriginals we were able to appreciate the beauty, significance and power of this natural wonder.
I’m so glad we did.
We climbed the rock in the early morning of a perfect day. It was much more difficult than we’d expected and it took us a good hour to ascend but like most things in life that are challenging, it was well worth it. Like two lizards in the desert we lay up there completely alone, with our bare feet on the warm rock soaking it all in. They say Uluru is the heart chakra of Australia and I can now understand why. It was a surreal feeling to be up there and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get a little closer to Aboriginal Australia.
When I travel overseas I always aim to join the local culture but I often forget to do so when I’m traveling in Australia. Climbing Uluru allowed us to literally connect with the cultural center of Australia.
Here’s a little taste of the rock itself – and by the way, the shots below are raw images… no retouching, no colour grading.
As a side note, we stayed at Longitude 131 which is nothing short of amazing!
A little update from my last post regarding Tongue House. Very happy to say that we’re a finalist for two different design awards and featured in Australian Design Review.
Interior Design Excellence Awards – See us here
Melbourne Design Awards – Vote for us here
Australian Design Review – See article here
You can imagine how tough it must be for an artist to develop new artworks (AKA ideas) day in day out. I believe this only gets harder when you’re in the corporate world. With commercial restraints, legalities, mandatories and all those distractions… Most senior business people are so consumed by ‘running the business’ that they have little or no time for creativity. I’m going to assume, though, that you see the value of ideas in business and I’m also going to assume that you could dedicate more of your workday to being creative. The obvious question is – how does one make ideas a priority in business? The simple answer is – you’ve got to carve out a time and a place for ideas to happen. At Tongue we’ve literally created an entire workspace based around ideas. Every part of our office is a living demonstration of who we are as creative people.
THE WHITE ROOM
A room specifically designed for fresh thinking with no predisposed baggage. The entire room is white and seamless to promote the ultimate clean slate. Natural light is a key feature along with the collected objects that are all sprayed white. It’s a grand room of possibilities that appears to have no walls or boundaries thanks to its 100% white paint job.
THE IDEAS ATRIUM
Our top floor is perfectly laid out for idea generation. Having ideas is never a solo mission and we therefore need loads of space to collaborate, capture and share thinking. This is definitely my favourite floor at Tongue and I often spend most of my day up here with different groups of people.
Now it probably doesn’t make sense for you to spend a wad of dough to create your own ideas space but I guarantee it will make plenty of sense for you to create a time and a place for ideas. Here are some easy (and cheap) things everyone in business can do:
1. Dedicate 3 hours a week to generating ideas (start by getting Peggy to block the time out in your diary)
2. Have your next ideas meeting in an art gallery (most of them have decent cafes and from my experience they don’t seem to mind if you hang around)
3. Send out a full-blown invitation for your next ideas session (create a moment and make it feel special. This meeting could be a game changing moment if you crack a big idea)
4. Make one day of every month a dress up day (costumes and ‘assumed identities’ can really free up peoples inhabitations and imaginations)
5. Get people to remain standing in meetings that require creative thinking (people will act fast and think later… instincts are everything when it comes to ideas)
6. Play games, have fun and tell stories during work hours (children are completely open to new ideas… It pays dividends to act like a child from time to time)
7. Integrate physical exercise into your business day… For the best results do your meetings while exercising (it’s the simplest and most effective way to ‘get into your own body’ and into the present moment)
8. Financially budget for innovations and flops (if you’re not pushing the boundaries and having a few flops along the way then you’re not trying hard enough)
9. Put ‘ideas’ or ‘creative’ into your job title (everyone can be creative once they know it’s their job)
10. Create a ‘get fired’ policy. (One day per month where your staff can’t get fired… Remove their normal boundaries and allow them to have ideas that would otherwise get subconsciously censored)
Anyhoo, give it a go and please let me know if it makes a difference for you and your business.
As per my post “Getting my hands dirty” on April 10th, I’d like to share a few of my ‘total immersion’ experiences with you.
Welcome to jail.
Some of you may have seen a few articles about my time out at Juniperina Juvenile Detention Centre. If not, well, you can probably imagine the usual headlines.
I’ve always thought there’s a fine line between those behind bars and the rest of us. We’re all human and everyone makes mistakes… some mistakes are just illegal.
I spent several days on the inside over a few months teaching groups of young female inmates. Some were murderers, some were car thieves, but most were just confused and misguided kids.
I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell I was doing out there… and it’s a good question. Prior to my first visit I asked myself that exact question and my parents basically told me I was an idiot… love you mum.
I can’t remember why I first agreed to do it. Maybe it was to get an understanding of what it’s like to be incarcerated, or maybe to get inside the heads of criminals, or maybe simply to see if I had the balls to go through with it. Either way, I learned as much as I taught, met some inspirational young girls, and loved every minute of every visit.
When you arrive at a maximum-security prison you are instantly inducted into a world of protocol, rules, and systems. No sharp objects of any kind, this includes pens and rulers, no scarfs or ties as you could get strangled, no valuables, no phones, no belts, and the list goes on. Then it’s the series of security doors. Walk through one door, wait for it to close, open the next, wait for it to close, and so on. As each door closes behind you it becomes clear that you’re moving further and further away from your daily routine and deeper and deeper into theirs… in short, you’re ‘in the system’.
The girls had seen me coming from the moment I set foot in the place and they were looking me up and down to find my weakness… they were searching for my ‘tell’, or their way in to mess with my lesson plan.
I love working with young people and I’ve learned one thing over the years… you can’t give them an inch. So I walked across the courtyard and entered the room with jacked up confidence and vigour. Needless to say, they all had their best ‘Fuck you’ faces on. I knew I had to stay one step ahead of them so I kicked straight into teacher mode.
I started by introducing myself and talking about self-motivation. I wanted to share my theories on how I believe people achieve ‘successful lives’. In my mind, this seemed like useful information for a group of girls who’ve clearly fallen off the path to ‘success’.
To be honest I wasn’t connecting… I was bombing. It was like trying to sell a BMW to a push bike rider. They didn’t want to hear it and they didn’t believe they could apply anything I was saying to their own lives and circumstance… How do I know this? They told me loud and clear. No hands in the air, no “excuse me”, just high volume comments right in the middle of my flow.
I needed to change it up. I had to throw my presentation out the window and fast.
So I opened it up to the floor and low and behold, nobody wanted to get up and say anything in front of her peers… Ha! I had them. This is where the games began. One by one I had a discussion with them in front of the whole group. I had to tackle them individually to break through. Slowly but surely, it started to work. Some even helped each other answer my inconvenient questions. We were getting somewhere.
This turned out to be my first of many visits out at Juniperina with each visit getting more and more interesting. I’ve especially enjoyed meeting up with some of the girls after their release from prison but that’s another post altogether.
So what did I learn? Pretty simple actually:
- We’re all just people trying to figure life out
- A conversation can be priceless
- Everyone longs to be understood
- Never judge someone based on their current situation alone
- There are many things we don’t know we don’t know
If you made it to here then thanks for reading. As always, would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.
I’m sure Obama and his advisors are continually walking the line between ‘leader of the free world’ and ‘one of the people’ but I reckon he’s just won the limbo challenge as he stoops to new lows last week.
At what point does the President of the US publically acknowledge a guy like Donald Trump… let alone spend 3 minutes talking about him. Sure he’s making fun of him but clearly the Don is on his radar. As a serious Obama fan I’ve gotta say I’m shocked and disappointed.
Considering how much TV Obama’s clearly watching I’d suggest season 3 of The West Wing… now that’s a president.
I rarely write about local bands, or any type of music for that matter but I think this one’s worth a line or two. I loved the Kings Of Leon original but I think Sydney band, The Flavour, have successfully rolled down the windows and taken this track to the beach.
Anyway, if you like it then rip it here on itunes
We need inspiration to be creative.
Without inspiration and cultural context most people struggle to have an original thought. For me it’s about bringing two or more seemingly irrelevant things together to form a fresh platform upon which new ideas can be born.
Some people like to read books, others go to art shows, and many just google whatever subject they’re interested in. Maybe I’m a slow reader or just not that good when it comes to theory but I have to get out there and actually participate. I find it hard to absorb a subject from arms length.
My practice is immersion and it’s often about doing things that I don’t otherwise understand or like. I guess it’s a mind stretching technique. These are some of my recent experiences that I’ll share over the next few weeks:
- Mentoring inmates at a maximum security prison for young girls
- Hanging out with the Delhi flight club
- Participating in an advanced NLP course
- Teaching at a slum school in Mumbai
- Sinking my teeth it someone else’s profession
- Infiltrating the Church of Scientology
As always, feedback welcome.