Imagine spending eight hours mingling with an eclectic bunch of pioneering speakers, coffee-buzzed wisdom seekers, immersed in ‘thoughtful provocations’, ‘dancing with paradox’, debating life’s big questions and how to ‘pioneer meaningful progress’… while sipping craft whisky, absorbing live jazz and pondering what’s next for humans on earth, and Mars.
Welcome to The Cleverness and Percolate: A Precursor to Progress.
“A space to harness our unwillingness to settle” for “pioneers and the quietly dissatisfied”.
Hallelujah!… a space (Fitzroy Social) with air, light, art, music, buzz, booze, nibbles, chit-chat, curious people, questions, and more questions than answers. A thoroughly thought-provoking ‘event-full’ experience, delivering beyond expectation. You don’t get to say that too often do you?
And here I am gathering my scribbles and highlights to spread the goodness of a well curated Tuesday afternoon that flowed into an evening of exceptional taste and unedited banter.
Everything was done a little differently at Percolate. The speakers were unusually framed by the audience (seated on four sides, not framed as in ‘set-up’). You actually got to see other people’s faces and expressions. Imagine… other humans! The ‘gift envelopes’ had tasteful, meaningful content (newly launched magazine The Cleverness Biannual Issue O) and even the bathrooms featured ‘thoughtful provocations’ for pondering while you pee. Everything was considered, crafted and conversational. And not wishing to overdo the ‘c’ words here, but the theme and trail of messages throughout was both creative and consistent, even down to the branded whisky glasses and custom branded The Cleverness/Moleskine notebook.
Okay, enough of the gushing flattery, so what of this unconventional event? I believe in thoughtful sharing of people doing good things, so I’ve put thought to gathering some snippets for those ‘quietly dissatisfied’ people curious enough to want to discover more (my brain clearly likes ‘c’ words today, yesterday it was ‘i’ words).
Enter the inimitable Host, Dr Jason Fox (Head of The Cleverness), charming, engaging and provocative, questioning and conversational, poses a thoughtful opener “What will be different for you in 2017?”. The audience is encouraged to think and exchange thoughts with their neighbour – yep, really meaningful conversations with other humans, imagine! And then, another provocative question comes flying “What is the most popular misconception people have of you?”. There’s no dancing around the matter here, we’re already in deep thought exploring pretty serious questions with strangers. Only slightly awkward.
The first speaker, Oscar Trimboli (Executive Coach & Author), silenced the audience with every carefully chosen, calmly spoken word, and the breathing space in between. The topic was ‘Deeper Listening’. This one particularly struck a chord for me… “Listen to silence as deeply as any word”. Indeed, we often desperately scramble to plug the awkward gaps. “Silence is a gift”. There’s so much beauty and meaning in silence, stillness and space – and it’s so valuable for encouraging creativity (my space of specialty). Another thought provoking line was “Explore the unsaid”. Which could morph into separate conversation on the mystery and delights of the subconscious and its significant value to creative thinking. For another time.
We then heard from Helen Souness (Managing Director of Etsy Australia & Asia) who stated that “Our purpose in life is to fulfil our potential” and posed the question “How can you enrich the lives of others?”. Helen also encouraged us to consider exploring a “multi-dimensional life” rather than seeking the ‘one calling’ that we spend years trying to discover. This note transitioned smoothly onto the next speaker, Natasha Pincus (Director & Filmmaker) with the big question “What is genius?”, a theme inspired by her own creative productions. Natasha believes that “Your genius comes from within you” and is “The practice of being who you are”. An visually engaging talk, concluded with Natasha’s parting belief that “The genius is inspired”, and “curious”, “a productionist”, and “empathetic”. All of this was delivered with a stream of visual whit and boundless energy, definitely not your average keynote, thankfully.
Up next, Rohan Gunatillake (Creator of Buddhify & Author) encouraged us to “Be aware of what’s happening while it’s happening” which really got me thinking. We’re often so fixated on the future and ‘what’s next’ for us, while the good happenings of today pass by unnoticed. Rohan talked about the concept of “Relaxation as identification” (not taking your work too personally) and stated that “The more personally you take your work, the more you’ll have difficulty”. This provoked some interesting conversations during and after the talk, especially from those of us who head their own businesses. Another useful tip “Don’t mortgage your whole being on a metric you have no control over” and another “Indulge yourself at the level of feeling”. Rohan’s secrets to mindfulness were: A Loving Letting Go; Neutral Observation; You Are On Your Side. Which will need a little more explanation beyond this post. A great parting thought and one that I’m still reflecting on was “Get interested in the difficult”. Ooh… that’s a corker.
One big challenge we all face as humans is complexity, which was the theme for Dr Sean Fabri (Improvisor & Doctor), who discussed the shift in medicine from complex to complicated and the insightful differences between the two. Some stimulating thoughts were “The world is complex, people are complex” with an intriguing conversation around “Grappling with complexity and why this is such a struggle” and the provocative statement “It’s our responsibility to understand the complexity we face”. Dr Sean shared his perspective on the importance of complex understanding in creating pathways to outcomes. Another thought provoker was “The closer your mental model is to the real world, the better it will work”. I often see people and companies creating things that are so far removed from reality and what’s really needed, it’s quite astonishing. But we also need to challenge the real world. Blimey, there’s so much work to do! Here’s another one of my favourites “When you imagine others complexly, you humanise them” flowing into “When you acknowledge this, it comes across as kindness”. Without question we need more understanding and kindness in the world, more walking in the shoes of others, demonstrating human compassion. Dr Sean Fabri concluded by sharing some tools for reaching deeper into complexity through the themes of doubt, disagreement and failure. He writes about this more in his newsletter if you’re curious.
The coffee buzz was provided by Proud Mary and the whisky buzz by Starward, both companies with knowledgable representatives sharing some wonderful insights… “It’s more than coffee… every time you have a coffee there’s a family, person and process behind it” and “Indulge in the feeling” and a whole conversation around overcoming “The irrational obstacles”. Thanks to both for providing great tasting fuel for lively conversations.
We are in “A new era of co-creation” claimed Josi Heyerdahl (Partnerships Manager, World Wildlife Fund) who talked about complex systems, the actions of the whole and the challenge we’re facing as the more connected we become the more complex things become…“We face complex problems with no simple solutions” Jodi stated. And then shared some hard facts from The Living Planet Report relating to the growing population, the demand this places on food resources and the impact this has on the planet. As a subject close to my heart, this talk left me with a big ‘to-do’ list. One statement that I will be exploring further is that we need to “Work with the industry to make the changes we want to see”. The WWF have a tagline “Together Possible” which clearly communicates that they’re embracing this already. Jodi talked about the value of “Unlikely Collaborators” and believes this is where the magic happens. We were left with the thought provoking question “Who would be your unlikely collaborator?”. I have a few of those.
And finally, enter ‘The Wild Card’ Will Dayble (Founder of Squareweave & Fitzroy Academy) who shocked us into disbelief when he shared a life-changing choice he faced with his wife “Do we have children or go to Mars?”. Image that conversation over morning coffee! I don’t think I was in the minority in wondering if this guy was for real. But yes, he was. And refreshingly so. It was fascinating, confronting and a little uncomfortable to wrap my head around this ‘choice’ and the conversations that he was having with himself, his wife, family and friends. I can’t imagine. But this is the reality we are facing now. People will be going to Mars soon. The evolution of human existence has transitioned from no people on the planet, to people on the planet, and now people on Mars. What will be next? Will playfully and provocatively reflected deeply on what this means for him and how we exist as humans. He describes this life adventure as a “Once in a civilisation opportunity” and “the most exciting thing that has happened to humans ever”. Plenty of polarising views around this one, which ended with a question I’ve never heard before. Something for everyone to consider when producing things… “Will this work on Mars?”. That’s the reality of the future.
Time to Percolate and conclude, as the panel rotated to answer questions with questions in a lively banter of provocations like “Do you gain wisdom from experiences or do you have to do something else” and “How will you bring what’s next” and “What are the rare conversations we have as humans” and a great line “Great questions will always outlive the answers”. I was too engaged in the pace to capture everything here and didn’t want to miss the moment and opportunity to participate.
After a few more drinks cheerfully babbling away with some interesting folk, I sloped out the door and into the streets of Fitzroy with my head bursting with questions, things to do, the sound of jazz and maybe one too many whisky’s.
There’s so much work to do in the world! If this was helpful, please share thoughtfully. I hope this gets you thinking today, more than you were yesterday, and as much as I was on Tuesday, and the days thereafter.
Big thank you to Dr Jason Fox, Kim Lam and The Cleverness. See you at “Rituals”.
Bye for now…