The biggest I lesson from undertaking the book project “Life Bridge” is that there is no substitute for doing the work.
Planning and having a concept will only get you so far.
Doing the work involves stepping out into unknown territory, the journey itself being its own reward.
Opportunity favours the prepared mind, and opportunity also comes to those who would create serendipity through putting themselves in the place of possibility.
Fear of failure, fear that your work will be inadequate, fear that your efforts won’t be accepted are all redundant obstacles. Do the work and smash through these.
The irony of this situation is that the work involved defining an idea of the human bridge. By building the bridge, I would also define the thing I was hoping to realise.
What’s holding you back?
The 10 City Bridge Run basically has three components to unpack the key question at the heart of the project which involved opening a conversation to ask “how might we improve the delivery of child survival?”
The first component was a running stunt that was completed in early 2015. Looking back, it is easy to describe what happened. Recalling the events does not do justice to the difficulty involved in completing that task.
The second component is a book called Life Bridge which will feature a photo essay on the theme of “human bridges”. The central assumption to how change might occur is through connections between people. More than any amount of money, institutional will or technology, there must be people committed to driving change at the heart of any solution. Not only people, but radical collaborations of people through this idea of the human bridge.
The third component is a Design Forum where game changing ideas to address the challenge can be brought to life.
For now, the important work is the delivery of the book Life Bridge because it defines the human bridge.
In some regard, just defining a human bridge makes not one iota of difference. No change directly occurs. It is only conceptual.
This is the challenge. The human bridges have to be more than entertaining concepts. It has to point somewhere. Until I deliver on this, it remains an idea. People will need to see it to believe that it can make change occur.
Earlier, I had though that just by soliciting photos of human bridges that the idea might be demonstrated. I even thought that maybe I could take the photos to illustrate the idea. Neither of those on their own is sufficient. There is a lot of hard work required at the construction of the human bridges, as conceptual as it might be, for it to become a utility for change.
There will be space for collaboration with a broader range of photos of human bridges, but the immediate task is to make the essence of this idea tangible.
I have arrived at an idea where the core definition of the human bridge will be constructed from 24 photos of photos that emerge from collaboration with 24 Korean artists. The reason it is Korean is that there is an interesting perspective about the collective and collaboration from Korean society and thinking, along with the 20th century history which saw the nation emerge from the wreckage of colonialism and war into an industrial powerhouse. It is a country that is not without its challenges, and the fact that there is imperfection readily seen in a good canvas upon which to construct the human bridges.
More particularly, it means that I need to communicate an idea across another culture and language in such a way as to convince other people that it is worth their while to collaborate on this idea. Through that process of dialogue and discovery, the essence of the human bridge will emerge.
I can’t exactly tell you what it will look like now, any more than I could tell you the value of running a ridiculous Quixotic challenge a couple of years back. My concern is that much of the earlier interest in the idea has since waned, understandably. It is now my responsibility to build that interest and attention to what the impact of the human bridge might be.
Any suggestions from you would be welcome. Thanks for being part of the journey.
I can almost hardly believe that I am still yet to deliver on this idea of a Human Bridge.
I have learnt that when I fail to deliver on something it is worthwhile listening more closely to myself. Performance is the best barometer of capability. While that sounds elementary, also like a barometer measuring weather, having an accurate measure of capability allows us to ask why to determine what is causing the change or in some cases the lack of change.
Admittedly there are many things I could have done prior to this moment to have delivered on this idea of a Human Bridge. Those things I could have done include cancelling the idea entirely and putting it behind me as a failed undertaking.
The Human Bridge is only an idea, but it is an idea. Everything begins with an idea, but what is important is the execution. There is an irony that I have not delivered to date on an idea which is based on the concept of collaboration to frame the idea of a human bridge. That irony is that I have failed to adequately grasped the idea to bring the participation of other people into the project.
And that failure, that being to have failed in grasping the concept up to this point, is the only failure that matters. Cancelling the idea as a failed undertaking would have been an unacceptable failure because it would have surrendered to the difficulty of building a human bridge.
There is no “bad” reading on a barometer. It is a relative measure of air pressure. I need to learn to adjust my behaviour to match my capability so as to best influence performance.
I can’t change the weather any more than I can change the reading on a barometer simply by walking around with an umbrella as if willing it to rain. I need to adjust to the reading of my capability, and use that as a guide to adapt to improving my performance.
I’m beginning to learn how to read this metaphorical barometer. It shouldn’t be too much longer before I can work out how to deliver on the task to deliver on the idea of a Human Bridge.
It’s been a while.
How many times have I begun a post like this here? Many. Too many? Hard to say, except one thing I do know is that progress matters, no matter how slow.
There is a case for speed, and not going too slow. The problem being addressed through this project is time sensitive, in as much as delays result in opportunities lost. The stake that is on the line is the wellbeing and lives of many people who live life unseen in poverty.
And that is the balance. Too hasty, and there will be an outcome, but maybe without impact. Too slow, and it results in a perfect solution, although too late. Paraphrasing General Patton:
A good plan now is better than a perfect plan hatched from within the walls of a prisoner of war camp.
This project is about an idea hatched in 2010. It led to the completion of an epic quest at the beginning of 2015. What remains is the publication of a book to help frame a ‘Design Forum’ to discuss this issue about child survival with the broader context of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Most of those delays have been my responsibility, and largely related to my ability to extend myself because of resources at hand. Some might say, including myself, that it indicates a failure of imagination not to proceed, but there is also a need for pragmatism and balanced risk. Things don’t always work out. Sometimes we need to constrain ourselves waiting for a better day.
The important thing is that progress is being made. As if within a cocoon, most of that progress is unseen by others. That metaphor is useful, and I really need to turn the inside out in order to make a difference.
Here is what I have to report on as of now:
The book which was to underpin the journey already completed through pre-sales is in the process of being written. The book, Life Bridge, is a photo essay and will feature 24 artists each with a contribution on the theme human bridge. I expect that these artists will all come from Korea, for no other reason than there is a particular aesthetic towards the collective and design which is interesting from Korea. Seeing a broad range of contributions will also be easier to compare and contrast if generated from a similar background. From the perspective of addressing poverty Korea is also an interesting case study. It is a country which has overcome the wreckage of war, and while now by no means perfect, does give some clues to how best to proceed with progress.
The Design Forum will take place in May 2018. Before that can be organised, there is some preliminary work that is required. More on that soon.
Today is the anniversary of the Armistice signed in 1953 which brought to a temporary cessation hostilities on the Korean peninsula. That too was progress, but also unfinished business.
In the meantime, I’ll begin to blog more frequently on a daily basis and get this back on track.
For all those who have supported this effort to date, thank you.
Three cities remain following Seoul in this running stunt. Each of those cities are critical in threading together the intellectual engagement of this question: ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?’ Glasgow, Toronto and New York are all critical cities renowned globally for their thinking.
For the time being, it would seem that those three cities are immediately out of reach. The sensible thing would be to postpone the journey until it is financially viable and less of a personal risk to myself.
Ought we to play it safe and accept what is reasonable? George Bernard Shaw would advise otherwise: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
This image of a human bridge which inspires the photo-essay in the book ‘Life Bridge’ is in part inspired by words adapted from the legendary Korean marathon world champion Son Ki-chung who broke the world-record in 1935 and won the 1936 Berlin Olympic Marathon: “The human bridge makes incredible things possible when supported by strong commitment and passion”
Holding the remaining three cities in abeyance until 2015 is an option, and still allows for forward movement. But perhaps our frustration with an incomplete journey ought to inspire us to push harder to make incredible things possible now. Completing the running stunt directly from Seoul is an outcome that is not possible within my current resources, but achieving it would give an inspiring context to the Design Forum in the knowledge of a completed running stunt that the seemingly impossible is possible. This is why I am appealing for help from a select group of ‘bridge builders’.
The proposed schedule for the Design Forum would engage with a broad community of partners and stakeholders for participation proposed as follows:
|Proposed Schedule for Design Forum|
|Framing the problem: Focus on Papua New Guinea||Osaka||February (middle)|
|Port Moresby||February (late)|
|Global context, ideation and opportunity||Glasgow, London and Oxford||April|
|Implementation, delivery and moving forward||Johannesburg||August|
The importance of ‘bridge builders’ to support this initiative immediately is that it enables preparation of this schedule with confidence.
It is worth listening to Ridley Scott who gives good instruction in this clip below titled Life In A Day. It was part of a collaborative video project he started in 2010, the same year that the 10 City Bridge Run commenced as an idea.
Scott gives two good pieces of advice in telling a story through capturing an image:
- It must be personal.
- Capture what appeals to you as the photographer/curator.
Great advice from a master story-teller.
Tell your story through photo in our photo collaboration. Anyone can enter, and there is no cost to submit a photo.
“The Importance of Connection” is a photo collaboration on the theme of a ‘human bridge’. The best 100 photographs selected from among this collaboration will be captured in a book called “Life Bridge: The Importance of Connection”.
Find out more details or submit an entry here.
Photographs might express one of four particular themes:
- Tell a story. Provide an interpretation of “a human bridge”,
- Bridge the Imagination Gap,
- Connect the Near and the Far, and/or
- “With empathy comes connection”.
Connect like you give a damn! It won’t be the same without you.
Not just any photo. We are collecting photos on the theme of a ‘human bridge’ for a book that has been a while in the making called Life Bridge: The Importance of Connection.
Feeling creative? Please join us on this journey by submitting a photo of your human bridge.
There are two quotes which frame an ‘artistic brief’ for this project drawing inspiration from Bill Shore’s inspirational 2010 book: “The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men”.
The first quote is written by Bill Shore himself where he describes “the imagination gap: a narrow but vitally important space between the impractical and impossible.” He writes:
The imagination gap is a place where hope lies waiting to be discovered, and cannot be extinguished once it has. Most failures in life are not failures of resources, or organisation, or strategy or discipline. They are failures of imagination.
The second quote is taken from a graduation speech by Ophelia Dahl (cofounder of Partners in Health and daughter of renowned children’s book author Roald Dahl) when she quoted Adam Hochschild who earlier wrote about the importance of “drawing connections between the near and the distant”:
Linking our own lives and fates with those we can’t see will, I believe, be the key to a decent and shared future… Imagination will allow you to make the link between the near of your lives with the distant others and will lead us to realise the plethora of connections between us and the rest of the world… and this will surely lead to ways in which you can influence others and perhaps improve the world along the way.
The compilation of this book funds the 10 City Bridge Run which is a citizen led initiative that asks a simple, but important, question: “how might we use our networks to improve child survival?” The image of a ‘human bridge’ helps to illustrate this question.
So please, help us out and send us a photo of your human bridge. It won’t be the same without you!