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.
Hustling. Along with words like innovation and entrepreneur, it is overused and misunderstood. It sounds so good. How many posts on Instagram champion the word hustling as a person would wear a mask?
I haven’t really used the word much in the past. I’ve been reflecting on my performance to date, and now I’m thinking I should embrace the word hustle more. Let me explain.
Firstly, performance is defined by my impact not by my effort. In the past, my effort was admirable, but my impact was often questionable. This can’t continue. Something has to change.
I’ve been reflecting on the book Life Bridge which is in the process towards production. There is still a considerable distance to travel, but also considerable progress has been made.
Looking back, I realise that much of my effort has been more grasping rather than hustling.
Grasping reflects a sense of desperation, almost begging. The difference between grasping and hustling is the belief in the outcome.
Hustling is not about pleading. Hustling has to be grounded in a strong conviction that the value you offer is worth more than than what people currently have on offer. Hustling is not delusional. Hustling recognises the freedom of people to decide, and that they will recognise your value to contribute to a given situation all things being equal.
Before I turn to explaining more about the status of the book Life Bridge (tomorrow), I needed to acknowledge what had changed in my thinking. This is important for many reasons, not the least of which is the confidence that the ideas you are bringing into the world have value and should not be ignored.
It’s a binary choice.
Do or don’t do.
It is not a question of trying or not. That is a distraction, because the reality is that many things are exceptionally difficult for all sorts of reasons, and we must try in order to finally do.
I have felt the weighty obligation to those who have supported me to continue. My continuing is not transactional, but I am very aware of the responsibility I have to my supporters.
I suppose it might have been possible to shrug my shoulders in the past many years along this Quixotic journey and to say that I tried. I have helped crowdfund a promising book which was never delivered, and the would-be author wrote a note to say he was done trying. So I know what that feels like, that is I know what it feels like to be left with nothing.
And yes, there is risks involved in delivering a project. But I don’t think it is enough to pass this risk entirely on the consumer. In this case, I believe the consumer has every reasonable right to expect an outcome. The problem being in this case is that time has marched on a considerable distance beyond that which might have been anticipated.
So I made a choice to continue. That was a very early decision. The reason I thought it worth to continue was that the reason for championing this cause was important enough to invest my time into, even if that came at considerable inconvenience.
I have learnt an enormous amount. It has been a baptism of fire. Mostly I have learnt lessons about satisfying customer demand.
Yesterday I mentioned that I’m picking up this conversation again here in the public domain through this blog. I made a short commentary of how the satisfaction of the book ‘Life Bridge’ is progressing.
Tomorrow I’ll write more about how I see that occurring. I am well past a point of managing expectations, and appreciate that most of these have been well and truly stretched to the point of disbelief.
Suffice to say three things, especially to my supporters.
Firstly, I apologise for the delay. I appreciate that there may be some disappointment which would be understandable.
Secondly, thank you. Thank you for your earlier trust and support. I write that in full knowledge some may be disappointed in the result to date.
And thirdly, I’m continuing. I’ll deliver. Late. It’s all on me.
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.
Words have a power to move. Which direction that movement takes is important to consider. Too often, especially as is seen at the moment, people are polarised by the words of others. Is this reasonable, and is this right?
Jacqueline Novogratz, the powerful force behind the founding of the New York based organisation Acumen, made this comment during the week and I thought it was important to share: “Within all of the division we feel around us, what can we each do for someone else today? What conversation can we have with someone who is different? Inspired by Shaw…”
She went on to share a quote from the playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950). I have had this quote in my mind for a few years, and it is appropriate at the moment having just arrived in Hiroshima.
Tomorrow, I’ll write more about its relevance, but for now I think you can glean the meaning without the need for any further explanation:
This is the true joy in life, being recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for a moment. I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
Your thoughts? I love to hear your comments if you would share them below!