What are you willing to do, to make change happen?
My week, this week has been extraordinary to be honest with you. Last Tuesday saw the launch of The 2018 Mental Health and Creativity Report and I have been inundated with emails from all over the world filled with praise, thanks and offers of support for our 2019 survey.
I’m continually humbled at the wonderful spirit that exists in parts of our industry — a spirit of wanting better for one another as a community, and ourselves as individuals. A continued sense of advocating for change and of pursuing it not for self-gain, but for a better balance of work and life.
A healthier balance.
The emails from last week’s report continue to arrive and I am responding to each and every one as soon as I can.
All I can say is a heartfelt thank you to those that filled out our survey. These people showed a courageous vulnerability and an honesty that at times is sorely missing in this industry — an industry which at times sweeps the stories and issues of anxiety, depression, bullying and the pressure to deliver, under the rug.
My team and I will run this survey again in 2019 and we have already begun carving out partnerships with organisations and field experts to create an annual reporting framework that provides much more than words on paper, but rather solutions to some of the more systemic issues we as an industry face.
This all had me thinking about what it takes to make impactful change. The type of change that moves a business forward. The progressive, transformational type of change that can reinvent you as an individual and evolve us as a community of creative peoples.
The ‘I can’t believe we got through that’ type of change that puts a knowing smile on our face every time we think back on how things were before.
Personally, I think of all the times I’ve had to decide to make impactful change in my life and business, and throughout all those moments, I’ve realised the presence of one simple question.
Throughout all the moments where I’ve faced adversity, difficulty, bullying, anxiety and other issues and looked in the mirror and admitted to myself that things had to change, I see the presence of this question.
A question that, for me, allowed me to make true transformational change. To take a business from 28 people down to 6. To take an unhealthy life into a healthy one. To move towards becoming a present father, not an absent-minded one.
To face my fears.
I’ve seen this question sit next to me, looking me in the eyes knowingly at the most difficult times.
When my business was contributing to my own physical and mental wellbeing, this questions was there. When I knew change needed to happen, but didn’t know where to begin.
This questions was whispering to me:
“Are you willing to make the hard decisions to make this change?”
“Are you willing to have the hard conversations to make this change?”
“...to let them go?”
“...to say goodbye?”
“...to stop doing what you’re doing?”
“...to try something different?”
This questions was always there .... in all its forms.
“What are you willing to do, to make this change?”
I would ask myself this question over and over again, and there were times when I would know that if I waited much longer to find the answer, my health, and at times my own sense of self worth would suffer.
I would spin in a fog if I wasn’t able to understand the reality pf this question.
If I didn’t sit with that person and ask them to leave.
If I didn’t write that warning letter.
If I didn’t kindly let someone know their role was no longer required.
If I didn’t tell someone that our time had come to an end.
If I didn’t cut my social media stream down by half because it was making me feel not quite right.
If I didn’t walk out of a crowded, noisy room to an open, air-filled street where I was no longer cornered but free to just walk. Comfortable in my own silence.
If I didn’t speak up in the meeting, knowing that I’d be met with eye rolls, ridicule and possibly see the end of my time at that particular table.
If I didn’t point to the elephant in the room.
I realised that throughout my career I’ve been moving towards a place and state of mind that is good for me. I haven’t been chasing awards, prestigious clients or fame. I’ve simply pursued a vision of working in a business that helps me nourish and be present with my family — and contributes positively to my own mental and physical health. That’s simply it.
I’ve made decisions that have been difficult. I’ve had conversations with people that have angered them, and I’ve asked difficult questions of industry associations to hold them to account and I realise that this pushes me to the edge.
But I like the edge. One of my favourite authors, Kurt Vonnegut sums it up nicely when he says “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the centre.”
Last week’s mental health report helped me realise that change is needed in our industry and the change is not on the horizon, to be found some time in the future. It is needed now.
We need to ask ourselves the hard questions and admit that there have to be some difficult decisions made to put a stop to some of the terribly unhealthy practices that contribute to some of the more pronounced issues in our working lives.
There are better ways to work and we don’t simply need to create them, but rather move towards them and make them happen because progress is more important than perfection.
So, I ask you this question, what are you willing to do, to make positive change?