What I've learned from writing an article a week for two years
I started writing this weekly journal on March 1, 2016 — just over two years ago.
I began with a simple notion — that I had something of value to give and I was driven to teach everything I had learned in my 27 year career as well as share everything I was learning anew since.
To be frank — I was, and still to this date, feel a sense of underwhelm when it comes to the standard business model in our industry.
Client arrives with brief, the Design team gets excited and puts forward a proposal, winning, doing the work and repeating the process.
It's no secret that in my own business we look to new, emerging business models and workplace structures to ensure we're both excited and inspired by the work we do, but also, we're moving and evolving towards our own purpose with a greater velocity.
We believe that business can solve some of the world's biggest problems and if we're interfacing with C-Suite executives every day, we have a responsibility to ensure they're building brands that are meaningful and impactful.
This ensures we're excited about the possibilities of solving new problems in new ways. After all, if we are to solve new problems with the same old model, I think we're simply fucked as an industry.
As we began working with more and more organisations that aligned with our purpose, I slowly came to the realisation that there was more work to do.
Thousands of people in our industry across the globe are fed the same old story when it comes to leading a purposeful, meaningful career — mainly due to the lack of accreditation and professional standards, but this is another article in itself. I found that younger people, entrepreneurs and other creatives deep within their careers were in a fog as to what was next, how to increase their value and in simple terms, how things were done.
I saw that there was a lack of sharing and transparency in our industry and decided to do what others weren't doing— share everything I've learned throughout my career.
I began putting together something that I wished I had during my own career.
In 2016 I began writing two journals out of a need to explore what I knew, how well I knew it and most importantly to share it with as many people as I could in the hope that the next generation of creative leaders and executives would be more purposeful; create meaning in their work and develop workplace cultures that shattered the status quo — a norm that unfortunately still exists today.
On March 1, 2016 I began writing one email-based weekly journal for emerging creative leaders and entrepreneurs called The Business of Creativity and around the same time, I began another fortnightly email for C-Suite Executives about creative leadership and innovation.
Similar topics, with a slight nuance for two ends of the spectrum.
Today, the archive of both journals includes over 160 articles and growing.
Back then I couldn't imagine the effect the simple act of writing would have on me both personally and professionally.
Before I knew it, I was waking up each day and asking myself a question I've never really asked myself out loud before. It took me by surprise when I actually said it out loud one day — as corny as it sounds, the question "how might I provide value to another human being today?" plays a repetitive rhythm in my mind throughout each week as I thumb through notes in my mind and consider the topic for the coming week.
This has allowed me to face a level of humility I've never experience before. It has allowed me to see a facet of myself that is no longer solely about me, but rather about the person I'm trying to connect with and write for.
Each week, people from all around the world actually reply to my emails (this still blows my mind) and each time I read another person's thoughts, ideas and aspirations I'm completely humbled and inspired to write the next week.
I love rhythm and repetition. I love order and disorder equally.
I'm a contradiction walking, simply because I love to curl up in a quiet corner of the room on a rainy day, the house in complete silence, wearing my favourite pair of headphones, listening to metal, loud.
Within this contradiction there is a part of me that loves the spreadsheet-like repetition and rhythm that a weekly act of writing offers me. It comforts me, it gives me a deadline and also provides me with something to look forward to.
The rhythm and regularity of writing each week ensures also that I do what I expect all of the leaders I look up to do for me.
I show up and I'm focussed on providing value.
A global perspective
Last week I had a Skype call with a reader in Germany. The week prior I exchanged video calls with someone in London, New Zealand and another in the USA. When they say 'our industry is small' — they're not kidding.
I've learned that creative leaders, designers, studio owners and the like, across the world are facing similar challenges.
I els pinch myself that I can provide value to someone in the UK as well as here in Australia — and the same thinking can maintain its relevance to the Nordic nations and across Europe itself.
Now, I regularly chat to people that I've connected with over my weekly writing — we exchange tweets, emails and phone/video calls often. All of them, every single person I've connected with via my weekly writing has offered me something in exchange. They've taught me something new, they've challenged my own perception of our industry as well offered me a way to look at our profession through multiple lenses. I value each and every interaction and can't wait to learn even more.
Personal and intimate
There was a night recently when, as a family after dinner, we were sitting around in our living room reading, scanning feeds and being comfortable in each others presence as families do. My wife noticed me reading something on my laptop with tears in my eyes. I was reading an email a reader had sent me. An email that had brought me to tears and made me grateful for what I was doing.
The contents of the email I received are private and personal and I won't share them here.
But that's the point. Writing each week has not only allowed me to connect with people from across the world and even locally here in Australia.
People I would've otherwise never have met.
Writing weekly has allowed me to connect in a very personal and intimate way with people who share my values, debate my ideas and challenge my thinking.
For this I am grateful and always in awe.
Debate and discourse
Not every reader agrees with what I write each week and this leads to a healthy debate and discourse that begins with an email and sometimes in the public domain. Mostly on Twitter.
There have been occasions where the week's article or interview has inspired a flurry of chatter on Twitter — some positive, others not so.
This healthy debate and discourse is something I look forward to and hope occurs more and more.
We don't all have to agree with one another. We may all share this thing we call 'creative' but that doesn't mean we are all the same, and in these differences I've found something beautiful.
I've been introduced to new ideas, new ways of seeing problems and even solving them. I've learned of career issues of which I thought, simply didn't exist here in Melbourne (where I live and work) — or at the very least I have been unable to see.
As an industry, we need more debate and discourse — more ideas tabled, challenged and executed. More ideas that move us forward.
Amongst it all; the debate, the replies, the discourse and conversation with like-minded individuals, I’ve found that together we have begun carving out a set of professional standards for our working lives in an industry where they are sorely missed.
Amongst the conversations and interviews, I have seen the emergence of a set of values and principles that has the majority of people punching the air in celebration for these things that their industry isn’t celebrating;
- diversity and the celebration of ones ethnic identity
- purposeful, meaningful careers that nourish young talent
- leadership that mentors proactively
- a healthy work/life balance
- working environments that are progressive and flex to the needs of the people within them
- clarifty for younger people at a time in their lives when everything is so confusing
- ethics that are actually maintained
- a guiding framework for talented young people who live outside of capital cities, who lack acccess to events, resources and networking opportunities that others have
- a champion of women
- a set of guiding principles that together begin to form the beginning of a set of unified professional standards
Writing weekly has taught me so much more — the simple list here does it little justice.
If you haven't read this journal before, I'll look forward to connecting with you at some point in the future; because it's through these connections, interactions and discussions that we learn from one another — and in turn, grow, move forward and stay relevant as a profession.
As creative leaders.
If you're interested in starting a leadership journal and you're stuck with what tools to use, how to schedule and what to write about, I'd be happy to help you. Get in touch.