For those who are familiar with our Knowledge Guild events, you will know that for each event (or speaker showcase) we pick a theme. This time round, in an attempt to beat those January and February Blues, we opted for Above & Beyond: Get Going for 2016 in the hopes that it would provide a healthy dose of motivation to those looking to make the best of the year ahead.
Speakers Corner is now in its third year working with valued partners, The Brewery, who are based at Chiswell Street in the heart of the City of London. It’s an incredibly versatile space allowing us to put on a range of events, from smaller ones focusing on specific areas like last year’s The Economy, Politics & Trust and An Insight into Tech, Trust and Transformation, to our latest showcase this month that utilised their largest room.
The Brewery at Chiswell Road, London
Most people will accept that what we learn is very important; school subjects such as maths and english, science and art, all get top marks; not to mention the other kind of knowledge around emotion, from which we build our relationships and learn how to react to the world and people around us.
How we learn is also vital: when a history teacher has a flair for illuminating her subject in such a way her pupils in 10 or 20 years’ time could be brushing away the dust of a new archaeological find in the depths of an Egyptian tomb; or when a parent is able to guide their child through the emotional maelstrom of childhood and lead by example so that they, too, become a great leader, perhaps one day leading a team out into the deafening roar of an international sporting finale.
How we learn, then, is intrinsically linked to who the message comes from and the way that it is delivered. For our latest showcase event, we pulled together three truly exceptional motivational speakers: extreme swimmer and ocean advocate, Lewis Pugh; national rugby hero Sir Clive Woodward; and Bonita Norris, the youngest ever British woman to climb Everest at 22.
So what did we learn at our latest Knowledge Guild event?
- Assume people will help you.
- Prepare for victory, not failure and do not take both into a challenge.
- People can be sponges or rocks.
- The most daunting journeys – either physical and/or mental – involve one small manageable step at a time.
So there's the what, but how it was delivered? Well there's the question on the distance between. How about we work with somewhere between 1 to 29,035 feet for now, with ITV’s Mark Durden Smith hosting - which managed to balance the humour and the serious perfectly - elevating the event no end.
Ocean advocate Lewis Pugh
Extreme swimmer Lewis Pugh is an ex-maritime lawyer who is now an author, an environmentalist, and an ocean advocate who currently holds the rather unique title of Patron of Oceans for the United Nations Environment Programme. This impressive list of titles should suggest where his passions lie. At the beginning of his speech, Lewis highlighted the plight of Maldives and how, as a result of global warning, the country’s president Mohamed Nasheed announced plans in 2008 to purchase new land in India, Sri Lanka, and Australia in order to resettle the population because of rising sea levels.
How does Lewis choose to highlight this issue? He swam 140km in 10 days between the nation’s islands, receiving, incredibly, a little help from Roman Abromovich when the expedition support boat experienced technical difficulties, reinforcing the belief that, no matter who it is, you should always assume people will help you.
Lewis in the Arctic
Lewis went on to swim 1km in the very icy (-1.7C) Arctic ocean - previously recounted in our blogging Swimming in the Arctic Ocean - using only a pair of Speedos to protect him from the more than freezing waters. Lewis eruditely talks about what this involves, not only the personal challenges involved around fears of death, but also about pulling the best team around him by choosing people who have humility. Arrogant individuals are not good for a team as they tend to not listen or accept others' opinions easily; Lewis, therefore, opts for team members who fall into the Realistic Optimist category.
Lewis left us with the poignant message about Victory and Failure. Standing on the ice with the 1km in front of him, for a fleeting second he held both in his mind but was reminded by his Dr, in no uncertain terms, to focus on victory alone because by doing so, your chances of completing your task vastly improve.
Sir Clive Woodward & the DNA of a champion
Next up: national rugby hero, Sir Clive Woodward, whose philosophies for winning and creating high-performance world cup winning teams resonate beyond sport into the corporate arena.
Sir Clive introduced the audience to his DNA of a Champion idea outlining four key areas that enable us all to be stars in our given areas. These are: Ability, Teachability, Thinking and some good old Hard Work. It is with Teachability, we were introduced to rocks and sponges: Rocks are on the hard side, are not flexible and will not take in information; sponges, however, are soft, will absorb information and are just plain curious.
Due to time constraints, Sir Clive spent some time on this remembering ‘the stick’ he received from the sporting press over his decision to provide laptops for the England team believing “Whoever Wins in Technology Tends to Win!”. This rather odd IT coaching technique paid off as later Sir Clive was able to work with the team using software that converted all aspects of the game into hard data.
It was an illuminating talk filled with humour and insights into performance both of the ‘green stuff’ and in the corporate arena.
To bring our speaking section to a close, we had Bonita Norris, the youngest British woman to reach the top of Everest, who managed to carry out this breathless feat – from novice to summit – in just two short years!
Bonita at the Knowledge Guild
It started with Bonita’s student friend, Megan, uncharacteristically suggesting going to a talk on mountaineering – apparently based on the premise that the majority of attendees will fall into the ‘fit men’ category.
Bonita did not know her life was going to change so drastically that night but change it did, on hearing accounts of climbers being able to see the curvature of the earth from the Everest summit. This was enough to win Bonita over and it was at that moment she promised herself, possibly Megan too, that this girl from Wokingham was going to climb earth’s highest mount.
Bonita & the mountain
Bonita then takes us through the start-stop process of beginning that journey: scaling her first 10 meters in an indoor climbing venue, to smaller mountains, to other sizeable sea level challenges of securing £50K worth of funding needed to climb Everest with just – after months of trying – a few days left. Bonita did, via taking a wonderful impromptu opportunity, that paid off 50 fold later that day securing a sponsor for her climb.
Bonita shares a wonderful and realistic take on motivation; not the blind ambition where faith is as hard as granite and doubt never once flutters in one’s mind, but the motivation of self-questioning; of "Can a ‘girl from Wokingham’ or ‘little old me’ do something like this?". Bonita told us thst we can scale any height just by simply putting one spiked boot in front of the other, one step at a time; these millions of steps- in her case from heading out with Megan to reaching the summit of Everest - add up to something great.
This illustrates, we hope, the very movable distance between the how and the what and more importantly who carries it out. That distance could be anything from an icy and potentially dangerous 1km of Arctic ocean, the seven match journey that took the England Rugby Team to the World Cup final in 2003, or the vertical climb to the top of Everest at 29,035 feet.
It could also be whatever your next challenge might be!
After Mark Durden Smith guided the speakers through an interesting set of questions, we wrapped up and retired to the bar to sample The Brewery’s now infamous bowl food with the speakers staying on to chat with the attendees.
Our host Mark Durden-Smith
It was a great night and, although we work in the business of motivation, we are thankfully not impervious to its effects; a feeling also reflected in the feedback from the Knowledge Guild attendees. It was the perfect anecdote to a cold February night where what we learn and how it is delivered coalesces into something much larger. It’s a magical thing for sure and one we must do our utmost to recreate every day for our clients, and for our next Knowledge Guild event.
See you there (if not before).