SAFE IS OVERRATED

11 December 2018

I have never really done ‘safe’. I risked my education to pursue a passion, hoping it would more likely lead to a fulfilling career than the education I was avoiding might have.

It did.

I went all in to try and get my first ever job at the only company I wanted to work for. There was no plan B, it was do or die - it had to work.

It did.

I then eventually moved from that job to run a company with no clue how that was going to pan out, but I knew my involvement would make a positive impact.

It did.

I then went out into the world on my own, without a plan, and set up my own stall selling my wares to the world, hoping that would work out.

It did.

Not content with the professional risks, I endured adventuring in some of the harshest environments on earth hoping such activity would deliver evermore incredible experiences.

It did.

With a wealth of experience and knowledge behind me, I then also set about advising people and organisations who sought out my help, hoping my guidance on how to create, procure and produce live events would improve the value and impact they achieved.

It didn’t

Ok, that’s not completely true. It did and it didn’t. And this frustrated the hell out of me. I successfully helped many people. Yet there were some I couldn’t help. Which baffled me.

How is it someone who has been responsible for some of the most ambitious and complex live events in recent history, someone who’s run and built successful companies and who’s had his work praised at the highest levels of business and governments could often find himself being told that the advice he was giving was wrong? Only for it then, repeatedly, to be proven much later and after great expense and pain, that I was in fact, right?

It turns out there were two reasons.

Firstly, people believe what they want to believe. When it comes to live events, a sector of industry often built on fragile agreements and ambitious not-completely-thought-through commitments - logic and facts aren't always popular.

Secondly though, there was a more fundamental issue. The issue wasn’t that I was right, and all these other people were wrong. It was just that I hadn’t worked out how to craft my experience, thoughts, opinions and advice into convincing arguments or narratives. I had been too focused, or entrenched, in my own version of reality to see other peoples’.

I hadn’t worked out how to frame my guidance in a way that resonated with different audiences - people with different perspectives and priorities. The fault, or issue, was mine.

The issue wasn’t my experience. The issue was my inexperience getting my experience across.

A tad frustrated, I knew I had to make a change. After all, it’s what I do, I make things work.

I think it was early in 2015, I decided, once again, to take the plunge, dive in at the deep end and go on a voyage of discovery. Both literally and metaphorically. And again, without knowing quite where I’d end up. I knew I needed to retrain in some way, though in my own way.

I needed to go through a bit of a reinvention to succeed in my ambition to position myself as an authority to, in turn, attract the people and opportunities I was looking for. I had the experience and track record, I just needed to package and present it differently. Staying safe wasn't an option.

I sold up, I sold almost everything I owned. 2016 was spent doing things I could more likely enjoy in my 40s than my 90s.

This included making a little bit of history - sailing to and then becoming the first British person to freedive in - Antarctica, an expedition requiring two years of planning and training. Like all my other exploits, I had no idea what I’d see, do or find, but, it proved to be incredible.

It wasn’t just adventures in nature though. A (or rather, another) personal development journey began. An adventure in and of itself. I worked with some incredible people, I analysed, I wrote, I crafted, I created a lot of crap, I spent an ungodly amount of time and money working to improve how I think and how I work. Some of it worked. Some of it didn’t. All of it was useful.

What is the meaning of life?

Out of all of this came a certain clarity. Whilst it was pretty obvious looking back, it required me to actually step back to work out what life was all about.

Life, for me anyway, is about experiences. Finding them, or creating them.

The experiences adventuring in nature continue, but I’ll save the slideshow for another time. What also came out of this whole adventure was a new perspective and a renewed passion for an industry, or craft, my craft: live events. A passion that had been challenged by, well…so many challenges. Whilst I love the craft of live events, the business side of live events, remains at its best - complicated and at its worst, but not that uncommonly - utterly insane. A topic for a separate article.

I set about focusing this renewed passion and perspective on working with, on, in and around live events, but on my own terms.

My expertise is yours

I see so many people and organisations struggling when it comes to creating, procuring and producing live events. Many unaware that their struggles are totally unnecessary. It’s perhaps no great surprise as there are few authoritative voices offering any freely available and qualified guidance.

People tend to rely instead on what they've always done, word of mouth, limited experience, experience only within a specific sector or with a specific type of event, using strategies and tactics from other sectors assuming they'll work with live events or just relying on hearsay.

I decided to do my bit to fix this. I am crafting and broadcasting guidance and insights in various forms. You may have spotted a few videos popping up over the interweb. You can expect more.

These are not random opinions or wishy-washy theories, they're impartial, hard-earned and well-proven information and content. Why am I doing this? Well firstly, I am a firm believer in what goes around comes around - I offer it all for free and without expectation, and if it happens to resonate with anyone - who knows what it could lead to?

Secondly, I enjoy doing it and it’s needed. There’s that saying: people don’t know what they don’t know. I’m putting people in the know and I know the value of what I offer. Doing this also helps me continually improve how I present the advice and guidance I have to give. Everyone wins.

This is not all I am doing on this front though, expect some other interesting announcements soon.

Producing, directing, designing and consulting

I enjoy, more than ever, creating live experiences. I work with brands, sports and arts organisations, governments, not-for-profits, marketing and PR companies and agencies.

I work around the world and produce, design and consult on live events, I develop bids and pitches for events, I craft bids to host major events, I undertake event and event businesses feasibility and development, I run procurement exercises, I work with architects and property developers on the design of venues and public spaces, I help and support agencies with their work and business development. . . basically, anything related to live events.

New realities

What I am increasingly interested in is breaking new ground by fusing real-world experiences and activity with both digital and traditional mediums and media, in real time, or: live. I’m not talking here about creating an event in one medium and broadcasting it across different media, I am talking about the fusing and manipulation of all mediums and media to create evermore engaging experiences to the point where the boundary between reality and…well, a different reality is almost imperceptible.

Some would argue we already live in a manipulated reality. A tad philosophical perhaps, but make no mistake, distinguishing what is real and what has been manipulated in the name of marketing, communication and entertainment will become increasingly difficult in the future, as the technology you can see coupled with the stuff you can’t see, becomes ever more sophisticated and integrated into our lives.

Crafting and controlling what happens live, in the real world, with so much unpredictability across so many mediums, is an art form, or craft, in and of itself. A craft I’ve spent most of my career developing and a craft I’m using for increasingly ambitious aims.

I have little interest in 'safe', but my experience does provide a safety net for people, businesses and organisations who, like me, want to break new ground and push the boundaries of live events - bravely harnessing new ideas, thinking, technology and a broad range of creative disciplines.

I’ll have much more to share on this front in due course. In the meantime, if you or people or organisations you know share this vision - do get in touch.

I gave up safe a long time ago and don’t intend to go back

I still remember the day, many years ago now that, not long after having left a safe well-paid job in a well-respected position, to pursue my ambitions without any real plan - my own business received its first payment. That same day, I happened to be in a gallery, and I saw this framed Edward Monkton (aka Giles Andreae) illustration about 3 foot tall on a wall in front of me. I impulsively bought it. I still have it. It seems increasingly apt.