How a Rap About Uteruses Made Me Set a New Goal

Thinking Digital 2017

Fresh from an outstanding Thinking Digital conference, here is my attempt at doing justice to an inspiring, educational and amusing day of talks.

I left the conference feeling more inspired than I have felt in ages — talks about companies set up by accident (the Bristlr dating app; connecting people with beards with those who want to stroke beards), banks set up to disrupt the financial sector (yes, it was interesting…), actual rocket scientists, comedy rapping about uterus's, bridges being played like harps, sleep evangelists and ‘internet entertainers’, as well as, for me, the headline acts of Richard Wiseman showing us the things we don’t see and Simon Singh making maths incredibly interesting (I just wish I could explain why…)

The sensation of feeling inspired is hard to explain — I walked through Newcastle feeling like anything is possible, that the omnipresent bad news we are subjected to daily, is irrelevant. People can achieve amazing things when they have a passion for their craft. And that passion was contagious; I’m well and truly infected :)

This inspiration comes, as so much in life, with the opposite feelings. Feelings that I’m bouncing against invisible walls unable to break through. I can see what’s on the other side and I don’t know how to get there. These people made it look so easy! They’re doing things with their lives that they are so proud of they will stand on a stage and tell us all about them. Instead of feeling like I’m wasting my life on a hamster wheel, I feel like I could do something as well.

I should probably also say that I have a pretty good, if remarkably unremarkable, life. I have a nice house, a wife, an absolutely amazing 3 year old daughter (with another daughter due to be released in 7 weeks), a comfortable job, I’ve recently ran marathons and ultra-marathons…. I’m incredibly grateful for all of these things and I absolutely know how lucky I am but I know I’m capable of more. I have bad things in my life, too. My mum has cancer, my best friends have all had serious life problems (cheating spouses, mental health issues, bankruptcy) and these have served to emphasise my gratitude for the good things I have.

So what can I do? The jumble of ideas bouncing around my brain feels like they need an outlet; some sort of challenge that I can focus on and a goal to accomplish. This blog is, in no particular order, to note down some of these ideas —

Pitch a start-up idea to investors:

The brilliantly funny John Kershaw founded Bristlr ‘by accident’. As a joke, he made a web page where people with beards could meet people who wanted to stroke beards. To his amazement 80 people signed-up. So he developed it further and, thanks to the sort of word of mouth marketing that most brands can only dream of, had hundreds of thousands of users. Cue a frantic attempt to get investment (including a hilarious Dragons Den pitch), joining a start-up accelerator and eventually pivoting to a different business model. I tweeted him that he’d inspired me to do pitch to investors (it looks fun!). Someone else replied saying they’d done it the day before. I said I’d be at TDC18 and John Kershaw said that he’d see me there. Ok, then!

Spend the next 12 months doing something interesting:

Yeah, this one is a bit vague… but let’s fast forward 12 months and imagine me on stage at Thinking Digital 2018 telling my story. I don’t know what I’d be talking about, but it would be the story of an unremarkable man (me) changed his life for the better. More details to follow…

Do internet-lol-things:

We live in a ridiculous world where people make their livings through all sorts of weird endeavours. Tom Scott describes himself as an ‘internet entertainer’. Whilst that may make mortgage applications difficult, he seems pretty happy with his lot! I’m not bad with social media, and although I’m not suggesting it’s an easy way to make money, surely I can do something online that make people laugh (and more importantly make advertisers give me some money!) I love making people laugh…

Write a book:

As this blog ably demonstrates, I’m not much of a writer which makes this one a toughie. However, Dan Brown. So, you know…

Post-script:

I write this on my laptop whilst watching TV. The programme is about people diagnosed with terminal cancer and how they react, how they live their lives and how they feel. One of them is the brother of one of my wife’s friends. They had everything and then it was gone.

Earlier today I heard ‘Sister’ by Angel Olsen and heard the lyrics like it was the first time —

“I want to live life
I want to die right

All my life I thought I’d change
All my life I thought I’d change
All my life I thought I’d change
All my life I thought I’d change
All my life I thought I’d change
All my life I thought I’d change”

I’m going to make that change, live life and live right. (Yeah, I know, choose life).

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