Merriam Webster describes a human as:
- a bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens)
- a person
- consisting of humans
- of, relating to, or characteristic of humans.
It’s an existential question I’ve been asking myself since I was a 6-year-old who wanted to become an astronaut. I don’t have the answers but I’m good at asking questions that really get people to reflect, to think about what it means for them. Now, I’m finally putting pen to paper (or rather fingers to the keys) with the ambition of encouraging readers to become modern day philosophers.
I’ve always been afraid of writing, not because I don’t love language and the written word but because somehow it makes things permanent. When you suffer from the imposter syndrome you feel that it’s the easiest way to be caught out, but over the last 2 years I’ve been bursting with ideas and they have to come out (in a manageable way) come what may.
I can be intense, I know this, and my friends and family have been patient (and tolerant) of my 3 am sudden streams of consciousness. Many have been encouraging me to write, apparently, they think I have plenty worth saying, not just for the sake of writing but because I have ideas, I see patterns and make connections that others don’t often make.
And so, for the last two years, unbeknown to me, I’ve been recognising more patterns and making more connections, to the point that I wasn’t getting much sleep. I’ve got into the habit of waking up several times during the night to write down ideas, words, descriptions of images that have consumed my dreams.
So, who am I?
In 2013 when I was heading off to my second Burning Man adventure I was asked to write a description of myself for my camp Ashram Galactica I wrote this:
“I’m the oldest child of the oldest child of 12. My artistic heroines are Betty Davis (the badass singer and former wife of Miles Davis) and Grace Jones (independent style Diva) for just not giving a damn about what others think of her.
I’m proud that my niece calls me a weirdo and still wants to be like me. I’m a talker, a smiler, love a good belly laugh and give hugs for free.
I want every moment of my life to be part of a legacy of love, self-expression and knowing how to have a ‘bloody marvellous’ time.”
More recently, for a technology community I wrote this:
“Hello all, I currently wear many hats that are finally merging.
I’m a tech Futurist, transformation coach, public speaker, change management consultant and Artist with an interest in making human involvement (in business, economics, and society) a measure for sustainable growth, success and impact.
I’m also interested how technology is impacting our understanding and definition of what it means to be human, our sense of identity, freedom, and impact (in our own lives and the wider society).
I’m linking this to the future of work, our understanding of what work is (or will be) in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how we can prepare individuals and organisations for this future.”
The first seems more personal, the second more professional but, they actually are one in the same just expressed differently.
A few years ago I was asked to write a book on feminism. I never called myself a feminist, I was me. I had a visceral reaction to injustice for all, it didn’t matter that I didn’t match the label of the oppressed. I responded with the same gusto.
We all have a story (or 10) about why we are the way we are, situations that have been pivotal in creating the blueprint for the version of who I am today, but I’m not going to go into them. I’ve learned from them and continue to evolve.
Over the years I had been doing lots of work on identity, personal branding, and storytelling and started to question my own sense of identity and the stories I was portraying myself. Why, if I had never called myself a feminist would a literary agent ask ME to write a book on feminism? And, why was I having such a visceral response to the label, feminist?
It didn’t sit right.
I couldn’t work out why. I’m still not completely sure but maybe it’s because it feels like a label that once meant one thing a badge of honour and pride by those who identified with the moniker but now has been, and is often (in some media channels) used as a label for ‘the other’ a collective noun for those over there.
She’s angry about women’s rights. She’s a feminist.
She must be anti-men. She’s a feminist.
She’s emotional. She’s a feminist AND it must be her time of the month.
She’s too old to be wearing clothes/ shoes/ hair like that. She’s having a mid-life crisis.
She’s turning into a grumpy older woman.
When I look around today at the media portrayal of a feminist, I mostly see white middle-class women, we’ve just had the celebration of 100 years of the women’s vote, and the usual names came up, Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst, Sylvia Pankhurst and Susan B Anthony to name a few.
Where was the mention of Women of colour such as Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh, Una Marson, Jessica Huntley, bell Hooks, Audre Lorde and before all of them Sojourner Truth? (Respect to Roxane Gay the ORIGINAL Bad Feminist, not Madonna).
That is what made me uncomfortable, the lack of intersectionality in the fight and recognition of women’s rights and equality. Because apparently, all women are the same, we all have the same needs, desires, and lifestyle.
I was trying to accept the popular understanding of a label that I didn’t feel I could (or should?) own. I couldn’t make a connection between what that felt like compared to how it was perceived by others.
And that’s when I had my eureka moment.
It wasn’t about what I said, it was about the way I was living my life. I had to own what it meant to me rather than what it might be called.
And so I disappeared down a rabbit hole of extreme mind mapping. (I’m a very visual person and am slightly addicted to mind mapping).
Two years later and I discovered a pattern that was also prevalent in the lives and work of all my coaching and corporate clients.
Freedom. Choice. To be Human.
I realised that WE (and that includes businesses) are striving for freedom and there are four facets to that.
The first: The freedom of personal expression.
To be unapologetically ourselves (authentic in marketing speak), to understand our WHY, to understand and be able to communicate our value, to bring our full selves to everything that we do, to find and use our voices.
The second: Cultural freedom.
This refers to the cultures, systems (social, business, economic, political) and structures in which we exist (and try to flourish). How are we allowing them to hinder our ability to express our true identities?
The third: Economic freedom.
This is less about the actual amount of money we make but the way we CHOOSE to make our money, ways that encompass our passions and the impact we want to make in our lives, community and the world.
The fourth: Social freedom.
This is bigger than our communities, this is about our ecosystem. Organic, ever-changing, recognising and valuing the fact that each microorganism has the ability to have a profound effect on the whole.
The patterns of my life and work finally merged. The bits that people felt were contradictory or didn’t quite fit, but also made me unapologetically me.
Where am I now?
Well, over the last 20 years I’ve worked as a personal branding, identity and storytelling consultant creating coaching, transformational change, and immersive environments, taking a human-centred design approach to problem-solving.
I’ve worked in education, advertising and in the technology ecosystem. I’ve helped to build an advertising and entrepreneurship school, The School of Communication Arts 2.0. I created the first program and mentoring community for Wayra UK (Telefonica’s technology accelerator).
I ran personal brand identity workshops and strategy sessions for clients such as Innovate Finance, Sainsbury’s, Ogilvy Labs, M&C Saatchi PR, The British Council, The Startup Institute, The Hospital Club, Mindshare and The British Film Institute (BFI).
I even helped to build a sound camp, Playground, for DJ Carl Cox at Burning Man. I’ve also given talks on personal brand identity at festivals such as Obonjan, Shambala and Noisily.
Forward to today (2018).
I’m technology futurist who works with my clients to help them recognise and take responsibility for the impact of technology on their own roles, their staff, their clients and ultimately their revenue streams.
To be proactive rather than reactive.
I’m also the host of a six-episode podcast series Our Lives + Tech commissioned by Nominet Trust, interviewing technologists, entrepreneurs, and activists about their lives, projects and businesses that showcase technology for good.
For the last 6 months I’ve been pivoting my business, moving from focussing on personal brand identity to what it means to be human in the fourth industrial revolution; how to put the human back into the cultures and political, economic, technological systems so that we can tell AND create better stories for the sustainable growth of humanity.
To move society from one based on finance and economics to one which is able to quantify human involvement and make that the new currency.
I’m going to use this platform as a means of sharing my musings, reflections and questions on what it could mean to be human in the 4.0 (Fourth Industrial Revolution) in relation to the four freedoms.
I’ll also be sharing my business plans and the subsequent launch here.
In the meantime, if you’d like to talk then please get in touch.
For now… remember to be human.