A community I love: Escape the City

“Community” has become one of these words that has lost its oomph from being overused. Unsurprisingly, we cringe when we hear about another wine wholesaler wanting to “build a community of customers” or dusty spaces with no windows wanting a “community of thought leaders” to sit around cheap IKEA furniture and pay 200 quid per head.

Luckily, this only makes you appreciate it more when you dip your toes in a real community. I’m reminded of this every time I walk into Escape the City’s HQ.

Escape the City is a community of over 250,000 people committed to finding (or building) a job they love. I’ve been a supporter of the company since it first launched in London six years ago. At the time, London’s new startup scene was slowly getting momentum, with the opening of Google Campus and new government support towards Silicon Roundabout.

As you can imagine, two years after the Global Finical Crisis was not exactly the most popular time to talk about quitting your banking job to open a food truck. But Escape was a quiet revolution. People’s eyes shined above their Lenovo Thinkpads as Escape’s newsletters reminded them life’s too short to do something they don’t love.

Escape the City has grown a lot from being a loved newsletter and a popular job board. They have published a book, launched a career change festival and run hundreds of events per year including Tribes, their 3-month part-time programmes designed help professionals accelerate their career or start their business.

It’s no surprise that when Escape’s Jonny Miller asked me to share some of my experience with their Startup Tribe cohort last month, I immediately said yes. I’ve since been mentoring there every Wednesday and I’m always amazed by the brilliant humans sat in directors chairs in between the palm trees and ukuleles. They are not only committed to making bold changes in their lives, but they encourage each other and have each other’s backs.

And that…that’s community.

This video summarises the (very jet lagged) talk I gave on the five most important things I’ve learned over the last five years.

Things I’ve learned in the last five years:

  1. Find your tribe(s)
    Find your people. Surround yourself with people who get it, who expand your thoughts. Find the people who read the same nerdy blogs and Reddit sub-channels as you. This will give you the environment you need to go on the path you’re contemplating.
  2. Find your mentors
    Sometimes you need seasoned insight or a little help. Often, it just starts with a conversation. It can be as simple as tweeting to someone you find interesting, intriguing, or dare I say, “inspiring”. Don’t forget to do your homework and ask good questions. If you don’t have mentor and you need one, send me an email, I’d love to help you find one.
  3. People are like kaleidoscopes
    Everyone you meet encourages you to look at things slightly differently. How is this not exciting?!
  4. Control your narrative
    It’s easy to romanticise about how one day someone is going to randomly discover the great work we do and stick our headshot on the front page of WIRED. Success needs to be earned. The good news is that we’re in control of where, how and whom we tell our story to. We’re in control of the narrative.
  5. Keep your narrative flexible
    But as much as it’s important to keep our narrative in the direction we want to follow, it’s as important to keep our narrative flexible in order to say yes to opportunities and our most favourite thing — serendipity.

If you’d like to find out more about Escape the City, here are two brilliant talks I’ve had the pleasure to host at CreativeMornings/London.

The first one is by the wonderful Escape co-founder Rob Symington

The second one is by the wise Matt Trinetti from The Escape School.

Now go do something you love. Happy Monday!