Bonfire Blogs: Introduction

At the tail-end of last year I took an online course – ‘Bonfire with Soul’ (‘Bonfire’ in this context is a kind of team-meeting) through the folk at the Do Lectures. Why? I was already crazy busy and running on fumes after one of the most draining years of my life, so why also take a course?

I felt like I needed some inspiration, I felt like I needed some investment in me, I felt like I wanted some new perspectives, I needed some new fuel in the tank. I also like pretty much everything the people at Do do, from the talks, to the books, to the newsletter, I’m a fan, so I trusted them with my time and money.

Many of those themes came to be big elements of content in the course itself; being inspired, spending time on building relationships (including with yourself), getting a wider perspective, building brands that inspire trust and loyalty, and far more besides.

In an attempt to fully digest what I learnt I’m going to write a series of blogs that go over the 12 principles of the course: why? To reflect, to turn other people’s words into my own words, to take ownership, to commit to action, and to share with others who might read my blog, because I felt like I got some real value at a time when I really needed it and its good to share.

The course was led by Duke Stump; which is an amazing name and he seems like a super-nice guy with some real credibility. Throughout the course he would come back to one key statistic; that 85% of people are not engaged by their work and that the course was a response to creating better organisations, better careers, and better lives for people.

“I didn’t wake up this morning to ‘drive traffic and revenues’, I woke up to create resonance, relevance, and effortless loyalty.”

The course was pitched as a “philosophy not a playbook”; with philosophy described nicely as “an ecosystem of thought”. This was really important to me when signing up, I wanted an experience, a provocation, some ideas I could then play with and assemble for myself – not a process I had to learn through instruction – I did NOT have the capacity for that, but I did want some perspective.

I’ve long expressed the view that my own philosophy is ‘under construction’ so more parts to play with are always welcome. I would worry if I ever thought my philosophy had settled. My students will know I like to talk a lot about values, how important they are to what you choose to start-up, the company you keep, the mission you have in life, and this course was a chance for me to stop and make some of my own philosophy conscious and see what was helping me and what might be hindering me. I ought to give credit here to Col Jones and the role he’s played in making me see my philosophy as integral to my work as an entrepreneurial educator.

What I realised in the introduction alone was that curiosity powers me, I do things because I find them interesting, and I rarely do things from a purely rational calculus. Part of my philosophy, and part of my philosophy of teaching is that we all learn well through following our curiosity because it powers us to think, explore, and act. I’m also very motivated by the opportunity to explore possibilities and I struggle when my work is very necessity-driven; I’ve found the pandemic hard because of all the rules, all the constraints, and all the necessary work to make my teaching work in this new world order.

I also realised I had signed up because I had bought into the story, not any hard data or a promised return, but because I bought into the story being told and it resonated with me at that point in my life. Again, if I look back at a lot of my decisions down the years, and if I think about the decisions I know are ahead of me it’s always words and stories that inform me, rarely numbers and calculations.

Some other takeaways:

  • Start any meeting with gratitude and mindfulness, start things well, break any negative pattern people are carrying into this meeting from the last one.
  • Be open to what life brings you without the pretension of expectation and you’ll be a lot more relaxed, flexible, and open to opportunity.
  • Aim for beautiful imperfection rather than perfection.

The biggest takeaway for me was a passing mention to the idea that Teaching might be well-described as ‘Mutual Mentoring’; it is a two-way process in which the ‘teacher’ can also learn from the ‘pupil’. That’s actually obvious (in a good educational culture) but by making that explicit it really helped me think about how much I have learnt from my students across the years and how that feeds my teaching. This theme did come around again (in fact in almost every principle’s case study) throughout the course as it was clear that Duke had mentored and been mentored by all those he had worked with. I think it’s a beneficial belief to always assume mentoring (and teaching) is a two-way street and to stay open to the opportunities that presents.

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