Twelve glorious hours

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So, last Wednesday was epic. It kicked off with a seven-hour film shoot, and ended with a glorious night of storytelling.

The film shoot was with Brisbane filmmaker Ezz Wheadon, who I’d met only a couple of weeks earlier at Clare Bowditch’s Big Hearted Business morning tea. All Ezz and I knew was that we were both passionate about working on a creative film project. But on the shoot, we discovered we had more in common – GEEKDOM. Ezz’s surname corroborates her geek credentials. We talked Whedonverse and Wil Wheaton and all things in-between. This lady is cool. (Oh and her daughter is, too.)

Here's one of the stills Ms Wheadon took on the shoot. I heart you, Roost Coffee!

Here’s one of the stills Ms Wheadon took on the shoot. I heart you, Roost Coffee!

The film shoot was a grand adventure indeed; we traipsed through beautiful Kelvin Grove sharehouses and funky cafes and the alleyways of West End. (Ezz did a nice write-up of our adventure, you can see what Ezz said about it here.) As I set up for one of the shots, I had delicious flashbacks to my halcyon days as a film intern in Denver, Colorado, many years ago. (I was a nineteen-year-old backpacker and a family friend’s film company took me in; I worked as an unpaid intern at the company and babysat the director’s small daughter, and in return they let me live in their attic for a month. It was pretty awesome … Except for the ghost. But that’s another story.) On location, it was my job to rearrange ferns, adjust furniture, hold up reflectors and get releases signed. I loved it. It should have been boring, but it wasn’t. The company I was interning for was a not-for-profit, dedicated to representing marginalised voices in the Denver community. They were motivated by passion. It was an inspiration.

I felt that same inspiration yesterday, working with Ezz. I find it intrinsically satisfying to work on a project that is motivated by passion. Even the moments that might seem dull if you were working at a job you didn’t like – those times when the lights won’t change, or you have to do the washing up – are a pleasure. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

That’s how I felt last Wednesday night, at Yarn: Man vs Wild. It was the latest in the series of storytelling nights held by Yarn: Stories Spun In Brisbane. We were in a new venue this time – Black Bear Lodge, in the Valley. And what a night it was! The place was wall-to-wall with storytelling enthusiasts. There was even a Greens candidate telling a story in amongst the wilderness-themed decorations, even though she admitted to not being the outdoorsy type (“Worst Green ever – I haven’t even been to Tasmania”). I have to say, I love the audiences at storytelling nights. I’ve always found them to be warm and generous, supporting those poor bastards up on the stage with the shaky hands. Yarn brings this kind of a crowd in, and as an event it is going from strength to strength.

After a day and night like this, I felt a buoyancy that I couldn’t properly express. So I wrote a tweet:

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“Home, exhausted, after a 12 hour day – every minute of which was spent on work I’m wildly, madly passionate about. This is. Just.”

Yep. That’s all I can say.

… But I’ll say one more thing! You can see the first video in the poetry series I filmed with Ezz Wheadon, as it is now live on my YouTube channel! More to come. Stay tuned.

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Being comfortable is not the same as success

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So, I saw Bloc Party live last night, for the first time in all the years I’ve loved them. No big deal. Just a long-standing dream fulfilled. Whatevs. I didn’t cry or anything. I didn’t.

But quite apart from the euphoria of seeing one of my all-time favourite bands jumping around right in front of me, I was struck by how very, very beautiful is Mr. Kele Okereke. Not just the superficial kind of beautiful – although, let’s face it, he’s doin’ alright – but the kind that comes from someone who is completely in their element.

Photo from Wiki Commons.

Kele Okereke, lead singer of Bloc Party. If you don’t know who that is, don’t worry, this blog post won’t be ALL about them. Read on!

I don’t know what’s better than watching someone do the thing they love and absolutely nail it. He was, as the song goes, “on fire”. (Last fan-geek Bloc Party reference, I SWEAR.) The man swarmed around the stage, pulled the audience into his hand and held them there, strutted and kicked and spun, and utterly charmed the pants off the mosh pit. Right at the top of the second encore, if he had declared, “Alright Brisbane, let’s march on the city,” damn it, we would have.

It could have been the strobe lights, or the smoke machine, or the wild cheering of the crowd as Kele urged them to “dance, you fuckers”, but it seemed like light was shooting right out of him. This is the guy who music magazines tell me is “incredibly shy”. Well, maybe around music journalists, but not on stage. The stage was clearly his zone, and he was inhabiting every bit of it.

As always when watching people like that, I found myself hoping I could live in my “zone”. Ken Robinson (good old Sir Ken) talks about this in his book The Element (2009). Basically, his premise is that everyone has a particular talent, something that excites them and fires them and will bring them great success. Their element. But, unfortunately, with the education system set up the way it is, people are taught to ignore their passions and to waste their talents. Highly successful people are usually people who paid attention to their passions – instead of listening to the naysayers – and made full use of their special quirks and abilities.

It’s easy to say, “Yeah, right – chase your dreams, champ. Great advice. Oprah, etc.” But the more I think about it, the more I wonder, why wouldn’t we follow our passions? What if our passions are very specific signposts from our intuition (or subconscious, or a higher power, or anything you want to use to describe the ethereal cloak that hangs between us and all the things we can’t figure out)? When we meet someone we’re attracted to, we know it because we feel it. I think we feel a similar tug when we encounter our ideal occupation – something that makes us feel right. Like the first time I found out about poetry slams, or the first time Paul McCartney held a guitar, or the first time the internet saw Jennifer Lawrence.

If I have a special ability that I’m great at and makes my life more fun and can be developed without struggle because I love spending time on it, then WHY THE HECK wouldn’t I devote my energies towards that? The argument made by educational institutions (and a whole lot of parents) would be: because you need to make money. Otherwise, your life will be hard (and fair enough, money helps things along somewhat) and you will make other people’s lives hard, too. You’ll be a miserable drain on society, or something of that nature.

That argument is bullshit, frankly, because it is predicated on the assumption that particular occupations can guarantee you success; if you follow the path correctly and work hard, you will achieve a “good life”. This is rubbish. Not to quote motivational Facebook statuses here, but there are no guarantees in life. Your life will probably be hard whether you finish law school and get a clerkship, or quit and take up the piano. Life: hard. Sorry, kids. But I think that’s because we’re not here to bounce along and try to “get all the bananas” (Donkey Kong? Anyone?). Life’s not like the closed circuit of a video game universe, where you can win the highest score as long as you know all the correct combinations. I think we, as a society, have made a mistake, and gone along thinking that life is about getting the most comfort possible.

I think life is actually about learning. And learning new things – about ourselves, about others, about reality – is rarely comfortable. Fun, challenging, satisfying? Yep. But not comfortable.

Was Kele completely at ease when he was on stage performing last night? He’d be the only one who knows, but I would guess, probably not. Someone who is one hundred per cent comfortable doesn’t work that hard at excellence. They don’t push themselves further. But someone who’s living in their element? Well.

They make the sky run with starlight.

Dudes on whom I have a major brain-crush

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A lot of my posts lately have been kinda heavy, so I thought I’d lighten it up a little and tell you about some of the positive things on my mind. Like sunshine, and puppies, and organic peaches … But mostly dudes! Lots and lots of dudes!

Not just any dudes. Dudes with sexy brains. I have made a list of dudes on whom I have major brain-crushes. Now, before you read it, know that a brain-crush is not remotely sexual. So knock it off right now. It’s not that I have the hots for any of these guys (necessarily … Todd Sampson). It’s just that their brains are so interesting. I would like to take their brains out to dinner and ask them about their childhoods. I would walk their brains home and call them the next day.

You may notice that Margaret Atwood has made my dude list. “But she be not a man!” you may cry. Forsooth, it be my list and my rules. “Dude” is a pretty all-inclusive term in my books.

1. Sir Ken Robinson

Ah, Sir Ken. The wise-cracking, education-reforming, deadpan actual-knight of my dreams. I discovered his work properly last year and went on a Sir Ken binge, reading his books and watching his TED and RSA talks practically in one go.

 

2. Kevin McCloud

Another grouchy old Englishman, yes. But another one bouncing around with passion for his work. Irresistible! Grand Designs always delighted me, but his sustainable housing project catapulted him into brain-crush territory. Basically, he wants to make houses that make people happy. What’s not to love?

 

3. Todd Sampson

CEO of Leo Burnett, climber of Mount Everest, wearer of very tight T-shirts. My favourite co-founder of Earth Hour, and salt-and-peppered panellist on The Gruen Transfer. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr Sampson a couple of years ago for a student magazine, and I somehow got through the whole thing without swooning. Evidently I’m not the only one he affects this way, as a play is showing in Sydney next month simply entitled I Love Todd Sampson. I love whoever created that show.

 

4. Margaret Atwood

Acclaimed author, literary heavyweight, and one-time retweeter of one of my tweets. (Greatest. Moment. Of my life.) My friend Carina Tan-Van Baren has written a gorgeous account of Margaret’s recent appearance at the Perth Writers Festival. Other than that, all I can say is this: if you like speculative fiction, read Oryx and Crake. Go. Read it now.

 

5. Ben Hammersley

I discovered this gentleman’s work recently when I was listening to his keynote on the RSA Events podcast: ‘Tomorrow’s Work: Why Yesterday’s Expectations Are Ruining Today’s Future’. He raised some very interesting points about technology and how we use it at work. Since corresponding with him about his ideas, I’ve changed some of my email habits and become a much happier worker! I look forward to reading more of his stuff.