On Wednesday 11th October, as part of Leeds Business Week, we hosted the first of what we’d like to become a regular event. It was called Short Stories, and it was a very simple idea – we asked people to come along and tell a 10 minute story directly to our audience, sat in a (big) chair, without slides or other aides. We wanted the stories to be personal, but we set no boundaries on topic or style, and none of us knew in advance what other people’s stories were about. Platform kindly provided us with a stunning view from their 10th floor event suite, yummy food and excellent drinks, and Leeds provided us with a cracking rainbow and a pretty decent sunset!
All in all, it was an engaging, joyous, nerve wracking (for the story tellers) and extremely personal evening – and I’ve been thinking about it a great deal since. I had the pleasure(?) of being the first to tell a story, and I’d like to retell it in a much shorter form here – and also a little about the themes that seem to appear again and again at our events. If you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin.
Once Upon A Time…
I was a very unambitious, recently married 23 year old, living in Wakefield. I’d found a job I could complete in two days a week and still pay my bills, allowing me a large amount of free time to… let’s say ‘socialise’. I was working for Autotrader, typing for 12 hours straight for 2 days in a row, and my typing speed was verified as secretarial speed! In my spare time I dressed like a hippy, including hair all the way down my back – a fairly standard 90s look.
In my spare time I used to do a lot of walking, especially in the parks between my home town and the nearby village where I grew up. One day, I walked down to the large pond in the centre of the park, and spotted a football floating right in the middle. This was a ‘proper’ football, not a penny floater – one you pumped up with a bike pump – and even though I never played football, I wanted this ball very very badly.
I looked around for a large branch, or something similar I could use to grab it – there wasn’t one in sight. So, I decided to head home and construct for myself the worlds greatest football snaring device… it would be beautiful, and intelligent, and I would definitely get the football.
It took me 25 mins to get home, probably the same to construct my device from wool and a coat hanger, and the same again to walk back to the pond. As I descended the hill towards the pond, I could see that the ball was still floating there, waiting for me. I would definitely get the football.
When I was only a short distance from the pond, on the other side of hill I spotted three young boys from the estate behind, probably 8 or 10. I was close enough to be able to hear one of them say ‘look… a football.’ Without pause, the boy walked to the edge of the pond and continued walking, all the way into the centre until he was submerged nearly to his neck… where he picked up the football. He then turned around, waded back to his friends and they all ran away laughing and kicking the football that I had wanted so very badly.
In the immediate moments following this, as I stood holding the worlds greatest and most redundant football snaring device, I didn’t have any great revelations – I just felt embarrassed and defeated. But over the years between then and now, I have come back again and again to that point and what it meant.
…The Moral Of The Story
There are a few things I take away from what happened. Firstly… I clearly over thought the problem. Secondly… I most definitely over-engineered my solution. Those are the most obvious, but there are two others that I think are probably truer to myself.
I didn’t really want that ball, or rather, I didn’t NEED that ball as much as that boy did. I was an adult, I earned reasonable money for my two days a week, I could have easily bought myself a football. I didn’t play football, what I was wanting was sentimentality – I wanted to be the boy who ultimately walked away with the football.
But this is the real takeaway for me – I was no longer the sort of person who felt able to just walk straight into a pond. I had ‘ascended’ to a level where I wouldn’t be willing to get even my rubbish hippy clothes wet and dirty for the sake of something I wanted. Worse than that, I didn’t even consider that as something that you could do! I was too big, too proud, and in essence – no longer lean.
The Happily Ever Afters
Coming right back to date, staying lean, flexible, entrepreneurial is something that defines how I live and how I work – and that’s true for the whole of LightStart. We work extremely hard to ensure that we stay lean – because it’s exactly the approach and the state we recommend to our clients. We live by ‘MVPs’ (minimum viable products), and remaining in a position that allows you to make quick decisions, sharp turns and positive actions without dragging a load of over-sized pointless bureaucracy behind you.
But what about the other stories from our event, what about other people and their ‘morals’? Well, everyone’s story was unique (especially the one about Johnny Depp and the dozens of dildos – not joking) but there were clear themes.
Our storytellers took big chances and risks to get where they wanted to be, or simply to get away from where they were. Our storytellers set goals. Our storytellers put themselves – what they wanted – ahead of what others wanted, and through hard journeys ended up arriving at well earned destinations.
They also set themselves rules for how they work, and who they work with – something that is extremely important to us. We have clear rules for the type of clients we look for and choose to work with, and like other storytellers from our event, making that decision and sticking to it was a moment of real revelation and clarity for us.
Who you work with is a choice – we choose only to work with people we like, who value the strength of analysis, who appreciate projects with achievable timelines and realistic budgets. This means of course that we can’t work with everyone, but that everyone we work with shares our values – and that, is the only way to live happily ever after.
Our next event runs along a similar theme, that of wellness in the workplace. We are proud to be supporting the second Leeds Wellbeing Week with our next Leeds Digital Coffee Morning, a long standing event of ours, on Friday 3rd November. The event will be hosted at Platform, as usual, and we will crowdsource an idea for an app and map out the features and phases of this app on a large whiteboard, also as usual. HOWEVER, the difference is this instalment has a theme as we decided that the app will be focused on wellness. Come along to see our interactive process in action, to meet some really great people (we have the BEST network!) but also to hear from Lucile at Mind It about how we can all affect change in our daily lives and in our workplace to work towards being the best version of ourselves.
NOTE: Although we run fun, interesting digital networking events a lot, we also do some slightly less social more serious stuff, too. LightStart is a digital design house that specialises in app and website creation and analysis. If you’re someone who has an idea for a digital product, or would like to improve an existing one, we offer free, one-hour, no strings attached workshops in which we will analyse your goals step-by-step, and provide you with all of the components you will need to power forward and create your dream digital product. If you or someone you know needs our help, get in touch with us here or check out our workshops page here. Either way, we look forward to working with you soon!