In a crisis

In a crisis we come together.

While standing on the train station this morning, waiting for the fast train to London with all the regular commuters, the silence was deafening. Everybody was so separate. So isolated. So absorbed in their own world.

It felt desperately alien to me and I wanted to talk to someone – anyone – to create some human connection.

Our train was delayed, only by 5 minutes, but as the tannoy announced its arrival I thought about those instances when trains are REALLY delayed. Where people start to talk to each other; first about the state of the train service but then moving on to work and personal conversations. Sometimes discovering they have some kind of connection in common. And in those instances when the train finally arrives, people cheer together – connected through the adversity.

We see it over and over again. Give us a crisis and we come together. I remember in my last job when one of our shops was very sadly burnt to the ground. The team effort which ensued was incredible, there was pace, there was communication and collaboration across boundaries, deadlines were left for dust, people went over and above. And it resulted in a new store being built in record time. A store which then went on to outperform its previous sales results as it became a beacon of pride for the local team and community.

I remember at the time it was used as an example to say “we can achieve amazing things when we come together like that. If we can do that more of the time, we’ll be flying”.

So what stops us? What is it that means we only connect in a crisis? That means we only behave as our most awesome versions of human beings when the chips are down.


I saw this TED Talk of Simon Sinek recently and I think there might be an answer in here.

Our primitive brain still plays a significant part in how we operate today.

Simon describes in this talk about our primitive heritage when we had to connect and be social for our survival. We had to be able to collaborate to ensure someone was on night-duty and watching over the rest of the tribe while they slept. We had to work together to catch food so everyone could eat.

And in the days of our primitive heritage, a state of crisis was more the norm than the exception. Our stress response was a necessary physiological response to ensure we survived to see another day and ensure procreation would continue.

Bringing this to today, the stress response is still alive and well, it’s just that the sabre toothed tigers have turned into bosses, competitors, shop fires and delayed trains.

And so it’s in these circumstances of threat that we pull together, connect and collaborate just as we would have done all those years ago.

So this is perhaps an explanation for our innate ability to pull together in a crisis but how do we make it happen more of the time? And how do we make it happen without the need for the stress response to kick in? Because as much as our ancestors lived more on stress than not, pulling together more often than not, I would guess their life expectancy was a fair bit shorter than we have today. We know that prolonged periods of stress make us ill – physically and mentally – so the answer isn’t to create stressful situations more of the time.

So what is the answer?

Maybe it’s the opposite.

Positive Psychology is about making more of the good stuff. Finding strengths and doing more of those things that let us use them. Focussing on what’s gone well. Seeing what’s gone not so well as an opportunity to learn and adjust. Being appreciative of what we have. Being believed in.

When these things are present we’re awesome versions of human beings and even better because, in contrast to the stress response which narrows our thinking, being in an environment of positivity and safety broadens our thinking. Broader thinking means more opportunities are spotted and more great things are created.

This broader thinking is what enabled us to progress ourselves and our world from those primitive days. Although back then the predominant feature was threats, there were times when we did feel safe and it was in these moments that we invented stuff and created new solutions to help our subsequent generations find shelter, food and stay safe more easily.

So by now, you’d think we’d have invented so much of this great stuff that we’d feel super-safe and be at our best, most positive selves all the time.

And yet that’s not true. As Rick Hanson writes in Hardwiring Happiness, our mind is still like Teflon for the good and like Velcro for the bad. Another hangover from our primitive days to ensure we stayed alive.

So this positive stuff, we have to work on it. We have to re-train our brains to help us be our awesome+1 selves more of the time.

But imagine that: awesome teamwork, communication, delivery of results, going above and beyond – and all without the need to be in a crisis!

This is me –

WFS Tree


That money thing – a sequel

GFN Death Star

I was a bit premature with my money post last night. That left-field idea my son had might not be so left-field after all.

we are unstuckCQ_headerlogoToday I’ve been in Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema for an event called Think> Create> Do> hosted by Sarah King of We Are Unstuck, and the Nottingham Creative Quarter.

And what an event.

The first people I spoke to over a cuppa were brilliant and engaging – passionate about what they do to make a difference in their bit of the world. And this was just a hint of what was to come.  This post only covers the first couple of hours of the day so there may be more to come but for now…..

First we heard from Pam Warhurst. Pam founded Incredible Edible in Todmorden. Pam had spent her life in roles involving committees and papers and lots of talking but not much doing. That’s when she realised that the DOING of it is so much harder than the CHATTING about it. And she wanted to start some DOING.

Incredible Edible

She found the end of a thread that joins us all as a community – eating. If you eat, you’re in. So she’s found a pretty good hook to connect people! But this isn’t just ‘bring good food to people’ in an average sort of way. In her home town of Todmorden they created Propaganda Gardens. They just went to underused places, and used places, and took them over, and sometimes asked permission, and sometimes didn’t. Her and a team of volunteers have gradually planted up these areas with food – veg, salad, fruit, herbs – and invited local people to help themselves. It took some time for trust to grow – that it would be OK to take food from these communal garden areas. Some of which are even people’s front gardens that they’ve made accessible to passers-by.

But now, with a core team of about 10, over 400 volunteers are involved – finding new places, planting, growing, maintaining, eating, cooking, sharing ideas – connecting. And all for free.

And the Incredible Edible logo has become a symbol in the local farmers market for local food. The stall holders have seen growth in sales, which has grown their confidence and led to further investment in their businesses. Pam calls it ‘sticky money’ – money that stays local to the area.

They’ve even created a tourist route round the town so people can see all the gardens and they’ve made sure it includes local cafes and shops who’ve also seen sales grow.

And they’re going into schools to educate future generations on growing their own. Did you know that by 2050 40-50% of our food will need to be grown in urban centres?

People take as much as they want, and when it’s gone something else gets planted. People don’t vandalise the sites; when treated as adults we behave as adults. The police say community relations have improved and environmental damage is down.

Inspiring isn’t it? So inspiring that there are now 100 communities (UK and beyond) who’ve joined in and created their own propaganda gardens to connect their communities.

So, to my son, yes, you can grow and give for free and it works.

Then we heard from Tom Farrand, one of the founders of Good for Nothing. Sarah first introduced me to Good for Nothing last year because she leads the Nottingham chapter, and I’ve since joined the Leicester one led by Avnesh Pandya.

Good for Nothing

I can’t believe I didn’t think of these guys during the money conversation last night! The clue’s in the name. Good for Nothing (GFN) is all about doing Good in the world around us – for Nothing. It’s about bringing people together, in their own time, who might never normally otherwise connect, and making amazing things happen, with a common purpose to change something meaningful.

Often the work that’s done by GFN is in support of local charities, enabling them to access skills and experience they could never afford to pay for, and others’ time which can be worth 6 to 12 months’ worth of their own.

The events are run in an adult ‘self-managed / self-organised’ sort of way. People are given the option to choose which challenge they want to work on, then they get stuck in with the other people who’ve chosen that same challenge. It’s a hack. A collaboration. A chaotic brilliant creative environment where stuff gets done. This isn’t about chatting.

Tom and his co-founders started GFN after becoming disillusioned with the day job where they were creating and refining products and packaging that are part of the consumer economy we now have. An economy that we think will bring us happiness. But it doesn’t. And all that packaging that’s been worked on by immense brain-power in large organisations for months…….tweaking, adjusting, perfecting…….goes to landfill. There’s more to life than that isn’t there?

To run, both GFN and Incredible Edible rely on the generosity and donations of local people – web design, sign printing, communications food, drinks, and more. And they access a small amount of funding to remain sustainable.

But isn’t all this a fantastic step in the direction that my son suggested?

Products, time and skills being given freely to benefit others. No expectation of anything in return. Just the warm glow of being part of something good with others who believe in the same stuff, to fulfil a purpose to make a difference.

Currently, as the world is today, these people who give do also need an income to live.

But what if that starts to change?

What if these pockets of brilliance grow and spread?

What if this becomes the way we do business in the future?

What could it be like if there really was no money?

Thank you to Doug Shaw for these great additions –

Alan Watts on “If money were no object” – (just a few mins)

And this – Positive Money – how the current system is totally, well…..bonkers! – (just 4 mins)

WFS TreeThis is me

What if there was no money?

“I’d like a Ferrari and a mansion without having to pay anything for them” was my son’s proclamation tonight which led on to his question of “why do we have money?”.


So I talked about how things evolved from bartering with goods, to coins and then the economy as we know it today (or at least in my simplistic understanding of it).

But he kept asking, yeah, but why do we need to pay for things.  Why can’t we just make the things we enjoy making, and then people can just choose what they want to have.  So people who like building houses will build the houses, people who like building cars will build the cars, people who like making food will make that and take it to the shops and cafes (which don’t take any money).

It did start me thinking about what this world would be like.  Would there be jobs that absolutely nobody wanted to do?  Or would it help everyone gravitate to the jobs they love because there would be no social expectations of the ‘right’ career move, or the job you ‘should’ do, or equally the job you ‘shouldn’t’ do.  Would engagement levels be off the scale?

What job would you do if there was no money in the world?

And his final observation – “the only thing is mummy, I don’t know if you could still do your job in that world because what you do is good and everything but people don’t really need it.”

Now there’s a challenging observation.

Would your job exist in a world where there was no money?

I believe in people being the key to success and that success is unlocked by great bosses. And being a boss is a tough job.  

If you believe in this stuff too, get in touch for a chat and let’s see what we could do together – 07718 316 616 or or take a look at my website to find out more.

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