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Finding WOW – the Toxteth Riots & Wimbledon Photographers

Regular readers (and those who have just randomly come across my LinkedIn or Twitter profile) will know I like WOW projects. The term comes from Tom Peter’s article in Fast Company magazine back in 1999 that explained that in the new economy, all work is project work. And you are your projects!

He said: “Your goal should be to work in perpetuity with Wow people, on Wow Projects, for Wowable clients.” It’s still true today – and will be in the future.

From the start of my working life, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in some Wow projects with some Wow people. I’ve been reminded of this a couple of times in the last 24 hours.

Firstly, I picked up the paper this morning to find a story about the Toxteth riots being 30 years ago this week. That was the week I started my first job

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– a Trainee Press Photographer at Mercury Press Agency in Liverpool.

I’d not bargained for my first week in employment to involve the coverage of some of the worst rioting on mainland Britain.

I can always remember the phone ringing late at night after the family had gone to bed. I was told that another photographer would pick me up (I didn’t have a car) and would take me to Toxteth where there were some sort of disturbances.

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The first pictures that I took were of riot police dragging away an injured colleague as buildings burned around them. It was scary – but exciting for an 18 year old who had dreamt of being a press photographer. It was what I’d wanted to do through my adolescence.

My mum and dad were concerned – especially when I didn’t arrive home for another 20 hours (that meant I had worked through the night and had no sleep for 30+ hours). I’d photographed the aftermath of people trying to put their lives back together after the riots.

I was back out in Toxteth the next night – and for many more nights over the next month. I witnessed CS Gas being used to quell a riot on the streets of mainland Britain for the first time; photographed a policeman stabbed in a related demonstration; and recorded a protester run over by a police van and then dragged in to the back of the vehicle with his back broken.

I also photographed “Minister for Merseyside” Michael Heseltine being pelted with food by children. It was a baptism of fire for a young photographer – but remains a Wow experience in my life.

This week, I’ve watched quite a few hours of Wimbledon coverage on BBC HD. The quality of images is superb – nearly as good as having a courtside seat. Looking at the background of the TV images, about 60% of the photographers sitting at Wimbledon Centre Court this week were my colleagues up to 1994, when I hung up my cameras. So they’ve continued to have Wow time for 17 years since I left this work behind. I got immense enjoyment from having the best seats in the house at Olympic Games and World Cup Finals with these photographers. It was a Wow!

From Toxteth Riots through to world class sports coverage – I had a Wow experience. Since those times, in the last 17 years, I’ve been fortunate to work on some Wow projects. Including growing and selling a business, winning a National award for technology – and most recently managing to find “funemployment” projects helping a Duchess and creating a children’s cricket charity.

I’m currently on the look-out for the next Wow projects. First step, as you might expect from the title of my blog, is developing my Personal Network for the new challenge. Do contact me if you have anything Wow that I might be able to help with!

Reflexivity – I liked the word so much, I bought the domain name!

May 30, 2011 3 comments

Reading Mrs Moneypenny’s column in the Financial Times is a regular weekend treat. The FT Weekend is the only printed newspaper that I buy each week – and her column is a must read.

Mrs M’s columns can seldom be judged by their titles. This week it’s called “Me, go on a diet? Fat chance”. At the end of the article is a mention of Lynda Gratton’s book “The Shift”. Mrs M tells me she is an expert on the future of work – so I couldn’t resist an explore.

As regular readers will know, as well as extolling the value of Personal Networks – my blog posts track many areas of life. They also touch on my personal quest to find

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a new life after funemployment.

Lynda’s view on life and work is a hit with me – and I’ve only watched her promotional video clip (below) and read the first few chapters of her book (I will do a review when I’ve finished it).

http://vimeo.com/22283151

I liked her focus in the video on three big shifts in thinking:-

=> Forget about being a generalist – learn mastery
=> It’s not about competing – build relationships with your “posse”
=> Decide on the life you want to lead – work to do exciting productive stuff

It encouraged me to download the book and start to read. I’m hooked…

Most importantly, I found a new, cool word to add to my vocabulary “REFLEXIVITY”. It’s hard to find a good definition of “reflexivity”. Wikipedia gives much more than its usual definition – and has different angles from Sociology, Economics and Anthropology! The one I liked the most was from Lynda – “the invention of the self through debate and self-reflection.” She also talks about what she calls “The Rise of Reflexivity”:-

“As families become rearranged, and work groups become increasingly diverse, so people begin to think more deeply about themselves, what is important to them and the lives they want to construct. This reflexivity becomes crucial to understanding choices and creating energy and courage to make the tough decisions and trade-offs that will be necessary.”

In my work on Personal Networks – I seem to be tracking similar lines. I have come to the conclusion that there are probably just three elements to building a successful and enriching life:-

1. Who am I? Understanding who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, what gives you energy, what turns you off, etc. For example, I love the work of people like Usman Sheikh at Identifii (who I wrote about a few months ago) who aims to stop 75% of graduates ending up in jobs they dislike by offering no-cost/low cost psychometric testing.

2. What do I want to do? This is finding the passion in your life that means you fulfil the Confucius quotation: “Choose a job you like and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Was that really Confucius – or just a recruitment agency advert!!??)

3. Who do I know? Having people around you who share your passion, give you energy and will be on the journey with you. Reciprocally balanced by you having the good nature to give more back than you get.

It’s worth taking time out to think and reflect on these things. Getting it right is a life’s work. Reading another article in the FT Weekend by Gillian Tett “Retire? Only in Europe …” Gillians says: “As a 43-year-old Brit, I used to assume I was halfway through my working career, but I am starting to rethink. Could “retirement” eventually turn into a quaint 20th-century idea? Could we all have more “lives” ahead of us than we realise?” A life’s work will mean working all your life.

So reflexivity should definitely be on your to-do list. Anyway, I’ve become the Victor Kiam of words – I liked it so much, I bought the domain name. Coming soon at http://reflexivity.me….

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