How often do you stop in the middle of a task and ask Why? Do you consciously consider whether the action you are taking is what you truly want to do, or are you doing it to fit in, or because it’s socially acceptable?
Have you ever considered that perhaps we have been conditioned (from a very young age) by society to conform, accept convention, and just do what is expected of us? What is convention? According to Google it’s ‘a way in which something is usually done’. What bothers me, is the more I observe convention, be it in education, communities, business, or in our lives, the more I realise how much it holds us back. Innovation, creativity, and personal growth, is rarely found in convention. Now, let me be clear, I’m not challenging the richness of beautiful culture and tradition, I’m challenging status quo in our everyday.
The more I ride the rollercoaster that is the evolution of my company BKindred, the more I realise how unconventional approaches seem to serve my growth, the growth of my business and my ability to connect with others. I’ve started to question everything I do. ‘Why?’ has become my best friend. I honestly believe making ‘Why?’ central to our thought processes and using it to disrupt our thinking, is foundational to future proofing happiness and careers. ‘Why?’ makes us curious and open to change, which are two of the most powerful leavers for unlocking innovation, personal growth, and happiness.
Seth Godin believes curiosity is the secret to creativity. He shares,
“we often forget to teach kids to be curious. A student who has no perceived math ability, or illegible handwriting, or the inability to sit still for five minutes, gets immediate and escalating attention. The student with no curiosity, on the other hand, is no problem at all. Lumps are easily managed. Same thing is true for most of the people we hire. We’d like them to follow instructions, not ask questions, not question the status quo. Yet, without ‘Why?’ there can be no, ‘here’s how to make it better’.”
So how do we break the ‘lump’ mentality of conforming, and create the space for more ‘Why?’ in our everyday? Here are three examples that have served me.
1. Unconventional Parenting: As a single mother running a global education business, it didn’t take me long to work out conventional parenting was not going to fit with my life. I found myself in a constant state of guilt and stress, trying to conform to the traditional parenting model. So, I asked ‘Why?’ am I killing myself to conform to something does not serve me, or my happiness, and in turn impacts my son negatively. The answer that I came up with was, that I was trying to avoid the judgement of others on my parenting style. This was a light bulb moment, as I realised that it didn’t really matter what others thought, as they didn’t spend the day walking in my shoes. I decided to stop giving a f..k what others thought about my capability as a mother, and I changed things up in a way that worked for me. Sometimes I pull my son out of school and take him with me on a business trip, (we call these ‘workations’), occasionally he is my + one at a keynote or panel event, (this is the reality of the diversity, and the future of work in my view), I’ve taken him to a ‘fuck up night’ and had a long conversation on the way home about the importance of trying new things, even if it means they don’t always work out. These little tweaks make parenting for me less guilt ridden and stressful. But most importantly, they have expanded the world of education for my son, through real life experiences.
2. Unconventional Image: I have long questioned whether my ripped jeans, gold ankle boots, kimonos and boho dresses are corporate attire. These are the items of clothing that make me comfortable and reflect who I am inside, to the outside world. I started to ask myself ‘Why?’ should I have to wear corporate attire when I meet with a corporate client or deliver a keynote? What’s the worst thing that could happen if I turn up as me, and do I care if they don’t accept me for who I am? I decided that in the work I do, the most powerful message I could send was that I don’t seek the acceptance of others, I seek acceptance of myself. True diversity can only occur when we create the space to bring who we truly are to any situation. So, I started to dress as me. Since I’ve owned my personal style, and worn the clothes that show the real me, I have secured more corporate work in four months than in the whole financial year prior. I realised my point of difference is that whilst I innately understand the corporate world, and know how to create sustainable impact, dressing as me makes me genuine, diverse and more relatable.
3. Unconventional Recruitment: As I mentioned earlier, my unconventional practices have led to business growth, and in turn the need to expand my team. So, when I recently decided to start the recruitment process, I started to think about my past experience in recruiting teams in the corporate world. I thought about my dislike for CVs and how I could never determine the real person from a piece of paper. I thought about how amazing temp and contract staff who had slipped in through the back door, would never have been able to get through the front door, because selling themselves on paper or in an interview was not a strength. I thought about the artificial intelligence tools that are now used, based on keywords to decipher shortlists, and how inhuman this approach was. When I asked myself ‘Why?’ should I conform to conventional recruitment practices, I could find no good reason to do so. I decided to start my own mini #recruitmentrevolution. Rather than ask for CV’s I asked for a three-minute video from applicants, telling me who they were, what mattered to them in life, why they connected to my mission, and what value they could contribute in helping me realise it. I wanted to see the real person, I wanted to feel their story, the result was nothing short of moving. I had 20-year old yogis through to 60-year old executives apply, and each one was real and raw in this process. When it came to shortlisting, I took the human recruitment process one step further, rather than conduct a job interview, I bought the top 5 candidates into a room for an hour. I asked them to share what makes them happy, their greatest struggle in life, what they learnt from the experience, and how they have applied that learning to grow who they are. I cannot explain how powerful and insightful that session was for all who attended. The best part was that even the unsuccessful candidates walked away connected to four other amazing women, who shared the same passion.
If you are seeking a simple yet disruptive way to future proof happiness in your life and your career, I highly recommend getting your ‘Why?’ on. I challenge you to question everything. In the words of George Bernard Shaw
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
At Bkindred, our mission is to teach 1 million women by 2020 how to future proof happiness in work and life. Our goal is to realise gender diversity in our life time, by helping women and organisations make sustainable change. If you’re seeking an innovative approach to diversity and skill building for the future, consider Bkindred for your next team engagement or community event. Click here to find out more about what we do or here to make an enquiry.