Daily Story Digest #1

I’m having a go at using a short daily e-mail to make a sort of illustrated serial out of stories from the trip.?? I’m going to publish a digest of them here every week.?? This is the first.

If you’d like to get these straight to your mailbox every weekday morning you can sign up here.

Please help me improve on this – let me know in the comments what you like and what could be better – either about the daily e-mails or this digest format.

“To begin at the beginning…”

“To begin at the beginning” that’s all I’ve got in my head, Richard Burton’s voice booming out of one of those big wooden loudspeakers.?? But what is the true beginning of this tale of risk, adventure, romance and laughter??? Mmmm… well let’s just start with a conversation between friends.?? If we have to backtrack at all then we will, but for now let’s start with December 3rd 2009.?? We (assorted members of the Tuttle Club) are at the ICA celebrating the completion of some fascinating work with the British Council’s thinktank, Counterpoint, applying our social artistry and consulting skills to their complex organisational environment and helping them find new ways to engage with people online.??

We’re talking.?? We’re tuttlers, that’s what we do.?? And so the story emerges from a conversation.?? I say something like “I want to go to SXSWi again this year, but I don’t want to just flit in and out.?? Maybe we could fly to somewhere over on the east coast and then trek across somehow.”?? Yes! voices are raised.?? Yes! and little eyes light up.?? Steve Lawson talks about his low-carbon touring approach.?? Sara Haq reminds us of the Overland Project.?? Yes! we’d be up for something like that.?? Yes! we could make a movie as we go along.?? And I have the familiar sick feeling beginning deep within that we’ve started something that will soon have irresistible momentum.?? Something a bit scary, but exhilarating.?? A new piece of social art.

Here we go again…

“Practicalities”

So we have an idea, a plan, a scheme. It’s exciting and we’re all up for it. Yeah!

And so to practicalities. But first we have to descend through a layer of fantasy practicalities – the cool ways that someone else once did something quite similar to this but, well, “who knows unless we try, right?”

These are not actually practicalities at all, they’re still part of imagining. They’re a method we use to convince ourselves that we’re not crazy even if we’ve just had a crazy idea. They’re more justifications than practicalities. But that’s not always a bad thing and anyway they also open you up to even more audacious possibilities, thus: “Then if we do that, it means we could probably do this other thing too and that would *totally* rock.”

We really do need to get down to practicalities though, oh yes. Which basically means: “Um. How much is this going to cost? Where might we get the money? No, really, where? What do we actually have that we can depend on? Hmmmmm…this may be trickier than we thought.”

“The Point”

Days pass, weeks pass… oh. my. goodness! we’re at the point. The point of no return.?? The point of make or break.?? The time when we decide whether we’re going to do this thing or slink off into the February gloom and start planning for something else, something less daring, something more boring.

Of course, three months down the line, we all know that we pushed ahead, pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and went for it.?? But there really was a time when I didn’t know if we were going or not.?? In truth, this “point” stretched out over a few weeks, and, at least from my own point of view, the period of uncertainty didn’t really end until I was sitting on Long Beach enjoying the Californian spring sunshine.?? But in London, in February, Brian, Heather and I had to decide whether to pull the plug or to embrace the uncertainty, to set off and let the story unfold, even if that involved spending our own money and a lot of “whistling in the dark”.

Well I wrote in the first Tuttle Annual Report:We don’t know how all of this will turn out. We’ve never known, to be honest, but at times when we had to make a decision (like moving location to the ICA for example) I was happy to hold the uncertainty on the group’s behalf and say that while I didn’t know what was going to happen next, I was sure it would be OK and that I would do everything in my power to ensure that it was OK. It’s been important for me to establish from the start that I didn’t have all the answers.

And that seemed to fit here too.?? So, y’know, we went.

(photo credit: Paul Clarke)

“The Kindness of Strangers”

Dealing with uncertainty was not just about taking a deep breath and jumping in.

This diagram was an attempt to draw together what we knew and didn’t know before we started the trip.?? My name and Brian’s name in red, for example, means we didn’t know where we were going to stay.?? This all worked out more beautifully than we could have imagined but that’s a story for another day.?? The blue bits are what we knew about where we would hang out – and if we didn’t know where, then who was helping.

So this doesn’t acknowledge the help we got from people before we started.?? People we didn’t know at all, who just popped up in our facebook and twitter streams offering help.?? Stephanie Frost in Atlanta, Georgia was one of them – organising a tweetup in a bar for us and persuading Mike at Ignition Alley to let us hang out there all day.?? I didn’t get the importance of this at first, though I was amazed?? and appreciative of all the work people like Stephanie did for us, I was still wanting to be as self-reliant as possible – I saw it as a bug, not a feature.?? Later on, I would see that relying on the kindness of strangers, giving people the opportunity to do something useful and pleasurable and interesting was a vital part of keeping the flow going and the more we asked for, the more we were given.

So thank you, all of you, not just for what you did, but for helping me learn that lesson.

“Wanderers”

In typical style, I’ve blundered into telling you the story without introducing you to the splendid cast of characters.?? This is Brian Condon.?? I met Brian at Tuttle about 18 months ago – he is typical of the fascinating people that Tuttle has introduced me too.?? Very clever, curious, always on the go.?? He showed me the plans for what has become the Centre for Creative Collaboration (#C4CC) soon after we met.?? I smiled and nodded and told him to let me know how I could help if it ever got off the ground.?? We then worked together on the first Tuttle Consulting gig and as a strategy consulting old-timer, he sees how radical and powerful this approach can be.?? He does great audioboos.

Brian and I both have migrants in our heritage.?? You can tell from our names that we’re not from round here.?? So it shouldn’t be surprising that we found ourselves rambling across a big country.

Brian set out first.?? He was our scout, going off to see interesting things in Toronto to help think about #C4CC before heading south-east into the Land of the Free.?? I first got a real taste that we were going on a journey and we’d be writing about it, y’know like real travel writers, when I saw this post pop up from Brian just after he crossed the border from Canada.?? I was also hit with the realisation of how long our journey was going to be and how far away it all seemed.??

Sitting in London, on a chilly February day looking at pictures from a man surrounded by snow,?? I started to sweat.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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