Ever felt over-committed? Of course you have. It happens to us all. On a different day, agreeing to show up at two events in an evening, not exactly close together, seemed fine. On the actual day, it didn’t. Tired and wishing I was on my way home, I trudged from St James’s Park station staring at Google Maps.
I wasn’t expecting to meet anybody familiar at the first event. I was recruited as a mentoring volunteer in lockdown and my only contact lives in North Wales. But, as part of my consulting practice, I help people who find networking with strangers on a par with tooth extraction. I do too, to be honest.
Unlike many of my clients, I know the benefits always outweigh the risks. The only way to do it is to jump straight in. I introduced myself to a group of three in deep discussion. My standard line is roughly, “sorry to interrupt, but I’m David and I don’t know anyone. May I join in?”
In a different venue and the wrong part of town (we’ll be there shortly) it might provoke a different reaction. But I had a great conversation with one of them and now we’re connected on LinkedIn and exchanging stories and ideas. It works.
The best was yet to come. The star turn was the two hosts and founders of All Together. A not-for-profit organization that exists to help young companies. They’ve convinced some seriously successful people to offer their services for free to energized but cash-poor entrepreneurs.
The community they’ve built and the support they’ve generated is a significant help to the next generation of leaders who, like all of us, need support and advice to get them where they need to be without too many slip-ups.
There are many well-meaning but ineffective organizations out there. Often trying hard, but in the end, only managing an average job. All Together provides simple, practical help and focused information to enable companies to scale successfully. It’s all the idea and hard work of Gussy Hydleman and Jamie Mitchell.
The evening was only half over as I made my way across town to a basement in Denmark Street, Soho.
If you’ve not seen or heard of Fantastic Negrito, look him up here. The conventional way of launching a new album on stage is to slip in two or three tracks among some crowd pleasers and hope it does the trick.
Not Fantastic Negrito. He showed a 40-minute home movie, based on the discovery of his slave grandfather and Scottish grandmother. This is the story his new album tells.
He was nowhere to be seen, so we just stood and tried to make sense of it. Then he appeared—drinking tea—and it was time for a 45-minute Q&A. Just like Jamie’s earlier. The themes were different. Being from Oakland, California, Fantastic Negrito didn’t discuss UK start-ups.
He’d built his “business” with the help of others, too, which he widely acknowledged. He was clear, honest and positive. He talked about his ups and downs and how he’d discovered his unusual history and the effect on his life. “I’m not who I thought I was, but I’m happy with who I am.”
Then it was over to the music, just him on acoustic guitar with a keyboard player. Passionate, emotional, moving—but again, you had to be there.
What can we make of this? The similarities of my contrasting hosts, Jamie, Gussy and Negrito were indisputable. Genuine people with important messages to put across. All understood that positivity, realism and humility provide the best chance to change the world they believe in.
There are a lot of miserable people around. Complaining without hope or remedy. On a wet, dark evening in central London, I saw three people teach a different approach to challenge and adversity.