Helping People to Exist or Become?

I have been banging on about enterprise as being a process for the emergence of identity for a long time now.  Enterprise provides the (nearly) perfect vehicle for us to explore our talents and passions and have the results of our efforts judged in real time by real people.  When you are enterprising honest feedback is always available.

But I have been nowhere near strong enough on this.

Enterprise is a process for creating and shaping lifes – NOT for increasing the start up rate.

This was brought home to me again last night listening to Frazer Irving at the Leeds College of Art.  Frazer told us the story of his journey from schoolboy geek reading (and loving) comics to becoming a professional illustrator and artist working on some of the top comics in the world and providing artwork to support advertising campaigns for blue chips.

Key elements in his journey were:

  • lots of study – school, college – taking every opportunity to develop his talent and passion – and having the strength to survive crass and damaging teachers – “Frazer – don’t waste your time on comics – when I was editing Women’s Weekly we sold 4 million copies every week – how many copies do comics sell?”
  • lots of ‘suffering’ – crap jobs, dole, survival – but still developing the passion
  • persisting long enough to ‘get lucky’ with some breaks – (funny how years of practice and development of his craft finally got him the ‘luck’ he needed…)
  • a real and enduring passion for his work – talking about the importance of ‘the muse’

Now just imagine Frazer had come to you as a young graduate (2:2), currently holding down a string of temporary jobs (selling sex toys, security guard, office work etc) and told you that he wanted to become a freelance illustrator, not just working for top comics like 2000AD, but providing his own innovative style of illustrations.  Doing HIS stuff – that at the time no-one was publishing.

Would you have the type of service that could really help him with what is inevitably going to be a long journey?

Could you support a journey measured in years, possibly decades, rather then weeks or months?  Will your funders let you?  Do you have the ability to support that kind of relationship?

Could your service help him to persist, survive and develop as he worked his way around Europe developing his experience, style and technique?

Would your relationship have had the strength, compassion and faith in his potential to endure while he became something TRULY excellent?

While he served a REAL apprenticeship (this was no government scheme designed by employers – this was real self discovery) that gave him a platform to become excellent – could you have maintained your support?

Or, in a possibly unconscious pursuit of quick fixes dictated by funding streams and service design, would you have tried to persuade him that his passion was OK as a hobby- but never really going to turn into a lucrative career?

“Do you know how many illustrators send their portfolios to 2000AD every week?”.  “Now let’s talk about how we can increase your sales of rampant rabbits.  Have you ever thought of setting up an e-bay shop?  We have a one day workshop….”

Frazer was lucky.  He knew what he wanted to become and he held onto that dream for long enough for it to become a reality.  Many of our clients stopped dreaming a long time ago.

So my questions are:

  • Should enterprise services be designed to provide short cuts to economic survival, or, to help support the long term development of human potential?
  • Which of these will create greater value in the long term?
  • What are you trained, and your services designed, to achieve – REALLY?

Time for a policy, strategy and service redesign anyone?

People really are our greatest assets and we are often not investing in them well.

One Reply to “Helping People to Exist or Become?”

  1. I am currently re-reading Sir Ken Robinson’s brilliant book “The Element” which is sub-titled “How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”. Sir Ken explores the educational experiences of a number of people who have become successful in their spheres and demonstrates that most were failed by their formal education, and reveals how, in a number of cases, they were actively discouraged from doing the very thing that later made them successful.

    I think “geek” is the latest insult for someone who has a passion for something and wants to pursue it with dedication. Our society (and our education system) thinks there is something wrong with this, and that we should all be encouraged to be generalists. But, that old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none” persists, so there is an element of common wisdom that recognises how expertise can be acquired.

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