Introducing ‘what can we do in these powerful times?’. I want to give you enough of the set up that you can decide whether to listen to the interviews or not.
I start with the description, and give some details on interviewees to date. Then I’ll talk about the format and questions. I’ll end with a bit on where the idea came from and what next.
You can listen to the trailer here:
Each episode starts with the following, which gives you the fundamentals of why I’m doing this:
“It feels like the need for change is growing faster than the impact we are delivering. So, I am wondering what I can do next in my career. Turns out others feel the same.
“Which is why I’m doing this interview series. In 30 minute bites, I ask some brilliant people what they are doing now and why.
“All to inspire and enable the audience (which may turn out to be just me!) through stories grounded in experience.”
So far I have recorded 19 interviews, starting in October 2021. You will hear from people with very different answers to ‘what can we do in these powerful times?’
These range across:
- Academics, creating knowledge for action.
- Entrepreneurs, creating new businesses that are seeds of a new world.
- NGO leaders with missions to make a difference.
- People who have focused on one topic, which reaches deep into our challenges.
- People who work across many issues, but choose based on where their skills can help.
- People who focus on developing people, or giving advice that others can drive wider change.
All are acting in powerful times in fascinating ways — if that doesn’t come across in the interview, then that is my fault. I found doing them energising, inspiring, daunting, and even helpful. I hope you do too.
So far there are 9 men, 10 women. Good on gender balance. Plus age range from early mid-career to retired. But so far everyone is based in Europe, and all white. Going forward, I want to improve on diversity of ethnicities and cultures.
Format and questions
The format is the same each time. I say my set up paragraph, and then ask the same questions:
- What are you doing now, and how did you get here?
- What is the future you are trying to create, and why?
- What are your priorities for the next few years, and why?
- If someone was inspired to follow those priorities, what should they do next?
- If your younger self was starting their career now, what advice would you give them?
- Who would you nominate to answer these questions, because you admire their approach?
- Is there anything else important you feel you have to say?
These questions are trying to get people to talk about what they really are doing. I am not interested in people telling me what I should do, or what others could do. That is abstract, and cost free. Where people are really putting their time tells you so much more about their real strategy for change.
I hope that having the same questions means we can compare different approaches to similar challenges. But sometimes it is a straightjacket. I may tweak the questions.
The interviews were conducted by Zoom. Sometimes the sound can be a bit off. All of the interviews are done as long as there’s no editing. The music and speaking is all done in one flow. And sometimes that doesn’t quite work out. And the all of the interviews aim for 30 minutes or less, but occasionally they drift over and so my apologies for all of the little moves away from where I was intending.
By the way, the music is Kimiko Ishizaka playing ‘Variatio 27 a 2 Clav. Canone alla Nona’ from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations BWV 988, available for free use via the Open Goldberg Variations Project.
Where does all this from?
The idea for the interview series came from a combination of events.
I have been setting up a new initiative within a university. But COVID came along, undermined the funding and showed that it wasn’t going work, at least with me involved. So, I left and, in late 2020, was wondering what to do next.
Then my wife, Jo, was diagnosed with cancer. I put professional exploring on hold. She died suddenly in April 2021. So, I’ve stayed on pause until earlier this year (with some efforts to continue her work on time and child and adolescent psychotherapy).
Jo’s death also threw up all kinds of paradoxical perspectives.
- Lives are for living, and death is inevitable.
- Life is an infinite game, until it ends.
- “We strive towards a larger goal / Our little lives don’t count at all!” (as the young revolutionaries sing in Les Miserables).
- “People will forget what you said,…but people will never forget how you made them feel” (Maya Angelou).
- The time for action is now, and there was never a bigger need to know that we are taking the right action.
A normal job hunt wasn’t going to be good enough. I needed to explore facing the future.
I’ve been experimenting, carefully, in different ways and at different levels. One guide has been Hermania Ibarra’s book Working Identity. Her view, in short:
Changing careers is a transition process of testing different possible working identities. By exploring what we do, who we engage with and the stories we tell ourselves, we can become more fully ourselves.
One part of that is speaking to people on the edges of our networks. People who don’t know our current working identity, and so might imagine us in very different ways. The interviews do that.
Also, the interviews allow me to experiment with a particular identity: creator. My background is physics, accounting and then consulting. I’m not used to being a creative.
The phrase ‘powerful times’ itself is something I’ve taken from an organisation I have a relationship with. The International Futures Forum has a mission to “enable people and organisations to flourish in powerful times”.
I was always really struck by that phrase, is very ambiguous. So the times are powerful. And that implies that they’re full of challenge and turbulence, but also full of potential if only we can figure out ways of acting ways of being that will make that difference.
The phrase is Machiavelli quoting Lord of Siena tells him:
“Wishing to make as few mistakes as possible, I conduct my government day to day and arrange my affairs hour by hour, because the times are more powerful than our brains.”
And this is speaking quite a while ago, obviously, but it still feels very true, particularly in the context as I speak of a war in Ukraine, and so much more.
But as true as that may feel, I don’t think we need to resort to only being reactive and only acting hour by hour. I think there is something more and different we can do. Individually and collectively.
More interviews. If you know someone who might be good, including yourself, get in touch. You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Powerful_Times.
I’m especially interested in people who bring different perspectives than I have heard so far, so people from other cultures, ethnicities and countries.
More sense-making. When I get to 30 interviews I will do something to pull the insights so far together.
More experimenting. With other ways of answering the challenge in the question: what can we do in these powerful times?
Looking forward to hearing what other people make of what they hear. Please listen, and please let me know.
Thank you — David
Updated: Thu 26 May for sense and general tidy up.
You could do worse than interview Silas Siakor
A fascinating background which was recognised when he won the Goldman Prize.
Best regards, Andrew
@Andrew — thanks for the suggestion! — David