I sat hunched over a bowl of udon and tried hard not to get soup down my front as I had worn a brand new shamelessly self-promoting and exclusive ‘The Cycle Diaries’ T-shirt. I love the design but can’t help think that white was a bad choice of colour especially as my eating method has a lot in common with Jackson Pollock’s painting method.
Besides that my other concern was whether or not I’ll be able to resist the caipirinhas at the bar of Guanabara, the setting for the Escape the City winter party titled ‘Start Something You Love‘. The overriding feeling, though, was one of eager anticipation…the boys Rob and Dom, the founders of Escape the City had put together a stellar line-up of speakers: Lara Morgan, the founder of Pacific Direct, Zarine Kharas a corporate fugitive and founder of JustGiving.com and the final two speakers being, for me, the most hotly anticipated: The adventurers Al Humphreys and Ed Stafford. I took another slurp of my soup, checked for conspicuous red splashes down my front and headed on towards the Brazilian club
Inside the bowels of the club it was warm and humid and I found myself feeling pretty smug about wearing a shamelessly self-promoting and exclusive ‘The Cycle Diaries’ t-shirt in the freezing cold London evening instead of a jumper like any other sane person. I pulled up a chair next to the press gang table…strategic thinking from me there (yes, I do think and sometimes even with a purpose) and surveyed the rest of the vocational adventurers as they enter. I’m disappointed to find that I’m the only person wearing a shamelessly self-promoting and exclusive t-shirt…not even Matt put his on, though he did confess to liking the design. My smug air evaporated and I returned to my more unself-confident norm with the realisation that I looked like a compete dork…consolation came in the form of red wine….
Rob Symington and Dom Jackman founded www.escapethecity.org about a year ago as a solution to the quandry that bears heavily upon the shoulders of most (about 60%) of us corporate desk jockeys which is that exciting alternatives to high paying corporate jobs are difficult to find, so Rob and Dom built a site to provide motivation, connections and opportunities. Through the proper application of effort and clever marketing the guys have today managed to get over 22’000 subscribers to the site, they are used by many companies including Matt’s beloved Innocent Smoothies.
The first speaker of the evening, Lara Morgan seemed to not breathe between sentances and belted out pertinant points regarding entrepreneurship so quickly that it was hard to keep up and get the valuable nuggets of advice down on paper, fortunately she hammered home each pearl of wisdom with humour and plenty of swearing…there’s nothing like a well timed ‘F*ck’ to get the point home I always say
Lara confessed that she had no clue when she started out 10 years ago and little capital, £350 was what she started with and had £17k in reserve of her own savings, yet she kept as much equity in Pacific Direct as she could. She lauded the Cranfield Business Development course as being of massive help to her and the importance of being able to sell…this is her one skill (though I reckon being able to talk for a solid 20 minutes without breath is also a key strength).
Next up was Zarine, who having been both a city banker AND a corporate lawyer had a massive debt to repay to society and by founding JustGiving.com she has done just that and then some…over $1billion raised for charity so far and counting…(fyi: you can add to that figure here: www.justgiving.com/thecyclediaries)
Several points were emphasised in both talks:
- The brutality of business
- Shit happens so be as flexible as possible to be able to deal with the unexpected
- It’s important to be a people person and leave your ego at the door because when you strike out on your own (or try and get sponsorship!) nobody cares who you are but you should always persevere regardless of the set backs…both entrepreneurs took 10 years before their business success was assured
- You do not require a ‘eureka moment’ but if you take on something make sure you do it leaner, faster and better than the competition
- Be a little bit different, a bit quirky to stand out from the crowd.
For a complete transcription of the event drop me a line or leave a comment and I’ll send it to you, but good luck reading it…my writing looks like spider shit!
I’d like to thank both Lara and Zarine, although focused on business start-ups they dished out a ton of good advice for acheiving your goals no matter if they are starting your own shamelessly self-promoting ‘The Cycle Diaries’ t-shirt printing business or the small matter of cycling 13’000 miles around the world.
After a short respite (read: more red wine, no splashes down white shamelessly self-promoting and exclusive ‘The Cycle Diaries’ t-shirt, happy days!) Al Humphreys was up and gave a great talk summarising some of his latest adventures and how he got started.
His most hard hitting point was brought home by the use of the death clock, as Al re-inforced the FACT that your time is infinitely more important than money so why fritter it away by plodding through a life that you don’t enjoy…CHANGE IT! After all, to quote Al quoting Dr Pepper ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’
Finally, once the raptuous applause for Al had died down, Ed Stafford took to the stage to recount his epic walk down the entire length of the Amazon river and did remarkably well to convey the story of his epic journey within 20 minutes…a journey that took him over 2 years to complete, Ed told it with such hilarity that he made the most arduous parts of the journey seem like a bit of a laugh…I’ve now added ‘cycle the route of a great river whilst getting accosted by the indiginous peoples, threatened with death and starvation’ to the to-do list reassured by the knowledge that when I get back home people will absolutely piss themselves at my tale of suffering and strife.
To finish off the event there were some tunes supplied by the esoteric Mr B the Gentleman rhymer and his banjo…coming straight out of Surry!
As ever, hearing of Al’s and Ed’s tales served to build us up into a state of excitement regarding our own adventure that I had to stop myself from hopping on my bike and riding to France when I got home (to be fair the red wine assisted, shamelessly self-promoting and exclusive ‘The Cycle Diaries’ t-shirt still wine free…though I did manage to draw on it in red pen…a victory for idiocy yet again!)
To conclude, I’m very glad we went to this event and we learned a hell of a lot from guys who really know what they are talking about and though we have already begun our life changing expedition there maybe some of you out there who have not and, should you desire to start something you love I suggest you take a look at www.escapethecity.org as there isn’t a better place to begin.