TedX Brighton 2015: Standing in the middle of the room



On the 30th October 2015 TEDx Brighton took over Brighton Dome to talk about losing control. These are great sessions to challenge you, your thinking and give you that valuable thinking time often lost in day-to-day work life.

What I particularly enjoy is the diversity of talks and being surprised that I’m interested in a talk that I didn’t even glance at in the handbook. Good to be proved wrong!

There are a couple of talks which stood out – the first I’m going to talk about was from James Thompson – Black Badger Advanced Composites. 

The story started as one might expect with the underdog in school now standing on a Tedx stage owning it. Perfect – a Cinderella story and the silver bullet to achieving is about to be imparted. Then James did something I really liked – he stopped playing the underdog. In fact he stopped playing the underdog when he was 8!

With a severe speech impediment James was not the most popular kid in the school, bullying a normal occurrence. Whilst observing from the edge of the playground, at the age of 8 he made a very adult decision (in fact most adults wouldn’t even do this). He decided to not be weird on the side of the room any more.

He was going to be weird right in the middle of the room.

Two things with this statement, first he had the self awareness and belief to step into the middle of the room. Secondly he didn’t change himself. This is also manifest in his work which I adore. Black Badger Advanced Composites is jewellery using materials and composites from space shuttles and more. He is doing what he loves, making what he wants and lo and behold people love it. Authenticity and creativity comes from those comfortable with themselves, not trying to impress, just doing what they enjoy and do best.

We’ve heard a lot from leaders about standing in the middle of the room. Sheryl Sandburg being one with ‘Lean In’, inviting us to come and sit at the table.

A key theme with individuals who stand out is that they have fallen / been knocked in the past, got up again and are now thankful for that experience. James too had a story of being dropped from a design course with no explanation, after a bit of self reflection off he went and now thanks them for doing it.

This links into my recent article about the Art of Quitting – having gone through this myself I can say that often when it doesn’t go to plan you learn the most and it will put you onto something even more (typically we under estimate ourselves).

The final key learning that James reminded me of is the joy of weirdness, difference, innovators, inventors aka leaders. If you haven’t seen this video already I recommend taking the time to plug in and absorb. Creation of a movement is from one weird, different, challenger who is then validated by one other individual, and then fully accepted when you have a group. It is all about standing in the middle of the room and being your weird self.  (Or in the case of this video go into the middle of a field and dance weird).




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