I have this vision


CT Vision.JPG

I bought a book in the first week of January, from this little shop called Zetta Florence in Fitzroy. Picture the most beautiful stationary shop imaginable. It’s a Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, A4 size, plain black cover, lovely rounded edges, and sixty-two big, blank, cream-coloured pages inside. No lines, no grids.

I bought this book because my ideas for Cult Tribal had been sort of converging, congealing into something that was starting to resemble a vision, and I wanted to get it down.

On paper. With my 0.6 Artline 210 pens that seem to be the only things I know how to write with these days. Nobody else likes them. They’re almost a texta. But I like the way they drag over paper, and this is particularly nice paper.

I wrote my name on the first page (which did have a few lines, the only page that did), where it said “Nom”, and my address. Well, the address of the co-working space I’ve been working on when I’m in Melbourne, The Commons in Collingwood. It’s been a good space. It’s where Cult Tribal was founded, and I’ll always be fond of it.

But I won’t be there for long. I’m going to set up my home for Cult Tribal in Adelaide, where I’m going to be based.

I’ve been traveling back and forth between Melbourne and Adelaide for five years now, and god I’ll miss the life I’ve carved out in my little pocket of Northside, with Napier Quarter and Meatsmith and St David’s Dairy and all the colour and dirt.

But it hasn’t been an easy year for my kids, and having them for more than a week over the holidays made it clear that I have to be here for them. We all need a proper home again, not holiday house we all meet back at every other week.

So much changed in my life last year – basically everything, and part of it was reactive, and I just realised that this was a chance to stop and make choices about everything, on purpose.

That can be overwhelming, do you find that? Big decision, one that wouldn’t just involve me. So I sat down with all the variables, and I asked myself “okay, what CAN’T you choose?”

My kids are in Adelaide. They’re not going to be leaving Adelaide until they’re grown up and they leave home, and I need to be with them, not just in my week on every fortnight, but always, even if they’re not staying with me. I need to be close, and available, and connected.

So that made the decision easy. Well, not easy, perhaps, but clear.

And with that one decision – OKAY, SO SET UP YOUR NEW LIFE IN ADELAIDE – came a vision for Cult Tribal. A big, beautiful, shining, inspiring (for me!) vision.

And I’d like to share it with you.

It’s scribbled on the first couple of pages of my big black notebook like some madman’s rambled prophecy. It was meant to be simple, but ideas kept spilling from my brain and onto the page and it sort of filled up.

But it is a bit simpler than it looks, which I’ll attempt to prove to you.

At the heart of this vision, was my realisation of the purpose of Cult Tribal, and indeed, my own purpose.

I did some work last year around my purpose.

There’s a lovely quote by poet Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?”

Or these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well.”

It’s the last bit I particularly like.

I bought a book at the airport by Lisa Messenger, founder of Collective Hub, called Purpose. I signed up for Simon Sinek’s “Find Your Why” online course. I found it quite painful, mainly due to the one English presenter on there (sorry to him, I’m sure he’s an excellent person!). Ultimately I just did a whole lot of soul searching, and some heart searching, and I came up with something around “change the big things, save the world.”

Much to the horror of my good friend and life teacher Nardia, who doesn’t believe the world needs saving. She called it my Batman complex, and punctuated it with the black bird emoji.

But what I realised, in the car one morning after listening to an episode of Seth Godin’s podcast Akimbo, called “It’s Not About The Chocolate”, was that the whole reason I had created Cult Tribal was to change culture. For good. The culture of business, but even more than that, this culture of ours. So full of fear and ego and selfishness and selflessness and hope and love.

I wanted the culture to change, for good. And I wanted to help it change.

There was a time when I wanted to do that with Vinomofo, by setting an example of what a good business could be like, one that was human and transparent and open and honest. It’s hard with a big team and different values.

But with Cult Tribal, it was just me, and the small team I was gathering. We could do it. Working with organisations, one by one, to transform. Sharing this idea of what could be with the world – a new way of business. Human Business.

I’ve been meeting every couple of weeks with a long-time friend and business mentor, Paul Edginton, CEO of SYC, an incredible not for profit who help young people in hard situations. He, too, feels that the culture of business needs to change, and we’ve been working on something we’re calling The Human Business Manifesto.

It’s only a small scribble on the page in my notebook, but it’s at the heart of the Cult Tribal vision. I’ll go into it in more detail in my next article, but think of it as an open-source blueprint for a new, human way of business.

That’s what we’re here for. To change the culture of business. That’s our beacon, and our tribe is everyone who also wants the culture of business to change.

When I made the decision to base myself and Cult Tribal in Adelaide, I had this vision of a space, an epicentre of this philosophy, sort of a womb that would give birth to our contributions to this change. For some reason, it’s two-story, with white-washed timber walls, and a white timber railing on the stairs. An odd detail, I know, but that’s how I see it.

And smart, brave people are working with a gleam in their eye on things they believe in. Things that inspire us all.

There are two parts to the business – Transformation and Creation.

Transformation is taking existing businesses and helping them become Human Businesses.

Transforming brands and cultures and visions and actions.

The agency (which is going really well by the way, and thank you to the partners I’ve been able to work with, for your openness, your vulnerability, and your courage) has started doing this. It’s good work for me and I’ve never been more fulfilled, more driven, more creative, more uncompromisingly connected.

I’m working with good people – Tom, Nick, Andrew and soon Eliza. It’s easy to work together. It’s uplifting.

But I’ve also started working on a product – an online platform that will give people all around the world the tools to be able to transform their organisations. Foundational purpose, brand and culture tools, and an operating framework that helps teams stay connected and focused and deliver.

All built around this idea of Human Business.

We also want to publish a book, and create a festival of human business, and run workshops and events for our tribe, to help spread this idea, this movement.

I’ve been inspired by Business Chicks and a couple of other organisations who bring together like-minded people and help them connect and grow.

And then there’s the creation side.

I have some ideas for new startups, and I want to be able to incubate them within Cult Tribal. (Don’t take too much notice of the scribbled ideas on the image, I was simply letting ideas flow).

These businesses would be living, breathing examples of Human Business, offering something worthwhile to the world.

So I have a vision for Cult Tribal to be an incubator, and perhaps run an accelerator program for other startups to find their purpose and build brands that are beacons to unite their own tribes, and grow into Human Businesses.

Maybe we’ll create a fund for these businesses. Not so much a VC fund, but something reimagined, something more in service of the startups and their founders and teams. IndieVC is an interesting new model for early-stage funding that I’ve been looking at, thanks to Matt Allen. Maybe something like that.

And hey, if the place is big enough, maybe it’s a co-working space as well.

I see this space filled with people all working toward changing the culture of business for good. Either by example, or in service thereof.

Transforming and creating. Aligned, and inspired. 

That’s my vision, though not mine alone. That’s the vision I have for Cult Tribal.

A big task, this changing the culture, I know.

I’ll leave you with this thought, by Seth Godin, who is a constant source of focus for me on what is true and right:

“If we take the bold step, the ecosystem will have to respond, for we will have shown another way.”

Sorry. Too human.

Kissing Anna.jpg


I hope you can hear the apology in my hello. I haven’t written anything here since November 22nd, last year.

I hope you can hear the sheepish shuffling. I know I promised to openly and honestly document this project. It would be easy to say I’ve just been too busy. That things have kind of exploded and I’ve been deep into it all.

But that would only be half the truth.

The other half is that I haven’t felt like I’ve had anything important enough to say. I’ve sat down a few times to to tell you how things have been going, but every time I’ve stopped, and THE VOICE in my head has posed the rather frank question:  

“Who gives a shit?”

HA! Who indeed?

But this morning, an old school friend sent me a message asking about it, which was a lovely and generous thing to do (so thank you Alleyne), and there has been something I’ve wanted to share.

Also it’s good to see you again – an odd thing to type, but that’s how it feels. Guess that’s connection.

SO – I also have something BLOODY BIG to share with you, but next time. Just have to put another couple of things into place, but I’ve truly found my purpose and the purpose of Cult Tribal, and I can’t wait to shout about it to the world. But I’m going to kick it off as an open source project, so I have a couple more things to work out before I do.

In the meantime, I’d like to share something QUITE LITTLE with you, but something quite profoundly moving for me.

I called this chapter “Sorry. Too human.” The sorry is for not writing for ten weeks. Sorry about that.

The second part of the title is really what this is about.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a bunch of partners (let’s go with that instead of “clients”) these last few months , from single-founder startups to global corporations, understanding what they stand for, finding their true purpose, the heart of their brand.

And what has struck me, more than ever in my life, is just how profoundly human and personal this all is, if you let it be.

Now I’ve been standing on stage for ten years talking about the importance of being human in business, so this should not come as a surprise to me. But this is a whole ‘nother level.

Let me try to explain to you without compromising anyone’s privacy.

The very first thing I try to do with someone when we kick off THE WORK is to explore what drives them. What they value. What lies in their heart.

I’m looking for a connection between them and their brand. Something true, so that everything we then look to build the brand from is authentic.

Where that’s taken us each time has been humbling and, well, a little dangerous, quite frankly.

God, we’re so human when we let us be.

Bullied, belittled, dejected, exhausted, unworthy, confused, afraid…

I’ve had founders sharing intimate and vulnerable details of their lives, their upbringings, unlocking insights into what really matters to them, and why.

I’ve seen executives throw up defences and justifications and scramble to the safety of WHAT HAS BEEN, triggered by the fear of WHAT COULD BE, and the uncertainty that brings.

I had a founder ring me the other night to talk not about the work at all, but about the pressure they were feeling, and how it was impacting their family.

I’ve felt at times more like a therapist than a brand marketer or whatever it is I’m supposed to be calling myself.

What right do I have? Surely that’s just too human for business?

Or is it just so fucking incredibly appropriate and RIGHT?

You know what I think? I think we rob our souls of light, or connection to our humanity, when we switch off from being personal.

I think our culture of business is broken, and we need to heal it.

I think we have let things get to a place where people are serving business, where business should be serving people.

I think we’ve gotten so caught up in winning, that we’ve forgotten what it is we’re competing for.

And if we could all be given permission, for just a moment or perhaps forever, to be human – really human, and just ourselves, and that would be alright, it would be enough…

I think we are ready to change.

As organisations, we need to find our place in the world we live in, with its people and the planet that feeds us, and be of service. Take responsibility. Be worth having around. Contribute. Do some good.

I think it’s time for a new era of business.

Or perhaps it’s something of a return to an era of old. Before the industrial revolution. Perhaps this is more of a coming round full circle. Only with some learnings and a better understanding of ourselves and the world.

Too human? Go for it.

Thanks for listening. Can’t wait to share more…

PS. This photo was my first kiss. I was nearly two. Her name was Anna. I know, she doesn’t look thrilled. That’s my sister Natascha in the background, rolling her eyes. We’re in a town in Germany called Albersdorf, where my father Werner was born. He died in December – one of many very human things that have happened since my last chapter of this blog.

I also learned a new word. “Sonder”. It is the realisation that everyone around us has a story. Everyone has their own shit they’re going through. Their own hopes and dreams and fears and challenges.

Too human? No such thing.