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.”