As we kiss goodbye to 2014, here are my top 14 things I learned this year that may be handy for me to remember and for you too, maybe! (In no order):
1. Understanding kids born in 1997 or after is hugely important
97ers (kids born in ’97 or later) left school this year with GCSEs and headed for college or apprenticeships or work. They are a significant year and I have written and spoken about them here https://mulqueeny.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/all-about-the-97ers/ I know they are significant because every time I speak about them publicly, parents of much younger children thank me for giving them some reassurance that these 97ers exist, and parents of 97ers, like myself, are relieved that their children are doing *good* things – that we will never understand.
2. Reconsider the parenting role in a digital world
My two daughters, dort 1 and dort 2 (not their real names), are now 12 and 17 – “in-between” ages where they are not babies, or toddlers, or doing GCSEs or A Levels – but they are doing great things. This year I learned to trust that they know a lot more about social digital things than I did, and I am a born and bred geek. Now I know to ask my eldest to regularly check my youngest’s activity on social sites. Also, that there is a balance of trust and knowledge that I have developed with age, and how I can use discrimination and empathy to know when I need to learn from them and when I need to guide and teach.
3. Blue-balling emotions is rubbish
The future, with children grown and gone, hovers relentlessly on the horizon and I am looking at the next stage of my life. I can literally do anything, as well as actively choose whether I want to continue this journey alone (as I ended up parenting alone, but not in a sad way), or with someone. I choose with someone – and I must value that and respect the work that takes, and give it equal value (even though it feels egotistical and unnatural for me to do this, ultimately I am allowing my children freedom and I am not blue-balling my emotions).
Isms in all forms have featured this year, much racism as ever with too many young people slaughtered because of race and lots of people because of belief. I find that Buddhism and a Buddhist attitude proves ever more important in its logic (for a geek girl) provides some peace. I wrote about ‘isms here – but more recently I have been struck (and educated) by these three very real conversations: (this article is a very great resource for those who need to explain to children why their music contains words they can never use) and these videos are important to watch:
and also this (but not for the swearing sensitive)
finally these words
… (as in algorithms) are important – mega important. And Facebook used theirs to give everyone a snapshot of their year this Christmas, which created challenges for those who did not want to remember their year, and for the rest of us it reminded us that algorithms are powerful. I have worked hard all year for free on the digital democracy commission – and I know how we all need to take notice of the power of algorithms, and we need to own them, and understand their power and take them back from those who we have inadvertently bestowed the ultimate influence over our every day decisions. Algorithms help people make better decisions – through knowledge not PR. Democracy worldwide will be affected by this <— that is a prediction
6. Crowdfunding is hard.
Last year (’13) I raised money through crowdfunding, it absorbed my every waking hour during the process of raising the funds, mainly because if I did not reach my target I would not get any of the money people had pledged. This year I have raised again, but also encouraged others to try it, for smaller increments, but equally as hard to raise, as their fundraiser may not be as socially compelling, but still as viable. I can give you three fundraising tips:
- save the best for last – play hard to get, give out increments but KNOW that the final push is going to be the greatest, pretend you are dating the love of your life and apply all dating theory
- don’t just shout louder and louder into the same echo chamber of social media – they heard you, they were not interested when it was interesting, they are definitely not interested now you are desperate
- social media strategy has to include target markets and timing (time of day, work/play/weekend/weekday/US/UK) to ignore this is foolish
Also, make sure the crowdfunding vehicle you choose has a good reach, and ideally gives you the money you raised regardless of you reaching target or not in the time limit you set. Only fair.
7. Hiring people – unless you are good at hiring people, do not hire people. Ever. Ever ever.
Even when you think you grew up. Do not hire people. It is a talent, you either have it or you don’t. If you don’t, get very brilliant at writing the job description of the person you need, and pay someone to hire people for you. (You can pay a friend in beer or chocolate, that’s fine, just don’t do it yourself). Ever. Like an alcoholic. You can never hire. You never could. You never will be able to.
8. Founder CEOs that are successful can be numbered on one hand.
If you are a CEO then you are awesome and probably hugely well paid and if you are reading this, looking to start a business (or my mate). I say – find a founder and start a business and read the Beermat entrepreneur (never irrelevant over God knows how many years). If you are a Founder, find a CEO and bow out early (also read Beermat entrepreneur). I wrote about this throughout the year, but have not yet concluded my story, but I am very happy with people whom I trust; it has taken a while to find those I trust totally to run the businesses I founded and poured my soul and mortgage into. Now I need to walk away for a few years and get a job.
9. BOARDS! Get one
Oh my goodness, I always shied away from boards before when I set up businesses because I was/am a control freak and thought they would take away my very clear vision of what I wanted or needed to do (in spite of the odds). In fact, a well-selected small board frees and empowers you. This is so important.
This year I have been to Buckingham Palace so many times it is actually becoming a bit of a chore. I know that sounds vain but it is not. It is a huge privilege, but so is getting my 12 year old from school on time. I worried more about being at the agreed place for my youngest daughter on an Autumnully dark evening than I did screeching in to BP to shake hands and chat with people I know and love hugely, but can see anywhere any time, but felt compelled to do so more vigorously because it was BP. I would rather be with my own family, but I also see the amazing opportunity here for everyone to be able to experience this now that geeks are cool.
If only I could have gifted any one of my invitations to people who would have loved to have been at BP. This year we got some Young Rewired Staters and their families in for a tea and chat with Prince Andrew – I am sure they will remember it forever, I will too – mainly because I could get this photo for everyone (here is what it looks like from the other side – and the Palace is very lovely, but super hot, wear layers)
P.S. I did manage to meet the Queen and forget to curtsey (is spite of my life spent curtseying to people who did not actually require curtseying to, physically or otherwise) but being reassured that I was not alone (by Prince William) basically made up for it – that and flirting with Will.I.AM in BP has to be a highlight of this ridiculous year.
11. The Arts
Music is so important! I have been very focused for many years, on work and children, but I valued silence when alone. This is a massive mistake I now realise. Whilst yes peace is good – music is revolutionary for the mood. And actually, as much as you put time into your family and work, unless you are an artist or work in a museum – music is available to everyone and is an art form that affects us all. Music is important.
12. Being stony broke on a weekend…
Having no money at all is OK, so long as you can plan your way out of it. A few times this year, because of being a business owner and founder, and wholly reliant on it AND moving on, there has inevitably been times in the handover where I am not in control of pipeline (necessarily) and it has all gone a bit awry in the handover. And I have been actually penniless. Yes I have a mortgage and was not in fear of losing that at the time, but actually I had no access to any cash at all just when a wasp decided that the eaves under dort 1 and 2’s room was PERFECT for a nest. That weekend I could not even rustle up twenty quid for the local dude to come clear it for me, I had to wait for a large corp to pay an invoice, and then I could be paid and could bring in a wasp person to clear the 2000 wasps who ended up rooming with the girls. But it was fine. We had tins and pasta to live on and my room is at the back of the house… and middle class problems.. seriously – it was fine. But also it was a lesson! You can appaz have it all, but have nothing, and having nothing in this instance was OK. So I am less fearful.
13. If you can do nothing about the thing you are worrying about, fret not. If you can. Fret not. (paraphrasing the Dalai Lama)
Living in the moment is a challenge to myself from me for 2015. My sig oth is amazing at this, as is my Mum and my Dad. I would like to experience what it is like to live in the moment and accept it and move on *more* than I did in 2014. Every time I did manage to live in the moment, practising extreme Buddhism in time of extreme stress – was hugely powerful, I would like to practise this extreme Buddhism in times of peace and sod all going on, just to see if I can and to see what happens.
14. Finally: Climb a mountain.
We spend all of our lives climbing never-ending imaginary mountains. Climb a real one. I recommend Sugar Loaf in South Wales as a great starter. Take the hard road up, drink pure mountain water in the stream running through the damn valley between you and the top, meander up it with tea and cake breaks, follow the streams or the sheep paths, but take the hard road up. Then enjoy the peak. And take the easy road down. I cannot tell you how powerful it is to actually climb a real mountain, even a little one. I would love to leave you with a powerful mountain image taken from the top, but the problem is they never do justice to the climb, and you have to do it yourself.
Wishing you all a very wonderful 2015, from my family to yours xoxo
PPS Here are my two projects for 2015, based on the above lessons – pretty much!