A catalyst for change

A catalyst for change

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'Do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you.', writes the founder of The International Exchange

It was November 2004, in Cape Town, and I was sitting in the congregation at my uncle’s memorial.

My uncle was always a huge inspiration to me.

He fought tirelessly against apartheid in the field of worker’s health, supporting trade unions in their battles for healthy workplaces, found himself sprayed with purple paint on one occasion when he was part of a team of medics supporting a protest march (it was a way to tag those fighting against the regime), and he was appointed as Nelson Mandela’s personal doctor during the first round of negotiations with the Apartheid government.

Whenever I would go to South Africa, I would be captivated by his stories of struggle, determination, bravery, and hope. 

He believed in something, to his core, and he fought for it.

As someone who grew up in Canada, I didn’t know what that felt like. Life for me was so safe, so easy, so perfect.

His memorial was a turning point.

I looked around, and the room was full of people from his life: medical colleagues, comrades from the struggle, friends and of course family.

But what really struck me were the stories that were told by people from the townships, whose lives had been dramatically impacted by my uncle. I can still picture two of the people that went to the front of the room to share their memories of profound darkness, and how my uncle in many cases was the light, even in the face of significant adversity. 

That day changed my life – and was a big catalyst to the creation of TIE, the social enterprise I founded in 2006.

I realised just how powerful it is to expand your personal circle and to spend as much time as you can with people in professions and backgrounds different from your own.

And this is a huge part of TIE.

I often say ‘the quality of our output is influenced by the inspiration that we seek. And there is only so much inspiration you get from going to Pret A Manger at lunchtime’.

A couple of years ago I asked John Hegarty, one of our advisors, and Co-Founder of the ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, to share some of his pearls of wisdom for TIE.

Anyone that knows John, knows his mantra of ‘do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you.’

And that certainly includes the power of expanding your personal circle.

John identified six tips on how to unleash your potential:

All rooted in the power of being brave, and approaching life in a way you wouldn’t normally.

1. Be constantly curious to be constantly inspired. Keep asking questions, don’t accept the status quo and keep pushing yourself. You never know what next great innovation is waiting to be discovered.

2. Push through boundaries to unlock potential. The best way to open your mind and learn is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and be truly challenged. The TIE experience has a lifetime effect on how people respond to situations and their competence.                  

3. Don’t get caught up with the little things. You want to always be looking at the big picture. And not get stuck on the small details.

4. Be brave and dare to be different. When you are starting out it’s much easier to take big risks. No one knows you and failure doesn’t stick.

5. Expand your personal circle. Spend as much time as you can with people in professions different from your own. Talking to people in different industries about what they do is fascinating. It opens channels in your thinking you didn’t know were there.

6. Look for inspiration in the unexpected and the difficult. You have got to read stuff outside your comfort zone, as well as do things you love. I regularly read the Financial Times. I only understand about 10% of it, but that 10% can be inspiring in unexpected ways.


By Philippa White, Founder and Managing Director, The International Exchange

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Author: The Marketing Society
Posted: 21 Jun 2018
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