Getting something done

Ubud Fire2

Three years ago I had my Personal Development Review session with my bosses James Arnold and Jamie Reichman and, for my Christmas present, they said “all we want you to do is execute“. No pressure!

When I said “what do you mean by that”, James (who is a bit like Santa in his hugs and stomach) said “Andy, only you would ask that!”. My insecurity was exposed at that moment in early December 2011.

There is complete truth in all of this.

If James had lighter hair and was not so occupied running the second biggest team at Investec “in his spare time” (as @jamesarnold15 says), he’d be an amazing Santa. As I told my old team this year before I left Investec in August, they were lucky to have a boss that likes a good hug.

But, to the point of this blog.

James and Jamie love me because I can get stuff done which, in a bank, has much to do with being fiercely stubborn, as much as any skill. When you are alone though, seeking out new things, as I am, it’s a very different situation when it comes to finding new projects.

This blog is all about being open about starting out alone, and ‘moving on’ (as some seem to forever say) without James and Jamie and, more importantly, my mate Frank Ray. In football parlance, being without Frank, I am Brian Clough going to Leeds United without Peter Taylor. It’s not that it is impossible alone, I’d just rather have success faster and that doesn’t happen alone.

I turned up here in Bali in October without a plan, a product or a team. Not a lot has changed but I had an incredibly important slice of fortune – I happened to be outside Clear Cafe on the day it burned to the ground taking some family homes and temples with it. If it sounds warped, it isn’t.

Earlier in the year, James and Jamie had paid me and Frank to ‘hang around and have a good look’ – the difference being we were in London working for a bank. On the day of the fire, I was doing much the same as I walked down Hanoman Street in Ubud.

It was shortly after 9.30am on 20 November 2014 when the fire at Clear Cafe started. At 1:24 in this video you’ll see a guy in a red shirt helping out. I know this sort of thing scares my mum, but that is my way when there are emotional matters involved. My fortune was to be there and to feel connected to something important.

I am a little stupid about this type of thing and I do believe in real ambition. I go completely over the top about it, because I don’t believe people in general do enough to encourage people like me to do so.

Let me illustrate.

In January this year, I pitched an idea to James and Jamie for Investec to set up a talent academy to help address the problem in the UK of school and Uni leavers not having the skills to go into business. Unlike most on the daily commute in London, I had six months off work last year to consider this problem and my ‘moment’ came when I read this article in The Telegraph while flying from Borneo to Java in November 2013.

So for me to ‘pitch’ an idea like a business-owned talent academy, it was not just for fun – I was up for it. But, it went nowhere at Investec because I was hired back into a ‘regular’ role and the idea died. No one has asked me to revive it either. We kept doing ‘normal’.

Before I end, and if you have managed to get this far, I did commit fully to one thing this year and it was to lead the Ubud Fire campaign. Today we formally presented it to the Balinese community.

I got it ‘done’, in the way James and Jamie always asked of me. Excuse my thirsty nephew!

Ubud Fire 3


Opening up on starting up

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 10.38.20

This was me in July while filming a video on my last project in London. Our idea was to tell a story about our experience in a very unusual project, compared to anything else I’d done in the bank I’d worked for since 2005. It was, in essence, a start-up venture but with a very vague remit.

Here in Bali, I’m once again in virtually the exact same position, except this time I don’t have my mate Frank here. I mention him as I have come to realise over the last four years that working alone is a really tough gig, especially when the task is murky. But, when there’s two people, it’s a more honest and realistic situation.

This year I have detected a shift towards being open and sharing ideas. I’ve seen it in London’s start-up scene and it’s permeating new ventures like Tribewanted, which I am joining here in Ubud next month. Importantly too, my experience at Hubud and with the Balinese people these last two and a half months, has also been one of openness.

So, I’m opening up with my thoughts (and no doubt some fears) as a personal challenge as I fly solo and as an experiment into thinking by blogging. I’ll be telling the story as I go rather than waiting for the end.

I hope you’ll be brave enough to tell me exactly what you think!

Andy in Ubud