Closing this experiment

Returning to reality, my final blog

After returning from Myanmar last week, I visited my friend’s place in Pejang to look the bathroom extension I helped fund. It looks great and she’s already secured a tenant for a year. That will mean the project will pay for itself in just one year.

So, I’m happy that has worked out. It’s one of the few things that have gone smoothly on this journey, along with the Songan Pipeline Project, that I have mentioned in previous blogs.

I’ve decided to stop writing this ‘startup’ blog because I don’t have a startup nor does it actually help me. If anything it is a comforting distraction. I can write for Africa and I do often. The honesty now is that this experiment is not working for me.

I’ve been here quite a while now 

It’s nearly six months since I arrived in Bali and I’ve not yet found a project that has captured me – one where I can spend lots of time on it with someone that shares a similar vision. Maybe I was deluded in thinking there would be more people like me here in Bali. There don’t seem to be.

The Tribewanted Trip to Myanmar was a great experience because it was focused on the community, looking into actual opportunities, not manufacturing them, as ex-pat businesses here are, in the main, trying to do, while having very low costs. There was no mention of ‘niche’ there and it was exciting.

If we do something out there, it will be a ‘startup’ of sorts. But, like the other ideas I have been trying to get moving, it will be a slow process.

I can’t wait around forever, without knowing what the next day will bring. I need to re-think my approach and I’ve decided not to do it here, online. Part of the reason for this decision is that I’d hoped that more people would be interested in what I write and have opinions they’d share.That hasn’t happened.

The Realities of Starting Again in Bali

I am not a digital nomad or a location-independent worker. That much is clear to me. Unlikely my colleagues at Tribewanted Bali, I am also not on a ‘workcation’ (as our friend Liza Jansen calls it).

I’ve been trying to establish myself here and I’ve found it far harder than I expected it to be. A friend asked yesterday what my objective was where I came to Bali. I responded: “To try something different”.

The question is: have I tried hard enough? 

It’s a hard one to answer. What I know for sure is that I have not settled into any sort of routine. It’s been desperately lonely at times.

I thought there was a decent chance of something emerging out of Hubud or Tribewanted but that hasn’t happened. There have been plenty of people asking me to help with things on a voluntary basis, but I have come to know that where there is no feeling of value being exchanged, it is deeply un-motivating.

For example, when I got back from Myanmar, there was an email asking me to help with a business plan, but without offering anything in return. Sure I’d get something out of the experience, but surely the proposer has to be a bit more proactive in making a suggestion of value for me?

I have been very outspoken over the last six months or so about corporates because of the pain they inflict on their employees, not directly, but more subtly. I have connected with many people that believe the same, so I know that I’m not alone in my thoughts on this. The only difference is that I have the guts to say what I think.

Maybe this has ultimately hampered me, in the sense of being a distraction?

What has my contribution actually been?

In short, to meet lots of Balinese, as a means of establishing friendships and a place in the community. I think I have done that pretty well. The only other guy to have a similar experience is the youngest guy in the Tribe, Tommy.

Ironically though, it’s come at a cost of sorts: I’ve not really managed to establish myself in the Hubud community, or Tribewanted. The projects/partnerships I hoped would happen, haven’t.

For example, Jero’s Kitchen (a Balinese cooking class) was, in my mind, a nailed-on certainty to be assisted by the Tribe after Ben, Jake and Janine experienced it. I’d foreseen it being a weekly thing, but it did not happen. I ask myself what did I do wrong here and I don’t know the answer.

A second was selling tickets to a fundraiser at PKP Women’s Centre. While my sister managed to get four sewing machines back in NZ, I couldn’t shift £5 tickets. Brian from Tribewanted was there but that’s pretty much it from the Bule/Immigrant/Passing Through community.

I feel like I have made a contribution to the Balinese community, but at the same time it feels a bit hollow. If I am ever asked what my skills and strengths are, I always say to lead and motivate. Here though, I’ve not managed that.

For example, I have an idea to link all the 15-20 Balinese businesses I have come to know on a website or app. I see this as important, because they are all 100% Balinese with no foreign ownership. This should appeal to visitors.

Often these folks are not skilled in using computers and their written English is not as strong as their spoken language. Yet, they run good, authentic businesses and are great people.

I have spoken to many folks, both Bule and Balinese about the idea but nowt has happened. I’ve tried to get Hubud to help out, I’ve tried our Tribewanted crew too. I’ve had no success.

And, I actually don’t know what the reason is. What I know for certain though is that the constant is me.

So, it’s my failure.

What it all means

Naturally, this gets me down. I am lucky to have relative financial freedom, enough to have a go at this experiment and give myself to the people of Bali.

But, there comes a point where one has to be honest with oneself and ask the hard question: What am I getting out of all this and where is it all heading?

I’m at that point now.

An unexpected twist and trip to the convict colony

A lovely cafe in the Katik Langtan village near our house.

A lovely cafe in the Katik Langtan village near our house.

I’m sitting here in a cafe next to a rice field near the house I share with three other Bule in the village of Katick Langtan, near Ubud. In a few hours from now, l’ll be flying to Sydney, something I’d not contemplated this time last week.

Then, two days after climbing Bali’s three highest volcanoes inside 24 hours, I decided to spend a couple of days at Bali Silent Retreat. I’d been thinking about trying meditation for a long, so I headed there last Sunday and it was a peaceful mini break (which I may write about another time).

The site of Bali Silent Retreat near Tabanan

The site of Bali Silent Retreat near Tabanan

After two days of clear thinking ‘space’, I returned to Ubud on Tuesday with a good idea of what to focus on: health (inspired by the 3 Peaks Challenge completed while woefully unfit), working with Pieter Moorman on our online course for startups, and planning the Balinese craft workshop with Dek, Deco, Ketut and Arcana to be held at the same time as Bali Spirit Festival (31 March to 5 April).

Before I continue, I must make mention of the 3 Peaks. It was an idea I dreamed up when climbing Mt Batur in November – I even made a promotional video at the top! I mentioned it to a couple of the lads at Tribewanted and next thing we were doing it. Ben Keene has written a great post on it.

Me, Liza, Ben Keene, Janine, David and Ben Saul-Garner - the six Tribewated 3 Peaks survivors!

Me, Liza, Ben Keene, Janine, David and Ben Saul-Garner – the six Tribewanted 3 Peaks survivors!

So what happened? 

Within 5 minutes of getting back to Ubud, getting my haircut and generally tidying up my appearance, I was asked to lunch by Pak Dave Fogarty and Olivier Pouillon and I finished up being asked to run a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Olivier’s super cool Cash for Trash project – the winning team from Startup Weekend Bali back in November. I’m pondering that one.

If that was a tremor to my focus, the email I received from Suncorp Insurance was a monster eruption! And I’m not talking about a premium increase.

In amongst all the usual crap in my inbox (not your email mum!) there was an invite to go to Sydney for Suncorp’s ‘sensing’ day working with the leading ‘future of finance’ firm, Anthemis of London.

I was ‘humbled’ (I take that to mean … I cant find the words) that Frank Ray and me had been invited. It was our New Way of Working video that caught Suncorp’s attention back in October. We really thought that lead had gone dead, but here we were being invited to join in a pretty serious event.

Over the two days at the Silent Retreat, I had thought a lot about my professional worth as I feel at age 39 it is diminishing. Others of my mates are feeling the same thing. To be asked to join a group that I could not even say I see as my peers (they are a long way ahead in my eyes) was both flattering and incredibly lucky.

So, I decided I’d go, even if Frank couldn’t (he is in Surrey with his wife Julia and two daughters). He made me promise that I’d ask Suncorp to cover my costs, which I did and they are paying! I’ve never been invited to an event in my profession, let alone not have to pay the $1500 costs of attending.

Last time I was here was with my great mate Jeremy Wallis watching Aus v India at the SCG in 2008

Last time I was here was with my great mate Jeremy Wallis watching Aus v India at the SCG in 2008

I don’t know much about what will happen at Suncorp on Tuesday but what I do know, as Frank has reminded me today in a video message, I have been invited to go because they see value in my views and opinions. I have become pretty radical in the last 12 months and most people don’t get what the hell I am on about. What they don’t know is how much thought goes into what I say, which goes all the way back to one month, alcohol-free, doing yoga in Bali 12 months ago.

It seems Suncorp gets it. We’ll see on Tuesday.

 

An added bonus

I had a text from my dear friend Bec Cass today saying (again) how in love with cricket she is, while the World Cup is on in my homeland, New Zealand. As it happens I watched the Rugby World Cup final with Bec at a pub breakfast in Islington in October 2011.

Apart from a few hours watching England get trounced by the convicts a week or so back with Ben Keene, I’ve not watched any of the tournament. I could go to Kuta and watch it surrounded by West Australian bogans, but no thanks.

So, while there are no games on in Sydney while I am there, I’m looking forward to watching a lot of Channel 9 and Wide World of Sports. Life has changed a lot since I interviewed Richie Benaud at the Adelaide Oval in 2004, though I still have the Beige Brigade shirt I was wearing that day, with me here in Ubud.

A final word(s)

If you enjoy reading what I write, please share it with others. I write because I enjoy it and it helps me think and I am trying to be more honest with myself by doing it.

Finally, if anyone can work out how to get rid of the black box covering Ketut’s face at the top of the page, please let me know.

A new job and BIG lessons from the Balinese!

Sunday in Sanur with Bali’s best team

I’m sitting under the shade of the sun on Sanur Beach as a lucky guest of the Bali Spirit Festival (BSF) team. It might bother a few Bule that Yoga Barn and Kafe are closed, so there was no ecstatic dance or coffee today, but it doesn’t bother me. Let me explain why.

BSF is the creation of Pak Kadek Gunarta and his New Yorker wife Meghan. When people stopped coming to Bali after the Christmas/New Year period in 2003/04 following the Bali bombings, Dek and Meghan decided to do something about it – they created a festival to revive the island, based in beautiful Ubud. Ten years on, they are ‘ambition’ – they’ve tried and won.

Who else can say the same? I can’t. I’m here today after agreeing a deal to work for Dek. He calls it slave labour, I see it as an the best opportunity I have ever been offered.

In short, Dek wants me to bring a bit of Bule into his team of Balinese. The ‘problem’ Dek has is explaining his projects to the rest of the world. The problem I have is the lack of a ‘sponsor’ to get the Bule who live in Ubud involved in the community.

Are Bule tight or stupid?

I could say most Bule that come to Bali as ‘digital nomads’, to build businesses and live super cheaply, are taking the piss by not involving themselves in the community. However, I’m not prepared to … yet.

Part of this logic is that I’ve not done enough myself. What I will say though is that the Bule are an odd bunch. Yesterday there was a brilliant evening of Balinese culture in Tegallalang, run by Ibu Sari, founder of PKP Women’s Centre. As an aside, my awesome sister, Bec, is running a campaign to get Sari more sewing machines!

Sari had asked me to sell the Bule tickets (100,000) while she sold the local Balinese tickets (50,000). I managed to sell 13 tickets of 50). 7 were bought by Balinese. It was embarrassing.

Recently at Tribewanted we had tried to run an introduction to Balinese culture (Danielle’s idea) and a screening of the brilliant film, Jalanan, with a Q&A with the director Daniel Ziv (my idea). Both have involved paying and both have failed.

I spoke to Ben Keene, our leader at Tribewanted about this and he, rightly, pointed out that maybe the people we were trying to convince had many people battling for their money. That I accept, that’s life.

What I don’t accept though is that people are not willing to spend 100,000 (five quid) to hear Rucina Ballinger, a 40-year resident of Bali, speak about the central aspect of Balinese culture, ceremony. It simply can’t be the money. It must be the attitude.

Project update

The opportunity to work with Dek, re-shapes the whole mission. It’s a chance to get properly involved with real projects, that won’t have me online too much. It suits me a lot.

Most importantly though, I can already see that my new team wants me because we want that same things. That is a big deal for me.

With Dek and Ketut (and his young lad). What a team to join

With Dek and Ketut (and his young lad) at the Bali Spirit Festival team day in Sanur. What a team to join. It’s like joining Barcelona FC!

When I came to Bali, I didn’t have a plan but what I knew for sure was that it would all start with finding the right partner. I’d bring Frank Ray or Jamie Reichman here tomorrow if I could, but I can’t. As Brian Clough famously said about what made him and Peter Taylor the creators of the two-man job and the fastest in turning two craps sides into champions:  We want the same things.

No skill analysis, no tests – just get the mix of ambition right. When Tribewanted started in January, I hoped to meet someone that needed a business partner. That hasn’t happened, though I am very hopeful of working with Ben Keene in some way. He has so much talent, it’s inspiring just to hang around him.

Now to my update.

1. Startup blog/12 week course

This is still taking shape, though me and Pieter need some help from someone experienced with online education so we can nail down the format.

2. Startup bank challenge

I will most probably stop this tomorrow.It was a crazy idea that many folks like, but getting them to come to Bali has proved difficult. The big lesson from the experiment is that there many people working in banks with a loads of ideas for change.

I don’t think it is fear which is stopping them, it’s the lack of a platform. Next Bank could be that, if it stops thinking of itself as a venue to meetup and talk about banking problems. They could run a global startup bank challenge in say 5 cities easily.

As an interesting twist, I have been contacted by a European challenger bank to startup here in Indonesia. I am totally unqualified for such a venture but, my goodness, it’s exciting to be asked.

3. Better Bali Project

This week at Tribewanted, Diana Moret, asked us a tough question: can you see yourself in your business for 10 years? 

For the the two projects above, both are clear ‘no’s, but this one working within Balinese communities is a potential ‘yes’. It was a super test of one’s motivation and Diana really knows her stuff. I need to speak to her more before she leaves.

Our initial Better Bali Project was a success, at least as far as I was concerned, because we had more than 10 attendees. What was also interesting was the subject we focused on: rubbish! No one in the world has solved it and, here, the Balinese care about it a lot. We’ll see how this one progresses.

4. Songan Pipeline Project

As of today, we are 30% done. Phenomenal, given it’s only been  days since we started and the village has never tried such a thing before! I’m coming to realise why I like being around Balinese – they try stuff.

If we had proposed the same thing in England, we’d have to have had more meetings that the union at Ford to get started. Every risk would have been identified except the biggest of the lot: not building the water supply.

In Bali though, all that is needed is someone like Dek to say ‘we are doing this‘ and it happens. He works it out as we go. The same goes for Ibu Sari – she says she needs to raise funds and it happens.

Everyone needs a leader and so-called flat structures are not that. I think the essential attribute that these two leaders have that I think I may (massive caveat) share, is sheer force of personality.

Their leadership style is very similar to Mandela, and the thing that matters most is that there is no doubt who running the show. Even when Oliver Tambo was running the ANC from Lusaka, he knew his seat was a temporary one.

If I compare the Balinese style to my old workplace, there are very few people who have the same attributes. Chris Meyer is probably the only one I can think of that got the balance right between seeking feedback (as Mandela was expert in) and making decisions.

Even my great mates Jamie Reichman and James Arnold pander to their staff too much. They choose harmony over speed.

In contrast, I’m seeing with Dek that speed builds harmony and that’s why I am thrilled to be his latest team member.

Happy Days in Bali!

On 10 January, after having spent three months here in Bali having had a good look around and a week into being part of Ben Keene’s Tribewanted Bali experiment, I wrote this blog for the purpose of clarifying the various projects and ideas I had going on. Nearly a month on and the morning after a party at Startup House (a gaff I share with few other Bule lads), I thought it a good time to see where I am, against what I was thinking as I blogged back then.

I've moved in here to support Pieter Moorman, who gives to others any more than than any other Bule in Ubud.

I’ve moved in here to support Pieter Moorman, who gives to others far more than any other Bule in Ubud.

Recap – the four areas of focus I identified

1. A local project, by Balinese for Balinese This was more a thought/belief in doing something useful than a formal project

2. A village in need of a pipeline This was a genuine need with a race against time (the end of the rainy season)

3. A startup blog for other startups The was a startup that I’d already been working on with Pieter Moorman, a Dutch lad here in Bali

4. A startup bank This is was totally off-the-wall, random idea that came up a few days before writing the 10 January blog. I concluded that blog by saying:

If I look at my list I ask myself which of the four choices is the one I feel most suited to, eventually it’s either option 1 (local Balinese project) or option 4 (startup bank).

So what has happened since?

I’m often told by folks here in Ubud that I’m not focused enough and I’m sure that is true. It must be when so many of those people describe their profession as ‘coach’, and I don’t mean football or a bus. Despite this, my hunch is that I’m doing pretty well when my overall reason for being in Bali is considered. I’ll write this part as best it comes to me and then at the end I’ll draw conclusions on my ‘progress’ and ‘focus’. These are the things that have actually happened (or ‘doing’) of late:

  • Yesterday I went to Songan village A (Bangli regency) to help out with the digging of the 8km trench to accommodate the 8km pipeline from Lake Batur to Songan village B (Karengasem).
  • Prior to that I took Ben Saul-Garner and Jasper Mutsaerts from Tribewanted to the site and meet the team (led by Pak Kadek Gunarta). My underlying motivation was for our Tribe to partner with Dek’s team to work together on the project.
  • That has not happened, but I wanted to be part of it so I committed to part fund the estimated 125m (rupiah) cost.
  • I launched Startup Bank Challenge Bali on Thursday live while hosting Breaking Banks radio. It’s a joint initiative with Next Bank and it will be a real test of (a) my leadership and organisational abilities and (b) whether the hundreds of bankers that talk about change will actually do something about it – they have the perfect creative platform now!
  • Of most interest is how many folks back in London want to be involved but won’t commit. All the usual reasons (excuses) are there and thankfully Tim Boler at Lloyds is showing some courage by setting up a London ‘bamboo branch’ of the project. The world needs more people like Tim.
  • Of real interest with Tim is how the contact came about – he wanted to speak to me and my mate Frank Ray about how to bring new ways of working into corporates, something me and Frank pioneered last year at Investec.
  • Like I said we need more Tim and less bankers feeling self important and oblivious to the fact that their so-called skills at managing Excel spreadsheets are being swallowed up by robots and algorithms.
  • Today, I am hosting the initial meeting of Better Bali Project – it’s not so much a project but a gathering of 12 young Balinese folks that I have met by going out and talking to Balinese people.
  • I’m often told I need to be ‘doing’ and I’ll be doing something pretty cool this afternoon. Our attendees are more than 50% women, they are drawn from all areas of Bali and I have met 9 of 12 personally, separately.
  • Having Pak Kadek as our ‘key note’ (to borrow that term) is ‘the almonds on top’ (to borrow from Brian Clough).
  • Which brings me to the Startup blog, which is the only project of the four that has a weekly deadline.
  • Over the last month, Pieter and I have decided to turn it into a 12-week online course for first-time Wantrapreneurs. It makes loads of sense because our current readers love Pieter’s openness and jargon-free language.
  • The challenge now is essentially a marketing/sales one – getting folks to our website and proving we do in fact offer value. We could do with some help on this.
  • If we can achieve that, then we can work on our ‘paid’ version ideas. We’ll see.
  • One thing I must add before closing is why I like working with Pieter – he is fully transparent about everything and he operates at a rhythm I like.
  • He’s around 15 years my junior and is running one business and two startups, yet always has time and is not demanding.
  • If I am surprised, I shouldn’t be – after all he was smart enough to work out his team would be better off (money wise) and more productive by moving out of Europe!

Conclusion

If you have been kind enough to read this far, I would say this:

1. My local/Balinese project

I did what I said I would do and I’m quite proud of this. My hunch is that for things to work out for me in Bali, this one will be my ‘stake in the ground’ (to quote a Kiwi lad, one of the many coaches at Hubud). I have realised that I don’t have my own ’cause’ or ‘dream’, so I decided to link together those that I have met that do have one. That’s seriously exciting. I’m writing this before the meeting so it’s hard to rate but I’ll go for 8/10.

2.  The Songan water pipeline

Ordinarily, I’d rate this 4/10 because I’ve failed in my mission for it to be adopted by Tribewanted. However, it rates higher than that because I’m now committed to it, not just as a donor. I’m getting to know the heads of both villages and I’m taking the chance to ‘learn by doing’ from amazing guys like Ketut, the self-taught bamboo guru from Ban village.

I must also add at this point that I have a complex about ‘learning by doing’ vs ‘classroom education’. My mum often says that my dad and my brother have ‘practical intelligence’ (they didn’t go to Uni) while I have ‘real’ intelligence (I did go to Uni). I’m sorry mum, that is crap.

Ketut is the same age as me and he now speaks to audiences in places like Vietnam about the practice of growing bamboo. No one ever asked me to speak anywhere about anything.

All this said, I’ll rate this one 7/10 because it is going to make a major difference to the daily lives of the Balinese in Songan. Even if we forget about the bamboo and the economic benefit, the best bit is they’ll have a water supply for the first time, where they don’t have to walk for an hour to get it.

3. Startup Blog   

I have not given my energy to this enough and Pieter could have easily binned me off. However, I’d like to think I’m applying my own logic to it, primarily working out what ‘value exchange’ really means. In the last two days, Pieter built a landing page for us which took him … two days. If I’d had to do it, it doesn’t warrant thinking about!

Over the last week or so, I’ve ‘tapped in’ to all the startup folks I know to talk to them about what we have in mind. That’s where the value lies – when we each bring (and do) something but, for me, there is no doubt though that Pieter is the gaffer on this one. I’ll keep following! So as far as my personal ‘achievement’ goes, this one ranks 6/10.

4. Startup Bank Challenge 

How do I rate this? I have taken a wacky idea and promoted it on the world’s biggest banking radio show/podcast. I’ve taken an idea that was dreamed up with Next Bank and made it a reality.

Me hosting Breaking Banks live from Bali with Peter Wall, our gaffer at Hubud!

Me hosting Breaking Banks live from Bali with Peter Wall, our gaffer at Hubud!

But, like all businesses, I need customers and it’s not started well. At this point, I have only have three confirmed lads to join the team. As usual, there’s a lot of talk and not enough substance.

It also questions my real motivation for this project. The truth is I am a minority guy that talks a lot (and much of it is utter bollocks, I’m certain), but I do it for a reason: being in the majority for a lifetime will only cause oneself problems.

I’m trying to head those problems off, by using my knowledge of banking to improve the lives of bank workers and creating a place where they can freely ask this: What do I stand for and how can I make my profession fit with this? So, this one scores 9/10 because it’s asking a question that few others are prepared to.

Our mate Arnas and his monkey working!

The photo that inspired the Challenge – our mate Arnas and his monkey working!

Sign up for Startup Bank Challenge Bali here: http://bali.startupbankchallenge.com/

Good bye!

Why I am here in Bali – Part 1

Another blogging experiment

I returned to my Ubud guesthouse last evening to write the piece I had intended to write earlier in the day on ‘why am I here in Bali‘? It’s a question I have long known the answer to, yet it’s one that many foreigners here (especially the proliferation of business/life coaches we seem to have here at the moment!) tend to ignore.

It’s an important question for anyone at a point of transition. In my case, I’m leaving my profession and London, my home of the last nine years, at the same time.

It is amplified here in Ubud, because of its long-standing existence as a place of healing. Ubud gets its name from the Balinese word ubad (medicine) and this ‘healing’ is a big factor in my decision to live here

As I started to write last evening I remembered the introduction to a piece by my friend and writer Gunther Sonnenfeld that talks about the story behind his new ‘innovation group’, Luman (or enlightened human). In classic Gunther style, he opens with a tough question: What do you stand for?

Not what are your goals, or what is your ideal day or where do you see yourself in three years time but, what do you stand for? He goes on to say “This is probably an ongoing thought and (r)evolving set of questions for many of you who are reading this”. 

It’s certainly something I have thought about a lot since my wife’s death in 2012, and perhaps it’s a chance to think out loud about it.

So I decided last night to try a new technique of blogging ‘live’ while reading Gunther’s piece. Here goes.

What do I stand for?

Equality, Community, Participation, Honesty and Reciprocity are the words that tripped off my finger tips. If I had to add a sentence, it would be something like:

I stand for doing what is right and just in any situation by giving myself fully to the potential benefactors of that situation. 

At Cass Business School, we were urged to be ‘net givers’ by our MBA mentors. Without doubt I am one of those, not through effort (of which I make plenty) but by nature. My mum always says that I have been organising things for others since I was very young, which is why the telephone in our house was usually in my room!

I know that I have suffered at times because of this – even in this last week it’s likely that getting sick was in part due to what I had been doing around the place in Ubud. Then there is the feeling of dismay when you put in a lot of effort to present ideas to others, be it your workplace, working group or social group, and they go nowhere.

But, even in this knowledge and experience, I want to be like me. I don’t want to join the net takers, which I’m increasingly of the view are the majority. I’ve never been part of any majority and never want to be.

I have been extremely fortunate to meet a very successful man here in Ubud. I don’t really care for the word ‘successful’ but I have used it because the majority of readers will attach some meaning to it.

Here I’m talking about Pak Kadek Gunarta, a Balinese man that has lived his whole life in the village of Padang Tegal in central Ubud. As he talked to our Tribewanted group a week or so back, I saw the looks on the faces of our group of wantrapreneurs. I’d sum the collective feeling up as silent amazement that one man could achieve so much in just 50 years.

Among the words of advice Dek gave, four stand out for me: “giving makes you rich

With Dek at the presentation of the funds we raised for the families that lost homes and temples in November.

With Dek at the presentation of the funds we raised for the families that lost homes and temples from the Clear Cafe fire in November.

Becoming who we really are

Gunther next talks of how Luman was founded on the basis of finding out how we become who we really are. Again, I relate to this.

In London last year, after six weeks with a new therapist, I asked him why he thought I wanted to be in therapy. Simon replied: “Andy, it seems important to you to discover your authentic self” (my journal entry, 14 March 2014).

I’d never thought of it that way and he was right, which is a tough realisation at age 38, as I then was. Having said that, it is also an incredibly important one which can easily slip the mind (at best) or be ignored (at worst). After a few months away from my regular life in London in second half of 2013, with lots of time in Indonesia to ‘clear the head’, going to therapy because I wanted to was significant.

As I’m finding happens in life, as we were starting to make some real progress (six months after I started), there was untimely disruption. I decided to leave London, and head back to New Zealand because of an illness in my family. It was not something any of us could have predicted.

The result was that work on becoming who I really am had to go ‘on hold’.

The future lies within

Mum often says that we all have the answers: it was a lesson passed down to her from grandma. My take on this, which came from those months off in 2013 with nothing ‘to do’, is that I have learned a lot in my 39 years and so I must have some wisdom to share, or use for myself.

Gunther says as much and one sentence in particular bears a distinct resemblance to the ‘answers within’ working experience I had with Frank Ray last year:

As for the three of us, we recognized that the keys to innovating in a world of great transition were not somewhere over there, or necessarily found through more integrated processes and technology tools, but inside each one of us

See the striking resemblance of Frank’s words about being “authentic in who you are and how you communicate” and “not being boxed in by lack of self esteem” at 5:01 in our video A New Way of Working

I must finish this section by referencing Frank’s mention of my insistence that he and I be based outside the City office if we were to ‘innovate’. It was something I’d come to learn after my time on sabbatical in Bali in 2013, that is that being freed from the regular environment has an exponential improvement on the ability to solve problems.

As an aside, at that time (November 2013), I was in touch with my much loved and respected mentor at Investec, Dr Allen Zimbler, and he said that he could not think of a better place to ‘restore’ than Bali. He has proved to be right.

I knew come March 2014 that me and Frank would have no chance of success in our innovation project back at Investec if we stayed in the building and, as Frank says in the video, our boss put up a small fight. Jamie is one of my few followers so I’m hoping he’ll comment and say I was right!

There comes a point where we all know something isn’t right, but we accept it anyway

I feel particularly strongly about what I call the ‘convenient trap’ which, simply put, is an environment where staff are paid well so that their financial needs are met but along the way their aspiration and creativity is drained. It is a terrible trade off, one which I was part of for the first half of my working life and so I figured last year that if really feel strongly about it, I can’t be part of it any more.

At Luman, they see it similarly:

Unless more people tap into their highest potential, organizations, products and services will just continue to devolve into masses of unfocused energy and matter that just… Don’t really matter. And as such, they will continue to wreak havoc on the planet. 

The emphasis here in bold is mine, based on experience and I am going to pick on Investec, because it is the organisation I know best. I know for certain that the majority of staff, mainly those in sales roles with targets, are focused when in the office.

Of more concern is when they are out of the office when Investec incurs large costs above staff salaries on company-paid offsites, they become masses of unfocused energy. In my experience over nine years, this is because staff are not aware (nor told) of what the focus is or how they will (personally) benefit from it, beyond the free beers from mid afternoon on the Saturday of the event.

Ciaran Whelan and James Arnold are two leaders that I witnessed who tried to use these situations to create a mentality change when times are good (read; you are getting a bonus), but that is a hard gig when you helped create the convenient trappings as they (and me) did.

The best example that I am aware of where an offsite meeting had a real effect is the work Allen’s team did with the private bankers in December 2008 and January 2009. This was a time when things were not good, when colleagues could soon be out of a job.

So, for me, being in Bali represents a great chance of breaking that cycle of doing a regular job that comes with its known, diminishing creativity and becoming involved in ventures that are less about paying bills (it helps that there are less to pay here and they are cheaper!) and more about creating real, memorable change irrespective of whether times are good or bad. I hope it becomes the norm.

I accept that such an approach is not possible for everyone even if they have they same perspective

At this point I must disclose that because last year I sold my flat in Central London after eight years of ownership, I am not under financial pressure nor am I faced with big monthly bills. Naturally, the response will be something like “we’ll we’re not all as fortunate as you Andy“.

My answer is that I wish I’d ‘worked it out’ much earlier so that the question didn’t arise, which is clearly the flippant response. There are better answers:

  • Take the Balinese for example, who (in my observation) tend to give away their excess as they accumulate it – Dek, for instance, directly supports over 250 families, already at just age 50.
  • Take our boss at Tribewanted, Ben Keene, who has created a home in Oxfordshire for his wife and daughter while building sustainable communities in Fiji, Sierra Leone and Italy over the last nine years.
  • To use an analogy that seems to be popular at present – are you going to get off the digital/social/mobile addiction to have some time for yourself during your working life or wait for some unspecified point in the future.

Back to Gunther again, with my emphasis:

What matters, right now, is that we become the best possible people on a planet that needs us to be the best possible custodians we can be.

Gunther Sonnenfeld, a great thinker and a great guy to have got to know in 2014

Gunther Sonnenfeld, a great thinker and a great guy to have got to know in 2014

In my late 20s I started to take the sort of actions I felt were authentic to me – as a provider of practical and language-teaching support to refugees that arrived in New Zealand. It was also an incredible and ‘free’ way to learn from people far more experienced in life than me.

In November 2005, having just turned 30, I decided it was time to pick ‘career ‘ over all my other ideas. For the next eight years, shamefully, I contributed nothing useful to British society as my excess was consumed in holidays, watching football and boozing.

Thankfully in February 2014, I went some way to putting that right in the month I spent as a volunteer learning from the brilliant coaches at The Change Foundation. They published some of my thoughts but it only goes so far, and can never explain why, on average, the people I met there are far more impressive and talented than those I met in the City.

Doesn’t there come a point where we are all obligated to at least speak to others about whether we have the full picture and think about how the next phase of life might be different?

When I was in Bali over the winter of 2013/2014 I saw enough of the foreigners living here to believe it was a place where I could live in the future. Put another way, I could see it being a new ‘reality’. By this I mean a place where I could move closer to doing things that really matter, not to the average Londoner or Wellingtonion or even the Chief of Clan MacLean on my beloved Isle of Mull, but to the average sensible human.

My favourite place in the world, Duart Castle, Mull.

My favourite place in the world, the one from which I draw my strength, Duart Castle, Mull.

I picked up on the word ‘reality’ from a comment made by a friend of mine (one very well educated I hasten to add) about people on Ubud being ‘an artificial community of whiny westerners who couldn’t face the realities of life‘.

I’ll accept it was a comment made in conversation, but it was still one made 12 months on from her visit. She could not have been more wrong: I am one now one of that group who has chosen a new reality.

Yes, there are things I don’t like about where I was before, but is that all that I should ever aspire to? To ‘tough it out’ or worse still, ‘to suck it up’ as they say in my homeland, New Zealand. No thanks.

The reality of the reality has changed and it is a dangerous situation as Gunther explains this:

Our current paradigm is largely a programmed reality, one in which we are led to believe certain things, and where we are essentially spoon fed belief systems and ideas about the way ‘the world really is’. In this paradigm, history repeats itself, and we have limited learning capability simply because the same elements keep reappearing.

It might not be obvious to my friend and many like her, but it’s very obvious to me: I can only learn and experience so much in the standard paradigm. If I am to spend 50 hours a week in the same office for 47 weeks a year for the next 25 years (minimum), what will I actually learn and use? Very little is the obvious and only answer.

Back to the future, a place of where contribution is valued

The most compelling ‘angle’ from Gunther’s piece for me, here in Bali, is where he mentions the return of the co-op and the need for co-creation. Bali’s community methods of co-creation are so similar to this ideal that a new friend of mine, Alan Yu, is studying Balinese leadership as a doctoral candidate at University of San Diego.

I started to become aware of how the community operated since I became involved in a fundraising campaign after some Balinese houses and temples were destroyed by fire in November, the week after I met Alan. I witnessed the community’s response on mass to the situation – there was no case of people being too busy. It seemed like an instinct to know what was not only right, but natural.

It was the same for me on the day of the fire and if we were to go back to the original question: What do I stand for? – I reckon my actions on that day tell it far better than me blogging.

Let me ask you this: what would you do if you saw this?

Would you be in the majority (the comfy place) or choose the minority? I question my own motivations each day, but at least I can show this as one example of where I chose the right option, the minority, I ran into the shop to help move the stock when even the local police were just takers of photos.

Why I need to stop talking – I’ve not yet inspired a single person

As Gunther make makes clear, the path of co-creation is not an easy one and it explains why it doesn’t happen in my old industry, Banking. I am one of the worst at what he says below (again, my emphasis in bold).

If you choose the path of (co)creation, then also know this: it is simply not enough to be vocal in social media threads or to lash out at ‘the system’. You need to show up, be self-responsible, and by doing so, we can show up for each other. We need to create cultures of (un)learning, and cultures of doing. This is what opens up the doors for unlimited possibility.

When I read those words, it’s incredibly scary and it’s perhaps why I regularly think of returning to safety of London, where I can go back to my flat and slip back into the queue at the tube station headed for the City. It’s also why I need to hold my nerve when I think (or others say) I need to ‘get on with it’ or ‘focus’.

When there are unlimited possibilities, which there are not in most situations in life, I really don’t see the point (or the way) to rush into something.

Bringing it back to the present, the day-to-day, here in Bali

This week at Tribewanted, Ben asked us something to the effect of ‘what does good look like at Christmas’. My response was:

  • To have found a business partner that wants the same things as me (I could now add ‘stands for’)
  • To have a local project which involves foreigners wanting to co-create and learn (and not thinking of one-way ‘help’)

This blog post has helped a lot in confirming for me why I am here and what I stand for. I reckon I can work these two things out quite easily now.

Do you agree?

Andy in Ubud

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A new project for Andy via Handi and a Singaraja farmer

I have said many times that having a much younger boss was a great thing for me, even if convention suggests the opposite is true. I felt it for two years in London with Jamie Reichman at Investec – his dreams and direction kept me going in corporate – and I’m feeling it again here in Bali.

This weekend I went to Singaraja, North Bali, with my Bahasa Indonesia teacher and local lad, Handi. After scootering our way through the seasonal rains and a night spent at his family home, we set out to meet Handi’s future customers – the farmers of Singaraja.

Handi - a man with ambition!

Handi – a man with ambition!

At this point I need to explain why I am so keen to work with Handi, who is 15 years my junior. In the last few years he has travelled to, and lived in, France and has multiple options available to him. The one he has chosen is to move back from South Bali where he lives (surrounded by tourism and easy cash opportunities), teaches and has a small construction project, to his home city of Singaraja.

As I said to him today, he is both clever and lucky to have worked this out so early, at age 25. Put another way, he has worked out what it means to be ambitious.

Soon Handi will be lecturing in the plush grounds of Singaraja’s University and he has plans to establish a business there with the overall aim of preserving the farming land in the region. Read, not to be sold to blatant tourism.

The thing that has the potential to bind us together is his ambition and leadership and my curiosity and latent resources, latent in the sense of I’m not sure at this point which ones (if any) will be useful. But, already my simple drawings of how it might work have got Handi thinking.

Rice field learnings today

Here’s what we learned today from speaking to a farmer on his land:
  • Farming for six months will yield 12m rupiah (I am not sure the exact land size)
  • This gets split 50:50 with the land owner
  • The farmer incurs 2m in costs
  • So his net income for six months is 4m
We asked him what else he thinks about:
  • He wants to buy a young cow, which will cost 7.5m
  • He can sell it for 10m
  • He can borrow the money from family at no interest
  • I’m not sure how long between buying and selling

My initial thought was micro finance but Handi said that is much harder because of the Koperasi structure. This is something I have been learning about, as it works in villages, but, being a dumb Bule, I did not think of it when I mentioned micro finance.

The farmer also talked about his dream to have his kids work in a hotel in Denpasar – which is easy to understand when you hear these numbers. Us Bule tend to think that working in hotels is bad because of the hours staff need to put it for ‘low’ pay. I count myself in the centre of that group of thinkers. However, as Handi points out, the minimum wage in South Bali (not Ubud) is 1.9m a month, so it’s clear why many Balinese see farming as ‘uncool’, when hotels pay three time more.

The farmer went on to say there was a block of land 40 Are for sale at 40m per Are – 1.6 billion in total. This is super cheap by Bali standards. Handi had the idea of a cafe for students (which Singaraja seems to be all about) and it got me thinking “what if there we could create a collective where farmers try different crops and sell to the cafe”. And instead of them selling the land, we lease the land so that they resist the current idea to sell the land so they can get their kids to Denpasar.

And on a bigger level again, imagine if we could create a hotel that people come to Bali for and staff are paid better than in South Bali?

Handi and I have a plan on what we will do next which involves trying to sell the (fairly) low hanging fruit as a product to other Bule in Bali. See if you can guess which one!

Balinese meet Bule – an important day at Tribewanted

As a Bule here in Bali it was a bit saddening (but not surprising) that the absence of a connection between the us and the Balinese was big finding of a group of Harvard students when they presented to us at Hubud this morning. It’s a point I feel strongly about, even if I’m unsure of how long I will be here.

As it happened I had invited Pak Kadek Gunarta (‘Dek’ for short), a local entrepreneur, along to speak to our Tribewanted group. After 50 years of living in Padang Tegal, the village in the centre of Ubud where we work each day, he knows a thing or 15 about the place and has a deep history in using his businesses to support the community. Regrettably, the Harvard 10 had to shoot off before he got started.

Dek Gun

As I blogged about on Medium this week, a big aspect of what makes Tribewanted appeal so much is its novel philosophy of our group spending 25% of our time exploring Bali and working on local projects. In my case, I got to know Dek when we raised money for the families that lost their homes when Clear Cafe burned down (you can see him here in our video at 0.43), so I had a bit of a head start.

I’m impatient by nature and so I am happy our tribe met Dek today (i.e. second week of three months) because I doubt there is anyone else from the Ubud region with his experience in business and community-building projects. On Friday Dek is taking our leader Ben Keene and some others in the team to see his Bali Re Green bamboo project in Songan village, Karangasem.

I helped some of the planting back in December and it was on that day I met three young men in Dek’s team – Deco, Arcana and Ketut. Seeing them connect with the village and hearing them speak so naturally about what they were doing, was important. It was also there I learned of the urgent need to build the 8km pipeline from Lake Batur to Songan village.

So, I have a feeling that today’s rectangle-table meeting will be a pivotal day for the Tribewanted mission.

Update on my other ideas

The startup bank idea is quite cool. As one of the Harvard students said today, a place like Bali is perfect in the creation stage, but less good when you need access to capital, partners etc. Given that we have not started yet, that’s a big tick.

With the startup blog, we are getting some feedback which helps us a lot. We’ll have a new format this week and we’ll also soon trial an online course format.

The best bit!

Most happily of all, we have set a date for a meeting of young Balinese to come together, meet, discuss things that matter to them about their villages and Bali. You won’t be able to read about anywhere else and it will be done in the traditional way of setting a time and place, then turning up and talking. I can’t wait.

The art of sensing one’s options

A few months back I heard the term ‘sensing’ for the first time when speaking to Kirsten Dunlop about Suncorp’s programme of experimentation. Since then, I have joined Tribewanted Bali where our gaffer, Ben Keene, has repeated the word fairly frequently.

It sounds a bit modern but I like it a lot and I suspect it is a similar concept to creating slack in organisations. For me ‘sensing’ is about having a good look around and being alive to seizing opportunities or, equally, binning off things that are under way.

I decided to write this post while riding back from Caangu on my scooter after watching Liverpool at Satu Lagi bar with my Bahasa Indonesia teacher, Handi. In the late afternoon hours prior to that while watching the sun set over Echo Beach, with Handi and my new friend Fitria, added to a text I received from Pak Dek Gun I sensed both a clear and muddied path.

Let me explain.

What is the problem I am trying to solve?

If this sounds negative, it is not meant to be – it’s simply me applying start-up thinking which, after all, if what this blog is meant to be about. A friend told me recently that I had nothing to worry about and I don’t, but it doesn’t mean I’m free of dilemmas.

The ‘problem’ for me is that there are so many possibilities. This fact was a massive part of the attraction of coming to Bali and I aim here to explain (indirectly through the words below) why this situation could not exist back in London.

I am starting to feel that my sensing needs to stop and that I need to move to a simpler focus. I knew I would get to this point which, perhaps, is why I called this blog ‘Thinking by Blogging’.

What I plan to do now is to group my current projects/ideas in some sort of logical way.

1. A local project, by Balinese for Balinese

A few weeks back I worked out, after my initial period of sensing, this was my real need as so many tourism-related activities are not ultimately for Balinese to consume. This feeling came after getting involved in a campaign to raise money for the families affected by the fire at Clear Cafe (the owner’s campaign is still open) which helped me get to know quite of a few very impressive Balinese.

Pak Dek, who was a major part of our campaignm was one of those, yet it has been the younger folk that have really impressed me.

  • Ibu Sari, for the Women’s Centre she has created in Tegalalang in less than a year, and which was visited by a group of students from Harvard this week
  • Eni, the owner of Jaen’s Spa on Jalan Pengosekan, for the four high school students she sponsors and houses
  • Wira, who recently quit his job to work on the Wirausaha Bali project that was launched at @SUWBali to support Balinese entrepreneurs
  • Fitria, who has spent the last three years single-handedly running a women’s project teaching valuable skills in Munti, a region of major poverty
  • Then there is Handi who is from Singaraja in North Bali where there is a big problem with farming becoming ‘uncool’ for younger people

Yesterday, after visiting the mightily impressive East Bali Cashews (see them on BBC from November 2014), I started thinking about the idea of a summit to bring these young leaders together and, ideally, lead to a couple of very important projects. I’m impatient by nature, and I see this as a way of ‘fast forwarding’ my aim of finding an idea that comes from the Balinese.

2. A village in need of a pipeline

A few weeks before Christmas I joined a team planting bamboo in the Songon village in the Karangasem regency. It was part of Pak Dek’s Re Green programme, with the direct aim of increasing the productivity of the land in the village (beneath Mt Batur).

My best memory of that day was sending Dek a text to say I had met his man on the ground, Ketut, and that I wanted to go back soon. What I really liked about Ketut (aside from him being 39 like me) was the fact he was self taught in bamboo and is now an expert that has travelled abroad to speak on the subject. It makes my MBA’s value feel questionable.

Tonight Dek sent me a text saying that he had been in Songon with Ketut and Michael Franti, the American poet, musician, and composer that has a deep connection with Bali. The immediate need is to construct an 8km pipeline from Lake Batur to Songon before the end of the wet season in April to give the bamboo the best chance of a good harvest.

Franti

The point with bamboo is that it is similar to rice in Bali – it is part of life each day, for building, cremation, ceremony, furniture. More importantly, there is a shortage and I’ve heard that the Balinese have had to import it from Java.

3. A startup blog for other startups

This is an existing project where I am working with Pieter Moorman on a early spin-off idea from Pieter’s new start-up, Leansites. The idea here is to share the thinking of a startup for other startups to learn from.

So far we posted five notes of Pieter’s thinking and our plan now is to ‘pivot’ (loving saying that!) to make our blog a series of lessons that a start-up can sign up for. Check out our ultimate transparency blog here.

4. A startup bank

I will happily say this is not my first choice idea, as shown by the fact it is last on this list. Even though I dislike my former profession because of all the unnecessary scandals, many of my friends are in it and people like my boss, Jamie Reichman, really try their best to make things happen. Because of this point, I am still attached and hopeful of change.

If there was some way I could lead a project to Reimagine the dirty ‘bank’ word using a Bali experiment, that would be way better than any start-up idea  I had in FinTech in London in 2014. And, this week in Singapore, when I met Rob Findlay, the gaffer of Next Bank, that exact idea emerged. They are genuinely looking to experiment here in Bali.

Conclusion

The difficulty I face is which option to pick when only one (Startup Bog) is active and I’m still not sure whether people get it or not. I doesn’t help that I am a novice in this domain or perhaps I’m just nervous.

Pieter has a clear idea of what he wants from the blog and I know I can make it happen, given time to connect, explain etc what we need. The point though, is that I can’t do it alone,which is where Tribewanted will come in really helpful.

So, if I look at my list I ask myself which of the four choices is the one I feel most suited to, eventually it’s either option 1 (local Balinese project) or option 4 (startup bank).

What do you think?

I really hope I hear from folks that get it and can help point me towards what makes sense. Vote with your thoughts and fingertips!

A start-up bank in Bali?

I still can’t quite believe how I ended up this idea. Read on if you are game!

Today I woke at 4am to jump on my scooter and head to the airport for a day trip to Singapore on Air Asia Flight QZ 502. After the 50 minute drive and paying 10p to park my scooter (all day) which, added to the 25p I spent on petrol, meant a £14.65 saving on a taxi fare, the flight took off.

I closed my eyes and dreamed up an idea called Startup Club with various off-shoots called Startup Stories and Startup Talent Exchange. This was inspired from a Skype message from London entrepreneur Dan Abrahams but, that story will have to wait for another day.

In the meantime (between landing in Singapore and this post) I had lunch with Rob Findlay of Next Bank. I’d told him yesterday that I wanted to show him a concept for community banking in Asia. We got down to a tasty seafood soup at Marina Bay Financial (or Canary Wharf Asia – whichever you prefer).

Soon though, ‘banking’, as a subject, took over and when combined with the fact Markus Gnirck was about to join us on Startupbootcamp FinTech’s second day in Asia, my day was about to be disrupted (sorry to use the D word Dan).

The outcome of it all is not quite what I had been looking for at present for my Tribewanted Bali project. But, there are no surprises here as I’ve learned that when trying stuff it’s not possible to avoid things that emerge, because it’s instinct rather than logic that creates attraction.

Rob read my hard/paper copy (yes, they still exist) of the community bank idea and he seemed to like it before the chat soon turned to the question of “What if we were to start all over again?”, ‘from scratch’, ‘blank canvas’, ‘clean slate’.

Simply put the idea is to start a bank at at Hubud (Bali) with the aim of getting selected for Startupbootcamp FinTech’s inaugural South East Asia programme in Singapore in May.

There will be a load of work to do but me and Rob are pretty pumped about giving it a go. With Next Bank’s support (cheers Rob), I can really see this happening if we can get a team of dreamers together.

So, the rough plan is this …

I will lead a group that are keen to start a new bank and we’ll be based in Bali. If you have to be convinced of the benefits of building a business in Bali, this one is probably not for you.

For those like Chris Pilsworth (a good lad I worked with at Investec in London) that are keen, I reckon we could knock out the first effort in a week or two and you could tag a holiday on at either end.

Numbers for this are unlimited and virtual attendees are welcome too (in the office that is – rice-field walks for thinking/imagining possibilities may be a bit harder!)

Timing wise, I am thinking February after the Unconference (which you are also welcome to attend!).

We’ll need a mix of people of different backgrounds as as long as you like the idea, that’s good enough for me.

To sign up: either follow this blog or twit me on @insanemclean

Cheers, Andy

From a pretty Kentish girl to meeting British Ben in Bali

I went to my first event at Escape the City in London in June last year (yes, it’s now 2015).  It was about how to become a travel writer on which would have otherwise been a quiet Monday night.

On the train back to Kent afterwards, I got chatting to a rather pretty girl (a rare fellow train talker) and when I mentioned the event, she replied: “Ha, good timing! Today, I decided to quit my job”. I’m pretty sure Train Girl is now on their mailing list!

I mention this anecdote because it illustrates why it makes sense to speak to people wherever you can (trains are especially good places to meet interesting people) and to show how I came to be writing about Tribewanted Bali, which starts here in Ubud next week.

By the end of that week I had decided to leave the UK after ten glorious summers due to a family illness in my home country, New Zealand. It meant that I missed out on the Escape to the Woods event in September that I had spoken to Train Girl about and meeting Train Girl to watch Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

Escape to the Woods turned out to be an awesome event for meeting other people that were tired of the robotic nature a City ‘career’ (an awful word) – it was a place to meet a whole new community. Here I’m using the words of my great friend Parul who was part of that weekend, spent camping in Sussex.

When we chatted about her experience, she made specific (and special) mention of Ben Keene, the founder of Tribewanted. Today I formally joined Ben’s Bali tribe over a typically strong Bali coffee at Bali Buddha café.

Ben has been connected to Escape the City since its inception and he’s proven to be super ambitious. I love the way he ‘got it’ when the City corporates did an awful pitch of their jobs during the milk round at his Uni (see here at 0.55). As he said, there was nothing compelling beyond the promise of money.

The thing of most interest to me about what Ben has done is described in the quote below. They are the words that come closest to my ideal of ‘social tourism’ here in Indonesia, something that is not volunteering in the traditional sense.

The impact [Tribewanted] has on both visitors and local communities. We bring people together for magical experiences. We’re trying to mix the best of the old (preserving cultural heritage, conserving valuable resources, and mindfulness) with the new (design thinking, co-working, renewable energy, permaculture, and social networks).

As mentioned in my previous post, I have spent three months in Bali having a good look around for a project to get involved with (or, if I must, something ‘to do’). Tribewanted Bali has always been part of my plan since Parul told me about in the early Autumn.

It might not be an exact fit with what I feel I should do right now, but it’s an experience I really want to take a full part in.

When I first mentioned Tribewanted Bali on Linked In a month or so back, my friend Gunther Sonnenfeld remarked to the effect: “Awesome, so it’s basically a co-op!”.  It helps that Gunther is one of the leading thinkers on innovation and I don’t mean fast/cheap payments, I mean real/ambitious innovation. I relate to his thoughts because I hold the same view that innovation is about mindset, not tech.

Gunther was commenting on Ben’s formula for our tribe of 24 escapees over the next three months when our time will be split as own projects (50%), helping each other (25%) and community projects (25%).

It was this way of working that appealed to me both as a highly desirable experience and an incredibly ambitious concept for the future of work. It’s so simple, yet so sensible and loads better than any ideas I came up with in this article on the subject.

To find the right social enterprise opportunities in Bali, it’s clear that rapidly improving my Indonesian language will make the biggest, fastest difference over any other approach. So while I should be ‘executing’ on one of the two options I see that will help ‘make it happen’ (to quote my old job description), for now my plan is to immerse myself in the Tribewanted Bali programme.

It’s an interesting dilemma for me. I have never mastered a language except, arguably, English so language is something very important to me in my 40th year. If I can become proficient in Indonesian, it will feel like I have completed something that will be very useful, as compared to say my MBA which has very limited long-term value.

Yet, there is an experience on offer here with a bunch of Brits, people that I have come to love over many years in their country, in their company. While I am trying to let go of England as my home, it’s not easy and in some ways, it’s actually harder than dealing with the existential vacuum that is part of my daily thought pattern.

So, when I see something so cool and easy to join as Tribewanted Bali, I can’t resist. It’s the chance to be part of something to satisfy the basic need of belonging.

Then when I think of being part of an experience that has the real potential to be able to demonstrate why working folk should only spend 50% of their working week on their regular work, my ego kicks into overdrive. I’ve never been much of a visionary, but this is something I feel strongly about.

I dream of the possibility, for instance, of my old company Investec binning off its silos and cost centres and truly live its long stated ‘one bank’ strategy. I dream of fast, radical change rather than slow, incremental (predictable) change where every woman and her parrot need to have a say.

I had intended this post to be more detailed about the types of opportunities I’m seeing for me to contribute to Bali and the Balinese but, as usual, I have gone off on a principled rant. I hope you enjoyed it.