things i’ve learned from short interviews with friends

So it’s been a crazy month at work, and the first in which I’ll fail to get a new project off the ground or completed. Which, naturally, means I’ll have to complete two projects in June in order to stay on course.

But more important than that, I really, really enjoyed April’s project, a series of short interviews with friends. It made me think about a lot of things, but I haven’t really articulated that to myself in any concrete way yet. So what did I learn from this thing?

1. Get away from everything.

Something that emerged as an unexpected theme was the importance of being ‘away’ in some form. Mainly from the city, and so in this case mainly from London. Leila isn’t so much anti-London as she is incredibly passionate about the creative energy you can feel in Sheffield. Leticia is an Italian-Japanese-Brazilian who gets away a lot and shows her work internationally. Even though she didn’t really commit to this in so many words, it feels like something similar for Vic. Dan‘s moved down to Bath for space, nature and family. Hell, even Ted lives on a house-boat, living off-grid as much as he can.

Sometimes it’s about being free of this London gravity, and sometimes it’s just about having a different perspective on it. I can definitely identify with the oppressive quality Leila talks about. It’s so true that people are used to thinking of London as the epicentre of All Interesting Things, when looking or living a bit further afield would change our perspectives for the better.

2. Challenging is the best form of control.

Everyone I spoke to has some kind of challenge to some kind of status quo. Whether it’s Dan’s hacking-prototyping network taking on the big problems or Vic’s take on a style magazine’s tightly defined idea of ‘beauty’.

3. But also challenge yourself.

I know it’s kind of a cliche. But the real act of pushing yourself to do something new is hard, so it doesn’t happen that often. I can’t imagine many other friends doing what Ted did and seeing what they could learn from interpretive dance. And equally, taking on a big, wide open initiative like Happenstance must have been pretty scary in a way for Leila.

4. I’m really lucky to count these people as friends.

I started thinking about how I haven’t really ‘worked’ with most of these people. I may have been on a hack weekend, or we may have been in the same office near to each other, or our paths may have crossed some other way. But in most cases it’s been by some kind of extended coincidence that I started talking to them in the first place. The odds are so high that I wouldn’t have even met them in the first place. So I feel really lucky to have met them, and lucky to count them as friends.

5. So I might keep doing this.

I had a lot of fun interviewing Ted, Leila, Leticia, Vic and Dan. And there are plenty of other people I find interesting. Maybe the format would change a bit. Maybe it would stay the same. But I’m thinking about what I could learn from talking to other friends in a similar way.

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