#StreetWisdom – life changing L&D?

This could be the most important blog you read this year. Not the best, just the most important. Stick with me.

I dithered over my question

I knew the question that I should ask (but would be uncomfortable) – and I knew the questions it would be more comfortable to ask. I went for the difficult question. We’ll come back to that.

Last Friday I went on the best development event I’ve ever attended. It didn’t involve incredible content delivery, it didn’t require incredibly talented facilitators, it wasn’t high tech blended learning – but it was truly fantastic. I’d like to help more people have similar events. I’d like to help promote Street Wisdom. 

This is part of that promotion, but I’ll also be delivering a few sessions in the near future to help encourage other people to spread the word too. I haven’t joined a cult – although if I have it is a pretty well intentioned cult with very low requirements for entry.

People found answers to some of life’s biggest challenges in 2 hours. If you wrote down a list of the biggest questions life can throw at you – then you would have found a group of 50 people grinning at having resolved them last Friday afternoon.

Short background

At the CIPD L&D show I met a guy called David Pearl. We talked about what I did, what I believed in and he said ‘look, I’ve got a not for profit thing that I do, it’s called Street Wisdom and I think it might be right up your street’. We exchanged details and a couple of days later I got an email with an invitation to a Street Wisdom event and a link to his TED talk. I watched the talk and signed up for Street Wisdom. I had a bit of faith.

In the run up to the event I was asked to think of one question I’d like answered. I toyed around with some career stuff but eventually committed to the big question I’ve been struggling with ‘what can I do to get better prepared for when someone close to me dies of cancer?’. There was no pressure on me to go with a big question, except that answering that one, in particular, seemed most likely to be of benefit to me and my family.

What happened on the day

We met in Trafalgar Square and were allocated to a facilitator. It was a diverse group – differing backgrounds, differing reasons for being there. We had a short introduction to Street Wisdom with particular focus that the intent is that it should become a movement – it isn’t owned by anyone, it is just about making a difference.

For the first hour we were set a series of challenges. Simple, simple challenges designed to get our heads into a space where we would be in a position to solve problems effectively. They were solitary adventures and I’m not revealing them in case losing that sense of unexpected spoils the learning journey for someone else. You don’t need to be scared, they are interesting. You do feel different when doing them.

After that you all get together to share your questions and then head off to see what the street can answer for you. I took photos as visual anchors – you didn’t have to but you weren’t told you couldn’t. I’m sharing about 70% of them, some of them I can’t as they are too personal or refer to other people involved.

I left feeling as in control of myself and my environment as I have done in the last 5 years. I left with things that I was committed enough to that I went home and talked my wife and brother through them. I left with a clear head about a difficult problem that I’ve wrestled with for over 2 years. I left with good things and a hope that I could share the simple techniques that gave me that benefit with others. 

Here we go – these are my resolutions and realisations. Nothing dramatic – but all gained in about an hour of wandering and wondering.

I need to exercise more. Even in the hustle and bustle you can find time to commit to it. Whether it is walking instead of the tube or getting up earlier for a jog, I need to make sure I’m feeling less sluggish and more energetic.


And I need to take more holiday too. I let my free days become cluttered days and don’t get enough genuine time to relax and refresh.


And I have to realise that when I take that time out it won’t always be that the bits all click together like a jigsaw. Some things can’t be solved. I need to be OK with that.


I need to find more opportunities (and plan more opportunities) to have conversations with people that I enjoy. With the people that I’m most glad to catch up with.


Even when things are busy I need to find time to communicate. When I don’t feel like communicating – I still need to do it.


I need to focus more specifically on what my wife and daughter need to make them happy. If we can sort out the three of us then that makes everything else far more manageable.


I need to keep learning and keep seeing new stuff. It gives me energy (as long as I balance it with the need to not clutter that I’ve mentioned above).


I need to make use of the weekends to do cool stuff with family, but also find ways to do that during the week too.


I need to hold it firmly in mind that stuff can always be rebuilt. It just takes time.


I enjoy going to watch sport. Sandro is a Spurs player, so this is my reminder to try and get myself up to watch my club a bit more often.


Most nights I only get a short window of time with my daughter before she goes to bed. It’s up to me to make sure we make the most of that time during the week.


I need to not expend energy on things that don’t matter. I can spend a few months not getting animated about the little annoyances (like people paying a premium for Apple products without checking out alternatives that may be a better value fit for their needs…)


Buy my daughter toys she will cherish and enjoy


Make use of the countryside that we have where we live…


Remember the importance of environment in how I feel. I’m always listening to my IPod, I need to ensure that I’m picking tunes to pick me up.


Take family up on offers of babysitting more often, so my wife and I can have time out and about enjoying London.


Give gifts to people more often. I diverted from my reflections to get this for Simon Heath. If you haven’t read 3 Men in a Boat then you’ve missed out on a lot.


What happens now?

Kate Griffiths-Lambeth, Simon Heath and I will be running one in the near future in London. Let me know if you are interested in taking part. Kate and I have also agreed to do one in Edinburgh. Simon and I thought it might be a good addition to an unconference format.

Most importantly – I’m doing things differently. And that, after all, is what L&D and life is all about. 

For more information head here

10 thoughts on “#StreetWisdom – life changing L&D?

    1. No. I’m not sure the foundations of anything but coaching models are in coaching 🙂 The thinking is based on different brain states needed to achieve creative thought – or just in tuning up to your environment depending on how you want to think about it


  1. Sounds like really good, useful fun. I’m a big believer in using small shifts to create big changes. Working outdoors can be really liberating, and taking little unexpected turns can also make big differences. Visual triggers are, as we know, enormously powerful too. I confess I read this and thought – this feels like a mash up of some of my most enjoyable and useful work. Working outdoors, taking photos, stop doing dumb things. Appreciate you sharing this David.


    1. I think you would have loved it and I hope you can make it when we run the next one. It is a lovely way to work – let people be people instead of controlling their environment. Very cool stuff. I need to take tips from you on the photography.


  2. Love this post….and I am not going to worry about the perfect cerebral response (which usually prevents me from commenting on many of your posts that are dead on!) ….you just nailed being alive and realizing what is important…and helping us to realize the importance of this for all of us in all aspects of our lives. So many distractions keep us heading in directions that consume the energy that we could choose instead to reinvest in our families, our jobs, and our lives including our health. So simply thank you for sharing all that you do!


  3. Sounds fascinating. Let me know the details of your events. If it has half the impact on me that it has had on you then I will be happy.


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