This highly inspiring man who could, by all accounts, be sitting in his wealth, isolated from everything that is going on in the world, is instead on an audacious mission to help ONE BILLION people figure out and focus on their happiness.
Not only for themselves, but to significantly shift the narrative we are all putting out into the world – specifically to shift what data machines learn from.
I love this and I’m going to help.
What’s not to love? Help people prioritise and invest in their happiness leading to happier lives and help a better world data stream that machines can learn from.
Over the next 3 months, I want to run an experiment:
I will invite 8 people to join a ~30 minute video call where we will explore what happiness means to each of us and how we each invest in it.
Each person invited commits to run another 8 person meetup – online or offline, in exactly the same way, discussing exactly the same topic. And so on.
If my math is right (it’s basically 8^10) and the plan works, in 10 weeks, over ONE BILLION people will have met. No repeats, no strain on organisers.
Just a simple 30 minute conversation.
Each person will have invested about 1 hour to create such an impact – 30 minutes as a guest, 30 minutes as a host.
Here is my simple projection:
Thank you for being willing to help with this experiment and if you would like to be included in the invitation, please comment below.
I was recently in a dialogue with a client and the conversation turned to “Evil Scrum” and some previous negative experiences that some people had experienced.
They imposed velocity targets and demanded estimates a year in advance and then bashed people when those forecasts weren’t met
Now, I’m no big fan of Scrum or Kanban in the same way I’m no fan of the Catholic Church or any religious organisation. It’s not the tool that I object to per se – it is the commercial agenda and what it makes otherwise nice people do in order to profit from the tool.
However, I am deeply knowledgeable about Scrum and Kanban and the agile manifesto that broadly underpin the credentials of both as better ways to handle complex adaptive systems and work.
My response to the client group was this:
Even a bluebell could be used by a bully to bludgeon you to death.
Neither of these process frameworks advocate any kind of violence to anyone. But they provide the hooks by which the brutish minded can exact violence on some people.
There was consensus in the room that this misuse of process and power e.g. Evil Scrum (could as well be Evil Kanban / SAFe / LeSS / whatever – was often worse than no process.
So my assertion is that those who get what they want through bullying others will try it with whatever tool they can find. From process, to working conditions and contracts to , yes, even bluebells.
The LinkyBrains movement is purely accidental. It has gained and is gaining momentum primarily through small groups of people meeting to have coffee, some lunch or just a walk. What brings them together is the idea of different mindsets, curiosity, meeting kindred spirits – whatever.
These ‘coffees’ are shabby-chic. There is often no structure, no theme (beyond being Linky). They are just people with pretty broad common ground, holding space to give their linkyness a chance to conenct. They are nicely messy and vague.
They are also super easy to setup. This is deliberate – the easier and lower risk something is, the likelier it is that the hesitant will try it.
But there is risk. People might simply not come. What happens then?
Here are three lessons I learnt from that experience.
Risk very little
Reduce what you could lose. The only real things at stake here were time and money.
It took me all of 10 minutes to find a location that was central, create the event on Doodle and share it on my channels. That’s almost no time at all.
I didn’t book a table at a posh restaurant. I hadn’t hauled post-its, markers and other collaboration tools. I certainly had not paid for anything. So, absolutely no money lost.
Of course, one could argue there was an opportunity cost – what are those things I could have done instead? Great question. I’ll get to that further down this page.
The only thing that stung in all this was my ego and any lesson that helps control that beast is worth almost any cost.
Be OK with no one coming
This was in Malaga, it’s not London or Berlin or Barcelona. LinkyBrains is new, the buzz has not been that well shared in Spain and certainly not in Malaga. Yet, two people had said they would come. My expectations were low, but not zero.
But no one showed up. When I prodded one of the people I was expecting, he apologised and said he was currently in the US!
I was disappointed. Even after 15 years of being involved in conferences, meetings, open space technology, lean coffees, world cafe and most kind of other formats for people getting together to collaborate. I was still disappointed no one showed up.
Then I remembered one of 4 principles I live by. They come from the Open Space Technology framework for running large group conversations
Openspace principles and law
Whoever comes are the right people
The openspace principles are designed to create psychological safety and the single law is a reminder of personal responsibility.
With mojito in hand and view of Malaga port, I quickly accepted that I was the ‘right people’ – this was precious time for me to ponder and converse with myself about neuro-diversity (the core of LinkyBrains) and to reflect on my collaborations in the space.
The two and half hours I spent were some of the most productive of the week. Headphones on:
I agreed a deal for some work and got halfway through the Statement of Work draft for it,
had 3 chat conversations in parallel with some really cool people,
It was OK that no one came. I was there and that was all that ultimately all I could be responsible for.
Do it Better Next Time
When you are learning to ride a bike and you fall off , your instructor encourages you to get back on as quickly as you can – so that your bruised ego and sense of failure do not succeed in convincing you never to try again.
So I got back on. I booked the next event that same night and I’ll do it differently.
I’ll share more regularly leading up to it – via email and socially, in English and Spanish. I’ll prod colleagues and friends to prod their Malaga based friends to check it out.]
I’ll give luck a helping hand.
So – go ahead, if you are curious about LinkyBrains or simply want to get together with other LinkyBrained people, create an event – it will be fine, whatever happens.
It has been the maddest 10 days of my life and I’ve had plenty mad.
Time to reflect on this LinkyBrain thing – taking in all the feedback that’s rolling in from chats, blog posts and spontaneous conversations and I’d like to share them.
Here are my reflections, 10 days in.
LinkyBrains has touched on something profound
People from all kinds of backgrounds, jobs, ethnicities, genders are engaging with this. They want to share their experience, others just want to read and comment. Others still are volunteering to help – even as the plan of what needs help is emerging.
People are organising and meeting up and connecting.
The Core Are Committed
Every community/movement was started somewhere by someone.
This one started with 3 naked dancers – Doug, Alex and Chris.
It was joined by a follower – Mike (me) – now we are all dancing naked.
It is what it is.
We aren’t more important, we aren’t thought leaders, we sure as hell aren’t experts in anything remotely like this. ‘First’ doesn’t confer any more rights and privileges than ‘last’. What matters is being in the movement – everyone earns their respect from the things they choose to help with, and the impact they create.
We are simply naked dancers and we keep dancing and working to keep the dance growing. Join in.
We are walking a fine line. Inclusion vs Exclusivity
Is this some kind of self-congratulating, wealthy male party?
Is this another exclusive club for those who love talking about themselves – because we need that like a hole in the head?
Is this LinkyBrain vs non LinkyBrain?
No. It isn’t any of that.
The narratives so far seems to be dominated with stories/confessions of ‘look how great I turned out with these things that should have slowed me down’.
If that is all you read, it would paint a picture of exclusivity. But I see this differently.
Life is full of challenges, they are like tunnels.
Of course it can be hard for everyone but, for people who see the world differently from society’s normal range, it can be especially hard. That is what this movement is about – making it easier and helping those people contribute to the benefit of everyone.
Most of the confessions are from ‘Jubilant emergers’ – they’ve emerged from various tunnels and discovered ways to be happy and successful at navigating tunnels.
We are not hearing from anyone currently in a tunnel – confused with where they fit, struggling with school / work / life, being understood or however it manifests.
We are not hearing from those approaching a tunnel – who might not even know there are tunnels.
We are not hearing those who might not be facing the challenges themselves, but are supporting people who are. Their voices are important too.
Those groups aren’t often able to speak out and share their realities.
We must do better to find way to hear them. Help us.
We need to move beyond Jubilance to sharing ways to navigate tunnels with anyone just behind us. How did you cope with this, what did you actually do to address that fear etc.
Some abuse will happen
I remember seeing someone trying to sell underwear with the tag #metoo. It pissed me off.
There will always be people trying to promote a personal agenda with any movement – however noble the cause is. That is just what it is. There’s nothing I can do about that beyond doing my best and remain committed to the bigger picture.
The Good Will Shine Through
We – me and the emerging LinkyBrains community – are going to keep encouraging the good, the humanity in us all, the positive. We will continue to help stories emerge, help people connect and do their best work for the benefit of everyone.
To get to a very nice sweat – with the right exercises of course.
The 30 Day Plank Challenge was phenomenal! My back, legs and core feel so much more reliable. I think that they are so effective that I will keep doing them every other day, in addition to the current challenge.
2 minutes of non-stop High Knees + 3 minutes of as many push ups as I can manage – every day, for 30 days.
If you don’t know what the High Knee exercise is, here is a great intro (ignore the smatlzcy American accent):
The key is sticking with it for as long as you can manage. I find that going slower is a better option than stopping – because it is really hard to get started again.
As for push ups, maintaining proper form is key to avoid injury. This dude gives great intro. Classic push up is fine – if you are adventurous, do some funky variations.
I’ve started already – so lets see how it goes! Good luck and please get moving.
Twenty seven years ago, in a small but important town in southern Nigeria, two teenage boys – bored with revising for their GCSEs – succumbed to the temptation of ‘guaranteeing the outcome’ of their Chemistry exam.
As with any situation with demand, supply always rises to meet it. As such, both boys independently went off to acquire the exam paper from different sources.
A few days later, they jubilantly reunited – each with their exam paper – suitably contained in large brown envelopes. As each boy opened his envelope and read the questions to see how well they were prepared, the first student commented that one of the questions didn’t make sense, thus prompting the second boy to look at the question.
Before too long, both boys looked at the papers side by side in disbelief. Both papers seemed identical on the front page but as soon as the pages were turned, the questions were completely different.
If they were different to each other, were either the correct paper or were both actually just passable fakes.
Despite their unscrupulous intentions, lady luck smiled on the boys. They still had a week before the exam and, to put it mildly, resumed revising with unquestionable focus.
One of those boys was me. I remembered I paid 70 Naira for my fake exam papers, at the time that was about £20.
That was the first and ultimately the last time I ever tried to cheat – neither in an exam or in any dealings with anyone.
Lessons to live by
That experience held some powerful lessons for a young person to learn, namely:
That some things are too good to be true – especially when the alternative is hard work. That the time you spend chasing the quick win is valuable time being ‘stolen’ from working hard on the surer win.
Something quite tremendous happened in addition to the lesson – I developed a strong principle of not cheating and not tolerating it from anyone else.
This is not to say don’t look for shortcuts – because there are some. But rather, invest in looking for the honest ones, that don’t compromise your principles. Of course, if you don’t have that principle then none of this matters.
What experiences and lessons about cheating have you had? Or what principles have you developed from your own experiences – I’d love to hear them.
Today as part of my #51days act of solidarity, I shall change my twitter profile to
‘I am Rohingya”
The Rohingya are an ethnic group that live in Myanmar – formerly Burma – they are mostly Muslims in a country that is predominantly Buddhist.
For a toxic mix of reasons – ranging from religious difference, land grab, ethnic hatred to simply being – the Rohingya have been persecuted almost out of existence. First by successive military juntas and now from a democratically elected government itself led by a former political prisoner and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Rohingya seem to be the favorite whipping boy of everyone with power in Myanmar and the world seems mostly deaf and mute to their persecution.
The Rohingya do not deserve to be murdered, their women raped, their leaders tortured and disappeared. No one does. If they have committed a crime – charge and apply the law against them. To the best of my knowledge, their only crime, as a group, is to exist.
The violence and discrimination is both by agents of the Myanmar start under the pretense of security and by private militias with the tacit and often, active, support of the State.
For each of those days,I will change my name on Twitter to reflect a cause I want to support and bring some attention in a small way.
There is so much wrong with the world. There is so much that is right too.
We are each nodes in a big network of humanity and when we refuse to pass on the right or suppress the wrong, we degrade the network. It stops working and it lets the mundane overshadow the truly meaningful.
But I’m only a node and over the next 51 days, I’m going to be a little better at being that.
I’m pretty active on Twitter. I blog about things that interest me, I jump into conversations, I rant. My tweets are shared, liked and retweeted that creates reach beyond the 3000+ people that follow me. A change in name – especially one that provokes curiosity spreads my message. It might just provoke the right action from the right person.
What can I do to help?
Retweet me, like my tweets.
Tweet about this action – if you support the same cause or simply want to support my activism.
Share this post.
Share the messages that have the hashtag #51days – they will be about the issue of the day.
Join me – if you’re on Twitter, change your twitter name in solidarity.
Or simply just share about this stupid thing Mike is doing now.
In January 2016, I committed to take my dog – Maya – on a really long walk and I committed to use the walk to raise money and awareness for more investment into the medical conditions: Myalgic Encephalitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and FibroMyalgia. My best friend and my daughter both suffer from forms of these conditions and they are poorly understood, poorly diagnosed and treated. There are no cures currently for these conditions.
Whether you walk it alone, or you trek with a group – a great walk helps you connect with people, nature and yourself. And in this connection there is so much learning. I don’t know whether it is science or spiritual or simply what happens when you give yourself the time and space to be heard.
Going into this walk, I had a bunch of things to figure out – primarily I wanted time and space to reconnect with myself. I did reconnect with myself – reaffirming what makes me, me and what my focus in life is, who and what are important and more importantly, who and what aren’t. Unexpectedly I also reconnected with parts of humanity that I had silently drifted from and didn’t realise I needed to rediscover and I’m so glad I did.
I learned so many things about myself and people and life on this walk and wrestled with demons that I hadn’t previously made time to resolve. They say that in the woods, no one can hear you scream. There are lots of woods in the North of Spain and I had many opportunities to scream at my demons and them at me.
Then there are the lessons that necessity teaches.
Anyhow – here are some of the things I learned on my walk:
Maya is a Truly Amazing Dog
I consider myself to be a very practical dog owner. There is a power relationship in play between man and dog and whilst I know all the blah blah about trust and loyalty, I hadn’t fully experienced it with any other dog I’ve had, until this walk. I know that Maya considers me her pack leader – who will ultimate protect her from any threat and provide for her.
As far as I know, Maya can’t read a map nor calculate the distance between places on a route. She doesn’t know to plan for a 30km walk with multiple ascents and descents.
This beautiful dog walked with me every step of the way and stayed by my side in the rain and through the mud. Through forests and towns and hard tarmac roads that must have been tough on her paws. She braved her fears – unfriendly dogs that barked terrifyingly at her approach – and she spread her joy by making friends with every person we met.
Whether it was 10km or 30, Maya just walked with me – trusting that I knew where we were going and seeking nothing but having a pine cone thrown in play every now and then.
Vaseline is magic
“Here’s some vaseline – put it anywhere that starts to catch or heat up or rub” – the wisest words a newbie long distance walker will ever hear. My friend Amancio said these to me when we first met and kindly offered me his own tube as a gift.
Long walks put huge strain on your feet, things rub, skin gets bruised and blisters form. All these on their own are bad enough – but when you have to walk every day, suddenly things get rather more complicated. In comes Vaseline.
Every morning of my walk started with a smattering of vaseline on my clean feet – not too much, just enough to rub into my feet and create a protective shield. This shield almost entirely eliminates the friction that causes blisters.
Then when the straps of my 9.5kg backpack started rubbing into my shoulder and my neck – Vaseline again to the rescue.
Fix problems that affect your ability to make progress as soon as they occur
Stop and fix problems when they occur. Lesson learned.
On a walk and in life, there are things you must keep doing to move forward. In life, it seems like there are a multitude of things you need to maintain. You have to look after your health, eat well and exercise for example. Some say you have to keep learning, others say you need to keep an active social life.
On a walk, life is much simpler. The only thing you need to do to make progress is maintain your ability to put one foot in front of the other and walk. I learned that I needed to address any problem that affected that ability as soon as I felt them.
For example – I had new walking boots and the inevitable pains of breaking them in all started to emerge from about the second day of the walk. First I got shooting pains in the sole of my left foot – but I ignored them, put a brave face on and kept walking. Then they got worse, the pain spread to the back of my left knee.
Had I stopped and stretched, applied some balm – as I did on subsequent days (with fewer painful consequences) – I’m sure those first 2-3 days would have been a less injury prone experience.
The cost of stopping and fixing the problem is much lower than the price of being laid out for a day or two.
So now I’m working on understanding what essential things I need in order to move forward joyfully in life and I’m learning to spot problems that will affect them.
I really don’t need very much to be happy
Something about living out of a backpack for 10 days is exceptionally liberating. I packed 4 dry wick tech shirts – they are extremely light and quick drying- 2 trousers that could convert to shorts and a few other items of clothing. But I realised actually I could have packed even half of those items and still been fine.
I was without my laptop, a TV – though I had my phone, I used it almost entirely for taking pictures and keeping in touch with my family via Whatsapp.
Aside from the physical things I didn’t have – I also had much less responsibility. Basically it was to find food for myself and Maya.
Yet the walk was truly one of the happiest 2 weeks of my life. I think as material things go – I’ve never been a hankerer for things – so not much improvement there. This walk has taught me to think about the responsibilities that I take on that I might not need to be happy, it also taught me that there are some things that I had closed myself to – that I now recognise make me feel happy – which I really need to try and get more of.
I never tend to do things because I seek gratitude in return or even an acknowledgement by anyone who might benefit from my doing them. I do things mostly because I want to do them or I see they need to be done. Yet I was completely unprepared for the effect of reading some of the short messages of gratitude and appreciation on Facebook and on my JustGiving page. Hundreds of messages of gratitude for walking for others. I blubbed almost every time I read.
Everyone has their own camino
Each person has their own camino
I was joined at the start of my camino by my friends Helen and Horacio. We had such a wonderful time for the 3 days we were together. We laughed so hard, there were never any awkward silences. There were times we walked in step and other times when each walked their own pace. It was easy.
Yet as much as we enjoyed walking the same route, we each were walking our own camino -both as a physical journey through each person’s limits and challenges and through each person’s mental baggage they needed to work through.
And this was the same for each person I met on the walk. Appreciating that we are not all walking for the same reasons or to the same schedule almost entirely eliminates judgement. There is no right way to walk nor a right way to start or a good time to complete a stage in.
As I apply this learning to life – I feel totally filled with empathy for the journey each person is on – even if they don’t realise they are on a distinct one from everyone else.
The Kindness of Strangers is Powerful Stuff
‘Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud’ – Maya Angelou
There were a few times on this walk when I needed help. Especially when things got a little complicated with accommodation with Maya or finding food for her on days when things were closed or in places where nothing was open.
The warmth and the kindness of people who didn’t know me from Adam – people who could easily have said ‘No’ instead of ‘Yes’ – simply blows me away.
It turns out that over the last few years I have not needed the kindness of strangers – most of my endeavours have been very much in my control. Yet on this camino, I put myself in situations where I needed that help and there it was.
From Kepa who happily let Maya sleep in his courtyard – to Manolo in Pobeña who offered to drive me to the next town to buy dog food – I’m convinced these are the people who neutralise all the cynicism in the world by their small acts of random kindness.
Never sleep with a big dog in a small tent
However much you love your dog – and I love mine a whole lot (and a whole lot more after this Camino), there are lines to be drawn.
One such line is never again sharing a small tent with Maya. Aside from the paws digging into my side and the tail tickling my nose, the most unbearable thing were the farts.
Maya is lethal with her farts- though I think I gave as good as I got – and this is made more toxic because of the size of the tent. So if there is one piece of advice I can share – that I learned the hard way – it is never to share your small tent with a big dog.
Now, remember I went to walk. But I did manage to take some pictures too. I’ll add more of my photos as well as some from Helen, Horacio and James when they share them.
I’m deeply grateful to so many people for the support and concern during this camino. Huge thanks to my wife – Katharine – for making it possible for me to even have the time to be away from home for 12 days.
Thanks to these 58 amazing people who backed my JustGiving campaign. We exceeded the target and this money will make a difference to the lives of so many people suffering with ME/CFS/FM. We need research into these conditions and whilst £3000 may not sound like a lot for research, it will fund the activism and advocacy that is critical to agitate for more investment.
The Next Steps
As my friend and Camino consultant – Amancio – says “You’re hooked on the Camino”. I am pretty hooked now on the idea of the camino as a quest, a time to reconnect and as a physical and mental challenge. So now what?
Well, in September/October, Maya and I will be walking for 25 days to complete the remainder of the Camino del Norte from Santander to Santiago. About 600 km. It will be a more informed adventure and, for sure, a lighter packed one.
I’ll post more about it and I know now that I will continue to raise money and awareness for ME/CFS/FM and also to raise awareness and funds for MOAS – the Migrant Offshore Aid Station – who are doing an incredible job saving lives in the Mediterranean Sea by rescuing migrants from capsized boats.
If you would like to join me for part of this longer walk – stay tuned to my blog for news of the plan and the schedule.
This Saturday – May 7th, my Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago will begin.
As some of you know, I am doing this to raise awareness and funds for ME/CFS research (donate here if you haven’t: https://www.justgiving.com/mhsuttonlongwalk).
I’m doing this long walk because I was inspired by my best friend Joel, who is fighting ME/CFS and also other sufferers of this condition to whom it would be a dream to just set foot and walk for 100 yards.
As an ME/CFS sufferer at home, there are two very easy and fun ways you can “join” me on this walk. You can do both!
First: Participate on the Dedication Day:
(This is kind of urgent – the first dedication day is Saturday May 7th – when I will dedicate 22km of my Camino – so please hurry.)
How it works: I dedicate each day of this 12 day walk to an ME/CFS sufferer – tell your story, share a picture of you that day and help show the world that just because governments aren’t taking this seriously enough, it doesn’t mean it isn’t serious.