Do Lectures 2011 - 5 Lessons on How to Love Life & Improve the World Around You


All images by Leonora Oppenheim. Steve Edge directing the Do Lectures Auction

There is a man dressed in a silver lamé suit jumping about with extraordinary energy in a wind blown field in West Wales. His name is Steve Edge and his motto in life is: "Dress for a party every day and the party will come to you." He's not wrong you know. While most others at the Do Lectures last week were dressed in sensible muted layers flecked with mud, Steve's flamboyant and pristine presence was like that of the cartoon bright idea light bulb appearing above people's heads. Steve embodies that "Hey, wake up!" moment which tells you "Things don't have be just the way they are." And this is what the Do Lectures is all about.
Evening drinks on Fforest Farm, home of the Do Lectures in West Wales
Five Lessons from Do Lectures 2011
Over the next few days I am going to be writing here on TreeHugger about five themes, or lessons if you will, that sprung out of the amazing talks given at the Do Lectures last week. You may have read the posts I wrote after attending this extraordinary ideas conference in 2009. Then I picked out themes such as Big Hairy Audacious Goals, Turn off Your TV, Take The First Step, The Axeness of an Axe, Bonfire Brands.

These are still absolutely relevant to that challenging process of realising our individual dreams while making the world a better place in the process. It's tricky, don't you know, to find that perfect work, life, saving the world balance. So I'm excited to return from the Do Lectures 2011 with five more life enhancing themes for you to add to your doing tool kit.

1. Things are not just the way they are
2. What can you uniquely do?
3. Start where you live
4. The people's take over
5. The importance of independence


Steve constantly steps off the edge in his silver shoes
Things are not just the way they are
So, starting at the beginning, as Steve Edge so brilliantly shows us, things are not just the way they are. We don't have to accept the status quo. We all have the power to decide to be different, to go against the grain, to stand out, to stand up. Here on TreeHugger we're constantly reporting on all the environmental and social issues there are to tackle on our planet. The phrase 'business as ususal' sends shivers down everyone's spines as we see the old financial and media industries collapsing around us. Time for a change.

Asking difficult questions
Christiana Wyly, environmental advocate and venture partner at Satori Capital, opened her Do Lectures talk last week with a story about asking difficult questions as a child. In her case it was, "Why is there so much smog in Los Angeles?" Christiana says she was routinely met with the response "Well, that's just the way things are." Not surprisingly this answer didn't satisfy and her constant questioning lead to her father founding a renewable energy company called Green Mountain Energy.


One of Christiana Wyly's slides on asking questions
Find better answers
Now not every parent can answer their children's difficult questions by starting a successful sustainable business, but Christiana's point is that if we keep asking the difficult questions then we can find better answers. Eco-designer Mark Shayler gave an empassioned talk about how he doesn't just want to do things better, but to actually do better things. He describes his work in improving packaging design as "making really bad things a bit better," touching on the Cradle to Cradle point of doing less bad, is not the same as doing good.

Get out of your comfort zone
Mark's passion and energy for real change was matched by Alistair Smith in his talk about the need to revolutionise our education system. "From the earliest," he says. "We are encouraging youngsters to be biddable." Echoing Christiana's experience as a child of being expected to listen, behave and accept. Alistair asks that we deliver great education by encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone. "Push people to the edge, persuade them that the journey is worthwhile."


One of Alistair Smith's slides on the power of constant learning
How you are born really matters
Radical midwife Caroline Flint argued in her highly emotional talk that our ability to grow, thrive and adapt in the world goes right back to our moment of birth. Too many women, she says, currently accept an industrialised maternity care system that doesn't nurture or protect the birthing female, but exposes her to brutal procedures under bright lights and surrounded by noise. This is the polar opposite of the natural environment that mammals seek in childbirth. "The paradigm of birth is tragic," she said and it doesn't have to be that way.

The Letting Go
Improv expert Rob Poynton brought together beautifully these ideas, about challenging our systems, in the phrase "letting go." In order to create positive change we need to let go of our preconceived notions of what exists. Perhaps we are not living and working in the optimum conditions for human beings. In the tradition of the Do Lectures each speaker is asked to state their Big Do and their Little Do. Rob's Big Do is to "Break the control addiction and be forgiving and compassionate with yourself while doing this." His Little Do is for us to realise, in the spirit of improv, "Everything is an offer. Think about how we can take and use what is in front of us."


Rob Poynton's sweet spot in the middle of notice more, use everything, let go
Trust our instincts - Use System 1
Our natural instinct is important. Let's not just accept the way things are. Let's ask difficult questions and trust that inside we truly know the right thing to do. Market research guru John Kearon used Daniel Kahneman's System 1 and System 2 theory in his talk to illustrate how our instinctive emotional brain (System 1) is so much more powerful than our cognitive clever brain (System 2). We really need to pay attention to System 1 more often.

More on The Do Lectures
The Do Lectures' Bold Designer Posters Deliver Motivating Resolutions for the New Year
Not a Dry Eye In The House - Maggie Doyne Tells Her Incredible Story At The Do Lectures 2010
TH Exclusive: Sneak Peek at Speaker Line Up For Do Lectures 2010
The Do Lectures 2009 - Bonfire Brands
The Do Lectures 2009 - The Axeness of an Axe
The Do Lectures 2009 - Take The First Step
The Do Lectures 2009 - Turn Off Your TV
The Do Lectures 2009 - Big Hairy Audacious Goals
The Do Lectures: It's Like TED In A Welsh Field
Let the Doers of the World Inspire You

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