Determination. Itâ€™s the invisible force that keeps you running when your lungs are burning and your legs feel like they might buckle beneath you. Itâ€™s what keeps you staring at the page, re-reading words until you arrange them in such a way that just feels right. Itâ€™s what keeps you looking for the needle in a haystack when trying to find some broken code that has messed up the web page you are building. Itâ€™s the quality that can see you through the most insignificant tasks, to lifeâ€™s biggest tests. It pushes us forward, when maybe we would rather stay put, or even go back. Itâ€™s about making and re imagining a future when you arenâ€™t even certain that you have one.
How do you find the strength and resolution to see a project or a plan through to fruition? How do you motivate yourself once you have made a decision to make something happen? How do you stay determined when the odds are stacked against you?
Gav Thompson is one of the most determined people you’ll ever meet. As if to illustrate this fact, even his attendance at the Spring Do Lectures required a fair dose of grit and determination on his part. He had made it, despite the fact he had a broken shoulder and was meant to be on the operating table. Despite his fear that heâ€™d be seen as just another â€˜corporate wankerâ€™ by the attendees. Despite the fact he had been told a few years back that he would never speak again – but he spoke, and he shared his story. Thompson had it all. An incredibly successful and lucrative career in Advertising (he produced one of the most popular adverts in history for Guiness. Remember the black and white surfing/horses one?), a beautiful wife and kids. But life, as it invariably does, had other plans. In his talk he shares the lessons he’s learnt since he made the bold decision to leave his previous life behind, by walking away from his advertising career:
1. Thereâ€™s no cure for mortality.
Shortly after the birth of his children and leaving his job Thompson was diagnosed with tongue cancer, for months he wasn’t able to speak and thought that his time just might be up. He shared the lesson he’d learnt in the hardest of ways. Life is short, don’t assume that time will stretch out ahead of you, indefinitely. You could reach the end of your journey before you hoped and planned. Use that fact to make the most of each and every day of your life.
2. Treat time with the reverence it deserves.Â
Following his illness Thompson and his wife unfortunately separated and divorced, his wife and children moved back to her home country of South Africa. Now, when he spends time with his children he appreciates every precious moment he gets with them. Try not to waste too much time grieving for what was, or what you imagine your life should be. All you have is now and this. Appreciate what you can, whilst you can.
3. Words, speech and communication are your gifts – Use them.
With help from his doctors and surgeons, Thompson eventually got his voice back and has put it to very good use by convincing the giant corporation O2 to run such fantastic community and educational initiatives as giffgaff and O2 Learn. You get the distinct feeling when watching Thompson speak that he relishes the challenge of being the ‘The Pirate Inside‘, making a change from the inside out.
4. Small ideas can lead to very big things.Â
O2 Learn and giffgaff, like many great ideas, started as scribbles in Thompson’s notebook. Don’t dismiss your ideas before you even begin. It may just be the start of something that changes your life, and maybe even the lives of others. With O2 Learn, Thompson wanted to address the fact that the provision of education for children is just not
good enough. With only 58% of children of secondary school age attending school worldwide Thompson has helped provide the most accessible and largest classroom in the world. It helps talented teachers share their gift by allowing them to submit a film of their best lesson, which O2 then makes available on their website. Whilst giffgaff, which translates as ‘a mutual gift’, is a mobile network that is run, in part, by itâ€™s members. Itâ€™s a new and very inclusive way of running this kind of business and has achieved the highest community index in the world.
5. What will your Legacy be?Â
What will you be able to tell the next generation about what you have done with your life? Thompson wants to be able to tell his kids about what he has achieved and for them to be inspired. He’s learnt that there is plenty of humanity to be found within large corporations, it doesn’t need to be Corporate Vs The Charity/NGO/Social Enterprise sector. Corporations exist and have a lot of power, but most people within them want to do good. Help them to do that.
6. Thereâ€™s only today!Â
Thompson ends his talk with a rousing call to get things done – Today! You never know what is around the next corner. Be determined! This one is the only chance you know you will have. Thompson has been determined. Determined to live a life that he wants to live, doing what he wants to do, to get his voice back and use it. And he certainly is – to awesome effect. Inspiring.