Purpose is the power to re-energise

Purpose is powerful. When the going gets tough, simply being able to lock into why you started in the first place helps you to get through. You’ve heard me say it before, I even wrote a book on it. Crisis gets us to a place where we decide what we really want.

When crisis gets our attention, purpose moves into focus. In business, we are always faced with the question, ‘Is it worth it?’ when crisis strikes. And, when things get pressured, your team also need to be attuned to why, as they too might be asking, ‘Is it worth it?’

Being able to answer that question with a resounding “Yes” allows us to regroup and refocus and double back down on what we are good at. More importantly, it stops us quitting. Great never comes easy and that is why few push for it. Prioritising comfort over conviction might see us living a good life rather than a great one. If we go with conviction our HeartSet gives us the clarity in moments of crisis to keep moving forward even though we are in a storm. Storms pass and you can weather them, anchored to purpose.

When we lose sight of why we started in the first place we lose clarity and it’s harder to answer “Is it worth it?’ If we aren’t focussed, other things steal our attention along the way. The trick is to keep ‘on’ purpose, along with those around us. We need to keep the purpose conversation going, reminding people regularly of the Mission (the reason for existing), the Vision (the land we aim to take) and about Values (the compass for our choices). Make sure they are part of the conversation, particularly when it comes to collaboration.

Re-energising an organisation starts by allowing people ‘in’ and ‘often’. As leaders we feel we have to have all the answers, read all the right books and listen to all the podcasts. However, leading with purpose liberates you and places the responsibility on the collective. Leading as a collective requires collaboration and plenty of conversations. Communication is not about top down command, it’s about building a community of people who’ll care enough to make an impact.

Great conversations lead to collaboration. The best conversations we have concern purpose and intention, define how things need to be done and cement our roles in the team. It is simply not about ONE getting things done, it’s about ALL of us getting things won. Living purposefully is a team sport and once we all know our roles, we can play to our strengths and everyone wins.

In order to prioritise purpose we have to be honest with what we want. Answer these four questions to find the energy to power through crises.

1. What needs to change for you to be free?

As entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders there are often things that hold us back. We can feel trapped when we are not being true to purpose and we begin to resent the thing we are building rather than seeing it as a vehicle to deliver purpose.

When pressure is high, sometimes we only see the task ahead and we lose perspective. Freedom is having time to enjoy off the field activities, but we also need to learn to enjoy those pressured moments. Freedom is being you in the midst of purpose. It will take effort and you will get days where you have red eyes, either from strain or tears but you also have the power to impact the people your product or service delivers.

We feel trapped when we are not doing the thing which enables us to have the most impact. So we employ other people to help and give them the tools to do what we are not good at. I am not a website designer, there are people that do that better than me. Do I love our websites? YES, but I focus on message, the web designers focus on method and that brings momentum.
When I’m in the wrong space, I get frustrated. However, when I’m creating impact, wow! It gives me the fuel to keep driving.

2. When can you make that change?

The best place to start was yesterday and the next best place is today! It all begins with a choice to be in it for the long haul. Yes, you may have survived the last few years but now you want to transition into a place of thriving rather than just surviving. It will take some more investment of time, talent and treasure to see the results you desire. After all, you won’t get a harvest on seeds you don’t plant.

We want the BIG win to change everything, but if we plant the seeds of change in the right soil we’ll be able to to control the environment. When you take risks on people, things won’t be perfect but they should progress. Making the change is trusting everyone with purpose and together we bring it to pass.

Choose your next meeting with your core team to prioritise purpose and ensure everyone in the business is aligned to it. If they are not, be brave enough to help them change roles, or even to consider a new chapter without you.

3. How do you help people see what you need them to see?

First we need to be happy to admit we don’t have all the answers and give other people a voice. When we started out, we might have won work because WE were good at something, but now as the business scales WE ALL need to be GREAT in our roles.

We need to share from our heart what drives us, the impact we are trying to create. The audience is right at the heart of any decision making and the team need to catch this care for the audience. The team need to care about the audience even more than the founders!

4. Who carries the vision in their heart?

Not everyone ‘get’s it’. There is a lot to be said for recruitment and asking the right questions up front, but sometimes organisations change and pivot and the reasons for joining get lost. I’ve heard countless business leaders say their team don’t always ‘catch it’ and they think something is wrong with the team. However, without a clear mission, vision and set of values it is easy to get lost. As a leader it is your responsibility to ensure they do ‘get it’ and that is the power of a strong brand.

Brand isn’t a logo, a look and feel and some pretty graphics. A solid brand equals a solid culture and a better quality website. When companies don’t invest in the process properly, retention of staff in the business is low. People leave because there is no cause to buy into. I’m amazed even today, at the lack of understanding of what brand building can really do for businesses. Brand is more than outward, it is vital to keep everyone united around the purpose we are striving to deliver.

We need to make room around the table for those that ‘get it’. We need to give them the space to bring their ideas to the table and build, even better than we ourselves did. Remember, as you scale, you become the facilitator not the main dude. Give people the space to grow. Make space for that entrepreneurial thinking as it helps you plan your legacy and innovate for the long term. I joke that some of the team like to be entrepreneurial with other people’s money, but in essence they do care about scale, growth, improvement and innovation. A healthy business needs to make room for it, and in reinvention, these things are key.

Purpose shouldn’t change but the way we deliver it HAS to.

How taking a moment can create REAL momentum

I’ve written hundreds of blogs of the years, and helped thousands of people gain clarity, and finally, after a long time of asking, it is here. I’ve managed to get our HeartSet Course down on video!

I don’t want to hard sell to anyone, but following a ‘test drive’ of the video course and sharing some of the content with UWE students, I can honestly say that this a course that can bring alignment into your life when it comes to pursuing purpose. Investing in yourself to develop as a professional is something we can struggle to get round to, but spending money on a book or a course can change your life.

HeartSet is all about creating alignment for your particular assignment. It is about understanding the power of having your past, present and future aligned around what is in your heart and making sure your time counts.

Many people talk about mindset and of the importance of having a healthy one if you want to live a transformed life. HeartSet, however, is the thing that creates belief in the first place. You see, in our busy world, much of our time is spent dealing with the many distracting voices that are vying for our attention. What we really need is the time and space to go deeper into what is in our hearts.

How many of us have been doing something that seems right, but deep down in your heart, it doesn’t fit. I had this experience when I was about to take over an award winning creative agency. It looked right on paper, it was going to look great on my CV and there was the promise of so much more… it was all there. Yet, in my heart of hearts, I knew that taking it would be killing my values… I would slowly become cynical and start making choices that would enhance my value at the expensive of others – both directly and indirectly. I would have been working for alcohol and cigarette companies, which paid well, but there was a price to pay. In fact we were all feeling uncomfortable about it but we distracted ourselves with the very thing we were marketing.

The HeartSet course would have stopped me in my tracks (if I had written it then) and asked me those deeper questions which, when answered, open the door to a fulfilled life. We are created for good, to do good, but somehow life and its experiences leads us to make the choice to survive rather than thrive. HeartSet allows us to reset, reframe and repurpose what we do with our resources, our time, talent and our treasure.

The course covers the three clear areas that frame our choices: the past, the present and the future. The HeartSet Matrix helps us to begin to see how we can bring positive alignment from the clues of the past, choices in the moment and plans for the future.

Let me show you…

The Past
This isn’t a self help journey for you to discover an unhealthy memory that triggers pain, the past is explored here for a moment to discover what you really ‘loved’ doing and in the fullness of time, let it go. I’ve shared before how I used to play with Lego and tell stories. Today, I do just that, but rather than playing with Lego people I help build real people’s lives and businesses around purpose.

The Present
Living life in the present is hard for a futurist or someone who cannot let go of the things in the past that held them back. One way of doing this is doing exactly what you enjoy in the moment, in the day. It’s about not wasting a moment and being fully aware of where we are headed.

The Future
We should all be looking to the future with hope and we can identify what needs to be planned in so that days, months and years are not stolen by circumstance, they are lived with conviction. The future is what we are all looking to build and by doing the HeartSet Course, you will gain clarity and from it conviction.

So, how much time will this really take?
Well, first of all I suggest you need some alone time. The course itself provokes deep questions and the content itself is around an hour, broken up into 6 sessions that pose the deeper questions that need answering. We will educate you around those questions and help you compose the answers that you’ve been looking for, but maybe you’ve never taken the time to answer! Life was too busy.

What does it cost?
We want to make it affordable and get people to tell as many people about it as possible by removing the barriers. The online course, including downloadable workbook, is £99.00. Even if that’s a stretch right now, in the long term £99.00 to work out your life’s purpose is a small price to pay.

We invest in tech and entertainment, but it’s time to invest in you, even if investing in yourself is something you feel guilty about. I have invested much time, treasure and other people’s talent to be educated to a higher level than where I started, and I continue to do so. You need wisdom to transform where your past has landed you! In the present you can build a future that inspires both you and the generations following – it’s an investment worth making!

What happens afterwards?
Well, everyone that finishes the course will be met online for a conversation around the answers to help you begin to plan the life you really want to live. You might have to make some BIG choices, life defining ones, and I have plenty of experience in that! I will be meeting everyone who has done the course for a Q and A session once they have completed their assignment! No cheating! You must ‘get it done’.

So, £99.00 for an hour, on your own, with some focussed time that will help transform the way you live your life seems like an over sell, but those that have done it already are getting the clarity that they have been looking for!

Many courses help you on the journey, but few take the responsibility of actually answering the deeper questions such as, “Why me?” “Why this?” “Why now?”

Invest in yourself and get your HeartSet for purpose.

The changing narrative of free speech

Elon Musk now owns Twitter. $44 billion dollars. Some are delighted and some are going into melt down. Funny thing is though, from elections to vaccination, Twitter has had an opinion and edited, deleted and cancelled out anyone who was contrary or asking inconvenient questions. Now, those same people, after Elon’s take over, have had their accounts released in an apparent return to free speech. All of a sudden, life is back to normal.

Now here is the thing. Twitter isn’t a real place and while its perceived value is high, not everyone uses it. Time will tell if the platform goes alt-right and millions of people with the opposite leaning leave, but one thing is becoming clear: Twitter DID use information to shape a narrative.

Which leads me to the question: Do we really allow social media to formulate our opinions? Can Twitter be trusted as a news source over one that comes from our TV? If anything, it’s getting harder for us to trust anything. You only have to wait long enough and narratives will change. Time always tells.

Underpinning all of this is our ability to choose. We are fighting for free will, a free conversation and the ability to express ourselves. However, I believe it is even simpler than that. We just want to be heard and being heard doesn’t always mean agreement.

Maturity is hearing and not always agreeing but being able to see both sides and make our choices – that is free will. Having the choice to choose.

As Twitter gains followers and profiles are raised, will the right actually want to cancel the left just like the left cancelled the right? For me, that is half the problem! Why are people celebrating when someone they disagree with is cancelled? Exactly who is right here? Who has the moral high ground?

Without a moral framework in the Twitter country how does it govern? That is the ultimate challenge for us and one that even our own government can’t seem to navigate.

I believe that governing well requires a set of rules, something to abide by and something that allows room for freedom but ultimately ensures safety. Without boundaries, people are unsafe. Unfortunately, with Twitter, both sides have tried to create boundaries, but it’s all coloured by their own preferences. Do as I say, not as I do.

So how do we fix this? Well, it takes me back to a time when tablets looked a bit different – made of stone rather than glass and metal. I’m talking about The Ten Commandments. Imagine how Twitter would look if God’s Ten Commandments were its accepted code of conduct?

• I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me (ie. ones we make for ourselves)… You shall not adore them nor serve them.
• You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (ie. leaving Jesus’ name out of it when we’re annoyed).
• Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
• Honor your father and your mother.
• You shall not kill.
• You shall not commit adultery.
• You shall not steal.
• You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour (no lying).
• You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife (no cheating).
• You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods (no being jealous).

So, what if Elon Musk adopted the Ten Commandments as a code of conduct for Twitter?

Even the first commandment can make for difficult reading. The truth is that believing in something bigger than ourselves actually stops us from wanting to play God. To me, that seems to be the problem with this whole Twitter battle, leaders seeing themselves as God. Elon has everything at his disposal to start ‘Lording’ it around, and yet, as a human he’s fallible.

Twitter can be abusive. Just because slurs and rants take place behind a screen doesn’t make them any less painful. We need to realize that ganging up on someone who has an opinion contrary to our own isn’t kind and behind a Twitter handle is a human being (usually). Love is about listening rather than speaking. If we want freedom, we must behave like we do in real life and listen.

Here’s another commandment that’s a great idea. Sundays, we give ourselves a break. It actually feels good to take a break from social media. Detox. Switch off. Unplug and realize that detoxing is normal to life. If we eat too much ultra processed food we’ll get ill, and if we doom scroll through Twitter for too long our time gets wasted (please Elon sort out the new layout BTW).

Then, Honour, father and mother, in fact honour everyone. Engage with the fact that can you leave the conversation better. Can we enrich, inspire and encourage? Can we find answers from the more experienced and are we willing to put our preconceived ideas aside?

You shall not kill. How about killing someone else’s reputation? People change over time. Do we give them the benefit of the doubt or do we find a tweet from 5 or even 10 years ago and impale them on it? I know I’ve changed loads. Positively. I’m sure you have to. We could give people the benefit of the doubt and allow enemies to become friends.

Adultery. Imagine if that was a criminal offence. Wow. We’d struggle for government that is for sure. Yet, being loyal and faithful to one another in relationships, even in disagreement, is important. Being creative is something that has kept our team together. Just because we disagree about something doesn’t necessarily mean that either party is right… right? I might hate the colour, but is the colour wrong? Actually, I’m reminded of a campaign that had the word ‘Go’ in the title, but the client hated the colour green. They wanted the colour red, but as we all know, red means stop. It was a battle, but common sense prevailed. Anyway, I digress…

You shall not steal. Ideas, thoughts… on Twitter it’s better to retweet and give credit where it is due than to pinch someone else’s ideas. You’ll win new followers as a result. People even have their identity stolen and that IS something Twitter will look to address. Impostors share information and tweets that are not their own. Identity theft is on the rise, so keep your passwords strong!!

You shalt not bear false witness ( AKA lying). That’s about disinformation. The buzz word of the last few years. Learn to research. Learn to read more. Learn to question and challenge. Learn to ask. Too much is typed and not enough is read. Calling it ‘disinformation’ because you don’t agree with it has been the disease that has eaten away at the credibility of Social Media and the media in general. Let’s learn to tell the truth and be comfortable with it, even if we don’t always agree or enjoy what it carries with it.

We can stay faithful, it’s possible. Twitter isn’t a dating app. Sliding into DMs, even if you’ve got Crypto to sell, is something that most people aren’t happy with. Engage in conversation publicly. In some respects that is what makes Twitter great. You can follow feeds and get some great info. Cre8ion have won some of our biggest clients using open and transparent conversations.

Lastly, coveting (being jealous of) other people’s stuff. Stop worrying about someone else being bigger and better than you. Honestly. Everyone can win if we learn to learn. We can stop competing and look to complete someone else’s life. Twitter magnifies insecurity. We have to learn that an opinion is just that. If someone has more followers and interaction then we can learn from them. Don’t see it as a loss.

There is one more commandment that stands the test of time more than all the others and if applied would fix every channel online and off it: Treat others in the same way you wish to be treated. I wish Elon Musk would make it his vision statement for the next phase of this curious world called Twitter.

So, there is my sermon for the day. Maybe Elon Musk will read it. I hope so. If you have read it and you’d like some help to make your social media creative and original, contact us today

The cost of alcohol mixed with entrepreneurship was a price too high for me to pay

With inflation on the rise, so is the pressure on many families. There’s a temptation at times like these for us entrepreneurs to hide at the bottom of a glass. My encouragement to you today is to ignore it and shine on the stage that has been set for you!

Forget inflated egos and one-up-man-ship, we are in a time when we might have to do whatever it takes to live a life of no limits. As I have gotten older, the limitations I’ve placed on myself have given me a sharper focus and enabled me to go further.

I don’t often talk about it because I don’t want other people to feel condemned. The truth is though, next year, I won’t have drunk a drop of alcohol for twenty years. In the past, other people have openly mocked me for making this choice, and some of my team have been mocked for taking a similar stance. Interestingly though, today, the mockers in question don’t drink any more either! What I have found is that life can be extraordinary when you choose to be less ordinary. A choice not to drink is a fairly unusual one to make but it can lead to really exceptional consequences.

For me, being a hero was only a possibility after I chose ‘zero’. I’m not trying to be ‘holier than thou’ I’m just sharing what has given me real clarity and longevity of vision.

There is an old saying in the church world that three things rob you of your platform: the gold, the glory and the girls. In other words, losing your reputation happens as a result of an abuse of your profits, your power or your position.

Major pitfalls for leaders come in the guise of money, power, and sex. Not managing these three things well has sabotaged families, businesses, and purposeful people since time immemorial. I guess, the problem is that as you go and grow there is more at stake, you stand to lose more and more people depend on you.

Alcohol brings people down. It loosens you up and you say the wrong thing, act the wrong way, and ultimately make bad choices. How do I know? Err…. Well I was fairly good at making bad choices and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made bad choices without alcohol but when I drank alcohol it just seemed to increase my chances of messing up.

The gold.

I valued myself by the money I had in the bank. Funny thing is, I’ve discovered, as an entrepreneur, that the amount of money I have in the bank changes on a daily basis. There is nothing wrong with having a lot of money, it’s a great tool to have in your hands. It’s when you fall in love with it that it becomes a problem. If we assign our value to the money, then when funds are low our confidence plummets, and when we are flush, we get too full of ourselves. Alcohol really enhances this! Either drives us nose-diving into depression to escape reality or taking wild risks.

Do you want to know how art is sold? You hold a great launch party, fill your guests with alcohol, make sure that none of the staff drink and (most importantly) make sure that you have a card machine at hand.

Money and alcohol together will normally cause you to lose money rather than adding to your bank balance. Launch party guests might gain a great piece of art as an investment (it’s certainly possible) but it might be more by luck than judgment.

The glory

Staying humble is definitely worth it. Alcohol has a strange way of making us think more highly of ourselves than we should. Pride really does lead to a fall and really gets those tongues wagging. Cue a life of regret. As fast as the drink flows, so will regret for what you might disclose!

The girls (or the boys)

How is it that middle age men start to think that because they have cash in bank they are attractive to someone twenty years younger? Then the guy trades the faithful woman who has walked through the lean years with him for a younger model!

Bad choices split families, ruin reputations and lead to shame. The people that trusted you struggle for years to get over the impact of a moment of madness.

For me, as a young art director, all this kind of craziness in the world of media became normality.
Women in position cracking onto younger guys while husbands were away on business! Flirtation shifting to something more sinister in the midnight hours. The office party became a hunting ground for Boomers looking to reclaim their youth and score with youth as a badge of honour.

Ah, you might say, but that was then, times have changed! Err..nope. Same alcohol, same story.

Choices change:

As an entrepreneur you build to give yourself choices but there are some that it’s best to run from!
The more you have at stake, the graver the impact of the odd mistake. If you stay sober you don’t have to fake it. You can be you.

Since I stopped drinking and I’ve gotten over being me in social situations, I have started to love being me! I can be more my authentic self. I relax and listen, keeping an eye out for the predators that invade safe spaces. I am more able to celebrate what is important.

Then the next day, I can wake up fresh, having driven home. There’s no time wasted on hollow apologies, no anxiety of shame and no worry about any drunken revelations.

And the funny thing is that I’m finding many more people coming to the same conclusion as I did about alcohol ie. that it’s distracting rather than attracting the right stuff.

Another thing I found that I was still able to enjoy the taste of a cold beer on a hot day. There are so many beers that don’t have alcohol in them, or the same amount as an orange! There are even a few out there that genuinely taste great, for me Guinness 0.0 is the leader of the table. So, even if you like the taste more than the fuzzy feeling… you still have options!

A life with no alcohol allows me to be ‘on it’ and available to help. It allows me to socialise with freedom. My family has grown up without it and I know that our children will have to make their own choices, but we’ve modelled life without it so I’m hoping it’s less of an option.

When I trace back my family tree, on the other hand, I find the darkest stories and choices made by my family members under the influence of alcohol.

I close with this. Entrepreneurship is a journey of many ups and downs. Staying in tune with you and your mental, physical and spiritual health will help you to flourish and keep going for the long haul.

I want to:

Leave a lasting impact.
Keep my family together.
Live free to be me – purposeful.

To do that, I gave up to go up!

Most people would see drinking and driving as inexcusable, because ‘just one more’ has killed careers, reputations and people. The way I see it for entrepreneurs is that you are driving change and drinking and driving will create obstacles that will make life harder to navigate.

I’m not judging anyone, I just want to inspire people to get more out of life and win marginal gains. For me, giving up the drink is about finding space to think…

Look in, look out, look up and look down

Sometimes it’s really hard to focus. Distraction appears to be our main attraction these days.

Yet, being able to focus sets the standards for winners. We can all win but the greatest competitor isn’t the one standing next to you, or the leader in your field – it’s actually you!

When I studied around mindset and read stacks of books on the subject, I realised that mindset works with a set of beliefs, but finding those beliefs requires us to go deeper. It requires us to transition from a human doing to a human being.

Let me explain… A coach will ask you questions to signpost you into actions that enable you to get closer to your goals. A good coach will challenge mindsets that are limiting your ability to get to your destination and an exceptional one will challenge what is in your heart.

I realised that what is in your heart will give you the conviction you need when circumstances are trying. People that win through literally dig deep to a place where belief is birthed, the heart. HeartSet allows us to look for the clues that formed the beliefs we have, examines how we are executing on them in the present and gives us the clarity we need for the future.

We have recorded a short course that opens this up, together with a worksheet that helps us frame our HeartSet for purpose and group workshops to activate it. Now, together with a strong mindset, you’ll have the tools to be action set.

As I taught this recently at the University of the West of England (UWE), over multiple sessions, I realised what a privilege it was to be giving the students a head start by making them examine their heart choices. You see, you might have the mindset to get life done, and end up making lots of money, but miss out on fulfilment. I believe you can have both, and that has been the journey I have been investing in for the last 20 years. Yes, I could have become richer more quickly, but only on the surface and with fleeting things, not the things which bring joy. Today, I’m richer because I have Team Irwin around me and they wouldn’t be there if I had continued down my ambitious path of me, myself and I.

I was self aware enough to know what I was great at, but selfish in my approach. All my decisions were based on how the outcome would affect me. I was chasing comfort, not conviction, and reversing that has brought the biggest change in my life.

So, first we need to look in, examine where we have come from and search for clues as to where our purpose first started to show up. I share that lego and storytelling were core to my ‘play days’ where I would forget to eat! A BIG clue in what I was supposed to do.

Asking questions about the past will help you identify who you really are and if bad stuff did happen take some time to realise that helping others overcome that pain might not be your FULL calling. Let’s take addiction for example. If we have been addicted to something that hindered our life choices, when we got free from it, we embrace a life of helping others out of addiction. Now, that might be how you use your resources, but go deeper, your true identity is probably more than that! You might be a gifted teacher, only addiction and a lack of opportunity at the right time stopped you getting educated for it, but once free, be brave and start teaching. Your subject might not be addiction but rather teaching people to express themselves from the heart, free from toxins.

Once you’ve done this, you can start to look out, and focus on living life in the present. Too often we find it hard to live in the now, chasing tomorrow, or letting our past mistakes hinder us from enjoying it.

Being caught up in scrolling on my phone, planning the future has had my children call me into the present and share the experience of a game, a film or even a meal. Living in the present is learning to love the moments and enjoy making them, they set us up for the future. So celebrate those wins, the good days and joy of creating memories. We’ll show you how.

Living in the present gets you ready to look up and plan the future. There is nothing better than having something to look forward to. Yes, and make it personal. In 2022, I am making a choice to take the whole of August off. Why? My family need me. I wish I could have done it sooner but here we are. We are checking out and making our own tradition. Funnily enough, August is the month Clare and I got married so it’s worth investing in the occasion. In 2021, Covid stole our 20th anniversary! We spent it lying in bed feeling feverish and slightly the worse for wear! Now we plan to own August 2022! It’s great living out purpose, but even better celebrating it with those who have been working hard alongside, all on board the ship!

Finally, HeartSet will help you look down by crafting clear statements of intent to create the alignment for the assignment and tying up our past, present and future. These clear statements should become core to our life choices, framing our convictions and the way we execute – what we say yes to and what we say no to. We’ll remain clear on where we are headed.

A life that flows out of your HeartSet will allow you to carry your message across multiple methods and turn your story into a life of purpose, passion and power!

Sign up here and get alignment for your assignment.

A Missionary in a Concrete Jungle

Over recent months and years the focus of my work has broadened and whereas before I let my creative work speak for itself, now I’m the one being called upon to speak. It was those years of hard graft, following my dream and sticking to it, that have given me a platform to speak…

I remember one occasion when I was working freelance for a company that had Nat West as its main client and we had to ‘pitch’ for the work for the government incentive of giving £250 to every new born, otherwise known as The Child Trust Fund.

I spent time working on a creative solution of building blocks and illustrations of what the future could look like for the child if money was saved in the fund. I had a picture of a mortar board to signify university graduation and a yacht to represent holidays. You get the picture.

I art directed, the rest of the team created the Mac visuals and the marketing team headed off to pitch. The scheme was so new that no one on the pitch list had even seen the Child Trust Fund’s logo. At the end of the presentations and the thank yous for the pitches the wait began…

Imagine our surprise when it was feedback time and NatWest revealed the logo. We knew instantly that we had won the pitch.  How? Well the logo was building blocks, the same as our creative strategy, so our ‘starting with the end in mind’ concept won, hands down! As the art director I had struck gold, and over the next few days I felt a bit like the Godfather. The agency for whom I was freelancing made me an offer they thought I could never refuse and literally asked me to name my price!

I was shown a brand new sports car being unloaded for another employee (look this is what you could have) and wild figures were thrown in the air. I continued to freelance, stoically sticking to what was in my heart even though my head was being bombarded. I knew that I couldn’t let up and just live in the moment, I had to re remain intent on building a movement.

I continued freelancing with them and I began to make plans to start building Cre8ion, which I then shared with the agency by way of explanation for not joining them on their journey. This was not the last great opportunity I had to turn down to pursue my dream and at times it was hard, but I made a choice to let the heart lead ahead of the head!

I kept going, letting the work speak for itself. I started to notice that not everyone was following the same path as me and I watched other people stick, and not twist. Their way of seeing things was that they weren’t prepared to gamble with their life. I didnt see it like that though, for me staying (playing safe) would leave me feeling unfulfilled.

I couldn’t do it. I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to help people choose purpose over profit. I continued to freelance, and met many people for whom the salary had become their safety, only its security locked them out of living out their purpose.

There’s nothing wrong in itself with taking a salary, don’t get me wrong. Jurgen Klopp takes a salary, a very good one, and is fulfilling purpose, inspiring generations of footballers. Not only does he create winning teams but he makes me very happy (as a big Liverpool fan). Salary isn’t the enemy and not everyone needs to be an entrepreneur, BUT you have a responsibility to take your gift and ensure it gets the maximum impact.

I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands of people, who say YES, when NO would have been the right call. They say YES to the head, but the heart is screaming NO. I believe that the greatest thing you can do to live a life fulfilled is to tell your head to be quiet long enough to hear the heart. Few of us listen to it because once we know what we really want, we have to take the bold step and actually do it.

Over the last few weeks I have been fortunate to teach about HeartSet to university students with Olly Reid in my other business, HUM4NS. Olly does an exceptional job on MindSet and I have been giving them the tools to lead with HeartSet. It’s like this, when you KNOW why you are here and have the MindSet to execute, you become unstoppable.

Seeing students with their whole life ahead of them asking BIG questions now rather than doing a career just to pay the bills will save them years. You see, when you have a clear HeartSet over the right things it gets easier to say yes to the heart and no to the many ‘what if’s’.

I call it alignment for the assignment. When you have your heart and head aligned, you can live life with confidence… and everyone is looking for confident people!

Personally, I have always shied away from building a personal brand but I believe I now have something to say. The life choices I made were seldom fully understood by other people, yet, over time, I have found like hearted people that also dared to be different.

You have to know the difference between those what want to benefit from the gift you have versus those that want to help you grow it and help you gain a bigger platform. I don’t need a bigger platform to give myself value, it’s because I want to help others to be brave too and live the life that they really want!

In the years that I’ve been out and about in the marketplace I’ve carved out my own identity as a missionary in a concrete jungle. I have developed three game-changing tools to ensure that you make the kind of impact led choices that make your heart beat faster, keep your mind sharp and create lasting impact.

My three tools are HeartSet, The Purpose Playbook and The Crisis Catalyst.

Leading with HeartSet, you will be able to purchase a taster of what I have been teaching in university via a video course with the option of going deeper.

The Purpose Playbook exists at present as a dedicated company workshop, but plans are in place for us to create a one to many model, where we will invite 12 people in a group setting and work through the Playbook together.

Lastly, you can order the book online now. HeartSet is about living life with purpose, the Purpose Playbook will help you to build your business with the right mindset and The Crisis Catalyst is about taking the right actions to keep your business on course.

I have just launched my own website, because over the last few months, I have been asked repeatedly to share about my three tools live and on stage, which is really exciting. It seems that the years I spent preaching and teaching have helped me evangelise the message of Purpose more effectively than ever before.

So, if you need a speaker, a workshop, or a course to help your team go next level online, this website is a great place to start – www.darrellirwin.com

Our HeartSet course is coming very soon (by the end of April) so you can start building a HeartSet for purpose.

The brand marketing story so far

Life changed for me in 2001 when I made the choice to transition from selfish pursuits and embrace a life of sustained, purpose-led living.

I saw myself as an award winning art director (which I was), so for me it seemed like a brave choice to pursue purpose at all costs and turn down the opportunity of running a brand marketing agency in London. I had to put aside my pride in my achievements up to that point as they weren’t really in line with real purpose. Why not? Well, many of the clients I had been working with had more to do with ending people’s lives (alcohol and tobacco companies) than celebrating life. I made the decision to chase impact over income.

What followed became a rollercoaster ride. I went to Bible College and started to learn about the importance of not leading a completely self-centred life! While handing out aid to people on a mission trip that had taken us across Europe, I realised that my time, talent and treasure could be used as a force for good. Having enjoyed a fun filled, action packed, freelance career, I decided it was time to build a brand marketing agency that had good at its very heart.

So Cre8ion started life in a charity and as we trained buddy volunteers we began to turn a department into a self sustaining business focussed on impacting the community at large, working with other businesses who were pursuing cause over cash. We created marketing materials for the charity and brought in money from outside sources to help with the wage bill.

As I worked, a team began to form around me who also believed in living on purpose.

As part of the charity, in the beginning, all we had was a vision to sell. We had zero cash and any spend would have to go through the charity. We did have buckets of vision though and great people which meant that we always had a steady flow of volunteers. For this reason I have always looked at recruitment differently to most people. In some respects our proven process for hiring came out of our beginnings and it followed the unique format: volunteer, freelance and finally recruit.

Our founding team came from a variety of backgrounds but had one thing in common – they were all looking for an opportunity. That’s why we continue to give people a chance to learn. We can’t hire everyone but we can help people and I believe that’s why we always find the right people to work with.

Our successful stint in the charity saw Cre8ion grow their skills, team and influence across the city but I couldn’t rest as I had another mandate. As we put impact first, the income grew and in 2016 Cre8ion departed from the charitable set up to scale and work with clients further afield. Our clients aligned with our mission which was to use the media to create community impact, globally.

The real power of our brand is our people – they live and breathe its ethos. Our team are not just an extension of me, they are an extension of the mission, vision and values we have spent years building and, as a result, we find people, clients and suppliers in the most unexpected of places. Other people understand our internal culture just as much as our product offering – the people we attract ‘get it’.

And, strangely enough, being purpose led even helped us through tough times like when one of our longest standing team members decided to move on. He had been with the company both when we were a charity and in our new ‘limited’ state. For him, it was the right decision, and for us as a company too. When he left we had to decide whether to promote from within or recruit outside to replace him. What we did was to move everyone up a place within our business. It was uncomfortable but proved to be exactly what we needed. Whereas the former employee was pioneering and took risks, his successor was more methodical. Our former employee had been perfect for where the business was at the time, but now we needed to scale and a different approach was called for. We trusted each other because we shared the same belief in where we were heading and that helped us through some tough conversations. With each step things got easier! The best thing was that our ‘departed’ friend flourished in his new workplace and we even won contracts with him.

Today, Cre8ion have become a B-Corp with an exceptional team of story tellers. We are committed to establishing ourselves as a world class, sustainable creative agency helping one hundred thousand CEOs create purposeful brands to give their companies legacy.

Building brands with purpose has led me to launch and co-found a software company with Andrius Bartulis (formally of Cre8ion). We called it Di9ital because its main focus is on making software simple. Di9ital has worked on a varied range of projects from a carbon footprint calculator to an exceptional booking system that handles thousands of activities to support parents across Bristol.

The most recent development for me, having spent much of the last twenty years working with other purpose driven people, was to embrace the invitation to become a co-founder of Hum4ns with Oliver Reid. The focus of Hum4ns is to help humans become happier, healthier, smarter and kinder with a community of like-hearted people. Hum4ns involves talks, programmes and a cutting edge planner around which to build your life.

Twenty years on from making my first purposeful decision, I have the most incredible network of people wanting to do extraordinary things. I wrote a book called The Crisis Catalyst, in which I established some principles for living the entrepreneurial life. If you are living that life, you will understand Robert Frost’s poem in which he so eloquently wrote that ‘taking the road less travelled’ makes all the difference!

Those walking the road less travelled sometimes require help to identify purpose and communicate the impact their brand is making on people, purpose and planet. If that is true for you, why not contact us today? It’s where Cre8ion does its best work!

Where plan A failed, Plan B will work

For us B-Corp was something we were interested in way before it existed. I had had an idea for an ‘Ethical Media Network’ where I would unite businesses in media around a higher standard. As far I was concerned, the world of brand marketing, advertising and media had gotten itself a bad name for being connected with sleaze, lies and other kinds of dishonesty. Just to give one example, I was thinking of reports I’d heard in our industry of models being hired and not paid correctly or even being taken advantage of.

In actuality, I was thinking too small, and while I was focussing on an embryonic vision for Cre8ion, B-Corp was forming. So, when I decided to revisit this deep conversation, many years later on, and in a position to do something about it, I discovered that someone else had taken the idea of a kind of ethical business network and made it into a certification that was open to any business, media related or otherwise.

I had been looking at a Fair Trade for Business and, while I thought about creating one, I went about building a company that would fit when the world was ready. A few years later, we arrived at our destination. We had failed to get plan A birthed, but plan B was equally as good in concept and, dare I say, bigger, better and bolder. So we went on the epic journey to register – on 1st October 2019 I started Cre8ion out on the process of getting certification to become a B-Corp

As of Monday this week, we finally got confirmation that we are now a B-Corp and will be leading with the message that you can have a business on purpose and for profit. It has taken us two and a half years which is a bit longer than the average. Our thanks to all three staff members, past and present, Audrey, Roz, George and Nathan for their contribution and for helping us to do this! Audrey got the process off the blocks, Roz and George kept the momentum and Nathan got it over the line.

If you are thinking about becoming as B Corp, let me tell you a little about what the process of application entails. You get going by filling in an online questionnaire and seeing how your company scores against their criteria. The average business scores between 50-55 and in order to qualify for the application process you need to bring your score up to above 80 by engaging in the right kind of activity. We scored 85.7 which is really amazing!

There are six sections relating to your business which the application process covers.

Governance
Workers
Community
Environment
Customers
Disclosure questionnaire

Each section reflects a lot of what the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals are aiming to achieve. B Corp want to know what your business is doing for people, purpose and planet and the kind of positive impact you are having.

One of the key things that stood out for us in the process was making sure our business was purpose led and one of the things that made us most excited was the question about how many of our clients were purpose driven…and on reflection I realised that they all were! Once we had taken them through the Purpose Playbook they couldn’t help but be!

Through the Purpose Playbook we showed people that you can win when you make purpose a priority. It runs deeper than mindset alone (although a great mindset is an asset), but having a heart set after purpose ensures you lead with impact and cause rather than just chasing income and cash.

Getting the B Corp badge is not where we stop, it’s actually become a new starting point. We are now going to encourage more people to embrace B Corp certification through the BEYOND part of our Purpose Playbook.

Having recently relaunched our website and now with the missing piece of the jigsaw in place (the B-Corp logo), we will continue to inspire other companies to embrace this journey. You see, creating a movement is about you believing in it first and we do. We believe this validates who we are and speaks volumes to people looking for a ‘like-hearted’ business to do business with.

Our newfound B Corp status also shows us that we’ve grown up, transitioning from wanting to be something, to actually becoming that thing!

As we move into a new phase for Cre8ion, the future is looking bright and, for those that we currently serve, it’s shining even brighter.

Here are a few reasons for becoming a B-Corp:

>You can show people in an instant that you are purpose driven.

>You belong to a community of like-hearted people that want to change the world.

>You adhere to a set of standards and ethics that give people confidence.

>You have the credentials to inspire others to embrace the movement.

>You are unified by the vision of transforming the marketplace to do good.

>You have created and will continue to build a collaborative culture.

>Everyone you work with (both clients and suppliers) gets it.

Special thanks to Andy Hawkins of Business on Purpose who worked with us to bring everything together to make the grade. An absolute legend and the one person you need on the journey to be your guide, a sherpa with whom to scale the mountain, that is the B-Corp journey.

So, what started as Plan A, eventually became plan B and maybe for the first time, Plan B was indeed much much better. My failure was thinking too small and every time I see that B-Corp logo it’s another reminder to always think big, even if the timing isn’t quite right, because eventually the paths will align.

To blog or not to blog – that is the question

It’s funny how so many of us dream of publishing a best-selling book that tells our story of rags to riches and catapults the name of our business (and our own name even) into international renown. The problem we often find though is that there doesn’t even seem to be enough time in the day to live out that rags to riches story, let alone write a book about it! We try to sit down and put pen to paper and then a family member needs help with their homework, or the shopping needs doing, or you’re just plain shattered and slumping in front of the TV seems like the best option. The average book is 90,000 words long and it just seems such a long way away and …zz-zzz… asleep again.

Well, if you have harboured this apparently impossible dream and you are a busy entrepreneur, here’s an idea: Why don’t you start blogging? It’s a lot easier to write a blog of 1,000 words than a book of 90,000.

You can then use the material from your regular blog to become the basis of your future rags to riches story. Writing about the lessons that you have learnt throughout your time in business will come naturally to you and be a source of encouragement to others. These are the stories that people like to read. Everyone wants to hear that it is possible to overcome the obstacles that they are themselves facing.

And… even if you don’t want to publish a bestseller, blogging is a great idea in itself!

Hubspot found that businesses that blogged grew more and expanded their reach. They found that B2B marketers that blogged got 67% more leads than those that didn’t. So if you are short of time you can pay people to help you to blog consistently. Incidentally, I found that I only used the blogs I had written myself when I put my book together and you’ll probably find the same.

Books aside though, here are the top ten reasons why you should start blogging (if you haven’t already):

1. Blogging drives traffic to your site

Blogging drives traffic to your website and increases your SEO. The more you blog, the more content the search engines have to crawl and index.

2. Blogging supercharges your website’s SEO

Blogging on your website tells Google it’s an active site and also boosts how often a search term will appear on your website. You’ll be able to include all those niche long tail keywords to optimise the copy for your business. By adding internal and external links, you can increase your sites’ ranking further still.

3. Blogging attracts relevant people to your site

People searching Google for answers to their questions will come across your website if you have added content to your blog that answer their questions. It’s like the online version of handing out a sample – purchases will follow.

4. Blogging builds credibility and trust

A blog with useful content shows your audience and customers that you can be trusted. (And we all have an emotional need to trust people by the way, so you’ll be fulfilling customer needs on several levels.) Writing posts about topics people will find interesting and helpful shows them that you care about spreading useful information and at the same time you are demonstrating a high level of customer service.

5. Blogging helps you with social media posting

A blog gives you great content to post from and brings people back to your website and with this kind of targeted audience, brand awareness will grow.

6. Blogging grows your email list

Include sign up fields on blogs for people who are interested in the current topic and would like to be informed of similar content. If your blog readers opt-in to your email list, they’re giving you permission to market your business to them; take them up on it.

7. Blogging demonstrates your expertise (and your commitment)

Your blog can keep your customer base abreast of new changes to your service or products, Without a blog, a website can come across as functional and not lively enough to demonstrate real expertise. Consistent blogging requires some dedication. To be effective each post should be about 1,000 words minimum, have a catchy title (with thought given to SEO), relevant SEO key words built in, an image or two and social posts to accompany its publication on your website.

8. Blogging establishes your authority

You might not be quite ready to write a best selling book but a blog is a good way to start sharing your expertise to add value.

9. Blogging increases brand awareness

If you stick to a consistent “look” to your social images (fonts, colours image styles, icons, etc.)  and stay on-brand, it’ll shorten the time it takes for your dream clients to recognise and trust you. Once that happens, they become even more likely to notice when you’re sharing something.

10. Blogging helps you to learn what your customers REALLY want and need

Learning more about what your customers expect and need from your business based on the content they respond to can be transformational. As every blog post you write is tied to a specific call to action, this kind of marketing to your target audience is really focussed!

All that said, you might still be thinking, I just don’t have time to do this! Not a problem. We can help you. Cre8ion have experienced bloggers in the copywriting team and we can research key words and phrases to use for SEO. It might be that you can blog monthly yourself and you just need some help to cover one other blog per month so that you have a regular fortnightly offering. Or maybe you want to hand the whole job over, lock stock and barrel and have a weekly blog written for you. You can provide us with the topics and we’ll put together a blogging strategy to take you forward. Contact us today.

Chasing the Dream

I was reading a report this week of how a ship has been discovered deep in the Weddell Sea close to Antarctica. The discovery of the wreck of the Endurance speaks to me about the importance of following your dream and how it will stand for generations if you push through. It’s like a reminder of the importance of endurance! Oh, yes, and the fact that it’s not going to be easy. Ernest Shackleton’s dream was worth chasing and it has lived on for generations. How, if his ship sank? Let me explain…

The Endurance had been carrying an expeditionary team to the Antarctic and had gotten frozen into the ice, but the team had remained onboard until the ice ripped into the hull and it sank. Incredibly, under Shackleton’s courageous leadership, every member of the crew survived and an epic journey followed as the team remained on the ice floe for two months, hoping that it would take them nearer to land. When the ice began to break up, the crew launched their three life boats, landing after five days on Elephant Island.

The journey to safety was not over though and Shackleton carefully chose five of the team to accompany him in the strongest lifeboat to get help. Fifteen days later (and in hurricane force winds) the group managed to land on the coast of South Georgia and then Shackleton made the decision to go cross country to the nearest human habitation. He took a long coil of rope and two members of the team with him, hammering nails in to their boots to serve as crampons. They then climbed over 32 miles of mountainous terrain to get help.

When they eventually reached safety, Shackleton appealed to the Chilean government for help and they sent a tug to go and fetch the remainder of the lifeboat crew while a British whaler travelled to Elephant Island with Shackleton to evacuate all of the rest of the team.

Ernest Shackleton’s story of chasing his dream to explore uncharted wilderness is about incredible staying power and leadership skills. His wise and courageous decision making saved the life of every member of his team. Other stories reflect his sacrificial leadership, such as how he gave a team member his mittens and then suffered terrible frostbite in his own fingers, or how he sacrificed his own comfort to keep up the team morale. His legacy lives on.

Despite the feat achieved by Shackleton, in subsequent years, his story was largely eclipsed by his rival Sir Robert Scott’s who became a national hero following his own death in Antarctica. Robert Scott had died in the process of chasing his dream of exploring the great unknown, along with his entire team, in their expedition to the South Pole. He had also lost the race to be the first man there to Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer.

Unfortunately, it came to light afterwards that Scott’s written instructions to send a dog sled team to meet him and his fellow explorers had not been followed.

So, how did Scott’s dream survive after his death? Well, apart from becoming a national hero, he left a wife and a young son, Peter, who had caught his father Robert’s love of the great outdoors. Peter grew up to establish the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge and helped found the World Wide Fund for Nature (the logo of which he designed). He was also a yachting and gliding enthusiast and won a bronze medal as part of the sailing team in the the 1936 Summer Olympics. He was knighted in 1973 for his work in conservation of wild animals. How cool is that?

On a personal level, I live five minutes down the road from Slimbridge, and we have an annual membership. This means that my children can pop along to visit the flamingoes and other birds from diverse parts of the world any time we have had enough of studying! Sir Robert Scott’s dream lives on.

The point I am trying to make is that if you have a dream you need to start chasing it and don’t give up until you see it fulfilled. Its positive effects will resonate for generations to come. Don’t give up! And if you need help to communicate your dream, that’s Cre8ion’s bag! At our brand marketing agency we specialise in communicating purpose filled dreams via brand. Contact us today.