Ego, ethics and purpose

In November, we were honoured to join a panel alongside Crystallised, Curious, Out the Box and Slung Low Theatre. The topic was ego and purpose. We wanted to share some of our thoughts on the subject here.

Getting asked to speak about purpose and ethics seems very obvious to me. Doesn’t everyone work with purpose and ethics? But maybe that’s my ego speaking…

However, getting asked to add ego into the mix got me thinking very differently.

The creative industry exists because of ego. It drives our craft; it is our opinion, it is our experience of the world, it is what we fight with everyday. But to have a purposeful business you must have balance of ego and logic.

Ego it is the reason most businesses exist. It is why sail exists. Organisations can act as an extension of our intrinsic purpose. Sail exists to be able to make the right choices, to work on projects that matter; and to challenge the status quo. All of that was my ego speaking. My inner self.

 

But, does ego drive our values or do our values drive our ego? I don’t know the answer but it was an interesting ponder.

How does this translate at Sail?

I always had curiosity and way of seeing from a young age. I always stood up for what I felt was right. So purpose is my nature, but not necessarily my nurture. Thankfully my ego found my purpose…

 

For me, commercial purpose came at 16. At 16-24, in various roles, trying to do what I’d been taught. Thankfully my ego told me that wasn’t the path for me, I wanted to do something. I found my way to uni at 24.

 

By 29 I had a degree, 2 years design industry experience, & I no longer wanted to work for someone else selling my soul.

 

I had nothing to lose. I followed my heart (ego?) and in 2016 Sail, a studio with soul and purpose was born. Sail is now something that works thinking about head and heart – we are sustainable, we collaborate with Crystallised, work with wonderful people like Phil and Renee, employ 3 people and get to do work we love.

 

I am not in the creative industry for money; not many of us are. I always challenge Sail to think bigger, what does this action mean and who is it for? My ego has been a big part of finding my purpose, it helped me follow what felt right, for the change that should be seen, something led by strong values, (never by money) and ethical work. Following your purpose means going into the unknown, and trusting the process. Purpose is within, it is intrinsic, it is not a tick box exercise.

And as you develop, you find your purpose isn’t yours anymore, you find people that care about the same things and it becomes collaborative; bigger than you. We can make more change together. A purpose is more than you and your ego because of finding people that care about the same things. We have a bigger sense of self and positively challenge our own priorities.

 

Sails’ purpose is change, curiosity, collaboration. We talk about ego everyday, to remind ourselves to challenge and learn from each other. If we don’t, we don’t create our best work. We become precious and competitive. We have created an environment that encourages thinking differently, and works on empathy, listening and connection. We allow ourselves to be wrong. We are constantly questioning and listening to audiences and collaborators. We make joint decisions based on our values, head and heart, for positive impact. We approach creative projects with humility, resilience, balance and passion; with a we, not a me. We work in partnerships. Our work is immersive and audience-led.

 

We are transparent with financials. What does ‘business’ even mean anymore? How do we run organisations to build a kinder economy? Is employment exploitation?  Our next steps at Sail are discussing what to do with profit, and what a radical business model may look like. That looks after everyone, not just the owners. We need organisations that authentically represent thriving, together.

 

Purpose is something that is a constant, we have to make a conscious effort to maintain healthy boundaries, for balance and growth; all of which, we have to learn everyday.

 

  • Know your values, and say no to things if it isn’t the right fit. What you say no to often says more about you than what you say yes too.
  • Take the right path not the easy path.
  • Know what makes you different and own it.
  • Allow to do things with purpose but not always with knowing.
  • Not knowing means trusting the process and expecting the unexpected.
  • We must be aware of our privilege – self awareness is key to make it about everybody – not just you.
  • Involve your community where you can, give platforms, make your ego get out of the way.
  • Your ethics and values make you relevant, this will build a community and movements.
  • We can always do more, there is no such thing as perfect, constantly learn and also make yourself vulnerable.
  • Always fight for what’s right, not what’s easy.
  • Stay transparent, liability encourages accountability. Accountability encourages doing the right thing.

And finally, remember it’s complicated. There is no easy answer. As Alan from Slung Low Theatre nicely summarised: ‘Be useful and kind’.

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