I’m a young guy. A little Londoner who doesn’t do much, but I try and I felt I should reflect on why I even care about this city. There is only one reason why I care about London, and it’s not what you might think.
Yeah there are cool things going on in London, but in the end, why I have a deep root here, is because of the people who have given me a chance.
It has been the people who looked at me, saw a kid trying to do something that would likely fail—I’m talking about the businessTalks conference I held—and rather than ignore me, they decided to give me a chance. They saw someone who had nothing to offer them and still gave me minutes and hours of their time. Whether it was meeting with me, giving me ideas, or honestly just acknowledging me. The times I feel like leaving London most, are when someone ignores me. Now I know that’s childish and such, but when I reach out to leaders in London and am ignored, it feels like London is ignoring me. Of course that’s dumb and isn’t true, but it’s hard to shake that initial feeling.
But when someone extends their hand. Even to just give me a response by email. You can’t imagine the impact that has on someone who never sticks their neck out in the first place—i.e. The ones who aren’t yet engaged in the city, yet have the potential to. The first instance of this was last January, I went to the first conference I had ever been to, the Student2Business conference. The keynote speaker was Paul Copcutt (@paulcopcutt). I quite liked his talk, so in the networking portion I awkwardly approached him and struck up a conversation. Got his card—also an awkward affair for me—and then later that night I emailed him saying thanks.
I emailed again weeks later with a link to something I felt he’d dig. Nervous he’d think I’m being annoying and never respond again, I swallowed my vulnerability and hit send!!!
He responded again!
He actually ended up driving quite a distance to attend my conference. That impacted me even more!
I know this seems small. But you can’t imagine the feeling of someone you respect, responding to you. That’s it. It is these little moments that change peoples lives, nothing more. Maybe we forget because the constant interactions of work-life leave one numbed to the excitement of your first excursion out into a new world.
I love London because it is here that many of these little moments have happened in the past few months. In doing the businessTalks conference, there were a couple dozen people, busy people who took the time to help a very under-experienced and slightly crazy me. Whatever you think about the success of the businessTalks conference itself is irrelevant, I felt like I accomplished what I sought out to, and I could never have done it without the attention of these Londoners—and in some cases Hamiltonians and Dundasians.
I don’t give a crap about the fact that I totally cannot find a job right now. I don’t care about the lack of beautiful Vancouver-like-urban-planning (though that would be so sweet). I’ll make my own opportunity if I have to. I love London, because of the people who have given me a hand in this city, not because of the city itself. Think, why are well designed urban spaces so good? Because they attract people and we like people, we like being with people. It’s not the space, it’s the people; it just happens that nice spaces attract more people. A city is made up of people first, and spaces second. To forget that order is problematic.
So, it’s up to London’s people to make London awesome. By being the kind of people that attract more people. By being the kind of mentors and friends that make this city the city I love.
We always try to fix the problem of engagement with a large program or other real or virtual infrastructure. Either by creating new policies, programs or networks. These networks are IMMENSLEY useful yes, but they are populated only by one-on-one leadership. By you, London’s leaders, reaching out your hands to us awkward, mumbling youth, and showing us that you care. You can’t even imagine how small the acts that accomplish this are.
If every single one of the “already-engaged” of London were to merely give the time of day to a single student or young Londoner, the impact would be beyond reckoning. This can’t be done by a mentoring program, or an aggregating network, those are what comes after. What is needed first, is for people to care.
So, my benediction to you London, is this:
…may you give of your time and energy to those who simply need someone to care; that is how you will see new faces at community events and the new generation of leaders who will take this city to heights it has never seen before.