What Star Wars taught me about life
June 20, 2008, 4:12 am
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I’ve been readying my 5 year old son some abridged versions of the Star Wars trilogy lately and as we discussed the stories it occurred to me what a good metaphor they are for life in general…

Friends make a difference – Luke, Han and co would have given up their struggles, or at least not been successful without each other – their faith and support of each other is what got them through. thinking of Luke leaving Dagobah to help his friends in Cloud City, or Han going after Luke on Hoth.

Success doesn’t come from having the biggest toys or the most resources – small group takes down emormous organisation has a familiar ring to it.  And those empire guys always looked so unhappy – no fun at all…

Anything is possible, don’t give up – so often the odds looked in surmountable but those rebels found a way…

Everyone has different strengths – no homogeneity here, each unique character had their own talents and weaknesses and together they had most things covered.

I know its just a movie but life is a stage…

Starting School
June 15, 2008, 11:01 am
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I’ve long thought school sucked. Don’t get me wrong – I think a thorough formal education to tertiary level is important for most people, and life long, self directed learning a real joy and asset for everyone.  Its more the institutions I’m hung up on…

I think they generally drive the individuality and creativity out of young enthusiastic minds – I remember Tom Peters saying how the current public education system was developed after the industrial revolution to produce homogenous, compliant workers for factories. 

The 21st century presents an entirely different set of circumstances – the first world countries that have been built on this system are being undercut by developing countries embracing the same techniques with a vastly lower cost structure – the only way to compete is to be innovative and develop new solutions.


That’s why I was so impressed when I sat in on my son’s first day at primary school.  I was so pleased to see how things had changed – there was still discipline but the children were encouraged and supported and the vibe in the classroom was relaxed and friendly.  It made it a little easier to leave him in such good hands and knowing he wasn’t going to have his incredible little imagination crushed in a prescriptive environment!

Who do you think you are?
May 29, 2008, 12:56 am
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I’m totally fascinated with how people present themselves and the judgements we make based on these impressions.

As Jean Paul Satre famously said “We are condemned to be free” meaning we can be anything we want to be, and certainly present ourselves however we want in a free, modern society…so what do we choose?  The same as everyone else! Even the individualistic “rebels” play to the same patterns – skateboarders or musicians conform to their own stereotypes while at the same time bemoaning homogeneity.

Personally I like to think I do my own thing, but recognise that I identify with certain communities depending on which hat I am wearing – be it as a father, entrepreneur, lecturer, employee, fisherman or whatever.

So why fit in? The way I see it, I often need to appear like those I am collaborating with as its in our nature to want to be with people like ourselves.  By reflecting back what they want to see I will receive co-operation to achieve my own goals.

So I guess my thinking might be individualistic but the image I project will never be as I need the acceptance of others to function…Can we ever get past how people look?

The Power of One Voice
May 27, 2008, 2:00 am
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I hated the TV show, “The West Wing” – I thought it was overblown and full of itself, so I exercised my option not to watch it. I did however catch a sound bite from one episode that for some reason has stuck with me… “Never stop believing a small group of people can change the world as its the only thing that ever has”.  Apparently originally a quote from American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead.

I think it resonated as sometimes it can feel like no matter how big or small the endeavour, we are taking on the world and who are we to think we can succeed (which reminds me of another fav quote from Nelson Mandela, but I’ll save that for another time!).  But no matter how institutionalised and ingrained any concept may be in our society (everything from mega-big like government or the education system down to the toothpick or the safety pin) at one time an individual or small group of people (no “man” is an island right) said “How about this new idea” and proceeded to make it a reality…quite inspiring really….

Product Ideas

As you may have gathered from from my other posts I have more than a passing interest in entrepreneurship! The process of turning an idea in one person’s head into an actual business that many other people find useful fascinates me. But how do you find an idea in the first place? I find regular (daily) inspiration at the following:

http://www.core77.com – great for product ideas. I love the experimental use of materials and form. Sometimes conceptual, othertimes just a basic hack but always interesting.

http://www.springwise.com – a wonderful collection of business ideas. Tends to be more service oriented but gets you thinking, is easily digestible and has a great searchable archive.

I could put up a very long list of others that are out there but these are my favourites…I’d love to hear about ones you like.

May 15, 2008, 4:29 am
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Its funny I should choose to write about persistence when one again its been too long between posts!

It seems alot of things in my life are about persistence at the moment.  Whether its asking the 4 year old not to say “please and thank you” for the millionth time or just the grind of sticking with getting Vanilla Design Store and the other businesses I run/am launching going, it takes some real stickability.  So why persevere?

As much as I enjoy the things I do, everyone has times they would rather be doing something else.  But I have a goal in mind – whether its a polite child or a successful business there’s an outcome I’m striving for – but what about the doubts, those little voices you hear saying “be lazy, it won’t happen, who are you kidding”? – that’s when faith kicks in…

I’m an atheist and haven’t been to church of my own volition, ever.  But I do have faith.  That’s what gets me out of bed when I’m tired, that’s what encourages me to give people the benefit of the doubt, its what keeps my outlook positive when things are gloomy.  Its why I persist.

So what’s a design store?
March 23, 2008, 8:24 am
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I’m often asked what we sell on the Vanilla Design Store website. The standard reply is “modern furniture and homewares” but it really goes a bit deeper than that…we have a pretty wide variety of products, so what’s the common theme? That terrible phrase comes  to mind of “I can’t tell you what it is but I know it when I see it” but I think we can shed a little more light on the topic…For me a “design store” sells objects that have a bit of extra thought put into them. It’s in their function and/or form, for example the “Hollarocket “water rocket adapter – a clever and unique device that converts any used soft drink bottle into hours of fun for a child, or the Aromarest pillows that use the sense of smell to help you sleep better.  Hopefully the product is innovative, and authentic – it should have a story behind it and involve an intuitive leap.  It’s a bonus if it delights the customer and brings a smile to their face but it should improve people’s lives and fit the customer’s lifestyle like a glove – I guess that’s where the “extra thought” aspect comes in, thinking through a better way to do things and that applies equally to the wide variety of products (and services) that use the moniker “design”.