Specialising in public engagement and systems approaches to managing change. Associate with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement and University of Bristol.

My first word…

Life is filled with firsts. First first steps, first day at school, first girlfriend, first divorce, and so on. We tend to pay attention to the firsts. They are places and moments in our lives that are easy to locate. But our firsts do not come out the blue. They are often the result of hard work, time and effort. They are the iceberg tips.

‘Firsts’ are not an end in themselves, they are turning points, and whichever direction you turn one foot will follow another. Your first step is one of many. Hopefully most steps will lead you places you want to be.

However, there will be many steps you won’t even notice. You will take them for granted as they  fall into the many automated processes that you just ‘do’. As we get older the distance between the firsts seems to get greater and greater. And as our firsts turn into our routines, we notice them less, take them for granted, put them on autopilot.

Today is a first step of a kind for me. A year ago, I took the decision to go freelance. It was not a momentous decision, it did not feel brave. But it was a decision to live a life in which I could pursue my passions, continue to learn and maintain a level of financial security that supported my needs. You can find out more about what I am currently up to on my projects page.

One of my hopes for this blog is that I will share with you stories and pieces of art that have inspired me over the years, I will share updates on the projects I am working on, share lessons that I am learning and the resources that I am coming across. In essence I hope to share the things that I have found beautiful and amazing.

For this, my first step into the world, it seems only right that I should share with you this revealing TedTalk from Deb Roy called ‘The birth of a word’. You may be one of the two million people who have already seen it. In this talk, Deb tracks the birth of his son’s first words. Using over 140,000 hours of recorded audio from his house, he gets to revisit his sons language development and track how ‘aaaaa’ becomes ‘gaaggaaa’ to finally become ‘water’.

The early findings of the study indicate that at the birth of each word, the main caregivers instinctively simplify their pronunciation of that word, closing the gap and supporting the son in developing more complex speech patterns. In order to help someone ‘not in the know’ we sometimes have to get on their page and step backwards a little, reach out a hand. The findings from Deb’s study provide valuable insights into how we learn, and how we intuitively support others in their learning. It also show’s quite intricately, that our ‘firsts’ are often the result of hard work.

Its well worth listening to the 18th minute, where the talk takes a surprising detour, into that amazing butterfly feeling that came to his son, and I am sure to you, when you too took your first ever step. I hope you enjoy.

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