Last week, I had the privilege of attending Junket 2016 in Canberra. Before you start wondering what it is and heading over to Google, I’ll explain below, but it gave me a different perspective on how we work together that I wanted to share it with all of our coworking community.
Firstly, What Is Junket?
Essentially it’s what you get when you hand-pick 200 young Australians that are diverse in their interests, work and passions, stick them in a hotel in Canberra for two days and let them set the agenda. Breakfast in bathrobes as we talked about failures. Sessions that went deep into all of the things we should be talking about, the things we’ve been scared to ask about, our biggest hopes and fears, and even a dance and singing class.
I was lucky enough to be picked, possibly for my passion for regional Australia, entrepreneurship education – or just to make sure a few business minded people were in the mix with so many social activists who are resetting the national agenda. But in the crazy cocktail that is Junket, that incredible mix of people made me realise a couple of things that included asking the really hard questions, that we’re defined by our successes as much as our failures, and listening is more powerful than speaking.
We SHOULD Ask the Hard Questions
When you’ve got a diverse crowd in the room, most of us have a million questions that we are too scared to ask. We’ve all been there. But when you’ve got sessions talking about the problems of whiteness, sex education, a sexist justice system, cultural appropriation, that we’re all going to die, reconciliation and reparations and, toxic masculinity amongst fifty other topics, there are going to be hard questions. Questions that need to be asked. We go too often keeping the hard questions within us, or even worse – asking the hard questions to people in our own social circles that know less about the issues than we do.
While we created a safe environment at Junket and all humbly came forward with our own knowledge and knowing practically nothing about anything else, this environment can be created anywhere. It’s about being open, recognising that the confrontational question comes from a lack of knowledge or understanding rather than hate, and creating a trusted opportunity that every person can be involved. That’s an extremely simplistic way to look at it, but once you have that, then you can ask the hard questions. Because there are the questions that will change your mindset, open your horizons and potentially alter your perspective on the matter. Whether it occurs in a business context or around social issues, we’ve got to ask the hard questions.
We’re Defined by Successes AND Failures
We make waves in the world because of the things that we do. It’s far rarer that those who fail miserably make the same waves, and if they do, they’ve done something colossal!
But we’ve all made the wrong step somewhere. Most of us have done it many times, and that’s what made us a stronger, wiser person. But when we go into business based discussions, we’ll also talk about our successes first and foremost. And if where we’ve gone wrong pop up in the conversation, we often quickly re-orientate the conversation.
Underlying this, mental health was a major topic at Junket. So when we’re not feeling 100% and that we’re in need of assistance, a culture that only celebrates success is one we don’t belong to. We slink away from it. But if we have an environment where we can talk about our successes and failures, recognising we can learn just as much from both and be a little vulnerable, then we can actively support people no matter their mood. A coworking space where you work alongside fellow members on a regular basis creates this in a way, as you spend enough time working together to know when people are excited and when they are down – but that is only because of familiarity and being aware of this in others. We’ve got to go one step further and not be afraid to share some of our problems because we can all learn from them, and being vulnerable can set the right environment for us to find our feet with the confidence of others keeping an eye on us too. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, that’s why we need a community – but it’s more than just a working community, as we all need a community to be socially healthy too.
Listening is More Powerful Than Speaking
When I was looking at the board for sessions at Junket, I started by choosing all of the ones I wanted to attend and add value to if I could. But after the second discussion where I learned far more from the others in the room, I started relooking at the schedule to find the sessions I just wanted to listen to. And with some of the ones that I walked in on, it was great to hear the issues discussed that helped me get a better understanding of the situation as well as learn insights from the experts in the room.
Often when we’re in situations like this, we’re compelled to say something profound to make it appear like we’ve arrived and we’re in the right room. But through this experience, I’ve found that there are times where you should just listen and become wiser for it. And that shouldn’t be looked down upon. No matter if you are an introvert who doesn’t want to stand up and speak in the first place, or the person who should define the agenda but aren’t feeling up to it on the day, we should not condemn someone for not speaking. In fact, it can be a noble choice to simply learn and soak in the discussion that is happening.
So that is three of the major things that I learned from the whole Junket process that wasn’t something discussed in a session – or at the social drinks, dinners or breakfasts! While those topic-focused discussions opened my mind around some significant areas – many of which I hadn’t thought about before – the thing that will stay with me even longer is the environment that was created where the hard questions were asked that stretched and grew everyone there, that we’re more than jut successful people and we need to start admitting that, and that there is nothing wrong with listening to a discussion.