When work becomes passion and passion becomes reality / Interview Jacob Bundsgaard, mayor of Aarhus & alderman Marc pera Christensen / Go Green Aarhus 2017 / Theory U / The Yes! Municipality / Godsbanen Trailerpark / Furture Practice- Knowledge & Experiments / Entrepreneurial Portraits /City of ceres : How to build a City / Hope is Green / Aarhus University: Student Incubator / Let's Go Co-Create / Steps toward a Sustainable Future / Green Entrepreneurial portraits / Sustainable Footprint / Eco System /The Thornico Building / Spot a Wealthy Investor
ALL TRANSLATED BY :
WHEN WORK BECOMES PASSION AND PASSION BECOMES REALITY
We have met up with the owner of Thornico and Hummel, Christian Stadil, and Lóa Stefánsdóttir, owner of the company, Mind of Gold, for a talk about passion, work, passion-driven and holistic companies – and not least: How to lose yourself, use your time wisely and make mistakes – quite a few in fact.
The train trundles across Fyn. The photographer and I are sitting tensely with our black notepads; one lined and the other for sketching, on the table in front of us. The theme is passion – both in the photographer’s sketches and in my questions.
But what is passion? We quickly agree that we both have it. For why would we otherwise take the return trip from Aarhus to Copenhagen with DSB for an hour long interview and photo shoot with Christian Stadil and Loá Stefansdóttir at a rather hectic café on Østerbro?
After a brief moment of confusion in front of Østerport station, the photographer and I finally find the right road and locate the café where the discussion will take place. I don’t mention to the photographer that I have actually lived in Copenhagen and still don’t know my way around. Loá and Christian find us quickly and once the raspberry smoothies have been ordered, we get straight down to business; there is no time for small talk.
What is passion for you, I ask and catch sight of my own reflection in Stadil’s sunglasses.
“When you feel passion, you feel it burning so strongly inside you that you can end up losing yourself in the fire of what you are doing”, explains Christian Stadil as he elegantly removes his sunglasses and replaces them with his charismatic horn-rimmed glasses. I have a strong feeling that this man can talk. “When we lose ourselves, our sense of time and place and experience disappears, we get into a flow and then all of a sudden, five hours have passed where we have been sitting in a brainstorm or have been out climbing, which I enjoy doing. Passion is the most important fuel in terms of getting into a state of flow”, he says looking over at Loá.
“For me it’s the Big Why”, starts Loá Stefansdóttir. She is sitting in her beautiful bottle-green dress with a feather in her hair. “I need to know why I do things. There are things I want to give this world – I feel almost in a hurry to do it. Passion is also not giving up when things take an unexpected turn”, she says. “And they always do”, interrupts Stadil whilst changing back to his sunglasses. The sun must have come out again. “I have heard myself say to my former boss that I would rather live on state benefits and live out my passion than stay comfortably in a full-time job and not doing it”. For me there’s a sense of urgency”, she says. Stadil nods, “that’s a good phrase – sense of urgency”, he says, whilst savouring the words.
Many companies work from “what” to “how” to “why”. Businesses run on passion work the opposite way around and start by asking why. This comes from the motto that people don’t buy because of what you do, but because of why you do it.
USE YOUR TIME WISELY
It has been a bit of a jigsaw puzzle trying to arrange a meeting with these two very busy passionate individuals so my question of how to use one’s time most wisely is not totally irrelevant. I don’t know the answer myself. Procrastination is my middle name, especially when it’s something I don’t feel like doing. I believe that both Loá and Christian are experts in this arena.
“I am most certainly not an expert – just ask my girlfriend and she will tell you that I am anything but”, says Christian and we all laugh. “But after I became a dad I have been forced to prioritise and I have started prioritising my passions higher and higher.
Prioritise those things that you are passionate about and where you feel you can make a difference – in my case it is those tasks and jobs that I am most passionate about that I use most time on and lose myself most often”.
Loá has also just done something crazy. She had a permanent job at Innovation Lab as chief anthropologist but quit to follow her dream and passion of having her own company. “I only have this life now and I was spending all of my waking hours doing something that isn’t what I dream of – that’s a waste of time”. Loá could feel it on her levels of motivation and she felt that she was only applying herself 80%.
MAKING MISTAKES IS PART OF LIFE
It is not fun to make mistakes. Not at all. Especially not when it is what everyone predicted would happen. Both Christian Stadil and Lóa Stefansdóttir have tried it many times.
“I have messed up many times and I actually think that it’s a big part of getting anywhere. Because we really do learn more from our own experiences. In this respect, the ‘bad’ experiences are very valuable”, says Loá in such a relaxed tone that I have a hard time believing her. “Making mistakes hurts, especially if you are very self-conscious. The more you step forward, the more resistance you will meet – you need to be prepared for that. People will always find things to get offended about when you become more clear. But for me, life is about becoming clear” she says, taking a sip of her raspberry smoothie.
It is as if Christian read my thoughts about being self-conscious. “We humans are not very good when we get self-conscious”, he says after a long story about horse riding and jumping. But it makes sense: “about 76% of all riders knock the last jump down. Psychiatrist and Zen Buddhist, Mark Epstein, worked with a technique that required the riders to ima-gine a final jump after the last actual one. Then what happens? We don’t get in the way of ourselves – we ride past the jump so to speak.
Because when we have to perform, we get overly self-conscious. We might stumble and fall but if the goal is all the way out there in the distance, it doesn’t matter”, says Christian and turns around on his chair to greet an acquaintance that just caught sight of him. “Hello...it’s been a long time... yeah I don’t come here that much anymore – I’ve moved out to the countryside”, Stadil explains.
The point is that companies should view their goals in a longer perspective – that way it doesn’t matter if you stumble half way. “It is not healthy to think so myopically”, Christian points out and starts talking about times of crisis; Einstein, who wrote bad papers, and Lincoln, who after many defeats went on to become an excellent president.
HOLISTIC BUSINESS THINKING
There are many that believe that holistic businesses are philanthropic enterprises where employees meditate and drink green tea. But they are not. There is however a returning trend towards seeking wholeness, finding meaning in life, identity and happiness – and we are seeking answers in both science and spirituality. This is also reflected in organisations and businesses.
“If you are sitting in the marketing department you have far more freedom if you are working on campaigns that will earn money - so earning money is good - but I refuse to believe that it is the only thing that is worthwhile”, says Christian Stadil. I can sense that this means something to him.
“A business is like a limb; a limb needs blood to function just as a business needs money, liquidity and cash flow to operate. The interesting thing is what the limb, or the business, decides to do with itself once it has enough blood, or cash flow, respectively” he says, continuing, “I am not holy, I love making money. A business that doesn’t make any money has anxious employees so it is a good thing to make money. Without money there is no karma. But things are also about doing well and doing good”.
Businesses with a holistic approach are not just businesses with financial goals; they are also dedicated to contributing to society at the same as tending to the interests, skills and needs of the directors and employees. The holistic approach is also a way of ensuring a meaningful job.
Steen Hildebrandt and Christian Stadil wrote the book, Company Karma, before the crisis set in as a warning – not many people know this. “We noticed the figures on the American stock exchange, where the holding period - the length of time that you keep your stocks before selling them off - had fallen from seven years to just one”, says Christian.
They describe in the book why businesses need to think both long term and holistically. Some of the Native Americans worked with a seven-generation perspective.
“We should be working for some of the next generations – the things we do today should be able to survive for the next seven generations”, says Stadil.
“The world starts to cooperate with you when you mean what you say and what you do. And there is always a deeper bottom line. Such as the health and wellbeing of the next seven”, continues Loá, touching her hair, making the feather flutter. It is Native Americans meet business – and it’s the new black.
“Easy come is not that exciting. It is exciting to make a difference doing something that’s worthwhile. It is pretty uninteresting to make money by doing something very easy which leads more rubbish and more carelessness in the world”, she says. Stadil nods and refills all our glasses with ice water. I get a nod from the photographer who mumbles something about the light being perfect and that we should go down to the lake next to the café to get ready for the photos. We’ll be there in five minutes, I tell him.
Company Karma is not just a book. The whole Thornico concern has built karma into their business models. Combining, as far as possible, doing well with doing good. “At the moment we have some new big projects going on all over the world for example we had held a kid’s festival in Afghanistan with 900 children playing football in Hummel gear - it was a great sight”.
Christian Stadil describes Company Karma as a non-religious business philosophy. “We call it karma because we are living in an interconnected world – if I don’t treat you nicely, it is most likely to have its repercussions and you’ll go on Facebook and write ‘that Christian was a prick’. Well that’s the way it works, isn’t it!” he says laughing. Don’t worry Christian, I won’t do that.
MIND OF GOLD
Loá Stefansdóttir has recently started a small company called Mind of Gold.
“I provide wisdom techniques for businesses and workplaces”. Wisdom techniques, I repeat, probably looking a bit puzzled. “Yes, I am actually desperately looking out for a better word at the moment – it is a technical approach to the spiritual methods. There is mindfulness and meditation, and there are plenty of more techniques to hack your system and lift your life to a new level. I want to make that accessible to everyone”, says Loá and points out that this is in no way religious. “Imagine sitting in an office and you have to complete an assignment or give a presentation. You heart is beating rapidly and sweat drops are forming on your brow. There are actually things that you can do in just four minutes that can help you. There is help for all of us, regardless of what mental or psychological stuff we are dealing with. There are tools to work with”, she says.
LIVE YOUR DREAM AND SHARE YOUR PASSION
The meeting is drawing to a close and I try to find an appropriate question to finish up an hour-long chat with two inspiring people whom I don’t really want to stop talking.
All good things come to an end they say. No, why is that? I ask both Loá and Stadil if they have any good advice. Loá begins, “ask yourself, do you believe in what you are doing or is there anything that you believe in more”. Stadil picks up the thread, “I know that it is a boring place to start but having a good idea is important. There must be a market out there for it – they are the necessary conditions – passion won’t do it alone.
Then you have to ask yourself if there is something that you actually want to spend 15-20 hours a day doing because it is really tough running a business” he explains, once again removing his sunglasses and replacing them with his horn-rimmed glasses. It is duly noted. We are both literally high on passion when the photo shoot comes to an end and hugs have been exchanged. Now for the train back to Aarhus.
← Back to frontpage