It takes quite a lot to impress me these days.
But when a young inventor decides to remove (and recycle) millions and millions of tonnes of plastic from the world’s oceans, I confess to being impressed. That’s The Ocean Cleanup.
My teenage daughter was more than a little impressed at The Ocean Cleanup project too. Any parent of a teenager (or anyone who can cast their own minds back) will recall the angst associated to this time of life. The emotional turmoil. The stress of expectation and achievement. The pressure of deciding ‘what next’. And that’s just the parents – it must be a complete nightmare for the kids.
So I’ve been gently serving up subtle career suggestions to my daughter as any concerned and diligent parent would. “Neurosurgery darling? You’ve got fingers and thumbs haven’t you? Not interested? Oh. Well how about the law? You definitely know how to argue? No? Maybe accountancy? You could count stuff, or whatever.”
Nothing. Zero. Zip. My daughter remained completely non-responsive as only teenage daughters can. It looked like she would be destined for a life of B2B marketing servitude like so many lost souls before her…
“When there’s a good story to tell, people want to tell it. They want to be part of it. They want to support it.”
Then I happened upon an article from a friend who was volunteering his services to support The Ocean Cleanup. In 2012, an 18 year old from The Netherlands, Boyan Slat, conceived a process, and a passion, to remove waste plastic from the world’s oceans. Millions of tonnes of it. Remove it, recycle it, save the world. Easy. He only needed two things, some help and some money. So that’s what he set about doing – combining environmentalism, technology and commerce to save the world. And best of all, he’s succeeding.
You have to admit, it’s quite a story. Probably a better story than the one you’re telling.
I sent the link for Boyan’s TEDx talk to my daughter and expected it to land with a clunk at the bottom of her email inbox along with all my other unopened emails. In fact, she was waiting for me at the front door when I returned home that evening. Waiting. At the front door. She waved the video in front of me on her phone and said, “That. I want to do that. I want to clean up the ocean, I want to clean up the planet of all the rubbish and plastic and waste and pollution. I want to create stuff like this, I want to make a difference, I want to save the world.”
I considered the excitement in her voice as I put down my bag and took off my coat. “You’ll need a cape,” I said, “and you may need to wear red pants on the outside of your jeans.”
“Don’t be stupid Dad,” she replied, “maybe a cape though…”
I followed it up with my friend Joost (rhymes with toast). He followed it up with his friends. They followed it up with their friends and, well, you get the idea. My daughter was invited to hear Boyan speak at The Economist Sustainability Summit in London. Her teachers gave permission for her to attend and Boyan spoke to her after his presentation. Even I took time out from being a Legend and shouting at the stupid people (you know who you are) to be with her. Everyone helped to share the story and to inspire the Ledgling.
My daughter is still fizzing with excitement. She’s engaged by the possibilities. She’s telling her friends. She’s involved. She’s even started a book – ‘Saving The World’.
When there’s a good story to tell, people want to tell it. They want to be part of it. They want to support it.
You may like to consider that before you approve your next shitty B2B marketing campaign that looks and sounds just like all the other shitty B2B marketing campaigns you’ve ever produced.
Ordinary is easy. For extraordinary, you’ll need a cape.