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Anthony WILLOUGHBY, Founder of I Will Not Complain, on 'territory mapping back to our roots'

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Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you. I would like to start by saying that there is absolutely no academic background whatsoever to what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the journeys and the questions that I've been asking myself as I go around the world 59 times around the sun 59 times. What is that, that area? What is that, that we have? What is that, that we can achieve? Where can we travel? It's a question of territory and I was just thinking, what is your territory? Is it your world? Is it what you own? Is it who you are? Is it where you belong? But what I'd like to talk about is a belief I think we need to go in search of our territory; and that is about curiosity, passion, and courage. I'd like to say how I learnt this. Once, there was a happy little boy in Africa. I used to keep pet scorpions and then in the way of the English child, I got sent off to boarding school in England. But I was exceptionally lucky there because I had a house master, who after a couple of years he said to me, “Anthony, let’s get one thing absolutely clear. You are far far too stupid to go to University.” So I thought, Wow, freedom! You know, what could I do? But how can I impress the ladies? So I decided that maybe I can become a bullfighter and you can see there is my head and there is my foot. So I thought bullfighting is possibly not for me; but what it did do though is to give me this desire to step out. Whether wandering into the Takla Makan Desert in China and thinking to myself where could my shadows fall? Where could we take our shadows? Where would we have our camelry? Where do we want to go in life? What do we want to achieve and how can we get there? And when someone says come and climb a high mountain out in Western China Muztagh Ata 7000 meters, I said "Of course," but I knew nothing about mountains. But occasionally on that journey you think, aren’t we lost? Why are we trying to do something that is so exciting and so ridiculous? and I realized on these journeys, that probably, attitude and trust and the philosophy of I Will Not Complain were more important than skills because I think it is that passion that we bring with us that is far more important. Now I didn’t discover this going on some great idea; I was actually living in Tokyo and I went on this journey across Papua New Guinea. On this journey, I saw there were villages. We had twenty four bottles of wine and no food. (laughter from crowd) It's true! There was my wife, my best man; this is Phillip. Now Phillip is the complainer: "We won’t get there, I’m scared, I’m lost." That man had such faith in human nature, he had a padlock on his backpack. I realized it was about this trust and these skills and when you’re in the middle of a river, you don’t want someone saying, “I know the rope is going to break.” (laughter from crowd) But what I think we need to do now is from time to time is to go back to visit; visit that campfire, visit that energy, that essence of what we are. I didn’t discover this by going off looking for things; it was basically because I drank too much beer in Tokyo and there was my stomach. And I thought let’s go off and wander into the deserts and elsewhere. And on this journey, I went off and there every evening, the Maasai would wander into our village. And at school in England, I had seen arrogance without an iota of substance. Here I saw substance without an iota of arrogance. I thought, what is it they have? That time I had my rolex watch. I had also something else. So I thought what is my substance? So I decided to go to Papua New Guinea. I went to New Guinea and I started to learn about a big man having many feathers; a bigger man being able to hand out his feathers; One had to take the responsibility of the spear and one could not hand it out. But most important of all when I said, "What is the most important thing in your life?" they said "It is my territory." They know their community, they know their identity, they know who they are because of how they behave. And I thought maybe the world is my territory. So the first time I went hitchhiking in China, I fell out of a woman’s wet balcony and I paralyzed myself. But it made me start to question; what are my values? What are those things that are important? And in Africa where we spend a lot of time, there is the story of the goat. The goat is handed to a child at the age of three and they say, "This is what you are responsible for." "Look after this goat and your community thrives." "If the goat dies, our community is at risk." At three, a child is given that responsibility. So maybe I believe the time has come to simplify our world: to simplify back to metaphors and where feathers are awarded and handed out and spears are given. Whether it’s on the great wall using metaphor but preferably I go back to Africa. I go back to where we first stood up and there in Africa, we use that as the metaphor; What is your world? What are you looking after? What are you actually protecting? What are the threats to your world? Let’s bring them real and emotional so people can see what they might be. It’s wonderful taking people to relearn. I can talk about it forever, but it’s about actually guiding people there to look at what is their world: that clarity of what our people are looking after. Do we know our skills? Do we know what we want to do for people? That was a map drawn by a chairman of an organization. We’re heading for paradise. And then you drop one level down in the organization and you see the bullshit bridge and the fantasy application. (laughter from crowd) Wouldn’t it be great to go back to a world which is … Arekisana, I was staying in his mud hut in Africa and he spoke very good English and I said, "You know you’ve gotta come to England." Help us with his wisdom. And there he is in England teaching because I think we need to learn, we need people to know who they are because of what they protect. As the economic crisis and other things come into our world, and we start to think; What is it? What do we value? Do we value education? Or do we value who we are? I think today we need to build up our air bags of trust: trust in self, trust in others, because these occasionally deflate. And over here we have the designer brands, job titles and the other things. And how much of our education is a cardboard box? If I get this degree, I’ll be a great person. Is it not possible that Western Civilization only exists by having education systems that make us feel socially inadequate. When are taught about who we are? Or about what we are and what we can do in life? And that’s all I can talk about it but at least with my children I can say, "What are you chasing in life?" "Go out to Africa, chase those dreams." "Reach out and look at what is possible for all of us." And that is why this summer, I’m sending my sixteen year old to spend a week looking after the cattle of the King of the Zulu’s through a wonderful contact who is here today. And then walking with the Maasai for a week. Because I think we must go back to a point where we are respected for what we can contribute; respected by our communities for who we are, what we can do, and ultimately take responsibility that all of us here have that freedom to go in search of inspiration to make a difference to the planet. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you. Thank you.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 3 seconds
Country: Japan
Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
Genre: None
Producer: Virgin Earth & Ansur Pictures
Director: Andrew Malana
Views: 652
Posted by: tedxtokyo on Apr 25, 2010

A talk given in Session 2 "What Does It Mean To Be A Learner Today?" of TEDxTokyo 2009, held on May 22 at National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

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