Don't Wait for Change. There's Never Been a Better Time

How Istanbul gave me the gift of urgency

Can you fall in love with a city? There is a place for me where a whole load of different narratives kind of converged and out of that chaos and energy new things were born. Where burning bridges illuminated the road ahead. A place where colors seem brighter and more brilliant. A culture full of flavors I never knew existed. A city where the background noise seems lounder and more insistent, filled with unfamiliar rhythms. A visual and olfactory cacophony of taxis, spice markets, ferry boats, nargileh, street hawkers, the muezzin call, diesel engines, beach club beats, Kahve and cigarettes. A place where you can get lost. And then find yourself.

Istanbul was the first place I'd ever really felt out of my depth. The language, the culture, the food, the customs. All alien. Here was a bridge in every sense of the word. Between continents. From east to west. Old to new. From architectural history lesson and of end-of-empire melancholia, across to new beginnings, the birth of a republic and a huge sense of national pride. Truly a city of contrasts, you can walk a block and it can feel like you've somehow traveled from a suburb of any European capital to a street you'd more usually see on the news through the nose camera of a Reaper. And back.

I was running creative across Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Grey at the time. Working with a whole bunch of glorious misfits. And as you explore your patch and do your job, you become increasingly aware of the difference in the approach to business, and indeed to life, the further away from home you travel. As you start to head east, for vast swathes of geography, the prevailing political system means that tomorrow you could literally lose everything. That drives home a far greater impetus to make the most of today. There is more urgency. They just make stuff. They get on with it. We can be so complacent and entitled in the West. We talk too much. We wait. Queue even. But there isn't time for that.

Funny how in a crazy city of 18 million people living cheek by jowl, you can find utter peace in the heart of it. This 2,000-year-old contradiction straddling the Bosporus was where I decided to start my "next." Sitting on the lower deck of the Galata Bridge, watching the balletic perpetual motion of the ferries in the harbor as they went about their daily business. "What comes next" just came. When nothing is familiar anymore, there is no convention to hold you back. That's where The Liberty Guild started to take shape. Or should I say, the impetus to actually found the business, not just think about it.

This isn't really about the what or the why. We're all driven by different demons. It's about the when. Istanbul gave me the gift of urgency. Regret the things you've done. Not those you haven't. Whatever plan you have, whatever notions. Do it. Today. Hate something, change something … in the words of Garrison Keillor. 

In our business, there has never been a better time for change. Guttenberg sparked a revolution, as did Berners-Lee. It seems Covid is bringing change of the same magnitude in its wake. The power is torn from the old guard. A decade of digital adoption in as many months. There is a stream of "A-list" talent going freelance. Working from anywhere in the world is the new normal. Size actually limits your ability to pivot. Clients are looking for something different. They're looking for you. You're new model. Your disruptive startup. Your time has come. It's time to stop thinking. It's time to add some salt to your story.

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