Herewith, five great notions, quotes, thoughts, passages, and a poem, from poet-philosopher, and Puget Sound resident, David Whyte. What’s unusual is that this poet works in the corporate world. Whyte also seems to have helped inspire the formation of Dark Angels, the UK-based writing collective. (Of which I am a proud member.) I thought this was perfect. “And so the ability to ask beautiful questions, often in very unbeautiful moments, is one of the great disciplines of a human life. And a beautiful question starts to shape your identity as much by asking it as it does by having it answered.” (Thanks to Tim and Neil, friends and 5CT subscribers for the tip.)
To the lazy days of summer’s end, I welcome you. First, over to England for some great black and white photographs. A hot tip on a great little notebook. LARB—dish from Laos or book review website? Baa Baa Black Sheep by Wynton Marsalis is the perfect accompaniment to tour the work of a Portuguese goddess of abstract painting. “At night I would go to sleep dreaming of sea adventures.” – John Claridge
We hear a lot about the power of words and of stories. Those instances when the yeast works its magic are rare and beautiful to behold. Kate Tempest is a performance poet from London, and her stunning 2015 Europe is Lost seems a mite prescient. I found myself floored at the writing in The Crack-Up, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s series of ‘confessional’ essays for Esquire. Martin Pistorius made me weep and Max Porter filled me with joy and wonder and a touch of envy. The rich, driving sounds of Kendrick Lamar’s Complexion (A Zulu love) come via DM. Seems a good time for this: “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” George Orwell
Established: 1198, 1498, 1515, 1519, 1534, 1570, 1698, 1705, 1715, 1759, 1824, 1891. An inn, a removals company, a butchers, a ferry, a printing press, a bell foundry, a wine merchants, a stone carvers, a scale makers, a brewers, an agricultural company, a gum manufacturer. How on earth have they managed that? And what are their secrets of survival?
In Established, twelve business writers set out to find the answers to these questions and to tell the stories of these companies that have survived scores of booms and busts, black sheep in the family and strange twists of fate.
But they’re not your typical team of business writers. The twelve are from the Dark Angels stable, the brand that since 2004 has been encouraging authentic voices in business writers through its residential courses and workshops. Storytelling is at the heart of the Dark Angels approach. In Established you will find that each of these enduring businesses has a great story, each of which is told in an individual voice that brings range and freshness to the book and makes it quite unlike the mainstream ‘how to’ hardback.
But the lessons the stories contain are every bit as instructive, from the eschewal of nepotism to the generational mantra of ‘humility and rebellion’. The reader will find contradictions, on questions like world domination or keeping it to the one shop. And that’s the joy of this book, that readers looking for insight as well as good old entertainment will gravitate towards the business that most resembles theirs in spirit and set-up if not in actual trade.
The lesson in every instance that is closest to the writers’ hearts is that the story itself is one of the greatest assets of every business – and when you’ve got over 500 years of records it’s quite a challenge to tell it, especially in a couple of thousand words. Established does just that.
T his autumn edition of 5CT is dedicated to passionate humans everywhere who chase their muse, their passions and their creative obsessions to the ends of the earth. A friend and mentor writes a seriously good novel. After you read this, stone inscriptions will never be the same. What the Fuck is a fucking amazing listen. The Great Gatsby was great, but how about that cover art? An amazing woman talks about work, and, um, super chickens. “Noise is a buffer, more effective than cubicles or walls.” Margaret Heffernan
(cover and author photo by Jessie Simmons)
My friend John Simmons has written a very lovely book that does what every good novel should do. It evokes a time and a place and is populated with indelible characters. The language—as you might expect—is original and beautiful. Sometimes it is startling. John started this book some years ago and fate smiled upon him in the form of London based publisher, Urbane. My friend Neil Baker loved it too…
Established: Lessons from the world’s oldest companies tells the stories of twelve businesses with a combined age of almost 5,000 years. They’ve survived war, plague, rebellion, boom, bust, depression and strange twists of fate. But how and what can we learn from them?
The Irish Times wrote: “Established’s thoughtful essay-style pieces include a series of snappy conclusions, yes; but these are listed as “things to think about” rather than “things to do”. There are no shock revelations, no surprising single commonality revealed, yet for large corporations awash with jaded jargon and out-of-the-box start-ups in search of a fresh voice alike, Established’s unconventional tales are worth taking time over.”
Kait Dunton, bite size
"Now let us frankly face the fact that our culture is one which is geared in many ways to help us evade any need to face this inner, silent self. We live in a state of constant semi-attention to the sound of voices, music, traffic, or the generalized noise of what goes on around us all the time. This keeps us immersed in a flood of racket and words, a diffuse medium in which our consciousness is half diluted: we are not quite ‘thinking,’ not fully present and not entirely absent; not fully withdrawn, yet not completely available. It cannot be said that we are really participating in anything and we may, in fact, be half conscious of our alienation and resentment…We just float along in the general noise…”
(photo by Beowulf Sheehan)
“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that, but you are the only you.” NEIL GAIMAN
Dark Angels writing workshops help writers find their voice.
- October of 2018, we're back in New Bedford, MASS. It's beautiful, a little remote, a lot of inspiring.
Perfect for working copywriters, corporate communications people, business owners who want to write better and storytellers of all kinds. Click the nib to learn more.
5CT RUNS ON CORTADO’S
No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness.
~ Sheik Abd-al-Kadir
photographs from one year
Photographs from one year is one man's take at the world around him over the course of a year.