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Feeling Stuck? Use Street Wisdom to Navigate the World with More Curiosity with David Pearl (Episode #139)

Having a reliable routine for getting fresh perspectives and ideas can be a sanity-saver and a path to opening up new potential almost every day for you. In this episode, we learn about just such a path with David Pearl, who is leading a movement—Street Wisdom—that can be an energizing, simple way to find answers to small daily quandaries and your most challenging problems. And best of all, it’s a free, ever changing way to boost your sense of joy, wonder and well-being.

Episode Highlights

About Our Guest:

David is an author, speaker and arts-in-business innovator who has founded the non-profit, Street Wisdom, which is transforming ordinary city streets into extraordinary learning zones for anyone simply willing to go out for a new kind of “walk.” Tens of thousands of participants, in 74 Countries, are finding the magic there. 

Since 2013, the organization has been helping people and businesses find clarity, focus and inspiration. It’s bringing “experiential learning” (getting out and doing something) to city streets across the globe through guided, (physical and virtual) WalkShops.

Put simply: Street Wisdom is helping people find inspiration in the everyday, as individuals or in group walks that combine a spirit of belonging and collaboration.

If you are still a bit in the dark, this concept is so novel that it’s best to hear about it straight from the founder’s mouth. David’s TEDx talk shares the insight and research behind the enterprise and is an extremely joyful and ah-ha moment-filled 13 minutes.  

And there is more…

  1. The Street Wisdom Blog is often updated, so have a peek there too. 
  2. On September 29, 2023, Street Wisdom is organizing an all day, all around the world event: World Wide Wander! (The Goodness Exchange will be partnering with them to add even more wonder to the day, so we hope you’ll join us all in this celebration of simple, accessible possibility.)

The scope of all this is rather astounding when we stop to ponder it. 

And how did we get here? Well, like so many of the best innovators who we interview on the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast, David’s story looks like a winding river that eventually opened up into a sea of insight. 

A performing artist by background, David was a boy-soloist at the Royal Opera House where he first sang with Placido Domingo at the age of 9. He has toured the world as an orchestral player, and had countless other creative adventures in various beautiful, arts-related endeavors. 

In 1994, when one of the world’s leading service firms was looking for a radical new way to boost creativity, they asked for David’s help. And now, two decades on, he’s a creative confidante to the leaders of some of the world’s leading businesses helping them and their teams perform at new levels.

David combines his performance background with his boardroom experience to offer clients talks and workshops which are highly entertaining, unusually interactive (he can engage even the hardest-nosed crowd) and richly insightful. 

He is also known as the Experience Engineer: designing, orchestrating, and animating on and off-line high stakes meetings and for that novel combination of talents. David’s work has appeared in media such as the BBC, The Sunday Times, The Times, New Statesman, The Independent, and The Telegraph.

I found commentary that said David’s book on the art of meeting— Will There Be Donuts—was amongst The Times Top Ten Summer Reads in 2013. And yes, a book about meetings that was so popular people took it to the beach with them! (You’ll see why, just a few minutes into this interview: David has a funny, slightly quirky sense of humor and a warm approachable way that makes his ideas seem relaxing and luminous.

Wanderful: Human Navigation for a Complex World, is his latest book, and explores a forward-thinking system designed to help people answer their life questions and find new non-linear directions in our complex AI focused world.

David lives in London and Piedmont, Italy with his wife Joanna—whom he met during an impromptu serenade under her window—and his two children Elsa and Zach. He is also an enthusiastic, if out of breath, road cyclist.

Please enjoy this lovely, breath of fresh air conversation, and try David’s 5 short, guided walks, teed up like podcast episodes, HERE on spotify. (You can look up “Street Wisdom Podcast” on your favorite podcast platform, and you’ll find it there.) Just work your way through the little episodes and see what reveals itself! 

I’ve done them myself, now many times, and discover something remarkable every single time! 

Show Notes

00:00 Preview

 01:10 Intro & Welcome

06:40 Walking in Circles

  • The idea of getting experiential learning from wandering around emerged from as early as David’s childhood.
  • The real catalyst was being lost and learning from mistakes.
  • David learned the idea of walking in circles in public spaces when seeking out the meaning of life.
  • David attempted walking in circles in Leicester Square and felt a bit self conscious but quickly realized that very few people were paying attention to him.
  • The street can be a wonderful place to explore development and one’s own limits.
  • As busy as the street is, in a funny way it’s a private space.
  • David is not the first to put forward the idea of walking in busy cities.
  • The Flâneur movement, for example, arose in Paris in the late 19th Century.
  • The Flâneur was a person who could be at home anywhere and was always observing and enjoying the everydayness of life. The Flâneur’s art was social observation.
  • A group of French poets, led by Guillaume Apollinaire and Charles Baudelaire used the streets as sources of artistic revelations. 

13:08 Street Wisdom

  • Street Wisdom offers exercises to help people become more Flâneur-like.
  • One of the exercises used at Street Wisdom is designed to help people slow down.
  • Another exercise is to help people increase their awareness.
  • For many people the eyes are the main system of awareness, yet there are 4 other senses that can be used.
  • A third exercise is geared toward awakening your physical intelligence.
  • The popular opinion is that intelligence is centralized in the cranium while wisdom is distributed throughout the body.
  • Let your feet take your head for a walk.
  • Your body has an opinion and we can listen to that opinion to guide our navigating of the world.

18:00 The Discipline of Simplification

  • 3 parts
    • Tune up your senses
      • People are awakened through various exercises.
    • Quest
      • With their senses awake, they go for a wander with a question in mind.
      • Begin to record what is noticed through any of the senses.
    • The Sharing
      • Share whatever popped out at you.
  • The Street Wisdom website offers a “walk shop” which offers simple instructions, and gives guidance on how to lead a walk.
  • Online options are also available to lead or join virtual walks with groups.
  • The Street Wisdom website has download links to audio guides where David takes people through the stages of the walk shop at their own speed.

21:20 I Am You

  • The Street Wizards are a group of volunteers who have fallen in love with the process and have moved into deeper practice.
  • “I Am You” is one of those deeper practices.
  • The idea behind “I Am You” is to get a simultaneous sense of your uniqueness but also of your connection with everyone in the crowd.
  • “I Am You” is important in this age of social media.
  • The “I Am You” practice challenges the idea of what a stranger is, and addresses the fear of others.
  • “I Am You” doesn’t require anything more than an imagination and a mischievous spirit.
  • Humans have the amazing ability to create images in our minds of things that do not exist. We call this imagination.
  • This imagination leaves us susceptible to media images that may project the world as worse off in the future.
  • We have the opportunity to imagine and create a positive future.
  • We need to exercise, on a daily basis, a better way of living.

30:00 Break

  • We have the opportunity to imagine and create a positive future.

32:55 Authoring the Future

  • There’s an infinite number of possible futures.
  • David is helping people make decisions that the future will be proud of.
  • While people have the best intentions, if they are on autopilot they are being programmed externally.
  • Everything about the future is essentially guess work and humans don’t like that so they create stories about the future.
  • The stories that are in our minds were often put there by others.
  • Parents, teachers, politicians, and advertisers all contribute to the stories in the mind of the individual.
  • David challenges people to take a look at the stories in their minds and create the fiction that they want to make real.
  • Part of the art of authoring the future is writing not only the pleasant experiences, but also writing the trouble into the story.
  • The most learning and the most joy tends to come from the struggles.
  • Discovering the ‘why’ behind the story is more important than the ‘what’.
  • Following the distraction is also important as the treasures are sometimes found in life’s side streets.

42:15 Intention is the Key

  • Negative news on the internet and in social media tends to get more attention.
  • The streets also have a tendency to be transactional.
  • It helps when one enters the streets or the internet with a strong intention.
  • Distractions become like clues on a treasure hunt.
  • Creativity is about joining the dots but first the dots need to be collected to join.
  • The streets are a wonderful place to collect the dots. 
  • What you give your attention to expands.

51:33 Synchronicity of the City

  • The book is about finding the wonder in the wander every day.
  • The wonder often comes from things that cannot be explained.
  • There’s no way of rationalizing bumping into the perfect stranger at the right time.
  • Interesting connections start to happen when we recognize that we are connected with the environment and with others.

54:50 Pay Attention to the Stories

  • An enemy is only someone we don’t know the story about.
  • If you’re feeling bad, consider the stories you’re telling yourself.
  • Changing the time component by simply adding words like ‘yet’ can shift the mindset.
  • The most compassionate thing to do is listen lovingly to the story a person is telling themselves and then ask questions that allow them to change some details in the story for themselves.

54:50 Closing

  • Frustration is fuel.
  • A little bit of “itchiness” is key.
  • Get less comfortable with our certainties and be a bit more curious. 
  • Look for a little light hearted mischief in all our trials.

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