Be more pirate

Recently, I’ve become a pirate.
Not the bad kind who steal stuff.
A good pirate.

Inspired by Sam Conniff’s Be More Pirate and the recent sequel, How to Be More Pirate (co-authored by Alex Barker), I have fully embraced the fact that I am a Pirate. 

Be More Pirate opens with these words: “Three hundred years ago a small group of frustrated and underappreciated, mostly young professionals had finally had enough of living in a society run badly by a self-interested and self-serving Establishment.  Disruption had become the constant backdrop to their lives as they faced ongoing uncertainty and mass redundancy in a world plagued by ideologically influenced international conflict.  This generation felt entirely abandoned, and they were right.  The odds were stacked high against them in every single way, the rules of the day favoured an elite few, and for the majority of people life was unclear, unfair and unfulfilling.

Sound familiar?”

I’ve never been part of the establishment.  I’ve always worked for small or micro organisations, mostly non-profit ones.  And I have growing discontent with the way things are, the unfairness of the systems that govern us and a deep concern about how so many people around me are unhappy.

It’s taken a while to embrace this piracy: I’m no anarchist an I’m pretty soft around the edges.  But a good mutiny isn’t about breaking things for the sake of it: it’s about rewriting the rules, remaking the path forward and making things fairer for all.

Here’s the 5 R’s of being a good pirate:

  1. Rebel – but not for the sake of it
  2. Rewrite – bend, break but most importantly, rewrite the rules
  3. Reorganise – collaborate to achieve scale rather than growth.  Small is beautiful.
  4. Redistribute – fight for fairness, share power, and make an enemy of exploitation
  5. Retell – weaponize your story and tell the hell out of it

During lockdown, I completed an ICF accredited diploma in Transformational Life Coaching and launched my coaching business.  Embracing piracy made it a whole lot easier.  I was unable to get professional photos done for the website, so I got my 11 year old to take some on my phone.  They’re actually pretty good and people say they like the site.  Could I have done that if I wasn’t embracing my inner pirate?  Probably not.  Would have been wracked with all the “Shoulds”.  I should do it this way… 

Instead, a kind of “F**k it, I’m going in!”  approach has been totally brilliant.  Far more authentic and honest.  And actually cuts out a whole load of the crap which can take up too much time, allowing me more time and space to do what I’m good at – working with clients to help them find ways to be kind to themselves, achieve their goals and connect to what really makes their heart sing.

The piratical connections to the coaching ethos are numerous.  It supports internal and external rebellion: career change is a rebellion; questioning the unhelpful stories you tell yourself is rebellion;  rewriting the rules on what you eat and when is a rebellion.  Getting to rewrite the rules and retell your story provides an amazing freedom.

Another thing that’s been really useful to me recently is spending a bit of time writing my pirate code.

What would be in your pirate code?

Here’s mine: 

I am optimistic, kind and full of grit.  I will not conform.  I will see the bigger picture.  My fearlessness & playfulness are rare things and I should share how to cultivate and use them.  I will regularly remind myself of what I really care about right now, in this moment, and prioritise accordingly.  And finally, I shall raise the roof of my ambitions. 

Whether I’m writing a marketing strategy, a funding application or a blog, delivering training or coaching a client, reminding myself of this code makes my work better.  It puts a spring in my step and excitement in my heart.

Go on… have a shot at writing your pirate code. 

And then think how to live by this code.  As it says in How to Be More Pirate, “the process we use to get to the future, determines the future we get”. 

Although it’s important to think of the Why in planning a revolution, the How is everything.  For me that means I need to do stuff with humour and honesty. 

Along with your code which can provide the sturdy foundations to keep you grounded through flux and change, you also need your crew.  Even if you work alone, you can still collaborate.  Who can you be inspired by?  Who else is fired up for change or to do things in a way that works rather than the ways we “should” do them?  Who can you lean on as a sounding board?  Who can you share power with?

Once you’ve built a crew, what other crews can you fleetingly connect with when you need to be bigger than a single ship?  Who’s in your flotilla?

2020 has undoubtedly been really pants for most.  Virtually everyone has had an emotional rollercoaster which has left us all exhausted.  But where there’s turmoil there is the promise of change.  There’s been so much talk of building back better I’ve often felt really overwhelmed by it all.  But I can start with my own ways of working.  I can follow my pirate code, reflect often on the 5 R’s (Rebel, Rewrite, Reorganise, Redistribute and Retell), keep my crew close and through this continue to change how I work, how I can create social impact and how to live. 

If this has rung your ship’s bell, give me a shout.  Happy to connect with any pirate out there.

Related Articles

What is authenticity anyway?

Struggling with what it is to be authentic in your practice? Wondering about what it’s really like to sell your company? Hear one person’s experience of coming to terms with the reality of authenticity and selling out in this brutally honest article by maker Louise McGettrick.