The Hamilton HIVE is one of the best things about living in Hamilton these days. This past weekend, I was delighted to attend my first-ever HIVEX Conference, billed as “the largest young professional conference in the Golden Horseshoe area”.
Unlike purely business-centered entrepreneurial gatherings, HIVEX tackles a multitude of community-based issues and topics, including poverty, post-grad employment, living wages, green spaces, social justice challenges, and volunteerism, among others: in short, a microcosm of the city HIVEX represents.
Here are three takeaways from the notes I took from the day’s many panels, talks, and conversations. Mind you, my scribbles made a lot of sense at the moment they were written, but a few entries below are reconstructions of what actually happened.
(There was also way more that happened here than what I can squeeze into this 5 minute read, so if you were there, please comment with your favourite moments.)
“We’re Always Missing Something”
Magician and Coach Brandon Love opened the day’s events with a three-rope trick and a wonderful re-telling of the “elephant in the room” parable. He also touched on The Certainty Bias, or the notion that we’re right even when we’re wrong, and talked about how not knowing something is not something to be ashamed of.
That we can’t possibly know everything was a recurring theme in nearly all the day’s events I attended. In hindsight, it was an important one to impart on the new university and college graduates in the room, most of whom having just spent four to five years in environments where knowledge is paramount. Throughout the days events, I overheard a few such graduates who would mutter “yeah, I know that already”: I wonder how much of that was insecurity posing as truth, the familiar university brain-posturing that every student runs into during their school days. How much new data can you possibly learn if you think you already know what’s being said?
Love also provided a wonderful approach to idea generation, which he and Joel Hilchey further discuss in their book Brainsprouting: be creative, and then be critical, but don’t be both at the same time. This struck me head-on, as this is a tendency that I’ve done with my own storytelling and business ideas, basically dismissing them as soon as I have them, until I get the “perfect” solution. It doesn’t work that way. Love advocates the opposite: go for quantity, then quality, generating a multitude of crazy-ass ideas to start with zero judgement, and then look for the best one, in that order.
“The questions you ask shape your reality”
After some initial (and entertaining) technical difficulties, Communications Expert and VP of Strategy at Jan Kelley Mary Fearon led the excellent “Choose to Thrive” presentation. Based on positive psychology, a new research-based branch of brain science that could be described as self-help seminar material without the airy-fairy stuff, Fearon’s presentation showcased the importance of how a happy brain leads to improved performances and more successful outcomes.
Critical for me was this factoid: 50% of what makes a happy brain is genetics, with 10% being circumstances. That means that 60% of our happiness is outside of our control. This is important, as one of the factors that has driven me away from the “rah-rah” motivational crowd (and many of their positive-thinking practices) is the ideas that my mental well being is entirely in my control, and if I’m sad, it’s my fault.
However, here, the same practices of journalling and writing down what you’re grateful for, are shown experimentally to create real neurological re-wiring of the brain, sometimes within a week. We can’t always be happy, and we can’t totally be happy if our circumstances and genetics suck, but we can make the most of that 40% within our control. And it’s backed by science, not the wishful thinking of the woo-woo industry.
“1 in 3 young professionals in Hamilton have precarious employment”
At what became a fairly passionate yet respectful panel conversation on “How do we make #HamOnt YP Ready?”, writer/researcher Jeffrey C. Martin presented some preliminary findings from his upcoming study of young professionals and their challenges in the city.
Martin reported that a great number of his respondents were relying on the gig economy to get by, with easily a third of them being in part time or temporary employment, with that number likely to grow barring a major influx of full-time positions in the city itself. In conversations with him after the panel, it was noted that most of these young professionals are also living in precarious housing as well as precarious employment, with ramifications for mental health (something which I know all too well). Martin will release his survey to the Hamilton HIVE community in January 2018.
Though efforts to lure big employers to Hamilton such as the recent bid for the Amazon.com expansion (which would bring 5,000 new jobs) are valuable, there is also a need to evolve existing small businesses into medium and large ones. In addition, the upcoming hike of the minimum wage to $15/hour will help young workers break out of poverty, but will bring about a massive challenge to small businesses to keep some of their skilled workers who will then demand higher salaries.
Although my personal sympathies lie closer to the wage-earners than the business owners, I also respect the fact that the pressure on owners to dramatically bring in more revenue to adapt to the new wage reality will be high, on top of everything else they have to do. I suppose we’ll find out in the new year.
You can find more information on the Hamilton HIVE and the HIVEX Conference by searching the #HIVEX2017 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as visiting their website. If you were at the conference and want to mention your favourite moments, please leave a comment!