Season 3 Episode 4
[00:00:00] James Gill: Hi there. Welcome to another episode of the EcoSend podcast. The EcoSend podcast is a show which we do every week. It's about half an hour each time, and I'm speaking to inspiring people in the world of business in the world of charity, nonprofits, and people just trying to make the world a little bit better in their own ways. Each episode, I think I, I definitely always learn something new and from what I hear, a lot of you listeners also learn something new.
[00:00:28] And this week's episode, I'm thrilled to be talking to someone I've known for quite a while and I've always been inspired by. So I'm so excited to have him on the show. And that is Tom Hardy of Manifesto Studios. So Tom is the founder of Manifesto and they're branding and communications experts with a growth mindset. Tom works as an Executive Creative Director collaborating with visionary leadership teams and on projects making a positive impact to people's lives. He's been doing this for over 20 years and he has created some award winning work with ambitious global brands of many of which you will definitely have heard of designing innovative solutions which power change. And Tom has been doing lots of exciting stuff with the agency, but also in his personal life.
[00:01:13] So I'm really excited to tuck into a lot of topics here. Tom, welcome to the show. How are you today?
[00:01:20] Tom Hardy: Thanks, James. I'm, I'm very well. Thank you very well yourself.
[00:01:23] James Gill: Awesome. Yeah, I'm doing okay. I, I am based in Edinburgh today. You are not, you are not in Edinburgh. You're not even in London. You, whereabouts are you right now, Tom?
[00:01:34] Tom Hardy: I am currently in Dharamshala, which is in North India. But we're having the heaviest monsoon in 55 years. So well actually the only time I've been to Edinburgh, it was a blazing sunshine. So I hope you are blessed with that at the moment.
[00:01:47] James Gill: That's that one day they talk about still from back in the nineties, right? Yeah. I am, I'm fascinated by, well, how you've even gotten over to India and what you're up to over there. I guess there's a lot to unpack on that side, maybe. Often a big starting point we often talk to, chat through on the show is, obviously for us, we're talking a lot about the climate.
[00:02:14] We're talking a lot about sustainability. For you, Tom, how, how have you gotten into the world of sustainability and where did this whole journey start? It'd be lovely to hear a bit about your, your story so far and, and what, what your background is.
[00:02:30] Tom Hardy: Of course I, I grew up in, in the Kent countryside and I think that that left a real impression with me, apart from not liking it as a teenager not being able to wait to get to university in the city!. But there, there's something that, it just felt very normal about having nature and countryside as far as the eye could see.
[00:02:52] Then I spent 20 years in London. And it's quite interesting now being in the, the foothills of the Himalayas in, North India. And
[00:03:00] James Gill: A little bit different!
[00:03:01] Track 1: That . It, it really is, but that's a craving for, for, for nature has felt important and, you know, in, in what feels like a past life now. When I, when I was working full time, I actually had the, the pleasure to work in a couple of world leading corporate social responsibility strategy and design companies.
[00:03:20] And so it was very interesting to learn how companies would communicate. I. And also the different ways that corporate social responsibility and ESG were used by, by companies. And it was very interesting when you're working on strategies and, and communications. Some companies are very clearly greenwashing,
[00:03:40] and we don't need to, you know, label make judgments here, but, but there are some other people making very meaningful change. And I remember working on Marks & Spencers to plan a strategy at one of these companies. And it was so interesting that they were really putting sustainability front and center, not of, of their business plan, because they saw very early on that it was, you know, fundamental to business success rather than just something that they should do as a, as a tick box exercise.
[00:04:09] And that felt really compelling to me and it, and it was very interesting that I could notice. At quite a young age, the difference between people who were, were actually trying to make a difference and other people who clearly... it felt a bit uncomfortable for me and it felt like they weren't actually doing what they were really saying they were doing.
[00:04:29] And I just noticed that feeling inside and that kind of inspired me later on down the line to set up my own company and work with people who are thought were really passionate about what they were doing and trying to make a positive impact.
[00:04:41] James Gill: That's really interesting. So you actually got to see from like the inside of these boardrooms or these internal discussions that some really big brands, whether, you know, whether there's a really cynical approach to. a good company or, or, you know, a cynical approach to what we say to the world or a genuine, heartfelt from the, from within. Isn't something we have to do, it's something we, we maybe want to do. And that's what drove you to then wanna work with more of the companies that are doing the latter rather than the former.
[00:05:18] Tom Hardy: Yeah, exactly. And you know, I'll be very honest, the, the motivation was 50% quite selfish because I thought, okay, if I'm gonna do something every day, I, I want to be passionate about it. And if I want to get out of bed and, and really put, you know, for the rest of my life I was thinking, you know, I was thinking about this when I was 21, 22.
[00:05:38] Track 1: You know, get outta university and... outta university and, and suddenly you are, you are going in every day to this one place, working really long hours spending more time with work colleagues than my girlfriend at the time. And I was like, 'whoa!'. And you start to build up a picture of what you want to do.
[00:05:57] It took a number of years and I, I really relished the experiences that I had with some really wonderful companies and amazing designers and strategists. But it just sort of led me to think, okay, well for me, what's authentic for me? Like, how do I want to show up in the world and do I wanna work with?
[00:06:14] What's gonna inspire, inspire me? Because there was a feeling that we're only really gonna do our best if it's something that it, it's like a, a deep kind of compulsion or a deep passion that it's connected with. And for me, finding that root cause of what I'm passionate about led, led to firstly choosing what agency I started to work at when I was a consultant and a, and a freelance design director.
[00:06:39] And then when I realized there was nothing that quite fit what I wanted to do. Deciding to set up manifesto studios about 12 years ago.
[00:06:49] James Gill: That's, well, that's incredible. I guess it's, it's incredibly fortunate that you both sort of the realization so early on. And also I guess the ability to pick a path like that... I guess many people are scrambling around just trying to get whatever job they can get in, in the world of incredibly competitive world, trying to work at one of these valuable, hugely impactful brands or working on any campaigns like that.
[00:07:16] So that, that's yeah, pretty inspiring to hear that, you know, you made those decisions and started that journey so early, tom. Would that be something that you'd say, you know, anyone out there, like if they're in that kind of similar position in their early twenties; any thoughts on how they could try and step in the right direction on that?
[00:07:37] Would it be about thinking about yourself and your, what matters to you first? Or would it be trying to seek, help experience some of these bigger brands? I dunno, like, I'm, I'm curious what you would say to the younger Tom right now, if you could look back and advise him.
[00:07:56] Tom Hardy: Thank you. It's a, it's a good question. I speak to quite a lot of people, gen Z and, and quite a bit younger. And my experience has been that generally and wonderfully, they're, they're actually quite confident and much more purpose aligns than, than perhaps my generation was.
[00:08:14] James Gill: Yeah.
[00:08:14] Tom Hardy: Which is a really wonderful thing.
[00:08:17] So, so for me, I think it's a balance between, it's wonderful to get experience in, in, in companies and really soak up as much as you can, but also never think that you are not worthy just because who you are.
[00:08:33] Track 1: And very often, I think there's a real, hopefully this will change. My feeling is it's changing slowly, but there's a sense that you have to submit to what the company wants.
[00:08:45] And I think that's very dangerous position to be in, whether it's, I don't know, this conditioning that you have to work really long hours and I'm, you know, I've always had to check myself because I've got a very strong work ethic. But you know, It's really important that companies put people first, but actually it's really important that that employees know how to value themselves and have boundaries about what is and isn't acceptable. And so I think it's really understanding more and more what, what you value as an employee, as an in person, as a human.
[00:09:17] James Gill: Yeah.
[00:09:17] Track 1: And you know, you might find that a company isn't right and they might have a great reputation, but actually there might not be a connect there. And I think being brave to realize that it's a relationship. And I think it's lovely to think about work as a relationship and a relationship's a two-way thing.
[00:09:33] And it's not always perfect and we have to work at it, but, but if broadly speaking, you are reliant about what you are in a relationship for and there's a, a compelling reason why you are together, then wonderful. But also not to be afraid of breaking it if it's better for you and perhaps better for them if it's not the right fit.
[00:09:52] And I think people get quite scared and you know, I think. Knowing that the more we do things that we're aligned with, we'll do a better job and be better is only positive for your career and positive as you as a person. That's been my experience.
[00:10:10] James Gill: Yeah, I I think, those, those are very, very profound words, Tom. Incredibly good advice for, yeah, no, I'm taking that myself, but let alone for someone earlier in their career, like you, you, it's so easy to get distracted and caught up in the excitement of a big name or what other people think.
[00:10:28] And, and making sure that you come back to what, what you yourself think. And I guess that, that kind of takes us onto one of our topics I know we wanted to talk about, which is around being purpose driven, which is a, kind of a phrase, a term that gets banded around a lot, maybe carelessly or maybe without much thought.
[00:10:49] And so, a lot of what you're talking about there sounds like being clear on what you care about, what your purpose is may be. So what does purpose driven, what does being purpose driven really mean for you, Tom?
[00:11:05] Tom Hardy: It's, yeah, it's, it's an interesting question, isn't it? 'cause it is, it feels like purpose has been bounded around, especially over the last few years. And for, for me it's about, it really is about authenticity because, you know, there are those companies that, that, that it on all. On all different sectors where greenwashing is a thing.
[00:11:25] You know, there, there are worse things to be. I think it's, it can be helpful for the conversation, but I think it, authenticity is really important. You know, we are speaking about from an employee perspective and, and, and that feels really important. But it's also important for, for founders and leadership teams, if you are, if you are trying to do something that you are not aligned with.
[00:11:47] Well, you're not gonna convince anyone in the company, and you've got no chance of convincing anyone outside the company really. So I think getting back to, you know, Simon Sinek talks about the 'why', you know, like getting back to the why you exist and, you know, we, we should be able to stand behind that why, and, and being able to, to do things that are, you know, something positive.
[00:12:10] You know, even if, and, and I think that's in all sectors, like even if it's, you know, working in the, the finance sector. Well, wonderful. We can still do it with you know, it's important part of our current global ecosystem, but there are ways to do it that are more supportive for people. And, and there are ways to do it that are less supportive.
[00:12:30] So I don't think it n ecessarily needs to be for, you know, I don't know, like people planting trees and, like digging holes in the ground. Like, there's always an opportunity to, to have a positive impact.
[00:12:43] James Gill: Mm.
[00:12:44] Tom Hardy: It reminds me actually, I remember, you know, at university there's this real stigma out culturally still about, say oil companies and certain organizations.
[00:12:54] And I remember I was freelancing and I was running out of money, and I had an opportunity to do a job with someone. I really liked to be a strategist on a film project, but the project was for like, let's call them like an oil company, basically. I And I was really unsure, so I kind of went for the meeting and it, it turned out that it was all about renewable energy and there was the person running, it was an evangelist in this company trying to make change. His kind of status was, or, or his kind of standpoint was, 'Look, the only way we are gonna make change is if we're sitting around the big boys and girls table educating them about how to do things the right way'.
[00:13:36] And that was so inspiring to me because I had this preconception about that.
[00:13:40] That doesn't feel right. And that is right. And it just helped to open my mind to realize that with every project there's an opportunity to you know, perhaps change someone's mind or or, or collaborate to have a positive impact. And, and that was really inspiring to me. You know, and I think purpose is a very personal thing. It's important we do things that, you know, perhaps some of the things that I do might not feel right for someone else, but can only operate on, on, on kind of our values.
[00:14:07] And as long as we're strong and clear on those, then, you know, sometimes I think just doing our best is an already an amazing, positive way to show up in the world.
[00:14:16] James Gill: Yeah, that's, it's incredibly inspiring to hear actually, Tom, and it, it also of emphasizes that You know, often so easy to judge a book by the cover and judge a whole organization as this one, one entity with one opinion about everything. And the reality is often in, in any organization, there are pockets of people with certain views and certain goals and desires.
[00:14:42] And I guess as a leader, it's like trying to. Of pull everyone towards a shared purpose. And often it's a challenge, but, but yeah, it's like even in companies that people view as bad, there's, that doesn't mean everyone at that company has that same view and that they're not actively trying to change from within.
[00:15:00] And those people and seeking them out can often be one of a great way to make change in the world. Did you end up working on the project? Out of interest.
[00:15:10] Tom Hardy: I did for a little bit. Yeah, like, I mean there, there's, and I was pleased to do it because I've that life lesson. I've had opportunities where you know, companies that really didn't have... I wasn't personally aligned with at all, like in the very early days.
[00:15:25] James Gill: Yeah.
[00:15:26] Tom Hardy: I remember pitching for one particular fast food company very early when I started the company.
[00:15:32] And, and knowing that it was like, I don't want to do this, but I'm, I'm nervous. Like I, I need to pay people. And fortunately I didn't get the job. But it was really interesting just to realize I don't know. It was a very honest thing. I was like, well, for me now, like resources of paying the team... my biggest purpose is supporting the team.
[00:15:50] And I, I can kind of crush my personal values at the time to do that. You know, it, it also taught me what I was able to accept and not accept later on down the line. And you know, I kind of stayed, I stuck to my guns and slowly and surely the more work you do, is of a, a particular flavor; encourages more and more people that also like that flavor.
[00:16:12] And so I've been graced with working with the wonderful people. And, you know, I look at who I'm working with now. There's no one more I'm prepared to be working with, you know, working with like the School of Economics on really cutting edge social impact accelerator and a company called 60 Decibels who are spun out of Acumen, who are really pioneering social impacts, measurement and change around the world.
[00:16:36] And I'm so inspired by them and I think that's what's motivating for me. You know, like they're, they're the visionaries, but if I can help them to communicate in ways that really helps them to show up in the world, I think, I think you know, it, it's wonderful to be a small piece, piece of the puzzle.
[00:16:53] James Gill: Abso, absolutely. It's, it is definitely an interesting thing you touched on there around often the, the work you do and the you choose or that you bring on board, leads to more of the same unless there's like a deliberate effort to go in a certain direction. Like, you know, you sort of just this one or just this one project, just this one client that would, you know, I've gotta do that for now.
[00:17:17] And it's the danger, I think often a lot of people face it, all walks of life where like you sort of try to balance those short term survival almost versus long term the ideal, the ideal outcome and the ideal path. And always a difficult, a difficult balance. I, I guess for, for anyone listening to this thinking, maybe panicking that they haven't found clarity of what their purpose should be yet. Do you, for either themselves or their business, do you have any thoughts on how, how one could push towards more clarity there, Tom?
[00:17:57] Tom Hardy: Yeah, it's a question that I've asked myself quite a lot over the, over the years. And I, I remember being in this masterclass on a lecture that I was listening to as an attendee. And it was talking about how it's really important, as a founder, it's important to have different personal values compared to the organizational values and about how we are not a company.
[00:18:20] And I completely disagreed I really understood the logic. It's about, you know, creating safe boundaries. But you know, the term 'life work' has always bugged me. I think it's an oxymoron. I think the danger is that life, if it's like work-life balance, it, it becomes about, well, this is acceptable because this is work and it isn't my life.
[00:18:52] My life is over here so I can do this thing that that's not me. And it's okay because, you know, this is my life. Well, I disagree. It's all life. And, and it, it's not to say that, that we all need to have the, you know, we, you all need to have like, fantastical jobs that are, that are, you know, changing the, the world.
[00:19:11] I don't think that's true. You can, you know, you can have a very clear purpose about, you know, 'I'm providing for my family.' And I'm a, a bus driver, and that's beautiful. But if there's so much clarity and acceptance that he approaches it with, with, with joy and, and that, that, that, there's no tension there.
[00:19:31] And I think that's a, a beautiful way to live. I think the problem in where if we want to change things or we're doing something that we're not clear about our purpose, and then that the tension and inaction is the problem. So, so for me, slowly finding it is about just exploring what our values are.
[00:19:50] And I thought I knew my values. And I spoke to a friend of mine called Patricia, who's, who's great. Kind of business founder, kind of coach person who's really wonderful. And we were discussing it together. She's a friend of mine and It was very clear to her that I had no idea what my values were.
[00:20:08] I enjoyed yoga and I wanted to do purpose-driven work, but I'd neglected so many other things, and we kind of went and explored them together. And I realized that I cared about, you relationships like romantic and, you know, friend relationships. I cared about. Freedom and adventure and spaciousness in life.
[00:20:30] And, and when I kind of realized that it gives all of them equal time. And so suddenly overworking became something that was no longer acceptable because it was, it was an equal part, you know, I've never been more passionate about work.
[00:20:46] Not of the neglect of a, you know, my relationship with my partner or, or my friends
[00:20:51] James Gill: Yeah.
[00:20:53] Tom Hardy: you know. So time blocking, like time- off started to become something that became important to me. So that's something that I just learn to check in with my values and what they are slowly and surely and, and also allow them to change because I think that they can change over time.
[00:21:09] James Gill: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I have to admit, I agree so much of what you're saying there, Tom. Because, well, I have to admit for me, a long, a while ago, I had immense skepticism around defining one's values. I always thought it seemed a bit airy fairy and you know, maybe it is what someone does on a yoga retreat, but how does that influence my day to day? Well, I've got work to do. I've got stuff to do, bills to pay. But I think, you know, especially if there's anyone listening who sort of has that viewpoint right now, I would certainly challenge it to think that like, if you don't get clear with that yourself, then I think you sort of allow the wider world to dictate it to you .
[00:21:55] And, and there's a danger I think I found earlier on in my life, in my career, that like you, I found myself wanting the things that other people sort of said that I should want and value. And that, you know, these anonymous sort of people that matter a lot, think. And if you can get clear on what makes you happy and what what you are passionate about, then is very hard to be affected by these externalities too much, or these, you know, these other voices that can drag you down so much.
[00:22:29] It's it's almost like a superpower once you can clarify that for yourself. 'cause you can feel a lot better about choices you make, I think.
[00:22:37] Tom Hardy: Absolutely. Yeah. I really, I really agree with that. And for me I've just learned. You know, it's really interesting if you think about what today's founders of unicorn startups are kind of the new rock stars in society.
[00:22:51] Like the, the, Social media startups or the Elon Musk, you know, the, the people that are doing innovative things that are scaling rapidly; worth billions.
[00:23:00] They're kind of like... that's kind of seen as success in society. And really interestingly, having met a few of of these people It's very different from people who I would say are, are feeling very content in their life. I think they might be doing amazing things in, in their job from like a doing perspective, but it might not, there might not be a sense of peace or actual real joy.
[00:23:27] And I think that's, that's really telling.
[00:23:29] James Gill: Mm-hmm.
[00:23:30] Track 1: Exactly as you said, if, if we spend all of our lives doing things for external reasons and with social conditioning. Then it's only gonna... it's only because it's from a place of lack. It's only gonna lead to disappointment. Whereas if we slowly realise and start to unpack like who we are, how we show up, how we want to show up in the world, well then suddenly we can have all the enthusiasm in the world and all the empowerment, but with a less attachment to the outcome.
[00:24:01] James Gill: Hmm,
[00:24:02] Tom Hardy: I think that's a really interesting tension that I'm learning more and more so, like I've never been more enthusiastic. But learning that, that there's so much outside of our control and, and to just learn the wisdom of impermanence and the fact that we can't, we can never control anything.
[00:24:18] Which... it's a difficult lesson to learn as a very front brain founder early on.
[00:24:24] James Gill: Yeah, absolutely. Tom, I feel like we, we we could speak all day and I, I'm conscious of trying to keep us vaguely within our time for the episode. I was curious, there's, I guess, two more, maybe two or three more things to talk through. Maybe quickly touching, I think we've already touched on a few, but any of the challenges that, I know you wanted to talk about some of the challenges that you've faced and that people face, either as founders, but also as employees when it comes to being purpose-driven.
[00:24:54] And if you, if there's anything else you wanted to expand on there around, around that, because I, I was thinking it's challenges when you're running a company and, and how you bring that purpose to every everyone, and make sure you factor that in, but as an employee as well, I guess.
[00:25:10] Tom Hardy: Yeah, it's something that I've found important to consider over the years. Obviously as an employee as well as a founder, there's financial pressure. I've found workload pressure. I dunno about you, but there's so many founders that I know that have, you know, burned out or been very close.
[00:25:26] I've definitely been close. Perhaps that's just, I'm in denial and there was a point where I did burn out you know. Wellbeing, pressure, like how'd you look after yourself as, as well as being in a city. I think I found London such an amazing experience, but a very finely balanced equation. And you know, COVID for me was very interesting because I realized that I couldn't quite get the equation to balance and that led me to sort of live more in nature and realized that that was something that was important to me.
[00:25:55] I looked at Maslow's hierarchy of needs and sort of addressed how to create the conditions that helped me to really support what my purpose was. So that was really helpful for me.
[00:26:06] James Gill: Hmm.
[00:26:07] Tom Hardy: And I guess the biggest thing about to overcome challenging has been, you know, to try and get us out of that conditioning.
[00:26:14] Just not being scared to give ourselves permission for the dream to change . And not being, you know, not being afraid to just show up and be ourselves and to just follow things that just make us feel more and more alive.
[00:26:28] James Gill: That's some pretty good, that's some pretty good advice for any, for myself or anyone listening. I think Tom I know in the, in the last few minutes, we have maybe on any, anything you, any views you have on the future. I know we always like to talk about it on the show. There's a lot to be down about, but there's a lot to be optimistic about.
[00:26:45] But what do you think we're gonna see, especially around this whole topic of being purpose driven over, over the next 10, 20, 30, maybe our 30 years, maybe our lifetimes? Like, is purpose driven a fad? Is it a trend? Is it a something we'll be talking about in 20, 30 years? What do you think?
[00:27:06] Tom Hardy: Yeah, I love sort of contemplating these questions and I'm an optimistic realist for sure. There's something called the Edelman Trust Barometer, which is very interesting and it kind of analyzes government, well, like society and what's kind of happening. And Edelman says that distrust is now society's default emotion.
[00:27:25] You know, fake news, governments and media fueling a cycle of distrust, collapse of trust in democracies, but at the same time, there's more capital and research and technology and innovation than ever before. So it really gives us optimism for the future. And then if we look on the capital side you know, by, by 2030 women expected to become the primary investment decision makers for two thirds of wealth.
[00:27:54] But that's amazing change. And, you know, my friend calls a lots of board rooms at the moment, 'male, pale, and stale'. You know there's a very particular demographic. And, you know, whilst there are some boards of that demographic are doing wonderful things, logic suggests that if there's a more diverse you know, racially and gender equality, the chances are that they're going to better serve society better serve their, companies. And so I think there's an amazing opportunity for companies to break the cycle of mistrust and, and to really get back to living, you know, fearlessly from a place of authenticity. Because, you know, life life's too short!
[00:28:40] James Gill: Yeah, absolutely. That's quite a bit there to, to look forward to then, Tom, thank you for making me a bit more optimistic as I head into my afternoon. Last but not least, Tom, just in terms of you've already shared so much that could be taken as, as wonderful advice. I know you wanted to specifically touch on a few things I didn't know.
[00:29:00] If you wanna just leave us with any, any wise words or advice you've been either given or absorbed over the, over the years.
[00:29:12] Tom Hardy: I think for, for me, it's just continuing to get back to learning what we really value and living authentically from that place and not trying to be anyone else or wherever society says that we should be. The more and more we step into that place, my experience has been there's, there's more and more freedom.
[00:29:31] And, that place of freedom and empowerment is a, is a really wonderful place to show up in the world.
[00:29:37] James Gill: Yeah. Absolutely. I love it, Tom. It, it's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you!
[00:29:43] Honestly what a lovely show and what a lovely way to round off. For anyone listening, I, I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have, because it's been great. I could hear you talk all day, Tom! Wishing you all the best with the, the projects you're working on right now and enjoying India as well. If anyone wants to learn more about you, Tom, or learn more about the work you're doing, maybe even want to speak about working with you in the future where, where's the best place to, to find you?
[00:30:08] Is it the, the Manifesto website?
[00:30:10] Tom Hardy: Yeah, sure. Always interested in people working on interesting projects and having a conversation. If they go to manifestostudios.com you can find a link on there and yeah, it'll be always lovely to have conversations with people.
[00:30:24] James Gill: Awesome. Thank you. Thank you Tom. Maybe walking in the Himalayas as well. If you bump into, in, into Tom, say hi for me. Thank you, Tom. A pleasure as always, and thank you to our listeners. Thank you for listening to the show. As always, if you have enjoyed listening or watching please do let us know.
[00:30:42] We love to hear your, your kind comments. We love to hear all of your comments, but especially the kind ones. So yeah, thank you for listening and yeah, Tom, thank you. And I'll see you soon.
[00:30:52] Tom Hardy: Thanks James.