Recently I've been thinking about an old African proverb…
"It takes a village to raise a child"
Several people asked me lately if I have built Awe myself.
Each time I shrug. I know what they mean. The answer they want is a simple "yes", but it's a question I've struggled to answer.
Sure, I designed the app. I tapped keyboard buttons. I screamed in agony when a seemingly unsolvable bug ruins my day. But zoom out. Adjust your frame. Apply a systems-thinking lens to the creation of any app. From there it's impossible for me to answer fully.
Let's look at what that means in reality.
Can ideas exist in siloes? Or must the precursors, the ingredients, be provided externally?
Is it possible to think a thought you've never thought before without prior exposure to the thought or the "ingredients" that would make that thought possible?— Sloww (@SlowwCo) March 22, 2021
Founders often tell the origin story for their product or service that came in a moment of insight. A lightbulb moment.
But from where did the lightbulb come? Or the electricity?
The idea for Awe certainly would not have occurred without a friend's invitation (Read: the story behind Awe). There were a number of other essential active precursors to that invitation too: starting a bi-monthly meetup, reaching out to speakers, saying yes to meetings with smart people.
There are a number of other likely but seemingly insignificant passive precursors: reading that 100th blog post about mindfulness; listening to a podcast with a burnt-out startup founder telling their story against the rat race; or a casual conversation at the office party exchanging viewpoints on the ecological crisis.
Could one be so arrogant as to dismiss other's contributory ideas consumed passively, bleary-eyed at a laptop one evening?
Apparently technology is binary, right? Well I've been building software for a while now and never had to deal with a series of 1s or 0s. Technology is built on layers of abstraction. Each layer improving the user experience, giving a human super-human capabilities.
Much of this technology is open-source. It's free to use (depending on the licence). A modern software developer needn't know about how the hardware communicates with the software. It just does. Work built on the shoulders of giants.
Open source software can be contributed to by developers across the world. And where did those developers learn how to code? At universities, on the internet, at other software companies.
And there are skills fundamental to coding. Like reading. For that, developers need an education (probably at school) to achieve sufficient reading comprehension.
On the day that a software developer or teacher or accountant or any other role provides their services, they require energy. Provided by food. Nutrients absorbed from crops in a field.
Could it be that a crop harvested 50 years ago by a farmer is part of the reason you can listen to an Awe guide?
Once all that has occured, how does the app developer get their app on to your device, in your hand, so you can benefit from it.
Whether you like them or loathe them, the technology giants Google and Apple are critical for this process. Their talented teams have built end-to-end processes. From the operating system on your mobile device, to their app stores, to the software that hosts the documentation explaining the whole process – that's their realm.
Don't forget the hardware! Created in far away factories, both the phone in your hand and the servers providing distribution have precious metals mined from Mother Earth. That mining process is a whole other story.
Each one of those aforementioned aspects lies at the center of a system equally as complex.
The next time you're about to tap an mindlessly tap an app icon on your homescreen, stop. What toil and creativity occurred to give you that ability?
Follow any of those threads far enough and you'll surely reach a place of awe. A profound realisation the world isn't as you believed it to be. "Woah. I didn't consider it in that way before."
Now my response when people ask me if I built Awe myself is…
"It takes a village to raise an app"
Nine months ago I asked the universe (via Reddit) if there was a meditation teacher with a psychology background. The universe answered. Ollie Bray, Zen meditation teacher, raised a hand. Since that date Ollie has recorded beautiful guided awe experiences.
Prior to Ollie, two dear friends Tom Kenning and Nicole Fu shaped the original concept for Awe. Our advisor Dr Paul Marsden continues to keep us grounded to the science and open our worldview to new research.
Awe is inspired by researchers in the fields of awe and nature connection. We speak with nature connection leaders, modern shamans reconnecting us with Mother Nature. Our wonder-filled Awe Seekers (people that use the app) feedback on how we can deepen their practice.
As a small team, our time and influence is highly constrained. So I come to ask the universe again: those who wish to reenchant our kin with Mother Nature and aid both the mental health and the ecological crises, please raise a hand.
We're seeking do-ers with the following expertise.
If you have such expertise and our message resonates with you, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Experts in the mind and the science of awe. How do we regularly break frames, repeatedly meet new perspectives and deliberately access awe states.
Experts in nature and the seasons.
Building a nature connection product that people love.
Cultivating the symbiotic relationships between stakeholders, nature and Awe.
In the medium term these roles are available on a volunteer basis only. The app is pre-revenue. We are investigating how we can build a technology business openly with fair profit-and-equity-based compensation. And so we are looking for people called to serve nature. To consider how we may once again become enchanted with Mother Nature and help both the mental health and the ecological crises.