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What I learned about coworking at the rear end of a pantomime horse

It’s not every day that you get to be the rear end of a pantomime horse. But, thanks to coworking space Generator and its creative community building ways, this peculiar dream came true for George Hulbert on Tuesday this week. And he learned a lot:

The McAlpine Stakes, a thoroughly serious race for pantomime horses (and unicorns, as it turned out) was held between the two Generator offices in Britomart and Wynyard Quarter: a daunting 1.4 kilometre run taking place on the day of the largest horse race in the southern hemisphere, the Melbourne Cup.

Watch Generator’s excellent video HERE:

Although broken up by two refreshment stops / opportunities for show jumping and a dance-off, it was an exhausting distance when running bent double, unable to see, and dressed in intensely hot polar fleece material inside the toothy, bright red steed we had created, Jacinda Neigh-dern.

But it was still one of the very best work days of the year for me.

Why so?

For a few fundamental reasons:

Work is always about more than just the work

At The Clarity Business we pride ourselves on getting the job done for our clients. We work hard, and we spend a lot of time doing it: huge portions of days, evenings and weekends. And we love the work we do and the results we achieve for people, don’t get me wrong.

But, to me, the things that take work from being ‘my job’ to something that gets me springing out of bed in the morning are not just the satisfaction of being given - and meeting - professional challenges, but the extras that exist in a positive work environment: the people you meet, the opportunities that spring up, and the perspectives you gain from other people.

For me there can be no doubt that anyone who chooses to enter a pantomime horse race is clearly special, but I so enjoyed getting to meet people from companies I hadn’t really seen, and in a way that didn’t just involve standing at an event and saying “soo…. What do you do?” Yawn.

And even the team names showed class: Alongside Jacinda Neighdern, Generator Stanbeth ran Flaming Chariot, Sharedspace entered Charlie, People2People put forward Elusive Candidate, Generator Madden St rode Al Madden and I am sure it is wrong to say that Rice Consulting entered Uniporn.

Shared experience forges the best partnerships

Sharing experiences always brings people together. And sharing silly, unusual experiences like taking part in a pantomime horse race do so even more powerfully.

It was great for Jacinda to be racing against our clients, suppliers and other businesses we have yet to truly meet. But, detached from our usual day-to-day work relationships, we had a great time and all came out stronger, knowing each other better, and with a clearer idea of what makes each other tick.

This can only enhance the way we work together in future.

Push on – even when things seem hard

Jacinda Neighdern getting her groove on, watched longlingly by Flaming Chariot

In the days leading up to the race, I became increasingly worried that the event might not happen. Would anyone enter? Would it just be us? Would all the effort my daughter and I had put into making our costume be for naught? Would we even have to pull the event and take the embarrassment on the chin? After all, pantomime horses aren’t really a big feature in New Zealand, and it all sounded to people like quite a lot of hard work to get the costume together etc.

But, less than a week out from the event, three people came up to me and said not only that they were entered in the race, but how much they were looking forward to it.

Instant revival of spirits!

I learned not to give up – and the race itself was such a buzz for everyone taking part that plans for next years are apparently already underway. So, my learnings were to make good plans, have confidence, push on, and hope like hell. You never know!

Coworking culture doesn’t just happen

So much has been written about what makes for a good coworking culture – mainly by people looking to sell space in coworking environments.

Generator really stands out in this area because the place has always been about much more than good office space, functioning IT and weekly member’s talks. It’s not about the place: it’s about what happens in it. They put real creativity and effort into events that provide opportunities for members to meet and have fun together, as well as all the professional networking and learning that you’d expect.

Highlights I can recall of the proper multitude of events I have attended at Generator include Brazilian dancers, Nibbles the Christmas elf, silks, quiz nights, Mexican wrestler dance-offs – the list just goes on and on. Inclusive, creative, out-of-the-box events, always looking to entertain and bring people together. Just how it should be. And now we can add the McAlpine Stakes.

Go hard: give it everything

I’m not a person who’s particularly known for holding back, but if ever I learned that lesson it was during the race. Never hold back. Liana (or ‘Front’ as I called her) and I had to push as hard as we ever could to keep moving forward within the blast-furnace heat and near invisibility of Jacinda’s embrace.

We only ran into one concrete post (ouch), yet still we were running second-to-last by the end of the second leg of the race.

Still, with one leg of the race to go, we had brains as well as legs on our side: so, when Front said quietly “let’s go” before everyone was totally lined up, we went. Ahead of the pack. And I can tell you that it is very hard to run (bent double) while laughing as hard as we were.

And how did we do?

Well, for good or for bad, and thanks to an almost complete absence of rules, Jacinda Neigh-dern won it.

Thank you Liana - and thank you Generator! Magnificent work Josh, Amy, Anne Flore, Fran, Micaela,

See you horses next year!