The organisers had encouraged us to share the event on social media as it unfolded, so I posted this intro to my friends on Facebook, two of whom replied that this sounded typical (even though it was said in jest) and they’d always thought Geldof was a bit arrogant and unlikable.
For the next 60 minutes, he delivered a staggeringly complex, articulate, off-the-cuff talk that seemed to encompass everything from the invention of the printing press through to the Dark Web. I mean it. I think I learnt more from Bob Geldof in an hour than I did in my four-year history degree at ANU.
At some point, possibly around the time he was weaving Picasso into his presentation, I realised he wasn’t so much “arrogant” as “brilliant”.
And doing all he can to change the world.
His next stop after our breakfast was Paris for climate talks. He’s on a mission and won’t be diverted from it. I think what comes across as arrogance might actually be a case of showing up in life, one hundred percent.
Brene Brown speaks of being ‘seen’. Her advice is “Never shrink. Never puff up.”
In Australia, where we’re often pulled down for standing out, learning to be ‘seen’ can be culturally challenging. One of the things I’m secretly most proud of is being a published author, but when people ask me about it, I inwardly cringe. Will I sound arrogant if I mention it? Can’t we talk about you instead?
If part of being ‘seen’ is showing up with all of your knowledge, experience and skills clearly visible, as Geldof does, part of it is also showing your vulnerability. He was interesting on that too. “I’d taken on too much,” he said of the time when he was planning Band Aid in 1984. “I was a pop star and suddenly talking to Thatcher and Reagan and Murdoch and the Pope… I was terrified of failure, not just for me but for the people in whose name we were doing this. I was tired and frightened.”
A stranger sent him a letter in 1984, which he pulled out and read to us. The man had noted that he looked like he was struggling, and said to him: “Don’t wobble. Commit.”
The result of Geldof committing to Band Aid was the raising of 8 million pounds to assist victims of famine in Ethiopia. The following year, he raised over 150 million pounds in Live Aid. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize eight times—more than anyone else.
That’s what happens when you show up fully. He’s a rock star and a knight. Most of us will never fly as high as he does. But we should always fly exactly as high as we can.
Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Be seen.