Does it all go back in the box?

Kenny Harris at PSA 2011We don’t get long to play the game and when the game is over, it all goes back in the box.

I was reminded of our mortality this month when I heard the shocking news that one of my speaker friends had suddenly died, aged 53. He would have been, just like the rest of us, right in the middle of plans, worries, fun, business, family life. Then suddenly he had to quit the game.

It all goes back in the box.

I had my own particular affinity with Kenny Harris because not only did he speak about creativity, (as I do), but was a great stand up comedian (as I’m not, but wish I was). I had the good fortune to attend his workshops as well as share the platform with him on occasion as well as catching up at various speaker events over the past seven years.

And where the shock of his sudden passing was so upsetting, it was met with an enormous outpouring of love was astonishing. He was Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association and the Association of Marketing, both high accolades, as well as being a notable name on the comedy circuit and business community, especially in Scotland, a lot of people felt the loss quite deeply. 350 people attended his funeral. There were numerous obituaries in various media.

When someone dies we’re obviously sad for them and their family. But the emotion that creates our own tears comes from our own loss, our own lack of power, our own fears. We’re sad for the perceived loss of the future he’ll never have and that we’ll never share. It made me think, as we should all think every once in a while: Am I making a worthwhile contribution? Where am I at in the game of life?

I’m sad for his family. I’m sad he didn’t write the book I was always teasing him to get on with, “yeah, yeah, I know..” he’d say. We had the title: ‘We Can Be Heroes’ – the same as one of his keynote speeches. I’m sad I never did get back up to Scotland to do the joint events we’d mentioned.

When the game is over it all goes back in the box…

One day, all my stuff will have to go back in the box. But it’ll have to be a blumin’ great big box as I keep everything. I collect everything, even other people’s stuff. I’ve got the video I shot of Kenny at event we did together and I’ve got fifty plus photographs of him I took from various events he performed at where I was the event photographer.

So does it all go back in the box?

Kenny’s website is still here. His Facebook and Twitter accounts are still here. And people are still posting to them. The outpouring of love and memories are still here.

I can see him in my mind’s eye, his odd black and white hair (he said his mother was from East Kilbride and his father was a badger). I can still hear his voice, the slow, persuasive conversational stream of consciousness way he spoke, in that soft Glasgow accent. At first glance he didn’t necessarily deliver great oration, he simply got up on stage and had a one-to-one chat with everyone. (But that actually IS great oration).

His approach to creativity was contained in the name of his business, Headsurf.

From his website:

“Headsurfing™ is an exciting, energising approach to “Fluid Thinking for Solid Results” – allowing anyone to be more creative

H (Humour), E (Environment) and A (Attitude) are the “cultural conditions” necessary for productive creative thinking.

D is Defining the problem.

S is Speedthinking – generating ideas under pressure.

U stands for Unconnecting from the problem.

R represents Reframing the problem.

And F is for Following Through on your ideas.

These behaviours and techniques can be taught to anyone who needs to think more creatively and more productively – either through training programmes, or by booking a speaker for your next event. Simply click on the “Contact Kenny” button.”

Simply click on the button… How many of us wished that button still worked. When Alan Stevens, one of Kenny’s close friends, was organising Kenny’s funeral, he actually pressed the speed-dial button on his phone to call Kenny for advice. I nearly did the same when I had the idea of performing a selection of David Bowie songs at a recent Speakers event in memory of him.

I compiled a medley of appropriate songs. The 40th anniversary of the release of Ziggy Stardust had been our last conversation, a week or so before his death. He’d have loved it I know and yet again I can hear his voice, “what about Changes, why didn’t you work that in? Where’s Life on Mars? Or Ashes to Ashes?” and I’d say, “it wasn’t working Kenny, and anyway I’ve only got ten minutes…”

When the game is over it all goes back in the box…

Some of the playing pieces may have been packed away. But Kenny scribbled all over the board that we’re all still playing on. There’s no escaping that.

It’s usually called ‘legacy’, the bit that doesn’t fit back in the box.

Try as we might to shove it all back in, the legacy that Kenny has left has meant that we can’t get the lid back on that box, he stuffed it too full…

Kenny Harris tribute

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see:

You can see my musical tribute to Kenny here.

The modified lyrics are (to the tunes of The Jean Genie, Rebel Rebel, Ziggy Stardust, Starman, Space Oddity and Heroes:

A small Ken Kenny from East Kilbride
Sneaked out of Glasgow, nowhere to hide
Trained as a lawman, but that was no fun
Started Marketing Store, went on the run

Ken Kenny, does the Headsurf
Ken Kenny, a master of mirth
He’s outrageous, has a joke for us all
Ken Kenny, having a ball

Your audience thought they had yer
Didn’t know if you were man or a badger
Hey you, your hair’s all right
Hey you, let’s have a drink tonight

They’d put you down, you’d say they’re wrong
There’s no debate you haven’t won

Rebel rebel, you were the best
Rebel rebel, count ourselves blessed
Rebel rebel, how could we know?
Hey badger, we’ll miss you so

Kenny made us laugh, always the best after dinner
One time he took it too far, upset the Americans
Made it up in the bar
Always the special man, we were all in Kenny’s band

Then I couldn’t believe it
Taken from us far to soon
Lets’ raise a beer to remind us
Of our fellow friend, miss him to the end
Kenny made us laugh.


3 comments on “Does it all go back in the box?

  1. I am new to this page…I did not know the man, but you wrote such a beautiful remembrance! For peace of mind as you grieve know that Heaven is there – I have seen it, and if we all could see it we would know that there is no need to grieve when someone moves up. Just a thought – you should still write the book that you planned together with him. What a nice way to honour his memory and scribble his legacy. Peace.
    L.A. Lachapelle, Author


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