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5 Things We Learned... Pete Trainor



Pete Trainor is a trove of insights and I was lucky enough to pick his brain while writing my dissertation last summer. He loves a chat and his passion for human-centered design and creativity is palpable. He is an author, behavioral designer, technologist, accidental polymath, mental health campaigner and co-founder of Us Ai. Pete also recently published Hippo – Human Focused Digital, a best-selling book that looks at technology and design through a philosophical lens. It aims to provoke new dialogue around human interaction and our relationship to technology. My copy — for the record — is well highlighted with copious notes in the margins. He also chairs the Ai Think Tank for The British Interactive Media Association and was voted as one of the 5 most influential people in the British digital industry in Econsultancy's 2017 report.

He has a very simple philosophy: "Don’t do things better, do better things." Makes sense, right?

Here are 5 Things We Learned about Pete.

What made you...you?

Difficult question to answer. Too existential. I’m kind of always evolving, and changing (aren’t we all?), so I guess I’m just the product of circumstance, environment, life, love, and everything in between. I think, if I think about myself too much I’d be too inwardly focused, I like to be outwardly focused at other people. I’ve grown up always feeling like we’re constantly under the microscope. From society, or our peers, or the "rules" So, for me, the only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that my very existence is an act of rebellion. I’m just me. Unashamedly. I’m learning to be the best version of "me" everyday.

When are you happiest?

Fixing things. Solving problems. Helping people to go further or achieve more. I’ve always been a fixer… a designer… so to me, exercising my super-power for problem solving, and solution building is the thing that makes me happiest.

Would you rather have a muse or be a muse?

Again, not really something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. The world is my muse… I see the good, I see the bad, I see the in-betweens, and I react to them. I’m uncomfortable with the concept of being someone else's muse. Too much ego involved in wanting to be that.

It’s funny how we’ve come to think of the Muse as a ‘thing’, a person… it came from greek mythology... the Muses were the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who came to symbolize the arts and sciences — Calliope (Writing), Clio (History), Euterpe (Music), Erato (Love), Melpomene (Tragedy), Polyhymnia (Hymns), Terpsichore (Dance), Thalia (Comedy) and Urania (Astronomy) — It kind of teaches us to get our inspiration from "everywhere", and everything. Not just a person.

Who do you admire?

Oh gosh, so many people. Too many to name just here. I’m 38 years old. I’ve been subjected to so many brilliant people in those 38 years. Teachers. Work Colleagues. Friends… I admire my wife an enormous amount. She’s a human-rights lawyer, and does such a huge amount of good for society. It leaves me in awe.

I admire all the young talented problem solvers who look up at the stars, not down at their feet. They’ll change the world beyond all recognition.

I’ve just been really fortunate to spend the last couple of years collaborating, and getting to know a really incredible human called James Dunn. He’s lived 24 years with an condition called EB, which is one of the cruelest diseases on the planet. But his attitude to life, laugher and living to the fullest really made a huge impression on me. I admire him so so much. Some people say that adversity builds character, but when you spent enough time with James, you realized that adversity reveals character. He passed away on the 24th April. He’s left a huge hole in my life, but I’ll admire him forever. The tattoo I have on my wrist that says “If not now, then when?” was in honor of James. He didn’t wait for opportunities to find him, he made them. Could we all be a bit more like James?

What is important?

Varies from day-to-day, hour-by-hour. Again, I try not to hold onto fickle or transient things. As a society I think we put too much stock into "stuff". Things. When you strip it all back, we’ll left with the same thing we started with — ourselves. I’m becoming quite philosophical in my older years.

Friendship is important. I cherish friendship. My kids. They mean more to me than anything… seeing them happy, loved, and supported is really important to me.

Having time to stop, slow down, sit on top of mountains to reflect from time-to-time. That’s important for me.

Follow Pete's thoughts and work on Twitter at @petetrainor 


Images from left to right: Pete Trainor, Nature and Freedom, Code and Clarity, Life Through A Lens, Bookcover for Hippo – Human Focused Digital, and Data and Ai