Interview #1 – with Rob Symington, Founder of Escape the City

RobboWhat do you do?

I run a business that helps privileged mainstream professionals escape from unfulfilling jobs and find work that makes them tick.  I use the word “privileged” deliberately. Our members have all had choice in their lives and careers. Despite this, they have ended up with careers that do not fulfil them.  We help them use their power of choice to make big and challenging changes in their lives.

What do you think are the greatest challenges of our generation?

I think our greatest shared challenges are all linked to the concentration of power in the hands of a small elite and massive corporations. I think many of the other challenges that we face (climate change, poverty) are as a result of this concentration of power. Make the world more equal and we’ll find it much easier to solve some of the big challenges we face in the 21st Century.

How do you think Escape the City is contributing to address these problems?

We empower the individual. Once people decide to make big changes in their lives, the majority of them are motivated to do work that has a positive social impact. Even those who start their own businesses generally choose a business model that gives back in some way. We all want similar things when it comes down to it: to help people, to feel connected, to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, to leave the world a bit better than when we found it, and to be able to look after ourselves and those we love.

And how does this rebalance power away from the elite?

If some of the most fortunate people in society – instead of generating more profit for rich corporations (i.e. part of the problem) – are working on solutions in one form or another, then I feel you’ve got the beginnings of a virtuous circle with talent, influence and value creation moving away from the richest and most powerful, towards people and society.

In the past you needed a lot of money and influence to create anything. Technological advances – supported by a cultural shift in aspirations – means more and more people are waking up to the fact that they can create positive things on their own terms without needing the establishment’s permission. This is a hugely democratising trend.

How can you shift culture through individuals?

We feel that if we can help one person get unstuck and make a brave career transition towards meaning, fulfilment and impact then that person can have a multiplier effect through their work – helping 100s of others through the organisations they build and the people and cultures they influence.

We believe that everyone has the potential to have a positive impact in the world through their choices and I hope that our business helps people to tap into that power. I think the world would be a better place if more people did work that engages and fulfils them rather than living comfortably numb.


[Rob Symington can be found at www.escapethecity.org or on Twitter @escroberto. He also happens to be my husband and a willing guinea pig for interview #1!]

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