Q&A from John Dennis – Founder and Chairman of Dare2Express

John is an mental health campaigner who has fused his love of adventure with raising the profile of depression, trauma and mental illness. John is a big believer in the power of ‘getting connected’ and after his inspirational talk last year ‘Overcoming depression by getting connected’ he’s back to give us the lowdown on the past year and his thoughts on the School of Tomorrow.

How did your TEDx Square Mile experience inspire you over this past year?
I found TEDx hugely inspiring. Not only from the other speakers, which were wonderful,  but from a personal perspective also. It gave me confidence in my story and what the dare2express campaign means. Since the event the campaign has gone from strength to strength and this event played a huge role in me being able to portray my story.

What made you want to be part of the TEDx Square Mile event last year?
I was asked to be part of the event. It was a great challenge for me socially as much as the event itself. My mental health has played such a role in my negative perception, so being asked forced me to step outside my comfort zone and take on a completely new challenge.

Why should the person reading this article consider attending TEDx Square Mile?
There are many varying reasons for taking part in this event. None more so for me was to experience a room full of likeminded people who genuinely had an interest in what was being delivered. Overriding that is the unique experience it delivers.

What do you envisage for the School of Tomorrow?
Logical learning. Children are being forced to undertake more and more exams, for what seems to me, to make our future generations robots in their thinking…………………..don’t get me started!!!

What do you wish you were taught/you learnt at school?
Empathy for other’s needs.

Which top three skills do you think one should develop regardless of the industry in which they work?
Empathy – Forgiveness – Ethics

What is the most important lesson you have ever learnt? Why?
Not to judge. My mental health has forced me to see things for what they are, not for what we perceive them to be. By doing this, we have an open mind and an open mind, is a learning mind.

Who inspired you the most in life?
I’ve never been inspired by one person. I am inspired by those who continue life with disabilities, tragedy and such like. People who continue to carry on with life no matter what, is incredibly inspiring to me. There are clearly people who have done great things for society, or achieved wonderful goals in life, but truly, those who carry on regardless are my heroes and I greatly admire such determination. I saw a lady who had disabilities the other day. She was walking, with sticks, her body contorted, with knees touching each other, both feet in opposite direction, her face looked in pain and was distorted as a result. Yet when I walked by she was smiling and humming to herself. This is a person who, by society’s account would be locked away, yet here walked a woman, in pain, but smiling as life continued. For me, there can be nothing more inspiring in life than that moment. I have seen her since, spoken to her and spent a good hour talking. She has a major in English and Science, but was struck by an illness (I could not make out what she said) so severe that she went from running marathons and teaching to the state she is in now. Still she smiled and was thankful to be alive and see her kids grow. I’ll openly admit I walked around the corner and sobbed.

Which is more influential: nature or nurture?
Tough question and almost unanswerable. I like to think we should nurture nature. Both run hand in hand and hugely important.

Which is more important: talent or hard work?
Both. Take athletes for instance, or high achievers – you have to have talent to do well, but talent alone is not enough to see you through. This is where the hard work comes. One cannot exist without the other. Equally, hard work can create talent.

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