Interview with Jaz Ampaw-Farr

Another year of Fast Forward 15 is coming to an end, and it’s full steam ahead to graduation – and an inauguration of the next mentee cohort! The May event is an exciting day where we reflect on the last year of mentee achievements, but also introduce the next 15 women ready to embark on a truly transformative year.

This year, we’re delighted to be joined by Jaz Ampaw-Farr, human-first leadership strategist, keynote speaker and author. Jaz won “Speaker of the Year” in 2022 and is highly recognised for her unique ability to help people and corporations reframe their stories and situations, bringing transformation in their work, life and communities.

Lovely to meet you Jaz! Let’s start at the beginning, and tell me about you.

I have a fabulous X Factor back story of overcoming personal adversity, growing up on the streets, being in foster care and being homeless. But more than that, the story I tell is about how we can, as humans, show up and meet each other where we are. How we can stand on the truth about ourselves and be our full fat selves!

So, my story really is that I’m a huge advocate of that through failure. I’m a failure ninja. I’ve failed so much. I’ve become brilliant at it. Brilliant and reframing and learning from it. I encourage other people to be the human they’re designed to be, and not the human that the world’s or stress or the society or whatever pressures them into feeling they have to be.

Being a Failure Ninja and getting people to overcome resilience, what was your motivation for this being your message?

Because I’m talking about human revolution. We’ve had an industrial revolution, a technical revolution, a digital revolution. The next revolution will be human and it’s all about being able to be 10% braver than we were yesterday.

I am dissatisfied with seeing people settling or saying “this is just the best we can do”. This is how it is and whether it’s in a toxic relationship, whether it’s with leading a team, whether it’s in in in a bigger wider organisational context and my kind of growth going from being an education in leading and then to running my own company and travelling the world doing talks and working with organisations to build invincible teams and human first leadership.

You’ve been dubbed the “British Oprah” in the US, and the famous Oprah Effect was all about creating billion dollar businesses. What’s the Jaz Effect?

It’s very similar. The whole thing is you’ve got different areas of influence. You lead yourself first, you lead others. Even if someone just asked you for advice, that means they deem you worth following. Leaders have soul, and the humas you care about the most, the team you lead at work, whoever you work with, your lead in your organisation, your community. We’ve got these influence areas where we show up, and you’ve got to show up with professional vulnerability and personal authenticity because those two things together are a currency.

 The Fast Forward 15 programme is a mentoring programme for female event industry professionals. In May, 15 mentees will begin a year-long transformation on this journey. What advice would you give to them in this next period of growth?

There’s a difference between courage and bravery. Firefighters are courageous. They run towards the burning buildings while the rest of us are running in the opposite direction, screaming like a banshee! It’s an embedded practice of showing up and going through the motions and doing it. Sometimes, you don’t have to think about.

Don’t be courageous. Be brave. Be 10% braver than you were the last time you faced adversity and failed because it that’s where you get yourself into being open. You can’t grow from a place of comfort. People talk about comfort zone – my version is all sat on the sofa watching Netflix! Nothing’s going to happen (apart from maybe a new series!). You must be in conflict and chaos in some way.

For most of us, change is only driven by two things: inspiration or desperation, and most of us wait until we desperate. Being 10% braver means being inspired to take the first step and keep committing to the process even though you don’t have all the answers. I would say the less you know, the better, because then you can make more mistakes and you either win or you learn.