20Q with Michael Bungay Stanier

Head of Box of Crayons, Author

By Chris Dunmire | Posted 10/5/11 | Updated 11/10/23

1. What's your name?

Michael Bungay StanierMichael Bungay Stanier. "Bungay Stanier" is the last name — it's got an invisible hyphen. My wife and I combined names when we got married.

2. Where are you from?

I was born in Melbourne, Australia, grew up in Canberra and have had edges knocked off and dints knocked in by living in Oxford, London and Boston before ending up in Toronto.

3. Who are you today?

I get swallowed by the huge philosophical implications of this question. How about: happy & curious & bemused.

4. What do you do? (Elevator speech)

I head up Box of Crayons, and we help people and companies do less Good Work and more Great Work. I personally write books, design programs.

5. What's your story (how did you get here)?

I got four lucky breaks:

  1. I had an inkling to go to Oxford University (my dad went there), and at the age of 14 a high school teacher told me "you need to win a Rhodes Scholarship."
  2. Having been rejected once, I won a Rhodes Scholarship on my second go, saving me from becoming a lawyer.
  3. I met my Canadian wife at Oxford.
  4. My first job was with a fledgling innovation and creativity company, ?What If!. They spoiled regular work for me.

6. Why is creativity important to you?

It's a means to an end. It's how I can make a dent in the world.

7. When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?

I've had a few show up. They tend to land pretty clearly. All three of my books kind of just showed up as a fully formed idea in my head at separate times. So no "one big thing" but more "here's the next cool project."

8. How did you embrace it?

With just the right mix of excitement and fear.

9. How did that feel?

Exciting. Fearful. But most exciting.

10. Where has your journey taken you?

Geographically all over — I've just come back from a business trip that took me to Ireland, England, France, Belgium, Germany and Finland.

Personally, out to the edges of what's interesting and possible for me.

11. What challenges have you faced?

The usual ones of distraction, doubt, rejection, confusion, laziness, shoddiness, the cruel hand of fate and so on.

12. What worked for you?

Being persistent.

Finding my own voice.

Creating stuff just for the sake of creating it, because I think it's awesome.

Breaking rules.

13. What didn't work for you?

Just because stuff failed doesn't mean it didn't work in the big scheme of things.

14. What tips can you share with those starting on a similar path?

Work on focus (who are you? what really matters?) courage (get started on stuff) and resilience (keep going when you want to give up).

Don't take anyone's advice as the truth.

15. What are you working on now?

Recovering from the launch of my latest book, End Malaria. (It's a collection of essays from big name business and self-help writers. $20 from every book sold goes to Malaria No More. We've already raised $300k.)

16. What's coming up for you in the next year?

Not sure yet. I'm staying slack & curious & open to see what might show up.

17. What else do you desire/dream to do?

It's a long list. Everything from mastering cappuccino art to seeing the Northern Lights.

18. How will you make that happen?

One at a time.

19. What question do you want to answer that's not on this list?

How do you get to be so impossibly good looking?

Oh stop now — you're making me blush.

20. Where can you be found online?