Tomorrow two months ago, March 2nd 2011, I took the TEDxAmsLive stage for just three minutes. I'd like to invite you to look back on that event with me. It has sparked so many thoughts that I'd like to share, and am curious about what you think. Maybe it's all too abstract - of course, to me, it's all pretty brilliant - let me know! I am more than willing to reconsider, or even kill my own darlings.
So... I did it!
How did I wind up on that stage? I jumped in - on Saturday February 26th I read the call for 3' TedTalks on Twitter, and on Wednesday March 2nd I stood on the stage of the Amsterdam Schouwburg. The feeling I have something to say has been growing inside of me for a couple of years now. But I am still somewhat fuzzy on my exact message. I grasped this opportunity to give myself a deadline. What better way to boil my message down, than to have to communicate it in three minutes? So, I emailed an outline: "Doing exactly what you want, and how fear of social isolation might prevent you from it".
... or did I?
So many things I did not say. That I had wanted and/or planned to. 3 minutes is radically short. And I did not even use them up!
My big miss: not mentioning Linda Douw, the epilepsy specialist before me. The video of a patient having an epileptic seizure was so vivid, the pain so acute - I could hardly bear watching it. Couldn't we use something simple as just such a video to help the difficult diagnosis of epilepsy?
Also, I feel I need to thank TEDx volunteer Annette Dolle and fellow 3' speaker Sabine Wassenberg - they listened to me rave like a maniac in the breaks before my talk, helping me calm my nerves.
The TEDx crowd is very bubbly, energetic and inspirational, like Salmaan "that's awesome!" Sana and Oliver de Leeuw. Great to meet you, guys :).
What I really had to say
Is still subject to change - which is why I didn't write about my talk sooner. And because I was hoping to get the video footage, so I could link to it - on that I've given up (there's some pics, though). But some things did come up. Before, during and after the talk. After all, I did feel I had something to say. So, here goes. Please let me know what you think.
Social restraints - embrace egoism
How funny, a little over a week ago I met this scientific writer (www.desireehoving.nl) who will laugh out loud in the theater or cinema, just like me. This is one of the examples of how I have liberated myself - it's OK to laugh out loud in public. Even when I am the only one. I used to worry about what people would think of me too much. Fear of shame is what's prevented me from doing what I really, really wanted. What if I failed in my most vulnerable self? In my hearts most wanted desires? I couldn't suffer the shame, the disappointment.
But one day, after suffering another communication breakdown in a group where everyone was worried about what the others wanted, instead of every single person expressing what they wanted or needed for themselves, it dawned on me.
Egoism is healthy! Contrary to popular belief, and popular standards of Western civilisation, especially among women, everyone will benefit if everyone minds their own business - first. Look out for what you need - and keep an eye out for what those around you need. But, it's OK to start by expressing what you want. How else can anyone ever know what anyone else wants? Let alone, how can anyone get what they really really want?
Follow the money?
Is how I used to live and counsel in the umbrella jobs before my burnout. In the "werkcoach" job @UWV, for example. Do or try doing what I can easily earn good living doing. Somehow, for me, taking the job I could easily take, signing that contract, equalled signing a pact with the devil. I was safe: I had an umbrella to put up. Sheltered in case of rain. I showed the best of myself to get hired - but once I was "in", I would shut down and stop. I had a roof over my head; I could pay my rent. But it was a devil's pact. I traded in my spirit for money and a semblance of safety. I did it unconsciously, automatically, unwillingly of course - but I did do it. And it did not work. There was no safety. Assuming I needed this safety, meant assuming I was "made of sugar". I would melt when it would rain. I was assuming my own weakness, thereby creating it. Instead of sheltering in a safehouse, I was in fact swimming with the sharks. Holding on with all my might to an inflatable but leaky floater. The floater being my own thoughts of being weak. Let it go! Surrender. Dive under and discover your inner shark. That's the new take I've been trying out.
Handing over my spirit, shutting down, giving only the superficial bits of me, I was shorthanding my employers. And myself. Even though I worked hard - of course they didn't retain me! My frustration was written all over my body, no matter how hard I worked to hide it. I became aware of this pattern when I was prepping the Ted Talk. So... I need a different philosophy.
Or lead - and the money will follow?
Now, I think the only way of living my best life is to engage on my terms.. it's OK! Slowly, I am experimenting with this theory. It's not yet proven - I am not (yet) making money. But I am trying to lead by creating value writing, Twittering, connecting people and ideas. And by loving people - showing love, when I can. To those close to me and to those passing me by. This is what I love doing. I try believing, I hold onto the faith that creating value must mean, at some point, value will flow back to me.
Experimenting with engaging on my terms also means: it's OK to engage - to say yes - to do stuff - yet keep negotiations open at all times. I tune into my belly as my guide. When something's off: stomach pains. When things are moving in the right direction, the direction of what I need, of my spirit, I get this flowing tingling in my lower abdomen. Unmistakable.
So, I keep working on my terms. Refining. Renegotiating. Never afraid to walk away - always zooming in, getting a better focus on what I want and how. The "how" is a big, BIG part of it for me now. This is probably where I went wrong in my umbrella jobs. I am rethinking my strategy into the idea, that my terms are worth negotiating - because they are what safeguard the best of me.
Pyramid/scarcity thinking - alternatives?
Something else that's held me back: pyramid thinking. To get ahead, to come out on top, to be successful in anything, you need to leave others behind, trample them, humiliate them. This type of pyramid thinking rules many consultancy firms and is a paradigm in itself. I guess it's based on the economic principle of scarcity = value. Correct me if I am wrong; I am not trained as an economist.
To me, pyramid thinking hemmed my growth. I was afraid that if I showed my true colours, my greatness would make other people shrink. And I don't want other people to shrink; I want them to grow into their own full potential! Just like I want it for myself, I want it for everyone else.
It probably was a coaching session that helped me find the idea of abundance instead of scarcity. It took a couple of years and continuous effort to start internalizing and believing there actually is an alternative to pyramid thinking. The fear of scarcity still draws near more often than I like - society drips with it so it is hard to disentangle it from everyday living. But now, I have something to counter it with. The concept of abundance made me feel for the first time, not only that I had permission to strive for greatness, but I was actually obliged to do so - because I'd do others a disservice by keeping what's great about me from the world. Of course rereading Marianne Williams over and over helped, too.
To wrap it up, I conclude - in random order - that
a) I would like to make a living writing. Creating, connecting, but most of all: writing.
b) In order to say this out loud, I have needed to liberate myself from fear of shame and failure.
c) Also, I need to believe in abundance instead of scarcity.
d) Thirdly, I need to believe in a healthy egoism.
e) And finally, I need to start, in any way I can, saying yes to opportunities and keeping an eye open for the conditions. Allowing myself to walk away at any moment, if the conditions are not right.
That's it! Thank you for reading, and please let me know what you think!