About two weeks ago I could not sleep after a very busy week. Somehow I started writing and what came out of it was an essay, which I now chose to share. The experiences shared are – however – somehow already outdated. This means that already now, two weeks later, a lot has changed.
Everything is temporary. Nothing is definite.
A LETTER TO MYSELF.
It has been two weeks now since the end of the summer holidays. Not being together with the full team – some members decided that to prioritize other things – meant a lot of work for the ones remaining. Finally, the first students of Knowmads, now have a legal structure – The “Knowmads Cooperation” is alive and about half of the students are in the board. In the last week before the summer holidays we had been setting up the company, and now we are suddenly somehow more responsible for our actions. What does that mean? A lot.
The Tax-office, Copyright and Non-Disclosure Agreements go hand in hand with doing business.
There are invoices flying in from the tax-office announcing on the cover “belastingsdienst.” For a German speaker, the word is understandable, but a negative impression comes with the translation. “Belastungsdienst“, which is the German word, would translate in English to “Pressure Service“, or “Service of Pressure”. KLM contacted us about disclosed material in the holidays. Somehow material was on the Internet that was not in line with the n.d.a. agreement we signed. For the first time I think about having actual contracts with our clients. Videos can not be published open anymore because we could get accused of copyright violation. And then there is a administrative job to do. That starts with how to send an invoice and goes up to declaring and documenting expenses. How are all these things working? How are regular companies handling these kind of subjects? How can we do it differently to improve it? Of course there is also the fact that we are now a step closer to getting some money in, not only just promises and agreements. This makes it all the more complicated.
Money, seen as “Facilitation”, makes everything even more complicated.
Everybody is, after spending half a year starting up a company, pretty broke. Therefore, the big question is: How do we divide the money? Do people, who are not in the board of the cooperation, get a say in these decisions? Do they get money at all? How healthy is it to exclude them from decision making process? There is a saying that, strategically, it is better if you divide the money at the end of a certain period and not every month. That could mean that there would be no money until the beginning of 2011 for the the tribe. Are we going to take that option? Do we need to stimulate some individuals with an advanced payment in order to finally get everyone going? These and more questions arose during a meeting with our bookkeeper last week.
Everything is a lesson, if you are ready to dig into content.
I saw the meeting as a lesson or workshop about finances, legal structures and bookkeeping in start-up companies. Interesting enough, others started to complain about the lack of program the council provides us after the holidays. From my perspective, this is really the core of the mystery in this alternative education. Knowmads is what ever you make out of it. And it is hard. Very hard. To contribute to a community, to be aware of a group, to work in a team, to be a tribe with no hierarchical structure: A dream. In that context I ask myself how the primary schools (where the pupils can decide to do what ever they want) work at all. I recently read a quote on twitter: “These days, teachers are out, and facilitators are in”. I think that model is very interesting. Rather then telling people what to do, guide and coach them in processes, push and pull them out of their comfort zones. But totally laissez-faire? I don’t see it happening.
Decide to do it. Having ideas is nothing special.
I probably have about one business idea per week, one art idea per day, and an idea about what else needs to be done per minute. How much of those ideas have I implemented, or “shipped”, as Seth Godin said [in his lecture back in April]? Very few. Where do you need to push someone? Where do you have to stand up for yourself? In the last two weeks, we have not had that many workshops or lessons. It seemed fairly unorganized and unstructured, less guided than before the holidays. From my perspective that was perfectly fine.
I always find something to do.
Not only did I take the project management of the Royal Haskoning assignment alone on my shoulders for ten days because Naomi went to a wedding of her family in France, but I also work for the cooperation on things needing to get done. Plus, a whole lot of other stuff connected to Knowmads was on my priority list. After I spent nearly half a week with the marketing strategy, social networking, and providing the workspace to cut a movie about Knowmads while also documenting the RHK project, Sebastiaan asked me: “Where do you stop documenting, and simply start doing?” I was stumped. I still don’t know what to say, but the point he made was clear.
Pécs, cultural capital of Europe and an allegory to Knowmads.
I just saw an interesting documentary about the cultural capitals of Europe. The short clip was focusing on the city Pécs that is a cultural city alongside Istanbul and Essen. Who ever heard of “Pécs”? It is not known at all. What is the situation there? They have, apparently, thousands of events. They’ve invested thousands of Euros and they have thousands of small projects in order to polish the town up. The documentary described the situation today. After a beautiful start, apparently half of the city is still “under construction”. Only one to two projects have been finished, many other big chunks will hopefully be ready by 2011. However, the city is not known at all. Experts think this is because they spend about 90 percent of the money on the inside, rather than doing some work on the outside as well. It is a somewhat closed community. Furthermore, the speaker from the town believed that a general concept was missing. There was no coordination, no clear goal set. I can clearly see the city as an allegory to what happened and is happening at our school. We had a nice start with partner and client meetings, open days, a lot of curious visitors and inspirational characters passing by. We had nice lectures by well-known people. We decided upon principles, values, togetherness, a whole ideology of how we would like to work together. We created a dream. We had the first part of a goal setting workshop. We had another workshop about the talents and strengths each of us had, without the second part. Both of these workshops where organized by current students. But if I look back now, we totally missed out on actually doing something with everything we set up. We did not use it. One time a guy called Huib was visiting, and he said: “The problem you guys face is that the base is not right. If the base is not right, then everything will go wrong.” I totally agree. Huib also offered to help us fix it. Can he? We never tried – at least not so far.
A closed community with projects under construction.
We are a closed community. Very little has been going on connected to the outside world. Most of it was inside. Is it really so hard to open up? I see again the parallel lines to the city and us. We invest very little outside. This is maybe good for the beginning, but after a while, you really need to start stepping with confidence into the world. All the projects we started so far are under construction. Not a single concrete result, nothing I can really show for and be proud of, has come out of the Knowmads Tribe 1 yet. Personally, I think that this is an issue we need to think about.
But this is not all true.
What is truth, anyway? One thing last week that made me very happy was an mail I got from the client I work for, Royal Haskoning. It was basically an invitation and request to Knowmads to possibly facilitate a workshop at a conference. This showed and confirmed for me that the client likes to work with us and also has faith in us. This is something to be considered.
I am learning about myself – big time.
I got to know the points of my character where I am out of balance. I am a control freak. Totally. I have a really, really hard time letting things go. Not going to school next Monday? I would be freaking out. Observing myself, I find it surprising that I have no problems letting go of something as long as I can control the letting go. Not that I can not let go of things. I have no problem with instantly quitting smoking because I want to be in control of the substances I consume. I can easily stop drinking alcohol for one month, and another thing I thought I could learn from “letting go” is to not use any kind of media on Sundays.
Do I live in a world of to-do lists?
It seems to be about responsibility. I somehow see myself as the man for every job. I have a hard time trusting that others will do it right. I can hardly not step in to take a job that is looking for an owner; even if it is cleaning the toilet, washing the dishes, or emptying the bin. In fact, I put so much on these visualized and invisible to-do lists that I can never do all the tasks. To give an example: very few few people were at school last week. I took a bunch of jobs on my shoulder, which left me working from nine in the morning till one in the night. All I seem to do is work and eat. Maybe I go swimming in the morning once a week, but I get up an hour earlier for that because I do not want to miss out on anything. On Friday evening, I end up feeling sick and frustrated because I set my goals much higher than I will ever achieve. Surprisingly, this is an effective thing, according to one of the workshops we had. Setting your goals higher than ever possible pushes you to go further. I am considered one of the driving forces in the Knowmads team. The side effects, however, are present.
Responsibility is my passion.
If I am not the last person to leave the school, then I have the feeling I am missing out on something. Because I can never reach the standard of quality I wish, because there are always two more things on the to-do lists I did not cover yet. The week will always be a couple of hours too short. Because of that, I do not feel good. The more I get into this kind of pre-burn-out scenario, the more I need people like Pieter K. who encourage me; who see what I do and honor it. The side effect on others is that they get the feeling that they can lean back. Or, they get the feeling that I am too dominant. Both of these reactions are the opposite of what I want. I want to work with people together. I want to work with people who have a similar kind of eagerness and high standards on quality. I want to work with people who take initiative and can handle responsibility. According to “Role Theory”, which we covered in the “Deep Democracy” workshop, I disable others to be like me by taking this role. Is it based that much upon acceptance? Do I simply have to accept that I am like this?
Self Love, acceptance and personal development.
During the summer holidays I questioned if humans are able to improve themselves, to actually personally develop themselves. Is it possible to work on certain weaknesses of character and behavior? Or is it all about learning to accept your hand when you paint, accept your body when you sport, accept your mind when you think, to simply accept who you are? Now I am thinking that personal development is perhaps all about the art of accepting your own individual approach. Perhaps it’s about postponing judgment about your own character, as well as the character of others. I haven’t been been able to answer the question yet; if personal development and self acceptance exclude or add on each other.