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Archive for the ‘Leading by Being’ Category

Pol Kurucz hr1

Normal-hr-1 From the Normals-series by Pol Kurucz

A couple of days ago, I was standing in line in the supermarket. In just five minutes time, the mother in front of me was instructing her two lively kids: “be normal”, “be silent”, “behave”. She probably said it 2-3 times in that short period.

I smiled, but also felt some push-back at the same time: why limiting these kids in their normal expression so early in their life?

My wife also invites me from time to time to “be normal”. That invitation provokes protest in me. I think that is because I associate normal with boring, not exciting, not special.

Do we want to be special because we want attention? Normal does not get attention. Being normal – not special – seems to be an insult/attack for my identity. Maybe it is my shadow. My shadow as in “what I do not want to be”, or “what I do not want to be labeled as”. Like not wanting to be labeled as “stupid”, or “manipulator”, or “dishonest”, etc.

The older I get, the more I become aware how distracted I get by putting energy in ignoring my shadow, in proving that I am not stupid etc. A similar energy loss btw when trying to prove the validity of my non-shadow label, role or title. But that is another post.

How can I integrate normality in my identity? Should I? Should I integrate that normality? Should I even try to focus on my identity? In an interesting podcast with Raf Stevens (in Dutch), André Pelgrims says that:

“Ego is the urge to build up identity”.

Have we spent the majority of our lives in building identity? Have we never matured? Have we not integrated what needs to be integrated? What/why is there to be proven?

Mind you, in all this, the focus is still on ourselves trying to “build identity” (with our without shadow) rather than the motivation to accomplish on the outcomes we wish to create.

The identity builder is a noise generator.

Do we humans create, design, make, blog, tweet, facebook, etc because we are hungry for attention, we want to prove something, or because we have something new to say, a new insight to share, a novel hypothesis to be tested? Or do we just inject noise into the stream to get our part of the attention?

I recently met somebody who planned to hire a cheap student to create and post her regular noise. Her “Professional Noise Creator”. Addicted to attention. Addicted to taking space from others. It’s a power game. As articulated so clearly by André Platteel of Your Lab in this great blog post (in Dutch):

“Often when we try to find space we look for it outside ourselves. Then we are busy creating space outside of ourselves. To check out whether we can create freedom of movement. Whether we can get more space/freedom from others. Whether we can dominate another in a strategic game and lock them in them so we can get more freedom of movement. That whole game is based on the idea that we are independent of others and the world. Where we are fearful all the time that our space is being suffocated or taken. That’s why we tend to take as much space from the other. And have a feeling of freedom and power.

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Stairway space in Gaasbeek Castle - June 2017

“I know that game very well” continues Platteel.  “Played it so long when I was a marketing advisor. Using smart marketing tricks to make your own commercial space as big as possible at the cost of your competitor’s space, using smart marketing tricks. When all the time you try to be smarter than the others. I started to notice that in the consulting, it is not only about taking as much space as possible, but also to assert power. When it is not about listening to one another, but about being (perceived) smarter, more concise, faster, fitter, stronger. In fact taking more and more space at the cost of others.”

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Petervan Productions 2017 – Blue Sky, Parasol, and Flight – June 2017

I believe the desire to be special (and thus not-normal) has to do with the desire to be visible. A lack of visibility seems to give me less power.

Banksy

If invisibility is a superpower, than maybe also anonymity. I have these moments where I want to disappear in complete anonymity, like a monk in a monastery, detached from any social contact. The antonym of anonymous is “named”, “known”, “identified”. A desire to be un-named, un-known, un-identified. Without identity. And do-my-thing. Without the need for attention and visibility. But even that is a make-up, a mask.

Just the act of saying “I want to disappear in complete anonymity” is the superego acting in the background. Because it assumes I am special, famous, non-anonymous. And I have to escape it. It’s an “evolved” form of narcissism: feeling superior rather than feeling special.

Narcissicm was well described in a post by Umair Hague about why America can’t learn from the world (be aware I take the sentence out of its original context, which is a bit of manipulating or content-mixing of course):

“Narcissism. The belief not just that one is special — for we all are unique, different, remarkable. The belief that one is superior, above, beyond. Better in fundamental ways. That is never true. Not a single one of us is better in any fundamental way. The genius is poor at loving. The lover is poor at creating. The creator is poor at managing. And so on. We all have flaws. But the greatest flaw of all is to be blind to the grace and beauty of the idea that we all have flaws — and so to believe there is nothing to be learned from anyone else. Trump is a narcissist, sure — but he is only a reflection of American narcissism in this way.”

The first job of a leader is to learn. Only then can a leader do their second and third jobs — care and love. Leadership is nothing more — and nothing less — than realizing human potential. You can do it as a parent, boss, friend, partner. You probably do. That is what care and love are in concrete human terms. The difference between them is that care brings a person towards their potential, and love expands that potential.”

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Art Academy 12 year old kids playing with tissues – June 2017

Feeling special, feeling superior. Being part of the ego-tribe. Even worse is the word contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.

In that sense I am also a reflection, a feedback loop of society. It’s the only thing that is great about Trump: he makes you more aware of your own shadows of narcissism, contempt and bullying. The ways you definitely do not want to stay in life. Being aware of these shadows, and finding a way to accept them, to integrate them I your whole being, and focusing on that other – different, better – palette of songs to sing. Breaking out of that rigidity of defence and taking others’ spaces.

To quote André Platteel again:

“Then there is no rigidity anymore of values that we can hang on to. Then there is nothing to be defended anymore causing us to exploit our power in a false way. To make another smaller and feel more free ourselves. Then it is not needed anymore to hide and feel our more expanded selves. Or to blow yourself up to make yourself bigger than you are. But just be, who you are in this moment.”

Maybe that’s when being normal becomes exciting and a source for internal happiness and stillness? When identity is not a burden anymore?

Also surprised what thoughts a simple invite to be normal can provoke? Share your surprises and insights. Please.

petervan-signature

I am in the business of cultivating high quality connections and flows to create immersive learning experiences and structural change. Check out: https://petervanproductions.com/

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3D Art room by 12 years old at BKO Academy – Feb 2017

I recently realised that it’s almost seven months since I saw an airplane from the inside. That’s indeed the time I am into my long-term sabbatical as Petervan Productions. It also means I am about halfway: another seven months indeed between now and end 2017. If you are interested in my developing story, my Jan 2017 and March 2017 updates are still available.

A quick update:

March-April felt like a period of soul-searching and reflection. I constantly had the impression I was not doing much and progressing very little, but writing this update gave me some comfort: there still is some advancement towards my goal and that of Petervan Productions.

I feel less restless than in the first couple of months, and can accept that a day goes by without any concrete deliverable. I also made some minor changes to my daily schedule, which is now more in synch with nature. For example, when the weather is great, I go outside for a bike ride or some gardening, and that’s why I already got a nice pre-summer tan 😉 And when it rains, it’s time for desk work. As there is enough rain in Belgium, there is enough time for desk work.

Artschool

Artschool continued at +/- 9 hours per week practice in the art studio of the art academy. Got a challenging color-study from my coach, which also led into a remake of “The Drama”. I also started liking the use of many very transparent layers.

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Two completely different works
Both acryl on cotton canvas stitched on wooden board
122 x 82 cm

Performance

  • I had many 1-1 conversations with friends and relatives to collect feedback on the performance “Tin Drum Is Back”. Thank you so much for the very valuable feedback!
  • Did some site visits to find the ideal location for the performance. Nothing came really close for the final show: some spaces were great, but the acoustics awful. And for some good news I got commitment from two sponsors to use their space for the dry run and Avant-premiere.
  • I also received some first proposals for the visual identity of the show there is much more, but this would be the main theme:

tin drum visual

First mood board for “Tin Drum” performance

Events

Nothing special here. As you know from previous updates, I am not in active prospection mode, and every request is measured against my existing priorities:

  • There are 1-2 interesting speaking engagements that allow me to test some of the performance and/or structural change concepts.
  • One promising lead for an immersive learning expedition with artistic performances.
  • Little progress on the retreat-style event.

Other

I visited some great art exhibitions and had some very pleasant conversations with art curators.

Inspiring also were the visits to the new site of Axel Vervoordt along the canal in Wijnegem (Antwerp) and the visit to ceramist Piet Stockmans in Genk, and the premiere of the film about Dries Van Noten in Bozar.

Piet Stockmans blue

Piet Stockmans – Blue plate

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Extract from film Dries Van Noten

And I also started experimenting with some poems, some out of the blue, others in relation to some of my artwork. A first collection via this link.

So, what’s next?

During May – June 2017, the plan is to work on:

  • My daughter’s communion is on 14 May 2017. We plan to keep things simple, invite some close family in our garden with a back-up tent in case of rain, and some quality food and drinks brought in by a local caterer.
  • Creating an installation for the June 2017 year end exposition of my art school; the installation will be called “TOKOMA”
  • A visit to a research facility in Germany that integrates artists in industrial research project work
  • The production aspects of the performance
  • Continue the research on structural Deep change – Good Change – Bad Change with some excellent feedback from my social media community.

This year’s summer promises to be different as well. We decided to move houses to be closer to the Flemish Primitives. Emptying the old house, refurbishing the new one, boxing and un-boxing will keep us busy most of the summer. The new house was previously a doctor’s practice, and the plan is to organise one space as an artist’s atelier/production studio where I plan to study, paint, write poems, compose music, and produce experiences.

Michael Landy atelier

Detail from Atelier Michael Landy

That’s about it for this edition. If there is something worth reporting, next update is for July 2017. Looking forward to hearing from your latest adventures as well.

Rebelliously yours,

petervan-signature

I am in the business of cultivating high quality connections and flows to create immersive learning experiences and structural change. Check out: https://petervanproductions.com/

 

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Yesterday, there was a news item on Flemish Television on the upcoming opera performance of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”, that will be performed at the Brussels Federal Opera House De Munt / La Monnaie (31 Jan – 14 Feb 2017).

What touched me was that Madame Butterfly was played by a puppet, directed by three puppet players (visible in black). The effect is mystical. Check out the end of this video (comments in Dutch, but that should not spoil the experience).

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Opera Madame Butterfly - De Munt - As from 31 Jan 2017

It made me think about a passage in David Byrne’s wonderful book “How music works” (Amazon Affiliates link). I am reading it in the context of my performance for Petervan Productions.

how-music-works

At a certain moment, David Byrne describes how his thinking about a show – a performance – was influenced by traditional Japanese theater forms such as Kabuki, Noh, and Bunraku.

Example of Japanese Kabuki theatre

 

“The tour eventually took us to Japan, where I went to see their traditional theater forms: Kabuki, Noh, and Bunraku. These were, compared to Western theater, highly stylized; presentational is the word that is sometimes used, as opposed to the pseudo-naturalistic theater we in the west are more used to.” 

“The character had in effect been so fragmented that the words they spoke didn’t come from close to or even behind that puppet. You had to reassemble the character in your head.

As in Japanese theater, the performers often wore masks and extreme makeup; their movements, too, were stylized and “unnatural.” It began to sink in that this kind of “presentational” theater had more in common with certain kinds of pop-music performance than traditional Western theater.”

“There was no attempt to formally separate the ritual and the show from the audience. I quickly absorbed that it was all right to make a show that didn’t pretend to be “natural.” To further complicate matters, I decided to make the show completely transparent. I would show how everything was done and how it had been put together.”

Check out the video footage of the resulting “Stop making sense” Tour. The show starts with a heavenly version of the song “Heaven” on an empty stage. At minute 2:30 you will see the first elements of the stage being rolled in.

The whole show is super enjoyable, and if you want to know what “playing tight” means, check this awesome version of “Breaking down the house”, which does exactly what you would expect.

 

Sometimes I think I have to stop trying to “make sense”. Better would be to “make meaning”.

All these reflections are related to my upcoming performance “Tin Drum is Back” (subtitle: “what is/what could be”): the performance design is evolving well, with detailed script being written as we speak.

Part of the story is looking back into ones youth (5-10 years old), look at what was forbidden then: for some people that is an area of talent they have neglected to develop. In my case, it was a tin drum I got when I was 6 years old, and the story of rhythms in my life and in my work. As the script develops, the narrative arc seems to be about evolving archetypes and levels of maturity.

Scripting is not “only” the storyline, but also the staging, transition, props, lighting, etc… And all visuals, sounds, and word are self-composed, self-created. Should be ready around March, although I may pick up some delay.

It starts feeling like theatre by an amateur 😉 So, performing “tight”, in some theatrical form, with costumes, masks, props, and stage being build-up as the show moves along, is certainly inspirational.

I see “Tin Drum…” as a teaser for a bigger story on multi-media corporate narratives, where – who knows – I create commissioned performances on less tangible topics (less tangible than “what problem are you trying to solve?”). I indeed think that a lot of the work I am preparing is steering away from the problem-solving orientation, and give more room to the creative orientation of “what do I want?”

What do you think? BS? Did I smoke too much ? 😉 Please don’t hesitate to share resources and serendipities that this post may generate.

More general Jan 2017 update here:  https://petervan.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/petervan-productions-jan-2017-update/

Rebelliously yours,

 

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I recently had some conversations with prospective clients on the need for alignment and coherence of physical and emotional space when trying to create great experiences. I started to call them “sacred spaces”.

As you know by now, I am not in the events business. I am in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning expeditions and deep change. In essence, I want to resonate with my client’s guests at another (additional) level than the pure cognitive. I believe this ambition also requires its own awareness and vocabulary, but more about that in some later posts.

One aspect of that vocabulary is our expression of sacred spaces. What first comes to mind is a church, a cathedral, some religious building of some sort.

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Sagrada Familia – Barcelona – 31 Oct 2014

In the best cases, the moment you come in, you are struck by a lightning of beauty, awe, stillness, and grandeur. The entry into the space feels almost ceremonial. You cross the entry, the line between outside and inside. The experience of the space sends vibrations down your spine. You feel suddenly whole and small at the same time.

This whole- and small-ness creates some kind of safety; some form of familiarity that this space is the right space, that this space is right. Just right for what it was designed for.

I think in similar terms about the spaces for our experiences.

Our spaces must be safe spaces. Closed as with an entry door. The entry into the space is a ritual moment. The coming out as well. It must be a physical experience: guests have to walk through the “arc of change”. They must do this in a “communion” style, as a collective, creating a visceral experience of the collectivism in their change process.

The space is about “roundness”, round as in circle, but also round as in generative, coming back to the starting point with new insights.

The space becomes a pulsing “egg”, a “womb” that will be our “nest” for a couple of days. It has of course to do a lot with right spaces for humans, and Jean Nouvel’s views (video here) on architecture. The video is also called “Reflections”, just like the latest from Brian Eno, one ambient song of 54 minutes (interview here)

jean-nouvel2

“Combining big bold shapes with intricacy and delicacy. The ability to be bold and delicate at the same time. The relation between time and light. The sphere above, the cupola. A spiritual space.”

I love the idea of the cupola. In my opinion, the closed space described above needs a roof – like a cupola – with some lattice membrane. But at the same time, the space needs to be “porous”, with light (the crack) coming in through the lattice, and light (enlightenment) coming out to inspire others. Or even better, some form of post-enlightenment as in Danny Hillis’ entanglement.

And light itself can also be the “roof” and the trees of the space forest. Check out this wonderful video of Fujimoto’s light forest:

light-forest

 

I shared the video with my good friend Marti Spiegelman, who replied:

Thanks for the link – this is extraordinary. It reminds me that sometimes the light itself is the sacred space – I’m thinking of the light beam on the floor, when one of the walkers stands in the light – and sometimes the light creates the boundaries, or defines the edges, of the space – as in a forest when there is a small round clearing, it’s traditionally considered to be a ‘power spot’’ [another name for sacred space] where you can call in greater powers of nature and the universe to create change.”

I was looking for some good description of sacred and sacredness. I think I found it in an article about a fashion book by Belgian fashion designer Ann Demeulemeester.

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“It looks and feels almost sacred, with pages so thin the images can be seen on both sides of each sheet; it’s a truly delicate beauty. For this reason, every single page is printed only on one side, creating a uniquely singular reading experience. The size and weight of the book gently contrasts with the fragility and smoothness of the paper, while the almost total white of the inside is in opposition with the blackness of the sides and the linen cover. Text is kept to the essentials, limited to an introduction by Patti Smith (Demeulemeester’s longtime muse) and a short final dedication by the designer herself. The book was designed by Victor Robyn, a Belgian graphic designer who has been in charge of realizing Demeulemeester’s graphics for years—from show invitations to printed fabrics. The art direction is curated by Victor Robyn, Demeulemeester herself and Patrick Robin, her life and business partner.”

Happenstance that I visited this week Casa Argentaurum, an art gallery in Ghent run by Caroline De Wolf, who kindly opened her space for me. It was one of the last days of the exposition about Ann Demeulemeester’s jewellery.

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Necklace – Ann Demeulemeester – Casa Argentaurum

At the end of our conversation, Caroline gave me a copy of the catalogue of the 2010 exposition “Things, Thoughts, and Territorities”.

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The book has some great design drawings by Andrea Branzi, and also a wonderful testimony of the artists’s love relation with Belgium (mostly Flanders btw). Somewhere half way, there is this superb quote:

“Architecture is not the art of building, it is a very complex discipline,

interpreting history, technology and the changes in society.”

It could have been the tag-line for Petervan Productions, as I see myself as the architect who conceives, gives birth to the vision together with the client, and then pulls together and orchestrates the resources, experts, and artists to create a unique experience in search for the secrets of life.

But “you can’t find secrets without looking or them” (quote by Peter Thiel in his book “From Zero to One”), so I am looking for your views on what you would expect from a sacred space.

I am looking for architects, space- and stage-designers to be part of our collective of leaders, visionaries, artists, craftsmen, designers and producers.

If you are interested to be part of that calling and dialogue, you can just leave a comment on this post.

Rebelliously yours,

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Petervan Photoshop collage as part of study on Peter Doig
Theme: Culture and Nature – Dec 2016

 

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Pre-Study Peter Doig - Sketch Dec 2016

 

Happy New Year to you, your friends and your family! Hope you are doing well.

As you know, I left Innotribe/SWIFT in Nov 2016 for a long term sabbatical to create my own thing under the Petervan Productions umbrella. My ambition is to architect and create high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences and deep change.

A quick update:

  • Artschool continued till the holiday break, starting again next week. We try to get under the skin of artists, and then paint an image in their style. Currently looking into Peter Doig.
  • Nov/Dec 2016 was a period of getting to grips with some tools for my performance: music, image, video composition tools
  • The performance “Tin Drum Is Back” is targeted for end March
  • The retreat event for Sep
  • The content festival for Nov
  • A lot of reading and a lot of posts in the queue

 

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“Concrete Cabin” by Peter Doig - 1992

During Jan-March 2017, the plan is to work on:

  • Detailed scripting of the performance
  • Build and expand the collective of leaders, visionaries, artists, craftsmen, designers and producers

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Extract project plan performance per week.

I am very focused (yes, working on a 8+ hour daily schedule and a project plan). I am about one week late compared to initial plans. Being focused also means saying “no”. As you may have noticed, I have drastically dimmed my social media activities, and kindly reject any requests for consultancy, speaking engagements, etc.

I have 1-2 leads that want to work with me as their architect for immersive learning experience events. But I am not in active prospection mode.

Every request for collaboration is assessed against the objectives and priorities for 2017: the art, the performance, the retreat, the festival, and to see how far I can get with all that in one year’s time.

If there is something worth reporting, next update is for Feb 2017. Looking forward to hearing from your latest adventures as well.

Rebelliously yours,

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As many of you know, since begin November I am trying to create my own thing called “Petervan Productions”.

The scaffolding is already in the works for many years, and I am still hesitating whether I will once publish the 100+ page reflections on the intentions of all this, what I think this enables, and then working down the tactics such as outcomes and deliverables.

Besides the artwork and the research bit of my activities, I spent quite some time in re-thinking what “events” could be like. And thinking of my customers as “guest”, not consumers. What I am trying to offer is a one-stop-shop for unique immersive learning expeditions in emotionally and physically right spaces for humans.

So anything that gets me back to my architectural roots of “right” spaces for human beings makes me a bit poetic. In this case this very nice article in Aeon about the French architect Jean Nouvel, all about light, geometry and symbolism to re-imagine culture.

The core of the article is a very nice video. As usual, I made the transcript of the video, and added some poetic highlights and typographic reflections by myself. I have stopped adding comments and trying to explain. My guests are smart enough to make up their own minds. Explaining would be an insult.

jean-nouvel1

 

Each project is an adventure, a passion

The biggest temptation

Is to jump into it

There are solutions that come to you

There are images that spontaneously appear

My method is rather to hold back as long as possible

To really imagine it spatially

So, to be sure that I have something to say

These moments where you understand somebody cared about something

That’s when you feel

 like “oh yes,

this is a human thing,

not some robot that

put something together”

Simply living there is a cultural act

Combine big bold shapes with intricacy and delicacy

The ability to be bold and delicate at the same time

jean-nouvel2

The relation between time and light

The sphere above,

the cupola

As spiritual space

“Perhaps we have to keep dust”

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Create a space, no inside, no outside…

jean-nouvel4

“We have principles, and these principles we have to nurture.

We nurture them.

We deepen them.

And with them,

we invent…

something else”

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Hello Tribe,

This is a post to share that I’m taking an extended sabbatical from Innotribe and Swift after some of the most amazing years of my career so far. It has been such an exciting journey working with many of you creating and enabling Innotribe to grow. Thank you for letting me being part of that journey.

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Quote by Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) in “A most violent year”. 

Poster copyright: Lessons Learned in Life

 

Now the time has come for my next phase as an independent thinker, creator and sense-maker, as from 1 November 2016.

I will concentrate my – limited – professional activities under “Petervan Productions”. In the first instance I will create art, performances, and invitation-only retreat expeditions.

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I believe there is room for a new kind of experiences that resonate with your and my guests at another level than the pure cognitive. Holding a space to connect thought leaders, experts, and artists of all kinds, and to bring out the very best in you and them. The art of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences and deep authentic change.

Mastery and excellence will be my guidance, but mystery is what I aim for.

Focus means deep work without distractions. Focus also means saying “no”. For the next couple of weeks/months, I will live under a rock. I will dramatically reduce my social media presence and activity. But will keep blogging and writing occasionally.

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“Creative work needs solitude.

It needs concentration, without interruptions.

It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching

until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to,

but does not necessarily have at once.

Privacy, then. A place apart

to pace, to chew pencils,

to scribble and erase and scribble again.”

 

Mary Oliver in “On Power and Time”

+++

It’s a jump into the unknown. It is a fork from the responsive/reactive orientation to solve problems to the creative orientation to architect, design, and produce what I really want. It is tapping into what Nilofer Merchant calls my “onlyness”, when my edge becomes the core.

I’d love to keep in touch with you all, so if you would like to connect please do so via my personal email or the usual social channels. You can also subscribe to the Petervan Productions Newsletter here.

See you on the other side. Onwards.

Rebelliously yours,

petervan-signature

Blogging and writing:

Mantra: “Imagine the kindest, most positive response to whatever comes your way” – Chade-Meng Tan

 

 

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