A baffling journey into Enspiral

A while ago I found out about Enspiral. I watched some videos, read their website, looked at their projects, the people behind it. Epic.

… a virtual and physical network of companies and professionals working together to create a thriving society.

Yes. That’s where I want to be!

I flew back to Wellington from the UK with a strong intention to get involved. I wanted some hard skills I could bring to projects, so I signed up for Enspiral Dev-Bootcamp.

Rohan at Dev Bootcamp invited me to become an ‘Enspiral contributor’. Woo! Now what? The week before the immersive course, I met up with my ‘Enspiral Buddy’, Maz for coffee. He welcomed me and shared some thoughts on ways to engage. “Don’t undervalue yourself”, “be careful to not get overwhelmed with info”.

Then I dived into coding for 9 weeks…

Out the other side!

I wanted to get involved in Enspiral. I didn’t know where to start. From my understanding, Maz had stepped out of the network for a while, so didn’t seem much point in meeting up with him again (in hindsight, it would have been a good idea!). I didn’t really have a go-to person. I caught up with Chelsea, and aside from great chats about life, she directed me to Simon & Mikey. I caught up with them, and had an inconclusive meeting about doing some work on their project. From stalking slack, I joined one of Seb’s ‘Project kitchen’ sessions, to help with other’s projects. A friend Iain & I did a space project at Dev Academy. I did a little TPPA campaign work with ActionStation.

This was about a month after finishing the course now. I was lucky to have the resources to not need paid work until then, and was starting to get stressed about finding paid work — I felt like if I took a full time job, I’d not have space for Enspiral, or for the social impact work I wanted to do. I was trying to get involved, but despite my efforts receiving no invitations to join teams or work on projects. Nor did I have the confidence/space/friends to develop my ideas into projects.

Exasperated, I gave up on the network, on working to improve Dev Academy, and looked for a full-time job.

Bah. Enspiral. Not for me.


After a little venting to friends, they encouraged me to give the Dev Academy team some feedback on my experience trying to work with them. I thought I might as well. This led to some real conversations, the understanding that my experiences were not unique, and that this was possibly an issue within Enspiral.

I started going back to Dev Academy to apply for jobs and work on projects. One evening Josh gave me a little paid contract. Then another.

I was invited to the Dev Academy retreat. I finally saw the whole organisation, all the wonderful parts, and all the broken parts too. And in the broken parts, I, and the rest of the team, saw a Pete shaped niche.

One intense month later, those broken parts are healed. Which is great. But with them healed, my main niche has disappeared.

Now I’m in the opposite place to where I started. I’ve met a bunch of amazing people, who all have great projects I want to work on, and feel invited to too — it turns out, you often need to invite yourself.

Now I have too many things whirring in my head, and am struggling to focus on any of them. I feel like I should (yes, that terrible word) be working all the time. Much is contracting, And I find it difficult to charge hard cash for my value, which is sometimes hard for me to pin down. This has been a huge stressor for me.

I found my chest tightening and my breath constricted. I couldn’t fill my lungs. I’d previously assumed it was asthma, now I had the self awareness to see it as a physical symptom of anxiety.

I’m burnt out today, working at home. At the moment I don’t feel secure enough to be low on-site. To expose my vulnerable, shaky, slower, making mistakes self — perhaps I feel replaceable, fear that I might find myself out on my own again if I show up and don’t perform at my peak abilities.

“Romney sheep, ewe with triplet lambs in New Zealand” by Pam — Flickr: Triplet lambs. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons — http://bit.ly/1Mk6jDf

This morning I was catching up on Enspiral October check-ins, and checking in myself. Now I’m writing this instead of working on a contract that I need to clear to move onto more meaningful work…

But I do now have the self awareness to take a mellow day. The demands of being an Enspiral contributor have given me a push to grow my yoga, meditation & exercise habits, and explore things like my intrinsic sense of self worth— I need these practices and explorations to not be my own worst boss.

Enspiral is a challenging environment, which pulls me to my edge, often a little over. The attributes Enspiral requires of me are the same as those I aspire to develop in myself anyway — a strong connection to myself, to others, to life. And I get to work with others exploring these things too.

I’ve not got the work-play balance right yet, nor decided my next exploration in this ever shifting organism. Coaching coding and contracting at Dev Academy? Growing an active desk startup? Mindfulness facilitation? Or a cold-day barefoot-running sock product startup?

Hmm. I’ll test them tomorrow when the rain stops.

The other day I went for a sunny stroll with Rohan, co-founder of Dev Academy. He talked about wanting collaborators like me to break down walls, test and create. We talked about feedback. Knowing I can solicit constructive feedback any time gives me confidence to play and prototype. And we talked about fears, and feelings, what I needed to do my best work, what spaces and support he saw in the organisation. There is a conscious effort here to grow a culture that supports people AND entrepreneurship — that creates space for people to stretch in all directions, which feels great.

Now I’d better get back to this overrun coding contract to pay my rent… Still got to do some odd jobs for people with money. I’m not out of that system yet.

But I do feel squarely ‘within’ Enspiral now — and going deeper by the day. And it’s great to be here.

I’ll leave you with this:

Chloe, Greg, myself and others in the network feel there is a better way to help newcomers explore Enspiral to find niches and playing with balance. So we’re iterating and prototyping a funner on-boarding system.

If you want to get involved in this beautiful Enspiral organism, hopefully it’ll be a more friendly process when it’s your turn.

Nga mihi