Friday’s classes at Wade called ‘The Entrepreneur Within’ is the epitome of a ‘fluffy’ subject designed to take you out of your comfort zone and help you investigate your own personality and everyone else’s in the cohort. Facilitated by trained artists we are expected to use a different modality of artistic expression each week to develop our own self-awareness and explore our own creative talents.
This weeks class involved some dancing, singing, writing and then an exercise where we were meant to ‘build a shrine’ using:
- A photo that is dear to you
- An item that might be symbolic of your home
- An item that might be symbolic of your hopes
- An item that might be symbolic of your fears
- An item that you think of as symbolic of your strengths
- Sing or hum a song that you identify with your childhood
Sounds like bullshit doesn’t it?
Well I can tell you categorically that yesterday’s class easily goes down as one of the most amazing and difficult days and experiences of my life.
The dancing part of the day was quasi-interesting as we ran and jumped around, sat on each other’s laps and took turns in choreographing and delegating leadership in a ‘following the leader’ dance routine.
I say quasi-interesting because I came in expecting it to be a crock of shit. However I did learn something out of it both about myself as well as others but it was a bit long (2 hours). In particular it was interesting to see different people take the lead and what they did with it. I really wanted to see how other people would take up the mantle of leadership and it was amazing how people’s different leadership styles in dance really reflected their own personality.
It was beautiful and interesting to watch and follow a whole kaleidoscope of different moves and directions from each member of the group. Some examples of which were the frequent short and sharp movements of an engineer, gracefully long languid flowing movements of a doctor, confident prolonged ownership of leadership from a vet, deliberate and sanguine movements of a lawyer, authorative bold flourishes from a senographer and the light aerial style of a psychologist.
One of the themes of this particular exercise was that ‘predictability’, ‘simplicity’ and ‘taking care of your group’ was key to making a good leader when there are people of different levels of aptitude in dance trying to follow your lead. There was also the ‘pressure of leadership’ and expectation to ‘do something new’ with your turn rather than just be derivative: to innovate from what was given to you by the previous leader or from what you had done previously or what the music was doing.
I came into this exercise thinking it was going to be easy for me. I love dancing (like an idiot) and I don’t mind leading but boy was I wrong!
I was the epitome of a selfish leader in this exercise and I ended up abdicating leadership as quickly as I could. That’s because when it comes to dance I just want to dance for my own personal satisfaction which basically meant lots of fast, unpredictable and complicated movements and a total disregard for anyone’s ability to follow my movements. This obviously made it near impossible for anyone to follow me — which obviously wasn’t ideal.
However what it did do was it reminded me just how far I’ve come in my own journey to self-regulate these bad tendencies. I also learned that I like to innovate and do something new and unexpected all the time — to a fault. I also like to drive up the degree of difficulty continuously to test everyone around me and measure their capability which ultimately leads to absolute chaos.
In the end it didn’t really matter too much for me. I didn’t want to explore my leadership here, I enjoyed following everyone else through the morning.
The next singing activity was less interesting but one particular person in our cohort really burst out of his shell through the exercise. This particular person is generally quite reserved and not very assertive in the group but this exercise brought out something primal in him and he shone so bright when the spotlight well and truly fell on him.
However that part of the morning was the easy part.
Next came our shrines…
And that’s when shit got REAL heavy, real fast.
Once we had some time to complete our shrines we all came together as a group and one by one we took a tour of each other’s shrines. There the owner of that shrine would explain as much or as little as they wanted about their items and their significance to them.
By the end of the second presentation in our cohort I had completely lost my shit.
I was a complete and total emotional mess.
Every time I’ve thought and recounted this story to others since I’ve been on the verge of tears (including writing this now). The bravery, vulnerability and honesty of the story told by this particular person was absolutely amazing and totally set the tone for the entire afternoon that followed.
For a long time I’ve been emotionally numb as a result of previously failed personal relationships and I’ve had a hard time crying or feeling anything emotionally in my core but by the end of this day I was absolutely raw and overwhelmed. At different times through the afternoon there were tears shed by the person presenting, there was lots of respect given and gained, there were lots of pain that was shared and plenty of wisdom and understanding delivered by each person.
It was easily the most powerful show of trust and vulnerability I’ve ever had the honour of being a part of. We as a group went to a whole new level after this activity and I’m so thankful that we have done it this early in week 2.
I hadn’t thought too hard about how personal I was going to get in my own story but I had thought a bit about what ‘fear’ I would feel comfortable talking about to the group. What made me lose my shit was that the girl who presented second, articulated the biggest fear she had which was exactly the same as mine (but I had chosen not to share with the group) which was that at the end of the day my ‘life would be empty and meaningless’.
Seeing that bravery and how much it affected this girl to share that story tore me apart and I knew I had to really bare my soul to honour that trust and vulnerability she had demonstrated.
By the time it came to my turn to present a couple of shrines later, I was having a really hard time keeping my composure. My voice was uncontrollably quivering, I couldn’t look at anyone in the eye as a torrent of uncensored thoughts and words came out of me as I explained the story behind each object I brought.
I had brought with me:
- A photo from my sister’s wedding the year previous (photo with meaning)
- A vintage camera from my grandfather, given to me by my uncle (to represent my home)
- A sculpture of the original sketch of the Walt Disney Centre from the architect Frank Gehry made from the materials of the actual building (to represent my hopes)
- A diary of all my deepest thoughts and secrets (to symbolise my fears)
- (I forgot to bring a book called ‘Failing Forward’ which was meant to represent my strengths)
- And I chose to play a song by Diana Ross ‘If we hold on together’ which was the theme song from the cartoon movie ‘A land before time’
I spoke about each of them (with the exception of the Failing Forward book) and had a few questions asked of me which I answered and then it was on to the next person.
I was deeply touched by several stories such as:
- a girl’s showing her anti-depressants (her symbol of strength) which she started using last year, four years after her father died when she was 18. From there two other people in the group shared that they also lost their father’s in the same year.
- a girl’s story about looking into a mirror into her eyes when she was undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer the previous year
- a guy talking about The Holy Quran and how it informs everything he does in his life and being through refugee camps
- a girl singing a lullaby her mother sang to her at night so sweetly I was brought to tears, then her talk about her fear of losing her best friend and her struggle constantly measuring herself to others in every way
- a girl sobbing uncontrollably and unable to talk about the difficulty of her previous year
- a girl talking about a dinosaur pen given to her by her dad and being limited to only asking 3 questions a day as a kid because she was so inquisitive
It was impossible not to be moved. Or in my case absolutely broken by the end of the day. I was so over-wrought I couldn’t participate in my own group’s meeting and I had to take myself away and sit in the sun by myself for a while to recollect myself.
But it was lovely because rather than everyone leaving and going elsewhere, people organically stayed and continued chatting to each other after class was over.
We had all shared in something deeply profound and I appreciated two people in particular (who are more introverted in the group) who came up and engaged with me afterwards to make sure I was ok and just chat. This really helped me start to break out of my own funk. Then another person came over with some water and cups and slowly the temperature of the day started to simmer down.