"I am looking forward to seeing you again. I have so much to learn from your new Self", I replied to Astrid, one of our conference contributors, when she sent me the following confession.
The ultimate success factor of a conference is that you leave different compared to how you entered. This is the case of Astrid's valorous story of personal transformation and immense learning as it took place during the Beyond Storytelling Conference 2018 in Hamburg. She decided to share it with all of us as a precious gift. Enjoy!
"I kind of feel sorry for you right now“. The woman who says this is sitting in the workshop I am running. I am fully aware at that very moment, that I totally fail to match the needs of my audience, a blend of 18 men and women. But never have I got more ashamed in public. The man sitting next to her adds a few minutes later: „Maybe you are in the wrong story“. I somehow manage a wrap-up and keep on smiling.
Half an hour or so later, a whole load of pain, of disappointment and anger, hits me. I have to leave the keynote speech I had long been looking forward to, unable to hold back my tears. The shame of having been ridiculed in public and having faced such disrespect is overtaken by the blames I put on myself. I know about my tendency to be too theoretical and academic. Thus, I had put a lot of efforts into designing a very practical workshop. It had all started very well: the introduction, the opening exercise with aha-effect, the word-clouds…until the very moment when I „just“ wanted to set up a concept-frame before moving on. I saw myself getting stuck in there, heard myself talking too long and ways too complicated, failed to throw out the right rope for them to catch and to transfer to experience. When I suggested starting with the creative challenge, designing a campaign for sustainable stories, my audience went on strike.
I feel so small and ridiculous, sitting there in the last corner of the terrace and fearing anybody may have seen me. This is when the first of them approaches me. No samurais, no gamblers nor outlaws, but a community of mentors, coaches, facilitators and storytellers, the best of their kind and a community of friends. People I was not intimate with, offer to share their intimate stories of failure, lay an arm around my shoulders, take a long stroll outside with me, give me extensive feedback about the workshop and generously offer their mentorship.
These are the Seven Magnificent Learnings I was gifted with:
1. Don’t let anybody make you small, even in the face of failure and adversity. But It is your duty to hold your space and to mark your red line. You are a thousand times more worth than your performance.
2. It is so important to fail. Just so important. You took a risk leaving your comfort zone and you failed. That’s ok. Let go of that composed attitude and allow your emotions. That’s ok, too.
3. Don’t waste your energy in fighting your flaws but instead nurture your talents. Your talents will outgrow everything. Use the power of rituals: wash your face with cold water, think about a moment of success. Take the energy from that moment with you and then only return to the present.
4. Free yourself from those technical supports which are only there to cling on and to reassure you. All of the sudden, you will see and feel your audience very differently. You will go with its vibes and the flow. You will be much more able to improvise and to adapt to their needs and desires.
5. All that you say may be perfectly right and well researched. But none of this is worth a penny if you fail to get the transfer right to your audience. Give them a clear frame with clear announcements and a clear vision about where they are heading to.
6. Walk the talk! Do what you preach! Story!!
7. Trust your audience. Nobody wants to get content delivered here, only frameworks: Why not starting right away with the challenge?
I thought I knew those things before. But never had I felt each one of them so physically embodied by my recent experience. With each conversation, I was growing bit by bit back to my full size and achieving an internal transformation. When I left the conference on Saturday I was a very different person.
The night before leaving for Hamburg, I had a dream. A prophecy had told me I had to get bitten by the Great Snake and the doomsday had come, where I was to walk into the swamps where it lived. My mother, who lives as an angel, was walking with me. She was sad, but she knew it was my fate and was determined to stay by my side until the end. We arrived. Our feet sank up to the calves in the muddy waters. Big brownish snakes were crawling everywhere, but no-one attacked. There was a cabin. I first wondered if I was supposed to get in there and wait but thought: what the heck, I’m not going in there and wait until starvation. Let’s just go. We arrived at the end of the swamp, where there happened to be some kind of information center. I was watching a man, probably a keeper taking care of animals. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, she appeared. A giant, bright green snake with two sharp teeth. I looked into her eyes and thought: O, here is my destiny! Then she bit me. The mark she left on my right hand was huge. I knew I was going to die, but for now, I also knew: no snake could do me any harm anymore. I had the power to grab her and to throw her away. I was the elected, the one who was scared. I had time to make calls, to say goodbye and felt I was letting go of my old self when I woke up, startled.
The morning after the workshop, it hit me. The bite by the snake can be the symbol of ill words and deception by another person. But especially green snakes are also the symbol of personalgrowth, inner transformation and a reconnection to what is true to you. It is a call to take care of what is emerging here, to embrace the new beginnings, with steadiness and serenity. To re-author the future.