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Navigating the Unknown

by Wilma de Bruijn, General Manager at Eurapco


How do you find a foothold in a world that is changing? How do you deal with uncertainties? In the Netherlands, artists, creative entrepreneurs, former refugees and experts in futurology have set up an Academy for this purpose. They stimulate the ability to navigate through the unknown using imagination, beauty and play. Three practical lessons that we can learn from artists to walk outside the usual paths...



1. Continue to enjoy yourself More than five years ago, the Brazilian-Belgian pianist Eliane Rodrigues gave a Christmas concert. In front of a well-filled hall of people, she soon discovered that her concert grand piano had a broken pedal. She remained unfazed. Although the piano had to be replaced, she continued to play and continued to connect with the audience as if nothing was wrong. "What an experience," she later wrote on social media. “Although I didn't expect this, I enjoyed it.” She understood the art of continuing to enjoy herself, whilst she had every reason to be completely stressed. Emotional intelligence is the art of being like a steady rock in the surf of the sea, whilst the world around you is in turbulence. Now that a virus has been able to wreak havoc within the existing societies around the world, being able to deal with uncertainties has become an unmistakable skill.

What to do if things don't go the way you planned ...

2. Try it The Portuguese pianist Maria Joao Pires once gave a recital with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under the direction of the Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly. The opening notes by the orchestra went through her like a shock because she immediately realized that she had rehearsed the wrong piano concerto. Making mistakes is human. It happens to the best. You could see from her face that she was at her wits' end for a moment, but she managed to recover quickly, with the moral support of the conductor. "I try" and it is fascinating to see how from her first few notes on the piano she ends up immediately in the flow of a totally different piano concerto, which she remembered flawlessly from a year before. We can do much more than we think.

What to do if you have prepared the wrong work ...

3. Develop your skills in dealing with insecurity Dutch composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven and theatre-maker Marjolijn van Heemstra are the initiators of The Turn Club, a movement of creative minds who join forces to help students develop their uncertainty skills. "As artists, we know how to make something from scratch. You want to make the invisible visible. You almost always start with a question or a fascination, for which you do not yet have a form. The art is the search. People always see the end result of the artwork, but it's about the journey towards that end. Therein lies the true artistry. The path is like a quest full of doubt and not knowing. When you make a performance, you really don't know what you're going to put down in the end. You have to be able to deal with that. It often means to die a thousand deaths, but you know it is necessary to eventually get somewhere. It is an attitude to life that we like to share with the rest of the world." From The Turn Club, artists share their "artist mind", "the openness that you can have as an artist in the moment, to see things that might otherwise escape your attention." As far as these artists are concerned, we live in a society that is obsessed with certainty. With tangible things. The news tells us exactly how everything works. However, to a large extent that is a sham, it is just a superficial view which gives us that certainty. There are a lot of questions behind that. I also recognize this in my daily practice. We want to control things as well as possible and our vulnerability, our questions and uncertainties, do not seem to fit in with that. Yet I see most of the breakthroughs occurring as soon as people dare to share that vulnerability. Let's face it. We can pretend, but real life is full of things you can't predict. From Eurapco I try in all kinds of ways to resolve issues I a new way, for example through inspiring stories, simplification of complex matters through cartoons, fresh ideas and collaborative power. I know that it is good to have questions and to dare not to always 'know' things for certain, because that helps you to get moving, you then start searching and looking at things from all kinds of different perspectives. It sounds rather paradoxical, but it is my experience that to allow uncertainty makes you more certain. The classic 'certainty' is often an enormous false certainty.

Awareness It strikes me how corona has not only caused a lot of misery, but also how many people are just flourishing and coming alive. I know so many practical examples of people who have taken a good look at their own lives and made positive changes. Is it really necessary to use the plane so often? Do I always need new clothes or is second-hand also an option? What are the basic things in life that I really need, and what is excess ballast? Overall, what does my life look like? What do I actually want from life and myself? Where is my strength and where can I use it for the best? Many people have become more aware of themselves and their environment. Everything starts with awareness. The more awareness, the more you want to change your own behavior. Of course, it depends on how you feel. We're just human. With our beautiful and less beautiful sides. The more honest we dare to look at ourselves, the more we experience balance in life. "Above all, do the things that make you happy, that you are good at. That joy radiates to your entire environment."

The chaos in the world does help some people to find their way back to themselves. That often means making other choices in life, big or small. More from the feeling of what fits best. Not what others think what suits us best, but from within ourselves. I see more and more people doing their own thing.

Every human being comes to earth with his or her own mission. Every person is driven by something different. One wants to renew, the other wants to leave something behind or to be seen. The original Cree people in North America are convinced that every child is born as the answer to a prayer. They then ask each other the question: "To which prayer are you the answer?"

Man himself remains the key to all change in the world. It sometimes seems as if that infamous virus, with all its mutations, is also there to teach us to understand something. Some people come to rich insights, others get completely lost. It turns out that it is impossible to fully control life. We can, however, choose the way we respond to what life brings us. That's where our real strength lies.


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If you have any questions and/or comments about my blog or are open to sharing a piece of your own journey of discovery with me, do not hesitate to share it with me. You can reach me by email: wilma.de.bruijn@eurapco.com