Knowmads: Welcome home!

group picture!

group picture!

‘Welcome home!’ that’s what I read on the Knowmads’ Hanoi website and in the invitation e-mail for the first gathering of our team. Entering our classroom for the first time, we are blindfolded. When the scarf is taken off of our eyes, we see our facilitators and classmates with smiling faces, applauding. ‘Welcome home!’ says Mrs. Phuong, echoing the big colorful letters on the wall.

This is the environment and culture that is going to be created and nurtured during the 8 weekends the training program of Knowmads Hanoi will take place. Not the usual image one would have of a business school. But I believe this kind of learning culture stimulates us more and helps us better to grow personally and professionally. Guus, one of our facilitators, shared with us that the word ‘school’ in Greek means ‘Time held for yourself’. Time spent in school is meant as leisure time to use for learning and gaining life insights. Indeed, those ‘Aha!’ moments usually turn out to be the most valuable lessons we learn in life. These moments help us on our life’s journey to fully explore and discover our full potential and use this potential in our private and professional lives. So if this is the goal of being in school, then the right tone seems to be set. ‘Business is all about connecting, communicating, collaborating and inspiring’ said Guus. Well, it seems there will be lots of space for that in this program.

This first weekend, three trainers joined us on the 16th floor in our cozy classroom and shared their experience with us. Marc Kroese from Donkey Bakery and Lshell, Henrik Looij from Eyeopener, and Abel Polese from Global Developments.  What these three trainers had in common for me was the emphasis on ‘start doing’. Marc said that it’s when you start a journey, new roads and possibilities will open. Henrik showed the importance of constant interaction between being and doing; breaking our action goals down to small, result-oriented and immediate steps. Abel made us reflect on our ability to act within a complex world.

Since arriving in Hanoi, about 2 weeks ago, I’ve had many opportunities to observe my own thoughts and behavior in various new situations. This first Knowmads weekend seemed to be a climax in the number of times I felt challenged. Just starting to learn how to drive a motorbike, driving to school was quite an adventure. Presenting myself in front of the class definitely made me slightly nervous. Stepping out of my usual shyness to meet all my new classmates instead of first ‘seeing which way the wind blows’ required me to give myself a little push. Sharing openly and honestly about how I was doing during our ‘check ins’ and ‘check outs’ meant also showing my weaknesses. After the first day I shared with everybody during the check out how I felt I was going back and forth between feeling ‘I’m not as good as the others’ and feeling empowered.

I’ve been very aware of the moments I felt challenged this weekend. When I do feel scared, my mind tends to come up with many reasons not to do ‘it’ (driving a motorbike, going to the first dinner, presenting etc.) In the end I always push myself to do it anyways. However, this inner struggle is exhausting and painful. After our first day, it hit me how much I hurt myself with certain convictions about myself. Instead of giving myself a pat on the back thinking ‘good job Miranda, for taking up these challenges’, I tell myself I should be able to do all those things with ease. This is my own wrong idea. Phan Y Ly, during our personal development workshop, shared this as well. What can be easy and obvious to do for us, might not be for others. I’d like to turn that around so I can realize and accept that what is or seems to be easy for others, might not be for me.

One particular exercise I struggle with is asking questions. After Marc Kroese told us his story, we had the chance to ask him questions. While listening to the discussion, I was also observing what was going on inside me. I found out there are three reasons I don’t manage to ask questions:

  1. Sometimes I have a thought I simply don’t recognize as a question. Only when someone else asks this question do I realize I was having the same question.

  2. Often I don’t manage to formulate a clear and concise question in my head, resulting in my not asking the question out loud.

  3. Sometimes I don’t believe my question is relevant or interesting enough.

I’d like to challenge myself (yes, yet another challenge!) to try and just ‘do’ without necessarily preparing and controlling the whole situation. The fear of not being in control of the situation which might result in my failing freezes me. So, I’d like to challenge myself to just start asking the questions that are in my mind. By doing that, I will learn to formulate questions clearer and faster. It might seem like a small step, or a small exercise, nevertheless I believe it can be highly effective and relevant for growing in the challenges I face when setting up a project or business.

An insight might be a great first realization and step. However it’s worth nothing if not followed up by action. And acting according to an insight sometimes takes a lot of courage. Here at Knowmads I want to learn to be even more at home in myself, in the group and in entrepreneurship, so that even during those challenging moments I can tell myself: welcome home!

Abel Polese warm-up-game hugs Henrik Looij


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