Pushing back on the Culture of Maybe

FLAKY. IFFY. TOO MANY CONFUSING WAYS OF INTERPRETING A BLANK STARE. Arrgghhh. Too much. Too much of too much wondering if that’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ It’s probably just a ‘maybe.’ And given all this new urban vocabulary about how easy it is to talk about that thing that happens when someone doesn’t do what you thought they were gonna do, well, that just tells us how pervasive this culture of maybe has gotten to be.

Icky stuff, if you ask me. I’m Gen X and biased, of course. Sure, whatever, but you know what? Lately, I’ve gotten a really low tolerance. If I get even a whiff of maybeness, that’s the end. That’s when I walk away. Why? There are just way too many other people in the world, and I meet a lot of people, mostly quite randomly, and that means being choosy is the only way to create anything of high quality at all. Seriously.

I know, I know. I got my head full of irritation about this kind of problem when I lived in the Pacific Northwest for six years. (I left because of it). But you know, I found out later, it’s not just Seattle. Crossed over to the whole other side of the country, to a little patch that I imagined would still be the way I left it. But no. It was flaky, iffy, and there were too many confusing ways of interpreting blank stares. What happened after that? Moved around, tried new things, got to know more people. Landed all the way on the other side of the world, in Cambodia. Where, guess what? Same. Thing. Awkwardness abounds. (I will talk all about it in a new book, coming from a new press, in some matter of weeks.) But for now, let me tell you more about this whole thing that’s going on. The maybe thing. How did this happen?

These days? I can’t be bothered. I don’t want maybes. I want yeses and nos. I don’t mind if they’re either, I just want to know. Firmness. Completeness. Let’s find out so we can get on with the business of doing good work, shall we? Isn’t that the more important thing, after all? And I can’t focus on something that’s hazy and gray. Not at all. I can focus, and I’ll give my one hundred and fifty-seven percent best, to the people I care about. Caring doesn’t come easily, though. I don’t just start caring about everyone I meet. I care about the people who start with a firm answer, a yes, and show up.

So now, with that, I want to tell you about how a new series of events is getting conceptualized and planned.

Designing space for intentional moments

HOW MANY COFFEE DATES does it take to get to know someone enough to start to talk about Real things, as in, for Real? For me, it’s sometimes infinity: I feel I can’t quite “get there” because we’ve gone too far down the road of the mundane day-to-day. And I would really rather be by myself if I have to be honest about it. If it’s about making friendships with people who aren’t gonna be people who do what they say they will, well, I’d rather finish reading my copy of You Can’t Go Home Again, rereading Flatland, writing my columns for various places, or dusting around the house. No, really. I like listening to my music and dancing around the apartment.

THEME for ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY. What’s normal? Why do we think so?

Here’s the craic. Can we design space for true moments of real insight? As in, gain self-awareness in a flash because we suddenly have room and “safe space” to talk about things that we care about? I’ve been playing with this idea through some experiments in 2014: conversation installations. (See dipikakohli.com). Now I want to get a little more focused and create 16 specific events, where I invite 16 people personally, because really it’s about the eye contact and “I know you a little but I want to know you better” kinds of feelings that I have that make me want to select certain people to bring into this space.

In other words, ‘N’ is about creating MOMENTS of CONNECTION. As in, when we meet other people in a Designed Space that is conducive to deep conversations. I want to really engage people in a conversation space that will have a style not unlike some of the workshops I’ve hosted in the past, but also, lots of room for improvisation, too.

The culture of maybe and why it’s ruining stuff

I AM REALLY DISCOVERING that the culture of Maybe is ruining great conversations, getting in the way of quality relationship-making, too. I’m not quite sure how it got this way, but I’m determined to try ‘N’ in order to combat it, at least a little.

When we say “Yes” I’d like to believe we mean it. When we say “I hear you” I’d like to believe we are really listening. When we are talking together in a way that lets us not only truly listen but also feel heard, we can discover something new that we perhaps didn’t see before.

The thing that exists between us all, the collective “wisdom,” you could say, that’s there… it’s so beautiful when we can simply feel, in some way, that we belong to something. But the culture of Maybe and the things that we are Consuming (visually, emotionally), well, they don’t make it easy to do this thing that we can do when we meet and simply talk.

Maybe it’s my grandmother’s words, about how when she walked down the street from her apartment in Delhi, she felt like she could sit and have tea with a few other ladies to vent a bit and make sense of their experiences, together.

How did we lose this simple thing? This sense of community… this sense of connecting because we are in the same place, the same time, the same cultural surrounds.

Even if we are from very different places (ages, nations, philosophies), we can still connect… That’s why the tickets I’ve made for ‘N’ are collages. A small part of me is in a part of you, and a part of you is in a part of me. So we have the bits from pages distributed through the 16 unique invitations.

More is cooking, more is coming and definitely there will be more to talk about as this gets underway more fully. But for now, I want to just let you know a little about the ‘why’ of all this N stuff. The whole thing is coming together in a way that nothing ever has in our work here at Design Kompany. Is this because it’s coming straight from the heart, as a kind of installation art thing, and a conceptual work, rather than a for-a-client commissioned piece? I’m not sure.

I can honestly say I care a lot about the commissions we take on here lately, because, in part, there are very few of them and they’re very carefully selected. Do I think we’ll be a good fit? Do I think I can deliver what’s truly my best work to you? Do you think you’ll be there to receive it, which is let’s face it, the hard part to know way up front at the start of a thing. But ‘N.’ ‘N’ is for all the 256 people I haven’t met yet. In the 16 “moments” we’ll be creating, together.

Pretty nerdy, right? Ah, that’s okay. I’m learning to embrace my inner nerd.

Gonna do this. And if I say I will do something, that means I will. For sure. And not maybe. —DK

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