MAKE A SPACE for reflection in this relaxed, prompt-led evening workshop.
SELF offers you a chance for you to discover, along with a small group of new and different others, a Concept of You. Built from 10 years of experience designing brand identities for curious and inquiring people in Seattle and, more recently, hosting conversation salons on a wide mix of topics to explore ways of talking together in Bangkok, Malmoe, and Phnom Penh. Walk away with a clear, three-word summary that describes with flair and accuracy Who You Really Are. ‘To thine own self, be true,’ et al. Application required, very limited seats, advance bookings only. Apply here.
Image: ‘Magazine pieces’ from the Distracte series by Design Kompany 2015
‘I know you think so, and maybe it’s true for you and for some of the people you’ve worked with through the ecourses, with the magazine… is it a magazine? Yeah, okay, yeah. So, like, what is in it for them? What do they get out of it?’
‘People like these.’
‘I know they like them. But do you know? What they are joining for?’
‘Weak. And you can’t prove it.’
‘No. Nobody knows you from anybody else, and you’re not famous, and you don’t aspire to be on Oprah, so you can’t go that route, you know? You have to be a real person who has a real thing that works for people. Remember what SN had said? Solutions to the right problems that users love to use. That’s design. That’s innovation.’
‘SN is so smart. We’re really lucky we got to learn from him, wow. Meantime I am learning from every single person I meet, who comes through these different salons and eWorkshops and stuff like that. I get it. I get it that people are looking for a new way to find new thoughts and to inspire themselves and that kind of jazz. And that most stuff is overdone, overprescribed and way too high-level commitment… I don’t know. Then you get just… well. It’s contrived. I think the opportunity for mixing to happen amongst groups is a big part of why I do these. Okay, you’re looking at me like, you don’t care why I do these. You want to know why they should care. I see. yes. I think I should really visit that. But… I think it’s because I personally invite them.’
‘No. That’s never it.’
‘Then, it’s because they want to actually get to their projects, but maybe don’t know how to start? Maybe they’re afraid of not finishing, or maybe not doing their work well…’
‘Now, that’s the start of something! Tell me more.’
‘Well, when I get going with these, I notice people say how they appreciate the reminders that float by every week, the ones that come from PayPal, even, that let them know they’ve committed to something. I mean, MH had written that, that there was this kind of accountability partnering that was good about it. This was 2014, so it was all still new, but it’s becoming more short-course stuff so people can feel like they are getting to things, and making progress, even though everything I send is designed to be complete-able within 20 minutes. Just that. It’s not a big ask to make 20 minutes of time out of your week to show up for something you care about, but is maybe in that ‘important but not urgent’ category. Know what I’m talking about? That quadrant thingy? Yeah… I think that is a big part of it. Finishes are tough to come by. But starts are even harder, for so many of us. There’s this paralysis, see, because there are so many options out there. That Q&A with MS recently, that was really great. I learned and saw how one person tackles the starting to start question, the how do I decide on where to begin massive thing that I think is daunting, for a lot of people… doesn’t matter who they are anymore… or where they’re coming from, or what their work is. Project management is constantly being intruded upon by messages blipping out of the aetherspace, commanding their attention. People worry that my projects with them online will take up even more time or be even more e stuff to do, but to be honest, ti’s like a project management kind of a thing for people, in the end. It’s a real person, prompting you to do the thing you’ve committed to doing. you’ve committed to yourself, to show up. And I see now that more than ever this is the crux of it. The pain of starting. The nudge is needed, to get going. Once you do, it’s much easier. But that first step, wow. People really want to do things like write and reflect and journal. Intellectually. Theoretically. But will they make the time? I don’t know about you but I find a lot of talking about this and very little actual doing, when I look around amongst the people whom, for the last 20 years or so, are talking about making but not getting to it. Not getting started.’
‘Know what I mean?’
‘Yeah. You’re the one that says, Okay, let’s do this. Let’s get started.’
‘That’s exactly what I do. That’s exactly who I am. But I don’t leave people after they join, of course. It’s a 1:1 dialogue for a while, and sometimes it becomes bigger, if and when people are ready for meeting and engaging with new and different others. For inspiration.’
‘Is that it? Inspiration?’
‘People who need inspiration? Yeah. That’s another whole group I can help. Definitely.’
‘But people would say they don’t need inspiration. They would say they don’t need help getting started. What would you say to them?’
‘I’d say, okay, great. Do it. But if you haven’t done it and it’s a year later, let’s talk.’ Making it up as we go >
I AM WRITING FROM MY ROOM, and it’s morning, and there is a rooster telling me so. Except that rooster isn’t the first one up, usually. All of the other people in the house are already out. I heard that there was going to be some commotion, later in the morning. That people would be coming by to pick up some stuff, and move it out. Somebody else’s stuff. That’s been here since before I was, because this is a new living space.
This is a new chapter.
I guess you could define chapters of your life in that way, huh. By places where you’ve lived. Not just cities. Cities are great, cities are fantastic, but cities, I’m realizing the more I write about the things I care about from them, are no longer the same places they used to be. For me. I can’t speak for everyone, and I certainly can’t pretend to know something. But my particular experiences have led me to see that the city isn’t where, long term, I personally want to be. I think I had a hunch about this in New York City in the late 1990s when I was looking for the big road to the gold and the art world. Just writing that now seems funny and strange, and a little bit embarrassing, too. Growing up on the East Coast, though, New York was ‘it.’ Where you wanted to be if you wanted to be anybody in the arts. That was the programming. That was the conditioning. And now, I think about all that and pore through the pages of The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain, which my boss loans me, and points out the stories that are very good (‘Did you read “A Dog’s Tale?” Did you read “Is He Living or Is He Dead?” I go and read IHLOIHD and I laugh out loud and then blink: it’s the plotline for Posthumous! Then I read ADT and absolutely cry of indignation. I burst out my most bursting-out voice and the boss looks at me, and this time he blinks. Slow. ‘Some rich people are good,’ he says, sagely. That is the thing about bosses. They just know things, somehow.)
But the changing of chapters is where, I think, the good stuff is. Was it on the internet, or in a QM book, where I read: ‘Life happens on the edge of a change of state.’ Like, water boiling into gas, or gas turning into ice. Change of state. Transition. Life happens there. I remember being in Japan, this would also be in the 1990s. When I was studying in Kyoto. I remember Japan, because it was before New York, and I had never even been to NYC before I’d been to Tokyo. The falling-in-love with the city happened there. I know. A lot of people are like, ‘Tokyo?’ But the skylines and the things there were to draw with the line and photograph with the eye were multitudinous and out of my usual scape of seeing. That was why I stayed on, for a little while longer than I’d meant. Got to know the city well, got to hang out in Ueno often, got to see people and build a small life and meet people, and then meet them again, and in this small way, turn the place I found intriguing into a sort of a village. A place I could relax, a little, even if it was extremely lonely, most of the time. That was before internet. I can’t imagine what it must be like, now… I guess the internet is great though in some ways because I can live in a not-big city and run into people and run into them again and meet over time and then feel, in some way, a sense of connection and belonging. Even if this isn’t my town. Even if this isn’t even ‘my’ country. Less and less claim on the boundaries, now. I don’t have to wonder about the ‘where I’m from’ question as much as dive more deeply into the more important one, for me. The ‘who am I’ question. Which, obviously, can rustle people up if you start asking all about it. Who are you? What do you care about? What makes you move, sing, fly, dance, love? These are too big of a place to start with so many people, of course, but I am deeply curious about people and asking is how I learn, so that’s why I got into writing, and that’s why I got away from Tokyo. I couldn’t ask anything. I got away from New York, too, for the same reason. ‘Who are you? What do you want from me?’ F, f, f. So I went home and found the rest of the story waiting for me in the cupboards of the dusty room where I used to be when I was a pre-teen and then a teen and the magazines I’d collected. And then I started cutting them up. Bit by bit. The programming, the conditioning. Snip, snip, snip. The way women are portrayed, the way they are showcased, objectified. Men are also showcased, successified. There is something wrong here, I think, but not in words. I just cut and paste and write little things in comics and wonder if anyone will laugh along with me, but I’m cutting and pasting all winter long and then part of the spring, and then my parents ask me when I’m going to leave, already. So I do. I go away, not sure where. Without a plan. No idea. Thinking about how to turn DK into something ‘else.’ But not doing it, not until I find the right mode, the right impetus, for the thing to come. The change of state. Not just to Washington, but this time, further. Asia. Like, for a while. Like indefinitely. I go on a tour.
SLOWLY, THROUGH THE DISTANCE, the fog clears. This happens in Gangtok. It’s October, probably my favorite month. October 2013. I write a piece called “Cloudy feathers in Gangtok” and describe pigeons on roofs and the feeling of the mist on my face, and the way the light pinkens the tip of Mount Kanchenjunga, sending me into the tizzy that will not let me come back, not ever, to believing in anything I can’t see with my own eyes, or feel anything I haven’t felt in my own heart. There are sweaters in the suitcases in Delhi but those are heavy and far from where I am, and we are, because I always travel with Boss. Obviously. We are carrying around the people and places that matter most to us, no matter where we are. No matter where we go. Going is part of the work, though. Just like we are doing all this emailing to people to ask if they might like to come to ‘N’ in London and Copenhagen and later, Hanoi and Bologna and New York (see the pattern there?) is work in the other kind of way. Practicing the art of being there, showing up. Saying hi. This is hard for me, especially since 2016 has been, so far, a year of introversion. I mean, really. It’s actually not very good. I am the kind of person who needs new input all the time, so that is why the City was so appealing. But trips to Europe in recentish months have shown me that the City of old, the one where there is ‘energy and buzz and cool art,’ is really not that anymore. It’s just a marketplace. All reduced down, in that way, in my opinions. Everything is an opinion, though, that anyone writes. And media isn’t media anymore, or maybe it never was, and social media isn’t newsy, because I followed someone’s recommendation to the wrong part of the city for a snatch of breakfast and it was weird. It was like, ‘So now what.’ And then you go back to that old awareness. Nothing is for real, everything is subjective. An observer, observing a system, changes the system.
MOVERS CAME TO THE HOUSE AND TOOK HALF OF SOME STUFF that’s been stored behind the grand staircase away. I had wondered about it. Because the blockage of the front passageway in a home is bad feng shui. I’m not schooled in feng shui, but I do design spaces, and I’m sharing some of what the feeling of my ‘rooms’ for conversations and the installations and the once-off ‘events,’ which are really more, in my opinion, like ‘happenings,’ which are about people and connection and the shape of space, and the conversation, and the moment and the whohappenstobethere and not overly designed but half improvised, half make it up as you go, those are where I am learning how to place things and create the lighting and set the stage for these great moments to happen. Because it’s design. The architecture of the interstitial. Whoa. If that’s not esoteric, I don’t know what is. And I would never, ever block the front passageway. That just stifles. That stiffens, stagnates. It’s not a good thing. I open the windows of the room and let the air cross-ventilate, when it’s not raining so hard the drops poke their hands in and get on all my bajillions of scraps of this and nostalgia snips and the cut-up magazines from glossies that adorn most any of the many rooms and rooms of the chapters and chapters of the where I go, where I am, looking for Self in the Other, discovering the Stillness in the attentiveness to the Shape of Space. It’s getting there. Slowly, surely. I’m learning and changing, every day. To the journey, then. To boss-men, new old classics, text and the story to come. I don’t know where will be next.
But I’m going to investigate.
And learn. And think about the Next.
Because of course there will be one, and not in the too-far future. The only thing that will need to happen is the deciding and doing part. The beginning, as they say, is half of every journey.
‘You know. People in their thirties, for example. Mostly those ones. They get all weirded out and want to investigate every opportunity in the universe. But they don’t actually decide on anything. And then, when they don’t, they can’t really… well, I don’t wanna judge or anything, but they seem… really… um… Well, it’s not nice but… confused. Or at least… something that… Hm. Let me put it this way. I wish people could just relax, you know? And notice that if you want less, you can experience more.’
But really I love millenials, I think
‘SO I’VE JUST DECIDED. I’M NOT GOING TO TALK TO THEM. Okay. Maybe that’s not fair.’
‘But really, what it comes down to, I think, what I’ve learned from 20 years of design, is that it’s about editing. What was that famous quote? About essentials?’
‘Simplicate and add lightness?’
‘No, no, the other one.’
‘Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away …’
‘But distractions get in the way. Other options are distractions. FOMO is a distraction.’
‘And phones. PHONES. What really kills me is the phone thing. How a phone becomes a kind of appendage and it’s weird, you know?’
‘I can’t do it anymore. They talk to you while they’re looking at screens. It’s so awkward. How can you have a quality conversation with that kind of stuff going on?’
(you don’t have to take my word. you wanna hear it from someone else? Like this famous white dude?)
‘I’m not saying they have to pay attention to me or anything, well, maybe I am saying that, but yeah. Okay. But I am saying… well, there is this other person sitting there and looking at you and giving you their whole attention and well, it’s just… it’s annoying. I think it’s a different kind of culture. Yeah, if I put it that way, it’s not personal. Anyway, I can’t be bothered.’
‘You sound like you’ve made up your mind.’
‘I think [Millenials] could use some simple framing. Simplicity-making. To get clarity on things. Anyway I like the new young people. The like, 22 year old and stuff ones. They don’t talk with their screens always on and poking at you, like it’s no big deal to call up a picture of someplace to illustrate with a digital thingy what they want to tell you. Like information is more important.Than eye contact. But the younger ones, they actually look at you. And listen. They listen! I’m…. I was really shocked when I met a few, this past trip to Europe. I met them and they listened. Like—without phone-checking.’
‘Phones. Bother you, huh.’
‘Yeah. I don’t have one.’
‘You don’t have a phone?’
‘… wait. How does that work?’
‘It’s not that complicated. It’s like the nineties, is all.’
Phoneless in Phnom Penh
‘YOU ASK THE YOUNG TWENTYSOMETHINGS simple questions and they don’t go all frenetic on you. You can be pointed. You can say, ‘What are you worried about?” or “What’s next?” You don’t have to worry that they’ll take it like you’re their uncle and interrogating them. They accept the challenge of it, and answer honestly. They really do. They entertain the questions and they are careful in their response-making. They don’t waste their breath or get all crazy about FOMO. They just don’t. I like that. I like these new people, coming up.’
‘So what are you going to do?’
‘Okay. Well,. I think I’ll do SELF.’
‘For the Millenials?’
‘Mostly. Yeah. Or for whoever thinks it’s cool to think about things slowly and work out what’s important to them.’
‘What’s it about?’
S P A C E.
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THIS POST originally appeared in our online eZine, S. P. A. C. E. Get it and discover what people around the world are saying about their creative process, when you become a patron of DK.
We’re thinking of creating custom writing prompts for the people who are interested in making space and time for serious, quality self-reflection.
It’s not for everyone, of course. Most people, I’m learning, really hate the idea of starting this kind of thing. Even though they know it’s good for them.
Like vitamins and yoga, journaling is this ‘extra’ thing that no one really seems to prioritize. Even though people at the forefront of business, technology and artistic pursuits know that you need to focus. Focus, focus, focus. When you do, you can move with clarity on the path that moves you to the mountain instead of distracts you from your own inner desires—even when you don’t name them explicitly, something in you knows that you are supposed to be doing something else with your life.
How will you use your gift of human life? asks Kathleen Singh, a writer I’d corresponded with back in the day when we were designing the first prompts for this project.
PRESENTLY DK now works, for the most part, P2P. Not B2B. Relationships! Relationships are everything. They matter. Big time.
Yet the fabric that is getting made as we knit a new network, one in which creative people everywhere are part of an ambient, ongoing weekly conversation, I don’t know yet what it will look like, exactly. I just know that it’s important to keep sharing about it, because sharing is the village.
So that’s part of why. The change. To this magazine, from a design commission sort of arrangement for our clients.
Instead of businesses and owners, I now work with individuals. 1:1.
Now, more than ever, I am enjoying P2P conversations.
That, I think, is where I can see myself being useful to you. Content sharing. The prompts are good ones and the short-form eWorkshop, which I’d sent the link to, is a streamlined 8-week sequence.
I’ve hosted THE MIRROR now twice. Really it works. And the people who like it tend to be interested in actually doing the big work. Actually writing. 🙂
Next up is a world in which we can design our own roles in conversation that’s hosted, guided and N:N. International. Creative people connecting, around the world, one designful moment at a time. Who wants to do this with me? —DK