A Controversial Optimist

Yes, I am living in the reality of a once in a lifetime global disaster. I am staying home to save lives as millions of others in this and other countries worldwide.

Yes, I am working from home, doing the best I can to keep my business running, to stay focussed and not to panic in such a way that it paralysis my mind.

Yes, I am a small business owner with outstanding invoices owed to me by other small business owners in the same un-asked-for reality of zero business activity for weeks…

Yes, I have taken whatever activities, services, and offerings online – some even new, creative ways of serving my clients – into the virtual reality of the internet. In most cases, it currently does not pay off at all. I think most people are not sure what to expect, how long it will last, how it will end and what will be left after it ends.

You might have experienced this yourself during (virtual) lock-down meetings. All conversations normally start with: “Hi, how are you holding up? You guys okay?” The answers normally vary – some focus on their personal health and that of their family, others confess that they are struggling with the isolation from others. And then there are the self-employed people confessing their stress of an unknown future for their business.

I’ve found myself in these types of conversations often and listen to associates in the training industry minimising the reality of social isolation and the impact on the training industry. “It’s easy – take your training online – everybody is doing it! But hurry, everybody is going to do this, so don’t wait too long to get in the game!”

Don’t get me wrong. This was part of my first contingency risk mitigation solution thoughts and actions as well… And I am sure there is a place for (some of) this.

It is not business as usual – even if taken online. Virtual meetings help us to stay in conversation with family, friends, colleagues and clients and without this new technology and connectivity, we might have even been in much deeper uncertainty and businesses in even a worse position.

But it is not business as usual. It is not even close. Over the past 3+ weeks, the reality of the virtual office computer screen comes with many sacrifices and side-effects. Meetings are scheduled daily and sometimes running for hours, leaving even the committed ones with headaches and the in-ability to sleep properly at night. Not only are we not used to social distancing, but we also are not used to feeding on each other’s energy, creativity, ideas and emotions through an electronic screen.

We were not built to not-connect… Human beings are wired to connect. We are meant to connect with each other – to feel and see and smell and touch each other to ‘be’. Human beings are UBUNTU…

UBUNTU refers to behaving well toward others or acting in ways that benefit the community. Such acts could be as simple as helping a stranger in need, or other more complex ways of relating to others. A person who behaves in these ways has ubuntu. He or she is a full person – I am because we are”… Umntu ngumntu ngabantu. The belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.

I play the guitar. Since 1985. Music and sport were two of the most important things in my life growing up. Later in life, I taught somebody to play the guitar who played the piano and wanted to master a new instrument. One day before we started our lesson, I’ve asked him to show me what he could do on the piano and like a true maestro, he started to play a dramatic piece of music. As his fingers confidently hit the first very low notes on the piano, my guitar – that was standing right next to it – caught the lowest notes and ‘vibrated’ a deep sound – all by itself… He immediately stopped and with great excitement explained to me the word ‘resonate’.

He explained to me that the low notes on the piano resonate with the strings of the guitar in such a way that the sound waves produced by the piano produce a deep, full, reverberating sound. A soundwave echo… The word originates from the Latin word resonate, which means ‘resound’. The guitar ‘resounded’ the notes from the piano.

This can only happen when these two instruments are in close proximity. It cannot happen over a Skype or Zoom or Google Hangouts connection far distances apart…

As people, we experience those moments in a conversation where there is an immediate and unquestioned feeling that requires no further explanation. We sometimes experience a common vibration or understanding of where the conversation is going without long explanations needed. Our thoughts become collective and resonate in a global dimension. We GET what is meant by simple words… We don’t need long windy explanations…

The proverbial nail under the butt vs the carrot in front of the nose… I always wanted to have an online, self-study training platform. I actually tried to develop one myself at some stage. A good combination of limited available time and limited available funds resulted in a great idea with a well-thought-through online platform structure – on paper… Or perhaps the carrot in front of my nose was not motivation enough at the time.

The nails all of us are sitting on (in the training industry) currently, at last, drives us to action online training platforms. I immediately started to explore options, tried to find an appropriate (free) online platform as well as the motivation and energy to ‘take it online’. But at some stage I got stuck – not online, but in my head…

The reality of the 4th Industrial Revolution was with us long before this global life-threatening crisis. We will need the new technology and highly advanced options this Revolution has to offer in order to keep producing on the modern demands. The lack of urgency until now prevented us from utilising them to our benefit! We most certainly will need this technology, but also – and maybe equally important, we will need to acquire vital skills associated with a new world-of-work reality (more about this to be discussed in future posts).

But somehow, I am a controversial optimist during these uncertain times.

I am not yet convinced that online training is the solution. Yes, it will most definitely open up more, bigger and more (further away) doors and will most certainly be a pivotal event in the history of education. But somehow I am not yet convinced…

Stick with me here for a moment…

How many people in our country have sufficient access to the knowledge, the technology, the connectivity, and the experience to turn towards an electronic training option? Does everybody have the ‘savyness’ to navigate an online learning opportunity? Of course, the business person and already-educated person will easily make the switch. But are they really the individuals that NEED the training? Are we not obliged to offer our best to those who need it most, those who need to ‘feel’ the motivation, who needs to ‘see’ the words come to life, those who depend on Ubuntu – those who learn by resonating…

Some of the most successful facilitators I’ve partnered with are not the ones with the best PowerPoint presentations or the best gadgets, but those who are tuned in to what is understood of what is communicated. Those who can ‘read the room’ and elaborate on certain concepts, move the order of content around to follow the energy flow of the room, those who can think on their feet to add the appropriate example at the appropriate time in order to create a-ha-moments of understanding…

I am a forever optimist… And in this case I am a careful pessimist…

I am carefully pessimistic. I believe we need a human connection to resonate with life, with our purpose in life and what we contribute to being Ubuntu… I am carefully pessimistic that virtual spaces are not the answer to our long-term survival as humans to thrive.

Within my circle of connections and context, I believe my voice might be controversial…

I am not convinced (as yet – if ever) that it is the end of the (training) world as we know it. In a short moment of panic, I too wanted to find a solution for my (academy’s) immediate crisis of no-activity. But as time allows clarity to settle in, I am more and more convinced every day that the answer to this reality is not in changing our methods, but rather our skills. Improved methods and technological gifts brought forth by the 4th Industrial Revolution will only support our future (training) interventions, not replace them.

I am an optimist. I believe in Ubuntu. I believe in human echoing, human resonance, human connection…

I am because we are…

I can because we can…

I learn because we learn…

I choose the optimistic path…

I choose to resonate…