I designed the course SELF as a commission. This was for VIA Program at Stanford University, in the summer of 2014. I was invited to go there, live with the students, and work together with the other people who were also flying in to create a very high-quality set of workshops. This was a 9-week experiential learning program and my first time co-living with the people who were taking part. They were about 30 people in their twenties, mostly, who were discovering things about the Bay Area’s startup and business scene, and I was invited to find a way to add a ‘personal development’ component to their daily routine. In the end, I decided toe moly the ‘Open Space Technology’ tool of ‘the unconference,’ which allowed participants to set the agenda and for me to simply host the space in the way that 15+ years of experience in design, journalism, and even the occasional summer teaching project, like this one was, has helped me develop and refine in my career, so far.
I have since hosted SELF in a variety of other formats.
- In coordination with the Neilson Hays Library in Bangkok, I have hosted SELF on two occasions. I did this in 2014, after the program in Palo Alto, as a 3-hour mini-workshop, ‘SELF.’ This, and the next year’s program, too, were real life explorations that we made space for together, in order to help people write their life stories. More specifically, I had wanted to help them find their ‘self concept.’ This was the invitation: Modern life is always pushing us towards being ‘busy,’ but how can we decide where to focus our efforts without taking a high quality look back. When you register for SELF, we’ll send you the 4-step workbook by email, which you can get started on ahead of the workshop. At the workshop, we’ll go through 4 more tools that you can use right away, on the spot. We’ll do this in a small group and find our way to sharing, in the wrap session, the shorthand answer to the question, ‘Who is the real me?’
- SELF was a 12-week online workshop, too. I still sometimes share that with people who are part of the circles of ongoing conversations, in which we talk, together, one week at a time in the protected-page posts at Design Kompany.
‘Overcome my fear of writing’
I AM WRITING because I wanted to thank you all for sharing ideas and memoirs, I am very much impressed and really enjoyed the workshop [SELF]. I’ve been working on my writing, and finished one short story which I feel so happy after I finished writing it (it’s in Thai.) I’m working on its English version pretty soon and will send to you all for the feedback. Bottom line is I’m happy to let you know that I’ve somehow overcome my fear of writing, though there’re times when I got stuck with the stories, get distracted, or feel like it’s not good enough – if it was before, I was just going to give up. Now, I feel it challenged me and I find writing more enjoyable. Most importantly, I feel like my writing is getting better too. –J. Lee, Bangkok, 2014
Meeting so many kinds of people at different walks of life was inspiring, because people who show up (I call this ‘self-selection’) are the sorts of people who are looking to explore and get to know others interested in also exploring. Making oneself available to come to an event that seemed to hint at others also taking a chance on trying new things did something very important. It showed me that the barriers to me doing what I want to do creatively start right here, with myself. A skeptic inside fights the opportunities that arise… I have seen people wanting to write but doubting themselves and I guess I saw myself in their eyes and decided it’s time to kill my doubts and take more chances. I also feel the need to get to know more creative people, not necessarily writers but all sorts of creators. It motivates me, makes me feel like I am part of something great.’ –D, Bangkok, 2015
‘Structure and accountability’
I’ve been participating in Dipika Kohli’s CoJournal* project since just before the new year. It’s a unique project and it’s pretty special. If you’ve been looking for some structure or accountability in your writing – and supportive community in very small groups, this could be for you. Dipika is a compassionate leader and offers some accessible assignments that are helping to shift my writing lens. I love it.
*Before hosting SELF in real life, I had been running an online project each week, from late 2013, through 2014. It was called ‘The Cojournal Project.’ Lately, this has changed in form. Now we are hosting it as a very small circle of just four, in ‘Interactive Papers‘.