I have found the workshop “Meaningful Work and Money” while researching cultural events and activities in the city of Amsterdam. First liner: “How to do what you love, contribute to society and make it your living?”. In my head, a bright light immediately went on. THIS IS WHAT I NEED. Just a little context for the ones who are here for the first time: I am at a turning point at Amsterdive. I want to continue writing and creating content for this beloved platform of mine, but it is time to take it a step further. I want to make it my job. I already spend the majority of my time over here, which means that I do need to start translating this work into money. But how?
Back to the story. I find this event on Facebook. Next thing I know, I am writing a proposal to the organizers – Atanas Genkov and Maaike Boumans. I wanted to attend the workshop and write about it. They said yes. Off I went, on a rainy Saturday morning, to the space of the Metabolic Lab, at De Ceuvel, an old shipyard in Amsterdam North converted in a hub for all things sustainable. The Metabolic Lab is a living laboratory which provides education and consultancy in applied sustainability, circular economy and clean technology. The setting we were at was thus as inspirational as you can get.
We sat in a circle the 13 of us – magic number, by the way – and we started by reflecting on what had brought each one of us there. The circle practice is an ancient tradition that gathers people in a meeting, fostering peaceful communication and understanding. Therefore every participant is invited to listen with attention, speak with intention, and attend to the well-being of the whole. We weren’t a shy group. Everyone jumped right in, sharing their stories, ideas, challenges and doubts, pouring their hearts into the centre of the circle – the core to which all energies converge and that holds the group together.
Some historical context based on the book “Sapiens – a brief history of humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari helped us look at how our thinking about work and money changed over time. We also redefined or clarified what money means for each one of us. I soon realized that the facilitators of the workshop wouldn’t be giving us ready-made answers. Instead, they would be stimulating us to find our own. We were provided thinking tools and a bunch of insightful self-development exercises. We dived deep. It was especially powerful when we worked in pairs and listened to our partner telling us about their gifts and about something they were especially proud of in their path. It can be quite challenging to open up about something like this. Likewise, we are generally used to be opinionated, but to really listen less so. Next, we exchanged roles and repeated the exercise. Finally, we gave feedback to our partner, following the same talking/listening logic. By supporting our partner with the quality of our full attention, not talking or interrupting, we created a moment of total openness, full presence, and unexpected intimacy. It was transformative. Atanas and Maaike had managed to arouse an environment that fostered trust and connection, creating the conditions for one’s inner truths to manifest. By then I was already feeling it had been worthy to attend the workshop.
At present, Amsterdive is my definition of meaningful work. This is the main platform where I can put to use what I have identified as my gifts: writing, acting, in short, communicating with people in a creative manner. This part was quite clear to me. Some of the participants had to dig in the topic a little bit more. So I went straight to formulating my mission and my vision for this project, checking also what my current reality is. Brainstorming was an important part of the process as well, and working in groups helped immensely in this phase. Finally, we had to decide what our “next wise step” would be. Everyone got incredibly supportive of each other’s ideas and projects.
It was so interesting to see how everyone deals with similar questions, as opposed to acting the traditional way like you’ve got it all figured out (and then feeling super misaligned, like you’re the only one doubting, struggling, the only one walking an off the beaten path). We all had our own challenges as to finding work that is fulfilling or the correlation with the financial compensation it provides – isn’t this THE TOPIC in western societies at this moment in time? Acknowledging our strengths and vulnerabilities, sharing our vision with others, proved not only empowering to oneself but to the people around us as well (#inspirationboost). By the end of the day, I went home with a plan and twelve new friends who had hugged each other goodbye in tears.
Next workshop on “Meaningful Work and Money” will take place the coming Sunday, November 19, at the amazing Metabolic Lab. Here’s the news: this is going to be a pay-as-you-feel edition. You are going to be asked a fix twenty euro fee just to cover costs. After the event, you can decide how much you are willing to pay for it.
I leave you with a poem which Maaike read aloud to all of us:
You must learn one thing
the world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your own aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
Below, the interview I improvised with Atanas and Maaike, at the end of the workshop: