I reckon the best way to start this cluster of posts would be with the start of the course, my expectations and subsequent relief at being in a room with like-minded people.
I really didn't know what to expect from the Clore experience. I was thinking of it as being a bit like being part of Santander's '1-2-3 World' only without the customer service issues and misplaced suspicion of my desire for contactless payment. The 'Clore world' is something I knew a bit about as I have come across a couple of Clore fellows in my work and a colleague had just taken part in the Short Course. I now know that there is a network of over 1,500 Clore alumni in the arts, which is a pretty nifty network!
All the advice I was given was to prepare for a great week and to expect to cry. Both of those happened and, in retrospect, I think it was a good idea to go in to it without many expectations or preparations.
On the first day, our wonderful facilitators, Amanda and Fearghus, got us all to write down our hopes for the course and our fears on post-it notes and add them to flip-charts. The result is below:
You'll note that there are far fewer fears (on the left) than hopes. We were all really excited to be there and very hopeful for what the week might bring. We had some time to read all of the post-its and people spent a lot longer reading the fears than the hopes - were we satisfying ourselves that we were 'normal'? At the end of the week we looked at these again and, while some of our fears had come true, they weren't that bad and all of our hopes had come true, with more besides.
What this exercise showed us was that we were all in the same boat and, although we all came from very different backgrounds, locations, jobs and sectors, we were fundamentally very similar. The next exercise showed this again. We were asked to do some connections speed dating where we had a minute to find out what we had in common with each person. This resulted in this map:
There was more but it was giant. This very simple exercise showed that we are all linked in some way and more and more connections became clear during the week. Two of the participants had been in my building in the last month - it really is a very small world and that is a valuable thing to remember when you feel alone or at sea with your career.
A really important point on the first day was learning about 'stretch.' We were told that we should try to be in 'stretch' during the week and that if we slid into 'panic' it was ok but try not to conduct the whole week from your 'comfort zone'. I was foolishly concerned that I would be in my 'comfort zone' most of the time and would struggle to push myself into 'stretch' - how wrong could I be?! I can happily say that I was in 'stretch' most of the time with only one slip into 'panic'. 'Stretch' is a good place to be and where I suspect my problem solving and creativity comes to the fore. A huge positive of the week for me was the openness with which people embraced stretch and alerting others to the fact. If we declared that we were in stretch then we could support each other and recognise that what we were doing might be ok for you but was really pushing someone else to deal with an uncomfortable experience. This is something I wish we were all a bit more open about at work.
The lessons and exercises on the first day really started the week off on a very open footing and demonstrated to us that there are like-minded people out there, you just have to be open enough to communicate with them.