My father passed away when I was 13 years old. This acquainted me with death at an early age. It taught me to grieve loss. I consciously decided that God was my father, and though my view of God shifted dramatically in the years that followed, I retain that trust in a greater loving power to this day. My limited spiritual belief in my youth made my world small. As I have grown, my capacity to include many perspectives has also grown exponentially.
During my teen years I experienced the radical transformation of South Africa from a white, dominant Apartheid regime to an inclusive democracy. This experience shifted my view of cultural and racial difference. Ever since then I’ve wanted to play a role in connecting and healing relationships between individuals and groups that are in conflict.
During high school outreaches to Lesotho and Zimbabwe, in which we lived with communities who where vastly different to my own, my perception of people who are different to me completely changed. I realized that even though we are radically different we are still united in our shared humanity. If God is my father, the world and its people are my family. The world was bigger than just me, and what I wanted from life.
After school I joined a performing arts youth ministry. This led to my first of many transformations through the arts.
One of the areas I performed in was children’s theatre and this sparked my interest in Improvisation, as the skits were mostly improvised. After 2 years of fulltime youth ministry I went to North West University to study Organisational Psychology. During that time I started an Improv theatre group with 4 of my friends. After finishing my degree I joined the performing arts youth ministry again and formed part of a team that performed at youth conferences and youth camps in the USA. I taught improv theatre at youth camps. Through my studying of improv books I made the connection between Improvisation and Organizational Psychology. If improvisers could develop the skill to collaborate and co-create so effectively under pressure this skill could be taught to any team using improv principles and exercises. I felt deeply inspired to take improv off the stage and into the world.
I went on to complete my masters degree in Organizational Psychology and the topic for my thesis was “The influence of Improvisational theatre techniques on the climate for innovation in teams”
The years of my masters was challenging. I had to motivate myself and bring theory and practice together. I didn’t see myself as an academic that could do research and write in academic language. But one day I realized I don’t have to be an academic, I could just play the role of one. I also realized that I could view the process of doing research in a different light, I could see it as a game like a treasure hunt and every new discovery I made was like finding treasure. After that I started to enjoy the process even though it was still very hard work that required a lot of perseverance.
After completing my masters and doing my Organizational Psychology internship at a multinational corporate I co-founded a learning and development consultancy that used Applied Theatre techniques. Building a business with a very alternative service was extremely exciting and challenging. We constantly had to learn new skills and adapt to improve and develop our offer.
In the year that I started my business I met my wife. This was another call from life to transform who I thought I was. I saw myself as a carefree singleton and the idea of getting married and being committed to one person for the rest of my life caused panic and the engagement was intensely challenging. It was a true liminal space. I managed to integrate freedom into this commitment, and this opened up a whole new adventure and a new me. I was now part of a “we”.
My wife fell pregnant with our twin girls a year later. We made a decision that she would resign from her job to be with our daughters. This meant that I had to effectively double my income to support the family. My business was growing slowly but I was very optimistic. Two years later I still hadn’t managed to achieve this and we had accumulated a fair amount of debt. We made a plan that my wife would go back to work. However life had a different agenda, my wife fell unexpectedly pregnant with our son. I was anxious and felt overwhelmed by increasing responsibility to take care of a family with a business that wasn’t yet providing me with the financial resources that we needed. I felt smothered by the responsibility and that I couldn’t be myself. I felt the urge to just run away. Yet again I found myself in a liminal space. Having a coach really helped me to see how my current life situation wasn’t preventing me from being myself but rather a call to transform and expand, to grow more into myself. The coaching helped me to identify practical actions I could take to manage my anxiety like spending time in the mountain. In these periods of solitude I found creative ideas to reinvent myself and take my business in a new direction.
During one of these expeditions to the mountain I sat in a large oak tree. I saw a father and son ride their mountain bikes below me. My perspective about becoming a father to a son completely shifted. Today I enjoy the presence of my son so much and I can’t imagine that I was ever anxious about his arrival. We’re now even considering having a fourth child.
To this day whenever I feel anxious about liminal spaces like uncertainty created by unexpected changes, challenges that push me to the limit of my beliefs or difficult relationships I go to the mountain to be quiet and meditate. I always return with new insight, energy and inspiration.
Today just like I made peace with the fact that I don’t have complete vision of the physical world I’ve made peace with not having perfect vision of what the future might bring. All I know is that I have everything I need for the present moment and that is enough.