Our time in Esperanza has come to an end. As we get into our last week in the Dominican Republic, I feel that Kirsten, Kevin and I have a bunch of epiphanies about what the ‘whys’ ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of delivering projects. We tend to be too ‘high’ in our moments of panic and glory to really understand what we should be taking out of our experiences. Instead, the most interesting reflections we have had emerged in the many day and night ‘debriefing’ sessions (this brilliant sessions usually entail A LOT of laughter, music, claps, and ridiculous tangents).
This entry sums up some of our reflections. Kirsten, Kevin and I seem to agree on these 7 points but I am sure there are a lot they have to add. Anyhow- here we go.
1) Manage your expectations
This point has a lot of different facets to it. Travelling and working on projects is freaking exciting (If you love Recrear there is simply not questioning this statement). It is normal to have expectations- about the way you are going to feel, about the culture you are getting in, about your team’s dynamics, your projects, your target group- about pretty much everything. Excitement and adrenaline are oxygen for projects. But we are finding that our capacity to reassess our expectations is an even greater asset than the excitement itself.
Personally, I tend to end up feeling more fulfilled than I initially expected. At the same time, there is very high degree of fluidly to the work we are doing, and it is important to roll with it. There is an infinite number of dynamics you should be able to control in order to make things run smoothly at all times. Realistically, plan as much as you can yet still expect chaos. In this way, you will feel reassured by what works out as you planned out, and less frustrated when things take another direction. With this more realistic expectation you will be able to fully appreciate those priceless moments (that seem to be quite frequent in our experience) where things don’t go as planned at all- but they just randomly (?) end up being even more epic than you could have ever anticipated. The most precious moments are those hidden in the pocket of your projects. For me, for example, they tend to be the powerful side conversations that start from unexpectedly insightful and ‘on point’ questions by participant.
Delivering RecrearParticipacion, we have been listing to and developing people’s project ideas. Thinking about other’s opportunities is like feeding coins in a vending machine of ideas; your entrepreneurial side risks getting an overdose of creativity. For us in this past week the rule of thumb to decide what can we discuss, think about and explore has been one: ‘how much energy do you have before you pass out with your flipcharts on the bed and your hands still on your laptop?’ This strategy might now be the most efficient; we are yet to learn all the tricks. I am aware I need to manage my frustration when I feel I cannot do as much as I would like to. Yet, this does not mean I will be less excited and willing to celebrate every little success we have, whether it is expected or not.
So to sum up, manage your expectation carefully- but take celebration seriously.
2) Be flexible
This lesson alone is basically the ABC of any project (life included). Again, things get messy at times. The people you work with and for should be the compass of your flexibility. At times, you will look at who is in front of you and realize that you need to throw all what you have planned out the window and play by ear. Other times, you might see great opportunities and you just need to embrace it and try doing a lot more than you expected. For me it is important to step into a session and ask: ‘how can we make the most out of today considering the group, our resources, the energy level, the space we are working in etc. etc.?’. Of course, this is easier said than done…
Flexibility is not only essential during sessions, it is basically a 24/7 mantra. It entails resourcefulness and patience. For example, we prepared power point and prezi presentations to deliver during Recrear Partecipacion- in English. Today, we managed a session with no projector, no flipcharts or markers and… in French! Post freak out, resourcefulness is a natural instinctive reaction. Basically, the trick is just to avoid the freak out directly- or at least, to reduce it to bare minimum.
Patience, at least for me, is a tougher component of flexibility. Frustration, says my dictionary, is caused by the ‘inability to change or achieve something’. Basically, under stress and unpredictable circumstances a little of frustration is a natural body function. When you are working as closely as we are with a group of people, there is little you can do without coordination. The sense of codependency and lack of control for the dynamics that dictate your work and your day can make one feel very fragile. Yet, being impatient brings only more impatience. Instead, the willingness to play along, compromise and follow the flow is a wise investment.
Oh well, I guess these 7 lessons are not a quick deal. Kirsten and Kevin have been snoring for a while, the remaining ten will be posted daily. Check back to learn all 7.