My encounter with a suïcide terrorist today

This morning I was at the Central Trainstation in Amsterdam. When I came running to the platform to catch my train to Eindhoven, the doors just closed before my nose and it left without me. So, I sat down on a bench to wait for the next one in 20 minutes. No problem.

Then, I saw a small group of Arab looking men walk on the platform. They were not talking to each other, but they seemed to belong together. One of them sat down close to me. In one hand he held a cellphone, in the other a strange looking little orange device with a small digital screen and a button. He wore a long brown coat and seemed a little overweight. Or….my mind started rushing.


“What if this guy has a bomb-belt under his coat, and the little device is the trigger…?” I decided to get up and walk away from him into the station to get a coffee. When I returned, the train came in, and I watched the man and his little group of followers entering the train. I decided to see from outside where they were going to sit. They were walking at least 3 trainwagons down to the back of the train and sat down in first class. I decided to sit as far as I could to the front of the train. “At least when they blow up the last wagon, I have a chance for survival”, my crazy mind told me. I hesitated for a moment to tell the conductor about my thoughts, but I didn’t want to be the one that caused a whole station evacuation on my vague assumption.

The train started to move and still a little weary I hoped I was wrong. I got a phonecall and while I was talking, I saw the group of men entering my wagon!!! They were sitting down a few seats behind me. “What are they doing here now?, Why did they walk at least 7 wagons to sit here in the front of the train with me!?, ” If you want to crash a train with maximum casualties, wouldn’t you blow up the front, instead of the back of the train?” I felt a HUGE fear coming up.

A woman in front of me saw me looking very worried and I decided to tell her that these men were behaving strangely. I saw her getting scared too. Then I felt I had to do something out of two options. Either feed my fear by doing nothing, getting off the train at the next station or leave this wagon to move to the far end back side…OR confront my fear and go to these men to check my assumptions.

I got up and walked over to the man in the long coat, starting to talk to him in dutch. He didn’t understand me, but pointed to one of the others that could speak a little english. I said I was curious what this little orange button device was on his finger and that I got scared because of the Paris situation. It took a moment before they understood that I was afraid they were terrorists. Then they started to smile and explain that they came from Egypt and were tourists on a trip to Roermond to go shopping at the outlet. The little orange device was a counter for his prayers. And they were sent away from the first class wagon because they had second class tickets and all the other wagons were full. Pfieuw!!

After a little small talk, I went back to my place. The woman in IMG_1878front of me took a card out of her bag that said; I think you are GREAT! The whole atmosphere in the wagon relaxed. Probably I was not the only one who was checking out these guys.

What I learned from this experience is that your thoughts can make you crazy. And the only way to deal with fear is to go towards it, instead of away from it. The latter will only grow your fear. Share your feelings, check your assumptions and dare to connect to others.

These are my new Egyptian friends.

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen


I’m afraid, but I’m gonna do it anyway…UHM!


In my work as a facilitator of playful learning(*), I meet a lot of different people. The ones that are enthusiastic from the start and willing to try everything immediately. The ones that are a little shy and hesitant, but after some reassurance they will try, and the ones that say NO from the start. I notice a lot of limiting believes about being playful that’s holding them back. Recognize any of these? Playfulness is childish, ít’s crazy, it’s ok in sports, but not in business, etc.

Getting the benefits and learninginsights from Playful Learning is not something you can learn from a book. It’s an experience. So therefore it’s vital that I get my participants to leave their comfortzone and join the exercises. And from my experience, 99% of my participants do…and respond with high energy and powerful learninginsights.

So how do I do it? Here are some strategies I use.

First it is important that the participants get the WHY of Playfulness.

So, I often start with explaining the difference between left and right brain functions. I show them that succesful businesses nowadays are using their creative right brain capacities to innovate, to use design, storytelling, play, empathy and meaning.  Then I ask them to leave their logical, analytical left brain quiet for a while and invite them on an experiential journey to experience their right brain.

right left brain

If the group is very leftbrain orientated (technical people), I sometimes use Steve Jobs’ “Stay Hungry, stay Foolish” or quotes from Einstein.

After the introduction of the WHY Playfulness is important, I tell them that it’s natural to feel fear. Doing something out of the ordinary is ‘out of comfortzone’. Sometimes I share a story from my personal experience with an experiment that I conducted on a busstation at 7.00 am in the morning. I handed out 80 free blowing bubble sets to waiting travellers. A lot of them reacted with fear.

In order to deal with the fear, I often show my participants this video. In this clip you see that fear is causing you to take a step back. The way how to deal with the fear, is to reverse this initial tendency and take a step forward.

Finally, I teach the participants a mantra: I’m afraid, but I’m gonna do it anyway…UHM (with the UHM we all take the necesary step forward). It creates fun and commitment, and as soon as someone is holding back, I can refer to the ‘I’m afraid’ mantra and invite them to do it anyway.


And then we start seriously playing and learning 🙂

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(*) In the, International with