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.

terrorist

“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

IMG_1877

Annemarie Steen I TEDx Tallaght I What happens when you press PLAY

From Playing the Game of Seriousness, it’s now time for playing a different game: The Game of SeriousLESS…and to allow and welcome our authentic and playful selves to come back to the surface. Not only at home, but especially at work. Besides the fact that this will increase our mental health and sense of well-being, it will also bring us vital lifeskills to deal with today’s fast changing and complex world.

You’re welcome to join my playful community to get updates, inspiration and resources on Playfulness & Playful Learning.

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

My personal experience doing a TEDx talk (in Dublin)

Annemarie Steen at TEDxTallaght

One day before my TED talk at TEDxTallaght in Dublin I was visiting a local pub. An alcoholic toothless guy (his name was Dan), came up to me and asked me “Where are you from?” And ofcourse I replied with “I’m from The Netherlands, I live in Eindhoven area”. And I asked him the same question: “Where are you from?” And his reply was: “Earth”. I laughed and we started talking. He said “the moment we say where we are from, we distinct ourselves from others, while the earth is such a tiny place in the total universe”. And I thought he’s absolutely right. We are all earthlings.

Last minute, I changed the start of my TED talk based on this idea and my starting sentence became: Hello, my fellow earthlings 😉

Later in our conversation he said: “So you PLAY with people all around the world, AND get paid for it? That sounds like the best job in the world!” And I replied with a big smile: YES!

My biggest fear was that my time (15 min) was too limited to tell my story AND get the audience up and invite them to leave their comfortzone (Play is something very scary for adults) and enter their playzone. Play is an experience product. I invited the audience to experience  5 different types of play; object play, imaginative/pretend play, movement play, creative play and social play. And looking at the faces…it went gr8! (pictures by @rocshot)

tedxtallaght

tedxtallaghttedxtallaght

Now, it’s waiting for the video to be released…(3-4 weeks).

If you want to have the first look…you’re welcome to follow/like myfacebookpage.

Wish you a playful day!

Annemarie Steen 🙂

The Hero’s Journey – Making money doing what you love

Proud to be one of the Hero’s in this months issue of “The Hero’s Journey” by Peter de Kuster.

With enthusiasm, Annemarie Steen 😉

For updates and resources on Playfulness & Playful Learning, you’re welcome to follow (like) my Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/licensetoplay

Playfulness in Healthcare – An experiment

maskers“What does – Woesh, Boing, Pow- have to do with life?”,

was a question I posed after facilitating a Playful warming-up Energizer to a group of ex-patients and their relatives of a private clinic for addictions, burnout, depression and anxieties (www.u-center.nl).

“Everything!” was the answer of a guy in the group. We aim for a woesh, when receiving and passing on information. Sometimes we feel we want to say STOP and Boing the situation. Or we feel that we are Boingt by others who want to stop us or disagree with us. At other times we just want to get rid of something fast and Pow it away, as far as possible. Or maybe we see others far away watching us play and we want to connect to them by powing them. Another guy answered; “Well, for me it’s just FUN, and that’s good for me”.

I was amazed with the reflective skills of this group, a skill they must have learned on their tough journey and from the professional help they got while in treatment. For me delivering a Playfulness Workshop to this group was very new and I felt honored to be part of it. I’m very much looking forward to delivering two more open workshops for U-Center and trust the Power of Play to do good.

http://www.u-center.nl/workshops/serious-about-playfulness (workshop description in Dutch)

With Playful Greetings,

Annemarie Steen

Playfulness connects – Make new friends in a ballpit

Today I came across this short video (thanks @aikjeboukaert) from Soulpancake. I love this stuff. Why? Because it represents my vision: Playfulness connects. If you get total strangers (but also co-workers, friends, colleagues or family-members) in a playful state of mind…real heart-to-heart connection takes place. Watch and see for yourself!!

Playfully Yours,

Annemarie Steen

International Blowing Bubbles Day

Hi,

Two years ago, I came across a tweet that mentioned Internationalblowing bubble3Blowing Bubbles Day on May 6 (an initiative from a dutch artist Flip Looyen). I tought: “Hm, nice”, but went on with reading other stuff. That night I woke up, and felt the need to do something with it. I have a strong vision on the connecting power of Playfulness, so I thought to apply Blowing Bubbles to prove my point. I thought of a location where people are not connecting and decided on the bus/trainstation of Eindhoven (Netherlands) at 7am. Then, I sent out a tweet inviting others to join me on May 6th to Blow Bubbles on this location. And in case nobody showed up, I brought 83 sets of Blowing Bubble stuff (all I could find in my hometown of Veldhoven to hand out for free.

So what happened?

To my surprise, a lot of people reacted with fear (around 50%). Either not accepting my offer, or very fast putting their blowing bubble set in their bags with the excuse “nice for my kids”. Another large group of people (around 40%)held the blowing bubble set in their hands, not opening it, looking around what other people were doing. Some of them needed a little encouragement before trying. When they did (leave their comfortzone) they reacted with high energy. And there was a small group of people (around 10%) that immediately reacted with joy and started to play with it. Surprisingly a lot of people in function (railwaypolice officers, taxidrivers).

My (not validaded) conclusions after this experiment;

blowing bubbles1) YES, Playfulness connects. If you look at the picture, you see two guys playing and a third is watching them with a smile. There is a connection there.

2) Playfulness is something that a lot of adults perceive as scary, not done, childish, etc.

blowing bubbles23) While working (in stead of waiting) we tend to be more open towards strangers and like a Playful distraction/intermezzo.

My vision is still “Playfulness Connects”, but my mission after this day became “To invite adults to leave their comfortzone and dare to be Playful”

So what will you do on International Blowing Bubbles Day on May 6th 2013?

More info:http://www.internationalblowingbubblesday.wordpress.com

With playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(Dutch Newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad invited me to blog for a week about this International Blowing Bubbles Day two years ago: here’s the text in dutch:http://www.steentrain.nl/attachments/File/Blog_ED_Bellenblaasdag.pdf)

How my quest for Playfulness began…

high wire“Play is not the opposite of Work. Play is the opposite of Depression.” (Brian Sutton-Smith)

A lucid dream came to me in my late twenties, when undergoing a holistic massage during a phase of burnout in my career as a corporate sales- and managementtrainer. Here’s what I saw; I am standing way up high in a circustent. Feeling very nervous about the thing I am about to do. I have told the people that I will make the pass on the high wire, ofcourse without a safetynet (who needs a safetynet!). I see the people far below me stretching their necks to look up to me. I do make it to the other end, sweating and exhausted from anxiety. When I am on the other side, I get this moment of deep insight. I recognize my constant and stressful struggle to raise the bar to attract attention and distant admiration from others. I now feel strongly, that I don’t want this anymore. It is costing me too much energy and not delivering me the real connection to others that I long for. I suddenly realize that I want to go on a swing instead, being able to look other people directly and on a same level in the eyes, and have some relaxing FUN.

serious playThe first thing I did was to pick up my love for acting, so I joined an Improvisationgroup in Eindhoven (Netherlands). Improvisation learned me a lot about being in a playful state and our weekly training did me very well. I felt happier, more connected to myself and others, more creative and resilient. And today (almost ten years later) I’m still having this weekly dose of Playful Fun.

It was not untill 2010 that I thought of making a connection between my work as a corporate trainer and my actingexperience with improvisation. When I attented my first Applied Improvisation Network Conference, it felt like I was coming home at last. Since then, a lot of wonderful things have happened. My quest for Playfulness is leading me to bringing Playfulness (and it’s benefits) to the workplace.

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(Annemarie Steen is working as a playful learning designer & facilitator)

My experience with Serious Lego Play

Last friday I attented a festival called ‘Let’s Play Innovation’ in The Netherlands, about the link between Playfulness and Innovation. Very interesting day with lots of Playshops to get a taste of different methods and insights of Playful Learning.

In the morning, I participated in a Serious Lego Play workshop. We were asked to build a bridge with for each participant the same set of Lego. The outcomes were as different as people can differ. Then we were asked to make a model from instructions. I enjoyed trying to get it right as fast as possible. Then we were asked to change our fixed model into something else that looked like a mother in law from hell. Now we really got into it (although my real Mother in Law is more of an Angel). Our creative minds were triggered. Giving meaning to our models in explaining the different bits and parts created mental attachment to our model. Even more so, when we were asked to make a personal model of ‘Serious Play’, the theme of the day. Here’s mine:

serious play

The swing represents Playfulness. It can be hanged anywhere, at home, in business, with friends. And being on the swing with others makes it even more fun and connecting. A swing is fun, as long as it’s in motion. So if you get stuck, find playfulness to get you unstuck…something like that.

Talking about our models of ‘Serious Play’with my group deepened our conversation and understanding of eachothers point of view. And because we played together, I felt closer to my groupmembers than to other people in the room. Play connects (but that I already knew).

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

Create a personal planner for your loved ones (and for yourself).

Hi,

Last week I received the most sweet email ever. It came from my dad, who is 70 years old and rarely uses a computer. My father is a man who doesn’t talk easily about emotional stuff. Every year for his birthday he asks for very practical stuff, like a new set of tennisballs, soap on a string or an agenda/planner for next year (his birthday is at the end of december). So last year, I bought him his agenda for 2012. A very plain/ boring one. But I decided to make it personal by writing the birthday’s of his children and grandchildren in it. Then I added some nice quotes I find inspiring. And I put in some questions, like “What inspired you this week?” or “What are the things that make you happy?” or “What are your personal most important values?” and even instructions, like 13-2: although Valentines Day is a commercial inititative, mum would appreciate a small gift or some flowers anyway” or “Call Mike (my partner) to remind him it’s Valentines Day tomorrow”. Also I reminded him on some day’s that I love him and am grateful to have him as my dad.

The email I received was sending in his ‘homework’ of last year. He had taken the questions very seriously and appreciated it very much. He ended his email by saying “I know this will take some effort/time from you, but I would very much like to have such a planner for next year”.

Apparently I have found a way to connect to my father in a personal way, by using his planner as a tool.

Idea:

1) Do you have a good friend or relative that you feel close to, but don’t see or speak to that often. You can give them this present of a personal planner.

2) You can make such a personal planner for yourself, and remind yourself during the following year about things that matter to you.

 

With enthusiasm,

Annemarie Steen