Build tables, not fences

As I lay in bed, stirred by the gentle chirping of birds in the early morning hours, sleep slipping away like elusive dreams, I found comfort in the glow of my phone screen. On Instagram, I saw that my friend Simon had shared a post in his Stories, adding an unexpected touch of profound reflection in the quiet hours.

The post (in Dutch) reads:

"Als je het beter hebt dan anderen, bouw je een langere tafel, geen hoger hek."
— via @hesketencate

which in English translates to: "If you have it better than others, build a longer table, not a higher fence."

Putting that into perspective into my creative practice so far, I find among some of my creative peers, an intense desire and a rush and a push to become Someone Great resulting in them going through an unrelenting pursuit of aiming for accolades and recognition, or for organisation titles and awards1, to the point where work sometimes inadvertently gets siloed; which naturally happens when folks are independently focusing on different aspects of the project based on their interests, akin to being separated by fences.

I agree with the statement above and fully believe that there must be room at the table for everyone, and while there may be self-motivated pursuits, it is crucial that everyone's efforts align with the collective goal and outcomes. Personally, I find solace in the embrace of genuine, wholehearted moments of collaboration, knowing they not only foster a positive atmosphere but also lead to more impact and success. I have relished in, and now cherish, such memories of working with some colleagues who have since become my friends very dearly.

What follows are some words of gratitude and thankfulness for those special folks I've had the privilege of meeting thus far.

I would like to express gratitude for friends and colleagues who have generously extended their support — people who have not only inspired me but also elevated me — my mentors, collaborators, and kindred spirits. They are like the reliable morning sun and the refreshing crisp breeze, providing a steadfast foundation and invigorating energy2.

I am thankful to those who have shared ideas and camaraderie, and for teaching me the importance of cultivating an environment that not only ensures people feel safe but also nurtures cooperation. So far in my creative journey, I have come to realise that success isn't solely defined by the rat race's yardstick. What truly matters to me is the impact I have on my fellow creatives — the doors I open, the pathways I illuminate, the friendships I make — much in the same way that my peers have done for me.

1. This is not a dig at anybody. I wish to emphatically emphasize that aspiring for greatness is entirely valid and getting recognised is great. I celebrate all my friends' and colleagues' wins ardently (and am a fan of them and the work they produce), and they do the same for me, recognising the mutual desire for validation in our work.

In this context, I focus mainly on the potential impact on collaborative aspects of work when creatives lose sight of the big picture.

2. (After writing this, I couldn't help but imagine Jordan Schlansky from Conan delivering these words — tres poetic, don't you think?!)

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