June has been an eventful and successful month for Papaya Stories.
Not only did our team set up a new record as we delivered over 20 events in one month (thanks to the Local Activation Fund and Henderson-Massey Local Fund), but also that month offered me something special – a trip to the Southland.
I was invited to be a keynote speaker and share my talk at Green Pavlova 2022 – a three-day conference that brought a unique professional community together: practitioners, council workers, landscape designers, civil engineers, and architects who work across the Asia-Pacific parks and open spaces industry.
I was invited to open the second day at the conference that took place in Dunedin. So while being the first presenter on the day I decided to set up the right tone and mood for the day, shake things up a little, and energise people with my talk and ideas. After the presentation, I was buzzing and I also received such positive feedback on the ideas presented in my talk, that I simply can’t but share more of those insights with you.
You see, I believe in the power of storytelling. I find literature and fiction especially inspiring. I am also fond of psychology and believe in the power of perception. You might not even realise how much power the perception lens holds. It directly affects the way you see the world and experience life. Give one book to a bunch of people and each person would have their takeaways, lessons, insights, or none of the above. We hear a story, and read a book through the lens of the subconscious and/or conscious minds. That’s why one book can have as many interpretations as many people read it.
How amazing is that?
However, I believe that despite the differences that we might experience due to our agendas and perceptions, there are those rare books that somehow tap into the secret language of everyone’s heart. One of those books for me is the Little Prince by Saint-Exupery. I call it my bible. I come back to this book every second year to find the forgotten wisdom. And I always find something new. It never ceases to inspire me.
Another recent game changer for me is the book called Infinite and Finite Games written by psychologist James Carse in 1986. If the Little Prince speaks the language of the heart, then Infinite and Finite Game speak the language of my brain.
Carse summarises his argument, “There are at least two kinds of games: finite and infinite. A finite game is played to win, an infinite game to continue the play. Finite games are those instrumental activities – from sports to politics to wars – in which the participants obey rules, recognise boundaries and announce winners and losers. The infinite game – there is only one – includes any authentic interaction, from touching to culture, that changes rules, plays with boundaries, and exists solely to continue the game. A finite player seeks power; the infinite one displays self-sufficient strength.”
It is hard to describe but I felt so much lighter in my body after I finished that book. It felt like someone else from the past has given me a wider context and explanation of why I am doing what I am doing in life, and why I never gave up on bringing my vision and Papaya Stories company to life!
Being an intuitive leader and creative entrepreneur never needed that explanation as I am always grounded in deeper inner wisdom inside me that guides me on the path. But it was nice to have a choice and get a deeper psychological context to understand how I and/or how we as a company and a collective can or maybe even should operate.
This book is an inspiration to many other world-famous practitioners and maybe it will inspire you?
One of my faves Simon Sitek applied the principles of the Infinite Game in leadership and the way we look at teamwork. The kiwi sociologist and psychologist Nikki Haare uses the paradigm of Infinite Game to shape the social structure and explore how we can live better as a collective. As my work is deeply connected to the hearts, minds, and bodies of people, I feel that it is essential to follow the principles of the Infinite Game. It helps us to see how those principle allow people to blossom, ideas to transform and bring well-desired social change.
That book made me realise that I have always been an Infinite Player. Later I also understood that the principles of Infinite Game are well applied in our work and the world of Papaya Stories. Below are a few key features that I explored in my talk:
The infinite game invites others in
Finite games include only select people
Infinite players relate to humanity in each other
In finite games, others are allies, pawns, spectators, competitors
The infinite game values open-ended expression
Finite games value expression only within the rules of the medium set by the game
The infinite game may provide a deep sense of connection with others
In infinite games, victory may be joyful but must be guarded
Three psychological Infinite Values always go into our projects development and forward creative thinking.
The power of gratitude.
We aspire to create experiences and environments that help people to understand how much they already have, see the extraordinary in the ordinary, and find joy in little things in our lives.
Permission to play aka break stereotypes.
We create safe, accessible, and inclusive spaces that allow people to experience the child-like wonder and state of being. We permit to get a bit silly and not take life seriously. We like to invite ourselves to break certain cultural, and social stereotypes and shift paradigms in how we approach social issues and mainly ourselves. Do we act by default or do we have room to play, pause and breathe?
What is authenticity or what does it mean being an authentic self?
Being a joy facilitator myself, at times people get caught by the idea of defining my authentic self as being positive 24/7. However, being authentic isn’t about being positive all the time. It is about feeling alive and expressing it without any sense of guilt, shame, or fear of judgement. It is about allowing yourself to do what feels right at a specific moment in time. It’s about showing up differently depending on life circumstances.
Here is an example. I remember running the Silent Disco Citywalk Glen Eden Edition after a few days my granny passed away. It was a post-pandemic world and I wasn’t able to fly out to say a proper goodbye and be with my family when I wanted the most. So on our walk, we had a stop at the Waikumete Cemetery which is an invitation to remember those whom we lost. I couldn’t help but feel emotional as I realised that right there and then I said goodbye to my granny, I felt her spirit with me and couldn’t stop crying. And that moment was authentic, I was authentic and didn’t feel ashamed of crying in public.
We withhold the tears when we are in public, we don’t say what we want to say because of social stigma, we don’t ask for help because we are afraid to be judged, and so on and so forth. We are so afraid of being a human in front of another human. But I think when we play an Infinite Game we need to learn how to be human and start from ourselves.
The infinite game is an open network in which everything is interconnected
Finite games are discrete entities that may expand and replicate
The infinite game tend toward diversity
Finite games tend towards sameness
Infinite players are in awe of life in all its forms
Finite players attempt to control the life forms relevant to the game
The infinite game seeks and responds to the information about the world
Winners of finite games claim knowledge of the world which may be treated as the truth
Do you consider those principles when you work with the community? Or within your organisation?
These principles become alive when we organise our inspiring events, placemaking activities, and immersive experiences. Be it a community-led performance, Slumber Party, flashmob, or Silent Disco Citywalk. In our work, we provide a safe place for humanity to express itself. It doesn’t matter if you are a part of this event or an outsider who observes from behind, you still feel a part of the community, unity, and infinite game.
All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” ―
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince”
Being inspired by the Infinite / Finite Game book, to summarise the main idea I want to go back to the book that grounds me like nothing else. The Little Prince shares a perfect dialogue between an inner child and a grown-up that should happen in order for the Infinite Game to appear. We need rules and boundaries, structure and organisation to get things done. But we can’t do it alone, we need to hear and amplify the voice of our inner children that are here to heal, thrive, play and dream big to make the world a better place. And this is what Papaya Stories brings to the world – that source of inner wisdom and connection that makes us feel alive and in love with this life no matter what it brings.