This event took place on 06-07-2017

Screw Up 2017: some highlights

Around 120 people celebrated failure on July 6, during Screw Up 2017, by sharing stories and with personal fails during workshops. In three different locations, participants were building rickety ‘bridges’, throwing imaginary balls and listened to honest and open, TEDx style talks about falling flat on your face.

We see failure and success as two distinctly different things. The first is celebrated, the latter is pointed out, ridiculed and sometimes even punished. Screw Up wants to change that mentality, because making mistakes is very much a part of succes. Here are some of the highlights of an evening of fails:

From being your own advertorial to sinking into depression

Serial entrepreneur Wilbert van de Kamp can look back at a lot of accomplishments: making national headlines with an alternative clothing brand, his own cooking show, writing for Vice Munchies and founding Omapost. There were ups and downs, small mistakes, sure, but his biggest fail: “It was all about me. My life was one big advertorial of my own success.”

Wilbert left for Amsterdam, dreaming of his own TV show. He grew tired of the noise, the people and having drinks that were all business and never lasted more than half an hour. He became the caretaker of a countryside villa in the north of the Groningen province. Early this year, he started to feel empty: “I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with depression.”

“I had to learn the hard way that it wasn’t all about me and that I should be the one responsible for everything. So now, I try to make it about others. The countryside villa is now a place where artists and entrepreneurs can stay and experiment for a nominal fee and I try to do as little as possible. Just give people the space to make cool things. I’m still learning to not make it about me, but I’m getting there.”

A Game of Backstabbing

Christine van der Vorm comes from one of the wealthiest families of the Netherlands. Not interested in taking over the family business or wealth, she decides to pursue a career in public service. “Ever since I was a kid, I was really good at looking at things. And when you’re good at that, you’re good at asking the right questions.”

She was being groomed for a top spot in the government, right after graduating with a degree in agricultural engineering. A fast riser, she soon managed a team of 100 people. “Like I said, I was good at asking the right questions, until the right question turned out to be somewhat inconvenient for the people in charge. That was during a dinner with my superiors, who, after that question, suddenly left for the bathroom or had to make a quick phone call.”

Some time later, she finds a hefty stack of paper in her mailbox, with the suggestion to resign and a big cheque. She lawyered up, not just for herself, but also for the people working under her. “We made sure everyone in my team left with compensation.” Disillusioned, she decided to take a year to figure out what to do. “I decided I still wanted to serve the public good, but now as a social entrepreneur.”

Blue balls

Fail talks aside, there were also several workshops to choose from. In the basement of De Pijp, Thomas Mook, part of the international improv comedy group Stranger Things Have Happened, teaches a brief class. “Lesson number one in improvisational comedy: don’t try to be funny! Loosen up and be spontaneous, roll with the mistakes you make, because that’s what makes something funny.”

To illustrate, he starts throwing imaginary balls, slow and one color at first, then in rapid succession and different colors. The people in the class just as rapidly throwing it to others while saying the color as they throw, quickly getting confused. The balls are then replaced with words and free association, and words are quite literally thrown around. “You see what happens? We tend to overthink in our associations. We hesitate, because we’re afraid to make the wrong association. There are no wrong associations, because any random word will work. Right or wrong is just in our heads here and letting go is what makes us creative.”