When my previous therapist invited me to imagine murdering someone, I knew I needed another therapist.

My previous therapist’s visualization exercise to help me deal with my history of being bullied involved imagining holding the main bully underwater.

Drowning, he said, because people can’t speak when they are drowning

Drowning him with my foot on his neck. Drowning him, he said, because people can’t speak when they are inhaling water. Drowning him, he said, because it was a good visualization. Drowning him, he said, because he deserved it. Drowning him because getting rid of him would feel good. It would bring healing. …

It turns out that shooting Polaroids in the studio isn’t impossible — it just takes a little bit of engineering and ingenuity. Here’s how I turned a $200 toy into a studio camera.

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Being able to use studio lights with the Polaroid camera was a ton of fun.

I’ve done a lot of portraiture in my time (ahem), and I’ve never shied away from building my own photography equipment. I’m also intrigued by the tactile nature of instant photography. There’s something about the ability to immediately destroy a negative that makes portraiture a lot more fun. And with Polaroids, you can give your models the photos before they’ve even developed. Nobody has to see the photo except them — and then they can share it from there… If they wish.

I know that consistent light sources (like video lights) would have been easier to use with a Polaroid camera, but I’m a competent studio photographer, damn it, and there’s something about the vast light output from a set of studio strobes that really appeals to me. So I experimented. I used gaffer’s tape to tape a slave sensor to a Polaroid camera, hooked that up to a radio trigger, and went to town. That… Sort of worked, but not being able to control the shutter speed or aperture meant that using studio strobes was hard. …

Measured in dollars, the US is the wealthiest country in the world by quite some considerable margin. If only it knew the value of empathy and true freedom as well.

I grew up in Europe (the Netherlands, Norway, and the UK) — but I’ve spent a lot of time in the US. A year as an exchange student in the 1990s and six years or so here in California. In my time here, I’ve been struck by some profound differences between Europe and the US: Empathy and Freedom.

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Intergenerational Empathy

Life is hard. Life has always been hard. And “Life was so much harder when I was young” is a phrase that is not without fault. The difference between the US and Europe is what you do with that information. I like to think of it as inter-generational empathy. Not in a specific sense: Of course, parents want the best for their children, and they are willing to do everything they can to help their children along. …

In building such a well-appointed stage, the news media is daring fringes of US society to commit acts of domestic terrorism.

Turn on a mainstream media outlet, and you’ll find pundits debate the peaceful transfer of power after the election later this week. I fear that this, itself, is part of the problem: Even just asking someone ‘will there be a peaceful transition of power’ leaves the door open to the answer being ‘no’. It isn’t that this isn’t worthy of debate — but the dogged focus on this very specific question may, in fact, turn out to be the reason why some people choose to give it more thought than it really deserves.

The media coverage of ‘risk of civil unrest’ in the aftermath of the election will be the driving cause of civil unrest in the aftermath of the election. …

We don’t have all the answers, but we owe it to ourselves — as a species — to buy ourselves enough time to figure it out. As a company, we need to be part of that.

Many of us at some point pause from our busy lives to think “What is life for?” Some of us take the question pretty seriously and end up committing chunks of our lives to philosophy — in between the comings and goings of life itself. Don’t worry, this is not going to be one of those ‘what is the meaning of life’ posts (I haven’t figured that one out yet — but I’m working on it. Occasionally I get closer than usual).

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I don’t know what the future holds, but unless we are able to think beyond the next profit and loss report, nor will anybody else.

This post is about why a company exists. Just like humans, companies have different roles to play — and if you zoom out far enough, we are all on the same page. As humans, what we want is to be happy, content, and at peace. The work we do is in service of those goals —‘work to live, don’t live to work.’ But if the work we do is an extension of finding our bearings as humans, it stands to reason that the companies we work for are an extension of that. …

A brief ode to a Slack channel that makes my heart sing.

Life is full of things to be grateful for. Yes, it can be hard. Things go wrong. Stress and frustration happen. But allow me to repeat myself, and when I do, I invite you to sit with that for a moment:

Life is full of things to be grateful for.

I’m writing this at the end of a really long day. A bunch of things went wrong. I was stressed and frustrated. But I came back to the gratefulness. Today, I saw the backing of a team that really gels together when hard challenges are thrown their way. …

We’re not going to get anywhere by floating with the current.

One definition of madness is to try the same thing twice and expect a different result. At Konf, we’re done with that. We’re tearing up the rulebook and taking a fresh look at how to run a company. We’re re-evaluating how we want to show up in the world.

Damien and I are both organizational nerds (teal organizations, anyone?) with an environmental bent. When building a new kind of organization — when questioning accepted ways of doing things — a ton of new things suddenly become possible.

It’s in those liminal spaces — the gaps between the could-be and the should-be, and betwixt the ‘maybe’ and the ‘wait, what?’ — that true magic is prone to happen. As you might suspect, we don’t have a ‘push here for magic’ button. If we did, we’d be in a different industry. What we do have is the ability to build an organization that is ready to catalyze magic, and harness it when it shows itself. We are collecting a team of humans who know to recognize and amplify magic when they see it. And we attract customers and investors who share that vision — who know that memorable, life-shifting events don’t happen by accident. …

Everything is possible in a universe experienced in realtime by everyone who lives in it.

One of my most fond childhood memories is to sit on a lawn on an undulating hill. The curve of the hill made the grass shape into a natural sofa of sorts — with a surface to sit, and a surface to lean against. It was the perfect shape for sitting and reading in the sunshine. 9-year-old Haje often did. Reading books. Chewing on straws of grass. Basking in the innocence of youth with the infinite knowledge of my local school library at my disposal.

Kindness is never the wrong choice. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

On this particular day, I closed my book and looked across the gully at the house at the other hill. And I was struck with the most powerful sense of ‘getting it’. Where ‘it’ was everything. I sat there, in the quiet, holding my breath, fearful that if I moved a muscle, I would be moving away from getting it — away from understanding everything. In that universe, I didn’t get there. In that universe, the infinite fractals that make up everything didn’t align in a way where that was the moment that I understood how everything is connected. But that is okay — it is not too late (and, besides, time itself is an illusion. As is choice, money, the concept of ‘ownership,’ and many other things — but I’m getting ahead of myself). …

Running a part-real-life and part-virtual event is the worst of both worlds. Just say no.

Real-life conferences are awesome. Virtual conferences are brilliant. It stands to reason that trying to combine the two is twice as magnificent, yes? Well, no — for a few different reasons. Hybrid events will always end in tears, because you’re in effect introducing two ‘classes’ of participants.

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Being a virtual attendee to a hybrid event is a frustrating experience. Don’t put your attendees through that. Illustration by Rana Hesham

As we’re growing Konf, we’re seeing more and more different types of events cropping up. Some are primarily webinars. Others are combinations of multi-track conferences, breakout rooms, and networking. Others still are focused on grass-roots organizing. I love all of them. There’s only one type of event that I find extraordinarily challenging: The hybrid event. …


Haje Jan Kamps

CEO of Konf, pitch coach for startups, enthusiastic dabbler in photography.

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