From creative profession to consultant and back …
Normally, there are two ways of taking up a position. The one is argumentative, the other metaphorical. Ever since I can remember, I have opted for the second and with my stories have been working against the power of arguments and the prescriptions of those who define what is right and desirable.
At the beginning of the eighties, when I left my home, the Ausseerland, and moved to town in order to study philosophy and literature, initially I felt like a race horse that had lost its race course. When there were no exams, and no opportunity to prove myself through the reproduction of knowledge, writing in step with my thoughts became second nature to me. Only the work of the concept, as Hegel called it, was beyond me. And so I remained someone who didn’t chew the words, but juggled them in the air in front of him. The thesis on the pop writer and provocateur Rainald Goetz, who cut open his forehead in front of live cameras at the Klagenfurt Festival of German-Language Literature, turned into a first inventory of a transgression (my transgression).
Once around the world
From the head into the world, my path then led me first to China, in the late eighties. Today, I call it calligraphic travelling. Spelling out the unknown. Thrown back on myself while using rudimentary language. Years later, the clumsy bird still twists and turns in the casual battle of forces. Music inside, in the ear, and outside, only a span away, the groaning of time and space. Zhong Guo, a black sign on a metallic surface. I see myself through the porthole. And the vertical behind, thousands of metres of air – the land that I never reached. Six months during which I wrote a letter home every week, without hoping for an answer. Much was made of the distance – between the experience and the subject that experiences, between remembering and the one succeeding to do so, a fine split that become palpable where, per definition, it should not have existed.
Back in Austria, I supplied texts to literary magazines and the feuilletons of notable papers. Until there was not a cent left in my pocket. Writing – a process for me that, even then, knew no compromises. When I was in danger of going down, an associate threw me a life buoy. I took over the marketing agendas of an IT company – also because I secretly felt that only those will be able to reflect on our culture in the future who know the technological framework. This happened at a time when personal computers were still declared as sewing machines in order to get them through customs. Five years later, in 1994, we opened the first Internet café in Austria at the Vienna city hall (together with IDEAL cultural affairs).
Which was a success, but the vision of establishing communication as a management discipline (through SOFA Consulting, founded at the beginning of the nineties) slowly became a dream that robbed me of my sleep. What kept me above water at the time were self-developed things like the media project Supervisor, that for the first time gave shape to the balancing act between culture and technology. The discontent remained, as a lot of what we did was surface polishing, marketing tricks, fleeting babble – and a long way from where change happens.
A river runs through it
And so I went on my second journey of re-orientation, which, after I had resigned my agendas as chief executive, led me first to Canada, and from there to South America. I followed in the footsteps of the First Nations in the Rockies, became Brad Pitt’s alpine trainer, undertook extended walkabouts in the Andes, worked in the international movie business as an actor and stunt double, met stars and heard stories, was a skiing instructor on a volcano in Patagonia, and after two years of meandering found my way back to working with people, from the head to the feet – first as an outdoor trainer, later as a facilitator for holistic teaching and training, and finally as a systemic coach and StoryWorker, while one creative commission still chased the other.
In the middle of these years of change, a friend suggested to me that I would have to choose between automobile club and car repair shop, i.e. between consulting and creativity, analysis and repair, theory and dialogue. Both things together, he said, would not be possible. I took in his advice and thought about it, while the years went by. Yet the longer I thought about it, the more I felt a deep unwillingness to accept this either-or. Intuitively, I knew that my thing was the balancing act, both the one and the other – I just didn’t have a name for it. But by and by my detours began to make sense. My philosophical tools, my excursions into the theory of the novel, my essayistic escapades, my experiences with nature, my travels, my transgressions.
Today, I know. I work creatively (as scriptwriter, copywriter and video producer) and always will do. And I’m also a coach, a sparring partner for brainstorms, and a corporate culture developer, if required. And both hats fit me, as I’ve been told on more than one occasion. Between creativity and consulting there is the work with stories and visions that opens the doors to the land of possibilities. I’ve learned to understand my versatility as a resource. And from my life path full of detours I draw my ramification expertise. My weakness is my strength.