BAD – Bold Act of Defiance

1984 Mac commercial
1984 Mac commercial – linked from

The MOOC Creativity, Innovation, and Change is getting more and more fascinating, mostly because we all learn interesting things about ourselves. To me this means looking at things in a very different way than I used to. I find the course very inspiring.

Here is this weeks exercise. The assignment was: Complete at least one “Bold Act of Defiance.”

At first I felt rather clueless. But with the help of the forums, and other people’s ideas, I figured out what works for myself. I’ll describe what I did first and if you are brave enough, you can read about how I arrived at this conclusion further down.

As far as I understand it, these acts of defiance can be a very personal thing. It is about finding out what restricts you, what keeps you from expressing yourself and your creativity the way you want and should. Some of these restrictions make sense, others don’t. Some can be changed, others can’t be. It is up to us to decide which ones we think we can change. Most importantly, though, IMO, is to understand at all where our restrictions are, what keeps us from doing things this or that way and finding out if what we think can’t be changed really can’t be changed (danger, hurting others, business concerns, laws etc.). And I figured out what part of my restrictions are, and so I did the following (not so) BAD:

I have neighbours and friends, but mostly like to be on my own, with my family. We don’t have so very much in common with most of our neighbours and hardly interact with more than a friendly greeting and, on occasion, a brief chat. There are two exceptions: one is a friend with whom I meet sometimes, another one is an acquaintance; we both have a dog and sometimes used to walk together. This woman doesn’t seem to be around any longer, she still shows up from time to time at her house, but only briefly.
I normally don’t like to go and ask people nosy questions about: are you getting a divorce, what’s the matter, why has she moved out etc. I don’t like to be asked such questions either, and so I wouldn’t go and ask the woman’s husband these questions. But I have her email address, and I wrote to her. Not out of curiosity, but just to know how she’s doing and to maintain contact. I should have done that earlier. I had to overcome that ‘non-interference’ bug in my head, and now I’m glad I did it.

I should fight about that ‘non-interference’ bug more often, I think. That is a rather strong cultural norm where I live and there is a lot of room for improvement.

And this is the process and failures I went through. My first thoughts were thus:

  • I don’t follow cultural norms more than strictly necessary (I work in IT in a hospital and can’t hop around on one foot there – I have no dress code – it’s an easy and comfortable professional environment but it’s not appropriate for experimenting).
  • Chosing an outfit to be stared at? Been there, done that, several times in my past.
  • Doing something that makes people stare at you as if you lost your mind? If you have a dog, you’ll know what it feels like when you stand in a park, in front of dense bushes(with a creek behind the bushes) and yell loudly: “Get the ball, get the ball!” No one could see the dog behind the bushes, and I was in Germany, yelling in English (because my dog of that time only spoke English) – I got a lot of funny looks until the dog came out of the creek, ball in mouth. I’ve made an idiot of myself in public more than I can count.
  • Helping people who are in trouble when others stare – been there, done that.
  • Yelling at people who try to offend someone close to me? Been there, done that.
  • Braking the law? Weeelll… this is making me uncomfortable. I’m certainly not a stickler to every minor law, but if I crossed the street when there’s a red light, I’d likely be dead. At night, when no one’s around, I’ll do so anyway. And I doubt that this is the purpose of this exercise anyway.
  • Giving a speech in front of strangers? Been there, done that. Still do.
  • Going alone to the movies, travelling half the globe on my own, dancing with kids who could be my grandkids … been there… you get the point.
  • I could wear make-up and high heels, but I don’t own much make-up nor high-heels. Not going to buy that just for this course.

So I guess I’m one of those dull defiant ones from the book.
I’m an introvert, and a coward, and to overcome that in part, I’ve done many things in the past that get me out of my comfort zone and likely will do so again, when the right moment comes. This just doesn’t seem to be the right moment.
Heck, I even touch slugs and spiders and sign online petitions and go to demonstrations.
To get me out of my comfort zone these days it would have to be something really serious, and I’m not sure I’d be brave or even knowledgeable enough for that.
I think my BAD will have to be to not do the assignment. After all it’s against cultural coursera norm, isn’t it?

But I stepped away from this idea because: filling in the assignment with why I didn’t do the assignment would have been doing the assignment, and then the whole thing would have been pointless. So I sat down, thought about what other people did, why they might have chosen to do what they did, and what might be the meaniing behind the exercise. And slowly it dawned on me:

If you look at the exercises we’ve done so far, there seems to be a dual nature to them.

  • 1. Shoe tower (jumping in and doing something) – 2. Reflection on our creative style (why and how are we doing what we’re doing).
  • 3. Life ring (what drives us, how can we achieve our goals?) – 4. Reflection on Bold Acts of Defiance (what restricts us? Can we overcome these restrictions?) – in fact, we could visualize that as an anit-life-ring.

In a scale from 1-10, how freaked out were you when you did the exercise?
I’m not easily freaked out these days. I’ve always tried to not be freaked out by things I was asked to do or found I must do. I’d scale it a 7 since I had to overcome quite some reluctance to go there, and will cause me more reluctance if I keep it up.

If it was not a 10, what stopped you from getting a 10, and what would you need to do to get there?
For a 10 it would have to be something serious enough to risk my lifestyle, safety, reputation or livelihood. This is not a situation I ever wish to get into.

Will the exercise help you approach future problems or experiences differently? If so, how? If not, why?
Definitely. I hope I will continue reflecting about what stops me. I think I actually will make this anti-life-ring to give me focus.

Where would you put yourself in a creativity scale from 1-10 (10 being the most creative) for this exercise?
Compared to all these other people in the course, I’m quite lame. I’d give me a 5.


4 thoughts on “BAD – Bold Act of Defiance

    1. Thank you. Some of the entries in the coursera thread are incredibly brave. I also have seen two very personal ones in the peer reviews. I’m sure you’ll find something that helps you.


  1. If I were in this course, my reaction to the assignment would be the same as yours. I’m timid at stepping out of my comfort zone, though not as much as when I was younger. I even walked around anti-war sit-ins in college during the Vietnam War. I told myself I was being logical–what effect could this little demonstration possibly have on President Johnson’s decisions? I asked myself. Absolutely none. Well, now I realize that wasn’t even the point. Some kind of internal peace was the point. I believe now that even the smallest action has effect, whether good or bad. Your email to your neighbor, for instance–have you heard back from her? Just knowing you noticed she was gone might make her very happy. Have you ever read anything by Joseph Campbell? He studied the social customs, behaviors, beliefs, rites, and myths from cultures around the world and was fascinated by the similarities. When asked, “What is the meaning of life?” he said, “There isn’t any. We bring our own meaning to it.” Good luck with your MOOC!


    1. Thank you! It’s great to read similar, and yet different experiences. At my time, we went protesting against nuclear weapons and for a clean environment. Looking back, the themes remain the same even though there’s a little progress here and there.
      About my neighbour: she didn’t reply, but I met her when she was at her house briefly. We chatted a bit, there is trouble in the marriage which they try to mend, so we’ll see. We’ll stay in touch in any case.
      I haven’t read anything by Joseph Campbell yet. I’ve read about him, but just didn’t get around yet, but with your recommendation, I will. These are exactly the things that interest me, too. 🙂


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