The heart of Strategic Narrative Embodiment (SNE)

September Muse Letter

There is a war going on – a war for your heart and your soul, for mine. A bit melodramatic?

I wake up in the morning with an unreasonable fear lodged in my chest. What if I lose? Lose what, I ask myself?

  • The battle against boredom and overwork.
  • The fight to stay fit and healthy when all I want is another doughnut and a good long sit in the sun.
  • The struggle against loneliness, as I long to be with my family but despise them for crowding my headspace.
  • The strife I feel when trying to get friends to come over – do I even have friends? And then the fear that they won’t enjoy it here; so why bother?
  • The war against entropy, in my money matters, my house, my garden, my paperwork, when at the same time I would rather turn a blind eye and read another novel.

I am not one of those people caught up in the rat race: I refuse! I have been there and bought into all its frenzy, and I didn’t get the big house and the two cars, the housekeeper and the swimming pool.

In fact, my rat race brought my family and me to the brink of bankruptcy as we ploughed all our resources into ‘making it’ and failed.

Now that both my husband and I have jobs in education – with a good enough income to survive, but not to get rich, or even get ahead – ­we are much happier and have much more time for our kids, each other, the garden, the house, the friends, and the paperwork.


  • We long for action.
  • We yearn for significance.
  • We pine for the opportunity to express our innermost selves.
  • We wish with all our hearts that someone else would wash the dishes, do the garden, organise our papers.

We now have the time, but no motivation to do all the things on the list. So, and I will only speak for myself here, I sit around wishing for action, for someone to come visit, for some external impetus to get me off my butt to go, go, go! Of course the moment the impetus comes I resent it for stealing my peace and dictating my responses. When is sitting in the sun ‘being mindful’ mad when is it laziness? When is being present with my children healthy and when is it an excuse not to engage with something else?

How much more divided can I get?

This is the war that is destroying my heart and soul.

Inside the race, I feel controlled, diminished and taken advantage of. Outside it I feel useless, insignificant and without value.

Where is the third side of this coin?

That is the essence of my quest through war-torn territories: the search for the third side of the coin – not just in this current struggle, but in all struggles that seem so two dimensional, so binary, so colourless:

Does this mean we should take up more colourful and complex struggles like the one between the students and the government with the Universities and the parents and the whole of South Africa’s history in between?  The same one that colours all organisational and leadership interactions, whether we know it or not: the struggle between those who have and who can and those who have not and can’t – along with all the colours of our rainbow nation getting involved in the mess?

I think so.

This is the heart of the SNE lens: between the strategic plan and embodied reality, you find the narrative, the story, which can integrate opposites, transform ambiguities, dance with contradictions. Between the head that plans and the hands that act, lies this treacherous landscape of the heart, the landscape of stories. Stories long to heal the broken heart. They yearn to bridge the chasms between warring opposites and mend the rifts between binary dichotomies.

Join me on this quest to mend broken hearts – especially those broken by the race for more money, opportunity and power.

Meet me at the next Pig Catching session to help process the grief of your broken heart.

Date:     7 OCt 2016
Time:    7am for 7:15 to 10am Pig Catching
10:30-12:30 Research conversation or maybe we simply continue with the session. NOTE: We will start at 7:15 sharp to make the most of our time.
Facilitator: Petro Janse van Vuuren
Cost: R250
Venue: 305 Long Ave Ferndale
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
Refreshments: Coffee, tea, muffins and fruit on arrival.
RSVP: by  Wed 5 Oct.

Other Pig Catching dates this year:
9 Dec
Please diarise!

Join our group on Facebook<>:

Bring your curiosity, your open minds and your questions.

About Pig Catching:

Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.

Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.

Yes and story


• Practice listening and awareness
• Practice accepting offers and building on them
• Practice focusing and reincorporating.


Participants tell a story in a circle, each participant contributing one sentence at a time.

Time: 20 min

Number of participants: 4-12

Game flow:

Have everyone sit in a circle. Get a name for an original story from the participants. Anyone in the circle may start to tell the story by saying an opening sentence. The person on their left then builds on the opening line by adding the next sentence to the story by starting their sentence with “yes and”. The person on their left then adds the next sentence also starting with “yes and.” Continue the telling of the story, each person starting their sentence with “yes and”, until it comes to a conclusion.


The easiest way to get a name for the story is to first get a name for the main character (ex. Jimmy). Then ask what Jimmy is (ex. a donkey). Then ask what the main character’s biggest challenge is (ex. to win the J&B Met). The name of the story could then be something like: “The day Jimmy won the J&B Med.”
Often people struggle to get the story to a conclusion. This could be a very interesting observation to debrief. When participants struggle to conclude the story, remind them of the title. For more advanced players you can tell the story without a title.

Debrief questions:

• What was interesting about this exercise?
• What made it difficult?
• What did you do to make it easier?
• What would you do next time to tell a better story?
• How did the title help or inhibit the story telling?

Variation: One word story

In this variation instead of contributing one sentence at a time the participants only contribute one word at a time.

Yes lets


• Build positive energy.
• Practice acceptance and appreciation.


Participants suggest random activities to be done by the group. The rest of the participants support these suggestions by responding enthusiastically with the words “Yes lets!” and then mime the suggested activities eagerly.

Time: 15 min

Number of participants: 6 – 20

Game flow:

Have everyone walk around in the space. Tell them that anyone in the group can make a suggestion for an action such as “Let’s climb a tree!” or “lets bake a cake!” Everyone then replies with the words “Yes lets!”, and mimes the action with enthusiasm. At any point someone else can make a new suggestion and everyone replies again with “Yes lets!” and again mimes the action. Continue until everyone has made at least one suggestion.


For this exercise you need enough space for everyone to move around.
Encourage everyone in the group to make at least one suggestion.

Debrief questions:

• How do you feel after playing this exercise?
• What was interesting about the exercise?
• How did it feel to have your suggestions supported with so much enthusiasm?
• How did it feel to support other’s ideas with so much enthusiasm?


The best way to make your team members look good is by accepting their suggestions and doing the action with enthusiasm. If someone said something like “let’s roar like lions” and just did it by himself, he would look like a fool and probably feel like one as well. What I love about this game is that you don’t just say yes I like your idea; you actually have to accept the idea by doing something with commitment. Often we will say we accept someone’s ideas but it’s just lip service, because we don’t actually take any action. The safety, trust and support that is generated when everyone in the team is committed to making the rest of the team look good, creates a energetic atmosphere in which innovation can thrive.



• Building energy.
• Accepting offers.
• Practice appreciation.
• Practice creativity.


Participants hand each other imaginary gifts. The giving participant only makes a physical offer, while the receiving participant names the gift and accepts it with enthusiasm.

Time: 15 min

Number of participants: 2 – 200

Game flow:

Have the participants stand in a circle. If there are more than 12 players let them pair up. Tell them to hand each other imaginary gifts. The giver only makes a physical gesture with their hands. The receiver then justifies the shape and weight of the giver by naming it appropriately. The receiver over accepts the gift with enthusiasm as if it is the one thing they have always wanted.


When doing the game in a circle let them pass gifts around the circle. In other words everyone gives a gift to the person on their left or right. Only one person gives a gift at a time while the others observe. When doing it in pairs the partners just give each other gifts.

Debrief questions:

• What was interesting about the exercise?
• How did it feel to have your gift appreciated like this?
• What did it feel like receiving the gift?
• How does this apply to creativity and collaboration?

Online adaptations

Since people in an online room cannot stand in a circle or make eye contact to connect with each other, the following adaptations can be made:

  1. The names of participants are visible on the screen, these names may be changed by participants if they wish. These names can be used in the game so that the participant wanting to pass a gift simply call the name of the person they wish to pass their gift to before doing so.
  2. Participants may also be given a number alongside their name as they enter the room. These numbers may be used to establish an order and in this manner replace the convention of a circle for deciding order.
  3. Encourage people to use distance from the camera as a way to create variety in the size and quality of the gift:  move away from the camera for big gifts that require large movements and come closer for smaller gifts and smaller movements.

‘This is not a …’ or ‘Use it for something it’s not’ or ‘Props game’


• Encourages risk taking and creating a safe climate.
• Develops creative thinking.


Participants make a circle around an arbitrary object like an empty water bottle. Each participant gets a chance to step forward and demonstrate what else the object could be.

10 – 20 minutes

Number of participants: 4 – 12 (if there are more than 12 divide them in smaller circles)

Game flow:

Have the participants stand in a circle. Place an arbitrary object in the middle of the circle. Anything like an empty bottle or a kitchen appliance will do the trick. Tell them that everyone will get a chance to step forward pick up the object and say “This is not a …. (Bottle for example) this is a …( instead of talking, the participant shows  with action what the object might be).  For example if it is a telescope the participant can hold it in front of his/her eye and look around the room. other participants call out what they think the object is until they get it right or they give up. The participant with the object then confirms what it was and returns the object to the middle of the circle.


Tell the participants that everyone must come up with at least 3 different ideas. This stretches them to really think creatively and challenges their belief of what is actually possible and plausible. Most participants will think it will be impossible for everyone to come up with 3 different ideas. Where in fact there are endless possibilities.

Treat each suggestion as equally creative and encourage the participants to support each other by applauding after every demonstration.

Debrief questions:

• What was interesting about the exercise?
• How did it feel to participate?
• What made it difficult?
• What helped to make it easier?

Circus bow


• Illustrates the improv practise of accepting mistakes.
• Building trust
• Encourages risk taking and creating a safe climate.


In a circle participants each get a chance to step forward, say “I failed” and bow.  After each bow the rest of the participants give a warm round of applause.

Time: 10 min

Number of participants: Any (for larger groups, or where participants seem cautious and tense , divide them in smaller circles or in pairs)

Game flow:

Have the participants stand in a circle.  Tell them that everyone will get the chance to step forward into the circle, then say anything in the line of “I made a mistake” or “I failed” and then give a big bow.  The rest of the group then give a round of applause.


If the group is very comfortable with each other let them share a real mistake or failure.   When sharing is personal and authentic it paves the way to vulnerability and this enhances experiences immensely.

This exercise is called circus bow, because whenever a trapeze artist makes a mistake and falls down into the net, he will make a summersault out of the net and bow towards the audience as if that was exactly what was supposed to happen.

This exercise may seem silly in writing, but try it and see what surprising results you get.  Remember in order to be brilliant you have to risk being foolish.

Debrief questions:

• How did it make you feel being applauded for stating that you made a mistake?
• How did it feel to applaud the others?
• What can we learn from this exercise?
• How can we help each other to feel safe to take risks?