“Congratulations you’re the first class to finish this course. You’ve made it through the challenges and hurdles that we’ve thrown at you. You’ve become true creative leaders and are ready to be released into the wild. Remember to come back someday….”

That’s how it should have been right? A rousing graduation ceremony. Hugs and handshakes. A perfect piece of embossed paper inscribed with our names, todays date and a distinction to frame proudly on the downstairs loo wall for the rest of our lives.  

But that’s not what happened this weekend at THNK: The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership. Yes, we were the first class to complete the 18 month part-time programme that began with a walk across water to a misty island. But graduate with honors? Nope. Join the illustrious alumni? Nada. Update our linked-in profile with a gargantuan new bullet-pointed achievement. No chance. 

Instead, in the middle of the Acceleration Festival weekend, twenty of our class snuck into a small room, sat round a table and looked each other in the eyes. No challenge tools, no post-it note piles, no whiteboards, no macbook pro line-ups. We simply asked how each other how we were doing. Not with our projects or businesses so much, but how were we really doing.  

And then something special happened.

One-by-one we quietly started to share our stories from the last year or two. The stories that mattered most. The insights that uprooted our long-held assumptions about how the world works and our roles within it. We shared our perfect moments, deepest anxieties and dreams. We cried. A collective exhaling of life poured like a waterfall from one-to-another around the room and beyond as we shared our absent classmates stories too. 

We know we’ve been the lucky ones. To have been part of this brave new school of creative leadership just as it has been born into the world. The funny thing was, that sitting there quietly in that room together, the big goals, accelerations, global challenges that we all care about didn’t seem to matter as much. What mattered was that we got to share this. And we wouldn’t change it for the world. Which is why we decided we’ll be back in six months time, to do it again.

We didn’t graduate. We didn’t want to. We’re going to stay in this class, forever.