In this extra creative life episode, Katie speaks with Cyril Moulin Fournier, who uses his learnings from being abducted by Boko Haram to demonstrate how to unlock the human potential to face adversity and uncertainty.
Cyril tells us how it was his innate creativity and relearning how to tap into it that helped him, and his family get through the ordeal. He explains how he used writing to make sense of his experience as well as a way of raising his voice and how sharing his understanding is helping others. We also chat about how Cyril incorporates creativity into his life and his recommendations for others, no matter how creative they feel they are.
Follow my art at www.katieannicecarr.com an on Instagram at @katieannice
Original music written and performed by Jonathan D. Mellor licensed to Step Up Create S.L.
So welcome back. And today in this creative life episode I’m joined by a good friend of mine, Cyril Moulin Fournier who is a change maker a disrupter a keynote speaker, a facilitator and an author. And Sarah is working on a book at the moment called reconnecting with life. And maybe Sarah you tell us a bit the story of that both maybe the book and also sort of the story behind it. So first, first of all, it’s a pleasure to share about creativity, which is something we are passionate about. The two of us, I like to say I am French, and when I was younger, I was doing a lot of things of creativity, because maybe a family conditions My father was a banker working in m&a. Pretty serious. I decided to try to remove that as part of creativity. So I did no business school, and I worked in the corporate environment. And I was moving forward with my with one way but they had always two questions at the top of my mind the first question was, does that make sense? And the second one was, if so to view ciros something hidden, that need to bloom but I have no answer. And 2013 to reinfections twelves the perfectly plant to our boys visiting my brother, his wife and her four boys that were living in Cameroon, and that was visiting them in order to see sights, elephants in northern Cameroon and after five days have a meeting tree, you know, I don’t know if you’ve been to Africa, but amazing landscapes and the 19 February 2013 in the second, I moved from my comfort zone to the chaos. We got kidnapped, seized by Boko Haram and we got moved to enter a wicked seized. We stay under extreme conditions to bring 60 days and during that time maybe I can explain a little bit the reason but I reconnected with a hidden artist. And I discovered that what I call a unsuspected volcano that that bloomed from nothing in a tiny space. 15 square metres. And that exploded so I connected and I became the artist. And after two months when I got released. I knew that was my core. And since then I’ve been working I continue to work to announce these creativity. So we’ll come back to what you do now. Maybe you could tell us a little bit more about how you overcame this. It was obviously an incredibly difficult situation you are locked in somewhere you’ve got I think small children with you as well. And just not really being looked after. It’s a nice experience. How did you overcome that? How did you get through it? Or go to first if you ever came to writing during captivity you were there to pen and we had a few papers. We used our I use the the automotive, the Mitsubishi car technical guide. And one day I discovered that between the technical commands they were empty spaces until I started to read poetry. And that tiny space became a space of creativity. I became a light to see during these 60 days. The creative or artistic director in the team, everybody. Each of us we had a rule connected to our inner force or talents and that played that role with my nephews that were young. The oldest was 11 years old. The youngest fool enough for boys to I used it after once released. A released is sort of captivity because you come back to the word considered as normal. But because of these experience you need to start from scratch like a BB. I overcame first going step by step. So by writing this time on more space, yes, or more space, open space and that was important in order to achieve to be creative. In order to get a frame, read them structure that is super important. Have them move to CSR to try maybe to find meaning between the business role and their value. Or their role in society. And tea in 2016. I decided to leave or to comfort my salary to became a explorer of uncertainty because you’re working in a multinational before and then you were obviously away and then went back into the same role. Yes, yeah. So first Sumrall look, but I remember one day, I was doing quality. So optimising processes were in the post sales division, and often these unique experience optimising their process. percent is like, okay, but maybe that’s no my core. Maybe not. Maybe you had a higher purpose. Yeah, exactly. They remember when they have to call conference with my teams in Amsterdam. I ran away I found a pantry in my company in some cool guides. I don’t feel like this has no meaning. There was the the awareness to see it’s fine, but I knew that I had to move to the next step. So you were saying that writing was helping you is that what has become the book, this writing and sense making? Because when you talk about it now, you are clearly talking about something you’ve thought a lot about, and you put a structure and you were saying earlier about everybody had a role. Now I’m assuming that at the time, you weren’t clear that Oh, right. You’re the creative director, your this your that, but actually it was just getting through it. So it sounds like your writing has helped you to make sense. Yes. Of what happened. I think Jorge San Bruno see that writing that enables to make sense, where there is no meaning and that’s true. Once released, a writing became like a sort of therapy. It was a way for me to first put down on the paper. All what did happen in the day to say this is not a bad to even this happen. They remember one day I was in Paris. We got released in a problem to sell sensitivity. And for many condition. I stay in Paris for two months and my godmother very close person give me a humbug super nice, and they’re wasting hours at coffee in many places. And there was flour too. And one day a boy was with his brother. They say Man, what these guy is still the mother see? Probably a poet or an artist. So you got your barrier out and continue to attend to that role. And after. It’s funny because that was the first part. There was like, very hard. It’s like I call it like vomiting million that putting especially because mine brilliant at a lot of things he was not able to share. So writing was super important. And when the Dino was close friends, and I love since I was about to tell stories. We do share this year and I get to share some anecdotes and my fancy you share something really dramatic, really hard, but you put sense of humour and he told me, why don’t you write something and therefore I move to okay to writing for myself. therapy to writing for others, which is a totally different process. Yeah. And how how is that process for you? What’s your creative process? Well, I’m a thinker. I’m come from a family always for Christmas. We were given booths sometime literally boring books. It was like okay, so I think I know I am. The creative process of writing is for me, like a river to say Okay, put to paper and with no judgement put down on what you use think so submix of intuition emotion. Let it go. Yeah. So you you write everything down and then you presumably go back and edit it. Yes. Yeah, exactly. So it sounds a bit like your creative process is about doing it getting it getting it done getting it started and then shaping it nice to become like that. But at the beginning especially because I to write something I was not alone. That was involved with my brother and two other people and empathetic person. So yet a lot of boundaries. One day an editor to me. So if you put too many boundaries, people may not believe that we feel them is something you’re hiding to too much more spontaneity. I don’t know if you’ve read that book of Julia Cameron. Yeah, Julia Cameron. is way too sweet. Exactly. They love it because she said okay. Removed the judge the saboteur the judge, which is for me one of the showstopper for for being creative. Yeah, connect to what you feel and put it down and everything is okay. Yeah. And then you can decide what you share and what you don’t share exactly. But it’s like first ride and be free. And after you wish. Okay, this person may be not. Not on that way. But I’ve seen first party’s been spontaneous, like a river. Like okay, flow. Yeah, yourself. And now we’re talking about creativity. Yes, question I always ask people in this section of the podcast is what is creativity for you? Okay. That’s a good question. What is creativity? For me being a being creativity is being connected to why I am willing as a sensitive person and being connected to what’s going on outside and five minutes college. So the risk first, this idea of connect between your inner circle and the word of what’s going on first. Second thing is you told me was Syria is a disrupter meaning that to think different ways. So maybe, I would frame it that would be take a different perspective, change the way you look at a problem showing the way you define a word you’re talking about that massive thing in your life that that took you out of your reality. Part of that was changing your perspective. Yes, you went from living a normal life, let’s say and you’re living here in Spain, had a corporate job to being captured and not being able to do anything. And that was about in a way changing perspective. Yes. Tend to perspective not only on on your mind, but with your emotions or with the body. And that’s something also part for me of the creative meaning. We’re not only brain, we do have emotions, and emotions, and body do have a huge role in the integrative process. And I would see that during captivity, we were stuck specially 20 days. We see a lot of impact on the body. So the brain to play a key role to imagine a person to meet your power of imagination teach you they love that because I think but after the body need to talk, clown movement, sport, meaning creativity. For me, it’s also connecting the soul, the heart and the body. So you mentioned creativity and imagination. Yes. What do you think the connection is there? Oh, I feel the connection is you can create some ideas a passion for cooking. So you can create so is you can follow a recipe. You can change something the imagination is shifting from possible and barriers to use these impossible obstacle buries to make it part of the solution. I don’t know if I’m clear. It’s like Yes. Nice. I’m just kind of making sense of that. In my head. If you’ve been to Brazil, Brazil, you have an expression Shichi new, which is always a maybe because Brazil is facing a lot of obstacles such as many countries. There is always lateral thinking or another way to ask over the obstacle. So it’s either you take the obstacle, like a little bit like the cloud, and you make it bigger and you you become creative. Or you say okay, A to B is not possible. Let’s find another way to move forward. Yeah, that reminds me of when I was in Cuba, they talk about resolution which just to resolve something but resolving something Cuban style tends to mean a very creative approach to something that could be quite sad such as I don’t have any food to feed my children this teaching. How am I going to resolve that? And it is sort of a massive, imaginative, creative thinking process to overcome something like I say that is shouldn’t happen and that that is difficult to so how is your approach to creativity changed through your life? You were saying at the beginning that you were a creative child that you were painting and drawing and kind of involved in creativity. Tell me a little bit how that’s changed, because I think that also sorry, just to make the question longer. We met in 2016. And it seems like you’ve done your stories continued a lot since then. And you’ve developed your sense of creativity from that as well. So maybe if you could connect childhood to where you are now. I would say we tend to say when we are a kid and your mother’s who issues so you’re the expert much more than me. My I’m sure. We are kidding. Well, I tend when we we do have an innocent way of doing things. So when I was a kid, I was doing dancing, traditional dancing in France. I was doing a lot of ceramic paintings I was playing food for I’ve been playing for seven years. So it was ideologies West Philly here and also I see my my book they liked the way I managed to frame it slowly because of the environment because of the need to adapt to a more traditional classical environment. The artist decided to take over dependence, the colours and the walls became grey standard. I know what you mean with that because I found that a similar thing with myself. That I guess there were a few things I never really let go of. But there was a time when I was really trying to be the super serious lawyer business person, and kind of ignored the fact that I really needed to do creative things to feel like myself. Exactly. I learned to adapt to environments. Adapted bird, I lost this part of being authentic, being sensitive. And to I went to Italy when I was younger, so they again the treaty, reappeared I remember when my father said we’re moving to Milan, I said, Oh, new language, new cultures. So this facility be the Explorer when I was 12 years old, and and after I came back to France, but there was a little bit like creative because I was to get a low with my head and people with it. But you’re not French, other off to university, I think begin here much more disconnected to creativity. And it’s funny because you were mentioning so working in a corporate environments, doing process optimization, which was not really creative, even if even if, when I was back home I was creating for cooking. And then for Tao was my space of creativity. I could take time could dare to change the recipes. But it was a limited moment and happened in 2013 captivity, that what I call the unsuspected volcano, meaning that these hidden creativity popped up maybe because because we were not sure we would stay alive. And maybe because there was nothing to lose. Maybe not maybe for sure because we manage to create in our tiny space, a space of trust and a space of safety. Nets even if outside the West kills and fear for fun time and I became the creative engine, especially with my new views. An example I I set up a plan to create a restaurant in the Fifth Avenue in New York, in the middle of Nigeria, so imagine your recipes. i One day I remember when I made my nephew my godson was preset tiny paper and what are you doing? I’m creating my own pizza. The there was creativity. For me. It’s also connection to inspire to send energy to another person. Creativity need to be contagious. It’s not isolated process. Yeah, it’s not the lone wolf sitting there creating on their own. For me no need to be shared, especially in 2000 setting creativity was an engine for me that enabled me to to stay alive but also Western engine for the group. And once released, especially once release creativity by writing, I started to use my story and to share into conferences which is one of my my top two days of being a keynote speaker, French expert in resilience PolicyLink say something that I love he say there are two ways to shift a tragedy use something hard to make it powerful or to make it an opportunity is by writing and by speaking power of talk and the power of a Friday. So essentially, raising your voice and sharing the story. Yes, especially raising the voice because I was single and once released, I realised that what I’ve been through was so powerful. I had to share it with my friends with which I did with you with with other people in school. And that’s something for me that is part of my efficient meaning that sharing creativity is something super powerful. How did it feel the first time you shared that story in person with someone that you didn’t know very well. So this is sort of a public sharing. It’s a really good question. The first time that I did it was in a process of really recent so meaning it was 2000 events 13 And for me sharing was I needed to enter stand how to integrate that event. With was totally crazy into my life. So I was like in the first part of integrating and it felt normal for me to talk. But I remember the face of the person I was talking to was totally shocked. Yeah, I remember when you shared this when we were doing our coaching training, and I don’t know if it was the first module or not, you’re no better than me but it wasn’t the first day and when you shared it the whole room just went completely silent. That that kind of reading the room that you get what you think everybody’s full attention is on this. And yeah, it was kind of difficult to know as the person receiving it. What to do with that story. And this was in a coaching context. So it was fine because we could support you or just kind of help you get through it or whatever else. They get the feeling that the way you’ve developed that story and integrated it has changed now. Yes. Tell us a bit about how you absolutely said Right. And I remember that moments. Maybe because a friend of mine we did that training said zero my advice be true and be sincere because you will be in a safe environment. And and that’s why I did it. But now if I look with the perspective, this first slide 2016 So five years ago, I could imagine the reaction, it changed Yeah, because at that time, I thought undefined by these events. And, and therefore talking about it was a way to say okay, this is me. And when I talked to my close friends, and when I sit well, I discover my creativity a really close friendship, but zero you have been always creative. And that’s where I started new paths and new reflection to say okay, this story exists, but you are not defined by the crisis. You are not we are not defined by the crisis we are facing. We’re not defined by the pain. We are suffering. We are who we are, the choices we make. And if I decided to take distance by my writing, the first step I decided to listen to other stories. And that enabled me to move from my ego or from my limited perspective, which was word faithful for as part of the process but was frustrated because I was I had a limited perspective to come back to that. That need to announce the perspective. Tool key listening to other digging into other words enable me to say Oh, better, but this is much more powerful. And that also, because I work with experts in art in Paris to help me take distance and discover a new way with fun with humour, which was not at all part of the process when we met it was something very powerful heart. And that for me could generate disconnection with audience with a person. So how do you incorporate this now into what you do today? I think the best way is this podcast mainly talking about creativity, which is something we’re both passionate to talk about something deeper to talk about the event, but to go much further than that for me the way I incorporate and also to look first is my audience, my clients to remember you Lamby book, amazing book about storytelling. I remember there was one page feature. You are not a hero. We are the mentor. The hero is the person who is on the stage or behind the screen since the pandemic and therefore the question always I ask is What’s your major challenge? What prevents you from sleeping at me therefore it’s first the hero and the client, the person. So you connect to the other people you tailor it to them. I think you also you work a lot with change management. You work a lot with managing this kind of very unstable changeable situations. Which must be something that’s quite popular now. Having gone through COVID So 10 minutes into something through so in my previous job in the corporate I did a lot of change management was part of the board. My job was to assess status and at that time it was my client was an internal clients and they were to give you an ID 200 changes have processed in the theory competitive market, and I realised all the berries to listen to a client and to stand and to not only listen to identify the need for change, but accompanied through change. So that was obviously my life changing experience drove me to change and to the concept of uncertainty. Which was at that time, I remembered not if not a lot of people were talking about uncertainty. And after something I knew sensitive about the Brexit the Brexit Brexit was for me I remember it part of my coaching process in London. And I remember one of my peers who said this will never happen and suddenly it happened. And I started to say okay uncertainty when I’m through uncertainty I’ve been through so therefore, to investigate worthy experts. I read books and I dig into that complex of uncertainty, but uncertainties related with the environments, and creativity is related with who we are and something we can activate. And that’s super important. For me creativity, one of the things that it is very useful for is a completely changeable, uncertain environment, like the one you found yourself in because it’s kind of a constant that you can find within yourself and that you can help other people to find as well. Yes, yes. I think it’s called the excess size of the of the egg coach here in Barcelona to me, meaning that you have got the outer the environments and you’ve got your inner circle which is what you what is under your power, where you do have the power for influencing Yeah. and creativity. For me. It’s one of these inner part mean yeah, this is this is something I use a lot as well. Well. I mean, I guess it’s really simple, isn’t it? So the middle bit is what do I control? The next bit is what do I influence and the next bit is what do I need neither influence nor control. So it’s good because I discover a new egg I had only two parts. This is much more deeper, more precise. Now I’ve got the image of the egg you know when you hard boil an egg and you don’t let I think you just don’t put it in cold water quickly so it gets it’s got the yellow in the middle then it’s got like a grey bit around the outside of the yellow and then it’s the next time I will avoid a neck similar question about just to help out some of our listeners because as you know, we try and appeal to people of all different creative persuasions and that means people who don’t even think that creative what kind of advice would you have for someone who feels like they’re not very creative? I love this. Because because I do have a lot of people with no I’m not creative meaning. My advice is don’t make a big try to make creativity something smaller and more possible to to activate. So don’t make it big. Make it small first, second centre. Creativity is like a muscle. And like any light sport I mean that you need to to live the experience. It’s an experience. That touch removed the judge I love this one because I do feel still now as creative sometimes I do have to Oh no, you cannot say that. To remove the jet and, and connect to to to small things small thing meaning creative can be okay you go to web from A to B change the way instead of doing by underground or bypass to invoke walking. Accepted uncertainty so meaning accept that Yeah, it feels like not comfortable. And I remember a friend of mine gave me a humble quiz. Very simple. Exercise of creativity. Look at other clouds in the sky. First actually looked into clouds because some people are busy. Okay. Look at this guy and try to imagine what do you see? That’s something super simple and creativity stuff from that. After you can see creativity can be okay on the way to think in your work. There can be changing perspective. We have talked about that. Try to change perspective, instead of being a director of a company, put yourself in the client and move you and share and share tools to your body because tension perspective and it’s okay to fail. I’m not going to say fail fast at first because that’s where the meaning accept that creativity is a space where you may fail. I failed. I still keep failing, but it’s an experience and enjoy it. Well, thank you very much. It has been lovely to have you on the podcast. Lovely to see you in person. If you notice any differences in the sound quality this week. It’s because we’ve actually recorded this in person. And maybe have you back on sometime. Yeah. Thanks so much as the pleasure to talk about something you and I share and thanks a lot for the coffee in to see your space of creativity. Oh, one more thing. If anyone would like to follow you connect with you get you as a keynote speaker, how should they contact you? Okay, so I do have my profile on LinkedIn and I have my webpage which is connect dash create.net If you got this far, thanks for listening to the step of great podcast and we will see or hear you very soon. Please give us a follow and a review if you can it really does make a difference to help us to get the podcast a little bit further out and reach more people. Just podcast is written produced and presented by Katie Annice Carr with original music composed and performed by Jonathan David Mellor.
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