Arne van Oosterom
3 min readMar 31, 2020


Surf’s Up

Isn’t it funny, or rather ironic how it takes social distancing to bring us closer together… A quarantine to build community, being united in isolation. I really hope this total lock down is a key to open our mind. I’ve seen people close the door but open their eyes, their ears and their hearts. Let us hope these are the things that will remain.

Like you I am worried about what’s going on. My parents are vulnerable. I’m an employer. I have kids… It’s like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone (very old TV series)

In a situation like this I strongly feel the urge, the need, to say something really smart, something brilliant and profound to help. But I’m not smart. I’m also not capable of helping on a practical level. I can’t do anything. I have no relevant skills… I’m not a doctor or nurse, I don’t work in the food industry or as a police officer… I have a completely nonessential job. Professionally I’m a nice to have, not a need to have.

All my working live as a designer, photographer, comedian, artist, teacher, complete misfit… I have promoted the importance of an open mind, embracing complexity, navigating chaos, being vulnerable, asking better questions and starting with a beginners mind. To begin with saying I do not know… to always start from there.

Easy to say from where I come from. I have been privileged to grow up in a rich country like The Netherlands, privileged to the bone… as a spoiled kid it is easy to say: “Start with I don’t know”… even in a world where the secure and strong ‘know-it-all’ is revered… idolized. “I don’t know” sounds weak. But the opposite is true.

This crisis is something unprecedented…. so unfamiliar… so unnerving… so big and small. So global and yet so personal. It’s touches everything and everyone. During this crisis, the words “I don’t know” are more true than ever… and I feel for the first time how scary these words sound when they are so true and immediate… there is no way to know what all this means.

But please let this crisis have consequences. Let it be a big reset.

I want to be wiser than I am. I’m getting older, so at least I have experience and the only relevant wisdom that brings is that I realise that one: I really don’t know anything. And two: it is within ‘not knowing anything’ everything is possible. Let me explain by sharing a quote. It is written on a poster hanging is a window in a little Amsterdam street (or at least that’s where I found it):

“Everyone said it was impossible, until someone came by who didn’t know that”
Google told me it is a quote by Jos Burgers (a Dutch Marketeer)

To me it reflects my personal philosophy that the future does not exist, we create it. We create it by the things we do everyday. Starting with ‘I don’t know’ allows for all possibilities and opportunities. And yes… If I say this is a time of great opportunity, people might say… How dare you say this crisis is a good thing. People are suffering… but that’s exactly why we need to use this moment to build something positive out of this misery.

If we don’t learn from this tragedy, if all we do is trying really hard to keep everything the same, or just put our heads down and freeze and wait until it is all over, and then simply go back to “normal”… we should be ashamed of ourselves.

There is a big nasty wave crashing down on us… you can fight it or ride it. I don’t think we have a choice. When we open the doors again, we go back to work, school, concerts…. the world will be different. Let it be a better world.

We have proven that we can change everything overnight. Something even with the threat of extinction by global warming we didn’t think possible. Let’s use this reset… this Planet Earth Reboot for good.

Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work. What falls apart and what grows stronger during this crisis. Let us not rebuild the ‘houses’ that collapsed during this earthquake, but build something better.

This is a crisis like no other. But every crisis is ‘like no other’. So how can we truly unite as people, trow away the broken parts and use the good parts to build upon?

I don’t know, you don’t know. Let’s find out together.

Surf’s Up people!



Arne van Oosterom

Podcaster, Founder Future Skills Academy, Blue Sky Republic, Creative Leadership Coach, Founder DesignThinkers Academy and Group