December 26, 2012

What I have learnt (in 2012)

This year is coming to an end and the time for making plans for the next is upon us. Even if you are not the type of person that likes making new years resolutions these holidays are as good a time as any for planning your next move. I encourage you to give your thoughts some room and take time in between Christmas dinner and counting down from 10 to make a decision about your personal priorities. Here are some of my reflections about the year that has passed:

What I have learnt in 2012

As a trainee I have had the chance to work on several projects at my bank and found ways to test and develop my abilities at leading from within a group. I had my troubles at first, taking on too much responsibility for the outcomes and trying to force my ideas on people where I needed to be convincing them and taking their opinions openly. Everything worked out fine and I found new pleasure in my role after I relaxed into the idea that the success or failure of our common effort was not 100% in my hands. 
Lesson: Leadership takes practice (or: having read all the advice on a topic does not mean you know how to follow it) 

For three monthy I worked in human resources. I was there for quite a few job interviews and got to challenge people with probing questions about their life and career. I got to decide who was invited for interviews and whose resumé did not fit the description of the job. This task was difficult to do well because while I was impressed by some people and underwhelmed by others the first and last question always was if they were the right person for the job. 
Lesson: Testing and judging people is not the job I want.

This whole year was pretty much entirely shaped by work. I found less and less time to regularly follow my hobbies and other interests that make me feel complete. When I decided to run a half marathon, inspired by a coworker, I trained hard for three months and achieved my goal. Still: motivation is harder and energy is scarcer than before. 
Lesson: Keeping up with many interests at once takes a lot of effort. In the future I will give more attention to my work-life-balance again.

December 20, 2012


ARIES (March 21-April 19): Swans, geese, and ducks molt all their flight feathers at once, which means they may be unable to fly for several weeks afterwards. We humans don't do anything like that in a literal way, but we have a psychological analog: times when we shed outworn self-images. I suspect you're coming up on such a transition, Aries. While you're going through it, you may want to lie low. Anything resembling flight -- launching new ventures, making big decisions, embarking on great adventures -- should probably be postponed until the metamorphosis is complete and your feathers grow back. 
I have been working a lot in this last year. Since I came to my current employer at the end of last year I have been learning a lot about the financial world and business in general. My dad remarked on how my use of language had changed to a different vocabulary that includes all those professional terms and expressions like "communicate changes within the team", "control the resources of our project", "manage my time". I seldom emerged from work to really reflect on the changes in my life and in myself. However I still make sure that I get to relax and spend time with my friends and family, but that leaves little time to sit down and be still. 

Note to self: Make more time to reflect and plan the future next year and get ready to complete the metamorphosis! Take flight again!

September 07, 2012

Principles of Change

Through a blogpost by "Civilised Money" I stumbled across this guy, Carne Ross. Some years ago he was a British diplomat who stood up to Blair and Bush when they proposed war in Iraq on the basis of misleading information, today he sides with the Occupy movement, works on creating an alternative banking system and confesses that he hates hierarchy. Thus, he wrote a book on a leaderless revolution. According to him there are nine principles that make real political change possible.

He explains his principles in this very nice in-depth interview by one of my journalistic heroes, Bill Moyers. I really enjoyed listening to those two, who really have seen the inside of important and powerful political institutions until becoming somewhat disillusioned and eventually both turning to other political means in their respective - and quite impressive - ways. It's people like that that give me motivation and inspiration for action, so I would like to share their conversation with you:

So here are the nine principles of Carne Ross's leaderless revolution:

1. Excavate your convictions - What are the things you really really care about? this knowledge will give you the motivation to act.

2. Who's got the money and who's got the gun? - Take a step back and analyze the situation thoroughly. What mechanisms are at work here? Where does the action need to take place?

3. Act as if the means are the end - Inspired by Gandhi, Ross says that the form of politics you choose is the end. So you can only reach a goal, if you embody the principles of that goal.

4. Ask, don't assume - The Golden Rule is only a proxy that assumes that other people are similar to us. We should just go and find out, what people actually think.

5. Address those suffering the most - Happiness is not empirically measurable, suffering however is. And therefore it's both easier and more ethical to take care of the sufferers first. The poor, the hungry, the sick.

6. Consult and negotiate - Measures taken without including people in the process won't work as intended or they won't work at all. Don't take people for granted and consult with everybody in a participatory democracy.

7. Big picture, little deeds - Individuals are agents of change, because by doing the little deeds they do every day they create the world we live in. The same way, with a good look at the big goals we can better choose our small daily steps towards them.

8. Use non-violence - Non-violence doesn't mean pacifism, nor does it mean doing nothing. Non-violent action is a proven way to build positive and lasting social change.

9. Kill the king - (a chess metaphor) Voting won't solve problems, action will. There is no silver bullet, don't think there is a simple solution. Your actions matter, not your opinions.

Have a great weekend! And be good :)

August 29, 2012

Still rockin'

Old Spice Muscle Music from Terry Crews on Vimeo.

This is me giving a life sign. I had a very interesting talk today. Good interesting. The kind of talk that you leave with a sense of appreciation for the other person. With clear feelings, and with perspective. All may not be good, but it's alright. It's good to know what matters. I feel that we all need a reminder now and then, so here is one for you. And while you gain distance from your worried mind, go ahead and play the muscle drum ;-) Sausages!

May 19, 2012

Chuck Close writes to his younger self

As you will have noticed reading my blog I am a fan of inspirational people. Artists have always given me special outlooks and insights, because their work consists of introspection and measuring their own reaction to things they like or don't like to a higher degree than less aware people.
I aspire to that level of awareness where I can recognize what I like and what I am good at more easily. To define this clearly for myself is a task that I would give my younger self. So I am happy to have found these words by Chuck Close, an American portrait painter and photographer, who writes to his younger self and all of us what hindsight has taught him.

Source: Video on CBS News / Picture by John Agoncillo, check out his beautiful blog

This is a note to myself at age 14: 

I WAS in the eighth grade and was told not to even think about going to college. I couldn't add or subtract, never could memorize the multiplication tables, was advised against taking algebra, geometry, physics or chemistry and therefore would not get into any regular college. Since I was good with my hands, I was advised to aim for trade school, perhaps "body and fender" work. 

NEVER let anyone define what you are capable of by using parameters that don't apply to you. 

I APPLIED to a junior college in my hometown with "open enrollment", got in and embarked on a career in the visual arts.

VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING I've done is influenced by my learning disabilities. I think I was driven to paint portraits to commit images of friends and family to memory. I have face blindness, and once a face is flattened out, I can remember it much better. 

INSPIRATION IS for amateurs -- the rest of us just show up and get to work. Every great idea I've ever had grew out of work itself. 

SIGN ON to a process and see where it takes you. You don't have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today you will do what you did yesterday and tomorrow you will do what you did today. Eventually you will get somewhere. 

NO ONE gets anywhere without help. Mentors, including your parents and an occasional teacher, can make you feel "special" even when you are failing in other areas. Everyone needs to feel special. 

MY FATHER died when I was 11. That was the tragedy of my life, a horrible thing to happen when you are so young. Oddly enough there was a gift in this tragedy. I learned very early in life that the absolute worst thing can happen and you will get past it and you will be happy again. Losing my father at a tender age was extremely important in being able to accept what happened to me later when I became a quadriplegic. 

IF YOU are overwhelmed by the size of a problem -- break it down into many bite-sized pieces. 

QUADRIPLEGICS DON'T envy the able-bodied - we envy paraplegics. We think they've got an easier row to hoe. THERE IS always someone worse off than you. 

I AM confident that no artist has more pleasure day in and day out from what he or she does than I do.