Sunday, August 1, 2010

The power of full commitment

It's time for another TED video! This one tells us to fully commit to the things we want to achieve and sometimes let go of the set of assumptions we have clung to all our lives. Sometimes we have to get acquainted with new ways of doing things in order to achieve.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Matchbox weekend

In April 2010, the second edition of Matchbox (Formerly known as Fifteen Minutes of Fame - Click here to read about the first edition) took place in the Netherlands. With a group of twelve people with five different nationalities, we spent a very inspirational weekend in a nice twin bungalow. As we didn't all know each other yet, we got introduced over soto ayam (Indonesian chicken soup) and started off by drawing portraits of each other. In turns, we drew different parts of the other's face, which led to very interesting posters!

Saturday we started with the presentations. Miriam was first. She spoke about the small, bigger and big sparks in her life and how they become mostly apparent when she travels. At first she collected her own stories during her journeys, now her focus has shifted. She went from taking pictures of herself at a certain location, to taking pictures of things she encountered, such as traffic signs, bikes or Malinese watercontainers. Recently, she re-tells the stories that the people she meets tell her. Her conclusion: everyone has a story that's worth being heard.

Marise taught us about different conflict styles and made us aware of our own ways of handling conflicts by doing an exercise. It is mostly the balance of the importance of the relationship with the person involved and the goal you wish to achieve which matters. which was represented by animals. The turtle avoids conflict, the owl seeks compromise and the hawk pushes for its own goals without taking the relationship into account. The hawk (or shark) became a symbol that we kept on referring to during the weekend.

Beatriz told us about her passion for painting and showed us both her own work and the work that inspired her. She explained which elements are important for her in a painting: short strokes, color. She talked about the meaning of painting something for someone else. We were all impressed by her work and tried to convince her to do an exhibition someday.

Tommy spoke about all the different reasons people gave for NOT coming to weekend. In short, these reasons can be summarized as "my uncle is in town'. This can either be true or it can be a way of not saying what the actual reason is. According to Tommy people are often guided by the Resistance, a term coined by Seth Godin in his book 'Linchpin'. The resistance is that little voice in your head that tells you to avoid scary things. Tommy however asked all of us to help spread the word that the resistance must be fought and that we can all make a change in this worls. He gave away some copies of the book.

I spoke about Indonesia. Starting from existing cliches about the country, I tried to explain what draws me there. I spoke of my work with an Indonesian human rights group and the inspiration that my colleagues bring me. In the Netherlands, so much is taken for granted. In Indonesia, I see so many people fighting for what they believe in and never complaining or giving up.

Jinn gave us a workshop on shiatsu. He explained how this Japanese massage technique uses energy and meridians as it basis. We tried some basic moves on each other and spent a very relaxed hour laying in the sun afterwards.

Suus explained the basics for what to do when you want to motivate someone else. The two ingredients for success are self efficacy and skills. We have a tendency to tell people to 'just take a course and do it'. But that, as Suus clarified, doesn't work. First you need to work on self efficacy, the sense that a person has that he or she can perform a certain task. They must believe in themselves first. So how to build up self efficacy? Firstly, you ignore negative behavior and reinforce the positive ('Oh, you called your mom, great! When are you going to call about that vacancy?'). Only when they actually believe they can work in a different field, will they undertake steps to take a course. Very interesting stuff!

Livia's subject was decision taking. She talked about her own indecision; from the small every day decisions (what to drink at a cafe) to the bigger life changing decisions (in what field to work, with whom to share a life). She explained how the steps leading up to a decision preferably follow a pattern where information gathering tends to be the longest phase. People tend to get stuck there and postpone the moment where they actually take a decision.

Karlijn gave us a lesson in Tai Chi. We learned some basic movements and even tried some more intermediate level steps which required some coordination. It was a good workout in our nice little garden.

Nicolas spoke about what he has learned the past year. Being a manager, his main learning point was communicating with the people in his team. How do you get someone to do something? How do you coach them? After having some bad experiences, he tried to be more open to his colleagues way of working and support them where needed.

Matteo tried out a 'suggestion' exercise on a courageous volunteer from the group. He tried to influence his thoughts by using certain words and methods he learned from Derren Brown. Derren Brown is an illusionist and has been a major inspiration to Matteo. Matteo talked about the different methods Derren uses and answered the many questions from the audience.

Fateh was the first last year and now closed the weekend with a talk on change. He looked back on his adult life and showed us what a big factor 'change' is in his life (many apartments, in many cities). He talked about management styles in The Netherlands as compared to England, where he works now. Finally, he took us outside and did an exercise with us to make us aware of the way we deal with stress.

The group (without Suus unfortunately) before saying our goodbyes

It was another great weekend. Thanks everyone!
More photos can be found here

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A matter of perspective

Can we influence the way we see things? When arriving in Jakarta after spending a few weeks in Amsterdam, I realized how quickly I sometimes jump from a negative to a positive perspective and vice versa. Often I am able to influence that by thinking positive thoughts like a maniac. But that doesn't work when I'm in a really bad mood. The moments where I’m in the worst mood is probably after I’ve traveled for more than twelve hours. Even though by appearance I just look my own happy self, negative thoughts swirl around in my head like tornadoes.

When I see the world like that, everybody seems annoying and ugly, on purpose. They do it especially to annoy me. The Dutch stewardesses speak too loud complaining about their pursers. I get angry at the Asians that get up too quickly after landing to open the luggage bins. "They do it even before the seat belt sign is switched off!" I growl to myself. They push me out of the plane. They do it just to annoy me. In the long queue at the passport control, I try hard not to listen to the woman behind me. She’s on the phone and says “Ya saaaay… tapi saaay…” every other sentence (Say is short for sayang which means sweetie). A guy stands behind me at the baggage belt and makes a sound as if he’s trying to retrieve a chicken bone from his throat. Not once, but twenty times in a row. I tell myself he's not doing this just to annoy me. Still, I move away from him. When I get my bag, I quickly walk outside.

And then, suddenly, everything changes. I feel the compressing Jakartan heat that immediately makes my skin sticky. I hear the honking of cars all stuck at the airport’s parking lot and people yelling “Hello miss, taksi, miss?”. I see palm trees and the sky which is all red and black and purple. A woman carries a tray of Bintang beer. She trips and she screams “Ya Allaaaah”. We chuckle together. I'm seeing things from a positive side again. What happened to change my mood? I realize that all those annoying and ugly people were also tired after their flights and that they were not that ugly after all. Next time when I'm in my worst mood, I'll try harder to remember that.

The Dalai Lama teaches us compassion and my own guru Stephen Covey talks about being aware of your own perspective on things. We shape the way we see the world. But how to rise above your own fleeting emotions and practice this?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Seven tips on how to change your routine every day

This morning my roommate said he was off again for another day of routines. That didn't really sound like fun. Not at all, actually. Yes, we all have our daily routines. We are 'animals of habit' as we say in Dutch, 'gewoontedieren'. Apparently, people even need routines to stay sane. Or so doctors tell psychiatric patients.

But routines so quickly turn into a drag. The Dutch word for drag is 'sleur'. To me the sound of the word expresses its meaning. A bore. Everyday the same scenes, the same tasks, the same impulses. But it doesn't have to be like that!

For years, I've had a postcard. It hangs in my office now. It says "Verander dagelijks van sleur" which means change your routine every day. And that's what I try to do. You should too! How?
  1. Vary with your breakfast (don't eat and drink the same thing each day. I make different juices here in Indonesia)
  2. Take a different route to work (try a new road, see where it goes)
  3. Focus on one specific thing on your way to work (the sky, people wearing backpacks, the shape of windows)
  4. Try someone new (A different taste, leave at a different time, have lunch with different colleagues)
  5. Do something scary (ask someone a weird question, write a letter to your idol, hang a post-it with a compliment someone's computer screen)
  6. Bring your camera and take pictures of the normal things (you'll find even a boring office can have an inspiring angle)
  7. Play music (different songs have different moods and can really color my day)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fifteen Minutes of Fame - Time for a Q&A

As many people have been asking about Fifteen Minutes of Fame, it seemed about time to put all the questions on paper and provide the most wanted answers.

Q: Fifteen Minutes of Fame, what is this about?
A: The Fifteen Minute of Fame weekend is about inspiration. We invite friends and friends of friends to spend a weekend together in the dutch countryside. You have fifteen minutes to share something with the rest of us.
You could for example:
  • present something to the audience
  • host a debate on a topic you like talking about
  • introduce your favorite game and make us play it
  • give a beginners course about your hobby
  • share experiences from your life
  • tell stories unique to your culture
  • or anything else, really, as long as it's something you want to share with friends
Q: What should I expect?
A: You can expect a lot of fun and stories you've never heard before. The weekend will start with a nice dinner and some time to get to know each other better. In the midst of good breakfasts, lunch and dinner, and a stroll on the beach, everyone gets to spend fifteen minutes the way they want to. Get ready to be amazed!

Q: When is it?
A: The 15 minutes of fame weekend will be from Friday evening April 23rd to Sunday afternoon, April 25th.

Q: Where is it?
A: The next Fifteen Minutes of Fame weekend will be held at Bungalowpark Carpe Diem in Bergen, The Netherlands. It is about an hour away from Amsterdam and near the beach.

Q: How much does it cost?
A: The weekend costs 90 euro, excluding transportation to and from the venue. All meals and drinks, accommodation in two bungalows for 8 people and lots of fun are thus included.

Q: Can I bring a friend?
A: Yes, of course, you can bring a friend! If you know anyone that you think would like to joining. Please do tell us in advance, because we have limited space.

Q: What are things I could talk about?
A: Anything you feel like talking about will do. Topics from last year included farm life, presentation skills, imagination in software, mission statements and urban acupuncture.

If you need some further inspiration on how to give a presentation and especiallly about what topic, watch this video. Scott Berkun explains how you can talk about what you love, what you hate, what you're good at, a meta-subject (the meaning of life) or how your process of choosing a subject went. Even though the format is different (we have 15 instead of 5 minutes), it may be a helpful source of inspiration.

Q: I want to talk, but I'm too scared. Should I come?
A: One thing you do not have to worry about is the audience. You have already won them over. Not only do the other people come to the weekend to hear about you and learn about what it is to be you, they themselves will also have their own fifteen minutes to fill. Plus, you choose how exposed you want to be (see next question).

Q: I don't like to be in the spotlights. Should I come?
A: You choose how exposed you want to be. It's the thing you love, your topic that will be in the spotlights. And even if talking in front of a bunch of friends is not for you, you don't have to do it. You could just show something you made, play a short movie and have us talk about it, or just choose a topic and have us discuss it. Heck, you could even just make us play a game you like!

Q: That's all fine, but I don't have anything to talk about. Should I come?
A: Of course there is something you can talk about! There is hardly a subject that is beyond the scope of this weekend. Tell us about why you cannot do without your coffee in the morning, or why you love to walk the dog each day.

Q: That really sounds like work! You guys don't just want to have fun?
A: You'll have the chance to talk about something you love to your friends and the friends of your friends. You're going to have fun, AND learn tons of stuff about your friends and their world. It's not going to be like work, I promise. Or, you have a very cool job!

Q: I don't know if I will be interested. What if I get bored?
A: If you get bored, the damage will be limited. It's only for 15 minutes and after that, we'll switch to a new topic!

Q: What will we do besides the fifteen minute presentations?
A: We'll be in a relaxed setting in the Dutch countryside. There is no specific agenda outside the fifteen minute presentations from everybody, so there will be some plenty of time for relaxation and discovering the surroundings. There will be bikes available for rent for those who are interested. If you know some good games you would like to play during the weekend, drop us a line!

Any other questions?
You can contact us on fifteenminutesofameworldwide at gmail dot com

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fifteen Minutes of Fame - Looking back (Part 2)

Power of Printing

Philippe, who used work in the printing business, explained to us what it is that still makes him tick about this field. He told us about all the possibilities there are for printing documents and what process actually lies behind printing a book. It was truly amazing to see that there is so much we, as normal consumers, don't know about.

Everybody can dance salsa

Sarah is a salsa enthusiast. As she has basically taken courses at all salsa schools in Amsterdam, it wasn't surprising she shared her salsa knowledge with us. Her plea is that everyone can dance salsa as long as you feel the rhythm. I think we did pretty well!

'Lekker dansen'

Maike is a dancing queen and wanted to get everybody to let loose and just dance. As people hardly just dance spontaneously, Maike started organizing 'Lekker Dansen' (this time at Fifteen Minutes of Fame was actually a try-out). She gives suggestion on what to do with the music she's selected. She plays music ranging from classical, to rock and hiphop - anything basically and tells the group to either dance together or alone with your eyes closed, or 'big' or expressing something.


Nicolas (in the picture making his final preparations) was worried about his presentation and that worry is what he shared in his presentation. He explains how the process of coming up with a subject went. After mentioning all the hobbies and interests he could've discussed, he moved on to the things he really believes in. He shared some management knowledge (big rocks before small rocks) and then explained how he sees people as the strings on a guitar. Everyone has his or her own resonance and when people interact a new sound is born.

Unlimited imagination

Being a software engineer, Tommy explained to this mixed group (with regards to knowledge about software) what the world of software looks like. Basically, anything is possible. Unlike most fields, in software many things have not been done yet and need to be build from scratch. That gives space for imagination and creativity.

Personal Mission Statement

The big Stephen Covey fan I am (His book 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is mentioned first on the list in the picture), I gave the group the basic 'rules' for writing a personal mission statement and asked them to make a start right then and there. Since I wanted people to be able to write down anything, we didn't share the outcomes. I am, however, very curious to see what everyone wrote and whether they actually live by their statements now...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fifteen Minutes of Fame - Looking back (Part 1)

It has been ten months since the first episode of Fifteen Minutes of Fame on the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog. However, the main core of what was said has stuck with me all this time. So now, finally, I will give my summary of the eleven presentations given. Naturally, all participants are invited to correct me or add anything I forgot to mention.

What is Fifteen Minutes of Fame?
It's basically an opportunity to talk for fifteen minutes about ANY subject you want to discuss. The stage is yours. So you can do a mini workshop, give a lecture, dance or ask input on any kind of idea.

Wall of Fame
The weekend started with three pictures pasted onto a sheet of paper stuck on the wall. Everyone had sent in photos that said something about their passions and their characters. After everyone explained why these particular pictures had been chosen, everyone was invited to write down their three main characteristics - according to themselves that is. Finally everyone was invited to write on everyone else's posters during the entire weekend giving feedback on their presentation, the photos or the things written on their poster. On Sunday we reviewed the posters and everyone had a great souvenir to bring home. You can see the wall of fame in the background on some of the pictures below.

Public Speaking

The first presentation by Fateh was about how to actually give a presentation. The tips were all very helpful. What stuck to mind with me was that it's important to invite the public for interaction by giving them a task (read something, answer a question), to speak slowly and mostly to be silent every now and then. Especially when you get nervous it's tempting to keep on talking and talking. Silence is good sometimes, as it gives some breathing space.

Little mouse?

Elske, who speaks fluent Thai, told us about how in Thai you hardly use the words 'you' and 'me'. She showed us how there are different ways to refer to yourself depending on the person you are talking to. If a woman should meet someone a lot higher in social status, she can call herself 'little mouse' to show respect. Sometimes this can cause confusion as it's not always clear where someone stands on the social ladder in relation to oneself. How is an older taxi driver to be addressed? As Elske pointed out it really shows how in Thailand (but I think in many parts of Asia), social structures play a bigger role than in Western culture. Your identity is mostly defined based on your surroundings.

Find the gold in everyone

Vincent gave a very personal presentation about how he 'works'. He told us about the fact that he is like a child in that he always seeks to play. The thing that I remember most is how he said he somethings provokes arguments with people, tries to get them to open up and show their true face. Even though his provocative ways are not always appreciated, he manages to 'find the gold in everyone', as he put it.

Urban acupuncture

Beatriz told us about a great source of inspiration for her as an architect, Jaime Lerner. She explained how he was able to transform a city by applying small changes in significant locations. Just as acupuncture can cure an illness when the needle is placed on the right spot, urban acupuncture can heal a city. What I particularly liked about the presentation is that she told us how she came to meet Mr Lerner and how much his work inspires her. Here you can watch him speak on TED.

Farm life

Benoit took the opportunity of us staying at a farm to give us a glimpse of farm life. He took us around the farm and explainded how the machines that feed the kettle work, how the cows are milked and told us about the relationship of the farmer with his animals. It was for me, being a city girl, an eye opener. We did conclude however that this particular farmer did not take such good care of his animals, which was a pity.

The summaries of the other presentations will follow soon!