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?