One of the things that I did during my time in between jobs was sign up for different courses. One I am still working on revolves around conflict mediation, also known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
The first thing I learned that every mediator needed to aspire to be three things; Lazy, Dumb and Homeless.
Lazy, because a mediator must let the participants do the talking and basically sit back and let them take it as far as they can. As long as they are talking, there is progress.
Dumb, because making assumptions is often what got the opposing parties in their predicament in the first place.
Homeless, because a mediator can belong to no one.
I thought this was inmensely interesting, completely logical and also incredibly difficult.
It prompted me to rewatch a short vid I once saw in which Simon Sinek speaks about how allowing yourself to be viewed as “the stupidest in the room” can be an important skill (and a precious gift for all the other people in the room).
Check out the video below for context (no more than two minutes).
So, it’s not only about recognizing when things are being discussed that you don’t understand, but also having the balls to say so. Even though you may lose some street cred or be considered “the idiot” by some, you will also be doing a lot of people a favor. Especially when there are people present who do have a reputation to protect, your “stupidity” will provide them with “the for dummies explanation”. They may also have needed and wanted it, but were not willing or able to admit it.
This also reminds me of my 16th century compatriot Erasmus’ book “In Praise of Folly”. What I know of this book comes merely from what I remember from the high school history lessons I had. I have never actually read it. What makes this book interesting is that Erasmus does something in it that was unthinkable for that time: namely criticizing politics, church and society. He gets a way with this by letting a jouster be the one to ask the painful questions everybody is wondering about but dares not utter.
So, start practicing your cartwheel and be the fool we all need!
As I explained in the introduction of Lifetip #1, this series of blogs is inspired by a Rudi & Freddie podcast episode in which the hosts name a dozen of their most important lifetips to humanity.
The second lifetip I am going to try to discuss here is one that is actually more of a complaint than it is a concrete and practical lifetime recommendation.
It all revolves around economist Jesse Frederik venting about modern day tendencies to search for new cures for age old problems. He complains that people keep coming up with new fancy ideologies, which they present in spiffy TED talks and best selling books, without appreciating all the ideas that previous thinkers already explored.
My summary of what this life tip boils down to, is the following:
Try to understand existing theories before searching for (and accepting) new ones.
The internet has never been so influential. We have gotten accustomed to having news and information at our disposal 24/7. We don’t even need to remember anything ourselves. We just need to remember the Google search terms needed to find something and regurgitate whatever the WWW-beast feeds us. We can look up the same thing a million times instead of making an effort to actually memorize the information we are pointing our eyeballs at.
If we are forced to deal with a complex theory, we watch the 10 min breakdown on YouTube (or TikTok or whatever kids are into these days) instead of reading the actual book. Even an elaborate newspaper article is a challenge, let alone a peer reviewed academic piece.
The abbreviation TLDRis the ultimate 21st century (online) conversation stopper. As much as I hate that, I must admit there are times when I can’t work my way through blogposts that take longer then 5-10 minutes to read.
Soundbites & Blurbs
Despite our faulty attention spans, we are more opinionated than ever. Politics, gender, race, anthem singing etiquette, Scandinavian teenagers and their braids. So many things to disagree on and so little time!
We are in constant need of quick facts and snappy comebacks to reinforce our opinions. You have to avoid talking about “the pros and cons” and “consequences on a macro level” if you don’t want people to walk (or click) away.
Even if you happen to be one of the rare ones who actually read Karl Marx’ whole Manifesto, you have to be able to present its content in bite size portions if you ever want to use it to convince someone about the correct implementation of communism (which I am assuming is what Karl Marx wrote about… TLDR).
The popularity of TED Conference Talks on YouTube is another clear sign of the amount of information we have become comfortable dealing with in one sitting. TED Talks are 10 to 30 minute mini-lectures on scientific, cultural, political, and academic topics.
As much as I love myself a good TED talk, I do realize the emphasis is sometimes more on the “feel good” aspect of an idea than on the actual science behind it. I’m not saying that the content presented in TED Talks is incorrect per se. But one could argue that the talks that make the cut, rely more on the talent of the speaker and the video’s potential as click bait on social media, than on the actual relevance of the topic.
Catchy new theories make for interesting conversations around the coffee machine. Their simplicity make them appealing, either because they confirm a popular idea or because it works well as a “fun fact” on social occasions.
Simple theories are becoming more accepted than complicated ones, following the “It is true because I get it”-logic.
Break the Dunning-Kruger effect
A 1999 Psychology study by David Dunning and Justin Kruger described a phenomenon in human behavior that seems to apply to a large percentage of the human race. It manifests itself when people have an opinion about things they don’t know shit about. If they would’ve let the online community (by which I mean me) give their findings a name, it may have ended up being called the Kim Kardashian effect, but they decided to name it after themselves, which…. I mean… sure.
And now, it is time for some painful irony.
You see, what I really want to do now is embed a relatively short YouTube video to do some of the explaining for me. My attention span is waning and so is yours, so just click play below. You can thank me later.
People that know the least about a topic tend to think they know the most. It is only after you actually learn something that you realize how little you really know. Even actual experts in their field aren’t as self assured about their knowledge as the complete dimwits are.
The line that got my little brain-wheels going into overdrive is the one he casually throws in there at the beginning of the chorus:
Here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you I want you to have it
Should everyone get the chance to break someone’s heart? Does anyone have that on their bucketlist?
I know cute kids are affectionately referred to as “little heart breakers” sometimes. This is meant to be a compliment. I suppose charming girls and boys can’t always help that people fall in love with them and breaking some hearts along the way is inevitable. More even, it may happen without them ever even knowing about it.
But getting back to the song; Is breaking a heart something you want everyone to experience at least once in a lifetime? Does mr Mraz actually mean to say “I hope someone opens their heart to you and loves you intensely (making heartbreak a possible outcome)”?
When I told my boyfriend, G, about this conundrum, he said something to confuse me even further. He said he didn’t believe that heartbreak could ever be the outcome of love… I asked him to explain it to me again just now and to be honest I still don’t understand it enough to be able to put it into words of my own.
His exact words were:
You are responsible for the condition of your heart. If your heart gets broken this means you have allowed it to be in a position where it could be broken.
I mean… yeah… I guess… but… wait… whut?
So then… we had to talk about what “being broken hearted” or “having your heart broken” really means.
Acoording to G, a broken hearted person is beyond despair. Lost, adrift and beyond reason. Inconsolable.
If I understand correctly, what G was trying to tell me (but I’ll check with him later) is that it has to do with caring for yourself enough to no be reckless with your heart. You can’t truly love someone else if you don’t love yourself first… That sort of thing(?).
I’ve actually never had it happen to me. I’ve been sad, but never heartbroken. I guess I’ve also never been that deeply in love (before my current relationship) and also… well… I was never actually on the receiving end of a breakup…
Did I ever break someone’s heart? Eummm… hard to say… but quite possibly…
Am I glad I got to go through that experience? No, most definitely not.
This morning I stumbled upon a blogpost that made so much sense, that I can’t believe I hadn’t already written about it myself. The post is titled “Chuck that list“, describing the blogger’s feelings about her bucketlist.
And all though I love the idea of a bucketlist and am oddly attached to mine, I can totally relate to what Imadcap wrote about the limitations of such a list.
My bucketlist was supposed to inspire me. It was meant to motivate me to pursue these goals, even the ones that make me nervous or uncomfortable.
In hindsight, making the list public kind of messed it up. Or no, I think putting it into writing did that. Because then it became a to-do list and not striking anything off became failure. And that really wasn’t the point!
I suppose it’s like playing a video game, where you are actually doing great, passing level after level and gathering points and bonuses along the way. Striking an item of your bucketlist is like finding an easter egg. It’s not necessary, but it is cool!
And Imadcap puts it very well when she says: “a list always limits you into thinking these are the stuff you want to do.” That is so true! Some of the best experiences I’ve had were ones I hadn’t counted on having at all!
Imadcap adds: “Secondly, lists change. Or at least they should.”
Again, I couldn’t agree more… I always thought my bucketlist would continue growing; with more and more life goals being added on at the bottom, striking the goals that I achieved, as I went.
But as it turns out, I actually don’t demand as much from life as I used to or at least not the same things. There are things on the list that, deep down in my heart, I really couldn’t care less about now… And that’s OK!
All of this helps me pinpoint and eliminate the nagging feeling I’ve been having… You see, a dormant bucket list can lead one to believe that nothing is happening. That life has come to a standstill.
First of all, let me say that a quiet life is not necessarily a bad thing…
But second of all, the fact that I haven’t stumbled upon or pursued as many of the bucket list items, is merely proof of my lack of imagination. Life has so much to offer and if I had been more creative I may have made more room for the smaller ideas that ended up leaving the biggest impact.
On the other side, the fact that I put some life goals into writing, may have even prevented me from enjoying them as much as I would have if they had simply crept up on me out of nowhere.
Another thing that kind of bugs me when I look at my bucketlist, is that I feel it doesn’t represent me. When I put it together I really made an effort to think out of the box and include things that I didn’t necessarily think I would enjoy but that I felt I should do anyhow, either to broaden my horizon, to become a better person (whatever that means) or to be able to say “yes, as a matter of fact I DID try that and it sucked as much as I thought it would”.
So, I guess what I am saying is that having a bucketlist is one thing, but it is not complete without a second list with all the unexpected stuff that actually meant something on the long run. Small anecdotes that have shaped who I am and reflect what matters to me.
Like the time I bumped into the homeless man that used to sleep on my porch but whom I hadn’t seen in many months (I moved and actually felt bad for some reason that I hadn’t been able to tell him that, since I was quite sure the new tenant would be less accepting of his midnight ramblings). It warmed my heart to see his face light up when he recognized me and seeing his toothless smile appear on his face as he exclaimed: “HEY! It’s you!”
Or the time my boyfriend and I decided to order takeout dinner last summer and eat it in the grass a couple of streets behind our new home and then sharing our food with an amazingly tame blackbird. And as he flew off, my boyfriend and I couldn’t believe our eyes as he flew away, over several houses and straight to our very roof, that we could (by chance) only just see the tip of from where we were sitting… and he’s been around ever since!
And how about the love I have developed for Roskilde Festival? This year will be my third visit and my second time as a volunteer. I could never have foreseen how proud it makes me to be a part of that. More, I could never have imagined how welcome I have felt there, even as an only-slightly drinker, a not-at-all drug user, an awkward dancer and a very non convincing hippie.
These are all things that define me but in no way or form feature on my bucketlist. I suppose I could add them in very general terms and it wouldn’t even look like I was cheating. How about:
befriend a bum
bond with a bird, like a true Disney princess
Go to a music festival for free
This won’t do though. It defeats the purpose of the bucketlist and does no justice to the anecdotes…
So I did the only right thing and added “Chuck the list” to the list.
My current job is the first one I feel pretty much satisfied with. I have been here for almost 8 months now and am quite certain my co-workers and supervisors are satisfied with my work. I get along well with everyone and look forward to every new day. I’m happy!
Before I landed my current job I had many different jobs. My first ever money-earning job was a summerjob I had at the age of thirteen. I worked on a farm, harvesting potatoes with several of my friends. It was fun. It was work we couldn’t really mess up, the weather was nice (mostly) and the company was the best. We had music playing in the background and I earned a small salary that bought me my first stereo. Life was simple and relaxed.
From that moment on, I pretty much always worked and all though it was seldomly inspiring work, each one had their interesting things and taught me valuable lessons that have made me who I am today.
Incoming The job where I worked the longest (almost 5 years) and where I met some of my best friends was at a health insurance company, where I worked as a helpdesk agent. Phonecalls, phonecalls, phonecalls, eternal phonecalls. No claim, deductible, premiums, declaration forms, policies, invoices, bayliffs, terms and conditions. How can I help you? Have I answered all your questions? No problem, I can explain it again, if you like. I know it’s complicated, let me try a different angle… Or maybe I need to speak slower? I hope this helped. Have a nice day!
It’s actually a miracle I ever even got to know my co-workers, as we only had a couple of minutes and sometimes seconds between one phonecall and the next.
The reason I stuck it out so long was that it paid reasonably well, that I could plan my hours flexibly and that my colleagues were great fun. A lot of young people worked there and the ones that weren’t were very young at heart. Fun, open people and awesome team leader, what more can a poor student ask for? Definitely better than waiting tables!!
And in hindsight I must say I did learn so much from that job. I learned that:
…being part of a team is a great feeling.
…for some people €30,- is a lot of money.
…an angry person calling is never angry at me.
…a day with more than two unpleasant conversations usually says more about my state of mind than theirs.
…you can make a difference, by just listening. This doesn’t mean giving them their way, but if you manage to give the person on the other side the feeling that they have been heard, that’s just as good (or better!).
…there is always room for exceptions.
…complaining does pay off (sometimes).
…some people are just ass holes, and that’s fine.
…I can handle any conversation.
I was planning on walking you through my entire CV but I just realized I might as well make it into a series of blogs. This way I can discuss the different jobs I had, without it being too overwhelming. I want to highlight the valuable lessons that I took from them and explain how they influence my life today.