"When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure" — Charles Goodhart
Companies are slowly switching to different target systems, one of them in tech being the OKRs which seem to encounter a lot of success. While those objectives make sense in a company macro level, they become troublesome when you ask individuals to define goals on their side following the exact same principals.
We human love target numbers, they are easy to measure and easy to follow. My problem is that for a lot of jobs they are in fact too easy to define the complexity of one's job. You end up defining steps and outcomes to work on instead of working on ways to improve and evolve. It becomes even more dangerous in "support" professions like analytics or design, where a big part of your daily work is supposed to be to help other teams achieve their goals. Therefore your goals are supposed to evolve over time, depending on the team needs and objectives. One of the main objective for support function ends up being something that is hard to calculate but makes way more sense than any other arbitrary metrics: helps other teams to reach their goals by doing good work.
The other problem with numerical targets is that, as Goodhart's law says, they become the sole objective. We human beings are faillible and also, let's admit it, quite lazy when we want. For a lot of us, if a metric says to reach X, we will stop putting efforts once the X is reached. And the problem is that a lot of the time this X will be a possible projection that might or might not be close to the reality (or just an impossible target sometimes). Targets might also get in the way of doing the real work.
I've seen too often people trying to push for absurd decisions just because some of their objectives asked them to do so while it made absolutely no sense on the business level. This ends up causing a lot of harms on the projects side, but also on the individual side who feels like they have to chose between sacrificing themselves and get bad reviews or help the company do good work.
For example, one of the most absurd thing I encountered in my work life was a marketing team pushing to play a TV spot ad on the top of a landing page which was itself leading to this landing page. The aim of the page was supposed to convert the visitors into buying something, but after weeks of tense discussions we realised that the reason why the marketing team was pushing so hard for the pole position of the page to be the tv spot was because they were incentivized on the number of views of the video, which made absolutely no-sense in terms of business.
I think that by trying to apply the OKR system on an individual level, we are doing more harm than good as we totally ignore that things that are good on a system and macro level might make absolutely no sense on the human level, forgetting a lot of our behavior and psychology. By asking humans to define easy metrics like those we are also ourselves falling back in our laziness pattern, as those metrics while giving the aspect of being objective and measurable are, in the end only easy to measure and nothing else.
« To absent friends, in memory still bright »
Sometimes after all this time, I’m afraid I will forget your faces, that those memories I have of each of you would fade away and that I would forget your names.
I wanted to leave a small trace of you in my digital journal, a poor token for the impact each of you had on my life. As imperfect as it is, I hope this would help keep your memory alive.
To Jerry, Fred & Aude, marvellous friend taken way too soon whom I wish I had the chance to walk a longer path with.
I feel like all the communication around design is pretty bloated. Medium is dying under filler articles speaking about the same basic things again again, where the only important part seems to give a little bit of visibility to its author. Add to that the paywall behind the number of articles you can read on Medium and it's getting harder and harder to know what is interesting to read in the end. Hence why I decided to stop almost anything coming from Medium, because the ratio of time spent on it versus things I could learn from the articles were way too low.
Unfortunately I feel like there's a gap to fill that we are a bit lost on how to feel. The easy part of our job is easy to be found (and honestly, made to look way too easy that it's becoming ridiculous), the hard part is through academic papers or heavy books, but we seem to suffer from a lack of middle level informations (where most of the time you end up on the NN Group website or Carine Lallemand book anyway).
I can see two parts about this absence of middle-ground. First one is the infamous impostor syndrome. Being honest, I often want to share about my day to day job, techniques and things like that, but I always feel that I won't find a clear way to express it or that I won't be as rigorous as some of us want to be (looking at you academic side).
The second one is that most of us in a medior or senior position are blocked by so many NDA that it's simply not legally possible to write about our daily works, even when we tackle mondain problems that every one of us might encounter one day or the other. This is especially true in enterprise UX and in-house applications: most of the problems we encounter are shared by other companies, but we're not allowed to discuss it. So we tend to oversimplify, to erase the experience part to provide with basic rules that lack the clarity that might be provided by experience.
I'm a bit lost on how we could tackle this problem but I feel we should both challenge the mandatory-NDA mentality for projects that don't bring any commercial advantage or anything and also be more open and dare to share our experience. But by sharing our experience, we have to admit the truth that design evolve and is different in every setting, that rigorous theoretical rules and systems often make no sense in the face of reality (looking at you quadruple sapphire process or whatever). I hope we all might evolve toward a more open future for our profession and in a more qualitative way, while staying open minded and kind.
I grew up with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Depression was a sadistic companion, making you think you had an acute vision of the world when everyone else was blind, that I was one of the only ones seeing the world in its true bleakness and horror.
For years I wanted to end my life and tried several times. There wasn't a time when crossing a bridge when I didn't think about jumping and getting off this train. At 27 years old, after some time working with a therapist, the suicidal thoughts disappeared and my depression calmed down.
I accepted to live my life as an experiment and to experiment it to its fullest and the best I could. But this led to a funny problem: I never expected to live this long (I know), so I never made any plans for the future or the long term. Therefore I lead my life by discovering new paths and ways every week, making choices and seeing where it leads. And I don't feel bad about it, it's part of the experience and it makes it rich and wonderful.
So the old catchphrase still rings true: it does get better. If some darkness lives inside your head, know that someday you will be able to evict it and discover another side of you. And for me, here's to 35 years of improvisation and to the best choice I ever made.
I felt back in Everest by The Girls in Hawaii (a belgian rock band) some days ago and forgot how perfect it was. I can listen to Misses in repeat for hours while Not dead brings back memories and energy. There's some hints of melancholia while also pushing you to see the futur as a stepping ground. I hope it will bring you as much joy as it does to me!
There's always something sweet to me about Christmas. I was lucky enough to grow up in a big loving family, where every Christmas was a chance to meet, enjoy time together and spread love.
One of my core memory is related to Christmas, it's a memory I can evoke in my mind and almost relive. When I close my eyes I come back to this winter, my grandmother's house, the faint lights bathing the room, my aunt, cousins and parents sitting at the table or going around. I can hear faint hints of laughter, see the food disposed around the buffet, and the blinking lights on the Christmas tree ... When I feel lost and gloomy, this memory is a refuge from the problems of the world.
Things changed over the years. My grandfather passed away after years of illness, my grandmother left us during the covid, and we all grew up, some with children, some (like me) leaving the country, ... But Christmas is always the moment when I find the way back home. Christmas changes but not what I feel inside my heart for this period. And even if it will never be the same, every new Christmas still holds a spark of those precious times I hold in a corner of my heart.
I wonder why our first loves are seen as experiments, hidden things, trials not even worth of sentiments. Our straight's counterparts first loves meanwhile are watched with dolly eyes and sweetness.
Still I remember vividly my first kiss, feeling I was crossing a border, his lips somewhat a bit dry. I remember my hand on his skin, his unique grain and the warmth emanating from his skin.
I remember feelings I couldn't explain because I didn't have the right frame, crying each time he was leaving, wondering for how many times I won't see him again, thinking it was just a strong friendship.
I remember holding to the smallest trace of him, an object left behind, a song he made me discover, the feeling of closeness staying only in my memories. The jealousy I felt when he said how close he was with someone else and how many times they had the chance to spend together.
Decades after, I understand now that this was love. Not an experiment, not a strong friendship, but my first feelings of loving someone, misunderstood because I grew up thinking a boy couldn't love another. This was not an experiment, it was so much more than this, but society didn't teach us that our loves were possible.
Short-termism is killing our societies and business. It's what I protested years ago in Belgium when we asked politicians to do their jobs instead of trying to gain popular votes with catchphrases and veiled insults.
Short-termism is killing our societies with 4-year maximum visions, where critical things like pensions, health, and education that are in dire need of long-term visions are sacrificed in terms of short-term gains in popularity and votes. Politicians are more concerned about winning a second mandate rather than improving society in the long-term.
For companies, short-termism expresses itself through sprints where you have to bring value in two weeks, where we tend to value vanity metrics or short terms improvements and where every long-term project, or rehaul is hidden behind "technical debt" and never tackled which makes systems more and more fragile. Because those works require a deep and long focus and the gains are visible only in the long run. Instead, we work on projects that are possible to accomplish quickly, selecting the fastest tool available without taking the time to think if it's the best one and if it's solid enough to support the long run. We end up with projects breaking three months after their launch because they relied on fragile dependencies.
Investors are also to blame, for seeking short-term valuations on their investments and looking more at the resell value of a business than at its real possibilities and rentability, focusing again on vanity metrics. We pour money into a failing business, just to be able to sell them quickly and let the repercussions diffuse through society once it's out of our hands.
Lately I have felt quite overwhelmed by the amount of things I'd like to see, play, read, ... I reached a level where I specifically refuse to learn about new TV Shows as I don't feel I'd be able to already tackle my way too long watchlist.
I realised also how many times I was presented new things to try, and how many times I did so myself when I read a book I liked, played a good game, ... While sharing is always great, it looks like we have more and more on our plates, in a endless production of content.
Nowadays I try to take the time, to let feels cool down, and do my best to not get on the hype train (but it's difficult) for the new TV show, the new game, ... To have an advice based on time, to be certain that this new things is worth my time and not something I'd forget in two days time.
I grew tired of politicians. Tired of having to excuse their actions as a whole and trying to find some good ones lost in this whole machinery. Time and time again they feel like a distinct class, living in a secluded world where the rules they decide for ourselves don’t seem to apply, where even competencies, diligence and values look like things of the past.
I am tired of partisanship that remove our brain from basic observation skills, that disable our sense and make us unable to accept when someone in the same side as us is acting wrongly. This same partisanship that erase all discussions by removing our ability to accept that perhaps, sometimes, the opposite side might have some clever things to say too.
I am tired of our inability to realize that over this partisanship, we divided ourselves into small factions asking both for more rules over our neighbors while begging for exceptions on our side. Blind to this, we shout and act shocked when those same exceptions we asked through backdoors are given to others. We are inhabited by a will to control other's lives through more and more rules while failing to comply on the ones that should apply to ourselves time and time again.
I am tired of the amount of money we accept to give every month, as a whole, to fuel this separate Elysium removed from our very existence. Tired to see that mistakes that would barre us from ever working are excused with a waving hand. Tired to see the same people that made a mess at some position be put in another one at the same level. Tired also to see sons, grandsons, cousins or whatever of those same politicians access the same kind of jobs through blatant nepotism.
Most of all I am tired that those position that should be designed to serve the public and the common good are now used as a way to gain both insane amount of money and power while dismantling more and more our lives with little to be shown for.
It’s not that I don’t want to talk politics anymore or make a choice, it’s that politics exhausted me. And looking at all of this I fear for our democracies.
I often get asked why I moved to Paris. While there were a lot of reasons involved (some quite stupid looking back), one of them was the possibility to grow in my field of work and to enhance the field of possibilities. Moving here gave me the liberty to chose who to work for, where would my energy go, and not having to settle for any job because of a low market. This freedom is the most important part for me, as I went through so many horrible jobs and tedious tasks that it’s something I don’t want to live again.
Sure with time and experience my profile gained interest and traction, but the steps I was able to take by moving away from Belgium would have taken me decades to attain never mind the salary. I wish we were able to all live in a society where we could chose our work and who to work for, unfortunately for a lot of places we have to settle for things we don’t really have any interest because we have to gain enough to have a place to live in.
This inability to chose is something I don’t want to go through ever again. And while many friends often ask me if I don’t want to come back or go live in small cities and things like that, it would mean in a lot of cases to abandon this unique freedom I found here. After all, I’m still a city boy.
The memory of senses is something strange and funny. By closing my eyes I can go back to some specific memories that left their mark on my senses. I still remember vividly the grain of the skin of the first boy I held against me. Its unique warmth, the irregularities of his skin brushing against my fingers, the roughness of his lips while we were trying to imitate things still unknown to our minds but that our bodies craved.
Odors have their unique spaces. There are a lot of people from whom I memorized their unique smell. Sometimes I encounter those smells again and then spring back into my memory. I turn around, seeking them but odors aren't that reliable and most of the time they're not here. It's more than a perfume, each person or sometimes place carries its unique smell, filled with asperities and uniqueness.
I remember my grandfather's death, leaving his hospital bed and taking the train back home. When I stood up to exit the train, I was suddenly faced with his unique smell, coming from behind me. But when I turned around, hoping to find him against all odds, there was just an empty wagon. When I got into my mother's car, her first word was that he left us just after I was able to say goodbye to him.
I like to think that in this small window of time, it was him coming to say goodbye to me in this wagon, leaving me his perfume as a token of this farewell.
There's a craving for recognition inside me that I can't stand. It started quite young, as some desire to be included, I neede to impress as to not be left alone, so I tried and I tried, I produced everything I could to gain a sparkle of attention. Getting older it grew more and more, fed by the likes, the views and the analytics. Speaking my mind wasn't enough, I need people to indicate they read, they agreed, they listened. I was craving this interaction, as a way to exist. Every word I left out that didn't resonate made me feel like I wasn't worth it, that I wasn't present. There's an ambivalence that reside in my mind where I both try to avoid people while needing their attention as a small shot of drug.
More and more I try to detache myself from this. Of course I still search for it, but I try to improve myself and go for a sense of connection, an exchange of thoughts rather thant recognition. I decided to make this blog as simple as I could, without any tracking tool, as a way to share my thoughts, open to whoever would want to read it, but avoiding my addiction to metrics, views and other numbers.
Still, it's still there, and I think it's part of the human experience, we need others to exist even when we don't want it consciously. Still the longing is there, words can't exist in a vaccum and exchanges is what makes life worth it. I just have to slowly learn to remove myself from needing those small injections of esteem and grow as much as I can without this drug.
How do you bury a fairy?
Do you build a small pile of cherished memories ?
Do you light a brazier with those magical times you spent with her?
How do you let a fairy go?
Who decides when it's time to go?
When some of us still need her so much
When there are still so many memories to be made
When there are still so many stories to be told?
I know I still have time with my fairy
But I know how cruelly fast it goes too
And with the blink of an eye my fairy could take the exit
Leaving me with the sound of her laughters and their precious memory.
I miss discovering people that took the time to make you glimpse their world, their passion, their culture without being pedantic of fanatics. I miss discovering music groups, new books around a calm conversation without feeling that the other person is trying to put you down or feel superior. I miss making new friends inhabited by rich ideas and passions but whom stayed simple and humble, with whom you could talk for hours without feeling the evening goes by.
I wonder when everything started to feel like a championship to impress. For a while, pedantic people where only a few, and I did my best to avoid them. I didn't take quite a long time, usually around the 5 minutes mark of a conversation they would push their school, or make a bad joke about my country (which always made me wonder what they did exactly on their side to make theirs so great but well...). They were few but easy to avoid, and online conversations went here and there in a joyous chaotic flow.
However after some time, people started to curate themselves, trying not to show what they loved, but how those things made them superior. It was not anymore a mere show a passion, but an unlimited fight of taste that was contained in obscure fan forums until now. There were no conversations anymore, just a pill of voices and noone listening.
And years after years I must admit, I miss making new friends.
Dear body, we are not really in good terms and I'm afraid we haven't been for a long time. I'm unable to really understand when it begins, but somewhere around my teenage years and on the path to accept myself, I let you down along the road and started to really hate you. Years after years we've been at war, taking different forms, and I attacked you every way I could. For this I would love to say that I am sorry, but after all those year, I still can't accept you as you are even when I would love to.
I took you through all the possible stages. At a time, I was so disconnected that I couldn't even feel any of your message, and I let my weight drop to 50kg, not even realizing what was truly going on. But at those times, even looking in the mirror, I still found you too fat, not lovable, not "enough". Other times, I drown myself in sweets to avoid the pain that was going through my mind, and I let yourself take the toll, going to 90kg. During those times I couldn't approach a mirror, every look at myself, every photograph was another stab at myself, brought more pain and made me go deeper into self-loathing.
Years after years I couldn't look directly at you in a mirror, my eyes always averting or focusing on a precise part of you, blurring the rest. I started to avoid camera, except for pictures I took myself, the one picture I accepted among the 50 others I had taken. After some time I tried to focus on some parts of you that "weren't right" for me. After every operation, I wished with all my heart that "this one will finally make me love myself", but they didn't. Sure they helped, they improved my perception a little bit. But for a short time before I found another thing to focus one, another flaw to fix, another part of you that I deemed not good enough. Another battle to fight.
You went through so much regimes I can't count anymore nor recall all of them. Each one was like a new hill to fight on, each one brought its lot of problems and pains. And when we finally found some stability and started to reconciliate, a global pandemic event started, turning all our efforts into dust. And I drowned into alcohol to forget the pain of losing everything I worked so hard for and this feeling of acceptance I finally had the chance to touch from the tip of my fingers.
I truly wish to find a way to finally reconciliate. I know the road might still be quite long and the years flowing by don't help. Looking backward, I can see that there wasn't anything wrong with me during those years, but I still can't bring this compassion to the present days. There's still so much angriness inside myself, so much times I wish I was different, better, more good looking, "one of those boys". But it's a road we'll have to learn to travel together. So this will be my kind of half-assed apology, not perfect, neither am I, but perhaps another step toward you for once, not running away from you. Here's hoping that one day we'll be able to look at each other at the mirror and, finally, smile.
I always felt uneasy in gay spaces for reasons I have troubles to explain. While I'm often the first to crack a joke about sex, I recoil at promiscuity or overly sexual behavior almost instinctively. It's therefore often a challenge to bring me to a gay bar, as it will quickly raise all my insecurities about myself, my body, my attractiveness, while at the same time making me feel quite uneasy.
I've already wrote quite a lot about the lack of space for introverts LGBTQ, however my introversion alone can't explain how uneasy I might feel. While I might crave attention a bit too much, I also know that I don't handle well when someone becomes too sexual towards me or start to make direct innuendos.
It goes beyond shyness and must carry quite a lot of internalized homophobia (but also is a reaction towards past molesting), and I realize time and time again that it's my own attitude towards sex, my education and catholic upbringing that makes me react this way. However, understanding one's behavior doesn't magically change it and I'm always searching how I could change my reactions or even understand them.
For a lot of those reasons, the only time I'm able to handle going into gay bars is usually with quite a lot of drinking and surrounded by friends. But they suddenly become a kind of shield against everyone else, and I can't stop myself feeling bad as soon as someone enter this protected circle. Deep inside of me, there's still a little voice that wish for those people to go away.
I don't know why I act this way, it's still something I'm trying to understand. It's the intersection of so many aspects of my life that it's quite hard to understand. Going to those places put my insecurities about myself up front, but also past history with bad sexual experiences, thinking I have to endure the looks and judgment of others, ... and it's often an experience I'd rather avoid than subject myself to, especially when trying to relax. Still, I would love to meet someone who felt the same and was able to overcome this as I'm at loss on how to handle those times.
Loneliness was the primary feeling growing up. At first I felt a difference, something that didn't click exactly with other children. But I was unable to understand exactly what was going on. The other on their side understood things perfectly, setting me aside. I build friendships at this time that still endure to this day, I guess weirdnes makes people close.
Around 14 years old, I started to realize the true nature of my feeling with some close friends. The yearning I felt for them, the miss when they were leaving, ... but I couldn't pinpoint exactly or even put a word on it, as this simply didn't exist in my world. Loneliness started to creep inside my own mind, as I was trying to understand why I was so alien, feelings things for which there wasn't even a word.
Then came the Internet, which unraveled my mysteries. Suddenly I was able to understand I wasn't alone in the world, and that what I was feeling existed, was shared by other boys, and wasn't as foreign as I thought. Unfortunately, discovering those mysteries also came with its load of darkness. Searching for people to look up to, I realized now I fell prey to guys who hadn't the best in their mind for me. I felt uneased but couldn't realize exactly what was going on, they were praying me for my intelligence, curiosity, feeding me books of great French authors telling the stories of older men falling in love with men. I could feel something wasn't going how it was supposed to be when I fell their hands on my laps, like claws trying to cach me. I escaped, this time, but wasn't fortunate enough to avoid them a year later.
Loneliness came back. Understand who I was broke some bonds, distance started to creep between me and my friends. At an age where they were falling in love, I was only looking at them through my window, afraid to take another chance and fall prey to the shadows again. That's when I met him, the first. Looking back I realize now how deeply wrong our relationship was, and the pain it made us endure. But for some time, it made me feel less alone, even if I was terribly sad most of the time. It took me three years to escape this hell, but with those three years also came a lot of learnings and I was finally able to keep the loneliness at bay. Finally at 20, I realized I wasn't alone and would never be anymore. I just wish I didn't learn those lessons through pain, leaving so much scars...
"Fag" he mumbled as we were passing by, simply holding hands while leaving the subway. I wasn't sure I heard it well, so I let it pass. But he mumbled a second time between his teeth and his drunkness, suddenly deciding he had the right to gratuitously insult someone he didn't know, from whom he knew nothing about, just for who I was.
Bottled inside me I felt a surge of angriness. Suddenly I was flooded by those years trying to cope with who I was, trying to erase the part of me that were "too queer" for this world, trying to "behave correctly", to not provoke any shame to my family or friends just for existing and daring to love someone.
I wanted to bolt, jump on his face, redraw his features armed with a key, let for once this anger flood and make him pay for all those years trying to comply with the rules of a society for which I would always be "too much", for which I was apparently supposed not only to hide who I am, but not too dare to even let the slightest flash of color be seen from their prying eyes.
I did my best to contain the anger and to not got back to the drunk idiot. But I felt it boil inside of me, this anger that festered for years, this anger that is disregarded because we're apparently the ones at fault for just trying to exist. As I closed the door, I wished with all my heart for this one guy to have a miserable life and jump in front of a car, letting the rage take control of my heart, unable this time to turn the other cheek, at least in my mind.
Sometimes I feel like a loose strings of memories, a chain of yesterdays. Some of them are so vivid in my mind that I'm able to almost relive them while closing my eyes. Am I even living in the moment right now, or am I just reliving another memory, so vividly that it's not different from what the reality would be?
It's so strange how some memories are able to keep their touch, their smell, their vividness accross the years, making them feel as it was yesterday. It must also be why the concept of aging seem so weird, when some memories from fifteen years ago feel like they just passed before your eyes.
It must also be why I maintain some friendships with years of gaps and when we meet it feels like yesterday. Because, for some part of me, it indeed was yesterday, and those parts travelled with me along the years, waiting for the next time they would experience a new "today".
It came as a sudden realization. There's no epiphany moment, no moment when you can say : I'm older now. It comes suddenly in the form of conversations where you feel a small sense of disconnection with the others. Bit by bit you realize that everything you use to connect with others feel suddenly weird around younger people.
The thought it me while coming back from a friend house. I realized this thing I was expecting, this moment of realization would never come. In fact, I would probably always stuck in my head at the age of 25 year old, just without the same energy and while the world around would be passing by.
I would probably never feel like an adult, but that's ok. Perhaps there's something rich in staying this age when the world around you change and revolve. It wasn't a bad feeling, just a sudden idea that made its way into my mind, one of these thoughts that change your perception on life and its many roads.
Every time I go back to the countryside, I can't help but feel a disconnection with the people I meet. I wonder what makes a majority of gay people like me to escape the countryside quickly while others stay in its gravitational pull. Is it the search for a cure against loneliness? The promise of meeting people like us in the big cities? Is it to be able to live somewhere where we don't feel like we're the only weird one?
Spending time in the countryside always remind me of my singularity. There's a world between me and those live they built. So quickly they reproduce schematics, and I can't help but feel like I'm late, or that I don't have any of their codes when they can't stop talking about houses, cars, children, ...
I feel we don't understand each other, they never get why I had to "run away to the big city", they don't understand how left out I could have felt and how this escape was the only way to not feel lonely in this paradise they built for themselves. And on my side I can't understand how you can stay in one place for all your life and find solace there.
I realized lately that I was more and more comfortable with my age. It came with a surprise regarding how teaching 30 years old hit me. But lately I started to feel a kind of calm, as things get slowly in place. Bit by bit parts of my life reach a level where they bring me a lot of joy, and with age I started to realize the bits I had to let go because of the negativity they brought. Each new day is a step where I accept more and more things about myself and acknowledge my limitations and what I can work on.
The passion is still there, but gone are the worst parts of it that were capable of bringing me down to my knees. Perhaps the days are less colorful, but the colors don't hurt anymore, and that's something.
I stopped caring about those who didn't bring me anything and found solace in some beautiful human beings that I love more and more each day. Of course I long for some things of the past years, but when I look at the big picture, I feel that this calm is perhaps what I've been waiting for for a long time.
Lately have been amused about how conversations happen in the digital space. We don't start or end conversations most of the time, they feel like a continuous flow that just goes on its way, never stopping, ever going on.
We don't say goodbye, we just don't ask any more question to keep it going on, until the next time where it opens again.
I've lost the count of those open conversations, in the end do they even deserve this name when they're just an assemblage of fragments, small answers separated by days, weeks and even months. Like our lives, our exchanges begin to fragment, leaving only small rivers of words.
I encountered my share of homophobic agressions. Walking down a street looking a bit too "colorful" or "effeminate" while I was a teenager, attracting the usual pack of predators lurking for anything different to what they were taught to respect. Words, sharp pain, contusions, those happened along the path of life. The usual wait at the police station, waiting to be able to open a complaint under the judging eye of a police man not really disproving the event that happened.
All those were part of the hurdles along the way. But one thing still haunts me to this day. I vividly remember this boy while I was in boarding school. We were both 16 years old, going through our lives, but to this day, his look still haunt me. There was a pure hate in them when looking at me that still frighten me to this day, something quite animal, raw, violent that I never quite understood. Every time he looked at me, those eyes were piercing blade forbidding me to come closer, warning me to never, ever get alone in a room with him.
In those eyes was the promise to condemn me for a crime he deemed me guilty. I never understood this look, and I was lucky enough not to encounter it anymore. But still, 17 years later, those piercing grey eyes filled with hate still haunt a part of my memory, wondering what I had done to deserve them...
Every day I wake up with a small flame burning inside be, a little speck of light that I try so hard to keep alive during the day. This little flame is the only thing I have to fight my inner darkness and I fought so hard through years just for it to be there, among this endless void that fills my mind.
Sometimes the flame weakens, be it a word that I misinterpret, a smile not reciprocated, a joy facing no answer. In those moments, I feel a cold growing inside me and this little flame goes pale as the shadows around it grow again.
I envy those with a fiery pit, those who wake up every morning to a roaring fire, able to tackle the day without a doubt, immune to any outside affliction, knowing well their strength. Those whose flame is so bright that the darkness inside them has to hide in a corner, behind a closed door which only opens in the saddest time.
And still I love this little flame, as for years I had to travel those darkness without it, wondering if it will ever end, or even if my errands had a goal in the end. And every day, at every waking moment, I do my best to keep it alive, to laugh, to smile and to try my best to bright those other little flames I see around me.
I've grown accustomed to my prying inner eye. With every mistep, every failed relation, every loss, I sensed it scrutinizing my ever move, replaying the past over and over again, trying to find all the things I did wrong, all those words I should have said, all this worth I should have had. Because to my inner eye, the only truth was that I was never enough.
For every guy that left me, the sole reason was that I wasn't sufficient. That I must have had an inner flaw, an ugliness inside or something so deeply wrong with me that I was left behind every time. But years after years, bit by bit, I learned to live with this sadistic judge. I've learned to find worth where I could. I've found pieces of me I could value, that were worth it to me.
The road travelled is vast, but there's still so much ahead. So much to learn still to be able to silence those small voices inside my head that keep telling me over and over again how ugly, useless and worthless I am and that everyone will leave me in the end. This voice that I believed to be impartial is my worst enemy. And this enemy is inside.
My mind often dwells in the past, too often even. But as years go by, I've wondered how much exactly I am clinging to the past. Long lost love that I can't forget, memories of friends replaying on repeat, wondering what I could have done better, bad memories trying to warp my mind showing how wrong I was.
And I'm wondering how much exactly I grab to this past because allowing me to forget would be letting go the last piece I have of some relationship. Those poisonous memories, those bad moments haunting my brain are too often the only last bit of relationships long forgotten. Even if my heart aches dwelling back in those, it provokes a kind of masochistic feeling as suffering through those memories is the only way for me to find back those loved ones.
And still I wish I could forget and let go, but more and more I discover how much a part of me is deeply rooted in those memories and refuse obstinately to let go, yelling at each attempt, hiding in a dark corner to only come back when it can haunt me. And I wonder, will I ever free myself from the past? Or do we have to endure this game of hide and seek forever?
Years after years I find myself facing the same question: do people really change or were the changes we notice over time always there at the beginning? Do those changes accentuate over time until they become this full personality we sometimes discover after years?
Friendships evolve over time, through hurddles, hardships but also fundamental changes. Still I wonder if those changes that provoke such a rift in friendship were noticeable already at the beginning? Could we have know? And if we had, was something doable to alleviate those changes and find a path were they didn't provoke so much repressed exhaustion sometimes?
And turning to my inner eyes, how much have I changed over years myself? Physical changes are easy to discern, mental and character ones are harder to get. My patience went thin, things I let pass years before are now a reason to go cold and bored. Getting over a burn out, years of depression and the loss of loved ones took its toll and bit by bit I know I'm not the same I was yesterday. And I wonder: do my changes bother some of my friends too? Am I still the person they gave their friendship or are we playing a masquerade game, forcing ourselves because years have passed?
Sometimes i'm afraid to face those changes, to admit we've changed over the years because that's what we do. I feel having those discussions is harder than it should be. I guess we do change over time but we don't want to admit it. So we let things stay their course, wherever it leads.
I find it fascinating how some people reclaim their right to be stupid and uneducated. They refuse every chance to learn but attack the teachers, they fight for their right to be ignorant while also reclaiming the right to be considered as equals on subjects they refuse with all their might to even slightly understand. Ignorance has become a right on its own, education for them looks like a danger.
The teachers and experts are the enemy, as those reclaim the right to ignore almost everything about the world around them while claiming nevertheless to know it all. Everything should be simplified to reach the grasps of their bare culture, but none of it should ever go against any beliefs they might hold or else you risk to provoke their blind anger.
Humans can be fascinating, but the toll it takes on society frightens me as those in powers learn more and more how to wield this mass of angriness and stupidity for their own interests, unable to foresee the risks on our common future.
I often read thoughts about how my field of work (UX) should be locked behind certifications, agreements, mountains of papers and hypes of official stamps. Then I look back through the path I walked and wonder what we are so afraid of. My UX education was a path I had to build. The studies I could find were years behind the actual state of the field, but they were also the only one available.
For 3 years, I worked, studying things that would reveal to be mostly useless to the path I found myself in later. I remember late nights trying to find some time to build my own education, reading psychological textbooks, building my first websites, learning to bend the computer to my will. I remember falling asleep on books on complex systems, trying to find my way through an uncertain future.
I remember also an innocent conversation, when a friend was leaving the country, with one of his friend that taught me about the UX field. Suddenly I discovered something at the intersection of my interests, unique and beautiful. Something that captivated my mind for years and still do.
Our field is bright and beautiful, what make us riches is the multiple path we crossed to arrive where we are now. The field is diverse, wide and open, there's no UX designer like another and it's why I love it so much. Instead of trying to build walls and gates, pretending to care about our field while all we really fear behind is to become irrelevant, we should embrace our diversity and welcome all those UX babies arms wide open.
The youngest crops that are slowly coming into the field have better teachings than we ever had. Still I see too much people of my generation trying to maintain them out of our fields, pretending that they didn't learn enough. Stop building gates, pave the way, build welcoming arches.
I was raised by four witches. The first one, my mother, taught me about compassion, love and always helping others. She showed me the light there was in kindness and to always be there for the one I love.
The second one, my godmother, showed me the wisdom and refuge I could find in books. Growing up feeling weird and lonely, it's in the books I found my first real friends, people who got me, thought the same as I. It's through those pages that I started dreaming about space, wonderful fantasy kingdoms, robots and so many things. It's a love that never left me and is always there.
The third one showed me that you shouldn't feel forced to endure a family, but that there was also always a safe haven in ours. When I was feeling left out among my peers, I could always cross a garden and find solace around her table.
The last one taught me to dream. Through her stories of travels on the moon and witches country, she taught me that if I really wanted something, I could clap my heels three times, pick a broom and fly away. While it never worked in real world, it worked well enough in my mind. She taught me to build my magical country inside my own head and fly away there when things got bad.
Through all their four teachings, I grew up to be who I am today. Through their love, their fantasy and their dreams, I found love, passion and an ever growing wonder about life and its mysteries. They didn't shoulder me from pain, and god know we went through many hurdles, but they provided solace, safe haven and an unconditional love through the years. For those four marvelous women, I'm forever thankful and in debt.
You would have been 33 years old. But you left life as you lived it, quietly, discreetly, without too much of a noise.
From you I'll remember your laugh, the way you smiled. I'll remember the times we laughed and played, spending long evenings speaking about the world, about my heart errands, trying to force the keep around yours. I'll remember also those bad movies and, among them, those rare jewels that kept us laughing years after years.
I wish I had been more present, I wish I had find a way to make you talk more about yourself and your troubles, but I'm glad for the times we had. You left me golden memories of beautiful times, you shouldered me when the weight of my heart was crushing me. Thanks to you I survived life hardest moments and struggles.
You taught me to live, to see life as a unique adventure, filled with mysteries. With you I knew that even in the darkest moments you would be there. The path ahead will be hard without your beautiful soul, and I'll miss you at every single step. Rest In Peace my crazy friend.
They never told us how fast time suddenly speeds up and start slipping away. The older I get the faster years start to pass by, in a blink I went from 30 years old to 33 while still thinking I’m some months past 27. It’s frightening to see how much time has already passed by and how fast it goes.
I’m still struggling with issues built during my early twenties, and suddenly new ones related to the thirties are already coming. Still doesn’t feel like an adult either, and I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever really feel like one or if, as usually, I’ll manage and do my best to pretend to have the faintest idea about what I’m doing. I’m relieved to not have become a serious suit player, a boring corporate guy with boredom paint all over my face, there’s still so much I want to discover. I fear I won’t have time to do all the things I want to do, read all those books, experience this and that, and it frightens me a bit.
It’s funny how this wheel turns and how we switch sides so quickly. Looking back I thought my days as a student were still close, but suddenly I’m judging the work of younger students, looking at there faces and thinking: oh my, was I so young? How much have I changed over the years… a bittersweet but interesting feeling as I reel all those years into my mind.
When I was a kid and we were playing, there was often this boy, trapped in the body of a man with white hair. I can still picture his face, his hat and colorful banana bag, but alas his name was lost in time.
Never daring to come too close to us, this children trapped in his adult body had the kind of kindness you can only find in those with simple minds. He was simply looking for comrades to play with, kids who wouldn’t shunt him because of how he looked, kids who could see the child in his old eyes.
I remember seeing him often, always smiling, keeping an eye on us and trying to express himself how he could, often with words we couldn’t grasp.
Sadly one day he stopped coming. We never saw the banana bag and his colorful smile. Older people, who forgot they were kids, feared this boy they only saw as a man, and forbade him to come close to their children.
Sometimes I saw him through the windows of our car, walking alone, dressed in all colors. I often wonder what became of him, but nobody could tell me. Still I never forgot this simple boy trapped in his older body.
I hate being taken in picture. Every time I see myself in one, my mind starts racing and yelling at me, and I’m back in school, shunned in a back corner, rejected and lonely.
I often wish I could go back I time where I wasn’t so self aware, when how I looked didn’t matter as much as which game we could play. Where people who loved me could take a memory of a great moment without it sending me in a depression spiral.
For years now, pictures are a cruel tool for my mind to find all the things I should fix in my body. I should get thinner, I should have fuller hair, I should have dark eyebrow, my hair should be darker, … Every picture is a tool used by an inquisition tribunal residing rent free in my mind.
Often I look at myself in the mirror, searching for this guy I see on the photographs, but I can’t seem to conciliate those two images of me. The guy I see in the mirror has some problem, but looks cute, still a bit boyish with messy hair and nice eyes. This guy in the mirror, I can’t hate him.
So I end up with the only solution my twisted mind always find: the mirror is lying.
I never got that feeling of belonging to a place, to feel that I fit there. It’s one of the main reason I still haven’t nor want to buy a place of my own and I feel happy with renting. It allows me the liberty to change places if I want, to move and change my life if necessary.
This absence of « belongingness » might be one of the reason I sometimes wish to express myself in English rather than any other language. This search of connection, this sense of reaching out into the unknown.
Has I never experienced this feeling of belonging, I also never had any pride toward my nationality or felt any obligation to my country. My country is the place I was born in and where my family resides, but my sense of attachment ends there (except for *Belgian fries).
I’m wandering, searching this place where I could perhaps one day say « this is home, this is where I belong ». In the meantime, I experience, discover and connect with places and people and I’m happy with that.
I often wonder about the roads not taken, wishing I had done this or that, studied those, dared to do this thing, … I know we could always rebuild the world using if’s, but my mind is often travelling through those paths I didn’t travelled and what my life could have looked like.
I’m happy regarding the state of my life right now, but sometimes I wonder if things could have been made easier if I had taken certain choices, or dare to say: listened a bit more to my elders or fought a bit more. It’s sad to think how many times we ignore the warning of those older than us, only to find, some years later, how right they were.
I realized also how many times I postponed a decision I had to take because of fear of the unknown, especially regarding my professional life where I stayed way too long in toxic places.
We are a vessel of possibilities, the result of the choices we took and that shaped us. Still we go through our lives wondering how much more we could have been, how different our lives might have been. We decide our trajectories but keep in our memories the paths that could have been, contemplating multiple pasts, blind to the futures ahead of us.
Lately I’m feeling like I’m grasping for air seeing the events piling up more and more. While I’m always trying to distance myself from too much access to the news, the last events (and the last two years) have been quite overwhelming.
I usually escape through jokes, but behind those there’s a bleakness I can’t always face. And through the cracks I can’t hide the sadness and fear I feel regarding the state of the world. Be it the climate changes, the general stupidity level, the extremists growing more and more all over the world and taking whole countries over, sometimes jokes and music are not enough to cope.
Might be August and the fact that a lot of friends are away too, as often things are not isolated and coming together. Still the weight of it all makes it hard to breathe and often I’m feeling powerless, willing to do something but clueless about how or what I can really do. Sometimes I wanna scream, shout or explode in tears, the emotions become too much to handle and I can only act goofy, waiting for a solution.
Writing helps me to cope with everything. It clears the air a bit and empty my mind. I wonder for how long.
Thoughts are always crawling in my mind, swirling around endlessly to the point of obsession. Over the years I tried a lot to keep them away. Bad thoughts, cyclic thoughts, anxious thoughts. It’s like something in my mind keeps on twisting the world before my eyes, painting things in shades of dark.
It‘ll reveal itself every time I cross a road, showing me pictures of getting hit by a car, or when I take a plane, showing us crashing down, or while in a car burning, crashing, on and on on repeat. It’s not that I’m not frightened anymore of those things, it’s that I see them happening in my mind all the time and I learned to let them be.
Other times it’ll be a thought, a feeling, a bad moment or a memory that will play on repeat between my neurones, making me unable to live in the moment, as my mind is reliving different times. Focusing is the hardest thing, as I never found a way to switch off those speakers blasting in my mind all the time. So I learned to live in noise, hoping to get some silence when I fall asleep exhausted and the thoughts finally let me close my eyes.
Living with the enemy as they said, my mind has always been behind its lines.
Growing up catholic was growing up persuaded to be sinful. I remember searching for days, scanning all my actions for some sins I would need to declare to the priest while preparing my profession of faith, reinforcing my feeling there was something deeply wrong with me.
I detached myself from religion, but the shame stayed on. This feeling of being sinful, of something deeply wrong with me took its root into my heart and distilled its poison over the years. It’s always there, lurking in some corner when I’m feeling alone, always there when someone leaves, whispering that those priests were right, there was something wrong and sinful with me, and no one would love me like this.
I remember talking a lot with priests, thinking they would understand and help, but each talk took me a bit deeper. Searching for their god’s light, I darkened my own.
The feeling slowly fade away, the memories stayed. Looking back, I just hope no more children will grow up thinking there’s something sinful with who they are or what they do.
My first loves were secret. Taking multiple forms, crying when I had to say goodbye to a friend, playing games where we had to hide close to each other, our skins barely touching. Experimental for them, wondering what it was to touch another body, kiss someone, then forget while something was aching inside my heart.
First loves couldn’t be defined by words yet, but I knew I had to keep those feelings secret. It was also trying to fake things, picturing what life would be with a girlfriend, a wife, while my eyes kept glancing at boys. It was forming bonds with close friends they suddenly broke, calling our games, our nicknames, our sacred times, childish and foolish.
First loves were solitude, this feeling of loneliness, searching for words to exist in this world, anything that could explain those things I felt inside of me but couldn’t define. While my friends were feeling butterflies, mine were moths eating my light away, leaving me in a dark pit, wondering if I would one day be loved by those who always went away for normality.
First loves left unhealed wounds, lessons I’d rather not have learn, and a thick skin around my heart I had to learn to open again.
Like many of us, I woke up with the IPCC/GIEC report, showing the span of our impact on the planet and what will happen in the following years. More and more I’m relieved to not have any children nor desire for when I see what’s coming for the following years.
I’m feeling we can only enjoy the great things we have at the moment while working toward change, but our societies will have to dramatically change in the coming years. It’s already too late to change what’s ahead of us for my old years, I can hardly picture the struggle for the next generation.
What saddens me even more is that I know we won’t be able to move before the worst things happens. As of now, our every movements toward fighting climate change are either met with passiveness on one side or mindless activism on the other side. We’re acting as if nothing will ever change while closing down the solutions that could help us the more to reduce our emissions.
I can’t say anymore that I don’t know what’s coming, it has become perfectly clear. What I don’t know is how we can avoid those problem that plague us currently to face the inevitable. And it frightens me.
The main memories I still have from my first years of school are from my mother crying because I « could have done better », every single time she got out of the teacher’s office.
Looking back I realized that my scores were some of the highest in the classroom but the teachers didn’t like that I finished every test « too quickly ». For years I saw myself as careless, bad and dumb while I scored more than 90%. But the only things I heard from teacher until I was 16 years old was that I was « too quick and careless ».
I remember facing my tests and reading them 6 times before giving them back, 20 minutes from the following student. Searching for mistakes I couldn’t find. And only to be brought back to those mistakes while I had almost perfect scores.
This mentality led me the avoid any scientific studies, run away from mathematics and, more, from anything academic. Looking back I have so much anger regarding the potential I had, wasted just because some people didn’t like that I went through their tests too fast for their own taste. Because of this I closed so many doors to myself and I still have to cope with the scars of their words and actions.
Reading 21 lessons for the 21st century makes we wonder how we could develop ownership on our own data / digital identity. We tend to rely on states, but they can be quite slow to move, evolve, especially when we look at how fast the digital landscape is moving. Therefore there is perhaps a room for a personal digital identity system which would allow us to give / remove access to our personal data and to to keep those informations up to date.
First I thought about a blockchain solution, allowing us to secure our data, but then I realized how much of our “identity” is moving. A blockchain solution would be a real problem for a lot of people.
Some examples I had :
Transgender people have to be able to change their gender and name
People leaving their country might adopt a new nationality
The simple act of moving out means our address isn’t something fixed
People can change their name by legal means, therefore even our names might change
People should also be able to own those data totally, which means some kind of self hosted solution as relying on a company (Facebook much?) to own those data is too big of a threat. But then, what kind of solution ? A physical system means it could easily get lost, a digital one would require both hardware and basic skills, and what happens if we lost the hardware ?
It’s funny how this simple thing has eluded me for so many years (and still eludes me from time to time). Something as simple as saying “no”,“I won’t”, “I can’t”. I’ve spent so many years running after time, saying yes all the time, abiding to things I didn’t want to do, investing energy I didn’t have, forcing myself to be someone I wasn’t or to do things that only pulled me down further.
But I wouldn’t say it was a fear to say “no” in fact. I think it was going way deeper than not being able to say that. So I took some times to work on myself, but also to understand what I really wanted, what was the purpose I defined for my life, what were my healthy boundaries … I must say that this was the most terrifying blank page I’ve ever faced. While I did read many books about “discovering yourself” (some even joked on the amount of self-help books I was reading), I must admit that when the time came to write what were exactly “my rules”, I was staring in the void like a dead fish.
So I turned the problem around, searching for all the things that pissed me off, or where I failed in the past years, my errors, my mistakes, to try to define something by removing the fog around them. If I couldn’t express exactly what I wanted to, at least I would be able to express exactly what I didn’t want anymore.
By doing so, I was able to clear the fog almost completely, allowing me to define my personal boundaries and some moral rules I wanted to abide to. I realized also that we all have a finite amount of energy to give each day, and that I was clearly deep into debt on this side. The worst part? Most of this energy was lost into things that didn’t bring me anything.
I discovered also some of my flaws. Like how I was postponing tasks for the sake of treating them later (hello procrastination), while acting directly on it would require just 5 minutes of my time (and especially keep my mind cleared of it). Or how much time I could spend uselessly complaining about things (without acting). At this time I decided to stop complaining as much as I could, and to act directly on things that would take only a very small amount of time. I still complain from time to time, I must admit, but every time I do say, I notice it to myself, and try to find how to avoid it for the next time. Still not perfect, but improving.
I realized also that I had a tendency to avoid things by going sideways mostly by fear or hurting other people. I spent a lot of time thinking I was doing the right thing by using those so-called white lies. But it’s by reading Lying by Sam Harris that I realized that those weren’t useful.
First they made me feel bad, and I had to be weary of everything I was doing not to contradict them, and second they didn’t give any real information and kept me in a spiral. How could I stop doing things I didn’t want to do if I never said that I didn’t like them? I was having a hard time just being myself. So I decided to stop. To slowly learn to say exactly what I wanted to do, what I didn’t like, … I was surprised to realize that people were able to accept my limits and weren’t pushing me anymore to do things I didn’t want.
Going deeper in the process, I discovered several other things important to me (first and foremost honesty and speaking the truth, on which I’ll write something deeper later), allowing me to see exactly where I was and where I was going. This allowed me to be able to trace a line in the sand to be finally able to say “no”, this is where I stop, this is something I don’t want to do, this is something I won’t tolerate or accept anymore.
This whole process took me quite some time (in fact it stayed two whole months on top of my to-do list), but once done gave me a peace of mind I’ve never felt before, and a feeling of relief quite impressing. I also regained a lot of personal time, and while I still have an important social and work life, for the first time in a long time, I must say that I feel in command of my ship, and free..
This year a lot of my reading where going around the same subject : How not to give a fuck. It’s strange that nowadays we end up reading something that should really be natural, even spontaneous. It always felt strange that we slowly switched from a world where you had the right not to care about some subjects (not even in a violent way, just not to take position), to a world of constant shoutings, personal vendettas and small wars.
So it’s strange to say it this way, but I now reclaim the right not to care about some subjects. I reclaim the right not to be enlightened enough on a subject to take any position about it, but also the right to neither know enough about it nor willing to take the time to learn about it. We’re all here for a limited time, with all our passions, subject of interest, personal fights, and it seems to me absolutely necessary to reclaim our right to decide where we invest our personal energy. Not caring about something isn’t an aggression toward the persons fighting for this thing, in fact it’s letting them more room to act, but also to be active proponent of the discussion by using their knowledge at the best. Not caring allow us to focus on the things that really matter to us, to lead our own fights. And sometimes, even if we would like it to be this way, things aren’t just all black and white, and some subjects are too dense to take position for one side or the other.
We have to also be able to let others not care about the things that matter to us. We have to understand that not everybody care about the things we do, that sometimes our fights are not understandable nor worth fighting for to their eyes without it being a critic about ourselves.
While we’re living in better and better times, it seems essential to me that we learn to cool down a bit on the tensions we put everywhere, and that we accept to learn again how to compromise and accept that what we do doesn’t make sense for everyone all the time. So please give yourself a little gift when you can, and choose not to care about the latest fight on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or whatever. Just go along the way and breathe. You have a limited amount of energy, keep it for what really matters to you..
For a decade now and with a surprising increase during the last years, I tend to encounter a lot of words used without any interest for their basic definition, thinking only about creating or increasing some “wow” factor. Those words I keep seeing? Exclusivity, Groundbreaking, Revolutionary, Unique, Innovation, … While at some point this tendency was limited to marketing (and which is part of well… their job), this spread to the general public (and I fell for this several time too).
Everytime it happens, it’s usually based on the fact that we don’t have a sufficient knowledge of the subjects, or didn’t do enough research, so we tend to use them because, from what we know they’re exact. This is a common problem in our times, where we’re all having trouble saying that we don’t know.
It then creates a false narrative and an unnecessary fuss around things that are perhaps non ground-breaking. But at least, this is caused by a simple slip of the language based on not enough facts, and we all tend to fall for it. Be it when we advise this “revolutionary” app, or that we tend to proclaim something as “unique in the world” (something that tends to happen a lot in the French market, where we have a remarkable blindness to everything non-French-speaking that is happening in the world).
The problem for me happens when we tend to fall for the marketing jargon and to defend sayings that are not our own, through the only window we were provided. Or worst, when we tend to reframe this window to be smaller and smaller, just to justify the use of a word that we simply shouldn’t use. Hence this app really is exclusive* (*in your language), revolutionary (*in your country, your neighbor have it since 10 years now), unique (*on your platform).
This is not “that bad”, but I tend to think that words have a meaning, and when we use those words in the wrong place we tend to reduce this meaning. And while the motto of the last years on every mouth has been “innovation” yelled clear and loud everywhere, it’s rarely true (nor based on anything). In a world where everyone is becoming an entrepreneur (which is neither good or bad), perhaps we should be a bit more honest, or picky in the choice of our words.
While not every idea is a revolution, you have plenty of other things you can promote your idea on, plenty of possibility that you offer that, while they’re not exclusive), provide a different/better experience for your audience. And this won’t require you to reframe any window while it might make you appear less “bullshit-prone” than any other idea out there.
Sometimes you encounter a book with which you realize a lot of things about yourself. This kind of epiphany moment was exactly what I had when reading Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker which shed a light on several things I encountered in my life and things I couldn’t do that everybody was at ease with and I couldn’t understand why.
When everybody’s listening to podcasts, watching endless YouTube video streams, when every recipe you can find is now presented in a video, when books are being listened too instead of read, … And that I couldn’t do any of those things. Put simply, if you make me listen to a podcast for more than 5 minutes, my mind will start to wander and I’ll keep nothing from it in my memory.
At 29 years old, I realized I was a reader, meaning that I was understanding things in a clearer way when reading them instead of listening to them. This might appear quite simple, but this really helped me understand a lot of things about myself, on how I should behave in my work, why I was desperate for meetings minutes and dreading hours long meetings but also that I shouldn’t force myself into things I couldn’t do. I had many podcasts I subscribed to, after reading this little book I had exactly 0 left. They didn’t suit me at all, why should I keep losing energy trying something I wasn’t made for?
I learned also that I was a writer more than a speaker, meaning that I had to write things down to memorize them. Something I already realized when I started to build my Commonplace Book. As I was rewriting quotes from my favourite books, suddenly I started to make a lot of connections, I could remember easily which author was linked to which one, what common theme several books shared, … I understood finally why I learned so much during the MOOCs I followed and where I was taking a lot of notes I didn’t even read back. I didn’t need to reread them, once they were written, they were clearly set in my mind.
Those two things made me realize why I had so much trouble going through school, where most of the teaching is bad on a listening-to-memorize mindset for which I wasn’t made at all. And why I had so much success going through lessons by myself, by reading books and rewriting things I needed, instead of listening to someone talking for hours.
This also helped me to understand why I’m so weary when Digital Evangelists tell everyone that video is the new communication media. This is not a bad idea per se, but doing so is forgetting half the population who is not at all at ease with a video / audio media (and I’m not even talking about handicap situations). Yes video are quite good when you want to present an idea to a board, and some text might look boring, but both are necessary in our world.
The only thing I regret now is having learned this at the age of 29. But now that I know this, it’s something I can build upon quite easily, and this already helped me reshape the way I was working in a more efficient way, suiting the way my brain is working and using my strengths. I still have a lot of palliatives to find as our professional work is deeply constructed on an speaking / listening way of working, but nothing is impossible now that I’ve clearly identified my weaknesses.
One thing I’ve come to realize more and more in our society, is our tendency to intervene all the time in everything, for the sake of the intervention. Things are being changed, teams are being shuffled, plans are being remade, … all the time, especially with a new-comer. While sometimes those changes can be good, most of the time they end up being quite a waste of time, energy, and human resources, while they give the impression that something is accomplished (when it’s not).
It’s interesting to find examples everywhere that, sometimes, the act of non-doing is better than changing things just for the sake of our ego. In Chinese, there’s the concept of Wu Wei, an important concept of Taoism which means non-doing or non-acting, to let things behave according to their nature, go with the flow. It’s interesting to note that the same thing was explained by the Stoics centuries ago, who put following nature as one of their core principle (if not the core principle).
You can find a related thing in chess, with the zugzwang, where you are forced to move one’s piece when doing absolutely nothing would save your game. Throughout history, we encountered a lot of times where our interventionism did more damage than good but still we learn nothing on our human scale. If you look into health, you’ll discover the iatrogenic effects, which occurs when your health is worsened by the medical care you’re receiving (One of the worst example? Decades ago lobotomy was considered as a great health practice.).
Ego isn’t the only culprit in this, depending on one’s position, the root cause could be also our own fear. Fear that people will think we’re not working, fear that not giving an advice will feel like giving up on someone or something, … Which is why, even when we’ll choose not to act, it is important to take the time to explain ourselves. Because even the act of non-doing requires some thoughts and thinking, and by being prepared to explain our non-actions, we’ll avoid useless fears and judgments.
Our tendency to intervene in everything, all the time, in a way that suits our egos more than the greater good ends up costing a lot in our lives, jobs, friendships, … and we are all guilty of it, even if we tend to persuade ourselves that the changes we’re making ends up, at best, changing nothing. Sometimes we need to take some steps back before making a decision and ask ourselves a simple question : Am I really doing this to improve something or am I doing this so people won’t think that I’m not doing anything?
Some days ago, I finished Siddharta by Herman Hesse, a very strange and compelling book that immediately jumped into my life changing shelf of my library. One particular passage in this book hit me with the velocity of a full-speed train : “Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.” - Herman Hesse — Siddharta
In this small excerpt of the book, Siddharta explains that every man needs to learn how to fast. Because when you face hunger, when you miss something, being in a state where you wait for it might lead you to make a lot of bad choices. This resonated a lot with me as, being subject to anxiety from time to time, I have made several decisions in my past based only on fear of the future, the unknown, the loneliness, …
And I’m always surprised by how I could react, postpone things, decisions, ideas, based solely on those fears, those panics moments. I’ve bitterly regretted some of those choices, while some very rare turned out to be not so bad. Looking backward, none of those decisions ever led me to something good.
In fact, the only decisions I took that I consider now to be good decisions (and even life changing one), were all done in times where I wasn’t feeling a particular need, being it financial, sentimental, social. In this, I recognize Siddharta’s teaching when he says that learning to fast is the most useful thing a man can do.
And while it’s really hard not to take hasty decisions when I’m going through a panic attack, I now know that, for my own good, it’s better that I postpone the decisions to the next morning / week. But it’s something really hard nowadays, when people are always in a hurry. In times like this, when you’re pressured to take a decision, it’s just good to remember that you can always take time. If it’s not a life threatening situation, it can wait.
Just as business tend to evolve thanks to failures and improvements, I strongly think that we tend to evolve through our mistakes, our errors and regrets. But I also strongly believe that not all errors are equal, and that in each of our lives, we’re making what I call some major formative mistake. Usually we don’t realize it when we’re doing them, but when time passes by and we’re looking backward, we tend to see them clearly for what they are.
Those mistakes are deeply formative in our characters, as making them make us evolve toward a greater human being. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb said, those mistakes are making us a bit more antifragile, as we’re building on them or rather, because of them. They are easy to identify when you’re a bit distanced from them, as they usually pack a lot of regrets. You wish you had taken another decision, another path, acted differently, … But when you look how you acted after those mistakes, you also realize that you learned a lot, you’re not making the same mistake.
Looking back, I’m able to count three major mistakes in my life. The first one was hurting someone I really loved through acts I deeply regretted. It took me 2 years to gain forgiveness from the other person, but 5 years to forgive myself. This mistake forever changed the way I envision and act into all my relationships since then, in a better way. It also made me gain a best friend and someone I don’t want to lose at all in my life.
The second was taking some distance from a friend as I felt it could endanger my relationship. Two years after I had the chance to make amend, talk with him and explain why I reacted this way and how stupid I was. Three days ago, this friend died. This mistake taught me to always be open about what you’re feeling and thinking but also, the hard way, that the people in our lives don’t last forever and that we have to act on our problem as soon as possible, when we still have the chance to.
The third one was both personal and professional as I let my ego get in the way and cloud my judgment, taking a non calculated risk that almost destroyed a lot of my relationships and career path. This mistake taught me to not let your ego get in the way and also to always listen to opposite advice. It also teached me to be more careful and consider every possibility before taking a decision. It also teached me to listen to my guts and to refuse something if it doesn’t feel right.
Those three mistakes shaped my personality and the way I’m thinking today by hitting hard on three major aspects of life: love, friendship and work. But I would say I have been “lucky” enough to have the chance to build on them, and to have the chance to make amend to both my ex lover and my friend before it was too late. Talking with a lot of people, I realized that everybody didn’t had this chance in their life unfortunately. Still those mistakes defined them, shaped their characters in a more profound way than everything else.
So if you have the chance, take a look backward, what are those decisions, those acts that you deeply regret? Can you still act on them and, if another person if involved, ask forgiveness? While those mistakes shape us, we don’t have to let them leave open wounds in our lives, scars are a way to keep the teaching while still healing.
There are some conversations where you realize a lot about yourself, how and why you act the way you do. I remember a particular one with a friend of mine, as we were discussing our shared professional past. I remember talking about how unhappy I was and how I felt I was slowly dying for such a long time, expressing some bitterness over the job. That’s when she told me “but you had the choice, you could have left”. That particular sentence really hit me hard.
It hit me hard because she was right, I could have. In fact, looking back now, everything at this time was already in my hands, but instead of acting on it, and changing my life, I decided to stick in a job that was slowly killing me. I stayed because of multiple factors, the main one being fear. I was terribly afraid to find myself losing my flat, ending up on the streets, … (drama much ? I must admit). So afraid in fact that I was ready to go all the way straight to the burn out just because I was too afraid to make a decision I knew was the right one but where I couldn’t predict a 100% success rate.
The problem is that nothing in life has a 100% success rate, we can never be assured that everything will go well. Things can go wrong, but they can also go pretty right, we can’t predict them. Most of the time we get over it, being able to make decisions, go on with our lives, but sometimes, for big decisions, we tend to postpone, waiting for this 100% rate solution, this perfect answer. And even if we’re unhappy in our current situation, at least we know it, we own it (or rather, it owns us). So we stick to things we don’t like, in jobs that are sometimes depleting us from exactly who we are, because taking the chance to make a change is frightening.
Sometimes those choices end up being bad. As I said, we can never know. The only thing we can do is to avoid to end up in a state of learned helplessness and not to let those failures own us. Because even if something fails we can learn from it. And if something succeed, we’re gaining a bit more confidence, a bit more self-trust, and we finally escape situations that destroy us. Do not let fear take the best of you, take the leap, trust in your guts because that’s what life is made of. Keep learning, keep growing, keep choosing.
I’ve always had troubles to relate to my age. While I know it’s only a number, I can’t stop thinking that those years are slowly counting and growing in numbers (still can’t believe I’m reaching my 30s in one year). For years, I stubbornly refused to become an adult, deciding that it was something I didn’t relate to, staying in some kind of pre-adult years (or more post-teenage years).
However, lately things changed a lot. While 2016 was a terrible year for a lot of people (and for the world), it was for me one of the most formative year I’ve ever encountered. I never felt myself getting older than I did during last year, taking decisions that changed my life totally: quitting smoking totally, deciding to leave my job and go full freelance, learning what I needed and wanted in several aspects of my life.
While 2017 didn’t start as well as I had wished, it’s still packing a lot of promises on the professional level, with a tremendous amount of project being planned for the coming weeks. It’s even a bit frightening how much I’m investing into my work life lately but, well, sometimes it’s necessary and it’s for the better.
I always had some troubles identifying as an adult due to the fact that I’m still looking quite young (with people giving me 23 years old it doesn’t help), but finally, at 29, I’ve decided to accept myself as an adult person, and to accept that I could have insights, opinions, things to say, … that were as valuable as the other adults I’ve ever encountered.
I’m still, and will still look younger than my age for (I hope) a long time, but I know that now my mindset has changed, now I can finally say that I’ve entered adulthood, or at least entered what I consider to be adulthood. It might not look like much, or something I should have done years ago, but for me it was finally being able to stand on the same ground as lot of people I’m working with, and this has forever changed the way I look at things.
Politics. I thought I’d never get back into this, having lost the willingness to understand their shoutings, their fightings, this unbearable division of our society in smaller and smaller parts. But here we go again, as it seems it has become unavoidable lately unfortunately. You might have noticed how it has changed in the last years, losing most of its messages for those strong figures, those talkers, those new orators. As it seems, we’ll never really understand history lessons while we’re bound to repeat the same mistakes over and over, giving up again our convictions, our ideas, for a person that is able to empower a crowd, to rise the angriness and play with the people struggles.
I seem to remember a time, not so long ago, where politics were an idea, a hope, something that we’d look upon to for our future, to build something. Yes they were humans, making mistakes, falling into the same traps we all fall into, but at least they were trying to build something greater than them. Then somewhere along the road we lost this, this willingness to overcome our present to aim for a better future. In the last years, by a dictatorship of the majority, we let orators take bit by bit the power of our democracies. And every time someone tries to warn us, we’re bound to say that “it’s not the same, you’re going to far”. But yes, it is the same, it has always been the same, since the dawn of democracy. As democracy in itself has the root of its destruction. As we’re humans and imperfects, we’re bound to fall to great speeches, to those men and women that can directly talk to our most primary feelings. Anger, fear, sadness, … those are the things they use against us.
Bit by bit, politics has become a giant circus, where the message doesn’t tell much but where what’s relevant is who says it and how. Marketing has embraced politics, shaping our debates with the most terrifying weapons we could think of to shape human minds. There’s not a single bit of project in their message, just crazy talks about how those “others” are “dangerous”, “rapists”, “thieves”, “strange”, “different”. And everyday we’re falling more and more into this sadistic game.
In the United States, we let a terrible man reach the highest states of power, in Turkey we’re giving more and more power to a man who has everything of a dictator, in Belgium we let our politics divide us and block our country about useless things, in Hungary and Chechnya we let them build new camps to protect us from those “others”, in the United Kingdoms we let populists break one of the most beautiful idea our democracies had ever made, in France the current race for presidency has become a nightmare on every side with almost each candidate playing on fear, angriness, avoiding the uneasy questions, and almost all of them trying to control our medias, our information, the fifth pillar of our power.
People have never been this passionate about politics on the other side. But for the wrong reasons. We’re dwelling into a war of feelings, not ideas anymore, refusing to hear the complains of the people who do not think like us, who dare to support another candidate, another hope. As we met the orators win the power, we also let the most demagogues, the most enraged people steal every single topic of discussion we can find. It has now became impossible to talk about racism, LGBT rights, foreign policy, health, or anything on each side. In a time where we’d desperately need moderate people to build a future we could all aim for, we let our society become a gigantic battlefield of fanatics.
And each day, those fanatics are reinforcing our cleavages, by pushing away people who are not truly against them, but aren’t just agreeing with all their agenda. By alienating those diverse opinions to fall into a black and white divide, we’re destroying our democracies and letting the power into the hands of those Manichean orators. We pushed away moderates from the scene and replaced them by performers. But performers, might they be black or white, aren’t willing to build a future. They’re willing to build up their power, their ego, as it’s the exact thing that put them into this position. And every time we try to talk about them, we’re accused of strengthening them, killing in itself the basic idea of a democratic discussion.
We’re all prone to failure, that our beauty and our curse, but still I hope this is not too late. Now I look to France, hoping that my predictions won’t come true, that we won’t let fear win, but still. Still I hope to see moderates come back on the scene, daring to explain to the common people that the world isn’t black and white, daring to challenge people with complex ideas, with real projects encompassing all of our society, embracing our differences. I hope to see moderates fight the fanatics from every side of the battle and tell them that they do not have the right to confiscate our societies, to go on further in this division war we’re in it. Because our world is a colorful rainbow, and it’s in this diversity that we’ll be able to build something greater than us.