Next week we'll join the ranks of our political leaders and start our Summer recess. To provide you with a plethora of food for thought, this week's edition covers some personal development challenges, views on globalisation, models and mindsets for growth and contemplations on crossroads. Fine ingredients to let simmer over Summer. Expect our next edition on September 1st. Should you experience any withdrawal symptoms, remember you can always reach for our (searchable) archives. Enjoy!
Strangely enough, this was one of the most interesting phrases Marketing guru Seth Godin uttered while presenting a workshop on freelancing. He tried to explain why most people are having such a hard time understanding why other people think different, make other choices, can't see why your product is the absolute best idea in the world.
"But I'm also unreasonable, we all are."
He explained that it took him quite a while to understand how everyone hold his own sets of beliefs, and that everyone's behaviour is a fully logical consequence of his beliefs, state of mind and experiences. Everyone, absolutely everyone, acts completely in line with those. You're never acting against your own set of beliefs, and so is everybody else.
When you have a hard time understanding someone else's behaviour, that just means you don't see all the pieces of the puzzle.
This change of lens, to look at behaviour you do not understand, was a game-changer for me.
It's not a dogmatic 'you should try to be empathic'. It's an invitation.
Every time a puzzle presents itself, I have a choice. Thinking the puzzle is stupid, ranting the pieces don't fit and how it should be different. Or, alternatively, remembering that all the pieces in front of me (and some left in the box) are a full set, holding an image I don't see yet.
I still don't feel like making complex jigsaw puzzles all of the time; knowing the pieces always make a full set already makes for a comforting thought.
The last decade, barring a few exceptions, has not seen countries waging war against each other to increase power or annex valuable resources. Looking beyond guns, tanks and airplanes invading another country, one recognizes immediately wars are being fought out between different nations across the globe; IT-systems being hacked, social media influence, and discriminatory immigration rules.
Perhaps the biggest one is the trade war. Governments around the globe are involved, sometimes colluding together, to basically promote the wealth of its own people above that of another country.
A good recent example with potentially far-reaching implications centers around the semiconductor industry. In our current days and age, semiconductors are crucial. However, not all countries have easy access to them. China -as shown in the chart below- is currently spending more on importing semiconductors than it does on oil.
The US and its usual allies have taken the opportunity to show their force, blocking technology companies like ASML from selling to China and disallowing trade of certain products.
With less opportunity to export and more than a million engineers graduating each year, it's a just a matter of time before China will completely be self-sufficient. By then, they have stimulated innovation such that their products will be dominant. Meanwhile, China's eyes are again focused on Taiwan, home of the largest semiconductor production company in the world TSMC, creating political and military tension in the region.
I've never really understood why we would engage in such economic (and political) warfare. Why we believe we deserve better than our neighbours or far-away brothers and sisters is beyond me. Are we not stuck on the wrong side of the prisoner's dilemma?
Free international trade could in the long-term increase both welfare and wellbeing (why is one written with just one 'l'?) for everyone, as long as we find a solution for its environmental impact. As the old Chinese saying goes: "if you can't beat them, join them".
One of our readers pointed me towards Danielle Braun, discussing the topic of change. She observes that change is not a 2-point 'ist-soll' type of thing, but rather a transitional period that "is done when it's done". Just look at how tribes deal for example with youth coming of age. They are often sent on a ritual journey ending with an aptitude test, which only happens when a tribal leader thinks they are ready for it.
You learn and change in this 'in-between' period. It's often called the liminal phase; a transitional phase in which hurdles are taken, feels uncomfortable and you try to shorten as much as possible.
In the lecture, she refers to a talk by Rabbi Twerksi in which he uses the lobster as a model for how to deal with change. When a lobsters grows, its shell becomes too small and uncomfortable. She'll go under a rock, shed her shell, expose her soft body and grow a new shell while being very vulnerable.
"The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow, is that it feels uncomfortable [...] if lobsters would have doctors [to provide a pill], they would never grow."
Clearly, we need doctors to fix things that are broken. However, feeling uncomfortable or experiencing a bit of stress may not be bad and indicate a time for growth or change. To understand and feel what is needed when you are in this phase, Danielle Braun argues you need 'liminal leaders'. One -the Chief- that ensures you complete your daily routines and one -the Shaman- that facilitates this in-between period and let it last as long as necessary.
These two roles could well be inside you already. You can also organise them around yourself. Who or what is your 'Chief' and 'Shaman'?
I really intended to write something on 'time'. How your memory condenses all routine activity. If nothing meaningful happens, our brain has nothing new to record, so time subjectively shrinks. A familiar commute feels like 10 minutes. A relaxed weekend at home flies by.
"Just as time knew to move on since the beginning"
This is one of my favourite lines from Stevie Wonder's "As" and I was just one Wikipedia search away (looking up it's year of conception) from tying the lyrics to my small elaboration on the subjective speed of time and finishing my article. Glancing over his biography to look for the date, one thing hit me.
In 1975, Stevie Wonder almost quit making music.
He seriously considered emigrating to Ghana to work with handicapped children. Plans for a farewell concert were in the making.
I always considered Stevie to be a music man to the bone, his destiny set in stone from an early age. A straight line from his music-filled youth and being signed at Motown at 11 to his monumental albums created in the 70's and early 80's.
Reading biographies, these kinds of watershed moments keep messing up my convictions about successful people. Knowing someone superficially, I always tend to see the straight line, the well planned career. Digging a bit deeper, you discover the pivotal moments, the 'follow your gut' instinctual twists and turns, the serendipitous opportunities followed.
'Working with the garage door open', sharing the messy truth, conflicts with our egoic tendency to project an image of composure, of having a plan and following through. Reality is messy, and I think we are better off navigating life acknowledging that, celebrating the things we can't control, so we can all get better at responding to them.
Stevie didn't pivot in 1975. Contemplating his future with all options open, he eventually decided to sign another record deal, but on terms never seen before. He spent more than a year crafting his next album. "Songs in the Key of Life" is considered a masterpiece by a large group of music lovers (including me), and I think his pivotal moment provided just the right circumstances for something as beautiful as that album to be conceived.
That's it for this week! If you got forwarded this newsletter and like what you read, get your own!
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Have a great week!
Quinten & Alphons