"Try doing something at which you cannot fail as a first step", a dear friend asked of me as I tried to move forward on a challenging project. "What can be a tiny first step, a first little bit of progress, that you can immediately do? Right now?".
I felt a bit stunned, a bit caught in the headlights. I was pushed out of my comfort zone where I spent my time happily explaining the challenges ahead. I needed to do something on the spot, which made me feel I was pushed on the stage, being watched by my one-man audience. And yet, I immediately understood the value of the gesture.
Activation energy, what is needed to get the first kindlewood catching fire is a favourite subject of mine. From business coaching to parenting, getting people to engage in tiny experiences or experiments to get their feet wet, to see if things work as fast as possible and to get you going, have been a powerful tool for me. It's why raw enthusiasm is sometimes invaluable in coaching. Long live the cheerleader!
Yet, I never put people on the spot before, even though I valued the experience myself. It contributed to a small win, the first one in a longer streak that is still building. And I'm grateful for it.
Since we're not in the same room right now, discussing your next project, I can't practice with you. But you might, the next time you're with someone who is stuck or has an issue with starting up. When you feel trust is high, put them on the spot and send them home with a small win.
Ah, why not use this time of the year to reiterate some great benefits of a certain dietary habit that does require you to change your usual schedule? It is, after all, the time of the year many people are full of energy to change habits and implement positive resolutions, even though we've argued this might in fact not the best time to implement behavourial changes. Still, the fact that repetition is one of the greatest teachers, made me decide to write about the benefits of (intermittent) fasting once more.
Also, the opportunity just simply presented itself on a nice plate (pun intended). I was forwarded this video on intermittent fasting. In it, Dr. Roger Seheult explains the numerous benefits of intermittent fasting.
Ever since I wrote about the effects of fasting in one of our first newsletters, I've been practising intermittent fasting and really enjoyed personal benefits. Most importantly, energy levels are constant and high during the day and having a certain rhythm has also improved my sleep.
In his video, Dr. Seheult mainly stresses the benefits of fasting on all kinds of health issues. Apart from a relatively easy way -in intermittent fasting you do not necessarily change your diet or quantities- to lose weight and reduce insuline levels, it spurs all kinds of internal mechanisms that clean, repair and heal your body. The so-called 'autophagy' process, literally meaning 'self-eating'.
I guess this is one of those things that falls in the category 'doesn't hurt trying it' but may also be outside your comfort zone. It does also impact some pretty engrained habits (by the way, you can have your black coffee during fasting 😉). What would happen IF...?
During the Christmas break, my family was hit with a nasty flu, keeping us inside for multiple days. Low physical energy, no commitments and ample time usually sends me down a rabbit hole of some sorts. The last time this occurred, I bumped into 279 episodes of 'The Big Bang Theory', a series I miraculously managed to miss out on since its inception. Not judging the usefulness of time spent, I managed to take a sizeable bite out of those episodes before I fully recovered.
This time, my rabbit hole probably qualified a bit more as being useful. Since my sons are into chess these days, I spent numerous hours on Reddit, YouTube and Twitch trying to get a feel for how to improve at the game.
I used to play chess when I was young, but I still remember a lot of the theory not sticking. I don't know what caused this back in the day, but I was set on finding out. The couple of days I spent in chessland taught me a few new things and confirmed some others from surprising angles.
First of all, I was reminded again of the magical powers of the internet. It is truly amazing how much faster you can learn when you have access to the best & the brightest teachers. These days, a lot of the world's top players have their own YouTube channel and/or stream their online games on Twitch, commenting on their moves, sharing their strategic thoughts. On top of that, you can select your teachers based on having a personal click with them as well, since this greatly affects your learning. I visited a ton of YouTube channels before settling on a particular one that just resonated best.
The importance of having a feel for your own way of learning was another big take-away for me. This is probably the biggest change from my chess learning as a kid. Having the confidence of knowing what you're looking for, keeping up the search until you find the resources that somehow click. Trusting your intuition on this front is something I wish we could teach in school.
This continuing search also felt like a good example of what life-long-learning means to me, contrary to my formal education. In school, the curriculum is mostly set out for you, while learning these days is about following my interests, gathering material while strolling around, not yet knowing how the dots will connect, which I find infinitely more fun while also having the best track record by far.
Next, a systems thinking approach helps greatly in learning new stuff. When I was young, I never understood how the phases of the game (opening, middle game, endgame) got their meaning, since the separation felt totally artificial for me. Now, seeing the game as a progression with increasing optionality at first and solvable puzzles near the end, I developed an appreciation for the way they are taught. Understanding a ton of scenarios for specific openings helps you steer the trajectory in the beginning, increasing your chances to get a lead. When possibility explodes in the middle game, you switch to tactics and strategies, as they help you make the most of situations you have not seen before. Finally, as complexity decreases near the end of the game, you need to know specific move orders again to be able to seal the deal and win.
Finally, learning new things while knowing a lot already is much easier. Lateral examples from business, philosophy and psychology just help a lot in acquiring learnings. This rabbit hole again proved to me how much fun it is to learn new things, and life-long learning is a long game with compounding interest.
If chess interests you, take a look at some of the videos on Levi Rosenthal's (Gothamchess) channel or challenge me to a game the next time we meet. In any case, next time you're stuck in bed with the flu, think rabbit holes.
Yesterday, I had a wonderful conversation with my co-author, discussing the balance between taking action and letting opportunities come to you. Both of us expressed a sense of unease with the latter; it feels passive, which collides with the getting-things-done mentality and Christian values we were brought up with.
On closer inspection, however, the main cause of unease was hiding behind a false dichotomy, as is often the case with hurdles like these. Waiting for opportunities to reveal themselves is hardly a passive endeavour.
Erik Smithuis, founder of corporate training powerhouse ICM, once revealed his strategy for success that has stayed with me ever since:
"You warm yourself best when close to the fire"
His message was mainly to move yourself close to where the action is, get your toes in the water and then take it from there.
This ties in to other wisdom we shared earlier on creating luck and not seeing the puzzle looking forward. Following your gut might be the most powerful trick in the book. It's about saying yes to what feels right, no to what does not feel right, and keep moving.
Like the old crocodile that only eats every few weeks, being in the right spot is what matters. Are you creating the surface area for serendipity?
Right after the Summer, we wrote about how hard it can be to really get started after a solid break. Having structure and meetings in your diary seems to have its merits to support this process of getting back into high-gear. At the same time, we often write about the value of having downtime to process thoughts and spur creativity.
Contemplating these observations, the word 'balance' popped up, again 😉. Both shutting down completely as well as going all-out with back-to-back meetings doesn't seem to be productive. There is a certain optimal dosing, which in itself you should probably administer in a non-constant way to have it fluctuate over time. Even if this means you'll have meetings during a holiday or an empty diary in the week before Christmas break.
Still, my personal experience is that once there is something in the diary during a holiday, this 'something' is determining the entire day. I find myself not starting a new activity, because it may not fit the schedule, which subsequently results in a form of inactivity and creating the feeling of time lost. It certainly is not my best day.
Everyone thrives on different ways of working. I guess my most important message is to experiment and figure out what works best for you, keeping in mind that there may be more than one modus that works well. Wouldn't it be great if you could choose from a menu full of recipes that taste nice? Like figuring out the best Christmas dinner menu, be sure to enjoy that exercise and invite others to evaluate.
Like physical labour, mental work can be very exhausting. I remember being completely in shambles after completing two 3-hours exams in one day. What exactly causes that feeling? The brain may use glucose for its activities, but surely not as much as when you complete an hours long running exercise?
The Economist recently featured an article 'How thinking hard makes the brain tired' explaining the current thinking (pun intended) on this subject. Cognitive control, as all the work your brain performs, is called is poorly understood. Historically, the hypothesis was that cognitive control simply uses up glucose for its work and hence at the end of the day you feel tired because you have depleted (somewhat😜) your reserves.
Meanwhile, it has become clear that the brain indeed uses glucose but only limited amounts. Scientists looking at it from a neurometabolic point of view, have discovered that brainwork results in the production of a chemical called glutamate. It is a substance common in various proteïns and plays a role in many brain activities such as learning and the sleep-wake cycle. The more you think, the more glutamate is being produced.
"In other words, cognitive work results in chemical changes in the brain, which present behaviourally as fatigue."
This may in turn explain why consuming certain substances may suppress your fatigueness. After all, the production of this substance or its destruction may well be influenced by certain other proteïns and mechanisms at work in your body. I'm certainly not advocating experimenting with this, but I do recommend the best, natural antidote to high glutamate levels: sleep.
Learning and mastering new skills can be frustrating. The 'learning valley' my kids get explained in school doesn't end when you graduate. Every time you find yourself in a new situation, a new role, a new responsibility, you likely experience the helplessness that comes with it.
While taking up scuba diving again after a very long time, this realisation smacked me right in the face. The first time you're under water, you are so caught up with your own gear and well-being, that you miss out on 99% of what's happening around you. Like a horse with blinkers on, your field of vision collapses to the scope you're able to manage. It also reminded me of the first time I drove a car (with a stick), wondering if there would ever come a time I would be able to handle all these tasks effortlessly. Of course, once you master it, you hardly ever think of it. Changing gears and keeping a good overview comes naturally, the same way eating with a knife and fork requires hardly any effort.
Until now, the fun part for me has always been about the realisation of mastery. Like Neo seeing the Matrix for the first time, you start getting a longer horizon, start seeing trends and patterns, and start feeling confident you can handle what's thrown at you. Your unconscious machine learning model starts taking over a lot of the mundane, so you can move on to seeing the bigger picture. This is your realisation of growth happening before your eyes!
Like the reframing used to re-train your dopamine system, I try to enjoy being a beginner more and more often. Not just because I enjoy the mastery (hopefully) coming later, but just to savour that part of the journey as well. Even the realisation of friction while learning new things can be a great start.
Since about a year, I'm learning a new language. I'm really enjoying it. The process brings together many different activities that provide me energy.
First of all, I'm learning a new skill. A new skill that opens new possibilities and situations that are fun. I can now have conversations with people that I could not reach before. I'm able to understand more of the country itself and perhaps organise some activities. Admitted, my proficiency is such that these are still basic conversations, but they do certainly provide for many funny, inadvertent situations.
Secondly, learning a new language provides more than just learning words and grammar. Being a curious person, I start to detect similarities and differences between the new language and others. Trying to understand why some things are similar and others aren't, automatically drives me into the space of history, old trading routes, traditions and culture. All topics that I find very interesting.
Practically, I'm able to set my own pace in learning this new skill. An ideal feature given all the other things going on.
Lastly, I'm doing this together with my wife, which gives it an additional dimension of fun. We can practice with each other and, while doing so, we've tackled another important item; accountability partner: ✅!
Even when I do not intend to use the acquired skill in my daily life, the learning process itself is worth it. I'm growing my confidence and in the least, training my learning muscles. I love finding an activity that brings together so many different aspects of what brings me alive. Can you find one?
Building on the piece 'Alive' above, we discussed habits and tools to convert it into a navigation strategy. Our approach was that correcting a course calls for a bottom-up approach instead of a top-down approach. If only to complement or balance our tendency to think in terms of goals and destinations.
Annie Dillard once wrote: "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."
This resonated with me, since we have a tendency to spend much attention to our past and the future while ignoring what's right in front of us, the present. Zooming in on the quote, how we spend our days is how we spend our time right now. Which begs the question we set out to answer; what to spend my time on? Identifying the activities that make you come alive is not a trivial task.
In many coaching exercises, the question comes up of recalling your favourite activities when you were a child. Unbothered by grandiose life goals and self programming, children are much better at listening to their inner voice, the sparks of joy that certain activities bring them. I remember having a hard time coming up with these memories on the spot, but writing them down as they came up during several conversations over the past years, I can now paint quite a vivid picture.
Another set of clues are to be found in observing our daily activities. The titles of manager, developer or parent don't summarize the activities that we truly enjoy. Solving a business problem in front of a whiteboard with a group, having a conversation to further another persons' insights, playing a game of chess or football with your kids, cooking a meal for friends or taking a walk with your significant other; those are the building blocks that eventually build into an energetic life.
Having stunningly beautiful nature around me this past week, I remembered how plants and trees grow. Without any blueprint of what they aspire to be, they just grow to where the light is. Adding mass where energy is abundant, they turn into grandiose organisms.
Building on this, a compass might be a better tool than a map. Frameworks like Design your Life and Nat Eliason's review we discussed recently can help seeing your current activities with new perspective, as we tend to clutter our own views. These views will shed new light on your compass.
Both frameworks are intended to get a clear view of your activities across a few dimensions, and decide what to increase and what to decrease. Nat expanded on that by also thinking of increase in terms of 'adding to the mix'; having your kids join you in the kitchen to cook a meal can increase joy (or decrease, depending on your cooking habits...).
The element missing from this approach, we found, is the addition of totally new ingredients. Thankfully, we noticed from our own and others experience, that opportunities to engage in new activities automatically arise from doing what makes you come alive. The people, environment and mindset that come with it, have a way of opening up new possibility. Only when walking down the road will you come to a juncture and see a new left and right. The trick then is to say yes.
For someone who is used to doing an occasional review, this exercise provided me two big insights. One big takeaway was the importance of action bias, of being on the move. Only when you move, do you stumble on new material to build with. The second one was the importance of noticing. Noticing activities that make you come alive and then keeping a record. Like the stones you gather along the way, that eventually get turned into a building. Collect the evidence while travelling, before you sit down to evaluate your course.
Apart from enjoying beautiful scenery ánd weather in Sweden, Q&A got together to revisit their joint and personal plans. During several brainstorming sessions and discussions, we laid bare our current status. Are we happy with what we're doing? What things do we want to change? Which sliders do we want to move and to what position? What activities do we really enjoy doing?
Our education and professional lives have been such that we tend to use these kinds of sessions to define future goals and ambitions. Ambitions that are driven by a sense to do some good, both for ourselves and loved ones as the broader world. Goals that give sense to our being, a purpose.
During one of our sessions, our eyes were drawn to a quote hanging on the wall:
Philosopher and theologian Howard Thurman had (re-)enlightened us. Rather than trying to define goals and a point to reach in the future, we shifted our brainstorming towards activities we really enjoy and are talented in (or want to be talented in). Immediately, the outcomes of our sessions became very practical and more importantly, our energy levels were elevated. Let's start!
What makes you come alive?
The usefulness of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology features often on the Q&A discussion table. Though we see merit in the technology and numerous application, we're concerned about its environmental impact. Most of the current blockchain implementations consume a tremendous amount of energy. Additionally, we believe the technology is still in its early days and you need to be quite tech savvy to understand its workings. With most of its applications focused on creating new financial instruments, these new worlds have a tendency to become crowded with crooks.
However, like with any big innovation, time is required to get it adapted to what society really needs. The Economist recently reported on a seemingly big step forward in blockchain technology that is happening in the so-called 'Ethereum' network. On September 15th, it plans to change its algorithms in such a way that its network will reduce its power usage by 99%. This move, dubbed 'the Merge' (as it entails merging the current network with one that has been running in parallel in testing modus), will reduce Ethereum's energy consumption overnight by almost 100TWh, the energy usage of a small country like The Netherlands or Chile (see graph below from the Economist article).
"It can be surreal to watch this happening in real time. It is as if The Economist started to live stream its editorial meetings and allowed subscribers to commission articles and select covers."
This overhaul of software, that currently represents >$200bn in value, will be done with no downtime, has been tested for more than 2 years and was done by a decentralised group of 122 developers in 30 different countries. That is a huge achievement.
"More important still, the merge will, if successful, suggest that Ethereum has the capacity for self-improvement, opening the door to more sweeping changes."
I also wonder about the impact on power prices and global energy distribution. All in all, a big step forwards for blockchain technology. I'm more curious than before to see what it'll lead to.
Most of us have heard about the substance 'dopamine' in relationship to social media. The hit you get when your post is liked, when an 'unread message' banner appears. Contrary to popular belief, however, dopamine does not control happiness.
As an experimental episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast, Tim invited guests to share great sections of their own podcasts. Andrew Huberman, professor of neurobiology at Stanford, shared a bit of a podcast episode that can best be described as a dopamine masterclass. It opened my eyes to the workings behind the substance and the way to use it to your advantage.
Dopamine can be best summed up as the molecule of more. It motivates us to continue the behaviour we're engaged in, spurring us into action. You can easily see how this is a useful evolutionary mechanism, as going out to hunt and forage was risky behaviour for our ancestors.
Now, the tricky part about dopamine is that we all have a baseline level, on top of which we get a little peak when we act in certain ways (finish a puzzle, win a race, hand in an RFP, ...) which then drops below the baseline level. This drop makes us feel miserable, spurring us into action to get another dopamine hit. More!
Huberman then goes on to explain how external rewards cause us to associate less pleasure with an activity itself, as demonstrated in the classic 1973 experiment at a Harvard nursery school. Kids being rewarded a 'gold star' for drawing lost interest in that activity after the reward was abandoned, because the dopamine hit shifted from the activity itself to receiving the reward.
If you want to reap rewards from our dopaminergic circuitry, according to Huberman, you can trick your mind into dopamine release during a hard activity by telling yourself "I'm doing this by choice and I love it!" at the moment of maximum friction. Spiking your dopamine after an activity by rewarding yourself makes the activity itself even harder.
Time flies when you’re having fun. This Summer holiday I experienced quite the opposite. To be sure, I had a lot of fun, but time seemed to go slower. Better put, we all had the feeling we had been away for much longer than we actually did.
We had a more intense experience of our time. We certainly lived 'in the moment' for many days and it left many impressions. That seemed to have created the feeling of being away from the daily routine for so long. The daily routine which doesn't require as much attention from our senses as new things do.
I usually do not thrive on routines, though I know the value of it. Engaging in new activities and changing the routine is almost like a time compression machine. It gave me a lot of energy.
This doesn't make the popular phrase with which I started this snippet wrong or obsolete. Often, people use it in a way to express that they want the current situation to continue for longer. You're engaged in an interesting discussion, you're enjoying a nice dinner, you're the queen of the dance floor.
Time flies when you're having fun and I want it to continue. Apologies for being a week late with this Q&A.
Ever since leaving a corporate environment, I can remember having trouble starting up after the summer Holidays. It's not that I cannot fill my days with work that's seemingly useful, it's starting the truly valuable endeavours that I have a hard time with.
Seth Godin recently worded this sentiment in his post 'When you feel like it':
"...a long vacation can leave us in a torpor. Left to our own devices, we skid to a halt."
Seth is a great proponent of creating forward movement and keeping it, as he explains in his book 'The Practice'. Sticking to a regimen, keeping your streak, building muscle by daily practice. Using external commitment to get yourself moving, starting a positive feedback cycle and keeping the fire burning.
It's at moments like this that I think back of having a back-to-back meeting schedule and overflowing inbox waiting for me at the first working day after the Holidays. Like it or not, you got kickstarted right away.
Contemplating this struggle, however, did teach me there is value in it (value in struggle seems to be a kind of ground rule, which I'm only recently starting to appreciate...). If there was any value in your activities beyond just keeping your streak, they're worth re-starting. That's why I think the best time for New Year's resolutions is not January 1st, it's right after you've really wound down.
Big challenges often ask for 'big collaboration' and a certain self-sacrifice. Put our own pride aside and join hands for a greater good. I see this need in tackling the energy transition problem. There are a lot of projects initiated by individuals, companies and governments to find a solution to provide the required energy on a carbon-free basis. However, I do also observe a lack of coordination and many parties inventing the same wheel.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised to read that researchers from ETH Zürich and TU Delft have released an open-source model that can generate "hundreds of ways in which Europe’s energy system can become green and self-sufficient by 2050 [in a cost-effective way]". This model is a great tool for policymakers, researchers and companies to evaluate the effects and tradeoffs of possible measures they want to take. Detailed explanation of the model can be found here.
In addition, the model has already led to some interesting insights.
"A decision to restrict the use of biofuels, for example, necessitates a complete electrification of both heating and transportation, with electric vehicles being recharged at times of the day when sufficient electricity is available."
Personally, I truly believe this is an important step to make great strides towards a green and sustainable society. Achieving this is a matter of overriding political and regional boundaries. We need a shift in political and competitive thinking. We'll be rewarded with a positive mindset and a bright, green future.
"It turns out that there is much more flexibility in how we achieve a green, independent energy system in Europe by 2050 than we once thought."
Last week's article on energy optimization of our brains made me see some of my own life's balances in a different light. Disparate stories and facts connected in a new way.
Sleep processes, human biases, pattern recognition and creativity seem to be dancing a choreography that can go in two directions.
Children are still building their mental models and mainly get their sensory information without passing through the 'reduction valve' of human mental models. They look at the world in wonder, seeing details grown-ups take for granted. It's often said that if adults would see the world the way a child does, they would be exhausted. By the same account, children are often measurably more creative. The holy grail of most creative people is to see the world as a 5-year old. Noticing the unnoticed, observing the details that are often filtered out by our energy-saving pattern recognition. As most studied psychedelics seem to take out the 'reduction valve' and cause sensory information to progress in an unfiltered fashion, you can understand their appeal for pattern breaking and creativity.
As a side-note of the famous '10.000 hours' study on mastery of skills, it highlighted the correlation between sleep and performance for top musicians. The top players slept at least 8,5 hours per day and built naps into their system. Further demonstrating energy cost of creativity, there is evidence of this type of work being most sustainable for 3-4 hours a day and the quality being highly correlated with being rested.
If you ever wondered what the impact is of not running on pattern-recognition enabled 'autopilot' in your daily life, consider how you felt when you last changed jobs. You likely felt a lot more tired in the first few weeks. If you have kids, you possibly remember how much they slept when they first went to school.
All of this leaves me with impressions of the balance on both ends of the spectrum. On the one hand, you have human operation in a state of relative certainty. Thinking in a convergent fashion, your brain finds the fastest solution for any problem that arises. You find patterns, ignore what's repeating, find the anomalies. Experiencing mastery of your environment, you feel you're in a flow-like state. You can go for long hours and even tolerate less sleep.
On the other hand, there's the creative side of our human existence. Dealing with change, finding breakthrough ideas, divergent thinking. Since this requires forgetting your assumptions and turning off the autopilot, you are required to switch off your energy-saving mechanisms and wield the powers of 'marinating' ideas while 'not working'. In order to process unfiltered impressions and constantly altering your mental models, you also need more sleep. All in all, this process seems highly inefficient. The value of creative ideas however, make this modus operandi just as valuable, if not more in some situations.
In any state of our society, we need a mix of people in both modes in order to operate to our fullest potential. Which mix is right for us in the foreseeable future, I leave to you as a summer deliberation. On a personal level, though, I can't help but notice the coincidence of a downward trend in sleep duration with an increase in the complexity and pace of change in the world around us. Even autopilots could do with more rest.
A recent London Business School article by Rosie Parry brought several of our favourite topics together: nurturing creativity, mean-reversion tendency, preferring the known above the unknown, optimizing energy.
In its first paragraphs, the article highlighted an experiment done by in 1968, by a scientist called George Land, testing creativity in children. It essentially proved what we have discussed before: children are enormously creative ("98% of them scored at the ‘creative genius’ level"), but that ability is greatly reduced by the time they are adolescents ("only 12% were scoring anywhere near the level they had done").
Where we blamed solely our education system for these results, the article highlights other factors that are in play. One that stands out, is that our bodies seem to be always optimizing for energy. This results, amongst others, in our brains and patterns of thinking to prefer automation and 'the known'. Go where you have gone before. Fall into the groove.
“The brain uses about 20% of our energy, more than any other single organ in the body. So of course, subconsciously we’re always looking for ways to use our brains less, in case we need that energy for something else – like running from a predator.”
The good news is that we can actually try to consciously pursue to be creative and being curious about ambiguity. This concerns a separate part of the brain and can be activated by learning new things, celebrating successes and our unique strengths, as well as experiencing the personal impact we have on the world. As Professor Cable puts it:
“Ultimately, learning programming or coding or digital marketing is not the important thing – the important thing is being able to forget your assumptions in order to stay relevant.”
One of the notable effects of routine meditation is a growing awareness of your own thoughts. Instead of being part of a continuous stream of thoughts and emotions, you can sometimes (just sometimes) catch yourself and start looking at it as it flows by. It's often compared to looking at the river instead of being in the river.
Being confronted with this view, it's not all roses and sunshine. With clarity also comes the harsh reality of seeing your emotional responses to your environment. One thing that hit me most in this respect, was the incessant judgement of the actions of those around you. I found it amazing how much thought I spent on labelling and judging behaviour and events. The fact that most of these judgements are not that favourable, apparently has its roots in our Ego which thrives on comparison.
The other day, a passage from 'Autobiography of a Yogi' (Steve Jobs' favourite book) showed up on my phone's homescreen that summed it up quite nicely: "Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others!"
Apparently, this is happening on a small scale in much of our thinking. The good news is that seeing these thoughts and letting them go, feels awfully great. Letting go of judgement, even in small quantities, makes you feel so much lighter.
When Tim Ferriss started his podcast back in 2014, I became one of its most faithful listeners (and promotors, as those who know me probably can remember...). I often spent commutes listening to one of his (often 2+ hours) episodes. I religiously devoured even the episodes with guests that did not immediately attract me, since even those touched on interesting subjects I knew nothing about. Somewhere around the 220 episode mark, I lost my streak. Episodes started 'piling up' and I felt I was falling short of 'keeping up'. Fast forward 7 years and Tim is now at episode 536. I listen to an episode every once in a while, but feel perfectly comfortable with missing out on tons of possibly wonderful material.
Letting go of the notion that all my selected sources needed to be consumed in full did feel awkward at first, and I still struggle sometimes. A growing pile of old Economist magazines near my tea table is living proof. These days, I feel my consumption of sources comes and goes in waves. I tend to feel ok with that notion, knowing that the ebb and flow of my curiosity is a steadfast phenomenon. I want to bite off what I can really chew on. Only when I've noticed I did not consume anything for longer periods of time, some introspection is warranted. Often this means there is not enough space and downtime.
The same goes for this newsletter. Most of the articles we write are meant to be consumed for introspection purposes. They're not the daily news, it's an invitation to take its value. If you feel like you're not able to chew, it's fine to let go and not feel bad about it. Hit unsubscribe and make room for other joyful activity. We won't be disappointed. Promised!
To forgive is a powerful tool. It enables 'cleaning the house', is a big source of relief and can free you up. It helps to move on. Both mentally and physically. People that have actively reached for the forgiveness tool, very often report that some of their physical nuisances disappeared as well.
At the same time, many describe it as being a very difficult process. I guess this is because it is so personal, so deep. It conflicts with your personal norms, values and foundational structures. The key here is that to forgive somebody is not the same as saying it was ok what that person did. To forgive is to accept that what happened, happened. There is no blame. The one who did it had a reason for doing so. The reason may be faulty, but that's not the point. As Dutch spiritualist Willem Glaudemans puts it:
"When you're angry at someone for more than 15 seconds, it is basically about yourself"
It is a healing process that you need to do on your own, but that can be practiced. For our Dutch readers, I suggest "The book of forgiveness" that contains a solid set of practical tips. Please also revisit our coverage of "The book of Joy" by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.
Once you're well underway forgiving others, you'll probably start noticing a new challenge looming at the horizon: to forgive yourself. By that time, you're well practiced and know that it is worth the effort.
How energizing cold water can be! Last week, I swam in a lake that was completely frozen only 1.5 months ago. It was only for a couple of minutes, but together with my wife, we thoroughly enjoyed it and felt refreshed for the remainder of the day.
We were inspired by the Netflix documentary 'The Ponds' about swimmers who use the women's, mixed and men's ponds at London's Hampstead Heath throughout the year, whatever the (weather) conditions. As Peter Bradshaw puts it in his review:
"In the nicest possible way, this gentle and forthright film is a kind of home movie, almost a series of hyperlocal video-diary entries, full of uncomplicated happiness in a way that most documentaries aren’t."
Like cold showers, which I've been practicing for the past year, the cold-water provides a certain release of endorphins that lasts. In addition, it is claimed to have health benefits, like burning brown fats and improving general skin conditions. One person in the documentary describes the pond as “living water".
Even if you're not into swimming in all kinds of weather conditions, the documentary is worth viewing. The people being interviewed talk openly about their emotions, issues and challenges that life brings. A great break from daily news and a different tone of voice, as if they are living in another world. I'm sure they are when they dive into the Ponds at Christmas Day.
With the war in Ukraine going into its next phase, so too are the set of economic sanctions imposed onto Russia, its leadership and citizens. Will sanctions yield any result? In the short term, they seem to have had limited effect. First, sanctions were unsuccessfully used to dissuade Mr. Putin and his comrades to embark on their Ukraine adventure. Currently, they seem to have little effect stopping them from prolonging a brutal conflict.
Surely, there must be a recipe for using the right type and dose of sanctions in combination with other types of non-violent measures to stop unnecessary bloodshed. At least, I'd like to believe there is.
In the political and cultural magazine The New Statesman, Nicholas Mulder writes about the power of economic sanctions. He compares the current situation in the Russia-Ukraine war with various previous conflicts and finds most similarity with the Italo-Ethiopian war in the mid 1930s. Like in those days, there had been a clear military build-up and there was disagreement about the toughness of the imposed sanctions.
Sanctions seem most effective to take the 'energy' (pun intended) out of a conflict. This is however a gradual process and has the risk of backfiring in unexpected ways. After Ethiopian resistance proved to last longer than expected and with his own forces and resources depleting, Mussolini authorised the use of poison gas to force a breakthrough (and succeeded).
Should sanctions become tougher (quickly) or should we focus on other routes? Mr. Mulder concludes:
"Positive assistance for the victim, not just negative sanctions against the aggressor, should be a top priority for all those concerned about the survival of free nations."
Our personal stories last week about how to control your state of mind with a world in turmoil induced multiple reactions. Bottom line is to embrace optimism. To bring this point home, let me share 7 reasons to be optimistic from an article in a Dutch magazine that one of our readers sent as response to last week's episode.
Let us all share our positive energy with this beautiful world and this will provide a perfect breeding ground for exciting things to happen.
On a Sunday afternoon, I usually spend some time going over my schedule for the week ahead and prepare. Somehow, I have internal trigger points that recognize when something becomes a habit and may therefore be in need of change. Habits aren't necessarily bad, but some of them tend to make you blind for other opportunities and ways of working.
This Sunday, the internal alarm went off. The Sunday afternoon habit had evolved in such a way that I was planning the workweek with a focus to get a lot of work done. Not a bad process, though the planning of my leisure and hobby activities somehow got lost along the way.
It triggered another thought. As I get a lot of energy out of my hobbies actually creating something, why don't I plan those first? Having creating activities as a basis, providing a burst of energy, could fuel the stream on which you flow through the remainder of your day and week.
"It is an unique feeling to share your creation with the outside world for anyone to see and admire."
The idea of placing creative activities as a priority may require a complete reset or overhaul of your daily schedule. That may be a bridge too far right now, but at the minimum, try a simple evaluation. What does my current day and week look like? Do I feel I spend enough time filling my energy reservoirs? What fills and depletes them?
Most importantly: what is your signature?
Marketing has a profound influence on our buying behaviour. You may have heard of a particular soft-drink brand that inserted single, split-second frames with their logo in films that were shown in movie theaters. Sales of this particular brand increased significantly. Could marketing be used to do 'the right things' as well?
Dr. Dafna Goor, Assistant Professor of Marketing at London Business School recently published her study, analysing why people still prefer standard products over their greener alternatives. It is a fascinating read.
First, she discovered that generally, consumers are more likely to choose green products in the morning. Digging deeper, the research team discovered that it is not just about the time of day, but rather how much effort someone has exerted so far.
"I suspected that exerting effort made people feel generally more deserving and therefore less likely to make a pro-social or ‘greener’ choice.”
Her suspicion was proven in several experiments. Participants that were given a hard task generally preferred a non-green reward. Reasons for this behaviour are still to be examined; depletion of physical and mental resources seem to lead to more immediate focus on yourself, more egoïsm, and less energy or 'space' to be concerned with larger issues. This behaviour doesn't seem to be deliberate.
"I think results like ours show how marketing has the potential to help people make choices that are better for them and better for the planet. It’s not about forcing people to do things they don’t want to do, but about how we can harness people’s purchasing power for the greater good.”
Of course, you could consider closing shops in the evenings, but making the shopping experience more relaxing, stress-free seems a more reasonable way forward. That will be a win-win for everyone, including the planet.
Reaching another milestone in our Q&A project and building on recently gained wisdom on success, the natural question is whether we're satisfied with our weekly newsletter. Big question is: how do you measure this? More importantly, do we measure it at all?
At the outset of this endeavour, we had some well-defined goals. Not set in stone or written on the wall, but at least in our heads and shared in zoom calls. We wanted to be creative, practice our writing skills and get something 'out there'. Share whatever resonated with ourselves, because we think this may be useful for others as well. As you might have noticed, we did not set an ambition for number of readers or ability to create income with the newsletter. In fact, we did not quantify any of our goals, breaking one of the 'golden' rules in classic, 'smart' goal setting.
Still, while discussing and evaluating reaching our 50th newsletter, we concluded we are very happy with where we are. It is an unique feeling to share your creation with the outside world for anyone to see and admire. Thus far, it has brought us joy, wisdom and some sense of purpose. We have deepened our relationship in a -for ourselves- very meaningful way. We are successful according to our own standards.
All this doesn't mean we're not interested in feedback to our newsletter. Rather the opposite. Feedback allows us to improve our skills, experience how our thinking and writing triggers responses. It enables progress and creativity. Our website, for example, would not have been designed the way it is without getting multiple requests for a searchable archive.
We do however seem to always go back to our original ideas: to create, have fun, send positive messages.
If anything, we have shown (to ourselves) that we're able to pull something off while having fun. Perhaps this may also serve as inspiration to others who (secretly) have an ambition to create something new. Just start and be easy on yourself defining what success of the project needs to be. You can always raise the bar.
I am a big proponent of ‘going with the flow’ and listening to signals your body provides. When animals feel unwell, they stop eating, find a quiet spot to lay down and rest until they recover. As humans, we tend to push through until our body starts giving more acute signals.
Another signal I grew more accustomed to is tiredness. I used to ignore this, filling my ‘work hours’ until the end of the day, only to find my real productiveness totally lacking during those hours. Nothing of any real meaning came out of it.
After discovering the wholesome qualities of a daytime nap, it has become one of my favorite guilty pleasures. While not a daily or even weekly vice, I tend to have periods where (when scheduling allows) I set an alarm for 45 minutes and doze off on the couch or on my bed. I wake up rejuvenated and armed with energy and creativity I finish my day.
One of my favorite nap-club-members is Sir Winston Churchill. A friend said of Churchill, “He made in Cuba one discovery which was to prove far more important to his future life than any gain in military experience, the life-giving powers of the siesta”. He made the nap a non-negotiable part of his day, claiming it provided him with an ‘extra day’ after his ritual.
So, fight those notions of a nap being wasteful and lazy, and experiment with napping every once in a while!
Figurative expressions like "you're beaming with energy" or "you're glowing with joy" have somehow always felt very real to me. As if they were not figuratively but literally describing what was happening. My feeling may not have been far besides what actually is happening.
One of our readers pointed me towards a LinkedIn post that quotes the intriguing results of research done by the University of Kassel (Germany). It showed that under certain conditions, the number of (visible) photons emitted by your chest area can increase significantly. Using the right meditation technique and having the intention to indeed send light (warmth, healing, positivity) to a person that needs healing, the number of photons transmitted increased 5000-fold from an average 20-50/second to around 100,000/second, clearly in the visible range.
The research is not recent and I'd be very interested to see additional examples and confirmation of the experiment. At the same time, I wonder whether this could be more generalized. Thinking about someone for whom you feel gratefulness, love, joy or compassion seems to be a no-risk, beneficial activity. It takes little effort, just a few minutes of your time and can be practiced on a daily basis.
Whether or not you use the right meditation technique to actually radiate light, seems to me of secondary concern. Even when you do not see the photons when trying to send love to someone else, you'll at least feel more positive. You will unconsciously radiate positivism and people around you will notice. The entire place will lighten up.
We've written before about the perils (and also benefits) of procrastination. There is something about getting started that seems tough for a lot of us. A new way of looking at it come to me in an article by Anne Laure le Cunff (neurochemistry and mindful productivity expert) who drew fascinating parallels using the chemical term 'activation energy'
"In chemistry, activation energy is the energy that must be provided to result in a chemical reaction."
Based on the insights from this chemical process, some useful lessons can be drawn about starting up and defeating procrastination.
One of the first examples is breaking down the activation energy needed into smaller chunks. This can be accomplished by breaking down the task at hand into smaller chunks. Starting with a small task indeed feels a lot easier than starting a huge task, which is why this advice is often given.
Another strategy is called 'Energetic linking', linking the task or habit you are starting to an existing activity. Taking your vitamins every time you brew a pot of coffee is an example of this. Energetic linking immediately reminded me of Austin Kleon's 'chainsmoking' where he advises us to immediately start a new project after successfully completing one. The energy-high from a success makes it easy to get going on the next one.
The easiest hack, though, is making sure you have enough energy in the first place. Being well rested is the best start.
Autophagy, literally meaning 'self-eating', is one of the repair mechanisms of your body that focuses on making us stronger. It is essentially your body's version of 'Spring cleaning' for cells. Damaged cellular material is broken down and healthy parts are being recycled for use elsewhere.
The cleaning process is pretty neat and involves double-layered membranes -phagophores- to encircle cells containing impurities. The resulting 'autophagosome' will subsequently merge with certain enzymes that examine the damaged cell and take out the elements that do not belong there.
Autophagy has been linked to decrease aging effects and is apparently one of the body's processes that slows down when you become older. Research also shows that the rate at which autophagy occurs seems to increase with lower levels of glucose, oxygen and nutrients. In other words: when it's been a long time since you had your food.
It is therefore no wonder that fasting, especially longer duration (days), is often associated with promoting and accelerating autophagy. I marvel at such wondrous natural ways of self-healing. I find fasting to work perfectly to keep my energy levels in check. Given the above, it now gives me even more energy.
Vacations (yes, I also read 'Vaccinations' the first time...) are not the first things that come to mind when discussing 'goal setting'. Dutch anthropologist Jitske Kramer, however, encourages everyone to think about the goals you have with having a vacation. Being in touch with what you actually need when the time comes, helps in deciding wether you want to be inspired and energised by other cultures, or if you just need some well-deserved rest.
The same choices are really useful when deciding on downtime from work. Writer Art Markman identified three different goals.
The first thing you may want to accomplish is to just clear your mind. Changing perspective and getting distance from the problems at work have proven to provide you with the best solutions when you return. The second objective is a 'relaxation of executive control', being able to lose the mental models and decision making that is occupying your brain for a prolonged time. Finally, he mentions a 'restoration of calm', breaking the cycle of anxiety and stress causing bad decisions leading to even more stress.
Understanding these different types of needs will likely help you identifying what kind of restoration you actually need and when you need it.
So, what are your plans this summer?
As I took my bike into town on Monday to get my first COVID-19 vaccination, I noticed how much I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city as the first days of summer were unfolding. Not that the views were especially breathtaking, but they were just... different. It struck me how much I had missed that. For the past year, my daily decor has been dominated by my little village, my kids' schoolyard and our spare bedroom.
I immediately thought of the balance between certainty and uncertainty, comfort and variety, that is so ingrained in all of us. Leaning on just one leg is never the answer, it's the dynamic balancing that provides us most joy. Too much variety makes us yearn for stability and comfort, too much familiarity causes us to long for something surprising.
The person who articulated this balance so well that it clicked for me the first time, is Tony Robbins. You may know him from the 1990's 'Personal Power' motivational tapes and his use of 'fire walking' in his mass seminars, but I only really started valuing his analyses once a friend shared a DVD showing him masterfully counseling couples that had gotten in a rut.
His 2014 article '6 basic needs that make us tick' (also containing the two needs above) still feels relevant and a great lens for evaluating and charting your life. If that tickles your interest, the Netflix documentary 'I am not your Guru' paints a fascinating picture of him, not shying away from some of the complexities and controversies as well.
A popular tool to deal with stress and an overflow of daily tasks, is Stephen Covey's time management matrix. An example is depicted below. It basically suggests to divide your tasks along two dimensions: level of urgency versus how important a task is.
I personally think it is useful to add a third dimension: does this action provide or take-away energy? Suppose you focus most of your time diligently to the not-urgent, important actions (right-top corner) as Covey suggests. However, these tasks deplete you of all your energy. In those cases, you still won't get to the important, urgent actions and stress will keep building up. Certain trivial activities (right-bottom corner) may in actual fact energize you in such a way that you can easily manage your way through the stressful, urgent matters afterwards.
Some of these energizing activities could be found outside of work and in your private life. Our daily action lists, whether we like it or not, contain both work-related and private life-related actions; just try to make a dentist appointment outside office hours! Practicing the use of this third dimension could therefore be easily integrated.
Let me know whether this extension of Covey's matrix to a 'Q&A cube' improves your productivity.
In the financial world, a 'hockey stick' chart is usually a sign you're entering territory where you ought to be on the lookout. Chances are prices have risen too high and too fast. Forecasts may be too rosy. Underlying assumptions may be positively skewed. Think bitcoin prices, internet bubbles, Tesla shares. There might be a great deal of speculation involved and this often has a negative connotation.
Not all fast-increasing prices are bad. The chart below shows the price of carbon per ton CO2 equivalent. It has tripled over the last year and this is good news for the climate. Firms in the EU are required to hold a number of carbon permits equivalent to their pollution.
This price increase has been the result of several factors. First of all, the supply of the carbon permits is limited. Secondly, the EU has recently raised the bar on emissions targets (meaning: less emissions by 2030). Lastly, professional investors and large (pension) funds have entered the carbon trading market in 2021 and taken large positions, betting on higher future prices. The little coloured bars at the bottom of the chart are an indication of trading volume and clearly show this.
At these carbon prices, carbon capture technologies and carbon-free alternative production technologies are starting to become 'in-the-money', meaning they are actually economically more attractive. Without the potentially distorting measures of subsidies. Which is exactly what the policy intended to achieve. A system where we put a price on a 'freely' available natural resource seems to work in our current economic system setup. Could this work for other natural resources, such as (sea-)water, fertile grounds, air as well?
You just know it when you hear or see it: it resonates so well, you instantly love this song, picture or performance.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure to be present at a performance of the Dutch-Belgian Jazz collective Gare du Nord. Their 'We still grow' instantly resonated. Perhaps because of its heartbeat-like rhythm, but the lyrics spoke to my heart as well:
"In moments stolen from the ocean of time
Beyond the everlasting balance of mind
In the flow and field of music and rhyme
As a side effect of passion defying
We grow, oooh we still grow"
Whether something resonates is often time-, place- and situation-specific. Some performances of art, be it music, paintings, ballet or another form, just stick and seem to resonate with your core frequencies. I love it.
In my mind (pun intended), one of the most beneficial effects of learning how to meditate has been the raised awareness of your own thoughts. Being able to better look at your own stream of thinking, if only for a few extra minutes each day, has proven to be a life-altering superpower. Like standing on the banks of a river instead of being in the river, it enables you to observe and learn.
One of the most confronting views I got from the shore, is how much time I used to spend on negative thoughts. What's dumb, stupid, ugly or foolish. Stuff you watch on TV, other people's behaviour and choices, the way the world works, you name it. Once I started catching myself doing this, I also started making it a habit to skip this line of thinking and forced myself having some empathic thoughts, as a way of immediate penitence. Having a generally positive attitude worked like a virtuous cycle for me and made me a happier person.
Fred Wilson just wrote a nice piece on being positive and how this has affected him.
"Doing this not only can change how others feel about you, it can change how you feel about yourself. I highly recommend it. I hope it becomes a trend. We would all be happier and nicer. Social media would be tolerable. Life would be better."
Ultimately, it's a choice up to all of us.
Like a lot of us, I receive best wishes and New Year greetings in my inbox at this time of year. To save time, I often just glance over them, but this time there was one particular message that touched me. It's a short movie in which January 1 addresses you and urges you to move.
It shows that 'to move', in all its shapes and forms, is in many ways useful for a human. It produces positive effects physically, mentally, and socially. It also shows that movement is still possible, even though we're locked down and confined. There are many other ways to be in motion, to connect and feel of value. 2 minutes well spent.
The 2020 International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook was just published, confirming that the world’s best solar power schemes now offer the "cheapest…electricity in history". Let that sink in for a moment. The technology is now cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries and 20-50% cheaper than their earlier projections. This now causes the IEA’s main prediction scenario to have 43% more solar output by 2040 than it expected in 2018.
The report also underscores the importance of individual behaviour change, such as "working from home three days a week", playing an essential role in reaching the "net-zero emissions by 2050 case".
The results of this transition are visible in a chart created by the BlackRock Investment Institute. It shows the US electricity generation sources shift during the last 7 decades.
Not only is electricity consumption flat for the past 20 years, production by coal powered plants is plummeting. We still have a lot of challenges ahead, but seeing the needle move in the right direction makes me hopeful we can actually turn this ship.
Last week, when Tesla filed its annual 10-K report with the SEC, it revealed an investment of over $1.5 Billion in Bitcoin, causing the cryptocurrency to soar to its highest valuation ever.
As for Musk, I do not think any one person has contributed more to the transition to electric vehicles than he has. On the other hand, I think his mission to make humanity a multi-planetary species and set up shop on Mars 'for our survival' and his dystopian view of AI mostly reflects his technocratic, analytical and exponential worldview and lacks emotional wisdom. Exactly what makes him successful in his main realm of business. ⚖️
In his decision on buying Bitcoin, his anti-authoritarian impulses have clearly trumped his desire to save the planet. By design, the 'proof of work' mechanism that makes Bitcoin work, is extremely inefficient and power-hungry. The Verge reminds us:
"If bitcoin were a country, its annual electricity consumption would rank 30th in the world. It would use just under the amount of energy Norway consumes and slightly more than Argentina, according to the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, which keeps an updated estimate of bitcoin’s energy consumption."
I would not go as far as John Quiggin (economics professor at the University of Queensland) calling it "environmental vandalism", but the move sparked a big jolt of cognitive dissonance in me, only to resolve upon accepting that moves like those are just the other side of the same coin. And I still feel the dissonance, the tension and the release, make for a great piece of music.
In the realm of productivity tools, improving motivation is probably near the top of the list. Motivation essentially comes in two different tastes: intrinsic or driven from within yourself and extrinsic, such as money or other forms of rewards. On medium, a popular platform to publish your thinking, one of the most read articles on this topic suggests you can forget about motivation and you can purely rely on systems and procedures to get things done:
"To recap: establish your systems and habits. Stay focused on what matters. Delegate and tune out the noise. Your motivation will grow."
It is a (very) different perspective. I have been thinking about it and re-reading the article several times. I tend to like and nourish contra-thinking if only to sharpen my own thoughts. Still, after each pass, I became more certain the author was in my opinion missing a key point. Intrinsic motivation provides the energy to do whatever you want to do, be it useful for the goal you're after or something very mundane as doing the dishes.
I have experienced it myself in the past weeks and months, having embarked on several, highly challenging journeys at the same time. Each of the projects could be a fulltime job, but I manage to fit it all into the schedule. A great example is creating this weekly newsletter and the investigative and philosophical discussions we have whilst preparing it.
Intrinsic motivation generates a basket of energy and could be the closest thing to a Perpetuum Mobile.
Last week marked 10 years since the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. The combination of an earthquake and a tsunami caused a cascade of events, ultimately leading to 3 nuclear meltdowns.
These events were an illustration of one of the biggest drawbacks to nuclear power. While the risks are small, failure can immediately have catastrophic results. Combined with the long-lived toxic waste that nuclear power generation produces, the events led to a halt in nuclear programmes in most of the Western world.
The Economist evaluated the current state of nuclear affairs, and came to the conclusion that our response to the most recent disaster might not be the best in the long term. While solar and wind energy are on the rise and have become cheaper than ever before, looking at our energy consumption only in the Watt-hours dimension paints a flawed picture. The sun and the wind only provide us with intermittent power. As battery technology is still not mainstream, we will need other sources for a reliable grid.
"Despite this, safe and productive nuclear plants are being closed across the rich world. Those closures and the retirement of older sites mean that advanced economies could lose two-thirds of their nuclear capacity by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency"
If the gap resulting from this is filled by fossil-fuel infrastructure, this will then be in place for decades. For good reason, Bill Gates invested heavily in next-generation (safer) nuclear technology. He decided to stop his efforts after Fukushima because political will was gone. The Netflix show 'Inside Bill's Brain' gives you a great peek inside the process and the pitfalls of dealing with the matter. Our intuitive response to nuclear energy might not be in our best interest for the long term.
In general, artists have never been amongst the best paid people on this planet. You get a skewed image if you focus on the top 0.01% of painters, actors, writers and musicians, but these exceptions cannot hide the fact that the majority of people in the arts struggle to make a living with their craft.
It fascinates me how this contrasts with the way we consider all of our art forms to be uniquely human and invaluable to our well-being. We have gotten solace and comfort from art in our darkest moments and much of what we consider our historic achievements is art.
With modern incarnations of Patrons (like patreon.com) as an example of technology solving this problem, I was therefore quite enthusiastic about the dawn of the NFT. An NFT (Non Fungible Token) is a way to buy digital art based on Blockchain technology, albeit without the formal legal and economic ownership of the piece.
The NFT space has exploded recently, with many investors buying NFT's of everything from digital artwork and writing to videos of NBA action shots. Last week, a collage of work by Beeple was sold at Christies for US$ 69 Mio (not a typo).
My enthusiasm of NFT's took a turn for the worse after being confronted with Seth Godin's view and then reading this more in-depth article. While quite extreme in its conclusion, I have yet to find the fundamental flaw in the reasoning behind it. If NFT's are a modern incarnation of a pyramid scheme, it's not about to end because of a lack of buyers, but because of a clash with our moral and environmental values.
We've found another very interesting 'intermittent' application: intermittent computing. Intermittent computing is a shift in thinking about how computers operate. The idea is to ensure that an electronic device is able to reliably perform its tasks even though there is no continuous, guaranteed power source. This opens the way for battery-less devices.
Researchers from Delft University of Technology wanted to demonstrate the possibilities of intermittent computing technology in consumer applications. Hence, they created a clone of the first Nintendo Game Boy, one of the most popular hand-held gaming consoles of all-time. It has no batteries and instead gets its energy from solar panels attached to the front and button presses by the user. The more active you are in the game, the smoother the device works!
Of course, there are still challenges, such as how to deal with interruptions in sound. But research continues and this is an important step to allow billions of low-power sensors and devices to operate smoothly without the use of batteries.