Apr 202015
 

When you’re regularly employed, you tend to stay in a job until they run out of the money to pay you, or you get so fed up with it that you’re willing to go through the effort of finding a new one.

In the short term I'd like to optimize for this, but I know that in the long term I'd actually get bored...

In the short term I’d like to optimize for this, but I know that in the long term I’d actually get bored…

Being a freelancer it’s different for me. My assignments tend to be relatively long-term (months at least), but still, I have to deal with the “what is my next job going to be” question with a much larger regularity.

One of those moments is coming up. My current assignment will end in a month and a bit time.

And I have a serious first-world-problem: New options are lining themselves up! And being human, I can do only one!

I won’t go into detail regarding any of them, but they are all different in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

At a high level the choice is clear: The one that brings me the most happiness. But that’s a relatively abstract concept. And while I can perfectly tell you whether the activity I just did made me happy, it’s very hard to predict whether a given activity (especially something as long-lasting and complex as an assignment) will bring happiness and in which way.

Instead it’s somewhat easier focusing on elements that are important to me. Better pay is obviously good. Or perhaps I should go for a greater challenge? What do you optimize for?

A few things that I find important:

  • The length of the assignment (a few months at least, but not a whole lot longer)
  • Commute time (which is complicated a lot by having the feeling that I live both in London and Utrecht…)
  • Working hours (less than 40 per week would highly preferred)
  • Pay (the more money I make now, the sooner I can stop working for money)
  • Meaningful work (I shouldn’t have gone into banking perhaps?)
  • Freedom (things get so much better when you get to decide what you do and how you do it)
  • Challenging work (nothing as bad as being bored, wishing it was 5!)
  • Interesting colleagues (which is much easier to assess when you’re there for a long-term job instead of an assignment; “We pay you for that trick you can do, not to fraternize with the troops!”)

If I could pick a single item and optimize for that, things would be relatively simple. But in fact, I’d like the optimal solution for all (and more!) of the above. How many working hours per week is a slightly boring job worth? For what price freedom?

I’ve been writing for so long that I’m starting to touch upon the same subject multiple times: Optimization
I don’t believe that such choices can be made rationally. Instead, I’ll try to figure out which option is scores where when it comes to each item, then give the whole thing to my subconscious to mull over. In due time the best solution will pop up.

One more remark: There is one important thing that is emphatically not on the list above: Security.

”This (assignment) too shall pass.” (free after some long-dead poet). And in this my view (or perhaps my work) is inherently different from the long-term job that so many other people have. In the very beginning it was selected based on some form of optimization of items like the ones above. But I also think that “security” has long since taken over for many people on why they are still in the same place.

Are you optimizing for more than security?


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Apr 152015
 

I like moving houses.

"It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice!" (This is a quote from a techno DJ (and why do I still remember that after 15+ years?))

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice!” (This is a quote from a techno DJ (and why do I still remember that after 15+ years?))

Or better, I like helping other people move house.

There is something satisfying about lugging boxes and heavy object about, to taking apart furniture and putting it back together at another location. It’s good to share being active with a bunch of people, especially if they’re friends (I probably will not come and help you if you’re a random stranger reading this on the internet!). There is usually take-away and beer at the end of the day, to be shared with your (new found) friends. Not unimportant, when you help people move, they are much more likely to come and help you when you need to move (or need help with anything else).

But most of all, helping another makes you feel nice about yourself!

Or generalizing that: Being good feels good.

And as I like feeling good, I thought it would be interesting to see whether I can make use of this more. Therefore, my experiment for the coming time: Be good to other people.

This experiment is quite a bit like an old monthly challenge, which was to give. I remember really enjoying that month, but the whole idea then sortof sank into the morass of everyday life?
This can mean:

  • Giving compliments
  • Being constructive in work meetings
  • Helping people out (anybody moving any time soon?)
  • Smiling to random strangers
  • Surprising my girlfriend
  • Organizing things for friends
  • Making time to visit family
  • Sending out a friendly e-mail once and awhile (just did. It feels good! :-) )

I’ll let you know in due time what my observations are.

And perhaps you could take a moment as well to do something good (really, an e-mail is very quick to be sent!)?


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Apr 072015
 

The other day my manager asked me to do a certain analysis for him. And me being a helpful little worker-bee, I set off to do it immediately. After about an hour of some programming and combining spreadsheet, I realized that I was tackling the problem in a less-than-efficient way.

Sure, you can think first, but just think of all the awesome stories you wouldn't have!

Sure, you can think first, but just think of all the awesome stories you wouldn’t have!

When I started, I had just jumped on the first idea to cross my mind on how I might be able to get what was required. And though the idea in itself was sound, it certainly wasn’t the quickest or most elegant solution. If I’d taken five minutes to think it through before I started, I would have realized that.

In the end I started over using the better method and got the results with another hour of work.

The lesson I might take away from this is: “Think before you do something.”

But that would be wrong.

Or better, it would be wrong in many cases.

First, taking the time to think about something can mean an opportunity is passing you by. Sometimes you need to make a decision in a split second, or have the choice made for you. And though this won’t happen often, the decisions that need to be made this was tend to be far-reaching. The choice to snatch a child from in front of an on-rushing train needs to be made now! Or a bit less far-fetched, saying hi to that cute girl (m/v) that just smiled to you now instead of after a minute is the difference between coming across as self-confident and a bit awkward.

More importantly though, there are decisions where deliberation will actually produce worse results. We have finely honed intuitions, through which a lot of mental processing has been automated. Thinking about how to ride your bike gives a much higher chance of crashing into something than simply doing it. Or when you start thinking about what you’re going to say to that cute girl (m/v), you can be sure that you will sound contrived instead of natural.

Don’t think before you speak, drink before you speak!
Thinking about something is good when you’re new to it, when you don’t have an intuition to fall back on. Of course that’s no guarantee that you’ll get the best result; I have done a lot of analyses and I do have an intuition on what the best way is to proceed and still I chose an inferior option.

Finally, you don’t know in advance whether the current choice you have to make is one that’s better to think about for a bit or whether it’s best to jump right in. And once you start analyzing that, you’ve basically committed yourself to the path of “let’s think about it”.

So, less thinking, more jumping right in! Even if the results are sub-optimal, at least you have a new subject for a blog post! :-)


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Apr 032015
 

Time equals money. And there are few places where this becomes as obvious as in London.

I still expected money to be heavier than time though...

I still expected money to be heavier than time though…

Every major bank has an office here (many minor ones do as well). Those banks hire lots of people and pay them a very decent salary indeed. In return, all that is asked that some time be spent at the office. Considerable amounts of time actually, with working days of 10 hours being quite normal and staying longer not being much of an exception. And weekends, well, they’re sortoff the buffer for the week anyway, right? Someone once remarked to me: “My most important skill here is going without sleep for long periods” (that didn’t last by the way…).

Time at the office = (lots of) money.

Time spent at the office also means there less time to do marginally important stuff like cooking. That however need not be a problem, as London also has a very good selection of supermarkets selling instant meals and of restaurants catering to anyone’s taste. And luckily, all you need to make use of those is a bit (or a lot…) of money!

Now, the good thing about making a lot of money of course is that you can buy a nice place. Something close to work and not too far from all the cool things that London has to offer. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people with money and they all want to live in the same location. The result is (as a good bank employee should know!) a drastic increase in house (sorry, flat) prices. And then the choice becomes spending a very large percentage of that big pay-check on your 2 bedroom apartment, or living slightly further away. As in, an hour or two commute further away. And you’ll still be paying enough to buy a small villa somewhere in the country side.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but having more money than your neighbor at least allows you to feel smug. Another reason why it’s bad to live in a place where a lot of people are affluent…
So you make long hours to live in the margins of a city that has a million things to offer. Unfortunately, after the long day followed by a longer-feeling commute all you have energy for is shoveling a microwave meal into your mouth and watching the telly before going to sleep, to do it all over again the next day.

Time equals money. Money unfortunately does not seem to equal time… And in the end, which is more important?


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Mar 282015
 

Facebook, the Google products, LinkedIn, candy crush, a myriad of other things on the internet can be used without paying for them.

Paying attention to real life is heavily overrated anyway!

Paying attention to real life is heavily overrated anyway!

Still, it takes a lot of time, effort and money to program something that makes three similar pieces of candy disappear when they line up. That money has to come from somewhere and it’s not from the users.

Those search results or that cat video are a means to an end, a way of getting you to look in the direction the company wants you. So that next to the cat falling off of the table, they can put advertisement. And the more information you give them (by liking stuff, by doing more searches), the better they can profile you (they used to do that to serial killers…) and give you advertisements that have a higher chance of you actually clicking on them.

The way these businesses work is that they sell your attention to the highest bidder.

I don’t like it, but it’s reality. And I don’t dislike it enough to actually pay for my e-mail client or anything like that (instead I have a good add-blocker). Also, it’s not the main point of this post.

The main point is that they are in a continuous struggle to get as much of your attention as possible. This means funnier cat movies, more controversial stories, more addictive games. And with so much money riding on it you can be sure that they’ll find new an innovative ways of hijacking our attention centers. I know, because they most certainly got to me…

I wrote about this in two previous posts, the first on doing away with (internet) television series, the second about stopping myself from doing mindless surfing and checking my messages / mail a million times per day.

This behavior created short-term contentment, but it was the contentment of a heroine addict that just got his shot. It’s not that you feel good per-se, it’s that you stop feeling bad. And it most certainly doesn’t bring long-term happiness.

It’s been a month since I stopped watching series, a bit less since I put a serious clamp on my internet. The result so far: I’ve been bored!

I’m well aware of the irony: This blog is just one more of the things only seeking to grab your attention!
But actually, it’s a very good kind of bored. If there’s nothing to do, I’ll go to bed a lot earlier. As a result I get up earlier as well, meaning a slightly earlier tube which is less crowded, letting me arrive at work a bit more relaxed, which stays with me for most of the day (yes, that’s a lot of steps…).

Instead of random “entertainment”, I’ve been reading more (in the bed I get into early). Books can still be addictive, but they are much much easier to put away; books happen in the mind and don’t have the constant bombardment of moving images which our brains are primed to pay attention to. The result, I get tired and go to sleep.

Finally, I’ve been planning my evenings a lot more, making time to go to the gym and setting up time to hang out with friends. Things that really do make me happier.

Attention is the current economy’s scarce resource. Don’t spend it all in one place!


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!