Jun 122015
 

Just 2 more days…

At least I would have a new toy to play with...

At least I would have a new toy to play with…

The entire month of June I do not need to be at the office. And in that time I’ve got a lot of things that I want to do, some of which I could have done in London (think about the future, relax, write), but some are only possible in The Netherlands (visiting old friends and family, maintenance to my house). So the choice was easy: I’ll spend my time “at home” (also known as Utrecht (and surroundings)).

So far I’ve been really enjoying it! Seeing friends, having all the space and time for myself that I want (which so far has only involved a single evening of brainless gaming!), not going to work!

There is a minor downside to spending a lot of time in The Netherlands though, one detail that London has that Utrecht doesn’t: My girlfriend.

As she only started her newest job recently, asking for a month off seemed like a bad idea. We have plans to see each other halfway through the month (which will involve not only her, but also her parents and (I sincerely hope) copious amounts of whisky!), but that’s another week from now!

The first few days were awesome: Really being able to do whatever it is I want, not having to take anybody else into account, eating whatever I want (not that she’s a difficult eater, far from it, but still…), spending time with friends without being worried whether she’s actually having a good time…

But then not so slowly another feeling started to intrude. Because yes, time alone is great, but spending a lazy day in bed is better if you can do it together. And dropping by friends for dinner is great, but it’s even greater when you can share the socializing with the one you love.

Not only will I be re-united with my girlfriend, I’ll also be meeting her parents for the first time. I’m not sure if it’s a good sign that she seems more nervous about this than I am…
In London I’d be happy to see my girlfriend after a day of work, good to get a hug and kiss, to discuss the day. But it was the status quo, I saw here every evening, so it was hardly special.

Now however I can’t see her and I’m very actively longing to.

They say: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone”. This is usually meant for things that are truly gone. But it works equally well for things (people!) that are temporarily gone. And what I’ve come to realize: This is a good thing.

Not seeing each other at all doesn’t make for a good relationship. But not seeing each other for a while, with some regularity, makes you appreciate the other person so much more.

Missing someone isn’t nice. But sweet reunions more than make up for it.

Only 2 more days…


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!

Jun 052015
 

My experiment for the past month was “being good”. Time for a recap.

You know, it's not easy finding old ladies you can help cross the street...

You know, it’s not easy finding old ladies you can help cross the street…

The first thing I found was that it’s hard to qualify when I have been good (respect for Santa Claus!). If I didn’t do anything particularly shitty, was I “good” that day? Is doing “a good deed” enough? And how big does that need to be? Is standing up for someone in the underground sufficient, or will only creating world peace do? And if you did something not-so-nice (took that last seat in the underground, right in front of someone’s nose), can you make up for it by doing something good? Or maybe two somethings?

I don’t really have answers to these questions. In general I “scored” a day if I felt I had been a generally good person and had done at least one “good deed”.

The second observation was that being “generally decent” is quite easy. I think this would hold for most people around; there just aren’t that many occasions where you can act like an asshole without going out of your way (maybe it helps that I don’t drive a car?). Or is this saying something about my general (friendly) disposition (and perhaps upbringing)?

The experiment for the coming period: Be productive. I have a month in which I don’t have to show up at the office. It would be very easy to sit back, play computer games, read, watch movies and hang out with friends, but I also know that though those things are great, only that doesn’t make me happy. So, the experiment is to “be productive”in non office-work related ways. I have quite a could-do list, and I’ll let you know how this fared.
Third, being actively good is quite hard. Or better, remembering to be good is quite hard. Mostly my mind would be on other things (myself) and not that many occasions would present themselves (in such a way that I actually took notice). And while some good deeds can be pre-meditated (bringing a flower home for my girlfriend), I feel quite a bit has to be “in the spur of the moment”?

One way around this would be to spend more time in pre-meditation, which is not something I really tried.

Finally, when I actually did something good, it did feel very nice!

Conclusions: I’m happy that I find myself to be generally a decent human being. It’s nice to go out of your way do to something good once and awhile, but it’s hard to remember doing that. It would be worthwhile to experiment further with being more “pre-meditated good”, but I’ll leave that for another time (see the side bar for my current experiment).


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!

May 312015
 

It would happen with some regularity: I’d have a flight from London to the Netherlands, on a Friday, after work. I’d arrive on Dutch soil, tired and hungry. And there was one thing going through my mind: Hamburger!

The reason they always wrap up your burger is so that you can't immediately see that what you're buying is not what you're getting...

The reason they always wrap up your burger is so that you can’t immediately see that what you’re buying is not what you’re getting…

Rushing through customs, off to Burger King, mouth watering at the thought of a big piece of meat.

With my burger and fries in a bag, I’d head down to the train, having half an hour to concentrate on devouring the greasy goodness.

The first two bites would be awesome! Meat, fat (and probably sugar) hitting my tongue and stomach, sending waves of well-being through my brain. Life is good!

Then I get to bit three to five and the awesomeness is already diminishing. Bite six tastes like cardboard and at bite seven I’m feeling positively disgusted. I vow never to fall for this trap again.

But then next time comes round, I’m tired and hungry and again I find myself standing in line…

It’s silly! I see myself as a smart, educated individual. I actively work to optimize my own happiness. And then something as simple as a hamburger defeats me, time and again! It’s a puzzle really! Or better, it was.

Recently I read an article where they explained that the human brain has different centers for pleasure and craving. And that the craving center, the part that makes you want to get things, is many times larger than the pleasure center, the part that makes you enjoy things.

Historically I’m sure that this was a good idea. It can’t hurt to constantly crave sugar, fat, salt (and sex and alcohol) when their supply is very limited. Something you craved led to something you liked. Easy! It’s only been recently that supermarkets and burger joints provide infinite amounts of whatever foodstuff we want (and the internet and bars provide porn and beer respectively). And too much of something is not a problem for the craving center, but it is for the liking one.

Outlawing advertisement would probably make the worlds such a better place!
Burger King (and many other companies) make good use of this. If they only gave us what we liked, we wouldn’t buy as much. But give us something that we crave and the sky’s the limit (especially with a bit of help from advertisement; it’s not hard to get the craving machine running…)

Knowing this I’m hoping it’ll be a bit easier to stay away from hamburgers and the likes. But I’m sure there are many more things where there is a strong disconnect between the wanting and the having (“shopping” as an institution anyone?). If I come across any more I’ll be sure to let you know…


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!

May 252015
 

There is a parable in which a young elephant is bought by the circus. The young elephant doesn’t particularly like the circus, would much rather back on the African savanna. To keep the elephant from escaping, a big stake is driven into the ground and the elephant is chained to it. At first the elephant tries with all its might to break the chain or to un-earth the stake, but being young, she is unable to and eventually gives up.

Pictures of chained elephants are depressing: Freedom is so much better!

Pictures of chained elephants are depressing: Freedom is so much better!

Years go by and the young elephant grows into an old elephant. With age comes size and strength; lifting a leg should be enough to uproot the stake, gaining the longed-for freedom. But the elephant doesn’t. Having learned a long time ago that trying to break free is pointless, she quietly acquiesces. Standing there, chained down by nothing more than a failure from long ago.

The parable is usually told to show the strength of old lessons and habits, or how “stuck” people can get in how they have always done things.

There is however a second layer to this.

Imagine that somehow (through an accident?) the elephant did lift the stake out of the ground. Instant freedom! Long longed for dreams suddenly becoming realizable possibilities! Back to the herd! Or revenge on the puny humans! Or set up her own circus (ok, maybe not that one…)

Freedom however brings its own problems.

The problem of choice. With true freedom the number of options is limitless.
Which one to go for? What is the best possible thing to do? What if you make a wrong choice?

“Freedom isn’t the ability to do whatever you want, it’s the willingness to do whatever you want.” Seth Godin
The problem of responsibility. With true freedom you have only yourself to point to. When things are going well, but also when they don’t work out. There is no longer a chain-and-stake to blame for what you do (or more importantly, don’t) do. There is no boss, spouse or other person to absolve you from the mistakes you make.

In my latest blog post I wrote something about options, projects that I might consider. And in that post there is hesitation, fear. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of taking responsibility. Fear of freedom.

I’m slowly coming to terms with the idea of the the chain and stake being gone. I’m going to stand around a bit longer, then take a few tentative steps. Perhaps walk around the block the day after tomorrow. It’ll take time, getting used to. But I do think that at some point I’ll start my own circus…


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!

May 192015
 

For a while I’ve been thinking about “What do I want to do?”.

Building a house in the form of a question mark actually seems like quite a cool thing to do!

Building a house in the form of a question mark actually seems like quite a cool thing to do!

What I do is help large financial organizations build and use risk models. But is that what I want to do?

I don’t dislike the work I do. It’s intellectually stimulating, I get to work with nice people (this is certainly true in my current assignment), it makes a very decent amount of money.

But are those things enough? It feels like something is missing…

So when I found out that one of my favorite non-fiction authors, Seth Godin, was doing an online course on freelancing, I signed up.

Part of the course is “homework”, the first set of which was to answer a bunch of questions, which you are suggested to do “in public”. Which I get; doing something in the open makes it more clear in your own head, it creates momentum, it makes you accountable. The questions were:

  • What do you want to do? (Not your job, but your work, now, tomorrow and in the future)
  • Who do you want to change? How do you want to change them?
  • How much risk? from 1 [a little] to 10 [bet everything]), how much are you willing to put at stake to make the change you seek?
  • How much work are you willing to do? Be specific about the trade-offs
  • Does this project matter enough for the risk and the effort you’re putting into it?
  • Is it possible – has anyone with your resources ever pulled off anything like this?

So here goes:

What do you want to do? (Not your job, but your work, now, tomorrow and in the future)

I haven’t posted anything for quite a while. That’s not because I didn’t want to or couldn’t be bothered to make the time. It’s because my website got hacked (if you logged in using a mobile phone you might have been confronted with some well-endowed and scarcely clad ladies…) and the kind people at my provider asked me not to change anything until they got it fixed… It was a simple “redirect” so nobody who visited this site was at risk!
This is the question it started out with, so if I could answer this, it would be much easier. That’s not entirely true though, I have some fairly good ideas on what I would want. It’s just that those things are quite different from what I’m good at. Or better, what I’m experienced at and what people will (most certainly) pay me for.

What I want to do is to create something that will delight and inspire people.

There are different “mediums” I can imagine this in:

  • Written word: I love to write (hence this blog). This could be a story or a book. It doesn’t specifically have to be fiction, I enjoy writing non-fiction as well. Delighting would perhaps be more difficult? Or not?
  • Code: I enjoy programming. But again, how to delight and inspire using this? A (computer) game might do that?
  • Teaching / speaking: With eager students, I like being in front of a classroom. This could certainly inspire and perhaps even delight. But what do I have to tell that others want to hear?
  • Making the above more concrete:

  • A course in building and using risk models. This would entail writing and teaching and I can certainly imagine the writing (and perhaps teaching) to involve programming as well. If done well it might delight and even inspire, though most certainly not to earth-shattering proportions (is that the level to go for?)
  • Create a game. This would be less writing and teaching, but it would certainly be programming and it would feel more “creative” than the previous option.
  • Write stories / a book. I’ve been working on a book for a long time (even though I haven’t actually done anything about it for well over a year now). Certainly writing, certainly creative. It might delight and inspire, if done well.

Not a full answer, but perhaps the beginning of one.

Who do you want to change? How do you want to change them?
I want to change people.

That seems fairly obvious, but for me it makes sense, because in my current work I change (big, soul-less) corporations. Or I change numbers. And yes, there are some people who are happy with what I do, but they’re hardly delighted or inspired.

As this is something I want to pour my passion into, I would want to do it for people who are also passionate. So the most general answer is “people like me”? Be they quantitative risk managers, people who read books or gamers.

Again, not a full answer, but for now I’ll leave it at this.

How much risk? from 1 [a little] to 10 [bet everything]), how much are you willing to put at stake to make the change you seek?
At this point I feel I am comfortable with a fair amount of risk. I’ve got money set aside for rough times. I also believe that if it doesn’t work out (within a reasonable amount of time) it would be possible to “go back” to what I had been doing before. I don’t want to bet the farm, but I’ll wager the stables.

That would be about an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10?

How much work are you willing to do? Be specific about the trade-offs
I regularly comment that I’m lazy and I’m very glad to work less than the “standard” 40 hours per week. On the other hand, when I’m passionate about something I’ll happily go all out.

And perhaps that is my current issue, not being passionate?

In the short term (until the end of the year) I’m “stuck” in the assignment I’m on (I could back out of it if I really needed to, but I wouldn’t feel good about coming back on my word). And even if I’m passionate, I do want to have a normal life, so doing a whole lot more on top of that is not something I would choose. Then again, I do work less than full time, so I could use the difference to get the ball rolling?

Does this project matter enough for the risk and the effort you’re putting into it?

Tips, ideas and suggestions based on this post are more than welcome!
I don’t really have a project yet. But I’ve got ideas. Especially while I’m still working “normally”, the risk would be minimal and the effort over-seeable.

It’s after my current assignment ends and I need to make a choice where things get more difficult (scary!). But let’s burn that bridge when we get to it?

Is it possible – has anyone with your resources ever pulled off anything like this?
Yes, most certainly!


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!