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distorted perception

posted in College, personal stuff on March 7th, 2007

People are being influenced by their surroundings. In order to not alienate yourself from the people that you love, you’ll most probably try to fit in. Sure, some try harder than others, but all do try. That is my opinion anyway.

Most of the times, the better you fit in in your surroundings, the more success you will achieve, sometimes though, your environment can be damaging to you, your health or your future.

I was thinking about this yesterday and started analyzing the comments I received from various people in my life, people who know me or like to think that they know me. Some of them, in my opinion, are more qualified than others to “judge” me, some are entirely unfit to comment on anything.

About a year ago, someone I was spending a lot of time with at the time, claimed that I’m way too childish for my age. She deemed my behavior inappropriate and basically recommended me to “grow up a little”.

Naturally, after being with someone for three years, those claims aren’t just thoughts that were spat out in a heated discussion, but are something that managed to manifest itself over time.

Then, a few months later, when college began again, I had my second meeting with the mentor that was assigned to me. Her thoughts about me collided totally with what I’ve been told earlier. She thought of me as “way too business-focussed”, bordering the “uptight”.

It’s funny when you think about it. A person you’ve known for about three hours at the time (that is, two meetings of 90 minutes each) thinks she is qualified to judge you and your actions.

Now, I’m not saying that her opinion should be dismissed, after all, she may or may not have studied psychology and thus may very well be capable of evaluating a student’s actions and provide feedback based upon that.

On the other hand though, you have to understand where people are coming from. The first person had a personal interest in the issue. She would benefit if I’d change. The second person, according to my opinion, just tried to force her views on me. She wouldn’t gain anything if I’d become less “uptight”, other than personal gratification.

The other day, I was talking to two other people. The first one, a person I’ve been working with for 18 months now, called me a “friggin’ rockstar” and outlined how he deemed my mindset totally appropriate for the things I am trying to achieve.

He also shared some personal experience with me about how people in his (professional) environment told him to slow down, be less uptight and relax more. In his opinion, those that lack focus will always try to slow you down, not for your own best will, but because they perceive you as a threat. According to him, if you would slow down, it would give those people a chance to catch up with you, on a professional level and you’d be less competitive.

The way I see it, I have to strongly agree with his assessment. I know that I’m focussed and can be too focussed in times when said focus is needed. That however, doesn’t mean that I lack perspective. Most of all the actions I have taken in the last years are geared towards one objective: finishing college and gaining a skill set that will make me competitive on the market I am going to work on.

I see students in my college who are, technically speaking, able to achieve a lot, maybe more than me, but they don’t try to. Some of them just don’t care about being successful, some of them just lack the needed focus.

In essence, it comes down to the following: If people in your environment tell you to slow down, take where they are coming from into consideration. Don’t just do it because you value them, think about yourself first.

They may be able to distort your perception, but as long as you enable yourself to put some perspective to it, you should be able to distinguish those that are telling you to slow down so they can gain an advantage on you and those who are genuinely worried about you and your workload.

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The value of money

posted in College, personal stuff on February 16th, 2007

Today’s economy is all about money, it has been like that for years and it will probably be like that for the remainder of time, unless someone comes up with an ingenious solution that replaces money with another object of value that is easy to exchange, both in the real world as well as digitally. Since I don’t see that happening any time soon, I might as well discuss an idea I had about teaching our young ones how to “work” with money.

Before we start, let’s take a minute to think back. I think I got my first money to spend at the age of seven, but I had been spending other people’s money (namely from my parents) before that. I would be rewarded for school activity as well as the occasional monetary present for birthdays. While this worked out nicely for me back then, I think the system is flawed. Later on, when you’re a grown-up, nobody will give you money just because you turn a year older. Well, some people might do, but those are the ones with bad taste, and it’s never going to be enough to sustain yourself. Basically, I think that parents are teaching their children nothing about the value of money by “just” giving them access to funds.

What I’m proposing, basically, is the following: give children money, based on the work they carry out. Chores should of course be appropriate to their age, you can’t expect a five year-old to go shopping, you might end up with no money at all and a bill for the dentist. Have kids work around the house. Most children aren’t interested in that kind of stuff at those ages, so why not utilize a system that works so well, even primates pick up on it?

The “do this, get that” method is, if you ask me, a lot better than just giving kids an allowance that you replenish whenever the kids need it. Working for money is an essential factor of life, so why not start out as early as possible? Protecting your children from the harshness that is the world? Well, good luck with that. What good does that do? Ten years later, you have children who are completely incapable of managing the funds they have access to and you’ll end up having to teach them the whole system after all.

I’ve read about people who taught their children the value of money in creative ways. Mom would tell her son to look through grocery fliers and the more coupons and great deals he could get, the more they would save. The saved money then, would be his reward. Does that teach children the value of money? You bet it does. The more you save, the more you get to keep. It’s as easy as that.

Now, in todays digital world, you could enhance the whole process a lot. Create a game I say. One that is a win-win solution for everyone involved, parents, children and the economy. If you’re going to create it, however, you should do it the right way. A famous Dutch financial institution tried and in my eyes, fail to meet the goal I’m trying for.

Said bank came up with a system that let’s you save money. You have a piece of hardware, connected to your computer. Put in a dime and you’ll see the computer process it in a visual way. You can always see how much you have, but you can’t really use it. It works great to teach people about saving money, but, in the end, why do we save money? Exactly, to spend it, when the time comes.

Their system lets children play games that are branded with the companies logos and everything. Every game costs a certain amount of points. You have x points every day and a game costs, say 1/10 of x. So you can play ten games a day. Very nice, if you want to keep your kid from turning into a gambler, but it doesn’t teach them anything about the real value. Like before, the problem is that the points are restored daily. In fact, parents can even buy more points for you, if need be.

My idea is different. Let’s create a game that combines online and offline chores. It’s gotta be entertaining to the kids, or they won’t play it, but it’s also gotta be educative. I propose to utilize the “do this, get that” method.

The application itself, would be aimed at an audience between three and six, so it would be heavy on the visual side and only include easy to read (and understand) text for the player. The application is basically a shell, your access to a myriad of minigames, some of which could be branded by the companies that support this game (and I’m certain, there would be quite a few).

Each minigame has to be entertaining. You’d have simple games, for example, stuff where you match pairs but also more advanced stuff, for example, reading easy words and linking them to their visual counterparts. After completing a level, the “boss” of that level is a real-world chore, related to the game. If you matched pairs ingame, why not go help your mom match socks? Sounds easy, but it would help both parents and children. The idea is that the kids first play something, then complete a chore, related to the game and finally get their reward. Both points in game as well as a monetary reward.

The game contains sophisticated tracking systems so that you can see how long your kid takes for a certain part, but I’d advise to spend the time on the computer with your kid, after all, there’s no better guardian than the one that’s there, when they need it. The tracking system also will show you statistics, like what does your child like to do most? What does it not like? You can then adjust the rewards in a way that for example, cleaning up the room, something just about every child hates, becomes a lot more interesting, financially speaking.

Heck, we could even digitize the aforementioned idea about having your kid look through grocery folders. Said minigame would have to be sponsored by a grocery store of course and the coupons would be for their products only. The player would be presented with a selection of say hundred coupons and then mark the ones that are of interest to him or her. Once the “level” is finished, call your parents, have them check the list, print it out and if they approve, enter a special parent-code™ that would translate into the reward.

Said parent-codes™ are printed lists with an unique identifier. There’s a pair of two codes each. One you have to enter before you start a game, one you have to enter after the player has completed a level. The game doesn’t handle situations where you start a game, then start another though because players are expected to only commit to something if they are willing to pull through. Much like in real life, later on.

All in all, this game has the potential to do three things: help children understand the value of money, help parents with their workload and help the economy create people who understand the value of money and brand children with brands they will be buying later on.

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Thank you!

posted in personal stuff on December 23rd, 2006

The past year, for me personally, was a year of change. Like the years before, I got to meet a lot of great people and I even got to know some of them quite well.

What follows is a list of the people that influenced me the most this year, from a personal or professional point of view, or whom I’m just thankful for for being part of my life. Oh, and in case you’re wondering – the list is ordered in counter clockwise geographical order, meaning we start out in Canada and end in the Netherlands.

Katie, I’ve known you for close to two years now and you still continue to amaze me. I value the input you give me when I ask for it and I appreciate your enthusiasm when I break any idea to you. You helped me out a lot more than you probably know when I was going through a rough time and I am thankful beyond words for that. You always know how to cheer me up when I need it and you seem to be capable of providing the right answers and insights when I’m not. Thank you.

Ben, you’ve introduced me to a great deal of media I wouldn’t have experienced without you. You seem to know what kind of song or movie or series I’m longing for and are able to provide just that. It may be coincidence, but I’m still thankful. You have shown remarkable strength in a time when you were down on the ground and I respect that a lot, most people your age would just “break”, you didn’t. I know that, because the conversations we have show that you are miles ahead of people who are five years older. You, my friend, are destined for greatness.

Scott, from a business point of view, I couldn’t be more thankful. You always have one gig or another for me to work on, be it for your company or for Sigler Media. I respect you highly on a professional level, because you know how to get things done, but also because you seem to be able to put up with my (sometimes) slacking attitude. You present me with the possibility to come up with my own, creative, solution and hardly ever limit my flow of ideas. On a personal level, you have been a source of inspiration for me. You show me how important it is to pursue one’s own ideas and not just “quit” when times are rough. Thank you.

Josef, without you, I wouldn’t probably be writing this post, because without you, I wouldn’t have a server to maintain. While it may seem purely technical to most, thanks to you, I can broaden my knowledge on the technical aspects of maintaining an online presence and therefore you contribute to upping my market value. Believe me when I say that your contribution is very much appreciated.

Kevin, you can be a royal pain in the butt, but when you decide to cooperate, the real “you” surfaces and with that, skills that far surpass mine. One of the youngest designers I know, you have produced works that I admire, for the simplicity and quality contained within. Thanks for the inspiration (and sometimes even guidance) you provide.

Jack, we’ve only met some ten weeks ago, yet we’ve had some of the weirdest but also most sincere conversations I’ve had this year. It’s really odd to meet someone who is so much like I am. Whenever we talked, I recognized how your life, in many situations, seems to be a nearly identical version of mine. I’m glad I finally found someone who appreciates life the same way I do.

L., you, even though you probably didn’t even realize, opened my eyes to the finer aspects of culture. You influenced me on a purely personal level and somehow I (want to) believe that I’m a better person for it. Dank je.

Apart from those five, I also owe thanks to the group of people who contributed and are contributing to my upcoming movie(s) as well as the two Jeroens for maintaining my server when I’m unable to set any time aside for doing so and for ensuring that a huge group of CS:S players are able to enjoy a high quality gaming experience.

Thanks to all of you, 2006 was as great as it was, thanks to all of you, my skills, both on a professional and on a social level, have expanded more than they could have without you. You rock, each and every one of you.

micro relationships

posted in personal stuff on December 14th, 2006

Twenty years ago when people referenced their friends, they generally talked about people they knew for a very long time. Relationships lasted long, friendships lasted even longer. Basically, most friends you made back then were going to stick around till the bitter end and you’d meet up with them on various occasions.

I’m no researcher, but I think that the above concept of relationships and friendships is outdated. Don’t get me wrong, I value people who stick around for a long time, stand by you during the good and the bad times and help you overcome obstacles, but I personally don’t see it happening for many people I know.

Let me elaborate, during the last decades, our mobility increased by 500%, going shopping in London in the weekend (no matter where you live) is easily accomplished. Participating in a relationship with someone who’s living some 2,000 miles away is doable. Making acquaintances all over the globe and meeting them at some point is daily life for some people.

With all the added mobility however, comes another feat: priority and prioritizing. Many people have various levels of friendship – there are the close friends, the very close friends, the good friends, the normal friends, the friends –friends, the yeah-I-heard-his-name-kind-of-guys (and gals). Two decades ago you had best friends, friends and people you knew. Now, with all these added layers, people are prioritizing, some on a conscious level, most on a subconscious level.

Friends are like information in today’s world. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has one quirk or another and we have to remember each and every one of them, or at least a great deal. One might note all this information in a notebook, another might use digital technology to track the attributes of their friends and someone else might just remember most stuff. Either way, people have to cope with loads of extra information that wasn’t available (because of the lack of different layers) twenty years ago.

Naturally, it’s important to remember many attributes of your friends; after all, that is what partially makes you a good friend. Supporting each other, no matter if romance is involved or not is still as important as it was two decades ago, but today you have a lot more choices. Do you want to talk to your best friend or your partner? To which one are you going to talk to? The one you are romantically involved with or the one you’ve been dating a year ago?

Added layers mean lower intensity. At least, they do for me. I have a certain amount of time I’m willing and am able to spend on friends every day, week, month and the more friends you have, the more you need to spread that time out in a fair way. If you have loads of friends, you’re probably not spending half as much time as you should (and would like to) with them, if you have few friends, you can focus a lot more on the individual, but you lack the added information; information that can be turned into knowledge to improve yourself, your character or your creations, in the most broad sense possible.

All in all, I personally experience micro relationships as very positive. I believe that these relationships are a lot more flexible and they don’t have a clearly defined beginning (or end). You meet ad-hoc, whenever it suits both persons, you have fewer expectations to meet, yet you can still contribute a lot to such friendship, it’s all up to you.

Naturally the concept of micro relationships doesn’t apply to people in a marriage, but then again, some might argue that marriages are a form of the past too …

I wonder what others are thinking - feel free to contribute.