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2007 - a (social) year in review

posted in personal stuff on December 31st, 2007

The last few days have been so hectic, with meet-ups here and meet-ups there that I totally forgot to post this, but finally, here it is:

2007 would not have been 2007 if it were not for the three meetups I had during the last days; first Emma, then Claske and finally - the one meeting I have been looking forward to since we first met virtually: Jeroen Poortvliet.

Jeroen and me have been working on both building and maintaining a special interest community for no less than 30 months now and after much planning and shifting, we finally managed to get together for a pint of beer.

Jeroen, who is a real-life photographer has been spearheading the expansion of our community and it is safe to say that, without him, NL-Noob would not be what we have become. Thanks to his efforts, our turnover rate is incredibly low compared to other communities and what’s even better - whenever we seemed to hit a snag or stagnation in growth, he came up with ideas that allowed us to expand even further.

We are, by no means the biggest (Dutch) community, but we have a fair number of people that are very happy that we are there, when they need a gaming fix.

Marjon on the other hand, is totally uninvolved in gaming, but still made a tremendous impact on me, most of all because of the inner strength she possesses and if there is something I respect in people a lot, then it is the ability to conquer literally anything they are faced with. No micro-relationship here, just great talks and mutual trust.

And last but not least, the Wingman of the year award goes out to Kevin for accompanying me to a number of great and interesting events and helping me with most, if not all, visual branding things that came up over the past year.

I could probably go on for a fair bit, because the above mentioned people are by no means the only ones that made an impression on me, but I wont. The ones I care about know that I do and that’s that.

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Cultural Commentary from both sides of the Atlantic

posted in Media on September 20th, 2007

When I first met Nate, I knew that I had found one of those rare people you have an immediate link with; you share the same thoughts at the same time and it starts to become magical.

Nate and I are both passionate about what we do, what we have done and what we will be doing and we agreed that it was time to start doing something together and so we started to work on NachoTalk:

NachoTalk is a blog that focuses on social and cultural commentary, with viewpoints from two writers on opposite sides of the Atlantic (hence the tagline). We also may occasionally stray from that that formula and post something a little more lighthearted than the usual topics.

Nate and I both started writing articles a couple of weeks ago and decided that the best way to handle things was to go for a two-weekly schedule; one week Nate publishes an article, the next week I do and so on.

Our first contributions are online, so feel free to hop over and enjoy our new project.

That said, thanks go out to Kevin, Ben, Phillip, Emma, Gabriele, Joel, Katie, Darren and a couple of others for providing us with feedback during our soft-launch period, you rock guys (and gals, of course).

Bliss

posted in Blog on September 14th, 2007

It is said that, to adequately express one’s feelings or opinion for any given subject, one must posses an elaborate vocabulary and what do you know. With anywhere between close to 450,000 and even up to a staggering 980,000 words, the English language has one of the richest, if not the vocabulary of all languages.

All those words, however meaningful or meaningless, hurting or caring, sweet or sour, apparently do not make for good company: Recent studies conducted across many Western Nations, including both English speakers and natives of other tongues, came to the conclusion that, based on the input the researchers received, people with a native background in English are less happy than people that were raised to speak another language.

Funnily enough, most of these studies showed that French native speakers always came out as one of the happiest groups and one might wonder how that can be, after all, French is said to contain a mere 100,000 words.

It would seem that the more basic a language gets, the happier its speakers become and this is certainly true for those people that truly embrace a language called Toki Pona. With only some 118 words at your disposal, many things simply stop mattering.

Toki Pona however, is not the only language that can have a soothing and calming effect on one’s psyche. There are a great many artificial languages out there that were made to let you talk, listen and live in a more simplistic way and in fact, many parts of concept of Taoism are built around these very beliefs.

In today’s world, many people, particularly those living in Western nations believe that (inner) bliss can only be achieved by having the latest gadgets, an expensive car, going on numerous butt-kicking vacations (with or without your family) and we can’t really forget jewelry, lots of it oh - and expensive clothes, shoes, maybe throw in a few plastic / corrective surgeries for good measure?

Do not get me wrong; I do not dislike stylish clothes or shoes and out-of-the-ordinary vacations or expensive gadgets, in fact, many people can at least attest to the last one, but still, at the end of the day, those things are not what make me really happy, they are means to an end; simply getting there … a place called bliss.

Everyone’s definition of that place is probably different and one person might find it harder to get there than others, but do not let yourself be put off by some problems along the road - because when you are running out of game, nothing is more satisfying than being able to look back on a satisfying life.

In fact, many current printed publications, especially the ones aimed at women looking for “an easy way to tune out and relax with some trivial stories about stars no one really cares about anymore” talk about the power of positive thinking and while the larger part of them eschews the actual essence of that theory, they are at least managing to get people excited about the concept.

In the end, it all comes down to your mindset, success can not only be bred and inherited, but also be thought up. It is as simple as believing in yourself. It does wonders for your self esteem and that can, and actually does, make all the difference.

People with a high confidence rating are more likely to go out and do something crazy and ever so often, one of those crazy things pays off. After all, those that try, succeed, eventually. Yes, some manage to hit it big sooner rather than later, but in the end, success is inevitable.

Luck does not only favor the prepared, but also the bold - go out and rid yourself of the chains that are mass-consumption and you will be rewarded.

But I digress, back to Toki Pona, I realize that the language is, not at all, suitable for widespread, business use, but it is certainly very well suited for recreational and spiritual use and may offer you guidance in a way you thought impossible before.

The next time you feel sad or spent, pause for a minute and think about the situation you are in. Is it really as bad as you are imagining it or are you panicking and blowing things out of proportion? Bad things happen all the time, it is the way you deal with it that defines who and what you are.

Well, the only thing that is left to say now is: mi wile sina jo pona tenpo.

This article was first posted on NachoTalk in September 2007 and has been republished here for posterity’s sake

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We don’t need no Education

posted in Media on August 31st, 2007

I am a student. I have been as long as I can remember and I will be as long as I can keep remembering (stuff). I am also the son of a teacher, tutor and language specialist.

You see, I was born and raised in a multi-cultural, sometimes-traditionally European family. My parents hail not only from different countries, but from different continents and as such, I had the privilege of being able to immerse myself in a number of other cultures at a rather young age.

Through that very immersion, I was (and, indeed, still am) not only able to understand other cultural traits and traditions better, but I also gained a lot of insight into how my own culture is being thought of by outsiders.

This kind of understanding of course, is not only limited to cultural items but also expands into areas such as education and success and that is indeed what I am going to talk about today.

Before we start, I should probably give you some background information on my (educational) past, simply because I believe that this way, you will be able to see where I am coming from:

In the past decade, I attended five different high schools and one college. I have taken part in a number of non-secondary education related events such as language courses both in-country and on-location and have seen and, of course, experienced more different learning / teaching methods than most people can shake a stick at.

Note that I am not saying that my experience is beyond exhaustive, but I do believe that I have gotten a fair amount of information on this topic.

Now, after two years of college and various talks with students and teachers from around the world, I have come to the conclusion that us Europeans don’t need no education, or at least not like it is now anyway.

Education, without a doubt, is important, very important in fact and while I am not going to go as far as saying that people without proper education are less important members of a society, we all know that the better educated you are, the more options your future (and present) has for you.

I think we can all agree that educational systems were put in place to prepare you for life, to enable you to become a good, heck, great, member of society and contribute as good as you can to the greater good of the whole.

But, I ask you, what good is education that fails to do the one thing you really require: prepare you for life?

The most important part about, well, just about everything, is being able to present yourself, your product, your project, your team, … your anything and not just presenting it, but presenting it the right way.

I have been to a couple of (international) conferences in the past years and if there is one thing that I noticed it is that those speakers and hosts that know how to “work” the audience, generally are able to sell their product, be it a service or a thought or simply an idea, are always more successful than those that have no clue about giving a presentation.

Funnily enough, it seems that eight out of ten times, the bad speakers are of European descent and the great speakers are, most of the time, of American descent or at least have found a way to rid themselves of the European way of presenting and it makes me wonder, why is it like this?

I have talked to educators in the past and I am still talking to educators on a daily basis and many of them seem to be deadlocked in their ways, not realizing that not only they are keeping themselves from learning something new, but also are putting unnecessary obstacles on the road to success of us European students.

The problem is that our education system is, dare I say, hell-bent on training students to become hive-workers, there is little to no incentive to teach us, or at the very least, show us the ways of being a hive-queen.

In the Netherlands, for example, there are exactly two universities that teach classes around the subject of entrepreneurship. During high school, students, in general, give no more than five, maybe six presentations in front of a group of other students.

Translated into numbers, this means that only 8%, that is, less than one tenth, of all Dutch students are thinking about creating a start-up, the other 92% are, more or less, looking toward a job that provides safety until the age of 65 and a good pension.

Only a handful of students are willing to take a chance and there is a deep set angst of risking some (human, financial) capital and either succeeding or falling flat on the floor and that is the problem.

Europe, all in all, has very few failing economies, most countries are stable and provide good working environments. The man even stimulates many new companies with financial contributions and, if need be, even with the right knowledge that is needed to start a company.

Yet, whenever I have heard people asking for or giving advice business advice, it always comes down to “go for the stomach”, which means nothing else than to shoot for the market that everyone is going for, because there is little risk involved and a moderate chance of small-time success, “one would not want anything else…“.

Eight per cent, you really have to stop a minute and think about that number. Now take into account that approximately half of those eight per cent will not make it past the three year mark and we end up with less than one twentieth part of the student populace.

This prompts the question as to why are we not taught to go for the throat, take that long shot with a big chance of missing and a small (tiny?) chance of actually hitting it off big.

The answer: social environment. Family, significant others, friends, coworkers – all of them are conditioned, by our educational system, to tell you that following through on a brilliant idea simply is not done, well, not done in Europe anyway.

On the other side of the pond, your friends would most likely encourage you, tell you to go through with it, heck – the worst thing that could happen is that you burn a bit of money and have to go look for a new job or return to your old day job.

The problem is the mindset of the bigger part of Europeans: The views are simply black and white, you either win, or … you fail. There is no “you may have failed but you gained valuable insight” option. Annoying, to say the least and dangerous to the economies of Europe at best, dangerous because it robs Europe of many talented people, basically turning Europe into one big classified.

Fast Company, already presented one part of the bill to us Europeans this summer with their Fast Cities listing:

Out of a listing of thirty cities, only five are part of the European Union. The reason for this low number is simply that people with the right ideas would rather move overseas (that is, the United States) than to spend their time here, because, again, it comes down to the social environment issue.

And honestly, I can not blame but one of them. I, too, would rather move to a country where the whole “thing” is set up to enable me to create something amazing from scratch. A place where I do not have to shell out twelve large ones only to get a company started.

In closing, let me say this: If you are a student, do yourself and those that come after you, a favor and beg, no, FIGHT for changes that will enable you and your peers to compete with the American economy, but most of all: do not be afraid to shoot to kill…

Take a minute to think about what you want to be able to look back upon at the end of your life - “a sheltered and risk-free life” or a life full of accomplishments?

This article was first posted on NachoTalk in August 2007 and has been reposted here for posterity’s sake

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