Relationships are not a balancing game

A relationship is something that has to come from both sides. However, relationships do not have to be balanced, and relationships could even get ruined when you assume it should be a 50-50 split and keep score. It is not a business agreement where both parties should put in an equal amount to receive an equal return.

Care about others AND yourself

One of the elements of human nature is caring for others. However, think also of “putting your oxygen mask on first”. That is another element of human nature: self-interest. You can care about others, but if there is nothing in return, you might want to move out in the longer run.


Being otherish means being willing to give more than you receive, but still keeping your own interests in sight, using them as a guide for choosing when, where, how, and to whom you give. Being otherish is very different from matching. Matchers expect something back from each person they help. Otherish givers help with no strings attached; they’re just careful not to overextend themselves along the way.

Adam Grant

It is not a matter of keeping score. There can be a moment when you think you did enough, and now the other person needs to step up. If you reach that point, it might not be that the other person needs to step up. It might be that the relationship is over.

When you are the one who always has to invite the other for dinner or a meeting, make it happen for everybody getting together. It is only wrong if you do not get anything out of it for yourself over time. If you enjoy being together, why not invest your time in hanging out?

Categorized as relation

Get rich slowly

Because nobody wants to get rich slow.

Warren Buffet

Being rich is not about money but about living the life you want to live. Every guru in their Facebook and Instagram ads will tell you: why wait: you can have it now (spoiler: ads are seldom truthful because they want your money).

It is about consistency

As Warren Buffet is known for compounding interest, you should look at what can compound for you to get rich. Do you want to run a marathon? You can do that now, right away. It won’t be fast, it won’t be a pleasant experience, but you can. You can also take three years to train steadily to make it an enjoyable experience which you can repeat every few months.

Do you want to lose 10 kilos? Just stop eating. You will get there. Though when you start eating again, the kilos you lost will bring some of their friends to keep you company. Consider changing your diet, add exercise, and you might lose those kilos, though more importantly, instead of crashing to some goal, make a sustainable change to stay where you want to be.

Consistency is boring

Intensity makes a good story. Consistency makes progress.

James Clear

The Warren Buffet quote at the end is from a conversation with Jeff Bezos and shows that the most giant trap you can fall into is trying to be a hack and avoid simple, proven and patient and try to replace it with complex, luck and now. Yes, sometimes you get lucky, but if you don’t want to need luck, put in the work (or abstain from pleasure traps and quick rich schemes) every day that is required.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once asked Warren Buffett: “You’re the second richest guy in the world. Your investment thesis is so simple. Why don’t more people just copy you?”

Buffett replied, “Because nobody wants to get rich slow.”

Don’t fight it

When you fight something, you’re tied to it forever. As long as you’re fighting it, you are giving it power. You give it as much power as you are using to fight it.

Anthony de Mello

How much time do you spend thinking and being frustrated about events that happened to you that you cannot change? Every time you think about it, it stays with you. The longer it stays with you, the worse it might become. Even though the situation was in the past and in real life, nothing has changed. However, in your head…

Accept it

Accept situations in the past as they were. There is nothing you can change about it. What you can change is how you handle it in the future. To do so, you need to stop fighting it.

“I have accepted the things I cannot change, and I have changed the things I cannot accept”

Billie Eilish

When you start working on handling situations like this in the future, you move your energy from fighting it, which is rather reactive, to a more creative space. In this creative space, you can work on yourself and how you handle such an event in the future. You still spend energy on it. However, instead of sinking more energy in the past, you invest it in the future.

And sometimes you can only accept a situation, not change it for the future. That is fine, you now know. You can at least change your expectations, and the feeling about similar future events will also alter with different expectations.

Categorized as leadership

You need to choose to win or lose

Half my lifetime ago, I was an open-water long-distance swimmer. And every year, a 25km event crosses the biggest lake in the Netherlands. I never was able to see this as a competition. Just getting across was, for me, the goal. Nevertheless, I finished second and twice third in the three times I participated.

I never won

Besides, the competition was world-class, and I did not match that level. I never won. Part of this is that I was not competing. I was completing. If you focus on competing in a race, your approach is different. You are racing against others. If you complete, you are racing yourself. Sometimes you are lucky, and racing yourself is enough to be faster than others, but often, you get what you focus on. And I am still happy with it.

I never lost

Even though the second place is the first loser, it never felt like such. Each finish after 5 or 6 hours felt like a bonus and colossal achievement. Getting a price afterwards was nice, but it was not the reward. The reward was completing what I set up to achieve.

Either way is fine

You do not have to compete and win. You also do not have to settle for completing. It is your choice. Though if you decide to complete, do not be sad you did not win. If you compete and do not win, do not be unhappy. Losing is the majority of the competition since there is only one winner.

Making a choice and giving it the best you have is essential. Since if you provide the best, the result is your best, independent of where your end up. Be happy with the work you did.

When you get interested in this race, the IJsselmeer Swim Marathon is this year on September 11th. And at this moment, I am still #31 of the 179 people who succeeded in crossing the IJsselmeer.

What should you work on?

Is what you are working on the thing you should be working on? Or are you looking for inspiration for your following big items? Ask yourself these three questions:

1. What do I feel deeply inspired by?

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Pablo Picasso

What sparks fire with you? What is something that you like to do beyond just having a day job or getting paid? Finding and working on something highly inspirational for you will help you establish a discipline to work on this regularly and make good progress.

2. What am I exceptionally talented at?

hard work is a talent. The ability to push yourself, to keep working, practicing, studying more than others is itself a talent. If anyone could do it, everyone would. As with any talent, it must be cultivated to blossom.

Gary Kasparov

What are the things you can do well? It doesn’t have to be a specific skill. It can also be that you pick up new skills quickly or that you can put in more work than other people. Though combining your inspiration with your talent sets you up for success. Do not see “talent” as being the best. See “talent” as being able to do something reasonably well without too much extra effort.

3. What meets a significant need in the world?

There is nothing wrong with doing things just for yourself. On the contrary, there is an awful lot right with that! Though if you want to change the world, or maybe a more straightforward goal: pay for your daily coffee, it makes sense to do something for which there is a new in the world.

It is not a checklist

Do not assume you will have the big next thing if you answer these questions. There is always the element of timing (or are you too early or too late) and luck that plays a role in whether or not it will work out for you. Though at least you set yourself up for success.

Always set two goals

Setting a single goal, for example, running under the 4 hours for your upcoming marathon or having an excellent outcome for a meeting, make your life difficult. What happens if the conversation goes in a completely different direction or if there is a lot of wind during your run? You failed. You are still on step one and can start over again.

Minimal and Maximal goals

If you set two similar goals, you just doubled your chances on failure. Therefore you should not consider equal objectives. You should consider a minimal goal (simple, achievable, but still a step forward) and a maximum goal (can be utopian, a big bet or just your ideal solution).

How it makes life easy

Having a minimal and maximum goal creates bandwidth in between, which you can navigate. Your minimal goal should be entirely in your control, or you should at least be able to influence it. For example:

Minimal goal: I want to maintain our relationship and learn more about the other person

Maximum goal: I close this deal and open the door for after-sales.

Minimal goal: I want to maintain a good running technique, especially in the last 10k.

Maximum goal: I will run this marathon below 4 hours.

Set yourself up for success

If your minimal goal is a stepping stone for your maximum goal, you help yourself move in the direction you want to go. You could set your minimal goal as a smaller version of your maximum goal (e.g. I run the half-marathon in 2 hours). However, do not make your minimal goal a stretch already since it might only create frustration that you did not reach either of your goals.

You do not have to achieve the minimal AND the maximum goal. Achieving one of them is good progress. And as long you are progressing, you are growing.

What kind of feedback are you looking for?

Getting feedback is excellent. Getting the feedback you are looking for is a blessing. Feedback is a broad spectrum; assuming that everybody understands what you need without telling them is a highly optimistic way of treating such a necessary process.

To take a great example I noticed online:

You take your car to the mechanic and one of them says: “we noticed all your doors have rusted out, you should fix those”. Another one says: “LOVE THE RUSTED DOORS, have you considered adding a flamethrower”. The third one says: “it is not a horse”

Is this helpful feedback? It depends on what you were looking for. You got some feedback if you just wanted to ensure it was not a horse. If you wanted to know if the yellow and red colour scheme was a good idea, you still do not understand (even though the flamethrower could add some vibrant red to it).

Make it explicit

Be explicit about what you want to have feedback on. It doesn’t mean you will assume you are 100% right on the elements you do not ask for feedback on. If you do not narrow your scope of input needed, people will give you their best efforts to help you without knowing what you need help with. And that could result in getting feedback on exactly the things you did not need.

Therefore, narrowing it down when asking for feedback and explaining why you do this will help create relevance for you to move on. If you want to, and you feel people want to give more feedback, you can always open some more doors, but be clear that this is not your focus and that you might not address this feedback immediately.

And keep in mind, be careful to open pandora’s box. Only ask for feedback if you are willing to handle it.

Categorized as decision

Your Out of Office can be creative

For the last ten years, I have made a big deal about my Out of office message. It would be best if you did too. Why? People are emailing you, and if all they get back is:

Sorry I am out, till date X, but if it is urgent call me

First, you are out; don’t invite people to call you. Second, this is the message people will get while they are not on holiday and this how you entertain them? Give them something they can enjoy while they have to miss you (they are missing you because you are fantastic!).

I included my OoO of this year. Keep in mind: OoO messages are just for colleagues. This is not about being “professional”, though you expose yourself and your company to security risks by letting the world know you are somewhere around the globe and not at home/work.

Enjoy reading mine, and I hope it inspires you to also spark a bit of joy with your Out of Office message.

Hi, you’ve reached Rick’s out-of-office responder.

I’m sorry I’m not here. I’m in the forest taking some rest (did you know there are seven types of rest that every person needs)? I’m even more sorry that you’re stuck in the (home) office while I’m off enjoying nature. Is it raining outside?

📨Why I will reply to your email on the Xth of [Month] (or later)

While most out-of-office responders say I’ll have limited access to email, that’s not true. I cannot do without a proper internet connection though I am not spending my holidays on work emails. I will work on trying to nail some basics, and this is simple but not easy, though it will be good for me (and you) to get some more basics in place.

🙋🏼‍♂️What if you need to have an answer or help right now?

Since I’m not disappearing into the rainforest, I will have my phone firmly by my side, but I’d somewhat not be disturbed unless my house is on fire or you have a great vegan recipe to share.

Are you sure your email cannot wait in my absence instead of emailing me another three times? It really won’t make me respond any faster 😉. If it indeed is an emergency in either [Topic 1] or [Topic 2], feel free to panic, or reach out to anybody in the [Specific Group]. And also, when it is not an emergency, reach out to [List of great people]. Each one of them is fantastic and will be able to answer any of your questions. If your hyper-urgent request is about [Topic 3], consider reaching out to one of the other [More great people].

⛱What am I up to in my holidays?

As I’m off relaxing somewhere lovely, I plan to enjoy some of the Dutch nature we got and read some books. Also, I will keep publishing my weekly newsletter on LinkedIn, are you subscribed? Since some of you already shared with me that you were waiting for the book tips this summer. I share two sets of recommendations: books read, and I know they are great and books I plan to read, and I hope they will be good.

🌟 The five books that were the best reads for me in the past 12 months:

📚 The books I will read during my holidays

Suppose you’ve made it this far. Congratulations! Mostly though, you’ve made it. This is the end. If you’re wondering how you can get back the last few minutes of your life, console yourself with the knowledge that my vacation will be short-lived, and I, too, will be back in the office soon ([Insert date]!), then, it’ll be your turn to go on holiday and perhaps write a nice out of office message.

Categorized as creativity

Problems need a certain size

If you want to start with a big problem, chop it into smaller parts, making it easier to start. Sometimes working on only minor issues is counterproductive and will hold your progress and impact back.

Everybody says yes to small items

“Can you help me with this small problem”? Everybody will say yes since it is small, so you will likely receive a kind answer even if they do not have time. Will this help you? You get help on the small problem, and solving all minor issues should solve the big problem. Wouldn’t it be better to gain commitment from others to the big problem instead of focusing on the little pests?

People need to think about and commit to big topics

“Can you help me with this huge problem”? Not everybody will say yes. They will only say yes when they can make the time and commit. Your selection of people that can help you is smaller but with a higher commitment. You can still work on the small items, though now you have somebody with you along the whole way who is in it.

Make it more significant for a reality check

You can stay modest and keep your projects small, though what happens if you increase the size 5-fold? Of course, you can be fearful you do not get approval or commitment, though if that is the case, the 1-fold project was terrible as well. It was just small enough to ignore.

Therefore do not be shy in making your project a little bit bigger. Not bigger than needed. Though more significant in the way, you would also make more impact. It might be scary since not everybody will like it, but you want to get the right people interested and create skin in the game.

Categorized as creativity

How to approach some problems

If you face a problem in a domain you do not know about or have never encountered before. You can solve it. Many issues follow a similar path toward solutions, whether with systems, processes or people.

Before you touch anything, you should ensure that the problem is not something supposed to be like its current state. Also, who is telling you that there is a problem? Is somebody part of the problem, or do they have nothing to do with it?

The easiest way to ‘solve’ a problem is when you can qualify it as not a problem. The second most straightforward approach is finding an expert who can help you. If you are slightly less lucky, there are still some standard approaches you can follow.

Turning it off and on again?

Can you (and should you) turn it off and on again? In some cases, this is literal, as a system or bringing a process back to a neutral state. Or, when it comes to people, is there a way you can start with a clean slate?

Is the problem unique?

Is this a one-of-a-kind problem? Or can you reproduce the problem, and when you reproduce it, can it be replicated elsewhere in a different environment? If the problem is not unique, you can likely do a proper analysis and comparison. If it is more erratic, solutions might be more challenging to find. However, you might look at a one-off occurrence that should make the problem smaller (hopefully).

Step by Step

Can you break the problem into smaller pieces where you can review each step’s input and output? With people, it can be validating decisions and statements. With processes, you can check what data is coming in and going out.

Use this whenever there is a manual or process description that you could guide through this process. There is no need to rely on your memory or assumptions. Just follow that guide and see if it delivers the results it promises.

It still does not work?

No worries, you did not know the solution in the first place, so do not feel wrong about this. At least you learned something about it while you were working on it. Maybe if you start again, you see the problem in a different context.

Though perhaps it was not your problem to solve. That happens. Of course, you can stick with it for longer to make it work, though sometimes the best thing you can do is share your findings and share it with somebody else who wants to look at it.

Categorized as creativity