Monthly Archives: December 2018

A fresh perspective

The value of a fresh perspective

You know that feeling when a single word, or a seemingly insignificant event, makes all the pieces of a puzzle that you have been working on for a while fall into place?

During the annual week-before-Christmas dinner and drinks marathon, after one of the dinners, I was talking to a colleague. He commented on the “people program” that I’m working on. The light bulb that went on above my head could have lit the entire street.

I’ve been working on a dozen initiatives that are aimed at making working for our company even more fun and engaging than it already was for our existing teams. I’ve also been working on trying to communicate how much fun it is to work for us to the outside world.

Until last week I thought about this as a bunch of initiatives. But when my colleague called it “a program” everything fell into place. There was more structure around the things that I’d been working on and it became easier to communicate about it. Seeing it through the lens of a program made it look impressive even to me!

This served as a good reminder that sharing and discussing your ideas with others allows you to improve on them and it can give you new insights. Even if you are an expert on a topic, there is value in discussing your ideas and thoughts with others. Trying to explain what you are working on to someone else sometimes helps you to realize gaps or unclarities. A fresh pair of eyes can help to uncover blind spots and a bit more distance can offer a refreshing perspective.

Reading a lot of books on a topic and studying the results others have achieved will allow you to learn a lot. It can also inspire you. Putting the things you learned into practice will give you real-life experience and feedback. Based on this you can further refine your ideas.

Keeping an open mind and discussing your ideas with others will give you input from different perspectives. Small suggestions can make your plans exponentially better. Or as in my case, allow you to communicate about them in a more impactful way.

Loving my more balanced evenings and nights

About 2 months ago I wrote here that I was going to try to read more books and watch less TV in the evenings and that I hoped that change would help me to go to bed at a reasonable time a bit more often.
This experiment has been a huge success. I haven’t watched any TV during the work week since I wrote that post.

Making the change hasn’t been hard at all. Even the Criminal Minds episodes that I know are waiting to be watched aren’t enough to tempt me into turning the TV on.
I love the extra reading time that I have. The time that I spend reading feels more valuable than the time that I spend watching TV. It makes me feel like I had a fulfilling evening, which in turn makes it easier to go to bed at a semi-decent time. When I’m tired, reading will often also make me fall asleep, giving off a pretty clear signal that it might be time to go to bed.

I will continue this new routine, I’m loving it. And I continue to come across new books that I would like to read quicker than that I can read them, so there is no risk of running out anytime soon!

Since the last post I have read the following books:

  • I finished reading Hamlet and I enjoyed reading it a lot. I’m diving into more Hamlet through the DVD version by the RSC with David Tennant as Hamlet. I also got the Audiobook, because I feel there is more to discover in the story than I was able to get out of it the first time. My ultimate plan is to watch Hamlet at Shakespeare’s globe in London at some point. That will have to be when I’m in London during the spring or summertime. Otherwise, I’m afraid I will lose some limbs to the cold. Admittedly that would go nicely with the carnage on stage, but I’d prefer to leave the theatre in one piece.
  • I’m now properly hooked on the Liz Carlyle series by Stella Rimington. I’ve read the second and the third book of the series; Secret Asset and Illegal Action. Both were gripping and very enjoyable and finished in a matter of days. I’ve never realized how different it is to read about a woman written by a woman. The joy is in the little things, like thoughts that she has, or everyday challenges that she faces.
  • I’ve also been getting into a Neil Gaiman reading spree. I started by reading Coraline and Fortunately, the Milk, which are both children’s books. Coraline is a great story and again made me realize that the inside of Neil Gaiman’s head must be quite something. I’m not convinced I’d want to live there, but reading the output is very entertaining.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane is also from Neil Gaiman and another gripping story with fantastic characters and brave kids as the protagonists.
  • Bad science by Ben Goldacre talks about how the media manipulate health care related statistics to allow scaremongering journalists to write articles that have a long-lasting impact. In some cases even with deathly consequences.
  • Because of Tim Minchin’s insistence that Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is his favorite book ever I reread it. I felt that if Tim thinks this is the best thing ever written I might have missed something the first time I read it. While I can see that Vonnegut’s writing is brilliant it will never be my favorite book. It’s pretty much like Lisa Cron explains in Story Genius. I want to understand what’s driving the protagonist and I don’t think Billy Pilgrim is really driven by anything. Perhaps that’s the whole point and we should just admire that idea, but it means that I’m not sucked into the story.
  • I feel the same about Andrew Sean Greer’s Less. Greer won the Pulitzer Prize for this book and the writing is beautiful. It’s an enjoyable read for that reason alone, but for me, it’s not a gripping story.
  • The final book on this list is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I wrote about this book in my last post as well. This was a very interesting read, with some (for me) mind-blowing ideas. I see these ideas pop up everywhere now, most notably in an essay from someone I really admire, Dutch writer Bas Heijne. I’m increasingly happy that I read it, even though it wasn’t an easy read. His next book, Homo Deus, is definitely on my reading list too.

It’s only after creating this list that I realize I’ve read a lot more than I would “normally” have read. It didn’t feel like a lot while reading, most likely because I’ve been enjoying it all.