Monthly Archives: June 2019

Taking the work out of networking – a bit

When I decided to read Taking the work out of networking, I hoped that Karin Wickre had some sort of magical solution to make networking fun for those of us who don’t like going to events to meet a lot of people that we don’t know.
I’m what is apparently called an “extroverted introvert”. I like people and I like having conversations with them, but in small doses and for limited periods of time. I prefer dinner with a small group over a large event. It allows for more in-depth and meaningful conversations.

The book doesn’t reveal a magic formula that would allow me to avoid networking. Wickre, also classifying herself as an introvert, describes all the ways in which she manages and maintains her large network. She is so active connecting to people that I caught myself thinking “she can’t possibly be an introvert and want to do all of that all the time!”. I don’t her, of course, and I don’t know how she lives her life so I have no way of knowing that. She probably has a different way to strike a balance and manage her energy.

The book describes networking at events as well as online networking via LinkedIn and Twitter. Although I’m already reasonably active on social media it was this part of the book that resonated most with me.
Before I read the book I decided whether to accept or ignore a LinkedIn connection request based mostly on how well I know the person who sent the request. Wickre has a good point though that if you are looking for career opportunities or for information on a certain topic, that your weak ties are probably going to be most valuable to you. People who you know well often have a lot of the same connections that you do. People who you don’t know well are more likely to add something different to your network. This makes sense, so I have changed my attitude related to deciding who to connect with on LinkedIn.

In the book, Wickre also talks about keeping your network warm by regularly sending messages to people to let them know that you are thinking about them and that you value them as a connection. She does this by for instance sharing a link to an article that you think they might find interesting. This is a bridge too far for me, but it did inspire me to put a recurring item on my todo list to connect with people I haven’t spoken to for a while. I try to reach out to one person per day. After only one week I can already tell that I won’t meet my target of one person per day, but if I reach out to two or three people per week that’s already two or three more than I would otherwise have reached out to.
To be clear, these are people that I’ve been thinking about anyway and that I would love to catch up with. Even though time and energy are limited it feels good and valuable from a personal point of view to reconnect with them.

Even though the book doesn’t contain any miracles to avoid networking or magic spells that can turn you into an extrovert the book did give me a just forceful enough nudge to get me to make some changes and take some action.
The book also mentions the film The Intern, which is one of my favorite films to watch on a plane, so it gets extra points for that too.

The Intern

Singing in the Brain – the impact of music

A few weeks ago while I was celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Dutch branch of our company, my mum and my best friend went to a theatre lecture by professor Erik Scherder. The plan had originally been that I would go to the lecture too, but the anniversary party took priority. The party was in theme park Efteling and it was fantastic. But I was also a bit bummed that I missed the lecture. Luckily my mum and friend are awesome and both of them got me a (different) signed book!!

In Singing in the Brain professor Scherder discusses a whole lot of scientific studies and their findings on a wide range of subjects that have to do with music and our brain. There are references to all studies if you want to dive in deeper. To keep this book readable for people who aren’t professors the information is simplified a bit.
The book does describe the different areas of the brain and what their role is in listening to music, playing music and how the brain is impacted by music. I hope professor Scherder isn’t too disappointed that I don’t remember the names of the areas of the brain and the role that they play. I believe that if you don’t have a significant amount of prior knowledge about our brain it is impossible to remember it all.

What did stick is that listening to music that we like has a positive impact on our mood. This is not just true for people with a healthy, regular brain, but also in many cases for people with depression, Parkinson, dementia or people who are suffering the aftermath of a stroke. Note that music doesn’t cure any of these diseases. It makes people temporarily feel better. That might seem obvious, but I find it interesting that this can also be proven by studying the brain.
Do also note that forcing people to listen to music that you like, but that they don’t necessarily enjoy will not have a positive effect. You can’t use the results of this study as an excuse to force your grandparents to listen to your favorite music!

What’s also interesting is that it’s scientifically proven that women around their ovulation are attracted to men who create music. If you always wanted to learn to play an instrument to pick up girls you had the right idea.

There is also a study that suggests that people run faster and technically better while listening to music. This is something many runners have different and often strong opinions on.
I personally don’t run with music. I like to hear my thoughts while running and I don’t want to worry about earbuds that might fall out (in the old days this was wires getting stuck and being annoying).
The same study also suggested that listening to soothing music after running allowed for a faster recovery. This sounds interesting, but I doubt the impact will be significant unless it makes me dance. The main impact after running is often getting a bit stiff if I stop moving (also after cooling down and stretching), so if music can stop me from sitting still for too long that might be helpful.

All in all Singing in the Brain is a very interesting book. I enjoyed reading it, but I do feel that you will get even more out of if you have prior training and a better understanding of our brain before you start reading it. If you are looking for specific information on the impact of music on our brain this book is a great starting point. It will lead you to a list of more specific studies that dive into a particular aspect much deeper.

If professor Scherder does more theatre lectures next season I will definitely try to go to one of them!

Erik Scherder

Midnight’s Children – a remarkable story about synchronicity

According to the Man Booker prize judges, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie might be the best book of all times. That’s what made me decide to read it. I don’t feel like I’ve read enough to have an opinion on what might be the best book of all times, but it’s a marvelous story.
The protagonist and narrator of the story is Saleem Sinai, who tells the story of his extraordinary life and how it’s fused to India’s political turmoil. Saleem is born at midnight on August 15, 1947, the exact moment of India’s independence from the United Kingdom. Because of this synchronicity, Saleem’s life is linked to that of the newborn country.

I must (to my shame) admit that I knew close to nothing about the history of India and the rest of the region. This book taught me a lot and also motivated me to read up on it a little bit more. If you have visited the region or are planning to this book is worth a read just for a very entertaining way to get yourself educated a bit. Do note that the book is fiction, so not everything should be taken literally. The book also gives the reader a glimpse at some cultural phenomena. One that I got to experience myself and that comes back many times in the book is eating (and chewing on) paan. It must have been about 5 years ago now and I still can’t read or write about it without my insides making a double backflip. (I know some of the people who were there read the blog and I’m sure they’ll be smiling while reading and remembering it.)

The life-changing events and absurdities in Saleem’s life keep coming and make sure that even though Midnight’s Children is a long read, it never gets boring. There is always a remarkable twist in the story just around the corner. The book is also full of brilliant one-liners and potential internet meme’s.
One that stood out for me is “Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.”. It’s easy to spend a few hours reminiscing about the truth in that.

The book constantly hovers between a retelling of history and wildly imaginative fictional story. A bit like Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time does too. Although it’s about a different time and place. Rushdie (or Saleem) addresses this on several occasions without specifying what is true and what is make-believe.
Saleem says “Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems – but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible.”. We don’t have to stretch our imagination to strongly feel this statement. I don’t think there are many people who don’t feel that the time in which we live is incredible, for better or for worse. I wonder how people will look back at today in let’s say 100 years’ time. Perhaps there will be a writer that can write a story as imaginative and as delicately linked to history as Rushdie did about the 31 years after India’s independence.

There’s even a statement from Midnight’s Children that might help to explain some of what we see happening today. “Memory’s truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own.” Who is a sane human and who isn’t remains up for debate of course…

More beautiful sentences and the interesting statements can be found throughout the book, but there is no way for me to weave them into a semi-coherent blog post. If you are curious about them, or about Saleem’s story I propose you just dive into Midnights Children and get fascinated by Rushdie’s beautiful writing and his incredible imagination and storytelling.