The arrogance of belonging

Do you know how the maker of “Spanx” became so successful and brought her product on the market?
Side note: For those of you who don´t know what Spanx are: they are special kind of pantyhose that push your butt and belly in and make all your belly-rolls look more smooth under tight dresses for example.
After developing a prototype of her pantyhose she walked straight up to CEOs of major underwear companies and asked them to invest into her product. Why did she do that? Well, she just did not know any other way. She did not know the “official” path to success other inventors took. Here is a very interesting video of her success story.

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I love success stories and stories of people who are daring something so many others don´t. And I have come to see that these stories often have something in common. The entrepreneur/artist/person believes in the impossible. They believe that whatever they are doing might work and they have no time to hesitate.

These people give themselves permission to do incredible things. And to do so you need to be a tiny bit narcissistic, naive and well in some ways unaware. The people I admire so much, often lack sufficient information about the industry (like the Spanx lady did not have enough information about the undergarment industry and got her information from google searches).

But it seems that this kind of naive behaviour leads them to believe the impossible. And that´s the space when the impossible suddenly becomes possible.

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I am reading a book called “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “eat, pray, love”. She is writing about how to live a creative life beyond fear. She calls the described phenomenon “the arrogance of belonging”. In other words: You need to be arrogant to believe you have the right to create. And if you manage to allow yourself to do something, that´s when you are free to create whatever you wish. Nobody said it has to be perfect. But do it and do it for yourself.

I do, by the way, also believe this behaviour should be extended to other parts of our lives. Not just to entrepreneurialism. Creative living is, in my humble opinion, a lifestyle fitting to all parts of my life. I create, therefore I am. I have the arrogance to believe I belong and I have the right to create a beautiful relationship, career and many many creative projects in the future.

As Audrey Hepburn once said:

How can anything be impossible if the word itself says “I´m possible”!

 

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Why not?

I had a dinner with my grandparents a couple of days ago. Besides a lovely meal and lots of wine they also asked me about my plans for the future. They wanted to know where I was working and if I was planning on staying there. They wanted to make sure I was paying all my insurances and saved money for my pension. And they asked me what kind of career I wanted to strive for and what I expected from my life.

Well, I said. I want adventure! When I am old I want to be proud of the life I created. I am looking forward to high-fiving myself about the amazing job I´ve done.
My grandparents seemed not to be able to comprehend. Finally they agreed on: “Sweetheart, life can´t be all about adventure.”
People, I am asking… why not?
My girlfriend´s father is an architect. He is a big supporter of young talented people. And he sees giving young architects a chance not only as his duty, but as an incredible resource of innovation. Young architects are not biased by industrial standards and by a “that´s how we´ve always done things”- attitude. They actually are very little biased at all, one could say they are a bit naive. However, this attitude is what opens the possibility of them discovering alternative solutions to problems and what brings new perspective. And that´s what my girlfriend´s dad is looking for. Innovation.
Architecture is all about finding new angles to do things. It´s about breaking the rules and about reinventing itself. Adding someone to your team who thinks “Why not?” seems to be a crucial factor.
I believe we need to reinvent many things. Not only the way we build our homes.
We might need to reinvent the way we work and the way our economy works.
The times when we had one employer for most of our lives are pretty much over. Finding a safe job even seems like it slipped down to the end of our priority list. According to recent studies in the US every third person is unhappy in their jobs. Job satisfaction, development options and moral values seem to play a much bigger role.
That´s why I like to spend my life asking “I want adventure. Why not?”.
Because if nobody tells me I can´t, maybe I can!

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comfortable ≠ happy

Comfort.

Today I was sick at home and could not help myself but to watch cheesy love movies to keep myself entertained. And I felt like I discovered what I would call the comfort problem: The young couple falls in love. They fight their way to their loved one against all odds and after some misunderstandings and complications they finally fall into each other´s arms. THE END.

This is where comfort kicks in. Now the both of them are comfortable – and will live happily ever after. And I find myself planning and striving for this kind of comfort.

That´s what many people see as the ultimate goal in life. You know, having enough money to live without worrying. For most of us that means being able to pay your bills, finding a reliable partner, that we can come home to and who loves us unconditionally. Oh and let´s top it all off with some amazing children and a friendly social circle. What could be more comfortable than that?

Dreaming the dream is more exciting than living the dream

Why do so many people including myself believe life will just be roses and teddy-bears once you´ve built up to that so anticipated level of comfort? Actually, in my case, it has often been quite the opposite. Let´s take moving into an apartment with a romantic partner. Creating the idea was – exciting! Playing around with the idea in our imagination – simply wow! Apartment hunting and furnishing the place – lots of fun! But when it came to the act of REALLY living together… that´s when things all of the sudden were not so exciting anymore. Sure, I´d give it a couple of months. We can call it the “honeymoon phase”. That´s the time when you still wake up to your spous and say things like “Honey, I am so happy to live with you. You are the best person and partner I could wish for.” or “Good morning new flatmate – what shall we do today?”. But (in my case) things quickly turned sour and conversations were more about who should be doing the dishes this time or fights about who forgot to water the cactus. (NOT me.)

Yes yes, I know what you will say. Such is life and this is just everyday routine. That´s how it is and we all have to cope with it. But guys, I am not so sure about that. Maybe it´s just our extreme high level of comfort that leads us to complain about the little things? Or are we just too bored with our lives?

Maybe comfort should not be the ultimate goal after all.

But if not comfort – What goal could there be instead? I was about to create a goal for me and my year of 2015. However, when I tried to think about goals for myself, I paniced. I did not want any of these comfortable goals. The goals I want to create for myself are way beyond what I believed to be possible for me. So I had to open my mind and think a bit differently. A goal does not have to follow the traditional way of doing things. What is it that would truly make me happy? And that´s when I realized my goal could be to stay open to different possibilities. A NOT-goal so to say. I decided not to give in to the comfort of having a little box to creep into thinking “gosh, I am happy I finally put a lable on myself”. Instead I will be out there, boxless. Or you can put me into the “other” box if you wish. I´ll keep my mind open to new ideas and possibilities in the meanwhile.

Avoiding comfort is not the solution

However, avoiding comfort in a 21st century western country is pretty unrealistic. We are born into a world where materialistic discomfort plays a minor role. It was complete chance to be born into this kind of world. And I do not take it for granted. It is luxury we live in and luxury to be thinking about all this. This article was not born out of a “simpler-life-nostalgia”. And I am not telling people to stay away from comfort in order to live some kind of Ghandi anti-materialistic lifestyle in order to reach true happiness. Nevertheless, I do encourage you to see beyond the traditional goals of comfort like paying your bills, buying a house etc. And eventually create your own goals that you truly believe in and that will guide you to become a better version of yourself.

Work – but where?

Since I became a freelancer three months ago one question kept me busy more than others. I love to work and I love my flexibility, but WHERE is the ideal spot to be productive?

I have tried many different locations and work patterns. This is what I experienced the past couple of months. What worked for me and what did not.

The home office

Being single and living by myself, the “home office” was my first go-to place to get my freelance work done. The first couple of days and weeks were great! I felt independent. Oh yes, one does not even have to get dressed and can stay in his or her pajamas throughout the whole day. Can it get any better? However, soon enough I realized that my whole life is taking place in the exact same spot. I got up from bed, moved to the kitchen for breakfast, then migrated back to my bedroom where my desk is located and then I sat on my desk for the rest of the day with long breaks for lunch and dinner. At night I would do the same migration backwards moving back from my desk into bed. Sometimes I would work from my couch which made me feel a bit too comfortable. And somehow my “research” then tended to end up somewhere on youtube with  cute cats playing the piano.

Indeed, there are many distractions at home and one has to be super disciplined to keep up good productive work for a longer period of time.

The home office is really nice every once in a while, but does not serve as a permanent office solution in my opinion. This may be different if you have a separate office room where you do your work. However, in a one-bedroom apartment working from home becomes very isolating and unproductive.

And that´s why my next step was to move to ….

The Café.

After feeling isolated, unproductive and lonely in my “home office” I decided to move to the café down the street. I thought at least there are people and that might put a bit of pressure on me to actually get work done. And sitting in a café requires getting dressed in the morning, which I thought could make for a nice change.

Working in the cafe was lovely. I was glad to see new people around me. I even had some interesting conversation with other freelancers while fighting over the only power outlet in the place. I met a couple of fiction writers and made friends with the waiters. Working in the café, I was more productive than at home.

Nevertheless, the situation was not ideal. Having to order drinks and food all the time felt like a “must” and was not easy on my wallet. And not ordering stuff, I felt bad for using up the space in the café.

The internet connection constantly broke down which was the case in many different public cafés and spaces where several people are using the same WIFI connection. This can be really disturbing – especially to people like me who have to rely on the internet to get their work done.

Cafés can get pretty noisy and screaming kids, coffee making sounds mixed with the constant smell of food and “lounge music” sometimes don´t do the trick of working more focussed.

And so I had to look for another options, and found…

…Co-working spaces

Berlin offers a big variety of co-working spaces. Co-working spaces are like office buildings for start-ups, freelancers and anyone who wants a desk in a professional setting. One can rent a desk for a fixed amount of money per month and use his/ her desk just like in a regular office. The Co-working space takes care of the facilities and makes sure things like a functional internet connection, plenty of outlets, etc. are given. Many co-working spaces in Berlin also have cute modern common areas where you can meet other entrepreneurs and have interesting conversations.

I worked my first day in a co-working space this week. I did not rent a desk, but smuggled myself into the common area where I used the internet and the more office-like vibe to get my work done. I was sitting in a café like environment with the only difference being that the place was dedicated to these laptop-staring-people.

The setting felt more professional than a regular café and more productive than my “home office”. I talked to some people who work there on a regular basis and they told me they liked working there a lot. Sometimes they say, meeting new people can get out of hand and all you want is to be alone and get your work done. Renting desks can be kind of expensive… depending on what you do for a living. But renting a desk is definitely a commitment and a constant cost in the oh so small freelance budget.

Resume

I have not found the perfect place to work yet. But having discovered the different options makes me more flexible to chose the location depending on the day. Some days I just want to be by myself and on other days I think some input from others could be great. Depending on how I feel I then move in between the different locations.

Let me know how you organize your freelance lifestyle. Do you have any questions you would like me to answer? Let me know in the comments below.

The smiling grandma on the train

Do you know that person? The old grandma sitting on the train.

She looks graceful, peaceful and simply full of love.

And she has that smile on her face – a smile that lets you know SHE knows the truth.

In the personal development workshop I attended during the past 4 days, I wrote some notes. A very short diary so to say. While sitting on the train, I wrote comments about my day into my workbook and I would like to share them with you today.

Day 1

I feel VERY unsettled, annoyed, unsatisfied and impatient about the goal of this workshop. They ask us to share and to open up. And when we do they just continue with the workshop. I want answers to my questions and reactions to my sharings. Why can´t you just answer? I can definitely feel some inner resistance about all this stuff. Very sceptical.

Day 2

When did I decide to think my thoughts? Well, good question! I don´t think I actually did. Nobody asked me if I wanted to think about random people´s muffintops or my teacher´s way to pronounce english words. Mh, I wonder which possibilities can open up for me when giving myself the opportunity to make the decision to believe in my mind or not.

Day 3

Maybe I am being brainwashed? Well, maybe. But actually I prefer being brainwashed into believing my dreams can become reality rather than allowing my “reality” to tell me the opposite. I start believing I can create who I want to be. So yes, a new possibility opened up for me today.

Maybe I can be the smiling grandma on the train.

I´ve always wanted to be her.

Kudos to Goldieblox

Wednesday evening. I just finished watching a TEDx talk – crying.

The talk was by Debbie Sterling. The founder of goldieblox. She invented a toy for girls to develop their interest in science and technology from a very young age. I absolutely love her idea, her product and everything she stands for. The marketing of the company is super well made.

But most of all the story of her growing up in a world where she just did not fit in touched my heart and resonated with me like nothing else.

When I was just a toddler my mom tried to get me interested in “boys toys”. While she leaned over handing me a car to play with I leaned over to grab something else – her earring. I was a princess. But mom did not give up.

I remember having building blocks when I was a little girl. First there were wooden building blocks, I really liked them – but what I liked even more the little people that came with the building blocks and after a short while I got really bored by the blocks. Instead I would arrange the blocks into a house-shape for my people to live in. Later on I had Legos and a pirate ship and other things like that. As soon as I was done building the ship from lego blocks the story repeated itself. The pirates as well as the skeleton (man I loved that skeleton!) that came with the ship took all my attention away from the building blocks.

My favorite subject in highschool was math and I even attended an extra math class my teacher had set up for students who needed some “extra help”. Well, those kids never showed up. Instead it was me and my best girlfriend who were interested in solving extra tasks. Back then I was attending a catholic girl´s school. And the teachers took a lot of time to explain everything to us in detail. If necessary in different or “out of the box” ways.

The teaching methods changed as soon as I entered college. Suddenly the classes were mixed again. And boys seemed to understand technical stuff way faster than me. I chose a major in science. I loved tanks and I wanted to become an engineer for the army. (At that time I did not think much about war. I just loved tanks.) For the first time in my life I had the worst grades in my class. I was one of three girls – and definitely the only one looking like one. The teacher would sometimes ask me a question he knew I did not have an answer to. And when I was not able to reply he would say things like “Well, physics is not for girls” “Can somebody please explain it to our lady?” or “Come on, it´s really easy.”

After one year torturing myself I decided science was just not for me. Debbie Sterling is a girl from my generation. She did not grow up in Germany. But our cultures seem to be rather similar.

Thank you Debbie for inventing goldieblox for our girls. I wish I have had your toy back when I was still a kid.

Her TED talk

First GoldieBlox advertisement “Princess Machine”

A new GoldieBlox advertisement introducing the first action figure for girls. (MUCH needed. I had a ninja action man. My barbies loved him.)