Never underestimate the power of storytelling.

Sports class warfare

Never underestimate the power of storytelling. Not even for a second, as the stories will stay with you for a long time, shaping your view on the world.

You still remember them, don't you? The stories and the little roles you were allowed to play in them. Others have always been casted as the hero.

Of course I do. I watched enough movies of the late 20th century. And within: the omnipresent rivalry:

Jock or Nerd?

And every reader who endured at least one of your posts knows: you're a nerd. I wouldn't have been surprised if you'd written 'Kirk or Picard?'

Such a 'duality' is of course completely idiotic. I know very nerdy jocks, very sporty nerds, and people who are neither. And I know amazing people among all of them. But today... the city belongs to... 'them'.

A football championship, sunshine, the smell of a BBQ somewhere. Every bar is suddenly full of fans, wearing colours, having fun. And I'm back in school, back in class, back in PE, back in a time when “Jock or Nerd” was like “Techno or HipHop”, like “Black or White”, and even a single shade of gray was yet to be invented.

I'm decades older now and I'm still there picking sides. As if it ever was your call to pick. You were picked. More precisely: picked last. For the team.

Fine, let's embrace the roles, let's mix some gray. You want me to stand up? To play the game, to cheer the team? I can wear the colors. My past is where I come from, not where I go, unless I run in circles. And even then, they'd be mine to run.

How about we consider the old stories more like silent movies? Even more boring? Open for art: same old movie, same old pictures. But every decade of my life has its own soundtrack running along.

You just try to fight your stories, to run from them. Not in the slightest, my dear George. I'm owning and telling them. And I never underestimate their power.

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You're wasting your time. And in conclusion mine. We could do so much more! [George, regularly]

Do you know those moments when you “just” say something in a conversation and then this little statement can keep you thinking for days to come? It recently happened to me again when during a trip a friend was visibly unsatisfied to have “only” experienced what he had already experience the day before. So I said to him in a small side note: “You want to get the maximum out of every day, don't you?”

And you should very well agree with him! Life's too short to not experience all you possibly can!

My friend reacted confused. Not by the observation, but by Captain Obvious, asking an “clearly” universal fact. It was a dumb question, alright. It's you who's in the wrong for slacking! As we speak, he's probably having a great adventure again.

George – as one must expect – sided with him immediately. And I couldn't brush it aside.

Am I wasting my time on earth?

This of course is an incredibly privileged question, I know. Let me clarify one thing: I don't mean walking-on-the-moon or eating-every-animal-on-this-planet (gross) level of “not wasting”. I mean a certain mindset of “more/newer than yesterday”.

Don't you listen to stories and wish you had experienced them yourself? Time is limited and there is so much to see. Use your chances and don't grab the little glass when you can get a pitcher.

It sounds exciting but exhausting.

I need to rest in between, to recover my energy to actually enjoy an upcoming adventure.

Remember what they say: “You can sleep when you're dead.” Remember what we know: “If you don't sleep, you die.”

Do you consider sleep a waste, simply because you already slept the night before? Your argument, George ultimately leads to addiction. More and more, never content with what you have. Every excitement a fleeting one when present becomes past. Because there is so much else out there. You only try to reason for what you have, to not crave for more!

So we agree then? That I enjoy the small things. And you disapprove of that. Wait, don't go there. No. Oh look: Hiking in Iceland! Oh look: a Sunday morning coffee in the shade. Writing a blog post. About a question that kept nagging me: “Should I want more?”

Every word a red flag, every word a George. When “enjoying something” is the wrong choice, you need to start doubting the campaign. But my conditioning to “should something more” is strong. A force that surrounds me.

All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison.
[Paracelsus, 1538]

Some of the happiest people out there are running. Some of the happiest people out there are walking. Most running people rest their legs between runs.

You're wasting your time. And in conclusion mine. We could do so much more!

Only if “not more” is “waste”. And that, dear George, is an assumption I hereby refuse to consider universally true. Yet as a compromise, oh loud voice in my head: How about you run wild now and grant me a magnificent daydream while I finish this cup of coffee?

Last post: “Silince on the cliffside”

Silence on the cliffside

Since the start of this project I had my fair share of debates with George. Some more heated than others. Often, we start on a similar perception and differ in deduction, comparable to old adventure books: Optimistic? Continue reading on page 5. Pessimistic? Continue reading on page 18. Paralysing tantrum? Close the book and return tomorrow.

No matter how heated, adversarial, or agreeing (that also happens): Having the conversation is comforting by itself. You want to break any running circles but you’re not alone alone. Talking to yourself is talking (and according to modern studies not considered unhealthy anymore).

Great, quick blog entry this time. Warm peachy words about me enjoying the process. No? Why not? Did I miss anything? … George? …

George isn’t here today. No self-talk. No running circles. End of the rope. What happened?

“Too much” happened. Hit me. Showed itself. I was reading the news, fully respecting the irony of calling it “the news” if it felt more like “the same old shit”. Maybe the fan is new, spreading it faster and further than ever before.

The same old stale shit. So much same old stale shit. You close your eyes, you look away, it doesn’t help. The same old puddle. Even the fan resigned over this one. And George had nothing to say, stayed silent. A paralysing silence void of time. While running in circles you can count time: Count the laps when passing known shit. Not this time.

I openly admit, I’d give almost anything for a quiet “Nothing you can do” whispered by George. An easy way out. Move along – the circle is that way, you won’t miss it, society awaits you there.

Perception but no deduction. No debate. No next page, no further reading. A cliff-hanger on a frozen TV screen. And this hauntingly screaming silence.

Next post: “Write more posts dot exe” Last post: “What goes around might be walked again”

What goes around might be walked again

Where shall we go on vacation this year? How about memory lane? A change in scenery is always a good idea. But what if you know knew the scenery?

For a couple of days, I visited a place where I used to live, met up with people I used to meet, and walked streets I used to walk. And memory lane became the rabbit hole.

This time I admit: George has a point. The world around me was known and unknown. Slightly twisted, like your a not-quite-so-alternate-reality episode from your favourite science fiction show.

Except the lesson of every such episode is that it's you who's alternate. What do you expect, dropping into another reality and pretending that they're all wrong? You left and got out of phase!

Are we stretching sci-fi metaphors again? Fine! Yes, a constant feeling of displacement was my travel guide. Like a street with familiar windows but the décor and offered goods had changed. Memory lane is lined with shops. And you Sir, you're last season. And not yet retro enough to fit.

George relentlessly reminded me that it wasn't my turf (any more). Decisions and consequences. You chose to leave. If you see yourself as a victim, accept being the culprit! Take a close look at the what-could-have-been. And at the what-evolved-without-you. Another rabbit moved into this wonderland.

I truly enjoyed the visit. Come again? o.O

My friends took care of the wonderland while I was gone. They welcomed new tenants and gave all the trees a new wallpaper. But they evolved away from you! Your connection weakened and you're barely an outside observer now! You're the intangible Ghost of Christmas Past. Doesn't it pain you to only haunt what you've lost?

To connect with what I loved and – more importantly – what it became?

This memory lane was not a museum of silent stone, of painted stills. It was a meeting place, a table laid out in front of us. And I wasn't the Ghost of Christmas Past, neither were the others. We were warlocks and witches of Walpurgis night, dancing around a burning fire.

Are we stretching fantasy metaphors again? You were commemorating the past. Observing a cold body.

If this is the only way you can perceive the past, then I pity you, George. We reconnected over what was, what is and what might be. We shared our stories. The fire burned brightly, the laughter could be heard from miles away. And we promised to meet again. On another memory lane. We will walk its shops and go to the movies. And I pray for new movies to be shown.

Next post: “Silence on the cliffside” Last post: “Growing into ageism”

Growing into ageism

When is the point we become “old”? You are too old. And too young. And at the wrong place. (So for George, I seem to be lost in time & space).

Why the sudden question about “old”? It happened. I don't mean a grey hair or wrinkles or back pain. I mean looking at a young person and thinking “Yeah, you don't know better yet. You're too young. Let's ignore what you think.”

Well dealing with it is a waste of your time. Ignoring a youngster's silly opinion is effective budgeting of everybody's time. It's adulting.

I never wanted to swap onto that side of the table. Ignoring an opinion without a statement, silencing a contribution without challenging it. But why invest the hassle of challenging it? If I am as correct as I smugly believe, it shouldn’t be a hassle to express that, should it? Still a hassle... and they might talk back.

Well, so do I when one of my voiced opinions gets challenged. I mean, which “side” of which “table” am I sitting on anyway? There's a table between me and the youngster, as well as a table between me and my older, more experienced peers. I basically became “middle management” of the age ladder!! Which explains the grey hair and the wrinkles...

“Treat others just as you want to be treated.”
[Luke 6:31]

I didn't expect you to quote the bible. Are we running out of arguments?

On the contrary. There is no reason to not quote the bible simply because it is in the bible. As there is equally no reason to ignore an opinion simply because its owner is younger than me. As there is no reason why I can't get older without growing into ageism.

Next post: “What goes around might be walked again” Last post: “Aim, miss, and fail”

Aim, miss, and fail

You failed. I did.

Hello there. It is Monday. And I failed. When I started this little “psychological art project” (working label), I committed myself to one post a week. They usually happen on Sunday, not only because I have often time on a Sunday but also because of a certain “deadline” feeling before diving into the next work week. And now it's Monday. And now it's Monday.

There is like a big ball of... annoyance in my stomach. I'm annoyed at myself, rather than disappointed. Ok, so ONE of us is not disappointed then. George seems to be annoyed AND disappointed, good to know. Myself, I would call it a microdisappointment. Like microaggressions, it is subtle. Barely there. Unimportant, by itself. But chain them together, you get a huge effect. You get the annoyance.

In the end, how bad is it? “Doctor, you can tell me the truth. I'm a grownup!” Diagnosis: Annoyance.

You set yourself a goal and you missed it. That is a fail. And even if from now on you write twice a week... “once every week” was missed. Yes, I remember logic class: “Always” is negated by a single “not this time”.

So, what now? Shall I sit here and sulk? Stop the project altogether? Sit on a chair facing the wall to “think about what I did”? You mean what you failed to do?

You always claim to act like a grownup. Then do. Accept that you failed the goal. A grownup wouldn't have! Oh George. Now it's you who failed: you failed your point. Grownups miss their goals all the time!

They aren't called deadlines because you get a heart attack the moment you miss them. You live on, fix what needs fixing (and leave what doesn't). Nobody can leave this world with a perfect score. And even if, there wouldn't be a price for it. I am not sure that is the lesson you should be aiming for... that missing your goals is alright.

My lesson is that (a) life goes on and (b) sulking doesn't serve ANY purpose. Imagine me sulking forever now. Imagine every project manager out there crying their eyes out for the rest of their days when a single milestone is missed. Imagine the project being stopped then. What comes next? They would... pledge to try harder next time? And start the “failed” project over? George, I'm done. Sulking. I had an honest conversation with the shareholder who set the goal: myself. And that included you, so we're done with it.

Are you at least still annoyed? Not really. I channelled my annoyance into a post about it. And not a day too late.

Next post: “Growing into ageism” Last post: “Life – Slow time travel without breaks or wheel”

Life – Slow time travel without breaks or wheel

No, you can't blog about that! They will immediately know you're a nerd. A massive one! Well George, so be it then. Hello. I'm a nerd. Here we go. No turning back now, I guess.

I had some time Friday night and I decided to watch a bit of Star Trek. I ended up watching episodes from Star Trek Voyager season 1. And I mean “characters have just met each other” season one. And now the reader knows you’re a Star Trek level nerd. A Star Trek level nerd with free time on a Friday night. Even I feel like unsubscribing now. Where's that button?

I admit the re-watch made me giggle and laugh. The characters were so “young” (relatively speaking) and didn't know how to “behave” (from my perspective). And while I was watching this grotesque play of actors playing characters who try to play themselves... I got reminded of a quote from Doctor Who. A Doctor Who level nerd. Nothing to lose now, is there?

You know when you see a photograph of someone you know, but it's from years before you knew them. It's like they're not quite finished; they're not done yet.
[River Song, Doctor Who, episode “Forest of the Dead”]

That is precisely how it felt. Unlike time travel, I could only observe them and not speak with them. That's the reason you're so glad that your parents never owned a video camera! All those stupid looking toddler and teenage pictures are bad enough! Here, take this one... random grab... look at this smile: No idea of life and whatnot, but smiling. I forgot what I was smiling about but at least I look happy. No wonder, since you only keep the smiling ones. You don't keep pictures of the events you regret. And you both know that you regret. I have a list.

We all regret things. You just accused me of having “no idea of life”. Nobody is perfect, things don't always go as we want them to. Or they do but the plan was dumb in the first place. You should have known better!

Dear passengers, we reached our next stop “Regret station”, city slogan “You should have known better!”. Sarcasm isn't going to save you, you know?

But do I need saving? Let's have a closer look because the spiral of memory and regret is a vicious one.

  1. Make a (maybe only in hindsight) stupid decision
  2. Experience an undesired outcome
  3. Regret it
  4. Probably keep regretting it
  5. Become paralysed and limited at future decisions
  6. Regret. Rinse. Repeat.

Very nice, oh very nice slow clap. Regret is a vicious cycle? And now you tell me that you won't regret anything anymore? We both know you're going to fail trying and – ironically – you're going to regret it for a long time. But go on, give up learning, all your choices will be great and this will definitely not end in utter disaster and despair.

Sarcasm isn't going to save you, you know?

And besides, I never decided to stop learning. But regretting isn't learning. Learning means to not choose the dumb option again, regretting means to not choose again. A roundabout only looks like a vicious cycle until you exit it. But if you exit it, it can give your life a new direction. Do you see the list above, George? The trap isn't to regret initially. The trap is to “keep regretting it”. Here's the exit, the next train station:

  1. Make a (maybe only in hindsight) stupid decision
  2. Experience an undesired outcome
  3. Regret it
  4. Learn and move on
  5. Make the next (hopefully in hindsight not stupid) decision

Are you giving me the “All my mistakes made me who I am” defence now?” My argument stands: You should have known better.

You can't be an advocate for learning and at the same time demand omniscience ;) (silence) Maybe I could have known better, maybe not. Regret doesn't change the past. But it does change the present, it paralyses. Regret is a stop on the road forward, not a good place to settle down.

You can stay in the pictures, in the past. You can stay in insecure season 1 of the journey. I prefer to consider myself in maybe season 4: Fully on the road, charting the way as it comes, still adventures ahead. And maybe I am going to make a picture now. Of current me, the – in future hindsight – “young and stupid” me of the next seasons.

I promise you I'm going to smile on that picture.

Next post “Aim, miss, and fail” Last post: “Advertising casino rules”

Advertising casino rules

This week, the internet presented me with one of those short advertisement videos, that it is still stuck in my head. Maybe half a minute long, it is a video like you encounter on pretty much every “social media” platform.

The basic message was more or less

Dear men in your 30s, please be aware that women who are single in their 30s and have no mental issues are very rare and hard fought over. If you want to get one of those, you need to [...] and I can help you in one of my classes...

Dear readers, come on: You might not want to admit it, but you agree!! Even RuPaul said it: 'You better work' I knew, you're going to like it, George. Life's a competition, everyone wants the same, and all we want are “things” to tick boxes. That's how you think! And you will tell me why this is wrong in 3... 2... 1...

We could point at the blatant misogyny and totally miss the point. The ad works hurts the same way after swapping genders:

Dear women in your 30s, please be aware that men who are single in their 30s and have no mental issues are very rare and hard fought over. If you want to get one of those, you need to [...] and I can help you in one of my classes...

Well of course, it's a dating market for both sides of the equation. You won't complain about equality now, will you? No princesses simply waiting to be rescued! I happily repeat: 'You better work'

A dating “market”, clear quality criteria (single: check; no mental issues: check; education: check; ... ), now hold your own values against the shop window and hope to be led in. It's obvious that I am not the target group of the ad. George is. Our self-talk is. And it works, it pushes the right buttons, aim and hit.

Because they know what you truly want: The happy Instagram story! Perfect partner, perfect job, perfect smile, perfect body, perfect sunset, ... And what if I don't? If I don't like sunsets? Or if my personal idea of a perfect job is a different one? What then? Then you have to watch more ads. They can tell you what you want, what you need. And you have me!! I tell you, my friend. And if by then you still don't want it, well then you have – obviously – mental issues. Especially in your 30s.


You've realised by now, haven't you? You won't win this one. We prepared the board, we shuffle the cards. We wrote the rules and loaded the dice.


Now take your seat Then I don't play. I refuse to sit on this table, to play by your rules. Judge me if you like, your scale isn't mine.

Then you won't win. But I might not lose myself trying. And look at it this way: If as you say the ones without “mental issues” are so very rare... then we the others might be legion. Keep your table and your rules and show me the door.

Next post: “Life – Slow time travel without breaks of wheel” Last post: “Facts are true”

Facts are true

Hello there, George here, and I think it's about time that I can start a post. Especially this one: facts are true. Simple as that. You can doubt them but it will only end up hurting you!

“Facts are true” sound like a perfect mantra, like a simple truth behind any logic, and like an effectively short pitch to stick. And yes, any science is basically rooted in the concept of facts. Find them, acknowledge them, and deduct your options based upon them.

Just don't fight facts! ... wait a second? Do we actually agree this time? If so, I want to have the first say in more posts!

How could I disagree with “facts are true”? That would be a rather futile endeavour. But don't walk away just yet, I plan to investigate the little cracks in the statement, the... blurry imprecision of the statement. Oh come on, we had such a good run here! Simple, short, effective! So, what is a “fact” then?

Maybe as a first disclaimer: I am not touching the “alternative facts” crap. A proven fact is a proven fact until disproved. I believe in science and its methods and this is not a political post. Great, now you used the term alternative facts and those nutters can soon find your blog via Google. They will send you hate!

Humans are incredibly fast in believing something to be a fact. And I mean it literally: We believe something to be a fact. Yes, I am going to add now the obligatory “important for survival” statement: Our brain would overload if we had to question EVERYTHING at EVERY moment. Our head would simply implode. Instead, we assume some things as facts, and base the observation of the remaining situation and the decision-making on those assumptions. And for survival, taking an assumption as fact is most often close enough. We start losing the game when we lack (or religiously refuse) a re-evaluation of our assumptions.

Rule #1: Don't make assumptions. Rule #2: If you make assumptions, be fully aware of what you assume.

We are trained by society that facts are true, that as intelligent beings, science can guide us making decisions. That's all fair and well, unless we confuse facts with assumptions.

This week, I looked into the mirror. And I heard myself saying “Well, I'm just not a sporty person.” Not a new statement, to be fair, I've been saying it for years. Because you haven't been sporty in all this time. Fact. More like an assumption, really. The fact would be that “at this current moment, I don't perceive myself as sporty as I would like to be.” Too long. And boring. And complicated. You're not a sporty person. See? Simple! Now let's have a slice of pizza. Or just the entire pizza.

If you keep telling yourself that the current perception/assumption is a fact, you deny yourself any chance of change. “I am not an XYZ person” turns to “I will never be an XYZ person” and the bear trap snaps shut.

“Facts are true” does not mean “Facts don't change!” Re-evaluate your assumptions, check your facts. They might hold true, they might not. But the mental exercise of probing that will keep your mind fit and your attitude flexible.

Next time I step in front of the mirror and I look at myself, I re-evaluate my assumptions and I can proudly say “Well, I don't see myself as overly sporty right now. And if that bothers me, I can come up with a plan to change it. And in any case, I could have a slice of that pizza right now.”

Next post: “Advertising casino rules” Last post: “How to put it into a frame”

How to put it into a frame

As mentioned in last week's post: finding a fitting title wasn't easy, mainly because “fitting” is a very subjective thing. And we don't always agree, right? I mean, isn't that the reason you started this project: collecting evidence and reasoning to disagree with me? (I guess he has a point there.)

Perception is subjective, so naming is framing. There's nothing per se wrong or manipulative about it. It's simply a consequence to subjective perception. But then as we know, talking is storytelling (even with/to ourselves) and the repercussions can be significant. Who hasn't at least once been told to “look at it from a different angle”?

George – in his very nature – has a clear angle on things determined by his agenda (or so I believe): Everything is achievable for everybody but me. Now come on, I never said that! You can achieve it all, but you have to work harder! All the cool kids do it these days! If you're not up for it, you have to blame yourself.

Me on the other hand, I want to tackle the blame we put onto ourselves. Blame for not reaching imaginary (and often arbitrary) standards. The title of a blog post can be the framing and the seedling for such blame.

Last week, I wrote about comparing yourself to the people around you, blaming yourself for not being better than the best in a specific category. Basically, comparing your swimming to a shark and your flying to a falcon... while being able to swim like a goldfish while ALSO being about to fly like a bumblebee would guarantee you an entry in a record book. And your own romcom on Netflix! Let's look at potential titles and the storytelling they bring to the table.

“Why trying to beat a team must fail” Yeah, start by demoralising the audience. Genius!

“Tug-of-war at a disadvantage” I like it! Work harder and you can do it! Yes, sounds like blame game. Next.

“How to outrun a team” This was actually in my mind for a moment. Maybe George snuck it in (HeHeHe) but I feared the irony can get lost and I sound like an alpha male motivation coach. Please, we both know that you're quite a few letters away from that...

“Trying to outrun a team” So instead I wanted to shift the perception to the effort put into it. Futility aside, we take that road, we try to outrun a team. But unless you “put it like that”, you're not aware how unfitting the frame looks.

Next post: “Facts are true” Last post: “Trying to outrun a team”

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