Lessons learned in November

of which one is how to overcome laziness and tiredness

November saw my attempt to go out more, to connect more with real people, to see more of the town. I called it the Outgoing November Challenge. I am happy and proud to have inspired some readers, and I am amazed by the outcome it had for myself.

Here is what I have learned:

  1. Going out is very hard.

I seem to have no problem with approaching people, which is easy to be content with when I am in my safe comfort zone. Yet leaving my appartment is always a big effort. I usually wonder whether it will be really worth it. I stress about what to carry and when to leave, I become anxious about wether I will be able to find the place…

Whenever I leave the house, it’s like climbing a high wall that I have put up myself in front of the door. I wouldn’t say I am an introvert or afraid of the town. It just takes me a lot of effort to leave my comfort zone.

  1. Going out is totally worth it.

But once I am out, things usually go smoothly and often become amazing. In November, I met old and new friends, I had fruitful conversations, I saw inspiring places and beautiful performances. I had a lot of ideas and started to put some into action.

I will absolutely continue going out and pushing me out of my own comfort zone, because it is so enriching, no matter what the financial and emotional effort.

  1. I cannot manage time, but I can optimise my energy.

The Outgoing November Challenge surely took a lot of time from me. Going to town usually takes an hour or more. And Nairobi stresses me out. Big time! When I am back from town, all I want to do is sleep. I had so much exposure and experience that I am totally overwhelmed. Partly, but not only in a good way.

To get the energy then to still blog about what I experienced or even think of opening my email inbox is very hard. Yet, in November, I managed to continue the blog and the facebook page, did some online courses and even wrote a novel!

It depends on whether I let my feelings overwhelm me and knock me down, or whether I ignore that it is already ten pm and I am tired, and instead optimise my energy. I realised if that blog post needs to go online the next morning, tiredness or headache simply don’t count as an excuse.

How do you overcome lazyness and tiredness? Let me know in the comments below.

Join the list for regular updates, straight to your inbox. And have a look at facebook, where I shared a video of probably the most fulfilling Outgoing November experience.

Why TED talks don’t work

and what I learned from being in the audience

Benjamin Bratton, Professor of Visual Arts, gave a TED talk about what is wrong with TED talks. It’s a bit like rejecting the Nobel Prize. I admire such people who go to a format and then rant against it.

But recently I went to TEDx Nairobi.

First of all, it made me feel excited and inspired. I got a tag with my name and interests on it, a shiny programme, free breakfast, lunch and coffee and a stage full of people who were either very bright, very charismatic or very popular.

I was most curious about Tristram Stuart’s talk, because I read his book and he appears in my final thesis. But two other people made a big impression on me instead.

Patrick Njiru, rally car driver, was introduced with the notion that even if he just came and stood on the stage for seven minutes without doing anything, in the end everybody would clap. He didn’t just stand there. He talked, and although I don’t even like the idea of car rallies, what he said felt like watching a very exciting rally.

The other inspiring person was Priscilla Were, head teacher and education system reformer. With her strong voice she talked about the values she had motivated her girl students to come up with and to practice in her school. We wanted to applaud several times during the talk but she said: Wait, I’m not yet done. She talked politics and history and in the end she was the only one who got standing ovations.

Benjamin Bratton’s critique was proven right once again: most talks were about “my work or my new book – the usual spiel”. Storytelling has become trite. Three speakers actually sold their success. There was no motivation to join them in solving the problems they talked about.

But from my notes in the programme, I collected some quotes, messages and truths that I’d like to share:

Work hard. Make up for the skills you don’t have. You can reach what you set your mind to.

(Benjamin Ayimba, Kenyan Rugby Legend)

It’s easy to nap instead of creating something.

(Karim Chrobog, Documentary Filmmaker)

We tend to cure the symptoms, but we should rather try to imagine the ideas and infrastructure that makes sense to the people we are trying to help.

(Dr Kala Fleming, Research Scientist)

It’s not about being right or wrong, but about sparking a debate.

(Gado, Cartoonist and Animator)

Ideas are not new. What counts is the application of technology to solve problems.

(Kariuki Maina, Marketing Director)

Passion doesn’t pay bills. You need to understand where exactly the problem is. And on another note: Why can’t Kenya build her own railway?

(Feisal Malik, Filmmaker)

If they don’t pay for it, they don’t need it, or they can’t afford it.

(Samir Ibrahim, CEO& Founder)

We are not even innovators. We are creators.

(Herbert Thuo, Chief Marketing Manager)

And the most valid and tangible life lessons come from Patrick Njiru, Rally Car Driver:

  1. The buck stops with me. (Take responsibility!)

  2. Go as straight as you can!

  3. Ask people who know more than you!

  4. Make decisions quickly and change your mind slowly – not the other way round!

  5. Don’t believe your doubts nor doubt your beliefs!

I laugh every morning for seven seconds.

You are where you are today because of your best thinking.

The co-driver sings and I dance to the music.

Now, how did TEDx influence my life? I met a new friend. I went to another event the day after, which was announced in the talks. I am following one more facebook page to stay informed. I will put my name on a google document and try to connect with more people. I am publishing this blog post.

Not incredible outcomes that will solve the world’s problems. Because although TED pretends to offer that, they can’t. The talks are too simplified.

Therefore it is about me to put the lessons I learned into action.

What about you? What is your favourite TED talk? And: How are you implementing its lessons in your life? Let me know in the comments.

I made those quotes above pretty. See the facebook page, where I’ll be posting them one by one.

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The day I found the blog post on the internet which I had wanted to write

It’s about purpose and mosquitoes, and here is why I am writing it anyways

Can you imagine to find the exact blog post on somebody else’s blog, written by somebody else, which you had wanted to write?

It recently happened to me. The post is about purpose which is a rather common theme for blog posts. But it starts with mosquitoes, the exact same way I wanted mine to start!

The blogger, Marcella Chamorro, lives in Nicaragua and hates mosquitoes. I live in Kenya and it’s all the same here. Around six thirty in the evening they become active and invade the apartment like an army. Sometimes I am sitting there, armed with an electronic mosquito killer and the repellent smoking the whole room, and yet my feet and hands are swelling from their bites.

So, I wondered, just like Marcella: What are mosquitoes really good for? They are not pollinating any flowers. They don’t eat other pests. They don’t provide fur or milk or skin or honey or any other useful product. All they do is carry and spread malaria, cultivate a general attitude of being annoying, and be consumed.

Marcella writes:

As gross as mosquitoes are, they bring up an important question: What’s the point of existing without a purpose?

My question is: Am I like a mosquito? Am I simply consumed, am I food for the system? Or can I create something meaningful?

The easy answer is no. As you see, even this very blog post (including the somewhat special catch with the mosquitoes) has already been written before. Everything has been said before. So why even try?

The hard answer is: I am not a mosquito. I am here with a purpose. It is not something I will find with a blueprint and then I have it forever. It is not fixed and inflexible, in fact it can change.

Marcella suggests the 5 Whys to find out your purpose and utility in all the different projects you pursue – an exercise I highly recommend:

  1. To try out the 5 Whys, follow these steps:
  2. Gather some tools for writing — paper and pen, a computer, etc.
  3. At the top of the page, write out what your project does.
  4. Below that, list out the numbers 1-5 and write “Why?” next to each number.
  5. Fill out the answer in each row.

Leo Babauta from zenhabits.net suggests to get out of your bubble and start helping others.

Whatever you do, what counts is YOU.

Although Marcella has already written about mosquitoes and purpose, it is my own take on it that counts. It’s about what I make of it, with all my personal characteristics and skills and feelings. The fact that you are reading it now and comparing it with Marcella’s post is all that matters.

So what about you? Are you a mosquito? Are you being consumed? Or are you creating something? Are you adding value to this world? Let me know in the comments.

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