Monday, October 12, 2009

The start of a new movement

Lately I've been working on a completely new and innovative project. It's called Tientjes, or in English "Ten Bucks".

We've noticed that coaching and counselling, psychological help, help in starting up your own business or creating your own website is are services that are expensive. Prohibitively so.

Personally this has meant that it's been difficult for me to find clients for my online coaching business. Not because there aren't many people out there who suffer from the long term effects and affects of Childhood Sexual Abuse, but because they can't afford to hire a counsellor to help them through the healing.

That all is about to change. Ten Bucks aims to be a movement towards making these types of services (and many others) available to the average Joe. Shooting for a market of lower to middle incomes, we aim to provide services and challenge people to provide their own. Get a lawyer for Ten bucks, an artist to design your logo, build your website for Ten bucks an hour (or per page, up to the provider to make that decision).

The best part is that people who are now working menial jobs, barely getting by, working their tail off for a boss can use the services of Ten bucks to break out of their poverty and to follow their dream.

Far from being a rekindling of the American Dream, which appears to be geared towards rampant consumerism, this is all about producing your own dream, living your own passion on the scale you want. Do you want to be as big as Disney? We'll help you get started. Do you want to be a professional service provider, good at what you do and proud to be independent? We'll help you get started. Do you just want to put your skills to work on a small scale? We'll help you get started. It's what your dream is all about that counts.

Everything at Ten bucks, as you might have guessed by now, costs Ten bucks. The three initiators are accomplished professional coaches and trainers. Instead of going for the big bucks we go for Ten bucks. We feel that even if our services costs only Ten bucks we can make a decent living and have a lot of fun for our money.

We're in the process of writing our business plan and already we're dreaming about the possibility of going international. Big dreams, not of making big money, but of making the Ten bucks movement big enough to have a coach on every streetcorner, teaching people how to make the most of their dream.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Only dead fish go with the flow

I ask myself periodically, just to check on my own progress, if I'm doing what I want to be doing. If the way I've given direction and meaning to my life is working for me. Some people might want to go on a retreat, meditate or use a mindfulness-method to accomplish this. I do the opposite: instead of staying in comfortable house with it's relaxed and mindful atmosphere, I go and get myself a job.

For me, it's about avoiding the few things that keep me stuck in a rut. One of my pitfalls is too much going with the flow. While it's a good idea not to fight the river of life, not to offer resistance to the tide that wants to sweep us along, it's good to periodically remember that only dead fish go with the flow.

Things that seem so natural that they are rarely considered keep us stuck in a rut. Making a change can help us escape from doing the same thing over and over. Einstein gave us a beautiful definition of insanity, he said: "Insanity is doing the same thing time after time, expecting the results to be different."

If you want different results, do something different! It may sound strange, but basically anything will do. Any change, no matter how small or large will jolt you out of your comfortzone and give you an added awareness.

Lately I've done some work in a Social Hostel. Here I work with people who have suffered a psychiatric illness of have an alcohol or drugs problem. The way things are done here are more than stuck in a rut, they are etched in stone, ingrained in the people, confirmed by the way things are organized.

Being confronted with a strict regime like this helps me question my own routines. It's quite a shock to my system to work in a place where dinner is served at a specific time, where people have coffee at a specific time, where every aspect of life is pre-ordained by rules and regulations. Where people have become institutionalized to the extend that they no longer question the way things are. My own life is highly disorganized in terms of time. I make appointments with customers at a time when it's convenient to them. I rise when I feel like it and go to sleep when I'm tired. Just having a job is throwing me out of my "normal routine". Having a highly structured work environment is taking me quite a ways out of my comfort zone.

Whatever your normal is like, I believe it's a good idea to do something different now and then. It doesn't really matter what aspect you change, any type of change will bring about a heightened state of consciousness. Breaking your normal pattern means you become aware of the pattern and what your pattern offers you. Sometimes this means you become more firmly attached to you pattern: you notice how well it serves you and you get a renewed sense of value from it. Sometimes it means you break your pattern permanently, because you notice that the pattern you once had no longer serves you. Instead you are now free to choose a different mode of operation. This freedom of choice enriches your life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Time, there was a time...

There's something strange happening with the concept of time. Things are changing at a faster rate. This trend was first flagged in the seventies by Alvin and Heidi Toffler, futurists and authors of the book "Future Shock". The idea in the seventies was that things were changing so fast, more and more people were unable to keep up with the changing times. Remember: this is before the advent of computers, let alone a world wide web.

In recent research Richard Wiseman, author of Quirkology compared the speed at which people walked, in different city's. It was a follow up from research that was done 10 years earlier and in every location people had stepped up their walking speed by at least 10%. We are literally moving faster than ever. In spite of mindfulness movements and meditation becoming more prevalent, we are speeding up.

The analogy with the life of a human being seems apt. When we're young a summer day can last almost forever, the hot summer nights of puberty seem much longer than sitting down at night after putting the children to bed. Time speeds up by perspective alone, 1 year at 20 is 5% of your life while at 50 it's down to 2% of your life. But there's more to it than that.

Another thing that makes time seem to last longer for the young is the level of interest they bring to what they are doing. They are doing a lot of things for the very first time, living it intensely. That first kiss lasted a lot longer it seems than the goodnight kiss you gave your partner tonight, didn't it? When in effect, in terms of clock-time it may have been of equal length.

Mindfulness and meditation aren't enough to turn the tide, if indeed the tide needs turning. Perhaps more and more people are unable to keep up with the changing times, but it may be that we don't need to grow and change all that much. Maybe the latest I-pod or the newest blackberry don't have any appeal except for the very young. Maybe they will grow faster and faster, to keep up with the things that are happening. Certainly the incidence of ADHD and Indigo Children seems to indicate that something is evolving.

How okay can you be with growing older? With not keeping up with the latest trends and not knowing what a flashmob is or how to create one? How much can you enjoy the benefits of growing older? The feel of your aging skin? How wonderful to live and not be that pimply, insecure youngster needing all these playthings to be okay, to feel like they're with the in-crowd.
Celebrate aging
I love new stuff, I love to read how they have invented a portable dvd-player and a Wii so children can play at the computer without going obese. I love that they are winning energy through osmosis from the places where sweetwater meets the salty. I like to stay informed and I twitter and (obviously) blog. I don't need any of these things to feel good about myself though. That's what aging does: It shows you how relative these things are to your personal mission and your happiness.

I have given myself permission to not keep up with the times. I pick and choose, those things that are fun and interesting, I run with, like blogging and twitter. The things that I don't feel add to my overall well being or my mission in life, I give a pass. This has made my life a lot simpler. I don't need half as much stuff, in fact I've made it a habit to give my excess stuff away twice a year. It also means I don't need to sell as much of my time for money. This gives me ample time to spend on the things in life that I find enjoyable. It also leaves me with plenty of time to do something meaningful for the world, which in the final analysis gives me the most satisfaction and joy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

6 easy to follow steps to "do-gooding"

Do-gooding, as I see it, is doing good deeds for no appearant reason. Some would call it altruism and start a discussion if people do it in order to feel good. Or maybe they do it to avoid feeling ashamed or guilty for not having done it. However, I'm not really looking for a definition. Instead let's take a look at the mechanics.

How to do-good.

Step 1: Find your niche.
You can't do-good all the time and on every topic. The world is too full of small hurts for you to take it all on. Even Mother Theresa specialized in the orphans of Calcutta. On a world scale, you could call that a small niche. On a personal scale it was a daunting task. She made her mark on the world without trying to do it all.
Your niche should be something you care deeply about. Wether it's poverty, the environment, health or any of the millions of things it's possible to care about, choose the one that touches your heart. If you don't feel passionate about it, do-gooding is going to be a chore rather than a service of joy.

Step 2: Define your boundaries
Determine how much of your time and effort you are willing and able to invest. Make sure that the time you commit to do-gooding detract you from the other things you find important and necessary in your life. Neglecting your family, health or job will result in stress in those area's of your life. Ultimately this will negate your positive effect on the world from do-gooding. To my knowledge Mahatma Ghandi only slipped once in his efforts to change the world through non-violence and this was when he was so angry he took a swing at his wife. Don't you make the same mistake, do-gooding starts at home!

Step 3: Set the scene.
Think about place and time: are you going to be do-gooding everywhere or in a specific area. Place and time could mean you volunteer a certain amount of time to a cause of your choice, actually setting time apart, or you could make it a goal to be alert for anonymous do-gooding all the time (see: Heroes). The main thing is that you choose where and when you have the intention of doing good. It will open your eyes to do-gooding opportunities everywhere.

Step 4: Start!
This may sound obvious but starting is one of the most difficult steps. Make that phonecall to the volunteer organisation of your choice. Offer to carry your elderly neighbors groceries. Help out at the local foodbank. Pick up that first piece of litter on the ground. There's enormous power in beginning. If you're finding yourself procrastinating, putting off the do-gooding, go back to step number 1, bearing in mind that you may have set your goals too high.There's a story about a man who came to the gates of heaven and to his dismay they were closed. He wept and lamented, begged the doorman for the key. He was there for days, weeping and complaining, moaning and groaning, claiming he had always had the best of intentions and never did anybody any harm. Never once did he get up and try the handle. The door was never locked.

Step 5: Evaluate
Be sure to evaluate periodically, especially important when you're just starting out. Have you made the right choice? Is the area you're doing good in the one you feel passionate about? Are you in the right surroundings, with people feeding you in your commitment to do-gooding? Are you still spending enough time in your daily life, doing the stuff that you had a prior commitment to? Is your do-gooding effort giving you the satisfaction of a job well done? Are you doing good at your own level of competence? Can you do more? Should you do less? Evaluate if the task you've set yourself fit's in with your life and brings you joy.

Step 6: Inspire others.
You've found your niche and you're happily making a difference in the world. You're doing good on a regular basis and at a level you feel comfortable with. You're reaping the rewards, whether they be the aforementioned lack of shame and guilt or the pride you might feel in a job well worth doing, done well. It's time to inspire others to do what you did, show them how much joy you're finding in service. Show them that when you listen to your heart and find your niche everyone can do good.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hubchallenge, day 5: Ten years of therapy

On a different blogsite I'm working on a series of articles that I'm pretty proud of. It's a 30 article series on Childhood Sexual Abuse. I'm aiming to write it from a personal experience perspective without turning it into a sobstory or personal journal. Using my experiences to shed some light on what Childhood Sexual Abuse, and healing from it, looks like from the inside.

Hubchallenge, day 5: Ten years of therapy

Heroes: becoming inspiring individuals

In my last post I speak about the true heroes, those unsung heroes that help an old lady cross the street, pick up that bit of garbage and light a candle in someone's darkness. Today's blog is an attempt to empower people to go out and be a hero.

In response to my last post my girlfriend told me she's been a hero today. Across the street from her there's a supermarket that always has a lot of empty beercans lying around. Some presumably homeless people hang out there and leave their can's lying around. Today she walked past it as she always does on the way to doing the groceries, and instead of just passing them by, she went and picked them up and put them in the garbage bin. I'm proud to have inspired such an act of heroism.

Calling it heroism may seem overdone, but I believe it is the right and proper term. It takes courage and determination to change your own behavior. It means you have to change your own perception, refuse to think of problems as unsolveable and to be committed to making a difference in the world. Calling it heroism may however makes the task at hand seem difficult. As if you have to do something really special and unique to be a hero.

A hero, in my definition is someone who doesn't let an opportunity to make a difference go unnoticed. They pay attention to what is going on around them and help whenever they can. My girlfriend in the above example has probably walked past those cans a dozen times at least, perhaps even hundreds of times. However, today she saw them in a different light and made a choice to do something about it.

This kind of behavior is different and gets noticed, and when it does it's contagious. I remember one night at Carnaval, walking from the trainstation to my girlfriends home. In the south of our country Carnaval is celebrated with as much joy and noise as it is in Rio, and my girlfriend lives in the south. It was quite a new experience for me, all these people all dressed up, walking from bar to bar, singing and having a good time. I noticed however that some vandal had pushed a number of bicycles over, so that they lay in the road. The inebriated crowd was walking by them, but I could see that it was only a matter of time before they'd be falling over them or maybe treading on them, either breaking their necks or breaking the bicycles.

So my girlfriend and I picked up the first bike we saw and leaned it against the buildings on the side. There were at least 7 bikes that were similarly thrown about and it looked like a daunting task when a man in a pigsuit cheered at us. He told us: "I saw you put that bike upright! Good going ladies, that's what the world needs, people who care". He helped us lean the rest of the bikes against buildings and lampposts and told us about Carnaval in years gone by when of course "everything was better and people really cared". We made his night and he made ours.

That's the random acts of kindness that I believe are truely heroic. And aside from making a difference they also make you feel good about yourself! It's fun to look at the world and look for small ways in which you can improve it, right here and right now. So I propose we start a movement: the RAK-movement. RAK meaning: Random Acts of Kindness. It's easy and anyone can do it. But just to get you started and to inspire others: let's keep a tRAK-record. Let me know what RAK you did today!

If you like this post, you may also enjoy:
On being human: The case for mediocrity

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Good and Evil

"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing"
Edmund Burke.

Evil came into my life early in the form of a child molester who abused me for 9 years. I experienced first hand the truth of the statement by Edmund Burke. In the nine years I was abused I'm sure some people must have seen something strange going on with me. I have no memory of anyone ever acting on my behalf thought. Instead, I was scolded for the way I acted out, told I was lazy and a rebellious teen.

In coming to terms with the experience of evil so early in life, I've thought a lot about good and evil. It has made me very aware that I have a choice, at any moment, to commit evil (by act or ommision) or good. I learned the truth of Alexandre Soltjzenitzyn's statement:

"The line between good and evil runs through the heart of every human being"

It's a moral choice whether you do good deeds or evil deeds.

Conformity experiment
That moral choice isn't as easy to make as it might seem: most of us are easily influenced by peer pressure. In the famous Asch experiment of conformity a full 75% of the people tested at least once gave a wrong answer when everyone around them gave the wrong answer. The question was: which of these lines on the right is of equal length to the one left, A B or C? Not hard to answer that one is it? In fact, without peer pressure only 1 person out of 35 tested ever got it wrong. When everyone around them gave the wrong answer however, 75% failed to give the right answer.

What's true for factual matters is probably double true for matters dealing with right and wrong. Given a situation where you perceive yourself to have no choices, where someone in authority is taking responsibility for your actions, and peer pressure to conform is high, you too might commit attrocities, like them poor soldiers in Abu Grahib. There but for the grace of God go I. An inconvenient truth? Yes. Can we escape it? Maybe.

In no way do I excuse people for the evil deeds they commit, I solidly believe in personal responsibility. However I also believe that there is no such thing as an evil person. Every one of us has a potential for good AND evil. Circumstances may call forth one or the other. The only thing we have to assist us in doing good is making a moral choice.

The hero's choice
A very simple example is littering. Interesting study done about that shows that when a street is very clean you don't normally litter, although about 10% of the people do anyway. If the street is very dirty, 90% of the same people just add to the mess. You have a moral choice:
  • You can put your own litter in the appropriate bin.
  • You can drop your litter as you go.
Then there is also the hero's choice:
  • Clean your entire street of litter and engage in a community program to keep it clean.
What we need in order to escape from the risk of us becoming the very monsters we fear, is everyday heroism. We need to celebrate the everyday hero that helps an old lady with her groceries. The hero that helps you pick up your papers when you drop them. The kind of hero that doesn't stand idly by when something bad happens, but goes into action when it counts. Every day we have a chance to be the hero that we are. All we have to do is be on the lookout for it.

So ask yourself at the end of every day:
"Did I have a chance to be somebody's hero today? Did I grab the chance?"