Taking mental vitamins for a better life

Mental vitamins

In a TED talk, Sandrine Thuret explained that adults still grow new brain cells. This is a great news for anyone who likes to learn, do sports, sleep or eat healthy. Luckily, I love learning by nature, and my father has also taught me to learn from unexpected places. Now I even have to learn from a night’s dream or a nightmare.

What does it mean, e.g. when I dream about losing a flight? The interpretation of dreams says that this means being overworked or having anxiety about deadlines. For me, it means I have to be thankful to my mom for having been on my trip to South America when I was 12 years old. I literally fell asleep in the airport while doing a scale amid a 24+ Hrs flight journey and could not wake up despite the kind reminder that all passengers should approach the corresponding gateway. Upon reflection, one understands the need of better planning and time management. Thanks to the nightmare for the friendly reminder!

Cogito ergo sum – “I think, therefore I am

I learn and reflect to remain alive in this world. Even though I have been resting from my blog a couple of weeks now, the thoughts that would have been printed on your screens were still somewhere in my head. In fact, you can’t see it nor can I, but the learnings and thoughts we have on a daily basis nourish us peu-a-peu and leave us with an invisible sensation of interior growth.

Putting these thoughts and reflections into words can be challenging. Some people are afraid of making mistakes and encountering social rejection, just like when people fear speaking a foreign language. I usually don’t have that kind fear and express myself with the words and grammar I know. This is in fact the only way you can get talking and improve.  I guess that’s the answer to the people who ask me how I manage to speak so many languages.

The next challenge of writing once you overcome your fear is that the communication can be done at different levels of intensity and at different nuances. The corresponding effect is of course different. Some types of communication are more intime, like the letters I write to myself – these are private and not posted on my blog. Others types of communication are designed to attain a marketing effect. At work, you see that even a document and even a slogan can be the result of a teamwork and several days of discussion.
Here, at this site however, the words were typed by me and reviewed only by me, for the simple purpose of sharing what I have learned and hopefully giving you a laugh that you can write better.

Besides the above reflection about my own reflection and blog posts, I have of course further ones that I have gathered throughout these secret weeks where you have heard nothing from me, just as happens with Apple’s secret developments before its official releases. You don’t actually know what’s going on until the releases come out. Sorry, no sneak previews offered.

Now, here are some mental vitamins I have gathered these weeks that can help us grow new brain cells.

Mental vitamins from The Martian (2015)

This is an interesting film with a quite humorous protagonist who deems himself as the “best botanist on this planet (Mars)” and who “has all the brain power on the planet to solve a certain problem (his own brain)”. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, you might consider giving it a go.

The following mental vitamins are of course not a movie review, for that you can search on IMDB, but these are things that provoked my reflection.

  • The astronaut can survive alone for a long period of time without social contact. How can he tolerate this loneliness? I believe his Vlog has helped him maintain sanity. Perhaps that’s also a good incentive for me to keep my own Blog. Psychologically, we know that using a diary provides relief and comfort.
  • The movie made me think how different people’s reaction to challenges can be. Some give up, and some keep going. This protagonist remained very strong because of a desire to survive, an optimistic attitude, humour, intelligence and of course hard work.
  • A key lesson from the film comes from the underlying attitude of the characters. Though simplistic in the film, they confront any sort of problem, huge as it might be with a can-be-solved / can-do attitude. This is also the sort of mentality we should port to other areas of life. If Mark Watney can survive on Mars for so long, and the astronauts can deal with problems with scant resources so far away from earth, why shouldn’t we be able to solve all our problems?

Mental vitamins from my life

  • Enjoyable things take hard work: I think you will not learn to fully appreciate the things that are done, until you do them yourself once and feel them skin deep (also meant literally). My hurt fingers and uneasy neck showed me how much work is put into a nice piece of violin music. The work you go through help you better appreciate the work of others. Also, it reminds us that all good things need investment, be it a relationship with a person or a violin.
  • Sometimes it’s OK to be unconventional and explore the limits: Jean-Paul Gaultier, currently on exposition at Kunsthalle in Munich, exploited his design on the unconventional side. Though I cannot fully understand his exotic designs, he has been successful because of it. Daring what others don’t, exploring the limits of beauty and sexuality have led him to worldwide recognition.
  • Our face was made round, so that we can change perspective easily: we have to learn to look at things differently. Eric Barker shows us how we have to change our point of view to get rid of anger.  You also need this ability to achieve further things. For instance, to achieve quality, you have to go from the high level picture to the details. This is might not necessarily be something you are born with, but you have to learn. On a leadership position, you might also have to look from all angles. Besides having to look long and short term, you also need to be able to look inside and outside. For example, to formulate a strategy, you need to look both within and without to find a fit between the entity and its greater environment.

Steps that you can take after digesting these vitamins include:

  • Keep a diary, blog or Vlog
  • Have some humour and keep going
  • Remember that any problem can be solved
  • Put passion into your work, not just doing something, but doing it passionately, as if there were no more tomorrow
  • Try new and different things; explore combination of existing items in new and interesting ways
  • Move your face/eyes and change your perspective

Hopefully then, we will grow new brain cells, we’ll exist and we’ll make our day / life just a bit better.

Lights and shades of life

Grey skyWater is pouring in a small human-constructed fountain in the middle of a square I traverse to go home. It feels relaxing to hear the clash of the water with the base; some water drops splash over the floor. The sun is hidden, the sky is grey, but the water is clear and energetic.

People say eyes are the door to our soul, but I think eyes are also the doors through which our soul nourishes itself. There are things we ought to see, like the water fountain on the street.

Sometimes it is easier to notice that the sky is grey, and that all is depressing, but if one were to look around, one would see the water flowing calmly following the laws of nature and the little white flowers that are growing on the paths of the streets.

My father, who is one of the most famous people in Bolivia, at least inside our family, often said that it is a Chinese thing to not think in extremes, to prefer moderation and to not see things in absolute. That reminds me of the Yin-Yang graph (with which people often confuse me). Where there is good, there is evil; and where is evil is also good.

I like to interpret it as: It’s never too bad nor too good. Read more →

Introduction to “Mr. Business”

Introduction to BusinessIt’s been three years from my sojourn near the blue coasts of the beautiful and warm French city of Nice. After my graduation from Master in Finance, I came to Germany and started officially what my parents would call the societal life.

According to my family, societal life only started when one had a full time job and had enough time to deal with serious problems. The mysterious veil with which they had covered work and business made me feel anxious and I had talked about it with a professor of mine. He said: “You shouldn’t worry. Working is not much different from college; you are not going to invent the wheel, even though you Chinese people actually did.” He had pacified the internal storm in me, and he was right in that no matter happened, there would be no tragedy: no blood and no corpses. I had promised myself to avoid them by abandoning the option of pursuing a medical career.

Still alive after my immersion in society, I have learnt several things about business; some which are well covered in business books and others from my personal experience. Three years into business can teach us a whole lot if we hold our eyes open; it is the same amount of time for pursuing a doctorate title, except that at the end of it, we end more humble.

Among other lessons I had, I experienced business live. It is like meeting your favourite author/idol face-to-face. You can see how she/he looks like, how she/he moves, and what he/she cares about. I have met “Mr. Business” and this is how he is: Read more →

How “it” is changing us

Technology changing our livesWho is responsible for the change in your habits and your way of life? If you say it is you, I want to congratulate you for being so responsible! You no longer need to read the hundreds of self-help books available to us nowadays. I definitely agree with you and all those authors! Yet we are also products of the external environment and there is one factor that we cannot ignore and face to which we cannot pretend blindness, unless, of course, someone pulled our eyes out of place, in which case, I would not be typing these words and you wouldn’t be reading these.

“It” is changing us, IT is changing us, Information Technology is changing us. Initially it might have only been a important breakthrough inside a “laboratory”; discoveries which were perhaps most useful during war or outer-space explorations, but now technology has been popularised and even commoditised. Generation Z does not even know life without “it”, and for the rest and older of us, our lives have been changed because of it.

You know an important change relates to social media (which is still in hype), yet is not limited to it. Technology has not only changed how we interact with each other, but is essentially changing how we manage ourselves.

“It” is changing… Read more →