The person you envy is not an apple

The apple felt bad, sitting in the wooden box at the market. Just hours ago it had been all happy. Happy to be picked, happy to be transported to the market, happy to soon be bought. But then this other apple came. It was lying there, looking all perfect in the other box.

Suddenly the apple felt naked. The apples in the other box were all wrapped in thin paper. Why did they have paper wrapping? The apple would have loved to be wrapped in paper too, to cover up the brown spots. Even with paper, it wouldn't have looked as good as the apple in the other box. That apple looked big and perfectly rounded, not bumpy as the unwrapped apple.

Who will ever want to buy me, when there are beautiful apples just next to me?

And sure enough, when a woman with a bubbly laughter came to the stand, she immediately picked the beautiful apple. She opened the paper to look closer. When she did, the apple almost rolled out of the box with surprise. The beautiful apple wasn't an apple. It was an orange.

That colleague / neighbour / sibling you envy and compare yourself to, is not an apple.

Whenever you compare yourself to the image you have of someone else, you will inevitably compare apples and oranges.

Care - don't compare, and be proud of your unique appleness. 


A poem for mindfulness today

Do you, like so many, have a hard time being really present and enjoying what you have here and now?

Today I share a poem called An orchard at the bottom of a hill, by Maurice Manning to help you enjoy the silence.

Why don’t you try just being quiet?
If you can find some silence, maybe
you can listen to it. How it works
is interesting. I really can’t
explain it, but you know it when
it’s happening. You realize
you’re marveling at apple blossoms
and how they’re clustered on the tree
and you see the bees meticulously
attending every blossom there,
and you think the tree is kind of sighing.
Such careful beauty in the making.
And then you think, it’s really quiet,
but I am not alone in this world.
That’s how you know it’s happening,
there’s something solemn and wonderful
in the quiet, a slow and steady ease.
Whether the tree is actually sighing
is beside the point. It’s better to wonder,
you needn’t be precise with quiet,
it just becomes another thing.
It isn’t a science, it’s an art,
like love, or a dog who’s pretty good,
asleep in the grass beneath the tree.


Do you use problems as excuses or growth pills?

When I read the book Het Puttertje ( original title: The Goldfinch) by Donna Tartt, I was impressed. Impressed by how well Donna describes the despair of little Theo waiting for his mum to come home after a terrorist attack. Impressed by how she describes his relationship with Boris and his love for Pippa. Impressed by how much Donna Tartt knows about art and fraud.

As an author I was impressed. As a reader I was not moved.

Why not?

Because I didn't connect with the persons in the book. I followed them with curiosity but not with my heart.

The main characters kept finding excuses to why their lives were bad, rather than making life as great as possible.

As Tony Robbins says in "I am not your guru":
"Your biggest problem is that you think you shouldn't have one."
We all have problems. Some use the problems to grow. Others use them as excuses. like the story of the two brothers:

Ben is a teetotaler, Joe is an alcoholic. They both say it is because their father is an alcoholic.

You can find people who use what happens to them as an excuse. You can also find people who use what happens to them as a drive to make their lives great.

If circumstances don't decide what we do with our lives, then what does?

Victor Franckl describes it very well:
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
Use the inevitable hardships to grow. 
Find your purpose. 
Then I guarantee you will be bigger than any problem coming your way.


The beauty of Art 17 The answers

Even among people who are deeply involved in art, the creator of the sculpture in the Beauty of Art 17 is fairly unknown.

Museum of Moden Art (MOMA) Curator Sarah Suzuki describes it as follows:

If you ask 100 art-world types "Who is Kingelez?" 95 would say "I have never heard of him", and 5 would say "He is my favorite artist."

Bodys Isek Kingelez was (he died 2015) an artist who used everyday material like paper, toothpicks and plastic bottles, to create his cityscapes.

The piece of art you saw in the Beauty of Art XX was U.N.

Kingelez was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1948. He became a teacher before he became an artist.

An interesting anecdote about his early steps as an artist, was when he presented a paper sculpture to museum officials. When seeing the technical mastery of the creation, they didn't believe this unknown man had created it. They even accused him of stealing it! When he created another one before their eyes, they finally believed him and hired him as a restorer.

He called himself a designer, an architect, a sculptor, an engineer and an artist.

His art is colourful and filled with joy. Many say that this art makes them happy.

You say it is colourful and weird.

To see even more of his art and to see Kingelez himself, you can have a look at the information from MOMA here.


The Beauty of Art 17

When I saw a picture of the United Nation's headquarters as a child, I was very disappointed. I had expected a colourful, beautiful building, Maybe a building with lots of peace doves painted all over it. And all I saw was - a building.

Recently I was looking through a magazine, and I was happy to see that I am not the only one who thinks the United Nations should have an extraordinary building, a building that shows that those working there work for peace and friendship.

  • Who is the artist who has created this sculpture?
  • What is the name of the sculpture?
  • And - most importantly - how does it make you feel?

Please let me know what you think.
The answers will come in the next blog post.


Stop eating old bread - pay yourself first. In time.

"I come home with fresh, wonderful bread. Just when I am about to slice it up, my girlfriend says -'No, we still have bread . Eat that first.' So you know what I end up doing? I buy fresh bread  and I eat old bread."

When I heard the Dutch stand-up comedian say this, it struck a chord. We buy fresh bread but eat old bread. Why? Because we should. We mustn't waste the old bread. Like we mustn't do things that are fun until we have done what we should. Right?

Work hard and then rest. Duties first, vacation later.

And what if we do this all the time?

We end up only doing the things we think we should, never getting to do what we really want. We buy and dream of fresh bread, but we only eat old bread.

It is time for a new approach. Let's learn from the finance world and Pay ourselves first.

From Investopedia:

"Pay yourself first" is a phrase popular in personal finance and retirement-planning literature that means automatically routing your specified savings contribution from each paycheck at the time it is received."

From now on; Pay yourself first with your time. 
For each new week, reserve time for just you. For something you enjoy. Something that gives you energy, something you really want to do. Make sure you eat at least one slice of fresh bread.

Over time, this will give you more energy. With more energy you can use the time you have more efficiently. And then you can have even more time for you.

Enjoy the fresh bread.


How to become the Master of your time

My father in law is trying to turn on the lamp above the stove. When he finally sees the switch, he sees it's broken. We haven't turned on the lamp for weeks.
He turns to my husband and exclaims:
Maar, dat kun je zo doen - het is en klusje van niks!
You can fix that easily - it is a mini task!
My husband and I look at each other.  We are sitting at the kitchen table with our three kids running around the house, playing. We both work full time and live in a house that is more than 100 years old. A house that needs some tender love and care. My husband turns to his father as he wearily says:
Dat weet ik. Het problem is dat er zijn honderden klusjes van niks. 
I know, the problem is that there are hundreds of mini tasks. 

I am sure you have them too. The small tasks that need to be done. Fix that broken lamp, sew that button that fell off, glue the toy your kid just broke, exchange the battery in the watch, put that framed photo on the wall...

Hundreds of mini tasks that take no time at all to do. Or at least, that's what we think. Until we start fixing the lamp and notice that we need tools to take off the lamp shade. And since we have not used these tools for some time we need to go and find them. And then we notice that we do not have a spare bulb of that type at home. And when we go shopping we forget to buy one. And then we forget it again. The third time we remember to buy a bulb and it turns out to be the wrong kind.
Suddenly the mini task is no longer mini.

Our first way of managing the hundred mini tasks, was by creating a "klusjes van niks list". In the beginning this helped us. Instead of remembering all these small things we wanted to fix, we had them on the list. Whenever we fixed one or two of them we would tick them off and be happy about it.

But after a while we saw that even if we ticked things off, new entries came into the list all the time. It was growing rather than shrinking.

So we decided to make another change. We introduced "klusjes van niks dagen". Days when we fix all these small little things. During these fixing days, we take care of all small things at once. Putting up 3 framed photos on the wall in one go, goes a lot faster than doing them one by one. The same goes for repairing clothes or lamps and most other things. And now that we have a system in place, we never feel the pressure of having a lot of things "we should fix". We know that we will fix whatever needs fixing, within a month.

So - did I just give you the secret to mastering your time? Doing things in batches and plan time do do them?

Sorry, it takes more than that to be a Master of your time.

Some things are great to do in batches.
Some are not.

Some things are great to do daily, others are better to do weekly.
Some things are well suited to be done monthly, others quarterly.

And a whole lot of things should simply be done NOW.

So how do you know which is the best way for what task?

By trying it out.

Experimenting, failing, learning and doing it again. Until you find your way. 

That's how you become a Master of your time.