Monday 1 August 2011

I couldn't say it any better!

... this pretty much sums up a whole lot of what I have been trying to express in my blogs. So here is Thandie Newton's view on 'Embracing otherness, embracing myself'.

excerpt of the TED talk

... And that can happen with awareness, awareness of the reality of oneness and the projection of selfhood. For starter we can think about all the times when we do lose ourselves. It happens when I dance... I am earthed in my essence and ‘myself’ is suspended. In those moments I am connected to everything; the ground, the air, the sounds, the energy from the audience, all the senses are alert and alive. ...

... and I honestly believe the key to my success as an actor and my progress as a person has been the very lack of self  that used to make me feel so anxious and insecure...

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Back to the School Bench

Oh wow! Where to publish this?

It definitely is about a change of lifestyle, but being it my lifestyle it is very personal as well, and it is a challenge... that makes it at least three of my blogs where it would fit in. As any of those is as good as the other, I chose the one that jumped into my mind first: Lifestyle.

 As of today I am officially back at school. I just collected my books for learning on how to become a Personal Trainer.

A good decade after I had promised myself to never ever do an exam again, ... I am putting myself into the situation of taking an exam again. They call it assessment these days, but I guess it's pretty much the same. At age 50 I seem to think it a good idea to take the risk of being told that I am rubbish in what I am doing... and the person who will tell me might well be at the age of a hypothetical child of mine if not younger. At university it was bad enough to get the verdict from an old-ish person... oh what am I doing again?

At least this time I know what I want this exam... sorry assessment, for. My own business has just come a bit closer. I hope it's worth it!

So here I am, like a little schoolgirl at the beginning of the new term, looking for a nice folder to put everything in, and organising my timetable. Oh please, cross fingers for me that I won't open these books and don't understand a word that is said in them.

Will keep you posted.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Extreme Challenges and Headfakes

By extreme challenge I don’t necessarily mean climbing Mount Everest or travelling to the South Pole. I mean the sort of thing that you and I can achieve by our own devices, like running a marathon, creating a work of art, or going on stage. These are the things that need guts to decide for and determination to follow through; the things about which people will ask ‘why on earth would you want to do that’... and although the only valid answer is: “Because I want to!” one will have a list of reasons of which one hopes it will satisfy the inquirer.

My challenge is to take part in a bodybuilding competition. For the first time in my life I will be on stage, in a bikini, wearing fake tan, and I will have to give a 90 second performance to music. I am 50 years old, I am not a musical person, and I don’t know what bothers me more.

If I would be asked for the ‘Why?’ my official answer would be: I always wanted to know how I would feel on stage. I cannot sing, I cannot memorise well, so singer and actor are out of the question, but I am good at my sport, and I want to show the world that it is possible to become healthy and fit even if one is past the best-by date.

The unofficial answer would be: Because I want to! I want my 5 minutes of fame! I want to know how far I can push this and if I might even be able to win! Oh yes! I don’t just want to participate, I want to win!

The headfake would be: I want my legs!

A headfake is a task in which one does one thing to achieve another. Good teachers provide headfakes for their students: “Let’s build a robot so you learn mechanics”. What they actually learn, is the boring skill of programming, and they easily do so because the task is fun. My headfake doesn’t provide fun, but a good reason to keep focused. See, I always was yearning for beautiful legs, well shaped and sexy. Life provided me with a substantial layer of padding from hip to ankle, and I never managed to keep my determination during seasonal food binges, and emotional rollercoaster rides like winter depression and monthly cycles.

All of the above makes this a valid extreme challenge, I guess.

... the more that this sort of thing has quite an impact on my lifestyle and hence on my social environment. Let me turn back the clock to 2004 when I innocently started the whole ‘let’s push the envelope’ thing, and when I had no idea on how many levels this battle would take place.

I was two stone fatter, unfit, suffering from back and headaches, and most of all; I was suffering lack of confidence. This is not a good state to be in when wanting to change things which would affect other people’s lives, too. ‘Time management’ became a much used term. The aim was, to get as much as possible out of my time for myself, and to still keep everybody else happy. In self help books this is called ‘keeping the balance’.

Well, I failed! I failed because I followed stereotypes.

I never asked: ‘Whose or what balance am I keeping?’ Only when I start writing about these things I become focused and can see those questions. The intuitive choice of words of the first draft, reveal a lot.

‘The aim was to get as much as possible out of my time for myself ...‘
‘... and to still keep everybody else happy.’

This means a balance between me and others, and not a balance within my life’s tasks.

There is a significant difference between the two. The first means ‘trying things out, but compromising should I lose control over my relationships. The second does not consider other people; it is the impartial focus on me.

I failed because I mixed up the two.

Let’s turn the clock back even further to the time before 2004. I remember my mum and grandma talking about people, who had learned skills and achieved things everybody envied, and then they did ‘one silly thing’ which pushed it too far, and they lost everything. Back then I believed that those people must be mad, and now I find myself in a similar position.

I was a master of adjusting my lifestyle to others and I received appreciation and praise. It made me feel good, but it used all the time I now need to fulfil my own dreams and needs. Now, that I have put my focus on me and hence am tipping the balance, I would wish that others would do that too, adjusting their lives to mine in order to keep it level.

Well, this is not how it works, is it?

People are not interested in changing their lives to match mine... who would have thought...? Moreover, people got inspired by the idea of personal improvement and began to change, too; just into their own direction, not mine.

I failed because I forgot that I CANNOT determine other people’s actions.

However much I might hope, expect, or ask of people: It is THEIR decision to take! And they will take those decisions according to their own constraints, many of which I don’t have a clue that they exist. They have work lives, friends, and families, all putting the pressure on. They are taking their decisions as much as I am taking mine. All my balancing acts to keep people happy, and hence them in my life, were MY choices and thus voluntary. I cannot blame them for holding me back.

I failed because there is no balance to keep in relationships! There is only a balance that I can keep within myself.

Let me put the above into a nutshell: This matter is not about balance, it is about relationships, decisions and blame. Whether we just topple along, negotiate, or compromise, none of it will guarantee that a relationship will remain stable. There are too many unknown parameters, and even the known ones are changing continuously. The only thing that I can control is ME!

My previous lifestyle had left me sick, scared, unconfident, and with a minor job and I decided to make a change to the better for myself. During the past years, I lost the fear of being embarrassed, and of getting old, but the one fear that rules them all I did not dare tackling: The fear of being alone!

Extreme challenges are limited in time. If a life is robustly settled in a relationship scene, this period will not change anything. If there are instabilities, this period will reveal it all. It is impossible to succeed in an extreme challenge, while trying to cover-up, and there is no going back, once it has started. 

The first small changes already had inspired some friends to leave the scene, would bigger changes challenge my close relationships? On the other hand: If a relationship only exists because I am desperately clinging to it, is it worth it?

I had not planned for those questions to arise, and surely not now. In a few weeks time I have to be on stage and I am questioning my entire existence. That is not good timing! Well, the timing comes with the subject, doesn’t it? While unanswered, those questions held me back in achieving my dreams. Now that the challenge has put the cards on the table, I don’t find them daunting anymore. I now know that my headfake is not ‘the legs’ the headfake is ‘to find the person within myself, who I really like, who I can trust and rely on, so that others can do the same.’

I might not have failed after all!

Monday 21 March 2011

And another photoshoot

Oh, I could get used to this! Thinking four years back when Babul had to shove the camera into my face wherever I looked to get me used to that thing, I now just love to flirt with it. Barry 'Baz' Crabtree, was my latest victim. He wanted to do some experiments with light, and I got to show off my latest purchase, a coat I got from Camden Market during the last London visit. Watch out for 'Sai Sai' if you like the goth/punk/lolita inspired look.The blouse is from there as well and it can be dressed up with some lacy ruffles for an 18th century fashion style vampyre-ish outfit. This more dramatic style would be something to follow up on in a future shoot.

By: Barry 'Baz' Crabtree

By: Barry 'Baz' Crabtree
I wore this combined with '7 For all Mankind' - Kimmie in a dark wash for a night out in London:

By: Barry 'Baz' Crabtree
Oh my, this feels like going to get a few more props. I am just not in the mood for 'normal' clothes anymore. It seems that 'quirky' is the new me! Yay!

On that note: Have a fabulously crazy spring!

More Pictures of the shoot:
My Picasaweb

Find Sai Sai at:
Units 30a and 36a
London, Camden, Stable Market, Chalkfarm Road, NW18PB
lolisaisai (please remove white space before @)
lizhi_lz (please remove white space before @)

Wednesday 16 March 2011

I did it!

I faced my biggest fear! No, not spiders. I faced the one person who always managed to throw me off balance. However much I tried, prepared, and practiced, he always managed to find the right button to bring me close to tears - unfortunately not tears of joy they were. Oh, those big strands of nerves this man has cost me when I had to propose or ask for something - and not just my nerves, dear hubbies as well. Poor Detlef had to listen through all the reasoning, the pros the cons, the 'on how to phrase it' over and over again, before I dared entering the lion's den. This man has more lines in my book than anybody else. Maybe I should even thank him, as otherwise the book would be rather short.

As I type, I have known him for more than ten years, and whenever I listened to conversations he was involved in I understood his point of views, they basically were my own. I understood his decisions, I would have taken the same. I could even understand the little quirks and oddities in his lifestyle. As soon as I had to talk to the bloke, all I wished was for the ground to open to please swallow me. My mum used to be able to reduce me back to my teenage years, in front of him I became a toddler.

About eight years in, I was talking to my mentor and I will never forget the moment: After a lot of fretting about all sorts of stuff I eventually got this bright spark. It literally felt bright in my head when I all of a sudden knew that all the fretting boiled down to one thing: 'I don't want to be scared anymore', I said and then I broke into tears.

It seems that I did a lot of crying back then. Even as a child I was known to live really close to the waterworks... but what can you do? It all happens on an emotional level, which in its very nature is rather uncontrollable. I guess, at that moment in this little room I understaood how the two are related. Whenever the fear turns into the feeling of being trapped the water starts flowing as a natural response. Others might become aggressive, I cry. Because it is humiliating, depression kicks in, self esteem goes down, vicious circle. 

I decided there and then that I didn't want that anymore. And the process started - how could it be differently - with a worry: on one hand I liked to be emotional as it works on a positive level as well. I was known as the cheery, bubbly one. Somebody who inspires and makes others happy. Would I pour the child with the bath? Would I lose the happy me by abandoning the sad me? Would I become a dull, numb bitch?

Well, I took the risk and worked my way through the issues my little brain threw at me. It was hard, it was satisfying, I lost some friends along the way but I gained new ones as well. Turns out that if people are the right people for you, they will stick with you, and the others will be better off without you, and you will be better off without them. Although it sounds sad, it actually is a win-win. Have I become a dull, numb bitch? I am sure some people will think so. But as a matter of fact: I don't care anymore! There are still plenty of others who think that I am inspirational and gorgeous - bless them! I was worried that I might end up alone, but I didn't. In contrary, since I feel rooted in myself, I seem to be more appealing to people than ever before... who would have thought that? 

Three years of soul searching and endless lines of writing I needed to find this out. And it is not just a conclusion that I repeat like a mantra to be able to live it. It is in me now, with every single cell of my body I can feel that I truly believe (in) myself. And today I got the proof that this is not just an illusion. The culmination point of all the hard work condensed in one phone call. 

The outcome? Hmmm, how can I describe this? You know that I am a girl of colour. So imagine my early years in a colour scheme. Every build-up to a conversation was shades of purple, depending on the respective stage more raspberry for rage, or more blue for depressed. Then the conversation itself usually starting on a pale orange with purple spells, to then rise to a deep orange via red with flames, to then numb me in a dark burgundy. Then the aftermath - ash grey, imagine 'Iceland after the Volcano' grey, lasting for days until it eventually turned into a mid-blue which usually meant: leave me alone, avoiding situations like this.

This time it was different. Actually, there was one little slightly orange deep breath at the beginning and then there were a lot of yellows and greens... and at the end? White. Really! Nothing! A bit of pride, yes! But nothing loud or emotional. For the first time the feeling of being peers... 

It seems that in this whole process I eventually learned to put a value onto myself, which allows me to negotiate. I think I  am starting to grasp the concept. It is too simple to blame the other side. It was never his problem, was it? It always was mine. If I feel inadequate I cannot expect others to come down to my level, and I surely should not try to pull them down. I however can make my way up to their level. As soon as I had found my value I didn't feel inadequate anymore. And it seems that my newly gained negotioation skill might even have won me a new friend.

Friday 18 February 2011

If I were to give a speech...

First published in 2009

If I were to give a speech - This would be it!

Hello, and thank you for having me here. My name is Rika Nauck and my father in law would be proud to hear that I am introducing myself as a ‘dilettante’. So here I am: Rika Nauck, dilettante!

When I was still young, ‘looking pretty’ worked well for me to achieve things, I nevertheless felt the strain of having to be successful in something. I just couldn’t decide what that might be, since I had much too many interests. In his calm and charming way my father in law explained to me, that if I wanted to, I could divide people into two groups; one group is good in just one thing, but pretty useless in everything else – they are called nerds. The other group knows just a bit about everything, but they are not very good in any particular area – these are the dilettantes.

Unfortunately it’s the nerds who get Nobel prices and become CEOs of companies, while dilettantes usually end up in a support role. They are able brew coffee, proof-read a paper, re-design the office space and manage the expenses all at the same time, and since they lack fancy certificates and awards, secretary or business support, as it is called these days, is one of the obvious choices of profession for them.

And here comes the part where I usually get a lot of booing from one half of the population and a lot of Yays from the other one, and I’m fully aware that I might be beaten up for this. However, I am claiming that nerds are mainly male and dilettantes are mainly female. There are exceptions – I give you that - and we even have names for them: It’s wimps… and …bitches.

But, whatever the gender: nerds fall into a crisis when threatened in their field, while dilettantes feel threatened in any field they touch. Hence dilettantes have a low self esteem, and usually need many years to accept their role and to stop competing with nerds; they just won’t win.

I needed another 20 years after I had spoken to my father in law, to eventually acknowledge that I am a dilettante and that this is the best thing that could happen to me. I might not be rich – yet – but with the knowledge I have accumulated over the years I can pull myself out of any misery. All that we dilettantes have to do, is to find the niches in which we can outsmart the nerds, and the aim of this talk is to inspire you to trust your set of skills. You can do more than you think!

Take networking! It is categorized as soft skill – what in nerdy terms means: not worth the effort! However, they do network, they just call it differently, and they are doing it brilliantly. Nerds are organized in professional scenes which are fine tuned networks with a picking order, information on who knows what, and calling in favours is an absolutely common practice. If you can play your scene you will get far.

Dilettants despise of all that: for them this means favourism, and using people for profit – and hence they only network for social reasons, because then one can call it 'helping each other'.

When, some years ago, I wanted to go to a workshop on networking which was organized by the women’s network in my workplace, I needed authorization of my boss in order to attend. I was nervous because I never had asked for such a thing before, braced myself and started uttering stuff of ‘women’s network’ and ‘workshop’, and got as a response: ‘Ah, is this your knitting club? Yeah well, you can go.’

Knitting club? I knew he was joking, but that this phrase crossed his mind at this moment in time, and being in a working environment – I think that is telling, and  I can’t even blame him. He is working in a male environment and that means that one ‘moves in a scene’ rather then ‘belongs to a network’. So firstly, there is a clash in terminology. Secondly, he is a nerd by definition; he has a blind spot for these things.

We dilettantes are actually brilliant networkers, but we don’t know it because we are rubbish in defining what we mean by that. We are so scared that we might be blamed for taking advantage of people and that we might have something dubious or shifty in mind, that we rather not commit to it.

Heather White – she is the CEO of Magic of Networking and gave this workshop I was attending – she defined it brilliantly. Networking is like throwing a stone into a lake and causing ripples on the water. They will reach the other side to be picked up; they will mingle with ripples caused by others and some of those will reach you. It is a lovely image and it basically means what goes round comes round.

If you would encourage picking orders, and pushing people, you most likely would find yourself very quickly  in the company of similar minded individuals, and hence in a rather unpleasant environment – well, except if that is what you were after.

The most successful networks however, are the ones which are non-intrusive. You introduce yourself, you leave your name and your card with contact details; you have dropped your stone.  You let people introduce themselves and collect their cards, you caught a ripple. That’s it; the rest is wait and see. The rest of the networking is done after you met people. They talk with others, you talk with others, and at one point proposition and demand will find their match. Win-win for everybody.

Networks go further than scenes; they look outside the box, they need nerds and dilettantes equally. And see - alone we are just that: Nerds and dilettantes. Once we are connected in a network and starting to compliment each other we become ‘Experts’ and ‘Connectors’. All the knowledge an expert has is worth nothing if nobody knows that it is there.

In a world as connected as ours these days, experts can’t afford anymore to only work their scene and to stick between themselves. And I don’t mean experts scientifically. If plumbers only communicate with plumbers because that is what they like to talk about, they will run out of business. They may need information on how technology is changing, or how to run the business more efficiently, or how to find customers in their area to reduce cost of driving. I may be in dire need of a plumber – which I actually am … so if we both would just know somebody who knows …

Things are moving quickly, Innovation is what is asked for these days, and that needs communication between the scenes; it needs people who travel these universes and who know just enough of many things to be able to bring the right people into contact.

So in the end of the day the message should not be:

Nerds VS. Dilettantes
Experts AND Connectors

Thursday 17 February 2011

Networking – A Serious Game

First published in 2008 - report of the second networking workshop

After the first networking workshop I left with a feeling of confirmation… the feeling that the one thing I’m doing rather intuitively and in which I’m actually good at is something that is a valuable skill and should be exploited, and not just something that is to be taken for granted. So my confidence got a real boost.

When I then went for it, I hit the brick wall a few times, and the harder I tried the more scared and confused I got. Something was missing! When I entered this second workshop I felt less confident in being able to do good networking than before. So I was rather tense: I had visitors from work sitting in an office not far, and thus hoping that my boss wouldn’t need me, I hadn’t have time to prepare at all, my paperwork from the last workshop was at home and not in my bag, had even forgotten what I had written about the first one, and there was a rather big likelihood of not being able to remember a single name.

Scatterbrain mode!

Well, in the end of the day this turned out to be a good thing. Heather, the coach, instantly tapped into it, turning this odd feeling of lack of confidence and focus into something productive.
Some catching up on previous outcomes
On catching up on the outcome of the first workshop it turned out that we more or less came from two different types of make-up.
The nerds!
One group of highly skilled people who know about their skills, but were not sure how to bring them across to the right people to give their career a boost. However, for two of them it had worked: They had braced themselves after the last workshop, have been talking to the right people and changed their careers to the better, and a lot of the others are on their way. Good for them!

The scatter brains!
The other group are more ‘jack of all trades’ kind of people, who are good in a lot of things, but just not good enough that they feel like showing it off. Usually we don’t have a degree in what we are best at and feel confident doing the job as long as a real expert is not around. We are always hoping for others to tell us that we actually are having a high level of expertise already, we need the praise to believe in ourselves, and we are hoping that networking might find us such people and open doors to opportunities which are not too scary to go through. Well, that is at least the truth I had to face – however, I have a hunch that this is not too far from it for some of the others as well.

After we had told our stories Heather tailored the workshop according to what was needed for us bunch of people.

Working a room
The first part was about 'working a room'. Basically: How to get into a group and how to break out of a group.

According to Deborah Tannen in 'You just don’t understand', women mostly use language to bond, while men mostly use language to transport information. Which is one reason why guys are often more straight forward in saying what they want. This, in female eyes, blunt approach is not useful for bonding – for that you have to give a lot of reasons and stories around the information itself. These different styles in communication reflect in the body language and in group structures as well.

Luckily, we had one gentleman attending and Heather used the poor bloke quite a bit to demonstrate that guys usually avoid eye contact (threatening) and are not standing opposite each other but fan open a bit. Therefore easy to approach, but be prepared and not bothered that they won’t look at you while talking as long as the rest of the body language shows interest. However, if you would see guys closed in and looking at each other while talking – never, ever try to barge in! Serious business going on there and you will not want to interrupt that.

In my experience ladies in a group are more difficult as they stand closer and look at each other. To get in, you would need to know one of them, have something really interesting to contribute, or catch an eye with one of them signalling: yes you can come in!

Important note: The real action happens AFTER you have met people. What they remember of you and what they talk about you behind your back can make or break a career.

Although the meeting might not have gone as well as you would have wished for: If your first impression was good and you managed to relieve them off your presence before they get really bored: They may even keep you in a good memory and talk good about you in a pivotal moment of your career.
Another important note: Practice, practice, practice!

Observe and throw yourself out there whenever possible. Start using occasions which don’t really matter, learn from it, raise the stakes a bit more every time. Take little risks. We usually can’t plan for when this little window of opportunity will open. You may have a bad hair day and might be lacking sleep… that’s not the moment to start practicing.

Moving about in a networking environment is a bit like driving a car. At the beginning you have to concentrate on every move, once you practice it sinks into the subconscious and becomes reflex. You start driving in streets you know and then you move on to bigger distance, wider streets. The same applies for networking. One day certain body language will just come natural – and you will be able to not only see the window of opportunity but to dare tackling it.

As for the breaking away: As soon as you realise boredom – cut your story short, kindly say your farewell and move on to the next group. You don’t want to waste your time with people who are not interested in you and you don’t want to waste their time either. So we practiced a lot of handshaking and introducing ourselves, gave each other feedback on how we come across, had a lot of fun, and – although we knew each other already - a bit of getting out of the comfort zone as well.

This was recognised as very useful and important advice from all of us, although I have a hunch that the instant benefit is more for the group of skilled people. The ones who know what they want and who can go straight away to deliver their message.

I might be well able to break into or out of a group now, but I wouldn’t actually know what to tell them: ‘Good morning, my name is Rika. I’m a scatterbrain!’ Not really a career booster, is it?

Branding and networking strategy
So, the rest of the workshop was about branding ourselves and networking strategy ( more). And again Heather nailed it! She delivered everything I needed in order to take the next steps.

And it will be tough!

It goes so much beyond networking. I will have to dig deep and do some soul searching. I have a vision, but I can’t see it as a real picture. It’s all on a: ‘Would be so nice’ – level. It needs to be shifted to a: ‘I will do that!’ – level. I will need to sit down and make one of my infamous lists to find out the action points. And then I will have to go out there and make it happen.

Slightly in panic mode now!

However, the alternative is to sit back, put the legs up, eat sweets and watch East Enders. There is no in-between. Just being nice and a good girl with a decent skill set won’t be enough. There will be no knight on a white horse coming and bringing me to the goal line a bit closer. I will have to march there on my own feet every single step. And if I’m lucky I will  find a few good companions who will walk with me and flatten the ground once in a while or pick me up when I’m down.

Yet another important note: Networking is nothing but a tool!
Networking might inspire some ideas on what you want to achieve, but in the end of the day it is nothing but a tool that brings you from A to B. What implicates that you have to have an A and a B in the first place.

A: You will have to define who you really are. Which skills you have, which of those you would like to use more than others and which ones you would like to improve, what sort of life you lead, where your priorities are, …

B: You will have to develop your vision, pinning down WHAT YOU WANT for your future!

If you have that sorted, then networking is a wonderful tool to help make your vision come true.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

And THAT's how it’s DONE – Networking Strategy

First published in 2008

During the past few days I was in the lucky position to observe serious networking – and I mean SERIOUS networking, real big business. Having Heather’s follow-up workshop coincide with this business meeting, I first thought that this was unfortunate as I was flying between tasks and didn’t think I would be able to take as much from it as I would have liked. However, in the end it turned out that the workshop had sharpened my eye and given me the background to understand that there is a method behind their doings.

She had addressed three striking things which I found confirmed in watching these pros in action.

Firstly: They have a vision
And they are not scared to dedicate their lives for it! … or if they are, they don’t show it. For them there are no real limits. They believe in themselves. They see the benefits, formulate them in a way that they become win-win games … and then go for it.

I always think too far ahead about everything that might or might not happen, falling into all sorts of worries and then don’t even start. They deal with the problems when they occur and not when they crop up in their fantasy. And if they reach a point of no return which might mean going BIG or not going anywhere at all: They evaluate the risk and when things are are looking good: Then they go for BIG without hesitation and pull through.

Secondly: They have a plan.
They develop a networking strategy. They look at the outcome they want, they may lay down several possible versions at the beginning or adjust as they go along. Nevertheless, they identify the key players in the game and then they target them.

For that they need a good basic network of people they can trust and of whom they exactly know the skill set. These people then develop their vision further and bring it to the right people and make the contacts.

Thirdly: They work hard.
Say what you want!
Working hard to get your act together!
A vision is not something fluffy. It needs to be formulated in a way that you can present it to different types of people. That means, that the vision – a thing that is nothing but an idea stuck in your head – sounds as true as if it already existed. People who are targeted to participate need to leave the meeting with a feeling that this is the right and only way to do it, and they need to be so confident about this idea so that they will propagate it further. Meaning: turning vision into fact.

Take calculated risks!
Working hard to keep your network close
Once you know what you want, you can start the actual networking, using the right contacts to get the information you need to underpin your vision, to drive it forward, to expand the network to get more information and to find people to drive it forward, ….

Decisions are to be made and targets to be stretched constantly, and to be able to do that that the network needs to be kept tightly knitted and the key players need to be kept close in order to have the right information at the right time.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

A Network is a Home

First published in 2008

A good network is built like a good house. One would like to have it structurally sound and purposeful. The difference lies in the currency: For the house it is money while for networking it is time.

Getting to know your resources!
The rooms in a house are like people in a network. The study could either be all the business and techie people, arts and crafts people, or both – depending on how you use it. All the people you are socialising with are making a great sitting room, as for the kitchen one would gather everybody who knows about inside maintenance and housework, and to build a garage people who are skilled in DIY, garden and outside maintenance would come handy.

Well, let’s not get deeper into the matter of whom one would like to invite to create the bed room - well, I guess George Clooney would be a definite 'Yes!' – ... moving on: Guest rooms are very interesting as they may change their purpose quite frequently, so in our networking home they would be made up by groups of people we are rather loosely connected to.

Sometimes we build our house from scratch. These are wonderful houses, although they cost a lot of time and effort. However, they have all the rooms in the right places, and to use it is like running a clockwork. A lot of us have been faced by this when leaving our parents house to go to university or to take on a new job somewhere else. This is always a bit of a scary option - to be alone and having to find ways to connect to people, but on the other hand you don't have to stick with people only because they are friends of friends. It is much less time consuming to buy a house. One might quite like it, but usually bits and pieces are missing, it needs a bit of decoration here and there and some of the rooms need to have the purpose re-allocated. In networking terms that would mean, that there is a base of people (family, friends, neighbours, work) on which one can build upon, a solid base to use for network extension.

Wishful Thinking!
There is just one thing that we need to accept – there is no 'perfect multi function room'. That is what we all would like to have, don’t we?

A joker, the one thing that becomes whatever we need it to become. Imagine your kitchen is a mess and you quickly need a coffee. You open the door to your Joker-room and there it is: The perfect kitchen unit with a coffee machine and a clean cup.
The next time you want to do some gardening, but can’t find a thing in your shed – off you go to the joker room, and you would wish to do so when your computer is breaking down, your marriage is at stake or you need help with organising something.

Do you know what? We ladies tend to think that we have something like that in our network!

We call it friends!

We have this fairytale idea of unconditional friendship in our heads. This best friend who is there for us whatever we are up to, the one with whom we share everything. Sometimes, very rarely we are lucky to have such a friend – most of the time it’s a person from childhood days. Once we’ve grown up, it hardly happens that we can build such a friendship again. That might be the reason why all these online networks are so successful. They all give the opportunity to re-kindle old school relationships.

It's all in the head!
Although we have grown up and know a bit more about life now, we still have the old patterns in our heads.
Who doesn't feel a bit guilty when bonding with somebody else not including the old friend - let's call it the best-friend-syndrome. And who doesn't feel a bit guilty if not responding to a friends request with 100% commitment - let's call that the chicken-out syndrome. Well, and finally who on the other hand wouldn't feel a bit disappointed when a friend shows signs of chicken-out.

I believe that this is a typical female way of seeing things. Ask a guy what he knows about his best friend: good soccer player, name, degree, size of the house and type of mortgage, type of car now and 10 years ago. That’s about it, and probably in that order.

Ask a women: she will tell you the story of her friends life in detail!

Guys seem to gather information to network, girls seem to gather information to bond!

Bonding is nice and well: That is why we are rather good in certain areas of networking. However, we are rather crap in others.To be really good in bonding we have to take things emotional and personal. Hence the best-friend syndrome. It means that we need to maintain the bond - it's in the meaning of the word - and that is time consuming. A network under bonding constraint has to be small, otherwise guilt will be eating our minds and energy.

We don’t have to lose the bonding bit altogether – we are much to good in it to abandon that skill. However, we have to accept that some bonds have to be let loose if the time comes. We will have to understand that we will have to build new ones, and that it is okay to do so. We have to understand that building a new part of a network is no deceit to the old relations.

Let’s go back to the image of the 'perfect multi purpose room': What happens if we are...

Using friends as jokers?
Be honest: How often did you feel disappointed by a friend because you asked for something you were passionate about, only to see that they didn't share your passion and chickening-out was clearly on the agenda.
Imagine you are organising a trip to Tate Modern and you need to fill the group with one more person to get the cheaper tickets. So you are asking your garden freak friend to join. The scenario most likely would be:
  • Friend responds positively as helpers syndrome kicks in - we are friends after all. And if you are really passionate in your explanation friend might even really believe that it is a great thing to visit this museum.

  • Once the dust has settled and after you've parted, friend realises that you are - well, friends - however... hmmm, well, c'mon Tate Modern - and my hedge needs trimming and I have to... and this and that, and ...

  • Then: A phase of trying to avoid each other - one of them sensing that the response was not entirely genuine, while the other one didn't find a good excuse yet.

  • As more time goes by the possible excuses become lamer and lamer, until - with bad feelings on both ends - the whole thing goes bust.
And now be even more honest: How often did you behave that way when used as joker? We just have to accept that there are aspects of each others lives which we do not share, and it is okay that way! Otherwise we would have clusters of people who are all doing the same. We have to have crossovers of interest to keep this globe rolling. Hence it is fair enough to find other people to cover the areas our friends don't.

This is called 'Networking'
Our fellow gentlemen usually handle things that way intuitively while we ladies need to learn this way of networking'!

Get to know your people, and then use them accordingly.
This has two huge benefits: Firstly, you will gain time! You won’t waste a lot of time nagging and making yourself and others feel grumpy, which is a very inefficient mode to be in. Time which you can well spend to expand your network to find people to cover the aspects of your life, your friends are not able to.
Secondly, you will be able to keep your friends! You will have a lot of fun doing the things together which are in your both interest and thus deepening the bond rather then stretching it.

The aim has to be:
Create Win-Win situations
avoiding bad vibes and building good ones,
for yourself and for your network,
using your currency (time) smartly.

Monday 14 February 2011

Knitting 21st Century Style

First published in 2008

- About the Importance of Networking -

Ladies, I have it officially now! Please tell your husbands and boyfriends: We need to meet more often!

I was at a workshop. Yep! Me! Usually not the workshop kind of person, but this one I took… and it was – GOOD! 
At my workplace there is a women’s network and they do great stuff. Their invitations kept coming to my mailbox since I work there, but I never got round to actually attend one of these events. All these new people, and would the time be worthwhile it, and well, … everything, really. 

Now came this new invitation, red it, thought it was interesting, and dropped it into the bin. Habitual behaviour! Thank God that Iwona came to the rescue, dropping a line and asking if we should go together. I can’t propagate the slogan ‘Get the bums up, girls’, and then chicken out myself, can I?
So we went to attend the ‘Magic of Networking’!

A knot in the thread!
In we went, workshop started, and then the usual: 28 ladies introducing themselves, one after the other. I’m telling you: I can walk into a room with 200 casually chatting people and starting to take it over – no probs whatsoever. Here: knot in the throat, sweat breaking out…thinking… thinking … who am I? ah, Rika! … should I say my surname? Is it important that I’m German? They can hear that anyway… What is my job?... Oooof, my turn. Panic! 

Oh! My! God! Can you imagine: Me shutting up for once? I didn’t get a single of the other introductions due to thinking through my text, which then wouldn’t want to get past that damn knot, making me stutter.
Well, and then Heather, the speaker – what do I say – performer, took off! She is brilliant, and if you ever would have the opportunity to attend one of her workshops: Go for it!

Learning the pattern!
We were told that this was one of the calmer presentations. Nevertheless, I have to admit that most of the time I was observing Heather rather then paying attention to what she said. However, now that I have been mulling it over for a while, her message is coming back to my mind. That is what I call a good advertisement for a subject – the presentation is easy on the eye and the ear, but the information sticks nonetheless.
And one can tell that she is enthusiastic about ‘Networking’. Ladies, we are on the right track with what we are doing!

One of the messages:
There is nothing dubious or shifty about networking.
It is not about sneaking into other peoples lives to take advantage of them. It is about fun, and it is – most importantly – about building resources. It is absolutely OK to gather people around you, who might come handy for the one or the other reason. It actually is the only way to create win-win situations. 

An Example:
Take our Race for Life. We are still small, but we are building our team as big as we can to raise as much money as we can. As a side effect I intend to create as much fun for us as possible - nothing wrong about that, is there? As a second side effect I'm hoping to get recognised by the event organisers and probably even by the local press. Well, that could be misinterpreted as exploitation - however, I'm hoping to be able to expand our network of ladies, get known by local businesses and deepen contact to the press in order to get a bigger team next year, to extend our sponsorship base and to get even more publicity... 

We can grow, charity gets more and more money through us, businesses can use us as advertising platform when sponsoring, and press has something to tell. That is a quadruplet-win and I can't see anything wrong with that.

Heather compared networking with ‘throwing a stone into water, causing ripples’. When others do that as well, the ripples mingle and in the end some of the ripples come flowing back to you.

Another message:
One doesn’t have to be an outgoing person to be a good networker.
Be honest: When you think about someone who has a reputation for networking you usually think of an extroverted person, who is ‘everywhere and nowhere’ at the same time and has a loud voice. That at least is the cliché that jumps into my mind. But that is not true! A good networker has the skill to listen, and to be genuine. And actually this is something one will find rather often in the calmer fellow women.

Another Example:
Iwona and I are two ladies of the different ends of the spectrum of networking, each of us using her character to achieve the best she can. Iwona usually a bit shy and the body language a bit tied back, and me… well, you know me… more the ‘barging in’ type. When we walked over to the workshop, Iwona confirmed this saying: ‘I’m not good in networking so I thought I should take that chance.’ C’mon girl: who started this whole thing of attending. OK, she might have wanted me to be a bit of a backup, but that is exactly what networking is about.

You have your collection of friends and acquaintances and if you would feel that somebody boisterous could come handy at times, well then you will click and it will work. For me Iwona is ‘good’ because she is a perfectionist by heart. I’m chaotic and had to learn being organised. So once in a while, she is my wall to lean on. 

We are both rather good networkers, only that due to her shyness she thinks she is not, while I tend to indulge in a bit of overconfidence, and probably am not as good as I might think.

Don't drop that stitch!
However, the important thing for both of us was to acknowledge that networking is important, and that it doesn’t have anything to do with exploiting each other. Friendships, work relations, any relations would be so boring if only very similar people would group together. It is about benefiting from each other rather than exploiting the relationship.

So, what do we take from all of that?

‘Do get your bums up, and go out there!’
Building your network
My habit of throwing invitations into the bin didn’t do me any good. If something catches your eye: Give it a second thought … and then think it through, for crying out loud!

Last weekend I had such a lovely experience. The Ipswich Ladies went to the movies. Some of them know each other well and some only met once. One new lady with whom I only had exchanged two emails joined us. She is Japanese and all of a sudden one of my close friends started talking Japanese with her. I was flabbergasted. It needed only one daring lady approaching a group of strangers, to give us a great time by making us giggle a lot, and telling stories. She opened a door for exchanging information that never got triggered before. I’m very grateful that she braced herself and joined our colourful bunch.

Work your network!
Saving time and reducing stress levels
You don't have to do things all by yourself. There are people out there who know much better how to do it. The time you are spending for networking and having fun in the meantime, will be saved - if not more - when using your network to find the right person for the task. All you have to do is to pick up that phone! Networkers first words could be:
  • Hello, my name is ... we met at... and we talked about ... Now I was wondering if you could help me out with something. ...
  • Hello, my name is ... we were introduced by ... at ... and she told me that you know about ... May I ask you a huge favour, I'm entirely stuck in that matter...
  • ...
You will get a 'Yes' or a 'No'. Be happy about the 'Yes' and mentally move that person a bit closer into your network. If it is a 'No' it could be a polite one in which case you would leave the person where it is and probably just amend her/his set of skills. If it is an impolite one - most importantly: Don't take it personally! All you do is to cross this person off your list.

And then you go on networking and having fun with it, and sometimes it might occur that those people somehow trickle back into your life, and it may turn out out that they only had a bad day. As you didn't take it personally, it is easy to take them back in and they may even become friends.

‘Trust yourself!’ and ‘Stay true to yourself!’
Genuineness works best
Don’t believe anybody telling you that you have to change your character to become a good networker. ‘Girl you shouldn’t be so outgoing!’ ‘Girl you should open up more!’ ‘Girl do this...’ Girl do that…’
There is only one thing that I learned and found beneficial, and that you only can learn by putting yourself out there: To let it trickle off your back when somebody is hurting you! In getting in contact with people, you always will bump into some who will hurt you, intentionally or unintentionally. You won’t be able to avoid that by trying to change what is 'your inner self' and adapting to the needs of those people. Tried that, and it almost killed my creativity and hunger for experience. However, what you can do is to top up ‘your inner self’ with a bit of confidence!

Friday 11 February 2011

Nine Words Women Use

First published in 2008

I got this sent in an email and it is just too good to not use it. I have no idea who cast these words. So if you feel that you are the author, please let me know. I am happy to properly mention you!

Thes nine words which women use should actually be published on a male site. Every father should teach his sons these basics of women psyche.
  1. Fine
    This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

  2. Five Minutes
    If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour... However, five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

  3. Nothing
    This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with 'nothing' usually end in 'fine'.

  4. Go Ahead
    This is a dare, not a permission. Don't Do It!

  5. Loud Sigh
    This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of 'nothing'.)

  6. That's Okay
    This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. That's okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

  7. Thanks
    A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you're welcome. (I want to add in a clause here - This is true, unless she says 'Thanks a lot' - that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say 'you're welcome'; that will bring on a 'whatever')

  8. Whatever
    Is a woman's way of saying sc*ew YOU!

  9. Don't worry about it, I got it
    Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a wom an has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking 'What's wrong?' For the woman's response refer to # 3.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Being crafty

... in the true sense of the word, dears! I am not going to attempt anything dubious.

My craft is born out of clumsiness. The lady of the mansion once tried her best to prove herself as plumber, fixing an almost blocked drain. Which means to go to Tescos, buy the most poisonous stuff you can find, and poor. Previous trials however had shown that a piece of plastic hose used as replacement of the syphon - don't question the plumbing in our house too much, German and English appliances just don't mix well - so this piece of hose already uses the better part of a bottle. 

And that is where the plumbing skill comes in: Remove the drainage hose, get a thin one and fiddle it in until the blockage is reached, and bring the poison straight to the source of the problem. 

And that is where the clumsiness comes in: Drain pipe fills up quicker than expected, poison runs into cupboard, backlock in the hose, trying to wipe, forgetting to keep everything straight, pouring bleachy poison over one of my favourite shirts. Big blotch on the shoulder and some streaks on the arm.

And that is where craftiness comes in: Take shirt, fill syringe with bleach (so far without the needle, but will keep that option in mind), and start doodeling.

Well, I probably should have thought harder about a pattern, it is a bit sperm-ish... but it worked!

Ta Ta

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Another Photo Therapy

I actually like driving to work in the mornings; it is like going on rails and I start thinking about life - past, present, future.

45 years gap
And this morning I wondered about two of my pictures which I had put into albums yesterday night. I chose them as cover for two individual albums and they accidentally got displayed next to each other in the overview. I was rather blown and instantly posted them in the next day's diary, yet kept thinking about them ever since. So, I guess I will have to post them again as I am reflecting the past 45 years which lie between them.

During the majority of that time I was floating along with the stream, only getting upset when I didn’t feel that I was fitting in. I was a little moaner, finding all sorts of excuses about why things didn't work out the way they were planned. My mum used to sometimes shout at me 'to just DO and to try harder, to practice, and to stop bickering' as all too often the excuses were brought on quite aggressively - a sign of helplessness and inadequacy, as I now know. Hence all measures were taken during that period, aiming to avoid those incidents. One was to mock myself before others could do it, the other was ‘doing things before even being asked', ‘making other people happy’ and 'having a plan A, B, C and D' for everything. My motto of 40 years: Be prepared for every occasion, don't trust other people's commitment, plan D always has to be: 'Do everything yourself'.

That means living other people's lives and opinions quite a lot. In order to anticipate and to take pre-emptive action one has to commit to others and ones own life will come last quite often as a result. The praise one gets, though, usually creates enough happiness to go further down that route. This way one becomes a master of compromise.

Unless one goes a bit too far, that is. I reached a point when my voluntary 'putting myself last' became taken for granted. All those activities that were meant to make me accepted, to belong, and to blend me into the group of people I had chosen wanting to belong to, backfired. Project Rika and initially Incredible Ladies started off to remedy that. Get the right clothes, get a little bit in shape: They would admire me for that, and as I would blend in nicely, they would accept me as peers, eventually.

Well, what can I say - As I moved on I lost interest in blending in. I found a new motto: If something is not working, one might want to try differently rather than harder. So the last five of those 45 years have become a quest for being different. For me 'belonging' is not an option anymore. That shows in my projects and that shows in how I organise things. I still plan well, but I allow space for things to go wrong once in a while. It needs trust in other people, trust in my skill to improvise, and trust in coincidence. Sometimes improvising brings great results and makes the outcome much more vibrant than a pre-planned route. Additionally I can achieve so much more with my time, now that I am not waisting it in creating plans which then get binned because everything went smoothly anyway.

Interestingly enough I get confirmation for my new lifestyle from all sorts of sources. One is Brene Brown who promotes imperfection as source of creativity, authenticity and joy. Now that I am not striving for 'belonging' anymore I seem to be getting it for free. On one last note I would like to quote a friend who is a good quarter of a century younger than me and received this wonderful headstart of thought from a friend of hers. She calls it a eureka moment:

You have to give luck a chance!

Thursday 20 January 2011

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Making the world go round

Sometimes there are these thoughts which sound so clear and true in my head, and once I start writing they send me to explore all sorts of paths. Take this one:

Life is not about taking the right decisions. Life is about spotting options...

... and taking decisions at all! Aren't we all a bit jealous of those people who just go for things and it always seems to be working out for them? Whatever they do, they always come out on top. They surely must somehow be able to always take the right decision. Thing just is: There is a quite big likelihood that this is not always true. They might be starting off with one idea and ending up with having achieved something completely else. What we see is the success. What we don't see are the stages during which they turned corners and changed direction, and we usually don't know what they actually had set out to do.

But isn't determination, sticking to a plan, and pulling through important for being successful?

YES! I do think that in order to be successful one has to be determined. With that I however mean, being determined about a goal, and not necessarily about how to get there. And it does not mean that along the way one is not allowed to learn things that open other options, which may be even more attractive, beneficial, efficient, or promising. And it definitely does not mean that by achieving something else first, the initial plan is necessarily abandoned.

The important thing is to get moving in the first place. 

Even taking a decision against something is a way of 'moving forward'. It is one obstacle out of the way, opening room for thought and further actions.

I find that two main things can be blamed for not moving forward: Fear and laziness. Taking a decision is always done out of an information background. If this background is insufficient we usually respond with fear. We cannot assess the risk - risk for our life, health, future, or just plain 'keeping face'.  If we only would know more... and that brings us to laziness: Learning means effort. Effort to study factual things and effort to understand the minds of others and ones own.

Actually: I think it is OK to be lazy!

... as long as it is a decision consciously taken. All to often we are lazy because it is the simplest option of all. And the longer we are lazy the more we are afraid of the things we don't fully understand. Laziness and fear oh, so easily can form a vicious circle.

We all take decisions every day: Crossing a street is a decision, even a dangerous one. Aren't we lucky that our parents taught us at an early stage on how to assess this risk? We intuitively know what food is safe and what clothes are sensible... As children we absorb this essential knowledge like a sponge. The one thing that  successful people have in common, is that they still have this capability. And out of experience they know that should their assessment be incorrect, they will find a new piece of information that will help them turn the wheel round. As the wonderful Randy Pausch once said: A brick wall is not to keep you out, but  to show you how badly you want something.

Bricks are like pieces of information, make them your own and a door will open in that wall. Successful people don't mind if the door does not open in the place where they expect it, they just trust that this wall will break, if not in the middle, then left or right, and they don't mind that they might not arrive in the expected place when they get through, they just keep moving.

Probably I should elaborate what I mean with successful people. I don't mean the ones who have a high position and a big salary. I mean people who are happy, who do the things they love doing, who are spreading this happiness and who enable others to achieve their goals. They are explorers! They take decisions well informed yet swiftly, buzzing of excitement to see the options resulting. 

For them the world is a wonderful ocean of options. Every decision they take is like choosing a stone for a skipping game. It will cause ripples which may reach the shore line just in time when someone else is ready to get their feet wet. They are not worried that their ripples might not be appreciated. Yes, these ripples will hit the shoreline, but the people standing there have a choice. They can walk right in and take on the options given to them, they can just watch, or they can walk away. This is their decision to take!

Let's not deprive the world of our ripples, however small they might be.They could still be washing free the perfect skipping stone for somebody else.

... and that will make the world go round!

Monday 10 January 2011

Friday 7 January 2011


... and coincidences.

Now that I am bringing all my projects back on track and the decision is made that the book will be an eBook, I gave a printed copy to a friend who has an aversion towards electronic books and a love for the printed matter. It always is a bit scary to give it away face to face with the possibility of a rather too straightforward feedback looming. Well, and then we met in the coffee corner after she had read half way through and she asked: I like your stories, they are funny and all, but why did you write them?

Hmm...?! We met only a few month ago, so she only knows me as a rather confident almost 50 year old, and she doesn't know that I only left my teenage state of mind a couple of years ago and eventually started to grow up. I had no idea how to answer her question in a nutshell, and then coincidence came to aid when the very evening I eventually took the time to listen to some TED talks of which the announcements had been sitting in my inbox since almost a week - and there it was: My answer lies in the talk of Brene Brown about 'The power of vulnerability' (I later discovered a second talk elaborating further on the matter).

She was talking about the wish for being connected, for the need to belong, the feeling of inadequacy which makes so many of us strive for perfectionism and taking preemptive action to please in the hope that then we might eventually be loved or at least be accepted - I call it 'good girl syndrome'. She mentions excuses and blame which are used as a cover to avoid being hurt, and a very powerful emotion which is 'shame', which I refer to as 'embarrassment'.

No! No need to read through all those links above which will lead you to my respective articles ... ah, who am I kidding? Of course I want you to read them and to recognise how brilliant I am for having figured it out, all by myself - but honestly: Those links are giving me some sort of an approval that with my ideas and pamphlets I am not on my way to the loony bin, and that with the advice the one or the other might be taking from those, I am not taking you down that lane with me.

For me it was all about growing up, becoming more confident, but those are rather high level concepts. How do I do that? How do I become more confident? I am a compliant control freak, a perfectionist, there must be some rules and a few exercises which I could apply and then there I am. Instead the process was all fuzzy, my brain went along paths which I didn't expect. John, my mentor, triggered thoughts and ideas, and I was willing to let myself fall into whatever would happen. I did not understand why it worked, though.

I never felt 'enough'. I was a woman who felt so inadequate that even the check-out lady at Tescos felt obliged to tell her off, for crying out loud. This whole episode resulted in a ranting article about 'Food Shopping'. And in writing about it, in the attempt to turn the story round, over and over again, until the rant became funny so that it could be published, something else happened: The subconscious learned that this woman did not tell me off because I am inadequate, but because this woman is a silly cow and a very bad employee. It was me, allowing her to be offensive to me. This woman was grumpy for her own reasons. It was not her seeing me as inadequate, it was me allowing her actions to make me feel inadequate. It was in my head, not in hers.

But still: One cannot just go out and switch the inadequacy switch off. One could try and use positive reinforcement, subjecting oneself to increasingly difficult situations and then - maybe with the help of a mentor - get the positive things out of it, so that gradually the subconscious mind is starting to accept the person one is.

You know what? Whenever I write: 'My mentor', as I am sitting here at my desk, 9:20 on a Friday morning, my heart rate still goes up! As a grown up, confident woman one does not admit to the need for somebody who helps with this sort of stuff. Admitting that one needs a mentor, means admitting that one is not adequate, that one is 'not good enough'. I got so lucky to be able to slip into this mentor thing. When I started having those work one-to-ones, it was a  a mandatory admin management thing. I didn't know that he was a coach; I needed half a year to find out that I was coached. By then I saw the advantages and was all game. Would I have ever looked up a coach on the Internet and booked an appointment? NO!

And now, admittedly, I sometimes feel that I could do with some more coaching, that I still have open questions. So, imagine me listening to this talk from Brene and ever so often shouting out: Yes! Eeeexactly! and then she gets to the point where she mentions the word 'vulnerability' for the first time.

Wham! That's it, the final clue!

Vulnerability is the culprit. It is the strongest of all feelings and the crux lies in the mother of all vicious circles:  The feeling of inadequacy, of 'not being enough', makes a person vulnerable. We try to cover it up at whatever cost; by getting a mentor however, we have to let that cover fall. Not just in front of the mentor, but to the world. This first step of hiring a person for help, we have to achieve alone while being in that vulnerable state. Admitting to it feels like giving a knife into the opponents hands, opening the arms wide and consciously expecting the attack. Yes, for me it felt that physical, and even more: I know how a cut feels, I know it may be mended, or if not, that than at least it will be all over. But on an emotional level there is no time frame and I can never be quite sure what the blow will do to me. Will it cause depression, anger? I don't know how much I can trust myself, could in my anger I hurt somebody? And I know that I will be alone. For a flesh wound doctors would be rushing to aid voluntarily, people would visit even if they don't like me, there would be compassion. The blow to the mind would be quite the opposite. The one thing I was striving for in the first place, compassion and bonding: Out of the window!

And nevertheless, according to Brene and to my own experience, the solution lies in allowing exactly that to happen. Apparently John managed to teach me, how to allow to be vulnerable. Turns out that my 'healing thing' is writing on the Internet. There is nothing about me that you don't know. For others it could be opening up to a partner or mending a family feud.

And you know what? The most amazing thing is that NOTHING happened. My healing example is the separation from a friend. We were very close, but our lives developed into different directions. She got a high level job and mingled more and more with her work colleagues and after a while I didn't get invited anymore. Of course I felt inadequate and low about losing the bond! I found excuses: 'Oh we are both so busy and one has to build networks to be good in the job.' I blamed: 'Looking at it closely, she always was after status'. I was angry and frustrated: 'I never thought that SHE would...'

Well, I learned to accept that WE are different with different lifestyles, that WE just didn't have anything to talk about anymore and drifted apart, that if WE would meet today for the first time WE might not have become friends in the first place. So now I can treat her like any other acquaintance, including of the prospect of future friendship. I am open to her approach, whatever that is. Does it make me vulnerable? Yes! Do I mind? NO!

I now know that I don't have to try and please everybody in order to find a few friends whose friendship I then cannot enjoy, because I am eagerly wishing to befriend the people who don't want me, and whose rejections throw me into depression; ... and I will publish this darn book, although the prospect of success is rather small while the proscpect of criticism is rather big. Eventually I am enough! I am the person I am, I am not hiding or pretending: Take me or leave me!