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Archive for January, 2015

Innovating as form of protest

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When the clutch of his Ferrari 250 GT failed, Ferruccio Lamborghini had enough. The Italian, rich from building tractors, had already returned four times that same year to the factory in Maranello. With his fifth return, he stepped to the office of the twenty year older Enzo Ferrari, to tell about the woes of the 250 GT and give a few tips on how to improve the clutch. Enzo Ferrari laughed it away, and told Ferruccio to stick with building tractors.

Insulted Ferruccio left, but instead of moaning, he decided to build his own sport cars, yielding a threatening bull on the front, instead of the prancing horse. The creations of Lamborghini where quickly admired, with the fine Miura as pinnacle.

The story of the Italian car-manufacturer is iconic for finding possibilities in displeasure. It’s what Thomas Edison once said: “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”

There’s plenty of other examples. Daniel Ek began Spotify to counter the illegal downloading of music: “Better than piracy”, said the original slogan. Blendle hated paywalls, Kanishk Parashar and Karthik Balakrishnan were tired to carry multiple cards in their wallets, and thus promptly invented ‘Coin’. The team behind Peerby didn’t want to buy several products which they would only use sporadically. And Bitcoin is a form of protest as well, against the might of banks.

Vandebron, where I fondly work, started from discontent, too. The interest of big energy corporations were simply not aligned with customers, producers, or the climate. They answered the rising demand for green energy, not by creating more generating capacity, but simply by buying foreign certificates, thus officially greenwashing grey energy.

Utilities are fundamentally unsuited to providing renewable energy because they have legacy investments in fossil fuels, which they need to recover. They also have an interest in selling more units, which isn’t good from an efficiency point of view.

It’s typical for established companies to conform in maintaining the status quo, whether it’s the energy-market, music- or car-industry. Yet, luckily, there’s plenty of innovations who break that status quo and disrupt multinationals.

Pivotally, to put something in motion, you’ve to make choices,
whether it’s a Ferrari, or green energy.

A few things about blogging

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The past five years I’ve spent a lot of time blogging. Yesterday, during the fourteenth edition of Pancart, I got to share some of the things I’ve learned from that, with an momentous bunch of people, from Switzerland, Namibia, South-Africa, India, Hungary and France. In Amsterdam.

This is my presentation from yesterday, in, obviously, a blog post.

 

The first thing I’ve learned from blogging is this:

Blogging is a tool to develop yourself

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A town called Hattem.

I grew up in Hattem, and for the majority of my youth, this was my world: a tiny town in the east of the Netherlands, where 10.000 people live.

I was average, I wasn’t popular at school, I wasn’t the smartest kid in the class and I generally had little idea of what I wanted to do with my life. Even during my puberty, it felt as if most of my contemporaries were way ahead of me. I had idols, like sportstars, writers, singers, yet not a clear sense of direction for my own. I was good at drawing, though, so after high school I went to a graphic design school, one where I learned little.

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Me discussing design with the co-founder of deviantArt, Angelo Sotira.

Then, as a mediocre designer, I went on to do a six-months internship in Australia. That period of life changed me, as it opened my eyes and learned me that Hattem isn’t so big. I got in touch with people very different than me, and pivotally, I started blogging.

First it was a mere travelblog to keep the family at home updated. Even though I wrote very little before my time in Australia, blogging felt really natural to me. I had no plans for it, in terms of career. I mean, I was a mediocre graphic designer. What am I going to do with blogging?

I started to process all the things that where happening to me. As the six months progressed in Australia, I started having new thoughts, opinions, just from writing articles.

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The articles I wrote in early 2009 are rather silly, but they’ve been an essential ingredient in my coming of age.

Here’s an article from that time, where I wonder aloud, asking: “To what extent is the pursuit of one’s own happiness about making other people happy too?”. In writing the article I found my answer.

That’s the thing with blogging. Once you put your mind to writing an article, you have to put your thinking on paper. And so, you’re bound to channel your mental confetti, raising your self-awareness and forcing yourself to understand the subject well enough to express it clearly enough to people that don’t.

Blogging became a tool for me, one of self-education.

Einstein once said: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
If Einstein lived today, I’m pretty sure he’d be a blogger. In fact, during his life he published hundreds of books, essays and articles.

When I returned in the Netherlands, I continued blogging, adding several topics like gaming, Formula 1 and advertising. This grew into a habit, yet still I wondered what I would ever do with this, which brings me to my next learning.

 

The second thing I’ve learned from blogging:

You should never accept the notion you can’t do what you’d like to do (that is, after you find out what that is).

This sounds cheesy, but it’s very meaningful. Maybe you have some hidden dreams like me. I’m not talking about your career goals, like “I really want to sell X more Y in time Z”, or “I want to move up the corporate ladder”, or “In 2015 I want to get a 10% raise”. Those aren’t dreams.

Maybe you want to be a worldclass uncycle-cyclist, or a you want to repair teddybears for a living. Dig deep and you know what you’d like to do if you really had the choice. Following those dreams leads to happiness, as you’ll do what you love, whereas liking what you do is slightly different.

For me it went like this: When I got home from my Australian internship, I continued graphic design and blogging. Then, Jonas Kamber started Lookslikegooddesign.com which we continued together, until I fully took over, to later change the domain to LLGD.NET.

With this blog, I didn’t have any high hopes, yet it opened my eyes. This was the first time I didn’t just blog for myself, but people actually started to read it. Every day, thousands of designers would view what I selected for them. Time went by, and thousands of articles later, I see myself as an experienced blogger with the confidence to see the qualities I can bring.

And so, since 2014, I work as a writer and blogger at Vandebron.
Not bad, from a mediocre designer, right?

Like Steve Jobs said, it’s about connecting the dots. Looking forward you don’t really know how life pans and plans out for you, but you have to trust that looking backwards, the dots connect.
For me they sure did.

This is also a recurring theme with the designblog, where I featured so many oddities, like this one, a French couple with an unusual love for bending paper, yet somehow they made their job from it. If they can make money from making paper flowers, you may want to rethink just how weird your dreams are.

afIt took me a long time to find out what I really wanted to do, and then it took me another long time to realise that I could actually go and do something with that.

I’ve learned dreams come without expiry date. There’s lots of people who, later in life, found out what they really wanted to do, but the best example is an acorn tree. Some of them don’t produce any acorns, until they’re fifty years old.

 

The third thing I’ve learned blogging:

If it doesn’t come natural, it probably never comes

I’ve seen many people who, out of nothing, decided to start a blog and frantically start to post poems, recipes or whatever. These people never stick. They start with five posts on the first day, then it drops to three, then they post one blogpost on the third day, until no other post ever comes.

This doesn’t at all apply just to blogging, it applies to all new habits.

There’s a very true saying about diets that sheds light on this:
“The best diet is the one you stick to.”

 

The fourth thing I’ve learned from blogging:

Creating trumps consuming, especially when it benefits others

While spending my leisure time, I’m always trying to spend 50% on consuming media, the other half on creating it. It’s like the old mantra of writers:
“Writers write lots, but read even more.”

For me, it’s 50-50, but I know some people who spend like 99% consuming media, and 1% (or none) of their time creating. This sounds dramatic, but it’s true: creating gives meaning to my life.

It helps to be conscious about your consuming-creating balance. It’s what caused me to get rid of the television and start new habits (habits that sticked).

Even though I believe that blogging is a mechanism to train myself, the most pride I get from articles that serve to inspire others. That’s what I tried to do with LLGD.NET. I never featured work of mine, but highlighted that of others, and gave them a podium.

Also, with articles like ‘Things to learn in a weekend‘, ‘Write‘ and this one I hope to inspire. From earlier articles, I received get e-mails from people who indeed started something new, slightly nudged by an article by mine, and asked me to check it out and give some feedback and encouragements.

Here’s the thing:
You can be wicked at capturing the flag with some shooter game at the Xbox, but all by itself I doubt it’ll give you a meaningful life (unless you’re the best in the world). You’ll feel a lot better about yourself when you’re creating things that benefit others, especially when you grow older: it gives meaning to your life.

 

The fifth thing I’ve learned from blogging:

The world is a tiny-tiny place

Even though I learned the world is bigger than Hattem, it’s still freaking small. You don’t need anything, not my advice, not anything, to go and do what you like and then share it with thousands if not millions of people.

There’s so many people out there who want to do things, but never start. “I’m still saving for a professional camera”, or “If I only had more time, then I would really start!” These are just artificial excuses to postpone. The right time never comes. With the internet, a smartphone and a laptop, you have all the tools available to you to reach the whole world.

For instance, I don’t know anyone who plays the ocarina flute, but let’s say you do. With the internet, you can connect with thousands of people who also play this. You can even go blog about it. If you’d like, you could be a top ocarina-blogger. I’m not saying you should, you can also take it to YouTube, Spotify, or anything.

I’ve met many people who do or make amazing work, but never take the effort to share it. The world is at hands reach, so reach out and let everyone know what you do.

 

The sixth and final thing I’ve learned from blogging (well I’ve learned more things but that’s what I’m sharing with you here):

You can only have half the things you want from life

This concludes this whole blogpost. Last december I decided to stop updating LLGD.NET. The blog started as a hobby, yet over time grew into something that felt like work. Creating around three articles every day took up so much time, while I had so much other plans of what I wanted to do with my life. After years of intensive blogging, it really started to drain my energy.

So what I want to leave you guys with is this:
The bad news, is that in life you can only have half the things you want.
The good news, however, is that you get to choose which half.