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Holiday Traditions

One of the things I enjoy the most in holiday seasons is celebrating (or breaking) traditions. I love the endeavor to forget our busy-ness for a day or two and to simply enjoy time with our loved ones. Easter is one of the most hopeful holidays I know. I always associate it with togetherness – a joint walk in the nature, long talks (sometimes heated discussions) and laughter. The colorful eggs and smell of Easter cake are also an integral part of the celebration.

The cold that I caught in the last days has prevented me from enjoying it to the fullest this year. Nevertheless I went for a walk and participated in backing the delicious cake which came in different forms today. Good times!

Easter cakes 2014

Happy Easter to everyone celebrating today! If Easter is not a holiday that you celebrate, I wish you an enjoyable Sunday and a good start into the new week.

Easter 2014


Can Stress Be Your Friend?

Today is a public holiday. I planned to spend it doing various activities, but I seem to have caught a slight cold (out of the blue) and need to stay home and recover. My first thought was that the cause must have been my packed agenda and related stress in the last weeks.

As I was eating my healthy soup and promising myself to re-think my daily commitments and reduce my stress levels, I stumbled upon Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk How to make stress your friend. It gave me food for thought and a new way to view stress and comfort. It’s not a how-to-guide or self-help content, but a powerful, thought-provoking, and inspiring talk which can help you understand stress better. No matter what role stress plays in your life, I am pretty sure this talk will make you think and feel about it differently. So why not spend 14:28 minutes watching it?


A woman was humming an unrecognizable refrain next to me on the bus today. Lost in thought and a little tired as I was, this unexpected sound surprised me. It was an early morning of an ordinary day. Why would anyone want to happily hum in public transportation?

PD-US-NO NOTICE; via Wikimedia Commons

PD-US-NO NOTICE; via Wikimedia Commons

After looking at her, I realized that she was simply in a good mood and expressed it through humming. She was not disturbing anyone with the almost inaudible tune, so there was nothing wrong about it, right? And still, she earned quite a few weird looks from fellow passengers (including my first confused look). I gave her a second look and remembered a number of instances in which I regrettably jumped to conclusions. Judgemental opinions seem like a second nature too often, don’t they? In most of the cases giving a second look proves them wrong and helps us accept difference. Difference that challenges inexorable attitudes and points of view and makes the world a slightly better place.

I smiled at the humming lady and embraced her good mood. And I’ll do my best to remember the lesson.

The Cost of Resisting Change

My emotional bucket was about to overflow today when I faced the same resistance to the same change again. After more than seven months, many other changes are underway while some people still resist what is actually not new anymore. I have been part of change processes and experienced turbulent times in both private, not-profit, and corporate settings, but this seems to be the most persistent change resistance I came across.

Just when I was about to lose my patience, I remembered an excellent HBR article on the reasons why people resist change. Rereading it helped me restore my objectivity to a certain extent. What remained is the sobering realization that whatever the reason might be for people to resist change, it can result in immense costs – monetary and emotional.

It’s Monday

I try to have no preconceptions about any day of the week. Nevertheless, I can’t deny that Monday tends to be different from the following week days. “Ah, it’s Monday.” seems to be a frequent response to the question “How are you today?” in an office environment on a Monday.* Have you heard or said it today? The simple “Ah, it’s Monday” can express an array of states – dislike, boredom, or… enthusiasm. Yes, Monday can also be associated with enthusiasm, but more often than not it seems to have a negative connotation. This makes me feel sorry for the poor Monday, treated unfairly by so many people. My blog post probably won’t contribute much to improving its reputation, but it’s worth a try especially today when “Ah, it’s Monday” was the prevailing response and impression of my day. What makes Mondays different for you?

Author: Sitwithakid; http://www.sitwithakid.com/; CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Author: Sitwithakid; http://www.sitwithakid.com/; CC BY-SA 3.0 license

*Even though I try to avoid the cliché “Ah, it’s Monday”, I am also guilty of using it.

The Reciprocity Rule in Action

I just started reading Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The first couple of chapters are an interesting and useful read. Chapter 2 is dedicated to the rule for reciprocation as a tool of influence and the author points out the strength of reciprocity as “a device for gaining another’s compliance”. The fair trade exhibition in Stuttgart which I attended today was a good playground to observe the reciprocity rule in action, particularly its power to influence consumer buying behavior.

All booths that offered a fair trade product to try for free were more popular and more successful. One of them was Kallari‘s booth.

Kallari booth at fair trade exhibition 2014 in Stuttgart, Germany

Almost everyone who tried a piece of the delicious fair trade chocolates at their booth also purchased one. Some (like myself) even went back several times to try and buy(!) different flavors of their gourmet chocolate bars. A simple example of how a gift or favor obliges us to repay it (in this case buy it). I am sure we can come up with myriad of other examples which even go far beyond self-interest, and commerce. I wonder what our world would look like without the sense of obligation reciprocity evokes…

Hyacinth Emotions

Believe it or not, but hyacinths have the power of turning back the hands of time for me. When I see them, they take me back to my early childhood and one particular day of the year. This day was March 8th, a day (whether for a good reason or not) celebrated as a women’s day back then. Hyacinths, as beautiful early spring plants, were a preferred present given to all women in one’s family. On March 8th, their fragrance and appearance were everywhere. More than 20 years later, I still associate them with this day.

Author: Hedwig Storch; CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 2.5 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Hedwig Storch; CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 2.5 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Hyacinths are all over the place now. I walked by a garden full of purple hyacinths today and they immediately triggered a mixture of emotions and memories. It’s fascinating how our mind is able to associate certain things, places or smells with the way we felt in a particular time in the past, isn’t it?

I Want a Cookie

I stumbled upon this funny, yet thought-provoking short video today. Ormie working towards getting a jar of cookies. It made me smile and think. Can you relate to Ormie?

Sometimes no matter how hard we try we don’t seem to be able to reach a certain goal. We do things that help us make progress, try new ways of getting there, but we fail… Then stand up, try again and… fail again. There are times when the goal is almost within our grasp. However, for some reason we are still not able to achieve it. You can call that failure and you probably will be right. But if you think failure is the worst thing that can happen to you, you are wrong. Doing nothing is.

Your First Try

Do you remember your first try in baking a cake, giving a presentation or playing an instrument? You probably do. It might have been funny, eye-opening, brilliant, embarrassing or a mix of these. In any case, it certainly was a key learning experience.

Twitter recently introduced a tool that enables its users to easily identify and share their very first tweet. I, like many others twitter users, was pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to re-read my first tiny step in the twitter space. Not so much because of the content, more because it reminded me how I felt – I was happy to have overcome my initial doubts and to have started something new.

I felt in a similar way today after playing beach volleyball for the first time. I never particularly liked sports played with a ball, always thinking that I was lacking the necessary talent (and height). So it was scary to give it a try. Fortunately my nice colleagues and friends* encouraged me to join them. And all of a sudden, I was standing with them on the sand court for my first try. It was not as awkward and horrifying as I had pictured it in my head. In fact, I enjoyed it, felt happy that I made the first step and learned a lot in a short time. I never thought that I would, but now I do look forward to practicing more and to the next game (as soon as my thumbs stop hurting… :-)).

Author: Thadius856 & Parutakupiu; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Thadius856 & Parutakupiu; via Wikimedia Commons

When was the last time you did something new, something that scared you? Doing that more often no matter how scary it looks like at first will help us learn, acquire new skills, and find better solutions. Don’t wait too long, go for your next new experience!

* Mari, Aleks, Bryan, thank you guys for your encouragement and patience!

Please tie your shoes.

I was waiting for my train and typing an e-mail on my smartphone this afternoon when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was an elderly gentleman who simply said “Excuse me, your shoes are untied. Please tie them and watch out when walking.” while passing by. I thanked him for his thoughtful remark and continued writing.

Author: Marcos André; CC BY 2.0 license

Author: Marcos André; CC BY 2.0 license

I heard the same remark often, almost every time just a few seconds before or after my shoes come untied which made me wonder…

1) if it’s part of the German culture I was not so much aware of until now
2) if people stare at my feet and as soon as they see a sign of my shoelaces getting loose they immediately let me know
3) if I tie my shoes correctly

While any or all of these could be true, the last item is the only I can do something about. And believe it or not I found a TED talk about the skill of tying shoes (Terry Moore: How to tie your shoes). I don’t know if it will help me improve my shoe tying skills, but it was definitely one of the witties short talks I’ve seen lately. Three minutes well spent.

One question remains, though. Why do people tend to make others aware of untied shoes more often than of anything else (which is potentially more essential)?

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