Monthly Archives: July 2010

Off Site – Sailing Trip

We went on a sailing trip with the whole department today on the Egberdina and afterwards some dinner in Hoorn. Definitely a nice way to unwind and not think about work for once J

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Work Improvements

It was sometime last week, when I realized that I actually haven’t felt this positive about work since… well, since we moved to Amsterdam, and probably a good deal before that as well. These past two years involved a lot of frustrations, as things never seemed to go as planned, and we had to spend a massive amount of time to work around all the issues we had. There were always a lot of good intentions and great ideas on making structural improvements, but there never seemed to be enough time. When possible, I tried to work extra hours on these improvements — and sometimes I would even ignore my normal work and other people, because well… ‘I know better’ –, but progress was slow, and I was feeling perpetually tired by all the extra work and mental stress that came with it. There were plenty of times when it all just seemed pointless, and I even had fears, somewhat irrationally of course, that things would never improve, and that is something I would view as a colossal failure from my side.

In the meantime, things were always improving, albeit not as fast as I had hoped (but then again, when do things ever go as fast as you hope?). But when you are caught up in the daily operations, you often tend not to notice these improvements, and the negative feelings and perceptions tend to dominate the positive developments. But then this week my colleague Michiel was telling me about some stuff he built (it was a Business Objects universe by the way, for those of you who knows what it is) to help us in our everyday work. As I have a natural tendency towards skepticism, my initial reaction was somewhat lukewarm, at least if I remembered correctly. But as I started thinking about it the next couple of days, it slowly sank into my mind, and I realized that it is indeed a great piece of work, and it truly would make our jobs quicker, simpler, more consistent and more transparent (Speed, Simplicity and Trust, baby!). And what’s more, it is actually a result of all the hard work and extra time we have put into making structural improvements. The first results of our efforts are finally becoming tangible. And if there is something I’ve learnt in the past two years, it’s that it is much, much easier to commit other people to your cause if you have something tangible. Without this tangibility, ideas will just remain that: ideas. If ideas are to become a part of reality, you always need the support of other people – and that’s saying a lot, coming from someone like me who prefers to go solo!

There is still a long, long way to go of course, and I’m still overwhelmed by my to-do list, but things are definitely moving in the right direction. You also see that more and more people are now committed to work on the structural solutions, and even more importantly, we are now working more toward a common solution (it’s amazing how uncommon common solutions are). Looking back now, the main reason why I even decided to stay at Vodafone was because I believed – even during my many, many moments of despair – that things would eventually become better. I did seriously think about leaving at the time, but in the end I felt it was a great opportunity and a nice challenge to be in this situation. Without this belief, without this sense of challenge, I probably would have left already, so it’s nice to see that things are actually starting to work out as I had initially hoped.

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It’s not so much what you do or say…

“It’s not so much what you do or say, but how you make others feel.”

I came across this quote on a Facebook update a few days ago, and it triggered some sort of emotional response within me. I don’t know how philosophical the update was intended to be, but I just kept thinking about it, trying to interpret what the true meaning is. Naturally, I Googled the phrase and I was surprised how obscure the saying turned out to be. I was convinced it was an oft-used phrase. There were just 3 results in total, all originating from the same source. I don’t know if this is also the source for the Facebook update, but the full quote is in this case is (you can find the entire article here):

Winners recognize the truth of the saying: “It’s not so much what you do or say, but how you make others feel.”

I kind of, sort of, maybe understand what is meant with this quote, but I feel wholly uncomfortable with the wording. It was too reminiscent of my own private thoughts, too closely connected to my own anxieties. It sounded too much like something my dark side repeated to me over and over again during the past few weeks, even as I tried my best to ignore it: “In the end, how hard I try, what I do, or say will not make a difference. Because I am not able, never will be able, to make that other person feel special.” I know, I know… the contexts and the meanings are probably completely different, but the quote just doesn’t work for me. Even if I now set aside my own fears for a minute; is how you make others feel the barometer of your worth? Feelings are often inconsistent, little more than an illusion; they are often a poor reflection of reality. Surely, what you actually do or say is in many cases more important than how you make others feel? Logically speaking, you can justify any terrible deed then, as long as you can make other people feel good about it. And on the other extreme, if you do a good deed for someone who perhaps doesn’t appreciate or even notice it, does that mean then that the deed has no meaningful value at all. I choose to believe otherwise, at least during my better moments. If you truly care about someone, how that person feels about you is of secondary importance.

Interestingly, the quote in the article that preceded this quote works much better for me: “A winner is someone who tries as hard as they can, without sacrificing their values, their integrity, or time with their family.” To me, the two quotes are incompatible with each other. You shouldn’t sacrifice your beliefs, your integrity, no matter how others feel about it.

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Lost Respect for the Dutch team

I’m happy that Spain won the World Cup yesterday instead of the Netherlands.

There, I’ve said it. Spain was the better team and deserved to win. For the past two years I have enjoyed the way Spain played, and for me they are the best team in the world by far. But that is not the real reason why I’m happy about it. Instead, it has more to do with how the Dutch team approached the game, which has very little to do with football.

The fouls that Mark van Bommel made, and kept making even after his yellow card, most of them on Iniesta. The way he flopped when Iniesta stuck out his arm towards him. The way Nigel de Jong planted his boot into Xabi Alonso’s chest. The way Robben just kept whining for minutes after he was fouled by Puyol. The way the coach and players kept complaining about the referee after the match. The more I think about these moments, the more disappointed I am. No, the Spaniards were hardly saints themselves. The way Iniesta for example kept asking for yellow cards was highly annoying. And no, Howard Webb was hardly impeccable in his decisions. But they failed to mention that both van Bommel and de Jong should have gotten red cards in the first half. And the yellow cards were all deserved. Instead of pointing to the referee, they should also take some responsibility by admitting that they purposely provoked the Spanish players and that they let the match degrade into a brawling match at times. I hope that they will also read some foreign articles as well, and that they will realize that the world is almost unanimous in their negative verdict on how they played and behaved. The Dutch team lost a lot of hard-earned respect around the world yesterday.

If this approach is the price for winning the World Cup, then give me back the old Oranje. I still have many, many fond memories of those Dutch teams of old, even if they always did manage to lose in the most dramatic ways possible. If this Dutch team had won yesterday, it would have left me with a very bitter taste instead. But I don’t want to romanticize the past; I was actually more than happy with the more realistic way the Dutch team played throughout the tournament, as it was definitely a big reason for the success (along with a bit of luck). But they blatantly crossed the line yesterday. Now let us hope it was merely an incident, brought about by the immense and unfamiliar pressure of being in a World Cup final…

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Italia 1990 – Memories of my First World Cup

During every World Cup, my mind would invariably wander back to previous World Cups, and in particular to the one in 1990 in Italy, as it was my very first World Cup, and in fact, was the very first time that I actually started watching football. For some reason, I never paid attention to football before that, even though I had by then lived in the Netherlands for one-and-a-half years, and that we were living in a golden age of Dutch football (PSV 1988, Euro 1988, AC Milan 1989-1990, FC Barcelona 1992). This is the tournament that introduced me to the beautiful game. Of course, the overwhelming opinion is that the games were not particularly beautiful during that tournament, with a lot of defensive tactics and bookings, and is generally regarded as the most boring World Cup ever. But tell that to a 11-year-old who had never been exposed to football before. For me, Italia 1990 will always retain a certain mystique, and the way I experienced it is totally different than the way I experience football in the future.

As it is now exactly 20 years since that tournament, I thought it would be nice to recap some of my fondest (and some not so fond) memories (thanks to YouTube for refreshing my memory on many of these moments). These moments may not all be necessarily the most famous or most distinguishing moments during the tournament, but rather what jumps to my mind when someone mentions Italia 1990 to me (for instance, Gazza’s tears after the semi-final is not in, because I have no actual recollection of seeing it live). So without further ado, and in no particular order:

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