Posts tagged ‘motivation’

March 15, 2012

The enemy

Junk-food needs not be bought at McDonalds. It needn’t be food at all,  the motions are the same whether it’s internet or TV or sugar or whatever: anything that we have an urge to consume, knowing full-well before and during and after we’ve consumed it that not only it doesn’t have true value, but is also destructive in the long run, and yet we still do it because it satiates some sort of need… that is the enemy.

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March 11, 2012

From mud

There is rarely, if ever, a need to finish this sentence.

If that sounded like gibberish, it’s because it is, but it needed to be written.

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February 20, 2012

Gone before you got around to missing it

After postponing  it for probably half a decade, I finally decided to go through our old CD collection with my dad. We were supposed to sort through all of it and see what’s for keeping.

I haven’t touched those CDs in years, so when we finally started going through all of them, all the cover art started giving me a veritable flood of nostalgia – games, movies and music from quite literally the previous millennium, from various phases of my life, each title releasing a small cloud of memories. There were a lot of unmarked CDs too, so I knew that there were many, many hours ahead of sorting through them and finding even more god knows what sort of old stuff I used to consume, or never got around to; and I was more and more looking forward to it.

We put probably a hundred CDs in the designated garbage bag, and almost twice as many discs in another, identical bag, for later sorting through. You can see where this is going.

When I realized I threw out the wrong bag, the feeling was so unusual that I went pretty much straight through the 5 stages of grief and into acceptance.

It’s like I’ve been given a typical script from everyday life, but with some of the bits tumbled around so that everything is a bit off and you get a twist ending. There was this whole new parallel universe, so to speak, a world of potentiality in which I was to indulge, coming into being. And, just as quickly as it came, it was gone.

What I’m sort of trying to preserve now is the memory of that range of feelings, the sudden rush of happiness coupled with the abrupt disappearance of that world of possibilities. It’s like winning a small lottery (which you in fact had all the time) and then loosing it all over again. Apart from that big lesson of sudden gain and loss, every time I think about the experience, I feel like I can learn something new.

Here’s one of the lessons I don’t want to end up in the garbage bag. Lately I’ve been trying to define some approach to keeping my Japanese alive, maybe even gain some ground with the kanji.  Among those now-gone CDs were also a few anime compilations, which inspired a new rush of motivation for studying the language when I found them. Now they’re gone and the motivation went pretty much with them.

If I know that an adequate environment is one of the important things for learning and motivation, should I really wait for blind chance to offer me with one? Isn’t there this thing called the internet where you can get pretty much anything you need? Why didn’t I do that earlier: download all the shows and  then get around to deciding what I would like to do with my Japanese?


February 17, 2012

You could be dead next Friday

All you have to do is take away one quite important minute out of each day.

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July 31, 2010

Lessons from tango – how to do things well

During a very turbulent time for me when student protests, moving and other things came my way, I slowly became aware that tango has not only been having a more and more profound impact on my life in many ways, but it had become the one good constant; an example and comparison, in fact, of how I could do everything else. This awareness grew to the point of happy bemusement (sometimes bordering on irritability): while all my conscious attempts to improve various aspects of myself and my life have been processes with their highs and (oh so many) lows, tango started great and, without any seeming intervention on my part, only became better. I thought about why this was so, and one of the things I came up with is a concrete list of the circumstances that I had in tango which made it all possible:

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May 25, 2009

The calm after the storm

I really have a hard time not only comprehending how quickly the last few months have past, but how different that person looking ahead from a few months ago is. I am now for the first time in the paradoxal situation of looking forward to studying for my exams, because of how simple that is – you don’t make arrangements or intricate schedules or  negotiate with the books, you just goddamn sit down and study from them. Too many things have happened recently, most of them demanding that I put them down of paper, but it simply didn’t feel right to do it yet. But now it feels right.

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January 12, 2009

from Rembrandt to Jack Daniels – doing vs. wanting to do

Nikola: “Hey, there’s an exhibition of Rembrandt’s work in Zagreb, wanna go?”

me: “I don’t listen to hip-hop.  Yeah ok, but it’s not like I’ll understand it.”

Nikola: “Yeah, me neither, but can’t we at least give it a try?”

True. And besides, I’ve been having a growing desire to understand art. Until recently I was pretty much part of the “What’s the big deal with Mona Lisa anyway?” crowd. Ok, I still am. I’d like to understand art, enjoy it etc. but I don’t really know how. All of my attempts to get to know art had ended in my looking at paintings and going “Oh look, a naked lady, drawn nicely. Oh, a guy sitting very still, thankfully not naked, drawn nicely. Booooriiing”.  I’ve never felt the je ne sais quoi you’re supposed to feel when in front of a masterpiece.

And don’t get me started on abstract art.

However, after a few years of an on and off relationship with drawing, combined with an awesome high-school art teacher, my art sense finally started tingling. It’s not something I can really express in words, other than, well, I’d really like to stand in front of a large picture and finally understand that je ne sais motherfucking quoi.

So, off I went to Zagreb.

A little back-story. Nikola, who invited me, is a friend I’ve known since we were kids. Since he’s from Split, our friendship for the most of our lives was  “that cool dude I see once or twice a year” i.e. whenever I go to visit my mom’s family from Split.

That was until one december evening of 2005 when we were chatting and he suggested we could walk across Spain. I took him up on the offer, and next summer we spent one month walking some 800 km, from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. It was an amazing experience, and one of a number of examples of Nikola and me motivating each other to, simply put, do things.

Because Nikola is one of those people who do things. If they want to do something (and they often do), they usually make it happen. Spain is one example. Another is a several thousand miles long trip across land and sea from Croatia to Japan (Croatian only, but lots of nice pics). Or a group of creative people he organized which made several satirical and Monty-Pythonish sketches which were a small sensation in Croatia (homepage is in Croatian only).

A lot of people have ideas. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did a road-trip?”. “I have the bestest idea for a best-selling book ever” “Being an interpreter is awesome, all I have to do is learn 4 languages.” And stuff like that.

However, when it comes to making those things happen, it’s oh so easy to postpone them. “I’ll start tomorrow, honest.” “I don’t have the time now, I have to study for exams.” “It’s not like I really wanted to do that anyway.” And stuff like that.

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November 13, 2008

an experiment in simple solutions

Before every exam period since I’ve been a student of the Philological Faculty, I would see the same scene: A very long queue for buying the exam application paper. Here’s what it looks like


From what older students tell me, it’s been like this for years. And what’s causing it? The fact that you can only purchase the application paper at that one spot. It’s relatively cheap (less than half a euro per application), but you still have to pay for it, because the faculty wants as much money as possible. This process of giving money and the clerk printing the fiscal receipt and giving you the application takes some 15-20 seconds or so per person, but because of the number of people who need the application, it means you end up waiting over an hour in order to buy a piece of paper.

The problem doesn’t really affect the professors and the working of the faculty, if we take out the fact that every 3 months people will be frustrated by having to stand in long queues. Oh, it also degrades our image as an institution, but that’s nothing new to us. In any case, none of the professors is interested in solving this situation, since it doesn’t really affect them in any way (apart from having to walk through the crowd when they enter the faculty building, because that’s where the place for buying the applications is).

But, here’s something which makes the whole situation even more bizzare. You can buy that piece of paper all year long! That’s right, during most of the year when there are no queues whatsoever, you can go and buy that very same piece of paper! This means that for every person that buys the application form before the exam period means that there will be one less person in the queue during the exam period; or maybe there won’t be, gasp, any queue at all!

Everyone knows that you can buy these forms throughout the year. So why don’t they?

They forget.

So, let me try to sum up: every 3 months, every year, without fail, you have the same problem. Possibly the simplest solution, excluding trying to fix it through systematic changes (as this would be met by huge resistance of the very numerous and influential change-is-risky crowd), is glaringly obviousget the people to buy the forms before the exam period. As I said, this is at most a 20 second procedure, so in the small every day queue of at most half a dozen people, you’d get the forms in 2-3 minutes.

How can you get the people to buy the forms before the exam period? Well, let’s say you could suggest to them that they buy the forms before the exam period (yes, I’m repeating myself on purpose. I’m still dumbfounded by this whole thing). For instance, with this:


This is the English translation of the draft version of a poster which I did in less than 3 minutes in Photoshop. I took the pictures during one of the exam periods, because the idea was in my head for some time now. I’ll do a nicer version of the poster, but honestly, I’m thinking that this is enough.

The management unanimosly approved and praised my idea –  an idea for which all that was needed was 3 minutes of Photoshop, a couple of Euros for printing and a few minutes of putting the posters up at several key places in the faculty.

Why hasn’t anyone thought of such a simple solution? Out of the tens of thousands of students who have over the years sat in the faculty cafes and complained about the queues, out of all the people in the administration whose job it is to make this faculty work, out of the numerous student activists who had set out to improve this faculty and who went through the same problems, why hasn’t there been one other person who thought of something like this? Why is it so difficult to fix a problem even when both the problem and its solution are so obvious?

This is just the tip of the iceberg of problems, but what’s striking here is the combination of factors – the regularity of the problem, the huge number of people affected and, most of all, the simplicity of the solution. This goes to show so many things, worst of which is what Tolstoy’s talking about: If the current situation isn’t completely unbearable, people won’t change it.

One of my projects in the next several months will try to challenge and change the current mentality towards problems, their solutions and being a more (pro)active student in general. This poster is one of those attempts. I’ll write more about this project in the next few days, and I’ll post an update on how effective the poster was. The exam period queues start in a month and the poster’s going up on Monday, so we’ll see how much effect it will have.Even if it doesn’t produce the desired effect, it will have been useful, because it will be another indicator of what the situation on my faculty is really like. It will also plunge me into an even deeper state of zen needed to live with the fact that I’m trying to help people who don’t want to help themselves, but who am I to complain to life’s little lessons?

November 10, 2008

isolation experiment – the aftermath

So it’s been a few weeks since my isolation experiment, and I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the experiment, to observe myself after it etc.

When I came back to Belgrade, I quickly slipped into my usual routine of time-wasting in front of the screen. It’s amazing, sitting there, looking at the screen, telling yourself “Look, you’re clearly not doing anything productive right now.” and then simply clicking on the next link. And the next one. And the next one.

Fortunately, this only lasted for a week or so, as this time, I was armed with the experience from Split. Remembering that I read a book every day even though my concentration was bad (because of the flu), the strong motivation and the good feeling that came from such clearly defined goals and a lack of distractions… all of those things motivated me to set some clear goals which I really want to accomplish, and I know that in pursuing and reaching them the idling in front of the screen will simply cease to feel necessary, or even good.

I’ve also become even more antagonistic towards Facebook, MSN and internet in general. I fully agree that they are incredibly useful when used properly. However, they have a way of becoming a part of the daily routine which then influences people’s behavior negatively: spending an hour or so every day on Facebook,  chatting and doing quizzes, may seem like nothing much, simply because the negative effects are not that apparent. However, there are negative effects.

People in general have a problem with sticking to moderation in their behavior (“Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation” St. Augustine), and with the internet it’s easier than ever to go down the “just one more” path, whether it’s a link, a Facebook quiz or whatever. But I think that this sort of behavior is more easily remedied by doing something productive, instead of constantly forcing yourself not to do it – the reason you’re waisting time in front of the screen is because you are, say, bored and you have a need; a need which is currently fulfiled by Facebook. Do something more productive, fulfilling etc. and that need will be satisfied, and you simply won’t feel like spending so much time online. Also, the benefits from whatever you’re doing are way better than that hour in front of the screen.

that’s it for the isolation experiment. Of course, if you have any questions concerning any aspect of the experiment, or my thoughts on Facebook, internet etc. feel free to ask.

November 2, 2008

isolation experiment pt. 1

I’ve successfully completed my isolation experiment. It lasted 9 days, from Sunday to Monday. It had many positive effects on me, but first the preliminary details:

The isolation consisted of:

– no contact of any kind with almost anyone from my life in Serbia (no cell-phone, email, Facebook, MSN).

There were two planned exceptions: my family (you sort of have to tell them you’re alive every now and then) and a colleague with whom I’m doing a very important project which couldn’t bear the isolation (I opened a new email account just for this correspondence with him).
An unexpected exception was Sunday 19th, because I realized that Google’s big idea project had a deadline for Monday, so I had to urgently contact my friend from Serbia with whom I completed the application.

– no unnecessary websurfing, watching TV etc.

This rule came about spontaneously during my isolation. Basically, no youtube, webcomics (which I read a lot) or anything fun and interesting on the web, TV etc. internet was used only for getting information I needed for my work. I made a few small exceptions, but in general I stuck to it throughout the isolation.

As fir the reasons why I decided to isolate myself: I had a LOT of work to get done, while on a visit to my family for some personal matters which required my attention, so the isolation was as much an experiment as it was a necessity to get things done.

So, the impressions:

Since I spend at the very least an hour a day online not doing anything useful, sitting in front of the computer and just working was in the beginning a strange sensation. There’s like this itch in your head telling you to open 7 more windows, check your email, visit Facebook… several times I would open a new window and start typing in an address and I would become aware of it only a moment before hitting enter (my friend calls this the “ctrl-t ctrl-t ctrl-t” syndrome, ctrl-t being the Firefox shortcut for opening a new tab).

However, apart from these moments in front of the screen, the rest of the day I was much more productive. Knowing that I simply have no method of wasting time, my motivation for getting things done was a lot higher. I read several books, wrote the first half of a compilation of tips for youth activism, made a strategic plan for one big project, sent the application for the google idea thing… and even the stupid flu didn’t stop me from working.

This isolation also gave me the time to reflect on some personal issues in my life and, in a way, regroup for the coming semester. I have a lot of work ahead of me and I needed something like this to plan out at least a rough outline of what I should do.
In the second part I’ll write more about the thoughts and feelings that came out after this experiment, concerning isolation, motivation, Facebook, internet in general, how they influence us  etc.