29.9.11

The more you complain the longer God makes you live

Things are different down here in Mexico. 

I arrived here not by design, but because I was hitchhiking in the U.S. And some truck driver dumped me near the Mexican border. I thought, well, check it out. That was in 1989…..

I started to notice that ‘things were different’ when I set up a language school in the heart of Mexico-City. I did it all legally and officially, a lot of red tape, and a huge learning curve. And I was continually complaining, about this, that and the other.

Let me say in my defense that I was ‘only’ thirty at the time, a lad having a ball, having a go at striking it rich.

However, the emotional energy I wasted by complaining about things which I couldn’t change still surprises me.

Nowadays I don’t complain anymore (well, almost never). First of all, I got in a rut, after 22 years I know which way the wind blows.

Secondly, and more importantly, I’m simply too mature by now to complain. The order of the day for me now is to work around the problems I cannot solve – and I got pretty good at that.

27.9.11

The Practical Value Of Faith

Let me start this entry with a curiosum. As far as I know, and I was born and raised in Germany, I am, in fact, a German, there is no exact equivalent to the English word “faith”, or indeed the Spanish word “fé” in the German language. I have elsewhere written about the pitfalls of translation, but here it is clear, “faith” and “fé” mean exactly the same, mainly the evidence of things not seen. And that paradigm, that concept does not exist in the German psyche. Unless I just haven’t come across it, which I find hard to believe.

Whatever, this entry is about the kind of faith even an atheist or agnostic can have. We tend to associate faith mainly with one or another religion, a deity, you name it. But it is basically an inner attitude of hope and believe, a certainty that things will turn out all-right. And of course, that inner attitude lends itself readily when associated with belief in God, a life thereafter, etc.

I personally have been a disciple/practitioner of various religions over the years, but faith has eluded me. But I’m working hard on getting it. Why? Because it hit me kind of recently, and it’s very simple: people with faith are having a better time!

I don’t want to fall into clichés like ‘cup half empty'  or 'cup half full’ and stuff like that. That was pretty cool in the nineties, but it has kind of worn itself out. But at this stage of my life I have come to realize that it absolutely doesn’t matter how I see the future.

Things happen the way they happen, good and bad, bingo, it’s called life. And I have to invest the same emotional energy for expecting good things to happen or bad. And since it doesn’t make a difference, I might as well go for the good stuff – at least I’m having a better time on the trip.

15.9.11

Leadership On-The-Rocks

For a couple of years I gave German classes to a gentleman in the chemical industry. When I started with him he was head of the marketing department of a multinational concern here in Mexico.

Let’s call him Fernando S.

You know those people you meet for the first time and you just feel okay? I consider it a major characteristic of effective leadership, having this special gift of making people around you  feel comfortable. It’s the emanation of an attitude that  recognizes that you can’t lead without followers and that every follower is a potential leader.

Fernando S. began to have major problems with his boss, a classic clash of personalities. I never met his boss, but by then I knew that he, Fernando S., wasn’t particularly skilled in following orders which just didn’t make sense to him.

But he lost.

For the next 6 months our meetings took place in an obscure, last century building, 10  blocks removed from the corporate offices of the company he worked for. Fernando S. was now technical consultant to a department nobody had ever heard of,  working in an office which used to be a meeting room, and had to do without a secretary.

And he still made me feel good.

To make a long story short, Fernando S. is now in charge of the most lucrative product line his company sells, working both from corporate headquarters in the U.S. and Mexico-City, supervising production, sales and marketing worldwide.

And he still makes me feel good.

It sounds like a cliché, but life is full of up’s and down’s. And we all have to deal with  mood-swings  and negative emotional states. But a leader can’t afford  to take his people with him on that roller-coaster ride. It’s relatively easy to be excited one moment because targets have been met on time and depressed the next because the world economy is going for a downturn. It takes skill to maintain (at least outwardly) a balance, where the glass  is neither half-empty nor half-full, but just is.

A leader reflects objectivity not only when dealing with production quotas, but by managing and influencing his/her own emotional states.

8.9.11

Advice For Intermediate Students Of A Foreign Language

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

First of all, the fact that you are reading this post probably means that your are learning a foreign language, or are at least about to. Let me congratulate you, learning (and eventually speaking) another language requires stamina and discipline, but the rewards are well worth it.

I’m not referring here to a specific language, but any language that you might be learning, and the advise I will give here applies to all of them.

There are two main blocks in a language – vocabulary and grammar. Put in another way, you are building a house, and the grammar you are dealing with is like the metal and concrete structure, and the vocabulary are the bricks you put into that structure. This post is concerned with the bricks, the words you have to learn.

As the title suggests, you have already built a strong fundament, you have a basic understanding of the language, and you are eager to talk – but you feel that you don’t know enough words.

Let me help you by telling you about my personal experience. The second foreign language I learned was English (and I seem to have done well LOL). I was exactly in that position, feeling like chatting away with my friends, but always groping for words. Until I started reading English books…….

Now, I obviously didn’t start with Shakespeare, but I got hold of some cheap novel about Adolf Hitler (of all people…). Somehow, in this novel, they deep-froze his head and surgicaly put in on another, younger body back in the eighties – total crap, obviously, but can you imagine how I felt when I finished the book? Absolutely on top of the world, because it was my FIRST English book, and I understood the story.

Remember, at that time I was on an intermediate level, and I didn’t understand half the words – BUT IT DIDN’T MATTER, I got the story, I understood the plot, and I had fun.

And, something very important, I didn’t TRY to understand every word. I didn’t read the book with a dictionary at my side, looking up a word every 5 minutes – that would have taken the fun out of it, and it is important that you have fun. Again, I understood the story line.

But here is what happens if you do the same. You might come across a word you don’t understand at this point, in a specific context. You continue reading, and a couple of pages later you find the same word BUT IN A DIFFERENT CONTEXT. You are beginning to get the idea, and, after a couple of pages, you find it again, yet again in a different context. See what I’m getting at?

Applying this technique you will learn new vocabulary without being aware of it. It’s kind of contextual learning, very akin to total immersion. And, as in total immersion, do not translate into your mother language unless it’s absolutely necessary. More than anything, it would slow down your efforts.

So, go and grab yourself some cheap paperback and have some fun.

4.9.11

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers

That quote, attributed to Pablo Picasso, touches on a fundamental subject. And it ain’t about computers.

Science hasn’t come up yet with a conclusive answer to the question on how we humans think. But looking at it from a practical point of view Anthony Robbins for example defines thinking as a series of questions we constantly ask in our minds.

Makes sense to me. And from that follows that the quality of our thinking is determined by the quality of the questions we ask. Ask a dumb question and you get a dumb answer. Ask a smart question, get a smart answer.

“Why is this always happening to me?” belongs to the first category, particularly when taking into consideration that our mind comes up with an answer to ANY question that’s asked on a consistent basis. And it doesn’t matter how absurd the question is, ask it often enough, your mind will find an answer.

Which in the above example might be “because you deserve it”, “it’s God’s punishment”, or “it’s because you’re ugly and smell”.

Seriously now, I can’t really come up with an intelligent answer to that particular question. I can think, however, of a smart substitute. How about “How can I turn into advantage the things that are happening to me?”

3.9.11

The Case For And Against Christ

Even though I’m not a particularly religious person, I am very much interested in all things pertaining to the beyond and a higher power (if it is only one, that is). I have read widely, practiced religion myself, and continue to meditate on a consistent basis.

Now, take the question of whether the gospels are a true, historic account of the life of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection. A very intriguing subject, at least for me. So I shopped around and got a couple of books.

I read ‘The Case For Christ’, where the author, Lee Strobel, interviewed a series of eminent historians on the matter. Finishing this book, I was impressed. It was so well written, with so many historical facts and scientific evidence, that I was convinced: Of course, it’s all true, exactly as the Bible says.

I read as well ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail´ by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. What a treat! All three of them distinguished journalists with years of experience in historical investigation and analysis. And it turned out that the whole thing was a hoax, the gospels an arbitrary compilation of what the early church fathers wanted to be put in it.

My point here is, you find well documented evidence either way, and it’s basically just a question of what answer you are looking for.