Read More Warrior
On a quest to search for lifelong learning
Hello there! Ready to Devour some Books?
Hi, I am Quinten Voordeckers and I want to present you to my friend the Read More Warrior. The Read More Warrior told me that he wants YOU to read more books. “Why?” you might ask. Well, he is convinced that reading books is the easiest way to ensure Lifelong Learning. He is on a journey to find the 50 most life-changing books. So if you don’t know which books to read, I recommend you start with the books on his 50-Book Project list. If you want to stay updated about how to read more books or if you want to read some thoughts about certain books, I will guide you to my blog, just scroll down!
Join the Read More warrior Club!
Subscribe to the Read More Warrior’s monthly newsletter for book recommendations, the most important lesson of the month, blog post updates and way more. Stay tuned!
Hello there! Nice to meet you! I’m the Read More Warrior and welcome to my blog. I would really like to get to know you better. However, I feel like I first have to introduce myself. There is no better way to introduce myself than by showing my CV, right? So I made my CV and asked Quinten Voordeckers to post it. Here it is:
Full name: The Read More Warrior
Date of birth: 7th of January 2022
- Life is my educator
- Finding the 50 most life-changing books
- Becoming a book
- Lifelong learning
- Figuring out how to use social media (and not let it use me)
- Seeing a little girl with a flower in her hand
- Meeting the Learn More Wizard
- Piercing through magnolia flowers with arrows
- Drawing armies
- Playing the piano in the library
- Entering a creepy cave
- Talking to strangers with pink clothes
- Chasing fireflies
- Spreading my wings
- Slaying dragons (I battle daily with the dragon Resistance)
- Writing and drawing
- READING a lot of good books
- Real listening
- Bullet journaling
My Companions and Weapons:
- My sword called Courage
- My bird called Curiosity
- My book called Honesty
- Rubber bands
- Bullet journals
- I’m still doubting what my mother tongue is: English or Nederlands?
- Here and there I might use some palabras en Español
- Je suis en train d’apprendre le Français
Note: You can click on the drawings to go to a post about that subject.
Book 8: Essentialism – Greg McKeown
Lesson 8: Know what is essential
Book 9: You’re Not Listening – Kate Murphy
Lesson 9: Don’t think about what you are going to say next, just be present and ask questions.
Book 10: Courage is Calling – Ryan Holiday
Lesson 10: “Don’t be afraid to play a false note, because one false note is not as bad as a beautiful song the world will never hear.” – My great-grandmother
Book 11: The Power of Strangers – Joe Keohane
Lesson 11: Talk to strangers. If you don’t know what to talk about, just follow your curiosity!
Book 12: The Archer – Paulo Coelho
Lesson 12: Life is a journey. Fire your arrows.
Book 13: Meditation & Mindfulness – Andy Puddicombe
Lesson 13: Meditation is not only for hippies.
Book 14: The Bullet Journal Method – Ryder Carroll
Lesson 14: Get a bullet journal and use it. It will get your actions closer to your beliefs!
Which of the above lessons resonates most with you? Read the post linked with this lesson even if you’ve already read it. Repeating is the first step of internalization.
A little story: Losing a precious thought
Open your eyes, I’ve put a notebook and a pencil in front of you. Write in it. (~Learn More Wizard)
The Read More Warrior picked up the notebook and opened it. He noticed that the pages were filled with little dots. This must be a bullet journal. On the first page, a quote was written:
Why do you show me this, dear Learn More Wizard? The warrior waited for a response, but the wizard was gone and out of his mind. Please come back, I need your wisdom. The wizard was not coming back, the warrior was on his own now. His overwhelming thoughts were still zooming around him like trains. Focussing on his breath had helped him for some minutes, but it was not a long-term solution. So, the warrior decided to listen to the wizard’s last three words.
What am I going to write? The warrior thought for a bit and started to write about how he felt. He wrote about what had happened to him. He wrote about the swirl of lights, the firefly, and the trains. When he was writing it down, it reminded him of a long time ago.
It was one of those nights when he used to lie down on a soft moss carpet in the middle of the forest. The light of the full moon illuminated his face while he was watching the stars. This was his favourite spot to relax and catch fireflies. Suddenly, the most beautiful firefly he had ever seen, flashed by. He got up to his feet to chase it and tried to capture the firefly, but it was an elusive one. He zigzagged between the trees, jumped over the trunks and swayed his net from left to right. In the end, he could finally catch it, YESSSS!, and he put it into a glass jar.
What am I going to do with it now? Will I take it home with me and keep it for myself? Or should I set it free, so that others can enjoy its beauty? The warrior was doubting. Eventually, he decided it would be better to set it free, but he first wanted to ensure that he would never forget the firefly. So he took a post-it and made a drawing of the firefly. He folded it and put it in his pocket.
You can go now. And the warrior opened the lit of the jar.
A blaring horn disrupted his nostalgic thoughts. With the trains still zooming around him, all he wanted was to see the firefly again. He searched for the drawing in his pocket, but it wasn’t there any more, he had lost it somewhere. His heart sank. He promised himself never again to draw or write something important on a post-it. From now on, he would use his bullet journal.
It started with notebooks
When I was still a little boy, I never had a diary. “Diaries are for girls” was what people said. This changed when one day in high school, a good friend of mine gifted me a diary. I liked it a lot, but it took two years before I used her gift. I wrote in it when something happened in my life that I never wanted to forget. Mostly, I wrote for hours and hours when I actually needed to sleep. Later at university, I bought a little notebook, which I could take with me everywhere. That was when it all really started.
One notebook, though, was not enough for me. Even though the previous one was not finished yet, I already bought a new one. After a while, I had a big collection of notebooks, ranging from the ones you get for free at job fairs to the most beautiful ones in bookshops. Some I used for my projects such as learning Spanish, others as a workbook, and still others for my thoughts. I had written down my thoughts in such a fragmented way, that when I wanted to reread a specific thought, I needed to go through all my notebooks, my phone and my laptop in order to find it. Oh yeah, and chances were pretty high that the thought was somewhere on a crumpled post-it at the bottom of a garbage can.
Then I read “The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll and it all changed.
The Bullet Journal Method: A Disclaimer
Most people when they hear the word “bullet journal” think of beautifully illustrated notebooks with calligraphy letters. Remove these images from your head! That is not what bullet journaling is about!
The Key Advantages
I like the bullet journal method mainly because of 3 reasons:
A bullet journal is kind of like a Swiss army knife. It is designed to collect all kinds of thoughts. Before using the bullet journal method, I wrote down my thoughts in various places. Now I can centralize all of them in one place and never have to wonder where I wrote them again.
2. Writing by hand
The higher effort required to write by hand is actually an advantage. It forces you to distil the idea to its essence. This is an important skill, certainly when you are following a lecture or a meeting. As Ryder Carroll puts it:
Moreover, if what you want to write is not worth the seconds it takes to write it, it is probably not that important. Additionally, this distillation process, makes you think more deeply, which in its turn enhances learning.
*I think it’s kinda ironic that I typed over this sentence instead of writing it down by hand XD.
While reading the book I realized that the book integrates various concepts, such as digital minimalism, essentialism, meditation & mindfulness, and atomic habits, which I already knew from other places. I really liked that, because it helped me to internalize these concepts on a deeper level. I could internalize them better because of Intentionality.
But what is meant by intentionality? Well….
I’ve noticed that reading inspiring books or watching productivity videos is not enough to make a change. They might be the spark that will set the wood on fire, but we will also have to keep it burning. We have to take action towards our beliefs. Using a bullet journal is the perfect way to do just that. It reminds us what we should do in order to get closer to our beliefs. This, for example, is in the form of daily, monthly and yearly reflections.
How I use my bullet journal
I use my bullet journal…
- As a diary for the interesting things that happen in my life
- As a notebook to capture my creative ideas
- To keep an overview of my tasks
- To plan and think about my future
- To keep track of the books I’ve read and still want to read
- To never forget the most interesting conversations I had
Extra: A tale of two lives
Ryder Carroll proposes to do a little exercise in the book which is called “A tale of two lives”. With this exercise, you should take your bullet journal and start thinking about two different paths: the well-worn path and the path less traveled. Imagine going down the well-worn path. Set a timer of 10 minutes and try to describe the different aspects of this future as detailed as possible. Try to imagine your carreer, where you live and the people around you. After the 10 minutes, do the same for the path less traveled.
When you have written down both tales, let it rest for a while and come back to it some days or weeks later. Read what you have written for both tales and decide which one you like the most. Now, try to live up to that one. It helped me a lot to get a sense of direction in life.
Buy a bullet journal, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Use the following code for taking notes in the bullet journal:
This will get you started.
Dear Read More Warrior
[Nederlandse versie onderaan]
I always thought it was scary to put you into the world. I kept you in a little cage for more than a year now. You belonged to me, and no one else was permitted to see you. Nobody knew you existed. Only a few times, I took you on a leash to visit some friends or family. I knew you wanted more.
You wanted to see the world, but I thought it was a bad idea.
You wanted to spread the idea of Lifelong Learning, but I held you back.
You wanted to motivate people to read more books, but I didn’t let you.
You wanted to live.
I realized that I was projecting a lot of my expectations onto you. Maybe, I shouldn’t have done that. I think it is time for me to open the door of your little cage, even though it scares me. I will try to help you as well as I can. I will write stories about you and make drawings of you. I will be your assistant and your guide.
You can spread your wings now, I am proud of you.
I present you the Read More Warrior: https://readmorewarrior.com/
Directed to the reader:
Thanks for reading this, it means a lot to me. I am planning a BIG project that will start around September, so stay tuned.
If you are interested in reading books, Lifelong Learning, writing or drawing, feel free to contact me. I will be very happy to talk to you! 😊
PS I will only ask one thing of you. Would you please go off your phone or computer after checking out https://readmorewarrior.com/? I already feel guilty about stealing your precious time in real life.
Het leek me altijd eng om je in de wereld te zetten. Al langer dan een jaar houd ik je gevangen in een klein kooitje. Je was van mij en niemand anders mocht je zien. Niemand wist iets af van je bestaan. Slechts enkele keren heb ik je aan de leiband mee naar vrienden of familie genomen. Ik wist dat je meer wou.
Je wilde de wereld zien, maar ik vond dat een slecht idee.
Je wilde het idee van Levenslang Leren verspreiden, maar ik hield je tegen.
Je wilde mensen motiveren om meer boeken te lezen, maar dat liet ik niet toe.
Je wilde leven.
Ik realiseerde me dat ik veel van mijn verwachtingen op jou projecteerde. Misschien zou ik dat niet mogen gedaan hebben. Ik denk dat het tijd is voor mij om de deur van je kooitje open te zetten, ook al maakt het me bang. Ik zal mijn uiterste best doen om je te helpen. Ik zal verhalen over je schrijven en tekeningen van je maken. Ik zal je assistent en je gids zijn.
Je kan je vleugels nu uitslaan. Ik ben trots op jou.
Ik presenteer u de Read More Warrior: https://readmorewarrior.com/
Gericht naar de lezer:
Bedankt om dit te lezen, het betekent veel voor me. Ik ben een GROOT project aan het plannen dat start vanaf september. Wordt vervolgd.
Moest je geïnteresseerd zijn in boeken lezen, Levenslang Leren, schrijven of tekenen, voel je vrij om me te contacteren. Het zou me heel blij maken om met jou te babbelen! 😊
PS Ik zou je nog één ding willen vragen. Zou je na het bekijken van https://readmorewarrior.com/ misschien van je smartphone of computer af willen gaan? Niet slecht bedoeld, maar ik voel me schuldig om wat waardevolle tijd van je te stelen, die je ook in het echte leven had kunnen spenderen.
A Little Story
*PANG PANG*. The smell of burning rubber hung in the air. A young warrior was firing little colourful objects towards a destructive dragon called Resistance. These objects were the most effective munition he had: rubber bands. It kept the dragon at a distance for a while, but still, the dragon crept closer and closer. The dragon was not close enough to be slain by the sword of courage. I need to find another weapon. All he had was a sheet of paper, a black marker and a book. Suddenly, an idea popped into his head.
He took the marker and made a drawing. The warrior drew himself, slaying the dragon Resistance. He looked up again, hoping Resistance would be gone like a magical self-fulfilling prophecy. F*ck this creature is still crawling towards me. It seemed as if the dragon was enjoying the suffering of the warrior, knowing that quickly biting the warrior’s head off would spoil the fun too soon. The warrior removed the sweat on his forehead, returned to the sheet and added: “Read daily, your future self will be grateful for it.” Still not enough, I can already feel the heat of the dragon’s breath. It was hard to keep his focus on finding a weapon with the dragon getting closer and closer.
All of a sudden, he had another idea. He drew a minimalistic square on the sheet and imagined caging Resistance in this little box.
A cage fell upon the dragon, keeping this monster’s snapping jaws just an arm length from the warrior. I know what to do now. He picked up the book with trembling hands and opened the first page. Letter by letter, word by word and sentence by sentence, he read an entire page, ignoring the awful smell coming from the dragon’s mouth. There is only one thing left to do. He took the marker after finishing the page and drew a cross, ticking off the checkbox. At the same time, a giant sword swung from the sky, cleaving Resistance into pieces.
The warrior had conquered Resistance, but he knew the dragon would come back, so he drew the cages for the coming days. Now, he was ready to fight.
How to make a Crossout Calendar Cue (CCC)
Think of a daily habit you would like to bring into your life. Got one? Good. All you need is a sheet of paper and a black marker. Start by drawing 10 checkboxes at the bottom of the sheet. Give the first box the number 1. Then, make a drawing of you fighting with the dragon Resistance. Afterwards, write the habit you would like to do, e.g. “Write daily” or “Read daily”. Also, shortly mention the reason WHY this habit is important to you, e.g. “to write a book” or “to become smarter”. Additionally, you can add a motivational quote if you want. Now it should more or less look like the drawing below. Place this CCC somewhere where you will clearly see it multiple times a day. For example, the door of your office, your bedroom door or the whiteboard above your desk. Now comes the real part.
Every day, this “Cross Calendar Cue” will serve as a visual reminder to perform your habit. When you have finished the habit, you can tick off the first box. Congratulate yourself, you have just started performing the habit you always wanted to do. Actually, that was the hardest part, the rest will go easier. Keep going. Tick all the other boxes off on the following days. Every day is a little win, celebrate it. When you have ticked off all 10 boxes, give yourself an even bigger celebration. I, for example, like to proudly pound my chest every day after my writing habit and do a little dance when I have finished the ten days. It can be as simple as that. Draw the next 10 boxes and give the first one the number 11 and keep going.
What if you forget to perform your habit, or you really just couldn’t? In the case of daily “streaks” as with Duolingo and Snapchat, the streak would be lost, and you will need to start again. This might be a good strategy to keep you motivated in the short term, but I think in the long term there is a better alternative. The CCC does not punish you as harshly when you miss a day. It is just a missed opportunity to build up the amount of crossed-out boxes on your CCC.
Why does it work?
As you may have noticed, I used the word “cue” in the “Crossout Calendar Cue”. I used it because I think that central to its concept is that the CCC reminds you of what you want to do daily. You can’t form a habit you forget about. Additionally, the drawing, motivational quote and your WHY help with overcoming the initial inertia you feel towards performing the habit. It energizes you by reminding you why you do it in the first place. Moreover, seeing the progress you make is as well one of the most motivational things in the world.
Take a piece of paper and something to write, ideally a big black marker, and make your own Crossout Calendar Cue.
A Little Story
“Hello? Is anybody here?” whispered the warrior frightened. The scent of bat poop infiltrated his nose and he heard the echo of dripping water. Darkness extended in every direction he looked.
Where am I?
Little by little, his eyes got accustomed to the darkness and he saw the contour of a stone corridor. A flickering light lured him from behind the corner, so he decided to find its source. When he turned around the corner, he was relieved to find the Learn More Wizard sitting with his eyes closed and his back supported by the wall. His legs were extended forward, and his hands were resting in his lap. A torch attached to the wall illuminated him. “Why didn’t you answer me?” the warrior asked, “I was scared and felt alone.” The wizard didn’t flinch and kept sitting peacefully as he was.
Weird. Very weird.
The warrior noticed there was a puddle between them. When he looked into it, his eyebrows raised. He saw the reflection of the wizard, but in the reflection, there was no torch, the wizard himself was the source of light.
Is he dead and is that his soul? Or is he just enlightened?
As if a ghost was stirring the puddle like a bowl of soup, the reflection of the wizard changed into a swirl of light. When it came to rest a sentence was formed: “Dear Read More Warrior, as you can see I’m in a deep meditation. Please don’t disturb me.”
Meditation? I didn’t know the wizard was a spiritual hippie.
“It’s not because I’m meditating that I’m a hippie, dear warrior,” the wizard told him via the puddle. “Somehow, people always think of hippies or levitating monks in perfect lotus positions when they hear the word ‘Meditation’. It’s also possible to meditate however you feel comfortable, no higher power involved.”
Whaatttt? You can read my mind?!
“Well, technically we are in your mind. This is the deep dark home of your thoughts.”
I don’t understand… Are my thoughts so dark?
“No, your thoughts are not dark. Your mind is dark. For the moment. Your thoughts… well, they are something different”
The warrior looked to his left and saw a lovely little firefly in the distance. He was enchanted by it.
It’s so beautiful…
The firefly came closer and closer. Attracted to the firefly’s beauty, the warrior walked towards it. It looked like the firefly was growing bigger and bigger. It reminded him of the night in the countryside when he tried to illuminate the stars with a headlamp.
Wait a second… That’s not a firefly…
The blaring sound of a horn penetrated his ears. It wasn’t a firefly, it was a train, storming towards him. The warrior jumped aside, but his shoelace got stuck in the wheels of the train and he fell with his face on the ground. When he was back on his feet, there was already another train heading towards him. He could just in time dodge that one. Trains were coming from all directions, bumping into each other and setting on fire. The warrior was trapped by his own thoughts. He crawled up with his head between his knees, hoping that the trains would just go away.
It’s too much, I can’t handle this.
No, you can handle this, dear warrior.
Now you’re also in my mind, wizard?! As if it isn’t full enough yet!
Just breathe, and focus on the way it feels.
My lungs hurt from the smoke, you stupid old man! I have other things to worry about.
Focus and count your breaths.
The warrior reluctantly focused on his breath. After a while, he perceived a sense of calm. The blaring horns sounded more distant. Fewer trains were zooming around him.
Open your eyes, I’ve put a notebook and a pencil in front of you. Write in it.
He picked up the notebook and opened it. On the first page, a quote was written:
To be continued…
Fireflies and Trains
I don’t know about you, but sometimes zooming trains of thoughts in my head criss-cross each other in an overwhelming manner. Sometimes the train disgusts me and I try everything to act as if they don’t exist. Nonetheless, the screeching noise and stinky smell are impossible to ignore.
Other times I find a dazzling firefly in my mind and I can’t resist the urge to chase it. Like an entomologist with an insect net, I try to catch it, but inevitably I fail. I tried to write down my thoughts in notebooks. I tried typing them and I even trained to increase my typing speed. Still not fast enough. It made me wonder what if technology would be invented that transcribes your thoughts in real-time?
During these chases, I passed through the landscape of my mind, not paying attention to where I was. Never noticing that maybe the chase itself was the source of the firefly’s restlessness. What if I would just sit down in the grass and enjoy the view? Maybe the firefly would join me. Maybe then I would then encounter a book under the tree called “Meditation and Mindfulness”.
My first introduction to meditation was around three years ago. I started with guided meditations for a week and then tried to maintain the habit of daily meditation without guidance. Meditation soon turned into a pill I took when I needed it. Two months ago, I read the book “Meditation and Mindfulness” by Andy Puddicombe, which inspired me to give daily meditation another try. By habit-stacking it on my already existing morning habit of taking a cold shower and using cross calendar cues (future link), this time around, I was able to keep up with it.
Before trying it myself, I had a certain view on meditation, which I think was similar to most people’s. I thought it encompasses a certain spirituality, which I don’t like. However, this book convinced me that meditation can be highly practical. It helps you to relax and it trains your focus, something which is quite important in today’s world of instant gratification by social media which impairs our focus.
First, let’s define how I meditated. I sat down for 10 minutes in a comfortable position with my eyes closed. I started with five deep breaths, went on to scan how my body felt and the rest of the time I focussed on my breath. Every time I noticed that my focus had wandered off, I brought it back to my breath.
The first and foremost thing I learned by meditating was noticing when I was distracted. Originating from the meditation sessions themselves, this skill diffused into my daily life. It is especially helpful for students like me who get easily distracted while studying.
I thought upfront that meditation was about trying to push thoughts away in order to have a relaxed mind. This scared me because I really like to keep a hold on my thoughts, I love to write them down, especially my late-night ideas. I thought somehow that by meditating and pushing away my thoughts, I would become less creative.
Let’s use the firefly/train analogy again. If our mind is a big dark space, thoughts can be little lovely fireflies or homicidal storming trains and everything in between. My experience is that by meditating, we can increase the spaciousness of our minds. This elongates the time between thoughts. It is impossible to eliminate all thoughts, but by meditating I could slow down the influx of thoughts. In that way, it was easier to catch the lovely fireflies and not feel overwhelmed by the storming trains.
Meditation also helped me to relax when I felt overwhelmed. Once, I watched an overstimulating movie in the cinema. It was filled to the brim with dance music, flashing lights, violence and nudity. It may sound silly, but during the drive back home, I felt agitated. Every sound I heard felt like too much to handle. I wanted to scream, but knew that wasn’t going to help. So I just took some deep breaths and focused on my breathing. In the end, everything was okay.
There it is, the other M word. I guess with this word, even more stereotypes are spawning in your mind. However, I’m enjoying this even more than meditation. If meditation is focusing on your breath with your eyes closed, mindfulness is focusing on the moments of daily life. It gave another dimension to things I already did, such as walking and eating. During walks, I got out of my head and started looking around. Things I had only noticed before, such as the elderly couple bathing in the sun, the local graffiti piece and the stars in the sky, suddenly struck me as immensely beautiful. Eating mindfully also made me discover how rich in flavour and texture even the simplest meals like bread with hummus could be. It also slowed me down during eating, which was nice because I have the tendency to devour my food before others could even blink.
Set a timer of 5 minutes. Gently close your eyes. Inhale deeply. Breathe out and imagine you are exhaling all your thoughts. Repeat 5 times. From then, focus on your breath. Notice how it feels, how it sounds. Keep doing that for 5 minutes. Whenever you notice your thoughts have wandered off, bring your focus again to your breath.
A Little Story
Once upon a time, there was a young warrior. It had been a year since he had posted on his blog for the first time. The year had begun very ambitiously, with uploading something every week. However, it soon felt as if he was prioritizing quantity over quality. So he started to put more effort into these posts, which meant they also took more time.
Posting less frequently went pretty well, until the warrior went on some lifechanging travels to Kenya and Peru. On these travels, he didn’t take the time to write specifically for his blog but tried to write down as much as possible about his experience. This was cool, but it meant that he didn’t post anything for a long time. These travels had broken his flow and he missed working on his blog posts.
Once back, he worked again on the blog, but he had lost momentum. Although he still posted once in a while, he felt like he could have done more. He blamed it mostly on his studies.
The year ended, and the blog was almost 1 year old. He decided to make a book out of his blog and bought it. When it arrived, he didn’t start reading it directly, afraid of how bad the first posts were. Some days later, he had collected the required courage and started reading. It was not as bad as he had thought. While reading it, he remembered why he had written it in the first place, he had written it for himself, and he liked it.
My First Book
If you were looking forward to buying the book, I will have to disappoint you. This book is not for sale. I’ve written a book, but I’ve not published one.
Why did I go to pixxibook.com and ordered a (rather expensive) hard copy of my blog? Well, as some of you might know, a dream of mine is to write a book and get it published. This is a project that requires a vast amount of time, thus it is important to stay motivated throughout the whole process.
How can I stay motivated? The visualized progress of slow steady growth is one of the biggest motivations that exists. Techniques such as the rubber band technique are very good at this, although nothing can beat the feeling of holding a year’s worth of your own writing in your hands.
During the first weeks after I received the book, I didn’t dare to open it. I hadn’t reread my blog posts a lot, so I was convinced that they were shitty, especially the early ones. When I ultimately conquered my fear and read the book, I realized that they were not as shitty as I had imagined them. I found my momentum again. Which I had lost beforehand.
What I learned in the previous year
I’m 100% sure that the previous year was the year in which I learned the most. I learned to write daily, read daily, talk to strangers, and organize my thoughts with the help of notebooks and meditation. Additionally, I learned to speak Spanish, play the charango, pronounce a rolling R, and perform a handstand. I made deep bonds with friends, family and people who I would never meet again. A lot of these things I owe to the books I’ve read. In 2022, I read 20 books, which was way less compared to the year before (38). This might sound weird for a person who calls his blog The Read More Warrior. However, the reason for this is that I’ve shifted my focus from quantity to quality.
During this year, there are also some things I’ve learned about myself:
- I like to experiment a lot
- Although I don’t see how I will use my study of bioscience engineering, I’m very grateful for having done it
- The core of this blog is not reading more books, but reading better books, enjoying them more and absorbing them better.
- I LOVE WRITING!
- I write in the first place for myself.
I would like to go a bit deeper into the last two.
First, why do I love writing? Well, mainly for three reasons. Firstly, it forces me to organize my thoughts. Secondly, it requires me to think more deeply and make connections. Lastly, I am better able to bring my ideas into the world because I have organized my thoughts and have thought more deeply about them. Ultimately, I am also more confident when I’m speaking about these ideas.
Secondly, why do I write in the first place for myself? The previous paragraph already forms part of the answer to this question. Moreover, I use the “Your Turn” at the end of my blog posts also for holding myself accountable for doing them. However, this doesn’t explain why I share these thoughts online, and I am planning on doing it even more in the future (as we’ll see in the next paragraph). The reason is that in that way I can receive more feedback and hone my writing skill. That my writings might also help other people, is also very nice.
A Way Forward: Sharing
I have been thinking a lot about to what extent I want to share this blog with the world. Although the first book blog post is about sharing your work with the world, I have only shared this blog with some family members and friends. For other people, this blog is virtually non-existent, because it is so poorly SEO-optimized and there are no social media accounts linked to this blog.
This means that the majority of the people I know, don’t even have the slightest sense of knowing that I write. Most of them know me as a bioscience engineering student. However, in reality, I feel more like a writer than a bioscience engineer. This makes me often wonder, what if everybody knew that I want to become a writer? First, negative thoughts like “they would make fun of me” or “they would call it a waste of money and potential” spawn in my mind. On the other hand, the majority of the feedback from the little group of people I have shared this blog with was positive. Maybe that is because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. Nevertheless, it makes me wonder what would happen if I share it with more people. Would I receive more interesting recommendations? Would I have more profound conversations? Would I be helped by more people? Would I help more people?
Extra: The Best of the Previous Year
The 5 best books I’ve read until now:
- Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport
- The Power of Strangers – Joe Keohane
- You’re not listening – Kate Murphy
- Atomic Habits – James Clear
- Essentialism – Greg McKeown
The 5 best non-book related posts
The 5 drawings I love the most:
A Story inspired on the book
Once upon a time, there was a young warrior. He was a bit lost in life. He didn’t know what to aim at. So he did what he had done the last time when he felt a bit lost. He went into the mountains to search for the magnolia tree.
The sun kissed the mountain tops and a cold breeze touched his skin. The wizard stood next to the magnolia tree as if he hadn’t moved since the last time that the warrior was there.
“Dear Learn More Wizard, I have come back to you. I need your wisdom again,” the warrior said. “Well, dear Read More Warrior, good questions lead to wisdom, so what is your question?” the wizard responded. “I’m a bit lost in life,” the warrior said,” It feels like I’m at a cross point in a multidimensional maze and I need to make an important decision. Should I go right or left? Up or down? Inwards or outwards? I don’t know. There are too many options.”
The wizard looked into the distance as if he had not heard a single word of what the warrior had just said. Right before the warrior wanted to go on, the wizard said, “When this tree was only just a little sapling, I was more or less your age. My room was a mess back then because whenever I tried to clean it, I just could not start. I didn’t know where to begin. Until my mom gave me the advice to stand at the door opening, look into my room and, start cleaning from left to right, that changed everything.” “And what is that supposed to mean?” asked the warrior. “It means that just for now, turn left in your maze, and keep turning left. In that manner, you will always find the exit. Later on, you might start to enjoy being in the maze, and then you can get more creative in your decisions, but for now, keep it easy and just keep turning left,” the wizard responded.
The warrior had his doubts about the wizard’s advice. What if turning left is not the right direction? Why can’t he just show me the way? He knows everything, right? I would never like to be stuck in a maze! The wizard interrupted the warrior’s thoughts by saying, “Look, it seems like you don’t get the point. Let me explain it in another way.” The wizard stepped to the tree and took a long, beautiful bow from behind it. “Take it,” the wizard said while holding it in front of the warrior. “I can see you have trained a lot with the sword, but now it is time for you to try something else.”
The warrior held the bow awkwardly in his hands, not being used to its fragility. He knew something was missing. “Where are the arrows?” the warrior asked. “At this point, the arrows are only in your thoughts,” the wizard said,” if you want arrows, you will have to make them yourself.” The sun was timidly hiding itself behind the mountains. “Warrior, I know I haven’t given you the answers you came for, but sometimes you have to find them yourself. It’s time for you to go now. There is only one thing left, I want you to remember:
When the warrior walked down the mountain path, he felt the weight of even more questions pushing him down.
Several years later, the warrior went back into the mountains. When the wizard saw him, he said, “I see you’ve come with the bow and some arrows as well.” The warrior took the bow off his back with a proud smile and said, “I want to show you what I’ve learned. Do you see the highest flower of the magnolia tree?” He loaded the bow, aimed, and let go of the arrow which pierced the flower. “Impressive,” the wizard said, “where do you have the arrows from?” “When you gave me the bow,” the warrior said,” it felt like unutilized potential. So I decided to make the arrows myself. I went into the forest to search for sticks, climbed into trees to collect feathers, and dived into the lake to find the right stones.” “And what did you do after that?” the wizard asked. “I started to train,” the warrior said,” I fired my arrows every day until I perfected the technique.” The wizard asked the warrior to shoot another arrow and another one, and another one, … Until nearly half of the flowers of the magnolia tree were pierced.
“How does it feel to be able to do that? To make no more mistakes?”, the wizard asked. “Well,” the warrior said,” it feels less exciting than I expected.” It seemed like the wizard was trying to hide a smile. “And how did it feel to make the arrows yourself? How did it feel to go into the woods, climb trees, and dive in the lake?” The warrior started to realize what the wizard tried to say. “It felt … fun. I lost track of time, and it felt challenging and meaningful at the same time,” the warrior said. “You see, “said the wizard,” working towards a specific goal is often more interesting and meaningful than the accomplishment of the goal itself.” The wizard took a necklace out of his pocket and gave it to the warrior, “This necklace will serve as a reminder that life is a journey. But you are the one that has to take the first step. From then on, it will be easier to keep going. So if you ever feel stuck again, just try something. Take your shot. Enjoy it
When the warrior walked down the mountain path, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. Suddenly, he had the urge to run. So he ran. He opened his arms, and it felt like he was flying. An invincible feeling diffused into every cell of his body. He had even more questions now, but that was okay, these questions lifted him up instead of weighing him down.
When you see the warrior these days, he is always wearing his necklace and leaves a path of arrows behind wherever he goes. Not for finding his way back, but for showing others the way.
Sometimes it can be very straightforward. Whatever you’re procrastinating on right now, take your shot and enjoy the process.
He places post-its on his table
To not forget of what he’s able
And to remind himself every day
Of what he can and can not say
He places post-its on his bed
In order not to forget
To forget all of his dreams
Or atleast that’s how it seems
He places post-its on his chair
To not forget what to share
To post the things that he writes
On all those late crazy nights
He places post-its on his wall
To not forget how to fall
To not forget what to give
And not forget how to live
He places post-its on his head
In order not to forget
To forget about what he forgot
What is certainly an awful lot
He places post-its on his window
To not forget about his widow
The widow who was once his wife
Before the end of his creative life
We don’t know his cause of death
Or when he exhaled his last breath
I’ve been thinking about it for a while
I think he choked on a post-it pile
A Little Story
Once upon a time, a young warrior was walking down the street while smiling at people he saw. He tried his best to get a smile back, but it wasn’t easy, especially in the city. The ones that smiled back he gifted with a “hi”. This was a bad day because no one smiled back. At the end of the road, he saw a woman pushing a baby buggy. It was impossible not to see her, as she was wearing pink pants, a pink scarf, and pink headphones. Those headphones got his attention. Why would you put headphones on while you are with your baby? What if the baby cries and you don’t notice? The warrior kept walking with the woman already out of sight, but not out of his mind.
What might have been her reasons for wearing headphones? A scenario unfolded in his head:
The Pink Lady
“I see a red door and I want it painted black…” I always get energy from this song. It’s my favorite song of The Rolling Stones: Paint It, Black. This line almost perfectly described the situation I was in now. The only difference was that the door was pink, not red. The door opened, I put off my headphones and put on my wide smile. “Hi, nice to meet you, I’m the new cleaning lady”, I said while entering. I had never seen a house like this. Why would you only have pink stuff in your house? The table is pink, the walls are pink, and the oranges are pink. There was one exception: the handsome man who had opened the door for me was dressed in black. Quite mysterious. Black is also my favorite color. “You can already start cleaning the living room,” he said, “In about an hour my wife will come back, and she will show you how to clean the kitchen,” He disappeared via the stairs. So, I started to do what I could do best. I wiped away the gray dust from the pink stuff. It was kind of meditative. I wondered if that was why everything was pink. One hour later, the woman arrived. She was glamorous, had blond hair and of course, was completely dressed in pink. Her eyes were wide open, she blinked a lot, and when she smiled you could count all her over-the-top white teeth. She didn’t arrive alone. She carried a little baby that was crying the whole time while she entered the door. When she put one foot in the door, all of a sudden, the crying stopped.
I was still wondering why everything was pink. But I didn’t have any time to ask for it. She was already taking the cleaning products out of the drawers while explaining to me which products I could use for the sink and which other ones for the furnace. I was surprised to see that the products weren’t pink. They were white with green and blue. “Oh, and one more thing, cleaning lady, be sure that the baby can’t see you or those bottles,” the pink lady said. “Why?” I asked. The pink lady looked at me as if I asked the dumbest question in the world. “Well, as you can see. Everything is pink here in this house, except for the washing products, my husband, and, well… you.” I looked down at my clothes, and I only saw black. “And why is everything pink? Why not orange, or blue, or …black?” I asked. “First I want to correct you,” she said, “Black is not a color, it is the absence of color, or all colors together, depending on how you look at it. My husband taught me that. He studied physics, so he knows. Smart and handsome, aren’t you jealous?” she added with a little wink. And jealous I was. “But if everything is pink here, why does your husband wear black?” I asked. “It’s quite annoying, I know. I’m sorry for that” she said while looking with a fake smile at my clothes. “Everything is pink here for the baby. The baby really is the most important thing in my life, and I do everything for her. She hates every other color than pink. When she sees blue, green, or orange, she cries. Black is the worst. Then her head turns red, and she starts bumping her cute little fists around. So that’s why I’m wearing pink as well. I don’t want her to cry when she sees me. And my husband, well, he only wears black and sometimes white. He really is an all-or-nothing kind of guy. For him, the baby is not that important. His whole life is about work. And he probably also thinks pink is not manly enough. But now I have to go. Do you remember which product to use for the kitchen floor? Bye!” and off she went.
The next time I was cleaning at the pink house, I saw the husband more and more. It seemed like every time I came, he spent more time with me. Eventually, he even started to ask me about my music taste and if I had any siblings. With every question, he got a bit closer to me. I could see a twinkle in his eyes. Then he asked which colors of clothes I had. “Only black, of course” I answered, and he kissed me. It was a long kiss and after it, he started talking directly, “Can’t we just run away with the baby? I love the baby; she is everything to me. But I hate my wife, I hate pink. I really have to get away from here” My heart filled with happiness, and I said, “Of course we can. I love you” and we kissed again. “You’re so handsome and smart,” I continued,” But how can we run away with the baby if it starts to cry when it sees us? Your wife will hear it,” He thought a bit and answered, “She’s doing a nap now, you could get some pink clothes from her. With those, the baby won’t cry when it sees you. I still have to make some calls, so I’ll see you at the train station” and off he went.
I think I had never done something anything as thrilling as stealing pink clothes. I opened the bedroom door as quietly as possible. Despite the pink lady’s elegance, she snored like a wild boar. I looked into the drawers and only could find pink pants, a pink scarf, and pink headphones. My jacket was still black, but I hoped that the pants, scarf, and headphones would do the job. I put them on, and while being surprised the pants fit perfectly, I went to the baby. When she saw me, she was looking at me with a doubting face. I think she was thinking about whether to cry or not. I decided not to find out and to leave with the baby as fast as possible. I pushed the baby buggy out of the house and started walking as fast as possible. The baby started to cry, so I decided to listen to some music on the headphones. While crossing the street, I saw a young guy smiling at me. That seemed suspicious, so I started to walk faster. With every step, I got happier and happier. Finally.
I didn’t arrive at the train station. I arrived at a parking lot. I saw my boyfriend sitting in the orange car. He is the one I really love. I opened the door and said: “Finally, we have a baby”. I got in, slammed the door, and off we went.
The Real Story
The young warrior has a lot of imagination, that’s clear. But what was the real story? The warrior wanted to find out. A week later, he went walking again. By chance, he encountered the pink lady. This time she wasn’t using her headphones. They were just hanging around her neck. His curiosity was bigger than his fear and he stepped towards her, smiled the best he could, and said “hi”. The lady noticed and a “hi” escaped from her smiling mouth.
- Can I ask you something?
- Sure, go ahead.
- I was just curious. It might be a very weird question to ask, but what if you’re wearing your headphones and your baby cries? You probably won’t notice, right?
- You little ignorant boy. I’m wearing these headphones in fact for the health of my baby.
- Because they’re pink, and your baby hates other colors than pink?
- No, of course not. What a weird idea! It’s because my baby has some problems with her little heart. My headphones are connected to a little microphone that can record her heartbeat. The doctors told me to go as fast as possible to the hospital if I heard an irregular heartbeat.
And that’s when the warrior realized that you don’t have a clue about the real story until you follow your curiosity and talk to strangers.
Why you should talk to strangers
Starting conversations with strangers still is one of the most difficult things for me. Every time, there is this little hurdle of Resistance to overcome. It is especially difficult for introverted people. However, the thing that kept me going was knowing about all the benefits. Here I list some of them:
- A conversation helps you think. It helps both you and the person you’re talking to.
- Good conversations are way more interesting than scrolling through your social media feeds.
- You get a different perspective on a lot of things.
- You’re training your social skills.
- It is often easier to talk about very personal things to strangers because you know that if you want, you will probably never see them again.
- On the other hand, it is the perfect opportunity to get to know new people. They might become your best friend, and sooner than you imagine.
- When you often start conversations with strangers, people will notice your openness and start conversations with you.*
*That’s something Keohane mentioned in his book as well. When I first read it, I was very sceptical about it. But after experimenting with this for a while, it happened to me as well. There were even people asking me for advice. How weird.
Efficiency vs Human Interaction
I’m recently back from a trip to Peru, which changed my view on a lot of things. I think in our western world, we’re very used to using technology to help us out. For example, if we don’t know how to reach our destination, we search on our GPS. If we need a place to sleep, we search on booking sites. Self-scans in supermarkets are replacing cashiers. I think scanning ourselves is a good thing, only not in that way. Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror and see who we have become.
There is another way. In Peru, for example, they don’t have or use all that technology. The applications don’t always work, the websites aren’t complete, and the cashiers still have their job. This might seem less “developed”, but I don’t think it necessarily is.
What solved all my problems when I was in Peru were connections, contacts, and human interaction. I got sick in the middle of the jungle with the closest pharmacy on a boat ride of 3 hours. The local people arranged everything I needed to get better. I wanted to find a cheap, relaxed alternative to a partyholic hostel. No problem, just ask the lady at the market who is making your breakfast. She does some calls, and you have it. It’s another way, and a more fun way.
The Best Advice
Some examples of following your curiosity:
- What book are you reading? (When you see someone reading a book)
- What’s the name of your dog? (When you see a dog owner)
- What’s the Spanish word for cushion? (When you’re in Spain and genuinely interested)
- Where are you from? (When you’re in an international setting)
- Do you work for the military? (When you see someone with short hair and a camouflaged backpack)
Important to note that in some instances it is a good idea to use a preframe. A preframe is a way of showing the stranger that you know the unwritten rule of not talking to strangers. For example, instead of asking directly “What book are you reading?” you could use a preframe before it like “Excuse me, I know we’re not supposed to talk to each other in trains, but what book are you reading?” or “Hello, I’m really curious and interested in books. So, excuse me for asking, but what book are you reading?”
Strange(r) Conversations I Had
My first real conscious and genuine conversation with a stranger was actually one of the best ones. I was waiting for the train, and I saw a lady wearing a mouth mask with the face of Sanda Dia** painted on it. I asked where she got it. She told me where, and we didn’t stop talking. She told me about her grandchildren, her medical problems, and also about the times she caught couples having sex at the police office.
There was the woman that got a pentagram tattoo at an older age because she believed in higher powers. However, she didn’t want people to see her as a witch, so she decided to have a rose tattooed over it. She told me she normally doesn’t tell this story to strangers.
Another time, there were two boys from Afghanistan who actually started to talk to me. They asked me (in Dutch) how they could improve their Dutch. At that point, I recently taught myself to speak Spanish, so I had a lot of tips for them.
Last but not least, I once asked a group of French tourists in Peru how to get to a certain taxi stop. This turned into having breakfast together. From that breakfast on, I didn’t leave them for the rest of my trip because they were the best travel buddies I could ever wish for.
** Sanda Dia was a young student that died during a baptism for entering a prestigious student club. It caused a lot of commotion in Belgium.
Look a stranger in the eye. If you have eye contact, smile and say hi. Ask how their day went, or better: how their day could be better. Try to find something which surprises you about that person. Share something personal yourself. Try to make the connection. Cross bridges. Just gradually try to get as far as you can.