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Berlin T-shirts

As the train leaves Berlin behind, I am struck by the fact that I’m leaving home.

It’s been less than two months since I came in to check if there was any chance left for Germany in me. London was calling at a distance. I felt at home nowhere and everywhere, glomad-style. All that changed in a few days, as I experienced Berlin from a more local perspective.

East Side Gallery - Wall painting
Photos of the East Side Gallery wall paintings from 3 years ago suddenly became more valuable, as these have been vandalized with signatures probably from tourists (surely from idiots)

I knew that I couldn’t judge Berlin until I found myself there without a return ticket. Last year, living in Taiwan, I learned that real travel isn’t about sightseeing, but about losing yourself in another culture. Enough to take it in. It takes time to know the local rhythms. Weekend escapes aren’t travel, they’re really just sightseeing. Yet places are very similar everywhere… more so than cultures. Places may look quite different at first, but they can feel the same. Not much changes from a beach in Portugal to a beach in Taiwan. Yet everything changes when you slowly walk the streets of cities from such distant countries.

The difference is culture.

You could expect, then, that truly knowing Berlin would take a few months. But I’d seen the sights before, and all I was missing was how it felt like when I became a part of it. That was made easy by having friends here. I thought that was the reason for feeling at home almost on arrival, or maybe the fact that I remember lots of spots from my past two visits. Yet, as the dust settles, I recall the times I’ve been back in Lisbon or in Dublin or in London. Even Lisbon rarely felt like home, though it was always a place to cherish.

Berlin T-shirts

It’s not hard to understand though – how quickly Berlin felt like home. I usually get bored easily, or I would… if I didn’t constantly switch things around. In Berlin you’ve never seen all of everything. I’m also probably a bit quirky (considering that a renowned personality test places mine in a group that only 1% of people share). Still I’m surely under average in Berlin standards for weirdness. Berlin attracts people who don’t fit in other places and are not afraid to be who they want to be. Whenever I see something over-the-top, I’m reminded of why quirkiness can thrive in the city: its culture is open minded.

It feels good to know you can be yourself, without necessarily being the strangest character in town. I guess that’s what it should feel like to be home.

Do what you love, or love what you do?

I have about 70 posts on draft status, but it’s been a restless year so far, keeping me from fleshing out the details of my ideas. In the meantime I just came across this wonderful insight from Paul Buchheit (GMail’s creator), which truly everyone should read:

It’s often said that you should “Do what you love”, but that’s mostly bad advice. It encourages people to grind away their lives in pursuit of some mostly unattainable goal, such as being a movie star or a billionaire startup founder. And even if they do make it, often the reality is nothing like they imagined it would be, so they’re still unhappy.

Do what you love is in the future. Love what you do is right now. As with the other patterns, it’s meant to guide the small decisions that we make every moment of every day. It’s less about changing what you do, and more about changing how you do it.

One of the problems with having a goal-oriented, extrinsic mindset is that it treats the time between now and task completion as an annoying obstacle to be endured. If you’re doing something that is difficult, uncertain, and takes a long time, such as building a new product or company, and you have that mindset, then you’re likely gambling away a big chunk of your life. Subconsciously, you may also compensate by choosing smaller, more realistic goals, and that’s unfortunate.

Perfect. This kind of advice is sorely needed for Solving Gen Y’s Passion Problem. If you’re a techie, you might as well read Paul’s full essay of startup advice: The Technology.

Feel Like Boarding the Concorde?

Concorde & Tupolev TU-144 at Sinheim Auto & Technik Museum

I’ve been to a few automobile and airplane exhibitions. Pearl Harbor, Taoyuan airport (Taiwan), Museo dell’Automobile (Turin)… fascinating collections. I thought I couldn’t be surprised by another one. Turns out the Germans really do it better.

In the southwestern german state of Baden-Württemberg lies Sinsheim’s Auto & Technik Museum, the largest privately owned museum in Europe. It features cars, motorcycles, airplanes, trains, tanks – you name it.

Concorde & Tupolev TU-144 at Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum
photo by flickr user mroach

The outstanding thing about the Sinsheim collection, besides feeling more like a fun park than a museum, is that it features two supersonic airplanes – which you can board! Both the french Concorde and the soviet Tupolev Tu-144 are accessible through spiraling stairs, and you can walk your way up, through their narrow corridors into their intimidating cockpits, past the tiniest toilet rooms ever.

I didn’t have a camera with me that day, but it didn’t really matter. All those shots on Flickr still can’t make it justice. Boarding these classic supersonic airplanes is an actual experience. I loved their Caddilacs too. If you’re ever around Baden-Württemberg, don’t miss it.

24 Hours of Happy Working

The Despicables in 24 Hours of Happy

Yes: I spent a day with Pharrell Williams’ videoclip; only pausing it for sleep, meals and football. This is what reading Jack Kerouac (On the Road) can do to you. Riding Kerouac’s wave of spontaneity/experimentation, as soon as I got wind of the videoclip, it was promptly decided that I had to challenge myself to 24 hours of happy working.

24 Hours of Happy

Some brave (or depressed) souls might sit through the whole thing, which would mean listening to the song about 360 times. Before you dismiss that as crazy-making, consider that the video’s crew listened to “Happy” probably 500 times and “no one is tired of it yet,” says Steiger. “That says something.”

Challenge accepted! Is Pharrell Williams implicit claim of being able to provide 24h of joy actually true? I tested this on a working day for a real challenge. This is how it went…

First day:

  • 12pm – smiles
  • 2pm – still smiles
  • 15:30 – best idea ever
  • 4pm – a little repetitive maybe
  • 6:30pm – still a great idea
  • 10pm – I actually missed this stuff after dinner and footy time, so much that I’m playing it off work too.
  • 10:30 – wow, this stuff is the best when you’re dimming the lights before sleep

Second day:

  • 8:30 – ha!
  • 10:30 – t’was a good idea
  • 12pm – I made it!
  • 3pm … starting to miss the damn song
fun, fun, fun

Yes, it was worth it and I definitely got the happies. Particularly since I didn’t pull an all-nighter like these guys did. But if you’d like to know a few of the highlights from the videoclip beforehand, their article is a good reference.

More interesting, yet, is the crew’s description of the process:

“The best work comes from people who are motivated by crisis–when something stops the original idea, they respond by coming up with something even better. Existence is all mathematics,” he says. “There’s an equation for success in every obstacle.”

But the coolest thing is finding some of the easter eggs:


Do it! You know you want to. 🙂

Rand Fishkin on Scaling Up Business

scaling-up
scaling-up
Photo by: JD Hancock

This interview from Rand at Mixergy is quite fascinating, particularly when it ventures into one of the main things I’ve been thinking about: how much you should grow your business to a scale where you’re mostly managing a company instead of its product or service:

Rand: Well, for me at least, and I think for a lot of entrepreneurs who love the early stage, we’re the same kinds of people who love artisanal things in the world. Artisanal things in life. And that can be, you know, hey, this shirt was handmade in Scotland in this store that I stopped into, and I met the owner. And that’s the same woman who designed the pattern and sourced the fabric. God, that’s so cool.

Andrew: Yeah.

Rand: Right. Or the craft cocktail movement. It’s like, yeah, this drink was invented in this bar last year when this crazy guy came up with this thing and, by the way, he also won the world beer championship two years in a row. That artisanal style of creation is something that’s really beautiful. And it doesn’t scale tremendously well. Or let me put it this way, it’s really, really hard to make it scale well.

The point is: being a true CEO is not for everyone. For that entails running a large scale business and not just a product or service. And not every product/service is adequate to scale up to the point of even having one, despite so many people calling themselves CEO of this or that.

Still, well done Rand! You might not have enjoyed the CEO role so much, but you built a business to that level, and that’s something to be proud of.