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There’s things we all deeply, really want. Goals, visions, desires that – if we could only make them true – would seemingly make our life much, much better. But until that happens, we actively hurt because we’re living in a world that doesn’t match up our ideals. It makes us sad. Mad. Makes us want to give up.

So, what do we humans typically do when we find ourselves wanting something that’s far from what we have?

Here’s a couple of possible reactions:

  1. Nothing. Could work if that thing you’re craving ends up being less important for you than you thought. Or, it could be the surest way to bury your emotions so deep that they either make you physically sick or you lash out at anything and anyone around you just to release the pressure that’s been built up.
  2. Look for a way out of your current situation. Let’s take some examples. You’re looking at the relationship you’re in and you’re coming up with an impressive list of what doesn’t work. After a series of processes where you convince yourself the grass is greener on the other side, you end up deciding you’re better off breaking the bond and start looking for that Perfect someone. A perfect someone, a perfect setup that will make all your current problems obsolete. A very similar thing happens when you have a very clear image of the kind of company/job you want, you look at your current professional status and end up deciding you need to get out. Again, sometimes this kind of giving up and switching up works. Other times, it doesn’t – either because that perfect scenario turns up being non-existent, or you soon realize you’re back to the same old familiar conundrums, despite the change of scenery.
  3. The third option is to take the hero’s journey to transform what you have into what you want. You start putting in more effort into your current relationship, or into your current job. You change how you think and you start acting as if you could actually be successful at creating what you desire.

From where I stand at this point in my life, I am becoming increasingly interested in this third option, for multiple reasons. It’s partly because I have quite some experience with the first two strategies and realized they’re not that great, and partly because I absolutely adore the process of being actively involved in changing myself and reshaping the contexts I am in. There’s lessons that you learn in this process, lessons that are incredibly valuable and cannot be experienced another way.

So, yes, there’s two ways of getting what you want. Getting somewhere where the situation is already as you ideally want it to be, or taking ownership, and taking the chance to build it yourself. And I think the world needs a lot more people who are crazy enough to want to be creators and builders.

Let me start this piece with a very classic, cliche term. You must’ve heard the good news – we’re all living in a VUCA world.

VUCA is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – in short, it’s a concept that describes why working in today’s world is so hard and messy to figure out. Here’s more about it:

While this new reality calls for agility, smarts, ability to make fast decisions and adjust quickly, most of the businesses carry along with them processes and procedures that seem to come from a very different place. There’s a natural, both human and organisational need, for structure, clarity and a mapping of what needs to be done in a given role and situation. But the truth is by the time you end up developing those really thorough, all-encompassing processes, the market and the pressures felt by the business have already changed a couple of times, and the process becomes irrelevant before implementation even starts. Super fun! (not)

There’s many different angles you can take when trying to map out how this new world of fast change and high pressure impacts an individual, a team, an organization or a process. The one I’m interested in exploring right now is how this changes your relationship with your manager.


  • you were expecting direction from your manager. He/she set the tone, the priorities, and most of the times you stood-by for direction
  • the assumption was your manager knows all/best/more than you
  • another operating assumption was that learning was happening downwards – your manager had all the answers, and you were to do your best to soak up the knowledge and the wisdom from him/her.

In the new world…

Managers are chosen in this role because they have an ability to work with the complexity, work with the change and have a high-level understanding of the business. This high-level understanding is focused more on aggregating information from multiple sources whether external (information about the market you’re operating in, about trends of the industry or the economical context) or internal (comprehending how different parts of the business interact and affect each other.)

As a consequence, the old model of the know-it-all manager no longer stands up. There is simply too much information flowing from one side to the other. The pace of change is too rapid. And if we talk about a large organisation, there are way too many stakeholders to interact with. So, not only there is not enough time for a manager to be aware of everything relevant going on, both high level and ground level, there is also no possibility, from an anatomical point of view, for our brains to be able to retain and process so much information.

As another consequence, that model of the direct report who stands by and waits for instructions has also become obsolete.

This changes a couple of things …

  • while your manager continues to set the direction of your work, it is now up to you to speak up when there’s a need to shift perception. You can (and are expected to) bring pressing matters to attention and advocate for those to be pushed at the top of the agenda
  • information flows upwards, not just downwards – make a deliberate effort to help the manager understand the specific realities you get to witness beforehand. In a world with so many things happening, no one person can be expected to have all the answers
  • your manager doesn’t do everything better than you, nor he/she should. You can definitely find areas where you are better equipped to perform. Most of the times, that turns into a source of frustration, but take a step back and remember – no man is an island. Just for the sake of interdisciplinarity, Esther Perel talks about this in reference to how relationships work. She talks about how we expect our life partner to at the same time be our confidant, our teacher, our best friend, our entertainer, our finance and administrative partner, and so on. No one person can live up to those expectations, just as much as no one manager can be the best at everything. It’s time to drop the myth of heroes and superstars! Companies and systems generally cannot rely on individuals, but on teamwork and synergy.

“Things may come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustle.”

So, if you really want to make a change in the role and company you are in, it’s time to ditch the old rules and the old model. Highlight and showcase your talents and abilities – this does not make you arrogant, this makes you a person who is willing to present what you can contribute and bring your skills in service of others.

Speak your mind. Raise risks. Present solutions. Dare to share your opinion and perspective, even if … actually, especially if it contradicts the majority’s point of view. Take yourself off stand-by mode and actually be proactive, including in your relationship with your manager.

And yes, just because I like to be realistic, there might be a need for you to negotiate this way of working with your manager. So continue to ask feedback on your approach, make sure your motives are understood, invest effort and attention into defining ground rules – discuss, with your manager, the kind of decisions and situations where his approval is needed, and, at the same time, define the ones where you have empowerment and autonomy.

It might be messy. You will, most surely, make mistakes and sometimes even be uncomfortable for others. But be open to learn, to receive feedback, to adjust your approach. And, surprise surprise, you might after all notice you can actually effect more change and have a bigger impact than you imagined!

For quite some years, companies, HR professionals, consultants and managers have been focused on finding the secret sauce to building the engagement of teams. As is the case with mostly everything, it turns out that what we should be aiming for is something far more moderate.

I’ve recently caught myself telling coworkers and friends that being too engaged in your job is actually detrimental to you and to your company. It sounded really good, so I decided to see if there’s some science behind this seemingly intuitive thought that I had. Turns out there is.

A study  conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence actually talks about the perils of (too) high engagement in employees.

First, turns out that there’s three categories of employees from an engagement point of view:

  • dis-engaged: they don’t necessarily believe in or care about the company’s mission, they lack the drive and determination to do their own work, let alone get involved in larger initiative
  • optimally engaged: they care about the company’s mission, they have solid performance and involvement not only in their own tasks but also projects that aim for company-wide improvements, and report a state of low-stress and mostly positive feelings related to their job
  • engaged-exhausted employees: they have an almost primal and emotional relationship to the company’s mission, strong personal bonds with coworkers, miss the mark on detaching from their job and enjoying their personal life and are very adamant with what they consider to be malfunctioning in their work environment.

Out of the three categories, the one with the highest levels of engagement is the last one. Unfortunately, it is also the category that will produce the most cases of burnout and resignation.

It seems that high engagement can quickly turn into an attitude that is so intense that it is impossible to cope with long term. It becomes detrimental – not only in terms of performance but also in terms of the relationships and emotional environment created at work.

What I would add to this, from my own personal experience of having a tendency of becoming an engaged-exhausted employee, is that you will not be able to create the change you want from this state of mind. What you will end up being is way too intense, way too impatient, way too emotional to be able to think through and produce an effective strategy to give you the results you want.

When you are too involved in your job but also too keen on your own perspective of what should be done, you turn into a naysayer. A party pooper. You go on and on on what others do wrong and what the company is lacking. You forget that significant change takes a lot of time. You end up not only alienating coworkers, but also burning out too much valuable physical, mental and emotional fuel. Your health and your personal life take a strong hit.

So how could you stay out of the engaged-exhausted gang:

  • remember it’s just a job. Regardless of how much you believe your life depends upon it, your job is and should be just a part of who you are. Find other things that fill you up with joy and meaning, outside of the working hours – in simpler words, find a hobby and invest time into it. Do not let your job become your identity.
  • become aware of the limits of your power. As I said before, wanting to change a company is a long-term process, and it cannot and will not rest solely on one man’s shoulders. Sometimes the healthiest thing to do is to know when to stop trying and when to leave room for others to fight for what’s right – which leads me to the 3rd point:
  • question your perspective. Are you the only one having this opinion? What if the things you have been advocating for are not actually the right ones? What if you’re wrong? What if you’re missing a point? What if there’s a reason to why things are the way they are in your current company – regardless of how much they annoy you? Sometimes, imperfection of systems is functional – which is to say, in some situations a less than ideal solution  is actually the best.
  • have your own personal watch-dog. In this case, this means having a close friend who is there to keep his eyes on you and tell you when you’re being too involved in your job. Someone who cares enough about you to tell it as it is, and to snap you right out of your bad state.
  • consider if you should stay. If you find yourself fighting the same battles again and again, but haven’t won any of them, maybe you should actually consider leaving your company. Maybe you haven’t cracked the code on making yourself heard. Or maybe the people in that company hear you loud and clear, but don’t agree. Staying for too long in a job or a company that makes you unhappy doesn’t do you or that company any good.

I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that most of the people reading this article haven’t had the toughest life.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure you’ve had your struggles and some demons to fight, as we all do.

But just statistically speaking, there’s less chance that you had to go through natural disasters ruining your house and taking away all your possessions, battling with chronic illness or having to undergo life-threatening events.

Actually, most (if not all) my friends have had a pretty good run in life. Able to easily find a job, and then just smooth transitioning through high paying office jobs, promotion after promotion, salary raise after salary raise. All of them in happy relationships, with no health issues. Same goes for me and my husband.

So we get used to this ever-ascending trajectory in life. This model of how life should be gets imprinted in our heads – that the only forward is up. Bigger. Better.

Surprise surprise, though, that is a highly unrealistic expectation. Chances are that life’s gonna knock you back a couple of steps, maybe even more than once. This may or may not have something to do with how you played the game – sometimes (bad) things just happen for no reason.

And maybe this has something to do with my age or with the age of my friends, but as I am getting closer to being 30 I notice people around me having to deal with some real challenges. Challenges that feel like a rupture in the streak of luck they were used to:

  • changing jobs and actually ending up in a way worse position than they were before
  • having to move from a big, exciting city to a small one because of a lack of job opportunities or a need to cut down expenses
  • having to go through long-distance relationships because each partner is professionally situated in a different place
  • wanting to have kids and not being able to – with the long list of hurdles and hard hits that brings on
  • parents getting older/sick and having to be able to support them in all ways
  • etc, etc, etc.

If you were to look at my own trajectory, the decision I made a year ago to quit my full-time job and move to a different city has initially felt like a step back. The loss of income, the difficulty of being my own boss, but also having to readjust to a new location and making new friends, all the while missing the awesome people we’ve left behind.

Still, I am now able to see things in a different way. Yes, I could have stayed in the job and in the city and had the safety and comfort of that situation, but I would have never been able to witness this all new way of living. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to know myself, flaws and gifts, strengths and weaknesses, and gain such deep clarity of what I need in order to flourish. I wouldn’t have the strength, resilience, compassion, gratitude and commitment to do the work that I now have.

Growing in life, and getting new experiences involves taking some risks. Every time you start a new challenge, you get kicked back a couple of steps, you feel like a newbie again, and you have to fight a bit more to feel confident and like you are succeeding.

Don’t get sucked into the idea that your only goal in life is to avoid the obstacles. To steer away from the hardship. To cling onto your status and make sure you’re not losing points in the game. There is a time for playing it safe and holding onto what you have, and a time for changes and switching things up.

Setbacks are inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up for temporarily being in a worse position than you were used to. Don’t get tricked into thinking you’ll stay there. And don’t feel sorry for or criticize people for making changes that to you look like a step back. We have the resources we need to keep playing the game and get back on top, a bit stronger, a bit wiser than before.


I remember a conversation I’ve once seen in a group of women.


It was a heated discussion, with a general overtone of critiquing women who give “too much attention” (whatever that means) to their physical appearance. A large number of women were undergoing the scrutiny of this ad hoc jury, facing a rain of sharply presented arguments aiming at how embarrassing their preoccupation for weight, clothes, make-up and hair was. To this group, it was very clear, beyond any shade of doubt, that such a preoccupation instantly cancels any other merits women may have: you simply could not be well-dressed and, at the same, be intelligent, a good person, a good wife, a good mother, etc.


I will not discuss the stereotypes in themselves, but I remember asking why did we spend so much time discussing the topic. Why do we spend so much time discussing about something that we declare is unimportant and superficial? What drew my attention the most was the tone of the conversation. There is a certain nuance of tone that is very hard to ignore – envy disguised as virulent criticism. This nuance is really unpleasant to hear or see.


Now I have a personal issue with the word itself, “envy”, partly because it was overused by melodramatic singers but mostly because it is a human emotion that I really don’t enjoy witnessing – in others or in myself.


It seems to me that envy has actually become taboo. We’ve managed to bring fear, sadness, shame and guilt more into the light, but not envy. Envy makes us feel small, silly, awkward, mean. To be envious and to admit it means accepting that you are/you have less than another and, at the same time, that you really wish you were/had what that other person is/has. Envy stings in a very specific way, so we have many reasons to hide or ignore it. But, time after time, I reach to the same conclusion – we need to talk upfront about the particular things we try to avoid.


There are 3 requirements needed for envy to manifest itself:

  1. we are confronted with a person that has a quality, accomplishment or material possession that we perceive to be superior to what we are/have
  2. this quality/accomplishment/material possession is something we really want for ourselves or we envision a world where the other person doesn’t own it
  3. the comparison with the other person really hurts.


Since envy is such an unpleasant and socially condemnable feeling, we do our best to avoid a direct manifestation of it. As a consequence, envy has an array of disguised ways to show up: being overly sarcastic of the person or quality we envy, critique, contempt, slander, sabotaging (like the child who breaks the toy he is not allowed to play with), the compliment that hides an insult (“congratulations on your promotion… I was really surprised you were the one selected for the job”), denial or faked indifference (not being able to bear conversations about how wonderful X or Y is and doing anything you can to change the topic), and so on.


Envy is not frustration that someone else has a better thing than me, is the frustration of believing I am not able to have that same thing. I will not be envious with a person that buys an ice-cream if I too am able to get an ice-cream.


At the same time, if we don’t change our reaction to envy, we remain trapped in a vicious circle that continues to produce more and more envy.


Here’s an example: I think of myself as an intelligent person, someone who would have a lot to say, but I am somehow shy and don’t dare to speak up. I constantly think I am not good enough. At the same time, I am frustrated to see other coworkers who are, from my point of view, less qualified than me, daring to hold presentations and signing up to be speakers at various events. I judge them from a distance, and I notice all their flaws and shortcomings. I am sometimes called to give them feedback as an expert that has never stepped onto the playing field. When I get asked about why I don’t sign up to be a speaker, I say that too many people start talking too much without really grasping what they say, and that I have a different set of principles. I would much rather sit on the sidelines and do my job well. Although what I really feel is fury, shame, humiliation about not having the guts to speak in public, although I really admire these people precisely for their courage to get into the spotlight, that’s not what gets seen from the outside. Looking from the outside, what people see is me expertly and coldly critiquing public speaking, and wearing a mask of “I don’t care that much for this topic”.


When I deny the fact that I feel envious and I want what others have, I don’t give myself permission to start working for those things myself. I don’t want to enter into this race, because I have a strong feeling of being super far behind everyone else. I end up trying to convince myself and others that neither the race, nor the players in it are worth any dime. In the end, I remain the same, not having grown at all, and carrying a ton of resentment and frustration.


When we encounter someone we think is better or more successful than we are, we actually have an array of ways to respond. I can respond with indifference, joy, admiration, emulation or envy.


As I mentioned earlier and as you surely noticed from your own experience, envy is the least beneficial response.


So for a while what I’ve been training myself to do is to allow my feelings of envy to show up, to claim them, and then to consciously craft a better response.


When I would find myself criticizing someone, mildly or strongly, privately or in public, I would also be vigilant for the specific kind of sting that envy brings. When I would notice envy showing up, I would ask myself what is it that I actually admire in that specific person. Envy can be a wonderful resource: someone else mirrors a thing that I want. Maybe that other someone is a reminder of what I could be if only I were more persevering, resilient, brave, straight-forward, strategic, empathetic, etc. Maybe that other someone’s life reminds of my own abandoned hopes and wishes. I allow myself to admit to what I really want to be and do and slowly start to work towards that goal. I look at the people I envy in a different way – I stop avoiding them and, on the contrary, I start being curious about them. I want to understand them, to learn from them, and even to tell them how amazing I think they are.


A friend of mine has a very direct way of communicating her envy: “Alex, I so hate the fact that you are X or you do Y… you’re annoying as hell.” First time I heard that from her I felt not only amused, but extremely safe to be around her. I appreciated her very honest way of saying what she thinks and promised to myself to do the same with others.


Envy is telling us a lie. It tells us that if someone has what we want, we can no longer have the same thing. It tells us that there are limited resources and that the world is too small. But that’s simply not the case. The world is big enough and we are all different enough to be able to coexist even if we have similar attributes, accomplishments or professional interests. There is enough need and interest in this world for different styles, and for the personal touch each of us inevitably brings.


So allow yourself to compare to others, to get inspired from others, hell, to even be bothered by others’ success so that you can afterwards discover how to get closer to your own measures of success. There are 7 billion people in this world, and your mission is not to be the best at everything or to hide your weak spots; your mission, if you wish to accept it, is to continue to develop the skills you already have, to do the things you haven’t done before, and to remind yourself that you can be comfortable with yourself even if there are many more things you need to learn.

2016 was my year of spirituality. I felt like there was something missing in my life, and went on to reconnect with myself and this instinct that I always had to find meaning, happiness and a connection to something beyond myself.

I moved past most of the things I held as truth back then. Although there’s a lot to be said about my time of spiritual exploration, I will stick only to what’s relevant to this article. One of the things one had to adhere to in order to be a true spiritual gang member was the Law of Attraction (short, LOA). The main idea behind LOA was that thoughts create reality, and we can totally have what we want, as long as we depict very clear, specific visualizations of the outcomes we want. Dream it, claim it, own it – seems to be the royal pathway here.

The trouble is things are not as simple as they sound. Yes, you start with depicting very detailed images of what you want and revisit them in your mind as much as you can, but at the same time you had to:

  • Relentlessly curate your emotions and mental state – it’s something LOA calls “vibration.” Basically, what they say is that as long as your vibration is not in the frequency of joy, and peace, and confidence, and acceptance, you will not be able to manifest what you want.
  • Have complete and utter faith in the method. Upon the presence of the tiniest amount of doubt, the magic spell breaks and, again, you will not be able to manifest what you want.
  • Really really want what you are visualizing, but at the same time be willing to give it up. Dream about it a lot, be happy and excited about it, but at the same time be completely okay without it. Otherwise, your vibration will actually lower, because when you desperately want something, what you are actually transmitting to the Universe is “I don’t have this”. So, yep, no manifestation. It’s as tangled and complicated as it sounds.

Even back in my more spiritual times, I couldn’t really resonate with LOA. Part of me was actually thinking that all of it seemed like a very random and arbitrary process. And despite the numerous claims of it being based on “scientifical experiments”, none of those experiments were ever posted on a respectable research website. Simply put, I was having a hard time to buy it.

To some degree, it is okay to be aware of the influence your thoughts have on your behavior. Yes, thoughts are most of the times the triggers of our actions. So LOA has the benefit of raising awareness of our thoughts, invite us to take responsibility for our mental and emotional states, and for many people it is uplifting and inspiring.

But it comes with a lot of disadvantages as well:

  •  It makes us work less. Esther Hicks, one of the guru’s of LOA actually has a quote saying “You did not come into this environment to create through action. Instead, your action is meant to be a way in which you enjoy what you have created through thought.”. So basically if I consider myself to be pretty good at manifesting, I will spend most of my time dreaming and visualizing and little to no time actually working for it.
  • Studies show that when dreaming of idealized outcomes, that don’t match reality, our motivation and energy to achieve goals significantly decreases.  Partly due to the fact that on a certain level, we feel that we have already reached the goal and we needn’t worry or work too much to achieve it. We fail to create a plan, we fail to think about the milestone and necessary small (or big) steps to get to where we want.
  • LOA encourages us to keep positive and not focus on obstacles or hardships that may come along the way. For an anxious person, for someone who worries a lot, for someone who feels rather discouraged in front of challenges hearing that they don’t have to think about the hard stuff that may come along the way is a huge relief. But it’s actually the worst idea. Trouble is, in real life, refusing to acknowledge the obstacles and the challenges is a sure way to fail and hit rock bottom really fast.

Honestly, though, my biggest problem with LOA is that it sets an impossible standard and it’s based on a huge misunderstanding.

What’s the impossible standard? Well, having a mind that’s 100% feeding you positive, encouraging thoughts. Feeling happy and joyful all the time. As humans, we actually have a range of emotions way larger than that. And that’s normal. And healthy. For me, believing that feeling sad, disheartened or afraid was a problem that needs to be fixed was, simply put, a huge pain in the ass. Having to maintain a glow of constant joy was actually the source of a lot of frustration.

What’s the huge misunderstanding with LOA? Well, on the one hand, the fact that our thoughts influence the outer world. Regardless of how powerful your ability to manifest things is, that company won’t hire you if they don’t think you’re qualified enough. A new car won’t just fall from the sky, attracted by the irresistible magnet of your mantras.

At some point, I decided to review the process of me getting the things I wanted – or not getting them. What I noticed was that:

  • Sometimes I got something and only afterwards realized how much I wanted that
  • Sometimes I thought about a certain goal for a flickering moment, forgot about it, only to later find myself accomplishing it
  • Some goals I reached through moderate belief in my ability to accomplish them and with constant work
  • Sometimes I wanted something really, really, really bad. I visualized it, done all the right things, and I still didn’t get what I want
  • Other times, I felt crappy, angry, disappointed. I gave up on everything. And then I suddenly got what I wanted.

So actually, there was no magical connection between my thoughts and feelings and the results I got. The best predictor of me getting what I want was not in the quality of my thoughts, but actually in the quality of my actions. *drops the mic*

And that leads me to what I consider the biggest misunderstanding in LA: that negative thoughts must become negative actions. There’s a principle in behavioral change that talks about contrary action – basically, about doing the opposite of what your thoughts are telling you to. For example, if I know I have a tendency to back out of taking new assignments at work, assignments that would be very beneficial for my work, upon noticing my tendency to say NO to those, I remind myself that actually saying YES is the better way to do so.

Thinking is a very random process, although it may seem so serious and unquestionable. I keep saying something, and I wonder if people understand what I mean: just because you’ve been thinking a thought for a long while, that doesn’t mean that thought is true.

Just like we have habits related to behaviors, we have thought habits. We have a habit of thinking we suck, we aren’t good at anything, that there’s something inherently wrong with us. We have a habit of thinking things will go really bad with us. Or that we aren’t allowed to be this happy and that something bad will soon happen to re-establish the “balance”. It’s like you would have a broken record playing in your house saying ”this house is going to burn”, and you spend your life being afraid and worried because you forget it’s just a broken record.

LOA (and frankly some approaches in therapy) tell us that only after we fix and change these thoughts are we going to be able to have the things we want.

But that’s just not true, y’all. You can still be filled with self-doubt and negative thoughts and continue to do your own thing and work for what you want.

Actually, if you were to talk to people who are generally seen as accomplished and successful, and if they were to be honest to you, you would find out that EVERYONE has the same nasty thoughts game going on in their heads.

The key difference is they stopped believing their thoughts. And they started doing what they want to do. They stopped waiting for fear, doubt or worry to disappear, and became really good at working with these companies.


It is so liberating. It’s a lot more realistic and definitely more productive. You should try it.

I had my head full of “should”s and “have to”s about how productivity looks like.

So many authors, coaches and trainers say that in order to work you have to:

– get in the zone
– feel inspired
– be in the flow
– be positive
– be optimistic
– feel confident
– be in the right mood, etc.

So, my process for getting to work back in the days was to first work on how I am feeling. Fluff up my mood. Spark my enthusiasm. Reconnect with my mission. Get to feel empowered and excited. Play upbeat music. Read inspiring stuff.

And this is all good to a point – the trouble is I am setting a trap for myself. The trap is I end up thinking it’s not a good idea to work when I am:

– stressed
– sad
– tired
– afraid
– not in the mood
– bored
– not at all confident
– like it doesn’t really matter after all.

That made me give up so much more frequently. I delayed getting started and doing the work. I spent way too many time trying to fix and change how I was feeling in order to actually start getting things done.

So I decided to divorce that old mindset.

I now have learned to separate work from feelings.

It’s not that I don’t aim to feel good and inspired as much as I can. It’s just that I no longer use a bad mood as an excuse to not do the things that are important to me.


The advantages of this new mindset are so so cool.


First of all, I have a higher acceptance of all of my emotional states. I no longer see them as a problem I need to solve. I no longer fight with myself or get frustrated about being in a less-than-perfect mood. I no longer waste energy on putting make-up on a low state and beat myself up for feeling it in the first place.

Second of all, as long as I accept a bad mood, I reach a state of calm and okayness. I continue to be less excited, more fearful or bored, but I am okay with it and that keeps me in healthy, cool emotional balance.

Third of all, I get WAY more stuff done. I learned that you can actually work even when you’re not feeling it. I make progress every single day, even when it’s a small win. But hey, forward is forward and small steps are much better than no steps.

Fourth of all, I usually end up feeling in the zone. By the time I finish those things on my to-do list, I get a feeling of immense satisfaction and pride for being able to work regardless of my initial resistance. I learn that I am much more powerful, resilient and able to adapt than I imagined.


And if that’s not enough, consider this. Being able to work even when you’re in a bad mood is an invaluable skill to have. This is great training for the future. There will be times in your life when you have to show up and do your thing even if you’re not feeling it. Isn’t it best to start the training as early as possible?

There’s this one funny answer that we give to a very common interview question:
“What are your weaknesses?”
”Well, I’m a perfectionist. (grin) I can’t rest until every detail is as it should be.”
Now sometimes the interviewer remains satisfied that this is a very bearable weakness to work with. Other times, though, he silently sighs, tired of this urban myth that this is a great answer to this interview question. Cus, you know, actually perfectionism is a quality, and you just said that your only weakness is in fact a quality and no one’s gonna notice what you did there.
If I were in the position of the interviewer and I would recognize a perfectionist standing in front of me, I’d have some doubts.
My experience as a coach and an HR professional (and frankly, as a human being) has shown me that actually perfectionists have the lowest growth rate.

Why does this happen and how do we become perfectionists?

More and more research shows that success relies most on what we currently call grit. Grit is the ability to passionately and persistently follow a goal, even when major blocks and distractions stand along the way. Those who are gritty have the ability to self-regulate – to get back to their commitment towards the goal – even when the positive results take a big too long to appear.
Success is no longer the gift of the most talented, intelligent or charismatic individuals – all of these are essential abilities, but what sets apart high-potential people from highly accomplished people lies in the consistency of their efforts. 
I know, this is a far less romantic approach, right? Like – where’s the magic? Where are those unbelievable success stories, where a misfit turns uber successful overnight, without even having to work that much?
Truth is, these stories are mythology. If, in fact, we are set to search for a real, tested and functional recipe, then we have to turn towards a story of success based on resilience.
Resilience (or mental and emotional power) is what allows us to try again, and again, and again etc. until we reach a satisfying result. Turns out that the profile of a successful person is someone who accepts he/she has a lot to learn, that mistakes will be made and that a mistake is not the end of the road; it’s someone willing to be vulnerable, tackle on big goals, state his ambitions and make his skills and talents visible.
The thing is, this is the opposite of a perfectionist. Real perfectionist know exactly how painful and unbearable making mistakes feels. I remember that once I couldn’t sleep for an entire week over a very small mistake I’ve made at a job. For a perfectionist, vulnerability is the most difficult experience one can have, and he would do anything in his power to evade it. Just ask yourself, how comfortable are you with showing your work to others, especially when it’s work in progress and not all details are polished? Or how does it feel when people get a glimpse of parts of you that aren’t picture perfect – like finding out there are things you don’t know, seeing you lose your temper or finding out that not every aspect of your life is perfect?
Criticism and failure are really hard hits for a perfectionist to take, hence the fragility I was referring to in the title of this article.
A perfectionist’s self-esteem is extremely fragile, because it lies at the mercy of the scoreboard – that board where we keep tracks of all our wins. A perfectionist feels (relatively) fine and confident as long as she doesn’t make any mistakes. Upon the first failure (bound to happen), all his self-trust comes crashing down. His perception is that he is a failure, not that he had a failure.
Perfectionism is a life strategy that we create since early childhood. We come to think that the way to have safety, the acceptance, appreciation and love of our parents is to make no mistake. It’s the mentality of a child who has been punished for the smallest mishap – and I am even talking about the smallest punishments (a harsh look from mum or dad, a critical comment). It’s the mentality of a child who has been asked to always perform at the highest level, without being told that high performance is build on dozens of mistakes.
It’s so hard for a perfectionist to tolerate criticism and failure, that she will avoid doing new things and taking on challenges that are above her current level of competence. But the first step in growth and development is taking on precisely this type of challenges – this requires returning to the stage of the Newbie, which requires making mistakes and being vulnerable.
It’s also hard to recover from setbacks – in fact, a perfectionist thinks that failure is proof that he is not good enough. So undeveloped is his ability to tolerate mistakes, that he lacks the power to confront them, to analyze what did not work, and what he can do different next time.
Perfectionist can’t admit to needing help. They want to prove they can make it all on their own, and will never benefit from the support and help of other people.
There’s so much self-imposed pressure on the shoulders of a perfectionist, that all her energy is lost on fighting with hyper-critical, hyper-anxious thoughts. There’s no energy or enthusiasm left for actually taking actions.

What’s the advice that I always give perfectionists?

Re-examine your  personal values.
A fulfilled life – however you may want to define it – is a life where not making mistakes is not your no.1 priority. Something else has to be at the top – what could that be for you?

– Following your passion?
– Sharing your experience and knowledge with others?
– Developing your talent and show it to the world?
– Foster fulfilling relationships, filled with warmth and love?
– Experiment (at least a bit) more joy, spontaneity and openness to experience?

When the desire to avoid failure comes first, our playground gets smaller and smaller. We lock inside and over-control our self expression, wanting to show others only the “flawless” parts of our being.

So perfectionism is a bad thing?

It can be, if it becomes a goal in itself, and not just a tool that we choose when to use and when to let go of.
We differentiate between healthy – or functional perfectionism – and dysfunctional perfectionism.
Here’s a couple of differences:

If you’re a perfectionist as me, I nudge you to challenge this way of thinking. Arm yourself with patience as the process of change can be lengthy, but remember to take a small step every day. A step towards greater self-acceptance. Tell yourself often that it’s okay to make mistakes and that nothing of value comes without a certain amount of failure. Get familiar with other’s stories of success – you may be surprised to know that the people you admire the most not only have made mistakes in the past, but they still have ideas that don’t work, failed attempts and disappointments. The good part is that they get back on the field the next day, which is my wish for you.

(To find out more about this topic, here’s two great books to check out> Grit. The Power of Passion and Perseverance –  by Angela Duckworth and Mindset. The New Psychology of Success – by Carol Dweck )


It is my pleasure to share with you a couple of thoughts that have been going through my mind recently. Maybe not the kind of thoughts you’d be expecting to read on International Happiness Day, but…

We’re born naked, vulnerable, completely dependent on others for a safe passage of our first days and first years on Earth.

In the beginning, our world is mom. Mom and dad. Brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts & uncles, other children, kindergarten colleagues –
step by step our circle of trust grows larger and larger and we learn to understand ourselves in relationship to others.

We learn everything from the people around us – the way to behave, social norms and faux-pas, what makes a happy life, who deserves to be successful and what one has to do in order to achieve that. We also learn how much of our inner life to expose. We learn what to do when it hurts.

I started thinking how funny, ironic and overwhelming it is that in the center of an infinite Universe, there lies the human being. Such a small creature compared to so many other things, but with such an odd ”weapon” under its belt: self-awareness. How strange that this oddity of the human being is a source of great joys: the desire for knowledge, for inventing things to make life easier, the desire to connect and experiment life, but also the exhausting need to understand why he is here.

How did the Universe came to life? Why are we here? How did we come to be? What’s our purpose?

These questions are the daily menu of the common existentialist. It is so wonderful to have our attention focused on these questions, because the attempts made at answering them have been a massive propeller of our progress and civilization.

At the same time, once we become interested in gaining real knowledge and understanding – of ourselves, of others, of the world around us – we actually uncover an avalanche of complexity and uncertainty. The more we search for answers, the more we accept our own irrationality, the more we want to train our ability for reflection, contemplation of different perspectives, the more we unveil the actual difficulty of the task at hand: to understand and to find meaning.

Finding meaning for our existence is an instinct.

It may be an instinct far more sophisticated than the one for survival or transmitting our genes, but it’s still an instinct. It comes to surface in early childhood, when the toddler won’t stop throwing “Why?” at his parents. Depending on the reaction of the parents, the child either learns to ask questions and to never do something without understanding the reasons behind it, or to numb its need to find meaning and to become disconnected, almost like a robot doing things “because I said so”, “because that’s how it has always been done”, “because that’s how everybody does”.

Another reason why I consider the search for meaning to be an instinct is that so many physical and psychological afflictions have a root cause in man not being able to find a reason for his existence. On the other hand, those who have indeed claimed a mission prove to be so motivated that they can overcome massive challenges and go beyond the limits of what we consider to be possible. Meaning is vital. Meaning is life.

For me, happiness is roommates with meaning.

For me searching for meaning is like opening Pandora’s box: on this journey I discover many joys and satisfactions, and I also get connected with and aware of so much of the human suffering. And although I often preach about happiness and the various recipes to achieve it, today I only want to say this…

Happiness is about connection with other people.

Over the course of my life, during the most difficult moments, I have found strength, joy, trust and comfort in those around me. It is my partner that teaches me the lesson of confident, unbreakable calm – he never seems to be frightened or discouraged by something. He is also the one to remind me that love is so much stronger than a fight, a difference of opinions, a flaw (be it a real or imagined one). It is my mum that teaches me the lesson of creation and transformation: when who you are and what you have no longer makes you happy, you have the power to start all over again and create your joy. There are people who teach me about courage. There are people who teach me about taking risks and opening my heart. Others teach me about dedication and perseverance – those who fall so many times but still find a reason to get back on their feet. Those who teach me that extraordinary characters often live simple, modest lives and frequently hide outside the spotlight -so it takes a very, very attentive pair of eyes to notice them. There were so many times when those who made me laugh – yeah, simply made me laugh – actually saved me. There are people who have shared their stories of struggle behind the appearance of success who have offered me a beautiful gift – the ”I am not the only one” lesson. There are people who fill my heart up to the brim with joy and warmth because they are stubborn about making something beautiful, doing some good – there are people who are complete strangers to me, but they speak to my soul through their writings, their voice, their creation.

I find myself there, standing in the midst of all these people. Connected to so many stories, so many hearts, questions and ways of answering. Luckily, in this strange labyrinth of life, we have each other. As mirror, as compass, as resting place, as recovery units. Sometimes as a kick in the butt, providing us with the cold shower we need in order to wake up.

This is my kind of happiness. Entering the game is how I find meaning. Getting connected. Getting to know you, and you, and you. Telling you things that people avoid saying. Daring to come closer to you and believing in you. Being curious about what we can build together.

On International Happiness Day, I give thanks for having people around me.

Photo Credit: Larm Rmah, Children of Chupah district, Gialai province Vietnam.

 I recently attended a free conference. The event was targeted to a general audience, people at the beginning of their personal development journey. Prior to the conference, I was impressed with the VERY thoughtful organization of the event. Confirmation e-mails, reminder e-mails, friendly and warm text messages from the trainer’s staff stating their enthusiasm to meet up.
In the day of the event, I managed to leave the house later than expected and arrived at the event 3 minutes past starting time. I was part embarrassed, part reassured that “I’m sure a lot of people will arrive even later than that.”. And while my initial resolution was to be open to learning something new and having a good time, it wasn’t long until something else kicked in. First, I looked at the banners displayed in front of the conference hall and immediately came up with 3 things that were not good enough. I started feeling bored. I was thinking that I didn’t get all the coffee I needed in the morning and, as a consequence, I could only feel moody and grumpy. I was thirsty. I had a general “I already know this” attitude and even found myself rolling my eyes at the general enthusiasm in the room or the different things people shared out loud.
At some point, the volume of my own train of thoughts about not wanting to be there was so loud, that I felt the best thing for me is to just leave. Despite the trainer doing a really good job. Despite a part of me that really not wanting the trainer to take my exit as a sign of him not doing a good job. I left the room and went for coffee and lunch with a friend 😃
While that felt terribly good, I also caught myself thinking about something else…
I realized, I sometimes (read frequently) am the brilliant jerk.
“Brilliant jerk” is a term I first heard a couple of years ago, describing the kind of employees who are super smart and highly skilled in their field of work, but who are so difficult to deal with, that the cost to handle their attitude outweighs the benefit of their brilliance.
And while the usual term defines people who are, oh well, a**holes in a team setting – judgy with others, highly and indiscriminately competitive, aggressive in supporting their own point of view and generally not interested in supporting others, I think I am a different kind of a brilliant jerk. And I think you may be one, as well.

I am talking about being a jerk to yourself. To your own growth. To your own success.

There is a HUGE trap you can go into when thinking your talent trumps the need for consistent work. It may well be that you have a long history of people complimenting you for your brain power – you stood up in school, not necessarily as someone who studies a lot, but as someone who just kind of knows stuff. You have been in a lot of situations where you managed to rise at the top of the “intellectual” food chain. You can quickly learn new things. You easily get what’s going on. You have an impressive vocabulary. Your critical thinking skills are impressive. You probably have a speed record on finding even the most obscure faults with other people’s ideas and plans. You often pride yourself on having eccentric opinions, going against whatever the trend is at the moment, and people kind of hold their breath when it’s your turn to share your two cents on something. Your overall results are pretty good and chances are you will continue to get a lot of praise.
The thing is…
If you were to be really honest, you didn’t achieve that much. Because regardless of what people say about your success, you know deep down you didn’t have the guts to follow the things you really wanted to do. You know you are wasting your potential. Others say that they admire your confidence, and quite frankly they misread your arrogance for a healthy and solid sense of self-worth. If you were to be honest, you are sick of your own intelligence because guess what? You look around and see people seemingly less intelligent achieving way more than you do. So what good is it?
You discourage yourself and others to try out new things, because daring greatly is risky, and you hate risk. You hate vulnerability. And following your dreams requires huge amounts of vulnerability. Being bold enough to say “this is what I want”, creating your own path rather than following other’s lead requires vulnerability. Your inner perfectionism is the biggest obstacle in your growth.
You don’t afford trying new things. You don’t afford people seeing there are, actually, things you are not so good at. And damn it, you long for a simplification of your life. A new way of being, where you stop spending so much time crafting the perfect, fault-lacking strategy in your head, and start getting in the arena and do real stuff.
Life is not a playground for you. Life is a test, a never-ending test where you struggle hard to impress that hungry, unstoppable Inner Judge. Surprise, surprise – he’s never satisfied.
I am not accusing you. I am not judging you because I intimately and deeply know your pain. I know this is really hard for you. It is so hard to never allow yourself to make mistakes, ask for help, do something simply because it makes you feel excited. I know how much you long to lighten up, and start building that meaningful life you yearn for.
Here’s the part where I feel I should offer you a way out. There’s a lot to be said here, but the first step is … well, let’s just say it’s essential AND you’re going to hate it. So, first step: can you be honest with yourself, just for a little while? Can you drop the armor when you are by yourself and admit that this is really something you struggle with? Can you let yourself feel how sick and tired of this dynamic you are?
Once you’ve done that, there is a lot of other reasonably good things to practice:

  1. First, come up with your own definition of success. Stop comparing, stop avoiding the topic altogether, and go crazy – go crazy in daring to look inside, to see what you really like to do and what gives you meaning.
  2. Second, acknowledge that success is 80% the result of the actual steps and actions you take towards your goal, and less the result of just being talented and smart. Things will not happen for you simply because you are brilliant. You need to get out and do the work. And yes, the remaining 20% can be magic, favorable consequences and people spotting your qualities like bees spot the smell of nectar.
  3. Redefine your values. Being perfect has got to stop being number 1 on your agenda. What else is more important to you than this?
  4. Accept that disappointments, failure and criticism are part of the deal. As long as your life strategy is solely focused on avoiding them, you significantly reduce your opportunities and growth.
  5. Life doesn’t owe you anything. Neither do any other people.
  6. Make sure that the ratio of real-life actions versus fancy ideas is balanced. (Another way of saying get out of your head and out into the real world).
  7. Start building a supportive relationship with yourself, where you encourage yourself to take responsibility for your life, where you can stomach to experience failure without feeling like one, and can pick yourself up after the many inevitable falls.

And since I cannot wrap my mind around a decent ending of this post, I will, as a respectable brilliant jerk, end with a quote:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Calvin Coolidge