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Inner Growth. On this page you will find more thoughts on personal development and change, as well as on motivation and resulting achievements. About our environment and also us dynamically changing. We are quite alive, although we are not, well, not a living document? Also, we don't sing the "Crocodile Rock", but write about using elephant-like strength to get rocks out of our way. There is a lot to talk about and to show: Below graphic outlines why we sometimes need to apply closing dates to specifications and should be careful with using the term "living document".
Goulash Dynamics. Talking about documentation, occasionally someone mentions the need for ongoing, dynamic rewriting. However, when dealing with requirements, you usually need a clear cut off and reliable, complete specifications, which do not change all of the time. A finalized document that is signed-off as a basis for hand-over to development. As a result, I have often mentioned that I am no fan of "living documents," which more or less remind me of horror movies. ("Run, the document is alive and coming after us!") Somehow the saying comes to mind that "a Goulash never stops (Ein Gulasch hoert nie auf)." You can heat it up again and again and add on to it - until it gets sour and bad anyway.
Content Updates. At one point of time I discovered a cartoon showing Moses climbing down Mount Sinai, the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments in his hands. He explains to his people that this is definitely not a living document! Ever since, the term "written in stone" is used to describe something definite, something that never changes. What about this website? Is it dynamic enough and changes frequently, is it "living" or just a bore?
Some things are not negotiable. (Thanks to the kids for colouring my sketch!)
Moving Rocks. The day trip to the Wobbly Stones or "Wackelsteine", as they are referred to in German language, was precisely planned from one of those booklets titled "Hiking with Children". It took us to a part of Lower Austria, where the Czech border is just a stone's throw away. At a place being called Block Heath (Blockheide, in Eibenstein near Gmuend) we found lots of rocks around there, fun climbing and walking by. Rocking them though apparently takes more than one family... The motif seems to say "let's move things" and this sounds like a good motto for both private and professional life anyway.
Corned Crocodile. What has always puzzled me are these parallels among people from completely different cultural backgrounds, grown up some place at the other side of the globe and still having so much in common. What a big step had it been as a young adult going abroad for the first time, travelling to the US only to find out that in that "land of hope" people also just cook with water, as the saying goes. And that they not just eat corned beef, an impression I had falsely picked up in an English class, but also fry decent pork chops. Over time you meet different characters. Those best described by the astrological characteristics: "Zodiac sign crocodile, big yap, small brain (in German: Sternzeichen Krokodil, grosse Pappen, kleines Hirn)." And then there are those that are nice and calm, whenever they would open their mouth it would be for something meaningful.
Moving Mountains. One of the biggest compliments I ever received was when otherwise very quiet people would open up and talk to me. Especially those who are a little shy in an unfamiliar environment and therefore preferably socialize just among themselves. When a group of Asian colleagues would invite me, the alien, for dinner and by that give up the possibility of having conversation in their mother tongue. Just to let me be there, easily overcoming linguistic limitations of any kind. "With that attitude you can move mountains," a South African colleague once said as part of farewell after a Last Supper together.
Moving things - such as a so called Wobbly Stone. With R.J.Dio: We rock!
Unusual Approach. Visiting Spain, I would bring traditional Austrian nougat chocolate for fun to a colleague of similar name. An advertisement campaign informed that already Don Alonso knew about the art of seduction of the delicious nougat cube. Unforgotten is the TV commercial, where a nobleman in fancy coat and white scarf - probably the "Don" or "Duke" himself - would enter an elevator, followed by a beautiful maid. Next, smoke would be coming through the closed elevator doors, followed by the unforgettable line: "Don Alonso... Ildefonso!" On the other hand, we can't always be our jovial self. While still finding small talk and being in larger groups exhausting, people have started remembering me. A friendly smile, a blink, waving that hand, can make a difference. Just liking people and showing it. Knowing though that in the end there may be only very few true and close friends. In front of whom we are not ashamed to show real happiness as well as unspeakable sadness, things usually kept private. Sometimes it is hard to find words, sometimes it is not even necessary. Just being there for each other in silence can mean so much.
Striving for More. Some people are better off, others much worse. In the end it always depends on whom you compare yourself with. When you are trying to make it on your own, you may rather not think of those inheriting a house here or a piece of land there but instead look at those, who struggle with double income still not being enough just to finance a small flat. Not those dependent on parental intervention or a well-meaning mentor as a jump-start, but the kind that climbs the ladder without any competitive advantage. It may just take a while to work your way up. Additional motivation can occur through announcements as project manager of the year or appraisal as top performer, while possibly already being on the next project with a lot of pressure on your shoulders, or feeling bypassed during restructuring. However, it always gets back to the question, who is capable of what? Not everybody can be promoted, or else the question arises: "So many chiefs, but where are the Indians?" Then again there are legitimate rules and a few, who believe they are entitled to regular exceptions. And you may be surprised about the number of people complaining and leaving, only to return after a while. Sometimes you don't see right away, what you have got.
Way Beyond Necessities. Over the years we have been collecting all kind of stuff to make our home more comfy (in theory). There are so many things we wouldn't need, if we simply didn't know that they existed. But as we hear of them, the old hunter and gatherer awakes, for we have to have it all, don't we? When you are on a business trip for a couple weeks or months with just one or two pieces of luggage brought along, you really know what you need in life. And also in order to support a familiy, you may have to do without some of those things, others regard as essential living standard, without being bad off, really.
Just Souvlaki and Spaghetti. Going back from having more is harder. I also wouldn't like move back into a sub standard apartment with the cold toilet outside in the hallway. But how much do you really need in life? As Danzer would sing about his time as a young adult: "Ich lebe solange ich es aushalte von Spiegeleier mit Pommes Frittes - I live, as long as I can endure it, of sunny side up fried eggs and French fries!" When we were down there in "Greece," such is the song title, right after high school graduation we also mostly lived of hand-held souvlaki and cheap spaghetti (fork rolled), besides Amstel beer by the way.
Bringing Life to Empty Rooms. Years later you catch yourself taking measures in an empty kitchen that needs to be put in. An empty room to be filled with life. The kids will be running through it, getting their meals, their drinks, their Amstel? Until everyone moves out again, many years later. The Gary Moore song comes to mind: "Empty rooms, where we learn to live without love..."
Empty rooms at a new place to live in, to be filled with life still.
Diverted Focus. Sometimes we forget one little thing over work, over satisfying self development and ambitious career achievements somewhere between the hope to get promoted and the fear to be laid off. That little thing that is easily forgotten is simply to live. To breathe, no, to inhale rare moments of relaxation with stretched out legs on the couch in the living room or on that canvas on the beach. Which things do we really need to become a well-rounded person, meaning balanced and not fully figured? What else do we wish for, a castle with no time to spend in, fancy clothes, which we are afraid of making dirty, or a big car, which we can barely afford over time?
Red Traffic Lights. To some people the car is a status symbol and beloved hobby, to others it is no more and no less than a tool to get to different places. Some people get quite aggressive in the car and drive like a wild boar. Impatience on the road and resulting speeding can be unhealthy and costly. And there are those, who argue that every colour contains a little green... Like that taxi driver, who used to run red lights all the time. Then, as a street light turned green, he would hit the breaks and stop. His passenger, already scared to death, would yell at him: "Are you crazy, ignoring all those red lights and now that it's green, you suddenly stop?" The driver's reply came unexpected: "My brother drives a cab around here, too, and I am just waiting for him to cross from the other side."
Striving Upwards. Ambition keeps us going, and it should! But how can we best assess the overall impact of our decisions in the approach of professional success? Do we take into account the danger of over-occupation and related sacrifices potentially leading to private failure? Why would you need more to be happy, to enjoy the sunny side of simple life rather than being fed up for not making it all the way up to the top? Just to put it into perspective, let me admit that there is some pressure for apparently I am the only one thinking that way over here. Maybe for being less exposed to competing conversations in the neighbourhood. For being at work during the week, mostly out of "Our House (in the middle of our street)." I had recorded that song from the radio when I was, well, smaller, and now the evergreen became one of my boy's favourites. Revisiting the old lyrics about the family roles of a father going to work and the mother sending the kids off to school, I knew that that line was true: "She's the one they're going to miss."
Beginning to Live. An older colleague mentioned that he had missed his kids growing up, over career, working late, going out and travelling for business. There are priorities to be set, and occasionally it means losing friends over work and family until the children, unfortunately but necessarily, become more independent themselves. Almost as this old saying goes, the ultimate answer to the controversial scientific and theological question about the beginning of life: Is it at the very moment of conception, with the first heartbeat (after 3 weeks), when the baby is completely formed (after 3 months) or at the time of birth? Others say, life really starts when the kids are out of the house and the pet dog is dead. We'll see how we will deal with the situation when it comes to it.
Lonely in the End. After his retirement, once or twice a year we had still met up with our older colleague for a drink at his favourite place, the "Sea Horse" at the Old Danube river. Not lately, a work assignment abroad, then a move, little time, the usual excuses, you know. The missed chance wouldn't come back again. One strange Monday morning his successor approached me at work with a newspaper clipping in his hand. It was a cut-out from the obituary section. A few hours later the two of us would attended the funeral, pulling ourselves together for a final salute, calm and strong on the outside, taking blows professionally, as they call it. "He was such a nice man. He looked a bit like Charlton Heston," the janitor would be quoted, who had made the terrible discovery, when the story later made the headlines of a local district newspaper for the authorities had missed to inform the relatives.
"Beyond the happiness and pain, this place they call the Clouds and Rain." (Gillan & Glover)
Song Sung Blue. Then again I had to think of a quiet song, which translates as following: "In every full glass of wine I see down at the bottom, your shining eyes and your sweet mouth. Then I drink fast and don't hesitate and kiss you in the wine. To see your pretty face once more, I fill it up again. So I refill and empty glasses and drink without pause. And if they call me unsound now, it's your fault anyway!"
Childhood Dreams. A really ambitious goal is to make your own dreams come true. Recently, we watched "The Kid" again, a remarkable Disney-movie from the year 2000 starring Bruce Willis in a most unusual role, playing against the image of a die hard law fighter, for which he is best known. It is a fairy tale of an adult meeting his younger, fatter self and remembering all the dreams he had had as a child. As a kid, he never was the impressive star, maybe he also didn't want to be nor being reminded of it. As an adult, he is living a self-centered, stressed-out career life with too little time for others and himself. As the saying goes, children and drunks always speak the truth, and so his younger self calls him a loser for not having a dog, he dreamed of owning, nor even being married. During a typical midyear crisis, he achieves a turnaround by remembering the kid he used to be, and coming to the realization that he isn't the adult he planned to be.
If you are strong enough, go to next page about Weakness.