There’s a lingering trait that I’m getting out of my own system slow but steady.
As a preteenager in the mid-1980s, I’d think for hours about what I want to do in the foreseeable future. Not in terms of be(coming) an astronaut, businessman or consultant for that matter, but more as in doing what I then loved and still love to do: discovering the limitless possibilities of technology. Computers in particular.
I played and programmed computer games. Rather simulated life in 2D with programs like Little Computer People than live a real 3D life outside. I listened to ‘tracked’ music compositions and created those songs myself on my Amiga; ironically sad but true my one and only girly friend as teenage boy.
Or better put, a Little Computer Boy. I’d almost dream in digital bits and bytes.
For many analogue tasks however, it could take me forever to start, let alone finish. Reluctantly. Especially chores like cleaning stairways in neighbouring flats even though it earned some $70 per week, which went straight to my fancy piggy bank. I just wanted back to the computer and explore a gazillion fun and creative things to do. Cleaning chores simply never made it to my list of fun things to do.
Oddly enough, I managed to actually complete school assignments involving creative hand labour extremely quick … and dirty. I still remember this activity in the second grade of junior high when we had to (re)present the four seasons with textiles.
For winter, I took a bunch of cotton balls and glued them altogether, asserting it’s clearly snowing.
For summer, I cut out one giant yellow fabric and pointed out the sunny weather conditions.
Before I could rush into autumn and spring, my teacher kindly moved me to the group of chess players. Without overly bragging, I won every chess game up to the sixth and final grade. Guess that’s when and where my other passion for strategic thinking emerged.
Back and forth from strategic thinking to operational worrying
During my adolescence, I also had a knack for strategic worrying. I’d fear the silliest things that I’ll need to do in the more distant future as independent adult man dealing with grownup stuff like paying bills; not in terms of what work to do for covering the cost, but how the processes work precisely. Or more accurately: operational worries about my inability to understand how things should be done.
When I saw my mom writing out a paper check to pay the monthly TV bill for instance, I’d think over (or overthink) the smallest details. How on earth would I magically transform my hard earned coins, saved in that fancy piggy bank, to another party via a piece of paper? How would that bank validate the authenticity of my signature? Heck, how do I even create my very own distinguished signature?
My parents taught me to relax and reassured me those trivial things will become perfectly clear gradually and everything’s gonna be alright either way. My folks were right.
I opened my own bank account as soon as I reached the legal age of 12. I practiced my signature dozens of extra times on the same big day I got my personal card to withdraw money. High school turned out to be a walk in the park, at least until the fifth grade when I could no longer keep up with my best friends who I’d follow into their favorite chemistry and physics classes. I couldn’t care less and flunk big time. Oh well, at least I aced my driver’s test in only one exam, so I gladly took school exams twice, since the second time I’d finally select totally different classes that not my friends, but I truly liked and therefore more easily mastered.
The educational ‘fun mix’ – the road to success or path of the least resistance?
So I ditched all exact science courses except math; picked both economics classes (macroeconomics and accounting) as college major if you will, and added history plus geography as minor. Dutch and English were both mandatory language classes. Most called this mix a ‘pretpakket’ in Dutch. Literally translated a fun pack, meant as pejorative since they believe the student opted for the path with least resistance.
Maybe so, but I rather call it fun mix since I finally started to have fun learning from a wide range of topics, how they’re related or even interconnected and most important of all:
It answered why each and every subject matters.
Not owing to the teacher explicitly explaining why their taught subject is relevant to us now and later, since in my time teachers simply didn’t explain why; but because it became self-evident thanks to the easy associations that a much broader view brings. It opened up my mind instead of narrowing it down. The stories made me eager to read and learn more, contrary to a bunch of formulas and theories making me numb (or dumb) and asleep.
This fun mix woke up the enthusiastic generalist inside me, keen to always learn and explore more about new areas. It ignited my interest for marketing and travel abroad, which in its turn made me as INTJ-type more outgoing, outspoken and outstanding to challenge the status quo with new (ad)ventures. Ultimately, it really shaped me as the person I am today:
Jack of all trades, master of
Okay, not Jack but Mike and Van-Zand or MikevZ.
And that’s precisely the point now.
Back in 1996, I started up my design company, InterWays, which I revived in 2007 to transform boring bullet-point presentations into visual, strong authentic stories. With double irony: A) I still feel anxious when presenting in front of familiar faces; and B) I redesigned my own company logo countless times already. Around the same time, I started Van-Zand.com initially as my online personal brand if you will, and redecorated it to strictly share my experience as consultant in the metaphor of a navigator. Yet, I designated my former personal homepage at zandwijk.net as travel blog only. So no other online place to share stories that didn’t necessarily fit into one of these categories.
Last year, my fellow principal consultant and I launched WOW365 as Dutch blog about Microsoft cloud technologies. Soon after, I spun off new domains for potential business developments like Victo.org for a client who desires a CTO-office as some sort of virtual extension to its organization. And lastly, a range of top-level domains for my Optimici brand to share insights about performance optimization in both the Dutch as English language.
As you can see on the downside of the fun mix, I start a lot of new things but haven’t given it the proper attention, follow-up or finish even. Then there’s my fluctuating perfectionism problem and the paradoxical endless peripheries due to my plethora of personal interests. So add my daily challenges and business deadlines in the mix and ta-da, the perfect storm for paralysis.
Hence I’ve decided the following:
- Finish what I started first, so no more new personal projects and/or additional draft posts
- Focus on the one Most Important Task for at least 2 hours straight every day
- Aggregate all past and future publications at mikevz.nl as my multilingual, personal hub
- Continue writing daily at least 500 words till April 2017 but not necessarily published
So, expect major changes in content or context here and there until summer arrives. I promise you it will be prettier than the giant yellow fabric from my junior high assignment, although a fun mix with the cotton balls might be the perfect symbol to say goodbye once and for all to perfectionism.