Don’t think

A few weeks ago my recreational table tennis season had ended. Germans tend to say “Nach der Saison ist vor der Saison”. It means “After the season is before the season.” Off season is a great opportunity to get some practice in.

After a pause of 30 years, during the end of 2021, I had started to play again. The process comes with a lot of hickups and crossroads. I pretty much sucked after I starting again but am seeing progress. It’s both confusing and fun to notice how awkward certain movements feel. I guess that’s what learning can feel like. Recently I got a 1-1 training session in and realised, during certain sequences of hitting the ball, how much I’m thinking about proper movements on how to perform a shot. It results in movements that are much less fluid. What happens is for many of my shots I’m in the process of altering my technique. Why? Because a lot of my movements, which I learnt by myself when I started playing table tennis as a kid, simply don’t represent proper technique.

Throughout this process I got curious about the mental aspect of the game, too. Which is why I recently started reading the book Bounce: The myth of talent and the power of practice. On page 179 the author, Matthew Syed, writes: “The problem was not a lack of focus, but too much focus. Conscious monitoring had disrupted the smooth workings of the implicit system. The sequencing and timing of the different motor responses were fragmented, just as they would be with a novice. They were, effectively, beginners again.”

This perfectly sums up how I feel whilst trying to practicing the new shot techniques. I think about how to move my legs, my hip, my elbow, my hand and how to hold the racket. And in what exact sequence. When I pause I continue to think. If I executed the technique properly and what I need to adjust. Additionally, I’m listening to input from my coach.

OVERLOAD. Too many thoughts to process which prevent fluid movements. As soon as the training sequence is faster, which means more balls coming my way, I stop (over)thinking and just act intuitively. There is simply not enough time to think.

Lesson learnt. Don’t think. Just do.

The symbols of mythology

I love this quote.

For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented, or permanently suppressed. They are the spontaneous productions of the Psyche, and each bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.

Joseph Campbell
The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 1-2)

Free documentaries

Oh You Pretty Things is a web shop run by a collective of filmmakers and visual artists based in Brooklyn NY. They make films, art, books, posters, photographs, clothing, and other fine stuff. 

Filmmaker Gary Hustwit is streaming his documentaries free worldwide during the global COVID-19 crisis. Each Tuesday he is posting another film here.

This week’s turn is a documentary about the industrial designer Dieter Rams.

What does weird mean?

I’ve participated in a few Akimbo workshops. There exists an online Akimbo community where people interact with each other. Seth Godin is creating weekly prompts that invites us to share our thoughts.

This week’s prompt particularly intrigued me, probably because I am curious about language: the way we make sense of this world, via using symbols such as words to create meaning.

Here are the two questions Seth asked:
1. Who do you think of as being weird – in your personal life or the bigger world?
2. What does it even mean for someone to be weird?

Here is my answer:

For me the word “weird” means different than the norm, norm being what I primarily perceive around me: people, objects, landscape, patterns of behavior, values…

I believe what most people, including myself, consider to be weird about themselves, when one is taking a closer look, is actually not all too weird, it’s just their perception of themselves. There are a ton of people who act, look, perceive, believe the way they do, it just so happens that they are not close by, therefore a person can seem kind of weird. What comes to my mind is a classmate in secondary school who used to dress so much differently than all my other classmates. Back then I believed he was kind of weird. Now I believe he must have thought the same about us.

I sometimes think of myself to be weird because I e.g. like boardgames a lot. But when I pay a bit more attention to this thought, particularly nowadays when I can, via the internet, easily find the other boardgame “weirdos”, I realise it’s not true. I am actually not that weird at all, it is quite normal. I am me and so are all the others.

The prompt reminded me of the following article by an organisation named The School of Life. You might like their two videos there, too.

Avoid the “monologue”

Inspired by recent experiences at an international trade fair, I’d like to talk about the “monologue”. It’s so easy to fall into this trap and I admit I’ve done it, too. You and your team have put so much effort into preparing a beautiful stand design, sourcing the furniture, aligning with the trade fair organiser regarding logistical details, inviting people to visit you….and now you’re excited to get started, to talk to potential clients. 

A person approaches your stand, you welcome the person and start talking about your company: how you do it, what it is you exactly do, you maybe even say why you do it. You list clients you work with, highlight your marvellous colleagues from the design, product development, engineering team who can’t wait to serve this person, just send us enquiries and we will help you out.

What is missing, though, is asking questions. These should come first. You need to find out who you are talking to. What is it that this person really cares about, given the type of business he or she is in. And don’t just ask questions, leave space to the person to ask you questions. It’s so hard to do but essential in order to adapt your story, to make it relevant to the person you’ve welcomed at your stand. 

Good luck with your next trade fair!

The role of tension

The two most important currencies in today’s marketing world are attention and trust. People trust you with their time, with their recommendation and maybe, just maybe, with their money. 

If you want a chance to have the kind of impact you seek to make, you need to build some tension, the kind of tension that compels people to take action, e.g. subscribing to your newsletter or buying your product. 

There are two main ways to create it: either framing your message around what is to be avoided (fear) or around what is to be achieved (desire or aspiration). Look at ads and analyse what its main focus is about, you’ll start noticing its everywhere.