The party for VIP and speakers at the Paris City Hall (Hôtel de Ville de Paris) in the "salle des arcades" on October the 2nd was very nice.
Monday 7 October 2013
By Christian on Monday 7 October 2013, 21:30
Thursday 12 September 2013
By Christian on Thursday 12 September 2013, 22:25
Here is yet another speech I gave at my Toastmaster club on the 11th of September 2013.
This speech was inspired by the following blog posts by Nancy Householder Hauge: Post 1 Post 2 Post 3 Post 4 Post 5 Post 6 Post 7 Post 8 Post 9 Post 10 Post 11 Post 12 Post 13 Post 14 Post 15 Post 16 Post 17 Post 18 Post 19 Post 20 Post 21 Post 22 Post 23 Post 24 Post 25 Post 26 Post 27 Post 28 Post 29 Post 30 Post 31 Post 32 Post 33
20 American executives from a big international company were in a conference room. They were listening to a very boring but very important presentation.
It was after lunch and the american executives were jet lagged and many of them had had a bad sleep. So, as you can imagine, after one hour, it was difficult for many of them to stay awake. Some of them looked at each other and pantomimed sleeping or snoring. But as the presentation was very important, Bob, the top american executive was doing his best to avoid being distracted and to stay focused.
One female executive then wrote a short note and passed it to others with the instructions to read it and pass along. One after the other the executives were passed the note, read it and then stifled a laugh. When the note reached Bob, the top executive, many executives were giggling or trying to suppress laughter.
Bob opened it and read the following: "If you drive your pen into your thigh, it will help you stay awake."
Then Bob rose from his chair, went to the back of the room and leaned against the wall. His shoulder were shaking. As everyone was starting to laugh, Bob left the room barking "Excuse me" and a bio break was declared.
The executive woman who wrote that note was named Nancy Hauge. In her blog, she wrote many stories like this about her experience in the Human Resources, HR, department of that big company.
In these stories we can see how important fun can be for the success of a company. So I am going to use examples mostly from her blog to answer the following questions:
First how can we make a company fun?
Then, why is fun so important in a company?
So first, how to make a company fun?
The obvious solution is that the company needs to hire and promote "fun" people. The problem is that it is not so easy to have many people who are fun, who help spread fun and who are also competent.
And an idea that doesn't work is to have only one person responsible for the fun.
In fact, one day the CEO of the company called Nancy and asked her to be the "CEO of Fun" in the company, because he saw that the atmosphere had become stuffy and that it had a bad impact on the company.
The problem with this is that even if the person responsible for fun can indeed do a few things to make it more fun, fun depends a lot on how everyone, especially managers are acting and which rules they set.
For example, one rule that Nancy's best boss had was: "Attenuate, do not amplify." She recalls that, after he stated the rule, people thought:
Who was he kidding? Even after looking up "attenuate" we didn't get it. Amplification was the tool of HR. Running around creating drama, screaming from the rooftops that the sky-was-falling was the currency of HR. How would we get anything done if we focused and dialed down the volume?
But the result of such rules was that people became more creative and more fun.
Nancy also says that they had free donuts every Friday morning and one thing that was very bad was when the management decided to stop offering these free donuts to cut costs. It sent the message that the company was not a fun company anymore.
It has been my experience too, that when a company stop providing free drinks for example, it is a bad sign.
Second why is fun important?
A quite obvious reason is that it puts people in high spirits and makes people more commited to their company.
One less obvious reason is that it boosts creativity. And there are other related reasons. Fun makes people more open, less risk-averse and it often makes problems easier to solve or at least it reduces their impact.
For example, Nancy says that at one point after a great guy she called an enabler of fun left:
... the HR function started to turn into the "personnel police," always saying no and taking everything much too seriously. ... the next generation of HR types started quoting the risks and securing their position power by making certain every manager was frightened of being sued.
At my work, I am in the "method and developer assistance" team. Sometime we realize that developers don't really need technical assistance but rather psychological assistance. The development environment is very complex and has some flaws, so sometimes a developer is angry about that and we have to deal with the situation.
At one point a female developer had to rework something at the last moment before it would be released, because it didn't work on one very old operating system that we support.
She said that it was hell to have to deal with such an operating system. I replied that the good thing was that 40 years from now when she will tell what happened to her to her grandkids, they will look at her with big opened eyes as if she was really a heroin, because it would be as if her grandmother had told her that she used to hunt mammouth armed with stone tipped spears.
To sum up it all, I would say that it is really important these days for companies to make sure people have fun at the workplace. This is because fun creates a great environment for creativity, problem solving and improvement.
But the way to achieve fun is not as straightforward as it seems. It depends a lot on all the managers, the environment and the rules they set. Though of course everyone can do something about it.
Sunday 25 August 2013
By Christian on Sunday 25 August 2013, 21:21 - git
I will give my presentation called "Enjoy Fighting Regressions with git bisect" again this year at the LinuxCon Europe. It is planned on Wednesday, October 23 from 4:50pm to 5:40pm.
Wednesday 26 June 2013
By Christian on Wednesday 26 June 2013, 23:45
Here is yet another speech I gave at my Toastmaster club on the 26th of June 2013.
As you know there are more and more computers doing more and more complex tasks. Many people are wondering if computers will completely replace human beings in the next decades.
There are some analogies between minds and computers, because software that runs on a computer is in some ways like thought processes that run inside the mind. There are even common words, like "process", "routine" or "demon", that are used to describe both activities.
So I think it's interesting to compare how computers and the mind work, and you will see that this leads to discussing spirituality.
In this talk I will try to answer the following questions:
Firstly, how do minds and computers compare in their working?
Secondly, why do we need spirituality?
Thirdly, how can different kinds of spirituality be useful?
Computers and minds are similar in that they both have "demons". In computer science a demon is a software process that is running all the time in the background. But, in human psychology, it is a bad thought process that is always tempting us to behave poorly.
In ancient Greece "demons" were entities coming from distant sources that helped people when they worked. They were considered good things because they were creative spirits. In ancient Rome they called such a spirit a "genius". Someone who could do wonderful work was not considered to be especially great, he was just considered lucky to have a "genius" helping him.
If many people could have wonderful thought processes, so much so that they could be considered geniuses. They would be so creative that their work would certainly be very valuable and it would not be easy to replace them with a computer.
So people have sets of thought processes of various quality and they choose which one they are running according to circumstances. In this way people are very much like computers, except that computers choose the software they are running according to instructions given to them.
And this is where there is a big difference. It is quite easy to download a new software, install and run it on a computer. But it is very hard for many people to really choose how they will behave, and moreover to become a genius.
For example, we would all probably want to behave most of the time as if we were very happy. But our mood unfortunately doesn't often let us do that.
Another example is that if I could have installed a competent communicator software in my brain, well, I wouldn't be here in front of you tonight.
It is much more difficult for most people to significantly change their own thought processes even if they want to, than to change the software running on their computer.
Now that we have seen how minds and computers compare, an interesting question is what can we do to improve our thought processes? And, in this second part of my speech, we are going to see that spirituality can help.
Consider the following famous quote from Einstein:
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."
This means that we have to find things that can put us at a higher consciousness level to be able to solve our thought process problems.
This is why we need spirituality. Because the goal of spiritual books and practices is exactly that: to raise our consciousness level.
When we cannot get to a higher consciousness level, it is very difficult to improve our thought processes because we are trapped by them. And we don't even realize it.
For example people who suffer from depression sometimes have a very hard time recovering. Because some bad thought processes keep pulling them down. Another example is when routine takes all of our time.
In this third part, I am now going to talk about some spiritual practices that I have tried and how they can help:
- There is meditation. It is a pratice that trains the mind to control the thoughts it is running.
Obviously learning to control the thought processes can only help improve them.
- There are special Buddhist practices like one called "Feeding Your Demons":
The idea is that there are reasons why we are haunted by demons, and if we can find the reasons and fix them, then we can transform the thought processes so that they can help us again. They now become demons in the Greek sense of "demon".
- There are interesting new age books, texts and practices, like "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle.
They can help because if you can live "in the moment" you are more conscious, simply because you are not trapped by any routine thought.
- There are spiritual courses like "A Course in Miracles".
Using Christian words, it's goal is to change the students' thought process and to help them acquire a better one, based on forgiveness.
- By the way, there are many religions and practices that put a strong emphasis on forgiveness.
Often the reason one thought process is bad is because it is based on a bad experience. In this cases forgiveness helps fix the root cause of the bad thought process.
- Helping others: there are of course many ways to do that, and yes I think they can sometimes be considered spiritual practices.
By focusing on helping others, we forget about ourselves and our problems, which raises our consciousness level.
For example a few years ago I developed an open source software in my free time with other developers on the Internet. And yes for me it was some kind of spiritual experience to develop it, because I knew that it would be very useful. I have felt very very grateful to have the chance to help many people this way.
To conclude, these days many people need to improve their thought processes simply because otherwise they would be trapped. They could be trapped either by problems like anxiety, depression, obesity, or in a situation like unemployment or an unfullfiling job.
In many cases, spirituality can probably help raise us to a more conscious level from where it will be easier to make changes to our thought processes.
My opinion is that in the coming decades, with more and more computers and robots doing more and more things, questions, like "What are human beings supposed to do?" will be more and more acute. And I think spirituality might help us find answers.
Saturday 11 May 2013
By Christian on Saturday 11 May 2013, 17:07
This is the first Toastmaster speech I gave at my Toastmaster club. It was in 2011 and I didn't have the habit to post my speeches on my blog at the time.
I am sure some of the work I have done, has had an impact on your life. This impact maybe invisible, small and indirect; but it is a growing impact not just on your life but on the life of hundreds millions or even billions of people. In this speech I will explain to you why.
As a teenager, I knew I wanted to become an engineer. I liked to play with lego blocks. I liked to take things apart to see how they worked. I liked to design on paper new things like flying cars. By being an engineer I could make the world a better place, because using better products would improve people's lives.
In the mid 1980s computers started to become affordable and I soon realized that they were the future of engineering. So I convinced my parents to buy me one. I started to learn how computers worked and how to program. I was fascinated by programming languages and other software tools that helped people "talk" to computers, and make them do what they wanted. My hobby of developing software tools started then.
I wanted to become an engineer and I managed to get into an engineering school. There I studied computer science, and I got my first job as a software developer 15 years ago. Since then I have been working as a software engineer. I worked on software for medical applications (to see a foetus in 3 dimensions), for banks, and for the military. I even wrote the official iPhone application for the Olympique Lyonnais soccer team, but it is not this software that has had the biggest impact.
My hobby and passion for software development tools guide me throughout my professional career. In my free time, I learned about the Linux operating system. Since Linux is open source software I could freely use and develop the tools running on it. My Linux hobby helped me get work.
The Linux operating system, also simply called Linux, was created 20 years ago by a Finnish guy called Linus Torvalds. He was a student at the time and is still developing it. Linux is developed by thousands of developers from all over the world. Many of them are now employed by companies like Google, Intel, Hitachi, SFR, and so on.
In 2005 Linus Torvalds created a software called Git to manage the source code of Linux. What do I mean by source code? It is the set of files and instructions in these files that make up the program. It is very important to have good tools to manage the source code, especially when many people are working on the same software. In 2006 I started to work on Git as a hobby. I became the 12th developer of Git in the world, and the first one in France in terms of the number of changes. Git, like Linux, has been a tremendous and growing success. Many companies like Google, Yahoo, Intel, Facebook and Twitter, are using Git.
For example, since the Google operating system for smartphone called Android is based on Linux, many people developing applications for this operating system are now using Git. The latest versions of Apple development tools now use Git as the default source control tool. This means that many iPhone, iPad and Mac applications have been developed using Git and many more will be during the coming years.
Just as my Linux hobby in general helped me with my career, so did my Git hobby. I have given presentations about Git, one in Dresden Germany in 2009 and one at a Google Conference in India last October. I will give another one next August in Vancouver Canada at the biggest Linux Conference ever. There we will be celebrating 20 years of the Linux system.
What is really exciting is that the improvements I made to Git are like seeds that have grown, are still growing, and are now bearing many small fruits of many kinds in invisible ways. These improvements make the software developer's job easier. For example, some of the improvements I made help them find bugs.
This means that people using the applications or operating systems made by these developers have a better user experience. And since software is everywhere nowadays, in the end it means a better user experience for nearly everybody. When I take the metro and I see people using their smartphone, I like to think that perhaps a small part of the quality of the experience they get comes from the work I did on Git. I feel that I succeeded in making many people's lives a little better.
Monday 29 April 2013
By Christian on Monday 29 April 2013, 07:43
In the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book, there are many other great parts. For example there is one about how men give points that shows that forgiving a man is a good way to get a lot of points.
If he has made a mistake and feels embarassed, sorry, or ashamed, then he needs her love more; therefore he gives more points if she responds by being supportive. The bigger the mistake, the more points he gives her for her love.
There is also a whole chapter about love letters.
When we are upset, disappointed, frustrated, or angry it is difficult to communicate lovingly. When negative emotions come up, we tend momentarily to lose our loving feelings of trust, caring, understanding, acceptance, appreciation, and respect. At such times, even with the best intentions, talking turns into fighting. In the heat of the moment, we do not remember how to communicate in a way that works for our partner or for us.
These are the times when talking does not work. Fortunately there is another alternative. Instead of verbally sharing your feelings with your partner, write him or her a letter. Writing letters allow you to listen to your own feelings without worrying about hurting your partner. By freely expressing and listening to your own feelings, you automatically become more centered and loving. As men write letters they become more caring, understanding, and respectful; as women write letters they become more trusting, accepting, and appreciative.
Writing out your negative feelings is an excellent way to become aware of how unloving you may sound. With this greater awareness you can adjust your approach. In addition, by writing out your negative emotions their intensity can be released, making room for positive feelings to be felt again. Having become more centered, you can then go to your partner and speak to him or her in a more loving way - a way that is less judgmental or blaming. As a result, your chances of being understood and accepted are much greater.
After writing your letter you may no longer feel a need to talk. Instead you could become inspired to do something loving for your partner. Whether you share the feelings in your letter or you just write a letter to feel better, writing down your feelings is an important tool.
Sunday 28 April 2013
By Christian on Sunday 28 April 2013, 21:48
Every year, Murex, the company where I have been working for 2 and a half year, has a big party around the end of March or the beginning of April somewhere in Paris. It is called "Jamborée". Usually there is a theme and some people working at Murex prepare the party by recording some videos with the help of the marketing team.
This year the theme was "Colors" and people were separated into different teams each one named after a color. I was in the green team and here is the video that we prepared for the Jamborée 2013 that took place on the 22nd of March.
Thursday 25 April 2013
By Christian on Thursday 25 April 2013, 08:04
Here is yet another speech I gave at my Toastmaster club on the 24th of April 2013. It is based on the great content I found on the following web sites:
- Wikipedia entry about the Stereotype Threat
- Where are the role models for British girls?
- Girls go geek again
In some of my previous speeches, I talked about the media. In other speeches, I could have talked about them too. What I often said or could have said about them is that the picture they show about many important things is very different from reality.
In this speech I will first explain why there is such a big difference between reality and what the media show. Then I will talk about an important example which is the relationship between media and the situation of women in our society. I will eventually talk about what we can do to improve things.
To explain the difference between reality and what the media show, I need first to talk about stereotypes. Even if we all say that we don't believe in stereotypes, we are all affected by some stereotypes. There are psychological tests that show this.
For example one stereotype that exists is that men are better than women at maths. And a test that shows how it affects us is the following: some female students with the same average math grades are given a math test. Before the test some students are given an article about what it means to be a woman and the other students are given an article that has nothing to do about genders. The result of such tests is that the women who have been given the article about what it means to be a woman will perform worse than the other students.
In psychology this way that stereotypes affect all of us is called the stereotype threat. It affects everyone, regular people and people in the media.
So people in the media are affected by stereotypes and also to please their audience they have an incentive to conform to the stereotypes of their audience. So they will show or tell things that are more likely to conform to them.
The result is that there are vicious circles that reinforce stereotypes.
In many cases there is a race to the bottom, as in the case of english tabloids, or the fact that science nearly completely disappeared from mainstream media.
In other cases, like for example about violence, there is a complete disconnection with reality, because the way it is shown in the media now has nothing to do with reality.
Another important case of reinforced stereotypes is the situation of women in our society. I am going to talk specially about it, because as a guy working with computers I am often asked these days by women why aren't there more women working with computers.
What is funny is that there are not many women asking why aren't there more female electricians? Or more female mechanics? Though only one percent of the electricians and 2 percent of the mechanics are female.
Of course it's not very difficult to become an electrician or a mechanic, it doesn't require an advanced degree in anything. So the reason there are not many women is of course that there are very few women attracted by these jobs.
In the same way 10% of the people studying electrical engineering are women versus 30% of those studying aeronautics or space engineering. So, for some reason, aeronautics and space engineering seems much more attractive than electrical engineering for women.
In some east european countries there are also a quite high percentage of software engineers who are women (30%), compared to western european countries. This is because the soviet propaganda used to show a lot of men and women doing the same technical work.
In the UK, one country with a very low percentage of women in software engineering, there are now organisations dedicated to campaign against heavily stereotyped and limiting role models for young girls.
One of them is called Pinkstinks. It focuses on promoting "real" female role models who achieve "real" things.
The woman who founded this organization says things like: "British culture has been totally pornified. Men think it's normal and expect young women to not have any body hair and, god, if she does, she must be a hairy lesbian. Society now thinks it's empowering for women to go to pole dancing classes on a Saturday morning, encouraging them to make the most of their femininity - what type of irresponsible message is this sending to our young girls? That you have to conform to what the sex industry wants, in order for you to be accepted as a real female?"
She says there is a disturbing situation in Britain, where people are celebrated just for being famous, making young girls believe these are the type of women they should be looking up to and aspiring to be.
"We call it pinkification. Girls are taught literally from when they're born that what you look like is the most important thing in life. You must look perfect and girly to be a WAG, model or reality TV star."
So what are the solutions to the problem that media reinforce stereotypes?
First we should try to address the root causes and not the simptoms.
Also this problem should not be mixed with sexism or racism. When people are doing worse in a test, because they think they are not a good fit for what they are doing, then blaming the people evaluating the results of the test is counterproductive.
And I don't think that any strict solutions like quotas could work.
My opinion is that they have a lot of problems. For example you cannot realistically force female students to become electrical engineers if they don't want to. No more that you can force women to become electrician or mechanic.
Or that you can force men to attend saturday morning pole dancing classes. Toastmasters meetings might get male speakers with more exciting body language, but it will not prevent the race to the bottom to continue.
My opinion is that there is no simple solution. One of the best way is to educate people, especially young people and people in the media about the stereotype threat, and about the way the media are reinforcing the stereotypes.
Some studies says that teaching people about the stereotype threat before a test is sufficient to eliminate its effects. One other way is to teach people that the amount of effort spent to learn something is much more important than any other stereotype related criteria. And there are other ways like self affirmation and making everyone feel welcomed.
This means that everyone should know that even if it looks a little bit more difficult to succeed in a field, when you go against a stereotype, it is certainly possible, and it can be made much easier.
And it is a good way to affirmate oneself to do something that goes against stereotypes and often it gives bigger and more meaningful successes.
To conclude I would say that it's everyone's responsability to recognize that stereotypes exists, that media are often reinforcing them, that they are a problem because they contribute to perpetuate some inequalities, some myths and some unhappyness.
The real solution is to make people aware of how stereotypes work, and the ways like self affirmation and emphathizing the role of effort that can reduce them.
And also everyone can and should do what Gandhi suggested that is: be the change that you want to see in the world. So go against the stereotypes you don't like. Don't let them constrain you in any way. It is the modern way to fight for liberty.
Because if we don't do that then it means that we condamn ourselves to have our lives more and more unconsciously constrained, to let a few others decide what we should do for a living and what we should eat, how we should look like, how we should behave, who we should love and how, and in the end what we should think.
Wednesday 17 April 2013
By Christian on Wednesday 17 April 2013, 06:47
This is my favorite part of the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book.
Women instinctively appreciate the little things. The only exceptions are when a woman doesn't realize a man needs to hear her appreciation or when she feels the score is uneven. When a woman feels unloved and neglected it is hard for her automatically to appreciate what a man does do for her. She feels resentful because she has given so much more than he has. This resentment blocks her ability to appreciate the little things.
Resentment, like getting the flu or a cold, is not healthy. When a woman is sick with resentment she tends to negate what a man has done for her because, according to the way a woman keeps score, she has done so much more.
When the score is forty to ten in favor of the woman, she may begin to feel very resentful. Something happens to a woman when she feels she is giving more than she is getting. Quite unconsciously she substracts his score of ten from her score of forty and concludes the score in their relationship is thirty to zero. This makes sense mathematically and is understandable, but it doesn't work.
When she substracts his score from her score he ends up with a zero, and he is not a zero. He has not given zero; he has given ten. When he comes home she has a coldness in her eyes or in her voice that says he is a zero. She is negating what he has done. She reacts to him as if he has given nothing - but he has given ten.
The reason a woman tends to reduce a man's points this way is because she feels unloved. The unequal score makes her feel that she isn't important. Feeling unloved, she finds it very difficult to appreciate even the ten points he can legitimately claim. Of course, this isn't fair, but it is how it works.
What generally happens in a relationship at this point is the man feels unappreciated and loses his motivation to do more. He catches the resentment flu. She then continues to feel more resentful, and the situation gets worse and worse. Her resentment flu gets worse.
What she can do
The way of solving this problem is to understand it compassionately from both sides. He needs to be appreciated, while she needs to feel supported. Otherwise their sickness gets worse.
The solution to this resentment is for her to take responsibility. She needs to take responsibility for having contributed to her problem by giving more and letting the score get so uneven. She needs to treat herself as if she has the flu or a cold and take a rest from giving so much in the relationship. She needs to pamper herself and allow her partner to take care of her more.
When a woman feels resentful, she usually will not give her partner a chance to be supportive, or, if he tries, she will negate the value of what he has done and give him another zero. She closes the door to his support. By taking responsibility for giving too much, she can give up blaming him for the problem and start a new scorecard. She can give him another chance and, with her new understanding, improve the situation.
What he can do
When a man feels unappreciated, he stops giving support. A way he can responsibly deal with the situation is to understand that it is hard for her to give points for his support and appreciate him when she is sick with resentment.
He can release his own resentment by understanding that she needs to receive for a while before she can give again. He can remember this as he attentively gives his love and affection in little ways. For a while he should not expect her to be as appreciative as he deserves and needs. It helps if he takes responsability for giving her the flu because he neglected to do the little things that she needs.
With this foresight he can give without expecting much in return until she recovers from her flu. Knowing that he can solve this problem will help him release his resentment as well. If he continues giving and she focuses on receiving his support with love, the balance can be quickly restored.
Sunday 14 April 2013
By Christian on Sunday 14 April 2013, 17:48
Related to giving and receiving, an interesting part of the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book, is the question of what we should give to please our partner.
The author says that women like to receive gifts of love frequently and that "no matter how big or small a gift of love is, it scores one point; each gift has equal value". Men often don't understand that and focus their energies into big gifts.
Among the many things that can score points with a woman the author lists:
- Resist the temptation to solve her problems - empathize instead.
- Validate her feelings when she is upset.
- Whenever her feelings have been hurt, give her some empathy and tell her "I am sorry you feel hurt." Then be silent; let her feel your understanding of her hurt. Don't offer solutions or explanations why her hurt is not your fault.
- Call her from work to ask how she is or to share something exciting or to tell her "I love you".
- Display affection in public.
- Pay more attention to her than to others in public.
- Surprise her with a love note or poem.
- When listening to her talk, use eye contact.
Then the author says:
"It's magic when a man does little things for his woman. It keeps her love tank full and the score even. When the score is even, or almost even, a woman knows she is loved, which makes her more trusting and loving in return. When a woman knows she's loved, she can love without resentment."
"Doing little things for a woman is also healing for a man. In fact, those little things will tend to heal his resentments as well as hers. He begins to feel powerful and effective because she's getting the care she needs. Both are then fullfilled."
Monday 8 April 2013
By Christian on Monday 8 April 2013, 09:18
This is another interesing part of the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book. Like the previous parts, it is about receiving and giving.
When a woman realizes that she truly deserves to be loved, she is opening the door for a man to give to her. But when it takes her ten years of overgiving in a marriage to realize that she deserves more, ironically, she feels like closing the door and not giving him the chance. She may feel something like this: "I have given to you and you have ignored me. You had your chance. I deserve better. I can't trust you. I am too tired, I have nothing left to give. I will not let you hurt me again."
Repeatedly, when this is the case, I have assured women that they don't have to give more to have a better relationship. Their partner actually will give them more if they give less. When a man has been ignoring her needs, it is as though they have both been asleep. When she wakes up and remember her needs, he also wakes up and wants to give her more.
Predictabily, her partner will wake up from his passive state and truly make many of the changes she requires. When she is no longer giving too much, because she is feeling worthy inside herself, he comes out of his cave and starts building spaceships to come and make her happy. It may take him a while actually to learn to give her more, but the most important step is taken - he is aware that he has neglected her and wants to change.
Quite often, when one partner makes a positive change the other will also change. This predictable coincidence is one of those magical things about life. When the student is ready the teacher appears. When the question is asked then the answer is heard. When we are truly ready to receive then what we need will become available. When the Venusians were ready to receive, the Martians were ready to give.
Tuesday 2 April 2013
By Christian on Tuesday 2 April 2013, 09:20
This part of the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book explains how women can learn to receive by setting limits.
As a man experiences limits, he is motivated to give more. Through respecting limits, he automatically is motivated to question the effectiveness of his behavior patterns and to start making changes. When a woman realizes that in order to receive she needs to set limits, then automatically she begins to forgive her partner and explore new ways of asking for and receiving support. When a woman sets limits, she gradually learns to relax and receive more.
Learning to receive
Setting limits and receiving are very scary for a woman. She is commonly afraid of needing too much and then being rejected, judged, abandonned. Rejection, judgement, and abandonment are most painful because deep inside her unconscious she holds the incorrect belief that she is unworthy of receiving more. This belief was formed and reinforced in childhood every time she had to suppress her feelings, needs, or wishes.
A woman is particularly vulnerable to the negative and incorrect belief that she doesn't deserve to be loved.
Because she is afraid of not being supported, she unknowingly pushes away the support she needs. When a man receives the message that she doesn't trust him to fulfill her needs, then he feels immediately rejected and is turned off. Her hopelessness and mistrust transform her valid needs into desperate expressions od neediness and communicate to him the message that she doesn't trust him to support her. Ironically, men are primarily motivated by being needed, but are turned off by neediness.
At such times, a woman mistakenly assumes that having needs has turned him off when in truth it is her hopelessness, desperation, and mistrust that has done so. Without recognizing that men need to be trusted, it is difficult and confusing for women to understand the difference between needing and neediness.
For women, not only is needing others confusing but being disappointed or abandoned is especially painful, even in the smallest ways. It is not easy for her to depend on others and then be ignored, forgotten, or dismissed. Needing others puts her in a vulnerable position. Being ignored or dispointed hurts more because it affirms the incorrect belief that she is unworthy.
Saturday 30 March 2013
By Christian on Saturday 30 March 2013, 20:59
One part of the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book is about the fact that women often think they should give more to receive more, but it isn't how it works.
A woman's tendency to be compulsive relaxes as she remembers that she is worthy of love - she doesn't have to earn it; she can relax, give less, and receive more. She deserves it.
When a woman realizes she has been giving too much, she tends to blame her partner for their unhappyness. She feels the injustice of giving more than she has received.
Although she has not received what she deserved, to improve her relationships she needs to recognize how she contributed to the problem. When a woman gives too much she should not blame her partner. Similarly, a man who gives less should not blame his partner for being negative or unreceptive to him. In both cases, blaming does not work.
Understanding, trust, compassion, acceptance, and support are the solution, not blaming our partners. When this situation occurs, instead of blaming his female partner for being resentful, a man can be compassionate and offer his support even if she doesn't ask for it, listen to her even if at first it sounds like blame, and help her to trust and open up to him by doing little things for her to show that he cares.
Instead of blaming a man for giving less, a woman can accept and forgive her partner's imperfections, especially when he disappoints her, trust that he wants to give more when he doesn't offer his support, and encourage him to give more by appreciating what he does give and continuing to ask for his support.
Most important, however, a woman needs to recognize her boundaries of what she can give without resenting her partner. Instead of expecting her partner to even the score, she needs to keep it even by regulating how much she gives.
Monday 25 March 2013
By Christian on Monday 25 March 2013, 08:28
Sometime ago my wife and I were given a DVD in french about a ''Mars and Venus'' show by Paul Dewandre. We watched the DVD and found it very funny, very true and very insightful. This DVD is based on a stage show that Paul Dewandre has been running very successfully in France and french speaking countries since 2006.
Paul Dewandre based his show on the very famous Mars and Venus books and relationship couseling teachings by John Gray.
So I decided to buy the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book by John Gray. This book has sold more than 50 million copies and it was the "highest ranked work of nonfiction" of the 1990s. I found this book to be quite different from Paul Dewandre's show, but very true and insightful too.
What I find very interesting is that the book is based on the following idea:
Gender insight helps us to be more tolerant and forgiving when someone doesn't respond the way we think he or she should.
The above idea is the first thing that is highlighted in the Introduction to the Paperback Edition. And what I like about it is that it talks about being tolerant and forgiving. There are many blog posts on this blog about forgiveness.
Other interesting ideas hightlighted in the Introduction are:
We too easily blame our problems on our partners rather than our own approach.
Gender differences show up the most after getting involved in an intimate relationship, having children together, or when we are under a lot of stress.
Men often complain, She is over-reacting and women complain, He doesn't listen!
When we correctly interpret a situation it is never as bad as we thought.
Friday 22 March 2013
By Christian on Friday 22 March 2013, 09:24
Here is the last extract from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho that I will post.
They crossed the desert for another two days in silence. The alchemist had become much more cautious, because they were approaching the area where the most violent battles were being waged. As they moved along, the boy tried to listen to his heart.
It was not easy to do; in earlier times, his heart had always been ready to tell its story, but lately that wasn't true. There had been times when his heart spent hours telling of its sadness, and at other times it became so emotional over the desert sunrise that the boy had to hide his tears. His heart bet fastest when it spoke to the boy of treasure, and more slowly when the boy stared entranced at the endless horizons of the desert. But his heart was never quiet, even when the boy and the alchemist had fallen into silence.
"Why do we have to listen to our hearts?" the boy asked, when they had made camp that day.
"Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you'll find your treasure."
"But my heart is agitated," the boy said. "It has its dreams, it gets emotional, and it's become passionate over a woman of the desert. It asks things of me, and it keeps me from sleeping many nights, when I'm thinking about her."
"Well, that's good. Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say."
During the next three days the two travelers passed by a number of armed tribesmen, and saw others on the horizon. The boy's heart began to speak of fear. It told him stories it had heard from the Soul of the World, stories of men who sought to find their treasure and never succeeded. Sometimes it frightened the boy with the idea that he might not find his treasure, or that he might die there in the desert. At other times, it told the boy that it was satisfied: it had found love and riches.
"My heart is a traitor," the boy said to the alchemist, when they had paused to rest the horses. "It doesn't want me to go on."
"That makes sense," the alchemist answered. "Naturally it's afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you've won."
"Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?"
"Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you're thinking about life and about the world."
"You mean I should listen, even if it's treasonous?"
"Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because you'll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them."
"You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it's better to listen to what it has to say. That way you'll never have to fear an unanticipated blow."
The boy continued to listen to his heart as they crossed the desert. He came to understand its dodges and tricks, and to accept it as it was. He lost his fear, and forgot about his need to go back to the oasis, because, one afternoon, his heart told him that it was happy. "Even though I complain sometimes," it said, "it's because I'm the heart of a person, and people's hearts are that way. People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don't deserve them, or that they'll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren't, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands. Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly."
"My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.
"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity."
"Every second of the search is an encounter with God," the boy told his heart. "When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I've known that every hour was part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I've discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve."
So his heart was quiet for an entire afternoon. That night, the boy slept deeply, and, when he awoke, his heart began to tell him things that came from the Soul of the World. It said that all people who are happy have God within them. And that happiness could be found in a grain of sand from the desert, as the alchemist had said. Because a grain of sand is a moment of creation, and the universe has taken millions of years to create it. "Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him," his heart said. "We, people's hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few people follow the path laid out for them - the path to their destinies, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.
"So, we, their hearts, speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won't be heard: we don't want people to suffer because they don't follow their hearts."
"Why don't people's hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?" the boy asked the alchemist.
"Because that's what make a heart suffer most, and hearts don't like to suffer."
From then on, the boy understood his heart. He asked it, please, never stop speaking to him. He asked that, when he wandered far from his dreams, his heart press him and sound the alarm. The boy swore that, every time he heard the alarm, he would heed its message.
That night he told all of this to the alchemist. And the alchemist understood that the boy's heart had returned to the Soul of the World.
"So what should I do now?" the boy asked.
"Continue in the direction of the Pyramids," said the alchemist. "And continue to pay heed to the omens. Your heart is still capable of showing you where the treasure is."
"Is that the one thing I still needed to know?"
"No," the alchemist answered. "What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved toward that dream. That's the point at which most people give up. It's the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one 'dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.'
"Every search begins with beginner's luck. And every search ends with the victor's being severely tested."
The boy remembered an old proverb from his country. It said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn.
Tuesday 19 March 2013
By Christian on Tuesday 19 March 2013, 05:07
Here is yet another extract from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
Fatima appeared at the entrance to the tent. The two walked out among the palms. The boy knew that it was a violation of the Tradition, but that didn't matter to him now.
"I'm going away," he said. "And I want you to know that I'm coming back. I love you because ..."
"Don't say anything," Fatima interrupted. "One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving."
But the boy continued, "I had a dream, and I met with a king. I sold crystal and crossed the desert. And, because the tribes declared war, I went to the well, seeking the alchemist. So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you."
The two embraced. It was the first time either had touched the other.
"I'll be back," the boy said.
"Before this, I always looked to the desert with longing," said Fatima. "Now it will be with hope. My father went away one day, but he returned to my mother, and he has always come back since then."
They said nothing else. They walked a bit farther among the palms, and then the boy left her at the entrance to her tent.
"I'll return, just as your father came back to your mother," he said.
He saw that Fatima's eyes were filled with tears.
"I'm a woman of the desert," she said, averting her face. "But above all, I'm a woman."
From that day on, it was the desert that would be important. She would look to it every day, and would try to guess which star the boy was following in search of his treasure. She would have to send her kisses on the wind, hoping that the wind would touch the boy's face, and would tell him that she was alive. That she was waiting for him, a woman awaiting a courageous man in search of his treasure. From that day on, the desert would represent only one thing to her: the hope for his return.
"If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return."
The man was speaking the language of alchemy. But the boy knew that he was referring to Fatima.
Saturday 16 March 2013
By Christian on Saturday 16 March 2013, 05:50
Here is yet another extract from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
The boy didn't want to talk about the Pyramids. His heart was heavy, and he had been melancholy since the previous night. To continue his search for the treasure meant that he had to abandon Fatima.
"I'm going to guide you across the desert," the alchemist said.
"I want to stay at the oasis," the boy answered. "I've found Fatima, and, as far as I'm concerned, she's worth more than treasure."
"Fatima is a woman of the desert," said the alchemist. "She knows that men have to go away in order to return. And she already has her treasure: it's you. Now she expects that you will find what it is you are looking for."
"Well, what if I decide to stay?"
"Let me tell you what will happen. You'll be the counselor of the oasis. You have enough gold to buy many sheep and many camels. You'll marry Fatima, and you'll both be happy for a year. You'll learn to love the desert, and you'll get to know everyone of the fifty thousand palms. You'll watch them as they grow, demonstrating how the world is always changing. And you'll get better and better at understanding omen, because the desert is the best teacher there is."
"Sometime during the second year, you'll remember about the treasure. The omens will begin insistently to speak of it, and you'll try to ignore them. You'll use your knowledge for the welfare of the oasis and its inhabitants. The tribal chieftains will appreciate what you do. And your camels will bring you wealth and power."
"During the third year, the omen will continue to speak of your treasure and you destiny. You'll walk around, night after night, at the oasis, and Fatima will be unhappy because she'll feel it was she who interrupted your quest. But you will love her, and she'll return your love. You'll remember that she never asked you to stay, because a woman of the desert knows that she must await her man. So you won't blame her. But many times you'll walk the sands of the desert, thinking that maybe you could have left ... that you could have trusted more in your love for Fatima. Because what kept you at the oasis was your own fear that you might never come back. At that point, the omens will tell you that your treasure is buried forever."
"Then, sometime during the fourth year, the omens will abandon you, because you've stopped listening to them. The tribal chieftains will see that, and you'll be dismissed from your position as counselor. But, by then, you'll be a rich merchant, with many camels and a great deal of merchandise. You'll spend the rest of your days knowing that you didn't pursue your destiny, and that now it's too late."
"You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny. If he abandons that pursuit, it's because it wasn't true love ... the love that speaks the Language of the World."
Wednesday 13 March 2013
By Christian on Wednesday 13 March 2013, 08:49
Here is another extract from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I love the way he describes this kind of encounter.
Finally, a young woman approached who was not dressed in black. She had a vessel on her shoulder, and her head was covered by a veil, but her face was uncovered. The boy approached her to ask about the alchemist.
At that moment, it seemed to him that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him. When he looked into her dark eyes, and saw that her lips were poised between a laugh and silence, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke - the languagethat everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert. Something that exerted the same force whenever two pairs of eyes met, as had theirs here at the well. She smiled, and that was certanly an omen - the omen he had been awaiting, without even knowing he was, for all his life. The omen he had sought to find with his sheep and in his books, in the crystals and in the silence of the desert.
It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing. He was more certain of it than of anything in the world. He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming commited. But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language. Because, when you know that language, it's easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it's in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one's dreams would have no meaning.
Maktub, thought the boy.
The Englishman shook the boy: "Come on, ask her!"
The boy stepped closer to the girl, and when she smiled, he did the same.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Fatima," the girl said, averting her eyes.
"That's what some women in my country are called."
"It's the name of the Prophet's daughter," Fatima said. "The invaders carried the name everywhere." The beautiful girl spoke of the invaders with pride.
The Englishman prodded him, and the boy asked her about the man who cured people's illnesses.
"That's the man who knows all the secrets of the world," she said. "He communicates with the genies of the desert."
The genies were the spirits of good and evil. And the girl pointed to the south, indicating that it was there the strange man lived. Then she filled her vessel with water and left.
Monday 11 March 2013
By Christian on Monday 11 March 2013, 06:43
As I said in a previous blog post I love Paulo Coelho's books and his most famous one is The Alchemist. So, here is the prologue of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I love this very small but interesting story.
The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had bought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus.
The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.
But this was not how the author of the book ended the story.
He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.
"Why do you weep?" the goddesses asked.
"I weep for Narcissus," the lake replied.
"Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus," they said, "for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand."
"But ... was Narcissus beautiful?" he lake asked.
"Who better than you know that?" the goddesses said in wonder. "After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!"
The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said:
"I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected."
"What a lovely story," the alchemist thought.
What I understand about this story is that it teaches that wonderful people are not only wonderful by themselves, they are also wonderful because we feel wonderful with them, even if we don't realize how wonderful they are. Sadly sometimes we only realize how wonderful they were after it is too late.
Sunday 24 February 2013
By Christian on Sunday 24 February 2013, 21:42
I saw this story about a boat being seized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a few days ago and it looks to me like the result of an unfortunately very usual lack of forgiveness.
What is kind of funny, or sad depending how you see it, is that I am sure both of the people involved, the male writer who want his boat to cross the Canada/USA border, on one side, and the female DHS agent who seized it, on the other side, are both thinking that they are acting in good faith, that they have done what they could to nicely solve the problem and that most of all they didn't accept what the other asked for because of their integrity.
If you look at the comment you will see a lot of them saying things like: "Integrity! It’s so refreshing, thank you." But I am sure the colleagues of the DHS agent are also praising her for her integrity, because she did not let the guy get away with his boat without signing the form as is.
But I don't think it is really integrity that is at stake in this case. Because it is not a corruption problem at all. It is just a question of an amount on a form that might be a little different from what it should be. And in fact even that is not sure because it might have happened that the conversion rate on that day was exactly 1.00, so that it was exactly the same amount in canadian and american dollars. Or something else. It might even just be a simple misunderstanding.
That's why I think the problem is really a problem of big egos. It would have been a very small effort to do what the other asked, but no, both of them chose not to compromise.
It makes me think that even if we manage to take care all the technical problems in the world and to live in a world of material abundance, there will still be many people who will find a way not to be happy because they will be so upset about this kind of problems.
Why don't people realize that a little bit of forgiveness is really needed and goes a long way in those cases?
Instead it looks like people prefer to escalate these problems to their lawyer or boss, and to accuse the other side of things like "I’ll probably get droned now, too" or "The officer in question vilified by this rich individual now has to endure all the grief posted here and elsewhere by Mr rich guy".
How long will it last? What do they expect? That they will become heroes this way?
And what the next step is going to be in this way? Is the DHS agent going to sue the guy for harassing her on the Internet? Will the guy be tortured by DHS agent at each airport?
Can't they realize that the real solution is to overcome their fear, forgive and talk to each other, to find a simple, cheap and effective compromise? And can't the other people around this story realize this too?
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