About learning and why I love my job

Yesterday evening I spent more than two hours with a group of young people from Romania’s first Alternative University. It’s the second year when I am hosting a 2.0 Course in this amazing community of curious and eager for knowledge people. The theme? “Self-awareness”. If you wonder what a course on self-awareness looks like, the answer is simple- it has little to do with what we learnt in our school years that a course “should” be – a set of  information you need to memorise and then reproduce as good as possible. A 2.0 Course is a journey. There is no compulsory attendance. No grades. There is a series of informal meetings in which, starting from participants’ objectives, I suggest topics for debate. I offer them information which we discuss and analyse together. I recommend books. We talk about neuroscience, psychology, spirituality. We approach “self-discovery” from as many angles as possible, always aware that no perspective, as appealing as it may be, ever represents the absolute truth. From one meeting to another they take on new topics for thought and experimentation. They test the information they received. They challenge it. They prepare more and more questions for our next meeting. My purpose is to challenge them to think, to doubt, to test, to dig inside of themselves. If, in the end, they leave with some answers and even more questions than they had when we first met, then I believe it was a success. Last night, leaning into my good old friend, the flip-chart, I experimented a moment of pure joy. The joy of offering all my energy and receiving theirs in exchange. Unlike many of my “corporate” workshops, where people come skeptical and wait for me to convince them that the experience will hold value for them, young people come to 2.0 Courses because they chose to be there. They are just starting their journey through life, they are convinced that anything is possible and they have very few inner barriers and very little...

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Man’s Search for Meaning

This is the title of one of my favourite books of all time, written by Viktor Frankl, a great mind and a remarkable human being, who survived the worst of the Holocaust only to come to the conclusion that, even in the worst of circumstances, we are still free to choose our destiny. Frankl was an Austrian Jew, a professor with a more than promising career in psychiatry, who refused an offer to emigrate to the US when the Second World War broke out because his parents had not been granted permission to leave Austria and he felt he couldn’t abandon them. This brave choice led him to a gruelling 3 year journey in the Nazi death camps, where he sat next to his father as he died and then lost both his wife and mother. He survived through a combination of unique attitude and a series of fortunate circumstances, or, as some may say, dumb luck – although I believe there was nothing dumb about his luck. He witnessed people becoming noting more than animals in their fierce struggle for survival in the camps. Inmates torturing inmates or robbing them of their last piece of bread only to prolong their own existence a little while more. But, amazingly, he also witnessed people becoming heroes, creating a meaning for themselves in that meaningless circumstance by helping others, often at a risk or even at the cost of their own lives. What is the difference between them? Between the brutes and the heroes?  His answer to this was that we, humans, have both these potentials in us. We can become brutes or heroes and the only thing that creates this difference is our own free will. We have a choice. Even when all other freedoms have been taken away from us, he said, we can still choose our attitude in front of those circumstances.  Frankl’s legacy to mankind, which he built in his very long life post death-camps (he lived to be 92 years old)...

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Do You Have a Job, a Career or a Vocation? Or…Science’s Lessons for Putting “Meaning” Into “Work”

Feb 14, 11 Do You Have a Job, a Career or a Vocation? Or…Science’s Lessons for Putting “Meaning” Into “Work”

Posted by in Books, Psychology

Alexandra works in an office every day, from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. Her first and foremost motivation is to earn enough money to be able to “live” after work – she uses her income to finance her hobby, painting, and to afford small joys – like going out with her friends, short weekend trips to the mountains and, once a year, a holiday abroad. If money were not a problem, she’d change jobs in an instant and do something different. To her, work is a necessity of life, like eating or sleeping, only less pleasant. She feels as if she pays a daily 8 hour fee in exchange for freedom after 5 pm. Alex is happiest on Fridays because the weekend is coming, and hates almost nothing more than the sound of the alarm clock on Monday mornings, announcing the beginning of another week. Diana enjoys her work, but doesn’t expect to do the same job a few years from now. Then she will definitely be higher up the corporate ladder, in a better paid position. She has clear objectives for her future and knows exactly what her next professional step will be. Even though sometimes her day to day work feels like a waste of time, the hope for promotion keeps her going. To her, being promoted is the ultimate recognition of her value and victory over the colleagues with whom she is competing. For Anna, work is a natural part of life. In fact, if you asked her, she’d tell you she’s not working, but is lucky enough to be paid for doing what she likes best. To her, there is no clear separation between work and leisure – the two make up a harmonious whole – and many of her friends are also colleagues at work. She would never conceive changing her profession, because it represents her and she honestly believes that what she does for a living actually has meaning and makes the world a better place. So…which...

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