Dear Friends, this is NOT Germany!

This is a little off-topic – but I feel a strong urge to post something like this right now. About 80% of Mappalicious´ visitors are not from Germany; I get lots of traffic from North-America, the UK, Australia, but also other European countries such as Finland or the Netherlands.

Now, I don´t know how often you follow foreign politics, but if you have a look at what´s going on in Germany right now, you may find articles like this one from the Guardian:


What this is all about: there´s an organization that call themselves PEGIDA, an acronym that roughly translates to “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident”. Right now, this group is able to mobilize some 15.000 people to demonstrate in Dresden (former East-Germany) every Monday against immigrants, against the “mainstream media” (which they call liars and things a lot worse), and other issues which are too many and too obscure to mention.

Their main argument is that Europe, and especially Germany, will be overrun by Muslims in the near future (what they call “foreign infiltration”). That is especially absurd as the percentage of Muslim inhabitants of Dresden currently is at roughly 0.4-0.5% – which is about one tenth compared to the 5% of the general population in Germany. And by the way, that number is going to rise to ca. 7% by 2050. Whoa, now this is what I call infiltration…

The founders of PEGIDA are a bunch of convicted criminals and/or covert or blatant Neo-Nazis, and most of the people walking beside them are die-hard bozos and hillbillies, and what in the U.S. would probably be called rednecks, and people who´s eyebrows meet firmly in the middle. And then, beside those, there are some pensioners and unemployed people who feel “left behind” – people who are in dire need of a scapegoat for the (alleged) misery in their lives.

These people make me (and probably around 98% of the German population) want to puke my guts out. 25 years ago, at that same place, the people of the former German Democratic Republic were protesting against the reigning Communist regime, they risked their freedom and their lives to get rid of Erich Honnecker and his band of crooks. Their rallying cry back then was “Wir sind das Volk!” (We are the people!”). It was a cry for equality, humans rights, and freedom!

Now, those PEGIDA shitheads are misusing that very same slogan, in a sort of deformation, when they roister through the streets of beautiful Dresden to rant and rave against everything that is somehow foreign, alien, and exceeds the capacity of their shriveled brains.

PEGIDA, you´re not “the people”. You are a pitiful, gruesome shadow of the past.

Dear friends all over the world – please remember: This is not Germany, and these guys are not “the Germans”. I´ve just had a look at my wedding photo from 3,5 years ago. Our maid of honor is originally from Italy, and the bridesmaid is from Syria. My very first girl-friend was from Vietnam, and among my best German buddies are people from Poland, Tunisia, and India. They´ve been working, and living and loving here, for ages! That, my friends, is Germany!

And “dear” PEGIDA! You are not “the people”. You are a sordid, gruesome shadow of the past. There is no future for you – for it will be bright and colorful. Two days to go until you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. May you remember that his message was one of kindness and compassion, not ostracism.

Merry Christmas!


Not what you see (Savatage)

No life’s so short it can’t turn around
You can’t spend your life living underground
For from above you don’t hear a sound
And I’m out here, waiting
I don’t understand what you want me to be
It’s the dark you’re hating, it’s not who I am
But I know that it’s all that you see

No life’s so short that it never learns
No flame so small that it never burns
No page so sure that it never turns
And I’m out here, waiting
I don’t understand what you want me to be
It’s the dark you’re hating, it’s not who I am
But I know that it’s all that you see

Can you live your life in a day, putting every moment in play?
Never hear a word that they say as the wheels go around
Tell me if you win would it show – in a thousand years, who would know?
As a million lives come and go on this same piece of ground


Can you live your life in a day I’ve been waiting
Putting every moment in play?
Never hear a word that they say I don’t understand what you want me to be
As the wheels go around
Tell me if you win would it show It’s the dark you’re hating
In a thousand years, who would know?
As a million lives come and go It’s not who I am, but it is what you see
On this same piece of ground

I’ve been waiting
I don’t understand what you want me to be
It’s the dark you’re hating
It’s not who I am, but it is what you see

Can you live your life in a day
Putting every moment in play?
Never hear a word that they say
As the wheels go around
Tell me if you win would it show
In a thousand years, who would know?
As a million lives come and go
On this same piece of ground

Tell me would you really want to
See me leave this night without you
Would you ever look about you
Wondering where we might be
New York is so far away now
Tokyo, Berlin and Moscow
Only dreams from here but somehow
One day that world we will see

I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand…
…what I see.

I swear on tomorrow, if you take this chance
Our lives are this moment, the music – the dance
And here in this labyrinth of lost mysteries
I close my eyes on this night and you’re all that I see
You’re all that I see

Who´s the Boss? A Tale of Cops and Cheerleaders…

Cop CostumeOk, whatever you think…the title is not the tag line for some special interest porn flick. It’s about leadership. Precisely, COP and CHEERleader are acronyms that I stumbled upon yesterday in an article by the name of Forty things every Manager should know about Coaching. They define two antagonistic frameworks of leadership, and ultimately, underlying views of the nature of man.

COP stands for “Coerce – Organize – Punish”. Basically, it describes what effective leadership was thought to be for most of the 20th century (and the eons before that…). You can still “smell” a lot of Taylor´s “Scientific Management” in there. What is says between the lines: People are inherently lazy and incapable. That´s why the leader has to motivate his “followers” using external rewards and punishment to get the desired results. And above that, there´s one person that knows which form of organizing the tasks at hand is the best: the leader – and no one else.

On the other end of the spectrum, CHEERleader stands for Challenge – Empower – Encourage – Reinforce. It´s based on the assumption that people are intrinsically motivated (please read my article on Self-Determination Theory for a little background information), capable or organizing themselves (alone as well as in groups), and eager to learn, grow, and achieve – in short: that people are grown-up individuals capable of deciding what´s best for themselves as well as the companies they work for.

What do you think of this?


Picture source


How a compassionate Protestant Pastor (almost…) restored my Faith in Christianity

I was raised in a Catholic household but resigned from church at the age of 25 – mostly because of an unwillingness to pay the mandatory(!) church tax in Germany. But the truth is: mentally and especially emotionally, I resigned at the age of about 9, shortly after my First Communion. How did that happen?

It was the very first service I attended after the official ceremony of First Communion. Contrary to Protestant services, with the Catholic church, the receiving of the altar bread happens every time shortly before the end of the service. So, all the people queue up in front of the altar until they are up front to receive the host from the hands of the Priest. You´re supposed to hold your hands in certain kind of way, putting them together to form a “throne” for (the symbol of) Christ – which basically means you´re supposed to put your right hand in the left (or the other way around…frankly, I do not remember). But obviously, on that day, I did it the wrong way.

It´s been almost 27 years ago, but I can still remember vividly how the Priest looked at me as if I had just deliberately peed in the altar wine. He violently pulled my hands apart and squeezed them back together in the “right” fashion. All that obviously happened in front of the whole congregation – which left me deeply ashamed.

I guess in that moment, I  decided (at least preconsciously) that church is a dangerous, cruel, or at best – strange place. I opted out (against the will of my mother…) of all the other rites of passage (e.g. the “Confirmation”) and have not attended a service any more (except for friends´ weddings, and Christmas once in a while). Of course it may have been an overreaction to banish the church from my life altogether because of that single incident. But that is what little kids do – if it hurts bad enough.

Little Guru in TentMost fortunately, three weeks ago, I had a completely different experience. It was the Christening of my wife´s godchild at a Protestant church. It´s really hard right now to have our son Mika (16 months old) sit still for more than 10 seconds a time – so we were a little worried he would disturb the service. When we all sat down I placed him on my lap and hugged him tight. But of course, after a couple of seconds, he was wrestling to get free. So I let him stand up and within a few seconds, he had walked up to the Pastor.

I fully expected to be reprimanded or at least to get a shaking of the head or something like that. Instead, something totally different happened. The Pastor exclaimed:

“Let the children run free. That is God´s greatest joy.”

And for the remainder of the service, Mika walked around mostly quietly, smiling at people, examining the church. What a difference that made. I was so relieved. And so happy…

Still, I´m not ready to join a congregation again – but that man (at least partly…) restored my faith in “the Church” as an institution.

TV, Flow, and the Waste of Human Consciousness

A couple of days ago, I finished The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz and wrote a short article on the idea that unlimited choice can make us miserable. In the meantime, I picked up a true classic of Positive Psychology: Flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi* (actually, it was written about 10 years before Seligman and Csíkszentmihályi coined the term Positive Psychology). Now there are some interesting parallels in those two texts, namely on setting boundaries for oneself to enjoy more freedom and thus to experience order in consciousness (which is one definition of Flow).

By Oliver Kurmis via Wikimedia Commons

By Oliver Kurmis via Wikimedia Commons

I have a full-time job as a manager, I work as a coach on the side, teach at a business school, study in the MAPP, run several blogs and publish articles in practitioner journals very regularly – and I am a husband and a father. Therefore, people often ask me about my time management. The truth is: I may be somewhat of a workaholic (in a positive sense) and I do not regularly get those eight hours of sleep that my body craves for. But the other side of the coin is: I do not waste any of my time! There simply are a lot of things that I choose not to do – even though I know I would immensely enjoy them.

Let´s see what Csíkszentmihályi has to say on what could be called ‘fake flow’:

“[I]nstead of using our physical and mental resources to experience flow, most of us spend many hours each week watching celebrated athletes playing in enormous stadiums. Instead of making music, we listen to platinum records cut by millionaire musicians. Instead of making art, we go to admire paintings that brought in the highest bids at the latest auction. We do not run risks acting on our beliefs, but occupy hours each day watching actors who pretend to have adventures, engaged in mock-meaningful action.”

Enter Barry Schwartz:

“But if unrestricted freedom can impede the individual’s pursuit of what he or she values most, then it may be that some restrictions make everyone better off. And if “constraint” sometimes affords a kind of liberation while “freedom” affords a kind of enslavement, then people would be wise to seek out some measure of appropriate constraint.”

I intuitively threw out my game console at age 14. Back then, I spent day after night after day playing strategy games like ‘Sim City’ or ‘Civilization’, which is totally fine – for a teenager. The thing is: I´m pretty sure I´d still do it today. Those games fulfill the requirements for a flow experience to a very high extent (goal clarity and immediate feedback, high level of concentration, balance between skills and challenge, feeling of control, effortlessness, altered perception of time, melting together of action and consciousness, autotelic quality).

But it is not the real McCoy. It does not get things going in the real world. And while I would never argue that playing is not for grown-ups, as always, it’s the dose that makes the poison. Same thing with watching TV: I know there are a lot of absolutely great TV series out there. I´m positively sure I would immensely enjoy ‘Mad Men’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Boardwalk Empire’, and all the other Emmy-winning masterpieces out there. That´s why I have never watched a single episode. I choose not to be immersed in those artificial worlds. I feel my life is fascinating enough.

Let´s hear Csíkszentmihályi once more:

“The flow experience that results from the use of skills leads to growth; passive entertainment leads nowhere. Collectively we are wasting each year the equivalent of millions of years of human consciousness. The energy that could be used to focus on complex goals, to provide for enjoyable growth, is squandered on patterns of stimulation that only mimic reality.”

I take my hat off to the producers of those series. It takes a lot of effort and human consciousness to create them. But how much consciousness is lost by consuming them? I don´t like to squander mine. Maybe we can all learn a lesson from Odysseus: sometimes, we need to be tied up in order to hear the music…

*If you´ve ever wondered how to pronounce his name in English: it´s something along the lines of ‘Me-High Chicks-Sent-Me-High’. 🙂

Does unlimited choice make us miserable?

The answer just might be: yes! I´m really looking forward to the next onsite meeting with my 2013/14 fellow MAPP students. One of the guest lecturers will be Barry Schwartz, author of Paradox of Choice. While it is true that having no choice at all makes us impassive and miserable, the other end of the continuum might just be as harmful. In his book, Schwartz argues that having to choose from seemingly unlimited options (think of the variety of cereals in a typical supermarket, or sujects to study, or partners to date) could account for the sharp increase in cases of clinical depression in the western world (especially the U.S.). The explanation:

  • Choosing from more options requires more ‘mental energy’.
  • More options typically also means there are more attractive options, but with different features. Having to make trade-offs makes us unhappy.
  • More options lead to higher opportunity costs after having chosen something in the end.
  • More options lead to higher levels of regret – when the choice has turned out to be wrong.
  • There even exists pre-decision regret – a kind of prospection on how it might feel to have made a wrong choice.
  • More attractive options lead to having higher standards – which in turn leads to liking our choices to a lesser extent.
  • Unlimited choice cultivates a culture of personal responsibility which in turn promotes blaming ourselves for the results.

All this may not be very healthy after all. No time for reading? Just watch Barry´s TED Talk.