Why Do Women Even Think They Should Earn As Much as Men?

Anti-feminism, society, and their suicidal consequences

How to raise emotionally intelligent and sensitive kids in a performance-oriented society? How to make girls feel strong and empowered in a world that is still mostly driven by men? How to do better than me as a brother and save your sister’s life? How to gradually change the world?

By sharing my experiences, I hope to open the eyes of fathers that still think their sons are worth more than their daughters and of mothers that think they aren’t entitled to speak up. Ultimately I hope to contribute — be it by triggering some discussions or thoughts — to the change of a society, that is solely performance-driven.

How the ideal world looked like for her

A story about loneliness

July 13th, 2008 — The day that changed our lives

We were enjoying a family lunch at my parents’ place. Enjoying in that context is relative, but lunch was ok. We had leftovers of a typical Flemish dish that tends to taste even better the day after, all flavors absorbed.

In the background, we could hear a lot of sirens fading in and out. We speculated a bit on the seriousness of the event that must have taken place, checked if we could see anything further down the street, and went back to our dishes and wine.

After lunch, we moved to the couch for dessert and a bit more comfort, as my ex-partner was eight months pregnant with our oldest kid (the boy is fourteen now, still as cute as they come). Then our worlds changed for good.

The doorbell rang. Two police officers — one junior male and a more seasoned female, wearing glasses on a face that is burned into my retina — came up asking my mom to take a seat. Blood drained from her face and while collapsing into her chair, she realized. We all realized.

Where it all started

31 years earlier, a girl was born. Blonde, beautiful blue eyes, and a catchy laugh (hearsay of course, as I wasn’t around at the time just yet). Very soon it became clear that her gray cells were operating at a rate far beyond average. I can confirm that from the moment I started building up memories.

Like most siblings, we had regular fights. I was a football player, using the gate of the house as my goal, making the building shake with every goal or miss. She was a bookworm and musician, not a massive fan of those continuous earthquakes. But mostly we had fun together, building He-Man caves out of Pampers boxes (number three came a couple of years later, just at the time we needed the boxes), or stuffing shoes with hay from our hamsters — normal kids’ stuff.

As a little girl, she was already very opinionated. She had a strong sense of justice, she knew how the world could become a better place (her drawing gives an idea — equality, nature, and harmony were so important to her), and she was strong in defending those views against my dad (who as you will soon find out, had and has other strong opinions).

I was just a simple boy playing football in a man’s world. Watching my dad get upset every time my sister had a different opinion became normal. She would end up crying in her room, my dad would end up stating she was crazy. She was alone. She was lonely. Not crazy. I didn’t realize it back then.

The anti-feminist and racist home of a feminist idealistic girl

My mom was a nurse. She loved her job, but the moment she gave birth to my sister, she became a housewife. My dad convinced her by saying there was no financial benefit in having a job while having to raise kids. She also gave up her car back then and never drove one ever since. She became fully dependent on my father.

We are all products of our upbringing. Some choose to learn from mistakes, while others follow blindly and pass on that same upbringing. My mom is in category two. Humble (leaning strongly towards submissive), trying to be good and kind to anyone and everyone, but not to herself. Always avoiding conflict, even when it is needed for the ones she cares about.

My dad grew up in a farmer’s family. Very much male-centered and very much afraid of anything and everything looking different than the typical local farmer. He is also category two (although there are many additional complexities and funny — at least for outsiders — contradictions, that might deserve a book eventually). Dominant, always right, and underdeveloped EQ (close to the one of the average kitchen table — just a literary reference to my previous post — I could have picked any other object without emotions).

The average kitchen table at the time — source Unsplash

Both at our kitchen table and dining table, we got fed, fed with ideologies about people from other religious backgrounds, about women. “Why should women even think they need to earn as much as men in sports? They don’t have the physique and posture. Why do they want our jobs? They should be taking care of their kids.” Mom just nodded.

After being fed, my dad used to just state: “a cup of coffee would do me good”. Mom would get up, make coffee and serve. I think she got upset twice in their now almost 45 years of marriage. She already knew the answer waiting for her, as she heard it more often than twice: dad was the one paying the bills.

Maybe it’s not a valid excuse. Even simple boys playing football in a man’s world should see these things. But I was a boy. I didn’t feel it, because I was in the privileged group.

At the right side of that very same dining table, a young girl was being fed with the same ideologies. Every single one of these statements, every implicit command to my mother, and every comment about women felt like a personal attack, a dagger slowly piercing her young, strong female heart. She asked my mom to stand up. She fought my dad when he said what he said. But she was alone. For years. Until she left home… probably even until she left life.

Perform well and all is good

I’m drowning
No one sees me

Captured in brains
Marks are good
I am small
I am drowning

Where are the people
Who sees me
I am drowning

And I don’t know how it feels
to feel
How it feels to be

Marks are good
but who cares about me
I am small
I am drowning

A poem by my sister

Society is performance-driven. Power and performance are what matter out there. Achievements at school, a university degree, a nice job title, your next salary increase or promotion, the size of your car, or the pool in your garden… that’s how society measures people. All people.

On the other hand, the spectrum of people is enormous. All of us are different. All with different qualities, different colors, different interests, and emotions. And yet we are all still measured by our society in the same way.

My sister had great marks. Everything was just fine for the outside world, her teachers at school and music school. No reason to worry, on the contrary. To some extent even for my parents, these marks were creating the feeling that they were doing a good job. Yet she wasn’t recognized and accepted as the person she was.

My sister tried to be different but was pushed to fit in. Then again she felt she was different and tried but failed to fit in. The constant loneliness, the struggle to be recognized as a girl, a woman in her own family, in this world… the pressure to be normal she felt from all directions, all together drained her. It drained her to the extent she lost faith in her ideals. She lost faith in society, she lost faith in life.

I hope I will have the courage to jump off. Or in front. But rather off. I’ve always been afraid of trains.

She had always been afraid of trains. Yet that day, the day everything changed, she found the courage. She walked there, put her clothes in a container for the poor, left her ID card in a little light blue Holly Hobbie purse (she had kept that from the days we were making He-Man caves and we were putting hamster-hay all over the house), and jumped. In front.

How to change?

It is so sad to conclude that it took a life to change mine. It changed the hard way. But through the years after, I came to understand my sister better. I came to understand myself. Day by day. Where I used to be part of the performance society, I now started seeing things from a different perspective. One that is irreversible, one that is right, one that is me.

What makes us people different is our souls. The potential to feel, to have emotions, and connections with each other to a level no other animal can. Sure we’re also smart and we perform and evolve at an incredible pace (although it is questionable whether our paradoxical society is good for us), but next to this performance there is the magic of our souls we can’t explain.

Yet there is no(t enough) place for sentiment, for emotions in the nerve center of our society. Companies, governments, and institutions select sharks. People who eat other people if needed, to perform. To please their boss, to climb a ladder. All for money. All for power.

I am convinced we need genuine and authentic leaders, we need people, and we need a people society instead of a performance society (or at least more balance, because in the end, we all enjoy modern comfort — things are not black and white). Perhaps we will evolve a bit slower. Maybe Elon’s commercial space flights would be out of the question in this century. Maybe streaming Netflix in your self-driving car won’t be for the coming decades… but so what? We would have a better world.

Where to start?

Of course by understanding the purpose of life (I didn’t put a smiley because of thousands of content-less articles on Medium  stating this is not a good writing practice, but it was meant in a not-so-serious way 🙂 — oops).

More seriously, be it also more cliché: we can and should start by changing ourselves. I chose to change. It took me part of my adult life, strong other people with other views, and some serious events to really evolve and escape from my racist, anti-feminist, and conservative nest.

I chose to focus on the emotional development of my kids rather than emphasizing their more measurable performance. What does your heart tell you? How do you feel? Did you consider the impact on others when you did/said so?

Emotionally intelligent kids are our future. They can bend evolution in a way that can and will make this place a better place to live. Understanding what they feel, sharing and understanding what they feel, and acting on it, instead of blocking every sentiment will eventually be a game-changer for all of us.

Kids and adults that are emotionally educated (leaving aside if they are emotionally intelligent), will always consider the impact of what they do on other human beings. Of course, it is naive and idealistic to believe that we will evolve to a world that doesn’t need feminism, that is inclusive -regardless of skin tone- and where every life is worth as much as another.

But we can change. We can revolve.

Every one of us has a voice, an opinion. However, most people (even in the most democratic and liberal regimes) are looking left and right before expressing it. It will take balls (meant as figuratively as can be — as I hope you understood from the above), but people need to speak up in all layers of society. We need changes at many levels. Time for the next chapter — this might become too much of a prophecy…

Is it possible to change the world? A short rational intermezzo.

99% Of the population wants a better world. Better meaning more human-being-focused. 1% or less is focused on performance, revenue streams, and power. That 1% owns roughly half of the money. Add the middle class to this and it becomes clear that 85% of the capital is (still unevenly) distributed over 12% of the world’s population.

Wikipedia — Distribution of wealth

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of London tried to answer the question of how many people on earth are needed to ‘revolve’ society. The outcome hints toward 25 percent of the population (the full article can be found here).

I tend to disagree with that bold statement and would like to add a sauce of relativity on top: if that 25% of the population is not equally distributed in the different layers of society and let’s say all of them come from the “miserable” red group (with all respect for the red people— I didn’t pick the labels), they are screaming in the desert.

On the other hand, this could also be good news: if we want to change the performance-driven society, it might only take 25% of the mid-class and millionaires to move the needle. Relatively good news: fewer people in absolute value, but the hardest ones to convince to speak up, as they ‘benefit’ from the society they might even dislike.

If we want an inclusive world, we probably also need a decent mix of 25% (don’t pin me on that number — I expect some error bars on that percentage) people that dare to speak up when they see things going wrong, and don’t just look the other way. And this is where we come in… people that raise their voices, parents who focus on a healthy balance between brain and heart, and who are not shy to see a psychologist with their kids when it’s needed. Emotional intelligence has the potential to change the world.

Hippies and suchlike

I’m not a hippie or suchlike. I am not a preacher, not a naive person who thinks we can turn back time and trade carrots for beans again. I like watching Netflix, I enjoy taking pictures on a computer the size of my hand. During the day I am a senior director in a micro-electronics company (and I don’t say this to brag — impostor syndrome: check).

But I lost my sister.

We/I can’t get her back. I can talk to her — which I often do — but she doesn’t talk back. Nevertheless, when I ask her something, she’s right most of the time.

Losing someone hurts. It is a never-ending journey on the curves drawn by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. In the end, you come to accept, but the hurt is still there. Trying to extend her life by understanding, embracing, and sharing her philosophy seems to help. Trying to raise my kids in a way they will never feel lonely while being with their parents helps. Being conscious about the feelings of my kids, as well as the feelings of any other human being — including my own — brings me a bit closer to my sister.

She was beautifully vulnerably naive. She saw a world that would make me feel better. A slower pace, time for each other. Time to sit down and watch a shy butterfly land on a flower in the late afternoon. A world that by itself is mindfulness therapy. But the people didn’t get her. Neighbors laughed at her ideas. I didn’t get her. I told her she needed to find a job, focusing on our pregnancy, not realizing how weak she had become. The old me sometimes thought things would be easier if she would just fit in.

On that day the same neighbors that mocked her, came by to say how beautiful her ideas were.

On that day, I found a bed full of tissues with dried tears. A table with at least fifty personalized application letters she wrote, together with as many rejections. She tried to fit into a world that wasn’t worthy of her, till the very last moment.

Sorry for not understanding you. For not seeing your attempts. For not being there to back you up when it was needed. Sorry for being black or white, when you needed gray.


Thanks for changing my life, for letting me see things in a completely different way, for letting me raise my kids in a way that would have made you happy, and would have saved you. Thanks for letting me be me. Thanks for having been you till the very last moment.

Thank you for changing my world!

True colors of our society uncovered by a yellow card

Shame on FIFA – Shame on us (?)

Red Card to society

The precious FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) decided to have the World Championships of Football in Qatar. A lot of documentaries have been made and a lot of ink has been spilled on the stadium slavery in Qatar, the hundreds of people that died in the process, and the large-scale corruption that was somehow still allowed in this 21st century.

There was no worldwide boycott, no clear signal that we are not tolerating these malpractices, this indirect genocide. The show must go on, FIFA-steamrollers flattened hundreds of people to make this happen, with the labels of many multinationals shining on their hoods.

This weekend that same organization decided that captains of football teams wearing a rainbow bracelet get a yellow card. FIFA no longer surprises me here. What strikes me and millions of people is that all of a sudden a yellow card in a (with all respect and written with some contradictory feeling as I was born with a football at my feet) stupid game is enough to throw all values we are supposed to stand for overboard.

A yellow card.

Photo by Yoav Hornung on Unsplash

National football associations claim that the sportive risk is too big to take. Are they kidding us? They should walk on that pitch with eleven players wearing that bracelet. Referees should wear it. All the instances shouting out loud that we are all equal are now given the choice to stand up, speak up or lose their credibility in any future ethics discussion.

Sponsors, tv-stations, and any other party supporting the national teams should withdraw if their countries decide to take part in this hypocrisy. For their colleagues, their partners, their teammates, their kids, their countrymen, and -women in the LGBTQ community.

If this is ok, none of these organizations should comment on the corruption and credibility of FIFA as they did. If this is ok, they all became part of it (as far as we/they weren’t yet).

This World Cup surfaces many shortcomings of our society. It is holding out a mirror for all of us to look into. I can only hope we take the opportunity FIFA offers us to look at that mirror and act.

If we don’t, we all deserve a red card, and hope for a better world will be the one suspended by us.

Please Lionel wear that rainbow bracelet. Wear it for the LGBTQ-community, wear it for hope.

You’ve been hit by, you’ve been struck by… 

Stress — a smooth criminal

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash


/strɛs/ — noun

– pressure or tension exerted on a material object.
– a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

This weekend I was driving to Germany for a well-needed (one can debate on it being well-deserved since I’m still taking things easy at work, but hell yeah, having three kids and a lot of stuff going on, I tend to claim it is well-deserved too) holiday. 

I was looking forward to the drive, as Germany doesn’t have any speed limits on most highways. As usual, the hope for a speedy drive was soon replaced by mild disappointment, realizing that I had again suppressed the memories of never-ending roadworks in that same country. 

Nevertheless, we got over it and were enjoying a relatively nice drive at moderate speed, when all of a sudden the panoramic sunroof scattered in thousands of pieces. There was no impact, perhaps a minor bump in the road, and no rock falling on the roof. It just scattered, even though it looked perfectly ok when I last washed the car — some months ago admittedly.

As I duly respect my loyal followers, I won’t explain the analogy between the panoramic roof and people breaking down for too long, but none of my colleagues expected me to crack. 

I looked ok, and my performance reviews were fine, but for years, probably decades, there was chronic stress building up, which gradually degraded my — not to be underestimated — resilience. Even though I survived heavy bumps along the road and always bounced back.  

The ignorant manager

Anyway, I didn’t intend to talk about my own experience, nor about my car (a VW Tiguan by the way & also had a colleague with a VW Passat, having experienced the same, rather dangerous problem. I will never learn… now for sure I won’t ever become a key member of the VW affiliate program, making the road to financial independence again a bit harder — but let’s be honest: Volkswagen should by now know their panoramic roof is under tension no?). 

Burnout in general is an energy problem. It is often a result of years and years of ignoring signals your body is screaming out. A result of chronic looting of your own body, unconsciously or knowingly — not caring or not being able to change.

Photo by Carrie Borden on Unsplash

Let’s take a step back. I’m not a doctor (and as you will very soon notice I’m also not an artist), so I use existing information to explain known mechanisms in my way. 

I’m trying to advise people in doubt to take care of themselves, to help people that are currently hitting rock bottom, and finally trying to explain how it all feels before, during, and after to people like my manager who said: “I probably also had a burnout 5 years ago…” and then try to minimize what you’re feeling and say you shouldn’t have stress. 

For the latter group: a sneak preview —  there is no “I probably had” or “I might have had”. You know when you got struck! It hits you like the hammer of Thor. And at the moment you’re giving the advice not to stress, it already became a problem way beyond just the mental stress. 

You’re talking to someone with a body that was conditioned in a very wrong way for a very long time. Don’t get discouraged by the quality of some homemade drawings, but hang in there and continue reading for your colleagues, friends, and family members. You should try to understand to be able to help them.

When Cortisol goes crazy

Known performance-stress curve — avoiding copyright

Apologies for the above. Anyway: theory says a certain amount of stress is ideal to perform and be the best version of yourself. However, every one of these Gaussian curves I’ve seen has a top. The top of this performance graph is a thin cord to balance on and if the top performer is not careful, fatigue is there waiting for him like a sly fox. 

I’m also kicking in open doors, stating that unattended fatigue has a fair chance of leading to exhaustion, panic, anxiety, and anger in later stages. All signs that burnout is in the making.

Behind the scenes of this stress versus performance curve, the stress hormone Cortisol is having a party. I’ll leave the technical details for the specialists, but in short: acute stress situations cause the adrenal glands to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which in subtle interaction with adrenaline causes some response in the body:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Faster breathing
  • Sweat production goes up
  • and a lot of internal things, you might prefer to look up 

Promised to keep it short, so this is as far as I go on the metabolic mechanism. The biggest problems start surfacing when a second partner steps into the dance: time. 

Having heavy stress for too long, causes your cortisol levels to be up all the time, whereas in ideal circumstances they’re only up at the beginning of the day (when our ancestors needed to be chary and wary of predators during their hunts). 

Anything seems to trigger high heart rates, and all the other party parameters, eventually exhausting your body. It can be a long and weary process before your resistance breaks (you could compare it with an elastic band that is constantly stretched and overstretched too many times and snaps… if you want to forget about sunroof debacles as much as I do). 

Chronic stress symptoms — source: McKinsey&Co (link to full article)

Avoid breaking at all costs— recognize & act

The best cure for burnout is avoidance and getting back to productive stress levels while you still can. This requires both awareness of all the signals listed in the McKinsey article linked above (or on one of the thousands of other sites repeating the same) and swift action. 

Reading the alarm signs on a slide makes it all look really simple, but when it comes to your own body, a lot of other factors come into play: pride, guilt, stubbornness, underestimation of the red flags(“it’ll pass” or “not me”), ignorance, society-/job-/financial pressure, fear, etc. It takes a lot to be proactive. 

You need a healthy cocktail of gut, self-knowledge, and perspective to take health-related decisions before your body takes them for you.

Acknowledging chronic stress is a strength, not a weakness

When it comes down to your health, there is no employer in the world worth making sacrifices for. No revenue target, no paycheck, no CEO, no manager, customer, or deadline is worthy of jeopardizing your health. No matter how important they all might seem at the time (here the perspective-ingredient needs to be added to the cocktail). 

There is only one (1) you. You have one life. Let’s assume our lives are finite and there is no after-life (leaving religious and philosophical discussions aside here — but I can only recommend the series: A subtle mix of dark humor and emotions), it makes a lot of sense to act on it when our body is screaming for help. 

Avoid/reduce stressors, reduce workload, don’t push yourself to physical limits, and take some time off. Pull the handbrake before hitting the wall. 

Try to share how you’re feeling with people you trust. Talk to your general practitioner about anxiety, panic attacks, and/or sleepless nights, about your body reacting to things it shouldn’t react to. Your doctor might first check your physical condition, and examine your heart and blood… 

But when these tests are all negative, you might get some different insights on your mental health state (and the physical power hereof) and potentially the extra push you needed to look after yourself. 

I’m saying so because everybody is worth it and as long as you didn’t break, the way back is easier to find and, the path is so much shorter and clearer. Maybe one or two weeks off can do the job in this phase. I’m also saying so because I didn’t for a long time. And I regret it. 

No more bouncing back 

So it happened. Your bungee snapped and people don’t recognize you anymore (those with vivid imagination could compare it with a true bungee accident, but somewhat less fatal and with less obvious damage). Your energy is gone, but you’re still at the very right -hence wrong- side of the stress curve shown above. 

Your body is empty, but still anxiety is there, sleepless nights are the new standard, and hormonal imbalance kicks in (members of your LGBTQ target group excite you as much as the average kitchen table. That is disregarding people with a fetish for kitchen tables, no pun intended). 

Your physical energy level is that low you are more or less limited to lying down, even though you would like to do more. Your mental energy level is the same. 

Now the question is: how to bounce back from this one? The answer is simple: you don’t. There is no sudden bounce. It took you years to arrive here and there’s a good chance it will take an equally decent amount of time to reach your new potential “no-worry”-level, which is very likely to be lower than what you were used to and also more hypothetical, as your life-phase changed and “no worries”-zone perhaps doesn’t exist anymore. 

Home Made Energy vs. Time graph pre-during-post burnout — feel free to reach out to contact@waba48.com for feedback on graphic skills, or questions on the contents.

The cure

There is no bouncing back, but for sure you can and will get out if you decide to invest in yourself. You lost yourself along the way, so it’ll require some of the Kübler-Ross phases to accept your condition first. 

The same feelings that perhaps withheld you from pacing down in the chronic-stress phase will for sure still be there when you’re at home recovering. At first, you will feel worse. 

Acceptance is the first step. As written in “The post-burnout balance”, you need to feel your body, listen to it, and don’t try to go faster than your body allows. 

Building up after burnout is delicate. Your mind and body need to become partners… truly best friends. And sometimes best friends clash, but they will always find each other again. 

Try to always listen to your body. Don’t let anyone or anything convince you to go faster than your body allows you to, or the balance is lost. Don’t allow any pressure.

Once accepted and once decided you are going to invest in yourself, you’ll review your lifestyle, sleeping and eating patterns, and perhaps take supplements. All are needed, but they cannot replace the signals your body is giving you. They complement and help to answer those signals. 

If you don’t yet feel all the signals, you might consider buying one of the many watches out there that measure heart rate, heart rate variance, and stress. They are quite accurate and could help you to understand what you’re feeling. 

One of the most positive things about going through all this is that you go next level in understanding what your body is trying to tell you. You become the best health monitor you could wish for.

You got used to overreacting to the smallest triggers. Now it’s time to recondition. Build in active rest moments after a walk or eventually jog-session, to tell your body you weren’t fleeing. Learn how to do nothing, just breathe and get distracted by a book or series. 

Show your new best friend it is ok to do nothing and there is no need to raise its heart rate and breathing rhythm. Find things that empty your head and give a safe feeling (for me at some point, the only thing that worked was being underwater, cooling down my body, hearing nothing… everything slowed down).

Only by a hard reset, you can start climbing the energy curve again from the “easy” side. Low performance, low stress. Not eliminating stressors and trying to run up that hill will put you eye to eye with anxiety and sleepless nights again (guess I’m also writing this note to myself, as a reminder).

Always remember: there’s only 1 you. Only 1 life. And you’re worth it.

The paradoxical society

We’re all part of the “fast forward”

Five years ago, I was part of a meeting where future electronics-applications were being discussed. Sitting there with all these enthusiastic managers, tech-geeks and nerds with an enormous ego, I truly got scared (to some extent of the size of their ego’s, but mostly of how they want the future to look like).

Our intelligent fridges would be equipped with camera’s and gas-sensors, perfectly able to tell just how much inventory you still have, if something is about to go bad (and of course sending you recipes for dinner with those ingredients), sending shopping-lists to the grocery-store to auto-fill itself. We were discussing self-driving cars (so people can work while commuting) that would be able to analyse our emotions by face recognition, so they could already adapt the music at home to the way we feel or inform our spouses trouble is on its way.

Artificial intelligence will become part of our lives, whether we want it or not… all in order to increase the productivity of us, the working ants (See We Are But Ants).

All of us are part of it. The constant urge for more. Fast needs to become faster at an exponentially increasing and scary pace. Enough doesn’t exist.

It’s only sixty years ago people were not used to have a tv at home and they gathered together with their neighbors to watch one of the rare shows that were broadcasted. Till 30 years ago, we had the patience to rewind a VHS tape or our commodore 64 cassette to find the right game (always that magic when typing “load”). Only twenty years ago smart phones started to find their ways into our lives. Today we can’t live without them anymore, they’re part of our lives, extensions of our body. Screens are everywhere. Shows are on demand. We’re reachable any time of day and when we’re not standby, people start to wonder what’s wrong. We get lured into the world of social media, where people show the best of themselves, raising the bar for their ‘friends’ (even the ones you know for a fact are unhappy or depressed, often still manage to make you feel you need to step up just a bit, with their fake online-happiness… :))

We’re victims of the society’s unstoppable need for speed. And yet all of us contribute to it. Of course the above sounds negative. Evolution is nice, gadgets and technology are amazing exponents of what human beings can achieve…

… and yet we all scream for “pause”

Compared to only 20–30 years ago, there’s a tsunami of inputs coming at us every day. It’s amazing how human beings adapted to this threatening avalanche in a couple of decades, however we weren’t taught how to deal with this continuously and rapidly changing world.

People pay money to do some breathing exercises — inhaaaaale, hold, exhaaaaale… — Not ridiculizing meditation, I also did so — but it is just creating time for ourselves and pressing that pause button. We pay hundreds of dollars/euros to be in an offline yurt out of reach of any cellular network. Thousands of euros even to go to to places like this (nope, not an affiliate link, just fyi 🙂 Now that I think about it, not too wise for someone who’s writing about passive income models).

Evolution of burn-out leading to inability to work in one of the smaller EU-countries — https://www.brusselstimes.com/251162/alarming-figures-burnouts-at-work-increased-by-66-in-three-years

We seem to be in a fast forward-pause loop where the balance is disturbingly tilting towards the speedy side. Many people don’t realize this causes a constant energy-drain, until some( )thing(s) goes wrong. There’s an alarming increase of burn-outs worldwide, there’s more anxiety-attacks and depressions. We might just not all be made for this pace. Humanity might not be intended for this (what is in the end the purpose of life? I know, too big of a question for too small of an article). Maybe we evolved too much to be happy?

Commodore 64, joystick and an even older calculator on top

So what to do?

We can’t turn back time. But restoring a healthy balance is what we can have in control. If mowing the lawn makes you relax (I admit — I’m a lawn-guy), take the time to do so and don’t buy one of those fancy robots. Say no to some evolutions, say no to your boss, so no to the fast-forward of the movie called your life. Slow down and enjoy disconnected moments. Dig up that old commodore 64 and take the time to “load”.

The post-burn-out-balance

As I described in “The burn-out clichés”, I went through the dark caverns of burn-out hell. I stayed home for months, after my body refused any further co-operation. I tried to find rest by doing “nothing”, which made me even more restless. I wanted to get energy by trying to sport, but it depleted me even more. And then suddenly, after frustrating months of sliding further down, while expecting to go up, there’s that little spark of energy. A sign that your body is up for something more… and then it happens!

You go and grab that spark. Out for that long awaited run. You feel the oxygen filling your lungs up till the smallest capillaries. You’re alive again… Alive! For fifty f* meters, then realizing your heart rate is abnormally high, you’re feeling even worse than before and you need two days to recover from that poor attempt to run. Another setback. BUT the spark was there and it will come back more frequently. It just needs to be treated with care. It’s a fragile spark, one that will still fade easily if not cherished, one that will need to charge again for some time after every time it went out.

Building up after burn-out is delicate. Your mind and body need to become partners… truly best friends. And sometimes best friends clash, but they will always find each other again. I realized that for me the normal working life is never going to work (although still trapped in it 🙂 — Why Work Doesn’t Work) and while gaining energy in the past months, my mind wanted to bypass my body. I felt the urge to execute all the ideas I had to escape from my golden work-cage. My spark, that meanwhile became stronger and brighter, all of a sudden faded again. My balance was off and bam! I fell. Burn-out is ruthless.

For people struggling with the same, I can only recommend to listen to your body. Don’t let anyone or anything convince you to go faster than your body allows you to, or the balance is lost and the spark fades to only light up again when it gained enough confidence. Don’t allow any pressure. There is only 1 you, only 1 life to live (I don’t really believe in re-incarnation or any “after-life” — loved the series by the way :)). Invest in “you”. Make the handshake between mind and body, accept and go as slow as needed… enjoy the sparks, but protect them so they can grow stronger! (Also motivating myself here :)).

People that had a burn-out or depression probably recognize this feeling and the setbacks… I’m curious to see how others deal with it — I’m still struggling to find my balance, but step by step I’m learning more about myself, life, its relativity and the purpose of it all.

Thanks for reading!

Photo by moein moradi on Pexels.com

Investing in real estate — intro: save money on books

In my search for passive income sources (see “WABA — We Are But Ants” and “Why work doesn’t work”), I read many books about real estate investments and every single time I was disappointed. Hundreds of pages filled with emptiness. General descriptions, common sense re-written, some toddler-tips and straight forward pointers.

But you don’t get to see the magic of scaling up. How you move from that one investment for which you saved several years to the next? Because passive income at some point needs to become tangible. Sequentially saving for years to buy a new property for which a tenant pays the mortgage isn’t going to let you retire any time soon. Yet the writers of those books all claim they became millionaires in less than 10 years (me want!). So how do you really leverage? How to go from zero properties to a real-estate portfolio? What’s the trick?

In a series of posts on real estate investments, I will share some of my experiences (failures and successes) and I will also summarize the books that I read in a couple of posts with key take-aways, so you don’t have to waste money to find out some people really can fill many pages with limited content. I’ll try to stick to the following topics — topped with some of my personal experiences:

  • Pre-requisites for real-estate investment
  • Different real-estate investment methods — which one suits you?
  • Finding the right property — the golden square mile
  • Negotiation — putting rational limits, asking the right questions
  • Renting out — avoid tenants from hell at all cost (I had my share of those when I started and lately I got tricked again — I blame it on Covid circumstances)
  • Scaling up your portfolio

Upon writing, more topics might pop up. Eventually I also hope to get some readers and interaction with those readers, so more subjects can be added on demand. Just to be clear: I am not there yet myself – as said before – just sharing my path & findings.

آزادی – Freedom – Liberté – 自由

While working on the PIM to help people to find their way in the world of passive income to obtain freedom, I am these days constantly struck by the relativity of that fight for freedom.

When I look around me, I see sad friends, emotionally wrecked people. I see proudness when schoolgirls take off their scarfs and stand together for the future of their country. I see strong, persistent people that are fighting worldwide to bring attention to their country. I see anger, fear and frustration being altered by hope and sparkling eyes when an Iranian athlete is in competition without hijab.

Normal for most of us… but an historical event for people that have been suppressed for more 43 years. People that were imprisoned for having an opinion. Who were sentenced to death without fair trial. Who have been raped, tortured, beaten and killed just because they looked at life in a different way. Or just because they didn’t dress the way “they were supposed to” – #mahsa_amini. These days Iran is revolting. Women, kids, men all literally fight for their lives and freedom in the streets of Iran. Fearless, because they are prisoners of a regime… because they have nothing more to lose, only something to fight for.

Image source – Freedom House

For the “green” people (see map above) this might be hard to relate to. But in order to create a different, free world, without dictatorships and suppression, we all need to contribute to color the purple and orange areas into green. Everybody has the right to be free.

I stated before that the purpose of my blog is for sure not a political one, but this is a fight for freedom that goes beyond Iran and needs worldwide attention and help. It is a signal we need to give to the world. A signal that change is needed. A signal that a lot of “ants” together can lift the world to another level.

Feel free to share this blog or to sign a supporting petition on change.org: https://chng.it/y6VJ85cZ

Thanks a lot for reading!

The Passive Income Model – PIM

Yet another workweek at the office has passed by. October. A completely different color palette is starting to show and many lifeforms are preparing for a well-deserved winter-break (is it normal to be jealous at deciduous trees?). The adults were right: the flight of life shifts to the next gear when having kids – I can confirm having joined the adults with kids-group some time ago. Co-parenting seems to even have replaced my old gear-box with something cruelly more powerful.

Somehow knowing that things need to change -as you could read in my previous post, Why work doesn’t work– and feeling time fly by, results in some conflicts (still manageable – but an occasional eye-twitch can’t always be suppressed). My goal is to be able to slow down and have time to do what I want, yet there is an orientation phase that takes (a lot) of time, there will be an investment phase (taking time and perhaps money) and there’s the risk none of it will work out. Add a job, burn-out recovery and three kids to the mix and you’ll realize it’s gonna be a frightful fight for freedom 🙂

As I mentioned in my initial post Why – We Are But Ants, the orientation-phase -listening to podcasts and reading blogs/books about passive income streams- has some minor side-effects. Besides broken car consoles and books ripped to pieces, it really makes you wonder: am I that stupid? (Ok, I wonder about the latter more often, regardless of people making passive income by selling thin air/talking about passive income, but I guess that’s me :)). People who googled “passive income” know exactly what I mean: wherever you look, you get the same lists, with some vague explanation. No concrete examples of how much money and time you will need to invest, how hard it will be to generate revenue and how long it might take to see some light in the ant-tunnel.

I’m working on a model to at least make that initial google-search more focused and to reduce that standard list of options to a top-5 that fits your personality and your time-/money-investment possibilities. A model that gives a more concrete explanation of your top-5 earning models (risks, timeline, financial requirements,…), including links to existing, more specialized sites that can get you going. Ladies and gentlemen, my beloved 10 followers (ok ok – 9 admittedly: I follow myself – curious to see what happens on my own page :)): I am eagerly expecting the PIM! I will share ultrasounds of premature stages whenever I think it looks nice enough to get some feedback and then iterate (or abort poor little PIM if the public opinion doesn’t agree upon it being life-worthy – no intention to start any abortion debate here).

In the past 20 years I’ve already made some attempts to become financially independent, long before people started to be on FIRE 😉 In my next posts on passive income, while PIM is growing, I’ll share the scarily discouraging stories I lived as landlord, Crypto-god and stock-star (I told you I often wonder: am I that stupid – you might start to wonder too ;)). But: still standing and ready for the next series of stories.

Thanks for reading!

Why work doesn’t work


the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited (Cambridge Dictionary)

There are many definitions of freedom, but all more or less come down to the above. There are also many different levels of limitation of freedom, as I also indicated in my post on the ongoing protests in Iran (#mahsaamini), so everything I write is so damn relative and I am fully aware of it!

Bút our day to day work-reality affects our lives, our kids, relationships, health,… and deserves our attention, so eventually there’s time and energy left to serve bigger purposes (if you feel like it). From my first post, it’s clear I didn’t study something I’m passionate about, but passionate people in my team, colleagues that did study the right thing end up on my (these days) virtual sofa on a daily basis, because they are unhappy at work. I’ll try to be as objective as possible listing the freedom-limiting factors of working for someone else and the reasons for me to escape 🙂

You sign a contract that says how many hours you will work. It shows the depressing amount of days a year you can take for yourself and how many of those escape-options in a row are allowed. It sets your rules, your boundaries. We’re supposed to be happy when we can slide our working time by one hour to accommodate our daily rush – evolving a bit with the age of our kids , but always intensive. We can’t do things at our pace. We feel bad about it, but at the same time there’s a guilt- and/or stress feeling when we’re 5 minutes late in a meeting because we had to clean the back and neck of our baby who just released its entire tummy-content under high pressure right at the moment we were about to race to kindergarten (been there, done that… sometimes I was really surprised by the reach). We’re trapped by our contract, our agenda,… trapped by our employer. Our time is blocked to serve a king or queen (or a board of those types). We literally lose our freedom to breathe when it’s needed.

And yes… you get paid to do so (some more than others), but also these earnings are ‘blocked’ by time. Either you work as an employee and have a fixed salary (sure some get a bonus/stock options/RSU’s/…), or you’re billed per hour, but everything has a ceiling. You’re limited by a fixed amount in your contract, by the amount of hours per week you can work if you’re paid by the hour. Your earnings are limited by time and tax (where I live, my net-reward isn’t even half of the gross).

Safety feeling
Working for an employer gives you a safety feeling. You have something to rely on every month. It’s not enough to be free, but it pays the bills. You’re protected. Letting go of this is the struggle for most people, including me. I’m currently living a conflict phase between following my heart, breaking free or keeping that safety net. I have a family to take care of, a mortgage to pay. It feels a bit like chosing between knowingly, golden-handcuffed crawling back into that cage every day or jumping out of a plane with something on your back, hoping it will open timely to save you and give you the rush of your life (I’m not a fan of jumping out of an airplane, but I did so. The chute opened. I was glad I did so once in my life. My girlfriend asked the instructor if she could go up again, before she even landed 🙂 People are different, we need each other to balance… but in the end I did it. Now ooonly the figurative jump is left). Just saying, the safety feeling is limiting chances to obtain freedom in several aspects of life. With my blog I will share how I deal with my jump and perhaps I will need your help and virtual safety feeling to do so.

Limiting pyramids

  • The power pyramid
    Power is a bitch. Yes, hierarchy is needed, but 99% (perhaps I exaggerate a bit) of the cases I’ve seen in my 20-year career, people moving up become politicians, opportunist, ego’s (nerds with an ego in my sector). They lose spine, because the way to the top is obeyance. And it seems at every stage there is a growing fear to have or express another opinion than the one above or even to table the obvious truth. I can’t imagine this gives a feeling of freedom either. It gives a precious title to show and brag about on Linkedin, being of course publically congratulated on that same platform upon achievement by the people sitting next to you in the office – so their titles get some attention again as well or their chances of climbing up increase by 1 point. This pyramid (often also rectangle or reverse pyramid, depending on the amount of managers) is limiting your freedom in many ways, but if you’re willing to follow, who knows you might go up one level and get some more crums.
  • The competence Pyramid
    I’ll keep it short on this one. When googling for this, one will find a pyramid going from knowing/vision to doing/execution. This is not necessarily parallel to the power pyramid and in many cases has been proven even to be exactly the opposite, when high level management starts to “do” without knowing. I can elaborate a lot on this, showing how destructive this can be to a company… Probably I will in the future, which is the main reason for writing anonymously, as I’m halfway up the first pyramid and the upper-crows wouldn’t really understand (anymore). I literally asked not to get promoted by the way, as I don’t think my competence level matches my precious title on Linkedin 🙂 Still they did – hence present tense in the previous sentence. I show facts and reality tho, for as long as it lasts. On topic: wrong competence management and incompetence above you can really be limiting your freedom (even the limited freedom within the job-cage) and your development options.
    • The Lencioni Pyramid
      This time I’ll really keep it short. All the above in a team leads to a lack of trust. At least as long as I’ve witnessed, whenever there’s politics and ego-centrism in an organization, there is no trust between people. It limits a lot of things, ultimately even the freedom to enjoy results.

Employees are numbers… or ants
Even though a job feels safe (and for sure it offers a lot of safety nets, even when you lose it), the higher you go up in hierarchy, the further away the people that actually do the job and the more those people are considered as numbers in excel. Your name and competences disappear, you become a job-title, a labor cost, an FTE-%,… in an excel file.

It is without too much discussion assumed that you’re willing to work evenings and weekends to meet a deadline even without extra compensation. Just because you adore your company and caring leaders. You are assumed to sacrifice your personal life and your family time, to (possibly) have issues with your partner for doing so. For the queen ant. I had people in my team doing so. It literally made me cry how devoted they were… one year after I was asked to make a list and bring a message to some of them. To me they are people.

First of all, the purpose of my writing is not to depress my 2 followers (if I did: so so sorry… but I’m really grateful to you for being there :))
The purpose of this purpose-topic is to highlight that for many people the true purpose of what they are doing all those hours a week is missing. Often the purpose offered by management is the achievement of revenue and the realization of the fabulous motivational hockey-stick. To be honest, it makes many people wonder about their purpose in life more often than it gives purpose to their jobs. And for the believers… as long as I’ve seen it, the hockey-stick miracle keeps on shifting to the right.

The moving miracle

Limiting creativity
Last year I went to a career-coach for the second time in my life. The evaluation showed I was a highly creative person. I was flabbergasted. Moi? Creative? After some talks with the coach, it looked like I lost all my creativity (or rather the believe herein) during my professional career. For me this is an obvious limitation to develop my potential (and fun). I won’t generalize too much, but in many cases the revenue-purpose tends to kill or limit many people’s creativity.

How to get out?
This will be one of the core-topics on my blog and it’s my upcoming path I will share. I am convinced that passive income generation is key. My next work-oriented blog will list the options I will try. The steps towards my second free-fall-jump.

The co-parent dinner score…

One of those days… At the office, during one of many relatively dull meetings, I suddenly got somewhat enthusiastic. In the evening, when kids would all be peacefully playing in harmony, I was going to figure out how those wordpress-menu’s work, so I could start bringing some structure to this page… aaaand perhaps adding a blog-category about co-parenting with failures, tips and tricks from the master himself, might result in a good balance with all the future blog-posts on becoming financially independent and free. I thought about posting my week-menu’s and giving them a co-parent score instead of the boring nutri-score (non-vegetarians: feel free to check on the pic below tho – I scored some healthy stuff for my kids today). The co-parent score would exist of some parameters: ease of preparation, duration, toolset-requirements, multi-task possibility (can you help a kid with homework/change diapers/clean the place while preparing the dish without risking all those colorful ingredients?), and somewhat less important: kids’ feedback- and health-score (as I’m new here and my statistics still show that 99% of you – precious readers – must be new here too: I’m just kidding. Health-score is important!).

I was about to help a lot of single/co-parenting dads and potentially also moms. Despite the obvious and less obvious differences, we all cope with the same, don’t we? 😉 I was also convinced that I had everything in place to make a dinner with co-parent score 5/5… when hell broke loose. You name it: homework catastrophes & test-induced panic attacks for the somewhat older population living here and mommy-missing madness and sadness for the little one of course triggered by the panicking elderly in the early days of their puberty. Most of the crisis got settled while my dish was in the oven (multi-tasking score pretty close to max – just saying), it was pretty easy and healthy too. It didn’t take too long and didn’t need too complex tools to realize it either. Now that I think about it… I was heading for a co-parenting score of at least 4.8/5. But then… my two teenagers agreed upon an average 2,75/5 and the youngest one started complaining about the tummy and missing mom even more… saying it was at most a 2/5, which triggered the other two again (since they are in secondary and start to understand the boundaries of failure). Hell-zone again, back to square one (and this combined with one of my empathic cats puking out its meal next to me, just when I was about to start typing this post) I think it’s fair to conclude that the co-parent score is worth nothing if those little angels (and this is without any sarcasm what so ever!) aren’t happy. Perhaps another time… but the next post is supposed to be on changing the dull-meeting situation and starting to plan to create more time to cook.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow/share/like/mail feedback or ask for more information about my co-parent dinner score system – Cheers.

ps: the cats didn’t get any of the remainders for those who might wonder.