Love your context
How embracing limitations make you a nicer person?
I love twitter. It’s the best place to rant and complain about the things you hate or dislike; about how things could have been done better; about what companies need to change. And if you’re Dutch: about the weather.
Recently, I found the perfect excuse to rant on twitter again. I attended an event called a Multistakeholder Conference, which means that many big organizations and governments with an opposing opinion and interest came together trying to convince each other. The panel discussions were basically a lot of monologues and by putting up a big twitter-wall behind the speakers they gave me all the reasons to start complaining and trolling.
After a few rants I got some replies asking if I had any meaningful content to add to the conference instead of just complaining about the way it was organized. Of course I had, but by opening the floors for audience comments just a few times a day, I had no chance of being of any value to the discussion, I thought. However, some people were able to encourage me to try harder.
I did. With shaky hands I stood up, grabbed the microphone, and said some things that I can’t remember now. All I can remember was the aggressive tone and progressive ideas like I was somehow aspiring to a career as a politician.
A few hours later I was again complaining. I had lunch with one of the organizers and some other people. The conversation was really interesting but still, I did not fully understand why the conference was organized the way it was. After the lunch, I sat together with a few other young minds. Complaining. Again.
I still can’t quite remember how, but at a certain moment I realized, maybe I had no influence or new ideas at all to bring to this conference, but there were many other great things just a new mindset away. This conference was the best chance for me to go beyond my criticism and complains and try to embrace the situation. This context was the best opportunity to be the nice guy, even though everything in your body doesn’t like what’s happening.
And so I did. At the end of the conference, the organizers opened the floor for visitors to give feedbacks about the conference. Yes, this was the moment to complain. However, once I got the microphone, I realized again that I should try to achieve what was best in this specific context. Maybe ranting about the conference wasn’t the best thing I could possibly achieve. In a split second, I decided to, straight from the heart, encourage the organization and visitors to keep on doing what they’re doing and always seek improvement. I said some more things. The tone was positive, hopeful, embracing and encouraging.
Afterwards I felt relieved. Strong. I really didn’t enjoy being nice. I was hard, challenging. I had to go beyond my negative emotions, acknowledge that being negative probably wasn’t the best thing. Change my attitude. But, wow. I felt like I achieved something.
I’m really sure, everyone forgot what I said the minute they left the conference. But I’ve been thinking about it all the time. I fought my own little battle; I pursued my own little goal. Nobody else knew about it. I wanted to be able to change my attitude. I did. And it felt great.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
I know. The above saying has probably been shared too much already. But still, it’s true. Recognize your context; think about what you can change. If you are responsible for your context, change it. Fix what’s broken, get a better job, open a window, and do more cool things. If you aren’t responsible for your context, change yourself. Be the better version. Try to set goals within your context. Deal with the limitations. You’ll eventually start loving it and people will start loving you.
Robert van Hoesel
Participant of New Media Summer School