Choose your enemies carefully, ’cause they will define you
Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friends

– Cedars Of Lebanon, U2

The end of the summer.

I missed again posting on time. This should have been for yesterday. Fridays are a great day for rants and musings. No, the summer hasn’t ended yet. In fact, I’m not even sure if spring hasn’t even started. But I don’t want to talk again about the weather. What I mean is that feeling of sudden realization of the end of something good, and how that triggers a change in some behaviours. It is something that always comes to my mind. I will always remember having this feeling in some summers during my teenage days. What is curious is that I can recognize when this is happening. Then it is like if something pulls me out telling me, hey, your time is ending! Hurry up!

The question that immediately appears is: hurry up, for what? And why my time is ending? I’ll explain this better with an example. It is something that I’m sure everybody has lived at some point in their lives. I’ll go back to that summer holidays, when you were a teenager. You arrive to a new place, with your family. That place is familiar, because maybe  you have spent the last few summers already there. Maybe even it is starting to get boring. It is not the first time you go there, and you would like that next summer was in another place, just for a change. Of course, you don’t have friends there. Each summer, you only manage to meet a few people, teenagers in the same situation as you, that who knows if you will see any other time in your life. Precisely because of that, you don’t try it too hard to find friends or engage with them. You just don’t want to get attached to anyone, just in case. Just in case of what? Well, when you are a teenager, you can find loads of answers for that question. And the thing gets much worse if you are a bit introverted. So you  spend most of your summer doing nothing. You shouldn’t do nothing anyway! You are on holidays! Yes, that’s true. What I mean is, somehow not enjoying it too much those holidays. Not having all the fun you could have had. You think, I don’t care, I will come here next year. Also, because you are having such a boring holiday, you are all the day complaining. Complaining to your parents because you don’t like the place. Complaining to your summer friends because you think the place is boring. Even complaining to yourself, because you think you deserve something better and you hope for the next holiday to be much better.

Summer gets to its end, maybe in a few weeks, and then your parents say: We wont come here again. We are going to move to another country. Things will be better there. Maybe that’s what they say to you, but actually, what it could be happening is just that there are some economic issues at home, say your father has lost his job, or something like that. Your parents wont tell you that, they don’t want to worry you too much. They know that you already worry too much for everything, so better leave that way. What happens next is a very interesting thing. You try hard to enjoy the last days as if it was the end of the world, your last night on earth. You know you may not see these people any time soon, maybe never again. You talk to everyone. You tell things to people you could never thought you were going to be able to tell. Every hour is precious. And all that, feels weird and great at the same time. It feels weird because you realize how much of your precious time you have wasted. And you notice that this sudden extraversion phase is not natural in you although it is great, because you feel more connected, more engaged to people. At the same time, you realize about how absurd all your complains were. So much whining and moaning.

And this has happened to me lots of times. Apart from lots of summers. In recent years, it has happened when I have decided to move to another place with my family. Or when I decided to change job. Or even at some late Saturday nights. Only at the end I have found that I enjoy the most of it. And now, I’m feeling the same. I think the end of something is coming, and I might be starting to already miss it. We’ll see.

About motivation.

This TED talks blog entry has some really interesting notes about motivation, from a purely experimental perspective. I really like this particular point:

The less appreciated we feel our work is, the more money we want to do it

The Study: Ariely gave study participants — students at MIT — a piece of paper filled with random letters, and asked them to find pairs of identical letters. Each round, they were offered less money than the previous round. People in the first group wrote their names on their sheets and handed them to the experimenter, who looked it over and said “Uh huh” before putting it in a pile. People in the second group didn’t write down their names, and the experimenter put their sheets in a pile without looking at them. People in the third group had their work shredded immediately upon completion.

The Results: People whose work was shredded needed twice as much money as those whose work was acknowledged in order to keep doing the task. People in the second group, whose work was saved but ignored, needed almost as much money as people whose work was shredded.

The Upshot: “Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes,” Ariely says. “The good news is that adding motivation doesn’t seem to be so difficult. The bad news is that eliminating motivation seems to be incredibly easy, and if we don’t think about it carefully, we might overdo it.”

via What motivates us at work? 7 fascinating studies that give insights | TED Blog.

I think nobody likes when work is wasted.To me it feels much worse than a bad feedback or any kind of criticism. It feels like it wasn’t worth it. I call that task interruptus. A task that I thought it was really important, with a clear purpose and goal, and then, at some point is thrown away for whatever reason. Working in a creative task involves lots of iteration and possibly wasted work. How do you cope with that and still get motivated each morning? You may point to the opposite case, what if your work is not creative and monotonous? How can you find motivation in that?. Where is the middle ground between enough interesting things to do, not getting bored, and being able to experiment and iterate (and possibly waste) on your work? Why there is people who can get self motivated? Why others need some extra push from someone to continue? Do you get motivation on stressful situations? Is money the real motivator? Or is it something more personal? And lastly, why I am doing all these questions?

Of course, during the process you learn. That’s the only thing that remains. For me the biggest motivator is learning. And someone said that art was never finished, but abandoned. It’s applicable to any creative field, I think.

Spiders

  • spider web
  • spider
  • small spider
  • spider
  • web spider
  • spider web rain

There must be something weird happening with the weather. Yes, I have already complained about it, but I feel this is far more important. Spiders haven’t appeared yet! This is one of the best kept secrets about UK. At least, is something nobody told me when I decided to come here. Most of the inhabitants of the UK are spiders. Yes, there are loads of them. Living in houses, gardens, in your loft. Everywhere.

People here are perfectly used to them. They have even ways of dealing with the ones that appear crawling in the kitchen cupboard or wall. You must use an empty glass and a piece of  paper,  to trap and throw the poor animal gently out to the garden. “Do it gently” they say. I’m more used to just kill them, stomping my shoe on for better effect. I know that looks a bit violent towards the poor insect, but that’s my first reaction when I see a spider.

Children here see spiders as something completely normal. Spiders are everywhere for them. Nursery rhymes, toys, tale books, TV shows… My mother had once an issue when my daughter showed her an innocent spider toy that she loved.  She was having nightmares during all her stay. Maybe that’s the reason she have not visited us for a while. So, that’s one thing to keep in mind if you plan to come to the UK. Deal with your arachnophobia.

After a few months and some scary episodes, all became normal again. For instance, if I see a big spider in our bedroom, I just set up a glass trap, like they do here, and gently throw her out of the window. In the mornings when I grab my bike for work, chances are that a spider web ends in my face. The spider will come with me to the office, attached somewhere, and it will crawl over my shoulder at some point during the day. There is no need to make a fuss. Just get rid of it, gently.

In fact, these spiders are appreciated by gardening enthusiasts. They can talk to you for hours about the complex relationships between the spiders, the ladybirds, who eats who and how this improves the health of your plants, flowers and all the stuff that usually grows in gardens. Gardening is another big topic here in the UK, I will talk about it in a future post. So, how do you deal with spiders, glass or shoe?

The pictures above are some friends that lived in my garden. I miss them (my friends, not the spiders).

The UK weather forecast…

…is mostly cloudy, always. Don’t underestimate the British weather. Even British people hate it. After a few years here I understand why they come to Spain for holidays or retirement. Why as soon there is a bit of sun, they all go outside to catch a bit of energy from our star. Winters are miserable, someone told me when I arrived here.

When I first came here, in summer, it was glorious!. In Madrid we were having 38 degrees and here almost 20 something. My family and friends in Madrid were sweating like pigs and I was riding my bike along the town with a perfect breeze of fresh air in my face. That was the last glorious British summer I’ve seen here. I don’t know what happened the other next ones, but to me they weren’t summers. And it is said that I live in the driest area of the UK! We have had even a drought alert! This people don’t know what a real drought is… Yes, it is true that it doesn’t rain as often as in other places in the UK, but there is a constant humidity, and sometimes drizzle, that mixed with cold temperatures and constant grey skies makes Winters…. miserable indeed.

Some people love to watch weather forecasts. I don’t know why, everybody has their own hobbies and interests. Maybe I should start a blog about the subject. I will keep you posted about it. In Spain, this things are terribly boring. Everyday almost the same. Today: sun, Tomorrow: more sun, the same one as today, etc. Here, the weather can change  a lot during the day. That say of “Four seasons in a day” is absolutely true.  A few days ago we had periods of  sun, rain and snow changing every one or two hours, in the same day. It was maddening. Here you don’t know exactly what to wear in the mornings, but it is advised to have some layered clothes, just in case, so you can start peeling yourself like an onion. If you wear sunglasses in the morning, later in the day they may be of no use at all.

But I am adapting slowly to this situation, I think. I can ride my bike in the worst snowy day without complaining (almost, only falling to the ground once or twice per year). I’m still not able to go out in T-Shirt this wintry days, as people do here when the sun shines a bit with below zero temperatures. But, when I go to Spain now, I found it a bit warmer than before, even in winter. Maybe it is that climate change thing, I’m not sure. Sometimes, at home, I point a hair dryer to my face, remembering how summers were in Spain. I even start to appreciate the weather forecasts…

Weather forecast
Weather forecast