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

Living in a foreign country.

Living in a foreign country is hard. One goes abroad with lots of expectations and preconceptions. You are first warned about the weather, also about the food. About cultural shock. And you think: I will be able to adapt quickly. I will improve my language skills. I will meet a whole lot of new people and friends. And everything will be fine.

Green stage, “The Tourist”
Wide-eyed amazement, the big screens in Shibuya, the toys, the people, the clean and punctual trains.

LeafGreen, “The Honeymoon”
You’ve just moved here, life is good and exciting. You’re learning new things every day.

Orange, “The Hangonaminute”
Culture shock creeps in. “What do you mean I can’t order extra mayonnaise?” “How many times do I have to fill out the same form??”

Red, “Mr Angry”
Aggression. The trains are too crowded. Salarymen stink. People are not friendly at all, just very annoying and unaware of others. No one speaks English one tiny bit after six years of mandatory study at school. Some things are way too expensive. Tokyo is dirty. Mental isolation. Pure hatred! Rampant racism and xeno-ignorance.

Grey, “The Realist”
Acceptance. Hey, Japan is a country pretty much like every other country in the world. It has good points, bad points, nice people and arseholes. Live with it.

via A Game Developer’s Take On Japan: The Myths And The Reality | Kotaku Australia.

The first months are great. You are a newcomer and that changes your perception of reality. Everything seems fine, fun, and as it should be. You radiate optimism and positivism. If there is any issue, you see it like just a small bothering thing that you can quickly fix. You are curious about all sort of things related to this new place.

Times passes, and you have your first missteps. Mostly related to things that get lost in translation. You can invite people to just have a coffee and that is seen as the most awkward thing in the world. You wont see them again. Or you try to follow a conversation and suddenly you need to make the funniest comment of your life. And it is not fun at all. Only you thought that it was. Some days you feel not only like a foreign but like an alien from outer space. But still, you are able to make fun of it. At the end of the day, everybody is so polite and friendly here, that you cannot feel bad about this little things. You start wondering in the mornings why the sky is grey, as it was yesterday, and the day before yesterday… And what do you have for lunch today?  Pot noodles and a sandwich. You miss proper food.

The first years passed and you are extremely proud of yourself, your job, and everything else you seem to have accomplished. But somehow, some cracks start to appear. Things at work and/or personal life may get more complicated, as happens to everyone and everywhere, but you realize that you are very far from your “comfort zone”, your family and friends. You cannot just take a plane to see them when you want, that can be expensive. And you are saving money for a better, bigger, and nicer house, because the one where you live since this thing started, is getting smaller, like Alice in Wonderland. Or saving for a car, because what you thought about riding a bike everywhere, now is not so clear any more. You realize now that it rains and it is cold. Annoying weather… Your mind starts playing tricks, and again your perception of reality slowly changes, but now in the opposite direction.

I don’t want to go into a “red phase”. That way of thinking always seemed to me of little use and absurd. You just become an annoying person. At the end, you actually ARE living in a new place. I would like to go from “orange” (dark orange, to be more precise) to “grey”. But to be honest, I miss the “greenish” side of this. It was addictive and inspiring. Maybe it’s because I always have been a bit of a nomad and just moving to a different place IS the real reason to move. I took this picture the day I moved here. The sky above the clouds is still blue!… 🙂