2020 Readings // The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

After changing so many topics and crossing some more days in the calendar during my holiday at home, I am happy to have used my time with a purpose and finished a new book – The Midnight Library. This was quite unexpected, as I was not looking for this type of topics and this author in particular.

I am happy to have run into his book and have let myself get captivated by his imaginary universe. Matt Haig places Nora into a depressive episode of her life, when nothing made sense for her anymore and she didn’t feel like succeeding in anything of her life – private and professionally. Her cat died, she feels lost and unsuccessful, lives on anti-depressives and has no energy to carry on or fight for something better.

Overwhelmed with regrets and ready to give up to everything, she finds a midnight library on the street where the time is stuck. Together with the help of the librarian, Mrs. Elm, she gets a glimpse of all the lives she is living in parallel and the different outcomes her decisions had. By opening a new book, she immediately got into her new life, happening somewhere in the universe, having a different job, partner, siblings, pet and being either famous or solitary.

She tries all the options she has in the library, thus discovering that her actual regrets do not make sense, as it depends on every other person how things develop further and not solely on ourself and our own choices. At the end of this night when she understood that there is no perfect life and only compromises and our inner approach on what is happening, the library burns in flames and she manages to rescue herself by writing down during the fire I AM ALIVE.

This is how she came back to her actual life, with a more open heart and willing to fight for what is left there and be present. She is happy her brother is alive (as she saw him dead in other lives already) and manages to recover after the overdose she took before stopping into the Midnight Library. An interesting book, with different possibilities and unexpected outcomes, as well as a nice and open dialogue Nora has with herself and the others around her. Matt Haig is a great Connaisseur of human psychology and touches every small detail in dealing with life crises and life lessons.

2020 Readings // Arianna Huffington – Media Visionary and Wellness Evanghelist

My stay in Romania gave me the opportunity to switch from German books to English ones and thus be able to understand more of the content I was reading. Just before Christmas I arrived in a huge library in Bucharest and let myself inspired from the English books I found there. As I was already familiarized with Arianna‘s path and this time a sort of biography was available on the shelf I took the chance the bought the book.

As 2020 has been a year of intensive readings for me and it keeps being so for the last days left, I was happy to add a new book on my collection and see if I can learn something while siting on the sofa and drinking coffee in Romania.

I can recommend the book for the people who are curious to find out more of Arianna‘s background, her parents, her family and the dreams that pushed her for the decisions she made. She inherited her father‘s passion for journalism and debate, learned from her mother to be persistent and find solutions and her sister Agapi was always there for her supporting with her love and creative style. Her two daughters came very late in her life, as she was 38, respectively 40 and even now in her 70s she keeps working 10 hours per day.

While there are many rumors about what she did right and wrong, there are also visible achievements she made in the media industry, not to forget that she coming from Greece, had a very strong accent and built her media empire Huffington Post thanks to her wit and persistence, social contacts and hard work.

I was particularly impressed by how her mother made it possible for her to be accepted at Cambridge, despite she didn’t even speak English at the time she (Arianna) told her mom about her dreams. Another particular interesting point in her life is her decision to abandon her boyfriend and put the Atlantic Ocean between them – then 20 years older than her, Levin – because she wanted to have kids and marry for the rest of her life and he wasn’t mature enough for it, only to be able to accomplish her dream 10 years later with oil mogul Michael Huffington and still go through a divorce later on.

Arianna wrote 15 books, reinvented herself throughout her careers, starting with the debates in Cambridge she loved to coordinate, writing autobiographies of Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso, getting involved in politics and fighting on such topics, creating an online platform for bloggers worldwide and asking them to write for free and then selling it. Although she would have never given up to Huffington Post, as it was her third child, she eventually sold it and focused on Thrive – another platform focused on well being and spirituality.

Her life is an interesting example of hard work, determination, perseverance and strong persuasion skills and emotional intelligence in general. While she had to go through a burnout episode, she used the episode to later on create Thrive Global, write a book on the importance of sleep and create her new business.

2020 Readings // The Big Five for Life

Another book that fell on my shelf this year is the bestseller The Big Five for Live, by John P. Strelecky, written as a short story and filled with words of wisdom. It is quite popular and the author himself has written some other books already – The Why Café and Life Safari.

Apart from being a best-selling American author, John P. Strelecky is as well an inspirational speaker. While trying to answer himself the question How do I win the game of life, for me?, he wrote this short story.

I also found John Strelecky speaking in a summit and he seems to be quite a special character:

Before becoming a famous writer, Strelecky worked as a consultant until 2002 and went backpacking and travelling around the world for one year. As he came back, he went back to work and realized that his interest disappeared. His moment of inspiration came as he was in a plane, returning from a business trip and trying to figure out What would I tell someone right now is the meaning of life?

He went home and started writing for 21 days book initially called The Why Are You Here Cafe – now known as ‘The Big Five For Life’, helping people figure out and live their life’s purpose.

The main idea behind the book is to imagine that at the end of your life you could fill in all your memories into a museum. How would that museum look like? Depending on your choices and overall focus on joy, happiness and productivity, the museum will have a positive or a negative vibe.

The big five for life represent the 5 things that drive you and define your purpose in life. These are the things you want to do, see or experience before you die. The book is written as a story where Thomas Derale, an old businessman, reaches the greatest leadership secret: he has wealthy companies, he is loved and appreciated by people, his customers love making business together. However, at 55 he is dying and at this point he reveals the secrets about his life, business and his impact over the people around him. His disciple Joe narrates the whole story, in a series of conversations between him and Thomas, before he dies. Thomas talks about finding both a personal and corporate “Purpose for Existing” (PFE), the best mix for productivity and fulfillment.

In this year of isolation and time spent in silence the book is a relaxing and mind-challenging activity that might help defining the new bucket list for 2021.

2020 Readings // No Rules Rules or the story behind NETFLIX’ success.

During the second lockdown in Austria I had enough time to go through one of the books that I bought for myself and whose purpose was to improve my German language skills. Getting to understand the job market nowadays is and will always be a topic worth investing hours into. Things are chaning very fast and the mindsets and demands are different from one corner of the world to another.

While trying to look for various topics to entertain me and enable my fast, correct and fluent German, I saw Reed Hastings’ book on what makes Netflix successful. I bought it, curious to see if I can stay focused and go through the hundreds of pages put together by Reed and Erin Meyer, the author of the famous book “The Culture Map”.

While bringing a revolution in the entertainment industries and trying to reinvent itself with every new trend, Netflix managed to become one of the most used streaming network and combined original series with external ones.

It all started in 1998 when Reed started the online DVD rental service, because once he forgot to return a DVD on time and had to pay a very big fine. Over the time, the industry has changed again and again and as Reed is saying, what really helped the business survive was the overall culture of freedom and responsibility. this is a result of the 9 connecting dots he refers to in the book and are also graphically illustrated in the picture below.

While presenting small case studies, Reed explains why he decided to go for an approach or another, which benefits it brought to the business and how he decided to enable a competitive culture in his company by always firing the weakest employees – The Keepers Test. By keeping standards high and very talented people inside and increasing transparency and candor via feedback sessions, Reed aimed to reduce controls.

He lied a strong emphasis on innovation and enabled his employees to work through context, rather than controls. Also, whoever wanted to take more days off while finishing with the workload before the deadline was free to do so.

The culture candid feedback is what makes Netflix a bit different versus other companies. While keeping people stressed about the next feedback round, it also pushes the employees to speak up in a nice way about their colleagues and show them where they are wrong.

The book is full with interviews with current and past Netflix employees, written in a double perspective by Reed and Erin, together with Reed’s failures and the attitude of his colleagues in assuming that he was always doing the right thing. I can recommend the book, it has fresh insights and shows the entertainment industry from an inside perspective.

The Advent Challenge // Mönchsberg Lauf

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As Christmas is slowly approaching and this year has been for almost everyone a pure waste of time and opportunities, while also a long time to rest, wait, self-reflect and keep calm, we have thought together with my dear neighbour Nada Vasic to use the long time to rest and wait that we were offered by the authorities in order to create some morning routines, refresh our spirit, start the day with the right mindset and collect some money for a good cause.

Therefore, as of 1st of December until 24th of December, at 6.30 in the morning, Nada, myself and some of her friends have committed to keep the habit and go on a small mountain next to our building called Mönchsberg for a run/walk/call it visit if you want. We tried to cover Mönchsberg from different sides and enjoyed some very beautiful sunrises under the Salzburg Sky. Until 24th the invitation is open to anyone would like to join – please text me and I will put you in touch with Nada.

During this decade of days, we’ve managed to hold this habit and stay consistent in what we have aligned. I tried to join every day, except for 2 occasions when I had to rest. With this daily effort and Nada’s energy and determination, we have already achieved together 50% of the challenge and in parallel have collected some money. Nada will continue running while I will be flying home for holidays. The invitation to join her and help her collect money for this cause is still open and if you need more info please do not hesitate to contact me. If you would just want to donate money I will provide you with her bank account. I will also provide you with a proof of your contribution, as Nada will publicly release a list with the names of all the participants upon the donation.

Location: Mönchsberg

Time 6.30 a.m.

Duration: 1h

Activities: Running/Walking/Jogging/Talking

Every participant that joined Nada at least once had to pay 10€. The collected sum will be on the 25th of December donated to a charity in Salzburg that aims to help kids with skin problems.

On this occasion, I would like to thank Nada for her determination and consistency, great spirit and proven commitment to keep up with her goals. It is hard to meet such serious people who dare to have initiatives and stay consistent until the very last step.

More information about the charity where the money will arrive, here:

https://www.eb-haus.org/ueber-uns/eb-haus-news/2020/was-ist-ein-schmetterlingskind-anschaulich-erklaert/

Anchor yourself while the unexpected happens.

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When things get out of your control…

When they just happen…

When the impossible becomes possible…

When the lockers are set on the doors how do you handle the mess inside?

How do you hold on and adapt during a journey that started and it’s still far away from the final destination?

There is always that pillar of support which keeps you on the surface no matter what. Or there should be something which always worked out. Something that brings you joy, makes you feel free and releases the pressure. That pressure which has no factor you could connect it with, but which feels strong on your shoulders.

The more time you spend with yourself the more true you become to yourself. Now, the more isolated you are, the harder the confrontation. Your positive and negative sides come into the game, your undiscovered skills easily open the door of your life, whereas the negative ones are clumsily coming into the room like kids who need their parents because they had nightmares.

Call it maybe multiple sides of your personalities. But still you cannot help it but acknowledge that living in the unknown is a challenge for most of us. It comes with questions about every single detail of our life and the worst is you cannot do anything to stop such questions flourishing. They come uninvited as if you organised a casting for them.

Here’s the antidote therefore. The anchor. That thing which keeps you going. It can be your favourite movie which puts you in a good and optimistic mood. It can be a role model who talks about overcoming difficulties and making the best out of it. It could be the voice of your best friend or the silly mind of one of your siblings. It can be your favourite dress. Your beloved shoes or your watch.

It can be a topic you’ve always been fascinated of. It can be a walk on a mountain, a call with your best friend, a blog, a project or maximum solitude. Removing all the noise because you don’t need unnecessary stressful and noisy factors around you. Maybe that’s your anchor. Yourself only and your own silence so that you can find ‘The Solutions’.

How to Carpe Diem during Isolation

We all know that we’ve been chosen by some-special-forces to be where we are and now to stay where we are, namely home, and do what we have to do, namely wait. Because something is going to change and change requires different circumstances. Maybe it`s growth.

It could have been our grandparents, our grandchildren, with a bit of luck it could have stayed only with our ancestors and still… here we are… chosen to face it. Did anyone ask us? No. Would we have chosen the 2nd option? Was there ever a 2nd option? Why did it have to come in 2020? Why not 10 years later? Why did it come at all?

Being confronted with weeks of isolation, having to cancel a holiday, a date, several dates, reducing your chances to change your life to 0 if not even making it worse, listening to your thoughts 24/7 and living with uncertainty about what tomorrow might bring. Lovely and comfortable, right? All within your flat. Or with your family. Totally blocked. No open door, because outside awaits the virus.

And if this crisis happened to come right when you were just about to set up your feet in another direction… Just stay where you are. Corona is more important now. We are living in times of a worldwide Pandemie. Put your life on hold and try to stay alive until this wave it`s over. And don`t get crazy inside, on the contrary, look deeper into yourself, become friends with yourself and save your own self during this test of patience and consistency.

The concept of Carpe Diem during isolation goes back a few years ago, when I was planning to set up a blog about travelling and discovering the world, looking at the bright side of life and having a well-proportioned work-life-balance. I wanted to show how important and beneficial it is to go out and explore, meet new people and connect, dive deep and challenge the status quo. I wanted to give a reason to see diversity and the intercultural picture as a must before you settle. Or as a chance to make your DNA better that what you`ve inherited.

I am now back on the same blog, after another long break of maybe almost one year, with the same topic – enjoy life and make the best out of it! Isolation was definitely never an option for me and all the time when I was under these circumstances (in different context) I was under-developing.

I developed fears, convictions about the world, I narrowed my horizons and started to think I know exactly what comes next due to my very high-qualitative personal filter. Of course intuition is always a woman`s strongest weapon, but this combined with isolation might take you into the wrong direction. And it takes time and experience to see what consequences it leaves.

This is why I know that in order to deal with the inevitable isolation and stay safe, you need to use the isolation as a reason to focus on the inside and explore what hasn`t been considered because of other more important topics. You can deep dive into your strengths, passions, you can experiment with the furniture in your flat, try new recipes and make yourself some cocktails.

You can dance like crazy and call all your friends, you can explore the world from far away, plan your lifetime holidays and learn a new language. You can clean your flat 5 times per day and go shopping for avocado every day or you can try to listen to your mind… it will speak louder and louder day by day. It is when you are isolated that all your ignored topics come to surface because there is nothing else to cover them anymore.

There is no more stress, there is silence, you sleep better, your body rests more, you start thinking, you start thinking again, you take yourself seriously, you question the WHYs and the WHY NOTs and just like nature, which now gets a chance to breathe as well, the circle, your circle gets closed…

I would be curious to know how do you Carpe Diem during isolation? Do you even know how to have a good time? It took me two weeks already till I finally re-started writing…

Wanderung around Fuschlsee.

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One of the most common week-end activities for the Austrian culture is hiking, going out and climbing a mountain or just walking in the middle of the nature. With so many mountains and lakes around, I am not surprised… Well, even if you are an ‘Ausslander’ and you live in Austria for a defined period of time, you have to do it. On a sunny day, with good company, you can have a really nice time and recharge yourself with energy for what comes next.

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Actually, it explains a lot why people living in Austria are fit and healthy in general. As there are so many options to spend the time outdoors, even the body gets used. If you combine these activities with a glass of Gruner Veltliner or Weisser Spritzer, a beer or an Apfelsaft, then you are ready to be officially ‘Austrianized’. Don’t follow my example, I enjoyed a Western Ice Coffee. 🙂

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But before you receive this title officially, there is one option to somehow get used to the Austrian vibe – going for a long walk (Wanderung) around the lake Fuschl. The walk itself is 11 km long and circles the whole lake, while offering you every here and there a restaurant, a bench to sit on or a terrace to have a cold beer. Regardless on when you start walking, do consider 3 hours as a minimum time availability in order to complete the tour.

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I recommend this place for those Saturdays when you would like to lay in the sun, with a pair of glasses and would consciously want to reflect on what is going on with you or has been recently. There are people of all ages, wishing to share the same good vibes and just sitting around them will chill your soul and bring peace into your mind.

One particularity of this lake is the beautiful colors it takes and the fact that it is surrounded by a castle. From a certain point you can admire the peak Schober (see picture below) and if you are into sailing, you can rent a boat and float on the lake for half an hour. There are many hotels and pensions around, so if the place convinces you to stay overnight, then you do have some options to choose from.

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The Dream.

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Creating-the-Perfect-Landing-1068x601I was stuck in a country where I didn´t find my place – Romania. Therefore I moved to Italy. I loved it, I loved the sun, the food, the culture, but my heart wanted somewhere else. It just didn´t accept Italy. And Austria was always across the border and ready to give me another scholarship and a better chance. Coming to Austria felt like being home despite I was born in Romania. It was just there, all I had to do was just to go asap.

At that time there was one clear goal for me: get a job in Austria and move. Minimum requirements: learn the language a little bit, get an internship, take the risk, pack and embrace Austria. Living alone in your mid 20s shouldn´t have been impossible for someone who adores her independence and cannot trade her freedom for anything except from her salary.

And the time has come. It came after I closed all the chapters in my life: graduation, relationship and Italy.

In July there will be two years since I made this step and have no regrets for every single day I spent here. This was my dream and I made it happen. I lived in a village for one year, been commuting for two hours every day, spoke in English all day long and even took German classes after work. I joined an industry I had no idea about, was confused for months regarding what am I doing here and why am I spending my time here and even invested a lot of effort to figure out which should be the next step – if there was to be any.

Hah, not too bad for someone without any work experience but a lot of courage to give it a try. I just wanted it for me and didn´t care about any loses or consequences. Of course there were days when I hardly combined loneliness with hours of learning German. I didn´t accept anyone in my circle at that time, I was totally dedicated to my dream and there wouldn´t have been an option to share this chapter with someone else. It was too much mine. It was my project. My dream.

And the dream goes on, although for the moment the road is blocked with other people, other interests, too much noise and too less authenticity. Just like I waited in Italy, I will have to wait now here as well… When you know how hard you worked for your dreams which were yours and not someone else’s, the rest is just star dust…

Which dreams did you accomplish so far or at least started to work on?

Question your fear until you defeat it!

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This post is for real fighters. For people who know what they want from life. For people who are not afraid to follow their dreams and regardless of any losses, move forward. This post is about ambition, self-fulfillment and commitment. This is not intended to classify any of us in winners or losers. As long as you keep looking for alternatives to your issue, you’re still in the circle.

Have you ever embraced change? Have you ever asked yourself what it would be if starting from tomorrow you will wake up in a different city, have a different job, make new friends and speak a different language? Have you ever felt homesick? Have you ever wanted to be surrounded by strangers, just to listen to yourself and focus on the present? If yes, then you can continue reading my words. Otherwise, please stop here and return to your routines – you are wasting your time.

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Whoever made a change in their lives at least once knows that there comes a moment when change calls again and despite everything you simply cannot fight it. I mean, you can fight it but you’ll only end up consuming your resources. And in the end, you will make that change, because it’s normal. Because it’s part of your DNA and because it defines you as a human being and without that feature you would simply stop being yourself. It’s something that will open you new doors all the time but will also ask you to face your biggest fears – the fear of losing it all!

So what if you lose it all? Did you ever have anything? What defines you? … Do you trust your instinct, your intuition, your abilities, your knowledge, your RESILIENCE? If you ever made a change in your life you know what RESILIENCE feels like, if not, again, please exit from this blog.

How does uncertainty feel on your skin? Do you like it, does it bother you, does it excite you? How about satisfaction? Do you feel more satisfied after having tried your best and eventually managed to achieve your goals or you feel more comfortable sitting in the same warm corner and dreaming about what you could do if only you wanted to? I like warm corners, I do, but I can’t stand them for too long. They make me feel old. They make me feel powerless. They make me forget where my strengths come from.

How about the fear of failure? How do you cope with that? Did you ever approach it or you always tried to avoid it because, once again, the warm corner knows nothing about failure? Do you feel yourself when the fear of failure lies under your skin? Do you ever practice introspection? Did you ever fight your fear of failure? How often do you fight your fears? Are you aware of how afraid you might be sometimes? The more changes one makes the bigger is the fear of failure or is it less or almost inexistent? Does it make you feel more responsible, brings you more mindfulness or distances you from yourself?