How to deal with (white male) privilege – How Zjef will bring peace to Israel & Palestine – Chapter VII

The gender and racial equality debate has been on my mind for many years. I’ve been attracted to the discussion because this has been an issue for some of my closest relatives, friends and lovers. But maybe even most of all it is because for 98% of my life I’ve never ever felt like a person in a powerful position. Nope, I even subconsciously hated myself for being…a white man (I’m not saying I didn’t have privileges, I’m just saying I didn’t feel them).

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aka Ungratefulness

So after carefully investigating the whole controversy and exercising some self-love, I feel I have come to a point where I can write this chapter. Some will say it makes sense, some will be offended and say it’s not my place to talk about this. Whatever your opinion is, I’d love to hear it because it is my intent to head in the direction of more equality.

I’ll start this chapter with what I understand from this whole dispute, then I’ll get to what I feel is missing to get to decent equality, and lastly we’ll get to some actual steps on how to peacefully deal with the whole (white male) privilege thing.

The issue as I understand it

It seems that due to historical reasons, male dominance and patriarchy are big contributors to lots of inequality in the world. Most positions of power are taken by (white) men and it’s what we see confirmed all around us: In movies, on the news and in our everyday lives. We all take this in subconsciously and therefore most of us automatically see white men more as political or business leaders, more than we see women or people of color to take the same positions. This is the current “normal”.

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Many empowerment-movements are slowly changing this “normal” by spreading lots of awareness. The goal: To have a diverse set of global and local leaders, chosen for their competence as leaders, rather than the subconscious benefits they get because of specific traits like their gender and race.

The inquiry of the empowerment-movements is for white men to notice their benefits and at times, take a step back to let others take positions of power. Hence in time, we will get to a more equal and diverse set of people in power. So that in time, we can subconsciously see everyone as a leader, not only white men. The new “normal”.

The missing part

Now I feel there’s something missing here, the reasoning behind this is 2-fold:

(1) Taking  a step back as a person in power requires A LOT of integrity and courage. Which in my opinion is a great quality as a leader…hence…the ones that actually take a step back as a leader are the ones that we need to have in positions of power. A beautiful contradiction that brings me to the second part of my issue in this debate

(2) Most of us choose what we will wear every day. Most of us choose what we eat and the products we buy, we decide which companies/organisations we buy from, and we choose the ones we work for. Most of us choose who our friends and our lovers are, and most of us choose who our local and global leaders are. The point is….we choose a lot, we choose every single moment on how the world around us will look.

What I’m getting at is that it is not only white men who are in power because they have a privilege and they take power just because they can. There are also an enormous amount of not-white-men who support these men to be in power. And even if those people choose to support those men because they have been subconsciously fed with the idea that they are the right men to be in power…only they themselves actually hold the power to break that vicious circle. They hold the power to surround themselves with other men.

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In this picture our good friend Donald Trump is being empowered by being surrounded by many beautiful women. And who can blame the women to empower themselves by taking a picture next to a powerful man? However, they might have some temporary benefits in their status and impact, yet they are undermining their long term empowerment by standing next to a first class misogynist. Who can break this vicious circle? Other men….or these women?

SO I would state that to overcome the many inequalities, to get to a more diverse and right set of leaders,…it is not only the white men’s responsibility to change that. I would state that it is the responsibility of everyone who is able to choose the right people to surround themselves with, the right people to support, and the right people to empower.

Two important remarks about this part

(1) What I aim to do is not to get rid of my responsibility and to transfer it to others…NOPE…I’m actually sharing with you all how I seek my own empowerment in the most ethical way. This actually leads me to have more responsibilities, not less.

(2) When I talk about actively making the right choices. I’m not talking about the quick-fix-kind-of-choices. I’m talking about long term recurring choices and habits. Some can take a month to have effect, others years, and the most systemic issues might even take generations to change. But it all starts with the 1 choice you make in the many single moments that make up “your life”.

How to ethically deal with (white male) privilege

Time to get down to business and get some guidelines on how to deal with the whole issue.

First – know yourself and feel the other. I love a good fight, and even when I’m losing a fight I see a win-win because I’m learning. But there are times when I draw lines for myself & for others.

Recently I was in a discussion with a former romantic girlfriend about this whole debate. At one point in the dispute she reacted very heavily to the fact that I questioned the whole white-male-privilege concept (because I had never really liked being a white-male). At that point she bluntly told me: “You have white male privilege so shut up”, and she walked away. This of course enraged me as I was in a very vulnerable moment and I didn’t feel heard. My blood was boiling and the adrenaline was raging through my body, but instead of using it to get into a more messier fight…I just backed of and made a facebook-post about it (which taught me a lot too).

The point is: I knew her and I knew I had to back off. I knew myself and I knew what the anger and adrenaline could destroy if I pointed it specifically at her. Now we were both bloodied and hurt, but we lived, learned and were not traumatised (I hope).

Second – privilege as advantage.

When someone tells you “You have privilege”, don’t get defensive…because, you have nothing to defend. Privilege is not a bad or good thing, it’s just a specific advantage you have…. Be it money, education, your good looks, or the fact that your skin-color or gender is generally associated with leadership… That advantages you have can be turned into power, and power is simply put: responsibility.

What you do with that responsibility, that is up to you and will define you as a human being.

Do you use the advantage to gain more power and attention, and make others serve you…wellll, in my opinion that makes you a kind of an asshole. I for one would not like to be in your care.

Do you use your power to listen to others, to restore the planet’s ecosystem and/or to empower your fellow human beings to live happy and fulfilling lives,… Then I’d trust you much more to make good decisions for me.

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The almighty Lucie Evers broke this even down further into a step by step guide:

  1. Look at power in a different way. Be aware of your influence on power dynamics and your need for control.
  2. Let go of the need for control.
  3. Understand the relationship between self-image, your projection of yourself in the world and the actual ‘position’ you have. Put it in sync.
  4. Understand the privilege you have and deal with it. Don’t deny or get rid of it, just accept it and deal with it in a responsible way. Noblesse Oblige.
  5. Don’t feel responsible for what is not yours in the first place. It’s not because people leave (their) issues on the table, that you have to take them on. Get rid of saviour complex.

Conlusionz

The issue is that the world around us is built on a whole lot of suppression of certain groups of people. And it’s not because that this is the world now, that this is how the world should be. Let’s get “normal” out of our subconscious, and make it better.

To do this everyone needs to use the power they have at hand. Everyone who is able needs to put their money where there mouth is and let their actions be congruent with their values of equality.

The recipe: Keep an open mind, listen, learn, live and be more like Janaya Khan or  Hannah Gadsby.

If you think there’s something completely wrong or if there’s something missing – hit reply.

Lots of people to thank for the many talks & discussions on the subject. Let’s start with my mother and my sister: Magda Van Acker & Jana Van Acker, then for sure Esther Bonebakker (probably the first person to really open my eyes). Then Stephanie Hermant, Lynn Josephy, Charlotte Schelstraete, Jacklyn Bandy, Mia Fernandez Medinacelli, Lucie Evers, Marcus Chin Hien Goh, Zeljko Blace, Kelechi Johnbosco, Ayşegül Sırakaya, Mark Horler, Ryan Ginsburg, Nils Plovie, Niek D’hondt & the many others who jumped in the snake pit with me. Thank you for all the patience and open mindedness.

Check out the other chapters in the series via this link.

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Polyamory & World Peace – How Zjef will bring peace to Israel & Palestine – Chapter VI

When I started talking about my love life in Chapter I and II of this series, everyone thought I was joking about the world peace. As a reminder, I’m not joking about the world peace. The reason is simple: If we want to think about world peace, we need to think about interhuman relationships. And the best way to investigate human relationships…is by taking the most difficult relationship between 2 human beings: The Romantic Relationship.

To help achieve world peace with my Vertical Farming quest, I have been experimenting with polyamory. For the past 3 years people have been thinking that I’m crazy, others thought I was awesome, and others thought I was just being amoral.

But that didn’t really matter. The truth is that I had no fucking clue what exactly I was doing…but I did know why I was doing it: I question life, I question love, I question as much as I can bear, all in the name of becoming and being my best self.

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For the record, I question that shit too

So to kickstart this chapter – what did I learn from my polyamorous experiences?

Polyamory seems great. Seeing 3 girls at the same time just sounds awesome, especially if you can boast about it to your buddies. The only thing you don’t boast about so easily, is when you feel shit when those girls are also seeing other guys and in that way, are bringing up your deepest insecurities.

Conversations in my head (not with my buddies) sometimes went like this:

Zjef 1: Am I not enough? Why does she need to see someone else?
Zjef 2: Dude, you’re also seeing other girls, I could ask you the same question
Zjef 1: I know you’re right… but still…Why does it hurt? Why do I feel like I’m being betrayed?
Zjef: 2: Why are you so insecure? Just focus on what you want, don’t let it get into your head.
Zjef 1: But it hurts…
Zjef 2: Shut it…feelings are guidelines, not truths…
Zjef 1: But…
Zjef 2: SHUT IT…focus on your breath….breath in….breath out…

Obviously Zjef 2 is suppressing a feeling that needs to be listened to because it’s a fundamental insecurity: the feeling of not being good enough. This core self-doubt has caused many toxic situations in many of my relationships, be it romantic, friendly or professional.

People that have been around me during my past 31 years have witnessed this first hand.

How? Well, I’m glad you asked.

So we’re in this meeting about…let’s say…starting a commonly owned vertical farm that wants to use waste as a resource to grow mushrooms. And you know, we want to build and organise this because our current industrial capitalism just doesn’t seem to be able to deal so well with our pending ecological disasters and social injustices. Of course, you’re still in the current economic climate and everyone still needs to eat, shit and get a roof over their head. And… unfortunately you can’t just jump out of this madness and create utopia in the blink of an eye.

Hence, when you’re all about changing the world, and you have a problem with feeling that you yourself are not good enough, you also project that on all other things.

Whatever is being discussed in the meeting…it’s never fucking good enough. And when, as a perfectionist, you break down every idea on the table, others also break down your ideas…and if that makes you feel betrayed because you take it very personal…the whole thing turns sideways, everybody starts disliking each other and even with all the good intentions in the world, the project just doesn’t happen.

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You already see where the world peace comes in? Good! But first back to Polyamory.

So fundamentally I was insecure and that turned me into a shitty asshole on many occasions (be it romantic or professional). Yet being an asshole is a lonely endeavor, so you create this other type of personality born out of the same insecurity. That special personality that avoids conflict and makes sure as much people as possible like you. Yes indeed: The Nice guy!

So, bipolar as I was, I kept on jumping between being an asshole and a nice guy. And because of that, relationships never really gave me the fulfillment that I needed….because how could they? I didn’t feel good enough for the world, so no girlfriend could be good enough either.

Even if my girlfriend would have been Ariana Grande, I still probably would have thought she was just not satisfying my needs, as I wanted to be treated like a prince (I say “probably” because she has a lot of money and could possibly make that happen. But then again, why would Ariana Grande want to be with a self-absorbed cunt like that?).

Ariana Grande Zjef and the quest to build a vertical farm
Ariana Grande….who wouldn’t fall for a girl on high heels in a boxing outfit. That shit is just sexy!

In short – Polyamory was for me the fastest way to let out the asshole and the nice guy at the same time. Luckily, as polyamory is no place for insecure little boys, it gave me such a high understanding of myself that, slowly slowly, I called the asshole AND the nice guy both on their bullshit… And in the end, after 3 years of experimenting, feeling and thinking, I finally found peace and the recipe of living a fulfilled and happy life.

So what is it? The recipe of living the fulfilled and happy life?

I guess it’s still the same as what I started this chapter with: I have no fucking clue what exactly it is that I’m doing…but I’m sure that I am going to limit as much as possible, my time spent as an insecure asshole or nice guy,

To conclude this chapter:

Love…still have no clue what it’s about. I think it’s founded on self-love,…whatever that means.

Polyamory – have no clue if it’s wrong or right… What I do know that it’s a lot of fun as long as you want and can handle the double edged sword.

Peace…well, I think that’s just the level of congruency in everything you do, say and feel (got this one from Gandhi).

World Peace – that would be all 7,653,219,391 people (and counting) being at peace with themselves without fucking each other over to keep it. How to organise this? Well, this might be a good subject for the next chapter?

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Peace out!

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine? Click here for Chapter I & IIClick here for Chapter III, click here for Chapter IV & click here for Chapter V

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine – Chapter V – The burden of being the best

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine – Chapter V – The burden of being the best

I’m a big fan of Peace on Earth, and I believe that we can truly achieve this seemingly impossible state of utopia. Yet in the quest to help obtain it, I’ve been struggling with a question that I do not seem to find an answer to.

Our world and our history has been full of people doing “exceptional” things. For example Alexander the great and Dzjengis Khan both conquered enormous territories. Another example is Julius Caesar who transformed the Roman republic into the Roman empire. Yet if you look closer into the stories of these many so called “great people”, It seems like they all had a deep hole inside of their soul that forced them to want to be the best. And because they wanted to achieve and prove themselves, their actions often came at a great costs.

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Alexander the Great VS Darius III at the battle of Gaugamela. It is known as a great and impossible victory for Alexander. Yet many seem to be overlooking the fact that both of them were big assholes that got a lot of people killed for their pride

Today, there is still lot of wanting to be the best in our society. This drive is creating a lot of innovation and progress, it is driving us forward for sure and bring us lots of comforts, pleasures & luxuries. But at what costs? Today 1 in 4 Belgians suffer Psychological problems, and do I really need to talk about politics and the other obvious stuff: The wars we still wage with ourselves, with our own nature and with our own habitat? 

So yes, there is this question I do not seem to find the answer to:

Can we as humanity advance ourselves without the need to be better than someone else? Can we advance ourselves with respect for ourselves, the people around us, our environment and our planet?

The reason why I find myself asking this question is because I too recently discovered the hole in my soul. And like Caesar or Alexander the great, I also had a serious need for myself to be the best

The hole in my soul was initiated by a small trauma when I was 7. For me it was a defining moment. It was a moment that my 7 year old self would remember not in memories, but in feelings for the next 22 years to come. It would be on those feelings that I built my reality.

I’m not ready to tell exactly what happened to me, yet I can tell you that it left me with a serious feeling of abandonment, the feeling of not being worth it to be loved. And out of that feeling came the idea that I needed to prove myself to be loved. The start of me…wanting to be the best all the time.

 

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Feed the monster

Always trying to be the best is ludicrous for a at least 3 reasons.

  1. Trying to fill up the hole in your soul is exhausting. It’s like feeding a monster than can never be satisfied.
  2. It’s is destructive. This can be towards others, or towards yourself. For me it was mostly the latter: Carrying around the idea that you have to be the best, only gives you the feeling that you are NEVER the best. It’s like climbing a mountain, never looking back and enjoying the view, never enjoying the steps you are taking. And even if you reach the top, you never enjoy reaching the top, you only look at the next mountain to climb. So you keep on bashing yourself to be better and better and better. You can never enjoy and accept yourself for who you are at that very moment
  3. And thirdly, it completely messes up your idea of what “love” is. If you cannot love yourself for who you are, you cannot let others love you for who you are. And you can also not love people for who they are. This affects all relationships: family, friends, romances,…

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The solution for all this is of course very simple: it is self-love. But I’m not here to talk to you about self-love. I’m here because I still have this question.

If I would not have had this trauma when I was young, would I have had the fire to push myself to go beyond my fears and limitations? Would I be on this crazy life’s journey? Would I have traveled the world and walked amongst the pioneers in urban and vertical farming? What would I be doing if not for this small trauma?

Now that I’m much more at peace with myself, and have less of a need to prove myself to others, the dye has already been cast: I am on this path and I’m planning to keep on following it

And because our history and our society today is full of people who want to be the best, we might extrapolate this question to the rest of the world. What would we be without these people? Maybe we would have world-peace, but would we still live in tribes? Or would we have found other ways of discovering what we have discovered, Achieving what we have achieved?

Interesting question.

As I believe that our society consist of individuals, I’m really curious towards your answers. If not for wanting to be the best,…

What powers your life?

What is it that makes you want to get up in the morning and create your world?

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Competition got us to the Moon, but what will get us to Mars?

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine: Click here for Chapter I & IIClick here for Chapter III & click here for Chapter IV

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine – Chapter IV – NYC16

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine – Chapter IV – NYC16

Click here for Chapter I & II
Click here for Chapter III

I want to bring harmony to Israel and Palestine, I want to end the war in the middle East and I want to end the corruption in Africa. As a matter of fact, I truly believe that I can do it and this series of blog-posts will tell you the story on how I discover the super-powers that can and will initiate world-peace.

Chapter 4 – New York City 2016

A couple of months ago I  visited New York City for the NYC Agtech week 2016. It was AMAZING, just check out the video below.

Yet this is not what this chapter is about – it’s about NYC, the people living there and my reaction towards them all.

On the 16th of September 2016, after sleeping of my long flight all the way from Belgium, my first full day in the big apple ended like a lot of Friday nights: By going out!

Adam De Martino, friend and Smallhold business partner of Andrew Carter (who was my host), took me on a tour through Brooklyn, the hipster-capital of the world. We went to many places to do some drinking, some dining, some more drinking and to meet a lot of cool and very interesting people. Eventually, the night ended at North Brooklyn Farms, just next to the Williamsburg bridge. There was a full moon party going on.

And it was truly a full moon, just check the amazing picture (yes yes, taken via a telescope).

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The night was like the photo: very cool!

However, the night did not end like an amazing night should end: While getting into my bed I felt exhausted and a very unsatisfied about myself. I had been in New York after a supercool night, yet why did these stupid feelings have to ruin the whole thing?

What even made it worse is that the self preservation mechanism in my mind went nuts. My mind reacted to the “low-self-esteem” vibe by generating a kind of  arrogant loathing towards NY and most of its inhabitants. I would call it the”I-am-better-than-these-stressed-New-Yorkers” vibe.

In my consequent days in NYC, these 2 feelings came to the surface quite a lot. One moment I would be: “WOOWW New York is amazing.”And other moments I would be: “FUCK New York, what a shitty place.”

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This seriously undermined my joy of being there. However, Zjef would not be Zjef, if he did not investigate these feelings.

So I started investigating!

While being in New York I had to find out what made the New Yorkers into New Yorkers (the investigation of myself could wait for when I got home). During my investigation of the Homo sapiens New Yorkii, I had many many conversations with old New Yorkers, not so old New Yorkers, new New Yorkers and tourist.

There were many different opinions and examples, and the following two encounters really stuck with me:

Henry Gordon Smith, living in New York since 2011, runs a successful business (Blue Planet Consulting), hosts a very important Urban Farming blog (Agritecture) and is vice-chair for the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF). In other words: Henry is making it.

On the third day, after a quick lunch in a very trendy place, during a (fast) stroll through Manhattan, I talked to Henry about my feelings towards New York and New Yorkers.

Henry understood my feelings as he is a world-citizen that has already lived in many different countries. He acknowledged that the  New York life is competitive, hard and that it can be very stressful. Yet on the other hand, he said that it’s also an extremely innovative  environment and that if you’re able to handle the stress and competition, you get a lot of cool things done. And that gives you a lot of satisfaction.

It made sense.

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The conversation with Henry took me back to the first night.

During the group-conversations on the first night, the atmosphere was indeed more competitive than I’m used to. I got carried away in that competition and because I was very far from my usual scene, in a very different culture, I quickly exhausted myself. Or in competition words: I lost.

My mistake was that I was not not a very good loser. Instead of seeing the competition as a fun learning opportunity, I saw losing as a failure of my personality and character. Hence my self-loathing and the “low-self-esteem” vibe.

The opposite one, the “I-am-better-than-these-stressed-New-Yorkers” vibe came into existence because of what bad losers tend to do: They start to hate the competition.

Two destructive vibes alternating, that’s not how world peace is achieved, right?

Luckily for me, there was Andrew Carter. Originally from California, living in NYC since 7 years. As a horticultural expert, he is a superstar within Blue Planet consulting, he has been AVF North America Regional manager, and is now starting up his own and very very interesting urban Mushroom business in NYC (Smallhold).

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Henry (white t-shirt on the left) & Andrew (red shirt on the right) together on a Panel in the Lowline Lab during NYC Agtech week 2016.

Andrew shared his couch and apartment (kitties included) with me for 10 days, so I saw him in action a lot.

And Andrew is very different than most New Yorkers I encountered. He is relaxed, open, smart, fun and confident: A very powerful combination. He showed me that you be calm, while at the same time be very present in a group, and that you can be chill in stressful situations while getting a lot of shit done.

A bossman, that is what Andrew is.

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Andrew, Zjef  and a full American breakfast!

I’ve already read a lot of books on how to use human psychology to find happiness & balance. Yet NYC definitely put me to the test and forced me to apply that theoretical knowledge.

It took me a while to process the whole experience and to come to terms with myself and those two destructive feelings. However, I’m pretty sure I learned a lot from it and next time when I’m in NYC, I’ll be much more myself and I’ll be able to enjoy the experience much more.

Or at least that’s what I hope 😉

Does anyone else have some similar experiences with other cultures and mentalities in general?

ps: here are some extra pics from NYC – fun times:

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine: Click here for Chapter I & IIClick here for Chapter III.

Appendix – written on 10th of August 2018

And with the lessons learned I did enjoy the experience much more the year after, during NYC Agtech week 2017 and AVF Summit in Washington DC. I remember that for the first time I really enjoyed my experiences in the USA. I Made a lot of friends, created lots of videos and had a lot of fun. Aaaand I met an amazing young lady (Yeah, just had to put it here because she changed my reality, an important turing point in my life about which I probably will write or talk later – we’ll see)

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel & Palestine – Chapter III

Read Chapter I & II first

I want to bring harmony to Israel and Palestine, I want to end the war in the middle East and I want to end the corruption in Africa. As a matter of fact, I truly believe that I can do it and this series of blog-posts will tell you the story on how I discover the super-powers that can and will initiate world-peace.

Chapter 3 – Knowing yourself

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So, today I was talking to Kyara, a 20 year old lady from Kansas, USA. She wants to get into Vertical Farming and I, as head of the Education Division of the Association for Vertical Farming, am trying to help her with that. In our many conversations questions about her strengths and who she really is popped up a couple of times. Today she made me give an epic reply that gave birth to this blog post.

This is how it came to be:

Zjef: Do you feel it’s hard to talk about who you are and what your strengths are?

Kyara:
 Yes it’s hard. Like im barely 20, im still trying to figure out what im good at.

Zjef: Well, 20 is quite late to think about it :p But better late than never

Kyara: Really? Cause I’ve been told multiple time thats it’s normal… or maybe thats just America.

Zjef: It’s the same in Europe. However, it’s not because it’s normal that it’s how it supposed to be.

I’ve lived my life without any aim or purpose for 25 years, and in that way, I feel that I’ve wasted a big part of my life. Especially when I was in University. Our education system is based on getting you ready for Industrial capitalism, which kills creativity and the ability to really getting to know who you are.

Kyara: Damn, i think you just explained it better than any other person I’ve talked to. But isn’t it normal to not know until your mid or late 20s?

Zjef: Why would that be normal?

Kyara: I don’t know, because isn’t that when our brains are fully developed.

Zjef: That’s sounds like a good explanation, yet wouldn’t it be better if our brain developed to support who we really are?

I for one can definitely say that I developed a lot of bad habits because I was an annoying little brad who didn’t know who he was and what to do, except hating people and society because they were fucking the planet up. If my parents and my school had taught me that it was possible for me to constructively have a positive impact on it all…well, I most probably would have been much stronger and confident by now, and I would have achieved much more by now.

My parents told me that I should study well because I was one of the most intelligent in my little class in my little school that was way below average. And at that school I was put in a science-class because of that same reason. There I was taught that I would become a successful scientist. I was taught that I should always try to get to achieve the highest level possible. Never even trying to determine what I was actually good at, or what made me happy.

(I’m not even bashing the absurdity of thinking in “levels” of intelligence here)

Result: I never ever did my best in school because it didn’t really excite me all that much.

And during my time at university, my mom always was angry because I spent too much time organising events and managing and playing in my band. Thinking I was wasting my future.

In hindsight, it is actually these experiences that give me most strength and confidence today.

So, brain development should be in service of who you are, not in service of what “society” says you should be. Because now we live in a society where a lot of people don’t know who and what they are, because in a way, they got brainwashed.

A very disturbing thought

Kyara: Yeah, you make a good point. And did anyone ever tell you that you would make a great blogger? Cause you would.

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Who are you? Today this is for most people a difficult and vague question. First of all, it requires a lot of balls to get out of your comfort zone and go and look for the answer, and secondly it requires a lot of persistence to actually make it to the end of that quest.

Am I there yet? I don’t know so probably not. Yet I do know that I am where I need to be, and that is right here!

ps: Thanks Kyara for making me write this.

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Kyara looks innocent and cute, but don’t let those puppy eyes fool you, she’s a badass:

Kyara

Peace out & enjoy this inspirational music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkhVjm9iGFc

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine – Chapter I & II

Originally posted on October 10 2014 at http://averticalfarmstory.blogspot.be

I want to bring harmony to Israel and Palestine, I want to end the war in the middle East and I want to end the corruption in Africa. As a matter of fact, I truly believe I can do it and this series of blog-posts will tell you the story on how I discover the super-powers that can and will initiate world-peace.

Chapter 1 – The most important life lesson

It all started on a sunny afternoon in the snowy winter of 2012. A beautiful white carpet covered the houses and the lowlands in and around Diksmuide. It reflected the bright sunlight so spectacularly that you were able to sense everyone’s happiness, floating around in the air. Surrounded by this general and widespread contentment prevailing in my home town, I was able to write down the plan on how I would succeed in building my Vertical Farms.

One of the most important parts of the strategy said:

I will be with a fantastic girlfriend/wife that supports me. She will be passionate, smart, awesome, beautiful, free, caring, loving and emotionally strong.

The writing down of this goal set in motion a series of interesting adventures. And I’m pretty sure I have not seen the last of them. Yet this pursuit has already taught me many things. At the commencement of this love-endeavor, I said to myself that I would not touch another woman until I had met the love of my life. Fortunately, a couple of months later, I realized that this train of thought wouldn’t help me to seduce my future life’s partner. It’s like wanting to win the tour the France without learning to ride a bicycle (ow yes, I had (and still have) a lot to learn about seducing).

So, instead of being a moralizing bore, I did the complete opposite: I went player.

The logic was that I would become so awesomely good with women, that I would be able to seduce the lady of my dreams without even trying. Yes, the plan was solid and – with a bit of healthy persistence – easy to execute.

Flash forward one year

Recently I started a romance with Esther, a passionate, smart, awesome, beautiful, free, caring, loving and very strong lady (sounds familiar?). Moreover: I seduced her (and she seduced me) without really trying – it just…happened. I’m not trying to state the obvious here, the moral of the story lies deeper and covers more than just romantic love. Remember that I’m still trying to explain my plan on how to actualize world peace.

Zjef & Esther

During my player-girfriend-quest (before Esther) I had been on a winning streak for most of the time. And in that success-mindset I did not question my methods. But in the end, when something beautiful went to hell I noticed that the “playing” conflicted with what my heart wanted. It was after that serious throwback that the most important life lesson revealed itself to me.

It came in the form of a very simple, yet honest question that popped in my mind when I realised I had very high standards. The inquiry to myself was “Who do I have to be to attract that seriously seductive lady that I’m dreaming of?“

Would that passionate, smart, awesome, beautiful, free, caring, loving , emotionally strong, yes almost-perfect woman want to be with a Don Juan who turns out to be a fraud, or would she rather fall for a rock solid motherfucker who’s confident with the fact that he’s not always so confident? Would she start a serious relationship with a douchebag who’s trying too hard, or would she prefer a person who knows he’s not perfect, yet works on himself and his dreams?

(For the record, I do not condemn playing as bad. As a “nice guy”, it has taught me a lot about the art of creating and maintaining attraction. If everybody would know this and not be an asshole about it, the world would be a much happier place).

So…drum rolls…the most important life lesson and the first step on the path towards world peace is: LOVE YOURSELF! Cause how can you live in peace with another if you are not in peace with yourself?

How I do it? Well, one word: Balance. I find the balance between living today (yolo) and working towards a very bright future. I am the person that I am, yet I’m also becoming the person that I want to become by taking small steps of improvement every day.

Or to put it even more beautifully you can combine my good friends Ghandi and Einstein:

In the end, this all seems very obvious and I feel pretty retarded for realising this so late. Yet, it is in understanding that obviousness that I found the second superpower that can and will bring harmony to the world.

Chapter 2 – The rarest of all superpowers

As you already know, I have a fantastic relationship with Esther now. However, discovering each other was and is still an adventure with many dangerous threats on the road.

I, for example, suffer from a miserable disease that is also known as the distrusting-the-ladies syndrome. It expresses itself in the stupidest things, yet it also pops up when stuff gets serious. Saying “I love you”, for instance, brings me tremendous difficulties. In the past I had uttered these words without meaning, yet in a subsequent relationship it had been a big taboo. These and some other experiences had made me extremely confused about that wonderful three-word sentence: “I love you”.

Even though I knew I was awesome enough for Esther, I still thought she would run away and never come back if I’d confessed my love for her. Luckily for me, Esther was not suffering from a similar issue and was able to fearlessly open her heart to me. Moreover, she was extremely understanding and patient until I had overcome my “I love you”-anxiety. Yes, she helped me to break free of that vicious circle of subconscious distrust and hate that originated from previous love affairs.

Trying to overcome our issues brings a lot of adventure, not to mention that our lives by themselves are already tremendously turbulent. But we refuse to let ourselves go and slip into a Holywood-inspired love drama. Instead, we look into each others eyes, talk for hours and try to make each other stronger by utilizing super powers like honesty and self-love. Consequently, we are making our love reach its fullest potential. It is the only way to know if we are truly meant to be.

Now, back to world peace. And let’s do it trough Malcolm X

It has been, and is still a grievous quest to dig into my past and my feelings in order to understand and love myself. Every time I lose a piece of my ignorance (for example: the most important life lesson), I hate myself and think: “Damn, I should have known this”. Being angry at myself is one thing, but the bigger problems arise when I notice that same ignorance with others. A lot of frustration and hatred towards them just bubbles up, solely because of the fact that they don’t know the same things as I do yet. And for me, It takes overwhelming effort to overcome these negative feelings. I found that the easiest way is to be thankful, while focusing on my own path and my own self-improvement. Yet, I’m also learning to be curious about other people and their reasons for being, thinking and doing.

It is with that curiosity that I can find understanding and consequently forgiveness for myself and for others.

That is what I do with Esther and it is also what I do with some of my friends. We founded the Association For Collective Self-Development aka Dinosaurs Will Die. We are a think- and do-tank that’s seriously non-serious – yet still serious enough to be taken serious (or something like that). We call ourselves dinosaurs and talk about the little things in life, while discussing on how we can achieve our dreams. Basically, we are helping each other with the most important life lesson by trying to keep each others balance.

And that’s it, folks, those are the first two steps on how Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine.

For the remainder of my life I’ll try to bring health, happiness and prosperity to everyone I meet. I will try to live in peace with my girlfriend, my previous girlfriends, my friends, my family, my noisy neighbors, those retarded retards that make completely retarded jokes about vegetarians, the extremist politicians, the money-grubbing-and-nature-destroying business-men, and most importantly: I will try to live in peace with myself!

Ps: For those who hadn’t figured it out yet: My quest is about much more than just building a Vertical Farm: It’s all about Peace & Love

Appendix – written on 4th of June 2017

Re-reading Chapter I and II I felt funny. It’s been 2.5 years ago now and I sense I’ve grown quite a lot since. Also many things changed…and stayed the same.

(1) I had a great and intense relationship with Esther, yet it finished 1.5 years ago. We were both not ready for making this a longer relationship. We needed more space to grow as individuals, independent from the intense bond we had created.

(2) For me, that meant that I needed to learn how to love myself even more. Because it turns out, you can’t just start loving yourself like flipping on a switch

(3) I’m still struggling a lot with the fear of rejection as described in chapter 2. Not when I’m in a relationship, but more when I’m in seduction mode (Yes, I’m struggling to show/tell a lady I like her). However, lots of fun seducing stuff has happened lately, and more and more I can overcome my fear of showing that I like someone. AND, more and more I can handle a simple rejection.

Yes indeed, there is still hope for me. Haha, and I feel like telling everyone about my latest successes and findings in the love game. Maybe I’ll start a blog series about that? This time more anonymous as we’re talking about other people too. Would be fun, no?