The 30 days Challenge: Waking up Happy (part I)

So in the past days, months, years,…yeah, basically all my life, I’ve been suffering from a quite negative mind.

And that negativity reaches its peak when it transforms into self-pity. The worst part is, that for me that self-pity is like an addiction. Yes it’s true, in a way I like feeling down and full of self-pity. Hence the downward spiral!


This mindset is exhausting for me and it’s exhausting for the people around me. Moreover, it keeps me from creating stuff that makes me happy now, and in the long term.

Time for some solutions.

In the past years I’ve been experimenting with how to get over that, how to change that mindset and really become more happy, optimistic, joyful,… These experiments have definitely improved that general negativity, yet the past days showed that I’m not there yet.

In the past days I was very very very negative, and I was so resentful towards everyone and everything around me.


Time for the first 30 days challenge.

I’ve noticed that it’s especially hardest for me in the morning. Most of the time I don’t want to get out of my bed because dreaming is more fun than starting the day. And so I can keep on snoozing for a couple of hours.

So, let’s focus on those mornings, let’s try to change those!


1 word: Gratefulness

Every morning I will wake up and will do 2 things, 2 very simple things

  1. I will find something that I’m grateful for (wiki-how link)
  2. I will find something what I’m excited about for that day

And just to show that I’m doing it, I’ll make a 30sec video every day.

Fun times coming, fun times.

See you soon beautiful people!


ps: Why 30 days? 30 days it’s the minimum amount of days it takes for your brain to solidify a new habit. After those 30 days, I will look on how to improve those new links in my brain – maybe with a 60 days challenge? We’ll see, we’ll see!

ps2: A post that talks about these similar feelings: Is this one of those thoughts that keep you from being a happily productive person?




Vertical Farming with Norm & Zjef

One year ago, Norm, a cool guy from the other side of the world (Alberta, Canada) contacted the AVF. He wanted to do an interview for his new youtube channel about a broad range of topics and one of those topics was: Vertical Farming

As I’m answering 99% of AVF’s inbound messages and because I make some youtube videos myself, I answered Norm with enthusiasm. I proposed to do something more fun than just a video-interview. I proposed to video-message each other, and every time respond to the others message.

During the process I got more and more into it and my video-responses became more and more fun with more interaction and guest speakers.

However, Norm disappeared in the summer of 2016, I thought the videos were never going to see the Youtube-light. BUT, yesterday (11th of January 2017), Norm came back to me after a holiday in South America. He had put the first three video Q&A’s online.

Enjoy the video – it’s fun and interesting!

Special thanks to BIGH (for the office and the projector), Vijay Yelmalle & Seppe Salari!

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).


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.”


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.


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).

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.

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)

Is this one of those thoughts that keep you from being a happily productive person?

So, I guess this post is about something that haunts many of us. Time to write those thoughts & feelings down instead of keeping them battling in my head.

This morning, as many other mornings, I had the problem again: waking up and not feeling like waking up, not seeing or feeling the joy of the day to come.

What is this shit about? Why the fuck am I like a diesel that needs to warm up and am extremely reluctant to even start?

Is this in my DNA? Am I just like this? Or is this something that became a habit, hence I can get rid of it through some serious mind-training.


I am a very ambitious man, the dreams I have are big and I know I can reach them. Yet I also know that I will have to work hard, learn a lot and be smart about it.

On the other hand, it’s also very important that I can live this short and fleeting life in happy way.

I’m definitely not the only one struggling and writing about this, check out this article for example. Quote: “How to strive and grow and be ambitious without getting caught up in a rat race against your peers—in other words, without becoming obsessed with your relative status, as that is an obsession that I believe can seriously dent your happiness.”

Part of the ambition is that I like acknowledgement, attention & I would definitely like to be famous (in other words: “status”). Yet I also know that becoming famous and known is not a real good driver for my life’s purpose.

Who will care about what I do, a 1000, or a million years from now? Or who cares about this on the other side of the universe?


So yes, ambition & hard work opposed to just enjoying my life as much as possible. Can those things be combined? Is it possible to be happy with this life while also trying to make this society a happier place? And is it a matter of training my mind and learn to enjoy the things in life in a different way?

Or should I just be happy with life, not be too ambitious and not care too much about the future of our society?

Or should I not complain, work my ass off and achieve stuff?

All these questions, all these questions. They are running through my head and are constantly making me question the way I do stuff. Which is also not very good for finalising that stuff.

Any advice from anyone?


I’m scared as fucking shit

I’m scared as fucking shit

I’m a big fan of succes stories, motivational video’s and the idea that feeling strong and confident about reaching your goal actually helps you to reach your goal. But still I’m just a normal boy with a lot of insecurities and at this moment I’m as human as I can possibly be. Yes, I’m scared as fucking shit.

You know that feeling of butterflies in your stomach when you’re in love? Well, at the moment it feels like they have died of cancer and are being dissolved very very slowly by and exuberant amount of stomach acid.

It hurts.

People tell me a lot that I look chill and relaxed all the time. Yeah, true, I’m pretty relaxed and cool most of the time. Yet I’m also extremely good at hiding my stress, anger, and fear. And when these feelings become too strong, I numb myself out by running away from the things that cause the pain. Hence, I am all relaxed and chill again.

Not caring about the things that cause the pain is an easy way to deal with it, yet is the right way?

Of course not. Let’s hit it head on, the earth-bending way.

Yes Indeed, Avatar!

At the moment my fear wants to keep me from writing this blog post, yet I push myself to do it anyway in 2 steps. First I just simply ask myself: “What can possibly go wrong?”. My imagination is quite good, yet it cannot come up with a decently good story where I’ll die or lose an arm because I’m writing this blog post. Second: I focus on the task of writing this blog post, finding enjoyment while doing so.

So, reason and focus help me to deal with my fear head on. However, is it enough?

I’m focussing on writing this post with the knowledge that it’s not going to kill me, yet my body doesn’t seem to want to follow. The fire in my stomach is still raging and my body still wants to run away because focussing on writing this blog post requires me to focus on my feelings, which is fear!


So, maybe getting to the bottom of this thing will help me. Where does all this fear come from?

At the moment, I’m at a point in my life where I’ve been a couple of times before. I’m at the edge of redeeming success or brutal failure. And because I’m afraid of failure, that redeeming success seems impossible to reach…weird, right?

I’ve been going hard on the vertical farming dream, I’ve been working my ass off, following my guts and taking risk, all of this while still aiming at the basics of the basics: I just finally want to get a fucking income out of this. Since 4 years, noppes, nada, niente, no income from all the vf-work I’ve been doing.

The idea has always been that the return on investment will come…later, however, it bugs me and it scares me that I might never reach it.

So, on the edge of redeeming success or brutal failure, Zjef is scared as shit.

Yet in the end, is it all that important? Because I know that even if I fail this time, I’ll still be alive and I will have learned an enormous amount of things again.

Is that the answer to my fear? To convince myself that it’s not real and to keep on doing things until the fear is over? I dunno, I can pull out a lot of old and proven wisdom from Gandhi to Eckhart Tolle, from Jezus to Paulo Coelho,  and give an answer to that question.

But Goddamn…

At this moment I just want someone to hold my hand and take me to Disneyland.


Why the AVF-summit 2016 was EPIC

Almost three months have passed by and it’s still resonating in my mind: the AVF-summit 2016 on the 13th of June in Amsterdam was epic.

The following links from people who are not me, will back that up:

Yet, for this blog post I want to show you three video’s and 1 picture that will tell you why the AVF-summit was so EPIC to me.

First, check out the AVF-summit aftermovie – nicely made by the awesome Marcel of Ideal Entertainment. You’ll find me walking in the video here and there.

Second, See me on the big stage introducing the 2nd session of the day. In the first minute I’m introducing Mark Durno from Urban Farmers. You’ll also see that I’m quite nervous. I present in Zjef-style, but it’s Zjef-style with a lot of hesitation, so it’s not perfect, but still very proud about it.

Third Video: A fantastic youtube video by Marion of Les Sourciers. It’s just impossible not to love Marion, Nicolas and Yuval and in this video you’ll find out why (find Zjef at 2min23sec and thereafter).

And for the Bonus-Picture, The AVF-summit was also the place and time for the first milestone of the AVFami project group (ami = aquaponics mushrooms & insects).  We made the circular vertical farming banners to present at the summit and they looked great. AVFami lies very close to my heart as I helped start it up. Proud!

Circular posters

Basically, the AVF-summit was an amazing experience. The AVF team did a hell of a job and the feedback afterwards was overwhelmingly positive. I had an extremely high energy and I was on top of my game from waking up at 6am, until going to sleep a little drunk.

Everyone who was there: You’re awesome!