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Poem: Orchestrated Divide

You and I, in this orchestrated divide
March away from each other, every stride

This conflict between me and you
Both deeming our truth to be true

Passionately with scientific facts we strike
Repeating what we heard, parrots alike

I am no expert, neither are you
Can’t we reach a breakthrough

Let us see beyond this frame
Understanding its purported aim

Divide and conquer is their play
Not very original I dare to say

We know very well from the past
How to end this alienating cast

Mitigating the other’s fear
We again come near

Navigating safely together
Through future’s stormy weather

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poem dear child
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Poem: Dear Child

poem dear child

Dear Child

I am very sorry
We told you not to worry

It has been now an entire year
That we adults live in constant fear

You wisely ask what is so bad about dying
That we delude ourselves by its denying

You ask if we prefer not to live life at all
Incarcerated by the fright that did us befall

Polarized, we are in such devious strife
We can’t possibly live a sustainable life

Please show to us, adult women and men
How it is to behave responsibly again

That we should really listen and care
About others and the ideas they share

Dear child, it is now upon you that I call
Please take over the control

Let your divine and youthful light
Guide us out this dark night

So we leave this history behind
Compassion and empathy in our mind

Entering what we always dreamt of
A world of love.

February 2021
Poem inspired by questions of my children about the Covid-19 world event

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Poem: Truth after Truth


Hour after hour, like an opening flower,

Shall truth after truth expand;

For the sun may pale, and the stars may fail,

But the Law of Good shall stand.

Its splendour glows, and its influence grows

As Nature’s slow work appears,

From the zoophyte small to the Lords of all,

Through kalpas and crores of years.

From: The Astral Plane: Its Scenery, Inhabitants & Phenomena, by C.W. Leadbeater

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100% facebook free
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Now that I am 100% Facebook free

Since September I am now 100% Facebook free. Am I really? No. Upon removing my account, Facebook informed me it will keep my data, just for the possibility of a need for criminal investigation. So, the way I read this, in theory it could continue to aggregate (meta)data about me.

What has changed for me personally? Somehow a lot and at the same time not so much.

I experienced an initial, short lived, ego boost: “I am doing something what I believe in”. Also, it opened up a dialogue with friends who had been contemplating doing the same. A friend recommended the documentary “The Social Dilemma”. It explains how these platforms know much more about you than you do yourself. I highly recommend watching it.

You only become fully aware of something if it is no longer there. I discovered I spent way too much time numbing my mind by scrolling through Facebook and Instagram posts. I now try to spend that time in the archaic way of information consumption: reading books. It however does not give me the instant dopamine shot that social media platforms give, and I do miss that.

Social consequences

There are social and practical consequences. Firstly, by not being on WhatsApp, others could think of you as socially awkward, or a difficult person. Secondly, you are left out of direct and group conversations. You are dependent on the kindness of others to convey the essential information to you via other means.

I did announce on all three Facebook application that I would be deleting my accounts. I was not trying to convince others to do the same. I also did not offer a better alternative, except for WhatsApp.

I have replaced WhatsApp with Signal.org. It offers the exact same functionality, it is open source and offers far more privacy. It is just another app, it is free and you do not even need to remove WhatsApp. The only problem, few people use it. Some friends installed it especially for me, which truly humbles me. Others do not want to install yet another app, which I do understand. What matters for me is to demonstrate that leaving Facebook is an option if you truly disagree with its privacy breaches and censorship.

There is a surprising upside. Initially, you feel bad because you are being left out of updates from your network. Over a relative short time, you no longer know you are being left out. The bad feeling has disappeared.

Practical consequences

There a numerous practical consequences. Some organizations, my energy supplier for example, are only contactable via WhatsApp. I am quite handy with search engines, so after some effort, I usually do find a phone number to contact them.

There are some courses (free and paid) on the internet that are only accessible if you sign up with your Facebook account. Only option that you have left is to contact the organizer and see if there are alternatives to sign up.

So far for me there has not been many practical consequences. Even before I deleted my accounts, I used the above workarounds.

Career consequences

This is for me the biggest concern. I have given up employment a long time ago (I founded a website “Quit Your Job“), but I will try to put myself in the shoes of an employee. After that, I will give my perspective as a business owner.

If your job requires you to communicate via WhatsApp, you can only try to convince your coworkers that there are “better” options out there. I put the quotes, because “better” is always an opinion and you might be drawn into an unwanted technical analysis of applications.

Some companies also demand personnel to like and share posts of the company. You can no longer can do that, for better or for worse.

There are some consequences if you work specifically in (internet) marketing. These apply also for business owners.

Consequences for business owners

What does this mean for small business owners? Can you ‘afford’ to remove yourself from Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram? With my actions, I have closed off several easy ways to attract new customers. I no longer have an audience. I no longer have a platform where I can promote my goods and services. I no longer have access to the tools to learn more about my target market.

Also, I am more difficult to be found and contacted. What impression does it give to potential customers if the ‘usual’ ways are not available? I believe the only way to counter that is to explain on your website and (non Facebook) social media platforms WHY your company is no longer supporting Facebook. It demonstrates certain values of the company and that could be a good thing.

There are alternatives for companies. I am experimenting with these. At the moment, I cannot yet say which ones I would recommend. Furthermore, I can already say that the alternative solution differs from company to company. Also, alternatives might, over time, create the exact same issues that I have now with Facebook. I will share my findings in a future post about a conscious digital strategies for companies.

I am currently running a survey Facebook and Business Owners on this topic. If you are a business owner, could you please spare 5 minutes by filling it out? I would highly appreciate it and will share the learnings in a future post.

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Finding truth
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How to find your own truth in this confusion

The world has become even more fascinating place this year. We are in the midst of a global religious war. The stakes have never been so high. We are not combating each other for gain of territory or resources. We fight each other about a concept so vague, we do not even have a clear definition of it. But the fight is on nevertheless. This concept is called The Truth. And it is my truth against your truth… and it is getting pretty ugly.

When war is declared, truth is the first casualty

Arthur Ponsonby

“Do your own research”

If you feel you can no longer trust what you are being told, you have to find a new source of truth. These days, with lockdowns in place, finding new truth has never been easier. From your arm chair, you simply type a few keywords in your favorite search engine and the results start rolling in.

The problem is that the most popular search engines have built a thorough personal profile of you. It already knows what you are thinking. It already knows your values. It already knows your interests. And, it knows more about your weak spots than you do.

The search results that you get are not the same as what your neighbor will receive. For these search engines, we are all living in our own information bubble. It feeds us with links we will most likely click on. You find what you subconsciously already wanted to have confirmed. And by doing so, you reinforce your own bubble even more. People feel thoroughly protected and are ready to evangelize the unconverted.

The evidence for this is found on every social media platform. Fierce debates take place. Facts are being fired as ammunition in order to stifle the opposition. Unfortunately, the other side strikes back with facts as well.

Politicians, medical experts, leaders and scientists are found on either side, well dug-in to defend their position. Where does that leave you, other than being forced to pick a side?

A way forward

I am no exception to the rule. I am prone to the same things. The world is a very confusing place and I do not always have the time and energy to look further into the details. Moreover, I sometimes simply lack the motivation and interest to properly investigate certain matters. That said, when my core values are being triggered, I jump up immediately. I begin my internet research.

I have to admit that the meaning of the term research has eroded significantly since my graduation. Many times, I actually do not do any actual research, but instead learn about the opinions of researchers. And in a recursive cycle, sometimes these researches are simply airing the opinions of other researchers.

Being aware of that, I try to force myself to the follow a number of steps and principles to come to a better understanding.

It was never my intention to create a plan for myself for this. It is actually only in this year that I became consciously aware of how I over the years have come to my versions of truth. It is an elaborate process, but it rewards me with the richness of differing perspectives. Simultaneously, it impoverishes me with the lack of being absolutely confident that something is 100% true. In the current social polarization, that place is very lonely to be.

I am sharing my guidelines to have a dialogue with you as a reader. Not on the hot topics of today, but more on the process. Is there a way or method to, at least for yourself, come to a fair and valid conclusion?

Guidelines

1. Get out of the spiral of negativity

Before starting any research, it is important that you feel good and start with a happy clear mind. Especially during this crisis, it is easy to fall into negativity and generate depressive feelings and thoughts. Whether you think it is fully justified to have these feelings considering the situation, is irrelevant.

Have a good night’s rest. Practice sports. Go running. Personally, I prefer to swim in cold open water. During and after, my body is mainly concerned with managing my temperature. Once achieved, I feel fully refreshed and happy.

2. Acknowledge your bias

Human are wonderful and powerful beings. But we also have our weak spots. We are prejudiced, even if we tell ourselves we are not. That is fine. It is important that you are aware of your own bias.

Far more important is your thorough understanding that there is a high chance that your internet research is covertly restricted to your own biases. Advanced algorithms predict what you are most likely to click on, and will feed you with that information. And, your ego wants to see information that confirms it bias.

3. It is okay to change position (even multiple times)

To acknowledge your bias is already a victory over the Self. Changing position is even a greater accomplishment.

Unfortunately, politicians have all too often misused this by covering up for willfully not being truthful. As long as your starting point was based on your truth, and your new position is based on your new truth, then you can reposition with honor, not with shame.

4. Explain only to yourself

And that brings us directly to the next point: you do not have to qualify anything to anyone, except yourself. Everyone lives in their own truth, and similar to religions, your truth is as just as superior as theirs.

5. Triangulate

It Is the Mark of an Educated Mind to Entertain a Thought Without Accepting it

Great quote, not from Aristotle! (source)

Investor Ray Dalio uses triangulation to make decisions not only for his business, but also for his health. Thanks to this strategy, he avoided risky life altering surgeries and was able to continue happily ever after. His story is an inspiring read.

You can use triangulation. Find opposite views to your bias and carefully listen to the questions and critical views. Then find how proponents of your bias answer or rebut them. This way, you establish some sort of dialogue between two opposing opinions.

It is important to find believable people with whom you disagree. These could be experts in the field, but could also include friends or family who you can fully trust and still disagree with. How did they come to their opinion?

6. Follow your gut instinct

I find this the most difficult of all. First of all since this is a intrinsic feeling, it is hard to rationally explain it to yourself, let alone others.

Secondly, it is not always discernible what you feel. In stressful times, you might mistake your inner fears as your gut feel. I always question my feelings if they are not covert weaknesses.

There is a lot more to say about this, but that goes beyond the scope of this article. I have written more about this in my article Living in two worlds.

Step 7. Phenomenology

Try to pronounce this word! Phenomenology is is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness.

It is used in product marketing research to validate or discover actual behavior of consumers. In a consumer panel, when people are asked how they use a product, they will often subconsciously answer what the researchers want to hear.

By applying phenomenology, a researcher observes the behavior of the consumer by living with that family for a certain period, leading to refreshing insights in the actual perception and usage of the product.

In your internet research, also look for the personal stories and anecdotes that people tell. You can find those on forums and in the comment sections.

Step 8. Ponerology

I believe we all have a dark side in us. The famous Stanford Prison Experiment showed how that could get activated when we are put in position of power. Furthermore, a small percentage of people has psychopathic tendencies. The higher up the echelons of society, the larger percentage of psychopaths can be found.

The Theranos story is a fascinating example. The two founders committed massive fraud with a proposition that was too good to be true. It shows how honest, intelligent and hard working people get pulled into the false narrative and are duped into perpetuating the lies.

I think we should be aware that evil exists. Ponerology is the study of evil. Pathological liars do exist and their intentions differ greatly from the majority of the people.

When finding your truth, carefully discern who is providing you with the information. Has this person or organization been caught with illegitimate practices before? No fool proof way exist for detecting of evil, but it already greatly helps to be aware of its existence.

9. Tech savvy

The algorithms behind internet searches are firstly intended to increase advertisement income for the media platforms. It comes at a hidden cost to the user, whose data and meta data is being sold to advertisers.

There are many (technological) solutions to better protect one’s privacy online. It ranges from simply installing a browser plugin to going at lengths in spoofing your identity.

Nowadays, governments and commercial organizations can also pay the media platforms to make sure certain data is promoted or completely restricted. You will for sure miss out on that information.

You can however still be informed that information was being removed. For instance, many YouTube content creators have come forward this year by saying their video was removed, because they gave their opinion on a certain topic. At least you can infer that there is controversy on this item.

Conclusion

The list above is definitely not complete, but I hope you find it of some use. Please let me know your thoughts.

As said before, it does not help to get 100% clarity. It does to understand the complexity of this world much better. And by doing so, we depolarize society. I believe that is better to cope with the world’s challenges. But, in the end, that is just my opinion…

Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Photo by Justus Menke on Unsplash

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What does digital sovereignty mean to you?

A few months ago, in one swoop I deleted my Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram accounts. The Facebook application suit has brought me a lot. As a user I found new friends, knowledge, insights and as a customer, it generated business for me. For that, I am grateful to Facebook the company.

Over the years, I grew concerns over its abuse of power. However, in a way, that is inherent to large organizations and therefore perhaps even unavoidable. 

I have always been wary of privacy. In my view, I took more protective measures than the vast majority of users and that somehow alleviated my concerns. It was only after learning the deeper intricate technical workings of the applications that I realized there was very little I could do to protect my privacy.

And then this year, Facebook, as many other tech giants, significantly increased their censorship. This was for me the reason to remove myself completely. I could no longer justify it to myself: by using these applications, I am also condoning its censorship practices. 

I am a strong advocate of free speech, no matter how ridiculous people’s opinions may sound. Especially in times like these, different perspectives need to be heard, if it were only to rationally and empathically understand WHY people agree or disagree with certain measures. Censorship, by removing voices and pushing only one narrative, is very dangerous in many, many ways.

I know that other platforms, YouTube (Google), Twitter and even LinkedIn are censoring to various degrees. I am currently in the rather painful process of deciding what to do with these. It has large consequences for me both personally and business wise, some even unknown. It is a price I am willing to pay for my digital sovereignty. 

In a short time, I have learned a lot. I am more than happy to share my experiences, views, mistakes, and alternative solutions, especially for businesses. If interested, please let me know.

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The chance of a lifetime

Over the past weeks, I have researched the definition of Conscious Leadership. I have seen all kinds of descriptions, but not satisfactory. Therefore, I created my own definition. Still, I felt something essential was missing. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Now, with the world in a rapidly expanding crisis, I exactly know what was missing. It is the sense of urgency. It is the chance of a lifetime. Now is the time!

Now is the time

1. Now is the time to be courageous

Reveal your true self without fear of judgement. Courage will drive and guide your decision-making.

2. Now is the time to be authentic

Admit you are not perfect. Your vulnerability inspires others to be authentic too.

3. Now is the time to be self aware

Reflect on your thoughts, feelings, motivations and fears. Ask yourself why you have these.

4. Now is the time to be responsible

Address problems, provide support and commit to work in the best interests of Life.

5. Now is the time to be compassionate

Be sensitive to the emotional context of others and maintain a kind and peaceful disposition.

6. Now is the time to be curious

Be open and eager to learn ideas that may be contrary to yours. It inspires creativity and experimentation.

7. Now is the time to be reliable

Build trust by keeping commitments and by doing the right thing, under any circumstances.

8. Now is the time to be selfless

Be the leader who gives people the confidence to be their own leader.

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work on myself
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Angry with someone? 7 steps to turn it into growth

“So somebody comes along and gets to me. They get me angry or uptight or they awaken some desire in me, wow am I delighted. They got me. And that’s my work on myself. If I am angry with you because your behavior doesn’t fill my model of how you should be, that’s my problem for having models. No expectations, no upset. If you are a liar and a cheat, that’s your Karma. If I’m cheated, that’s my work on myself.”

– Ram Dass –

I love this quote from the late Ram Dass. It helps me to calm down. I have been upset with others many times. When this happens to me nowadays, I take a deep breath first. Before reacting or responding, I take time to reflect. The questions I ask myself are simple but tough.

1. Can I be absolutely certain?

First, can I be entirely certain that what I think happened is absolutely 100% true?

If someone steals your wallet, you will be upset with that person. This person should not have done so. However, if you find out that this person only did so to pay medical bills which his insurance is refusing to pay, you alter your attitude.

Can you be absolutely certain of something? The answer to this question is “No”. You can never be 100% true of anything. There could always be a context in which the demonstrated behaviour of others could be justified.

And here comes the trick. That particular context could easily have been made up by the other person as well: you can never be sure of anything.

Hence, the only thing to do at this step is to acknowledge that you cannot be sure. You move on to the next step.

2. How could this have happened?

Secondly, how come this have happened? What have I done to get to this situation? And, equally important, what haven’t I done to get to this situation?

I have found that it is very easy to put blame in the shoes of others and completely disregarding your own actions. You have to be brutally honest with yourself. Often you can find patterns in your own behaviour. Perhaps you “invited” or even subconsciously “incited” others to behave in the manner you so dislike.

A journal helps you to keep a log of challenging situations. I frequently write in my journal and can therefore trace back similar conflicts with people in the past.

3. Can I forgive myself?

The third question is: can I forgive myself? In any conflict between people, there is always two parties to blame. With your current set of values, you will find that the blame should not be equally distributed. But you have to admit there is always at least some blame on your part. Can you forgive yourself?

Forgiving yourself opens the door to progress and personal development.

4. Can I forgive the other?

Forgiving others is difficult. You will meet a lot of internal resistance. Once you have forgiven yourself, it is actually easier to forgive the other. There is no point in replaying in your mind what happened, over and over again. Everyone is experiencing his or her version of the truth.

Forgiving does not mean that everything is back normal. It also certainly does not mean you will continue working with that person as if nothing happened. You can still forgive someone and simultaneously decide to never interact again.

5. What can I learn from this?

The next question helps you to reflect: what can I learn from this?

What can you do differently to prevent the same from happening? Sometimes you have to change yourself. Sometimes you cannot change anything or do not want to change anything. You are simply more aware that such challenges can cross your path. If it does, at least you are now better prepared.

6. Am I willing to move on?

Time to look ahead. Ask yourself: am I willing to move on?

It is easy to say yes, but will you live according to it? You embrace and integrate all the previous answers into your life.

7. How can I move on?

Once you have cleared your mind, you can make a new or altered plan for the road ahead. You may have incurred a small scar, but you definitely also gained more strength, experience and wisdom.

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unity diversification
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What comes first: diversity or unity?

Amitai Etzioni is a German-born American sociologist. He is best known for his work on socioeconomics and communitarianism. He was called the “guru” of the communitarian movement in the early 1990s, and he established the Communitarian Network to disseminate the movement’s ideas. His writings emphasize the importance of having a carefully-crafted balance between individual rights and social responsibilities, and between autonomy and order, in all societies.

Etzioni greatly influenced world leaders such as Helmut Kohl, Tony Blair, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Jan Peter Balkenende.

I read Etzioni’s book The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society. In this work, he advocates that diversity comes from having unity first. It made me ponder.

I think it is the other way around. I think that unity comes from having diversity first.

Roughly 1000 years ago, the Roman Catholic Church started “unifying” the people in Europe. It did so by brutally oppressing or murdering everyone who had a differing opinion. Since, new religious thoughts and leaders came and offered alternative religions, albeit still very much based on what already existed. The perceived unity remained.

When we look at how borders in Europe developed in the previous millennium, we see that people had quite some difficulties to remain unified:

Clearly, there is need for people to differentiate. At the same time, people also look for their own kind.

The way I understood Etzioni’s book, by forcing unification first, diversification will happen. The only diversification I see is the one that breaks the unity.

I think it is better if every individual spends time and effort investigating who he really is. By exploring the uniqueness of one’s own persona, one can truly find where and how he is similar to other people. It is a continuous and dynamic process.

In the end, we are all unique individuals. And therefore we are all the same.

What do you think?

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Living in two worlds

“As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” This quote is from the biblical Book of Proverbs, chapter 23, verse 7. I think it is very true, but we have become blind to this.

We grow up with an external focus. Our way of life is concerned about our efforts and the development of our abilities and talents. We aim for success and security in this physical world.

This overarching goal remains ingrained in the educational system. Its purpose is to participate and contribute to society. Our success is only being measured by the level of participation and contribution.

It does not take into account where we started. There is also no reflection. Fundamental questions such as “Why are we doing this?”, or “Does this really contribute to a better world?” are simply ignored.

We have little understanding of the principles of successful life. True, there are numerous gurus who claim to have found it. Yet, upon closer look, they are concerned with only a single topic: success in business, success in physical health and strength, success financially or, if even possible, success spiritually.

People that have achieved these successes still experience a void. They might strive for yet another success, but will eventually return to the same void. Why is this?

The problem is that we live in two worlds. The first world we know all too well. This is the Outer World. This is where we spent the first years of our lives preparing and equipping us for and the remaining years to work in.

The other world is much lesser known. We know it exists, this Inner World, but we pay little attention to it. In the Outer World, we quite often neglect the Inner World, like it does not exist.

It is actually not a surprise that we don’t know the Inner World. The Outer World is what we and our ancestors have created together. There is a logical explanation for everything.

The inner world is a heavily compromised or even corrupt environment. I believe not knowing our Inner World is the root cause of all the problems in the world. Peaking into this world, exploring it, is painful and confusing. The Inner World isn’t as neatly organized as the Outer World.

Furthermore, we often feel powerless in trying to understand it, let alone trying to change it. Fortunately, it is possible to learn and get better in navigating these terrains.

The Inner World involves our heart and what our heart really stands for. And to better understand that, we actually need to start in the Outer World.

We have a system of codes, comprised of laws. When we make mistakes against the code around us, we break the laws of our own kind. Then we are said to have committed a crime and we get punished.

The Inner World also know a system of law. This is the Law of the Heart. If we break the laws of the heart, we are thrown out of harmony, with ourselves and the universal purpose for our existence. We have committed a sin. A sin is an act against universal truth.

Unfortunately, religions have often used the terms crime and sin as synonyms of each other. The subsequent confusion has helped religions to gain despicable power over people.

Many crimes (outer world) do begin with sin (inner world), but that is not always the case. A clear distinction between the two is that outer world laws change constantly. Universe laws never change. Universe laws are not concerned with human society, but with human character. There is no punishment in breaking this law, but there is damage: the broken faith of life.

Just as we are responsible to our society for our conduct, similarly we are responsible for our character in the inner world.

We can talk for decades and even centuries about political systems, the green agenda, wars, equality, education, and so on. However, as long as we have not mastered our inner world, we will perpetuate the senseless cycle.

I think it is essential to explore our own Inner World and understand our Heart. We can only do this by being brutally honest. First, you have to be brutally honest to yourself. This is difficult, especially in light of the Outer World, which has taught us to hide our Inner World.

A simple but powerful first step is to journal. Simple take time for yourself, find a reclusive space and write, with pen and paper, what is on your mind. Describe it as you are an journalist. Don’t shy away from the details. This will help you to understand yourself better and better. Write regularly. You are not writing it for anyone else than yourself. You will feel immediately relieved. A little bit more clarity has been created. A little bit more light has been shed in your Inner World.

By consistent journaling, you keep a log and can track back what went on in your mind previously. You can identify patterns and see what lesson keeps coming back in your life for you to learn. This will help you to make better decisions in the Outer World.

By doing so, I believe we can much better discern what is best for us as human beings and how to intrinsically contribute to a better world.

If interested, I can compile a set of guidelines for journaling. Send me an email or leave a comment. Also, journaling is just a first step. Sign up for the mailinglist if you want to receive the latest updates and join me in learning life.

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