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A Wrinkle In Time. What Influences Our Personal Development?

Recently, I was invited to record a podcast for the PhD Career Stories series. The point of this episode, was to explain how I found myself in the place I am in right now, both career-wise and mentally. This is always an interesting question as most people—including me—are rather poor at assessing the real causes of events that happen to them. In the process of recording that episode, I realized a few important things about how the past influences the present that I would like to share here.

Hunting for the happy people

This fall I was travelling quite a lot. I was attending small evening conferences, local meetups here in the Netherlands, but I was also traveling abroad to attend international events – as a guest, as a speaker, or even as an organizer. And, I obviously met a lot of new people on the way. When traveling, I realised that there is some gradual, global change in the society which is really worrying. Namely, if you took a conscious decision to be a happy person, you are in a serious trouble.

Aptitude tests — what went wrong?

Almost every recruitment process for a large company these days, requires going through a battery of aptitude tests – especially in IT industry. IQ tests, emotional intelligence tests, personality tests, social skill tests. You will get tested inside and out. But there is one very crucial yet chronically overlooked factor of productivity which is typically not tested: the attention span.


In kindergarten, most of my peers wanted to become either models, actors, or doctors when they grow up. For a change, I was jealous of priests, and of the fact that they are allowed to listen to people’s confessions for the whole days. I wanted to know the truth about people, however dirty this truth might be. And, I was bitter thinking that I would actually never become a priest. Until I did.

People is the answer

It’s been a long road up to this point, since I left my parents’ place at the age of 18. But, when I look back at the past 15 years, I some some patterns clearly, coming over over again. First of all, I see that there is only one asset which has been systematically accumulating over these 15 years. It was not money, which you can easily lose in the nearest bubble. It was not knowledge, which can become useless once you change the discipline or profession. It was actually people.