Sunday, 19 February 2017

The power of networking

A wise man said once you work to live, not the other way round, but you need to work to enjoy your life. In your adult life you spend around one-fifth of your life at work (assuming your work 225 days per year, eight hours per day) and nearly one-third of the time you are awake (assuming you sleep seven hours each night). No wonder then workplace is where you meet people and get involved in relationships with them (today not a single word on romantic ones).

One rarely can choose their workmates, so one can sometimes hate them, but also hit it off with some of them. Nevertheless you spend several hours a (working) day with colleagues not to become friends, but to pursue together a common goal which is making your company earn, which you hope will translate into your individual goal, i.e. to get paid!

It’s not a secret relationships built over your professional life, though frequently cannot be called friendships, are precious. In the corporate world, the more people you know, the more you can gain. Everybody knows what growing your network means, so nearly everyone, driven by their self-preservation instinct, plays that game, as having a network can benefit everybody. The only question is when you reap the benefits (if you do it at all), but since sowing the seeds of networking costs little, nearly everyone does it.

Those familiar with the nicknames I consistently use on the blog and keeping track of developments in the Polish financial secret, don’t need to be told the Employer, where I worked from 2010 to 2014 has actually fallen apart after a merger with another player in the industry. As it naturally happens when two companies are combined into one, several corporate functions are doubled and to streamline the organisation and pursue cost synergies overstaffing has to be coped with. The way making staff redundant is handled does not vary across corporations. The set-up I described in much detail over four years ago (hey it’s been over eight years since I posted on PES for the first time) remains up-to-date and the only positive thing about being left out in the cold are parachutes laid-off workers get that let them make ends meet for a few months.

Regardless of the financial aspect of being given the sack, on top comes the emotional one. Many people, though they have hobbies, families and lead private lives, find it hard to stay at home for a prolonged period and miss the part of their life which apart from earning them a livelihood, gave them a lot of satisfaction and self-fulfilment.

Those who I feel most sorry for are the ones who had spent more than a decade at the Employer, who last looked for a job before Poland joined EU, who will be outside their comfort zone when they finally are taken on by another company.

When I attended a funeral mass in early January, I met some long-unseen workmates and since then the frequency of interactions with former colleagues has intensified. I could hold a grudge against them for renewing our relationships when they are on the verge of falling off the cliff, but I won’t. Majority of people want to grab every opportunity to reduce uncertainty and increase their odds of soft landing when they are dropped of the corporate plane.

The number of invitations on LinkedIn, number of phone calls, lunches in town and meetings indicates the lookout for a foothold is under way. From a not entirely professional perspective, relationships with former workmates have grown multi-faceted. I have become a professional counsellor, a psycho-therapist, a shoulder to cry on, a labour market analyst and a potential assistant to recruiters at the New Factory. I need to show empathy in those roles, but I often struggle not to overdo with empathy at the expense of sincerity. Giving advice to someone or raise their spirits must not mean telling them they are eligible for every job or they would fit every organisations. My job requires above-average assertiveness, fluency in English, involves frequent public speeches, business trips, staying overtime and (OK, I’m now blowing my own trumpet) not everyone meets all the criteria.

Plus to be sincere, my workplace has turned recently into a mire (worse than in my first months there, though easier to survive today) into which I would not draw any of my workmates, though they know there are vacancies to be filled. On the other front, five months after first cracks appeared, I went to labour market and sent out three applications last weekend (no response so far). It has been my first sounding out of the labour market since early 2014 and the main change I see is that sending a CV and a letter of application to an e-mail address has given way to filling in application forms and attaching a CV (letter of application is gone?). Interestingly, all three potential employers were asking about salary expectations in the application forms; wondering whether this a tool to disqualify over-priced candidates right away?

With such nasty course of affairs, I may only hope the good I am sending to people will return to me if I am left out in the cold, which is unfortunately not inconceivable.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sztuka Kochania. Historia Michaliny Wislockiej - film review

As I saw the trailer of the moving-picture biography of Michalina Wisłocka and learnt the film was shot and produced by the same crew who were behind absolutely magnificent Bogowie, I knew I had to watch the film portrait of a woman who in the 1970s became for Poles the same who Alfred Kinsey became for Americans over 20 years earlier.

The life story of Mrs Wisłocka which emerges from the film is somewhat heart-wrenching and somewhat sordid. The person who taught Poles to discover their sexuality in her twenties lived in a self-arranged threesome, the as she, her husband and their (female) friend / lover broke up, in her mid-thirties fell in love and had an affair with a married man to finally end up as a single mature woman. I do not mean such life experience could disqualify hrt as an sex therapist, yet depicts how complicated life is and how important it is to separate one’s own painful tribulations from an objective look on relationships between women and men. If Mrs Wisłocka was denied the right to teach people how to love, why priests, who by definition should live in celibacy and abstain from sexual activity, would be allowed to instruct people how to raise families and shape love life?

In terms of being a work of art, I found the movie gripping, yet not as splendid as Bogowie. For part of the audience some moments might be found disgusting, since scenes of copulation are exposed naturalistically and probably the short length and hiding sexual organs are the only reasons why they do not fall under the definition of pornography.

As I understand it, the intent of the film is twofold – to bring closer to audience the profile of Mrs Wisłocka and, predominantly, to break the still-existent taboo of speaking openly of sex life. Mrs Wisłocka deserves credit for raising awareness of sexuality, extending access to education on the topic and fighting prudishness, avidly nurtured by both the catholic church and the communist party.

Sexual needs are, as Mrs Wisłocka pointed out over her whole life, one of basic (closer to the bottom than in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) needs of a human and need to be met. This assertion does not imply one should strive to make unfettered indulgence in all desires, but to combine love and making love, the emotional and the physical realms of love, which only brought together bring true self-fulfilment. If the classic sentence: I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me, holds true, why should we be ashamed of what is human?

If the shame creeps in, this is just because inhibitions have been instilled in us in the process of upbringing, which should definitely be balanced – neither promoting dissipation (we are human therefore we should not copulate like animals) nor confining sexuality a tool of reproduction only married people are allowed to use.

Wisdom Mrs Wisłocka wanted to pass on to ordinary people has not evolved much over decades, as some concepts are everlasting:
- making love should not be associated with fear nor pain (leave out S&M now),
- there is no evil in drawing pleasure from sex, but equally important is to strive for your partner’s (especially woman’s) pleasure, give them respect and know limits they have set,
- sex life involves responsibility for your partner and yourself and realising consequences it may have,
- sexuality is an embodiment of love as an emotion and ought not to be boiled down to coarse lusts; only embedding in emotionality can guarantee fulfilment in sex life.

And at the end of the day, youngsters starting the sex life should bear in mind one universal sentence: Whatever you do, do prudently and mind the outcome.

The next step, which actually I should have taken before watching the film, is coming by the book by Mrs Wisłocka and reading it from cover to cover. Shame on me, I will be catching up with some overdue education and thus remind myself the value of lifelong learning in every realm of life.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Spanish break

The very moment I learnt I was assigned to travel to Spain in business I knew I had been given the opportunity to combine the business trip with some private sightseeing and cheaply overstay there (flight back paid by the New Factory anyway plus I was eligible for abroad travel allowances) for a few days and I seized it!

The last decade of January was maybe not a perfect period for tourism, but as the old saying goes, never look a horse gift in a mouth. Central part of Spain has warm continental climate, but in winter it means it seldom rains, sunshine is abundant, but temperature fluctuations are high. Mornings (sunrise after 8:00 a.m.) on many days were frosty or with temperature little above zero while in the afternoon (the warmest moment of the day around 3:00 p.m.) temperature could reach nearly +15C, so temperature could soar by fifteen degrees within five hours. Fortunately, over the week spent there, only one day was partly rainy.

Getting to Spain regardless of the season is generally easy and rather inexpensive. Choice of low-cost and regular flights is decent. Polish Airlines (PLL LOT) operate one return flight per day to Madrid, besides, Lufthansa offers several flights each day with transfers in Frankfurt or Munich whose duration is around an hour and a half higher than of LOT-operated direct flights. For business-related reasons I had to opt for Lufthansa connection via Frankfurt, the airline in terms of being class of its own, way superior to PLL LOT.

Accommodation in Madrid at this time of year is cheap, with prices of hotel rooms comparable to rates offered in Warsaw. A two-night stay with breakfasts included in a two-star hotel for the business part of my trip set the New Factory back EUR 125, while for overstaying I booked a room in one of well-located (less than ten metro stations from the city centre) Ibis Budget one-star hotels for less than EUR 45 per night & breakfast. Depending on the city, prices soar in March and decline in October (with Barcelona being the most dreadful example), but if you look out well, finding a double room with breakfasts in a cheap (yet clean) hotel for EUR 50 should not be out of reach.

In terms of transport, Spain can boast of very decent infrastructure, although it has to be noted the country fell into the trap of over-investments co-funded by the EU. The biggest flop were toll roads built under PPP scheme whose operators (who had underestimated traffic volumes) struggle to make ends meet and service loans taken out to finance those projects. The very Madrid has excellent system of underground trains (Metro) consisting of 12 lines which can take you to nearly any part of the city. To get about Madrid I purchased right away a Tourist Pass, a ticket valid for 7 days around Spain’s capital, including airport ticket zone for EUR 35.40. Not extremely cheap by Warsaw standards, yet giving a lot of comfort to a frequent traveller. To travel around Spain, I recommend ALSA buses – journey durations are longer than by ultra-expensive trains, but the price makes up for this (my return ticket from Madrid to Toledo cost me less than EUR 10).

For the record – inhabitants of Spanish cities are skilful drivers when it comes to parallel parking – they can fit their cars into gaps wider less than half a metre than length of their vehicle… The art I will probably never master (although I easily park a car between two other vehicles so that you can’t open door on any side).

I would find it hard to put up with and get accustomed to work style Spanish people have (but most of them do not enjoy it) – they tend to stay long hours in the office (many work from nine to nine) regardless of how much work they need to complete, take long afternoon breaks (also in the winter), but their working efficiency is low, also because they come up with manifold time-fillers, such as numerous meetings and calls. In Poland a reasonable boss in a corporation expects from their employees to get their done and if they are able to make it within eight hours, they can knock on at 9:00 a.m. and call it a day at 5:00 p.m. In Spain, it is unthinkable, even if you are at the loose end…

The language barrier was not a shock to me. I had known well Spanish people are positioned at the very bottoms of rankings of command of foreign languages. Nevertheless, the phenomenon is astonishing in a country which to a large extent lives off tourism. Over those days I had to harness Google Translator to take a crash course in basic Spanish and the upshot was that in many situations I talked in English while my interlocutors responded to me in Spanish. Generally, if you open your mouth and speak English, expect to behold dread on your interlocutor’s face. Chances of communicating (and nothing beyond it, since quality of English used in Spain is abhorrent) are the highest in tourist areas and with young people (the country’s authorities have recognised the problem and have put emphasis on linguistic education of youngsters). Even workers of international corporations have problems speaking decent English, make lots of mistakes, come up with words being a mixture of Spanish and English and often sincerely admit they need to omit part of they want to say since they do not know how to say it in English… In this respect I am proud of Poland!

It would be a gross understatement to say I am not a gourmet, yet I regardless of my indifference to what I eat and inability to take delight in tasting, I have not grown fond of Spanish cuisine. Some claim Spanish food is hearty. For me it is simply stodgy. Had no problems with my digestive system after any meal, yet I felt my stomach was chock full of stuff I had gorged on. Apart from shunning light meals (which is kind of strange given weather they have to endure in summer) they tend to eat small breakfasts (which was reflected in quantities and choice of food produces served for breakfasts in hotels), sizeable lunches and huge suppers. Exactly the other way round than how I prefer to eat (large breakfast, decent lunch, small last meal at least 3 hours before falling asleep).

Sights-wise, the biggest attraction was the trip to Toledo. The city is magnificently picturesque, yet strolling around it requires some fitness, since you constantly walk either uphill or downhill. The weather the day I visited it was perfect despite large temperature swing from frost to +14C.

To the right – the city’s most famous tourist attraction – the cathedral on a sunny midday.

And one more snap – a view to the other, southern bank of the river surrounding the city. Absolutely splendid.

If you want to visit (tick off) all sights in Madrid, two days might be fair enough, yet if you are fond of arts and history and want your trip to be more conscious, reserve two more days. During my stay I visited only the most renowned Prado Museum. If you want to see all painting exhibited there and contemplate them, a day-long visit is probably recommended. Me, not being an art connoisseur, dashed through the collections during the two-hour free admission open-doors period in the evening.

Because of understaffing in the office, the next holiday break is planned for… hell knows when, but sadly not before long… For the time being I’m down with some throat infection and fever, working from home next week.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Questions which should not be asked

You can tell whether somebody is a well-mannered person by observing if they know when to keep their mouth shut. In life there are situations when saying nothing is totally out of place, yet there may be equally many circumstances in which the ability to hold one’s tongue and resisting the temptation to speak one’s mind is appreciated. Usually one can point up their good behaviour if they hold back from either commenting or from asking questions. In the context of the former, it is enough to remind that in embarrassing situations silence is golden. When it comes to the latter, over the years I have compiled a list of questions I believe should not be ask and which as a matter of principle I resist to ask.

When are you planning to have children? / When will you finally get pregnant? / And the likes.
Maybe if such question is asked by closest relatives, it does not come out as inappropriate, yet I never ask it. Firstly, because the decision whether to have children, how many and when is a couple’s business, not mine. Secondly, with plague of infertility and other disruptions thwarting millions of couples’ dreams to have a child, such questions can cause unnecessary pain. Finally, some couple are not cut up for raising children, so maybe it is better if they do not have them.

When will you finally get married? / When will you finally get engaged? / Is he going to pop the question or not? / And the likes.
Formalising a relationship definitely has some practical aspects and by tying a knot two people officially confirm they want to be together theoretically until the end of one their days. But whether people wish to have their relationship officially legalised or want it to stay informal and keep away from registry office is their business. Indeed it takes more effort to break up when you are married, but for a really determined person if they really want, they will find a way, if they do not, they will find an excuse!

When will you finally find a boyfriend / girlfriend?
It still boggles my mind what the point in asking such questions is. Some people might prefer to be single and feel well about it. Others are out of luck in romantic relationships. There are also individuals who have been hurt once so badly that they are afraid of starting over a new relationship. At best such questions might f*ck someone up, at worst they wound.

When will you stop partying every weekend? When will you find a permanent job? When will start putting aside money? And the likes regarding lifestyle.
Unless these questions by somebody who lives under one roof with a reckless kidult or sponsors their pleasures, they are also out of place. Each human has the right to pursue happiness their own way, as long as they do not hurt nor harm others. A better way is to persuade such people to change their ways by cutting them off money or force them to become self-supporting.

When will you get a pay rise? When will you get promoted? When will you lose some weight? When will you learn (something)? And all questions pertaining to stuff that might be beyond one’s control.
What one achieves in life is a combinations of one’s ambitions, hard work, determination, but also circumstances, opportunities and skills. The three latter factors might not be dependent on an individual, since someone might lack inborn talents. Sometimes the price to pay for something might be too high. A good piece of advice seems to be to think twice whether when one being asked the question is the only one who holds his fate in his hands.

The autonomy of an individual is the value we should all cherish and stand up for. Silly or importunate questions only undermine it (but will not break it). I believe another human’s autonomy or freedom should be the main limit of one’s choices, although mature humans take heed of circumstances and other people’s feelings when they decide how to arrange their lives.

The next post is due in early February. Next weekend I am heading to the south-western edge of Europe to take a break from the winter!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

On a young man’s departure

Not the best start into 2017. On Monday I learnt from we ex-workmates from The Employer our colleague Krzysiek had passed away aged 31 on New Year’s Eve, thus eventually losing a half-year battle against cancer.

I first met Krzysiek in early 2011 when I joined The Employer as a full-time analyst. He had worked there for some three years and despite being only 25 had been promoted twice by then. As a definitely talented up-and-coming relationship manager, he was entrusted taking charge of the most promising prospective accounts.

He has not let down senior managers who had put a lot of faith and trust in his skills. In 2012 thanks to his determination, patience and negotiation skills he won the biggest deals in the history of The Employer. I was proud to participate in this success as I handled those clients on analytical coverage side. Though our styles or work differed and personally we were not on the same wavelength, we were always able to overcome different approaches to many issues and teamed up to pursue common goals. Our professional ties loosened up in late 2013 when The Employer decided to give up on the biggest accounts and part of business winding-down strategy. Since mid-2014 when I left The Employer we talked twice or maybe three times when we ran across each other in town.

Around the end of summer holidays I was told Krzysiek had been fighting brutal cancer for a few weeks and that the disease was ruthlessly spreading across his body. He went on a sick leave in September and was admitted to a hospice in November.

Farewell mass was administered on Wednesday in Warsaw and urn with Krzysiek’s ashes was buried on Thursday in his hometown. The very farewell, including priest’s sermon was touching and poignant. I counted around 300 people inside the church, including family, neighbours and friends from his hometown, schoolmates, fellow football fans, workmates and even CFOs of companies he had had relationships with.

Oddly enough, several people with whom he had worked until his last days in the office, did not turn up at the church. Sadly, no one from my team did not participate in the farewell as well, though they had worked with Krzysiek longer than me.

This sad event was a heart-rending reminder how fragile human life is. A year ago Krzysiek was a healthy young man with future wide open ahead of him. I would depart from the truth if I told Krzysiek had been my friend, he had been my workmate, yet his departure is a milestone in my life, as this is the first decease of somebody of my age I knew well. Until last days, in my narrow perception death would strike only people far older than me.

Besides my previous workplace is falling apart. The Employer, taken over by its competitor last year, is now seeing its workforce decimated. Several people with who I worked and whom I owe a lot have been laid off or are likely to be given the sack by the end of January.

But as it turns out again, every cloud has a silver lining. Had it not been for the farewell, I would not have met several people I had not seen for months. The sad gathering proved to be an occasion to renew old comradeships. Yesterday, despite the middle of the long weekend, we met up, not to foster memory of Krzysiek but to talk over what was going on in our lives.

With such starting point, I suppose things I poised to get only better.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

All is quiet on New Year’s Day

Not at my best today ;-) so will try keep my message short, yet not necessarily simple.

Year-end days are a time of compiling summaries; beginning of a new year is the time of making resolutions. I am not fond of neither of the turn-of-year activities. The former stands no chance of turning back time and erasing unfortunate past events; the latter sooner or later brings about frustration, since most promises made to oneself are not kept.

If I am to make a summary, 2016 was a year of breaking points.

The first one was rethinking my relationships with people before and after writing this post. I kept the record of mess in my head for posterity nearly in the eve of running across someone else’s wife and mother of two little girls, not fully satisfied with her marriage. We fell for each other instantly, but after a few months (when I think I’ve grown mature) I decided to terminate this dead-end arrangement…

Besides, I realised my job, though brings me self-fulfilment, is dead-end in terms of prospects of promotion, relocation and pay rise). Today my approach to what the New Factory offers me is even more pessimistic than three months ago and if I am to fend-off burning frustration, a change in 2017 seems inevitable.

If you still wish to do some exercise, take the trouble to indulge in what I have encouraged my friends to do in the last days of 2016. Recall what compliment you were most often paid in 2016 and which one pandered you the most. This should speak volumes about what you are good at and what you can develop.

Time for a set of wishes for 2017!

No human is perfect, but each human exhibits strengths and weaknesses. A human who strives (not obsessively) for perfection will realise and make good use of the former and fight, but not necessarily hide the latter.

The only pain is to feel nothing at all. Hollow life is the worst that can happen, I would rather wish you some painful experiences than uneventful, repeatable days. May 2017 be an eventful year! I believe the balance of good and bad luck in the universe is retained, so whenever cruel fate puts you to a test, lots of good people will come around, lend a helping hand and show they care. That’s at least what I observed in 2016 and what has filled me with faith in brighter tomorrow.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas alphabet

A for Autumn. Christmases, or precisely 24th and 25th days of December tend to be winterless in Warsaw. The last Christmas with both snow lingering on the ground and temperature below zero was recorded in Warsaw in 2002!

B for Budgets. The fourth quarters of each year are a period when everyone chases targets to be met by year-end to ensure bonuses paid around February or March are generous. This means November and December are a crazy period, involving frequent staying overtime and daylight cherished during weekends only.

C for Cleaning up. Pre-Christmas annual cleaning is a ritual in many Polish houses. My advice – if you keep your dwelling clean and tidy over the year you won’t end up battling with dust, grime and dirt when festive season draws near.

D for Divide lines. In terms of approach to what is going on in politics, Poles are today probably most divided since regaining sovereignty in 1989. The divide lines run often in the family, therefore it takes good manners and tolerance to shelve current politics while dining at the Christmas table

E for Expectations. The lower you have them, the less likely reality is to fall short of them. Don’t expect your Christmas to be perfect. Too many people would need to act ideally, while you lack control over their behaviour. Let things drift, enjoy what brings you joy and have patience to cope with what you can’t change.

F for Family. While over the year you can choose who to spend your free time with, Christmas is the period customarily spent with relatives. Sadly, this is also the first Christmas I am spending with my parents only (my father and I visited my grandfather yesterday for an hour) and family relationships are unlikely to improve.

G for Gifts. I favour small gifts to lavish spending. Gift-giving is a tradition to be nurtured, not something meant to make up for absence of a donor in a bestowed person’s life.

H for Haste. Run-up to Yuletide is a period of rush, observable at work, in shopping malls, on roads. This rush makes people forget Christmas should not be a season, it should be a feeling.

I for Illuminations. It’s not a coincidence Christmas falls just after the winter solstice. Regardless of religion-related backdrop, people on the northern hemisphere must have found a way to light up the world when darkness takes over.

J for Juvenile years. Everyone sees how happy children are when Christmas draws near. I also used to be fond of Yuletide, then I’ve grown out of it, yet I sometimes miss my festive mindset and heartfelt joy filling me in December.

K for Kevin. Home Alone. The cult film is broadcasted customarily on TV each Christmas Eve at 8:00 p.m. I’ve seen it so many times that watching it yet another time is no fun for me.

L for Loneliness. On Christmas you shouldn’t forget there are millions of people who spend these days on their own. If we are lucky not to be one of them, appreciate what we have. Some of us though fear one year we might have nobody to spend Christmas with.

M for Miles. Two thousand miles, my favourite Christmas song, by Pretenders. Though recorded 33 years ago, will remain timeless. Hearing it in the radio is a rarity, since it falls out of line with merry sets of Christmas songs.

N for Nights. There’s nothing unusual about nights around Christmas, except for their upper-most length and diverse ways they can be spent: partying, working, celebrating birth of the Baby, sleeping off the former.

O for Opłatek (Christmas wafer). What Poles traditionally break before sitting at the Christmas Eve dinner. An indispensable element of family meetings, however no longer present in offices where Christmas celebrations have currently totally secular character.

P for Partying. Christmas parties, organised typically in the first half of December not to disrupt preparations to Christmas in the very run-up to them, have little to do with Christmas. Just another occasion to drink, socialise and hit the dancefloor.

Q for Quarrels. Where family members meet and everyone has their vision on how the celebrations should look like, toning down emotions is essential to avoid verbal clashes.

R for Rest. What Christmas days should be about; a moment of respite. Quite frequently they become a period of intense travels, stressful meetings and other events which necessitate rest after Christmas.

S for Shopping. Buying gifts and food produces has become the real craze. It gets the worst on the very Christmas Eve afternoon when scores of people still pop over to shops, showing no empathy to shop workers whose comeback to their families is delayed by consumers attempting to come by some stuff when the time is no longer right.

T for Tree, Christmas Tree. Never had a natural one, never felt the scent of conifer at home. Now they say an artificial tree is less ecological and indeed, a genuine tree can be planted to a garden or burnt in a furnace, while a plastic one decomposes for four hundred years.

U for Usury. The shopping craze and desire to spend Christmas lavishly drives people to throats of loan sharks. Debt-financed celebration turns out quite expensive with hindsight and I believe is not worth paying the price.

V for Video tapes. As a child I recorded several films from TV on my VHS Video Cassette Recorder (first communion gift) and then watched other during Yuletide breaks. In 2013 the cassettes and the VCR changed hands, while watching TV is no attraction to me…

W for Wishes. With time your circle of friends gets narrower and you appreciate quality not quantity of friendships. The same applies to wishes. If I am to wish someone a peaceful Christmas, I do it face to face or make a phone call. Wishes to be sincere need to be personal. I still receive Christmas SMS’es or e-mails with wishes appearing to be sent out to all contacts from the phone book or the mailing list, or idiotic rhymes (Karpia bez ości / Dużo miłości / Prezentów po pachy / Smacznej Kiełbachy). Each such message I reciprocate with a dedicated polite, but short wishes, written personally to a sender.

Y for Year-end. When I was a student, days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve were the most depressing time of year. As a full-time worker I find my hideout for those days at work and since except for last year they are not very busy, I hang around with people a lot and socialising brightens up those days when everything comes to a standstill.

Z for Zest for life. Something I wish on my readers and myself for the coming year!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Luck Factor – book review

Read from cover to cover the book which came into my hands as an unbidden borrowing from a friend. I tend to be sceptical towards all sorts of happiness guides, coaching, personal development and other forms of inducing and teaching people to change their ways to let them become happier. The Luck Factor might fall into the category of guides, yet by no means it is pushy. The author who shares results of his many-years’ (scientific) work attempts to persuade readers while they’re chasing their luck what they get from the world is a reciprocation of what they give to the world.

The first impression I had while going through the first chapter was that the book could not have been written by a Pole. A beneficiary of good luck, as the author asserts, is generally trustful to the world and other people. Poles whose mistrust is strongly embedded in the process of upbringing are definitely not given a head start in the pursuit of happiness, which appears easier in an open, friendly, inter-connected culture, rather than when one functions in an atomised society. On the other hand, the Anglo-saxon culture, which prohibits grumbling and appreciates a grim on one’s face no matter what happens has a built-in insincerity, good for superficial business relationships, not necessarily apposite for building candid friendships.

The saying (hey, who’s come up with this, as when I googled the phrase the only outcome was from my own blog?) Luck is an opportunity not missed best summarises the purport of the book. Life, as Mr Wiseman points out, is a string of opportunities, created by people, situations, often being coincidences. What humans can do in a pursuit of good luck is to:
1/ maximise the number of opportunities,
2/ discern opportunities as the appear on their way,
3/ make best use of them.

So although sometimes the only explanation of a course of events is that it has all been written in the stars, control over overwhelming majority of situations which might have impact on our lives stays in our hands. To illustrate it with an example, look back on my adventure from June this year.
1/ It happened to me because I attended a conference – the more social events you take part in, the more people you meet, the more opportunities appear on your way.
2/ It is debatable whether I recognised the opportunity since I did not notice the woman with a suitcase, but as she approached me, the opportunity was just ahead of me.
3/ I have not made the possibly best use of it, since in a rush I didn’t take my business card, had no piece of paper to write my phone number on and thought it would have been inappropriate to ask the woman for a phone number. Of course, had I done all this right, there was no guarantee I would have met for example me future wife. Actually, odds I would have done it were negligibly low in this one situation, but with frequent exposure to such situations chances of meeting somebody I would spend the rest of my life increase.

This regularity pertains to all realms of life, not just romantic relationships. In simple words, the more occasions to search you create, the more likely you are to find!

The Luck Factor contains several other foregone conclusions; none of them is ground-breaking, but they seem to deserve to be reminded.

You won’t fool nor get around maths. An experiment in which groups people who considered themselves lucky and ill-fated bought lottery tickets proved the former had the same probability of winning.

Optimism and pessimism in life underpin self-fulfilling prophecy mechanism. If you believe you will make it, you recognise factors and circumstances conducive to the positive outcome. Conversely, if you are convinced you won’t make, you seek out things that might go wrong and they come into the foreground.

Lucky people are open to new experiences and fear of rejection does not keep them company. Or actually they overcome the natural fear of rejection. Being turned away more or less often is an indispensable element of relationships and life, but since the law of large numbers holds true, the more attempts you make, the less likely to be rejected all the time you are.

Intuition probably has higher utility than common sense. As research by Mr Wiseman shows, everyone is bestowed with intuition, but bad-luck-ridden fellows rarely listen to their intuition and disregard whispers of it. I would add intuition is somehow related to experience we garner over our lifetime. The more people we meet, the more complex our interactions with them are, the more choice we have make, the richer our intuition grows.

Lucky guys do not push their luck, as this is the shortest path towards losing it. Drivers who have considered themselves lucky not to have an accident pledged to have avoided accidents thanks to their prudence, caution and not playing with fire. Never take your luck for granted, foster it if you want it to keep you company!

Beware reader! Luck ought not to be mistaken for happiness (in Polish both terms translate as szczęście). The two not necessarily go together. The former might exist without the latter, the other way round, though hardly imaginable, is also possible. Happiness is about expectations – if you expect little (but not too little) you are more likely to be happy with what you have!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pitbull. Niebezpieczne kobiety – film review

Went yesterday to nearby cinema to do myself a birthday treat, or in other words a debraining experience I yearned for after the recent heartquake.

The film is a sequel of Pitbull. Nowe Porządki which went to the silver screen in January 2016 and which I admit to have watched it less than two months ago on YT (legally as I was not sharing the content), prompted by a friend. The case of Pitbull. Niebezpieczne kobiety is a rare example of a sequel beating the original story. Nevertheless, you should not expect much from the film directed by Patryk Vega, whose moving pictures have never been favourably reviewed by critics, but have wide audience who fancy the job he does.

The film could boast of record-high audience over the weekend it premiered. Over the first three days on big screen it was watched by 768 thousand cinema-visitors, until now the audience count reached 2.4 million. Over the first two weeks cinema rooms were reported to be chock full of people, a phenomenon I have not witnessed for ages. Even while watching Wołyń the weekend it premiered, though there were more than 100 people in the auditorium, by no means crowds were pushing in.

According to critics and anonymous authors of online reviews, the plot is the film’s weakest point. I would argue given the theme of the blockbuster there was little room to get a better effect and I notice improvement in comparison to Pitbull. Nowe porządki. Nevertheless I share many watchers’ view the plot is hard to follow and you need to read a lot between the lines to make out why some scenes come after others.

So you might wonder what drew in millions of Poles to cinemas to see this very film. I suppose the response is that Poles are fond of a fine blend of dirt. The ingredients are: coarse sex scenes (sometimes resembling porn films), foul language and violence in abundance. Besides when the plot is set around the thin line dividing the forces of good (police) and evil (mobsters trading in fuel and wheedling out VAT refunds). The film is claimed to be inspired by actual stories, but I resist to even wonder whether meanderings of life of criminals and policemen chasing them have been depicted accurately.

The blockbuster, slated by many, yet watched by many, many more is not an outstanding piece of film art. It stands no chance of going down in the history of Polish cinematography, as Psy have done. Quotes from it, though funny and at times bright and quaint are unlikely to become cult. But if are at a loose end around Christmas and not expect an ambitious film, two and a half hours (including advertisements before) spent in a cinema will not be a waste of time.

Actually for many years I had not been fond of film-watching. For no apparent reason my attitude towards trips to a cinema has changed recently. Sitting in cosy chair in a dark room for some two hours takes you cuts you off from the imperfect outer world and lets you submerge in a totally different reality. After a series of trailers watched yesterday I know which two Polish films I will definitely watch in the first quarter of 2017.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Ninth Commandment*

Do you remember when we first met? An evening dinner after a workshop, hundreds of kilometres away from Warsaw. You drank red wine, I drank vodka. I did not notice a ring on any of your fingers, so I began flirting with you. You said you were married and giggled, but I carried on.

This was what chemistry is like. You don’t need to think what to say, what move to make, what step to take. You know what you should do and the other one also knows. You don’t even notice when everything falls into place.

Yes, I fell for you. We met when I yearned for a soulmate, yearned for a friend, when I felt let down by lukewarm people around me. You showed interest, you cared, you understood me what I wanted to say even if I did not open my mouth. You fostered the bond between us from the very beginning.

I got scared when after two weeks you called us friends and grabbed my hand. We barely knew each other while after I, having been hurt several times in life, will think several times before I call anyone a friend while you did it at ease.

You accepted me the way I was, with all my good traits and shortcomings. I didn’t even try to pretend to be someone better. I appreciated that and offered the same to you.

Though we have lived hundreds kilometres from each other and met only when opportunities arose, we talked and wrote to each other several times a day. I felt guilty of taking away mother from you little daughters whose photos you showed me so many times.

I have never wanted to break up a family or build happiness on someone else’s suffering, especially at your daughters’ expense. I have never expected you to quit your husband, I have never hoped you did it.

So many times you told me what your husband was like. I infer he loves you to bits and what has he gotten in return?

Have you told your husband about me? Frankly speaking, I don’t care. Your marriage, your business. I hold dear autonomy, but I wouldn’t like my girlfriend or wife to have such close someone as I used to be to you.

Do you remember when I told you when my parents passed away, there would be a risk I might have nobody to spend Christmas with? You invited me over to your house, while I asked if your husband knew. You turned my question into a joke and said “yes, provided you dress up as a Santa Claus”.

The day you had a surgery and called me right after that to moan out you were alright. Had you talked to your husband before that?

Intimacy has two dimensions, emotional and physical. On top, each dimension several degrees. The top ones should have been reserved for your husband.

You could tell me I was accepting terms of that unwritten contract between us and the initiative was on my side too. You surely wonder what prompted me to change me mind. Quite recently I told somebody the story of us and when I put all events together, the picture of us which emerged was unbearably ghastly. As it turns out, I needed to put in words to realise what I’d been into…

Yes, I have cut you off. I knew I would do it when we last met. I apologise for not picking up the phone and not replying to messages for three days. I lacked courage to tell it openly to you. When I finally called you back I said I needed to take a break from you. You hang up but I wonder whether you think I’ve had enough of your problems or the whole of us.

I’ve been running out of power to carry your burdens. I am emotionally exhausted.

Does it hurt? Officially not. Over the recent weeks my role was giving, your role was taking. If I am to be sincere, it does hurt. It’s gone too far to pass me by painlessly. But hadn’t I quit, I would hurt much more before long.

No, I haven’t fallen in love, fortunately.

Yes, I am selfish, I want a normal relationship, not dead-end tease and denial, not an endless string of emotional swings. I quit not only for myself, but to keep your family together. I will be missing you for a while but the longing will wane.

Some time ago you asked me how to carry on without me. It's simple - same way as you’d carried on before we met.

You want me to find a girlfriend, while with you around I can’t be true to any woman. If you want me to be happy just leave ma alone.

Dear reader! I am a sinner, I don’t want your sympathy, but deep down I hope you won’t condemn me (especially because before publishing in a surge of auto-censorship I have shortened the post). I longed for a soulmate too much, it took me a while to realise I was waddling in a mire.

You can’t have a cake and eat it…

* According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Thou shalt not covet neighbour's wife might also be a part of the tenth commandment