Flickr Ashley Rose
These boxes are
a summary of my
I’m American but I’ve lived in the Czech Republic
since 1995. Now, I have a Czech husband and a son
and you could say I have a unique perspective on
Czech society – as both an insider and an outsider.
I’d like to share my observations with you.
Being ‘normal’ seems to be really important to
Czechs. But, we all have an idea of what ‘normal’
is, depending on the groups we belong to. This
‘normal’ affects how we dress, the gadgets we
buy, how we act and think.
Flickr Tiago A. Pereira
For example, there’s a ‘normal’ for a geek group...
…an ‘alternative’ or artistic group…
Flickr Elvert Barnes
…or a banker group.
The people in these groups tend to look like each
other because the group tells them what is ‘normal’.
Flickr Rich Lem
So, you could say that ‘normal’ is being like everyone
else. It’s worrying about what others think of you, it’s
trying to fit in and not stand out.
I think you should start rejecting ‘normal’.
Flickr Stuck in Customs
But, what’s the opposite of ‘normal’?
I don’t think the opposite is crazy or weird.
I think the opposite of ‘normal’ is exceptional.
‘Exceptional’ is not caring what other people think
about you. It’s going your own way, doing your own
thing. Being exceptional is standing out. And, I think
it makes for a much richer and more interesting life.
I think there are four changes you can make to start
rejecting ‘normal’ and start being more exceptional.
(Although this talk is directed at a Czech audience, I
think the changes can be applied everywhere.)
At many events, I see lots of people just standing by themselves
or only staying with their friends. They are missing out on a great
opportunity to meet new people.
It’s not what you know.
It’s who you know.
This statement is usually talking about succeeding
in business, but I think it can apply to life in general.
Meeting new people can really enrich your life.
Flickr Stephanie Giner
But, most people are afraid to meet new people
because they’re afraid they will be rejected. It can
happen, but remember that some people are just
jerks. Don’t worry about it, just move on and find
Flickr Phil Moore
Don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back from meeting fun and
interesting people. This will make for a much more interesting life.
Flickr Hot Rod Homepage
We often make unhealthy comparisons with people whose lives we can
never have. ‘Friends’ is a fictional example of this kind of comparison.
Flickr Andrew Feinberg
But there are plenty of real-life examples of people we
make unhealthy comparisons with. You are probably
never going to have Mark Zuckerberg’s life…
unhealthy comparisons lead to…
I’m using a German word because there isn’t an English word to express
‘happiness through someone else’s misery’.
But, there is a Czech word for it.
Flickr slworking 2
Schadenfreude is the reason tabloids sell so well. We like hearing about
bad things happening to successful people.
‘Keeping up with
But there is a better way to react to envy.
Flickr Mark Nye
Mr. Jones could be your neighbor. But, he has a better job, is in better
shape and his kids go to a better school. ‘Schadenfreude’ says that if his
house burns down, you would feel better about this situation.
But ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is all about you. What can you do
to have a better life? The focus is on making things happen for you
not hoping something bad happens to Mr. Jones. This is the reaction
to envy I want you to have.
Czechs have an amazing talent for finding the negative in almost
every situation. It’s strange for me because I’m just a naturally sunny,
optimistic person. I believe that being positive and friendly can affect
the experiences you have.
I believe in being especially nice to ‘invisible people’. These are people
that we see every day and we don’t think they have much power. They
are cashiers at the grocery store…
… or receptionists and secretaries. I think they have a lot of power, actually.
When I have a positive interaction with one of these people, it has
the power to change how I feel about the day. And, they appreciate
kindness and reciprocate.
people are basically good
I also believe that most people have good intentions. And, when we
approach people with this belief, it can change the way they treat you.
Taxi drivers in Prague have
a terrible reputation,
especially for ripping off
Back in 1997, I took a taxi home after my birthday party in the city. The
taxi driver and I had a great conversation, even with limited language
skills on both sides. About 20 minutes after he dropped me off, I heard
him calling to me outside my window. I looked out and there he was
holding up the camera I had left in his car. He had driven all the way
back to return it to me.
Amazing things can happen when you expect the positive from people.
#4 stop complaining
Czechs are great complainers.
That’s ok, but I would like to
see more of this attitude…