Jan Lachenmeyer’s Zouk Course in Berlin

Notes from a recent Zouk class. I have to say, Jan is the best dance teacher I’ve ever had. It is immediately apparent how taking his class will help me in every other dance out there. He tries to get you into a certain mindset. As a mindset-designer and mindset-switcher myself, I knew this guy knew his shit. And he even heads a startup company. How does he have the time? Particularly, how did he have the time to think this deep about life and dance while doing all that, before reaching 40?

Guess I gotta ask him next time.

The Mindset you should have when approaching dance
Start by hugging someone, as if they were an old friend you hadn’t seen for a long time. Your breaths synchronize. Your thoughts (hopefully) synchronize. And thus, your movements synchronize.
It is not “I have to show her what I cool moves I can do!”. It is not “that’s not right, I’m supposed to do this” or “you’re supposed to do that”. It is also not “I have to surprise her with moves she’s never heard of”.
Instead, it is like a conversation. I do this – how will you answer? There is no right or wrong answer. It is simply how the conversation flows, and you take it from there.

Four degrees of Touch
Police Arrest
You probably don’t want to be Police Arrest level of strong with your leading. But should you be Firm, Light, or Airy, or whatever? What’s best? What makes a particular degree of touch best anyway? How much the follower likes it? What produces the move that you wanted?
Each level of touch has its uses. Perhaps when you want something to be really on time, or if you’re dancing with a newbie, then you want to have a firm touch. Experienced followers prefer a light touch. Airy might be nice in slow songs. It depends on what you want to make the follower feel, what kind of experience do you want to give to the follower.

Four ways to think of moves
Movement forms
There seem to be people who think in terms of steps/figures in salsa. The lead learns a step, the follower learns a step, they put it together, and it works like gears meshing together. But there are so many possible moves. It’s impossible to learn them all.
Movement forms seems to be the moment when you realize – ah, it’s a spin but with this added twist. It’s this basic move, or a basic move done in a different way.
Biomechanics is when you start to play directly with the body, and see how pushing on one part of your partner’s body can communicate something.
Biotensegrity is when you start thinking about your partner’s body as a structure of muscles acting upon the bones, and then you interact with that. Not sure how that works.
Each way of thinking works best when you’re dancing with a partner who thinks the same way. The biomechanics way needs the follower to be tuned in, to have tension in her body, to hold her body a certain way so that what you are doing with her hand can reach her neck/shoulder line. Similarly, if I’m dancing with a partner who thinks in turns of steps, and I do some cool new move, she will always say “what? I don’t know that move” and then it’ll fail.

git stash (recent learnings)

Eric Kim Photography

Looks like a normal Chinese dude, but has great insights on life, entrepreneurship, and is actually living the life. Works out, has a good brand going, writes about Stoic philosophers and is totally free and understands the meaning of wealth. Probably also knows Brian Johnson.

Safety for Women and Customers

It’s funny that in this world, despite all the laws and social dynamics that point in their favour, women apparently don’t feel safe and always feel the need to protect themselves.

Great general insight on emotional safety
The Modern Man on why women still feel the need to be protected

Dan Bacon of The Modern Man is simply a very mature guy. You can see it in a lot of his writing, although his blog posts do seem cut & pasted sometimes.

Being a good salesman is also about making the customers feel safe and that they’re making the right decision.


Watching videos of the really good people on Youtube have totally sped up my learning. I can’t wait to go and try out those new moves.

Not only that, it seems the really good dancers also know that you can vary your speed as well. It looks great, and when you’re unsure what to do next, you just do it slow motion.

My tango notes:

Which foot the weight is on means a lot, including which leg to move next.
You guide the woman with your torso, that pretty much turns around the y axis.
Box step four corners, or triangle, try to trip the woman’s right foot after she has shifted her weight to the left (gotta be a gentleman you know)
Bruce Lee/tennis sideways jog, but in a circle: that’s the box step.
Circle sweep the legs. Like a clock.

Son was especially eye opening. It was great to see which parts of what my salsa teacher was teaching were from son, from rumba, from casino.

cigall (Youtube)
She’s good. I also detect a hint of pride when she dances with great dancers.

Lessons From Having My Bag Stolen

  1. You’re gonna feel like a chicken who’s lost its head. Keep calm and carry on. Immediately think of how to replace stuff.
  2. Wallet
    The wallet is not that important. You can lock and reorder every card within an hour or two, and you shouldn’t be walking around with more than 50EURs in cash anyway. The ID, however, can cost you time and money.
  3. Smartphone
    The smartphone is very important. Consider the amount of time it’ll take to earn the money required for a replacement, and setting it up with all your accounts (this takes me several hours). Also, your embarrassing naked photos are now public (not that I had any).
  4. Keys
    The keys are of utmost importance. You might have to jump through some hoops to copy the keys, and what would the landlord say? If there is any way to trace the keys to your place, there is now the possibility that someone can just walk in and walk out with something valuable.
    And if you didn’t give a friend a spare key, you just got locked out. That’s seriously inconvenient.
  5. Laptop
    I didn’t lose my laptop, but if I did, it would’ve been game over for me. It would be like losing the smartphone but 5 times worse, since I’m a programmer and setting everything up could take days.

When I got my wallet back, I wasn’t jumping up and down for joy. Everything had been locked and re-ordered, and the cash being completely emptied was to be expected. Instead, I was hoping to match some fingerprints on it, but as it turns out getting fingerprints from leather is hard enough that the police don’t want to do it over petty theft.

I suspect that they treat burglaries only slightly above petty theft, too. Murders, now that might cook their cockles. Murderers and escaped convicts

The policeman who filed the police statement wasn’t particularly enthused either. In fact, he seemed positively miffed that he had been singled out to file my statement. For a little under 3000EUR a month, he had better things to do than office work (but I suppose it beats getting shot at for that salary). The Berlin police are the worst paid police force in all of Germany.

In conclusion: the wallet is, contrary to popular opinion, not that important! Lock your cards with the hotline (in Germany it’s 116-116) and forget about it. Go shopping for a new one, it’s fun.

Infrastructure-related belongings are much more important, and cost more time and energy (potentially money as well) to replace.

On the importance of mindset

Something has changed in me. I was able to calm down quickly, assess the situation, reframe it positively, and quickly shift into “okay, now what” mode. Getting my brain to do this was not easy. It has been a 2 year long struggle at least.

I admit, I read and was applying mindset before Mike Cernovich’s Gorilla Mindset. But I have to say, that book has definitely helped. Reading it is easy. Applying its lessons will take years. It is not easy to reprogram your mind, because there is nothing that can help you fight it but yourself.

Tell Your Brain to Shut The Fuck Up

You’re on your last set. Your muscles are screaming, sweat is dripping into your eyes, and your brain is telling you “you’re already lifting more than last week. You can call it quits here!”

Tell your brain to shut the fuck up. Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

You’re walking across the street. She’s got legs anybody would kill for. Your brain says, “she looks like she’s heading someplace, let’s not bother her”.

Tell your brain to shut the fuck up.

Don’t listen to the voice. You give in once, it’s a slippery road down to mediocrity.

You’re tired. The networking event has dragged on far too long. You can’t wait to go home and relax. “I already got 5 contacts, that’s pretty good ain’t it?”

Shut the fuck up. You know damn well how to make friends. Be interested, provide value. If you can’t be witty, you can at least damn well be chill.

Shut the fuck up. Just do it.

Lunch with the Millionaire Next Door

lunch grill

Every now and then, me and my friend take the bus to go to a company in the middle of nowhere to fix any PC problems they might have. And we’ve had many lately thanks to Microsoft and their forced Windows 7-10 updates.

Now the owner of this company is a self made multi-millionaire, but he doesn’t live it up. You wouldn’t notice anything particularly special about this guy, in fact just the other day he was dressed as a plumber, as he’d been installing the plumbing in his building that he had commissioned right next to his office. Which didn’t look like much either, you’d think it was just some backwater shrub. But…
Continue reading Lunch with the Millionaire Next Door

Der Selbstdarsteller

A Google Conference

Setting: at a Google conference
Me: loitering around waiting for the conference to start. There were just a handful of people, and I didn’t particularly feel like chatting anyone up. Besides, I was about to meet someone there anyway so I should probably save my energy up for that.

Oh well, there’s a guy in a suit. Looks like a cheap suit, but still, whatever. Let’s warm up my social muscles by talking to him first.

“So, what brings you to this event?”
Continue reading Der Selbstdarsteller

Knowing vs Believing

There is a difference between knowing and believing.
When you just know something, sometimes you remember it when you have to make a decision, sometimes you don’t (especially when you’re under pressure to perform), and in between, in the small every day decisions that you never notice, you make decisions based on your old mentality.

For example, the Malays have a saying:

Sikit sikit lama lama menjadi bukit
(a bit at a time eventually becomes a mountain)

If you told this to someone, they’d nod and agree. Logically everybody knows this to be true, yet most never actually act accordingly.

You see, if you truly believe in this saying, then applying sunscreen everyday to avoid wrinkles/exercising every day/whatever every day will never be just ‘something you have to do’, because it all adds up to something big in the future.

Being attractive is not just one thing (big breasts/handsome face). It’s a combination of many little things that add up to being truly attractive. A good face with a good body, a pleasant personality, correct posture, graceful movement, colours that complement the person’s complexion, well groomed hair, clothing, accessories, an attitude congruent with the message the clothes convey… these all add up to a Grace Kelly, or an Audrey Hepburn.

Similarly, being successful is not just one thing. It’s a combination of knowing the right people, good people skills (which is a whole subtopic in itself), being in the right place at the right time, actual skills, ability to execute…

To truly make a change, you have to change your beliefs. You have to reprogram the deeper part of your brain, the part that unconsciously influences every single decision you make. This is not easy, but it certainly is easier than building actual muscles. After all you can play with your thoughts whenever and wherever. It’s just a matter of doing it every day.

Freelancing vs. Working

Do I want to freelance, or do I want to work a job?

I’m not sure. But I strongly suspect that freelancing is where it’s at. Why? Increased responsibility, for your books, for your brand image, for your paycheck. Most people would shy away from responsibility. But whenever something had to be done on the computer, I always chose to do everything myself. The end result? I learned, and grew, and just became better.

Working at a company was fun. It was like school, except that people were anxious to perform otherwise they’d get expelled. On a slow day, there was always office politics to give you a chuckle. And it was the right kind of company. But after a while, my mind grew fat and complacent. There was no incentive for going above and beyond – and when I did, it went unused.

I remember when I first came to Berlin. I camped in the woods on the weekends to save on hostel fees. I had a map full of bookmarks. I attended many events to network and find job opportunities. I talked with everyone, everywhere. I even went dumpster diving with hippies (not doing that again though).

Now that I’ve started freelancing, it’s all coming back. The sweat in my palms, the pressure to get out and perform, the responsibilities that weigh upon me… I feel truly alive.

So far I’ve been doing work for contacts, but it certainly isn’t easy finding new ones. I just made an account on Upwork, but it seems that all the elite go to Toptal. Looking at their blog, you can see why. It’s one of the 2  companies that actually have a corporate blog with valuable content – the other one is Digital Ocean. Writing a blog post to get priority access is obviously a cover letter with integrated free promotion, but I have no qualms because it looks like the people there are seriously smart.

They say that Toptal only accepts 3% of applicants. Looking at the Github accounts of some of their freelancers, it doesn’t look like I have a good chance – then again, they’re all 30+. To maximize your chances of becoming an elite, you have to join the elite… so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Cute Women…

There’s a Japanese magazine called Ultimate Top Beauty. So of course I had to download it.

But it’s funny, when I look at those doe eyed chicks, something happened.

‘Eh, she looks sweet and innocent but… is she really that sweet?’

And I used to be a real sucker for cute girls! But now I find myself swinging more to the ‘hot’ side than the ‘cute’ side… probably because the ‘cute’ implies a personality that it might not deliver on, whereas ‘hot’ is just that: hot.

Or maybe, in the distant future, I will look at a picture of a hot girl and think:

‘Eh, she looks hot… but I bet her life isn’t all that interesting’

I’m not sure if that’ll make me jaded or experienced.