Blog & Opinion
28 June 2017 • by Jacco van Uden
By the time you are closing in on forty, a sense of innocence is definitely wearing thin. A carefree attitude towards life makes way for nagging questions, devilish dilemmas and a tendency towards guiding principles. Balances are drawn and decisions are made only in light of how you want to be remembered.
If you’ve just turned forty, giving up something simply isn’t a serious option anymore – das war einmal. You start using German expressions and making grand gestures, as the French do. Writing columns? You don’t just give up writing them. You quit.
[followed by a momentous silence]
A good gesture, as you know, is a generous one. Personal considerations are never the determining factors. Instead, we speak of ‘the greater good’ and ‘the interests of society’. Knowing when you have to make way for the younger generation.
If asked, though, you’ll provide advice. Free of any obligation; after all, you don’t want to stand in the way of your successors, but neither do you want to give the impression that you had nothing to write about.
So you provide some suggestions.
A column, for example, about runners who consider themselves above using a pedestrian path. Or one about people who claim that Pinkpop is no longer underground since Justin Bieber. A column about PVV voters who really don’t agree with everything that Geert Wilders says but who think it’s important to send a strong signal to The Hague, about introducing a required reading list for students at universities of applied sciences (15 novels per degree programme), a column about the feminisation of education and research, about people – partners in particular – who don’t respect systems (a dishwasher emptying system, for example), about passports and loyalty (analogy: can we swallow the fact that the president of an educational institution in The Hague sleeps under a duvet with the name of a Rotterdam football club on it?), about drivers who put a presumptuous ‘work traffic’ sign in their car window, the technological-philosophical exploration of the girl who asks if you want to make a selfie with her, a column about Erdogan followers (no goosestepping needed, there’s no people on Earth who lose their heads easier), about cure versus comfort, about parents who let their kids choose their own degree programme because they only want them to be happy (question: since when is doing what it takes to be happy any easier than studying aerospace engineering?), about Micha Wertheim (an ode to the human capacity for conceptual overestimation of one’s self), about meat substitutes, a character sketch of people who become interested when a job vacancy advertisement mentions that the ideal candidate has a feel for ‘administrative relations’ (maybe this is the moment for a highly inappropriate comparison with the Nazis), a column about the greenhouse growers in Westland, a ‘Where’s Wally?’ (do you see anything about the importance of research?), about why a World Cup is a lot more fun if the Netherlands doesn’t qualify, about people who think that if your field is change management that you are very much inclined to change yourself (as if enology is synonymous with alcoholism), about people who didn’t used to do things in principle and now don’t do the same things in principle anymore, a column about who still lives in that village on the top of Mount Stupid, a column about everything we’re not prepared to do and give up for even more ‘payment convenience’, or a column about people who respect systems.
And then say it was a pleasure, looking back on it now, and knowing that you’re satisfied with how everything turned out.
Jacco van Uden is the head of the Change Management Research Group at THUAS. More information about Jacco and his research group is available at his website.