On Success and other people

I found this great quote again. (Thanks to Readwise.io, which btw. creates such nice pictures from the quote)

The 10 Keys to Success by John Bird  When you hear people say things like this, you need to take it with a pinch of salt. Much of the time they will say it because they are jealous of you and your courage. They will tell themselves that risk is stupid, that it will only lead to something bad and mess up their lives. So then you come along, all excited and full of energy about doing something new, and they are not pleased. Because they do not want to leave their comfort zone, the idea of you doing so is very scary. It reminds them that they have dreams they want to follow, dreams they don't have the courage or guts to chase.
Fantastic observation from John Bird

John Bird wrote a few remarkable books of which I were given two over 10 years ago. His way of life was clearly a different from mine and from most people reading this page. I recommend his books. They are quick to read but very insightful. 

Sitting in the right box

We all have our lessons learned. We all draw on some memes that describe how you think about life in general. At least, that is how I work. A few ideas that got stuck with me, rang a chord and that will be used to explain life or at least patterns seen. 

And this is one that I use consistently. It not only stuck because of the drawing. Here it is:


The heading says “it all depends on sitting in the right box”. Left box offers chicks for cuddling – the right box offers shark fodder both at the same price. 

Whoever did this was a genius. It explains so many things. Just think of rich vs poor parents, born in a rich country with access to Corona vaccination or not. Or think of the great teacher in your parallel class, the genetic disposition of someone, etc. 

Now, I am not saying that everything in life is luck. I neither say that you should accept your box as a stoic. Of course, you need to work on your life. Of course, an initial disadvantage might proof to become the challenge that eventually changes you into a better person –  and the like.

But it still is very much a game of luck. 

Celeste Headlee on Conversations

I didn’t know Celeste before. This link provides a quick introduction. She talks about the value of conversations and how to create valuable conversations.

Among the great content does Celeste mention some really good quotes. My favourites are:

  • “Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t” (Bill Nye)
    I saw this quote before, but this time it struck a cord. Clearly, everyone is worth listening to!
  • “No man ever listened himself out of a job.” (Calvin Coolidge)
    “Speech is silver, silence is gold”, but somehow more colorful.
  • “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” (Stephen R. Covey)

The 10 tips in short:

  1. Don’t multitask – be present
  2. Don’t pontificate – be humble and learn from others
  3. Ask open-ended questions – start with who, what, when, where, why or how
  4. Go with the flow – whatever you think of, let it go
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know – have integrity
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs – all experiences are individual – it is NOT about you
  7. Try not to repeat yourself – it’s condescending and boring
  8. Stay out of the weeds – don’t get stuck in details
  9. Listen – this is the most important one 
  10. Be brief!

Brené Brown on Vulnerability

My first reaction to this video is that I met in my life 3 times people that were able to laugh about themselves. They were making themselves vulnerable, telling me how stupid they have been again and again and laughed about themselves – (hopefully) knowing that I wouldn’t think less of them (quite the opposite). Do I need to tell you that I admire them? Why else would I count? They were warm and I could be a bit more myself in their company.

I simply don’t think myself being capable of this (yet). But this is the way to go!

Brené Brown’s: The Power of Vulnerability

Great talk, thanks Brené.

Vithanco Rebranding

I have been working on my Visual Thinking application line. It’s time to explain the future developments.

The rebranding became necessary when Apple changed the App Store Rules and my existing names became too long for the new rules. I needed to shorten the name although I liked the rather verbose “Visual Thinking” branding.  After some thinking I decided on “Visual Thinking and Communication” or in short: “Vithanco”. I really like the new name, because it really stands for how I think about these applications. They are tools for thinking and tools for communication. And since I was working on it, I worked on a new logo.

logo 2880x1800

Along with the rebranding came new features I had already been working on. Keyboard control, spell checking, performance improvements (now diagrams with 100+ nodes are as fast as diagrams with 10 nodes), and clusters. The latter is currently only available for Concept Maps but will be available in the next releases for IBIS and TOC.

This was the easy part. I made one more decision that needed more consideration. I will switch from several small applications to one application. I intend to update the one Domain applications that I have going forward. But my main focus will be on Vithanco – the generic App. The different diagrams that you can create with the IBIS, Concept Maps, or TOC variants will be part of the new App (in fact you will be able to open them in the generic application). The variants are basically “Domains” within Vithanco. Each diagram will be created according to a particular Domain.

A Concept Map depicting key concepts of Vithanco

New Domains will be included into Vithanco. The first new domain will be based on the benefit realisation approach that I mentioned earlier. More Domains will follow.

The Domain and Node Type Editor will be only fully functioning in the generic application going forward. I will hence take this functionality from the TOC variant.

With Vithanco I will change the payment model from pay in advance to Freemium. Flying Logic is the only similar software that I know. It sells for 249USD. I think that is a too high price upfront for private users. Hence, you can try it for free for 2 months before you will be charged 2.99 USD per month. If you don’t want to use it, you cancel the subscription. This way -ignoring net present value- you will need to use it for 7 years before you pay the same. Updates won’t cost you extra, new Domains won’t cost extra. I hope others see this as well as a fair deal.

Vithanco will be released in the coming weeks. I can’t wait to see it on the App Store.

Lastly, I am now creating Vithanco.com as a new home for the application. I will transfer all software related content there going forward.

Genghis Khan: Savages to conquer the world?

In 1979 there was an interesting Song as part of the European Song Contest: Dschinghis Khan. I was a little boy of 5 years but the melody got stuck in my head. The lyrics suggested that the Mongols were some kind of primitives. Later, I heard about the Mongol invasion into Europe and something did sound wrong: how can a group of savages run over half of Europe and a huge part of Asia? Every war I have heard of showed that wars are costly activities. And your armies overextend themselves, they bleed out, etc. So, how could a hardly known group of nomads rule most of the known world within 1 or 2 generations? And how could it happen that they ruled big empires for over 150 years, even ruling the Chinese, the most advanced nation of that time?

I recently read the great book “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” by Jack Weatherford (ISBN13: 9780609809648). The book has a good explanation. Mongols might have had a rough life, but they were not savages. Prior to Genghis Khan they were only absorbed in fighting themselves. Genghis Khan was the man who became supreme leader of all Mongols. And his methods were far from primitive, although often brutal. He was breaking with traditions time after time but kept enough to create a strong coherence.

So far, so interesting. Now, how could the joint Mongols conquer everything? Well, according to the book, the Mongols used their superior battle skills, but incorporated all strategies that they could find. E.g. they must have had brilliant engineers, building all kind of siege weapons in short time. They were smart enough to “hire” more engineers in the conquered areas.  They used fear as a weapon. But the one story that did explain the above questions to me was about the expedition into Europe. Whilst in Europe much emphasis was on honour and fighting bravely during battle, the Mongol’s emphasis was on winning. So, imagine a European army that is ready to fight, like at the Battle of Legnica. The Mongols start a bit of fighting but then retreat. The Europeans thought they have won (why would the enemy flee otherwise?) and charge after the Mongols and overextending themselves, separating cavalry from infantry.  The Mongols were just keeping out of range on their enduring horses and when the chasing army was completely disordered changed direction again and killing everyone with their long distance bows with minimal human costs to their own army. In addition the Mongols were using smoke in combination shouting “Run/Flee” in the language of the opponent to add to the confusion. This was strategy, using the weakness of the enemy, their believe in honour, their bad organisation. And it seems like the Mongols have adjusted their strategy each time. With this approach the Mongols could conquer everything.

The book highlights many other interesting achievements, whether in battle, or regarding religious freedom, regarding society or regarding organisation. Organisation by the way was the reason the wars were an economical success for the Mongols and they kept in power for a long time.

I have too little knowledge to confirm any of the many points of the book. It might not be exactly scientific, but what it does get across is that the Mongols were no primitive savages. To be as successful as they were they needed to outsmart their enemies on a regular base and overcome the paradigms of their time.

So, what are the lessons learned?

  1. If something sounds odd, start digging. There is a reason. It might be a simple misunderstanding, or it might be that you only hear a part of the story. Which part was left out and why?
  2. If you are willing to leave from your traditions and are willing to learn you can conquer the world. Of course you need luck. Of course one cannot just repeat a story like Genghis Khans. But you hear regular stories about individuals that are creating amazing impact. And normally you hear that they have broken with “known” paradigms.

By the way, the impact of the Mongols on the course of world was potentially bigger than one thought of. Whilst Central Europe ultimately got lucky and wasn’t affected that much,  the Mongols had a huge impact on Islam, changing the course of Islam to my (limited) knowledge. There was even a connection between the distribution of the black death and the commerce/road network in the Mongol empire. But not all impact was negative. Many ideas got born and ideas got distributed. Life would be different today. And all that because one man – with luck – took on the world, adapting to the circumstances whenever needed.