Creating a digital identity system ?

This is just some thoughts written down while reading 21 lessons for the 21st century. I’ll update if needed, feel free to discuss.

Reading 21 lessons for the 21st century makes we wonder how we could develop ownership on our own data / digital identity. We tend to rely on states, but they can be quite slow to move, evolve, especially when we look at how fast the digital landscape is moving. Therefore there is perhaps a room for a personal digital identity system which would allow us to give / remove access to our personal data and to to keep those informations up to date.

First I thought about a blockchain solution, allowing us to secure our data, but then I realized how much of our “identity” is moving. A blockchain solution would be a real problem for a lot of people.

Some examples I had :

  • Transgender people have to be able to change their gender and name
  • People leaving their country might adopt a new nationality
  • The simple act of moving out means our address isn’t something fixed
  • People can change their name by legal means, therefore even our names might change

People should also be able to own those data totally, which means some kind of self hosted solution as relying on a company (Facebook much?) to own those data is too big of a threat. But then, what kind of solution ? A physical system means it could easily get lost, a digital one would require both hardware and basic skills, and what happens if we lost the hardware ?

Still thinking about it, will update if needed.

My heart skipped a beat

Some things cannot be explained I guess. The light of a moment, the smell of the air, the feeling of a certain place, those strange news eyes you find yourself suddenly diving in. It’s always strange how, in a missed beat, things can change so suddenly.

Suddenly in those eyes you discover for the first time, you encounter a soul you seem to be longing for for years. Suddenly someone you never knew misses you strangely more than anyone you knew before, as if time took you apart and pulled you back. In those moments, for the smallest fraction of time, for an incredible strange moment, just between to heartbeats, an eternity passes away.

You find yourself looking at his face, trying to understand where you could have seen it before. This seems impossible, deep down you know you couldn’t possibly have seen him before, you’d have remembered him for sure. But your mind can’t stop working at full speed, trying to link facts, places, people, in search of his face.

You’re lost in the moment, trying to keep the pace of the conversation while the time goes by incredibly fast. Around you the night falls while you can’t seem to fall asleep. Suddenly you feel a strange energy going around, some strange connection going through the both of you. You can’t really explain why, often you can’t express things properly, but next to him the words flow easily.

Time will always catch you up, that’s the way it is, but in this missed beat, you already lived an eternity. In this look you lost yourself, falling into something you don’t understand but that feels so familiar. You can’t express exactly what’s happening and that’s the strangest thing. Your mind is still racing about how this stranger feels so familiar, about why you feel so at ease with him on your first encounter. But things can’t always be explained. Some things come, some go, some moments last for an eternity.

But some things cannot be explained. It must have been the moment, perhaps the smell of the air or this particular setting. Perhaps it was his eyes that you know you have to let go for the first time, but it feels like you’ve repeated this pattern again and again. So as he leaves, your heart skips a beat and an eternity is lost.

The right not to care

This year a lot of my reading where going around the same subject : How not to give a fuck. It’s strange that nowadays we end up reading something that should really be natural, even spontaneous. It always felt strange that we slowly switched from a world where you had the right not to care about some subjects (not even in a violent way, just not to take position), to a world of constant shoutings, personal vendettas and small wars.

So it’s strange to say it this way, but I now reclaim the right not to care about some subjects. I reclaim the right not to be enlightened enough on a subject to take any position about it, but also the right to neither know enough about it nor willing to take the time to learn about it. We’re all here for a limited time, with all our passions, subject of interest, personal fights, and it seems to me absolutely necessary to reclaim our right to decide where we invest our personal energy. Not caring about something isn’t an aggression toward the persons fighting for this thing, in fact it’s letting them more room to act, but also to be active proponent of the discussion by using their knowledge at the best. Not caring allow us to focus on the things that really matter to us, to lead our own fights. And sometimes, even if we would like it to be this way, things aren’t just all black and white, and some subjects are too dense to take position for one side or the other.

We have to also be able to let others not care about the things that matter to us. We have to understand that not everybody care about the things we do, that sometimes our fights are not understandable nor worth fighting for to their eyes without it being a critic about ourselves.

While we’re living in better and better times (please read this by the way), it seems essential to me that we learn to cool down a bit on the tensions we put everywhere, and that we accept to learn again how to compromise and accept that what we do doesn’t make sense for everyone all the time. So please give yourself a little gift when you can, and choose not to care about the latest fight on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or whatever. Just go along the way and breathe. You have a limited amount of energy, keep it for what really matters to you.

Learning to say no

It’s funny how this simple thing has eluded me for so many years (and still eludes me from time to time). Something as simple as saying “no”,“I won’t”, “I can’t”. I’ve spent so many years running after time, saying yes all the time, abiding to things I didn’t want to do, investing energy I didn’t have, forcing myself to be someone I wasn’t or to do things that only pulled me down further.

But I wouldn’t say it was a fear to say “no” in fact. I think it was going way deeper than not being able to say that. So I took some times to work on myself, but also to understand what I really wanted, what was the purpose I defined for my life, what were my healthy boundaries … I must say that this was the most terrifying blank page I’ve ever faced. While I did read many books about “discovering yourself” (some even joked on the amount of self-help books I was reading), I must admit that when the time came to write what were exactly “my rules”, I was staring in the void like a dead fish.

So I turned the problem around, searching for all the things that pissed me off, or where I failed in the past years, my errors, my mistakes, to try to define something by removing the fog around them. If I couldn’t express exactly what I wanted to, at least I would be able to express exactly what I didn’t want anymore.

Failure shows us the way — by showing us what isn’t the way.
 — Ryan Holiday (
The obstacle is the way)

By doing so, I was able to clear the fog almost completely, allowing me to define my personal boundaries and some moral rules I wanted to abide to. I realized also that we all have a finite amount of energy to give each day, and that I was clearly deep into debt on this side. The worst part? Most of this energy was lost into things that didn’t bring me anything.

I discovered also some of my flaws. Like how I was postponing tasks for the sake of treating them later (hello procrastination), while acting directly on it would require just 5 minutes of my time (and especially keep my mind cleared of it). Or how much time I could spend uselessly complaining about things (without acting). At this time I decided to stop complaining as much as I could, and to act directly on things that would take only a very small amount of time. I still complain from time to time, I must admit, but every time I do say, I notice it to myself, and try to find how to avoid it for the next time. Still not perfect, but improving.

I realized also that I had a tendency to avoid things by going sideways mostly by fear or hurting other people. I spent a lot of time thinking I was doing the right thing by using those so-called white lies. But it’s by reading Lying by Sam Harris that I realized that those weren’t useful.

First they made me feel bad, and I had to be weary of everything I was doing not to contradict them, and second they didn’t give any real information and kept me in a spiral. How could I stop doing things I didn’t want to do if I never said that I didn’t like them? I was having a hard time just being myself. So I decided to stop. To slowly learn to say exactly what I wanted to do, what I didn’t like, … I was surprised to realize that people were able to accept my limits and weren’t pushing me anymore to do things I didn’t want.

The truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.
 — Marcus Aurelius (
Meditations)

Going deeper in the process, I discovered several other things important to me (first and foremost honesty and speaking the truth, on which I’ll write something deeper later), allowing me to see exactly where I was and where I was going. This allowed me to be able to trace a line in the sand to be finally able to say “no”, this is where I stop, this is something I don’t want to do, this is something I won’t tolerate or accept anymore.

This whole process took me quite some time (in fact it stayed two whole months on top of my to-do list), but once done gave me a peace of mind I’ve never felt before, and a feeling of relief quite impressing. I also regained a lot of personal time, and while I still have an important social and work life, for the first time in a long time, I must say that I feel in command of my ship, and free.

Reframing our window

For a decade now and with a surprising increase during the last years, I tend to encounter a lot of words used without any interest for their basic definition, thinking only about creating or increasing some “wow” factor. Those words I keep seeing? Exclusivity, Groundbreaking, Revolutionary, Unique, Innovation, … While at some point this tendency was limited to marketing (and which is part of well… their job), this spread to the general public (and I fell for this several time too).

Everytime it happens, it’s usually based on the fact that we don’t have a sufficient knowledge of the subjects, or didn’t do enough research, so we tend to use them because, from what we know they’re exact. This is a common problem in our times, where we’re all having trouble saying that we don’t know.

It then creates a false narrative and an unnecessary fuss around things that are perhaps non ground-breaking. But at least, this is caused by a simple slip of the language based on not enough facts, and we all tend to fall for it. Be it when we advise this “revolutionary” app, or that we tend to proclaim something as “unique in the world” (something that tends to happen a lot in the French market, where we have a remarkable blindness to everything non-French-speaking that is happening in the world).

The problem for me happens when we tend to fall for the marketing jargon and to defend sayings that are not our own, through the only window we were provided. Or worst, when we tend to reframe this window to be smaller and smaller, just to justify the use of a word that we simply shouldn’t use. Hence this app really is exclusive* (*in your language), revolutionary (*in your country, your neighbor have it since 10 years now), unique (*on your platform).

This is not “that bad”, but I tend to think that words have a meaning, and when we use those words in the wrong place we tend to reduce this meaning. And while the motto of the last years on every mouth has been “innovation” yelled clear and loud everywhere, it’s rarely true (nor based on anything). In a world where everyone is becoming an entrepreneur (which is neither good or bad), perhaps we should be a bit more honest, or picky in the choice of our words.

While not every idea is a revolution, you have plenty of other things you can promote your idea on, plenty of possibility that you offer that, while they’re not exclusive), provide a different/better experience for your audience. And this won’t require you to reframe any window while it might make you appear less “bullshit-prone” than any other idea out there.

“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.”
 — Nassim Nicholas Taleb (
Antifragile)

Being a reader in a world of speakers

Sometimes you encounter a book with which you realize a lot of things about yourself. This kind of epiphany moment was exactly what I had when reading Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker which shed a light on several things I encountered in my life and things I couldn’t do that everybody was at ease with and I couldn’t understand why.

When everybody’s listening to podcasts, watching endless YouTube video streams, when every recipe you can find is now presented in a video, when books are being listened too instead of read, … And that I couldn’t do any of those things. Put simply, if you make me listen to a podcast for more than 5 minutes, my mind will start to wander and I’ll keep nothing from it in my memory.

At 29 years old, I realized I was a reader, meaning that I was understanding things in a clearer way when reading them instead of listening to them. This might appear quite simple, but this really helped me understand a lot of things about myself, on how I should behave in my work, why I was desperate for meetings minutes and dreading hours long meetings but also that I shouldn’t force myself into things I couldn’t do. I had many podcasts I subscribed to, after reading this little book I had exactly 0 left. They didn’t suit me at all, why should I keep losing energy trying something I wasn’t made for?

I learned also that I was a writer more than a speaker, meaning that I had to write things down to memorize them. Something I already realized when I started to build my Commonplace Book. As I was rewriting quotes from my favourite books, suddenly I started to make a lot of connections, I could remember easily which author was linked to which one, what common theme several books shared, … I understood finally why I learned so much during the MOOCs I followed and where I was taking a lot of notes I didn’t even read back. I didn’t need to reread them, once they were written, they were clearly set in my mind.

Those two things made me realize why I had so much trouble going through school, where most of the teaching is bad on a listening-to-memorize mindset for which I wasn’t made at all. And why I had so much success going through lessons by myself, by reading books and rewriting things I needed, instead of listening to someone talking for hours.

“Schools everywhere are organized on the assumption that there is only one right way to learn and that it is the same way for everybody.”
 — Peter F. Drucker (
Managing Oneself)

This also helped me to understand why I’m so weary when Digital Evangelists tell everyone that video is the new communication media. This is not a bad idea per se, but doing so is forgetting half the population who is not at all at ease with a video / audio media (and I’m not even talking about handicap situations). Yes video are quite good when you want to present an idea to a board, and some text might look boring, but both are necessary in our world.

The only thing I regret now is having learned this at the age of 29. But now that I know this, it’s something I can build upon quite easily, and this already helped me reshape the way I was working in a more efficient way, suiting the way my brain is working and using my strengths. I still have a lot of palliatives to find as our professional work is deeply constructed on an speaking / listening way of working, but nothing is impossible now that I’ve clearly identified my weaknesses.

When non-doing is better

One thing I’ve come to realize more and more in our society, is our tendency to intervene all the time in everything, for the sake of the intervention. Things are being changed, teams are being shuffled, plans are being remade, … all the time, especially with a new-comer. While sometimes those changes can be good, most of the time they end up being quite a waste of time, energy, and human resources, while they give the impression that something is accomplished (when it’s not).

It’s interesting to find examples everywhere that, sometimes, the act of non-doing is better than changing things just for the sake of our ego. In Chinese, there’s the concept of Wu Wei, an important concept of Taoism which means non-doing or non-acting, to let things behave according to their nature, go with the flow. It’s interesting to note that the same thing was explained by the Stoics centuries ago, who put following nature as one of their core principle (if not the core principle).

You can find a related thing in chess, with the zugzwang, where you are forced to move one’s piece when doing absolutely nothing would save your game. Throughout history, we encountered a lot of times where our interventionism did more damage than good but still we learn nothing on our human scale. If you look into health, you’ll discover the iatrogenic effects, which occurs when your health is worsened by the medical care you’re receiving (One of the worst example? Decades ago lobotomy was considered as a great health practice.).

Ego isn’t the only culprit in this, depending on one’s position, the root cause could be also our own fear. Fear that people will think we’re not working, fear that not giving an advice will feel like giving up on someone or something, … Which is why, even when we’ll choose not to act, it is important to take the time to explain ourselves. Because even the act of non-doing requires some thoughts and thinking, and by being prepared to explain our non-actions, we’ll avoid useless fears and judgments.

Our tendency to intervene in everything, all the time, in a way that suits our egos more than the greater good ends up costing a lot in our lives, jobs, friendships, … and we are all guilty of it, even if we tend to persuade ourselves that the changes we’re making ends up, at best, changing nothing. Sometimes we need to take some steps back before making a decision and ask ourselves a simple question : Am I really doing this to improve something or am I doing this so people won’t think that I’m not doing anything?

“Ask yourself at every moment: Is this necessary?”
 — Marcus Aurelius (
Meditations)

Getting yourself to read more

I’ve never had the feeling that I was reading that much, or that I was doing something that looked so impossible to a lot of people. But as friends asked me this question several times, I came to realize that I was indeed reading a lot more than the usual people. Of course, everyone devotes one times to what one thinks important, but it seems that nowadays a lot of people regret not being able to read more. So I’m writing this to give you some tips that I gathered along, hoping it may help you 😉

Get back to reading

I see your reading capacity as a muscle that you have to train over time. You wouldn’t try a triathlon if the last time you went out for a walk was seven years ago would you? The same goes for your reading habits, don’t get too hard on yourself first. Five years ago I realized that I hadn’t read a book in two years. Not a single one. I realized that the idea of opening a book, and finishing it, was really “frightening” me. So I decided to slowly get back on reading.

You have to start small, and luckily, there’s a lot of things available. I’d recommend to buy a book of short stories, in the kind of stories you prefer (may it be science fiction, fantasy, horror, modern, … whatever you want). And just try to read one every night before going to bed. If it’s not doable, then read one each two days, whatever works the best for you. But aim for really shorts stories (around 20 pages is fine). Slowly you’ll train your reading muscle and you’ll realize that you are able to finish a story quite quickly, and a full book faster than you’d have thought. Once you’re at ease, simply switch to small books (under 100 pages), and you’ll be on the right track!

Always have a book with you

I couldn’t stress this one enough, but always have a book with you, seriously. You don’t realize the amount of time you’re wasting every day, waiting for the bus, waiting in the bus, waiting for a friend to arrive, … Instead of waiting, refreshing your social media feeds or whatever, you’ll now have a book at hand! And you will be surprised how fast you can finish it by using those little time chunks every time.

If you can, bring your book with you to the toilet. Even better, every time you feel the urge to go check Facebook during the day, to breathe a little, why don’t you read two or three pages instead? You can always have a PDF version of a book with you, and it’s not worse than checking social medias, it’s even better in a way.

Better, have several ones!

Okay, this one is a bit personal and might not suit everyone. It might even frighten some of you. But I’m always reading at least 3 books at the same times (often it goes up to 6). The idea is simple: if I’m not interested in a book, I can pick another one, instead of not reading at all.

The trick is to simply select some very different books: fiction, self-help, business related, philosophy related. For example at the moment the books am reading are really different: The Dice Men (fiction), Siddhartha (fiction & philosophy), The Paper Magicians (young adult fiction, perfect before going to bed), The Bed of Procrustes (business & philosophy), … I tend to also have some books in French, others in English so I can really switch to whatever I feel like at the moment.

Some even use audio books when they’re going to the fitness, but it’s something I’ve never really succeeded at (finished just one audiobook in my life), but if it works for you, go for it! I’m also using a Kindle for the last three years and I must say that it’s one of the greatest investment I’ve ever made. While it’s not close to the feeling of a real book, and that I can’t write in it, I love to be able to highlight parts of the books and extract them later, and I love to be able to carry 20 books with me when I go on holidays without it being an additional luggage.

I really hope that those tips will help you to get back to reading some books for this year. If you want, you can always add me on GoodReads, or share your experience, I’m always ready to learn new things 😉

Think, wait, fast

Some days ago, I finished Siddharta by Herman Hesse, a very strange and compelling book that immediately jumped into my life changing shelf of my library. One particular passage in this book hit me with the velocity of a full-speed train :

Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.
 Herman Hesse — 
Siddharta

In this small excerpt of the book, Siddharta explains that every man needs to learn how to fast. Because when you face hunger, when you miss something, being in a state where you wait for it might lead you to make a lot of bad choices. This resonated a lot with me as, being subject to anxiety from time to time, I have made several decisions in my past based only on fear of the future, the unknown, the loneliness, …

And I’m always surprised by how I could react, postpone things, decisions, ideas, based solely on those fears, those panics moments. I’ve bitterly regretted some of those choices, while some very rare turned out to be not so bad. Looking backward, none of those decisions ever led me to something good.

In fact, the only decisions I took that I consider now to be good decisions (and even life changing one), were all done in times where I wasn’t feeling a particular need, being it financial, sentimental, social. In this, I recognize Siddharta’s teaching when he says that learning to fast is the most useful thing a man can do.

And while it’s really hard not to take hasty decisions when I’m going through a panic attack, I now know that, for my own good, it’s better that I postpone the decisions to the next morning / week. But it’s something really hard nowadays, when people are always in a hurry. In times like this, when you’re pressured to take a decision, it’s just good to remember that you can always take time. If it’s not a life threatening situation, it can wait.

Those mistakes that shape our lives

Just as business tend to evolve thanks to failures and improvements, I strongly think that we tend to evolve through our mistakes, our errors and regrets. But I also strongly believe that not all errors are equal, and that in each of our lives, we’re making what I call some major formative mistake. Usually we don’t realize it when we’re doing them, but when time passes by and we’re looking backward, we tend to see them clearly for what they are.

Those mistakes are deeply formative in our characters, as making them make us evolve toward a greater human being. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb said, those mistakes are making us a bit more antifragile, as we’re building on them or rather, because of them. They are easy to identify when you’re a bit distanced from them, as they usually pack a lot of regrets. You wish you had taken another decision, another path, acted differently, … But when you look how you acted after those mistakes, you also realize that you learned a lot, you’re not making the same mistake.

Looking back, I’m able to count three major mistakes in my life. The first one was hurting someone I really loved through acts I deeply regretted. It took me 2 years to gain forgiveness from the other person, but 5 years to forgive myself. This mistake forever changed the way I envision and act into all my relationships since then, in a better way. It also made me gain a best friend and someone I don’t want to lose at all in my life.

The second was taking some distance from a friend as I felt it could endanger my relationship. Two years after I had the chance to make amend, talk with him and explain why I reacted this way and how stupid I was. Three days ago, this friend died. This mistake taught me to always be open about what you’re feeling and thinking but also, the hard way, that the people in our lives don’t last forever and that we have to act on our problem as soon as possible, when we still have the chance to.

The third one was both personal and professional as I let my ego get in the way and cloud my judgment, taking a non calculated risk that almost destroyed a lot of my relationships and career path. This mistake taught me to not let your ego get in the way and also to always listen to opposite advice. It also teached me to be more careful and consider every possibility before taking a decision. It also teached me to listen to my guts and to refuse something if it doesn’t feel right.

Those three mistakes shaped my personality and the way I’m thinking today by hitting hard on three major aspects of life: love, friendship and work. But I would say I have been “lucky” enough to have the chance to build on them, and to have the chance to make amend to both my ex lover and my friend before it was too late. Talking with a lot of people, I realized that everybody didn’t had this chance in their life unfortunately. Still those mistakes defined them, shaped their characters in a more profound way than everything else.

So if you have the chance, take a look backward, what are those decisions, those acts that you deeply regret? Can you still act on them and, if another person if involved, ask forgiveness? While those mistakes shape us, we don’t have to let them leave open wounds in our lives, scars are a way to keep the teaching while still healing.