How much can humans change? (part 1)

Driven by all these encouragements to “make your dreams come-true”, “start a business”, “you can change him” or “forget her” affirmations, I started a journey of reading what’s out there in order to answer a big question: “how much can a human really change?”

It seems that our personality has a big importance in this change process. More precisely the sources of a human’s personality are 50% biogenic, 25% sociogenic and 25% idiogenic. The 25% idiogenic is what we can change according to Brian Little.

Let’s clarify first what we can’t change.

The 50% biogenic consist of ancestral inheritance, genetic inheritance, brain structure and functions. It’s obvious you have no power over your genes’ cocktail. It’s whatever mom, dad and the whole genealogic tree have put in your punch glass. It’s also clear the brain functions on its own and there is not much we can do about that either, hormones and chemistry accounted for. What we can do, though, is be aware of these. So, study the features you got from your family just to be aware how much do they weigh in the “Recipe of You”. Perhaps you got your grandpa’s entrepreneurial spirit? Or your dad’s cautiousness? Your mom’s optimism? How many grams of each in the “Recipe of You”?

The ancestral inheritance is also part of these 50%. It’s something all humans have and according to Paul Lawrence is characterized by 4 drives. These drivers kept us alive and…made us the ruling species of this world:

·       the drive to acquire things, properties, status, resources

·       the drive to defend everything listed above and below😊

·       the drive to bond which make us engage, cooperate and want to fit in socially

·       the drive to create a better self, a better world, better work

The drive to own is the strongest and it makes us wired for competitiveness. Have you seen children play nicely and then if you propose a contest and offer some candy they suddenly change into these super competitive mini-monsters as if they never tried candies? Ideally, we don’t want only to OWN stuff, but also to have MORE than others. That’s one of the reasons iPhones sell so well.

The drive to defend is the oldest and it gets activated when we are in danger (or what we own). It triggers the brain fight or flight response. It’s useful in case your house is on fire. It used to be monumental in survival. There is a glitch to it: we don’t need it so much anymore and sometimes it ruins our life, making us super careful, no risk-takers, life-goes-by while I sit on the sofa kind of people.

The drive to bond is how we started to reproduce, have sex, make kids. It is a primal instinct which nowadays is visible in a more “elevated” version of cooperation and communication. But still, we care a lot about what people think of us because who knows…we might just be kicked out of the village and end up as food for the wild animals. Even though the context has changed, we are still the slaves of “what would the others say if…?” (fill-in the dots with anything embarrassing that doesn’t make us feel special enough to fit in with the awesome group we want to be part of).

The drive to create is what makes us ask “what is this?” or “how does this work?”. Is that innate curiosity that children torture their parents with, daily. It’s also the hunger for knowledge that drives our hunger for perfection. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it can become an obsession. It also helps us predict the results of a certain decision we might make. And I would add that it’s what brought us to invent so many devices and machines that make our life easier.

The drives to bond and create are exclusively human. They helped us build an empire on Earth. The drives to acquire and defend are the ones that could start wars. For being a good leader, you need all 4 in balanced proportions.

About the 25% sociogenic and the 25% idiogenic that compose our personality…next time. Stay tuned 😉


1.  Personality- What Makes You the Way You Are – by Daniel Nettle

2.  Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, by Brian Little

3. Driven: How Human Nature Shapes our Choices - by Paul R. Lawrence

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How much can humans change? (part 2)

The big question has an answer. About 25% of personality “composition” can be changed – the idiogenic one. The major chunk of 50% is the biogenic element and that is solid as a rock – you can read about it in the first part of this article. The other 25% is the sociogenic element and I am going to elaborate on it.

The 25% sociogenic slice of our personality is composed of:

-       Close people – we were raised by or around, their love, personal values, what they taught us without knowing they are teaching or consciously.

-       Environment – the type of school, the friends we made, the neighbor’s daughter we played when we were kids, the food we had, the clothes we used to wear and so on.

-       The “big picture” – the country we lived in, the climate, the culture, the religion and any other cultural or geographic specific features.

In one phrase, the 25% sociogenic slice comprises all the behaviors that are learned from socializing and from the cultural norms and expectations that we absorb from the environment in which we lived until ~16 years old.

Based on this, psychologists have created “the Big Five personality tests”. There are many versions of this, but the common ground is that there are 5 personality traits:

·       Openness to experience – is related to how much you want to know and experience, how curious and creative you are. Your hunger to meet new people, see new places and express in original ways. How artistic and investigative you are. Or not so much.

·       Conscientiousness – the ability to control impulses, to set a goal, stick to a plan. It’s described by how much of a hard-working person you are, how dedicated you are and how much self-discipline you have. It reflects in how much you like to follow rules or… how much you like to improvise.

·       Extraversion – how much energy an enthusiasm you put in what you do, how sociable, confident and ambitious you are. How much you are affected by what you see versus what you think. How sociable and adventurous you are…or not so much.

·       Agreeableness – how much do you value others, how much you prefer to cooperate, and can you empathize with people. Do you forgive easily, are you a warm and kind person, or…not that much.

·       Neuroticism – emotional stability (mood, self-consciousness etc) versus fear of risk, unsafety, anxiety, nervousness or depression.

These are measured in tests sometimes when you give an interview for a job. The values are supposedly quite stable after ~16 years old. So this goes into the 25% sociogenic part of you and it basically implies that:

1.     Your personality will influence your decisions, consciously or not. And it’s ideal to increase your self-awareness so that it happens consciously often.

2.     Your openness will influence the amount of power you have over your own life. The more opened you are, the bigger chance to get what you want in life.

3.     Your childhood events, people, places can affect your personality

4.     Your emotional stability will influence your reaction to stress and need to have control. These, in turn, will influence your decisions and how your life plans turn out.

You can choose what behaviors you display, how you communicate with others, you can learn to control your personality traits once you know yourself very well, but you can’t change your personality. Therefore, these 25% are considered unchangeable.

Finally, we got to the 25% idiogenic part of us. The part we can change!

The idiogenic consists of reasons, plans, goals, hopes and commitments, as well as personal projects you undertake day by day. All these are changeable. It might not sound like much, but it can be a lot if change is important for you!

PS: about how to make change happen…I will write next week 😊


1.     Personality- What Makes You the Way You Are – by Daniel Nettle

2.     Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, by Brian Little

3.     Driven: How Human Nature Shapes our Choices - by Paul R. Lawrence

Talent, Passion and Drive - how to make it happen in 2018

I believe that the formula for success is to find the intersection where talent, passion and drive meet in your life.


Talent doesn’t exist without practice. It is actually a unique mix of characteristics that are contoured due to the interaction of a person’s genes with the external environment. Depending in which ways you interact with the external environment and which hooks tag to your mind and body, genes start to express, cells transform and a unique mix of characteristics is construed. A new characteristic can surface at a later age, thus changing the overall mix, or the so-called talent at whatever moment in life.

If complete isolation from external hooks and triggers would be possible, your talent would be a cake powder mix in a package that would never get opened. You will not even know what the ingredients of the package are, just like you can’t know the characteristics that form your unique talent mix, unless you put yourself out there. Dare to explore, be opened to new experiences and you will be more prone to discover new characteristics that will make your talent “richer” in ingredients.

The beauty in this phenomenon is that the more you expose yourself to different environments, the more characteristics might come up – it’s like gold digging. You might wonder how you can know that you found gold. A sparkly characteristic is the one you are better at than other people, like skiing or doing calculus faster, or writing better emails, your drawings get more compliments, cupcakes are delicious etc. Once discovered you need to nurture it: to learn from feedback, to practice it deliberately so that it sharpens.

Deliberate practice is the process through which you practice a skill or character trait, in a stage-by-stage mode, reflecting on what you learn from every step and improving continuously. You can develop characteristics and skills through deliberate practice weather you have a knack for them or not. For example, anyone can learn to play the violin. If the “violin playing” characteristic was meant to be on the ingredients list of your talent mix anyway, it means it will come much easier to you to play and you will be about at least 50-70%[1] better than other violin players, thanks to the magic of your “violin gene” once surfaced in your unique talent mix of characteristics. Through hard work other violin players can surpass you, but if you work as hard as them, they will never catch up.

Talent plus deliberate practice, with a good coach, can get you very far. Since Malcolm Gladwell said in his book “Outliers” that 10 years of deliberate practice can make you an expert in your work field, research has shown that can be fewer or more years depending on your talent. This could be one of the reasons why many education or psychology authors encourage people do discover their talent, because it could mean an easier road to success and possibly reaching it in less than 10 years.


If you are doing something you like, you will want to do more of it. It’s brain chemistry: dopamine flooding in, feeling pleasure, wanting more, fears disappear. Most of the time we love doing something that we are successful at, or in other words, something we have talent for and we run away from activities that trigger our fear of failure or ridicule etc. So you will keep doing something you are good at and it becomes a passion or a hobby. You will love learning about it and getting better at it…as long as dopamine keeps coming.

The beauty of passion is that it fuels itself. The ugliness of it is that you can’t discover what you are passionate about until you try many, many things. Curiosity has a major role in your discovery journey. If you have been encouraged to ask “why” and then to go find out, since you were little and there was no stupid teacher to tame you or cranky boss to intimidate you, then “curiosity” will stick to you until the end of your days. I read once about an 80 years old lady starting university, not that’s what I call a passionate person.


Randy Komisar in “The Monk and the Riddle” explains the difference between passion and drive: passion comes from the inside and attracts you towards something you desire (like playing the piano because you love it even if it’s not well paid). Drive is about outside expectations, social pressure and company comp and ben. Drive is the determination to get things done, to constantly look for a solution to make things happen, whether you enjoy it or not. It’s actually a very sought after characteristic by employers.

For example, you might discover a characteristic or skill you are good at, but you are not particularly passionate about, like “written communication” when you are more of an outdoor-job kind of person. So you will not practice this skill. But what if the company you work for says you will get a 20% raise if you do some paperwork besides your current job? This would entitle using “written communication” skills, something you are good at and don’t like, but if you do it, you will be more appreciated and earn more. If you got “drive”, most probably you will say “yes”.

What’s wrong about drive? Nothing, just that it refuels only if there is some sort of external reward, while passion will never hit the bottom of the fuel tank.


Imagine how would it be to be passionate about something and also to be determined to make things happen, to persist no matter what? Like having unlimited stamina in a video game? According to Angela Lee Duckworth[2] passion plus drive equals grit and grit is the key to success. Now that you know the magic formula go find a witch to make a potion of it! The sad part is that there is no potion, no answer about how grit is built.


The million dollar question is: “What are you AWESOME at?”

Conclusions: You can’t discover your talent (unique mix of characteristics) or what you are passionate about if you are not curious and brave to go out and try the “new”. Passion and drive are different and together are called grit, which is the key to success. Talent without grit is like an untamed stallion – precious and worthless in the same time – you need tons of deliberate practice to make it profitable.

And a bit of self promotion: here is a planner I designed, that you can use to make things happen in 2018:

[1] David Z Hambrick discovered that deliberate practice is responsible for 30% of the differences in performance ratings in chess and music. For the rest of 70% there is no explanation yet. So could this 70% or a part of it, be blamed on a unique characteristics mix a.k.a talent?

[2] Angela’s TED talk:

7 Planning Myths to Kill

Let’s be honest! You can do everything you plan, when you plan it, only if you know yourself very well, have done that task before and know how long it takes and the last but not the least, you are comfortable to ask for help when needed.

To make planning work for you, you’ve got to know and demolish these myths:

1.    “I can memorize what I want to do, no need to plan it.”

If you have a mid-long-term plan written down you will feel that your life has more meaning. This will bring you clarity, increase your self-esteem and improve your wellbeing. It doesn’t matter if your plan happens or not. According to a study published in the Applied Research in Quality Life journal (2010), just the planning and anticipation of a holiday can make you happier than the actual vacation. Why wouldn’t this be applicable for life design, too? Wouldn’t you feel better in your own life if you plan it a little bit? Don’t worry, you can still live 100% in the present, be spontaneous and agile like a puma if you have a plan in the corner drawer.

2.    “If I make a plan, I will be more productive.”

Planning is about making things happen. Productivity is about prioritizing and making the important things materialize the way they should. To be productive sometimes you might need to leave projects unfinished, give up on a plan etc. Detach and move on if productivity is your goal. The reverse also fits: if you stick to the plan because the final goal is important, even if you are not productive, if the plan is good, you will reach the goal. In fewer words, like Edison, you might discover 1000 ways in which a plan doesn’t make you more productive. Sometimes what you need, is perseverance. And productivity is just white noise.

3.    “If I have a plan, I will definitely have results.” Or the reverse “why plan because it doesn’t work anyways.”

A plan is like a map. To get from A to B you need action. You need to start the journey and stay on the road. It doesn’t matter that it will take 10 days instead of 5, it’s important to dare and do it. Each step forward will charge your batteries to make another step and then one more. If you just hung the map on the wall and you see a dot labeled “Paris”, each day, it doesn’t mean that you also SAW Paris. “Plans don’t work unless you do.”

4.    “I can’t tell you my dreams because then they won’t come true anymore.” 

I think dreams can be split in 2 categories: the “keep me secret” ones and the “share me now” ones. The “keep me secret” need to be kept inside your head. They need to grow and clarify. You need to fall in love with them first and get some butterflies. With that love and the energy they generate, you will feel ready to share them on. The “share me now” type are the ones that can’t come true without the help of others. They need to become viral first and the more you share them, the more attractive they become to other people, the bigger the chances to become real. For the “keep me secret” you need to make a clarification plan. For the “share me now” you need to make a PR plan.

5.    “The more I plan, the better the results”.

There is no clear connection between the time spent on planning and the quality of the results a plan will have. Because between “plan” and “results” there is a second step: ACTION – very important one! Planning, action and results require 3 different sets of skills. Make sure you don’t plague your life with “paralysis by analysis”. Your final goal is not to become a planning expert after all (unless this is your job), but to achieve results from the actions you plan and implement.

6.    “My plans just gather dust.”

If your thinking was too complex when you made those plans, yes, it’s very possible that you won’t feel motivated to implement them. A plan needs to be useful, simple and actionable. Make it “accomplishable” to fit your strengths and skills with a cherry on top.

7.    “If you planned, stick to your plan.”

Nope. It’s useful to know where you see yourself in 10 years or in 5 years. It’s good to have a target and think of at least 3 ways to hit the bullseye. To make a plan for the next year, detail down the next 6 months. There are many paths you can take to reach the same target. On the road you can meet obstacles beyond what you could predict at the beginning. So, be opened to “route recalculation” whenever it’s necessary. 

Unbecome a serial learning quitter!

Learn new stuff! 3 things to do and my #20days story

The wish to learn something new is driven by need or curiosity. It’s also good for your brain to keep it young, but I know very few people who learn something new because of that.

Let’s say it’s need that drives you. Your journey won’t be easy. You do it because you have to. If you are lucky to enjoy it after a while, then you will learn more and get better at it faster. Otherwise it might become a very difficult journey and not pleasant at all. But because you have to, there is a bigger chance you might finish it. Get that certificate of completion, know how to carve wood or become a master in SCRUM.

What drives your learning keeps you going when the road gets tough.

If curiosity drives you, the learning journey will be very exciting at the beginning. Then as the learning curve gets steeper, the more dull it gets. The bigger the chance to quit.

Read the entire article here:

Best planning tool? Whatever works for you!

This article is about „what works for me”. It’s subjective. It might not work for you. To find something that works, you need to experiment and explore more options and give them time. So, beyond the story below, my message is: Find whatever works for you!

I have always loved planning. In the past 20 years I tried many tools and I think I found what works for me. When I say what works, I really mean that. There was a time when planning took more of my life than doing. My plan didn’t work for me, I worked for the plan. I dreamed more about the future than living in the present. So, I changed the tools I use and I am opened to try out new tricks, apps and methods, because whatever works now, might not work next year. I could write a whole book about the planning experiments I did in the past.

This year I use 5 tools: Google Calendar, my DareDo Planner, Samsung health app, Google Keep and Pintrest.

1.    Google calendar – the overview place. At the end of the day I record here what I spent my time on and make a sketch of the next day. For me, it’s the best way to calculate how many hours I invested in a project during the last 3 months for example. Or I could calculate how many hours I worked, in total in 2017, for a specific account. I could also check how many hours I slept in the last 6 months. I keep this calendar completely private, so am 100% comfortable to write in it any quirky thing. When I need to share the google calendar with someone, I share the one from work. I will save meetings in both, because the personal one is by “big blueprint”.

2.    The DareDo planner – designed by me for daily use in printed format. I use it for monthly, weekly and daily planning. I love handwriting, plus, I can’t avoid a physical planner sitting on my desk as easy as I can close an app. I use color codes for the tasks I do, for those I don’t do, for those I move/delay/postpone. I use a special color for “huge rocks” (the tasks that get postponed so many times) to see clearly how much I procrastinate. If I move them 3-5 times, it’s clear I need to delegate them or just to renounce, but anyway, after 5 “moves”, I close the loop. The DareDo Planner is my minion – I make it work for me to free my time. I track habits here, too: water (because otherwise I wouldn’t drink any), reading & writing and sports. A big satisfaction from the DareDo Planner comes from the fact that I have a clear monthly overview on 2 x A5 (which in google calendar is difficult to get). Plus, writing by hand gives me a unique feeling of centering. It’s like mindfulness in colored pens. The stuff that got done from the DareDo Planner, and only it, gets written in the google calendar.

3.    Samsung health app – I use it to track how many hours of sleep I get each night (plus time-frames). It gets recorded automatically. I keep my mobile with me to track my steps. I have a target of number of steps I try to reach at least 4/7 days a week. I also add my weight there every morning. I am not obsessed about it, but to stick to a +/- 1kg interval, I need to be aware of it because my body stores everything it catches.

4.    Google keep– I use it to jot down ideas, shopping lists, links to books or articles that I want to keep for later. Whenever an idea comes into my life, I write it there and let it sit. If I come back to it and add more details, it’s "virus idea" and it means I should take it seriously. Then, periodically, I open Google Keep on my laptop and copy all those virus-like ideas into a different tool and take things from a “sketch” level to the next level.

5.    Pinterest– I use it for “visual boards”. I collect pinned images on a certain topic to have things more visual. This is where many dots appear like stars on the sky and then I connect them on a board or into a workshop, article, drawing. 

If you want to read more about planning, you can checkout my previous article, too 🙂