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maandag 11 april 2016

Choices: “Should you kill the fat man?”

On Saturday the 6th of February I got a call with the question if I was interested in becoming the trainer of FC Den Bosch. I need to admit that I was completely surprised that I came to mind for this function. The soccer world is small and with all clubs I have worked with, I still remain in good contact. Still, this concrete question put me on a pedestal that caused me a few sleepless nights. I had to make a choice that would define my future.

Making choices is nothing special. Everyone goes through it in the day-to-day life. During the congress on work satisfaction from the brain scientist and publicist Victor Lamme (writer of the book: “Free will does not exist”) explained how decision-making works for a human being. He explained how the brain works when dealing with morale dilemmas. He showed a picture of an approaching unmanned train. There were five people working on the train tracks, who did not see the train approaching. The train would hit them. There is a small bridge crossing the train tracks. On this bridge, there is standing a fat man. The professor gave the people in the room a choice: pushing the man off the bridge would stop the train and save the people working on the train tracks. He asked us to make that choice. Who would push the man off the bridge to stop the train? Only a small amount of the people in the room chose this option, including me. We explained that it did not feel right to kill by our own hand.

After that the professor showed us another picture: the same approaching train, but this time it was approaching a junction. On the left side, one man was working on the train tracks. On the right side, five people were working on the tracks. In this situation the train would go the right side. Using the switch would cause the train to use the left trail. There was no bridge this time we just had to choose if we were to use the switch or not. Almost everyone chose to let the train drive the left trail, killing one man in the process.
The professor explained how odd our choice was. We chose to save five lives, instead of one. Then why didn’t we make the same choice at the first picture?? And why did we make that choice at the second picture?
Rationally, it is the exact same choice: five human lives in exchange for one. And even though the professor knew that, he told us that our choice was not surprising at all. We always think that we have to act rationally in order to make the right decisions. The opposite is true. Our Nucleus Accumbens (front lobe of our brain) is responsible for this mistake. We choose to make decision based on emotions and feelings. The marketing industry makes great use of this knowledge and therefore used images to affect our emotions.

The base for my choices is the supporting arguments, motivation and the feeling it provides. I always ask myself: “What are my reasons for undertaking action?” I need to have at least that straightened out for myself. But even more important are the consequences of the choice. Does the consequence have influence on just you or also on others? In my opinion it is necessary to take responsibility for whatever choice you decide to make. I believe that there are many people that like to make choices on different ranges of subjects, but are not able to take responsibility for the consequences that these decisions cause. Another case is the people that believe that they are not able to make choices, and therefore leave subjects undecided.

After FC Den Bosch had approached me, I had to make a choice: become the new trainer at FC Den Bosch, or continue pursuing a job with a broader perspective in the business world, and society. I had to make a choice.

During the summer of 2015 I was very aware of the situation that I was in. After having been active in the social aid for 16 years and the soccer world for another 16 years, I had a certain amount of freedom in deciding what I was going to do next. I made the deliberate decision to focus on administrative, executive and managerial positions as well in the soccer world, as outside the soccer world.
What stunned me was that the media reported that I had no interest in working in the soccer business ever again. This was never taken in consideration. I did mention that I believed that my time as an active trainer or coach on the field was over. This was based on the fact that most soccer clubs choose to go for the new generation of trainers.

This is why I have been busy following a different path since August 2015 the reach my ideal job: a job where I can work with people and give a meaning to them. Necessary are ambitious people in a dynamic environment and the opportunity for me to have an influence on their way of working. This is needed if a change in long-term planning and vision is desirable. My passion is the development of people in the context of society.
This chosen path was deliberately and consciously deployed. Several people with specific knowledge and experience helped me immensely. They acted as a coach, sparring partner and critic. On their advice I started to change the public image of me that is out there. After all, most people like to see me as “the soccer guy” or sometimes even “the chatty control freak”. The last one often makes me laugh.
And I can tell you: is hard to change this image when dealing with interviewers that like to use the footage to their own advantage! But the fact is that most people only “know” me from TV-interviews or shows and articles in which “I” am being discussed. Of course this forms an image to the outside world that is only controlled by the media.
It came to my attention that most people do not even know who I really am. They do not know what kind of training I received or what I have been up to. Only a few know that the last 16 years I have been active in different kinds of fields and have always been busy with my own social activities and projects.

My choice enhanced the responsibility of putting most of my time and energy in changing the portrait that the media had so “accurately” painted of me. I attended meetings that most people did not expect to see me at, but fascinated me greatly. I gave presentations with many examples from my own social experiences instead of the ones from the soccer business. My blogs are another step in this process. I started to notice something that resembled the snowball process. It started up slowly but started to gain interest and after that offered me one opportunity after the other. The conversations I would have would be on a different tone and people would see through the prejudices. I had the opportunity to shine more light on the actual qualities I had to offer on departments other than the soccer world. This process led to the appreciation of society that I was very much looking for: I was asked to enter a process to become the director of a company.

This was when I received the question of FC Den Bosch: “Do you want to become the head trainer in effect of immediately?” From that moment on I focussed on the discussions with this organisation. I think everyone would understand that this decision was not hard for me.

I made use of the carnival period to talk extensively with FC Den Bosch. But the most important conversations I had at home about the choice that I, we, were about to make. Was I going back into the soccer business and confirm the image that I am “the soccer guy”? Or were I to choose a career in the social business? Would I choose continuity or another short period of a few years with yet another soccer club? Would I choose to work on a strategic level or start on an operational level?
Why did I choose FC Den Bosch? Well.. Brain scientist could have predicted this decision easily. It was emotion. I chose FC Den Bosch because it had something to do with helping a friend. FC Den Bosch has a special place. It was the first soccer club ever where I worked in the paid soccer business. That club offered me so many friendships. FC Den Bosch means something to me. They asked for my help. Refusal wasn’t an option.

I chose for FC Den Bosch, but that does not mean that I set aside my ambition and initiated path. No, the consequence of my choice is that I will continue on two paths. I will put all my time and energy in FC Den Bosch, but continue to develop myself and shape my future career.

In writing about this subject I realized how lucky I am to live in a country and environment where I am free to make my own decisions. Not everyone has the right to do so, which explains the madness of the time we live in today.


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