The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination

“They f*ck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”

From ‘This Be The Verse’

A well-known poem from British poet Philip Larkin. Often cited in parenting books and even been used by judges in high profile divorce cases.

Since becoming a parent I’ve pondered on this poem a lot. I’ve read a ton of research, lots of books and listened to countless interviews and podcasts.

It seems we really do f*ck up our children.

But maybe less so in Denmark.

Childhoods never last. But everyone deserves one.

When our first son was 3 years old we were still in the UK, and the education system expected him to talk better than he could.

They tested him at preschool, fed back and told us to take him to speech therapy.

My wife and I were unsure, for a few days, at what to do.

Our intuition told us he was fine. We understood him, he understood us and he was only 3 years old.

We kept reminding ourselves he had only been on this planet for 3 years.

It can take that long to get seen by a specialist in our national health service.

So we ignored the advice.

“If a child is poor in math but good at tennis, most people would hire a math tutor. I would rather hire a tennis coach.” ~ Deepak Chopra

3 years on he’s not only speaking great English, but he’s also getting by speaking Danish too.

We were right. We gave him space and we took him away from the chaotic test heavy structure of the UK school system.

There is no land like the land of your childhood

Giving children unstructured play is amazing for them.

If you’re over 40, you might remember what that was like?

To have space and time to be bored as a child.

Space that isn’t structured by an adult.

Our son has spent just over a year in Denmark and he’s blossoming like the child we always knew he would be.

In the UK, at 4 years old they put him in a large classroom, gave him homework and made him wear a school uniform.

“Kindergarten, which used to be focused on play, is now an academic training ground for the first grade. Young children are assigned homework even though numerous studies have found it harmful. STEM, standardized testing and active-shooter drills have largely replaced recess, leisurely lunches, art and music.” – New York Times, Kim Brooks

No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship

The Danish Kindergarten where my son is has kept its focus on play.

They coach, mentor and teach. There’s no punishment system, no reward system and no organised timetable.

Their No.1 role is to help children develop and flourish through play and socialising, not how to advance up a league table.

So minimised monitoring and almost zero testing.

It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults

When our son first started at the kindergarten he showed signs of stress. We thought it was all the change in our lives and the new language.

We talked to him over several days and it turned out another child was picking on him.

We talked to the kindergarten who jumped on it right away.

It was a troubled child, someone who’s now a friend of our sons. They coached my son to be confident and express how he felt, and they treated the bully with kindness, not punishment.

Over a number of weeks, my son grew in confidence and the bully grew in empathy. It was win-win, not win-lose.

Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best

Looking at our Danish school choices for next year, we’ve discovered they take into account how a child interacts with others, the relationships they build and how they contribute in the classroom.

It’s not all about test results. It’s about a holistic view of them as a person.

How great is that? Pretty great, it means less f*cked up adults.

“Remember: everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. 9 times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry. It will break your heart.” ~ Annette Breaux

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I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

Now with over 4500 subscribers on LinkedIn, this series is growing, thank you to everyone who’s enjoying and sharing!

Don’t miss a thing and subscribe using your email below, that way you’ll get a notification each week when I publish my latest adventure.

See you next week for Episode 8.

Marcus Purvis leads software engineering teams at Unity Technologies, the realtime development platform of choice for video games, movies and more. He’s also learning to write inspiring content on LinkedInMedium and here at marcuspurvis.com

Originally published as part of LinkedIn newsletters here: Marcus Purvis Newsletters

5 Share Friday 13 Sept 2019

It’s back! After a break for a couple of weeks 5 Share Friday is back in your life. Guaranteed to come with more goodness than a goji berry and more excitement than a bungee jump off a bridge in New Zealand*

*actually more hope than a guarantee 

Quote I’m pondering – “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero.” — Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner.

The quickest path to happiness – In my quest to identify what makes us happy, I’ve found Amy Blaschka has nailed some great questions to ask ourselves. It’s primarily about perspective and you can read it in full here at Forbes.

Sticking with perspective – Seth Godin’s daily blog recently highlighted the importance of perspective with a terrific example: The anatomy of annoying. Here’s a snippet to entice you in and ponder “My biggest takeaway is that the key leap wasn’t in discovering that the sounds came from a radiator. The lesson is that acting like it comes from a radiator completely solves the problem…”

New favourite appNoisli enables me to mix and match my own soundtrack for productivity or relaxing. It’s a noise generator with sounds like rain, thunderstorms, wind, waves, birds and more. I’m finding it’s helping create an environment where I can focus no matter what’s going on around me. It also works offline so no internet required. Try it and see! (Free sounds via the website, small fee for the app)

Book I’m reading – My wife gifted me a book a few weeks ago. She randomly found it and instantly knew I’d want to read it. What’s it about? Well the title of the book says it all and I’ll say this, if you like Sonic the hedgehog and the Beatles this is definitely for you: Sonic the Hedgehog and The Beatles: A Comparative Analysis of the Games and Music


I hope you have a fantastic weekend doing the things you enjoy with the people you love.

Missed last weeks 5 Share? Find it here.

If you like this 5 share, please share with others. You can also get notified by email every Friday, simply sign up using the signup box on this page.

You’re always with yourself, so enjoy the company

“Listen to that, it’s sick! I’m gonna have one before I’m 30 to prove I did something with my life”

Said one teenager to another.

I was walking in London, from Whitechapel to Shoreditch.

Two teenagers were in front of me while a red Ferrari braked for the traffic lights. It then sat there revving its engine so everyone could notice and appreciate how awesome the driver was.

There’s no point showing off when there’s no-one to impress

It was a stark reminder of cultural differences between the UK and Denmark.

Differences such as confidence. Where in one culture your confidence comes from how others perceive you, and the other from how you perceive you.

I’ve been back in the UK this week, staying in Shoreditch for a work event.

Wow, I’d never really noticed how much we Brits seek validation from others (even those we don’t know or care about).

The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence

As a teenager, I wore second-hand clothing, read Batman comics and wrote BASIC on my Commodore Vic20.

None of those were accepted as cool choices in society back then.

And my confidence and self-esteem lowered continually over time.

It’s different for Danish kids. They’re happy with themselves.

When I first arrived in Denmark I mistakenly thought they weren’t an ambitious nation.

Yet I’ve discovered that Danes are ambitious, they just don’t like to show their ambition.

Ambition is enthusiasm with a purpose

Danes like to succeed, though not in public.

There are virtually no taboo lifestyles, meaning there’s no right or wrong life.

They can choose the life that fits them, the one they want for themselves.

Not the one society says they should have.

When I see a person, I see a person – not a rank, not a job, not a class

My son is in Kindergarten, and even at his young age it’s clear to see that Danes are taught no matter what their skills are, they are important to society.

As they mature into students, they learn and accept that those who are great at science are not considered more valuable than those who are great at knitting or cooking.

Isn’t that awesome?

(the correct answer is yes!)

“The main purpose of Danish education is to help students develop individual personalities…” – Malene Rydahl

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it

I feel just as successful in Denmark as I did in the UK.

But I have no car, I don’t own a house, and my clothes don’t have expensive labels.

The measure of success is different.

Also, the world accepts geeks as cool now, that might be helping.

I hope you’re living the life you want to live. Not the life society or others want you to live.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been” – George Eliot
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I hope you enjoyed episode 6 of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

Don’t miss a thing and subscribe using your email below, that way you’ll get a notification each week when I publish my latest adventure.

See you next week for Episode 7.

Marcus Purvis leads software engineering teams at Unity Technologies, the realtime development platform of choice for video games, movies and more. He’s also learning to write inspiring content on LinkedInMedium and here at marcuspurvis.com

Originally published as part of LinkedIn newsletters here: Marcus Purvis Newsletters

Our happiness Experiment

“There must be some mistake?” I exclaimed

I’d just been handed the bill to our first family meal at a Danish restaurant.

It was 30% more than than a meal out in the UK would have been.

Yikes! Had we entered a Michelin star restaurant and not realised?

The food was delicious, but not that delicious…

We’d also been served with more than a teaspoons worth of food…

No, we were in Sticks’n’Sushi, a chain restaurant famous for its tasty sushi, not famous for any kind of Michelin star.

A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money

Moving to Denmark is the biggest financial risk I’ve ever taken.

I like to have F-you money, which means putting away as much of my takehome income as I possibly can each year (into Vanguard index funds).

For those who haven’t heard of F-you money, it’s the type of money that buys freedom. Freedom to do what you want and to work for who you respect. That’s why it’s called F-you money (f*ck you money).

We’ve lived a modest, happy lifestyle in order to do this.

But the cost of living in Denmark is between 25 and 30% more than in the UK.

So, for now, it’s goodbye F-you fund…

Yes, it’s true, Denmark is an expensive place. Cost of living websites such as Numbeo are great for anyone who’s considering living in another country.

For Denmark, they currently highlight the below:


Source Numbeo.com

So we have no money left at the end of each month.

Yet our life is more peaceful & happy since moving to Denmark.

How is that?

It’s not as crowded here, and although Copenhagen is like many cities, with its large corporations and highly competitive jobs, it’s relatively quiet, I like quiet.

Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow

Danes have no need to worry about the cost of utility providers, as much of it is controlled by the government (to ensure fairness).

They don’t have to worry about losing their job, as they get looked after by the government while they look for a new one.

They have no need to concern themselves with hospital bills and healthcare, as it’s all provided for free.

Saving for retirement isn’t a worry, as the government ensures you’re looked after when elderly and no longer working.

Happiness is the ultimate currency

I’m British, so it’s easy to judge and think I’m easily tricked by a poster on the side of a bus…

But I’ve learned first hand that money isn’t everything.

What Denmark has given me is a lesson in happiness.

So we’re on what we call our happiness experiment. How long it’ll last we don’t know.

What I do know is, I won’t be saying F-you to my employer anytime soon.

I’m happy, so I don’t need to…

Plus I haven’t added to my F-you money in a year so it’s not ready yet…

“If you want to be happy, be.” Leo Tolstoy

 

I hope you enjoyed episode 5 of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

Don’t miss a thing and subscribe using your email below, that way you’ll get a notification each week when I publish my latest adventure.

See you next week for Episode 6.

Marcus Purvis leads software engineering teams at Unity Technologies, the realtime development platform of choice for video games, movies and more. He’s also learning to write inspiring content on LinkedInMedium and here at marcuspurvis.com

Originally published as part of LinkedIn newsletters here: Marcus Purvis Newsletters