#Human Courage: Jannelieke Aalstein

#HumanCourage: Jannelieke Aalstein

Human courage // posted 25-01-2022

Jannelieke is authentic and hardworking; she stays true to herself. She likes solving complex issues together with others because she knows it gives richer solutions. We invited Jannelieke for an interview because her leadership style forms the basis of positive change. To mobilise and encourage others. Ask for help. Be vulnerable. Collaborate. Celebrate. In other words, be human. If we tap into our own humanness, we can create a better future for all. 

Who are you without your business card?
I actually never use my business card. I think clear and well-thought through opinions, discussions and missions are important; and they are not determined by your job title. I like mobilising people and influencing situations to create change for the better, without calling myself a change or impact maker. I learnt how to create positive change at a young age, because my parents used to say: When you notice something you disapprove of, don’t just sit and criticise. Use it to alter how you do things. Although we all endure difficult, complex situations, I never forget to try and discover the silver lining and act on that. Because life’s a party and you can always make a difference. 

What wrongs are you committed to solve?
Both small and big. It might sound Calvinistic, but my mum used to say: it’s not your merit that you’ve been born in this house. This covers a large part of my personal drive; don’t take opportunities for granted, work hard, share when possible. I’m surrounded by supportive and safe net of family and friends, a space with a lot of opportunities. Yet, that’s not the case for everyone. 

Becoming aware of this has increased the pressure to give back to society. If I can’t, how could someone without all these opportunities be successful? During the rough patches I’ve been through, I was surrounded by a support network. And I want to be and provide that for others. 

What would be your advice for someone who doesn’t have the network?
Here in the Netherlands, there are many organisations providing support to individuals who are afraid to ask for help from their neighbours or friends. Which is one of the results of living in an individualistic society. We think we can or have to make it on our own; that we must work through the bad times on our own. That we must always show strength.

A lifetime ago I got divorced. At first, I thought I had to face this by myself; to fix it on my own. But once I started letting people know that I was sad, a wave of compassion came over me. And more importantly: by being open about my challenges, other people felt the space to openly share. It made for stronger, meaningful relationships. I know these people helped me through a difficult period, and yet I sometimes find it difficult to ask for help. Knowing that asking for help is okay, is a big step for growth, connection and entering new networks.

What makes you happy?
The little things. Like last week I was driving in my car and suddenly, I saw two rainbows. When does that ever happen? I also love inviting friends and family round for drinks or dinner. I set the table, cook, and enjoy being surrounded by people I care about. 

Another important thing for me is the element of surprise; I love the surprises of life. If a friend calls and says they’re going on a trip next week, and then asks me to join, then I always say I’d love to. Don’t overthink everything in life; just follow your gut feeling because it’ll make you smile. One time I said yes and found myself in Australia for four weeks. 

How do you fit these things into your professional life?
At work I want to get to know my colleagues beyond ‘just colleagues’; I want to know what makes them tick and what’s important to them. We’ve organised lunches before where everyone brings their favourite dish. It’s a great conversation starter. When it’s busy or chaotic, I try to show my appreciation by sending thank you cards to colleagues. Small personal gestures do matter.

The element of surprise is also key to my professional life. I’m at my best when I can’t predict precisely, what’s going to happen. I must stay focused, listen carefully, think before I act and react quickly; I like that. A few weeks ago, I moderated a lecture. They forgot to send me the lecture beforehand to prepare. It made me a bit nervous, but at the same time more focused and ‘in the moment’. Trust my knowledge and skills, be in the moment and don’t over prepare, works well for me.

Your dad once said something that stuck, can you tell us more?
Every family has its own routines and traditions. We watched the daily 8 o’clock news and my parents would ask which issue I would want to solve and how I would do that if I were in charge. They would then ask who I would invite to help me, to make a positive difference. This influenced how I look at issues today. I developed a coping mechanism of thinking in possibilities, solutions and partnerships. So, I’m not easily discouraged and always try to connect and ‘fix’.

If you were the boss of the world, what would you solve and with whom?
There is a lot, but right now I would fight to have the global population vaccinated. I simply don’t understand how some people think ‘we in Europe will be fine’, when other parts of the world are still struggling. We’re interconnected; we need to take care of everyone living on this planet to be COVID-free and happy.

If the three richest people on this Earth would donate 10% of their assets, we would be able to vaccinate the whole global population. It makes we wonder and even a bit mad. If that is the solution, why haven’t they donated their money yet? If I would be the boss of our world, I would end blocking politics and try to help from the heart and soul a bit more.

Can you share a moment you showed human courage?
Courage. A difficult word. When hiring someone in a professional context, I always look for people who are good for the bigger picture. Not just the most logical candidate with the best papers, but someone with a different opinion and background, that can really enrich the team in a certain way. I always choose for the path of development, for myself and my team.

I also think courage is about staying true to yourself. Saying no to things that might seem fitting in the eyes of many, because your gut feeling says something different. Doing what feels right, based on intrinsic drivers. It’s difficult. But I would love it if we would sometimes be able to let go of societal expectations, to stay true to ourselves and be happy with that. 

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