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Raul Mazilu - 5 lessons on exploration | People of Justice 2022 Timișoara

Author: Raul Mazilu

I will be the one who will talk about getting a bit of justice for yourself, too, about offering yourself the peace to look for and find out who you are and what you're doing, in order to be able to act upon the world. In a show with numerous moments about justice in society, I will be the one who will talk about getting a bit of justice for yourself, too, about offering yourself the peace to look for and find out who you are and what you're doing, in order to be able to act upon the world. What makes me different from others is my relentless quest to live a structured life. In a nutshell, I like to make lists. Then, I make lists of lists. And, afterwards, of course, tables because the long lists cannot be filtered or grouped by category. But we don't stop here, because there's an entire world beyond tables. If we link the tables to each other, we obtain databases. From then on, there's one more step left until you get to diagrams and dashboards. Why do I do all this? Why would someone voluntarily choose to organise seemingly trivial aspects of their lives so thoroughly?

Well, I have two sets of answers: the need for control, the fear of failure, and procrastination. The enthusiasm to start something, the hope to succeed, and because it's fun. It's been 12 years, since, on paper or through digital apps, I started taking notes, keeping track and structuring parts of my life. Today, I'd like to share five lessons I've learned with you in this journey. Lesson number one: Stop looking for your passion.

The signs that I was lost were visible from school. After a few years of programming and national IT contests, I suddenly lost my interest and I gravitated towards English and French contests. When I had to choose a BA program, I was hesitating between IT and law.

The first one was the rational choice, due to the potential financial gain. However, Law had the charm of new challenges in learning. I went to both for three weeks before settling for Law, because it blended research and critical thinking, argumentative writing, rhetoric. However, after law school, I changed my job almost every year and, occasionally, even my field: justice, banking, event photography and, now, tech entrepreneurship.

This journey of many beginnings was filled with the joy of constantly learning something new, with the opportunity to reinvent myself, but also with the fear that I should have already found my passion, my purpose in life. However, the idea that passion is a gift that's already wrapped, only waiting to be discovered, is a myth. In reality, first of all, we have an interest in a field which we then cultivate through our effort and curiosity to obtain expertise. Passion only comes afterwards, for example, in the shape of the desire to excel. So, don't be scared if you haven't found your North Star yet.

On the other hand, explore those occasions of accelerated learning that get you out of your comfort zone because those are the material that ignites the fire of passion. Lesson number two. Don't form habits. Instead, change your identity. I love to begin new habits because, in that first moment, anything is possible. That's what I felt in the summer of 2013, when I decided to meditate every day. After considerable effort, I built the perfect system to keep track of multiple metrics after each sessions: the number of minutes, the starting hour, the type of meditation, my state of mind before and after the session. But, after the sixth day, my inner will reservoir was already empty. I stopped meditating, I didn't even record the failure in the app. I would routinely read an article about the benefits of meditation and that would ignite my enthusiasm again, followed swiftly by a disgraceful failure. It took a long time before I saw these recurring failures with compassion towards myself, not judgment.

The revelation came when I stopped forming new habits and I started to cultivate a new identity. Exercising was no longer an activity that I would do to tick the box on my to-do list, but I became the kind of person that goes jogging every few days. Now, exercising is no longer an external activity, but is integrated in the interior narrative about who I am. And the periods without exercise no longer scare me because they no longer represent a failure in the forming of a habit. Instead, they're only natural pauses between the songs of an album. Lesson number three. The purpose is not organizing in itself. Sometimes, when we're involved in a long-term process, we start to act out of inertia and forget about the whys. I fell many times into this trap in my attempt to organize the articles I wanted to read online.

Of course, over time, I've built all sorts of systems to collect the things I wanted to read, to see, to listen to. However, sooner or later, all the systems became impossible to keep up. I think we have two options: we remain caught up in the fantasy that we'll be able to put everything in order in the future and never leave a piece unlabelled or we accept that this is an unrealistic expectation for any human being. The beauty is that, when you give up on asking this impossible level of organising from yourself, you feel free. Free to do as much as you can with the resources you have right now. And that's enough. Lesson number four. Stop seeing everything in black and white.

When I was a photographer, I would often live in this paradigm of the extreme, believing that some photos are exceptional and others are a waste of storage on the memory card. I was wrong in both ways because most of them were simply of an average quality. Moreover, the last years of entrepreneurship have taught me that there's a very large range of shades of grey. For example: between the launch of a new product and the development of an existing product there isn't necessarily a right and a wrong choice. On the other hand, everything depends on your objectives, such as the opening of a new market segment or increasing the satisfaction of existing clients. Each option has a greater or a lesser probability of achieving the objectives. So, give up the psychological comfort of labelling your decisions as right or wrong.

On the other hand, look at them with courage in all their complexity and their uncertainty. Lesson number five. The best decisions start in writing. When we encounter an injustice, we look for help in the courtroom, in order to bring light over the issue. The judge is the one who achieves justice. But, if we're the plaintiff, the defendant and the judge at the same time, how can we reach a verdict? And, then, how can we come to terms with the decisions? In search for an answer to these questions, I've been experimenting with three mechanisms of deciding. The first is instinctual: it allowed me to choose spontaneously, without pondering at all. The result? A part of me felt pushed away, ignored. At night, thoughts such as What if?... haunted me. I would suppress them a few days later through coping mechanisms that were more or less healthy. The second one was rational: it allowed me to analyse more. I didn't jump into a decision, instead I made a list of for and against arguments. The result? I felt I had more clarity when it came to the implications of each option. For a while, though, I lived with the low-level anxiety that maybe I didn't optimise the decision enough.

In the end, I came up with the third mechanism: the harmonious one, in which I use a decision journal. This is how it works for me. I start by introspecting and I write all my thoughts about a subject on a piece of paper, as they appear and disappear like waves on the surface of the mind, the so-called stream of consciousness.

Now that my mind is freed from the emotional complexity of the issue, I answer using a short form with questions, such as: What are my options? What are the factors influencing the situation? What are the possible results? What option do I choose and what result do I expect from it? Six months later, or whenever I remember about it, I revisit the decision journal and evaluate how things went. This process has taught me to listen to the emotions behind my thoughts more and to successfully navigate through the cognitive biases that are hidden at every step of the way. I wanted them to be five lessons, because that's how I'm structured.

But a list doesn't mean certainty. It only offers the illusion of expertise and the sensation that we're in control. I feel like I'm doing justice to myself by continuously structuring this process of looking for and creating meaning. But nothing's certain. And that is beautiful.



The People of Justice 2022 shows were produced alongside Decât o Revistă, a team of journalists who believe in the transformational power of stories.

Together with over 1,000 viewers, we imagined what a more just Romania could look like through vulnerability, empathy and the power of example. In each city we brought on stage lawyers, journalists, civic activists and artists whose true stories about justice: how we achieve it, what it means for justice, education, the healthcare system or our cities.



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