Yep, that is what it's all about:
Human Atomic Composing
This text wants a lot. And it’s just the 17th iteration of my thoughts. If you find something still confusing, not plausible, or unclear, please let me know. And for now: Let’s go.
Once I read a quote that has stuck we me since then. It’s a Jesus analogy, and describes very well, what is going on with us today. It goes something like this: Metaphorically speaking, we all go through some kind of crucifixion, but then an opportunity for rebirth arises. However, we are often too afraid of this initial death that allows for rebirth. As a result, we cling to what we know due to our pursuit of safety. And that probably lets us get stuck where we are, with a desire for the unknown, for an arising doubt, that life must have more to offer. And it creates a personal void.
Safety means mostly a linear way of being as often safe as possible to be who you believe you are. This includes things like money, structure, family, career, status, and education. But it doesn’t necessarily imply valuable attributes like happiness, contentment, fulfillment, joy, perspective, health (physical and mental), and many more. Once we reach a sense of safety or even security, somehow we do not develop so dynamically any longer as before. We stay in what we have created for ourselves, in perfect synch with what society requests. We created our container.
Paradoxically we go on growing in directions but haven’t recognized yet, what lies beyond our container. It happens under the radar of life’s business. As we age, we develop a deeply surprising feeling that “safety/security, or our life in general,” is incomplete. But unfortunately, your context is not providing you with any answers to what arises: “Is this everything? It feels strange. I am not feeling good (any longer) – something needs to be changed”.
That “surprising feeling” happens in my opinion, when we reach the threshold of all things we suppressed within us in favor of living safely in our container. But now the container is full. And we rarely expand. A very pivotal moment. At that point, we mostly feel but don’t know how to change something to fill this void. Welcome to disorientation.
What now? Out of the “comfort zone” into the unknown? Maybe! But our ego will protect the known because, guess what, it’s safe! And secure. The known and your new upcoming desire collide, inner and outer worlds are not in synch for a moment. And this is not easy to handle.
History indicates that there is a path for each individual (within his/her specific context). But why do we find ourselves consistently in this described dilemma? Perhaps it is about how we cultivate our conscious decision-making process early on: When we are born and become self-aware, generally between the ages of 5 and 8, we spend a significant amount of our waking energy simply trying to survive, rather than fully embracing life. Instead, we integrate ourselves into an attractively secure system with plenty of orientation and pathways, we sympathize to walk on.
On a broader spectrum, it is extremely interesting how we try to tackle this self-confrontation. Just look at our current collective human needs and trends: being different, purpose-driven, stability-seeking and so independent at the same time, adventurous, and so subjectively individual. The trend is to be uniquely different from the others, a me-culture with a high frequency of self-actualization, no need for common sense, and instant access to tons of inspiration on how your life could be (i.e. through social media and plenty of self-help books). But this is so contrary to how we conditioned our container (exactly not unique and alone). We encounter existential questions but we receive no well-prepared guidance for better orientation. From whom, when we get more and more fragmented? There is no collective blueprint we can offer to someone who is colliding from his container into his void. It seems each human needs to go through this process, and depending on how you can handle it, it impacts you more or less.
How we tackle this self-confrontation probably does not give us the desired and reliable extension to our container, sadly: Statistics show how we have even become constantly “less”: depression, anxiety, and feeling lonely rates have significantly increased, especially during the pandemic. Some studies suggest that within Europe, the empathy level of each person has decreased by 23% in only 3 years! As a result, we develop various coping mechanisms such as overeating, binge-watching, gaming, pornography, casual dating, lack of connection, attention deficits, difficulties in focusing, ghosting, and many more – a perfect playground for neuro-diverse disorientation with little changes to get, what we all need: validation. Simultaneously we build walls and cave in and keep more distance than ever. Headphones became our best friends. And somehow we lost roots and don’t know how to go on growing. We are a trunk.
Probably less dramatic than it sounds: Aren’t we more than just a systematic prediction of a certain container?
I believe there are two possible pathways for awareness and possible change:
A. A priori: Learning to avoid misery from an early age before it happens (= in our case prophylaxis).
B. A posteriori: Acting differently after the experience and the awakening.
Prophylaxis (A) involves making fundamental adjustments to the system itself. A totally different kind of teaching and preparing for life. However, there are reasons why these adjustments are not taking place, probably to maintain the stability of the system. Just one example: Teaching children about the importance of healthy food in Kindergarten and school. By instilling an awareness of good choices and their implications, we could have a significant impact on our cardiovascular system and reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes or other food-related illnesses later in life. It’s an incredible opportunity to set up our children for a healthier future, but unfortunately, it is not being realized. So we get all the incredibly unreflected chance to slide into something that will cause issues, after which we seem to have a choice between keeping or changing our behavior. So A. is in this case extremely difficult to change from this blog’s perspective. Even though system critics are an extremely awesome topic to write about, it will not be the main focus for Human A/B (yet). It will be B. It’s the more practical cluster, the one where everybody has his/her chance for change after something significant happens. And something needs to happen to reflect on, it seems.
In the sense of B.: I crashed, too. It wasn’t a tragic crash, but it was enough to make me struggle massively. I didn’t understand why I hadn’t anticipated it, and suddenly I felt disoriented. My life had been good, with a loving family, good job prospects, a good education, and even some excitement in sports. But one day, things didn’t feel right anymore.
I chose to ignore this rising feeling and endured, hoping to postpone the realization that one day I would find myself unsure of who I truly am, what I truly want, and what to change to get rid of my discomfort. This resulted in an identity crisis and a mental vacuum, almost unable to make good decisions for my next steps. It’s disheartening to think about all the effort I put into my path until then, “only” to end up somewhere where it didn’t feel right. But as someone with a caregiver personality type, I also realized that I am not alone in this experience. I saw it on friends and family as well. It’s a shared human experience, unfortunately without any resulting action templates that you can give someone to prevent him/her from the same “mistakes”. It’s a frequent pattern. And if there is a pattern, it can be identified and influenced. Perhaps it applies universally, and maybe it counts for everyone. That is, what Human A/B tries to find out.
A change was necessary, I needed new tools that I hadn’t added to my toolbox yet. I became fascinated with topics like biohacking, spirituality, books, sports, and nature. My exploration gene helped me, but I need to say that I became receptible to all these new topics because I needed to confess that my logical operating system had no answers to guide me to a promising destination. The complementary had to lay outside of what I knew. And I am somehow very happy about having this reflected for me. It didn’t happen overnight, it took time to journey through these new topics. Fast forward: Some very essential things needed to change. I truly wanted to discover my core and understand why I had added all these layers to it, and why I had chosen all my cornerstones which guided me to a place I didn’t like.
In the end, I believe that none of us are inherently more or less important or individual than others. It’s simply a matter of which aspects of ourselves are emphasized, creating a perceived “difference” to others. Biologically, physiologically, and mentally, we all operate based on the same rules. We are a collection of shared experiences and expressions built upon our DNA, influenced by our socio-culturally defined Habitus.
Once you understand your sequence, you can trace your old pathways and begin the process of understanding them. Later on, you can change them to create new ones. This framework of thinking has helped me realize that I have more control over my own transformation than I originally believed. It was a moment where the victim mentality ceased to exist. For me, it felt like reverse engineering. This gradual transformation allowed me to evolve into an iterated version of myself. I realized that I needed to embrace discomfort and venture into uncharted territory. The effort required to do so is significant, as it involves seeking personal growth and transformation. We must let go of certain aspects of ourselves in order to become someone different. Together, in this blog, we will explore the journey of self-reconstruction. 😊
Summed up: We begin our lives by simply wanting to survive and by trying to fit into our society. This consumes our attention to the point where we neglect other potential aspects of our journey, often forgetting about them for an extended period. Eventually, we attain a sense of “security”. However, this leads to significant dissatisfaction. It is during this period of reflection that we realize we were never adequately prepared for this phase. There are two possible paths to address this: implementing systematic changes before death and adopting a different approach after you have been reborn.
HAC: Composting yourself
For more than a decade, I worked internationally in digital and marketing agencies of all thinkable sizes and with an insane speed. And in the last 30% of my working career, I became very upset with the thought that what I was doing had no real meaning or purpose, only in digital, tech, and marketing. As a managing strategist, I built frameworks for experiences, behaviors, and user needs, and I always tried to give my teams tools. Sometimes also very unconventional ways. My mission was based on principles and methods to granularly build a “single source of truth,” offering awesome products like complex websites, apps and services based on data. And then it hooked me, and I understood that a lot of trees are a forest and there is beauty: Why not apply my knowledge to something more “true”, building a framework for humans? A map with all favorite places to give inspiration on where to travel, a framework everybody can add elements and shape/inspire their understanding of what could be good for someone? Like a guiding principle of all thinkable and experienced possibilities? Old pathways to get rid of or to be recycled? New ones to reshape your total presence? A collective companion for a more authentic you?
And this is the blog about, the method which I call Human Atomic Composing (HAC). A method to find this one big, overarching pattern. By collecting new and old ingredients to be able to cook many more meals than you propably know. But mostly: Collection all the already existing knowledge, relate it on each other, reading impacts, building neuronal landscapes. To illustrate it with experiments and at the end hopefully inspire you with the mission to inspire you to try new things and find out if they could make a significant difference in your life. To add value. And finally, being in the position of choosing to keep or letting go of something you are not. To become authentic and content with yourself. Being healthy. Without losing your core. Or wasting too much energy against resistentes.
HAC is a theory, a basic patterned methodology in an atomic way. In which to apply new elements (=atoms) to enrichen the pool of options, to be able to create larger contexts and repositioning of yourself to better choose between options (i.e. A or B). To try new things and lose the shame of even trying itself; to accept to be bad in something before it could turn good (=seeking discomfort first). And to understand that sometimes it’s A, and sometimes it’s B. And that you’ve always choices.
Human Atomic Composing?
HAC can be understood as a basic methodology (way) to build a framework (goal). Probably this part will get its own section with some illustrations but for now, I like to describe it.
HAC consists of the three words “Human”, ”Atomic”, and ”Composing”. Behind each word there is an official meaning and an explanation how I take it.
Humans, or homo sapiens (coined by Carl Linnaeus in 1735), are the most widespread species of primates, mainly characterized by the way they move (bipedalism) and their exceptional cognitive skills (since Aristoteles set this focus) due to a large and complex brain. We are highly social and tend to live in complex social structures. We evolved approx. 300.000 years ago from Homo Heidelbergensis in Africa. So all humans belong to the species homo sapiens. This means that in our basic characteristics, we are all the same. Therefore I like to use “Human” in HAC as the absolute totality to which HAC is applicable. Maybe shorter: “Human” opens a context for all humans in all variations, in all contexts with all filters, specialties, differences, etc. because we are all one. And I like to write for all humans and all their shared patterns. Therefore for me, the desired “object” (=human) is a true and wholesome one, because you can’t make graduations in “human”, if you like to look at their most atom existence and how their “atoms” are composed. “Atom” leads us to the next important term used in HAC: Atomic.
It’s easier to explain the noun “Atom” first because everything derives from here: In physics, it’s the smallest particle of matter, that uniquely defines a chemical element. It always consists of a central nucleus which is surrounded by one or more negatively charged electrons. The nucleus by itself is positively charged and contains one or more relatively heavy particles known as protons and neutrons; they are bound to the nucleus by electrical attraction; the number of protons determines the identity of the element. And a simple but very profound take out for HAC is, that atoms are the basic building blocks for matter (we) and that there are fundamental relations because of their polarity. Atomic means relating to power that is produced from the energy released by splitting atoms.
Atoms are the foundation to build everything, but someone transferred these principles into a totally different discipline: design. “Atomic Design” was invented by Brad Frost, a design system consultant. With his transfer work and including visuals the understanding to build things from very small to very big, and that very big things can be demounted to very small things, made the arrangement or composing of building blocks (atoms) very plastic, plausible, and visual. For me, it was a brilliant example to bridge principles from one to another world without losing its core “rule sets”. But what is Atomic design?
“Atomic design is a methodology composed of five distinct stages working together to create interface design systems in a more deliberate and hierarchical manner” (Brad Frost). The five stages of atomic design are:
It’s not necessarily a linear process but you build visual things from the smallest building blocks (atoms) to first, but minor sense full units (molecules), to more complex structures (organisms) until an object (templates), and finally the product (pages). As I explained earlier, bigger things can be also demounted into their building blocks. This means that in later stages of a design, if something turns out as not so cool, you can go backward and update on organism-, molecule- and atoms-level in earlier stages. Once you build this Design System, you have global rules for each element. A change of i.e. a color will have a global impact on all other points where the color (atom) was used. Very solid for maintaining the whole structure.
For HAC I like to change the focus on the stages a little; in my opinion, only the first three ones are of relevance to my approach. I like to stay with the chemical part because it is coherent and doesn’t introduce a “second language” as an add-on. It’s all about our building blocks in attempted totality (atoms) and to what do we arrange them consciously (molecules) without unnatural resistance. Finally, to appear, express, and choose state/mode/presence/behaviors/options, etc. (organism) with an awareness of our achievements/choices and their impact on our life. In the end, Brad Frost pointed it out as well: It is all about modularity. If we understand us humans as a modular construction with eternal opportunities of adding, changing, adapting, rearranging, avoiding, or creating modules, and how we could use this understanding in the HAC-way, it would be very close to my earlier described framework.
The term “composition” originates from the Latin com– “with” and ponere “to place” and means “putting together”, forming something from various things. In visual arts (on which I focus the most in HAC) it means organizing chosen elements according to their context and committed principles/rule sets. For example, classic music is composed and played under the principles of “classic” (specific instruments, specific arrangements, etc.).
The categories or elements for visual design are line, shape, color, space, form, texture, and value. Here you can find certain principles and even suggested rules (i.e. Rule of space or rule of odds) for organizing as well. In the end, my biggest and most simple outtake is “putting something together”. What it is and from which source you take something to generate a pool of “atoms” from which you start to put things together, depends on the context of what you want to put together. Please see here again the example Atomic.
Another methodology: A/B-Testing
But what does the “A/B” in Human A/B mean? Jep, another methodology. It symbolizes the choice between two options, an A or a B. Originally it comes from “A/B-Testing” also known as split testing, a method to test two variations against each other under real-life circumstances. The option with the best feedback will be chosen. An example: I build a web shop and to offer the function “buy” or “add to cart” you use buttons. They can have different shapes, sizes, and colors (keep Atomic Design in mind). If I am not sure about the best option, i.e. if the buttons should be red or green, I test it with users. One user group gets variation A, and the other one variation B. The best-performing variation defines the choice. Why? Because major feedback equals what the users like and a shop is built for the user, for his navigation through the shop; you reduce subjectivity to provide the best possible user experience. This testing is not only important for creating new things, but it is also very well used on already existing products, which need to be updated after a while. i.e. if demands of a marked or from the user’s perspective change, so should the product as well, to maintain attractiveness and relevance. It’s all about iterations.
HAC is for opening up, to create awareness of how we’re all structured and how many hurdles, challenges, and options we have. And that it’s a matter of perspective, attitude, and behavior to change something for yourself if the pain is not endurable any longer. So awareness and pain are needed ingredients on the path forward. The A/B is now the purely practical part of everything. Mostly you already chose something, i.e. a career as a doctor. That’s an A. You don’t get along with what you are doing any longer. What could be the alternative? What is a B? I need to point out, that the alternative, the B, is mostly a derivate of who you are, it is mostly not a big jump between A and B if you break both down to their core elements (molecules and atoms). There are similarities, but the product (A or B) expresses different, brings different things along with, etc. The doctor’s B is a YouTuber with helpful and creative content. Big jump? Phenotypological, maybe. But if you take a closer look, not so much: both imply helping others, making them better, empathic dealing with the client/user, finding out things, the client/user wouldn’t on their own, and the list goes on. But even when both, A or B, is still open, it’s the same; everything is already inside you, and only the expression needs to be chosen. The A/B testing analogy is for encouraging that there is always an alternative and that the activation level to test something against the already known only depends on your suffering, awareness, and effort to go through discomfort (because at least B is something new and not known). But also, if you test two things against each other, you only know what you really like or what you are good at.
A short personal example: I was all my childhood and youth years playing soccer, quite high and good. There was potential. But was it really my thing? With distance, I must say, that after a while it became more a “must” than “oh yeah, let’s go again”. And this feeling stayed for a very long. I started to fall in love with triathlon, my new B. I did both, soccer and triathlon, for quite a while parallel. Until I decided that endurance sports were more mine. And I started to feel really good again. Until now I do not regret or miss playing soccer. It just turned out that the call and the benefits of my B were stronger. So I stayed. And believe me: At the beginning, I was not good at all.
We face more and more difficulties through stress, less resilience, little empathy, no involvement, and several mental struggles, including identity insecurities over the years. We keep our illusion of an already decided/ready form, which we sustain. Until something tells us that something went wrong. It’s not disrupting, but I believe all of these “experiences” follow a system, a pattern we cultivated. And what has a pattern can be sorted. Human Atomic Composing serves to create new awareness and support with a grid/framework of methods and options to get out of your “old” you, to become a master of your own choices. So here we are, to find ingredients and tools to iterate ourselves by seeking discomfort in many realms, backed by the interplay of pragmatic, science-based, experiential, and spiritually influenced concepts. To make new decisions because we allow ourselves more options; here comes A/B into the game. In the end, it’s a chance to understand that there is always an A or a B! And to go out and try, especially the unknown. Have a cool journey!