About André Haspels
André Haspels is the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United States based in Washington, D.C..
Haspels grew up in Uithoorn in the province of Noord-Holland. His father was a flower trader who imported flowers from all over the word, including ferns from Florida. Since he was a young boy, Haspels has always seen flowers, and that’s how he learned about agriculture and trade.
Haspels studied politics at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam. In 1987, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he served in many capacities. In 1997, he became head of the Political Department at the embassy in South Africa (Pretoria), where he was involved in the cooperation between the two nations, among others in the setup of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He later served as ambassador in Vietnam and South Africa and most recently as director general of political affairs in the Hague.
Joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1987 and followed its diplomatic service training program.
Held the following posts:
1988 – 1990 Policy officer, Political and Economic Affairs Section at the embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Writing political reports, maintaining contacts, focus on economy and trade.
1990 – 1992 Press secretary to Minister for European Affairs Piet Dankert, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague
1992 – 1994 Seconded National Expert (SNE) at the European Commission in Brussels, DG 23 (business policy/SMEs). Preparing and implementing partnership programmes for European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) focused on cooperation within the EU and with SMEs in non-member states (e.g. EuroMed partnership).
1994 – 1996 Secondment to the office of the Committee on International Policy/European Affairs at the House of Representatives. Responsible for setting up a monitoring system for new Committee proposals and promoting knowledge and understanding within the Permanent Committee on EU Affairs.
1997 – 2000 Head of the Political Affairs Section at the embassy in Pretoria, South Africa. Responsible for drawing up political reports, maintaining networks and coordinating political partnership programmes (e.g. democratisation projects, Truth and Reconciliation Commission).
2000 – 2005 Head of the External Affairs Division of the European Integration Department (DIE), Ministry of Foreign Affairs. EU external relations (enlargement, association agreements, European development cooperation). Also involved in 2004 Dutch EU Presidency in an implementing role (preparing events, including a ministerial meeting).
2005 – 2008 Ambassador in Hanoi, Vietnam. Bilateral ties between Vietnam and the Netherlands, and embassy management.
2008 – 2009 Director of the Sub‑Saharan Africa Department. Bilateral Africa policy (on politics, security, development cooperation and economic affairs), setting the department’s course.
2009 – 2011 Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation (Plv-DGIS). Setting the Directorate-General’s course, policy adviser to the Minister for Development Cooperation, deputy member of the Ministry’s Senior Management Board. Jointly responsible for staff-related and financial matters within the Directorate-General.
2011 – 2014 Ambassador in Pretoria, South Africa. Bilateral ties between South Africa and the Netherlands (also accredited to Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana).
2014 – 2016 Deputy Director-General for Political Affairs (Plv-DGPZ), helping set the Directorate-General’s course, policy adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, deputy member of the Ministry’s Senior Management Board.
2016-2019 Director-General for Political Affairs (DGPZ), setting the Directorate-General’s course, policy adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, member of the Ministry’s Senior Management Board.
2019-present Ambassador in the United States of America. Bilateral ties between the United States and the Netherlands.
Lesson 1. Set achievable goals 07:56
Lesson 2. Be modest 10:57
Lesson 3. Make others look good (“make them shine”) 13:48
Lesson 4. Give people trust and space 15:31
Lesson 5. Be accountable to yourself and to others 19:11
Lesson 6. The circle of close family is highly important 23:34
Lesson 7. “Never stop learning” 27:39
Lesson 8. Try to enjoy 30:53
Lesson 9. Savor unique experiences 35:11
Lesson 10. Know yourself 40:23
André Haspels – Give people trust and space
[00:00:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello, and welcome to our program. 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn where we talk to businesspeople, journalists, ambassadors, and leaders, and luminaries from all over the world. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands. Happily residing in the grand canyon state of Arizona in the United States, also known as the Dutchman in the desert.
[00:00:32] I hope you will enjoy this program. This podcast is sponsored by PDF the Professional Development Forum. You can learn more about PDF at professionaldevelopmentforum.org. Our guest today is Ambassador André Haspels. Ambassador Haspels is the current ambassador of the kingdom of the Netherlands to the United States of America based in Washington, DC.
[00:00:57] Early in life in the Netherlands, André learned about agriculture and international trade from his father who was actively involved in trading flowers all over the world. Our audience may know that the Netherlands is one of the largest producers and exporters of flowers in the world. In the late 1980s, Mr. Haspels joined the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs, where he served in multiple capacities. He became head of the political department at the Netherlands embassy in South Africa, where among other activities, he was involved in the setup of the south African truth and reconciliation commission. Very important. Mr. Haspels then served as ambassador of the Netherlands to Vietnam and to South Africa and as director general of political affairs with the Dutch government in the city of the Hague, in the the Netherlands. In 2019, he became ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States. And you can learn more about Ambassador André Haspels on our website, 10 lessons learned.com.
[00:02:01] Welcome Mr. Ambassador. Thank you very much for joining us.
[00:02:04] André Haspels: Great to be with you, Siebe.
[00:02:06] Siebe Van Der Zee: Of course, you and I have met before both in Washington and recently in Arizona. It truly is a great honor to have you as a guest on our program, 10 lessons learned. In general, I’m curious, you have had such a global experience and of course now you’re serving as the Dutch Ambassador in Washington, DC since 2019, just in general.
[00:02:31] Do you have any thoughts, observations from this more recent experience over the last three years?
[00:02:37] André Haspels: first of all, if I look back at my time in DC, now I should make a distinction between pre COVID and, during the COVID during the pandemic. Because during the pandemic, theaters were closed, sports matches were not being played.
[00:02:52] There were no concerts. So, life was very much. Different in, in the things that you can enjoy in Washington than, during normal times. So, I’m very happy that we can gradually you, go back again to the museums, to events, to meet with people, obviously again in Washington as well. I think Washington is a great city to live.
[00:03:11] It is green. I’m I like to run and to bike and, the city is great for doing that at the same time. I also realized that Washington is not a United States. So, I always say to people, Washington is a great city, but if you want to get an impression of the United States, you should travel.
[00:03:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: Absolutely.
[00:03:27] And, of course you are traveling quite a bit again, recently. In the grand canyon states. but I can relate to that. And I think, that happens sometimes, especially a large country, like the United States that, there are differences between regions and states in the United States, even though the country is United in that sense.
[00:03:48] But, there are definitely differences. if you think about. Your experience and your global experience, is there perhaps a lesson that you have learned and a lesson that you have learned in life in your career that perhaps you would like to teach yourself assuming that you would be 30 years old today?
[00:04:11] André Haspels: yeah, that’s, I’m, currently 60 years old, so that, and if I hope to be, I hope to become at least 90. So that means that two third of my life going back with one third. I’m interested in philosophy. And one of the, the groups, the philosophers that I follow belong to the group that are called the stoic and, they have principles, principles for life and, four of them, the most important ones are wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.
[00:04:45] And those four, I think. You get more and more when you get older, when you’re 30, you might think that you have them all, but when you’re 60, you realize, that you have learned another 30 years and that you’ve become a bit wiser, maybe a better sense of, justice, maybe a bit more courage, maybe also the importance of moderation.
[00:05:07] So if I was 30, I would’ve liked to have those four lessons from the stoics a bit clearer in mind. But this is where it’s all about. Now in life, you, continue to learn, you feel inspired and every time you take a little step, hopefully in the right direction.
[00:05:26] And I think, you need this years, you need to get older to have. To become better. It’s like wine.
[00:05:37] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. absolutely. I, now I under now I’m kidding. Of course. Yeah. That makes sense. Courageous is one of them I think once you get older, sometimes perhaps you are no longer as actively involved and say, That’ll happen, I don’t have to do anything is, that I don’t see that with you.
[00:05:58] I’m not suggesting that of course, but be courageous. Do you think that’s going to increase over time?
[00:06:04] André Haspels: Yes. I think that increases and I don’t think I have the tendency to say, it’s not my business anymore, or I get older, let the others, arrange it or solve it. for instance, as a youngster, you might be impressed by authority.
[00:06:20] By ministers or heads of state or big business leaders or, important people. But if you meet with them, you realize that they’re normal people as well, that you have to engage with that have their doubts that have their weaknesses that have their strong points. I think you should develop the courage to not see them only as heroes or people that are high above your grade, and that you should be afraid of. You should try to engage with them and try to learn from them. so have a courage also if necessary. And I’ve done that in my career with ministers to contradict them to say, minister, I’ve heard you. but I think there is an alternative as well, and then explain it.
[00:07:04] So I think you need as a youngster to have that courage. Is maybe more difficult than if you grow older, you’ve more experienced. and then maybe also they accept easier from you. Your points of view, your observations.
[00:07:19] Siebe Van Der Zee: I, I think it’s very interesting that you say that. And I, completely agree, in a way I would say we can talk about this, the rest of our program, but we’re going to, we’re going to shift to the 10 lessons, because that is a very, powerful point.
[00:07:31] And obviously there are some cross-cultural elements in that, right? As far as does your culture allow you to be direct and speak up, et cetera, but that’s, again, that’s a different topic. And maybe for our next conversation, I appreciate that your lessons. Of course, I have looked at, very interesting and I’m very curious about the story behind the different lessons that you have.
[00:07:56] Lesson 1: Set achievable goals
[00:07:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number one, set, achievable goals. What are your thoughts on that one?
[00:08:01] André Haspels: I think as a youngster, at least speaking for myself, I had, very strong idealistic objectives about changing the world and improving the world and Stop suffering human mankind, make sure that everybody has enough food, that the climate would improve, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:08:19] These are great goals that we should continue to strive for, but which are very difficult to achieve. Yes. So, I’ve learned not to forget about these big goals on the contrary. They should be your guiding lines and the point on the horizon where you want to arrive, but at the same time, I’m not going to bring world peace, When I come home from my work and my children were young to eight, they asked, daddy, did you save the world today?
[00:08:46] Or did you bring world peace today? And I said, I’ve tried my best, but it’s difficult. But this time today I spoke to an NGO, was trying to solve a conflict in Syria and we support them, and they appreciate that we, listen to them and that we talk to them. So that’s a very small, contribution, so it’s better to set achievable goals. I can engage with people who are, busy with conflict resolution and conflict solving and show their support. Then I can create world peace. So, this is an achievable goal, and I think also. In terms of frustration, it will not be possible. I think for one individual to bring world peace, there are exceptional individuals in life and, I’ve been posted in South Africa.
[00:09:35] And one of my heroes is Nelson Mandela. What he did when it comes to reconciliation and bringing a nation together is unique. So, he set A goal that was almost impossible. And I think he paid a great contribution to this, but first of all, also for Mandela, it means it meant he had to set achievable goals.
[00:09:54] He couldn’t do anything, everything. When he was in prison, he also couldn’t do everything. When he was elected. As, president, he had to look for compromises. He had to look for support. So even a great man, like Mandela had to set achievable goals and what he has achieved during his life is wonderful.
[00:10:12] So again, setting achievable goals also helps you not to be, become frustrated, but keep fun in life as well.
[00:10:21] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. the challenge perhaps is the definition of what is achievable because there’s a lot of hope and expectations and say, this is something we should do. It makes sense. And there are many topics, currently going on, you can say, this should happen.
[00:10:37] But it doesn’t always work. You gave some great examples, Mandela, in prison, basically end of the line. What can you do? But I do believe that. In life, you have to have those aspirations you have to stick to those, lessons learned, from family, parents experience. yeah, that, makes a lot of sense.
[00:10:57] Lesson 2: Be modest
[00:10:57] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number two, be modest. Now, again, I’m curious about your definition of modesty.
[00:11:05] André Haspels: Yeah, that’s a good question. I, think it says something about me being raised in a modest family. There is a Dutch saying that you should keep your head low because otherwise you catch too much wind or high trees catch a lot of wind.
[00:11:18] And then you become more vulnerable. but I also think there is no reason to feel yourself more superior compared to others. You are one of a team. You contribute to a team in whatever position you are, and especially when you grow in your career. like myself, I became from the youngest civil servant as a third secretary at an embassy to ambassador in a very important country for, the Netherlands.
[00:11:46] The principle of being part of a team and to stay modest and to realize that your functioning very much depends on the contribution of others, how they prepare your meeting, your speech, how they in, how they. Prepare what you have to say, what you’re going to do, how they position you is very much their responsibility.
[00:12:09] And so I depend a lot on the quality of my colleagues, and I should not, when the ambassador comes in the room, most of the people look at him or her, they want to take a picture, all nicest, niceties about the ambassador, but it’s teamwork. So, I realized that, and I. I think it is important for everybody to remain modest if you, even if you have, and I don’t have that, but even if you have exceptional talents, you are also, you’re always dependent on your group and the people who support you.
[00:12:37] Siebe Van Der Zee: It is to your credit the way you explain that I’m also thinking how you, the way you represent the Netherlands. yes, you are a modest person at the same time. We have to go back to the other lesson, achievable goals. We need to reach certain levels. And in some of it, when you talk about perhaps marketing branding, modesty may not be the best way to achieve those goals. As a person, yes. That’s who you are. And that’s what you believe in. But at the same time, sometimes you have to set goals that go beyond let’s see if they like us. No, they better like us.
[00:13:19] André Haspels: Yeah, no, that’s true. and I think that being modest doesn’t mean that you may not be proud of what you achieve and I’m very proud of my country.
[00:13:27] Yeah. And for instance, the fact that we are a relevant player in the field of trade and investments in the United States. Or that we work a lot together in other areas. I’m very proud of that. But still, I think you should be modest in saying that you are indispensable for the United States or that without the Netherlands, this could not be achieved.
[00:13:44] No, this is not the case.
[00:13:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. To your credit again. I like it.
[00:13:48] Lesson 3: Make others look good (“make them shine”)
[00:13:48] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number three, make others look good. Make them shine.
[00:13:54] André Haspels: Yeah, I think I said something about it in the previous question as well. I, look at my work as teamwork and again, the ambassador is often on the front row on the picture, in the newspaper.
[00:14:05] but there is a group behind it, so always. When we have had a successful event, we try to evaluate, we sit together and, and we do that in an open and constructive way. And also, if things have gone wrong, we, we discuss that, but in general, it is important to thank the people for their contribution and to make sure and also thank them for that in public.
[00:14:27] for a bigger group. So, to give you one example at the opening of the renovation of the Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, and I should everybody recommend to go there. We did that on the 5th of May. I was for as a token of appreciation by the national park surface, our counterpart, I was awarded as honorary park ranger.
[00:14:49] As honorary park ranger for which I’m very proud. Yeah. I have the title here. I have the plate, but it’s of course not about me. So, in my words of thanks, I said that I was very honored with the title. I will cherish it, but I only have this receive this title because of the work that others have done.
[00:15:07] So I think, and I, so you mention it, there are other ways to celebrate if things go well. And I think that is very important to recognize the contributions of others. And again, to remain a bit modest about your own contribution.
[00:15:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: said, when I think of. What you just mentioned as far as make other people shine. I know that’s part of a Dutch expression. Of course.
[00:15:31] Lesson 4: Give people trust and space
[00:15:31] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number four, give people trust and space. And I was thinking about that because how do you know if you can trust someone
[00:15:41] André Haspels: you don’t know Siebe, you don’t know, but my general, Consideration is that people are okay. So that is my starting point. I’m not suspicious. The general assumption is people are okay. They qualify to do their job and you can trust them that sometimes that’s not the case, obviously, but that’s my starting point.
[00:16:04] So that means that you should rely on them, remain in contact with them. If, they are responsible for a certain job, for instance, preparing an event. At the very beginning, sit together and say, this is what I, more or less expect. What do you think, can you do it? Are, there any difficulties of challenges that we have to face?
[00:16:26] And if we agree more or less about the final product that has to be delivered a successful event, where we have enough guests and where we can make the Dutch position clear, then I’m not going to control every day. if, we are on the right track, we’ll do it periodically. And I hope to create a kind of working work atmosphere that if colleagues find that things are not going the right way, or they need my help because they cannot get somebody on the invitee list.
[00:16:59] Or we have a, I don’t know, a financial problem that needs to be escalated to a higher level. Then I hope that my colleagues feel free to, to contact me, to approach me and say, Hey, listen, we discussed this, but this is where I’m running at now. And how can we solve it? So, the basic principle is you give people space, you give them responsibility, you focus on the relation.
[00:17:22] and yeah, I. Then in general, my experience things go well. And my other observation is that even things do not go well. The crux of the matter is that you can learn again, from things that do not go well. So, something goes wrong. The first thing you do is damage control. Make sure that it doesn’t get bigger, and once that is done, you sit, you evaluate, and you try to avoid it going wrong for the next time.
[00:17:49] Siebe Van Der Zee: Are there in your experience, any role models that you look at, you mentioned Nelson Mandela earlier, but are there individuals, when you think of this topic, as far as giving people trust and space that you say, this person I learned from this is someone that does it. Where did you learn this from?
[00:18:08] Because obviously people don’t just delegate. They, want to have confidence that they’re going to do a good job.
[00:18:15] André Haspels: Yeah. I think it’s, I learned it from, previous colleagues that I worked with from previous chefs or ambassadors. And it’s not, one person that stands out. If I have to mention one, one colleague, it’s a former ambassador here in the United States.
[00:18:30] that’s Renée Jones-Bos. She has become, later in a career secretary general and an ambassador in Moscow. He’s a very well-respected diplomat. and still very active. And she, I find her very inspirational. for her way, her style of, running an embassy or, the ministry of foreign affairs, but she was always approachable.
[00:18:52] And she always, gave you the feeling that she trusted you and that you were, okay. That you had the freedom and the space to go ahead. And, but she also always, gave the impression that if there is something she was approachable.
[00:19:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Very impressive.
[00:19:09] Indeed. I agree with, you there.
[00:19:11] Lesson 5: Be accountable to yourself and to others
[00:19:11] lesson number five. It fits in with what we’re talking about, be accountable to yourself and to others. And how can how do you build that up? Be accountable to yourself and to others? What is your, thought about that?
[00:19:27] André Haspels: Yeah, I think, you have to explain what you are doing and why you are doing it.
[00:19:32] if you look at diplomacy and also foreign affairs, it’s, a broad subject we discussed earlier about, the almost impossibility to achieve world peace, but still, we try to work on world peace, on better economic relations. But this is a very broad, far away goal. So, every time you have to.
[00:19:51] ask yourself what am I doing now? How does that relate to this macro-objectives that we share? So, you have to ask yourself that question, you have to discuss with the colleagues, is this what we have in mind? Does this contribute to our objectives? And again, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to achieve those objectives, but it’s least that what we are doing focuses on achieving those objectives in small and small steps.
[00:20:14] And I think being accountable. there’s a tendency of leaders and the higher you get in the organization that you don’t, that you feel that you don’t have to be accountable because, Hey, you’re the boss. And you can decide that’s not how it works. I would say on the contrary, the higher you come into the organization, the more important it is to be accountable, to explain what you are doing and why you are doing this.
[00:20:38] So accountability for me is, a very important, aspect of leadership.
[00:20:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think that’s so interesting because I look at that at a, let’s say cross-cultural level. It fits with our Dutch culture. you are the ambassador. There are obviously people in all levels working for you at the embassy. You are.
[00:21:00] Can I say the boss, but what I hear from you and no surprise to me as a Dutchman, as a person, you don’t see yourself as a better person than other people that work for you.
[00:21:13] André Haspels: No, no, that’s correct. And I also realized that it says something about the country, where I come from, where we come from. And I also realize that it is different in other cultures, where you have more traditional lines, maybe, more, more authoritarian lines, more, a difference between generations.
[00:21:32] And it’s not necessarily wrong. don’t get me wrong. I remember for instance, When I was ambassador to Vietnam, that we had Vietnamese ambassador going to the Netherlands to study, and they were astonished when they learned during their first courses at the university. Not only that students were asking their professors questions, but also that they sometimes even question.
[00:21:59] The authority of the professor and that they said, professor, I, heard this, you said this, but personally I think that blah, blah, blah, this is very much again, also our culture to speak out, to not to accept authority as it is, but question it. And then again, the authority has to be accountable. He has to explain why he makes this statement and how he sees that.
[00:22:22] And. for, Vietnamese people, this is a very different context, and we have to be aware of that.
[00:22:31] Siebe Van Der Zee: it’s, so interesting and it brings a smile to my face because it gets me in trouble, and I’ve been in the United States for a few decades. but sometimes I have to realize I can be quote unquote, very Dutch and that’s not always appreciated.
[00:22:49] I had to learn over time to be more careful, even though the instinct is to just say it the way you see it and be open about it. And the other person will say, I have a different opinion, but that’s fine. Let’s move on. And let’s have a nice glass of Heineken. yeah, for example. But, yeah, in interesting and I, I want to mention, of course, to our audience, that we are talking today with André Haspels, Ambassador of the kingdom of the Netherlands, to the United States, in Washington, DC, sharing his 10 lessons learned. And we’re very happy to continue, with our, lessons.
[00:23:24] Lesson 6: The circle of close family is highly important
[00:23:24] Siebe Van Der Zee: We’re going to lesson number six; the circle of close family is highly important.
[00:23:30] I have a lot of thoughts when I think of that, but please share with us your thought.
[00:23:36] André Haspels: Yes again, comes back also to, earlier, lessons that we discussed, Siebe. It’s easy to formulate high. profile objective that you want to achieve. But I sometimes notice that people who want to, change the world have problems in, ensuring that their own family, is running well and that their own family is happy.
[00:23:57] And personally, again, set, achievable goals. One of our earlier, lessons yeah. Means. Try to be happy with your family. And if you, things that go wrong, with your, partner or your children, it is something that you should address. And then, achieving world peace should be put aside, but you should focus on the question why your son is unhappy, because you move to a new country to be diplomat there and he has to go to a new school.
[00:24:27] Why is that? Discuss that. Same for my daughters. I have two daughters, two sons, my wife, they are also the core that when I come home from my work that I find at home, and if they’re not happy, I’m not happy. So, it’s, again, it’s a team and you can let’s say achieve your objectives in the family.
[00:24:49] If you discuss with them, if you focus on them, if you do not neglect them and assume that they are also busy because. If I go to a country as a diplomat, I quickly can start working. But for, my children and my wife, they also have to adapt to the new situation. Absolutely. I should realize that. And I should be, I should put time in, making sure that the family feels at home as well.
[00:25:12] Siebe Van Der Zee: there’s so much to it. There’s an element of, trust and comfort that comes with family. And at the same time, we all know that not every family is that associated, but ideally that’s what it is. And it should never be underestimated, how relevant family is.
[00:25:30] André Haspels: Yeah. Yeah. let me just, give one more example, see sure. Often younger diplomats, want to, discuss with me about, the next step in their career. And then they always say, oh yeah, I would like to work at that country, or I would like to have that posting, at the ministry of foreign affairs.
[00:25:49] That’s it, but then I always say, listen, there’s another aspect as well. It’s not only about what you want to achieve. It’s as a next step. It’s also, what is the position of your family? What does your partner want? Does he, or she want to join you? even if it might, if it means that he or she has to stop her career or his career, what do your children actually want?
[00:26:10] Do they want to join you? You want to go to South Africa, or do they prefer to stay at home? And what do you do, to explain why you would love the family to go for four years to the United States, to the, to South Africa or to the United States. And that you realize that for them, it’s also very difficult.
[00:26:29] So the point is here, do not only focus on your own career, but consider that every step that you make. Also has consequences for your family, for your partner, for your children. So that’s why it’s so important to, to invest in them.
[00:26:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very good point. And especially when you talk about expat assignments, where you take the family to a different country, I remember on a consulting situation, we talked about that.
[00:26:55] Other than the employee, the family was the weakest link in the process. Weakest. In the sense like you explained, can the spouse, get a job in that country just to work permit? The spouse will give up his or her career, perhaps where they are now. Definitely again. And that’s part of the point, the family connections, children in school.
[00:27:16] And at what age, just take ’em outta school and take ’em to another country. That can be again, a weak link in that whole process. So, it’s well set in a, global, situation where, when people relocate, there are many family issues involved and underestimating that, it can do a lot of damage can do a lot of damage.
[00:27:36] So absolutely important lesson.
[00:27:39] Lesson 7: “Never stop learning”
[00:27:39] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number seven, we’re making progress here. never stop learning. You’re never too old to learn. is that what you’re saying?
[00:27:47] André Haspels: Yeah, I that’s actually what I’m saying, and it sounds maybe trivial or like an open door, but I think, again, there is a risk.
[00:27:53] If you have done a job for a long time, that you feel that you’ve seen everything that, you know, everything, which is not true. and I often at my residents have, have. Dinners or receptions or lunches. And today actually, a colleague asked, do you not get tired these many events? Now they start again after the pandemic.
[00:28:14] I see your agenda that almost every evening you have something. And then told her, no, actually I like it because every event is different. I always, if I have a dinner or a lunch, I write down the core issues that we discuss or statements that people make observations that they make quickly.
[00:28:32] And then later on the day, or later in the week, I write them down again in the booklet because you can get inspiration from every, meeting, from every discussion with people. and to be honest, and that’s another nice thing about Washington, a question that you asked earlier, There is a large number of think tanks.
[00:28:51] There is highly qualified people to discuss any subject that you wish to discuss. So often the meetings that we have are meetings with very interesting people, and I can learn from that not only on the content, but also on, and I must, Americans are great at that, the way they present themselves, they, present.
[00:29:09] the substance, the, issues where they are responsible for, they are very good in doing that. And that’s, for me, not only something to learn, but it’s also an inspiration. And I think the challenge is, or not the challenge that the task is to, continue learning, lifelong.
[00:29:24] Siebe Van Der Zee: I have to think of his name is Jack Welch.
[00:29:27] he was a former management guru, general electric, et cetera. And he talked about the four E, but the two of the four E had to do with energy. And the second E was to energize the people that work with you for you. As, you go through your career, to me, it’s obvious when I listen to you and when I see you on the screen, you have a lot of energy, and it is not related to age.
[00:29:56] You will continue to have that energy and that is something that is not only helpful to yourself, instead of saying, Hey, I want to take things easy, but all due respect, but you have that drive. And for the people around you, the people that work with you for you, that is inspiring as well to have a leader that drives that energy.
[00:30:18] So what you just said to me, connects to Jack Welch, and it’s a very impressive element of guiding yourself. And at the same time, guiding other people energy. And it’s not as I do sometimes talking fast and talking a lot. It is the thought process behind it.
[00:30:35] André Haspels: Well, thank you, but to be honest, and there comes the modesty again.
[00:30:39] I wouldn’t present myself, as such, I, think other colleagues, persons around me, my family members, my friends should label that and should describe that, but thank you for the nice comments.
[00:30:53] Lesson 8: Try to enjoy
[00:30:53] Siebe Van Der Zee: let’s go on to lesson number eight. Yeah. try to enjoy. And, I almost want to say that almost makes me sad.
[00:31:02] Of course you want to enjoy, but what are your thoughts about enjoyment and, try to enjoy when perhaps things are a little bit more difficult?
[00:31:12] André Haspels: Yeah. again, There are sometimes exciting moments, in everybody’s life, whether you have to hold a speech, whether you meet with, high level people, whether you travel and are in a new, environment.
[00:31:27] but sometimes we are too busy to realize that what we are doing, can actually be very nice as well. The other day I had a lecture at the international student house. In Washington, DC here. And, I have brother and his wife and, his daughters and, his son over and his son asked he’s 20.
[00:31:46] Aren’t you nervous because there was a whole group of people waiting for you. And the way they announced you, and there were pictures being taken. And I said, no, I actually, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the discussion. I enjoyed the questions. I enjoyed the fact that so many students took the opportunity to come over and to listen.
[00:32:05] So again, I. You should not spoil nice moments, by being nervous or being, uncertain or, feeling uncomfortable. I try to enjoy everything that I do. And of course, it doesn’t always work that way. You can have very, difficult people to work with. Or you can have a, an event. where you sit next to a person who is terrible and where it’s difficult to engage with.
[00:32:31] but still the overall, point of view for me and my starting point is whatever you do enjoy it. And even, I, run sometimes I, I try to run three, four times a week. Especially in the morning. If you’ve had a long day and a late night, you still go up and you feel a bit tired in the morning when you get up.
[00:32:51] But once you start running, you start enjoying it. So, it’s maybe not something that you look forward at the moment when you start running. But then I say to myself, Hey, listen, I’m running now. So, I might as well enjoy it. So, I think the core is whatever you. It should, there are positive things in it.
[00:33:08] It’s again, an experience. And we’ll discuss that later and, enjoy that. that’s I think important. So, don’t let it be spoiled by others or by your own feelings, because you are in control of your own feelings in my view. And I know that people sometimes say, yeah, that’s easier said, and done, I realize that, but you are in control about your own feelings, nobody else.
[00:33:31] So if you are nervous, it’s up to you to change your nervousness and put that in a more positive energy, in a more positive attitude. You can do that. So do it,
[00:33:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: in some cases, people talk about a brain muscle. We all have brain muscles, right? You can prepare yourself for a difficult situation.
[00:33:50] And like you said, If you have to lift yourself up many times, people have that ability themselves. It’s not based on other people or situations. But they have to, in that sense, get over it, and bring themselves, take away some of the mental barriers and yes, you want to feel good. I think it’s, helpful.
[00:34:13] It’s not always the solution because when people deal with very tough situations, it’s not to say, oh, don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine. No, they’re dealing with that heavy pain, that they are dealing with mentally or physically. But the goal is to get yourself moving forward and obviously, enjoy it.
[00:34:33] André Haspels: Yeah. I agree Siebe, if I may add just one more thing and you’ll appreciate it as a Dutchman. there are certain things that you can control, like your own position, and there are things like you cannot control. And let me give you the example. You cannot control. If you are on a sailboat that all of a sudden, a wind starts blowing.
[00:34:52] Very strong wind, but what you can control is trying to change your course and trying to adapt your, sail and make sure that you are in a different position and more favorable to the wind. So, the strength of the wind, you cannot control, but you can try to control your boat and try to find a different course.
[00:35:11] Lesson 9: Savor unique experiences
[00:35:11] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. good point lesson number nine, savor unique experiences. And I’m real curious about. Your thoughts about that unique experiences?
[00:35:24] André Haspels: Yeah, unique experiences. I think, as it says are unique and you have to savor them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be, grand experiences or so, okay.
[00:35:34] Maybe you have the ambition one day to climb the Mount Everest or even bigger, a unique experience would be to have a, space flight or go to the moon. Those experience are, important. And a balloon flight, for instance, which I did once in my life was, unique. I don’t think I will do it again, but I’ve had that experience and it was unique.
[00:35:55] So you should savor them. But unique experiences for me are also about the daily things in life, the small things in life, which happen. At, the hours that you tend to forget in on a Saturday afternoon where you think nothing is happening while you are reading a book or having your cup of tea, enjoying the sunshine, having a conversation somebody, these are all small things.
[00:36:24] Even, walking my dog. being together out in the woods here in at Rock Creek Park is for me a unique experience. And the thing is the importance is to recognize them. And again, also to enjoy them,
[00:36:40] Siebe Van Der Zee: that’s a very important point. And as you say, it doesn’t have to be. Unique by a trip to the moon or, something like that.
[00:36:48] But indeed you go for a walk, and you experience that situation. And I think many people in our audience can relate to that. You bring yourself to a level of satisfaction and, that is of course, pretty ideal and sometimes a moment to relax and get your mind organized and you’re ready to deal with whatever your work or life has to, bring.
[00:37:12] André Haspels: Absolutely. And it’s also, if, for instance, if you have a young family, unique experiences can also be with, like we do often in the Netherlands that going with your young children to a sports match on Saturday morning, because they, that’s, common in the Netherlands that, that children go at an early age to their soccer club or their hockey club on their bike.
[00:37:33] And go there with your child, Biking together, going to the sports field and seeing him or her play is a unique experience as well. And it, there’s a risk that it becomes routine and that you’re tired after the working week. And that you say, oh, Saturday morning, we have to get up at seven because he, or she has to play at eight o’clock no, Try to get the best out of it.
[00:37:55] Again, it’s a unique experience. And before, they go either, or they go on their own bike and they say, I don’t need you anymore. Dad, you go ahead. I’ll find I go with my friends, to my soccer club.
[00:38:06] Siebe Van Der Zee: Isn’t it interesting in life. I think for many people that when we are children and kids and maybe teenagers, we are typically very self-centered.
[00:38:16] And as we evolve in life and have experiences, and especially when you have children, yourself, grandchildren, they become so precious. So unique. They influence you and you put that circle of life in perspective and say, wow, I want to help. I want to make sure they’re fine. That they are taken care of in whatever way.
[00:38:39] That means.
[00:38:40] André Haspels: Absolutely. Absolutely. I fully agree with you, Siebe. It comes back to a few earlier lessons that we discussed the importance of the family and the circle of the family, but it also comes back for instance, to learning that you can continue to learn.
[00:38:54] I give you one small example, a very personal example, but I was raised place called Uithoorn. And I always, stayed in the elderly house where my father died in 86. And also, my mother died in 2018. They bought a house when they were just married. My brothers were raised there.
[00:39:12] So it was, a house which was very. personal and very close to my heart. And then when my mother died and we had taken out all of her stuff, we had found a new buyer for the house. I closed the door for the last time behind me. And I was a bit sad. this is the end, actually of a period of, of a history, and also end more or less of a phase in your life.
[00:39:37] And then my daughter said. Well dad I understand that you are sad, but I hope that the new people who are going to live in the house will have the same good memories as you have. And actually, I thought this is a lot of, wisdom. Yeah. And she’s right. Yeah. she’s right in that. If people can have the same experiences I have, that’s great.
[00:40:04] That’s actually what it’s all about. Again, you can learn, even at an elderly age and you can also learn from your children. That’s what I want to say.
[00:40:14] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Very powerful. I hear from our conversation; your lessons are truly connected. Yeah. The nine lessons so far. Absolutely.
[00:40:23] Lesson 10: Know yourself
[00:40:23] Siebe Van Der Zee: So, we’re, getting ready for lesson number, lesson, number 10.
[00:40:27] Know yourself. And boy, does that fit with what you are sharing with us?
[00:40:32] André Haspels: Yeah, no, absolutely know yourself means, that you have to know who you are. Again, that’s probably not easy at an early age. you have to be in situations, you have to meet with people and then you should look in the mirror quite often and say, this is me, not only your positive things, but also your negative aspect so know yourself. Yeah. And you should also be aware of the fact that not every situation. is suitable for, instance, for your leadership or for your way of working, but it starts with knowing who you are and act according to it and also know your limitations.
[00:41:09] and I think. People tend to overestimate themselves and maybe men even more than women. and I’m generalized. I realize that, but in general, men tend to overestimate themselves and do not know themselves very well. Women in general, try to some mostly are too modest and try to put themselves a bit too, far away.
[00:41:32] But it all starts with knowing yourself, realizing who you are and facing your shortcomings as well.
[00:41:39] Siebe Van Der Zee: It helps perhaps for people to have a mentor, to have an individual.
[00:41:44] André Haspels: Yes.
[00:41:44] Siebe Van Der Zee: That looks out for them. But also, someone who can be, direct in saying, Hey, this is wrong what you’re doing, you need to change this,
[00:41:52] André Haspels: Yeah.
[00:41:52] Siebe Van Der Zee: Because that’s important as well.
[00:41:55] André Haspels: Absolutely.
[00:41:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: Have you had the fortune of having a mentor in your life, in your career?
[00:42:01] André Haspels: I think in general, I think, I have a circle of friends and family, and I hope also colleagues that do not feel shy to come to me and correct me, or also, compliment me if things go well.
[00:42:15] So I think that it’s important, not so much one figure. I have one good friend with whom I discuss he’s in the Netherlands, whom I discuss every now and then things. But in general, I think it is important to create that environment. That people feel free to, to approach you with whatever they would like to say.
[00:42:32] So a mentor I’ve had a mentor during my student time. There are in my career, colleague diplomats, who I see as an example or who I get along with or who are very different, but where I can learn from And then probably, I think maybe the best mentor is my wife who, who keeps me straight and who says, okay, I don’t think you’re the ambassador.
[00:42:55] And, you can do this. You just have to help washing the dishes and walk the dog for the last route.
[00:43:01] Siebe Van Der Zee: Keep your feet on the ground.
[00:43:03] André Haspels: Absolutely.
[00:43:04] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, no, that’s, wonderful. that covers 10 lessons, but I like to sneak in another question, if you don’t mind.
[00:43:11] Are there any lessons in your life, in your career that perhaps you have unlearned?
[00:43:18] André Haspels: Yeah, that’s a difficult one. I, what we earlier discussed about authority, I, think as a youngster, I was impressed by leaders, by sportsmen, by politicians, by, I looked up to them, maybe in a way that, I find it’s, not easy to approach them, let alone to, to say something to them.
[00:43:39] but you realize that they are normal people as well. And I once had the opportunity to meet a famous Dutch soccer player, “Marco” van Basten.
[00:43:47] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. known.
[00:43:48] André Haspels: And, I was in, he’s a fantastic player. And, and I thought, yeah, he’s being approached by many people and, He probably doesn’t like it if I speak to him and he’s fair, but I just passed by and I said, hi, Marco, thank you for, playing for IX.
[00:44:10] I think you did a great job. And he said, thank you very much. Are you going often? And, and what game do you like? So, he actually reacted something that I, had not expected because I looked up to authority. so, I would say. a lesson that one should unlearn is not to be afraid to step out or to speak to somebody, even if you think, that he or she doesn’t like it, if you feel like doing it, you should do it.
[00:44:40] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow. that’s a hole in one. I like it. that really makes sense to me. And I believe to our global audience and I, want to thank you for being part of our program and, for sharing your wisdom with our global audience in closing, I want to make a few remarks. you have been listening to the international podcast.
[00:44:59] 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn sponsored by PDF. The Professional Development Forum. PDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcast, and parties, and best of all, it’s all for free. For more information, please visit professional development forum.org. Our guest today is André Haspels Ambassador of the kingdom of the Netherlands to the United States of America.
[00:45:24] Sharing his 10 lessons that took him 50 years to learn. To our audience. Don’t forget to leave us a review or a comment. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That is podcast one zero lessons learned.com. Go ahead and subscribe. So, you don’t miss any future episodes. And remember, this is a podcast that makes the world wiser and wiser podcast by podcast lesson by lesson.
[00:45:56] Thank you and stay safe.