A little bit of everything

You will fail…

It is still the same old talk about pursuing your dream. You hear it everywhere. People talk about it. Some mock about it. Other’s quote the great leaders and entrepreneurs who were successful pursuing their dreams. Usually you don’t hear about it from the negative side. From your side. Beginning by the reasons why you will fail.

Larry Smith s a professor of Economics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. His work has helped for several entrepreneurs to develop their ideas, business models and overall companies. Last fall, he made a great presentation in a TEDx Talk and that was his pitch: “You will fail!”. Make sure not to miss it.

Don’t play against the odds

Some friends and I have a betting pool for the football games, every weekend.

One of us, chooses 10 games each week, writes them down, and all the others bet on the results for each weekend. It’s a very straightforward competition, which allow us to joke around and to mock at each others, bragging on our superior football knowledge. It actually reminds me of my childhood days. Back then, there was this guy in my building who did the same thing for the european competition’s games.

Back to my current betting pool: no money involved; the only thing involved is pride…

As usual, everybody actually tries to figure out the result of every game. And that, more often than not, leads to one consequence: people tend to bet according to 1) their wishes; 2) the result each team got the week before.

On one side, we (yes, I am always tempted to this option too) want our team to win; we always want our rivals to loose. But as a consequence we are betting on what we would wish to happen, not on what we think will happen. Usually, the outcome is worst when we bet this way.

On the other side, we are pretty much biased by the previous week result. Not because we develop an advanced statistical tools that will help us analyze the trends on each team’s results. But because we believe that the outcome of the game this week is somehow related with the results that happened last week. And although on the long term there might be a trend, there are better ways to establish that trend than to consider this week results will be some sort of emulation of what happened the week before.

This year I decided to play with a different strategy. I played (almost) exclusively with the odds. I didn’t care what were my expectations for the game. What were my preferences. What were the results of the previous week or weeks. I just looked at the two teams involved in each game and analyzed what would be the most common result. I said I played almost exclusively with the odds, because there were exceptions: the derbies. Those games against our arch-rivals. On those games I was not able to bet on anything but my team’s victory. Even if that was not the most common outcome.

And I won! Everyone else let their emotions ruin their rationale. And so, many times they failed their prognostics on games for which they knew the most probable outcome was not the one they were betting on.

My conclusion? It keeps happening in business. People act, manage, decide, based on the outcome they would like would happen, and not on the outcome that rationally they think will happen. And, obviously, they miserably fail. On the other hand, entrepreneurs, businessman and managers who base their actions not on impulses or hunches, but on judgement and sagacity, make the most out of their business. Let’s hope we can do it :)

The book that makes us dream and grow!

I was wondering which book would represent the kind of person I would like each of my kids to be. If I were to choose only one book that would encompass the most important things I would like my children to learn, this would be that one.

I’m sure most of you have already read this book. This is not even a recommendation, but above all a reminder. Because, most of the times we forget, right? At least I do. And, if nothing else, this post is my private reminder. From now on, I’ll have somewhere to come to and remember what the important things in life are. And, if nothing else, those are the things I want my kids to know and learn:

  1. Be happy
  2. Make others happy (it will help a lot with the previous one)
  3. Listen to what other’s tell you, but make your own decision
  4. Learn to fly :)

Laces and velcro

I am really thankful for velcro. It really helped my life! It’s so much easier for my son to put on his shoes, nowadays. Thanks to velcro.

One of my favorite things about being a father is watching my kids grow and see how they learn new things. I just love it, when I understand there’s something more one of my kids learned. It’s just amazing the number of things they learn every month, every week, every day. It’s particularly interesting their capacity to learn things even when no one is teaching them. It’s a strange sensation to see that, as they grow up, they learn more and more things outside your house. Outside the family circle. Away from you.

However, most of the things, they learn from you. They learn with you. And they expect you to be able to teach them.

And then, there are shoelaces! They’re not easy. It takes a while to learn it. To make them perfect.

How do you teach your kids to lace their shoes? You don’t. Because we have velcro. Thanks, George de Mestral. Thank you very much!

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Delivering happiness by being happy yourself

I didn’t know Tony Hsieh or Zappos. Actually, I have never heard of them before. But last year, I was surfing the web and found a video with an interview of some crazy guy to Barbara Walters on 20/20. I became curious by the strange business concepts he was pushing forward during the interview, and it lead me to buy this guy’s book the next day. And I read it in 24 hours.

Obviously, the book was “Delivering happiness” and this was my introduction to Tony and his very different approach to company culture, business strategy and entrepreneurial mindset. The book is not great in terms of literary competency, so no Nobel Prize in the vicinity, but the concepts and the ideas amazed me. I guess you can tell that, along with the book, I bought Tony’s concepts about businesses and life. And by “I bought”, I really mean it took me.

When I first saw the interview I was skeptical (to say the least) about this managerial approach. Actually, what interested me the most were not all the concepts in themselves (which I though were just another hype), but the fact that someone made a successful company in spite of them! More than that, something was there, because Amazon decided to acquire that company for a billion dollars (and this was 3 years ago…).

So about the book. First the critiques: as I told you before, it is not a literary master piece as Tony Hsieh himself will inform you in the Introduction. But it does the trick. On the other hand its rhythm is not constant. What I mean is, half the book is an auto-biography. A cool one, about an Asian-American, with an entrepreneurial spirit, business driven from cradle, who wanted to do nice things and enjoy himself while developing his own businesses. Then, you have a second part, which is the implementation of the business philosophy he was developing. And he did so, applying all his concepts at Zappos.com and succeeded. And so far, so good. The book made sense. The organization of it was logical, too. But there is a third part, on I couldn’t figure out as part of the same book. It was a list of things companies should do (according to Tony) to become great and how to do it. But this feels kind of weird inside this book. It almost feels like a strange body that is not correctly fitted in there. But that’s enough with the critiques, otherwise you’ll think the book is not good at all. Which is not true! It is a good book and it is definitely worth reading, because the ideas of this guy are pretty interesting!

Tony argues that a company should run the extra mile for its customers. And that means actually doing whatever it takes to make sure the client gets satisfied. Even delivering a pizza to someone, although your company is about selling shoes… but if that’s what it takes for that person to be happy, you should do it. It’s pretty much assuming the concept of “defaulting to yes” that many authors (Guy Kawasaky et al) are proclaiming but giving the next step and, not only saying yes, but doing yes.

On the other hand, Tony says that if you want a company to completely commit to its customers, you have to make sure that company has its staff committed with each other and with the company itself. And to do so, you have to make sure your employees are happy. Completely happy. And ready to do the extra effort for the company. And they should do it because it’s not going to fell like an effort at all. To achieve it, Tony argues that all the staff should be as a family. And, yes families have problems, and arguments, and fights, but people try to keep it and solve it within the family. And as if that was not enough, he proclaims that excellency (in terms of this concept of the company as a family) is only achieved when employees want to spend all their time with other co-workers.

Bringing all this together, Tony Hsieh built Zappos.com and made it the most successful online shoes retailer by far. And it was so successful that in 2009 Amazon decided to acquire it for a sum around 1 billion dollars… Yes, a load truck of money, right?

I’d say that’s a pretty convincing argument about, at least, giving these ideas a chance. In the end, they might take you. They sure took me.

In the book you’ll find these ideas, but better thought and better explained (it took him a couple more characters too…). Don’t loose the interest because I didn’t argue for these concepts well enough. He does it way, way better. And it’s by far more interesting, because it’s full of funny episodes of his own experience. So, definitely worth to read.

 

Tell me what you listen to, I’ll tell you who you are…

Update of the week: Tell me what kind of music you listen to, and I’ll tell you who you are.

These were the words I used to comment an entry on Facebook from an old friend of mine, where she linked to the video of a great music. Obvisously what I meant was to make a relation between the good music my friend was proposing and who she was – a good person, according to the statement above.

Today, as I was listening to a very good music while walking to the office, I began thinking if it wasn’t a two way road: yes, I can tell somethings about some one by the music she listens to; but one can also change herself by listening to different kinds of music. I’m pretty sure we all have examples of our mood changing because we heard a great vibrant music on the radio that made us happy, or powerful, and that boosted us for the day, right?

I guess, I’ll have to change my saying to:

Tell me who you want to be, and I’ll tell you what music to listen to.

…and it’s becoming flatter and flatter everyday

The World is Flat was one of the first books I’ve read on the changes produced in the world by all the possibilities of the modern age and the web 2.0. Here you can find the 10 flatteners or, according to Thomas Friedman, the conditions that allowed the world to become flat. On the other hand Mr. Friedman also explains how those 10 flatteners work together to allow the world to become flat.

It is quite common nowadays to read or listen the idea that today, as never before, it is easier to produce whatever you want, wherever it is easier, when it’s cheaper and the most appropriate way. You can design something in Italy, define the standard in Germany, produce it in China, establish the support in India, market in the US and then sell it all over the world!

Obviously this idea is not new anymore. And it Thomas Friedman was not the first one to notice all these features and situations. However, his book has three features that put it above all the others on the same subject.

First it is well organized and structured. It is very easy to read and comprehend all the concepts and ideas Mr. Friedman puts forth.

On the other hand, Mr. Friedman’s experiences are very well depicted in the book and he can actually fit them very well on each of the concepts creating a more interesting and entailing story for the reader.

Last but not the least Mr. Friedman’s writing is very easy to follow and entertaining and with very good rhythm.

Ok, I’m not going to lie. I haven’t read the latest edition, I read the original “The World is Flat”. The current one is a new and revised edition with new chapters and updated with new stories and examples. I’m anxious to read it too, because if the two new chapters are half as good as the previous 15, the book is still amazing.

If you want to buy the book, just follow the link on the image bellow.

Why do kids swear?

I recently wrote a post on how kids see the swearing restrictions we impose on them. This post was written on another blog where I try to reproduce kids voices. What I write over there doesn’t aspire to be serious nor does it intend to even represent my opinions on each subject.

Disclaimer done, so I need to say I obviously think parents should impose language limitations to their children.I do believe in good-manners and I try to raise my children to be well-mannered. I think we shouldn’t impose ourselves on others, and that’s what being well-bred is about.

On that post in Limetree Kids, I (intentionally) used a fallacy. I assumed there were words which purpose would be lost if they were not used currently. The assumption was that all words purpose was to be used on regular basis, which obviously is not the case. I won’t go in much details about swearing, the benefits of it, how it evolved through years and so on… I’ll leave it to another post. I promise I’ll come to this later.

But what interests me right now is to understand why do kids swear? What moves them towards it?

I guess there are two reasons that push kids into swearing, especially during their second / third year of life: first thing, it’s a new thing to them. You can almost sense their savoring the words as they say it, particularly because they understand by the adults’ reactions that they shouldn’t be saying those words at all. Secondly, it’s their defying attitude. Many times, they are testing us; they want to see what’s our limit. And so, they are doing it to make sure we notice them. Because they feel noticed when they do bad things and you have to scold them.

Should we let them do it? I don’t think so.

Do I overreact when my kids do it? I try not to. I’ve come to understand that the more you rise up against it, the more they’ll do it. So I try not to make a big deal out of it. Yes, I’ll tell them it’s wrong. Yes, I’ll let them know I don’t like it and make them stop when they start saying it (and little kids don’t use the word once. They repeat it, and repeat it, and repeat it, until they make it impossible for you to ignore it). But in the end I try to wave it and change the subject, ask a question about something else, or deviate their attention into something different.

What do you think? Is this a good solution? Let me know…

Instagram and the bubbles…

Yesterday I was talking with a friend of mine about the internet bubble.

Is there a bubble? What’s causing it? What effects of it are you seeing? Why do you think it’s a bubble?

Obviously the topic came to the conversation because of Instagram… There’s nothing more spoken of these days than the grand acquisition by Facebook. And we were coming around some of the same questions that are being formulated by many:

Is Instagram worth that truck filled with money? Do you know they don’t even have a business model? At least one everybody can see?

What the hell does FB wants Instagram for? Is it for the mobile? Is it just to keep it out of someone else’s hands?

And we discussed lots of other deals done or not done, that changed or should have changed the internet, the way we do businesses, and our world as we know it. And how many of them didn’t.

And we kept discussing if people were once again looking at the internet and all “net related” businesses as the new Nirvana. And wether internet traffic or “web” traffic was being over considered and over evaluated.

And hence came the question:

It’s all about marketing, commercials and advertising. – my friend said, and continued – For the past decade or so, commercial money is ruling the world. Brands make products and want to sell them. To do so they need to advertise. And they look for the best place to do it, where the most people are. And that’s the internet. Therefore, whatever the bubble is – and he didn’t understand the Instagram acquisition - , it won’t affect the ad industry or the internet businesses based on ads. Brands will have products to sell and will have to sell them to people, wherever they are. And whatever happens people will still be there (on the internet).

I don’t find it to be so straightforward. And this is my euphemism for: I don’t agree…

I think there’s definitely a bubble. Although I think the bubble is exactly because / around / with the commercial / advertising industry. And therefore, yes, I think when the bubble bursts, it will definitely explode on the hands of all those who where solely basing their business on the ads and commercial strategy.

The free strategy, which was so much in vogue on the internet in the past few years, might be good for the few successful ones. But it’s not the solution as a whole for the content producers around the world. The concept that I can offer whatever product I have, and in return I’ll have millions of users doesn’t strike me. And that I can “distill” those millions of users in dollar bills and monetize my business… doesn’t look like a very good model to me. And yes, there will always be those who live on that, and can build a business on those assumptions. But the majority won’t. If you create something (a product, a content, a service) it costs you, and most of the times it has to be paid for. Directly! If nothing else, and if you can’t sell your product to anyone, maybe that’s a clue your product is not that good after all… I’m not saying you have to charge for everything. I’m not saying some free goods cannot be the lure for other stuff your selling. That’s different than just offering everything for the sake of the number of users…

Yes, there are great examples of some who succeeded doing the opposite… Yes, Alexander Magnum conquered half the world, and look at what happened to most of those who tried to do the same after him…

Although there are many critiques to the free model these days, one can still found several examples of businesses gurus making the apology of these model. And many of the over evaluated social networks or pseudo networks are being built (and financed) on this assumption: if you have a large base of people following you, you can “sell” those numbers to ad companies and that will monetize your project.

I have my doubts… but then again, what do I know about this, right?

What do you think? Let me know…

Buzzword Bingo

The idea is not mine. I placed an order from moo.com, and when it came it brought a “meeting companions collection”.

I’m not a big fan of meetings. That doesn’t mean I don’t value face-to-face, I do, but usually what people do in a meeting can be done without the physical presence of the attendees, or at least without most of them. On the other hand, meetings are one of the most expensive operations within a business. Just sum the cost of all those present at a 2 hour meeting and you’ll get what I’m saying.

Nonetheless, sometimes I do find myself in meetings. Oh boy, and now I long for those.

One of the games moo.com proposed on their “companion kit” is very simple. You pick a card with several words (like the one in the picture) and during the meeting you check the words as you hear them. And then it’s just like playing bingo. There are even some great variations proposed, like shouting “awesome” when someone says the magic word “monetize”.

I’ve loved this game, and I am looking forward for the first time I’ll be able to use it. My guess is, if you’ll attend “new economy” meetings in the next few days, take this card and you’ll love it.

Come back when you do so. I’ll love to hear the stories :)

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