Blog Archives: Musings

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Steve Jobs: The Rebel Wrangler from Apple

I’m in the midst of reading Steve Jobs ’ Biography which I’ve been enjoying whilst absorbing the Auckland summer sun.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was an incredible human being. I think we all recognise this. But his methods of working with people have been challenged and brought into question many times by many people – especially after his death. I’ve found it fascinating to read the biography and take look into the life, attitude and practices that Steve Jobs lived.

Today, let’s take a look at how he chose to interact with people, and why this worked when working with rebels at Apple.

Steve was an artist. A believer and upholder of perfection, fineness and distinction. Take a second to understand that about him. Understand that this is what drives him. Understand that this is what he expects of other people. And, understand that he wanted to lead a company that produced perfection.

Not every human being understands or wishes to pursue perfection. In fact, a very small portion of humanity even believes perfection is possible. Steve understood this paradigm. But, he also understood that this was a mindset. And, minds can be changed and shaped and moulded.

Steve knew that any person could be a perfectionist. And, he had a method of producing this in people. He created himself as an authority. He created himself as the benchmark. If Steve said something was “shit”, then you knew you had to do more, try harder, achieve closer to perfection.

Once you understood this about Steve, and you start to learn that you too are producing perfection, you finally have the leg to stand on and challenge him.

Steve created a pathway to perfection. First, you would have the shit beaten out of you so that your mind and ego were supple and manageable. Second, you would be challenged to reach perfection. Third, you would reach perfection and be challenged by Steve, at which point you returned fire and stood for your work. And finally, you would be rewarded with recognition and respect for your work. After working with Steve and walking this pathway, you emerge as a wholly different person. A transformed human being.

For this alone, Steve was an enlightened being. He created a pathway to realisation and he “guided” (aka pushed) you through it. It may not be the perfect way for everyone, but it was one way to do it.

The second incredible feat that Steve achieved was to create a functioning organisation of rebels. It is well-known that Steve’s hiring philosophy was to create teams out of rebels (“the Pirates”). These are people who refuse to follow rules. Who fight the system. Who listen to no one. These are entrepreneurs, visionaries and the elite of the intellectual bracket. But these are also the most powerful people around. They choose to act. They choose to do things. They are the ones that change the world.

Have you any idea how difficult it is to bring thousands of these people together into a team?  It is impossible!

The only way to have achieved this outcome would have been to be like Steve Jobs. To cut them down to size and show them that they are nothing compared to their potential. To push them to breaking point. To remove their ego and their beliefs.

Steve did what he had to do to create an organisation completely filled with entrepreneurs. He created an ecosystem where people of the highest intellect and ego would be broken down and rebuilt into transformed human beings, who believed anything was possible, and that they could be the ones to produce “anything is possible”.

Without this understanding and without this methodology, Steve could not have created Apple (or Pixar). No one could have achieved this. It is a prerequisite for the result.

Steve was a great man.  He achieved the impossible.  His gang of rebels achieved great things. But none of that was possible without the systematic breaking down of egos of the most rebellious and powerful people on earth – entrepreneurs.

But, if Steve was the reason that this gang of rebels were kept in line, and were kept performing, what now?

What about the future of Apple?  Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs.

How will Apple continue to be what it has been without this great savant at the helm?

China: fear not for I am a brave new world

I’ve often been perplexed by the complexity of political decisions and recently the debate about China’s ownership of New Zealand land has definitely made me think more than usual. Last night, I attended the NZ Initiative’s moot titled “New Zealand should ban Chinese ownership of farms” and was presented at first by two university teams, and finally by NBR Editor in Chief, Nevil Gibson, and Save the Farms Spokeperson, Tony Bouchier. The nigth offered great stimulation and thought provocation. This is a newly (un)formed idea; it has holes; so I thought I’d capture a few points here and learn from the readers about what you think.

Land is a finite resource

New Zealand has a total 268,021 km of land. That’s all we’ve got. Because land is a finite resource, as less of it becomes available, the price is inflated. What that means is that if we sell our land today we will have to buy it back at a higher price.

This is completely alright. However, if we sell our land today, we must ensure that what we do with that money grows more than the land’s value. For example, we sell a piece of land for $100,000 today. We invest it in startup companies, the stock market, or overseas investments, and in 10 years we grow that to $200,000.

Now, the value of the land has increased in price to $180,000. This is great because it means that we have done more to increase the value of our wealth than if we had just held onto the property. It also means that we can buy back the property if we need to.

However, if the value of the land was $250,000 in 10 years, then we would not have made a good choice. That means that we would have been better off holding onto our land. And, that we now won’t be able to buy it back because we don’t have enough money to do so.

This brings me to my major argument: If New Zealanders are going to sell off our land at all, we need to ensure we become intelligent wealth creators and grow our wealth beyond that of the value-growth that results from owning that land.

Let’s assume that we have sold some of our land. That land rightly belongs to the buyer – a Chinese citizen, business, or family (in this case). According to our laws, we can’t take any land away from it’s owner, so the control of that land then becomes out of our reach (outside of our control through regulations/laws). What happens if the owner has a Chinese association/origin?

China’s Intention?

I certainly don’t talk from a deep experience or understanding of China – but there is certainly a cultural association with the “homeland”.

What we don’t understand is China’s Intention. Chinese companies are buying up infrastructure, corporations and assets all around the world in droves. This may just be because it is a great investment. But, it could also because of control. I don’t know the intentions or complexity of China’s strategy. And, I think very few people can claim they do.

What I do know is that if a single country owns a substantial amount of the resources, societal infrastructure, corporations and assets of the world, they essentially have control (by proxy) of the world. This is a scary prospect, and I certainly understand the fear that New Zealanders (and people globally) have of China. Note though, this is only scary because we fear what it means for us – “being controlled by China”?

A Chinese Lead World

China has a unique and compelling culture. Although it has experienced some tough and powerful claims against it based on human rights, labour laws, and environmental laws (to name a few), China is a fast learner and a very intelligent country. Their middle-class is growing exceptionally fast and overall power is shifting towards the people and away from government.

I am excited by a Chinese ideal:   collectivism.

Collectivism is a philosophy where we recognise the interdependence on people. In other words, acknowledging that we rely on each other to survive and thrive – we are interlinked; connected. China has a full-on institutionalised view on collectivism which originates from it’s history with communism.

Now that the people of China are gaining more individual freedom and power, this combination of independence from the state with their cultural heritage is breeding a philosophically-aligned population. Chinese people are evolving into a democratic, empowered, values-driven society – but they know that they are ONE.

Ultimately, the idea of an autonomous civilisation living in unison, in singularity; as one; is very attractive. It means we won’t have a lot of the petty problems we face today:  war, poverty, hatred. It means we can put aside perceived differences and instead work on persistent problems together.

A New World

At the end of the day, what I aspire to is a world with true peace, connectedness and infinite knowledge. None of that is accessible to anyone until we can view each other on a level playing field and put aside our differences. China’s strategy may evolve into the very solution that evolves our entire society to a new and creative level. It may not.

Ultimately, we have a choice.

If we fear China’s intentions with the ownership of the world’s assets, let’s meet them halfway. Let’s sell our land to the NZ government and lease this land to the Chinese company. That way we retain our assets and allow Chinese investment and knowledge to penetrate New Zealand.

If we seek a brave new world, China could offer this to us. We could let them into our “country” and take a place in theirs. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two if we put our fear aside and saw China as an opportunity. I’d love to see us (as global citizens) entering China’s political, economic and legal structure – having a say in what they are doing.

Why is no one having that conversation?

This post was written to inspire debate and conversation. I don’t know enough to come up with any answers, but together we can learn enough to do so as a group. Please comment and share your thoughts, ideas, and solutions to this heavy debate. Oh, and please share this with your networks – a wider debate with NZ’ers will breed a greater perspective on this debate.

(Note: please keep your points and perspectives under control – I will not tolerate any racially-motivated slander or incoherent emotional statements. Please put your fear aside and share a constructive and powerful perspective.)

Perspective: “Enough” is enough

Perspective: How often does it annoy or irritate you when someone says “that’s enough”? Or “you’re too smart”? Or “you need to be more [___fill in the blank___]”?

This has been a constant battle going on in my mind and with people for my whole life. And, suddenly it all hit me – like a ton of bricks.

Everyone has a perspective.

When someone uses the word “enough”, what they are saying is “in my experience if you go further it’s bad”. There’s nothing wrong with what they are saying. In fact, for them they are 100% correct, this is the truth for them. And, it’s based on their experience.

In the past, it’s angered me. I’ve judged them. I’ve disliked these naysayers.

Today, I understand them. I understand that people have opinions, they have perspectives, they have experiences on which they make decisions.

My experiences are almost always different – and therefore so are my perspectives. I might choose to argue and dominate the person. I might make them wrong and prove their experience null – in face of my (obviously) superior intellect. At least, that’s what I would’ve done in the past.

Today, I am curious. I ask questions. I seek to understand. Other people’s perspectives are very powerful. After all, we as human beings don’t even know a droplet in the ocean of world knowledge.

But, as an entire species we know everything.

If only we could understand that our perspective is true,  but so are everyone elses. They are true to us.

What if I could put that aside when I found someone was disagreeing with me? What if I understood that they have a perspective – something that I don’t (currently) have – and that I could gain some insight from knowing their perspective? Then perhaps, instead of arguing, making someone wrong, dominating, I might be curious, seek to understand, and become wiser from learning from others’ experiences?

Every time I hear these words, I stop and think for just a moment and check where I am coming from:   enough, too much, too little, more, less, better, worse. (What words am I missing here?)

Not only I have a perspective. Everyone does. Not only is my perspective right. Everyone’s is.

So what have you had enough of people saying? ;)

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Greatness at the Opening Ceremony

I watched the opening ceremony at the London Olympics this morning (NZST). It was not only spectacular and inspirational, but reaffirming. The greatness that was present in the stadium stirred some true and powerful emotions for me. In our midst were great people; who have shaped, altered and shifted the world and human mindsets. And, it’s inspiring to think about the greatness to come from our world’s athletes as they compete for gold in each of their divisions.

My Own Path to Greatness

I aspire to true greatness. Many people look at me incredulously when I explain to them that money is not a determining factor for me. It just isn’t. What does impact my life and my choices is contribution. I ask myself “what impact will this have on the world, on others and on me?”. Often I question my own motives because often I get benefit from the contributions I make – recognition (fame), remuneration (money) and education (mastery).

Watching the ceremony today there were two things that really hit home for me:

  1. Applause for Volunteers. It was inspirational and touching to hear the crescendo that went up for the 10,000 volunteers helping at the Opening Ceremony. It sounded substantially more appreciative (loud) than any other applause.
  2. Recognising the Great Leaders. The announcer recognising and appreciating Ban Ki Moon (UN Secretary General), Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopian Athlete), Shami Chakrabarti (Founder of Liberty), Marina Silva (Brazilian Environmentalist), and the great Muhammad Ali.

Both of these situations made me think about the contribution I want to make in the world. What impact could I make in a world needing change? It reaffirmed (for me) exactly what kind of greatness I am seeking in life.

Your Greatness

I’ve seen a couple of stories of how the Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games has brought forth inspiration for others on Facebook. When you were watching the opening ceremony, what other forms of greatness came up for you?

“No, thanks” will do, thanks

I am more and more present to the way we interact with each other as human beings.

To the simplest questions, we will do everything in our power to avoid “being personal” about anything. We will make up reasons, justifications and excuses to say “No”.

This makes sense, though, because people take things personally all to often, for things that just aren’t personal.

“Do you want a cup of tea?”
“I’ve just had three cups of coffee and a cup of tea. So, no.”

The simplest requests get met by reasonable reasons. But all that was asked was “Do you want a cup of tea?” For which the appropriate, unreasonable response is “Yes, please”/”No, thanks”/”No, thanks. I’d prefer some water, will you get that for me?”

Now, imagine, you’re 18 years old, slightly shy and self-conscious. You’ve been single for months and haven’t stepped out of your comfort zone for ages. You’re in a bar with some mates, just bantering away with each other. Meanwhile, you’ve been noticing all the pretty girls walking in, dancing, getting drinks and being hit on by a bunch of random guys. You keep sitting there all night.   Nothing happens.

This has been my story for a large part of my life, always going out with an intention, and always being let down (by myself). Do you know why that is?

I was so scared of walking up to a pretty girl, in front of all of her friends, engaging with her, asking her out…and…getting a “No” as an answer. What would that mean about me? What would that mean about who I am, the way I look, and everything I do? 

Of course, in reality, all that happens is I ask “Will you go out with me?” and she says “No” (or “Yes”, or “Alternative”). She responds to the request, not to me.

But, for years, I’ve been worried about the “reason”, a reason that doesn’t exist, and doesn’t need to exist. I’ve missed out on all the pretty girls who could’ve turned out to be great friends, girlfriends or just a great conversation for the night.

Imagine if we didn’t:

  1. Justify our responses (Yes/No/X) with a reason, and
  2. Take things personally.

We would be able to respond to requests with whatever we wanted, and know that the person on the other end of the response sees that as a powerful choice, and not a personally-motivated attack.

This is something I am taking on board with all areas of my life, making requests of people and accepting their response as a powerful (and not personal-motivated) choice. And, responding to all requests on the same basis. (Of course, I am still learning to keep this alive all the time, so feel free to call me out where ever you “see” me out of alignment)

In all your interactions with me, please remember nothing is personal, and if there is any influence, I will be open and honest about it.

After reading this post, did you learn something about yourself and your life? Will you take this on board in your life and your interactions?

The Conclusion of a Great Chapter

Today is both a sad and exciting day. The end of a Chapter: I am moving out of my flat of the last 9 months and heading to Wellington.

It’s been a very interesting, challenging and fulfilling experience with some amazing people.

When I first moved in in July 2011 it was with Chirag and Nishant. And the following months were amazing — I learned to cook Indian food from scratch. I love indian food, so this has been a huge bonus. Getting to know these guys and being a part of their lives has been superb.

Then Nishant moved out and Luigi moved in. Luigi and I were great friends at that stage, and it was awesome to have him around more. We are both intelligent and world-change-aspiring people so the conversations were electrifying. We went through our ups-and-downs, and when we eventually figured each other out, it’s been a truly great friendship. It will be interesting how we stay connected after this, because we are so close.

I never expected to be so connected to this place and these guys, but it is rather sad that I am moving out. I will miss you guys!

And, I will totally miss my favourite coffee shop in Auckland. You all should go here at least once, and meet Brim the owner! (Yes, Brim, as in “Full to the Brim”)

Next stop: Wellington.

As with any chapter concluding, a new chapter begins. In a few weeks I will be moving to Wellington where I will be doing a bunch of things, but most importantly I will be close to my GREAT startup team, Copono. Here, there will no longer be boundaries between us and changing the world.

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Mobile-Optimised Websites, and where they fail at AirNewZealand

Recently I used AirNZ’s iPhone App GrabASeat. It’s a great app by the way.

But, where the app is great, it fails at achieving its purpose.

Grabaseat is an app that notifies the app holder when flight deals (auctions) become available and it sends push notifications to your phone to alert you.

Now when you decide to buy the deal this is what you get taken to.

This makes no sense to me at all. The only place I am using this app is on my mobile, and yet I am sent to this joey of a website to make a booking. I have to admit, I have deliberately not booked twice because of this flaw.

AirNZ, I know a web developer that is craving to build your mobile-optimised sites for you. You just have to email me for the intro.

But, get onto it quick!

How important do you think mobile-optimisation is right now?

.@telecomnz “Please pay your bill. But, really, we don’t care about you.”

I have always been a great fan of the blogging style of Graeme Russell of AdageBusiness. He says it like it is; he makes a complaint (otherwise known as an “observation” ;) then he critiques it, and offers a suggestion.

Today, I am taking a page out of his book and making an observation about Telecom. So, let’s tell the story first:

—————–

I recently upgraded my phone from a Galaxy S to an iPhone 4S and in that move I switched from Vodafone to Telecom. I was very impressed with the Sales guy who I spoke to and I felt like a valued customer. Telecom has been a very valuable upgrade to me — fast 3G internet, great plan and so on.

But, today, I receive the ominous call “You need to pay your bill, or we will take further action.” Fair enough. But I haven’t been notified about the bill at all; no text message, no email, no letter in the mail. Nothing! I don’t even know how much to pay at this point. Great work Telecom for keeping in touch with your customers.

So, I call *123 to enquire how much I need to pay. Yay, it’s an automated answering service…but apparently it “doesn’t understand” me, and “can I repeat myself”. There is no option to speak direct with a customer service rep. So I try and fail multiple times to get through to a rep. Four calls later, finally I achieve success. Then I proceed to ask the rep what I want to know — what is my bill payment, and, how do I ensure I am notified in the future?

HE HANGS UP…WTF!? Seriously?!?!?!?!

I couldn’t believe it, I was fuming. So, I left work and walked 10 minutes to the nearest Telecom store to sort this out. Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t walk anywhere for 10 minutes to deal with this crap — I write a blog post (see?).

And, there I finally encounter a decent human being that gives a crap! Thanks Misan. He gives me the info I need and deals with thing in 3 minutes…despite my inherent anger.

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And, herein lies the tragedy. When I signed up to Telecom I was stoked with them. Now, I am not happy. So, Telecom, if you really care about your customers I suggest you sort this crap out — get rid of the “automated answering service” (which feels like talking to an idiot) and the poor customer service reps. And, we might have something in common: we care about each other.

Yesterday I was touting Telecom to everyone. Today, forget about it.

Yesterday I was a customer who cared about paying my bills on time. Today, forget about it.

Now, readers, what advice do you have for Telecom?

IFTTT – Automation for busy people

One of my greatest discoveries in 2011 has to be IFTTT (If This Then That).

Because I am exceptionally busy but I still want to be able to do certain things on the web, IFTTT has allowed me to do so many things in so much less time.

AU – TO – MA – TI – ON !!!

So for example, when I want to post articles that I like to Twitter…this is what I use IFTTT to do:

If
[I "star" an article in Google Reader]
then
[send a Tweet out with a link to the article]

To do this the old way I would have to (1) had to open the article on the web, (2) click the tweet button and (3) tweet it out if I was already logged in. Using IFTTT it takes me a tenth of the time and it can all happen from where I want it to happen (Google Reader).

IFTTT is amazing and it can do ANYTHING YOU WANT. Check it out and let me know what you’re doing with it in the comments below.

Pursuit of Perfection Prolongs our Pain

I am one of those people who really hates advertisements on TV. And, I am sure I am not part of a minority.

I, for example, will deliberately record TV programs and watch them at a later date, fast-forwarding through the ad breaks and enjoying the TV show in ad-free comfort. (Btw, who else does this?)

After yesterdays blog post about a World of Perfectionists, I had a thought: How do we hear about “new” products?
1. Through word-of-mouth.
2. Through advertising (in some form).

Almost all of the products I hear about from friends or through WOM are completely new, solve a problem and INNOVATIVE. In fact, the better something is at solving my problem through simplicity, the sooner I hear about it (it’s just more viral).

All the products I find out about through advertisements are either modifications of existing products or the same old (un-modified) product as always. These are products that I have come across, know about and don’t need more information about. I just don’t want to hear about them any more.

I wonder…if the world is full of perfectionists wanting ever more perfect products at every expense, and these products are the ones filling our advertisements, who can we blame for our misfortunes?

Perhaps, it is our own selves we have to look at in the mirror? After all, if we demand perfection and we hear about these improvements through advertising, we can only expect to have more advertising, the more we demand…

But, I hate advertising…and – I bet – so do you!

So, let’s stop demanding perfection at our own expense. And, maybe we will see less crap advertised on television.

You never know;  in a perfect world perhaps there will no longer be advertising where we don’t want it; we will hear everything we need to know through word-of-mouth.

Maybe, just maybe, we might be so lucky.