Blog Archives: Musings

A World of Perfectionists

There are two types of forward progress:

1. Incremental progress (one-step-at-a-time)
2. Innovative progress (one-giant-leap forward)

In the world we live in today there are also two types of people.
- Those that work towards efficiency and “sucking” the last inch of profits out of a well. They are specialists at incremental change. These people are Incrementalists.
- Those that look for a breakthrough way forward, solve an inherent problem, and look for ways to remove tasks. These people are Innovators.

Innovators are ever more powerful, ever more efficient and that much smarter than Incrementalists.

…think of the 80/20 rule…

An Innovator knows that it takes only 20% energy to create 80% of something. They are smart enough to realise that this is the part that people notice. Then, they toss it off to the Incrementalists who try ever so hard to take the 80% to 100%, with all the hard work and effort.

I like to think of Innovators as “breathing the life into something”. Whilst, Incrementalists are merely “survivalists” keeping the breath going.

The question remains…Who do you want to be?

A recent toothbrush advertisement brought this thought to the forefront of my mind. I find it odd that in 2012 we are still “innovating” with toothbrushes. Don’t you?

There are adverts every day about new modifications of products. Modifications that had millions – if not hundreds of millions – of dollars sunk into them. Modifications that “improve” a product so minutely it makes NO SENSE to have spent all that money on R&D. And yet, out come the advertisements promoting this “NEW GREAT PRODUCT”.

Are we becoming a world of perfectionists? Are we insanely pursuing the perfect product at all expense (monetarily, and environmentally)? Are we clinically OCD; so much so that we demand and expect that our products are perfect?

I think we are a world of perfectionists.

Is this perhaps the reason for the lack of real growth in the world? We sink all of our money into products that already exist (problem has already been solved) in order to perfect the solution. And yet, we spend little attention and money on real problems and real solutions…Real INNOVATION.

Perhaps if we stop being perfectionists and consider becoming Innovators we will achieve real growth and prosperity.

Just a thought that crossed my mind. Please share your feedback and opinions in the comments below.

14

Education Occupies Wall Street

Decision Making in the Protests for OccupyWallSt

For many years people have been living their lives according to “the norms”. They grow up with the expectations that this is the route to follow:

  1. Go to school
  2. Go to university
  3. Get a Job
  4. Get a mortgage and buy a house
  5. Have a family and kids
  6. Send kids to school
  7. Retire (and travel)

The problem is that when following “the norm” they are discontented with the path, their lives and their choices. A “job” is not an enjoyable, fulfilling or purposeful use of our time. And, yet, we spend almost  30% of our adult lives working in a “job”.

How can we expect to enjoy our lives when a large portion of it we dedicate to an activity we do not enjoy?

So, first, I ask you to think about – and challenge – “the norm”. Is there another way to live your life and make it meaningful that would allow you to survive (financially) in our society?

Education – going to school and university – has been touted as the “road to success” by millions of people – including (my) parents. But the educational system has been built to be systematic and standardised. We are expected to “learn” content with a large group of people and with little personal attention from our teachers. This is not the teachers’ fault, they are locked into a system which they cannot change on their own. But, the result of our educational system is that we have millions (billions) of kids that know exactly the same things as each other, to exactly the same level of detail or depth.

So what’s the problem with that? To put it simply, you have no power if you are not substantially unique. When you apply to a job and you have very similar qualifications to the other 100 people applying to the job, you have no power in asking for the job. You are not unique.

Another thing to realise is that schools and universities are charging us a sh*tload for something that is freely available to every single one of us! The internet and what Google has done with it has turned the world into a knowledge and information paradise.

The education system is just simply the “internet spoken to you” through a teacher with a $XXX,XXX price tag attached to it.

You have a choice, pay for the same information by going to schools and university. Or, get it for free online. Just check out the Khan Academy for a great example.

Now, I am not suggesting that everyone should drop out of schools and university in favour of learning through the web. There are universities (and schools) out there that educate differently. They not only use content, but they focus on applied knowledge. Giving you the skills to use information, to solve problems, to think for yourself and apply all that learning to the real world is what has made the top universities in the world, the top universities in the world - Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton, MIT…. These educational institutions are worth paying to go to because they actually give you valuable skills. These are skills that make you unique, allow you to demand a better income and pay off the loan you took to get there.

So, if you are going to a school or university now that is taught in massive classes, where content is shoved down your throat for $000′s of dollars. Check out google and see what you can get for free. Otherwise, start demanding more from your schools and universities.

Finally, I have been watching with anticipation the recent protesting around the world – the occupywallst movement. I believe it is the start of something indicative of everything I have already outlined above. The intersection of society’s discontent with their lives, their jobs, their education and the world.

They want justice, because they feel like they have been thwarted by a biased system. And, to be honest, they have reason to believe that.

However, the “uprising” seems to have no point, no obvious demands, no expectations, no goal…is that going to result in change?

I think we need to turn this hostility into positive action. For that we need informed leaders to stipulate the changes needed in the world, to identify solutions that require big shifts in the way the world works, and then to empower the people of this movement to achieve the new vision. This will turn a meaningless protest into a valuable change our society desperately needs.

If you want to talk about some of the required changes and how we might action them, please get in touch via email or twitter. Otherwise, let’s talk in the comments below.

Booktrack: a misunderstood innovation

In the last few days there has been a lot of skepticism and debate about New Zealand born startup Booktrack - which I might add has a kick ass team.

The big hoo-haa around Booktrack is that they are not an innovation at all, and that their business adds no value to customers or the world. Now, from the outside viewpoint, this may be the case. However, perhaps there is something that we are missing.

I mean, if Derek Handley (co-founder, CEO of Hyperfactory which sold for NZ$70 million), Peter Thiel (co-founder of Paypal, and first external investor in Facebook) and Greg Sitters (owner of Sparkbox, a NZ investment company) have all bought in to this concept – what are we missing?

This is what I think we need to start thinking about:

  • Literacy rates are incredibly poor around the world and have been dropping in recent times.
  • Reading is no longer a large part of education. Reading is often called boring.
  • The world is saturated with information and literacy (and the ability and love of reading) is becoming increasingly important.

The problem in the world (which I posit most of you readers do not experience) is that reading is not regarded highly by the mainstream/masses.

And, yet, it is so important.

So perhaps Booktrack changes this dynamic?

If we notice how much TV and movies have grabbed the mainstream, we might notice that getting to the masses is not to force feed them books, but it is, in fact better to change “books” to suit the mainstream. By doing so we encourage more people to read, and they actually enjoy the experience. What if reading was entertainment?

My experience with Derek Handley and Peter Thiel, although limited, always highlights a higher social problem/solution. In this case, I think they believe that Booktrack could have an impact on literacy rates. What do you think?

So, let’s take a step back. A lot of us enjoy reading. A lot of us couldn’t stand the idea of a soundtrack disturbing our reading. A lot of us view books – whether novels or non-fiction – very differently to people who do not read as prolificly.

This might not be destined for you. But, it might just be destined for something a whole lot bigger, a whole lot more impacting on the world – higher literacy rates.

Just imagine if we converted the “we believe books are boring” folks to “OMG! Did you read that booktrack, it scared the be-jesus out of me” folks.

 

What do you think of Booktrack and its potential impact? Are the outcries in media valid?

Let’s discuss in the comments below

Cost vs Benefit of Rioting

A big news topic right now are the London Riots, and it has got me thinking about why they happened and whether we can expect more of this around the world.

The simplest way to think about the riots is on an individual level. Why would someone like you or me go out on the street, cause damage and trouble for other people?

Having just watched this TED talk by Dan Ariely about why we (sometimes) cheat and steal. He made a very good point about Cost vs Benefit.

If you have nothing to lose and you are at the bottom of the food chain, then whatever you do, can only result in something “better” (for you).

This is the case for so many people in the UK (and around the world). We have been through a financial crisis, right now we are facing a second-round debt crisis. There are millions more people who are unemployed, living off the state – losing money they invested in their retirements and much worse. These people are at their wits end  - “nothing to lose”.

They would hesitate very little if they were presented with an opportunity to make their situation better – even if ever so slightly.

Therefore, what they need is a catalyst. At which stage they JUMP into the opportunity.

This is what I observe happening in London right now. The catalyst (whether true or false) was the provocative shooting of Mark Dugan. For a small group of people who had been abused by the police, UK government and even their own citizens, seeing this happen was a catalyst – they choose to act. A small group of people were the first movers, and it was from them that a riot was started.

From this small group a movement was formed – other people at the bottom merely had to join the movement and they could take advantage of many things that would make their lives “better”.

So the cost vs benefit analysis:

Cost: Jail time for rioting / looting (theft, vandalism).

Likelihood of getting caught prior to the riot: high.

Likelihood once riots had started: low

Benefit: Free TV’s, food, anything they they could steal. This makes life a lot better.

So prior to the riots, people had the choice to steal or just get by – but there would be a high chance they would get caught because they were on their own not in a large group. So the Cost > Benefit prior to the riots.

However, once the riots started and reached reasonable mass, there is a sense of anonymity in the group “I won’t be caught, because they won’t know it’s me.” So now, the probability of getting caught goes down and the Cost < Benefit once the riot protects your identity.

For this reason, more and more people are joining the riots and taking the opportunity to “improve” their situation without the risk of getting caught.

Now, I don’t think this is a London-only phenomenon. There are desperate people all over the world, the USA, Europe – never mind China, India and many other developing nations. So, the question remains…what will be the next catalyst?

What do you think about the London Riots and where they are headed?

Further reading:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/09/uk-riots-psychology-of-looting

Accepting gifts. A lesson I need to learn.

As an entrepreneur, I have gone through and continue to go through ups-and-downs.

When I have an up, I am surprisingly giving of time, money, coffees etc.

When I have a down, I am also giving, but only of time – I no longer have money for coffees.

As a result of this happening in my life, I have developed some habits which make me a real arse!

Imagine, you really like me (god forbid!). We’re having a meeting and we grab a coffee (or in my case a water). You offer to buy me a coffee, and I make up some excuse that I don’t want it, need it etc. When, really, I could do with a coffee. You struggle to try to convince me to let you buy me a coffee and eventually…lose. What did I do there?

I took away your opportunity to do something good.

For so long, I have thought what I was doing was a good thing. Until, a great friend and mentor of mine, Alan Froggatt, pointed this out to me.

Good people enjoy doing favours, because we think that one day they will allow us to ask for a favour. But, as Alan puts it, I am “stopping the circle of gratitude” by not receiving.

My reluctance to accept gifts is problematic. So why do I do it?

The true and honest answer has been that I didn’t want to be tied to the favour. When I am in a down, I feel I have no way to repay the “debt”. But that is no good – it’s damaging to my friendships and relationships. But, it’s a fear.

So, from now on, I will accept that I need to change. I will be open to receiving gifts and to owing favours.

By the way, I’d like you to take responsibility in kicking my arse when I forget this lesson, and buy me a coffee ;)

I would like to thank Alan Froggatt, once again, for opening my eyes to this! He has changed my life in many ways this year, and I encourage you to say hi to him on Twitter.

I’m the biggest idiot in the room

I know bugger all.

You know a lot.

I want to know what you know and learn from you.

So I listen.

…especially to your comments below.

Day 2, 3 and 4 of the New Lifestyle

Well, it’s been a hectic last couple of days. If nothing else, this new routine has revitalised me and motivated me back in to “extreme” action.

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride with the polyphasic sleep routine. Most of all it’s been really difficult in the early hours of the morning when everything is dark and quiet. Here is the time I find it hardest to stay awake.

In fact, between 1-5am when I should be staying up but am really tired, I have decided to take an additional nap. This has worked really well. Firstly, because some of my day time naps – where I often don’t get to sleep – are then “transferred” to this early morning “extra” nap. Secondly, it’s made such a difference – when I wake up after the 5am nap, I am very refreshed.

Unfortunately, this morning I kind of messed up the routine – I set my alarm on my phone, but, alas, it was on silent and neglected to wake me. So I got a full 3.5 hour nap :P

Admittedly, this was great too. Albeit, it has messed up the rest of my day.

I wanted to address some comments that have been made over the past few days.

“There is now way you can get enough sleep in 30 minutes, you have to get to sleep first.” Admittedly, this was true the first 36 hours, it was really difficult to get to sleep in the first 30 minutes. But as you “tire” yourself from lack of sleep, this becomes gradually easier. Now, I get to sleep in between 5 – 10 minutes, and dream for about 20. Which leads me to another comment.

“2-3 hours sleep can’t be enough to be healthy and restful.” I can see why this would be the logical view on things. Since we progressed from baby to child, we have been consistently trained to sleep for longer periods of time. This is called monophasic sleep. And this is when we get to rest. But in reality, you only need REM sleep to reboot and refresh your brain. This is what we know as dreams. When you sleep at night your mind goes through cycles where you shift into and out of the dream state. You don’t really need ALL that sleep, only the REM sleep.

Polyphasic sleep tries to cut out all the unnecessary sleep and get the real action – REM sleep. It takes some time to “train” your mind, because what usually happens when you go to sleep monophasically, is that it takes time before you reach REM state. In polyphasic sleep, you have to enter REM state immediately as you close your eyes. This is why the first 1-2 weeks is the hardest when switching routine – you don’t get enough REM sleep. For more info, I found this short article very enlightening.

I can attest that the training is working. I usually have dreams when I take my naps, and I can get to sleep quite quickly now. So, it’s working. Surprisingly, this hasn’t been too rough a ride over all – of course some parts are almost unbearable.

Some positive benefits:

  • I can do more around the house. I have been cooking some of my specialities for the family. I can help more with cleaning etc. And, I can tell you this has DONE WONDERS for my relationship with my family.
  • I achieve more. I have a higher motivation to “just do it” and I have more time to “do it” all.
  • I am reading more, getting to think more, talking with the family more. All this builds my knowledge, understanding of the world and the people around me.

There’s lots more to come. Stay posted by subscribing.

What do you want to know about this new lifestyle?

Day 1 – New Lifestyle

It’s been a pretty awkward experience so far, this new lifestyle.

Obviously, the major change to my habits was the sleeping pattern that I adopted. It has been a killer change – both good and bad.

I found it exceedingly difficult to get to sleep in the 30minutes of allotted time every 4 hours. The first few naps I took I got 5 minutes rest each – admittedly I wasn’t yet tired.

However, as it came to later in the night, I found it easier to fall asleep. My 1am nap was decent.

However, I messed up with my 5am nap, missing my alarm and sleeping two and a half hours. I felt terrible about that! No worries though, it brough my total sleep to about 3.5 hours last night.

At a few stages I felt a little exhausted, my legs felt like they had a mind of their own and I was a little off-balance.

My 9am nap was amazing, I got 20 minutes and when I awoke I was totally refreshed and keen. I tried to sleep at 1pm but couldn’t. Albeit I was awake and alert for all of today, which was good and unexpected.

So what did I achieve?

  • I wrote 3 blog posts
  • I reduced my Google Reader list from 1,000+ to 600 and am up to date on a lot of news.
  • I finished my book, the Thank You Economy and wrote a review.
  • I started reading another book about spirituality – as recommended to me.
  • I ate quite healthily and drank 6 large glasses of water.
  • I did a whole lot of admin work for Shopt.
  • I listed a bunch of Rugby World Cup Tickets on my Shopt page. If you are thinking about coming to watch, let me know.

This was an incredible day. I am surprisingly alert and can’t wait to see how this new lifestyle works for me. Anyway I am about to hit my next nap. Au revoire for now…

Have you done anything crazy lately? What was it?

New Lifestyle – Day Zero

There are some things I know I need to change and there are some things that I really want to change. Today marks the day where I start a new routine, new lifestyle, new set of habits and a focused philosophy.

I want YOU to hold me accountable. I know I am disciplined, but there are moments of weakness that I need your help with – please give me a kick up the arse if I consider falling off the bandwagon – especially in the first 2-3 weeks.

These are my commitments:

  1. Sleep
    • I adopt a new Polyphasic Sleep routine where I sleep 30 minutes every 4 hours at 5am, 9am, 1pm, 5pm, 9pm and 1am.
  2. Health
    • Water – I choose water at every opportunity. I drink 8-10 glasses per day. I am allowed the occasional (maybe twice per week) fruit juice, but NEVER soft drinks.
    • Smaller more frequent meals – I eat more often, but less of a portion size. This fits well with my new sleeping routine.
    • Healthier – I choose to eat plant-based foods (vegetables and fruit) as opposed to carbohydrates and proteins. This is at every occasion.
    • Exercise – I do 30 minutes to 1 hour of walking/jogging per day coupled with the occasional resistance workout.
  3. Knowledge and Inspiration
    • News - I read the news and subscribed blogs every day (2 hours).
    • Reading – I read 1-2 hours of my book every day.
    • Writing – I write 2 blog posts every day. One post per day for Shopt (social media/commerce for business) and my personal Blog (lessons I learn and musings).
    • Video – I take every opportunity to watch educational video material, TED talks and any other form of inspiration.
  4. Happiness
    • Meditating – I reflect for 30 minutes every day.
    • Laughter – I laugh at every chance I get. I help bring laughter and happiness to those around me. I wipe out any trace of negative thoughts that cross my mind.
    • Friends – I make every effort to be available to see friends and amazing people that make my life awesome.
  5. Values
    • Community and Collaboration – I share everything I have with those around me. I learn everything I can from those who will teach me. I do everything I can to help the people around me achieve their goals, find their passions, find each other and work together.
    • Initiative and Drive – I put 100% effort into everything I commit to. I always have something to do. I will change the world with the help of those who want to, too.
    • Confidence – I believe in myself and my goals, skills and strengths. I learn from my mistakes and I learn to progress. I relentlessly pursue self-improvement and development.

This is my new lifestyle, this makes me the person I want to be. Please help me  be me.

Follow my journey by subscribing to my blog and watching my Youtube channel.

Kill it before it kills you

I think a common problem in businesses (startup or established) is that issues don’t get solved quickly enough. I say “solve it now, or accept death as the outcome”.

In my experience, issues arise every day. Some of them big, some of them small. But all of them need to be solved – quickly and efficiently. The longer you dawdle and mess around, the bigger and more complex those problems become, and harder they are to solve.

Some problems I have had to worry about in the past:

Founder/Shareholder causing more trouble than it’s worth. I learned a lot from this issue and have applied my learnings on a very consistent basis. If you have a tough problem, ours was a documented shareholder, solve it QUICKLY. We chose to be passive and address the shareholder slowly and cautiously. The outcome was that it took 4 months to get an answer, the company was closed down and friendships were destroyed. The problem had been going on for ages, and we just ignored it.

I learnt: Always have a comprehensive and detailed shareholders’ agreement. Always approach the person face-to-face, and immediately bring light to the subjects of concern. Set a reasonable due date and enforce this. Be personable, approachable, friendly and frank.

Negative colleague causing the team to get frustrated and angry. In a recent job I took, I also trained a new employee, X. I found this guy lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem, and tried to bear with him and help him along the way. Following my extended training time, I left him be and I was moved to a separate location because I was self-reliant. Over the course of the next few days I had various conversations with other team mates, and consistently heard about X being negative, distracting, disruptive and frustrating. He was bringing a whole lot of negative energy and problems top the team which was cause for concern. This was in contrast to the happy, joyful and often humorous landscape that was the team prior to Employee X arriving.

The following day I asked Employee X if he would join me for a coffee and we had a chat. I was frank and to the point about what was happening and why I thought that was. I also suggested that being more positive, joyful and self-confident would solve the problems in the team and improve his relationship with team members. It was a hard conversation to have, but afterwards there was a drastic change. He was easier to be around, more positive, cheerful and much more self-confident. What a revelation! And, the team was a lot less frustrated and distracted. WIN!

I learnt: That approaching the person head on and privately is an effective way to solve a people problem. In the long-run, it is always best to hire Happy People, and get rid of those that don’t meet expectations.

I find myself using these principles every day. Whenever there is something that doesn’t feel right, a reaction I didn’t expect, a hindrance I need to address, I make an effort to enquire, ask about, and solve these issues. This is working great for me, what about you…?

What issues did you leave too long to address? What successful stories do you have about issues you solved quickly?