Blog Archives: Musings

Wanna Run? by Clay Hebert

Some very strong and motivating words from Clay Hebert of as found on the SXSW Pokes eBook by the Domino Project.

Two words can change everything.

I love playing basketball.  I remember being 11 years old and going to the local playground.  A bunch of older kids were all just shooting around at the two hoops and not really playing.

I asked a simple two-word question that changed everything, “Wanna run?”

They all nodded excitedly and we started a full-court game that lasted for hours.  More players showed up.  A group of girls showed up just to watch.  Everyone had a great time and we didn’t leave until they shut off the playground lights.  We started playing every night at the same time.

The sad, surprising tale is that this same scene has repeated itself hundreds of times in my life.  I show up to a court and everyone is just shooting buckets, like they need an 11-year old’s permission to organize a game.

“Wanna run?”

Minutes later, we split up teams and we’re immersed in a competitive game, whether 3 on 3 or full-court 5 on 5. In 23 years of doing this, it has worked every time.  Never have the other seven people said “no, I just came to shoot”.

Thousands of hours of fun and exercise for hundreds of people from two simple words.

So what’s stopping you?   You have dreams, ideas, that book you want to write, that blog you want to start, that trip you want to take.  So why are you standing around shooting at the hoop?

Wanna run?

What dreams do you “wanna run”? Let’s continue this discussion in the comments below.

I’ve lost my marble

In reading I am a strange loop, by Douglas Hofstadter, I came across this great poem by one of his students. It refers to a phenomenon that Douglas encountered with a box of envelopes. One day he stuck his hand into this box of envelopes and grabbed the pile. In doing so he felt a marble in amongst the envelopes. Unfortunately, a search for the marble was inconsequential and thus he made a discovery: there was no marble to start with. I found this highly amusing, I hope you do too.

Ode to a Box of Envelopes
(For all who have lost their marbles…)
by Jeannel King

A box of env’lopes on the floor –
I want to shift them to my drawer.
I squeeze inside — there’s something there!
I look inside — there’s naught but air.

I squeeze again and  marble find.
Is this a marble of my mind?
Determined now, and one by one,
out come the env’lopes — still no plum!

For closer views of each, I must
brave paper cuts and motes of dust.
In tips? Or env’lope forty-six?
My marble, whole, and does not exist.

Then coarse-grained Mother whispers “Nell,
you keep this up, you’ll go to hell!”
To which Dad counters, “Mind yer mopes!
Let Nell seek God in envelopes!”

So envelopes lie all around
as I sit, vexed, upon the ground.
My marble’s lost, but in my core
could there, perhaps, be something more?

For more than parts this whole has grown:
No single part doth stand alone.
In parts, the marble simply mocks.
Intact, I think, I’ll keep this box.

The poem takes us through Douglas’s discovery.

He felt a marble when he grabbed the envelopes. So, he went in search of the marble. Alas, nothing but air, there was no marble to be found. So, he took all the envelopes and laid them out, to find this marble that he felt. There was no marble in sight.

So he gathered up the envelopes again and put them back inside the box. In doing so, he felt, once again, that there was a marble amongst the envelopes. His discovery was in fact that there was no marble at all, but when the envelopes had been held the overlap of the envelopes created a “marble”.

This was in fact an illusion. But, I love the analogy because this happens so much in life. We make judgement calls based on what we feel, and often times this judgement may be an illusion.

Has something like this ever happened to you, figuratively or literally? What’s your favourite analogy? Why?

Lawrence of Arabia got it right

“All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find it was only vanity; but the dreamers of the day are the dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”
-T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

Which do you fall under? What are your dreams?

Stop and think, cultures differ

I have found myself, in the past, extremely critical of what people do in different countries and cultures. The one thing that always got me angry was that in some asian cultures they eat dogs, cats and horses. To me, this is obscene. But I never stopped to think about it, and consider that I may be wrong – or at least not seeing their perspective.

I am currently reading the book I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter – which so far seems to me a book about a philosophical view on language and “consciousness”. But it was in the course of reading Chapter Two, that Douglas talks about how circumstances and cultural difference create a society-wide habit or norm. The fact is that people in different regions act, talk and behave completely differently to other people in other regions. If you grow up in a society where it is normal to eat cats and dogs, then you will most likely fit yourself into that norm and do the same.

For example, we take for granted that we eat calves, piglets, chicks, lambs and many more. In India, a large cultural and religious aspect is that cows are a holy animal. They would find it disgusting and unimaginable for a person to eat a cow – which we do all the time. For Jews, the same could be said of pigs. For me it is cats and dogs.

Who are we to point fingers and criticise people for having different cultural norms than we do? Who am I to be angry at the asian community that eats dogs and cats?

So my question today is…

What cultural differences have you been critical of in the past? Has today’s post changed your perspective? I look forward to continuing this discussion in the comments below.

Overcoming Parental Direction

Today, I feel like I need to hear your stories and find out how different my upbringing has been. How influential have your parents been in your life and career decisions? Do you feel that it was right for you?

But here is my story to start us off…

From an early age and throughout my life I have consistently been involved with family-businesses and the conversations that go with them. My father is a Chartered Accountant and my mum is now growing her 3rd business. So I suppose you could say I have my roots grounded in business – and honestly I love it.

For many years and continuing today, my parents have pro-actively and passively guided me towards Accounting as a career – my main motivation for following this guidance for so long has been the financial prosperity associated with being an accountant. I have often questioned this career path, and often had arguments on the topic, but for all too long I have submitted to my parents influence because “they know better than me”. Right?

On the contrary, I have found that my parents are not (completely) correct in their guidance. Admittedly, how could they know exactly what is right for me? So, I find to reasonable that they suggest I follow a particular path. But, I have continually come back saying that accounting is not challenging, not fulfilling and not exciting – much to their dismay.

In 2010, I put my foot down and stopped following their direction and the path towards accounting; instead opting for an exciting and varied career, starting my own business and working with an amazing friend, Sam Dalton. I have never felt so thrilled, alive and content with my life – I meet the most amazing people, form excellent friendships, learn about the things that interest me and do what I feel fits right with me. This is what I was destined to do.

But, all this draws me to some curious questions about myself and others.

Has your childhood been similar? Have you been given guided/strict direction by your parents? Do you think this is/was right for you? Did you stand up and make your own decision? Was it early enough? What’s your story? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

Alternative futures available to newspapers

Solve the problem of validity as a newspaper agency, and I WILL pay for your service. Why? Because then I know that I am not paying for the information (which can be found for free) but rather for your accreditation.

So what’s the next step for Newspaper companies? How do they create a viable business model out of this?

Firstly, they need a completely new business model: change from a content-provider to a content-validator. This may require a new team, a new philosphy, a complete restructuring – but remember you have the money now, so get ready for the change while you can. To make this model happen, a content-validator will need to employ researchers and analysts that will “dig deep into a story” find the truths and untruths. Once they are happy with the validity of the article, then they should place their “mark” on the article for readers to see.

By accrediting an article, a reader can then trust the news and information found in the article. The newspaper still acts as a gate-keeper in many respects – as long as it retains a perfect reputation. This is the second issue newspapers must manage – their reputation. They are accrediting information as “valid” and thus need to ensure that all their effort goes into ensuring that this information is valid. If a newspaper has a poor record in ensuring validity, then they will lose credibility and therefore lose relevance and fail.

Note, I do not expect a news-validator to keep a perfect record, but near-perfect will be acceptable.

One organisation that does a great job of accrediting and validating is Wikileaks (this link may not always work, so just google “wikileaks”). They act as a validator of provocative information and then publish it through their channels. Check them out.

I see two alternatives business models available to the newspapers (if you have any others, please comment below):

  1. Charging the journalist for your mark and for your validation. You are putting a load of effort into validating a story and the information in it. A journalist knows that validity is key in getting her article read, passed on and viewed as credible. A journalist wants your mark on their article and their website. This gives newspapers the opportunity to charge the journalist for that effort. Do so.
  2. Collect and Charge. All the articles you accredit and validate should be collected in a central place – your website. Collect all the articles that you accredit, and charge readers to access the “newspaper”. If a newspaper’s reputation is good, and they are accrediting articles from a broad range (or even a niche market) readers will go to the newspaper to read all of them, instead of happening upon them by accident. Newspapers can charge these readers a subscription for that service. This may seem exactly the same as what newspapers are currently doing, but readers are not paying so much for the news, but for ease and convenience – all the validated news is in one place.

Another feature I would love Newspapers/journalists to ensure plays a part of the future is; comments and opinions. I really like to read educated comments and discussions at the end of an interesting article – see different perspectives, find different resources etc. Many news-providers are doing just this, like the Economist and Social Media NZ who focus a lot of time and effort encouraging readers to comment and discuss. This is a valuable part of my news consumption, perhaps here is another revenue stream that Newspapers/journalists can take advantage of? You could charge for readers to have the right to see the comments – I wouldn’t charge for people to leave comments though, because you want to encourage this. But perhaps the two go hand-in-hand?

What thoughts and concerns do you think exist with the future of newspapers? Let’s continue this discussion in the comments below.

Is independent accreditation the future of newspapers?

I was reading this article in the Economist, and having just read How Companies Win, it started me thinking about the way Newspapers are “changing”.

The article talks about how newspapers are cutting costs on journalism, attracting younger readers by focusing stories on “entertainment, lifestyle and [more]“. All of these changes are ignoring the obvious shift in their readers’ habits. People are finding new ways to consume information, read news and keep informed. Newspapers fail to realise that readers are switching medium, not looking for different content.

Over the past few years, most newspapers have gone online as a result of this realisation; some have decided to charge readers. Did they really think that through when they started the new business model?

Let us think about that for a second. The Internet is a free resource, easily shareable and free from barriers. Now, imagine that someone wants to charge you to read something that you can, most-likely, find on another website for free. Will you go ahead and pay for the privilege of reading the article? Or, will you spend a few seconds searching for the free version?

I think newspapers are approaching the changes in readers’ behaviour in the wrong way. They are asking “what can we change to keep readers on board?”, instead of asking the readers what issues they have with the current way they are consuming information.

Journalism is an industry that is shifting to independence, away from agencies. This is because any person can create news and, when it is compelling, get that news shared on the Internet. There is a huge boom in citizen journalism, worldwide. Often times, this news is more accurate, and immediate, than news by mainstream newspapers – because it comes from the front-line; journalists in the middle of a war zone or a global disaster can create news and spread it themselves without the need of newspapers.

The effect of this on newspapers is astounding – journalists are being laid off, readership is reducing, and profits are tumbling. So, my message to newspapers is “talk to your readers”. Find out how they consume news, and what issues they need resolved.

My biggest concern, as a reader of news and information, is credibility and validity.

When I read something, how do I know that what I am reading is true and credible?

Tomorrow, I propose a new role for newspapers and two alternative business models. Subscribe now, so as not to miss out.

Order by which we “learn”?

Over the past few years I have become surprisingly critical of the education system. That is, we are all taught stock-standard classes with standardised content in a boring and simplified way – this is at least how it is from school through to undergrad level university.

I am much against this type of education for two reasons:

  1. Lack of Innovation and Spontaneity – In a systematised, standardised and conventional system there is no way to make content interesting, compelling and engaging. How can students be motivated to learn, absorb information and form opinions when the content is boring and delivered to them in an uninteresting manner?
  2. Students are Commodities – The university system (especially undergraduate level) is so standardised now, that any and all students come out of university with a degree that does NOT set them apart. That was is the goal of tertiary education; to separate the talented change-makers from those that are not. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Students come out with a degree and join the millions of other job-seekers with degrees out in the work force. They are forced to take the worst jobs out there that fit with their mediochre educations and live non-thrilling and non-enriched lives. What a terrible outcome!

I believe the system has become truly destructive. We focus on filling the students (our future leaders) with useless information that has no real relevance and application to real life. When in reality we should be teaching them to find information, learn to apply that to real world scenarios and most importantly focus our attention on teaching them to problem-solve and innovate.

The internet is available to each and every one of us and there is no need to absorb the information that is readily available to every other person on the globe. What will set us apart from our colleagues and peers is how we find that information, how we use it and how we create positive change with it.

I suppose the biggest disappointment I have with the education system is that it focuses on (in my opinion) the least important factor – educational content. I believe that to be truly successful, we must create a life filled with passion!

We must have a job that fulfils that passion, we must have a family that shares in our passion, we must have friends and acquaintances that add to our passion. Teaching our students how to find their passion, focus on it, equip themselves with the skills to monetise it and give them a can-do attitude, I believe, is the future of education;  the right way,  right now.

I had a thought earlier today regarding lectures at university, and perhaps that we “educate” in the wrong order.

Currently, a student

  1. Attends a lecture
  2. Is told to read particular information from textbooks and news articles
  3. Is advised to do further reading on the subject using their own effort and ability
  4. Writes a test/examination and passes/fails
  5. Regardless of whether that information is interesting or compelling for them on a personal level. (“Is this my passion?”)

How I educate myself today is almost the opposite:  I read a lot of news and opinion.

Much of the news is focused on business related information, sustainability and social media, but occasionally I am exposed to a new interesting area that I want to explore further.

  • (5)  Once I find an area I would like to focus on – I am passionate about
  • (3)  I delve deeper; I find more articles and read more background information on the subject from other sources
  • (1)  If I am lucky I will find a lecture that pertains to the area I am looking into.
  • (4)  Finally, if I feel like testing myself, I become an active contributor to opinion on the subject; engaging on related posts, twitter, Facebook and in general conversations.
  • So, for me the order has changed from being told what to study and read, to finding what interests me, and pursuing that information.

    I believe that passion drives knowledge; a student that is passionate and interested in a particular subject will delve deeper, read more and equip themselves with more knowledge on a subject, than a non-passionate student. This is why I know it is more powerful to encourage others to follow their passion than to force them to conform to educational rigour and obtaining a degree.

    What do you think? How do you “educate” yourself? What do you think of the current and future educational systems? Please comment below.

    If you liked this post, these are related posts from the past:

    Education in Conflict –

    Equality? Or equal opportunity? -

    Forming an Opinion –

    A society og generalists

    Amazon setting a standard with WikiLeaks

    Where do we draw the line with ethics? We have billions of people in poverty, starving around the world. We have climate issues to learn about and act on.

    The reason I ask this question is because of the recent acts of Amazon against Wiki Leaks. For those of you that don’t know Wiki Leaks is a political nightmare; they are an organisation and website that publicises all sorts of sensitive information. They recently leaked 400,000 secret documents from the US government. You can read more about that here. So, Amazon have decided to remove Wiki Leaks from their servers in an attempt to silence them and stop their ever-growing momentum. Now, this is what I don’t understand…

    In a world where so much more can be done by companies to end poverty and address resource constraints, why are we banning a political website that has a lot of support from the public? If Amazon, as a company, want to take an ethical stand point, why on something so fickle? Have they drawn the ‘ethical line’, for all to see, with Wiki Leaks? Or, are they starting to take action as a company.

    If it’s the latter, then I would love to see coca cola or any ‘obesity-encouraging’ company banned too. But why stop there, let’s ban any banks that finance companies with unethical initiatives. You see where I am going with this?

    If Amazon wants to take a stand and leave a legacy – a positive mark on the world – then why not start by doing something big…something inspirational?

    What are your thoughts? I want to know what you think, please comment below.

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    Making music is just too easy

    I came across this old article in the Economist about piracy. Afterwards, I asked myself “Why are we pirating so much content that should be paid for?”

    I noticed that often it doesn’t take much skill or experience to make it big in the music industry, for example. Sometimes not much work either. I mean, just look at Biebermania.

    I reckon that people like you and me might be thinking that these ‘artists’ are earning so much money that it doesn’t matter if we pirate their music. Is that what you think might be happening?

    Because, we think that it shouldn’t be so easy to earn so much money, we are making a subconscious decision to fix the world. Are we acting in way that will make the world more like we believe it should be?

    I believe the reason why pirating is so prevalent is because of this exact attitude. We see the artists earning so much money that if we pirate it won’t have much of an effect. Although, the more people who think  this, the bigger the effect. This is what we can see happening in the world today.

    Question of the day: Do music artists earn too much money? Is this why we act in a way that makes it more fair for us?