Saturday, September 20, 2008

Surprise me

A surprise provokes fascinating emotions. This wealth drop is dedicated to those who find ways to add a spark to our lives by doing the unexpected. By the way, thanks Carlos for the postcard from South Africa. Quite a surprise!

It was Lynda Dorrington, CEO of Form, an Australian Organization, who inspired me to develop the theme. Ever since I came to Perth, Lynda has relentlessly foster a discussion to make the city more vibrant. She has pushed the envelope bringing experts from overseas and has engaged top notch research to understand what it takes to transform Perth into the Creative Capital of the world.

So, where is Perth? It claims to be the most isolated city in the world, yet I’ve been to other isolated places. It is one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities I’ve ever seen; with lakes, parks, soft hills, the bluest sky you can only imagine, a fresh smell of Eucalyptus and plenty of birds and bike ways. It is the only city that I know where you can literally go for swim from downtown, or fish and actually eat what you catch, right there on the steps of the city centre. There is a certain ‘nostalgie’ of the past, with plenty of houses keeping the traditional tuckpointed walls and tile roofs.

Lynda seeks more participation to her discussion, yet being a global citizen myself, I don’t think we should limit the conversation to our residents. What creates a vibrant city? I like a city that has surprises… but I generally like surprises, it keeps us alert and alive. When was the last time you surprised someone?

Well, I’m just about to try to do so. Just read on…

I don’t know what creates a vibrant city but having been to 13 airports in the last 3 months across four continents I can tell you that the world is becoming boring, or well, how can I say it? Predictable! Q’l horror as the Swiss would say.
Yeah… we like predictability so we can feel secure and plan accordingly, then something kicks in. An external change or the need for chaos. Yes, I know, I’ve also been hit by the financial crisis… even so, we can only take so much predictability, it kills our creativity and innovation.

So, we need to revert to something unusual. I like a city where I can be surprised, just like I like surprises. When you send me a note it is fantastic. I don’t expect it, and I love it, whether it is a positive or a negative comment.

Surprises keep us agile and alert. Companies that surprise us capture a space in our minds. They raise above the rest, they treat us in unusual ways, either as customers, employees, suppliers or as part of their community. We need to add more of that. Both on our businesses and at our personal level.

When was the last time you surprised someone? When did you develop a product or a service that would surprise your customers?

Well, I am just about to release two books and a DVD… on three completely different topics I’ve been working on for years: the 10 unwealthy habits, Falling in love with your life, and How to fund your million dollar idea. Now, if you want to get a deal on any of them, preorder now at $10 each, pls postage, on any number or combinations you might want to add. Just drop us a note and we’ll keep you on file and send you a paypal request when it is ready to ship.

I would love to surprise you even more running a contest… and here is the thing, next week I’m going to a place called Halls Creek, to explore ways that we can transform the lives of some of these kids… and we are going to need A LOT of help. I want to find a way to convince them to switch from living from well fare to paying taxes.

What can I do to surprise these kids, so used to arrogant white fellows telling them what to do?

Bring that on!


PD: whether you are in the part of the world that is living on crisis or not, give someone a surprise.. and if you want to surprise Lynda at leave them a note on what makes a city creative? There is an interactive button on the site.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Chinese Story

Beijing was celebrating because of the Olympic Games; the energy was fascinating. I walked along the CEO of a major Chinese firm towards the Bird Nest. We were excited about watching the 100 men meter race. His English was impeccable. As we passed along a small lake, 4 or 5 ducks frolicked. He stopped and smiled. Then turned around and told me: Ducks in Beijing! I never thought I could see this!

I smiled as he continued: “You know, we were so hungry, people would take it home any wildlife to eat. You see, we were very poor. I mean –he paused- my grandparents were rich, they had a summer home, and a small brick factory, but after the revolution they lost everything. Not only what they had physically. My parents had to work very hard, we were displaced. It was very difficult. Some of my relatives die of hunger. I realized I had to study very very hard to honor my parents. I finally got to go to University, in another state. We were so poor –he sighted- I only had two shirts in four years, can you imagine? I washed one and used the other one. You could almost see through the fabric when I finished.”

I nodded with admiration. And he continued: I am so lucky! And he breathed in with a sense of wonder, pride and reflexion.

I was speechless… He felt lucky! And indeed he was.

As we continue walking to the Bird Nest to watch a competition, I thought that it is that sense of gratitude that drives us to do the impossible.

I wish I could say I’m not going to complain again, that’s why I am writing this story, to remind me that we are indeed lucky, and to share that beautiful Chinese story.

I thought that it could touch your heart. What do you think?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

One dream, one world

One world, one dream

I used to think that I'm a global citizen but mind you, China is not another country, it is another world! and getting help in Mandarin without trying sign language is completely out of my boundaries.

I wrote this note from Beijing, seeing a completely white sky (smog or fog?). The energy that fills the city is difficult to describe. Beijing is in celebration mood; clean, in spite of an undecided white sky mixing contamination and fog, with most beautiful parks, and thousands of volunteers all over.

As we walked the 3km line to the security gates for the Opening Ceremony, thousands of young volunteers were radiant as they said "Welcome to Beijing". Feeling the energy of so many people melted my heart, and even now I get watery eyes remembering. Pekinese are so proud of the city they are show casing to the world, and that sensation of excellence and hard work makes the ambiance truly special.

The theme for the Olympics could not be more appropriate for our world now. Specially as I moved across cultures and sentiments of worry, frustration, fear and concern in the other part of the world. When we think that the future is promising, we take better decisions. When we think that the future is worse than our present, we get paralyzed and stop taking actions. The difference between prosperity and impoverishment starts at the individual level. In our ways of thinking and acting.

For the Chinese, there was a dream to accomplish, to show the world that they have or are catching up. I am amazed at what they have done. One of the CEOs of a large steel company told us with a mix of amazement and satisfaction that he never thought he could see a pair of ducks frolicking by the Bird Nest's lake (the Bird Nest was the main building in the Olympic Park). Ten years ago, he continued, there was not much of a wild life as people were starving. They haven't overcome all of their problems but the sign of 4-5 ducks in a lake is definitely a sign of prosperity. As it is to watch people, specially older people, carrying their bird cages around, taking their pets for a walk. Unusual and cool!

This Olympics are an example of achievement, they did what was impossible. When we have a dream and align it with goals, we achieve marvelous things. A little over a year ago, one of my clients created an integrated security system, we determined that the Olympics Games would be an ideal client. Studying that market was fascinating. I don't know of any other case where planning and monitoring is so relevant. The dream becomes reality with the opening ceremony, there is not another possibility. Nothing of perhaps or tomorrow or 'we will do everything possible'. The ceremony was planned to -and indeed started- on August 8th, at 8:08pm. The Olympic Flame was lit at 12:00 pm exactly, after hundreds of thousands of people were moved inside the Bird Nest.

I ask myself how much time we would save if we could learn from this combination of dreams, goals, planning and execution. I know that it has changed the way I see milestones and deadlines forever.

Now, let me focus on the first word of the Olympic Theme: one world. I was hoping around worlds, and have gotten used to it. I noted that, even in the U.S. there were significant differences. Two cities stood up OUT of the "crisis": San Jose and Houston. San Jose is the center of the socall "Silicon Valley", a dynamic and small city; filled with ideas, entrepreneurs, technology and capital. It is a city of dreamers taking actions. Houston is a large city, growing giddily because of the development of the petroleum activities and hospitals. In the other cities that I visited, the environment was different. There was an overcast of worry and resignation, expecting the downpour, enduring, resisting. Later I had the pleasure to visit Guatemala for the first time, invited by the prestigous University Francisco Marroquin. The pace and sense of excellence is fantastic! I met with the Business Faculty, and the President, and gave a short conference to its graduates. The Marroquin is starting a Centre of Entrepreneurship that will support the transformation of dreamers into world class entrepreneurs and leaders. ( and although in Spanish if you want to put a face to the text, check this out: Hey! you can practice your Spanish too!

Fantastic opportunities exist to take advantage of the world integrally. There are amazing opportunities there. I speak repeatedly about the giants of the east: Chinese, India and the Arabian countries. Capturing 0,00000001% of these markets is amazing!

The second part of the Olympic Theme is great: one dream. I think Capitalism and Communism are converging. We have learned so much about what works and what doesn't that we can create a new way of living. We are indeed changing the ways we do business. We are all part of it. As Bill Gates recently explained with this 'Creative Capitalism' ideas, we know people matter as much as capital.

I think we can build the dream by shifting competing to collaborating. The new socioeconomic order will need to include our impact on others, as well as our individualistic needs and desires. We can be more like ourselves and less than everybody else, when we put our minds to it. It is we, a group of individuals, who create the future, not the other way around. Or at least no anymore. Nothing prevents us to sell to Asia, whose economic integration and production expertise creates opportunities that used to be unthinkably, we can collaborate to expand networks, and we can even outsource the production in the local market! Nowadays, the world is of the size of a hand. We can travel very long distances (I personally have been travelling over 100 hours in the past few weeks) but we can connect using technology.

We are indeed one world, and we all share one dream: prosperity for all.

Alicia Castillo Holley

language barriers or not

It was impossible to upload the blog during my trip to China.

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