Friday, March 27, 2009

Solving the puzzle

This wealth drop comes as a result of a very interesting interaction with Naman, one of our readers from India, as we explore how to manage ups and downs.

Around when I turned 40, I had enough evidence that life was not a straight line going up, but a series of ups and downs. When we are up, we feel we have accomplished something, get a better view, and enjoy our contentment. Ahhh it is all about how “we made it”. When we are down, we feel incomplete, have lost our vision, and can’t understand why we are there. Ahhh it is all about “life is hard”. Looking at life as a series of dots of “ups” did not do it for me. I found that connecting the dots was a much better way of living my life. Staying up on the top is only good for a short period of time, otherwise we become arrogant and stop growing. Somehow we get the urge to explore other areas, even if it means coming down. Like the chaos theory that claims that the world evolves towards order until it can’t stand it anymore and explodes.

The problem when thinking in ups and downs, is that we miss the complexity of going sideways. So I was looking for another analogy and found out multidimensional puzzles? Have you ever worked on a puzzle? What is more enjoyable? The ‘moment’ when you are done or the “period’ where you are testing this or that, trying to find the best possible piece and realizing it has a perfect fit to then go to the next empty hole? Well, that is exactly what happens in life. You get the pieces all rumbled and scattered and life is but a journey to find the pieces and put them in the perfect fit spots… some pieces are there for no reason, simply because we can’t connect them.

Some people have a vision of their puzzle, and they move quite fast… until the chaos theory kicks in and mmmm we want to explore without a vision. Others go around and as they find a piece they put it somewhere, they are less efficient but they also reach a point where the chaos theory kicks in and voila, time to get a vision and move faster. Sometimes we throw away pieces, sometimes we even have to create them. (been there, done that)

Regardless of how we put the pieces in our puzzle one thing is sure: There is no use in trying thousands of times to put a piece where it does not belong!!! If the panorama changed, you are in a different part of the puzzle, perhaps the one you don’t know, perhaps the one you are comfortable with.

Your experiences and knowledge are the pieces already in your puzzle. Would you take them out? No way. What is new? What needs to be added? What direction do you want to take?
At the end, the fun part is creating the puzzle, not finishing it.

Here is to your game!


PS: I’ll be going on a world tour in April and May, to Jeddah and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Houston, Guatemala, Caracas, Maracay, Santiago de Chile, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. If you are in any of these places, drop me a line and I’ll try to meet with you or to get you a discount ticket to the open events or an invitation to the private ones. More to come as I go along.

PS2: tomorrow is my birthday, couldn't find a better way to celebrate than having my dream of a world tour done! that piece was a hard one!

Monday, March 9, 2009

what to do

You may know a student, faculty, or community entrepreneur who is diligently working on a technology product. If so, please share with them an opportunity to receive $15,000 this summer by applying to the N2TEC Accelerator Program Up to 10 teams or individual will be awarded a grant while spending 8 weeks in South Dakota during June/July 2009. During that time, they will receive access to industry exports, coaching, investor access, incubator space and networking events. There is no obligation on the part of the individual or team to remain in South Dakota or launch their venture there. However, the State of South Dakota will do its best to make a launch most attractive!

Applications are due April 1, 2009 and can be downloaded at the website.

Thanks to Maureen Boland, from Perth, Australia for keeping us posted!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


My friend Rafael Rubio, who is organizing my tour in Uruguay, suggested the topic of “Crisimiento” for one of my workshps, which I’ve freely translated to Crowth. Crisimiento is a made up word in Spanish involving 'crisis = crisis' and 'crecimiento = growth'. I laughed because the word can be separated into 'crisis = crisis' and 'miento = I lie'. I guess the Venezuelan blood shows up in me sometimes. I leave it up to you to interpret … In English it seems though that Crowth can involve some crows, and once again, I leave it up to you to interpret.

This wealthdrop took form as I thought about my last trip to the US whilst going for a walk. I love walking, it clears my mind, releases endorphins –aka good mood- and keeps me in shape. Even in unknown cities I find a way to walk early in the morning; I get a sense of the environment, I imagine the decisions that were taken in the past, I recreate and compare worlds in no particular shape or form.

So, here I was, overlooking at the River in Perth, and thinking about the gloomy economy in the US. How can I send hopes and dreams, and the ability to make things happen? With the reality of our losses behind us, mine, yours, and others, the flow of the river kept me company. Watching the flow turned my thoughts from the past to the future: How can we improve, grow, innovate, and create? Do we need to do more? If so, of what?

Somehow the memory of a teacher telling me that I had to do more emerged, and something inside of me rebelled. People ARE doing more: more marketing, more efforts, more hours of work, more social networking, and networking activities, more studies to understand clients or potential clients, more sharing their curriculum, more giving freebies, more courses, reading more books, more and more and more ... That’s life in the US, a whirlwind of activity.

I also succumbed to it, hiring a consultant in Silicon Valley, I also want to achieve more, but I did not like his approach of doing more, work more hours, more networking, and put more effort. He sent an article on the best 100 sites for networking. By the time I’ve gotten down to the third I was already tired.

I prefer to optimize and simplify, leaving a space to build something new. His suggestions implied using more of my time to build up my speaking career: giving free workshops, producing a series of free reports, spending my nights networking at events. I rebelled to that approach having built several companies before. I know that working MORE does not necessary helps one ACHIEVE more. It reminded me of Henry Ford, yes, the visionary that created a car for the every day person, the founder of the same company that now makes more of the same hoping to achieve more of the same. Ford said: “if I had asked, people would have told me they needed faster horses.”

Back to my teacher, she tried in vane to convince me that to learn the 9 times tables, I had to recite them 20 times per day. My niece’s teacher uses a different approach, telling her to add the numbers… At an early age, I thought about doing something different: you multiply by 10 and subtract the number. Or a mathematical trick that my dad taught me: you subtract 1 from the number and add the difference to complete nine. So 9 x 6 = 54 (5 is 6-the number- minus 1, and 4 is what 5 needs to create a 9). Sharing these out-of-the-box ideas with my niece was absolutely magical: it feels absolutely divine to figure out unconventional ways of
getting results. She loved it. So did I.

The world seems to think that more is more… Let’s put more money into the system… I prefer to think that we are OVER doing more of the same to get MORE of the same. It is true that if we counted 9 times 9 we would get to 81, but I’ld like to think that if we subtracted 9 from 90 we would get there faster. We also thought that we would be healthier if we ate more, and we are now obese; that we needed to invest more and more we lost; that our economy was better if more people owned their homes, and more value was lost. Is MORE the answer?

Not for me. I do not want to learn to 'be' more, to 'give' more and to ‘have’ more. I want to learn and explore how to be 'better:' More efficient, more unique, more extra-ordinary. One of my talks in April in Guatemala, it is precisely this: how to reinvent companies. And I want to invite you to explore this for you and for us all.

The crisis is an ideal time to think about doing something different and unique. Let’s be more like ourselves and stop making more of the same. Let’s nurture our capacity to be extraordinary and spectacular. Let’s break the paradigm of doing more to achieve more.

That is what crowth is about.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Looking for Indian, Chinese and US students for a collaborative project!

I'm still digesting my last recent trip and have a lot of interesting materials and thoughts to share. In the meantime, I don't want to miss the opportunity to collaborate in this very interesting project. I wish my kids were doing science!!!Unfortunately it is only available to students with the Indian, Chinese or US citizenship OR to undergraduates in those countries. I'm sure the program will be a success and expand onto other regions soon!

Mike Snyder, CEO and founder of iFEST sent me this invitation. Please forward it to students you might know and if you are one yourself, consider applying. The deadline is coming up soon, so act FAST.

"It is a pleasure to let you know about the US-China-India International Innovation Camp that we are planning at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for July this year. iFEST and RPI would like to invite applications from the best and brightest undergraduate students in these three countries to join us for hands-on lab projects, and in-depth learning about how real world problems can be addressed by technology driven entrepreneurship.

The deadline for students to apply is March 6th, fast approaching. Although we can be flexible for your students until about March 20th or so.

The application process is very simple:

Students can download the application form on the 1st page of our website at Prospective students just need to fill out the application form and return via email attachment or hardcopy, along with recommendation letters, etc. Also, please see more details about the Camp in the flyer on our website at"

Just for the record, RPI is one of the best Universities in terms of technology and entrepreneurship. My father was a student there decades ago, and I participated for years in a program for young (mjm young...) researchers on venture capital. This is a one in a lifetime opportunity to participate in an amazing experience. Please help spread the word.

All the best,

Alicia Castillo Holley