“What Do You Think Happens To Us When We Die?”

The universe seems to be on a Keanu Reeves binge at the moment.

Everything he does in his reel life is pretty much turning to gold. (OK - maybe not everything, but enough that it matters.) Meanwhile, his actions in real life show him to be the kind of person we probably all want to be.

Keanu Reeves’ Philosophy even seems to be a thing, and we caught a glimpse of it in a recent appearance…

When Capable People Need To Go

The biggest challenge that any organization - small or large - faces is finding and keeping good people. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a start-up team of 3 or if you’re Google, the core challenge remains the same: employ the best people possible.

And getting the best people is a complex goal with multiple aspects to it, each as important as the other.

How do I find the best people to do what is needed? How do I incent them to do their best work? How do I make sure they stay?

The Thing about (My) Pettiness...

The past month or so has been a terrible one for Arsenal supporters like me.

We knew this would be a transition year and hence (we believed) we’d managed our expectations accordingly. But as the end of the season approached, we found ourselves in pole position to do something fantastic (for where the team was, anyway). We had a real shot at finishing 3rd in the league, thereby securing a coveted spot in the Champions League (very necessary to attract the best players), and we had the chance to bring home a European trophy, having reached the Europa League Final.

Regrets, I've Had A Few...

Very early on in my career, I went to meet a senior executive at one of the fastest growing entertainment companies in Asia.

At the time, I was a Marketing Executive in the Consumer Goods space and, while the work was interesting, I wanted to explore what else was out there, especially in this exciting new area that was taking Asia (I lived in Hong Kong at the time) by storm.

The Importance of Valorization

One of the things that I love about the Montessori education system is its focus on developing independence and confidence and instilling self-esteem in children.

In fact, one of the central tenets of that system is Valorization. I was reminded of this in a recent video from the RPMS school (which is where my kids went). Valorization is about:

It's Not Just About The Finish Line...

It’s hard not to focus on the Finish line, on completing the task and getting things done.

We seem to be hardwired to be that way, or at the very least, programmed to focus on it.

Our emphasis, then, is on the end point, how we’ll feel when it’s all over. And all of our efforts goes towards that end and getting “the result”.

The problem with that mindset is that we lose sight of what’s probably the most important part: the journey.

The One Question You Should Ask In An Interview...Isn't Enough

If you spend any time online looking for advice (of any sort - personal or business), you’re bound to come across articles that espouse the “1 question you need to ask” or the “3 signs that you’ll be successful”. The intention behind these articles is clear - if you’re on the path to X, and if you pay attention to these one or two or three things, then you’ll get there.

I get the simplicity of the approach and I appreciate it’s allure, especially if the advice is coming from someone we consider to be successful (or from someone who works for a company we consider to be conventionally successful).

If You Do Know, Then Say So

I’ve talked about situations where leaders and managers struggle to say “I don’t know” because of their fear of seeming incompetent or not being “in the know”. It’s an approach that rarely works and, more often than not, breeds frustration and angst, because it goes against the reality that real leaders are human, open and willing to be vulnerable.

On the flip side, we also see situations where perfectly competent individuals - individuals who know their stuff and know the situation at hand - are unwilling to say what they think. They remain quiet even when they know better, even when their expertise, experience and gut are telling them otherwise.

Why does this happen?

Defining Happiness

“To me, happiness is about an expectation of positive change. Every year before 2016, there was an improvement in my expectations — in the team, the product, or the company. This was the first time in my life when the present year felt worse than the last.“ 

The above quote come from Sahil Lavingia’s Medium article titled “Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company”, which recounts how he built what by any normal standard would be considered a successful business but a failure by traditional Venture Capital standards (and as he says, his own).

Get Used To Criticism

If you’re going to do anything different, you’re going to get criticized.

There’s no shortage of folks willing to offer you advice if you’re thinking about a new venture, a new project or a new position. They’ll range from friends, family as well as business colleagues - well intentioned or otherwise. Some of it you might actively ask for, but a lot of it will be offered to you, at no extra cost.

Be The Guide - Not The Victim

Donald Miller is an author and businessman who helps organizations tell better stories. His message is that, in a business world that’s full of noise and clutter, the only way to cut through is to tell stories and engage your audience - in any type of setting.

One of his key themes is that there are really 4 key roles you can play in any story - hero, villain, guide or victim.

Take Your Power Back

We all like the idea of getting along.

In business relationships specifically, harmony is an essential ingredient in successful, long term relationships. If we have harmony, we have alignment, we have consensus (at least in terms of direction), we have the grounds for collective momentum.

The trick is in making sure that the basis for that harmony is real. Harmony isn’t about happiness, hugs and kisses. It’s often hard to get to, many times requiring debate, disagreement and (periodic) discontent. Achieving real harmony is almost always hard work.

Do The (Next) Right Thing

“There's a concept in Hinduism called "dharma," which means "duty." Your dharma is to always do *the next right thing*, without attachment to the consequences (karma). When you follow your dharma, good karma naturally flows from it. When you don't, it doesn't.“

I’m not a religious person, nor would I call myself overly spiritual, but I do believe in the old saying, “what comes around, goes around”. Which is probably why the above tweet from Asha Rangappa resonated so strongly with me the other day.

Don't Send Me An Email (Sort Of)

I’m old enough to remember a time when we didn’t have email at work.

If I wanted to communicate something, I’d pick up the phone and call that person, or I’d write them a letter, or I’d set up a meeting (by phone) and head over to their office to chat.

Since then, the advent of email has led to more streamlined and more versatile communications. You can not only share a thought or an idea, but you can have entire streams of back and forth, all fully documented for future reference. For example…

Learn The Script - Then Forget It

In any pitch - whether it’s to make a sale, get a job, get a promotion, or fund an initiative - the story you tell is all-important. It has to inform, educate and (many times) entertain and inspire the audience, so that they ultimately say yes, and agree to whatever your “ask” is.

So how you craft that story is absolutely critical. From the key themes, to the overall flow/structure, to the specific messages/story points, to the facts and anecdotes that illustrate those messages, it’s essential to flesh out all of those elements.

Cater To Who Matters - Not To Everyone Else

I’m reading a book called “Coal Black Mornings” by Brett Anderson, the lead singer and founder of the British band, Suede, which had their heyday in the BritPop era of the 1990s through early 2000s.

(Suede is in my Top Five bands of all time, but while popular in Britain, they’ve been largely ignored in the US. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re absolutely worth checking out - start with the first two albums.)

There’s a passage in the book where he talks about his song writing process, and writes:

Engage And Entertain (Or It's Always Better to Pull Than Push)

The advent of recording technology (from the cassette tape to the VCR to the current digital formats) as well as the ability to access audio-visual entertainment on demand has allowed us to do the one thing that marketers hate:

Skip their ads.

For the most part, you don’t have to sit through a 15, 30 or 60 second ad just to get to the content you’re actually there for. You just hit the forward button and presto! No marketing message, no advertiser trying to sell you something.