Thursday, December 19, 2013

Be Grateful, Be Good

There are many things that make us human. Compassion, grace, love. The ability to forgive. Another I hadn’t really given much thought to, until I read this article, is gratitude. As the author says, Thanksgiving in America lends itself to taking stock of the good in our lives. Other countries and cultures reflect at different times of the year – whether that’s Christmas or New Year. The point is, ultimately gratitude is a powerful force for good. It’s how friendships are maintained and love blossoms, because gratitude is an act of selflessness. It’s an emotion we then feel compelled to pay forward and society at large benefits.

I was struck by the simplicity of this notion, but also the complexity of how gratitude, or a lack thereof, is reflected in modern society. We live in a screen age where everyone is constantly on the go. Gratitude is often an after-thought, if a thought at all. For a lot of people, the stronger emotion is a sense of entitlement. That someone else must help them because they’re so busy. Others see good deeds imparted on them as a burden, favors they are now obligated to pay back.

But if we all just took a moment to slow down and recognize what we’re grateful for and who we’re grateful too, we can understand that being grateful is integral to the fabric of our society. It keeps us in tune with each other. It makes us better people and the world a kinder place.

To Improve Mental Strength, Here’s What Not To Do

Being a leader, or even just a do-er, requires stamina and mental strength; the ability to blow-off the personal element of criticism while applying it into your work constructively, ignoring the noise, and identifying your weaknesses so you can become stronger is all part of it.

Ann Morin, a psychotherapist and college psychology instructor, provided with 13 attributes deficient in the mentally strong. It’s a great list for reflecting on our own mental limitations and finding areas where we can develop. While you can read the full list here, here are some of my thoughts on a couple of her points.

The mentally strong…
  • Don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. Fail fast, fix fast, learn fast.

  • Don’t give away their power. This isn’t about relinquishing responsibilities, but about not letting someone or something disempower you mentally. If someone gives you some criticism, learn, fix, don’t sulk.

  • Don’t shy away from change. Change will happen whether you like it or not, so relish it, welcome it, be a vanguard or laggard.

  • Don’t waste time on things they can’t control. You’ll waste more time getting over someone stealing your park than you will finding a new one. D.H. Lawrence said, " If you can change it, change it. If you can’t, don’t worry about it.” Shit happens. The world is chaotic and random. Luck, bad or good, is a real deal.

  • Don’t worry about pleasing others. Don’t go out of your way to hurt someone’s feelings, but don’t shy away from giving constructive criticism either. Respect them, and don’t make it personal. Focus on the issue… play the ball not the man.

  • Don’t fear taking calculated risks. Embrace failure. Learn from it and Pin it. Experience of failure will only make for a stronger success.

  • Don’t fear alone time. Grasmere is one of my favorite places. It’s quiet and unassuming I retreat there whenever I’m feeling under pressure. Alone time is great for calming yourself, resetting your energies, and figuring out the next challenge.

  • Don’t resent the success of others. Be happy for them. The world is big enough for lots of winners. Celebrate with them. You’ll be happier.

  • Don’t think the world owes you anything. Because it doesn’t. We owe the world and the communities we live in. Grow through your own merits and help others along the way. It’s a wonderful world.

  • Don’t expect immediate results. The mentally strong don’t expect things to happen as fast as it does in their mind. The reward is often the journey.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Attack is the best form of defense

If you were lucky enough to see my Man City blues run up the score against Arsenal on the weekend, you witnessed firsthand a growing trend in the premier league – attack is the best form of defense.

Arsenal came into the match top of the league and City took the pitch undefeated at the Etihad. Both have been praised all season for their attacking styles, and boy did the match live up to the expectations. Ninety minutes later the crowd had seen nine goals (six for City!) and a free-flowing game that offered some of the most entertaining moments of the season. The Etihad has been electric this season, with City regularly putting up cricket scores. In the past 5 months:

4-0 vs. Newcastle
4-1 vs. Man United
5-0 vs. Wigan
7-0 vs. Norwich
6-0 vs. Spurs

Talk about Attack! Bring on Barça.

And the fun thing about the Prem this season is it’s not just been City. Clubs like Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal have shaken the traditional “hoof it” English tactics for fun, attractive, attacking football.

There’s a business lesson here too. Status quo, conservativeness and stability aren’t bad . . . but you have to power forward and take risks to grow and win. A solid defense matters; a lightening-strike attack matters more. My other team, the New All Blacks - unbeaten in the 2013 season - are a benchmark for this.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bloomberg Surveillance

Monday morning on Bloomberg Surveillance with Tom Keane, a sharp man who knows the difference between Dusty Springfield and Buffalo Springfield. I was guest host for an hour with a focus on mobile advertising but spilling out the sides from the new Beyonce to Google’s robots. There are five short clips on creating movements, creating mobile ads, Peter O’Toole, Moncler and Google’s robots.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Well words

Lawrence Rosen, MD of Oradell, New Jersey is an integrative pediatrician and co-author of Treatment Alternatives for Children. He is the founder of the Whole Child Center, one of the country’s first green and integrative pediatric practices. I came across a recent post of his, he was writing about conversations with patients, clients, colleagues and friends in wellness circles, and certain words and principles kept recurring in these exchanges.

Here are his ten words to live by.
  1. Presence: To be fully engaged in what you are doing right now.

  2. Vulnerability: The willingness to be let others see you as you are.

  3. Clarity: Transparency and lucidity of vision and thought.

  4. Equanimity: The evenness of mind to stand steady in the face of stress.

  5. Gratitude: An intentional appreciation of what and who you have.

  6. Creativity: The use of your imagination to produce something, anything.

  7. Authenticity: Walking the walk. The most honest “way of being.”

  8. Passion: An incredibly intense desire that is barely containable.

  9. Compassion: Love and acceptance for another as if they were you.

  10. Love: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” (Stephen Chbosky)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

This could be us

Right now, the Philippines is struggling to manage the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan. More than 5,000 people have been killed and similar numbers of people displaced and also had their livelihoods destroyed. Aid is now starting to reach the remote areas and there is more organization on the ground. But for the Philippines, this is just the beginning, not the end. The Philippine Red Cross is still in need of donations. You can donate here. If you’re especially creative, think about how you and your community can help.

Weather events are getting more devastating around the planet. Us urbanites in Manhattan experienced this with Hurricane Sandy, a mere puppy compared to Haiyan. Being compassionate to others who are suffering, no matter how seemingly distant they may be, is good karma. Running your business in a sustainable way is good kaizen.


In a year when the word literal’s definition was amended to be both literal and un-literal, Oxford Dictionary has crowned the word of the year, ‘selfie’. The word meaning "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”, refers to an action that has increased a massive 17,000% in the last 12 months. What this figure means is anyone’s guess, but it’s an action I have never taken and surely never will. Is “selfie” shorthand for self-centred, self-interested, selfish? Selfie reflects millennial attitudes and they are now used to being in the center of what they see, use and talk about.

Visionary of vacuous? Sometimes called ‘Team Me’ - people who demonstrably act in their own interests and who want brands to understand who they are and what they want, here and now. Consumer is Boss and the ‘selfie’ the most visual manifestation of this idea.

Perhaps a good course in dishwashing would bridge self-ethic and work ethic. Here is a two year old on the job at the sink, and here is the world’s reputed fastest dishwasher. Too busy for selfies!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nelson Mandela

I was at Ellis Park in 1995 when South Africa won the Rugby World Cup and Nelson Mandela stepped forward for one of the most symbolic political gestures of the century when he handed the cup to captain Francois Pienaar. Rugby was the sport of the Afrikaans, who were the architects of apartheid. Such was Mandela’s embrace of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than vengeance that he was able to don the Springbok jersey and bring the whole world to his side.

I wasn’t in New Zealand for the 1981 Springbok tour, but I have to say that 100% credit must go to the protest movement for taking on the rugby and political establishments of both countries, rejecting the patently ridiculous “politics and sport do not mix” argument, and fighting for what was right and to make South Africa a better place. New Zealand played a pivotal role in leading international opposition to apartheid and the Trevor Richards, John Mintos and Tom Newnhams of our world should be taking a bow at this moment of celebration of a great man’s life.

Of all the news reportage about Mandela’s death, I thought that Paul J. H. Schoemaker’s piece for INC. was especially insightful. His original commentary “The Three Decisions that Made Nelson Mandela a Great Leader” describes three situations in which this leader had to go deep against human instinct in order make the right things happen.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Coming to Claridges

Watching a great chef being recognised by a great institution is as satisfying as relishing one of the that chef’s own creations. I’ve been savoring the inventive combinations and easy atmosphere of the two Michelin starred L’Enclume in England’s Lake District as often as time will allow, and now that restaurant’s visionary leader, Simon Rogan is coming to London. And not just anywhere, but taking over from Gordon Ramsey at the iconic Claridge’s hotel flagship restaurant.

Simon has had experience in London before, and his pop-up Roganic was a great adventure, and he has two more properties in the Lake District - The Pig & Whistle and Rogan & Co.

This is a great move for Simon, and an even greater move for Claridge’s. Marrying locally sourced products and innovative cooking technique makes Simon’s approach fully satisfying, and he is blessed with the touch of transporting magic that only the best chefs can conjure. Claridge’s remain one of the great British institutions, and congratulations to both on taking this opportunity.

This is as good as it gets: impeccable heritage, and clever and charming holistic creativity. Londoners and visitors to London will be able to (try to) book for spring 2014. I'll be there as soon as I can.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Worshipful Marketors

In grey London towards the end of November, a dose of colour, bonhomie, and heritage can really change your outlook. I was lucky – not only did I get all of that, but a sophisticated group of marketing stars past and present picked their way through gridlocked London traffic to attend the Worshipful Company of Marketors’ Annual Lecture, in the historic St Mary at Hill church in the City.

It was a fantastic evening in the Wren-designed church, 200 people in a convivial atmosphere made even more special by the introduction of the Company’s Master, Sally Muggeridge.

I don’t normally get invited back, but this was a second visit to the Marketors, and they were as passionately involved as before. There were plenty of Masters from the other Livery Companies too, and the warm and intimate feeling that chimed with the heritage and ceremony made this an absolutely magical City experience.

The Livery Companies of the City of London are unique – ex-guilds that mutated to trade associations providing a voice and a meeting place for their members. They’re big on ceremony, with gold chains and robes being sported by some of the members. Our crew called it Heritage Bling!

It’s an example of what London can do when positively minded – the best of tradition, the best of iconic locations, and a spirit of togetherness. Thanks to Sally, John, and all who attended for a great event.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Technology and Aesthetics

The best technology finds a balance between functionality and aesthetics. Last week I wrote about the Concorde, the iconic supersonic aircraft that could cross the Atlantic Ocean in just over 3 hours. Well put on your seat belts because the U.S. military industrial complex has designed a plane that can reach Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound. Not only will it be capable of flying from New York to London in less than an hour, it will look good doing it.

Descendant of the SR-71 Blackbird and arriving apparently in 2030, the SR-72 is a hypersonic aircraft with hypersonic missiles that can reach an adversary so quickly it will render radar detection obsolete. Designed by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works the SR-72 will be an unmanned reconnaissance and assault aircraft, twice as fast as its predecessor with a mission range that spans continents.

Speed is the defining difference in the Age of Now. The military and are aligned on this. Instant delivery of parcels and payloads. Are aesthetics important beyond getting the business done? Ask every owner of a sleek iPhone or an exotic Ferrari.

My bet is that Congressmen will line up to finance the SR-72 because it looks terrifyingly effective. One look and you know what side of this machine you want to be on.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Debunking the Myth of Happiness

One of the most misleading common perceptions today is that success and happiness are synonymous.

People think that as we achieve our hopes and dreams, somehow our daily problems, annoyances, disappointments, and anxieties will magically disappear. Unfortunately the truth is not so utopian. Negative emotions and experiences can affect our daily lives, and despite having it all, even the “stars” among us are subject to depression and disappointment at times.

In his new book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence, neuropsychologist at Berkeley University, Dr. Rick Hanson, contends that this phenomenon can be explained.

Hanson’s evidence is drawn from the biology of human survival. He describes how our neural pathways are constructed to activate on negative emotions with greater intensity than positive ones. In other words, evolution has driven us to respond more strongly to predators and environmental threats than when we experience something pleasant. With this understanding, it makes it more difficult to create permanent neural pathways for our positive experiences, thus this dilemma with achieving lifelong happiness.

So how can we navigate life without melancholia, considering our own minds afflict the pursuit of happiness?

The answer is not simply positive thinking, but rather the pervasive adoption of radical optimism. I have used the phrase “radical optimism” for years, meaning we must go beyond simply a positive disposition and commit to a program of action and activities that continuously put oneself into a good space, and avoiding negative ones. The truth is that it is possible to harness our biology, since the desire for long term happiness is also part of who we are.

Simply stating that you are an optimistic person does not induce true psychological and physiological change. One must internalize that sense of self that meets our three core needs “safety, satisfaction, and connection”. True change takes persistent radicalism and constant optimism. It takes the will to lift your head up, look around and realize that happiness and success are ALWAYS within your control.

Although the molecular make-up of the brain and the chemical reactions that determine neural pathways are complicated, sometimes something as simple as a fast walk around the block will do you wonders!