April 29, 2013
What a Trip to Helsinki Reminded Me About Life's Lessons...
It’s a funny thing in life in that quite often, the opposite paradigm of the same thing applies: when you ask for something, you usually get what you ask for and equally, when you least expect something to happen, it often does.
I find that I’m much more aware of both paradigms when I’m on the road.
The week I was due to fly to Eastern Europe, I found myself wondering why I was once again heading to a cold climate country when I had been dreaming of warm weather destinations for months.
I often visualize myself listening to Chopin’s Concerto in D (any of the minors really), on a beach in Chile, breathing in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, or dining with a Mr. Handsome in some scrumptious steak restaurant with award-winning Mendoza wine in Buenos Aires, an evening which ends with a dance that equally embraces artful precision with unbridled passion. So Argentina I think. Grace and beauty at its best.
As travelers, we all cherish such moments on our around the world adventures, as we check off magical moments and experiences we have on some bucket list. Many of these moments forever change who we are and ultimately who we become.
These are the magical moments of travel: cultural faux pas’ that end in laughter, culinary experiences when our tongue is awoken to a new taste we never knew existed, or a hug from a child who doesn’t speak our language. It’s not just the tender moments which forever change us but the painful and unpleasant ones as well. We know this, but we try to avoid them at whatever cost.
With little sleep from the previous week, my emotional energy was thin, worn down like a pencil which had been sharpened so many times it had lost its original form. In that state, with bags under my eyes, I boarded an American Airlines fight from SFO to JFK and climbed into a tight space with someone close to 250 pounds next to me, a seat I had paid an extra $50 for the privilege of this insufferable leg.
I tried to recall earlier moments in time before airlines nickeled and dimed you for blankets, pillows, headsets and more, shrunk your leg room and seat size, you know....the times before you were charged extra to sit closer to the front, regardless of whether it was a middle seat or not and before you were charged for each and every bag. This was a period of time in travel, if you’re old enough to remember, that the flight to your destination was as pleasurable as the destination itself.
After five hours of cramped flying, I boarded another overbooked flight, my first with Finn Air, tweeting that it was so, as I made my way down the ramp. It was the ‘whitest’ flight I had taken in years, perhaps at all, unless a puddle jumper in northern Canada counts.
The other observation was how structured and controlled the boarding process was, so much so that I made a mental note that I was heading to the Switzerland of the very north.
Rules were not meant to be broken under any circumstance I thought.
It wasn’t until I sat down in my seat and endured several hours of resistance and persistence, that my trip to Eastern Europe became clearer.
My Finnish neighbor was sadly one of the rudest women I had encountered since my Egypt trip so many moons ago, and even worse, her bitter attitude didn’t lift for the entire seven hour journey.
As she jabbed me in the side of my ribs, barking over and over again that the arm rest was her’s and her’s alone, not to be shared, I found my anger and resentment building. She then proceeded to include me in a bucket of “god awful Americans”, clearly the result of one negative encounter she experienced at some point in her life.
Trying to reason with her in any way that seemed logical failed again and again. After a very sexy Finnish airline steward with sparkling blue eyes also tried to reason with her and also failed, I spent more of the flight standing up than sitting down, chatting with him in the rear of the plane about her stubbornness, he assuring me that all Finns were not like this. His dreamy eyes gave me cause to believe that he must be right.
When I finally surrendered to the fact that sleep wasn’t in the cards, I tried to change my own attitude towards this difficult woman, the one whose arm and elbow continually dug harshly into my side as she proceeded to show me who was boss all the way to Helsinki.
Breathe deep, I told myself and followed with other mantras and incantations of positive energy hoping that this mental exercise alone would melt her stubbornness. Sadly, this didn't work as it had already become personal since it was clear she hated Americans. She verbally said so.
As I saw how tightly wound she was, I realized I had been as tightly wound over the last few months for my own personal reasons. My work schedule has been insane, with barely a break to do anything much at all except to handle the myriad of external and internal requests and the same cycle repeated again, day after day, even on weekends. Ever have the experience when you exceed all expectations, work over and above what is humanly possible and received less acknowledgement than if you simply played the soldier? Alas, the soldier, which Seth Godin refers to as the cog in the wheel...the obedient employee who delivers precisely what he or she was told, regardless of whether it was a savvy decision or best for the company's success.
Perhaps she had been experiencing something similar in her own life? Ambushed by some ill form of logic that defied her own odds and deflated her own sense of worth and being? By her employer, her husband, her child, her sister, her colleague?
Either way, I realized that before the plane landed in Helsinki, I had to rid myself of the notion that all Finns were as rude as this encounter so I didn’t leave the country thinking they were all a bunch of control freaks who needed the rules to be precisely as they were or else they'd torment you into submission.
The thing about cultural stereotypes is that so often many of them hold a "certain" truth. The danger of course is that there are always exceptions and over time, people can dramatically change as we saw over two generations in Japan...two groups who couldn’t be more different from one another. If you're not sure this is true, just talk to a friend of mine whose brother wears punk clothing and purple sneakers, has an earring and four shades of hair while his grandmother who doesn't speak a word of English, still wears a traditional Japanese kimono, bows and serves tea.
I know that Eastern Europe is slower to change since they are fixated on the past more than most regions of the world I’ve visited and I wondered how much of this had extended over its borders to nearby neighbors like Finland.
My first time to Helsinki was in 1980-something in one of those old-fashioned boxed vans hippies drove the decade before. We had driven north from mainland Europe, across Scandinavia, into Finland and finally into the Soviet Union – the old Russia -- the one that detained us at the border, strip searched everyone and literally dismantled the vehicle searching for everything they deemed propaganda or trade-able on the then thriving black market.
It was a very different time for European travel and nothing was exactly what it seemed. Just like the experience with my Finn Air flight companion, when you least expect something to happen, it often does and back then, it did more consistently than not.
The wall was still up in those days and tensions were fierce behind not just THE wall, but the invisible walls, the ones that led east that is – Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic (the then Czechoslovakia).
Finland was the most foreign to me, even moreso than Russia and Poland in many ways, largely because I didn’t expect it to be as foreign. We knew about the Black Market, about the minimalistic hotels with dingy barren rooms that were bugged, the stark food supply, the weathered buildings and surreal lack of optimism...a place where women paraded around in unfashionable rubber boots and in-need-of-repair colorless coats. Finland never fell under that umbrella however despite its proximity to Soviet borders.
What I remember from my first trip to Helsinki was how clean the streets were and how distinctly organized everything was in that Switzerland kind of way...a little disconcerting at first, especially if you had just come from a country like Italy which embraces chaos and passion more than order and structure.
I visited a friend who was in my South African high school in Johannesburg, where we had spent our senior years. Not originally from Helsinki, he was either living there at the time or drove in just to see me. We were but 'babes' and that innocent and youthful naivety was floating in the air. Combine that with the fact that Helsinki streets ooze playful energy all night long in the summer since the sun never sets: drinking, walking dogs, sipping coffee and eating ice cream is how you spent your time on open air streets at 3 in the morning.
Mika and I had a magical time walking through the city, lounging on park benches discussing our life's dreams and aspirations as youthful warriors in-the-making so often do. I think I may have been but just 19 at the time.
The lens at which I experienced Helsinki so many years ago was through his lens, a native of this strange land with a strange accent and language that differed so greatly to those on the European mainland. On my most recent trip, I talked to a French couple from Paris who stopped over in Helsinki on their way to the states. She said to me with a surly smile about her experience, "it's only a two hour flight and yet the culture is so different to our world, it's as if a solar system separates us not a thousand miles."
Structure is the word that comes to mind, something they wear on their sleeves, much more than their Scandinavian neighbors. The Swedish and Danish travelers I hooked up with for short jaunts of my first trip to Europe presented a free spirited energy to their walks and talks. While my Swedish friends all seemed to have summer homes with saunas they ventured to annually, there was an equal hunger to explore the world which I didn’t find from my conversations with the Finns at the time.
It was as if once we crossed the Swedish border, things and people had more rules and alignment and order reigned. It doesn’t mean I didn’t have a great time – after all, Mika’s eyes were dreamy, he was courteous and sweet, and won me over by swinging me under his arm next to a luscious hovering tree that took us into its breath, creating an aura of moonlight when the Northern Lights ensured there wouldn’t be a real one.
He treated me to dark roasted coffee in outside cafes and introduced me to other Finns who were intelligent, quirky and funny, as long as you could understand their dry off-beat humor. We drank beer well into the wee morning hours, at the time, the most expensive beer I had ever had. Everything seemed insanely expensive from my recollection….and insanely odd.
Remembering that it was the mid-eighties, Helsinki had price tags that made your jaw drop. An apple was $3 a pop, beers exceeded $7 and meals in restaurants were simply beyond my reach and so I lived on bread and cheese. Today, the same is true. A 50 Euro dinner for a starter and main course isn't that uncommon.
Within the confines of those beautiful summer walks under Helsinki's skies, I felt taken care of by Mika and his friends and it was this memory I brought to the forefront as my Finnish companion on this hellish long flight jabbed me once again.
While hot places like St. Maarten and Greece have been on my mind, and I’ve been puzzled by all the trips to cold countries I’ve taken in the past two years, I realized that on this sleep deprived flight all the way to Finland with an angry woman at my side, that we throw ourselves into the experiences the universe wants us to see, as if they are in fact, a mirror of ourselves, showing us exactly what is happening in our lives.
It is that visual representation and that insight that allows us to change the course of our lives....that is, if we are paying attention to the signs and can admit the truths we see in the mirror's reflection.
Relinquishing control is not inherently a natural trait of northern Europeans or the Baltic states and if you think that is a broad statement, compare the relationship with control and structure of those regions to cultures like Jamaica, Italy, Spain, Kenya, Fiji…..need I go on? You get the idea.
Upon this reflection, the plane makes a harsh landing at Helsinki’s International Airport and I remind myself that so much of the flight felt like “torture” because I allowed myself to be drawn into “her” tortured state. She clearly lived in that place all the time and because I was so out of balance and overworked myself, her torture became my own. I hadn't taken time to look in the mirror - the internal or external one. In order for me to "see" again, it seemed to require a long haul to northern Europe and a flash back in time. I call this a "walkabout," where we venture far away from our everyday reality so we can get clear again about who we are, where we are and more importanty, where we want to go.
These are the lessons we learn on the road. And, for all those precious marvelous moments we share with new cultures that draw us into such delicious foreign experiences, we also run into people who are internally tortured or who inflict their pain on us for whatever reason and in most cases, we’ll never learn what they are. We wonder why were chosen to receive their torture until we realize it is us who chooses that the experience be one of torture or joy.
It happens on the road, whether it's in a third world country where someone steals your bag, or gives you the wrong directions because they’re not a fan of your nationality or overcharges you because they think you’re richer than they are and can afford it. The list goes on. Every day life is like this too.
In those moments, we learn about ourselves – what we’re showing of ourselves to the world in a mirror, the same one that reflects back to us if only we take the time to notice and acknowledge it. It’s in these moments – painful and precious – that we grow and move forward on our life’s journey.
My experience here in Finland and soon, Estonia and Lithuania, will be far from warm sandy beaches with pineapple trees and the blissful sound of waves that could put me to sleep every night. I won’t be sleeping in a hammock nor will I be eating fresh fish from a warm salty sea.
But now, I know why I’m here. And with my winter coat, mittens and toasty wooly hat packed in my bag, I will venture into yet another cold country experience paying close attention to what I can learn from countries that need to be more in control than not, taking in the gift I learn from it and from them. New cultures to learn from, to play with...to be grateful for and most importantly, to remember what's real and truly matters along the way.
Photo credit: The Telegraph
April 15, 2013
Fourth Annual TEDxBerkeley Event To Kick Off April 20
The fourth annual TEDx Berkeley Event (a 501c3) will kick off on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall with 13 thought provoking and renowned speakers and three performers, set to tackle this year’s theme: Catalyzing Change.
This decade presents significant and global change that will impact how we use technology, how and where we work, communicate and use utilities and applications across industries, from education, mobile technology, biotech and biofuels to healthcare, government, sustainability and beyond.
Learning and sharing ideas in a way that provokes change and making the world a better place is what TED events are about. Given that Berkeley is an epicenter of innovation, inspiration and talent, it’s the perfect location for speakers and attendees alike to participate in this important global conversation.
Below is a list of the 2013 TEDxBerkeley speakers and performers:
- Chris Anderson: Chris is the co-founder and chairman of 3D Robotics, former editor of WIRED Magazine and author of The Long Tail, Free: The Future of a Radical Price and Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.
- Louann Brizendine, MD: Louann is a practicing neuropsychiatrist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor at UCSF, founder of Women’s Mood & Hormone Clinic, and a media commentator specializing in sex differences and The Male and Female Brain.
- Mallika Chopra: As a media entrepreneur, Mallika is the founder of Intent.com, The Chopra Well, author of 100 Promises To My Baby and 100 Questions From My Child, and a notable voice in the fields of parenting, meditation and intention.
- Alexei Filippenko: Alex is a UC Berkeley Professor of Astronomy and member of both teams that discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe, who was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- Eden Full: Eden is the founder of Roseicollis Technologies and spearheaded the solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter.
- Dan Millman: Dan, an author of 16 books which have been translated into 29 languages, have influenced millions of lives. His most popular book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, was adapted to film in 2006.
- Robert Neuwirth: Robert is the author of two books on alternative social and economic structures: Stealth of Nations, an up-close investigation of the value of street markets and underground trade and Shadow Cities, which looks at squatter communities as normal urban neighborhoods.
- Kim Polese – Kim serves as Chairman of social finance startup ClearStreet, was founding product manager for Java at Sun, co-founder of Marimba, CEO of SpikeSource & was named to President Obama’s Innovation Advisory Board.
- Ananya Roy: A UC Berkeley professor in City and Regional Planning and distinguished chair of Global Poverty, she authored City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty and Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development.
- Karen Sokal-Gutierrez: Karen is an associate clinical professor at the University of California and Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health.
- Curt Tofteland: Curt is the founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars, and has produced dozens Shakespeare Productions at correctional facilities around the US.
- Cecily Sommers: A global trends analyst who helps organizations understand and prepare for the emerging technologies, markets, and ideas shaping our world, Cecily was selected as one of Fast Company’s Fast 50 Reader’s Favorites, founded Push Institute & authored Think Like a Futurist.
- Erica Wides – As national authority on how to find, afford, cook and eat minimally processed natural food, Erica is host and co-creator of Let’s Get Real: The Cooking Show About Finding, Preparing and Eating Food on the Heritage Radio Network.
Performers include Ambiance Lights, a student group dedicated to glove lightshows, which is a style of dance that involves finger and hand manipulation with strobelights, California Golden Overtones, a UC Berkeley all-female completely student-run A Cappella group and Victoria Theodore, keyboardist, musician and background singer who was in Stevie Wonder’s band since 2007. Yaelisa is an Emmy Award-winning flamenco dancer/choreographer and the artistic director of Caminos Flamencos and The New World Flamenco Festival.
For the first time, TEDxBerkeley also falls on Cal Day, UC Berkeley’s Annual Open House. This independent TEDx event is operated under license from TED. Visit the TEDxBerkeley speaker page for more information. Mobile users can also download the AppBaker-created iPhone app for the event.
April 03, 2013
Kundera's Immortality: A Person is Nothing But His Image, But a Woman is Nothing But Her Truth
I just finished yet another Milan Kundera novel: Immortality. He is, as always intense. I happen to be one of his fans, one who patiently understands the flow of his meandering style, knowing the poetic philosopher in him who needs us to read each and every line.
It's as if I'm in his head when I really listen to his meanders, and can even sense where and how he is sitting as he writes a passage, can feel the women he has known and not known and all the intricate details which make up his life, or least the bit which give it meaning.
The first meander centered around image and the premise was that a person is nothing but his image. "Philosophers can tell us that it doesn't matter what they world thinks of us, that nothing matters but what we really are. But philosophers don't understand anything. As long as we live with other people, we are only what other people consider us to be. Thinking about how others see us and trying to make our image as attractive as possible is considered a kind of dissembling or cheating." (I'd add, dying).But does there exist another kind of direct contact between my self and their selves except through the mediation of the eyes? Can we possibly imagine love without anxiously following our image in the mind of the beloved? When we are no longer interested in how we are seen by the person we love, it means we no longer love."
I thought about a kind of love which isn't whole, one which leaves behind fragments...mere fragments, as if flashes in time like two ships passing in the night, a long weary night. Or the kind of love that leaves behind the violent yet exciting sound of a thunderbolt on a stormy night, one which will never be repeated in precisely the same way again.
These are loves we never fully understand just as Kundera's characters never fully understand theirs. As humans, we ache to understand love and what went wrong in love. We grasp for that understanding and repeat the story in our heads as if its a mathmatical equation we must analyze, even if only in our mind's eye. In that analysis, which we continue to play over and over again like a broken record, we must have an answer, a truth of some kind, for surely it can't possibly just be about an image, of an image...hers, his, your own.
We look for the truth amidst that analysis as a way to better understand ourselves and perhaps to better understand humanity; in that understanding, we think we will find a love which is whole, the kind that is rich in color and texture and full of so much vitality and connection, there is no space for fragments.
If we speak of image and of love, we must of course speak of and to the feminine voice, which brings me to my second favorite meander. It couldn't be a Kundera novel without women, who are brought in as almost subcategories into bigger themes of existence, like Chance, the Dial of Life, Image and of course Immortality itself.
From painters Rubens and Goethe to author Hemingway and a radio host, lawyer and professor in Paris, we hear about their desire of women, their inability to escape from women and their adventures with women.
He asks, isn't the story of Ruben's life nothing but a story of physical love? For the artist who looked at women as "life itself?" We hear from Rubens as Kundera's character, an acute observation when one day he can't remember anything substantial about any of the women he bedded. The details, their names, their parents, their childhood, any anecdote other than a flash of an instance.
Rather than continue to conquer a future of a string of women, he decides to revert to the past, as told to him by the hand on the dial (of life), of which Kundera dedicates an entire chapter to.
Rubens reflects, "but how is one to be obsessed with the past when one sees it only a desert over which the wind blows a few fragments of memories?" He decides that yes, one can in fact be obsessed even with a few fragments.
But then, Rubens discovered a peculiar thing. In those fragments, they are not moving. In other words, memory does not make films, it makes photographs. What he recalled at most were a few mental photographs. He didn't recall their coherent motions, but only short gestures, but only in the rigidy of a single second."
One day, a lover he saw over many years decides not to see him again, an incident he he becomes fixated on trying to understand, certain that something must be wrong, something he could somehow resolve. Then, he thinks of an Australian woman he decided never to see again and she too, was rejected for reasons she couldn't understand. He wonders if he can understand them himself.
Throughout our lives, don't we all have stories or chapters of stories which have ended yet we didn't understand the reasons why? Maybe later, at some future time, we begin to understand those reasons and other times, we don't and perhaps never will. Time marches forward, each of us never understanding why her or his story ended with yet another person, another association, another encounter.
He quotes Aragon's "Woman is the future of man." One of the main male characters in the book explains what he thinks Aragon must have meant.
"This means," he says, "that the world that was once formed in man's image will now be transformed into the image of woman. The more technical and mechanical, cold and metallic it becomes, the more it will need the kind of warmth that only a woman can give it. If we want to save the world, we must adapt to the woman, let ourselves be led by the woman, let ourselves be penetrated by the Ewigweibliche, the eternally feminine!"
Later he goes on to say: "Either woman will become man's future or mankind will perish, because only woman is capable of nourishing within her an unsubstantiated hope and inviting us to a doubtful future, which we would have long ceased to believe in were it not for women. All my life, I've been willing to follow their voice, even though that voice is mad. But nothing is more beautiful than when someone who isn't mad goes into the unknown, led by a mad voice....The eternal feminine draws us in."
It reminded me of how important it is for us as women to go to our source of strength through that eternal feminine, each and every time we need an answer...the real truth.
It is that source that will guide us out of muddy complicated waters which are led by masculine ego, give us the power to say no when the world forces us to say yes, provide us with the clarity when it is being fogged up by mindless chatter aimed at sinking the very core of who we are and most importantly, ensuring we return to a place of authenticity, love and purpose so we won't look back years from now as we pass along meaning to a child and not be able to say: I embraced and lived a true life.
Yes. To be able to say I lived a true life, one which I painted on a bright white clean canvas, one which was virgin before I myself lay down the paint brush.
To be able to say I decided what was me and what wasn't me and along the way, returned to that eternal feminine strength for the truth. In this truth, I'd be my own character and not a facade of another in a novel I didn't write, nor would I dance to another's drums I didn't subscribe to or respect.
Oh, such a noble way to live, I can hear my great grandmother saying. And yet, it has less to do with noble, and more to do with truth. Men have this instinct too, even if it shows up with a different voice, a louder thunder and in an external embrace.
When we become lost, which will happen often on this long life journey, we mustn't forget our truth, that for which we will accept and not accept as a definition of who we are. We must never ever forget that.
It's ironic that Kundera weaves Goethe in and out of his chapters because just then, at the moment I had turned the corner of the final page of the book, I thought about a quote that I return to often for a source of strength, one which rests on the front page of this blog and has since the very beginning. As I thought of the source of the quote, my heart began to race....it is nothing shy of a quote by Goethe himself...Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It may be only ten words of Johann's wisdom, but they are ten very powerful words: Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.
Photo credits: hplusmagazine.com, templeton.org & artmarketblog.
March 07, 2013
Dan Pallotta: Think About a Charity's Dreams, Not Their Overhead
Dan Pallotta's work brought the practice of four-figure philanthropy within the reach of the average citizen who had never raised money for charity before in their lives. 182,000 people of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds participated in these inspiring, often grueling, long-distance events that raised $582 million in nine years - more money raised more quickly for these causes than any private event operation in history. Three million people donated to the events.
Then, he faced issues because of how things are currently structured for non-profits. Dan spoke on the TED 2013 stage this year and below are a mish mash of my notes from his talk.
He notes that there are many discriminatory issues that the philanthropy industry faces today:
1. Salaries: the median compensation for a Stanford MBA is $400K, but for a medical charity, it is roughly $232K. For a hunger charity, it is about half of that. You can’t get people to do that year after year and take that kind of financial hit when in the for profit world, you can yield so much more.
2. Marketing and Advertising: He says, "we don’t like to see our donations spent on advertising and marketing." It has remained at 2% of GDP in the United States and hasn’t grown. How can it grow if you’re not allowed to market?3. Taking Risk on New Revenue Ideas: If you don’t produce 75% return in the first year, then a non-profit's reputation goes through the mud. You kill innovation because of fear for failure.
4. Time: Amazon didn’t produce profits for years and yet we had patience, yet the rules are different for a non-profit.
5. Profits: You can’t pay profits in the non-profit sector. He says, "you don’t have a stock market to fund any of this like you can in the for profit sector. From 1970 to 2009, we were dealing with social problems which were massive in scale but things still didn't grow to help them over that time and they're still not beyond the 2% mark.
Dan says, "this dogma comes from puritan beliefs. The Puritans were Calvinists so they were taught to hate themselves and self-interest was a path to damnation. Making a lot of money was a way to send them to hell so charities were created to deal with that."
In 400 years, nothing has intervened to say that this approach is counter-productive and unfair.
He remarks, "it makes us think that overhead is not part of the cause, particularly if its being used for cause. This belief that overhead is the enemy means that people are reluctant to contribute. The notion is that the less you spend on growth of the non-profit, more can go to the cause."
Fundraising has been stagnant. He shares his own failure which was the result of this broken, out-dated system, "we made $71 million in 2002, our best year and then we went out of business since we reinvested 40% back into the organization. So in one day, 350 of our employees lost their jobs because they were labeled overhead.”
He asserts that this is what happens when we confuse morality with frugality.
How this all impacts the bigger picture? If we could move charitable giving from 2% of GDP to 3% by investing in that growth, that would be an extra $150 billion extra in contributions. He says, "it’s never going to happen by forcing these organizations by demoralizing organizations to keep the overhead low. We need to change the game."
As for advice, he offers, "Think about the scale of an organization's dreams, not their overhead and how they measure the progress towards their dream. Who cares what the overhead is if these problems are getting solved?"
His mission is to change the way the world thinks about these issues and suggests that this needs to be our endearing legacy....that we in fact took responsibility for the legacy that has been handed down to us and change the way we think about philanthropy, so real problems can be solved, changing the scale dramatically.
Photo credits: sunyocc.edu (hands) and Dan's shot from his site.
March 05, 2013
TEDActive 2013: Bubble Guns & Global Conversations on Lawns & Haystacks
As a long time TEDster, I had never been to its offshoot, an event that happens simultaneously every year called TedActive. It's essentially TED, but less expensive and less bells and whistles.
Since it is held a couple of hours from the main event, the speakers are obviously not on-site, however you do experience them through a satellite feed, which includes views of the audience, the main stage and the impact the speakers have on that audience in real time.
For years, TED has something called the 'simulcast' room, which is where you can view the talks in a separate room on a 'screen' not far from the main room.
Why some people love hanging out in the 'simulcast room' rather than the main room is that it allows them to quietly chat in the back, or type away on their keyboard if they have work to get done.
OR, if you're an A++ type who is simply too digitally connected to sit still with nothing but an old fashioned notebook among 1,000 of your "closest" friends, simulcast is the way to go.
All of TEDActive is a bit like that, except that the main room resembles TED's main simulcast room and TEDActive's additional simulcast rooms, which are even more casual, feel like a cross between a silent and creative experiment at a progressive university and an adult's playground.
In some of the rooms, there were tables with paper cut outs and magic markers if you wanted to jot down your ideas in "color" using "scraps". This year, they also had a 'banana' theme and while I still don't know what was behind it, it was oddly amusing to continuously bump into two guys who didn't know each other, yet both of their lives depended on bananas.
From bananas and spirited drinks to cut outs and designs, we moved to species and the Internet in a nano-second.
An idea was thrown out there by four respected illumaries in different fields: Diana Reiss, Peter Gabriel, Neil Gershefeld and Vint Cerf. The question was: could the internet also connect us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species?
In a bold talk, the four of them came together to launch the idea of the interspecies Internet.
There was a 'creative' lab' where Andy Cavatorta set up an exhibit that combined technology, robotics and music.
In that same space, a few of us were inspired to get creative at two am, not long after a martini sipping session where we ate blueberries with M&M's and talked science fiction to young MIT types.
Did I mention that I'm a sucker for fur vests, colored lights and 3D science fiction glasses? And in case you're wondering, yes we were posing.
There was creative energy at the final pool party as well, which included wild hats, squirt guns, funky pants, and bananas of course, all set on a whole lotta grass against a beautiful mountainous desert in a place called LaQuinta you may never have heard of unless a TED Conference happened to be breezing through. Here we consumed some R&R, sunscreen and bubbly whatever.
Speaking of grass, we also had a little lawn time with TED 2013 Prize Winner Sugata Mitra. Known for his work in education research, Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.
He invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) and asked the TED audience for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”
While people were expanding their creative "juices" in whatever way they could, creative "things" were in place at the lab for people to play with and take in...
Below is a fabulous woman I met by the "so done right" coffee and tea bar set up in an area called the Quad, where we gathered on haystacks and picnic tables for lunch most days. She 'wore' her commitment to eco-living and seemed to have a different name each day. If I recall, she was Cool Carol the day we exchanged TEDities.
One of the things I loved about TedActive was its combination of youthful and international energy. Below, I'm with the curator of TEDx Bordeaux Emmanuelle Roques.
With 72 countries on-site, I had 'curious' conversations, all of which had global perspectives, with folks from India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, England, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, China, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Chile, Colombia, Canada, Malta, Lebanon, Palestine, UAE, Turkey, Germany, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, Israel, Belgium and Uganda.
And, those are only the ones that immediately popped into my head without diving into my business cards or the TED mobile app.
If that's not your thing, then the Active experience is a more laid back way to experience TED where you can still stretch your brain, discover new ideas, be inspired, get your creative juices flowing, get off the grid for five days and have 'unique' conversations that make you think differently, then give it a shot.
Personally, there is always someone I know on the main TED stage every year, often more than one, and many more people I have known, worked, played and cried with for years attend the main event. The other thing you're more likely to get at the main TED event is an overdose of "intellectual high."
Comedian Julia Sweeney had the audience in stitches as she made references to her peeps, you know, the Nobel Prize Winners, Scientists, Authors & Inventors that were part (so not) of her everyday world from TED.
Accolades and titles aside, I've never been one for labels and titles: none of them -- celeb labels, CEO labels, soup labels, hair product labels or shoe labels.
Whether you're into them or not, labels and titles are in abundance at TED, all there to expand their mind, gather new ideas, and many later find a way to contribute to something they were exposed to at the event. I must admit, if I were only a little more "label, title and accolade savvy", it would certainly make the Oscars easier to understand.
While we're on the topic of labels and great design, I'd be remiss if I didn't include a shot of some of Yu Jordy Fu's fabulous design work. I found her fascinating.
Later, a random encounter led to an interview with Upstart Business Journal's Teresa Novellino, a TED virgin, over lunch. See her article here, which takes an entrepreneurship angle. I wouldn't call myself a groupie, but I am most certainly a fan of what TED represents: spreading great ideas, innovation, inspiration and helping the world become a better place through a collective effort.
I'm also a huge fan of the in the between stuff that happens before and after all the organized formalities that events "do," to throw people together. When there's space and time and the 'tossing' is cast aside, real magic happens. Incredible dialogues happen. Life changing observations form. Relationships emerge. New initiatives are created.
And, as a result, 'collective' conversations away from your 'collective' and 'individual' conversations in your daily worlds, make you think about the world differently.
In that moment, an idea sizzles, or more importantly, an old way of thinking gets shattered which brings me to an oldie but a goodie, one of my favorite Helen Keller quotes:
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one opening before us." -Helen Keller
Conversations like these remind you that there are always opportunities in front of us but so often, we're asleep and miss the silent intro.
I had another observation from hanging out with such a 'global 'tribe' over the course of five days. The early American "drive" seems to be getting replaced by more of a laissez faire attitude that no longer induces self ignition. See my write-up on Rescue America, a book released last year by Chris Salamone, that fixates on this shift.
Full of historical and philosophical references, he creates clear and specific connections between the loss of our founding values and the current challenges facing our nation. What is necessary, he suggests, is a fundamental shift back toward a national embodiment of the three primary leadership qualities that sustain all lasting human institutions: gratitude, personal responsibility, and sacrifice.
What I noticed at TedActive was how many people showed up from other parts of the world embracing all three.
The notion that the "west" knows how to lead is something Americans do incredibly well. Many are good at doing it and even more are really good at giving the perception that they're good at doing it. My grandparents and parents generations learned that there were less boundaries than the countries they left behind, and were taught that hard work and education pays off.
In other parts of the world, boundaries are overcome through great sacrifice and taking personal responsibility to change the status quo, which can come in the form of political oppression, rapes that are brushed under the table, or worse.
TED speakers and attendees from other parts of the world are great examples of where and how they embrace gratitude, personal responsibility and sacrifice in their daily lives.
Take a look at this year's Yu Jordy Fu, who is not afraid to push boundaries, incorporating "raw beauty" and "love" into her design, art and architecture.
OR, how violinist Ji-Hae Park uses her music to reach people’s hearts. "There are no boundaries,” says Ji-Hae Park on the TED2013 stage. While TED may be a lofty place to perform, she also plays at prisons, hospitals and restricted facilities. She talks about her time when she was depressed and how changing your perspective through music transformed how she viewed music but life itself.
OR, how Lakshmy Pratury with tears in her eyes, talked about the importance of keeping the Delhi rape alive, also reminding us that theres a new kind of revolution happening in India where the youth is breaking down the concept of a leader.
OR, how Hyeonseo Lee made sacrifices to get her family out of North Korea. As a woman who saw her first public execution at age 7, she endured a famine in the 1990s, one which killing an estimated million people. At the time, she didn’t have the frame of reference to understand the government repression going on around her but was later caught by the Chinese police.
Someone had accused her of being North Korean, and she was subjected to brutal tests of her ability to speak Chinese. Every year, countless North Koreans are caught in China, sent back, tortured, imprisoned, publicly executed, and now she is in Long Beach talking to thousands of people who can make a difference with their voices, blogs, connections, social media call outs and their wallets.
Then, there's the Ugandan artist & teacher Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire, who I hung out with at TedActive. He became the first City 2.0 Award recipient of 2012 in Doha Qatar, at the TEDxSummit, which I attended last April.
Tusingwire's big idea is to use waste materials to create a movable amusement park for children living in slums of Kampala.
He is using his award to grow his community, grow an woman eco-artist loan program already supporting 15 women to develop their business ideas, and expand the amusement park from a single plane-shaped sculpture made of recycled plastic bottles into a permanent park. I loved his energy, not to mention his visible sense of sacrifice, personal responsibility and gratitude.
A few of my tweets from the week:
- Humans have made a huge hole in nature! We CAN bring back species we have killed &must repair the damage says Stewart Brand@longnow #TED2013
- .@rodneyabrooks shows off his latest #robot Baxter on the #TEDstage - http://ow.ly/i/1Ayqz #robotics #factories #China #education
- .@bonovox_ shares updates from his activist work & latest #HIVstats:Child mortality down w/7256 kids being saved each day#health #TED2013
- #Education is not about filling buckets, it's about lighting fires says Stuart Firestein! http://ow.ly/i/1ABun #TED2013 #TedActive
- Edith Widder shows #squid video: We've only explored 5% of our#oceans! http://ow.ly/i4Scx + http://ow.ly/i/1ABE1 #TED2013 #TedActive
- Brazilian @SalgadoSebasti shows his strongest B/W images at#TED2013 http://ow.ly/i/1ABSF #photography #rainforests #TedActive#eco
- Cities are living systems but #technology has always been part of "the city" asserts @SaskiaSassen at #TED2013 - #TedActive
- #Kenyan Richard Turere (13 yr old inventor) & LionLights 2save his familys cattle on TED2013 stage 2day http://bit.ly/KybBhL #TedActive
- Its not about making learning happen,its about letting it happen@sugatamitra who subscribes2 self organizing learning #educator#TED2013
- Creative ideas from @ideasandaction @mabuzeinab@justwardah @tedxyouthTbird in #PalmSprings this AM:http://ow.ly/i/1AW5L #TED2013
- Bowmaker @dongwooJANG uses bows 2explore his cultural heritage & create a metaphor for his perfect world #TED2013#TEDActive #design #Korea
- #Music is what restored my soul, changed my perspective & set me free says #violinist. Let music #heal your heart says Ji-Hai Park#TED2013
- Martin Villeneuve aka #MarsEtAvril designs the instruments inspired by a woman's body & the #photographer they both love. #TED2013
Another interesting international 'observation' was what was absent and what was wasn't. A latin band played on one of the nights and I was astonished that my partners on the dance floor were not Brazilian, Argentinian, Chilean or Peruvian, but German, French, Middle Eastern and Italian.
In fact, the Best Dancer Award for TEDActive from a 'partner perspective' goes to Mohammed Abu Zeinab from Qatar who is apparently half Palestinian and half Lebanese. Go figure...and he rocked it to Latin music of all things.
P.S. he even wore funky clothing the rest of the week.
TED reminds you that nothing in your world is really aligned the way you 'think it should be.'
It made me wonder what Wallace Stegner, Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy and Doris Lessing would make of TED talks. Would they be overwhelmed? Would they be able to make sense of the over digitized, over connected world we have created?
Someone who can make sense of it is AutoDesk's Jonathan Knowles who showed up for half of TedActive, wearing fabulous, fun and bright colored socks.
Having just migrated from PC to Mac, I was somewhat sad and somewhat ecstatic that our conversation would end up being largely tech support in nature. Two hours later, I was fully equipped with Mac tricks and tips, though I'm still far less efficient on a Mac than I was on my old trusty Lenovo.
I couldn't help but get a chuckle over one of his tweets shortly after he arrive in Palm Springs.
Lunch at #TED2013 versus Lunch at #TEDActive #maybeExaggerateAbit: pic.twitter.com/IV3PoVIG8J
Although excessive, I must admit, we did in fact have a lawn party with picnic baskets, sandwiches and cookies in 80 degree sunshine, the last time we'll likely do such a thing given that TED's new location is in Canadian Vancouver and Whistler next year.
Occasionally, you hang out with people you know and work with: below with Andrew Carton of HAPILABS.
And as always, they had a TED gift bag, which was a backpack made by Target this year. I went for the Explorer bag, which seemed appropriate given that one of my many hats is a travel editor. This of course included a stuffed elephant from World Wildlife Fund, which I named Gambia, and a gift card from Inventables (thx Zach), among umpteen other things. My pals over at TripIt also included a free year subscription and there was a GoToob Bottle from HumanGear I couldn't quite make sense of since the top didn't seem to stay on, which is a disaster for a traveler.
On the last night of TED, I headed back to Long Beach to have drinks and dinner with old friends and musician Amanda Palmer who performed this year, showed up and shared a few tunes with our intimate group, something which has become tradition for as long as I can remember. (the dinner part, not the Amanda part)
And at the end of the evening, there's always room for a little girl bonding or whatever it is we do that makes us feel feminine and human and connected and just fabulous being together. Below: former TEDPrize winner Jehane Noujaim, who is working on The Square, a film about the Egyptian Revolution, Amanda Palmer, Lakshmi Pratury, Renee Blodgett and Amy Robinson.
International flavors came out once again as Reggie Watts killed it on stage at the end of Ted Active with new sounds I hadn't heard before from him. I remain a fan!
Suddenly I found myself lifted up into the crowd and then over it, my body being passed from hands to hands....a remarkable experience especially when you realize that each set of hands are likely from a different continent.
How cool I thought as I looked beyond the crowds below me as people bumped together, swaying to the hypnotic music that extended beyond us into the lofty palms that give Palm Springs its name.
Behind me were the non-swayers sipping drinks and networking in their respective courtyard corners. In the foreground, I spotted Jill Sobule not far from the stage, and then there was Reggie performing in all his eclectic glory, surrounded by a fusion of pinks and hazy midnight hues and I wondered for a moment if it was all just a dream.
Also see some of my individual blog posts from TED 2013 this year, including:
- Four Ted Speakers Who Appeal To Our Sensory Selves
- TED2013 Prize Winner Sugata Mitra's Wish for Education: "School in the Cloud"
- Ugandan Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire Empowers & Engages Children Through PLAY
- Jordy Fu, Creator & Artist: Create Love Through Design
- Brazilian Photographer Sebastiao Salgado Shares His Story at TED2013
- Rad Hip Gardener Ron Finley Wants to Greenify Inner City Neighborhoods
- Saskia Sassen on the Value of Imperfect & Incomplete Cities at TED2013
- Inspiration at TED2013: From Music & Healing to Endangered Species & Mobile Electric Vehicles
- Dan Pallotta: Think About a Charity's Deams, Not Their Overhead
Photo Credits: All visibly on-stage photos of speakers from the Ted Blog, the shot of Renee and Emmanuelle taken by Teresa Novellino, Yu Jordy Fu with her artwork shot from her site, all other shots by Renee Blodgett.
March 04, 2013
TedActive Write-Up in Upstart Business Journal
What can an entrepreneur get out of TED or TEDActive, where today the lineup includes everyone from a yo-yo champion to a punk, burlesque singer to SpaceX and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk?
I was interviewed by Upstart Business Journal's Teresa Novellino over lunch one day about my experience at TEDActive last week, my first 'Active' event after attending many TED's over the years and a growing number of TEDx events around the globe. Here's a link to her story. Below, I am hanging with TEDx Bordeaux organizer Emmanuelle Roques. Yes, Bordeaux France, the place where fabulous wine comes from and let's just say I'm a fan.
BTW, I spoke to a number of French entrepreneurs, academics and geeks at the event, as well as people from nearly every continent. It's one of the things I really loved about the TEDActive experience: it was incredibly international with over 72 countries represented this year.
Photo credit: Teresa Novellino.
MBA or Not in the New Digital Age?
The Wall Street Journal has a great piece that suggests an alternative route to the traditional MBA. In other words, imagine that you have the option to go somewhere prestigious on paper, such as Harvard or Stanford for your MBA and can spend time with other go-getter types among ivy-covered buildings and high-powered faculty for a couple of years.
Yet, after you're out the door, who would a progressive CEO rather hire? the candidate who built a profitable business in two years, or the candidate who sat in lectures? They suggest that a 'smart investor' would skip the MBA candidate.
The piece suggests that what matters "exponentially more than that M.B.A. is the set of skills and accomplishments that got you into business school in the first place. What if those same students, instead of spending two years and $174,400 at Harvard Business School, took the same amount of money and invested it in themselves? How would they compare after two years? If you want a business education, the odds aren't with you, unfortunately, in business school. Professors are rewarded for publishing journal articles, not for being good teachers."
Read the original article here.
March 03, 2013
The Connected Things Discussion at London's WebSummit
Techcrunch's Mike Butcher interviews Alex Hawkinson of Smart Things and Fabrice Boutain of HAPILABS in an interactive chat on the Web Summit stage in London last week.
Below is a video of their conversation, which includes demos.
February 21, 2013
Windows vs Mac: Step Out of Your Tribe & Call It What It Is
Of course you have, probably more often than you care to because the market or the media put the pressure on and next thing you know, you're on a new version, a new platform, a new operating system all with new chargers, new software and new rules and behaviors and JUST when you thought you were actually becoming productive. My early write-up on the transition barely touches the iceberg.
In my most recent laptop research, I learned that I would have to pay more to stay on Windows 7 in a new laptop environment than if I went for Windows 8, while tried and 'true' in some early reviewer's eyes, I didn't think I should be forced 'into' a new platform before I was ready and certainly not have to pay more for an older version than a newer one. Where does that apply elsewhere in life? Isn't that sending a reinforcing message to its users? (translation: force is used when love isn't already there to takes its place).
What happened to let the product speak for itself and if the newer version shines which ultimately it should if they did their job right, people will pay more to upgrade?
Bottom line: don't force customers to an environment they don't 'choose', particularly your loyal long-term users. The other culprets who don't get this: legacy-minded companies Verizon and Comcast. Can you imagine Zappos, Dell or Virgin forcing such atrocities on its users?
Forward wind the clock six weeks. I was about to bite the bullet and go for the latest Lenovo, where frankly I've been happy 2x over when I got persuaded to go Mac by a friend who I wouldn't classify as a typical Apple fan boy.
Truth be told. I'm a creative. I'm an artist. I may be a visionary in how I look at business and my client's business and portfolio, but at the end of the day, how I think of the world and respect "it" is through an artist's eyes.
And so, getting pressure from major CEO pals who run start-ups, VC firms and beyond, I thought, t'is time (aka isn't it F-G time?) I migrated to a Mac like so many others in the world of which I subscribe (the one where entrepreneurship meets creativity and the arts?) After all Renee, didn't Herbie Hancock and Gregory Hines (both part of the Apple's evangelism program at the time) tell you insistently 15 years ago to get on a F-G mac within a month of knowing you and how you think?
This part is true: I THINK like a Mac, but I WORK like a PC. In other words, my ideas are MAC-like and my productivity and efficiency are PC-like.
While it's never been truer that I AM an artist, I am a creative and I FEEL the world more than I program it, which ultimately makes me more a Mac user than a PC one, what's even truer, is that I'm obsessed with efficiency and "getting shit done."
I'm in multi-tasking mode constantly. It's true that I've balanced a checkbook, taken two calls, and closed a mega deal in my CAR all at the same time. A lot of entrepreneurs have also done the same and done so, more than once.
It's also true that I've been known to carry on a very 'present conversation' with someone over a four hour period and while on the phone, also worked out, painted a hallway, done the dishes and the laundry and watered my garden. As long as I stay away from a screen that demands my brain and attention, frankly I can multi-task in a way that serves, not deters.
As soon as a screen is involved, I am in conflict with "continuous partial attention" (see Linda Stone's work in this area: she really gets it....I wish more people did).
What's scary is when I googled an image for the term, a photo of me came up in the top ten.
And while the above image may tell part of the story, the below image of three friends together for an evening out who are likely not 'truly' present with each other or with anything on their mobile device screens either, depicts a truer story.
In the midst of my PC to Mac conversion, my gut said DO NOT DO THIS! A handful of people who knew me well also said DO NOT DO THIS. Someone I dated for all of 3 months but 'understood' the way I processed the world (mostly because he processed information the same way) said DO NOT DO THIS. Later, I earned that the President of my new company processed information exactly the way I do.
When he made the PC to Mac converation, he spoke of three years of hell after migrating to a Mac world as a heavy Outlook user and how things still aren't efficient and don't work for him.
Nearly two weeks later and more hours and lost productivity time than I care to share, I learn that there are ALL sorts of limitations for the Mac Outlook user. Here's my point.
For the Mac Fan Boys:
1. I like my MacBookPro. In other words, I get the value-add. It's clean, the icons are pretty, it's got a helluva brand, the operating system is more secure and it's damn easy to search for anything using a simple button click.
2. Mobile: my iPhone is awesome. While I miss my Blackberry from time-to-time because I churn out SO much email, texts, tweets and more, the more visual and navigational screen on an iPhone makes my life more interesting and efficient because 'search' outweights text over the long haul. Bottom line: it's a mobile world where I don't need to be as efficient pr as fast as I do on my desktop. On my desktop, if I don't become insanely more efficient because of an app or a process (the words insanely efficient are important), then there's no reason to 'go there.'
3. Visual Ecstasy: Your bottom of the screen icons are pretty. As a visual snob, I GET the appeal. It's pretty, you're pretty and your simplicity is addictive.
4. Photography: as a photographer addict, I've migrated over to Lightroom and Photoshop in a Mac environment. I'm told that some of the cluginess that I dealt with in Outlook for the Mac will dissipate in my all Mac environment. In other words, Adobe loves Mac mroe than the PC and just performs better there evne though it supports both. GREAT knowledge to know when you're considering the facts and both sides.
THE QUESTION IS: Who Are You?
When people ask me about Canon versus Nikon or Apple versus Mac or iPhone versus Android or Window or Hulu versus blah blah blah, isn't the real question always: who are you and how do you spend your time? What do you care most about?
Sorry folks but as much as I AM a creative and an artist, and I GET and appreciate Apple in so many ways (see my Steve Jobs obit write-up), HOW I primarily spend my time is getting shit done. I do that primarily through:
3. Photoshop and Lightroom
4. Groupmail (A Dublin-based company who doesn't yet support the Mac but I love their app, their team and how they think)
5. Filemaker (I have been loyal to them for years and there's a reason for it)
And sure, Microsoft Word and Excel are a close 6 and 7 and there are a zillion apps that follow. SnagIt rocks and I can't say enough great things about it but I can use SnagIt on a PC and a Mac and there's no glitch on either OS, although frankly I prefer their UI on the PC. Why? It's more efficient!
I wish my professional world looked more like this:
And, while it doesn't resemble this sad image as an hourly existence, my career centers around deadlines, stress and fast turnaround more than it does a serene four hour work day on the grass or the beach.
If you're a power user, which I am:
1. Outlook for the Mac restricts the SIZE of your PSTs or whatever the hell they call PSTs in a Mac environment. While I'm on the most powerful MacBookPro you can buy including the top of the line solid state drive, with an extra 750 gig drive to boot, sub 1 terabyte horsepower. I also went with RAM of 16 versus a sad 4 in my old Lenovo which albeit slow, was able to handle Outlook more efficiency (by a lot) than this mega MacBookPro that I spent a fortune upgrading to.
I also learned that there are other restrictions. Not only does it handle power sized files poorly, but you can't do some of the most basic functions a power user needs to do -- regularly such as file emails in folders and subfolders. A friend of mine is still suffering from this after his PC to Mac Outlook migration three years later.
I didn't want to do a post like this because frankly someone might lump me into a PC or a Mac camp or none of the above (a naysayer and just bitter about technology), which is so unfair.
I expect that as the years go by (have been in this industry for 25 years now), I would become more efficient not less, happier, not less so, more integrated, not less, more organized, not less so (do you konw that you can't integrate mailboxes from several emails in a Mac environment unless they're all on IMAP and even then, it's clugy). In a PC environment, it works and has done so flawlessly for me for 10+ years. I expect smart curation and smart organization - technology that helps automate me not the other way around.
I'm forced onto Google Docs because the industry says I MUST. I had a client give me a wink and a bravo that I responded to something in Google Docs recently saying "Renee is finally on Google Docs." Really?
I've been on it for years but frankly I don't choose to use it as my default because I don't find that it makes me more efficient. I'm sorry, call me a naysayer, but bottom line, EVERY decision for me comes back to more efficient. If the system, process, app, mobile device or platform doesn't make me more efficient, why go there?
I want less time away from my PC or Mac, not more. I want to be less tethered, yet more connected and more efficient. Moving into 2013, shouldn't we be thinking about THIS GOAL as away to improve our productivity so we ultimately improve our lives and how we spend it? Remember the visual?
Think about it Apple fan boys and Microsoft addicts: if a solution doesn't allow you to spend MORE time with your kids, loved ones and friends, then why sign up? VCs, please, the same question applies given the kinds of things you invest in and don't.
While I love my iPhone and even though I SO get Blackberry addicts, I realized I navigate the web more than I thought and therefore the iPhone wins in the end despite the insane number of texts and tweets I do on a mobile device. That said, the same case CANNOT be made for email.
Email needs to be efficient and while some people may argue and complain and go to great lengths ditching Outlook, it has worked solidly for me for over a decade.
Sure, it crashes occasionally (not as much as Mac has in a 7 day period) and sure, it's not always as fast as I want it to be (it's faster than other email programs I have used or server-based email) over the long haul.
Bottom Line: if you're a power user (I had over 90 gigs of Outlook data that was originally brought over to the Mac - and did NOT work), STAY in a PC environment, one which supports productivity addicts. These are the folks, like me, who find productivity and efficiency their life blood even above and beyond simple search, beautiful icons and tighter security.
I USE FOLDERS. And I use them a lot.
I CARE ABOUT ORGANIZATION and it needs to be micro-managed. I'm sorry but I deal with countless entities, companies, non-profits, organizations, conferences, events and individuals (for the latter, I have about 30 categories. You?)
I need simple drag and drop into folders, from and to and I don't want to think about rules or objections. I need it to work and I need it to work FAST.
I am a data hog. If you have a lot of files: megafiles and subfiles, then don't go to Mac, at least not if you're coming from Outlook. There may be other viable options for you if you start native on a Mac, but bottom line, tell your IT guy HOW you spend your time and how you spend MOST of it.
Sure, I love my time in Photoshop and Lightroom and frankly, will likely find that I'll be better off on the Mac moving forward than in my PC environment. Photography is fun for me and while I do spend a lot of time on it, it doesn't make or break my business. Email does. Welcome to my life!
So, Apple fan boys, as much as you may be in love, call it what and like it is. If someone is a power user and needs to process the kind of VOLUME I do, which I'm told is the level of a head of sales for a large enterprise company and maybe more, Mac ain't your best friend.
If you need efficiency, power, support, integration and beyond, Microsoft and Outlook is still a more viable option. While my friend keeps repeating like a broken record, "it's not the Mac," my argument still sits: I'm ON a MAC, aren't I? One that is almost 10x faster than my six year old Lenovo and yet the environment where I spent 95% of my time (Outlook) performed BETTER and FASTER there than it does on my Mac.
The only difference is that I'm on a Mac and one that is 10x faster at that.
So while you want want to argue that it isn't the hardware and the hardware may be a fast purring leopard-like machine, I don't FEEL or EXPERIENCE that if I spend 95% of my time in Outlook, where Mac performs pretty badly compared to my old thinkpad that is on its way out.
If you're running a business (Sorry, but I do) if you're not ONLY thinking about productivity and efficiency, then can we please stop the conversation now? I don't have the time to talk icons, pretty pictures, search and image as much as they all matter to me.
I need to get shit done and SO, after an entire week LOST (and I mean LOST), my Outlook is now set up an older version of Outlook on the PC side of my Pac via Parallels and once again, it's running and my business is no longer DOWN.
As much as you've pained me over the years, thank you Microsoft. I'm more efficient in your world.
While it's not over yet, and I remain inefficient in the Mac world, there are some tools and people behind the tools who have made sure I didn't jump of a roof in frustration:
- Doug Free and his team at Microsoft for commitment to old fashioned PR as we knew it and looking after me, Microsoft's Technical Support Team which surrpised me 3x in a row (they did an amazing job, including Ryan in Seattle who isn't on staff but deserves a raise)
- John Uppendahl and David Spackman at Parallels. John convinced me to move to Mac because I could still have my Windows fix if I needed to (I never knew how important this would be: I have learned so much through both of them, including tips on how to be efficient in both worlds)
- Ken Eddings from Apple who helped me decide which MacBook would work best for me also in some insane hour when no one should be working (can you give this man a raise already - he SO deserves it. Really guys - open your eyes to what kind of employee he really is).
- The Twitter team at @MicrosoftHelps who responded the best they could although it was a much more complex situation. Oddly @Outlook didn't respond at all and my main issue was with them. As much as I'm an Outlook addict and 10+ year user, they're obviously NOT on the #socialmedia bandwagon. C'mon guys, get with the program.
- Adobe: they've been great despite my cries and agony. These guys clearly care and their team have gone to great lengths to ensure I'm ultra happy with Photoshop and more importantly, Lightroom, which remains my "bible" for photo editing. They dealt with my stress levels and venting with grace and I remain a fan.
Image credits: vendor websites, Amazon & Get stuff done image: Wikivillage.
February 20, 2013
BookEndz, a Great Option for MacBookPro Users On-The-Go
When I migrated to the MacBookPro recently, I was astounded at how few options there were for docking stations. As a mobile warrior and traveler who who is constantly on-the-go, I needed a solution that was similar to my Lenovo set up, where I could come home and quickly throw my laptop into a dock, one which connects to everything it needs to be via ports: external drives, printer, my camera reader, my monitor and more.
I wrote about the Henge docks recently, the guys who make great vertical docks, a simple and inexpensive solution if you don't need a ton of ports and want something quick and easy for sub $75. They have options for all the MacBookPro's as do the BookEndz guys who have horizontal docking station options.
The ports included on the BookEndz docking station is a FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and USB Powered hub which allows for 5 USB 2.0 ports, Audio In, Microphone in, and MiniDisplay Port for an external monitor. Unlike the PC docking stations I've used, you have to use your MagSafe Power supply to power up your MacBook Pro since they don't have a master connector to the docking station itself. An AC/DC power adapter (5 Volts) is included for the USB hub however.
So far, so good! It was dead easy to set up and I'm a fan at the simplicity and functionality of the unit. Simple-to-use, the additional USB ports are a huge added bonus I didn't expect. If you have a MacBookPro and leave the house with it more than once a week, what are you waiting for?