A Moment of Thailand
„Randomness means different things in various fields. Commonly, it means lack of pattern or predictability in events“ – Mr Wikipedia.
Times have changed. Outstanding world class bloggers such as myself, are using Wikipedia to quote. But, when I read the above, I gotta say, it does reflect what my random year has been like so to this date. No real pattern, and really a bare minimum of planning. From idea to decision was 1 day, and to execution less 2 weeks. Places like Buenos Aires, Rio, Thailand or Burma weren’t on the plan. In fact, the only things that were on the list were Kenya and Vietnam. True Story.
I like randomness. At business school, they called me “The Random One” or “Vinsanity Randomanity” (a mixture of insanity and randomness) due my random nature at that time. And, I guess I am still living up to my reputation.
A reason why I like randomness is that I truly believe it enhances your ability to think laterally. We think in certain schemes and patterns and maybe those neural pathways are strengthened to the extent that it might cripple creativity and out of the box solutions. Perhaps, that is not a good thing. Randomness can help to jump out of those pre-made patterns and over/ reused neural pathways and perhaps come up with better solutions.
Just a thought – granted, a random one, but that is nothing in comparison to what is about to follow: some of my favourite random video clips that I came across on my travels or before. Without further ado….and that IS true randomness…
1) Movie: The Movie:
2) Little Britain USA - Take Off Your Clothes:
3) The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon:
4) Dude Where’s My Car (And Then?):
Oh and this:
(Fred and I after a meeting with a bank in Kenya - Micro Finance Division)
In each place, as much as I was able to, I was trying to learn a little bit about the current state of the economy but more importantly the conduct of business, i.e. a more micro level view.
Kenya was interesting. It, and many other countries in Africa, have shown interesting development, and business is picking up very fast. My notes on this topic are nearly like 10 months old and I have forgotten a lot, but my interest and excitement for the country have remained.
I learned and witnessed that entrepreneurial activity has become stronger over the last years and growth is immense. Some of the big factors behind it being a economically rising middle class that has been able to acquire wealth due to increasing (in relative terms) political stability. Internationalisation is fostered and strengthened and the country is making use of its comparative advantages – the resources that it has.
Furthermore, one thing that still got stuck in my head in a conversation with my friend/ bro Fred from business school who has been conducting business in Africa is:
“Dude, you should really consider the dream in Africa, cause when you do business here, you are literally changing the world”.
Big words, but true words, too. Business, though frowned upon by some people, is good. In Kenya, business means creating a platform for people to get what they need, want, to create jobs and stimulate economic growth and at the end of the day fight property in an effective manner.
Some of my favourite industry’s I have looked into were Land/ Real estate, Technology/ Mobile and Social business, such as renewable energy. Though I have worked in various non-for profit projects before, I did underestimate how much I would like being part in a social business environment. Research has shown lots pro social business when it comes to sustainability – as opposed to the donation model. But I am no expert – only on randomness, hence I will end this here.
While I am sitting on my 20 hour bus trip from Buenos Aires to the Iguazu Falls (this was written on the 21th of April 2013), my mind wanders to a message I, by accident, read a couple of days ago. It stems from a very dear friend who I have known for many, many years, and who I highly respect. He’s a brilliant yet humble man, and who from time to time, I ask for advice.
One such time was during my quarter life crisis, perhaps at 24 or 25. I intent to live 100 years , and hence quarter life crisis is a legit term (Though many know after, for example, the Saigon-Broken-Jaw Incident: I am, in fact, immortal. True story).
I told him, let’s call him Mysterious-Ü, about the “So What?” and “Now What?” in life. He understood the questions. His response… For the longest time, we were drilled to do well in school, go to uni, get into that prestigious business school and grab the dreaded yet fancy management consulting job. But then what, so what? He went on about a book we both have read: “Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment” by George Leonard, and how much of life’s mission is about getting better, about never ending improvement, about being our best we can be, etc. etc. etc.
I highly recommend this book, by the way, and despite the fact I don’t disagree with what my dear friend wrote years ago, I love the recent response to the similar/ nonchalant question “What are we supposed to achieve again? Please remind me?” almost a decade later:
“We’re supposed to achieve, a lot of fun at work, work that actually makes an impact where its being done, a ton of money.
…And all the bitches. ALL.
Easy right? “
“And all the bitches. ALL” Lol.
Despite the fact, that I know it was only a semi-serious conversation, and if my friend was invited as keynote speaker to an important event, he probably would have crafted a different compositions of words, a slighly more polished tone, and perhaps some more sophisticated substantiation with more solid backing. Also his take on ladies and money are a lot more complex (so are mine by the way!).
But that’s the point…
As we grow older the complex things become a lot easier. When you ask a young man or woman about the meaning of life, it just get’s messy: a long answer.
Ask someone who’s been around the block, the answer might be as simple as “Love”.
And maybe that’s it: All the bitches. ALL. And of course he was only kidding, and so am I. First of all that term does not exist - only in movies. The right term is ladies :)
Hello Punch line (once again) where are thou? None.
A random line of thoughts, some truth in it, and my appreciation to a long term friendship (and long term friendship in general) that has made my day, just by contrasting the same question but a decade later. True story.
I really like Argentina so far. Looking forward to the Iguazu Falls.
Random Fact: The bus is amazing. I got 3 meals, whiskey, champagne, beer, sweets, snacks… etc. And I get to practice my terrible Spanish with my seat neighbour.
The hedonic treadmill refers to the notion that with increasing gains (such as more money), or level of excitement, happiness increases for a little bit only to flatten out back to the initial curve after a while - another shot of increase is required to spike again - and another, and another hence reminding us of a treadmill. This term was coined by Brickman and Campbell in their essay “Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society” in 1971 and has ever since been widely used in the field of positive psychology.
I thought about it, and American philosopher Henry Thoreau in his book “Walden” inspired a solution: Practice poverty. Every now and then, I try to go down to the bare minimum of consumption, or as some people call it “rough it up”, which helps me to appreciate all the little things again (a recipe for true inner wealth) and thus working against the hedonic treadmill.
Travel does that automatically as you find hidden treasures everywhere as all of a sudden, a warm shower, a functioning power supply or, in the case of Myanmar, a bed to lay down your head on, creates joy.
However, there is another thing that is happening when you travel. After a while, a place becomes less exciting than the one before, cause of all that sensory overload and the law of diminishing returns indicates that you will feel less joy about it- a hedonic treadmill in travel.
I wanted to hit the reset button.
Now my magic pill that I have planned from the beginning was to implement a stopper to it, something like practicing poverty, only that instead of poverty, I introduced some sense of normality. That is what I was looking for in Sydney.
No offense, but Sydney though beautiful was the least exciting of my time, and it was planned just exactly like that. As a result, my anticipation for the location ahead has increased.
I believe that these concepts don’t have to be confined to travel, but can be utilized in our daily lives.
What is your personal treadmill? Just a thought…
Granted, I am not a great copy writer – my mediocre post titles show that. But that’s why there are A/B and multivariate testing methods. Just throw up crap and decide which crap is lesser crap – good, no?
Anyways, in my time in management consulting, we adhered to a quantitative consulting approach, and a couple of careers later lead me to roles within a data driven marketing environment. This influence and the general Nerdism-Codex I subscribe to, shaped the way I operate on a daily basis – including how I make decisions.
One of the things I have done in my random year is evaluate each country as a potential place to stay, conduct business or just chill-bill. True Story.
I mostly chilled billed. True Story, tambien.
Being in Sydney, and always having a weak spot for it, I wanted to take this opportunity to really deep dive into whether this would be a great place to call my new home.
So, I checked out business/ work opportunities.
I opened the box of Pandora.
I rolled out a 3 week self-marketing and networking plan, which involved a set of approximately 15 techniques that yielded around 20 interviews. Well, 1,33 interviews per technique, not bad.
It was a lot on the plate for a traveller that is supposed to see the sunset and sunrise, while getting wasted on the beach. With all that new input and, many, many considerations and so much freedom to choose, I was rather confused.
And there was only one thing that could help me, if everything failed: Call my mom.
After picking the brain of the person, I consider among the sharpest I know, one thing that stuck was:
“Son, you losing focus by being too focussed”
She was right, I was too focussed for someone that had travelled to decompress and find learnings outside the normal scope. However, I decided I wanted to complete my survey. Hence, looking at Sydney, also meant that the opportunities needed to be measured against other benchmarks, i.e. other places/ opportunities.
I created a model in excel that served as an aid to help me use quantitative aspects, and a few more softer components. Instead of creating a pro contra list, I made it slightly more useful by actually weighting the various factors that I considered important such as domestic purchasing power in respective countries (data taken from the UBS report) and proximity to loved ones, etc. I created a mind map on mind-node to help me create flows of scenarios.
(Decision-making spreadsheet and Mind Nod Mind Map)
I sorted the spread sheet, and looked at the top 3 countries. Great, now I had a baseline to work from. I knew that all the variables within that country scoring system would change the moment I plugged in a specific opportunity. So, I plugged them in from the collected interviews. A good indicator was if I was able to beat the average of my top 3 countries.
I did all this.
Then threw it away.
Cause I like to waste time? No. Cause this is how decision making sometimes works. Granted, in my first business, we kept on saying: brief reasoning, fast decision. The business also was more of a tactical one in nature anyways, no heavy strategic guns needed.
I looked back into my life, and noticed that I always spend a good amount of time on decision making, and that I was never disappointed, ever. Granted, the random year was decided on over night, however it had been simmering there for 5 years. It was not that difficult.
On the power of indecisiveness:
…I had to fight my vanity. When I bounced my thoughts back and forth with friends, I must have come across as indecisiveness. However, instead of being “cool” and deciding I needed to make a decision fast ( I would just diminish part of what my traveling helped me to do: to take my time, to reflect and to challenge existing frames of minds), I took my time.
I think the humility paid off, and I feel I have added to my ability to be decisive by being indecisive first.
Okay, mumbo jumbo time is over. I only mumbo jumboed cause I was told I neglegted my blogging. This is my revenge for such a shameless accusation.
Did you know that there are Kakadus flying around in the streets of Sydney. Especially in the suburbs. I love that.
Okay, one more thing, people asked me about the why’s of the decision making, why I cancelled all interviews, and booked an airplane ticket that I will embark on today…
Essentially, I felt a) Wanderlust and b) Homesickness. Staying in Australia wasn’t helping me with any of the two. Managers use a lot of rational thinking, and then trust their guts at the end of the day. I believe in this combination, and I think no leg of this two part equation should be negleged. Why it works? Well, you feed your brain with a lot of good data, but let your gut (a more powerful thinking device, often times also linked to what we call the subconscious) do the heavy rendering. If you don’t feed it with good data, the outcome might fall short of what it could have been.
Gosh, when did I turn so bloody smart?
The third reason is that I believe that I wanted a faster paced environment. So, it was also a business decision (rather than lifestyle decision). And the fourth reason, is something that I would answer on an individual basis, and depending on who you are, you would probably get different answer ^^.
In any case: this is where I am headed:
Tango, Wine and Steaks…
Hello punchline? Where art thou?
…Well, if we map out opportunities, a good approach is to map out everything in sight, build an average across the board, and aim at picking something that beats the average (while trusting your gut). This is where we go for great, not good. True story.
…Also, I believe in randomness and inconsistency, which means: build a decision making model, and throw it away. ..and dance some tango ;-)
Life’s too short.