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I didn't come from a well-to-do background. I came from the most humble beginning.
Way back in circa 70s, what we had was a make-shift house, with tin roof over our heads, three simple meals a day and an opportunity to go to school. Forget that the neighbor in better villages could afford a television, a fridge, a stove, a good toilet, and some eating out and vacation time.
Well, I have travelled from there to here and I can fairly say with all honesty that it was a good journey. I have learn lots in the process. Truth to be told, it is not perfect now, but comparing to those years where all you want to do is to get out of the misery, it wasn't bad after all. It was good to suffer early on in life. I learned to appreciate early little good things that I have.
What brought me here is a group of people that supported me from the start and continue to support me in every aspect of my life. They cheer me on, bring me perspective, encourage my walk, and gave me all kinds of support. I am forever indebted.
I thank them everyday during those formative years when I have no awareness of my potentials yet, they build it from within me. Because my family cared, my former teachers and mentors cared, and other kind-hearted people I met along the way cared, I am now what I am.
To the many more people that I will meet in the future, it's not my skills, expertise, and charisma after all, although they are valuable. It's not about me, it's because they are the kind of people that rises up with others along their path.
Thank you for spreading love and humanity.
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There is a level of entitlement that has totally gone berserk.
The radicals are demanding that you change your beliefs and values so that the world will be better.
Some people are demanding that you forsake any reason, logic, or common sense for a practice that is not rationale, logical, or based on humanity's sense.
Some are demanding that they get your attention because they believe that their story is better than yours, hence, the attention.
Students are demanding that they get into the honor roll just for showing up.
Parents are demanding that their kids get to enrol in prestigious institutions and will readily bribe officials just to get entry.
Politicians are seeking the truth when they themselves are complicit of using science, research, and global consensus to mask what's going on with the pandemic for example.
Non-profits are feeling entitled to use their volunteers in order to skimp on organizational support and development and avoid getting the funding for the latter.
The social media is full of hypocritical beings who are posers but not real doers, advocates of something that when push comes to shove, not very willing to forgo their convenience, lifestyle, ways of life, and the status quo.
How to deal with and navigate around these entitled individuals, organizations, and entities:
1. Reverse their argument. How they would feel if the other person or target group or beneficiaries or constituencies would demand the same?
2. Who benefits from these demands? What actors and groups and causes they are promoting and against? What are the stakes here?
3. Think systemically. How this course of action can lead to more negative impacts down the line? Is this going to be another palliative or flavor-of-the-month solution? Where is that movement is this leading to? Is this resolving an issue or using another group or issue to cover-up or devalue the persistent long-term ones?
4. Some demands and suppositions are downright illegal, unethical, and pie-in-the-sky. Learn to discern and debate well.
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The explosion in publishing has been noted to be the one of the most significant breakthroughs in recent years. Nearly practically anyone can self-publish his work and sell it online to his communities. The marketplace is very saturated with new books and materials entering every year, bumping the previous ones in terms of competition for the consumers.
To get an edge over this saturation, service-providers and purpose-aligned organization must provide more than their annual reports and publications, it's the experience with you that counts. Experiencing your capabilities, wealth of experience, and analysis is the way forward to break out from the commodification in the sector.
Purpose-driven organizations that are struggling to get the attention of your constituencies and stakeholders, here are the top four strategies to publish successfully and earn their donations, loyalty, and support.
1. Publish in areas where your target stakeholders learn, mingle, and network. That will keep your brand front-and-centre.
2. Repurpose your analysis and studies in variety of creative ways. The latest stats on digital consumption reveals an uptake on audio and video content. Make it accessible anytime, anywhere.
3. Design an experience that they will never forget. Unforgettable, relevant, and peer-to-peer exclusive atmosphere will increase your credibility in the field. You become the go-to for anything authoritative in your domain.
4. Build your defenders for the long game. In my book Provocateurs, I discussed the evolution of community, from fans to acolytes to defenders. Defenders will not only support your work, but will sponsor, evangelize, and take action for your benefit that aligns with their interests and values as well. Adapt your events, publications, and communications to build up your community.
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Some people believe that there's always some one or something that should be blamed for world miseries.
The non-profits and social sector are rife with criticisms of the capitalist economy and government. Yet, they have to work hand-in-hand with the two.
For the conspiracy theorists, there is a global network of villains and ego-maniacal entities, ala the James Bond villains that are planning, hatching their next global destruction ventures.
For the poor and illiterate, it's the rich and ultra-wealthy that are sucking all the resources that they need to survive. And the corrupt government that's feeding this greedy landed gentry.
For the owners, it's the labor unions and their goons and strategies that keep the business from thriving and the government's bribery schemes wrapped up neatly in certain fees for here and there.
For the middle-class tired of pretending that they are more well-off, abhors the poor for creating the conditions of pallor, dirt, and insecurity in many communities. These people are considered lazy, worthless, and can't be saved.
The big business are blaming the environmentalists and climate-change crazies for wrecking their plans and making it harder to conduct business. The auditors are blaming the government for lax regulations. The consumers are blaming the government for run-away inflation for which the energy producers are caught in the quagmire. The masses are suffering and that the world is coming to an end unless climate change is addressed.
The elite, educated ones are blaming the fringe sectors and the fringe sectors are blaming the elite, educated majority.
Do you see where this is going?
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You want an honest feedback so that you can improve your work.
The first group will tell you what you want to hear, all the good things sans the not-so-good ones for fear of discouraging you.
The second group will tell you all the worst things that you have done and how it negatively impacted them. Fine, if that is the truth.
Yet, we live with this two polar opposites all the time without the real benefit of honest constructive feedback, in our workplace, in organizations, and sometimes in our own families.
It cannot be that worst but it can't be that too great either. For improvement's sake, it is better to be honest than to be lying about someone's performance. However, how you deliver this is very critical to the outcome you're seeking.
What does it take to create an atmosphere where honest feedback is taken and given constructively?
For some situations, you will never know where you actually sit, having two of these polar opposites received from different quarters. Perhaps, the truth is somewhere in the middle. It is up to you to weigh both things. What matters is that you're improving everyday while others are busy taking successful people down.
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Not my business.
A colleague once sent me a question regarding another coalition in Ottawa, not my business to comment on what is that coalition actually trying to do.
Another said that I should be sending my books to key people that helped me get to where I am now, not my business to remind them that I exist and I existed before within their peripheral vision.
Another friend said that I should try to be involved in a service club because they meet regularly. They meet regularly to do nothing. Every club I have spoken to wanted me badly. Not my thing.
A family member said that I should be aware of what's going on in North Korea and the nuclear stand-off with the US, not my business. I knew what's going on in North Korea, including its history, Korean War. I have a Masters Degree in International Relations. I care enough to know but I don't get too emotional about it.
We need to safeguard our focus and attention.
We need to protect ourselves from intrusions and incursions of others into our territorial waters.
We create our own waves.
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I was binge-watching The Offer this week and I can't imagine that when they're making The Godfather film in the 70s, the executives have a way different vision for it. It was proposed that it will be set in the 70s not a period film, shot in Kansas or St. Louis, or with a young and cheap director (which they did), actors that can work for cheap or for free, and more. The Godfather as we now know is one of the best American films ever produced and highest grossing film of all time.
There was the Mafia disturbance and interference, sabotage inside the production units, difficult actors and crew members, logistical issues, budget pressures, and other millions of minutiae problems but the logical business mindset clash against the creatives is a major highlight for me. It wouldn't be the Godfather that we know or at least the shadow of that success if it not for the creatives standing up for the authenticity and integrity of the film. It will not be a success if the executives had their way about the logo, the budget, their preferred actors, the locations, and even how it will be marketed and distributed. The dalliance with the Mafia is a film of its own and the way it was handled was, unfortunately the best possible course of action, albeit Machiavellian. The business context set the stage for how these films were supposed to make money that will save Paramount from being sold off to a bargain and leave more for the future viability of its corporate owner.
There are many management lessons here for which this page won't be enough. How ironic it is that film businesses are creative businesses; they are meant to marry the business logic of efficiency and financial performance using the creative breakthrough ideas of their time as a distinct competitive advantage. While these sounds easy to do, the Offer allows to understand that it boils down to how they see themselves as partners of the venture that either had to sink or swim together or get out of the way for the other's success. While in the film the business guys weren't one-dimensional and turned the other leaf, in reality, so many of the films of the past and the present are produced on ruthless business criteria as a hedge for failure. As the audience, we just don't know the costs of these wars inside these organizations. But we know that we have yet to see another Godfather or another film with both smashing commercial success and unparalleled artistry in decades.
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When I last saw my 11-year old niece in 2019, she was singing the 1960s hit, the Sound Silence. That was one of the best folk songs in my book. I remembered in the 90s, when I got to know some of the best classical folk and rock songs and started to learn the guitar for the first time. The Sound of Silence was one of the beats that was unbeatable. I gave up on the guitar after trying for a few months recovering from blisters all over my fingers, but not on the song.
The Sound of Silence is eternally relevant and powerful with its hunting melodic harmony that remains supreme against the auto-tone, music trashing modern bands we have today. I can say that I grew up learning to play these songs, interpret these songs during my high school life, and appreciate a different era of my parents and grandparents where some of these songs have been birthed.
Silence in today's world is a rarified survival tool. Everyone wants it but it takes courage to find and keep a silent life. If you think about it, silence is a blessing.
As I grow in years, I would lean more to the quiet, calm, and assured days and moments as opposed to the big, boisterous, and larger-than-life events that take our breath away from time to time. The sound of silence is the heart beating, bird chirping at outside, snow falling from the sky, staring at a newborn baby (which I did today!), snoring sound in another room, electric fan swirling, moments that no words can be enough. I'd rather be drowned in silence than to fill up the space with meaningless chatter and fake words.
There is power in silence and using this power responsibly and positively honors the One that gives us the power to listen. We can hear more when we listen on non-verbal cues that are rich, textured, and layered of meanings. I am coaching one professional and I told her that there is no problem with silence. Don't avoid it like a plaque but understand the meaning of silence in every encounter or situation with the people in the room. Being a leader means being aware of the underlying context that most of the time, is hidden from verbal expression. Emotions make us human, respecting the positive benefits of silence is truly a gift. Take notice, be interested, and listen discerningly.
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never heard
No one dared, disturb the sound of silence...
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2022 is a year of high risks and low expectations. I benefited a great deal from both. Despite the legendary dismal economic situation post-COVID19, the on-purpose organizations are looking for new ideas to outsmart the new realities of their business environments. We see new models, new visions, new creative perspectives being experimented and/or embraced with a modicum of success. At the end of the day, survival is a necessity but innovating is a competitive advantage. If you want to be relevant, choose the latter.
1. Organization and structure trump the intricate planning precision. If you aim to be better tomorrow, then in totality, it will sweep you up in the momentum of direction of change. Things get done even in the worst combination of events against you succeeding. Talk about beyondresilience.
2. When everybody says the planet is doomed if we are not going to act in a certain way, there are thousands of people that are benefiting from the dystopian, emergency, crisis-festered environment and milking their way to the bank, amidst the the lack of supports, funding, and bridging efforts for the most affected and vulnerable. We like to believe that we are all on the same page with climate future but no, we are not even agreeing what kind of future to choose.
3. If you can't have your own ideas and copyright it as your own, then nobody gets to know what you are designed to do, mastered enough to do, and excellent enough to provide value to others. The insecurity of others should not dictate how you should play your game and even enjoy it. There is no joy in playing small and hiding behind your true potential just because others can't do what you can.
4. Your accomplishments and failures are two-sides of the same coin. There is no point beating yourself for all the wrong things that happened as against the wonderful ways luck, smart work, and planning coalesce in spite of yourself or your organization's constraints. Organizations by now understood the point that you can provide value with less than what you would expect. Fit-for-purpose designs invariably take supreme in volatile times.
5. People can say all they want but how they act on the information provided to them is the real ignition switch to delivering an outcome versus merely focusing on intentions. Fantasizing and wishful thinking are not strategies.
6. Privileges are privileges. The lack of privileges and advantages shouldn't embolden anyone to be full of contempt and scorn for those that have it. Neither do those in positions of privilege act high and mighty for the rest of society to worship them. That's why we have the rule of law, democracy (despite its many flaws), and meritocracy. Unfortunately, these three things are eroding before our very eyes.
7. In my leadership training and coaching this year, I saw two things: high-level performers do not get the time to have real connection with another peer or colleague even in the same network or industry. There is so much focus on keeping up productivity in remote work when the best outcome is lowering quantity for quality. Employees who are energized and supported will feel better with their participation and this leads to better performance in and out of work.
8. Another issue is that connecting is like breathing air. Executives must find time to rebuild and replenish their oxygen-tank, connect with purpose-filled individuals they can be inspired with to pursue their own passions. Get off the screen and take the time to schedule coffee/tea, bowling or meal time with a colleague, friend, a clubmate, or anyone you would like to know more.
9. Growth experiences are such a great advantage these days. Few people can say that they have a true mentor, an advisor, a guide in the specific stages of their lives or careers. These benefits accrue to those that not only seek these experiences but take hold of them when presented with the opportunity. If you are given one on a silver platter, customize the tools and residual gains for your specific challenges.
10. Wabi-sabi. Embrace the imperfections of your organizations, your life, and your world. Instead of improving a piece of furniture, taking a modern style, why don't we just relish the age, maturity, decline, and the imperfections of that object? Translate this to your own organizations and environments. Imperfections are not problems to be solved. They have their merits too. If you can live with it, let go and just be at peace.
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From my family to yours, Merry Christmas. May you have a restful and contemplative celebration of Christmas and a fulfilling 2023. More vitality and wisdom in the new year!