Timeless Advice For Today’s Activists (Forest, Merton, Hahn)

February 4, 2017

Timeless advice for today’s activists.

Thomas Merton’s Letter to a Young Activist » Jim and Nancy Forest is an essay discussing a set of letters between Jim Forest and Thomas Merton during the Vietnam War.

you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

That last sentence became for me one of the most important insights that I ever received from Merton: “In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.” I know it by heart and recite it often. It sums up incarnational theology. Words and slogans and theories are not nearly as important as how we see and relate to each other — the relationships we build — and not only with friends but with adversaries. In the context of peace work, it suggests getting to know, as best we can, the people and cultures being targeted by our weapons.

More — Christianity Meets Buddhism

I originally came upon this essay in a Buddhist book, Margaret Wheatley’s “So Far From Home”, and have always been curious about why she quotes a Catholic essay as the basis for her book.

It turns out that Jim Forest, a Catholic, spent a lot of time with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist. In fact Forest toured Nhat Hahn around the US for a while. Here are 4 essays that discuss his work and time with Thich Nhat Hanh. Super interesting.


**Must Reads** Conversations – Difficult & Crucial

May 18, 2016

 

Fantastic is how I’d describe the books “Difficult Conversations” and “Crucial Conversations”.

I read “Difficult Conversations” first and I liked the premise that — “Each Difficult Conversation Is Really Three Conversations” —

  • First — The “What Happened?” Conversation.
  • Second — The “Feelings” Conversation.
  • Third — The “Identity” Conversation.

and that the solution is to “Explore the Others Story & Yours” and one will need to “Reframe, reframe, and reframe to keep on track <smile>

This is because we really don’t know what happened, don’t know much about the mechanics of our feelings, and don’t want to know what our identity is. Fun stuff — if you can laugh at yourself. The first thing to do is to figure out what your contribution to the “difficulty” is – We are not blame free.

The book “Crucial Conversations” is focused on the workplace and provides very good examples in that context. The instructions are similar to “Difficult Conversations”. My favourite phrase is that we react with “silence or violence” and that we often use three clever stories to justify our actions. The three clever stories are

  • Victim Stories – “It’s Not My Fault”
  • Villian Stories – “It’s All Your Fault”
  • Helpless Stories – “There’s Nothing Else I Can Do”

We use “clever stories” because, first, they are accurate, oops the authors state that “clever stories” are rarely accurate. They mostly get us off the hook and help us shirk responsibility.

Noticing our “clever stories” is very useful. If we notice ourselves telling a clever story then there is high probability that we’ve contributed to a “Difficult Conversation” — We are hiding details. The way out is to stop and acknowledge that the “clever story” is not true. It’s a fiction. Then work to figure out what we are hiding and “Tell The Rest of the Story”.


I Have A Passion For Entrepreneurship, GREAT Program Showcase (Slides & Script)

February 4, 2015

Update – Sept 19, 2015 – the live video of this talk is available here.


Here are slides & script for the “I Have A Passion For Entrepreneurship”, Pecha Kucha Presentation, I gave on January 29, 2015 as part of Genomics Entrepreneurship UBCs GREAT Program Showcase.

note: The text for each slide is shown in the notes section of slideshare.

Full Text – 20 seconds per page/point

  • #1. I have a passion for entrepreneurship because it’s about people. And I care about people. It’s people, like you & me, who buy stuff. We, and our wallets, are ultimately the judges of entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurship is about New Ways of serving people. Today and in the future.
  • #2. In Existing Markets, we want to be served with “Better, Faster, and Cheaper” versions of products, and services, we already know. For example, I have an iPhone 4s and I want and need the iPhone 6 because “it’s better, faster, and cheaper.”
  • #3 This is an Existing Market. It’s the place to be, and there is tons of money in Existing Markets. So it sounds like, if you’re an entrepreneur, all you need to do is make the iPhone 7. Super Easy. Right?
  • # 4. Well no. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs rarely succeed in Existing Markets. “Better, Faster and Cheaper” is not what entrepreneurs do. The big companies, like Apple, get to make their own sequels.
  • #5. Entrepreneurs create New Market Segments like Apple did with the original iPhone and iPod. These did not exist before. That means Entrepreneurs build version 1 products with the hope that people will want versions 2, 3, 4, 5, …
  • #6. This sounds very risky. Yes, It is. Most entrepreneurs fail. Even with Apple’s immense success few people bought version 1, or 2, of the iPhone and the earlier iPod. Raise your hands if you bought version 1 of the iPhone. {delay} Yah, I didn’t. It’s my experience that most people bought in with versions 3 or 4 ( like I did).
  • #7. The trouble with Creating New Market Segments isn’t the technology. It’s the people. Very few people buy version 1 of anything. The entrepreneurs real job is finding people who care, developing a relationship with them for versions 2, 3, 4, 5. … and so on. The sequels. That’s where the money is.
  • #8. And now the Sad Part. This is a lot of work and takes time. Most evidence suggests that it takes 3-to–5 years for a New Segment to become a money making Existing Market. That is a long sentence “3-to–5 years” … So … You’ve got to have an noble goal & lots of passion for it to get through that time.
  • #9. Many people will agree that this is realistic, and some of you will disagree. But many of you will ask me, “but Iain why do most of BC’s Billion Dollar successes like Botox, QLT, Westport, MDA, and your PMC-Sierra all take more than 5 years to become part of Existing Markets?”
  • #10. Because, Brand New Markets have a huge “People Problem”. It takes a long time for raw technology to connect with people. For example, people don’t want “transistors”, people want a transistor radio to listen to music and dance.
  • #11. In 1989, I was making chips for data communications at PMC-Sierra. One one hand that was genius. We were building chips for the Internet. On the other hand, the Internet didn’t exist yet. In fact the word Internet didn’t exist yet. (There was no market yet.) We were 5 years to early. What a stupid idea {laughing} We were in for a long journey.
  • #12. It was not straight-forward. The journey had no map, no boat, and no oars. We had to build everything from scratch. We messed up thousands of times. It was fun and many times it was TERRIFYING. But it was worth it, in the end.
  • #13. Yes. Entrepreneurship can be terrifying. There is a lot of anxious self – dialog – Will anyone care about my new idea? When will someone care? No understands what I’m talking about! My parents think I’m crazy to work on this. My friends think I’m crazy to work on this. I’m beginning to think I’m crazy.
  • #14 And then the “Rays of Hope” appear {laughing}. The entrepreneurial “New Segment” becomes an “Existing Market”. That’s when entrepreneurs can finally explain to their friends and family what it is that they really do.
  • #15. One of my favorite conversations was with my mom around 1996, that was about 7 years into PMC-Sierra, because I could finally connect something she that was doing in the real world with the products that our company was making.
  • #16. I got to say, “Mom that e-mail that you love so much. I’m actually a part of that. Your e-mail hits one of my ”chips“ every time you hit send. In fact every person on earth hits my chips when they send an e-mail.”
  • # 17. That was such a great moment. I made a difference for her. An entrepreneur made a difference for a real person in the real world.
  • #18. Our company survived and by 1998 we finally cracked $100M in sales. It took ten years. {wow}
  • #19. That journey started with new technology and a “New Market Segment” called The Internet. It took many years for the world to learn what the Internet was. The more we learned, the bigger the Internet market grew. And today we want it “Better, Faster, and Cheaper”, …. and on a mobile device. Wow. It’s amazing what the Internet has become.
  • #20. So, what’s next? The question for the future entrepreneurs in the room is, “Whose problem are you going to solve?” because that is the first step on your entrepreneurial journey. Thank You. {smile}

Getting Ready for African Adventure with UBC Sauder Africa

June 22, 2014

I’ve been preparing for my trip to Nairobi this August. I’m going with UBC’s Sauder Africa (SAI) group (@UBC_SSE) and local Nairobi partner Strathmore University. This group has been teaching Business Planning, Accounting, Marketing, and Development on the ground in Nairobi for over 5 years. I got involved with the program a few years ago to support them with developing brand new businesses and entrepreneurship. This will be my first trip with them.

Where in Nairobi?

Here is my Nairobi Map in Google.
Nairbobi

We’ll be teaching near the slums of Kibera (bottom left) and Mathare (top right). This will be the first year that SAI will not teach in the slums. They’ve decided that they’ve had enough of “no bathrooms” during the teaching day. We’ll be staying pretty central (near the tent icon) and will be close to Strathmore University and local tech incubator iHub. For days when I’ll need contact with “home/escape”, there is a golf course nearby.

Unprepared For Slum Experience

I’ve been told by past participants that this is a great adventure. They’ve also told me that there is no way that I can prepare for the “experience” of walking in the slum for the first time. The sights, sounds and especially the smells all trigger strong emotions and feelings. Most participants don’t really “aclimatize” in the month. It’s that strong a feeling. This does create a bit of anxiety.

Slum Density

On the topic of Slum density. There is an estimated 250K people in the Kibera slum and it is roughly the size of four golf courses. ( when compared to adjacent Royal Nairobi Golf course). It is ironic that the poorest and richest are adjacent.

Culture, Weather, & More

We’ll also be having two trips during our stay. One will be to the Maasai Mara reserve ( i.e. the Serengeti) and the other will be to Mombasa .

I’m pretty keen to experience the music of Kenya. I don’t know what to expect. I’ve loved African music for a long time. I’m expecting to be amazed at how the youth mashup traditional drumming with synthesizers and group vocals.

The weather is supposed to be cool during our stay. This is kind of strange given that Nairobi is on the equator (1 deg South). The cool temperature comes from the 5,450 foot elevation.

Class Rooms

The classroom environment in the past has been a bit extreme. I’ve been told that this year we will be adjacent to the slums and not in them. Here is the Kibera classroom from August 2013.

School Room Door School Entrance Mathare

School Neighbourhood School Neighbourhood Mathare

Inside Classroom. We will have to pack in and pack out our materials daily. Anything left behind will be gone. School Room Mathare

Links to UBC Sauder Africa Initiative (UBC SAI)

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  • SAI on Facebook — lots of pictures and videos
  • SAI Blog — lost of personal stories of the trip.
  • UBC SAI webpage — the donations page and “official” notes

  • Remove Mac Dashboard App

    April 21, 2014

    It felt good to get rid of the Dashboard.

    Here is what I did.

    Open up Terminal and type: ‘defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled -boolean true’ followed by Enter. Relaunch the Dock by typing ‘killall Dock’, and the deed is done.

    More Here » Tech Radar


    Your Clever Password Tricks Aren’t Prot

    April 15, 2014

    Your Clever Password Tricks Aren’t Protecting You from Today’s Hackers by Lifehacker http://ow.ly/vJdm7


    R.I.P Bernard Daines. I’m so sad.

    April 3, 2014

    R.I.P Bernard Daines. I’m so sad. He was a courageous leader. He showed us where we needed to go. http://ow.ly/vp09Q