Overwhelmed with the enormity of the task of nation-building, some of us would more readily give up than do something. The oft-repeated cry of resignation is: How can one man make a difference? Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point wrote of The ...
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Creating Change and the Butterfly Effect and more

Creating Change and the Butterfly Effect

Overwhelmed with the enormity of the task of nation-building, some of us would more readily give up than do something. The oft-repeated cry of resignation is: How can one man make a difference?

Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point wrote of The Butterfly Effect. It was also mentioned in the book The One Minute Millionaire co-written by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen. It is also the subject of the movie of the same title that starred Ashton Kutcher and which explored the effects of one man's alteration of the past to the events of the present.

The Butterfly Effect phenomenon underscores the fact that little changes can lead to dramatic results. It is so-called because it likens the little changes to the flapping of a butterfly's wings. It says that even such a tiny movement as the flapping of a butterfly's wings in Shanghai can affect the weather patterns in far away Australia. In The Tipping Point, Gladwell related the story that led Edward Lorenz to the recognition of this phenomenon.

The Tipping Point is a reminder of that other phenomenon called The Hundredth Monkey, which is subject of the classic book of the same title. In the simplified story, there are 2 populations of monkeys residing in 2 distant and different islands (let's call them Island A and Island B). The story goes that scientists were studying a population of monkeys in Island A and in Island B when, in Island A, monkeys learned to wash their food in the sea discovering perhaps that their food tasted better when washed of soil and dirt. The discovery was serendipitous! It started with one monkey, then another imitated it, and another followed suit, until all the monkeys in the island had started employing the same process whereas, previously, it wasn't in their normal range of behaviors. What surprised the scientists was that when the "hundredth" monkey in Island A learned to do the same with its food, the monkeys in Island B - which is distant and had no connection or communication with the first group - somehow spontaneously learned to wash their food too.

The Hundredth Monkey is most often used to illustrate how we are all connected somehow however much we are to all appearances disconnected physically. The actions of one always affect another. This story is sometimes brought up to explain why or how, after the Philippines had the People Power Revolution as a peaceful effort to overthrow the dictatorship in 1986, other countries also seemed to follow suit in fighting their own dictators. (More recently, it happened again in African and Middle Eastern countries, albeit with the help of social media.)

The phenomena of The Hundredth Monkey, The Tipping Point and The Butterfly Effect are all inter-related. The "hundredth" monkey was the "tipping point" - the critical point where change inevitably takes place and takes over a whole system, culture or, as in the monkeys, their way of life. In a sense, the first monkey was a butterfly flapping its wings in that while it was a single act, it led to many others and created a radical change.
As illustrated in these phenomena, there is no reason to be feel one's lone or tiny efforts to create changes are in vain. Like The Butterfly Effect, we are each like a small mustard seed that holds promise to grow into a mighty tree; and our actions, each a drop in a vast ocean that creates ripples and ripples until it grows into a wave. THAT is the power we each wield.
In our journey to the top, we must first believe that every action counts and can make a big difference. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "You must take the first step in faith. You do not need to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step."

See you at the top!

P.S. The phenomenon of The Hundredth Monkey has been revisited, and the claim of knowledge travelling from one island to another in a non-physical manner was debunked. However, the subsequent studies acknowledge that knowledge did get transmitted, from one monkey to another, and from one generation to another. In this instance, The Tipping Point phenomena and the Butterfly effect still apply.

Book Recommendations:
The Hundredth Monkey
The Tipping Point
The One Minute Millionaire

Reboot: The Pause that Moves You Forward

We use the term reboot with reference to technology ~ as in 'rebooting' a computer, meaning to turn it off then on to make it restart and allow us to continue our work 'on a clean slate', so to speak.

Because technology is so much a part of our life, we have come to apply the term as well in our own lives. I need a reboot. It's time for a reboot. I guess there's nothing left to do but a reboot. Well, perhaps you'd hear it more from the tech-savvy or those in the I.T. profession, or at least someone very familiar with computers; but nowadays, that's almost everyone. (OK you'd hear it too from those who love using idioms.)

When people use the words in those statements (and variations thereof), they mean a longing or a need to do something all over again, or differently. If they wanted to be more direct, they'd be saying something like any of the following: Something has got to change. I need a fresh start. It's time to go back to the drawing board.

In computers, having to reboot can be tedious and annoying. But in life, the need to reboot once in a while can be thoroughly useful. In Necessary Endings, we talked about the need to recognize when things must be made to end so that one can move forward. Necessary Endings and reboots sound the same in that the objective of both is assisting one to move forward; but they possess a tiny distinction.
A reboot isn't so much about ending something as it is about taking a pause before proceeding again. A reboot is a regrouping, a recharging of one's energies. a reconsidering of ones actions and options so that one can more consciously, reflectively and powerfully continue on with ones task, hurdle or project.
It is not about giving up on a goal; it is simply taking a breather. It is giving in to signs to take stock of what one has so far achieved before taking further action to move forward again.
A reboot is a de-cluttering of the mind, a disengagement of emotions, and a conservation of one's invested energies by removing oneself from a situation (physically, emotionally and mentally) to ensure that ones next step is not only right, but more effective, efficient and more aligned with what one has truly set out to accomplish.
In your journey to the top, welcome chances for a reboot as the pause it provides makes space for inspiration to flow in and ensures your inching closer to success.

“Though you cannot go back and make a brand new start, my friend. 
Anyone can start from now and make a brand new end.”
~ John Maxwell (Today Matters)

See you at the top!

Book Recommendations:
Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward
Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow's Success (Maxwell, John C.)


In Memoriam: Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Why has Steve Jobs' demise taken on the dimension of a personal loss to many?

The reason for it may be because through his technological vision - from the Apple I to the iMac, the Ipod, the Iphone and the Ipad - he became a part of our lives. Through all these products..:

  1. He allowed us a tactile appreciation of breakthrough design, not just a feast for the eyes, but a memorable encounter of a product, from selection in meticulously planned Apple stores, to the opening of that boxed product ~ the packaging of which was within Jobs' purview to ensure as every bit an experience as the product itself.
  2. He gave us a richer experience of music through his Ipods. The quality of the music was clear, we can select all the songs we want, and through it construct the soundtrack for our lives as we go about living it.
  3. He made us celebrate life with photos and videos, and he knew we only want our memory of those events captured in photo and video in the best quality possible, and he gave us the tools so we can play with them, from iPhoto, to the iMovies.
In a way, his obsessive preoccupation to detail, to merging 'technology with the liberal arts', to coming up with a masterpiece always -- in a way, it reflects the great reverence Steve Jobs had for man. He believed with an abundance of passion that mankind deserves nothing less than excellence and nothing short of perfection. This philosophy he very much showed in his business, and very well echoed in his own life. Many find precious comfort and clarity in the words he left us, his life's lessons that we will all ponder upon as his instructions for living:

Death as Life's best Invention
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true."

Love What You Do, Do What You Love
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

Connecting the Dots
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Follow Your Heart
“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Through his results and his example, we have been inspired and showed a way to the top.
Thank you, Steve Jobs.


Personal Leadership and Collective Responsibility

The leaders one elect, be it in a nation or any organization, are a reflection of the people that elected them - what they know, what they value, how they make choices, or how empowered they are to make the choices that are best for them.
The downside to electing leaders is the common tendency to imbue in these leaders all the capabilities one wishes they had which, more often than not, fall short of what they truly possess. Moreover, we tend to think that our responsibility in the process ends with the selection, rather than following that through with supporting the leader throughout the process of governance. Indeed, after an election, a leader becomes fair game to criticism and blame, as if all that is wrong in the system is his/her doing. To be fair, criticism is one way of supporting a leader, because through it the leader gains feedback and is able to adjust his leadership as he/she sees fit. But it's different when the griping is made irresponsibly, or is made only for its own sake.

The tendency to suddenly heap all blame and responsibility to a leader is a demonstration of our seeming belief that with the election of the leader, our own part has been accomplished. It is like saying: That's it, you're now in position, now make things happen for us. 

As a member of a society or organization, that makes us passive participants to governance. In that sense, election becomes a way for us to wash our hands off from further responsibility or burden. It's a cop out!

However, to make any organization work requires the dynamic interaction and cooperation of both the leader and the led. There is a school of thought that says when we elect others to positions of leadership, we also elect ourselves to our own positions -- we just simply call our own place citizenship (as to a nation) or membership (as to an organization). And as in the leadership position, citizenship or membership also carries an equal set of great responsibility.

A leader's worth is measured on his/her every action or inaction. As regular citizens or members of an organization, what we tend to forget is that while we are not visibly measured on the same standard as those in positions with titles, our own action and inaction has as much if not greater effect on the results that a leader will or will not achieve.
Leadership is a futile exercise where the majority has no intent to follow or themselves take initiative. But indeed, it is a great leader one who is able to galvanize his/her people into action.
When we think of ourselves in this way - as ordinary citizens/members of a nation/organization but whose actions actually and ultimately define what becomes of the nation/organization one belongs to - then that will have been true power - People Power - as we once called it, as in the Philippine experience in 1986.

Such power does not have to be displayed only on monumental challenges like of 1986. Such power must be practiced in everyday life, in ones tiniest duties as member or citizen, and in fact even in ones own personal goals. No great nation or organization did zoom to the top that did not have members who recognized the power of their little efforts and turned that into collective strength from which to make its ascent to the heights of success.

Taking responsibility for what you create in your life ultimately includes taking responsibility of what you can contribute in your nation/organization. Your own journey to the top cannot be incompatible with seeing your nation/organization through to the top. That is personal leadership.

See you at the top!

Book Recommendations:
The Tao of Personal Leadership
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
The 360 Degree Leader Workbook: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know


Friendships and Business Partnerships: Making it Work

It seems like an ideal situation: Your friend of many years - the one who's always been there for you in important moments, the one with whom you have the most fun with or with whom you'd had so many memorable times - it seems almost a perfect idea to choose to have that friend for a business partner. Indeed - why look elsewhere for a business partner when your buddy/chum/gal-friend is right there? Now, if you are actually contemplating of doing a business with your friend, wait a moment and read this one first.

Let it be said outright: No, it's NOT entirely a bad idea to do business with your friend/s. That is NOT to say that it is necessarily easy or not fraught with risks.
The reason most would warn against doing business with friends, esp. those who've had a bad experience with such a set-up, is not that businesses with friends have a greater chance of failure. (Regardless of who you do business with, the odds of a business failing is 9 in 10.) The reason, perhaps, is that when a business with a friend fails, there is a risk that you lose more than just the business.

A business with a friend entails greater risk because apart from the money you invest in the business, you also actually invest your relationship in the business. More than risking the money, you also risk the friendship. And while money can be recouped - well, friendship, when lost, can be harder to get back. Think Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin - best buddies in Harvard - who lost their friendship over Facebook.

And so here is the advice:
If you'd like to do business with your friends, take stock of your biggest asset together (your friendship), and take steps to ensure it does not get lost in the highs and lows (or busts!) of business. Here are some tips to making it work:

1. Communication
At the heart of all the next tips is Communication. Be prepared to be always in communication with your business partner-slash-friend. Everything - from expectations, roles and responsibilities, profit sharing arrangements - should be discussed from the very beginning; and whatever else that is yet undiscussed must be brought out in the open and settled. Communication is key to ensuring potential problems are addressed before they even happen. A good and effective communication will only be possible if the element of trust is present. In the book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the 'Absence of Trust' is listed as the foremost reason for failures in teams and businesses as it stifles communication crucial to achieving the goals of the business.

2. Agreement
Set up your rules. Agree to them, and then they become your agreements. These become the parameters of your business relationship. When misunderstandings come up, always look to your agreements to resolve it. As much as possible, agreements should be designed so that every manner or possible scenarios/problems/misunderstandings are covered. These agreements are the mechanisms that will take effect once conflicts/misunderstandings on your business arise. This way, the resolutions do not become arbitrary, and there is an "impartial" agreement that will tell you how to go about it.

3. Commitment
The 'Lack of Commitment' is identified as one among the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Your business goals will not happen unless you treat your endeavor as a real commitment. What is a commitment? Here is how Abraham Lincoln defined it:
"Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions. And the actions which speak louder than the words. It is making the time when there is none. Coming through time after time after time, year after year after year. Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism."
What you invest in your business in money and time and effort is a sign of commitment. You have to honor your commitment. If you can't honor your commitment with your business partners, what hope is there that you will honor your commitment of delivering on your promises (in your product or services) to your customers?

4. Priorities
Part and parcel of honoring commitments is giving your business priority. You could have many priorities, but even if there are greater priorities, it should not sacrifice the commitments you have made. If you have partnered with anyone, esp. with a friend, giving your business priority is not just about the business; it is about keeping your word, honoring your commitments, and giving your partners and friends a fair amount of respect. Before your customers can give you priority as a preferred supplier or service provider, they'll first have to see through your results that you do in fact give your business the priority it deserves.

5. Exit Strategy
Things will not always work; and even as your enthusiasm in the beginning were off the charts, sometimes that could wane. Some better opportunity might come along; situations at work or in your personal life may change that will necessitate you to want to opt out of the business. Or maybe you're just not into it anymore.

THAT is okay.

Just make sure you do not become vague about your disinterest, or you just disappear. You still have business partners/friends counting on you. Inform your partners of your change of plans. Be unequivocal about it. And then let your exit strategy mechanisms come into play. Your exit strategy should be something that you have already spelled out and agreed upon in the beginning. The exit strategy must indicate the procedures for getting out of the business or dissolving the business entirely.

The same due diligence you exert in evaluating your business should be the same (if not greater) amount of due diligence that you apply into ensuring that getting into business with your friend will not result to a loss of the friendship.

In the end, a friendship that flourishes with a business and a friendship that stands the demise of businesses is the better return on investment.

See you at the top!

"A friendship founded on business is a good deal 
better than a business founded on friendship.” 
(John D. Rockefeller)

Book Recommendations:

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