In Praise of Nuance or Why You Should Appreciate the Shadows

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Sunset
There is no other you. And there never will be. 

Use your inner strength, your very own subtleties and nuances that make you You.

In his thoughtful book “In Praise of Shadows,” Junichiro Tanizaki, a famous Japanese novelist, argues the importance of shadows and subdued light, half tones and harmony between light and its shades.

Whether it’s your room, your food, or your pen and paper, learn to appreciate the fine glow of undertones.

The fact is – the world is not black and white. It’s mostly filled with grey hues.

The sun and moon will continue to rise and set until the world’s final hour, but the fragile colors of sunrise and sunset are what shape our moods.

You must be a shadow first to appreciate the light.

And to make the best of it, learn to adapt yourself and your skills, and listen to your intuition. Find the touch points between you and the world.

Think of yourself as a paintbrush who can choose any color, in any tone, rather than a linear fountain pen. Use this brush to paint your masterpiece.

Dream. Act. Dream.

Listen to yourself. Trust your inner core. Find time to embrace nature. Enjoy the enigmatic sounds of an awakening forest, welcome the salty breeze of the ocean on your face, touch the dew of spring’s first violets.

Fine-tune your soul to feel the beauty of this imperfect world. It is yours to keep, but only for a short while.

If you’re looking for a specific recipe to succeed, do these four things:

1. Think

2. Create.

3. Simplify

4. Give

 

1. Think

Think, because you are human and you have this luxury. 

Don’t waste all of your time on distractions; dedicate some time to ponder and poke at eternal questions.

Thinking is a hard process, a habit that you need to acquire.

So where should you start?

Take things apart, as Richard Feynman recommends. Make sure that you understand the basics. Then ask questions. And then some more.

Never stop learning. Never.

As Will Durant put it, “The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds.”

Listen to what Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s best buddy and long-term associate, has to say:

“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.”

Be that person.

2. Create

Whether you know it or not, you are born to create.

There is nothing more exciting than to create something new, something that has never existed before.

It’s like looking at eternity.



You can create books, articles, and images, even children. (And yes, you may want to wait on children.)

It’s amazing – the more you create, the more you acquire capacity to create. As Octavia E. Butler says, “Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”

Isn’t that powerful?

When you create, be original. The secret of being original is simple: be honest with yourself. 

Sometimes your soul will give you hints you need to listen to.

If you listen and follow, then you are close, very close to being original.

Don’t think, however, that your first creation will be beautiful. It may well be. Yet, most realistically, it will be messy. Just like when a baby is born.

It’s messy, loud, wet, imperfect.

Still when a mother sees her baby’s first smile – there’s nothing more important, beautiful, and perfect than that baby. At that moment the whole world becomes smaller than this smile.

Your creation is your first smile to the world. It’s a signal that yet another poet, writer, designer, chef, artist, teacher or engineer is born.

Whatever you do, find time to create something original. You will never regret it.

Start now.

3. Simplify

You have to kill the noise around you, or the noise will kill you.

 

The noise in your head will find you in the deepest cave and drag you out to distract you from thinking and creating.

The world is one gigantic puzzle. You have limited time to find your space there. Don’t waste time.

When you will find your spot, your perfect spot in the puzzle, you will have found your home inside yourself.

But beware, if you live everywhere, you live nowhere.

Don’t spread yourself too thin, emotionally, physically, or creatively. Leave white space in your life to replenish your capacity.

And for that the key is to simplify.

 For Leo Babauta, a bestselling author and the founder of Zen Habits blog, a simple life is “eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you.”

You don’t need stuff to be happy. Hard to imagine, but it’s true.


How do you start? 

I suggest the 10 Laws of Simplicity coined by John Maeda, the bestselling author of the Laws of Simplicity.

According to Maeda, “the simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.”

This will help you to learn more about yourself. The fewer things you have surrounding you, the more time you have to study your depth. It is fascinating what you can see there – good and bad, but it’s all yours.

Finally, we come to the most important quality of any accomplished individual. It is giving that makes you human.



4. Give

Give yourself to others and don’t expect anything in return. That’s the key to self-fulfillment.
 Volunteer. Help seniors. Help the young. Save animals. Share your time with the lost and disgraced.

Listen and share advice, even though your advice may seem unimportant to you at the moment.
Some people have saved lives by doing this.

 It’s only when you give that you will achieve satisfaction.

Let’s face it – we’re so troubled these days. 

And if we don’t attempt to pursue the greater good above our own personal (and often egotistical) goals, we will never truly realize our ability to be heroes.

Give thanks to others. Thank your parents, your friends, your classmates. Even strangers.

And one more thing.

At the end of the day, find time to give thanks, meditate and reflect.

Regardless of how deeply you believe, choose the One you know to thank for your ability to think, create, and simplify.

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Taxi Driver’s Wisdom: “Every Day Give the Best of Yourself”

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Big Yellow Taxi

It was another full business day in Houston. As I was getting into the cab, an older African American driver greeted me with an open smile and a straight look in the eyes. He was a short and lean man, wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt and tan slacks.

“Hello, my name is Sam. How are you this morning?”

“Thanks, I’m pretty good. Running to a business breakfast, you know, nothing special, just business.”

As we drove further, Sam continued.

“That’s good. Business means having a job, and having a job today is great news. I’ve been driving this cab for over 30 years, and I enjoy every single day. And I think that we should give thanks every day. Every single day.”

Sam seemed so content with his life, I thought out loud. He really likes what he does.

“Oh, yes, I indeed am very happy.” Sam went on to recount the joys of his childhood to me, moving from Louisiana to Houston at a young age.

I kept thinking to myself that he must have faced hardship and struggle, yet this strain never came through his narrative. How could that be?

He continued, “I’ve noticed one thing in life – those people who were optimistic, who greeted every day with a smile, who thanked God for being here, they were happier than others. Throughout all of my life this has been a fact for me.”

He went on to talk about his experience in Vietnam, and what brought him through it. It wasn’t only his optimism – how can one maintain that in war? – but also something from his mother.

“My mother taught me two things. First, she taught me one single prayer. She said, son, you’ve got to pray when you feel bad or out of place. Remember this prayer for me. And I did.

The second thing that she taught me was to look only at best in people. She said, son, so many people are messed up, the world is messed up, and there is a lot bad things happening every single day. And you know what? There is good and bad in every man. All you have to do is to find the good in people.

Don’t judge them for their misdeeds. Just find that piece of goodness in everyone you’re talking to. You’ll see what happens. You’ll see that people’s spirit would rise to the occasion, because every man is seeking the higher purpose.

Because the human soul needs more than just bread and butter. It needs trust and encouragement from another human being. Go and seek this in people you meet with. Remember that I love you.”

“I always remembered my mother’s advice to place trust in another man’s heart. And I did. And I know that I tried hard to be the best man for these people I met out there. I knew that the moment of life that we shared was good for both of us.”

As we reached our destination, Sam shook my hand, looked in my eyes and said, “Enjoy every single moment of this life and trust yourself to give the best of yourself to another human soul. Good luck!”

And I thought, this taxi driver philosopher has it right on the mark. Amid all of the rush of each day, let’s take a minute to give thanks for our blessings and to see the best in each person we meet.

3 Tips on How to Make Your Trade Show Visit a Success

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OTC 2015

Drawing tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world, OTC is among the world’s largest trade shows focused on the development of offshore resources in the fields of drilling, exploration, production, and environmental protection.

Throughout my career I participated in many trade shows, large and small, regional and international, but believe me, there is nothing like OTC.

Can you work this kind of event? You bet.

Here are my 3 tips to have a great experience at OTC-2015, or at any other trade show you plan to attend.

1. Strategize Your Meetings

Plan ahead and be strategic about your time and the meetings/panels you want to attend. There are plenty of interesting things to hear at a conference, but your time is limited. Choose only the most important events to attend. Set a daily goal of meeting with a certain number of new contacts. Make sure you don’t get distracted until you’ve met your goal.

Many business people miss out on great opportunities at thematic panels and round table events.  If you’ve just heard a great speaker or an executive that you want to do business with, don’t be shy, come up and introduce yourself. Do your business a favor. And no, you’re not annoying – you’re here for business.

2. Listen Up and Give Your Full Attention to Your Prospect

You know the type of guy who looks at your name tag and smiles if he sees a big brand name embellished by a good title, but if you’re a student or young professional, he glances over you like a scanning machine at Walmart. Don’t follow his approach.

Instead, try this. When you meet with someone at the show, be it at a dinner table, a booth or between sessions, show your sincere interest in the person you’re talking with. Ask some quality questions, discover something new. The truth is, you never know what this person knows or who he’ll become in the future. And even if you really never ever meet again, your positive attitude will create great rewards.  That’s how life works. Trust me or Adam Grant.

3. Stack Up Your Business Cards and Follow Up on LinkedIn on The Same Day

Whatever you do, don’t forget your business cards. Yes, it is the age of Evernote, the Apple watch and smartzillion phones. Still, business cards are a must. And yes, you can have simple ones printed at Staples, or fancy ones if you’re a cool designer. No matter what kind, bring plenty with you. Because more often than not that piece of napkin or boarding pass with that name and email of a great prospect you met at the show will be lost forever in your suit pocket at your neighborhood laundry.

Finally, when you’re back at your hotel, take out these business cards and make sure that you follow up with each and every one of your new contacts through LinkedIn. That’s how you stay on track and justify your investment. That’s how you will be taken seriously. Because LinkedIn today is a must.

Well, if you want to be even more memorable, and can invest an hour of your time in something that brings super ROI, then write a short handwritten card to your top contacts. The result will be more than you expect.

Good luck and happy networking!

Spot Your Snow Leopard – Unleash the Power of the Moment

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Snow-Leopard
I love the snow leopard scene from a recent remake of “The Adventures of Walter Mitty,” starring Ben Stiller, who plays Walter Mitty, a meek daydreamer looking for a higher purpose. Walter’s also searching for an evasive celebrity photojournalist Sean O’Connell, played by Sean Penn.

Through a series of adventures taking him from Iceland to the mountains in Afghanistan, he finally finds Sean sitting on a sunny snow peak covered with protective gear in front of his camera.

 Sean explains to him that he’s here in the Himalayas on a mission to photograph snow leopards, extremely cautious animals, and one needs to prepare for a long wait with no guarantee to see these beautiful animals.

 Suddenly Sean motions Walter to look at the camera. They spot two snow leopards.

When Walter anxiously asks why Sean is not taking the shot, Sean replies:

“Sometimes I do not. If I like the moment personally, I don’t like the distraction of the camera. So I stay in the moment. Right there. Right here.”

How many times we are compelled to capture the moment? Social media demands an instant feed of emotions shared with the world, yet to be forgotten in the next second. 

And here is the catch – when we instead immerse ourselves in the moment, when we allow ourselves to dive into the flow, our minds begin connecting the dots.

All of a sudden, all of our daily interactions, past memories, experiences and emotions are melted into the present. And this is when miracles happen.

Some of the best ideas were born in tranquility.

Quoting Marcus Aurelius, “It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire. Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.” 

Have you experienced this tranquility?

In his bestselling book Where Do Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson describes seven ways of developing new ideas:

  • Building innovation logically on previous breakthroughs

  • Developing ideas slowly over time

  • An idea highjack, where one idea serves a different purpose

  • Liquid networks producing “information spillover”

  • Errors leading to new paths

  • Idea stacking platforms

  • Serendipity

Of these seven, serendipity is my favorite. It always works for me, as for thousands of other people. Inc. magazine recently published 13 ways some great startupers found their ideas. You’ll be surprised that ideas come not only in the shower, but also pop up in your mind while walking your dog, during a flight, in a solo tea session, or while talking to parents.

The key is to unlock yourself by returning to reality. The more you expose yourself to real life, the more opportunities present themselves to you. 

What if you choose to not take pictures for your audience? What if you just be there?

On my recent trip to a conference in San Francisco, after an intense exchange of ideas, networking and a panel discussion, I tucked my cellphone deep in my pocket, and decided to stroll the beautiful streets of San Francisco toward the ocean side. My idea was to find a local bookstore and have a quiet reflection session while observing the ocean.

Long ago I discovered that my best ideas come to me in bookstores, when I have a small notebook, a pen and a stack of random books on the table. 

When I settled down on a bench facing the ocean, I suddenly saw a beautiful scene. In the midst of the blue ocean, I noticed a white sailboat surrounded by a halo of soft sunrays. The sails, the sun, the waves. Nothing else. Perfect.

It was such a great picture. Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?

I confess – my hand started to move to my pocket to grab the phone. Yet I caught myself, and stopped that thought. Instead I just went with the flow. The next big idea was already in my mind.

Carpe diem. Stay in the moment. It is your turn, my friend.