Thursday, September 22, 2011

Small Things You Can Do To Keep the Nature Clean

Last weekend: short escape in the Bucegi Mountains with my girlfriend, Alina.

View from the road to Piatra Arsa chalet

Unfortunately, the closer we got to easily accessible places of interest, like the "Babele" chalet, we were stroke by the increasing number of beer cans and plastic bottles that were thrown away in the field.

Gathering Plastic Bottles, near the "Babele" Peak (1st round)

Many people think that either a solution cannot be found to having tourists not throwing garbage in the fields or that it is not their responsibility to find a one. I don't think so.

Plastic bottles left behind by tourists

Probably most people believe that it lies with someone else, like with authorities that should increase penalties for garbage disposal in non-specifically arranged locations, have enough law enforcement officers in the field to apply the law, install trash bins in these areas and collect the garbage frequently. NGOs. Students. Army. Somebody else. And up to a point they are right: authorities should maintain public spaces clean, as we pay them to do so and it lies within their area of responsibility.

Others simply don't care.

Plastic bottles gathered from the fields, near the "Piatra Arsa" chalet (round 2) - unfortunately we couldn't carry more with our bare hands

What is often forgotten is the role that each individual has in maintaining the environment pristine. It is within our grasp to have an attitude. Yes, I believe in the power of small individual action applied on a large scale. I believe in the power of small personal effort multiplied by a large number of people:

  • When you see a plastic bottle thrown down in the grass or in the street, collect it. Collect as many as you can. Other people will see you and might do the same. Yes, I honestly believe that many people don't know that they can collect these bottles. 
  • Invite others to follow. Many people are afraid to make the first step. Show them that it is ok.
  • Explain what you are doing. Explain the power of collective action. If 10 people collect 10 bottles each, that is 100 bottles - a clean field, without much hassle. 10 people is very few for a location like "Babele" where hundreds  of people go there every weekend. Explain the power of personal example. Spread the word! Take a stand!
  • When you see someone throwing a cigarette on an empty bottle in an un-arranged location, approach him, look him in the eyes and ask why. (yes, it is scary at first, but what would you do if that person throws trash in your own garden - yes, the streets, the mountains, the parks are our own collective gardens)

View from the top

I believe that many people are reluctant to act because they don't trust that their effort has an effect on the long term. But it does and it extends beyond their mere action. I believe that cleaning up the environment is contagious and invites others to follow. It passes the message further. It creates waves. It creates a trend. An individual, by himself, does not have enough power to clean up the whole planet. But he can empower the people around him to do so by his personal example. If 10 people watch and follow him in the course of his life, and if another 10 people follow each of the 10 people, we have already 111 people cleaning up our fields, our neighborhoods, our streets. And it grows exponentially. And where it is clean and tidy, it is less likely for others to throw trash back in.

Tourists at the "Babele" Chalet - if each of them would pick one bottle...

Yes, I believe that it lies within our power to act locally. It is scary at first but after that it feels great. Don't wait for the weekend. Tomorrow, when you see a plastic bottle on your way to work, pick it up! You do it in your living room, right? Why not extend to your street, your nearby park, our forests?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Entrepreneurship - Notes

GRASP Start-up Weekend - Bran (July 2011)

Here are the notes I took while participating in the GRASP Start-up Weekend meeting this July. I believe they apply to any person looking to take control over his or her (professional) life, not only to those who we commonly refer to as entrepreneurs. For instance, one can have an entrepreneurial spirit in pro-actively managing his education, his career or act as an intrapreneur by employing resources from an organization to develop new ventures inside it. For me, all of the elements below define a free, action and growth oriented spirit.

1. What kind of profiles does a business need? 

All three:
  • Entrepreneur - breaks the rules, risks
  • Manager - predictable improvement
  • Administrator - keep it working
As nobody is perfect, always work with people who are better than you at least in one area.

2. What does an entrepreneur need? 

  • Business plan:
    • More than a business plan it needs a market analysis (simple: Google, ask  for information and feedback wherever you go. Test your product before you do it). Niche! Segment market!
    • Start slim. Favour contractual relations:
      • Don't have employees
      • Don't have co-owners
      • Own 100% as long as possible
      • Worst: 50%-50% due to lack of decision power
    • Write your business plan like you want to sell your business
    • Elevator pitch - brief and clarity of ideas
    • Don't overestimate revenue and don't underestimate costs
    • Write then get feedback - test it before you implement it
    • Bring an idea from outside - if you can copy, don't reinvent the wheel
    • Define your product, your market, your network, your selling and your growth strategy
    • Don't stick with the business plan but have it handy as a baseline
  • Credibility:
    • Most important: business today is done based on trust
    • Built in time
    • Who is your mentor and who is your advisor? Board of trustees.
    • People you want to know always talk to you when you are a student. When you are in business, they think you want to sell something - the true value of an MBA is access to these people.
    • How to build and maintain credibility:
      • Keep people informed of what you do. Send emails from time to time to cultivate relations, not necessary to ask for something.
      • Send information that might be useful to them
      • Say thank you
      • Reply immediately to emails and phone calls
      • Send emails to people after you meet them

"Tell me what you have done and who you are associated with and I'll tell you who you are".
  • Money:
    • Cultivate relations with bankers and lawyers.
    • More important than a refusal is to know why you were refused. Ask for feedback.
    • Sources of money:
      • Personal funding
      • Angel investment
      • Venture Capital
      • Banks
  • Think big and global:
    • How would it transform your business by growing it not by 30% but by 1000% or 10000%. Bringing ideas to the extreme reveals marginal forces and ideas one may not take into consideration. Forces prioritization.
    • The world is not only Romania or Western Europe. It is also USA, the Arab countries, Russia, China, India, Japan, South America, Africa. How can we extend to these countries? Distant worlds may need my expertise more than the people around me.

3. Personal traits:
  • Self disciplined
  • Curious. Quick learner.
  • Writes ideas down - get into the habit of writing down everything you think about. Plan your week, plan your day, plan your next year. In writing. Write names. Calendar meetings and activities. Ideas. Catalogue sources of information. 
  • Thinker and doer - think first and prototype quick. Rework. Incorporate feedback. Prototype and deliver something fast.
    • Who are my early adopters?
    • Who can benefit immediately? (company / person)
    • Develop in collaboration
  • Courageous
  • Passionate
  • Forward thinker: how can this concept work without me? 
  • Servant mentality: not what I want to do but how can my business help others? This gives purpose which, in terms, helps people self propel in times of hesitation. It helps define the mission which, in terms, is the goal for strategy and tactics and a major motivation factor. Who are we? - What is my motivation? Leader = agent of change.

4. True value of an MBA:
  • Understand the language of business
  • Know and network with business people who wouldn't talk to you unless you are a student
  • Create mental models for reality checks

And since we also took pictures there, here is another one:

Bran, Romania

What Means to Be Sure of Yourself

Yesterday I was putting my papers in order when I stumbled upon some notes I wrote during a leadership training I participated in few years ago. It was about what it means to be sure of yourself. I thought I'd share them with you as a short sum-up of the subject.

A person sure of herself:

  • Speaks loud and clear
  • Expresses his feelings
  • Expresses her wishes loud and clear
    • An unspoken wish does not exist.
    • An unsure person is afraid to express his wishes because of fear of criticism or refusal.
  • Knows how to say NO
    • Personal note: I've discovered that it is much easier to say NO when you are prepared. By that, I mean you know your objectives and you have a course charted to accomplish them. If you have a plan, it's easier to estimate your resources and availability and whether what you are asked to do benefits you as well. 
  • Is capable of criticism
    • Positive statement + criticism
    • Express emotion + criticism
    • Express solutions + criticism
    • Descriptive and precise
  • Reacts positively to criticism
    • Criticism is seen as information
    • Asks for more details and rephrases to make sure he understands
    • Asks for advice
    • Expresses her emotions when critics is overwhelming
    • Can decide whether to use the other person as mentor
  • Allows himself to make mistakes
    • Any mistake is seen as an experience that can be overtaken
    • Any mistake does not say about me that I've embarrassed myself forever
  • Is capable of asking for help
    • Only the strong ones ask for help
    • Hiding a weakness and not asking for help attracts attention
  • Is capable of self-presentation
    • Visual contact, distance between individuals, movement, speed of speech, loudness of speech, content of speech