Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Being here Part 2 (a message from a reader...)

I just received a message from one of the readers of this blog, Alvaris, about my last post "Being here". There it is :

"Hi LouiseM, You have a very nice blog. I like the post talking about "being there". A psychology term would be "flow". It's amazing. If your interested, you can find it on TED. It's a talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Hope you'll like it."

I immediately looked for this video on TED.com and found it. I actually just finished watching it and I am thrilled and surprised because this talk is really a deeper and more "technical" description of my intuition about the fact of "being there", the "flow". Another coincidence is that among many brilliant examples Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi gives, he makes a reference to Jennifer Lin's improvisation at the same TED conference, that you can watch on my last post !

You know what ? I don't believe in chance, I believe in encounters of ideas.

I would like to thank Alvaris for sharing this with me so I can share it with you all. This is what blogging is to me, feeling part of a growing community because we are willing to share valuable ideas and thoughts with people we know so little about, but more each post...

Here it is :

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Being here

Some of you may think that I'm distancing myself from my main topic, business inspiration, with posts like this one or the last 3 ones but I think not. I think that being successful, achieving goals and reaching the life style you want implies being here with all the things you're made of.

Being here to me means stop thinking our life in a compartmentalized way. I feel this very strongly in France and it's a restraint because it feels like you don't have the right to mix too many things, to try to be good at sports and business, and art, and what you want.

Here's an example. One of the first thing someone asks you when you just meet this person is :
"What do you do for a living ?". This is the illusion, thinking you can know someone just by knowing his job. This is a social judgment, satisfying for many.

It reminds me of Timothy Ferriss who didn't know what to answer when he was actually selling memory optimizer pills online and had enough money and time to be champion of tango, to travel and have fun. Tired of people asking the same question over and over again, thinking he had to justify the reason of his wealth with a job title, he finally decided to answer with a serious tone of voice "Oh, well, I'm a drug dealer", which stopped discussions right away as you can guess !

I already posted an entry about Timothy Ferriss and for me he really is someone who knows how to "be here", who made this choice. Present time matters and when you give yourself the freedom to really be here, magical things happen.

I'd like to share a beautiful video with you of a 14-year old pianist doing an improvisation based on 5 random notes someone else picked for her at a TED conference. The video is long but you can jump to the improvisation part (16:38).

When I watched it the first time I got goose bumps (every time actually) and knew this pianist was "there", entirely.
It makes me want to cry and I don't know why. She creates this melody, we're listening to it simultaneously and it's dying almost instantly... I don't know if I'm clear here but it doesn't really matter if what you'll hear touches you.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson and the child in me

Of course I'm writing a post about Michael Jackson because for a French girl like me, he has been very important in my discovery of America's culture and language. The reason I'm bilingual isn't that I studied English at a language school or that my parents are native english speaker. As a matter of fact, they don't speak a word of English and I've never been to a specialize school.

I'm bilingual because of my early love for American entertainment. Passion is the key of fast learning. And passion, when you're young, starts with songs, images, celebrities.

The reason why I'm shocked by his sudden death is because I never imagined him dead, because he was a child all his life and children don't die.
He's part of my childhood and became almost a fictionnal character. It's the same feeling as the one I felt when I was told the country house where I grew up has been sold and completely renovated. It's over. It doesn't exist anymore, only inside of me.

His soul was overflowing his body.
We are all fragile, dependant on images, legends, to balance reality.

I love our vulnerability, and his. I loved him.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Richard Branson on school and dyslexia

That's a coincidence.

After my last post about Education vs. Creativity, I just found this interview of Richard Branson at a TED conference talking about his maladjustment to school.

Brilliant mind and simple personality.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Education vs. Creativity

We all agree that education is the basis of personnality. It builds us, guides us, makes us who we are to become, different grown-ups. That's where it all starts.

Our tastes, our skills, our choices.

The educational system hasn't been rethought even though it's pretty obvious that a lot of children cannot adapt to this system and instead of being listened to, we want them to bend to it and succeed or be considered as dunces, for years.

Of course, similar ways of seeing and doing things means similar people and unquestionable results. Good or bad. Yes or no. You know the answer or you don't.

But what about creativity ? Inner talents never revealed ? All this is bridled very early.

Knowledge isn't everything, we can even say that it's nothing if we are not free to do something with it. And our vision of intelligence and our way to measure it is absolutely not unchanging. Truth isn't in the hands of the people who decide all this.

Narrowness is so dangerous.

See the people who grew up out of the marks, developped their own mind and succeeded by themselves because the educational system didn't want them :

Bill Gates
François Pinault
Richard Branson
Amancio Ortega
Ingvar Kamprad ...

Here's an entertaining and profound talk I love about education and creativity by Sir Ken Robinson at the TED conference, of course.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stay poor and spiritual, please.

French people have a very special relationship to money. An unclear relationship full of embarrassment. Could be a minor issue. But this absurd embarrassment has consequences.

Typical. I remember talking to people of my family about the financial freedom I wanted and my determination to succeed. What I had in return was : "What's wrong with you ? Why are you so obsessed with money ?".

To gain credibility and support I had to really justify myself, explain that I didn't want the illusion of a "normal" life, that I wanted to travel, meet people, purchase things I like, be able to do important things, work on projects I care about. Otherwise I would have been burnt on the public square, people shouting at me : "CAPITALIST WITCH !".

I was more expecting something like: "Good for you ! You'll have all my support, I really wish you'll achieve your goals and reach the kind of life you're seeking." I'd better forget this.
What hides this discomfort is the fear that our intelligence (!) and spirituality (!) might be absorbed by such a trivial concern.

But working hard all your life from 9 to 5 for... money, isn't it trivial and suddenly more absurd ?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seth Godin, of course.

No need to explain who Seth Godin is I guess. If so, read this and come back.

There's something very special about him. He's considered as a marketing guru because of his ideas and the way he talks and writes and shares and teaches.

His vision of marketing is simple. He adds the human side to it and always pushes people to think their business communication differently and to seek quality more than quantity. It may sounds like a well-known statement but it actually is something companies tend to lose because of how apparently easy it can be to reach many potential customers through the internet.

Seth Godin fights this marketing scheme of a product advertised through mass media again and again and again until customers buy it. Customers today have a need to claim their identity and have a perfect medium to do it. They think they deserve more than average products and services and they are right to think so.
They matter and we need to do better each day and never stop questioning ourselves and our decisions. I like this vision. His vision.

I don't exactly know why but I'm sure Seth Godin is a very loyal and faithful friend. He's brilliant, he really is, and it's mostly because he believes in honesty and human values in business. He puts a finger on the essential.

My advice : follow his blog, right here. You have no idea how useful and powerful his posts are. I mean it. No surprise he's a great blogger. One post per day at least to really say something and make readers move forward with new tools and strong ideas.

Seth Godin helps me to DARE and build my own Purple Cow with ethic and originality.

He'll probably never read this but I'd like to say thanks to him.

Here is one of his precious talks at the TED conference. Inspiring.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Patriotism ?

Patriotism isn't part of my vocabulary. You know, there are words that have a certain color because they resemble you, some haven't.

I don't know what patriotism is because I never felt that feeling. Never.

I was amazed to see so many American flags in front of people's houses when I went to the US. I understood that the expression of a strong feeling towards ones country has something to do with the sense of community, the need to feel related to something bigger than ourselves, a territory inside which we can feel secure.
I guess it's the secret reason of patriotism, what hides this pride. And I understand it even more when I think of how new and powerful America is compared to old European countries. Belonging to a nation like this one certainly helps feeling stronger and most of all it makes people feel reassured about their identity.
It seems to define them.

But my country is what less defines me. Frontiers are decided by governments. Values and culture are created by people, carried with them wherever they go. That's what I'm inspired by, visions of life. That is beyond any borders, any land.

I don't know about patriotism but I believe in humanism.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Smash fear, learn anything

Tim Ferriss' book The 4-hour workweek is THE book that made me believe in the possibility that I could start my own business. Applying this book's advices has had concrete results for me. Why ? Because this guy speaks like you and I, never says "no" or "can't", and always wants to improve himself. He questions everything and changes your way of looking at life and projects and dreams.

By the way, the book has a website : http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/

The fact is, we're all capable of great things, we just don't know how to mine our mind. Also, we are in a scheme which is really hard to get rid of or to rethink. The truth is there isn't only one scheme of living our lives.

Here is a talk by Tim Ferriss at the TED conference about our capacity to learn anything, to excel at something if we really want to and know how.
Fear prevents us from achieving more things than you know.
Please, don't just listen.

You're closer from success than you think.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Goodbye French lukewarmness

Something you'll never see on French TV because we just cannot do this :
Extreme Makeover : Home Edition, hosted by Ty Pennington.

Americans are the champions of emotion. And even though it obviously is well narrated, well edited, well produced, it remains true.

Real tears, real laugh, real struggle, real relief.

I need it. It's my dose of American solidarity. In France, something immoderate like this is seen as unecessary, not essential, too much. But my point is that this immoderation, the one I'm seeking and finding in this show, is one of the many ways to keep my mind able to marvel at things because of this excess of feelings. It surpasses us and this is precisely what brings us back to the essential : people. People who give, understand, share, love.

There are periods in life where you are more receptive to a certain type of energy. I'm receptive to that one. It definitely leaves a trace on me because it's excessive and that is what my life misses sometimes. I can't thank my country and culture for bringing me that... so I look elsewhere and I learn to :

Focus on the essential

Forget lukewarmness

Do everything thoroughly

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Dear Louise"

I recently sent many e-mails to companies to request information I needed for my business. I sent them to French and American companies and they started with "Dear Sir, Madam,(...)" because I didn't have a specific contact to send my e-mails to.

The responses I received started like this:

French companies : "Chère Madame" or "Chère Mademoiselle", which is "Dear Madam" or "Dear Miss".

American companies : "Dear Louise".

Interesting to see that Americans don't hesitate to use first names even the first time they meet or write back to someone. French people are always afraid to be too friendly, that's why we have "tu" and "vous" to be sure not to be disrespectful to a stranger. For what ? Courtesy, diplomacy. In English, it's "you", you the individual, the business partner, the friend, the stranger, the competitor, the brother. I like that.

Here is a text I found on the internet which enlightens and confirms this idea.
It's written by Kathleen Jennings, Editor of The Tax Intelligence Report and President of www.etsearch.com :

"(...) French companies are typically run from the top down as they tend to have more formal boss-subordinate relationships. In contrast, the American workplace tends to be much less formal and business relationships tend to be more collaborative and less autocratic in nature. Often, the American boss-subordinate relationships can be considered somewhat casual as compared to the French. However, times are changing; the French understand more and more that in order to be recognized as a boss, you need to add value and not only have the title.

One of the more important aspects of the French and American styles that should not be overlooked is that the French business approach emphasizes courtesy in their business relationships. You can expect the French to be very polite in their interactions with you as this is a very important underlying cultural value. In contrast, American business attitudes tend to be much less formal in their conversations and interactions with each other! It is important to understand that one approach is not to be considered better than the other but merely to understand that there are cultural differences between the two that you will need to grasp in order for you to be successful in these two distinctively different types of business environments."

It's all said.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

American Express inspires me !

Six months ago I was looking for a business idea, for inspiration, for something, someone, to bring out my entrepreuneurial mind and push me to transform thoughts into action.

I googled many things in French. I found one book, blogs, forums, official website of the Chamber of Commerce... I must admit that I am easily tired of the French business approach because it never goes beyond what I expect. It never reaches the point where, seated in front of my laptop, an uncontrolable smile on my face, I think out loud "YES !".

So I searched in English and I discovered two precious websites :

About the first website, everything is in the title ! As for entrepreneur.com, there also are business ideas sorted by industry, interest or profession. They also mention the startup costs and if franchises are available.
Their newsletters are brilliant, the information is clear and inventive. I always look forward to receive them.

But things really changed for me the day I found the Open forum by American Express.

This website is what I was looking for without knowing it. The website itself, its structure, is easy to use and pleasant. You can watch videos, read business stories, follow the blog. And you can sort all this by topic: finance, marketing, innovation, leadership, management.

Through the short videos that I watched on this Open forum, I met the american way of thinking business. I watched people talk with passion and faith and simplicity about their business, about ideas, solutions, advices, services, company's ethic, and so on.

What I realised then was this simple fact :
Business is about people first.

Here is a very short video about blogging with Seth Godin and Tom Peters.


By the way, Seth Godin will be the subject of a forthcoming post. Come back soon or follow this blog !

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Language first

Few weeks ago, I met a Japanese guy called Hajime in an hotel. He was working for the government of Japan as deputy director for management, as written on his business card.

He was studying French for four years and I must say I was impressed by his sophisticated sentences, the structure of his questions and his use of French expressions ! As for me, I was learning Japanese on my own for weeks since I found a simple and great website (in French) from which I was printing out pages and pages of Japanese lessons in order to study in the subway. Hajime was thrilled to hear me say "watashi no shumi wa eiga wo mirukoto des", literally "my favourite hobby is to watch movies"!

I've been thinking about language for a while and was glad to find someone interested in that question, especially someone so far from my own culture and language. The fun part was when he tried to pronounce the sound "e" in French and was surprised to know that I couldn't hear the difference between his "e" and "ou". Then, a bit frustrated, he looked at me and said : "But you know, this sound doesn't exist in Japanese, I can't pronounce it !". Sounds surreal.

That's where the conversation went deeper. I discovered something while he was explaining how his language was built. I discovered that digging this question, questionning him about structure, rythm, sounds, meaning, was a way to know his mind, how he thinks, what makes him who he is. Being interested in that makes us more tolerant. And it's fascinating.

It's a door that leads to people's mind. How they apprehend the world, how they understand it, how they express it.

This first post is my introduction. Not so far from our topic. I picked the extreme because that's where this blog begins, with the language, the one I'm using right now to reach you.

The American mind remains a mystery to me even though I keep being inspired, pushed, questioned, challenged, moved by it. I'll be glad to "dissect" my French brain on this blog, share my gurus, seek inspiration, talk business, answer comments, spread what I find, bring difference.

Let's my guts talk.