A Leap Year Thought

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Once in four years, just once, we get a day extra in the year. Today 29 February 2016 is that extra day. It is like a bonus extra day we get once every four years.

How about you spent this day, just once in four years, perhaps we could:

Forgive, forget, relax, care, stand out, speak up, imagine a better world, contribute, to work that matters, embrace, create, innovate, give credit, smile, speak truth and refuse to compromise, be loyal, matter — more than we usually do. 

Pick just one or two from the above and start there.

Hey, it is just for today, just for one day.

Careful, though, it might become a habit.

#Revolution: The realisation is now

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The Minister of Finance Pravin Gorhand tabled his budget speech a few days ago. One of the things he said among (many others) is that “the average South Africa is becoming poorer.” This speech comes a few weeks after Anglo America announced that as part of its restructuring, it will sell off 39 assets and shed 78 000 jobs. China is on an economic slow-down since the past few years. Our economic growth has been down-scaled to less 1%. We are not creating jobs. This phenomena is not unique to South Africa, it is something that is experienced in the African continent and worldwide.

People are frustrated with the world and pessimistic about the future. They are losing patience with the economy, with their prospects, with their leaders.

What is actually happening is this: we are realising that the industrial revolution is fading. The 100 year long run that brought ever increasing productivity (and along with it, well-paying jobs for an ever-expanding middle class) is ending.

It is one thing to read about the changes the internet brought, it is another to experience them. People who thought they had a valuable skill or degree have discovered that being an anonymous middleman does not guarantee job security. Individuals who were trained to comply and follow instructions have discovered that the deal is over… and it is not their fault, because they have always done what they were told. I believe that employees at Anglo American were doing what is expected of them, how do you then explain to them that even though they followed instructions, they will lose their jobs.

Suddenly keeping it safe is no longer safe.

This is not fair of course. It is not fair to train for years, to pay your dues, to invest in a house or a career and then suddenly see it fade.

For a while, politicians and organisations promised that things would get back to normal. Those promises are not enough, though, and it is clear to many that this might be the new normal. In fact, it is the new normal.

I regularly hear from people who say, “enough with this conceptual stuff, tell me how to get my factory moving, my day job replaced, my guaranteed salary restored…” There is an idea that somehow, if we just do things with more effort or skill, we can go back to the mass markets and mediocre products that pay off for years. It is not an idea, though, it is a myth.

Some people insist that if we focus on “business fundamentals” and get “back to basics,” all will return to normal. Not so.

The promise that you can get paid really well to do precisely what your boss instructs you to do is now a dream, no longer a reality.

It takes a long time for a generation to come around to significant revolutionary change. The newspaper business, the steel business, law firms, the car business, the music business, library business, phone business, even computers… one by one, our industries are being turned upside down, and so quickly that it requires us to change faster than we would like.

The definition of a revolution: it destroys the perfect and enables the impossible.

The thing with this type of revolution is that it is silent. It is not the revolution that we see making headlines, it is not televised on TV like the Arab Spring, we hardly talk about it. The only time we get to notice that things are changing is when slowly but surely companies are laying off stay, the structure of the company to sell average products to average people is fading, when business are closing down. This is the revolution of the end of the industrial age.

Doing what you are told by your boss, keeping your head down, and following instructions like sheep is no longer a guarantee that you will have a salary for life.

It is unpleasant, it is not fair, but it is all we have got.

The sooner we realise that the world has changed, the sooner we can accept it and make something of what we have got. Complaining is not a scalable solution.

The realisation is now.

Tomorrow: part II — the opportunity

When doors close…

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…. sometimes it’s better to leave them closed, not because of pride or arrogance, but simply because they no longer lead somewhere.

There is a proverb that goes “Se nkganang se nthola morwalo”. It is a Setswana/Sepedi saying that means, literally translated: What doesn’t want me, releases me from the burden.

Sometimes it is better to be rejected, rejection is part of direction.

Sometimes you need to be rejected, so that you don’t spend your life trying to fit in a circle that you were not destined to be in in the first place.

Entrepreneurs get rejected all the time. Our proposals get rejected, our clients reject us for the competitor, our staff rejects us, resign and go work elsewhere. We roll with the punches of rejection, as long as we are still in the ring boxing.

Entrepreneurs are aware that it is not true that everybody will approve you but also aware that not everybody will reject you. As one door opens, others will close and as other doors closes, others open.

One of the best things God can do for you, is to close certain doors for you.

We often shout for God to open doors, but we should also thank Him for closing certain doors.

There are some doors if He had not closed them, we would be stuck on them for the rest of our lives doing things we were not supposed to do or be. We would be tied to someone who did not understand me or relate to me, would be tied to bad clients who will bankrupt us, would be stuck with staff that are not loyal to us.

Let’s be thankful for the door the doors He closed, and the people that left because they thought they are better than you.

The stones that the builders reject often become the chief cornerstone. Don’t cry for things that left you, if it was good for you, you would have gotten it.

Everything that was closed off, everything that rejected you is a sign that it was not good for you.

If God did not give it to you, it is a sign that it was not meant for you. God has a plan for your life. Let go of things that are rejecting you.

God has a plan for your life, for your business. This does not mean you should not work hard, it does not mean you should lazy around and wait for God to open doors for you.

You are not an accident. God created you into existence; He spoke into your life. Everything you need to be who you want to be is inside of you. You need to draw it out of you. You need to work hard in your area of talent.

Too often when doors close we just keep looking at the closed door thinking that if we focus on what could have been it will magically open. One thing that will consistently bring peace when doors close is the fact that when God closes one door He is faithful to open another.

God closes doors to cause us to focus on what is in front of us now, not what is behind some other door.

There is something in you and it’s awesome, if others can’t see it, it’s their loss.

 

An idea that is too soon for its time….

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…. Is better than an idea that is too late for its time.

When Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press, only 7% of world knew how to read.

One skeptic would have easily told him it is not a good time to invent the book, with 93% illiteracy rate in the world, there is no market for books. This would deprived the rest of the world of the ability to read books. Gutenberg had an idea that was too early.

The shoes salesman who went to desert and saw that most people there don’t wear shoes, and saw a huge market to sell more shoes. He had an idea that was too early.

Ideas often don’t fail because they are too early, they often fail because they are too late.

It is always ‘too soon’ for a new idea. You can be prepared but you can never be ready.

Is your current idea too early or too late?

Ps: Life before Johannes Gutenberg: books were only found in monasteries, educational places, homes of wealthy people, the bible was the primary text.  On 24 February 1455, he printed the Bible, the first mass-produced book that leads to a boom in the production of texts in the world.

 

Book Review: Innovation: Shaping South Africa Through Science by Sarah Wild

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Innovation remains of the key critical factor that drives society forward. Progress on any country is determined amongst others by how innovative that country is.

I looked forward to reading this book as someone who is very passionate about innovation and blogs about it often.

The first few chapters of this book talks about the state of innovation in South Africa. Innovation in South Africa remains behind in relation to the type of economy it has. Most entrepreneurs in the country are not innovating as much as they should.

But having said that, what Sarah does in this book is to highlight a collection demonstrations that innovation driven by science and technology is making a difference in the lives of many South Africans.

In the book Sarah highlights that South Africa spends 0.76% of GDP on research and development, its target is to spend 1%. The average spent for other countries is 2.4% of GDP.

This book is a collection of such demonstrations. As you read this book you stories of engineers who are pioneering some of the most important innovations that addresses socio economic challenges the country faces.

There are innovations in the following areas:

  • Environment;
  • Energy;
  • Health;
  • Industry; and

What Africa needs is innovation that will address its current social challenges and this book highlights examples of such technologies.

What I have re-learned from this book is that innovation is not only about ground breaking ideas, but it is most importantly about action, about implementation, about turning creative ideas into inventions and innovations.

There are many case studies in this book of people who have implemented creative ideas and acted on them. This book is about those innovations.

Also what comes out of this is the traction that the innovations get in the global world. What I really love is that these innovations address our social challenges in the country and the continent.

It’s a good book, even better if you are an engineer and are passionate about details on how to build systems and processes. If you are an entrepreneur and are more passionate about monetizing ideas and building businesses, the innovations in this book, though they are good, they will come as too much details and less money making.

The book is written more from an engineering perspective and I’m definitely sure that people who are more structure inclined will enjoy it more.

One of the challenges about innovation is how do innovators monetize their innovations.

The value of innovations lies in their ability to be monetized.

The book answers one critical question of how to build innovations. There is a need for another (maybe follow up) book that will answer to monetizing and building enterprises that will sustain these innovations.

It is a book to read, it gives a more practical perspective to innovation that is important to know to entrepreneurs.

Rating:

7/10

As an entrepreneur, have this book if you want to know exactly how to building systems and machines. If you are an engineer but interested in business, this book is gold for you.

If this book was Apple Inc, it will be Steve Wotzniak, its loves the design, the mechanics, the product, the brains in the making of the product. It doesn’t spend more time in the Steve Jobs, the vision, the game changing, the passion and the art.

I love it and I will be making reference to it in my entrepreneurship journey.

Favorite quotes:

  • ‘Innovation’ is a celebration of ideas and, more importantly, it’s a celebration of action. Each chapter highlights the depth of thinking taking place across all spheres of our economy, and reinforces the fact that not only is innovation alive and well in South Africa, it is finding traction in a global world and applying global innovations and dynamic thinking to local problem-solving.’
  • If you mention ‘South Africa’ and ‘innovation’ in a sentence together, people will nod their heads wisely and say, ‘Ah yes. Pratley Putty. Do you know that it is the only South African product to have traveled to the moon?’

  • Globally, R&D is considered an important tool for economic development, competitiveness and job creation.
  • ‘South Africa pays substantially more for foreign know-how compared to receipts from the right to use the country’s intellectual property.’
  • In 2013, South Africa paid $1.9 billion to use foreign technology, while it received $63 million in technology receipts. What this means in the broader scheme of things, is that we a net importer of technology, and pay for the right to use it, and receive no economic benefits of licensing our technology in other countries

Awakening Your Inner Revolution: Go Somewhere

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“Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.” — Dalai Lama

Go somewhere. You can even make an international adventure out of exploring your home town.

Exploration ignites excitement and curiosity in our souls. If I could travel to a new place every day, I would jump at that opportunity in a heartbeat. Sometimes we get so used to our daily routines and immediate surroundings that we forget there is a whole world full of different people, places and cultures. Exposing yourself to a new place at least once a year is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your time and money.

Even if it is just hopping in the car and driving for a few hours in one direction until you get to an interesting town, the feeling of being on a journey is always fun and exciting.

To get somewhere you have never been before, you have to do something you have never done before.

Getting used to new places, new people, new adventures is important for an entrepreneur because it keeps your creative and innovative instincts always in tune.

Travel to a new place at least once because:

  • It gives you a fresh start;
  • It allows you to figure out what you want from life;
  • It forces you to grow as a person;
  • It allows you to be the better version of yourself; and
  • You will feel brave and independent.

Awakening Your Inner Revolution: Being Deep Rooted

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You can copy and paste what someone else has done and do some slight edits or you can actually spend time going deeper in understanding something.

You might not be willing to devote the time and energy to understand how electricity actually works, or the mechanisms of your democracy, or the insights behind irrational decision making.

More likely, you don’t want to expend the emotional labor to push through feeling dumb as you dig deep on your way to getting smart.

That is always been an option.

You can just use the tool without understanding it, copy the leader without realising where she is going, follow instructions without questioning them.

You can choose to be a cog in a machine you don’t understand.

If that is working for you, no need to change it.

Not going deeper, means you settle for being average. The opposite of going deeper is being mediocre. 

Average people don’t go beyond average, they don’t prefer going deep. They settle for superficial.

Externally they look like the part, but internally they are not the part.

Social media has amplified externals, but we don’t get to know the real internal heart.

Potential customers see adverts, but experiencing the offering is where the rubber hits the road.

Looking attractive, having the right external appearances, looking the part is an advantage, but serious relationships and attractions are deeper than externals.

The outward attractions are certainly an advantage, but be assured that when it comes to serious long-term relationships, no one ever stayed together simply because they were attractive.

We spend most time dealing with the fruit of an issue, while we do not deal with the root cause of an issue. Until we get down to the root causes of a thing, it will continually pop up over an over again.

When you get to the point where you are tired of dealing with things from a superficial perspective, you then ask yourself that surely there is more to life than superficial solutions, than putting bandage on critical issues.

Surely there is more to life than just getting by, making the best of a bad situation.

Surely there is more to life than going through a form and fashion, a routine and ritual.

The world is changing fast and in order to keep up, your entire mentality about work has to change just as quickly. It means going deeper, deeper in your life, career, business, spirituality.

When we talk about solving problems, we always say let’s go to the root cause of the problem because we recognise that superficial, cosmetic, external solutions hardly solve internal rooted issues.

When an egg breaks from the outside, life is ended, but when it breaks from the inside, life begins.

Meaningful and sustainable change comes from inside.

Great things always begin from that power within.

The deeper the foundation, the taller the building. The deeper the roots, the tougher the tress.

The more you are deep rooted in your area of focus, the less likely you are to be shaken by externals factors.

When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.

To be deep rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognised need of the human soul.

Go deeper in understanding your industry and how it changes, understand your customers deeper, go deeper in planning the future of your business.

Understanding things deeper will build your resilience when challenges comes.

When you are deep rooted, temptation will not move you.

Deeper gets you customers willing to drive across town to visit you.

Deeper is remarkable.

Deeper is ridiculous.

It is insanely over the top.

Customers will bully their friends in order to get them to come to your business.

The root of the matter is to grow deep so as to live tall.

We all need our roots, for the same reason why trees have roots.

Ps: Living tall is not about living a boastful and external life, but about living a life that matters.

Awakening Your Inner Revolution: Ridiculous is the new remarkable

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Ten years ago, Seth Godin published one of his bestseller book called Purple Cow. In the book he argued that in a media-saturated marketplace, there is no room for average products for average people to gain the same foothold that they used to. Merely pushing an idea via relentless ad spend is no longer sufficient. The alternative as he suggested was providing remarkable products and services, products that stand out from the norm, purple cow products.

I briefly wrote about R is for Remarkable.

‘Remarkable’ means something that someone is making a remark about.

When someone remarks on what you are doing, the word spreads, replacing the predictable and expensive Mad-Men strategy of advertising with the unpredictable but potentially magical effect of significant word of mouth–ideas that spread win.

But what makes something remarkable?

When I wrote The Startup Revolution: Fit In or Stand Out two years ago, it is not a very big book, it consists of certain chapters that are very forward looking. Some of the feedback I got is that the book is ahead of its time and that some people won’t get it.

The nicest thing anyone told me was that it was, “ridiculous.”

Of course it was. It was talking about things that were not talked about but starting to happen, it is not available in traditional retail bookstores. It fuses revolutionary thinking with entrepreneurship.

It’s ridiculous to not sell a book this cool at retail bookstores after you have gone to the trouble of making it, and ridiculous to spend that much time making something at a loss.

It turns out that most of what we choose to talk about today is ridiculous. The dramatically overproduced music videos.  The business model that is so generous that we can’t imagine it succeeding. The painter who produces a new painting every single day, the blogger who blog everyday, even on weekends and holidays.

The audacity of caring too much, sharing too much and connecting too much.

If it’s not ridiculous, it’s hard to imagine it resonating with the people who will invest time and energy to spread the word. The magic irony is that the ridiculous plan is actually the most sensible…

We can view the term ridiculous as an insult from the keeper of normal, a put-down from the person who seeks to maintain the status-quo and avoid even the contemplation of failure.

Or we embrace ridiculous as the sign that maybe, just maybe, we are being generous, daring, creative and silly.

You know, remarkable. Ridiculous is the new remarkable. Ridiculous is remarkable on high grade.

Two more thoughts on this:

Ridiculous is not safe. If you do something ridiculous and you fail, people get to say, “you idiot, of course you failed, we told you, what you were doing was ridiculous.” Which is precisely why it is so rare for people do ridiculuous things, because they are afraid to be ridiculed. Not because we are unable to imagine being ridiculous, but because we are afraid to be.

And second…

Don’t be ridiculous because it is a clever marketing strategy. No, be ridiculous because while the effectiveness allows you to be, the real intent is to be generous or thrilling or to touch some stars. Because you can.

Awakening Your Inner Revolution: This Might Not Work

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Something I often tell myself when I approach a project is “This might not work.” Everything that you have never done before might not work. When you do creative and innovative work, “it might not work.”

But the fact it might not work is exactly what makes it interesting. When I started this blog five years ago it was something that might not work. There are still people who don’t resonate with my views and sometimes rants and that’s okay and there are people whom it works for them.

At some level, “this might not work” is at the heart of all important projects, of everything new and worth doing.

This might not work paralyses a lot of people to freeze and not implement their amazing plans. It paralyses them into inaction, into watering down their art and into not delivering.

“This might not work” is either a curse, something that you struggle with and freeze, or it’s a blessing, a chance to fly and do work you never thought possible.

Mark’s Facebook might not have worked, Alan Junior’s Project Isizwe (that provides free wifi to people of Tshwane Metro) might not have worked, Gomolemo’s TEDxGaborone might not have worked, Vuka Advisory Board might not have worked, Nthabeleng’s YWBN Co-operative Bank’s might not have worked, a number of game changing projects might not have worked. But they did them anyways and they worked.

Some of the article I write here might not work for you. But it turns out that I don’t just write for you. I also write to remind myself of what I’m hoping to become as well. Hearing myself, months later, reading something I didn’t remember writing or reading, I shed a few tears. Yes, this is work worth doing. Yes, being out on a limb, risking something that might not work is exactly where I want to be.

I believe doing things that might not work is exactly where we are needed… out on a limb, on the edges, doing ridiculous things, but when they do work, they change the course of humanity.

Revolutions might not work, most failed, but when they succeed, they destroy what we thought was perfect and enable what we thought was impossible.

This might not work, do it anyways.

Awakening Your Inner Revolution: Doing work that matters

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Doing work that “matters” does not mean you need to transform into Mother Teresa. You can make a difference in the world many ways:

  • The interior designer who helps to renovate a children’s hospital creates a healing environment for patients and their families.
  • The bicycle shop owner who refurbishes old bicycles and donates them to children in the community, provides a service that helps both the environment and the youth in town.
  • The make-up artist who offers free makeovers during a job-hunting workshop for victims of domestic abuse helps to bolster women’s self-esteem at a vulnerable point in their lives.
  • The dry-cleaning that offers free cleaning services to an unemployed who is going for an interview.
  • Oh did I hear you say you work full-time and don’t have a business, take Mahube Mpugwa for instance, he is GM of Puma Energy in Botswana, one of the busiest positions. As part of Tshwaragano Trust, Him together with his partner Moraki Mokgosana climbed Mt Everest Base Camp as part of raising funds for the Cancer Association of Botswana. To date they have raised P250,000 for the Association.Starting-point
  • Oh did you say as a share-trader, you are so busy that your boss won’t allow you to take off time to climb a mountain, how about you start a blog and share tips on how to buy shares, save money, it will take you about an hour once a month.

Do your work as if it might actually change someone’s life, because it might. 

The reason it matters is because it might change someone’s life… The key is “someone” not everyone. Chances are you might not change everybody and that’s fine, as long as you can change someone, then it matters.

Awakening Your Inner Revolution: Build something with your own hands

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Creating something with your hands has a physiological way of inner happiness.

The feeling a writer gets when writing chapter after chapter, putting the manuscript together, getting the book reviewed, getting the book cover designed, the back and forth of review notes from the editor, reading and re-reading the book, making final changes, and ultimately holding the first copy in her hand after months of work is priceless.

The feeling an artist gets when her vision moves to from the bright colours paints, a new canvas, hours after hours of solitude in her studio creating something with her hands, is priceless.

The entrepreneur who spots a gap in the hearing aids market, make necessary plans to gather the deaf community from different areas in Gaborone and employ them to make solar hearing aids and see that plan come together is more than priceless, it is doing work that matters.

The singer who has a song still in her head, the architecture who sees that design not yet sketched on paper, the soccer player who practices that free kick over and over before the final, that designer who sees that show-stopper dress, the producer who tirelessly works on perfecting that script, the poet who scribbles those words on paper as they come to her like goosebumps on your body.

Like an uncomfortable and restless feeling you get, the only time you will rest is when you found the perfect melody for that song, the technique on how to bend the ball, the final cut on that dress, the actor feeling that script, those words on paper to form a soulful poem.

This is not about hard physical and emotional labour, it is about bringing your inner creative spirit into reality, about doing work that matters.

When we were young we created things with our two hands, we played with clay, legos, created cars using wire, created dresses, created characters when we played house etc.

It seems silly that we start out in young years and start making things. Unfortunately as we get older we become skilled at regurgitating things we are told instead of creating things with our hands. We follow the rules, do as we are told, ask no questions, create nothing. We live our predictable lives on auto-pilot, like sheep we keep our heads down and cower to the system. Maybe we should reverse the curriculum.

It is the coolest thing in the world to create something.

What would happen if we returned to our young days and roots as seniors in high school?

Research has shown that creating or tending things by hand enhances mental health and makes us happy.

Too much time on technological devices and the fact that we buy almost all of what we need rather than having to make it has deprived us of the creative processes that provide pleasure, meaning and pride.

Making things promotes psychological well-being. The process is important for happiness because when we make, repair or create things we feel vital and effective. It is not as much about reaching one’s potential as doing something interesting, less about ambition and more about living.

Hand activity from knitting to woodworking to growing vegetables or chopping them are useful for decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and modifying depression.

Consider how you felt the last time you made something by hand.  Whether it was a cake, a home improvement project, a garden, or a scrapbook, it was absorbing and satisfying, right? Maybe you even had a moment or more of euphoria.

Creativity is a powerful tool for altering the inner life because making things or transforming inner states into outer productions fosters solace and satisfaction.

Thus, creative action can function as a natural antidepressant. In the words of D.W. Winnicott psychoanalyst, pediatrician and creativity expert, “It is creative apperception more than anything else that makes the individual feel that life is worth living.”

Ps: In the picture is Tendekayi Katsiga, founder of Deaftronics. Him and his team of deaf workers manufacture solar hearing aids in Gaborone, Botswana. 

It is always personal, even when it is business

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Even with mountains of facts, you can still fail to resonate. That is because resonance does not come from the information itself, but rather from the emotional impact of that information. This does not mean that you should leave out the facts entirely. Use plenty of facts, but accompany them with emotional appeal.

There is a difference between being convinced with logic and believing with personal conviction. Your prospect may agree with the thought process you present, but they still might not respond to the call.

People rarely act by reason alone.

You need to tap into other deeply seated desires and beliefs in order to be persuasive. You need a small thorn that is sharper than fact to prick their hearts. That thorn is emotion.

The problem is this: no spreadsheet, no bibliography and no list of resources is sufficient proof to someone who chooses not to believe. The skeptic will always find a reason, even if it is one the rest of us don’t think is a good one. Relying too much on proof distracts you from the real mission, which is emotional connection.

So today more than ever, communicating only the detailed specifications or functional overviews of a product is not enough.

If two products have the same features, the one that appeals to an emotional need will be chosen. Aristotle said that the man who is in command of persuasion must be able “to understand the emotions, that is, to name them and describe them, to know their causes and the way in which they are excited.” And that “persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions.”

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When Coke added people’s names on their bottles, they made emotional connections with their customers, even people who hardly drink Coke, bought it, took a pic and then shared on social media. If you see something that you feel is familiar, it gives you an important kind of emotional connection.

There is nothing better on this earth than a soul you can connect with on every level.

Chemistry is not between people only, it is always personal, even when it is business.

Aim for your customer’s hearts, not just their heads. You feel me!