Find Your Element: What is yours?

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Most people are unhappy at work. Unhappy employees outnumber happy ones by two to one worldwide. There are twice as many “actively disengaged” workers in the world as there are “engaged” workers who love their jobs. In short, over 60% of employees are checked out. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work.

I would like to argue that mainly is because they are not doing work that puts them in their element.

What is your element?

Sir Ken Robinson in his most popular TED talks about Do schools kill creativity? talks a lot about finding your element. In his book The Element, he goes deeper on this topic.

The element is the nexus point of two things:

  • Doing what you love; and
  • Doing what you are good at.

The Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion.

When people arrive at the Element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels

If you love doing something so much that you are even paid to do it and you are good at it, you have a talent for it, you put these two together [what you love + what you are good at], then you have your element.

We all need to discover our element, not only for our own personal fulfillment but also for the world. The world needs more people who have come alive and have discovered their element.

What you do for yourself dies with you when you leave this world, what you do for others lives on forever.

Can you imagine if 80% of the world lived their element?

Can you imagine if 80% of the world population loved that they do and they are good at it?

When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose, and well-being.

I would like to add another ingredient to Sir Ken’s formula which is:

  • What the world needs and is willing to pay for?

It is important that you love what you do and you are good at it, but it is very important that your element is what people needs and are willing to pay for it.

Is there a market for your element?

We are all born with extraordinary powers of imagination, intelligence, feeling, intuition, spirituality, and of physical and sensory awareness. 

If you want to change the world who do you begin with, yourself or others?

I believe if we begin with ourselves and do the things that we need to do and become the best person we can be, we have a much better chance of changing the world for the better.

The problem is when settle for less than what we are capable of.

 

Breaking news

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The news we consume changes us.

Not just the news manufactured by eNews, CNN, Sunday Times but the news manufactured by our boss, our investors, our customers.

Our choice, then, is to decide whether we want to engage in the hobby of living through other people’s breaking news instead of focusing on what is actually important.

Does knowing about something ten seconds or ten minutes faster really matter? Is it worth the adrenalin?

Sorry, wake me up in the morning, not in the middle of the night. Unless it’s actually news.

Just because it is breaking does not mean it is important.

 

Book Review: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

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Freakonomics is about unconventional wisdom, using the raw data of economics in imaginative ways to ask clever and diverting questions. Levitt even redefines his definition. If, as he says, economics is essentially about incentives and how people realise them, then economics is a prospecting tool, not a laboratory microscope.

It is an intelligent and interesting book. I highly recommend it.

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner are able to talk about serious things in a jovial way and it doesn’t come across as doom and gloom.

The writers makes you think a bit differently about things, it makes you to start asking more questions about conventional wisdom.

You might become more skeptical of the conventional wisdom, you may begin looking for hints as to how things are not quiet what they seem, perhaps you will seek out some trove of data and sift through it, balancing your intelligence and your intuition.

The most likely result of having read this book is a simple one:

You may find yourself asking a lot of questions. Many of them will lead to nothing. But some will produce answers that are interesting, even surprising.

It is not a hard core economics book but the writers have applied economics to everyday life and making it easy to understand.

Steven and Stephen believe that conventional wisdom is often wrong. Money alone doesn’t win elections, and surprise, drinking eight glasses of water a day has never actually been shown to do a thing for your health.

In keeping with this, Freakonomics espouses these 5 principles:

  • Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life.
  • The conventional wisdom is often wrong.
  • Dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes.
  • “Experts”—from criminologists to real-estate agents—use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda.
  • Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so.

Rating

8/10

I love it, if you enjoy Malcolm Gladwell, you are likely to enjoy this book. It is a smart book, a nerdy book.

It challenges conventional thinking, for example:

  • People think they are safer driving their cars than taking a flight. Their thinking goes like this: Since I control the car, I’m the one keeping myself safe, since i have no control of the airplane, I am at the mercy of a lot of external factors. They believe this despite the fact that we are more likely to die from a car accident than a flight.
  • Consider the parents of an eight-year old girl named, say Molly. Her two best friends, Amy and Imani, each live nearby. Molly’s parents know that Amy’s parents keep a gun in their house, so they have forbidden Molly to play there. Instead, Molly spends a lot of time at Imani’s house, which has a swimming pool in the backyard. Molly’s parents feel good about having made such a smart choice to protect their daughter. But according to data, their choice isn’t smart at all. In a year, there are more kids dying from drowning in pools than from gun shots.
  • How naming your child affects their outlook and success in life. According to a study, if DeShawn Williams and Jake Williams sent identical resumes to the same employer, Jake Williams would be more likely to get a callback. The implication is that black-sounding names carry an economic penalty. Such studies don’t explain why DeShawn was called back, is it because the employer is racist? or did he reject him because DeShawn Williams sounds like someone from a low-income, low education family? Studies show that people’s names does have an impact on first impressions.

My favourite Quotes:

  • “Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, whereas economics represents how it actually does work.”

  • “Economics is above all a science of measurement. It comprises an extraordinarily powerful and flexible set of tools that can reliably assess a thicket of information to determine the effect of any one factor, or even the whole effect.”
  • “The conventional wisdom is often wrong.
  • If you both own a gun and a swimming pool in your backyard, the swimming pool is about 100 times more likely to kill a child than the gun is.”

  • “A slight tweak can produce drastic and often unforeseen results.”
  • “Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectants.”
  • “Just because a question has never been asked does not make it good.”
  • “Journalists need experts as badly as experts need journalists. Every day there are newspapers pages and television newscasts to be filled, and an expert who can deliver a jarring piece of wisdom is always welcome. Working together, journalists and experts are the architects of much information wisdom.”
  • “There are enough guns in the United States that if you gave one to every adult, you would run out of adults before you ran out of guns.”

  • “Spare the rod and spoil the child; spank the child and go to jail.”
  • “In a world that is increasingly impatient with long term processes, fear is a potent short-term play.”

What is your job?

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Not your job title, but your job.

What do you do when you are doing your work?

What is difficult and important about what you do?

What change do you make, what do you do that is hard to live without and worth paying for?

“I change the people who stop at my desk, from visitors to guests.”

“I give my boss confidence.”

“I close sales.”

“I empower people.”

Our job is to make change.

Our job is to connect and say: “I see you, I recognise you, I understand you, I will protect you,  you are not alone, everything will be okay, you will be alright, you matter.”

Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they would like to go.

Our job is to do work that matters.

Every interaction we have with people, we leave our imprints on their lives,on the soul, shaping them into who they become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from.

Leave gentle fingerprints on the soul of another for the angels to read.

Every time we waste that opportunity, every page or sentence that does not do enough to advance the cause is waste.

If your only job is “showing up,” time to raise the stakes.

 

Creating Scarcity: Cookie jar experiment

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People are willing to go to great lengths to get something that no-one has.

We want limited supply products, we want to have customised tailor-made clothes. It is weird to wear something and rock up at a party to find someone wearing the exact same thing you are wearing.

Customers often want customized, exclusive, limited supply and scarce offerings.

How do you create scarcity:

A classic study that demonstrates the psychology of scarcity reveals an interesting observation about human behavior that may hold a clue.

In 1975, researchers Worchel, Lee, and Adewole wanted to know how people would value cookies in two identical glass jars. One jar held ten cookies while the other contained just two cookies.

Which cookies would people value more?

Though the cookies and jars were identical, participants valued the ones in the near-empty jar more highly. Scarcity had somehow affected their perception of value.

There are many theories as to why this was the case. For one, scarcity may signal something about the product.

If there are less of an item, the thinking goes, it might be because other people know something you don’t.

Namely, the cookies in the almost empty jar are the num-numier choice.

The near-empty jar with just two cookies left in it conveys valuable information, even though these cookies are the same with the full-jar.

What is at play is the power of context. An example of this is what happened when the world-class violinist Joshua Bell decided to play a free impromptu concert in the Washington, DC subway. Bell regularly sells-out venues like the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall for hundreds of dollars per ticket. But placed in the context of the DC subway, his music fell upon deaf ears. Almost nobody knew they were walking past one of the most talented musicians in the world.

When Bell gave away his concert for free, few stopped to listen. But when he charges beaucoup bucks, his music becomes a rarefied commodity and thousands of people pay-up.

I have personally experienced this, when we started Vuka Advisory Board, we offered the service for free to entrepreneurs, the impact was very minimal and entrepreneurs were not committed to the programme, but we started charging a nominal fee, we had few but committed entrepreneurs.

Can the same principles of scarcity and context make technology products more desirable? I’m sure it does.

In its early days, Facebook was only available to Harvard students. Then, the service rolled-out to the Ivy League. Soon, Facebook was made available to college students nationwide. Then came high school kids and later employees at select companies. Finally, in September of 2006, Facebook was opened to the world.

Today, Facebook is used by over a billion people but its early invitees were among a small exclusive group. As the service grew in popularity, others wanted in too.

Though it ultimately worked to his advantage, it is unclear if Mark knew what he was doing. In a vintage video, the Facebook founder described his intent to keep the service just for college kids. We will never know if Facebook’s scarcity strategy was intentional or not, but the fact remains, it worked. The buzz soon grew about the social network made by, and only available to, Ivy kids.

When scarcity is a feature the service’s limited access increased its appeal.

It is important to note that scarcity should be accompanied by a great deal of value. Don’t make something that is easy to replicate scarce. If your product offering is easy to replicate and scarce to find, you will invite competition and quickly lose out of sales.

Petrol prices are mainly determined by scarcity. When there is enough supply, the prices reduce, when there is shortage of supply, prices increase.

New technology is influenced by scarcity. When technology is new and few products, the prices are always high, but when there is more products in the market, the prices reduce.

Apple has been able to apply the scarcity principle successfully.

Scarcity creates value.

Creating Scarcity: Salt more valuable than gold

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If you could choose between a pile of salt and a pile of gold, you would probably choose the gold. After all, you know that you can always buy a container of salt for about five rands at the local supermarket.

But what if you could not easily get salt, and without it you could not survive? In fact, throughout history salt has been very difficult to obtain in many parts of the world, and people feared a lack of salt the way we in the industrialised world fear a shortage of petrol.

Once cultures began relying on grain, vegetable, or boiled meat diets instead of mainly hunting and eating roasted meat, adding salt to food became an absolute necessity for maintaining life.

Throughout history, many people have chosen a pile of salt instead of a pile of gold. Gold is pretty, but you cannot live without salt, and when it was more scarce than gold, it became valuable enough to use as a currency itself. (The word “salary” is even related to the Latin for “salt.”)

In olden time of Rome, the warriors serving the empire were payed with a handful of salt each day. Later, the officers in charge of distributing salt started finding the transport and preservation (from rain etc.) of the huge bulk inefficient, hence, the reward of salt was replaced by a sum of money allowing each man to buy his own.

The money thus received was referred to as their ‘salarium’ (Latin) or salt-money. The term salarium entered into English which modified to modern day salary.

Today, of course, salt is close to worthless. Given the choice between a pile of salt and a pile of gold, you would go for the gold every time, because there is less of it around.

Scarcity, it seems, has a lot to do with value.

Today we are running out of a lot of important things; clean water, free time, breathable air, the ozone layer, and honest leadership, just to name a few.

At the same time, we have to worry about something that is about to affect just about every business I can think of. We’re running out of scarcity.

Scarcity, after all, is the cornerstone of our economy.

The best way to make a profit is by trading in something that is scarce.

This is why the music and movie industries are so terrified by the millions of people who download entertainment from the Internet every day. Downloading threatens to make supply virtually unlimited, and that therefore makes the sale of CDs less lucrative.

Are your offerings becoming more in supply [salt], or are they becoming scarce to find [gold]?

Humans place higher value on objects that are seen as rare or hard to obtain.

Create demand by creating scarcity.

Creating Scarcity: Don’t read what everyone is reading

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What is it that you know that few people know?

What is your secret source, your secret recipe?

What is your secret weapon?

If you don’t have it you don’t have anything scarce, you don’t have a sustainable advantage.

Are you someone who when everyone is busy watching TV, you are focused on your refining your craft?

Are you someone who when everyone’s face is on Facebook for 3 hours each day, your face is on a book for 3 hours of each day?

As a consultant, in order to keep updated with the industry, you need to read, if you want to have an edge, read books that not everyone is reading.

Read books that are scarce or hard to find, access research reports from credible institutions.

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.

It is when I read more book that are scarce or hard to find, that you gain an edge.

Don’t read what everyone else is reading. Check them out later, cautiously.