29 August 2011

Hollerado story - that is what happens when you find what you love

We come from a small town in Ontario called Manotick. We have been touring relentlessly for 4 years. 
For our first American tour, no-one wanted to book us. So, instead of booking shows, we drove as far way from our  homes in Canada as we could get. We would then show up at venues where a show was going on and tell them we  were 2000 miles away from home, had a gig booked down the street but it somehow fell through. “Would you guys  mind if we played a short set here tonight?” IT WORKED! We played countless shows this way.
Since we rarely got paid more than a few drinks and sometimes pizza, we needed to make gas money. 
We had a laptop with the the tracks to our demo CD. We would go to best buy, get a CD burner and a couple spindles of blank cds. We would burn a hundred demos in the parking lot and then return the CD burner to Best Buy. We would then put the demos in ziplock bags. (hence the name of our first record….record in a bag). 
Once we had a stash of demos we would drive to the nearest mall and set up shop in front of Hot Topic (probably the most shameless thing we have done for our band). We would stand there for hours, with discmen and demos asking anyone who would stop to take a listen if they wanted to buy a demo in a bag. We could sell the discs for 5 bucks and still make $4.50 to put towards gas. 
We did this for 2 years. Anything to avoid having a real job, right? 
In February 2009, we released our first full length album for FREE online. 
That same month we invented the RESIDENCY TOUR. We took the old concept of playing a residency one day a week at the same bar and made it psycho. We booked 7 residencies for the month, one for each night of the week. Every Sunday of that cold February we played in at the same club in Boston, every Monday at Piano’s in NYC, Tuesday was Lacolle Quebec, Wednesdays – Hamilton Ontario, Thursdays – Toronto, Friday – Ottawa, Saturday – Montreal. Repeat 4 times. 28 shows in a row. over 12,000 miles of crap Canadian winter driving in 28 days. 
In February 2010, we started our own record label to release “record in a bag” in stores in Canada. Although every distributor we talked to said it was impossible, we were finally able to convince one (Arts and Crafts) that we could literally package “record in a bag” in a ziplock bag filled with goodies. So far we have sold over 10,000 copies of it in  Canada. With no label support, our first single “Juliette” went top 5 in mainstream Canadian alternative radio. 
Things began to take hold in Canada and we soon became privy to the Canadian grant system for touring acts. Still, when they gave us a budget to play a showcase in China, we took the budget and stretched it for all it was worth. We turned it into a 3 week tour deep into China. We recorded a song in mandarin Chinese and released it on the internet in China. We were able to return for another tour 6 months later. 
We can play our instruments. We play live and we play live a lot, hundreds of shows a year, we sweat. We take requests. We play covers we don’t know. We play for the audience, as much as each other, because without them we would still be in back Manotick, working jobs we hated. We play anywhere anytime. It is what we love more than anything. 
We are 4 best friends (2 of the guys are brothers). We intend to do this for a long time. We want to have careers and catalogues that we can be proud of. Personally, I think, our song for the video you talked about is not nearly our strongest. Since then we have written a whole bunch more, and like anything else, they are getting better with practice.

Slightly edited, via Poke the Box by Seth Godin.

Anyways, now you know what real passion for what you do looks like. Yes, it does not look like your current job.

Why is that?

Because some people have the courage to do the above and some are too afraid that they will fail.

30 July 2011

Simon Sinek: If You Don't Understand People, You Don't Understand Business

A very good talk about authenticity, organizational culture and a bunch of other stuff. Not really so explicit, but this video shows why Google and Apple are loved brands, while Unilever and Proctor & Gamble just sell a lot.

Via 99%, an infinite source of amazingness.

22 July 2011

Mumbai and Oslo blasts

A week ago, Mumbai had 3 blasts. "Another terrorist attack", most Indians thought (silently, they are too used to give a damn). I must confess that even though I live in the other side of the country, it felt strangely close. I mean, I was never in the same country of a terrorist attack.

"But, Sergio, you are Brazilian, a country where everyday there are people being murdered", you might reply. Yes, but terrorism feels somewhat different than crime. At least to me. Crime almost always has a component of money. You always think that it happens for a reason: because you have money or belongings that others don't; because people didn't have any education and the only opportunity they were given was to wield a gun; etc. It seems there is a logic somehow. Maybe I see that only because I was born Brazilian and I am used to that craziness.

A terrorist attack, on the other hand, seems pretty random. No one never expects it (yes, we expect crime in Brazil) and it always hits people that, at best, care very little about whatever cause one is trying to promote by using terrorism. It seems random, unjust and demented.

Here in India, people might think that this is normal. As in Brazil we think crime is normal.

But Norway... how could Oslo blow up?

Strangely, even though I am living in India, that blast in Oslo felt so much very close that a few tears escaped my eyes when I realized what happened. Tears of sadness, mixed with anger and confusion. How could they do that? Most importantly: why?

Copied from The Atlantic: Why on Earth would Norway be a target for attack? The country is famed as an international peace negotiator, the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the distributor of more foreign aid per capita than any other country. It's an all-round international good guy -- so long as we aren't talking about whaling.

The above are just facts. Having lived in Norway for 3 years, I can not even begin explaining how unfair and coward (not to mention pointless) such an act is. The very nature of Norwegians is to live and let let live, to respect individuality, to not interfere or disrespect others...

I used to live 5-10 minutes away from the place the blast happened and it pains me very much to see such a pointless act against such good natured people as the Norwegians. I hope this does not change their good hearts, because this event only shows that the world is in urgent need of "Norwegianess".

Update: it seems that the bombing in Oslo was coordinated with a shooting in a youth labor party conference. And both events were connected. Which makes the bombing a inside job done by crazy Norwegians. If you never visited Oslo and Norway, you might think "well, crazy people exist in every country" - and you are right, they do exist. But a Norwegian acting as a terrorist is so far fetched, so surprising, so unexpected, that first I would suspect my dog (which I don't even have). The world is definitely getting crazier by the day, even the extremely civilized and pacific Norway.

17 July 2011

India experience - almost 2 months - the eye in the heart

In which I look and see.

Do you know this thing lots of Indians use in their forehead?

I will not pretend I am a great expert in the subject, just accept my half-baked explanation: this dot is not only decorative, it is a religious sign. Kind of the 3rd eye, or the eye where you see things that your two common eyes do not see. It is also a sign of illumination, the soul, the connection which all of us have with the One (God, the universe, Harry Potter or whatever suits you).

Today some friends and I were in a rickshaw towards a beach resort. The auto driver gave us the pleasure of one of those catchy and rhythmic Indian songs. With this soundtrack, I observed what was going outside, since I was sitting in the outer part of the rickshaw. What I saw was a bunch of randomness, chaos, poverty, faith, sculptures of gods (from Buddha to my dear Ganesh), colors, smiles, sadness, hard work... And then it hit me:

It is pretty!

There is something strangely pretty in all this. One just need to attune the heart eye to perceive something different than classic western beauty. I don't think that was about my two eyes, it was almost like a feeling.

Random post, eh? Have fun!


Why I am not speaking about the blasts in Mumbai? Because no one around here talks about it. Strangely enough, I think I was the one that looked most shocked with the news. No one seems to care. No one even commented about it in the office the day after. Odd.

07 July 2011

India experience - 1.5 month - The Path to Illumination

In which I find Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, fight depression after receiving a pep-talk from my teammate and have the epiphany of The Path to (my own) Illumination.

One of these days, I found a golden statue of Ganesh in one of my drawers in my wardrobe. Certainly from the previous renters of the flat, the little elephant-headed statue was not more than 5 centimeters tall. I didn't pay so much attention to it and I just let it rest inside the wardrobe.

I might not look like the type (neither I give many hints about it), but I am deeply spiritual person, even though I don't have any religion. So one of these days I was browsing the web randomly and I started reading about  Indian gods. I was reading about Ganesh, which is one of the most beloved indian gods, and one thing called my attention: among other things, Ganesh is the remover of obstacles.

It is no secret that I am having a major hard time in India, with cultural shock hitting me with both feet on my chest. I thought "remover of obstacles, eh?"

Now here I must expose the crazy things that go inside my head when I say I am a spiritual person and not a religious one:

Crazy idea #1 - The Truth is only one, but wise men have called it by many names.
I believe in one God. The true God. But I believe that everything is an emanation of God. In other words, it is all just different aspects of God - like looking to those mirror labyrinths, the images reflected in different mirrors certainly look different, but they are all the same thing, just reflected in a different way. Which means that everything is God (or different aspects of God), including you, me and that tree over there (yes, the rickshaw driver is also an emanation of God - but I wouldn't say it is a particularly good one).

You can burn me later, I saved the best for the last: if everything is God, then no religion is wrong.

Crazy idea #2 - If you and me are emanations of God, we have god-like powers
And if you, me and them have god-like essence & powers, we can make things happen just by wishing hard enough (The Secret feelings anyone?). So if a bunch of people (1 billion?) believes that an elephant-headed god is the remover of obstacles, it will help people to "access" the "remover of obstacles" energy from God. We invented the gods, we make them powerful and, when we forget them, they lose their powers and fade away. (Connected, but not really, read American Gods, excellent fiction).

And this ends up the crazy explanation of what goes inside my head. Continuing from where we stopped:

"remover of obstacles, eh?"

Than I put the Ganesh statue in my office and gave him a bit of a nudge and a chat here and there during the day, especially the difficult ones. At home I started meditating about my obstacles in India and why I was having such a hard time, while the others seem to be much better.

Yesterday was one of those hard days at the office. I was feeling destroyed, defeated and complaining about everything. So much that one of my colleagues had to get me and talk about it. "Hey, let's focus on solution, we are only complaining, that is not right". I am glad by his leadership, that is what I was needing at that moment. I immediately recognized the down-spiral, the hopeless attitude and all the things that I should not do when I was MCP. And I invoked the MCP god energy and the wish for Ganesh to help me to clear up the obstacles on my way. I decided to end it right there. I needed to snap out of the defeated mode. For those that know me, they know I am capable of very dramatic changes in behavior to accomplish objectives. That is what I decided doing.

After that, I had a blast at work, I impacted the lives of the trainees that just arrived, had some good social time with the guys at the office and, at home, had these revelations:

#1 - I can't change the whole of India, I am only one god, they are more than a billion.
#2 - I am unhappy because I am focusing on complaining. What we focus on is what we will notice. "Think of buying an yellow car and suddenly everyone is driving that yellow car". Perception is reality for the perceiver.
#3 - I am unhappy because I am feeling purposeless in India, which lead me to create the Path of Illumination (just a fancy way to say "happy life plan")

Goal #1: enjoy India - this country has so much to offer, what a waste of time to focus on all that makes me unhappy. I will change those 274 trainees lives. I will travel around the great and magic places and experience the India that one should experience before death. I will make deeper friendship (but I am still not seeking loads of friends, I prefer few deep relationships), I will find ways to enjoy the physical space in Chennai (beach? Sparky's? Temples?) and STOP COMPLAINING.

Goal #2prepare the ground for doing what I love, with who I love and where I love - That I really cannot say so much about, just that it is on its way and I am really thinking this can go very right!

Now, I am walking the Path.

But do not follow me. Each person has to find his/her own path.

03 July 2011

Open letter to Amazon

Dear Amazon,

Since I bought the marvelous Amazon Kindle, I can't stop buying Kindle books. I certainly buy more ebooks than I can possibly read (even though I am a hell of an avid reader, but I digress...). Here is the deal:


I don't buy paper books anymore, haven't your smart CRM system noticed? It is damn smart to know which books I like (thus the good suggestions I receive in my e-mail), but it is not smart enough to know I only want ebooks?

I really don't want to opt out from your e-mail suggestions system, but I am starting to get annoyed by this.

Fix it, please.

My Google+ predictions

If you are oblivious about what is Google+, please stop right here and watch this. All the rest of you that are not my mother may keep reading.

Like the comic above, that is how most people are seeing Google+.

I don't. 

Disclaimer: I am a Google groupie (but I don't particularly hate Facebook, I find it a great tool).

But my prediction about Google+ is that it will win the hearts of the people who have less time for randomness and are more interested in filtering the never ending "I am eating an apple" and "Wow, big poop today". It will become the main tool for meaningful online social interaction.

Why? Good that you asked:

There are 2 key features that distinguish it from Facebook: Circles and Hangout.


Sometimes I want to share something that everyone might be interested, so I can include all those in the communication. But sometimes I might be feeling down or I got a job offer and I want only to tell my close friends, not everyone. Or, even better, I want to share something only with the people that live in Chennai or only those friends that speak Portuguese. Each of those can be a circle (and a person can be in more circles, for example, I have a circle with my Big Bang team and all of them are also in the circle "close friends", which includes other people also.

How this changes the game: circles will make the smart people think about target audience before they post something. This will reduce the amount of random information one gets, which will lead to more meaningful interaction.

I was going to share the trailer of a documentary about the making of indie games. Typically on Facebook & Twitter I would just share. In Google+ I thought "hmmm, that really does appeal to only part of my friends, the geek ones, I will make a circle and only share it with them". All the rest of my friends that does not have interest for my geeky stuff will just stay oblivious. I am not interrupting them.

The challenge: for this to happen, people have to be disciplined enough to a) create relevant circles (which demands a bit of time in the beginning) and b) don't act as complete idiots and think about "who would be interested in that post?" Since in the beginning only the tech-savvy will be joining, there is a good possibility it will happen, but once my mom and the rest of the family come (if they will), then I am not sure.


Do you have those times where you are really not doing anything and just want to chat with someone randomly? Well, hangout is for you then. You just press a button saying you are starting a hangout and you are moved to a virtual room with video chat and people can come to chat with you. 

"Oh, this is not new! It is Chatroulette! It has only perverts chatting with strangers!" will scream the troll.

No, no, my dear troll friend, the catch of the hangout is simple: only the people in specific circles of your choice may join the hangout. I am a almost 30 year old guy, when I was young there was no web or even mobile phones (yes, there was a time those didn't exist!), how did we meet our friends? We used to HANGOUT in the same place and time, so the people from that group would join eventually. Like the cafe where the people from Friends used to go.

How this changes the game: I want to talk, but I am not available to everyone, I am available to only a few friends. It also removes the barrier to "schedule a chat" or anything like this in Skype. You just start hanging out and a friend will join to chat. It just blew my mind - and I didn't even talk about the extra spicy stuff, like this room can have up to 10 people using video chat, you can share Youtube videos that you all see at the same time, etc.

The challenge: without critical mass (a lot of people using Google+), this is still only a gimmick.

Google+, you will put fear in Facebook, Twitter and Skype. I want you to win.

02 July 2011

The leadership pendulum between reflection and action

I tend to be a person that, like a pendulum, swings between deep reflection (especially self-reflection) and insane fast-paced action. More or less like this: I think of what is going on, I get to a conclusion, make a plan of what I should do and then use the 5th gear to go towards whatever I decided. I find it useful, especially when I remember to go into a quick reflection to check if I am going to the right place and if I need to adjust the course.

It is useful to think like that, because I see a lot of people constantly bogged down by their own thoughts and uncertainty, really paralyzed, unable to act. I am a deep believer that it is better to do something than wait around. I also believe that it is better to make a mistake fast, so you can correct it fast. I also believe there is a time for input and a time for hammering on. Which sometimes makes me very frustrated when I have to work with people that come back to review previous decisions taken or stop everything to give you a new set of requirements.

* Sometimes I post in this blog things that are in fact not to the normal reader, but reminders to myself (or a-ha moments I need to capture). This space is also my own leadership journey. Sorry for the interruption. :)

28 June 2011

Khan Academy's TED Talk - a.k.a. technology improving (and humanizing) the classroom

I am serious when I say that I almost cried when I watched it - not because it is emotive, it is not at all, but because of the impact it brings.

I have been using the Khan Academy FOR FUN every night.

23 June 2011

No wonder I am having cultural shock at work

The black is me and the red is the typical Indian culture
Via Globesmart.

11 June 2011

I am a respectful inventor

My personalDNA Report

(Via Rolf's blog)

When research proves the obvious, why do you need it?

There is a prevalent thought in the business world about the importance of data and research. I have seen places where people can only take decisions if it is absolutely proven by a respectable research firm that a certain course of action or element brings results to the bottom-line.

I am not against data, I am in fact a rather logical and analytical person, but data can only take you so far. The worse of all is when data becomes so important that you start wasting research money on things that should be common sense for anyone with a bigger brain than a monkey. Example: I recently read in McKinsey Quarterly (definitely a place where you have a hell lot of insanely smart people) an article about how talent made the difference in R&D.

What? So you are telling me that putting smarter and more talented people with good cultural fit in a highly intellectual-collaborative activity such as research and development will bring better results than putting incompetent ones? REALLY? That is new *raising the sarcasm sign*. Do you really need a research to show something that obvious? Apparently we do, because (lots of) managers are so obsessed with data that they are completely paralyzed if there is no research that proves a point.

The McKinsey research is not bad and there are useful data there on what are the best initiatives to have a talented team (unsurprisingly, one of them is only recruiting good people, looking not only for current skill, but also potential). Look, in my first leadership role, in a STUDENT organization, we knew that intuitively - fire under performers, hire only A-players, let them work, repeat.

Besides wasting resources with such research, there are 2 main disadvantages of relying too much on data to make decisions:

1 - You start late. If there is time to make research about the results something brings, someone else already tried it and is ahead of you. And while you are trying to copy their results, they already moved on the next level. It is a never ending catch game.

2 - You will miss the insights. Old anecdote: if Ford had made a research with his customers, the data he would have got is that people needed faster horses. Data cannot predict black swams.

09 June 2011

Chennai FACTS*

1. If you don't finish all sentences with "AAAANH" (example: "Turn rightAAAANH") no rickshaw driver will understand you.

2. If a street is one way, it is not a traffic violation to go in the "wrong" way if you keep close to its edge.

3. If a store is not named with one (or a combination) of "Sri", "Ram", "Rama", "Ganesh" or "Krishna", the government probably will close it.

4. Mad Max apocalyptic landscape was based in a milder version of Chennai.

5. It is not possible to negotiate with any rickshaw driver below a minimum amount that apparently they all have in their minds. It is possible to pay MORE though.

6. Buses do not need to stop at the stops, even if people are going in and out. People have to run and jump on the bus. That is why the common Chennaier is so thin.

7. If you are out at night, the police can beat you. That is the law.

8. Chuck Norris once said "I cannot live in Chennai, I can't take the heat".

9. It doesn't matter that you are white, blonde, have a huge camera hanging on your neck, a map on your hand and have a colorful sign saying "tourist, not from here" pointing at your head, people will still stop you to ask directions (in Tamil) for some obscure place.

10. When people don't know the way to a place they are asked for directions, it is polite to direct the person is some random direction.

11. When a hole (that is too big for a car to drive by) appears on the road, instead of fixing it, the proper course of action is to put some rocks around and a few plants. Chennaiers appreciate their road gardens.

12. When a car (or any other vehicle) honks, it is not saying "get out of the way", it is merely saying "hey, I am here" or "hey, I will do something you don't expect, like turn".

13. Chennai is one of the most advanced cities in the field of quantum spacial physics: anywhere where there are only space to fit N, in Chennai it fits AT LEAST N+1. (Example: on the road I cross everyday, there are 4 lanes, but it fits approximately 4 lanes of cars, 1 with pedestrians and 1 with vehicles going on the "wrong" way).

14. Chennai is one of the greenest cities in the world: everyday there is at least one light shortage to help the people go green.

15. If you ask a rickshaw driver if he knows the address (even if you invent the address), he will always says "ok" or "yes".

16. When there is a birthday, people celebrate by putting cake on the face of the person who has birthday.

17. Chennai is in the Guinness World Records Book as the most amounts of signatures needed to open a bank account. It is rumored that you could make a bridge from Chennai to the Moon with the amount of papers one need to sign (in 4 or 5 different places in the same sheet).

18. Going to the beach in Chennai does not mean bathing, even though it is constantly 40 degrees.

19. Men use skirts much shorter than the ones designed for women.

20. It doesn't matter how many friends you have, once in Chennai, your biggest amount of SMS received will be advertising.

21. Chennai is the only place where you need to look 360 degrees to cross the street.

22. When cars almost collide, no one gets angry, it is just business as usual.

23. "Toilet paper" is the newspaper one read while on the toilet.

24. Even though they are called "Hindu-Arabic numeral system", there are absolutely no evidence of any sort of logic in numbers in Chennai in any context. Example: You get token 33 for waiting your meal, number 8 is called, than number 42 is next, etc...

25. For any job that need to be done and it is necessary N number of people, in Chennai there will be at least N+2 doing it with the efficiency of N/3.

Live or lived in Chennai? Contribute with some more facts in the comments.

* Lots of this also apply to India in general, but, hey, Chennai is the best in EVERYTHING, rightAAANH?

07 June 2011

India experience - Week 2 - Tamil Nadu, a conservative Indian state

In which I go to a shady place to buy beer, understand how many people fit in a Rickshaw and run away from the police.

Just like the US (and in lesser scale Brazil), India is divided by different states with its own laws, as long as they fit into the national framework. I didn't know this, but Tamil Nadu, the state which Chennai is the capital, is a very conservative state. So me and Tom went to buy beer for a party. Wait, wait, wait, you don't understand the seriousness of the phrase I just wrote. So I will copy & paste something I found in another blog:
Before the state government took over the liquor business, one could enter a respectable place and choose from a fairly wide selection of Indian liquor (no wine, though, even though there is quite decent Indian wine, and even though liquor stores are called Wine Shops).
Now, though, the liquor stores are filthy, with only the cheapest brands on sale, and are apparently intended to convey the message that if you keep alcohol in your home you are destined for one of the lower circles of hell. Drink in hotels or clubs (independent restaurants aren't allowed to sell alcohol): fine. Drink at home: hell.
So me and Tom arrive in this place by the roadside, nothing but road & dump around, except for a always closed shady "restaurant", curiously called "Jackie Chan". We go to the BACK of Jackie Chan and find a few old tables with some very strangely looking men. Even thought there are tables, I don't think there is anything there, there are not even walls around those tables. After the tables, we see a small house, bare cement and no painting, totally sealed by heavy rusty grates. Behind those grates, we see liquor. We approach the grates and a guy wearing some sort of skirt - ok, that demands some explanation:

Here it is very common for men to wear something called lungi, which is basically a skirt or, most likely, a piece of cloth in very poor shape:

Men wearing lungi, the one in the right is the most common I see.
So we approach the grates and a guy wearing some sort of skirt ask what we want. I mean, he asked SOMETHING, and we assumed it was that, because he made sure to speak Tamil, not English. Tom says:

- Do have Budweiser?
- No.
- So give me 5 Kingfishers. - Kingfisher is a typical Indian beer.

When the guy opens the fridge, Tom spot that there are some Budweiser bottles there. He then says: - No, no, Budweiser, the red one.

The guy serving the beer looks confused, but after some insistence, Tom is able to get 3 Buds and 2 Kings.

I ask for the same 5 beers and the guy in skirt complains about something in Tamil. Tom says that it is separate, because apparently here (or in this "shop", I don't know) you can't buy more than 5 beers. I manage to get my 5 beers, but the guy in skirts refuses to give me a bag. Even though he is working there, probably he also believes if you drink alcohol you are doomed and should be treated like a dog. Why did I choose a place that has more alcohol regulations than Norway?

So the beers were bought and they served the purpose of pre-partying at my new flat. Once the pre-party was over, we decided to go to the club called Candy. The thing is that we were 8 people and outside there was only one small Rickshaw.  We didn't bother, 2 people sat with the driver in the front and all the rest somehow fit on the back all on top of each other. The ride was anyway brief, because we would meet close by another guy, Indian, who had a car. Once there, the girls went to the car and the boys stayed with the rickshaw.

Obviously the rickshaw driver got lost, because clubs in Chennai, as alcohol shops, are hidden away from the public eyes. Only sinners and crazy people (foreigners?) go to clubs. Obviously having the street address didn't occur to anyone, but even if we had, it would not mean anything, because no streets have name tags around here and some streets have more than one name, depending on who calls it. Ah, Indian organization.

Eventually we came to the place. The girls had arrived before and were already in. The problem being that in this place, as in any other Chennai club, you can only enter if you are a girl or if you are in a couple. So we were there, 4 ot 5 boys waiting outside and nowhere to go.

We tried to negotiate with the doormen, but they kind of threw us away. After around 1h waiting for the people inside to solve the situation, we started going away, but then one of our man inside, Edward, managed to convince that each of us would pay 200 rupees to enter and that would be alright. So we entered.

Beer there was around 500 rupees for a 2 or 3 liters jar. Me, Tom, Juan and Vlad shared the rounds. Life was good, the club looked pretty western and nice. Music was the typical Tors Hammer style and the people there were not so different. There were very very few Indians, but even those were dressed as any normal western place. It was a good break from the chaos.

But the break didn't last. Around 12h the music stopped and the bar didn't serve drinks anymore. The lights went on, it was the cue for us to leave. Since we were in a big group (20 people, I guess) we didn't leave and started singing. This went on for about 30 minutes, when suddenly everyone decided to leave in a rush. I didn't get what was going on, but I left too. Outside, we met the police.

Now if you come from a civilized country where human rights are important, you usually don't have to worry so much about the police. If you come from India (or Brazil), the police is not really your friend and you try to avoid any dealings with it. The police here in Chennai is really worth avoiding. Imagine these (real) scenes:

What is happening: Bunch of people, slightly or beyond slightly drunk, getting out of the club.
What the people having fun see: Yeeeei, uuuuh, fuuuuun.
What the police sees: bunch of degenerate sinners dressed as whores from hell.

What is happening: People are leaving slowly amongst laughter and complaints that the club is closing too early.
What the people having fun see: Yeeeei, uuuuh, fuuuuun. Let's go to someone's place and continue the party! But where? Where? - Considerations start to be made, someone says that they have a free flat and directions start being given.
What the police sees: bunch of degenerate sinners dressed as whores from hell are not cooperating. Let's use force.

And then the policemen, around 20 of them, suddenly started waving their meter long sticks towards people and hitting some. An Indian guy is immobilized and looks like he is going to be arrested. We run away and quickly get in a rickshaw. Apparently someone already knew the address we were going for the after party and we went to this poor Indian fellow parents' place (which were travelling in the US, apparently the most common place for Indian upper class to go).

And that was it for the weekend. On Monday I would go for my first day at TCS and also fix the most incredible amount of bureaucracy ever imagined. But that is another story....

05 June 2011

India experience - Week 2 - Settling down in Chennai

In which I arrive in the biggest village of all times, meet cool people, get treated like shit by a guy who was making money out of me and then manage to pay him back in the same coin.

I liked the airport in Chennai. The bag belts were huge and there was no need to fight my way to get my bags. Hassle free, I left the airport and immediately spotted Assel, a Kazakh working in TCS, waiting for me. She had a cab and she was with Damola, a Nigerian that coordinates the Chennai part of program I am part of in TCS. When I left the airport though, something hit me hard: the heat was stronger than in Mumbai. So the Lonely Planet's prophecy about Chennai materialized: "it is a hot hell-hole". We entered the air-conditioned cab and move to my new TQ.

I will be really sincere, I didn't want to move to a new TQ. At that time I was feeling homeless, living out of my suitcase, and I needed to plant my roots to feel good. I already had my apartment ready, because Eric from Ghana was leaving in 2 days and I would take his place. But I didn't insist in taking my stuff there, since I didn't want to bother the people currently living in the flat.

The landscape from the airport to my TQ was the usual post-apocalyptic highway/dumpster with the eventual oasis of a lonely roadside restaurant with more than dubious hygienic  standards. It was like driving in the world of Fallout. Anyone unsure about happenings, would guess that Pakistan or China had already nuked Chennai. The exception being exactly the small "road" that lead to my TQ. "Road" is with quotation marks because it resembled a lot the small ways in favelas (slums in Portuguese):  very narrow, decrepit "houses" on both sides, with the eventual lazy dog lying around, while some small children ran (most of then topless and some totally naked). My TQ was at the end of this street. There were so many holes on the road that someone could play the biggest mini-golf game ever. The car slowly advanced and dodged the holes when possible for about 5 minutes and I saw, at the very dead end of the street, some nice collection of 2 stories houses guarded by a security officer at the gate. I arrived at my TQ.

The houses were pretty nice, like small villas, and we were shown one of then that would be mine. It was a 3 stories house, which was completely empty. I was allocated in a room in the 2nd floor with 2 single beds, bathroom and air-conditioning, which I immediately turn on. There was internet, but I had to figure out the password on my own, since this time there was no Mr. Pruna to serve me and I had no clue where to find the people responsible, since I was left alone there to wait for the evening, when I would go to a small gathering in someone's house.

While I tried to fight the router to get some internet, someone rings the bell. I went down, open the door and this middle aged Indian man is there. The conversation goes like this:

- What is your name?
- I am Sergio.
- Where is Damola?
- Who?
- Damola! - with an annoyed tone of voice.

I shruged. At that time I didn't remember that one of the guys that brought me was named Damola. I am terrible with names, give me a break.

He gets pissed off: - How did you come here? Who brought you?
- It was Assel.
- Who? Where is Damola?
- Assel, she is one of TCS people. And another guy, which I don't remember the name.
- Aaaah, black? Damola, Damola! - He says Damola in this condescending way, like this people that like to say "I told you so".
- Ok, yes.
- Ok, follow me.

I started reaching for the keys that were in the doors so I could close the house. And he shouted: "Noooo!" so I started leaving the keys in the door and closing it. He shouted again: "Noooo! Get the keys, get the keys, get the keys!" so I got the keys and when I am closing the door he started shouting again "Lock the door! Lock it!", I got pissed off and make a movement with my hands for him to calm down while my face is clearly saying something  "Oh my god, is TCS paying this shit, I am the client, or am I wrong?"

I closed the door and started following him. I asked:

- Do you know the internet password?
- Of course I know. I am the - and this he said with the arrogance of a kid that has more toys than the ones in his slum - MANAGING PARTNER of ALL THIS. - he moved his hand around.

I thought "Congratulations, you are the managing prick of a bunch of houses in the middle of nowhere by a road made of dust and surrounded by slums" - Oh, interesting, very pretty place. - I said.

- Where are you from?
- Brazil.
- Ah, Ronaldo.
I smiled the best I can, controlling my homicidal instincts.

- Are you eating dinner? - he was not being nice, we pay for the dinner there.
- Only if it is ready before 8h, because I need to go to a party at 8h.
He says it in an impossibly rude tone: - No, dinner is at 9h.
- So I will not eat. - I answer, decided to not fight the Managing Prick. Anyway, the heat was so strong that I was not hungry at all.

He took out his sandals and enters one of the houses. I did the same with my flip-flops. We sat and he called Damola. The conversation doesn't go very far and the Managing Prick says to Damola "Send me the TCS e-mail NOW". He says this several times. I think "Now, here is a dishonest man that believes everyone is a prick like himself". I smile when he gets off the phone.

- How long are you planning to stay here?
- I don't know. It depends how long I take to find a place - I lie, since I already had a place.
He changes his tone and body language to a suave one: - You know, you should enjoy here. TCS gives you 15 days. Relax here and enjoy your 15 days. It is better, no?

I smile back in a non-committal way and think "Do you think I am an idiot, you clown? You just treated me like shit and now because you want to get money out of TCS you want me to stay here?". At that moment I decided I would leave very soon.

- What time are you coming back today?
- At what time can I come back? - I must say that I needed to get the keys with him to re-enter my room. So his thought was that I should not arrive late, because he wanted to get his Managing Prick sleep.
- At 11am.
- So maybe I will sleep out.

After some time, the rickshaw came and I went to the gathering with Assel and Damola ("aaah, you are Damola!"). It was the house of Juan, Fabian and Vlad (which was nicknamed "Russian Chicken" and insisted in calling me "Giuseppe" for some reason). All of them worked at TCS, but Juan and Fabian (both of them software guys from Colombia) were working in the same project as I would be.  We drank a few beers and chatted in the terrace. At night, it was warm, but bearable. The people were very nice and they told me of their wonderful and crazy stories about India. I understood that living here was very crazy and hard at times, but very enjoyable. All of them seemed satisfied, besides the hardship and frustrations, and a lot of the happiness came from the tight international community created by them. We need the support of each other to survive and this bonds create a very nice friendship and community feeling. I liked that.

Then suddenly thunders appeared in the horizon and soon it was raining. We all celebrated under the rain. They told me it was not common at that time of the year and, in fact, it was the first rain in months. I like to believe that it was Thor, reminding me that I was still under protection of Norway. The lights went off (as it happens at least once a day around here) and we entered and dried. Since the place where I was going to be living was close by, I decided to sleep on the floor there, instead of coming back at 1 or 2 am and listen to the Managing Prick lecturing me about any of his prick thoughts.

I got to know my future apartment and the room I would be sharing with Tom, a very nice British fellow, also working in TCS. Sleeping on the floor (with a sort of a mattress) was not so bad, specially for the chilling AC on. So when I woke up on Saturday, I asked if I could bring my stuff from the TQ, since Eric would be leaving on Sunday. They agreed, so me and Tom got a rickshaw to get my stuff.

After a lot of negotiating, a Rickshaw driver takes us there for 60 rupees. But when he reaches the beginning of the slum road leading to my TQ, the driver stops and says that he will go no further without us giving him 80. The discussion goes for about 5 minutes, when we settled for 70. Damn rickshaw drivers.

The servant under the Managing Prick opens the door to me. I say:
- I am leaving.
- What?
- I am leaving. I will get my things.
- But you can't.
- I am leaving, I will get my things.
- You have to talk to Mr. Managing Prick.
- Well, I am leaving. - And I went upstairs and started packing.

While I was packing, the servant comes with his mobile and gives it to me. On the other side of the line, I hear the voice of the Managing Prick:

- Hi, Mr. Sergio, why are you leaving? You didn't like the accommodation?
- No, no, that is not it. I just found a place, so I am moving there.
- But you can stay more.
- Yeah, but I need to move now.
- But why don't you stay? It is free for you.
- Yes, but if I don't move now, I will lose this place. That is why I need to move now. - in India is somewhat hard to find accommodation, especially good ones and close to work, I played this card.
- So you will have to pay a fine, because it was booked for 15 days!
- What? *I* have to pay?
- No, no, TCS pays. You have to sign the papers for 15 days.

I decided I would not take that shit, even though the money would not come out of my pocket. So I decided to play hard:

- I will not sign anything for 15 days without speaking to TCS first. I will speak with them and then I can sign.

Immediately he softened up after I mentioned TCS, would be very dumb of him to lose such a huge client that always has people coming to stay there: - Ok, no need to sign for 15 days, no, don't worry. Sign only for this one day that you were here. No problem.

Afterwards Tom told me: - You know you don't need to move immediately, we will hold the appartment for you and... - I interrupted Tom and put my index finger on my lip, asking for silence. Of course I knew I didn't need, but I was not going to take bullshit from the Managing Prick without the need. And I was also craving for a place that I could call my own, where I could unpack and start living a normal life - as normal as one can in crazy Chennai.

That is the story of how I settled down, but this weekend was not nearly over, on the same Saturday, I had even to run away from the police. But that is another story...

31 May 2011

India experience - Week 1 - Mumbai

In which I arrive in this beautiful disaster* called India, get to know I got a servant and stare death in the face (or more like in the armpits).

I arrived in Mumbai Airport at around 23h. Waiting for my 60 kilos of bags to come, exchanging dollars to rupees and waiting in the wrong line for a cab that AIESEC should have arranged took approximately FOREVER, so I started roaming around the airport exit to see if someone from AIESEC was there to pick me up. The heavy air heat at post-midnight something impressed me. In fact, everything impressed me: the incredible amount of people waiting for other people in the airport at this time, the noise of the comings and goings and horns and hell raised by the old cabs, the craziness everywhere. I definitely was not in Norway anymore.

When I go around 2 or 3 times the airport exit without finding anyone holding a sign with my name, I decided that I would have to go on my own. But I was one of the (few?) blessed and the moment I am exiting among the, literary, hundreds of people waiting for others to arrive, someone says my name. This guy, Keenan, from AIESEC Mumbai recognized my AIESEC t-shirt. Ok, that was a relief. Other 2 AIESECers from Mumbai arrive and they give me to eat a candy (in just one bite). The thing tasted like eating anis (and if I am not mistaken, it was blue also) and I almost throw up.  I took approximately 30 minutes to chew it all. In the meanwhile, while I was with my mouth full of anis tasting crazy candy, we made small talk about who I was, what was going on, etc.

We went to a line to get a pre-paid cab. Pre-paid cab? Yes, no one trusts taxi drivers, so you go to the counter, say where you are going, pay, get a ticket and then find your driver to take you there. Clean.

When we finally found the cab, it was more or less like looking at a mobster car - after it has taken a heavy bullet hit. Only one of my bags fit in the trunk, the other one is also put in the trunk with a ROPE to keep it in place. I can only HOPE for the best. Oh man, India.

When we leave the airport, it is approximately 1h30. We drive to insanely heavy traffic streets (considering the time and that is Sunday). The 3 AIESECers tell me that Mumbai never sleeps. I think "yeah, we the amount of cars horning, I imagine no one really can sleep". Everything is novelty, even though I don't see much because it is dark. The taxi driver creates his own lanes. Rules are for the weak. The AIESECers are nice people. I like them. They went through a lot of effort to be late at night to pick me up and take me to where I should go.

We arrive at this place which would be my transition quarters (TQ). An apartment with 2 rooms with 2 beds each that TCS offers to the newly arrived for a couple of weeks. It was already 2h when I arrived at the TQ and I was greeted by Mr. Pruna (or Purna?), the Indian servant with a big smile and tentative English. He brings me cold water and call me Sir. I got shocked at first. Wow, he is serving me. After Norway, that is not a common thing at all.

Mr. Pruna demands remarks on his own: he was always there and basically fixed everything for us in the TQ. Every time I arrived from the office, the first thing was "Welcome, Sir" and the 2nd would be to bring me a full bottle of cold water. We spoke about some random stuff sometimes, more out of curiosity to understand where he was from, but mostly he would spoke with us like this:

- Breakfast, Sir?
- Yes, Pruna, at 7h30 tomorrow.
- Ok, Sir. Omelette, Sir?
- Omelette, yes.
- Ok. Toast, Sir?
- Yes. That is good.
- Yuis, Sir?
- What?
- Yuis, Sir? (More emphatically)
- Yuis? What is that?
Mr. Pruna would then mimic like drinking something from a glass. It should be really good, because he was always with this big smile on his face.
- Ah, yes, juice, yes, please.
- Ok, Sir.

And, of course, at breakfast he would ask us about what we want for dinner.

On the TQ, there was another AIESEC intern that had arrived one or two days before me, his name was Narcisse and he was from Ivory Coast. Me and Narcisse understood each other right away. He was one of those guys that you really like quite quickly. Me and Narcisse exchanged a few small talk and suddenly Mr. Pruna put a bed sheet on the floor and sit there. "Oh, no" I thought, "he sleeps on the floor - and there is an empty sofa just by the side where he is putting the bed sheet". Another shock. I took a shower and fell asleep in my (and Narcisse's) room, with the soft cover of the air-conditioning (which obviously the living room where mr. Pruna was sleeping, ON THE FLOOR, didn't have). I felt pity for the man.

Another shocking thing with Mr. Pruna is that he ate on the floor (using plates, yes, but on the floor). The thing is that since he is a servitor, he should not use the table (or the sofa), because it "pollutes". Crazy stuff, I just can't understand. But in the end, we made friends with him and he even sat on the table with us, proving that things are not so black and white.

Next day, me and Narcisse gear up for the first day at the office. We needed to get a rickshaw (or simply "auto")  to the Bolivari train station and from there get a local train to Churchgate. Easier said then done. Narcisse approaches one of the rickshaw drivers. He offers to take us to the train station for 40 rupees. Narcisse thinks it is too much, but goes in the polite approach, something like "It's too expensive. Can you do better?", noticing the soft approach would go nowhere, I stepped in and said "10". The guy said "11", I insisted on the "10", he agreed. We boarded the rickshaw and I noticed the driver smiled. I thought "hm, I think he ripped us off anyway". I was later informed by the locals that the lowest rickshaw drive is really "11". So maybe the guy just thought it was funny that such random people would be bargaining so hard.

The train station was a mix between fish market and dumpster. Too many people and no apparent way of figuring out which trains go where, we went for the asking approach. We were redirected here and there and finally we got to the platform where the train to Churchgate would arrive. When it did arrive, nothing can really translate the shock of seeing a crowded train, with no doors and with people ranging outside of it. This is the picture you see:

But it really does not translate the horror it is the first time you see it. And then you think "I have to ENTER this? I am going to die, that is it." People at the platform started to run to try to get inside the train. Everyone managed to get in (probably even before the train stopped to a complete halt), the exception being me and Narcisse. The men in the train (where, not exactly IN, since they were ranging at the doors) started shouting and making fun of us. Narcisse and I look to each other in despair and talk about tactics. A young Indian guy, out of pity, show us the place where the slow train goes. Typically less crowded, the slow train started in our station, so it would be possible to sit. We follow him to the platform and manage to sit. But the train anyway gets really crowded really quick and soon there are people ranging at the doors again.

The slow train takes around 2h to Churchgate (not so different than its counterpart, the "fast" train, that takes around 1h30min). You have no idea what is 2h in a crowded train full of sweaty people. Not people, men, because there are special wagons only for women. It was hell, I tell you. Every day, to and from the office, at the peak time. We were thankful when we managed to sit. But even though, that was not a great thing. Because it is so crowded, Indians have a very peculiar sense of personal space (or lack) , so it is very common to be squeezed with 4 people in a bench designed for 3 or to have someone gently sleeping and using you as a pillow. The smell was the worse, since after the 2nd time in the train, I got used with the amount of people and didn't mind the lack of space anymore. After the 4th time, I started to be able to read in the train (using the Amazon Kindle app in my Android). That was a very nice thing and more than one Indian approached me to ask about what was the phone about, what I was reading and such.  In the end of the week, I was able to enter and leave the train without it completely stopping. The civilized metro in Norway looked impossibly calm and was far away in my mind. Humans are so adaptable, I concluded.

The amount of adaptation (especially considering my gentleman ways learned in Norway) can be described in this (real) story:

Indians have allergy towards organization, in special in regards to queuing. Anyone attempting to queue will be faced with people cutting in front straight to the counter, people on the back breathing at half a centimeter of your neck and all this. On the train ticket counter, I was waiting for some time in the queue, I was the next customer after a man, when suddenly an old lady comes in front of me straight to the ticket window. I gently, but firmly, push her aside and point to the back of the line. She says something like "mahaba ragata jahlaputamadre", I answer in Portuguese "yeah, whatever, go to the end of the line". After I buy, she sneaks again and buy the ticket. But I was not the sucker. I was re-learning my Brazilian ways of fighting for survival.

I think what shocked me the most in Mumbai (and probably in all the little I know of India) is that poverty is absolutely everywhere. Not like most countries I know that had poverty concentrated somewhere and the rich neighborhoods looking very fancy and nice. No, in India, the fancy building is just by the side of a slum and trash is absolutely everywhere. A friend of mine is working in waste management in Delhi. Before coming to India, I thought this was cool. But after getting to know India and how much litter is everywhere, I just thought "wow, this guy is really making a difference. Waste management should be a top priority in this country".

Since I was in Mumbai only for some contract signing and other random stuff, I felt quite happy when I got my ticket to Chennai on the Friday. That is the city where I was going to live and Mumbai was just a transition. Since I was tired as hell of the trains and all the bla bla bla, I got very happy to go to Chennai, to my new home.

But that is another story...

* Beautiful disaster is what Pamela, my Mexican flatmate, calls India. She can say it with passion in her eyes.

21 May 2011

Ha det bra, Oslo (Goodbye, Oslo)

I started writing this inside my head a few days before I left Oslo, while I did some things over there for the last time (like the path from my old job to my old flat), then I handwritten it in the plane using the amazing notebook Deniss and Albina gave me, now I am re-writing it on my PC, at the 3rd day in Mumbai, but I will only post it when I have internet, which means when I get to Chennai, in  a few days.

I have reached the point of no return: I am at the Amsterdam airport and it finally hit me, I am going to India, most importantly, I left Oslo, where I lived for 3 years. Good part of those years thinking I was going to live there. So it was just like home for me, at least in feeling. Schiphol airport was the same airport I used to come for the first time to Europe. It felt right to be the one I would be leaving it too.

I consider myself a strong fellow, but when I get emotional, I cry just like a little girl. So while I am writing this (both at the Amsterdam airport and at the my room in Mumbai) tears lick my face like a dog's wet tongue would. Humans are animals of habit and I am crying because my life will not be the same now. I already miss even the things I didn't like or even hated in Oslo. But of course, I miss much more the things I loved, like my girl, friends, spring weather, sitting at the park and have barbecue and beer, read under the sun, my flat, kebab... all the stuff that is gone when I boarded the Delta flight to Mumbai.

My last day in Oslo was one of running around and goodbyes. I finished giving away my furniture, and the last piece was given to an international couple which fell in love with the apartment. I loved the idea of such a nice international couple living in my place. It felt right for that flat. I have been very happy there and I know they would too. I gave the phone number of the landlord and they said they were really going to call at that very day. I hope they get it.

The last day was of goodbyes: as meals, I obviously had Bislett Kebab and Burger King. I got a haircut at the same cheap place I always went in Grønland. I walked through Slottsparken and Aker Brygge. And then, when everything was done, I came back to the apartment, where only my bags remained. I looked around at the completely empty flat and I remember releasing a big sigh. I was going to miss that place. I got my bags, left the flat and put the key at the mailbox. It was over, I was homeless.

I went to Sveinung's place, where I would stay until my flight very early in the next day - which means we would not sleep. We went with my best friends (still) in Oslo to the Eurovision party, it seamed a pretty reasonable way of saying goodbye not only to my friends and Oslo, but also to Europe. Azerbaijan won the contest, which for me sounded as an indication of what was to come in my own life: Europe was not my place anymore, I was going to live in the East.

At that night, it started raining. I hated Oslo for that, such a bad way of saying goodbye. But then I started to believe it was crying too because I was leaving. Walking around wet, looking for busses and cabs to go from one place to another was very stressful. I didn't want to miss my flight, or, well, maybe I wanted, by I decided I couldn't. Unfortunately Oslo was not my place anymore, I had to move on.

When finally we managed to get cabs to the places we needed to be, I said a cold goodbye to my best friends. I suck at goodbyes. I don't like to say bye to the people I love. I feel uncomfortable and stressed and I don't know what to say.

Since I haven't slept in that day, I slept the whole way to the airport and the whole way from Oslo to Amsterdam. This soothed my tight heart. But when I got to Amsterdam, it really hit me that I was not an Osloner anymore. I felt sad, but the sadness had to wait, because on the way to the flight to Mumbai I had the toughest security check ever. 2 guys interviewing me and asking the same questions over and over again. Very annoying. I wanted to throw at their faces that I lived legally in one of the richest countries in the world and certainly I had better options than India (including staying in Oslo) if I was trying to move somewhere illegally. At some point, when I showed the invitation letter from Tata, the guys finally believed I was for real and let me go with a somewhat apologetic tone. Buggers.

When I boarded the plane, I was in tears. I was completely scared, which rationally felt good, since I would be leaving my comfort zone to grow and develop. But even though my mind knew it was a good thing, my heart was heavy like Indian food. More than once I thought of turning around and catching a plane to somewhere else. I kept walking, found my place at the plane and got my notebook, where I finished writing this text. I remember wishing very strongly that I would not regret this step in my life, both professionally and personally. I still hope I won't.

To finish, for those that didn't see my video where I gave away my books to strangers in Oslo in a way to say "thank you" to the city, here it is:

06 May 2011

Why China copies and India invents

I was on bed and I had to get out of it to write this. I was reading the first paragraphs of White Tiger, specifically this part:

Apparently, sir, you Chinese are far ahead of us in every respect, except that you don’t have entrepreneurs. And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs.

And it hit me. I understood everything (as much as you can understand everything while on your bed). One of those eureka moments came to me and it was clear as water why China is a copycat machine, while India has the IT sector of the world in its hands. I might be very wrong because I haven't visited BOTH countries, but I am also an entrepreneur and I am not afraid to fail tonight. I am cocky enough to think I will succeed.

The thing about China and India are essentially about organizational culture. Well, culture, not "organizational", but if you would think both States as "organizations", then it would be organizational culture. 

In China, the government restricts information, tells you how many children you can have, tell you what is right and what is wrong. It holds the truth in its hands, people have to comply. This approach has its merits: efficiency. The well-oiled Chinese machine outproduces the whole world. It is a factory. But only a factory, as in the Apple's products labels "Designed by Apple in California." while somewhere hidden it says "Assembled in China." California has the brains, China is just a glorified tinkerer. Also no question about who gets the biggest share of the money: always the brain.

In India, on the other hand, it is a land of very few blacks and whites: everything is grey. It depends. And it depends a lot. Like Brazil, the government in India is not the most trusted entity: you have to make a living yourself, because suddenly your slum might be erased from the map because of a new government program. No job? Use your imagination and generate some sort of money. Old taboos, such as "girls should not work", are easily forgotten for the sake of practical survival. To hell with the rules, says the Indians, we will do our own stuff. And here they are, the biggest entrepreneurial nation in the planet, where almost anything is up for negotiation. Yes, there are draw backs when everyone is doing their own thing: chaos, organizations (enterprises or government) have more leverage over the disorganized society of the individual. But it teaches you a hell lot of initiative. It teaches you, like a shark, to never stop swimming. It gives you faith in yourself - because if you don't trust yourself, no one else will.

So if China wants a bit more entrepreneurship, it will have to let the danger of freedom enter its doors, because that is the only way innovation can come in too. And if India want some order, might be interesting looking to... hm, not China, please. Maybe Norway?

Again the phrase "culture eats strategy for breakfast" makes a lot of sense. I am fascinated by organizational culture and its influence. Maybe that is what I need to do. Maybe that is my leverage to change the world. Culture change & management. 

Oh, men, just having my trip to India next week is already putting me in a very different mood than the stiff and anti-entrepreneurial organizational culture in Norway.

Good things come to those who act.

[No revision. That is the way I am. Leave me be.]

28 March 2011

What the most admired companies actually do (without blablabla)

FORTUNE magazine recently released its annual list of theWorld’s Most Admired Companies and as we do every year, my colleagues and I at Hay Group took a deep look at the companies that made the list to determine what makes them “tick,” how they earn the admiration of their peers, and what organizations and leaders can learn from the practices of the “Most Admired” companies.
You can read the original article here, or you can skip the blablabla and just go straight to the point of what they do better:

1 - Empower employees at all levels to take decisions and "reasonable" risks, pushing decision making the closest to the action as they can. Less red tape = quicker problem solving (sometimes even before it become a problem).

2 - Ask employees for their input, involve everyone in problem solving.

3 - Ongoing employee development.

Now we know why just a bunch of companies are most admired, while others are ignored. The winner takes all in the war for talent.

21 March 2011

I have no time for important things because I waste 40% of it

From the Future of Work blog:

The paradox at the heart of work

So here is the thing… last week I heard two paradoxical facts:
Fact 1 – we have no time. 
We are nearing the end of our research consortium focused on the future of work and need to ensure that the ideas that have come from the research are translated into facts, ideas and actions for the companies that have participated. That’s going to take time – perhaps four hours a week of focused team-work to ensure the translation takes place. Yet when we ask executive teams about putting this amount of work in thinking about the actions for the future, the overwhelming response is that many teams are simply too busy to dedicate this time. It’s not that they don’t think this is important for the future – but as often happens at work, the short term is overwhelming the longer time priorities. So – the first fact I heard this week is that many executive teams simply have no time for this type of longer-term work.
Fact 2 – we waste 40% of our working time.
That reality was in my mind when I worked earlier in the week with a major US based multinational company. The team was mulling over the results of an analysis of the working patterns of hundreds of employees they had commissioned. What was clear was that more than 40% - yes you have heard it right – not 4% but a full 40% of work currently being undertaken was not actually productive work. Doing stuff that was not needed, working on projects that had no significance, going to meetings that had no outcomes.
Now the paradox emerges. At the very time that we are overwhelmed by the minutia of everyday work – we are simultaneously engaged in work that has no productive outcome. Now that’s interesting. 
So how has this happened? If you want to check what Lynda Gratton think about it, just go to the original post, but here is my simple take on why is that:

1 - Strategic direction / vision is not clear enough (not 100% actionable by every employee) - "increase sales", "grow", etc can be interpreted in a million ways. If it is not clear, at best, I will have my own take to do it. Which can lead to a lot of spinning wheels or rowing the boat to the wrong shore. This leads to problems in prioritization, which end up as the "everything is a priority" mindset. When everything is a priority, then you will be counting on luck to pick the really important things to get done. Work is infinite, time is not.

2 - Bad management skills - if the above problem is more connected to leadership, this one is purely management: effective meetings with clear output, clear delegation, scraping the BS and focusing on the priorities, etc. In my short corporate life (around 8 years), I am absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of people who cannot create a simple plan, run a meeting where people know the objective, delegate something with clear deliverables and satisfaction conditions, decide something when a decision is needed, etc. I strongly believe this should be tough in schools, that is basic education nowadays: getting stuff done.

02 March 2011

Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives

Since I got my Kindle, Amazon instant ebook delivered has pushed me to buy (and read) more books. Way of the Peaceful Warrior was recommended to me by a friend (thanks, Phil!) and I devoured it in just 3 days, so much I enjoyed it (and so little it allowed me to sleep if I just would let it go).

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

Way of the Peaceful Warrior has a novel format, but is in reality a self-biography of the author Dan Millman (and it is not hidden or anything, the main character is Dan Millman). Basically the novel tells the story when Dan was in the university and randomly met an old man which he called Socrates. Socrates is a very special and intriguing man and Dan starts being mentored by him in the way of the peaceful warrior.

The above paragraph is a dry description of the book and might make you think of “uff, yet another self-help book, give me a break, Sergio”. But the book is much more than that, it shows a whole philosophy of living every moment as unique moments, the secret of unreasonable happiness (happiness without reason), about life, the universe and everything. And it does in a pretty compelling way.

If you read Castañeda, you might recognize Socrates clearly as a Nagual, but surprisingly much more accessible than the enigmatic “ask the wind” or whatever shamanistic BS Castañeda’s Nagual would throw on the poor student. The book depicts Dan’s journey on the way of the peaceful warrior, but not to the peaceful warrior (that actually makes sense, believe me). While searching for happiness outside and never finding, then suddenly realizing what true happiness is and how useless is to struggle to find it. In the end, Way of the Peaceful Warrior is a book that teaches people how to live a fulfilling and joyful life, without the common tricks of “it is easy to do be happy” and “5 clear steps to happiness”. It is not easy and it is not a destination, it is a path. There is no "achieving" a peaceful warrior. It is forever the way that makes the warrior (and vice-versa). The book is enlightening, inspiring, emotional and, indeed, may change lives. But only if you go through the way yourself. If not, than it is just like any other good book.

I had been acting lethargic; Socrates suddenly grabbed me and shook me. “Wake up! If you knew for certain that you had a terminal illness—if you had little time left to live—you would waste precious little of it. Well, I’m telling you, Dan—you do have a terminal illness: It’s called birth. You don’t have more than a few years left. No one does. So be happy now, without reason—or you never will be at all.”

Then, once you read it, I hope you can answer these questions:
-          Where are you?
-          What time is it?

28 February 2011

Car driver in Brazil decides to kill a bunch of bikers because they were blocking the street

*Sigh* When I have some free time, I visit Brazilian news websites. The news are always the same: some politician was caught pocketing public money (without being punished), some violent crime happened, some idiot reality show character did something, someone is striking/manifesting about something and some public tragedy happened with a lot of people complaining about their fates. Brazil in a nutshell. But last week I saw the most shocking thing I ever imagined, and it was in my home city, Porto Alegre.

Some bicyclists were all on the street in a kind of a protest  ("someone is striking/manifesting about something", remember?) and this one guy just gets tired of waiting for the bikers who are blocking the street and decides to kill all of them by storming past the middle of the cyclists.


If you have the courage, watch the video bellow, but be warned it is strong:

For me this kind of sum up the Brazilian attitude that is the root of all evil in the country: Brazilians (in general, not all) have an absolute lack of respect for others. Politicians steal because it is "no body's money", criminality happens "because I don't have opportunities, so I am going to steal from others - but I am not limited to stealing, I can kill for a simple pair of shoes, because I don't care about others", people will cut the line because they find some friend in front (not caring about those before that were waiting longer), people will make a scandal if their rights are not respected (not caring if they themselves are disrespecting the rights of everyone around) and, of course, people will be completely insane in traffic, because "the only car that matter is mine".

I don't know the background of the video, but this is what I imagined happened (as per the traditional Brazilian behavior): bikers were on the street, mostly blocking the cars. Car driver gets pissed off and starts using the horn and shouting on the window to the bikers. Bikers get pissed off and start blocking more and more that one car and start screaming back, maybe even kicking and punching the car. Then the car driver tries to make a strike with the bikers.

Brazil (Brazilians) needs a culture shift towards respecting others. In this sense, Brazilians have a lot to learn from Norwegians. Norway just doesn't happen to be a rich country. It can be a point that Norway is rich because of the natural resources (oil), but we cannot forget that Brazil is rich in resources (including oil), so are several African countries. The secret? In my opinion it is respect for the society and for others. Instead of thinking about themselves (in this case, always the shareholders of big corporations), Norwegians thought about the society. Respect is just underrated, but it the basis for a healthy world: if people respected each other, how could there be war, terrorism or crime?

Brazil never fails to disappoint me. Shame of my country. *Sigh*

23 January 2011

TED Talk: The child-driven education

Can non-English speaking children in a village in India learn by themselves using a pc and only English instructions?

Via Sokanu