Best wishes

17122007532Wow, what a year 2007 been. I turned 30, graduated from London Business School a fully-fledged MBA and found a job I love in an industry I love, stretched beyond to what I think my boundaries were (the 10k this summer comes to mind) AND my family and friends are by and large well and happy. I’m a very luck girl. I hope your year was a good one too. Thanks to all of you who left kind comments and wrote nice emails, they brighten my day.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and I wish you a kick-ass’ingly amazing, loving, healthy and inspiring 2008. May your dreams come true in the new year, may the world be a little bit better at the end of 2008, may you have lots of joy and happiness in your life.

‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ (Aesop)

‘There are two ways to lead your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ (Einstein)
 

Where was I? Oh, yes, networking

18122007534[photo left: temporary fake night club built for a film shoot (haven’t figured out yet which film) built on the spot where at weekends Borough Market is]

Where was I? Oh, right, networking advice. Some of you asked for some wise words. I’ll have to disappoint you, I’m afraid. I don’t think I have much to offer, but there you go.

The one thing you need to know about networking? Don’t.
That’s it. That’s my advice. Just don’t.

Oh, I can’t let myself get off this easy. I’ve thought a little bit about it, and examined why that was my first kneejerk reaction to being asked about advice about networking. I have seen too many cases already in my short life of networking gone horribly wrong. I’ve seen my share of slimey, insincere conversations with whoever is highest up the totem pole (ignoring everyone else) in that room with the only aim of scoring a little piece of paper with contact details on it (hell, I probably did it myself too, but I’ve blocked out all memories if I did). I’ve been elbowed, had my toes stepped on more than once, and all for that meaningless chat and little piece of paper. Do people get jobs that way? No doubt they do. Is it worth it? I don’t think so. Call me holier-than-thou (and regular readers will know that I feel strongly about stuff like this), but it’s just not right. I have a hard time putting my feelings into words other than ‘it’s just wrong’. It is. But if you need more evidence: you never know who will help you. We’ve all heard the stories about people who were rude to the receptionist, aced the interview but because they were rude to the receptionist didn’t ge the job. You never know who, when or where you will meet someone  who will give you your break. So best to be on your best behaviour at least most of the time. It’s the mum-rule: do as you mum told you when you were growing up: be nice.

So what do I recommend? Make connections. Have honest and open conversations, show interest in everyone and everything around you, think about what you can contribute to the person you’re talking to. Think of what interests and matters to them and how you can be of service. Think of everyone as people, not the obstacle you need to cross to where you want to go. Seek to add, not to take. Have something interesting to talk about and something interesting to ask (if you’re stumped: read widely (e.g. newspapers, Economist, trade rags)). Smile and be gracious. Don’t take up too much time. Follow up and say thank you if someone’s been helpful (but make it personal, don’t send out a formulaic email, that’s worse than not doing it). Keep promises. Listen, especially when someone is trying to tell you something. 

R1 results for LBS came out earlier this week. To everyone who got in: congrats and welcome! To the waitlistees: don’t lose hope. To those who got a ding: I’m sorry, it’s rough getting a ding.

Mind the gap

11122007527[photo on the left: walking back from a client meeting tonight, today was a beautiful day in London]

I went to a client meeting today, followed by a quick stop at Boots, which is the nation’s biggest pharmaceutical, health and beauty retailer. On the tube on the way back a thought came to me, and in the spirit of the season (boy, I’m really into this giving thing this year, big time), I thought I’d share. Boots, this one’s for you. And it’s free.

What I was thinking is that there’s a bit of a gap in the pharma/health/beauty market. I don’t particularly like shopping at Boots but know they have most of what I need (though not necessarily want, there’s a difference between the two). Superdrug is even worse because it’s always so disorganised that I don’t care the prices are lower, Bodyshop is not my thing, too airy fairy for me, Space NK is too high end, the perfume department in Selfridges makes me feel self-conscious, and in the supermarket I always forget to look at deodorant, hairspray etc. Et presto, here’s your gap. There must be room for a Boots Boutique concept. Have a nicer environment for me to shop in, don’t make it feel so… utilitarian. So stark, so like a chore, so like something I will spend 30 minutes of my life doing that I will never get back and I resent you for it. There must be a way to delight and seduce me as a shopper of deodorant and hairspray. Love in the aerosol aisle. Or at least a little flirting. I just haven’t quite figured out how and where yet, but I’m convinced it can be done. Let me do some more thinking though. Preferably in the shower (with the new showergel I bought today at Boots) where I have most of my brilliant ideas.

[edited: just thought of something else: this would also work perfectly for the Dutch market. Wedge something between the Etos, Kruidvat, Schlecker, enough of a gap there.]

Yay!

2101757880_0a0fe44b47Yay, my Moo postcards arrived!! I’ve had my eye on Moo for a while now, but so far never had enough photos I loved on Flickr, or could justify the expense to myself (though not really expensive, these 20 postcards cost me £12.50 including P&P), but last week I decided to take the leap and order a set. And I *love* them! Now all I need are stamps and I’m all set (and yes, the Fonz had to make an appearance, aaaaaay!) to start spamming family and friends. There is something wonderful about getting real life paper through the real life letterbox, something that rarely happens through email I find. Being able to stick a postcard on a wall, or that wonderful feeling of physically opening an envelope and feeling the paper between your fingers when you read a letter. Weirdly enough I don’t seem to exchange my real life address with that many people anymore. We connect through businesscards which make cursory mention of email and phone details, or through Facebook, but rarely do I know what even my closest friends’ physical addresses are. Mental note to self: must make more concerted effort to get friends’ addresses and send more cards and letters.

One more favourite which I feel compelled to share (it is after all the season for sharing): the TED talks site. Beautiful navigation and inspiring talks, some of my recent favourites: Stefan Sagmeister, Matthieu Ricard, James Nachtwey, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Dan Gilbert, Jan Chipchase, David Kelley and John Maeda.

All MBA’s are evil

2052757092_d1864813daIt’s kinda hard to miss it’s nearly Christmas if you’re living in the Western Hemisphere and you’re leaving the house at the moment. I for one am looking forward to going home for Christmas, help my mum cook, celebrate a belated Sinterklaas and spend time with my family and friends that I don’t see nearly as often as I would like to.

In this season of unbridled shopping (I’m actively avoiding going into central London on weekends, the tourist-shopping-crowds are horrendous… I love you, dear tourists, but please don’t stop in the middle of the street to take a picture and then get cross if a bus honks at you, carry a tube map with you (pick up a free one from any tube station) but don’t stop and read it right at the entrance of Leicester Square station, and please please please remember that there’s a reason why all the Londoners stand on the right hand side of the escalator. Oh, I had no idea I had all this pent-up frustration in me. Mental note to self: remember you were a tourist once and made these mistakes. And many more. Multiple times. I think I must be turning into a proper Londoner, they (or should I say ‘we’) like nothing more than to moan about tourists. All this as an aside.) I’m not trying to go nuts.

After that rant, something more in keeping with the spirit of the season. No, don’t worry, I won’t sing, you’re probably right in guessing that my voice needs a little bit more practicing in showers.
For some strange reason that I can’t quite fathom myself, I’ve become quite the activist lately. There’s a lot wrong with this world and I’m sick of being apathetic about it. Sick and tired. So slowly but surely I’m trying to right a few small wrongs. I’ve bought carbon-offsetting for all my flights for 2007 and intend to do so for 2008 too (amazingly, it costs very little too). I’ve written to British Airways to ask if they could offer carbon offsetting with their booking procedure (right before the annoying ‘do you want a hotel’ advert they display), have written to Eurostar asking if they can offer competitively priced one-stop tickets to any Dutch stations (as they do for the Belgian stations) so it becomes more financially viable to travel to NL in a carbon-neutral way, I’ve signed a bunch of petitions (asking to ban styrofoam, to get the Climate Change bill accepted in the House of Commons (x2) amongst others), made a micro-loan through Kiva. Not enough to save the planet, or make a big difference, but maybe my small actions will add up to something bigger. And I’d rather do something small than nothing at all.

I’m trying to be less evil. The world has enough evil, apathy and cynicism in it. Time for some kindness. I believe that if we all do a little bit, lots of little bits will ad up to a lot (consider compounded interest for the (would-be) MBA’s). I realise that sometimes it doesn’t feel like that, and it’s easy to become cynical and find flaws in anything and anyone who’s trying to make this world a better place. I’m not saying become a happy-clappy-noncritical person. All I’m saying is that this is our world. We are the people we’ve been waiting for to change the world. Now go and do it. And if that seemingly selfless aspect of it doesn’t convince you, consider this: all research into happiness shows that helping others gives you a huge sense of happiness and wellbeing. If you need some inspiration to make this world a little bit of a better place, check out these resources:
* Change the World for a Fiver (book) and the accompanying website
* The Everyday Activist (book) and the accompanying website and blog
* UnLtd, a London organisation that supports social entrepreneurship
* Room to Read, a charity close to my heart, with a mission of educating children
* Kiva, become a investor
* Freecycle your unwanted stuff
* Plant a tree
* Perform random acts of kindness
* Smile at the people around you
* Give to your favourite charity

My plans for 2008: do more good, be less evil.

The mixtape isn’t dead

2073470823_6df300ada3A little while ago, I was pondering the loss of the mixtape (I didn’t know the correct technical English term for it, if you have no idea what a mixtape is, check out this wikipedia entry), for ages one of the ways boys wooed girls, and everyone made their own fave compilation tapes by copying a friends cassette or ripping music off the radio. I have fond memories of songs ripped from the weekly Top 40 show, or the annual Top 2000 show at the end of the year.  Just the thought alone is enough to send me on a long ramble down memory lane. No, don’t worry, not right now. Not in this post anyway.

Today, doing a quick scan of my RSS feeds, my heart warmed. The mixtape, which I thought was a thing of the past, is apparently not quite dead yet. Mixaloo has dragged the mixtape away from the gates of purgatory and revived it. And although it’s not quite the same as those cassettes filled with home-taped radio snippets, I was glad to see the spirit of the mixtape lives. And that set me on a quick search, only to find the mixtape is much more alive than I knew. Check out this NY Times article, this Guardian article, or this book or this one on Amazon. I don’t know why, but this makes me very happy. There really is nothing like a carefully crafted mixtape (be it on cassette or CD) to say… well, anything really.

That sparked a whole different train of thought. I know Amazon varies its prices, but I hadn’t realised how much until I was lazy and instead of putting stuff on my Amazon wishlist, I started dumping it in my shopping cart. Every time you check out the shopping cart, some product will have changed price. Sometimes just 1p, sometimes up to twice the price! I’m fascinated. If I had more patience and even more geeky inclination I’d be tempted to track the prices in an Excel spreadsheet to see if I can make sense of them. Hmmm. Maybe not. I need some dignity.

One last digital-analog-related thought I had today was about how much more history is catching up with me. During life as I knew it, you made friends (e.g. at uni) and then drifted apart. You worked somewhere, got to know colleagues, left the job and (sometimes accidentally, sometimes not) lost touch. You heard songs growing up which you would then occasionally hear years later on the radio, instantly transporting you back to when you first heard them, but you didn’t like them enough to actually buy the LP/CD/cassette. Now however, history seems to be catching up with me. People I hadn’t thought about in years want to be my friend on various social networking sites (how many social networking sites can I really be actively involved in? That’s a topic for another post). I can listen to any single song I want using Youtube, even watch TV programs that haven’t aired in years, buy books that have been out of print for ages, all at the click of a mouse. If my history is getting bigger, how will I be able to keep up with it? Do I have the mental capacity? Are we not supposed to forget some things and move on? Is my head big enough for all these extra bits of information I now need to process? Will we lose serendipity, in which finding a book you’ve been looking for for ages becomes obsolete because any book you could possibly want is only a click away? A song you haven’t heard in a gazillion years only a few keystrokes away?