Sunday, May 31, 2009

What are some of the key elements to succeed in life?

When my children were young, I set out to come up with something that was not only simple but also something that could encompass timeless principles to help them through life as they grew up.  

The challenge was to figure out how to best combine principles that would drive them to get things done while keeping things in perspective.  Achieving an overall sense of hapineess and fulfillment being the ultimate goal.  I also wanted these principles to be able to help them in the toughest of times - financial crises, famine, war, etc.  And, they needed to be stated simply so they could understand and remember them from an early age.  

Not a simple task but here is what became known as the "5 rules of the Larrave Family":
1.  Never give up.
Perseverance to get things done when things get tough.

2.  Positive attitude.
Always think of the best outcome to focus on making it a reality.  No negative thoughts. 

3.  Always do the right thing.
For you and for others.  Always.

4.  Education
It is the key to opportunity and nobody can take it away from you once you have it.

5.  Love.
This is the meaning of life - always remember to be surrounded by people you love and people that love you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Is globalization good or bad?

Probably more bad than good -- mostly because of our inability to control such a complex undertaking.

One of the key consequences of globalization is the easier movement, and subsequent concentration, of resources to wherever in the world they can be most efficiently used.  In the immediate term, this may seem like a good idea as it maximizes the use of the our planet's limited resources (i.e., we get more stuff from what we put in).  

The problem is that this approach tends to obliterate anything and anybody that is not best-in-class at what they do......and it tends to create massive operations wherever the best-in-class operation is.   With this, we get massive moves of raw materials and finished goods back and forth across the world to and from these centers.....often, destroying the environment at both ends.   So, we get massive scale farms in industrialized areas that end up shutting down small farmers everywhere else.  The same with factories.  

In such an interconnected world, the risks are also higher when one or several of the components in this global machine fail.  What happens with those places that ceased to grow or produce certain things because somebody else was doing them cheaper?  And now the goods are not coming?

The "Slow Food" movement that started in Europe in 1989 is a good example of a movement to get back to independent, more local, self-sustaining economies that are more resilient to global crises.....and easier on the planet. 

Let's get more connected to our commuities and to the people around us.....and let's understand where things come from.  Do we really need those cookies from Finland, in a metal canister made in India with steel from Botswana or should we just bake some?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How do we maximize our every day potential?

Know yourself first.

Understanding who we really are, and who we are not, is a key step towards increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of everything we do.   

The ultimate goal is to be able to quickly filter every situation in our lives through a model of ourselves that allows us to efficiently decide what the best and most aligned response/decision is.  

Unfortunately, many people spend a lot of time translating back and forth between who they really are and who they think they should be based on external expectations -- many times completely unaware that this is going on.  Needless to say, this translation process is very taxing and inefficient.  Wanting to be something we are not -- physically, emotionally, or intellectually -- is a losing game from the start.

Knowing yourself is a life-long pursuit - self-observation and self-awareness are a good starting point.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What is the best cure for depression?


People often ask me which of the countries I have visited on my motorcycle is my favorite.  I always find this question hard to answer.  Every place on earth is unique, beautiful, and amazing. 

However, while trying to answer this question, I realized that I kept thinking about the great people that I have met around the world and of the many "happy" places where they live.  These 'happy" places seem to be places that, regardless of material wealth or natural beauty, people seem to be doing better than others.  

In these "happy" places, people interact with people constantly.  At the market, in the street, in cafes, at the plaza, at the pub.  They are old, young, healthy, crippled, rich, poor.  They play, talk, catch up, help each other, work.  I found out that it did not matter whether I was in Vietnam, China, Morocco, Colombia, Patagonia, New Zealand, Guatemala or Austria - this was true around the world.   Also, cars, freeways, TV, electronic gadgets.....all generally in short supply at these places.

So, let's get out more, walk more, spend more time with people and family, slow down, and enjoy the world around us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why is it that people from cultures/countries at war often get along in the US?


When you have a reasonable chance to work on the attainment of a future state that allows you to meet your own and your family's basic needs - food, shelter, education, health care - then suddenly everything else loses importance.  You then realize that there are options beyond hate and war as a way to live.

When people are able to be rewarded commensurately to their hard work and when these rewards allow them to also build a future, then other things become priority -- and listening and understanding have time to develop. 

Have you asked yourself whether you would be more susceptible to hate, misinformation, and prejudice if you had no opportunities and no viable options for you or your family?

I probably would.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What is the best form of dating?

Serially and Seriously.

These days, we seem to over complicate the dating process.  We have defined all these terms to try to explain where a relationship is - e.g., dating, seen each other, going out, exclusively, not exclusively, boyfriend/girlfirend, etc.  And, everybody seems to be confused about what each of these terms really means.  

So, for starters, wouldn't it be easier if we only dated one person at a time? And, what about if we also gave it all from the get go? This approach would not only make us be more selective about who we date but it would also make the whole experience much more rewarding.....and simpler.

Investing the time and emotional capital required to chose and to really get to know somebody is a great way to develop lasting life experiences.  So what about if it does not work out, you still get to keep great memories of a truly meaningful person in your life.

Getting to know somebody also means ignoring all the crazy rules we have developed around relationships - e.g., when to meet each other's parents, when to say "I love you", when to call or not to call, etc.   How about if we just do and say all these things whenever we feel them, without any baggage or thought about where you are in the relationship.

Live your relationships fully from the beginning, with all your heart, and only one at a time!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What is the best way to build character in a child?

Delayed gratification.

For children not to get everything they want, the moment they think of it, is critical for building character.   When this happens, children suddenly need to start thinking about three key questions:  
- Do they really want it?
- How much effort will it take?
- How to explain the delay to friends and to themselves?

If the child really wants what he wants, then he will need to carefully plan how to go about getting it.  Then, he will have to execute the plan, do the work, save the money, and meet his stated goals. All of this, while constantly questioning whether it is still worth pursuing given the required effort and time.....and constantly having to explain to people around him why he is not there yet.  

How do you think he will feel when he finally gets what he wanted after all the effort and time? Imagine the sense of accomplishment. The feeling of empowerment.  Do you think he is better off after this experience than the child that got everything just by asking?

Delayed gratification helps children better understand how the real world works and to believe in also teaches them a little humility.

Is this character building?

Monday, May 11, 2009

How important is physical attraction for love to develop?


Chemistry between two people is a weird biological thing but very real.  How do you know if it is there?  If you have to ask, keep looking.  When it is there, it hits you like a brick.

Can it develop over time if not there initially?  Unlikely for men.  Possible for women.

The challenge after the "brick" hits you is to understand how this attraction morphs into different flavors of love over time. Understanding, accepting, and enjoying these changes is key to developing a long lasting relationship.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

How do we make sense of all the information about vitamins and supplements?

Just ignore it.

You should be able to get everything you need from your normal daily activities.
So, here is some true and tried advice:
1.  Only eat when you are hungry
2.  Only eat well balanced meals (varied, natural)
3.  Only drink water
4.  Spend time outdoors - get some sun and fresh air
5.  Make exercise part of your routine - walk, use the stairs, play
6.  Take naps
7.  Have some fun
8.  Learn something new all the time

Pay attention to your body and let your body tell you what it needs.  You will be amazed what the design of this great machine is able to do.  Thousands of years of evolution in the making.  

Finally, understand the power your mind has over your body and well being.  Why is it that happy people tend to be healthier?  Are they happy because they are healthy or healthy because they are happy?

I believe it is the latter.

What is the easiest way to understand men?

Keep things simple.

Men and women are different, really different.  Men are more instinctual, women are more....complex.  Men process things simply and things need to be simple to be processed adequately.  Men process things serially - one thing at a time.  Men either like/want something or they do not. Men rarely get into the why.  

Women on the other hand are much better at complexity and parallel processing.  Women have a much better ability to analyze, extrapolate, visualize, and define expectations for a given set of situations, all in parallel. Men are usually 10 steps behind.

Can you see why these two approaches may clash sometimes? So, what to do? 
Here are 3 simple things that may be useful when dealing with men:
1.  Keep things simple, very simple
2.  Lower your expectations
3.  Let things flow (like you would with a puppy : )

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Should we legalize drugs?

This one is hard.  I would say probably yes.

Have you ever wondered what the definition of a "drug" is?  Or how drugs get to be classified on the legal-illegal divide? Should any addictive substance be considered a drug? Or, should it also have the ability to alter your mind and/or body? 

Why are caffeine, nicotine (a substance widely recognized as one of the most addictive in the world) and alcohol accepted as legal, but cocaine, marihuana and anabolic steroids are not?  Why is English tea OK but tea made from coca leaves is not (which by the way is very good)?

As long as there is demand for anything, there will always be a willing supplier.  All that the "illegality" of these drugs accomplishes is to be a catalyst for the creation of well organized and well funded illegal organizations that breed corruption, death, exploitation and destruction everywhere they operate.  

Why do we accept this as normal? Why are we afraid of legalization? Are people going to rush and become drug addicts all of a sudden? Have we learned anything from managing tobacco and alcohol (both highly addictive and mind altering but legal substances)? What about prohibition? Did it work?

I think I just convinced myself.

How do we solve illegal immigration from Latin America?


As long as there is a significant difference in the standards of living of neighboring countries, people will continue to migrate.  Incredible poverty and little opportunity are very powerful drivers.  It becomes about survival.

First, we need to ask ourselves what is it that we really want out of solving this problem.  A larger and more equitable economic block with a better standard of living for all .... or just to continue to have access to cheap labor.  

If the answer is the former, then the only real solution is the long-term and sustainable development of this region through a Strategic Plan, a la Marshal Plan after WWII, with clear and measurable goals.  And, because corruption would likely be the key obstacle for any direct help, the plan should focus on encouraging sizable direct private investments instead. 

So, if Development is the long-term solution, what can be done now?  If you ask illegal immigrants, what the one thing is that they wish the most - the answer is always to be able to go back to their homes and families on a regular basis.   So, what about letting people go back and forth on temporary Work Permits in the meantime?  Not easy to implement, but worth trying if a long-term Development plan is underway. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

When is the right time to decide what to study at University?

Sooner rather than later.

Our universities are becoming high school extensions.   Advisors, parents, and society in general seem to be focused on encouraging students to delay specialization and to continue exploring fields of study until they find something that resonates.  As a concept, there is nothing wrong with this idea.

Students also seem hesitant to specialize because of the notion that once they decide they will have to spend the rest of their lives doing just that - when reality is that most people change what they do a few times during their lifetimes.  Nothing wrong with that either.

However, what happened to the notion that college was the key step in the process of learning a profession from which to make a living? For many students, college is just becoming 4 more years of general studies because of this hesitancy to choose a major early on.

Wouldn't you put a lot more effort in understanding yourself,  and your abilities and interests if you had to decide early on (say around the time you are 16-17) ?  Then you would be able to focus on maximizing what you can get out of college from the get go.  

You would probably also enjoy the whole college experience more instead of constantly questioning what you should do.