Sunday, January 31, 2010

What happens after you have a near death experience?

Clarity and Focus.

It is interesting to me that after surviving one of these experiences, things in life seem way less cluttered. Some of the things that seemed important before, are no longer, and other things become clearer as a result.

Realizing that you cannot really take anything with you when you are close to the end has a powerful effect on your priorities and in identifying what really matters.

At that moment, the love you feel for your loved ones (family, friends, humanity, etc.) and the love they feel for you is all that you have left. At the end of the day, nothing else matters.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What is the purpose of life?

I do not know.

There are some premises and emerging hypothesis that are sort of helping me build an answer to this question. Starting with the fact that 3-4 generations down the road nobody is going to really remember who we were. Even if we do something transcendental like making a great discovery, all that would be remembered is a name - not the person or anything else.

So if this is the case, is it valid to say that all we can do is to ensure that we live each moment to the fullest and to love as intensely as possible?

Maybe our DNA is already programmed with the answer to the "what is the purpose of life" question. If we are really programmed to pass on our genes, isn't this the source of the most intense love you can find? .... your children, your mate, your family.

The danger in modern society is that it is too easy to get stuck in the pursuit of so called "basic needs" that go beyond true basic needs (food, shelter, etc.). We lump the endless accumulation of material things into this basic needs category (houses, cars, vacations, etc.) that we sort of forget what really matters.

So, until we figure out what the purpose of life is ... love and live ... intensely! : )

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What is the United States' key competitive advantage?

Three things come to mind: ability to organize, efficient infrastructure, and immigration.

After traveling to more than 50 countries, I believe the US continues to shine in these 3 areas. Americans seem to have an innate ability and willingness to work together and cooperate to create very complex and highly efficient systems (i.e., corporations, networks, markets, etc.). This ability is embedded in society, in the education system, and in the people. Many other countries are still struggling with the "survival of the fittest" syndrome - where personal gains are to be pursued first and foremost regardless of the cost (e.g., corruption, exploitation, violence, etc.).

Another key advantage is the US' infrastructure (i.e., roads, telecom, government, laws, banking, employment, etc.) which is one of the most efficient in the world at all levels. Because of its ability to organize, the US has developed strong infrastructures that are resilient and built to last. As a result, very few countries have the ability to approve a mortgage in less than 3 minutes, or create a new company in less than 5, or dynamically adapt your workforce up or down to meet market demands, or quickly secure growth capital for a business that has shown a good track record, or design and operate airports that can process 10-12 landings and take-offs every minute, etc.

Finally, the energy, hunger, work ethic, ambition and creativity that newly arrived immigrants bring to the table are unquestionable. The US has built an immigration system that allows a steady and constant influx of new immigrant talent (e.g., the university system at the top levels and illegal immigration at the lowest levels). Interestingly, most millionaires (as measured by having at least one million dollars in liquid assets) are either immigrants or first generation immigrants. This influx of talent and energy is a vital component that keeps the US at the forefront of innovation, efficiency, and financial success.

(It is interesting that countries like Singapore are also beginning to realize the value of immigration as an economic engine. They are now allowing and relying on an influx of Chinese immigrants to keep the economy growing after their own population has begun to slow down to enjoy the fruits of the previous generations' efforts in getting this island nation to have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.)

So, are we losing our competitive edge? Not yet.

The one thing that we need to realize is that the landscape is changing. We are no longer the sole and powerful economic "black hole" that everybody else orbits around. There are now 3 equally powerful, and potentially independent, centers of gravity - the EU, Southeast Asia, and the US. The game is definitely changing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Are entrepreneurs born or made?

Born AND Made.

This is the one area where both nature and nurture have an important role to play. The risk taking, adventure seeking, resourcefulness, self-starting, self-driven characteristics of an entrepreneur need to be there from the start (the "born" part). However, these traits alone will not result in a successful entrepreneurial career ... or even an entrepreneurial start. Combining these traits with a compelling personal need, access to capital, know-how, experience, mentoring, and education are also critical (the "made" part).

And then, when you finally have the "born" and the "made" parts lined up - you also have to have the trigger that causes it all to start rolling (e.g., losing a job, a willing investor, a friend with the skills you need).

Knowing that you "are" an entrepreneur is the easy part - knowing when you have acquired and learned what it takes to succeed is a bit harder.

If you need help figuring it all out, find a mentor (an entrepreneur that has been through this before) to help you get moving ... and enjoy the ride!