Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Venezuelan Chocolate

This morning I had to ask a small favor from a very busy person that I barely know. I mentioned that to C as I was about to leave the house and she suggested that I take some Venezuelan chocolate to our meeting. A small show of goodwill to get him on my side. Since I knew he has kids, I figured I could give him the chocolate for the kids... Sometimes, the little details can make a big difference.

So, did it work? Indirectly. He wasn't that excited about the chocolates but when he found out that I am from Venezuela he was all excited to talk about idiotic communists such as Chavez. Turns out he is from the Czech Republic and suffered first hand from communism. We spent some time talking about Venezuela and the Czech Republic and definitely developed a bit of a personal connection. I guess you can say that the chocolates worked - and it looks like I will get the help that I need :-).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reap what you Sow

A is in an exchange trip in Paris. He is staying with the family of a teen who came to stay with us a month ago. When his correspondent was with us, C sent his mother frequent reports about him. She did it because she knew his family would appreciate it, but also because she hoped they would do the same when A went to stay with them. So far it seems to be working: A has been there for two days and we have gotten two reports from the family :-). Cosecharas lo que sembraste...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jump on Opportunities

We spoke a bit about how much in life is driven by random events, or what some people would call "luck". I told the boys the story of the women who rented an extra bedroom in her house (or something like that) to the founders of Google. She is now one of Google's top executive's - and needless to say extremely wealthy. But, was it just luck? Of course not. Three key factors turn "luck" into success:

1) Being prepared. The women in the above example had an MBA from a top university and was well positioned to add value to Google. Imagine instead if she had no college degree and no appreciation for start-ups and technology. It is unlikely she would have gotten involved with the company.

2) Maximize the chances of "lucky events". What are the odds that the tenants of your extra bedroom are working on the next technology home run if you live in suburban South Dakota (I hope I am not offending anyone)? The point is that lots of the things we do impact the chances of having "good luck". Your college roommate might become the founder of Facebook or Microsoft right? Well, seems like going to Harvard increases the odds of such an event... Or, attending events, such as conferences, attended by other interesting people... Many of the serendipitous events of history can be tracked to actions that someone took that increased the odds of such an occurrence.

3) And the final point is to jump on opportunities. If you get a job offer at the next Google, will you take it right away? If you wait too long, the opportunity might disappear. And, btw, I am not referring to situations in which you are not sure the opportunity is a good one. In those, you should figure that out quickly and either accept or decline. You will get some wrong (I know I have) but those that you get right you will benefit from. Hiring people is the same: you meet someone great? Don't procrastinate or she might take another job.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Do you want me to come back later?

I was out of town at a conference and needed to sign and scan a document. I went to the conference's concierge desk and ask them if they could scan and email the document for me. They said yes, but then were taking a while to do it while trying to juggle several tasks. I couldn't keep waiting, but since they were doing me a favor I didn't know how best to tell them to hurry up. As the expression says "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth". But then it hit me. I ask the person helping me if she wanted me to come back some other time to deal with this. She realized that she had been keeping me waiting and said no, she would finish it right now, which she did. It is a pretty universal rule that the nicer you are at getting your points across the likelier people are to help you...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Help Others Help You

I was at a conference recently at which each attendee got a bag full of goodies from sponsors. During the conference I found out that I had not gotten the coolest goodie: a Bluetooth speakerphone. I went to the person handing out the bags and asked her for one. She said that unfortunately the sponsor had not given them enough and they had run out. No worries I said, here is my business card with my mailing address. After the conference she could get more from the sponsor and mail it to me. My intention was to help her solve my "problem". It wouldn't have done much good to get upset and say that I deserved one yada yada. Well, my approach worked better than I expected: I put her in a situation in which it was hard for her to say no, yet she probably didn't want to deal with the hassle of mailing something to me. So, what happened? She suddenly remembered that they might have saved a few extra goodies in the back and within a minute I had my Bluetooth speaker - which, btw, turned out to be great for hearing music when traveling :-).