Saturday, 26 April 2008

All the answers are inside of you

Mother Theresa once said, “We cannot do great things in the world, only small things with great love.” Love is what makes the world go round. Love never led to war and love gives us the strength to carry on even when the road ahead is a difficult one. And I am and referring to all kinds of love. The love of a person and the love of what one does. When you love someone or something you will stick with it because true love is unconditional and unselfish. When one gives of themselves to someone or something with all their heart then magic happens. When you follow what you truly believe in then untold riches will come your way. Yes, I know, this is easier said than done. People are typically weak. People are easily influenced. And people, more often than not, live their lives in the social mirror – it is much easier to strive for what everyone else has than to listen to your own voice.

Put your heart into what you do. Fight for what you believe in. Putting your heart and soul into what you believe in is what quality is all about. Qualitative existence it is about doing things with love; it is about doing things from the heart. And if you are looking for answers then remember these famous words, “It is better to have some of the questions then all of the answers.” Well, I think some good questions are going to be explored here today. Let’s roll.

Stephen Covey once described the world as being split into 2 groups of people. Those who have a scarcity mentality and those who believe in abundance. He says that most people tend towards scarcity – they see the world as a pie and the only way they can win is to get the biggest slice. I agree with Covey’s observations. The other group, unfortunately though the minority, sees an abundance of everything in this world – here, everyone can win – there is enough for all the people of this Earth.

The world really is that black or white. You can simply group yourself into the qualitative or the quantitative camp. So, let’s ask ourselves some questions. Which of these would we say you tend towards? Quality or quantity? Short-term or long-term thinking? Are you a dreamer or a schemer? Are you filled with passion or envy? Are you motivated by love or ego? Do you want to make a difference in the world or is it all about the money? Do you believe in purpose or power? Do you love or do you hate?

Now before you go off and start arguing that it is not that simple then let me end that debate right now by saying that yes I know that it is not easy to live with one’s heart on one’s sleeve. And yes, when one is struggling to make ends meet then it is not easy to think about loving the work you do. Making a difference in the world has often been described as something only for people who have no financial worries. Well, to all you cynics out there, I am sure you are familiar with these words, “The best way to receive is to give.” These words are true. When I said, “perhaps when you are struggling to make ends meet then it is hard to think about the purpose of one’s life” I was actually being facetious. Let’s examine what ends you are trying to make meet. Are you battling to pay off your new fancy car? Is that house you just bought perhaps a little too much for your budget? And do you even need it? Are you battling to keep up with your neighbours? Because if you are (and as Covey insightfully points out, most of the world is) then love is not driving you. Neither is passion. And forget about quality. It is all about the numbers. The American dream used to be about putting bread on the table. Now it is all about getting a bigger table. Stop comparing yourself to others. Come on, why do you think the NASDAQ dived? Why do you think the economy is in the state it is? Greed is what quantitative life is all about. And greed, I am afraid, is what motivates most men, especially in these times of entitlement.

We could simply ask: are we good or bad? But this is not what I am on about. I don’t think that quantitative people are bad. Re-phrasing this last question will illustrate what I am trying to share with you all. Are you enlightened or misguided? I think that people who are chasing money all the time (even when they don’t need it) are misguided. Perhaps your immediate peer group or family members have more money than you and perhaps this is what drives you. Or perhaps you come from little money and feel you have something to prove to the world? Or perhaps you simply watch too much television. Whatever the reasons are it is not good for you. If you are stuck in the trap commonly known as the “comparison game” then you are never going to win, let alone, get out in one piece. Stop thinking and start feeling. It is your head that confuses you. And it is your heart that has the answers. The head is all about ego, envy and greed. The heart is all about love, passion and purpose.

All the answers are inside of you. Listen to your heart, not the television. Just because it looks like everyone is doing something does not mean you need to. Just because it seems that everyone drives a sports car does not mean you need to. Stop being influenced by all these media marketing machines. And start living your own life. Actually, too much TV is a telltale sign of a quantitative existence. So, let’s end off this glorious Saturday with these words, “Change yourself not the channel!” Checking the gate. Cleared. And that’s a wrap.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Balanced diet

I am eating way too much junk food. And once again I am going to write about balance, which is something that I really need more in many aspects of my life, especially when it comes to my diet. Now, speaking of fast food let’s jump right in and take a look at a speech I found from the head of Coke. This text was delivered quite a while back but its message is timeless. It is all about the gifts that God has given us and about how balance in life is key.

Here is the speech in its entirety. It was delivered as a university commencement address several years ago by the then CEO of Coca-Cola. He spoke of the relation of work to one's other commitments: Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - work, family, health, friends and spirit and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life. How? Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special. Don't set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you. Don't take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life, for without them, life is meaningless. Don't let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live ALL the days of your life. Don't give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying. Don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us to each other. Don't be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave. Don't shut love out of your life by saying it's impossible to find. The quickest way to receive love is to give; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly; and the best way to keep love is to give it wings. Don't run through life so fast that you forget not only where you've been, but also where you are going. Don't forget that a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated. Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily. Don't use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift. That's why we call it “The Present”.

In this speech above there are a few lines I want to focus on, “Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special. Don't set your goals by what other people deem important.” This speech is full of wisdom and we could spend the next year exploring each of its riches. But the words I have highlighted here are most dear to me at this point in my life. They describe the biggest challenge that each of has to face. I am talking about the big question: why are we here? We are all put on this earth for a reason – we all have a purpose. Finding one’s purpose is the single biggest challenge that each of us have to deal with in our lives. True fulfillment comes for discovering one’s God given potential. Real inspiration comes from following your dreams. Untold riches comes from realizing what makes you unique and by acting on your individualism. Every one of us has the power to change things in our lives. It starts with faith. Stephen Covey once wrote, “Be yourself. Believe in yourself.” Why then do so many people chase the mediocre mainstream? Don’t be afraid to follow what it is in your heart – it is the heart after all that speaks in truths – the head is what confuses us.

You don’t have to buy into the culture of our age. Just because everyone buys it, whatever it is, does not make it right or good for that matter. Learn to swim against the stream. When you read don’t just consider what the author thinks – consider what you think. You must strive to find your own voice. And the longer you wait to being the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau once said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Don’t be afraid to strike out and find new ground. Oops, there I go paraphrasing from one of my favourite movies again.

Stand up for what you believe in. Listen to your heart and fight for what you know to be true. And as our man from Coca-Cola points out - don’t forget to balance out your life when pursuing your dreams. When you make those big decisions think about the things close to your heart. And follow those dreams. Don’t fall into the trap known as the comparison game. Don’t focus on beating your competitors – especially considering so many of them are mediocre. If you are better than the mediocrity then it does not really mean anything. You have to be the best you can be to really succeed. Focus on beating yourself. And remember, if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.

Wow, there were a lot of clich├ęs in this text here today, but they are all true! That is why we love them so much.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The first and foremost fundamental

"A Freudian slip is when you mean one thing and say your mother." I hope this made you laugh. Today is about laughter (and purpose of course). This is what is missing from the equation. In the battle of quality over quantity one needs to learn to laugh more and more. This is the only way we are going to be able to put the progress paradox into perspective.

I often get asked how I deal with change? Answer: laughter. For example, I remember many years ago, we had some new business cards made for a new IS, Intimate Solutions (part of the Dimension Dating group). So many people have had relationships in this company that when people start to change departments, and sometimes resign because a relationship went sour the only thing I could do was look for the humour in all of it. These new business cards did the trick. They were a big hit. When my eyes were blood shot and everyone around me told me to slow down I had to laugh. My stress levels often get out of hand and humour is the best solution. Eye S eye drops did the trick!

Humour always gets people thinking and feeling. Being aggressive only causes problems in the long run. Tense behaviour alienates people and slowly it causes a breakdown at the core. I have found that warmth and laughter are the best devices we have to deal with stress and change. Laughter is about connecting with people. I know business is not meant to be a joke, but perhaps if we all started telling more jokes our businesses would improve.

We are living in a cynical age. Family values are all mixed up and the youth think the purpose of life is to get rich quick. I hope you see how the first and foremost fundamental has to be a sense of humour. And I am sure you see how important it is in this day and age of quantitative living - we need more and more laughter. I am sure a good joke may jog people’s memories so that they start to think about what life is all about.

Here is the fisherman story again. I think everyone should read it over and over. I hope it makes you laugh, and at the very least, I hope it makes you smile. I know it will get you thinking – it always does for me.

One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish. About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. "You aren't going to catch many fish that way," said the businessman to the fisherman, "you should be working rather than lying on the beach!" The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, "And what will my reward be?" "Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!" was the businessman's answer. "And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman, still smiling. The businessman replied, "You will make money and you'll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!" "And then what will my reward be?" asked the fisherman again. The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman's questions. "You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!" he said. "And then what will my reward be?" repeated the fisherman. The businessman was getting angry. "Don't you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!" Once again the fisherman asked, "And then what will my reward be?" The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, "Don't you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won't have a care in the world!" The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, "And what do you think I'm doing right now?"

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

A few good men

This is hot off the press! South Africa has an exciting new technology podcast. A group of well-known local journalists have started what they believe will become the country’s preeminent podcast about developments in the local and international technology industry.

Known as ZA Tech Show, the podcast is recorded weekly and is available at
www.zatechshow.co.za or through Apple’s iTunes Store. The show is informal, recorded late on Friday afternoons – often over a couple of beers – and covers a wide range of issues. Topics that have been discussed in the first three shows include everything from the gaming console wars to the politics around undersea cables.

The show hopes to draw in listeners through its irreverent approach to the subject matter. “We hope that people will enjoy listening to the show in their cars, or wherever they happen to be,” says Brett Haggard, who came up with the idea of launching ZA Tech Show. “We want people to participate in the discussions and we welcome anyone to post their views at the website.”

The show’s regular contributors are Haggard and host Simon Dingle, both of whom work for Hypertext Media, as well as Ben Kelly from Finweek, Duncan McLeod from the Financial Mail and
www.fmtech.co.za, and Jon Tullett from TechTarget SA. The show will also feature special guests from time to time.

“Because it’s a relatively informal show, we get to talk about the stories we didn’t cover in the past week and the stories behind some of the stories we did cover. And, of course, we get to provide our opinions on some of the more controversial happenings in the market,” says Dingle.

McLeod agrees. He says the show’s informal nature should help it attract a loyal listenership. “You’ve got five guys around a table who are absolutely passionate about technology. I think that passion flows through into the podcast.”

Each Friday’s recording is available for download by no later than the following Tuesday. For more information, visit
www.zatechshow.co.za Or email: info@zatechshow.co.za

The Vottlers are also crazy about technology and about home grown flavours. So, we wanted to help spread the word. Local is lekker!

Posted by the Vottlers

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The very core of it

A company’s core purpose is the organisation’s fundamental reason for being. I know, there is such a strong view in the world that it is all about money. And if it is then why not have a mission statement that goes “We exist to make money.” Doesn’t sound that inspiring does it.

The world seems to becoming more and more cynical that it is not easy to get people’s spiritual juices stirred up. That’s why I love writing these pieces. The challenge has never been greater. No one has any time on their hands to think about the bigger picture. Everyone is so busy scheming and dealing, trying to get to their hands on the next million smackers. So, let’s jump right in. Here are some examples of core purpose from the world’s visionary corporations. Read these over and over. Hewlett-Packard’s purpose: To make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity. Merck’s purpose: To preserve and improve human life. Disney’s purpose: To make children smile. Wal-Mart’s purpose: To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich folk. Sony’s purpose: To experience the joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the general public. McKinsey’s purpose: To help leading corporations and governments be more successful. Marriott’s purpose: To make people away from home feel they’re among friends and really wanted. General Electric’s purpose: To improve the quality of life through technology and innovation. I think you get the idea. A company exists to do something beyond just making a profit.

A company is formed by a group of people who share a common vision and have common values. They ultimately want to leave a legacy. They want to make a difference in the world. They want to do the things they love to do. History has taught us that all the great companies, the real companies, the visionary ones, are those that were built as a labour of love.

If business is all about making money then each one of these great companies could have just added the words “make money” after the word “to” as in, “Our purpose is to make money.” Then all these companies would be the same. Rather boring isn’t it. Hey, what I am saying is simple. Even if money is the centre of your world then lie about it. You are not going to inspire anyone to work for you, over you, under you, with you, in fact, anywhere near you if you only talk about money. And who knows, you might even start believing that your life has more meaning if you start thinking about making a difference to other people’s lives. In one of my favourite books, Built to Last (where much of the above insight comes from), the author’s say “An effective purpose reflects the importance people attach to the company’s work – it taps into their idealistic motivations – rather than just describing the organizations output or target customers. It captures the soul of the organization.”

How does one know what they were put on this Earth for? Every person has God given talents. Every person has something inside them that they love doing. We all love to talk and express ourselves. This is what makes us human beings. We all have passions. When passion becomes purpose and purpose becomes passion then the wonderful becomes familiar and the familiar wonderful. In other words, when you do what is in your heart then real happiness follows. Merck was a doctor. Disney was a child at heart. Hewlett and Packard loved technology. And so it goes for the founders of these great institutions. The problem in this day and age is that all too often we only see are the end results of their years of commitment to what they believed in. Life is a journey. So don’t focus on the destination.

I have highlighted this quote from the founders of the Merck pharmaceutical many times. I think we should have a look at it again. George Merck II made a speech in 1950 to his management where he explores their reason for being, “We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.” Merck’s wisdom describes the relationship between purpose, trust and profit. Merck never said he never liked or disliked money. He simply stated that money is not what his company is about. Merck saves people’s lives with medicine. And the more they do that the more people trust them to do it time and time again. And the more people trust them the more they spent on Merck’s medicines. And the rest is history. Merck and his son were passionate about medicine. And their labour of love resulted in the world conspiring to reward them. They made a positive difference in the world. A difference that people respected and rewarded.

Greed is what motivates so many people these days. The world is obsessed with money. Merck’s speech was made 50 years ago but it’s really way ahead of its time. Merck represents the qualitative view on life; the paradoxical yet genius view that one can make a difference AND make a profit. Too many people are trapped by the tyranny of the “OR”, the quantitative view that one can make a difference OR make a profit. Merck never said anything against profit making. But then he never said anything for it either. He simply said that saving life was their core purpose. And the more they are true to that purpose the more the world rewards them. I know it is easy for us to look at companies like Merck and cynically say, “They got lucky” because we only focus on the wealth they have created - we do not see the journey they went on, only the destination. Luck has nothing to do with it. We need faith, and we need patience. Always try and remember that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. And furthermore, it has often been said that an overnight success can take 20 to 30 years.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

April Cools

Yes, another month gone by and Vottleland is buzzing. Here are some cool highlights from the Vottlers.

  • NetAds collaboration, coming in about a week's time : integration with the NetAds platform - this is a win/win for both NetAds and Vottle - adverts posted on each respective platform will be cross-populated
  • premium postings : this is in beta testing; you, yes YOU, can upgrade your free Vottle posting to a "premium" posting by way of a credit card (still free during this beta testing phase) - premium postings get more prominence on the Vottle web site
  • more and more anti-spam/scam features : a major differentiator for classifieds' platform will be how “clean” a site is with respect to spam/scam – a lot of our efforts have been spent on putting in the necessary instruments for eliminating this factor – when it comes to our Brazil roll-out this is going to be key
  • database enhancements : many of our tables used in generating internal stats were restructured and the general speed of generating pages on the Vottle site has been made quite a bit faster
  • Google Adwords : we finally managed to move to Rand based billing from US $ billing - we learnt a valuable lesson about "granularity" with respect to Google and one's monthly spend
  • we will be re-doing the Vottle home page to make way for corporate banner advertising which we will start actively selling from next month – this is a BIG area of focus for the month ahead

Thank you to all of you for your support and input - we really value all the ideas we get - please send your suggestions to feedback@vottle.com

Posted by the Vottlers

Vottle in talks with Google to supply electricity to greater Johannesburg

In, what has been described as unparalleled, the heads of Google met with the Vottle executives in Geneva last week to discuss how to exploit their collective intellectual property in an effort to bring 220V to South Africa during it's time of need. The move has been seen as "bold and italicized"; this was the reaction from the local anti-youth league office.

Generators in South Africa are the number one ticket item for this Christmas and they are already selling like hotcakes. In a clever move, Vottle decided to sell hotcakes, because, well, they will sell like mad. But the market for second-hand hotcakes is still in its infancy so they turned to Google and that is when the high-level talks began.

Both parties went forth, and fifth, into this new initiative to try and inject some positive energy, and electrical energy, into the landscape. A lot of landscapers were keen on the move as it agreed with their long term goals and commitments. The Vottle offices have subsequently been overrun with Googlers who were pulling out all the stops signs and were searching like mad for a world-class solution. Fortunately, their search engine meant that the mad search didn’t require more than a few mouse clicks. Vottle also provided the terminology for the joint venture and helped people express their concerns for when the lights went out. The average citizen has been heard to be blurting out things like “Vot is going on?” and “Ver is the light switch?”

The Vottlers are very happy with the outcome of the collaboration and have already started further intense Adwords campaigns to celebrate this unique milestone. Google responded by handing over more clickable pens which the Vottlers took to in a big way. The more they clicked they more they earned; that is what pay per click pens are all about. Also, the news came in on the wire that soon there will be more Internet than people. The launch of this electrical joint effort here has been very well timed.

Lastly, it has been reported that Eskom will soon be raising electricity rates to reflect mini-bar prices.

Neither office could be reached for comment, and as it turns out, offices are not that talkative.

Posted by April Fools !!!