Monday 23 November 2015

Who would I like to be?

Four years ago, I was taken on as a lawyer in joining a prestigious firm focusing on corporate law. This crisis and the great recession we learnt at University. It was something to do with our wider business culture, not being fit for purpose and triggered by the financial sector. No big deal. I was a lawyer not a financier. Things were pretty hectic in this firm as cases were pouring in. I wanted the bigger ones. It was the cash cows that I was only concerned with. This way my fees could be guaranteed. Our fees were getting higher. In fact I was so good that I started charging 500 pounds an hour. Very soon I could get that latest Audi that I so wanted. Law was easy. My clients had their grievances and most of them were the same. Litigation, money lost here and there etc. I hardly listened to them, because our principle was the same furthermore I was familiar with case law. I would be ruthless in winning their cases as I had a knack. I knew how to win them and the adrenaline in the court room was what I loved. I had to work hard until late at night. It was the pressure from our bosses as they wanted more billing and more revenues as that was how we based our success. It did not matter as I charged by the hour and the more hours I charged the more money I made. That’s how it worked.  Alcohol and women were my release mechanism. In any case the women loved me, it gave me the confidence and in return I gave them what they wanted.  It was awesome!  A magazine had printed a review about my firm mentioning me as an example for others. I was the envy of my colleagues. God I was good. This would give me the catalyst that in case I would not get that partnership they promised, I was out of here and my clients would most likely follow me.

It was one morning back in the summer, I had a problem. Alarm bells! A woman called me claiming she had a child and the baby was mine. She wanted alimony and most of my assets. There was no way! She wrote to my bosses. I was summoned. They were asking questions. Threats of Law suits and DNA testing etc. What was going on in my life? What are my parents going to say? What did I do wrong? Did I take too many risks? Was it my education? I don’t understand. I feel trapped. No one loves me. I am so scared.  Oh the shame. I should have listened to my conscience.

Lack of love, lack of duty and lack of meaning...

Four years ago I was taken on by a prestigious law firm. I studied hard at Law and wanted to become a Lawyer because I felt the sense of injustice felt by others when something was sincerely wrong.  I was given the small cases to start with. I loved my job and I was given the support when needed by my colleagues and vice versa. I really spent time with my client in understanding their initial needs and getting to the truth in why this injustice came about. As so often the case through time and effort and as we dive deeper, we discover an ulterior motive behind this injustice. With the lighter cases, I always wanted them to try to solve their differences through synergistic third alternatives. As I was taught at law school that a litigious culture is unhealthy for our society as it breeds mistrust whilst everyone appears to be compromising. This is why I had so many training's in negotiations and counselling. A law suit would have to be the very last resort. I really had this passion in wanting to make a difference out there. Our fees were charged according to what my clients could afford. 

I was always inspired by a book called. ‘To kill a Mockingbird.’  I had also suffered from the separation of my parents at a younger age from their mistakes and foolishness in their past professional lives. And yet I had learnt to accept it and found my own peace. I had this urge to put things right based on a higher moral compass that I lived by. I am newly married with a small growing family. Yesterday an old client called me who was so grateful for my work and offered a top position in his growing firm. I felt honoured and yet I politely declined as I was very happy where I was. At the same time life was challenging and great fun.

Love, duty and meaning…..

Thursday 1 October 2015

How can my career benefit others?

It is very difficult that when you read the news, that one can generalise, become cynical, a critic, unfocused, angry and depressed. Every headline appears to be a negative one. One wonders if the world really is like this, going through some compulsive disorder, a state of mind in search of its soul, or as GK Chesterton once put it ‘a maze with no centre’ or is it simply the power of the commercial mainstream media that plays to our weaknesses and negative sentiment. In some of my articles I have had no inhibitions in my limited capacity in taking a tough approach not just to those who put themselves on a pedestal with ambition above ability, self-recognition above talent, humour with spite and self above service, but more importantly to the media with its sensationalism, or aggression who at times celebrate or even crush such characters even situations in such a way that simply deteriorates our situation and sets a very poor example to others. I am beginning to wonder whether the internet, TV and our media is now on balance any longer a force for good in our era.

Here in the UK (a temporary return to part of my roots) one’s impression is that this maze is reserved solely to this continued mega conflicting powerful trio of a minority in the media, our business culture and politics, weak in imagination and cohesiveness that no longer see their work as a vocation or as a service to others resulting in a potential force of destruction like a stampede of bulls or a herd of barking dogs falling into Dante’s inferno of indifference, unhappiness, and despair.   One has to ask ourselves. Cui bono in this impasse? The answer is very few.  It is not surprising that these powerful segments are fast losing our interest let alone respect and by which they will come to realise that they only have themselves to blame.

Earlier in my career, I had come across some pretty rotten apples, those that had enacted some shameful deeds in Business through greed, corruption, sociopathic and narcissistic behaviour and then again how was it that I was amongst them? Did this mean that I too was tainted or dysfunctional in some way? Of course as it takes two which is entirely of my own making and yet people can change even if we reach the bottom, and yes we can pick ourselves up. And when you change you understand the mistakes that you made and learn to become the person that you are and have a better sense of right and wrong and of oneself. You become stronger more purposeful, ready to contribute to the true needs of others, our environment, our society and away from the re-occurring floating bubbles thus reverting ourselves to our nature of being.

By becoming our own green shoot you begin to see the beauty of the world; you surround yourself with those that inspire you almost sub-consciously, to better ourselves so that in turn you can inspire others become creative and brand ourselves more authentically.  Furthermore we learn to encourage those whilst accepting the encouragement of others, gently challenge those and accept to be challenged and readily act on situations that are within our control for a better and more hopeful future whilst being better attuned in sensing, let alone, avoiding any danger.

That is not to say that there will be times when you will be tested where absolute vigilance will be required and yet beauty, respect, kindness, and forgiveness is thus in the eye of the beholder.

Above I have added a picture of a stunning French Gothic cathedral in Reims I had visited this summer.  It had  caught my imagination as not only was it the place where historically the French coronations occurred, it is also an icon of an architectural master piece built by those from a different era with no doubt a greater sense of pride and of glory that we very rarely see or encourage today.

Difficult eras in our European history such as today have always occurred and many people see this as a time for renewal, of greatness and of change. How can we achieve this? One way is to re-discover our vocation (fulfilment and purpose) within our business and careers within the real economy in terms of how we make things, what we produce, how we finance, engineer, supply and deliver linked to our attributes, strengths and talents that are inevitably sustainable and carries longevity of which there are many great scenarios out there.
And equally as important by combining this challenge with how we can reconcile ourselves by re-discovering our source that re-links us to the non-physical, the infinite, and the immaterial linked to our being, time and space thus reverting to the natural order of all things that govern. Is this not a key to how we can benefit others linked to our peace of mind and fulfilment that we all seek in so far as reclaiming our greatness, our pride and our glory?

Here is something I have enacted inspired by a song written by The Waterboys in the 80’s and it goes like this.

 Only our source frees us from our own maze

Friday 29 May 2015

Where is Europe going?

In a time of great confusion and muddling interests we seemed to have uncovered a world of far reaching smokescreens, and mirrors with an in excess of conflicting self-interests. All moral standing has been blown into the wind, freedom of speech is a right and then suppressed if you speak your heart and mind, and justice is a thing of the past. All this magnifies a blurred sense of right and wrong justifying poor conduct in an economic, social and political system that is fast losing its sense of purpose. Another hot topic this time in the football world is the subject of corruption. This prompted to ask a professor in finance in how he would define the meaning of corruption. He came out with a stunning thought provoking definition:

At the expense of the common good, consciously compromising one's principles or timeless ethical standards in pursuit of personal interests

One could almost deduce that based on this meaning, corruption remains rife and is everywhere. This is seemingly more apparent in politics and in business with many falling victims from perpetrators whilst most are apathetic, in an economic system that many might argue is in free-fall compounded by a minority in business, the media through sedition, intermediaries, leaders and politicians at the top causing harm in a human race with such a poor outlook where even our most basic of universal principles such as reciprocity, trust and integrity have vanished in a puff of smoke.

The European Commission argues corruption is costing our economy €120 billion annually yet this is a narrow view related solely to fraud and bribery when in fact the above definition is related to something so much deeper that being our moral interior. €120 billion is just the tip of the iceberg. Our belief, our value system our conscience, our strength of character, our capacity to serve, to create, to teach, to encourage, to lead and contribute to the needs of others has been pulled into the opposite direction by external perhaps inexplicable forces which are really and truly narrowed down to personal or self- interests.

Here in Belgium we are commemorating the 200 years of the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon in our history makes for a very intriguing leader that brought meaning, pride and honour to many French people. A man with immense enthusiasm. (Enthusiasm was a term used by the ancient Greeks as those to have divine manifestations). His strength of character displayed by a belief of applied intelligence, a hierarchical system based on merit, hard work, mental toughness and physical courage, law and order, and contempt for anything that is self-serving. We can take light from such influential figures in our history.

By contrast today it is the term self–serving, our sense of entitlement and lack of belief and common purpose that negatively sticks out most in parts of our culture falsely perceived by some common diktat that the world owes us every thing as the key to our happiness and yet if I want to have a bigger garden, is it the dog in me that will dictate or is it my master?

How are we going to command respect to our leaders  when such people in responsibility such as Mr.Juncker is seen manhandling all the country leaders and not remembering their names making a mockery of the dignity of office of the European Union that he represents? Other leaders are having secret meetings about taxation as if taxation is the only solution to all our problems. Belgian politicians are talking about legalising sexual liberty for 14 year old girls whilst the issue of sexuality is one of the most personal of all matters linked to our identity and dignity and to many is not an open book that instead can have a reverse effect in encouraging more deviances and lack of respect.

In finance many people including Warren Buffet predict some crash some day. The stock market has become a measurement system that has simply lost its long term serving benefit that it once had and has instead become tyrannically abused by short sighted wealthy and powerful speculators that are only interested in their short term gain with no higher purpose except one’s own. This is having a devastating perhaps even psychological impact on listed companies which is a true test of their character when making long term decisions. This corrupt out dated and beleaguered system has evidently played havoc in our lives and resulted in a culture of short term insecurity rather than long term fulfilment.

A senior Banker mentioned to me in horror that Bonds have been the hottest thing on the market. Corporate bonds that are nicely packaged and passed around and no doubt will be nicely laid into colourful looking 'assets' creating nothing from nothing. Déjàs Vu? A good name for this game could be ‘musical debts’ where you pass the debt by dancing round in circles and cracking over the champagne.  What happens when the music stops? HSBC would rather go down with the Titanic.... presumably with a glass of Bollinger joined by Goldman’s who are only now beginning to admit that the world is over bloated with suspects instead with a glass of Cristal.

In a increasingly corrupt economic, social and political system it is very difficult for the weak or for any of us for that matter to rise up and assume responsibility and even the fittest can feel vulnerable. Nevertheless there are always solutions and a chance to show our true colours. And yes it's possible. We need visionaries for change, visionaries with true character that can lead us away from the devastating impact of the consumer debt culture into a more imaginative and sustainable future. Political leaders with the courage that is willing to make sacrifices not for their personal ambition but for the greater and common good.  A justice system that can regain its respect by acting more like the wisdom of Solomon. We need employees in the work place that find the strength to stand up if need be to their bosses when they sense that something is not right. More tangible and meaningful ways are needed in how we measure how success.

We need those that understand that it is not taxes and regulation or a nanny state that is the answer which instead crowds us out. We need people that care for the needs in our society, the vulnerable, and the ever enlarging widening inequality gap and for our environment. Those that understand that the race for growth in this economic war carries absolutely no meaning that builds our system on sand and not on rock. We need people that also understand that economic exploitation is cruel to humanity, and that we are not units nor are we a cost not part of a capital group. We need an attitude that wealth creation in its purest form from the cradle to the grave is not an innate right. On this matter, I am surprised neither Forbes nor Fortune has yet to come out with rich lists on who has the most expensive graves!!

In short my hope is that one day we find a way to move away from our debt consumption fuelled economy that has trapped our culture into a new era of real freedom, and empowerment unleashing humanities ingenuity. As unique individuals willing to contribute including our footballers, we deserve to be respected for our talent and treated with dignity, deserving of a more fulfilling and creative future where there is a place for each and every one of us.
Dignity is a universal right for all

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Renewable Energy. Do we have the will?

While several institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation is divesting its investment away from fossil fuels assets and reinvesting in clean or renewable energy, the demand on climate change, the effects it has on our eco system and what we eat is carrying a big voice. Too many it is evident that fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) as a primary energy, causes pollution and global warming. If we burn such fuels at an alarming rate together with deforestation (to allow space for planting crops or crazing livestock for example) then through sheer logic we could really be in a critical fix. NB. From a point of view of semantics, 'respect for our environment' rather than 'climate change' is more apt.  A revolution to renewable can only be a good thing by this we mean any power that is generated through, wind, sun and water and lest we forget the EU's ambitious 2020 target. Frankly it is becoming harder and harder to justify for such companies as Shell and Exxon, extracting oil in the Artic.
A while back when I lived and worked in Amsterdam, I would drive my car some 1.5 km to my office. I would laugh at the Dutch on their bicycles. What on earth are they thinking? Look at me. Yes me. I have a brand new BMW still hot off the conveyer belt straight from Germany. Leased too! They’ll just never learn will they?
Moving on from those aimless days, people’s attitudes and not just my own are really changing. A revolution would imply that coal, oil, and combustion engines will move into the history books as some 20th century adventurous experiment. Oil and our insatiable appetite for it has caused so much harm and despair in the last Century. Even mankind’s worst battle in history, the battle of Stalingrad was down to Hitler’s objective to get hold of the rich Oil fields in the Caucasus.
Aeroplanes, Shipping and haulage would need to revert to renewable. Electricity would have to be generated differently to satisfy our household consumer appliances, as well as TV, sound, lighting, machine equipment, trams, and trains and so on. The transition to get there would be formidable and the change and effects would be enormous. The effects are enormous because quite frankly with the amount of energy we use would very likely exceed the supply. And yet do we have the will? Could this mark the end of industrialisation or a consumption driven economy? The simplest way to deal with the challenge is for lifestyles, hearts and mentalities to shift in so as we consume less, live more simply and in a sustainable manner. It would also mean our industries producing sustainable goods.
Change in hearts and mentalities is easier said than done as more often than not it takes a bolt of lightning to trigger. Apart from governments lacking a serious strategy due to short term panic thinking and basic economics, this divestment of assets from oil companies to re-invest elsewhere is surely an effective way to carry out this transition as this would influence the bottom line in such companies. Could the banks and financial sector take the bold decision to divest their assets, lending and investments (or reduce their exposure by 20% would make mathematical sense) from oil including fossil fuel dependent companies and redirect them into renewable energy companies?
Apart from generating a switch to countless new opportunities, jobs and ingenuity bringing us into an exciting new era, what about our everyday lives? Let’s take a car for example where Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla, appears to be making his mark. It clearly takes energy to produce and process a car. Plastics, steel, and even rubber would be needed. Then all this would need to pass through the supply chain and then assembled, to make the car. When we drive we use energy whilst we stand idle in traffic, accelerate and even break.
To produce and assemble an electric car would have to be the same. To make the batteries, compounds such as lithium, copper and nickel are mined from the Earth and processed in a manner that demands energy and can release toxic components. No doubt there have been studies done on such things to compare the energy life cycles between the two. Is the chemical plant willing to revert to renewable energy? Is a steel company willing to revert to renewable energy to extract iron ore? Or could we make a car from something more sustainable?
Here in Belgium, electric cars are hardly sold due to the lack of investment the government has made in public recharging facilities. ‘The revolution is on its way but we are far from ready,’ the VW salesman pointed out the other day. Nevertheless, having tested an electric car, a Nissan Leaf, besides the fact that there was a huge reduction in the noise and air pollution in our streets, it was the easiest thing to drive and very enjoyable. Was it made and assembled from using renewable energy? Unlikely. Yet are we on target in reducing greenhouse emissions by 20% from 1990 levels? Not sure.
Having finally learnt a simpler solution north of the border, I have reverted to just riding a bicycle which uses the best energy of all and hey presto it comes with a little dynamo creating its own light and to potentially recharge the mobile phone.
In short it is really down to each of us and how much responsibility we are willing to bear.  It is probably virtually impossible to produce goods that are 100% biodegradable or in a natural way. At best it comes down to a respect and love for our environment. This starts from the respect of oneself. Where does that respect of oneself come from? Our family, our upbringing, our education, our values and an awakening of our conscience. This way we begin to appreciate our land, our surroundings, our buildings, how we contribute or benefit, what we make and create, who we serve and the people we meet.  This is needed more than ever in our desperate world that has been passed down to us from so long ago, so as to discover our paths and to hold onto it with gratitude, meaning and with care. If one person gets it, others will break the waves with you, enabling a life of not just a rippling energy but of immeasurable, infinite beauty and fulfillment.   

Where there is a will there is a way

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Our compass. Which way is it pointing?

Many of us today have the inclination that humanity out there is being tested in every single direction albeit from an economic, environmental, or moral standpoint. Our businesses small, medium and large are being squeezed, with very tight budgets and much smaller margins. Our USP’s are no longer what they used to be. Competitiveness becomes very tricky. Loyalty is a bygone word. Trust and integrity such intrinsic values that were once so valuable that reflected our respected structures and institutions have been battered and quite frankly whilst many people agree there is a lack of respect in our leaders everywhere. France, UK, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Greece and Holland and even the EU. Is the rumble of change under our feet?

It is also very difficult for many of us to know where to look and to understand which way the wind is blowing as our anxieties and fears tend to increase.

My generation who grew up in the 70s and 80s are learning fast from the great recession which I might add is a good thing. Those of us who perhaps had a taste of, or were used to, the good life earlier this century (and the last), have had to wake up, do some thinking, come to terms with some of the foolishness of our past, assume our own responsibilities and get some of our priorities right.  In making the necessary sacrifices this is essential in order to live in the present to build those necessary inner resources and if need be offer those a helping hand in so as we can inspire ourselves and others to move ahead in our careers and private lives with confidence and with hope. 

Infact there are still several questions whose answers I still need to spend time to figure out in today’s culture.  The questions that remain a concern; Is it not possible that once you put yourself on a pedestal however lonely it might be up there, that we can remain coherent to whom we are in the good sense of the word? How is it that the powerful mainstream media create such false people who put themselves in the limelight for others to look up to?  Why is it that when something goes wrong it is always others or circumstances that are to blame? And our politicians or those who have power and influence, why do they so often have to compromise their own integrity making them look fundamentally weak or even at times unpleasant or dishonourable? And then how is it that so many of these same types are unable to see beyond the palm of their hands? And finally why can’t our children play openly in the streets?

To attempt to answer some of these tricky questions, I suspect it is to do in part that we build walls around us. It is in our nature. We always have done. Not just our inner walls but our outer walls too. We build these walls to protect ourselves because we are vulnerable. We are vulnerable because we all make mistakes and hide from them.  It is that vulnerability that we fear the most which can only imply that the greatest enemy is in us, more so than what is out there. By which the only solution through sheer logic is to build on our inner resources to allow us to me more open, assertive, forgiving and confident. Moreover when times are tough, imagination is required.

In 1937 when Japan invaded China a Japanese soldier witnessed what he thought people that at the time had lost their sense of self-worth.  They could not understand the weakness in the Chinese character and in that they lost lives for this. To them such a battle seemed meaningless.  If ever, heaven forbid, Europe was invaded, or endured some widespread civil unrest, by an extreme force of some nature, we could be a walk over. This would be a sad reflection on our own character.

In May 1940 whilst Britain was close to its knees, Winston Churchill, a man who often had enough foresight in warning his people against the tide of mainstream, was in a room alone with the then Prime Minister Chamberlain and Halifax the next expected leader. The PM had asked Halifax to take over the reins from which he had politely declined. There was only one person left in the room. Churchill noted. ‘On this occasion I was silent’ He felt the tap on his shoulder. He must have felt the eyes of the world were on him and that lions roar in him.

Some of us may have the lion’s roar in us, whilst others may wait patiently or silently for that tap on our shoulder. Yes we need strong characters, real men, and real women that are prepared or cope with the unexpected. We need men and women with integrity and the wisdom of lifes experience that inspire greatness in that we are not a soft touch by allowing us to see beyond the palm of our hand. Those with enough forsesight, a sense of calm or self-control that can master or bridge our differences into something greater. That way we can begin to see the world not as it is but as we are.

In short, if the enemy is in you; shake it off. If that wall is in you, knock it down. Have the courage to breathe in and gently blow that hand in front of you outwards. Blow your arms outwards. Blow into the wind, see ahead, beyond the horizons, and on upwards. Allow that old ear in you to disappear and the new one to replace it. The respect in you will allow the respect for others. That compassion in you will allow the compassion for others. That inspiration in you will inspire others. As a Dutch business leader in Finance quite eloquently put it, it is that magnetic compass in all of us that points north that measures our confidence. I could not agree more and yet right now the needle appears to be spinning in every single direction that could prick us accidently until we bleed into a deep sleep or like a dog chaising its tail.

Well let’s blow that compass back North wards with all that you've got!

Inner peace is our path to greatness

Monday 27 April 2015

Who would I like to be?

I am 30 years old and I was employed as a trader 4 years ago in the repo hair cut investment business by a large bank. We had learnt about the crisis from 2008 up to 2016. No big deal. We had different products and better systems now and we have caught up with ourselves. We look for cheap stocks. We were good at what we did. I could talk the talk and had a certain feel for numbers. My goodness we made money. Life was great. Fast cars, the night life, alcohol and birds. Fantastic. I had a great apartment on an avenue overlooking the Hudson River. My bank offered me a cheap mortgage. I had all the latest designs and best cut suits. I could not wait for my next bonus to get that Porsche. God I was good even a column was written about me in Traders magazine. It was great marketing and a perfect platform that once I had made enough money I was out of here.
My bosses told us we were great and making a great contribution to our firm. You see we had little respect for neither politics nor the regulator as they had little understanding in what we did. In any case I always found a way around them. They were in their own cloud cuckoo land as far as we were concerned.  We were the ones who knew how it worked and we monopolised the market. You see my work was looking for cheap small companies on the internet. I was not sure entirely what they did but I just relied on my intuition. When it felt good we took them over with a small cash injection with the liquidity we had and with strings attached. We set up our own products and securitised them and sold them on to other FI’s and our perspective clients.

Somehow we controlled the markets. It was a great business, although often stressful as our incentives were linked to this.  The playing hard was my release mechanism. You see one of my great inspirations was from that film in the 80s. Wall Street and that Gordon Gekko character and I also lived off this Anglo Saxon motto ‘work hard and play hard.’ I also had this Ford Mustang from 67. It made a hell of a noise and that way I could make a hell of an impression. I had everything I could wish for. Awesome!

It was one Tuesday morning back in 2016, we had a problem. Alarm bells! It was something to do with a computer glitch in our systems. Things were not right. We had a call from the Feds. We were not sure what that meant. Did we do something? It was not my fault. It was my bosses, they took me on. …Writs from clients….My goodness, what on earth is happening in my life?.... My parents had abandoned me long ago and gone their separate ways. I’m so scared.  I don’t want to get fired. It was not my fault. My life is falling apart. I had no one. No one loves me. I should have listened to my conscience. I can’t take it anymore…..

Lack of love, lack of duty and lack of meaning

I am 30 years old. I was employed by Bank 4 years ago. A great place to work with awesome colleagues.  I was known as a scouter. I did not like the word as it sounded like the football world. You see, I had to search for small ideas that were innovative. These were ideas that were in line with our leadership thinking in line with the EU commitment for 2020, in reducing carbon emissions. I loved this idea of thinking. It gave us meaning. It meant that we could live in a more sustainable world that respected our environment and nature. We were all in it for the long haul. I had to scout for new ideas. I found many people on online social media. You see our bank was committed, it had the liquidity and it had the political backing and in turn I respected my leaders for this. I found so many new ideas that I could propose to my bosses for investment opportunities and our 2020 fund. It was very cool. I found people in garages, their back gardens or at colleges working on environmental ways in reducing plastic packaging, improving food standards, improving emissions in transportation, agri business, biotech, improving clean water and renewable energy. One guy had developed a way to transform household waste into some biomethan which could supply his house with his own energy needs. Some of these people were geniuses.  With my passion I was able to ask some very good questions in their interest. This gave me understanding in so as I could connect the dots with the eyes.

I felt I had a duty to be committed. It just made sense. You see I was taught at school how the financial crisis and the great recession had come about from short sightedness and greed and how so many people were driven by money and how unhappy their lives became. We were also taught that big margins from many big companies, therefore big marketing budgets made no sense due to the social, health and environmental hazard caused what with the lack of quality in products and the harm it had done to the empty fabric of a debt driven consumer fuelled society.
A book that really had inspired me was ‘One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich.’ A Russian writer called Solzenitzen who was imprisoned in the Siberian prison camps under Stalin. It was a story of humility, survival and how small things mattered in life which kept him going. This for me was my starting point. I was looking for small things small ideas, the simplicity of life how we could help develop and give a helping hand that was totally in line with the vision of our firm. I tried to lead a simple life and one of my few pleasures, I inherited a Ford Mustang from my father from 1967 and through my scouting knowledge I found a genius that converted the engine and now it is solar powered. It made that small quiet purring noise. Wow!

I had suffered from the divorce, the mistakes and selfishness of my parents and yet I had learnt to accept them and found my own peace. I am now happily married with a small growing family. Yesterday I had a call about my next promotion. I could not be happier.

Love, duty and meaning…?

Hmm……one can only wonder....

Monday 30 March 2015

How can we regain our self-respect and confidence?

In our careers, mental health, stress, burn out, and suppression of our talents or fearmongering by others and being in a job that is not consistent to our values in my view is fast becoming a disguised major problem in our work place that is not talked about enough nor acted upon by a likely fear of losing one's job.  I had only just recently met a financial institution that was under so much pressure to perform with its relentless pursuit of profit driven by its shareholder a venture capital firm and as a consequence burn out was common place. Something I come across more frequently in other firms. This has the potential of fast becoming a legitimate human rights issue.
When human nature is stretched to its inner limits and lacking understanding or purpose, we can become deeply unhappy. We can trap ourselve into losing our self-respect, whereby potentially losing our self-esteem and confidence. These different states of being yet inter-twined can affect our productivity or potential not just in ourselves but in our business too. In worse case scenarios this can lead to dark thoughts, aggressiveness and possible vengefulness. By this I mean that the more we become more engrossed in ourselves by losing sight of ourselves we become unaware of what mistakes or self harm we are capable of doing. This would undoubtedly prompt the wider deeper questions not just in us but in how, the way in which, and for what purpose we conduct business.

Not that I may be privy to suggest a link, it may come as no surprise that the highest selling pharmaceutical drug is an anti-depressant by the name of Aripiprazol. It might be worth mentioning that this is clearly not helped by our young who will one day follow, having traumatic experiences when a member of a pop group by the name of One Direction leaves that said in his own direction. (Note my generation were brought up never to idolise pop culture as I recall being pretty undeterred when Supertramp split)

Before I digress, all this begs the questions? Are we doing something wrong? What are our very own beliefs and what do we stand for?  What is wrong with our leaders in our peculiar age? Is it really so difficult to be inspired? Do we read the right books? How does the future bode for us all?

Be it what it may we must never despair. There are on occasion the great stories that capture us. A part Belgian sponsored Swiss manufactured solar powered aeroplane is flying across the globe. I believe this to be one of the greatest innovations of our current generation that I have encountered. The Netherlands has set up the first solar powered bicycle path for its cyclists. Something our cities may soon simply adapt. The Secretary General of Europa Bio had informed me that in the Biotech industry washing powders containing biotech enzymes can save up to 30% energy consumption in our homes because the enzymes allow us to have great results washing at just 30 degrees. By using industrial Biotech products too we can reduce chemical steps with biological steps and also allows to transform raw materials (either plants, plant waste or household waste) into added value products thus helping us to move away from a fossil fuel based society to a renewable material based society whereby dramatically reducing CO2 levels.
The Rockefeller Foundation and the UK Wellcome Trust have announced their divestment from fossil fuels and oil. Is all this paving the way for others and our financial institutions to follow suit seeking real change in energy, infrastructure, manufacturing and our environment toward a bright and very interesting future with new meaning?  Could this also deter Shell or Exxon Mobil to think twice and change their business strategy, before exploring any further oil exploration from our last few vital untouched wonders such as the North Pole?

In short to replicate ancient Chinese proverb when a crisis occurs it is a time for great change and opportunity. To really be part of the now and to make way for a bright and hopeful future, as humans we will need to re-adapt, come to terms with our past, pull out of our comfort zones, understand our real needs, open our hearts and change the way we think. Furthermore it is only by discretely regaining an inner self-respect, having a proper sense of ones own dignity that we can begin to see and respect others and the beauty around us. By this we can learn to accept that we make mistakes know our limitations, live by our values and as a result our self-esteem and confidence may be lifted. Simply through our sense of curiosity we can seek the good and not the pleasure, search for compassion and not indifference.  We can gently challenge others whilst accepting to be challenged. And in being coherent, solid and firm in ourselves we can begin to understand the suffering of others. That is one thing that we Europeans have going for ourselves. We are a resilient bunch. We have the ability to fly the flag into battle with full confidence, renewed hope and purpose in our very challenging, eventful and ever changing world.

Become what you are…

Thursday 26 February 2015

How can I resolve a conflict?

We all have personal stories. Many are exciting, adventurous and even inspiring. Yet sadly some of us too can have stories that are conflictual that can cause harm to one other or are self-inflicted. The types of harm can be emotional, physical or mental. Some can be very personal, where deep suffering can occur, which can even break a person. The source of all conflict is our failure to handle loss or broken bonding. It will always start at individual level and if not handled well, the conflict can resonate and divide families, societies, businesses and nations. This source of conflict can lead to anger or hatred, even violence and vengeance, more so if it is under false objectives or at the expense of the common good.

Some deeper issues of conflict can be very difficult to resolve. It requires great strength of character, with a certain amount of patience (linked to time), courage, humility and forgiveness in the person who is personally involved. Men and women with great experience perhaps in their own lives would best be able to attempt to help others in these situations.

In order to attempt to resolve conflicts, here's the thing. Accredited psychologists from Maslow to Freud have made the distinction between the two; material interests or personal needs. Interests in this case are tangible. This can be jobs/career, money, land, materials, and just simply things. We can trade this stuff and they can be chopped and changed, negotiated and compromised. Whereas needs, this is different. These are linked to our identity, inner security, values, respect or recognition which is down to the very inner nature of our own human dignity. These needs that we carry in our hearts and minds are not for trading and not to be compromised. The most damaging conflicts are linked to our needs. One would have to be pretty on top of oneself to crack the nut and be able to distinguish between the two if you are personally involved in them. To make it sound simple, if you make a decision on an interest that may compromise your own integrity, good luck! Unfortunately this can happen as we are unwilling to cut our losses by exposing a small part of ourselves as we wish to show. 

When there is a conflict of interests (jobs and material) involving different parties, mixed up with a lack of personal needs (identity&values), this results in a problem. If this situation persists long enough, there will, virtually in all cases, be a value breakdown,  a breach in trust occurs, increased barriers arise and a time of crisis may unfold as the problems will slowly be revealed. A value breakdown would have to stem from something rotten in the foundation or at the source.

Let’s take some of the deeper problems we have already experienced in some of our businesses or in finance as an example, where we deal with money (interest). How can we make this interest turn on its head by respecting the needs whereby regaining the much needed confidence, and trust in humanity or society? Well, with some ingenuity, one solution could be to create your money for a purpose fitting to the times of today. An example could be sustainability. Create a mission statement, ‘we make our money work for ecological development and employment.’ You have a win-win outcome. The needs are respected and no longer trampled on as we start believing in ourselves whilst our insecurities subside. We start blending the two as we avoid creating dangerous conflict, harm or any long term suffering or damage not just to ourselves but to others.

In short, great awareness, grace and poise with a ῝maître de soi῞ is needed so as to re-define our purpose.  What do I have to lose? In the long term you will win. You will reach the heights of your goals, hopes and dreams despite the transient opposing forces or circumstances. You will find that conflict moves away elsewhere as it is uncovered or self-destructs thanks to all your virtues that you hold. The green shoots from the banks of the flowing rivers will blossom. This is our promise. This is how some of the greatest of men in the history of mankind have existed including many quietly behind the scene of all types. Men and women of meaning like Gandhi or Malala Yousafzai. Men with the greatest interiors. Men of untold belief, men of vision, joy and great standing and understanding that have entered into the realm of our living history.

'Just imagine what I can do'

Friday 20 February 2015

Power vs our identity

I seemed to have taken a small break from my last article written in November on whistleblowing in the Financial sector. The sector is often in the news and certainly not necessarily for the right reasons. The largest Bank in the world, HSBC and arguably the most powerful business institution around is being scrutinised for its breakdown in principles. More CEO’s are in trouble and more public figures muddling through sometimes too distracted by feeding the barking dogs. The changes in our financial sector are cumbersome, so ruled based and exhausting. If some of these companies are bigger or more powerful than small nation economies and require changing, then leading one might mean that you need to be made of the right stuff.
The problems that require solving are down to issues of leadership, governance, accountability, incentives, principles and purpose which is no mean feat when it could come into direct conflict to identity and our culture. Over the last lost decade it appears that the rumble of the quiet guillotine is out in force for those who led or had influence around that crazy shallow and corrupt time by which little surpise can be made on offer. No one seems to be walking off unscathed and yet is it our very own ‘liberal’ attitude, indifference or even guilt  that does not permit for a few people to be prosecuted for serious wrong doings? This is all the more troublesome, when we could be dealing with our very own kind.
It is no doubt a great challenge to remain coherent and true to oneself once we put ourselves on a pedestal. A well-known celebrity was quoted as saying recently ‘No one can underestimate the power of what I have achieved.’ A sentence that alone requires taming. Has this person and his media moguls lost a sense of who they are? It reminded me of a time, during my shameless, younger days,  I introduced a lady to a friend. Whereupon he made every effort to chat her up, 'Google me, I am a millionaire!' He said to her. The place happened to be the early hours of a seedy night club, and all feeling worse for wear on drink. By contrast this poor chap was being serious on prime time mobile television.
Humanity of course is weak, no one is perfect and yet at the same time we want to excel. This really is partly down to our inner struggle. Who we are, what we are made of and what we stand for. This is the very foundation of our very own identity. Just as our power structures and system of governance require checks and balance, it is always the case that our inner nature functions likewise. This is just so we do not get ahead of ourselves, veer off course or cause trouble. Everything on the outer is a reflection of the inner. We might in some cases have a dark side in us that might unfortunately also want feeding, this will reflect on how we behave or act on the outside. If we do not look or listen to ourselves, little understanding will come of each other, and we can quickly lose respect for ourselves and therefore easily influenced by others. Worse still so called ‘clever’ people come into the midst to quickly play on our very weaknesses, those of which we ourselves ignore or run away from. A recipe to potential havoc!
Many so called rotten core apples are about by which the ripe ones don’t quite know how to respond. If you are made of the right stuff, it is very likely you will get in that small lighter space at the top of the tree most likely when you least expect it, which has little to do with the pursuit of personal interest such as ambition, status, power and money and worse still when one’s principles are compromised at the expense of the common good or under false objectives. The rotten ones, well, if you notice, they stubbornly hang heavily on the bottom or middle branches, hide behind the ripe ones and sometimes with trickery show their shiny side where appearances often deceive. They just don’t quite make it and while most generally disappear or fall by the wayside, some are lucky enough as I was, to recognise it in themselves that they too can change.
A well-known proverb ‘One man’s food is often another man’s poison’ and what might seem glamorous and exciting to some can be a dangerous trap to others. In short, we are all each unique as human beings, that are gifted in our different ways faced by adversity and often tested if we get it wrong. A few of us can lead and we can aspire for greatness. We can stand up for moral laws with reason, and reach out for the stars. We can put our money where our mouths is and act like real men. Like most of us too we just simply want to contribute in one form or another, through service, encouragement, the sharing of knowledge, creativity and ideas, in a world where there is a place for everyone. Furthermore if this world is crying out for a different direction, does that not imply a new era worth embracing of countless new opportunities and needs? Which inspiring group of leaders is truly willing to step up to the task at hand?
Alexander Pope — 'Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed