Monday, November 13, 2006

... in daylights, in sunsets, in (sleepless) midnights, ...

Harvard Business Review, February 2004
Success That Lasts

"Pursuing success is like shooting a series of moving targets. Each time you hit one, five more pop up from another direction. Just when we've achieved one goal, we feel the pressure to work harder to earn more money, exert more effort, possess more toys ... many people assume success requires a winner-takes-all approach. They believe that success depends on putting all your energy into achieving one goal, be it a single-minded focus on your job or a commitment to being the best soccer mom in your community. But no matter how noble, one goal can't satisfy all of a person's complex needs and desires ... Success requires more than a heart-pounding race to the finish line. Our research uncovered four irreducible components of enduring success: happiness (feelings of pleasure or contentment about your life); achievement (accomplishments that compare favorably against similar goals others have strived for); significance (the sense that you've made a positive impact on people you care about); and legacy (a way to establish your values or accomplishments so as to help others find future success) ... Unless you hit on all four categories with regularity, any one win will fail to satisfy. You'll experience what we call the 'wince factor': You know you're doing what is right, but it still feels like a loss. You're preoccupied with thoughts of the other things you could be doing or getting ...": Laura Nash, senior research fellow, and Howard Stevenson, Professor, Harvard Business School

I started this blog almost two years ago for the same reason I am now writing this post. Another year was about to go by, things were going well ... yet I tossed and turned at night asking "now what?"

"Succcess is a journey, not a destination," Arthur Ashe once said.

And it has been a wonderful journey indeed. Honestly, I don't think I could've asked for more. At the age of 27, I have traveled, visited, watched, seen, and experienced more things than what most people ever have during their entire lives. I have played with almost all the toys money could buy--including gadgets that many (especially in Europe) thought had existed only in sci-fi movies. I have constantly pushed my limits, and from time to time, beat the odds.

Yet, despite all this, I still feel like I'm missing something, constantly wondering, "now what?"

It's not that I feel that I have nothing more to prove. I still enjoy working on the new challenges and beating the even more (seemingly) impossible odds.

It's just that I feel like all I do is climb, climb, climb. But the higher I climb, the greater the stake gets, the fiercer the competition becomes. And the harder the falls. Which makes turning back or slowing down--even just to look back--never seems to be an option. "When you stand still while everybody else is moving forward, you are actually moving backwards," my father told me all the time. "And the world would not just stop to wait for you."

Then last week I met someone who had always lived her life like there would be no tomorrow. She has lived in six or seven countries (I lost track) in three continents and speaks six languages ... mostly learned "on the road". Unlike me, she did all these without much planning. "I bought a ticket ..." and somehow she managed to get by through the ways of hitchhiking, camping out the highways and the rest stops, and doing everything and everything: from farm jobs, tourism works, and miscellaneous odd jobs to support herself.

"As for the future? I don't know that. But for now, I will try to stay in Belgium to care for my grandma."

It probably is not easy to be her ... yet she seems to live a life that brings her satisfaction in everything that she does. No baggages, no regrets, no worries.
...

Realistically speaking: chances are, there would be tomorrow. And the next year. And the year after. And when that day comes, I probably would not regret all the things I had done to prepare for that day.

Yet, maybe I have felt so lost because I have been so busy trying to meet tomorrow's challenges that I have forgotten about the other things that make today, tomorrow, the next year, and all the following years, worth living.

The little things that turn even the simplest forms of successes ... meaningful.


in daylights ...


in sunsets ...

... and the little things that make life worth living

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cup'oCofi is back with the blog!

OK ... as promised, I am returning to blogging now that the weather turns cold, the sun has stopped shining over northern Europe ... though the snowboarding season is now calling ...

Anyway, I'm back here in front of my favorite computer for the time being ... until about early December when I would again find a refuge closer to the mountains for the snowboarding season ... :)

I am also trying to migrate my pictures collection to Flickr since I have been running out of space in my free Picasa account. I also loved Flickr's map function where you could see on the map the places that I have visited :) ... though it might take some time before I could manage to finish this task ... but in the meanwhile of course you could still see my collection in my Picasa account ...


Castle up above the clouds ... Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg, Alsace, France


Alsace in fall colors ...


Geneve, Suisse (Switzerland)


Lausanne, Suisse (Switzerland)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cup'oCofi's photo album is now online!

Dear all,

No, Cup'oCofi hasn't been swallowed by the earth.

And no, he hasn't eloped with one of Belgium's hot chics.

But yes, he has been enjoying Belgium's unusually warm and sunny weather. And there are too many things going on in his work and his life as well.

And yes, he still loves blogging. It's just that he hasn't found enough time to write lately. There's so much to tell; so much to share. But there's so much to explore and to experience, as well.

He should be back to the blogging world probably in the early October, when Belgium settles down into the long, cloudy winter.

In the meantime, you can try to follow his footsteps at http://picasaweb.google.com/cupocofi/

Backpacking around the Bernina Mountain: Svizza - Italia - Svizza

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

... in new languages, new cultures, and new friends ... in paperworks, confusions, frustrations, and well ... fun!! Ieper: First Year Recap

Welcome to Europe Belgium. Where children's merry-go-round plays "Fuck Me Like a Whore" as a background music and where Brussel's dark alleys and certain "Germanic lifestyle" could make New Orleans, Cancun, and even the walletjes look like some humble theme parks.

Where "moral" stands for the culture of caring for the weak and the future generations and has less to do with sticking your nose in something none of your business.

Where, for some, life is all for savoring ... and for others, life is for work hard, play hard, ... and grumbling over the good 'ol Belgian bureaucracy over some good 'ol Belgian beers afterwards.

Where I get more and more confused in trying to answer the seemingly simple question: 'Where are you from'?

Someone once told me that 'home is where your heart is'. But my heart does not belong to a specific location or a specific person within a location. It is with the people, the experience, and the enjoyment of the things that I do. I don't really own a "home" that I crave to return to. But in many corners of this planet, I have someone who will gladly meet me in hour's notice. And in almost every corner of this planet, I have someone who would gladly come to visit me now that I live in Europe.

This is my curse, my blessing, ... my life.

Some think that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and some think that the grass is greenest on their side of the fence (hence a taller fence is needed). It's just hard to appreciate life until you walk on someone else's shoes, isn't it? But I've walked the footsteps of many strangers, and I've learned that what really matters is not how green the grass is ...

... it's how you make the best of it with those around you ...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

... in humility, in invisible heroes, in power of persuasions ... and, uhm, brute intimidations?

We probably all make jokes about the "power of persuasions". Well, after all those leadership trainings they've been giving us ... after all those Harvard Business Review articles on secret change agents and level 5 leaderships ... often, our fearless big bosses simply resort to the primitive technique of "persuading" that works in no time, which can be better termed, really ... brute force.


"... Best leaders inspire by example. When that's not an option, brute intimidation works pretty well, too.": despair.com

Harvard Business Review, February 2006
The Great Intimidators

"We hear a lot of praise for emotionally intelligent, even humble leaders. But change is scary, and you sometimes need scary leaders to steer you through ... Great intimidators are not averse to causing a ruckus, nor are they above using a few public whippings and ceremonial hangings to get attention. And they're in good company. A list of great intimidators would read a bit like a business leadership hall of fame: Sandy Weill, Rupert Murdoch, Andy Grove, Carly Fiorina, Larry Ellison, and Steve Jobs would be just a few of the names on it ... Beneath their tough exteriors and sharp edges, however, are some genuine, deep insights into human motivation and organization behavior. Indeed, these leaders possess what I call political intelligence. In all our recent enchantment with social intelligence and soft power, we've overlooked the kinds of skills leaders need to bring about transformation in cases of tremendous resistance or inertia ...": Roderick M. Kramer, social psychologist and Professor or Organizational Behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business

One of the greatest benefits of my frequent moves is the opportunity to watch, learn, and adapt to the many cultures and leadership styles along my way. It's an opportunity to see what works and what does not at the different sets of conditions.

Here in the Ieper facility--the company's best performing site--I have no doubt that it is the invisible leaders that keep the facility running at the highest operational discipline. This being said, I have to add yet another amazing thing that Ieper does: the two-or-three giant leaps that it manages to clear while everybody else still tinkers with how--or sometimes whether--to make the first step.

Change is scary and to tread new tracks usually requires stumbles and falls. And falls, no matter how controlled, suck. Therefore sometimes it takes more than coaching sessions to get people to reach out and make those giant leaps.

But then, I wonder, with the retention of the most talented minds comes at high premium these days, at what cost can you sustain such people treatment?

Great intimidators trample on people's feelings and set impossible standards. Even when others meet those standards, they're given little if any credit ... But despite all the drawbacks, my research shows, great intimidators are often magnets for the best and brightest ... Intimidators instill fear in their employees, but the really great ones instill something else as well--and that's another way in which they are different from your run-of-the-mill organizational bully. As one former aide of legendary tough guy Admiral Hyman Rickover told me, 'Not measuring up in his eyes meant more to me than anything else--even my father's'. In similar vein, a former Pixar employee said of his time working under Steve Jobs, 'You just dreaded letting him down. He believed in you so strongly that the thought of disappointing him just killed you.' ... people like to work for great intimidators because of what can be learned from them and because they inspire great performance. Many people said they did their best work ever when working for a great intimidators ...": Roderick M. Kramer

Sometimes, we just can't deny the effectiveness of that good 'ol baseball bat ... The only problem with this approach is that often the change will not stick ... as soon they no longer see the baseball bat, people will quickly resort to the old habbit. But, I guess sometimes not all changes have to last, and some changes, by nature, are irreversible. In which case, pulling out the sledgehammer is not always a bad thing to do. I guess the trick is knowing when and where to use what ... and be darn sure with what you're doing.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

... in daylights, in springtime, in crocuses ... in happiness!

Spring and Crocus in Ieper, Belgium

We just had 8 straight days of clear blue skies here in Belgium. After some 30-something days with the typical depressingly grey Belgian skies, this is a cause for celebration. Spring is finally here! Just few weeks back, Studio Brussel interviewed random people in train stations: "What makes you happy?" Deprived from sun, daylights, and clear blue skies, my answer was obvious.

But economic and behavioural science researchers, in the meanwhile, think happiness is a bit more complicated than that.


The Wall Street Journal, March 18 2006
Happiness Inc.

"David Blanchflower, a Dartmouth College economics professor, is a leader (in the research of putting a price on happiness) ... One study that he co-authored found that if you're single or in a miserable marriage, you'd need to earn $100,000 more each year to be as happy as a happily married person. His research also showed that if you have sex just once a month, you'd need to earn $50,000 more a year to be as happy as someone having sex once a week with a monogamous partner.": Jeffrey Zaslow

Ha! As I found out here in Europe, it takes a lot less than $50,000 to buy you sex several times a day!!!

And how much money would one need to earn to be as happy as Cup'oCofi--a young, attractive, country-hopping single guy? LOL. As usual, this is my blog, and any disagreement can be posted as comments!

Seriously. I believe happiness is all about attitude and will. If you want to be happy, you will find a way to be happy. If you don't want to be happy, you'd always find a reason not to be happy.

"The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.": Benjamin Franklin

Anyone had not seen Guido Orefice in "Life is Beautiful", should.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

in baby steps, giant leaps, and breakthroughs ...

Just last Wednesday I had an earful from my climbing partner during a rock climbing session for failing on an "easy" overhang. She (yeah, *she*) said, "You know what the problem was? You didn't even try!"

Harvard Business Review, February 2006
Take a Giant Step

The motto 'Evolution, not revolution' became bumper sticker fare when a faltering economy took out more upstarts than the battle of Camden. Tweaks, refinements, and enhancements to existing products rarely looked so good. You can cover lots of ground with a series of small steps, many companies realized. But in a race, competitors can usually match each small step. What's tough to beat are those giant, muscle-straining strides that take innovators off the well-trod path and drop them miles away on a different road where no one else is ... It's hard to spot opportunities for innovative leaps when you're preoccupied with baby steps. Iterative improvers believe that 'every day in every way, I get better and better'. Probably they will get better. Probably they won't get great.": Don Moyer

"On an overhang you can't just hang in there thinking and hoping you'd make it by making too many moves that don't get you anywhere. Your arms will get tired. You'd have to reach over and pull yourself out of there as quickly as possible. If you don't make it, then you fall and try again. But you didn't even try! That is why you did not make it--not lack of skill!"

Ouch.

It's true that most things start small. Nevertheless, when we talk about the world's most successful organizations, people often find less than half dozen big reasons why they succesful. People often forget that it is the big leaps--not the collections of small steps--that really makes up the difference. And it is true that it's the giant leaps that normally would take years to copy.

The problem is--just like climbing an overhang--sometimes we can't really see where we are going when we want to make that giant leap. So we'd reason that baby steps will get us there ... just a matter of time and patience. Therefore the excuses of "well if we take it one baby step at a time, we won't fall as hard".

But not necessarily less painful. We probably would not fall by taking baby steps. But we might fail to reach the top (or get there too late) for spending too much energy contemplating the next baby step. Usually, competitors don't give an earful. They just drive us out of business.

This being said, remember this post?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Gluckliches Neues Jahr ... von Berlin!

... in Bratwursts (German-sized), in sausages (German-sized), in gluhwein (original German-flavored), in Beers (German-sized) ...

... in PARTIES!!! (German-sized ... in 2-km long wide boulevard packed with the friendly, fun-loving, beer-loving Germans. Drunk Germans. Way drunk Germans. And we are having fun. German-sized.)


... where 2005 meets 2006, where the old meets the new ... Berlin, Deutschland.

Below is picture of the Berliner Dom with Alexanderplatz's Fehrnsehturm Tor in the background


Unter den Linden: Brandenburger Tor. Napoleon liked it so much he stole the statue on top during the Napoleonic wars.


And in Kurfurstendam: a reminder ...