Persevering in New Orleans

August 4th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, 7/29/09

As we approach the four-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it is tempting to assume New Orleans has recovered. The bars and restaurants of the French Quarter are bustling, riverboats filled with tourists float down the Mississippi River, and population levels are creeping closer to pre-storm levels.

That’s only half the story. If you drive into the Lower Ninth Ward, for example, signs of Katrina’s lasting impact slap you in the face. Once heralded for its exceptionally high homeownership rate and spirit of independence, this predominantly black historic community now has occupation rates of less than 25 percent. When more than 50 levees and flood walls broke, flooding more than 80 percent of the city, a wall of water swept through the Lower Ninth Ward, knocking houses off their foundations. Houses that weren’t torn apart were filled with water and left to crumble. Even today, concrete steps often lead to empty lots where houses once stood.

Yet in the wake of the hurricane springs hope. Despite losing everything in the storm, two nurses who had created a health clinic in the heart of the Lower Ninth Ward decided to provide much-needed primary care to the city’s uninsured. The two doctors who serve the clinic often see more than 25 patients a day. Another example is the Common Ground Collective, which has deployed more than 23,000 volunteers for the city’s rebuilding efforts. Efforts like these are helping the community get back on its feet slowly but surely.

This can-do spirit pervades the city… (continue reading)

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An Entrepreneurial Obama

July 20th, 2009 by Admin

Despite their differences, both major parties agree on one thing: small businesses are the primary driver of economic growth in America. President Obama has said much about the need for small business support, and has focused some of his administrations’ recovery plan on that support.

This includes lowering fees and increasing guarantees to 90% for SBA loans,  as well as calling for more entrepreneurship in education (particularly in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Read more in this excellent piece by Jonathan Ortmans, a senior fellow of the Kauffman Foundation.

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Predicting ‘healthy aging’

July 16th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, 7/15/09

There have been two major developments recently in the study of happiness, with dramatically divergent approaches. First, the Gallup Organization offers a detailed daily measure of happiness in the United States, based on 1,000 nightly in-depth interviews. Call it the national happiness pulse. A few initial findings: The ratio of happiness to stress is about 5 to 1 on an average day, but 1-1 for lonely people; weekends are the happiest days; and women worry more than men.

Second, a journalist was given unprecedented access to the archives of a 72-year study on the lives of 268 men who entered college in the 1930s. Writing in the Atlantic about the Harvard Study of Adult Development, Joshua Wolf Shenk reported, “The project is one of the longest-running – and probably most exhaustive – longitudinal studies of mental and physical well-being in history,” including interviews, questionnaires, medical exams and psychological tests.

Psychiatrist George Vaillant led the study for 42 years and compared the experience to looking through the world’s most powerful telescope for the views it has provided into the soul. He observes that, like wines, longitudinal studies improve with age: The findings get richer. What a rich data set it is, including a U.S. president (though John F. Kennedy’s files are sealed until 2040), a best-selling novelist and four candidates for the U.S. Senate. Yet by age 50, nearly a third of the subjects had met Dr. Vaillant’s criteria for mental illness during a segment of their lives, with some confronting substance abuse, depression, suicide and more.

Witnessing that kind of complexity, Mr. Shenk observed in the Atlantic, “The study began in the spirit of laying lives out on a microscope slide. But it turned out that the lives were too big, too weird, too full of subtleties and contradictions to fit any easy conception of ‘successful living.’ ”

Read the rest of the story here…

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Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy

July 14th, 2009 by Admin

Some people consider Paul Graham‘s essays to be the “Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letters” of startups — a must read for all serious about doing well in the field. Having read some of those essays now, it would be hard to disagree. Graham speaks truth to the power of conventional wisdom and tells it like it is, from his personal success as a startup founder and from advising over 200 other founders through Y Combinator.

One particular essay that may convince you to take the leap is this one: Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy.

Granted, Paul Graham’s work is focused exclusively on the technology sector, but there are invaluable lessons for startups of all kinds in this essay library. Check it out for some great reading!

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Even topless dancers can be connectors

June 26th, 2009 by Admin

If you’ve read The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell’s hallmark work, then you’re familiar with Gladwell’s three characters that combine to make things tip: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.

Mavens are hubs of valuable information. Salesmen sell. And connectors connect. But topless dancers?

Even a topless dancer can be a connector, as Todd Taskey blogged about in Business Management Daily.

Who knows how long will it be until you tip? All you can do is keep dancing…

Check out the rest of the story here.

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Business for Peace

June 24th, 2009 by Admin

Congratulations to Anders Dahlvig, winner of the 2009 Oslo Business for Peace Award! Dahlvig became the CEO of IKEA in 1999 and has led the home-furnishing giant to unprecedented levels of socially engaged business. A brief bio on Dahlvig:

‘Anders Dahlvig started working for IKEA in 1984 and has held various positions since, including Store Manager, Country Manager of United Kingdom and Vice President, Europe. He assumed his current position as CEO in 1999. Under Mr. Dahlvig’s leadership, IKEA has placed sustainability at the heart of its product development and supply strategy. Thus, for instance, in 2000, the company has introduced IWAY, which stands for “The IKEA Way of Purchasing Home Furnishing Products”. This code of conduct defines what suppliers can expect from IKEA and what IKEA requires from its suppliers in terms of legal requirements, working conditions, the active prevention of child labor, environmental protection and forestry management. In 2007, IKEA decided to do even more and started a number of joint projects with the WWF on climate change, in order to reduce carbon emissions caused by its business.’

The annual Oslo Summit for Business and Peace addresses the ethical and responsible aspects of business; this years focused on a call for ‘Conscious Capitalism,’ and a new wave of social awareness in business.  Learn more about it here: Oslo Summit.

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Work, Reinvented

June 24th, 2009 by Admin

Despite the recession, many Americans have been able to rework their jobs and reinvent their work/life balance. This is a key component in creating the good life as you see fit. To read more examples of this, check out Work Reinvented (link to Forbes article).

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Where can the path lead?

June 18th, 2009 by Admin

For an exciting example of truly leading a whole entrepreneurial life, check out Location Independent.

After getting exhausted by the rat race and laid off, Lea & Jonathan Woodward chose to redirect their lives toward independence and their desire to see the world, while making a difference. The result? They now run their company, Kinetiva–a company dedicated to building communities of progressively-minded people who want to shape their own lives rather than accept a typical one–from various locations around the world as they travel and experience their dream life.

Learn more about their exciting journey and their work at Location Independent.

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A Countess with a cause

June 13th, 2009 by Admin

So it turns out the princess that every little girl dreams about being actually exists.

Countess Albina du Boisrouvray — a Bolivian tin magnate’s granddaughter who’s related to Monaco’s ruling Grimaldi family — has a big heart to go with her deep pockets. In 1988, her 24 year old, helicopter-rescue-pilot son was killed in a helicopter crash in Mali.

Devastated by the loss, the Countess decided to continue his work of rescuing people. She sold her business holdings and real estate and put $50 million towards creating FXB (her son’s initials), a Swiss charity that helps children that have AIDS, or could be orphaned by AIDS, by helping their families build microenterprises.

So far, 86% of the families funded have earned enough to rise above their country’s poverty level. Read the rest of the story here… (link to Forbes article)

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Seek meaning, service in life

June 10th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, Wed., May 20, 2009

As millions of American students graduate from high schools and colleges in cap-and-gown ceremonies both solemn and festive this spring, perhaps now is a good time to reflect on their prospects for successful living and working. Of course, those entering the working world are doing so at a time of great uncertainty and financial distress, with tight employment and credit markets.

It’s possible, though, that the recession could be a fleeting concern compared to a more personal and lasting challenge they face: finding their moorings amid a sea of choices in a culture that sends them profoundly mixed messages. Decades ago, the life and career paths of the young largely were spelled out in advance, but today’s youth must forge their own path. That can be liberating and unnerving for young people without much basis for making such vital decisions.

Graduation speakers across the land already are dispensing lessons learned and wisdom earned. What have we learned in recent decades about how to live – about how to lead productive, successful, rewarding and fulfilling lives?

Fortunately, a lot.

Not long ago, a sea change swept through the field of psychology, flipping the focus from debilitating conditions and diseases (i.e., what makes people suffer) to happiness and success (i.e., what makes people thrive). The emergent “positive psychology,” led by such luminaries as Martin Seligman (author of “Authentic Happiness”) and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (author of “Flow”), resonates not only with new research on youth and adult development, but also with surveys of key factors leading to success in life (from books such as “Success Built to Last”) and studies of people in their twilight years reflecting on how they lived. It also gibes with ancient ideas of happiness dating back to Aristotle and his concept of “eudaimonia,” or a full flourishing of self through excellence and virtue.

One could synthesize this convergence of research and thinking with two key words: meaning and service. That is, find ways to have meaningful connections with and make significant contributions to others. Meaning and service.

Fortunately, there is evidence that the rising generations get this. Countless surveys have indicated they are civic- and service-minded, and that many are not only “life shoppers” – searching for a lifestyle that suits them – but seekers of meaning and connection as well as success and wealth.

Take, for example, two high school seniors who recently received AXA Achievement scholarships: Joshua Wortzel and Brittany Bergquist. Mr. Wortzel started the Garden of Giving, which grows and donates organic produce to local homeless shelters via a solar-powered greenhouse located at a Pennsylvania retirement home, with 20 students and 10 senior citizens running it. The project fosters intergenerational connections while serving homeless people and cultivating environmental stewardship in the community.

Ms. Bergquist started Cell Phones for Soldiers with her brother, Robbie, when they were 13 and 12, respectively. To date, they have raised almost $2 million and distributed more than 500,000 prepaid calling cards to soldiers overseas. The project started when they were getting ready for school one morning and saw a TV report about an Army Reservist in Iraq who unknowingly racked up a cell phone bill of more than $7,600. Outraged, they ran upstairs, drained their piggy banks, hit up their friends at school for donations, and got to work. (continued…)

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