Archive | May, 2010

It’s exam time!

23 May

Yes, it’s that time of year again… That means that until June 8th when I finish there will probably not be any new posts on this blog.

Good luck if you are having exams now as well!

Things are not just white, they are at least black and white!

20 May

I am now studying for my International Financial Management exam. It is basically about trading domestic currencies for foreign currencies and about analyzing the implications of such trades. And here is the trick that I am having a bit of hard time with. The implications completely differ, depending on from which perspective we look at it. A trade can cause an appreciation of an exchange rate from domestic perspective but the same trade also causes depreciation of the rate from a foreign perspective and vice versa.

And than I realised that it is actually a very good analogy to a real life. Things are often very different depending from which perspective we are looking at them. While we alvays look at things from our perspectives we often do not try to understand things also from the perspectives of others. And it is a pity, because completely new feelings, ideas and opinions often emerge!

What kind of game are you playing?

18 May

>I am shocked every day to see how many people are wasting their lives. How many people are just surviving from day to day, without any vision of what they want to achieve and not knowing where they want to go.

Time and life is a perishable good. Once you waste an hour, a day or a year of your life, it will not come back. And there are so many things one could have done in that time, so much progress one could have made and so much impact one could have had on the world around us.

I have been thinking about this for quite some time already but what I have seen today has really shocked me. I read a blog on a Czech news server about a new popular webpage It is apparently a new internet hit. It allows you to have a video chat with a random person and when either one of you get bored, you just click ‘next’ for another person and the machine connects you automatically to whoever is free. It’s random, just like the russian roulette hence the name. People enjoy having the power of being able to dismiss somebody with a click of a button. There are about 20.000 people online on average at a time.

So I gave it a try. During the first two minutes I got next’ed on average every three seconds, mostly by single man staring at a screen or engaging in rather private activities. But than suddenly the screens stopped changing…

Life is a game. But lot of people are playing a russian roulette. They waste their time and they waste their lives… Think about what kind of game are you playing.

Article from The New York Times about with a letter from it’s 17yr old founder:
This is the blog on (in Czech only):

Our (in)ability to pay attention.

14 May


Information on almost any topic has never been as abundant as readily available to us as it is now. We live just couple clicks away from our emails, the latest news on BBC, our friends’ lives on Facebook, music videos on YouTube and lot of other more or less important stuff elsewhere on the internet. In this environment, lot of people are finding it increasingly difficult to focus only on one task and to pay attention to it.

Silicon Valley based technologist and blogger Mike Elgan argues that while during the industrial era it was hard work that lead to success in nowadays information age it is an ability to pay attention that takes us forward. And he is right! I can see it on myself and on my friends when studying for exams these days. The latest issue of the Economist very aptly notes that ‘trying to hold the attention of people with BlackBerrys at a meeting is like trying to teach Latin to delinquent teenagers.’ Such meetings can than go on for hours even though given full attention of all participants, the issue under discussion might have been solved in much shorter space of time.

However we should not get too depressed about our perceived inability to pay attention because of the current information ‘overkill’. As the Economist continues to point out, ‘Socrates’s bugbear was the spread of the biggest ever innovation in communications – writing. He feared that relying on written texts, rather than oral tradition would create forgetfulness in learners’ souls.’ And therefore as the generations before us learned to utilize writing to drive further progress, we should attempt to learn how to harness the unprecedented amount information available to us for our benefit rather than shut ourselves from it.

The ability to focus and to pay attention however remains our priority and that reminds me of the fact that I should probably get back to my revision…

Thanks to Lydia from AIESEC Ghana who pointed me to Mike Elgan and to his article on this toppic. You can read the full article at

The other article in question is Don’t shoot the messenger, The Economist, May 15th – 21st 2010

And how about debriefing?

12 May

>I’m the boss, I’m the king,
meeting, briefing, brainstorming..

That’s how one recent Czech song describes the life of a busy nowadays manager. We live in a very fast-paced world and in our daily quests to do as many things as possible, we sometimes forget to slow down, to take a step back and to think about what we have recently been doing and what have we learned from it. To take some time off for debriefing!

We make lot of our decisions subconsciously using our intuition or we often rely on others to make decisions instead of us. By asking the right kind of questions debriefing allows us (and the other people around us) to understand what has just happened more in depth and to use it as a valuable experience for our future. It can also be a great bonding exercise.

I debrief often just on my own, with my team or, when running a seminar, with a large group of people.

Debriefing your own.
After an interesting experience I like to take time just for myself and to reflect of what I have just done and heard, to try to understand things beyond their face value and to try to put them down. My friend Sebastian likes to draw mind-maps of his leanings, somebody else writes a diary (or a blog!) and other people just sit down and think in their minds. The bottom line is that we draw simple and memorable conclusions of what we have just experienced so that we can use them in the future.

Debriefing with a team.
Regular debriefings are in my opinion one of the most important signs of well functioning teams. I like to take a time off with my team when we just sit down together somewhere quiet and we reflect our past experiences. We try to create a relaxed and supportive atmosphere in which we can openly share how we felt, we give each other feedback and at the same time we think how we come across as a team and how much impact are we having. It is very important to understand each others opinions on these issues and each others working styles as it such understanding can easily prevent future conflicts.

Debriefing with a large group.
Debriefing with lot of other people you do not know very well can be a powerful exercise if done properly. It is again important to create an open and supportive atmosphere in which people will feel comfortable to stand up and share with others what they have learned and how they felt/feel.

In AIESEC we often organize conferences where we run sessions for our members to inspire them and to develop their skills set. One of my favourite ways of structuring these sessions is to let the delegates play a game which puts them them in a certain situation – e.g. tests their team-working, leadership and time-management skills – and than let them debrief by giving them a set of questions to answer firstly in small groups and than with everyone.

This is very effective for three reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, people do not often realize what they have just learned – saying it out loud forces them to think about it and to therefore draw some specific conclusions about it. Secondly they might not be sure if their learning is the right one – they are self-doubtful about the experience they just had. Than it is very useful if they hear reflexions of others. Finally, debriefing in a large group can get very emotional and therefore it contributes a lot to bonding among the group.

And a final tip, it’s best to ask open questions for the purpose of debriefing. That is questions starting with How, Why etc.

So next time you will be busy with meeting, briefing, brainstorming try to find some time for debriefing as well!

Give it your maximum!

11 May

>It is now exam time at my university. Some people are studying more, some less and some people gave up on getting good grades all together. Here is what I think about it and here is the general lesson I have drawn so far from my experience:

If you decide to do something, give it your maximum – otherwise you are wasting your time and often also time of other people around you. If you succeed, it has paid off. If you fail, you will fail with pride and with a good feeling that you did the best you could have done. If you have never failed, it means that you have never stratched yourslef, it means that you have never taken up challenges that were bigger than you.

If you failed doing what others would not have even dreamed about and if you gave it your maximum, you still have the right to be proud of yourself. Than it is the right time to move on to another big thing! Good luck!

What’s your tribe?

7 May

>Or rather, what are your tribes? Because we are all members of several tribes, may be we just do not think about it in that way.

I came in touch on several occasion with the concept of ‘tribes’, got to like it a lot and therefore I would like to write a bit about it today. As far as I know the term was first coined by Seth Godin in his book Tribe (you can google him, he is a really famous blogger) or by David Logan – see the video bellow.

A tribe is a social group with certain attitudes, opinions and more or less well defines membership criteria. We are all members of at least couple tribes. A tribe can be our close friends, our colleagues, a sports team or an NGO we are part of. Our tribes and the people in them define us, shape us and in my opinion they to a large extend predict where we will be going in the future.

How do they influence us? Each tribe has certain attitudes and mindsets that shape thinking of its tribal members. And I think that the right mindset is the most powerful asset one can have. It defines our personality, our ambitions and the impact we want to have.

David Logan distinguished five main types (stages) of tribes according to the attitudes of their membership.

1. “Life Sucks”
2. “My Life Sucks”
3. “I’m Great (But You Aren’t)”
4. “We’re Great”
5. “Life is Great”

Have a look at this video:

I thought couple questions would help to debrief on the video. Here they are:

1. What tribes am I part of?

2. How are my tribes influencing me? What kind of attitudes am I getting, what am I learning, what is the impact they are allowing me to have?

3. What is my impact on my tribes? How am I contributing to them, how am I adding value to my tribes / would they be any different without me?

4. What tribes do I want to be part of? Where do I want to go and what tribes will help me get there?

Comix strip

5 May

>I am now studying for my Financial Statements Analysis and Security Valuation exam. And I just found this good comix strip…

What can you do in one minute?

4 May

>Have you ever thought what can you do in one minute?

Probably not much… but that is often enough to start something big! Every great idea and every great action had its first one minute…

…and once you have started something it just becomes a continuum of single minutes, one after another…

Have a look at this cool video that I found on YouTube’s channel of AIESEC Brazil!

What do you see when you look at a map of the world?

3 May


What do you see when you look at countries on a map of the world? Do you focus on the black lines determining national borders or the blue lines showing rivers? Or are you trying to locate the small dots representing capital cities? And how about all the green/brown space in between those lines and dots? Have you ever thought about what is going on there?

I had yesterday a nice skype chat with my friend from AIESEC Kenya. We were remembering the great time we had at IPM in Tunisia, an international AIESEC conference, couple months ago. There were 250 young people from 107 countries across the world and one afternoon we did a really cool exercise which showed us the map of the world from a different perspective.

Imagine a big rectangular room representing a map of the world. And now imagine people from all those 107 countries sitting within that room according to where their countries are located. I was representing UK so I was sitting in the middle of the room, near to the top. Only the guys from the Nordic counties were sitting behind me, slightly towards the left. Oh, and than there was Teitur from Iceland, he was sitting alone behind me, more on the right. When I looked in front of me towards right, I could see my friends from Latin America sitting in their respective positions. Right in front of me, well behind the guys from Spain and Portugal, the black continent was sitting. When I looked more towards the left, I could see the Europeans and than little bit lower, my friends from the Gulf were sitting in the middle of the room. Further away there were all the delegates from Asia and Australia.

I did not see any black or blue lines, I did not see any dots. All I could see was just people, people just like me. When looking at the map of the world, we often focus only what we see on the paper. But behind that piece of paper, there are nearly 7bn of people living their daily experiences, just like me or you!