Monthly Archives: September 2009

Are women getting unhappier?

ChoiceMaureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, has written an interesting piece this week on the state of women’s happiness. While prosperity may have made men happier, and this happiness seems to increase over their lifespan, the opposite seems to take place for women. Their level of happiness peaks earlier, and gets lower as the years roll on. Could it be that our society, that places so much emphasis on appearance is the cause? Is the staggering range of choice in this heterogeneous world responsible for decision anxiety which leads to stress and unhappiness?

Repetition, repetition, repetition

I’ve recently been observing the communication methods of some great leaders and a common thread is their use of repetition. That’s right, a common thread is their use of repetition. (Okay, I’ll get my hand off it.)

When you think of charismatic American leaders, who comes to mind? Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy, and even William Jefferson Clinton. All of them used repetition in their speeches to get their point across. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech used phrases and images that King had finessed over years of public speaking. John F Kennedy Even today’s American President has made use of the “yes, we can” refrain over, and over, and over. (Stop it!) Australian politicians have also found a fondness for repetition. You knew Paul Keating was making a point when he repeated the last sentence.

Successful business leaders, too, have made use of repetition to get their point across. Jack Welch had a saying of being simple, being consistent, and hammering your message home. That’s why he produced a wallet-sized card containing all of GE’s values. Wal-Mart’s founder, Sam Walton, repeated his company’s values again and again.

Repetition doesn’t need to happen in the same sentence. It doesn’t need to happen in the same talk or speech. But, if you’re wanting to get your point across, repetition (and consistency) over time will help ensure people get what you mean.

Overcoming jet lag

Some say it’s the curse of the modern age. Others avoid visiting friends and family so as not to experience it.

Jetting abroad
Jetting abroad

Jet lag describes the condition where your circadian rhythms are interrupted when travelling in an aircraft across time zones. Symptoms of jet lag include difficulty sleeping at a normal time, waking up in the middle of the night, and extreme drowsiness. In my years of travel, I’ve been very lucky in avoiding the severe effects of jet lag by following three simple rules.

Rule one: always adjust your watch to the destination time zone. As soon as I get on the plane, I adjust my watch to the time zone of my destination city. This means if I’m going from Sydney to Los Angeles for instance, I’ll turn my watch back seventeen hours. Likewise if I’m going to London where I’ll turn it back nine hours. By adjusting my watch to the destination time zone I start acting as if I’m the destination time zone.

Rule two: don’t eat and drink too much. When you’re onboard the plane and the attractive hostess keeps offering you food, I know it’s difficult resist the extra chocolate ice cream and cheese platter. Equally, when that glass of wine seems to have a never ending bottom, and you’ve left the cares of the world 35,000 feet below, saying “no” to the cognac or some other digestif requires real willpower. Believe me; on the occasions where I’ve over indulged, I’ve regretted it; on the occasions where I’ve been disciplined, I’ve sufferred little jet lag.

Rule three: sleep according to the destination time zone. I know this is a follow-on to my first rule and it works. If you can sleep as close as possible to normal nighttime according to the destination time zone, you’ll land fresh and full of energy. For those who find it difficult to sleep, I’ve always found some Baileys with a mild antihistamine works a treat.

So there you have it: my three simple rules for overcoming the jet lag curse. Try them next time you fly to visit friends and family and let me know if they work for you too!

Lots of money chasing too many bad ideas

All investors would like to think they make good decisions. Many think that by performing the right type of analysis or due diligence, they’ll be able to get more information about an investment target and so make a better assessment about whether or not to invest. So what about venture capitalists?

Hare and tortiseA recent article in The Economist reports investors have a voracious appetite to throw money into venture capital (VC) funds focussed on promising start-ups. Marc Andreessen, one of the founders of Netscape Communications, announced in early July 2009 that he and his business partner had raised over $300m to invest in start-ups and it was oversubscribed. What’s interesting is that a month earlier, the Kauffman Foundation released a study concluding the US venture capital industry must shrink for it to be viable in the long-term. It found the industry has been stagnating, producing declining returns, and has grown far too big.

Although firms such as Google, Home Depot, Microsoft, and Starbucks were venture-backed, less than 20% of the fastest-growing comanies in the US had venture investors. In fact, only 16% of around 900 companies in the sample had venture capital backing. Further, the returns from the venture industry is 10% below a leading listed small-cap index on a ten year timeframe.

So there you have it, too much money trying to find the next big idea. Once investors wake up to the fact that the industry has not been producing spectacular returns, and has been charging a small fortune as a management fee, it’s inevitable they will reallocate their investments to other asset classes. The question is how long will it take?

Wanna go out for dessert?

Kyotofu's award-winning cupcake
Kyotofu's award-winning cupcake

Although many people use the phrase “going out for coffee” as an expression to catch-up (or meet-up) with an old (or new) friend, couldn’t “going out for dessert” be an equally valid social occasion?

A little over a month ago, I did just that with my brother and a bunch of his friends in New York. The venue was Kyotofu a Japanese dessert bar in Midtown. Containing two sections, the front of the restaurant had bar stools and a couple of tables while past the kitchen, while down the back, was a larger dining room housing more chairs and tables. On offer was a full menu of sweets that could be ordered individually as well as a prix fare menu. Being a closet sweet tooth, I couldn’t help but indulge in the sampling menu that included cheesecake, black sesame sweet tofu, and the miso chocolate cake.

The cheesecake, accompanied with a sponge base, was delicate yet had a full flavour. The black sesame sweet tofu came with a roasted green tea sauce and goji berries. The slight bitterness of the berries worked well with the sweetness of the tofu whose texture was smooth but firm. The miso chocolate cake was a surprise. I’ve always thought of miso as being extremely salty but in this instance it was juxtaposed against lightly-flavoured green tea ice-cream.

With good service and the right sort of lighting (dim if you ask), I reckon it’s a pretty good date venue.

If I wasn’t concerned about my carbohydrate intake, I’d be back more often.