Monthly Archives: November 2012

Best marketing. Learned from street shopping.

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I do not usually do street shopping. But this old lady caught my attention with her client-oriented skills in the best marketing sense. She was selling apples. Of two kinds. Yellow and red. 0.6 euro cents per kilo. It was +8Celsius outside and rather chilly. Her coat was too light for the weather that day. 153701227Her hands were half frozen and she had a difficult time with handling the scales and plastic bags she was putting her apples in for her customers. I offered to help but she firmly said she can do it by herself. When I asked for the price, she said „ten and ten”. Then she laughed. At my question ‚what made you laugh” she responded with one of her husband’s jokes: one day a guy asks his neighbor „what time is it?”. „10 and 10” was the response. „Hmm, you think you a smart –ass?, smirked the guy, „couldn’t’ have just said „20” ?!” We shared a good laugh in the middle of a busy urban street, with preoccupied people running and racing to their destinations.

This lady opened up many thoughts in my mind about poor people survival strategies, failure of public pension system, gender dimensions and other development issues we, smart-asses 🙂 tend to analyse, discuss and write about.

Still, I choose to keep in my mind this happy encounter for one reason: want to know what’s the best marketing strategy? Whatever you do, sell or need to get through, make the customer smile. Make the customer laugh and enjoy the process.

My family enjoyed the taste of her apples that day and this great lesson will stay with me for a while. My eyes are now searching for this lady every time I am on that busy urban street.

Labeling: too human to give up?

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I was once called greedy. At a break, in a workshop meant to entertain us the moderator made us draw pigs. I drew one in the middle of a folded sheet. She declared it ‚ a pig made by a greedy’. I would have called it ‚a pig made it by an environment conscious person’ :)– same sheet had many uses, before going into recycling.
I was taken aback by this labeling in a moment when I was fully voluntarily involved in a shelter for single mothers at risk of abandoning their babies. Humanly natural, this comment hurt my feelings and my ego asked for revenge.
Behind that story my mind raised a more essential question: what makes us jump into conclusions and judgments about people we barely know and even people we know or we think we know. Is it the internal confused, deprived of self-approval, self-critical dwarf that makes some label others? Is it prejudice, stereotyping? the ability to jump into conclusions? a misjudgment? Is it the temporary short-lived pleasure of feeling ‚better’ that is triggered by ‚i know it all’ perspective? Is it a past experience of a bullying’s victim seeking revenge now as an adult?

What I know is that critique attracts critique and misunderstandings. Misunderstandings are counterproductive in building healthy relationships. And we need healthy relationships to grow into better human beings.

A Dalai Lama or Osho will almost certainly never use labels of any kind. The reality is as such that we do not always communicate with dalai lamas and oshos in our daily lives.

There always be people who would try to fix you with a label. It’s their choice. Your choice is greater: if you do not want a label or feel it is not just, nothing makes you stay near a labeling-person. It’s the loss of labelers who, preoccupied with labeling, miss great opportunities to learn about themselves, to build positive institutions, to bring out the best out of themselves and to engage  with potentially someone great as yourselves.

Orsay’s new exhibition about Félix Thiollier

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If in Paris, go to the Musée d’Orsay’s new exhibition about Félix Thiollier, a 19th-century French photographer. The exhibition displays more than 150 photographs and is divided into two parts: the country and the town. The first is more uneven than the second. As a landscape photographer, Thiollier had an eye for cloud effects and the light cast by a low sun, but many of his shots of fields, woodland and rivers feel competent rather than revelatory. His pictures of farmers, fishermen, shepherds and hunters, on the other hand, hum with life and personality. In the 1890s, he took a series of portraits of rural people, which are wonderfully informal. An old lady with wrinkled skin and rheumy eyes sits on a bank of long grass. Two cows haul a wooden cart, spontaneity emanating from the blurry flick of one of their tails. He captures a shepherdess and her son in a misty field through a clearing between a hedge and a tree’s branches. It’s a lyrical moment, and the impression is of Thiollier walking the countryside, documenting life just as he found it.
his exhibition is a fascinating window on a time of change; half elegy for a way of life passing away, half record of another in its infancy. One photograph in the last room sums up the flux. A man stands with a flock sheep on the edge of town while chimneys smoke behind him. Nearly 100 years after his death, this is Thiollier’s first exhibition. He deserves others.

“Félix Thiollier (1842-1914), photographs” is at the Musée d’Orsay until March 10th
http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/events/exhibitions/in-the-musee-dorsay/exhibitions-in-the-musee-dorsay/article/felix-thiollier-33534.html?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=254&cHash=bcd8bbc07b

Teachers

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To me, teachers are those who leave prints on minds and souls. Teachers come into our lives in many forms and shapes.

Some teachers are people. Some of them are certified. The other day, buying a ticket for a kids theater performance, the lady at the entrance proudly told me „I have been teaching for 47 years! Today I look at myself in the mirror and say to myself – You are quite something!” I hope she taught self-esteem to all those generations of kids for forty-seven years. At my daughter’s favorite museum in town, the lady supervising one of collections has an amazing joy of life. She also shared she was a teacher for 40 years. I hope she taught the joy of life to all those generations of kids for forty years.

Some teachers are not certified and do not even aspire to. They come into our lives to guide when guidance is needed and to support when support is needed. They may stay for longer or may leave when their teaching mission is complete. I was once visiting UNESCO painted monasteries in Romania and during one of those visits I noticed a nun joining another with a narcissus in her hand praising the beauty of the flower and expressing gratitude for the beauty she sees and cherishing the flower as the supreme jewelry. They were my gratitude teachers, in a time when nothing pleased me. Than narcissus lead a mental shift.

Sometimes a good book is a teacher. My shelves are full of such teachers. For example, „How good people make tough decisions” by Rushworth M. Kidder or „Grace and Gritby Ken Wilber are teachers I go often for guidance.

Sometimes, a past experience is a great teacher, shall we be willing to re-experience it and learn from it.

Sometimes, our kids are the greatest teachers.

Sometimes, a butterfly releasing its wings from the cocoon is a timely teacher.

I am sure you have your own teachers for references. Teachers, whatever their form or shape, are there when we need them. Just ask the Universe for it and open your heart and mind.

How I cured my “fear of God”

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I was not born that way. I was raised in that way. “There is a God up there who sees everything you do and punishes you when you misbehaved” was a standard reprimand. This did the job. It instilled the purest form of abstract fear into a young soul, surrounded by many others who dared not think in any other way.

When I was 14 I took part in a nation wide French language competition. A teenager one-two years older than me interrupted a colleague’s prayer for good luck with a sharp “There is no God. If there is one he would strike me with all his might as I speak no”. I still remember his cynical laugh. That was probably the first non-orthodox and up-front view I have encountered on the matter, which raised a question deep in my mind.

Years later I was on the verge of a love affairs, which smell of danger. I was asked back then if I wasn’t afraid to enter into this relationship. “No’ was my answer, fast completed with “I am only afraid of God”.  That was a rather strong belief, rooted in my childhood and early education.

My journey of self-nurturing brought me a fundamental personal appreciation of the ‘fear of God”. I read the Bible in my late teenage years, a time when I begun practicing independent thinking. I processed this reading years later when I read Solomon’s Proverbs and Ecclesiaste.

My mind came to appreciate the following: God (with whatever name he is known or called by his followers in whatever region of the world)  is the Creator and as such is a Parent. Parents love and nurture. So does God. He gifted us with minds, souls and hearts to choose and accept or not the consequences of our choices. Blaming it on Him or stopping doing something out of fear of a Supranatural Repercussion is a strategy, no doubt, but with such a limited learning for personal growth impact. Is fear an ally to your growth? is a question with a very personal answer.

Fear and belief may go hand in hand. Up to a point though. The turning point is when the feeling of light is fading or, to the contrary, is brightening you, your life and the life of others.

Shaw’s Treaties on parents and children

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My next book choice from my “To Read All Nobel Prize for Literature” project took me to the world of Bernard Shaw.

One hundred years later, George Bernard Shaw’s Treaties on parents and children (1914) may still challenge quite a few minds and ‚values’. So get ready for a mental earthquake, if a combination of dramatic, comic and socially corrective attitudes are not an usual spot for you, as a reader.

His ability to capture the essence of parents- children relations with no hypocrisy attached is what made me an immediate fan. Much comes from his childhood.”A benefit to the child may be a burden to the parent, but people become attached to their burdens sometimes more than burdens are attached to them, and to ‚suffer little children’ has become an affectionate impulse deep in our nature”.

In the book, and as one can see from his biography, he is a fierce advocate of children’ rights and the essence of his beliefs about children is that a child is an experiment, not of parents, but of the Life Force. He asks for Sense, not Logic, in dealing with children. You’ll find a call their for a ‚Child’s Magna Carta’ determined by the English realities back then, which is valid even today given global realities.

It’s amazing how a piece written one hundreds years ago still resonates with what is happening in the today’s education system in many, if not the majority of, places on earth. But I assume this is what it’s called a work of a genius. I would say it’s a must read piece for any minister of education and all school masters.  His quote ‚Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not ” says quite a lot and, from what the ‚Treaties’ illustrates, in a plurality of areas and topics.

If in doubt about this piece’s modernity, read this: „As I write these lines, the Home Secretary is explaining that a man who has been imprisoned for blasphemy must not be released because his remarks were painful to the feelings of his pious fellow townsmen” and will capture immediately the parallel with what happened to Pussy Riot in Russia in the year 2012.

It’s a book to revisit on many accounts and concepts: what is perfection, human rights, christianity, learning, knowledge, freedom, tolerance, breastfeeding, women emancipation, mother-in-law behaviour  explained, power of human will, art education, religous education etc.

And yes, Shaw can make a show even hundreds years later, with genuinity and love.