Friday, July 31, 2009

A Tribute to Milton Friedman

Today, 31 July 2009, marks what would have been the world-renowned economist Milton Friedman’s 97th birthday. The Lion Rock Institute, based here in Hong Kong, put on a cocktail celebration for the late superstar economist, with a panel discussion, a few youtube clips featuring Mr. Friedman’s thoughts on the markets, and an open bar that I made sure to take advantage of.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Many of the principles that Mr. Friedman was an advocate for are apparently being trampled over by President Obama and a seemingly clueless US congress. The panel, which was comprised of well known Hong Kong economists who actually went to school in Chicago and studied under Mr. Friedman, were quick to critique the rational behind President Obama’s stimulus package, pointing to the fact that as the US begins to exit the recession, only the tinniest amount of stimulus money has actually been spent.

One thing Mr. Friedman was not, and it is important to highlight in order to save him from the hands of disenfranchised Americans, was a protectionist. If your business were going under because of outsourcing to India, “you are mistaken” Mr. Friedman would have said. Your business is actually going under because you have failed to innovate—“Tuff luck”. Only by exposing our businesses and industries to increased competition and pressure will we increase the necessity for innovation. Furthermore, it is innovation that is the key to providing the new and higher paying jobs necessary in order to continue raising living standards. An industry protected by government will likely destroy the need for innovation, in turn causing incomes and living standards to stagnate.

Mr. Friedman was very fond of Hong Kong. In the youtube clip below, he points out some of the reasons why Hong Kong has been able to increase it’s living standard so dramatically.

The world is getting crazy. As the US government, the spokesperson for freedom and capitalism around the globe, begins taking over banks and car manufacturers, it is the People’s Republic of China, the last great stronghold of communism that has adopted an increasingly free market economy. One has to wonder what will happen to Friedman’s teaching. In the US, will they be washed away by fiscal irresponsibility and a sense of entitlement? Will they gain further adoption by the hard working, status seeking Chinese? Or will Mr. Friedman’s free market system be blended with some sort of social collectivism, which is beginning to seem necessary in order to combat long-term imperatives such as climate change and resource conservation. Only time will tell.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

McKinsey's Grand Arrival on The Web 2.0 Scene

A couple of weeks ago, a friend introduced me on to McKinsey Quarterly-a business news site which is an offshoot of The McKinsey Consulting firm. I'm very impressed by the depth and breath of reporting. Each email is targeted to what I want to read and though some of the emails are reserved for premium members, the ones that I can read are very interesting and many times include video interviews with global business leaders.

Take this last Email I received. Mckinsey Quarterly did an interview with Jeroen van der Veer, former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, where he spoke about the future of oil and renewable energy. Not only is he a very interesting guy to hear from, but they did a great job targeting my interests, as renewable energy is a topic I'm interested in.

If you would like to view the interview please click here.

What might be the most interesting thing about McKinsey Quarterly is that it represents McKinsey's arrival on the web 2.0 scene. This is further proof that the Internet is completely transforming business, regardless of industry. If a successful business consultancy like McKinsey feels it is necessary to practically give away business insight over the internet, who else is likely to follow? What other industries, which might have been thought of as 'internet proof', will follow suit? Time will tell.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Problem of Prosperity

Though climate change is still a debated topic, most have come to the conclusion that it is real and have resolved that something has to be done. So what to do? Where to start?

It is clear that many developing countries refuse to make the needed changes to reduce the production of greenhouse gases. Until recently, the US was the world leader in green house gas emissions, and yet, refused to join the Kyoto protocol, an international agreement designed to turn back the effects of climate change, most likely because of fears that the economy might be stifled by bulky restrictions on pollution.

Nor can we expert developing countries like India and China to take the lead on reducing greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, raising prosperity in these countries is also accompanied by larger energy consumption. Asking these countries to reduce their production of greenhouse gases is like asking them to abandon their dreams for prosperity. In order to make meaningful changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must make sustainable technologies and lifestyles profitable to individuals, businesses and governments.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an NGO focused on making sustainable living profitable, which, it argues, can only be done when we have effective tools in place to measure the carbon output of private and public sector organizations. In business, what gets measured gets managed. If we hope to manage and thus reduce the effects of greenhouse gases, we must first find a way to measure it.

The CDP is working on this exact problem. The NGO collects emissions data from corporations, institutional investors and purchasing organizations from around the world and is using this data to create a standard to measure future outputs.

Take a look at this presentation by Bill Clinton, who is an avid supporter of the movement. Not only is it a great explanation for the CDP, but he also has some great ideas.

It’s time to mobilize against climate change.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keep It Absurd America

A couple weeks ago I wrote about a friend of a friend's adventures as an counsultant in Vietnam. If you did not have the chance to read it, just after graduating from UC Santa Barbara, this young "consultant" went looking for adventure and entrepreneur opportunities in Vietnam. After eight months of ups and downs, he eventually decided to return to California. He wrote a great synopsis of his experience, highlighting insights about himself, business, and life.

Vietnam Synopsis

After reading it over the first time, one part in particular stood out.
Americans, on the other hand, what a bunch of silly people we are. Every one of my American friends either works for an NGO, doing traffic safety or health communications or protecting the environment, or they're working in finance or economic research, investing money and crunching numbers. We're all either trying to save the world or take it over. We're all writers and we're all photographers too. We all have some big story about what we're doing with our lives and why we're in Hanoi, and we have hundreds of quasi-artsy photos to prove to our friends on facebook how much fun it is. Few of us last even a year out here before we move on to our next big opportunity to be even more special and exciting. We are completely absurd.

I love the fact that unbridled and indulgent optimism is what I, as an American, bring to the table. During my time at HK Baptist University, I had multiple discussions with other exchange students about the presidential election that was coming up. I got an overwhelming feeling that what others have come to expect from Americans is optimism. That tomorrow can be better than yesterday and that changing the world for the better is entirely within an individuals hands.

Yes we are absurd, but in my opinion, our optimism is our best export.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On Working Abroad

One of the benefits of working abroad, as apposed to just traveling abroad or staying at home, is that one begins to gain an international perspective on business. Something like starting a business in Africa or India doesn’t seem like that crazy of an idea anymore. An amazing retrospection, one that I don’t think I would have had if I had stayed in the US.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Futures So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

One of the renewable energy briefs I went to last week showcased some really interesting facts and figures on solar energy in countries like China and America.

Currently, solar energy is not widely used. It accounts for less than one percent of the world's energy usage. Inefficient solar panels and batteries that can't hold a sustainable charge is largely to blame. However, by 2015, solar is projected to overtake oil and other fossil fuels as an affordable energy source due to efficiency improvements and economies of scale. Batteries are also improving at a remarkable rate. In areas such as India and Africa, where electrification rates are low and solar radiation is very high, solar, a "plug and light" option (particularly useful in areas where little infrastructure exists), seems poised to capture the market.

I think it's amazing. The same thing that power's the flora y fauna, the wind and the sea, even you and I, is about to power our civilizations. We live in interesting times my friends, very interesting times.

Take a look at some of the initiatives by country quoted below.

Over 60,000 demonstrations in 2008 because of poor Air Quality
-Biggest source of contestation
-18 of 23 most polluted cities in the world are in China

What is China doing now?
-Has introduced solar subsidies – USD 2 per watt
-USD 650 billion spent over the next ten years on renewable and sustainable technology
-Solar power usage should grow from 30 mega watts to 20 giga watts

The US
-Coal represents 52% of electricity grid
-Coal plants inefficient and old (on average, 35 years old)
-Bank’s won’t finance new coal plants.
-28 states don’t have renewable energy portfolio standards
-10% distribution loss because of old grid. That's 10 times the losses of Europe or Japan
-The losses are mainly do to the small energy companies in the energy business and the regulations (Transporting energy across state lines requires a lot of deal making)
-USD 20 Trillion is required in improvements over next 20 years.
-Obama is heavily behind renewable energy

Europe should remain a leading player in renewable energy.
-Legislature support
-New players are coming into the market,
-Banks are heavily behind RE

Tell your local legislators to pay attention. Higher paying jobs are another benefit to solar energy adoption.

Job creation
-At 300GW by 2030 = 5 million jobs (mostly installers)
-Jobs with higher education requirements means higher pay, thus a higher tax base (important if you want to convince legislators)

In fact, if you're looking for a new career, why not go solar?
This website is a good place to start looking.

Take a look at the entire PowerPoint presentation at:

And have a great day : )

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Global Sustainability Jobs

While searching the World Wide Web for interesting CSR charities similar to community business, I came across Acre, a sustainability/CSR recruiting website. The site lists jobs around the world and also lets you upload your CV (resume) to be reviewed and placed with jobs that fit your education and experiences best. I just submitted my CV today. You try!

Please spread this around if you have some friends who would find it useful.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Love Traffic, But Only When I'm Driving It

Over the past short years, the website has quickly become the central vocal point for any organization. Broadcast, print, interactive (e.g. internet ads) and support advertising now tends to point potential clients to an organisation's website. Once there, potentials are exposed to a limitless amount of information, which because the potential can choose what information they want to see, the information is tailored to the potentials needs.

At Community Business, my internship, I have been trying to think of ways to drive traffic to the website. Community Business, however, as a charity, has no budget for advertising. The only advertising dollars Community Business receives is from donations from corporate member, but this money is limited to specific charitable activities only.

A marketing agency based out of Southern California just sent me an email that highlighted some interesting ways of driving traffic to a website (only the interesting ones s are listed).

Changes to your website:
Use Blogs: purchase industry specific domains, create blogs on each of these websites that point back to the company’s main site. Write smart and interesting blog posts that relate to the target market.

Update content frequently (you would be surprised how many, big and small, companies neglect their website)

Marketing Campaigns:
Email campaigns: be relevant, useful, and pleasing to the eye (they obviously did a great job at this. I had never heard of this company before but I really enjoyed reading the email, it was so relevant)

Podcasts – Video Podcasts: interview managers, leaders, and business coaches discussing topics interesting to the target market ( is a great example of this. These videos must get sent around the world).

Search Engine Optimization: there are ways to make your site more relevant on a google search.

Build linkage: get similar businesses to put your link on their website. (this works extremely well for NGOs)

Social Media:
Assign A Champion: put someone to the task of being the online person, making connections and generating energy around new campaigns. SHARE knowledge frequently to drive potentials who are looking for more details.

The key seems to be transferability. Communication on the Internet can be viral. If communications are relevant and entertaining, and tools to easily share are provided, then communications have the potential to be shared with thousands of viewers in a short period of time. I really like the idea about video pod-casts. The medium is entertaining and easy to share. It also has a better ability to relate with viewers, than say, print.

Other ideas?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Big Trouble in Big China: Irresponsible Business

China is still a long ways away from being an ideal place to set up shop. Irresponsible business practices are still the rule, not the exception, and seem ingrained in societal norms.

STR Responsible Sourcing (RS) is a Supply Chain Management auditor, insuring that manufacturers, distributors and other stakeholders who touch consumer products are operating in an ethical and sustainable manner. After spending some time looking through there annual report, I found very interesting statistics detailing the number, type and location of infringements.

Take a look at the pie graph below. China/Hong Kong represents more than half of the pie, with the next largest offender being South East Asia.

Note: This graph shows the total, not the percentage. The large disparity between China and other regions could be because of the greater amount of manufacturing taking place in China. Another reason could be the amount of business STR has in China compared to the other regions.

Even more shocking is the number of offenses by category. Over 50% of those companies inspected had issues with working hours and minimum wage. Child Labor infringements were found in nearly twenty five percent of inspections.

The report also sheds light on the widespread use of bribery by plant managers. Upon a plant inspection in China, one of the inspectors commented:
It happens so often that it’s become a standard part of my job to decline the offers and explain to the management why bribery is not the solution. What motivates facilities to give out money to auditors? I have the following points of view on why bribery is common in China:
• The facility wants auditors to reduce the number of findings;
• The facility wants auditors to reduce the major findings, this change to a better grade;
• Provide money is considered a normal friendly gesture;
• The facility feels that they are obligated to give money out, since other factories engage in similar practices;
• The facility believes that giving money is the only way to pass a social compliance assessment;
• The facility follows instructions from their vendor.

Another inspector noted that the bribes usually ranged from RMB 500 to 5000. Depending on the person, that amount could be several times his or her monthly wages.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mr. Friedman Turns 93

The 97th birthday of world renowned American economist, Milton Friedman, is coming up and a local Hong Kong Organization is getting together to celebrate him and his contribution to private enterprise. There will be a panel discussion including three professor from around Hong Kong who will speak on his ideas and their relevance to the current economy.

If you recall, Mr. Friedman was a huge advocate for creating shareholder value, stating that this is the only responsibility private enterprise has to society. The title of an article he wrote for the NY Times in 1970 reads “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”. If you would like to read it, please see:

In a free-enterprise, private-property sys­tem, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct re­sponsibility to his employers. That responsi­bility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while con­forming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom. Of course, in some cases his employers may have a different objective. A group of persons might establish a corporation for an eleemosynary purpose–for exam­ple, a hospital or a school. The manager of such a corporation will not have money profit as his objective but the rendering of certain services.

In either case, the key point is that, in his capacity as a corporate executive, the manager is the agent of the individuals who own the corporation or establish the eleemosynary institution, and his primary responsibility is to them [as opposed to Society].

I personally think it is a very convincing read. The only thing I would add is that times have changed. Technology in communications has shrunk the virtual proximity between business and communities. Advancements in science have made it possible to measure the exact effect a business has on the environment and communities. Now, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is needed to increase a business’ profits in order to meet its social responsibilities.

Currently working for an NGO who focus is Corporate Social Responsibility makes this brief particularly interesting. I’m a big fan of understanding all sides of an issue and I have to believe their will be some interesting perspectives on Social Responsibility.

The venue is at a private Portuguese club in central. The same one I went to for the Junto meeting. The brief is not until the end of the month. Can't wait!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Networking: Follow Your Stomach

Between the late nights with friends and early mornings with coworkers, I’m dedicating a large amount of time to finding a permanent, and most importantly, a paid, job. From putting my CV on websites like, to attending networking meetings, I’m giving it all I got. Last week I went to two CSR/Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI) briefings.

At the first event, put on by, I managed to strike out big time. How did I blow it? A couple things probably went wrong, but if I had to say it was one thing, it was that I came off overly interested. Sounds crazy huh?

Picture a room full of business people, some looking for simple insights into the topic discussion, others looking to expand their network, and still others searching for a new job. Everyone in that room proceeds with caution, not wanting to wind up in a conversation with the guy who has nothing to give and everything to take.

Enter Kevin Burns, who at times can be an extremely interested and curious person, and you have a recipe for disaster. Instead of enticing others to engaging with me, I went into question mode, which in the setting I explained above, probably threw up a number of red flags. I left feeling like I had annoyed half the people I spoke with.

The second event, put on by, went much better. I practically hung out at the refreshment table the whole time, gobbling up delicious chocolate snacks and casually chatted about anything other than business, allowing them to bring up what I am doing in HK. Apparently when it comes to networking, following your stomach is a decent strategy.

Another “friend of a friend” had an experience similar to mine which I found very interesting and insightful. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara in CA, he went looking for adventure and business opportunities in Vietnam. Good times ensued.

After a while I figured out that sitting next to high powered global executives at business conferences, chatting, trading business cards, and sending follow-up emails is not a particularly effective method of getting a job. No one really gives a damn about you, and usually the important people in a company aren't involved in hiring for entry level positions. Big companies have HR departments and systems in place for finding new employees, they don't just hire random folks because they sat next to the CEO at some conference. I was just a business groupie (lamest vacation ever).

Eventually I found that the key to networking with more senior executive director types was to meet them in a non-business context, like a cultural or charity event. My first consulting contract came as a result of a charity event that I had volunteered to be the photographer for. It was a bike race. I motorbiked out in front of the cyclists, squatted on the ground, and got shots of them rushing past markets and cows and temples. It was a lot of fun. At the after-party I gorged myself on free snacks and idly chatted with whoever was within 5 feet of the food table. Somehow I ended up talking about my experience with business plans, and pretty soon I had a consulting gig helping write the business plan for a health communications NGO that was applying for its next round of funding. I wasn't even wearing my suit.

You can find his entire Vietnam story at

On a separate note, last night was beer fest in LKF. Over a lighthearted conversation about global economics with an entrepreneur from Mumbai, I was able to demonstrate enough intelligence for him to propose a business interview. Don’t really know where that’s going to go, but I am hopeful after enough of these encounters, something will stick.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Warren Buffett

I’ve been holding on to this for a while now. A friend of a friend had the chance to go to Omaha, Nebraska and visit with Warren Buffett at his office. The visit was part of his business course and he was joined by a number of students from around the world. There was a short Q&A session and a lunch break were the students were able to get a bit of insight into Mr. Buffet’s character and personality. He wrote down some of the more notable insights and sent the notes to friends and family.

Personally, I really enjoyed reading through Mr. Buffet’s opinions. His thoughts on life are unique and exceptional. Some of his analogies will make you cry laughing and at the same time you can’t help but agree with him. I’m not surprised at all Mr. Buffet has done so well for himself. Enjoy.

*On technology*:

"One of these days I'm going to get a cell phone." [as he fiddles with the

*On the crisis on Wall Street*

"Wall Street had to call off the Christmas party this year because they couldn't find 3 wise men… [pauses] They had a hard time finding a virgin too. [everyone laughs] In fact, a very good investment banker I know in New York lost his job recently and went back home to his wife. They started to look for ways to costs. He said to his wife, 'if you can learn how to cook, then we can fire the chef.' His wife said, 'Well, if you can learn how to make love, then we can fire the gardener too.'" [everyone laughs]

*On his investment in Goldman Sachs*

"At the time, the market was on the verge of literally falling apart. Before I made the investment, I had to believe that the government was going to provide support in a big way and understood the gravity of the situation."

*On getting older*

"Recently, I walked over to Charlie Munger and said to him, 'Charlie, I think we should buy Microsoft at $16, do you agree?' I got no response. Later that day, I walked up to Charlie again and said 'Charlie, I really think we should buy Microsoft at $16, do you agree?' Still no response. Finally, at the end of the day, I went up to Charlie and said, 'Hey Charlie, I really think we should buy Microsoft at $16, do you agree???!' Charlie yelled, 'For the third time, yes!'"

*On who he hires to manage his businesses*

"I ask, do they love the business, or the money? I mean, I can do anything I want to do in the world -- that doesn't require athletic ability of course -- so why do I tap dance to work? I want people who will do the same thing for the business even if I own it. I want someone who, if independently wealthy, would work just as hard and get up every morning at 6am to go to work. Three-fourths of my managers are independently wealthy and don't need the money. They do it because the love it."

*On hiring as it relates to marriage*

"A wife is the most important hiring and personnel decision you will make in
your life. To have a successful marriage, you know what is the number one
quality you should look for in a partner? It's not looks. It's not
intellect. It's not even character… [pauses] It's finding someone with
low expectations!" [everyone, including Warren, laughs]

*On firing managers*

"I tend to wait too long and will continue to do so. I would rather do it
later than earlier. I would pay a lot of money to not have those
situations, because I hate them."

*On what is success*

"In Omaha, there was a woman by the name of Belle Eisenberg, who recently
passed away. During the Holocaust, her family was sent to Auschwitz, and
she was the only one to make it out. She told me one day that every time
she meets someone, she asks herself whether that person is the type of
person who would hide her [from the Nazis]. I think, if there are a dozen
or more people who would be willing to hide you, and you them, then I'd say
you've lived a pretty successful life. I know people who are worth
billions, and their own kids wouldn't hide them."

*On investing in gold to hedge against inflation*

"Gold has a mystical quality to it, and it becomes more attractive as paper
money becomes meaningless. But Gold is a terrible investment -- it sits
there, stares back at you, and doesn't produce anything. The idea that
humans mine gold out of the ground in South Africa, transport it all the way
to the U.S. only to lock it back underground in the Federal Reserve… it
seems like there's a better use of people's time. [everyone laughs] The
best inflation hedge is talent and increasing your own skills and
capabilities. Therefore it won't matter if the form of currency is paper,
gold or seashells; you want to be the best at what you do."

*On the U.S. facing increased global competition*

"I love competition. See, the way you get the heavyweight champion of the
world is by finding the best guy and having him knock out people along the
way. Competitiveness is a good thing. We shouldn't stifle it. If horses
could have voted, if there was the Horses Association of America, the
tractor would have never been invented." [everyone laughs]

*On putting your career aspirations on hold and finding a safe job*

"I never believe in putting things on hold. One day a student from Harvard
Business School picked me up from Logan International Airport. During the
car ride, I asked him what he wanted to do, and he said 'I'm thinking about
going into management consulting. It's not what I want to do long term, but
I think it will look good on my resume.' I said to him, 'What? That plan
sounds about as good as saving up sex for old age.' [everyone laughs] We
all know the story about Wilt Chamberlain. On his tombstone it says, 'At
last I sleep alone.' [everyone laughs again] I didn't want to go to
college. I wanted to get where I wanted to go as fast as possible. There
aren't many years in life. If you can, you should do what you want to do as
soon as you can."

*On what a business schools fail to teach effectively*

"Oral and written communication. I was totally afraid of public speaking.
I would puke, hide, whatever it took to avoid it. In fact, I went to
Wharton only after checking the classes just to make sure I wouldn't have to
speak in front of a class. After college, however, I realized I needed to
do something about this fear. So I took a 15 week public speaking class in
downtown Omaha to get over it."

*On Berkshire's investing philosophy*

"You can never have enough reputation. I tell my managers to run the
business in a way as if it were the only asset their family could own for
the next 100 years. There is plenty of money to be made in the center
court; we don't like to play on the front line."

*On how he values businesses*

"I always look at my valuation first before looking at the price. It's like
when I used to bet on horses at the races. I look at their performance, not
their odds. You need to have your own ideas, the ability to think in a closed room. That's the advantage of being in Omaha. On Wall Street, I used to get a lot of stimuli rolling across my desk."

*On increased government spending*

"Government is the only one who can leverage when everyone else is deleveraging. In economics, there is no free lunch. But maybe it's better
to pay later than not have any lunch right now."

*On what he has learned over the years*

"I haven't learned a lot more about investing or making money since I was 25
years old. But I've learned a lot about human behavior. Let's play a game. If you had to pick 1 classmate, and you would earn 10% of what they will earn for the rest of their life, what would go through your mind? Their IQ? Their grades? What school they went to? Who's the best on the dance floor? … [pauses] Or is it who's the most effective human being. Who do people admire and love to work for. Who is able to inspire and willing to give credit to other people for their successes.

* If you had to short 1 classmate 10%, who would that be? What traits turn
you off?

You'll realize that the qualities in the people you want are behavioral, not
born in. You want someone who doesn't keep score, like 'I cleaned your room, now you clean mine.' You want someone who people want to do things for."

*On higher taxes for the rich*

"The top 400 people in the U.S. earned an average AGI of $250 million per year and paid an average of 17.5% in taxes. There are 24 million households in the U.S. that earn less than $21,000 per year. The U.S. tax code has shifted over the past 10 years toward befitting the rich.

With all my money, I could hire 20,000 people to build, dragging huge stone blocks, a tomb for me that would make people forget all about the Egyptians. Or I could pay… hmmm, let's see [calculating numbers in his head]… hmmm, $2 billion a year… 30,000 people to paint my picture every day, so that I could pick the one that looks the best -- the closest one to George Clooney, whom people have said resemble me. [everyone laughs]

The ability to allocate capital was wired into me. But if I had been born a
thousand years ago, I would have been some animal's lunch. I am where I am because of the society around me. To believe that I should not have to pay for my share of the burden of the common costs that created this society is outrageous. Society has a right, an obligation, to get payment from those who are lucky. Society contributes to who you are. The rich should get down on their knees and be thankful for the society they are born into and be willing to pay to keep that society going."

*On politics (FYI, he supported Obama)*

"You should vote based on how you want the world to be. You should vote based on what leader you think will help take it there."

*On life:*

"Imagine that it is 24 hours before you are born. A genie comes to you and
says that you get to design how the world will be before you enter it. You
say, 'That sounds great. But what's the catch?' The genie says, 'There is
only one catch. You will go to that barrel over there filled with 6 billion
tickets. You will pick one ticket at random, and that ticket will define
who you will be in your world. It could say male; it could say female. It
could say you will be born in the U.S.; it could say you will be born in
Bangladesh. It could say black; it could say white. It could say
intelligent; it could say retarded. It could say rich; it could say poor.'

You should design the world in a way that is independent of what ticket you

You got your ticket. If you now had the chance to pick 100 tickets from
that barrel, but you had to give up your current life and to be one of the
hundred picked, would you do it? Chances are, maybe 4 or 5 of the hundred
will say you will be born in the U.S. Maybe one will say you are above
average intelligence. Maybe one will say you have above average income.
Would you play? [pauses] …Of course you wouldn't. You wouldn't play,
which means you are in the top 1% of society. We are so lucky; most people
in the world would give anything to play."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Finding Corporate Social Responsibility Jobs Around the Globe

While searching the World Wide Web for interesting CSR charities similar to community business, I came across Acre, a CSR recruiting website. The site lists jobs around the world and also lets you upload your CV (resume) to be reviewed and placed with jobs that fit your education and experiences best. I just submitted my CV today. You try!

Please spread this around if you have some friends who would find this useful.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

I’ve been told a million times to brake up large difficult projects into small pieces in order to simplify them. It never really seemed to catch on, however, and I kept practicing the same bad habits. Only until recently, when I read one of my favorite Blogs, written by Ben Casnocha, accomplished author and entrepreneur, did I find something very compelling.

It's the same reason why we'd prefer to read two short books instead of one long book. Total number of pages read might be the same, but we feel more accomplished having completed two whole books.

It's the same reason why breaking tasks into bits (and then checking off each bit on our to-do list) makes us feel more accomplished and energized than leaving one, big task on the to-do list, ever unchecked.

We are completionists by nature.

Sometimes this is a bad thing. Rational decision makers must ignore sunk costs. Abandon that book that stopped being interesting at page 50!

Ben figured this out while cutting his sandwich in half for lunch proving that yes, wisdom really is everywhere.

See the whole post here:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bill Gates and a Worthy Goal

I wanted to share a video I watched today and really enjoyed. Below, Bill Gates, co founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation presents on two of the initiatives he and his foundation are working on.

I am absolutely inspired by Mr. Gates. While others squabble over petty differences, Mr. Gates and his foundation are tackling the global challenges no one else wants to take on.

I'm in your corner Bill. Keep it up.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Attack of the Other White Meat!!

The response to the growing number of swine flu cases in Hong Kong has been swift and far reaching. Twelve cases of the virus found at a city secondary school prompted the government to close down primary schools across Hong Kong. Individuals suspected of having the infection have been quarantined. One quarantined man even fled from the hospital where he was being held. Apparently not enjoying the hospitality.

It is likely the actual number of swine flu cases is not being accurately reported for fear of persecution. Private schools who inform the government or the media about cases of the infection fear Parents would take their children to other schools.

I was even a case of swine flu discrimination. I had a meeting with my managers from my internship when I first arrived in Hong Kong. However, I wasn’t allowed to go into the office for fear I might infect the entire office.

A friend from rugby, Diego Laje, is a freelance reporter who does a lot of work for CNN Spanish. He recently did an interview with Dr. Malik Peiris, from the University of Hong Kong, highlighting some interesting points surrounding the swine flu hysteria and what happens going forward. Have a look.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Busy, busy, busy. After my first week in Hong Kong I thought I would be searching endlessly for things to do. This past week showed me that I’m certainly going to have to search, but not for things to do, rather, time to do it all in.

When I got off work on Tuesdays at around 6pm I headed straight to the west side of the island to play touch rugby with a bunch of my friends, who I met through the couch surfer, Warren. After two to three hours of endless running, I was completely wasted, and barely managed to make it back to my apartment.

Wednesday, after work, I met with my roommate from when I stayed at the HKBU dorms last fall. I was glad to hear he is doing well—he has an internship with a local magazine. Then, twenty minutes after dinner I was meeting with some other HKBU friends at the Happy Valley racetrack for so drinks and cheap entertainment. I actually ended up making money. Not from betting on horses, but managed to get so many free drink tickets that I began selling them. And still, later, I met some friends at Agaves (Mexican food) in Wan Chai before taking a quick taxi home.

Thursday after work I played table tennis with some new friends who I met on Though I only got to play about forty minutes because the venue is quite far from my office, it’s worth it. I really enjoy playing. I’m trying to find a league out here (even though I would get crushed) but haven’t found one just yet.

My German friend Christian, who I also met at HKBU during the fall, arrived to spend the weekend at my place. He is currently doing an internship in Guangzhou (about 200 miles across the border) and needed to leave the country to revalidate his visa. We spent the night in LKF (bar district) hanging out with local friends and my rugby buddies.

Saturday was dedicated to table tennis. After watching some table tennis videos at and, Chris and I went to the municipal center, which is right next to my apartment. After two hours of play I finally started to get some rhythm back.

Take a look at this youtube video of some top players, Ma Lin from China and Timo Boll from Germany. The video is short, but the match goes all seven rounds and a couple match points in the 7th round. This is the best table tennis gets.

You can also see all the latest tournaments at:

Moving on! I saved the best for last. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Junto, but I’ll give you a short brief regardless. Junto is the name Benjamin Franklin and friends chose for their club, whose goal was, in short, self-improvement. Hundreds of years later, Junto clubs exist around the world, all varying in purpose and format according to the members they incorporate. Through friends I became a member of the Hong Kong chapter (probably one of many).

This Monday was my first meeting with these guys since I’ve been back in Hong Kong. The venue was at an exclusive Portuguese club in Central. Turns out one of the Junto members has Portuguese blood and is a member there. Not only were the service, food and drinks amazing, but also the view from the 26th floor was stunning. I was expecting the prices to be ridiculously high, but because it was a club, drinks were only about four US dollars (top shelf only) and food just a little bit more. It was a taste of luxury I’m not likely to see again for a long time.

Our conversation started on the rise of “grass eating men” in Japan ( and soon transgressed into a conversation about global economics—the rise of china, and the turbulent future in store for the US (check out my friend Shaun Nath’s blog at He makes a very good point on this exact topic). The conversation was very impressive. I’m really looking forward to the next meeting.

I could barely make it through work Tuesday. When I got home I crashed out on my bed, completely missing rugby. Luckily, I got plenty of sleep this morning. Today is a Holiday in Hong Kong celebrating the 1997 handover of Hong Kong back to the Chinese.

There is so much more to write about, but I’ll leave it at that for now. For all those back in the US, enjoy our Independence Day! Miss you guys! Miss my Euros/Canucks/Asians as well—Hong Kong isn’t the same without you guys!