Sports moments of beauty

Faultless speed is what counts in this world. Whitewater, gates, upstream, downstream, start, finish, boat, paddle, better and faster.

I hear the sound of the speaker, excitement is building. I hear the constant pounding of the water. I see the judges watching and noting things down. Missed the gate? Touched the gate? Successful movement through the gate?

Pelicans in flight

Pelicans in flight

I see pelicans flying in formation in circles above. What do they see and know from where they are? I feel nerves, how about the others? Everyone knows what is at stake here. This is what athletes are training for. With everything that is going on around, this space is what counts. How do they measure up against their peers, against and with the water, against themselves?

Focus, disappointment, technique, joy, drive, acceleration, desire… I see it all through my lens. I value and handle these unique appearances with care, as if trying to capture a butterfly. Easily crushed but of exquisite beauty, an opportunity in milliseconds, asking to do justice to its being. I bring a window to this universe. Here so many elements intersect.

I am with them, all of them, when they come in range, here and now. I freeze moments in time. Moments of exceptional beauty.

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Thinking forward, tales of traveling in time

Forward thinking. Reasoning forward. Is it what sets today’s visionaries and great performers apart? Is reasoning or thinking backward, including past trends, decisions, experiences and knowledge, part of this forward thinking? Do we need the past as a reference? If so, how important is what we know today to our thinking into the future? Some musings on different cases.

Forward implies movement, from one point to the other. Forward is usually perceived positive and backward negative. Forward is progress. Thinking beyond “here”, “now”, “what we know”, and “current state”. You are able to anticipate, consider options and potential consequences of future actions or outcomes. There is a time and space dimension associated to thinking “ahead” and back again.

 - Thinking math
 - Thinking finance, Olympics and past performance
 - Thinking management and entrepreneurship
 - Thinking life

Thinking math

ThinkingImagine working on a complex math problem. Imagine not finding the strategy to solve and not coming up with the solution. You hit a closed door and cannot find the key. Imagine reading the problem’s answer and possible strategy to solve. From the other side of the door or with guidance from a locksmith, you “see” it; opening the door was possible with the tools you had. You think: yes, logical, and understand backwards. Putting the puzzle pieces back together seems simple. There is, however, a profound difference between understanding backward and understanding forward to take appropriate action and solve to open that door. ↑Back to top↑

Thinking finance, Olympics and past performance

You are probably familiar with the saying “past performance does not guarantee future performance” (think: a Fund manager’s disclaimer). Yet, we use past performance and behaviors as predictors for future performance all the time. The assumption is that if there is a consistent pattern in the past, the future is most likely to continue that way. On the other hand, we cannot always predict the particulars, possibly only the direction. Note that both the extrapolation and the general direction require things to remain relatively stable, so no disruptors, to hold “true”.

January 2012 Medal Prediction Canoe Sprint K1M 1000m


Let’s take a look at an interesting case related to Olympic medal predictions for London 2012. USA Today and Infostrada Sports developed an Olympic Medal Tracker that “projects the winners in each medal event for the 2012 London Olympics, based on an algorithm that monitors athletes’ performances leading up to the Games”. (in: USA Today’s Projecting the 2012 London Olympics medalists) Consistent excellent performance [of the past] suggests who are the biggest contenders and winners. Surely these consistent excellent performers do something right or better than their less successful athletes. On the other hand, can a measure of best current performances actually reliably predict medal winners? Aren’t there other factors at play? With variables being equal, some athletes possibly think forward and backward better than others. In addition, the athletes have to successfully execute on this thinking, constantly. Without implementation, there would be no performance. ↑Back to top↑

Thinking management and entrepreneurship

Academic research by Saras Sarasvathy has revealed two distinct patterns on decision-making and thinking. Successful professional managers predominantly use one way of thinking, called “causal reasoning”, while successful entrepreneurs predominantly use another reasoning pattern, called “effectual reasoning”. Below some further study insights with selected excerpts from Leigh Buchanan’s splendid article How Great Entrepreneurs Think in Inc. Magazine.

EntrepreneurshipEntrepreneurs are brilliant improvisers who do not start out with concrete goals but constantly assess how to use their personal strengths and whatever resources they have at hand to develop goals and opportunities on the fly, while creatively reacting to contingencies in the environment. So an improvisation process, where the starting point is not having concrete goals but the goals evolve and get established along the way, characterizes effectual reasoning. It is not that entrepreneurs do not have goals, only that those goals are broad and, like luggage, may shift during flight. Rather than do traditional market research, meticulously segment customers according to potential return and do extensive planning, entrepreneurs itch to get to market as quickly and cheaply as possible. Sarasvathy calls this principle “affordable loss”. Moreover, entrepreneurs allow whomever they encounter on the journey, such as suppliers, advisers, customers, to shape their businesses. Over time when companies grow, entrepreneurs do however also adopt more formal research and planning practices.

In contrast, corporate executives, also enormously successful in their chosen field, set a goal and diligently seek the best ways to achieve it. They know exactly where they are going and follow a prescribed path, such as an efficient and cost-effective one, to get there. So presuming given well-specified goals, and finding the best ways to achieve this goal, characterizes causal reasoning. Also reasonably reliable predictions about the future are made because causes and histories are well understood, as if it is a static linear world. The environment or context such as the market is independent.

Remarkably, between the two ways of thinking there is a difference in beliefs regarding control, prediction and the future. If you can predict the future to a certain extent you can control it (managers) vs. If you can control the future to a certain extent you do not need to predict it (entrepreneurs). ↑Back to top↑

Thinking life

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
– Kierkegaard

Where in time is your attention going mostly? The maxims “living in the present” and “live life now” are quite popular nowadays. It tells us to enjoy, appreciate and be aware of “now”. Many people think of what is ahead but are somehow not often present in the present, as in “life happens while you are making other plans.” Other people may just look back often, drawing their attention to the past, while life happens or catches up on them.

Owl in deep thought

Photo by Grey Wulf, Sheffield UK

If people and organizations can change, does that make the past to some extent irrelevant? Or are the books on personal change nonsense because people cannot relieve the shackles from the past; you have to work with the cards that you have been dealt? A young start-up company without a glorious history may perform extremely well consistently, after some ups and downs, whereas established firms, which were successful in the past, may miss opportunities and become unsuccessful. It seems that you cannot take the past and future for granted but don’t have to stick with it either.

Reflecting backward, examining results of past actions and learning from them to act today and think forward, being proactive for tomorrow, is useful. At the same time, it makes sense to loosen your grip on what the future holds, shifting your life, goals and actions with opportunities and changes that arise and fit the context, which you can influence. Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” extrapolated to thinking our life, goals and endeavors? Why not allow some space and time for change, adaptation and learning, and what the future holds. And who knows? Perhaps more things become possible than you think.

Related posts on this website
• What are you thinking? The influence of language we use
• Preparing kids for jobs we can’t imagine yet
• Finding and doing what you love
Steve Jobs: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

Related links elsewhere
Society for effectual action – Research Community Effectuation fundamentally rethinks. How entrepreneurship is researched and taught throughout the world.
↑Back to top↑

100-year-old man oldest marathon finisher ever

Another senior achieving a great feat.

This man has set a record when finishing a complete marathon at 100 years of age. Incredible!

Wait there is more. He has done it many times before while he just started running 20 years ago. Running gives him a new focus in life after losing his wife and child. He last completed the full marathon distance eight years ago. (Source: CBC)

» Read it all in this article.

Related posts on this website
• 98-year-old woman earns highest degree in judo

Finding and doing what you love

Like many others I am saddened by the news of Steve Jobs passing away.

Across the globe, world and business leaders paid tribute and people went on social media. Yes, as Barack Obama mentioned, I learned of the sad news on a device he invented. Twitter could have had record traffic. Official figures still have to come in but they may be around the 10,000 tweets per second according to social media monitoring firm SR7 (Source: Sydney Morning Herald). Just putting it in context, last record was 8,868 tweets per second with Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement at the MTV Video Music Awards and average of 600 tweets a second across the whole of last year according to Twitter (same article).

A great speech

Going through some of the coverage around the news, I stumbled on Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. The speech is moving and inspirational.

» Read the full transcript here. See and hear the story of a great speaker in the video below.

Some Highlights

  • By following curiosity and intuition, stumbling into things that turn out to be useful later on: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
  • Finding and doing what you love: “You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
  • Focus on what is truly important: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”


Preparing kids for jobs we can’t imagine yet

Just came across this article by Liz Dwyer on GOOD and it is a very interesting read. Most people nowadays do jobs and careers, which our parents and teachers could not have imagined at the time. This is a continuing trend so knowing this it makes sense to work on how we can actually prepare children for success.

Imagination, creativity, collaboration to solve problems and conceptual thinking are key skills to build to prepare kids, according to Rita J. King and Joshua Fouts. Their project, at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, called Imagination: Creating the Future of Education and Work wants to help educators figure out how to do this.

Imagine that!

One of the chapters in Creating the future today; Inside the "virtual cave"

New trade practice: Selling local versions of giant global digital platforms

This takes business to a new playing field; cloning digital business models from overseas, launch them on the local market and selling them off with a premium.

Latest major deal: Google acquired German Groupon clone DailyDeal on September 19, 2011. Currently, Google’s own Daily Deals service is only available to North American customers in a number of states across the U.S. but Google also recently bought daily deals aggregator The Dealmap (Source: article by Alistair Barr, Reuters). DailyDeal began less than 2 years ago and covers the German, Austrian and Swiss market but has announced plans to expand to a wider European market. As DailyDeal already has an established presence, this acquisition will expand Google’s operations in Europe. (Source: post by Matt Brian, TheNextWeb).

This deal sounds familiar: German Groupon clone CityDeal was acquired by the world’s original and leading collective coupon buying platform Groupon. There is no indication of the exact sum, but according to sources close to the deal the transaction sum had been a “3-digit-million figure” (Source: post by Lukas Zinnagl, TechCrunch).

Now how does an original successful digital platform go about entering lucrative international markets? Surely being digital, it is global by default; there are no borders in the digital world. Therefore, it does not need to customize much for local markets and the platform can be transported abroad with minor tweaks. No need to pursue an acquisition strategy and pay so much money, or what?

The Groupon Citydeal case

In the case of Groupon, its CEO Andrew Mason indicated in the same TechCrunch article that it would not be so easy to bring Groupon to Europe. Apparently adapting Groupon to suit the differences between Miami and Philadelphia was enough of a challenge. Therefore succeeding in Europe was only possible with entrepreneurs who had an intimate understanding of local cultures. Also strong players were already in the market having first mover advantage. So there was a horde of European Groupon clones they had meetings with.

Unfortunately, we found them to be very much like the American knockoffs – without the strategic vision or operational chops to do much more than watch us and play Simon Says.

In other words, copying business models proved easy and was a redundant asset to Groupon. Strategy and operations are a totally different capability and Groupon was after this added value. So when they met Oliver Samwer, one of the founders of Citydeal, they expected more of the same but found the opposite.

Oliver and his two brothers are known for elevating the practice of cloning American business models in Europe into an art form, having successfully founded the German versions of eBay (eBay eventually bought them), Facebook, eHarmony, Zappos, and many more.

So what were some of the results these operators created, which set them apart from competition? Number 1 in every one of their countries, quickly scaling to 600 employees working from 80+ European cities, saving their customers over $5 million in April alone (their fourth month of operation). Another factor was similar cultures in both the Citydeal team and Groupon:

Hardworking and scrappy, blindingly fast executors, refreshingly blunt, no appetite for petty politics, and passionate about pioneering a new model of commerce while wowing every last consumer and merchant they touched.

And that was that, deal closed, rest is history. CityDeal services rebranded to Groupon and thereby Groupon entered the new markets smoothly and swiftly.

The serial cloners

Crucial and intriguing point in this case is that this is just one example of the new trade practice; the Samwer brothers had done it before. eBay and Facebook are other great examples. What do they, and other outperforming players in this practice, do so well? What is their pattern or process? There is admiration in what they do but they are not much-loved according to an extensive portrait in the German Manager Magazin. The article provides some clues on what may provide them with a competitive advantage. Instead of being visionaries like Mark Zuckerberg, they copy extremely well and seem to be able to pick up and foresee which internet companies are going to be successful. Also they have an investment vehicle with which they can rapidly fund and act on any promising initiative. They play it tough, ask a lot from their employees with their ambitious targets and one of the tactics is to buy competitors’ key people to weaken their position. (Source: article by Christian Rickens and Thomas Werres, Manager Magazin)

What can start-ups, new ventures and established firms learn from this to help them survive, grow, and have sustained profitability? More insights in these new (e-) entrepreneurs, cloners or original digital actors, are useful.

98-year-old woman earns highest degree in judo

How wonderful! Teaching judo already for 51 years, this lady, now 98 years of age, achieved a 10th degree black belt in the Japanese martial art. An honor after a long road full of perseverance.


Although being short, female and senior, she has strength in body, mind and soul. What a presence.

» Watch the inspiring video for this remarkable story.

Food can be a work of art

Vegetarian food is sometimes amazing in restaurants but only occasionally that it looks like a work of art. Yes, it can truly be art.

The complete vegetarian “surprise menu” was actually divine and delicious, in taste and appearance. All credits to the chefs and artists at 1910 in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

This sets the benchmark for other restaurants.

Food = art

Apologies to the creators, the iPhone 3GS photo quality does not do justice to the beauty of this dish.