Friday, February 8, 2013

Younger / Elder

The first night of Carnival brought snow flurries.

…and an American, Nave from Las Vegas.  He was a cordon bleu chef and a blue water sailor, confident and condescending, an aspirational figure who didn’t quite live up to the dream.  He’s the sort of 28-year old who used to trouble me at 24.   They seemed to bounce between comfortable postings and conjugal women effortlessly, where I always needed to be a striver.  Maybe I was trying too hard?  Why not give up the maths and sciences and learn to cook and tie knots.  Maybe that was the real secret of life?

A lifetime later, I can smile and credit his panache without falling for his charms.  I’ve seen them come and go; starting with John Catoline on the Experiment and trending through this.  As a result,I know exactly where he’s heading.  And I’m happy with my life, proud of my family, confident in my aspirations.

Although a four-month’s blue-water sail is still tempting…

The first night of Carnivale brought music.

…and friends in trouble. There is an epidemic of prostate cancer alerts among my peers.  It’ a difficult condition – no way to really check to see if you have it.  They just go in to see the doctor about some non-specific symptom and within days they are in surgery and radiation therapy.  And we sit down over coffee and talk about how their dreams now focus on months, not years, and how the next test result due next Monday, will dictate the terms of the coming year.

It’s unnerving: life can change so quickly, so unexpectedly.  As an expat I always feel especially vulnerable to a sudden health crisis, dependent on work and travel for keeping a visa and paying the bills.

What if…?  How could I prepare?  How would I carry on?

Seriously, I couldn’t.  I sympathize and support them; I feel the cold wind on my back.

The first night of Carnival brought reflection amidst the revelry. 

From the first night, onwards, we all wear our masks.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Back in Maastricht: back to cold, to snow flurries, to slippery streets…

…to Carnivale!

The annual feestje comes very early this year and bundled up costumes mimicking fattened performers and rounded vegetables seem likely to dominate.  The flags are out, the bars are decorated, and the shops are filled with people seeking the perfect costume. 

At 35-50 euro per suit, it can be an expensive quest.

There are grand decorations in the station lobby; the moosewief is surrounded by decorations.  The plazas are still empty, quiet in the falling snow at dusk. 

But only until tomorrow evening.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

11 qualities of successful entrepreneurs

cobra_beerI attended a wonderful talk by Karan Bilimoria this evening at the Enterprise Tuesday series offered in Cambridge.  He is founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, created in 1989 as “a brew that goes well with curry”.   He talked about the setbacks the company has suffered along the way, and the role that integrity ad relationships played in the recoveries.  Some mistakes were unavoidable, others were hubris or naivety, but it resonated because we all hit them and have to solve them.

As we approach market, I can see a whole new thicket of challenges looming, from the day his customers turned against them to the times that the money almost ran out.

He summarized with a list that I really liked, originally from Matthew Rock, a checklist for the qualities that it takes to successfully start a new business. Some make me smile, others are rueful truths, but it captures day-to-day life on the edge better than any other summary I’ve read.

  • Implacable self-belief
  • A single core technical skill or ability (it could be marketing, selling, or a specialist scientific capability)
  • High resources of personal energy that enable you to work often brutal hours
  • You will be unafraid, indeed relish, talking about money.
  • You won't sit on problems or difficult situations, you'd rather deal with them and get them out of the way
  • At the right moment, you love to party.
  • You will have something about you - call it charisma - that inspires loyalty in others
  • You are fired by powerful competitive instincts, even anger, that drives you to win over your competitors.
  • Personal resilience. Entrepreneurs will have setbacks. The true winners will absorb them, learn from them and rebound. 
  • They love what they do, at times at the expense of your family and friends
  • And you really will believe that your business, product, service, is better than what's come before or is offered in their market now (even when it patently isn't!).

Sunday, February 3, 2013