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Author Archives: Sophie Davis
In one of our passionate, and ever so interesting discussions, my mom and I debated the idea of the nature of God, and more particularly, could he be selfish? (yeah, I told you it was passionate and interesting ) This post is not going to be about God or religion, but rather on the idea of love and selfishness.
Love and selfishness. Two words that, on appearance, are antonyms. Are they really? To excite and challenge my inner Socrates, I decided to question the “truth” that “Love can’t be selfish” and that “Selfishness can’t be love”. I’m going to take three examples.
A woman and her child walk on the sidewalk of a busy street. The child has a ball in its hand. The ball escapes the child’s hand, and ends up in the middle of the busy street. The child runs to grab it and the mother’s heart races. She runs to stop the child from running onto the street so that her child is not hit by a car.
So in this case, is this love? Yes. The mother loves her child. She will do anything to protect her child. Even jump into traffic to save him or her.
Is it selfishness? One could say that the child’s will was to run to get the ball. And by stopping the child, the mother is actually going against the child’s will. And that can be seen as selfishness, eg. imposing your will on the will of others. BUT what the mother knows is that the child did not want to run on the street and risk an accident, he or she just wanted the ball back. Ok, no selfishness, still love!
So on this first example, we see that love is very different from selfishness.
A man decides he wants to start being a Red Cross volunteer during the winter time. He wants to go meet the homeless and make sure they have medication, a warm meal and perhaps even offer them a place to stay for the night.
Is this love? Yes it’s a form of love. More the compassionate love. He wants to help the homeless because he has compassion for them. He sees a need and offers to give some of his time to help out.
Is it selfishness? Well, it’s a form of selfishness, in the sense that it makes him happy to help the homeless. He feels like he is contributing to something bigger than himself and that feels good. He is therefore not only donating his time to the homeless, he is also donating his time to himself.
In this example we can see that love and selfishness can cohabit. “It pleases me to please you. So who am I really pleasing? You or me?” We could even go further by asking, “who pleases who?” Let’s say, I need a dollar. You give me a dollar and that makes you happy to give me a dollar. Didn’t I contribute to your happiness by asking and accepting your expression of generosity? So you should give me another dollar!! (just kidding:))
A young woman decides (after a few romantic disappointments) that instead of expecting men to be the source of her happiness, she is going to be her own source of happiness, by doing what she loves, by following her passions, vocations whatever those may be. She decides to love the people she already has in her life and be thankful for what she has, instead of always wanting more.
Is this love? That can’t be love since she is “alone” in the equation. She decides, on her own, to be happy and be thankful and hold no expectations. She’s following what SHE believes is right for her, what SHE believes God, Allah, Jesus, the Buddha, Yoga or whatever tells her to do.
Now isn’t that selfish? Doing what one wants to do. Giving no regards to what other people impose upon you and tell you to do. Yet, isn’t that the best way to live? Following your truth. Being able to share that truth with others, and having others share their true self with you, isn’t that beautiful? But instead, we decide to stop being so selfish and wear masks in front of each other.
The 3 examples above really show the limitations of our languages. Selfishness, in the sense that one will do everything one wants to do, even at the expense of others is extremely unhealthy we can all agree. But is it the same selfishness as being your true self, even when others pressure you to be different than who you really are? If it’s not the same, than it should have a different name, shouldn’t it? Any suggestions?:)
The ancient Greek language has 4 different ways to say “love”: agape, eros, philia and storge. Most modern languages have only 1, perhaps 2. Could this be another example of the limitations of our languages?
Because love is still very linked to happiness, here’s a little ear candy from Al Green:
Well, well, well…it’s been quite awhile since my last post. Even though, since time is relative, one could say that it’s only been a blink of an eye.
I’ve used my “break” to meditate and think about what I want and re-center myself. It’s something that I’m finding increasingly important to do. The world changes (and it should) and we change (and we should), therefore it’s advisable that we, from time to time, pause to think about where we’re heading, embark on our jouney mindfully and wisely.
BNP Paribas is a French bank, whose sloggan is the following: The bank of a changing world. Aren’t all banks, banks of a changing world? Since the world is naturally changing? As if, the fact that the world is changing is something new, a phenomenon unseen before. But is it?
Yesterday, I went to an exhibit of the photographer Robert Doisneau’s pictures of Les Halles in Paris. Les Halles were the heart of Paris up until the late 60s. They were THE market, where the restaurants would get their fresh produce, their meat, their fish and whatnot. It seemed to have been just nuts, but so human, so marvellous. Of course, it could not last. In the 60s, politicians and technocrats decided that it was too nuts and that Les Halles should be moved outside of Paris, in another city Rungis. If you’ve ever been to Paris, you can now see that Les Halles is now a huge mall. A little less marvellous. A little less human.
Things change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But things change. That’s life. C’est la vie. It’s not fatalism to admit that it does. It’s merely an observation of what life is. Life is change. And that’s good. It only causes pain when you are hanging on to the past, wanting everything to remain as it was, as you want it to be, as you want to control it.
But that’s failing to see life the way it actually is, eg. a collection of NOWs, a collection of instants put together. Every second being a revolution in itself since last second is gone forever, and so is this very second, leaving its place for new second, and new one, and new one, infinitely…
Therefore, it makes me smile when politicians across parties and boarders, complain about this ever-changing world. The source of our problems is not the ever-changing world. The nature of the world is to be ever-changing. The source of the problem is our will to control every aspect of our life, of our world.
The so talented and wise Alanis Morissette wrote it beautifully in her song “Thank you”:
The moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down
The moment we let go of wanting to stop the world from changing will be the moment we will finally get a chance to be happy. The moment we will stop trying to control our lives, control our relationships, control our world will be the moment where we will be able to enjoy the process of this ever-changing world. We will then see the opportunity within the process, the beauty of the changing process. And not be afraid of it.
What are you doing right now? What is most true to do now? And then, what about now? It’s always time to ask again because it’s always a new now.
And to finish on a musical note, here’s Alanis Morissette’s performance of the song “Thank you”:
Be kind and be wise.
What is the role of regular media outlets? And by regular news outlets, I exclude radio and I explain why below.
It used to be that regular media outlets were the primary source of news for people like you and I. But it’s not entirely the case anymore, since we have access to worldwide news through the internet, in the blink of eye.
Here’s an example:
When Jean Dujardin of The Artist won for Best Actor at the Oscars, it was about 10 or 11pm Los Angeles Time and about 6 or 7am Paris Time. Obviously you can’t change the headlines of a newspaper at 6am. It’s too short of a notice. Most papers are printed already. So while everybody knew that Jean Dujardin had won because they found out online or through the radio, close to none of the parisian newspapers featured Jean Dujardin on their cover! It wasn’t until the next morning that it was making headlines.
This example really shows how slow regular news outlets are. Because newspapers and TV news are “physical”, meaning they have heavy production requirements, they can’t move as fast as online newspapers and news blogs.
Yet, I think regular news outlets aren’t necessarily out of date. Well, they are. But I think there’s a way for them to get back up to speed. And it wouldn’t require speed at all.
I think regular news outlets should focus on news analysis and op/ed content. Why do we read the NYTimes in NY or Le Monde in Paris? Because we want real journalism. We want to know the who, what, where, when and how. More importantly, we want to know the big WHY. Why should we care about this news?
That’s why satirical news programs are so successful. They have their way of analyzing the news. They aren’t our source when we try to find out what’s happening in the world. But they are our source for find why we should care.
Oh yeah, and what about radio? I don’t put radio in the same basket as TV or paper news outlets. Just because radio was just like the internet before the internet was made accessible. Obviously, it’s still production heavy. You need to physically set up a frequency. But it’s accessible to most people. French resistants in WW2 used radio to communicate because it’s an easy, relatively cheap way to get your message out there.
That’s what happens when you let a bunch of geeks try to find solutions to a social/humanitarian issue.
That’s what happens when you let your preconceived (mostly misconceived) ideas direct your social endeavors.
That’s what happens when you try to help someone without asking them how THEY want to be helped first.
That’s what happens when you pursue the cool instead of pursuing the useful.
That’s what happens when you lose empathy.
Most homeless people don’t want to find a way to monetize their homelessness. They want to get out of homelessness. And some don’t. And some think they can’t. That’s the issue.
Aren’t they worth more than be a human hot spot? What about finding way to promote their insertion in society? Isn’t it our job to help them show to themselves that they are worthy of a home, a job?
Honesty, I wasn’t surprised about this crazy idea that emerged out of SXSW last week. That’s very typical of the startup mentality.
Monetization is on everybody’s lips. Nowadays, a successful startup finds a way to gather a huge user base, and then finds ways to monetize these eyeballs.
Usually they monetize them by selling them to AdMen. So off course, if you’re thinking that way close to 24 hours a day, it’s understandable how you might want to find ways to monetize almost everything. I’m sure if the geekiest geeks could find a way to monetize their poop, they would give it a try.
Tech entrepreneurs are very smart. I’m sure that if they did their best, they could find creative, relevant solutions to many social problems. Only if they learn how to be human. And that means turning their gadgets off once in a while and go out to meet some people and be social. But like, in the real world. And like, not only at SXSW.
The only good thing about this idea is that it might help the homeless be seen by us. I mean, when do we ever talk about the homeless? At least, this past week, we talked a whole lot about them.
What do you think about the Homeless Hotspots idea?
I have the (immense) pleasure to introduce to you Joel Gascoigne, founder and CEO of Buffer. Buffer and more particularly the Buffer App lets you, well.. buffer your tweets. It’s a great tool if you want to be consistent with your tweeting. Let’s read what Joel has to say…
How did you come up with the idea behind Buffer?
Sometime in the second half of 2010, after I had been using Twitter for about a year, I started to Tweet quotes and links to articles. I soon discovered that these Tweets did very well, often attracting retweets and mentions. I then decided I wanted to share more of these kinds of Tweets more frequently, but I quickly found that I was Tweeting in bursts which wasn’t great for my followers, and it wasn’t great for me since I then had a big gap with no Tweets until the next time I chose to do the same. I then started using the scheduling feature in some of the existing Twitter apps, but I found that since I simply wanted to delay the Tweets and have a consistent schedule, it was cumbersome to choose a date and time each time. So the idea for Buffer was born: choose your daily schedule once, and very easily keep Tweets posting consistently.
What obstacles have you faced while launching? How did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle I faced when launching was that it was very easy to think that the product required many many features, and needed to be perfect. Luckily, I had already made this mistake on a previous product and this time I was determined to launch very fast, as I knew this was the only way to get user feedback and work out whether people actually wanted the product.
How did you manage to get noticed by your first users?
Initially, I just Tweeted about the new product. I had 1700 followers at the time, and this was enough to get the first few hundred users and even the first few paying customers. After that, my co-founder Leo joined me and we stepped up the marketing in a big way. The next several tens of thousands of users were almost entirely down to our content marketing approach with Leo took charge of. We had our own blog, and consistently guest blogged for other blogs of various sizes.
What does your typical work day look like?
When I’m in a good flow, which I try to be most of the time, I get up at 6:30. By 7 I will either be in the gym or at the swimming pool. After my exercise for the day, I have a breakfast and at 9 Leo and I have a meeting to brainstorm one aspect of the business and come up with detailed actionable steps for it. The items we come up with will either be delegated to one of the others in our team, or it is the task for one of us to get done. We then split off and work by ourselves, and I am usually doing a mix of admin, support, coding and staying in touch with our freelancers. At 5pm we have another brainstorm, and then at 6pm we have a 20 minute Skype call with Tom, our chief hacker. We all update each other on what we’ve got done, what we will do tomorrow and whether there is anything we need in order to achieve something. I then grab some dinner and usually spend the evening working through personal email or blogging.
What is your hope, your vision for Buffer?
We’ve found that people really love the new approach we have brought about for sharing. Simply sharing later can really make a huge difference for someone’s productivity and can improve all aspects of their social media efforts. Our goal is to become a new standard in sharing, and to make this sharing functionality widespread across websites and apps. We just acquired Digg Digg so it’s now easy to include the Buffer Button on your blog and let readers share more easily and more frequently, thus increasing traffic. We’re also working with a number of Twitter and News Reader apps who are using our API to allow their users to Buffer content.
What are 3 tips you would give to entrepreneurs who are about to launch their startup?
1. Try to validate your idea before you launch. Here’s how we did it and went from idea to paying customers in 7 weeks: http://blog.bufferapp.com/idea-to-paying-customers-in-7-weeks-how-we-did-it
2. Don’t wait for perfect conditions such as having enough cash to work on your idea full-time. It’s totally possible to build your startup on the side: http://joel.is/post/2890790294/bootstrapping-on-the-side
3. Work on something you love, and find ways to enjoy every moment (there is enjoyment in everything, if you stop to think). Focus on day to day happiness instead of a far future reward: http://joel.is/post/5100838977/enjoying-the-moment
Which CEO is your role model?
I would say, and quite appropriately with the current news, that Mark Zuckerberg is someone I truly admire. I was a very early Facebook user, back when you had to have a university email address, and I’ve been blown away by how the man has grown the platform. The single most impressive thing for me is how he continues to change the product in drastic ways. If you stop changing, you die, and Zuckerberg knows this. I try to live by his recent advice: “stay focused and keep shipping”.
Joel, thank you for sharing these links and information with us!
Another frenchy at the tribune! Sylvain Tillon isn’t running a regular communication agency. SYDO is an educational communication agency. Their objective is to find creative solutions to convey an educational message. Their biggest hit is a cartoon they made to explain entrepreneurship to middle-schoolers. Check out some of their work right here! I met Sylvain in December for an interview (I know, it took a while!) and here’s what he had to say:
Tell me a little bit more about your entrepreneurial experience…
Sydo is my second startup. Before, I started a hair jewelry company…well, we all make mistakes, still it was an adventure that lasted 6 years! But I wasn’t happy doing that anymore.
So I began looking for “regular” work as a teacher, where I could share the knowledge I learned as an entrepreneur.
After a few months, I decided to start Sydo to use my entrepreneuship background and my educational experience.
So how did you manage to finance your startup?
I realized that with my various teaching assignments, I could pull off a minimum wage while I started my business. But because Sydo is my second company, I couldn’t find financing through the banks. Sydo is therefore bootstrapped. Everything at Sydo is bootstrapped.
How do you manage growth then?
We grow without growing too fast. I want to stay small. If this means I have to create many small businesses, one focused on video, another focused on cartoons, so be it. I really want to remain a human-sized company.
What about getting your first clients?
Through the business relationships I had built with my first company. We only use our own networks. We haven’t prospected to find clients. Not yet.
What obstacles did you have to face?
We thought about how to position ourselves. Our main question was: what is our business model going to be?
And then, reassure our first clients. We offered prices a little below the market in order to build our reputation.
So how do you position yourself?
We don’t concentrate on doing beautiful videos. We focus on the explanation.
I see our work as being closer to journalism than communication. We don’t try to do good looking things. We tried that and realized that people didn’t understand the message as well and some were “bothered” by the artifacts.
I’m not a design person. I come from a teaching background, I was paid to explain things. And sometimes, to explain something, you have to use a medium that’s pleasing to the eye, that’s well presented. But the essence still remains the message.
Food for thought…
(Photo Credit: Sylvain Tillon)