Life Advice from a 70 year old…

All taken from this post: 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known from Kevin Kelly, (thanks to my brother for sharing it with me a couple of weeks ago!).

Kevin Kelly was the founding editor of Wired. He reached 70 last year and shared 103 bits of life advice. I find these lists often are mostly cliche… but there is depth in this list.

This week’s video is me picking out the 3 bits of life advice that most resonate with me – and then sharing why these bits of advice are so important and relevant to myself.

3 of the 103 bits of life advice that I loved…

  1. Living with Paradox… and Mentors (at 2:20 in the video)
  2. Building A Life of Learning and Growth (at 5:33)
  3. Trusting People (9:35)

Living with Paradox… and Mentors

“Three things you need: The ability to not give up something till it works, the ability to give up something that does not work, and the trust in other people to help you distinguish between the two.”

I love this one for this paradox: you need to be stubborn enough to stick to things beyond where someone else might abandon… and you need to be flexible enough to stop doing something when someone else might really struggle with the “sunk cost”… the hours and effort already invested in the activity.

How do you develop this capacity? You don’t. You are too close.

The only way you can develop the ability to navigate this paradox is with the input and perspectives of others. It took me a long time of stubborn arrogance before I finally had to accept that other people have much better perspectives on my life than I do.

Building A Life of Learning and Growth

“Your best job will be one that you were unqualified for because it stretches you. In fact only apply to jobs you are unqualified for.”

Once you have mastered something, we need you to move on… to take on something more complex. If you stay doing a job that you are now completely competent in… you begin to coast… and then feel like you deserve more… and become complacent… and then you find yourself out of a job.

I am currently leading Vistage in Spain… and the team around me can tell you that I am not yet the “perfect leader”… I am a work in progress… I am learning a lot as we go. I am completely committed to the mission of the organisation, and working hard to build up my skills and capacities to be a good leader… but I’m not there yet.

Trusting People

“If you loan someone $20 and you never see them again because they are avoiding paying you back, that makes it worth $20.”

I trust people as a general principle. It has worked out marvellously 99.9% of the time… but I have been let down, cheated and disappointed a number of times.

There is a saying “cheat me once, shame on you. Cheat me twice, shame on me.”

I have interviewed and hired hundreds of people over the last 20 years. I have accepted investment in my business, partners, employees… I have invested in others’ businesses and lent money to friends… and I’ve learnt that only behaviour counts… what people say they will do has no correlation to how they will act in future… what people have done in the past has huge correlation with how they will act in future.

If someone commits to pay you back $20 and then breaks that promise – it is a very inexpensive way of identifying someone not to trust in any way in future. While you might be wrong, there are 8 billion other people who are likely to be a better bet.

7 Strategies to Stop Self-Sabotage and Reach your Potential

This is a guest post from Ronald Cain. Ronald taught English in Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe for ten years. Teaching has provided him with lifelong lessons about confidence.

Over to Ronald...

I was a shy child. I consider myself an introvert.

I let this label define how I thought I should live my life.

In high school I missed out on many opportunities and at college this translated into a studious but quiet lifestyle. I got good grades, but I didn’t make friends. I missed out on the relationships that would lead to career opportunities later in life.

In my final year, as I watched my fellow students apply for jobs, attain challenging internships or explore volunteer opportunities abroad, I realised I was holding myself back. I challenged myself to articulate what I was afraid of, and realised I had built a bubble around myself. This bubble – my comfort zone – was holding me back from reaching my potential. In that year I vowed to burst out of this bubble, to step out of my comfort zone.

Here were my strategies to burst the bubble of my comfort zone.

1) Write down What You’re Afraid Of

I allowed labels such as shy or introverted as a way of disguising a fundamental fact: I was afraid. Only when I saw this fact did I realise that it was fear holding me back all those years, and the first step was to identify what I was hiding from.

In my case I felt like pursuing social achievements (outside of academics) put me at risk of the negative judgement of others. I was afraid of the opinion of others.  Once I realised that this fear was holding me back I was able to set about changing my habits.

2) Learn To Accept Discomfort

By spending many years in my comfort zone I had become hypersensitive to any discomfort and I avoided it at all costs. I always took the safe option. To face my fears I had to begin taking small steps, putting myself in uncomfortable situations and challenging myself to cope.

Talking to strangers was an opportunity for me to face discomfort. These new and unpredictable situations always challenged me, but striking up conversations with strangers gave me confidence for the future.

3) Redefine Failure

A fear of failure kept me limiting my expectations about what I could achieve – with small goals, there was no chance I would fall short. Once I realised that a fear of failure was holding me back, I knew I had to embrace failure to pursue my dreams.

Failure doesn’t have to be a negative achievement – hey, at least you tried. Redefining failure as a learning experience, one that’s positive no matter the outcome, let me take bolder steps forwards.

4) Take It Slow

You can’t change who you are overnight. You’ve probably spent years reinforcing the habits of your comfort zone, and retraining yourself to face up to your fears takes time. Personally, this is a process that’s still ongoing as I recognise impulses to flee uncomfortable situations even now.

Practising patience on yourself is an essential part of the journey so don’t get frustrated if you find it difficult. Identify small steps that take you beyond your comfort zone before jumping into the deep end.

5) Practise Deep Honesty

One of the biggest challenges I found when starting to step outside of my comfort zone was assessing my excuses. It’s true, sometimes you really are too tired or unwell to go out and face your fears. Other times, you’ll be gravitating towards excuses that give you an easy way out.

Face up to your excuses honestly and identify when they’re valid and when they aren’t. You need to be honest with yourself to overcome your fears.

6) Have Fun

You can’t spend your whole life living in fear. Discover activities which challenge your comfort zone that also appeal to you – try to have fun while you’re at it. Take up rock climbing or wild swimming, find a community and surround yourself in challenging activities you can take part in whole-heartedly. 

Burst The Comfort Zone Bubble

I stepped out of my comfort zone and discovered a world of opportunities were awaiting me. I hope that these strategies will provide you with perspective and skills to see how your fears are holding you back.

About the Author

Ronald Cain is a tutor at Cardiff Writing Service. He is a professional writer, a blogger, and a contributor to and Research Papers UK. Ronald taught English in Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe for ten years, and teaching has provided him with lifelong lessons about confidence.

If you liked this post on Self Sabotage you will also like this recent video 4 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging your Success

Let’s not go back to Normal…

My friend Tony, business owner, shares his reflections on how the quarantine is impacting his life… and how he has learnt that “doing nothing” is not doing nothing… there is power in sitting still.

His big hope… that we do not return to “normal” after this.

Tony is someone who has used this quarantine period to start making videos… and I recommend you follow his youtube channel as he shares his lessons and leadership with the world.

The best compliment you can receive… (thanks to Rajesh Setty)

Rajesh Setty shared some wisdom with me last year. One thing out of many that I remember was this idea: the most valuable compliment you can hear from another person.

I had the privilege of reading a draft of Rajesh’s newest book over the last month and I have written a recommendation that hopefully will appear when the book comes out later this year. Here’s some of his books and manifestos available as pdfs

What is the best compliment you can hear?

How to Become worthy of this Compliment?

  1. Be interested in them – help them get clarity on who they are and what they want, their strengths and passions
  2. Connect people – put people in contact with others that share common passions, experiences
  3. Let them help you – let them see that I have changed myself because of their impact on me

“The most valuable compliment is: I wish I had met you 10 years earlier”

Rajesh Setty

If you enjoyed reading this post, you will also like Listening with your Eyes and What is the best advice you have ever received?.

Top Tips to Help Your Child to Thrive in School (from a retired Teacher)

This is a guest post from Joyce Wilson.  Joyce is a retired teacher with decades of experience. I asked her to share her experiences about how parents can contribute to their kids thriving at school.  Joyce has created to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.

Over to Joyce...

Top Tips to Help you Child Thrive in School (from a retired Teacher)

As a parent, one of your priorities is to support your child in ways that encourage academic success.  That success involves more than good grades and scholastic achievements.  It also includes a healthy social life, consisting of positive relationships with peers, teachers, parents, and others.  With some thoughtful considerations you can help your youngster to flourish in these important aspects.

  • Structure Daily Life
  • Designate a Study area
  • Eat Meals together
  • Stay involved
  • Encourage Friendships
  • Model Behaviour
  • Help your youngster thrive

Structure daily life

Providing structure to your child’s days is a key element to success in school.  As The Telegraph notes, a structured upbringing encourages success for children during their childhood as well as future adulthood.  Providing structure and routine encourages confidence and inspires better discipline as adults.  When they reach adulthood, children raised in a structured lifestyle are more apt to be able to find employment, find direction in life, and remain hopeful about their futures.

Designate a study area

Establishing a place and time for homework is a great way to encourage structure and success in your child’s school life.  Allow your child to help decide where she or he will work, which will give your youngster ownership in the decision.  Create a designated workspace based on your kid’s input.  Chicago Parent recommends organizing the area with an assortment of school supplies so everything your child needs is at hand.  If space is at a premium, consider purchasing a corner desk. Corner desks don’t take up much room, yet still provide your youngster with an appropriate place to study.

Eat meals together

While it may seem unrelated, one of the most important activities you can do to support your child is eating together as a family.  According to some researchers, families that spend time together preparing and eating meals encourages children to do well in school in many ways.  Kids who experience family mealtime develop better vocabularies, higher self-esteem, and have healthier eating habits.  They are also less inclined to abuse substances such as drugs or alcohol.

Stay involved

It’s vital to talk with your children in order to hone in on any issues with their social life or school work.  Ask your child open-ended questions, like, “What happened today that made you happy?”  And ask, “What homework assignments do you have?”  Staying on top of things through these simple queries tells your child you are interested and supportive.  If you feel there is a problem, don’t overreact.  Get all the facts first.  When warranted, reach out to teachers for assistance with school assignments, low grades or other issues.

Encourage friendships

A healthy social life, along with good communication and coping skills begins very early in life.  In fact, some studies show that preschool friendships help kids to start developing emotional and social skills while increasing their sense of belonging and reducing their stress levels.  By interacting with their peers and with other adults, kids gain a foundation they will use for the rest of their lives.  It’s through those childhood relationships children begin to understand the importance of seeing other people’s viewpoints, learning the unwritten rules of conversation, and age-appropriate social behaviors.  Friendships also have tremendous influence over a child’s school performance and encourage or discourage socially unacceptable behavior.  The evidence is so strong that friendships can help children flourish, some school systems are going out of their way to place children in classes with friends.

Model behavior

Your child looks to you for how to act, so being a good role model is extremely important.  Nurturing your own friendships will send a positive message to your children, and modeling good relationship skills provides examples for your child.  Look for teachable moments.  You can share how you feel about a situation, or help your youngster label feelings by asking questions like, “When the butterfly died, that make you feel sad?”

Help your youngster thrive

There are things you can do as a parent to encourage your child’s success, both academically and socially.  Provide structure, stay involved, and demonstrate healthy behaviors.  Your child can flourish with thoughtfully chosen parenting strategies.

About Joyce Wilson

Joyce Wilson is a retired teacher with decades of experience. Today, she is a proud grandmom and mentor to teachers in her local public school system. She and a fellow retired teacher created to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Why Change Fails: The 5 Types of People in Any Change Initiative

This is a guest post from Ecatherine Matnadze, who serves as the Vistage Spain In-house Leadership Coach - working with me and the leadership team in clarifying goals and staying disciplined in our actions.

When a change plan fails, it is more often than not due to the human dynamics inside the organisation.  It doesn’t matter whether your plan is “good” or “bad”, it matters that you work to build a coalition of support amongst those that will be affected by your plan.

Most leaders can come up with a goal and with a plan. It’s the relationships that make things happen or not.

The 5 Types of People in Any Change Initiative

  1. Committed Supporters,
  2. Compliant Supporters,
  3. Neutral Parties,
  4. Antagonists, and
  5. Active Resisters.

1. Committed Supporters

Committed supporters are people who will go out of their way to help an idea happen. A committed supporter is someone who will take personal risk to make this happen. There is an old story about a pig and a chicken going to a picnic. The chicken brings eggs; the pig brings bacon. The chicken is compliant; the pig is committed.

We want to know who the committed supporters are. Why do they support this idea? How can we leverage them? How can we get them to influence others?

There aren’t going to be a lot of committed supporters in most organisations. But if you can find them, they can be enormously helpful.

2. Compliant Supporters

These are the chickens who come to the picnic with eggs. They’re helpful. They’re supportive. Who are they? Why do they support this? How can we use their support to get things done?

Maybe we can turn them into committed supporters. Maybe we can build the relationship a little bit more so they’ll go from bringing the eggs to bringing the bacon.

3. Neutral Parties

There’s a lot of people who just sit back and watch and wait. They don’t take any risks, they’re not sure, or they’re just neutral. And again, we want to identify them – if we can get more of them on our side, we can get a lot more momentum for our idea.

Who are they? Why are they neutral? And what reasons can we use to influence them to turn them into a supporter?

4. Antagonists

Now we’re moving to the people who are negative. Antagonists are not willing to take personal risk to stop the idea, but they might feel moderately threatened by it; they might not understand it; they might not like it. Sometimes they’re very vocal against it, but they’re still not willing to do anything.

The best you can do with the antagonists is to get them to be neutral. At least get them not to speak out against the idea in meetings. Would you go and talk to them? Maybe you redeploy them somewhere where they don’t have an impact on this idea.

5. Active Resisters

These are the nemeses, the saboteurs. Active resisters feel personally threatened by the idea and will do anything to resist.

It’s very rare that they’re irrational, unless you have done something that’s caused a personal enmity. Usually they have other incentives and it’s a matter of will, of really working hard to get them on your side. Sometimes it’s a matter of changing the way they’re rewarded. Maybe someone with power can talk to them and say, listen, this is moving forward, I need you out of the way.

Sometimes the best you can do with active resisters is to isolate them – maybe they have to move to a different department, or leave the organisation.

You don’t need Everyone to Support you…

It’s said that in any major initiative at most you’re going to get about one-third on your side as committed and/or compliant supporters. Few want to change, and most people are in a state of inertia. It’s okay for people to be negative, you just don’t want so many of them that it’s going to make it impossible the initiative to succeed. You don’t need everybody to support you. The key is finding the right number of people.


Ecatherine Matnadze is Certified Executive and Team coach, focusing on coaching top leaders and their executive teams. Having worked as a CEO herself, she understands the demands placed on high-achieving leaders, and helps them balance business results with personal well-being.

Ecatherine is based in Barcelona, Spain. She works with Spanish- and English- speaking clients, both locally and internationally. You should connect and follow her posts on LinkedIn.

6 Media tips for Managers from the CEO of PR Partner, Inna Alexeeva

This is a guest post by Inna Alexeeva, CEO of PR Partner, an IESE Global Executive MBA graduate and an expert in helping leaders work effectively with the press.  Here she shares some tips for leaders in preparing for media interviews.

How to speak with the Media

Inna Alekseeva at a recent media event

Giving an interview to media is stressful for most people. The speaker’s knees shake, he keeps adjusting his tie or watch-band, he stutters, coughs or repeatedly touches his ears – nervousness shows itself in many ways. Even those who deliver lots of interviews and prepare them thoroughly still feel nervous. In this column, I will tell you about some steps to overcome the fear.

Know How to Introduce Yourself

“conversation starts with an introduction where “I” cannot be omitted”

Where I live, in Russia, it is not customary to speak too much about oneself. Many people are used to hiding behind the collective “we” and never speak for or about themselves. However, a successful interview in the modern world is an open conversation filled with references to first-hand experiences. And any business conversation starts with an introduction where “I” cannot be omitted.

You must learn how to introduce yourself in front of a camera (even if you never give TV interviews). Record yourself and watch the video critically, assess your appearance, speech, gestures, tone and tempo of your voice. I would recommend preparing and memorising a 30-second self-presentation that consists of the following:

  • Speaking for 10 seconds about your past, with a brief an account of your work experience
  • 10 seconds about your present, what are you doing now
  • 10 seconds about the future, your plans

Such a self-presentation is easy to use in interviews, at press conferences or during a broadcast (if appropriate). Make it a rule to start any public communication (a press briefing or an address to employees) by introducing yourself and your company. Don’t be too modest.

Prepare three stories

“It would be great for each of the company’s speakers to have 3-5 simple, clear stories about life in the company”

There is no need to tell jokes. Think of the simplest, commonplace stories related to yourself and your company. For example, how you came to work for the company, how a leader hired an employee for the first time. It may be a story about mergers or takeovers or about the last company’s acquisition that will be easily remembered by the audience. Remember the story, write it down, put aside your piece of paper, tell the story in front of the camera, and then watch yourself. What would you like to change? Tell it again. And again. You don’t have to make anything up, just give an account of what has really happened.

I would like to share a little trick with you. If you often have to give interviews in an office, put up an art print or photo on the wall that will suggest the desired topic to the audience. For instance, while looking at Picasso’s Dove, we can talk about peace, environmental protection, the importance of negotiation, etc. It will be a trick up your sleeve. You can buy a set of 100 art posters from the MIF Printing House. They will certainly trigger interesting associations.

It would be great for each of the company’s speakers to have 3-5 simple, clear stories about life in the company. Each story should take no more than three minutes.

Employees, colleagues, partners, journalists and other target audiences will know your stories, remember them, and contact you for further details if the need arises. This doesn’t mean in any way that you will be using only these stories for 20 years of participating in public debates. Your story portfolio will expand as you become aware of the stories happening around you. 

Put Clear Structure in your Interview Content

Do not write down the complete text answering all questions beforehand. In Soviet times, students at schools and universities were asked to prepare abstracts that were subsequently presented in front of the class. Secretaries typed speeches for leaders verbatim, exactly as dictated. Nowadays, less than 10% of speakers use prompters and most leaders rehearse and deliver speeches spontaneously.

Of course, having a sheet of paper with a prepared speech for an interview within reach gives us more confidence, but if we want to have a greater emotional impact and create an atmosphere of trust, we’d be better off forgetting about it. We do not confess love with a piece of paper. We do not apologize with a piece of paper. And a piece of paper will not help us become a good speaker.

Three to five key points are enough for the entire speech. I suggest creating associograms (also known as mind maps) to remember everything. An associogram is a schematic drawing that consists of the main topic of your interview  in the middle and 10-12 arrows with tips (sub-topics) that come out of it in different directions.

Let’s say you would like to talk about charity at your company. The following arrows will come out of the word charity: funds, money, employees, plans, achievements, etc. When a speaker looks at such an associogram, it is easier for him or her to remember which sub-topics they have missed and which are yet to be mentioned.

This will make your speech natural and spontaneous and you won’t have to frantically recall what you wrote yesterday.

Use Numbers and Facts

If stories are a way to listeners’ hearts, numbers are a way to their minds. Infographics for interviews could contain numbers, percentages, basically anything with digits. If you’ve got no ideas whatsoever, you can always compare your national indicators with the foreign ones or track interim changes, or make a forecast. Look for consistent patterns and share them with the journalist.

Rehearse your answers to likely questions 

A good 15-minute TV interview will take between 3 to 30 hours to prepare. You have to rehearse your answers at least three times.

Ask for feedback from a friendly PR person.  If you need, reach out to me!

Encourage your PRs to be honest. I think it is obvious why getting feedback may be helpful. It helps you to correct your mistakes faster and grow as a speaker.

Keep giving interviews and talks!

Maybe today your interviews are not so great, but the more you practice, the more thoughtful and effective the speeches you make in front of the camera, to the company’s employees or in the studio will become.

  1. A parents’ meeting at a primary school,
  2. a speech at a sports club,
  3. congratulations to school teachers,
  4. toasts at weddings and birthdays — you should use any chance to speak in public, not only media interviews!

Schedule 52 speeches for any reason a year (one a week), and I can promise you that, in just 12 months, you will become a very good speaker! 

Recommended Books for an aspiring speaker

5 services for great presentations

  1. Prezi
  2. Haiku Deck
  3. Sliderrocket
  4. Slides
  5. Powtoon 

4 services for colorful infographics

  1. Piktochart
  4. Google charts

About Inna Alexeeva

Inna is CEO of PR Partner, a leading Russian PR agency.  She is a graduate of the IESE Global Executive MBA. She is the winner of the Russian Ernst and Young Business Women 2015 Competition in the Brand Management, Advertising and PR category.

Winner of the 12th RuPoR PR Person of the Year Award for public relations development. The author of more than 200 media publications. Co-author of the book High Сaliber PR: How to Make a Top Manager a Star (Mann, Ivanov & Ferber, 2008). Author of Training Top Officials to Work with the Media, Secrets of Effective PR, 100% PR: Reboot, and other training programs. Her clients include Shell, Audi, Coca-Cola, UniCredit Bank, Autodesk, Sberbank, Russian Railways, Sistema Joint-Stock Financial Corporation, Rostelecom, RussNeft, Beeline, AES, Kazakhmys, Konica Minolta, Vozrozhdenie Bank, AVON and SAP.



Our Path to Growth is Always Through Difficulty

This is a guest post from April Abboud.

April Abboud is a successful American entrepreneur who has moved to the Middle East.  She gave up the business she grew, the culture she knew and having family close by to start a family in a land thousands of miles away.  She has chosen to challenge herself all through her life.

April was recently asked to be the Moderator and Welcoming Speaker for the regional Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.  She shared a powerful story about the need for each of us to face difficulties in our lives:

The Regional Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

The Man who Helped the Butterfly

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.

It stopped moving. It seemed to have stopped making progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.

The man decided to help. He took a pair of scissors and cut off the remaining cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily.

The butterfly had a sluggish, swollen body and small, shriveled wings.  The man continued to watch the butterfly.  He waited for the wings to grow and expand to be able to support the body.  He waited for the body to shrink to the beautiful proportions of a butterfly.

He waited.  Neither happened!

The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The butterfly never was able to fly.

The Universe is Wise

The man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand nature.  The restricting cocoon and the struggle is necessary.  As the butterfly squeezes through the tiny opening, fluid from the body is forced into its wings.  This long, tiring, intense struggle for escape is necessary for the butterfly to fly once it fights its way to freedom from the closed cocoon.

This is not only the nature of butterflies.  It is the nature of life.  It is our nature.  If we do not have adversity and strife on our journey we cannot carry the weight that our dreams require of us. Everyone has gone through something that has changed them in a way that they could never go back to the person they once were. Some understand this difficulty for what it really is:  Growth.

As an entrepreneur, I have often made the choice to travel the road less taken, one filled with uncertainty and fear.  I dare to make the world a better place and somehow along the way find the courage to believe in my wings and let myself fly.

We must give ourselves permission to accept the struggles, for in them we find our true original, authentic self.

To those who crawl around swollen with desire we become leaders. Fierce are those with restrictions, strengthened by their journey, that not only find their wings but take to flight.

Follow April…

You can follow April on Linkedin

Interview: Oscar Contreras, Entrepreneur and Author

This post is an interview with Oscar Contreras who has recently published the book “B2U” (Business To You and Be To You), a guide to personal branding and entrepreneurship.

Oscar Contreras is a former Division Manager for EA Games. He worked on big hits like “The Sims”. Brand Ambassador, Personal Branding and B2U Evangelist.  Currently in Santiago de Chile, he is a consultant to high level executives and to celebrities.  He has recently published his second book: “B2U Marketing Personal” (in spanish).

His background is hybrid. Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Arts and a Major in Strategic Communications, from San Francisco State University, and MBA with Specializations in E-Commerce from the same alma mater.

Interview with Oscar

Oscar kindly agreed to answer a few questions from me…

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started out?

In 1999, I wish I knew I should never follow other people’s patterns: the ones that are imposed by society, education or profession. Patterns are the result of failure, and they never define nor predict who you really are. I followed that pattern to fail in my career as a lawyer (after spending 4 years in Law School 😉 I thought I knew what I wanted, but instead, I did what I thought or was told that I wanted.

It took me 15 years to finally find out what drives my life: interacting with people. That makes me a very unusual kind of animal.

Who are 5 people who inspire you to be the best version of yourself?

  1. My father Oscar, who is the most correct person I’ve ever met in the whole world. Thanks to him, I still keep ingenuity and ethics as some of my personal tools.
  2. My grandfather Santiago (unfortunately died this year), because he was relentless and brave. Didn’t have formal education, but acted as a master of sobriety and negotiation. He became successful and influent by his own hand.
  3. Elon Musk, he told me about being servile as a manager. One of the biggest lessons of my life.
  4. Pope Francis. Yes, I was raised catholic, but I’m not a religious fanatic, nor I want to evangelize anyone ;). He has an edge that makes him different, he has character and guts. His actions do move people more than his prey.
  5. Steve Jobs. Yeah… typical right? But I knew the guy and have had it on my table while negotiating. He is both passion and a despot. He has no fear as long as he pursues what he wants. He reminds me to always speak up what I want, if I want to be a game changer.

Where did the idea for setting up your Company come from?

After skyrocketing a career of ten years at Electronic Arts, I went back to Chile in 2010, thinking I was going to have the same success as an Entrepreneur.

I was wrong.

After 3 years of struggle to maintain a videogame start-up called Syrenaica (raising various rounds of capital), the time came to pivot the business model to training instead of development. I started working with Colleges and Universities in the country. I did well enough, by creating a certificate program that sold well in four consecutive years. In the process I found out that the core of our success was the training methodology. I faced some resistance from academics. Thus, Universities are really not the best partners for this kind of business.

In 2013, the company finally failed. I tried miserably to find employment. The working culture was too different. My mind was already forged in the American Way. With my bank account numbers in red and with a big knot in my stomach, I quickly had to find my first 6 company clients to work as a marketing consultant. In the meantime, I started to write my first book “Restart”. It was a memoir, but at the same time a chance to tell my career story to many people and find some kind of catharsis. It’s was a dark period, losing a dream was like losing a son.

Oscar’s latest book

In that time, I had the chance to sit down with a variety of people, ranging from big CEO’s to disoriented students.  I started a deep research about the definition of what makes marketing successful, but in personal terms, and how that affects all traditional marketing as a whole inside an organisation. The whole thing started as workshops, then experiential formation, and finally as a book called “B2U” (Business To You and Be To You), a brand new theory that supports and converges everything I currently do. That is currently the core business of my company Empodera Consulting Group.  We place extreme focus on specific KPI’s.  Since we started in 2015, we have grown 400%.

The recipe is simple:  I only make money If my client makes more money and is successful.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I run 5 miles in the morning. It really helps me prepare my willpower for what’s coming next. I visit or I’m visited by some clients (corporate) that I’m counselling and advising.

Mid-day, I’m visiting some prospects.  I write my thoughts; sometimes I teach a class at a University.

I’m always available for my family; I make them part of my schedule. Vacation for me is a real vacation, not an escape from pressure or stress.

At the end of my day, I have another long session with clients. But these are private, certain “influential” people that wish to remain incognito. I usually end my day at 10:00 PM. Have dinner, put my kids to sleep, kiss my wife.

What single achievement are you proudest about?

I have a beautiful family.  My objective in life has changed dramatically.  Now, I don’t want to be rich. I only want to have a comfortable life and see that I am changing the world one client at a time; I can sleep like a baby when I put my head on the pillow, knowing that I’m doing something good and have never damaged another person’s dreams.

However, you might think that this is a happy story. It is not. It took me decades and stomach to stand the risk of never working for another boss. You start being a coach of coaches, but who coaches you? When you live your life driven by your own expectations, you can feel very lonely sometimes. I love it, but it’s not perfect.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

As a sales associate in Sears, Oakland, in 2002 when I was restarting my life after leaving Chile. Terrible pay and horrible hours. I was studying in College with an F-1 Visa, but working illegally to survive.

I saw one of my colleagues being arrested by immigration.   I never felt secure.   I realised that nobody is better and nobody is worse than me.  I’ve learnt that I can handle being poor, and since I had nothing more to lose, reinventing myself was a much easier process.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I organise my schedule a week in advance. It gives me the chance to create the reality I’m going to live.

What change would you make in the world?

In the information era, the one with the best story wins. Thus, you should stop fooling yourself with so much “yadayada” that others say, instead of making your own genuine decisions. Or try to have mentors that have really changed the world by your side.

So many people postpone important decisions, because they tend to find as much information as they can. Too much information usually contradicts, and that can be confusing. Learn by failing and don’t be afraid. Afterwards, you are constructing your own story and that can make you a winner everywhere. Make failure your best success and success your best failure. You cannot judge anyone but yourself.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and would recommend everyone else to do?

I dedicate 1/3 of my week to meet new people.

These 2 weekly cups of coffee are my best investment.  Coffee is cheap, and it has allowed me to get to know people I had never never imagined.

What burning Question do you want the readers’ help to answer for you?

What is success? Is what you were told or promised, or what you biggest dream commanded? Or maybe you were always successful and you haven’t realised it yet?

What is one failure you had, and how did you overcome it?

Choosing the wrong person in my first start-up. I used guts instead of head to put one of my co-founders on board.  I was betrayed.  It meant debt, headaches and deep personal disappointment.

My current company is successful because it doesn’t have employees: It has associates. I recruit talent on a project by project basis.  I look for a “business owner” mentality.  I don’t want to deal with complainers. I proactively choose to surround myself with energised people.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I love to sing, and I sing very well (enough to impress the girls in the front row). Mostly ballads from the 80’s.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. Short enough to read it quickly. Effective enough to change the world one step at a time, and make a real difference in terms of personal strategy and tactics. A must read for an entrepreneur with guts. We are saturated with info. If you read the ancients from centuries ago, you’ll find out they recommend exactly the same many current gurus have said.


Favourite youtube video?

This is my favourite youtube video:


Connect with Oscar Contreras :

Where are you located? Santiago, Chile


Teaching Ethics in Schools

This is a guest post from Riya Sander.  Riya is an overseas teacher. She has spent her past 5 years teaching in Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines.

All too often, I hear adults tell children to simply “do the right thing”.  

This is not enough.  We need to help children figure out:

  1. what is the right thing or
  2. how to decide what is right.

Teaching in various schools, in various countries, I’ve seen a wide range of responses: from completely ignoring ethics to teaching ethical decision making at all levels of the school curriculum.

Some parents ask if ethics and education belong together. Ethics are the shared values of a given group or culture. There are some ethical values that are widely shared, and others that vary widely depending on the local culture. This is one of the conflicts that children must be taught about.

Not just “It is Wrong”, but Why is it Wrong?

photo: Riya Sander

One ethics teacher, Alyssa Kelly, described teaching ethics this way: “The emphasis is not on moral instruction but on finding reasons why something might be right or wrong.” Instead of teaching students what is right or wrong, ethics courses for primary school students focus on teaching them how to decide for themselves what is right or wrong.

Students are faced with challenging social situations on a regular basis. Not every moral instruction can be blindly applied to every situation. When I ask my students if it’s okay to lie, they respond “no” in unison every time, in every class, regardless of what country I was teaching in. The nuances of “right” and “wrong” are more subtle when students have to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Ethical Decisions are Never Black and White

I once had a female student whose friend was contemplating suicide. The suicidal girl told her friend what she was thinking of doing to herself, but asked her not to tell anyone. She asked her friend to keep her plans a secret. The friend, my student, was distraught. Someone was in danger, but she was asked to keep that danger a secret. Thanks to her ethics classes, she was able to reason her way through the situation. She later told me that, although she felt bad about breaking her promise to keep her friend’s secret, the resulting intervention and the fact that the broken promise helped to save her friend’s life was worth it. The suicidal girl was angry at the time, but became very thankful to her friend after therapy.

Ethical choices apply to what students say as well. With the growth of social media and its use earlier and earlier by students, we do them a great service by teaching them how to make ethical decisions about what to do and what to say before they reach the quagmire of social media. An acronym I frequently use with my students, which fits well in the ESL curriculum, is before you post/write/speak, THINK. Consider these factors: is what you’re about to say True, Helpful, Informative, Necessary, and Kind. We then discuss what these words mean to each of us. Students always enjoy the play on words: they learn about thinking, and each of those factors requires serious personal thought.

Did you T.H.I.N.K.?

“Sitting in a circle listening to other people is a skill set that many adults could benefit from.” Alyssa Kelly

Once we’ve learned this acronym, students often help each other remember what to do: “May, did you THINK before you said that to Kai?” This is one of the great benefits of having these kids talk through questions that make them think. As teacher Alyssa Kelly said, “Sitting in a circle listening to other people is a skill set that many adults could benefit from.”

One of the keys to this type of program is starting early. The earlier primary school students start to learn about how to think through ethical questions, the easier it will be for them. Skills learned early in life are foundational. This type of problem solving will lead to greater skill in more and more complicated problems that students will encounter later in life.

The Benefits of Early Ethical Education

Ethics and education go hand in hand. In addition to teaching children facts and figures, teaching ethics begins to lay the groundwork of metacognition: thinking about how we think. If we can help them develop an awareness of how they think about things and how they make value decisions early in life, we set them up to make better choices throughout their lives as well as preparing them for higher level thinking that will be of great use later in their education.

About the Author: Riya Sander is an overseas teacher. She holds a master’s degree from Australia Institute of Business & Technology. She has spent her past 5 years teaching in ESL countries i.e. Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines. She currently works for Point to Point Education, a dynamic education recruitment company.

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