Thank you for my existence

I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am to you for reading these words, right here, right now. The human desire to be understood is a powerful one.

The first article I remember reading in my first psychology class was a piece on “ontological insecurity.” I don’t remember the author or the name of the piece, but they are both very famous. He describes people suffering from the feeling that every conflict, every argument is an affront to their very existence. People, somewhere deep down inside, harbor a fear that they do not exist.

If imaginary fears can cause real reactions, what human terrors are capable of being produced by this insecurity? What triumphs?

In business, we are accustomed to this feeling because manifesting reality is our job. Business without risk is only management. Risk without belief is futility. Belief without faith is insincere, and faith without intimacy is impossible.

The businessperson who will not take ownership of his/her project is not incapable of success, but their reality will cease to exist when confronted with a more powerful one. Think of the ontological security it took for Mark Zuckerberg to say no to the first billion dollars he was offered for Facebook.

Some time ago I saw a documentary about young female boxers. One boxer was talking about how she gives her entire life to boxing, and she expects the same from her opponent. Thus when one boxer defeats the other, she destroys not only her winning record, but her entire identity.

So then I ask myself if I am willing to put my entire identity in the ring. To believe I am capable of something and risk everything to prove it.

There are some days that are easier than others, but I thank you for sharing this moment with me.

Mzoli’s of Cape Town

Video

I can definitely say this was one of the best times I’ve ever had! Mzoli’s of Cape Town: the sound is terrible, but I really want to do more of this kind of thing, reviewing a really great and unique business that people in the USA don’t get to see every day.

If you are interested in business, how can you not be interested in seeing some of the most unique businesses in the world?

Outstanding Moments

I’ve always felt that one’s life is ultimately a collection of singular moments, and that one should always strive to both seek and appreciate those moments to the fullest. With that in mind, I want to share a few of the moments that have occurred in my life in the last two weeks since I returned to Singapore in the hopes that I will in some way capture their meaning and that you too will find them in some way remarkable.

1. My first weekend here, I drove to Putrajaya, Malaysia with my good friend and colleague Cristian Shoemaker, to build contacts for our fertilizer business at the Putrajaya Flower Show. The Putrajaya Flower Show is one of the largest of its kind in the world and attracts over one million visitors. Before we got to the show, I was floored by the development of main, downtown Putrajaya. It was incredible to me that a city I had never heard of would be so massive and so modern. As I contemplated my own ignorance about the world, I marveled at the structures that all looked like they might have just come out of the box.

2. Muslim women walking around the Putrajaya flower show in brightly colored burqa’s, surrounded by enormous kaleidoscopic flower arrangements. For a moment I felt completely transported into an episode of Star Trek, an impossibly bright and beautiful costume world.

3. Two interesting wildlife moments: seeing a family of monkeys cross the road outside of my boss’s condo in Singapore and a monitor lizard look directly into our car outside our factory in Malaysia. He glanced askance and licked the air with his long, forked black tongue and for a moment I felt that maybe I could talk to animals.

4. A man advising me on how to eat Durian, and know if I’ve been given a good one. I had purchased one of the large (and expensive!) fruits at a local open air market and was enjoying it on a bench. The man, a distinguished looking old Chinese fellow, explained that I must separate the pods with my palms by pressing the fruit against the bench, rather than try to pull them apart with my fingers. His method worked like a charm, then he looked sadly at the pale fruit inside. We both knew it should have been a deeper yellow hue, and shared a look that said “don’t let it happen again” and “it won’t.”

5. Seeing an “arrangement” at the Singapore Garden Festival. I put arrangement in quotes, because the display was massive, featuring trees uprooted and planted upside down into the ground,and grass grown over huge slabs of marble jutting out of the earth and odd angles, to convey a sense of a world in chaos. It was one of the most stunning things I had ever seen and made me think perhaps art may play a larger role in this second act of my life.

 

 

I have an iPhone now, so new pictures and videos coming.

Welcome!

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Today I said goodbye to Cornell University where I have spent much of the last two years getting my MBA and the city of Ithaca where I’ve enjoyed this last beautiful summer in relative leisure. Tomorrow I fly to Singapore where I will be spending the next six months working, living, learning and hopefully loving my life.

What words to say on this eve of departure? I find myself without; but since I’ve decided that this will be the first post I broadcast publicly, I would like to take a moment to share with you what to expect from this blog in hopes that some of it may interest you and cause you to come back for more:

This blog is meant to be a continuation of my tumblr, which can still be found at lawrencegoesabroad.tumblr.com and has lots of excellent content that I’ll probably reblog here at some point. I want to include a combination of video and articles themed around conducting business in different cultures, but most of all I just want to share my experiences with whoever may be interested.

You’ll have to be patient with me as I am currently without a smartphone with which to easily take and share pictures and video, but I will try to keep your interest with witty, insightful and educational articles and reblogged videos from my Tumblr until I have access to a camera again.

In the last 12 months I have ridden a sled down the Great Wall of China, walked through the Cornell and Georgetown campuses in Qatar, stood under the giant Euro sign in Frankfurt, presented a renewable energy business plan live on the Thai Money Channel and watched a dancing contortionist perform outside the former home of Nelson Mandela in Soweto. If the next 12 months are anywhere close to as magical as this last year has been, I’m going to be glad I shared it.

Thanks for coming, and I’ll see you again soon!

Lawrence

The Dean and The Cube

Like most people of my generation, one of my favorite shows growing up was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. One of my favorite episodes featured the indomitably spirited Will Smith interviewing for a spot in the Princeton freshman class with a comically dour Dean. I’m going to assume you’re familiar with the show, so it won’t be hard for you to imagine what happened – Dean is originally put off by Will’s brash and jocular demeanor, but eventually comes around and practically begs Will to attend. In this particular interaction, the turning point was when Will proved his intelligence by completing an unsolved Rubik’s cube sitting on the Dean’s desk. Immediate. Intellectual. Credibility.

Interesting fact – Will Smith repeated this performance almost exactly in his role as rags to riches businessman Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness, with the “Dean” being a partner at investment firm… Dean Witter (weird, right?).

Another interesting fact – it takes no special level of intelligence to solve a Rubik’s cube. Well, not now that it’s already been solved, that is. What was one of the greatest mysteries of the 1980’s has been reduced to a totally predictable algorithm for transposing specified cubes in certain ways. The best cubers now measure their solves not in hours or even minutes, but in seconds. The set of moves I’ve memorized is not so robust. I can generally solve the cube in about 3 minutes.

Like most people, I didn’t know solving a cube was possible for anyone but the uber-gifted, until a young uber-gifted mathematician showed me how it was done. It took me about a week before I had solved it for the first time, and I slowly honed my skills from there. I would estimate I spent about 60 hours of time to get to where I am now, and have stayed. In my old age (I turned 30 last month), I have become a lot more discriminating about how I invest my time. Long gone are the days of 5 hour video game sessions. I am not quite at the point where I put “personal time” into my Outlook calendar, but I can see it happening soon.

I guess the best thing I can say about the time I wasted, is that at least I wasn’t doing something worse. I try not to torture myself by over-analyzing sunk costs. I have been able to impress people with my cube solving abilities a small handful of times. A wave of smugness washes over me when I see an unsolved cube on someone’s desk or bookshelf. I always make a show of it. I start by asking politely if I can take a try. I look at it curiously for a while, like I’ve never actually held one before. After some time, I give a nod of understanding, like I’ve just figured it out. Then I spend the next 3 minutes sliding the pieces around as quickly as possible, making as much eye contact with my audience as I can without losing my position.

I haven’t met my “Dean” yet, but I think one day I will. It’s going to be one hell of a show.

I might even show him how it’s done.