July 29, 2014
Analogy or Metaphor?

If only we understood when an analogy was just that - and not a metaphor - we might better understand some basic principles in life.

For example: a few weeks ago we undertook an allotment - it was 3 plots of mud, stones, weeds - hopeless. Still, we decided to invest the effort of replenishing the soil, buying some seeds, etc, and under the expert guidance of my wife’s mother we have, in the space of just 3 months, transformed this humble (very) small patch of land into being the provider of a smorgasbord of vegetables and fruit. I have plenty of pictures on my Instagram account if you’re interested in seeing this process unfold.

Sure, it took some (quite a bit, actually!) physical effort, but it was an equitable investment - we put in the effort and it responded, rewarded us, accordingly.

Just imagine if life/business were as transparent, as honest? Because we have seen so many people become so detached from the rewards they expect from the effort they invest, society continues to become dangerously unbalanced: as a result, there is no natural harmony in society and whilst this imbalance continues to compound, so the sense of injustice - and the frustrations/dangers - will continue to accrue.

If only more people could see nature as analogous to life/business - and not just for use in metaphors - more of us may begin to enjoy reaping, what we have sown…

July 5, 2014
Tour de France 2014 stage one

Tour de France 2014 stage one - Yorkshire!

July 4, 2014
How #siliconvalley - and its many imitators - works nowadays, all too often - #startups #vc #bubble #tech #apps #geeks #hipsters #venturecapital #hype 😊😉😳

How #siliconvalley - and its many imitators - works nowadays, all too often - #startups #vc #bubble #tech #apps #geeks #hipsters #venturecapital #hype 😊😉😳

July 4, 2014
Watch "Gil Scott-Heron -- The Bottle (Official Version)" on YouTube

Gil Scott-Heron — The Bottle (Official Version):

July 3, 2014

Yesterday, we attended the funeral of a very close friend’s father. Such occasions tend to either be overwhelmingly sad or, whilst inevitably tinged with sadness, a chance to celebrate the life of the departed.

This occasion very much fell into the latter camp, thankfully.

The last funeral we attended was a very different atmosphere: also a sudden death, but in this case it was our nephew who, at 17 years of age, collapsed, whilst playing basketball, and died immediately; we later found out he had an hitherto unknown heart condition. Hundreds of his school friends attended the subsequent church service, and witnessing them trying to come to terms with the death of a peer was as heartbreaking as the grief we felt for our nephew, his father, his brothers, his grandparents.

The key differentiator in these two funerals was the ages of those departed, and so the subsequent nature of each respective eulogy. Our friend’s father was in his 80s and, whilst having suffered from the cruelty of dementia over recent years, there was a lifetime of anecdotes and memories to share: to amuse, to inspire, to reflect upon.

Dying at a young age denies the living such a wealth of rich and varied memories to seek solace in: a favourite film, watched time and time again (to the annoyance of others); a favourite song (that must be listened to at volume ‘11’); moments of fear, love, happiness, wonder, fun, places and people. Work, family. All are to be cherished, for these make us what we are and when we pass away these are our legacy.

In our nephew’s case, we all recall him grimacing/laughing at us (badly) singing Beatles songs, one evening on a camping holiday together, the summer before his death. Inevitably, we also recall that night at the hospital, and the sight of our tall, good-looking nephew rendered as a cadaver. Sadly, bad memories cannot be redacted, but they are best suppressed.

Our friend’s mother recalled being impressed by the fact her suitor (and husband-to-be for the next 47 years) had 2 - two! - cars; quite something in the 1950s and austere Post-War Yorkshire, England.

She soon found out neither car worked, but fell in love with him all the same…

We can’t all build bridges, create hugely successful companies, write sublime songs, or leave a legacy in such a tangible way, but we can all strive to leave memories for others by living our lives with an appreciation of its transient nature.

Today, my wife attends the graduation of her students: many new memories will be created today. Their lives are entering a new phase. The elder sibling of our departed nephew celebrates his 18th birthday this weekend - an age his brother never reached - and in a few weeks time he too will leave home to start his new life at University. So many memories await; as yet unknown.

So, embrace the little things each day, for they are all but memories in the making, and these are our legacy to others. They define us. Ultimately, it’s all we have.

Even in death, new memories can be created: a fellow from a neighbouring village passed-away a few days ago, after a long illness. We didn’t attend the funeral, as we were just casual friends, but asked how it went when we next saw one of his close friends. It seems ‘Woody’ (the nickname of the chap who had died) had the last laugh: 10mins after his cremation, just as everyone was settling into the pub for traditional post-funeral drinks, everyone’s cellphone simultaneously received a text-alert.

The concise message read thus:

"It’s bloody hot in this box."

June 26, 2014
Vanity Matrix

There has been a lot of talk about ‘Tech’ and its ability (tendency, in fact) to disrupt being an unequivocally good thing: examples such as Uber and Airbnb are heralded as championing better-deals/service for the consumer, whilst disrupting legacy cartels.

When any service becomes available as an online commodity it becomes a product. Hitherto, our online transactions have been largely limited to tangible products - even a purely digital product, such as an iTunes song or eBook, is still nothing more than a product; disrupting little more than the media it exists within for consumption. So, when the music industry and book publishers finally adapted to this new digital world, the stasis was restored. This was not disruptive, it was simply a new business process they had to embrace.

However, now that consumers are being offered visceral services such as accommodation and taxis via an online service, disruption is not simply a period of adaption/transition, it becomes a hostile act against the incumbents in the analogue world. Apps become meta-brokers and the brokers with the biggest reach become the new monopoly. The implications are far-reaching and not necessarily positive: we are spun the story that such changes are empowering the consumer but in fact all it is doing is centralising the control of the service and transaction; it is, ironically, the opposite of the portrayed peer-to-peer relationship.

Such Apps are in danger of adding little value and functioning as nothing more than an API between the service-broker and the customer/merchant in the analogue world. Digital is a great option for media, but we have already seen that there is a renaissance in tangible content - real books, vinyl records, etc. We are visceral beings, we need more than digital content in our lives. Would you choose to exist on a diet of vitamin pills rather than have a burger or steak? When too much of our lives becomes digital, life becomes vicarious.

Tech has become an epithet that is appropriated by organisations that are nothing of the sort. The term ‘Tech’ is thought to immediately lend gravitas to any service; do you really think a bit of software that acts as a brokerage for bedrooms or taxis is technology? Being categorised as a technology company also, of course, means VC funding is a lot more likely and your valuation will be multiplied many times. This is pretty disingenuous.

I suggest we re-appraise what technology is - and what it means to us - and see the differences between what is genuinely making our lives better (for all, not just a few) and what is simply a bit of software that acts as a broker. The analogue world is where we live, where we die; where we derive our pain and pleasure: we need to better understand the role of technology in our future world and set expectations that demand more of those who claim to be a tech company, accordingly.

June 19, 2014
I’m Back…

I’ve been gifted a Hudl (a very basic, but impressive, Android Tablet), so plan to resume blogging.

Since my MacBook Air broke (and being unable to afford the cost of repairing it) I’ve relied upon my iPhone as being my primary/sole IT device; ironically, this coincided with my career taking a rather radical change in direction and my spirit becoming fairly low, compounded by my being permanently exhausted from my new work. I have blogged about this in past blog entries, leading up to my purdah of late.

Ergo, my silence here for the past few months.

In the meantime, I’ve relied upon Twitter as a conduit to express my thoughts (@carl_rahn), but, inevitably, 140 characters is something of a constraint for many topics.

This sophomore year of blogging will see me take a somewhat different approach to my previous musings: with less emphasis on offering a plethora of hyperlinks, and with content of a less (hopefully!) cathartic nature; I will aim to try and tackle news/subjects that stimulate thought and discussion.

Well, that’s the plan…

As Medium - my preferred online writing/publishing environment - does not yet offer mobile support, I shall initially blog here and cross-post to my Medium account when I have access to a suitable device.

November 22, 2013

Where now?

After just over one year of posting (on average) a blog entry each week (hitherto, via Tumblr), I have decided it is time to reassess the content and purpose of my blogging. Considering my life in IT and media/business, I was relatively late to blogging, being somewhat cynical of its purpose and relevance; but, since joining Medium, this has confirmed my original suspicions: I believe it’s time to try and write more of substance. Content that is original — not just blog about the same recurring topics.

Of course, therein lies the challenge: so many people blog about topics such as Facebook, Twitter, entrepreneurs/startups, economics, et al, because it’s so bloody easy. That’s not good. The corollary being that finding a different angle is not easy. That’s good.

Over the period of the past one year I have covered pretty much every topic that intrigues, enthuses or enrages me: politics, economics, social media, information technology, startups, venture capital, pop music, philosophy, anthropology, baking, nature, art, etc…

That’s enough, for now. It’s often been little more than cathartic; sometimes it’s been enlightening (for myself at least) by virtue of the research required for a given topic. It’s pretty much always been draining and often left me with a feeling of ‘OK, now what?’

I would spend hours finding suitable hyperlinks and quotations for most of my blog entries; at times I suspect this often compromised the objective of the writing. So, it’s time to reassess.

Blogging is often little more than a pyrrhic victory over a blank web page. Why do you think embedded-media is so popular within blogs? As with tabloid newspapers it pads-out the copy and painfully strives to give some substance to something which is by its nature pretty transient and vacuous.

However, at this juncture, I see little added-value in blogging further about topics already extensively covered by myself and many (many) others; especially when many of the views are the same, albeit with a slightly different lexicon. Life’s too short for repetition.

See you soon.

November 6, 2013

I was some 90 minutes into writing this week’s blog, as inspired by Grayson Perry and his wonderful 2013 Reith Lectures. However, Tumblr chose to not save my text when I attempted to save/create my first-draft post. Tumblr claimed (somewhat quaintly) that it could not connect to the internet, although all my other windows were connected, fine. Sigh.

So, this is the last time I shall do my primary writing via Tumblr; I shall simply cross-post to here from Medium, which appears to default to auto-saving one’s work. Ergo, this week’s blog is a very brief one. Normal service will be resumed next week.

One quote cited by Grayson Perry during this lecture really resonated, and the implications of what we could learn from the art world and should try to apply to life/business:

"Abundant production can only result in mediocrity." ~ Marcel Duchamp.

Anyway, I highly recommend you listen to these lectures, especially the last in the series, I Found Myself in the Art World.

Please find the time to listen to it: there is much to learn therein, whilst also being funny and inspirational.

October 29, 2013
Bon Appétit.

My recent work as a plongeur is teaching me many things: fundamental principles and practices that should apply to any area of life/business, but are often forgotten.

"He was a bold man that first ate an oyster." ~ Jonathan Swift.

Regardless of whether I am sweeping/mopping the kitchen floor, sorting cutlery, washing crockery or the profusion of utensils used in a busy fine-dining restaurant kitchen, I try to always be aware of the connection between what I am doing (no matter how humble the task in hand) and the desired outcome of the team’s endeavours: presenting fine food to the customers. This same ethos is clear in all the others I work with - from waitress to chef.

"Find what’s hot, find what’s just opened and then look for the worst review of the week. There is so much to learn from watching a restaurant getting absolutely panned and having a bad experience. Go and see it for yourself." ~ Gordon Ramsay.

Although I have only been doing this work part-time for a few weeks, I have learnt a great deal and shall always try and remember - and apply - what it has taught/reminded me, in whatever I am doing.

The flow of the process (the creation of a fine meal/experience) is intense and fascinating; at peak service the synchronicity of the different elements is seamless and, initially, overwhelming. From food-preparation to the cleaning the kitchen at the end of service, the camaraderie within all members of the team is genuine. Thus, the ‘product’ we create and deliver, together, is one of the very best around.

"We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine-gun." ~ George Orwell.

So often in business there is a detachment between the elements we are working on as individuals and the overall outcome; maybe it is the physicality of what I am currently involved with that makes teamwork a more tangible and rewarding thing: it’s a visceral experience and often quite exhausting - but, in a strange way, hugely rewarding. If we could somehow replicate this and apply it to whatever our endeavours may be, the results would be outstanding. Just because your work may be more inclined to the cerebral it should none the less also stimulate you in a visceral sense; otherwise, at best, the outcome will be average. In a kitchen/restaurant if anyone worked with a silo-mentality, they wouldn’t last one service. QED.

“The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” ~ Peter Drucker.

In essence, what I am trying to say is we should never underestimate any role/task in an organisation - and, if we are self-employed (or, as is more commonly referred to as being an ‘entrepreneur’ nowadays) we should always remember every step of any process is absolutely key, and dictates the overall outcome. When you are next sat at a table in a fine restaurant, reflect for a moment just how your meal got there: the process behind it was remarkably complex - and passionate. If you understand that I bet you will enjoy (and appreciate) the meal a lot more.

Can we say the same of the product or service we are involved with on a day-to-day basis? If not, we should.

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