Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Poor Should Drink Less and Work More – Gina Rinehart

Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest woman doesn’t make for a sympathetic character. Unlike other “folk hero” billionaires, like Bill Gates or Richard Branson, Ms. Rinehart inherited the bulk of her fortune. Unlike China’s Jack Ma, Ms Reinhart’s fortune is built on an old fashioned, dirty and exploitative industry – coal. Unlike Mr. Warren Buffet, Ms. Reinhart does not make public declarations against the official perks of being rich.
If anything, Ms. Reinhart’s public statements about the less fortunate in life can come across as downright crude and crass – think of her statements about the poor dragging down the country into debt thanks to “welfare.”

While Ms. Rinehart’s remarks may offend, I have to ask myself if what she’s saying has a grain of truth to it. One of her most poignant remarks was that, “The poor should work more and drink less.” If I look at the examples around me, Ms. Rinehart is right.

If I look at my own family, the most glaring example is between my Dad and his older brother, my Uncle Richard. Both men had talent in abundance and the confidence to get it used, noticed and both made pots of money. Uncle Richard died in what was effectively a pauper’s grave. Towards the end, his body had aged 20-years and the only pennies he had were what my aunt could spare him. By comparison, my Dad has paid of his house and lives a healthy and happy lifestyle.

What was the difference between the two brothers? Uncle Richard was a drunk. What he made ended up being spent on booze. When he made money, he got drunk. Eventually, the drink affected his reputation and his work. Nobody wanted to hire a drunk. Dad, by contrast, knew how to control the booze intake. Instead of hitting the bottle when things went down, he got working and before you know it, he pulled himself back up.

The same is true of my circle of friends. I have exceedingly successful friends and friends who are..well, you could say they’ve seen better days. What makes the difference between them?

Well, one of the clearest signs is the fact that the successful group have managed to keep their vices in check. It’s not to say that the members of this group don’t go out and have a drink or two. Nor does this group avoid going for a smoke.

However, they manage to live for something more than the next drink or the next smoke. We go out for a drink and we laugh. Everyone talks and has a laugh. Conversations are based on mutual respect. Then, we go home because …..well there’s work the next day. Work comes before having a drink.

By contrast, the less successful put their vices before everything else. During their broke stages, instead of saving the pennies they have in their pocket, they spend it on booze or cigarettes or whatever their vice happens to be. Somehow, the need to have the next fix overrides everything else.

Getting the drunks to work can be a challenge. Many, particularly the ones who were once successful find it difficult to accept that they are no longer successful. Instead of working their way up, it becomes easier to scrounge for the next drink and relive old war stories than to try and build a new present and future.

Being a piss head in your twenties is fun. Being a piss head in your forties is kind of sad……  

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Thing That Every Business School Fails to Teach

The last two weeks of September 2014 were exceptionally good for what’s left of my PR business. I managed to get the Executive Chairman of my remaining client,Apex-Avalon onto Channel NewsAsia, the BBC, Bloomberg TV and CNBC Asia in the space of two days and for good measure, the Edge Review ran an article in which he was quoted several times.

During the course of our interactions, I was asked if I had been lucky. My reply to him was that, I was lucky and I knew how to be lucky.

I state that I was lucky because news events favoured me. Chinese President, Xi Jiping was visiting New Delhi and India’s newly elected Prime Minister, Nahrendra Modi. As such, everyone wanted to talk about China-India relations. As it so happed, I happened to have a client is an expert on the topic – Girija Pande is an Indian(now a Singaporean) who was appointed by the Mayor of Guangzhou to be a specialeconomic adviser. The time was right. I had pitched the client earlier on in the year and was constantly told that I had to wait for a better time.

So, I was lucky but I also maintain that I was knew how to be lucky. In this instance, I knew that the elements for success were there and all I had to do was to bring them together.
I think of this conversation I had with Mr. Pande, because I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Hans Hoefer, the founder of Appa Guide books, as I was getting ready to leave university and wondering what I’d do with my life. Hans, had showed up in London out of the blue and invited me for lunch. During the course of our conversations, he told me that in his life’s experience, he found that, “The one key thing that all business schools fail to teach is – CHANCE.”

A lot of success in business and in life, comes from being at the right place at the right time. Luck plays a largely misunderstood part in success. Most of us think of luck as the element that helps us win big in the lottery or at the Casino. Then there are those of us who write off luck and attribute everything that they achieve to their own skills.

Both these extreme views misunderstand the real meaning of luck. Let’s face it, we get certain things in life because we are lucky. Being born into the family that you’re born into at the place where you’re born is a matter of luck. If I take myself as an example, I am exceedingly an exceedingly lucky person. I was born in Singapore, a little red dot that had peace and stability in the 70s. My fortunes could have been very different – I could have been born in another part of Southeast Asia, like Vietnam or Cambodia, which at the time, were going through a series of nasty wars. I am also lucky that I was born into a family that believed in education and so I went to a series of good schools.

However, luck can only bring one so far. Things like skill and hard work often play a key role in success. You need preparation to succeed in life. I remember making some remark about how boxers like Mike Tyson earned several millions for a few seconds work. My uncle pointed out to me that the average boxer trains two hours more a day than what most of us work in a day. Mike Tyson admits that the reason for his historic loss of Buster Douglas was because he partied beforehand while Douglas was training for all he was worth (Buster Douglas would lose his title eight months later because for pretty much the same reason why he won it – only this time he was the guy having fun instead of training).

If you listen to enough successful people talk about their success, you’ll find that they often try to down play their luck. I mean seriously, who wants to attribute success to something as random, unpredictable and indiscriminate as luck.

Being clever and hardworking are important. However, just as the world is filled with people who rely on dumb luck, it’s also filled with clever, ambitious and hardworking people who never get anywhere.

Real success comes from being able to understand and are prepared for luck. In golf and snooker, we have the examples of Gary Player and Steve David who are both reported to have said, “The more I practice, the luckier I become.”

Real luck needs to go with preparation and you have to be able recognize the lucky moments and to be prepared for them. Both Mr. Player and Mr. David can make “lucky” shots because they’ve been preparing to make them. Then when they need to, they are able to do so.

Luck constantly flows and the key element is being able to get hold of the right moments when it flows in your favour. If one plays poker enough times, you’ll realize that throughout an evening of Poker, the various players will go through various lucky streaks where his or her cards will always be coming out tops. The one who survives and tops the evening, is the one who knows how to maximize his or her lucky streaks and minimize losses during the moments when luck is down.
How does one recognize when the flow of luck is against him or her. It’s the moment when you recognize that all the elements are there and all you have to do is to be able to bring all the elements together to make things happen. I had one of those moments two weeks ago. More successful people are the ones who work hard and prepare themselves for the right moments.

I think back to what Mr. Hoefer said. How does one recognize chance and how does one capitalize on it? I get lucky in PR and creating stories because I’ve had ten-years to prepare for it. I’ve been less lucky in other things because I’ve probably been less prepared and less able to recognize those moments.

Luck is probably the key ingredient between failure and success. However, understanding it and recognizing it is the skill that most of fail to master and as such miss the opportunities that are presented to us.