Answer Yourself! A blog by Sukhpreet Singh

A blog on personal development, entrepreneurship & change.

9th January 2009

Creative Capitalism

I always wondered whether a “business” (corporation) can be created that is driven not only to make profit but also driven to ease the world’s inequalities. “Business of business is business” but can a business’ business be to ease the world’s problems and still sustain itself as a profitable business? I recently came across this speech by Bill Gates on World Economic Forum in Davos last January. In his speech, Gates said that many of the world’s biggest problems cannot be fixed by philanthropy, but instead require free-market capitalism—”creative capitalism”—to solve. According to Gates, creative capitalism is “an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities.”

Overall what I gather from his speech is that : You cannot create a profit driven corporation that is in the business of just easing the world’s inequalities. But a profit driven corporation can become a socially responsible corporation by generating ideas and processes within their realm of expertise to solve world’s problems. For example:

  • A drug company can become creative to provide affordable medicine for most common ailments like malaria, cholera etc. in poorest nations like Sudan, Somalia etc.
  • A software/hardware company generate ideas to provide affordable laptops to kids in poor nation ($100 laptop)
  • Soft-drink company generate ideas to provide technology to supply drinkable water to remote areas.
  • A bank generate ideas to provide loans to people who can’t provide collateral (poorest of the poor) and give them an opportunity to succeed.

A perfect example of a business where the line between the purpose of the business (to make profit) and social responsibility of the business is very narrow, is: Grameen Bank. Muhammad Yunus – a Bangladeshi banker, economist and founder of Grameen Bank, jointly won (with Grameen Bank) the Nobel Peace Prize, “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. “[Ref. 1] Now thats some serious “creative capitalism”!!

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posted in change, entrepreneurship |
1st November 2007

How do you pray?

I came across this topic of prayer from one of the blogs that I read regularly – MrSikhnet.Com. The video posted there does a great job at explaining what a prayer is. Here are some of the highlights for me:

1) Lot of time people pray a very non-specific prayer like “God, please make everythig ok for me” or “God please bless him, he is sick”. Its like going to a store and telling the shopkeeper “Please give me some red things”. What are you gonna get – probably some red things that you may or may not want.
2) Prayers should be absolutely clear. How clear you are in your prayers, thats how specifically it comes back to you or gets fulfilled.
3) Who is listening to your prayer – you are. So when you pray and you visualize how things need to be because that how you see them in your heart, thats when it starts to manifest itself. Thats when you invoke what you see and ask.
4) Prayer is not a supplication, prayer is an invocation. (Supplication : To ask for humbly or earnestly, as by praying)
5) When we pray correctly, it has the power of manifesting itself into reality.

My prayers usually are, “God, please make everything great for me and others”. I have realized I do this because:

a) I don’t have it written down or chalked out what is that I want, exactly?
b) I am in a hurry so don’t have time to sit with my eyes closed and visualize what I want exactly .
c) I consider prayer to be very sacred and didn’t want to make it a shopping list.
d) So as not to be selfish, I want “things” to be ok for “others” too. (Again, no specificity)

But I have started working towards being more specific while praying and also to take out time to visualize it. My prayers are now something like, “God help me start my xyz company to make a positive impact on the users/consumers, to be the best and most profitable company in its field, to become a great leader, to create leaders and to contribute my time and money to the society” and “Help me serve my friends, my family and above all, help me serve you – by serving the needy. Please give me that strength, courage and wisdom to follow your path. And help me remember you every breadth of my existence.

Original post can be found here.

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posted in change, goals |
21st September 2007

What I learned about being an Emcee.

Opportunity knocked on my door. Was I able to recognize it and grab it? What helped me to take the decision and what helped me after I took the decision? What did I learn?

Lets examine:Emcee - Master of Ceremonies

I am talking about an opportunity to be an Emcee – Master of Ceremonies – at a birthday party of about 400 people.

Was I able to recognize it and grab it? Yes. I got a call from someone in my extended family to be the Emcee at his party. I still don’t know why he picked me, but I was happy to get his call. Within 15-20 seconds my mind saw an opportunity and I said, “Yes, I will be glad to be emcee of your party.” The reasons are as follows:

  1. To jump the gap; break the vacuum; leap of faith: I wanted to graduate from comfort of speaking at Toastmaster meetings to a more real-world environment. Everyday I envision myself as a great speaker to bring about the “change”, to be able to “influence” others, to be a “lighthouse” [after having developed a strong character.]. And I saw this as a baby step towards that direction.
  2. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I know that I will give many presentations, speak in front of investors, employees, and clients. So why not test myself in front of an informal gathering – warm waters.
  3. Free marketing of ME Inc. I will be able to expose myself to so many people in just an hour – super-bowl ad vs. door-to-door.

What helped me to take the decision, and what helped me after I took the decision? I mentioned here that you should prepare when you don’t need to so that when opportunity strikes, you are prepared to grab it. I have been practicing to overcome my fear of public speaking and also polishing my speaking skills, as a member of Toastmaster’s club. So that gave me enough confidence to go out in the unknown environment and grab the opportunity. While making notes and while speaking at the party, I used all the guidelines that I learned during my speeches – voice inflection, body posture, pauses etc. Besides that, I also researched on other tips on Emceeing.

As an emcee, I had to start the function, conduct it and close it. During the function, there were speeches, dances and formal cake-cutting ceremony. I got great tips from this website. Here is what I learned and what worked for me:

a) You should be able to create an environment in which both performers (or speakers) and listeners feel welcomed, comfortable and respected. You should be able to relate to the audience.

b) You must remember that you are not the “show.” The focus is not on you – rather on the speaker, the audience and the performers.

c) You should be willing to take instructions from the producer of the show.

d) You must strive to keep show on time and be prepared to handle any detours.

1. Before The Show: Prepare Yourself
a) Familiarize yourself with the list of announcements so that when you are up on stage, you can comfortably announce them rather than reading them word for word from your notes.

b) First & last impression have a lot of weight. So plan and practice your opening and closing lines of the function.

c) Plan your “introductions” for the speakers. Ask speakers what they would like the audience to know about them. Share a few interesting, less-known facts, or something funny with the audience that the speaker is comfortable sharing. Few things that would help the audience better understand speaker and his speech. [Funny incidents from speaker’s life worked out great for me, as it was an informal party. Achievements might work better for a formal gathering.]. But be brief to avoid seeing yawing faces.

2. At The Performance Site: Get Acquainted
a) Arrive early and orient yourself with the venue. Make sure that every thing is set up and ready to go (water-bottles, mic, music, lights, etc.). Test the mic (sound) and placement of speakers/sub-woofers. This was the biggest mistake that I made. I didn’t test the mic and sound-system. To begin with the sound output was so poor that the audience kept loosing interest, as they couldn’t hear the first few speeches or my jokes properly. Later the problem was fixed but the initial damage was already done. Now I had to work harder to get everybody to listen.

b) Introduce yourself to the staff: sound technicians, stage managers, tent monitors, DJ, etc. That helped me to develop rapport with them. They will then be more tuned to understand your needs.

c) Introduce yourself to the speakers and performers (dance-performers in this case). Let them know where they can find bathrooms, water, tissues, food etc.

d) Go over the order in which they will perform. But be prepared for contingencies. During the event one of the group was not ready to perform their dance and so I had to switch it with another group and accordingly my introductions.

e) Confirm their allotted time and ask each how they would like to be notified when they are nearing the end of their allotted time.

f) Ask if there are any special needs or special stage set-ups.

3. During The Program: Be Gracious and Alert.
a) Welcome the audience. Greet them warmly. I greeted in two languages, as there were people, who understood only English, then there were those who understood only Punjabi (language) and finally there were there those who understood both languages. Infact, I used another urban slang to greet teenage audience (”Whatup yawl?”). This worked great for informal event like a birthday party but might not work great for a formal event. The idea is to make them feel welcomed, respected, and connect with them and have some fun.

b) Introduce yourself and tell them how the session will progress (speeches, dance performances, cocktail, food, breaks, etc.) so that they know where they are headed and can feel comfortable.

c) Establish the rules (those introductory announcements regarding cell phones, etc.) Be brief and get the ball rolling.

d) While introducing speakers: introduce them, stay on stage if they need assistance to setup mic, stand etc. Then, get off the stage. Introduce each speaker with equal enthusiasm. Listen to their speech carefully (if possible) so that you can bring the audience out of one speech and into the next. You have to transfer audience’s energy from one speaker/performer to the next.

e) Be alert and have some backup scenarios worked out. If something unexpected comes up, be ready to deal with it. So, if there are distractions, try to remove them (toddler wandering around in front of the stage). Or, acknowledge them so that the audience won’t wonder, worry and therefore, not be able to concentrate on the speech.

f) Have a few jokes or short story ready to be told. This came in handy at times when I had to waste some time waiting for the dance group to get their act together or for the DJ to find the song for next dance-performance. I had jokes in two languages – English and Punjabi. Infact, one of the anecdote that I shared was liked enough that the party host (producer) told me to translate it in English too. Jokes and short stories might not be a good idea for formal audience. For formal events, use it if absolutely necessary.

g) Last, but not the least – have a good time. Remember that your enjoyment of the program reflects on everything you say and do.

4. Closing The Program: Thank everyone.
Briefly thank everyone (performers, producers, sound technicians, etc.) including the audience. Give any brief closing announcements and wish them well on their way.

All in all, it was a great experience. I did make few minor mistakes, things did go wrong and to be frank, I was a little nervous. But in the end, I learned from my mistakes, I learned how to overcome the challenges in real-time, and above all I overcame my fear. I can read 400 books on public speaking but they still won’t match the experience of speaking in front of 400 people. Feel free to suggest tips that worked great for you as an emcee.

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