Could You Fly To Mars?

Celestia_mars

The challenge for a manned mission to Mars is neither cost nor technology, but coping with solitude. Imagine being stuck with the same people for two or three years in a confined space with minimal food, entertainment, and contact with Earth. Jason Stuster, a NASA research consultant, who studied the diaries of explorers to remote regions on earth such as the Antarctic found that many would fall into depression or suffer psychoses (think Tarkovsky’s movie “Solaris”)[1]. Continue reading “Could You Fly To Mars?”

Negotiate Like A Top FBI Hostage Negotiator

“Who has control in a conversation, the guy listening or the guy talking?

The listener, of course.

That’s because the talker is revealing information while the listener, if he’s trained well, is directing the conversation toward his own goals. He’s harnessing the talker’s energy for his own ends.”

Chris Voss

That’s what Chis Voss, formerly the FBI’s lead international hostage negotiator, writes in his excellent “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It”. His insights shatter the idea that good negotiators engage in a battle of wills against their counterpart. If there is a guiding principle in the FBI’s elite negotiating team it’s that you have to remove yourself from the equation.

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The Perfect Time For Transformational Change

I’m in the process of re-thinking my work situation. Naturally, change, especially when the next step is not fully known, can feel a bit unsettling, but that’s the upfront emotional payment for greater future growth – no pain, no gain as they say. Importantly, the timing couldn’t be better for a big positive transformational change.

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Does Going To a Top University Make a Difference?

Helicopter parenting your kids to Harvard

Parents will know that as soon as the their child is born, they subconsciously plan their child’s path to Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge or one of the other top universities. The thinking goes that by attending a top university, a world of opportunities will open up especially in the jobs market.

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Who’s the Most Famous Person Of All Time?

How do you compare the fame of an actor today to a Greek philosopher from two thousand years ago? Well, the clever people at MIT have come up with a system called Pantheon to do just that.

It looks at the biographies of historical figures that feature in more than 25 languages in Wikipedia. This gives a sense of broad impact of the figure. Then they make adjustments for number of page views, bias towards English language bios and age of the historical character (so if a bio is still being written on someone from two thousand years ago, that means their cultural is very big).

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How To Prevent Catastrophic Decision Making (3 min read)

How many times do you hear of a work initiative, company plan or government project that fails and you think it was obvious that was going to happen? Think government projects to upgrade IT systems or building new transport links or think company plans to go digital or break silos. 

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13 Rules For Have-Nots To Gain Power

Obama used his ideas on his path to the US Presidency, Hilary Clinton wrote her thesis on his work, and grass-roots movements, from both the left and now the right, treat his work as the template for action. Yet many people have never heard of the American Saul Alinsky. He is thought be the founder of modern community organising and wrote one of the most influential books on setting up grass-roots movements: the 1971 book “Rules For Radicals”. The basic philosophy was to give power to the have-nots. In his introduction he wrote:

“WHAT FOLLOWS IS for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away”

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Life Advice From the Best Sports Coach Of All-Time (7 min read)


It was a sad day last weekend when I discovered that my local second-hand book shop, Copperfields, was closing down (see picture). The only silver lining was that all books were selling for incredibly low prices and I ended up buying books I would not normally buy. One that stood out was called “The Essential Vince Lombardi” – it cost £2! I had vaguely heard of Lombardi with his saying “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”. Continue reading “Life Advice From the Best Sports Coach Of All-Time (7 min read)”

Why Business Plans Are a Waste Of Time (5 min read)

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I was clearing my stuff recently and I came across some business plans from previous years. They were all well written with nice flow charts, action points and promises of better performance. Of course, what we did over the following quarters and years had no connection to the business plan. I doubt I’m alone in this experience. In fact, I imagine most management deep down think that business plans are a waste of time. Continue reading “Why Business Plans Are a Waste Of Time (5 min read)”

Never Before Had Europe Been Overshadowed By Four Giants – Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman

That’s how John Julius Norwich characterises the early 1500s in his book Four Princes. The four were all born in the 1490s  and went on to shape Europe for centuries to come:

      • King Henry VIII ruled England. He broke from the Papacy of Rome, established the Church of England, created a superb administration and transformed the navy.
      • King Francis I ruled France. He was the Renaissance man. He brought Leonardo da Vinci from Italy to France. He transformed the Louvre from a medieval fortress to a vast Renaissance Palace. He made French, rather Latin, the official language of the country.
      • Suleiman the Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire. He created a single code of law, expanded the number of schools and was extremely tolerant. He gave artists professional status and encouraged every form of artistic creativity by attracted artists from all corners of Europe whether Muslim or Christian.
      • Holy Roman Emperor Charles V combined rule in Germany, Spain and parts of Italy to create a new heart of Europe. Under his rule, European rule expanded to the New World defeating the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru. 

But these highlights mask the violence and divineness of religion that was unleashed during the period. Continue reading “Never Before Had Europe Been Overshadowed By Four Giants – Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman”