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Unlock Your Human-Networking Potential

January 13, 2010 5 comments

I want you to recall any recent conversation you had with a friend lately; what did you guys talk about? Most people will answer along the lines off “…many things but nothing really specific”: weather, sports, money, last week’s party. Now if I ask you about the last conversation you had with a person whom you have no social connection with [salesman, civic worker, waiter, etc] you would probably either:
– Recall exactly what you talked about; as it would have revolved around something very specific: otherwise, why would you talk to them in the first place!
– Or not recall a thing; really … who cares; it was something unimportant and you will most likely never meet that person again.

Given life’s growing complexities, people find themselves strapped on time; which eventual spills into other areas of their lives. They often complain of not finding enough time to socialize. Socialize, are you serious? Even when we are ‘very busy’, we are constantly surrounded by other people. Albeit they are not our ‘closest friends’, but it is us that elect to engage with them in a direct, lets stick to the topic, style of conversations.

The need for socializing is inherent; we are after all social beings. Socializing helps us forget what’s on our minds and feel that ‘hey, life is really good after all – whatever pressures we are facing now are only temporary…and normal’. Ever had an interesting conversation with a complete stranger? [maybe the cashier at the grocery store, or the lady standing near the bus stop]. You feel really good afterwards: you induced change into your system. Thats why most of us love to travel; to engage ourselves in new experiences – escaping reality [which is really relative – you create your own]:: this is exactly what conversing with friends does: the topics are multi-threaded and spontaneous.

It is unfortunate that a lot of people deal with friendships in a ‘closed-circle’ manner: you are either a friend or not. Friendships should be more of a fluid concept; ‘concentric circles’ if we may call it, with you being in the center. By doing so, you at least break down the social stress that life throws at you, while unlocking your human-networking potential. Don’t miss out on meeting new people – so many great ones exist out there. “Each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations” [Tannen] … make the best out of it!

~ Youssef Aboul-Naja

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How to Capture Imagination

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

“A friend of a friend of ours is a frequent business traveler. Let’s call him Dave. Dave was recently in Atlantic City for an important meeting with a client. Afterwards, he had some time to kill before his flight, so he went to a local bar for a drink.

He’s just finished drinking one when an attractive woman approached and asked if she could buy him another. He was surprised but flattered. Sure, he said. The woman walked to the bar and brought back two more drinks – one for her and one for him. He thanked her and took a sip. And that was the last thing he remembered.
Rather, that was the last thing he remembered until he woke up, disoriented, lying in a hotel bathtub, his body submerged in ice.
He looked around frantically, trying to figure out where he was and how he got there. Then he spotted the note:
DON’T MOVE. CALL 911.
A cell phone rested on a small table beside the bathtub. He picked up and called 911, his fingers numb and clumsy from the ice. The operator seemed oddly familiar with his situation. She said, ‘Sir, I want you to reach behind you, slowly and carefully. Is there a tube protruding from your lower back?’
Anxious, he felt around behind him. Sure enough, there was a tube.
The operator said, ‘Sir, don’t panic, but one of your kidneys has been harvested. There’s a ring of of organ thieves operating in this city, and they got to you. Paramedics are on their way. Don’t move until they arrive'” (from: Made to Stick; by Chip & Dan Heath)

I don’t know about you, but the above ‘urban legend’ took my complete focus: I wanted to know what happens next: what happened to him? is he OK? Kidney harvesting? [In fact, I completely forgot what this article was all about] !

So the question begs, ‘how do you capture imagination?’

Though there is no definitive answer, many factors can act as agents that make our imaginations run wild: happiness, pain, death, birth, fame, love… etc. But I think that without the element of ‘relevance’, imagination cannot exist; the more a given idea ‘hits closer to home’, the stronger the imaginative captivity would be:

– Think of the scariest movie you ever saw
– Your favorite novel/movie/song
– Your role models/heroes/people you respect

At some fundamental level, there is the relevance factor; stirring your emotions: the words of the song are explaining your feelings; your heart sinks as the hero is shot in front of his loved on in the movie, and you taste success as you stand tall in the shoes of your role model

The stronger the relevance effect is, the longer a given ‘concept’ will survive; it may even span multiple generations: take for example some political systems, philosophical ideologies, even religious teachings.

Point is, the path to capturing imagination is by making the underlying content relevant.

I leave you with the short film called ‘Signs’; One of the 2009 Cannes Lions winners. It demonstrates the [imagination capturing -> relevance] concept quite well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy0HNWto0UY

~ Youssef Aboul-Naja