Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SΩ25 - Mars & Venus

Why are we still so far from human equality in the 21st Century? Much of my recent support towards gaining success has been thanks to some incredible women. This has inspired me to take a closer look at the root of gender inequality that exists across the world. For sure this a multi layer issue that has been created and fueled by religion, education, media, etc. This post is my personal take on the issue and some solutions that I believe will lead us closer to gender equality. As there are many perspectives and solutions it be great to hear your own thoughts and ideas.

Romance and Dating
It was only when I returned to Europe my romantic experience with women blossomed. This has ranged from a two-year relationship to magical travel encounters and everything in between. Over the years I’ve begun to question our romantic rituals. There is one resounding pattern I’ve noticed from the first move, dancing, or the first kiss. In the majority of cases between a heterosexual pair it’s the man that leads and the woman who reacts. Furthermore these experiences have made me realize the extent to which our biological instinct to procreate drives romance. As a male it’s embarrassing to admit how often my libido overrides my logical side. From both the male and female side the traits that we are attracted to tend to be indicators of mate compatibility. Physique and attitude play a large role in this romantic matching. A prime example of this is the ever so popular dating app ‘Tinder’. In this app you choose the people you’re interested in solely based on pictures. If there is a match the male tends to take the first move and must prove his worth and uniqueness. Do we truly feel this is the definition of romance?


Now let’s fast forward in a relationship to the point when a couple decides to become parents. In many ways biology has given women traits suitable for taking care of a baby. For example breasts to feed the child and the strong emotional bond needed to nurture the baby. Males on the other hand are pumped with testosterone ideal for being a formidable protector. Over the years these gender roles have been amplified through social structures, television shows, and marketing, What’s important to consider is that the division of responsibility between parents will be the first gender role models a child witnesses. Furthermore how the parents treat their child based on gender will form ‘gender norms’. For example what color clothing the child is dressed in, what toys he/she can play with and what activities he/she can participate in. This often has the consequence of pushing the types of jobs that are ‘best suitable’ for men and women. For example Lego toys are dominantly marketed towards boys that push engineering and construction type of work.

The Professional Life
This leads me to my point on how dating and parenting impacts gender roles in the work force. In many ways I believe that dating rituals has pushed our society to see males as the ‘natural leaders’. For example, at work it often seem men will be more outspoken then women when it comes to decisions, negotiating salary, etc. Furthermore the type of jobs women and men apply to will be biased by the gender roles our parents define. Also work environments, schedules, and work contracts are simply ill suited for people who have a child, especially for women. Yet the big question is can the dynamics of romance every truly be separated from the world of work?

Regardless of the answer I do believe we owe it to ourselves to encourage positive and healthy romantic bonds. This along with mindful parenting will set far more equal gender roles. Yet it’s important that both sides are willing to change! Here are my final suggestions:
  • Men should respect women and learn to overcome libido driven lifestyles
  • Women are encouraged to take the lead and take ownership of their skills and abilities
  • Parents should be aware of how their actions and behaviors reflect on gender roles
Posts You Might Like
SΩ24 - Differences 
SΩ22 - The Breath of Giving
About Society Ω


Saturday, April 29, 2017

SΩ24 - Differences

For the last few years it seems like there are increasingly more people voicing their support for various causes and social groups. For example April is Autism awareness month and there was a protest for science. My question is when will we evolve beyond the need for that? Our differences are what help us grow as a society. If we truly learn to understand one another we’ll find that the interests we have and the challenges we face are truly universal. Here are a few stories of people you will hopefully relate to.

The AC Wizard
Like a bell the clink of his fork on the plate announced the end of his dinner. Leaving the cozy restaurant he walked with dread to what awaited him. Although the life of solitude gave him some peace the city refused to leave him alone. Each night was a struggle to find his way to dreamland. Everything from the train miles away to the creak of the stairs far below him or the flashing of lighting in the distance kept him awake. His body yearned for just a wink of sleep.

This was just an example of the challenges faced by my role model: Nikola Tesla. Many believe that he had some form of Autism, which would explain the hyper-sensitivity mentioned before and his limited social life. Yet thanks to him we have AC power, which is used worldwide to run all our lights, appliances, computers, and more.

Magic from Poverty
She looked out the window of the cafe and contemplated her predicament. Her thoughts were interrupted by a rustling sound and she looked over at her daughter sleeping blissfully in her pram. It was at that moment she realized that it was pointless to feel sorry for her penniless situation. With that in mind she attacked the pages with her pen with an intense ferocity. She owed it to her daughter to finish this book and find a way to get a decent meal on the table.

This female author went from being a single mother, unemployed and on wealth fare to a becoming the writer of the globally loved Harry Potter series. Yes indeed Joanne (JK) Rowling had struggles of her own. Furthermore, she had to hide the fact she was a woman, because publishers believed it would be less appealing to boys. Never the less it goes to show even someone with less than most can bring magic to the lives of others.

The Peace Jab
One could almost smell the frustration in the air from the two men talking. The sturdy man kept repeating ‘Shoot them for what?’ His companion nodded with approval. As their discussion continued one realized the meals they had ordered where more of an after thought. On that evening they were there to exchange their beliefs and how to show the rest of the world. In the end it was decided the sturdy man would publicly announce his Muslim beliefs on peace and refuse to be part of the mindless killing.

It might be tricky to believe that the king of boxing, Muhammad Ali, was a firm believer of peace. Especially in this day an age when many ignore the millions of Muslims who have kind and giving souls. When refusing to join the draft he showed the world how one truly stands up for humanity. 

Albeit fictional anecdotes the struggles these change makers faced were indeed real. It’s time we see our differences as strengths in building a better future. People as diverse as you overcame their struggles and offered something to the world. How will you turn your differences into gifts to the world?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SΩ23 - Who We Meet

How do strangers turn into friends? Most of us meet new people on a weekly basis. The two years developing Society Ω has made me come to appreciate the complexity and serendipity of social connections. Hopefully, these anecdotes will give you a taste of my upcoming project: Ω Teams. For a chance to join, sign up here.

Having lived in three countries one might consider me a modern nomad. What few know is that I’ve lived in over 17 shared flats! This means I’ve lived with around 50 different people and yet I’ve only kept in touch with a few. However, my experience in one shabby flat in Worcester was different. It’s here where I met a physicist, who I spent enjoying many late night discussion with. Although we differ in many ways, like religion, somehow our friendship has withstood the test of time. Even as he and his family have bounced between Asia and his birthplace of Nigeria he remains a close friend.

When you think of Belgium you might think of waffles, chocolate, and fries. However, for me it’s capital of Belgium brings back much different memories. It’s there where I met my first girlfriend. We are both adventurous people with a love for traveling and sports. Yet somehow we drifted apart and she eventually returned to China. It’s incredible how we can find love in the most random places imaginable. It’s just as surprising how time can sometimes evaporate those seemingly unbreakable connections.

A more recent tale comes from Barcelona. Here you'll find dozens of startup events and meetups on a daily basis. Last December I participated in a hackathon with a blend of amazing people. If you’ve ever participated in a hackathon you’ll know that the event is a bit of a blur. A few days later someone contacted me on Twitter. As politely as possible I responded to her ‘who are you?’. Yes that Venezuelan chica turned out to become my spunky co-organizer for Even as I’m still getting to know her interests our values and work flow synced in just a few days.

Why am I sharing all this with you? Well we meet new people on a weekly or for some on a daily basis. Any of those people could turn into a friend, romantic partner, or partner in crime for a project/startup. This connection forming is fairly mystifying, which can be fantastic for friendship and relationships. However, for turning an idea into reality finding the ‘perfect’ teammate(s) is rather frustrating.  So I’m launching a new initiative, Ω Teams, to explore how to build strong teams from the start. I'm looking for 12 highly motivated participants with ideas or who'd like to contribute to one. For anyone who wants a chance to participate, just sign up here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

SΩ22 - The Breath of Giving

They strode side by side, a tall man with a scruffy elderly man. From their amiable chatter you’d guess they were close friends or perhaps relatives. In fact they just met earlier in the nearby park. The elderly man was ecstatic for the companionship and the invitation to share a warm meal. You see the park has been the elderly man’s ‘home’ for the last 4 years. As fate would have it the tall man’s evening route brought him to the park and united the two. The tall man visits this neighborhood weekly to comfort the ill-fated people congregated here from his homeland. 
For him being concerned for others is as natural as breathing.

This realistic tale was inspired by a friend’s experience with the inherently communal culture of Moroccans and Berber hospitality. Discovering this anomaly I asked myself;
How can more of us develop this natural habit of giving and supporting others?

To explore this idea further, I decided to actively grow this giving habit in myself. This November my objective was to spend a half hour to give or support someone each morning from Monday to Friday. This quickly transformed into the November Giving Challenge, which I encouraged others to take part in. In the end there were over 76 visits to the challenge page from 9 different countries. To my knowledge there were over 10 people who contributed to the challenge. This included a teacher in the US who had a 10-minute giving challenge in her classroom. Perhaps the biggest success came from participating in the periscope #AttitudeOfGratitude live event.

As this adventure is coming to an end I’ve started doing a bit of deeper reflection. From all the lessons learned I'll highlight a few of my discoveries.
  • Many of us already give and support each other (i.e. knowledge on the Internet)
  • There are countless ways both online and offline to support one another
  • In communities with common values/interests there is a higher likelihood of giving
  • We can develop a habit of giving and supporting others 
Giving Communities
What was actually inspiring to realize is that many of us already give and support each other on a daily basis. A great example of this is the knowledge we share online. Especially prominent is the support in online communities that share common interests and/or values, such as personal learning networks of educators like Edumatch or the BCN startup slack community. It would be interesting to explore how these communities can be linked together to tackle global problems?

The Giving Comfort Zone
Another big success was seeing my personal growth. The last weeks of the challenge ways to support and give often popped up naturally. I think this is because my perspective had been opened up and I was more willing to go beyond my 'comfort zone'. Many of us are more than willing to support family, friends, or people within our personal communities. This is what I mean with our 'comfort zone'. Helping strangers outside of this 'comfort zone' is a struggle. The tough reality is that those who truly need support are either far from where we live or outside that ‘comfort zone'.

You all have the power to develop the habit of giving and supporting others! The first step is realizing that we all share challenges and we must come together to deal with global challenges. Also you can become aware of those around you and listen attentively. Even starting small can be great! Going past November you all have the chance to evolve your Breath of Giving.

Links & Relevant Posts
November Giving Challenge
SΩ12 - Our Global Impact
SΩ13 - Think, Give, Love (Holiday Gift Ideas) 

Monday, September 26, 2016

SΩ21 - Mastering Time

We live in a time where ‘I’m busy’ is a catch phrase! Yet if we look deeper is everyone truly ‘busy’ or instead struggling to manage their time? In the fourth lives session of our slack group we had a stellar three-man panel: Rob and Carlos (two entrepreneurs) and myself (freelancer). Rob’s startup, iRecargones, provides unique telecom services. Carlos’s startup, Iyiyim, provides event planning solutions. Myself I'm a freelance English teacher, writer and blogger.

If this post inspires you to become the master of your time, make sure to check out the mini-guide at the end. Without further ado, here is the meat of our Q&A session:

Q1 (Peter): When someone, a superior gives you some work, how do you decide on the deadline?

Carlos: Make sure to clarify with your boss the task & deadline
Rob: 1) Do it right away 2) If your schedule is clear 3) You have the available resources 4) You can do the task
Mario: Know the priorities of your company and your role

Q2 (Alejandro): What do you do when minor and urgent tasks distract you from the most important ones?

Rob: Delegate and get the most important tasks done first.
Mario: Knowing how much time each task takes and finish what you started, unless the urgent task can be done quickly. Urgency is relative, right?

Q3 Shahid: How to balance your personal and professional life especially when you’re company is demanding?

Carlos: Make the work schedule clear, before signing a work contract.
Mario: When a task is not your responsibility be firm about it, with your boss, yet communicate it with care. Depends a lot on the company environment and relationship with your boss.
Rob: If the company/job requires extra hours, it really needs to have a great environment such as 24 hours food service (free), open bar (no kidding), and a lot of activities.

Q4 Mario: If you had to give 1 time management tip, what would it be?

Rob: Find ways to break down a goal into manageable steps, instead of overthinking it.
Carlos: Keep in mind that tasks always take at least two or three times the time you initially think they will require.
Mario: If you want to be successful in life, know clearly what your priorities are. Stop spending time on everything/everyone that keeps you away from your personal priorities.

Mini-Guide: Time Management
  1. First and foremost as you can see from the Q&A time management strategies vary based on each person. The best is to try a few different methods and see what works best for you. 
  2.  Likely the most important part in time management is realizing your personal life priorities. Here you might also consider your preferred work versus life balance.
  3. Take a few weeks to track how you use your time. Are there activities/people that keep you from accomplishing your main priorities? For example how much time do you spend on work, social life, fitness, watching TV, etc.
  4. Create a daily, weekly, and/or monthly schedule from all the tasks/activities you want to do. This step is unique to the person, yet something like a to-do list or tools like Trello can help.
  5. When creating your schedule, be realistic! We are only human and have ~16hrs per day when we are awake. Hopefully, you’ll see even if you accomplish a few tasks per day your time will become more manageable.

I strongly believe that becoming the master of your time will lead to a more fulfilling life! Time management is a valuable skill and one that does take practice to learn. Please share your own methods in the comments or continue this discussion below. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

SΩ20 - Our Bodies Talk

The evolution of Society Ω and slack group has far exceeded my expectations!
Since April we’ve had a live session nearly every month with a diverse mix of topics.
What’s exciting is that over half of the 20 members have participated. To join our next lives session, feel free to ask for an invite on Twitter or LinkedIN.
Here are the topics we’ve covered so far:
  • Live #1 (April): Brainstorm Session
  • Live #2 (May): Entrepreneur Q&A
  • Live #3 (July): Languages
  • Live #4 (July): Time Management Q&A

For the third live session we discussed Languages. It started off with the discussion of how communication can be improved between cultures. The idea of using 'text to vector' translation was brought up. We also discussed ways of learning a language. If you’re learning a language, here is a proven method of doing so: The Lingu Leap. This evolved into a lively discussion of how body language plays a large role in communication. One question left unanswered was:

Are there universal body language cues or are they culturally dependent?

Now I’d like to take a closer look at body language. Research by Albert Mehrabian claims that communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% verbal.  Now if this is true, what about our tech driven shift to text based communication? Based on this study it would seem like we can barely communicate via text. Most would agree we tend to communicate better by speaking face-to-face rather than text.  Yet I believe that this also depends on the type of message(s). The four-sided communication model says there are four parts to a message: factual, appeal, relationship, & personality.

My strong belief is that non-verbal communication often is vital for expressing emotions. Thus non-verbal communication is likely reflected in the personality and relationship parts of a message. A prime example is that lovers will express their feelings more through intimacy than verbally. Now think about having a heated disagreement via text versus a verbal one. Typically speaking, which one is more effective in reaching a resolution?

To put it simply, body language communicates who we are and what we are feeling. As we are emotional beings the importance of body language is evident. So next time you’re flirting or in an interview, just be aware of what your body is saying! With that I leave it with the following question;

How can text based communication be improved?

Relevant Posts

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

SΩ19 - Life Path

The people in our lives both shape it and inspire us. In fact this post was inspired thanks to a few people. In particular thanks to members of the Society Ω Slack community. During a recent chat with a member it brought about the following question in my mind:

How is our life path determined?

Before you respond, just think about all the factors that influence us. Even before being born: genetics, your parent’s location, and more decide what you’re able or allowed to do with your life. Just imagine if you’re handicapped or poor, this already puts a great restriction on the activities you can enjoy and the life options that you can choose. Never the less, these restrictions actually just make it harder to follow certain paths, not impossible!

During your childhood your options are rapidly shaped by your parents, friends, your education, and even your country’s government. For example in certain cultures like China, parents often push their children towards an education or career that guarantees financial stability. Another example is how education worldwide tends to promote the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math. And at some point one has to think, who decides the value and importance of all the fields and careers? For example who decided that a scientist or banker has a more worthy job and thus earn more than a teacher (in most countries)?

This brings about the question:

How can I be in control of my life path?

I realize that to regain control of one’s life path can be difficult. In fact I struggled with this for the last 5 years. A good way to start is decide how you wish to divide your daily and weekly time. You can do this, by writing down your top 3-5 priorities in life. In most cases your life path will be steered by your 1st priority.

Figuring out all your priorities can be a daunting task. Yet you’ll likely figure those out as you start spending more time on what brings you happiness and fulfillment. At this point you may wonder well how can I build a career from my priorities? Yet, even a priority like friendship can help develop your career! At this point it’s time to explore and try out options. In the last 5 years, here are some of the options I’ve tried. They are roughly ordered by how effective they have been for me and how much of a change is required:
  • Explore
    • Even just finding a new restaurant or park in your city can bring a spark of inspiration.
  • Travel
    • This can help you see new perspectives on life and meet new people to inspire you.
  • Relocate
    • Whether it’s to a new city or country, relocating gives you a clean slate and gets you to adapt to a new place. Relocating to a new country will definitely push you to question your mindset.
  • Try new activities and hobbies
    • This can help free your mind and perhaps even shift into a career. Perhaps learn a new language.
  • Writing and/or blogging
    • The beauty of writing is how it can help focus ones thoughts. Especially with blogging it has given the freedom to explore, yet also help me realize what my interests and priorities are.
  • Start a personal project(s)
    • You can view this like a testing ground for a career you wish to pursue. Personally, I’ve started countless projects and my most recent one has turned into a career opportunity.
  • Find new friends and/or social circles
    • We’re all face uncertainties in life, yet the right friends can truly push us towards greatness!

Although change can be scary, if you’re on a frustrating or unfulfilling life path, why keep doing the same things? Perhaps, for many relocating may seem to go against their priorities like being with family, yet just realize it doesn’t have to be permanent! For me all these changes have helped shift me towards my life path. Most likely moving to Barcelona, blogging, and my personal projects helped the most. What works for you is likely different, the key is to try a few and see what works best! Let's continue this discussion in the SΩ Slack group. If you want to join us, you can ask for an invite here.

Related Posts & Links:
Learning a Language - The Lingu Leap
SΩ Slack & Blogging - 2015 and Slack to the Future
Travel Stories - Global Kindness: Cultural Tales II
BCN Youth Tech Challenge

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

SΩ18 - Slack Peek: Entrepreneur Q&A

In January the Society Ω Slack group was born. At first the idea was to give readers a space to ‘e-meet’, provide post feedback, and discuss ideas related to the blog. In just a few months it’s developed to more than that! This is largely thanks to the superb members who are eager to partake in all the wild conversations & ideas. We’re always happy to embrace new members, either contact me for an invite or join here.

The group has also evolved rapidly in the last few months. Our new purpose:
‘An open group promoting global collaboration to better the world 1 day at a time’
Furthermore we have 3 different opportunities for members:
Live - A place where regular live sessions take place centered on a pre-chosen theme
The Agora - Here members can have fun and relaxed chats about anything
Weekly Question - If a member is facing a challenge, needs answers, and/or suggestions they can ask here

In our latest lives session we had a Q&A with Patricia on entrepreneurship. Originally from Holland and now living in Barcelona she has a wide array of business experience ranging from working at Nike, having her own business consultancy, being vice president of mentoring at PWN, and much more. Here is a link to her current business and her linkedin. Without further ado, here is a glimpse at the Q&A.

If I’ve been an entrepreneur for years and have yet to earn a profit at what point should I reflect on my experience, accept defeat and move on?

If you’re not reaching your business goals and objectives in 2-3 years it’s time to reconsider your next step. If you’re unable to live your preferred lifestyle with your business, it’s also a good idea to reassess your situation. Just remember few businesses are an overnight success, many entrepreneurs and freelancers struggle in the beginning to get where they want to be.

It's difficult to let go of your dream. A good choice before doing so is to review your situation and challenges with a business consultant or mentor. Often all you need is some focus and a different approach. A fresh pair of eyes can help you see things from a different angle.

Do you have any pointers on how to set up a marketing strategy based on knowing who the target group is?

You also need to know who your competitors are. Many people forget to address how you are different from your competitors. You need to position yourself in front of your target market. My suggestions:
  1. You need to understand how your competitors position themselves
  2. You have to highlight what you do differently from your competitors
  3.  You need to identify what customer needs are filled by your product or service
  4. What is unique about your product/service, your location, etc. 
What are the best channels to put your advertising budget?

Again this depends highly on where your target customer is. If they are online, social media is a good choice. If they read a specific magazine, go there. If you’re big and need a large customer base than TV & radio are good. As people are overwhelmed with messages all around them make sure to be as targeted as possible. A good book to read in that regard is “Purple Cow” from Seth Godin.

What's the best way to gain followers when first starting a twitter account for your business?

Identify your target group and find them on Twitter. Follow them and most people will follow back. Post content that interests your target group. A good way to start is posting similar content your followers tweet or retweet. Engage with your followers by talking to them, thanking them, liking their tweets, etc.

If this all sounds exciting to you, feel free to join us. Contact me for an invite or join here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

SΩ17 - The Lingu Leap

Why should you learn a second language? We are in an era of globalization. Whether you like it or not, chances are you will meet people from other countries during your daily life, your studies, or work. With English you can communicate with ~14% of the global population or about 1 billion people (see below). However, if you learn one or more languages you’ll be able to communicate with 1 out of every 3rd people you meet! Furthermore, you’re perspective and knowledge of the world will expand greatly.

Why My Experience Is Relevant?
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to start learning another language! If you are indeed interested, you’ll find a guide below of how I suggest you learn any language. Before I do that, I’d like to briefly share my experience with languages. So far I’ve learned 4 languages, yet am only able to use 3 of them. Currently, I’m learning my 4th language (Chinese). Now the reason I mention this, is because my success has varied significantly!  Below you can see a chart with details.

Additionally, I’ve been giving private English lessons for over a year now! From my experience it got me thinking, how do we as children learn a language? Below you’ll see the rough process I’ve thought up.

Think about a child, they often say words, which they rarely know the meaning of (mimicking)! Furthermore, they make mistakes left & right, yet still continue speaking. So why do many language courses put such an emphasis on grammar & using the language ‘correctly’? This often discourages students and they stop learning the language. Let’s flip that around & encourage language learners to speak confidently first & then focus on the ‘visual’ side of the language.

How to Learn any Language?
From my experience with languages thus far, I developed this method (below) to learning any language. Try it and adjust it to your liking. Of course everyone learns a bit differently!

Finally, I’ll offer 3 tips to learning any language:
1) Practice makes perfect
To excel at a skill requires practice. How you do that is your choice, yet socializing tends to offer a nice motivation boost. Ideally try living abroad! Otherwise, find a language partner in person or online.
2) Jump right in, make mistakes, and keep learning
As mentioned before, children make mistakes, so you can too! Also it takes years for you to learn your first language, so why should the second language be any different?
3) Have fun!
Most likely if you have fun while learning you’ll progress quicker!  Listen to music or watch videos in the language that you’re learning. Get excited even if you understand a few words!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

SΩ16 - 3 Tales of Nomad Peril

The life of a modern nomad is filled with adventure & risk. Traveling alone is truly freeing and a rewarding experience. However, I’ve realized that it can be filled with peril as well. In this post I’ll share some risky travel anecdotes. Along with each tale I’ll share some tips on safely traveling alone.

As I stepped out of the airport I was greeted with a gust of smoggy air. Shortly after a man strode up to me speaking in broken English. He quickly escorted me to a nearby taxi. Just as I was about to enter he blocked the door and told me to pay him in advance. Although skeptical I was to tired to argue and handed over the 200 ¥ (~$30/25€). At the end of my taxi ride I soon learned that I had been swindled! The fare was just 20 ¥ (~$3/2.5€)! What a nice welcome to China, wouldn’t you say? As taxi scams come in all forms and are found worldwide the best bet is public transport! If you truly must resort to a taxi, research common fare prices ( or, ask the fare before the ride, request a meter, & pay the driver directly at the end.

A few years later I was off to the World Cup in Brazil. Boy was I nervous about this trip! All my research, even talking to Brazilians, suggested I might barely return alive. Although I landed in the evening, I got on the local bus, which was supposedly going near my hostel. On the bus I met a petite Russian girl. We had a nice chat along the ride and agreed to meet up again. A few days later we met and were off to a nearby beach. When we arrived I discovered her back and both arms were covered in bruises! Apparently the night we arrived someone attacked her and tried to steal her backpack. Lucky the police were close by and saved her. As the days passed in Brazil I began to relax and only ended up getting pickpocketed (~$30/25€) while partying in Rio. The take away from that is to be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Also, while walking around try to carry the small amounts of cash, for me it’s usually ~$20-40/18-35€. Keep the rest distributed among your personal items.

My most recent tale happened while visiting the last great wonders of the world: the Pyramids of Giza. While exiting the metro to catch the bus a well-dressed gentleman & his son walked alongside me. Coincidently the father was showing his son the Pyramids. He invited me for the drive there. As he seemed so kind, how could I refuse? Our chat was pleasant and he invited me to his home for brunch. Then he ended up going to a mosque prayer, which ended up lasting...1.5 hours! At this point my patience was running thin, as this ‘kind man’ had wasted a large chunk of my trip.
Finally, as we got to the pyramids he said I best take a camel or horse, which I politely declined. As we arrived at the main entrance he asked me for money to pay for gas and brunch. Mind you at the start he said “There is more to life than money”, but that he was a successful businessman. My lesson is that chances are people approaching you near tourist sites or public transport tend to be scammers. In the first few minutes with a stranger find out what they want. If it sounds fishy, just politely decline their ‘kind offers’. Scammers often come off as being too nice to be true! My best experiences have often been with people around 20-30 years old who just wish to practice their English.

So for those who brave a solo adventure, it’s worth it, just make sure to stay safe! As a side note for women who travel to ‘dangerous’ or Muslim countries, I’d highly recommend walking with a companion or friend as you’re easy targets for mischief. Here are my solo travel tips:
  • Try to blend in with the locals. Look like a tourist and you’ll often pay the price
  • Give strangers 2-5 mins & risk more time if they seem 100% genuine (It may be worth it!)
  • Carry small amounts of cash ($20-40/18-35€) & know when to give it up, your life is more valuable!
  • Always remain calm; yet if you feel uncomfortable give a firm, but polite “no”
Remember to join the discussion in our slack group:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

SΩ15 - How to Choose the One...MOOC

The mention of EdTech (Educational Technology) often results in a mixed reaction of intrigue and bewilderment. Here is my interpretation of EdTech; it is any technology that assists in the learning process. In the 21st century this is mostly comprised of online tools and mobile apps. In this post I’ll focus on the popular trend of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

During my bachelors (2007-2010), this trend started with universities across the US offering open courses. Usually, this is a video series of a course from a prominent professor. My go to source was MIT OpenCourseWare. This sparked a parade of MOOC providers into existence, to name a few: Coursera, Udemy, and EdX. These providers soon introduced a broader range of courses, including topics like languages, programming, etc. Now in 2016, with all these possibilities, how to choose one?

Having tried a few courses from the mentioned providers, I’ll help guide you to your next MOOC!
  1. Choose a topic you wish to learn. In my experience, having the motivation to learn a topic prior to the MOOC pushes you to complete it. To stay self-motivated throughout the course can be a challenge.
  2. Now it’s time to find a MOOC. I suggest testing out 2-3 MOOCs from different providers for a few weeks. Here are some search tools: coursetalk, class-central, and mooc-list. The reason for testing a few is because the quality and style of courses can vary greatly from one provider. After 2-3 weeks, choose the one that works best.
  3. When testing, here are a few aspects to compare:
    • Enthusiasm of Instructor(s) – Just like in school/university the teacher/professor often creates the mood of the class and stimulates student engagement. Chances are if the instructor is excited about the topic you’ll be too!
    • Live versus Achieved – Live MOOCs happen over a set period of time and new material is typically presented on a weekly basis. Achieved courses provide all the material at once. The live MOOC tend to provide more engagement and provides a frequent reminder to continue the course.
    • Quiz versus Tasks – Usually a MOOC will have several quizzes or tasks to test your knowledge. Usually the tasks require the user to apply their learning. The quizzes tend to be multiple choice & provide limited learning opportunities. A good MOOC will likely have short, but engaging tasks that take about an hour to complete. If the quizzes/tasks are too difficult from the start, I’d suggest trying another MOOC!
    • Platform for Peer Engagement – While learning many of us will have questions and opinions. It’s great to be able to discuss topics with peers. Those MOOCs that provide a space to discuss with instructors and peers help further learning and boost motivation. Peer assessment and discussions also help to complete tasks.
    • Free versus Paid – Start off with free MOOCs! I’d only pay if there is a trial version & you feel it’s worth it. However, if you pay, do it for the material rather than certificates. My guess is only a few MOOC certificates are valued similar to a qualification indicator.
  4. You get out of it what you put in! Just like an education, job, etc. this especially applies with MOOCs! If you want to try a MOOC, try to put aside 2 or more hours per week. Use the MOOC as a starting point to learn more about a topic. 
As my experience with MOOCs is still developing, please share your thoughts in our slack group.
Join us here:

Recommended MOOCs:
Chinese Made Easy: An Exciting Start To Chinese
Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology

MOOC Search Tools:

Friday, January 29, 2016

SΩ14 - 2015 and Slack to the Future

Feels like 2015 just flew by! A year ago I wrote my first post, in which I shared my vision for ‘Society Ω’. Thus, it feels fitting to write a post reflecting how the blog has evolved and the plans for 2016! Ask for your slack community invite: here (explained below).

Discover a Better You by Blogging
The blog has often surprised me as if the blog has developed a mind of it’s own! For the most part this blog has acted like a playground for soul searching. As cliché as it may sound, blogging has helped me become a better person.

It’s allowed my creative side to flow and discover some of my closest interests: questioning the norms, bridging cultures, and shaping altr-umanity. Another outcome was uncovering that educational technology feels like the career path for me. I also discovered that every word counts and strive to keep a one-page limit per post. This has greatly improved my communication skills.

Most importantly, I’ve come to enjoy producing content that provides value to the readers! This got me thinking of how some of my posts entertain people and other posts can provide some guidance of issues I’ve faced. On a deeper level, it’s exciting to get people to question the world around them!

2015 in a Nutshell
Looking at the numbers, the blog was viewed in 44 countries and had over 1,600 page views.

Based on page views the top posts for 2015 were:
Clearly the cultural posts are the most popular! It’s great that the top two posts also had rather deep messages. However, with limited numbers and feedback, it’s tricky to tell what made these posts so appealing!?

Slack to the Rescue
In fact that’s a constant struggle! How can I give readers what they want, while sticking to my beliefs and the aim of this blog? Furthermore, how can I push the blog into actions? That’s when I realized all you readers deserve a voice as well! If used wisely ‘slack’ is a tool to develop and strengthen such a community. So here it is:! Please ask for an invite: here.

I’m also considering new ways to present my ideas. Although text is here to stay, it’s clear that video is dominating the internet. I hope to create a video of sorts in the near future! I could definitely use some collaboration with that.

The target for 2016 is to have been read in at least 100 countries! Do you have some brilliant ideas of how to achieve that? Please share them in the slack community!

Finally, here are a few teasers to possible posts. Please tell me, which you'd like to see:
  • Exploring Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) 
  • Idea for the ‘Giving Vacation’ 
  • The bliss of a minimalist life

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

SΩ13 - Think, Give, Love

‘It’s the thought that counts.’ This age-old saying suggests that an act of kindness should matter, regardless of how small or imperfect it may be. It’s definitely worth considering as we start hunting for our holiday gifts. The tradition of gift giving is rather fascinating and is one that spans both time and across cultures. There are various events that involve gift giving from birthdays, to weddings, to Ramadan, to Christmas, to Chinese New Years, to Hanukkah, and many more.

Yet the cultural and personal differences in gift giving are just as vast! Regardless of those differences, I believe it’s important to put some thought into the gifts we give. Also, to consider our reaction to receiving a gift! The idea of this gift-giving post is to spark some thought in your gift giving.

To help me with this my cousin Sarah, all the way in Australia, will give her thoughts in this Q and A style post. It's worth noting that although we are blood related, we've only met on two occasions back in 2012. Both our paths have been rather different and yet our values do tend to cross at times. Hope it'll be of use to you this holiday season!

What’s your personal interpretation of ‘gift’?
A gift can be defined as: ‘a thing given willingly to someone, without payment’. This seems apt. A gift doesn’t require or expect reciprocity, giving is selfless. At least, it should be. Gifts can be objects, actions, words, etc., yet the core essence being an act of generosity & kindness, without desire for equitable return. It’s usually an unspoken form of communication that conveys to someone that you are grateful for his or her presence. Although most of the times gifts are physical objects, I believe time and actions are often gifts we tend to take for granted. For example cooking a meal for someone or teaching someone a skill.

Is it better to give or receive a gift?
I believe this depends on who is on the other side of the transaction, when both giving & receiving. Every holiday I go over my budget on gifts. I love finding things that are perfect for my friends and to a lesser extent family; but even some of my closest friends aren’t all that great to give to. A grateful recipient heightens the joy of giving! As a recipient, getting a spontaneous gift, or one that I know has been bought because the giver knew it was right for me, these are the best times! Overall though, I enjoy giving more than receiving - I have everything I need and if presents are just bought because they should be, I’d prefer to be given the cost in cash rather than accumulating more ‘things’.
This is a rather conflicting topic for me. Over time I’ve grown to appreciate mutual give and take. Is pure altruism even possible or realistic? Although, I prefer giving it does feel better to get a thanks and a gracious smile. It’s like a receipt for giving.

Additionally, we often take human kindness as well as the time and effort people spend on our behalf for granted, myself included. After all, how much does a sincere ‘thank you’ cost?

Finally, some of us will take more than they give, sometime unintentionally. Thus, I feel it’s key to balance give and take. To start off, be more aware of the give and take that occurs around us. For example if you enjoyed this post, you may like to know Sarah and myself gave at least a few hours to write it. If you wish to keep up the giving, how about sharing this post with someone?

What is your advice for getting the ‘perfect gift’?
Follow your gut! So often I will pass a shop window, or come across something online and just know it is right! I flatter myself that I’ve gained a reputation for giving ideal gifts; I’m able to do this because I know the people I am buying for. This doesn’t simply mean knowing their likes & dislikes, it also means knowing what is important to them, knowing their values and goals/dreams. I may not be the nicest person on the planet, but I am generous and I do care that recipients of my gifts are affected by them, just as I am when I walk past the shop window…
My suggestion is to gift an experience and better yet one you can share! This works best if you listen to someone and know them. A few years ago, I invited my father (biologic father) to the Moers jazz festival. Before this I had never even listened to jazz. As the festival commenced, his jazz filled world engulfed me. In many ways it was a chance to truly be with him. I shamefully wonder if I got more out of the gift than he did.

Even if you’re unable to gift an experience, I think the perfect gift should be something that adds to a person’s life based on their interests and/or personality. The key is to listen.

Do certain events, like Christmas, make you feel obligated to give gifts?
Yes. I love Christmas, for what it means and the traditions but, if I had my way, I would be spending the day with friends and it would be that shared time which constituted a celebration, rather than the unwrapping of gifts with family. Buying gifts for people is a pleasure, but at Christmas one can feel pressured into the action. I would prefer to buy for people as I see things they would like, rather than having to find gifts at particular times of the year. However, on the flip-side, friends who do not like getting spontaneous gifts, Christmas is an excuse to give to them!
A few years ago, my ex-girlfriend randomly gave me a wallet. At the time I was rather ungrateful, since I had a wallet, albeit beat up.
Only later, did I realize it’s more natural to just give whenever we feel compelled to. After all Christmas should be about spending time with loved ones, right? So just consider that while you’re out buying gifts this holiday season! Embrace the spirit of Christmas and ignore Mr. Consumerism. By the way I did switch wallets and still use it till this day. Thanks Huihui!

What is one gift you’ve received which feels like it keeps on giving?
For my birthday, perhaps six or seven years ago a friend bought me a chess set, knowing that I didn’t play the game. He then took me to the pub after work and taught me the game. While we have less time than in the past to engage in this pursuit, it still remains one thing that is ours - playing chess at the pub. It is a game which still frustrates me, but I am glad I know how to play and one day, I will win.This may sound bizarre, yet it’s for sure running. When I was younger my dad (step-dad) would bring me on runs. At first it was frustrating, since I could only run a fraction of what he ran. Yet over time it grew a part of me. Feeling the wind woosh past me  truly reminds me that I'm alive! Since, 2011 I’ve been struggling with different injuries. Yet a few weekends ago I had an orienteering race and the joy of running came flowing back to me. Thanks Dad!

From what Mario and I have written, I think it is clear that both of us value gifts that have been thoughtful and that we ourselves do not give frivolously. This has been an interesting exercise for me to see both our similarities and differences, especially since we've just been in touch for the last few years. This indicates that thoughts and feelings about gift giving may be quite universal. If you’ve found our writing interesting or useful, feel free to share it. Also, we’d like to hear your thoughts on gift giving!