Archive for March, 2008

Rwanda is the most beautiful country in the world

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

rwanda_535.jpg

I’m listening to soft jazz, while I read Weekendavisen, a weekly, Danish newspaper (the best), which deep dives on domestic and foreign affairs, liberal arts, natural science and more. I nearly skipped one article, Fear only your own fear (Frygt kun din egen frygt) by Louise Windfeld-Høeberg, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Incredibly well-written with the occasional dry humour, Louise tells us the story of a conversation with Fabien, a Rwandan priest, on a long-haul flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam. Louise, sceptical at the beginning of their conversation, ends up unveiling some of herself while shedding some light on two very important topics: embracing life and taking risks. These themes are potentially stating the obvious to most people, but the same people neglect to live by them. And iteration has never hurt anybody.

Embracing life

Life is only as positive as you make it. Although we all have valleys of life, we should embrace the opportunity to make of it what we can. If you feel your morning sucks, then the rest of the day is an uphill battle. And a large part of the effort is changing the mind, rather than wishing the world around you is different. Fabien, from Louise’s flight conversation, comes from Rwanda. Try to search for Rwanda on Google and see what you find (hint: not all positives), but the first thing Fabien says when he describes his home country is much different:

“Rwanda is the most beautiful and fertile country in the world. It is like paradise. Everything can grow there. Everything. Sweet potatoes, corn, yes, all fruits and vegetables — and, not the least, the most delightful bananas,” he says proudly.

I’m not advertising for obliviousness, but I do advertise for a positive mind and an embracing mind towards the world around us and to life.

And Fabien is extremely persistent in this regard, and maybe hinting towards being a little too pervasive. At the end of their flight, Fabien realises that he does not know why Louise is flying back to Denmark:

“What are doing in Denmark?” Fabien asks.

“I’m actually burying my grandmother,” I say

“My condolences.”

“Thank you.”

“How old was she?”

“Almost 90.”

“How fantastic! What an age!”

“I will miss her.”

“You should rather say: ‘Thank you grandmother, for staying with us for so long!’ And be happy for her long life.”

“Hmm.”

Although it may border to being too pervasive, as mentioned, nevertheless it is often this perspective that is needed in the valleys of our lives. And in any case, Fabien’s freshness and naturalness is really compelling.

Taking risks

Part of embracing life is also to take chances. Louise tells Fabien about the school that her children go to — a school that really puts an extra effort into teaching the children to take chances — or risks. To become risk takers.

“The bravest even get an acknowledgement for their efforts. They are called up at the monthly morning gathering in front of hundreds of students, parents, and teachers, awarded a risk taker diploma, and applauded all the way back to their seats.”

We should also do this in our schools and in our society at large. It seems as if risk-taking is actively discouraged in the way we interact with each other. Being cautious of not becoming reckless, we should actively encourage risk-taking and make people believe. One of my favourite quotes these days is from Disney and illustrates this very well:

If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.

Potentially the word risk is a problem in itself. It sounds negative to begin with. Louise notes this very well in an anecdote that will stay with me for a long time:

“We sit and are quiet together. And then, I remember that in Nyanja, the language that most people talk home in Lusaka and in the Eastern part of Zambia where Fabien was a refugee, is only one, common word for risk and chance – it is mwayi.”

Let taking risks and taking chances be synonymous, equally compelling and actively encouraged.

—ooOoo—

And so, while writing this, my jazz playlist ended. I resorted to one of my favourite bands these days, Munck//Johnson — if you don’t know them, give them a listen

All quotes are from the article and freely translated by me (except the Disney quote).

Every company should be a blood bank

Monday, March 17th, 2008

givblod.jpgSome time ago I started donating blood — if I remember correctly it was yet another one of those extra things you just had to do instead of sitting yourself down and writing your thesis. When I found that my blood type was AB RhD negative, the most seldom type, I felt that I was being especially helpful. Right until, of course, that I also found out, that then less people demand AB RhD negative blood :-). It seems, that the O RhD negative blood type is actually the most helpful, because everyone can receive it — at least according to Wikipedia.

But regardless of your blood type, the people working at the blood bank makes you feel special. Just this morning, I went to donate blood yet again, and, now having been to two different banks (four visits in total, so I don’t have that many data points yet :-)), I must say, every company should be a blood bank. At the very least, they can learn from them:

  • Blood banks are good at donor retention
    When enough time has passed so that I’m allowed to donate again, I get an e-mail. If I don’t respond I get a call, and they are flexible, yet persistent, in getting an appointment agreed on the spot. Companies should be good at customer retention as well — it is much cheaper to get a customer to return, than to get a new one.
  • Blood banks are good at word of mouth
    They have merchandise, they have stickers, and they have a “feel-good-product” that people love to talk about. The Danish organisation even has a rather popular Facebook group. Companies should make you proud that you’re using their product as well.
  • Blood banks are good at understanding donor needs
    They are open early, so you can go there before work. They are also open late, so you can go there after work. You can book time via e-mail, you have easy-access parking — there is no end to the madness of customer friendliness. And the front-line staff and nurses are right up there too: When you lie down with blood running out of you, you for sure don’t want a grumpy nurse, but I nice person to interact with.
  • Blood banks realize that if they have no donors, they have no blood bank
    No blood, no bank. No money, no bank (does your bank think this way?). In fact, no customers, no company. Blood banks can lecture on this.

Blood banks do it well, in my experience, and the best companies do too. Every company should be a blood bank.

And you can be a donor :-):