Sunday, 31 March 2013

In-now-vation: earn a prize!

Today my wife and I went to watch The Croods at the cinema: it's one of the best animated movies I've yet seen, and I highly recommend you find the time for it! It's funny, with an inspiring message.

For me, it was also a really timely message, because it speaks to inspiration and self-development. After the movie, I had to wonder why our modern world which is built on innovation is so obviously stifling innovation in the majority of the population.

Yes, we're told great stories about entrepreneurs all the time, we're given success stories about people who made a fortune overnight ... we might even be told at the end, almost as an afterthought, you can reach for this too.

But it's not the same, is it? It's not the same - to use the example from The Croods - as living in a cave by yourself, forced to innovate to survive. Instead, innovation is something we generally leave to the Clever People - the scientists, the researchers - to come up with, so that the rest of the masses can run out and snap up the commoditised inventions and bask in their glow.

That's the whole point of the modern world, isn't it? A few people at the top select the good ideas, and everybody else works like little cogs in a big machine to bring these ideas to fruition. The sad truth, if we're honest with ourselves, is that it's also all too much effort to invent: you need to study intensively, become a master at production, get the necessary funding, assemble a team to assist you, and finally out pops an iPhone. Or a television. Or a laptop. 

Or you could just pop to the store and buy one. After saving up a lot of money like the good little worker bee you are.

I'd even go so far as to suggest that the majority of businesses discourage innovation among their employees. If you're hired to screw the lids onto toothpaste tubes, nobody cares if you've got some ideas about a cure for cancer. You stick to your job description, meet your requirements as expected, and everybody is happy. Start suggesting anything else, and ten to one your employer is going to start getting suspicious, feel that maybe you're implying that your bosses aren't doing their jobs, or at the very best ask you how much it will cost to implement whatever it is you're proposing.

After watching The Croods, I returned home and googled 'Finding inspiration', and turned up some of the expected cliched results. However, one which is worthwhile sharing is this story about 'performance philosopher' Jason Silva. His embedded video on that page is well worth a watch, if you're feeling like a kick in the intellectual pants without reading a textbook. Google his name, and there's a stack of his videos online.

Seeing as today is March 31, it's maybe too late for a New Year's Resolution, but maybe you'd like to join me in re-committing myself to innovating and pushing the boundaries. Not just at work, either, but in my personal capacity: in a way that I can control, and that doesn't need somebody else's say-so or approval.

Which brings me right back to Romania. As always. I REALLY need to find a better path to just get started in a job in Romania, and right now I will hardly care what it is. Ideally it will be journalism or media-related, because that's where all my experience lies, and the real challenge will be for it to be in English. Why be another foreign-language immigrant working in an unskilled position, when I HAVE all these formal skills and proficiency in the international language of business? 

If you have any suggestions or ideas, please let me know. I'm kicking around all the usual ideas, but what I really need is somebody in Romania who is looking for somebody exactly like me. I haven't found that person yet, but maybe you know that somebody. Or maybe you ARE that somebody. As always, if you don't feel up to sharing it publicly drop me a mail on leonschnell@gmail.com. All e-mails guaranteed a reply, and e-mails which lead to a local job are guaranteed free coffee every month ... or a collectable fuzzy toy.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Reminder: Get the full story

A little while ago I mentioned that I'd be writing a string of columns for Romania-Insider, and this is just a reminder that my fourth column was published today. You can view it and the others here: Romania from the Outside

PS: Marc - you might like the latest one!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

It ain't nuffin special

Blogging. Anybody who thinks they're a big deal because they blog needs a rapid readjustment - it ain't nuffin special. After all, Scruffy Bertie the dog has his own blog

Some of Bertie's posts are pure gold ... 'Bracing Morning Walkies', 'Wibbly-wobbly woofter', 'Underarm Tickles' ... how can I compete? Dear readers ... if you too demand dog photos, I will find willing and consenting dogs to photograph! Let nobody say that I don't listen to demands.

How do you measure a blog's success? Is it a blog that teaches people something practical, that changes their opinions on certain issues, or that simply has the highest number of page views? I dunno, but I'm going to have to figure it out: I don't want to add to the digital clutter, and competing with dogs for head-space is not a bracket I necessarily want to plug into.

If you're in Romania now, let me know what you think the country needs more than anything else. Everybody keeps on telling me "Oh, you'll see when you get here, you with all your optimistic mutterings" in various ways. Fine then: I'm not there just yet, but what's waiting for me? I highly suspect it's much like life anywhere else: exactly what you make of it. You ignore the Government, hate your boss, never have enough money, live in fear of the unknown and somehow still manage to keep on waking up in the future ... am I close?

PS: If you're too shy to put your opinion publically out there in the comments section below, you're welcome to mail me on leonschnell@gmail.com. I'm a real person - it'd take a very special criminal to blog continuously for four months - with real questions and maybe a couple of left-field thoughts.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Carrot sandwiches, anyone?

Nom nom nom ... tastes like opportunity 
Something I've been thinking a lot about recently is at what point can one be satisfied with having lived a 'good' life? Is there a universal bucket-list, and in the long view is it as acceptable to spend your whole life in a single town as it is to be a global butterfly?

Oh dear, that's not a good start ... two lines in, and both end with question marks. Unlike so many other eternal blogs, I don't claim to be the fountain of eternal knowledge. Rather, you can visit here to think about some of the same problems which I'm tackling, and if you reach a divergent conclusion please share it in the comments section.

To go back to my original point, how many times a day do you ask yourself what it'll take for you to be happy? If you're anything like me, you'll find that ultimate happiness is that elusive carrot on a stick: forever just around the corner.

For me, it's a question of 'I just want to do *this* with my career, and *that* with my budget, then I want to move *here* and give *this* to my wife.' The variables keep on being just that: annoyingly variable.

[Edit: As a master-class in this principle, this article is pretty thought-provoking. Everything I'm describing is just a sign of the times ... maybe we'd better zig when we're told to zag]

Why, now, am I making my life so difficult by wanting to emigrate? I'm sure that many would-be emigrants face this same go/no go decision, and even when you've crossed the tipping point you still spend a substantial amount of time kicking yourself for biting off one of the biggest challenges around.

Even at this point I can skip forward to 'Ok, so I'm in Romania. What now?' Knowing myself, I can't help wondering how long it'll take me to be want to move onto something bigger than wherever I find myself. 'Bigger' here doesn't necessarily mean a bigger city: as I'm planning to start off in Bucharest I'll in all likelihood consider moving to Romania's coast at some point. There's just something about the sea you can't beat for peace.

At 27 years old I'm not 'old' by any means, but I definitely find that the older I get the more I realise I'm still so far away from the end of this game that it gets pretty exhausting. At that point the optimist in me flips things around to be pretty in awe of the limitless opportunities: and I'm pretty grateful of being able to see that opportunity. So many people don't have aspirations beyond upgrading the size of their television screen, and that's a truly scary fate for me.

It's ironic: in business we're all working professionals, and ask any business leader about their company's long-term vision and chances are they can go into some pretty precise detail. Ask those same business leaders if they know for certain what they want to do the following year in their personal lives, and you're going to be met with a blank stare.

I'm going to take a page from business here, and start thinking seriously about what I want for my long-term happiness. I'll still be hunting opportunity, but at least I'll be hunting with more focus ... increasing my chances of one-day reaching out and taking a huge bite out of that damn carrot!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Short post Sunday

Content aggregation mode again: you have to read http://www.romatransitions.org/the-editor-in-chief-of-a-national-romanian-newspaper-has-been-fined-for-racism/

There's nothing I love more than good journalistic balance, isn't it? That this story came from the editor-in-chief no less is something that blows my mind. I've touched on the Romanian hatred for Roma in previous posts here, but this may be a thornier issue than previously thought.

That said, what is a 250 Euro punishment? Especially considering that it was the editor and the newspaper (important to note: not the publisher) who was fined. It seems a little bit like a speeding fine to me - if the fine isn't high enough, people will just see the price of speeding as a speeding ticket. The cost of blatant racism, in this case, in a national newspaper? 250 Euro.

If you're in Romania, what are your thoughts? Did you see this story, and was there any discussion about it?

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Houston, we have lift off

With the flood of new visitors to my blog at the moment being directed here from Romania-Insider, it's maybe moot to point out that my first guest article was posted there last week. However, for my old-time readers - your fan t-shirts are in the mail - who didn't spot the article, there's the update, and I've in fact just submitted my next column.

Judging by all my posts here bemoaning my inability to move to Romania, you'd have thought I'd just about given up. Nope: it's just turning out that the journey is a bit slower than expected. For you, dear reader, that's a benefit: if I'd just packed up my bags and hopped on the next flight to Bucharest, this would have been the world's shortest blog.

The Romania-Insider link-up was a natural one: I liked writing about Romania in English, and so do they. The challenge, however, is that now I have to generate twice as much content, because if I duplicated content there'd be no point. Where I build on a point made on Romania-Insider, rest assured I'll link to the story - you won't have to follow two sources, but if you *do* you'll get the full package.

I've been receiving a lot of support from expats and even a couple of Romanians about this blog and as a result of that first story on Romania-Insider: finally I've broken through the wall of 'Err, is anybody out there?' to 'You love me, you really love me!' Ok, lol, not quite so far, but at least somebody cares. If you're new to this site, why should you care about a South African thinks about Romania? No reason: it's all about entertainment, and I believe that boring writing is a waste of both my time and yours.

I've also got some plans in the pipeline to visit Romania towards the end of the year - hold thumbs that I can manage to do that, it'll be awesome beyond description and obviously as the good little content generator I am you'll see a huge spike in photographic content here. Looking at the blog up to now you wouldn't think that I'd specialised as a photojournalist at University, but I do in fact love taking photographs: I just need something new to stimulate that interest.

Thinking about my journey towards emigration, I have to laugh at the preconception that waves of immigrants flood into all countries. Maybe for some people it really is that easy to just give up everything and start with the shirts on our backs, but for the vast majority of us eyeing out a new life in a new country it's a longer process undoubtedly. Or maybe it's just me. Amid all the scare-mongering stories about floods of Romanian immigrants into the rest of Europe, my little story as an African headed to Romania is completely different.

In fact, I'd like to document more stories from people such as myself, as a complement to my friend Matt's project speaking to Romanians who've emigrated and examining their motivations for doing so. Who's talking to immigrants, finding out why and how successful they are? We can't all start blogs, but somebody can listen to our story, because we all have one and all stories have insights and human tragedy. Let's just add that to my To Do list for when I finally move to Romania, shall we. If you're an immigrant living there, book an advance slot in your calendar for me ... there's coffee in it for you.

With that, let's call it Short Post Saturday - my wife's hungry and we've got a sushi restaurant around the corner: do the math! Pe curand ['see you soon' in Romanian]...