Case Studies and bedtime stories

The EMBABE Diaries

Goodbye – but see you in Spring!

This is it – time to say goodbye to the EMBABE Diaries. It’s been a year since my (yup, still unframed) MBA degree arrived in the post. I have sadly forgotten how to calculate WACC (sorry, Prof. Hennessy, you know I’m still a big fan!) but I’ve been left with an insatiable curiosity about what makes people tick, how we think, our biases, the importance of mindset, how we can help ourselves succeed and how we trip ourselves up (thanks so much, Proffs Pinto, Ku and Adams!). Watching myself and my friends navigate this post-MBA year has made me more and more convinced that these are phenomenally important and relevant topics and that I want to continue exploring them and sharing what I find, but this didn’t seem like quite the right place to do it, so I’ll be moving on. The new home for my musings (and yes, you can expect the same amount of parenthetical thought there too I’m afraid) is called Spring Mind, hope you’ll check it out from time to time and let me know what you think!

If you got here because you’re curious about an LBS EMBA or an EMBA in general, don’t worry, I’m still more than happy to answer any questions about that – just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Happy spring my dears

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For the heart – to protect it

Saturday started ordinarily enough. My four-year old and I woke up early, we had some cuddles and tickles and then went about our usual pre-breakfast rituals: I went into my study to catch up on friends’ Facebook updates and the weekend newspapers; she went into the living room to draw princesses (this is done mostly on paper, but sometimes spills over onto the sofa, depending on how inspiration strikes).

After my daughter was done drawing her princess du jour (red hair, pink face, yellow dress, no name), I was asked to contribute “a big red heart” to the masterpiece, right next to the princess. She came back with the finished drawing a few minutes later – she’d coloured the heart hot pink, but also surrounded it with an unidentifiable black and blue blob: “I drew it around the heart, see? To protect it”. Which made my own heart long for that black and blue blanket, because this was no ordinary Saturday morning; I’d rushed to my computer that morning not to check out my friends’ latest baby photos, but to understand why the first message of the day on our (still very active) EMBA WhatsApp group was “Is anybody in Paris? Hope everyone is safe”. For Romanians, this was two weeks after an accidental (but equally tragic) fire in a Bucharest night club, whose initial death toll has been rising heartbreakingly every day as the severely wounded (mostly youngsters, kids as young as 15) keep losing the fight. And this is just the stuff that’s been happening close to home, in places where I or close friends could easily have been ourselves. Later that day, I found out that Beirut had also hit by attacks on Thursday; I read about the young Lebanese father who threw himself on one of the suicide bombers, saving many lives but giving his own in exchange.

I don’t know what to do with my heart in times like these. My brain is going at a hundred miles a minute, planning, ruminating, pushing me into activity – and my heart is just…stunned. Stuck. As my head tries to make sense of the facts and understand if there’s anything I can do to help, my heart guiltily wraps up in my daughter’s black and blue blanket, knowing full well that so many others need their hearts protected so much more than I do. So if you find yourself in need of a love blanket for your heart these days, you can share ours – here it is.


Much love,


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Simple Is Complicated

The dream of simple living. Man, how I’ve loved that dream. And, by all accounts, I am not alone – I googled “simple living” and got 113 million results in 0.28 seconds, as well as an intro to the differences between minimalism and simple living. It turns out that the living may be simple, but the theory is complicated, so I don’t quite know if my simplicity cravings mean I’m a wannabe simple lifer or a wannabe minimalist. I’ve just always wanted things – material things, as well as life in general –  to be simple, clean and organised. You know, like a Kinfolk magazine cover or a Muji store display. I imagine that life within these spaces has a crisp quality about it; no fuzzy edges, clearly defined areas, space to breathe in between. Colours always matching.

The latest issue of Kinfolk magazine - on my floor, waiting to be read.

The latest issue of Kinfolk magazine, on my floor. Just look at those clean lines…

I have a clear memory of being in high school, pacing the hallway in my parents’ apartment (my favourite thinking place) and pondering (as one does, right?) whether I had space in my life for a boyfriend: “No no no, really, no way, I have my life so neatly organised with everything in its own little drawer, and this guy, oh no, he doesn’t fit in any drawer. Better not.” I no longer remember what, at 16, I had going on in my life to need all those drawers for, especially since this was during that brief period in my life when I had temporarily stopped being full-on nerdy, so I don’t even think I was particularly busy studying. And, as it happened, the boy did make it into my life eventually  (the drawers put up a mighty fight, so it took a while), which was complicated, and messy, and heartbreaking – all of those things that my drawers were protecting me from. It was also exhilarating, laugh-out-loud funny, exciting, a little crazy, and life-affirming – all of those things that my drawers were protecting me from.

I still crave calm and organised spaces, so much so that I count reading books about organisation and de-cluttering among my chief guilty pleasures and I get a lot more excited about buying pretty boxes in Ikea than I ever do about buying shoes (I know, I know. Judge away, don’t hold back). I’m constantly trying to create routines and habits; they’re my version of benevolent spirits, watching over me to make sure I stay on the right path without having to struggle too much. And yet, my physical spaces, my mental space and my schedule will always, slowly but surely, become full to the brink, threatening to overflow and swallow me up. And then I start again – shedding the unnecessary, taking everything else and organising it, placing every little thing in its own little drawer. Until the next time.

All of which can be taken as meaning that I haven’t evolved much in the past twenty years. But I’ve changed – not with a deafening cry of rebellion, but with a quiet reassuring whisper, an “it’s ok, darling, I know this makes you feel safe so we’ll keep doing it, but how about changing it just a bit?”. And – I guess in the same vein of keeping things incremental and safe – the way I’m learning to let go of my quest for perfect organisation relies on lessons I’ve learned from my much-loved organising books (whose ideas I may have adapted and potentially perverted in the process, but hey, whatever works).

The first lesson comes courtesy of Marie Kondo, a Japanese professional organiser who wrote a bestselling book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” (you may laugh, but don’t diss it till you’ve read it). She says there’s only one question you should consider when deciding what to keep and what to throw or give away – not whether the object in question is functional or not, not how expensive it was, not who gave it to you, but simply and only “Does it bring you joy?”. I love this principle. That flowery cushion cover that does nothing but collect dust and ruin any chance of my living room being Kinfolk-worthy? It stays, because my heart does a little dance whenever I look at it. (As an aside, I think embracing that principle makes me more of a wannabe “simple lifer” than a wannabe minimalist, but trying to figure it out sounds exhausting.)

And then there’s the junk drawer. The organising books say you should have a junk drawer and they mean it literally, but I think this principle can be expanded to an entire life. In my version of things, a junk drawer is home to all the things you don’t want to let go of, even if they can’t be categorised, labelled and filed. It’s where the magic happens – creative solutions, unexpected connections, chance encounters, joy for the sake of joy.

From my junk drawer, this week

The sky this morning

The sky this morning

Autumn yellow - the brightest, happiest colour I know

Autumn yellow – the brightest, happiest colour I know

Fairy lights - anywhere, anytime

Fairy lights – anywhere, anytime

That’s why many people feel that their space, and maybe even their life, need to be like one huge junk drawer; they’re worried that any boundaries, restrictions, labels and folders will make it impossible for them to access the magic, will strangle their creativity. And that may be true if you get so carried away with filing and sorting that you forget about keeping a junk drawer altogether; but if you hold on to it tight, never let go of those things that bring you joy but can’t be classified and organised (i.e. the things that make you, you), then having everything else fairly neat will mean that you have space and time to go rummage through your junk drawer from time to time and tinker with your treasures. At least that’s what I hope, as I feel another bout of organising fever approaching. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I leave you with this quote from “Sweet Caress”, William Boyd’s latest novel:

“My life has been complicated, true, very complicated, and it seems to be entering another realm of complexity. But, then again, isn’t everybody’s and won’t everybody’s be just as complicated? Any life of reasonable length throws up all manner of complications, just as intricate as mine have been. […] Yes, my life has been very complicated but, I realise, it’s the complications that have engaged me and made me feel alive.”

Almost enough to make you discard that dream of the simple life, isn’t it?


How To Fail at Parenting – in Four Easy Steps

Failure is really trendy these days. Whether it’s business, work, everyday life or spirituality, everyone’s harping on about it and its supposed virtues: Silicon Valley has its “fail fast” mantra and countless companies now give out “heroic failure” or “best new mistake” awards. Pema Chödrön (Buddhist nun and world-famous meditation teacher who is meant to be super-awesome but whose teachings I have repeatedly tried and failed – which I guess is a good thing, because it’s failure, right? – to read / listen to / practice) just wrote a book called “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better”. I haven’t read it, of course, I’m still recovering from trying to read a previous book of hers. I guess I’m not that spiritual yet, but I’m working on it, I just need those cool prayer beads like the men have in Greece, in a deep shade of orange if possible, and then I’ll be all set for enlightenment. It’s a process, people. I’m on it. Watch this space for amazing, deep wisdom at some point in the near future.

Even my beloved Brené Brown is on the failure bandwagon – but thankfully her “Rising Strong” (awesome awesome awesome, am totally making it this year’s staple Christmas gift) is about how to recover from failing rather than purely about failing. Just like Brené to write something that’s actually helpful. Gotta love her. Will go back and re-read her book and apply it to my failure to read Pema Chödrön. Except that Brené quotes Pema Chödrön quite a bit, which is kind of awkward. But I digress. Back to other types of failure.

By which I mean the one type of failure for which you’re never likely to get a “best new mistake” award: parenting failure. (Ok, you’re probably also very unlikely to get a “best new mistake” award for failures of nuclear security or food safety, but I’m trying to make a dramatic point here, so bear with me.)  Thing is, parenting failure is at the same time socially unacceptable, personally crushing and impossible to avoid because, as we all know, almost anything you do is a parenting failure according to one theory or another. It’s a killer combo. And, if you’re really honest with yourself (I won’t tell anyone, relax), there are times when you find yourself doing at least one thing every day that is a parenting failure according to all theories.

Much like my son’s first weeks of school, for example. I never did get the hang of hashtags (hope the habit becomes obsolete soon so I can be spared figuring it out), but these have been weeks destined to be hashtagged – if we see hashtagging as the cries of my inner parenting gremlins making sure no shade of guilt was left unexplored, which I believe is the generally accepted use, right?

First there was my son’s first ever note from a teacher. His art teacher. It did not say “Your son makes wonderful use of colour and he will be the next Miro”. It said, in capitals, “PLEASE BRING WATERCOLOURS!”. Shoot shoot shoot. Yes, they did mention watercolours at that parent teacher meeting, which would have helped if I hadn’t forgotten that they said it, or the fact that the kid even has art classes on Tuesday (although saying I’d forgotten that he has art classes on Tuesdays would imply that I ever knew it, which would imply that by this point I had even checked his schedule, which would sadly be incorrect). Bizarrely, no other parents seem to have had the same problem – or so my son says. #parentingfail #poorkid #theymustthinkweretheworst #nowonderhehatesart #itsallyourfault.

The next day, my son’s long-suffering chess tutor (The kid loves chess for some reason. If he didn’t make a habit of forgetting to put his socks on in the morning, I’d wonder if he was really mine) quit. By email. Turns out I had (and not for the first time, I must confess) failed to ensure that my son was aware of, and prepared for, his weekly chess lesson. And what was I doing when I received that fateful email? Well, I was at a friend’s house, learning to meditate (is this a good time to blame Pema Chödrön?) The email was short and the tone restrained, but it was drafted with a keen awareness of how to push those mum guilt buttons (or maybe those guilt buttons are so sensitive that anything will push them, the jury’s still out). It mentioned that the teacher simply could not operate under the circumstances, and wished my son every success because he really had what it takes to become a great chess player. #parentingfailbigtime #shamestorm #heloveschessandiruinedit #howcouldyounotbehome #whatiswrongwithyou?!? And yes, of course the nanny knew the time of the lesson – as did he – and of course I had even written it on the calendar so they don’t forget, but I still stormed out of my friend’s apartment, cried my eyes out on the way home (bad idea on a bicycle, btw), and generally felt like a sorry excuse for a human being.*

Then that was that time when I forgot to set the alarm and we got woken up by the school bus driver ringing at the door. #parentingfail #badhairdaytoo #noweveryoneknows. On the bright side, we did get two kids ready for school in under 10 minutes, that’s got to be worth something, right?

And then there was this kiddie party I went to the other day. I think kiddie parties are only marginally less stressful than conferences, and conferences (on a good day!) make me feel like a 12-year old social outcast. I swear I was doing a good job, interacting socially and being pleasant and everything, until this other mum sat down in front of me and started explaining about how she was doing so much homework with her daughters, even if the school didn’t ask for it, and they were working from three different books, and even the one who was still in kindergarten had (mum-imposed, not school-imposed) homework every day, and all that was making her so, so, so tired, but still she persevered…and I leaned over the table and, much to my horror, heard myself blurting out: “Excuse me, but…why? Why do you do that?”. Which was clearly not the response she’d been expected, because I got (a) a blank stare, (b) “We do it because we do it” and (c) the quiet certainty (hopefully) that she would never ever want to arrange a playdate with my kids. #parentingandsocialfail #footinmouthdisease #nomorepartiesforyou (which was actually comforting!) and, most frighteningly, #whatifshesright.

What. If. She’s. Right. What if I’m actually wrong not to do three hours of homework with my four-year-old every day? What if I chose the wrong parenting path? What if, despite wanting all the very best for my kids, I will fail them? Well, that’s an easy “what if”. I will fail them. We all will. Partly because nobody really knows the “right” way to parent, despite (or precisely because) of how much is written on the topic, but mostly because we’re all just human. Having kids does all sorts of things to people, but it doesn’t make them saints and it doesn’t make them perfect. Somehow, someday, in all probability fairly often, we will fail our kids. And the best we can hope for is that all of our failings will be small and forgivable – which, by the way, won’t prevent our kids from obsessing about them with their therapists 20 years from now. So the best I can hope for is that, 20 years from now, my son’s greatest trauma will be that time when he was the only kid in class who hadn’t brought watercolours. In the meantime, I will love my babies as best I can, take care of them the best way I can figure out (which will involve even more failing), and probably continue to worry my head off about them and whether I’m doing it right – something which, strangely, I never fail at. Maybe that’s a good place to start this failure embracing trend everyone’s talking about. What was that Pema Chödrön book called again?

*For those who are now worried sick about my son’s future as a chess master – rest assured, he still plays chess, under professional supervision, two times a week. It’s fine, really.

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How to go from EMBABE to entrepreneur (via motherhood)

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you had some rest over the holidays (oh, who am I kidding – hope you’re all recovering from the kids’ Christmas break! The silence…it’s so nice, isn’t it? Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone if you don’t…)

And now that we’re back at work, I figured you could use some good vibes to help get 2015 off to a great start. And what better way than with an inspirational story and some great entrepreneurial wisdom from our first EMBABE of 2014, Shefali Modi? Since we last spoke, she has been very busy setting up and running EnycloKidia, and she graciously agreed to share with us some of the lessons she’s learned along the way.

How did you first come up with the idea of EncycloKidia?

After the MBA from London Business School, I had been keen to start my own business. Being pregnant then, I was rapidly exposed to a parallel universe – the one only parents and parents-to-be know exists. Stepping into this world for the first allowed me to look at it with the fresh eyes of an outsider and I saw so many opportunities for new ventures. Gaps in the market that could be addressed, improvements to an existing process, etc. After discussing several ideas with friends and family, EnycloKidia was the one that felt right. An information website that not only told parents about services for their children but allowed them to see what other parents thought about these services. I have had first-hand experience on how difficult it is to find the right daycare, swim school, and baby sitter for my daughter. There was really no quick and reliable way to get the details of the services each provider offered or to get feedback on people you employed for your child’s welfare. This is the problem EncycloKidia solves. 

What was the most difficult aspect of starting your own business?

London Business School taught me that I thrive when working with a team and that the right team can transform a good idea into a brilliant solution. Without doubt the most difficult part has been to bring the right people on board. These had to be people who were as excited about the business solution as I am, were willing to take the risk to make this work, and had the right skills sets to become valuable contributors to the business. It is hard to find people who tick all three boxes. I was and am very conscious of how expensive the wrong person can be, both in terms of money and time (again a London Business School lesson), so have spent a lot of time, ensuring I avoid type II errors. For example, I had a fantastic co-founder when I started. She was the tech lead, a mum herself, and just an amazing person to work with. Unfortunately, we had to part ways and replacing her was both emotionally and practically hard. It took me two and half months to find a new tech lead, but I am 100% confident that my new CTO is in this for the long run, has the same commitment as me and will be fantastic for EncycloKidia.

Do you feel that the MBA helped you? How?

Without doubt! As a founder, I wear many different hats – HR, Marketing, Sales, Accounting, Finance, Blogger, Data Analyst, Grunt Work… Because of the MBA I have a head start on almost every element of the business that I take on. I should add though that having an MBA from London Business School specifically has made an even greater difference. I don’t know much about other MBA communities, but the community of students and alumni at LBS are amazing beyond words. At any juncture when I’ve needed advice I’ve had between 10-15 experts volunteer their time. Some of these “volunteer advisors” have also expressed interest in investing in the business – music to the ears of an entrepreneur. There is significant pride within the community and a deep rooted desire to make one of their own succeed. I don’t think I could’ve gotten this far without the LBS MBA or its community. 

Where did you get your energy from / what support systems did you put in place?

Social Media Statistics, LBS Community/Taunton Café, Family.

EncycloKidia depends on heavy interaction from the parent community. The pilot website has limited features for interaction from parents, but we’ve been lucky to have pretty decent traction. With just a little over 1,000 listings and 20 blog posts, we’ve had almost 48,000 page views, 8,000+ unique visitors, and 275 facebook and 400+ twitter followers within the first 100 days. The first thing I do every morning is update these numbers. They tell me if I am on track but also rev me up for the day’s work.

The two things they don’t tell you in Entrepreneurship class is how lonely the road can get and how much of a roller coaster ride it is. Until you build a team you (and your co-founders) are fighting every battle on your own. When I felt lonely, especially after my co-founder left, just sitting in London Business School’s Alumni centre speaking to other entrepreneurs would inject me with fresh energy. The same happens after I speak with volunteer advisors (see earlier question) from the London Business School community.

But in really dark moments it is family that really helps you pull through. I was very upset the day I parted ways with my co-founder. My husband spent a ridiculous £30 to purchase a single episode of Downton Abbey (the Christmas Special), to just cheer me up! My father is as enthusiastic about EncycloKidia as I am. Every few days he asks me for updated stats on web traffic. He was also my first angel investor. My super-busy brother, who also runs his own business, offered 10-hours/week of his time in any capacity to help me. My mother, a finance director herself, sensing I have too much to do, recently visited me for three weeks, taking full responsibility for my daughter during her stay. Having so many people standing on the side-lines, cheering you on, makes a big difference.

Three pieces of advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs

  1. Most business fail because they run out of money. Keep it lean and plan revenue/capital injections from day one.
  2. Plan your personal finances – this is an extension of the above. Most entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley do not draw hefty salaries. Many don’t take any salary for at least a year. If you are worried about putting bread on the table, you will have less bandwidth for the business.
  3. Network as much as you can. Pick up the phone, write emails, talk to people. It’s the only path to good ideas, people, resources, energy, and market traction.

Check out EncycloKidia: ¦ on facebook ¦ on twitter ¦ on pinterest

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Why it was all worth it

Here’s some fun trivia for you about the week of December 1st, 2014: Romania celebrated its birthday (many happy returns!), LBS topped the FT European business school charts (hurray!) and I went to the last class of my last elective. The following week, I received (a) my degree in the post and (b) an imperative (and suitably impenetrable) email from the school’s IT’s department advising me that I would be migrated to alumnus status as of next Friday, meaning that my school email and electronic storage would shut down.

So here I am, sorting through emails, assignments and case studies. My last two years. I’m going to give in to the cliche and say it: it’s a very bittersweet moment. And, of course, it’s also almost Christmas, and almost the end of the year, so everything kind of conspires to ask for a moment of looking back, taking stock, and wondering – was it all worth it?

Which is when I come across one Word document called “Toast”. I don’t remember any case studies about bakeries so I can’t figure out which course this belongs to without opening it. It’s not a case study at all, but my notes for an actual toast – the one I made at our end-of-core masquerade ball a year ago. And I can’t think of a better explanation of why it was all worth it:

“I’ve agonised over what to say here, first because I’ve never had to do a toast before and second because I couldn’t think of anything to say that would really convey how much this year has meant for me – short of belting out “I love you guys” with “Friends will be friends” playing in the background, which would have been a little pathetic as toasts go.

So then I figured – I’ll just say something about macroeconomics. For one reason or another, that should get everyone really excited! So here’s the one thing we learned in macro which I can guarantee is 100% true – one of the reasons Eastern Europe is lagging behind in development is that we suffer from a lack of social capital. That’s just a needlessly fancy way of saying we have serious trust issues. Being Eastern European is kind of like instead of having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, you cram the angel and the devil on the same shoulder and on the free shoulder you have this sour little babushka whose official responsibility is to bring you back to “real life” whenever there’s any danger of the rose-tinted glasses coming out. Whoever you talk to, she’ll go “where’s the catch? what’s the hidden agenda? how are you getting tricked here?”

Which means that when I started researching MBAs and kept coming across people saying “the academics and all that are great but the most amaaaazing thing about the MBA was that I made these amaaaazing friends for life”, I didn’t buy that at all. I was like – this person is either one of those insincere professional networker types or someone who had really bad grades. All the talk about a “safe, supportive learning environment” was also kind of hard to swallow. Yeah, take 75 super-competitive types and add a grading curve. That’s a no-brainer recipe for a safe and supportive environment. Right.

And then the most incredible thing happened. I found myself parachuted, once every two weeks, into this parallel universe that blew away all my cynical expectations. Yes, everyone is super-competitive (Ok, some more than others), but also really supportive – the vibe is: we want to know what your dreams are and we’ll push you to reach them, with some tough love, if needed. We’re forever talking about the big issues – life, love, dreams, what success really means, what we really want in life – and, of course, the all-important question of which celebrity you really fancy. We get really silly – and super-serious. But at the same time, the most amazing thing is, as my husband put it after our epic Belgrade trip, “You know what’s strange about your LBS group? You guys just fully accept each other, just for who you are”. Which is so true – and kinda magical.

So here I am, less than a year after meeting all of you, and I’ve become that person telling everyone “you know, the most amaaazing thing about the MBA was that I made all these amaaaazing friends, and we’re going to be friends for life”. And, of course, my Romanian friends look at me like I’m insane. And of course, my own babushka is dutifully whispering in my ear: “Oh please, cut the violins. You must realise that none of this is real and it won’t last – this is a highly artificial environment, it won’t survive the real world.” And she’s partially right. This isn’t what real life is like. But that’s just the thing. Let’s keep this unreal. We’re the DREAM class – so dream big, dream wild, keep sharing those dreams with the rest of us and know that we’ll all be there rooting for you every step of the way, not because your being successful will make our networks more impressive or useful, but because, you know, we love you – for who you are and for who we know you can become.”

And yeah, another year on, I still feel the same – except that electives have brought me some more “amaaaazing” friends, and I am even more certain of everything I said.

Have to go now – Elsa (if you don’t know where that’s from, you must live on a different planet) and Steve (we’re into Minecraft now, in case you were wondering)* thankfully still know who I am even two years of constant travelling and there are war cries of “mum!!!!!!” coming from the living room. Have a wonderful Christmas, a fantastic New Year, and see you soon – the EMBABE journey has just begun.

Much love,


*Note for the uninitiated – I refer to my kids in this blog by the names of their favourite cartoon / game characters.

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And then there were clouds

I realised I haven’t been keeping you guys up to date with my cloud adventures – so here’s the latest 🙂

The big advantage of 6 am WizzAir flights - misty sunrise over the Carpathians

The big advantage of 6 am WizzAir flights – misty sunrise over the Carpathians

photo 5

Approaching London

Approaching London

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Your work-life balance hangs in these four quadrants

We MBAs love a good framework, and the impetus axis / energy axis framework proposed in this article makes more sense than the usual work/life balance talk. Also love the idea that “what the world needs is more people who have come alive”. Enjoy!

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The Stories of A Most Passionate Adviser

In the last session of our Communications elective, the professor, Saatchi and Saatchi’s Richard Hytner (whose new book, Consiglieri, is out now btw) made us step away from the world of corporate communications and look at how we could use the tools we’d just learned to tell our own stories better. The starting point, as is often the case in a good story, was a dream – our personal dream. To help “sense check” the dream, we were to “Make a list of 5 people that are most inspirational to you. Assume they know you intimately. […] Select three of them as your key advisors.” In all honesty, I struggled with this exercise. But one of my five was a no-brainer – Isabel Allende. In fact, I don’t just want her as my adviser; I want her as my fairy godmother, although she’s probably too busy writing fabulous books to be interested in the position. I’ve loved her books for years now; her magical stories, her incandescent, fearless heroines, the zest for life jumping out at you from every page. I’ve always known Allende was flawless in writing, but I was in for a real treat tonight (a Halloween gift undoubtedly brought by the espiritus that haunt all her books), when I discovered that she is almost better as a speaker. In this short TED speech, filmed in March, she delivers a lesson in living passionately at any age. I’ll be keeping it on my “to watch and re-watch” list – hope you enjoy it too!

And since we’re on the topic of stories, I heard some pretty amazing ones at the Power of Storytelling conference in Bucharest a couple of weeks ago – but more on that some other time, we’ve got pumpkins to carve! Can’t wait? Ok, ok, here’s one of the best (a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist, if you’re asking): Kelley Benham’s story about the extremely premature birth of her daughter Juniper. Yes, it’s a tear jerker, but also much more than that: a story about life, motherhood, and choices so difficult they seem impossible (and there’s a happy ending too).

Much love (y passion!), Happy Halloween,


P.S. And if you’re still in a TED mood (you know you are…) you could do much worse that Allende’s 2007 speech

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A 9 Step Cheatsheet for Becoming a Public Speaking Expert

Ok ok, reblogging is not “a real post”… but I thought this was a really good summary – enjoy!

Moving People to Action

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 14.12.08

What does it take to be a great public speaker?

London Speaker Bureau has put it all together on a pretty page.  From content to delivery, from startings to endings and from logos to ethos to pathos, its all here in this infographic.

The London Speaker Bureau represent and work with some of the most influential people in the world, from politicians and economists to thought leaders and entrepreneurs.  Between them, they cover a vast range of topics, from management and finance to technology, education, innovation and the environment

If you’ve ever wanted a beautiful poster size infographic to guide your development as a persuasive speaker, this is the one.

9 Steps to Public Speaking Expertise

Hat tip to Joe Shervell.

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