Archive for March, 2010

What I’m Reading: Pretty Little Dirty

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Moving along in my 2010 initiative to actually find time for literature this year, I am about to start reading Pretty Little Dirty by Amanda Boyden. I bought this book on impulse the night I was shopping for Raven by Allison Van Diepen. I am not big on book reviews but I briefly give my thoughts on the book from my last What I’m Reading installment after the jump.

I finally finished Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson. It was an excellent book. Guterson wrote the book in a style that allowed each character to slowly be revealed through background stories of the past as the main storyline pressed forward. The main characters were well developed and the plot was embedded in the stories of the past so I had to keep reading to know where the story was going. Despite not knowing exactly where it was headed, the character development was more than enough to keep my interest throughout. Guterson also offers an alternative look at race relations in America, one that is rarely discussed between Japanese and Caucasian Americans before and after World War II. If you like mystery/courtroom/drama then I highly recommend this book.

And I Quote…

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

The young do not know enough to be prudent, and so they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation. – Pearl S Buck

Why School Can Be Cool

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

This is who I have gotten to hear speak or will get to hear speak in the near future.

March 1 – Dr. Muhammad Yunus: 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
March 4 – Paul Magelli: Was a millionaire entrepreneur by age 26…in the 1950s
March 11 – John W. Simons: Senior Personal Finance Editor, Black Enterprise
April 8 – Jerry Colangelo: Former owner of the Phoenix Suns/Phoenix Mercury/Arizona Diamondbacks, Director of USA Basketball
April 14 – Shellito Richards: CIO & VP of Technology, State Farm Insurance
April 21 – Gary M. Reiner: Senior Vice President & CIO, General Electric Company

It is times like these when I remember why I went to college. Not that getting an education isn’t important. But at our freshman convocation the Chancellor said your experience outside of the classroom is as important, if not more important that your experience in it. I took his words to heart and believe he is absolutely right. One of the best things about being in school is the number of opportunities that it presents. The ability to hear all of these brilliant and accomplished people speak in a two month span free of charge is awesome. I applaud my University for making an effort to interest, excite, and motivate its students.

The larger idea here is how can putting a different look in front of today’s youth impact their future? By different look I mean something that isn’t glorified in the media and pop culture. This country’s at-risk youth see athletes and entertainers, and not much else. They figure those are their options. These are generalizations but they are relevant to the overall concept that kids don’t know what is out there for them. Many of them have seen little to nothing in the way of successful people who never picked up a mic or dribbled a ball.

These kids are not dumb. They are far from it. When they see a successful person and have an opportunity to hear them speak they are all ears. They are often fascinated and amazed by the stories they are told. They may not retain everything they hear but each little thing they catch molds how they think and behave. Take a kid out of his or her environment and expose them to things they have never experienced and it will stick with them. They will be forced to think and question.

That is what this is about. Give these youths an opportunity to expand their thought. To learn that their is more than they know and give them the thirst to discover it. Something to reach for, an example of somebody who has what they want, AND the guidance to get there. These are pages in a playbook for success. Breaking a cycle of poverty goes beyond what I have talked about but I feel that these are realistic measures that schools and communities can aspire to implementing in order to play their part in the solution.

Guest Post for Untemplater

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

A while back I wrote an article for a new website called Untemplater that focuses on entrepreneurship, lifestyle design, personal finance, and more. Yesterday the article was published. In case you missed it and would like to check it out you can read it here. I encourage everybody to take a look around Untemplater. It features some of the most talented young professionals from around the internet and speaks on the very topics that interest the entrepreneur or anybody who aspires to living beyond the 9-5 lifestyle.

Illini Ventures Launch

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Since I have been here at the University of Illinois, I have met a lot of incredibly creative people. Many of them have dreams of owning their own business and some have even started their own ventures. Unfortunately, the only way an ordinary student would know about these student ventures would be to meet them by chance or to hear about them somewhere, most likely word of mouth. My partner, Bruce Ackerman, thought it would be a great idea to create a place where all the students could go to find out what their fellow students had going and were working on and decided to create Illini Ventures. I am excited to be helping him provide content for the site and hopefully it proves to be a success. It just launched and is already beginning to get student venture submissions. Check it out here!

Hello, Social Entrepreneurship

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

When I heard that Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus was coming to campus I did a little research on him to get an idea of who he was and what he did. There is a lot of interesting information about him and to hear him speak about the issues that he focuses on is fascinating. But the one thing that stuck out more than anything to me was the term social entrepreneurship. Maybe I’m late but it was the first time I had ever heard of it and I wanted to know more.

I consulted Wikipedia for a definition which they give as: someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Initially I thought it sounded like a charitable venture. Then I realized it was different, although I believe the two are related.

Dr. Yunus really makes you think about what it is you intend to do with your entrepreneurial endeavors. With so many people trying to get rich, what about trying to help others too? And the next thought I had was, why don’t they ever mention this in school?

I believe this is a major shortcoming of the media’s portrayal of entrepreneurship. The only type of enterprise that is advocated is something that will produce wealth. School does no work to paint another picture of social consciousness. This has to be changed. In order to change the direction and influence of the future we need to offer students more curriculum choices pertaining to social change. They put in plenty of time training us to become corporate warriors. Mixing it up a bit can’t hurt. Nobody talks about creating value for those who need help, only shareholders.

Which brings me to the question of, if people thought not only in terms of creating enterprise for wealth but for world problems, how would the world be different? How many problems could be solved if the same minds who develop the world’s leading technologies were trying to figure out a way to make sure every child could read and write? While there would still be problems that needed to be solved, more problems would be addressed more frequently and with more vigor than most are being considered right now.

Part of the reason there are so many areas of need around the world is because of the state of a country’s local government. Whether that government be corrupt or simply in a state of devastation, they are often the sole place where problems are also expected to be solved for the citizens of that country. How is that government going to solve problems for its people when it can’t even resolve many of its internal issues? Even the highest functioning governments are full of bureaucracy that prevent or delay actions that need to be taken in order to help others.

A solution is to put the aide in the hands of private enterprise. Allow businesses to operate without that governmental red tape to develop ways to help the neediest of people. Many for profit corporations do great work to help people get things such as medicine, clothes, water, etc. But that isn’t their focus. They have other things to worry about and philanthropy is a branch of their large tree. Give a social corporation the same resources, but with the focus on helping others and the results would certainly be much better.

Everybody doesn’t have to start a social business. Trying to start any kind of business is difficult. But when we get a great idea we want to move on, or are having a brainstorming session to think about our next possible venture, let’s also give a couple minutes to social change. Clear out a corner of the white board for public issues we may be able to help resolve. After all, ideas can come from anywhere and for anything. We just need to open our minds to every possibility and let the rest flow from there.

*Photo credit to: Mark Paik

And I Quote…

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power. –John Adams

No. 6, LeBron James

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Reports surfaced yesterday that LeBron James will be switching his jesey number for the 2010-2011 season to 6. He wants to trade in his 23 to pay respect to his hero Michael Jordan and the number 23 which he says should be retired, Jackie Robinson 42 style. Or at least that’s what he wants you to think. I don’t buy it for a moment. These Jordan prototypes are getting too predictable and it isn’t impressing me at all.

First there was the ultimate Jordan wannabe, Kobe Bryant, switching his 8 out for 24 several years ago. And now LeBron figures he needs to get his 45 on…45 like Jordan, after retirement when he couldn’t wear 23 for a season. Its so obvious these guys are so captivated by Jordan’s everything that they have to do everything he did, including having 2 numbers, even if they have no reason to.

Since Kobe Bryant has entered the NBA, I haven’t liked him. As a Chicago Bulls fan I could never stand the way he talked like Jordan, wore the leg brace like Jordan, did the fist pump after wins like Jordan, and shot that fade-away like Jordan when he was in his early twenties and had all of his athletiscm yet chose to play like Jordan in his later years after he had lost the bulk of his advantageous physical abilities. Its always been too much. That having been said, Kobe is the best player in the NBA, the best player of his era. And when its all over he may be number two all time.

As Kobe matured he let go of some of his Jordanisms but there was one last thing for him to do. He had to change numbers like Mike, for the sake of people knowing him for two numbers, like Mike. And now here we have King James deciding he has to do the same thing. When LeBron came into the NBA I was disappointed that he chose 23. Why would you choose a number that will always be associated with one person when you are talented enough to maybe be the second best player ever? I considered it a major marketing mistake. You can’t confuse people like that. They won’t remember you as well if your trademark is already somebody else’s. LJ23 for Nike seems a lot like MJ23 for Nike. Somebody should have talked LeBron out of it.

Alas his Jordan stannery was too strong and LeBron chose to be unoriginal by following in Jordan’s footsteps instead of being distinctive and forever recognizable. To LeBron’s credit he is very much his own man and acts nothing like Jordan and doesn’t in the least bit try to. Its just that number…

I think LeBron, in all of his efforts to be the first billionaire athlete came to a realization. LeBron has massive goals and is every bit the business man. He no doubt figured out that he can be as popular as he wants to be now, but what will history remember? When people see 23 who will they think of? Can he erase the memory of Jordan? Obviously not.

LeBron now has the chance to be remembered with the numbers. 13, 23, 32, 33, 44, and perhaps 6. The rest is up to him. He has the talent, he just needs to build the legacy.

On a side note, I do not think 23 should be retired. I have no problem with regular players wearing it. When they put it on it’s just a number. But when the greats put it on it’s kind of awkward. Ultimately as great as Jordan was, its still just a number and should be kept around for people to wear for the foreseeable future.

Dr. Muhammad Yunus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Monday, March 1st, 2010

2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, is coming to speak today here at the University of Illinois. Dr. Yunus received the award for his work in social and economic development through his Grameen Bank in impoverished areas. I find it absolutely faschinating that 96% of Grameen Bank’s borrowers are women. I also find the bank’s 20% interest rate fascinating! Upon doing some reasearch it appears that his bank is somewhat controversial depending on who’s opinion you seek. Either way, nobody can take that Nobel Peace Prize from him and I assume he had good reason to earn it. I look forward to hearing Dr. Yunus speak and hear some of his opinions on social entrepreneurship. Watch Dr. Yunus in Creating A Poverty Free World after the jump.