Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘professional articles’ Category

Is the financial and economic downfall of Lebanon that inevitable?

We keep hearing that Lebanon is Not bankrupt but plainly robbed dry for 40 years by the militia/mafia “leaders” of the civil war, and still officially in power.

That was true until recently: “rien ne va plus” anymore and this new government is as inefficient and rotten as the previous ones.

Behaving as Greece did by avoiding to grapple with its bankrupt state of affairs, until it dawned on it that drastic reforms are inevitable, will reduce the Lebanese people to wretchedness for years to come

ترقب انهيار الدولة اللبنانية بين الربع الاخير لسنة ٢٠١٩ والربع الاول لسنه ٢٠٢٠

معطيات خطرة وانهيار يلوح في الافق والسلطة السياسية سلمت بالامر الواقع، فرصة انقاذ البلد ذهبت ولا احد يستطيع فعل شيئ لتجنب الكارثة فالدولة امام خيارين اما اعلان الافلاس او كسر الاستقرار النقدي لمستويات خيالية هذا الكلام مبني على المعطيات التالية:

١- قدرة كلفة سلسلة الرتب والرواتب ب ٨٠٠ مليون دولار في السنه اما في الواقع الكلفة تخطت ١.٨ مليار دولار اي بفارق مليار دولار ( المرجع وزارة المالية)

٢- زيادة الضرائب التى اقرتها حكومة استعادة الثقة اتت بنتائج عكسية فإرادات الدولة تناقصت بدل ان تزيد (المرجع وزارة المالية)

٣- توظيف انتخابي لاكثر من ٥٠٠٠ شخص كسر ظهر الدولة ( المرجع النائب ابراهيم كنعان)

٤- استحقاق الاموال المستدانه بمؤتمر باريس ٣ في حزيران المقبل والمقدرة ب ١٢ مليار دولار ومن المعلوم ان الدولة لا تسطيع تسديد هذا المبلغ سيدخل مصرف لبنان على الخط لتسديد المبلغ المطلوب ليتدهور احتياطي النقدي من العملات الاحنبية من ٤٣ مليار دولار الى ٣١ مليار دولار

٥- من بعد شهر حزيران سيطرح المركزي المزيد من سندات اليورو بوند وسندات بالدولار الامركي لتعويض النقص الحاد في احتياطي

٦- ارتفاع خدمة الدين لمستويات كارثية تتخطى ٧٠٪؜ من ايرادات الدولة نتيجةاستبدال قروض باريس٣ مدعومة الفوائد بسندات كلفتها عالية

٧- ارتفاع كلفة التأمين على السندات لمستوى قياسي تتخطى كلفتها اثناء الازمه الاقتصادية سنة ٢٠٠٨ ( المرجع البنك المركزي)

٨-قله ثقه الموديعين بالمصارف اللبنانيه حيث تجلى ذلك في سحب اكثر من ٢٤ مليار دولار خلال الاسبوعيين الاخيرين ( حسب تقرير المركزي لشهر آذار ٢٠١٩)

٩- اقفال عدد كبير من الشركات التجاريه في الربع الاول لهذه السنه

١٠- ازمة الاسكان وازمة الرواتب والتقاعد والضمان الاجتماعي وتعويضات نهاية الخدمة

١١- عدم قدرة الدولة اقرار ميزانية ٢٠١٩ لطمس كارثة العجز قدر المستطاع لتأخير اعلان وفاة مؤتمر سيدر المشروط بإصلاحات.

المتوقع في نهاية العام الحالي ان تتخطى كلفة خدمة الدين العام وعجز الكهرباء جميع ارادات الدولة ولا يتبقى ليرة واحدة لدفع اجور الموظفين في القطاع العام من جيش وقوى امنية ومؤسسات تربوية وغيرها.

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What are these jargon: Macro and micro policies, leadership, economics, management…?

Like stating: “Macro-leadership is just as bad as micro-management.” 

During a conversation with Dan Rockwell, Henry Mintzberg explained that, “It’s destructive to separate management from leadership. Leaders need to get their hands dirty.”

No buy in: Mintzberg believes that leaders focused on setting strategy and vision but who are removed from the front lines eventually develop a vision for the organization so out of touch that the rest of the organization fails to buy in.

Frustrated buy in: Mintzberg also believes there’s something worse than failure to buy in. There’s the problem of buying into a pie-in-the-sky vision but being incapable of taking any steps toward realization.

More devastating: Disconnected strategy and vision is one problem with macro-leadership but there’s something more devastating.

“Arrogance comes from detachment.” Henry Mintzberg

When I asked Mintzberg to share the one piece of advice he most loves to share he said one word, “Connect.

Humility: Connecting expresses, creates, and nurtures humility. Withdrawal suggests independence; connecting requires interdependence.

Humility is always practice never theory. (curious to discover all the alternatives and potentials for improvement?)

Talking humility without practicing humility results in arrogance. When Jesus said let the leader among you be as one who serves, he turned leadership on its head and explained the cure for arrogance.

“Humility is common sense… None of us is an expert at everything… Humility is holding power for the good of others.” John Dickson.

Sources of arrogance: Facebook contributors suggest sources of arrogance include:

  1. Fear.
  2. Being surrounded by indulgent “yes” people.
  3. Being a talker not a doer.
  4. Prior success. You think you know how to make it work because it worked before.
  5. Not being okay with saying I don’t know.

See more reader contributions on Facebook.

Mintzberg’s latest book: “Managing

*****

How do leaders connect? What prevents leaders from connecting?

‘Pre-source Curse’ ? Like expecting extra resources from discovering potential revenues

Note: I am pretty sure nobody in Lebanon believed that we will generate wealth from oil and gas. Lebanon knew from early 60’s that it had vast reserves in the sea of oil and has but USA and Israel pressured Lebanon to drop any plans for extracting these resources. Sure, lately Lebanon had undergone plans in that direction (Oil and Gas Initiative) but nothing has materialized in the last decade.

Maybe this a blessing for us because even without oil and gas our environment (air, water, seashore, garbage accumulation…) is already vastly polluted and the pseudo-State of Lebanon is unable to find satisfactory resolution for the basic minimum for our health and the spreading of cancers ( potable waterupgrading sewage network, cleaning our river beds, degradation of our mountains by excessive excavation of our quarries, uncontrolled cement factories...)

Lebanon Seems to Have Fallen Victim to the ‘Presource Curse’

By Sami Atallah, November 2018
A recent World Bank paper by James Cust and David Mihalyi argues that the “curse” befalling states which discover and extract petroleum may in fact be leveled before revenues reach a state’s coffers.
They argue that once a discovery is made—often in anticipation of oil revenues—politicians are inclined to increase spending through borrowing that endangers macroeconomic stability and reduces growth.
This is particularly the case in countries with weak institutions where politicians’ actions are left unchecked.
The authors coined the term “presource curse” to describe such phenomena and build on the well-established concept of a resource curse, which associates oil revenues with lower growth, higher poverty and corruption, and fewer “democratic practices”. (Lebanon fulfills all there predicaments since its creation in 1943)

In reaction to this paper, I was recently invited by the Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative to discuss whether Lebanon is pre-ordained to succumb to a presource curse.

Although Lebanon has yet to make a discovery, it has issued two exploration and production licenses to one consortium led by Total S.A.
I argued that Lebanon is not only pre-ordained to fall subject to a presource curse but also that Lebanon is already experiencing a pre-presource curse.
To be precise, even before an oil discovery has been made, politicians were active in increasing spending through borrowing and dividing the spoils that have consequently undermined macroeconomic stability since the end of the civil war.
They have systematically undermined fiscal discipline by increasing spending on public wages as a result of largely
1) over-staffing the bureaucracy with their clients;
2)contracting public projects with little transparency and accountability by largely dismissing the procurement process; and
3)issuing treasury bills to close the gap between revenues and spending, often at higher interest rates than necessary.
Not only have expenditures risen at a high rate since the 1990s, inefficiency in the use of resources has worsened as Lebanon uses 25% and 13% more input to produce the same health and education outcomes, respectively.
Such irresponsible fiscal policies led to a high chronic deficit to GDP of about 13% from 1992 to 2016, which is much higher than the 3% average of MENA countries and 2.5% average for countries worldwide with similar levels of development as Lebanon.
Consequently, debt to GDP has reached almost 160%, one of the highest in the world.
 
This was not always the case in Lebanese public finance.
In fact, from 1944 to 1958, Lebanon had high budget surpluses. Even during the period of Chehabism, when state institutions were created to assume more responsibilities, Lebanon’s public finance had moderate surpluses of 2% to 3% to GDP from 1958 to 1970.
The rise of chronic deficits—and consequently public debt—is a relatively recent development, which is largely associated with the political settlement that ended years of civil strife.
Specifically, the change in the balance of power brought about by the Taef Agreement—which resulted in different political institutions being controlled by various confessional groups—institutionalized a new dawn of fiscal mismanagement.
The political elite saw in the new arrangement—which manifested itself in the Troika of the 1990s and the different constellation of power sharing since 2005—the possibility to extract state resources that are beneficial to them at the expense of Lebanon’s citizens.
While this kept the peace, it came at a high economic and fiscal cost.

Prior to the civil war period, Lebanon had the formal and informal mechanisms to constrain spending.

That is not to say that Lebanon was corruption-free but the public finance management was more effectively controlled by the executive authority, which was entrusted to the president and not to the Council of Ministers as it has been in the post-war period.

It is within this context that one needs to evaluate the role of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

While there is extensive talk about its institutional design—including its role and where it should be housed—this may not be useful when seen from the broader mismanagement of public finances.
Even if Lebanon adopts an SWF with strong fiscal rules to limit politicians’ temptations to tap into it, such rules will likely be skirted or violated given the broader political and institutional context.

To avoid falling further into the abyss, Lebanon must reconfigure its institutions so they can impose fiscal discipline and prevent ineffective spending by dampening politicians’ temptations to personally capitalize at the expense of the state.

The first step toward doing so is bringing public finances in order, by adopting a comprehensive budget according to which all spending is consolidated (i.e., bringing CDR and other agencies’ budgets together), ensuring that public projects are subject to a transparent and competitive procurement process, assessing the effectiveness of spending, and ensuring that any borrowing is being financed at competitive interest rates.
Although these actions are necessary, they are not sufficient.
The fundamental issue is ensuring that checks and balances are in place to limit excessive spending. This requires oversight agencies and institutions to play a key role in ensuring fiscal discipline.
The Court of Accounts must be empowered to oversee budget spending. The procurement department, which has overseen only 10% of public projects, must have the independence to manage the contracting of all public projects.

The parliament has a key role to play. It must assume its responsibilities—both legislative and oversight— bestowed upon it by virtue of the Taef Agreement rather than rubber stamp the work of the executive.

It must oversee the state’s public finances, force the government to pass budget laws, refuse to agree on spending that is Not part of the budget, and evaluate government efficiency and effectiveness in spending.
In addition to the above, the government, if serious, could establish other institutional arrangements to ensure that fiscal discipline is imposed.

The big question is:

Are the political elite, who have divided political power among different confessional groups, able to self-regulate themselves and avoid the temptations of spending oil revenues or borrowing against the forthcoming proceeds?
If history is any indication, they have failed to do so.
The concern is that these “elites” (mostly civil war militia/mafia chiefs) will be further tempted by the oil bonanza, which will allow them to further entrench their interests in the system and indefinitely delay any serious reform.
 

Essential questions to a satisfactory living

During conversations with my coach, Bob Hancox, he asks, “Would you like to be coached?” When I say yes, I know I’ll hear a series of skillful questions.

Rene Petrin says, “Mentoring is a transformational relationship. Build the relationship – the outcomes will follow. Building relationships is about trust.” Petrin adds, “Skilled mentors ask great questions.

By Dan Rockwell?

Coaching vs. mentoring:

  1. What do you understand about this situation?
  2. What have you done?
  3. What has worked?
  4. What hasn’t worked?
  5. What forces are at work?
  6. What are the potential consequences?
  7. Who does this impact?
  8. What are the obstacles?

Distinctions between coaching and mentoring help us discuss individual features and techniques but they overlap.

Questions – essential to success:

Regardless of definitions, coaches and mentors ask great questions.

Great questions such as:

  1. Open windows.
  2. Challenge assumptions.
  3. Destabilize.
  4. Move toward clarity.
  5. Aren’t agenda driven.

Three types of mentoring questions:

Petrin suggests mentors First to explore. Second, ask questions that seek solutions. Third, ask process questions that evaluate mentor-mentee dynamics and explore what’s been learned (Is that a kind of infusing an experimental mind process of thinking?)

Powerful Questions:

Petrin suggests mentors ask things like:

  1. What do you understand about this situation?
  2. What have you done?
  3. What has worked?
  4. What hasn’t worked?
  5. What forces are at work?
  6. What are the potential consequences?
  7. Who does this impact?
  8. What are the obstacles?

I’ve found either/or thinkers come up with two options.

I like repeating their options and asking, “What’s the third option?

Resources:

Rene Petrin’s resources.

Bob Hancox co-authored, “Coaching for Engagement.” It’s filled with great questions.

Facebook contributors provided their suggestions for great questions on 8/2/2012.

What questions aid the coaching/mentoring process?

What are the  components of great questions?

The Seven Powers of Powerful Questions

Questions are the most powerful statements you make.

  1. Questions expose. Your questions tell me who you are.
  2. Questions invite thought. Answers end thought.
  3. Questions enlighten.“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question,” Decouvertes.
  4. Questions overcome resistance. People naturally question statements. On the other hand, ask an honest question and people lean in.
  5. Questions enable ownership. When I tell you the answer, I own it. If you arrive at the answer, you own it.
  6. Questions reveal what matters. Ask about what you care about.
  7. Questions establish focus.

More on focus:

When I started riding motorcycles, I learned they drifted in the direction I looked. A dangerous thing if you like to look around.

Focus establishes direction.

What you persistently ask about gets done.

Illustration:

An organization that believes in relationship before opportunity could ask their employees for the names of the people they met that day.

Questions express values.

 

Big question:

During a recent conversation with Scott Cochrane, Executive Director of the Leadership Center Willow Creek Canada, I heard a question that sent chills up my spine.

Scott went to a meeting and asked this compelling, outward facing question, “What do you need to see for our country to change?” I feel purpose behind his words.

Good but not great questions:

  1. Declining companies asking, “How can we stop our decline?”
  2. Failing leaders asking, “How can we better lead?
  3. Inefficient organizations asking, “How can we increase efficiencies?”
  4. Financially strapped businesses asking, “How can we make more money?”

If you or your organization is falling short, you may be asking questions that fall short. Ask questions with purpose.

Try asking the most valuable of all questions: “How can we best bring value to those we serve?” for example.

You won’t get the right answer until you ask the right question.

Follow Scott Cochrane on twitter: @WScottCochrane

What are the great questions leaders ask?

You have got to Ask for feedback: Feedback don’t come easily and without much specific prompting…

There was a time when the term feedback was associated with some kinds of “production process“.

Coming from an engineering background, particularly industrial and human factors engineering, feedback meant receiving the reactions of clients and customers in the usage of products, such as safe usage, easy manipulation, health consequences, quality of product, of processes…

Feedback has acquired a life of its own and expanded to mean “How do you perceive my behavior, and how do think people are judging me…?”

Thus, feedback in the workplace on how I control, manage, and connect with people, employees, clients…

When was the last time you received useful feedback?

When it was not too late to nurture and mentor this “good person” who is trying hard to communicate with you?

An angry person will vent his feelings, turn and bang the door…How much of a feedback you think you received?

Do you think receiving feedback from someone who is Not an expert in the field or didn’t work on the field can give use any useful feedback?

“How am I doing?” is not a great beginning: It doesn’t sound serious or honest.

Everyone who really craves excellence craves feedback.

You need to know how you’re doing and how to improve.

Honest feedback is rare. And you don’t receive feedback because you don’t ask.

The primary problem in feedback is the level of Honesty:

The higher your level in the hierarchy, the more likely people say what they’re expected to say, not what they believe. Honest feedback is rare.

Try full sentences for a change, like: (extracted from a short list by Dan Rockwell)

  1. What do you think I was trying to accomplish by the way I______? (Fill in the blank with an outcome, “Led the meeting,” Leader, manager, coach, spouse, etc.)
  2. What did I do that made you think I was ______? (Fill in the blank with their response to #1.)
  3. How could I improve what you think I’m trying to accomplish
  4. “How/where do you fit into what I’m trying to accomplish?” (Nathan, Thanks for giving me this powerful question.)
  5. How can I help you better fit in?

The feedback question that changes everything uses behaviors to identify what’s really going on.

It doesn’t begin with a list of job responsibilities.

How can leaders invite feedback?

What questions invite useful feedback?

Your sense of smell controls what you spend and who you love

By Georgia Frances King 

Smell is the ugly stepchild of the sense family.

Sight gives us sunsets and Georgia O’Keefe. Sound gives us Brahms and Aretha Franklin. Touch gives us silk and hugs. Taste gives us butter and ripe tomatoes.

But what about smell? It doesn’t exist only to make us gag over subway scents or tempt us into a warm-breaded stupor. Flowers emit it to make them more attractive to pollinators. Rotting food might reek of it so we don’t eat it. And although scientists haven’t yet pinned down a human sex pheromone, many studies suggest smell influences who we want to climb in bed with.

Olivia Jezler studies the science and psychology that underpins our olfactory system.

For the past decade, she has worked with master perfumers, developed fragrances for luxury brands, researched olfactory experience at the SCHI lab at University of Sussex, and now is the CEO of Future of Smell, which works with brands and new technologies to design smellable concepts that bridge science and art.

In this interview, Jezler reveals the secret life of smell. Some topics covered include:

  • how marketers use our noses to sell to us
  • why “new car smell” is so pervasive
  • how indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air
  • the reason why luxury perfume is so expensive
  • why babies smell so damn good
  • how Plato and Aristotle poo-pooed our sense of smell

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Quartz: On a scientific level, why is smell such an evocative sense?

Olivia Jezler: Our sense of smell is rooted in the most primal part of our brain for survival. It’s not linked through the thalamus, which is where all other sensory information is integrated: It’s directly and immediately relayed to another area, the amygdala.

None of our other senses have this direct and intimate connection to the areas of the brain that process emotion, associative learning, and memory. (That why we don’t dream “smell”)

Why? Because the structure of this part of the brain—the limbic system—grew out of tissue that was first dedicated to processing the sense of smell. Our chemical senses were the first that emerged when we were single-cell organisms, because they would help us understand our surroundings, find food, and reproduce.

Still today, emotionally driven responses through our senses of taste and smell make an organism react appropriately to its environment, maximizing its chances for basic survival and reproduction.

Beauty products like lotions and perfumes obviously have their own smells. But what unexpected businesses use scent in their branding?

It’s common for airlines to have scents developed for them. Air travel is interesting because, as it’s high stress, you want to make people feel connected to your brand in a positive way.

For example, British Airways has diffusers in the bathrooms and a smell for their towels. That way you walk in and you can smell the “British Airways smell.”

It’s also very common in food. You can design food so that the smell evaporates in different ways. Nespresso capsules, for instance, are designed to create a lot of odor when you’re using one, so that you feel like you’re in a coffee shop.

I’m sure a lot of those make-at-home frozen pizza brands are designed to let out certain smells while they’re in the oven to feel more authentic, too.

That’s an example of the “enhancement of authenticity.” Another example might be when fake leather is made to smell like real leather instead of plastic.

So we got used to the smell of natural things, but then as production became industrialized, we now have to fabricate the illusion of naturalness back into the chemical and unnatural things?

Yes, that’s it. People will feel more comfortable and they’ll pay more for products that smell the way we imagine them to smell.

For example: “new car smell.” When Rolls Royce became more technologically advanced, they started using plastic instead of wood for some parts of the car—and for some reason, sales started going down. They asked people what was wrong, and they said it was because the car didn’t smell the same. It repelled people from the brand. So then they had to design that smell back into the car.

New car smell is therefore a thing, but not in the way we think. It is a mix of smells that emanate from the plastics and interiors of a car.

The cheaper the car, the stronger and more artificial it smells. German automakers have entire olfactory teams that sniff every single component that goes into the interior of the car with their nose and with machines.

The problem then is if one of these suppliers changes any element of their product composition without telling the automaker, it throws off the entire indoor odor of the car, which was carefully designed for safety, quality, and branding—just another added complexity to the myriad of challenges facing automotive supply chains!

Are these artificial smells bad for us?

Designed smells are not when they fulfill all regulatory requirements. This question touches on a key concern of mine: indoor air. Everybody talks about pollution. Like in San Francisco, a company called Aclima works with Google to map pollution levels block by block at different times of the day—but what about our workplaces? Our homes? People are much less aware of this.

We are all buying inexpensive furniture and carpets and things that are filled with chemicals, and we’re putting them in a closed environment with often no air filtration.

Then there are the old paints and varnishes that cover all the surfaces! Combine that with filters in old buildings that are rarely or never changed, and it gets awful.

When people use cleaning products in their home, it’s also putting a lot more chemicals into the house than before. (You should open your windows after you clean.)

In cities like New York, the indoor air is three times worse than outdoors.

We’re therefore inhaling all these fumes in our closed spaces. In cities like New York, we spend 90% of our time indoors and the air is three times worse than outdoors.

The World Health Organization says it’s one of the world’s greatest environmental health risks. There are a few start-ups working on consumer home appliances that help you monitor your indoor air, but I am still waiting to see the one that can integrate air monitoring with filtering and scenting.

Manufacturing smell seems to fall into two camps. The first is fabricating a smell when you’ve taken the authenticity out of the product. But then other brands simply enhance an existing smell. That’s not fake, but it still doesn’t seem honest.

Well, to me they seem like the same thing: Because they are both designed to enhance authenticity.

There’s an interesting Starbucks case related to smell experiences and profits.

In 2008 they introduced their breakfast menu, which included sandwiches that needed to be reheated. The smell of the sandwiches interfered with the coffee aroma so much that it completely altered the customer experience in store: It smelled of food rather than of coffee.

During that time, repeat customer visits declined as core coffee customers went elsewhere, and therefore sales at their stores also declined, and this impacted their stock. The sandwiches have since been redesigned to smell less when being reheated.

This is starting to feel a bit like propaganda or false advertising. Are there laws around this?

No, there aren’t laws for enhancing authenticity through smell. Maybe once people become more aware of these things, there will be. I think it’s hard at this point to quantify what is considered false advertising.

There aren’t even laws for copyrighting perfumes! This is a reason why everything on the market usually kind of smells the same: Basically you can just take a perfume that’s on the market and analyze it in a machine that can tell you its composition. It’s easily recreated, and there’s no law to protect the original creation. Music has copyright laws, fragrance does not.

That’s crazy. That’s intellectual property.

It is. As soon as there’s a blockbuster, every brand just goes, “We want one like that!” Let’s make a fragrance that smells exactly like that, then lets put it in the shampoo. Put it in the deodorant. Put it in this. Put it in that.

Well if the perfume smells the same and is made with the same ingredients, why do we pay so much more for designer perfumes?

High fashion isn’t going to make [luxury brands] money—it’s the perfumes and accessories.

What differs is the full complexity of the fragrance and how long it lasts. As for pricing, It’s very much the brand. Perfume is sold at premium for what it is—but what isn’t? Your Starbucks coffee, Nike shoes, designer handbags… There can be a difference in the quality of the ingredients, yeah, but if it’s owned by a luxury brand and you’re paying $350, then you’re paying for the brand. The margins are also really high: That’s why all fashion brands have a perfume as a way of making money. High fashion isn’t going to make them money—it’s the perfumes and accessories. They play a huge, huge role in the bottom line.

How do smell associations differ from culture to culture?

Because of what was culturally available—local ingredients, trade routes et cetera—countries had access to very specific ingredients that they then decided to use for specific purposes. Because life was lived very locally, these smells and their associations remained generation after generation. Now if we wanted to change them, it would not happen overnight; people are not being inundated with different smell associations the way they are with fashion and music. Once a scent is developed for a product in a certain market, the cultural associations of the scent of “beauty,” “well-being,” or “clean” stick around. The fact that smells can’t yet transmit through the internet means that scent associations also keep pretty local.

For example, multinational companies want to develop specific fragrances and storylines for the Brazilian market. Brazilian people shower 3.5 times a day. If somebody showers that much, then scent becomes really important. When they get out of the shower, especially in the northeast of Brazil, they splash on a scented water—it’s often lavender water, which is also part of a holy ritual to clean a famous church, so it has positive cultural connotations. Companies want to understand what role each ingredient already plays in that person’s life so that they can use it with a “caring” or “refreshing” claim, like the lavender water.

Lavender is an interesting one. In the US, lavender is more of a floral composition versus true lavender. People like the “relaxing lavender” claim, but Americans don’t actually like the smell of real lavender. On the other hand, in Europe and Brazil, when it says “lavender” on the packaging, it will smell like the true lavender from the fields; in Brazil, lavender isn’t relaxing—it’s invigorating!

In the UK, florals are mostly used in perfumes, especially rose, which is tied to tradition. Yet in the US, a rose perfume is considered quite old-fashioned—you rarely smell it on the subway, whereas the London Tube smells like a rose garden. In Brazil, however, florals are used for floor and toilet cleaners; the smell of white flowers like jasmine, gardenia, and tuberose are considered extremely old-fashioned and unrelatable. However, in Europe and North America, these very expensive ingredients are a sign of femininity and luxury.

Traditional Chinese medicine influences the market in China: Their smells are a bit more herbal or medicinal because those ingredients are associated with health and well-being. You see that in India with Ayurvedic medicine as well. By comparison, in the US, the smell of health and cleanliness is the smell of Tide detergent.

Are there smells we can all agree on biologically, no matter where we’re from, that smell either good or bad?

Yes: Body fluids, disease, and rotten foods are biological no-nos. Also, natural gas, which you can smell in your kitchen if you leave the gas on by mistake, is in reality odorless: A harmless chemical is added to give gas a distinctive malodor that is often describes as rotten eggs—and therefore act as a warning!

The smell of babies, on the other hand? Everybody loves the smell of babies: It’s the next generation.

Do you wear perfume yourself?

I wear tons of perfume. However, if I’m working in a fragrance house or a place where I smell fragrances all the time, I don’t wear perfume, because it then becomes difficult to smell what is being created around me. There is also a necessity for “clean skin” to test fragrances on—one without any scented lotions or fragrances.

Why does perfume smell different on different people? Is it because it reacts differently with our skin, or is it because of the lotions and fabric softeners or whatever other smells we douse ourselves in?

Cancers and diabetes can be identified through body odor.

Generally, it’s our DNA. But there are different layers to how we smell. Of course, the first layer is based on the smells we put on: soaps and deodorants and whatever we use. Then there’s our diet, hydration level, and general health. An exciting development in the medical world is in diagnostics: Depending upon if we’re sick or not, we smell different.

Cancers and diabetes can be identified through body odor, for instance. Then on the most basic level, our body odor is linked to the “major histocompatability complex” (MHC), which is a part of the genome linked to our immune system. It is extremely unique and a better identifier than a retinal scan because it is virtually impossible to replicate.

Why don’t we care more about smell?

The position that our sense of smell holds is rooted in the foundation of Western thought, which stems from the ancient Greeks. Plato assigned the sense of sight as the foundation for philosophy, and Aristotle provided a clear hierarchy where he considered sight and hearing nobler in comparison to touch, taste, and smell.

Both philosophers placed the sense of smell at the bottom of their hierarchy; logic and reason could be seen and heard, but not smelt. The Enlightenment philosophers and the Industrial Revolution did not help, either, as the stenches that emerged at that time due to terrible living conditions without sewage systems reminded us of where we came from, not where we were headed. Smell was not considered something of beauty nor a discipline worth studying.

It’s also a bit too real and too closely tied to our evolutionary past. We are disconnected from this part of ourselves, so of course we don’t feel like it is something worth talking about. As society becomes more emotionally aware, I do think smell will gain a new role in our daily lives.

This article is part of Quartz Ideas, our home for bold arguments and big thinkers.

Success is harder to handle than failure.

Do you tend to interject a “but” when boasting of a success story?

By Dan Rockwell?

I feel great, but…

I am doing fine, but…

We did great, but there’s more to do…

We’re doing great but we’re not there yet...

Things are going smoothly, but we don’t want to get comfortable…

Too much “not there yet” and you discourage the team. Too much celebrating success and everyone thinks you’ve arrived.

Do you think that if you say “but” after forward movement, you’re a dark cloud, a dissatisfied downer?

It’s like a dripping faucet. You discourage. You don’t motivate.

“It’s good to have a battle, it gives you a goal.” Mike Howard, Chief Security Officer at Microsoft

When things are going well “successful leaders” always think what’s next; they always press forward.

Jim Collins said: “Hi performing leaders are paranoid performers. They’re always asking, ‘What if,’ and then preparing for it. They think about and anticipate the day of ‘bad things.”

We’re asking ourselves, “What haven’t we thought of”?

“Be proud of success, BUT…”

The two-sided challenge of leadership is dissatisfaction during success and honoring progress when you fall short.

Positive work environments are never an accident. They’re created by leaders who think and act with positive attitudes.

The function of success is not comfort but fire.

Give it a break. Bring up your “but” tomorrow.

Don’t let your “but” diminish your success.

Help everyone enjoy hard earned successes; enjoy them yourself.

Pick your “buts” carefully: They have no functions in explaining a success story…

Wonder why I hate “Buts” in sentences. I substitute And. And I am not a success story… Just an intuition of the harmful reactions we feel after we hear a “But”… Too boring this But…

How do you navigate the tension between celebrating success and the need to reach higher?

Note: Inspired by one of the posts of Dan Rockwell , with alteration and rearrangement


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2019
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