Tag Archives: TED

Born to run

Born to Run cover.

Born to Run cover.

I recently finished the book “Born to Run“, by Christopher McDougall a runner and author who has collaborated with several magazines including Men’s Health. The book, published in 2009, has recently become a classic reading for runners.

The main thesis of the book is the support of what is called the Endurance running hypothesis, which explains some human evolution traits as being adaptations for long distance running, suggesting that early humans hunted down animals by running after the prey till it died of exhaustion.

Prior to reading the book I had watched some years ago the following TED talk [15’52”] from the author in which he explains the same thesis.

I have to admit that after listening to the talk I was quite sceptic and became somewhat reluctant to the reading of the book. It has been only years after that I was curious enough to give it a try. Now, having completed it, I have to say that the book is quite entertaining and the writing style of McDougall makes it enjoyable.

The other main theme of the book is the approach to the Tarahumara people, native American indians living in the North West of Mexico, which are known for their endurance running.

The book ends with the first Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, run in 2003 over 51 miles, organized by Micah True (Caballo Blanco) and gathering several Tarahumara natives and some elite American ultramarathon runners. In previous chapters, the author introduces all of the characters that ultimately will take part in the race along some other thesis such as the vegan diet and barefoot running, which I continue to be sceptic of.

What I appreciated most about the book was the vivid description of epic races that took place in the past like some editions of Leadville Trail 100 or the already mentioned Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, the getting to know those races or the Western States, the Badwater Ultramarathon (through the Death Valley), being introduced to both some legendary Tarahumara runners (Manuel Luna, Arnulfo…) or Western ones such as Scott Jurek, Ann Trason, Matt Carpenter, etc.

Thus, I would recommend the book as an entertaining read and motivating one for someone who is into running even if I remain sceptic of some of the thesis if defends.

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Encuentro Anual Antiguos Alumnos EOI (2013)

El pasado martes 17 de septiembre tuvo lugar el Encuentro Anual Antiguos Alumnos EOI (la escuela de negocios Escuela de Organización Industrial), con el lema “El Éxito es la Cooperación”. Dado que esa tarde estaba en Madrid, acudí al evento con un amigo y mi hermano, todos antiguos alumnos de la escuela.

La velada estuvo animada y presentada por el mago Luis Boyano quien hizo las delicias del público y sobretodo ayudó a animar el ambiente al principio.

Seguidamente, hubo tiempo para un par de discursos institucionales por parte del director de la escuela y del presidente del Club EOI (la asociación de antiguos alumnos), Fernado Moroy. Fernando destacó algunos puntos interesantes que hacen fuerte a una escuela: la formación continua, fomentar la empleabilidad de sus (ex-)alumnos, crear comunidad y la excelencia de sus (ex-)alumnos; además de la simbiosis Escuela – Asociación de Antiguos Alumnos. En todos esos aspectos teníamos la impresión de que la Escuela trabaja bien, y, sin embargo, queda la sensación de que falta algo (¿qué? y ¿cómo conseguirlo?). Por otro lado, tras la conferencia nos confirmó que el club cuenta en la actualidad con más de 4.000 socios, de entre los aproximadamente 50.000 alumnos que han pasado por sus clases desde su fundación en 1955.

Antes de la conferencia se dieron también premios a dos antiguos alumnos por su trayectoria y a una empresa por su compromiso con la formación. De entre los alumnos destacaré a Elena Mayoral (ingeniero aeronáutico por la ETSI Aeronáuticos de Madrid) por ser la primera mujer directora del aeropuerto de Madrid-Barajas en su historia (desde el pasado 1 de abril de 2013). No tiene una papeleta fácil (como tuiteé pocos días antes y sin conocer que se iba otorgar este premio):

Y finalmente, la velada llegó al momento más esperado: la conferencia de Emilio Duró, economista que últimamente se ha venido especializando como consultor, conferenciante sobre motivación, felicidad, etc. Existen multitud de vídeos suyos en internet (más abajo enlazo uno). El mensaje de Emilio viene a decir que no desaprovechemos el tiempo, que somos dueños de nuestros estados de ánimo, que busquemos razones y situaciones que nos permitan ser más felices. Para ello comienza con un repaso sobre su vida (riéndose de sí mismo), se apoya en algunas estadísticas de estudios (que no termina de citar), comenta anécdotas y relatos de terceras personas (como la historia relatada por el prisionero en un campo de concentración, durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Victor Frankl, descrita en su libro “Man’s Search for Meaning” o la vivida por Ric Elias durante los minutos previos al amerizaje de su avión en el río Hudson – vídeo enlazado debajo), usa una gran variación vocal y utiliza todo el espacio a su alrededor, además de interactuar con la audiencia. La conferencia se extiende entre 40 minutos y más de una hora, pero se hace muy amena, además de dejar varias perlas para recordar:

  • “En ningún funeral se ha visto un camión de la mudanza tras el coche fúnebre.”
  • “La vida cambia en un instante y no nos damos cuenta. Los planes no sirven. Nunca pospongas nada porque puede no llegar.”
  • “La primera causa de la infelicidad es la memoria. Borradlo todo.”
  • “Y resulta que con todo lo grande que es el universo, Dios o quien sea se dedica a recoger marrones por el mismo para soltártelos a ti… no será que el marrón eres tú.”

Y termina su charla dando los siguiente consejos para ser más felices: hacer deporte (para mejorar el estado físico), tener contacto físico con otras personas (especialmente cuando son menores de 3 años), compartir (ser altruista), seguir aprendiendo (no dejar de estudiar cosas nuevas) y ponerle pasión a la vida.

Vídeo resumen del encuentro (1h49’18”):

Vídeo con la charla TED de Ric Elias, “3 cosas que aprendí mientras mi avión se estrellaba” (5’03”):

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West of here

Some years ago, I watched a TED talk in which the case of the topic of how language influenced the way we think was discussed. In particular I remembered that it was given as an example how the Guugu Yimithirr people, Australian aborigines, had a very developed sense of orientation because in their language there were not such words as “left”, “right”, “in front of” or “behind”, but they have to give relative positions or directions with words like “North”, “South”, “East” and “West”. That example was kept deep in my mind.

I would comfortably reckon myself as someone who has a good sense of orientation, and when visiting Seattle about 2 months ago I was quickly reminded of the example described above when seeing this kind of signs:

"Parking prohibited West of here".

“Parking prohibited West of here”.

We saw several of such signs, either giving instructions in relation to North/South or East/West. As in Seattle you have the Ocean coast mainly at the West, I would say that is easy for everyone to interprete these signs, but then again, not using that kind of language priming in English, I guess that some people will be mistaken from time to time.

P.S.: In the picture above, I knew where the West was and where my car was, I just won’t tell…

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TEDxMadrid 2010

Last Saturday, a friend and I attended TEDxMadrid, an independently organized TED event in which several speakers presented some “ideas worth spreading” as the TED slogan goes.

The event took place in HUB Madrid, a “unique ecosystem designed to enable individuals ranging from corporate executives to community leaders, from policy-makers to entrepreneurs and freelance professionals to thrive. It is an office and events space where you can access social business ideas, innovation, knowledge, market opportunities, inspiration and experience” as they put it.

The event was streamed and the videos so far are available here. It was also funny to see the twitting activity that took place among the people being at the meeting (check #tedxmad, #tedxmadrid…).

A summary of each talk was made in the form of sketch boards by Puño & Gorriti that are available in flicker.

At the end of the event there was a short performance of impromptu theatre by “Impromadrid Teatro”, it was a funny experience. I have a friend who also has an impromptu theatre company in Madrid, “Impronta Compañía de Teatro Espontáneo”, I must go to one of their performances!

I still have to mentally “re-work” many of the things we heard and saw, and look for the many webs, books and ideas that were raised. Nevertheless, in this post I already wanted to share some thoughts that I took with me:

  • Slavery. It was commented by Antonella that in the last TED she learnt about “Free the Slaves”, an organization that liberates slaves around the world… slaves in the XXI century? We hear about women obliged to work as prostitutes or children working in some hidden factories… but when I heard the figure 27 million of them, I was shocked.
  • To be exponential in our thoughts. Alberto Dubois showed in his talk how evolution is exponential (human evolution, computing evolution, genome decoding evolution…) but we are normally linear in our thinking. We may apply the “exponential” way of thinking to many other fields, think of it.
  • BRINKs. We all have heard about the BRICs (the term coined by Goldman Sachs to refer to Brazil, Russia, India and China) or the PIGS (the term coined by Anglo-Saxon economists, used by FT, to refer to Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain – lately Ireland and Great Britain as well), Alexander van de Putte introduced the BRINKs. This term refers to Brazil, Russia, Iraq, Nigeria and Kazakhstan, the countries which increased oil production will defer (once again) the estimates for the peak oil.

Finally, I wanted to thank C. Todd, Javier, Derek and Antonella for the great effort they have put into this event.

For those of you who could not attend this event but would have wished to do so, be aware that a similar event will take place in a month from now in Madrid, TEDxSol, on October 5th.

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Filed under Education, Personal development & HR, Twitter & Media

Monkey Investors

Just a few weeks ago I wrote a post about the Wall Street Monkey. Remember that the story was based on Burton G. Malkiel’s book, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”, where he suggested that a blindfolded monkey throwing darts to select stocks wouldn’t do worse than professional fund managers.

I watched yesterday TED Talk by Laurie Santos, “A monkey economy as irrational as ours”, where she explains how she studied whether our mistakes were due to a badly designed environment or badly designed minds.

She made several studies with apes, introducing the use of money to them… and she found that apes show the same irrational behaviours regarding risk taking as we humans do…

I loved especially the following passage around minute 16:30…

“… we can actually give the monkeys a financial currency and they do very similar things we do. They do some of the smart things we do, some of the kind of not so nice things we do like stealing and so on… but they also do some of the irrational things we do; they systematically get things wrong and in the same ways that we do.

This is the first take-on message of the top… if you saw the beginning of this and you thought: “…oh! until I go home and hire and put a monkey as financial advisor … they were cuter than ours…”, don’t do that: they’re probably gonna be just as dumb as the human one you already have!

At least, apes would charge us less… just a couple of grapes.

“A monkey economy as irrational as ours”, by Laurie Santos.

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Project managers and Pencils

Today I was attending a project management course at Airbus. After some introductions, the teacher came to the always controversial (within such a technological company) comment that “the project leader needs to have experience in project management not in the technical issues related to the project”… she then cited aircraft as an example: “nobody within Airbus may know every technical detail of an aircraft which counts with hundreds of thousands parts, yet there is someone managing its development…”

That example seems very clear. Tonight, while listening to a TED Talk on the exchange of ideas, by Matt Ridley, I got the thread to a way better example: that is the essay “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read” by Leonard E. Read, which can be found at the Library of Economics and Liberty.

I believe this a much better example because of exactly the same reasons Mr. Pencil gives:

“[…] I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because—well, because I am seemingly so simple.

[…] Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.”

Then, the pencil goes explaining where all its components are coming from…

“[…] My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors…”

If it’s clear that nobody knows how to make simple pencil, clearer will be for any other case of a more complex product.

There is indeed a Mr. President of the pencil company, there may even be a Pencil Programme Manager, but as Pencil says: “There is a fact still more astounding: the absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being.”

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Nothing like a good red wine…

The recent Tweet from Freakonomics http://bit.ly/9jsc3r, in which they tell how American supposedly fine wine aficionados could not tell the difference between the wine they were given and the one they were looking (and paying) for, reminds me of 3 different cases to point how we can be influenced in our perceptions:

  • The first is a personal anecdote. I have always preferred Coca-Cola over Pepsi, one of these people who had never bought a Pepsi in a supermarket. In 2007-2008 I did a test at home to see whether I was able to distinguish one from the other. I did the test with my partner. I was blind-folded while she poured same amount of Cola and Pepsi in two identical glasses. She left them for some couple minutes in the fridge so they would get same temperature, etc, etc. Then I tasted them. After trying the first glass I said “Pepsi, I don’t even need to try the other”. Then I thought it twice. I tried the second glass. Thought for some seconds. Then again the first. Then… then… I mixed everything in my mind and couldn’t distinguish one from the other, to the point of changing my initial choice and being wrong.

Whenever I tell this story to my friends, they tell me “I can distinguish them”: I challenge you to do so. Find a helper and take the test. Please let me know the result.

If you thought my test is not representative, here is another story:

  • This is a TED talk by Benjamin Wallace on the price of happiness. Benjamin goes exploring different luxury articles and finding that they don’t bring him or those close to him any special feeling. He indeed does a similar test to the one I did, this time with luxury oil, with more varieties to distinguish and more people to try them, the result… guess it.

 

After having read the case of the fake Pinot Noir, having suffered the non-distinguish ability of  Pepsi and hearing to the TED talk cases… we might wonder: why are we mislead so much by perceptions? Why do we pay more for something that doesn’t bring us any enhanced customer experience except for being able to tell that we paid that amount for this?

Last case I wanted to point…

  • The Dutch are well known for being a very pragmatic nation. Here you have a case, again, for wines (just to close the loop). What do you care about the brand of a wine? Let’s remove it. What do you appreciate in it? Is it the grape type? Is it the fruit flavour, the tannins? So that’s what you need to know!! The rest… better to call it “4. Red Wine” and remembering that it comes in a blue bottle… check it: http://94wines.com.

Prost!

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