Learn by thinking AND doing

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I was at a party the other day chatting to a second year media student who wanted to major in digital marketing. She seemed really passionate about social media and it’s potential to be a major communication channel… blah blah blah. Wanting to shift from the textbook Social Media pitch I popped the question: “So, what’s your blog called?” After an initial confused blank look she went on to explain that she can’t start one because she does’t have her degree yet and that she didn’t know enough yet. I didn’t understand. I still don’t.

I know I’m in a ‘unique’ position to be able to do a Real World Degree, but I still cannot understand why more people are not actively pursuing their passions in their spare time. Take the above example where this girl could have had 3 years of creating engaging, social media content behind her as well as her degree in Digital Marketing. Imagine how much more impressive her CV could be by merely practicing in her spare time what she is learning at varsity. Who knows, maybe she could have been working for herself by the time she has her degree.

This is a simple case where the barrier of entry is pretty low. But what if you look at a more intense field, say engineering? Some names that come to mind are those of Gates, Ellison, Brin and others who gave themselves a head-start by working on the side while at school or university. Even as a Civil Engineer Project Manager you would be far better off if you had actually spent a holiday or 2 working on a construction site. The same applies for a vet, teacher or a number of other fields.

I think the biggest mistake is that most people are trying to do it with a sense of entitlement. As with my Inbound Business Model I believe that the value of experience is heavily underrated by the young. Yet when you are looking to apply for your first job the most common reason for being turned down is lack of experience. Why not go out and get that experience? I have yet to come across a startup or an SME who would not be willing to take on someone willing to learn. Especially if they are not asking for money. If you approach it with the sole aim of trying to gain experience I think you will be surprised by what you get in return. I certainly have been.

It is the disparity between education and reality that puzzles me. It may be down to the fact that we are a very consumer driven society and that universities are so dependant on maintaining the importance of degrees that they undermine the most valuable asset in the workplace: experience. But for the life of me I cannot understand why more people are not investing time and experience to help them get the edge in the future.

What are you doing when your head is not in your books?

Why base Silicon Cape in Cape Town?

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What does it take to recreate a Silicone Valley? This question has been looked at from various perspectives, but how does that relate to us? What will it take for Cape Town to build a strong entrepreneurship community and why is it preferred over Joburg? With this article I hope to re-ignite the discussion and to highlight some things that we, as South African entrepreneurs can use to build upon.

“The exciting thing is, all you need are the people. If you could attract a critical mass of nerds and investors to live somewhere, you could reproduce Silicon Valley. And both groups are highly mobile. They’ll go where life is good. So what makes a place good to them?” – PG

Here are a couple of factors that I perceive to be the most important things that the greater Cape Town area has going for it as far as attracting the types of people that you need for a startup environment:
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Can your hobbies make you millions?

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What do Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Richard Brandson and Steve Jobs have in common? Yes, they are all very rich and successful – they also all dropped out of school or college. But what is the reason for their success? Is it because they are drop-outs and being over educated is a restriction to success? As there are many college dropouts not nearly as successful, I think not.

Not having a formal qualification does put pressure on you to be more innovative, but I think that important thing that most people miss is that with all these successful guys that dropped out were moving onto something else. It was a side project, a dream, a hobby that they managed to make a business out of. Some other project in their life just became more important thatn getting a degree at that point.

Most successful people that I deal with are the types of people who have laods of projects on the go, or at least did before they dropped everthing else to focus on one specific project. When they werre at university they were involved in other societies, clubs, hobbies or businesses. Like Steve Woznaic who designed and built the entire Apple I and Apple II computers in one year… all while working a 9 to 5 job at HP. It was Sergy Brin’s hobby to “donload the whole internet” that lead to the PageRank script that was the foundation for Google’s search.

The fact that many wealthy people don’t have degrees has very little to do with the value of a degree or not. I believe it has way more to do with what they do in their spare time. Hobbies and side projects are far less constrained by the rules of society and are often far more out-of-the-box than the convential 9 to 5 job that you rely on. After all, the more side projects that you run the higher the chance that one of them might just work out.

So next time you meet someone interesting, instead of asking what they do for a living, ask them what they do in their spare time.

The Power of Facebook Lists

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It is always a concern for me about who can view the info on my Facebook Page. It led me to be pretty stingy with who I added as a friend as I refused to make my personal Facebook page completely sterile. I used to keep Facebook purely for friends and Linkedin purely for business but that line is often blurred. I have only recently started using the list feature on Facebook, and realise what I have I been missing out on! I have now managed via lists to have different people see different areas of my page. Each person is put on a list and sees only the area of my page that is relevant to the list they are on – and no more. i.e. business associates can see lots of contact information but no pictures and posts; Close friends can see everything and distant friends can only see limited pictures and posts with very little contact details. It takes a little while to set up, but is well worth it. Here is my easy step-by-step* guide…

*I have a brief 3 step summary for advanced users at the bottom…

Firstly you will need to create the lists. To do this, look on the top right and go to

Account -> Edit Friends

This will bring up your list of friends with a button Create list button at the top.
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Inbound business model

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I read a great book a little while ago, called Inbound Marketing, and it got me thinking. Where else is it relevant? How can you apply this to business? But first, the background theory…

Tradition marketing follows an Outbound marketing model where the company sends out the information of their product/service to potential customers in the hopes of making the sale. With the sale, the customer is given value and through use they create a relationship with your company. Hopefully this will lead them to come back. (All TV and radio ads, Flyers, newspaper ads etc)

Sale -> Value -> Relationship
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Young Word Rising [Book Review]

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Saw a great book that recently came out, Young World Rising by Rob Salkowitz. Its on the new rise of the wave of new young entrepreneurs  and how they are bringing forth new changes to the global landscape. South Africa and Silicon Cape are one of the ‘New worlds’ in which this is happenning. Here is a piece taken from the facebook page in Rob’s own words:

In Young World Rising, I identify six hallmarks or characteristics unique to the next-generation entrepreneurial ventures I explored around the world. Young World entrepreneurs:

1. Blend social and commercial objectives
2. Creatively align public, private and NGO resources
3. Leverage communities and collaboration
4. Are well-adapted and sustainable
5. Embrace the globalization of the knowledge workforce
6. Solve systemic problems while meeting market needs.

In the next few days, I will be elaborating on each of these hallmarks. In the meantime, I am interested in hearing from young entrepreneurs and other interested folks: does this sound right? Does your business plan fit these criteria?

Sounds like some solid advice and is well researched. Its definitely made its way onto my “Must Read” list.

True Leadership

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I recently submitted an application to “The Chosen” and had to write a 400 words on leadership. Thought it might be nice to add here too and I would love to know what you think…

South Africa has inspired some of the greatest leaders of our time. From Mandela to Gandhi, people have been inspired – through some form of suffering – to lead the transformation of society and of the world. True leadership inspires and empowers others.

The most crippling action in our society is thinking small. Thinking that you are insignificant. It is the duty of our leaders to change that; it is our duty to change that. For this country to flourish and for real transformation to take place, people need to be lead to the door of possibility and empowered to open it. That is true leadership.

We need to shift the mindset from being constrained by the past and limited by the present to being free in the possibilities of the future. For us to live in an equal society, it is not the leveling of status that needs to happen but Continue reading

Dr Schwarzenegger’s 6 Rules of Success

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Arnold Schwarzenegger truly is an inspirational person. He has progressed to the highest levels in 3 very different fields: becoming Mr Universe, one of Hollywoods highest paid actors as well as being elected a governor of California. All this from coming from a very rural background, not being able to speak English properly and having a very heavy accent. His motivation, drive and detirmination is something that we can all learn from. Below is a great youtube clip on his secrets of success:

1) Trust yourself
2) Break some rules
3) Don’t be afraid to fail
4) Ignore the naysayers
5) Work Like Hell
6) Give Something back

I can’t help but think that the obstacles in my way of achieving what I want are insignificant compared to what he has had to overcome. Make me wanna get my ass into gear… How about you?

Reloaded Blog

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Due to a crash during an update I managed to corrupt my config file and had to reload my settings and posts…. Yes, I have now learnt to backup before an update and yes it might happen to me… I will be trying to reload most of my posts back up, but unfortunately I lost all comments on the previous posts. Should be back up and running (slightly improved) in less than a week.  Please bare with me and check back again soon.

-Roger

Why Drop out of University – Real World degrees

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While there is a staggering number of people at the top of the “rich List” who are university drop-outs, there are still unrecorded masses for which it didn’t work out so well. Why does dropping out sometimes help and most times not? What are good reasons to drop out and what are the benefits from doing it? As a UCT drop-out myself*, here are my thoughts – it would be great to hear yours.

While there is plenty of merit in getting a degree, isn’t it strange that so few people actually use what they learnt in their degree in their first job? Nowadays a degree is more proof that you are trainable and can think than a means of showing your experience. It is more about extending your title (i.e. Roger Norton, BSc Electrical Engineering) than giving you any real experience in that field and limiting you to use what you have learnt…
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What I learnt from Billionaires…

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I worked for 4 years as an engineer maintaining the systems on Superyachts. (Large luxury private yachts.) It was a great lifestyle and I learnt many things while travelling. The one thing that is very unique to the job was the close proximity to billionaires. Here are some of the things that I picked up form being around them… Continue reading

Web 3.0 – The Symantic Web

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§If Web 1.0 was the ability to create sites on the World Wide Web, and Web 2.0 was the Social Media revolution that we are currently goig through, What will Web 3.0 look like? There seems to be a lot of speculation and division among the web futurists. The basics that they do seem to agree on is that Web 2.0 was all about content creation whether it be personal or business and that Web 3.0 will be about creating value to the connections between the data.

In a fascinating little video by Kate Ray, she interviews many of the top scientists and developers working what Web 3.0 (Often called the Semantic Web, depending who you talk to. ) Through the people that she interviewed it starts to become evident that as the number of pages moves from millions to billions and soon on to trillions, the current search methods dealing only with data become very limited.

Talking about how we currently use search, this is what the inventor of the world Wide Web had to say: “And so that’s not really a search, I think people use the word search to mean this sort of parachuting in, crossing your fingers, and hoping to land somewhere really good.” – Tim Berners-Lee (2:18):

At some point we will need to start dealing with the context of the data. What its relationships are with the other data and assign value to those relationships. This sort of contextual linking and structure is what the Semantic web is all about. “The Semantic Web, at it’s lowest level, is just an expression of information, that’s all it is.”  – John Hebeler.

Wikipedia explains that, “the semantic web is a vision of information that is understandable by computers, so computers can perform more of the tedious work involved in finding, combining, and acting upon information on the web.” It is by handing over the information to a computer in a way that it can easily process and do the interpretation of the information for you. It will involve the system being able to understand that a tweet, blog, mention in an article, LinkedIn group etc, all link to information about the same person and creating value to the relationships between that data.

As utopian as the concept of the semantic web is, it is currently the most common prediction as to where the future of the web is going. The fact that the internet is going to continue to evolve is a certainty, could this be the direction that we may be headed? Plenty of experts think so, do you?

For more reading see :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web

http://semanticweb.org/wiki/Main_Page