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Why volunteering is an opportunity.

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VolunteeringActing as volunteer implies some qualities to benefit from such experience. Each volunteer has his own reason to dedicate a bit of time to contribute to any social project. But sometimes, it appears that some volunteers are feeding only their own ambitions. I noticed this by some attitudes, or by some remarks they do. These findings make me think about the qualities people need to have in order to succeed in a volunteering experience and gaining a positive feedback, similar qualities needed in entrepreneurship.

– A question of value: You want to contribute to a better world, a better society. You strongly believe that to subscribe to values is not enough, but you have to act in accordance with your values, that are common values in the project. In other words, you are an actor, not a spectator.

– Contributing to a common goal: Contributing as volunteer will bring you some satisfaction which is probably one of your goal, but your personal goal cannot be reached to the detriment of the common goal. It implies that you have to store your ego in the closet, and acting in a way that each member of the team will gain satisfaction and value, will have the feeling to be a stakeholder of the project, a way that maximize the chances of success. You are working within a team spirit, working with and not against a team.

– Showing interest for other people: Volunteering is an opportunity to meet different people with different horizons of competences and experiences. By sharing each other knowledge and experience, you catch an opportunity to learn something, but you will get also another perception of the environment in which you are acting, you will adapt your strategy, and you will perceive more in depth the finality of your action. Such process can only succeed if you bring interest to other and not if you work only on your own.

– Curiosity and creativity: By living new experiences, you can discover in you hide and unexpected passions. It is up to you to be curious and to use your creativity to realize new things, to build innovative solutions. Moving your own limits and sharing what you do with other is an opportunity for each people to move his own limits too. Remember this quote saying that the only thing you increase by sharing it each other is knowledge.

– Commitment and leadership: Volunteering implies a commitment. The success of a project is linked to the commitment of all the stakeholders. It means that you are volunteering not to pass the time but to make succeed a project and to operate in this way. When you are filling your diary, consider volunteering as a priority, that it means to have an appointment not only with other, but also with yourself. Volunteering has to be a life project and you have to make it work.
In this common activities, consider each people for what he does and for what you can share each other. No question to consider your work as more interesting than the work of somebody else. As said previously the work of each team member will bring sense to your work. Each member work is useful and contribute to the success. Develop and show talents of leadership. Appreciate and recognize the work of others, listen to them, and you will maximize your chance to be appreciated and recognized too.

There are many other qualities we could quote, but time to time, I notice that some people are volunteers for “bad” reasons. How often some people told me that I am “doing this for free”. Yes, the purpose of volunteering is to contribute to a social and common project, not to be paid. And such remark sounds very strange from people criticizing the capitalistic system, and mentioning this as a motivation to cooperate in volunteering projects, but expecting money as reward for a service. Sometimes, in my experience, I had more satisfaction and learned more things by working as volunteer for specific projects than some days in my professional activities.
These people are often too those who attributes the collective success to themselves, and put the guilt of failures to the others. If looking for recognition is legitimate, you cannot gain it to the detriment of the other. It is a question of ego, and often, ego is inversely proportional with knowledge and capabilities.
That is why volunteering is an opportunity when you integrated these qualities. Increase your experience, discovering new interest and passions is probably the best thing you can do to maximize your chance of catching new opportunities, or to face and launch new challenges. It is an opportunity to expand the fields of the possible, to build new projects in other areas. We are not far from what Steve Jobs mentioned in his unforgettable speech at the Stanford university, when he talked about to connect the dots, meaning that you can innovate by making a link between things that seems nothing to do with each other. See your volunteering life and professional life like two things that can feed each other. Consider such experience for the long term effect you can get from it, and contributing to your personal goal, it means to build an interesting and passionate life.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 10, 2015 at 19:03

Be aware of your skills to live a passion.

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Norbert, former banker, now bus driver.

Norbert, former banker, now bus driver.

At a certain moment of our life, some of us dream to get another life, to switch to another professional life. We dream to do something totally different, something driven more by passion than by constraints. Such decision represents a major change with some consequences on our life. This is why such change happens often after a period of self-brainstorming.

Such changes we aspire are sometimes the result of a thinking process about our current and passed professional experience. All what we have learned to, all the constraints and the challenges we had to face to, our success and our failures are conditioning our future goals and our future decisions. Like on a sailing boat, we adjust our road function of the new cap we want to reach and function of the wind and streams we are meeting. In a changing environment, the need to learn on an ongoing way is obvious, not only in our own professional discipline, but also in the development of lateral competences. The more we learn, the more possibilities we offer to ourselves. Just remember Steve Jobs in his famous speech at Stanford University, explaining that learning calligraphy by passion, he saw afterwards the usage he can do of such skills, by creating fonts for Mac graphical interfaces.

I would like to relate an article I read on the website, about a Dutch, Norbert de Kramer, who switched to another professional career, and so living an old dream. Norbert, who is now 62 years old, was formerly a banker. He started his career within ABN Amro, was credit analyst, in charge of training, and after, director of a subsidiary in Rotterdam with 40 employees. But his childhood dream was to drive a bus. When he was 55 years old, Norbert followed two weeks of training, and later took a sabbatical leave to do an internship of bus driving. When he was 59, Norbert was proposed to take new responsibilities within the bank. He declined this proposal in order to start a new professional life, to start his passion, to drive a bus. Today, Norber is free-lance drive for a bus company. He is transporting tourists, children, sport teams, and sometimes, ministers.

Some of you are wondering what could be the motivation for Norbert to switch from the job of banker to a job of bus driver. He had probably to face huge challenges within the bank, contributing to acquire and increase his competence level, giving him the possibility to conquer higher positions and face higher challenges.  What can he do now with the competences he acquired in his new job? This is precisely the question the journalist asks to Norbert, what are the common points between the banker and the driver? To that question, Norbert answers as follow: “People”.  Beside the fact to drive the bus, there is the communication side with people. The conversation he gets with them. He explains that some of them are surprised by the conversations he hold with them, and his knowledge of English and German languages.

What is interesting to underline in Norbert new life, is the use of skills in another context. Indeed, he is not a bus driver like another. With his language skills, Norbert can speak with people from different countries, and it brings something stronger in the relationship he can have with his customers. Let’s assume that if he looks for information about the destination where he drives customers, he can play also a bit the role of touristic guide.  The background he acquires in terms of lateral competences represents a real added value for his new job.

What we can learn from such experience is the following. If you want to start a new professional project, you will maximize the chances to succeed if your project is driven by passion. But as you know, to start a new project is a very courageous and difficult decision to take. By starting something new, you become a “junior” in your new market.  Beside the fact that passion gives you the strength of conviction, the use of skills you acquired in your previous experience will allow you to offer something more than your concurrent, something you customers will remember.

Another interesting point to mention is that in our changing environment, some existing jobs can be reinvented. Norber, is not a bus driver like another. With his multilingual skills, he can bring something more to the people he is driving, by giving information about the visited locations in the customer language, and it is for him an opportunity to spend more enjoyable and interesting days. In the way Norber is doing this honorable job, this job has much more value. Combining acquired lateral skills in another context is part of an innovation process.

For those who want to change of professional project, it is important to acquire skills and develop talents, to be curious and open minded. Trying new experiences allows you to open new doors to new opportunities, and to build innovative solutions. Be aware that you can value the skills you acquired in your previous experiences, and that it will allow you to live a hold dreamed passion, and reinvent it by adding your personal touch, making that you will be unique, but also authentic.

Picture from

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

August 18, 2014 at 06:09

How to face uncertainty?

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rock-climberIn my previous post, related to the choice of studies, I was talking about the fact that to predict the future is something becoming more and more difficult. Since now 25 years I am working, and looking around me, what is for sure is that uncertainty is growing. Who can predict now how will be the world in the next 6 months, or in the next 10 years? We try to make predictions in many areas and sometimes, we have to note that these predictions are not verified. How many times have we heard some economists explaining us the origins of financial crisis they were unable to predict.

The big question is how to face uncertainty as we don’t know in advance what the evolution will be in many domains? There are in my mind two types of uncertainty to take into account; the uncertainty linked to our environment and the evolution of it, and our own uncertainty, or I would say our own uncertainties. Facing uncertainties induce questions and make people worried. What will be my future? Will I have a job? Or simply will I be able to do this task, to face this challenge?

Our own uncertainties and the uncertainties linked to our environment interact. Most of you probably know the famous Peter Drucker’s quote saying “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself”. But to be able to create something, we need to have a good perception of the future and be able to perceive the trends and the changes of our environment.  But facing the environment uncertainties means to face also our own uncertainties, with a range of questions we are putting to ourselves. What will be the future and will I be able to face it? Have I the capabilities to face challenges and what challenges will be? To face our uncertainties means to try to know a bit more about ourselves.

To consider our own uncertainties is to be aware of our lack of knowledge and experience. By mentioning this, we underline the key role of education but also of curiosity. Education and school are the fundamental tools to develop our knowledge and capabilities. Education and knowledge will give us the opportunity to become first human being and to develop our autonomy, giving us more possibilities to make choices. This is why the role of education and the way to educate people are fundamental. It is important to develop curiosity, to encourage people to learn new things by their own, to discover new interests. To develop our knowledge is probably the best answer to the question related to my previous article: what studies have I to choose? Most of the time, it is difficult to know in advance if we will enjoy things we don’t know now.

This is why people have to be encouraged to make experiences, to be curious and to try new things. It implies the necessity to take risks. By multiplying such experience in a process of serial trials, you expand your possibilities fields and you dispel your own uncertainties. You will probably enjoy something new that you never suspected before that you could enjoy. We never know in advance what things could be if we could enjoy it or not, as we don’t know them.  Such experimentation process make that your own uncertainty dispels: you know that you enjoy something, that you are able to do it or not. By expanding your interest and experience fields, you discover new possibilities, you build new competences, but you also empower your self-confidence.

Self-confidence and competences are probably the two most important key components to dispel your own uncertainties. The development of these two components will allow you to maximize your chance to attract challenges and opportunities. With all your experiences, you will build your background, a knowledge base including information that helps you to analyze situations and to develop appropriate strategies. Nevertheless, despite the fact that success cannot be guaranteed anytime, it is also important to develop and keep critical mind. When facing a similar situation we faced by the passed, we should avoid making a copy-paste of previous solutions we applied. Things are less linear than before, and we have to take all the elements of the situation into consideration to implement solutions and action plans. It is part of an efficient learning process.

It is obvious we cannot live in an environment without uncertainty. But by developing a learning attitude, we can create a virtuous circle, where experiences and risk taking contribute to empower our self-confidence. A zero risk environment doesn’t exist, but this virtuous circle will allow us to be creative and to be stronger to face it and to quit more easily our comfort zone.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

July 8, 2014 at 06:07

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

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"It always seems impossible until it’s done." Nelson Mandela

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela

“It always seems impossible until it’s done”.  I am not writing this quote haphazardly. This nice sentence was said by Nelson Mandela, who passed away a few days ago. I like this kind of quote we should repeat us every morning, front of our mirror. Nelson Mandela is the right person to pronounce such a quote. He spent 27 years in jail for campaigning against apartheid regime. The apartheid regime was suppressed in 1989 by Frederik De Klerk, president of the South-Africa republic, and Nelson Mandela was released from jail on the 11th February 1990. Mandela never gave up his fight against apartheid, and he paid a huge price with a large time of his life in jail, but he reached his goal by seeing the realization of his goal.

From this example, each of us we can learn a lot of positive things when we want to reach goals in our life. It begins with some dreams, and often we are thinking we will never reach such a goal because it is too complicated. Most of the time, we are the one who put obstacles on the way of our own objectives, and our dreams remain dreams. Most of the time we would like to have finished something before to start it. Today, everything is going fast, everything is ephemeral, and we lost the fact that great things require effort and pain to be realized.

I would like to take an example. I like to talk and to write in other languages than my native one. This blog is a real opportunity to do such exercise. It is obvious that most of you who are native English speaking, noticed that I am not one of you. Language is a marvelous tool to express ideas and to communicate them with other people. It becomes very interesting when you know some expressions that cannot be translated literally in your native language. When you know and pronounce such expression, it means that you have a good knowledge of the language but that you have also interests for the people you are talking with. Such interest makes that people are closer from each other. Often, I am dreaming to move to a job of translator-interpreter. Such goal means that I would have to learn and to improve significantly my language knowledge.  Is it impossible? Probably not, but it requires few things.  First, is to take the decision to realize that objective, by drawing a strategic plan, by following courses, reading books, watching to Tv programs. Second point, is to have a discipline, the discipline to study your vocabulary and your grammar on a regular basis, based on a work agenda. Third point is to take all the opportunities making that you will practice the language you are studying.  I mean that if you are French speaker who is learning English and you meet English native who speak very good French, take the opportunity to practice English and not your mother language. The language learning process is something long, that you can always improve.

Many things like to study a language take time. Most of us, we remember things we were struggling with at school, and today, we are wondering why we struggled with it. As to build a house, you will do it stone by stone. You will have to face difficulties you will have to solve. Such difficulties are opportunities to learn new things, to improve and empower your experience, to expand your knowledge. The experience make that you will be ready to face bigger challenges and, will become more confident. The fact that we will reach our goal is linked to our own decision to do it, by our courage to face difficulties and our perseverance to work hard. It is possible if our projects are driven by passion. As said Walt Disney, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”.

So, each morning, let’s think about this quote, and about the way to realize goals. Goals are the motor of our life.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 9, 2013 at 00:01

The way to success…failure?

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Failure-foundation-of-success-1024x723Success is something most of us we are looking for. If to be successful is something different for each of us, the definition of the success is to reach the goals we have defined.  Success is seen positively, and appeared as something that intelligent people reach without any constraints. Does it mean that other people cannot be successful?  The question is what we name success.

To succeed is first a question of power and courage. The courage to make that our dreams become true. But often, some people never realize their dreams because they are scared to fail, and that failure is considered as a tabou. Commonly, failure is considered like something you are guilty for. This feeling of guilt comes probably from our education system based on rewarding and sanction. When a student answers wrongly to a question, he will be penalized. The education system is based on a competition system where students are scared to do not reach the arrival line. It is obvious that the integration of knowledge needs to be evaluated to be sure that students have the necessary tools to face life, but the learning process is an ongoing and iterative process. Each of us, we need more or less time to learn something, to understand the complexity linked to something, and finally to succeed. We probably remember something we struggled with at school, and that we find now very easy, wondering how it was possible to struggle with such thing. For instance, with mathematics, by doing exercises and repeating a logical process linked to a theorem, we understand it and finally integrate it. Before to succeed in a process, we probably failed a lot of times, but failure is an opportunity to know what goes wrong, to analyze the reason of the failure, and to take an appropriate action to move to the success. Henry Ford was saying that “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Such statement should be integrated in the education programs. In companies like Google, people are encouraged to fail. If you remember, some great inventions are the result of another project that failed. For example, the Post-It was invented accidentally. The company 3M was developing a new king of strong glue. The obtained result was the opposite of the one wanted, but this accident was used as an opportunity.

Failure or more precisely the reason of failure is important to develop and to keep our critical mind. When we are succeeding, we are just enjoying our success, and attributing this success to a range of factors. There are no absolute certitudes about these success factors, but there is nothing that put the opposite in evidence. For instance, scientists describe processes based on experimentations and observations, write a theory that is valid until there is an event that makes that this theory is not valid, or need to be updated and include some exception cases.  Success is not definitive. But what appears as a failure is something that brings you matter to learn, or to discover new things, bringing information, a useful raw material to move forward in the knowledge.

Successes or failures are not final destination, but different steps of a process, of our life.  By paying attention to this, by using failure as a raw material to build our knowledge, we are empowering our self confidence and are able to face new challenges.  By considering failure in a positive way, as an opportunity to learn, we take our belief off that creates psychological obstacles, preventing us to reach our goals. Remember that the real failure is to do not try. Some people never failed because they never try something.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

July 15, 2013 at 18:17

When passion comes to you

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Steve Jobs - 2

Steve Jobs, an entrepreneur moved by passion

Time to time, I am used to attend small entrepreneur sessions organized by a partner in her nice small business center, in a nice village in the south of my country. During the last months of the year, some students of a communication school are participating to a training organized by one of their professor. These students are part of small groups spending a whole week to follow the news during 24 hours a day, and building also a personal project. These students are living a unique experience, and few days ago, I saw a comment from one of them on Twitter. She was saying that the useful thing during this week was to discover a real passion. I found these words wonderful, because we don’t read or hear this very often, few people are talking like that.

Passion is something essential in our life. It is an intense feeling we have when we do something, or when we see something. By mentioning that, we notice we don’t hear often people expressing passion. We could wonder what makes that you are passionate by something. Is passion something you have or is it something you have to discover? I remember Steve jobs saying that it was senseless to ask people what they want, when you want to concept a new product, because they have no idea about what they want. I would say that it is a bit the same with passion. You don’t know what you are passionate by, if you don’t look for passion.

How can you find passion? Education plays an important role in the look for passion. Education contributes to open minds, to acquire capacities and knowledge you will use during your life. The more you can learn, the more you will have chance to get opportunities, you will conquer your freedom. But education doesn’t consist only to acquire knowledge and capacities, but also to develop a critical mind, making that you will be able to develop your own system of values, to make your own choices, to take your own decisions. Such process implies that you will be questioning yourself about what you are facing everyday, what you want to do. By looking closely, your life is a range of decision and actions, and by questioning yourself about what you want to do in your life, you will make the choice to take decisions.

The decision process is moved by the whish to do something, but also because an opportunity comes to you, making the right time to try a new experience, to discover something new. This decision is moved by curiosity, and curiosity is essential to expand the fields of your possibilities, of your interests. This is important to see opportunities, to wonder each time what you can to with this. When the decision to act is taken, you start a new experience, bringing you satisfaction or disappointment, but also opportunities to learn, to discover new things you ignore until now. This experience put also a new light about ideas you had about things, and can break your wrong believes. For instance, you participate to a computer training program, and you notice that you have good capacities and intuitions to use the computer and perform tasks with it. The discovery of your capacities brings you a motivation to move your limits forward. Each further step you are doing brings you more and more satisfactions. Satisfaction increases your motivation, and your motivation becomes a real passion.

Passion is not something coming to you but the opportunities leading to a potential passion that can come to you. The facto to will see these opportunities and to take them is just a question of mind. See the fact to try something new, not as a risk but as a chance, the chance to go to new opportunities, and to meet passion. Passion creates a virtuous circle, when passion convinces yourself and convinces the others. You convince the others because you succeed to communicate your passion, you showed the best of yourself, and they see you as an opportunity. Opportunities call opportunities, and can lead you to discover new passions. So, try to discover passion, passion will come to you.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 10, 2012 at 21:57

The solution comes from yourself

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Kelvin Doe, a young genius

Some of you probably read the story of Kelvin Doe. Kelvin is a 15 years old genius teenager from Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries around the world. He was invited to join one of the most prestigious university institutions, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), after participating to a local contest. He was invited thanks to David Sengeh, another people from Sierra Leone and former student from MIT. In a tribune published by CNN and the newspaper “Le Monde”, Sengeh mentions the past of Kelvin Doe, and his capacity to develop technologies starting from scratch. Indeed, Kelvin built a battery with soda, metal and acid, in a village where no electricity was available. Interesting, but not enough for Kelvin who built also a generator with a tension stabilizer he found in a trash, that he will use to to feed a radio station he built with a CD player and an antenna. Impressed by his capacities, David Sengeh encourages Kelvin to participate to the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” of the MIT, and starting for a new life. Following “Le Figaro”, the young guy is working on a project of wind turbine to produce energy for a village.

Such story put in evidence a few things we can learn from. The fact that you are living in a poor country is not necessarily a fatality. Despite the fact he is living in a poor country, Kelvin probably decided to follow his own way, his destiny. He took the decision to move to another situation, to build another life, or more simply, to build his life. Our life is a succession of decisions and actions. Kelvin fixed goals in his life and take appropriate actions to reach them.

Philippe Gabilliet, a MBA professor, mentioned in a video about opportunities that the best way to meet opportunities is to be an opportunity yourself. Your capacities, your competences make that you will be able to build projects or to contribute to collective projects. By expanding your knowledge, by sharing it with other people, you create opportunity spaces that will lead you to achieve goals, to find new challenges and opportunities. You will be an actor, an actor of the society, but first, the actor of you own life. By facing new challenges, by learning new things and acquiring new competences, you increase your possibilities. Each of us, we can meet failure during our life. This is why, not only entrepreneur, but each of us, we need always to have an alternative plan. The more we have knowledge, capacities, the more we can build alternative plan. The key word is autonomy. Our autonomy makes that we are self-confident, which contributes to our wellness. We can face our mirror because concretely, as an actor, you know what you are able to do.

As I mentioned before, our life is a range of decisions and actions, and we need to find energy to start such process. We need to find this energy in ourselves, but we can wonder if our environment contributes to bring such energy. In Kelvin story, what David Sengeh noticed, is Kelvin capacity to create technology with bit and peaces. Is the poor environment where Kelvin is living contributes to make him a genius? If we pay attention, our consumer society offers products and services, making that we don’t have to take care about anything. Such society is presented to us as a society bringing facilities and comfort. But the counterpart of such comfort is that we became unable to do things by ourselves, because this consumer society took us these opportunities out. Today, you are buying goods you can’t repair by yourself if there is any problem, or you just have to replace the parts by another. In the worth case, you need to buy a new one, eve if such good should work still many years. By the time, you had still the possibility to try to repair something by yourself, and if you succeed to do it, it was a small satisfaction. What I mean here, is that our consumer society make us dependent, put out the opportunities to solve problems by ourselves, put out our autonomy. We don’t care about things because somebody else will bring us the solution, the paying solution of course. Does it mean that we have to refuse the progress? Certainly not, but with new inventions, new technologies, we should be able to create a better world, to move to excellence. Technologies are good indicators revealing our intelligence …and our mediocrity.

By looking to this story, we think about the present situation, with the economical crisis, where people are loosing jobs and where politics try desperately to find the miraculous solution. If you look to Kelvin story, it is obvious that in many cases, the solution will come from yourself. The capacity to find solutions by yourself will make that you will gain your autonomy, you will conquer your freedom, but you will be also a responsible person, making your own choices, listening to your inner voice. Steve jobs said that success is not a question of money, but most of the time the ambition and the whish to succeed. The solution comes from yourself, if you decide to find it.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

November 26, 2012 at 21:57