The Starbucks Index

Starbucks doesn’t just make coffee. It serves as a global standard for the service economy. Much like the Big Mac index is back of the envelope (yet surprisingly accurate) reflection of the purchasing power parity (PPP) between countries, in other words what would it cost you in dollar terms to get a Big mac in country A versus Country B once exchange rate is factored in?   It’s a measure of how much a dollar can take you in those respective countries.

With my frequent travels recently the idea of a services power parity hit me. A cappuccino at Starbucks is a very much a standard committee across the world. Yet go to New York, London, Athens, Dubai and watch and measure the time it takes to make the same commodity. In my case – truth be told – I do give them a somewhat of a hard time, with my extras duper uber dry cappuccino with an extra shot. Even more so:  the speed of comprehension and execution of my customized order is a – again surprising due to its simplicity – reflection of the efficiency of the service economy in these cities. As is the baristas reaction to a customize order in the first place. This is what I’ve called ‘The Starbucks Index”.

So next time you travel, try going to a Starbucks and ordering the exact same coffee you have in your home town and watch the difference. In some countries you will quickly realize how much needs to be done to get them back to a productive state. It has happened to me that I had to wait for the barista in one city to finish a phone conversion on his mobile phone (and believe me it did not sound like a conversation with his boss!)

Playing dice with God

Einstein said “God doesn’t play dice with Man”. Does He not? I’m not sure myself. I think in the very least He tries to. But not everyone plays back.

One of my biggest fascinations in life is how random unpredictable events can  – in a split second decision that could have gone so many different ways- have such a drastic impact on our lives. It’s like the ‘butterfly effect’ in chaos theory in mathematics. The flap of a butterflies wings in Japan (chosen randomly) can cause a hurricane in Mexico through a series of domino effects that amplify to huge proportions.continue reading »

Who made the world

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do

The Summer Day, Mary Oliver

Think Different

Steve Jobs words for the Think Different ad are just pure perfection

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

And the Ad itself (which in the end was never aired) is probably the best ever.. i would rate it higher than the 1984 which has been dubbed the best Ad of all time

Anyone wondering whether its worth reading Steve Job’s 600 page biography that came out all i have to say is that when i started reading it i literally couldn’t put it down. Simply amazing. Funnily enough i think the text above is just a perfect summary of his life. Which was why he chose to not air it in the end as it was in his words ‘too much about me’

Things that don’t matter

I look back at my life sometimes and can’t help thinking: there’s so much energy we spend on things that ultimately don’t really matter. The small talk, the fluff, the event you ‘have to’ go to and pretend you are interested. The long meetings and dragging relationships with people you know will end. Yet we put up with it every day.

I wonder sometimes if I could go back in time and erase all of that and refocus my energy on the things that really mattered how things would have been different today. Or maybe in some paradoxical way those things do play a part by preparing you for the things that do matter, loss leaders in a way.

This thought in itself may arguably not matter either. After all we can’t go back in time to change it. So does it really matter?continue reading »

A re-emergence of Marxism ?

In a post cold-war era, where capitalism reigns as the dominant force of globalization, never has there been a time where we were in as much control of our own labour as we are now – the very cornerstone of Marx’s Communist Manifesto that argued against capitalism as a force that oppresses workers and denies them the freedom of their own labour. And yet, in a capitalist society where free markets are the driver of economic growth and distribution of wealth, we are now blessed with technological tools that allow us to very simply “be in control” – Marx’s dream albeit in a capitalist society. Is this a paradox? Or is it a convergence of what use to be seen as two opposing school of thoughts? I say – neither.continue reading »

Outlook on world instability

Are we on the brinks of World War III? With the US losing its ground power is being shifted from the West to the emerging economies of the East. China looks set to become the new superpower. Unfortunately, as proven by history, a major shift like this has never occurred without war.

1) A weakening USA

The USA dictates much of what’s happening in the West. Here are the main drivers behind its decline:continue reading »