28-01-12

003 Stock Picking

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002 Internship Hunting

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26-10-11

081/ London Business School x Steve Jobs

You don’t have to be a fruit lover or carry four iDevices at all times to acknowledge the void the passing of Steve Jobs has created. Virtually everybody who is remotely related to business and/or personal development finds inspiration in some of the legendary tech pirate’s mantras. MBA-students spend the better part of the day on both business and personal growth, so projecting key learnings from the first 6 weeks through quotes of the master can shed some light on London Business School-life for applying students. (Noticed there’s even anApp in the word applying?)

1. It’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind.

Honestly, before the program started, I thought I was a citizen of the world with brought interests and a keen understanding of what business and society was about. It was only until I started hearing the million life stories of MBA-peers that I realised how small the micro-cosmos actually was I had been operating in. There is so much going on, and so many things to explore, that it makes one dizzy just to think about it.  Nothing more refreshing than biting for the first time in a new and unfamiliar subject! Understanding bond markets, grasping the dynamics of rugby or seeing for the first time words appearing from behind the previously mysterious Cyrillic letters of a Russian sentence comes close to magic. It’s like the world is finally telling you some of its precious secrets.

2. You can’t connect the dots forward – only backward

Most incoming MBA students march to LBS campus with the determination of an undaunted army: sharp objectives, a clear strategy, and a list of activities/clubs & courses that needed to be attended to guarantee victory. As the weeks roll by, resistance to deviate from the plan lowers. Interest is sparked in areas that were not part of the battle plan… Loss of focus?  Should I panic?

I would argue that you have to follow your gut and try out new things. Take risks. Have faith that whatever you undertake now makes sense, maybe not today but at some point in the future. Join an Art club, date a Kazach girl, eat with your hands, take acting courses, represent your class in a political role or compete in a stock pitch. Executive Summary:   “S  t    r    e    t    c   h   ! “

3 Say no to a thousand things

The previous point doesn’t mean that you don’t have to make choices. Remember the time you went to a nice all-you-can-eat-buffet and you actually tried to eat it all… a stomach ache for sure. It’s essentially about making choices (There’s no Kazach girl in my agenda)! New things don’t come easily, and consume more energy than a tuned Hummer. So choose and engage. Engage and marvel. Marvel and blog (optional).

4. Stay hungry, stay foolish

This one’s so much larger than business school (and doesn’t relate to the all-you-can-eat buffet above). It’s about identity, curiosity, humbleness  and fun. Don’t become the sleek suit you’re wearing, don’t turn into the list of A-brands on your resume.

5. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

V.I.T.A.L. Especially in the MBA context. This study is probably the biggest gift you will ever offer yourself. An endless pile of minutes and resources to find your voice, to carve your personality, to finally chase that dream (job). Don’t get caught by trends (Private Equity seems hotter than the iPhone 5!), peer pressure, time pressure, juice pressure (unlikely). If you want to fool yourself, there are way cheaper ways to do so. You’re smart, check. You’re articulate, check. You’re maybe even good looking… Stop proving points. More importantly it’s you-time, the real you-time! Enjoy.

Wouter 4S

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29-01-11

080 / Argentinean cake

080 / Argentinean cake 

Surprisingly, long term travel has something of a sumptuous, multi-course Christmas dinner. At first, everything looks amazing, and you start your travel with the hunger of a family of stoned lions. After devouring the first landmarks, hostels, busses and one night standing conversations, slowly, this feverish eagerness turns into a more accomplished, satisfied feeling. This is when events take their right course and you discover confidently, unhurried new destinations. Later, when your trip comes closer to ending, a feeling of saturation takes the upper hand. Your head spins, stuffed with experiences, encounters and kilometers, similarly like your stomach aches when dessert is served during a lengthy dinner party. Socially obliged, you take a modest piece of that creamy, thick cake. However, the action is often limited to moving the cake around on the plate (while subtly breaking it down like construction workers demolish an old building) rather than actually eating it.

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I felt that Argentina was the cake of my big trip. I slowly plunged my spoon in it, ate some beautiful pieces, but I was already too absent minded to capture its full taste. I cycled through Bariloche thinking of us on the Vespa on Boulevard Saint Germain. I hiked in Junín’s Lanin National Park wishing I was running with my buddies through Het Zoniënwoud. I had amazing grilled tenderloin steak, while I was craving typical Wednesday spaghetti with my family. I watched jaw-dropping Tango in Buenos Aires, but I really wanted to freak out on I gotta feeling with my friends in Paris...

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In short, it was mazo menos time to return home! After a cool couchsurfing stay in Buenos Aires, I packed for the last time my gear (I initially left with 24kg, now, without a clear explanation 5 kg is M.I.A.).

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Seatbelts locked, table tray folded away, luggage in the overhead lockers, electronic devices switched off, but then … in the beginning of the runway, our Airbus 340-600 hesitated like a jumping horse in front of an important hurdle or a city girl when bathing in a fresh lake. No movement… It turned out that a fuel leak in one in the engines made it impossible to take of that night. We taxied back to the terminal, and after 4 hours of confusion, 350 people with tired eyes were shipped off for an Iberia-sponsored night in Hotel ***** Emperador Buenos Aires.

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“Are they kidding? My very last flight, delayed… with 19 hours!? Who is responsible for this sabotage? There are multiple suspects…” Here’s my Sherlock Iwannagohomes list of possibilities:

The self-important business man with the cheap suit who loudly declared that flying with that baby screaming some rows in front of him is unacceptable qualifies. That large, noisy Spanish family who was attacking the free five star lunch buffet with smiles from ear to ear could have found a way to extend their holidays in a cheap but classy way. Could it be Murphy? He’s often around whenever there is trouble. Maybe it was the Buenos Aires postcard that I challenged that I would arrive in Paris before it did. Post cards can be mean. And then there is Hotel Emperador. If they can “unexpectedly” host 350 stranded travelers, it must mean they have many empty, unused rooms... maybe too many?

Almost 24hrs later, after getting acquainted with my free Emperador bathroom goodies to kill time, I’m on the same plane, in the same seat, with the same neighbor and the same destination… The baby sleeps, the Spanish stomachs are full, Murphy is shooting a B-class police movie, my postcard has an unbridgeable advance on me and the hotel cashed its fat cheque. The odds are good to make it this time.

wwwouter

 

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22:34 Gepost door Wouter* | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

16-01-11

079 / If the world was … Patagonia

079 / If the world was … Patagonia

When my plane landed in Punto Arenas, in the deep south of Chili, I knew that this final part of my big trip would be very different from the bamboozling stay in Brazil. Patagonia is all about space, nature, wind, contemplative hiking… Hours of letting the months spent on the road settle down and letting strange metaphors for this amazing place bubble up in my mind. So when I was hiking the multiday “W”-track (love that letter!) in Torres del Paine, I couldn’t help thinking… “If the world”…

If the world was a human body, Patagonia would most certainly be the lungs. It’s airy, energizing, vital but also fragile in its existence.

If the world was a car dealership, Patagonia would be a Toyota Landcruiser, with its endless space, reliability, the powerful but hushed roar of its rivers, its many wild horses…

If the world was a job market, Patagonia would be an experienced psychiatrist, with its patience, its almost philosophical, understanding  look in its eyes, and its soothing effect on the mind of everybody who visits and rests on his hills.

If the world was a cocktail bar, Patagonia would be a matured whiskey on (millennium) ice. It’s multi-layered, expensive, time-consuming, holistic and asks to be drunk in exquisite company.

If the world was a city, Patagonia would be Central Park, with its countless trunks of dead wood as inviting benches, its glaciers as ice cream vendors, offering refreshment in the global heat.

If the world was a beauty case, Patagonia would be the eye shadow pallet, with a multitude of shades of lush greens, bottomless blues, to subtle nuances of silver and white.

If the world was a Kyoto protocol, Patagonia would be wind energy. It is alternative, underappreciated, and limitless in its availability and force.

If the world was a blog, Patagonia would be a post with lots of images, and few words.

wwwouter

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Perito Moreno Glacier

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The (almost always in-)visible Fitz Roy

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03:47 Gepost door Wouter* | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

11-01-11

078 / In Brazil, there’s always…

078 / In Brazil, there’s always…

There’s always a party”, Renato told me when we met after more than three months in Sao Paulo. My 10 hours fly-by in this huge city promised to be big since my Braseliero friend had the brilliant idea to introduce me to Brazil on the beats of the (very local) Samba, with the first-of-many caipirinha in one hand, and my connecting airplane ticket in the other. It all resulted in an unforgettable night of which (oh, irony) I don’t remember too much. By miracle, I managed to get the my 4AM flight to Salvador (I think I even still had my caipirinha in the other hand…) to meet my chérie for a three week rollercoaster trip.

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There’s always capoeira”, the waiter of the Bahia restaurant told us without hesitation, so we started happily to wiggle our tail like young puppies. With some less than perfect directions we crossed the whole city only to find the traditional spectacle to be over for the day. We honorably stated that this was a fair consequence of leaving our hotel room for the first time at 8PM. The next day however, capoeira found us on the street...nice.

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 There’s always a bus…”, the guide calmly told us when we already saw our three days hike into one of Brazil’s crown jewels (Chapada Diamantina) fall into the water due to the cancellation of busses on Christmas eve. With renewed optimism, and after an afternoon of creative logistical surgery, we were on our way to the National park. An endless parade of cliffs, waterfalls, primary forest, great dinner, even greater breakfast in cool company was our part. This place rocks!

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There’s always a plane”, the flight attendant told us after the screens indicated an ever increasing delay in our flight to Campo Grande. Some further harassing of the poor guy learned us that the plane was there, but that the pilot hadn’t shown up (Flights attendant : “But don’t worry, we have been trying to call him already for 50 minutes”). This little hick was probably due to the fact that it was Christmas day. We travelers, however, don’t respond to Catholic holidays… With the bravery of the logistically defeated, we started a 3 hour siege on the airline company, in order to change our tickets to Iguazu, to avoid spending a days of useless waiting in the airport until the pilot sobered up from his Christmas turkey. It worked! An hour later we were on our way to the world famous waterfalls.

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There’s always space for more, it’s basically only water”, my fruit-addicted girlfriend explained me confidently when we bought a 10 kg watermelon.  Unfortunately, the mammoth fruit showed us 3 hours later empirically that this was not true. His (sweet) revenge was ruthless. To be on the safe side, I only had fruits after that fitted in my caipiroska glass…

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There’s always another bottle of Champagne”, the bottomless fridge confessed during our great stay in the beach condo close to Ubatuba (in between Sao Paulo & Rio de Janeiro) where we were kindly invited to celebrate New Year. The unrefusable offer came from Lili (cfr. blogpost 059 / Lifesurfing) and her husband, Alexis. Surrounded by some 50 crazy Brazilians in holiday mood, we celebrated life & love for three days straight. Some of the most beautiful days of an amazing year in the company of a bunch of my international Paris-homies… Superbe. The traditional count down on the beach, the white dresses, the fireworks and the mandatory 7 waves jumping making wishes were magic. Even the poring rain was part of the spectacle.

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There’s always… Rio”, the Paris-return plane ticket cruelly explained to announce the end of these sensational weeks. A day or two of Capacabana, Sugar Loaf, Santa Teresa and Ipanema crowned an unforgettable visit…

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wwwouter

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18-12-10

077 / Unboliviable blacks & whites

077 / Unboliviable blacks & whites

Granted, because of the extremely short, speed date character of my stay in Bolivia, it’s pretty hard to give a complete account of this country, but we all remember, from dating, that we have only one shot to make a first impression… To me, this wicked country made me think of a GEN code (Streepjescode, for the Flemish crew). The place is full of contrasts, with lots black and white, but not so many shades in between.

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When I arrived in La Paz, it was raining, superlatively high (3700m), cold and I had already spent more than 12hrs on a “bus”… Imagine arriving at a date in this condition… It doesn’t need a drawing to explainv that our meeting was mediocre. I decided to skip this inhospitable place and booked a bus for Uyuni (another 12 hours), with immediate departure. I arrived there in a shape worse than a Christmas tree late March. Everything changed for the better when left for a 3 day trip to Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flats in the world. Black turned white… very white.

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First stop was a visit to an old train cemetery, that was so nostalgic that it gives you a feeling that combines the blues and fantasies about Western train robberies and dusty gold seekers. After some more hours of driving (honestly, going around the world involves a lot of moving) we arrived on the unreal salt flats. The scenery could have been icy Antarctica, a minimalistic Stark kitchen or the very gates where Saint Peter quite arrogantly decides who enters heaven and who goes down (to Potosi, cfr Infra). One third the size of Belgium of pure, untouched white. It’s one of the most impressive things I’ve ever laid my eyes on. All conventional rules melt in this vast desert:  perspective, distance, humidity, light,… The salt flats have their own Constitution, and it’s one that merits respect.

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After a while in Latin America, I’m also quickly becoming an expert in 2 to 4 days tours & expeditions. One vital element for the success of a tour, much more than the size of the pillows, the suspension of the jeep of the temperature of the cerveza, is the composition of the group you happen to land in. It’s a bit like trying jeans in a Levi’s store. You know right away if it fits. The difference however is that you only get one pair, and you’re stuck in it for a couple of days.

Before, I’ve been in uptight, skinny groups of couples with very little perseverance, that leave no space for jokes or improvisation. I’ve been in very loose, beggy groups where nobody’s really interested what’s going on. I’ve been in too small groups, that feel like wearing tiny shorts at a cocktail party, and in groups that where so big and heavy they wore like an 80’s jeans salopet (some words you really can’t translate…).

But the crew I visited Salar de Uyuni with was like that perfect, slightly stained and used 501 where you want to go to the end of the world with. It looked like a random bunch of 5 Aussies, but their friendship was so complete, their acceptance of “temporary members” so unconditional and their creativity in drinking alcohol at any moment of the day so endless that it was the best group you can imagine.

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I realize that it sounds a bit like the last 5 minutes of a Sunday afternoon family movie, but these guys reminded how cool your best friends are! Mine all get a bear hug and an extra beer as soon as I’m back!

After the salt flats, we visited some thermal fields and hot springs. Because the outside temperature was so low in the early morning, the hot springs had their full effect. There were also a couple of lagoons with different colors (red, green,…) and some flamingo’s. However, the lagoons looked all quite the same and the flamingo’s weren’t even that pink… which proves the point that black&white are Bolivia’s ruling colors… 

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I took off North the next day, to Potosi. Once the biggest city in the Americas (and still the biggest city above 4000m in the world), Potosi was in its colonial days a bottomless source of silver and thin. Now, a couple of thousands miners exploit whatever’s left in cooperations without any government intervention or mechanical tools. A visit inside the Cerra Ricca (rich mountain) mines hits you in the face like a titanium baseball bat. These miners work from the age of 14 in conditions which include 45°C, no oxygen nor light, toxic gases mixed with eternal dust…  With their back curled to fit the low corridors, They push carriages rocks up to 2000 kg, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week with only coca leaves for breakfast, lunch, drug and drink.

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Traditionally, the miners honor the Tio, the devil, the owner of the underground, with gifts for good fortune. In a rather similar way, the uneasy tourists offer the workers dynamite, alcohol and coca leaves, in a desperate attempt either to support the activities or to buy off their luck on seeing other people’s faith… It’s probably a mixture of both. The tour lasted only two hours, enough to exhaust and humble even the most ambitious career kid.

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My last days in Bolivia led me to Sucre, which honors it’s name with a easy-going pace, a nice climate and a beautiful, white town center. It rivals with Arequipa for the title of “Ciudad Blanca”. The white city… What else? 

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 When I left for Santa Cruz, I was a last time amazed by this country, when I saw the original “tuning” of my taxi. My driver had simple moved his steering wheel to the left to be in accordance with regulations and was happily driving along. Something I intend to do as well, though with all my parts in the original place… direction Sensational Brasil!Dia14.JPG 

wwwouter

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