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Special Counsel to Boards of Directors and Executives. - Amateur venture capitalist, licensed pilot, teenage inventor, fireman, elected lawmaker, Ducatista, skiier and distance runner. Wiki.

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Happy New Year

When I graduated from high school, one of my best friends, Allan wrote something very inspirational in my yearbook which I never forgot. Thank you old friend.

I want you to pretend your life is a glass jar filled with rocks … Is the jar full? Most people would agree it is.

Now imagine you dump in a handful of small pebbles and shake it up, the pebbles roll in between the rocks … Now is it full? Most people would still tell you its full.

Now imagine you dump in a box of sand and shake it. Of course the sand will fill up the remaining space … Can you tell yourself its full yet?

The jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things relationships, experiences, happiness; the pebbles are other things that matter like possessions, income, accolades; the sand is everything else.

Like everyone, I have certainly been guilty of putting in the sand first, leaving no room for the pebbles or the rocks. If we spend all our time and energy on grains of sand we will never have room for the things that are really important to us.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend real time with people you love, engage with them, converse, explore who they are and what they bring to your life.

Do not give part-time people a full-time position in your life. Beware those who want part of or to be part of your rock if they deserve to be part of your sand.

Avoid routines and have adventures with someone important to you; that someone might even be yourself. Seek out every mystery of your mind in whatever corner it may be skulking.

Make fitness and health part of your rock. There will always be time and space for the sand.

Work toward your dreams and remember that happiness is the only moral purpose of your life. It is achieving happiness, not suffering or self-indulgence that is the proof that you have been loyal to your highest values.

Happy New Year. May you find inspiration in 2013 that sets the trajectory for the remainder of your life. Thank you Allan - your advice that is now over 12 years old stands as true today as it was then.

Nicely remixed 1901 Thomas Sagstad.

On our arrival upon this coast we found there a savage race who … lived by hunting and by the fruits which the trees spontaneously produced. These people … were greatly surprised and alarmed by the sight of our ships and arms and retired to the mountains. But since our soldiers were curious to see the country and hunt deer, they were met by some of these savage fugitives. The leaders of the savages accosted them thus: “We abandoned for you, the pleasant sea-coast, so that we have nothing left but these almost inaccessible mountains: at least it is just that you leave us in peace and liberty. Go, and never forget that you owe your lives to our feeling of humanity. Never forget that it was from a people whom you call rude and savage that you receive this lesson in gentleness and generosity… . We abhor that brutality which, under the gaudy names of ambition and glory, … sheds the blood of men who are all brothers… . We value health, frugality, liberty, and vigor of body and mind: the love of virtue, the fear of the gods, a natural goodness toward our neighbors, attachment to our friends, fidelity to all the world, moderation in prosperity, fortitude in adversity, courage always bold to speak the truth, and abhorrence of flattery … . If the offended gods so far blind you as to make you reject peace, you will find, when it is too late, that the people who are moderate and lovers of peace are the most formidable in war.

— Fénelon, The Adventures of Telemachus (1699).

Shhhhh. Announcing your plans can make them fail.

Many thanks to Derek Sivers for this gem.

Shouldn’t you announce your goals, so friends can support you? Isn’t it good networking to tell people about your upcoming projects?

Doesn’t the “law of attraction” mean you should state your intention, and visualize the goal as already yours? Nope.

Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen. Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed. In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.

NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer has been studying this since his 1982 book “Symbolic Self-Completion” (pdf article here) - and recently published results of new tests in a research article, “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?” Four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.

Once you’ve told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.” You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.”

A related test found that success on one sub-goal (eating healthy meals) reduced efforts on other important sub-goals (going to the gym) for the same reason. It may seem unnatural to keep your intentions and plans private, but try it. If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction (“I’ve joined a gym and bought running shoes. I’m going to do it!”), but as dissatisfaction (“I want to lose 20 pounds, so kick my ass if I don’t, OK?”)

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

I have just finished watching the film Perfume, The Story of a Murderer.  It’s allegory is one which bears many life lessons while the plot fails in certain respects to capture the redemption possible.  The film centers around Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a child born out of hate in the fish-markets of Paris where he is left to die under a stinking rack of dead fish by his mother.  But not just any boy, Grenouille possesses a superhuman sense of smell, which can observe scents from great distances and dissect the components down to their most basic levels.  Under the training of an Italian parfumier living in Paris named Baldini, Grenouille learns the techniques of distillation to obtain the scents of roses.  Obsessed with what is arguably the only woman he ever loved, a magnificently beautiful girl whom he accidentally killed while covering her mouth Grenouille sets out to uncover a method of distilling the scent of a human being.  As Baldini had told Grenouille, the soul of a being is their scent.

Baldini also teaches Grenouille about the concept of top, heart and base notes in perfumery and how a scent is created of 12 notes, the first in order of detection being the top, the resident or remaining being the heart and the trailing being the base.  Baldini also tells of a legend where a tomb of a pharoah was uncovered and the greatest scent the world had ever known was revealed.  12 notes were deciphered but there remained a 13th which never could be.

Nearly obsessed with this idea, Grenouille travels to Grasse, what is now known as la capitale mondiale des parfum or the world capital of perfume.  Upon arrival in Grasse, Grenouille catches the scent of a beautiful girl named Laura and decides that she will be his “13th scent”, the linchpin of his perfect perfume.

Grenouille finds a job in Grasse assisting with perfumes and learns the method of enfleurage.  He kills a lavender picker and attempts to extract her scent using the method of hot enfleurage, which fails. After this, he tries the method of cold enfleurage on a prostitute and successfully preserves the scent of the woman.

Grenouille embarks on a killing spree, murdering beautiful young girls and capturing their scents. He dumps the women’s naked corpses around the city, creating panic. After preserving the first 12 scents, Grenouille plans his attack on Laura which he carries out.

On the day of his execution, Grenouille applies a drop of the perfume over himself. The executioner and the crowd in attendance are speechless at the beauty of the perfume; they declare Grenouille innocent before falling into a massive orgy.  Walking out of Grasse unscathed, Grenouille has enough perfume to rule the world, but has discovered that it will not allow him to love or be loved like a normal person.

Disenchanted by his aimless quest and tired of his life, he returns to Paris. Back in the city, Grenouille returns to the fish market where he was born and dumps the perfume on his head. Overcome by the scent and in the belief that Grenouille is an angel, the nearby crowd devours him.

The allegory of the film centers around the idea of a child who is born without love and left to die, having the greatest power to understand what love is, yet never to feel it or express it himself.  The metaphysical questions of what is love and what is it like can only be answered by Grenouille, who is separate and apart from it and can see it objectively.  Although a madman, Grenouille can so distill love down to its most basic notes that he can harness its power.  But as a society, or the commune of Grasse, we are confused into thinking the exact opposite of what Grenouille has proven.  We want to believe that someone - like Grenouille - so capable of understanding what love is and what it is like and having such an ability to harness its raw power can only be in fact - an angel - or a creation of God directly.  The truth being that one who is in and has encountered love, often has his reason so enfeebled that he is incapable of truly even describing its nature or conveying its characteristics. 

Grenouille is not unlike many modern beings - manipulators of love who have never really been in it - that being able to see love’s nature so objectively, can so easily in turn harness love’s power to obtain their desired ends which usually are control and irrational self-gain.  While certainly not an absolute for all, the perversion of love exemplified in Perfume makes a nice allegory to the modern urbanite and the relationships they endure.

It is in many ways not unlike how in an opposite way, yogi seek to enhance their level of consciousness to a higher one.  To escape the planar level and see the world from above, looking down at the intricate components like the wheel train and complications of a watch.  To understand the movement, to see how the pressure of the mainspring applies to the wheel train, restrained by the escapement which itself is tempered by the oscillator.  In our world we only feel the pressure of the main spring against us propelling us ahead, to love.  In order to fix our movement and ultimately be able to wind our own mainspring again, we are actually compelled to see it from above.  If Grenouille had turned his crisis into an advantage by seeking to be better, he too could have loved.

Where Perfume fails in a certain respect is to capture the ability of human beings to redeem.  He who has never loved is not therefore incapable of love.  Love is an exchange of value where one is self-amplified by the example set by another.  It is never too late for the modern day versions of Grenouille to want to be better, to learn to love themselves and ultimately to engage in the interactive and rationally competitive love with another that makes them push themselves higher.

Just some thoughts.

© Robert Agresta 2011 For Public Release © Robert Agresta 2011 For Public Release © Robert Agresta 2011 For Public Release © Robert Agresta 2011 For Public Release © Robert Agresta 2011 For Public Release © Robert Agresta 2011 For Public Release

The American Swiss Foundation’s Young Leaders Conference was initiated in 1990 to create person-to-person exchange and foster mutual understanding among the next generation of leaders in Switzerland and the United States.

Held in Switzerland each year, the Conference brings together approximately 50 Americans and Swiss aged 28-40 for a week of intensive discussion and exchange on a broad range of current issues of importance to American-Swiss relations; meetings with high-level diplomatic, government, business, media, and cultural leaders; and excursions to Switzerland’s beautiful mountains and historic landmarks.

The U.S. participants are carefully selected by a Nominating Committee of the Board of Directors based on outstanding achievement and strong personal recommendations of senior leaders. In Switzerland, participants are selected by the Foundation’s Swiss Advisory Council.

It was my pleasure to be nominated and participate in the 2011 Young Leaders Conference thanks to Her Excellency Ambassador Faith Whittlesey.  There are great issues facing US / Swiss relations which we must address including the United States’ egregious FATCA (Foreign Asset Tax Compliance Act) which unfairly penalizes the greatest source of offshore weath and foreign direct investment that the United States has had the privilege of enjoying.

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DJIA -322. Gold $1700 / Oz.

VIX Records Highest 1st Hour Volume … . Ever!

VIX Records Highest 1st Hour Volume … . Ever!