Friday, August 22, 2014

The three ways that good design makes us happy

A great #happymaking video that explains not only why being so happy helps me get so many things done but also made me realize that developing and making available an app for IBMers, that has some awesome design, will make them happy, will make them so much more productive. Happy to work on happy design :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

#happymaking at work

A while ago I got featured on IBM's Social Biz Blog. They made a pretty neat graphic with some of my beliefs and favorite experiences. Hope you see the #happymaking is serious business, happening at the office every single day :)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Flowers of happiness

Hello my friends! Can't believe it's been months since I have last posted something, and mostly as I couldn't recover my log in credentials due to some IT issues related to me being in Japan :) However I am back now (managed to log in from London). And happier than ever! Japan it is really amazing and there is not much note to love about it. Simple things done in a flawless manner and cultural discoveries are inspiring me every day. The attention paid to details, the harmony, the beauty...I must say I will have a really hard time going back to Europe at some point in my life.

One thing people love most about Japan is also the beauty of its nature, the mountains and the beaches, the colored trees and the cherry blossoms. Which are nice but not all that Japan has to offer in terms of natural beauty. And I find this a bit unfair, especially as a person who loves flowers :) Japan is not just about cherry blossoms. There are tens of flower viewings (hanami- which btw started around plum trees blossoms and only later on changed to cherry trees).  Wisteria (called Fuji in Japanese, like the mountain :), my absolute favorite place is Ashikaga ), azalea, hydrangea, shibazakura (translates to cherry blossoms on the ground), irises, roses, lavender and many more are enchanting use month after month, season after season.

I am posting a couple of pics below, hopefully some of you will get inspired and visit Japan around the time when some of these beauties are in bloom- see calendar here.  (remember they kind of bloom from south to north).

Wisteria (Fuji)
Azalea at Nezu shrine

Plum Trees (UME)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

All ends well, when #happymaking in Japan

It's been a while, a very long while since I have posted here. Partially because the evil Blogger platform didn't want to accept my yahoo account credentials for a while (which means, at any time, this can be the end :) ), partially because I have been pretty busy moving to Tokyo and starting in my new role in Japan.

But I am back now!!!! Right in time to wish you a Happymaking 2014!

This blog won't turn into a travel diary, not about an expat's life in Japan, since all my happy updates go on Facebook. However I do feel many of the coming #happymaking topics will be about my Japanese experiences.

Like the cute video below, in which I got to be part of during my first week @ IBM Japan :)
AKB48 is a very popular girls band and they have this song that became pretty popular. Lots of groups, companies and even government agencies did their own version of it. Below you can see IBM's, with our football cheerleaders, employees, executives and even clients :)  Try and spot me!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Let's Speakeasy in New York!

Hello from NY, half way through my six weeks assignment in the big city, I must admit I am enjoying it more than I was expecting to. It is still not my favorite city in the world, nor the place where I can see myself growing old, BUT it has some really interesting facettes. And since I am such a foodie person, one of the best things is being able to find food from all around the world. I love starting my day with bottled coconut water and fresh papaya, as it reminds me of tropical Sri Lanka :) And then have cultural touchpoints with India, Japan, China or ...Cuba for lunch and dinner.

I know, you'll say that you can have very multiculti food experiences in plenty of places around the world. So I won't argue with that.

But here is something you won't find anywhere else, or at least I didn't find so far: the SPEAKEASY!

During the Prohibition era (1920-1933), it was illegal to manufacture or sell alcoholic beverages in the US, so manufacturers and merchandisers had to find alternatives :) They came up with secret places, that were looking like shops or restaurants, while behind the back doors they were hiding small bars. And they were called so because of the practice of speaking very quietly about the existance of such places in that no police or neighbours could find out about them! Of course speakeasies have largely disappeared after 1933, but nowadays they came back to life, hiding glamorous retro style bars.

I don't really drink, so I have never been a fan of bars, but the detective/treasure hunter in me loves finding these places :) Pure HAPPYMAKING!

There are still about two I need to check- the Apotheke (I know, I wonder if it looks like a German pharmacy:) ) and the Bathtub Gin- but let me share some of my favorites so far :)

  • Angel's Share (looks like a Japanese restaurant, but in the back there is a nice bar, with good food and a view on the street) - 8 Stuyvesant St, East Village
  • Decibel ( looks like a ...Chinese kitchen in a basement?! but inside it is a Japanese sake bar). Dark and pretty underground but you will enjoy it! It is close by to Angel's Share so u can do both in one trip :)
  • Beauty & Essex   is in the Lower East Side and it looks like a shop. You may see lots of people going in, but find the shop remains empty :) In the back there is a pretty glamorous bar where they even serve champagne in the ladies' room!
  • The Tippler- we have only checked this one during the day and you can find it in the Meatpacking District. It is pretty huge so I am sure it gets very animated during the night.
  • The Backroom or previously called the Lansky Lounge is also in Lower East Side and unless you know the right address you will completely miss it. As there is no sign in from of that basement entrance...although you will find a big guy that may give you a hint. Then you walk through a tunnel and voila: nice bar with cocktails served in coffee cups (again to trick the police!). It is worth mentioning that this place has a speakeasy in a speakeasy - there is a secret door behind the library...however not for all guests. So invite a celebrity to join you, maybe you will get it :)
  • Please don't tell again in the East Village. Now this place looks like a small restaurant where they sell hot dogs. Which btw I have heard they are really good! Once you enter the restaurant there is a phone booth :) Go in, pick up the phone and dial 1. A nice lady will answer and let you know if you can come in or there is a waiting list.
This should be enough for now :) Enjoy your little, happymaking detective work and let me know which one was your favorite!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fake Happiness

Back from China with a very interesting first impression. First of all I was impressed with world's largest city and the fact that Shanghai was clean, traffic pretty ok, good infrastructure and many green spaces. Lots of things to love about the Chinese culture, the arts, the attention for details and even the food :)

However not what I want to write about today. One thing that has really amused me is that China where you can find EVERYTHING- how can you tell what is REAL or FAKE?

I went to a FAKE market during my first day- shopping for some Jimmy Choo, Chanel and other souvenirs :) I was impressed on how well organized the fake industry is: there were different types of fake quality, bargaining was incredibly fun (you start at 10-20% of what they are asking and end up with 25 or 30), there were secret doors and passages to get access to items from the latest collections. A pretty fun experience. Must admit-I bought most of the stuff for the pleasure I had when negotiating and discovering the sellers' behaviors.

I have no idea what this banner says. I saw it on the way from the airport to my hotel during my first day and thought it would be a fun addition to my #happymaking collection. So please accept my excuses in case there is something wrong with it :)  I thought about it like "Call  5223666 and get some Happiness" - which seems very reasonable to me, especially since I learned one can get anything in China. Which for me, who I was imagining them being a true communist country, was a total surprise. You see in Romania, when we were little and during Communism, there were no Ferraris on the streets, no Coca Cola, H&M, expensive brands and private companies. No endless groups of foreign tourists, no public transportation til late in the night, not even as much milk as my parents wanted to buy for us. We knew all these are available in China but still for someone coming from an ex-Communist country this was a bit of a shock.

But you wander, is this a fake democracy? And if you dig deeper will you find the same challenges we had to go through years ago- do people still feel fear? Do Chinese people feel free, do they own their future, their education, their development? Or is this optimism...fake?

You think of fake bags, fake democracy and during a late night taxi ride back to the hotel, someone concludes "Damn, we have absolutely no clue what is fake and real in this world !". And everyone gets quiet, thinking that we all ended up in China, wondering how much of what we see around us or at home is real, how much us as humans and Marketers are contributing to the fake world we are creating for ourselves.

It makes me want to continuously repeat it to myself:
I want to keep HAPPINESS authentic.
I want to keep HAPPINESS authentic.
I want to keep HAPPINESS authentic.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Anatomy of Sadness

Not a very happymaking title, or? However I tend to compare being a Happymaker to being a surgeon: we cannot understand and fix something until we know our problem inside out. And to me personally, surgeons are those people who know our bodies inside out, still they continue to discover new things, continue to reinvent their techniques, are always hit with diseases and situations they have not seen before. Similar to making people happy if you ask me, although theoretically there is some recipe that should work (health, money, friends, travels, inner peace,  you name it!) you always end up discovering that more is needed, or that nothing can make some people happier. But before trying to find alternatives and discovering new techniques, the happymaker needs to know about some basic "diseases". Let's start with what I like to call the cancer of happiness: the SADNESS.

As my friend Sherlock Holmes would have said, for a complete immersion into our investigation, life has pushed me to experiment this myself a couple of times. Actually this time last year, my dad was passing away, my happymaker was leaving me and the worlds were about to collide- so no better time to write about sadness than today! And because I'm a happy soul and didn't want to write a weepy post, I'll keep my report in the sciences area :)

So how does sadness work? 5 observations:
  • It strikes more powerful or pretty subtle and we accept it because we consider crying for days, not eating, trying to hurt ourselves or whatever as being NORMAL. Mistake number one, don't fool yourself that being sad is normal, otherwise you'll end up spending more time sad than happy.
  • Just like cancer, it spreads, and before you notice, the consequences of being sad start reflecting on your body - thyroids, liver, brain..all can be seriously affected.
  • It affects others- your family, friends, people you work with will see the same face but never hear the same old happy you again. After some time you will success to push them away.
  • It always comes back. Memories are a great gift God has given us, but regrets and bringing back sad moments in our lives are pure poison. I can quote another friend here, Mr Robbie Williams "no regrets, they don't work, no regrets, they only hurt". 
  • It changes us, which is normal, everything we go thorough in this life leaves a footprint on us. However we can still control HOW we choose to be changed, if challenges teach us something and make us stronger or if we will never stand up again. So it's ok, accept you're a bit different now. We all are!
Hopefully now you see being sad is serious business and won't go back to that dark place in your mind too often. Especially since not all of us are great poets and writers to make some stories that sell out of exploring our feelings and emotions :)

Remember to smile,
it's FRIDAY!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Videoscribing Christmas Happiness

I am a BIG fan of animation and today I've been told Sparkol has 7 days free trials for their videoscribe here we go, my first story :)

Not sure if Santa will manage, but hopefully next year I will get a PRO account!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Acting your presentation, happily!

I am far from being a presentation expert, given that my current job is not allowing me to practice it as often as I'd like to but I do think that communicating, presenting and engaging an audience, are some of the most essential skills. And although there are trainings and tips I do believe you're either born to be an actor or not. You either love the stage, the lights, the conversation or not. I know it's hard to be a writer, a scenarist and an actor but personally I think that is pure #HAPPYMAKING!

So while I was at a workshop recently and I was playing a 2mins video to my audience, I couldn't stop thinking about what to do: observe their reactions, watch it like I was one of them, sit, stand, smile, approve or have some water as I may not have time later :) It felt like I was in a play and I realized that no matter how informal a presentation is, internal external, on a topic we get to discuss all the time, with people we know or meet for the first time, presenting is kind of like acting. Fruthermore once you see good and bad example you're 100% sure that there must be some rehearsal behind your own "acting" event also.

Acting classes have been on my wishlist of hobbies for a very long time, still have not happened, but from all the reading I have done on it, and watched and observed, let me quickly share what I think it applies to presenting.

  • Assuming you don't have to present in the next hours, your presentation's rehearsal should have a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • Know your slides- before you begin rehearsing read the text, know the order of the slides. For acting they say you need to read the script a minimum of 6 times, max 12, I guess that should stimulate your mind enough. Reading gives you the chance to learn the storyline, memorize it, start asking yourself about how the information will change people's lives once they leave the room. Reading out LOUD, can help you even more, as you don't want to wake up in front of your audience and use words you can't properly pronounce.
  • What is your role? It is a key question if for example you just want to add value to an idea, enable, get people to act or plan to start a revolution :) Figure out your role from the beginning.
  • Understand your character at the moment of the presentation- if it's you, or if you're playing  an advocate for animals' rights, or a worried colleague. As all humans (and especially women :) HA) we all have tens of thoughts going through our mind each moment. Think at some of the thoughts you may have when presenting, it will help you not be taken by surprised: for example- Why are they still using their laptops? Wish the 2 in the back would keep quiet! How to lower the light? Hope I won't fall. What if the presenter's battery dies, what will I do?, Will the lunch arrive in time?  I only had a banana for breakfast. Must remember to txt my husband and ask him to pay the rent...
  • What are the other actors doing and saying that affects and changes your work? The audience is more and more turning into actors by raising questions or you may have people co-presenting with you, in both cases you need to pay attention to what they are doing and how they can affect your performance. For example if you saw that look on your mum’s face while you said you're not coming home for Christmas, it would change the dry way you are delivering the news to something more empathetic. Prepare yourself for whatever your audience may bring. And if you're co-presenting make sure you rehearse together and are on the same page.
  • Set the other actors up. You may have co-presenters and you need not to only know WHAT they will present but also what they will ANSWER if asked. There is nothing more confussing for an audience than presenters not being on the same page and contradicting each other all the time. You're not there to PRACTICE, but to perform, so do all the clarification before your show. Also a proper introduction, transitions, raising up the ball for your co-presenter are very important.
  • Just like in acting, a full dress rehearsal offers valuable insights. The room, the IT equipment, speakers, mic,  video projector etc can be your friends or your enemies. Don't ever think that the message is what matters and that a great speaker can do great anywhere, anyhow, do you really want to rely on that?  
  • A key concept is FOCUS, an all-important theatrical concept. Your audience isn’t going to be EVER equally interested in everything you do. And forget it, you can't keep them focussed for 30 minutes of one hour. To make a dramatic comparison, you need to figure it out where they need to cry, shout or laugh. You may have one moment for each. What will you use it for? And you create  that focus not with the “where” or "when". You create it with the “how.” It can be a very emotional or personal story you share, a joke, a mind-blowing finding or a witty comparison.
  • Rehearsing can have drawbacks and you don't want to waste all chances of being spontaneous. Acting masters say keep a SECRET and only expose it when you go on stage. I should be something small like asking something surprising, challenging your co-presenter or audience (avoid to bring them in an uncomfortable zone), change something from your initial plan. Small new things should also calm you down.
  • The costume gives an actor CHARACTER. You may opt for jeans or a suit, pick what would make your character more credible. And I am not saying comfortable here, but credible! However if you can't wear high heels you may want to forget about them as you may end up thinking about your feet hurting for like 80% of the time. I would also suggest to try your outfit on some days before- avoid materials that make sweat super visible, check if your pants still fit or if your blouse isn't too short so that when you raise your hand you end up with a naked belly :) 
  • Stay aware. Listen, think, allow people to speak but stay aware. Minimize the risks of misunderstanding because you were not focussing, or that you have forgot what was next because you realized your watch stopped.
  • The set is a great teacher. When you're done remain in the room and soak in the energy. Think about what worked well, what sucked, what could be done differently, collect these ideas while all fresh in your mind.
  • Take time before presentations. You should not rush in the next and next and next presentation. Give yourself some days/weeks to think about what you'd like to change and work on that change. Part of being a good actor means your work never stops :)
See you at the Oscars, my friends :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Travels

Something I have always wanted to write about :) And mainly from a very selfish reason: I hate waiting for minutes for some people to pass through airport security, when it could be really easy if we could ALL stick to some rules!
And not just that, but I am sure nobody is a big fan of getting super extra checked, questioned etc. I know security still has to make a living and they may ask for some things, but trust me, you can avoid LOTS of that by planning your security check just like you plan your packing.

So here are my travel tips:
  • NOT to wear when going through security: belt, scarf, high heels, lots of accessories. If you really need to have some watch or belt, keep them in your bag and put them on after you pass the security can save some time :)
  • I wouldn't wear sandals, nor flip flops as in case you have to remove them and the airport has no plastic feet covers, you will end up walking barefoot...and that is not fun in an airport.
  • not too many sweaters and jackets as you will have to take them all off, really!
  • same for hats and other hair accessories, security just loves having you remove everything
  • now regarding small liquids recepients in your handbag: so far security has never detected my super small lip gloss or hand sanitizer even if not packed separately in the plastic bag. Personally I think they just do that so that YOU waste your time searching for them and putting them in a bag. THINK, that even if they find them, they will only check them so the max you risk is NOT LOOSING more time :)
Pretty simple rules I'd say, however I do also have some tips, regarding travelling in comfort and saving time. So here we go:
  • Nowadays travelling ONLY with hand luggage is becoming a luxury. Flight attendants go mad when they run out of space in the cabin, and you got one more thing to worry: where should I put my bag? I know delayed luggage is also not fun but personally I prefer to check it in all the way to the final destination, than running around with it through airports. Also think about taking your luggage to the toilet which is not fun, space wise...
  • Just wear comfortable clothing, and easy to take off shoes... that if your have a long flight. For one hour trip you can wear whatever but spending 12h in tight jeans may not be fun.
  • Have a scarf and a sweater handy, as it gets cold at above 8k m altitude...Plus the scarf is pretty handy if your mouth opens when you sleep :) You can just cover your face with it!
  • Have some snacks with you, as you never know what you're gonna get in the plane. Some airlines have great food, some call the detergent they serve fresh orange juice.
  • Make sure your laptop battery is fully charged and you got enough stuff to read, watch...not all airlines have good entertainment, sadly.
  • If you want to sleep, pick a window seat, this way you won't be disturbed whenever someone wants to go to the toilet.
  • Drink lots of water, and say no to random alcohol you find in the plane and is not really helping you stay hidrated.
  • Stretch and walk if you have a longer flight
  • Have a small moisturizer to keep your skin hidrated too
  • And toothbrush and toothpaste if the airline is not providing any
  • and yeah, keep your documents handy as you need them at least 4-5x for any take off :)