5 Lessons From San Francisco

1) Curiosity is Paramount – my curiosity for technology has been increasing exponentially over the past few months. A few months back, when I was on the way to a meeting in Canary Wharf, I was provided with a crucial entry point. I came out of the station and noticed a The Economist stand – this was not a unique experience as I’ve seen them pop up frequently while commuting across London. What sold me was the book on display with the offer being provided (as a student, what else do you expect?). The name of the book was Megatech and provided some insights into how technology will impact the world in the next 50 years. I signed up and got the book as a gift. The book has been a source of inspiration and has whetted my appetite to know more.

One of the interesting things I came across was the ways in which new apps and sophisticated AI tools will be able to do jobs formerly done by doctors such as “targeted therapies” aimed at specific molecules or cells.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.” – Albert Einstein

2) Community is Vital – look at your environment, is it stimulating you? Are the people around you pushing you to be better? Are you being cultivated each day and adding to your skill-set? My time out in San Francisco taught me the importance of being in ecosystems that allow you to flourish and push you to be better. It also allowed me the opportunity to see how many of the firms and start-ups are harnessing social media to produce these communities.

There has been a lot of discussion as to how social media is having negative effects on the creation of community. In my degree, I’ve learnt about how social media platforms are becoming increasingly responsible for the higher levels of balkanisation amongst the citizenry across the western world. Political participation has become seemingly less about discussing with people who don’t share the same views as you, with the aim of forming an agreed consensus. Now, at large we are left with people remaining in their echo chambers; preaching to the converted, not seeking to have their ideas potentially refined by people who may have opposing views.

I still believe that social media can be used as a powerful tool to help build communities. LinkedIn has the power to provide a job-seeker with opportunities they would have never heard of before. Twitter allows people to collaborate and produce amazing results. As a result of my optimism with social media, I’ve sought out the chances to join group discussion with like-minded individuals where we share opportunities, events and insights surrounding finance, technology, innovation and creativity. It’s been rewarding discussing ideas, meeting fantastic people doing amazing things and being provided with the inspiration to reach higher and dream bigger.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

3) Take Pit Stops on Your Journey – I turned 22 while in San Francisco and was grateful that I was allowed to be physically away from everything to have time to reflect on how my year went. I posted an article on my website about the importance of gratitude and this lesson reaffirms the importance of being grateful. My year had been relatively hectic: Presidency role for a university society, sporting commitments, organising and leading a weekly men’s discussion, writing for my blog all balanced with the demands of my degree meant that there wasn’t much time to take a long break. San Francisco afforded me this opportunity.

I’ve learnt to ease off romanticising the grind. Yes, sure, it’s important to work hard. But not allowing adequate rest is the most surefire way of developing and reaching a stage of burnout. I’ve allowed myself to unwind by doing things that I enjoy; attending comedy clubs, listening to spoken word poetry and playing basketball.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock

4) Leadership is changing but remaining ever important – the traditional modes of a leader are becoming more and more outdated. In a world and society where millennials are increasingly expressing their dislike for cultures that embrace micromanagement and don’t encourage project autonomy. San Francisco seems to have certainly got the memo; with many firms adopting working practices that have been a key factor pull factor for millennials.

While attending the Warwick Economics Summit last year we were provided with a talk by Dr Peter Wuffli who serves as the of the Board of Partners Group Holdings. Having previously served as CEO of UBS. Dr Wuffli provided the insight that the profile of the global leader is changing and the CEOs of the next 10-15 years will look nothing like the CEOs of the past 10-15 years. He identified four key competencies that will identify the global leader of the future; inquisitivenessperspectivecharacter and savvy.

A leadership style that encourages more collaboration and teamwork is vital for the future. Character, one of the competencies outlined, becomes key in the makeup of leadership in fostering a culture of collaboration and teamwork. Two key factors of character – promote trust through connection and visibly committing to integrity. What these provide is a quality of transparency and engagement. Authenticity helps to drive higher levels of performance while engagement reinforces authenticity as the leader meets their team in the trenches to not only stay grounded in the realities of the business but also to inspire them to unleash their passions and talents around a shared vision.

“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” – Arnold H. Glasow

5) Think global, start local – With the world becoming ever more connected as a result of increasing globalisation and the impact of the internet. The problems’ of this world are just the macros of the problems in your community. By helping to solve the issues that concern your community, you will soon quickly realise that there is a global appeal for your solution.

As we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day a few days back, it’s fitting to use him as an example. Dr King began with organising the issues he saw in his community. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, where Dr King showed his ability as an amazing communicator and effective organiser, was an issue that Dr King’s immediate community faced. It was a seminal event in the Civil Rights Movement and has continued to serve as a source of inspiration for people across the world seeking to protest and mobilise their communities effectively, in the result of receiving the change they intend to see.

Do you want to change the world? Start small, look for the most pressing issues in your community, provide solutions, and before you know it you’ll see the mass appeal your ideas will have.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe


Did a particular lesson resonate with you? Let me know which one, I’d be delighted to hear your input and get a head-start on building community!


One thought on “5 Lessons From San Francisco

  1. What a great blog post! Your #2 about community being vital resonated with me. Deciphering how and with whom we spend our time (one of our biggest commodities) is critical – especially in a big city that challenges one’s values and character. I also enjoyed your #3 to consciously enjoy the journey. It’s inspired me to get back into journaling.

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