Scientists may have sophisticated laboratories, But never forget 'eureka' was inspired in a bathtub.

Toba Beta
How Solving a Problem can Inspire a Successful Business

How Solving a Problem can Inspire a Successful Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

I have just read an article, posted this past Wednesday, 26th. February, on the Love Money website, written by Natalie Marchant. It is entitled “Eureka moments that led to world – famous businesses. ”Eureka is a word, commonly used to celebrate a discovery or invention. It is an exclamation attributed to Ancient Greek mathematician and inventor. According to history, he reportedly proclaimed "Eureka! Eureka!" after he had stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose. 

This led him to realise that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. He then realized that the volume of irregular objects could be measured with precision, a previously intractable problem (This revelation is not what is known as Archimedes principle - that deals with the up thrust experienced by a body immersed in a fluid). 

Marchant’s article takes this idea and applies it to the ways in which some people have had such a moment or a need to solve a problem, which has led to some of today’s best known businesses. 

Marchant lists 20, in all, some of which are commonly known e.g. when IKEA's Ingvar Kamprad thought there was a market for a different kind of furniture, Sir Richard Branson was emboldened by the unexpected success of Tubular Bells, Airbnb's Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia came up with a business as a way to pay the rent and Microsoft's Bill Gates was inspired by a new computer to write a programming language. However, Marchant also explains the way in which other successful businesses got their starts. 

I would like to share some of them with you: “Nissin's Momofuku Ando saw a quicker way to make noodles. His name may not be widely known outside Japan but he is credited for helping transform the global instant food industry. The entrepreneur was inspired to make pre-cooked instant noodles after seeing ordinary people queue for a hot bowl of the Japanese staple in post-war Osaka. He went on to found Nissin Food Products, famous for the Cup Noodle. He died 2007 aged 96 – two years after seeing his instant noodles sent into orbit on US space shuttle Discovery.  

World Foods founder John Mackey became inspired by the power of organic eating after dropping out of college and becoming a buyer for a vegetarian co-operative. He and his then-girlfriend Renee Lawson Hardy decided to open their own natural grocery store in the ground floor of a house in Austin, Texas. The pair then teamed up with fellow store owners Craig Weller and Mark Skiles, began selling meat, beer and wine to expand their clientele, and Whole Foods Market became a resounding success.

Sara Blakely, was selling fax machines when she had the idea that prompted her to found shaping underwear firm Spanx. Having bought an expensive pair of white trousers, she wanted a seamless look so she took a pair of tights and chopped the feet off to wear underneath. Realizing that the improvised undergarment flattered and smoothed her shape, Blakely took the $5,000 she had in savings to create a patent and founded Spanx, now a leading underwear brand. 

Not a vast amount is known about the notoriously reclusive chief of UK-based online gambling site Bet365, Denise Coates. What is certain is that her gamble on in-play betting markets changed the face of the bookmaking industry. In 2000, while working for her father, who ran a chain of betting shops, she set up Bet365 after realizing that every minute of play was a possible gambling opportunity. Coates is now worth an estimated $8.1 billion (£6.7bn), according to Forbes. 

Nick Woodman dreamed up the idea of the GoPro camera after a surf trip to Australia and Indonesia in 2001. He needed a camera to document his trip, and strapped one to his arm. But Woodman soon realized that he had to make the camera, its casing and the strap all in one, so knocked up a prototype using his mother's sewing machine and a drill. GoPro is now the world's leading action camera brand, selling 11 million units in 2017 alone.  

Toms CEO Blake Mycoskie founded his shoe business after traveling to Argentina in 2006, where he met a women working with a voluntary group distributing shoes to children. But he realized that this charitable giving model was unsustainable as children soon grew out of them. So he set up Toms and came up with the "One for One" business model, which saw his company donate a pair of shoes for every pair sold. Toms has now given away more than 86 million pairs to children in need worldwide. 

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum was born in Ukraine before moving to the US as a teenager. He went on to work as a computer programmer at Yahoo! with Brian Acton, but the pair left in 2007 and spent the following year traveling. Both were also turned down for jobs by Facebook. But it was in 2009 when Koum bought an iPhone and realized the App Store was about to spawn an entire industry that was the turning point. The pair went on to develop WhatsApp, which they sold for $19 billion (£16bn) to none other than Facebook in 2014.  

Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann came up with the idea for the virtual pinboard app while working at Google. But he wanted to build products, not just look at spreadsheets, so he quit – and then the economy collapsed. He eventually teamed up with a college friend and they built catalog app Tote. The pair then move on to building Pinterest, with Silbermann explaining: "I'd always thought that the things you collect say so much about who you are." The app now has more than 322 million monthly active users.” 

If you have an idea that comes to you, out of the blue or is the result of successfully solving a personal problem, don’t be afraid to try turning it into a business. There may be hundreds, if not thousands of people trying to solve that same problem and, not only could you be helping them, but helping yourself to become a successful entrepreneur.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Set Goals, Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Outstanding Results” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality and his film “The Secret Marathon” was released in late 2019. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility.

Ban Ki Moon – Secretary General of the United Nations
The Secret 3k – Safe Races, Safe Spaces

The Secret 3k – Safe Races, Safe Spaces

Posted by martin.parnell |

On Wednesday, March 4th at 3.30pm a group of students, teachers and parents lined up outside Ecole Notre-Dame des Vallees School in Cochrane, Alberta. They were all there for one reason: To participate in The Secret 3k.

The Secret 3k, now in its third year, was inspired by film-maker Kate McKenzie’s documentary film “The Secret Marathon”, in which she and I traveled to Afghanistan to support that country’s first female marathoners. Since its inception, The Secret 3k has grown to become an international movement with 15 affiliated events across Canada and 12 countries participating around the world. 

“While filming a documentary in Afghanistan” Kate said, “I was inspired by such brave women and girls who fought for equality and at times, risked their lives for the freedom to run outdoors. When I returned to Canada, I was struck by the stories of so many women who told me they didn’t feel safe to walk or run at night right here in Calgary. 

The Secret 3k was launched to reclaim safe public spaces and champion gender equality here at home. We’re excited to have The Running Room and Girl Guides of Canada joining us for The Secret 3k because it will help us to reach one of our goals of making a difference here in Canada to promote safe and inclusive spaces and empower young people to be part of creating that change.” 

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Set Goals, Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Outstanding Results” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality and his film “The Secret Marathon” was released in late 2019. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

As The Secret 3k was about to start at Ecole Notre-Dame des Vallees, one of the students did the count down from 10 and we were off. Everyone ran and walked at their own pace along the Bow River pathways proudly wearing their “EQUALITY” bibs. One kilometre in we spotted a herd of deer and a buck. Amazing. At the turn-around spot I waited for all the participants to pass then I headed back. 

As the students crossed the line everyone cheered and gave each other hi-fives. They were thrilled that they had completed 3 km and done something to help others. In this case it was supporting three very worthwhile causes: The Girl Guides of Canada, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and the Marathon of Afghanistan. 

As the students, parents and teachers headed off home they all said that they wanted to do it again next year. 

The run / walk takes place during the week of International Women's Day and celebrates gender equality and creating safe and inclusive spaces. Next year's event will take place on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. 

See you there.

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Books are a uniquely portable magic.

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Keep Calm and Read a Good Book

Keep Calm and Read a Good Book

Posted by martin.parnell |

With the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting all parts of society, I thought I’d write a blog unrelated to business, but of a rather more general subject.

In these times of working from home and self-isolating, many of us have to look to how to fill our leisure times that doesn’t require contact with others. No more frequenting the gym, the cinema, our favourite restaurants and bars. 

One activity that many of us enjoy but often wish we could spend more time doing is reading. Now may be the time to take advantage of more time on our hands and hit that book pile. 

If, by any chance, you tend to read the same genre and are looking for something a little different, I thought I’d’ make a list and offer up some ideas. However, my wife, Sue is a more avid reader than I am and so I thought I’d pass this over to her and ask her to come up with some titles: 

Sue’s suggestions: 

 Fiction 

 Title                                                                       Author                                      

                                   

  • The Cuckoos Calling                                       Robert  Galbraith 
  • The Children Act                                            Ian McEwan
  • A Complicated Kindness                                 Miriam Toews
  • The Invention of Wings                                  Sue Monk Kidd
  • Flowers for Algernon                                      Daniel Keyes
  • The Child Finder                                            Rene Denfeld                 
  • The Shadow of the Wind                                Carlos Ruiz  Zafon
  • Deadly Virtues                                               Jo Bannister
  • The End of the Line                                        Stephen Legault
  • Perfume                                                        Patrick Suskind
  • Incendiary                                                     Chris Cleave
  • 11/22/63                                                       Stephen King

For murder mysteries, anything by Henning Mankell, Linwood Barclay or Michael Connelly. 

Non-fiction

Title                                                                            Author 

  • Dead Wake                                                      Erik Larson 
  • Isaac’s Storm                                                   Erik Larson 
  • Seabiscuit                                                        Laura Hillenbrand
  • The Underground Girls of Kabul                         Jenny Nordberg        
  • All Over But The Shoutin’                                  Rick Bragg
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress                        Rhoda Janson

 

Humou

Title                                                                             Author  

  • A Spot of Bother                                                Mark Haddon
  • Blott on the Landscape                                       Tom Sharpe
  • A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine             Marina Lewycka 

 

Classics

Title                                                                            Author 

  • Tess of the D’Urbavilles                                     Thomas Hardy 
  • The Black Tulip                                                 Alexander Dumas
  • Gulliver’s Travels                                              Jonathan Swift 
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles                           Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
  • Madame Bovary                                               Gustave   Flaubert 
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray                                Oscar Wilde 
  • The Stepford Wives                                          Ira Levin   

 

And so many more, it’s very hard to select just a few.

Hope this gives you a few ideas. Keep well and read on!

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Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.

Mr. Rogers
How to Entertain and Educate your Kids during the Coronavirus

How to Entertain and Educate your Kids during the Coronavirus

Posted by martin.parnell |

Our Daughter, Kristina, is currently at home, with our two grandsons, Nathan (10) and Matthew (5), in Montreal. Every Sunday we Skype with them and they tell us about their week. These online visits are usually filled with news about what they have been doing both at home and at school. Now, however, it’s all about the activities they are finding to do whilst waiting out the coronavirus. 

Our daughter has devised a daily schedule and helped them occupy their time with various activities. One of these is under the heading “Field Trips.” Kristina has been online and found some virtual tours which not only entertain the boys, but, at the same time, educate them. This week, we asked them if to tell us their favourites: 

On the “We Are Teachers” website, you can find a range of tours for spring 2020, selected by teachers. https://www.weareteachers.com/best-virtual-field-trips/.

At Santiago Zoo, there are live cams showing a wide range of wildlife, including elephants, tigers, giraffe and polar bears and penguins. 

Apart from the virtual “Field Trips”, you can find lots of activities on Pinterest, from Arts and Crafts many geared to specific grades e.g. Art ideas for Grade 1 to hundreds of printable work sheets for all Grades e.g. Maths work sheets Grade 6. You can also think of your own activities. Why not give your child access to a video camera and let them make up their own video tour of their bedroom or your home. 

My wife, is setting them a 10 day Art Challenge. She will give them a list of ten words e.g. Yellow, Room, Big, Building, Food etc. and they have to interpret that word in whichever way they choose. It might be drawing, painting, cutting and gluing, using recycled materials or construction kits. They have to do one activity per day, for the ten days. It will be interesting to see what ideas each of them comes up with. She is also doing her own Art Challenge and will share her ideas with Nathan and Matthew – it’s a two-way thing. 

If you have young child you can get them to practice skills like matching e.g. putting the socks into pairs, when they come out of the washing machine to counting e.g. setting the table for dinner “How many forks do we need?” and asking questions when you read them a story “How many animals can you see?” “Where did the bear go?’ “Why did the ............?”  You get my drift. 

It’s probably going to be quite some time before the kids will be back at school and I know many parents are trying to keep them occupied, whilst they, themselves, work from home. That’s when a daily schedule helps. If you set aside a time, each morning, to give you child activities to last a few hours, it can benefit you both. It will also help them to learn independently. 

I know it must be much more difficult if the children are very young and I wish I had ideas for you, too. But I don’t. So, I found this article on the Make it website:                                        

5 tips for effectively working from home during the coronavirus outbreak, when you have kids by Courtney Connley Published Mon, Mar 16 2020 she writes:

“As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, at least 69,000 schools across the U.S. have been closed or are scheduled to close, according to Education Week, which published a state-by-state map tracking school closures across the country. For thousands of parents who have been asked to work remotely, this means extra challenges when trying to balance the demands of work life and home life while coronavirus remains a concern. 

Though many parents have had a “one off working-from-home day” when a kid is sick or the weather is bad, the reality of working remotely every single day alongside your kids will be a “steep learning curve” for a lot of people, says FlexJobs career development manager Brie Reynolds.

“I’ve been working from home full-time for about 10 years,” Reynolds, who has a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old, says. “I’m still just today learning what is going to work for us in the next few weeks.” Below, she, along with executive coach and author Julie Kratz and entrepreneur Patrice Cameau break down five simple tips for implementing an effective work-from-home set-up with your kids. 

1. Create a schedule

As a mom of a 12-year-old, 2-year-old and 1-year-old, Cameau says setting a strict schedule that replicates that of a normal school day has been helpful to her. “I can’t focus on my work until I have them together,” says Cameau, who owns a content-creator studio in Hyattsville, Md., called CAMPspace. Her 12-year-old has been occupied with completing virtual assignments after his school closed last week, but Cameau says her younger two kids are more dependent on her attention. Each morning, she says, she has them wake up, eat breakfast and get dressed at the same time they would if they were going to daycare.

She tries to get the bulk of her work completed during her kids’ lunch hour, nap time and the down time she’s set aside for them to be on technology. “I’ll be honest, there have been days where my kids have been home from school, and I didn’t set a schedule,” Cameau says. But she has since learned from those experiences. “This is my first time ever doing something like this because I don’t know how long we’re going to be in this situation, so we need to just try to move the best way we can.”

2. Communicate, even more than you think is necessary

As someone who has been working remotely for a decade, Reynolds says communication is the No. 1 thing you have to be “cognizant of and thinking about all the time.” When it comes to work life, she says it’s OK to be transparent about the fact that you’re also juggling the needs of your kids, so your coworkers aren’t caught by surprise. For example, if you’re on a conference call, it’s acceptable to sometimes say, “Hey, just a heads up, I might have a kid walk into this room, and I will handle it and get right back to you.”

“On a regular basis you might not want to say that,” Reynolds explains. But during an unexpected work-from-home situation such as this, she says “it’s absolutely critical” to over-communicate. It can also be helpful to create a spreadsheet with your manager and the rest of your team, where you each outline your emergency contact information and your availability for virtual meetings. “You should come together and talk about what’s going to work best for everyone,” she says. “This might mean more frequent, but casual meetings, or it might mean fewer meetings altogether.”

3. Set boundaries with your children

On top of communicating with your colleagues, Reynolds says it’s crucial to set boundaries with your kids when working remotely, especially if they’re school-aged. Right now, she says, it may be helpful to allow your kids to watch more TV and play more games than usual in order to keep them occupied. In this event, Reynolds says, you need to explain to your kids that this is a special thing, and this freedom won’t go on forever. Outside of being more flexible about screen-time, Reynolds says you should also tell your kids when you need to be in “do not disturb” mode. 

“With my 6-year-old, I had him do a little arts and crafts project where he made me a ‘stop’ sign and a ‘go’ sign for my office door,” she says. “He knows when he sees a ‘stop’ sign that he shouldn’t come in unless some big, crazy thing is going on. Then, if the green ‘go’ sign is there then he can walk right in.”

Kratz, who is the founder of Next Pivot Point a leadership organization for women, agrees with Reynolds. She says if you’re a work-from-home employee who doesn’t have a designated office space, then setting clear boundaries with your kids can be helpful. “You’ve got to have a place where you have private times,” she says. “That might be your bedroom, your closet, a guest room, your basement or wherever you can find a place where you can have uninterrupted, quiet space.” And to help keep this space quiet, she says, parents can use a system similar to the one Reynolds set up with her children.

“I always recommend to parents working from home to have a physical sign on the door with a thumbs up, thumbs down or whatever works as a signal for when you truly cannot be interrupted.”

4. Take breaks

Though you may feel pressured to overextend yourself while working remotely in order to prove to your team that you’re actually working, Reynolds says it’s critical that you carve out time to take a break. Nearly 90%of American workers say that taking a lunch break helps them to feel refreshed and ready to get back to work, according to the “Take Back the Lunch Break” survey released by global health and hygiene brand Tork. “Breaks are important when working at home,” says Kratz. She suggests that for every hour of focused work you complete, you take at least a 10 minute break to grab a snack, walk around or say “hi” to your kids. She also adds that a quick at-home yoga session, a hot shower or indulging in your favorite podcasts are other self-care things you can do when taking a healthy break from work. 

When taking this time to unplug and reset, Reynolds says it’s perfectly fine to communicate to your boss with a message such as, “Hey, I’m going to be out of pocket for 30 minutes or so at 1 p.m.” She says speaking up when you need a break or extra support is important. And it doesn’t hurt to also offer support or coverage for another colleague who may need a break as well. “I think showing that you’re supportive and also you need support is something that we all have to do at this point,” she says.

5. Alternate shifts with your partner

If you’re in a position where both you and your spouse are working from home, Reynolds says alternating shifts with your partner can make working remotely a lot easier. “I got to work very early this morning, and [my husband] woke up with the kids and made breakfast and did all that sort of stuff,” she said. After breakfast, Reynolds said, she and her husband then switched shifts throughout the day, allowing each other to have uninterrupted work time. If switching shifts with your spouse is not an option, then Cameau, whose husband is not able to work remotely, emphasizes that a strict schedule and extra planning will be key to maximizing your day.  

“One thing I do immediately when I wake up, in addition to following the schedule, is clean up all of their toys so that the living room is no longer a playroom,” explains Cameau. “For me, it helps to clear up space so that when I do have time to get work done while they’re napping, I’m not spending it trying to clean up toys.”

One thing I would like to emphasise is that you may think your child is just playing all the time, but most play activities can be an opportunity for learning.

Also, we all need time to play, so why not embrace the opportunity to play and have fun with them?

Stay Well.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Set Goals, Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Outstanding Results” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality and his film “The Secret Marathon” was released in late 2019. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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