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July 2016

Interview with Oleksandr Albul

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In all the busyness of my life, travelling all over the world, one of the most important things I do is to stop and sit quietly. There are many techniques of doing this but ultimately it’s about the control of your breathing. This is a yogic discipline with origins in ancient India, called Prāṇāyāma.

In Sanskrit this is written as राणायाम and is composed from two Sanskrit words: prāṇa meaning life force (the Chinese call it ‘chi’, the Polynesians ‘mana’, the Native Americans ‘orenda’, and the ancient Germans ‘od’), and either yama (to restrain or control the prāṇa, implying a set of breathing techniques where the breath is intentionally altered in order to produce specific results) or the negative form ayāma, meaning to extend or draw out (as in extension of the life force).

When I’m using my Android phone, I use an app called ‘Prana Breath’ (there are iOS apps with similar titles). Prana Breath was developed by a Ukranian Android Developer called Oleksandr Albul.

Prana Breath

I contacted Oleksandr to see if he would be willing to answer a few questions on behalf of the Thought Expansion Network. I was delighted when he said yes! Here’s what he had to say:

1. What inspired you, or motivated you, to do what you do?

When I was at school, at the University, at the job as an employee, people were always telling me what to do. I felt pretty stressed! Now, as I am self-employed, I feel very motivated to do what I always wanted – to create high-quality programs. And as I do breathing exercises a few years in a row, I decided to make it easier for myself as well as for other practitioners with the Android app I named Prana Breath. I keep being inspired to improve it because of the feedback I get from users, and because my own daily practice, so I have a big “to implement list”.

2. Do you feel that mindfulness is needed in modern life?

I think mindfulness is one of the most important things for happiness in modern life. I think nearly every human being has the “inner radio” constantly broadcasting in his head. And this mess of random thoughts does not increase our effectiveness, but take away our energy, and does not let us concentrate on what we do or what we truly feel. That’s why there are so many people, lucky people, who have plenty of tasty food, comfortable shelter and interesting communication, but are resentful and unhappy. We just can’t realize stop their own hurricane of thoughts and look around at the beauty of the Nature and acknowledge how gifted we are to live.

When it gets too overwhelming, we usually name it as “stress”, and try to get rid of it in the easiest and the most available for the moment way: smoking, drinking, or taking a bubble bath. Some of those ways are healthy, and some are killing, some are regular for us, and some are unwonted. That’s exactly what I like about breathing gymnastics – it’s easy, healthy, and takes a little time to work. And the greatest thing for me – it stops this molesting “inner radio” and gives that feeling of inner peace.

3. What are your greatest hopes about the future of humanity?

My greatest hope about the future of humanity is the education. Education that will allow everyone to realize oneself as the creator of his/her life since the very childhood, and will make a word “responsibility” sound not pestered and annoying, but admired and inspiring. Education that will develop the personality with the taste to creating but not only consuming, with the perception that everything is connected in the world, and together as the one we can do so many incredible things for fun and for thriving of the life!

4. What are your greatest fears about the future of humanity?

The thing that scares me the most about our future is the high-techs taking over the humanity. That would be so tragic if we give up our thinking potential to the physical comfort, if we rely on robots to spend more time searching for new dummy amusements. Especially if the new generation is raised with the attitude that it’s alright. This way humans can become nothing more than operating personnel. As I see it, that’s not an extraordinary fear – there are lots of books and films about that.

5. If we could all learn one thing from your experience, what would that one thing be?

If you have an idea that you consider brilliant, if you have a passion about it so you think about it day and night – just do the first step, then second and third! No matter if there are many familiar things at the market or your friends make fun of you – do what you want to do! If you succeed – you will be proud, if you fail – you’ll be experienced.

Thank you again to Oleksandr for giving the time for this, I’m very grateful not only for your contribution, but also for Prana Breath that enables some of the silence in my life.

 

Refuelling at Peace Time

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Refuelling at Peace Time
It seems like every day there is a new example of a marketing campaign that “went wrong”.

At the time of writing this chapter in 2013, the examples included the twitter campaign from McDonald’s restaurant that was ‘hijacked’ by the public who decided that the #MCDStories hashtag could be used for negative opinion rather than positive – thus turning the hashtag into a bashtag.

Elsewhere the Covent Garden Soup Company ran a competition that promised a prize of a £500,000 farm, but from the 200,000 entrants, none had the winning code so the prize wasn’t given away.

You may be surprised to know this didn’t go down terribly well with the entrants – however the lawyers state the competition mechanic complied with regulation. That’s ok then.

These are just two examples of daily stories that we all see in front of us, and are the result of the paradigm shift we are experiencing in the commercial, sociological, technological and communications landscape.

One question I’m often asked is, “If these examples are claimed as having a negative impact, how come people are still (e.g.) queuing at McDonald’s and/or buying Covent Garden soup?”

It’s a fair question. After all, it is commonly thought the ultimate success a company can report is revenue, profit and/or share price. If the revenue, profit and/or share price remains in good shape, what exactly is the problem if these little campaign maladies are apparent?

To answer this I’d like you to imagine the competitive business landscape as a war zone.

In the old world, your army would consist of your staff. Your artillery would consist of your products and services.

In today’s world, your army also consists of your customers and consumers. This is because of their empowerment enabled by the capability and affordability of technology, meaning they too can create and edit brands. They too can change the perceptions and opinions of others. Thus, your artillery now consists of their output also.

So, you have your combined army and often you have to go to war.

In the old world, your army of staff and artillery of products and services would be up against other armies of a similar structure. In today’s world, your asset is your army of staff, customers, and consumers, in addition to your combined artillery. In the old world, at peacetime, you would just be fuelling your staff and polishing your artillery. In today’s world, at peacetime, you must also be fuelling the whole of your army, and polishing the extended artillery.

This is so you are prepared for when you go into battle. Practically speaking this requires you to consider things like:

– identifying the levels of trust you have amongst your consumer/customer/user base
– creating resonant missions that people will believe in
– facilitating and promoting the work of fans
– etc…

These activities, amongst others, will better prepare you for the battles I speak of in the metaphor, which in real life look like:

– a new market entrant who is disrupting your organisation or market place
– a change in fashion that renders what you do less relevant
– a trend that alters the perceived value of what you create or deliver
– etc…

Sound familiar? These have always been common occurrences in every market place, yet now the risk is extended to competitive challenges that are non-organisational. Yes, the empowered public may be the cause of battle for a company today – and that, if nothing else, justifies the need to extend your army before those troops are aligned against you.

“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved”

Sun Tzu – The Art of War

Taken as an excerpt from ’28 Thoughts On Digital Revolution’ by Jonathan MacDonald, available from Amazon as a paperback and for kindle: http://jonathanmacdonald.com/books/