Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Pamela Positive: “UnConference Room” Your Meeting with a Peaceful Banyan Tree

“UnConference Room” Your Meeting with a Peaceful Banyan Tree

There are many images that come to mind when we think of Asia, from dragons to beautiful beaches, spanning varied cultures.  One of my favorite views is that of the banyan tree, for it must be strongly grounded in the earth, which also allows its larger branches and leaves to provide overreaching shade.
It was under a banyan tree where the Buddha felt his calling to a new level of enlightenment.  Under these same trees, Gujarati businessmen hold their meetings.  It is even used as a place for political meetings: Recently in Malaysia, the state assembly met underneath the welcome atmosphere of the banyan tree.  So for much of Asia, spirituality, entrepreneurship, politics are taking place right outdoors.
The banyan tree represents solidity, rootedness, and strength.  At the same time, it also represents comfort, shade and welcome.  It is a source of power, balanced with peace.  It represents firmness, as well as welcome.

Is America’s Banyan Tree the Conference Room?

It is interesting how in America, and in many places across the world, most of our meetings take place in walled, sterile conference rooms.  Chairs are uniformly around the table.  The walls are usually plastered with notices about the company’s achievements.  Pens and pads are available so we can write and record and get our business done. Gosh darn it, I can hear the executives say, in this room we’re going to get to the solution, get down to business and ‘make it happen.’
Yet what if we looked at doing all of our business, or even holding all of our meetings, under a banyan tree?  This return to nature might help conversations flow more easily.
Perhaps this atmosphere would allow us to be more authentic. If we are surrounded by nature’s occasional stirring winds, visionary clouds floating across the sky, and brilliant beckoning sun, would we not also settle into a more authentic course of conversation? Could it lead to more natural, comfortable (and no less impactful, but rather moreso) solutions?   Within this reframing context of nature, we can discuss our goals and hopes and plans and perhaps achieve even greater goals.

Here’s a thought… We can replace the pen, paper and busy scribbling of notes, with more eye contact.  We supplant the flurried white board scrawls with more thoughtful listening. What a profound impact this has to have on any business relationship, business decision, and especially, with any personal matter. 

Until we can “Unconference Room” your meeting space, perhaps we can imagine all of our conversations thoughtfully taking place under a Banyan tree.  A place where comfort, understanding, and right relationships result under its strong, rooted and peaceful presence.


The banyan tree originally received its name from the merchants who gathered beneath it to do business; in the Gujarati language, “banya” means “merchant/grocer.”  Western visitors to India observed the merchants meeting beneath the tree, and the name evolved to refer to the tree itself.  The banyan trees are given great symbolism in both Hinduism and Buddhism.  Banyan trees can grow to cover hundreds of feet, and live for over a thousand years.

The Pamela Positive: Do Good, Feel Good

Do Good, Feel Good. What Kind of Ethics is That?

Do Good, Feel Good.   It’s straight from our esteemed President Lincoln, who is referring to that still small voice that tells us right and wrong. Everyone has it within…and we hear that gentle voice urging us one way or not.  So President Lincoln is not calling for a marvelous free for all where anyone follows their whim.  He’s calling us to listen to an internal guide of Truth.

It’s about truly doing good, authentic, down home, core, natural goodness.   This is something which is in all of us.  And it’s available to us all.   Do Good, feel that confirmation in your heart that it is the right thing. Then you feel good, and you know it is right. And then I’d add, keep on doing whatever is good! 

When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion.   – Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th President of the United States, during the Civil War.  He was instrumental in ending slavery and is admired for his commitment to national unity, equal rights, liberty, and democracy in America.  He is also known for his humble background, self-education, and skill with writing and rhetoric.  He was  not a member of any one organized religion, but he frequently used Biblical imagery and references in his writing and speaking, and referenced a Providence who had a higher purpose.  The Civil War and the deaths of two of his children led him towards the end of his life to more frequently speak of dependence on God.

The Pamela Positive: Remember the Importance of Staying With Family

What We Can Learn from Asia

I am one of those fortunate people who did not need to board a flight this past holiday. My family is local: My parents live 45 minutes away on the Peninsula, and my sister, brother-in-law and three nephews and nieces, Will, Connor and Lindsey live about 1 mile from my parents.

That’s truly been a joy for me, the simple presence of family.   Being able to babysit last minute; experiencing the chaos of taking care of kids during ‘meltdown time’ at 5 pm with a 6, 4 and 1 year old when they were growing up ; celebrating their progress on their soccer field; scootering with them to ice cream on a warm summer night, after dinner.

Why do we allow ourselves to live apart? Why is it so accepted?

I know I am fortunate.  Sometimes people have to move because of marriage. A new job. Taking care of an elderly parent.  All very legitimate reasons which contribute to family, and yet, also separate…

In a recent Gallup Poll, 16% of the world said they would like to move to another country.  This comes from both dire situations (such as Somalia) to the desire for luxury or adventure.  But in one region the rates are lower than Europe and America: Asia.  Due to progress in political freedoms and enhanced economic opportunities, many Asians are staying put: Only 10% desire to move.   But there’s another factor as well: Close family ties, and a cultural commitment to taking care of family, keeps the desire to move low.

Let’s learn, if we are so fortunate, from this cultural and familial commitment to keep family close…

Bootstrapping: It Starts with Space and Culture and Entrepreneurial People

Bootstrapping should start first of all with your space. At the beginning of UniversalGiving, I worked out of my home: very economical.  But as you grow, you need to find an economical space and team-oriented culture.  
As you start out, and as you continue, establishing an inexpensive and team-oriented culture is imperative.  Shared office space– if done right — allows you to cut costs and increase camaraderie with other entrepreneurs.  As CEO, it allows you to brainswap with other likeminded founders. For your team, it provides a larger group of people to speak, connect and share with, feeling a part of something larger.
In many, diverse ways we all want to be a part of something larger. Part of that is your organizational vision. Part of that is your team. Part is of it is your space, and the other people who work there.  Create many instances where your often small, start up team, can connect to a larger sense of purpose.  It attracts people and keeps them there.  In startup mode, you don’t want to lose the right people.
You can also ask a larger company if they have extra room. This is a good option, but just make sure that the company culture, and space, fits well with yours. It’s a bit less of sharing, and more under jurisdiction of someone else, and yet is something to be grateful for if you can attain it.

As you look for that right space, I’d recommend also making a list of qualities that are important to you: Dynamic, Bright, Economical, Sharing, Intellectual.  The manifestation of those qualities can really help bring your vision to fruition.  If you stick with these qualities, there could be many different right places, each reflecting your vision in different ways.

The key point is to find an environment that will help you, and your team, succeed more rapidly—while saving money.

Right now, UniversalGiving is in our 7th year and we are fortunate enough to share office space with Kapor Enterprises, founded by Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Notes and Second Life.  He and his wife provide an amazing space, where people of diverse backgrounds of different races, economic levels, business, nonprofit, foundation, investments, reside.   The environment is not an incubator; rather it is a center that provides an extremely supportive and crossfunctional environment allowing socially minded entrepreneurs and more established leaders the opportunity to succeed.

Right Team: Hire EPs

Bringing on the right team is important too.  An entrepreneur doesn’t have to hire other entrepreneurs, but they do have to hire entrepreneurial people. This is an important part of bootstrapping because you don’t want to hire people who usually stick to only one area, at least at the beginning. They usually have to be able to to delve into two, three, four – sometimes seven different areas.  It’s a subtle but important way to save on costs.
There’s a critical difference between being an entrepreneur (who is also entrepreneurial) and hiring entrepreneurial people. Entrepreneurial People (EPs) don’t necessarily want to start their own organization, or necessarily have visionary ideas. However, they are willing to do what it takes, create systems on the spot, not get scared off by the fact that certain processes aren’t yet in place (in fact they relish creatively designing them).
In a bootstrapping culture–and I would argue we want to retain this feel throughout the tenure of your growth–your team can’t just be willing to do one thing.  In the early days, there is no one job description, and EPs love this. They want to delve in to realizing your vision for the company, by diving into different areas, providing a rich, varied professional experience.   Cross them over into two business units: Give them expertise they can cross reference back and forth, determining how they intersect, and how they can take action efficiently.

These are key constituents at your ‘startup table:’ Space, Culture and Entrepreneurial People.    This focus should last beyond the early days of an entrepreneurship, keeping our atmosphere and team with high motivation.

The Pamela Positive: “I Shut My Eyes in Order to See”

“I shut my eyes in order to see.”  –Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin was an artist who was renowned for his Post Impressionism painting in the 19th century.  He was an innovator in the use of bold colors.  At the same time, he also brought out the meaning of each subject.  He balanced authenticity with innovation.

What we can learn from Paul Gauguin:  Let’s ‘see’ differently. Don’t use your eyes.  Instead, use “meaning” to see.

What’s meaningful to you? Be bold in recognizing it.  You’ll see an amazing painting of goodness, kindness and abundance all around you, if you will just see.

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) was born in France, but lived for several years in Peru as a child, an experience which influenced his painting later in life.  He was a friend of other artists including Camille Pissarro, Vincent Van Gogh, and Paul Cezanne.  Gauguin was inspired by the art of Africa and Asia, and spent parts of his life traveling to the tropics to paint there.  He has had a large influence on later artists and art movements.