Not the race card: The People & Places series (2)

Best place to be black

I swear I’m not pulling the race card (and yes, I am a black woman). But the other option was unthinkable, that is, to completely ignore the fact that it is more comfortable to be black in some countries than others.  What I’m referring to specifically is the opportunities to make something good out of your life, your career, and your dreams. My 2 cents is that one of the best places in the world to be black is the United States of America. The way I see it, a country like the US more than ever has given a perspective of the world to youngsters that I think will change the way they think forever. For example, the image of poverty versus wealth in many multi-racial countries is one of: black people are poor and white people are rich. A country where a youngster, like my 5-year old black son can look at the top of the society and see educated, respected black men and women is priceless. In the same vein, he can see black people begging on the streets. This is fine with me as  long as he also sees white people begging and educated, respected white people at the helm of society’s affairs. It’s a balanced perspective where the glass ceiling evaporates and anything is possible if you work hard.

Seeing a world of opportunities (photographed by R "Doc Enigma")

In the US, this is possible, making  it (in my mind) one of the best places in the world to be black.

Black entrepreneurs

Many African countries have prosperous black entrepreneurs. Of course, these countries are fantastic places to be black. I think African countries do count in my argument as some African countries make doing business a little easier for indigenes. In South Africa, there are several incentives for black aspiring business owners as the nation breaks away from their past of apartheid.

Also in Nigeria, dozens of indigenous companies have erupted that directly compete for the market e.g. the oil and gas services market. The government encourages a certain percentage of indigenes to be employed in international corporations. In addition, entrepreneurs like Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga have proven that it’s great to be black in Nigeria.

Conclusion

I’m writing about blacks because I’m black. I haven’t walked in the shoes of any other minority group. So overall, I think there are countless opportunities for smart, ambitious people, regardless of race. It may feel at times that a black person  (or any minority group for that matter) has much more to prove. And it’s probably true but it is my experience so far at most of the time, once you prove yourself, everyone else usually gives way. In the corporate world, diversity is becoming more and more important…and fashionable. Diversity makes companies look good. So if you are in the minority, put your best foot forward and I believe you’ll go places. Dust off that business idea or proposal, re-write your CV with a renewed confidence. I wonder… where else is it cool to be in-the-minority?



Happiest countries: The people & places series (1)

I’d like to share what I discovered about countries and what makes them tick in this series I have called “People & Places”.

While most researchers agree that happiness is subjective, it is most often measured by the country’s wealth. I must say that I have an allergic reaction to surveys that immediately use “happiest” and “richest” interchangeably or assume that the richest country is the happiest country. I do agree that any country where its people don’t have the basic needs e.g. security, food, shelter cannot be considered as happy in the first place. Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a person will not worry about self actualisation if they have nowhere to live for instance!

Does happiness equals wealth?

Denmark and its sister Scandinavian countries are usually at the top of the happiest countries list. Experts believe that their happiness comes from impeccable healthcare, quality education and the number of people who are thriving. I  came across a survey that broke down this ranking by including rating for:

  • % of people thriving
  • % of  people struggling
  • % of people suffering
  • daily experience rating (from 1  to 10)

Of course, Denmark was no 1 with over 80% of its population thriving and almost no one suffering. The final ranking appeared to ignore the daily experience rating, which for the most part resonated the other 3 criteria. However, I noticed that at least two countries in the Top 20 had daily experiences below 6 while some countries in the bottom 100 had daily experiences of more than 8! Does this boil down to expectation levels? Or perhaps what is often referred to as subjective life satisfaction?

A wealth of happiness

Interestingly, when daily experiences are accounted for, countries like Costa Rica and Dominican Republic come tops. I suspect that happiness can be made objective if one assumes that wealth brings joy. It can. But often, real happiness comes from the support system in the environment e.g. strong family networks and acceptance.

Strong family networks lead to happiness (photo courtesy of http://www.istockphoto.com)

Other surveys like one carried out by Ronald Inglehart from 1999 to 2004, use subjective wellbeing to rank happiest countries. By asking people:

Taking all things together, would you say you are: 1. Very happy, 2.  Rather happy, 3. Not very happy, or 4.  Not at all happy?

This survey saw countries like Nigeria and Mexico come tops. Overall, many people felt happy about the freedom to practice their religion for instance. When this question is combined with how satisfied folks are with life in general, many South American countries top the list including Puerto Rico. Denmark is also in the Top 3. So alas, Denmark is a happy country on all counts.

Taking from Peter to pay Paul

I think that happiness is a strong word and that it can be tied to too many abstract things in life for example, what you expected to achieve, what you perceive limits you etc. There is a sense of entitlement that is usually very strong in developed countries. When this “sense” is violated, it can bring unhappiness. Where Americans are saying, “Where’s my healthcare?”, poor countries will be happy to get any health aid from missionaries and aid workers. While I have concluded that wealth brings some degree of happiness, I also believe that working together to close the gap between the rich and the poor will foster happiness. Closing this gap will mean that:

  • Fewer people see limitations to their advancement in life
  • The wealth seems more evenly spread and hence may reduce resentment and crime

The developed world tries to do this with state benefits and fiscal policies that tax higher earners. It is no coincidence that Scandinavian countries have the highest tax rates in the world. I don’t know what effect this has on people’s happiness in general. The poor man may be happy but are we excluding the rich man who feels like the more he earns the more he has to give away? Then he strives to earn even more to keep more but more is taken from him instead. And so the cycle continues.

Conclusion

Happiness is based on one’s expectation of life. I have found more and more that happiness does not necessarily come from having lots of money. The more that is achieved, the more there is to achieve. And for me, the farther away I am from my values and…my core as I chase self actualization.

I choose happiness (photo courtesy of http://www.istockphoto.com)

In the search for this self actualisation, I start to lose what I have began to call “The luxury of being average”. Just knowing that friends and family love me as lil o’ me, average on all fronts becomes a difficult thing to know. It is this part of me that leads to me to research what makes countries happy. Afterall, countries are communities that have to support each other to survive. This is me exploring how the next phrase of my life could be happier in the somewhat unlikely event that someday I may just have the clothes on my back and my loved ones in a distance, cheering me on.



Top tips on how to climb to the top of Google’s search results

By Guest author, Nancy Dafiewhare, MD Magnifique Media

In my last article, I looked at the ways Google indexes a website during crawling. This article will look at the things you can do to get your website at the top of the search results.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not rocket science but at the same time it’s not easy as pie. A lot of thought, research and planning need to go into any SEO strategy for it to be successful. It’s important that the website owner has an idea of what SEO needs in order for it to be successful. This is especially imperative if the website owner is considering using an SEO agency to do the work. You risk getting a cowboy job done if you blindly hand over your SEO implementation to an agency if you have no clue of what needs to be done or what should be done.

Below are the tips to help your website climb to at the top of the search results.

  1. Website coding: As mentioned in the previous article it is important that your website is built with pure HTML code. Google can crawl html better than any other code. It’s also important that the website is not built in frames but rather in tables. Tables should be simple with no complex nesting.
  2. Site design – images, alt tags, link names: Image and link names used on your website should make sense and have some relationship with the webpage they reside on. If you have a florist website and you have images of red roses on the page, the image should be named something like ‘red roses Interflora’ rather than image 1. The names of images are searchable by Google so bear in mind they need to make sense. Link names are also searchable so if you have a page on roses, then it’s only fair that your web link be named something such as www.interflora.com/roses.com. This will go a long way in getting your ratings up. Alt tags used for image and link names need to make sense as well. This is not only good for Google but for website accessibility and the visually impaired.
  3. Keyword research: You need to research or have an idea of the words or phrases you want your website or webpage found on. Make a list of these words and ensure that you use these on your website. It’s important not to use highly competitive search terms or you will struggle with websites already topping the charts with those keywords.
  4. Meta Title: When you know what keywords/phrases to use on your website, you need to include these on your website title tag. These should be a maximum of 65 characters including spaces. The first 2 words carry the most weight. For example ‘Cheap roses: All colours available at Interflora, buy now!’ The total characters used here is 58.
  5. Meta Description: As with the meta title, you should include the keywords you’ve decided to use on your website. This time round you have a maximum of 150 characters including spaces to play with. For example: ‘50% off red roses at Interflora. We have discounts on all other roses. Free delivery on purchases over £50. Visit our website now!’ The total number of characters used here is 130.
  6. Body content: The body content of your webpage need to contain about 30% density of the keywords you want your website to be found on. Google will look at your meta tags and decide if your website has any correlation with the keywords or phrases used. Please ensure that your use of these keywords within the body content of your web page makes sense to the reader.
  7. External links: It is essential to have good external links pointing to your website. This is like the final piece of the puzzle. After all the hard work done internally to make your website SEO friendly, it is important that you have external recognition to complete the SEO puzzle. As such it is important that you get a good number of reputable websites that link to your own website. You can do this by writing articles for websites and get them to link to your website as part of the article.

It’s important to know that SEO doesn’t happen overnight. We’re at Google bot’s mercy in terms of the number of times it crawls a website. Your website can be indexed anywhere from one day to a week or even weeks. Larger websites take longer to crawl. It is important to note that if your website contains secure pages hidden behind logins, Google cannot access these pages. As such valuable content should not be hidden behind these pages as they will never be indexed by search engines.

Also see:

www.magnifique-media.com/search_engine_marketing

High achiever? It depends.

When I went back to school in 2009, I was excited. I was ready to do my best; after all business talk is something I’ve always enjoy so studying it should be loads of fun. I remember thinking that the course material resembled the articles I would stop to read in a magazine anyway. But during my first workshop, the lecturer focussed more on taking a ‘personal journey’ to learn how to learn. He even went as far as saying that grades didn’t really matter and that if we averaged Cs, we were doing fine. My brain could not process this. What did he mean???

It is important to aim high and put your best foot forward. One way I thought hard work  is portrayed is through good grades. Back in the day, I’d go home to my parents after school and my dad would ask, ‘what did you make?’ I’d say a B or C. Then he’d ask if anyone got an A. I’d say yes and then he’d ask if the A student had two heads. And if not, why hadn’t I got an A as well? The result of this wasn’t all bad. At the very least, it made me what to be the best. But now I’m wondering, ‘what exactly is it that I want to be best at?’ Perhaps being able to learn new concepts, models and frameworks without the fear that I will not get the best grades is an achievement in itself. I’ll be more keen on certain topics than others and it may show up in the grade and that’s okay.

High achiever in the making (photographed by R "Doc Enigma")

The most important thing is I’m learning to learn without pressure. I’m meeting fantastic people. I’ve identified aspects of business that really give me a buzz and aspects that I’ll have to live with as they are part of the machine. It’s alright.

So, in the grand scheme of things, I’m amongst the high achievers (others may disagree). I’m getting some great grades and some okay ones. But mostly, I’m exploring new ways to think and embracing different perspectives that would have been alien to me eighteen months ago. At this rate, my dad may even say I’ve got two heads!

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