Curiosity: Your New Objective, and My 2018 Word of the Year!

Curiosity: Your New Objective, and My 2018 Word of the Year!

Welcome 2018! With the arrival of yet another brand-new year, I’m reminded of the many ways in which I’m fortunate….in business, and in life.

But nothing seems quite as poignant at this moment as setting the tone for the year to come by defining it in advance with just one important word. It’s that time, once again, to reveal my Word of the Year, in an eager anticipation that, perhaps, words cannot describe!

Having a word of the year for each of the last 4 years has proven more effective for me than a New Year’s resolution. Personifying these words has allowed me to continue to evolve as an emotionally intelligent person, and to become more confident, resilient and compassionate. It’s a profound experience to have 365 days to build a deep relationship with a chosen word. And incredibly, my past words of the year (Self-CompassionFocusSimplicity and Intentional) represent the tenets I help clients embed into their energetic DNA. 2018’s Word of the Year is no different. Curiosity is essential for career success, relational success, self-fulfillment, and real-life success!

I began to employ the word “Curious” constantly about 3 years ago, at the dawn of my fascination with neuroscience. It’s an empowering concept to digest that our sole obstacle to creating the life that we want is between our ears. We truly can be our own worst enemies! Perhaps Henry Ford put it most insightfully when he said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Brain Science and a Paycheck

Back in 2014, I also learned a fact as black and white as Ford’s truism: you can’t be curious and judgmental at the same time. The connection to neuroscience here is that states like judgment, impatience, defensiveness, anger and frustration all alert your amygdala to potential danger. When the amygdala is activated, cortisol is released, raising your stress level. Your brain then becomes fogged, which is the kiss of death for knowledge workers like us, who are paid for our brains.

In our effort to stay out of that triggered state, how do we remain non-judgmental or non-defensive? In other words, how do we transcend such a deeply-embedded, and at times, unconscious part of our culture? The undisputable answer is to become Curious. Inquisitiveness activates the prefrontal cortex, simmers down that amygdala, steadies the threat and its related anxiety, and allows us to think clearly once again.

In Relation To Mindfulness & Presence

As I found myself engaging more in this questioning state of being (because building a business is SCARY….cue the amygdala), I realized the state of Curiosity is by implication a state of mindfulness. After all, when you’re actively Curious, you tend to “keep up with the story line”. You don’t get lost in a daydream, or formulate a conclusion about another’s story way before they reveal it. Curiosity precludes you from getting trapped in the past with thoughts of regret, and renders you “mentally” incapable of propelling yourself prematurely into the future with thoughts of anxiety. Remaining Curious is important, of all things, for keeping you soundly anchored in the present.

Related: Chase Two Rabbits, Catch Neither: The Myth of Multi-Tasking

The Silent Advantage

Here’s another reason to fall in love with Curiosity: it requires that we listen. It’s become painfully obvious that many people’s listening skills are substandard. Even when our intentions are good, and we are technically listening, our comprehension, itself, is distorted by our own unconscious bias. We see the world through our own experiences, and draw conclusions based on those very experiences, when we should be considering the experiences of the speaker. By employing active Curiosity, we are better able to listen to understand, or, as Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ) founder Judith E Glaser says, “stand under another person’s reality.”

The more I employ Curiosity, the more connected I feel to others. Ironically, as I publicly announce my Word of the Year, and proclaim my commitment to embodying Curiosity, I’ve realized that becoming certified in Conversational Intelligence® demands a mastery of listening. So, as you begin thinking about your Word of the Year, get Curious about this: “Listening is just as important in conversations as speaking.”

Deborah Goldstein
Human Capital
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Deborah Goldstein is a recovering restaurateur who founded DRIVEN Professionals to assist companies in attracting, retaining and promoting exceptional talent. DRIVEN ... Click for full bio

The Lies Spread by Bankers About Cryptocurrencies

The Lies Spread by Bankers About Cryptocurrencies

I had a chat with The Financial Times the other day, and provided lots of background as to why I don’t think cryptocurrencies are the choice of criminals. The comment that was reported was the following:

Chris Skinner, a financial technology author, said it was “complete rubbish” to suggest the main use of cryptocurrencies was criminal. “There is some criminal activity associated with some cryptocurrencies but it is quite minimal,” he said. “It’s a myth that the financial community want to promote.”

I feel I need to explain this further, so here goes.

My response was in answer to Vasant Prabhu, Chief Financial Officer of Visa (the card network) who made two claims:

1) Most people have no idea what they’re doing with cryptocurrency investments; and

2) Cryptocurrencies are mainly being used by criminals.

With the first point, I agree. In fact, I loved the John Oliver Show that discussed crypto and started with the line that cryptocurrencies are “everything you don’t understand about money combined with everything you don’t understand about computers”. A perfect combination for idiots to invest in. I agree with both Vasant and John, as many people are buying cryptocurrencies for no other reason than other people are buying them.

The second point I completely disagree with. Mr Prabhu said cryptocurrencies were a “favourite” for criminals.

“It’s very hard to get dirty money through a banking system. Cryptocurrency is phenomenal for all that stuff . . . Every crook and every dirty politician in the world, I bet, is in cryptocurrency.”

This is complete baloney and is a smokescreen being created by financial people to deflect the real purpose of cryptocurrencies, which is to use software and servers to manage value rather than buildings and humans. In other words, cryptocurrencies have the opportunity to reduce or even replace banks, which is why I find it interesting how often I hear a financial person say that bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are just for criminals when it’s blatantly not true. Unfortunately because they are in a position of authority, politicians believe them; and unfortunately, because they are also in a position of authority, the media believes them; and unfortunately, because they are in a position of authority, the public sometimes believes them too.

Most law enforcement authorities however, state that the levels of criminal activity with cryptocurrencies is so tiny today that it doesn’t matter and, specifically, does not warrant deflecting their time and energy to investigate them. Just to illustrate this, the total worldwide investment in all cryptocurrencies is around $300 billion today. Even if criminals were running 10% of that, it’s still just $30 billion. That is an insignificant amount compared to the trillions being laundered through the traditional financial system, mainly through offshore companies buying up properties.

From The TelegraphNovember 2017:

Organised crime generates income equivalent to around 2.7pc of global GDP. Around $1.6 trillion of this is laundered to disguise its criminal origins: financial crime is undoubtedly a worldwide problem.

From What Mortgage, February 2018:

Julian Dixon, CEO of Fortytwo Data, whose research found that more than a third (37%) of all suspicious activity reports (SAR) across the entire legal sector were related to property: “For criminals, the vast amount of cash involved in property purchases provides the perfect cover for laundering the proceeds of drugs, terrorism and firearms offences.

From The TimesFebruary 2018:

Rob Wainwright, director of [Europol], revealed that 3 to 4 per cent of the £100 billion of illicit cash circulating in Europe is laundered through anonymous digital currencies such as bitcoin.

So that’s around £4 billion max right now. That’s less than a particle of a drop in the ocean of crime globally.

Now, the concern may be that cryptocurrencies offers the opportunity to launder funds. This is possibly true and is why I said there is some criminal activity with some cryptocurrencies which is tiny today, but might grow over time. Even then, it is speculative and too early to call. For example, that paragraph from The Times is factually incorrect, as bitcoin is not anonymous. In fact, nearly all digital transactions can be tracked and traced online, and therefore offer the worst use case for money laundering.

This is why the only currency that criminals currently use in any volume for illicit activity is Monero, because it is nearly an equivalent of digital cash. Nevertheless, the total market cap of Monero is $3 billion, and even if half of that is criminal activity, it’s totally insignificant on a global scale.

All in all, it is obvious that most financial people have created this myth of criminals opting for cryptocurrencies for two reasons:

1) it is to protect their turf, as they don’t want to lose their role as intermediators of finance; and

2) it is to deflect the authorities from looking at the true perpetrators of illicit monetary activity, namely the banking system.

Bear these two points in mind when I say that banks were built for the physical distribution of paper, which is why cash and property are the physical assets that are the preference of criminal choice. If you didn’t know it, London is actually the money laundering capital of the world:

  • British registered companies and British-based banks helped move at least $20 billion of the proceeds of criminal activities out of Russia between 2010 and 2014.
  • Transparency International’s research found 766 UK corporate vehicles involved in 52 large scale corruption and money laundering cases approaching valuations of £80 billion.
  • Around half of the 766 companies alleged to have been involved in high-end money laundering were based at just eight UK addresses.
  • The Home Affairs Select Committee hearings found that the London property market is the primary avenue for the laundering of £100 billion of illicit money a year. No wonder first time buyers cannot get on the property ladder.

If anything is the preferred market for money launderers then it is banks, not cryptocurrencies. No wonder financial people are trying to deflect the media elsewhere.

Bottom-line: as all things move to digital distribution of data, the trail to audit such movements get easier because they can be sniffed out and monitored; as a result, most criminal activity will continue to leverage the weak links in the chain, which is the physical distribution of paper through cash and property assets in the traditional financial system.

I’ve written a lot on this in the past and would point to these two blog entries for more:

And there’s also a lengthy but worthwhile read about why bitcoin cannot be regulated, as it is protected by America’s first amendment and the right to free speech.

Chris Skinner
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Chris Skinner is one of the most influential and prolific thought leaders on the future of banking, finance and technology. The Financial Brand awarded him best blog and ... Click for full bio