One of the major advantages of global study and travel is that we get a perspective on opportunities we may observe more clearly in a foreign land. When Anna Safronova, a student from Russia, came to the United States she had this experience, which revealed her life’s work. What ignited the spark in you to start My Dream City international? How did the idea for it come about? The idea of the project is rooted in my own personal experience. During my high school exchange year in the USA, I spent a significant amount of time volunteering as a teacher assistant at a local art museum. There I became friends with an orphaned elementary school student who lived in a foster home. He was 9 at that time but had already changed several families. It was obvious that he encountered more challenges in his childhood than other students. But his story inspired me to think about even less fortunate kids. Despite not having natural parents he led a completely normal life, went to a regular school, had extracurricular activities and felt included into the community. In many other countries that have institutional care for orphans those children experience a very traumatic separation from the society. For many children who enter these facilities, there is little realistic hope for a fulfilling life. The contrast between the foster kid’s life and those led by orphans in many countries around the world seemed to be too striking and too unfair. Upon my return, I decided to do something about it starting in my hometown in Russia. At the age of 17, I visited a local orphanage for the first time. And that is how MDC International started. The MDC international is aimed at providing tutoring and mentorship opportunities for kids living in orphanages. The company’s mission is to facilitate kids’ transition from institutional care to adulthood, help them become self-sufficient and craft the future of their dreams. A large part of the curriculum is focused on empowering kids through building their self-esteem and self-worth as well as providing them with hard skills to develop their natural talent.
Are you worried about getting swindled out of your savings or losing everything in a crash? Alice Finn, the author of Smart Women Love Money, explains the simple ways to avoid those catastrophes—and warns us about a threat to our earnings one never seems to consider.
If I stopped a random woman on the street and asked her what she thought the biggest controllable risk to her long-term portfolio potential was, I can almost guarantee she wouldn’t guess the right answer. She might say it was the risk of being invested during a big market downturn, like the bursting of the dot-com bubble or the great recession of 2008. She might mention the possibility of being taken for a ride by a Ponzi schemer like Bernie Madoff, or investing in a fraudulent company or one that goes bankrupt. Perhaps she’d mention the risk of not investing at all—sitting on the sidelines and watching as the market goes up without her taking advantage and growing her assets.
Yes, market declines come and go, but if you remain invested in a diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds and regularly rebalance, you ensure you’ll always be in a position to profit from the upturns when they come. If you’re sticking to index funds, there is no risk you’ll end up in the clutches of a Bernie Madoff and his “proprietary” (in this case, downright illegal) investment strategies and products, because you’ll be buying plain vanilla funds that trade in the public markets. And of course, you’ll be staying invested at all times, because that’s the key to making money at all. As long as you invest, and stay invested, your returns keep compounding. The more time you have, the more you can reinvest those earnings and leverage the potential of your original assets.
But there is another risk, and it’s one that almost no one ever seems to consider. The one most of us forget about until it’s too late. It doesn’t grab headlines in the same way a market crash or a renegade money manager might. But it can wreak havoc on how much money you end up with when you have to look at how your nest egg will provide for you and your family.
Recently I spent a few weeks in California, partly for work but mostly intended for rest and relaxation and to celebrate my brother’s 50th birthday. Throughout life, one of my absolutely most favorite activities has been meeting new people. To me, the world is a massive library and each person is a charming book waiting to be encountered, selected, read, understood and shared. Everyone has a story to tell and a lesson to impart, if you’re willing to listen and unguarded enough to travel beyond the surface and sometimes superficial introductions.
I met many cool, complex, and kind people during this short trip, most of them leaving a unique lasting impression. But what I was greatly fascinated by was the way some special souls were like a breath of fresh air, having the ability to dance to the deepest aspects of our emotional and rational dimensions while others were like irritating intruders that were part of the environment, yet made no effort to connect or positively interact.
Being socially intelligent, or a master at Social Salsa as I like to call it, may be natural to some, but the good news is that the behaviors associated with leaving a likable impression can be identified, measured and learned — so it’s less about personality and more about a choice to put an effort into being a pleasant person that others enjoy being around and miss when absent.
So what are some of the traits of people who have a healthy level of self-awareness, ‘get’ others and dance into our hearts? Here are the most central Social Salsa steps:
• You may have just met them, but through their initial interaction, they give you the impression that you’ve known them for years because they’re open and engaging and share aspects of their life openly and without reservation.
• They aren’t afraid to initiate conversation.
• They don’t strike a pose in the corner, acting aloof and unapproachable.
• They’re as curious about you as you are about them.
• When in conversation, they listen with an open mind and heart, without interrupting.
• They remember details shared and will ask/follow up when you next see them.
• It’s not only about them — they give you a space to carve out and share who you are.
• They’re dependable and genuine.
• They’re secure and confident.
• They laugh with you, not at you.
• They may use sarcasms but in a witty way, not in a whipping way.
• They demonstrate compassion and empathy.
• They provide value to the group through their knowledge, experience or kindness.
• They are thorough, consistent and patient.