Category Archives: General

Book Review: “Switch how to change things when change is hard”

I finished reading a very interesting book called “Switch how to change things when change is hard” written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath

This is a short resume about what I found more interesting.

Basically, almost every person, except few exceptions are driven by a pattern based on three parameters that create, as the book explains, a framework that we can use to perform change:

  • The Elephant: It’s the feelings. Feelings and emotions can be very powerful and are able to drive someone to any direction, independently of logic.
  • The Rider: It’s the logical thinking. But it’s a rider on an elephant that is difficult to control. If the elephant doesn’t really want to go to a specific direction, there’s very little the rider can do.
  • The Path: Although the elephant is ready to start the journey and the rider is ready to ride it, he needs a clear specific path.

With this framework it’s easier to change others or yourself. I will borrow one of the real life examples in the book. This is not the exact text, just with my own words:

Two health researchers, Steve Booth-Butterfield and Bill Reger, professors at West Virginia University decided to help people to change their habits for a healthier diet. It’s not enough to tell people that obesity is bad for their health. You have to motivate them (the elephant), then you have to give a reason (the rider) and finally tell them what to do (the path). Even if they are motivated and they know that it makes sense to loose weight, it’s not enough if they don’t know how to start. That’s why a path is paramount. Just by telling them to eat healthy is not enough.

They realised that most Americans drink milk but it’s also one of the largest sources of saturated fat in the typical American’s diet. Just by convincing people to take 1% milk the average diet would reach the recommended levels of saturated fat. What they realised is that they didn’t have to change people’s drinking behaviour, but a purchasing behaviour. They initiated a campaign in a small area with a clear message “buy 1% milk” period. Their campaign achieved great success changing people’s eating behaviour for a healthier diet. Here is the framework at work:

Engage the elephant. People want to be healthier, people want to stay in shape.

Engage the rider: People know the risks of a poor diet, they understand the health risks associated with too much fat in their diets.

Give a path: Give them a clear direction, don’t let the rider think too much about what to do, which will finally get him lost. Just buy 1% milk, period. That easy.

Few other things I found enlightening reading the book:

  • Self-control is an exhaustible resource. The rider gets tired of riding a stubborn elephant. You can’t keep people to indefinitely do something they don’t want to do
  • The bigger the change you are suggesting, the more it will sap people’s self-control. If what seemed a small hill becomes a mountain and the mountain becomes a rocky one in a winter storm, people’s self-control will disappear and you will have a demotivated and depressed crew.
  • What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.
  • What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. Maybe you weren’t able to clearly deliver the message. Don’t assume immediately that people are stubborn. Maybe a clearer explanation and the right motivational environment would allow them to see the path clearer.
  • Search for bright spots. If you don’t know how to change something, look in the past and see if there were some situations where the desired behaviour happened spontaneously. If you have to change your employees behaviour and you don’t know how to start, just try to find those situations and contexts that lead to the right behaviour and study them because you probably can replicate them. Saving you a lot of time. Sometimes the answer just appeared spontaneously somewhere in the timeline.
  • Don’t give people too many choices that create uncertainty. It yields to decision paralysis because the most familiar path is always the status quo. Give them few specific options to choose from.
  • Don’t assume that everyone will see the obvious. Explain clearly your new idea or the new way of doing things. What seems obvious to you, might not be so obvious to someone else, because your decisions are taken inside a context, experience and circumstances that weren’t the same for the rest of us.
  • Give people a clear idea of where they are heading. Like a destination postcard. Having a clear goal, keeps their vision on the path. Remember that self-control is an exhaustible resource and remember that the rider loves to find alternative paths and solutions which at the end will exhaust his energy. Keeping the final destination and the path clear is paramount.
  • If the initial request is too big, try to use the “foot in the door” technique. Ask for a smaller request, easy to accomplish. Once people accept that request, it will be easier to persuade them to do some more, and more until they accept something that initially would look unacceptable.
  • “Fundamental Attribution Error:” it’s our own tendency to attribute people’s behaviour to the way they are, like it was their fault, rather than to the situation they are in. As an example that is not in the book but that I remember from a TED talk by Edi Rama, current Prime Minister of Albania he explained how corruption was high in the public administration. People looking for a certificate or a civil answer had to go to some sort of kiosks, under the rain or the sun, waiting for their turn in long queues. Public employees worked inside a hole of 2 square meters. Under those circumstances it was obvious that people’s self-control exhausted and finally they accepted bribes. By building new offices and making the life of people and employees more confortable, the delays and the corruption in the system dropped considerably. Before blaming people for their mistakes, take a look at their environment, their circumstances and their context. By just making a small change, a bigger one can be achieved.
  • Rally the herd. Usually we do things because we see others doing it. Try to convince them that other people are already doing it. Nobody wants to be left behind.
  • Initially inertia will be an opponent to change. But in the long term, inertia will help you keeping the change in place. That’s why you can start with small changes that later will snowball in bigger ones and at that point inertia will be your friend.
  • If you have a way to show people that some part of the path was already completed, you will motivate their elephant. That’s the trick of collecting points in a gas station for example. It’s not the same to start from zero collecting stamps, than receiving a couple of stamps for free by accepting to collect them. That gives people the sense that they already completed part of the path. Always look for situations that will allow you to convince them that 20%, 50% or 60% of the path is donde.

Basically all this can be resumed to use human phycology in order to motivate people’s elephant, with minimum rider intervention by giving him a clear path and always check for self-control exhaustion. Keep fuelling people’s self-control by switching between the elephant indulgence and elephant motivation. Keep the rider busy thinking in the provided path with a clear goal, and always remind the elephant that a big deal of the path was already completed, so it looks like the change is easy to achieve.

If you have to manage a team, change someone’s bad behaviour or hack yourself into some change that seemed impossible at the beginning, this book offers a really good perspective and technique to do that.

Free advice about tech, iOS, Japan, Photography and more.

I would like to help people interested in topics which I have experience with. This is a free service, I don’t have much time but I can spend an hour or two per week giving my impressions and advice to people interested about:

  • Japan
  • Business in Japan
  • Working and living in Japan
  • iOS development
  • Mobile Development
  • Open Source software
  • Job hunting
  • Working experience
  • Job interviews (IT related)
  • Create a Resume/CV (IT related)
  • Startups
  • Multicultural working environments
  • Learning languages
  • Technical advice (IT related)
  • Living in Europe
  • Western culture
  • Japanese culture
  • Photography
  • Italian language
  • Japanese language
  • Spanish language

Send me an email: pietro (at) zuco (dot) org and let me know what you would like to talk about. I will let you know if I can give you some advice on that specific topic. I wish I had all the answers. I just want to help people having trouble to find specific information in certain areas.

I won’t talk about:

  • Questions related with illegal activities.
  • Questions related to legal maters, such as tax informations. I’m not a lawyer. For that, contact your lawyer.
  • Emotional stuff related with family/partners/romance and so forth.
  • Mental illness or phycological problems. I’m not a psychiatrist.
  • Please contact a specialist of the branch you need (legal, medical, friend) if the topic of your question is about legal matters, medical issues or emotional stuff.

People must be 18+ years old.

I’m not responsible about what you decide to do with the information I provide. I’m not responsible of the outcome of your actions. You are responsible for your own actions and decisions.

If you find the information useful, share your experience with your peers and let me know your feedback.

How “official iphone unlock” ignored me (

I have an iPhone I bought in Japan when I was living there. It was SIM locked by Softbank. I moved to Europe and I found a website ( that provides factory unlocks. For those of you who don’t know, a factory unlock is basically a definitive way to unlock your SIM locked phone. No need for jailbreak. It’s perfectly legal and clean. At the beginning I was a little bit suspicious but the site looked right. On a first look they have a support number, a contact email, testimonials using with very good reviews. They have a Facebook page with 33K+ likes.

I submitted the IMEI of my two iPhones a 4S and a 4. Total cost 117€ (£93, $160).
After a couple of days I got the following answer for both phones:


iPhone marked as ‘Blocked or In-Contract’.
“The IMEI you gave us has been rejected by the carrier for unlocking due to being marked Blocked, usually meaning it’s a lost or stolen handset, but handsets can be blocked for any number of reasons including non-payment of bills, blacklisted, bad ESN and/or contract issues or still in contract. We cannot supply a refund for handsets that come back as blocked – this is mentioned on the website before purchase.”

At that point I decided to check what was going on with my phones. I contacted the Softbank international service and they confirmed to me that my phones weren’t in any of those states. They also provided me with a link to check the status of my phones by providing the IMEI. The page is in Japanese, but look at the image bellow, I translated what it means:


(click on the image to see it in full size)

The text in Japanese: ○: 利用できます(後日不正契約が認められた場合を除きます)
Allowed to use. (excluding the case in which the contract is recognized as fraudulent in the future)

My contract with Softbank is totally closed, the iPhones are my property now and I have no issues or pending payments with them. I’m totally in peace with Softbank.

In the same email from they continued:


“Good news however. We can easily unlock your Blocked handset on our ‘Any Network’ service which is guaranteed, the cost of this is an additional £50.00 and takes 24-72 hours. Please remember this service will NOT bypass an iCloud Activation Locked handset.
To upgrade to the Blocked service, please use this link
If you use our Guaranteed Any Network service and it fails for any reason, we refund ALL monies for that IMEI, including your original payment.”

This is when things turns even worse. They suggest me to pay extra £50 to unlock my phones and in case it’s not possible they will refund everything, including my original payment. Wait a minute. You can refund everything if I pay another £50 but you can’t refund my original payment?
This literally sounds like SCAM to me but comments of people in Facebook look very good.

I tried to reach them by phone but I got no answer. The answer is just a recorded message saying that they are busy, and after a long while, the communication just dropped. Also the phone recorded message said that they don’t attend support by phone.

I wrote several emails in their support page but again no response.

I wrote an email to the only email I got from their site: but no response as well.

I sent a message using Facebook, no response.

I posted in their wall, the post was deleted…

I also commented on one of their posts in their Facebook page. And, so far, no answer.


At this point what else should I do? The next step should be to contact the police, notify the site as SCAM, and keep my personal online war against to see if they will eventually refund my money.

I don’t care if they couldn’t unlock my phones, that’s fine because technical issues are normal. But what frustrates me and makes all this really fishy is the fact that they don’t get back to me and ignore all my attempts to contact them. if you guys cannot unlock my phones, that’s fine! But I want my money back because my case is none of the special cases which don’t get refunded.

[UPDATE 2014/08/26]
I was contacted by which seems to be the company used by to manage the payments. They reviewed my case and decided to refund the payment. Now I’m in peace with officialiphoneunlock but I would like to use this incident to talk about common sense. None of this would have happened if they just replied to me, even with a “we are working on this” or “we will review your complain”. The fact that officialiphoneunlock just ignored my attempts to communicate with them, left me with no other option but to complain publicly. Just a simple gesture of attention to your clients is enough to avoid a complain that will eventually damage the company’s reputation and image.
This is also a good opportunity to remember the importance of complaining in social media and blogs. It works and companies offering online services should be more responsive to their clients.

Forcing air currents in urban areas for weather change. Ideas #1

I’m not a meteorologist or an expert in the matter. Anyway it doesn’t mean I cannot have an idea. Maybe it makes sense or it doesn’t, anyway here it is.

Summer in Tokyo is like hell on earth. Huge humidity and this year will be remembered in particular. I always read that the main causes are urbanization disorder that prevents air from moving, extensive use of air conditioning and inefficient construction materials that absorb heat. I don’t know if these are the causes. Anyway what if we paint the roofs in one area white and another dark. That will create a difference in temperature and therefore an air current. There are articles that predict that white roofs are not the solution and that it will be even worse. (here, here)

But what I’m saying here is not about just reflecting light. I’m thinking about how to create a huge cheap ventilator effect inside the city.


Air in the dark area heats up, and creates a current moving from the white area. The idea behind this post is to use huge areas to work as artificial ventilators creating air currents by using houses roofs for heat absorption or heat reflection.



Who are the people reflected in the water? When I took this picture I was thinking about that, what if things where just reversed, the train going in the opposite direction, the majority of people left-handed, keys closing clockwise. I was in the opposite side of the river that goes with the railroad, in Ichigaya station (市ヶ谷駅). Continue reading

Safe house

I found this house visiting Tarragona (Spain). After living the M9 quake of 2011 in Tokyo I cannot even think about living in such a house. Maybe I’m wrong and this house is perfectly safe, I doubt it…

Safe house

I didn’t know that I died when I was 30

How many people in this world achieved amazing results within the first 3 decades of their lives? Alexander the Great by the age of thirty, had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world. Jesus Christ died around 30. Albert Einstein conceived in his mind his most important theories, before 30. Nikola Tesla also achieved his most important inventions during 3 decades, and many others. 30 years is a life, an entire life. No more than 200 years ago, life expectancy was around 40. That means one life! Nowadays life expectancy in the industrialized world is 2 or 3 times that, which means, at least two lives in one!

Culture and society understands life as a progressive path with goals down the road to achieve. Birth, Education, Job, Family, Old Age and Death. All this on a “life spam”, but it doesn’t specify time. So what about if we extend our lives up to 120 years? That means that we again start to work before 25, and keep working until we retire, let’s say 90… Does it make any sense? So, let’s face it. We humans can achieve whatever we want, in the first 30 years of our live. We can change the world in just 3 decades!

So, I propose to change our vision to a new way to understand life and goals. I’m 36 at the moment I’m writing this. If I assume my symbolic death when I was 30, it means that now I’m 6 years old. But I don’t need to go to elementary school and I don’t have to deal with all the obstacles of my lack of experience as a 6 year old child. I want to imagine, that I woke up and now I’m 6 years old but I have all the knowledge that I’ve accumulated in my first 30 years of life.
I already spent one life, whatever I did it’s done, I can’t change it. But, I can learn from that life experience for my new life that’s started 6 years ago and I just didn’t know. So instead of start thinking in terms of “I’m too old now”, “I lost the train and the opportunity to do this or that…”, “I can’t start a new career now”… I will think in terms of “I’m 6 years old and I know a lot!!, I still have one more life left in this video game”.

So that’s it, I’m still in the middle of the road of my life, that means I have just made the 50% of it. We can start over again, planning again, studying again, doing again whatever we want and work for this second chance we have.

If you are in your 30s think about this: you just started your clock again and you maybe didn’t realize about it. If you are in your 40s, you are just about 10 years old! You still have a life ahead so don’t loose the illusion. If you are far away from that, remember that at 60, you will die again, and a third chance is given to you, so don’t waste it, because that’s the last one, at least based on our current medical advances :)

This is my exercise for this 2012. Realize that I died at 30, I’m 6 years old, and my life started again. Let’s take a break, and rethink about everything. I have the opportunity to make it again, better and more interesting than before. Go ahead and do the same. Think about what you have done until now and if you are not satisfied with it, now it’s the moment to start anew!

Good luck!