The inescapable climbing concrete jungle we now live in is a reality that some city dwellers refuse to embrace without a little greenery. Though we may have to live amongst man-made structures there is nothing in the agreement that stipulates no nature, and an increasing number of people have come to view plants as a good green compromise. Author, model and presenter Summer Rayne Oakes is a botanical boffin with a skill for nurturing plants in urban spaces. Her city abode is a living interior of flora and fronds so effervescent as to attract full page spreads in lifestyle magazines. Who better to instruct a course in plant mastery?

Summer Rayne has launched her first kickstarter campaign to help hapless horticulturalists get better acquainted with their house plants. How to Make a Plant Love You is an online audio-visual workshop and experience to help you demystify plant care and learn how to have a relationship with your plants. Forget partners, think plants—what’s your perfect match?

What exactly is a plant master class?

My vision behind How to Make a Plant Love You: Houseplant Masterclass is to create an online-audiovisual course + experience to help people demystify plant care, learn how to have a better relationship with their plants, and guide people to create the indoor jungle of their dreams.

What are the hardest horticultural habits to master?

Caring for plants is highly achievable; I believe there is a plant for everyone at some point in their lives. The biggest hurdle is learning how to listen to your plant’s needs. They clearly don’t bark or meow to get your attention, as our beloved pets do, so you have to observe their day-to-day signs. What I’m aiming to achieve with the Houseplant Masterclass is to help people “think more like a plant”. When you do that, you don’t have to memorize what yellow leaves mean vs. brown tips, for instance; instead, you’ll have a keen sense as to what’s going on with the plant so you can intuit yourself.

Why are plants a smart choice for busy people living in tiny spaces?

Plants immediately make a home far more inviting. When my roommate had moved out of my apartment years ago, the house was rather cold. The first thing I did was get a sizable Ficus lyrata, or fiddle leaf fig, and it immediately changed the nature of the space. Since that time, I’ve filled my home with around 700 plants—it’s a veritable oasis! I invite people in for meditations or tours, or just to hang out, and it really creates an idyllic atmosphere—even in the middle of the big city!

Are plants like pets, is there a perfect match for different personalities?

I think you have to triangulate to answer this question. One of the first questions I always ask people is what kind or quality of light they have in their homes. Plants eat light through their leaves, so they need it to operate, grow and reproduce. That’s one of the most limiting factors. Then I often ask what kind of “plant parent” or “caretaker” the person is so that he or she can come to a conclusion as to the best plant for them!

What are some of the more imaginative ways to integrate plants into a home or office?

I look at any type of container and think, “hmmmm, that would be a great plant pot!” There’s just a range of ways you can display plants in all creative ways—in colanders, in mason jars, etc. I think in home or office, bringing in Tillandsia, or air plants; or perhaps a small terrarium can be a real statement piece.

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Words when chosen wisely, have profound impact and can lead to authentic insights—yet prose just as easily lends itself to pointless rant and even diatribe should we write without restraint. Of course, the extreme opposite of this is also subject to imprecise drivel—texting with auto-correct for one, and writing with emoji’s rather than letters for another. But like an athlete, writers can sharpen their skills and transform their words into lean, mean(ingful) tools of exploration, expression and even persuasion. We asked locution expert and author of ‘The Writer’s Diet’, Helen Sword, to reveal how.

Like any guide to diet and fitness, The Writer’s Diet offers advice and exercises designed to help you become stronger and leaner without sacrificing your pleasure and well-being. Here, however, the focus is on your sentences, not your body. Just as athletes build up their strength and agility by eating nutritious food and performing targeted exercises, good writers build strong sentences by nourishing them with high-quality ingredients and then putting them through a workout.

A core feature of the book is the WritersDiet Test, a diagnostic exercise that you can perform manually using paper and coloured pencils or electronically via the Writer’s Diet website ( Simply cut and paste a passage of between 100 and 1,000 words into the online text box, click the Run the Test button and find out whether your writing sample is ‘flabby or fit’. Whatever your diagnosis, I advise you take the test with a sense of humour and a grain of salt: it offers recommendations, not a prescription; a set of core principles, not a one-size-fits-all formula. Remember, too, that the online test is intended to supplement the book, not to replace it. The book explores all the stylistic subtleties and exceptions that the test cannot.

Chapter One, ‘Verbal verve’, focuses on verbs, which power our sentences as surely as muscles propel our bodies. Robust action verbs infuse your writing with vigour and metaphorical zing; they put legs on your prose. As a rule of thumb, I like to make sure that every paragraph I write contains at least two or three vivid verbs (here, I’ve used power, propel and infuse) to move things along.

If verbs function as the muscles of language, nouns are its bones. Chapter Two, ‘Noun density’, teaches you to anchor complex ideas in concrete nouns. Sentences with ‘strong bones’ convey meaning and emotion through objects that we can visualise: muscles and bones. Sentences with ‘weak bones’ rely mostly on abstract nouns, which express intangible ideas remote from the world of the human senses. In particular, I caution readers against lumbering multi-syllabic monsters that I call ‘zombie nouns’, which can suck the life-blood and energy from your prose.

The remaining chapters of the book explore how other types of words can help or hinder clear communication. For example, prepositions supply our sentences with directional thrust; when used in excess, however, they can slow things down instead. Adjectives and adverbs lend colour and flavour to our writing, but they may also end up sugar-coating weak sentences that would benefit from more active verbs and concrete nouns. And the four little inkblots that I call the ‘waste words’—it, this, that and there—can clog up your prose as surely as cholesterol clogs your arteries.

I wrote The Writer’s Diet because I got tired of reading long-winded, stodgy sentences that I had to work hard to decipher. Whether you write for a general audience or a highly specialised one, this book can help you do so more clearly, energetically and persuasively—with sleek prose your readers will remember.

Breaking down digital boundaries which limit human connection and authentic communication, is a the best way to standout in a sea of faceless start-ups. Old fashioned etiquette is a smart strategy for success and as we discover, the new armour for digital entrepreneurs.

Michaela Launerts, has extensive experience in Secondary Education as an English teacher and pastoral coordinator. Passionate about equipping others with the interpersonal skills needed to thrive in the Digital Age, she founded Etiquette & Co., a bespoke consulting service that empowers others to be confident across an array of social and professional situations. In her new book #Girlcode (New Holland Publishers, RRP $24.99), Launerts explores the forgotten art of etiquette and how to use it as a secret weapon for success.

The book speaks to emerging entrepreneurs, mostly Miss Millennials (but we found the content equally applicable to Mr Millennials) everywhere—the switched on social media generation who are lacking essential social skills for the real world. Helping develop the confidence needed to become the best version of yourself, providing the tools to interact with all sorts of people without the anxiety and awkwardness that seems to prevent us from achieving our personal goals.

In this technological age, competition for employment is fierce. In order to stand out from the crowd, you need to be personable. Ironically, the social media phenomenon has led to a rapid decline in people’s social skills. We live in a time where face-to-face contact has been replaced with cyberspace presence and connecting with friends means disconnecting from reality. Now, more than ever, the need to learn how to behave in contemporary social and professional settings in order to be able to thrive within them is critical. If social skills are the building blocks of confidence and character, then the ability to communicate effectively is the VIP ticket to personal success.

What does etiquette for digital entrepreneurs look like?

While the new breed of digital entrepreneurs are often highly skilled in the digital landscape they are accustomed to, an absence of authentic, face to face interactions can result in a lack of understanding when it comes to the power of interpersonal skills. It’s those real life interactions that build confidence, character and the ability to successfully connect with people regardless of the platform. From networking to effective management and customer relations, soft skills are crucial when it comes to building a thriving business.

Successful entrepreneurship requires the ability to create a climate that promotes customer loyalty and ensures employees are inspired to work to their potential. Best performance, culture, shared vision and customer rapport can only be built on a foundation of strong interpersonal skills. In good news, once a person gains an understanding of the way we perceive certain behaviour, it becomes relatively easy to develop the soft skills needed to empower the savviest of techsperts in reaching their personal and professional goals.

Polished communication skills are a must across all interactions with employees and clients. Being courteous and well mannered promotes a culture of respect and productivity. Humans are social by nature, we subconsciously use our intuition to make our way through the world. The way we feel about certain situations, particular people and the way we make others feel impacts significantly on our experience, in turn, affecting our behaviour. It’s not surprising that the latest statistics point to customer experience, or CX, as being the cornerstone of success for digital entrepreneurs; as the saying goes, the way you make others feel after having had an interaction with you, becomes your trademark—online or otherwise.

Professional Etiquette

Basic manners and etiquette are the ‘filters’ we use in real life to make ourselves look good. Simply put, conveying a positive attitude makes us attractive to others—you need to be approachable. This puts people, your people, at ease, which is a key factor in creating a productive culture and reputable brand. Ultimately you need to be able to make a confident, authentic impact in real life by utilizing what we already know about human interaction. It’s time to make friends with Decorum and Deportment.

While decorum (the way we behave) and deportment (the way we present ourselves) may be terms that have become lost in contemporary vernacular, as long as we remain in control of the technology, they are far from obsolete. By synthesizing our understanding of heritage skills with our ability to use technology to our advantage, building a professional image or brand becomes easy.

Implementing the Basics

First impressions are everything. Learn how to make a good one by perfecting your handshake, a powerful symbol of sincerity, confidence and character.

Don’t be afraid to sharpen your image if required. Does your appearance reflect the high standards and quality that are synonymous with your brand? If not, take into account the basic principles of professional dress and opt for a more conservative look if appropriate. If you want to be taken seriously, self respect always comes first. Stand out for the right reasons. If in doubt, go for clean, polished and pressed.

Ensure your people have a thorough understanding of good old-fashioned customer service skills and use them in their daily interactions including all face-to-face, email and phone correspondence. Set the standard by modelling high quality interactions.

Broaden your horizons. Become familiar with the principles of international business and dining etiquette so that your interactions aren’t limited (or thwarted) by conduct that could be deemed inappropriate by your international peers.

Across all your professional correspondence, be exactly that, direct, grammatically correct, clear and courteous. Don’t waste others’ time by sending or forwarding any content that is irrelevant and ensure your responses are prompt and informative. Address every point or concern raised to avoid communication lag.

Keep your personal life and your professional life completely separate across all social media and professional networking platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. A clean digital footprint is a must when it comes to reputation, so save the selfies for your personal account and ensure maximum privacy settings are in place.

The content you post on online is public and permanent. Ensure you have a good command of formal English so that your expression reflects the quality of your brand.

Never underestimate the power you have over the way you are perceived by others. You are always in complete control. Up-skill if you need to. Bespoke etiquette training programs such as those offered by Etiquette & Co. can be used to train or retrain your people in order that they continue to reflect the high standards of your brand.

Oh and remember, the neo-luddites and digital exiles aren’t against you, they’re cheering you on from the sidelines. Harness the power of charisma and you’ll not only bridge the gap that exists but completely remove the lid that may be tightly screwed on your potential for growth.

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Created by Ray Dalio this simple but not simplistic and easy to follow 30 minute, animated video answers the question, “How does the economy really work?” Based on Dalio’s practical template for understanding the economy, which he developed over the course of his career, the video breaks down economic concepts like credit, deficits and interest rates, allowing viewers to learn the basic driving forces behind the economy, how economic policies work and why economic cycles occur.

To learn more about Economic Principles visit:

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In early September 2016, the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), together with Panthera, held a workshop to consider future initiatives to conserve the African lion. The topic is urgent because numbers of lions have plummeted over the last century from an oft quoted figure of around 200,000 to nowadays closer to 20,000 and falling. The workshop, prompted by global attention given to the death of Cecil the Lion, who had been tracked for years by WildCRU, is the Cecil Summit. The Summit culminated with an open session offering the opportunity to hear the views of top lion experts and also a variety of innovative thinkers from fields such as economics, development, international relations and ethics.

About WildCRU: David Macdonald founded the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) in 1986 at the University of Oxford. Now the foremost University-based centre for biodiversity conservation, the mission of the WildCRU is to achieve practical solutions to conservation problems through original research. WildCRU is particularly renowned for its work with wild carnivores, especially wild cats, including its long-running studies on lion and clouded leopard. Its training centre for early-career conservationists, so far from 32 countries, produces experts and future leaders in global conservation.

About Panthera: founded in 2006, Panthera is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 50 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours.