Life works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it? It comes and goes, never leaving you indifferent. It has got its own way of telling you when to stop, do plenty of thinking about why you were brought here in the first place and hop back into the train we all call the world to move on. I guess this time around though it also had something else in stock for me. Something that has made the writing of this blog post kind of tough and a bit too edgy at the same time, not necessarily for putting it together, but for its implications thereafter. Once again, and probably for the zillionth time already, I am now back to my (no longer) regular blogging schedule and, after nearly two months since the last article I wrote over here, I have got a piece of news to share that may come as a surprise to some of you folks. Maybe. May be not. On January 20th 2014, I quit IBM. On my terms. Since February 4th, I am a now free man. Whatever that means…
Quit a surprise, eh? Yes, I know. It even was a shock for me, too! That’s right. Earlier on this year, to be more precise, on January 20th, I announced, to my former employer, right on the same day when I was celebrating my 17th year anniversary at IBM that I was quitting my job as a Lead Social Business Enabler and that February 3rd would be my last working day. I still can’t believe it myself and I don’t even know whether I may be regretting the decision over time, or not, but it’s now done and dealt with. That can probably explain the main reason why I have been relatively quiet in the last few months out there in the Social Web. It hasn’t been an overnight decision. Quite the opposite, it’s been already in my mind for about two years and all along I have been delaying it, because perhaps I just didn’t want to face it. Perhaps I didn’t want to come to terms with the fact it was time for me to move on.
But then again, signal after signal, conversation after conversation, and lots of thinking in between here and there, certainly help me arrive at the Christmas period where I was on holidays for a full month, away from everything, pondering whether it was the time for me to call it quits and do something else. Move on with my life. Picture me: a blank A4 piece of paper and a pen, two columns, one on pros and the other one on cons about whether I should stay or go, me frantically writing down for a good while on either column and at the very end reaching one rather massive conclusion. Picture this: family members doing the very same exercise without me telling them anything. Just writing down what they may have noticed. We compared notes. We talked. We were all shocked. The conclusions of both exercises were exactly the same. How weird is that? Or, better said, how scarily accurate is that?
It just felt right. It does feel right still. You see?, there is a time when each and everyone of us would come to terms with the fact that we would all need to question what we do with our (work) lives, figure out whether you are on the right track or not, whether we are still driven by the same passion as when we started working (In my case, 17 years ago), whether the motivation to carry on is strong enough to help you continue without deviations. I guess focus is the word I was looking for, you may think, right? Yes, probably, but I am more inclined to think I am looking more for a couple of other words: purpose and meaning.
A mid-(work)life crisis of sorts? Most probably, but then again, feeling all along, it may well have been just the perfect timing altogether. One where serendipity does its magic and helps provoke these happenings, just like that. I know that this may sound crazy, but I have always felt that my entire working career has been defined and shaped up by serendipity. And this time around was no different. Things happen for a reason. Always. No matter what. It’s just a matter, for each and everyone of us, to figure out whether we can see it or not. Oh, don’t worry, I am still currently going through that process myself, but I am now more convinced than ever before that it’s time for me to move on…
17 long years at the largest IT firm in the world can give you plenty of stretch to do and experience lots of different things. I feel privileged to have lived through that. In those 17 years at IBM I have worked in 6 different business units, with their own 6 different cultures, challenges and exciting opportunities, making them feel like as if I had 6 jobs already at any other place. I have had the opportunity, and the great pleasure, to work with some of the most amazing talented people I know. In fact, they are the only and exclusive reason as to why yours truly, an English teacher, after all, has been working for an IT firm for over 17 years while loathing technology to bits. No, I am not a techie and nor will I be pursuing a long term career in that field. I am all about the people. For the people. I am a connector. And when you feel that work for the people is now done and dealt with, it’s time to move on. On to the next adventure.
I am incredibly thankful, an equally grateful altogether, for all of the wonderful 17 years that I have spent at IBM. I haven’t got a single regret. There have been highs and lows, I guess pretty much the same as for plenty of you folks out there. I have had some absolutely stunning and beautiful work experiences working in an environment where a crazy idea, executed with lots of passion and brain, can change your life for good. And IBM has been a key enabler of that. The people. It’s what motivates me to come to work every day. Day in, day out. It’s what motivates me to have a smile on my face, to always try to be helpful, empathic, full of energy and passion, keen on both sharing my knowledge openly and learn from others at the same time. I guess that’s when the customer service skills course I did way back in time does pay off eventually.
But at some point, you realise that you start deviating from that people focus into something else. Something that you know, and see, it’s totally not you. Something I know plenty of you folks would be able to relate to, something that drains your energy out of you with no remedy taking away all of that passion and motivation to carry on. To help and care for others. And, that’s right, before it’s too late, you realise it’s the right time to make a move, to re-find your passion, your engagement, your motivation to push forward and, with a bit of courage and some bravery, embrace the unknown: quit your job:
— Luis Suarez (@elsua) January 23, 2014
That was the tweet I shared across a couple of days later, where I announced to my world that rather unexpected change. Then it all got rather emotional and intense, as you can imagine. The responses both on the Twittersphere, as well as internally, have been truly AMAZING! I have felt, in massive waves, all the love from those who I have cared for and helped dearly over the course of the years. And it hasn’t been easy adjusting to the new reality.
In fact, this is my first blog post writing about it (Other than that tweet). But then you realise that in the world of the Social Web, you are not going away from people, you are just breaking up the firewall, while trying to help all of those folks embrace that notion that networks are *not* organisations. They are porous, they don’t understand, nor comprehend, nor even care!, about what organisation you work for, or which one would pay your bills. Your networks would only care about you and your well-being based on how much you have nurtured and cultivated them over time. Your networks become you. You become your networks. All one. Your one. No-one else’s.
And then you realise that your departure is no longer painful anymore, nor sad, nor shocking. You then realise as well how it is all a big, massive celebration of freedom. You are no longer trapped. The wild duck continues with its journey. It’s just the new reality. Networks are the new swarms. And you are just an integral part of them and whatever physical and virtual barriers they are no longer an issue. They just don’t exist. You are part of that system of networks. And the journey continues. That’s where I am at the moment.
I am pretty sure that plenty of you folks are now wondering what I will be doing next, where will this wild-duck go this time around? What is he going to do with his new freedom? What’s that new adventure he keeps talking about and hinting here and there with somewhat cryptic and obscure hints? Will he continue working in a large corporate environment helping people adapt to that brave new world of becoming a Social / Open Business? Perhaps giving it a go at a startup? Or maybe going solo? Or will he open up this rather lovely lounge bar called Sunset Cafe right where he lives offering delicious cakes and refreshing cocktails? What will he do? What would you do?
The uncertainty is killing us.
Don’t worry. That same uncertainty is going after me as well. It keeps lingering at the back of my mind. And some times it grabs me badly reminding whether I have made the right decision or not. Whether it was all a mistake. Whether I will regret it over time. But then again that inner urge and intuition of letting serendipity do its magic, of bringing back the passion for what you have always believed in, and the excitement of that newly embraced freedom to focus on re-finding your purpose and meaning on what you do, they all do help mitigate some of that uncertainty. Either way, this is the first of a series of blog posts I will be sharing in the next couple of days of what and where to next. For now, a teaser: it’s going to be something completely different to what I have been experiencing over the course of the last 17 years, and therefore a completely new learning experience.
One where I am hoping my hybrid networks (internal and external) would become an integral part of to help us all continue learning along the way on what our purpose and meaning may have been all along…
Let the next adventure begin!
If you have been reading this blog for a while now you would remember how every year that goes by I always try to incorporate a new theme or topic that I would want to explore further along during the course of the year and see where it would take me, specially, if it aligns with the core subjects I get to cover over here from all along like Social Business, Social Computing, Enterprise 2.0, Online Communities, Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing (a.k.a. KM), Learning and, since last year, Open Business as well (Which, by the way, still remains as one of the Top Reads from this blog for 2013 overall and surely am very pleased about that one. Thanks much everyone for co-sharing that same interest!). So what is it going to be this year then, you may be wondering, right? Well, this time around, and to make up for the couple of extended breaks I took from this blog in the last few months, I am planning on making it up and, eventually, incorporate three different new themes, two of which I will be announcing in the next couple of weeks as we move into 2014, and a third one that I will be kicking off today with this particular article. The topic? Humanise. The what? Everything!
Indeed, over the course of the last few years, as I have been getting more and more involved with internal social networking in a business context, one of the many reasons that, specially, social computing evangelists have been sharing all along in terms of the clear benefits for Social / Open Business is the ability for all of those social technologies to socialise the workplace, to democratise it, to flatten it, to make it more personal and up close, to demonstrate how organisations are no longer that faceless corporate brand you just can’t engage with in a meaningful two-way-street open and direct conversation. And that’s all good. But I think we need to start aiming a bit higher than that, and perhaps become a bit more ambitious as to what we would want to achieve, beyond that social savviness. I want to aim higher myself and state how all of these social networking tools help humanise not just ourselves, as knowledge Web workers, but also the organisations we all may be working for, whether large or small.
Why? Well, essentially, because they are helping re-surface what we, human beings, have been all along and that the business world has managed to demolish over the course of the last 50 to 70 years in a very effective manner: our very own humanity. Our very own need to connect, to bond, to find that common spark amongst humans that helps us generate a connection, a link, a chemistry, a conversation, a smile.
But what if humanise would be something bigger? What if humanise wouldn’t have much to do with social technologies after all, but a wake-up call to realise who we really are (and what we have been all along!) in terms of our behaviours and rituals. What if humanise is all about demonstrating, time and time again, how we cannot neglect anymore, nor ignore, our very own human nature of wanting to connect, to collaborate, to share our knowledge, to tell stories, so that we have got a perfect opportunity to relate to others based on just those connections?
Well, that’s exactly what I am hoping to achieve with this new theme that I will be incorporating into this blog over the course of the next few days, months, year(s). An opportunity for us to challenge our current way of thinking; to also challenge the status quo of how things work in today’s (working) reality, including perhaps in our own personal lives; to understand, finally, how, in most cases, we probably just have to let things go and focus on embracing the unexpected, the uncertain, what we just can’t control anymore, or don’t know the answer for; that is, embracing fully the magic behind serendipitous knowledge discoveries (of whatever kind!) that, just by not being out there, we would have missed out on them either way.
Want an example? Take a look into this one video clip then. Courtesy of the wonderful, rather smart and witty folks behind SoulPancake. It’s a 5 minute long clip under the title “Take a Seat – Make a Friend?” where the main premise is all about opening up. In this case, opening up to total strangers (in pairs) inside a ball pit to talk about “life’s big questions” and, eventually, figure out if there would be a connection in the making.
Now, I am not going to spoil the fun for all of you folks out there wanting to see the outcome of that humanising experiment . Instead I would encourage all to take a look into the embedded code of the video, hit Play, sit back, relax and think “WOW! What would happen if we run this at my workplace?“
See? Sometimes you don’t even need to make use of any social technologies to help demonstrate that human, basic characteristic of always wanting to connect with others by just opening up to the unexpected and let the conversation do the rest. Flow naturally.
I guess it’s now a good time to resume my regular blogging activities, once again, don’t you think? After all, it’s been over three months since I last created a blog entry over here and I suppose I am very much overdue on it. Perhaps even more so to share across an explanation of where have I been in the last three months and venture into sharing some additional details on why I have gone through the longest blogging hiatus that I can remember over the last 10 years that I have been blogging along myself. Was it needed? Yes, you bet it was! Why? Well, two words to define it that I can think of, so far, to explain such a quiet period: (re)focus and purpose.
Over the course of the last 3 months there have been several attempts where I drafted a blog post I just kept writing, and re-writing, over and over again, and I eventually gave up on it. It just wasn’t right. Don’t worry, it wasn’t the well known writer’s block that got me stuck. On the contrary. All along, I wanted it to go out and be published. I even came up with a title for it to describe a bit what I have been going through in the last few months: “Scalability and the Power of Letting Things Go“. Then it hit me: it just wasn’t going to be worth it. Well, maybe it was, if only perhaps because of its cathartic power, but then again it just didn’t feel like it would eventually make it. And now, three months later, upon looking back, I’m glad it didn’t. Because, all along, I was just so wrong with it.
It was one of those blog posts where I was angry and rather upset about a good number of different things. Where my own internal rage almost unleashed itself into the unknown. Rather emotional and perhaps even somewhat visceral, if you would want to call it that way. Pretty damaging overall, if it would have gone out eventually. Even more so when plenty of my closed networks strongly discouraged me to publish it, because they thought it just wasn’t me. It was someone else taking over. Someone that I know I wouldn’t have been able to control myself once it went out. You see? That’s what empowering, trustworthy, caring and nurturing networks can do to you, when you least expected, after you have decided to go the extra mile and trust them dearly as if they were an integral part of you: they protect you to death even against your own self.
And I am grateful for that. They all know it. You ALL know it. I am thankful that I listened to each and everyone of them looking into things from their perspective versus just my own selfish and self-destructive one. Yes, self-destruction is what that blog post would have meant eventually. Of everything that I may have built over the course of the last 17 years in this rather fragile digital world. Of everything that I have strongly believed all along on what I have been meant to do with that digital footprint. And then it hit me. All of a sudden, this article I published nearly 2 years ago, under the heading “Reflections from 2011 – Focused and Purposeful Social Networking“, came to my mind as a flashback to remind me of something I may have lost along the way in the last 18 months or so: (re)focus and purpose.
Indeed, upon reflecting through that long period of three months of very rare and scarce external social interactions from yours truly, I realised that all along I seem to have gone off track from my original purpose. It’s been an interesting experience, because it’s helped me evaluate how I would want to re-focus and re-find that purpose and aim back at the original source of the meaning of the things that I do in the world of Social / Open Business. In fact, I think what I have just gone through, perhaps without even realising about it all along (And that’s a good thing, I guess!), is letting serendipity do its magic, once more, and help my purpose re-find me again.
And it looks like it’s succeeded on its own, because I am now, finally, back! Full of that same energy, and passion, all intact as if it were yesterday, 14 years ago, when I first got started with social networking, and with a renewed source of purposeful meaning into wanting to change the world. At least, my world. That’s gotta be a good start, don’t you think? Well, the excitement is there and as I am starting to wrap up 2013, while currently enjoying a few days of holidays, 2014 is starting to look as exciting, nerve-wrecking, mind-blowing, uncertain, chaotic, complex, beautiful and, above all, more networked than ever before!
Quite an unprecedented learning experience overall, I might add…
Isn’t blogging such a wonderful thing? You bet it is! Once again, it’s managed to bring me back from that darker side of things in all things digital that was just taking me nowhere. Oh, my dear blog, how much I have missed thee throughout all of this time!