E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Fun Stuff and Musings

Pep Talk – Who Moved My Cheese?

New York City - BroadwayOnce again, it’s been a little while now since my last blog post over here, and I am sure most of you folks may be wondering what have I been up to in the last couple of weeks, right?, specially, after returning from my last business trip to New York City on the week of February 11th. Well, if I were to tell you that loads of things have happened, that I have been embarking on a massive non-stop frenetic roller-coaster ride, some of which have had a significant direct impact on yours truly, you may not believe much of it, right? After all, it’s not the kind of thing that I usually get to talk about and share across over here. That’s about to change though. At least, this time around. I’m going to give you all a little bit of Pep Talk. And then we are going to talk about Who Moved My Cheese? Because someone just did that. 

Ok, I will leave the Pep Talk for a little bit later on … You know what happens when someone decides to move your cheese without telling you in advance, right?, that, when it hits you, it’s already probably too late. Lucky enough, I have always thought it is never too late. So when it, finally, happened to me a few weeks back, it was a good time to start that process of soulsearching that one embarks on once in a while and see where I will end up going. Judging from my close social networks somehow I sense that for everyone out there 2013 is going to be the year of Change (With a capital C). Well, for me, that soul-searching process is now over. And that week I spent in New York City surely has changed my life and in so many different ways that it’s going to be a bit too tough for me to relate it all over here. Yes, I know what you are thinking… How much more cryptic can one get when reflecting on all of this, right? I mean, can you just tell us what’s going on and why have you been absent from your external social networking activities for perhaps far too long? 

Hummm, in its due time. Not yet though. I am still not ready to share it along. Many years ago, nevertheless, I bumped into one key online principle I have lived by ever since that has been perhaps the most helpful piece of advice one can give to someone else who is just about to start participating in the digital world and the Social Web: never, ever, write anything online in a blog post, a tweet, or whatever else, when you are upset, angry, frustrated but also EXCITED or far too exhilarated about something. 

I guess that in the last month I have gone through both ends of the spectrum detailed above, which would explain why I haven’t written much online out there. Before my business trip to New York City I was on the very negative side of the spectrum and right after the NYC trip I was right at the opposite end. I guess that’s what one of the most amazing places on this planet can do to you over the course of a week, or, in my case, in 20 minutes. Yes, I know, here I am again, being rather cryptic, aren’t I? Sorry, it’s not intended, nor on purpose. I’m just trying to reflect on the fact that certain things and certain decisions usually taken within minutes can have quite a significant impact, one way or another. And probably the best option is to just take it as it is, re-think quite dearly your purpose, meaning and focus and go and start searching for that new cheese. 

Till you find it. And I did! And I am excited. Actually, I am incredibly excited, but, like I said, I am not ready to share it or talk about it out there, just yet. Still a bit too soon. Which is why I thought I would finish off this blog post letting you know that I’m back with my usual regular blogging schedule, now more intense and relevant than ever to the main themes from this blog all along, including Open Business, of course, and with a huge piece of news coming up soon that I am hoping will help explain why I have been relatively quiet out there on the Social Web. For most folks out there who know me somewhat it’s going to be a bit of a shock, for those of you, my dear friends, who know me personally, it’s going to be something I have been waiting for for the last 12 years and it’s finally here. Yes, I know, the suspense and the intrigue are killing you all right now, aren’t they?

Well, here’s the Pep Talk piece of this article then. Through one of my fellow IBM colleagues, who blogged about it internally, I bumped into this delightful short YouTube video, about Kid President sharing with us a little bit of a pep talk that I am sure we would all need to watch every now and then to remind us about what really matters. It’s one of those amazing inspirational video clips that would not leave you indifferent, to the point where it may help provoke that soul-searching activity you may have been parking on the sideway for far too long. In the context of what I have just shared above, it surely has for me, which is why I thought I would share the embedded code over here so that you folks would have an opportunity to watch and see what I mean about the video being one of the most motivational, hilarious, witty, relevant and smart discourses you will bump into out there. If not, judge for yourselves: 

Like I said, there is probably not much of a need to worry when someone decides to move your cheese without you not knowing anything about it; there is a great chance that change is good and perhaps this pep talk from Kid President will help you get back on track while you redefine your new purpose, your new focus and, specially, your potential new meaning to everything you do.

I want to be anyone that leads to … awesome”

(Yeah, me, too!)

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The Joy of Business Travelling

France - NiceAfter a couple of days back home, unwinding and relaxing a bit from quite a hectic schedule at work, it is that time again for yours truly to be on the road again. Every year, they keep saying that October and November are conference events months, now that the summer holidays are over and it is “time to get back to work” (As if we ever stop, right?) and judging from my current current travelling schedule till mid-December I am beginning to believe on that one pretty badly. I have just gotten started with another business trip, this time around a bit longer than usual since I will be going through Madrid, Apeldoorn, Amsterdam, Brighton, Montpellier and then back home again, and I couldn’t stop reflecting about what’s the main reason why I am falling in love, once again, with business travelling: carpe diem.

Indeed, I have been working in such a large corporate world as IBM’s for over 15 years and during the course of that time I have been fortunate enough to live through periods of time where I truly loved business travelling, specially, in the late 90s, and then again there have been plenty of other occasions where I wasn’t very fond of it. Yet, I am realising that over the course of the last few months I am enjoying it quite a bit, once again, and since a bunch of folks have asked me offline why has that happened, what made it tick, I thought I would share a couple of the reasons as to why, specially, when, perhaps for the majority of people out there, it is no longer an enjoyable experience as it used to be.

To start off, I am not ready just yet to kill my day job, as Rolf Potts once beautifully described over at this delightful read on “How to Kill Your Day Job and Travel the World“. I am not sure whether you may have read his article, but if you haven’t I can strongly recommend you go through it. You will find plenty of reasons in it that would confirm why travelling the world is perhaps one of the most fascinating activities that we, humans, once unbeatable and untireable nomads, used to master above any other species, before we became sedentary, changing completely plenty of our daily habits and routines.

It will also help you understand how, in my own case, I am one of those lucky people who instead of quitting his job to start travelling the world, it’s the job itself that I have and the stuff that I do on a daily basis as a social computing evangelist, helping spread the word on Social Business across the world, both internally and externally, that’s allowing me to have that flexbility and freedom to travel along where work would want to take me. Remember when I wrote not long ago that work is no longer a physical space, a traditional office, but more of a state of mind? Well, that includes travelling as well, which is what I have been doing for a while taking that traditional concept of the office with me, wherever I may well be going, as long as I have got my MacBook Air or my iPad and my iPhone and a live Internet connection.

The interesting thing though, and perhaps the main reason why I wanted to put together this blog post in the first place, is because I am not too sure how long it would last, or whether it would be far too long before the time arrives where I would have to stop it. No, I am not referring about quitting my job any time soon, or just move on to something else that would prevent me from travelling again on a more or less regular basis. I am still having a blast, I still believe I have been enjoying, all along, my dream job. I love what I do. What I am referring to is to the fact that things, global events, intrincate happenings are starting to take place out there with such complexity in their unexpected outcomes that I am beginning to sense travelling in general will turn out to be a luxury very very soon for just a few, more than anything else.

And that’s why I am taking the opportunity to seize the day, i.e. carpe diem, and travel as much as I possibly can now that I am still relatively young, understanding how, seeing how certain global events are developing further, there may well be a time when travelling in general would no longer be that easy, accommodating nor comfortable, never mind somewhat affordable.Spain - Tarragona

However, adapting to that new mentality towards business travelling, where a while ago I decided to just take it as it is, hasn’t been easy. It’s taken quite a bit of adaptation, becoming more flexible, understanding, condescending, relaxed and a whole bunch of other things I am sure most of you are already familiar with. I had to continue building on my patience levels, understanding and embracing that at any given point things could go wrong and that when life gives you lemons the best thing you can do is make one heck of a delicious lemonade for everyone to enjoy, not just for yourself, which is probably my own way to keep up with blogging, while on the move, hoping to share some of that lemonade with those interested in reading further along.

And in helping me understand and embrace that new mantra of enjoying, once again, business travelling I just couldn’t help reflect on a recent article put together by my good friend Ross Dawson that has helped me tremendously on not only understanding the advantages and disadvantages of business travelling, but also come up with strategies to help me get the most out of it, time and time again.

In “Travelling for work: 7 principles for productivity and value” Ross put together some of the main principles that he has adopted for when he is on the road / air to get the most out of his travelling experience. No, I am not going to reproduce them all or anything, I would encourage you, instead, to go ahead and read further along, but I surely would want to share with you a teaser by just listing a couple of notes over here, so that you can see what you would be able to find in his rather insightful article:

  • “Travelling is the ultimate learning experience
  • Travelling allows you to open up your perceptions and thinking
  • Travelling is about connecting
  • Have big-picture projects to work on
  • Focus on health and fitness 
  • Work out your personal jet lag strategy
  • Ensure everything you need is in the cloud

I can certainly relate to a few of the things that Ross indicated on that article, like the overall massive learning experience, like how travelling helps you open up your perceptions and thinking not just to other countries, but also to their cultures, customers, languages, traditions, etc. etc. how, specially, travelling is all about connecting with other people, meeting old friends, and new ones, about enriching experiences with face to face meetups over a lovely meal, or drinks, that surely make it all up worth while living through them. They help you become a better person, to grow further; they help you understand why people behave and do things in a certain way, they help you become a whole lot more tolerant about things and people around you, which is something that I can certainly see the world needing plenty of it at the moment. All of that without neglecting the work you are supposed to be getting done while on the move or looking after your health and fitness to ensure you can get the best results from each and every single business trip. And if you can learn how to fight that jet lag all the better. Perhaps one day I will share a short blog post highlighting how I learn to deal with it and how I haven’t experienced it a single bit in the last 10 years or so. France - Paris - Opera

It’s really fascinating though how, subconsciously, after having read his article a couple of months ago, I have been taking into practice plenty of his advice and many tips, along with some additional other key learnings, hints and tips, tricks, etc. etc. I have been incorporating over time myself as well, and how by adapting to the circumstances one finally gets to comprehend how humans were designed for travelling after all. Our innate ability to adapt to the medium, regardless of how tough it may well be, while getting the most out of it and its circumsntances, is just remarkable and once one starts embracing that the end-results are ever so much better, to the point where one begins to even enjoy it.

And that’s exactly what I am doing at the moment. Yes, I know, it’s a crazy schedule. Yes, it’s frantic at times. Yes, it’s incredibly complex to figure out how to make it all work, but it is also rather accurate how rewarding it can well be facing up all of these challenges and opportunities to keep up with one’s learning curve of life, to reach out and connect with other people, to get to know the world a little bit better, to continue treasuring that unique opportunity of being in on country, one culture, one language, and then the next day in another, completely different altogether. And eventually at some point head back home and enjoy the little pleasures of what you have built up over time in your little corner of the world…

Yet, I know that business travelling is not going to last for much longer. I’m sensing things are going to change and rather drastically far too soon, seeing how tough certain things are getting, i.e. the current financial econoclypse we are going through, the geopolitical complex world we live in, the rampant conflicts growing at a rather alarming pace, combined perhaps with our lack of being a bit more understanding and tolerant with those around us, our unwillingness to help others in need, our selfish attitude and envy of what others half, while we see others suffering and so forth somehow it is, finally,  confirming, for yours truly, how the days of travelling for the vast majority of us may well be numbered over the next few months. Sadly.

Spain - Barcelona - SitgesAnd that’s perhaps the main reason why this year I decided to embark myself on that lovely boat of business travelling, hoping to seize that opportunity to see the world, keep spreading the message on all of that social business stuff I have been rather passionate about for a good while, sharing across what I learn and build further along on it, meet up with plenty of those people, whether work colleagues and plenty of other good friends around the world, who share that very same passion, hoping that as a result of that continued learning experience, one, living and embracing a much more interconnected, networked, intelligent and smarter world, can continue helping make a difference, not just for myself, but with whoever else would want to change the world to become a better place.

For everyone.

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Think – About Making the World Work Better

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's Surroundings in the SpringIt’s that time of the week, almost the weekend!, where we could all do with a bit of an Inspiring Video of the Week, don’t you think? The last series of blog posts that I have put together over here in this blog in the last few days have been on the long side of things and while I do appreciate everyone going ahead, reading through them and leave behind some wonderful comments (Thanks much for that, indeed!), I think most folks would also appreciate a shorter blog entry every now and then with a clearer, sharper, insightful message being shared across, right? So how about this one: THINK, about making the world work better

Indeed, that’s the title of a 10 minute long video clip that has been shared, a little while ago, over in YouTube by IBM (So the usual disclaimer would apply in here, before anyone starts wondering, I happen to work for that company for over the last 15 years) and which I think would make for a rather interesting reading, if we would want to venture into figuring out plenty more about that “Circular Economy” that I have covered in the recent past a few times already. IBM itself calls it Smarter Planet, but I think it would be much more suggestive and inspiring altogether going ahead with that mantra of what’s behind the Circular Economy and how it helps us focus on just simply making good, healthy progress.

Either way, I wouldn’t want to extend myself for far too long, other than to mention how the main theme behind this rather inspirational video clip is all about something that seems to be lacking nowadays in the world out there, in general, and that we probably need to bring it back very soon, and pretty badly, if not already!, if we would want to keep progressing nicely as sustainable, profitable businesses, as meaningful cultures and as societies representative of the human nature: sustainable growth through critical thinking, based on these key elements: “seeing, mapping, understanding, believing and acting“. Amongst others …


Not too shabby, don’t you think? I am not sure whether you may have read it or not, but the video clip reminds me of a superb, rather short blog post from my good friend Euan Semple under the heading “What I think” which would nicely summarise what I actually meant above when I said critical thinking and how we seem to be lacking, generally speaking, those key skills, specially, in the world of the Social Web, when you would imagine that it wouldn’t be like that, given the chances and the many opportunities that we nowadays have to connect, collaborate, share our knowledge, converse, learn and innovate together through a good number of those social technologies. But Euan himself describes it much nicer than what I could possibly do myself, and I am going to take the liberty of quoting a couple of sentences and leave the rest out out to you to head over to this blog entry to read the rest … 

We all have the ability to think seriously. We all have the right to say what we think […] We are on the brink of working out new ways to productively combine what we all think […]

Perhaps, we should all start doing a bit more of that critical thinking that I have mentioned above, in order to try to solve some of the most urging problems we keep bumping into as a society, instead of figuring out why we cannot longer make sense of the Trending Topics of, say, Twitter or why Twitter closed off the door for things like LinkedIn or Instagram. Seriously? Don’t we have better, more impending issues to work on as a collective through using these social technologies to think AND act? I think so. I know so! Thus we better roll our sleeves and get down to make the world work better… It would be about time, don’t you think?

Have a good one everyone!

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Is Social Business Ready to Face Internet Traffic Jams?

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringIf you have been following this blog for a long while now, you would know how, over the course of time, there has been one of those so-called pet peeves of yours truly that keeps re-surfacing every so often, time and time again, specially, when I am on the road, away from my home office. Indeed, I am talking about Internet connectivity, or, rather, the lack of.

Over the course of the last few months I have been doing a rather interesting mental exercise of taming myself, with plenty of education, patience and understanding, to confront all of that rage and irate opinions that keep coming up whenever I just can’t keep up with my knowledge Web work, just because the connectivity is very poor, if non existent altogether, while on the road. Thinking that it is ok to be disconnected every now and then. It’s good for the body, it’s good for the mind. It allows you to do plenty of good critical thinking on things around you. You know, there will always be a time, when you head back home, for you to catch up with everything in your social streams. Your ADSL home connection will do the trick and show you how you are still ok, despite that long period of disconnectedness when traveling around.

Well, what happens when back at home that, once trusted, reliable, scalable, relatively speedy, consistent, reasonably priced Internet connection ceases to exist? How does a remote knowledge Web worker keep up then? Not too well, apparently. In fact, struggling would probably be a much better word describing the growing pain mobile home workers are going to continue experiencing with their home connectivity over the course of time. 

At least, that’s what has just happened to myself, upon my return from my recent business trip to Boston for the Enterprise 2.0 event, when I found out that my local ADSL Internet provider, my good old friend Movistar, downgraded my Internet speeds for download and upload without further notice, without even a confirmation of the deterioration of the Internet connection itself.  It just happened and I have got to get used to it, whether I like it or not, because that’s what monopolies are all about. Or are they? 

Plenty of people out there keep raving about how interconnected, and glued, to the Internet we have all become in recent times. The level of broadband penetration is at highest levels ever possible to the point where hardly anyone would claim they still don’t have a decent Internet connection. Even on mobile devices, whatever those may well be. It’s just not happening any more. But the reality is that things are different, much different, specially, if you live in a country where the entire network bandwidth is governed and managed by a single provider which consistently uses their monopolistic tactics to keep degrading end-users’ Internet experiences while raising the prices. That’s essentially what Movistar has been doing using as an excuse that they cannot longer keep up with the demand because their infrastructure is just not ready. Really? I mean, when fiber optic is providing speeds of 50 mbps to 100 mbps download? Really?

Here is a crude example of what I mean: I used to have a half decent 10 mbps download – 0.69 kbps upload with Movistar as my home ADSL connection. Not my 3G or USB modem, but my regular home Internet connection. About 2 weeks ago that changed drastically and deteriorated to a rather unbearable level: 5 mbps download and 0.58 kbps upload. While price is still pretty much the same. Around 70€ per month. Now, under normal circumstances, it would not have bothered me that much, that is, for personal, private use is probably good enough. Although expensive. However, as a remote knowledge Web worker, and I think there are two key important aspects to this, i.e. remoteness at the home office and Web work, it’s proved to be not very convenient, nor helpful. In fact, I’m starting to struggle with it all. 

Not because of trying to keep up with the Social Web, whether internal or external, although it’s been a bit of a painful experience so far, but mostly because when trying to do a good number of different things, interactions I cannot longer feel that sense of being productive, nor effective. Specially, when handling rich media. In my role as a social computing evangelist focusing on enabling, facilitating, helping and coaching fellow colleagues on living social, I rely quite heavily on conducting remote workshops through emeetings, for instance, where both screen sharing and video conferencing are involved. And so far I have forced myself to rather reschedule the education sessions or cancel them altogether, because we haven’t been capable of making it work without the usual hiccups, temporary glitches coming from a rather poor connection. And here I am, musing on the irony of things and witnessing how Movistar takes a toll on my own productivity as a social knowledge Web worker not allowing me any longer to do my job properly. And getting away with it big time, since apparently there isn’t much more than I can do about it. 

Yes, I know what you are all probably thinking at this stage, as I write this blog entry, the easiest solution would be for me to move, i.e. take my things and move to a new place, closer to the switches where my regular Internet connection could be reestablished and problem solved. Unfortunately, it’s not an option at the moment. In fact, I don’t think it would be fair for my private, personal environment to sacrifice what I have now just because of a monopolistic ISP can’t cope with the demand on what they offer, because of how poorly they have implemented their current infrastructure. Switching to another provider would not be very helpful either, since they all have to go through the same wired network, their own!, so even if I would change ISPs I would still have the same speeds as I have got now. Not good enough!

So it really hit me when I bumped into one very powerful tweet shared by my good friend Alan Lepofsky on the real impact of Social Business for that new kind of remote knowledge Web workforce that seems to become more of the norm, than an exception nowadays: 


Goodness! That’s just so spot on, from Alan! I mean, we surely keep taking the Social Web and our connectivity for granted, yet, as soon as that Internet connection gets interrupted, or deteriorated, there goes our Social Web experience suffering just as much as a result of it, with the end-goal of us, knowledge workers, no longer being capable of working effectively. Thus how much of a dependency would we have on our social technologies providing offline / local access, so that we could do our work, even if connectivity would be poor to then replicate or sync back to the server(s) with our data. It’s an old concept, I know, coming from groupware, (Lotus Notes anyone?) but do we feel that social networking tools would also need to be available offline for us to be productive? I am not sure what you would think, but I am starting to think that we would better prepare for it, because something tells me ISPs would try to cling to their power position and try to make business off that new remote workforce by providing poor service for big bucks till you eventually give in! 

Being a remote knowledge Web worker as I am, and on the road on a regular basis, I have learned to tame myself and keep calm when connectivity is not there, thinking that when getting back home I can do proper catch-ups, and get up to speed relatively fast, so I can go ahead and do other things, but now the challenge that comes up is that if when coming back to my home office I can’t be productive enough because of the poor performance of the ADSL connection, it bears to question whether we, knowledge workers, should start pushing for offline access to our social networking tools for business. Or not. Somehow, and experiencing how tough it’s become to carry out certain social tasks with the downgrade I have experienced for a few days already, I am starting to ponder whether Social Business would be ready to face Internet traffic jams, because somehow it doesn’t look like it would be able to. And at what costs then for businesses out there? 

How fragile is the business world at the moment, now that it is becoming more social and Web dependent than ever and how more and more third party agents are diminishing our ability to carry out business effectively? Is that something that the corporate world could afford? Seeing how their remote knowledge workers cannot keep up with the pace from their fellow colleagues while at an office location? Somehow, I am starting to find it rather worrying. And although we do have a good number of social networking platforms that embrace and support offline interactions there aren’t too many though. At least, not yet. In fact, most of the major social software vendors do not provide local access to social networking tools. 

Thus what could we do about it? How can we keep justifying our lack of productivity while working remotely, if foreign circumstances keep getting on the way, like ISPs capping, or crippling, whatever your preferred term may well be, your network connectivity because they just can’t cope with it anymore? Yet the prices remain the same, if not higher. I am not sure what you would think, but I’m starting to sense that if we would want to address this issue with local governments, or, even better, in our case over here in Europe, with the European Union, we would need to have, at least, a proposal for a decent Internet connection that would allow us to do our knowledge work effectively by guaranteeing certain speeds that would allow us to remain productive. That, or social networking tools need to start supporting offline access. To be honest, I doubt the first scenario would be taking place any time soon, although I would think it would be the desired outcome from this growing pain to be dealt and done with, so I’m hoping that those Enterprise Social Software vendors start paying attention to the growing needs and demands from remote workers with poor connectivity to stay connected and start accommodating to those needs, or very very soon the corporate world as we know it will keep hitting huge losses of individual, network and group productivity that I doubt we would be capable of recovering from. 

So, what do you think? Do you feel that Social Business is ready today to face Internet traffic jams? Do you feel that offline / local access, like Alan mentioned on that tweet, is something needed for us, remote workers, to keep getting work done effectively? Or would we eventually need to migrate to large, crowded cities to remain connected just because we just can’t fight ISPs monopolies strongly enough to shift their ill-behaviours of abuse, left and right, of our Internet rights. What would the European Union, because I guess local governments won’t be able to do much about it, nor that they would want to, need to do in order to change this growing, and rather worrying, trend where knowledge Web workers keep getting crippled right there where it hurts us all the most: our Social Web experience? Is there anything that we can do to get things back on track? I am surely hoping so, but right now I run out of ideas, alternatives, or good enough solutions. And that is a very sad thing for a remote knowledge Web worker, don’t you think? A pity, even. 

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Moments of Happiness They Can’t Take Away from You

A very good friend of mine once told me that life is all about treasuring, cultivating, nurturing and enjoying the various moments of happiness we get exposed to over the course of our lifetimes. You know how it goes, they are very brief moments, rather fulfilling, sharp, intense, transient and hardly noticeable, unless you pay rather close, good attention to them by always staying alert!, since, before you realise about it, they are just gone. For good! Pretty much like when they came your way.

They keep saying that it is those moments of true happiness that make everything worth while, even going through the most painful of experiences; those ones we are supposedly learning the most from time and time again. The ones that shape us into becoming who we are eventually, the ones that help us provoke those moments of happiness themselves over the course of time, making us realise why they are so much worth while anticipating and waiting for all along and why that wait is always worth it. Even if it takes 92 years. Well, I think I may have just experienced one of those true moments of happiness for which it’s going to become rather tough to wake up from. Not that I would ever want to do that, but I know, at some point, I will have to. We will all have to.

As most folks out there would know by now, this blog post doesn’t have much to do with the usual topics I get to cover over here, but yesterday evening the Spanish national football (= soccer) team did it again! Once again, and it’s something that we are becoming too much used to, and perhaps we shouldn’t!, they won the title from a major competition, that one of the Euro Cup 2012 and entered the books of history, managing to win three major titles over the last 4 years (Euro Cup in 2008, World Cup in 2010 and Euro Cup in 2012, once more!), that no other national team has ever matched anywhere! How can’t you not enjoy such a moment of true happiness and pure bliss, right?!?! It’s exhilarating altogether on its own to no end! A once in a lifetime experience! Literally!!

Yes, I know and I do fully realise that Spain, my home country, is not going through one of its best moments as a nation, with the well known mantra “Made in Spain”, and part of the European Union, due, perhaps, in part, to the rampant unemployment rate, a rather weakened economy by ruthless, unpunished financial speculators (Amongst others), plenty of natural catastrophes that have happened lately and to be governed, politically and economically, throughout the last few years, by corruption, fraud, greed and power struggles. Yes, the usual thing that a bunch of other European, and worldwide, countries are going through at the moment as well, but perhaps with a much more dramatic flavour added to it altogether. 

The thing is though that we are still standing. 4 years have gone by and we are still standing. Perhaps that’s one of the last few things that will always be with us, that we can fall down, break a bone or two in the process, but stand up again. And again, and again. It’s what shapes nations over the course of centuries. It’s what makes them, and their people, tougher. You know how it goes, what doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger. And that cannot be more real in today’s financial turmoil and econoclypse. But then again, just like Spain has done with its national football team, there has got to be a time when that has got to stop, when power, greed and money no longer rule, where we can ponder about what things were wrong, how we could address them and try to fix each and everyone of them. More than anything else, because the alternative continues to be just too ugly to face and, also, because deep inside our hearts, we know where the main issues are and how we could tackle them eventually. 

I mean, taking further on the analogy from football, I remember the days, the decades, actually, when the national Spanish football team was rather mediocre, not having the right mentality, the right team spirit, the ability and eagerness to improve things, the sacrifice of one self for the others helping them become better at what they normally do, the innate talent willing to be shared across without asking much in return to achieve a common purpose, that little bit of luck you always need to achieve your goals, etc. etc., and eventually, with a touch of bad luck to add further up, we kept getting kicked out of major tournament after major tournament making it all almost far too embarrassing to notice.

Too painful to watch and experience. Even too frustrating to bear. But then again, we stood up. You could probably say that Spaniards, in general, are rather stubborn and resilient on their ways. But back in the day, by the late 80s, there was this brilliant, committed, modest, truly gifted generation of young players who gathered together thanks to the efforts from a superb initiative on working things out right from the base, starting when they were all young, and grow that over the course of time through lots of hard work, effort, energy, sacrifice, talent, education, team spirit, modesty, and a strong sense of achievement never seen before, along with a very well defined style, i.e. the tiqui taka, which has proved to be unbeatable over the last few years, and which confirms, once again, the power of groups & networks in helping achieve a common goal. The goal.

And there you have it, after a couple of decades gone by already, collecting the harvest of all of that hard work, good education and training, and true team spirit has paid off, once again. And it all started with small steps, right when that bunch of very talented players were really young. That’s perhaps the secret of the success for a national soccer team, but may be also for an entire country to start looking for ways of abandoning that catastrophic state of making ends meet barely through the econoclypse just because we have been looking at the wrong end of the equation from day one. It’s through that education, hard work, motivation and inspiration that young modest players have kept turning an entire country upside down over the last 4 years providing us all with that huge rush of delightful happy moments of pride of what one can achieve if it is given the right values on what really matters. The small things. As usual. 

Yes, I do realise that this new achievement from our Spanish national football team is going to last probably too little, specially, looking back into today’s financial turmoil and appalling government policies (From past and present), but if there is anything that should help us all remember, and treasure, quite a bit!, is the fact that those moments of happiness we enjoyed last night, and probably today, are now ours. Forever. For good. They just can’t take them away from us. It’s part of our common psyche, as a nation, and if we have been able to raise over and over again over the course of decades from bad results after bad results, yesterday evening’s victory should remind us all, as we treasure and seize the moment, where the key of success really is: go out and seek desperately, work your b*tt off like you have never seen nor done before, provoke that moment of happiness and don’t let anyone take it away from you. Enjoy it!

They have continued to make us feel proud for what they keep achieving time and time again. They have shown us the way of what’s possible, of the potential we all have when we want to strike for those happy moments, so whenever someone reminds you of where you are today, as a nation, kindly educate them on what we know, and have been educated, best over the course of decades: stand up and fight for your happiness, because no-one else will. Now, it’s up to you, me, and everyone else, to up the game and show how well we are all playing this football match called “life”.

So far, those young, talented boys, have shown us the way. They have shown us how the impossible does no longer exist. How if you would want to achieve it, because that’s what you would want to do, there is a great chance that you will, so you better be prepared to act accordingly. That’s what moments of happiness are all about and, again, remember, that no-one can take those away from you. They are all your own to be nurtured and treasured right from the beginning! For as long as you would want to!

My dear national Spanish football team, thanks ever so much for allowing us to experience one of the most unforgettable evenings *ever* that will surely occupy a dear place in each and everyone of our hearts for many years to come. Thank you sincerely for showing an entire nation, and probably the rest of the world, how, with a good dose of talent, hard work, effort, motivation, team spirit, and unselfish collaborative effort, the impossible is our new reality . What we live and strive for. Our motivation to move forward. Our way to show everyone that power and greed are never the way. They never have. That sustainable growth, as a group with a core mission, will probably pay off much better eventually. At least, the teams will be happy, content, with what they have delivered. I bet that’s how you are feeling right now, watching us from the short distance, and that’s exactly how we are sensing it from the other side. Admiration does not even come close to describe how we feel. So thanks much for that! 

We will never forget!

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Engineering Life Work Integration

Gran Canaria - Las Canteras BeachI am sure that this may have just happened to everyone out there and on a rather regular basis, too! Specially, if you are a blogger! Just as I was putting together a blog post on the topic of the 40-Hour Work Week (- “The Magic of Sustainable Growth”), which I published a couple of days ago I happened to bump into another really interesting and worth while watching video clip that touched quite a bit on the very same topic that I covered on that article: work life balance, although, like I said in the past, I have grown to be more fond of the concept of Work Life Integration, instead. The video itself comes from the Ignite series (Ignite Philly, this time around) and it’s a rather thought-provoking 5 minute-long inspiring speech by Pam Selle that tries to share with each and everyone of us how whenever we reach the tipping point of stating “Get a life!” we may as well need to do so! As we may be missing far too much of what really matters… because of work.

Like I said above, the video is a short, crisp and rather powerful awakening call for all of those knowledge workers out there who may feel that their job is eating up not only all of their work time, but also most of their personal time, along the way, too! Now, I understand the video has got some strong language, but I think Pam gets the point across very nicely and in a tone that while I understand may not be getting through for some folks, I think it’s all just too down to earth, and rather realistic on helping everyone understand where we are and how we may need to keep on challenging a good number of the presumptions that we have always been taking for granted in a business environment when talking about work time AND personal time.

Go the F*ck Home: Engineering Work/Life Balance” is a rather provocative watch, for sure, but well worth the time to discover the real consequences of working overtime, of giving up your time, just like that!, for free, of constantly being used (and treated!) as an asset, of showing how there are better, smarter ways of getting the job done, of re-focusing on what you would need to do and do it!, in the time that you have been allotted, so that you, too, could get a life. I loved her comment about naming more than two things that we all get to do outside of work and if you can’t name more than two, you have got a problem. Indeed! Too much work time, too little play, personal time! Priceless!

You see? It looks like the best option for all of us is to have an escape plan, something else to do, other than work, to occupy our time during the course of the day, when we are no longer working, and still have the feeling we are achieving something meaningful. And all of this going all the way to the top, including management!, who should be acting as leading examples, in the first place, helping their employees understand that they, too, have got a life and therefore should leave work, and do something else, before they would come to realise that their knowledge workers may be rather unhappy with their overall jobs, just as much as they themselves. When we all know that happy employees are the ones who produce the better outcomes: happy customers. After all, if Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg can do it, why can’t everyone else, right? What’s our excuse?

And if you need an escape plan, how about having a vacation? That would probably help out everyone out there start up with making that separation between work and personal life, right? And stick around with it altogether as well, upon your return. After all, we all know how beneficial, relaxing, chilling, unwinding and healthy it is to take a good long vacation, of, at least, two weeks disconnecting from everything for optimal results (Yes, even my own boss is confirming that!). Even better, we all know and embrace the many other good benefits from having unlimited vacation days, as I have also blogged about in the recent past sharing the experience of the delightful Maggie Fox from Social Media Group So why not do it? No, don’t worry, contrary to what most people would think, knowledge workers, in general, would not slack off. Why? Because they are hard working professionals, remember?, the ones you hired in the first place, the ones who you have trusted all along to do the right thing, i.e. getting their work done. So they are not going to abuse it. All the other way around! They are going to become even more productive and effective at what they do and work harder, because they are the first interested parties in keeping things that way!

Ohhh, that you cannot take vacation, because you can’t afford it? Even your work project won’t allow it? Well, let’s take it into the next level… How about *not* having any vacation, nor off sick time altogether? Let’s go to the other extreme. Let’s wipe out the entire concept of taking a vacation from the workplace and instead, like my good friend Kevin Jones blogged about just recently, let’s introduce this rather fascinating and refreshing new policy: “Need it, Take it“, which goes pretty much as follows:

If you need time off, take it.  If you are sick, stay home.  Just continue to do amazing work

Yes, I know, if you have been reading this far you are probably thinking I am just crazy. But why not? Why couldn’t we just live without vacation days and, instead, shift gears ourselves and change mindsets thinking that you may not need to have a fixed vacation period eventually, but, maybe what you need is just taking the time off, when you need it, for the time you consider responsibly enough to take off and just go ahead and do it! Knowing that it will happen when you know it will have the least impact on the business. Your business.

Smart companies like Evernote are already doing it and proving that it can be done and I guess at this point in time you may be wondering what you would need to do in order to make it happen for yourself, right? Well, something relatively simple: just ask! You know, like I have always been telling people, if you don’t ask, you already got the “No!” for an answer; if you do ask and get a “No!” for an answer, that’s just totally fine, remember you already had it. But if you get a “Yes!” for an answer you may find yourself you are right on track and you got it! A win-win situation for everyone, because when you get that “Yes!” you would probably be *the* most interested party in keeping things going that way. And I can’t blame you. I would do the very exact same as you would be doing. In fact, I have already been doing it myself for the last 8 years working AND living in Gran Canaria. Remember, for many years I didn’t ask, so I had a “No!” already. But then, one day, I eventually asked, took the risk, a good chance that things could work out, and, I got it! I got the “Yes!” and two weeks later I moved permanently to Gran Canaria where I have been living and working ever since. And still having a blast!

But if you don’t ask, if you don’t provoke that conversation to take place, it will never happen. So you are back to square one. And I am not sure what you would think, but I do believe it’s worth while taking the risk of asking away (your immediate management or whoever else), because in a way you are also helping your management line to understand how they need to shift gears themselves and instead of measuring your performance by the amount of hours and days that you work, they would probably be much better off measuring your overall outcomes, your deliverables, your output, and understand fully how, in a good number of times, you would be providing that extra level of top quality value by taking time off to focus on what you need to focus on: yourself. Re-energise, charge your batteries and come back for more!

After all, it’s a beautiful, wonderful world out there and every extra hour that we spend doing overtime or not having that time off for ourselves to do other things as part of that personal work life integration strategy you should all start working your way through on it, you are losing out. And you are losing big. As big and mind-blowing as this:

Don’t you think it’s worth while asking after all? Don’t you think it’s a good time now to take your life back and instead of talking about work life integration you start living more that life work integration for yourself and for what really matters?

You bet!

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