The Innovation of Loneliness

Leon - The CathedralOne of the really interesting things in the world of social networking is how every now and then you bump into a specific resource, an online video clip, a blog post, a mainstream news article, a dissertation or whatever else, that is just so thought-provoking and rather mind-boggling in challenging your own notion, experiences, know-how, skills and expertise on the topic of social networks that surely makes you think about your own experiences twice, to the point where it makes you pause and think, really well, whether you are doing it right or not (and whatever that means with “doing it right“). Gary Hamel calls it “changing the way we change“. I call it growing-up, although my notion of growing-up is a completely different kind of growing-up than the one Euan Semple blogged about just recently as well. Indeed, welcome to the disturbing world of Loneliness!

Euan, in a rather inspirational short blog post, puts together all of his hopes around the Social Web (and our societies, for that matter) on those people who “are brave enough to be naive, foolish, enthusiastic, and open – because maybe that is how real grown ups should be?“. I would put my hopes on those, too, although I would also include those who are always open to exercising plenty of critical thinking, in a constructive manner, of course, but always willing to challenge the status quo to help us move forward, to progress further, to grow, to keep learning, to understand how we should strive for avoiding becoming a commodity and thrive in the new Creativity Economy (Yes, another economy to add into the mix) as empowered knowledge (Web) workers. 

And then you bump into absolutely stunning video clips like the one put together by Shimi Cohen on the Innovation of Loneliness (Vimeo link, if interested) that starts off with a rather evocative and refreshing question that I doubt most of us out there on social networks have ever even dared to ask ourselves: “What is the connection between Social Networks and Being Lonely?

I am not going to spoil the contents of the video for you. Not even going to give you a teaser or two, like I typically do to entice you all to go and watch through it. This time is different. This time I am too shocked to even muse about what I thought about some of the key messages coming through after I watched it. It’s a little bit over 4 minutes long, and it’s one of those wonderfully troubling videos that would not leave you indifferent. On the contrary.

It will help you question, and big time!, not only your own notions of what social networks are all about, but the role we all play in them. I can tell you that after I watched it I just couldn’t utter a single trend of thought that would be meaningful enough to share across other than “WOW!! Is this really where we are heading with our very own social networking experiences out there on the Social Web? Please tell me it isn’t. Please tell me we are aiming higher, bigger, better, because otherwise I know we are going to be in trouble, in deep trouble altogether“. If not, judge for yourselves on what I mean and watch through the video clip itself below. Let me know what you think in the comments. Yes, I know, I’m, too, still coming to terms with it myself on how brilliantly poignant it is altogether:

 

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Finding Time to Reflect while on Vacation

Leon - CathedralOnce again, it’s been nearly a couple of weeks since my last blog post over here on The Perks of Being an Early Riser  and I am sure at this point in time folks out there may be thinking that, once more, I have failed to keep up with restoring my social presence as I mentioned on that last article. Far from the truth, I am afraid. Over the last few days I have been doing something that I have been looking forward to for quite some time and that it’s always something that I can never get tired of: Vacation. And this time around a very special kind of holiday, because it’s been a rather disconnected one, too! Not by choice though, although the world works in mysterious ways, so perhaps that was what I needed all along in the first place: a time to strike for “the best opportunity to take a step back, inhale, exhale, think about life, and ask: am I happy?

Indeed, every year, during the course of the summer I have been enjoying tremendously that pilgrimage back home to see my family in León, Spain, where I was born and raised, and catch up with them for a few days to see what they have been up to. And time and time again, it’s been a fun experience, specially, when this time around you try to explain to your mum what you do for a living and you realise that she has never seen, played, enjoyed the Web. Quite an interesting and thrilling challenge I would encourage you all to go through, if you haven’t just yet! 

Even worse when you try to show her what it is like from your laptop and there isn’t any ADSL or wi-fi around. Or you try to show her on your mobile smartphone and tablet through a so-called rather robust 3G network and you see that it fails to keep getting connected to the point of embarrassment. And you eventually give up, because you know that so-called pervasive connectivity isn’t just coming around. Yes, indeed, someone had to say it out loud, I guess, there are parts in this world where broadband and the Internet are just … not … there! 

Goodness! I can’t believe that I am writing about this in 2013, where everyone keeps claiming that we are now more connected than ever before in our history through the (Social) Web, where wi-fi and ADSL lines are pervasive enough to make it an enjoyable experience and where, as a last resort, 3G may come to the rescue. Well, not really. Not everywhere as I have been able to experience fully in the last 10 days or so. And this is happening right here, in Spain, not some kind of remote island, in the middle of the ocean, where the 21st century may not have arrived just yet! 

See? Disconnected holiday not by choice, but then again perhaps it was better that way, because I had a real blast altogether! And for a good number of reasons, starting off with having an opportunity to do a proper catch-up with family and friends face-to-face and without any smartphone or tablet devices getting on the way. Never mind that wonderful opportunity as well to find plenty of time to pause and reflect wondering about things, in general, whether I have been enjoying work, my personal life, and so forth. You name it. It’s amazing to see how much one gets to think when you do have all of the time of the world without the so-called distractions we are all pretty familiar with. What Ted Leonsis brilliantly described on a recent article under the suggestive heading “Find Time to Reflect“.

Anyway, I am not too sure whether I eventually succeeded in explaining to my mum what I do for a living, or not, but I can tell you she was right on when she threw back at me a rather short, sharp question that I guess summarises everything and that it certainly puts things into perspective: “Are you happy, son? (Because that’s what really matters at the end of the day, you know)“. 

Whoahhh!! Mums are wonderful, aren’t they? They just know us inside out, and without having to say much, to find out really quick everything they would want to know and in just 4 words she was capable of detailing whether I am on the right track or not, and not just in my professional career, but also on a personal level. The intriguing thing is that I failed to utter some words as a response. Instead, I just got a huge smile coming across my entire face that she received warmly with a nod of approval and That’s all that matters, really, that you are happy with yourself and those around you and that you keep smiling. The world needs that, son“. 

You can see why I am getting goose bumps all over again as I get to write down those few words of wisdom, right? And she didn’t even need to be aware of what the Internet is or have access to it or for me to explain what I do for work. Some things are just so profound, so touching and mind-blowing altogether, yet so simple and uncomplicated that it’s incredibly difficult to not just feel overwhelmed by that feeling of immense gratitude. She has done all right with all of her children all along throughout all of these years. And me being worried all along about not being connected to the Web to be in the know and everything, when all I needed was just right in front of my face! Right there! How could I possibly miss that? 

I guess that’s what I meant earlier on in this post when talking about taking that disconnected holiday to visit my family and to pause and reflect on things, the smallest things, you know, the ones which seem to be the ones that keep driving us towards whatever our goals may well have been all along, but that, for whatever the reason, we may have deviated a bit in our directions and / or intent. I suppose that’s, amongst several other zillion things!, what mums are really good at over the course of time when they keep reminding you what you are here for in this world and everything, helping you focus on what you really need to focus on… those around you who you care for and … yourself.

In finding time to reflect Ted talks about several common steps that would surely help us all towards becoming happy and successful. To quote them briefly: 

  1. “Goal-Setting
  2. Communities of Interest
  3. Personal Expression
  4. Gratitude
  5. Empathy and Giving Back
  6. Higher Calling”

It is a rather fascinating and inspiring read all along for sure and I highly recommend going through it, specially, if you are still enjoying some time off and could do with some additional hints & tips on what that thinking time could be like. I can tell you, after the 10 days I have spent back home, with my family, in mainland Spain, there are a couple of them that truly resonate with what I have experienced during that time: personal expression, gratitude and empathy and giving back, understanding fully that all of the above will eventually help me figure out the biggie, that is, the higher calling (Whatever that may well be, whenever … time will tell). 

Ether way, you can probably sense from this blog post how after that holiday break my batteries are fully charged, and ready for plenty more to come along! I will be back to work next Monday. That outrageous, heretic, corporate rebel optimist, that hippie 2.0, is back in full throttle and interestingly enough with a new focus (I told you, that thinking time was going to have its toll as well! hehe) that will start unfolding itself from next week onwards, when as an early riser back into the social grid, will start unleashing his personal expression. But for now, I thought I would share over here a couple of photos I had the chance to take as well of the town where I grew up back in the day… 

Leon - San Isidoro

Leon - Cathedral

Leon - San Marcos

León - Casa Botines

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The Perks of Being an Early Riser

Gran Canaria - Charca de MaspalomasI have been a remote knowledge (Web) worker for almost 10 years now (Back in November 2003, when I was still living in The Netherlands) and over the course of time, while I shifted from European based projects into worldwide ones I have been doing plenty of adjusting of work schedules to meet the demands of work and therefore become a night owl of sorts, but at the same time ensuring that work life integration is there, right from the start. It’s been an interesting journey all along and even more so when it has given me the opportunity to live fully key concepts like flexibility and negotiation in a collaborative workplace. Well, it’s now a good time perhaps to take things into the next level and become an early bird, once again. 

Indeed, for a good number of years I used to be an early riser, and I mean, a really early one! However, and like I mentioned above, over the course of time, and as I have shifted into more global working schedules, I became more of a night owl, starting work at around noon, my local timezone, and then finish work related items late in the evening, never mind adding up after-work related activities, of course. All in all work life integration has always been a key theme for yours truly, since I have never believed in the so-called work life balance that plenty of people have been talking and writing about for a long time, more than anything else, because I have always believed, and rather strongly, that balance is just a myth. Why? Well, because work always wins. 

What I am finding truly fascinating from this journey as a remote knowledge (Web) worker is how time and time again we all get to redefine and redesign our very own work habits and mindset to meet up a new set of behaviours that would allow us reach our business goals: mainly, get work done in both an effective and productive manner through the use of social technologies. You know, the good old mantra I have been talking about over here for a while now around working smarter, not necessarily harder. But what happens when, all of a sudden, everything gets disrupted because you end up finding out it’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with both worlds: internal and external? Is that something that has happened to you all as well? 

What I mean with that is simply how ever since I moved into this new role as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections within the CIO organisation, my external participation on social networking tools has become more and more scarce, not necessarily because of a time issue, or intent, or motivation, or willingness to do it. But more than anything else because both my brain and body seem to have had enough with it all. No, don’t worry, this is not a blog post where I am going to announce I am going to give up on external social networking activities. This is more of an article to reflect how the time that I used to allocate for those external activities needs to shift accordingly to match a new reality: at the end of the day, both my body and my brain are just wonderfully fried.

Why? Well, because I am loving what I am doing. I am having a blast helping my company understand and embrace that new brave world of Social / Open Business. I am enjoying tremendously the huge amount of interactions I have daily helping fellow colleagues adjust their habits and mindset, and eventually adapt to a new set of behaviours, a new wave of interactions to do business, where they themselves become more open, collaborative and transparent on what they do. And it’s that passion that shines through that keeps me going at a rather full throttle pace that some times it’s hard to keep up with. The immediate result? At the end of my work day, I am wonderfully exhausted

Indeed, it just doesn’t feel like work, this job role is truly aligned with my core values, even if that means that I get to fully challenge each and everyone of them, on a regular basis, in terms of what I have always believed over the course of last 13 years around social networking for business, so, yes, I am very willing to suffer as a passionate method into learning how everything flows around me and those I interact with, understanding fully where the limits may well be in terms of commitment, involvement, engagement and what not. Hopefully, it does get noticed as time moves on realising how pretty much that exhaustion, that fulfilment, that readiness to come back tomorrow for more pretty much drives what I do nowadays. 

You could say that I have turned myself from a first thinker (around 2.0 matters) into a powerhouse practitioner in full mode for executing, and walking the talk, on the Social / Open Business mantras and philosophy. Am I enjoying it? Yes, you bet! I surely am! Is it having a price, a toll, on yours truly? Yes, it is! At least, on my external personal, digital brand / footprint. Am I really willing to sacrifice it for the greater good, i.e. helping everyone else get there? Yes, very much so! That was one of the main reasons why I took this new job in the first place! Will it mean that over time I will keep fading away till I pretty much disappear from the Social Web? I just don’t know. I haven’t explored that yet, or the implications of such thought, but I do sense how I am slowly going into oblivion, to the point that I am not too sure anymore I may be able to recover that external social presence anymore to what it used to be. I guess I will have to take that risk and, yes!, I am willing to take it. It’s perhaps all what I have got left, if I would want to grow further along on that learning path of becoming a fully engaged and empowered knowledge Web worker.

The trade-off is huge and rather risky, but quite an adrenaline rush all along. At the same time, I feel though how I am starting to miss those thinking times where you would pause and reflect on what’s happening around you, that is, your own thought leadership, in order to develop some ideas around it and share it across with everyone else to keep improving things for you and, hopefully, for everyone else. Yes, I am starting to miss that thinking time for reflection. Why? Mainly, because as soon as I start my working day at my home office, there is no time for a pause, or a breather. A constant influx of internal social interactions, instant messages, phone calls, videoconferences, meetings, conference calls, *cough* email *cough* , etc. etc. you name it, take over and by the time it’s all done and dealt with both my body and brain are so exhausted that I cannot longer think and reflect properly to interact in a meaningful way out there on the Social Web in conversations where I would want to share my ¢2 and still make sense out of it.

So I just go elsewhere and do other things, typically, what most people would flag as private quality time with your family, friends and relatives. Basically, enjoy the other side of life. Still my external social presence gets to suffer on this one quite a bit, because that time that I had allocated for those external social interactions is now a thing of the past, since it is used for something else now. Still, like I mentioned above, I do miss the thinking times around Social / Open Business, perhaps as an opportunity for yours truly to keep advancing and learning plenty more, since we are just at the tip of the iceberg, right at the beginning, of this fascinating business transformation journey. Thus time to take action then, I suppose: become an early riser!

Indeed, there have been a good and rather extensive, varied number of different articles, blog postsdissertations, research and what not, that talk about the various different perks of being an early riser. All packed with plenty of helpful, practical and rather relevant hints and tips on how to make it work accordingly. Well, to me, there will be a new one out there that I would be adding into the mix: my own thinking time.

Indeed, that time where you just kick things off with your day, where you just focus on what you would want to do, that may not necessarily be even work related, but that can certainly give you that opportunity to work on something you would want for yourself in terms of your own thought leadership, effectiveness at achieving something or just plainly personal productivity. In my case, an opportunity to pause and reflect on interesting and rather inspiring links I may bump into from my various different social networks or perhaps an opportunity to blog on a more regular basis, shorter pieces, maybe, as I will just be capable of focusing on that particular writing activity without constantly being pulled off in multiple directions. 

Somehow I feel rather enticed by the idea of whether I can change my own habits from being a night owl into an early bird. To see whether I can regain that productive time (not related to my internal work) to focus on my external social presence and to whatever the level. Remember, no need to be constantly over-sharing stuff all over the place without thinking the potential purpose and additional for that activity, i.e. your audience and yourself. I can see how some times I may be able to spend the odd hour here and there, perhaps two!, or may be just 30 minutes, or even less, after all, don’t forget that we are all in here for the long run, so the important thing is just to kick things off, learn from that new experience and I guess that with this blog post I have just done that! 

So, any other early risers on my external social networks … ? 

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