Once 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:
- Communities of Interest
- Personal Expression
- Empathy and Giving Back
- 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…
I 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 posts, dissertations, 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 … ?
We live in rather interesting, intriguing, complex, uncertain and wonderful times. We surely do. We live in times of extreme negatives juxtaposing themselves with extreme positives. We live in times where the Social Web has become that amplifier of (global / local) events, of our passions, of our emotions, of an unnerving polarisation of opinions and beliefs, where tolerance, compassion, empathy and caring, some times, all shine for their absence. Just like in the real world. Where did we leave all of those characteristics behind in our human nature? Have we forgotten what makes us all, human beings, unique in this world, where we have been given an exclusive, uncompromising, cherished opportunity to enjoy and celebrate it accordingly? Where have we left behind our innate social nature? Is there any hope left? Please do tell me there is. Please. Do.
In times where the world seems to keep rejoicing on narrating rather painful and excruciatingly demoralising extreme negatives, I just can’t help but for the rebellious and hippie 2.0 side of me to come out and fight back in search of extreme positives. I guess there is a reality out there that we may not be able to escape, tame nor mitigate, even, in terms of the amount of pain and suffering one might get exposed to, or suffer themselves, but the thing is that I am starting to feel it’s everyone’s responsibility to fight back. There is hope. There needs to be hope. Otherwise, what’s the alternative?
I do apologise to those folks who may be reading this blog post today, as I am fully aware it may well not be the article they were expecting. I know this is the kind of philosophical reflection that’s very rare to see in this blog, but I just couldn’t help fighting back. Please bear with me. I need to get it out of my system. Then things will be back to normal, the new post-normal. Like I said, having seen the unnerving (That word again!) increase of extreme negatives we all keep getting exposed to in our daily lives, I want to strongly believe there is a different way. A much different way. A better way. For all of us.
And there is, apparently. Phew! I am really glad there is. I surely needed this extreme positive to compensate. I guess serendipity just decided to do its own magic once again, right when one needs it the most. Earlier on this week, and coming through my Google Plus stream, I bumped into this absolutely delightful, energising, refreshing, inspiring, jaw-dropping, thought-provoking YouTube video clip, that I am sure that once you all watch it through in its entirety it will restore your own faith in humanity. It surely did for me. If anything, because of that strong sense of hope permeating throughout the entire clip of the true potential we can achieve with that amplifier effect that is the Social Web.
In an age of polarisation, balance is key. It will always be. And although I certainly realise that video contains lots of kool-aid about us, human beings, it’s also undeniable that we are more than capable. Yes, indeed, we are capable of the most horrifying things, BUT, at the same time, we are more than capable of the most wonderful things. And that’s the reason I wanted to share this blog entry across to perhaps use it as a gentle reminder for us all about what we are here for. Remember? We live in rather interesting times. For real. We should just seek each and every single opportunity we may have to make a difference, to have an impact, to share, not through those negative experiences, since they are always the easy way out, but focus more on the positive ones. The ones that allow us to understand the negative being turned into a positive.
Those experiences that the Social Web has helped us treasure over the course of time with that amplifier effect of what we could all achieve if we just put our mind and intent into it. That’s just what the Digital / Social (R)evolution is all about. And, if not, judge for yourselves. Hit Play, sit back, pump up the volume, watch AND enjoy what we are capable of. Today:
See? There is hope. We, too, can do better. Much better. All of us. No exceptions. I guess we just need to be reminded every now and then that right when an extreme negative happens there is another extreme positive in the making just right around the corner. And perhaps that is the intent of this reflection in this post, that, whether we like it or not those negatives may always be with us all, as part of our daily lives, but I guess it’s also going to be up to us to decide how we are going to amplify them, or not, by making a much smarter, sharable, responsible and thoughtful use of the digital tools at our disposal.
Welcome to the Social (R)evolution!
Happy birthday, mum! [I love you very much!]