After yesterday’s blog post, I guess today’s the one everyone has been waiting for. Myself included. For a good number of weeks, I have been having lots of conversations on the side with plenty of people, where I have been hinting what I will be doing next and while, all along, I have been trying to disguise my excitement about the next adventure(s), and what the future may hold from here onwards, it’s now the time for me to unleash what I will be working on from here onwards. A system of me, Luis Suarez, a.k.a. elsua.
Before I go on and explain what I mean with that system of me, please do allow me to share a story over here that would help explain why I am choosing those words carefully in terms of what I will be doing next. You will see how, once again, serendipity has done its magic into setting up the pace of how things will happen from here onwards. It all started with IBM Connect, IBM’s premier conference event around Social Business, that takes place, in January, every year in Orlando, Florida.
This year I was scheduled to speak at three different sessions, including the rather splendid and big hit Pardon the Interruption Social Business Hot Topics (Part Deux) my good friend Louis Richardson kindly hosted again doing a superb piece of work, along with both partners in crime Luis Benitez and Matt Ridings. Alas, as you can imagine, things didn’t work out and, eventually, I couldn’t make it. Matt graciously covered for me though pretty much nailing it! Thanks for that, Matt! Nice work! So, since I couldn’t be there in the end, I turned myself into the Livestream option (along with catching up with it over the various different streams). And BOOM! There it happened.
On Day 2 of the event, on perhaps one of the most inspiring keynote sessions I can remember in years, that I am pretty certain I would be able to cover in upcoming blog posts, there was one keynote speaker that totally blew me away and, judging from the lifestream itself, the live audience, too! Scott Adams (the father of Dilbert) was on stage talking about failure and the critical role it plays in helping you succeed in the long run.
You can watch a replay of the livestream of Scott’s speech over here or hit the Play button on the embedded code below. It would be totally worth it the 30 minutes of your time, I can guarantee you that, to say the least:
Without spoiling it too much, Scott gets to talk about three main key points that I thought I would share across over here, as teasers, to entice you to watch through it in its entirety:
- “Goals are for losers
- Passion, totally overrated
- Luck can be manipulated”
He gets to talk about how goals no longer cut it in today’s constant world of change. Just the sheer complexity of it all makes it almost impossible to cope with them and still make sense. Instead, he talks about trying a system. “Something you do regularly that improves your odds and makes you more valuable (ideally)”. A system where you get to build further along a lovely set of complementary skills that would accumulate over the years by putting them into practice on a regular basis so that it will keep improving those odds of becoming successful, regardless of what criteria you may want to use to define success.
He also has got a very interesting and noble approach towards replacing will-power with knowledge, towards replacing that same will-power with habit. And the examples he mentions are true golden gems most folks out there would be able to relate to.
He then gets to talk about how passion is totally overrated. How while it may get you there, that very same passion may as well be the main cause for your many failures over the course of time, and, while not neglecting it, after all, he still thinks it’s important and relevant to be passionate about what you do, he mentioned how it’s probably much more effective to not just focus on your passion, but focus on helping boost your personal energy. Essentially, become physically and mentally more alert instead. WOW! Just brilliant!
Finally, he gets to talk about luck and how it can be manipulated. How people who consider themselves “lucky” have, most probably, a wider field of perception, meaning that they would notice opportunities others wouldn’t notice. And embrace them. Essentially, you get to define and provoke your own luck, based on what you perceive and build further on over the course of time.
His major conclusion? An inspiring, rather thought-provoking and mind-blowing one liner that certainly has stuck with me ever since I heard it a few days back and that, I am sure, will define my life from here onwards and whatever the career path(s) I may get to choose:
“Use systems to boost your odds, passion to get energy, and luck to change the game”
That’s why I am very pleased and rather excited altogether to announce that after 17 years at IBM, working as a Knowledge Manager, Community Builder, Social Business Evangelist and Enabler, it’s now time for me to go independent and embrace that system of me, Luis Suarez, a.k.a. elsua.
Yes, that’s right! After 17 long years working in the largest corporate IT environment there is out there at the moment, and having had a blast all along, it’s now time for me to embrace both the unknown and the uncertain: to become an independent, a free spirit, a solopreneur, a provocateur of sorts, a change agent, a free radical, an outrageous and true optimist hippie 2.0 aiming at wanting to change the world, for the better.
Oh, and I won’t be alone, in case you are wondering…
That was the much needed change that I guess my inner self was looking forward to over the course of the last couple of years, where hint after hint, you start seeing it coming and, in the end, there is nothing else that you can do other than embrace the change and try to make the most out of it; and while I certainly looked into other potential opportunities of working in other large corporate environments, I thought this time around was probably going to be the best timing to go ahead and rediscover myself to find out who I really am, what I really want to do, how I can help others become better at what they do already and, eventually, change the world.
See? The true spirit of that free hippie 2.0 kicking in again.
But “how are you going to do that?” I am pretty sure that’s what’s going on in your head at the moment while you keep reading this article, right? Well, that’s where the system of me idea kicks in. Instead of focusing on a single goal and work really hard towards achieving it, as part of that new adventure of going solo, I am going to try to keep as many options open as I possibly can, and let that focus, purpose and meaning I mentioned earlier on, in another post, decide which one(s) would be a failure I can learn from, move on and stick around with the one(s) that will help me progress further in my life-long learning experience(s) with that new round of complimentary skills.
In a way, you could think about this next stage on my (work) life as an opportunity to rediscover myself, reflect on what I have learned and applied over the course of the last 17 years and see if there would be an opportunity to apply them in a completely different environment from that one of the big corporate world: that is, the freelance economy. A recent article under the suggestive heading of “How Freelancers Are Redefining Success To Be About Value, Not Wealth“, pretty much nails it for me on what I feel, rather strongly, is the workplace of the future, if there ever was a brilliant one, that would be it. And, somehow, in whatever form or shape, I quite enjoy both the challenge and the opportunity of being part of it.
Now, I do know, and fully realise, that it’s not going to be an easy ride. I don’t expect it to be. Quite the contrary. It’s going to be full of uncertainty, facing the unknown in most cases, and experiencing plenty of new scenarios that I never thought, in the recent past, I would had the bravery and courage to face, like the prospect of no longer having a secure job or a fixed monthly income at a time when, where I live, in the Canary Islands, Spain, the unemployment rate is over 33% of the total active working population. Yet, somehow, I feel it’s also a good time for me to see if I can put to the test all of those acquired skills over the course of the years and put them to good use as an independent freelancer. I bet it will be quite an interesting self-discovery experience altogether as well, don’t you think?
So, at this point in time, and perhaps to close off this longish article for now, you may be wondering what are going to be the main focus areas I will be working on from here onwards as an independent freelancer, solopreneur or autónomo (Spanish), right? Well, like I mentioned above, and in order to unleash the system of elsua to help increase the odds of opportunity and success, here are some of the areas I will be working on:
- Social / Computing Business and Open Business evangelism
- Social Business Strategy and Digital Transformation Consultancy
- Social Business Enablement and Adoption / Adaptation (Including IBM Connections)
- Knowledge Management, Learning and Org. Change Management (Org. Design)
- Online Community Building and Facilitation
- Digital / Executive Coaching
- International public speaking
- Freelance writing
- English teaching (See? I am still an English teacher with a passion for teaching and learning and that’s not going away any time soon!)
And, finally, Life Without eMail. Of course, I couldn’t let this one slip out, just like that, right? After all, it’s what most people still know me for out there and have been thinking that if I have managed to successfully survive in the largest email driven IT firm in the world over the course of the last 6 years, it’s now time to enter a new phase, a new challenge altogether: live a life without email as an independent freelancer / solopreneur. And see whether I am capable of pulling it off or not, moving all of my interactions into social networking tools. At least, as many as I possibly can, just like I have been doing for the last few years in the corporate world.
I know most of you folks may be thinking that there are perhaps too many different options out there that I will be working on from here onwards and everything and that, maybe, I will be spreading too thin, but all along I have been thinking that this whole new experience is pretty much going to be shaped not only by what I do and learn along the way, but also by how I would be interacting, conversing and learning with my networks across the board. Because, if there is anything that I have learned over the course of the last 15 years that I have been involved with social networking is that you are never going solo. There is an entire network of people who care, who surely know and understand what you are good at, and what not, and, as such, they would become your helping hand and invaluable source of feedback to keep you on track of how you are helping that very same network become successful at what they already do.
After all, we are living in a Network Era and there is no turning point back. And do you know what’s the one single ah-ha moment that I will be enjoying the most from this brave new world of (hyper)connectedness and conversations that I am about to enter from here onwards? Well, that, all along, and over the course of the last 17 years, I have been preparing myself to become a freelancer for life, always nurturing my networks, no matter what.
And I won’t be alone…
Let the next adventure begin! Unleashing the system of we!
Life works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it? It comes and goes, never leaving you indifferent. It has got its own way of telling you when to stop, do plenty of thinking about why you were brought here in the first place and hop back into the train we all call the world to move on. I guess this time around though it also had something else in stock for me. Something that has made the writing of this blog post kind of tough and a bit too edgy at the same time, not necessarily for putting it together, but for its implications thereafter. Once again, and probably for the zillionth time already, I am now back to my (no longer) regular blogging schedule and, after nearly two months since the last article I wrote over here, I have got a piece of news to share that may come as a surprise to some of you folks. Maybe. May be not. On January 20th 2014, I quit IBM. On my terms. Since February 4th, I am a now free man. Whatever that means…
Quit a surprise, eh? Yes, I know. It even was a shock for me, too! That’s right. Earlier on this year, to be more precise, on January 20th, I announced, to my former employer, right on the same day when I was celebrating my 17th year anniversary at IBM that I was quitting my job as a Lead Social Business Enabler and that February 3rd would be my last working day. I still can’t believe it myself and I don’t even know whether I may be regretting the decision over time, or not, but it’s now done and dealt with. That can probably explain the main reason why I have been relatively quiet in the last few months out there in the Social Web. It hasn’t been an overnight decision. Quite the opposite, it’s been already in my mind for about two years and all along I have been delaying it, because perhaps I just didn’t want to face it. Perhaps I didn’t want to come to terms with the fact it was time for me to move on.
But then again, signal after signal, conversation after conversation, and lots of thinking in between here and there, certainly help me arrive at the Christmas period where I was on holidays for a full month, away from everything, pondering whether it was the time for me to call it quits and do something else. Move on with my life. Picture me: a blank A4 piece of paper and a pen, two columns, one on pros and the other one on cons about whether I should stay or go, me frantically writing down for a good while on either column and at the very end reaching one rather massive conclusion. Picture this: family members doing the very same exercise without me telling them anything. Just writing down what they may have noticed. We compared notes. We talked. We were all shocked. The conclusions of both exercises were exactly the same. How weird is that? Or, better said, how scarily accurate is that?
It just felt right. It does feel right still. You see?, there is a time when each and everyone of us would come to terms with the fact that we would all need to question what we do with our (work) lives, figure out whether you are on the right track or not, whether we are still driven by the same passion as when we started working (In my case, 17 years ago), whether the motivation to carry on is strong enough to help you continue without deviations. I guess focus is the word I was looking for, you may think, right? Yes, probably, but I am more inclined to think I am looking more for a couple of other words: purpose and meaning.
A mid-(work)life crisis of sorts? Most probably, but then again, feeling all along, it may well have been just the perfect timing altogether. One where serendipity does its magic and helps provoke these happenings, just like that. I know that this may sound crazy, but I have always felt that my entire working career has been defined and shaped up by serendipity. And this time around was no different. Things happen for a reason. Always. No matter what. It’s just a matter, for each and everyone of us, to figure out whether we can see it or not. Oh, don’t worry, I am still currently going through that process myself, but I am now more convinced than ever before that it’s time for me to move on…
17 long years at the largest IT firm in the world can give you plenty of stretch to do and experience lots of different things. I feel privileged to have lived through that. In those 17 years at IBM I have worked in 6 different business units, with their own 6 different cultures, challenges and exciting opportunities, making them feel like as if I had 6 jobs already at any other place. I have had the opportunity, and the great pleasure, to work with some of the most amazing talented people I know. In fact, they are the only and exclusive reason as to why yours truly, an English teacher, after all, has been working for an IT firm for over 17 years while loathing technology to bits. No, I am not a techie and nor will I be pursuing a long term career in that field. I am all about the people. For the people. I am a connector. And when you feel that work for the people is now done and dealt with, it’s time to move on. On to the next adventure.
I am incredibly thankful, an equally grateful altogether, for all of the wonderful 17 years that I have spent at IBM. I haven’t got a single regret. There have been highs and lows, I guess pretty much the same as for plenty of you folks out there. I have had some absolutely stunning and beautiful work experiences working in an environment where a crazy idea, executed with lots of passion and brain, can change your life for good. And IBM has been a key enabler of that. The people. It’s what motivates me to come to work every day. Day in, day out. It’s what motivates me to have a smile on my face, to always try to be helpful, empathic, full of energy and passion, keen on both sharing my knowledge openly and learn from others at the same time. I guess that’s when the customer service skills course I did way back in time does pay off eventually.
But at some point, you realise that you start deviating from that people focus into something else. Something that you know, and see, it’s totally not you. Something I know plenty of you folks would be able to relate to, something that drains your energy out of you with no remedy taking away all of that passion and motivation to carry on. To help and care for others. And, that’s right, before it’s too late, you realise it’s the right time to make a move, to re-find your passion, your engagement, your motivation to push forward and, with a bit of courage and some bravery, embrace the unknown: quit your job:
— Luis Suarez (@elsua) January 23, 2014
That was the tweet I shared across a couple of days later, where I announced to my world that rather unexpected change. Then it all got rather emotional and intense, as you can imagine. The responses both on the Twittersphere, as well as internally, have been truly AMAZING! I have felt, in massive waves, all the love from those who I have cared for and helped dearly over the course of the years. And it hasn’t been easy adjusting to the new reality.
In fact, this is my first blog post writing about it (Other than that tweet). But then you realise that in the world of the Social Web, you are not going away from people, you are just breaking up the firewall, while trying to help all of those folks embrace that notion that networks are *not* organisations. They are porous, they don’t understand, nor comprehend, nor even care!, about what organisation you work for, or which one would pay your bills. Your networks would only care about you and your well-being based on how much you have nurtured and cultivated them over time. Your networks become you. You become your networks. All one. Your one. No-one else’s.
And then you realise that your departure is no longer painful anymore, nor sad, nor shocking. You then realise as well how it is all a big, massive celebration of freedom. You are no longer trapped. The wild duck continues with its journey. It’s just the new reality. Networks are the new swarms. And you are just an integral part of them and whatever physical and virtual barriers they are no longer an issue. They just don’t exist. You are part of that system of networks. And the journey continues. That’s where I am at the moment.
I am pretty sure that plenty of you folks are now wondering what I will be doing next, where will this wild-duck go this time around? What is he going to do with his new freedom? What’s that new adventure he keeps talking about and hinting here and there with somewhat cryptic and obscure hints? Will he continue working in a large corporate environment helping people adapt to that brave new world of becoming a Social / Open Business? Perhaps giving it a go at a startup? Or maybe going solo? Or will he open up this rather lovely lounge bar called Sunset Cafe right where he lives offering delicious cakes and refreshing cocktails? What will he do? What would you do?
The uncertainty is killing us.
Don’t worry. That same uncertainty is going after me as well. It keeps lingering at the back of my mind. And some times it grabs me badly reminding whether I have made the right decision or not. Whether it was all a mistake. Whether I will regret it over time. But then again that inner urge and intuition of letting serendipity do its magic, of bringing back the passion for what you have always believed in, and the excitement of that newly embraced freedom to focus on re-finding your purpose and meaning on what you do, they all do help mitigate some of that uncertainty. Either way, this is the first of a series of blog posts I will be sharing in the next couple of days of what and where to next. For now, a teaser: it’s going to be something completely different to what I have been experiencing over the course of the last 17 years, and therefore a completely new learning experience.
One where I am hoping my hybrid networks (internal and external) would become an integral part of to help us all continue learning along the way on what our purpose and meaning may have been all along…
Let the next adventure begin!
If you have been reading this blog for a while now you would remember how every year that goes by I always try to incorporate a new theme or topic that I would want to explore further along during the course of the year and see where it would take me, specially, if it aligns with the core subjects I get to cover over here from all along like Social Business, Social Computing, Enterprise 2.0, Online Communities, Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing (a.k.a. KM), Learning and, since last year, Open Business as well (Which, by the way, still remains as one of the Top Reads from this blog for 2013 overall and surely am very pleased about that one. Thanks much everyone for co-sharing that same interest!). So what is it going to be this year then, you may be wondering, right? Well, this time around, and to make up for the couple of extended breaks I took from this blog in the last few months, I am planning on making it up and, eventually, incorporate three different new themes, two of which I will be announcing in the next couple of weeks as we move into 2014, and a third one that I will be kicking off today with this particular article. The topic? Humanise. The what? Everything!
Indeed, over the course of the last few years, as I have been getting more and more involved with internal social networking in a business context, one of the many reasons that, specially, social computing evangelists have been sharing all along in terms of the clear benefits for Social / Open Business is the ability for all of those social technologies to socialise the workplace, to democratise it, to flatten it, to make it more personal and up close, to demonstrate how organisations are no longer that faceless corporate brand you just can’t engage with in a meaningful two-way-street open and direct conversation. And that’s all good. But I think we need to start aiming a bit higher than that, and perhaps become a bit more ambitious as to what we would want to achieve, beyond that social savviness. I want to aim higher myself and state how all of these social networking tools help humanise not just ourselves, as knowledge Web workers, but also the organisations we all may be working for, whether large or small.
Why? Well, essentially, because they are helping re-surface what we, human beings, have been all along and that the business world has managed to demolish over the course of the last 50 to 70 years in a very effective manner: our very own humanity. Our very own need to connect, to bond, to find that common spark amongst humans that helps us generate a connection, a link, a chemistry, a conversation, a smile.
But what if humanise would be something bigger? What if humanise wouldn’t have much to do with social technologies after all, but a wake-up call to realise who we really are (and what we have been all along!) in terms of our behaviours and rituals. What if humanise is all about demonstrating, time and time again, how we cannot neglect anymore, nor ignore, our very own human nature of wanting to connect, to collaborate, to share our knowledge, to tell stories, so that we have got a perfect opportunity to relate to others based on just those connections?
Well, that’s exactly what I am hoping to achieve with this new theme that I will be incorporating into this blog over the course of the next few days, months, year(s). An opportunity for us to challenge our current way of thinking; to also challenge the status quo of how things work in today’s (working) reality, including perhaps in our own personal lives; to understand, finally, how, in most cases, we probably just have to let things go and focus on embracing the unexpected, the uncertain, what we just can’t control anymore, or don’t know the answer for; that is, embracing fully the magic behind serendipitous knowledge discoveries (of whatever kind!) that, just by not being out there, we would have missed out on them either way.
Want an example? Take a look into this one video clip then. Courtesy of the wonderful, rather smart and witty folks behind SoulPancake. It’s a 5 minute long clip under the title “Take a Seat – Make a Friend?” where the main premise is all about opening up. In this case, opening up to total strangers (in pairs) inside a ball pit to talk about “life’s big questions” and, eventually, figure out if there would be a connection in the making.
Now, I am not going to spoil the fun for all of you folks out there wanting to see the outcome of that humanising experiment . Instead I would encourage all to take a look into the embedded code of the video, hit Play, sit back, relax and think “WOW! What would happen if we run this at my workplace?“
See? Sometimes you don’t even need to make use of any social technologies to help demonstrate that human, basic characteristic of always wanting to connect with others by just opening up to the unexpected and let the conversation do the rest. Flow naturally.