The Soothing Effect of Blogging

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganIt’s hard to believe, even for myself, how the last time I wrote a blog post over here was a bit over two months ago. However, it doesn’t even feel totally awkward, as it used to be in the past, whenever I embarked on a longish blogging hiatus of sorts. Not even embarrassing anymore. I know, I am still trying to find an answer for that one, too. Go figure. I guess that’s what happens when a frenzy of activities both personal life and work related take over the daily blogging routines to the point they fall off to the bottom of the list of priorities and at some point they drop out altogether. To never come back though? I doubt it. Seriously. My fingers have been itching for a good while wanting to come back to the blog and keep up with the writing in the long form. Somehow it wasn’t the right time for me to come back just yet. But now that things seem to have settled down a bit, here I am, once again, bringing back my blogging mojo to life and this time around I guess it’s for good. Why? Well, for a good number of reasons, as you are about to see shortly, but, mainly, because I have been missing it all along more than I thought I would and it’s time to get busy writing again! There is just too much going on inside my head that wants to come out and I guess it’s now a good time to stop being the bottleneck and share along … 

Where shall I start then? How can I summarise plenty of the things that I have gone through in the last couple of months into a single blog entry without boring you all to death with my chaotic ramblings and still provide some helpful insights of what I have been exposed to so far? It’s going to be a challenge, I know, so I guess I better get down to it and see where it will take me. And what a better way of kicking things off than instead of writing long paragraphs to keep it short with some quick entry points that I can then develop into additional blog posts over the course of time, specially, for those key areas I’d want to develop further thoughts on as we move along.

Think of it as snacking around into my brain for bits and pieces here and there on what I have been going through in the last couple of months, of what’s been in my mind, what I have been learning, and overall how things are moving along for yours truly, as an independent trusted advisor around Social Business and Digital Transformation. So, let’s go ahead and do it! 

  • I can’t believe it’s been 6 months already since I left IBM and decided to go independent as a trusted advisor around Social / Open Business & Digital Transformation. And you know what? It is already starting to feel like it’s been ages ago, to the point where I’m beginning to question why didn’t I go independent 10 years ago when I had the first opportunity and, instead, I let it go? 
  • Yes, life as a freelancer on the subject matter(s) you are truly passionate about has just been wonderful all along, even more so when it all turns into paid client work. Clients who are just as passionate, committed and determined as you are, if not even more so!, in inspiring their own digital transformation and you are capable of bringing to life the “job title” you decided to embrace right from the start: Chief Emergineer & People Enabler. 

  • Back when I was still at IBM I thought I had it just right  in terms of striking that so-called work life integration, only to learn how wrong I was now that I’m fully experiencing what it is like being less busy and hectic, but more effective and creative on what I do, while I get to experience, fully, what it is like living in paradise island.
  • It’s been rather interesting, and somewhat intriguing, to be frank, to finally adjust and embrace the notion that what you thought were going to become work streams and potential revenue opportunities didn’t bring a single euro cent into your bank account after I left IBM. And other activities I thought would never have a chance with me have now become my second, most prolific, revenue stream. Yes, I’m doing a lot less business travelling for public speaking opportunities, I’m doing a lot more business travelling for client meetings to conduct face to face workshops around Adoption & Enablement techniques, regardless of the digital tool(s) in place. 
  • Less business travelling means I’m spending a whole lot more time getting stranded back at home, which is not a bad problem to have per se, contrary to what some people have mentioned when they found out I was moving on and thought I would get bored to death as a result. Not likely.
  • Life works in mysterious ways but always keen to remind you when you are spreading too thin and how it’s time to regroup, refocus on what you really want to do with your work and personal life and stick around with it, getting rid of all of the unnecessary baggage. Yes, family health scares (second one in a year!) will have such an impact that they would manage to make you re-prioritise how you spend your time online engaging with total strangers while you keep neglecting what you have got at home. Always. Never forget that. 
  • Summer months will always be relatively quiet, giving you plenty of offline time to think what you would want to do when people come back to work after the summer break. And, for me, this time around it’s meant coming up with tons of wonderful business travelling opportunities starting off by mid-September and till year end. Eventually, ending up in some kind of European Tour of sorts! Yes, I know, embrace the opportunities themselves, because you never know when they will come up again. Live the moment… 
  • The excitement and flexibility of being an independent advisor still trump the uncertainty of no longer having a fixed monthly pay check. Your brain adjusts, your lifestyle does as well and you manage to learn to live with more intent with less and still have a blast altogether. 
  • Somehow someone decided it was a good idea to pack up all of the different face to face conference events I’m interested in in 2 or 3 months and leave out the rest of the year. So June till mid-July have been somewhat buzzing as will be October – November. Enjoying quite a bit those peaks of activity, because right after I know things will go back to normal, vs. the continuous frenzy from my previous work life. 
  • It took me quite a bit of self-convincing, but after giving it plenty of thought over the course of the last three months, I have finally decided to turn Life Without eMail into another work stream for yours truly. Main reason being? Well, mostly, because after the 6 months that have gone by I can now confirm that even freelancers / independent advisors can, too!, live without email as an effective collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. I will be writing plenty more about this one from now onwards, but, as an example, if last year I was averaging around 35 incoming emails per week (More on that soon!), I’m 6 months into this new life of a freelancer and I’m down to 5.5 emails per week. If you’d remember, the lowest number of incoming email I managed to get while at IBM was in 2011 with 16 emails per week. Yes!!, it’s now time to show the rest of the business world how it works and how everyone can make it happen for themselves. And beyond!
  • It looks like I still have got running through my veins plenty of my teaching, educating, enabling from over the years, as I have been confirming lately with a number of different face to face workshops, so the interest towards Learning in a Connected World is back for yours truly and I suspect it will be back for a good while as I’m getting more and more interested in rather innovative learning approaches like heutagogy. 
  • I still don’t miss Facebook much after having deleted my account over 4 years ago, and specially, given some recent rather disturbing events. And, for that matter, I don’t miss a single bit my LinkedIn account either, that I deleted a couple of months back (as I wrote over in this article). That means, indeed, I am growing thicker, once again, around Twitter, Google Plus, this blog, my Flickr & Instagram IDs (for photoblogging), eventually, abandoning walled gardens to their own fate and trying to enjoy the Open Social Web, while it lasts… If it does … That is why you will see plenty more blogging over here coming along from now onwards, as I have also decided to take an extended break from closed spaces / groups. The legacy from all of them is dead right from the moment you hit the publish / post buttons.
  • There has been a one single event that has reminded me, quite fondly, why I have missed writing on this blog for far too long and that was writing a series of blog posts for a client. That blogging exercise alone reminded me how much I enjoy writing overall and why I’m back for a good while now. I fully understand I am a bit rusty, chaotic and messy at times, like with this blog entry of ramblings…, but, indeed, never underestimate the soothing and enticing power of sharing your ideas out there in the open for others to comment, improve and collaborate around them. It just can’t get better than that. Oh, wait, it certainly can: when the final product is better than the original idea. Collectively. 
  • And talking about writing, there is, finally!, a book in the making by yours truly. Yes, I know, it should have been done a long long time ago, but, hey, it’s never too late if the cause is a good one, right? hehe Stay tuned for more details on it, please. I will be writing about it some more in-depth shortly…
  • Ohhh, one more thing, I am currently toying with the idea of putting together as well an ebook around the Top 101 blog posts that have seen the light over here in this blog over the years around KM, Social / Open Business and Digital Transformation, as it’s approaching its 10th year anniversary in the Internet Blogosphere in memoriam to its predecessor, my corporate Intranet blog, that I got started back in 2003, but that, alas, is now sadly defunct. So long, my dear friend. Thank you for all of the rather good and fond memories from over the years! 

Now, talking about legacy, and an unforgettable footprint left behind, as I am about to wrap up this post for today, I just couldn’t help remembering and celebrating the one from someone who marked my youth (And I am sure that one from hundreds of millions of people out there!), and early years into adulthood, by teaching far too many key learnings and life lessons through the amazingly inspiring power of storytelling than the brilliant, rather witty, humorous, vast majority of times utterly hilarious and comforting Robin Williams. Laughter is a healthy thing. Making people laugh their hearts out is a gift. Quite a special human being, indeed, who always had a kind word for everyone and who knew how to channel through his immense talent to make this world a slightly better place. And now that he is gone, “we just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again”. 

Thank you, O Captain, My Captain!

Get out there and “make your life spectacular!

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

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The Therapy of Blogging While Showing Off Your Ideas Out in the Open

You may have noticed how over the course of the last few days I haven’t had much of a chance to blog over here. And it is not because things may well be so incredibly hectic that I wouldn’t have enough time for it. Quite the opposite, actually. I am continually looking at the prospect of writing away, as, you know, there is always time for blogging, right? In my 11 years of blogging itself I don’t think I have ever experienced the good well known writer’s block when putting together the next article. I have always felt it’s just a matter of whether you have got something interesting, relevant and valuable to share across for others to keep improving with their additional commentary and eventually have a really good conversation on a given topic as a result of it. And today’s musing, while it’s been in my mind for over a week now, is pondering what is a blog without comments, after all? Is it still a blog? Or, on the other hand, just a regular Web site that you dip in your toes for a minute or two and then move on? Should blogs have comments turned off by default and still be called a blog? What do you think? 

The main reason why I am reflecting on this topic of whether a blog is still a blog without comments enabled is because over the course of the last few days (nearly a week now!) elsua.net has been under an attack of spam comments that I have never seen in the 11 years that I have been blogging away. So vicious that I eventually had to turn comments off, because even Akismet couldn’t handle the load. And they are still disabled. And it hurts. Tremendously. More than anything else because I feel like I have just killed off the conversation. 

This is not the first time that I get hit by spam comments. In fact, till recently, Akismet was telling me it caught over 4 million of them since October 2005 when I started this Internet blog (two years after my Intranet corporate one came alive). However, this is the first time that it’s taking me so long to turn on comments and bring back the conversation. And the issues are still there, which is the main reason why I haven’t been blogging in the last week, because I kept thinking what’s the point of writing over here, if other people can’t read AND comment on the blog, right? (If they so wish, that is…)

Yes, I know plenty of people out there would still view blogging (despite the 20 years that have gone by since the first weblog came out) as a publishing platform where people just show off. Of course, they do. They show off constantly, but not necessarily their selves, but, most importantly, their ideas or deeper thoughts on those topics they are truly passionate about and that they would want to share with others to start off a conversation. That’s where comments kick in. 

Yes, I know plenty of people out there think that blogging, in some way, is a kind of therapy and I would probably have to agree with that sentiment, as that is, some times, the kind of effect that I get when I sit down and start writing myself. Like in this case, for instance, this article I am putting together, where, out of sheer frustration about that spam comment attack, I am using it as an opportunity to flush it out, get it out of my system and carry on, hoping that at some point things would go back to normal. 

Yes, I know as well plenty of people have been writing over the course of time about the multiple various benefits of blogging and how to get things started with your own, whether for personal or business interests, but perhaps one of my favourite quotes that would keep justifying for me the argument as to why a blog is still incredibly powerful is the one that, just recently, Dave Winer put together under the heading Why Blog?

The mission of blogging is to empower all of us to go directly to each other with our expertise. So if you know something as well as anyone else, or you learn something or know something that should be shared, then you should share it on your blog” [Emphasis mine]

And, once again, here I am finding myself debating what’s the point of having and maintaining a blog if you cannot keep the comments open and available to everyone who may want to share their ¢2. Rather frustrating altogether. Then you remember the beautifully crafted articles like David Weinberger’s “What blogging was” or Tim Kastelle’s “You Should Start a Blog Right Now“ and you realise that you just need to build on further on your patience levels and wait for the attack to go by to then turn comments back on and you will be fine. Back in business. 

Well, that’s essentially what I will be doing. I will keep hanging in there and see if the spam comments attack will eventually go away so that I can get back on track. After all, blogging is still lots of good fun! And I miss it. Terribly. So I suppose I will just keep blogging away from here onwards imagining the wonderful conversations I could have had with you folks, but that they may need to wait for a little bit longer. So, please bear with me while we get over this spam storm. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we get back to normal … 

Interestingly enough, and moving on into another topic that I would want to briefly touch base on, somewhat related, but perhaps worth of a separate blog post on its own to dig in further on it, a few of you commented, when I mentioned this issue through Twitter, and other social networking tools, that I should perhaps outsource the commenting system rather into Disqus or even Google Plus and move on forward with things. 

That certainly was a very interesting suggestion that I have been contemplating as well for a good while, even before this spam comment attack and all along I haven’t been convinced it would be the best option out there. In fact, it raises a number of different questions and concerns with yours truly in terms of where you host your (long term) content. Allow me to explain it perhaps with a metaphor I have been working my way through over the course of time, that I originally crafted for discerning the differences of publishing content in your blog versus elsewhere, i.e. other social networking tools. 

Imagine your blog is your home. That special space that you keep coming back to over and over again, because, you know, it’s your own online space on the Social Web. The place where you belong, where your thoughts are entertained in ways you couldn’t possibly even imagine by sharing them freely and openly with others, so that, over time, conversations develop, open knowledge sharing goes back and forth and trust builds up naturally, as folks have got an opportunity to visit your home, feel comfortable, learn about you and what you are passionate about and develop a relationship over the course of time through multiple interactions and overall good old participation in the back and forth dialogue.

Now, imagine you decide to go to someone else’s home and live there permanently. Like LinkedIn (with its recently open-to-everyone publishing platform), Medium (Blogging for the 9%), Tumblr, Google Plus, Blogger, WordPress.com, amongst several other options. How would you feel if, at one point, you are no longer welcome at their homes, or, even worse, how would you feel if those homes just disappear overnight without an opportunity for you to leave the party on time (with your content) to event share it elsewhere with others? I guess you know where I am heading, right? 

John Battelle described it beautifully in a recent LinkedIn article under the rather suggestive and thought provoking heading of “LinkedIn Is Now a Publishing Platform. Awesome. But First, Get Your Own Site”, where he confirms with this brilliant quote why I am myself not ready just yet to outsource my home for someone else’s: 

From now on I’m going on record as a passionate advocate of posting to your own site first, then posting to LinkedIn (or any other place, such as Medium).

Why? Well, it comes down to owning your own domain. Building out a professional profile on LinkedIn certainly makes sense, and bolstering that cv with intelligent pieces of writing is also a great idea. But if you’re going to take the time to create content, you should also take the time to create a home for that content that is yours and yours alone. WordPress makes it drop dead easy to start a site. Take my advice, and go do it. Given the trendlines of digital publishing, where more and more large platforms are profiting from, and controlling, the works of individuals, I can’t stress enough: Put your taproot in the independent web.

And that’s essentially what I will be doing from here onwards. Focus plenty more on building a beautiful home that everyone else out there on the (Social) Web can enjoy, if they so wish to drop by and pay a visit, and where I can help facilitate the space without hijacking the conversation just for the sake of thriving on attention. I don’t need it. At least, I don’t think I need it. What I do need though, for sure, is for the conversation to take place, openly, publicly, and available to others, because that’s how we, you and me, can keep up with our ongoing, constant learning paths.

For now, though, and while we wait for the spam comment attack to fade away, I guess this blog is under construction, currently being refurbished, if you wish, just like any home out there would do every so often, while we wait to turn on the comments once again. And bring back the conversation to life. 

I just can’t wait for that to happen! 

[Thanks ever so much everyone for the continued patience while enduring this painful experience and for all of the wonderful support offered thus far. It’s greatly appreciated. As always]


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business, and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua, Google Plus or LinkedIn.

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The Dangers of Mediocrity and The Power of the Dip

Leon - CathedralOne of the things that I have always enjoyed, and quite a bit, from the Social Web, and the different social networking tools out there, and the main reason why I keep coming back for more, is that no matter how much time may have just gone by, the good content, the golden gems, those pieces of reflection and insight that you know you are going to bump into over time they keep resurfacing time and time again, making the mere presence on social networking tools just worth it on its own. Earlier on this week, I had the opportunity to experience it once more, by bumping into “The Mindset of a Winner“. Perhaps one of the best short video clips you will be bumping into this year on the topic of focusing and pursuing your passion(s) through multiple dips.

It’s pretty remarkable that the video clip is a short interview published on January 2008, conducted by Gerhard Gschwandtner from Selling Power, of Seth Godin and how five and a half years later it’s just as fresh, insightful and relevant as ever. In it, Seth, once again, is at his best talking about a whole bunch of different subjects, starting off with spending a few minutes on what I feel is one of the main issues at all levels we have got to deal with in today’s (business) world: mediocrity.

While the interview may have that connotation of just being relevant for sellers, as that’s the primary audience, I can tell you that it’s very much worth while going through it as plenty of Seth’s relevant insights would apply to everyone out there who wants to escape mediocrity on everything they do, whether at work or in their personal lives, with stunning reflections like this one: “The big win is when you refuse to settle for average or mediocre. […] What you do as a sales person is you communicate emotion. But you can’t communicate emotion and trust  to someone if they are not listening and the only people who are going to listen to you are the people who are pre-sold on you, because someone told them about what you do and how you do it.” Just brilliant, don’t you think? Specially, how it applies to not just everyone out there, but to everything else that we do as well for that matter.

From there onwards, it just gets better. Seth then gets to talk about focusing on what you are good at and forget about all of the different distractions that may well be out there enticing you to go into multiple directions making you lose focus of what you should be working on. He uses the example of his blog, which is just a part of himself, as his own voice out there on the Web. That is, his presence, his digital footprint and personal brand for that matter, in contrast to his light involvement on the various social networking spaces out there. His follow-up insights on experiencing multiple dips to keep moving forward is just rather inspirational on its own. If not, judge for yourselves playing the video clip below:

The interesting thing, for me, while going through the interview itself, is how it reminded me of a superb blog post by the always inspiring Valeria Maltoni under the rather thought provoking title of “Why on Earth Would You Still Bother with Blogging?” where you would find incredibly insightful quotes like this one:

Providing a frame of reference, composing thoughts in an open forum like a blog, publishing a point of view, are more than merely a way to develop a personal channel for getting the word out on what matters in your world.

Stand for something and work on backing it up over time

that she then develops further under “Why bother with all the blogs” with perhaps one of the most descriptive, helpful and reflective reasons as to why blogging still matters. To quote:

They are an opportunity to shape a conversation about topics that matter right now — whatever we call this moment, whether the age of conversation, or real time something, or collaboration, the path to useful is a path to usefulness.

Sticking with topics also allows you to explore ideas and develop new thinking. In most cases it goes beyond that. A blog helps you keep track of what you said about how something would develop. And that is incredibly useful to understand how you got to where you are today”

So perhaps that’s what blogging is after all. An opportunity to experience plenty of dips on multiple topics of interest that you can reflect upon at your own leisure, so that, over time, while you develop your own blogging voice and style, and you keep building on your own digital footprint, you get to understand what your focus area(s) may well be, find those strengths that keep you moving along, and stick around with them, so that at some point in time they become you, you become them, without having to fall back into that world of mediocrity that’s just destroying everything we have ever believed in and built over time.

Yes, I, too, “refuse to settle for average or mediocre”. And that’s probably one of the main reasons as well why I keep blogging on a regular basis, i.e. to reflect on these golden gems that one keeps bumping into, but also as an opportunity to share, out there in the open, what my passion(s) are and what drives me to work day in day out. Why? Well, because, amongst several other things, the alternative, that mediocrity, is just too ugly to bear.

Yes, indeed, I refuse to settle for average or mediocre. And you? 

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