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

Work Life Integration

The Call to Adventure – On Doing What You Love

Gran Canaria - Playa Las Canteras in the Summer at SunsetOver the course of the last six months it’s been quite an interesting experience, to say the least, being asked, on a rather frequent basis, why did I leave big corporate life at IBM, specially, with the last round of dream jobs, to instead build my own business into the unknown with that inherent flair of uncertainty, specially, given the current times we are living in, and still have no regrets about moving on into that next adventure, whatever that may well be like. Well, after all of that time I guess I am now ready and have a proper answer that I can go by with and that pretty much describes the main reason(s) why I decided, after 17 years, it was time to move on: doing what you love.

Well, those words are not really my own, but from the one and only Jim Carrey, when earlier on in the year had the wonderful opportunity, for all of us to witness thanks to the wonders of the Social Web, to deliver the commencement address at Maharishi University of Management’s class of 2014 doing quite a phenomenal piece of work in terms of describing what life should be all about. At least, what he himself makes out of it. I tell you, you got to love commencement addresses. They can well be quite an inspiring and motivational round of resources to remind you why we are all here in the first place in terms of finding our very own purposes and meaning on what we do. Jim’s is right up there in terms of how it can elevate your spirit(s) to think different AND act different by reminding each and everyone of us as to why we make certain decisions the way we do and describe pretty much how vast majority of that decision making process is, actually, driven either by love or fear. Here is a snippet of what I mean and that pretty much describes that whole process in the words of Jim’s own father, which are, if anything, nothing short of pure brilliance. If not, judge for yourselves: 

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love

Whoah!! Can it get better and more profound than that?!?! Oh, yes, it surely can! Take a look into this link that contains the full commencement address (A bit over 26 minutes), and which will be totally worth while watching in its entirety. And if you would want to, you can also take a look into the Transcript of Full Commencement Address where you will be able to read through his entire speech. Absolutely stunning! 

I’m not going to tease you much longer nor to spoil it for you by sharing plenty of the golden gems he shared across that 26 minute long speech, but while watching it through I just couldn’t help remembering a very recent blog post that my very good friend, Rob Paterson, put together under the rather thought provoking title “The Call to Adventure – Is This You Too?” and which pretty much describes that inner urge from each and everyone of us of “becoming the change”. At the heart of the matter though is for us all to figure out if our decision making process strikes either for love or fear, for that matter, and how we learn to live with that decision, regardless of the outcome.

I guess 3 years after I wrote Welcome to the Social Enterprise Awakening I am only now starting to comprehend the reach and full potential of the disruption of all of these emerging technologies and social networks not only in a business environment, but also in our society as a whole. I can probably say that it took me 14 years to perhaps realise about it, but then again, I suppose that, subconsciously, back then when I wrote that piece, I was already telling myself something that stroke my brain really hard as well when a couple of months back Seth Godin wrote: “It’s probably easier and certainly more direct to talk to yourself about loving what you do.

And forget about everything else, because, regardless of what people may well tell you, it’s no longer worth your time, effort and energy to pursue those endeavours you may well not be truly passionate about. Yes, indeed, it’s all about the passion, after all, about figuring out what kind of passion you have, its real true meaning, along with purpose, how eventually you get to find it, and how you, at long last, put it into action

I guess that’s essentially what my “in transition” period has been like, since I went independent, if I were to describe it in just a few words, but perhaps much more interesting and intriguing is the overall journey itself, that call to adventure that Rob referred to in the above shared link, of doing what I love doing, even though I’m only now just getting started with it. You see? One of the things I have learned over the course of the years and perhaps I am now fully embracing in its whole measure is how “Life Is Too Short For You To Get Good At What You Don’t Want To Be Doing”.

And whenever that happens, it’s time to move on and become the change, because, eventually, it’s not the final destination what really matters, but the actual journey. That is, that awakening phase we all get to define for ourselves. And, remember, we are not alone. We have never been alone, since our networks are just within reach of a post, a phone call, or a simple face to face conversation. In short, it’s our collective choice of whether to go for rather a conservative decision or a bold move and from there onwards make the most out of it.

Hopefully, the latter. Yes, that’s what I am currently working on… And you?

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. 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.

0 votes
Read More »

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.

0 votes
Read More »

Relentless Networking and the Power of Now

Even though I am now an independent freelancer working as a trusted advisor to clients around Social Business and Digital Transformation, after 17 years of corporate life at IBM, there are still some things that I guess don’t change much, or, at least, not as fast as I would have hoped for. One of those areas is business travelling, that, although not happening as often as it used to be, it’s one of those activities where I still see plenty of room for improvement, specially, when trying to combine being on the road and still keep up with my digital activities. You would think after all of these years, and several hundreds of business trips, I would get the hang out of it already, but, alas, it doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, not yet. It’s just like I disappear into thin air, except perhaps for Twitter, for a good few days and, before I realise and try to make an effort about coming back into the Social Web, I am then back home from travelling, and we are back in business. Goodness! Will I ever be capable of reconciling business travelling and digital interactions? Probably not, and here is why.

Relentless networking. A rather short and straight to the point description as to why I would never be capable of reconciling my online social interactions with the offline world, while I am on the move. Never mind that as soon as I leave the country, my mobile phone turns itself into a brick. A rather expensive brick. Somehow my motivation then to remain connected just disappears, since I can’t come to terms with the fact of paying hugely expensive roaming charges for something that it is starting to feel more of a right, yes, the Right to a Decent Internet Access, even for road warriors like myself, when we are away from our traditional work locations. 

Twitter is perhaps an exception to all of this. Its mobile immediacy and ever growing global reach, along with the very little consumption of data while on the road, allows me to still keep an eye on all things digital. But it’s rather interesting to see how I essentially morph, on purpose, how I use this social networking tool whether I am working at my home office or while on the road. At home, it’s my preferred and most energising, inspiring, serendipity-prone, personal learning network. When I travel it’s my main method of how I connect and reach out to people in my network(s). And that’s where the relentless networking I mentioned above kicks in.

I guess, all along, my main focus, when I am embarking on a business trip, is to essentially put an emphasis on connecting with people and reach out, whether they are part of my network(s), or not, through face to face conversations. Late last year I went through the Strengths Finder assessment (More about this one item coming up shortly as a new blog entry, by the way) and I ”discovered” how the number #1 top strength from yours truly is that one of Connectedness. It didn’t surprise me. Perhaps it confirmed my ever growing inner urge to connect with others through face to face interactions, when I am in the road, sensing I may not have the chance to meet up with those people in the near / short term. So better make the most out of it while we are enjoying the now. The present. And then continue to make use of digital technologies, when back at the home office, to help enhance those already existing personal business relationships. 

I suppose that’s how I roll and I venture to state that pretty much describes what I have been involved with last week, when I travelled for a good few days to Brussels to do a workshop and a remote presentation for two different events (I will be blogging shortly on a different entry about this as well). And then I decided to spend the rest of the time meeting up good old friends, or new ones, who may be around and who would be able to meet up for a drink, or a meal, or both. Understanding that, you know, your online social interactions will always be there. However, the connecting with others in the now is just a split moment in our life times. You need to be at the right place and at the right moment with a specific purpose, that one of letting serendipity do its magic. And from there onwards go with the flow and enjoy it.

That’s something that I have learned, of all of unexpected places, and I am sure it may well be a bit of a shock for most of you, specially, if you won’t have one, but from my dog, a Belgian sheepdog: Boira, who happens to understand and embrace the now pretty well. To him everything happens in the moment, so you may as well be ready to enjoy it and make the most out of it, because thinking about the past or wondering about the future just doesn’t fit, or as Bil Keane would say: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present“. 

That’s probably the main reason as to why after all of these years, perhaps it’s now a good time for me to stop, once and for all, trying to find a balance between offline and online interactions while I am travelling and focus perhaps on the now, i.e. on what I can do right there, right then, at that very moment, when connecting and reaching out with other people face to face, understanding that online digital interactions, after all, can wait, while the ubiquitousness of the present moment, right when serendipity is just about to strike, can’t. And that’s when it hit me last week, while in Brussels, because, in between events, I only had a single thought in mind: network, network and network again.

Relentlessly. Non-stop. You know how it goes. You are your network, your network is you. It’s what you build and nurture over the course of time. It takes an awful lot of energy, effort and intent. But it’s just totally worth it. And sometimes it’s good to have a reminder to Look Up, to pause and reflect from all of the hectic digital interactions, and let the world slow down for a bit having some bloody good conversations, as my good friend Euan Semple would say. Well, that’s just what happened last week while enjoying one of my favourite cities in Europe, Brussels. And, now that I am at my home office again, it’s time to go back to all things digital to keep cultivating those already existing interactions and newly built (offline) relationships. 

Till the next business trip … 

 

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 or Google Plus

0 votes
Read More »

Wear Sunscreen When Looking Up

Wear Sunscreen is perhaps one of those extremely rare video clips with a rather strong, inspiring and incredibly humanising message one could bump into and that, throughout the course of the years, it gets better and better. Just like wine, it gets better as we age. I can’t hardly believe how that speech was put together in 1997 and how, 17 years later, it is still ringing much truer than ever before. To the point where, if you get to spend about seven minutes to watch through it, it will transport you to way back then and make you wonder what have you been up to in all of those years. Well, I am not too sure about you, but I have been looking up.

One of the many reasons why I have been looking forward to writing again on this blog was the opportunity to pick up a theme I decided to introduce at the beginning of the year around the topic of Humanise and which time and time again I keep getting constant reminders about the need for helping me balance all of those extreme negatives happening out there with plenty of extreme positives, as often as I possibly can. It may well be my eternal optimist coming along, who knows. What I do know though is we live in a rather complex, hyperconnected, fast-paced, troubled world, with huge potential, but perhaps with plenty of things more messed up than what we, human beings, can possibly cope and deal with in both a coherent and cohesive manner. And, yet, here we are. Trying to make the most of out of it. And trying hard.

I am not too sure whether we are succeeding in those efforts of sense making of the world around us, but I can certainly assure you we are trying, aren’t we? There seems to be this collective sense that keeps building up more and more over time about something needing to change. Wanting to change. We may not be sure, just yet, what would need to change, although I can imagine plenty of people out there surely have a hunch or two in terms of hinting what those changes may well be, not just from a business perspective, but perhaps also from a societal one. And they may be right. 

That’s essentially what I was thinking about when I first bumped into this absolutely stunning video clip under the suggestive heading of “Look Up”, put together by Gary Turk. To me, the perfect allegory that describes pretty much today’s world of over-sharing under the perverse FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and which could be the natural successor of Wear Sunscreen to show us there is another way. Yes, it is that good. To me, bridging almost on the verge of nailing down our meandering experience of our mere existence in today’s hyperconnected world, where we always appear to be glued to a mobile device, whatever that may well be, disconnecting and switching off from the rest of the physical world. 

You see? When you grab your mobile phone 150 times per day, at a minimum, according to some recent research on Digital Trends, I guess we can now say we do have a bit of a problem, even though some folks may not agree with that statement, like, for instance, my good friend Euan Semple who tweeted just recently

 

Or George Siemens on this other reflection on the same topic: 

Yes, I can sense the negative sentiment in George’s comments when he mentions “emotion manipulators”, specially, when the video clip was socialised through technology itself. Oh, yes, I see the irony of it, too! But then again, where do you go to spread a message worth while sharing, when by the end of this year there would be 3.2 billion people on earth connected to the Internet? Wouldn’t you go to where your potential audience may well be or already is? Nearly 30 million views (at the point of writing this article) would probably confirm that …

Yes, I can also see Euan’s commentary that we probably don’t need no stinking video clip to tell us to get a life more than we already know we all need. But then again, if you look into it, some times we, human beings, like to hear what we already know deep inside rings true and be told by outsiders that very same story we created ourselves in the first place. That’s how consultants, analysts and vendors typically operate today when interacting with customers, who are continuing to look for that outsider’s advice to help validate what they themselves, deep inside, know already. 

At the end of the day Look Up is an allegory, a beautiful metaphor, reminding us every single second, of how things may well need to be in order for us to humanise our very own existence, once again. At least, that’s how I see it. It’s an alluring poem, if you would want to. An inspiring story that does have a message, one that may not be obvious at first, but that when looking into it closer it would help us realise the huge potential the Social Web has got nowadays for each and everyone of us: that is, how technology helps us become more human, not necessarily by making extensive use of it, but by considering it just an enabler of sorts to focus on what we should be focusing all along, whether at work, or in our personal lives: our relationships.

I know Look Up is the kind of video clip that, throughout the course of many years to come, just like Wear Sunscreen has done for me over time, will act as a constant, gentle reminder, as a technology sticky-note of sorts, that there is a wonderful and rather beautiful world out there to enjoy and that technology’s role, if any, should be that one of helping augment the already existing real life experiences. Acting as a substitute will not work. It should not work.

That’s perhaps the main reason why on the article around The Path of Self-Discovery, that I published just recently, I mentioned how now that I am an independent freelancer and seem to have plenty more free time for other things than just being hooked to devices here and there, I am spending plenty more time outdoors investing my time, energy and a good effort on nurturing those offline social networking activities: connecting AND relating to other people.

Experience the world. Capture it with those precious moments in small chunks called photographs (Or video snippets, it won’t matter) to then share them into the virtual world as an opportunity to act as an aftertaste of what happened before. Enjoy your life to the fullest, because you never know how long it will last. So we may as well make the most out of it, don’t you think? Understanding that there is a great chance that technology will always be there, but we may not. After all, every day, we only have got 86.400$ in our bank, and that’s a finite resource: 

 

Why waste time? Live inspiredToday and 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 or Google Plus

0 votes
Read More »

Why I Fired Myself from IBM

A couple of days back, my good friend and fellow CAWW, Ayelet Baron put together a rather interesting, inspiring and very thought-provoking article over at The Huffington Post under the suggestive title “Sometimes, You Need to Fire Yourself? Don’t Wait to Be Picked”, where she comes to reflect on, perhaps, one of the main expectations from knowledge workers in today’s workplace: being validated and waiting to be picked up. And from there onwards she goes on to muse about the reality of what next when that doesn’t happen. Interestingly enough it’s a story I can relate to,  specially, since I’m currently in transition myself trying to figure out the what next. Except that this time around I didn’t wait. I decided to shake off those golden handcuffs I put on myself back in the day and break free.

Most people may not know this, but back in June 2005, while I was still an IBM Netherlands employee, I got laid off and after having received the well-known compensation package I decided that I wasn’t ready, just yet, to leave the company. At the time I felt I had a lot more to offer and work on still. 9 years later, 4 different Lines of Business, and multiple other projects certainly would testify that it wasn’t my time just yet. So was it then my time, beginning of 2014, when I decided to quit IBM and move on? Maybe. I don’t know. Yet.

What I do know though is that it’s a decision that 3 months later, which is starting to look and feel like ages ago, I don’t regret a single bit. It wasn’t an overnight decision either. It’s been in my mind for about 2 years when I first started contemplating the thought of making a move and figure out what I would want to do next with my career. Somehow I felt The Call was near, so I may as well embrace it. As my good mate Rob Paterson wrote not long ago “Now the real adventure of your life begins”. 

You can imagine how shocked and surprised (in equal terms) my boss was when I communicated to him, while I was still enjoying my holidays back in January, that February 3rd would be my last working day at the company after 17 years of work in there. We had to talk, he said. Of course, we do, I responded back. And the week after we got together on the phone for a 2 hour long conversation where we got to spend some time to talk in-depth about the decision. 

This time around I was not going to wait. See? Once you have been exposed to a layoff, even if you manage to escape it, you know that things will never be the same. The whole concept of company / employee loyalty changes and while the motivation and purpose to do a professional job may well be there, very much intact, because, after all, you were hired in the first place as a hard working professional, things are no longer going to be the same. So, while we were talking, he asked me why I made the decision of leaving IBM after everything I have (helped) build over the course of time. He just couldn’t grasp such crazy idea and I understand perfectly why he would think that, specially, in today’s turbulent times. 

Well, as Ayelet mentioned on that article, referenced above, I had to start thinking about firing myself, which is eventually what I did, after two years of waiting for the right moment to do so. I told my manager than I had to be realistic and come to terms with the fact IBM would not allow me to retire after another 25 odd years of work I have got still as my working life. Now, I could have stayed at IBM for another 5 or 10 years. Sure. No problem. But I know that it wouldn’t last forever (till retirement, at least) and, unfortunately, I happen to live in a country where after you reach a certain age, being unemployed and finding a new job takes the whole concept of a chimera into a new level. Thus, eventually, the older you get without a job, the tougher it is to find a new one. 

I am sure that scenario could hold plenty of truth for various other countries, no doubt, but, in my case, I figured that before I would be getting too old, and after 17 years of big, corporate multinational work life, it probably was a good time to make a move, while I am still relatively young. That’s why I quit IBM on my terms and decided to become an independent trusted advisor around one of my all time passions (Social Business and Digital Transformation) and give it a try for 2 or 3 years to see if I could make it work and sustain that financial and emotional independence. 

If that didn’t work out, for whatever the reason, I would still be relatively young 😉 to look up for another career opportunity. Perhaps to even go back to big corporate world, although plenty of people have been advising me that once you become a freelancer and you get to experience freedom, there is no way back. I suppose then that’s why I started working my way towards that system of me and put together multiple plans where I could continue to “dream big and have a purposeful and meaningful life”. Will I succeed? Who knows… What is success anyway? Waiting for another Call

The reality is that while there is plenty of excitement about this new life as an independent freelancer, there is also a bit of uncertainty, about facing the unknown, at a very peculiar time where we may be going through the deepest, most profound financial econoclypse in our recent history. I guess that puts things into perspective as to what lies ahead and that I can summarise in a single sentence: I just don’t know. I’ll take it all as it comes. 

I will make of it all a learning experience, why not, right? I am sure it’s going to be a rather interesting one. It’s the least I could do and see how things will pave out further along over the course of time on whether I’ll be sticking around with plan A, B or C. Plan B, if you remember from a previous blog entry, is essentially go back to basics: teaching (I am an English teacher, after all 🙂 and I have always loved, and enjoyed very much, helping enable people to deliver their best at what they do -that’s what, to me, teaching and learning have been all about all along). Oh, and today’s snapshot, shared above, is a hint of Plan C, in case you are wondering… But somehow, I need to come down to earth again and be reminded of Ayelet’s wonderful piece of advice that keeps coming back ringing true more and more by the day: 

What I know today is that if I focus on why I am doing something and identify the core problem that needs to be addressed, I can go out and solve it. I can ask for help. I can connect with other smart people who choose to work with me to make a difference and get shit done.

Thus, I guess I will just start there: get shit done

#Onwards


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 or Google Plus

0 votes
Read More »

The Trials and Tribulations of an Independent Freelancer – The Path to Self-Discovery

It has been about a month and a half since the last blog post that I put over here to let folks know how things have been moving along in my new life as an independent freelancer, after having worked at IBM for the last 17 years. So I guess I am well overdue an update, don’t you think? Even more so when things have been a bit quiet over here in the last few weeks and for a pretty good reason, I suppose… That one of entering the path of self-discovery. 

It’s unbelievable how time flies, specially, when you are having plenty of good fun. It’s been 3 months since I decided to quit IBM and, after the initial month of vacation that I took, things have been moving along at a faster pace by the day to the point where I’m starting to get the gist of what it is like being an independent thinker and trusted advisor on Social Business and Digital Transformation. It’s been an absolutely fantastic experience overall with plenty of new challenges and new things learned every single day and it’s probably going to be a bit of a challenge to write them all down over here in this post. So, I will just go ahead and focus on some of the highlights, which is probably what most of you would be interested in, anyway, right? Specially, if I have made it through, or not. 

You may be wondering though why I mentioned the concept of self-discovery as an opportunity to describe what has been going on with me over the course of the last couple of months. To be frank, that’s probably the easiest way I can use to describe what I am currently going through in this period of transition. Because that’s how it is feeling at the moment. And not necessarily about who I am or what I do (Or would want to do), but more specifically about the how, the when, the with whom and the where I would want to. Essentially, a path of self-discovery to re-find my place in this (business) world. 

It’s probably not as dramatic as it might sound (don’t worry, no need to panic!), some of you may well be thinking. And you are probably right. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a very much needed opportunity for myself to think and reflect about what I have been doing over the course of the last few years, figure out if that’s what I would want to continue doing in a completely different working environment and eventually get down to work. 

A very good friend of mine once told me (right after I was moving on from my former employer) that when she moved on from her previous working experience, it took her a few months to readjust to the new reality. I know she is going to have a giggle or two when she goes and reads through this blog post where I am confirming that I, too, apparently, have been needing that time to refocus and align with the new me. And while I can sense how some of you may be thinking that must have been quite a difficult and exhaustive experience to go through (you know, going from one of the largest IT corporate environments out there into building your own business as a solopreneur) it’s an experience that I strongly recommend everyone to go through: the self-discovery phase, that is. More than anything else, because, in my case, it’s helped me question every single thing that I have been doing all along and try to figure out whether it’s something that I would want to continue doing or not. And, if so, how and for what purpose.

Thus over the course of the last few weeks I have been working on a wide range of activities, some of them pretty random, just to help advance that self-discovery phase and see where I would end up. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to share some of those activities over here as entry points that I will start going through soon enough in additional blog posts and I will explain why shortly. So, what have I been up to in the last few weeks? Well, in no particular order, here it is what I have been up to:

  • Web site launch – Work continues to move on nicely, helping design and develop my own Web site (to go along next to this blog) where I will be listing the various different services that I am currently planning on offering, plus additional resources that may be of interest. It’s been taking me more time that I thought it would, but that’s something that, somehow, hasn’t bothered me just yet, because potential client prospects seem to still be able to find me without it, which I guess is not a bad sign, right? So, at the moment, I am currently looking into launching it, officially, during the course of the month of May (second half, most probably).
  • Client work – I guess this is pretty much the new state of things, but I seem to spend a substantial amount of time, resources, energy and effort on constantly working on the pipeline of potential client prospects and business partnerships, to the point where it seems the second half of this year is going to be a lot busier than whatever I thought it would be, even to the point of challenging my own scalability. When taking to fellow colleagues from my networks, they all confirmed that’s pretty much the new state of things for us all, independent freelancers. So, at the moment, I am adjusting to the whole notion of seeing weeks pass by working on the pipeline and then see work accumulated from all of those weeks into a single week or two! How fun the network effect(s) will become, over time, on this one! 
  • Change Agents WorldwidePerhaps one of the best decisions I have ever made in recent years. Joining #CAWW, that is. Described as the Airbnb of consulting business, Change Agents Worldwide has become my new home relatively quickly. Because that’s exactly how it feels. My home. A special place where working around the edges is no longer an expectation, but a day to day reality. A special network of independent thinkers and visionaries who are constantly challenging, through working out loud and many other social practices, each other’s ideas, experiences, know-how and in-depth expertise around Social Business and Digital Transformation, amongst several other fields, to help define the future of work through positive, irreversible, unprecedented and inevitable change. Today’s reality. In short, true, diehard change agents with a single unified purpose: Changing the world of work. One human at a time. Who wouldn’t want to be part of such wonderfully talented and rather smart wirearchical cooperative, right? 

    Did I mention how we keep building on the pipeline? I tell you, I am now starting to understand fully the whole notion around living just for the pipeline (haha – just kidding!). 

  • Back to the IBM ecosystem – This activity has been quite an interesting one, specially, as I keep talking to more and more people about my recent departure from IBM. Somehow, it seems like plenty of folks out there think that I basically moved on from IBM out of resentment, i.e. in bad terms, due to some kind of unfortunate set of events. Far from the truth, I am afraid.

    Like in every large corporation, and probably in any other kind of business, there are, of course, plenty of highs and lows and eventually one has to look a bit more objectively into the overall, larger picture, to figure out whether the experience has been worth while or not. Focusing on one good positive or negative experience is probably not going to cut it. At least, for me. And, to such extent, I can only be eternally grateful to IBM for some wonderful 17 years with plenty of pretty inspiring and mind-blowing experiences all around that have allowed me to travel internationally to multiple different countries, work in various different business units with plenty of amazingly talented and rather smart folks on topics that I have always been very passionate about and, specially, for being such a great champion on walking the talk around what it is like becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise, where performance is not measured by how many hours you clock in the physical office, but by the outcomes and outputs you deliver, which, over 10 years ago, allowed me to discover Gran Canaria and live here ever since. 

    So it would be far too silly for myself to neglect that kind of legacy, don’t you think? After all, it’s the legacy I helped co-build over the years to make it my own, resulting in me owning my own work, so why ignore it? Why leave it behind for good when I can use it extensively to help other businesses accelerate their own digital transformation through embarking on that so-called social business journey? That’s why after a little while I decided to come back to the IBM ecosystem and have already started working my way through rebuilding plenty of the social networks I once had at The Greenhouse and SmartCloud for Social Business, but this time around as an independent (freelancer) trusted advisor. Thus if you ever wondered whether I was leaving behind all of that legacy, I guess this will answer it from now onwards. Fancy connecting over there as well? 

  • Public Speaking – I will probably be writing a separate blog post on this particular activity alone, as I am thinking it’s the main one that seems to be confusing plenty of people out there, on whether it’s something that I still do, or not. I think, for now, perhaps I will just mention how I continue to travel for public speaking at various different conference events, although not as often as I used to when I was at IBM, and, contrary to what some folks have annotated about me now being stranded with no more frequent travelling, I always keep reminding those very same people to think about where I’m being stranded, if you know what I mean … 
  • The Social Web – Oh, my dear social networks! Where would I go, or what would I do, without you, eh? 15 years on and you are now as irreplaceable as ever! You are me, I am you. One and the same entity: the network. Our network. Who would I reach out to connect and learn, to cooperate and collaborate, to share our collective knowledge and provoke those wonderfully delightful serendipitous knowledge discoveries that make “coming to work” every morning a real treat and a privilege?!

    Well, there have been some changes in here as well. After several months away from one of my favourite social networking tools (Ironic, right?), I have now come back to Google Plus and started posting in there as well. And it’s not that I wasn’t using G+ in the recent months. I surely was, but privately (Through certain circles, Direct Messaging and Hangouts). What I have done now is started to post again into the Public streams and the larger circles I have cultivated over time. Oh, and in case you are wondering why I have come back to it, I would share a couple of reasons why: this conversation or this other one, for instance (Hint: it’s never been a ghost town). 

    But perhaps you may be a bit more interested in this other activity around the Social Web, as I am hoping it will pick up plenty more steam over the course of time. Late last week, and after having had an active profile in LinkedIn for over 7 years, I have now decided to close the account and delete it (of which I got the confirmation this past Monday). Yes! Gone! Forever. At least, till LinkedIn starts treating its customers with respect by putting together terms of service that would be everything but what they are at the moment: draconian. This article by Heather Bussing explains quite nicely plenty of the reasons why I decided to have the account deleted. And while I am not sure whether I will be regretting such bold move over the course of time, for now, a week has almost passed by and I haven’t missed it a single bit. Why? Well, because most of my networks know where else they can go and find me. Funny enough, pretty much like I did with Facebook over 4 years ago. Have never looked back! 
     

  • Life Without eMail – I know, and I fully realised, how I am very much long overdue an update on this activity. There are, indeed, lots of things that I would want to share with everyone, as I am pretty sure most of you folks out there would still be wondering whether I will be continuing further along with this movement now that I am an independent freelancer versus working in big corporate world, right? Specially, if I would want to test the waters and see if I would be able to pull it off while no longer working as a salaried knowledge worker, but being an independent advisor.

    Well, I won’t spoil the various surprises I have got piled up and that I am hoping to be able to share shortly with you folks, but, for now, suffice to say that Yes!, I am still doing it and here’s a mini-progress report of sorts: back in 2011, if you would still remember, I was getting an average of 16 emails per week. In 2013 that spiked higher up into 35 emails per week and nowadays, in 2014, I’m currently averaging about 7 emails per week. So I guess you can imagine what that progress report will indicate once I share it across, right?

    Yes, indeed, #lawwe is here to stay and for a good while!

  • Going out and about – As part of that self-discovery phase I am finding out as well how ever since I left my previous job I am spending plenty more time outdoors. Probably as a result of that work life integration I have become such a huge fan of in the last few years.

    I still keep running every day for about an hour (this will be my 3rd consecutive year doing it) with Boira (our Belgian sheepdog) and it’s interesting to see how that running time has turned itself into my thinking and creative time as well, something I wasn’t expecting it to happen, but that now that it’s sinked in I’m appreciating it more and more by the day.

    Spending more time outdoors, going out and about, is probably the main reason as well why I have picked up again sharing photos through Instagram, Flickr and very soon, Google Plus, once again, more than anything else as an opportunity to capture certain life experiences that I may, or may not, be able to live through again over the course of time. Who knows… The interesting thing is that I’m enjoying capturing those moments, as they become part of my living memories. Something that I can then go back to, treasure and appreciate even so much more how lucky I truly am. 

  • Becoming an early riser –  Almost nearly a year ago I tried it. I even blogged about it. And I failed miserably. Probably because my working schedule for the past 10 years shifted gears towards US timezones vs. Europe’s. But now it is no longer the case I am giving it a try again and see if I can become an early riser. Changing long term habits can be quite an interesting experience, specially, if you think it’s going to be a relatively easy exercise of re-adjustment, when then it may well not be the case. For now, it’s working really well though, perhaps because of the motivation and several benefits behind it all, like, for instance, seeing the huge amount of stuff one can get done in the early hours of the morning when everyone else is still sleeping away. I can tell you, if there is a time where you may want to change your habits and become an early riser again, spring, in full swing, is probably as good as it gets to make it happen.  

Phew! That was a rather long update, wasn’t it? Way way longer than I thought it would be. I guess thas what happens when you disappear from the blogosphere for a little while and people keep asking how are things moving along and instead of repeating the very same story all over the place, you decide to keep writing till you run out of everything you would want to share across. Even then I still realise there are a few other activities I haven’t mentioned, nor talked about, just yet, but, for now, I think I will leave things here with one more clear premise: blog more often, shorter blog posts! 


[I told you, long term habits are extremely difficult to change, but I think I just managed to come up with another one I’d want to break away from. Paraphrasing Blaise Pascal “I have only made this blog post longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter”. So, let’s see how it goes …]


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 or Google Plus

0 votes
Read More »