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

Work Life Integration

Time Flies When You Are Having Fun – Happy IBM Anniversary!

Gran Canaria - Maspalomes Dunes in the Winter - SunsetWhoahh! Who would have thought about that, eh? Here is this English Language and English Literature BA just going through one of those milestones difficult to achieve in today’s current time and age. Who would have thought that on January 20th 1997 I would start working for IBM and that 15 years later I would still be there having a blast loving what I love doing: working smarter, not necessarily harder, with plenty of people as passionate as I am for everything related to knowledge sharing, collaboration, communities, learning and social networking, and aiming at doing, or, at least, trying my hardest, something meaningful and purposeful. Yay!! Happy IBM Anniversary to me!

If someone would have told me, back then, in January 1997, that I would be making 15 years in the IT company that hired me back then, as a contractor, to then full time regular employee in November 1999, enjoying the work I do without focusing too much on the technology piece, that I never liked anyway, I would have told them that they would be just plain crazy. If someone would have told me that after IBM making its 100th anniversary last year, and with over 50% of its population less than 5 years in the company, while I just hit 15 years, I would have told them there would be no way for me to last that long! Seriously. Can you imagine yourself in today’s world, 2012, where the average knowledge worker hangs around a job for 4 years approximately, lasting in any business for 15 years and still have a feeling that you are just getting started? Yes, I know, too difficult to imagine, but the reality is that’s the time I have been at IBM and it feels just like yesterday!

Long gone are the days when I first started working as a Customer Support Representative for the mainframe, supporting the UK, to then move to the PC environment (OS/2 and Windows 3.11!), to then end up on the Training Department from the Help Centre where I spent 4 years in total getting folks up to speed on how to make effective use of computers to get work their work done, as customer support representatives. Long gone are the years where I spent one of the most unforgettable years on a physical assignment in Dublin helping out with the migration of the Help Center from Zoetermeer, NL, to Dublin itself. Long gone, too, are the years where I was in the Global Technology Services line of business, working as a Knowledge Manager for the whole of EMEA implementing and deploying KMS and other Learning & Knowledge initiatives. Long gone, as well, are the years where I worked at the Systems and Technology Group business unit on their Technical Communities Programme or the Global Business Services Community Building programme within their Learning & Knowledge section. Yes, indeed, time flies when you are having plenty of good fun and you have that strong feeling of contributing into something bigger, much bigger, than you.

So much fun as the last 5 years that I have been part of the BlueIQ Team, as a social computing evangelist and community builder, helping accelerate the adoption rate of social software tools, both internally and externally, from fellow IBMers. So much fun as the last 11 years that I have been involved with social networking tools, having gotten started with that precious gem a bunch of us got busy with back then called Fringe and which, right from the start, initiated my journey towards living social till today. And still going strong!

Late last year, with the craze from year end activities and the bunch of business travelling I did, I missed a couple of other important milestones: the 8th anniversary of my internal blog (December 2003) and the 6th anniversary of my external blog (October 2005); as well as my 12th anniversary as a full time employee at IBM (November 1999). I couldn’t possibly miss out on another important one, this 15th consecutive year I have been working for IBM, and which I made a couple of days ago. So what did I do to celebrate it?

Well, after having completed a face to face team meeting to prepare and put together the last few details from the planning of our internal and external Adoption Programme for 2012 and beyond, and after a rather intense, exhausting, but equally rather exciting and exhilarating experience at one of the best conference events I have attended in a long while (Lotusphere and IBM Connect 2012), I decided to take the vast majority of the day off, hang out by the pool (After all, the weather in Orlando last Friday was just stunning!), relax, muse and ponder some more, about how lucky I am for working where I work, for living where I live, for doing what I love doing, and for having around me an incredible amount of really smart folks, both IBMers, and non IBMers, who, without them realising much about it, have managed to shape up, over the course of the years, yours truly, what I do, what I care for, in short, who I am today.

I think it was Gary Hamel who once said that we, human beings, are pretty much shaped up by those people who we are surrounded with, you know, the folks who we usually hang out with (Gosh, wish I would remember the exact quote! Anyone wanting to come to the rescue, please?) and that’s probably the best way for me to define how I feel about work (at IBM) and perhaps share some further insights as to why, all along, I am a people person who cares about who I work with, what we do together and what we can learn new. Long gone are the days where I would worry about making more than enough money, or about having enough (executive) decision power, or influence, to change things, or about having wide spread recognition (even if I don’t deserve it) or just simply having enough work in order to be able to keep up paying my bills. While I can imagine some of that may tick for some people out there, it is no longer the case for me. Maybe even it never was in the first place.

Yes, I guess you could call me a hippie, a Hippie 2.0, but I have always believed work should be a whole lot more than just that. Work. It should be about constantly finding new meaning, new focus, new purposenew goals in one’s life, a strong sense of pride on what you do and who you know, who you connect with, collaborate or share your knowledge with; it should be about finding new ways to keep up with the learning curve so you can stay away from stagnation to no end; from being a passive consumer, or witness, of things (passing by); it should be about having that rather rewarding and fulfilling feeling that you are, hopefully, contributing into something bigger, much larger, something beautiful, that we could then pass on to our future generations knowing that we have done the right thing: leave them with an opportunity to remember and treasure a legacy that will make their lives, and those of their grandkids, much better altogether.

Yes, I know. I am a hippie 2.0 at heart, probably on the verge of being flagged as well as a utopian, but very proud of it eventually! Always have. And while I may continue to work on helping achieve that purpose and those goals for as long as I possibly can, there is one thing that I could share with you all out there who may be reading this blog post as I reflect further on about how those 15 years have gone by lightning fast and with me hardly noticing it: carpe diem! Seize the day!! Make the most not only out of (your) work, but also out of your own life!

If you come to think about it, we have been given one single life to try to enjoy to the fullest. To get the most out of it, while we can! Yet, we haven’t been given a single job to carry out in our lifetime, have we? But dozens, if not hundreds of them! So, why would we continue to work for something that we may not believe in, that we may not feel motivated, nor engaged enough, nor recognised for and whatever else? Just because it keeps paying the bills without involving too much thinking on the side from you? Really? I hope not. Otherwise we would be totally wasting another precious life. Our own.

Just think of it. Already one third of it is spent getting plenty of much needed sleep, specially, those who have learned how important it can well be for your own well being to sleep good enough hours (So we don’t notice it…); the second third is spent at work (where I do realise a good bunch of folks do have a tendency to work plenty more hours than that second third!!) and that just leaves us with one third of our lifetimes to enjoy and celebrate what we enjoy doing the most: our true passion(s). Whatever those may well be…

Why waste our meaningful and purposeful lives, just like that?!? Shouldn’t we all wake up, once and for all, and try to aim for better things? We know we can do it. We know we just need that gentle push to get us going. Perhaps 2012 is the year where we can break loose and start living much more fulfilling lives altogether. Otherwise, what’s the alternative? Do you like it? I surely wouldn’t. I guess at this point in time in these reflections I shouldn’t spend entire afternoons at the pool in Orlando, Florida, reflecting on these things, but as I went through my 15th year anniversary at IBM last Friday, while enjoying the sunshine, the good weather, a lovely drink and plenty of thinking along the side(s), I just couldn’t help but reminding myself of one of my favourite speeches, quite an inspiring and thought-provoking reminder for us all on what really matters, and which you can find out more about it on this YouTube video, which I will also embed over here. You know, the same thing over again, the small things: Wear Sunscreen!

I am not too sure what I would be doing in the next 15 years, whether I would still be working at IBM, or elsewhere, but one thing for certain is that I definitely plan to continue having a blast with what I do, on a daily basis, living social and all. Life is just too short not to grab it by the face and smack it left and right, if it isn’t facilitating, nor helping, to provide you with you truly deserve. So go ahead and grab it, before it vanishes and moves on, leaving you behind!

Happy IBM Anniversary, my dear hippie 2.0! Here’s to another 15 coming along …

 

 

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Want to Trust Your Employees? Give Them All Unlimited Vacation Days

Gran Canaria - Las Canteras Beach in the WinterAs I am about to enjoy my last day on vacation, since tomorrow morning I will be heading over to Orlando, Florida, to embark on the regular yearly pilgrimage trip to attend IBM’s event of events around the world of Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing and the Social Enterprise (Of course, I’m talking about the one and only: Lotusphere 2012), I just couldn’t help putting together this blog post about an article that, when I first bumped into it, I found it incredibly innovative, rather refreshing and very re-energising, but after finishing it up I just thought… “Gosh, that’s a given! Why are we not doing it in today’s corporate world on a wider scale?” … “Give Your Employees Unlimited Vacation Days” may sound all to unrealistic and utopian at best, yet, to me, it’s the ultimate goal for any employer out there around Employee Engagement: Trust your employees to do the right thing!

Indeed, in a rather inspiring and incredibly thought-provoking article, Joe Reynolds (From Red Frog Events) shares the story of how over at his company (Red Frog) they celebrate vacation. They encourage it and they ensure that once work is done and you are covered you are happy to take as many holidays, as an employee, as you would want to. And interestingly enough he comments that this new system has never been abused so far. Surprise, surprise. Well, not really. Why should it?

I mean, last time I brought this subject up, perhaps not over here in this blog, (Although I think I may have hinted it earlier on over at “Reflections from 2011 – Is Employee Engagement Still a Myth?“) but certainly in multiple conversations all over the place, unless you are a rather special business, you have always got a tendency to hire the smartest of talent out there; truly hard working networked professionals who know exactly what’s expected of them and how to excel at their jobs. I know that most of you out there would get a good giggle out of this one, but last time I checked no-one out there is hiring jerks nowadays, and, if you are, you certainly have got a rather problematic issue with your own HR hiring process that needs fixing really soon, that has got nothing to do with social networking tools nor how people use them, by the way. It’s more of a fundamental, organisational issue altogether.

So considering that you have got a whole bunch of hard working networked knowledge workers, why wouldn’t you allow them to take as many holidays as they would want to? It’s not surprising, indeed, that the system won’t be abused, as Joe mentions on that article. On the contrary. If your knowledge workers are truly motivated, and rather passionate, appreciated, recognised and rewarded for their exceedingly good jobs, not only are they going to be willing to take their extended holidays, but there is also a great chance that they would come back to work sooner than expected! That’s what passion does for you. You can’t think any longer whether work is holiday, or whether holiday is work. It’s no longer about striking a good balance between work and life, but more moving things into the next frontier: work life integration.

Yes, that’s right! It’s all about finding that flexibility of doing your job in an effective manner, when you need to do work, and treasuring your personal life when you would need to do so as well. More than anything else because, as Joe mentions, the traditional concept of office work (From 9:00 am to 5:00 pm) is now a thing of the past! Things have moved on and we are at the stage where more and more employers are starting to lower down their own center of gravity, and the power of decision, and leave it down to employees to make the right decisions for the work they are doing. Main reason why? Well, as a starting point, they are beginning to trust their employees much more than whatever else in the past. And this is an important matter, because we are seeing, finally!, that social transformation where knowledge workers are no longer treated like sheep, as in sheeple (and, as such, they no longer behave like sheep either!), and, instead, they are treated as what they are: people with enough motivation and passion for their jobs to want to go the extra mile, if you offer to go the extra mile yourself. So why not offering that opportunity of unlimited vacation days then? It does make plenty of sense, right?

Of course, it does! If not, have a look into the main reasons that Joe mentions why this rather creative initiative is working out really well for them:

  • It treats employees like the adults they are
  • It reduces costs by not having to track vacation time
  • It shows appreciation
  • It’s a great recruitment tool

Plenty of common sense altogether, no doubt! But perhaps this quote from Joe’s article is much more accurate in describing why such innovative policies will be key, critical, and essential, to attract and retain top talent in a world where we are starting to see plenty of fierce competition on the subject:

Through building a company on accountability, mutual respect, and teamwork, we’ve seen our unlimited vacation day policy have tremendous results for our employees’ personal development and for productivity

Both of my good friends Beth Laking and Paul Gillin pretty much nailed it a few days back as well when they tweeted their thoughts about this very same article:

 

 

 

The rather interesting and exciting thing though is that Red Frog is not the only company doing this. One of my favourite people, and really good friend, the always insightful and rather smart Maggie Fox, has been doing that at Social Media Group for a good couple of years now and has been having tremendous success with this initiative highlighting how it exactly works out for all of them. She wrote about it a while ago under “Why we decided to offer unlimited vacation at Social Media Group” and it’s even more surprising how the only negative reaction towards that initiative is that most people, specially, new hires, don’t believe that there could be such a thing! Goodness! If that’s all, perhaps we also need to start shifting gears ourselves, knowledge workers, thinking that it is also possible working for employers who truly respect and very much appreciate us, employees, to do what we do best, i.e. our jobs, and be rewarded with that much deserved extended holiday break.

After all, it’s thanks to that flexibility, passion, engagement and commitment to our jobs, in keeping excelling at what we are already pretty good at, that clearly demonstrate how not only do we love what we do, but also how we love our lives even more, like Elizabeth Lupfer talked about over at The Social Workplace just recently in a beautiful blog post, which I would highly recommend you go ahead and read through it all, to ponder further and digest on some golden nuggets like this one, which clearly sets the stage of how the corporate world is, finally, starting to come to terms with embracing that new concept of Social Transformation of Your Business – The Workplace of the Future:

Organizations that create cultures that value balance, and assist employees to achieve life balance will be rewarded with highly engaged employees. Work-life balance does not mean  that employees are not loyal, nor committed to their organizations, it means that employees want to lead whole lives, not lives solely centered on work

To me, replace “balance” with “integration” and we are already there! Don’t think about striking a good balance between work and life, because you will never achieve it (Work will always eat that balance up any given time, before you even notice it!), but more a full integration of your personal life into work and work into your personal life. That’s the key, the sweet spot. That’s what really matters.

I just had one of the most amazing holidays I can remember; mostly disconnected, unwinding from everything online, re-charging my batteries fully, getting plenty more energy levels, full again of optimism and outrageousness, and yet, I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow, on my way to Orlando, Florida, to attend Lotusphere, even if that happens over the weekend… Already looking forward to seeing over there lots of smart friends and customers wanting to Live Social. Do Business.

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The Joy of Choice

Tenerife - Mount Teide in the WinterAs I am about to enter my last week of holidays, before I head back to work for the first time this year, I just couldn’t help thinking about a recent piece I read over at the NYTimes by the always witty and rather insightful Pico Iyer under the rather suggestive title of “The Joy of Quiet“, where he muses extensively about that almost forgotten, and sometimes forbidden (in today’s times, specially!), pleasures of treasuring the time to think, reflect, unwind, disconnect, see the world slowing down, charge your batteries, re-energise yourself with what really matters and perhaps come back for more. It’s a beautifully written article where he’s on a mission to help us all re-think the purpose of our online (inter)connectedness and to challenge, in a rather healthy, and very much needed, way, whether we do really need to be connected all the time. Or not. He calls it the “The Joy of Quiet” and I call it “The Joy of Choice“.

Indeed, for a good number of years there have been plenty of us, knowledge Web workers, who have been craving for having such an exciting, exuberant and abundant environment like the Social Web, as we know it nowadays. You know how it goes. We, news-junkies, can’t get enough about being constantly on the know of what’s happening around us and the rest of the world. We, news-junkies, can’t get enough of being exposed to a rampant learning curve that never ceases to stop more and more by the day, and get rather upset when technology falls short and continues to fail on delivering what we know we can get through it time and time again. We, in short, cannot longer live in isolation, it looks like, nor is a state that most of us could probably aspire to in the long run. But is it really so? And, most importantly, can we do anything about it at all? What do you think?

Pico puts it rather nicely, and very provocatively as well at the same time, in this short paragraph, when he states that we may not be able to do it because we haven’t been educated on how to make it through in the first place:

The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make the best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual

I can imagine that it may well be so for a good number of folks out there, but then again I can also see how there may well be plenty of other people who, over the course of time, have learned to tame, and educate themselves, not only on how they live their connectedness, but also how they may live along without it altogether and do just fine. That’s when something that we haven’t had for years on the Web to the extent we have got today, but that nowadays is just too critical to ignore, kicks in nicely to our rescue: Choice. Yes, indeed, now we do have a choice and that just basically means that we need to decide how we best plan for that joy of quiet without sounding like an hermit or some other kind of weirdo who doesn’t want to reach out and feel connected while everyone else is.

That’s why during the course of my holidays, and as I continue to reflect on the last few months, specially, after that frenetic and rather hectic year end with work related activities and whatever else, I self-discovered, through that thinking and reflection time, how something so wise as your own physical body learns to protect itself from everything that may try, or attempt to, harm its wellbeing. Even if that involves the brain itself. Now I know why for some periods of last year my brain was rather keen on being out there on the Social Web, reaching out, communicating, collaborating, sharing and learning from others, and yet, my body decided to switch priorities and dedicate itself to what it knows best: taking care of itself.

Yes, I guess that’s when your body starts sending some of those subtle and gentle signs telling you that you are about to max out and enter a very dangerous road of perhaps not an easy return. That’s probably why, just recently, you heard from plenty of your friends, colleagues, and other networks how they have started to take up sports once again, or to lose those extra few pounds, or to spend numerous, endless hours reading a good book while listening to their favourite music as one of their preferred evening activities, or perhaps to start some yoga and live healthier lives or maybe move out of the city into a rural, quieter place where things seem to have slowed down for a while and where conversations happen more face to face than virtually.

I bet within your own networks you may have bumped into such accidental discoveries and keep wondering why people keep doing it. Well, wonder no more. Their physical bodies have finally taken over and decided to take a stand as to helping the mind figure out how long and for what purpose should they remain interconnected online and when to find that appropriate time to disconnect for a while, think and reflect on things. On the things that matter. On those little things we all know are out there, but that we keep ignoring them for far too long and when we realise about it, it’s already too late.

Now, when looking back into retrospective from last year’s events and activities, I realise that was probably the reason why, back in July, I decided to become healthier again; that’s probably, while I am buzzing around during the course of the work week with plenty of business travelling, my weekends are sacred longing for extensive periods of disconnect where I basically just disappear. That’s maybe as well why I have now successfully built up the daily habit of doing my workout, where I just take with me my favourite musichit the track for an hour and think about nothing else than just that beautiful Joy of Quiet. That’s probably why I now know how both my brain and my body are starting to be in sync when making the best choices as to when to go and slow down on the communication, collaboration and broadcasting fronts (And instead become more of a thinking force) and when to come back for more within one’s own social networks after those disconnecting periods.

That’s when one comes to realise it’s all about having a choice, but not just having it for the sake of it, because I know that in most cases we would be ignoring it and eventually keep doing what we are busy with on the Social Web front, but also acting upon it, which I guess is the point Pico makes quite nicely throughout the entire article and which I have learned to treasure myself during the second half of last year through starting to listen to those body signals that one knows have a second, or even third meaning, behind them.

Listening to them, knowing when and how to react and, most importantly, learning how to set the right expectations not only for you, but also for those around you, becomes a critical success factor of how we can learn to come to terms with the fact that yes, as wonderful and as brilliant and as energising as the Social Web is, we cannot ignore the choice of looking, and finding!, proper times to disconnect, to unwind, to ponder about things, to question, through critical thinking, what we are doing, where we are heading and what we would want to leave behind. Our legacies. Our purpose. That’s what we are here for. Being In Action. In constant action. Whether it’s out there on the Social Web, creating and consuming top quality content with our favourite social networks, or whether it’s happening in the offline world. Being In Action means what my good friend, and fellow IBMer, Laurie Friedman tweeted just a couple of days back as a beautiful quote from IBM’s recently appointed new CEO, Ginni Rometty:

 

Call it Living Life as a Perpetual Beta, if you wish to as well, but I think Pico’s conclusion, although referring to our children, could surely blend in rather nicely with what would be, perhaps, our main challenge for 2012 and beyond:

The child of tomorrow, I realized, may actually be ahead of us, in terms of sensing not what’s new, but what’s essential

Indeed, figuring out what’s essential is about having a choice, i.e. when to stay connected, socially networked online, but also when to disconnect, when to look for those quiet times, helping those around you understand that as much as you appreciate the social interactions, there is still a time when you need it to reflect and think further what’s happening around you, so that they, too, can get exposed to the better you. So next time you see some of your networks have gone silent for a period of time, not to worry, they are not gone entirely, they haven’t abandoned you either, they are just taking their very much needed time off to reflect and ponder about things, they are taking their time off to figure out what really matters to them, before they come back in full force, once again. So we better start treasuring those silent periods, because something tells me we are going to have plenty of those coming along in the next few weeks / months and that’s a good thing!

The Social Web needs time as well to slow down a bit sometimes, reflect about both its impact and true legacy and keep moving further along once again… So just hang in there, the choice is ours, finally, after a long last. The important thing to remember though is to act upon it. After all “We create our own distractions and just need to learn to manage them“. And that will always remain our choice. Not theirs. So we better make good use of it and they better get used to it, too. They will need it …

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This Is What The Circular Economy Looks Like

Tenerife - Mount Teide in the WinterOk, here we go, folks! Here comes 2012 and it looks like it’s going to be busier and more hectic than ever! Are you ready for it? We better be, because there is no way back! We are already fully immersed in it and it surely looks like it’s going to be another exciting, enlightening and rather interesting new year with lots of very inspiring and encouraging things worth while experiencing to the fullest! And today is no different! While I am still enjoying a few more days on holidays, before getting things rolling with another year at work, I thought I would drop by over here and kick-off the series of blog posts for 2012 with what promises to be *the* most Inspiring Video of the Year (Yes, I know! Already!!). One of those videos you must stop everything you are doing right now and watch it through! Specially, with lots of people around. Specially, with your kids or grand-kids. It’ll change completely the way you view things, and the way they, too, see them themselves. It’s the re-birth of the Circular Economy, as we know it. And about time, too!

I cannot believe that the video clip was put together, and shared across, in YouTube on November last year and that we all totally missed it, since it hardly has got more than 180 views so far. But, believe me, it will be worth while the 18 minutes of your life that it lasts. Every single second of it! It will change your life for good and plenty of your beliefs on what rules the world today and what should be eventually. Yes, indeed, it’s that good! It’s a rather short video interview that the one and only, Loren Feldman, put together for 1938 Creative in association with Important Media, to interview Ken Anderson, long-time naturalist, who word after word cannot but keep inspiring us all to help us understand how we need to redefine the way we live and the way we treasure, or not, certain things in today’s world.

Over at Ken Anderson: Perspectives From A Long-Time Naturalist Loren himself describes briefly in a short blog post what the interview will be all about, and in order not to spoil it, I will just briefly mentioned how, while going through the clip on its entirety I just couldn’t help thinking about two different blog entries that I put together last year and which would make up for some interesting reading along the lines of what Ken has got to tell us all on where we are heading. Remember “The Social Enterprise and The Circular Economy“? Or “Welcome to the Social Enterprise Awakening!“? In case you may not have, you would see how Ken demonstrates, time and time again, how it is possible to live, and embrace fully, a healthy, prosperous AND sustainable Circular Economy, as long as we shift focus from what drives our global economy nowadays (Not to worry, I’m not going to spoil it for you what Ken thinks are the main culprits of where we are today… Couldn’t have put it myself in better words either though!) and we start reverting things in the opposite direction of where we are heading. Tenerife - Mount Teide in the Winter

Eventually, provoking what Ken calls out for as “The Awakening“, which, and I surely agree with him 100%, is very much needed at the moment. Now, I could go ahead and describe that awakening referencing back again that blog post whose link I shared above already, but, no, I am not going to do that. I’m actually going to point you instead to a superb piece of art that my very dear good friend Susan Scrupski put together a couple of days back and which describes, quite nicely and with quite powerful words, what our focus and purpose for 2012 (And beyond!) is going to be. At least, that one from yours truly. Have a look and check out “#OccupyEnterprise and Start your own Revolution” and be inspired by amazingly powerful statements as this one:

The Council members are fighting for a new way of working where freedom of ideas will produce increased employee motivation and loyalty which in turn will spur innovation and problem-solving.  Yes, business objectives are driving this change, but the natural by-product is the humanization of the workforce.  Transparency will go a long way to revealing the unsavory underbelly of the corporate beast” [Emphasis mine]

And now, right after you have read Susan’s article, come back, hit the Play button of this embedded YouTube interview and be WOWed by Ken’s words of wisdom, knowledge, lifetime experiences, hope, optimism, outrageousness, deep caring, sharing, mother nature and our role in it, and, in short, ourselves, and our future in this world. Specially, for those who are coming after us and for whom we have got a lot to account for. Still.

Not sure what you would think, but after watching that video clip, there are two other things I’m going to be doing in 2012 plenty more: Wear Sunscreen and listen, and learn plenty more!, from our elders. They have always known, and experienced fully, a whole lot more than we do…

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Reflections from 2011 – And Health It Is!

Tenerife - Mount Teide in the WinterAround this time of the year, last year, I put together a blog entry over here under the suggestive heading of “Three Wishes“, where I tried to reflect, once again, and like I have been doing for the last few years, on what I would want to accomplish in the New Year. Not necessarily a new set of resolutions per se, year in year out, but thinking more along the lines of being pragmatic and focus instead on those little things that one could embrace and adopt rather easily and yet have a greater impact altogether. Now, how far off was I eventually? Let’s see … Here’s today’s “Reflections from 2011″ blog post.

In that article I mentioned above I wrote about those three wishes being as follows: Stay Healthy, Sustainable Prosperity and Be More Human. Those were not such a bad idea, don’t you think? Perhaps a bit utopian at large, but even then today, nearly a year later, they are still as relevant as they were when I first jotted them down together in that blog post. I’m not so sure whether we have embarked on sustainable prosperity in the last few months, judging by the current state of affairs with our global financial crisis, specially, when you read articles like this one that postulate the crisis won’t finish till around 2031 (Quite an interesting reading, by the way, that clearly confirms how we, human beings, seem to be really good at repeating the very same mistakes throughout our history time and time again! -In Spanish-) or whether we have become more human.

I will leave that last one up to you folks to decide based on the good amount of happenings and events taking place around us over the last 12 months. I would tend to think we are, slowly, but steadily, judging on a good number of rather interesting articles I have bumped into over the course of the last few weeks / months that seem to shift gears and focus more on that aspect of celebrating and fully embracing our humanity. And I am sure you may have bumped yourself into a whole bunch of other interesting and relevant reads along those lines, too.

Interestingly enough, with regards to “Stay Healthy” I wrote back at the beginning of January the following paragraph:

[…] So my first wish for everyone out there is to stay healthy no matter what.

To me, that means staying away from the computer for longer periods of time (I know that’s going to be a challenge on its own already!), do plenty more exercise, eat even healthier, get plenty more sleep (I know some of you will be having a giggle or two while you are reading that one!) and, eventually, continue to take much better care of myself, since I know no-one else is going to do it. Not even work! hehe

Little did I know, as I was putting together those few words that it would all turn out to be quite an amazing and inspiring revolution altogether to push me forward several months later on to what I am today: probably the healthiest in the last 16 to 17 years of my lifetime that I can remember! So much so that over the course of the last few months one comes to realise that what really matters in our today’s-more-hectic-and-busier-than-ever-lives is just something so relatively simple as staying or becoming healthy. The rest, as they usually say, will come along. Hard to believe, but yet, so accurate, it’s scary!

Stay healthy is also going to remain my main wish for everyone out there as we approach the beginning of a New Year: 2012 (Even if it is the last one). Stay healthy has also taken a new meaning for yours truly after quite an amazing 6 months where I have gone through something that I’m still trying to find proper words to describe it, yet, it’s had some of the highest impacts on not only what I do, but also who I am. Short version of the story? Well, in a bit over 6 months I have now lost 18 kg (Almost 40 lbs) and have gone back to the weight I used to have 16 to 17 years ago: 83 kg / 183 lbs / 13 stones.

Here is the long story though of how I made it happen and how it continues to work for myself as I have now stabilised on that specific weight range. It all started back in July when after all of the business travelling with all of the evening meals out, drinks, very little sleep, the accumulated stress and a whole bunch of other things put me on the high end of 101.5 kg / 224 lbs and I thought enough was enough. I had to stop it. It was getting far too much and I needed to find a way out without being it too costly. You know how it goes, once you reach a certain age (Mine will be coming along next year!), where you combine the big 4 with the big 0, you come to acknowledge you need to do something about it before it is too late or else. And since I didn’t like much the else bit, I decided to do something about it right away this year.

Now, before I go any further into sharing further insights based on my own first hand experiences of how it’s worked out for me becoming a lot healthier losing that amount of weight I mentioned above over the course of the last few months, I would want to stress out that this has worked with me really well, but there is no guarantee, nor will I offer one, that it would work out for other folks out there. There are plenty of health specialists and nutritionists out there who you folks should go to, if you would want to start up something similar, specially, at this time of the year when we all have got that lovely resolution of wanting to lose some weight 🙂

Ok, with all of that said, here are the three things that I have done this year to help me Stay Healthy and regain back plenty of my own life along with it:

  • Regular Exercise: Right off, back in July, when I decided to start losing some weight I knew that, for me, there wouldn’t be any magic diet out there that I would need to follow in order to lose all of that weight. It had to come off from somewhere else and since I used to play basketball in my younger years for a long while I knew that the best thing that would work out for me would be to engage on regular exercise. And that’s what I did. So almost every day (I usually take a break in the middle of the week) I go half and half running and fast walking for about 7 to 8 km non stop (Ohhh, Boira has been a great help in this area, too! Specially, in the last month or so); then during the course of the day I also do about 10 minutes of rowing; some yoga exercises and, finally, some abs, too (Working my way to 100 a day at the moment…).

    I must confess at the very beginning I thought it was going to be rather difficult to build the habit and all, but the reality is that it hasn’t. It’s been a blast all along. The key trick that worked out for me very nicely was to consistently continue doing the exercise till I would build a habit, then the rest would be much easier. And it surely has! 6 months down the line I still go out running / fast walking for one hour to make up for those 7 to 8 km and I still enjoy it just as much as I did at the beginning. 

    However, the beginning was not that easy. Through a good number of experiments, trying to fine out the length of and what time of the day for the exercise that would be the most suitable for me, I figured out that I eventually enjoy doing the daily workout first thing in the morning (Right after I wake up, drink a couple of glasses of water and off to hit the road, or, better, the countryside) and that’s basically what I do still today. In case you may not have seen it, here is a superb .PDF article that explains the “Best Times to Train” with lots of pros and cons for whatever the time so you can find the right one that just works for you. Like I said, I know that for most folks would vary, but, for me, it looks like early morning exercise does the trick. It keeps me going for the rest of the day, too!, and big time!

  • Watching what I eat: I bet that this is the one item you would all be thinking about “Ohhh, so you eventually are dieting and everything, right?”. Well, not really. I am not following any kind of specific diet and surely don’t plan to start one now. I eat everything (Meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, sweets, legumes, dairy products, etc. etc.). I haven’t cut down on anything rather drastically, even carbs; what I have done though is I have started watching the amounts of food I eat on a daily basis. I watch out for the portions. Long gone are those meals where the food was overflowing the plates. Now, I just have enough food intakes that allow me to feel full, but not overblown (out of proportion, like I used to do!). I have a light breakfast, a somewhat heavy lunch meal and a coffee / tea break in the afternoon and a very light dinner by the end of the day. Yes, indeed, I don’t starve, nor do I plan on doing it any time soon. Not worth the pain, nor the effort. Rather prefer to concentrate on watching out for large portions and focus instead on medium / smaller ones. 

    One other thing that I have done rather consistently is to drink a lot of liquid as well during the course of the day. Specially, water. I usually drink between 2 to 2.5 liters of water, plus the odd juice, coffee / tea, etc. Earlier on with this initiative I realised that another thing I knew was going to help me in the drinking department was going to reduce my intake of alcohol to a certain degree. So I’m not alcohol-free at the moment, but I don’t drink as much beer, long drinks or wine as I used to do and my body seems to be rather grateful about that, to the point where I am no longer missing it. I have switched from long drinks to scotch on the rocks and every time I get one I surely make sure I enjoy it to the max. It doesn’t happen too often, so better do it, right? The same for a glass of wine or a good quality beer! But that would be it. The next day up early again and off to burn it all. 

  • Sleep: I know that this may sound rather ironic and perhaps a bit too funny, but the third thing that has helped me tremendously in building up the habit of losing weight when I’m not exercising, or watching over what I eat, has been something so relatively simple as having enough hours of sleep. Plenty of people out there would probably be saying how sleep is for the weak and everything, but, seriously, I no longer care much about such statements, specially, knowing the many key benefits I have been getting back from making a habit of good long nights of sleep. Sleep is probably more important than food, and I can certainly confirm it’s helping me burn fat at a faster pace than whatever I could ever anticipate (Did you know that your body, as an average, could probably lose about 1 kg per good night sleep? Mine does … hehe), so I am planning on continuing to get my beauty sleep for as long as I possibly can, although I have lately settled down between 7 to 7.5 hours per day.

    Have you ever heard about sleepyti.me? Not sure whether you may have seen it or not, but, lately, in the last couple of months, I have found it very interesting to help me establish the best wake up times based on the good number of hours I intend to sleep, which sleepyti.me has settled down for me on 7.5 hours per day. So I do try to follow it up as religiously as I can and so far it’s working really well. I no longer even question whether I can stay a little bit longer up or not. I reach a certain time of the evening and straight to bed! Building up another habit I have learned to enjoy quite a bit, too! That’s the beauty of it, that I no longer feel bad about sleeping more hours than what I used to in the recent past.

And that’s it! With those three simple things, although I am sure I could add plenty more details about each of them, which I may be able to do during the course of the next few months to share across with folks progress on how things have been moving along further, I came to the conclusion that health as far too important to neglect it, specially, when you can see, live and experience fully some of those amazing results at the end of the tunnel. There used to be a time, and plenty of folks who know me can confirm that, where I continuously neglected both my body and overall healthy just to remain connected online a little bit longer. I have been accused (in a healthy way, I suppose…) about being part of the club of social networkers who never sleep and rightly so, if I judge my online virtual behaviour over the course of time. However, over the last 6 months that’s no longer the case and I can surely guarantee you all that the same would be happening in 2012. There was a time for me to put a stop to how much my online life was trumping my physical health and while I was still on time, I realised that I was rather lucky to change the tide of things right when I could. There is no way back for me any longer.

So if you don’t see me online much over the course of the day, there may be multiple reasons for it… I may not be connected due to technical problems, or lack of network coverage, or the social tools not playing nice, or whatever else. Or, just plainly, and from this blog post onwards, because I may be just simply out and about embarking on my daily workout. Hopefully, you will be, too! Remember, no matter how cool the Social Web is for all of us on how it keeps feeding our brains to unparalleled levels of greatness, enlightenment and learning, we still need to attend to our physical bodies and ensure we are all in good shape with our health to enjoy both the mind and the body, because if we don’t do it, no-one else will!

Have a wonderfully Happy, Prosperous and rather Healthy New Year 2012 everyone!! 😀

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Reflections from 2011 – Redefining Your Social Web Presence

Tenerife - Mount Teide in the WinterAfter having put together last couple of blog posts about some of my reflections from the year we are about to end around The Social Web and Technology in general, I guess it’s now a good time to share with the world the third one from the series. The one I have been telling people about over the course of the last couple of months as the one that is going to mark a before and an after with regards to my own involvement with The Social Web. You could probably think of it as a redefining moment of my own Social strategy, pretty much like I did in February 2008, when I redefined my own use of email by living “A World Without Email” ever since. I do realise that some folks may not like it, and some other people may relate to it quite a bit. But, in principle, I am going to keep that spirit of living life in a perpetual beta, going through, yet again, another experiment and see how it would move along, except that, this time around, it’s my own virtual life. Welcome to the new elsua!

How can I summarise this new strategy towards social networking in a short sentence, so that you would be able to have a glimpse of what I am about to get started with? Hummm, that’s quite a nice challenge, indeed, but if you have read the last couple blog entries you may have sensed already what it would be like. In case you haven’t though, here is a single one liner describing what I am about to get started with in 2012: Finally, after 10 years in the making, I’ll be freeing up myself from the yokes of both technology and the Social Web in order to get around, connect with my various social network(s), share my knowledge across and collaborate further along on my terms and not longer theirs.

I am not sure what you folks would think, but I’m ready, at long last, to free up myself from the yoke that both Technology and the Social Web have over-imposed on all of us and to no remedy. Or, better said, I am ready to free up myself from those people who control both of those environments to get the most out of us, but at our very own costs; in most cases, our very own energy, efforts, and truly hard work, while they just sit there and wait for it to happen, because they know it will happen eventually. Most of us, knowledge workers, have always had that very strong urge to connect with others, to share our affinities and true passions, to care for what one embarks on, and to help out where we possibly can. And plenty of times we keep going through the extra mile to try to achieve it. And most of the times, we don’t. Rather technology fails, or The Social Web user experience fails. Or both! And what do we do? We keep trying over and over again till we eventually make it through and make it happen. I am tired of having to put up with it all, of having to spend a humongous amount of time trying to customise my virtual social life to meet someone else’s needs (Those of both technology and the Social Web, as good examples to start with), while ignoring and neglecting my own.

Well, not anymore from yours truly. It’s, finally, a good time for me to depart from that incredibly frustrating experience of having to adjust, time and time again, both my working and life styles to the constant failures from both technology and the Social Web. It’s time for me to let real life kick-in, once again, and bring back that very important component all of us, human beings, seemed to have been neglecting for a long while: our very own personal, real life, (business) relationships. Yes, the physical social networking no-one seems to have realised we have been having out there for thousands, if not millions!, of years! I am no longer going to wait for either technology, or social networking tools, to fix their silliness and have me try multiple times to reproduce an experience that I feel should be rather straightforward: sharing!

I am no longer willing to go and pay through my nose for a service, i.e. the Internet, that telcos have ingrained in all of us as an essential must-have. Well, not really. They never had the control and they are not going to start now. At least, not with me. if the connection is there, if technology enables it painlessly, if the Social Web works the way it is supposed to, I’ll be fine. I will be there! Just like in the last 10 years and counting… However, if either of those three factors fail to deliver, I hereby declare I no longer care. Like a very good offline friend of mine would say: “Life is just way too short to have to worry about certain things taking place. You better make them happen yourself and move on, instead!

And that’s why, from here onwards, I am no longer going to worry about technology itself (Whether it’s connectivity, tools, or social software), nor going to rely on it much to get stuff done. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t, I won’t be bothering. I will be moving on to the next thing, because, you know, there will always be a next thing. Even after the Social Web. And that, basically, means I am no longer going to be around, waiting for things to happen and ask me, again, to spend my energy, effort and whatever other trouble, including my own time, to see if things would work out once again. Like I said, life is just too short for me to worry about those silly things. We should move on to better things, I am afraid.

WOW!! Really? Are you saying what I think you are saying with those few paragraphs mentioned above, you may be wondering, right? I mean, how will I get my stuff done, both internally and externally, both at work, and outside work, if I am no longer going to rely, as religiously as I used to, in both technology and social networking tools. Well, that’s a pretty good question, indeed, for which, at this point in time, I don’t have an answer for. However, I can tell you something else. I’m an optimist, an outrageous, a heretic, a free radical, in short, a rebel at work by heart who knows that if we don’t push the limits on helping redefine and reshape our very own social technology experiences no-one else is going to do it for us. So I’m having enough with it all. I am having enough with having to put up with plenty of frustration, of additional stress I know I could do without, rather low energy levels that keep draining both my motivation and energy to want to do great things, and a huge amount of unnecessary and unneeded tension that I know I just don’t need any longer anymore! And probably you, too!

Indeed, I am not sure how this is going to end up eventually, and whether I will be making it at all, or suffer along the way quite a bit. However, I am very willing to give it a try and see how it goes. That’s what life is all about, I guess, right? Trying new things to see whether they would work out for you or not, learn a lot about them along the way, and try not to make the same mistakes again. In short, keep applying some of that critical thinking in everything we do, because, like I said above already, if we don’t do it for ourselves, no-one else would. And perhaps rightly so. It’s got to get started within ourselves, because, whether we like or not, we are the ones who know best where the issues lay and what we can do about them. And act upon them! Long gone is the time where we remain passive about most of the stuff we used to do. Long gone is the time where we just waited for things to happen. It’s time to move on to better things and keep excelling at what we are already doing.

I am sure at this point in time you may be wondering what it would look like, right? I mean, how will it work for yours truly in today’s technology driven world by no longer being dependent on it, by freeing yourself from its everlasting yoke? Well, like I said, I will be reshaping it over the course of time, but here are some initial thoughts of how I’m planning to tackle both Technology and the Social Web in 2012 and beyond:

  • Connectivity: Starting with a biggie, why not, right? Yes, from now onwards, I will no longer care whether I’m finally connected to the Web or not. If within the first 15 minutes I can’t manage to stay connected on a rather decent Internet connection, I will give up on it and move on with the offline world. Perhaps a whole lot more productive than trying to figure out, or troubleshoot, why I can’t get connected in the first place. This would apply mostly to my business travelling, whether to customer events, workshops, meetings, or conferences, seminars, summits, hotel rooms, etc. etc. I’ll be more than happy to live blog / tweet / plus on things around me while I am travelling and certainly share as much as I possibly can, but if connectivity fails to deliver, you won’t see me much, perhaps the odd message to alert folks I’m giving up for the day and move on into real life, where I am sure conversations would be just as good and fruitful, but without the excruciating experience of, time and time again, having to struggle with technology. Not to worry, my dear telcos and various different Internet providers, the b*tching will be rather limited, since I know you can’t care less about trying to improve our user experiences. Your wallet will notice it though. From day one… At least, from me.
  • The Social Web – Blogging: One of my favourite social software activities from over the last 9 years (It’s hard to believe that I got started with my first internal blog way back on December 2003!!) will always be blogging. Like I said, if there is anything the last three months have shown me with these rather extensive breaks is that I need to keep writing. It’s healthy for the mind, it’s healthy for the soul. I realise now, as I am putting this round of blog entries that I cannot longer live without it. So what am I am changing in this area?

    Well, as a starting point, I am going to diversify my own blogging style. It’s no longer going to be those rather lengthy, hopefully, helpful, blog posts that I keep sharing over here. I do know and realise that plenty of them are far too complex to digest on a single read. Yes, they are, just as much as they are for me to put them together, since I truly love the research that goes along with it. The amount of extra linking I put together into it, the recommendations I share across on people to follow, including their writings and everything else and so forth. It’s quite a lot of time consuming, but totally worth it. Once you have got the right connectivity though, but since I know next year will be another year where I won’t have it, I better diversify on it. So, as a starting point, my blogging will continue to have lengthy blog posts where appropriate, but when I can’t put them together I will be going for shorter entries, sharper, sharing an initial idea I want to jot down somewhere and rather raw with hardly any additional links or hyperlinks to people’s work. That will need to come along at a later time. 

    The idea would be to keep feeding the blog with, hopefully, interesting content we can all learn from, which is also one of the reasons why I’m planning to make much heavier use of my Google Plus profile to draft some of those ideas, get some conversations going and then perhaps move that dialogue into a blog post for everyone else to see and participate in. And whenever it happens that I’m offline I will move that writing exercise offline as well, which is where I am hoping to rely, quite a bit more, on Evernote on my iPad than what I have in the recent past. Somehow I would want my iPad to become my new moleskine that I can take with me and sync everywhere, whenever I regain back connectivity.

  • The Social Web – Twitter and Google Plus: My use of both Twitter and Google Plus will continue to be pretty much the same from what I recently blogged about over at “Google Plus and Twitter – How They Work for Me Hand in Hand“. I will continue to work with both of them as part of “The Big Three“, but with the slight difference that, if good, decent connectivity is not there within the first 15 minutes of trying it out, I’m dropping both of them for what’s left of the day, till I regain that connection again. Like I said, if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, I am no longer going to wait. Instead, will focus on other offline activities, including real life conversations, specially, when I am on the road. 

    Mind you though perhaps on that same context of being a road warrior I will probably be focusing more on tweeting, than plussing, at least, till the overall user experience for Plus Mobile improves quite drastically, including the additional of a native iPad App. So if you don’t see me for a couple of days on Plus, it’s probably, because I am travelling and taking a short break; it doesn’t mean I have abandoned it. Not a chance. Remember, it’s still part of my “Big Three”, along with IBM Connections and Twitter. 

  • The Social Web – The Rest: The rest of the various other social networking sites will probably remain the same for yours truly. I will continue to have a light presence in there, although I’m not going to invest much on it, at least, till they all dramatically improve the overall experiences, so that they don’t become more of a drain, like most of them are now at the moment, whether due to privacy issues, terms of service, awkward user interfaces, etc. etc. You name it. So if you would want to reach out to me, the best methods would still be through this blog, a Twitter mention to @elsua or My Google Plus Profile. If it doesn’t get eaten by the system you should be able to receive a response from me within a reasonable amount of time depending on the urgency of the request / query / matter. I will still be there, not to worry, it is just that my response would now probably take a bit longer … But it will get there eventually.
  • The Social Web – Content Curation: And, finally, perhaps the biggest new move I will be making in 2012 and beyond. As good as knowledge sharing, collaborating with others, and generally connecting with other people are as activities on the Social Web, I’m going to start focusing plenty more on content curation. It’s the new black, it looks like, and I am hoping to bring it back into my social streams starting very very soon. Time and time again I keep getting healthily bombarded with terrific content I would want to share across, but usually I keep failing to share it along, because I just can’t keep up with it all while trying to add my ¢2, with the issues mentioned above already. So, instead of increasing my levels of frustration and irritation from not sharing those great links out there, I’m taking a different approach this time around and will start exploring the potential from one social software tool I have been following for a little while and enjoying from other folks: Scoop.it

    My profile in there is rather empty at the moment, but as we move along into the new year I surely plan to create a good number of different categories and start populating them a good bunch of interesting and relevant readings I have bumped into over the course of the last few months, and which, at some point or another, I would want to refer to once again on the odd blog posts, Plus conversations or tweets.

    I may be looking as well for an external social bookmarking service, to keep that curation going, but I am not too sure at this point in time just yet on what I will be doing. Still thinking about it, so if you folks out there have got any recommendations outside Delicious or Diigo, which have never convinced me much, I am afraid, I would love to learn about how you are managing your own social bookmarks. I have heard lots of great things about Pinboard, but not sure whether it would be worth the investment or not… What do you think? Is it worth while going for it? Would love to read your thoughts on it, if you are using it actively. 

And that’s it! Another rather lengthy blog post about to hit the Social Web out there. Another blog entry, that, like I said, will help shape up, once more, my overall Social Web Presence. Still in the making though and with plenty of room for improvements, I am sure, but I just love engaging on this kind of experiments to keep refining them over the course of time, just like I have been doing for almost 4 years now with living “A World Without Email“, more than anything else because of the unexpected situations and key learnings that will occur and that I am sure will be helping me put a stop with that excruciating and rather painful experience of having to adjust my social presence around certain social networking sites, when I feel it should be otherwise.

Did I complete lose it? Am I way off again? Did I jump the shark far too soon? I seriously don’t know. I guess time will tell, and this blog, too! Because I surely plan to share how the experience will be developing over the course of the next few months. Got any suggestions on what you feel could work, or not? Share them along, too, please! I would love to know whether I have gone completely crazy with all of this Social stuff or whether we are just witnessing the beginning of something bigger, much bigger: Redefining Our Own Social Web Presence with a Focus and a Purpose.

(Ohh, by the way, I haven’t revealed a couple of surprises here and there that will surely continue to shape up and change a few things on how I view self-publishing of new content and not necessarily on the blog alone; I will be sharing more details on each of them shortly as well, as I get ready to prepare last few things, before they go live … Stay tuned for more! It’s bound to provide lots of good fun, too!)

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