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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Worth while sharing it along?

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Worth while sharing it along?

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

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (11 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
Worth while sharing it along?