Saturday, December 27, 2014

Week Fifty-two – The end is only the beginning.

52 weeks later here I am typing my last blog of 2014 having achieved my goal and feeling very proud of myself! But this is only the end of a new beginning.

So this is it, fifty-two blogs done, each and everyone of them unique and an account of my day-to-day life and experiences as I travelled and dealt with all sort things that got thrown at me. And the more I think about it, the more I realise that the challenge I set my self was not about being able to write but to be able to see the world and draw from it to share experiences and situations that hopefully would have, in some way or another, helped you all.

And I don’t want to make this week, the last week, an exception. I knew I would have plenty of material to write about, with Christmas in it and a large family gathering, so I wanted to find something interesting or cleaver to write. I have been thinking about it all week, I really want to make week fifty-two special, in away I want to go out with a “big-bang”. But the more I’ve been thinking about it, the harder it has become to come up with anything good to write.

Yes I could give you a run down of the large family gathering we had, 24 people in a house we hired to celebrating Christmas. It was fun, chaotic and noisy! It made me realise that we are all Humans and what brings us together is tolerance and understanding and realising that without external influences (there was no Wifi, or mobile signal) there is a lot we have to share. This Christmas was no different to others with the exception of the setting, being away from home in an environment where we were all neutral. This was none’s house, and we were all guest. There was no communication with the outside world, so we had to stay focused on the moment. We went back to basics. But for me this isn’t the biggest learning this week, I don’t want week fifty-two to be about this.

So I continued to scratch my head thinking of that subject worthy of week fifty-two, after all this is the last week of my challenge. I thought I could give you all a round up of the year, in 2014 I learnt a lot. Many things happened with three mayor events taking the headlines - I suffered the loss of my father, been in hospital with a suspected heart attack and I run my first ever Half Marathon. But I guess you all know that right? I mean, if you have been following my blog and read some of the weeks you would have know this. As I asked myself these questions trying to decide if I should just do the “top ten moments of 2014” I came to realise that may be it is a good idea to do this, as some people may not have read some of these events.

But again, I decided not to do this! I didn’t want my last blog to be just a re-collection of what I had written about! In a way I thought that was cheating by just copying and pasting previous blogs.

I sat and I continued to scratch my head. What can I write about? What is so big, so important, and so meaningful in my life, that it should be the subject of my last blog? And then it finally came to me! And when it came it reminded me why I am doing this! Yet another epiphany! What have I learned this year? I have learnt that I can write, and I can write about anything I see in life. I have accomplished something extraordinary, which has allowed me to mature in my writing. And what does this mean? It means that I should continue to write and never give up. Now, a great dear friend of mine reminded me of this last week and of my motto “I write because someone out there reads”. She read blog fifty-one and commented, “Don't give up writing them.........NY resolution is to see if you can do another 52???? I love reading them” and I knew that this is what I need to do, I must continue, because some of you out there read what I write.

So I want to dedicate this blog to you all, the people for whom I write. For those of you who continue to support me and encourage me to write.  Writing is some times a very lonely job, and the satisfaction of writing something is knowing that someone has read what you have wrote.  As well as getting all my thoughts out on paper and express myself, I relish the thought of people enjoying and learning from what I put down every week in my blog. As a script writer I have always longed to have audiences enjoy a night out at the theatre, as a blogist I get satisfaction when I know people have twenty minutes where they enjoyed reading what I have to say.

Dear all out there that read my blog, I will endeavour to continue to share my experiences with you every week! And thank you for reading what I have to say, more to come in 2015!

So it is time to close the year; let us reflect on what we have achieved, and it is time to start planning what’s to come next.  My experience form this has been that we must all set ourselves a new challenge every year, I know I will, and stick to it, work on it and make sure we keep our promises to ourselves. Whatever you decide to do, it will help you be better, better in everything you do. I hope the last 52 weeks I have shared with you have been useful, and if anything at least entertaining, Remember the end of something is the beginning of something new.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Week fifty-one – Taking Stock.

Would you believe it? I have only one more to write before I reach my goal of writing a weekly blog for 2014! So it’s time to take stock and reflect on what I have done and achieved this year.

one of my proudest moments!
 As we all know, traditionally most people give themselves a “New Year’s Resolution” to help them change something in their lives, which in the previous year hasn’t work or they failed to achieve. These vary from “I will give up smoking” to “I will call mum every week” or the classic “I’ll loose some weight”. And all of these resolutions help us, at least for the first couple of months, to stay focus on something we really want to do or achieve.

And like everything in life, it is hard work! Soon after the resolution is made, we struggle to keep up with it. In the busyness of our every day life, we find ourselves over committed and this new thing is stretching us to the limits. Remember I have always said it is easier to say no than to say yes when it comes to going for a run or staying fit; but this philosophy applies to almost anything in our lives. Two months after our “new year’s resolution” most people generally have or start to dropped that self-commitment to improve or change something in their lives. It became easier to say no, and when you say it once, it becomes easier to say it again and again until you feel it’s time to move on and ditch the promise you made to yourself (or in some cases put it on hold until next year and try it again!)

So here I find myself writing blog number fifty-one of fifty-two blogs I committed myself to write this year. The challenge, if you remember and read blog number one, was to see if I could sustain writing on average a thousand words on different subject every week for the entire year. The idea was to challenge my ability as a writer and see if I have it in me to write so much, and to share with you all experiences and life learning lessons, which would then serve as the basis of a self book I could consider publishing in the future. It hasn’t been easy to do, I can assure you, and the time and effort that it takes to write these weekly blogs is tremendous. But one thing that has kept me going is the commitment I made to myself; It is almost as if I don’t want to let myself down by not writing one week (and I guess this is what is about, letting yourself down and no one else). I have had a feeling every week that if I don’t do the blog, the chain is broken, my challenge is lost and a piece would be missing therefore the challenge would be void.

Just like any of you who made commitments back in January this year, I have been tempted not to stick to my goal and give it up; many times too much work could have stopped me from writing any of the weeks, having been in hospital with a suspected heart attack would have been enough for anyone not to write that week, the death of my father, holidays, family commitments, or even the weeks where I had to really search for something to write as I faced a “writers block” right up to the last minute… and don’t forget preparing for my Half Marathon! Some many times it would have been easier to say “no I don’t have the time now, I’ll go back to it next week” But I focused on saying YES! Yes I can do it and yes I said I would do it, so get on with it and stop looking for reasons not to do it! Often your time is better spent looking for reason to do it and not on reason why not to do it.    

I had a great year, and I think I have accomplished a lot. These fifty-one weeks have helped me become a better person. And I don’t know if it is because to some extent I have been documenting my life that I feel I can look back and really relish on what I have accomplished, what I did, what I learned and what I will take away from all these experiences.

As I write this words I am also starting to wonder, what will I write next week? This very philosophical and reflective blog should have been week fifty-two, the final one, yet here I am rounding up my year with one more week to go. But you know what? This is exactly what I am talking about; now that I got it out of my system, week forty-one, I guess you could say “look none will mind or know if you don’t write a blog next week, anyhow you will be in Christmas mode, and enjoying the festivities” but I cannot stop, not on the last hurdle! So I am sure I will find an interesting subject to write about; anyhow the festive season always gives plenty of material to write about, specially with all the family together in one room! I bet you can’t wait till next week for the final chapter of my 2014 challenge!

I hope this week has inspired you to start thinking about your 2015 New Year’s resolutions and this time really stick to them! No matter what you want to do, achieve or change, remember that the key is to stay strong and don’t give in to the temptation that is saying no; no I won’t do it today, this week or this month. Next thing you know you have broken that commitment, you have let yourself down and broken that chain. Stick to it, work at it and you will see the marvellous effect of believing you can do anything you want to, it just takes that magic word to do it… YES.

Why not label 2015 as your year of YES – your Yea of Excellence and Self-discovery!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Week Fifty – and a happy merry expensive Christmas!

On the first day of Christmas my true love said to me – get your wallet out because the season for spending has arrived!

No yearlong writing blog challenge would be complete without a Christmas Blog! With two more to do after this, I could not resist the temptation to write about my favourite subject… NOT! Christmas has come to town! Actually it is Santa that comes to town in the song, but his arrival and Christmas arrival are equally as expensive and commercialised as each other. And for those of you who are thinking “airtight Grinch, get of your pedestal” it is not that I hate Christmas (well may be I do) but what it actually means and not what is meant to be.

The idea of writing about the never-ending commercialisation of this season came to me when I saw someone on the underground with an I-phone 6, which had a phone cover that made it look like an old I-phone! The cover was big, bulky and square, but at the back of it there was a very intriguing picture I could not make out. I am guessing he was attached to the cover because of the picture and not the horrid shape of the ugly structure surrounding this masterful piece of equipment that is the I-phone 6. If you’ve not seen the new I-phone yet, it is a very slim, rounded design with a very delicate metal structure very pleasing to both the eye and hand of its owner.

So why would anyone spend money on an ugly cover covering a very expensive phone? This question is what inspired me to write about the season to spend money. Trarlalalala tralalala! (see how I got the xmas theme going here? J) Manufactures of phone covers have commercialised a market, which kind of doesn’t make sense. You spend thousands of pounds in a new bit of gear which every time gets more and more sexier, and then we go and spend more money to go and cover it up! Some times with ridiculous covers that completely and utterly take away the beauty of the device, which is what you paid for! It’s like the guys who sell antivirus; its rumoured they are the once who produce the viruses! It’s all about making you spend more money!

So let’s get back to our Christmas Carol story and why I don’t like Christmas. The ghost of Christmas past comes to me every year to remind me of my childhood and my experiences of this time when I was still at home with my family. I guess back then I didn’t know any better and what child does not like to have a visit from the white bearded man bearing gifts? I guess back then my memories of Christmas where happy, as I knew no better. We used to have big family gatherings, which somehow will always end up in some sort of trouble with an uncle getting too drunk or some truths coming up fumed by alcohol

In my Christmas Carol story there is the Ghost of Christmas adolescence that comes to remind me about my time in my late teens and early twenties. This is the time I found myself away from my family when I moved to England and not feeling the pressures of Christmas what it all means. I guess it was strange at the beginning but pretty soon I got used to not having to turn my world upside down for 6 weeks of the year (In Mexico we also celebrate all the way to the 6th of January with the arrival of the three wise men, one more reason to spend money!) and you know what? I liked being away from it all!

And so it brings me to my Ghost of Christmas present where I now have my own family and they love Christmas! In fairness to me I am not as bad as I am making myself to be (I’m fighting my own battle here, as I know some of you are really thinking “Baa Humbug”) and I do get into the sprit of the season… a bit.

To prove this, I do buy Christmas presents, I do attend company Christmas do’s, I do drink and eat holiday season food, and I do occasionally sing Christmas Carols. I even tell my favourite Christmas joke every year: What’s Father Christmas wife called? Mary – Mary Christmas! LOL!

What I do not like is the commercial drive to the festivities, which in my country of residence, UK, starts from as early as October! That is insane! When we have just taken down our skeletons and pumpkins people are begging to display Santa and Rain Deer! We start to see television adverts tempting you to “buy” for loved ones and closer to December the array of useless box-set gifts begin to pour in the shops. People walk around possessed by the holiday season demon carrying thousands of bags filled with gifts they “hope” the recipients will like.

Buying for someone when you are pressured to do so, (secret Santa specially) confused by the unusually large selection of bric-a-brac in the shops and a limited budget, which has to be spread amongst all the people in your list, can only be bad for your health! And in my opinion, unless you enjoy the experience of shopping under these conditions, it takes away the important message that was set, I am sure many years ago, as to the meaning of this time of the year for many around the world.

I am not suggesting the world should stop and cancel Christmas, I am only asking for all of us to take this as an example of how commercialised our world has become. When retailers focus on how they can flog things to us we don’t need and in some cases at ridiculous prices just because is the season to be jolly (£4.50 for a small cup of warm wine called Mulled!), we are in danger of becoming more and more the victims of a society that pressures us to believe that by giving someone something you don’t really need at Christmas, you are now in the spirit of whatever two thousand years ago was started and came with a message of peace and love around the world.

PS – Dear Santa, this Christmas what I really want is peace on earth… I’m not kidding…  but if you really want to give me a gift, come back in September for my birthday; here is my list….

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Week Forty-nine – Highs & Lows!

One minute you are up, then the next you are down; life can be such a roller coaster!

Have you ever got out of bed and felt like you were right on top of the world? Some times we do, we “get out of bed on the right side” and we feel the world is at our feet. Some times we also have important events which we work hard for and when you reach the end result and you’ve done a good job, again you feel on top of the world; what a lovely feeling that is, the “Highs” in our lives.

But on the other side some times we also encounter the “Lows” that brings us right back down and you may even hit “rock bottom”. These events often take place right at the start of our day, and we get that feeling of “getting out of bed on the wrong side” setting us off to have a series of disasters which makes our day get worse and worse. We may even look for the 3rd event to take place so we can get out of this bad patch; you know, the “things come in three” feeling.

We all go through these feelings and emotions in our lives; it’s part of being a human. But have you ever experienced Highs and Lows on the same day? Yes I am talking about hitting high and low in 24 hours, and I mean very high and then rock bottom! If you’ve never experienced this, it can be emotionally draining and leave you feeling completely disoriented! One moment is good and then it all goes bad! So how do you deal with this? How do you keep your wits about you and survive? Not easy as it all happens too quickly and that feeling of disorientation and dizziness lingers for a long time. I guess it’s what they call in show business “your 15 minutes of fame”; one moment you are the talk of town and then no one wants to know you!

So if think you’ve never experience this before let me give you some examples to help you understand what I am talking about. I guess the most obvious one would be when you get some good news in the morning follow by bad news! You get that phone call from your boss informing you will be getting a pay rise for all your hard work and dedication to the company; you hit a High here. And then you get a call from home to let you know the house is flooded and it’s not covered by your insurance! You’re on a Low now. That would be a real rollercoaster of emotions all in a very short space of time!

We often experience this at work too; I know I have. You’ve been working hard on a piece of work or a project, which you hand in and get praised for the excellent effort. At that moment you feel good, accomplished and ready to take on the world! You are on top of your game and you can’t get enough of it! And then boom! Something goes wrong, you make a mistake, something that should have been done or looked at was not and now you find yourself having to own up to it and fix it! All the “high” from the good work you did is gone and you are scratching the bottom of the barrel trying to get out of the situation you find yourself in! You no longer have the glory but the guilt, no longer the praise but the questions, you now feel emotionally drained because your adrenaline has gone from very high levels of excitement to very high levels of stress and your body can’t take it any more! Talk about a rollercoaster! You have just been on one and you had a front row seat!

But you know what they say? Life is a rollercoaster and you have to ride it. Remember that which does not kill you can only make you stronger! To get through these emotions in one day and come out the other side in one piece you need to stay together and focus on the task ahead. Get off your high ride and focus on your low drive. At the end of the day you only have one option – fix it and move on. Don’t dwell on the past and what you could have done, that’s all gone.  Your passed successes are there to support your mistakes, don’t just ride on the glory days, but drive the tough times too. Everything is a balance, and ok you are now deep down, but surely someone will remember what you did this morning too!

That’s the balance in life; “Highs” and “Lows” are there to help you be better at what you do. Highs remind us of what we can do well and achieve, it is a way to re-charge the batteries and leave evidence that there is something good we have to offer. Lows help us remember we are also human and sometimes things will go wrong, we will make mistakes and we need to learn from them using the experiences to better ourselves. In a way the lows permit us to learn and produce more highs as a result of these experiences, they need to exits for highs to be created. Without one the other does not exist. I guess no one can ride a rollercoaster that only goes up, it will eventually run out of track and then you face a massive drop. I rather have lots of reasonable highs and lows to make it fun and more interesting!

I’m grateful for all the experiences I have in my life. Not only do they help me learn and become better but also they are great sources of inspiration for my writing! This is week forty-nine of my yearly blog challenge, I only have three more to write before I am done, and believe me when you have written forty-eight weeks, it seems that subjects are begging to dry up! Thank goodness for that rollercoaster called life with its Highs and Lows, without it I’d be thinking, “what am I going to write about this week?”

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Week Forty-eight – What’s your preference?

Everything we do in life is a preference, and we can adapt, change and enjoy someone else’s preferences.

Do you like Coffee or Tea? Fish or meat? Winter or summer? Have you ever sat through a film you don’t enjoy? Have you ever been somewhere is not your choice? Our lives are all about choices and those choices are made based on our preferences. But the great thing about preferences is that we can change them or adapt to have a better life.

This week I had the opportunity to take a group of people through an activating involving understanding yourself and others through preferences. I hadn’t facilitated this subject for a long time and talking about it again this week has made me think about the importance it has in our lives.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a tool used by many to understand your preferences and how you operate within a frame of these preferences. It is an excellent tool that helps people understand their preferences and how these affect they way the live, work and interact with others. There are no right or wrong types and it allows you to take a look at yourself and understand how much these influence your life and those around you.

But what is a preference? Often people get confused when you do this activity, as we all like to be seen in a certain way. In other words, we adapt or change our preference just to please someone, survive in our jobs or get by in our day-to-day lives. But when you do Myers Briggs the only way to find out what your preferences are is by being true to yourself, what I call true to your Myers Briggs type. And these preferences explored in MBTI are very different to each an every one of us but often we share commonalities with others.

Let me give you an example of what a preference is. Take your arms and fold them, as if you are waiting for the bus to come. Go ahead; do it. What arm do you have on top? The right or the left? Now try to fold your arms again but this time put the other arm on top… I bet if you are doing this right now you are struggling! Have you every worn your watch on the other hand? If you have it, go ahead and swap it and you will feel how heavy it is! It hasn’t suddenly become heavier, it is just simply that you are not used to wear it on that side and it feels awkward. If you leave it long enough you will soon forget it is there, until someone asks you the time! Because you will look at your preferred hand.

These preferences become our habits, the way we like to do things. And the moment something does not fit our frame of work, our preference, it throws us off. As I was walking the participants through some of the explanations on the differences between each preference, some of them became more and more confused. “I like both” some times people say when doing this exercise. And they are quite right to say so; in many instances people have not clear preferences for certain things. You can go all your life liking both tea and coffee equally, with no clear preference for either of them.

So why is this so important and why should you care about your preferences? Self-awareness of your preferences is a gateway to your success both in your private as well as your professional life. Take your work for instance, your preferences, they way you operate; these have a massive impact in how much you really enjoy what you do. You tend to find jobs and professions that match they way you like to live your life, and when you don’t, you have to adapt to get the job done. This does not mean you can’t work in any job, of course you can, but your preferences will determine how easy or hard performing your job will be. If you are someone who prefers talking things through before you action them, you need to work in an environment that allows you to interact with people so you are able to share your ideas. If on the other hand you prefer to think things though by yourself before you talk to anyone else, you defiantly need to be in a job where individuality is an integral part of the work environment.

But the good news is that you can always learn! Yes the great thing about this theory is that we can all drink tea and coffee (unless you have a particular allergy!) we just need to get used to the taste, and when there is nothing else, you learn to like it!

Tolerance plays a great part here too. If you live with someone whose presences seem to be opposite to yours, if you really want to stay around, you need to adapt, you may need to move away from your preferred comfort zone and join the other person. This takes a great deal of effort and sacrifice but brings high levels of satisfaction and harmony with those around us. It is a game of give and take and we all expect that if we need to change to maintain harmony in our relationships, others we also need to be encouraged from time to time to do the same!

For me talking about it this week has reminded me how important it is to be tolerant of other people’s preferences and make an effort with those around us, both at work and at home, to ensure we bring a balance to the way we live our lives.

Take a moment to explore how you deal with this, what is your reaction when you are asked to do something you are not comfortable with? When you have to do an activity you would never chose? Or how about when you have imposed on others how you like to do things? Life is about choices, and those choices are determined by our preferences, sometimes you will have to make choices that may not fit around your frame of mind, but will help you flourish that relationship which is so important to your success and a happy life.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Week Forty-seven – Parallel Worlds!

Somewhere, somehow, someone is doing exactly the same thing as you are right now!

St Petersburg!
Without getting too much into science fiction, have you ever stop and think that as you were scratching your nose right now, somewhere, somehow, someone would have also been scratching his or her nose? Or as you take a bite of your cheese and ham sandwich someone has also just taken a bite of an exactly the same sandwich? With millions of people in this world it is very likely that we live parallel lives with other people in other places, doing the same activities we do at the same time. I would like to think that there is someone out there who is your double, have you ever heard of that? Someone out there, looks, acts and even speaks the same as you… that is freaky!

I was visiting the very cold and crowded city of Moscow this week where I had the opportunity to take the metro to go to the train station to catch my train to St Petersburg. For those of you who know or have heard about the underground in Moscow, their main line called the ring line (because is a loop that surrounds central Moscow) is not just an ordinary metro line with ordinary underground stations. This main line was built as an incredible work of art. The stations themselves are like museums with marble walls and impressive chandeliers, mosaic works of art and monumental archways. Before getting into the underground I was warn about the hundreds of commuters we would encounter because of the rush hour and to stay close to ensure I didn’t get lost.

But as we went down the escalator and the artistic architecture of the station appeared I forgot all about the rush hour and the large commuter crowds around me. I couldn’t stop looking around and out of the window as we pass each station towards our destination. I had to be doubly alert, to make sure I didn’t get lost and to appreciate the settings in the very short window of time I had in each station.

We finally arrived at the train station, which was equally impressive, and I boarded the train for my four-hour journey to another impressive and beautiful city, St Petersburg. When I arrived at my destination, the fully packed train of business commuters descended upon the platform and marched towards the main station to exit to the streets. And at this moment, as I marched along the platform with my black coat and grey cap, dragging my suitcase, shoulder to shoulder with my fellow Russian travelling companions, I notice music playing over the speakers. I don’t know what the tune was but it was a very patriotic Russian hymn that somehow transported me to think what it would have been like 30 years ago during the Soviet era as people commuted from one city to the next. There was something about being surrounded by Russians, with the beautifully patriotic hymn paying in the background and me looking like an Armenian (someone had said I did with my coat and cap earlier on) arriving in a minus 10 degrees St. Petersburg that got me that Dejavou feeling without being Dejavou!

I began to reflected on this experience on my way to the hotel and I couldn’t help thinking that, although extraordinary and fascinating for me, this journey was just a routine to all those around me. The commuters in Moscow did not once raise their eyes to look at the impressive stations; they’ve probably seen them thousands of times! No one paid attention to the beautiful patriotic hymn that plays to welcome you to St Petersburg (I found out later on that they always play it when a train arrives); they probably finding it annoying or have been come deaf to it as they’ve heard it thousands of times! And my driver kept his eyes on the road (good thing, trust me) whilst I marbled at the astonishing building of this amazing city: he’s probably seen these building thousands of times and is not marbled by them any more!

How many times have you travelled around your city during your day-to-day commuting looking at the buildings and surroundings saying “what an amazing place!”?; probably never. I used to work by the sea and after awhile the novelty of seeing the see wears out! We are all the same as the commuters in Moscow who no longer look at their surroundings, no matter how beautiful or impressive they are. We are all the same as the train passengers arriving at St Petersburg when you arrive at your railway station. Somehow, somewhere someone is doing the same thing, as you are this very same moment, whether it is on the Circle line in London or the Ring Line in Moscow, and we all have stopped looking at our surroundings, but somehow, somewhere someone is taking the same train at the same time as you!

We all live in our own little world but that world is somehow connected to the universe around us. When you cry, there are probably thousands of people also crying at the same time. When you laugh with joy, others are also bursting out with laughter, the same time as you. When it hurts, someone somewhere has also been hurt.

We are not alone and we are all connected. This crazy and wild thought could help you get through things in life; when you sit there feeling angry at someone or sad at the lose of someone special, take comfort knowing someone else is also going though these emotions. When you are proud of someone or your own achievements, feel exhilarated that others have also achieved extraordinary things, just like you, making this world a little bit better. And when you fall in love with someone take a moment to know that at the same time, somewhere, somehow someone has also fallen in love!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Week Forty-six – Organised Chaos!

A few years ago, looking at the mess on my desk someone asked “how can you find anything in that mess?” and I told them it’s not a mess it’s my organised chaos!

Years later after making this comment I find myself writing about Organised Chaos and what it really means. I think we can all fool ourselves believing that statement but organisation comes from having a system that works and not a system that looks organised but it’s chaotic.

Let me tell you what got me thinking about it this week. I was travelling in Turkey visiting several cities within the country. The Turkish culture and its people have always fascinated me and I remember the first time I visited Turkey how much it reminded me of home. And by home I mean my birth home Mexico. I always tell people that Turks and Mexicans are somehow related in the way we live our lives. Spending time in Istanbul always brings back memories of the busy and exciting buzz Mexico City has. And whenever I leave Turkey to go back to the UK it also reminds me of why I never went back to Mexico! The comfort of knowing I can leave what seems a very chaotic city makes me enjoy it more than if I lived there. I can’t judge how chaotic Mexico City is nowadays as I haven’t been there for years but I am sure they have become more organised, just like the Turks, constantly look for way to improve the quality of life of people in these over populated cities.

But in a way, even thought these cities constantly look for improvements on their everyday systems, there always seems to be chaos all around you. A good example of this is at Istanbul International Airport. If you’ve never been through the famous Ataturk International Airport, this is one of the busiest hubs in the eastern part of Europe. There is no time when this airport is not busy with thousands of people arriving, transferring and leaving to hundreds of destinations. I don’t think I have ever been in a plane that arrives or leaves Istanbul empty. To alleviate the large numbers of people boarding and ensure planes take off on time, the airport has devised a simple but effective queuing system to board the aircraft by row numbers. This is no a unique idea and you may be familiar with it. Many airports attempt to do this by calling people to board by row numbers through the loud speakers. This, as I am sure you will also know, never works because people don’t listen. To avoid this the airport in Istanbul has set up barriers with queuing by row numbers! Simple! This means you get into your line based on your seat number and they board people accordingly, from the back of the airplane to the front, keeping everyone moving so you can board quicker and leave on time to your destination.

Now, you would think this system should work and help speed up the boarding process right? Wrong! It doesn’t work! And in my eyes it becomes what I call “Organised Chaos”. Yes they have the lines clearly marked with who should stand where for boarding and yes they let passengers into the plane from the back to the front rows to avoid congestion in the airplane’s aisles. But when you actually get on the plane there are people blocking the aisle, people sitting in the front rows trying to fit their suitcase and slowing everyone down! How do this happen I hear you ask? Simple – if you don’t have the barriers and make an announcement instead, people don’t listen. If you have the barriers and don’t make announcements, people don’t read! So you end up with people queuing on the last rows that are in the front rows and so the organised system is out of the window and it become chaos – an organised chaos!

This is a very simple example of why when someone tells you this is my organised messed it can’t really work. I am not judging peoples systems, I think everyone is entitled to work how they best fits them, but what I am saying is that throughout they years I have learn that organisation can and will help you be better at what you do. Think about it, how many times have you been in a situation where you thought you were organised and then something went wrong? This is probably because your system, like the boarding system at Istanbul, although it may seem organised still has flaws and needs perfecting. I have been trying to find the best way to keep myself organised for years and I still feel I have a long way to go. Checklists are a good example of this.

Do you keep a checklist? Or several checklists! You may even have a checklist to check your checklists! Do you like paper or electronic? I keep on switching back and forth between these two. And if your checklist is neat and organised how does it help you to get everything done? Some people are very successful at keeping well organised checklist but aren’t always successful at delivering what is on the checklist! Just like the queuing system, you have to not just implement it but make sure it gets done!

I don’t think we will ever be perfect at organising ourselves. Even countries like Germany and the UK still have their “Organised Chaos”. But what we can do is to continue to strive for this perfection. I know for myself, I continue to look for the ultimate checklist that will help me be organised, and who knows, I may never find it. But I encourage you all to look for ways to always improve and find your best-organised chaos! Trust me, no one has an organised mess that is 100% effective and even though it may seem to works at one point or another you will have to move away form your organised chaos and fix that mess!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Week Forty-five - How #mobile are you?

Technology is all around us, but have we become too addicted that we just can’t put it down?

Often when we think about technology we think of a computer or some sort of device we have bought to make our lives easier. And you are right to think this; we live in a world where we are all constantly connected. But is this connectivity and mobility good for us? I have recently experienced that information mobility is great but can also be hazardous and endanger our lives!

I have previously spoken about the new Gen Y who needs to constantly stay in touch and advances in technology have facilitated this. But if you look around its not just young people who are hooked onto a smart phone or a tablet, it’s everyone! We all like to stay constantly in touch with the world around us.

But when did the need to stay connected to information and virtual social networking begin? I still remember the days when having a touch screen device was “all the rave” and we used it mostly to play games. But interestingly it wasn’t that long ago and in the last 5 years we have seen smart phones grow from chunky plastic objects where you played games to multi-colour extra large devices that do everything for you. Every company wants us to snug their mobile or table in our hands. And it is this “snuggling” in our hands, which becomes an issue.

What do we use a smart phone for? Hardly anyone actually makes calls any more (we tend to talk to people through tweeter, i-messege, Facebook or whatsap) If you look over people’s shoulder you will see them staring at their Facebook page, news streams channels, a book, chat apps, pictures, films or TV programs! All these communication channels have been made accessible through 3G signal and free Wi-Fi everywhere! I was amazed when I realised that down deep in the bowels of the London underground you can now access all your needed social networking through free Wi-Fi provided and sponsored by Virgin Media!

So what is the issue here? I was particularly drawn to the dangers of mobile technology during my visit to London this week as I rushed through the crowds to get to my destination in time. I try to push my way through people and it struck me how many of them walk with their eyes firmly fixed to their mobile device and didn’t look where they were going. I had to avoid several in coming humans who where not looking where they were going. At one point I was almost in a collision with a man who was so engrossed in his social networking he was slowing me down. Have you heard of road rage? Well this was pavement rage! He became angry to the fact that I was trying to pass and I interrupted his virtual social networking. Who was right, the “walked and read” man or I? Well I guess this is an argument for another time.

This incident was followed by a lady who nearly got run over by a bus as she attempted to cross the street looking down at her phone! She wasn’t listening to music; I guess this was lucky; otherwise I’m not sure she would be tweeting anymore! And it didn’t stop there, there was an accident in the underground, a man had fallen onto the tracks and I couldn’t help but thinking if perhaps he was also looking down at his mobile device while standing extremely closed to the edge of the platform...

I am all for new technology and what brings to our lives but I do believe we have to examine the way we use it. Being constantly connected has brought many great benefits as well as easier ways to stay in touch. I love the fact that through this new technology you are able to reach anyone anywhere in the world 24 hours a day. If you need something form someone, you are able to get to the person and connect. However, there is a time and place for everything and we must control how we communicate with each other.

We all know that texting or looking at your phone while driving its illegal and can cause accidents, as it distracts you and take your attention away from the road. The same should apply when we are on the streets. Texting, Virtual Social Networking or readying and watching anything in your screen while walking is as dangerous as doing it on a car; it causes accidents and can take people’s lives. I think this is getting out of hand and one day we will wake up to the fact that people are walking like Zombies through the streets. This becomes more evident in London or any big city due to the larger crowds of people as you can witness this at a bigger scale. But anywhere you are you can see how technology is taking over our lives, specially at times where we should not be connected and paying attention to where we are going.

You wouldn’t see someone walking and readying a book or a newspaper, so why can’t we put down our screens for those few moments in our lives and focus on the road ahead? Are you reading this blog while you are walking? If so STOP! Look where you are going!

Trust me when I tell you that we already spend far too much time looking at our mobile devices every day; take a break; walk and enjoy the view around you. You will learn a lot when you look at where you are going and who knows, things around you may even inspire you! If you are still single and looking for love, then definitely put your device down, you may miss coming in contact with those eyes across the road and never connect with your soul mate! And if this is not enough motivation, how about just simply do it to stay a live….

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Week Forty-four – How far can you push? #shortscreenplaychallange

Keep on pushing until it bends, if it’s strong enough it won’t break! #shortscreenplaychallange

This week I was reminded of the importance of pushing yourself to the limit and how challenging it can be. But as well as being challenging it is very rewarding as often when you push hard enough the results are amazing.

I entered a competition about two months ago, which calls all scriptwriters to take up what they call the The Short screenplay Challenge. It’s an organisation formed to inspire scriptwriters all over the world to push themselves and test their abilities by writing a screenplay in 48 hours with only three principles in mind – Gen, location and an abject. I’m always up for a challenge and especially if it’s a writing one (I’m only eight weeks away from completing my year long writing challenge!) so I joined not knowing what to expect.

The first round took place on Friday 24th October from Midnight till Sunday 26th October midnight New York time. During this time we were given the three elements from which we had to write a screenplay no longer than 5 pages long! Yes you are reading correct, a film script no longer than 5 pages long. You may be saying to your self “come on Sergio, that’s not that bad, 5 pages, it’s got to be easy!” but you would be mistaken. When you are given a Gen, in my case it was A GHOST STORY, set in a BARN, using a PADLOCK, then 5 pages isn’t long enough! To think of a good ghostly story taking place in a barn and using a padlock not as the centre of the story but featuring in it, is no easy task! Particularly as there are 700 writers from all over the world having a go! You need to think of something original, griping, exiting and fabulous to grab the judges’ attention to get enough points to help you get to the next round!

I got the e-mail on Saturday morning, which had been sent 5 am my time, and I had technically until 4.59 am Monday morning (that’s taking into account the time difference with New York) although realistically I had until about midnight Sunday in order to prepare the script and make sure I could submit it on the internet in time and get some sleep! I lay in bed just staring at my phone thinking how the heck am I going to come up with something in that short time!

Some time ago I wrote a blog on where people get their inspiration, which looked at different ways in which we can all get inspired to do things. Sometimes it is just looking out of the window, or in a train, in conversation or even in the toilet, but at some point somewhere, somehow we get inspired and the idea comes to our heads. It is hard to say where a sudden flash of inspiration may come from, and some times it may not come at all. In the writing world is what is known as “writer’s block” when it doesn’t matter where you look or where you are, the muse seems to have vanished. Well, on Saturday morning for about two hours I had that “writer’s block” kind of panic thinking, “I will not be able to do this, there is just not enough time!” But here is where the “inspiration” for this blog was born as well as the inspiration to write my 5 page screenplay ghost story set in a bard with a padlock!

As I looked for things to inspire me I became tens and decided to go for a run, an activity that often helps me clear my head and relax. I often take a good run after a long day at work as it is a time for thinking being by myself and aware of everything around me. When I got back from my run that morning not only was I feeling energised and relaxed but I also had my story! “Midnight runner” was going to be the title of my screenplay and I had already worked out the plot, characters and how I was going to use the Barn and Padlock! If you are wondering how I got the idea, the running part is obvious but no I did not run into a barn or a padlock but I did see an old house during the run that suddenly gave me that ghostly feeling and for some reason I thought “I wouldn’t want to come across that house if I was running in the middle of the night!” and there you have it, the idea was born.

Now the challenge was to get back home, take a shower, do all the weekend activities we had planned, including a trip to the countryside with family and friends and write the story in only 5 pages in a screen format… no problem!

And by midnight Sunday I had submitted what I thought was a good screenplay!

I really enjoyed the challenge not just of having to do this over two days and cram-in everything else in between, but also having to challenge myself as a writer in such a way. When I think about this experience I think of what it would be like being a sitcom or soap opera writer when have to turn in weekly scripts and change scene at a drop of a hat. Sometimes your best work is done under pressure, when you have such a big challenge you push yourself hard enough to do something amazing. I think having time to do things sometimes may give you that “writer’s block” syndrome, that feeling that you can’t do something or can’t get inspired to achieve your goal. Or may be it’s just me, I’ve always thrived at short datelines and pushing myself hard to achieve things, I believe that if you are afraid something may brake because you push to hard you may never know how far you can push yourself to produce your finest work as you may not experience the feeling of the adrenalin rush that pushes through your body saying “go on, you can do this, keep going and you will get there”

I challenge you to challenge yourself hard, to push yourself hard until you feel it bends, but don’t worry it’s not going to break and I can guarantee it will make you stronger and better. Set yourself new challenges, and push yourself to the limit!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week Forty-three – The Generation game!

Gen Y, X, Boomer or Silence? Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s a generation’s game!

In case you are wondering what I am referring to, these are the names we have given to each of the new generations that have form since the beginning of the century.

Let me give you a brief explanation:
  • Gen Y are those born between 1980 and 2000, also know as the millennials. These are the new Generation that everyone is talking about.
  • If, like me, you were born between early 60’s and 80’s you are part of the Generation X (I quite like my generation, the X makes it sound interesting…)
  • Boomer is the term used to describe those born at the end of the war and up to the 1960’s. They are also known as the “baby boomers” a termed use because of the baby boom of that time.
  • And anyone before this are known as the silent generation, I think it is because in those days children where to be seen not to be heard!

By the way, the new generation coming through (those being born now and up to the 2000’s) have not been given an official name yet, but you may have heard of them being referred to as the Z generation or in some cases the Nano Generation (is Apple responsible for this name?) And if you’ve not heard about this then WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS!! This seems to be all we talk about nowadays!

So why am I talking about this subject on week 43 of my blog? Apart from the fact that as I said it is such a popular and hot topic in our every day life, this week I was witness to how interesting it is when you are in a room full of people from all generations, the dynamics of it and suddenly all theories around this collapse, because at the end of the day we are all the same, human beings trying to get by in life.

This week I had the privilege to be invited to the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of one of our hotels, which in hotel years, this is quite an achievement, especially in the ever changing and challenging hotel world. And one thing that caught my attention was that 25% of the employees have been there since the opening! Yes 25 years service and they were all still looking forward to the next 25!

Part of the celebrations involved a special ceremony to honor these employees and their achievements, including a slideshow of pictures from the past with 80’s haircuts and mustaches. I was invited to do a speech as part of the event and I wanted to make sure I included everyone in my words, not only those with a quarter century of service, but those who have just join us; every person in the room, whether new or long serving, young or old, was part of the success of the 25 years of impeccable customer service and a great reputation.

I remember sitting by the side of the dance floor thinking about what I would say, I needed to recognize those long serving members, no doubt about that, but what could I say that would make everyone feel part of this special day. After a few moments I realized that the only way to do this was to not make a distinction, we had already recognized the long service members, so I decided to forget about who had what and how old or young you were. So I got up and asked everyone to join me by standing up and putting their hands together in a clap. I asked them to repeat this action time and time again, faster and faster until the room was erupting with clapping. Having energized them I asked the to take a seat and pointed out that the clapping hadn’t been for me but for each other, as we were here to celebrate everyone who for the last 25 years had contributed every day to the success of the hotel, whether for 25 years or two months.

So there you had it, Gen Y, X, Boomers and I think some Silent were celebrating each other in a shared success, all barriers where down and they were all one team.  I think this gave every generation the opportunity to recognize each other and ok, there were no Gen Ys within the 25 years service (that would have been illegal!) but they knew that they had contributed to the success of the hotel and more importantly had something to look forward to.

This “hot topic” of generations often points out how different each generation is. For example, the new workforce coming through are the Gen Y’s who have access too much more technology and social networking than previous generations and we are told we need to be ready for them. Every generation has its own distinguished trademarks and trends, there is no doubt about that, but I do think that no matter when you were born there is one thing that we all have in common, and that is our basic needs and instincts. Let me explain what I mean by this.

There is a model call the Maslow Hierarchy of needs, which I think is a good way to try to understand that there are no major differences in generations. In his model Maslow says that in order to be on top of the hierarchy of our needs, which is know as Self Actualization, you need to first fulfill all other needs. At the bottom of the hierarchy is our basic survival instincts, what he describes as the physiological needs; food, water, sleep – whether you are a Boomer, X or Y, we all need to satisfy these needs before we move up the hierarchy. Not surprisingly the next level is security: shelter, job and family security, health – I don’t know about you but I don’t think it matters how old you are, we all need a bit of security! Next is the much-needed love/belonging! And we all need a bit of love at some point in our lives, there is no generation out that has never appreciated the feeling of belonging, being wanted, friendship and family. So far, in the first three levels we have yet to see anything that would be different in each generation. There is one more level between belonging and self-actualization and this is known as esteem! and what is esteem according to Maslow? He describes it as Self Esteem, confidence, achievement, respect for others and respect by others. Studies about Gen Y talk about this being a generation that looks for belonging, being recognized and wanting to achieve more, they want development! I don’t think they want anything that the other generations have been looking for.

In Maslow’s theory Self-actualization is at the top because this is when you have actualized everything you set to do in your life. If you are boomer, you have probably achieved or is closer to this than any of the other generations but self-actualization can happen at any time and as many times as you want in your life.

  • Maslow wrote this theory in 1943 so he is defiantly from the silent generation, but somehow what he talks about in his hierarchy of needs prevails and probably will prevail for years to come because at the end of the day, no matter what generation you belong to, we are all the same, just human beings trying to survive in the same world, looking to satisfy our basic needs in order to fulfill our lives and achieve self actualization!