Saturday, February 22, 2014

Week Eight – Adaptability is the name of the game!

If you are one of those people who likes to plan your day or week and stick to your plan… this blog will make you uncomfortable!

The ever chaining London! a view from my plane this week!
 This week I was reminded of the importance of being able to adapt and change in order to survive in this fast evolving world. And although most of us like to have a plan, plans are made to then change and work on a new strategy! This change or adaptability is by all means not easy and requires a great deal of work and effort, as generally you have to change everything related to this change, and as with most plans, everything is connected so if you have to change something it beings a chain reaction of things that need to be looked at and move, cancelled or re-schedule! Most of all we don’t like changes to our plans because they cause stress and bring the “un-known” hence why most people would rather stick to what they know.

But I guess that if you want to stay ahead of the game and live your life a little easier, you have to accept that change is inevitable and you have to adapt or risk loosing control. And what prompted me to write this week’s blog on this subject were the simulations changes that were happening in my life within the space of a few hours.

This is how it all began; my workweek was all planned and I was to be in two different countries having to travel back and forth through Heathrow on Wednesday. During my first visit suddenly I found out I had to stay longer and need to change my plans. At first this seemed easy enough, and I went ahead and started the “chain reaction” to this change! By having to stay longer in my first destination I needed to find someone to replace me at the next place I was visiting, and before I could change my flights I need to confirm this (there was also the possibility I may need to somehow squeeze it all in!). Unfortunately time was of the essence and I was relaying on getting someone to substitute me in order to change the flights. I think you can see where I’m going with this. Then there was also the matter of the second flight, to cancel it would mean to loose the money so it would be best to re-schedule the flight for a later visit, this meant to get agreement from the people at the destination I was going as well as looking at who was to replace me and at the same time having to change the current flights (two different airlines) before the re-booking window was over! Now if reading this has not stressed you out yet, I’m not sure what else would! At the same time, back at home, we have a room we rent and my wife had call me saying that the agency was sending a student on that day! She was at work, I was away and he was arriving at 5pm! We needed to print some documents for the lodger, which I had in my computer, and I had to find them, send to her so she could print them. When I finally located them, I sent and guess what? She could not print them! So now I’m trying to do a “Remote Desk Help Support” role to print these documents, change my flights, find a substitute and get agreement for a future visit dates! Not forgetting that I am still working and trying to remember if I forgot anything with this change! Actually I did forget, I had a conference call, which I was meant to take in my new destination and I almost forgot to attend! It’s amazing how a really well planned week all of the sudden is up side down and looks nothing like what you thought it would be! But like everything in life, and referring back to week six where we talked about laughing, that’s what you have to do, laugh at the face of change and adapt, deal with it and move on!

When you reflect on this, although not overly complicated, the events of this week were a reminder of how difficult any type of change is. Of course change is going to happen, it’s like the morning sun, you know it will come (even if it is behind think clouds like in England! It’s there) the challenge we face is that we don’t know when it will hit us and we need to be ready for it.

If any of you have attended any seminars or classes on change management would be familiar with this subject, what its important to remember is that no matter how much we know about change, its never easy. What helps us is not to sit comfortably and think that change won’t happen, especially for those who don’t like change. If you don’t prepare and accept it, you will end up like the analogy of the boiled frog; If you put a frog in water and gradually heat it up, the frog is so comfortable that it does not realise that the temperature is changing, and will not react, it will not jump out and when it knows the heat is too uncomfortable, it’s too late to get out and eventually it will get cooked! The frog knew something was up but it did not react to it. This is gradual change and as things happened the frog did not deal with it and that was it! Nice frog legs for dinner. (I want to assure you that no animal was hurt sharing this analogy J)

This week’s experience was perhaps like being dropped in boiling water rather than heating it up; I had to react to it. But there are many changes happening in our lives every day, which we must identify and adapt quickly. A good example of this is technology, this is of course the biggest constant change in our lives and those who don’t like it tend to avoid it and sit like the frog, thinking it will not get to boiling point and cook us! But believe me when I tell you that it will. There are many other examples, all of which tells us that adaptability is the name of the game, it is what will keep us afloat and see us through life, making sure we don’t get cooked!

Think of some of the changes you have gone through? Think of situations you where dropped into the boiling water, how did you react? Are you one of those people who likes to have it all planed and changes bother you? Or are you, like me, a person who thrives with change, even though it can be stressful but enjoy the challenge of having to adapt to what life has thrown my way.

Either way, you have to deal with it! Remember change is inevitable and it will come, it will be facing you every day, from having to change your plans because someone let you down to adapting to new ways of living in this constant and ever chaining world.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week Seven – what drives you to get out of bed every day?

This week I found myself standing in the middle of Heathrow Airport at 3 am with no one around me and I thought, “I must love my job!”

A lonely Heathrow at 3 am!

I had to leave my house very early this week (12.15 am) to catch a flight at 6 am. I’ve had to do this a few times in the past, travel to and from the destinations I visit in with my work but it had never dawned on me how early it is until this morning when somehow I seemed to be the only person at Heathrow Airport! Most of the time when you do this crazy o’clock flights in the early hours of the morning there are others around you and it doesn’t feel as bad but when you realized you are the only one then it becomes obvious that I really love what I do as I have never mind traveling at these very unsociable times.

And a colleague of mine remarked this week that I do have more energy than the average person, which I am not sure I do, but his comment was as a result of us talking about my experience at the airport and the fact that I do not mind at all doing it. However, I’d like to attribute this more to the fact that I love what I do rather than just energy, and when you love what you do then you do it with passion and 110% commitment. I reflected on this, as I was also finishing one of my daily runs this week at almost midnight and I updated my status on my run with the phrase “it’s easier to say NO but harder to say YES”

So this week’s blog I want to focus on what drive us to do things.  What do we feel passionate about and what makes us say yes!

Think about this for a moment. Take a typical day, what makes you get up and go to work? Often we work to survive and support our families, I think must people do this. It is a matter of fact, in life most people go to work to earn money. And our job drives other activities around our lives. They say we spend 80% of our lives working! That is a scary thought. And if you don’t love going to work or what you do for a job, essentially you will be spending 80% of your life hating what you do!  This surely drives our attitude and outlook in life. It must have an effect on the way we behave at home, with our friends and any other activities that we do. So when someone says “I must love my job” it’s a sign that what you do drives your attitude in life.

Ok, we cannot all have our perfect jobs, the jobs we dreamed about when we were kids, but surely we can end up doing something that brings us satisfaction every day we get up and go to work. No job is perfect, and there are always ups and downs in every profession, but if we have the right attitude, if we do something worthwhile 80% of our lives, then we had a pretty good shot at having had a great time while we were here on this planet.

Because I love what I do, I also love everything that revolves around my job. So this surge of positive energy gives me the boost to do other things with passion. Long days on the job do not stop me for going to the Gym at 11 pm and do a quick run to stay fit. The stress of the job does not stop me for taking time to go out for dinner and catch up with old friends and people I know. The frustrating moments of my job do not hinder me form smiling and solider on ready to face the next challenge. And even today as I write this blog, I have been traveling for over 24 hrs (my flight got diverted back to Vienna due to high winds in the UK!) but yet I’m looking forward to seeing my family and go and have some KFC time together! (yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken!) Yes my job is not perfect but I make it perfect! I make sure that I keep a positive attitude and drive to allow me to then get on a plane and have the energy to write this blog even if I had to be divereted because of the wind!

Having said all this, you may say to your self “does this mean I am in the wrong job?” and trust me some people are, but no, I think that sometime the attitude we take to the things we do is instrumental to how we approach those things and life. I used the phrase at the beginning “I must love my job” but you can apply this to anything in your life, your relationship with someone for example. We say to someone I love you and our relationship with that person may not be perfect, no partnership ever is. But those who can claim that they have a perfect partnership, have to work hard at it and take the same positive attitude we’ve been talking about. We don’t get into a relationship without thinking this may be for life (or at least not when we are slightly more mature and we want to settle down! J) we chose a partner with the same passion and conviction we take a job! In both you commence very enthusiastically and soon you will start to find the “imperfections” of that relationship/job. But you know you love that person/job and you want to make this work. The parallels of a loved one and a job are incredibly similar in many ways and when you are successful at both you know you are fulfilling your life with passion both at home and at work. You just simply love your life!

I guess the message for me this week is simple; love what you do and do everything in your life with commitment and conviction. Nothing that is good or great is easy, if it was it would not be that great or good. It’s easier to say NO and harder to say YES. Keep that positive outlook and find that oomph that gets you out of bed every day, that oomph that gives you the energy to live your life at 100 miles per hour. It is you, the 1 person who can get that oomph in live your life and live your life at 1oomph!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Week Six – LOL! (laughing out loud)

They say the best cure for anything is laughter, and laughing gets us through all sorts of tough situations and moments in our lives.

This week I went to Israel; this is my fifth trip to this amazing country. And it is exactly a year ago I first landed in Ben Gurion Airport for my first visit. Anyone who has been to Israel will know that to get into the country can be a difficult affair especially if you have any Middle East stamps in your passport. And being the well travel person that I am, of course I had a stamp from the Middle East, and non other than Libya. There was also confusion as I have two British Passports (for this very same reason) and so they kept me at the airport for 3 hours until about 4 am when they finally decided that it would be ok to let me into the country.

Ever since then, each visit has got better and the time I spend at the immigration booth is shorter, and on this last visit I actually went through in less than 1 minute! And I want to attribute this to good humour and laughter! As I approached the immigration officer she looked at my passport and asked me a couple of routine questions; what are you doing here? How long for? Is this your first time in Israel? And what is your name… yes they do ask you that! The fifth question she looked at me and said “do you have any friends in Israel?” to which I replied without bating an eyelid “All Israelis are my friends!”  Now this answer could go two ways… she can think that’s not funny and send me to the naughty room like last time and be there for 3 hours, or think it’s funny and laugh. By the way I did a similar joke some time ago to an airport security guard as I went through the metal detector and I biped, he said as he set to search me “do you have anything sharp on you?” to which I replied with a straight face “nothing, just my sense of humour!” – He didn’t laugh and gave me a good searching which I even thought had reach places no one else had! Luckily for me the immigration officer at Tel Aviv found my remark funny and with a smile on her face she handed over my passport and said “welcome to Israel” and I was through, in what I believe is the shortest time yet!

I think that humour and laughter is a very powerful thing and we don’t do it enough! We take ourselves way to seriously and this makes out lives harder. This experience made me observe people this week, I wanted to find out how we behave in public and how many of us laugh or at least smile when we are travelling or interacting with others. I often find myself as I read my faceBook and see funny postings LOL! Yes laughing out loud! And I am sure some people think I am mad, sitting there by myself LOL!

Often in airports you see people rushing to get to their plane, so it is hard to interact with others, but I saw how people react to a smile when you give them one, even if they are in a rush. Every person I interacted with, whether it was the checking in person at the counter, the man behind the boarding pass scanner, the lady at the executive lounge or the person who checks your boarding card before you get on the plane, all of them see thousands of people every day who don’t smile or interact with them and so it’s only natural they do the same! So my mission; to gave them all a smile, a greeting and tried to crack a joke with them.

“Good morning” I said with a smile to the man who was processing my bags at the security control at 3 am in the morning. His reply was not of my greeting but a serious of scripted responses he has to do with every person he comes in contact with, “any liquids, laptops, please take them out”. So I looked at him and again with a smile I said “shall I jump on the belt to be scanned?” and he looked at me as if I was mad and said “sorry?” I repeated my statement with a smile and he just looked at me and said, “have a good flight” I don’t think he meant that but it was part of his script, his job. What was interesting about this experience is that I think he is so used to not having a laugh with his customers that he didn’t know how to react to me. I think a bit of humour would make his job better and more enjoyable.

But the most interesting moment this week on my quest to make people laugh was when I was on the transfer bus from the airport to the airplane at Frankfurt, it seemed we were being dropped off miles away from the actual terminal, I am sure this was the longest bus journey of my life. We stood there, I reckon 100 people in a bus, no one taking to anyone, everyone just looking at their smart phones and trying to hold onto the rails. I looked around and a man looked at me and smiled and I thought this is my chance! So I smiled back at him and I said “this is going to be a long journey back to London on a bus, I thought we were flying!” and the magic happen, the man laugh and said “Yes, I hope they give us more than a sandwich” and then a woman standing next to us chucked and said “I wish I had reserved a seat now” and we all laugh. For a moment we had interacted and made each other feel better in an unpleasant long journey to the airplane. It then started a polite conversation, each of us telling something about each other. We got to the plane, boarded and never saw each other again. That’s ok, I was not expecting to become the best of “bus” friends, but at least we made each other laugh!

I think the world would be a better place if we all took the time to make each other smile. It is a contagious thing, smiling; try it. If you see someone and smile, most of the time they can’t help it and smile back at you. It is a normal reaction, it just happens, I urge you to try it it’s fascinating.

And you know what they say about smiling?, it take 36 muscles of your face to frown and only 18 to smile, so it is less hard work to be happy! Try to crack a joke when you can, and if you think you are not good at telling jokes, buy yourself a book! Seriously it’s not that hard, try it; there is always a gag waiting to happen. And if you can’t think of anything then just smile and make that person’s moment a pleasant one!

To close off this week’s blog I will share one of my many favourite jokes:

What do you call a Spanish man when he comes out of hospital?

(if you don’t get it, try saying Man Well… J) LOL!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Week five – Defining moments

Have you ever caught yourself in a moment where you thought, “this is it”? This is what we call “Defining Moments” in our life.

O2 Arena Young Voices Concert, spot my daughter out there!
This week the inspiration for my blog comes from one of those moments, a defining moment in my life. And it is important to talk about this in week five as many of us will find ourselves this year facing these moments, many times, changing the course of our lives.

I guess these moments can be describer in many way as the “aha” moments, and they may come to us in different ways. What it is important is to know when you have that moment, as it will play a vital role in whom we are and what course our lives will take.  But let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean.

This week I had the privilege of attending a concert at the O2 Arena in London. I have never been to this venue and it was an exiting moment for my family and I to see the monumental dome build back in 2000 to commemorate the millennium. But there was something special about this concert and a visit to this arena, which made it even more special for us. My young daughter was taking part in this year’s Young Voices concert, which has been running for 8 year, and choirs of schools around the country participate. Amongst the seven thousand school kids was my daughter, singing her heart out with her school. So this was a very exiting and proud moment for any of the seven thousand parents attending this concert. We sat on one side of the stadium and the kids on the other, and to be honest we spent the first 30 minutes trying to workout where our kids where.  Across this gigantic arena all we could see was tiny specs, all dressed in white T-shirt, singing along and making lots of very exiting noises. Some parents even had binoculars, which we shared amongst us, desperately trying to spot our very own stars! After awhile we all gave up and sat back to enjoy the concert, with the occasional glance and wave in the hope we may still be spotted by our child.

And as I sat and reflected on what was happening around me, I realised this was one of those moments, the defining moments I’ve been telling you about. And this was a defining moment for many people that night. One of them was my daughter who was out there signing at the O2 Arena in London for the first time in her life, and it dawned on me how important this was for her. She loves signing and wants to make a career out of it, and this was the moment that gave her that taste of what its like to be out there in a venue, singing her heart out. I know that she was out there amongst seven thousand other kids, but for her this was her moment, the moment she had been waiting for several weeks. A defining moment in her life that will stay with her forever and shape her future.

Another person to have a defining moment was my son who sat next to me looking at the massive arena and soaking the atmosphere of this event.  His dream is to become a basketball player and he sat there looking around and said to me “dad wouldn’t it be cool if this was a basketball arena and I was playing here?” I guess the electrifying atmosphere of the place and all those thousands of people gave him that feel of what it would be like to be playing in a massive venue. Again a moment for him where his most inner desires to be successful in what he enjoys where ignited by the moment, a defining moment in his life.

And this magical place, I am sure, sparked the most inner being desires in every person who was there. For both of my children it was defining their desires to achieve something they are both passionate about.

This got me thinking of my own desires to write and become a full time writer and as I listen to the music I looked around me imagining what it would be like to have one of my plays staged or one of my musicals produced. But more importantly it was a defining moment in my life, to know that my own child was out there singing and my son was imagining being a basketball player, it showed me how powerful and influential a moment like that can be and I will always treasure this, I know it will help them both achieve their dreams. After all remember, our dreams are our realities of tomorrow, we just need to make them so.

Sharing this experience with some friends also sparked a conversation about what our defining moments in life were and to hear their stories really brought home how true this is. Whether it is that moment when you leave home and start your own life, wake up one day to realise this is not where you want to be, or find yourself singing at the O2 Arena with seven thousand other kids, these moments help us to be who we are and why we are here.

I encourage you all to think back at those defining moments in your life, may be the day you met your soul partner and fell in love, or the day you took that train to University and never turned back, and even that moment when you know you have made a wrong decision and you may regret it for the rest of your life, those moments makes us who we are.

And the great thing about defining moments is that they just keep on coming, they never stop until the day we die. So grab those moments and treasure them forever.