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!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Week Forty-two – Yesterday’s news! #BringBackOurGirls

Missing Schoolgirls #BringBackOurGirls

Yesterday’s news is today’s tomorrow’s news and no one cares about it!

Back in May the whole world was astound by the kidnapping of 200 school girls in Nigeria and celebrities around the world participated in a campaigned entitled #BringBackOurGirls ncluding the US President’s wife Michelle Obama. For weeks all major news TV channels and Newspapers all over the world broadcasted constantly about the missing girls; awareness was being spread through social media for the whole world to do something about it, a kind of a global peer pressure for the government in Nigeria to react and take action. I too was gripped by this and week Twenty of my blog was dedicated to this subject doing my own slogan #realmenrespectwomen. I wanted to take part in this by sharing my views on the these men who had forgotten that those women they oppressed and hated so much had given them life and where in this planet because of them.

Spandau Ballet in their way back to stardom!
Why I am telling you all this and why have I entitled this week’s blog “Yesterday’s news”? To give you more background on the inspiration for this week’s topic let me also share with you a Television program I saw which indirectly links to the missing schoolgirls story. Back in the 80’s there was a band called Spandau Ballet which many of you will not remember the name unless you grew up in the UK during this era; but if I hummed their most recognised tune “True” you would know them instantly (click on this link to listen and youwill say “oh yea… I know this song!” I don’t know how to hum in a writtenblog!!!) Spandau Ballet literally shaped the way we dressed and acted in the 80’s and were the pioneers of the “New Romantic” era of the day. Like many other bands they lost their way, did not keep up to date with changes (techno took over the 90’s) and very rapidly they went from being one of the most successful groups of the 80’s to a bunch of unknown musicians; they became “yesterday’s news”. As I watched Television this week I came across a “special program” on Spandau Ballet where they were performing their hits and being interviewed about their lives, careers and raise and fall from stardom. Just before the end of the program I said to my wife “I’d bet you they have a new album coming out, that’s the only reason they are doing this “special” program” and sure enough at the end the presenter says “what’s the future for Spandau Ballet?” they are releasing a new single and going on tour in 2015!

I like Spandau Ballet and I am exited about their new single but the question is why did they fade away and did not produce anything for 25 years? They could have continued back then entertaining their fans all these years (they never officially split up unlike other bands). They just literally became yesterday’s news, and no one cared. This is common in any artistic profession, the moment you become yesterday’s news, no one cares and it is the end of your career.

So what does Spandau Ballet have to do with the missing schoolgirls in Nigeria? This week there was also another program, which I happen to stumble upon that feature this subject again. The question being raised was the same question asked 5 months ago “what happened to the 200 missing schoolgirls?” except this time there was no huge campaigned behind it backed by celebrities and politicians and it was in an obscure TV Channel at a non-primed time… in other words nobody cared. But what the presenter said actually send shivers down my spine; “5 months on and the 200 schoolgirls are still missing, and no one has done anything about it” this made me realised that anything in this world can be “Yesterday’s News” even if it is as important and impactful to the world as this humanitarian barbarism these men in Nigeria had done. Because people stopped to care and new things came up, they faded away, became yesterdays news and they are still missing, we assume and hope, still alive. And this goes on and on all of the time, the moment it becomes less sensational for the news programs and papers to sell, it gets push back giving room to more important and sensational news of the day, which of course will sell more and increase ratings. It’s a cynical way to look at journalism but it is a reality of the media, which nowadays is also driven by social media channels. Anything becomes very quickly yesterday’s news. Even your updates and posts in Facebook work on this principle; the more likes and shares you get the further up the newsfeed your post gets pushed, it doesn’t matter whether it is an interesting post or not, popularity beats context every time and if nobody gives you a “Like” you become “yesterday’s news”

This is even relevant in our every day life; think about it. When you join a company you are the “new kid on the block” and everyone is looking at you, you become the centre of attention. Unless you keep on producing and delivering up to expectations, people soon forget about you and move on. When you don’t keep up with trends, adapt or change with times, when you are no longer relevant, when you have passed your peak, when you are no longer useful, when you just simply do no fit in; you become “yesterday’s news” and fade away.

We have to make every effort to always remain relevant, to always be useful, to ensure people keep us in the forefront of their minds, that they don’t just give up on us because something else more important has popped up and even though we were the centre of attention, we no longer feature high on the agenda.

We should make every effort to care about things, it is shocking that #BringBackOurGirls is now featured on an obscure network in a non-prime time; we should not rest until the schoolgirls are back home and these men punished, if we cared so much back then, why are they still missing and why Mrs Obama and all other celebrities don’t continue to keep this subject as today’s news?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Week Forty-one – Mind over Matter

In an arm wrestling match who would win, your mind or your body? It depends on what your mind tells your body!

 I promise that after this week I will not to talk about fitness and running for a while but I have to share with you all my experience running my first half marathon. And I want to share this with you not to inspire you to run a marathon yourselves, but to understand how powerful your mind can be. I have spoken about this subject before in previous blogs and I have shared some amazing insights on this fascinating subject, but this week I will share with you first hand experience of my mind doing a half marathon and not me!

The 12 weeks training I endured leading up to the marathon was more of a metal training than a physical one. I was preparing myself mentally to believe I can run 21 kilometres and get there in one piece. This training required me to build my distance gradually every Saturday achieving 2k more every week and finally reaching the 21k two weeks before the actual event. When I reached this I was happy, not too exhausted and mentally prepared, or so I thought! The last two weeks leading to the day were gentle to avoid injury and be physically ready for run.

Two days before the big day I went for the last 6k run and at the end I felt my knee was not right. It was slightly soar and I began to worry. I have a knee injury, which comes on and off but now, two day before judgement day it was playing up. I don’t need to tell you that all day Saturday it hurt like hell and I was convinced I was not going to be able to make the finishing line. However, I was determined to do this so I told myself I would go, start off and if I didn’t make it to the end at least I didn’t give up that easily. Next morning I woke up, got ready and guess what? My knee felt better! My mind had won over matter!

I got there early and at the starting line I began to warm up and physic myself up to the challenge. Remember only two weeks before I had done this, with no problems at all, so I told myself I would be ok.

All runners gathered, we set off into our journey of 21 kilometres to Bournemouth Pier. I had a rough idea which way we would go and I just followed the crowd of people as we ran through the streets of Bournemouth. I was so exited to be there, in the middle of an ocean of athletes, that suddenly I heard my running app indicating we had reached the first kilometre, and now there were only 20 left to go! I was so distracted I hadn’t realised we had already been running that long. If I kept that way I would cruse this little challenge, no problem!

But soon after reality hit me! I became aware of my breathing and my heart rate as I checked it on my watch; it was high at 160, higher than normal for the first 5k considering my pace was not that fast. During the training my heart rate would have been 150 max at this stage. I also became aware of my knee; it was bothering me and began to worry me. I began to see the “elite” runners pass me by on the other side of the track; this really put me off as they looked as fresh as a cucumber! I was only a quarter of the way and my mind playing games!

I was running for charity and people began to shout my name; this lifted my sprits and I pressed on, I didn’t want to let anyone down specially myself! This helped me and I was back on track, I was not going to give up and I would make it to the end even if my knee would collapse! For the next 5k I increased my speed, I remained focused and pressed on.

As my app announced I was half way in my mind I began the countdown. During the training every time I got pass the half waypoint it became easier and always got there in good shape, so I was on a winning streak!

At kilometre 15 something unexpected happen that would test me even further on the power of my mind. At this point the way the race was laid you could see Bournemouth Pier, the finishing point of the marathon. That meant we would go back again to account for the 6k left. Cruelly but I am sure not done on purpose, we had to pass by the finishing line; this played a massive trick on my mind. I felt really tired and all I wanted to do was to stop, jump the fence and cross the line! My legs were hurting and my heart rate was almost 170, I was ready to give up, my knee was killing me! Was it matter winning over mind? Actually it was my mind telling my body to give up; I had seen the end and all I wanted to do was to finish and my body was shutting down. We passed a drink and energy gel station and I grabbed a bottle of water and a gel and almost stopped.  I didn’t, I drank and threw the bottle on the side (I always wanted to do that!!! Seen it on the telly!) and held onto my energy gel. I looked up and someone had collapsed in front of me! Was that going to be me soon? I looked at the energy gel and I said to myself “this thing must work, but I’ll take it 3k before the finishing line” Why did I do that? I knew that if I drank it then, 2k down the road I would be thinking “I’m running out of energy” and who knows if I’d would have made it. Remember last week’s blog? G’s & T’s? I need a goal, a target; something to focus on and 3k was the halfway point from here; that would be my reward.

One, two and three kilometres went by and when my app said “3 kilometres to go” I opened my energy gel and sucked it up, threw the package onto the side and raised my eyes, seeing Bournemouth pier in the distance, calling me!

I don’t know if those energy things work, never had one before, but all I know is that as ran the last 3k of my half marathon I never felt so good. I was back on track, I was ready to do this and do it in good time. Women and older runners where taking me over, I didn’t care, at this point I had one thing on my mind; I was close to the finishing line! And your knee Sergio I hear you say? What knee? I felt like Usain Bolt, fit as a fiddle and nothing was going to stop me from getting there!

I was so in the zone when I crossed the finishing line that I didn’t hear or see my family cheer me. I did hear the commentator shout my name, which made me lift my arms and cross the finishing line like I was number one! My mind had conquered over matter!

I was excused and my body ached, I struggled during the run and my pace, although good, was slower than during my training. It really shows that the pressure of being there and seeing people fail really has an influence on your performance on the day. The experience of running this half marathon really taught me how powerful our mind is and what it can do to our bodies. It’s so powerful that it can make you give up and it makes your body physically tired, it can crush your spirits and bring you down like a led balloon. Everything that was happening around me was influencing my mind, which in turn was telling my body to react accordingly. External factors affect the way we think, what we believe and how we think we can cope; our body, our sprit will just do what they are told. Mind over matter is the art of being able to block all those external influences that affect you, and turn it around focusing on what you want and not what is happening around you.

Never give up, ever! Your mind is stronger than your body; your spirit will never crush if your mind holds it high.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Week Forty! – G’s & T’s


Life is all about G’s & T’s… and I’m not talking about Gin and Tonic! But Goals and Targets!!!

As I began to think about what to write this week, several thoughts came into my head. I’ve had a busy last few days in Istanbul doing what we call in my company Business Planning. I was cupped up in a room without natural light for 10 hours every day reviewing Business Plans that contain a whole lot of numbers! So I didn’t get a chance to see much more than that and had limited ideas or inspiration this week. I though I could write about Istanbul where I was, it is a great and busy city. I also lost my wallet on the last night, which was a pain in the backside and a horrible feeling, so I could tell you about it. I even thought writing about food as on the last night I attended a great event/competition where participants were asked to prepare a meal with ingredients they were given 4 hours before. Actually I had plenty of subjects to write about but none of them really grabbed me.

I was struggling and began to think why I write my blog and what I am trying to achieve with it. I know some of you enjoy the subjects that you are able to relate to and identify with. Writing about Istanbul or the event I attended would be great if this was a travel or food blog; my blog is much more than that. But what could I write about? All I done this week was talk to people about their Business Plans, eat a lot and run! I had also met a colleague who like me, had lost several kilos in his quest to become fit which reminded me on the importance of staying focused.

On my way back to London my flight was delayed for over an hour due to fog and we were all trapped in the plane on the runway trying to kill time. I looked at my phone and began to open randomly various apps looking for something to amuse myself with. I looked at my running up and it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve been training intensely for 12 weeks for my half marathon this Sunday. Moreover I have achieved over 500 kilometres along the way. “What an achievement” I thought as I scrolled down the weeks reviewing each run and seeing how much I had achieved vs. the target. In most runs I had done one or two kilometres more than what the app had recommended.

The delayed flight continued and searching for something else interesting to do I took out my passport and began looking through it and the many stamps and visas I have form all my travels. It’s amazing what you can learn when you are board! I read the small printing in the passport’s first two pages only to realise that a passport becomes invalid if you run out of pages, which mine is about to! “Good job too” I thought as I should really change it, the picture on it is of “my fat brother”! I obtained this passport when I began to travel in 2007 and I was somewhat larger and unfit!

In my last attempt to pass by the last few minutes before taking off I started to look at my notes from the week. In there I made a remark to prepared a workshop on SMART Goals and Targets. Part of the Business Planning process is to write goals and targets to help you achieve your numbers. During the meetings this week I had come to realise I need to help people to write SMARTer Goals and Targets to help them achieve their Business Plans; it’s all about the G’s & T’s.

And as I looked at the note finally the pilot announced we were ready to take off. “Thank God for that” I thought and put my phone away sitting back and buckling up, ready to take off to the skies! If you’ve been on a plane you will know that take-off and landing is the time when most people sit doing nothing, usually either with their eyes closed or looking blankly into space with your mouth half open! I am no exception and as I did, three things flashed in front of me; running over 500k and my first half marathon, my “fat brother” passport photo and loosing 20k, and how important is to have SMART Goals and Targets to achieve your numbers. Slowly these three things began to intertwine in front of me, eventually becoming one and as we reached 30,000 feet and the seatbelt sign went off with a ping I knew what I had to write about this week… and it was not a Travellers Guide to Istanbul!

Everything is possible in this life, and nothing is unreachable, but to get there, to achieve it, you need to have a goal, you need to have a target. There has to be a focus, something that will guide you and remind you where you want to get to. Nothing is ever that easy or simple and achievements always come with pain and hard work, but the rewards are immense. Loosing weight is hard, it requires discipline and a strong will but it can be done. What’s harder though it’s maintaining it, and that’s why your goals and targets never end. When I had lost 10 kilos I could have stopped there but I wanted to feel and look better. I knew I had to exercise. A new goal was born and started to run managing to lose further 10 kilos. I could have stopped there too but I knew I needed to carry on; I needed a new goal/target, something to focus on. Entering a half marathon was going to teach me mental and self-discipline; I was already fit. It’s like writing a weekly blog; it has been a personal challenge to see if I can sustain writing every week, I already know I have a passion for writing.

40 hours in a room without light was the biggest lesson for me this week as I came to realise that the numbers on those Business Plans will only work when they have Goals and Targets behind them. I now realise that everything we do in life has to have Goals and Targets to help us stay focused and achieve what we want. Take time this week as you reflect on this subject and write down some of your goals and targets, what do you want to achieve, where do you want to go; and believe me you will get there!