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!