Freedom

I had a flashback today. I was running by the sea, when I saw two small children run ahead from their parents with the most exhilarated look on their faces. It made me reflect on the following:

When we are little we dream about freedom. We dream about running ahead by ourselves in the street or to the sea’s edge; feeling the wind on our faces without having to hold on to Mum or Dad’s hand. We are not afraid of any consequences and we want to discover everything by ourselves.

Later, when this dream becomes reality, we turn it into a nightmare. We complain about everything, blaming other people, “my past” or “what I’m like”.

Running in the street or by the sea becomes a way to burn calories, while our accelerated minds don’t allow us to enjoy the hidden pleasure of finally being ‘free’…

Sunset-at-Sea

Which interpretation works best?

As a historian, I have always been fascinated by different interpretations of the past. In my ‘wild’ postmodern phase I came to argue that facts did not exist.

Of course, every fact is subject to an interpretation. How the “fact” is assimilated or communicated, is subjective. All history and life itself then become a story. The question is, which story do we want to tell?

Last Thursday I went to an incredible workshop, “El Color de Cristal” (The Colour of Crystal) by Alberto Ortega. In a series of entertaining dynamics we saw how one event can be interpreted in an entirely different way, depending on who is experiencing it.

The inevitable question was asked. If everything is subject to interpretation, how do I know what “the truth” is?

Whatever works for you. If a positive interpretation of you, your life, and those around you brings you health, happiness and joy (to name a few possibilities), would it be worth reviewing your concept of “truth?”

This is not to suggest ignoring things that don’t work in you, in your life…or in your business. Sometimes the best way to discover what you want is by recognizing everything that you don’t –being brutally honest with yourself.

If you can do this without beating yourself up; with a conviction that this moment is as good as any to be the person you want to be – or to do what you want to do… you are suddenly free to choose.

In the same way that history, apart from fulfilling people’s curiosity, is a magnificent tool.  A tool to see who we, human beings, want to be as a species… from this moment on…

No Man’s Land

A week without my passport. I was waiting for the renewed one to come through the post. I couldn’t fly back to Spain until it arrived. I had a strange sense of being suspended between two countries and two lives.

Here in the UK I don’t have a flat or a car. I spend time with family, I have business meetings, and I meet friends. I admire the gorgeous countryside in this mostly mild autumn, and I spend double the money I would in Spain.

This doesn’t feel like home any more and yet, I have more vivid memories than ever over here. Every multi-colored autumn tree and bright green field jolts something within me. Every crunchy leaf I step on transports me back to a time when I had little legs and learnt about the world.

Blog_Autumn-Image (1)

My aim is to see all this through fresh eyes, and create a new place for myself here. Not a place based on memories that haunt me – good and bad – but a place that is part of my now and my future. When I return to Spain, I would like to do the same. Life is based on change, and clinging on to sentimental creations can be dangerous.

It’s time to actually live in and accept the moment – wherever that may be –  and be the person I want to be…. A hundred times more cheerful than the person in my passport photo!  :P

If not now, when?

Not the last Incubus album, with which I was disappointed…Every day I encourage people to follow their passion and do what they most love. Yet hypocritically, I’d stopped writing in this blog. My excuse was that I’m starting a business, Work English, so I’d soon be busy concocting blog entries about that.

I don’t know why I was so adamant in separating the two. In a brainstorming session with my friend Juan, Founder of Quantum Universidad, we jumped on the concept of being very honest and public to the world about our adventures. Juan’s going the whole way, and if you speak Spanish, I really encourage you to read his blog. He’s setting up a University Online with original and highly useful MOOC courses: http://vejeta.com/un-nuevo-comienzo/.

In this line of thought, I’d like to briefly share some of my current thoughts and discoveries.

Well, it’s obvious from the situation in Spain that people are crying out for jobs. This means two things. Firstly and understandably, many people feel desperate. This clouds their judgment and the bottom line is this: Employers do not want to hire desperate people. If they do, it’s to exploit them in some low-paid and unpleasant job, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Living abroad is already hard and expensive enough as it is.

Secondly, a lot of professional talent in Spain is hidden. It is hidden in fear to lose a job that does not motivate them in Spain (because jobs are gold dust), in lack of experience in selection processes abroad, and more often than not, in lack of practice of their spoken English…

This is a real barrier that people think will be removed “once they get there”. However, employers tend to prefer East European candidates to Spaniards because of their language level. It is those few Spanish people who take the time and effort to practice their English and interview techniques; who develop their personal brand, and write a really decent CV BEFORE they go or before they apply for a job, that make it. The rest remain hidden.

On that note, I’ll go back to working. I believe in brief insights, even if they’re only useful to me. See you soon.

Saying No

In general, English people are very polite and find it hard to be direct and say no. Even when they are thinking “definitely not”! There’s a lot of “Sounds good; I’ll let you know. Thanks for inviting me…”

To make things “worse”, in Spain there’s a big culture of life “en la calle” (outside). If someone asks you to go for a “Cervezita” (little beer) with them, it’s normal to think “why not?”, grab your things and go.

The weather’s usually so gorgeous here, it seems a shame to be inside. There’s also a culture of “me apunto!” (I’ll be there) – when you’re not even sure you can make it or not, just to be in the spirit of “up for everything”.…

Thus, between my very English upbringing and my last few years in Spain, I’ve recently realized that I find it REALLY hard to say no.

What happens when we say “yes”, when really we mean “no”? Apart from it damaging our self-esteem, it means we often take on too many commitments, and we have to cancel on people; to let them down . This also affects our relationships with other people, as they stop trusting us 100%.

In the process we get frustrated because we don’t end up doing what we originally wanted.  We have the feeling that the circumstances manage us rather than the other way round; that we’re not responsible for what happens to us.

This doesn’t mean going to the other extreme and having no flexibility and sponataneity; The key is to be connected to what you want in every moment.

Therefore, if I fancy the cervezita  (or the plan, the project etc) then it’s “YESS” and on my way with a smile. Yet, when I don’t want to, I’m learning to simply say “no, thanks”, without feeling I have to justify why.

3 ways to make 2013 better than 2012

What I’m about to write is nothing new. It is all based on information I’ve read, been taught and experienced about emotional intelligence. I’m in the process of  helping Spanish people to look for jobs in the UK. Often what many lack is a decisiveness, a belief in themselves and the “get up and go” attitude that employees crave.  A company is an organization of people. The way those people see themselves, relate to each other, and to the company’s vision, is vital.  So, here are three tips I would give everyone to make this year better, unrelated to the economic climate:

1)   Think in positive. Focus on what you DO want and not what you don’t want. When we spend our time endlessly complaining about what we don’t like and don’t want, it’s usually what we get.  For example, instead of thinking “I hope I’m not unemployed for too long”, think “I REALLY want to get that job. I’ll get it, and if I don’t I’ll get a similar one soon”.

2)   Be creative. There is not one but infinite ways to get to where you want to be. Don’t get obsessed by the how and focus on the what. Take risks and have fun trying out different things. Focus on your eventual success rather than being weighed down by fear of failure. For example, if I want to become a clown, I could go to clown school, teach myself and practice at home, become an online clown, or just go out on the street dressed up as a clown and see what happens…The important thing is that I’d enjoy the process!

3)   Be decisive. Figure out what it is you really want and go for it. Do whatever you have to do to find out what that is, but don’t lose another second. It could be in any or in ALL areas of your life. Again, don’t worry abou the how, just focus on the what. Once you are moving towards those things you will feel an incredible motivation and inner strength that overcomes your lower moments. “But I don’t know what I want!!!” Start writing, go away somewhere, read, take an emotional intelligence course, close your eyes, breath, look deep within you… We all have dreams.

These tips are more powerful than they seem; have a go at applying them. You may be extremely surprised at what you find.

Is it really that bad in Spain?

A Frequently Asked Question throughout my trip to England. Yes, I would reply, it  really is. I’ve lived it, I can see it all around me, and the figures don’t lie (they just manipulate). Yet, the doom, gloom and apathy doesn’t help.  The UK is out of recession, but it was grey for nearly the entire time I was there. I’ve returned to a beautiful, light, and sunny Spain, but to a pessimistic atmosphere for the year ahead. Right now the country needs active risk-takers, people willing to invest their time if not their money in new projects; people open to moving around and travelling. There’s no place to live like Andalucía but other regions and countries have a lot to offer too – economically, culturally, socially and even politically. Later, young people can bring their experience, skills and maybe money back to Spain where, deep down, most of them really want to live. It all sounds so simple right? I know that it’s not. These are complex, despairing and even tragic times for Spanish people.  Especially for older people who somehow have to provide for their families.  I would only ask that people are patient, positive and proactive – that we club together to think up new and imaginative solutions, and that we can still smile and be thankful for the sunny Spanish winter mornings (y las tapas, la gente, las risas etc etc…).

manana_soleado_jerez

 

Perseverance

That warm and exciting feeling when Team GB wins a medal. That gasp of admiration as a person or team exceeds all expectations. That sigh of wonder as we appreciate the extreme difficulty of what’s occurred before our eyes…

Nevertheless, us ‘mortals’ cannot quite grasp exactly what it has taken the person or team to get there.

To be the best of the best requires not only talent, support and hard work, but an incredible psychological strength known as perseverance.

Perseverance is what I’ve lacked recently in keeping this blog up to date.

Perseverance is what many Spanish people lack when they say that learning English will always be their “asignatura pendiente” (pending subject).

Perseverance is what we all lack when we give up something we’ve begun.

So what is it really? Perseverance is like a blind faith in yourself and your desired outcome. It’s an optimistic vision, a risky investment, and above all a time-consuming habit.

Often, we may not see the results we crave for a long, long time.  We must then, turn our hard work into a routine; part of our daily lives.

“But I’m so busy!!” you cry.

This a question of priorities. What is really important to you? What are you truly prepared to sacrifice other things for?

There are only 24 hours in a day, and only so many things you can take on at once. You must choose.

Some of these are life choices, such as becoming an athlete. Usually parents make these decisions for their child, but at some point the child must choose.

Without clear priorities, perseverance is doomed. Without perseverance our goals and objectives are condemned.

I suggest that our priorities should be based on the things we love; the things that ultimately bring us pleasure, even if they occasionally bring us pain.

Do you really think that the Olympic competitors just like what they do? Or do you think it’s their absolute passion?

I believe that we should all find our passion and persevere. Not necessarily for the medals, money and fame, but for the simple, mere pleasure of doing it.

Spanish Hooligans

They exist! I found them. Not at a football match, club or on a dark street but… at a Beatles tribute gig! And they weren’t rowdy youths, canis (chavs), or scary motorbike men but… two well-dressed, overweight men in their sixties…

They weren’t drinking beer but gin tonic after gin tonic (not caring about the ‘brand’ of gin and tonic that’s de moda now of course…).

Instead of chanting football songs they knew EVERY WORD to every single Beatles song played, and they threateningly demanded more.

Their equivalent to “Come the F on!” was “¡VAMOS QUE NOS VAMOS!” – cried out between every tune…

Instead of throwing beer cans, one of them climbed onto the stage to hug the base player – a super fan, until… they found out that the group didn’t know how to play ‘Michelle’ (Rubber Soul album).

At this point all hell broke loose. The two men began chanting “MICHELLE, MICHELLE” at the tops of their voices and proceeded to sing the WHOLE song, while the poor group (who by the way, are amazing) carried on their show.

Y para colmo, their ‘likeness’ to English hooligans ‘relieving themselves’ in bottles of water, was to just NOT GO to the toilet the WHOLE BLIMIN’ night (excuse my inner hooligan) from the sound check (8.30pm) to the end of the show (1:30am)….

Lucky Eleanor Rigby. 

The Universal Language II: Smiley Face Icons

What have we become, when the tone of our written communication can be changed by a smiley, winkey or tongue-hanging-out face? Have we become less “cultured”, as we rely on these universally understood but horribly overused “delights” to communicate successfully?

It used to just be teachers that could leave you a smiley face to say “bien hecho”.  Now it’s all :) :D. ;) and :P on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp etc.

Your choice of smiley face can actually completely change your perceived intention….

;)  can mean: “I’m cool”, “I’m patronizing you”, “I know everything”, “Any time baby”, “Great!” “THAT’s it”, “I’m really a very friendly person”…. Whatever, it usually comes off as slightly condescending.

:) is more, “I’m nice”, “I’m genuine”, “I’m innocent”, “I’m at peace with myself”, “I’m pleased about that”…

:D slips into “I’m fun”, “I’m crAzy”, “I’m enthusiastic”, “YEAH!” “I’m sweet”, “I’m REALLY OH SO pleased about that”…

:P. “hehehe, you’re so silly”,  “I’m slightly coy/flirty”, “I’’m teasing you” etc.

XD “HILARIOUS”, “I’m silly and proud!” :/ “I’m a little worried/confused” :O “I’m SHOCKED”

O_O “WHAAAAT?”

The list goes on… We could add LOL (you are rarely laughing out loud when you write it) and hehehe/jejeje vs hahaha/jajaja (looks like a fake laugh if ever I saw one)….

And don’t even get me started on English kisses: xXxxXxxXxx – Would you give someone that many kisses in person?! I guess it depends ;). Oops, there goes the wink… I’m as guilty as the rest :(. Aaah! I’m addicted! I can’t express myself without them!  XD

Why are words not enough anymore? Shakespeare and Cervantes would be devastated.