Switch off? I couldn’t possibly!

I’m a little tired of articles about how to be an entrepreneur. Most of them are useful but a ‘5 Keys to X’ overdose leaves a nasty hangover. Sometimes you just need to stick your thumbs up at instinct and let it choose for you. Life’s short.

The mere idea that an entrepreneur can ‘never switch off’ puzzles me. Perhaps because I have fallen victim to this mindset over and over again. And I have seen the consequences of absolutely prioritizing work at the expense of everything else.

I’ve told myself, “Once I can afford to hire people I can delegate” – as if that were a solution! Once you have people working for you the responsibility increases. Not that this is a bad thing but… will I lie to myself all my life? “When I have a robot I’ll program it to do all my work-related things”…?

I might not even live long enough for the next “When X, I’ll Y”. Let’s face it; it’s the truth. If we don’t sort our priorities out today, we might never have them where we’d like them to be on our deathbeds.

Having just spent 10 days with my family and friends, I’ve seen what you really cannot switch off from, and it’s not business. Children.

At least when they are babies, their life entirely depends on you. Maybe that’s true for some businesses, but none of my clients will die if I reply to their email a few days later… Days that I will not get back if I lose them in front of a computer instead of playing with my nieces and nephews.

Now I’m back I feel refreshed. I will work hard, look after my clients, create and commit to visions for autumn, get feedback, and undertake a massive organization operation to be more effective.

Yet, I will also spend time with my friends, go to the beach, play and create music, write, go out… at least I hope to not let the work-obsessed (‘entrepreneurial’) side of me win. Come on instinct, let’s go!

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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.

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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!  😛

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.

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…).

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Spain a Pessimistic Nation?

This morning I did my declaración de la renta (tax return). Just as I was saying politely to the funcionario (civil servant) attending me, Perdone, tengo una cita previa a las 9.40 (Excuse me, I have an appointment at 9.40), the man turned round to greet his colleague behind him: Quillo, ¿ya te has fumado un cigarro?” (Mate, have you had your ciggy break already?). I didn’t get a, “Good morning”, a “Just a second Madam”, or even an acknowledgement…

When the man turned back to me, he gave me a number, which one of his other two compañeros (colleagues) would call out when it was my turn…

Rather than pessimistic, I would describe Spain as conformist. The Spaniards are mostly deeply fond of their country and culture, both of which are extremely charming and attractive. Spanish people know how to enjoy life, and they have the climate, geography, food and traditions to do so.

A sizeable percentage of entrepreneurial Spaniards, do enjoy taking risks. Yet, as a nation, the Spaniards are not generally risk-takers. Why would they want to put at stake what they highly appreciate, when there are few incentives to do so?

Other nationalities are more prone to leaving everything: families, friends, and loved ones for a professional opportunity. This extreme is not desirable either.

However, in Spain, up until now, the greatest aim of many has been to become a funcionario. They are on average the best paid jobs, and once you pass the long, harsh and painful exams ‘Oposiciones’ (many Spaniards have to repeat them for years…) to achieve one, it becomes “A job for life”; it is virtually impossible to get fired…

Hardworking and passionate civil servants do exist, but there are also countless funcionarios like my ‘friend’ this morning. The system does not give them incentives to do the best they can, and this affects productivity and quality in some of the main public services

Conformist, yes. Pessimistic? Not in every sense. How could a country that is so beautiful, cheerful, culturally rich and talented at sport (ignoring last night’s performance!), be pessimistic?

12 Daily Doses of Motivation

‘Motivation’ is a fashionable word at the moment. Like ‘empathy’ we use it without really thinking about what it means. There’s a gap between theory and practice. Motivation is universal but it’s also incredibly personal. What motivates you is what keeps you going, animado y con ganas – in all aspects of your life.

We can pursue motivation by manipulating our thoughts and actions. So, avoiding Maslow’s hierarchy and other studies, I would like to suggest 12 daily doses of motivation that work for me. Some of them are overlapping, and they are not in any order:

  1. Being creative – in my case, writing, singing or composing…
  2. Making a difference – Wow, what I’m doing actually matters!
  3. Making someone smile, laugh, happy, enlightened…. Subidón.
  4. Spending time with friends or family. Content feeling.
  5. Conversation with someone you admire. Admire has a multitude of meanings…
  6. Attention and recognition. We’re human.
  7. Physical activity. Energy!!!
  8. Tonterías and laughter. Endorphins to the max!
  9. Getting things done. List is ticked, objectives reached…
  10. Being entertained, inspired, learning.  Music, books, films, conversation etc
  11. Looking forward to something! Key to getting through duller moments.
  12. Doing something difficult. I DID it! I couldn’t before, or at least, I never tried..

What motivates you?

Spain’s Fleeing Talent

Yesterday we held a despedida for one of our friends. He’s off to work in Toulouse. In a group of around fifteen friends he is the fourth to leave (the others are in France and Germany). The rest are looking abroad.

They cannot find work here in Spain. Or at least, not in Andalucía. Once the others started looking en el extranjero, the interviews came flooding in.

What should Spain do about the fleeing of its young talent?

Well, try to benefit from it in the long term.

Traditionally, many people in Andalucía have not needed or had the chance to travel. This is now changing, and the youths of today are being “forced” to grab opportunities that their parents never even dreamed of.

Yet, only a small percentage of those who leave will stay away.

The quality of life – sun, good food and a strong vida familiar – attract the Spanish to return.

If and when they do, they’ll bring their experience, skills and new perspectives to the Spanish job market… and to the next generation.

An interesting suggestion is made by the magazine Emprendedores. In Ireland, incentives are being offered to those who attract investment to Ireland from abroad. What if Spain did the same?

I hope my friends will be back at some point. I also believe that many of those ‘cerebros en fuga’ can and will contribute to Spain’s recovery in the long term.

La Crisis…Time to Take Action Kids.

‘La crisis’ is trying to back us into a corner. Many people are living in fear, giving up their dreams and surrendering to a closed and somber negativity. I don’t deny that the crisis and all its threats are real. If you have a job in Spain (or anywhere) now you are lucky, especially if it’s one that truly motivates you, as is my case. Yet hiding away is not the solution. It is the hour of the entrepreneur and the SMEs (Pymes). Inaction is a crisis’ best friend. To create employment and money injections we need to create business. We need to find out what and where the international markets are, and what skills we need to fill niches quickly and easily.

If you you don’t have the right skills, go out and get them (¡fórmate!) or look for someone who already has them to join your team. Teamwork, hard work and creativity are more important than ever. In our 2.0 world, information is abundant and start-up and marketing costs are low. And in an ‘espanglis’ world we should feel particularly fortunate: English and Spanish (along with Mandarin Chinese) are the top languages in international business. So, eyes open and minds alert. It is time to turn our ‘miedos’ into productive energy, to take some risks, and to assume responsibility for our actions.