Connecting the dots

Did you ever thought about how did you got here? What took you from nearly born until the moment where you are today?

Did you ever though about how many people crossed your way? How many people you meet closely and how many people you will never find out about their names?

Did you ever though about how many actions you did (on purpose) and how many others you avoid doing (without even noticing)? How many people did you help with your words or doings? How many times you were saved without noticing?

The list can be long depending on your imagination. Now imagine the following exercise.

In one page you list; names of people who impact your life (even if they are not aware of that), moments that you believe made a difference or triggered something important inside yourself and finally lists as many actions you were conscious of doing and that you know for sure played a key role to bring you all the way from where your life started to where you are today.   

On another page (the bigger the better) draw one dot on the top and write down, Here today, and on the bottom of the page draw another dot and write, Born here.

Your exercise is to place as many dots using the information on the list you have previously identified. Try to place them following some kind of chronological order and observe the connections, what lead to what.

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Every-time you find a big connection, imagine three or more sequences of incredible things all initiated in the same dot (person, action or moment) you should circle it in a different color…and smile or shout, just like when you play bingo.

This week I did something similar exercise in one of my classes, more precisely at Lviv Business School in Ukraine. Within the silence created for students to enjoy the process I end up staring at the immense white board with the two little dots and inevitably I did the exercise myself. This is what I can see from here and want to share with you today.

If I was already convinced that in life whatever plans we might have, they are mainly great starting points that need to be sucked in into the perfect chaos that gives balance to our life.

Now, I guess I have no other choice, I probably surrender to the universal principle of serendipity.   

The previous weeks of my life have been quite challenging with an abnormal number of dots of all kinds and shapes that hard to connect. Some of this events were pretty painful (in my body) and hard to make any sense out of them (in my mind), at least at first sight.

Let me share some of the dots I have faced recently to reinforce my point.

Monday previous week. Just a couple of days before traveling to Ukraine, I wrap up our local holiday playing football among friends and family, that´s what Portuguese families do whenever there is a World or European Cup. Making a long story short I end up in the emergency room along with 4 stitches on my right foot and a very bad mood. Remember that next time you should play with shoes on.

How could this be happening to me? I could see already myself limping from airport to airport in the coming two weeks making funny faces every time I needed to stand to deliver a class or even worst, wrap my leg in plastic bags to manage to take a shower without getting the foot wet.

Tuesday previous week. The day before my departure I started felling the taste of loosing my autonomy. To get a simple haircut I had to ask my wife to drive me to the nearest village. Because logistics are never easy, we end up having to take our youngest son along with the crippled (me), and of course complaining most of the way in silence to myself.

In one second, maybe two, everything changed in our life. One car coming up the hill (we were going in the opposite direction) lost control and end up crossing to our lane, giving us no other chance then wait and wait until we heard that horrible noise of metal and plastics, airbags blowing up all around and froze that millisecond of total silence after the crash.

In a blink of the eye, all the previous dots of my life seemed to be jamming into one focal point, a simple Tuesday of June in a secondary road that I could not even remember the name.

The previous complains, pains and frustrations of my life vanished in the same second, I just cannot tell you if the one prior or after the accident, adrenaline can make wonders.

In a sequence of long minutes until the first ambulances reach our location, me and my wife managed to understand that our little boy was fine, despite the screaming and heavy crying after the crash, he proved to be a tough cookie, let me tell you.

Me and my wife, as the minutes (long minutes) passed, started felling the consequences of all the power unleashed in our bodies, seat belts save and seat belts leave marks on you.

Slowly I understood I was not able to breathe (not a good feeling for us, humans), I stop feeling the extremities of my fingers and the whole scenery seemed to be dancing around myself, not good I thought to myself.

The next thing I remember is to be immobilized inside the ambulance with all those mechanical noises around you, heart rate, oxygen and someone talking on the radio explaining to the hospital that we were on the way, not good I thought to myself.

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Those dots in front of me were totally unexpected, undesired, almost unfair due to the circumstances.

Three hours I spent laying in that stretcher, unable to move a hair. There was only one thing I could do, decide the quality of my thoughts, which I did, and welcoming one of the most valuable lessons in my whole life.

Flexibility, Positiveness and Perspective would become from that day onwards an important part of life wisdom of my existence or if you prefer, important dots in my personal story.

Being in the emergency room for the second time in just a couple of days, made me understand (really) that you should not worry too much, because it does not (really) help you.

I understood that if you are flexible, whatever is the outcome (even a very bad one) you can always take it forward from there, whatever life gives you is starting point, even if does not give you much room to progress.

If things look pretty dark around you it is probably because it is dark, so no need for more negativity, understand the situation where you are and realistically start sending optimistic beaming flashes into the future, most likely you will start feeling better (it is also called hope in some dictionaries).

Finally, keep the perspective of what you want to do and what you want to achieve in the medium and long run. Perspective works as a rope in our life and if by any reason you feel trapped in a bad situation, grab the “rope” and pull yourself out into your future, you will be surprise how good this works. 

Wednesday previous week. With an incredible amount of pain spreading from toes to neck and a strong detour on my ribs and chest, here I was, at noon inside the airplane on my way to Ukraine.

We have a proverb in Portugal that stats, If it happened twice, it will happen again.

Being a seasoned frequent flyer I have seen more than enough not to be worried when up above the clouds, except for one thing, I never heard a captain picking up the microphone to apologize and inform that we have a big problem, yes you heard well.

If there was a camera pointed at my face in that moment I guess the picture would have been, wait for it, legendary.

But you know what? I did pass the test of those sequence of events (finally).

I understood very clearly that I was not a pilot and could not do anything about the current situation (unexpected thunderstorms and partial closure of Munich airport with a more than likely return to Lisbon). I was (only) the pilot of my own thoughts, so I decided to remain flexible, optimistic and with long-term perspective in my mind.

The remaining of the trip was either very pleasant or unique and un-repeatable. After the rough landing in Munich everything else was upwards, even for my portfolio of pains (improving ever since).

The following weeks in my life proved that the greatest things that happen, come with different levels of sacrifices but above all they happen in equal proportions to our capacity to embrace what life throws at us (throwing is actually the best word I can think of).

Let me share some of the highlights (or dots if your prefer) :

Kyivstar Business Hub Event – This event which I had the pleasure to participate and share a short presentation about changing the world by creating smarter and better ventures, continue to resonate in my heart.

It is exciting to see a country, society and leading companies “fighting” for a better future.

It was an honor to share the floor with such great people, thank you Yulia Poroshenko, Andrew Chakhoyan, Denis Dovgopoliy, Sören Grabowski and Vitaliy Soultan.

The energy in the room made the forget all my “little” limitations and I felt free to share my experience and end up receiving so much from the audience (they gave me back few years of life I have lost some days before)…something good is cooking in Ukraine.

If you want, you can watch some videos of the event here:

VDNG – Towards the end of the week I had a great working session in one of the most iconic architectural sites from former soviet union times in Kiev, it was very energizing to see that the road is long but the first steps are being taken by a group of brave and cool people in different cities in Ukraine.

I saw it a couple of years ago in Lviv, I saw it this year in Kharkiv and now it is becoming really interesting in Kiev in projects like http://vdngtech.com/ .

Thank you for the invitation; Yulia Poroshenko, Alena Kalibaba, Max Yakover, Maxim Bakhmatov, Paul Petrenko, Michael Shneider, Kyrylo Kryvolap. World, stay tuned, something good is cooking in Ukraine.

 

One of the good things about innovation is the capacity to change the concept of change. People are taking the wheel to drive innovation and entrepreneurship at a high level in different sectors and the results will make a dent in the Universe.

The power of ideas – The week in Kiev, finished in a very international and unexpected way. My good friend Andriy Fedoriv, called me to meet and asked to bring my passport, funny I thought.

The next thing, I am participating on an international picnic and even manage to enter the World Guinness book of Records for Ukraine (23 different national foods in the same picnic).

What strike me most, was the beauty and simplicity of the idea , something I have noticed many creative companies have lost (or forgot) in the past years. In the end of the day it is not about the amount of money you put in but the amount of talent and creativity to highlight meaning and (again) connect the dots between people and brands.

Let me tell you, the different options we had to eat were outstanding, the plov from Central Asia and the Australian cookies got the first prize (at least for my stomach).   

A great work from Yaroslava Gres and her PR agency that you can check for yourself in this nice video presentation:

Corporate Training – The week after already in beautiful Lviv, I had the opportunity to deliver a training for a pretty impressive group of senior executives from on the biggest factories in Western Ukraine. What impressed me most was the dedication I was able to sense in each participant which on average have been working for the same company for 15 years, something rare in the current days.

The topic was about management innovation (one of my favorites) and I could see innovative sparks flying trough the room as we progress.

It is obvious to me that the more I “touch” the corporate world the easier is to see the desire from the smartest professionals to break away from the old Industrial management shackles and create truly friendly spaces for human creativity and high trust organizations. Do we really have another option to succeed as human species ?    

Open Course on uncertainty – The second part of the week was focused on uncertainty (we really need to get better at dealing with it), this time with an open course and various participants from different backgrounds.

If I could choose a date to talk about this topic it would have been difficult to pick a better one. We went to bed pretty sure the UK was part of European union and woke up the next day with a Brexit reality. Uncertainty it is the only guarantee certainty in our lives and we need to master it.

Maybe next October or November you will join me Kiev or Lviv to one of my open courses.  

Alpha Jazz in Lviv – The end of the week gave me a beautiful pearl. My good friends from Lviv Business School offer me a ticket to attend the Jazz festival. Out of two very intense weeks I did not even manage to check the artist performing on that day…and without believing in my eyes, I saw Pat Metheny walking on stage, a long time dream I had in my musical life…Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  Whoever is distributing the dots up there.

Class on the School of Public Management – Just before wrapping up the week still time for a short presentation to share some experiences and learnings with the School of Public Management which is a brave (and very smart) initiative of my friend Pavlo Sheremeta to help Ukraine move forward – check them –  http://spm.ucu.edu.ua/en/

We had a good time talking about the public administration reform that Portugal has been going trough int he last decade (also known as Simplex program) and about the more recent innovation strategic plan to revamp our startup and new economy scene, a great work that Portuguese should be more proud about it :) 

Graduation at Lvbs – And finally the cherry on top of a 4-year-old cake:) Sometimes we run the agenda, but many times the agenda runs our life. Because of the second I usually never get to see the graduation of my students, but this year I had this incredible honor.

Graduation day its a memorable one, a day to remember and to keep (always) in a special place in our hearts. There is nothing that makes me more proud as a teacher to see those smiles ready to conquer the world. Everything makes sense and the world is in balance. It is the pinnacle of millions of little efforts. 

One last word for the Catholic University in Ukraine and more precisely to the Lviv Business School (Lvbs), a word of respect and appreciation to all the team that makes the daily miracles of consistency seem natural and more and more engraved into the DNA of the organization.

A special word for Sophia Opatska, the Lvbs School Dean embodies perfectly the new Ukraine that is raising firmly from the ashes of oppression opening windows of possibilities to the new generations.

The work of Sophia and her marvelous team turned education into an “Island” of hope propelled by a magnet of Love, making us believe that despite all the challenges the good people will prevail. Thank you and please…carry on!

If you have some curiosity to read what I have shared at graduation, you can read it here –  Graduation speech – LvBS 2016    

It is time to close the post and the computer, the captain said we are approaching Lisboa and we will be landing soon.  It was a long journey but thanks God I can already see my house from the window seat.  

So many dots to connect, so many things to be grateful. I want to keep in my heart as real as possible the incredible lessons learned, and maybe you should do the same.

Learn to embrace everything in life (accidents included),  be flexible, be positive and keep the perspective why are we here:)

Wish you all an amazing Summer!