Friday, December 14, 2012

On people throwing stuff on the ground

When I walk down the streets in my city, I cannot hide my bewilderment when I see any kind of stuff you might imagine thrown on the ground. And when I say "any kind" I really mean anything. It's not just cigarettes —I have been a smoker, it's not easy to find a place to throw the stub— or a chewing gum wrapper, not the bus ticket and not even an ATM receipt.

Don't think I am too moaner, I finally got used to slalom across rubbish and I am a master at anger management. But I wonder what would you think if you happen to discover that someone "forgot" a dirty diaper in the full city center, a juice tetra-brik or even a full dog poop plastic bag forgotten on the pavement (I appreciate the dog owner to fill the bag, I only miss a last effort, come on). And what if you see people throwing rubbish straight from the window in the middle of the street? Isn't it disgusting?

This story related by an acquaintance of mine triggered this post. He was walking on the pavement and two ladies (presumably a mother with her daughter) were walking in front of him. At a certain point, the woman lost a sheet of paper, so what would the man reasonably think? Possibly that she did not realize it had slipped out of her bag. So once he collected it from the soil, he went straight to the woman.

—Sorry, I guess this is yours, you just have lost it— he said, gently offering her the paper.
—Oh, no. I don't need it, I have thrown it away, thanks anyway— she answered sarcastic.
—I see, so do you want me to throw it for you to the nearest trash-bin?— he replied.
—Well, it really doesn't matter. At least we'll keep street sweepers busy doing something— she finally answered insolent and proud of her attitude before her young daughter.

The world is full of motherfuckers. And yes, I am totally zen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to close your speech with impact

Whenever you speak in public, never forget to start with a great introduction to capture your audience from the very beginning. But also, never forget to close your speech in an unforgettable manner. Your conclusions must awake people inner feelings, you must inspire them and provide them with a practical way to introduce your lesson into their own life.

If you don't transmit values and touch people's heart, your preparation and work would seem boring and useless to them. Your conclusion must also deliver the sense that your speech is over, not just by saying "Thanks so much for your attention".

If you deliver the right value, your audience will thank you. So I want to propose you three excerpts taken from the following speeches. They have been greatly useful to me.

"Every problem you face is an opportunity for a creative solution. We each hold the key key to our innovation engine and have creativity waiting to be unleashed. It is up to you to turn the key."
—Tina Seelig video

"Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made. We are dependent on one another; and admitting this to ourselves, isn't an embrace of mediocrity and derivativeness, it's a liberation from our misconceptions, and it's an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves and to simply begin."
—Kirby Ferguson video

"There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And here is what science knows. One. Those motivators we think are natural part of the business do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. Two. Those if-then rewards destroy creativity. Three. The secret to high performance isn't rewards and punishments but that unseen intrinsic drive. The drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter. And here's the best part. We already know this. The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So if we repair this mismatch between what science knows and what business does, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivations into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous idealogy  of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, and maybe, maybe, maybe, we can change the world."
—Dan Pink video

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The real innovation funnel in companies

If you think that innovating in your company is a hard stuff, welcome! We are a bunch of people convinced that you have to pass through difficult, or better, impossible challenges to see an idea reach the production stage and possibly provide benefits. 

I heard that one idea out of a hundred good ones reach maturity stage and turns into reality, somehow. According to my experience, this is true. But it does not represent a problem, really. Start brainstorming as soon as possible, you'll need plenty of smart ideas. The winning idea is like the Highlander, there can be only one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The observer effect for creativity

I wrote about one of my favorite routines for having ideas that consists in relaxing, abandoning myself to pleasures such as eating chocolate, smoking a cigarette (for smokers, I am not anymore) or drinking a glass of wine once I am aware of the details of an issue. And that's preferably better doing it in a familiar and private space; the bathroom if you can't find any place to stay alone. That's my theory of "Bathroom Thinking."

It's quite acceptable that to solve a problem or to get inspired for something, the mind needs to take a rest and get away from the very issue. James Webb Young wrote about it already in 1939:

Drop the whole subject and forget about it. Turn the whole problem to the unconscious mind and to what stimulate your emotions.
Out of nowhere the idea will appear. It will come to you when you are least expecting it - while shaving, or bathing or most often when are half awake, in the morning. It may wake you in the middle of the night.

So if you don't feel you are doing enough to solve your problem, if you believe that empty-mindedness will delay your creative process, then you are wrong. Actually you are on the right path. 
Salvador Dalí had his own technique described in "Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship" to generate ideas (and you won't say he was a conventional artist). According to him one should sleep comfortably sitting in an armchair and holding a heavy key between the fingers. When sleep come, consciousness is released and it's when mind starts creating, mixing and transforming. In that very moment the hand would release the key that falling into a plate would wake one up, thus enabling the subject to remember those inspiring ideas. This is what he called "Slumber with a key".

So once again: to produce ideas by looking constantly at the problem is not the most effective procedure to describe the situation and to have good inspiration. This is somehow what the "Observer Effect" states. As an example of it, to measure the temperature of a liquid by introducing a thermometer into it, liquid's temperature will change due to thermometer's mass. Or a psychologist trying to study a patient, will affect the result because of his social interaction. 
These are just examples to show that it's impossible to know the nature of a phenomenon with precision by looking at it. 

I think that looking constantly at a problem alters the perception of it, inhibits ideas generation and makes difficult for creative solutions to come out. Ideas will not appear naturally unless attention is driven away from the issue. Talking about measuring temperature, if we pretend not to measure it, it won't come to us. But with creative ideas we are luckier. Ideas use to pop spontaneously in our mind, we all have experimented our "Eureka" moment. Wouldn't you call this inefficiency at problem solving caused by obsessive trouble-shooting the "observer effect for creativity"?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Basics for problem solving. Look in front of your nose

I bought a second-hand Vespa in September 2008: summer was over, temperatures were gently dropping and hot nights were just a memory. I spent the whole autumn, winter and spring driving to and fro through Madrid. When summer was back again and I was going back from work one hot day in June, after around 7 Km and almost at home, the engine switched off while I was in the middle of the street. I got scared, I pushed the Vespa to the pavement and tried everything to kick start the engine. I had no success, then I put the helmet off and started reviewing the basics.

I know almost nothing of mechanics, but at least I know that the spark plug should receive electricity, you need gasoline, and besides gasoline, the oil tank must be full. My Vespa is vintage style, then it has a two-stroke engine. Maybe not everybody knows that two-stroke engine gets fuel from two deposits, one for gasoline and the other for oil. Maybe you have noticed those old motorcycles, mopeds or even one of the first scooters expel dense smog. Gasoline mixed to oil is the reason. That's obsolete and polluting technology, but things were this way.

I could not manage to find out where the problem was but after some minutes, ready to push the vehicle back home, I tried one last attempt to start the engine and by surprise that worked! I put the helmet on and quickly drove back home. Then, the same story every single day. Almost at home, at the damned Km 7, the engine switched off, and you know the rest of the story: wait minutes and the engine could start again. I tried everything to fix the problem but without any good result. Mechanics had no idea and neither did I.
  • I had some electronic components replaced
  • I reviewed petrol tank cap had the typical hole to let air through it and avoid vacuum effect (you know, pens have that small hole for the same reason, to enable ink flow)
  • I replaced the spark plug
  • I cleaned the carburetor and its oil and air filters
  • Meanwhile, I replaced the whole engine for other reasons
The damn Vespa got stuck at Km 7. And during four years, from June to September I was condemned to switch the engine off whenever possible, for instance when waiting at traffic lights. I knew it was something related to hot temperature, but nobody could imagine how, having replaced almost everything of the original Vespa.
This was the routine until few weeks ago. From one day to another, my beloved Vespa started behaving fine and even with torrid climate I could drive home without any further problem. What had happened? I tried thinking of what I could have done, but nothing unusual, except refilling gasoline tank and ..Eureka! I had replaced the usual brand of oil, one of the cheapest for an expensive one!

The oil I had used to refill my Vespa until that day was cheap and low quality and when the moment to refill the tank arrived, it was temporarily out of stock at the shop. Then I was obliged to go for the expensive brand. The solution in front of my nose during four long years, but nobody could have imagined that when in Madrid it is so hot, you need quality and performing oil to have your engine survive.
This experience suggests me to make sure of the following when troubleshooting a problem. 
  1. Split the problem into components (plugs, filters, gasoline, light bulb, oil..)
  2. Find out components you have been interacting with recently (oil, wrong oil was my mistake)
  3. Play with the component (that is: clean it, replace it or whatever comes to your mind)
Before studying complex and expensive solutions to your problem, look in front of your nose. Habits hide things efficiently and insidiously.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to fold a pocket-handkerchief

If you happen to be like me, a convinced necktie hater, you probably have thought of some alternatives to be elegant and feel free at the same time. I understand that traditions, rituals and ceremonies require some standards to be followed, and I am not against who wear that beautiful silk necktie. At least you can express your taste by choosing the color and the pattern for the best match. But I really cannot cope with that suffocating feeling of oppression around my neck.

If I am allowed to choose, I would choose a pocket-handkerchief. That's why I took some pictures to show you how to fold it the standard way. Enjoy it!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Quality versus quantity, the eternal struggle

Few days ago at work I attended to an employee meeting. This kind of meeting is useful to communicate to the whole department last news on everything concerning our little world, such as new contracts, new employees, organizational changes and so on.

Besides this typical agenda, we were presented the results elaborated by some external auditors on our way of working, the state of our product, our organization and all kind of stuff meant to help us improve continuously. There were just some slides highlighting action points for us to improve our competitiveness.

Some of those results were known to many people in the department, some others suggested to improve certain inefficiencies among project management and between departments as well. I agreed on some of the points showed by that auditing. But I could not avoid hiding my disappointment when I read that after all, the product we are working on "was not that complex, being its size not so big". As this is the case of a software application, it traduces into few lines of software code. I guess the "not so big" factor must be quantified against the number of problems the software has, or the time spent on maintenance, or maybe the time to market to have new features integrated. I don't know what parameters were taken into account to assert this blasphemy.

This is just a camera
I think this judgement is quite unfair. Now it seems to me so naive to judge a product by a numeric quantifier establishing the size according to certain attributes. When talking of intellectual creations (every human creation, possibly), only dumb minds can see the final result and judge. What about creativity? And what about decision making behind it? Research and development? Architectural deployment, innovation and other invisible but not yet irrelevant processes?


Short formula, simple concept, but a whole world of competence and efforts hidden behind.
My dear auditors, go have a coffe next time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Employee's power. How to obtain a salary raise

This story was told me some years ago by my cousin. He works in Milan for a company producing aluminium and surrogates. The thing is that they use a complex distributed software application to administrate productions, stock, sales and so on. They also have advanced management software that control the very production process, that is: fusion of metals, compounds purification, filtering and other technical operations on aluminium.

The fact is that everything is controlled and managed by machines. Without software management, strict synchronization between processes would not be possible, and as everyone knows, machines fail. The story is about this huge software and his main responsible, The Engineer.

The story tells that once upon a time this big piece of software broke down and left the whole company with no service at all during some hours. That meant: stop the production, switch machines off for safety reasons and try to fix the whole thing back as soon as possible. Kind of when telephonic network is out of order and you cannot even use your mobile phone, that same sense of anxiety.

So, everyone got at work rapidly to bring the machines back to life, The Engineer was there in the first line to understand what had happened and assistants there too. And when everything was back to the normal rhythm and probably a lot of money had been lost, the management called The Engineer and all his technicians to a meeting.

My cousin was there in the room, so he could tell me this funny story. The manager of the production department started screaming, red-faced and really altered after machines failure, and started accusing everyone. But above all, he reproached The Engineer for his lack of prevision of what had happened.


The show went on some minutes, and The Engineer, facing the whole management staff on the other side of the desk, remained silent. He had spoken not a single word since the show had started. The management team was sitting and he was standing. My cousin reported it seemed like a jury deciding what would have been the future of The Engineer. And The Manager went on screaming at The Engineer in front of his team, and more people had got closer to watch the scene and to understand.


The Engineer, who had remained silent the whole time, was standing firmly and waiting for his turn to speak. At last, he just opened his mouth and said.

The Engineer: "I quit"
The Manager: "WHAT???"
The Engineer: "You have heard it. I quit. Tell me where I have to sign. I'll quit right now, I'm leaving the company."

The Manager after some embarrassing seconds of silence, continued: "Wait a second you cannot quit"
The Engineer: "Yes, of course I can. I'll quit right now. I don't need to communicate you anything else"
The Manager, conscious of the vital importance of The Engineer and of the difficulty to substitute him with anybody else, slowed down: "Ok wait, let's stay calm and relaxed, let's see what can we do about it".

Maybe not everybody in that company knows the end of the story, but my cousin knows that not only his friend The Engineer remained in the company in the position of expert of the IT system, but moreover he received a considerable salary raise. And I'm sure that since that moment, people respect him a little bit more.
If you want to obtain a salary increase, firstly make sure your boss, your colleagues or whoever respect you and your job.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Energy, sentiment and conscience: three keys to success

Today, during my weekly yoga training session I focused on the master's words during the heating phase; then my mind started wandering. At the beginning of the session, we are used to lay down on a mat, keep the eyes closed and listen to relaxing music. This happens in a warm room lightened by some dim lamps.

The master started the lesson by suggesting some full yogic breathes. After emptying the lungs, the yoga breath consists of a deep abdominal breath followed by thoracic breath (pushing air to the chest). Then, always in the same breath, the air fill the upper part of the lungs almost to the clavicles. While doing these yogic breathes, he suggested to concentrate, accordingly the air softly moved from down the stomach up to the clavicles, to these three chakras.

  1. The chakra of power, situated few centimetres below the navel. This is where energy comes from and the point where to concentrate attention when looking for relax, calmness and energy through deep breathes.
  2. The chakra of sentiment, situated in the middle of the chest and the centre from which feelings emanate. Emotions like love, joy, happiness and generosity come from this chakra that is the channel through which we connect to other people.
  3. The chakra of conscience, situated between the eyebrows. It's the centre of intuitive perception, this chakra helps having clear conscience of where you are and where you are going to. This chakra is responsible for imagination and helps building a more complete perception of the scenario, providing peripheral vision that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Picture of the seven chakras
After the master provided this brief description (I am not an expert in chakras) he invited us to continue focusing on these three centres during all the breathes, and even more difficult, during the whole lesson.

That's when I realized that power, sentiment and conscience were not just three chakras scattered along the body. I think they really represent three important attitudes in life: when communicating to people, participating to a meeting, analysing a problem, going to a party or whatever I do in my daily life. I cannot imagine doing anything in this world without even one of these three strengths. I don't see myself doing my job without imagination and loving a person without energy and passion. I cannot think of any relation and communication without appreciation and generosity. 

That's why I think it's a good idea to stop from time to time along the day, take a deep breath and consider if any of these strengths is being neglected. When you happen to discover that you are acting with energy, passion and generosity as well as imagination more and more often, you are probably a successful person.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bathroom thinking

After reading one of the classical books on creativity, James Webb Young's "Techniques for producing ideas", I had an epiphany. Young says that to come out with a new idea, after writing down all the components that describe certain problem, product or service one should try to mix all these chunks to produce an idea, an improvement to an existing situation or a solution to a problem. After that, he suggests to "Drop the whole subject and forget about it. Turn the whole problem to the unconscious mind and to what stimulate your emotions".

This step reminded me of those times at school, during examination of certain subjects such as maths, physics or other logical and rational tests. The mould used to be more or less the same: two hours for the whole exam, and the permission to go to the bathroom after at least one hour.
Logical challenges, defying reasoning and of course memory, require the candidate to possess some skills: to dominate the subject, having done lots of exercises to familiarize with the typical problems but also to be flexible enough not to panic when the proposed exercise is different from anything seen until that moment.
And I think that's legitimate, reasoning and improvisation should be taught at school, or maybe at least introduced: it's not so straightforward to teach how to improvise.

Toilet built inside a Baobab Tree (Kayila Lodge, zambia)

The scenario was often the same. Students who had studied could easily obtain a very good mark. But I have only seen the excellence when personal interpretation and analysis of a problem was proposed. You might call that kind of personal touch, at the time of answering an exam, inspiration, creativity or genius. I don't know what it is. But what I know is that when I was stuck on a problem and could not discover the solution by using normal logical reasoning, I needed to go for a cigarette.

Asking the teacher to go to the bathroom, where I could smoke ─unseen─ a cigarette leaning out of the window, used to help me. Five minutes for me to completely disconnect from the examination and to forget problems by feeling in a relaxed mood: "I have done what I have done, and I have done it well. Probably I was not sufficiently prepared for the exam. But perfection has its own price".

I assure you that after some puffs of the cigarette the enlightened moment "But what if...?" automatically arrived. The inspiration was there, and suddenly the idea to unblock that problem and reach the solution was there too, clearly drawn in my mind. Not because of the cigarette, of course. The cigarette was just the pretext to enjoy the relief related to nicotine addiction. But the pleasant moment together with being locked in the bathroom, thus creating a relaxed and private space as if at home, contributed to produce wellness and the context switch, the shaking of concepts in my mind and the production of the idea.

Today I still discover that when I have to take a decision, solve a problem or look for compromises in my daily life, the bathroom helps me; often times unconsciously.

So this is what is for me "Bathroom Thinking": "To pause the routine when looking for the best solution to a problem by switching the context and taking a break with food, cigarettes, drinks, or any other pleasure facilitator in a familiar and private space".

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Anything you want, you got it

If you are used to complain because your job is full of non-senses, because you cannot express yourself, or more, your very life is boring, just take a pause and consider that winners find solutions, losers find excuses (and I am sure that both are good at doing it).

What if you already have all the ingredients you need to make your life, your job or your relationships with others more interesting? Yes it is, everything you need; right now and in your hands. It's not great novelty that in order to have an original idea one needs to dig within his own environment and find out how to mix things to obtain something new, something of value.

Think of Mac Gyver, you know for sure who am I talking about. Do you think he ever needed anything more than stuff at hand to fix things or to escape from any dangerous situation? No, the nice thing is that he was a master in re-arranging his close world to obtain new things, to invent tools and to solve situations brilliantly. So let's have a look at some contributions to show how this thing work.

Everyone is creative within his own workspace, tools and goals. This paradigm constitutes one of the basis of Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) company: the "Closed World" condition. It dictates that, "when solving a problem or developing new products, one should strive to use only those resources that exist in the product (or system) itself, or in its immediate vicinity".

This approach is absolutely nothing new. James Webb Young wrote five steps for producing ideas in 1939 in his reference book for creative people from marketing, advertisement and other sectors of the industry. From his book: "The first of these steps is for the mind to gather its raw material. The materials which must be gathered are of two kinds: they are specific; and they are general. Specific material are related to product and the people. General knowledge, about life and events.". So it's clear that the first step to come out with a new idea is to have a look at what is in the near environment and write it down. Collecting materials related to products and people is necessary condition to produce results starting from certain point and to produce an innovative value. But it's also needed general knowledge, and nothing can provide it except curiosity for life.

James Webb Young
Last but not least, there is the most entertaining and catchy proof that everything come from some other place through copy, transformation and combination. Kirby Ferguson, a New York-based film-maker has produced a short documentary split in chunks (a preview of the first chunk in this post) to show that modern works in the industry of entertainment are based on classical and successful productions. Song melodies, movie plots and the very aesthetics of these artistic productions are most of the times taken and inspired from somewhere else. To give a quick hint, just consider for a moment Quentin Tarantino's movies inspired in vintage scenarios or whichever of the countless cover singers re-interpreting classical hits.

So, when I say that if you want to change something in your life and feel innovation under your skin you already have got anything you want and need, I am not saying anything new.
Roy Orbison already said that.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

No genius allowed? You can still be creative

"I like your CV, but what I like more is that you have studied acting in a drama school. Engineers are all around, you know. We are not looking for a genius nor an inventor. We have products, and now we need to integrate as soon as possible one more person to our team to help improve the product."

That's what I was told at the end of a job interview by a manager. I still wonder nowadays what was the real meaning of that phrase. I can suppose that on one hand it meant that integrating in the company social texture would have been tough, and secondarily, that there would have been mechanical work to do, like testing, documentation and so on.

I can comprehend that the interviewer might suppose that belonging to a drama school would have made it easier for me to make friends (neither necessary nor sufficient condition, though), but I still don't see and don't understand the meaning of the not-being-a-genius requirement.

No need to say that genius or creativity, call it the way you prefer, is necessary at any stage of product life cycle. So, unable to understand the real meaning of that confidence ─shame on me for not clarifying─, today I believe that he simply couldn't manage to express what he really wanted to say: "We are looking for creative and brilliant solutions to our problems in order to enhance the value of the product, optimize human efforts and decrease costs of production".

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I am sorry, I did it wrong, I won't do it again

Few days ago I wrote some considerations about committing mistakes when a person is supposedly living in an innovative environment. Today I am in the mood for writing some more lines about mistakes when one is effectively wrong and there are reasons to stop and ponder about that.

I made some reflections after the news had reported that Spanish King Juan Carlos Borbón-Dos Sicilias was admitted to hospital and operated for having his hip injured. Not a great news, had it not been for the fact that he injured himself hunting elephants in Botswana.

That news was well accompanied with a photo of the King holding a shotgun in front of the unlucky and deceased elephant.
As anyone might imagine, the fact provoked strong public critics; not only for the act of killing elephants and taking part to an expensive safari, not just because Spain is suffering from unprecedented economic and social crisis, but mainly because Spanish Crown is currently being scrutinized because of a financial scandals.

Eskamilla: Juan Carlos I of Spain, 2008

The thing that made the news ways more interesting was the immediate and clear answer of the King. When leaving the hospital, he faced a flash interview and after appreciating the treatment received in the hospital, he declared: "I am sorry, I did it wrong, I won't do it again." 

Not that much of a speech, really; rather a Tweet (93 characters) saying it all. But after days of polemics, scandals, burning media and boiling social networks, in my humble opinion he finally came out with the most effective recipe (regardless of the consequences of killing elephants in Botswana). These are the reasons.

  • Humbleness is the most effective weapon against pride. Instead of arguing that black is white, acknowledging the failure at early stages is fast and efficient, much more than saying sorry when no more argumentation is available.
  • The King summarized sincere feeling of guilt ─I am sorry─, transmitted the admission that hunting elephant is not the best thing to do ─I did it wrong─ and finally conveyed the message that after all, he learns from his own mistakes.
  • He diverted public opinion away from the fault and concentrated attention on the apology and how it has been made.
  • He probably achieved to go down in history as King Juan Carlos "The Humble".
That said, next time you commit a big blunder and you are aware of it, consider saying sorry as fast as you can. It'll save you a lot of time and your error will almost go unnoticed after a while.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sorry, I am innovating

There's been a lot of talking about innovation recently. If one pays attention to newspapers, social media, magazines or directives' strategies for the immediate future, innovation is on everyone's lips. The reason is quite evident, being this particular decade one of the most unstable periods ─astonishingly rich in technological development, though. Besides investments to promote different thinking, huge efforts are made to communicate the message that committing an error is as good as having a brilliant idea.

There's a beautiful latin proverb saying: "The wise man learns from the mistakes of others, the fool has to learn from his own". But if one listens to Einstein saying: “Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”, you just don't know what to do, whether pretend not to commit errors and feel ashamed when it happens, or start adopting a relaxed, practical and empirical attitude, often a good approach to obtain visible results in the shortest time. Too much resources spent on papers, planning and meeting, just to discover later that reality is the scenario against which it is always better to develop an idea, can be frustrating.

Anyway, the message I want to convey in this post is that if you happen to live in the tolerant world of innovators or, on the contrary, if your routine won't leave you huge margins to try and fail, sooner or later you will probably end up disappointing someone. Your boss, your manager, a client, a friend or even your spouse.

Being lucky enough to work in an innovative environment, a mistake should appear as an added value to culture, especially if one is trying something really new. A mistake shouldn't really look like a failure, but just research and development oriented to shift current conditions to improved ones (in terms of income, quality, savings or whatever value you might think of). In this case there are probably margins to go on with experimentations and not feel obliged to say: "Sorry".

If you think you can be free enough to develop your ideas but at the same time you are constantly living scared of committing mistakes, just reconsider what you are doing, probably there's not plenty of space for innovation in your environment. The innovator should never, according to my opinion, feel like saying: "Sorry" (although it's always an elegant and polite way to communicate that you are conscious that your actions need certain improvements). Take care, this has nothing to do with pride. It's just a matter of feeling real environmental open-mindedness, leading to regard errors and mistakes as part of the whole innovative process.

Now, if you are being unfaithful to your spouse don't tell her/him: "Sorry, I am innovating", because I am pretty sure it won't work.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A simple diet for a long and healthy life

The title says it all, it sounds attractive, doesn't it? Last week my uncle and his son from Italy visited me in Madrid, a good occasion to meet us, and a good opportunity to assist to one of the best attractions in the city: a football match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

We spent a good time strolling around the city centre, it was a cold but sunny weekend. At night, we spent some nice moments comfortably sitting at home, drinking camomile tea and chatting about the family. Especially about my uncle's father, Oreste. Oreste is a 92 years old man, very strong and healthy; he's worked his own land during his whole life and now he enjoys the results of his work, plants and hens.

I have to recognize that Oreste's sisters, Angela (my grandmother) and Rosa (my great-aunt) are equally strong and healthy. But besides admitting that privileged genetics often helps, I had to ask the typical question I am used to ask.

Gino Severini: Natura morta, 1920
What's the secret for such a long and healthy living? Is there any particular diet?

Lots of people would raise their hand to propose secrets, tips and suggestions. That would possibly ends up in balancing a good diet (Mediterranean, of course, we're south Europeans!) with regular physical activity. But this answer is not usually satisfying to me, I personally want to know the recipe to stay young and healthy forever (and beautiful too).

Well, in case anybody is interested, these are Oreste's little secrets.

  1. Only have breakfast with fruit.
    Forget about croissants and industrial biscuits or cakes. Fruit. Best if from biological cultivation; Oreste produces a big quantity of fruit, and supply himself with more vegetables from the surrounding farmers.
  2. Never drink water during meals.
    Actually he only drinks wine. Hard to believe, but I assure you that drinking water with food will not help you have a better digestion. I could not believe it, but my uncle assures me that Oreste never drinks water. Fruit and wine are enough to supply the right daily quantity of liquids. I'll have to check it out personally! By the way he mostly drinks wine he personally produces, that's lighter than a supermarket bottle.
  3. Never eat meat.
    I did not suspect that a person working the land during his whole life could avoid eating meat and be vegetarian. Of course it's possible, but Oreste relies on proteins from lentils, chickpeas and other legumes.

What do you say, would you believe it? I do believe it. And I feel a bit envious of him: when I last visited him a couple of months ago, he was smoking a cigarette sitting and relaxing in the sun.