Chew before you swallow, she said.

Young Artur could not have been much older than 10 when he was first sent to boarding school. This meant moving from Graciosa to Terceira, in the Azores Islands, Portugal.

Today, at almost 90, Artur or Cunha de Oliveira – he prefers his surname – is a renowned figure of the Azores. In him you’ll find demanding wisdom and generous compassion. He is a good friend and a mentor.

Standing on the pier that day before he boarded, his mother gave him a lifelong piece of advice:

“Son, remember to chew before you swallow”, she said.

“Mom, I’m not a baby. I know better than to swallow food without chewing”, he replied.

“Oh, I don’t mean the food, my dear!” And with a kiss and a smile, she bid him goodbye.

She was referring to the many things he would be taught and would learn. This principle has guided him on a journey that has been unique and fascinating (for instance, service as a Member of the European Parliament).

Sometimes, what is most evident goes shockingly unnoticed.

His mom’s advice is one of those cases – commonsense usually is. I often wonder how many things I accept to be true without pausing to ask: Is this really so?

Believing everything you think is not a freeway to freedom.

Trusting everything we are taught and told is no diploma of wisdom. Accepting things at face value proves to be a mask that conceals disillusion. Instead, to nurture the routine of pausing to test the strength of our truths is a practice of growth.

One question you might want to keep in your back pocket for unexpected situations is: “Why not?” For, now and then life might kick us in the buttocks. And with a righteous claim in our voices, we’ll jump up to object: “But why? Why me?!”

I’m quite sure there won’t be an answer. This might be life’s way of asking “Why not? Or have you swallowed something without chewing?”

Who do you know who’d enjoy Artur’s mom’s advice? Share it!

The Sound Of Suspence

Do you like to meet interesting people? I love it. And it always surprises me when I notice this:
– excitement and energy in the lives of people that struggle;
– and dullness and demotivation in the lives of people who prosper.

Why is this? Wouldn’t you expect the opposite? It seems there’s more to self-fulfillment than “making it”.

Self-fulfillment is when you feel proud
to truthfully share any aspect of your life.

Imagine life is an orchestra. Self-fulfillment is when each part of our life creates sounds that all together result in something nice. It’s not enough to play one instrument well. We want all of them to do well and to do it together.

This means self-fulfillment is a state of combined harmony of the different areas of our life. And we can’t achieve this on our own because our lives involve other people and their self-fulfillment.

Self-fulfillment depends on the amount of suspense
you’re willing to allow into your life.

What makes a good story? Suspense resolved. No suspense, no story. Too much, and we might asphyxiate. Not enough, and it’s boring. From time to time, we’ll want to stir things up in life to make sure the story continues to be interesting.

So, self-fulfillment will be that ongoing fluctuating process in your life where you deal with some areas first, while others wait unattended. And that’s okay.

What is not okay is if the process comes to a halt, because stagnant streams stink. This is why just “having it all” isn’t enough.

In the end, the question that matters is: What suspense am I resolving and who is part of it? So, the next time you meet new people, be sure to feel proud and share the sounds of your suspense!

Never Relinquish Your Power

It’s easy to be cool when things are cool. It’s easy feel down when things aren’t going well. What is hard is to bounce back when things just plainly SUCK!

Let me put you into context: So someone stole my briefcase — yep, the computer, the wallet, the whole shebang… Sweet irony: I had just finished giving a workshop on conflict management. How about that for “practice what you preach”?

A distinction: You don’t control a reaction.
But your response, that’s entirely up to you.​

How did it happen? That’s not important. Just skill and opportunity (more skill than opportunity I must say).

How did I react? Not important either (though I must say I didn’t lash out in accusations. No, I just said: “F***! Someone stole my briefcase!” And then followed standard procedure: notify security, leave name and number, report the theft… Boring!).

What is important, though, is the aftermath, the response that comes after the reaction in the following hours and days.

​Another distinction: You don’t control
someone’s action. But you can minimize its impact.

So how do you tailor your response so as to minimize the impact of an action? Let me tell you what I did:

– First, I sheltered myself: Family. Friends. That’s what they are for. I sought them out and told my story. I got the support I needed and even a computer to use! Then I thought: “If I’d lost one of them, I’d really be in trouble.” I felt a bit better because I didn’t feel alone.

– Second, I pampered myself. Yep. Like mom and dad did when I was little and tripped and fell down. I indulged myself in something I enjoy. In this case, it was a nice (strong) glass of wine (maybe two). Now, that started to feel better.

– Third, I reassured myself. I avoided feeling worse than I already did. When your stuff is stolen, you feel vulnerable, insecure. And that on its own is more than enough.

You don’t need to tell yourself: “Who the hell leaves a briefcase unattended in a big restaurant?! What an idiot!” I replaced that kind of talk with: “I’m the same guy I was yesterday. The same pretty self-confident positive guy. Let’s keep it that way.”

This doesn’t make me a hero.
But it let’s me know I don’t accept going down as a loser.

​In other words: If you don’t stop to decide what your response will be, you give away any power you have to minimize the impact that other people’s actions have on you. That means they’re in control, not you. And that — I assure you — REALLY sucks!

By the way, today I fellow human and fine citizen named Sergio called saying he had found a wallet with my ID in a trash bin. Thank you new friend!

[Sergio Estevez specializes in wine and premium liquor tasting events in Barcelona. Follow him @LoCatamos]

Let’em Rock The House

The room is packed — over four hundred hungry hearts. The excitement has visibly surfaced on the expectant faces of untamed smiles and craving eyes. Silence… Silence… Then a loud, proud and potent “HELLOOOO…” and the crowd bursts into an eruption of euphoria.

It was the official opening of the Toastmasters District 59 Spring Conference. Three intense days of speaking, of connecting, of sharing. And it was A BLAST. Believe me… I was there.

Many elements contributed to the huge success of the event. I’ll mention just one: the secret to organizing and moderating events like these.

How can you tell apart good event
organizers and moderators from the truly great ones?

Great event organizers and moderators are like light. The purpose of light is not to be looked at, but to make the surroundings shine.

No one stares into the light. And if someone shoves an intense beam of light straight into your eyes, what would you do? Exactly. Like light, the purpose of great organizers and moderators is to work so that others may shine: the participants, the speakers, the guests.

I gave a workshop at the event and can testify first hand that that is how the team and moderators worked throughout the entire conference.

Their aim was not to shine under the spotlight. Nop. Their attitude was to be the spotlight and give it all, which included a persevering sincere smile of availability.

And all that so that when the time came for us to burst onto the stage, we could rock the house. And so we did. That wouldn’t have been possible without the sensitive team light of organizers and moderators. Thank you! Chapeau!!

Your Body Spoke

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to a great speech entitled “Your Body Speaks” given by my good friend Evgueni Talal at our Prestigious Speakers Toastmasters club meeting.

I normally thought of body language as that part of communication that our bodies convey to others and that other people’s bodies convey to me. But that evening Evgueni gave it a twist and got us thinking in a different way: Your body speaks to you. Are you listening?

I will usually listen to what other people’s bodies are saying. And I make an effort of being aware of what my body is telling them. But I really hadn’t given much thought to the idea that my body is also talking to me, that I can listen to it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do pay attention to my body: when hungry, I eat; when tired, I rest; when restless, I exercise… But I hadn’t thought about this relation as a conversation.

Conversations (real ones at least) involve memory, interaction (action + reaction + action + …), openness, reflection and unpredictability. Conversations allow for disagreement and conflicting views, and thus for persuasion, compromise and collaboration.

Wow! I hadn’t realized I could do all that with my body! Have you ever pictured your relationship with your body in these terms? Have you spoken to it on its terms, using its language? What is it saying?

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy gave a fantastic talk on TED TALKS (click to watch). She postulates and proves that our bodies work for us. Our body postures change our brain chemistry as well as the way others perceive us.

Our bodies boost our self-confidence. They are powerful allies and agents of our happiness. It goes beyond food and exercise – It’s a creative conversation!

Shadows Of Creativity

We tend to feel low when shadows get in the way of the path we believe leads to happiness. We want the sunshine, not the cloudy skies. And that’s all right.

Nonetheless, shadows sometimes get in the way of our projects, expectations and dreams. Therefore, it does us good to remember that if there are shadows it is because there is light. This means that the shadows in our life ARE light, just not where we expect it to be.

This is where our creativity can kick in. We might want to actively wait for the shadows to pass; we might want to step around the shadows and into the light somewhere new; we might consider the idea of appreciating the dark features of the shadows in order to boost our contentment of the light; we might seek new, inner light — it’s up to you!

Because shadows are the tangible evidence of light somewhere, they’re a fantastic incentive for a creative use of our potential everywhere.