Lesson 4: Make me

•August 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

February 17, 2014

Obligation is something that I have never liked. I despise having to do something just because I ‘have to’ or for no apparent reason.

And being obliged to do something as a result of someone else’s lack of organization or negligence is something that bothers me even more. Let me tell you about this with further detail.
One way or another, we managed to get all the needed teachers to complete the high-school level lessons. The moment to record ALL of the lessons had arrived. And I am about to tell you how it happened.

I was told to get my lessons ready and start recording a certain day. I don’t remember exactly when, but they gave me a day’s notice, which was fine. Now, I was still working there as freelance, so they assigned me an afternoon recording schedule.
The first day I arrived at about 4 o’clock. They had 6 sets. But only 5 working (to this day, 3 years later, only 5 of them work).
All of the sets had one of those circular windows, like in the kitchen doors that restaurants have. Nobody knew where I would record my lessons.
This is what Larry did:
When I arrived and went to his office, he said something like ‘hey, you came’-which was strange because HE was the one who told me to record that specific day and at that specific time.
Anyway, we went to the sets and he stood outside of set number 1. He looked inside and said ‘somebody is in here’, so we moved to the next set. He looked at the window and, again, said ‘someone is in here, too’. We finally found a set that was available and told me ‘here, use this one’.
So, I went in. Alone. Again. I started to record, had some problems with the software and at about 7 pm I finished the recording session. I needed more days, so I went back the next day at about the same time. Larry said that it was OK and I could go back the next day to continue recording. He told me at what time and everything.
So I did. But when I arrived, there was no set available. Apparently, someone else arrived first and now all the sets were occupied.
I went back home.
This went on for about three weeks. I didn’t go everyday, just the days that they told me there would be a set available. But there were some days when I got there and someone beat me to it. Other days, they would take me out of the set to record a demo or to let someone else record.

During that period of time, when I was almost done recording-I think I had like three lessons left to record- I got a call on Saturday night, at about 8 pm.
Guess who it was?
It was Larry. For your information, I had specifically told Larry that I could move my schedule around what the school needed, except for Sunday. That is my sacred day. I never work on Sundays. It’s the only day that I have to rest, so I made it clear for him that I wouldn’t be available on Sundays.
Well, he called me that night asking if I could go record the next day. At about 8 pm. I told him ‘look, I can’t tomorrow. Besides, I have been there several days and I just waste my time, because you guys have no control over who records what or where.’
He just insisted that I go, but I said no. I told him I would record the remaining lessons on Monday and that it would be finished.


Please, please, please pay for my incompetence

If I had gone there on Sunday, I would have probably wasted my time, because there were A LOT of teachers recording. And this guy had no order whatsoever about the recording sessions.
Believe me that, it was much, much worse than what I am describing here. I just don’t want to steer off from the main topic.

So, lesson 4 is this:
Order and organization are indispensable in any project and in any task.

With something as simple as a recording schedule, they could have known who records in which set and at what time. They had 5 sets working from 8 am to 8pm. That was A LOT of time available for recording. But they simply didn’t want to do it that way.
From the beginning of this project, Mr. Gestures gave complete control over how things were done to this guy. So he could have easily done this schedule and saved a lot of time and a lot of extra work. Some poor teachers were here recording until 12 midnight.  AND they had to come back on Monday morning to finish. There was a lot of stress to finish, a lot of people that had problems with the software. Some were cursing and hitting the walls while others even cried due to the frustration of not being able to record due to technical difficulties.

All because organization did not come in through the door. The process could have been much simpler and much more calm. You can imagine the quality of the recorded lesson and the physical appearance of a teacher that had been recording at 11 pm. I think it was not the best.
That is why I refused to record that day. I had to go and record at night, because they couldn’t organize a schedule. I had to pay for his lack of order. I was not OK with this, therefore I didn’t go.
Anyway, Monday arrived and I finished recording the lessons. Nothing bad happened because I didn’t go the previous day.

Others did record at night, on Saturdays, Sundays- you name it, because they were told that they wold receive a bonus if they finished on a specific date. They are still waiting to receive that bonus. Some of those teachers already quit and have other jobs. And they never got to see that bonus.
In short, don’t lie, don’t deceive and work in order and organized.

Next: Lesson 5-Staring at the sun.

Lesson 3: No man’s land.

•August 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Feb 13-2014

There is a perfectly good explanation for the title of this lesson. And I will attempt to write it now.

When the project of this new on-line school was starting out, they were working in an old building that was adapted with stationary desks and other equipment that you can find in any office. One space that was not common in a conventional school was a recording set. They were these small rooms (about 2 meters wide by 3 meters deep) equipped with a computer, a camera and three monitors.

This is where we would record the virtual lessons. They had even designed a software that linked the slide show to the camera and to another slideshow that displayed the text that the teacher would read during the recording. All of the lessons were designed by a teacher, and every teacher was responsible for writing their own ‘script’. So we would just read this script while recording, but everything we said came from our own minds, not from a trained writer.

Anyway, this software was complicated and it took a lot of practice to learn. And every candidate that wanted to work in this new school, had to record a demo lesson, so that they could be evaluated. The evaluation consisted in checking the content, the visual aid that the teacher had used, the class objective and the overall performance in front of the camera. Pronunciation and body posture was also checked. In short, there was a lot of pressure when recording the demo lesson because it was something completely new. And any evaluation -on its own-always brings a certain amount of stress.

Oh, and, you also had to record it by yourself. You, alone, inside the set. Nobody else, just you.


Don’t know where to go? Here is some water and a map. Bye!

So you go to this interview, you are expected to do something that no one else has done and you are expected to do it alone. Does this make sense? Of course not.
Larry and Matthew both knew how to do it. Kind of. And there were two other teachers that were leading the project: Sam and Frank.
Sam was much older, around 40 something years old. And Frank was about 28, which was a few years younger than me. Sam had studied philosophy and Frank was a computer whiz that studied computer science in college.
The four of them knew how to record a demo lesson (or so we believed at the time). And they sort of explained the process to candidates, but not enough to let them record by themselves. To this day I still don’t understand why they didn’t just assit while recording this demo class. It was just about a 5 minute recording. And they didn’t have THAT many candidates.
But anyway.

Every person that recorded that demo lesson, went through the same frustration with the new software. And everybody recorded it the best way that they could and to their best understanding.

So here is the lesson to be learned: When looking for people to help you out on a project or in a business, don’t leave them to their own faith. Even if they are close to you, like friends or acquaintances. You need to assist them, make sure they know what they have to do. Explain what is expected of them and be available for any questions that they might (and probably will) have.

Something important that I always try to practice in interviews is kindness. Be nice and be helpful. Make them feel comfortable. Take the stress out of the table, tell a joke. How would you like your interviewer to behave with you if you were looking for a job? Keep that in mind while searching for people to work with you.
Not having a job is stressful enough, so try to relieve some of that while you talk to candidates.
Also, give them feedback in case they don’t get the job. Send an e-mail or call them to give thanks for their time and let them know that you can’t hire them right now, but there may be a position available in the future. Or, simply tell them that their abilities are very impressive, but sadly they are not the person that you need at that time.
I can tell you that the gesture will be well appreciated.

And besides, this world has its ups and downs, so you can’t be sure if, in the future, YOU might be the one looking for a job and THEY might be the ones looking for employees.

Next: Lesson 4- Make me

Lesson 2: Stealing

•August 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So now we know that Larry, -this guy who had no specialized training- was leading this new project.

What happened next?
When he started working over there, he made sure that everyone at school KNEW that he was working for a big-shot investor and that the project was big and would eventually, thrive. Remember he was still teaching, but working with Mr.Gestures in the afternoons. He has always been cocky and somewhat arrogant, and he doesn’t even try to hide it.
But he needed something else to make the project work: teachers.
Math teachers, history teachers, science teachers, english teachers and so on.

So, this guy started talking to some of us who were currently teaching. I was one of them. But the idea didn’t really convince me at that time. I was focused on my current job and on my newborn son. And besides, I didn’t really know him that well, so I couldn’t just quit my job without knowing what I was getting into.
There was another teacher, who I will call Matthew. He taught chemistry and math at school and he was a good friend of Larry. To me, he had a lot more common sense than Larry, was more focused and I believed he was a more honest person. Not to say that Larry wasn’t, but Matthew just seemed like a nicer guy. I also knew him a bit better than I knew Larry.

So, they started talking about the new project and, eventually Matthew quit the job at school and started working with Larry and Mr. Gestures.
Some days went by and I got a call from Larry, asking me to try out this new project. I declined, again.
A few weeks went by and I got another call. This time from Matthew. He told me they needed a math teacher. It wasn’t my specialty but I had taught the subject a couple of times and believed I could design the lessons. I would have to design and record the lessons since it was an on-line school.
Matthew said that I didn’t have to quit my current job. I could do it on my own time, as freelance work.
So, I accepted and eventually I started working with them on the new project. How did they convince me? Well, I figured it was an interesting idea, it was new, I believed that it was the future of teaching and I thought to myself ‘well, if Matthew is there and he is close to Larry, maybe he can knock some sense into him’. Therefore, I went for it.
The school year had also ended and I wasn’t getting paid a steady salary. I had to wait for two months until the new school year would begin. My child needed his formula and diapers, so I thought ‘what the heck’.

Now here is where the stealing part comes in.
Larry started calling ALL of the teachers at the school and offering them high salaries, great benefits, a cool working environment, constant raises and a load of other things so that they would go work for him. And he succeeded with a lot of teachers.
He got about 8 of us. We all believed in what he said. And we were in for the ride.
Many thought that it wasn’t right for him to bring teachers that he knew from the previous job and let the school have a hard time replacing us.

That, of course, was not something that Larry should have worried about, but the principle is the same. He took people that were already tested and trained, and brought them for his advantage. You could even say that this was clever. But, in time, he would pay for this feat in a similar way.
So, the lesson to be learned here is to be honest. In a way, he lied to us to get us where he wanted. He took advantage of the trust that most of us had for Matthew to convince us. Of course he didn’t put a gun to our heads to do as he pleased, but it’s always better to be honest, not lie and cheat to get what you want.
As a consequence, the owners of the other school, who are-to this day-some of the most influential people in the city-can’t even look at Larry. He sacrified an important contact for a project with someone who he barely knew and who didn’t have the same reputation as the other people.
So, always be honest. At your job, at home, wherever. Honesty truly is the best policy.

Next: Lesson 3- No man’s land.

Lesson 1- Lift off

•July 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

February 10, 2014

After careful consideration I have decided to start writing about an experience, or series of experiences that have taught me quite a bit about running a company. More specifically a new company looking to set standards in e-learning. At least in my country.

I figured I would do it in english so that I may be able to reach more people. Right now, I am not sure of how many chapters-or lessons- there will be, but I think I could translate them to spanish in the future, so that more people can benefit from this experience.
I will tell you about real situations that actually happened, and then comment about them. Hopefully, they will help you avoid the same mistakes. Some of these might seem too hard to believe, but you can be sure that all of them are based on real facts.

I will not, of course, mention the real names of the people involved, but I assure you that these people DO exist. And through each moment of frustration and disappointment that the employees experienced, a lesson would be learned. Or so we said to ourselves to make each situation more bearable.

Ok, let’s get right to it!

Lesson 1-Lift off

This happened back in 2011. It seems like a short time ago, but it feels like an lifetime away.
I was working in a high school teaching english and computer class. I had a fellow co-worker who I shall name Larry. He was one of those teachers that didn’t really do much, but apparently had loads of work to do. I didn’t know him very well at the time. I just knew that he usually had the computer room before I had class and was in charge of keeping the PCs working.
I really didn’t talk to him much, but somehow I knew that there was something in him that didn’t quite click with me. He seemed nice and was always joking, but most of the students had a different concept of him. They told me several comments about his behavior. Very specific and quite intriguing.

One day, he and I received an e-mail from a guy(an older man, actually) that was starting his own school on line and was looking for someone to help him. He needed a teacher with some experience, so he got our e-mails from a student that both of us had had in our classes months before.
I didn’t pay much attention to the e-mail, but he called me a few days later. When I got his call, he told me that he needed someone to work full-time and who was available to work immediately. I told him that I couldn’t do that because we were at about a month from finishing the semester, and I couldn’t just ditch my current job, but that I could be available after that. He simply said thanks and that was it.
Apparently, he also called Larry, and they came to some sort of agreement. He said that he could work half-time until the semester was over. To Larry, it didn’t matter if he got home at 9 or 10 o’clock at night everyday. But that DID matter to me because my son had just been born. So I couldn’t just let my wife (who also works) handle our newborn by herself. I enjoy being a full-time dad-or at least, as much as I can.
Anyway, Larry got this half-time job and, eventually, got the CEO position of this new school. By eventually I mean three months later.

So what is there to learn from this? What’s the point?  I’ll get to that in a moment…

The owner and investor of this school, picked him to lead his project. I am going to call him Mr.Gestures. He is an older man, about sixty-something years old. White hair, white beard and has a rough voice that could be heard from the parking lot where he would usually leave his clever automobile.
This guy, randomly picked someone to lead this top-of-the-line project, which, at the time, had never been done before. He had a simple meeting with him at a restaurant, talked to him for a while, and decided to give him the steering wheel of his dream.

Now, to me,  if you are going to spend thousands of dollars in a project (it was actually pesos, but the quantities could easily be translated to thousands of dollars) that is completely new, you want the best on your team.

Super worker

No place here for someone like you, buddy.

What did he do instead? He gave power to a man who had 5 or 6 years of teaching experience, yes, but no actual training for the position.

I’m not sure about other countries, but in Mexico, we have six years of primary school, then three years of junior high school, then three more of high school and finally, four to five years of college. Some study a master’s degree and even a doctorate, but not the majority of the population.
To the best of my knowledge, Larry had reached all the way to high school and during that period, specialized in something about tourism. He knew a lot about computers and he has always had an ability to talk and talk and talk and make you feel dizzy and believe that he actually knows what he is talking about. But he really doesn’t. At least, not completely.

In this country, anyone who doesn’t go through college will have practically no chance of landing a position as a manager or executive officer. Why? Because where and what you studied is something that is very important to figure out if you are capable of doing certain tasks. Specially in the  CEO position.

Any entrepreneur knows that you really HAVE to know the people with whom you will be doing business with. It’s kind of like getting married. You have to know the strengths and weaknesses of your partner to know if you will have a chance to make it or not.
And something else: most companies make you take a psychologic exam, so that they can tell if you are an aggressive person, a calm person, someone who likes to work in a team, or likes to work alone, evaluate your beliefs and values and so on. How does this person treat others? What are his life’s goals? How many languages does he speak? Does he know how to talk to groups of people? The list goes on and on. You have to think ahead to figure out WHAT you will need this person to DO. Specially for an important position like a director or manager.

So, lesson number 1: get the right person for the job. It might not be easy to find, but I believe that if you put the extra effort and extra time searching and interviewing several people, you may just find the one that will help your business grow and go in the direction that you want to.
Make a list, if you have to, of the activities that this person will have to do on a daily basis. Make another list to show other, less common and maybe less urgent activities that might be needed and analyze what kind of person could do the job. Search online for profiles of each career. There you might find descriptions of abilities that every graduated student should have.

The company that Mr. Gestures was dreaming about, had Larry as the general manager. A new project that was for on-line learning, with people with little experience and with thousands of pesos ready to be spent. With this, you can get an idea about what comes next. The starting point to what, later, would become a living circus…literally.

Next: Lesson 2- Stealing

¿Se siente negativo? ¿Cómo puede superarlo?

•November 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

¿Se siente negativo? ¿Cómo puede superarlo?.

¿Se siente negativo? ¿Cómo puede superarlo?

•November 27, 2012 • 1 Comment

Sus emociones negativas son indicadores poderosos de lo que usted debe cambiar en su vida.

Debido a que usted es un ser humano, va a tener ciertas emociones durante la jornada laboral. Se espera que la mayoría de sus emociones sean positivas, tales como emoción, curiosidad, agradecimiento y alegría.
Sin embargo, es inevitable que también sienta ciertas emociones negativas. Pero aquí está lo importante: La manera como maneje sus emociones negativas determinará en gran parte lo exitoso que usted pueda llegar a ser.
Después de todo, es fácil manejar un negocio o desempeñar un empleo cuando todo es dulzura y alegría. Lo difícil es hacer que las cosas sucedan cuando los tiempos son difíciles y no se obtienen los resultados deseados.

Con esa idea en mente, aquí están  las emociones negativas más comunes que las personas sienten en el trabajo, junto con un plan para transformarlas en algo que les ayude a ser más, en lugar de menos, exitoso.


1.       Si siente miedo…

Retroceda un segundo y trate de ver la situación de forma objetiva. Pregúntese: “¿En verdad se encuentra en riesgo mi negocio o mi profesión?” Si la respuesta es negativa, entonces quizás solo se sienta nervioso(a) o ansioso en lugar de tener miedo, igual que cuando está a punto de subirse a la montaña rusa. Así es que mejor disfrute el viaje.
Si decide que la situación es realmente seria, entonces haga algo físico, como ir a caminar, para despejar su mente. Cuando vuelva, trabaje en un plan de acción que determine cómo va a manejar la situación en este momento.

Piense en todas las ocasiones anteriores donde ha superado circunstancias similares que le presentaron un verdadero reto. Tenga confianza en que será capaz de volverlo a hacer en esta ocasión. Y entonces, lleve a cabo el primer paso de su plan.


2.       Si se siente rechazado…

Decida si realmente respeta la opinión de la persona que lo rechazó. Si el rechazo viene de un idiota, un ignorante o alguien que no vale la pena, un “rechazo” en realidad puede verse como un cumplido.

Si respeta la opinión de esa persona, reconozca que quizás esté malinterpretando la situación. La única manera segura de saberlo es preguntar. Diga algo como: “El otro día, me dijiste _____ y me sentí herido. ¿Me podrías  aclarar lo que sucedió?”

Por último, acepte la idea de que, en un sentido muy realista, el “rechazo” es una ilusión. Generalmente surge de una diferencia en la interpretación de las “reglas” que las personas utilizan para ciertos eventos. Probablemente fue rechazado porque la otra persona estaba usando reglas diferentes a las suyas. Por lo tanto, ¿dónde está el daño?


 3.      Si se siente molesto…

Su primera tarea es alejarse de la situación. Si es posible, levántese y vaya a caminar o haga algo que lo distraiga en ese momento. Si no puede realizar una de estas actividades, use la técnica clásica de las mamás y cuente lentamente hasta diez.

Ahora que se calmó un poco, establezca la razón específica de su enojo. Se dará cuenta de que en TODOS los casos, se debe a que alguien ha violado una regla o un estándar que es profundamente importante para usted.

En lugar de “explotar” o “liberar energía”, determine una forma de comunicarle a esa persona la importancia que tiene esa regla para que no se vuelva a dar la misma situación en el futuro.


4.     Si se siente frustrado…

En el trabajo, esta emoción surge cuando siente que los resultados no son los esperados, aun cuando ha dado todo su tiempo y empeño. Sabe que su meta es alcanzable, pero parece escaparse de sus manos.

El primer paso aquí es revisar el plan de trabajo y su comportamiento. ¿En realidad estará utilizando la mejor estrategia para llegar a esa meta? De lo contrario, su frustración le estará diciendo que necesita cambiar su plan y la forma como lo está ejecutando.

Si su plan es sólido y su comportamiento es el apropiado, es hora de practicar un poco de paciencia. Deje de preocuparse por la meta. Libérese de los resultados, concéntrese en el comportamiento y tenga la plena convicción de que “Los retrasos de Dios, no significa que son una negación.”


5.       Si se siente inadecuado…

¡Bienvenido al club! Aunque las personas lo reconozcan o no, hasta aquellos que parecen tener más confianza en sí mismos se preocupan de no estar a la altura de la situación o para lo que venga en el futuro.

Lo maravilloso de esta emoción es que se trata de la más fácil de lidiar. El sentirse inadecuado surge de una falta de habilidad, experiencia y estrategias en un área en la cual le gustaría ser exitoso.

Por lo tanto, su plan es muy sencillo: Decida que va a trabajar en sus habilidades hasta dominarlas. Encuentre un ejemplo a seguir o un maestro. Lea libros o tome un diplomado. En el peor de los casos, aprenderá en la escuela de “Prueba y error”. Pero esto, simplemente es parte de la vida.


6.       Si se siente estresado…

No hay duda de que el mundo laboral de hoy demanda de tiempo y energía extrema. Si es un emprendedor, un ejecutivo, un supervisor o un empleado, constantemente se le pide que haga más con menos.

Aun así, usted (como cualquier persona) es limitado por el tiempo y el espacio. Independientemente de cómo se sienta al respecto, tiene una cantidad limitada de tiempo para hacer las cosas y mantenerse sano y contento al mismo tiempo.

Por lo tanto, la mejor forma de manejar el estrés es tomarlo como una señal de que es hora de dar prioridades. Haga lo importante antes que lo urgente. Recuerde que el 20% de su trabajo generalmente produce el 80% de los resultados. Así es que ¡concéntrese en el 20%!

Traducido de http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/how-to-handle-negative-emotions-at-work.html

Calavera de día de muertos.

•November 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment
Luego de varias semanas
de esperar y esperar
mientras la calle se debía reparar,
luego de ver la fecha tan lejana
para en un firme poder deambular,
los empleados univia
permisos y tiempo pedían
sin jamás imaginarse
el final abrupto que ya venía.
Ni el despistado don trole
esperaba no encontrarlos aquel día
como buenos miembros de la prole
la calaca, por ellos, ya venía.
Vestidos y alborotados quedaron
a expensas del aire acondicionado
uno por uno se los iba llevando
y el reloj checador, las horas contando.
Pobres ingenuos, empleados de univia
ninguna idea tenían
que su espera fuera en vano
el pago no llegaría,
ni siquiera en su cumpleaños.
Y así se quedaron
sin un peso en sus manos,
y miles de deudas del banco
eso dice la leyenda,
o por lo menos así lo cuentan
sus seres cercanos.
Y cuando la blanca calaca llego por ellos
ni siquiera sintieron miedo.
“Llévanos a todos”-dijeron,
que esta espera perpetua es tortura,
que ya perdimos hasta la cordura
solo sentimientos de desesperación y locura
nos ha ocasionado esperar
el arranque de la licenciatura.
Pero que sea ahora nuestra partida,
no nos quedes mal tu también, huesuda malparida,
que por más esperanzas que tengamos en univia,
trabajar por amor al arte,
dejó de ser un modo de vida.”

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