From Airport to Airport [en]

[fr] Me voici à nouveau dans un aéroport. Celui de Bruxelles, pour être précise. Je n'avais jamais mis les pieds à Bruxelles. Et là, après une visite éclair de 24 heures à peine, je peux mettre un drapeau dans la carte, mais je ne peux pas dire que j'aie vu grand chose de la ville.

Ainsi va ma vie de voyages, enviable et excitante vue depuis le monde stable du sédentaire, mais qui comporte son lot de frustrations. J'ai dû accepter il y a un peu plus d'une année que mon insistance à rajouter 3-4 jours à chaque voyage pour "visiter" générait une quantité de stress que je n'avais pas à m'imposer.

Oui, diront certains, quel gâchis d'avoir la chance de mettre pied dans toutes ces villes, mais de ne pas même prendre le temps de faire un peu de tourisme!

Le tourisme, ça nous relaxe et nous plaît précisément parce que l'on ne le fait pas tous les jours. Une ville étrangère, c'est exotique quand on en visite une ou deux par an. Quand elles s'empilent les unes sur les autres, eh bien, comme avec tout, la routine s'installe.

Mais si je me lamente un peu, ce n'est pas tant que ma vie me déplaît -- au contraire, je préfère mille fois mieux "trop voyager" que me lever avant 7h chaque matin -- mais plus en réaction à l'incompréhension un peu systématique (mais bien pardonnable) des personnes qui peinent à voir en quoi tous ces voyages peuvent bien être pénibles.

Alors, aéroport, aéroport. Encore une ville où j'ai mis les pieds sans l'avoir vue. Une journée de travail fatiguante mais sympa et efficace, avec un chouette projet. Retour tard à la maison. Je vais tenter de profiter un peu de mon week-end, toutefois!

Airports all look the same. Well, not quite the same, but similar. All the excitement of being in one has long since disappeared. They’ve become tame and familiar, just like the airplanes that buzz in and out of them.

Another plane, another airport, another city. This was my first time in Brussels. barely 24 hours on Belgium soil. I’m starting to get used to this kind of trip. In, business, out. A bit over a year ago, I realized that all this traveling was stressful (though it may sound glamourous to some) and that if I wanted to spare myself a little, I had to stop insisting on tacking along extra days to each travel opportunity to “visit”. So, in, business, out.

This is what my life looks like at times. Oh, don’t get me wrong: I had a very good day (nice people, good business, fun project), the trip was rather painless (plane coming here 30 minutes late, searched at security), and I’m not unhappy or particularly travel-weary. And I know that compared to others, the amount of traveling I do in a year is a week-end trip to the mountains.

I’m just taking a step back and looking at my life. I wonder what my past self of a few years back would say, had I known. I never imagined this for me. This wasn’t part of the plan — but that’s what I have, and to be honest, I’m quite happy with it. I’d rather travel a bit too much than have to get up before 7am every morning. As downsides of the job go, this isn’t too bad.

I think that what frustrates me is that people who don’t travel much for work tend to assume that my traveling is as exciting as their traveling. “Oh, how exciting, you travel all the time and get to visit all these foreign cities!” In truth, as anybody who travels “too much” knows, traveling is exciting precisely because you don’t do it often. Visiting a foreign city is a great adventure when you do it once or twice a year. When it’s your seventh or eighth in a row, you’re sick of visiting and don’t go out to walk around if you don’t feel like it.

So, here is my life of travel (and again, aware that I travel less than many).

Another airport, another city I’ve visited but haven’t seen. A fun but tiring day of work, and a late night home. I’ll try and have a bit of a week-end, though. :-)

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Rendre service et apprendre à dire non [fr]

C’est une discussion d’hier soir qui m’inspire pour cet article.

Je ne sais pas ce qui est le cas pour vous, mais pour moi, apprendre à dire “non” m’a pris longtemps. Et comme par hasard, ma vie est remplie de gens qui ont un peu ce même problème.

Voici quelques-unes de mes réflexions et leçons de vie à ce sujet.

Rendre service, c’est une valeur dans notre société. C’est bien vu. Et c’est un pilier important de la vie en communauté. Le problème, c’est quand rendre service devient le “truc” que l’on a mis en place pour chercher à se faire aimer ou apprécier (c’est un peu bateau, mais en général ça tourne là autour). Peu de monde dira à un enfant “ne sois pas aussi gentil, ne rends pas autant service”. Je ne dis pas qu’il faudrait littéralement dire ça, et ça reste un peu simpliste, mais ce que j’essaie de dire c’est que c’est un comportement socialement acceptable que l’on peut donc impunément mettre en place à nos dépens.

A la base, je suis quelqu’un qui fait passer les autres avant moi. Je me porte assez spontanément volontaire, je rends service (je le propose même, je ne me contente pas d’accepter), je fais pour autrui. Il m’a fallu longtemps pour réaliser que je me piégeais ainsi: ces diverses choses que j’avais proposé de faire devenaient ensuite des gros rochers noirs dans ma hotte (bien trop lourde) de “choses à faire”.

Alors j’ai appris à reprendre en main mes réflexes: réfléchir avant de dire oui, bêtement. Tenter de me projeter dans l’avenir et de m’imaginer faire la chose au moment où je suis tentée de la proposer. Dire “très honnêtement, j’aurais vraiment envie d’accepter, mais j’ai tendance à prendre trop d’engagements, donc donne-moi deux jours pour te répondre.”

Je ne suis bien entendu pas complètement tirée d’affaire. Mais que de chemin!

Au fond (on le disait hier soir), il est bien plus respectueux de dire “non” et de ne pas faire une chose, que de dire “oui” et de ne pas la faire non plus. Et dans toute cette histoire, il ne faut pas oublier le respect qu’on se doit à soi-même!

On peut donner à autrui, de façon authentique et véritablement pour l’autre, qu’à partir du moment où on est libre de le faire. Libre d’accepter ou de refuser. Si notre “oui” est enchaîné à un désir profond, parfois inconscient, de se faire accepter, il ne vaut tripette.

Soyons lucides: cet enjeu sera toujours là. Mais on peut en être libre, ou esclave.

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Busy Busy Busy [en]

[fr] Ma vie, cette course.

Two whole days is not enough. It’s the first day, and the last day, and nothing in between. Arrival and departure days do not count.

Next time I come up here, I’ll take a longer break.

I haven’t walked much — the weather isn’t really inviting, and my free access card which lets me use public transport freely in the area is not valid in November. December, hopefully, will be more exciting: some snow, maybe. I’ll be back just before Christmas.

I realised that I haven’t uploaded the photographs of my last trip here. To say the truth, I’ve been horribly busy. Way too horribly busy. At times it seems that I spend my months and years saying that: “I’m busy”. Busy, busy, busy. I always have tons of things to do, and if I don’t, I invent more. I long for a few weeks of leisurely time — India is great for that.

Money is an issue. As a freelancer, I can take time off whenever I want, as long as I can afford it. These days, I can’t say it’s really the case. On the other hand, maybe it’s worth examining how much paid work I actually accomplish each week over the month. It might help me get organised better.

It’s always the same problem: busy, busy, busy, I keep “working” but a lot of it is not directly earning me anything. And often this “work” is not very visible (read Suw’s great article on the nature of work in a knowledge economy), which leaves me with a sense of frustration at the end of it all.

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Learning to Have an Office [en]

[fr] C'est étrange pour moi d'avoir un "bureau", maintenant que l'ECLAU est en fonction. Mon salon est à moitié vide maintenant que j'ai descendu de deux étages bureau et étagères, et j'avoue avoir un peu de peine à trouver mes marques (le chat également). Je suis par contre ravie de l'esprit qui règne déjà dans l'espace coworking. On est une chouette équipe et je me réjouis de voir qui va venir s'y adjoindre!

With the opening of the coworking space in the basement of my building, I am now learning to live with an office.

Eclau 5 - settling down even more

This first week has of course involved a lot of settling down, but already, I have a few comments to make.

I didn’t imagine how disruptive it would be for me to have all this “extra space”. I’m the person renting the space downstairs, so in a way it’s “mine” (even if it’s shared — I have the lease, and provide a service to the other people who use the space). So, all of a sudden, instead of “having” a flat (“having” because in Switzerland, you rent, you don’t buy — unless you’re settling down for life), I “have” a flat and this space downstairs which is actually bigger than my flat, and which a bunch of other people will be using too.

I like that bit. I like the idea of creating a space where people are welcome to hang out and drop in and work regularly. I brought a whole bunch of my books downstairs (many of them my “recommended reading”) and I’m really excited to be able to share it with the other coworkers like that. Somebody bought biscuits and fruit juices, so we’re starting to have a little stock of shared snacks — all this will be a bit more organised later on, but the spirit is right.

Moving away from the “coworking” bit, what is changing for me now that I have an “office”?

  • my flat is in chaos, as I have emptied half my living-room (desk and bookcase) and swapped the old drawers in my room for a newer set (most of the furniture for the space actually comes from my Dad’s house, which he has emptied to rent out)
  • I’m working at a desk now most of the time, rather than sitting on a mattress as I am now
  • I like having a desk, but I miss the mattress/floor moments. I have half a mind to set up something similar downstairs — maybe move the couches and create some “ground space” in the corner near the windows?
  • I spend my day in a room with people, rather than alone. Even though we work independantly, that’s a lot of interaction for me compared to my “usual” days. I realise I’ve become quite a recluse.
  • neither Bagha nor I have really found our balance — he comes downstairs with me and has adopted the sofa, but I realise he needs to spend time in the flat (which is “his home”), and by extension, I realise it’s the same for me
  • I think having a separate working place is going to help me “not work” — and like now, feel relaxed enough to blog or do “other stuff” online (or even offline!!) in the evenings
  • I’m eating at more “normal” hours — because I see other people go off or unpack their picnics at noon, and so I go and eat shortly after too

I’m looking forward to seeing how things evolve during the next weeks. I’m off to the mountains tomorrow, all the more because I’ve been on the verge of cancelling all week (too much to do!), which really shows how much I need a break. I’ll be back on Thursday.

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Update From Berlin [en]

[fr] Etat des lieux. Beaucoup à faire, beaucoup à bloguer. J'ai besoin de m'organiser.

So, here I am in Berlin, for another 24 hours or so. I’m giving my talk for the <head> Web Conference this evening at 6pm. You can still buy tickets — it’s an online conference, so there is no commuting involved to attend, and it’s going on today evening and tomorrow too.

I have many blog posts to write, and I don’t know what to start with. One about conference endings (I was very disappointed with the way Web 2.0 Expo fizzled out), one about the opening of ECLAU, the Lausanne Coworking Space (November 3rd I get the keys!), one about the blogger outreach programme for Web 2.0 Expo (it was a huge hit), and a bunch of others that I’ve forgotten about, though I remember myself saying out loud “gosh, I have to write a blog post about this” quite a few times during this trip. Oh, here’s one I just remembered: a blog post on selling wine online, for a Lausanne guy I met at a networking event a few weeks back who was telling me blogs have no role to play in business and that you can’t sell wine online. Oh, and how I read blogs. And others.

As you can probably make out, I’ve got lots of “stuff” going on these days. Good stuff, luckily. Stuff including business opportunities. It’s very encouraging to see that since I’ve been a bit more direct about stating that I need work, things have been picking up. My financial situation is still far from sorted out, but it’s now headed in the right direction. I’m still trying to come to terms with the idea that I can be good at my job whilst being crap at managing finances and actually selling my services. This is some of the stuff I’ll be talking about tonight, by the way.

So, beware, braindump. It makes me feel better, and it’s a way of giving news without really going into the details.

  • send out a newsletter: and to say I was afraid of sending them out too often!
  • write the damn blog posts: as I said above…
  • coworking space: get internet, compose “sign-up” form, draft out house rules, set up blog, set up mailing-list, set up wiki, organise furniture arrival, scare up people to help cleaning, supervise knocking down wall, plan walling out conference room, look at finances
  • work for various clients: a couple of wordpress upgrades, back-to-back meetings all week when I get home, get back to silent ones to make things move forward, get back to people who contacted me during my travels, look at calendar and scream silently…
  • LeWeb blogger accreditation: send codes out to about 200 people, set up mailing-list, hash out details, monitor everything, deal with edge cases (there are always edge cases…)
  • Spread The Tech: not yet announced, keep the ball rolling, wiki + basecamp + blog about it, prepare announcement, start organising…
  • personal: review finances, get organised, prepare travel (yes, more travel), continue working on self-promotion, deal with post-conference business cards (not too many this time, thankfully), catch up on Flickr upload + tagging backlog, blog maintenance like upgrade thesis, remove disqus (?)

There! I’m feeling a little lighter now. Sorry if you didn’t follow everything.

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Retour à la montagne [en]

[fr] Back to the mountains. First evening.

Il pleut, il fait gris, et il y a tellement de brouillard qu’on ne voit pas les montagnes d’en face. C’est reparti pour 4-5 jours au chalet, cette fois avec deux connaissances plus récentes, des “gens d’internet” à l’origine, mais que j’ai déjà rencontré “en vrai” (comme disent certains) une ou deux fois.

Quelques appréhensions, pas tant à leur sujet en tant que tel (car je sais déjà qu’ils sont fort sympathiques), mais j’ai peur qu’être avec des gens “du milieu” me rende plus difficile de décrocher complètement comme je l’ai si bien fait la dernière fois.

Les prochains jours me diront si j’avais raison ou non de m’inquiéter. Comme d’habitude, je suppose que la réponse sera non.

J’appréhende aussi également parce que j’ai peur que cette “deuxième expérience” n’égale pas la première, qui était assez époustouflante, et que je sois déçue. C’est moi-même qui tisse ma propre toile, là.

Il est 23h30 à peine et je suis épuisée. Est-ce l’altitude? On n’est qu’à un peu plus de 1000 mètres. Le grand air? “L’effet vacances”?

A nouveau, j’ai dû partir en laissant certaines choses importantes en plan pour Going Solo. Je me rends bien compte que c’est inévitable. Vu la masse de travail et le temps qu’il reste, je ne peux que laisser des choses en plan, faire tarder encore plus des décisions ou actions qui auraient dû être réglées il y a des semaines, ne pas avancer aussi vite que je pourrais, si je veux prendre quelques jours de break.

Et à voir ces derniers jours, c’était juste le bon moment.

Demain, marcher, si le temps le permet.

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Here We Go Again [en]

[fr] C'est reparti. La course. Vite vite vite. Trop pour une personne. Déceptions. Personnes qui proposent leur aide et se retirent: une composante culturelle? Réduire mes attentes. Y'a encore du boulot.

It’s back. The Urge. The Urge to quickly quickly quickly do this, do that, get on the computer in the morning, do this, finish that, OMG-I-wanted-to-do-it-3-days-ago, here’s my list for today, urgent, urgent, quickly deal with it.

What’s going on? Well, first, the Dip. Those of you who know what I’m talking about will know what I’m talking about. As for the others… well, hey, a little mystery here and there can’t hurt, can it, in this age of public people everywhere. So, the Dip is back, and Deadlines are coming up (I resisted the temptation to say “looming on the horizon” right there).

Deadline 1: Friday morning, I’m heading off to the [mountains and my chalet](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/08/03/photos-from-the-mountains/) again.

Deadline 2: in a month minus 1 day, it’s [Going Solo Leeds](http://leeds08.going-solo.net).

Busy-busy-busy!

Actually, it’s not astonishing that I feel crunched. Stressed. Running. I’m trying to do more than one person’s work. So, no wonder I can’t keep up.

I’m also learning to not get my hopes up when people offer help. It’s sad to say, but often people are enthusiastic, come forward, and have second thoughts when it comes to actually taking the plunge.

I realised it’s cultural, too: very un-Swiss. I’m not saying there aren’t unreliable Swiss people, but here you expect people to be good to their word. Reliability is very much valued. When somebody says “I want to contribute”, you usually expect them to do so. It also means it’s pretty difficult to find people to say “I’m in”.

I’ve had a few disappointing experiences over the last 6-8 months. In my dark days, it feels like I just can’t rely on anybody — but that’s not true either.

I think it’s a combination of various factors. I’ve noticed amongst my more entrepreneur/Valley/less-risk-averse friends a tendency to talk about lots of projects or “things they’re going to do”, start many things, and then drop a lot, too. Not all that is spoken about happens. “Fail early, fail often.” Be creative with your ideas, talk about them around you, try them out, and let go of them if they don’t seem to catch.

All good.

But I’m not like that at all. I have ideas. I talk about them as “perhaps maybe at some point I might possibly eventually try to start doing this or that”. It’s very difficult for me to make the step to say “I’m going to do this/I’m doing this”. Because when I do, I’m married to the idea. It’s going to happen. Giving up is not an option. (I sometimes do, but it’s agonizing and horribly difficult.) Once I have my mind set on something, I have a really hard time letting go or seeing things differently.

It’s not all cultural.

It’s a mix. Some cultural, and some personal. In a more entrepreneur-oriented culture like the US, I guess you’ll find more people who start things easily, go for it, and turn to something else if it doesn’t work out. In a very cautious and risk-averse culture like Switzerland, well, you don’t bump into that many people with that profile. It’s only recently in my life (these last few years) that I’ve started meeting such people and counting them amongst my friends and network.

On a personal level, well, I’m particularly risk-averse, and (as NNT would say) particularly ill-equipped for dealing with probabilities. When somebody says they’ll do something for me, I know there’s a chance it’ll fall through, but I somehow can’t keep my emotions in line with that intellectual knowledge. I build whole worlds on the sand of people’s words, and forget that they are likely to crumble. When they do, it feels like everybody and everything is letting me down.

Another situation in my life where suffering less seems to depend on my ability to adjust my expectations.

There’s still work.

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Business Thoughts [en]

[fr] Je suis en train de me rendre compte de la valeur qu'il y a à investir dans ce que l'on fait et qui fonctionne déjà. Sans vouloir tirer des boulets rouges sur l'innovation (je serais mal placée), payer le loyer est important, et lorsque l'on lit les histoires de ceux à qui les risques ont souri, ne perdons pas de vue qu'on entend rarement parler des perdants.

I think a bunch of things I’ve been reading and thinking about over the last months are starting to come to something.

For example, one thing I’m realising is that it’s easier to pursue and grow existing business than do new things from scratch. I mean this in two ways:

  • existing customers
  • “stuff you do” that actually brings in money

If I look at the past two years, there are a handful of things that have consistently helped pay the rent. If I look back, I’ve spent a lot of energy over the past year trying to do “stuff I wanted to do” — experiential marketing, for example. Of course, it’s easy to say now with hindsight that I might have been better off concentrating on what had worked, but if experiential marketing had been a huge hit that had made me rich, well, it wouldn’t have been a mistake right now.

(I’m reading Fooled by Randomness these days, can you tell?)

Of course, taking risks and innovating is a chance to break through. I’m not saying one should always stick to what one knows. But remember we see the winners, not the losers.

But paying the rent is important.

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After a Day Back at Work [en]

[fr] Journal. Retour au travail, découragement, rythme toujours agréablement ralenti, de la vie seul ou à deux. Et des fumeurs.

Demain, j'écris en français, promis.

A day back at work, or a day back home. It hasn’t been easy, to say the least. I’ve been feeling very discouraged by the state of things and the amount I have to accomplish.

What has changed? I still feel slowed down, in a good way. I’m rushing less. Taking more time to do things. Particularly silly things like make food, brush my teeth, go out on the balcony to look at the storm. Retrospectively, I feel like I used to be rushing around to scrape every minute I possibly could and get back to being “productive”. That’s not exactly what I did, of course (gosh, no), but the fact I remember myself like that pre-holiday is an indicator of my level of stress then.

I’m less stressed. I see a slightly larger picture. You can’t spend days in the mountains and stay stuck to your internal screen. A dear friend of mine showed me that, long ago — with the lake, not the mountains. When anxiety goes up, that life seems too hard, and troubles not manageable anymore, go by the lake and look out. Lots of water, and mountains on the other side. It helps gain some perspective.

A bit like this phrase that hit me, and stuck with me, from [Eight Principles](http://eightprinciples.com): “Think about what’s worrying you the most now. A month from now, will it still be important? What about in a year? In ten years? in 100 years — will anybody care?” It helps me not take everything to heart. Everything in my life tends to be a matter of life and death. Dealing with life and death situations from morning to evening is very, very stressful. It takes some effort to remember that these are not life and death situations. They are small problems.

Problems which will not matter much ten years from now, or even a year from now. I’ll have moved on. I always do.

One thing I’ve realized, now that I’m alone with cat again, is how much easier being with somebody makes certain things. Eating, for example. I ate late today. I managed to conjure myself up a nice lunch, but dinner was… well, there wasn’t much in the fridge or cupboards, so I made do with what I could find. When there are two of you, there are two people to think about / provide the impulse for things like shopping, cooking, taking breaks, going to bed, getting dressed.

Alone, it’s all on my shoulders. I have to make all the effort. I have to lead, always, never follow. If I’m hungry, I have to cook — each time. There is no chance for somebody else to say “I’m hungry, let’s make some food” before I’m starving.

It’s a bit (in a positive way) like the mutual encouragement smokers are subject to when there is more than one of them. Being a non-smoker, I’ve often noticed how my smoking friends smoke reasonably little when they’re alone with me, and often more than double when they’re together. Each time one smoker reaches for her pack, the other lights one too. They are not just following their pattern of need/desire, but adding to it that of the other.

Being a social animal has its advantages — saving energy.

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Here We Are Again [en]

[fr] Journal. L'effet des vacances.

So, here we are again. I’m back with my familiar feeling of not wanting to get up in the morning and crumbling under “too much to do”, and some of them unpleasant things at that.

One of the reasons the mountain works (like the beach, I guess), is that it’s a space where I can’t physically do a great number of these things. Hah! I’m finally understanding the point of going on holiday.

Could I decide that I’m on holiday except for (say) 6 hours a day? I have the impression that would not work. It took me a day or so to “switch off” — more mysteries of the brain to delve in, I guess.

In any case, one benefit of this holiday (even if the “effect” doesn’t last long) is that it’s reset my standard for being “relaxed”. I remember what it feels like, now. And that memory is going to help me not get too carried away into stress and frantic activity.

I’ve decided I was going to back-post these “offline entries” to roughly the moment I wrote them. So, don’t be surprised if you see past posts popping up here and there (I’ve posted those that I wrote during my vacation, so now all you should expect is a night late).

Welcome to my series on trying to figure out some kind of balance in life.

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