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Resolve to Evolve in 2015

December 31, 2014

“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world…”

— The Beatles, Revolution

Matthew Gilbert in the Al Hatta desert on a desert safari.As 2014 draws to a close people start listing resolutions they intend to achieve in 2015.

Although well intended, 77% of people who make new year’s resolutions abandon them — many as early as the end of January.

I’ve never been much for making lists of resolutions, though as 2009 started I was inspired by Chris Brogan’s call to list three words that would inspire me and inform my decisions.

Ironically, in the months that followed my life took an unexpected turn that forever changed who I am and how I see the world. My three words were incredibly relevant some of the time, yet totally irrelevant at others. I survived a shock to my system that jarred me out of my comfort zone.

I learned that nothing is certain except the uncertainty of life. Yet, looking back over those five years I also realized something essential to my philosophy of lifelong learning: I evolved. What does that mean?

evolve

If you look at the definition to the left the word that pops out at me is “gradually.” This means change takes time and therefore requires something we all could use more of: patience.

Because most resolutions are transactional they are nearly impossible to achieve unless you precede them with a transformational realignment. If you don’t change how you see yourself and your situation, any short-term goals are doomed to fail because you won’t have an accurate benchmark.

So, with all due respect to The Beatles (see the lyrics to their song Revolution, above), evolution is more realistic than revolution, especially on a personal level.

Am I perfect now? Far from it; I am full of flaws and continuing to evolve as an individual. I suppose that’s the point, right? But I am more aware of myself and more engaged in my life than ever before. I am embracing ambiguity more than before and forcing myself out of my comfort zone.

The impact has been exceptional, both personally and professionally. Most notably, I relocated 8,000 miles away to Dubai, UAE for a full time teaching position  — just two short weeks after being offered the job(and having never before been to Dubai)!

Although Dubai is westernized in many ways, it has still provided me a wonderful opportunity to experience an entirely different culture than the one with which I was accustomed.

I am endeavoring to become the person who I should be, not who other people want me to be. I refuse to let others define me and decide for me.

I am doing this as much for myself as I am to show my two sons — whom I miss a great deal — that there is a world beyond the boundaries of the city in which they live. I want to inspire them to adventure by my actions. In the spirit of Robin William’s character in Dead Poets Society (John Keating) I embrace a philosophy of “Carpe Diem!”

I understand evolution is a process that happens  — wait for it — gradually. Ask Darwin: evolution is a transformational process that fundamentally changes something over a length of time, not a short period of time.  Just as I will never stop learning, I realize I will never be “done” evolving.

My evolution might have happened naturally as a function of maturity when I turned 40 earlier this year, but the process was was undoubtedly accelerated by the five years before it. While in the midst of the moment I was often overwhelmed with the challenges thrown my way, I now look back with gratitude for having been strengthened as a result.

Certainly you don’t have to go through what I did; you can find inspiration anywhere. If you need a little boost, however, you might enjoy reading the book “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander. You might also find insight by completing the StrengthsFinder analysis; it was fundamental in helping me realize teaching was my perfect profession.

So, will you resolve to evolve in 2015?

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Getting Google+ “Auto Awesomed”

November 30, 2014

Serendipity+?

Yesterday I recorded a video for my online UCLA Extension Social Media Marketing course (MGMNT X460.398A) in an area under construction near my apartment in the Sports City area of Dubai, UAE. I’ve been living her shortly after I started teaching for Jumeira University this September.

Designed to mirror the content of Gary Vaynerchuck’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, the course challenges students to create a content marketing plan for a product, service, individual, or organization of their choice.

google+-auto-backupThe theme of the week for which I recorded the video is “Embracing Emerging Options.” As presented in the Round (Chapter) 8, Opportunities in Emerging Networks, the emerging social networks include LinkedIn, Google+, Vine, and Snapchat.

While today and even when the book was first published in November 2013 these platforms weren’t “new” in the literal sense none had yet achieved critical mass.

That said, Snapchat has quickly gained momentumVine has seen impressive growth,  LinkedIn has aggressively evolved from its initial role as an “online Rolodex,” yet the role and relevance of Google+ continues to fluctuate.

I was invited to join Google+ three years ago, early into it’s Beta launch. In the more than three years since I am still not quite sure what to do with it nor have I seen tremendous engagement on it, but I remain cautiously optimistic.

Speaking of which, if you’re not already doing so, please stop by my Google+ profile and follow me; I will do the same and, together we can enhance our experience on this platform with potential.

However, I actively use the Google+ Auto Backup feature and continue to be amused by the Google+ Auto Awesome functionality for photos and for Google+ Auto Awesome for videos as well.

And so it was remarkably coincidental (and strangely sentient) for Google+ to “Auto Awesome” my UCLA Extension video that included content about Google+ just a few hours later. It includes footage from the video I shot plus still shots I also took (yes, including a selfie; for shame).

Interestingly, it removed the actual audio track and made it more of a montage. More intriguing was the awkward yet entertaining  1980s sitcom style music Google+ added to the video!

So, without further delay, I present to you my Auto Awesome video:

Have you ever been Auto Awesomed?

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Pick Up Six: Celebrating Six Years on Twitter

November 20, 2014

“I don’t Twitter, I don’t MyFace, I don’t YearBook.” — Bill Belichick, Coach of the New England Patriots

twitter-logo-125There are two kinds of people in this world: people who love Twitter and people who love to hate Twitter; there seems to be very little room in between.

Unlike the coach of my favorite NFL team, I fall into the first category; although at first I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Being confused and uncertain is a common experience among first time Twitter users.

Humorously, back in 2009 when I was experimenting with the dearly departed social media video platform 12Seconds, I asked the Mad Hatter in Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California what he thought of Twitter . This was his response (apparently he was more interested in a teapot):

I first signed up for Twitter six years ago — on November 19, 2008 — in the computer lab of the DeVry University in Bakersfield, California (where I had been teaching classes earlier that day). I quickly found it suited my stream of consciousness style of thinking and need for newly acquired knowledge.

I have since found Twitter to be a transformational and transactional social media tool. I’ve used it to network personally and professionally, curate content for courses I’ve created and/or taught, and even credit Twitter for helping me get a teaching position with UCLA Extension.

Since first tackling Twitter I have expanded to the four accounts below, though at this point I primarily use @MatthewAGilbert.

My most unique Twitter experience involved Matthew Gilbert — not me, but the the TV critic for the Boston Globe. One day while teaching a class at UC Santa Barbara I received an email from him. He asked that since I had control over, but was not using @MatthewGilbert, would I be so kind as to let him use it.

I actually knew of him and over time had been confused for him. One particularly entertaining moment of confused identity was when I was recording my appearance on the short-lived CBS game show “Winning Lines.”

The producers were running scared because, since I was born in Boston and we had the same name, they assumed I was the “other” Matthew Gilbert and that I had somehow infiltrated the show to “scoop” it before it aired!

In any case, I only briefly thought about his request and then decided to let him use the Twitter account; how could I deny my namesake? Besides, in an effort to personally brand myself, I always use my middle initial — A — because there are quite a large number of “other other” Matthew Gilbert’s!

In response he posted a very cordial tweet (from the new account). From time to time we tweet each other and, more recently, he acquired the domain www.matthewgilbert.com from me top promote his new book: Off the Leash.

@matthewgilbert_shoutout_to_@matthewagilbert_20110712

So, in six short years on Twitter I not only found my way to new professional and personal opportunities, but I found myself (well, sort of). Thank you for a superb six years, Twitter — I look forward to the next six with enthusiasm and excitement!

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A California Yankee in Sheikh Mohammed’s Court

October 8, 2014

Welcome to Dubai.”

Waiting to depart LAX on Sunday, September 7, 2014.

Waiting in the United Airlines terminal to depart LAX the morning of Sunday, September 7, 2014.

After flying 9,357 miles from LAX and traveling for nearly 22 hours — including an almost 4 hour delay in Dulles (IAD) – I had arrived at Dubai International Airport (DXB) the evening of September 8, 2014. Coincidentally Lady Gaga  arrived that evening for her first UAE concert ever.

Beginning a two year contract as a full time Lecturer in the College of Business Administration at Jumeira University, I awaited a brave new world of professional development  and personal growth. One quick month later, I have experienced that and more.

Below are three of my initial  impressions — aka “teachable moments” — from my first month in Dubai. Each is a different degree of the same spectrum of educational adventure and I am grateful for the knowledge gained through each experience:

Community

Having worked as an adjunct instructor since 2007 I became accustomed to a “lone wolf” style of working and, to some degree, living. One of the first changes — aside from the obvious fact that I am thousands of miles from my former home in another country — is I am now a full-time faculty member, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. I am fortunate to have exceptional colleagues and students who, from  day one, have enriched my experience ten fold. There is a wonderful sense of community and camaraderie here and it is both motivating and reassuring. I am looking forward to creating a community of practice and making the most of this exceptional opportunity.

Connectivity

Finding reliable WiFi has been a challenge everywhere including at my apartment, where I had to wait an additional 10 days for service due to an issue with the fiber cable and, subsequently, the server box in my apartment.  This complicated  matters, including my ability to speak with my sons via Skype over WiFi. Fortunately, my building management and my Internet provider — du — worked with me to resolve the issue even with an important Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, impeding their progress. I am happy to report that I am now writing this fully connected at my apartment. Ironically, my connectivity issues started even before I arrived in Dubai when neither of the two flights I took had WiFi on-board. Having previously been continuously connected, this was a challenging adjustment; one that forced me to find creative, constructive, and somewhat costly alternatives. The lesson here was one of persistence mixed with patience and politeness.

Mobility

Coming from Los Angeles (where nobody walks), I was accustomed to driving everywhere. But, when I arrived in Dubai I had $300 in my pocket, two large suitcases, one carry-on, and a messenger bag with my laptop; I was without personal transportation. Initially, and now occasionally, I depended on the kindness of strangers or colleagues. I even had an exceptional experience with a total stranger named “Ali Boots” who graciously drove me to my university after getting an important housing document called an Ejari. Now I am taking taxis or the Dubai Metro light rail system. While individual taxi rides are only between AED 30 and 50 ($8.17 to $13.61), these costs can quickly add up, as can the time spent waiting for scheduled taxis or trying to find an available option. For the most part this has been a seamless process, but it has taught me to plan more efficiently, travel lightly, and be flexible — it’s also forced me to more carefully budget my cash flow.

Me in front of Jumeira University in Dubai, UAE.

Me in front of Jumeira University in Dubai, UAE.

This is a small sampling of my observations. During my next two years in Dubai I will share “tips and quips” as time and subject matter permit. If ever there was an opportunity to learn continuously and live generatively this is certainly it!

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Pull the Plug and Boost Your Batteries

March 10, 2014

National Day of Unplugging 2014“Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

This philosophy, popularized by 1960’s counter-culture icon Timothy Leary, could nowadays be communicated as “turn off, unplug, get outside.”

Designed to help hyper-connected people celebrate the ancient ritual of a day of rest The National Day of Unplugging is a 24-hour period starting at sunset on the first Friday of March each year.

This year’s event took place this past weekend, beginning at sundown on Friday, March 7 and ending at sundown on Saturday, March 8. Of course you could theoretically have your own “Day of Unplugging” during any 24-hour period.

The project is an outgrowth of The Sabbath Manifesto, a creative project designed to encourage people to take one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, and reconnect with loved ones.

To help achieve that goal members of the organization abide by 10 principles:

  1. Avoid technology.
  2. Connect with loved ones.
  3. Nurture your health.
  4. Get outside.
  5. Avoid commerce.
  6. Light candles.
  7. Drink wine.
  8. Eat bread.
  9. Find silence.
  10. Give back.

I’m unsure how long I could embrace each of these principles, but I like the idea of giving it a try — it’s only 24 hours, right?

On a related note, The Sabbath Manifesto is involved with Connected, a film exploring what it means to be connected. Conversely, they also produced “Yelp” a short film that explores the experience of disconnecting.

So are you prepared to unplug?

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