Today I am talking about a day because our life is formed by days. As we examine a cell to better understand organisms, we can also examine a day to better understand our lives. This is also one of the frequent questions I get asked by friends, families and strangers and one of the classical questions career seekers have in their question list. And here I am writing the answer so that I can perhaps send people to read this article the next time I get the question again.
A trigger wakes me up from sleep. It is either the end of a sleeping cycle, a mental voice calling myself up to get ready for new challenges or very often the ringtone of an iphone alarm that signals me the start of a new day. Yes, I use an iphone because I do not have a rooster that can wake me up every day.
That’s how we allowed technology to enter our lives and remind us of a day’s start; otherwise imagine how cumbersome it would be to feed a rooster!
Before going to work, I look at myself into my eyes. I notice that they are slightly asymmetric even though I did nothing wrong the night before, except looking at a world from a positively biased angle. However, I am relaxed by this asymmetry because, as the CEO of Clueda AG told me, if we had a symmetric face (even modelling our best face side), we would look odd and ugly.
I realise how asymmetry can be beautiful, though not necessarily at work.
Because later that day, I am working on a set of power point slides, which will be used to present in front of important business people. Everything on the slides needs to be well arranged. If there are two text boxes and the right one is 1 mm. above the other one, there is something really strange going on. I make sure that all items are at the same level so that when I present it to the CEO, the presentation can pass the quality check.
Details prove quality, and that’s why you need a great eyesight.
Maybe there should be an eyesight test for a quality license as there exists for a driver’s license. Also may I suggest you take a small break right now just in case you are feeling eye strain from reading this article on an electronic screen.
The CEO is a detailed German manager who has an excellent feeling for the smallest distances and can easily detect misalignments. On this day, he remarks that there seems to be a distance between the text boxes. I double check with Microsoft Office, but the program continued telling me that the objects were at the same position and had the same size. Who should I believe, the CEO or Microsoft Office? That is a good question for you and for a Microsoft technician. In this case, I trusted the technology because all the numbers were right.
There are plenty of people who dislike Microsoft Power Point, but I use it very often at work because it has the tools that could make a presentation as appealing as the colourful and beautiful flowers that blossom in spring. Of course, I say this not just because of my long year relationship with Power Point nor do I say it out of interest (disclosure: at the time of writing, I own no Microsoft shares nor similar financial instruments). I could easily switch to another tool if it proved to be more useful and effective.
The task I perform on this day is not merely related to Power Point, nor related only to marketing or appealing to people’s emotions, rather it is also about being deep in the business ocean. The more profound one’s knowledge is about the different business aspects, the better one can structure one’s thoughts and present them. Preparing such a communication document feels sometimes like preparing for a test. You attempt to guess where the real interest of the audience lies and what questions might pop up. The process can be as fun as solving a puzzle and on the way, I have gained insight into a sea of business notions such as business models, product-market fit and technology adoption life cycle.
You might think that Power Point slides are easily made, but we adapt them regularly to improve them through the feedback of numerous people who have generously given us their advice and we adapt them to the new realities of the company and market. It is in fact an ongoing process of analysing, thinking and communicating.
As with a good book that often requires several times of write-up, certain slides risk ending up in the garbage. I am grateful that in these electronic times, it is so easy to throw away things with a single click [del] because there are times where you have to throw away things in order to achieve an even better result. It is also wonderful to be able to easily save different versions of a same document. What really matters is having an excellent deliverable on due time.
The process can be intense particularly when your mind is absorbed on a thing, but knowing that there will be an evidence of your mental work is unique and indescribable.
Later on the day, I get interrupted by a colleague. She wants to talk with me. At that moment, as always happens when someone wants to talk with me, I feel excited because I know they trust me with their issues. I was all ears. What’s more, I was all eyes and all heart. I let her describe the problem and give her my feedback. It is extraordinary when the talks are so open and direct. Chinese people often do not have the reputation of being direct, but I am not the typical Chinese. My experiences have been just a bit more complicated than that.
Talking to employees really helps you understand people.
You learn a new world view and understand key factors that matter, e.g. the real meaning of a job and the future development of it. When later asked by the CEO about how to make people open up as a superior, I mention the importance of chemistry between people together with some hiring considerations.
Meetings are also part of my day. On this day, I had a meeting with our experienced head of sales and another business partner. During it, we opened the sibling of Power Point, i.e. Excel, to register the product of our discussions. A small companion is also with me; it’s a small notebook where I can take notes.
Writing on paper makes everything feel much more personal.
Though in my previous job I have been encouraged to type directly into the computer, and I have often done so, the feeling of writing on paper is irreplaceable. By the way, one of our most successful marketing campaigns was when we wrote some lines by hand.
In between the day, I monitor whether anything has been said about our company. There have been relatively few mentions because Germans prefer to keep most things offline and put a special emphasis on privacy. As a result, they are not as enthusiastic with social media, e.g. Twitter, as Americans. I have also learnt to be careful posting pictures that I have taken with Germans online, because they might not agree to do so.
At the end of the day, I close my eyes, not to sleep, rather to feel the day, for all things that are important in life are often not to be seen nor heard, but rather to be felt. In the New Yorker Presents, Marina Abramovic shows the importance of feeling and how she uses as an expression of art.
Finally, some imagination takes place in my mind, reminding me of Einstein’s words:
“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” ― Albert Einstein
This imagination might later be continued in my dream, but that would be another topic.
I fall asleep with a feeling of gratitude because I know that days as snowflakes, are unique and unrepeatable.
The next day will be a new beginning, and it will not be the same again.
Have you ever stopped to examine a day in your life? What does it look like?