Last week I had the opportunity to travel, meet interesting and generous people, have great conversations and listen to compelling stories on the topic of identity.
My identity, for example, is probably typical of the times we live in: I was born in Guatemala, raised in the United States, returned to my home country and left again in my mid-20s. I was educated in the Catholic faith, but I also had a Scientist as a Father and my spirituality took on other dimensions as I started to travel.
I studied some business and marketing, as well as social anthropology and history in college. I took a job in the airline industry and 26 years later I managed to develop a rewarding career. Thanks to hard work and people who looked after my professional growth, I got to live and work in 5 different countries, and travel to more than 35 locations around the world involved in a variety of projects.
For the past 13 years I’ve lived in Spain, more specifically in Mallorca. In spite of this being the place where I’ve lived the longest, except for Guatemala, everyone perceives me as a foreigner. When I return to my birth country, they confirm that I no longer exhibit many of the local idiosyncrasies.
Based on the way I dress, speak; behave, as well as what I like to eat or drink, people can’t quite figure out where I’m from, much less, who I am. So I try to describe my identity in the following terms. It is based on original family values, on some parts of the different cultures that have hosted me, as well as the tastes and preferences I’ve developed while seeing as much of this world and its people.
But the concept of identity transcends us as individuals: there are so many collective identities out there, which are almost impossible to observe, compare or adopt, even with the real-time, non-stop flow of information and social media. Identity is literally in our face when we observe the current geo-political events, and in the handling of the most recent aviation related crisis.
Within communities, territories and even states, I get the feeling that the past few years of economic hardship are reshaping our identities. I notice people are tired and very skeptic of the established models that govern our politics, our finances, our professional and cultural frameworks. People want, and will probably drive, significant changes to those structures and I want to be part of that process (in fact, we’re going to be actors in that change whether we want it or not).
I want to be involved in changing the way leaders are developed, behave and add value to their stakeholders. This has the potential of creating new ways of doing business, involving communities, creating more meaningful jobs, and providing better ways of taking care of our environment.
Given my globetrotting past I am willing to participate in conversations with like-minded people, anywhere in the world. But I confess that there is a soft spot for Mallorca in my mind and heart.
I see here many opportunities to drive change and create value: supporting established businesses and entrepreneurs, helping people develop skills to get the better jobs that those enterprises may offer, linking other collectives through partnerships and alliances that multiply the effects across land, tradition, and innovation to sustain our small part of the world.
I get it, I hear it, I’m willing to work hard at it: People want, demand, new styles of leadership, of communications, of managing relationships with others and themselves, and to achieve all that in balance so that health, family, friends and leisure are more accessible, and not some kind of luxury that only a few can enjoy through material wealth.
This could be a good year for our identities: mine, yours, theirs, and ours!