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Working is not only about achievement; it is also about how you feel, how you look, where you work, and how you treat yourself. 

Take your hobbies to work

manuelita otero


I love stories related to work because as I listen I see opportunities to analyze, learn, and put it into practice, which is something I am passionate about. I have noticed that nowadays companies are creating more initiatives to improve their work environment and to help their employees come together. I have heard Lego days, cooking classes, camping, volunteer days, and other things that in the past were not even heard of. These are great ideas, but not every organization has the budget or time to make this happen. 

I have been thinking of ways for coworkers to come together and break the routine, and hobbies is the answer that came to mind. When a person talks about his or her hobbies there’s excitement and eagerness to share the things they love.  

One time I tried in my office a simple activity in which each person in our team shared something they liked to do or talk about a topic they knew well. It was a complete success! We called this space: “Venga le enseño” which means: “come and I’ll teach you” and that’s exactly what it was, an invitation for people to listen, share, learn, and connect. It was simple, relaxed, and didn’t take a lot of hours from our job. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see the results: people in our office sharing what they enjoy doing and what they knew. 

Using hobbies to improve the work environment is powerful:  

  • It can become the starting point to improve your team’s communication.

  • It empowers and motivates employees. 

  • It strengthens the team as they learn from each other about each other.  

  • It creates quality time at the office. 

  • It creates the habit of giving and receiving at work. 

  • It could become the place and moment to come up with solutions. . 

If you really think about it, there are hundreds of activities that can be planned around hobbies, it’s just a matter of letting your imagination go and making it happen. Enjoy your hobbies, share them, and use them to get to know yourself better.  



manuelita otero


I love family dinners. I enjoy the time we spend together, the noise, the many conversations that happen at once, the laughter, and the spontaneous dancing. My children and I are very energetic and loud. It’s how we’ve always been. That’s how we operate. I know our attention span is short and our energy high, and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As much as I love being all over the place, having so many thoughts race through my mind all at once and getting the most random ideas at the least expected moments, one thing I really struggle with is when all that is happening in my mind affects my productivity. Getting things done makes me happy, putting that check mark in my “To Do” list and going on to the next item is pure joy to me. So finding that balance between embracing who I am and the fact that there’s a lot going on in my mind and wanting to get things done is  a daily struggle, but as in any battle, knowing your enemy, being prepared and having strategies goes a long way.

There are a lot of studies that prove that our attention spans are decreasing, that’s nothing new. But just because something is happening doesn’t mean we need to go along with it. To improve our focus starts with a decision, for some of us it may be tougher than for others, but still there is a lot we can do.  

Let’s get some ideas flowing:

Of course, first in my list… a “To Do” list: Lists are wonderful helpers for people who have a lot going on, people who think of things as they are doing other things and people who want to feel a sense of accomplishment as they complete a task.

Avoid dread: There’s this dangerous thing called “dread”. It’s that awful feeling that you get when you have to do something you really don’t want to do, so instead of doing it, you put it off and keep feeling terrible. The longer we wait to do the things we don’t want to, the harder it’s going to be to have the right attitude to actually get it done. Attitude is the first step for success.   

Break big projects into smaller more manageable tasks: (and reward yourself): We have all heard this before, because it works. Many times we lose the little focus we have just thinking about the complexity of a job, but when you divide a “painful” project into “doable” tasks it all changes. It gets even better when you add “rewards” which in my case means I get to organize a shelf at our school’s supply closet after I finish a challenging assignment. Organizing makes me happy.    

Walk, drive, or simply move: Sometimes the answer comes when you least expect it, and focus happens without even trying. I focus when I walk and when I drive. I have found that while walking or driving I can choose whether I let my  mind wander or if I want to only focus on a specific issue that I need to solve.

Work beside someone: Some people find that it helps them when they have a working buddy.

Talk out loud: I feel bad if people have to work in my office, because I talk to myself all day. It is exhausting, but it works for me and I never have a boring moment.

Make time to focus on your passions too: Separate time to focus and dig deeper into things you love, things you are passionate about and things that make you happy.

Learning to focus is in part a decision, putting away distractions that can be controlled is something we can do right now and will definitely improve our attention span. The key is to know yourself. Some people can work with noise, music, distractions, and others prefer a quiet space. Some people like to sit on the floor, others at couches or at coffee shops. Know how you focus better, know what works for you. Be a “you” expert and see the difference. Elie Venezky, author of Hack Your Brain says that “focus is a muscle, and you can build it”. We are not victims of our genes or our surroundings. We can do more than what we are probably doing right now to strengthen our ability to focus and get things done and actually enjoy the process.


Life is in the details

manuelita otero

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When was the last time you discovered something on your commute to work, a casual stroll in the park or simply doing what you usually do? When was the last time you actually took the time to see something new? It seems that nowadays we are so overloaded with “stuff” that our minds are never at rest. And what may be even worse, it seems that when we get the opportunity to have some space, we run away from it and quickly look for ways to distract ourselves.   


On my trip to London last year I had the wonderful gift of time just for me, time to do what I wanted and simply enjoy on my own.  While walking the city for long hours, I had the opportunity to “people watch” and to observe and enjoy my surroundings. During one of those walks I noticed people looking down as they crossed the Millennium Bridge. They looked as if they had lost something, but they were smiling and taking photos, so I also started looking down and discovered tiny artwork in gum that had gotten stuck in the tread of the bridge. Gum is not your typical canvas, but Ben Wilson, also known as Chewing Gum man took his passion, his talent and used it to produce genuine smiles, creative designs and to leave a mark in one of the most famous cities in the world. His work takes time, up to three hours a piece, time he spends working on his creation and talking to people who often ask to take a photo with him and even request designs in memory of loved ones.

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Ben Wilson started painting on chewing gum in 1998 and he has created more than 10,000 pieces all over the UK. In case you are worried, he isn’t breaking the law because the gum is already discarded. He says he “transforms it into something beautiful that people would like to look at”.  I don’t think throwing gum in public places is a good thing, but I do find inspiring Ben’s desire to make art from something unexpected, something people see as garbage. I love his dedication and persistence as he labors year after year without pay or expectations, but for the simple reason that he loves what he is doing and he enjoys making people happy as they see his artwork. I love that his pieces remind us to look, to observe and to see beyond what we expect. He is inviting us to discover and be delighted with little things we may find on our way.


How will you share your talents? What will you discover today? Every day is an opportunity to Keep looking and be surprised.

Manuelita @manuelitaotero

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Creativity and Cartagena? It's a match!

manuelita otero


There is something curious about creativity, you know? How so many times it feels just like magic.

In the end, every single time we humans stand in front of something we can't explain, we tend to perceive it as a sort of magic. As something that lies just right outside of the boundaries of our understanding. And only after we overcome awe, we start working in trying to figuring it out.

But more remarkable for me, than the magical aspect of creativity, is the fact that you can actually feel it. You've been there: that precise moment in which you get struck by an idea, and there is this tickling sensation in your brain, this sudden heat all over your head that makes you feel so good. I think you can relate, right?

Now, the thing is that although most of us enjoy the idea of being creative, we don't know how. No one taught us. Even worse, for some reason, we just started believing that some people are creative and some are not... As if it were a matter of chance, or fate.

Good news is that it's not like that. Creativity is not a gift, it’s an ability, and you can train and work it out to make it stronger. That is precisely what we want to teach you this September, in a place that is so full of magic that we can't think of a better match: Cartagena.

Join us for a life-changing experience, in which you will get a better understanding of how creativity works, and how you can spark it up in your everyday activities to make them more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Learn how to set your mind to a creative frequency, have more -and better- ideas, improve them, overcome mental blocks, think differently and effectively make conscious decisions.

All of this, through a whimsical mix of knowledge, practical exercises, proven methods, techniques and a lot of playing.

So, I hope we'll get to make some creative magic together in a magical place... see you in Cartagena!


* Mario Ramírez is the General Manager of Curiosofía, a colombian consultancy agency, that offers both professional training and other services in creativity, branding and strategic communications.


What a celebration!

manuelita otero

Don’t you just love to celebrate? On March 3rd , Happily Imperfect and My Closet etc. had the opportunity to celebrate with some amazing women. What were we celebrating? So many things that we just couldn’t define one name for our event. It was the launch of our book First Love; it was a pop up shop; it was an opportunity to meet friends from social media, which we felt we had known for years; it was the chance to see people who have supported us through the years; it was a safe space to share opinions and discuss serious subjects, and an opportunity to network.  


As difficult it may be to explain how happy Nikka and I felt hosting this event; I will try to describe it:

- New friends, old friends, virtual friends: We loved seeing friends who have supported us for years, the ones who heard the idea and encouraged us, the ones who have seen the process and have shared the excitement and the challenges with us. We also loved being able to give a hug to women whom we had only seen on Instagram. The ones who make us smile with a comment, who like our photos, who buy from us, the ones who have become part of our virtual family, finally it felt so good to make it real and see their smiling faces, and to be able to thank them personally for their support.


- Deep conversations: We loved the conversations, the networking, and the new friendships that were made. It makes us so happy for women to come together and share their thoughts, to be vulnerable without worrying about being judged by people they just met. A friend commented “things got deep fast.” How good is that? To have meaningful conversations so together we can be part of the positive change we know needs to happen… priceless.


- No need for perfection: Isn’t it great when you are with a group of friends and you feel freedom to be you? That’s exactly how we felt and you can’t imagine how much we appreciate the opportunity to just be us: a little loud, a little messy, a little crazy and very relaxed. We saw our friends going along which made us feel comfortable. We had so much fun!  


- A confirmation: One of the objectives of our event was to encourage the women who attended, to remind them how amazing they are, but we didn’t realize that we would be encouraged as well. The comments made about the book, the conversations that took place, the smiles, the energy, everything was such a wonderful reminder that it is worth it, people are listening, and it makes a difference. When you see and when you feel what we felt the day of the event, it is such an exciting confirmation that you are going in the right direction.  

Manuelita @manuelitaotero and Nikka @nikkaduarte


manuelita otero


Have you ever dreamt about having your own business? It sounds exciting doesn’t it? Setting your own schedule, doing things your way, and being your own boss, who wouldn’t like that? For those who are entrepreneurs and are living that dream, they will tell you that it is a lot of work, and maybe not as “romantic” as it sounds. But they will also tell you that it’s rewarding to work every day based on what drives you. Having your own business is much more than sharing your passion with the world. Being the boss is a huge responsibility and we are not only talking about decisions related to money, services, products, or marketing. We are talking about something more important than that- people. But even if owning your business and being the boss is not what you’re interested in, even if you think your position is not “high” and your influence may seem limited. Think again. You can and should think as the owner and do your work accordingly. You are the boss of your position.  

There are many qualities a good boss has. A good boss...

  • Sets the tone.
  • Appreciates his or her employees.
  • Listens.
  • Finds solutions.
  • Is fair.
  • Knows what’s going on.
  • Doesn’t assume he or she is right always.
  • Carefully defines and participates in the hiring process.
  • Faces situations.
  • Cares
  • Understands each position in the company.
  • Is clear with expectations.
  • Is honest.
  • Creates systems.

If you are in a position of leadership at your workplace, know that people are looking up to you. They are expecting guidance. You can help your employees by sharing what you know and placing them in positions where they can use their talents and abilities. You can set the tone and make the work environment positive. You can make a positive impact that will last more than a couple of years. And if you do that, the people who work for you will want to do their best. It’s up to you to use your position to add value to the company, to your team, and to yourself. You need to be a leader, one that is willing to invest time and effort because happy people at work not only translates into a better quality of life for each employee, it also means more productivity, so at the end everyone wins.

Manuelita @manuelitaotero

What can a squirrel teach us about persistence?

manuelita otero


The other day I was visiting my aunt and she happily showed me her new bird feeder. As we looked through the window we noticed a squirrel who really liked what it saw and wouldn’t  give up until it got it. (See the video) I was amazed at the squirrel’s persistence, it just wouldn’t stop trying, and as I looked at that squirrel I started thinking… I need to have that persistence. Is there something you just can’t take out of your head? A project, a dream, or an idea that won’t leave you alone? You may have contemplated it, worked on it, given up on it, and no matter what you do, it keeps coming back. What can you do when the one thing you are passionate about keeps burning in your heart, but is not producing the results you hope, want, and need? The squirrel may have a couple of answers:

  • Focus on the goal: The squirrel knew what it wanted. The seeds in the feeder looked too good to let them go. The objective was clear. No distractions or complications. Do you really know what you want to achieve? Not only what you want to do, or how to do it, but what do you really want to accomplish. In business many times a major mistake is not knowing what you are selling, and what you are trying to achieve.

  • Plan: Did you notice the pauses the squirrel took? It was as if it was rehearsing each attempt in its mind, planning the next action, trying to figure out how to achieve the goal. Passion is the fuel you need, but planning and defining strategies will help you use that fuel wisely. Every effort must be part of a plan, which needs to be flexible enough to adjust to changes, but well founded to produce success.

  • Another way: The squirrel tried different ways to get the seeds, and if you notice the one that finally worked (sorry, spoiler) was completely different from the first attempts. There are several ways to solve a problem, to produce a great service, to reach your market, to let the world know about your product. The answer is out there, look for it in different ways, open your mind, listen to people who think differently from you, observe, allow times of silence. Take risks and turn problems into opportunities.

Persistence pays off. If you don’t believe me, look at the video Doesn’t that squirrel look happy and satisfied? “Don’t give up” is more than a slogan, it’s a way of life.

P.D. My aunt is actually very sad that this squirrel is taking the bird’s seeds, so if you have any tips on how to stop our persistent squirrel, I would appreciate them. :)

Manuelita @manuelitaotero

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Got ideas? Take care of them!

manuelita otero

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed because you get too many ideas at once? Do you ever wish you could do many things because everything looks so interesting? I’m a little like this. I often happily announce over dinner to my children: “Guess what… I have a great idea…” and in their faces I see a mixture of fear and curiosity. They are usually my first filter and if I’m honest, not all my ideas are great, so they never know what’s coming next.  

I used to think I had an attention problem because having too many ideas at once can affect your focus.  During one of my visits to the library I saw a book titled: “Refuse to Choose”, and I knew that was for me. In her book, Barbara Sher writes about people who are curious about unrelated things and want to do many things at once, which makes it hard to focus and choose. She calls them “scanners”.

For years I have been collecting magazine clips of things I find interesting. I have several colorful folders organized by topics. I guess that was my Pinterest back then. I don’t know when I started or even why. I just see a beautiful photo, an amazing place, a great shot, a mixture of colors and I want to capture it because it inspires me. I never knew that my collection of “beautiful clips” would help me in so many unrelated ways. I have used them for our idea of a bed and breakfast, for our children’s clothing company, for the photoshoots for My Closet etc, my daughter’s vintage clothing store, and for the articles and products for Happily Imperfect.  Not only that, but I feel happy looking over my colorful folders. It’s like food for my creativity and a compilation of possibilities.    

I love ideas. I love it when we give our minds freedom and when every idea gets an opportunity to be contemplated without too much logic or reason. Barbara Sher gives tips to “scanners” so they can gather their ideas and use them in productive ways. To me, what has worked well is defining a strategy to organize my ideas and finding a space to let my creativity go through writing. If I get an idea for a book or a business I open a folder and leave it there until the time is right. If I have time to do research or if I find interesting articles related I know where to store them and I don’t feel the pressure to work on them immediately. Nowadays there are so many apps that can help you organize your information, the important thing is to find what works for you. Also it is great help to be surrounded by positive people who are willing to listen without judgement and then give their thoughts in a creative environment.

If you have many interests and want to do many things, good for you! Don’t think you have poor attention and can’t focus on things, just learn to organize your thoughts, find ways to choose the things you want to work on and define strategies to be able to complete what you start. Ideas are valuable and they need to be treated as possibilities, if not for now, maybe later.

Manuelita @manuelitaotero

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What’s success for you?

manuelita otero


  1. The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of  one’s goals.
  2. The attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.

Two different meanings to one common word. The first one is related to the accomplishment of a personal goal and the second one seems to be associated with what society has defined as successful. Have you ever thought which definition applies to you? Have you ever asked yourself what is success? And let’s be honest, have you ever judged someone’s success by the job they have, the car they drive or the house they live in?

In the last few years I’ve been working at random jobs so I can have flexibility and pursue my passion and I can tell you that I feel successful and happy. I don’t feel any less when talking to a CEO because I know what success looks like to me and  that’s what really matters – how I live my life – that’s what I’m responsible for at the end of this journey.

I have my degrees, my experience, and plenty of things that could have led me to a high paying corporate job, but a long time ago I decided to be a full time mom and it has been the best decision of my life. To see my children grow into mature and responsible young adults is success and now that they are older I have more time to seriously pursue my passions.

What endeavor or goal do you want to accomplish? What is that dream in your heart that maybe  has been put to the side because you’ve been too busy searching for “wealth, position, and honors”? All those things are good, but if you don’t have a purpose and you don’t go after it, all those things will feel empty because you know deep inside there’s more. Clearly defining what success means to you will help outline your daily steps. Each day will count toward something bigger- your purpose- and the best thing is that once you realize it, what others think or say about you will not bother you. There’s no right or wrong answer to the meaning of success. There’s your answer and that’s all you need.   


*Definition taken from


Is it Monday yet?

manuelita otero

Most people can think of many things they’d prefer to do other than going to work, but that doesn’t mean that they dislike their job. Now some people really don’t like their job.  They may start figuring out how many hours are left as soon as they arrive, or they get in a bad mood on Sunday because soon it will be Monday.  

We spend many hours of our lives at work, that’s why it’s so important to find a job we enjoy. Living for the weekend is not the best way to live, what about the rest of the week?  

The defines perspective as: “A mental view or outlook. An understanding of how aspects of a subject relate to each other and to the whole.”  Maybe we need to look at our jobs with a new perspective. What if we saw how our work relates to other things or other people?  Maybe what you’re doing enables others to do what they need to do, or maybe it’s a key component in a very complex process. Or maybe it’s something that people don’t realize they appreciate until for some reason they don’t have it.

Can you think of the things you love about your job? Could you make a list? Do you notice how it positively affects people around you? We have daily opportunities to change people’s days. A simple smile and a hello could be the beginning of a great morning to someone. An act of kindness may seem so small but it could be exactly what someone needed at a certain time.  

Enjoying our job starts with our attitude toward it.  What someone could see as a tough or boring job, other person may be wishing they had it. It’s a matter of perspective. There is no perfect job, but there are jobs that fit us better depending on what we’re passionate about. That’s our homework, to figure out the things we love and are good at and to go out and search for that fit. Finding the job that tailors to our strengths may take time, so we need to decide to enjoy the one we have right now by focusing on the positive. Think about it… you could be changing lives in your job and you may not even realize it. Look at the people you interact with daily, listen to your coworkers, see your tasks from a different perspective and realize that you’re there not only to make a living but to change lives. Doesn’t that makes Mondays a lot better?

Manuelita   @manuelitaotero

Passion or money?

manuelita otero

Have you ever found yourself trying to decide which path to take and hoping you make the right decision? One road looks stable while the other seems full of uncertainty.  The decision should be easy, right? But what if the road full of uncertainty is where your passion lies, the things that inspire you and what you feel you have been made for.

I am a big supporter of following dreams and doing what you're passionate about. I believe part of the happiness we all seem to crave is found when we do what we love, but many times we get distracted searching for a “stable” life and end up doing what we feel is expected from us.   

I am in front of these paths right now, scared to commit and lose the freedom to do what I love, but faced with the reality that decisions have to be made. As I stare at the paths, I ask myself, “Who decided there were only two possible paths?”  Sometimes we limit our options by the way we think.  We seem to envision few possibilities, and many times forget to think outside the box.   

I know myself and I'm certain that if I don’t do what I love I will stop being me... And I like me!  We all have something special to give to the world, our passion, and the beauty of it is that everyone is different.

There is a way to combine making a living and pursuing your passion.  It will take dedication, some sacrifices, time, and discipline.  These ideas may help you get started:

- Get to know you: Take time to know yourself, to define your strengths, your talents, and your abilities. Be honest, just because you dream of doing something doesn’t mean you're good at it.  

- Work hard: Dreams don’t just happen; they require work and dedication. Many times we hear stories about people who reach their goals, but we only see the final result, not the daily decisions and sacrifices required.   

- Be responsible: If your passion is not paying the bills, get a job that will; one that will give you the ability to meet your obligations, but still allow you to dedicate time to work on what you love.  

- Love what you do: Get in the habit of enjoying everything you do, even if it’s not the job you are dreaming of.  You never know the doors that will open, the people you will meet, and the things you will learn.  With the right attitude everything you do adds to your life.  

- Give yourself deadlines: It’s so easy to dream and keep planning, but without a specific deadline those plans can span into years. Deadlines help you organize your time and make things happen.

- Start now: Don’t allow fear and doubt to get in the way of our dreams. Go out there and do it.

Back to our initial question: Passion or money? I say both.  Follow your dreams, work hard to reach them, but also be realistic and responsible.  Make every situation matter, live with a purpose, and enjoy your present.


Comfortable is good, but great is better

manuelita otero

Do you remember the last time you did something for the first time? Maybe it was a new job where you felt overwhelmed or maybe it was something you wanted to try. Think about what was going through your mind… Did you feel others were judging you or even secretly making fun of you because you looked a little lost? Did you have second thoughts about your decision? Or were you excited to be learning different things?

Starting something new is not easy. In a way it threatens our confidence because we are suddenly in a situation where everything is different from what we are used to. We may feel lost while everyone around us seems to know it all.  Although it feels good to be in control and to know what we are doing, sometimes our fear of letting go keeps us in certain places doing certain things longer than necessary. Maybe subconsciously we have been putting something off, whether it’s a new job, a career move, a martial arts class, or a trip abroad alone. We may feel comfortable in our current situation and afraid to venture into the unknown. But comfortable is different from excited, inspired, or fulfilled.  And comfortable is good, but great is better. What if that feeling of safety is getting in the way of what we are destined to be and do?   

Next time you are starting something new remember this:

-Everyone started somewhere.
-Be humble; ask for help if needed.
-Learn from others.
-Enjoy the journey.
-Go above and beyond; you won’t regret it.
-Be patient with yourself.
-Smile and have a good attitude.
-Not everyone is going to love you, and that’s ok.

We all started somewhere. Everyone who seems to be great at a sport or seems to know everything at the office at one point didn’t know anything.

Not knowing it all and making mistakes while trying something new is normal and will teach you so much more than you can imagine. It will remind you that your value doesn’t depend on how well you do something or what your position is. It teaches you confidence, appreciation, the value of growing and continuous learning.

If you are satisfied in your job, good; if you are not interested in trying something new, that’s good too. But if deep inside you know that there is something you really want to try, what are you waiting for? Try it, give it your best, have fun at it, learn from the experience. Don’t be afraid to fail, because the fact that you have tried is already a victory.    


Your workplace feels like a battle ground? forgive!

manuelita otero

Has anyone at work ever treated you in a way that you felt was unfair or uncalled for? Maybe someone took credit for something you did, or a certain person didn’t take responsibility for something he or she did. To make things even more challenging, sometimes our coworkers don’t even realize or “pretend” not to realize that they acted wrongfully or they may have even done it on purpose wanting to further their own career, not caring who they step over.  

The workplace can be tough and sometimes it may feel like a battle ground. We spend a lot of time in our offices, whatever our “office” may be and we are with the same people under all types of situations, so it is not surprising that forgiveness is essential at work.

Forgiveness under any circumstance is tough, but it seems to be extra difficult when there is no visible remorse or even acknowledgement from the person we need to forgive. It helps to remember that we forgive for ourselves. Holding on to past offenses becomes heavy baggage. Forgiving someone who doesn’t seem to “deserve it” can only be done when we choose to let go of our need to hear from the person who treated us unfairly: “I am sorry I hurt you, I regret it” We want someone to feel our anger and pain.  We want justice.  But what do we do when we can’t seem to find that “justice” we imagined yet we still have to forgive for our own good?

Listen and talk: If possible, try to find a way to clarify the situation and fix the issues. A positive environment at work is always a good thing.  

Let it go: Sometimes people tend to see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear, with conversations ending up nowhere. When that happens, recognize it and simply let it go.

Learn from the situation: One thing is to let go of a situation, another is to let it happen again.  Forgiving is letting go of an offense, but it is not a free ticket for people to walk all over you. You can learn from every situation so the next time it won’t happen because you know how to avoid it.

Forgiveness takes courage and self-control and that makes you a stronger person each time you practice it, so taking that strength and putting it into practice will make a difference in your life. It may take a long time for things to fall into place and for situations to finally make sense, but the satisfaction of doing the right thing not because you care who is watching, but because you care how it affects you is priceless.  

Manuelita   @manuelitaotero


Do you and your team know your talents?

manuelita otero

A while ago someone asked me how could I have been working for almost ten years with my husband and look so happy, relaxed, and still be together? Although I don’t remember what I replied, I know the complete answer would take hours because of the many experiences that have had to happen to make it a possible experience.  

I am not an expert in the subject, but after some discussions, mistakes, promises, and agreements, I can assure you without a doubt that today my husband and I have a work relationship that gets stronger every day.  It is finally growing because it has been set on a solid foundation, and when I say finally, I say it with all honesty because    it took us a long time to get to the place we are at today.  

What provides peace and balance in work relationships is to give freedom to people’s strengths. The key is to discover, respect and encourage the strengths of each member of the team, including ourselves, and no matter how big the team is.  What does this mean?

- If we know our strengths and the ones of others, it will be much easier to delegate, and to accept authority.  Believe me, to maturely accept authority from your partner at work is an enormous task. And maybe some women are more sensitive to taking things personally, but when we know the strengths of the other person, it will be easier to understand where that person is coming from and see it from a different perspective.

- When we focus on strengthening our talents and not in improving our weaknesses, we start investing our time wisely. It is difficult for someone not to shine at work when they dedicate themselves to improve their talents.

- When I respect the strengths of the people who work with me it is going to be easier to respect that person.

- When we dedicate our lives to things that are not our strengths, sooner or later exhaustion will come.  This frustration will pollute the working team affecting morale and effectiveness.

If your workplace is an opportunity to polish your talents and strengths, wonderful!  If not, take your current job, whatever it is, and try to mold it according to your strengths.  If like me, you work with the person you love, put your strengths into the heart of your project, and you will go far working as a team.

By Ana



What’s behind a “but”?

manuelita otero

I used to be a fan and avid user of the word “but”. I felt that using it allowed me to be kind yet firm, and to be humble while keeping my pride. It is a word that can become your best ally when you want to complain, demand, or appreciate with certain conditions. Its definition says it all: “Except for the fact; on the contrary”. (1)

I could show praise to someone while still reminding them of something that I’d like to change in them: “You are smart, but your mood is not the best.” I could complain without sounding as if I was nagging: “I’m sad you didn’t call, but I understand you were busy.” I could make an agreement with conditions “Let’s eat that, but buy me ice cream later.” I was a big fan of “but” until I learned the great care needed when using it because when the brain hears “but” it forgets or ignores the words said just before. (2)

It may sound confusing at first; nevertheless, a couple of simple examples given by neuro linguistic experts quickly clarified the danger of this word: “If you tell someone ‘I love you, but you are so annoying’ that person will remember the annoying part and not the love you have for him or her.  If you tell your child ‘you did great, but your effort was not enough’ your child will remember the accusation of what he or she missed and not the recognition”.

The idea leaves us with an interesting topic to think about, and reminds us to be careful with what we say before and after a “but”, and whether by adding “but” to everything we are missing the opportunity to enjoy people, situations, and achievements. 

Letting the word “but” rest for a while is a decision that could bring us great satisfaction, as we celebrate more the step by step process without worrying about all that we are missing.  This could be an even better decision at the workplace where the environment tends to be cold and extremely competitive. Our jobs are a great opportunity to give ourselves recognition without allowing the “but” be the main attraction. We shouldn’t praise mediocrity; on the contrary, we should celebrate where we are, looking forward to where we are heading, no buts about it.

By Ana

(1) Merriam-Webster Dictionary

(2)Diplomado en PNL con consultoras certificadas. Empresa Selectos y Selecciones | Bogotá, Colombia | 2010.

Even at work, you win by giving

manuelita otero

Have you ever been in your morning commute, trying to make it before traffic gets heavy, and said to yourself “I hope I can give a lot today”? We may not think much about giving at work, but if we don’t, we could be missing a great opportunity. Every time we give, good things come back to us; since we spend so much time at our work places, why not give there too?

Giving at work is one of those things we are very cautious about and many times we prefer to be on the safe side. In other words give the minimum or not give.  If we are honest, it is hard to give at work because unfortunately not everyone has the same intentions we do. Some people may take advantage of us and use the information we provide against us or to further their own careers and sometimes hurt ours. Some people will do anything for a higher position or a better paycheck, but other people’s actions and behaviors shouldn’t limit ours.   Experience will teach us to be careful around the people we can’t trust and to be wise so others won’t take advantage of us, but we can’t allow people to change us for the worse and we shouldn’t hold on to what needs to be shared.    

 Have you ever thought about what can you give at work? How about…

- Respect:  In acting class one of the first lessons they teach is to treat everyone they meet during auditions the same way. Many times the person that greets the actors could be the future director and they will remember someone who is rude and disrespectful.  It seems that some people during auditions treat the directors and people in high positions one way, and the rest of the people in a completely different way.    Sometimes people in the office show more respect to the partners or the boss and mistreat the secretary or the janitor.  Showing respect to every single person is a basic sign of courtesy and it reflects the kind of person you are.

- Encouragement:  It is amazing to imagine the difference positive words can make.  You don’t know what the person who sits by your side at work is going through, so kind words of encouragement could be greatly needed. Words have power; use yours for good everywhere you go.

- Opportunity: If possible, give the people you work with the chance to grow, learn, and showcase their abilities. If they helped you in a project, let others know.  If there is a tough problem that needs to be solved, give them the opportunity to help you with the challenge.  As they take on these opportunities, they will gratefully remember you and what you did for them.

- Experiences: Most people don’t like it when others tell them what to do and how to do it, but they do appreciate it when we share our experiences.  People like to feel they have the freedom to make their own choices, and when you share your experiences, they will learn from you, but at their own pace and in their own way.  

Giving is a win-win situation, even at work.  That is how a good reputation is built. Over times, you will be known as a confident person who shares knowledge and experiences and who adds value at the work place and to the people around.  Think about it… can you recall that person who maybe years ago gave you an opportunity to work in a project that later gave you better opportunities? Has there been a person in any of your jobs who took the time to get to know you and asked you about your goals and gave you good advice? Can you remember those people whom you have learned from so much and can’t seem to find ways to show them your appreciation? Be that person and give.    

Manuelita   @manuelitaotero




Good bye heavy work load!

manuelita otero

Even though I love what I do, I haven’t been able to find the “perfect formula” to enjoy my job as I wish I could. I must admit: one thing is to love something  and another thing is to really enjoy it.  Where is the subtle difference?

When I started thinking about this topic I found it hard to come up with the reason why people and I find it so hard to enjoy the day to day work that we do. I thought that maybe it was because I worried too much about the future or all that has to be done.  Then, I thought it was about finding the perfect team and the ideal workplace. But our relationship to our job is similar to a romantic relationship: there aremany things, motivations, dreams, and emotions involved that it is not easy to pinpoint the elements that compose that so called “perfect formula”.

There are romantic relationships that are heavy and complicated even though they contain a great amount of love, they require that the people involved carry a heavy load that can be overwhelming. The same could happen at work: a lot of love, but too much weight.

When it comes to feeling more relaxed at work and not because of this have less love for what we do, each person is affected and motivated by different things.

I will mention six things that I have experienced.  Maybe these can help you avoid heavy feelings at work:

- Fear to delegate:  When you are in a position in which you feel you can control everything, you start doubting other people’s ability and talents.  I heard a famous entrepreneur once say that you should always choose people who do things better than you.  Believe me, it works.

- Desperately seeking perfection: At times we demand so much from ourselves but we don’t even realize it.  We spend our life trying to improve our weaknesses that we forget that no one is perfect and that we should actually be focusing on our strengths, instead of our weaknesses.   

- A full agenda:  The workplace is full of unexpected situations.  Appointments come out of nowhere, meetings take double the time expected, longphone calls, urgent emails, etc. Separating some minutes or maybe some hours a week to deal with those unforeseen events will help reduce our stress levels.  

- Forgetting to “start over” when required:  Coming back to our love story;  just like with boyfriends, it is difficult to have a healthy work environment if we don’t forgive and let go of lists of complaints we may have about certain people or certain situations.  Whether it was someone’s mistake or ours, who doesn’t like second opportunities?

- Indecision:  Calm, cool and collected; that is how we need to be when it comes to decision time at the workplace. We need to do things at the right time, taking advantage of the opportunities that come our way.  

-Jealousy at work: If there is something that can take our energy and peace it   is jealousy. Everywhere we look there could be a source of jealousy: higher positions, better pay, more attractive looks, an exciting bonus.  It doesn’t matter where we look at there is always the possibility to compare.  Why not change that jealousy into inspiration?

Only you can lighten your day to day to really enjoy what you do. No more heavy work load!

By Ana

Life is too short to be in a job we don’t like

manuelita otero

Do you find yourself counting the days to the weekend? Or on Sunday Night do you start dreading the fact that the next day you have to work? Those are clear signs that you are not enjoying your work.  I’m stating the obvious, but maybe we need that little push to do something about a situation that we have grown accustomed to.  Life is too short to be in a job that makes us unhappy.  Think about it, we spend most of our time in our jobs, so shouldn’t that time be well invested? If you don’t love the work you do, try to find another one and if you can’t, then try to find a way to love the work you do. I know it is not that simple, but it comes to that, you are either going to enjoy the time you spend at work or you are going to feel miserable, it is up to you.  The book Fish tells us: “There is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there is not a choice about the work itself.”

Wishing every day for the hours to go by faster so we can go back home is not a good way to spend our days; it is actually a sad way to waste our talents, abilities and knowledge.  We all have a lot to give, even at a job we dislike or where we are not appreciated.  If we are there we need to make the most of that moment.  If we go to work with a new attitude that may not mean that our boss is going to give us an immediate raise or even be nicer to us, but at least we are making the decision to have a good day, and you will be surprised how that affects your coworkers and customers positively. 

Here are a few ideas on how you can live in the moment at your workplace:

Focus on the positive:  Sometimes we tend to see so many negative things at once that they bury the positive.  Once we decide (because it is a decision) to focus on the good, we see things with a new perspective.    

One hour at a time: We need to focus on what we are doing, to enjoy the challenge and forget about the rest.  Sometimes we are doing something while thinking about the many things we really dislike about our job, but those things have nothing to do with the task at hand.  Let go of the thoughts that are distracting and damaging your attitude.      

You are on a mission: Maybe the people around you don’t appreciate your work, or they don’t value what you are doing, but it is up to you to value your own work.  I am not saying that it is right and we should put up with abuse at work;  no way! But if you choose to stay in a job you dislike, then you need to make the environment positive, at least the part that you can control.  You are there for a reason; the work you do matters, so each hour you spend there is valuable. Make it count.

Be in the moment, in the job: If you are working then work, don’t text, tweet or play games. Many times we can’t be in the moment at work because we are continually disrupting the flow of things by checking our phones.  We are not only stealing from our jobs, but we are stealing from ourselves because we are not allowing ourselves to reach our potential. 

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Flow tends to occur when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable.”  If the challenge is too simple we get bored, but if it is too hard then we get frustrated.  Our goal is to find that right challenge at work and to be so focused in what we are doing that distractions don’t steal from the now.  At that moment is not about the hours, or the boss or the pay, it is about the joy of doing a good job.  We have the ability to decide if the time we spend at work is rewarding or depressing, let’s choose wisely.

By Manuelita @manuelitaotero


The dream boss

manuelita otero

I used to criticize the people who were serious and even cold in the corporate world.  I didn’t understand why it seemed to be so difficult for some people to smile and open up. I thought that they were unhappy and bitter; I would even leave the meetings in a bad mood. But after several years as a professional, I don’t criticize the people who keep a sensible distance from others at work anymore. I admire them now.  

Since I started working, before I was 20 years old, I always imagined that when I had the opportunity to be the boss, I was going to be the nice, fun boss.  I was going to talk a lot to my employees, laugh with them and do everything possible so they would feel relaxed and happy at work.  I dreamt of building this work environment, and that made me feel a Little like a heroine, thinking that I could achieve what so many people had not been able to: ‘to be the fun boss, the perfect boss, the ideal boss”.

But what I never imagined is that when that time came in my life I put to the side my work style and instead focused my energy on pleasing my employees.  I am not saying that it is bad to try to be a good boss, but I do want to say that when we obsess too much with anything we could lose perspective and balance.  What could have been a good idea may end up as a disaster, which is what happened to me.

Even today, after analyzing this situation from different standpoints, it is a topic that still keeps me up some nights.  What happened? What led me to this point? At what moment did I give up my principles and style just so I could be the perfect boss? I think in my case I was afraid to lose the image I had created of being the fun, modern, and understanding boss.  

How could the “cool” boss yell at someone for coming late to work if everyone has the right to manage their own time as long as they show results? How could the “understanding” boss write someone up for continuous mediocrity if we all can make mistakes? How could the “generous” boss not give good gifts to the employees since it is necessary to keep them motivated?

I knew all these things were wrong. I understood that lateness had a limit, mediocrity damaged the company’s goals, and that things in work are earned. Not only did I know these things; I believed in them.  So what happened? I made a mistake not due to ignorance, but due to the fact that I chose not to believe in anything.  I betrayed myself, I didn’t act with the freedom a boss should act with, I didn’t expect respect from others and I didn’t respect myself.

1. Take time to know what you like and dislike when it comes to work so you can understand your work style. If your style is serious and distant, it is ok, that is your personality.

2. Before starting a new job or a decisive meeting remember who you are, what do you really want, and what do you believe in.  Write it down if necessary.

3. The moment you feel something is not right, try to find the source and the solution.  Use your experience, knowledge, and vision.

4. Remember that not everything must be rosy to please people.  When you have to tell someone the truth, do it as soon as possible, especially if they are your employees.

5.  Give yourself the right and the freedom to be yourself at work.  There is no perfect job, boss, or worker.  Everyone needs to accept the weaknesses and strengths of others without covering them up. 

6. Be kind and cooperate with the people you work with, but find a balance.

7.  If you are a business owner or you want to be, know that you have the right to give your company your style and do things your way. 

Nowadays I am thankful that I didn’t have that many people under me before I had the opportunity to realize that the cloud where my employees and I were on would soon fall down.  I know now that if I have a second chance to be a boss, things will change for the better.  

“I am not slave to what people think.  I have been liberated of that obsession, of the necessity to give people the motives to applaud.  Now I only answer to my conscience.”  Borja Vilaseca - El principito se pone la corbata.

By Annonymous

Are you Really Enjoying your Job?

manuelita otero

Nowadays, women from all over the world are going through a historical moment. We are doubling, if not tripling, our responsibilities. 

Besides the traditional role of mothers and homemakers, which we have held proudly for years, we are also business women, activists, full time or part time workers, leaders, project managers, writers, athletes and volunteers, just to mention a few of the many roles we play. Not only are we exploring new careers and activities, we mustn’t forget all the things we want to do with and for our children, husband or partner, friends, and family members.

Work has become a priority for millions of women around the globe, and many of them will say it without fear or apologies.  So, if work has become such an important part of our lives, why not make it an enriching, interesting, passionate, and enjoyable experience? 

I know there are many women reading this invitation, thinking that they already do; there also may be many saying: “Yes, of course, if it was as easy as it sounds”; “You just don’t know my boss”; or “Try to be happy with the salary I get”. There are many aspects in our job that are out of our control.  Maybe you want to change your boss, your office, your clients or your computer. The good news is there are things in your job that you have control over, such as the value and respect that you are giving yourself, respecting the work you do, not being so hard on yourself, and giving the best that you can give.  How many things are you doing to enjoy your job? 

I don’t believe in the world's standards of a great worker. He or she must be: organized, disciplined, responsible, always on time, positive, visionary and so on. On the contrary, every day I find more people that don’t comply with all those qualities, yet they have others that make them just as productive. The book “Go Put Your Strengths to Work” by Marcus Buckingham, a well-known business consultant, invites us to identify our strengths and work even more in those areas, that way we can use our natural talents to shine instead of spending a life trying to improve our weaknesses.  It is not about ignoring our weaknesses, it is about prioritizing.  

I am not the right person to tell you that “you are worth a lot in your job” or that “your job is a treasure and you need to take care of it” but YOU are the right person to discover and declare how valuable you are. As a person and an employee, you need to know and respect your talents; YOU are the one who can define if you want to focus on your strengths; you are the one who can decide if you want to do something big or small; you are the one who decides whether you want to feel better at a job in which you dedicate a significant amount of time.  

Many times we hear those who love us say we are “killing ourselves” over a job. I wonder if working hard is what “kills” us, or if it is the quality, the conditions, and the attitude we have at work that truly affect us. 

By Ana