Buenos Aires Querida

I am on my way back from Buenos Aires to Barcelona. It is the third time that I am on this route and it is the first time that I am not heartbroken to say goodbye. Still, secretly in me I am wishing if only I had one more week… Each time I leave Buenos Aires, I leave a part of myself there and I bring a part of her with me. Each time I am in Buenos Aires it is a process of self exploration and healing for me. Not a light one.

When I had to leave Buenos Aires last year, I decided to move there so that I don’t have to say goodbye again. Then my life has changed and Barcelona became my new home, which is a good compromise.

What is it with this city that I am so fascinated by and driven to? Tango is one reason and then there are many others: the warmth of her people, her imperfection, her big heart, her soul that shows that she suffered, her deep thoughts. Buenos Aires is not a city for everyone. You need to be able to be patient with her and forgive her often times. In return she will give you some most blissful memories and moments of your life.

Each time I am in Buenos Aires I discover myself again. I see my fears, insecurities and helplessness. Tango throws it at my face and I have to deal with them, yet Buenos Aires never lets me down. Her people hold me when I fall and I stand up stronger.

One month ago when I arrived, I couldn’t dance. I was blocked. This is already the second time that it happens to me. Last year was the same. It is painful. It feels like you have so much to tell but you lost your language. You cannot speak. You stutter. Sometimes some sounds come out and you get hopes. They vanish as fast as they come and what is left behind is sadness. You have so much to tell.

This is happening to me because I want to speak the language perfectly. I know how it feels when it is perfect for me. I have been there. In search of that perfection I lose myself, I get disconnected from my body. My mind takes over. I start to look for it more desperately, I punish myself for not being able to find it, then I get tense and blocked. It is a vicious circle. I get blocked and I cannot dance, I get even more blocked because I don’t dance. All these thoughts going on in my head that I cannot stop.

Buenos Aires knows me. Much better then myself. And she gently helps me out of it. She did last year and she did it again this year. When I arrived, I could hardly make a step. My body was full of tension and I had so much pain because of it. I didn’t want to go out to the milongas because I didn’t want to blame myself and I didn’t want to transmit my tension to anybody. Yet I wanted to dance. I cannot not dance, it makes me so happy…

I started seeing my teachers, two dear persons to me, who know me so well. Who know how I torture myself and who can help me out of it and they did it. Again. I started going out to the milongas. I forced myself out. I went to those that no one goes except for the very old milongueros. I found warmth and joy and sunshine in their embraces. They made me feel like a princess, which gave me self confidence again. Their clear and simple dancing put structure into my body. As I became more free day by day, my body started to remember. Day by day I started to dance better.

One day into my third week I found the perfection I was looking for. It was both a blessing and a curse as I would find out later. I found it one night at Maipu and Canning. I was connected with myself and with everyone, from my center. Young old, tall short, slim, robust…With everyone I had the connection. I felt I could dance forever. No matter with whom I danced, we spoke the same language. I was in heaven.

I woke up happy next day, expecting the same, as I had now found my long lost tango. That night I didn’t find it again. I got scared and intimidated. I stared searching for it desperately. In every partner, in every step, in every embrace I looked for it. My mind was so busy with trying to find it that I didn’t listen to the music, I didn’t live the moment. I grew sad and desperate and tense. That night was sadness as much as the previous night was pure joy. I came home devastated, only to find a FB message from a dear friend of mine who had seen everything while I was at the milonga. His message woke me up to myself. It read,

it is not a dance
it is tango

it is not about how I move my feet
it is not about how I hold my arms
it is about how I share my soul

tango is about feeling. If it feels right, It looks right. The difficult thing for the followers is trusting and letting go, much more to people that is used to be in control. …..relax, and let us take care of you…in the meantime, close your eyes and enjoy….remember the connection is on the chest and the seduction is on the feet…

I fell asleep. I woke up and decided to try to let go. Went to the next milonga. I will always be grateful to my dear friend for teaching me to gain my freedom…. For once, I was able to be free of my thoughts. I decided not to punish myself and I could. I decided to listen to the music and give up all the responsibility and I could. That night I had my connection back again. Magic.

There is much that I learned again in Buenos Aires. I will share more because I believe in each one of us there is an insecure and burdened child. Maybe Buenos Aires helps. She helped me. It is not about tango. It is about life. That night I learned, again, what it means to have self-compassion, to accept oneself, to like oneself no matter what and to let go.

Man is free at the moment he wishes to be – Voltaire

The Beautiful Truth

…is the name of a movie I haven’t yet seen. I read that it is a documentary movie about a doctor’s quest for curing cancer through alternative methods. Dr. Max Gerson is his name.

The quotation you will now read in the next lines is from this movie that I haven’t yet seen. It stumbled upon it by chance when looking for something else. Best things always happen when you least expect.

Reading it made me breath and smile big because I found myself in it. It is a beautiful piece of text which I want to return to whenever I am searching for meaning in my life. If you are also in search of it, don’t search it too far. It is in the lines written below, and in the moments of the days of your life.

Live A Life That Matters

What will matter ready or not, someday it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.

All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else. Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear. So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire. The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won’t matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end. It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured? 

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but what you gave. 

What will matter is not your success, but your significance. What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence, but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

– Michael Josephson

User Story Mapping

I read a wonderful book, User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton. If you are a Product Manager in an Agile environment and are to read only one book, then make it this one. It is not only eye-opening, insightful and full of content, it is also funny. I laughed and learned a lot.

What is User Story Mapping? It is a technique he developed over time and with experience, which helps writing effective user stories for a product backlog. In fact, the crucial point here is not writing them but living them and making them happen together with your team. The stories have value as long as there is a shared understanding for them among the team and the stakeholders, i.e. that they make sense and the same sense to everybody on the team. So much so that they want to to deliver it.

User Stories are typically little stories composed of a sequence of tasks that a user of a (software) product would do to accomplish something. For example, a user story can be “Reserve a Thai Restaurant online for tonight” and it would consist of the following following tasks: Open your favorite search engine — Search for a Thai Restaurant — Select your favorite — Visit the restaurant website — Click on online reservation — Enter reservation date and time — Confirm and send. Now this is a very basic illustration of a story, but it can give you the idea. The tasks in the story are to be read from left to right, in the so called narrative order, so that with the last task you read you know the whole story.

Why is User Story Mapping good a thing? Because it gives structure and a backbone to the your product development process. It helps you to frame the who, the what and the why for your product. In other words, it lets you define your users, your product, and the benefit your users will get out of your product. All makes sense, no? Otherwise why would you bother producing your product?

User Story Mapping’s structure is like this:  On the way to developing your product you have several Goals to achieve. Each one of these Goals are composed of Activities, and those are broken into Stories. A sequence of Tasks in a given order (left-to-right) make a Story. Tasks may have Subtasks (e.g. putting on my shoes is a subtask of getting dressed). In this way, a Story can but doesn’t have to yield  a MVP (Minimum Viable Product), but a few of them together should yield at least a Minimum Viable Solution (MVS).

If there are too many Stories, then there are potentially multiple MVPs (or MVS for that matter). So those Stories should wait the next iteration(s) to be included.

A User Story typically has the following format: As a <Role> I want to <Functionality> so that I can <Value>. For example, as a <jazz music fan> I would like to <know the weekly concerts in my town>, so that I can <buy tickets online automatically>. This format conveys the necessary information in a clear and concise way. It gives a first overview of what the system has to offer for that type of user (also called Persona) i.e. the jazz music fan.

For the fun of it, I did a User Story Map for myself, while hoping it can show you its power. It shows the structure that I have been describing. My product is: Pinar’s New Life in Barcelona. This product offers me a new life at a new city, therefore I think it will add a lot of value to my life in general. I expect it to be a wonderful product and this is the User Story Map towards the first MVP.

Product: Pinar’s New Life in Barcelona
Goal: Release new life in Barcelona
Activity 1: Set up social life
Story 1.1: As a <Newcomer> I want to <Rent a Flat> so that I can <Live>
Task 1.1.1: Search for flats to rent
Task 1.1.2: Make appointments for visits
Task 1.2.3: Sign contract
Story 1.2: As a <Newcomer> I want to <Find Friends> so that I can <Socialize>
Task 1.2.1: Find relevant social events
Task 1.2.2: Visit social events
Task 1.2.3: Join hobby clubs
Task 1.2.4: Exchange contacts with participants/members at the events
Story 1.3: As a <Newcomer> I want to <Learn Spanish> so that I can <Communicate>
Task 1.3.1: Find a language school
Task 1.3.2: Register to the language school
Task 1.3.3: Follow classes
Task 1.3.4: Do homework
Activity 2: Set up professional life
Story 2.1: As a <Newcomer> I want to <Find a Job> so that I can <Get an Income>
Task 1.3.1: Prepare CV
Task 1.3.2:Search for relevant vacancies Subtask: Search on the Web Subtask: Search among the personal network
Task 1.3.3:  Apply for the vacancy
Task 1.3.4: Go to interview
Task 1.3.5: Sign contract

User Story Mapping is a fun and powerful tool to create and structure your stories towards your first MVP. The book itself, besides being fun, brings you closer to the principles of Lean.  Hope you discover it for yourself as well and drop me line if you do so 🙂

 If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story. Orson Welles