At a conference about sustainable development, climate change and human rights that I attended a few weeks ago, one idea was shared in different forms by many speakers.
One said that “all wars start in our head“, another that “borders exist only in the human mind” and someone else said, “without peace at the individual level there can’t be peace in the world“.
It all starts within you.
Every change, every transformation.
The world that you want begins within you.
This unique superpower exists within you.
I’m writing this as a note to myself too.
Sometimes I got heated thinking and debating about things I’d like to change in the world, in my community, in others.
And I forget about the one thing I can always do; I can change myself.
It was almost the end of the day when we finally cross the Chilean border. The sun’s light was already fading from white to gold.
We thought, like with the previous borders that we crossed, that the Argentinian checkpoint was a few minutes away, just behind the turn.
We were wrong.
We drove for a good 15 minutes that looked like an eternity before we found the first sign of the border to enter Argentina.
Fifteen minutes in no man’s land.
It’s a powerful feeling to know that you are in space between spaces.
In our lives, every space is owned by someone, or it is dedicated to something. The threshold between spaces is so thin that you can’t really stand on it and take a pause.
We exit something to enter something else.
We finish something only to immediately start something new.
But that day, we’ve been in no country for a while.
A space that doesn’t exist and yet it is so real.
And now I realise that it was also the sunset; that space in-between the day and the night.
There is magic in no man’s land.
Next time that you are crossing a threshold take a pause and breathe in the energy of the space in-between.
I wrote a very thoughtful piece about health, performance, goals and systems. I included two brilliant quotes from the book I’m reading. And then, when I got almost at the end of my 15 minutes writing slot, I realised that it didn’t feel authentic at all.
Yep, a good exercise, some cool words but my soul was not there.
So, I threw everything away.
Now I have only a few minutes to finish my daily apple.
And I may not be able to write anything significant.
Years ago I was visiting a vineyard in the North of Italy. The owner told me that the year before, he had to throw away all the wine made from a particular type of grape. It was not good enough. He could have sold it, but that would be shortsighted. He wanted to be a great winemaker not to sell a lot of wine.
I’m far from being as courageous as that man, but I’m doing this daily practice not to increase the number of posts but to become better at writing. To do that my words must feel authentic to me.
Ah, and in the end, I have also found a fitting quote.
“Having lower standards for something is bad for your soul.” — Ed Catmull
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon “The Parable of the Prodigal Son“. You’ve probably heard about it even if you don’t have a Christian upbringing.
It’s a story that Jesus shares with his disciples about a father who has two sons. The younger one asks the father for his inheritance and then leave wasting his fortune (prodigal means wasteful and extravagant) and becoming a beggar. He then decides to return home begging his father to take him in as a servant. The father instead welcomes him back with a huge feast. The older son, envious and resentful, refuse to celebrate and he complains with his father. He has always behaved rightfully, but he never had such a celebration for him. The father reminds him that one day he will inherit everything and that they must celebrate the comeback of the younger brother because he was lost and now he is found.
I listened to this story many times, and I always thought it was about the love and graciousness of the father. But this time I was struck by the loneliness and misery of the older brother. By being so judgemental, he had trapped himself in a cage.
When we judge others, we are also judging ourselves.
And when we put others in boxes, we reduce our own space.
Anytime we create a wall between right and wrong, we are reducing our space even if we put ourselves on the right side.
To do what we feel right without being judgmental is indeed a challenge, but one that can create freedom.
I’ll be honest. This morning I couldn’t find anything to write about.
So, I started by looking back at the conversations I had in the last few days. Since I started this project, I discovered that there are always a lot of hidden nuggets in-between the words shared in every conversation.
Sometimes these gems kept lingering in my mind without me being aware of it.
So, this morning my mind went back to a conversation I had with two friends while we were walking back to our cars. We started by talking about “Free Solo”, the documentary about Alex Honnold climbing El Capitan without any ropes or other protective gears. We ended up talking about fear.
How can someone do something so risky?
I mean, fear would paralyze anyone else.
So, this morning I thought I could write about fear, but I couldn’t find the spark and 15 minutes ends quickly.
Luckily for me, I always have the Be The Change cards with me.
I pick the card “Power + Love”.
And I remember that a dear friend and mentor once told me that fear is the opposite of love. So I did a quick search, and this is the first quote I found.
“The opposite of love is not, as we many times or almost always think, hatred, but the fear to love, and fear to love is the fear of being free.” — Paulo Freire, a Brazilian expert on education.
I think the quote above closes perfectly the loop of my thinking this morning.
All the words I need for today are there; free, love, fear.
I love how things connected if we just stay with the flow.
Oh, I haven’t watched Free Solo yet, but I’ll do it soon.
My mind is continuously wandering.
The more I try to stop it or keep it quiet, the more my mind escapes everywhere but here and now.
Until I start something.
This morning, I’ve sat here for ten good minutes trying to decide what I wanted to write about. In those ten minutes, I thought about everything. From distant memories to the things that I have to do later.
I couldn’t stop my mind from jumping from one thought to another.
Until I gave up, opened this file and started writing.
All of a sudden my mind came back here.
Sometimes, the more we try to do control something the more it eludes us.
Like when you clench your fist to hold the sand.
In that case, I’ve learned to surrender and let things happen.
When I was a kid, my favourite treat for Easter was a typical cake in my region called “Focaccia Veneto”, or “Fugazza” in my dialect. But not every Fugazza. Only the one made by my grandmother. The funny thing is that she didn’t have a proper recipe to share, or at least this is what she told us. So, no matter how much my mum tried to create the same result studying my grandmother, her cake has always been different. Truth is, I’ve never tasted anything like my grandmother’s Fugazza, but over the year my mum developed her own unique, gorgeous recipe that I love as much.
Behaviour is a function of the Person in their Environment, or B = f (P,E).
Psychologist Kurt Lewin defined the equation above in his book Principles of Topological Psychology, published in 1936.
My understanding of this simple formula is that the same person behaves differently when the environment changes. At the same time, two persons will always show different behaviours even if they share the same situation.
The combination “person plus environment” is always unique, even when behaviours are similar or the same. The problem is that while environments can be observed and behaviours can be measured, a person uniqueness is more elusive. So, what we do most of the time is to study the practices of someone successful in a specific environment and model our own actions on theirs. All of this hoping to get the same results.
Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Indeed, we can learn a lot from a successful person, we can even clone almost perfectly her behaviours.
But we will never be her or him.
We must find our own unique recipe.
One that is rooted in and sourced from our identity.
In the end, we must always remember to start from the ancient wise words inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Sometimes I get stuck and lost.
It may be because there are so many options and parameters that everything gets blur.
Or because no option seems the right one.
Sometimes I’m just overwhelmed, and I can’t think straight.
When I’m in that place, I remember this conversation between Alice and The Cheshire Cat.
When I have no idea where to go, it doesn’t much matter which way I go as long as I move.
I’ve been struggling with productivity since forever.
I’ve always seen myself as a lazy person.
Probably this is why I love so much to study tools, tactics, and strategies to be more productive. I want to find out how a lazy person can be productive at the same time.
I can’t remember how many things I’ve tried from goal settings, “Pomodoro” techniques, time management, early rising, focus bubbles, daily habits and so on.
I haven’t found the perfect solution for myself, yet.
But through all this experimenting and play I’ve learned one important thing.
Behaviors that are not in tune with who I am don’t last.
You see, my problem has always been that I can get a lot done in one hour and waste a full afternoon doing nothing. When I was a kid, I was able to read a very long book in two hours, and then I couldn’t finish my homework in a whole afternoon.
Our behaviors are – usually – a reflection of our identity. And this is why we typically fail with productivity tools and strategy. We force them upon our identity instead of shaping them around our identity.
Most of the productivity methodologies aim at increasing what you produce (having) focusing on improving the process (doing), but in doing so, they overlook what you believe (being). But if your doing is not aligned with your being, it’s like rowing against the current. At some point, you’ll give up.
Any effort to become more productive, as an individual or team, should start by focusing on who you are; your identity and beliefs.
Be more to do more.
“Before you step into someone else’s shoes, remember to take off your own.” — Devan Capur*
We all a frame through which we perceive and interpret reality. This frame, or filter, is based on the beliefs, assumptions we develop through our life since we were kids. This frame is vital, it helps us get through life filtering out the flood of data flowing through our senses.
Problems arise when we mistake our frame for the truth, and we lock ourselves inside a bubble becoming blind to the infinite possibilities outside it.
When we enter a conversation with this mindset, we create conflicts and tensions. Because we assume to know the truth, we can’t understand why others can’t see it. It’s so obvious.
We use expressions such as “you should …”, “you think …”.
We can really understand the perspective of someone else until we step out of our bubble.
If you really want to have a meaningful creative conversation, enter empty.
* I found the quote on the book Nonflict by Amir Kfir and Stephen Hecht