Discipline and Identity

You’ve probably read about the famous “10,000-hour rule”. It is widely used by many speakers and motivators. This rule says that to achieve mastery in any field, you must be ready to commit to at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. 

Defined by the journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”, the 10,000-hours rule is based on a study on violinists conducted in 1993. According to that study, the best artists had dedicated at least 10,000 hours to the relentless refinement of their talent.

Over the years the 10,000-hour rule has become very popular but has also received much criticism. In fact, it seems to suggest that practice and discipline are the only ways to reach excellence, placing the person’s talent and uniqueness in the background.

Recently, psychologist Brooke Macnamara of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland decided to repeat part of the 1993 study. Its results show that the 10,000 rule is quite an oversimplification.

In fact, among highly qualified performers, the amount of practice seems irrelevant. Every one of them has practised a lot and keep practising even once reached excellence. Therefore there must be other factors to explain why someone reaches higher levels of mastery.

Macnamara states that “When it comes to human skill, a complex combination of environmental factors, genetic factors and their interactions explains the performance differences across people.

Therefore, discipline is fundamental, but not sufficient to determine the final result. It must be combined with some other factors that, through disciplined practice, unleash the full potential of a person.

Another study, done in the 90s, again in the field of music, can give us a hint on where we should look at.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

In 1997, Professor Gary McPherson of the University of Melbourne decided to do an unconventional experiment to answer a simple question: Why do some children are quicker than others at learning an instrument?

For his study, he randomly picked 157 children between 7 and 9 years old. For years, he followed and monitored them, keeping track of their progress using biometric tests, recording their practice sessions and doing lots of interviews.

In particular, a question proved to be very insightful.

During the first interview, even before the begin of the first lesson, McPherson asked each child: “How long do you think you’ll play your new instrument?

Based on the answers, the children were divided into three groups depending on the length of their commitment: short, medium and long term.

What surprised McPherson was that the students of the group that had foreseen a long-term commitment improved at speed four times higher than the children of the group who planned to engage only in the short term. Even if they were doing the same number of hours of practice with the same frequency.

There it was, the most decisive element in defining the speed of learning in the kids was not the IQ or the sense of rhythm, or any particular motor skills. None of that.

The defining element was the perception of themselves that each child had, even before starting to play any note.

According to McPherson’s study, what was making some students better at learning an instrument was a voice within them saying “I’m a musician” instead of just “I’ll learn to play an instrument“.

The learning here is that when our actions are an expression of our identity, they are much more powerful and sustainable in the long term. Even for 10,000 hours.

To achieve excellence and success, we must, therefore, combine identity and discipline. Identity to design the direction and discipline to pursue it until we reach the aspired success.

We must, hence, develop what Don Miguel Ruiz calls the discipline of the warrior in his book, “The Four Agreements”. 

The discipline of being ourselves, whatever happens.

Maybe, for 10,000 hours until we fully realise who we are.

Sources

Grow into your vision

I just watched this powerful video by Simon Sinek. I admire the way he can give words to ideas and concepts that are hard to grasp. Being able to make invisible things visible – through images, words, sounds – is a unique talent.

This video, though, baffled me and I don’t know why. So I took some time to ponder on it. In my reflections, I found something I wrote more than two years ago that became the basis for this post.

The video is about passion and vision. Things that are usually referred to as something we should have or find to live a fulfilling life.
As Simon beautifully said, “passion is an output, not in input”. It is the outcome of doing something that has a meaning for us. That gives sense to our lives. Something we care about.

“The reason that people do things, especially heroic or major things, things that take a lot of effort, is because they care.” — Dave Gray

So, doing something meaningful, something you believe in, chasing a vision is what transform your experience into passion instead of stress.

This leads to the following question in Simon’s video; “how do I find what I believe in?
Or, worded differently, “how do I find my vision?“.

This question is what unsettles me a bit.
Vision is often painted as that one big truth hiding somewhere and that we have to find to give meaning to our life. Whispering in the air, planted deep within us, written in our destiny or on the stars. With that picture in mind, some travel far from home to find their vision. Some spend years digging deep inside to uncover it under their fears. Some look for some visionary to follow. Some just wait.

What if there is no such thing as “the vision”? What if we accept that life is more complex than that? Life would become a journey of open, continuous and curious exploration rather than a search for definitive answers. When we become too focused on the quest for the vision, we got trapped in what psychologist Omer Simsek calls the need for absolute truth.

I am also more and more convinced that the verb “finding” is deceiving. It keeps up hanging in our quest while distracting us from doing the real thing; to experience life.
What if the goal shifts from “finding your vision” to “growing into your vision“?
Then it’d be less critical to have full clarity – mind – about the vision and more important to feel – heart and guts – that you are living it.

So, passion is not only the outcome, but it also becomes your compass. If you feel stressed, what you’re doing is not align with your vision. But when you feel passionate and energised by what you’re doing, then you’re most probably living your vision even if you can’t verbalise it.

There are other two ideas in the video that capture my attention.

The first is the one about the value of being a follower instead of a visionary. The moment I get in touch with that vision, I feel called by it, and I embrace it, then it becomes my own vision too.

I believe that visionaries are not a creator, they are channels between the infinite knowledge of the universe and the material world. They channel the universal wisdom and make it available to everyone else. Their visions aren’t theirs. They are of everyone. So, we are all visionaries and followers at the same time.

And that leads me to the second point. I believe we all have the potential to be creative and be visionary. But that potential is often covered and hold back by our fears, beliefs and conditioning. The more we become aware, the more we can awake that potential.

All my work is based on the unshakable belief that every human being is extraordinary.

Read more:

  1. The Need for Absolute Truth and Self-Rumination as Basic Suppressors in the Relationship Between Private Self-Consciousness and Mental Health” by Ömer Faruk Şimşek, Aylin Ecem Ceylandağ &Gizem Akcan – link
  2. Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World” by Tasha Eurich – link
  3. Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think” by Dave Gray – link

Drawing lines

It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon here in Valencia. I’m about to leave to go celebrate the birthday of my favourite place in town, and usually on the weekend I don’t write posts.

But I feel this urge to write a thought that emerged in my head while I was taking a shower and I don’t think I can resist until the next Apple A Day on Monday morning.

So here I am, writing about lines.

Let me start from something that happened a few weeks ago when I was in Italy. I was listening to the news on the radio while driving. As you may know, the political situation in my country is quite tense at the moment. The journalist was talking about some friction within the government. I can’t remember what it was, but I do remember a brief interview of a politician from one of the opposition parties. She said that the tensions going on between the parties in the government was a sign of their weakness and that her party was the only viable alternative. I remember thinking “hey, but aren’t you all there because you want to serve the country? So, wouldn’t be better to offer your help to solve their problems for the benefit of the whole nation instead of trash talking them?

Yesterday I was joking with a dear friend about our work descriptions, and I told her that I should write “I draw lines” on my business card. It wasn’t the first time we joked about me drawing lines, but yesterday I had a small a-ha moment. One can draw a line to separate two spaces or to connect two points. The gesture is the same, but the intention is totally different.

Then a few moments ago, in the shower, I was thinking about all of this. At how good we are in drawing lines that separate; right and wrong, good and bad, left and right, winners and losers, us and them. We surround ourselves with all these lines that are imaginary but feel as real as concrete walls. What would happen if we would start drawing lines to connect? If when we see a fracture, we draw a line to connect the opposing sides?

After a while, we would create a network. Like a spider web or a texture when we will be all interwoven so when someone rises everyone will rise.

All of this to share with you that I love “drawing lines“, but I prefer the ones that connect.

One Apple A Day #476 – feed your essence

I’ve never been a lover of formalities and dress codes.
I remember that, as a kid, I couldn’t understand why I had to use Sunday’s clothes to go to the mass. Clothes with which we could not play because they were only meant for special events.

Anyway, a few months ago, I’ve been asked to suit up for a working situation. As you can imagine, I wasn’t pleased, but the request came with sound motivations that made me reflect.

So, I asked myself a few compelling questions.

What am I worried about? What is about form that I find uncomfortable?
Is my essence so fragile that I am going to change just because I change how I appear?

It was one of those a-ha moments.
I realised that I am who I am, no matter what I wear.
Sometimes, we are so focused on the form that we overlooked our essence. And in doing so, we weaken it.

If we nurture our essence, then we will be able to infuse all of who we are in every form. Being it the way we dress or the work we do.

One Apple A Day #473 – rest & recovery

Did you have a good weekend?
It is probably the main question asked on Monday morning when we go back to work.
Everyone has a different idea of a good weekend. For someone is about spending time with the loved ones. For others is about doing nothing or maybe doing all the things that can’t be done during the working days. Some engage with people while others seek only silence.

This morning I woke up thinking about the importance of rest and recovery. We often overlook how vital it is to take the time to rest our body, our mind and our soul.
A friend once told me that even the stronger bow would snap if you never release its tension.
Pushed by the desire to achieve our goals and improve our performances, we focus only on the things we have to do, and we overlook resting.
Everyone whose performance depends on their physical condition, like athletes but also people with physically demanding jobs, are well aware of the importance of rest and recovery.
But what about our mind? How much time do we give to our mind to rest and recovery? How much space do we invest to refill our creative reserve?

Personally, not as much as I should. And having a smart device with me all the time is not helping.
This is why I decided to carve out more disconnected time in my week to replenish my creative tank.

And what about you?
Do you give some time off to your mind?

One Apple A Day #437 – I don’t control the outcome, just the process.

I love this moment of the day. I sit here with some relaxing music, and I write for 15 minutes or so.
No goals. Just the act of writing.
It amazes me how I’ve been able to keep this practice for so long, despite my proven lack of self-discipline.

Unfortunately, any time I tried to apply the same strategy to work on my book, I failed. Again and again.
The practice of writing daily on the book never took off.
I used the same strategies: the same time of the day, same duration, the same tool.
Nothing!
After a few days, something gets in the way, and the practice is gone.

It has been going on for months. As a result, I blew up all my deadlines on the book project, and it became very frustrating.

With all deadline gone, I started losing my grip on the outcome. Questioning if I will ever see the final book.
And then, something happened.
When the outcome faded away, the habit of writing daily started to stick.

I realised that what makes this habit easy to keep is the total absence of outcome. I write every day just for the pleasure of writing.

I don’t control the outcome, just the process.

The moment I gave up my desire to control the outcome, I was able to focus on the process and make it work.

One Apple A Day #436 – you don’t have to fix everything

The other morning I was waiting at the traffic light for my turn to cross the road. Before me a couple with two dogs, a big one and a small one. Both beautiful and sociable. The smaller one, in particular, was cute and playful. When the light went green, and we all cross the road, I noticed that it cannot move one of its legs, but it was walking and jumping around as if everything was normal.
It made me think about our ability to adapt to our own limitations.

At the end of 2015, I realised that something had to change in my life.
I began my self-awareness journey reading, studying and doing self-development programs. I quickly realised that I was the one that had to change. I needed to transform myself so I double-in my commitment to self-development. I read and studied more, completed better programs, talked with many people to seek advice.
With every insight I was discovering about myself, new opportunities to grow and change were emerging.
It was an exciting journey.
The feeling of transformation was addictive, and I wanted to change everything. To become better and better.
Until I got stuck.
A few things were not changing despite all my efforts.
And I felt like I wasn’t making any real progress.

That was the moment when I learned that there are parts of me I can not change. No matter how hard I try, I won’t change them.

We don’t have to fix everything. Sometimes we have to accept that there are things we cannot change and with this valuable insight move on and live our life.

“When we let go of the things we cannot change, it frees up the energy to focus on changing the things we can.” — Tasha Eurich

One Apple A Day #434 – An easy win

Today may be the most important day of your year.

It’s the 2nd day of this new year, but for most of us, it’s the first one of the chase of the new dreams, goals and aspirations we established for ourselves.

Dreaming and setting goals is an exciting exercise. It got us all pumped up. Yesterday our phone was flooded by wishes and inspiring messages.

Then, this morning reality comes knocking at the door, and suddenly those goals seem so big and so far away.

The first doubts pop up in our mind.

Where do we start?

What can we do today?

We have these big dreams, but we don’t know what to do, Today.

My wise friend Karen once told me “If you don’t know what to do, do something“.

The first step is the most important of them all. It’s the one stating to yourself and the universe that you are 200% committed to this journey.

So, doing something and start is more important than what you actually do.

But you need to start Today. You need to set things in motion.

Here’s a simple trick that my mentor Rossella taught me in one of our conversations.

Start with an easy win. Something so small and so easy you can not succeed.

Think about your goal and ask yourself: What is the tiniest and easiest thing that I am sure I can do Today and can take me an iota closer to my goal? 


This post was inspired by the Be The Change card I picked this morning. It says “Step forward, make yourself available. Commit.

One Apple A Day #433 – The last page

Here you are, at the beginning of the last day of 2018.
There won’t be any other day so this is a goodbye for good.

I don’t know you, but I’ve always been better at starting things.
I love the excitement of a new beginning so, I was quick to jump on new things to avoid the experience of closing the old ones.
It wasn’t important if the old things were a success or a failure. I didn’t want to leave behind the pleasure of the firsts, and I was eager to run away from the laters.

And over time, all those unclosed things started weighing on my shoulders. Like chains, they were dragging me back making my steps heavier and slower. Until I couldn’t move forward anymore.

So I had to pause and take the time to say goodbye, keep the lessons learned and then let them go for good.

When you get to the last page of the book, you need to close it to leave space for a new story. No matter how good or how bad the book was. If you don’t close it and put it away, after a while, it will clutter your desk, and you won’t be able to read anything new.

I don’t know how your 2018 has been. Maybe it was the best year of your life so far. Or perhaps it was of those shitty years you want to forget as soon as possible. However it was, you are on the last page.

Take some time to take your learnings and close the book.  So, tomorrow you will be able to start a new story without any chain holding you back.

Review your 2018

Here we are, almost at the end of 2018.

A few days more and also this year will be part of the past.

For some of us, these days are also an opportunity to slow down, look back, review the past year and maybe set a few goals for the new one. Wins and losses, successes and failures, the things we started and the things we closed, the people we met and the ones we lost.

How did you assess your 2018?

And how did you plan the new one?

I used to do a performance-oriented review. I measured the finishing year through the filter of the goals and intentions set 12 months before. And then I plan out some SMART goals for the next 12 months.

To be honest, it hasn’t always worked well. If you read some of my past articles, you probably already know that I’m not very good with goals.

So, this year I decided to do things differently. I decided to look at the past through the lenses of the future, and look at the future through the lenses of the past.

I’ve challenged myself to review 2018 as if the whole year was the preparation for the next one. Everything I’ve done, everything that happened, all my experiences were meant to set me up for the best year ever; the incoming 2019.

With this mindset, I shifted the focus from goals and performances to my learnings and my evolution as a human being. And it makes me feel a lot more positive about the next year. Now I have more clarity about my future direction, and I feel ready to celebrate the end of 2018 properly.

I created a document with all the questions I’ve designed for my own year-end review.

You can download it from here.

I hope it’ll help you find some insights to design you 2019 adventures!