“It is well known that humour, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.” – by Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning
Here I am, with three minutes left of my fifteen-minutes writing slot and nothing to share. This morning I wanted to write about serious silliness – one of BeTheChange cards – and about the importance of infusing humour to our life.
But after more than ten minutes tapping on the keyboard, the result was a sequence of severe sentences. And it struck me how often, in the effort of being playful and seriously silly, I end up being ridiculously serious. It happens anytime I approach playfulness from the doing perspective. As a result, I bring my heaviness into what should be a playful experience.
Being seriously silly, it’s an attitude, a state of the being that infuses everything we do.
What does it mean to do something with a playful attitude?
So, my invitation for today is to be a little silly while doing serious stuff.
This morning I woke up tired and sleepy.
It is like when you forget to plug the charger of your phone before going to sleep, and you wake up with less than 15% of power in your battery.
With such a low level of energy, I’m struggling to keep the focus. Anytime I close my eyes, my mind goes adrift, and I have to make an effort to bring it back here and now.
However unpleasant, this condition is a great reminder of the importance of managing my energy.
There are plenty of books, strategies and tools to improve the way we manage time. But what about our energy? If we have the time to do something, but we’re out of energy, we won’t make anything remarkable.
Having the energy we need when we need it, it’s vital to do what we want and to enjoy doing it. When I talk about “energy” I mean physical energy. We have only one battery that serves our body, our mind and our heart. And our mind is voracious; it consumes circa 25% of our energy despite being only 4% of our mass.
Like with any resource, we must learn how to recharge our energy and how to use it wisely.
But my fifteen-minute slot to write this is gone. Being low in energy, I couldn’t write much. So, I close this post with a question: how do you take care of your energy?
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” —Josh Billings
Yes, it happened to me many times. It still happens.
Let’s be honest, when reality doesn’t fit with what we know for sure, it’s more comfortable to lie to ourselves than challenge our truth.
The world is full of opportunities to learn and grow. But you’ll never begin a learning process unless you become aware and accept what you don’t know.
On the 20th February 1969, Martin M. Broadwell published on “The Gospel Guardian” the 17th and last part of a series titled “Teaching For Learning”. In his article, Broadwell introduced a new learning model that he labelled “the four levels of teaching“. Or, how it is often called “the four stages of competence“.
The founding idea of the model is that we ‘can’t being a learning journey if we are unaware of what or how much we know. He calls this first state of being unaware of not knowing the “unconscious incompetence” state. As we progress with our learning, we go through four psychological states until we reach the last one; the “unconscious competence” stage.
Let’s take a look at the four stages.
- Unconscious incompetence: at this stage, we don’t know how to do something, and we don’t recognise the deficit. Only when we become aware and accept our incompetence, we can move forward and start a learning process.
- Conscious incompetence: at this stage, we recognise our deficit, and we start the learning process to address that gap. Rules, forms and imitation are essential to building the competence we need.
- Conscious competence: we have finally acquired the skills we wanted, but to use them, we must be deliberate in our actions. The newly acquired skills may be now easy to use, but they require attention and for us to be conscious. Being conscious of how we use our capabilities allow us to go deeper and integrate the new behaviours in our identity. We are shifting from Doing to Being.
- Unconscious competence: finally, what we have learned become “second nature“. The new skills become part of our identity. We don’t do them anymore, they are integral to who we are.
“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” —Ben Sweetland
My first boss was, he still is, an incredibly talented, smart and knowledgable person.
In my eyes, he knew everything about software development. We worked together for a long time, and we became friends. It was the time of the Internet Bubble, the beginning of this millennium. Life was great for software developers. We worked a lot, most of the time on exciting projects, and we were well paid.
During all those years, he kept teaching. It wasn’t a well-paid job, not compare to software development and, considering the amount of time spent in the office, I couldn’t understand why he was investing so much time in teaching.
When I asked him, he told me that teaching was the better way he knew to learn and improve himself.
I have to admit, I couldn’t really understand his answer at the time. To me, he was already the most competent person in my field.
But this morning, while I was reflecting upon the power of helping others shine, his story came up.
If you are struggling to overcome a tough situation, or you want to grow, but you can’t find your way forward, you can try helping someone else who’s on a similar journey. When you help someone else shine, their light will brighten your path.
I usually write my daily apple at home, in the quiet stillness of the dawn. Today it was not possible as we had to leave early so, here I am in a lively cafè with the latecomers having their quick espresso before rushing to their offices.
We can’t always control the situations around us, disruptions happen. But, as Viktor Frankl wrote, “when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
When something is meaningful for us, we adapt and find a way through. And as you know, this writing pause is my daily anchor.
And somehow, this disruption in my routine fits with the thoughts that have been spinning in my mind since yesterday evening. I attended a workshop about emotional intelligence, and I left with the awareness that we can’t stop emotions from emerging.
The idea that we can leave our emotions behind in some environment, typically work, can lead to a great deal of stress and pressure. There are things you can’t stop from happening such us changing, moving, communicating and feeling emotions.
We change, no matter how much we would like to stay the same.
We move, no matter how much we try to stay still.
As the psychologist and philosopher Paul Watzlawick said, “One cannot not communicate” because “every behaviour is a form of communication”.
And you can’t stop emotions from emerging within you.
Resisting is energy consuming. This is why it is important to embrace, own and take care of your emotions. So you can harness them to create a positive impact within and without you.
And the first step, as I learned yesterday evening, is to recognise your emotions and give them a name.
One day I was playing with some kids. Tough stuff like jumping, running, doing somersaults, throwing stuff. For some reasons, kids think that I’m a good playmate for this kind of things.
Anyway, we were playing and having fun when one of them threw something at me. He hit me quite heavily on the chest. Because I’m an adult, it was just a bit painful, but it could be worst if he targeted one of the other kids. So, I told him that what he just did wasn’t fun at all, that it was painful and I didn’t want to play in that way.
I can still see his puzzle eyes staring at me, trying to find a sense in what had just happened. His curious mind was combining information and creating new connections.
I admit, for a moment I envied him, his not knowing, his curiosity, his need to experience the world first-hand to find meaning and discover the boundaries. With all our knowledge we know, or we think we know, the outcome of an action before trying. Even if we never did it before. And those expectations set boundaries from the very beginning.
What would happen if you go into something with the innocent curiosity of children? Are you able to set aside all your knowledge and jump fully into the experience?
Have you ever played golf?
I didn’t, at least not properly. But I tried to shoot some balls twice.
Once in New York at a practice field at the docks. A friend, who’s a player, took me there to had some fun. We got 50 balls, a golf club and we were set. He explained to me the basics, and for 20 minutes, I just tried to hit the ball without hitting anyone. I did my best with poor results, but it was fun.
Years later, while I was exploring the complexity of human emotions and how they influence our behaviours, my perspective on golf changed. I realised that it wasn’t about training the body or learning the movement, not only at least. It was more about training the mind and harnessing emotions to enter the flow state where the stroke just happens.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to hit a few balls at a friend’s house. But this time, I didn’t focus on hitting the ball. I kept my full attention on myself, my body, my sensations and my feelings. I experienced a short moment of peace as if I was within a bubble for a few seconds.
I’d love to say that my throws were great, but they weren’t. Though I hit the ball every time. What I enjoy the most is the experience of being able to create a bubble of intense focus and presence through movement and rituality.
This is my intention and my desire for Today.
To be able to truly listen.
To someone else, because every time we listen with intent, we create a space where the other can empty her heart and mind, and find clarity.
But also to listen to myself.
And this is challenging.
How can I be the same person talking and listening?
Maybe, the only way I can listen to myself is through listening deeply to others.
We are all mirrors.
“We are the mirror, as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste of eternity this minute.
We are pain and what cures pain.
We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.
Soul of the world, no life, nor world remain,
no beautiful women and men longing.
Only this ancient love circling the holy black stone of nothing.
Where the lover is the loved, the horizon and everything within it.” ― Rumi
“In descriptions of Nature one must seize on small details, grouping them so that when the reader closes his eyes he gets a picture. For instance, you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star, and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball.” — Anton Chekhov
This morning this few words appeared in my mind while I was doing some stretching to wake up my body; “show, don’t tell”.
It’s an expression used to summarise a writing technique. If you’re writing about something, you can describe what’s going on, providing all the information and details, including feelings and emotions. Or you can paint a picture through which the readers can feel the experience as if they were living it.
In the first case, you’re telling, in the second one you’re showing.
The short excerpt at the opening of this post comes from a letter that Chekhov wrote to his brother, and I think it explains the concept perfectly.
Now that we know what “show, don’t tell” means, I’m left with a big question mark and only two minutes to finish this post.
Where is this thought coming from? And what should I do with it?
Maybe it’s related to the experience of last days. I had been talking and coaching with people from different part of the worlds. We used the English language for our conversations even thou, it was not the native language for any of us. And the different styles are just the surface of a more profound richness of cultural nuances.
In those situations, telling doesn’t work.
If I tell how I feel using the words I know, the other person may never really feel the connection. I won’t be able to spark empathy. But if I show how I feel, I can go beyond the boundaries of words and create a real connection.
It’s dawn in London, and I’m writing this on a bouncing train to the airport.
I’m tired and a bit sleepy so there is a high probability that this post won’t be one of my best.
Though, I needed these fifteen minutes of writing. No matter the outcome, I need to put some music, open the laptop and tap on the keyboard.
This moment is my anchor.
When I don’t do my morning writing, I can’t get through the day smoothly.
I found that for me it’s vital to have something I can anchor my day.
It helps me stay centred amidst the storms of life.
For me, it’s writing, for someone else it may be running or just sitting for a coffee with your family. If you are sailing through the sea of life, you need sails to catch the wind and move forward. You need a compass to know your way and a rudder to steer the trajectory.
But you also must be sure to carry an anchor with you.
So you’ll know that no matter what, you’ll always be able to ground yourself amid turbulences or maybe just to rest.
Do you have an anchor? What is it?