One Apple A Day 526 – explore and exploit

Today I want to write about passion. Or better, about the lack of it.
When I was a child, I didn’t know what my passion was. Sure, there were many things that I love, reading above all, but I didn’t have a clear idea of who I wanted to become.
Things didn’t get better growing up. I can’t remember a moment when I thought “this is it, my passion, what I’m going to do from now on”.
Instead, I went using a trial and error approach.
An approach that I’ve been refining over the years and it worked quite well for me. Though, I still have that subtle feeling of envy when I meet someone who has a burning passion for something; a person on a mission.

I know I’m not alone in this. Many people haven’t found that defining passion or mission, yet.

And you know what? It’s ok.

It’s ok to be searching and trying. Isn’t it the quest for our mission a mission on itself?
The important thing is to keep searching, trying and learning. Fragments of the picture will emerge along the way. Our passion will grow within us while, at the same time, we will grow into it.

Of course, there’s a problem with this approach: life is short.

We need to find the best explore/exploit trade-off.
Find something that works for you, something on which you get higher returns than the average person and exploit it. But always keep a window open for exploration, to try new things and when you find something that works well, exploit it integrating it with what you’re already doing.

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 #508 – create your unique recipe

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.

Know thyself

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 #472 – non-attachment

Non-attachment is a powerful practice.
But it’s not easy at all.
We live immersed in a culture that celebrates achievements and material wealth.
It’s hard to do something without being attached to the outcome.
Yet, anytime I’ve been able to experience non-attachment, my performances surged.
This practice of writing every morning is a good example.
When I started I had no goal but writing.
Being completely detached from the outcome, it was easy for me to sit down and write.
Then, once the practice became a habit and my writing began to improve, I started paying attention to the results.
I wanted to write something good because I knew I could.
I developed an attachment to the outcome, and I experienced the first difficulties. Days when words weren’t flowing, ideas were not coming, and my posts became less authentic.
Then I realized that nobody was expecting anything from me.
Nobody was reading me.
That gave me freedom.
And with that freedom words started flowing again.
Until lately, when I realized that I was focusing, again, on the outcome.
I have some readers, and I wanted to write something meaningful for them. For you.

The attachment to the outcome was getting in the way of my creativity.
Last days writing hasn’t been as fluid as usual.
And this morning I was stuck.
I was ready to give up and call it a day.
And when that thought came, when I gave up my attachment to the outcome this post emerged.

One Apple A Day #465 – being real

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” — C.G. Jung

We all want to be loved, liked and appreciated.
The desire to belong is one of the basic human needs.
Sometimes thou, this can get in the way of our ability to live fully.
Particularly at this moment in history, when we are all overexposed.
We begin to focus more on being, or I should better say appearing, good than on being real.
At least, this is what happened to me.
Growing up I’ve always been a good guy.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing.
But at some point, I got stuck in that role.
I believed that being “the good guy” was the reason why people loved me.
So, I did that.
For the first thirty years of my life, I sealed any potential shadows away.
I wanted everyone to see only the lights.
Including me, and that’s the worse part.
I was deliberately ignoring my shadows.
But they didn’t go away just because I ignored them.
And in doing so, I was neglecting my wholeness.
It didn’t last.
You can’t sustain an entire life without substance, without being whole.
I had the opportunity to restart, and I started by acknowledging and taking care of my shadows.

It was nice to be good.
But it’s even better to be real.

One Apple A Day #463 – Honest conversations

I began journaling years ago.
It’s one of the morning rituals that help me reconnect with myself.
Over the year I’ve adapted my journaling to my changes, but one thing never changed; I never read what I write. Never.
Once my thoughts and feelings are out of my mind and heart, black ink on white paper, they are gone.
I don’t read what I write in my journal because I soon realized how hard it can be to have an honest conversation with myself.
Every transformation starts with an honest conversation. One in which we acknowledge that we want to change something and we bring it out in the light.
I always knew that these kinds of conversations with others are difficult. There is the fear of the judgment, of the pain that we can feel or cause, of the unknown that can emerge.
But it was only when I started journaling that I realized how hard it can be to have an honest conversation with myself.
I never thought that I could be so good avoiding the truth when talking with myself. I could lie to myself even when I know, obviously, that I am lying.

Yet, no transformation can start without an honest conversation with myself. My never-read-it-again journaling ritual is a safe space where I can have a frank dialogue with me.

Do you have a safe space where you can talk honestly with yourself?

One Apple A Day #461 – You are an artist

It’s often a surprise when you meet, in person or through stories, the man or woman behind the artist.
I remember some encounters after which I was perplexed, asking myself “How can this person be the same who wrote those beautiful and inspiring songs?”

On the surface, this distance between the person and the artist may seem a lack of authenticity. But if we look a bit deeper, we can see that they are just different vibrations of the same energy.

Human beings have the potential to do things that are bigger than themselves. Things that go beyond the limitations, weakness and miseries of their human form.
This ability is more evident in artists, but it is innate in everyone.

We all have the power to go beyond our human form.
To make our actions and words bigger than ourselves.
We are all artists.

Are your actions and words bigger than yourself?

Are you inspiring and uplifting yourself and others beyond your limitations?

One Apple A Day #460 – I don’t know

I don’t know.

It’s a reminder to myself.

This morning I woke up with the awareness that I don’t know.
It was a bit scary at the beginning.
Then I took a deep breath, and I decided to acknowledge my not knowing.
I don’t have all the answers, and I will never have all the answers.
Not knowing makes me feel free.

I don’t know.

It is also an invitation to myself.

An invitation to embrace not knowing and be curious.
To open up to the wisdom of the world and the beauty of humanity.
So, I won’t get trap in the urge of knowing what is coming, but I will allow for the answers to unfold while I move forward.

I don’t know.

One Apple A Day #455 – hold your light for others

We all have lights and shadows.
I always found almost impossible to use my own light to explore my dark side. It is as if our light is cast outwards so we can’t use it to illuminate our inner shadows. Or maybe it is just fear.

But when I’m in a circle of trust with a group of people, something magical happens. The lights of others shred through my shadows, and I can look without fear in the darkest corners of my soul.

I had this experience one year ago, during a walk with a group of man on the Italian hills. We had a long and tough day. I, in particular, had an emotional breakthrough midway and I was facing my own demons. I had opened a door I’d always feared, and there I was, staring before the darkness behind that door. But that evening, while we were all together standing in a circle to close the day with gratitude, I felt the intensity of their light, and my own darkness became less scary.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” —Ben Sweetland