One Apple A Day #574 – yearning

Yesterday a friend caught me off guard during a conversation.
She just asked me what my yearning is.

Silence.

I had no answers ready. I tried to find something in the hidden corners of my mind, but nothing.
I’ve been thinking about that question since then without finding a definitive answer.

To yearn means to have an earnest or strong desire for something or someone.
Sure there are things that I desire, people that I love.
But I can’t point my focus on one thing.
That one “thing” that I desire with such intensity to fill up my mind, my heart and my soul.

Then in another conversation, I was reminded that sometimes thinking about something can get in the way of getting it. It’s one of the fascinating paradox of our mind.

“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and results come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity.” — Aldous Huxley

So, I’ve decided that if I really want to discover what I yearn for, the only way is to stay open and allow for the answer to emerge.

One Apple A Day 565 – gratitude & wonder

I just started a journey that will move my life to a new place. So, know I’m in a space in-between of some sort. Where everything is temporary, changing and moving.

It is from this place that I am writing this morning. So, this post may come out confused, or maybe crisp and clear. I don’t know.
I’ll go with the moment.
I am writing from the space in-between.

Everything that lies behind me has prepared me for this moment. Everything that lies before me gives meaning to this moment.
This moment, this place is all that exists, the here and now.
Isn’t this how life is?
Standing like acrobats on the unstable rope between past and future.
Don’t look down, they say.
Just breathe and keep walking.
There is only this moment.
There is only the next step.

We all have experienced failure. We lost our balance and slipped on that thin, unstable rope.
So, we need to choose how we want to look at the past because it will inform how you deal with the here and now.
I choose gratitude because it makes my feet steady.

They also say that to keep my balance on that thin rope, I should point my gaze to a fixed point before me. Though, often the way ahead is lost in the midst. What do you do when the future is uncertain?
I choose to look ahead with wonder because it makes my feet lighter. And if no clear point is visible ahead, then I’ll create it with my imagination.

I breathe.
In and out.
Gratitude and wonder.
Another step forward.

One Apple A Day #562 – the safety paradox

You’ve almost surely read and heard many times about “Psychological safety”. Many studies proved that it is one, if not the, most critical condition for extraordinary performance at the personal and team level.

Psychological safety can be defined as “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career“. In short, it is the belief that, within a team or organisation, you feel safe to show up authentically, to speak your own truth and take risks.

So, creating a space where everyone feels safe should be the starting point for every teamwork.

How do you do that?

This is what I’ve been pondering about last days. The feeling of “being safe” is entirely subjective. I may feel safe to express myself fully in a space where someone else can not. How can I know if a space is “safe” for everyone? If someone doesn’t feel safe, will she or he manifest that feeling?

Indeed, some configurations are more helpful than others in creating a safe space for everyone. But I believe that psychological safety is sourced within. If I want to create a safe space, the first vital step is for me to sincerely believe that that space is safe and show up authentically.
No matter what.
And that means taking risks. It means to be willing to step out of my inner “safe” zone and feel unsafe.

It is a kind of paradox.

If I want to create a safe space for others, I must be ready to risk my own safety.

One Apple A Day #559 – How do I show up?

Before the challenges of life – the small and personal ones, so close to us to fill up our vision, and the big ones that are shaping the future of humanity – we usually ask ourselves “what can I do?“.

What can I do for climate change?
What can I do for the dear friend who’s going through a tough time?
What can I do to be happier with my partner?

All powerful and essential questions without an easy answer.
As a result, too often the answer is “nothing“.
So, I am wondering. What if “what can I do” is the wrong question?
What if we turn the direction of our quest inward by asking “Who can I be“?

Or, if you want to make it more practical, then you should ask “How do I show up?“.

How do I show up amid climate change?
How do I show up for my dear friend who’s going through a tough time?
How do I show up with my partner?

But be aware, because these are challenging questions. They ask you to look inward, to check your intentions and, above all, you can’t use “nothing” as a valid answer.
Neither you can postpone the action that comes with the answer.
Because this is about your identity, your being.

“The word identity was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. Your identity is literally your repeated beingness.” — James Clear

The way you show up here and now, is how you show up every day in everything.

One Apple A Day #557 – Romeo & Juliet

I’ve spent a few hours strolling around the streets of Verona yesterday. One of the main attractions for tourists is the famous Juliet’s Balcony. People from all over the world come here to see this symbol of love, maybe in the hope that it will bring more love in their lives.
But Juliet’s house and the balcony are nothing more than props. Not much different from the ones I saw outside the Arena when they were setting up the stage for the Aida.
Romeo and Juliet existed in the fantasy world created by Shakespeare’s creative mind. Yet, as Juliet’s balcony proves, if we believe a story long enough, it becomes real. That balcony in Verona feels very real.
This can also happen in our lives. If we tell ourselves a story long enough, that story will shape our reality.
“This can’t be done.”
“I’m not good at this thing.”
“Oh no, I can’t draw, sing, write.”
And so on.
How many “Juliet’s balconies” do you have in your life?
What would you be capable of, if you move past those stories?

One Apple A Day #540 – the joy of missing out

You’ve probably read about a thing called FOMO or Fear of missing out. It is – according to Wikipedia – “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.
This fear is made worse by social media, where we are regularly exposed to the glittering life of others.
Crawling beneath this fear, there is the need to be seen and to be heard.

I thought I was free from this phenomenon until a friend made me realise that I may have a tendency to say yes to too many things. Sometimes, stretching myself a bit too much, until I feel guilty for not being able to keep what I promise.

Am I pushed but the fear of missing out something?

So, this morning I dug out a little more. I believe mine is a slightly different version of FOMO. I’m not worried to miss out an opportunity to be seen. I’m afraid that I may miss out a chance to find meaning.
So, this morning I’m writing this to remind myself that in the search for meaning, what we don’t do is as important than what we choose to do.

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.