One Apple A Day #613 – from control to care

It’s past nine in the morning. Quite late for my morning writing practice.

I had, in fact, I’m still having a slow pacing morning.

My weekend was quite intense, and when I woke up at dawn, my body clearly told me that it was too early. 

It needed more rest. So, I decided to take care of myself before doing anything else. Including having my vital apple a day.

Taking care.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to reflect on one of my inner struggles; control. 

I’ve learned long ago that I can’t control what happens outside me, out there in the world.

However, I’ve been struggling with my inner control. 

The control over my own thoughts, emotions and behaviours. 

I know I can stop a thought from emerging or emotion from surging, but I should have the control on how I respond to that thought or emotion. 

And that was my struggle.

Lack of will? Poor discipline?

I don’t know.

But this week, I had the opportunity to spend a day with a group of men willing to ask tough questions and to be vulnerable.

In that space, I had a kind of revelation or intuition of some sort.

What if I change my words?

What if I replace “control” with “care”?

Instead of focusing on controlling my response to thoughts and emotions, I’ll use my energy to take care of those thoughts and emotions.

I don’t know where this shift in perspective will lead me, but I feel a sense of excitement just writing about it. 

And that’s very promising.

P.S. The first image that emerged in my mind yesterday, when I thought about “taking care”, was a majestic tree. And that’s curious. A few months ago, I did a visualization exercise aimed at finding my vision for the future. The image that dominated my vision was one of a tree. That’s where the drawing at the beginning of the post comes from.

ONE APPLE A DAY #595 – shine through defeat

Yesterday I read a short and powerful piece by an Italian teacher. A friend posted it on facebook but mistakenly associating it with a famous Italian poet and writer.

The words immediately resonated with me, so I wanted to learn more about them. This is how I discover that the real author is Rosaria Gasparro. She’s a teacher in primary school, but she’s also a lot more obviously. For sure she’s a beautiful writer.

This small story made me wonder about the infinite potential that lives within each one of us. We just need to crush the walls of our limiting beliefs and allow for our extraordinary self to shine. Then, we would make the world a brighter place.

Below, my humble translation of the words of Rosaria.

THE PRAISE OF the DEFEAT

I think it is necessary to educate the new generations on the value of defeat. On its management. On the humanity that springs from it. On the creation of an identity that can perceive a commonality of destiny, where one can fail and start over without value and dignity being eroded. On how to not become a social climber, on not to walk over the body of others to get there first.

In this world of vulgar and dishonest winners, of false and opportunistic doers, of people who count, who occupy power, who rob the present, let alone the future, to all the neurotics of success, of appearing, of becoming … to this anthropology of the winner, I instead prefer those who lose. It is an exercise that I do well. And it reconciles me with my sacred little.

You can read more from Rosaria here (in Italian).

The Monthly Edition: August 2019

It’s the holiday season! At least in Italy. This is typically the month when nothing happens, and everyone is in vacation mode (often even when they are working).

Anyway, whatever your situation right now you’re probably worried because you haven’t received my monthly newsletter.

At least, this is what I’m telling to my ego. 🙂

Reality is that your inbox is already full of stuff, so you’re just realising now that this month I’m late.

Again.

Even more than the previous months.

It looks like I can’t keep up with my own commitment.
If I squeeze my brain for a few minutes, I’m pretty sure I’ll come out with some excellent excuses for this delay.
But you know what.

Screw the excuses.

“Victims make excuses. Leaders deliver results.” — Robin Sharma

I have no plans of being a victim.
I want to deliver results.

And that requires me to take responsibility. With “taking responsibility” I mean to own my failures, so I can learn from them. To do that I need to have an honest and frank conversation with myself, asking uncomfortable questions and staying away from the easy answers.

So, right now I’m asking myself; “what can I learn from this failure in keeping the deadline for my newsletter?”.

Yep, all of a sudden this newsletter is about the answers I found in my self-inquiry process. I know each one of us is unique, so what came out of my process will be unique to me. But who knows, you may find some ideas or insights that will be beneficial to your own processes.

Lesson #01: Clarity of meaning

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” — Nietzsche

The first thing I’ve investigated in my self-inquiry is the “why”.
When we investigate the motif behind something we want to do, we may be tempted to use a “why” question. Like “why do I want to do this?”

But even when I’m talking with myself, this question tastes judgemental. So, I decided to go for a different one.

“What are the things that make this newsletter so important to me?”

And this is the list that came out:

  • I love writing, and this is another opportunity to write
  • This newsletter is more personal than the other stuff that I publish, so it sparks a different type of reflections
  • It creates opportunities to start conversations with others
  • It helps me slow down and assess my own journey, something I often overlooked because I’m too busy doing stuff.
  • It’s an opportunity to improve my discipline (like having a book to suggest every month).

No lack of motivations then. The solution ought to be found somewhere else. Even if, it’s good to reconnect with the intentions that started this small project of mine.

Lesson #02: Plan ahead

“A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.” — Confucius

I realised I had to send the newsletter only on the 1st of August. That means I was already late for it. That’s not a good start. On top of that, my schedule for the first week of august was already defined. So I couldn’t find the time that I needed to write this newsletter. I am a slow writer, so I need at least four hours to get in the flow, find the inspiration, do the actual writing, review and polish and then send it. If I want to be on-time, I need to set aside the time for this task way ahead.

Thanks to these two learning, I was able to design some actions.

Actions!

“There can be no learning without action, and no action without learning.”  — Reg Revans

  1. I locked the time in my calendar for the next five newsletters, until December.
  2. I defined the list of books to read and comment for the next five months
  3. I’ve decided to publish these newsletters also on my website as articles to create even more opportunities for conversations (that would be the page you’re reading now. If you want to receive it also on your inbox, just subscribe to my newsletter using the form on the right of this page).
  4. I’ve decided to share more updates on all the things I’m working on, so maybe new collaborations can emerge.

From my bookcase

This month’s suggestion is “Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think” by Dave Gray. This book had a profound impact on my vision on almost everything. It really opened my eyes on the power of the space in-between.

“In order to learn anything truly new, you must empty your cup, so your existing knowledge, theories, assumptions, and preconceptions don’t get in the way.”

 

So, in a few weeks, I’ll have a new monthly edition with more updates and a new reading suggestion. If you want to be sure you won’t miss this article next month (or if you want to check if my actions deliver the expected results), just subscribe to my newsletter.

For now, this is the end of this summer (and first) edition of this post.

Thank you for your patience and for giving me this opportunity to reflect and improve.

And if you want to share with me how you deal with your own failures, comment below. I’d be happy to have a conversation with you and learn!

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.