One Apple A Day #546 – I am only a visitor

I took a few trains these last two days, and I’ve spent some time waiting at the stations. To most, the time spent waiting in stations and airports is probably time wasted. Not for me.

I’ve always been fascinated by stations and airports.
Maybe because I love the space in-between things.
And a train station is exactly that; an interstitial space in-between an arrival and a departure.

One of my favourite games is to sit in the hall of a station to observe the people around me and imagine their stories. Each person is a universe of experiences, emotions, relationships.

Where are they going? Where are they coming from? What are they leaving behind, or what are they going towards? Are they fugitives or seekers?

Each one unique and yet all sharing the same humanity. A myriad of different voices in one infinite conversation.

This incredible constellation of diverse stories all in the same place is a beautiful reminder that we are all unique and all one at the same time.

Isn’t that magical?

I’m writing this in the hall of a small train station.
When I started writing, this place was crowded with people commuting to work and school. In less than 15 minutes, everyone is gone, and now I’m alone in the waiting room with my small bag. And I just remembered a short story I read a while ago.

In the last century, a tourist from the States visited the famous Polish Rabbi Hafez Hayyim.

He was astonished to see that the Rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books. The only furniture was a table and a bench.

“Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist.

“Where is yours?” replied Hafez.

“Mine? But I’m only a visitor here.”

“So am I,” said the Rabbi.

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 #537 – it starts from not knowing

“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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

One Apple A Day #535 – don’t resist, embrace

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 Apple A Day #531 – show don’t tell

“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.

One Apple A Day #527 – chaos

“Babies are born in blood and chaos; stars and galaxies come into being amid the release of massive primordial cataclysms.” — from Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

Chaos is scary because it is unpredictable.
You can create the conditions for chaos to happen, but you can’t design it. Our brain is a predicting machine. It continuously evaluates the situation to find clues that will trigger behaviour in response. In every moment, our brain tries to fit the complexity of the world within the map of reality it has built over time.
But amidst chaos everything gets blurred and mixed up, clues are hard to find, and our mental framework becomes almost useless.

For all these reasons, chaos can’t be modelled or replicated. So, it is hard to deliberately create chaos to solve a problem. Though, chaos is generative. Because we can’t rely on what we know, we are forced to connect with the energy, to use our intuition and to trust.

Chaos challenges our beliefs, and in doing so, it helps us evolve beyond the boundaries of our mental framework.

“Unless some degree of chaos is permitted to enter the system, no further progress can be made. Sometimes, to create new structures, the old ones must be destroyed so the blocks can be recombined in different ways.” — From Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray

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 #522 – it starts from you

In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear presents a concept called the “Three Layers Of Behaviour Change” to describe how we approach change.
Going from the outside-in, the three layers are outcomes, processes and identity.

“Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.”

All levels are useful to create a change.
What really makes a difference is where we start from; the direction of change.

The need for a change something in our life is usually triggered by the desire for different outcomes. We want to have something different, so we start a process to change what we have.
This focus on the outcomes sparks one or more outcome-based interventions; projects aimed at changing what we have.

Some of us are wiser, and they understand that if they don’t change how they do things they won’t get different results. So they review their processes so they can generate better outcomes.
Indeed, changing how we do things is more effective in creating the desired results but, as we know, when our behaviours (processes) are not in tune with our identity (beliefs), they are not sustainable on the long term.

“In fact, 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.”

Behind every action that we make there is a set of beliefs. The beliefs that define our identity. The reason why many change projects fail is that we focus only on the outcomes or the processes while bringing in the process the same beliefs that create the reality we want to change.

A sustainable change must start from our identity.

One Apple A Day #521 – you can do something

According to the Global Challenges Foundation – a foundation that works with researchers to explore threats to humanity -, the next 50 years will set the pace for humanity’s survival in the next 10,000 years.

Climate change, mass migrations, artificial intelligence, political instability, deforestation. The list can go on and on.

The challenges ahead of humanity are greater than ever, and it’s easy to feel small and powerless.
What can we do?
What can I do?

When I caught myself in these thoughts, I always go back to this sentence from “Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler“, a beautiful book by Paul Lindley.

“While a toddler’s world might be geographically tiny, it is mentally limitless; conversely, when we grow up, we have the potential freedom to explore everything around us, but will often limit ourselves to the same narrow range of places, people and experiences.”

From toddlers, we can learn to be creative with what we have. But there is something more than that. They face every challenge with an open mind because they haven’t been conditioned yet. When we want to find a solution to a problem we approach it with the same mindset that creates that challenge in the first place. Our mindset comes with us, and it limits us our possibilities.

I believe that I can do something about the significant challenges we face as humanity.
But it all starts by expanding my awareness.

“The biggest challenge we face is shifting human consciousness, not saving the planet. The planet doesn’t need saving, we do.” by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (a 19 years old activist)