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 #567 – lesson learned

I confess. This morning I’m so sleepy and sluggish that even moving my fingers on the keyboard requires a lot of effort.
I almost fell asleep during my morning stretching exercises.

You can imagine how hard it has been to find something to write about this morning. All this struggle to think straight and to write brought back a recent memory.
Tuesday morning we took a taxi in Barcelona to go from the train station to the port. The taxi driver was a lovely guy, and we had a chat on our way through the traffic. Nothing special, you know. We started talking about the traffic and how it has changed in the last few years. When we asked if he likes to live in Barcelona, his answer was a small gem.
Of course, he loved to live there.
But the reason he gave was unexpected for me.
He told us that he is always happy; that’s why the city smiles back to him.
His grandmother – abuela – told him something when he was a kid that has been his mantra since then.

“Si tienes comida, come. Si no tienes comida, no come.”

If you have food, eat. If you don’t have food, don’t eat.

Life is simple, he said, just take what you have and get the best out of it.

So, this morning I’m following the advice of a taxi driver from Barcelona. I’m going with what I have, my sleepy brain, getting the best out of it.

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 #553 – Conversations

This morning I draw a Be The Change card that says “Invite multiple perspectives“.
I’m well aware of the power of finding and having multiple perspectives on things. It is the only way to go beyond the “flat” reality created by our beliefs and assumptions, and give substance to the world.
But this card uses the verb “invite“.
So, it is not inviting me to seek new viewpoints. Instead, the card challenges me to draw different perspectives to my life.
The best way I know to do it is by creating space for a “conversation”.
An open and enriching conversation.
One in which everyone feels invited to contribute.
I’ve been lucky to experience the wonder of such conversations.
And I’ve learned that to make those conversations happen, we must direct our energy on creating the space for the conversation, not on having it.
It’s not about talking, it’s about being open and ready to listen.
If we create a listening space, then that space will draw multiple perspectives, and a transformative conversation will start.

One Apple A Day #547 – sensing and making-sense

During a conversation with one of my mentors, I became aware of the essential difference and the vital connection between sensing and sense-making.

Sensing is the ability to perceive something even if often we can’t describe it. It’s an innate capacity of our intuitive intelligence that allows us to sense the energy and vibrations of the universe, the one within and the one around us. It is at the base of empathy and compassion.

Sense-making is the ability to find or give meaning to something, to create a logical frame to explain what we experience. It is mostly a cognitive ability.

Our material society favours sense-making. We spend most of our time in school learning how to make sense of everything. Mainly because “making sense of things” is what is supposed to help you move forward in life and have success.
Though, a lot of studies proved that very successful people also have a high ability to sense. Emotional Intelligence is now widely considered essential for a successful life.

Sensing and sense-making are activities of different “muscles”, but only when they work together, we can express our full potential. A high ability to sense that is not matched by a developed capacity of sense-making can easily lead to a sense of overwhelming. Sense-making without the ability to sense is like an empty shell, dry and non-generative.

How can we develop our ability to make sense of the world without losing our capacity to sense it? And how can we awaken our dormant innate ability to sense?

I have the feeling that “art” is an excellent answer to both questions.

“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.” — Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler by Paul Lindley

One Apple A Day #545 – maybe we should

Maybe we should/could …” is an expression we often use when we discuss changes we would like to see in our communities, organisations or groups.

Maybe we should be more grateful. Maybe we should do more of this. Maybe we shouldn’t say that.

And so on.

Most of the time, they are beautiful ideas that, if implemented, they would create a positive impact. However, they rarely get done.
How can I expect something to happen if I am not even sure if I want to do it. “Maybe” and “should” are two words that speak about possibilities, not intentions. And the use of “we” as the subject says that I’m hesitant in taking responsibility for what I’m proposing.

So, here’s my commitment. When I am in any meeting brainstorming about ideas and solutions to change, I commit to avoiding the expression “maybe we should/could …“. Instead, I can start my proposals for new actions with “I want … ” or “I’ll do … “.

Other ideas on how we can replace “maybe we should“?

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 #523 – a piece of cloth

“A bad system will beat a good person every time.” — W. Edwards Deming

Talking about synchronicity; this morning I found this quote in the book that I’m currently reading, and it would be the perfect summary of a conversation I had yesterday afternoon. I was talking with a friend about the role leaders play in the change processes within their organisations.

The image that keeps coming back for me is “a piece of cloth”.

An organisation can be seen as a piece of cloth, an intricated system of interwoven threads. Every organisation has its own unique size, material, fabric and texture. So, each piece of cloth will react differently to changes. If you pick a point in the fabric and lift it, depending on the strength and elasticity of the threads and the weight of the material you may be able to lift the whole piece from that one point. Or you may be able to hold it only for a moment before it is pulled back in place by the strength of the texture.

So, if you lift the cloth from one single point, the rest of the material will follow with some delay. And, no matter its unique characteristics, the parts that are farther from the lifting point, will be left behind. Sure, that lifted point will stand out, but what happens when it is released? It’s highly probable that the whole piece of cloth will fall back in the previous flat state.

What if instead of lifting the piece of cloth from one point, we lift it from many points at the same time? Or even better, what if we create a system, like a frame, that will allow raising the whole piece of cloth at the same time?

Just replace “piece of cloth” with “organisation” and “lifting point” with “leader”, and I believe the questions still work.

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 #510 – free, love, fear

I’ll be honest. This morning I couldn’t find anything to write about.
So, I started by looking back at the conversations I had in the last few days. Since I started this project, I discovered that there are always a lot of hidden nuggets in-between the words shared in every conversation.
Sometimes these gems kept lingering in my mind without me being aware of it.
So, this morning my mind went back to a conversation I had with two friends while we were walking back to our cars. We started by talking about “Free Solo”, the documentary about Alex Honnold climbing El Capitan without any ropes or other protective gears. We ended up talking about fear.
How can someone do something so risky?
I mean, fear would paralyze anyone else.
So, this morning I thought I could write about fear, but I couldn’t find the spark and 15 minutes ends quickly.
Luckily for me, I always have the Be The Change cards with me.
I pick the card “Power + Love”.
And I remember that a dear friend and mentor once told me that fear is the opposite of love. So I did a quick search, and this is the first quote I found.

“The opposite of love is not, as we many times or almost always think, hatred, but the fear to love, and fear to love is the fear of being free.” — Paulo Freire, a Brazilian expert on education.

I think the quote above closes perfectly the loop of my thinking this morning.
All the words I need for today are there; free, love, fear.

I love how things connected if we just stay with the flow.

Oh, I haven’t watched Free Solo yet, but I’ll do it soon.