One Apple A Day #684 – start somewhere, but start

This morning, when I sat to do this little writing practice of mine, I was at lost. Many thoughts and ideas were floating in my mind, but nothing was carrying that spark I needed to begin writing. 

It happens, more often than I’d like. Over the years, I’ve learned that the biggest mistake I can make is to indulge in this wandering of the mind, waiting for the right idea to start. More often than not, I get even more lost. 

In these cases, what I do is to take anything and being writing. Usually, it is a recent memory such as a fact, a conversation or something I read.

This time, I decided to start from a little story my fellow coach Ian McKechnie told me yesterday.

It’s the story of a small group of Hungarian soldiers who got lost in the Alps during the First World War. After three days of heavy snow, they were giving any hop to make it back to the camp where the rest of the troop was. They were desperate but then, of them find a map in his pocket. With renewed hope and energy, they followed the map and made it back to the camp. When their lieutenant asked to see the map, he discovered that it was a map of the Pyrenees. Having a map, even if a wrong one, was enough to calm them down, so they were able to think more clearly and, most importantly, to take action.

Two things happened this morning when I found this story in my pocket.

The first is that I started writing, and even if I didn’t know how to use the story, I ended up with a new post.

The second thing is that while searching for some information about the story, I discovered this fantastic article, that I’m going to read in full later, on the rhetorical power of anecdotes and how easy it is to twist a story when it doesn’t fit our thesis.

If you don’t know where to start, check your pockets.

One Apple A Day #677 – You must not be your own obstacle.

Having more time, and need, for inspiring conversations is undoubtedly one of the positive sides of this collective pause in which we are all in. 

Yesterday, I was talking about energy and protection. 

How often, driven by the desire to protect our energy or the source energy of a project or organisation, we end up limiting the creative potential of that same energy. For all the right reasons, we get in the way of our own potential.

I was reminded of an episode of “Chef’s table”. A Netflix series telling stories of some of the most celebrated chefs in the world. Jeong Kwang is the protagonist of one episode, but she is not like the others. She has no fancy restaurant. She’s a Buddhist monk working in the kitchen of a monastery in South Korea. Yet, she’s recognised as a fabulous creative chef.

At one point, with the same grace with which she prepares the food, she said to the interviewer:

“Creativity and ego cannot go together.

If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly.

Just as water springs from a fountain, creativity springs from every moment.

You must not be your own obstacle.”

One Apple A Day #675 – state of confusion

Richard Phillips Feynman was undoubtedly a genius. He may not be as popular as other scientists, but his contribution to quantum physics was essential. For his work on the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

He was the kind of guy you’d expect to be incredibly knowledgeable and capable of understanding everything anytime. Instead, as you can hear from his own voice in the video below, he admitted that he was, more often than not, in a state of confusion.

You see, it’s tempting to think of the great innovators and geniuses as superhumans with the incredible power of seeing the answers, knowing the direction, and envisioning what’s next with clarity. 

However, as Feynman revealed, the real power lies in their inability to understand things and acknowledge it not as a weakness, but as an opportunity. A source of wonder. 

Obviously, Feynman knew a lot of things. But, he found pleasure in not knowing and being forced to figure things out.

If there is one thing we can learn from the great innovators of the past, is that to create impactful results, we have to muddle through, with no guarantee of success while seeing the perfection of uncertainty. 

Most of us approach innovation because we want results. Preferably predictable results. 

But, as Feynman taught us, it’s only when we become comfortable with living in a state of confusion, that we can create wonder.

I learn about Feynman and his state of confusion from this article by Greg Satell

One Apple A Day #694 – Energy

Everything and everybody needs energy to perform work. 

We say that we feel energized when we are involved in something that increases our desire and ability to perform in any way. It’s something we can feel at a physical level. Our body is vibrating, ready to release, or I should say transfer that energy through some creative or transformative work. 

This morning I woke up feeling all but energized. I crawled out of bed more than an hour later than what I planned and wanted. My head heavy and my body ached in a few places. With a bad mood about a day started with the wrong foot, I dragged my self to the kitchen to do some stretching when I realized I was wrong. 

I wasn’t late at all. All of a sudden, I’ve been gifted with an hour.

I felt a surge in my energy, at all levels: physical, mental and emotional.

And that made me think and ask myself: Where is my energy coming from? What is my source of energy?

I haven’t found a clear answer yet, but I have two new questions to work on, Today. And that is definitely energizing.

Plus, I learned about “Potentiality and actuality“, two principles defined by Aristotle about which I want to learn more.

One Apple A Day #693 – Rhythm

Three weeks ago, my partner moved abroad for a project. She’s going to be away for a while, so we’re both dealing with the challenges that this experience brought in our lives.

Obviously, the biggest one is the distance, but there’s another one I wasn’t expecting; the loss of rhythm.

We’ve been apart before, but it was always for shorter periods. This time we’re talking months. And something happened in my head since the very first week.
My flow and productivity got disrupted like never before. Since day one, I’ve been struggling to keep my routines and habits.
It took me a while to realize what was happening.

I’ve lost my rhythm.

Over the years, we built our own unique rhythm. A rhythm on which I can improvise, create and follow the flow without getting lost. A rhythm that keeps me grounded.

I feel like I’m without my metronome.

And it is clearly affecting my energy and my flow.
Everyone is unique, but I’ve learned how important it is for me to have a basic rhythm in my life, on top of which I can improvise and move freely.

So, now my new challenge is to find a new way to keep the beat until she’s back.
Any suggestions?

One Apple A Day #685 – the creative rhythm

I was sitting here, trying to find something to write about, an idea around which I could create a good post.
As you can imagine, no idea was coming forward.
And then I realised that I was falling trap of the outcome; I wanted so much to create something good that I forgot the whole purpose of this practice; becoming an author.

This morning I picked a Be The Change card, my first after a few weeks. The card says “dare to let go of control”. When we start a creative process, as this small writing practice of mine, the desire to control the outcome can get in the way. It narrows our sight, and we become blind to all the opportunities that surround us. And while I write this, I’m aware that this kind of laser focus on something, is also a powerful skill. It’s the secret of many great performers.
We need both approaches, the divergent one that opens us to the omens of the universe. And the convergent one that cuts out all distractions so we can hit the target. It’s very much like breathing; we need both inhaling and exhaling.

The secret then is to find the right creative rhythm. As our body does with breathing.
Feeling when it’s time to sense and listen, and when it’s time to focus and act.

One Apple A Day #676 – the wisdom of curiosity

“Words are the representations and symbols we use to view, think about, and process our perceptions of reality and they are the means of sharing these perceptions with others.” – Judith Glaser

Words are powerful; they shape the reality we experience. 

One word can trap you into a life you never wanted. One word can break the walls and liberate you. 

Just yesterday, I was reflecting, with one of my mentors, about my struggle in picking a label for what I do. But that’s for another day.

Last weekend I read an interesting article on how schools are killing curiosityMaybe this is why that word came back this morning in my meditation.

I did a quick check online, and learned that “curious” comes from Latin curiosus meaning “careful, diligent; inquiring eagerly, meddlesome”. The word is akin to cura, “care”. 

What really kindled my curiosity is that the word “care” comes from Latin “cura”. Modern linguists believe that “cura” derived from the root ku-/kav- meaning “observe”. From the same root comes the Sanskrit word “kavi”, meaning “sage”.

In my mind, all of this means that being curious is the way to and a trait of wisdom.

Being curious is better than being smart. It is desire, not intelligence, that prompts behaviour. – James Clear

One Apple A Day #673 – discern your uniqueness

“On one level, as humans, we all have the same purpose: to develop and realize the infinite potential of consciousness. Yet we are all also particular manifestations of the creative life force and as such have unique contributions to make. Our task is to discern our uniqueness, use it as a source of creativity and then manifest it in the form of something new and innovative.” – from The Way of Nowhere

To discern our uniqueness. What a beautiful way to describe the quest to discover our purpose. 

To discern is to walk through life with my senses open and receptive. It reminds me to observe myself while I chase my goals and aspiration looking for signs that reveal my uniqueness.

It also reminds me that purpose is not a statement. Something I find out and hang on the wall. It is a never-ending quest within and without. 

It’s something I grow into, and something that grows within me at the same time.

Sometimes this process generates tensions. Between the urge for clarity and direction and the desire to explore the connection with something more profound.

I am in one of those moments of tension. And it’s from within this tension that I found this inspiring advice.

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms, or books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

One Apple A Day #671 – the power of AND

The conjunction “and” is so common that you would never think it carries such a powerful and transformative power.

It is definitely not as cool as many of the buzzwords we use in our conversations. 

Probably, because it is so short and so frequent, it doesn’t feel so rewarding for our thinking minds. Or maybe it’s because it’s scary in its simplicity. It’s easy to hide behind complex words and well-thought solutions. But a tiny word like “and”, can make you feel exposed.

I had a first glimpse at the power of AND during a coaching conversation with my mentor. I was struggling to make a decision between two alternative options. She asked a straightforward question. 

What would change if that OR becomes an AND?

That little change in the way I was phrasing my challenge, opened up a wellspring of inspiration and ideas.

“Co-creation sits in the space between freedom and constraints.” — The Way of Nowhere

The word AND is the key to unlock the creative power of the space in-between. To transform the tension between polarities in creative energy.

One Apple A Day #695 – my little book of questions

A few weeks ago, I went to this coffee place nearby for the first time. It’s a lovely place, perfect for morning conversations. When I went to the till to pay, there was this little black book laying there over the counter. Quite thick, with a leather cover and the title “The book of answers” engraved in gold on the cover.

It’s a delightful book to play with. You probably know how it works. You think about a question, open it randomly and read the short answer on the page before you. 

Then, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with the answer you get. You can laugh and dismiss it. Or you can take it as a sign.

To me, the best next step is to take the answer as an inspiration to an even better question.

“Creativity rarely begins with an answer.” — from The Way of Nowhere

I’ve been thinking about the magic of questions lately, and about how much, when I encounter a challenging one, I feel the pressure to find an answer. However, it is only when I let go of that urge to answer, and I stay with the question, carrying it with me and allowing for it to do its work, that magic happens.

So, I’ve decided to carry a small notebook with me. I’ll call it my little book of questions