Grow into your vision

I just watched this powerful video by Simon Sinek. I admire the way he can give words to ideas and concepts that are hard to grasp. Being able to make invisible things visible – through images, words, sounds – is a unique talent.

This video, though, baffled me and I don’t know why. So I took some time to ponder on it. In my reflections, I found something I wrote more than two years ago that became the basis for this post.

The video is about passion and vision. Things that are usually referred to as something we should have or find to live a fulfilling life.
As Simon beautifully said, “passion is an output, not in input”. It is the outcome of doing something that has a meaning for us. That gives sense to our lives. Something we care about.

“The reason that people do things, especially heroic or major things, things that take a lot of effort, is because they care.” — Dave Gray

So, doing something meaningful, something you believe in, chasing a vision is what transform your experience into passion instead of stress.

This leads to the following question in Simon’s video; “how do I find what I believe in?
Or, worded differently, “how do I find my vision?“.

This question is what unsettles me a bit.
Vision is often painted as that one big truth hiding somewhere and that we have to find to give meaning to our life. Whispering in the air, planted deep within us, written in our destiny or on the stars. With that picture in mind, some travel far from home to find their vision. Some spend years digging deep inside to uncover it under their fears. Some look for some visionary to follow. Some just wait.

What if there is no such thing as “the vision”? What if we accept that life is more complex than that? Life would become a journey of open, continuous and curious exploration rather than a search for definitive answers. When we become too focused on the quest for the vision, we got trapped in what psychologist Omer Simsek calls the need for absolute truth.

I am also more and more convinced that the verb “finding” is deceiving. It keeps up hanging in our quest while distracting us from doing the real thing; to experience life.
What if the goal shifts from “finding your vision” to “growing into your vision“?
Then it’d be less critical to have full clarity – mind – about the vision and more important to feel – heart and guts – that you are living it.

So, passion is not only the outcome, but it also becomes your compass. If you feel stressed, what you’re doing is not align with your vision. But when you feel passionate and energised by what you’re doing, then you’re most probably living your vision even if you can’t verbalise it.

There are other two ideas in the video that capture my attention.

The first is the one about the value of being a follower instead of a visionary. The moment I get in touch with that vision, I feel called by it, and I embrace it, then it becomes my own vision too.

I believe that visionaries are not a creator, they are channels between the infinite knowledge of the universe and the material world. They channel the universal wisdom and make it available to everyone else. Their visions aren’t theirs. They are of everyone. So, we are all visionaries and followers at the same time.

And that leads me to the second point. I believe we all have the potential to be creative and be visionary. But that potential is often covered and hold back by our fears, beliefs and conditioning. The more we become aware, the more we can awake that potential.

All my work is based on the unshakable belief that every human being is extraordinary.

Read more:

  1. The Need for Absolute Truth and Self-Rumination as Basic Suppressors in the Relationship Between Private Self-Consciousness and Mental Health” by Ömer Faruk Şimşek, Aylin Ecem Ceylandağ &Gizem Akcan – link
  2. Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World” by Tasha Eurich – link
  3. Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think” by Dave Gray – link

One Apple A Day #569 – Mess things up

Have you ever get to work and then realise that you don’t remember the journey?
I did.
It’s a weird feeling to park the car and realise that I don’t remember driving there.
It also a proof of the incredible ability of our mind and body to create efficiency. Our mind creates patterns or habits to process things automatically and filter out the noise.
Our lives are full of habits, of a lot of them we may not be even aware.
But they are vital.
Without these patterns and filters, we would be overwhelmed by the amount of input flooding our senses and, in the end, stuck.

It is the upside of habits; we can do things without thinking.
But there’s a risk.
You get used to doing things a certain way and stop paying attention.
Efficiency can get in the way of growth and creativity.

That’s why we should mess things up every now and then.
When we feel stuck, it may be because of our patterns and filters making us see and do things the same way we always did.
Messing things up and creating some chaos forces our mind to reassess reality, to find new meanings and to discover new connections.

And once you’ve created mess and chaos, make them matter.

Make my messes matter.
Make this chaos count.
Let every little fracture in me
Shatter out loud.
— from Jupiter by Sleeping At Last

One Apple A Day #564 – pain

“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” — Kahlil Gibran

When I read this quote from Gibran, a word stands out; “pain”.
I can’t really say why, but I feel a deep connection with that word.
Maybe because nowadays everyone seems to focus mostly on happiness, considering pain a momentary condition to overcome as soon as possible.

Or maybe it is because it is “pain” that taught me the most powerful lessons in my life.

I’m well aware of the inspiring power of wonder or the energy created by joy. But we should never underestimate the creative potential of pain.

Pain is part of life.  When we feel pain, we can do everything we can to get rid of it. Or we can explore it to find the lesson it carries.

I believe that to awaken the artist within, we must be willing to delve into pain and sadness, to explore our shadows, to face our dragons.

“Our fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasures.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

One Apple A Day #551 – untitled

“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can’t’ once and for all.”

Vincent van Gogh wrote this passionate advice to his brother Theo. As I shared yesterday, I have the same experience when I stare at the blank document on my screen before writing anything. This is why I spend a few minutes to find a starting point before opening the laptop. Some mornings I look back at the experiences or the conversations I had the day before, other mornings, I use the BeTheChange cards, or I can start from something I’ve read.
I believe inspiration is within us, it is a state of the being. All those sources of inspiration are just triggers that allow for something, a story that is already in me to find its way out.

So, this morning I did the same process. But nothing came out. To be honest, I had many ideas, but no one stuck. I find myself staring at the black canvas within. It soon becomes paralyzing.
At that moment, when I felt lost before the void in my mind, I remembered that quote from Van Gogh.

How often in life, we feel stuck staring at a blank canvas? That canvas take may many forms: the story we want to tell, the love we want to share, the journey we want to start, the future we want to paint. And we stand there, without an idea on how to begin while the void of that blank canvas grows into us.
I know the feeling, I’ve been there. And I don’t have an easy trick to get out of it. In the end, the only way to begin something is to do it.
I know, this doesn’t make it any easier.

Though, maybe the first step can be to acknowledge that we are stuck. That we have no idea on how to begin our craft.
Who knows, maybe in accepting our humanness we may create the space for an unexpected story to emerge.
An untitled one.

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 #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 #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 #505 – assume nothing

“Before you step into someone else’s shoes, remember to take off your own.” — Devan Capur*

We all have a frame through which we perceive and interpret reality. This frame, or filter, is based on the beliefs, assumptions we develop through our life since we were kids. This frame is vital, it helps us get through life filtering out the flood of data flowing through our senses.
Problems arise when we mistake our frame for the truth, and we lock ourselves inside a bubble becoming blind to the infinite possibilities outside it.
When we enter a conversation with this mindset, we create conflicts and tensions. Because we assume to know the truth, we can’t understand why others can’t see it. It’s so obvious.
We use expressions such as “you should …”, “you think …”.
We can really understand the perspective of someone else until we step out of our bubble.
If you really want to have a meaningful creative conversation, enter empty.
Assume nothing.

* I found the quote on the book Nonflict by Amir Kfir and Stephen Hecht

One Apple A Day #503 – being inspired

Where do you look for inspiration?
In books, places, nature, peoples, objects or what else?
I met people who are capable of finding inspiration everywhere and in everything.
I remember once I was walking on a trail with a friend when he suddenly halted to take a picture. I couldn’t see anything different from what we had seen for the previous hour.
But he could.
And later on, when he sent me the picture, I saw it too.
We were in the same place, at the same time but his eyes saw something to which my eyes were blind.

According to the studies of the neuroscientist Manfred Zimmermann, our capacity for perceiving information is about 11 million bits per second. Zimmermann estimates that our conscious attention has a capacity of merely 40 bits per second. That means that every second, 99.9996% of the information that we sense, goes unnoticed.
We are all somehow blind to the infinite vastness of reality.

So, inspiration is everywhere.
What change is where do you choose to put your attention.
It is not about finding inspiration, it is about being inspired.

One Apple A Day #488 – chaos

Our brain is a fantastic predicting machine.
It is continuously assessing the environment against what it already knows to find patterns to apply. Anytime an action creates pleasure, it contributes to the creation of a pattern. When anything generates pain, the brain puts an alert label on it so to be ready to recognise the threat in the future. It is part of our natural survival instinct.

This process makes us very efficient. Being aware of it we can use it to our advantage to create patterns that help grow and become the person we want to be. There are plenty of good books and programs on how to develop positive habits.

Once I watched a video of a personal trainer, explaining that our body works in the same way. Every muscle is designed to obtain the maximum result with the minimum effort. When we do the same exercise over and over, our body learns how to perform it using the minimum energy possible. As a result, we experience a peak in muscle development. This is why is a good thing to change often the exercises you do. To confuse your body, so it has to break the pattern, learn something new and grow.

It works the same way for our brain. Sometimes we need to create chaos and unpredictability to force our mind to be creative, to find new connections and patterns. In short, to grow. When we don’t have references, when we cannot use what we know to find a way forward, we are forced to create new connections, explore new possibilities.
It is scary, I know.
But once our creativity is released, the reward is incredible.