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

One Apple A Day #690 – The universe whispers

“Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there.” — from The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Intuition is often described as a spiritual moment. Satori, eureka, illumination, a muse. Whatever you call it, it is a moment of connection when we suddenly know something as if it comes from the outside. For a brief moment, you tune into the frequency of the universe and capture a glimpse of its infinite knowledge. 

In my experience, however, the universe whispers. 

So, if you want to hear anything at all, you must silence the noise within and without you. 

Both the constant stream of information flooding your senses, and the relentless chatting of your mind. 

Only in silence, when your inner and outer field is clean, you can hear the universe whispering to your soul.

One Apple A Day #689 – breakthrough questions

I am a spiritual seeker. 

And my spiritual journey is also at the essence of what I do.

I believe that when we learn to surrender to our bigger who, we can move beyond the boundaries of our mind. We can source from the infinite creative potential of the universe. 

And here’s come the challenge.

Bringing words like “spirituality” or “consciousness” in business conversations is not an easy task. Yes, you can try to translate and frame them into the language of the business, but it’s easy to fall into old and tired ideas.

These are challenging times, everything happens at an incredible speed. Everything is connected, and the world is getting smaller and smaller.  Individuals and organisations are looking for new and different answers. But that it’s possible only if we ask new and different questions.

It’s not about framing my spiritual essence into the language of the business. It’s about bringing more of it. And to do that, I must raise the quality of my questions.

If I want better answers, more significant ideas, more disruptive breakthrough than I must ask bolder, more courageous and challenging questions.

“Breakthrough questions for unlocking our personal creativity. For creativity rarely begins with an answer. Breakthrough questions should therefore lead us into the unknown.” – The way of nowhere

One Apple A Day #686 – Bring on the mess

Sometimes life is messy. Looking at my experience, I should probably say “most of the time”.
There is natural messiness in the world and in human beings.
And it can be scary. This mess is what makes things unpredictable, and our brain doesn’t like unpredictability.
As an efficient prediction machine, the human brain is continuously ingesting and analyzing information from the surrounding to infer what will happen next.

I realized how much energy I spent trying to figure out things, to find the right place for all the pieces. To create a reasonable order so I can make sense of things and give peace to my rational mind.

Sometimes it’s a fascinating and rewarding process. I love when I can create a frame through which I can read reality and act on my understanding. It’s like finding a map so I can go straight to the treasure.

Other times, however, it is exhausting. It becomes an endless effort to fit everything until I reach a point when I even forget what I was trying o achieve and why. In the meanwhile, I’m not doing any step forward.

So, I’ve decided to embrace the mess. Once we accept that life is messy and we can’t figure out everything in advance, we can move forward and maybe discover treasures that we didn’t know exist.

So, bring on the mess and let’s have fun.

“Randomness is not just inevitable; it is part of the beauty of life.” – Ed Catmull

One Apple A Day #685 – Innocence Inc.

Yesterday I was going through my old notes, and I found some excerpts I saved from the book Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull. 

It’s a book packed with inspirations and insights on how to nurture creativity, as the title suggests. But also on how to grow an incredibly successful team and company. 

The most fascinating aspect for me, however, is the story of Ed Catmull himself. The story of an incredibly talented engineer with no or little specific background in management who became a successful leader, leading hundreds of people, managing millions of dollars and dealing with the complexity of giant like Disney.

Yesterday, when I was reflecting on his journey, I had a sudden flash. Maybe the secret of his incredible success was precisely in not knowing how to be a manager and leader. Because he didn’t know what was right or wrong, what works and what doesn’t, what was possible and what not from previous studies or experiences, he had to create his unique way forward. With the innocence of a kid, he had to make sense of everything that was happening. Mostly through experiments and intuition. With the courage of an explorer, he had to take the plunge into what was, for him, uncharted territory.

I had a similar feeling reading Steve Jobs biography. 

In a way, they didn’t follow the rules because they didn’t know the rules of the game. They were just themselves.

Now we study them to understand how they did it so we can learn from them and do the same. But maybe the most important lessons is to let go of what we know and reconnect with the innocence of our inner kid.

One Apple A Day #683 – concentration

To me, these days going from the 27th to the 31st have always felt weird. It as if this year is done, so there’s nothing more to add. At the same time, the new one is not here yet, so I have to wait before I can start anything new. 

I like to think about these five days as an opportunity to slow down and reflect. But then, I don’t. I don’t know, maybe because my energy is low, or because it’s the only time of the year where I can reconnect with people I love. Or perhaps it’s because the festivities disrupt my routine.

Whatever the reason, I struggle to focus and concentrate. My space is full of half-read, half-written and half-done things. 

Two days ago, I was reading an old and small Italian publication about yoga, shiatsu and martial arts that has been lying on my desk for a while. It’s a few pages essay, and I thought it was the perfect solution to keep me away from my laptop for an hour or two.

Who would have thought that I would have spent the whole time highlighting half of the rows? 

Anyway, a thought, in particular, got my attention. It is part of an article on shiatsu by Alfredo D’Angelo.

“Concentration is the dynamic reunification of all the constituent parts of the human essence.” (translation is mine)

I know he was talking about pressure in shiatus, yet these few words really hit me. Concentration is the act of bringing things into or about a central point. So, to concentrate means to bring all of me, not only my thoughts, around a centre. It means to align my mind, body, heart and soul around a single point. 

That may explain why I struggle so much these days. I’m trying to focus my mind, but all the other parts of me are distracted. It won’t work.

Only if I bring all the parts together, I can achieve the focus I need to create.

One Apple A Day #678 – let it run

Some times my mind reminds me of a chihuahua.
A friend has one of those tiny cute dogs, and I’ve done the dog-sitter a few times. It’s incredible how much energy it’s squeeze in such a small being.
There were moments in which there was no way to keep him still. He was running all around full speed, jumping from the char to the sofa, on the table. No matter how much I tried to calm him down, to pet him or to offer him some rewards. He just kept spinning around like crazy until he was exhausted. Over the months, I’ve learned to let go. There was no point in trying to control him. So, I gave him the space for his crazy running until he was ready to interact with me.

Some times my mind does the same, and it goes all over the place. It spins around, bouncing from memories to ideas, going from one place to another, from one thought to something else completely unrelated — all of this without any apparent logic or purpose.

In the beginning, it was upsetting. In particular, when it happens when I’d like to focus on something, or I am meditating. Like before writing my morning post. I was disappointed by my inability to keep my mind where I wanted. But then I realised that trying to control my thoughts is pointless. I had to let them run wild and free until peace comes. The beautiful thing is that very often with peace also come the answers. And a previously invisible pattern emerged from what were unrelated thoughts a moment before.

One Apple A Day #675 – before we know

Can you remember when you were a child, and everything was a discovery? You knew nothing, so you had to be creative and figure out everything on your own.

Before we know.

I woke up with these three words in my mind.

Sometimes I have the feeling that knowledge is narrowing my possibilities. Because I know how to do something, I’m not challenged to search for other ways. Maybe there are no different ways, but I’ll never know because I’ll automatically go with what I know.

“Reality is out there.”

I remember reading this quote in an article about native americans. Still, I may be wrong, and it’s just a false memory.

Anyway, to me, this simple sentence always spoke about wonder and innocence. I am aware that we see the world not as it is, but as we are. We always filter reality through the lens of our beliefs, so the reality as we experience it is, at least in part, an internal construction based on our knowledge.

When we don’t know, we can’t make assumptions, and we experience reality for what it is. Like when we travel to new places, or we meet new people.

One Apple A Day #648 – space to wander

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I love aphorisms. They carry so much meaning and power in just a few words. 

This one from Antoine de Saint-Exupery is probably my favourite one.

I have a tendency to fill up my life. To fall into the collecting mindset.

Once it was with things. 

I remember a period in my life when I was going around with my wallet full of old receipts and bills. It was so thick I couldn’t carry it in my pocket. Obviously, for no reason at all. Some of them were so old that they were faded entirely away.

And it was the same with all sorts of stuff.

Until I throw everything away and I started living with just what I need.

What a liberation it has been.

But the collecting mindset is still there. Not as strong as before, but sometimes it shows up. In this case, with ideas and projects. Something less visible but that can quickly fill up life.

This morning I couldn’t find an idea for my writing. The clock was ticking, and I was ready to give up this morning apple. I have so many things to do that I can spend too much time seeking an idea. 

I started reading some quotes seeking inspiration.

Then this one by Antoine de Saint-Exupery called me, from the bottom of an email I sent. And I realise that I’ve been filling up my life with ideas an projects and there is little space left to wander there where ideas grow.

 

Maybe it’s time to pay more attention to what I say yes to. 

Awakening creativity is a subtraction process.

One Apple A Day #647 – words and periphery

“It is this way with all of us concerning language: we believe that we know something about the feelings themselves when we speak of trees, colours, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things – metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities.” — Nietzsche 

Sitting in silence, my mind was wandering among memories, fragments of conversations, words. There are days where I know what I want to share. I don’t have to reflect or dig within in search of ideas. It’s already there, right in front of me, perfectly on focus.

Other days I just wander until something captures my attention. It usually happens at the periphery of my attention, where things don’t have a well-defined shape. It’s more like a movement, something that my senses register, but my mind can’t fully recognise.

And this morning that fragment was something about words and names.

A flash from my childhood and my hobbies of giving fantasy names to everything. A fuzzy memory of a dear friend telling me that we should create a new job title, the “name creators”. People who go around and give names to things, so they become real.

And finally, that quote from Niche appeared. Or better, I couldn’t remember anything about it, not even the author. It was only a thin thread, waving at the very end of my perception. I slowly shift my attention towards that thread until I found all the connections and the quote appears.

And I knew I wanted to share it and write about it. I wanted to write about an experience I had a few weeks ago when I learned the importance of giving a name to emotions. So we can recognise them and take care of them.

I wanted to do all of that, but then the time run out.

And what I’m left with is the feeling that I should explore more often the periphery of my perception.