One Apple A Day #689 – find your pace

Last days have offered me a huge opportunity to revaluate my relationship with productivity. 

As I already wrote, it’s an uncomfortable subject for me. 

I would never describe myself as a productive person, that’s for sure. Yet, it’s a subject that fascinated me, maybe precisely because it’s not a natural thing for me.

This morning, while I was doing a simple but effective practice to synch movements and breathing, a memory came back; my first motorbike riding course on track. 

The program was straightforward. Six students, one instructor, a 20 minutes session on the track followed by 40 minutes offtrack to analyse what we did, repeated for five times.

During the session on the track, one of us was leading the group for two laps with the instructor just behind observing. Then all the others. After two laps, the one in front went to the back of the group. 

When it was my time to lead the group, I wanted to impress the instructor straight away. So, I gave my best; full-throttle on the straight, braking hard before each turn and then accelerating as much as I could. 

At the end of my two laps, I was exhausted but very proud of myself. When we stop for the debrief, I was drench in sweat but happy with my performance. The instructor feedback was like a punch to the guts. I was one of the slowest. Sure, I was fast on the straight, but that was useless, considering that there was one short straight but plenty of turns.

On the next session, the instructor forced me to do my two laps, always keeping the same gear. That meant that I couldn’t accelerate much and I couldn’t go too fast on the straight. But, surprise, during the debrief, I discovered that my lap time was way better.

Once my obsession with speed was out of the picture, I found my rhythm and with it the performance. 

This story reminds me of two valuable lessons, that too often I forget.

One is to look at performance, and productivity, more holistically. If we focus only on one aspect, we may illude ourselves that we’re going faster while we are just wasting energy.

The second lesson is that when we find our rhythm, we use better our resources and we can keep performing high for longer. 

One Apple A Day #681 – practice boredom

My country is on full lockdown. People are confined within their houses, most businesses are closed or operating at reduced speed, kids are home from school. All the things with which we were used to filling up our days are no more available. I heard many friends talking about boredom and the struggle to find something to keep them and their loved ones, in particular children, engaged.

“The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.”

This quote comes from one of my favourite book of the last year; Atomic Habits by James Clear. 

I think we all agree that practice is the way to achieve mastery in anything. A lot of practice. 

The problem is that the more you practice something, the more it becomes boring. What was exciting at the beginning, after a while becomes a tedious routine. Our interest fades away, and we become easy prey for distractions. 

Learning to deal with boredom can make the difference in becoming who we want to become.

That is why, as Clear says, “you have to fall in love with boredom.” 

Now we have this unique opportunity to practice boredom and learn to love it. Something that will probably make a significant difference in the new normality in which we will all live after this extraordinary situation.

One Apple A Day #676 – spread the change

From the way this virus is spreading, I feel we can learn some lessons on how we can create change in any system.

Homeostasis​ ​is​ ​the​ ​natural​ ​tendency​ ​of​ ​an​ ​organism​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​its​ ​stable​ ​condition​ ​and environment. It’s a tendency that applies to any system in our lives. Our​ ​inner​ ​beliefs,​ ​​​habits​ ​and​ ​​environment,​ ​they​ ​all​ ​work together​​ ​to​ ​create​ ​and​ ​keep​ ​our​ ​life stable and steady. Any time we try to change a system, ​those​ ​same​ ​forces​ ​that​ ​have​ ​established​ ​the​ ​current​ ​equilibrium​ ​will​ ​fight back to keep as it is.

The more we push to change the system, the more those forces will pull in the opposite direction.

It’s similar to what happens when we pull an elastic band. If we use a lot of force to pull it quickly, we will meet a lot of resistance, and it will be hard to ​keep​ ​the​ ​new shape.​ ​We will likely have to ​are​ ​to​ release the band and let it ​slide back to its natural status.

This virus is showing us a different approach to change. It is not so aggressive to trigger all our defences. At the contrary, in the beginning, it went mostly unnoticed. Our systems didn’t react immediately, so it had the time to spread and compound. When we became aware of it, it was already everywhere.

If we want to change something in our lives, in our organisations or communities, rather than go head-on, we may try a more subtle approach. One based on small​ ​but consistent daily​ ​improvement​ ​that compounds to create the change we want.

One Apple A Day #673 – conversations

These last days, I’ve been struggling with my rhythm, my practices and rituals. Been disciplined is way harder than it used to be only a few days ago.

I feel like a sailor, wandering in the middle of the ocean under a night sky without stars. All the cues I learned to read to understand where I am and where I am going, are not there anymore.

Even time has changed.

It flows differently.

As I wrote yesterday, it is what it is, and I can’t change this situation.

But I can change myself.

It is time to find new cues, to learn new ways to navigate through life.

One idea, in this period, when we are forced to keep distance between each other, is to nurture the connection with others.

I will fill up my sky with a new constellation made of conversations.

One Apple A Day #698 – a recipe for transformation

“First is an intention. 

Then a behaviour. 

Then a habit. 

Then a practice. 

Then second nature. 

Then it is simply who you are.” – Brendon Burchard

I love this recipe for transformation. It is not even a recipe, to be honest. In my experience, this is how life works. How we grow, and we become who we are. The things we love and the one we don’t. 

They all started with an intention. One that too often, we are not fully aware. And that intention triggers a behaviour that, through habit and repetition, becomes who we are. It’s a long and slow process, like a drop on a rock. When an apparently harmless and insignificant behaviour, becomes a habit, its power multiply and its effects compound.

The secret ingredient in this recipe is self-awareness. Having clarity of your intentions, observing your behaviours and deliberately choose the habits you want to cultivate. Creating the discipline to transform those habits into practices. The rest will be a natural outcome. And this is the beauty of this recipe for transformation. It’s not about making big things or incredibly disruptive actions. It’s about paying attention and being aware of the tiny things that count, and then let time do its magic.

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 #686 – am I productive?

“Productivity describes various measures of the efficiency of production. Often, a productivity measure is expressed as the ratio of an aggregate output to a single input or an aggregate input used in a production process, i.e. output per unit of input, typically over a specific period of time.” from Wikipedia.

I confess; I’ve always struggled with productivity. This word is the source of many bad days and a fair share of disappointment. There are days in which I get to the end of them, and I struggle to recollect where the time went. Those for sure are not productive days. Yet, often they are the source of some good ideas or learnings.

Days in which I do a lot of things but the one I wanted to do. So, I’m not sure if I should consider them productive days or not.

Days in which I don’t do much, but what I do feels so meaningful and rewarding.

So, every now and then, when I fill unproductive, I find myself asking questions such as “How do I measure my productivity? Do I need to measure it at all? What does it mean to be productive for me?

According to Wikipedia, production is a process of combining various material and immaterial inputs to make something which has value and contributes to the utility of individuals.

So, my understanding is that production is about impact. Still, how do I measure productivity?

Yes, this is how this post ends. Without any answers because I have none. Indeed, if I measure my productivity based on the number of answers I produce over a day, the figures are quite poor. 

Should I measure the questions I make?

If you have suggestions, or even better, some healthy questions, I’m all ears.

One Apple A Day #684 – keep doing it

Today is one of my “blank days”. 

Some days I wake up, and I can feel that something is forming in my mind; the seed of a new daily apple. 

But then there are days where everything is blank in my mind. 

My energy is low at all levels; physical, mental and emotional.

Anytime it happens, I ask myself the same question.

What’s the point of writing if I have nothing to say?

Then I remember myself that this is, above all, a writing practice. It’s a morning ritual that helps me find my centre and my balance. Someone goes out for a run, someone takes a shower, someones what the news. I write. It’s a stretching exercise for the mind. 

The challenge is to share whatever comes up in these fifteen minutes of wandering between fragmented thoughts and sentences.

Sharing the outcome of my practice is part of the practice itself. 

It’s priming my mind to deliver.

And it also reminds me that every day it’s a new opportunity to do my best, to share my gifts with the world. If today the output it’s not the top, I know tomorrow I’ll have a new opportunity to do better. To be better.

One Apple A Day #672 – love + discipline

I was very, and I still am, deeply shocked by the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant. He was undoubtedly a giant whose legacy goes beyond basketball and sport in general.

His uncompromising dedication to his craft, playing basketball, has always been a trademark of his career. There are so many stories about his commitment and relentless pursuit of excellence. 

Yesterday, I was reading this one particular story, and I was trying to understand what can motivate someone to put so much work into something. It can’t be just the discipline or willpower.

I believe I found the answer in the letter he wrote in 2015, to say goodbye to basketball.

“I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —

From my mind & body

To my spirit & soul.”

It was love, then.

A deep, fulfilling love for the sport. A love so mighty to give meaning to all the hustle, the struggle, the pain, the sweat.

My friend Mark once told me that when you infuse love into your work, it becomes your craft.

That’s the recipe we can learn from Kobe. Love plus discipline.

Because discipline without love is sterile and hollow. Love without discipline is anaemic and fragile. But it’s when love meets discipline that the magic happens.


Photo: Kobe Bryant, Lakers shooting guard, stands ready to shoot a free throw, source

One Apple A Day #696 – the magic is in the question

Yesterday I was writing an article about “the daily question process” created by Marshall Goldsmith. It’s a straightforward yet powerful practice to improve ourselves based on a set of active questions answered every day. You can read how and why it works here from Goldsmith himself.

This morning, while I was meditating and creating space for the seed of this post to emerge, I had a small Aha moment when my thoughts went back to the daily question process. Goldsmith does not say anything about what he does with all the answers he collects. 

Every day he asks, or better he has someone asking him 32 active questions to which he answers with a yes or a no. That’s a massive amount of data, but he never talks about it when he describes the process.

All that really matters are the questions. Just by asking the right questions in the right way, we can trigger a series of constructive thoughts and nurture our self-awareness. The answers are merely incidental in this process. The thoughts and the emotions that the questions spark are the real gold in this process.

And as Goldsmith says in his post, “even the process of writing questions will help you better understand your own values and how you live or don’t live them on a daily basis.