One Apple A Day #581 – back to the future

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” — Heraclitus

Two weeks ago, I moved into my family’s home.
I left this house 18 years ago and this small town four years later.
After that, I’ve been to many places, I’ve lived in a few different countries, I’ve met many fantastic people, and I’ve been blessed with a lot of incredible experiences. Some good, others not but all have contributed to me becoming who I am today.

And now I’m here, again.
Everything should be familiar around here.
But it’s not.
From the very first moment, I felt a weight on my chest.
Something was off, but I couldn’t understand what.
It took me a while to realise that my mind was picking a few known inputs and trying to retrieve existing patterns from my memory.
But it wasn’t working.
Those patterns are not mine anymore. New ones need to emerge.
Only when I stop trying to go back, and I decided to move forward that weight started to lift from my chest.

In the end, we are born to move forward.

Literally.

The human gait is designed to propel a person forward.

 

One Apple A Day #577 – shed the old skin

The other day I was walking in a park surrounded by the sound of thousands of cicadas. A typical soundtrack in the Italian summer.
But this time, a friend showed me all their abandoned skins on the side of the trees.

I’m fascinated by these transformation processes in nature, so I had to learn more.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

The female cicada deposit her eggs within slits in the bark of a tree. When the eggs hatch, the newborn nymphs drop to the ground, dig and hide into the soil.
The nymphs live underground for most of their lives. They have strong front legs for digging. They create their home close to roots, and they feed on their sap.

At some point, when they are ready to transform in their final nymphal state, they create an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge into the light. The find a tree and start climbing. During the climb, they shed their skin – a process called moult – for the last time. The new adult cicada emerges, the one we can hear in summer. The abandoned skins still clinging to the bark of the trees.

I find the whole process magical. When the cicada is ready to move into the adult life, it leaves behind the old skin so the new self can emerge to bring its magic to the world.

What do you have to shed and leave behind to bring your magic into the world?

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 #552 – responsibility and freedom

Bureaucracy.
This is the word that emerged and filled up my mind this morning.
Not a fanciest or most inspiring word in my dictionary, for sure.

I have a complicated relationship with bureaucracy. At any levels and in any context.
Sure, the worst experience is when I have to do with the public administration. In those cases, I feel as if bureaucracy has been carefully designed to create uncertainty and doubts.
But to be honest, I struggle anytime some rules and procedures overshadow human relationships to make things happen.

To me, bureaucracy is the epitome of a form depleted of the energy from which it manifested.

So, I woke up with this word in mind, and I want to do something with it, not just vent out my annoyances.

I remember a quote that I read a while ago.

“Bureaucracy is a construction by which a person is conveniently separated from the consequences of his or her actions.” ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

That made me immediately think about the relationship between freedom and responsibility.

In a workshop that I did a few months ago precisely on this topic, I’ve been reminded that responsibility is the “Ability to respond” to situations.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

So, freedom and responsibility are strongly linked.

“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

If we don’t feel free, we won’t take responsibility. But if we don’t take responsibility for our words and actions, we can’t be free.

I recollect many conflictual conversations in different organisations, where employees were asking for more freedom and the manager were asking for more responsibility. And they couldn’t find an agreement; apparently, they were asking for two different things without realising that they were just talking about two sides of the same coin.

Great! So, where do we start? From responsibility or from freedom?

It looks like a typical chicken or egg problem.

“The first step toward personal freedom is awareness.” — Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

My feeling is that we should always start by expanding our awareness.

One Apple A Day #537 – it starts from not knowing

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” —Josh Billings

Yes, it happened to me many times. It still happens.
Let’s be honest, when reality doesn’t fit with what we know for sure, it’s more comfortable to lie to ourselves than challenge our truth.

The world is full of opportunities to learn and grow. But you’ll never begin a learning process unless you become aware and accept what you don’t know.

On the 20th February 1969, Martin M. Broadwell published on “The Gospel Guardian” the 17th and last part of a series titled “Teaching For Learning”. In his article, Broadwell introduced a new learning model that he labelled “the four levels of teaching“. Or, how it is often called “the four stages of competence“.
The founding idea of the model is that we ‘can’t being a learning journey if we are unaware of what or how much we know. He calls this first state of being unaware of not knowing the “unconscious incompetence” state. As we progress with our learning, we go through four psychological states until we reach the last one; the “unconscious competence” stage.

Let’s take a look at the four stages.

  1. Unconscious incompetence: at this stage, we don’t know how to do something, and we don’t recognise the deficit. Only when we become aware and accept our incompetence, we can move forward and start a learning process.
  2. Conscious incompetence: at this stage, we recognise our deficit, and we start the learning process to address that gap. Rules, forms and imitation are essential to building the competence we need.
  3. Conscious competence: we have finally acquired the skills we wanted, but to use them, we must be deliberate in our actions. The newly acquired skills may be now easy to use, but they require attention and for us to be conscious. Being conscious of how we use our capabilities allow us to go deeper and integrate the new behaviours in our identity. We are shifting from Doing to Being.
  4. Unconscious competence: finally, what we have learned become “second nature“. The new skills become part of our identity. We don’t do them anymore, they are integral to who we are.

One Apple A Day #536 – help others shine

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” —Ben Sweetland

My first boss was, he still is, an incredibly talented, smart and knowledgable person.
In my eyes, he knew everything about software development. We worked together for a long time, and we became friends. It was the time of the Internet Bubble, the beginning of this millennium. Life was great for software developers. We worked a lot, most of the time on exciting projects, and we were well paid.
During all those years, he kept teaching. It wasn’t a well-paid job, not compare to software development and, considering the amount of time spent in the office, I couldn’t understand why he was investing so much time in teaching.
When I asked him, he told me that teaching was the better way he knew to learn and improve himself.
I have to admit, I couldn’t really understand his answer at the time. To me, he was already the most competent person in my field.

But this morning, while I was reflecting upon the power of helping others shine, his story came up.
If you are struggling to overcome a tough situation, or you want to grow, but you can’t find your way forward, you can try helping someone else who’s on a similar journey. When you help someone else shine, their light will brighten your path.

One Apple A Day #534 – curiosity

One day I was playing with some kids. Tough stuff like jumping, running, doing somersaults, throwing stuff. For some reasons, kids think that I’m a good playmate for this kind of things.
Anyway, we were playing and having fun when one of them threw something at me. He hit me quite heavily on the chest. Because I’m an adult, it was just a bit painful, but it could be worst if he targeted one of the other kids. So, I told him that what he just did wasn’t fun at all, that it was painful and I didn’t want to play in that way.

I can still see his puzzle eyes staring at me, trying to find a sense in what had just happened. His curious mind was combining information and creating new connections.

I admit, for a moment I envied him, his not knowing, his curiosity, his need to experience the world first-hand to find meaning and discover the boundaries. With all our knowledge we know, or we think we know, the outcome of an action before trying. Even if we never did it before. And those expectations set boundaries from the very beginning.

What would happen if you go into something with the innocent curiosity of children? Are you able to set aside all your knowledge and jump fully into the experience?

One Apple A Day #517 – take care of your emotions

“Hence, in order to have anything like a complete theory of human rationality, we have to understand what role emotion plays in it.” – Herbert Simon, 1983, Reason in Human Affairs

Every decision, even the one that we perceive as very rational, is an emotional decision. Neurologists have discovered that people with damages to the emotional centres of the brain that impaired their emotions and feelings, lose the ability to make decisions and act even if they can list many reasons to do it.
Logic can help us find the reasons to act, but it’s our emotions that compel us to take action.

“It is emotion that allows you to mark things as good, bad, or indifferent.” – Antonio Damasio

Emotions and feelings transform what we experience into things we want to cultivate or avoid in the future. Anytime we perceive a cue, emotions tell us what the action or decision that will make us feel good is.

“You learn what to do in the future based on what you were rewarded for doing (or punished for doing) in the past. Positive emotions cultivate habits. Negative emotions destroy them.” — James Clear

I often got trapped in endless thinking trying to understand what the right decision is. I created spreadsheets, tables and complicated systems. All in the hope of making a rational choice. And it helps. Don’t get me wrong, the reasoning is essential in decision making. But it’s only when I take care of my emotions that I really move forward.

One Apple A Day #485 – being in awe

Last week I was in Rome and, no matter how many time I’ve already visited, I’m always in awe before the majesty of the buildings, temples, fountains, squares, churches, palaces. Everything in Rome is monumental.
I was reminded of this article I read about the positive effect of experiencing awe in our life.

Being before a temple that is more than 2000 years old, forced me to redefine my perspective on time. It the same feeling I had when I was driving in Patagonia. That vastity redefined my perspective on space. Art is another source of awe, a glimpse into the vastity of human beauty and creativity.

According to Amie Gordon, PhD, Principal Research Scientist in the Emotion, Health, and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of California-San Francisco, awe is about novelty and vastness. Something that doesn’t fit with what we already know and forces us to change our perspective.

It would be easy to think that the only sources of awe are external experiences.
But look at children, they live in a state of awe. Because they know less they create the experience of newness and vastity our of everything.

We should learn from them the art of being inspired.

Review your 2018

Here we are, almost at the end of 2018.

A few days more and also this year will be part of the past.

For some of us, these days are also an opportunity to slow down, look back, review the past year and maybe set a few goals for the new one. Wins and losses, successes and failures, the things we started and the things we closed, the people we met and the ones we lost.

How did you assess your 2018?

And how did you plan the new one?

I used to do a performance-oriented review. I measured the finishing year through the filter of the goals and intentions set 12 months before. And then I plan out some SMART goals for the next 12 months.

To be honest, it hasn’t always worked well. If you read some of my past articles, you probably already know that I’m not very good with goals.

So, this year I decided to do things differently. I decided to look at the past through the lenses of the future, and look at the future through the lenses of the past.

I’ve challenged myself to review 2018 as if the whole year was the preparation for the next one. Everything I’ve done, everything that happened, all my experiences were meant to set me up for the best year ever; the incoming 2019.

With this mindset, I shifted the focus from goals and performances to my learnings and my evolution as a human being. And it makes me feel a lot more positive about the next year. Now I have more clarity about my future direction, and I feel ready to celebrate the end of 2018 properly.

I created a document with all the questions I’ve designed for my own year-end review.

You can download it from here.

I hope it’ll help you find some insights to design you 2019 adventures!