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 #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 #632 – outgrow your systems

I am a big fan of structures and systems. 

Maybe because willpower is not high on my list of strengths, I learned that they are vital to reaching any goal.

But there’s a caveat. 

They, systems and structures, should never become the goal.

If you want to reach a particular outcome, you can just rely on defining goals. No matter how S.M.A.R.T. your goals are, they are not enough to move you forward.

In the past, before I understood the importance of systems, I use to think that I wasn’t achieving success because my goals weren’t high, bold or smart enough.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” — James Clear

Goals are the starting point to set the direction. But it’s only when you design a system around those goals that you make real progress.

Unfortunately, it is easy to fall in love with the systems we create. In particular when they work, obviously. 

Systems and structures are very sexy for the rational mind. They are made of shapes and forms. That means that, no matter how flexible they are, they still have boundaries and limitations.

When the system becomes the goal, then we are limiting our potential to grow within the boundaries of the system itself.

The best system is one designed to support and sustain our growth, as individuals, teams or organisations. 

The ultimate purpose of a system is to become obsolete.

So, when we outgrow it, we can mould into an evolved version of ourselves.

 

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

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 #523 – a piece of cloth

“A bad system will beat a good person every time.” — W. Edwards Deming

Talking about synchronicity; this morning I found this quote in the book that I’m currently reading, and it would be the perfect summary of a conversation I had yesterday afternoon. I was talking with a friend about the role leaders play in the change processes within their organisations.

The image that keeps coming back for me is “a piece of cloth”.

An organisation can be seen as a piece of cloth, an intricated system of interwoven threads. Every organisation has its own unique size, material, fabric and texture. So, each piece of cloth will react differently to changes. If you pick a point in the fabric and lift it, depending on the strength and elasticity of the threads and the weight of the material you may be able to lift the whole piece from that one point. Or you may be able to hold it only for a moment before it is pulled back in place by the strength of the texture.

So, if you lift the cloth from one single point, the rest of the material will follow with some delay. And, no matter its unique characteristics, the parts that are farther from the lifting point, will be left behind. Sure, that lifted point will stand out, but what happens when it is released? It’s highly probable that the whole piece of cloth will fall back in the previous flat state.

What if instead of lifting the piece of cloth from one point, we lift it from many points at the same time? Or even better, what if we create a system, like a frame, that will allow raising the whole piece of cloth at the same time?

Just replace “piece of cloth” with “organisation” and “lifting point” with “leader”, and I believe the questions still work.

One Apple A Day #522 – it starts from you

In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear presents a concept called the “Three Layers Of Behaviour Change” to describe how we approach change.
Going from the outside-in, the three layers are outcomes, processes and identity.

“Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.”

All levels are useful to create a change.
What really makes a difference is where we start from; the direction of change.

The need for a change something in our life is usually triggered by the desire for different outcomes. We want to have something different, so we start a process to change what we have.
This focus on the outcomes sparks one or more outcome-based interventions; projects aimed at changing what we have.

Some of us are wiser, and they understand that if they don’t change how they do things they won’t get different results. So they review their processes so they can generate better outcomes.
Indeed, changing how we do things is more effective in creating the desired results but, as we know, when our behaviours (processes) are not in tune with our identity (beliefs), they are not sustainable on the long term.

“In fact, the word identity was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. Your identity is literally your repeated beingness.”

Behind every action that we make there is a set of beliefs. The beliefs that define our identity. The reason why many change projects fail is that we focus only on the outcomes or the processes while bringing in the process the same beliefs that create the reality we want to change.

A sustainable change must start from our identity.

One Apple A Day #521 – you can do something

According to the Global Challenges Foundation – a foundation that works with researchers to explore threats to humanity -, the next 50 years will set the pace for humanity’s survival in the next 10,000 years.

Climate change, mass migrations, artificial intelligence, political instability, deforestation. The list can go on and on.

The challenges ahead of humanity are greater than ever, and it’s easy to feel small and powerless.
What can we do?
What can I do?

When I caught myself in these thoughts, I always go back to this sentence from “Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler“, a beautiful book by Paul Lindley.

“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.”

From toddlers, we can learn to be creative with what we have. But there is something more than that. They face every challenge with an open mind because they haven’t been conditioned yet. When we want to find a solution to a problem we approach it with the same mindset that creates that challenge in the first place. Our mindset comes with us, and it limits us our possibilities.

I believe that I can do something about the significant challenges we face as humanity.
But it all starts by expanding my awareness.

“The biggest challenge we face is shifting human consciousness, not saving the planet. The planet doesn’t need saving, we do.” by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (a 19 years old activist)

One Apple A Day #516 – you can be a hero

Abraham Wald was a Hungarian mathematician who lived in the first half of the last century. His main field was statistical analysis but, being a Jew, he never really had the chance to fully apply his skills in Austria, where he graduated, due to Nazis invasion. In 1938 Wald escaped to the states where he was invited to work at the Columbia University. Thanks to his skills he became a member of the Statistical Research Group (SRG). The SRG was a group of scientists and mathematicians dedicated to solving various wartime problems.

Wald was involved in a famous story that is widely used to explain the Survivor Bias. I read this story many times, but only yesterday I learned his name.

These are the words of W. Allen Wallis, another member of the SRG; “The military was inclined to provide protection for those parts that on returning planes showed the most hits. Wald assumed, on good evidence, that hits in combat were uniformly distributed over the planes. It follows that hits on the more vulnerable parts were less likely to be found on returning planes than hits on the less vulnerable parts, since planes receiving hits on the more vulnerable parts were less likely to return to provide data. From these premises, he devised methods for estimating vulnerability of various parts.

This story explains perfectly the Survivor Bias. Because we have plenty of information on the survivors from a challenge while we have no info about all the others that didn’t survive (the planes that didn’t come back), we tend to model our behaviours only on the winner (survivors) missing valuable information.

I wrote about Wald this morning because, in the period where superheroes bring billions of people to the cinema, I love the story of a hero whose superpowers are very human: numbers, logic and intuition.

The second reason is that the tale as it is usually told doesn’t give full justice to the scientific work behind it.

You can find more at this link.

 

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.