One Apple A Day #675 – state of confusion

Richard Phillips Feynman was undoubtedly a genius. He may not be as popular as other scientists, but his contribution to quantum physics was essential. For his work on the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

He was the kind of guy you’d expect to be incredibly knowledgeable and capable of understanding everything anytime. Instead, as you can hear from his own voice in the video below, he admitted that he was, more often than not, in a state of confusion.

You see, it’s tempting to think of the great innovators and geniuses as superhumans with the incredible power of seeing the answers, knowing the direction, and envisioning what’s next with clarity. 

However, as Feynman revealed, the real power lies in their inability to understand things and acknowledge it not as a weakness, but as an opportunity. A source of wonder. 

Obviously, Feynman knew a lot of things. But, he found pleasure in not knowing and being forced to figure things out.

If there is one thing we can learn from the great innovators of the past, is that to create impactful results, we have to muddle through, with no guarantee of success while seeing the perfection of uncertainty. 

Most of us approach innovation because we want results. Preferably predictable results. 

But, as Feynman taught us, it’s only when we become comfortable with living in a state of confusion, that we can create wonder.

I learn about Feynman and his state of confusion from this article by Greg Satell

One Apple A Day #676 – the wisdom of curiosity

“Words are the representations and symbols we use to view, think about, and process our perceptions of reality and they are the means of sharing these perceptions with others.” – Judith Glaser

Words are powerful; they shape the reality we experience. 

One word can trap you into a life you never wanted. One word can break the walls and liberate you. 

Just yesterday, I was reflecting, with one of my mentors, about my struggle in picking a label for what I do. But that’s for another day.

Last weekend I read an interesting article on how schools are killing curiosityMaybe this is why that word came back this morning in my meditation.

I did a quick check online, and learned that “curious” comes from Latin curiosus meaning “careful, diligent; inquiring eagerly, meddlesome”. The word is akin to cura, “care”. 

What really kindled my curiosity is that the word “care” comes from Latin “cura”. Modern linguists believe that “cura” derived from the root ku-/kav- meaning “observe”. From the same root comes the Sanskrit word “kavi”, meaning “sage”.

In my mind, all of this means that being curious is the way to and a trait of wisdom.

Being curious is better than being smart. It is desire, not intelligence, that prompts behaviour. – James Clear

One Apple A Day #673 – discern your uniqueness

“On one level, as humans, we all have the same purpose: to develop and realize the infinite potential of consciousness. Yet we are all also particular manifestations of the creative life force and as such have unique contributions to make. Our task is to discern our uniqueness, use it as a source of creativity and then manifest it in the form of something new and innovative.” – from The Way of Nowhere

To discern our uniqueness. What a beautiful way to describe the quest to discover our purpose. 

To discern is to walk through life with my senses open and receptive. It reminds me to observe myself while I chase my goals and aspiration looking for signs that reveal my uniqueness.

It also reminds me that purpose is not a statement. Something I find out and hang on the wall. It is a never-ending quest within and without. 

It’s something I grow into, and something that grows within me at the same time.

Sometimes this process generates tensions. Between the urge for clarity and direction and the desire to explore the connection with something more profound.

I am in one of those moments of tension. And it’s from within this tension that I found this inspiring advice.

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms, or books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

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’t 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.