One Apple A Day #687 – moving in the mist

One of the hallmarks of growing up in the NorthEast of Italy is the fog. I mean the real thick one that eats up everything around you and all you can see is a grey wall.

I remember one episode in particular. I was in my early twenties. My driving license was still fresh, so I would miss an opportunity to exploit the freedom of having a car. That Saturday evening I went out with my cousin. There was a light mist when we left, nothing that could stop us.

When we decided it was to go home, however, things were completely different. The fog was becoming thicker and thicker. At some point, we reach a small countryside road. One of those narrow road that can barely fit two cars at the same time, with a steep slope on the side and no white lines on the surface.

My cousin had to step out of the car, walk before me, and show me the boundaries of the road. And he had to do it for at least a kilometre. That night it took us ages to get home. But there was no cellphone, and we knew our parents would be worried. So, we kept moving, even if we couldn’t see anything.

Many times in my life, I experienced moments where everything was foggy within and around me. I couldn’t see my way forward, so I froze. I waited to have more visibility, to have more clarity before doing anything, and that cost me a few missed opportunities. I’ve learned that sometimes, I have to move forward even if I can’t see clearly where I am going. And in that case, it’s useful to have someone you trust walking with you and showing you the edges of the road.

By the way, do you know there are 51 different names for the fog?

One Apple A Day #683 – you need a map

“The point of planning isn’t to know exactly what to do. The point of planning is to delude yourself into thinking you know what you’re doing just long enough for you to actually get off your ass and do something.” — from a tweet by Mark Manson

In my experience, we are not scared of change. Most people don’t mind change, actually. What we are scared is the uncertainty that often comes with change. Not knowing what is waiting for us on the other side of change can be frightening. The human brain is a prediction machine, always assessing what’s going on around us to predict what will happen next. So, we don’t mind change. On the contrary, we may even welcome it. As long as we know where we are going. 

For most of us, probable is better than possible.

Unfortunately, when we are trapped in this prediction game, we are unable to take the leaps forward that can really transform our lives and create abundance. 

One of our strength, the ability to predict the future, becomes a limiting factor.

Yet, there is a way in which we can leverage our predictive mind so we can embrace change, even disruptive ones. We can plan or map out the way forward, enough to find the confidence to take the first step. You see, having a map is not a guarantee that we will get where we want. In the same way, having a plan doesn’t mean you’ll get what you want. But they both trick our mind into knowing what’s happening. Having a map, plan or strategy can silence fear for a while so we can find the confidence to begin.

One Apple A Day #681 – so small, so important

I’m staring at the mess on my desk, wondering when it did happen.
It was all tidy and organised a few days ago.
I remember removing all the clutter, throwing away old bills, placing everything where it is supposed to be.
And now I can barely find the book I’m reading.
How did it happen?
I know it’s all my doing even if it would be easier to blame someone else. Maybe the cat, walking over my desk during the night throwing things around.
But it’s me.
I clearly remember how happy I was when I tidied up my work corner. The pleasure of sitting at my neat desk made me feel professional, and it spark order also in my mind.
And now this.
As much I’d like to say it happened overnight, it didn’t. Today’s mess is the result of many small, almost insignificant actions.
The first days after I clear up my working corner, I’m able to take care of the space and preserve the tidiness. Then, one day I do a small thing like leaving a pen out of place. It is so tiny that it goes almost unnoticed. Yet, it breaks the spell and, one little action after the other, I wake up one day and find the mess.
I think that the lesson here is that it’s easy to pay attention to the big things in life, but too often it’s the little ones that we barely notice that make the mess.

One Apple A Day #680 – turn on the love

When the room is dark, I usually turn on the light so I can see. 

Such an obvious thing to do.

I would say it’s common sense.

Unfortunately, as Steven Covey said; “what is common sense is not always common practice.

Yesterday, I was exploring fears with a group of inspiring people.

And I realised that when it comes to fear, more often than not, I try to push through the darkness instead of turning on the light.

I put all my focus on the fear I want to overcome, trying to get stronger and better. Like when I wake up before dawn and, to avoid disturbing my partner, I try to get out in a pitch-black room only to hit something in the darkness and wake her up. 

If pushing through darkness may have a sense when I’m sneaking out very early, I feel it doesn’t when it comes to fear.

It’s like the target fixation effect I know very well being a motorcyclist. Not only we go in the direction of our gave, but what we put our attention on, expands. I’ve learned it through experience. If I’m riding and I see a pothole on the road, I must move my gaze on the way around it as soon as possible. Because if I keep staring at it, I’m going to hit it.

If it’s dark, turn on the light.

In the case of fear, the light is love. 

Yesterday, I put my fears aside, and I shifted my focus on how I can bring more love into what I do. So I can cast my fears away.

One Apple A Day #674 – comfort, change and curiosity

It was a rainy and misty day. One of those days when the best thing to do is to stay home, before a fire.

Instead, we were out walking in the woods. Nobody around, just us and the silence of nature. The light rain was making everything so soft that we couldn’t hear our own steps.

Not the most comfortable way of spending a morning, maybe. But undoubtedly, very inspiring. It was, then. When we were walking down a slight and slippery slope, that Andy asked one of his powerful questions.

How come that we call it comfort zone, yet so many people seem unhappy when they are there? If it’s a place of comfort, you should be happy. Or not?

By the way, I did a quick check online this morning. These are a few definitions I found. 

“The comfort zone is a safe place where you feel the most comfortable.”

“A psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person, and they are at ease and (perceive they are) in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.”

“A behavioural state where a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position.”

“Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized—where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control.”

Indeed, your comfort zone should be a happy and peaceful place to be.

While we were out there, our boots deep in the mud, we came to the conclusion that the reason for that unhappiness is probably due to the assumption that the comfort zone is a fixed thing. 

Change, another word starting with C, is natural. Everything is constantly changing, moving and transforming. When you got trapped in the idea that the comfort zone is a static thing, you cling to what you have and consume all your energy resisting change. Stay in your comfort zone becomes an exhausting effort. One that drains your happiness until you feel miserable in that same space you use to feel at ease.

This morning, while I was thinking about this conversation and about the boot that I still have to clean after that walk, a third word starting with C popped up. Curiosity. Curiosity is what inspires us to make questions and to embrace challenges. It is what allows us to push, shift and reshape the boundaries of our comfort zone, so it can grow with us.

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 #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 #670 – close the book

Over the weekend, I had a few conversations about the ending of things.  

We give a lot of attention to the beginning. We remember and celebrate the first moment of something; a relationship, a job, a project, life.

I feel we are not as good at dealing with the end.

I’ve been taught how to start something, but I can’t remember anyone teaching me how to end anything.

Though, the end of anything is a crucial moment. One that will have a defining impact on anything that will come after. 

The destination plays a vital role in giving meaning to a journey.

I see so many people, and I am one of them, doing their best to avoid the end. Sometimes running away, or ignoring it. But mostly just jumping on new things. And in doing so, they drag the unfinished old ones with them. 

But how can you live fully what you have in the present when part of your energy is spent carrying the past?

The end of everything is so important. There should be classes at school on how to properly end or deal with the closing of something. So we can take all the value from the experienced that we lived and use it to nurture the present and build the future.

“A wise man once said; When you come to the last page, close the book.” — Mr Wu from The Love Bug

I was this movie when I was a kid, and this scene at the very end is the only thing I remember. There are really lessons in the most unexpected places. The space on my desk is limited. So, if I don’t close a book when I get to the last page, after a while, I won’t have enough space to open a new one.

One Apple A Day #693 – search the ember

It’s dawn, and the air is chilly.

We are not supposed to regroup before an hour. 

But I can hear the first early-riser getting out of their tents.

It’s a misty morning, the mountains around are hiding.

I walk to the middle of the open space, the place where the fire burns during the day. There are no flames, but I can see some embers pulsing under the ashes.

I’m not great with fire. But I love to watch how the other men can quickly start one. And I love to watch the flames dance. I just never been useful in starting a fire. 

Only now I’m here alone before those embers. And I swear, they are calling. So, I did as I saw others doing the day before. I put some new wood over the embers, and I start blowing. Gently.

With every blow, the ember comes alive and glow. Every time a bit more. Until all of a sudden, a flame bursts and the fire comes alive again.

 

Since that day, breathing life into a glowing ember became one of my favourite experiences. It’s magical how it happens.

Sometimes, our potential is like an ember, a faint light under the ashes. If we do nothing, it will go dark and cold. But if we breathe our being into it, the ember will start glowing again until it will burst into flame and irradiate our life.

One Apple A Day #688 – a thin line

For months I’ve been seeking the answer to an important personal question. But the answer eludes me. Even worst, the harder I try, the farther I feel from any clarity.

Being entirely honest, it’s not the first time. Many times in the past, I found myself lost in a quest for an answer or a solution. And too often, I got so entrenched in the problem that I couldn’t see any way out.

Ironically, most the time it is when I give up trying that the answer emerges.

With this awareness, at the turn of year, a voice in my head began saying “then why are still looking? Just stop trying and wait for the answer.

But, I’ve been there before, and there’s a caveat. 

A thin line that we must pay attention to.

The thin line separating the passive waiting for something from the active creation of space for something to emerge.

The universe is actively invested in our journey, so it tries to help, giving us signs and hints. But it does so using its own language.

So we must engage in learning the language of the universe. We must open up, expand our senses, actively listen and observe. And then act on the signs we read.

If we cross that thin line and we passively wait for the universe to speak our language, we may dry out in the wait.