One Apple A Day #613 – from control to care

It’s past nine in the morning. Quite late for my morning writing practice.

I had, in fact, I’m still having a slow pacing morning.

My weekend was quite intense, and when I woke up at dawn, my body clearly told me that it was too early. 

It needed more rest. So, I decided to take care of myself before doing anything else. Including having my vital apple a day.

Taking care.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to reflect on one of my inner struggles; control. 

I’ve learned long ago that I can’t control what happens outside me, out there in the world.

However, I’ve been struggling with my inner control. 

The control over my own thoughts, emotions and behaviours. 

I know I can stop a thought from emerging or emotion from surging, but I should have the control on how I respond to that thought or emotion. 

And that was my struggle.

Lack of will? Poor discipline?

I don’t know.

But this week, I had the opportunity to spend a day with a group of men willing to ask tough questions and to be vulnerable.

In that space, I had a kind of revelation or intuition of some sort.

What if I change my words?

What if I replace “control” with “care”?

Instead of focusing on controlling my response to thoughts and emotions, I’ll use my energy to take care of those thoughts and emotions.

I don’t know where this shift in perspective will lead me, but I feel a sense of excitement just writing about it. 

And that’s very promising.

P.S. The first image that emerged in my mind yesterday, when I thought about “taking care”, was a majestic tree. And that’s curious. A few months ago, I did a visualization exercise aimed at finding my vision for the future. The image that dominated my vision was one of a tree. That’s where the drawing at the beginning of the post comes from.

One Apple A Day #612 – sweet memories

July 1987, early Saturday morning in a little town in the North-East of Italy.

The town is almost empty. It’s too early for the kids on holidays from school and too late for the workers.
In the churchyard, a family of four and an old nun are waiting.

The boy is thirteen, even if he looks younger. With his thin legs, the square glasses and the narrow shoulders, it seems like he is trying to hide from the world. He is timid, and he would prefer to be lost reading some adventurous stories than being there waiting with his family.
A few other families join them in the square, just before the arrival of the bus.
The boy has never been anywhere before without his parents. Yes, in his dreams, he has already travelled to plenty of exotic places, but that doesn’t help in the present situation.
He is going to go away to a summer camp for a full week with his smaller sister. And he doesn’t know anyone else.
He steps into the already full bus, this is the last stop before heading to the mountains.
With his sister behind him, he walks towards the back of the bus looking for empty seats.
He feels as if all the eyes are staring at him. Sure they are. They all know each other, and they must think he is a nerd from the countryside.
The only two seats left available are at the very end of the bus.
Behind them, on the last row, a group of guys who look older than all the others. All so confident and relaxed.
Among them, there’s a boy whose voice stands out.
He is the taller and the louder of them all.
With his long hair, he looks like he came straight out of a movie.
And he has a prosthetic arm.
The boy has never seen a prosthetic arm before in his life.
The bus leaves the square, with the cheering parents, the sleepy town and everything familiar behind.
The boy is scared, but he wants to play the big brother with his sister. Even if, to be honest, she looks a lot more at ease than him.
The cool guys on the back seats are having fun.
The guy with the prosthetic arm takes out a portable cassette player.
And this song started.
A song he never heard before.
He can’t understand the lyrics, but that line of bass and that voice carve their way into his heart.


I still remember how I felt that morning.

So, when this song started while I was listening to random stuff on youtube, for a few seconds, I was that shy and innocent boy again. Obviously, a lot of other songs have been played during that bus trip. But this is the only one I remember.

I know it’s just a small event in my life. Thou, that trip is one of the defining moments in my life. It was my first time really out of my comfort zone, opening up to the world.

That summer camp spent with plenty of other guys and girls on the mountain has been such a fantastic experience that I kept doing it every summer for the following ten years or so.

And in that week, I also fell in love for the first time that week. Oh yeah, a proper love story even if she never knew about it.

Definitely, this song will always have a special place in my heart.

One Apple A Day #607 – identity and change

There is a question that has been spinning in my head for quite a while. Probably since a was a teenager even if only lately I’ve been able to shape it with words.

How can I navigate changes, inside and outside, without losing my identity?

I am well aware that change is a constant in nature. Everything, including me, goes through a never-ending and never-pausing sequence of changes and transformations.

Identity, on the other side, comes from the Latin word “identitas”, meaning “sameness, oneness, state of being the same”. In philosophy, identity is the relation each thing bears only to itself.

When we talk about human beings, my understanding is that with “identity” we refer to the aspects of a person that make her unique. A set of properties and attributes through which a person recognises herself.

It looks like change and identity are on the opposite side of the spectrum. 

How can I change without losing my identity? 

How can my identity help me navigate through changes?

When I was a teenager, I discover what became one of my favourite characters of all time; Captain Nemo from “20,000 leagues under the sea”.  The word “Nemo” is a Latin word meaning “nobody”. Captain Nemo was a prince who gave up his identity to be free. The motto of his submarine, the Nautilus, was the Latin “Mobilis in mobili” which may translate as, “moving amidst mobility” or “changing in the changes”.

As you can see, even if I wasn’t aware, the relationship between identity and change was already there in my early teenage days.

All of this to say that I haven’t found, yet, an answer to the opening question. Maybe there is no answer but staying in that tension, in the space in-between identity and change. But if you have found one that works for you, I’d love to hear it.

One Apple A Day #606 – back to you

Despite your best plans and intentions, sometimes things just go south.

Sometimes it’s an unpredictable blizzard sending everything upside down, other times is the compound effect of many small cracks that creates the perfect storm.

Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.” — Mike Tyson

What do you do when your plans fail? When your list of priorities gets screwed? When your objectives become so hard to see that you start questioning them? When what you want and what you need seems to diverge?

It’s a scary place to be. And the messiness of the world can make things worst. I’ve seen people making themselves smaller to hide from reality, frightened of the next punch. I’ve seen others close their eyes and punch their way out, fueled by rage.

Anyone has a unique way to get through tough times.

When I’m lost in a storm, I look for my anchor. For my roots. And that means to go back to myself. To shift the focus from the “What” and “How” back to the “Who”. 

Who am I, here and now?

And from there, I start again.

One Apple A Day #605 – It is important

In the last weeks, I’ve been struggling with my priorities. Probably I said too many yes or maybe I just overestimate my energy.
Anyway, the result is that some days, I feel overwhelmed by the things I want and I have to do. Whatever choice I make on what to focus on, I feel guilty for the things I’m leaving behind and for the people I will disappoint.
In my mind, I know that the only way out is to put things on a list, define the priorities and tackle one task or goal after the other.
And that’s what I found overwhelming; defining my priorities.
The easiest framework I know to prioritize things is Eisenhower’s matrix, later developed by Stephen Covey in his 4 Quadrants.
It’s a simple matrix built on two axes; urgency and importance.
The aim is to put as many tasks as possible in the “important, not urgent” quadrant.
Urgency is based on time, so most of the time, it’s easier to evaluate things to do.
“Importance” is an entirely different game. How do you define what is important? It’s a quest that requires us to explore our values and our vision for the future. To me, something is important when it serves my vision, it is aligned with my values. The degree of importance depends on the impact a specific activity has on my vision and on my world.

You’re probably wondering why am I struggling if I have a framework and I know how to define the priority of the things I want to do?

Because to know what to do is not the same as doing what we know.
Between knowing and doing, there are our emotions and our beliefs influencing our actions.

But I have a secret weapon; my morning practice. Including these daily posts. Just writing about my struggle, I gained more clarity about it. I don’t have a solution yet, but I feel less overwhelmed and ready to review my priorities.
No doubts that my morning practice scores very high in importance.

One Apple A Day #597 – you are infinite

Be yourself, they say.

Great advice but, who am I?

Who this self I am supposed to be? How would I know that I am “being myself”?

Because the more I try to define who I am using my thinking mind, the more I wrap myself into a box that gets smaller.

And I can clearly sense that most of me has been left out.

So, you see, there is a problem here.

My mind thinks in shapes and forms, so it is used to set boundaries to divide one thing from the other. To separate me from the others and the world so I can put a label on myself.

The ancient greeks engraved the words γνῶθι σεαυτόν on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

“know thyself”

What they didn’t write is that knowing yourself is a never-ending journey. And that the journey is more important than the destination. It doesn’t matter how many labels and boxes you’ll be able to use to define yourself, as long as you keep exploring.

You are infinite as the universe you hold inside.

ONE APPLE A DAY #594 – a clean start

I took a few days off from this little project of mine. Even more, I paused the whole morning routine for a week.
No exercise, no meditation and no writing.
I understood that it was necessary after writing the previous daily apple last Monday. At the end of my fifteen minutes writing process, I was spent. I had to push the words out instead of letting them flow, and that depleted my energy. I’m not sure when it started, but it wasn’t energising anymore.
I needed to rest. So I put the morning writing on hold.
And with it everything else.
In fact, this recovery pause made me realise that this tiredness was affecting everything in my life.
My to-do list was crushing me. I had things in it that I’ve been postponing for weeks, some even for months.
And they were hunting me, pushing me to keep doing stuff even if my energy was gone and I wasn’t really able to take any step further.
So, I did something a bit crazy.
I didn’t just pause the to-do list, I wiped it clean. I deleted all the things to do that I wasn’t doing. I thought that if they were still there after weeks than the key to making that happen surely was not that busy do-do list.
So, I cleaned it.
And you know what. The day after I cleaned my to-do list, I completed one of the tasks that I’ve been dragging for months.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I think it’s not.
Sometimes we put so much weight on things that we aren’t unable to move them forward. The moment we give up, we lift that weight and voilá, the magic happens.

Grow into your vision

I just watched this powerful video by Simon Sinek. I admire the way he can give words to ideas and concepts that are hard to grasp. Being able to make invisible things visible – through images, words, sounds – is a unique talent.

This video, though, baffled me and I don’t know why. So I took some time to ponder on it. In my reflections, I found something I wrote more than two years ago that became the basis for this post.

The video is about passion and vision. Things that are usually referred to as something we should have or find to live a fulfilling life.
As Simon beautifully said, “passion is an output, not in input”. It is the outcome of doing something that has a meaning for us. That gives sense to our lives. Something we care about.

“The reason that people do things, especially heroic or major things, things that take a lot of effort, is because they care.” — Dave Gray

So, doing something meaningful, something you believe in, chasing a vision is what transform your experience into passion instead of stress.

This leads to the following question in Simon’s video; “how do I find what I believe in?
Or, worded differently, “how do I find my vision?“.

This question is what unsettles me a bit.
Vision is often painted as that one big truth hiding somewhere and that we have to find to give meaning to our life. Whispering in the air, planted deep within us, written in our destiny or on the stars. With that picture in mind, some travel far from home to find their vision. Some spend years digging deep inside to uncover it under their fears. Some look for some visionary to follow. Some just wait.

What if there is no such thing as “the vision”? What if we accept that life is more complex than that? Life would become a journey of open, continuous and curious exploration rather than a search for definitive answers. When we become too focused on the quest for the vision, we got trapped in what psychologist Omer Simsek calls the need for absolute truth.

I am also more and more convinced that the verb “finding” is deceiving. It keeps up hanging in our quest while distracting us from doing the real thing; to experience life.
What if the goal shifts from “finding your vision” to “growing into your vision“?
Then it’d be less critical to have full clarity – mind – about the vision and more important to feel – heart and guts – that you are living it.

So, passion is not only the outcome, but it also becomes your compass. If you feel stressed, what you’re doing is not align with your vision. But when you feel passionate and energised by what you’re doing, then you’re most probably living your vision even if you can’t verbalise it.

There are other two ideas in the video that capture my attention.

The first is the one about the value of being a follower instead of a visionary. The moment I get in touch with that vision, I feel called by it, and I embrace it, then it becomes my own vision too.

I believe that visionaries are not a creator, they are channels between the infinite knowledge of the universe and the material world. They channel the universal wisdom and make it available to everyone else. Their visions aren’t theirs. They are of everyone. So, we are all visionaries and followers at the same time.

And that leads me to the second point. I believe we all have the potential to be creative and be visionary. But that potential is often covered and hold back by our fears, beliefs and conditioning. The more we become aware, the more we can awake that potential.

All my work is based on the unshakable belief that every human being is extraordinary.

Read more:

  1. The Need for Absolute Truth and Self-Rumination as Basic Suppressors in the Relationship Between Private Self-Consciousness and Mental Health” by Ömer Faruk Şimşek, Aylin Ecem Ceylandağ &Gizem Akcan – link
  2. Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World” by Tasha Eurich – link
  3. Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think” by Dave Gray – link

One Apple A Day #590 – power and love

A few apparently disconnect things that maybe are not (disconnected).

Sunday I was checking the news online when I had one of those a-ha moments. The more I was reading, the more I was feeling bothered. Even worst, some anger was boiling there.

All those negative news were finding their way into my system. All the hate, the oppression, the suffering, the divisive words they were intoxicating my mind and my heart.

So, I’ve decided to take a full day off the news. And it has been so refreshing that I’m going to take a whole week of detachment from the news.

Yesterday I heard on the radio that it was the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I remember reading the book The Day of the Bomb by Karl Bruckner, more than thirty years ago. It is a children’ novel about that event, and I still feel a knot in the stomach, remembering that story.

I went to bed yesterday asking myself how is it possible that we use all this incredible potential to harm others.

Then this morning, after my training, I walked in the bedroom to pick the BeTheChange cards for my morning reflections. I didn’t put them away in the box yesterday, so they were still there laying on my bedtable. And the one on top caught my attention. It says “Power + Love”.

Inside the booklet a quote.

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

One Apple A Day #582 – stillness

The air is hot and sticky in this mid-summer days.
Even the smallest movement makes me sweat.
It’s hard to think straight in this heat and, honestly, I was about to skip my morning writing.
But then I picked my morning card like I do every day.
And it is one of my favourites.

Stillness.

I love everything about this picture. The sense of peace and presence, the light, and the river.

Two words pop up in my mind almost immediately. Two words that, if you put them together, they may evoke unfortunate circumstances.

The first word is a verb; to sink. The second one is water.

The idea of sinking is a gift I got from the book The Nature of Consciousness by Rupert Spira.

“Thus, in the same way that one cannot stand up and take a step towards oneself, so the mind cannot turn around and direct itself towards its own source. But when, through interest in its own essential nature, the mind ceases to direct itself towards objective experience, it begins to sink or relax back into the source from which it has arisen.” — from The Nature of Consciousness by Rupert Spira

Stillness is the process through which my mind stop chasing external objects or thoughts and sink back into itself. Into the source of its existence. To sink back, it means to fall into and reconnect with my bigger who.

And then there is a river with its water flowing.

“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.” ― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha