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.
Here we are, standing at a crossroad. It has been a long and intense day. We already drove for about 500 km alternating tarmac and gravel. We surely enjoyed more the second one, but it requires more attention, and some tiredness is creeping in.
We’ve been standing here for a few minutes, the engine on. The complete absence of any form of human presence but us is becoming familiar. It’s only us, the signs saying that we should go left staying on the asphalt road. Our map saying that we should go right, on the gravel route. We’ve been following the Ruta40 since the very beginning of our journey. This road is the reason why we are here.
The sign says the Ruta40 is the one on the left. A long straight line of tarmac disappearing in the horizon. However, the map that we brought with us from Italy tells another story. In our map, the Ruta40 is the one going right. A white road disappearing after a few meters behind the brow.
The shadows are getting longer and longer, and we have to make a choice if we want to get somewhere before it gets dark. The only hint we have to find our next destination, Tonchi’s farm, is to look for an old abandoned horse carriage on the side of the Ruta40. But which one is the right Ruta40?
We have no clues, but we know one thing; we love the gravel.
So, this is it.
We decide to follow our map.
Two hours later we are almost regretting our choice. Outside is dark, cold and wind. And most of all, there is nothing and nobody anywhere to be seen.
We are already planning the best way to spend the night in our truck when we see it. The old abandoned horse carriage.
We found it.
What happened next is another story.
Only later we discovered that our map was an old one. To make the Ruta40 straighter and more comfortable to drive, the government swapped the name with another road. So the old and white Ruta40 got a new name. Our map was wrong and no more correct. Yet, it took us exactly where we wanted to go.
That day I learned that If you have clarity of intention, sometimes even a wrong map can lead you to the right place.
We’re already one week into this new year and, after a short break to refill the batteries, I feel the need to get back to my practices.
But, before I restart my small thing called One Apple A Day, I thought it was a good idea to welcome 2020.
It won’t be a long post like the one I wrote to say goodbye to 2019. With last year there was history.
The new one is like a big blank canvas.
I don’t know what will happen this year. What colours will end up on that canvas and what images will appear at the end.
I don’t know, and it’s a gorgeous feeling. One of anticipation and excitement.
So, this welcome message to the new year is concise. It’s more like a letter of intent. And I’m writing it in my usual 15 minutes morning slot, to be sure I’m not wasting time with clichè or trivialities.
My guiding word for 2020 is Sustainability.
I’ll write more about it in the next days, but in short, it’s a word that speaks about balance and transformation. It’s about small daily steps and consistency. It’s the ingredient connecting identity and discipline.
So here I am again. A few hours more and 2019 will be a thing of the past. A folder filled with memories, images, words, faces, emotions ready to be archived. So, today I’ve decided to put aside my morning practice and instead of the daily “apple”, I’ll celebrate the year ending today.
In the last days, I spent some time looking back at all that has happened over the previous 12 months. Not to cling to the past, but to dig out lessons and insights that I can use for the future. All of that with a sense of gratitude.
As I did last year, at the end of this post, you can find a pdf with the questions I used to reflect upon the past and set the stage for the future. If you’re not interested in my learnings and you want to jump straight to the document, click here.
If you’re still reading, I’m grateful for your interest, and I hope you could find some useful hints for yourself in my recollections.
First of all, the word that better summarise my 2019 is Identity. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting, talking, reading, writing and exploring the subject. My own identity obviously, but also “identity” as a concept. Can we really know our identity? How do we know who we are? Is it a fixed thing, or does it change and evolve over time? Even if I’m sure I’ll always have more questions than answers on this subject, I feel that this quest is an integral part of my own identity. So, it will also inform my future work, but I’ll talk about this in another post about 2020.
My three most significant achievements in 2019.
The launch of The Lab by MentorLab. I had the incredible opportunity to partner with Rossella and Cristiano in the creation of The Lab. A safe and private place of knowledge sharing and collective learning to connect coaches, mentors and hr professionals in Italy. So far, it has been an incredible journey, and the best has yet to come.
The ACC credentials from ICF. I must admit that I’ve never given much importance to formal recognition or titles. But this one is special because to get it, I had to face and overcome some of my toughest limiting beliefs. So, I want to celebrate this achievement because it reminds me of the journey I did to get there.
The first Italian company taking the Being At Full Potential Organisation Assessment. I’m so grateful for the trust, the courage and the openness with which they decided to challenge themselves.
My three favourite posts (that I wrote) in 2019.
This year I wrote 249 posts as part of One Apple A Day practice plus a few other articles. In 2019 I have produced fewer pieces than the previous years even I definitely wrote more. The main reason is that I started writing in Italian (on The Lab by MentorLab). I’ve also kept working on the book I’m writing with my mentor, but not as much as I wanted. This is something I want to improve next year. Anyway, these are the three posts I remember the most.
Three lessons I’ve learned in 2019 that will serve me in 2020.
Connecting vs Collecting: I wrote about this lesson in this post. In 2019 I learned that every time I got engulfed in the collecting mindset, my energy drops and my actions are less powerful. In 2020 I’ll nurture a connecting attitude to play my part in letting the energy of the universe flows.
Serve the vision: at the beginning of 2019, I was struggling between the desire to serve others and the need to serve myself. I was stretched between these two divergent forces. That was creating tension and stress. Then I remembered the metaphor of the pendulum, and I realised that when I serve my vision, I’m in service both of myself and others.
Aspirations vs Goals: over the last 12 months, I set many goals, too often failing at achieving them. At the same time, I achieved some unexpected results. I realised that with me, aspirations are more effective than goals. Starting with my aspirations, I can create and focus on practices and rituals that generate results. In 2020 I’ll focus less on what I want to achieve and more on who I want to become.
The three people that most inspired me in 2019.
I am surrounded by incredible people that inspire me every day with their love, passion, curiosity, talent, courage and, above all, with their humanity. I feel blessed, and I’m immensely grateful for their presence.
Because if you’re reading this, then you’re one of them. You’re a person who inspires me with your extraordinary uniqueness.
But there are three persons in particular that I want to celebrate this year. Just thinking of them reminds me of what it means to be human and why I do everything I do.
My dear friend Stefano with his bow, arrows, hugs, jokes, presence, poetry and realness.
My best friend and travelling partner Andrea for his courage, curiosity, humbleness, open mind, authenticity and ethics.
My sister Silvia because she’s the most incredible example of selfless service, kindness, faith, strength and unconditional love.
The three most useful book that I read in 2019.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
The Nature of Consciousness: Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter by Rupert Spira, Deepak Chopra, and Bernardo Kastrup
Beyond Performance: How Great Organisations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage by Scott Keller, Colin Price
My grandfather knew when it was the right day to prune the vines. He always knew when it was the right night to go out fishing for eels. He couldn’t really explain how he knew it, but he did.
My grandmother knew how to make a perfect traditional cake. Many people from the village used to bring her the ingredients and she never disappointed, no matter how different the flour or the eggs were. Though, she didn’t know the recipe. When we manage to elicit a structured formula from her, the results weren’t as good.
Yesterday evening a dear friend told me about his great grandfather.
He was the man everyone called to get fruitful grafts on the vineyards. Throughout his career, he kept a daily log with all his weather observations. But what made him successful was his ability to retrieve the right information from his yearslong almanack and know the most propitious moment to make a successful graft. He couldn’t explain how he knew, but he did.
They all knew without knowing. Each one of them knew, deep in their own essence, how to read the invisible signs of the universe.
That is wisdom to me.
The subjective knowing beyond the objective knowledge.
Unfortunately, the subjective knowing can’t be modelled or structured, and so it cannot be taught.
You can only acquire it through observation and experience.
It takes time, discipline and awareness.
And the willingness to detach from the outcome.
“Mors tua vita mea” is an idiomatic expression in Latin, born in the Middle Ages.
The literal meaning is rather dramatic, “Your death is my life” and it refers to the fight for survival, like in a war or battle, where your defeat is necessary for my victory.
In a more broader sense, this phrase embodies the idea that one derives an advantage for someone else failure
Your loss is my gain.
It is an expression that distils competition, individualism and opportunism. It is often used to describe the harshness of life by those who feel life as a continuous struggle for survival.
A few events lately made me realize how many people are still trapped in the mindset of self-preservation. In a paradigm of scarcity, so we have to fight for the same resources. And the winners take it all.
I’m referring to good honest people, who have no desire to harm anyone. But when you’re trap in that mindset, you become blind to the consequences of your actions. Caught in the idea that everyone is willing to do everything to get what they want and protect who they love, you just do the same.
It’s the law of the jungle baby.
But we are not in the Middle Ages anymore. And the only outcome of approaching life with this mindset is that, in the end, everyone loses.
And I don’t believe having better rules, laws or structures will change anything. If we create new structures from an old mindset, we will just sustain that mindset.
What is needed is a shift in consciousness.
One that moves us from self-preservation to self-realization.
“The biggest challenge we face is shifting human consciousness, not saving the planet. The planet doesn’t need saving, we do.” — Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (a 19 years old activist)
she is present, and can welcome all things.” — Lao-Tzu
A friend sent me this a few days ago, and these words have been working within me since then.
There are moments in life where we feel as if we are swimming in muddy water. We can’t see clearly, and the more we move, the more the water becomes murky. It looks like everything we do, everything we say makes things worst. At the point that we begin wondering if there is a way out at all.
“Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?”
To stop and wait seems counterintuitive. Yet, it’s only when you stop moving and agitating the water, that the mud starts to settle.
What does it mean to stay still in your situation? What would happen if you do nothing and say nothing for a while?
“Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?”
This is the tricky part for me. Because when you stop moving and the mud starts to settle, impatience grows. The more the water becomes clear, the more the desire to see through, to get the answer raises.
It is then that your inner strength is tested.
Can you resist the desire to act and wait for the right action to emerge?
How will you recognize it?
A good sign is the feeling of detachment from the outcome. When you’re not focused on anything but the present moment, that’s when the eyes of intuition will show you the way.
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” ― Rumi
Maybe it’s because it has been raining for days.
Or maybe because I’ve been thinking and talking about belonging and identity.
Anyway, these beautiful words from Rumi appeared in my awareness. And when I read them, I think that it’s not one or the other for me.
I am both.
I am the entire ocean in a drop.
I’m aware that there is so much more in me, and in everyone, that I can’t even imagine. It goes beyond my ability to understand. And that’s perfect because not knowing is what allow me to take the risk and allow this bigger who to emerge.
But I am also a drop in the ocean.
I am part of the whole and the whole at the same time.
Even more, I am a drop in many oceans at the same time.
And again, there is much more in the ocean that goes beyond my imagination. And not knowing is what allow me to take the risk to plunge into the water with all the other drops and see where we can go together.
“Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret,
and in exchange gain the Ocean.
Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honor,
and in the arms of the Sea be secure.
Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An Ocean wooing a drop!
In God’s name, in God’s name, sell and buy at once!
Give a drop, and take this Sea full of pearls.” ― Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi
You’ve probably read about the famous “10,000-hour rule”. It is widely used by many speakers and motivators. This rule says that to achieve mastery in any field, you must be ready to commit to at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
Defined by the journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”, the 10,000-hours rule is based on a study on violinists conducted in 1993. According to that study, the best artists had dedicated at least 10,000 hours to the relentless refinement of their talent.
Over the years the 10,000-hour rule has become very popular but has also received much criticism. In fact, it seems to suggest that practice and discipline are the only ways to reach excellence, placing the person’s talent and uniqueness in the background.
Recently, psychologist Brooke Macnamara of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland decided to repeat part of the 1993 study. Its results show that the 10,000 rule is quite an oversimplification.
In fact, among highly qualified performers, the amount of practice seems irrelevant. Every one of them has practised a lot and keep practising even once reached excellence. Therefore there must be other factors to explain why someone reaches higher levels of mastery.
Macnamara states that “When it comes to human skill, a complex combination of environmental factors, genetic factors and their interactions explains the performance differences across people.“
Therefore, discipline is fundamental, but not sufficient to determine the final result. It must be combined with some other factors that, through disciplined practice, unleash the full potential of a person.
Another study, done in the 90s, again in the field of music, can give us a hint on where we should look at.
In 1997, Professor Gary McPherson of the University of Melbourne decided to do an unconventional experiment to answer a simple question: Why do some children are quicker than others at learning an instrument?
For his study, he randomly picked 157 children between 7 and 9 years old. For years, he followed and monitored them, keeping track of their progress using biometric tests, recording their practice sessions and doing lots of interviews.
In particular, a question proved to be very insightful.
During the first interview, even before the begin of the first lesson, McPherson asked each child: “How long do you think you’ll play your new instrument?“
Based on the answers, the children were divided into three groups depending on the length of their commitment: short, medium and long term.
What surprised McPherson was that the students of the group that had foreseen a long-term commitment improved at speed four times higher than the children of the group who planned to engage only in the short term. Even if they were doing the same number of hours of practice with the same frequency.
There it was, the most decisive element in defining the speed of learning in the kids was not the IQ or the sense of rhythm, or any particular motor skills. None of that.
The defining element was the perception of themselves that each child had, even before starting to play any note.
According to McPherson’s study, what was making some students better at learning an instrument was a voice within them saying “I’m a musician” instead of just “I’ll learn to play an instrument“.
The learning here is that when our actions are an expression of our identity, they are much more powerful and sustainable in the long term. Even for 10,000 hours.
To achieve excellence and success, we must, therefore, combine identity and discipline. Identity to design the direction and discipline to pursue it until we reach the aspired success.
We must, hence, develop what Don Miguel Ruiz calls the discipline of the warrior in his book, “The Four Agreements”.
“The discipline of being ourselves, whatever happens.“
Maybe, for 10,000 hours until we fully realise who we are.
Have you ever paid attention to how places affect how you show up, on your identity?
Think about the places where you live and work. Are there places where it’s easy to get things done and others where you struggle? Places when you are smart and others where your brain is sluggish?
Is there a place where you feel energized while others drag every drop of energy out of you?
A place is more than what you see.
A place has its own stories. It has its own energy. Its own consciousness.
A consciousness shaped, little by little, by the lives and stories that happened in and through it.
That makes the energy of the place where you are stronger than yours.
You should never underestimate the power and influence that the environment has over you.
In 1936, psychologist Kurt Lewin wrote that “Behavior is a function of the Person in their Environment“. We may resist for a while, but over time the environment will shape our behaviours.
So, if you don’t feel energized where you are. If you feel you’re not the real you. Then maybe, you need to tune in and get out to clear your energy.
The drawing on this post is part of the BeTheChange project, a magical set of cards sourced by my dear friend Vanessa of Crafting Connection. These cards are a wellspring of inspiration for my personal reflections and for my work as a coach and facilitator. Check out her work and discover their power.