One Apple A Day #897 – alpha? No, thank you.

You’ve probably heard about “alpha males”. 

It is a label used to identify dominant individuals within a group. Usually, they assert their power through sheer force and aggression.

This concept derives from wolves and, despite being widely used, it is misleading.

The term “alpha wolf” was first coined by Rudolph Shenkel, a biologist who studied wolves’ behaviour in a German zoo in 1944. According to his observations, male and female wolves seemed to compete to become dominant within their group. 

The term became popular in 1970, when American biologist David Mech published his best-selling book, The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species.

Shenkel studied wolves in captivity when adult males and females where force together. As Mech discovered while observing wild wolves in the Arctic, wolf packs don’t form in the wild as they do in captivity.

When they are free, wolves form around family units. Dad is the “alpha male”, and mom is the “alpha female”. The rest of the pack follows their lead, not because they are the toughest but because it’s mom and dad.

When he made this discovery, Mech dedicated years to debunk the use of this term. He even tried to have his book removed from sales, but the book is still printed and published.

Thanks to his effort, the scientific community has abandoned the concept, but it is still widely used in mainstream culture.

So, if you like to think of yourself as an “alpha male”, just remember that it describes captive and imprisoned beings’ behaviour.

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

One Apple A Day #896 – it’s a miracle

This morning I want to celebrate the simple fact that I exist.

What are the odds of me existing here and now?

From the big to the most insignificant ones, how many events had to align throughout millions of years only for me to be here and now?

One Dr Ali Binazir crunched some numbers and calculated that the probability of me existing is 1 in 102,685,000. To be honest, I think that the odds are way smaller, but it doesn’t change much. That number already means basically zero!

Yet, I am here, now.

I exist, love, think, feel, write, play, taste and much more.

Isn’t that a miracle?

Often I give my existence and the existence of the people I love for granted. As if being alive here and now is a given.

But it’s not.

So, this morning I just want to celebrate life and remind myself to be grateful.

“With shortness of breath

I’ll try to explain the infinite

How rare and beautiful it is to even exist”

from Saturn by Sleeping At Last

One Apple A Day #895 – between knowing and doing

Anytime I explore a new subject, I am amazed by the amount of knowledge already available. And I don’t have to spend weeks hiding in a library, consuming my fingertips on books. A few clicks on my browser, and I can have at my disposal way more knowledge I’ll ever be able to process.
With all this knowledge available, how comes we can’t solve all our problems? And how is it possible that we keep repeating the same mistakes?

The other day I was doing some research on a trendy topic; leadership.
The number of books, articles, essays, programs out there is massive. There are so many fantastic theories, models and methodologies available and accessible that one life won’t be enough to explore them all.
Yet, I can’t say we are surrounded only by great leaders.

The same can be said about a lot of topics.

So, what happens?

In Italy, we have a saying: “tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare”.

Literally, it says that between saying and doing lies the sea. It means that things are easier said than done.

We should probably change it into “tra sapere e fare c’è di mezzo il mare”.

There’s a long way between knowing and doing.

Our challenge is to close that gap.

One Apple A Day #894 – everyone has the power

Everyone has the power to affect the direction of an organization.

from Be The Change cards by Vanessa Jane Smith

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the “hold on” attitude I often noticed in many contexts in this pandemic era. I’m aware, though, that it’s not just due to the pandemic. How many people do you hear complaining about how things are and expecting someone or something to solve everything in one go?

This attitude has a name, the Silver Bullet Syndrom. It is the belief that one big change – a new tool, methodology or structure – will miraculously or magically solve all problems.

Unfortunately, not only this assumption is almost invariably wrong. It also creates a sort of paralysis holding back people from seeing all the many small changes they could implement. Sure, a little initiative won’t change much, but the results can be remarkable when many small changes compound.

I notice this often in organizations. 

Unhappy people waiting for their leader to magically solve everything. Only to be disappointed most of the time, even when a big change happens.

Benjamin Hardy suggests that we should design our behaviours on our future self. That means understanding who we want to become tomorrow and begin today to act as if we were already that person. This way, our behaviours will shape our personality.

However, in his book Principles of Topological Psychology, published in 1936, psychologist Kurt Lewin defined a simple yet powerful equation: Behaviour is a function of the Person in his or her Environment, or B = f (P,E)

So, as we design our behaviours on the person we want to become, we should also develop them according to the environment we want to shape. 

Just try asking yourself the following questions.

How is the company or environment in which I want to work? 

What are the key behaviours or habits in such an environment? 

What is holding me back from implementing these behaviours or habits today?

And then go for it. Act as if you were already working in your dream organisation. It won’t change things instantly, obviously, but give it enough time, and it will change everything for you and others.

Remember, every action you take is a vote for the type of organization you wish to work in.

Image from Be The Change cards.

One Apple A Day #893 – I’m back

Isn’t it a bit ironic that the last apple was about health, and then the day I was sick, and I had to pause from this practice for a whole week?
As if my body wanted to remind me that to write or think about something is not the same as doing it.

A lesson is learned only once it becomes actions.
And my body reminded me just that.

I was so focused on some aspects of my life that I forgot about others.
I wasn’t whole. As a result, my defences were low, and I catch a terrible cold that forced me to stay away from those things that were so important and urgent.

And you know what?

The world didn’t stop.

While I was lying on the couch thinking of all the things I couldn’t do, the world kept going on. Some of the things I thought were so important and urgent were not. Projects that I thought would stop without me kept going on.

How many weights am I carrying that I don’t have to?
How often do I take ownership of something only to feel important?

I always believed there is great power in simplicity and subtraction.
Yet, it’s not so easy to transform such a belief into behaviours.
Luckily, my body sometimes is way smarter than me.