One Apple A Day #546 – I am only a visitor

I took a few trains these last two days, and I’ve spent some time waiting at the stations. To most, the time spent waiting in stations and airports is probably time wasted. Not for me.

I’ve always been fascinated by stations and airports.
Maybe because I love the space in-between things.
And a train station is exactly that; an interstitial space in-between an arrival and a departure.

One of my favourite games is to sit in the hall of a station to observe the people around me and imagine their stories. Each person is a universe of experiences, emotions, relationships.

Where are they going? Where are they coming from? What are they leaving behind, or what are they going towards? Are they fugitives or seekers?

Each one unique and yet all sharing the same humanity. A myriad of different voices in one infinite conversation.

This incredible constellation of diverse stories all in the same place is a beautiful reminder that we are all unique and all one at the same time.

Isn’t that magical?

I’m writing this in the hall of a small train station.
When I started writing, this place was crowded with people commuting to work and school. In less than 15 minutes, everyone is gone, and now I’m alone in the waiting room with my small bag. And I just remembered a short story I read a while ago.

In the last century, a tourist from the States visited the famous Polish Rabbi Hafez Hayyim.

He was astonished to see that the Rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books. The only furniture was a table and a bench.

“Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist.

“Where is yours?” replied Hafez.

“Mine? But I’m only a visitor here.”

“So am I,” said the Rabbi.

One Apple A Day #545 – maybe we should

Maybe we should/could …” is an expression we often use when we discuss changes we would like to see in our communities, organisations or groups.

Maybe we should be more grateful. Maybe we should do more of this. Maybe we shouldn’t say that.

And so on.

Most of the time, they are beautiful ideas that, if implemented, they would create a positive impact. However, they rarely get done.
How can I expect something to happen if I am not even sure if I want to do it. “Maybe” and “should” are two words that speak about possibilities, not intentions. And the use of “we” as the subject says that I’m hesitant in taking responsibility for what I’m proposing.

So, here’s my commitment. When I am in any meeting brainstorming about ideas and solutions to change, I commit to avoiding the expression “maybe we should/could …“. Instead, I can start my proposals for new actions with “I want … ” or “I’ll do … “.

Other ideas on how we can replace “maybe we should“?

One Apple A Day #544 – no meaning

A few days ago, during a casual conversation, someone asked: “why do wasps exist?“. It was an innocent question due to the annoying presence of some wasps in the house. But that question made me think, so I asked a bit more. We discuss the fact that wasps, apparently, have not a known role like bees, they don’t make honey.
I realise how human-centric is our vision of the universe. So, I push the conversation a bit further asking: “interesting, so why do we exist?“.
Obviously, I wasn’t expecting an answer. We just laugh together about the whole conversation. Plus, a quick search on google showed us that wasps, like bees, pollinate plants and flowers. So, they have a vital role in nature.

But the role of wasps is not the point. The point is that when we ask about the meaning of life or of anything in the universe, we are pointing our attention in the fruitless direction. It is only when we look inward, and we ask ourselves what meaning we want to give to our presence in the universe, that we take responsibility for our lives and in the end, find freedom.

“We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.” – Viktor E Frankl

One Apple A Day #543 – take the first step

This morning I’m really stuck.
My mind keeps jumping from one small idea to another without finding anything to kindle the writing process.
But the time for this practice is limited, so I can’t hesitate anymore. I need to put some words into this post.
How often our action is weakened by the lack of clarity?
If we don’t have clarity about our destination, we are unable to take the first step.
We are stuck.
Like me this morning before a new empty page.
How do you get out of this situation?
Me, I start by accepting that I don’t have clarity about where I want to go.
And then, I do something.
Whatever, if I don’t know where I want to go, then a step in any direction is a good option. The worst that can happen is that I discover that I moved in the wrong direction and that I need to change my path. That’s a valuable lesson.
And if I move from where I am, I’ll be able to see things from a different perspective and what was previously invisible may appear before my eyes.
So, let’s take this first step.

One Apple A Day #542 – the wonder within

In over two years of this morning practice, I had all kinds of days.
Some days I woke with so many ideas in my head that I don’t know where to start. Other days words flow out so quickly that I struggle to squeeze everything in a15 minutes writing slot. There are also days where I know what I want to write about, but I couldn’t find the words. And then there are days when my mind is dry, and I stare at the screen without any clues on where to start.
Luckily for me, I have the BeTheChange cards with me all the time.
What I do is to pick one and see what kind of emotions and thoughts the card generates in me.
There is one card in particular that I love. It’s a colourful card with the following words: “Kidfulness, remaining curious”.
The funny thing is that in many months using these cards, this one never came out. Never.

This morning is one of those in which I have an idea, but I couldn’t find the words. Yesterday I had a few conversations about the power of art. So, I woke up and I wanted to write about art and artists. But I didn’t know where to start.
No problem, I thought. I took my deck of cards, shuffle them as usual, and one fell.
So, now I have the idea of art in my mind and the word kidfulness before my eyes.
And I feel that there is a powerful connection there. That curiosity that comes from the need to find meaning in everything without knowing anything.
Artists and children teach us that the wonder comes from within.

One Apple A Day #541 – release

A dear friend once told me that if you keep a bow always under pressure, it becomes less effective and may even break. So, it’s essential to loosen the tension of a bow when we’re not using it.

Yesterday I had a quite intense day with many fruitful conversations and productive working sessions but without any proper breaks.
When the evening arrived, my mind was exhausted, and I couldn’t think clearly.
Luckily for me, I went out to chill out with two fantastic friends. Nothing fancy, just three friends having some beer, cracking a few jokes and sharing some good laughs. Those two hours of lightness recharged my batteries.
This morning I woke with some new ideas to work around some of the obstacles where I was stuck yesterday.

I’m now ready to stretch the bow again and throw some arrows.

One Apple A Day #540 – the joy of missing out

You’ve probably read about a thing called FOMO or Fear of missing out. It is – according to Wikipedia – “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.
This fear is made worse by social media, where we are regularly exposed to the glittering life of others.
Crawling beneath this fear, there is the need to be seen and to be heard.

I thought I was free from this phenomenon until a friend made me realise that I may have a tendency to say yes to too many things. Sometimes, stretching myself a bit too much, until I feel guilty for not being able to keep what I promise.

Am I pushed but the fear of missing out something?

So, this morning I dug out a little more. I believe mine is a slightly different version of FOMO. I’m not worried to miss out an opportunity to be seen. I’m afraid that I may miss out a chance to find meaning.
So, this morning I’m writing this to remind myself that in the search for meaning, what we don’t do is as important than what we choose to do.

One Apple A Day #539 – being silly

“It is well known that humour, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.” – by Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning

Here I am, with three minutes left of my fifteen-minutes writing slot and nothing to share. This morning I wanted to write about serious silliness – one of BeTheChange cards – and about the importance of infusing humour to our life.

But after more than ten minutes tapping on the keyboard, the result was a sequence of severe sentences. And it struck me how often, in the effort of being playful and seriously silly, I end up being ridiculously serious. It happens anytime I approach playfulness from the doing perspective. As a result, I bring my heaviness into what should be a playful experience.
Being seriously silly, it’s an attitude, a state of the being that infuses everything we do.
What does it mean to do something with a playful attitude?

So, my invitation for today is to be a little silly while doing serious stuff.

One Apple A Day #538 – take care of your energy

This morning I woke up tired and sleepy.
It is like when you forget to plug the charger of your phone before going to sleep, and you wake up with less than 15% of power in your battery.
With such a low level of energy, I’m struggling to keep the focus. Anytime I close my eyes, my mind goes adrift, and I have to make an effort to bring it back here and now.
However unpleasant, this condition is a great reminder of the importance of managing my energy.
There are plenty of books, strategies and tools to improve the way we manage time. But what about our energy? If we have the time to do something, but we’re out of energy, we won’t make anything remarkable.
Having the energy we need when we need it, it’s vital to do what we want and to enjoy doing it. When I talk about “energy” I mean physical energy. We have only one battery that serves our body, our mind and our heart. And our mind is voracious; it consumes circa 25% of our energy despite being only 4% of our mass.
Like with any resource, we must learn how to recharge our energy and how to use it wisely.
But my fifteen-minute slot to write this is gone. Being low in energy, I couldn’t write much. So, I close this post with a question: how do you take care of your energy?

One Apple A Day #537 – it starts from not knowing

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” —Josh Billings

Yes, it happened to me many times. It still happens.
Let’s be honest, when reality doesn’t fit with what we know for sure, it’s more comfortable to lie to ourselves than challenge our truth.

The world is full of opportunities to learn and grow. But you’ll never begin a learning process unless you become aware and accept what you don’t know.

On the 20th February 1969, Martin M. Broadwell published on “The Gospel Guardian” the 17th and last part of a series titled “Teaching For Learning”. In his article, Broadwell introduced a new learning model that he labelled “the four levels of teaching“. Or, how it is often called “the four stages of competence“.
The founding idea of the model is that we ‘can’t being a learning journey if we are unaware of what or how much we know. He calls this first state of being unaware of not knowing the “unconscious incompetence” state. As we progress with our learning, we go through four psychological states until we reach the last one; the “unconscious competence” stage.

Let’s take a look at the four stages.

  1. Unconscious incompetence: at this stage, we don’t know how to do something, and we don’t recognise the deficit. Only when we become aware and accept our incompetence, we can move forward and start a learning process.
  2. Conscious incompetence: at this stage, we recognise our deficit, and we start the learning process to address that gap. Rules, forms and imitation are essential to building the competence we need.
  3. Conscious competence: we have finally acquired the skills we wanted, but to use them, we must be deliberate in our actions. The newly acquired skills may be now easy to use, but they require attention and for us to be conscious. Being conscious of how we use our capabilities allow us to go deeper and integrate the new behaviours in our identity. We are shifting from Doing to Being.
  4. Unconscious competence: finally, what we have learned become “second nature“. The new skills become part of our identity. We don’t do them anymore, they are integral to who we are.