One Apple A Day #587 – the marshmallow

Do you know about the Marshmallow Test?

It is an experiment on delayed gratification conducted in the late sixties at by at Stanford University psychologist Walter Mischel.
The test was straightforward. A group of children are taken one by one into a room where there is marshmallow on the table. The tester tells them that they can eat the marshmallow, but if they wait for a short period without touching it, they will receive a second one.
Then the tester leaves the room for approximately 15 minutes, so the child is left alone with the marshmallow.
Some resisted until the tester came back and received the second marshmallow. Others gave up and ate the one they have in front of them.

The researchers kept monitoring the children while they were growing up. They found out that the ones who were able to resist the temptation of the immediate gratification and wait longer for the bigger reward ended up with better life outcomes according to many parameters.

I’m sure many different factors contribute to our outcomes in life, but I believe that the ability aim for the long run is a critical one.

Observing how people operate around me, including me, I can see how we are constantly pressured to favour instant gratification. It’s how everyone who has something to sell gets our attention.

What about you? Can you wait for the bigger prize?

One Apple A Day #586 – potato or egg?

“Boiling water will soften a potato but harden an egg.”

It’s great to study the lives of remarkable people. To learn about the strategies of the ones who inspire us. From their experiences, we can extract many useful ideas that can help us in our own life journey.

But there is a caveat.
For an idea to create a real impact in your life, you must be able to mould it around your unique identity.

We study successful people because we want what they have. But what they have is the result of what they did. And what they did is informed by who they are.

Your actions are more powerful when they are aligned with your identity.

So, the first step, as Socrates said, is to know yourself.
The second step is to know who you want to become.

Then you’ll have an inner compass that will help you navigate through the ocean of ideas and strategies from successful people. So you won’t do what others do. You’ll create your own unique way.

One Apple A Day #585 – rituals and lines

As you probably know from some of my past posts, I’m a petrolhead. Or gearhead, depending on where you’re from.
I love motorcycle and car racing.
In a race, both machines and people are pushed to their limit.
When you’re going at 300Kmh on a track, there is no time to think about your next move or how to approach the next turn.

If you listen to a racer interview, you may hear them talking about “lines”, or better, the ideal line or trajectory.
On every track, there is usually one ideal line. It is the one that maximizes the speed in every point of the circuit while minimizing the distance covered. Following the perfect line make a massive difference between a winning lap and a poor one.

So, every racer spends some time to learn that line. Finding it, it’s a combination of science, knowledge, feelings and plenty of practice.

But even when you have found that perfect line, it’s not easy to stay on it for a whole race. Circumstances evolve during a race: there are all the other racers aiming at that line too, the changing weather, the evolving grip of the tarmac and the tyres, and the increasing fatigue both physical and mental.

This is why racers need clues. They fix in their memories a set of visual clues along the circuit that they use to quickly understand if they are on the perfect line. After a while, they are not even conscious of those clues. They just sense them and then act accordingly.

Rituals for me are like those clues.
I design them to help me stay on my ideal line. The one that connects me with the person I want to become. Every time something pulls me away from my ideal line, my rituals help me getting back to it.

One Apple A Day #584 – Own your failures

We all make mistakes.
Some are small, others have a significant impact.
Sometimes nobody notices, other times they get all the spotlight.
Sometimes it’s our fault, other times it just happens.
We all pass through some failures in life.
Or at least, I know I did, and I’ll do again. Many times.

What I found to be very important is what we do with our errors and failures.

We can make excuses. I was great at this when I was a teenager (that means until my late thirties). I was able to find the most creative explanations to divert the blame on anything else but me.
And things didn’t improve when I began blaming myself.
The outcome was the same; I was telling myself that I wasn’t in charge of my life.
A comforting but dangerous lie.

Things really change when we decide to own our failures.
When we take responsibility for them and accept that we are human and imperfect. We make mistakes, it is part of the growing journey.
When we own them, we can learn from them.
There is this one crucial question that I ask myself when I fail; What can I learn from this failure/defeat/error?

Every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow, but only if you own it.

Oh yes, you can also ignore them and keep going through life as if nothing happened. I tried this route, and it worked for a while, but they never really went away. At some point, they always came back to haunt me.

One Apple A Day #583 – walk the talk

They say that words create worlds. That’s why it is essential to take care of the quality of our conversations, they are incredibly powerful.

But it’s when our words transform into actions that they realise their full potential. It is through our behaviours that the world we create manifests itself into reality. It is so easy to forget this part.
Words are seductive. Our own in particular. Sometimes we get caught in them, and we forget to act. At least I do.

The other day, I shared some compelling idea with a friend only to realise later that I wasn’t following my own advice.
It was a revealing moment.

So, this morning, I am having an honest conversation with myself.
About the things that I’m not doing.

What world do I really want to create?
Who do I need to be to create that world?
What would that version of me do in that world?

And then do it.

Acting every day as if that world already exists to give it a chance to manifest.

Every choice we make, every word we say, every action we do, we are casting a vote for the world we want to live in, and for the person that we want to become.

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

One Apple A Day #581 – back to the future

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” — Heraclitus

Two weeks ago, I moved into my family’s home.
I left this house 18 years ago and this small town four years later.
After that, I’ve been to many places, I’ve lived in a few different countries, I’ve met many fantastic people, and I’ve been blessed with a lot of incredible experiences. Some good, others not but all have contributed to me becoming who I am today.

And now I’m here, again.
Everything should be familiar around here.
But it’s not.
From the very first moment, I felt a weight on my chest.
Something was off, but I couldn’t understand what.
It took me a while to realise that my mind was picking a few known inputs and trying to retrieve existing patterns from my memory.
But it wasn’t working.
Those patterns are not mine anymore. New ones need to emerge.
Only when I stop trying to go back, and I decided to move forward that weight started to lift from my chest.

In the end, we are born to move forward.

Literally.

The human gait is designed to propel a person forward.

 

One Apple A Day #580 – the paradox of freedom

This morning I picked a card with a yellow bird flying away from an open cage, towards its freedom. With the image, there are also a few coloured words saying “Engaging + Freeing all the energy!!!“.

Yesterday, a dear friend reminded me that sometimes, driven by the fear to lose our freedom, we build our very own cage around us.

It is a kind of paradox about freedom. And if you’ve read me before, you know my fascination with paradoxes.

The more you’re afraid to lose your freedom, the more you lose it.
You are so suspicious of any potential cage that you trap yourself within an invisible one.

I’ve seen this thing happening many times to friends, and I did it too. I carefully avoided commitments, I steered away from some choices only for fear of finding myself trapped into something from which there was no way out.
And in doing so, step by step, I was creating an invisible cage.
One from which there really no easy way out.

So, I think my personal learning here is that freedom must not be protected, it must be lived and engaged fully.

One Apple A Day #579 – Let them be

The other day I went outside into the shared backyard. The neighbour was there, staring at some plant that he is cultivating.
When he noticed my presence, he called me over to show me something.
He was observing a pumpkin plant growing and climbing a net. Its stems were crawling on the net, curling and revolving around the wires. The plant was clinging on the net to expand and stretch its branches.

“See? She knows what to do. Nobody teaches her, she just knows what to do. Plants are si wise.”

I was listening to the old man while observing that small sign of nature’s wisdom.

Plants know what to do. Unfortunately too often their natural wisdom doesn’t match with our desires.
We want more and faster.
We seek order.
But nature it’s often slow and messy. So, instead of letting the plants follow their natural wisdom, we force them into our idea of order. We impose our control on them.

While I was there, talking with the old man, I realised how often we do the same with anything that doesn’t fit our idea of how things should be.
Like with kids anytime we want for them to behave like adults.

I just had the fortune to witness the incredible beauty that sparks from a group of people when you give them the space to shine. It was amazing.

Sometimes, the best thing we can do to foster the culture of an organisation is nothing.
We should just step aside and, for that liminal place, hold the space where the natural wisdom and beauty of the people can emerge.
It’s not easy, I know.
It requires a lot of trust and strength.
But when you do it, magic happens.

Just let them be.

One Apple A Day #578 – practice and boredom

Mastery requires practice.

Simple though not easy.

I often use this quote from Bruce Lee, who knows something about mastery:

“I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.”

The problem with practice and discipline is that it gets boring. At some point, sooner or later, the feeling of boredom will appear.

“The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.” — James Clear

What can you do then? How can you keep showing up despite the lack of impulse?

I wrote almost 600 posts. The road to 10,000 is still very long but, I already received the visit of boredom. Some morning, when ideas elude me or when I’m tired, it’s not easy to open the laptop and write.
But I’ve learned something from those mornings.

The first and most important thing that I’ve learned is that your practice must be about developing your identity, not achieving your goals. Goals are temporary, and they work very well as motivators when they are achievable in a reasonable amount of time. They are great to start something, but not to sustain it. If you want to build a habit for the long game, you must make it about your identity, your growth as a person.

The second lesson is variety. Add small changes to keep it compelling. In my case, I write every day about something different. This makes the practice more exciting.

The third things I’ve learned is to not get too attached to the practice. It’s not about the habit itself, it’s about what I will become through the practice. So, I’ve decided to stay away from this practice every weekend.