One Apple A Day #689 – find your pace

Last days have offered me a huge opportunity to revaluate my relationship with productivity. 

As I already wrote, it’s an uncomfortable subject for me. 

I would never describe myself as a productive person, that’s for sure. Yet, it’s a subject that fascinated me, maybe precisely because it’s not a natural thing for me.

This morning, while I was doing a simple but effective practice to synch movements and breathing, a memory came back; my first motorbike riding course on track. 

The program was straightforward. Six students, one instructor, a 20 minutes session on the track followed by 40 minutes offtrack to analyse what we did, repeated for five times.

During the session on the track, one of us was leading the group for two laps with the instructor just behind observing. Then all the others. After two laps, the one in front went to the back of the group. 

When it was my time to lead the group, I wanted to impress the instructor straight away. So, I gave my best; full-throttle on the straight, braking hard before each turn and then accelerating as much as I could. 

At the end of my two laps, I was exhausted but very proud of myself. When we stop for the debrief, I was drench in sweat but happy with my performance. The instructor feedback was like a punch to the guts. I was one of the slowest. Sure, I was fast on the straight, but that was useless, considering that there was one short straight but plenty of turns.

On the next session, the instructor forced me to do my two laps, always keeping the same gear. That meant that I couldn’t accelerate much and I couldn’t go too fast on the straight. But, surprise, during the debrief, I discovered that my lap time was way better.

Once my obsession with speed was out of the picture, I found my rhythm and with it the performance. 

This story reminds me of two valuable lessons, that too often I forget.

One is to look at performance, and productivity, more holistically. If we focus only on one aspect, we may illude ourselves that we’re going faster while we are just wasting energy.

The second lesson is that when we find our rhythm, we use better our resources and we can keep performing high for longer. 

One Apple A Day #688 – do what you love

Days are fading away, and every morning this feels a little less transient than the day before. While I loosen my grip on the past on one side, I’m surely not getting any more clarity about the future.
I feel as if I stranded in the present. Though, I’m not worried.
At the contrary, I am surprisingly relaxed.
However, this is not what I had in mind when I wrote the title of this post.
That is also a new thing. Usually, I add the title at the end, but it came up doing my stretching, and here I am.

I have only two minutes to give it a meaning. Or maybe I already did because writing is what I love.

You see, one of the questions I ask myself often these days is how to use this time for the best. What should I learn so I’ll be ready when this thing is over? Where should I put my attention so I can secure a prosperous future after all of this? What is the right thing I can to today so I’ll be ahead tomorrow?
And so on.
Do you have similar questions running in your mind?

Last weekend I finally accepted that I know nothing about the future. I know, there are plenty of forecasts out there, many experts are preparing all kind of scenarios. But here I’m talking about me.
And I know nothing about what’s ahead for me.
So, anything is possible.
Any new skill may or may not be the right one.
At this point, I can’t think of anything better than to do what I love, now.
What makes me happy today.
What makes my heart sing with joy today.

One Apple A Day #681 – practice boredom

My country is on full lockdown. People are confined within their houses, most businesses are closed or operating at reduced speed, kids are home from school. All the things with which we were used to filling up our days are no more available. I heard many friends talking about boredom and the struggle to find something to keep them and their loved ones, in particular children, engaged.

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

This quote comes from one of my favourite book of the last year; Atomic Habits by James Clear. 

I think we all agree that practice is the way to achieve mastery in anything. A lot of practice. 

The problem is that the more you practice something, the more it becomes boring. What was exciting at the beginning, after a while becomes a tedious routine. Our interest fades away, and we become easy prey for distractions. 

Learning to deal with boredom can make the difference in becoming who we want to become.

That is why, as Clear says, “you have to fall in love with boredom.” 

Now we have this unique opportunity to practice boredom and learn to love it. Something that will probably make a significant difference in the new normality in which we will all live after this extraordinary situation.

One Apple A Day #680 – demanding situations, choices and freedom

“I suppose the role of character is for the individual to rise to a situation. If it were not for the situation, we would never have heard of him. So that you might say that character is the product of an exceptional demand by the situation upon human ability. I think the ability of the average man could be doubled if it were demanded, if the situation demanded.” — Will Durant

Will Durant was an American historian, philosopher and writer. With his wife, he wrote The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes covering the whole story of humanity. The words opening this post are extracted from an interview in which he shared his thoughts on thoughts on the “Great Men and Women” in history. The heroes, the ones who shaped history and whose lives we study in the hope to become better.

In the same interview, he said that “the hero is a product of a situation rather than the result being a product of the hero. It is demand that brings out the exceptional qualities of man.

I love the idea of the hero as someone cut from a different cloth, with exceptional skills, wit and brilliance. 

However, I know we are all made of the same substance. I know we all have within us the potential to be heroes. And I know that hard times, like the one we are living now, can bring out the hero and the heroine from every man and woman. But it can also bring out the worst, the villain.

What makes the difference is a small choice. The choice of how we want to respond to the challenge.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor E Frankl

One Apple A Day #672 – I am the one

We are all living, without doubts, a challenging situation. What is happening is shaking the foundations of our world at all levels; personal, professional, individual, social, economical. Our habits, routines and rituals have been disrupted. Most of the cues and frames through which we were able to read the reality around us, are useless now.

At least, this is what is happening to me. 

And I’ll be honest. 

There are moments, during the day in which I feel lost and powerless. It looks like no matter what we do, things keep getting worse. The flood of news and messages is not helping for sure. 

This morning I woke and realised that this tension is getting under my skin. I slept with my jaw tight, not a good sign.

So, this morning I enter my meditation with the only aim to relax, let go of the stress and find peace. 

And some words came up.

I am the one who’s asked to change and evolve.”

When I opened my eyes, I remember one of my all-time favourite books, “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” 

So, my question for today is “How can I change to thrive in this challenging time?

One Apple A Day #671 – Run Baby Run

My life is blessed by the presence of fantastic people with I can engage in inspiring conversations.
The other day I was telling my dear friend Luca, that sometimes I feel like a child lost in a crowded place.
I don’t know if it ever happened to you as a kid. Or maybe you’ve witnessed it. A child going around with her parents in a crowded place, like a square or mall, side by side. Then, maybe because she sees something fascinating or her parents got distracted for a second, the child loses the grip on her parent’s hand. All of a sudden, the parents are nowhere to be seen. Everything becomes big, dark and scary. The child, frightened and desperate, begins running around frantically to find her parents.
Sometimes, I feel like a lost child. And I find my inner child running around looking for the adult version of myself.
Though, we all know that the best solution is to stand still and wait to be found, fear pushes me to run around. Wasting energy and time.

Luca helped me see that, in my running, there may also be the desire to get out of a painful situation as soon as possible. The faster I run, the sooner I’m out.
How often does it happen in life? Because we are in pain, we accelerate thinking that this way, the pain will go away sooner. Instead, too often, we are just wasting energy, and a pause would help us see things more clearly.

Then the day after Giulia reminded me that, in our continually accelerating and changing society, we teach people that they must go faster if they want to keep the pace.
Run baby run.
But is true? What if we challenge the idea that faster is better?
Maybe, if we try to stand still, breath and wait for a moment, the way forward will find us.

One Apple A Day #698 – a recipe for transformation

“First is an intention. 

Then a behaviour. 

Then a habit. 

Then a practice. 

Then second nature. 

Then it is simply who you are.” – Brendon Burchard

I love this recipe for transformation. It is not even a recipe, to be honest. In my experience, this is how life works. How we grow, and we become who we are. The things we love and the one we don’t. 

They all started with an intention. One that too often, we are not fully aware. And that intention triggers a behaviour that, through habit and repetition, becomes who we are. It’s a long and slow process, like a drop on a rock. When an apparently harmless and insignificant behaviour, becomes a habit, its power multiply and its effects compound.

The secret ingredient in this recipe is self-awareness. Having clarity of your intentions, observing your behaviours and deliberately choose the habits you want to cultivate. Creating the discipline to transform those habits into practices. The rest will be a natural outcome. And this is the beauty of this recipe for transformation. It’s not about making big things or incredibly disruptive actions. It’s about paying attention and being aware of the tiny things that count, and then let time do its magic.

One Apple A Day #696- my knowledge game

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.” — Albert Einstein

Sometimes I find myself trapped in the “I don’t know enough” game. It’s a game I play when I have to decide something or when I’m going through an uncomfortable experience.

It is usually triggered by fear or insecurity and fed be the illusion that, by knowing and understanding more, I’ll be able to make the right choice or to find peace. Too often, unfortunately, this game paralyses me. While I’m lost in the game of knowing more, the rest of the world keeps moving forward. 

Knowledge is power. But it’s only when we act that that power manifests in the world. When we don’t act, we are just wasting that power. So, what’s the point in accumulating power, if I miss the opportunity to use it?

Plus, knowledge and experience can quickly become a cage. They set the boundaries of what we can and can not do. Of what is possible. Children are great teachers in this. Because they know very little, they use their imagination to go beyond, explore and grow.

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” — Albert Einstein

One Apple A Day #690 – the river inside

I was born near a river. Our house was only a short walk from its banks. It’s a famous river for the history of Italy, but as a kid, I didn’t know it. To me, the river with all the woods around it was just my playground. We moved a bit farther when I was six, but anytime I was at my grandparents, I run back to her, the Piave, alone or following my grandfather in his fishing expeditions.

All these memories came back yesterday, while I was walking on the banks of another river. 

It is as if growing up near a river, create a natural connection with all of them. Anytime I’m close a stream of water something shift within me.

Everything disappears, and there are only the river and me.

The same happened yesterday.

We talked. Oh, the river can be an excellent partner for meaningful conversations. Like a blank sheet of paper or an empty document, the river is brutally honest. I ask him questions, and he mirrors them back to me. And I know I can’t hide because he knows when I’m lying.

One Apple A Day #688 – Inclinations

I’m surrounded by people who have a burning passion for something. Some knew who they wanted to become since they were kids. Some live their jobs as a mission and are never tired. Others have transformed a hobby into the core of their happiness and are willing to do crazy things for it. 

To witness how much their passions infuses their lives with meaning is awesome and inspiring.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been like this. I never had such a burning craving for something. I always found pleasure in doing many different things, but none of them was “the” thing.

This lack of a “driving passion” has been a burden for many years. I felt I was missing out on something. But the worst thing is that it makes it harder to make choices on how to move forward. When you don’t have a single force pulling you in one direction, options multiply, and you become engulfed in the paradox of choice.

Then one day, I can’t remember in which book, I read about the idea of “inclinations”. Each one of us has the potential to do everything at extraordinary levels, but we also have inclinations. You can think of them as the things that come more natural to do.

In my mind, I picture it as if I’m standing in the centre of a flat surface. Around me, an infinite number of paths leading in every direction. Some of those paths are flat, others go upward, and others have a downward inclination. Walking downward makes it easier to keep up with the practice and effort required to move on that path, so the possibilities to become good at it increase. Plus, you may gain momentum, and what started as an inclination can become a fulfilling passion.

If you can’t find your passion, think about all the things you are doing, or you did in the past. What came more natural for you? Maybe that’s an inclination worth exploring to see if you can gain momentum.