A few weeks ago I had an inspiring conversation about playfulness with my dear friend Luca. While we were reflecting on what “being playful” means to us, we realised that in playing, like in every human experience, there are both form and essence.
Because the form is the only visible one and the easier to model, we usually focus on it. It is what most of the companies did years ago when “gamification” became one of the main buzzwords in the digital industry. I did it too.
My feeling is that the “gamification” approach didn’t deliver the expected impact because it was all about form. We were trying to apply the typical visible elements of games to other areas. But the essence wasn’t there. We were just asking people with a business mindset to use a playful form.
What could happen if we do the reverse? If we infuse a playful mindset into other forms?
For Luca and I, a playful mindset or attitude is about being always curious, making everything experiential, seeing everything as an opportunity to learn and discover, focusing on the act of playing more than on the outcome, having fun together.
What about you? What is the essence of playing for you?
And what would happen if you infuse that essence in your work?
You’ve probably heard or read about the “board of directors” or “supervisory board” concerning big companies.
A board is a group of persons having supervisory or advisory powers over a company. They usually hire, support and supervise the people leading the company, the CEO and the executive directors.
When I think at a board the image that comes to my mind is one of a council of wise and elderlies people. I’ve never been part of a board, but I’m pretty sure my image is not accurate.
Anyway, the point of this post is that I believe that everyone should have a board. A council of wise people ready to give advice and support.
How easier would it be if you could ask for advice when you have to make a tough choice?
So, every year I appoint my “supervisory board”, or as I prefer to call it, my “life council”.
Within there are a few people that inspire me and to which I turn to in search of wisdom.
When I have to take a tough decision, or I don’t know what to do, I summon my council and ask for advice.
In my council, there can be people that I never met such as writers, historical figures or fictional characters. There are also people I know, but they don’t need to know that they are part of my council.
It is, indeed a virtual council.
Fancy creating your own life council? Just take a piece of paper and jot down the name of a few people whose words and actions are sources of wisdom for you. Then, anytime you feel stuck just open that piece of paper and ask yourself “what would they do in this situation?”.
Be aware, they can just give advice.
The responsibility for your choice is all yours.
Sometimes all we need is just a nudge.
A little push to break the inertia and start moving.
I discovered it soon after I decided to write every morning.
The first days I was so excited that it was easy to find something to write about. And to be completely honest, I just wanted to write, so I wasn’t paying much attention to what I was writing about.
Soon, I found myself consuming most of my writing time to search for something to write about.
In the beginning, I thought that I needed a topic. A destination or at least a direction for my words. But this search wasn’t easy and, even when I found a direction, I wasn’t satisfied with the final result. Having the end in mind was narrowing my creativity, and the outcome wasn’t very inspired.
Then I discovered The Write Practice and its prompts. A prompt is a great way to inspire the writing process. It gives you a starting point, not the destination. It’s a little push, so you start moving, but being free to go anywhere.
Anything can be a prompt; a word, a question, a picture, a sound.
You just need to be willing to surrender to it, open the gate and go with the flow. Prompts are great for writing, in conversations, in self-reflection.
It’s a way to start without the end in mind.
Self-doubts are thieves.
They sneak into your mind, and they steal your self-confidence and your creativity.
It’s an awful feeling to stare at a blank page realising that you’re as empty at that page.
Sometimes life tests us.
Things don’t go exactly as planned.
The expected results are not coming.
The self-doubts lurk in.
And before we realise it, we are questioning everything.
I know the feeling.
I’ve been there often.
It still happens.
We all have moments of doubts and fear when we question what we do and who we are. I used to rely on self-reflection to find my way out of those moments. But in doing so, I was adding even more questions and making the hole bigger.
I was feeding my fear.
Now, when it happens, when the self-doubts arrive I ground myself in my rituals. I stop the thinking that is just feeding my self-doubts and rely on the habits and structures that I created when my self-confidence and my creativity were full and energised.
“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralysing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can’t’ once and for all.” – Vincent van Gogh
Years ago I went to a conference about eyesight. Among the various information that I’ve learned that day, one really surprised me.
When we discuss eyesight and its related problems, we put most of our attention into our focal vision, yet it covers only 5 to 8 degrees out of the almost 180º of the human field of view.
We see most of the world through our peripheral view.
I think it has to do with our hunting heritage. If we want to snatch the prey, we must entirely focus on it.
The focal mode is almost exclusively visual, while the peripheral vision acts in concert with all the other senses. When we focus all our energy on the focal vision, we reduce our ability to perceive the world.
The other day I was talking with an old friend about the beginning of our careers almost two decades ago. He reminded me of the endless and boundaryless conversations we used to have at crazy times of the day or night. We were able to spend hours talking about impossible things and visionary stuff disconnected from reality. Though, a lot of great ideas that flew into our work came out of those conversations.
Unfortunately, because of their nature, nowadays those conversations can’t find space inside our work time. We are so focused on the outcome, the prey, that we put all our energy in the focal vision becoming blind to most of what’s happening around us.
This ability to have an extreme narrowed focus has surely improved our performances, but I believe it is affecting our creativity.
Those open conversations were our way of nurturing our peripheral vision.
Are you still able to find space for open and aimless conversations?
“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” — C.G. Jung
We all want to be loved, liked and appreciated.
The desire to belong is one of the basic human needs.
Sometimes thou, this can get in the way of our ability to live fully.
Particularly at this moment in history, when we are all overexposed.
We begin to focus more on being, or I should better say appearing, good than on being real.
At least, this is what happened to me.
Growing up I’ve always been a good guy.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing.
But at some point, I got stuck in that role.
I believed that being “the good guy” was the reason why people loved me.
So, I did that.
For the first thirty years of my life, I sealed any potential shadows away.
I wanted everyone to see only the lights.
Including me, and that’s the worse part.
I was deliberately ignoring my shadows.
But they didn’t go away just because I ignored them.
And in doing so, I was neglecting my wholeness.
It didn’t last.
You can’t sustain an entire life without substance, without being whole.
I had the opportunity to restart, and I started by acknowledging and taking care of my shadows.
It was nice to be good.
But it’s even better to be real.
It’s often a surprise when you meet, in person or through stories, the man or woman behind the artist.
I remember some encounters after which I was perplexed, asking myself “How can this person be the same who wrote those beautiful and inspiring songs?”
On the surface, this distance between the person and the artist may seem a lack of authenticity. But if we look a bit deeper, we can see that they are just different vibrations of the same energy.
Human beings have the potential to do things that are bigger than themselves. Things that go beyond the limitations, weakness and miseries of their human form.
This ability is more evident in artists, but it is innate in everyone.
We all have the power to go beyond our human form.
To make our actions and words bigger than ourselves.
We are all artists.
Are your actions and words bigger than yourself?
Are you inspiring and uplifting yourself and others beyond your limitations?
This morning I woke up with the awareness that I don’t know.
It was a bit scary at the beginning.
Then I took a deep breath, and I decided to acknowledge my not knowing.
I don’t have all the answers, and I will never have all the answers.
Not knowing makes me feel free.
I don’t know.
It is also an invitation to myself.
An invitation to embrace not knowing and be curious.
To open up to the wisdom of the world and the beauty of humanity.
So, I won’t get trap in the urge of knowing what is coming, but I will allow for the answers to unfold while I move forward.
Can you think of someone more creative than kids playing? They can transform every object in a new game, any space into a new world.
Then something happens while we grow up.
Studies are showing that our creativity dry out while we go through school and when we become adults, for must of us, it looks like it’s gone.
We get stuck in the logic trap.
We do things only when they are reasonable.
When we can predict the outcome. And in doing so, we become blind to what is possible beyond what is probable.
Unfortunately, when we are called to face the unpredictable, some crack. They can’t see a way forward, and so they hide moving backwards.
But we are all born creative.
Creativity is there.
It doesn’t disappear.
We just need to create space in our life for creativity to expand.
When I feel stuck in something, and my mind can’t find a way forward, I ask myself questions such as:
What would I do if this was just a game?
What would I do If I know I can’t fail?
A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. — Steven Pressfield
Sometimes all it takes it’s just to begin.
To do something.
To write a word.
To draw a line.
To say a word.
Whatever as long as you set things in motion.
Sometime our goals may be scary.
When I was leaving in London, I used to go out running early in the morning.
Midway in my usual path, there was this beautiful place called Primrose Hill. As the name suggests, it’s a nice little hill from the top of which you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city.
Little but with a steep slope.
I knew that I wanted to see the dawn from up there but, being midway in my running I was scared by the climb.
For a while, I got there only to take a look and then start my way back.
Then one morning, inspiring by something I read, I decided to go for it.
That day I didn’t look at the top, at my destination.
I knew very well where it was.
Instead, I kept my gaze on my feet.
One step after the other.
A bit worried at the beginning but, in the end, it was just about taking a small step. And another small step.
And then I gained momentum, and before realising it, there were no more steps to take.
I was at the top.
The city before me.
It’s great to have bold and audacious goals, but sometimes those same goals may stop us from acting.
Once the goal is set, stop thinking about it. Find the first small action you can take to go in the direction of your target and put all your attention on that. That step is all you have to worry about.
And once is done, move to the next one.
Keep focusing on your next step until you gained momentum.
And then you are unstoppable.
Ready to conquer your hill.