“On one level, as humans, we all have the same purpose: to develop and realize the infinite potential of consciousness. Yet we are all also particular manifestations of the creative life force and as such have unique contributions to make. Our task is to discern our uniqueness, use it as a source of creativity and then manifest it in the form of something new and innovative.” – from The Way of Nowhere
To discern our uniqueness. What a beautiful way to describe the quest to discover our purpose.
To discern is to walk through life with my senses open and receptive. It reminds me to observe myself while I chase my goals and aspiration looking for signs that reveal my uniqueness.
It also reminds me that purpose is not a statement. Something I find out and hang on the wall. It is a never-ending quest within and without.
It’s something I grow into, and something that grows within me at the same time.
Sometimes this process generates tensions. Between the urge for clarity and direction and the desire to explore the connection with something more profound.
I am in one of those moments of tension. And it’s from within this tension that I found this inspiring advice.
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms, or books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
“Mors tua vita mea” is an idiomatic expression in Latin, born in the Middle Ages.
The literal meaning is rather dramatic, “Your death is my life” and it refers to the fight for survival, like in a war or battle, where your defeat is necessary for my victory.
In a more broader sense, this phrase embodies the idea that one derives an advantage for someone else failure
Your loss is my gain.
It is an expression that distils competition, individualism and opportunism. It is often used to describe the harshness of life by those who feel life as a continuous struggle for survival.
A few events lately made me realize how many people are still trapped in the mindset of self-preservation. In a paradigm of scarcity, so we have to fight for the same resources. And the winners take it all.
I’m referring to good honest people, who have no desire to harm anyone. But when you’re trap in that mindset, you become blind to the consequences of your actions. Caught in the idea that everyone is willing to do everything to get what they want and protect who they love, you just do the same.
It’s the law of the jungle baby.
But we are not in the Middle Ages anymore. And the only outcome of approaching life with this mindset is that, in the end, everyone loses.
And I don’t believe having better rules, laws or structures will change anything. If we create new structures from an old mindset, we will just sustain that mindset.
What is needed is a shift in consciousness.
One that moves us from self-preservation to self-realization.
“The biggest challenge we face is shifting human consciousness, not saving the planet. The planet doesn’t need saving, we do.” — Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (a 19 years old activist)
You’ve probably read about the famous “10,000-hour rule”. It is widely used by many speakers and motivators. This rule says that to achieve mastery in any field, you must be ready to commit to at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
Defined by the journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”, the 10,000-hours rule is based on a study on violinists conducted in 1993. According to that study, the best artists had dedicated at least 10,000 hours to the relentless refinement of their talent.
Over the years the 10,000-hour rule has become very popular but has also received much criticism. In fact, it seems to suggest that practice and discipline are the only ways to reach excellence, placing the person’s talent and uniqueness in the background.
Recently, psychologist Brooke Macnamara of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland decided to repeat part of the 1993 study. Its results show that the 10,000 rule is quite an oversimplification.
In fact, among highly qualified performers, the amount of practice seems irrelevant. Every one of them has practised a lot and keep practising even once reached excellence. Therefore there must be other factors to explain why someone reaches higher levels of mastery.
Macnamara states that “When it comes to human skill, a complex combination of environmental factors, genetic factors and their interactions explains the performance differences across people.“
Therefore, discipline is fundamental, but not sufficient to determine the final result. It must be combined with some other factors that, through disciplined practice, unleash the full potential of a person.
Another study, done in the 90s, again in the field of music, can give us a hint on where we should look at.
In 1997, Professor Gary McPherson of the University of Melbourne decided to do an unconventional experiment to answer a simple question: Why do some children are quicker than others at learning an instrument?
For his study, he randomly picked 157 children between 7 and 9 years old. For years, he followed and monitored them, keeping track of their progress using biometric tests, recording their practice sessions and doing lots of interviews.
In particular, a question proved to be very insightful.
During the first interview, even before the begin of the first lesson, McPherson asked each child: “How long do you think you’ll play your new instrument?“
Based on the answers, the children were divided into three groups depending on the length of their commitment: short, medium and long term.
What surprised McPherson was that the students of the group that had foreseen a long-term commitment improved at speed four times higher than the children of the group who planned to engage only in the short term. Even if they were doing the same number of hours of practice with the same frequency.
There it was, the most decisive element in defining the speed of learning in the kids was not the IQ or the sense of rhythm, or any particular motor skills. None of that.
The defining element was the perception of themselves that each child had, even before starting to play any note.
According to McPherson’s study, what was making some students better at learning an instrument was a voice within them saying “I’m a musician” instead of just “I’ll learn to play an instrument“.
The learning here is that when our actions are an expression of our identity, they are much more powerful and sustainable in the long term. Even for 10,000 hours.
To achieve excellence and success, we must, therefore, combine identity and discipline. Identity to design the direction and discipline to pursue it until we reach the aspired success.
We must, hence, develop what Don Miguel Ruiz calls the discipline of the warrior in his book, “The Four Agreements”.
“The discipline of being ourselves, whatever happens.“
Maybe, for 10,000 hours until we fully realise who we are.
Every morning when I sit down for this little practice of mine, I look for something to spark the writing process.
It may be a word, a song, an image, the memory of a conversation, something that happened to me or that I observed the day before. Some times the inspiration is so loud that I have to rush to the laptop.
Some mornings I sit without nothing.
No ideas. No clues. No sparks.
At the beginning I was scared.
What will I do if nothing comes?
Should I accept my failure and leave the page blank?
That fear dissolved only when I became fully aware that the meaning of this practice is not in the outcome. The posts that I publish are the visible manifestations, sure. But the real sense of this small practice is in doing it. To sit down and write for fifteen minutes, that is why I do it. No matter what comes out it.
Thou, even if I know the purpose of this practice, some times, I forget it, and I’m distracted by the need to create a valuable outcome.
This morning I want to thank the noise outside that wiped out all my ideas this morning so I could reconnect with the real meaning of this practice.
Our society is based on what I call the “collecting paradigm”. In this paradigm, success is defined by how much you can collect; money, power, knowledge, land, people, connections, ideas.
You name it.
The critical factor is how much you can amass.
Wealth and success are measured on what you have, material or immaterial. Potential is defined in terms of how much you’ll be able to collect.
In this paradigm, a lot of energy is then spent on protecting what you have accumulated. When you live into this paradigm or mindset, often what you have defines also who you are; your knowledge, skills, role.
The collecting paradigm is one of scarcity and competition.
What would happen if we shift to a new paradigm? One that value connections above collections.
In this paradigm, it’s all about connecting people, ideas, things, places, knowledge. The aim is to keep the infinite energy of the universe flowing. When we collect, we are stopping this flow by removing something from it. When we create a new connection, we expand the possibilities to flow exponentially.
It’s a paradigm of abundance and collaboration.
I know, it’s not easy. It requires each one of us to rethink the meaning of success and winning.
I just watched this powerful video by Simon Sinek. I admire the way he can give words to ideas and concepts that are hard to grasp. Being able to make invisible things visible – through images, words, sounds – is a unique talent.
This video, though, baffled me and I don’t know why. So I took some time to ponder on it. In my reflections, I found something I wrote more than two years ago that became the basis for this post.
The video is about passion and vision. Things that are usually referred to as something we should have or find to live a fulfilling life.
As Simon beautifully said, “passion is an output, not in input”. It is the outcome of doing something that has a meaning for us. That gives sense to our lives. Something we care about.
“The reason that people do things, especially heroic or major things, things that take a lot of effort, is because they care.” — Dave Gray
So, doing something meaningful, something you believe in, chasing a vision is what transform your experience into passion instead of stress.
This leads to the following question in Simon’s video; “how do I find what I believe in?”
Or, worded differently, “how do I find my vision?“.
This question is what unsettles me a bit.
Vision is often painted as that one big truth hiding somewhere and that we have to find to give meaning to our life. Whispering in the air, planted deep within us, written in our destiny or on the stars. With that picture in mind, some travel far from home to find their vision. Some spend years digging deep inside to uncover it under their fears. Some look for some visionary to follow. Some just wait.
What if there is no such thing as “the vision”? What if we accept that life is more complex than that? Life would become a journey of open, continuous and curious exploration rather than a search for definitive answers. When we become too focused on the quest for the vision, we got trapped in what psychologist Omer Simsek calls the need for absolute truth.
I am also more and more convinced that the verb “finding” is deceiving. It keeps up hanging in our quest while distracting us from doing the real thing; to experience life.
What if the goal shifts from “finding your vision” to “growing into your vision“?
Then it’d be less critical to have full clarity – mind – about the vision and more important to feel – heart and guts – that you are living it.
So, passion is not only the outcome, but it also becomes your compass. If you feel stressed, what you’re doing is not align with your vision. But when you feel passionate and energised by what you’re doing, then you’re most probably living your vision even if you can’t verbalise it.
There are other two ideas in the video that capture my attention.
The first is the one about the value of being a follower instead of a visionary. The moment I get in touch with that vision, I feel called by it, and I embrace it, then it becomes my own vision too.
I believe that visionaries are not a creator, they are channels between the infinite knowledge of the universe and the material world. They channel the universal wisdom and make it available to everyone else. Their visions aren’t theirs. They are of everyone. So, we are all visionaries and followers at the same time.
And that leads me to the second point. I believe we all have the potential to be creative and be visionary. But that potential is often covered and hold back by our fears, beliefs and conditioning. The more we become aware, the more we can awake that potential.
All my work is based on the unshakable belief that every human being is extraordinary.
“The Need for Absolute Truth and Self-Rumination as Basic Suppressors in the Relationship Between Private Self-Consciousness and Mental Health” by Ömer Faruk Şimşek, Aylin Ecem Ceylandağ &Gizem Akcan – link
“Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World” by Tasha Eurich – link
“Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think” by Dave Gray – link
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.
According to the Global Challenges Foundation – a foundation that works with researchers to explore threats to humanity -, the next 50 years will set the pace for humanity’s survival in the next 10,000 years.
Climate change, mass migrations, artificial intelligence, political instability, deforestation. The list can go on and on.
The challenges ahead of humanity are greater than ever, and it’s easy to feel small and powerless.
What can we do?
What can I do?
When I caught myself in these thoughts, I always go back to this sentence from “Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler“, a beautiful book by Paul Lindley.
“While a toddler’s world might be geographically tiny, it is mentally limitless; conversely, when we grow up, we have the potential freedom to explore everything around us, but will often limit ourselves to the same narrow range of places, people and experiences.”
From toddlers, we can learn to be creative with what we have. But there is something more than that. They face every challenge with an open mind because they haven’t been conditioned yet. When we want to find a solution to a problem we approach it with the same mindset that creates that challenge in the first place. Our mindset comes with us, and it limits us our possibilities.
I believe that I can do something about the significant challenges we face as humanity.
But it all starts by expanding my awareness.
“The biggest challenge we face is shifting human consciousness, not saving the planet. The planet doesn’t need saving, we do.” by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (a 19 years old activist)
Last night was the last one of probably the most important traditional celebration in Valencia; las Fallas. It’s a week full of music, colors, people, dancing, folklore, and firecrackers. For the duration of the celebration, the city is filled with beautiful monuments, called “Falles” made of cardboard, wood, and polystyrene.
You can find some photos online, they are unique pieces of art. Some of them took a whole year to be built.
The closing act of this week is called the “Cremà” (Valencian for “burning”).
During the last night, all the “falla” monuments are set on fire. They are all wholly burnt.
The first time I experienced this celebration, I was surprised. What is the point in dedicating so much effort to something and then burn it down in one night?
Now I know that things don’t have a meaning on themselves. We give meaning to them. What really matters is not the object, it is the relationship that we have with that object. Through the “cremà” people in Valencia fill with meaning the monument they create.
It’s an excellent reminder to myself of the importance of anchor anything I do to a meaning.
I just came back from a conference where incredible people and leaders discussed how to make the world a better place. Last week millions of students all over the world walked together on the streets to ask adults to do something instead of just talking. A terrorist attack in New Zealand reminded us of the fragility of peace.
Before all these big challenges it’s easy to feel small and powerless.
What can I do? What can a single person do?
One of the speakers at the conference said that “without peace at the individual level, we can’t create peace in the world“.
We cannot change the world without changing ourselves before.
So, the question shifts from how can we make the world better to how I can make myself better.
It all starts within.
A friend reminded me that the best gift I can give to the world is to fully express my potential. And love.
This is what I can do.
This is what I will do.