One Apple A Day #597 – you are infinite

Be yourself, they say.

Great advice but, who am I?

Who this self I am supposed to be? How would I know that I am “being myself”?

Because the more I try to define who I am using my thinking mind, the more I wrap myself into a box that gets smaller.

And I can clearly sense that most of me has been left out.

So, you see, there is a problem here.

My mind thinks in shapes and forms, so it is used to set boundaries to divide one thing from the other. To separate me from the others and the world so I can put a label on myself.

The ancient greeks engraved the words γνῶθι σεαυτόν on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

“know thyself”

What they didn’t write is that knowing yourself is a never-ending journey. And that the journey is more important than the destination. It doesn’t matter how many labels and boxes you’ll be able to use to define yourself, as long as you keep exploring.

You are infinite as the universe you hold inside.

Grow into your vision

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.

Read more:

  1. 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
  2. Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World” by Tasha Eurich – link
  3. Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think” by Dave Gray – link

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 #573 – into the light

“What would you jump into or out of if you were guaranteed success?”

With this question in mind, I’m writing today.
As soon as I read the question, I thought that it would be easy to answer.
Who doesn’t have a dream? Something we are not chasing because it’s too bold, or too risky.

So, I started seeking an answer only to find myself stuck.
Really, my mind is paralysed. I’ve been staring at the screen for a good five minutes, and nothing came up.

And then I felt it.
The fear of succeeding.
The fear of recognising that there is an incredible potential within that I’m not expressing. Did I waste it?
All these fears have created a cage of limiting beliefs. And I spent so much time in it that I got comfortable.
So now I struggle to imagine the world beyond.

But I know it’s possible. I had glimpses of that world. The world of possibilities.

It’s time to open the door and step out, into the light. It may burn at the beginning, but as soon as my eyes adjust, I know more wonder will manifest.

One Apple A Day #570 – add more antennas

“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.” — Daniel Goleman, from Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Or, using different words, one mind that senses and one that makes sense of things.
We all have both minds, but not everyone develops both in the same way. Some people have highly developed sensing antennas, others are better suited for sense-making, and some have a great balance between the two.

They are both essential.
Our world favours the second because it’s the one better suited to deal with material reality, the one we perceived through our five “physical” senses. However, without the first, the ability to sense, we can’t move beyond the limits and the boundaries of the limited space defined by those five senses.

I’ve always been proud of my ability to make sense, but I’m experiencing more and more the importance of nurturing my “sensing” mind. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of tools to develop our “sense-making” abilities, there aren’t easy recipes to expand our ability to sense.

But here’s a trick.

My new 4g router isn’t working very well, so I’ve been reading online for possible solutions. Someone suggested that it may be because my device cannot get a strong enough signal. In that case, the best solution is to add an external antenna who can get the signal for my device.

It works the same way for sensing. I found out that it is immensely helpful to surround myself with people with a remarkable ability to sense. Just with their presence, they enhance my own sensing abilities.

One Apple A Day #568 – the soul whispers

The soul whispers.

This morning BeThe Change card contains an invitation to listen at a deeper level. In a society where so many people struggle to be heard, being able to listen to others can make the difference.

The soul whispers.

While I was meditating on the questions that come with the card, one stood out: “In your situation who or what really wants to be listened to?”
I immediately knew the answer; me.
My soul is asking me to be listened to.
And this where it becomes complicated.

The soul whispers, while the mind and the heart can be so noisy.
So, here’s the question I’ve been pondering this morning.
How can I listen to my soul, past the chatter of my thinking mind and the loudness of my emotions?

The soul whispers.

And then it was there. The soul doesn’t speak. My soul whispers to me when I play an instrument letting my fingers go. When I write without an agenda. When I draw and doodle, allowing my hands to follow the intuition.

To listen, I need to create a space where my soul can whisper.

One Apple A Day #557 – Romeo & Juliet

I’ve spent a few hours strolling around the streets of Verona yesterday. One of the main attractions for tourists is the famous Juliet’s Balcony. People from all over the world come here to see this symbol of love, maybe in the hope that it will bring more love in their lives.
But Juliet’s house and the balcony are nothing more than props. Not much different from the ones I saw outside the Arena when they were setting up the stage for the Aida.
Romeo and Juliet existed in the fantasy world created by Shakespeare’s creative mind. Yet, as Juliet’s balcony proves, if we believe a story long enough, it becomes real. That balcony in Verona feels very real.
This can also happen in our lives. If we tell ourselves a story long enough, that story will shape our reality.
“This can’t be done.”
“I’m not good at this thing.”
“Oh no, I can’t draw, sing, write.”
And so on.
How many “Juliet’s balconies” do you have in your life?
What would you be capable of, if you move past those stories?

One Apple A Day #556 – water and stone

Yesterday I visited a place called “I cadini del Brenton”. It is a series of 15 potholes (the “cadini”) carved in the stone by the water of a stream (the Brenton). Flowing down from one cavity to the other, the water creates small waterfalls. As if the river takes a little jump, then rest for a minute in the silence of nature before taking another plunge downwards.

While I was there, listen to the lulling sound of the water and the wind playing with the trees, I can’t help but admire the relationship between the river and the rock.
The course of the stream is moulded around the shape of the mountains and the rocks. The water twists and jumps and dives adapting its path, but in doing so, it also digs, carves, erodes and smooth out that same stones. Millennials of this dance between the water and the mountain, have gifted us with the beauty that we can admire today.

That view reminds me of how our behaviours and words, like streams of water, are moulded on our identity. But at the same time those behaviours, over time, shape and carve that same identity. The person that I am today is the result of this never-ending dance.
This is where self-awareness plays a vital role. It helps us see how our identity informs our behaviours, so then we can create the habits and rituals that will help us shape the person we want to be.

One Apple A Day #552 – responsibility and freedom

Bureaucracy.
This is the word that emerged and filled up my mind this morning.
Not a fanciest or most inspiring word in my dictionary, for sure.

I have a complicated relationship with bureaucracy. At any levels and in any context.
Sure, the worst experience is when I have to do with the public administration. In those cases, I feel as if bureaucracy has been carefully designed to create uncertainty and doubts.
But to be honest, I struggle anytime some rules and procedures overshadow human relationships to make things happen.

To me, bureaucracy is the epitome of a form depleted of the energy from which it manifested.

So, I woke up with this word in mind, and I want to do something with it, not just vent out my annoyances.

I remember a quote that I read a while ago.

“Bureaucracy is a construction by which a person is conveniently separated from the consequences of his or her actions.” ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

That made me immediately think about the relationship between freedom and responsibility.

In a workshop that I did a few months ago precisely on this topic, I’ve been reminded that responsibility is the “Ability to respond” to situations.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

So, freedom and responsibility are strongly linked.

“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

If we don’t feel free, we won’t take responsibility. But if we don’t take responsibility for our words and actions, we can’t be free.

I recollect many conflictual conversations in different organisations, where employees were asking for more freedom and the manager were asking for more responsibility. And they couldn’t find an agreement; apparently, they were asking for two different things without realising that they were just talking about two sides of the same coin.

Great! So, where do we start? From responsibility or from freedom?

It looks like a typical chicken or egg problem.

“The first step toward personal freedom is awareness.” — Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

My feeling is that we should always start by expanding our awareness.

One Apple A Day #550 – focus on nothing

What you focus on expands.

I’m sure you already experience this straightforward law. When you focus entirely on one thing, that thing fills up all your sensory space.
I experience the power of this law every morning when I approach this writing exercise. If I focus on the white page before me, it quickly fills up my mind until I’m stuck, unable to write a single word.

So, I know I have to find an idea before opening a new file. Most of the time is just a small seed like a sentence, an image or just a word. Once the seed is there, I focus on it for a minute or two. I allow for that seed to expand until it becomes an idea, and it wants to flow out.

This morning, the seed is a question.

What would happen if I deliberately decide to focus on nothing?

Being able to laser focus on something is extremely powerful. It removes all distractions, so our energy is wholly devoted to making happen the target of our attention. It’s one of the first concepts taught by all experts in high performances.

So, what happens if I deliberately turn off my attention?
When I don’t have a goal to reach, a target for my attention and I just am?
I’m not sure I can describe it in words.
I remember feeling like that when I was wandering in Patagonia with my best friend. We didn’t have anything to focus on but fully being in the moment.
And it was bliss.