ONE APPLE A DAY #594 – a clean start

I took a few days off from this little project of mine. Even more, I paused the whole morning routine for a week.
No exercise, no meditation and no writing.
I understood that it was necessary after writing the previous daily apple last Monday. At the end of my fifteen minutes writing process, I was spent. I had to push the words out instead of letting them flow, and that depleted my energy. I’m not sure when it started, but it wasn’t energising anymore.
I needed to rest. So I put the morning writing on hold.
And with it everything else.
In fact, this recovery pause made me realise that this tiredness was affecting everything in my life.
My to-do list was crushing me. I had things in it that I’ve been postponing for weeks, some even for months.
And they were hunting me, pushing me to keep doing stuff even if my energy was gone and I wasn’t really able to take any step further.
So, I did something a bit crazy.
I didn’t just pause the to-do list, I wiped it clean. I deleted all the things to do that I wasn’t doing. I thought that if they were still there after weeks than the key to making that happen surely was not that busy do-do list.
So, I cleaned it.
And you know what. The day after I cleaned my to-do list, I completed one of the tasks that I’ve been dragging for months.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I think it’s not.
Sometimes we put so much weight on things that we aren’t unable to move them forward. The moment we give up, we lift that weight and voilá, the magic happens.

The Monthly Edition: August 2019

It’s the holiday season! At least in Italy. This is typically the month when nothing happens, and everyone is in vacation mode (often even when they are working).

Anyway, whatever your situation right now you’re probably worried because you haven’t received my monthly newsletter.

At least, this is what I’m telling to my ego. 🙂

Reality is that your inbox is already full of stuff, so you’re just realising now that this month I’m late.

Again.

Even more than the previous months.

It looks like I can’t keep up with my own commitment.
If I squeeze my brain for a few minutes, I’m pretty sure I’ll come out with some excellent excuses for this delay.
But you know what.

Screw the excuses.

“Victims make excuses. Leaders deliver results.” — Robin Sharma

I have no plans of being a victim.
I want to deliver results.

And that requires me to take responsibility. With “taking responsibility” I mean to own my failures, so I can learn from them. To do that I need to have an honest and frank conversation with myself, asking uncomfortable questions and staying away from the easy answers.

So, right now I’m asking myself; “what can I learn from this failure in keeping the deadline for my newsletter?”.

Yep, all of a sudden this newsletter is about the answers I found in my self-inquiry process. I know each one of us is unique, so what came out of my process will be unique to me. But who knows, you may find some ideas or insights that will be beneficial to your own processes.

Lesson #01: Clarity of meaning

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” — Nietzsche

The first thing I’ve investigated in my self-inquiry is the “why”.
When we investigate the motif behind something we want to do, we may be tempted to use a “why” question. Like “why do I want to do this?”

But even when I’m talking with myself, this question tastes judgemental. So, I decided to go for a different one.

“What are the things that make this newsletter so important to me?”

And this is the list that came out:

  • I love writing, and this is another opportunity to write
  • This newsletter is more personal than the other stuff that I publish, so it sparks a different type of reflections
  • It creates opportunities to start conversations with others
  • It helps me slow down and assess my own journey, something I often overlooked because I’m too busy doing stuff.
  • It’s an opportunity to improve my discipline (like having a book to suggest every month).

No lack of motivations then. The solution ought to be found somewhere else. Even if, it’s good to reconnect with the intentions that started this small project of mine.

Lesson #02: Plan ahead

“A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.” — Confucius

I realised I had to send the newsletter only on the 1st of August. That means I was already late for it. That’s not a good start. On top of that, my schedule for the first week of august was already defined. So I couldn’t find the time that I needed to write this newsletter. I am a slow writer, so I need at least four hours to get in the flow, find the inspiration, do the actual writing, review and polish and then send it. If I want to be on-time, I need to set aside the time for this task way ahead.

Thanks to these two learning, I was able to design some actions.

Actions!

“There can be no learning without action, and no action without learning.”  — Reg Revans

  1. I locked the time in my calendar for the next five newsletters, until December.
  2. I defined the list of books to read and comment for the next five months
  3. I’ve decided to publish these newsletters also on my website as articles to create even more opportunities for conversations (that would be the page you’re reading now. If you want to receive it also on your inbox, just subscribe to my newsletter using the form on the right of this page).
  4. I’ve decided to share more updates on all the things I’m working on, so maybe new collaborations can emerge.

From my bookcase

This month’s suggestion is “Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think” by Dave Gray. This book had a profound impact on my vision on almost everything. It really opened my eyes on the power of the space in-between.

“In order to learn anything truly new, you must empty your cup, so your existing knowledge, theories, assumptions, and preconceptions don’t get in the way.”

 

So, in a few weeks, I’ll have a new monthly edition with more updates and a new reading suggestion. If you want to be sure you won’t miss this article next month (or if you want to check if my actions deliver the expected results), just subscribe to my newsletter.

For now, this is the end of this summer (and first) edition of this post.

Thank you for your patience and for giving me this opportunity to reflect and improve.

And if you want to share with me how you deal with your own failures, comment below. I’d be happy to have a conversation with you and learn!

One Apple A Day #589 – my changing loop

“Being in your true essence makes it less of a struggle”.

This BeTheChange card led me into my morning reflections.

Over the years, I’ve experienced many times the struggle of not being aligned with who I am.

When my actions are aligned with my identity, they just flow. But when they are not, everything is a burden.

After many trials and errors, this is my process when I want to achieve something.

First thing, I understand what I want to achieve. I need clarity of the goal to know where to put my attention.

Once I have clarity about what I want, I ask myself who the person who achieves that is. In short, who do I need to become to get what I want?

Then I design a new set of behaviours to install in my life based on my future self. But that’s not enough to sustain the new practices. I’ve learned that I need a set of structures and strategy to support those new behaviours. This is where knowing my present self, with my strengths and weaknesses, is essential. I design structures and strategies around my present self, so they can sustain my journey towards my future self.

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.

One Apple A Day #538 – take care of your energy

This morning I woke up tired and sleepy.
It is like when you forget to plug the charger of your phone before going to sleep, and you wake up with less than 15% of power in your battery.
With such a low level of energy, I’m struggling to keep the focus. Anytime I close my eyes, my mind goes adrift, and I have to make an effort to bring it back here and now.
However unpleasant, this condition is a great reminder of the importance of managing my energy.
There are plenty of books, strategies and tools to improve the way we manage time. But what about our energy? If we have the time to do something, but we’re out of energy, we won’t make anything remarkable.
Having the energy we need when we need it, it’s vital to do what we want and to enjoy doing it. When I talk about “energy” I mean physical energy. We have only one battery that serves our body, our mind and our heart. And our mind is voracious; it consumes circa 25% of our energy despite being only 4% of our mass.
Like with any resource, we must learn how to recharge our energy and how to use it wisely.
But my fifteen-minute slot to write this is gone. Being low in energy, I couldn’t write much. So, I close this post with a question: how do you take care of your energy?

One Apple A Day #536 – help others shine

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” —Ben Sweetland

My first boss was, he still is, an incredibly talented, smart and knowledgable person.
In my eyes, he knew everything about software development. We worked together for a long time, and we became friends. It was the time of the Internet Bubble, the beginning of this millennium. Life was great for software developers. We worked a lot, most of the time on exciting projects, and we were well paid.
During all those years, he kept teaching. It wasn’t a well-paid job, not compare to software development and, considering the amount of time spent in the office, I couldn’t understand why he was investing so much time in teaching.
When I asked him, he told me that teaching was the better way he knew to learn and improve himself.
I have to admit, I couldn’t really understand his answer at the time. To me, he was already the most competent person in my field.

But this morning, while I was reflecting upon the power of helping others shine, his story came up.
If you are struggling to overcome a tough situation, or you want to grow, but you can’t find your way forward, you can try helping someone else who’s on a similar journey. When you help someone else shine, their light will brighten your path.

One Apple A Day #535 – don’t resist, embrace

I usually write my daily apple at home, in the quiet stillness of the dawn. Today it was not possible as we had to leave early so, here I am in a lively cafè with the latecomers having their quick espresso before rushing to their offices.
We can’t always control the situations around us, disruptions happen. But, as Viktor Frankl wrote, “when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
When something is meaningful for us, we adapt and find a way through. And as you know, this writing pause is my daily anchor.

And somehow, this disruption in my routine fits with the thoughts that have been spinning in my mind since yesterday evening. I attended a workshop about emotional intelligence, and I left with the awareness that we can’t stop emotions from emerging.
The idea that we can leave our emotions behind in some environment, typically work, can lead to a great deal of stress and pressure. There are things you can’t stop from happening such us changing, moving, communicating and feeling emotions.

We change, no matter how much we would like to stay the same.
We move, no matter how much we try to stay still.
As the psychologist and philosopher Paul Watzlawick said, “One cannot not communicate” because “every behaviour is a form of communication”.
And you can’t stop emotions from emerging within you.

Resisting is energy consuming. This is why it is important to embrace, own and take care of your emotions. So you can harness them to create a positive impact within and without you.
And the first step, as I learned yesterday evening, is to recognise your emotions and give them a name.

One Apple A Day #530 – Anchor

It’s dawn in London, and I’m writing this on a bouncing train to the airport.
I’m tired and a bit sleepy so there is a high probability that this post won’t be one of my best.
Though, I needed these fifteen minutes of writing. No matter the outcome, I need to put some music, open the laptop and tap on the keyboard.
This moment is my anchor.
When I don’t do my morning writing, I can’t get through the day smoothly.
I found that for me it’s vital to have something I can anchor my day.
It helps me stay centred amidst the storms of life.
For me, it’s writing, for someone else it may be running or just sitting for a coffee with your family. If you are sailing through the sea of life, you need sails to catch the wind and move forward. You need a compass to know your way and a rudder to steer the trajectory.
But you also must be sure to carry an anchor with you.
So you’ll know that no matter what, you’ll always be able to ground yourself amid turbulences or maybe just to rest.

Do you have an anchor? What is it?

One Apple A Day 526 – explore and exploit

Today I want to write about passion. Or better, about the lack of it.
When I was a child, I didn’t know what my passion was. Sure, there were many things that I love, reading above all, but I didn’t have a clear idea of who I wanted to become.
Things didn’t get better growing up. I can’t remember a moment when I thought “this is it, my passion, what I’m going to do from now on”.
Instead, I went using a trial and error approach.
An approach that I’ve been refining over the years and it worked quite well for me. Though, I still have that subtle feeling of envy when I meet someone who has a burning passion for something; a person on a mission.

I know I’m not alone in this. Many people haven’t found that defining passion or mission, yet.

And you know what? It’s ok.

It’s ok to be searching and trying. Isn’t it the quest for our mission a mission on itself?
The important thing is to keep searching, trying and learning. Fragments of the picture will emerge along the way. Our passion will grow within us while, at the same time, we will grow into it.

Of course, there’s a problem with this approach: life is short.

We need to find the best explore/exploit trade-off.
Find something that works for you, something on which you get higher returns than the average person and exploit it. But always keep a window open for exploration, to try new things and when you find something that works well, exploit it integrating it with what you’re already doing.

One Apple A Day 525 – the master is ready also

This morning I walked my niece to school. It’s a five-minute walk through a small industrious village of the Italian countryside. On the way to the school, she told me about her day’s ahead, what she likes and what not. Her stories about school make me often think about how we approach education here, but that’s a good topic that won’t fit in a fifteen minutes writing slot.
On the way back, I was thinking about the relationship between a student and a master. In the last two years, I met many people who have taught me a lot. They are not teachers in the proper sense. They are friends, colleagues, partners, fellow travellers in the walk of life. Yet, more than once each one of them has been a master to me.

I was thinking about this while walking home, and I remembered reading somewhere that “the student makes the master” or something like that.

So, I ask Google, and I found out that the quote that I remember was “when the student is ready the teacher will appear.” A quote that is often presented as a Buddhist proverb.

As I always do, I dig a bit more until I discovered that Buddha has nothing to do with it. Instead, it is an old Theosophical statement taken from a book titled Light on the Path, wrote in 1886 by Mabel Collins. The statement is a bit more poetic, and it says; “for when the disciple is ready the master is ready also.

Anyway, even if the quote has some weird and questionable origins, it resonates with me.  Any time I embrace a learning mindset, a “master” manifests before me. Sometimes the master is a person, other times it is something else like a piece of art, an event or nature herself.

I think the lesson for me is that if we want to learn something, before finding a master, we must embrace the learner’s mindset.

P.S. I just realised I already wrote about this not long ago. What is the lesson here?