One Apple A Day #687 – do you still have to?

I realised that the quality of my conversations improved lately.

All conversations, from the random ones at the grocery store to the daily exchanges having a meal.

Like yesterday at lunch, when I realised how many things we thought we had to do and all of a sudden, we can’t. And because we can’t do them, they don’t look as necessary and inevitable as we thought they were.

Yes, some are big things like going into the school or to the office to study and work. But mostly, this moment is an eye-opener on the many small things that make up our daily life.

I have to help that person. I know, I’m tired, but I have to.” or “I have to do that thing; otherwise nobody will do it and who knows what would happen.” 

How often I’ve heard people around me complaining like these. 

Now that person we thought we have to help is taking care of her or himself. That thing we had to do? Nobody doing it and nothing happened.

This is a unique opportunity to assess our routines, habits, and the list of things we thought we have to do and check what we can let go and what we want to keep. 

One Apple A Day #682 – social cleanse

Since the end of last week, the rising sun has been perfectly aligned with the windows under which I write. Every morning, for an hour or so, its rays paint everything in gold. It’s magical, and it reminds me how much I love this moment of the day. 

You should give it a try.

Anyway, while I was meditating feeling the warm of this golden light on my skin, I became aware of another great opportunity of social distancing. 

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Roh

It is well known that the people we spend the most time with shape who we are. They influence the conversations that we have, where we put our attention, our behaviours. 

“According to research by social psychologist Dr David McClelland of Harvard, [the people you habitually associate with] determine as much as 95 per cent of your success or failure in life.” — Darren Hardy in The Compound Effect

Almost all self-development books and experts stress this point. They typically invite us to assess our relationships to understand who are and who are not supporting us in becoming who we want to be. Then, and this is the tough part, the invitation is to distance ourselves from the toxic ones. The ones who are holding us back from realising our potential.

But that’s not easy at all. Our relationships are connected to our rituals, to our habits, the places where we go, the things we do. 

But now, we are forced to stay away from everything and everyone. Casual encounters are no more an issue. We can choose who we talk with and when. What a unique opportunity for social cleansing. We can assess the relationships we have in our lives, and carefully decide where we want to invest our energy. 

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 #692 – the “who” questions

Where do your stakeholders need you and your team to be in 3-5 years?

This question was asked yesterday by David Clutterbuck during a webinar on team coaching. Indeed, a powerful question. One that shifts the focus on the team’s growth and evolution.

So, this morning I woke up with my own version of that question.

Who do I need to be in 3-5 years, to better serve my vision?

I love all questions starting with “who”. We live in a challenging, changing and uncertain world. What used to work only a few months ago is not working anymore. What it’s true today, may not be tomorrow.

In this context, goals, plans or strategies may sound hollow.

That’s why I believe that it’s vital to shift our attention to our growth as human beings. As individuals, teams, organizations and communities. Then, whatever happens in the future, whatever comes in our way, we will be able to adapt and respond.

“For all our discussion of the abstract power of societies, they are still made up of individual people. When two people connect, they form a relationship. A group of relationships forms a community, and the place where communities intersect is what we come to know as society. Each of us is responsible for forming the social codes of our communities.” – Source

One Apple A Day #686 – am I productive?

“Productivity describes various measures of the efficiency of production. Often, a productivity measure is expressed as the ratio of an aggregate output to a single input or an aggregate input used in a production process, i.e. output per unit of input, typically over a specific period of time.” from Wikipedia.

I confess; I’ve always struggled with productivity. This word is the source of many bad days and a fair share of disappointment. There are days in which I get to the end of them, and I struggle to recollect where the time went. Those for sure are not productive days. Yet, often they are the source of some good ideas or learnings.

Days in which I do a lot of things but the one I wanted to do. So, I’m not sure if I should consider them productive days or not.

Days in which I don’t do much, but what I do feels so meaningful and rewarding.

So, every now and then, when I fill unproductive, I find myself asking questions such as “How do I measure my productivity? Do I need to measure it at all? What does it mean to be productive for me?

According to Wikipedia, production is a process of combining various material and immaterial inputs to make something which has value and contributes to the utility of individuals.

So, my understanding is that production is about impact. Still, how do I measure productivity?

Yes, this is how this post ends. Without any answers because I have none. Indeed, if I measure my productivity based on the number of answers I produce over a day, the figures are quite poor. 

Should I measure the questions I make?

If you have suggestions, or even better, some healthy questions, I’m all ears.

One Apple A Day #685 – the creative rhythm

I was sitting here, trying to find something to write about, an idea around which I could create a good post.
As you can imagine, no idea was coming forward.
And then I realised that I was falling trap of the outcome; I wanted so much to create something good that I forgot the whole purpose of this practice; becoming an author.

This morning I picked a Be The Change card, my first after a few weeks. The card says “dare to let go of control”. When we start a creative process, as this small writing practice of mine, the desire to control the outcome can get in the way. It narrows our sight, and we become blind to all the opportunities that surround us. And while I write this, I’m aware that this kind of laser focus on something, is also a powerful skill. It’s the secret of many great performers.
We need both approaches, the divergent one that opens us to the omens of the universe. And the convergent one that cuts out all distractions so we can hit the target. It’s very much like breathing; we need both inhaling and exhaling.

The secret then is to find the right creative rhythm. As our body does with breathing.
Feeling when it’s time to sense and listen, and when it’s time to focus and act.

One Apple A Day #696 – the magic is in the question

Yesterday I was writing an article about “the daily question process” created by Marshall Goldsmith. It’s a straightforward yet powerful practice to improve ourselves based on a set of active questions answered every day. You can read how and why it works here from Goldsmith himself.

This morning, while I was meditating and creating space for the seed of this post to emerge, I had a small Aha moment when my thoughts went back to the daily question process. Goldsmith does not say anything about what he does with all the answers he collects. 

Every day he asks, or better he has someone asking him 32 active questions to which he answers with a yes or a no. That’s a massive amount of data, but he never talks about it when he describes the process.

All that really matters are the questions. Just by asking the right questions in the right way, we can trigger a series of constructive thoughts and nurture our self-awareness. The answers are merely incidental in this process. The thoughts and the emotions that the questions spark are the real gold in this process.

And as Goldsmith says in his post, “even the process of writing questions will help you better understand your own values and how you live or don’t live them on a daily basis.

One Apple A Day #679 – practice detachment

“The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way in which we use them.” – Adriana Doyle

Yesterday I had an enlighting conversation with my dear friend Umberto. We were talking about how tough times can be unique sources of learning and growth, or heavy stones dragging us down.

It is up to us to decide what to do with our pitfalls.

I was also sharing how things that I experienced as massive failures when they happened years ago are now events that I cherish as part of my growth.

Yet, to put failures and tough times in the right perspective when you’re living them, it’s definitely hard.

As usual, Umberto shared a fascinating metaphor to explain this.

“It’s a matter of volume occupied. The more space something takes within your life, the heavier you perceive it. When you widen your space, that same thing becomes smaller and smaller, until it’s almost irrelevant.”

Quite obvious, no? If you put any object right in front of your face, it looks huge, but as soon as you put some space between you and the object, it becomes smaller until it almost disappears.

But how do you do that? It looks like time would be the only thing needed to gain a wider perspective on things. However, it’s not. How many people do you know who are still chained to their past failures and can’t see beyond them?

I believe the key is to practice the art of detachment. Your not your failures, and you’re not your successes. Only when you learn to detach from the outcome of what you do, you can walk away from it. And gain the perspective needed to transform failures in learning.

One Apple A Day #663 – systems, drawings and bows

Sometimes I dig too much.

I think in part it’s because I’m naturally a reflective person, and in part for the work I do. I study ways to help people remove their limiting beliefs and unearth their true selves. So, I think it’s natural to do the same thing on myself. To ask me the challenging questions.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well. 

Sometimes I just get trap into an inquiry spiral that leads to more confusion and can be exhausting.

I was sitting there meditating on this, and a few thoughts came to my mind.

The first one was a quote from Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray, a book that I love. 

“If you’re part of the system you want to change, you’re part of the problem.”

I believe it also works if you replace the verb “change” with “understand”. It’s hard to understand something from the inside. 

The second thought is a trick that art teachers use to train the observation capabilities of new artists. They ask the students to focus on the negative spaces around the object they are required to draw and not on the object itself. This is because in drawing an object, the artist knows what that object is supposed to look like. She has a mental model in her head that keeps her from drawing precisely what her eyes see. Hence, when asked to paint everything but the object itself, the proportions are easier to get right. The observation is not conditioned by the mental models.

The last one was the voice of my friend Stefano telling me that “I need to unload the bow every now and then otherwise, the tension will break it.

Not sure how these three thoughts are connected, but my time for this writing practice is gone, and I definitely need breakfast.

One Apple A Day #659 – a long trail

Yesterday, I did some trekking with a friend. We walked for a few hours on an unexpectedly steep trail.
As always, I’m amazed by the amount of learning and discovery that a walk in nature can unlock.
Anyway, we left early in the morning with plenty of enthusiasm. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while.
The first meters has been effortless. My legs were fine, my heart beating normal, and my breathing relaxed.
One kilometre, two kilometres. All good, we were walking in a beautiful autumn scenario within the woods, the mountains immersed in the November mist.
2,999 meters and I feel good.
Un meter later, fatigue arrived. Like a little shock running through the thigh, a bump in my heartbeat, the breath a little louder.
From that moment, the walk shifted and became tougher and tougher until we finished our excursion and came back to the car.

Would you say that the reason for the fatigue was the meter 3,000? That if would skip that meter, I would have any problem and maybe walk easily for hours?
I’m sure you won’t say that. Obviously, fatigue was just manifesting at that point but has been building up in all the meters before.

Yet, how many time in life, we focus on one event and forget the journey that led to that moment?
We think some people become successful overnight ignoring the years of hard work they put in to get there.
Something or something falls apart for what looks like a small push, and we overlook the long trail of small cracks that have been manifesting for a long time.

“Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.” – James Clear

That’s why it’s essential to take care of your habits. Being aware that the journey to the top is a long one and every single step matters.