One Apple A Day #496 – create your way

“Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.” — James Clear

I love lean and sleek systems to help me work better. There are many of them out there created by successful people who’ve decided to share their strategies with all of us.
The problem is that most of the time, despite my efforts in applying their strategies, I didn’t get their results.

It took me a while to realise that all these great strategies, tools and methods were the results of the unique journeys of their creators.
Yes, they are about how they do things, but they are rooted in their identity. In who they are.
A winning strategy is one that is rooted in your identity. It is only when your WHO and your HOW are aligned that your results, the WHAT, really improve.

This reminded me of the Japanese word Shuhari, that represents the three stages of learning to mastery in martial arts. In short, the three steps of becoming a master are; to repeat, to detach and to transcend.

Studying and applying existing models is the starting point. But we must continuously check what is working and what not, what comes natural and where the resistance is. After a while, we can learn what is aligned with our identity, keep and leave the rest. In the end, we will learn to combine pieces from all the different sources and make our own way.

One Apple A Day #494 – your natural frequency

Our actions are more effective when they aligned with our identity.
This alignment creates a resonance that amplifies the impact of what we do. Resonance is the phenomenon that occurs when we apply vibration to an object that is equal (or nearly equal) to the natural frequency of that same object.
Resonance can be incredibly powerful. In 1940 the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed because regular speed winds produced oscillations that matched the bridge’s natural frequency.

The same principle applies to our words and actions. When they resonate with our identity, our natural frequency, they become incredibly impactful. And that works for individuals, teams, and organizations.

That doesn’t mean that we should do is predefined in who we are.

“Genes can predispose, but they don’t predetermine.” — Gabor Mate

But we all have natural inclinations and. When we have clarity about who we are, we can design our unique journey towards our goals.
At the beginning of every learning process, it is natural to model our actions on someone else who already achieved what we want. But at some point, we must understand our uniqueness and find our own model if we really want to leap forward.

One Apple A Day #493 – immediate rewards, delayed benefits

One of the problems when we want to install a new habit, it’s the delayed reward that comes with it. The costs of a good habit are in the present while the reward is potentially somewhere in the future. In general, with bad habits, it’s the opposite.
Unfortunately, our brain hasn’t changed much from our prehistoric ancestors. Because their primary goal was to survive, our brain favors the present more than the future.
This is why for most of us it’s easy to slip into bad habits while it takes a lot of effort to start a new one.
However, being aware of this we can trick our mind adding an immediate reward to the habit we want to start. Something that makes you feel good as soon as you finished the activity you want to transform into a recurring practice.
But there’s a caveat.
The reward must be consistent with your identity and the one habit you want to create.
If you want to create the habit of training every day to get fit, you can’t use ice cream as a reward. It would send contradictory messages to your brain.
The more the habit becomes natural for you, the less you’ll need the reward. The simple act of doing your practice will be rewarding.

For me, the challenge is often the reward. When I started this writing habit, I printed a simple grid of 90 squares, and I challenge myself to tick all of them in 90 days. Seeing that “X” every day was my immediate reward. It made me feel good enough to keep going until it became natural.

One Apple A Day #488 – chaos

Our brain is a fantastic predicting machine.
It is continuously assessing the environment against what it already knows to find patterns to apply. Anytime an action creates pleasure, it contributes to the creation of a pattern. When anything generates pain, the brain puts an alert label on it so to be ready to recognise the threat in the future. It is part of our natural survival instinct.

This process makes us very efficient. Being aware of it we can use it to our advantage to create patterns that help grow and become the person we want to be. There are plenty of good books and programs on how to develop positive habits.

Once I watched a video of a personal trainer, explaining that our body works in the same way. Every muscle is designed to obtain the maximum result with the minimum effort. When we do the same exercise over and over, our body learns how to perform it using the minimum energy possible. As a result, we experience a peak in muscle development. This is why is a good thing to change often the exercises you do. To confuse your body, so it has to break the pattern, learn something new and grow.

It works the same way for our brain. Sometimes we need to create chaos and unpredictability to force our mind to be creative, to find new connections and patterns. In short, to grow. When we don’t have references, when we cannot use what we know to find a way forward, we are forced to create new connections, explore new possibilities.
It is scary, I know.
But once our creativity is released, the reward is incredible.

One Apple A Day #480 – about choices

Life is a sequence of choices. At every moment you’re making, or not making a choice.
Some are big and important.
Others are so small and insignificant that we are not even aware that we are making a choice.
But all of them affect the direction of your life.
Who you are and where you are today, is the result of all these choices compound together.
Sometimes I found myself stuck before a choice, unable to decide what is the right thing to do.
I believe you know the feeling.
I think and explore all the possible scenarios. I weight all options trying to figure out the best choice.
I must admit that sometimes I spend so much time reflecting with the hope that, if I wait enough time, something or someone else will choose for me.
I made a lot of wrong choices. And I didn’t make many choices I probably should.
Though I am here and I am happy with where I am in my life. And this is thanks also to the wrong decision and to the ones I didn’t make.

What I’ve learned is that I should try to consume less energy to make the right choice and focus more on making every decision made —and not made—, a good one.

One Apple A Day #479 – something to die for

“There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.”

With this sentence, Jane Philpott, Treasury Board President of the Canada government closed the message in which she announced her resignation.
This message struck me because yesterday night I was reflecting about another, more famous, quote.

“If a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Albeit I love this quote, it always makes me feel a little uncomfortable.
Martin Luther King was fighting for a high but dangerous cause. A cause that was going to change the world, or at least his country, forever. He was aware of the risks of pursuing his vision and, in the end, he died for it.

But, how does it apply to me?
Since yesterday, I’ve been pondering on this question.
Nothing I do is putting my life at stake.
Sure, I have my values and principles on which I’m not willing to compromise, but saying that it’s something I would die for seams a bit of stretch.

Then, this morning I was reading this article about the political crisis in Canada, and I found that sentence. And it hit me.

If I abstract MLK’s message from his historical context then “to die for” means “to give up everything”, including that same thing you are fighting for.

The question then becomes “what are you willing to sacrifice your career for?” or “what are you willing to let your company die for?”.

These are questions I can work with.

One Apple A Day #477 – take a step back

Something magical happened yesterday during a session with my coach.

We were exploring a problem that has been troubling me for some time. Something practical that requires a workable solution. A tool or strategy that can help me overcome the problem and get the results that I want.

The annoying thing is that I already know about many possible solutions, but I don’t use them.
It is as if my mind knows what to do, but all the other parts of me refuse to follow.

So, yesterday during the session I was stuck again in this uncomfortable place. I was feeling the usual guilt of knowing what to do and not doing it.
Until I realized a troubling truth.
I didn’t know what to do once the problem was solved.
I focused so much on the problem before me that it became the only thing I could see.
So, I decided to take a step back. To put some distance between me and that problem so I can see what’s around it. And beyond it.

If we get too close to it, even a grain of sand becomes a mountain.

One Apple A Day #476 – feed your essence

I’ve never been a lover of formalities and dress codes.
I remember that, as a kid, I couldn’t understand why I had to use Sunday’s clothes to go to the mass. Clothes with which we could not play because they were only meant for special events.

Anyway, a few months ago, I’ve been asked to suit up for a working situation. As you can imagine, I wasn’t pleased, but the request came with sound motivations that made me reflect.

So, I asked myself a few compelling questions.

What am I worried about? What is about form that I find uncomfortable?
Is my essence so fragile that I am going to change just because I change how I appear?

It was one of those a-ha moments.
I realised that I am who I am, no matter what I wear.
Sometimes, we are so focused on the form that we overlooked our essence. And in doing so, we weaken it.

If we nurture our essence, then we will be able to infuse all of who we are in every form. Being it the way we dress or the work we do.

One Apple A Day #475 – a meaningful job

We are all aware of the importance of finding meaning in what we do. In this McKinsey’s article, the authors say that “increasing the ‘meaning quotient’ of work” has a huge impact on people’s performances.

If you do a quick search online, you will find plenty of articles with suggestions on how to find a meaningful job.
However, there is a high probability that the quest for a meaningful job will be delusional for many.
Because a job does not have a meaning on its own. It is just a job.
As much as an object is just an object.
We infuse meaning in things, including jobs.
We can not expect for our job or for anything else to give meaning to our life. We are the only ones who can give meaning to our lives.
We must look inside, dig out our values and aspirations, understand what really matters for us and then we can infuse meaning in what we do.

“We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly.” — Viktor E Frankl

One Apple A Day #474 – forget the goal

In this inspiring article about mastery, Marcia Reynolds gives us some hints on how to get into the “the zone of mastery” or, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it, in the “Flow”.

There is one passage in the article that I find fascinating.

“I found the best competitors do not think about anything, not even winning, when they perform at their best. Thinking of winning causes their brains to entertain the possibility of losing.”

Isn’t it ironic that in a society so obsessed with results and achievements, the best performers avoid thinking about winning to express their full potential?

Keeping the focus on the prize is a common mistake in goal settings. You set an audacious goal, maybe a SMART one and then, because you want to be sure to get it, you keep your eyes on it all the time. As a result, you’re not in the here and now. And Marcia says, “being fully present while performing is the critical factor that can put you over the top into the zone of mastery“.

The approach to goal setting that I use is the following one:

  1. FIND: First I set a goal, and I spend time finding what makes it meaningful to me
  2. REWRITE: Then I think about what do I need to change to get where I want. Who do I need to become to achieve that goal? What do I have to learn? Which habits, rituals and structures do I have to install? This transforms the journey into a learning process.
  3. EXPERIENCE: Finally, I forget about the goal and focus only on the experience, on being consistent with the new habits and rituals.
  4. EXPAND: even if I don’t always achieve the results that I set at the beginning, I always learn something valuable in the end that I can apply in other parts of my life.