One Apple A Day #692 – I want to go home

Do you remember when you were a kid, and your parents decided to go somewhere you didn’t want to?

I do. Very well.

I was an introvert child. I could spend hours on my own reading or watching cartoons on the TV. 

When my parents decided to take the whole family somewhere, usually on Sundays, let’s say I wasn’t really cheerful. 

In particular when the plan was to visit relatives or to go to some party with many people.

Anyway, I was a kid, so I didn’t have much choice but to follow.

I remember those long journey in the car where my only thought was “I want to go home!”

Sometimes I voiced it, but most of the time, I just sat there, in the back of the car in silence with the most resentful face I could make.

My mood didn’t change when we got to our destination. If possible, I was even more uptight. Full of my fierce refusal of the whole situation.

“I want to go home.”

That was everything I could think about. 

Everything was annoying and boring. And that was proof that I was right in my desire to go home.

Then, almost every time something happened. 

I don’t know if it was me getting tired of holding the forth. Or if it was something external cracking my walls, like a joke from my father, something sweet to eat softening my resistance, or the sight of some other kids doing something funny.

Whatever the reason, that voice in my head repeating “I want to go home”, became more and more feeble.

Until that thought was gone and I began having fun where I was.

These days feel a bit like that.

One Apple A Day #689 – find your pace

Last days have offered me a huge opportunity to revaluate my relationship with productivity. 

As I already wrote, it’s an uncomfortable subject for me. 

I would never describe myself as a productive person, that’s for sure. Yet, it’s a subject that fascinated me, maybe precisely because it’s not a natural thing for me.

This morning, while I was doing a simple but effective practice to synch movements and breathing, a memory came back; my first motorbike riding course on track. 

The program was straightforward. Six students, one instructor, a 20 minutes session on the track followed by 40 minutes offtrack to analyse what we did, repeated for five times.

During the session on the track, one of us was leading the group for two laps with the instructor just behind observing. Then all the others. After two laps, the one in front went to the back of the group. 

When it was my time to lead the group, I wanted to impress the instructor straight away. So, I gave my best; full-throttle on the straight, braking hard before each turn and then accelerating as much as I could. 

At the end of my two laps, I was exhausted but very proud of myself. When we stop for the debrief, I was drench in sweat but happy with my performance. The instructor feedback was like a punch to the guts. I was one of the slowest. Sure, I was fast on the straight, but that was useless, considering that there was one short straight but plenty of turns.

On the next session, the instructor forced me to do my two laps, always keeping the same gear. That meant that I couldn’t accelerate much and I couldn’t go too fast on the straight. But, surprise, during the debrief, I discovered that my lap time was way better.

Once my obsession with speed was out of the picture, I found my rhythm and with it the performance. 

This story reminds me of two valuable lessons, that too often I forget.

One is to look at performance, and productivity, more holistically. If we focus only on one aspect, we may illude ourselves that we’re going faster while we are just wasting energy.

The second lesson is that when we find our rhythm, we use better our resources and we can keep performing high for longer. 

One Apple A Day #684 – start somewhere, but start

This morning, when I sat to do this little writing practice of mine, I was at lost. Many thoughts and ideas were floating in my mind, but nothing was carrying that spark I needed to begin writing. 

It happens, more often than I’d like. Over the years, I’ve learned that the biggest mistake I can make is to indulge in this wandering of the mind, waiting for the right idea to start. More often than not, I get even more lost. 

In these cases, what I do is to take anything and being writing. Usually, it is a recent memory such as a fact, a conversation or something I read.

This time, I decided to start from a little story my fellow coach Ian McKechnie told me yesterday.

It’s the story of a small group of Hungarian soldiers who got lost in the Alps during the First World War. After three days of heavy snow, they were giving any hop to make it back to the camp where the rest of the troop was. They were desperate but then, of them find a map in his pocket. With renewed hope and energy, they followed the map and made it back to the camp. When their lieutenant asked to see the map, he discovered that it was a map of the Pyrenees. Having a map, even if a wrong one, was enough to calm them down, so they were able to think more clearly and, most importantly, to take action.

Two things happened this morning when I found this story in my pocket.

The first is that I started writing, and even if I didn’t know how to use the story, I ended up with a new post.

The second thing is that while searching for some information about the story, I discovered this fantastic article, that I’m going to read in full later, on the rhetorical power of anecdotes and how easy it is to twist a story when it doesn’t fit our thesis.

If you don’t know where to start, check your pockets.

One Apple A Day #687 – moving in the mist

One of the hallmarks of growing up in the NorthEast of Italy is the fog. I mean the real thick one that eats up everything around you and all you can see is a grey wall.

I remember one episode in particular. I was in my early twenties. My driving license was still fresh, so I would miss an opportunity to exploit the freedom of having a car. That Saturday evening I went out with my cousin. There was a light mist when we left, nothing that could stop us.

When we decided it was to go home, however, things were completely different. The fog was becoming thicker and thicker. At some point, we reach a small countryside road. One of those narrow road that can barely fit two cars at the same time, with a steep slope on the side and no white lines on the surface.

My cousin had to step out of the car, walk before me, and show me the boundaries of the road. And he had to do it for at least a kilometre. That night it took us ages to get home. But there was no cellphone, and we knew our parents would be worried. So, we kept moving, even if we couldn’t see anything.

Many times in my life, I experienced moments where everything was foggy within and around me. I couldn’t see my way forward, so I froze. I waited to have more visibility, to have more clarity before doing anything, and that cost me a few missed opportunities. I’ve learned that sometimes, I have to move forward even if I can’t see clearly where I am going. And in that case, it’s useful to have someone you trust walking with you and showing you the edges of the road.

By the way, do you know there are 51 different names for the fog?

One Apple A Day #682 – the wise cat

In the last few years, we moved many times. Different homes, cities and sometimes countries. Our beloved cat has always moved with us. Anytime we moved into a new place, he has to change all his habits and learn to move within a different environment. He had no choice. 

The other day I was observing him moving around while I was going through my morning routine. It’s impressive to watch how it looks like he has always been here, not just for a few months.

Looking back at the process he goes through any time we move into a new place, something that for him means disrupting his whole environment, I notice a few recurring phases.

  1. Accept. Felix has no words on the choice to move into a new place. He usually complains when we help him into the transporting bag, but once we are at the destination, that’s it. No more complaining, he just accepts his new reality.
  2. Assess. The first days he goes around assessing the new reality. He explores the room, discovers hiding places and advantage points of observation. He quickly becomes fully aware of where he is and how he can get the best out of the new environment.
  3. Adapt. Then he changes his habits to the new environment. He makes the new place his own place. He fully embraces his new reality so he can focus on the things that make him feel good.

He looks definitely happy, so I feel I can learn something from wise Felix.

One Apple A Day #681 – so small, so important

I’m staring at the mess on my desk, wondering when it did happen.
It was all tidy and organised a few days ago.
I remember removing all the clutter, throwing away old bills, placing everything where it is supposed to be.
And now I can barely find the book I’m reading.
How did it happen?
I know it’s all my doing even if it would be easier to blame someone else. Maybe the cat, walking over my desk during the night throwing things around.
But it’s me.
I clearly remember how happy I was when I tidied up my work corner. The pleasure of sitting at my neat desk made me feel professional, and it spark order also in my mind.
And now this.
As much I’d like to say it happened overnight, it didn’t. Today’s mess is the result of many small, almost insignificant actions.
The first days after I clear up my working corner, I’m able to take care of the space and preserve the tidiness. Then, one day I do a small thing like leaving a pen out of place. It is so tiny that it goes almost unnoticed. Yet, it breaks the spell and, one little action after the other, I wake up one day and find the mess.
I think that the lesson here is that it’s easy to pay attention to the big things in life, but too often it’s the little ones that we barely notice that make the mess.

One Apple A Day #672 – love + discipline

I was very, and I still am, deeply shocked by the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant. He was undoubtedly a giant whose legacy goes beyond basketball and sport in general.

His uncompromising dedication to his craft, playing basketball, has always been a trademark of his career. There are so many stories about his commitment and relentless pursuit of excellence. 

Yesterday, I was reading this one particular story, and I was trying to understand what can motivate someone to put so much work into something. It can’t be just the discipline or willpower.

I believe I found the answer in the letter he wrote in 2015, to say goodbye to basketball.

“I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —

From my mind & body

To my spirit & soul.”

It was love, then.

A deep, fulfilling love for the sport. A love so mighty to give meaning to all the hustle, the struggle, the pain, the sweat.

My friend Mark once told me that when you infuse love into your work, it becomes your craft.

That’s the recipe we can learn from Kobe. Love plus discipline.

Because discipline without love is sterile and hollow. Love without discipline is anaemic and fragile. But it’s when love meets discipline that the magic happens.


Photo: Kobe Bryant, Lakers shooting guard, stands ready to shoot a free throw, source

One Apple A Day #693 – search the ember

It’s dawn, and the air is chilly.

We are not supposed to regroup before an hour. 

But I can hear the first early-riser getting out of their tents.

It’s a misty morning, the mountains around are hiding.

I walk to the middle of the open space, the place where the fire burns during the day. There are no flames, but I can see some embers pulsing under the ashes.

I’m not great with fire. But I love to watch how the other men can quickly start one. And I love to watch the flames dance. I just never been useful in starting a fire. 

Only now I’m here alone before those embers. And I swear, they are calling. So, I did as I saw others doing the day before. I put some new wood over the embers, and I start blowing. Gently.

With every blow, the ember comes alive and glow. Every time a bit more. Until all of a sudden, a flame bursts and the fire comes alive again.

 

Since that day, breathing life into a glowing ember became one of my favourite experiences. It’s magical how it happens.

Sometimes, our potential is like an ember, a faint light under the ashes. If we do nothing, it will go dark and cold. But if we breathe our being into it, the ember will start glowing again until it will burst into flame and irradiate our life.

One Apple A Day #687 – a wrong map

Somewhere in Patagonia, January 8th, 2017

Here we are, standing at a crossroad. It has been a long and intense day. We already drove for about 500 km alternating tarmac and gravel. We surely enjoyed more the second one, but it requires more attention, and some tiredness is creeping in.

We’ve been standing here for a few minutes, the engine on. The complete absence of any form of human presence but us is becoming familiar. It’s only us, the signs saying that we should go left staying on the asphalt road. Our map saying that we should go right, on the gravel route. We’ve been following the Ruta40 since the very beginning of our journey. This road is the reason why we are here.

The sign says the Ruta40 is the one on the left. A long straight line of tarmac disappearing in the horizon. However, the map that we brought with us from Italy tells another story. In our map, the Ruta40 is the one going right. A white road disappearing after a few meters behind the brow. 

The shadows are getting longer and longer, and we have to make a choice if we want to get somewhere before it gets dark. The only hint we have to find our next destination, Tonchi’s farm, is to look for an old abandoned horse carriage on the side of the Ruta40. But which one is the right Ruta40?

We have no clues, but we know one thing; we love the gravel.

So, this is it. 

We decide to follow our map.

Two hours later we are almost regretting our choice. Outside is dark, cold and wind. And most of all, there is nothing and nobody anywhere to be seen. 

We are already planning the best way to spend the night in our truck when we see it. The old abandoned horse carriage.

We found it. 

***

What happened next is another story.

Only later we discovered that our map was an old one. To make the Ruta40 straighter and more comfortable to drive, the government swapped the name with another road. So the old and white Ruta40 got a new name. Our map was wrong and no more correct. Yet, it took us exactly where we wanted to go.

That day I learned that If you have clarity of intention, sometimes even a wrong map can lead you to the right place.

One Apple A Day #682 – innocence

Here I am, another Christmas is gone even if its magic is still in the air.
This one has been abundant in all the things that matter; love, emotions, tenderness, friendship, family, care, hugs, smiles, simplicity.

Among everything, one memory shines particularly bright. The pure joy of my niece when she discovered that Santa Claus – the real one – has eaten the biscuits, drank the milk and left a present and a letter for her.

There were such purity and beauty in her eyes while she was jumping around excited that it was lighting up the room.

At that moment, observing her, I realised that I want to experience more of that in my life. That innocence, that sense of wonder.
That ability to see the magic in things.

How can we learn how to make sense of the universe while keeping that capacity to sense it’s magic?