One Apple A Day #703 – Betsy

A few months ago, while I was surfing the web, looking for real stories about mentoring, I found this lengthy article titled, “The Most Famous Reverse Mentoring Story in History” by Peter Gregoire.

It’s a great piece of writing, absolutely worth 10 minutes of your precious attention.

In short, it’s the story of how a teenager named Betsy, driven by her innocent irreverence and her candid curiosity, helped Napoleone transform his exile into an opportunity.

I love this story from the day I read it. Not only is a compelling example of the power of reverse mentoring. It also shows the potential that we can unlock if we connect with human beings behind and beyond the roles or positions they may have in society.

These days, this story resonates even more. 

Aren’t we all experiencing a sort of exile? Our houses turned into many tiny islands of St. Helena. Separated, at least physically, from the rest of the world.

So I was thinking, who can be my Betsy in this exile? What are the open, innocent and challenging questions she would ask? What would throw me off balance but also rejuvenated and re-energize my mind and spirit?

Maybe my inner child asking things such as “Are you having fun? Why are you doing that?

This is going to be an interesting conversation.

One Apple A Day #699 – The Big Red Button

Within the big factory, all the workers are busy doing their jobs. They are all focused on their tasks, doing the best they can. Some of them are tired, but they know that they can’t just stop. Some are not sure about what they’re doing, they just know it’s essential, and for them, it’s enough. They can feel the eyes of the big boss on their shoulders. The owner is watching them. When their shift is finished, they leave the place to someone else to go home. They can’t say they are happy, and sometimes they wonder what would happen if they stop working. But hey, it’s just a dream, the work must go on, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it.

Up there on the wall, where the big bosses have their offices, there is a big fat red button. Nobody knows what it is for. 

Then one day, someone, it must be one of the bosses, enters the big factory and pushes the big red button. 

A weird noise fills the air, and then, all of a sudden, complete silence. All the machines stop working.

All the workers are shocked. The silence is quickly replaced by whispers and rumours. 

“What should we do? Do we have to go home? So it was possible to stop this? And now?”

***

The Big Red Button is an image that my dear friend Vanessa gave me a few days ago. And this morning this story came out of my fingers, without thinking really.

Sometimes I feel that we’ve convinced ourselves that we are just cogs in a machine. 

What can I do? The real power is somewhere else, in someone else hands. It all feels unstoppable. It is what it is. Until someone or something comes, and push the big red button.

But do we really have to wait for that? Are we really without power? Or is it just a story we tell ourselves to feel good doing nothing?

And now that something has pushed that big red button, what can I do?


Photo by włodi on Flickr

One Apple A Day #694 – the crazy fly

Sometimes my mind is like a fly trapped in a room. Buzzing around frantically, hitting all surfaces with the hope to find a way out.

Why don’t you just stop and look around? The window’s half-open. If you stop and observe for a second, you would see the way out immediately.

This morning is one of those times. My mind is flying everywhere, relentless bouncing on old and new thoughts. 

Then I picked a card saying “engaging and freeing all the energy“. There’s the drawing of a cage with the door open and a bird flying out.

Again. The same card as yesterday morning.

What does all this mean? 

Where am I trapped? 

What is my cage? 

How do I get out?

Ah, the crazy fly is back again. 

Wait a moment. 

What about that zen story that a friend told me yesterday?

A senior and a junior monk were travelling together. On their journey, they came to a river with a strong current. They were preparing to cross it when they noticed a young and beautiful woman. She too wanted to cross the river, so she asked if they could help her get to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another. They had taken vows not to touch a woman, how can they help?

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, and carrying her on his shoulders, he crossed the river. He placed her gently on the other side and then proceed on his journey. All without talking.

The younger monk was upset. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. He was speechless, and for the following hours, they didn’t share a word.

After three hours, the younger monk could contain his anger anymore and lashed out. “You know that we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”

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.