One Apple A Day #487 – What is work?

I’ve lately been to a conference where people where talking about the right to work. A “decent work” is also the 8th of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in the 2030 Agenda.
I heard people saying that every person has the right to access a decent work.
But what is work?
In the 2030 agenda, the 8th goal full title is “Decent work and economic growth”. So, work is related to economic growth.
Are we saying that we all should have works that contribute to economic growth?

The dictionary says that work is an “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result”. There is nothing in this definition about compensation or economic reward.
When I take care of my garden, am I working?
When I dedicate my time to listen to a friend in need, am I working?

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I have the feeling that work is mostly seen as something we have to do in order to earn enough money to do what we want to do. Every study says that machines will do more and more of our work. Maybe we should ask ourselves what work in the first place is.

So, I’m curious. What is work for you?

One Apple A Day #486 – travelling improves awareness

One of the good things about travelling is that it forces me to reassess my habits.
Our life runs on habits. And of most of them, we are not aware.
Without automatic habits, we would have to think deliberately before doing anything. That doesn’t sound efficient at all.
Luckily for us, our brain and body have the incredible capacity to identify and implement patterns that allow us to function efficiently in our environments.
Automatic habits are vital elements of our life, as long as they are good ones. With good ones I mean the patterns that help us thriving and improve the quality of our life.
But the same process also works for bad habits. The ones that don’t support our growth but impact negatively on our life.

When behaviour becomes automatic, it also becomes invisible.
So, most of the time we are not aware of our habits, nor we can’t distinguish a good from a bad one.

Any change begins with awareness.
There are three practices that I found helpful to gain awareness about our automatic habits.
Introspection, using a tracking system and travelling.
The first one helps you take a pause and observe your life from a new perspective.
A tracking system can help you notice the effects of invisible behaviours in your daily routine.
Travelling takes you to new environments and disrupts your habits. In my case, it forces me to reassess my morning rituals to understand which ones are essential.

One Apple A Day #485 – being in awe

Last week I was in Rome and, no matter how many time I’ve already visited, I’m always in awe before the majesty of the buildings, temples, fountains, squares, churches, palaces. Everything in Rome is monumental.
I was reminded of this article I read about the positive effect of experiencing awe in our life.

Being before a temple that is more than 2000 years old, forced me to redefine my perspective on time. It the same feeling I had when I was driving in Patagonia. That vastity redefined my perspective on space. Art is another source of awe, a glimpse into the vastity of human beauty and creativity.

According to Amie Gordon, PhD, Principal Research Scientist in the Emotion, Health, and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of California-San Francisco, awe is about novelty and vastness. Something that doesn’t fit with what we already know and forces us to change our perspective.

It would be easy to think that the only sources of awe are external experiences.
But look at children, they live in a state of awe. Because they know less they create the experience of newness and vastity our of everything.

We should learn from them the art of being inspired.

One Apple A Day #484 – colours

My mind is blank this morning.
I don’t know why, but I couldn’t come up with anything to write about.
So, I decided to write about colours.
I am at a friend’s house, in the countryside.
Outside my window, I can see, amidst the green, some beautiful yellow flowers.
They remind me something inspiring I head last Saturday from an Eskimo shaman.
He said that all human beings should always see themselves as a big circle.
A circle has no beginning and no end. And when we are in a circle, we can all see each other, and no ones are showing their back.
To explain the idea of the circle, he said that the sun rises at the East and it colours the sky in yellow.
Then it goes up in the sky and showered everything with white light.
When the sunset arrives, everything is coloured in red. And finally the sun rests for the night, and everything is black.
Yellow, white, red and black.
Like, he said, the different people who live on this planet.
Less than an hour later in the same conference, a scientist told about the stories of the first astronauts who saw the Earth from the space. They were all impressed by the blue and green.
This morning, while looking at these yellow flowers, I can’t think of anything more beautiful than the colours of life.

One Apple A Day #483 – just listen

Listening is a tough job.
I’m talking about deep listening. With intention.
I spent the last two days listening to many amazing people talking.
I wanted to be sure to capture the full essence of what was shared in the room, so I had to be deliberate in shutting down everything unnecessary, to keep my thinking at bay and create enough space within to hold everything.
I had to learn to turn off the noise and tune into the signal.

It’s exhausting.
No wonder nobody listens nowadays.
Yet, I realized that to start real and meaningful conversations, the first vital step is to listen.
Because everyone has something to share, but if nobody listens with intention, all those beautiful words will be lost.

That is why artists are fundamental.
They listen, they see, they sense with intention, and then they distill the essence into their artworks.
So we can feel listened and seen.

And because we are all artists, we are called to practice the art of listening with intention.

One Apple A Day #482 – the last drop

Nobody is small enough to not have an impact.

I heard this sentence yesterday from the leader of an organisation that aims to solve one of the biggest challenges of our world.
Before the significant challenges of humanity such as climate change, inequality, human rights and so on, it’s easy to feel powerless.
I often feel powerless.
These days I’m listening to leaders who are committed to change the world, who are dedicating their lives to higher causes.
In the beginning, I felt small.
But then, the more I listened to them I realised two things.
Before being leaders, innovators or changemakers, they are human beings.
Like you and me.
They are not cut from a different cloth.
Their superpower is being human. A power that we all have.

The second thing is that every choice, every action albeit small, counts.
It may not seem so in the moment, but it counts.
It’s natural to think that significant shifts in the history of humanity are the result of a single massive event. But in reality, they are the compound effect of many small choices and actions.
Because it is the last drop that makes the cup run over, but all the drops before are the ones that filled the cup.

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 #478 – everything is subjective

How often are you asked to be objective?
Particularly at work, we are often told that to do a good job, to make effective decisions and, in general, to see things as they really are, we must be objective.

To be objective means to be unbiased. When you’re objective about something, you have no personal feelings about it.

Is it really possible or are we just lying to ourselves?

To ask someone to be objective is the same as asking to avoid being human. How can we fully experience the world if we try to strip away or hide a large part of who we are?

Anytime we think we are making objective decisions we are just lying to ourselves. So, what if instead of trying in vain to be objective, we acknowledge our subjectivity?

Even more, we explore it. Through introspection, we shift our attention from the known to the knower, from the observed to the observer.

“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” ― Anaïs Nin

If you struggle to get a sense of the reality in which you live, it may be worth to turn your focus inside.

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.