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.

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.

One Apple A Day #473 – rest & recovery

Did you have a good weekend?
It is probably the main question asked on Monday morning when we go back to work.
Everyone has a different idea of a good weekend. For someone is about spending time with the loved ones. For others is about doing nothing or maybe doing all the things that can’t be done during the working days. Some engage with people while others seek only silence.

This morning I woke up thinking about the importance of rest and recovery. We often overlook how vital it is to take the time to rest our body, our mind and our soul.
A friend once told me that even the stronger bow would snap if you never release its tension.
Pushed by the desire to achieve our goals and improve our performances, we focus only on the things we have to do, and we overlook resting.
Everyone whose performance depends on their physical condition, like athletes but also people with physically demanding jobs, are well aware of the importance of rest and recovery.
But what about our mind? How much time do we give to our mind to rest and recovery? How much space do we invest to refill our creative reserve?

Personally, not as much as I should. And having a smart device with me all the time is not helping.
This is why I decided to carve out more disconnected time in my week to replenish my creative tank.

And what about you?
Do you give some time off to your mind?

One Apple A Day #472 – non-attachment

Non-attachment is a powerful practice.
But it’s not easy at all.
We live immersed in a culture that celebrates achievements and material wealth.
It’s hard to do something without being attached to the outcome.
Yet, anytime I’ve been able to experience non-attachment, my performances surged.
This practice of writing every morning is a good example.
When I started I had no goal but writing.
Being completely detached from the outcome, it was easy for me to sit down and write.
Then, once the practice became a habit and my writing began to improve, I started paying attention to the results.
I wanted to write something good because I knew I could.
I developed an attachment to the outcome, and I experienced the first difficulties. Days when words weren’t flowing, ideas were not coming, and my posts became less authentic.
Then I realized that nobody was expecting anything from me.
Nobody was reading me.
That gave me freedom.
And with that freedom words started flowing again.
Until lately, when I realized that I was focusing, again, on the outcome.
I have some readers, and I wanted to write something meaningful for them. For you.

The attachment to the outcome was getting in the way of my creativity.
Last days writing hasn’t been as fluid as usual.
And this morning I was stuck.
I was ready to give up and call it a day.
And when that thought came, when I gave up my attachment to the outcome this post emerged.

One Apple A Day #471 – Stay playful

A few weeks ago I had an inspiring conversation about playfulness with my dear friend Luca. While we were reflecting on what “being playful” means to us, we realised that in playing, like in every human experience, there are both form and essence.

Because the form is the only visible one and the easier to model, we usually focus on it. It is what most of the companies did years ago when “gamification” became one of the main buzzwords in the digital industry. I did it too.

My feeling is that the “gamification” approach didn’t deliver the expected impact because it was all about form. We were trying to apply the typical visible elements of games to other areas. But the essence wasn’t there. We were just asking people with a business mindset to use a playful form.

What could happen if we do the reverse? If we infuse a playful mindset into other forms?

For Luca and I, a playful mindset or attitude is about being always curious, making everything experiential, seeing everything as an opportunity to learn and discover, focusing on the act of playing more than on the outcome, having fun together.

What about you? What is the essence of playing for you?

And what would happen if you infuse that essence in your work?