I decided to take a look at the “I am not your guru” documentary of Tony Robbins out of curiosity and I was both impressed and reassured.
Impressed by his ability to craft such experience for an enormous group of people, but more importantly watching it reminded me of how it is important to “dive” into concepts before discarding them.
I have always been a learner. I learn things, I try things. When there’s something you I test it and my knowledge grows with these experiences. I know so much more today thanks to the way I am. Some people are often surprised by this, but it’s not really a special skill, rather I have a quite high tolerance for the unknown, for the chaos, for the new things.
Imagine a child on a beach, his father nearby. The child never went into water, let alone swim.
His father asks him to try and enter the water.
The child puts his feet in it, the water is cold, he comes back.
How much did the child discover of water? How much will he know?
When we try new things our default is to be scared, to reject the new, to discard. It’s both our instinct and our brain that tell us this.
But to know something you need to go deep. You need to be immersed, you need to stay in that water for long.
You don’t need to become skilled, but you need to spend time in it. To feel comfortable, to be able to say “I like this, while I don’t like that”.
If your answer is “I don’t like that” you’ve probably not gone deep enough because in each new thing there is something good, interesting.
The whole experience might not be your thing but you should be able to discern what you like and what you don’t like.
And when I say “Like”, I mean it. “Like” like “If it was only this I could do it for my whole life”.
I believe learning is this. Diving into something, loosing track of where you started and maybe coming back, or maybe go forward with something new, something you found along the way that you didn’t have before.
When we’re kids, we dream big.
“I want to be an astronaut”, we say.
Those are words, but there are some inclinations that we have when we are kids.Skills, one might say, that we didn’t build per se, but that we always owned.
Are those traits still with you?
I’m not talking about passions you inherit from others, like loving to dress because in your family someone is always well-dressed, or liking to bike because your father went always biking.
I’m talking about imagination, drawing, kindness, playfulness, shyness, being an extrovert, etc.
Traits we didn’t have *because* we were emulating someone.
Traits we had because we liked or because they were always there.
How many of them are still there, how many were a foundation to the person you are today?
I always thought that we are defined by our experiences, that life changes us (in good and bad ways), but even though I still agree with this, I believe some of those traits were a guiding light in what we would eventually become.
Those were our trajectory.
They would pave the road in front of us.
Those were the bricks, we are the building.
I’ve always been fascinated by the people who are certain of the future.
They know which outcome will happen thanks to an action.
I was never like this. In my entire life I always guessed the outcome and even if I was often right I was never one of those people who was sure that their guesses would prove correct every time.
This might be mostly because I was always a possibilist, someone that takes into account that things change, things are unforeseeable, how people react can not be known for certain.
To my knowledge future can always hold for us something we can’t imaging. Both in personal and professional life. Things can go extremely well or wrong depending on topics we didn’t include into our vision.
That’s the main discussion topic around black swan, masterfully described in the book by the same name by Taleb. Amazon was unforeseeable until it happened, same goes with netflix. You might guess some of it, but rarely to which extend that will happen.
That’s the beauty of life, we know just a little and we can’t know it all.
I’ve been on stage quite some times in the past, mostly for improv shows.
I remember the thrill before stepping onto the stage, the pressure and the excitement when we played all together.
Improv teaches you how to handle the unexpected and enjoy the process. To me it was very stimulating, a creative process, and I loved every bit of it.
When I look back at those times I can’t help thinking about what it took to perform some emotions on stage.
Specifically: Rage and Joy.
Rage is such an easy emotion to express. It’s quick, it’s cheap. You might say that expressing rage without shouting is more difficult, and it would be true, but at the same time we can’t deny that we can instantly get into a “rage” mood with little or no effort.
Joy, on the other hand, is extremely complex. People see it you’re faking it, all the time and it’s also hard to represent on a stage.
In the book “The art of learning”, Josh Waitzkin listed some examples of how high-performance people (we’re talking of Olympics athletes for example, so the top 1% probably) entered their state of mind before a competition, being it a creative state of mind or a focus/skill one.
One of the techniques is to find an anchor that recalls your memory into a moment when you had that state. The anchor can be anything, a song, some moves to do, whatever, but it must be a real anchor. It must be something that each time strongly evokes that moment.
I believe this is part of the reason we can easily evoke rage. We have strong anchors because rage often relies on of internal inputs that don’t change, while joy also relies on external changes that we do not control.
Internally, rage is fueled by our prejudice, misconceptions, misunderstandings, the way we see and expect the world.
These things hardly change over time (unless you truly want to change them). Also we can easily recall every raging moment because it’s so strong and it permeated our body.
We underestimate joy and that is also the reason why we don’t have as many strong joy moments as the rage ones. Also, we don’t have many anchors so we can’t find an straightforward way to get to that state of mind.
Last night I dreamed a strange dream, there were like 6-8 people in a room and we were coached by a friend.
She split us in group of two people and asked us to mix.
While doing so she also mixed some liquids (she was mixing liquid CO2 with something else, but never mind that).
She said “Some things work best together, some not, we should be able to take the right things and leave the wrong ones”.
In the dream I was looking at the impossible drop of CO2 put on a spoon and moved into another liquid, not reacting at all, reaction was good, but was not happening.
When I woke up today I realized that “selecting the right things to keep” is not something we do often. Our characters and behaviors are defined by a global mix that works and when we act we use a complex mix of knowledge, charisma, wording choices and so on.
We don’t look at our actions by selecting the single element to keep but mostly as a “this worked, this didn’t work”, without diving into the reasoning.
Also, we (or at least I) forget that we can learn a lot from others, even if we dislike a big chunk of them, because we can select the good things they’re doing and learn from them.
This is an iterative process similar to the the “1% better every day” you can use for improve the conversion on a website, but works on a different scale and level.
It’s obvious we can’t improve 1% every day, but if we ever commit to trying new things and letting go of the wrong one we might be finally up to something.
During the pandemic I often wore a mask even if it was not required and some times I wore it even if I knew that mask wouldn’t protect me at all (since it wasn’t a FFP2).
Why wear it at all?
I thought a lot about it and thought how our body send messages to other people with the small nuances in our face in the way we move and so on.
The reasoning for my choice was to send a message: I care.
To me it was never about the rules, it was mostly about people.
I knew that my actions and my carelessness might impact other people lives so I choose to send a message. That I value protecting others.
I’m sure that some people might not agree with this stance but I can say this: While I was walking some people put on their masks. My action reminded them in some ways of the times we were living in a subtle and hopefully kind manner.
I never asked anyone to wear it, but always led with my personal choice and example and the goal to me was never to protect myself since I’m also in an age where there are less downsides than usual but instead to protect others and show them that I cared for them.
After the first year of the pandemic we saw society split as a whole on the topic of masks, vaccines and so on. We thought that the divisive element was related to the vaccines but now, with a world conflict in Ukraine we can see this was not the case.
Every time I read some comments on the topic we are always splitted and I constantly see hatred on both sides.
It’s the medium and our prejudices that create the split in the society. It’s the fact that we are not spending enough time understanding different perspectives and keeping an open mind, it’s about less hatred and more caring.
Looking back at my actions I’m sure some might’ve hated my choice, but I do hope some will see them as a way of caring even though they’re on a difference stance then me.
A friend of mine always talks about this entrepreneur as if people somewhat misinterpreted him.
As if his story and life were often made more interesting, but, after all, he’s just a normal man.
He told this story once to my mother-in-law and from then on the story, for her, didn’t change.
How could after all she would be able to change it if she doesn’t get more information, new updates or so on?
This is the problem with personal stories, they don’t get updated.
My mother-in-law will always talk about this entrepreneur the same way, even if years have passed, even if he changed entirely.
This happens to all of us, because if the story sticks in our memory then we will tell the story again and again, probably because it’s a nice story to tell after all.
But that story might be false now.
It might be even be false in the past as far as we know, but it can be more than ever false now.
Should we then stop telling stories? No, but we should take into account time.
As time passes a story becomes less and less reliable and unless we’re talking about a daily topic we encounter frequently then we’re better off telling that this might not be true anymore.
What’s in a job role? What does a job role means to you?
A role is your work. Your daily job, what you do for 8 hours a day.
For many people a role defines themselves. In fact it’s a way to define not only your status but also your competences and skill.
If you are an architect you obviously know many topics on architecture, professionally. But that doesn’t take away the option to know other things too.
A job role means also money. How much you earn, but it also mean power in some ways.
In some cases power is something that makes you valuable. If you have power over others, then you have a good job, because you’re important.
Which leads to the “Important” thing.
Stay with me for a second while we digress a little bit.
Let’s say you’re capable of 3 things professionally and one of them has an higher “rank status” across peers, let’s say you choose to move “down” to one of the remaining twos.
In this wording and the much needed quotes lies part of our social culture of “Importance”.
See, when we talk about importance we’re not talking about how you contribute to the work, to the role, to the project or product.
We’re not saying which skills you bring to the table.
What we’re valuing when we talk about importance, “stepping down” and so on, is status, and status if saw this way is ego-directed.
This also makes some jobs less “interesting” because they *seem* to lower your status.
But a job should be valued in your contribution, in how it lets you pursue your life, in how it allows you to express profoundly and with enthusiasm.
We should talk about our job roles as a thing that defines what we add to the table, not who we are, because even though who we are is influenced by the work we do daily at the end of the day life is what happens outside your job.
Being able to distill information should be our first and most important goal.
Not because we want only to be understood but mostly because being able to spread information is vital to any success.
How can you communicate what’s your plan, your goal, your ideas if you are not aligned with the people around you?
How can you ask for feedback and purposely follow the advice if you can’t further investigate their objections?
In these troubled time information can be spread everywhere and we’re the first line of defense in a world that presumably needs our ability to communicate correctly.
So, arm your pen or your keyboard with patience, take your time refining the message and send it over.
When life puts you into big transformative moments it’s quite easy (and the void of writing in the last two months is proof) to loose the way.
To forget all the foundations you’ve built over time and move onto the next big thing.
Yet, we should try and ask: should I keep it or throw it away?
Taking that moment is extremely important to allow understanding if this is the correct path.
No one else beside you can answer that question, and that’s perfectly fine.