I wrote Marvel in order to grow with the intention of introducing the reader to a few basic principles in Personal Development. The book was written around two main points: the first being the Seminar in Basic Mental Dynamics which consisted of a truly “wondrous” experience from which I learned a few simple techniques which allowed me to put my Mind’s capacity to better use, helping me to be at peace with myself, others and the world in general. I discovered that my Mind, like everybody else’s, had abilities that I had never even dreamed of and what’s more, that they could (and really did) help me to improve the quality of my life.
The instructor at that first Seminar was Marcello Bonazzola, and the friendship that grew from our first encounter, which still survives today, had a huge impact on my life. Obviously for the better, I hasten to add. But the most striking thing I found about that Seminar was not Marcello’s (affectionately known as Ma.Bo.) personality, his charisma or his sincerity, but the fact that the techniques he proposed were both simple and accessible to everyone. In fact, during the various Seminars in Basic Mental Dynamics, I noticed that the participants came from, and still come from, all walks of life; in the same group you could find businessmen, factory workers, office workers, teachers, athletes, students, university lecturers, clergymen, politicians, housewives and pensioners.
A particular characteristic that Ma.Bo. brought to the Course was its accessibility; everybody who attended found that his techniques could be applied to their everyday lives thanks to his ability to appeal to the “person” that lies beneath the “clothes”; our outer cover. This meant that the Course made sense to all “6+ 6-” adults, if we want to express things by way of the marks that we used to get at school; 10/10 being given to the cleverest kids, going all the way down to 1/10 or even 0/10 for the less scholarly (or if you didn’t even hand your homework in), and 6/10 being about the average mark and meaning that you were a “satisfactory” student.
For people who do not aspire to be 6/10, or for those who already know everything or who have no doubts about their acquired convictions and therefore consider themselves above this symbolic 6/10, the Course would be futile, and probably make little sense. What’s more, if you think about it, according to an elementary calculation in existential economics, if you are alive and do something, then you’re almost certainly a 6/10 or thereabouts.
The second point that I tried to illustrate in Marvel in order to grow was that of freedom of choice. Not only was attendance to the Seminar totally open in the sense that participants could leave whenever they liked and have a complete refund of the enrolment fee if they chose to abandon the Course, but all the other activities and organisations run or set up by Marcello Bonazzola, were based on the principle of freedom of choice. Among his other interests are The European Academy C.R.S.-I.D.E.A. (a recognised body), and the Serblin Institute for Infancy and Adolescence (a non-profit organisation). What’s more, Ma.Bo. is so loyal to his conviction that he didn’t want anyone, not even the Instructors that he had trained, to act as an example to their students because he was afraid of “running the risk of not allowing them to make their own mistakes”.
As I was writing that book, ideas for another book that I could write were already running through my Mind.
In fact, in the first book I only touched upon a few of the basic techniques from the Seminar of Basic Mental Dynamics, hardly even mentioning “post-Course” activities which in my opinion are the part that really helps us to make sense of life. I refer to the Permanent Project for Alternative Educational Dynamics in which “alternative” is meant in the complementary, innovative sense, as intended by Ma.Bo., and whose vastness I have hardly begun to explore; what I’ve learnt from it so far is more than enough for me.
This book is divided into two parts.
In the first part, I use the word “Champions” not to refer to myself, (I am not under the illusion of being a champion in the true sense of the word) but purely to show how this “Role”, “important” and “famous” as it may be, is not enough to permit a person to live their life to the full. A Role can only be supported and therefore successful if it has a solid base to lean on when faced by challenges from external factors, a bit like an iceberg, where the part that we can’t see supports the part above the water. Were it not for the “lower” part, it would be almost impossible for the “upper” part to have any kind of balance or stability.
I chose to use the word “Champion” because it is linked to my own past as a sporting professional, and it also enables me to express myself in a way that is directly linked to my personal experiences. It could, however, quite easily be substituted by the word doctor, engineer, solicitor, politician, businessman, architect, bank clerk, postman, electrician, hairdresser, policeman, judge, notary, psychologist, salesman, librarian, editor, taxi driver, writer, teacher, professor, goldsmith, publicist, secretary, butcher, plumber, dentist, singer, actor, journalist, chemist or by any of the countless “roles” that we play in our daily lives.
The people who carry out these “roles” can make the most of themselves and what they do by remembering that even when their “role” is over, or they are not playing that part for a time, life goes on.
The second part of the book is dedicated to this aspect of our lives, when we are not playing our Role, and to trying to find an answer to the question “Now what?” so that the Champion (or the Role “cover”) isn’t left “in his underwear” living on memories or regrets or complaining that his “season” is over, or that his life only makes sense when he is carrying out his Role.
Between the chapters of this book, you will find excerpts and poems that I have come across during my years of Per-sonal Development. Most of these pieces are written by Marcello Bonazzola, but many of the others are by authors with whom I’m not familiar. Personal thanks goes out to all of them for the help their writing has given me along the way. It is almost impossible for us to project emotions, sensations, perceptions, or even intuitions using mere words because we all interpret the information which our brain receives in a totally personal and unique way, sometimes however, even simple extracts or short poems are able to transmit the “illusion” of sharing a common “Experience” in which there are no identity cards, no geographical borders, no “more” or “less”, no black or white, no rich or poor, no young or old, nobody is more or less important than the others, no differences, no squabbling, no bitterness, no recrimination, no beginning and no end, where there are only people, and the world in which they stay for a short time.
In my opinion many events which take place in the world today; the attacks on the Twin Towers and The Pentagon, the siege at the theatre in Moscow and the constant threat of war for example, not only highlight the need for various countries to carefully readdress the basic choices they make, but are also a sign that the problems we experience within our own “Global Village” can be resolved by our being “Suitable Inhabitants”, each to their own affairs and minding their own business.
If it’s true that there is a Person “under” every Role, it is also true that everyone should do their utmost to be suitable to whatever role they may play, because unsuitable situations (like those which are under our nose) are only provoked by unsuitable choices and the unsuitable behaviour of unsuitable inhabitants. I’m not passing judgement, this is just the observation of a “6/10” who still believes in Utopia, which helps him to try to make sense of it all.
I am also convinced that if the “silent majority” of “6/10” citizens of the Global Village, closed in their own little worlds of performing their own personal tasks every day, decided to stop being afraid to speak out, to make heard their desire to feel good, to make themselves useful and to help others, then maybe, just maybe, we could finally find ourselves at the beginning of a New Era.
A Chapter of the book
“What may be a disaster for a caterpillar, could be
the beginning of a wonderful experience for a butterfly”
After I retired, I spent six months without a care in the world. I no longer had to think about training or matches or travelling four hours a day (by train and water taxi, there and back) to get to practice, all of which had gradually begun to weigh me down.
What’s more, the fact that it had all come to a close just as I had dreamt it would, made me feel good inside and happy with myself too. I even received an offer from a team who wanted me to be at the centre of a construction project for a new “cycle”, but I turned them down without giving it a second thought. I was through with basketball, period. I was going to throw myself into my new life and that was that.
Every so often, over the years, I had heard rather unenthusiastic talk of life after professional sport. What’s more, I had also had occasion to meet ex-champions or ex-athletes and more often than not, they were bored, overweight, and living on memories. If they had had a colour, it would probably have been grey.
As for me, I had grown strong thanks to my experiences with Ma.Bo. and his colleagues, who were all highly motivated people even though they weren’t involved in the world of sport, and I had prepared myself for the “shock” of change. I had managed to get my degree, studying in my time away from the basketball court, and had already done a two-year apprenticeship with a legal firm. I had also followed the educational programme set up by Ma.Bo. and had qualified as an Instructor in Basic Mental Dynamics and, after being examined by a commission set up by the region of Lombardy, I had begun to teach Courses as an Instructor. It was for all these reasons that I was so convinced that I was ready to face life after basketball, and besides, I had had a taste of things to come between one match or one transfer and another.
In fact, in objective terms, I had very few difficulties. What’s more, a little after retirement I received an offer to manage a division A ladies’ basketball team called Famila Schio that was based near my town. I soon discovered that the biggest problem I would have to face was not financial; money has never been so important to me that it became my only or most important reason for living. I have always thought that if I was able to do something good, then the money would come in as the natural consequence of a job well done.
Once I’d got over the “shock” of retirement, I realized that the rhythm of daily life was very different to the one I had had for years. When I was still playing, I would often go to bed late, after matches, and sleep longer in the mornings. I had never had any problems with eating; intense training sessions and matches meant that I easily burned off the large amounts of food I ate to give me the extra energy I needed.
I started to adapt to my new routine, getting up early, working for eight hours a day and getting home “early” in the evenings. But one of the “strangest” things was having to get used to Sunday as my “day of rest”, while for fifteen years it had been the most important day of my working week. My “Sunday” had always been on Monday, which I still remember with great pleasure, probably because I was no longer able to enjoy it as a “Sunday”.
I started to be more careful about what I drank and ate, and took up jogging in my spare time to keep myself in shape. I would often remember what I said at my leaving dinner to my teammates, managers and coach: “I was young when I started playing here, for Venice, just eighteen years old. I still feel as young as I was then, today at thirty-two, despite everything that has happened over the years. I’m going a happy man, I couldn’t ask for more” I told them.
I gradually began to understand why so many sportspeople turn “grey” when their careers come to an end. Despite already having something to move on to and trying to stay “young”, what I saw around me; everyday life, seemed far off, incomprehensible, difficult and complicated. It also became very clear that nobody “gives” you anything, and despite the smiles and compliments I received when somebody recognised me, I found doing even the smallest thing extremely hard.
As a basketball player, I had had nothing else to think about but playing basketball and doing it well, everything else was either due or it was not my business anyway. One thing that I learnt well with time, and my experience as a manager, is that there is a lot of work that goes on “behind the scenes” that often goes unrecognised but is fundamental in creating an optimum environment for the players and coach to work in. I think it would be useful, every now and again, to swap places and let the players and coach be managers for a day and send the managers out onto the court so that the “brainwaves” of certain people who only think of themselves rather than the entire group, can be put into a more realistic context. It would all be in the name of fun, of course. The fact remains, however, that after a while I started to feel increasingly useless, and depression crept in. The past was past and the “today” that I was living seemed terribly difficult and incomprehensible. In my legal business, where I was at one and the same time “secretary” and “boss”, I occupied myself with all manner of problems from writing letters to going to the post office, from answering the phone to typing out legal documents and from going to court to studying the cases. As for the accounts there was no problem…there were so few of them!
One day, during one of our meetings, Marcello was talking to one of his colleagues when he came out with one of his usual, seemingly off the cuff remarks:
“If I were to start some project to give myself financial security, I would start with building the four walls”.
My problem, at that time was that I didn’t know where to go in search of clients for my legal firm and I hoped that Ma.Bo. was about to give me some sort of suggestion.
“Right, from the walls…then what would you do?” asked his colleague.
“Nothing,” replied Ma.Bo. coolly, “Having a base would be a good starting point. The rest would just follow”.
Marcello carried on talking about other things while I mulled over his words which I knew he had intended to help me build up a client base (or at least that’s what I thought), so that first and foremost I could render myself effective, and secondly to give me some financial stability. As a result, I gave up on the idea of going out looking for clients, even important ones, and I carried on with my daily toil, putting back into practice an idea that I had had for a number of years while I was still playing basketball. In fact, when I found myself in a state of desperation, with no apparent “ways out”, and didn’t know what to do, I would say to myself, “Okay, Take just one step, whatever it may be, whatever happens and once you’ve done that, then you can take another. What alternative do you have?”. The alternative was nothing, and in those moments I reminded myself that living our lives is our duty more than our right and seeing that it wasn’t me who decided that I should come into this world, I certainly wasn’t going to decide when I would stop being a part of it either.
That’s how I discovered that the simple act of doing, like sending a letter, making a telephone call or checking a case at the registrar’s office, was the equivalent of a grain of sand on the “beach” that I wanted to create. Or at least that’s how it was for me and the simple act of adding one more grain gave me a good feeling because that way I felt that at least I was making progress, as slow as it may have been.
Knowing that nothing ever happens by chance, at the beginning of every week I wrote a list of all the things, both great and small, that I wanted to achieve over the following days. The week after, I would go back to that list to see how many of those things I had actually managed to do, and so on. Even though it may have seemed that nothing was really happening, my mind and my heart kept on going.
Slowly but surely, within those “four walls”, things really started to get going and the clients started coming in. Exclu-sively I was still running everything and I was always surprised that someone like me managed to do certain things. Something that Ma.Bo. had said to me a few years earlier was of great use to me during those times:
“I saw you playing on T.V. the other evening and I said to my wife, just you watch, he’s going to pass the ball to that guy there any minute now, and…hey presto you passed the ball right to him, just like I said! My wife said, how on earth did you know that he was going to do that?”.
I laughed out loud. I knew that he knew that I liked passing the ball in a certain way and it was funny that Ma.Bo., watching me on television, had understood what it felt like to make certain kinds of passes.
I was still laughing when he looked me straight in the eyes and said with a smile:
“But I can’t work out those wristbands”.
“You know,” I said trying to defend myself – he’d caught me off guard, “they’re for when you sweat!”
“Oh I see…they’re for sweat”, he replied.
Two seconds went by and he seemed to think it over. Then he said, laughing: “But I still don’t get it!”.
He’d got it all right! For me, those wristbands were a kind of good luck charm, my personal version of “Linus’ blanket”, if you like. Damn that Marcello! He always managed to get through the tiniest cracks in my defences and attack my weak spots with incredible self-confidence and kindness. I had to think long and hard about those blue wristbands, I wore them more for “show” than for true necessity and it didn’t take me long to realise what was really underneath those wristbands (and my gold chain that I always wore for every match, too), so I plucked up all my courage and gave them away (but I left the gold chain at home).
If I really was worth something, my value lay in what I was and what I did without lucky charms, false defences, pretences or superstitions. But still, the first few times I played like that, just in my vest and shorts, I felt decidedly naked and in rather a lot of difficulty. But it worked and it worked well.
So, in my life “post-basketball”, at the beginning of my professional career as a lawyer, I did likewise, and indeed many other times in my life, in many other situations. “This is what I am, this is my body, my emotions, my mind, my heart and my spirit. Nothing more, nothing less. Let’s see where it gets me”, I would say to myself. My career as a basketball player was over, and I began others as a lawyer, as an Instructor, as a manager and as a husband and father, as ever. I hope to be able to embark upon others too before I go. Our “clothes” may change, but who we are will always be the same, “6/10”; it isn’t difficult. If clothes can be changed, why can’t we keep the same ones, the “person” never ends because it always remains what it was, what it is and what it will be.
A poem in the book
Don’t give up
When things don’t go well, as often happens,
when your paths seem to be all uphill,
when your funds are few and your debts are many,
and you wanted to smile but had to sigh,
when your responsibilities weigh you down,
stop for a moment, if you have to, but don’t give up.
Life is strange,
with its changes and its turning-points,
as every one of us has had to learn,
and there is often failure,
when all we need is perseverance to win.
Don’t give up,
even if it looks like everything has come to a standstill,
you might win next time.
The goal is often nearer than it seems
for someone who fights.
The fighter often gave in
when he could have won the victory cup,
and he realized too late, as night was falling,
how near he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure reversed,
a silvery tent in the clouds of doubt,
and you can never tell just how close it is,
it could be near especially when it looks so far.
So keep on fighting,
even when you’ve been hard hit,
it’s when all looks lost
that you shouldn’t give up.
A fragment of the book
Don’t try to do more or better than you can by trying to do as much as you can. Doing things as well as you can is enough. If you want to gain satisfaction from it and motivation for your life, then you should do it with pleasure and awareness. Or rather: “I did that, and I’m proud of it”.
What’s more, don’t let the superficial judgements of older people get to you, especially when they’re not malicious.
It’s normal for us, who are dying, to watch you from behind a veil of envy, with all those years ahead of you in which “to do things”.
Often our “misdirected” judgement is nothing more than a clumsy attempt to encourage you to do better, or a way, veiled by our senile dementure, to feel that we are still of some use. Then, (I’ve nearly finished,) if you should find that you have fallen short of the goal you had set yourself, capitalize on this negative experience and don’t give up. Try again. It is this trying and trying again that strengthens the character of a young boy who wants to become a man. The same goes for girls, naturally, who want to become women.
Convince yourself deep down that every time you try to escape, not only do you admit irreperable defeat, but your resignation is also a sign of weakness. Let yourself be helped by those who do it for a living; it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Good luck and, the sooner you get to where you want to be, the better.
To avoid the worst
You will never be beaten by a complex or imaginary fear if you are careful to follow these nine pieces of advice:
1- If you feel that you are affected by an inferiority complex, try to identify at least a few of the reasons why. Try to pinpoint the first time that your complex manifested itself.
Ask yourself if you really believe that you are trying to do something which is truly impossible. Choose a discipline that you can take up to free yourself from the disadvantage of feeling inferior.”
2- Acknowledge all your limitations and serious difficulties. Don’t avoid the obvious.
3- Decide to change your situation. You can start doing this by helping to keep the wheel of the civilized world turning for example. This won’t necessarily bring you happiness, but it will help keep your mind active. Music, literature and sport are other outlets which may console the mind the and soul. Be aware and sure of the fact that hating yourself serves no purpose.
4- Don’t worry about making a good impression on other people. Be yourself; that’s the secret of feeling at ease with others.
5- Face up to things that you don’t like, whatever happens. Things move on, you remain.
6- Avoid looking back. If there’s nothing else to do, stay where you are for a while and then take another step forward.
7- Think big, decide what you want from life and go out and get it. If the worst comes to the worst, you’ll have achieved a small part of what you were aiming for.
8- Keep a list of the improvements you have made. Always bear in mind that time spent nurturing ourselves, is time spent well.
9- Above all, always keep control of your mind and don’t let yourself be fooled by its capers. The secret to doing this is to always keep it linked to reason and to your heart. You will be able to do this if you don’t confuse your mind with your brain.
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