{ Tinkerers Delight } Download PSFK’s Makers’ Manual …*

Cool free new resource alert for rethinkers–the PSFK’s Makers’ Manual.

The Maker’s Manual explores how everyone from do-it-yourselfers and artists to inventors and entrepreneurs are leveraging new tools, platforms and services to take their ideas from concepts to reality.

learn, make & rethink …* 

In a World of Constant Change, How Do I Constantly Construct New Lenses Through Which to Make Sense Out of the World?

“People are amazed today at a 2-year-old being able to pick an iPhone and make it work. Okay? Whereas a 50-year-old, many of the executives that I know, or 60-year-olds, feel like they can’t figure this thing out. Or anything new that comes up, they get thunderstruck. Oh, damn it, what do I do now? They have to call for help. There’s no sense of saying well, hold it, let’s just goof around with it a moment, get a feel for it, see how you get out of that problem. And if you can do that, then you don’t feel alienated by these changes. And instead, you start to see how oh, I can figure this kind of stuff out, and I’m beginning to connect the pieces in new ways, and pretty soon I feel like I own this. Because a tremendous sense of learning is, how do I make something personal? How do I bring it in to me as opposed to just things out here? Can I internalize it, can I play with it, make it personal to me? And then I got it for life.” - John Seely Brown

In the short video below, John Seely Brown highlights the importance of play in enabling us to navigate a world of constant change. He also shares some insights on the types of context–from the one-room schoolhouse to cultures that promote reverse-mentorship–that facilitate and harness the potential of play as a source of understanding and innovation.

So it is the kind of the willingness to be able to sit back and just play with something, look at the world as a riddle, see if you can generate epiphanies about these little micro-riddles that come forth, and when you can do that, you start to craft a new set of conceptual lenses. And so the real question is, in a world of constant change, how do I constantly construct new lenses through which then I can pore all kinds of knowledge and make sense out of the world, see how to connect the dots? So this actually has a tremendous amount of play to it, but it also has a fair amount of tinkering into it. It’s kind of working with the system – if you can work with the system abstractly as you do in string theory, but it’s a sense of playing with how do these pieces really come together? It can be casual play, fairly simple stuff, or it can be deep conceptual play. But then you see things kind of lock in. You made that lock-in happen and so suddenly things start to now jell.

play, learn & rethink …

 

Questions Are a Tool to Organize Our Thinking Around What We Don’t Know …*

“If you look at the research, a four year old girl is asking as much as 300 questions a day. And when kids go into school, you see this steady decline that happens as they go through the grade levels to the point where questioning in schools, by Junior High School is almost at zero.” – Warren Berger

While Berger acknowledges that there are multiple reasons behind this alarming decline in questioning, the key culprit that he highlights is the large bias for answers that dominates the culture of our education system. If, however, “questioning enables us to organize our thinking around what we don’t know,” it is a critical capacity for navigating and thriving in the 21st century. In a time such as ours, where the pace of change keeps accelerating, where uncertainty is omnipresent and wicked problems proliferate, it is imperative that we teach our students to become fluent thinking in questions. Berger suggests checking out The Right Question Institute, which has a set of tools and resources to help children build their questioning skills.

How do you help your students grow as questioners? 

Questions Are the New Answers – Warren Berger via Big Think

Frame Your Day Using This Little Rethink to Increase Gratitude & Mindfulness …*

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A new Indian restaurant recently opened near where I live and while I am thrilled with all the added delicious vegetarian options available in my neighborhood, I find my favorite part of ordering from them to be my encounters with their deliveryman. Each time he comes, he beams with a giant smile and shares tidbits of wisdom handed down from his mother. This weekend he told me about his mother’s 25-hour day and I thought it was a brilliant way to shape one’s frame of mind to increase gratitude and mindfulness in one’s life.

His mother would tell him, “I have twenty-five hours in my day.” When he asked how that was possible when everyone else only had twenty-four, she replied that she saved an extra hour, because no one ever knows about tomorrow.

I absolutely love this. Nothing is promised; tomorrow is not given to us. That’s something that we all know but most of us fail to fully appreciate. Most mornings I wake up to the jarring sound of my alarm, or the insistent meows and head-butts of my hungry needy cat and I get out of bed annoyed and groggy. I’m not a “morning person”, I generally wake up on the wrong side of the bed and anyone who has shared a roof with me has quickly learned not to speak to me until I’m done with my first cup of coffee (earning me the nickname of “bear” from my mother). But in the past few days, since hearing the 25-hour day anecdote, I’ve made a conscious effort to wake up and be grateful. When I open my eyes, I really take a moment to appreciate how lucky I am to be waking up to a new day. It may sound a bit cliché but really, it’s anything but. Life is unpredictable, circumstances change overnight and without notice. In claiming and savoring that moment, I feel I have added an hour to my day, it makes me less grumpy, more energized, happy, even.

The other aspect of this story that I really enjoyed was that the motivation behind adding another hour to each day had nothing to do with trying to be more productive or cram more things into a single day. It was about being present; about enjoying as much as possible what one is given. In the age of chronic busyness, stress and not-enough time, I found this focus on presence and gratitude greatly refreshing and inspiring.

Try it out and let me know how the 25-hour day works out for you …* 

Rethinking “Someday” – On Courage & Letting Go …*

Rethinking "Someday" & Making Room For Flow ...* | rethinked.org

“About six months ago, I sat down and wrote some really audacious lists: one was Dream Mentors; another was People with Awesome Mystical Powers; another was Stuff I’d Like to Do Before I Die; and the last was Stuff I’d Like to Do Someday. On my dream mentor list, I had a mutual connection to one of the people, so I emailed her. For the mystical powers people, I wrote a cold email to four of them to ask if they’d like to do a weekly call with me for accountability and support. On the things I’d like to do before I die list, I created a plan. I literally backed my way into how to make those things happen. I put the things I’d like to do someday into a pile and threw them away, because who has time for someday? The very next day I heard from my dream mentor and we went out to lunch a week later. I don’t think people realize how close at hand their dream mentors can be.” – Elle Luna

Over the course of this past week, for National Simplify Your Life Week, I have been using the quote above by Elle Luna as a sort of compass for simplifying my time and my things. I went through my closets and let go of all those “just in case” items that I never use but feel an irrational need to hold on to because someday, in some improbable situation, I may need them. In the great, wise words of Elle, who has time for someday? So off they go to the Salvation Army where hopefully someone will be able to make use of them now, today. Conversely, I looked at some of the things I’ve been wanting to do but have felt “not enough” to begin–not enough time, ability, resources, knowledge, courage–all those things I’ve been dreaming about and saving for someday when I’d feel enough to start. I let go of most of the items on my “someday” list, but there were a couple dreams and projects on there, which when I considered abandoning, made me feel heartbroken. I took this as a cue for action and transferred them to the ‘things I’d like to do before I die” list. I am now in the process of backing my way into making these things happen. Step one, I decided, was to eliminate the many ways in which I mindlessly spend my time, those default activities utterly devoid of intent, flow or growth. 

I’ve decided to go a month with no TV watching. I don’t own a TV but between iTunes, Amazon Instant, Hulu and Netflix, I spend an ungodly amount of time watching bad TV shows. I’ve canceled my Hulu and Netflix memberships (did I ever really need both?!). 

I’ve gotten rid of email on my phone. Instead of having a constant stream of interruptions throughout the day popping up on my screen I’m going to allot two chunks of time for email, one in the morning, one in the evening. 

I’m also going to try going a month without using Internet at home. Given that some days I work from home, I think this one might be the toughest, but it will be a good excuse to get out of the house. I’d like for home to feel more like a sanctuary, a space and time to focus on passion projects with calm and intent.

I’ll see after a month if these are habits I want to shed for good. I think it is likely that I will, but after years of running experiments on myself, I have learned that I need to break down change into small, achievable steps if I want to follow through.

What have you been doing to simplify your life? Any good tips? Let me know …* 

Harper’s Playground: Rethinking the Typical Playground to Create A More Inclusive World …*

“A quality play area is more than just a collection of play equipment. It is a place for play and learning – a place where children develop essential physical, social and cognitive skills, where different generations share common experiences, and where community members gather and build relationships.”The Inclusive City, Susan Goltsman & Daniel Iacofano – MIG

Haper’s Playground, located in Portland, Oregon, is an inclusive playground which allows children of all abilities to play together. Harper’s Playground was founded by April and Cody Goldberg whose daughter Harper uses a wheelchair to get around and could not enjoy their local playground. The Goldbergs were also frustrated with the alternative option of “adaptive” playgrounds which they view as:

expensive solutions to the wrong problem.  The problem isn’t about access to a structure, it’s about allowing and encouraging children of all abilities to play together.

They decided to design their own solution to the unmet needs of their daughter. The result is Harper’s Playground, which is an inclusive, fun and social place where children of all abilities and their families can come together to play, learn and explore. This is a splendid project, which aims to create a paradigm shift in how we think of and design the typical playground. Every community should have such a thoughtfully designed and delightful play space and luckily for us, the Goldbergs have a How To tab on the Harper’s Playground website with a form you can send them to receive feedback and advice on how to start an inclusive playground in you own community.

more play for more people …

Harper’s Playground: “More Play for Everyone” from Cody Goldberg on Vimeo.

Hat Tip: A Lot of Playgrounds Can’t Accommodate Children With Disabilities. A TEDx Speaker is Changing That. via TED, published August 6, 2014. 

How Our Ability to Think About Other People’s Thoughts Affects Our Moral Judgement …*

“We have a special brain system that lets us think about what other people are thinking. This system takes a long time to develop, slowly throughout the course of childhood and into early adolescence. And even in adulthood, differences in this brain region can explain differences among adults in how we think about and judge other people.” – Rebecca Saxe

Rebecca Saxe studies a region of the brain whose function is to think about other people’s thoughts, the Right Temporo-Parietal Junction (RTPJ). Saxe and her lab are doing some very interesting research into how the RTPJ develops in childhood and adolescence and how differences in activation of the RTPJ in adulthood can account for differences in moral judgment. In the talk below, Saxe explores this relationship between our capacity to think about other people’s thoughts and the moral judgments we make about others’ actions.

How We Read Each Other’s Minds – Rebecca Saxe 

{ rethinked*annex } Gratitude Night …* – Adopt or Rethink?

{ rethinked*annex } Gratitude Night ...* - Adopt or Rethink? | rethinked.org

{ THE EXERCISE }

Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with newfound romantic love, or with the possibility of future gain.) Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this; my students and I found ourselves taking several weeks, composing on buses and as we fell asleep at night. Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important that you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice. Wine and cheese do not matter, but bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. When all settles down, read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you. (If you are so moved, please do send me a copy at Seligman@psych.upenn.edu) (74)

Learn to Cultivate Gratitude & Forgiveness to Enhance Satisfaction About the Past …*

{ WHAT I LIKED }

I thoroughly enjoyed Gratitude Night. It reminded me a bit of the Have A Beautiful Day exercise in that it provided multiple opportunities to bask in positive emotions. First there was the preparation, figuring out whom I would pick gave me an opportunity to think about all the wonderful people I am lucky to have in my life. Once I had selected the recipient of my first Gratitude Night, I loved the experience of recalling moments with that person and reliving them in my head before writing them down on paper. Then there was the experience of reading out loud to the recipient of my gratitude night what I had written for her, which was immensely fulfilling. Finally, there was witnessing her gratitude for the event and an opportunity for us to reminisce together about all the wonderful moments we have shared.

 { FRICTION POINTS }

None.

 

{ NEXT STEPS }

I believe the important people in my life know that I love them–I’m not stingy with my I love yous. I’m also prompt in writing thank you notes and I like to think that I do not take for granted the kindness and generosity people show me. But when I think about it, I don’t generally express my gratitude on a grander magnitude to the important people in my life. Other than Mother & Father’s Day, I rarely tell those I love just how grateful I am for their presence in my life, how grateful I am for their lives, for them being who they are. I think we collectively lack a socially acceptable forum and language around which to share our gratitude for one another. A funny but telling anecdote reveals this lack: a couple of years ago, I had read about gratitude letters and had sent about seven of them to some of the people I love and am grateful for. My cousin, who was in her teens at the time, was very worried when she received hers and called her mom to ask if she thought I was suicidal. We all had a good laugh about her worry, but in a way it is rather sad when you think about it: someone sends you a letter to express how much you mean to them and how grateful they are for your presence in their life and the act is such an anomaly in your experience that you immediately deduce something must be wrong. I don’t think this is particular to my cousin, I can completely understand where she was coming from.

I will keep up gratitude night going forward. Perhaps my ‘recipients’ will be inspired to declare their gratitude for people in their own lives and slowly, together, we might make expressing gratitude the norm rather than an anomaly.

Milton Glaser: You Can’t Take Anything at Face Value, You Have to Go Beyond the Superficiality of Existing Belief …*

“I saw a Cézanne that I had never seen, a pencil and watercolor of a landscape, and I was transformed. By looking at it, my world was enlarged. At this ancient age, I am still capable of astonishment, of feeling, “My god, I never had this experience before.” And that is what the arts provide, this sense of enlargement and the sense that you haven’t come to the end of your understanding—either of yourself or of other things.” - Milton Glaser

If you’re looking to infuse your day with a hefty dose of inspiration, I suggest this interview, which iconic graphic designer Milton Glaser gave for Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project. The conversation is full of insights into Milton’s creative process and his understanding of the human experience. I highly recommend finding the time to watch the video in full, but in the meantime, I have transcribed below my three favorite insights from the conversation.

make the ordinary unknown & rethink …*

Milton Glaser: Certainty Is A Closing of the Mind via The Good Life Project

{ To Make Something Is Miraculous & the Creation of Beauty, At Its Core, Is About Empathy }

After a while you begin to realize, a. how little you know about everything and, two, how vast the brain is and how it encompasses everything you can imagine, but more than that, everything you can’t imagine. What is perhaps central to this is the impulse to make things, which seems to me to be a primary characteristic of human beings—the desire to make things–whatever they turn out to be. And then, supplementary to that is the desire to create beauty which is a different, but analogous activity. So the urge to make things, probably, is a survival device, the urge to create beauty is something else, but only apparently something else, because as you know, there are no unrelated events in the human experience. So beauty, and the creation of it, is a survival mechanism. There is something about making things beautiful, and we sometimes call that art, that has something to do with creating a commonality between human beings so that they don’t kill each other. And whatever that impulse is and wherever it comes from, it certainly is contained within every human being I’ve ever met. Sometime the opportunity to articulate it occurs, sometimes it remains dormant for a lifetime, you just don’t get the shot at it.
But I’ve been very lucky, I’ve imagined myself as a maker of things since the age of five. I realized that to make something was miraculous and I never stopped. I just kept making things all my life.
*

{ Learning to See is A LifeLong Endeavor; Drawing Helps }

The great benefits of drawing is that when you look at something you see it for the first time.
You have to constantly be attentive to what you deflect in life and what you don’t pay attention to and all the things that you can’t see, and all the preconceptions that you do have about everything. Those preconceptions basically blur your vision. It’s very hard to see what’s in front of you.
*

{ Be Suspicious of Defining the “Good Life,” Don’t take anything at face value & go beyond the superficiality of existing belief }

I’m very suspicious of some words like that and also what they link to. I guess I feel now that you can’t take anything at face value, you have to go beyond the superficiality of existing belief. My favorite quote is, “Certainty is a closing of the mind”. And so, I don’t know what a good life is. A good life for me, certainly, has been the things that I think are important–friendships that I have; people that I love; certainly, a marriage that has endured and continues to endure; teaching, which I’ve been doing for well over half a century, and feeling that whatever you know has a possibility of being transmitted and shared—outside of that I wouldn’t know how to define a good life. And as you know some people seem to be heroes to some and villains to others.
*

Kicking Off National Simplify Your Life Week by Embracing Essentialism …*

“In the end, in the final analysis, anything less than the disciplined pursuit of the essential, will lead to the undisciplined pursuit of the non-essential. And that’s a price I don’t think many of us would deliberately choose.” – Greg McKeown

Today, August 1, marks the beginning of National Simplify Your Life Week. Obviously, ‘simplify’ can mean a lot of different things to different people. Are we talking about time, relationships, objects, all of the above? Ultimately, that’s for each one of us to decide. One avenue into simplifying–which is primarily focused on time, but applies equally well to relationships and objects–that I found particularly interesting is the idea of Essentialism, or the disciplined pursuit of less, coined by Greg McKeown.

To learn more about Essentialism and get some tips on how to become “absurdly selective” in how you use your time, head over to the Harvard Business Review and check out the 15 minute podcast where McKeown discusses more strategies to do things better by doing less.

In the meantime, here are two exercises, mentioned in the podcast, that McKeown suggests doing as you embark on your Essentialist journey:

  1. The Rule of 3 – Every three months, we should take three hours to identify what the three most important objectives are for us for the next three months. There’s lots of threes in there. But to me, it’s a very helpful rule of thumb. Because if we don’t do this, we are just buried now in the day-to-day.
  2.  OK. If I had just a week left to live, what would I do? If I had a month left to live, what would I do? If I had a year left to live, what would I do? And then finally, if I have a full rest of my life left to live, what will I do? And that exercise, which can easily be done with one hour, might be the most important hour of our life. Because it’s helping to address this error of judgment we make about short term versus long term. It’s helping us to see really what is essential to us. And when you go through the exercise, what happens, I think, is that the fog of our day-to-day life starts to lift. Because in a normal life, every day we tend to think everything’s important, and it’s almost as if it’s all equivalently important. But actually, it’s not. We’re just tricked by the urgency. We’re tricked by the latest email, the latest tweet, the latest text, to make us think that this thing should garner our primary attention. But when you go through this exercise, it’s very obvious that that isn’t the case. And so it helps us to make sure our day-to-day tactics are aligned with what we want our intended lifelong strategy to be.

simplify & rethink …*

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