Tag adventure

“I suppose it’s the human way to try this and that; we are a curious and resourceful species” – Our Interview with Jennifer Beggs, Registered Midwife …*

"I suppose it's the human way to try this and that; we are a curious and resourceful species" - Our Interview with Jennifer Beggs, Registered Midwife ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Jennifer Beggs

Jennifer Beggs

I am super excited about today’s interview, which is a first of its kind on two fronts. Jennifer is our first woman interviewee (it was starting to feel a bit like a boy’s club in here), though far from the last—we’ve got plenty more splendidly inspiring women coming soon. The second first, is that Jennifer is a personal friend. We met in September on our very first day of the Camino and it was my pleasure and delight to share my walk with Jenny for several days as we walked together to Pamplona. Kind, caring, smart and insightful, Jennifer is a registered midwife from Sydney, Australia. I’ll let her introduce herself:

Being the eldest of four and blessed with a wonderful mother, the nurturing gene came through strongly in me. Becoming a mother and a midwife were written in the stars. My children are my greatest education and joy, and my work with women during pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood has provided great satisfaction.

What really drives me though, is creating and making things. I have had this powerful urge since I was a child and have potted, painted, photographed, sculpted, crafted and designed intensely for short periods in my life. For much longer stretches I have had to attend to paying bills and raising children, but I have usually had some creative project going on the sidelines. It is however a calling that I have not yet succeeded in fully answering,….or is it perhaps just my ego reaching for something sexier?

What was the last experiment you ran?

I run micro experiments all the time, like brushing my teeth with my brush in my left hand instead of my right; saying “Hi” to people walking towards me on my daily walks (sadly many will instinctively avoid eye contact); varying my interactions with the world and seeing what happens. I suppose it’s the human way to try this and that; we are a curious and resourceful species. Having largely conquered basic survival (if we’re lucky), we search for meaning, connection and wholeness. In the West, and increasingly globally, we are all implored by self-help books, gurus and advertisers to do better and be better; the best of it sometimes leads to healthier and happier lives, the worst, to dissatisfaction and anxiety. Buddhist philosophy increasingly makes sense to me. In the last few years I’ve been enjoying practicing yoga and taking some long walks. Being a bit of a restless soul, I like change, discovery and adventure.

I’m fascinated by the science of nutrition, gut flora and bioscience and soak up any information that I can. I recently saw ‘That Sugar Film’ by Damon Gameau which documented Damon’s experiment changing his diet to include 30-40 tsp of sugar daily, which is equal to that of the average Western diet. These sugars were hidden in foods that many would consider to be a “healthy” diet. The results were alarming. Over the past 2 years, I’ve been trying to stick to the ‘5:2 diet’ developed by doctor, writer and journalist Michael  Mosley. I’ve had some success in dropping a few kgs. In addition to weight control, many studies have suggested that having a couple of lean days per week confers other health benefits. So far the best and simplest advice that I have heard is summed up elegantly by Michael Pollan who says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?

In my life I have been privileged with safety, plenty and love. Of course, I have fears common to many of losing loved ones. The fear that will have me lying awake at night with catastrophic rumination, is of something happening to one of my children, now young men. I have dealt with this by being completely candid with them about the kind of life choices I hope they’ll make in general, and naming the fears I have for them in specific circumstances. In short, I put my fears on the table and have a good look at them with them. Those conversations, though sometimes tense, have usually been very beneficial as we came to understand each other. I didn’t pretend with them; if I felt afraid for them I said so and said why. They didn’t always agree with me but they understood and respected that my fears came from great love. I recognize that ultimately I have to let go and trust them. I stand in awe of the great human beings that they are and feel blessed every day at having the privilege of being their mum.

WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEART? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO?

I believe in nature. We live in an incredible world that is complex and works beautifully. I surrender to this and remain fascinated by life. From witnessing women growing and birthing a child, to seeing my own babies through to adulthood, and my own life as it unfolds, I stand in awe of nature. For me there is no need to look for God, it is here in this wondrous life. When people are arrogant and think they are above and apart from the natural world is where disease and disaster starts. Again and again I’m taught the lesson that nature always wins, work with it, don’t fight it. We are a smart species and we have been incredibly inventive and resourceful to our great benefit. I remain hopeful that our innate good sense will help us to move towards harmony with the planet and all the life that inhabits it.

In my work I encounter sometime tens of women daily, each of them going through pregnancy so ordinary, yet so extraordinary for each of them. I try to stay present and encounter each woman afresh; giving her my full attention and care in the time that I have with her. I delight in that moment of connection, which may be just a shared smile, or may become a wonderful conversation.

Just last evening a woman told me about the birth of her last baby in the bathroom of a department store. She felt no pain, just simply noticed a foot emerging as she peed. Yes, breech! Wow! I said expecting a tale of trauma. Instead she laughed and told me, “I was the only one who was fine, everyone else panicked. Another woman raised the alarm. We had the security guards, cleaners and shop assistants all there. The head cleaner delivered the baby just as the ambulance arrived.” That funny, relaxed woman brightened my day.

That same evening there were tears as another woman nearing the end of her pregnancy revealed her sadness around the ambivalence of her baby’s father. He had let her down once again after she had given him another chance in the hope that her baby would know his father. Her own mother sat beside her, distressed to see her daughter in tears, imploring her in their mother tongue to not cry. “It’s ok to cry mum, sometimes I feel sad,” this brave woman said. Through her tears she explained, “My mother loves us too much.”

WHAT IS THE MOST PROVOCATIVE IDEA YOU’VE COME ACROSS IN THE PAST DECADE?

Quantum physics though I can’t even begin to understand it, is pretty mind blowing. The idea that our gut microbes affect our overall mental and physical health is incredible to me also.

Provocative? That there are people in this world who will kill for a belief, that there are people who rationalize and glorify immense greed and arrogance,… It’s disappointing beyond words. I guess if I’d studied more history this should have been no surprise to me, however I think 9/11 took away some of our innocence, it did for me anyway. I do believe though, that there is way more good than evil in this world.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

I guess I’m still looking for a transformational moment, a blinding light; that would be kind of wonderful. Maybe I’m not the kind of person who has an epiphany, I tend towards pragmatism and skepticism where high emotion is involved. Perhaps transformation has been more glacial in my life and hence only recognizable with hindsight. Making big decisions such as having  a child, buying a house and even ending a marriage have always led me to a better place often from a low point in my life.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

Tread lightly. Take what you need and leave enough to go around. Be thankful for your good luck and don’t take it for granted. Practice compassion, gratitude and kindness.

COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THRIVING AS A HUMAN BEING?

In each moment remember to breathe. Keep making courageous and responsible decisions. Make your life meaningful. Remain curious and open to life. Enjoy and love. Don’t waste time. Do it now.

 WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?

How do I bring my efforts into alignment with my passion ? Where best to direct my energy?

ANY BOOKS OR MOVIE YOU RECOMMEND?

So many. I’m still excited by the magic of the big screen and in awe of the many talented filmmakers. I like feature length documentaries and international dramas. Documentaries I’ve loved include: Bill Cunningham New York; Babies; It Might Get Loud; 20 Feet from StardomSearching for Sugar ManThe Green Prince. Dramas, too many to mention. Off the top of my head, Lost in Translation; My Life as a DogRumble Fish; AmelieThe Spanish Apartment; Talk to HerCrouching Tiger, Hidden DragonBabette’s Feast… Each has left my world and my heart a little larger.

Some great fiction by Australian writers that I could recommend include Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey; Eucalyptus by Murray Bail; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks; and Remembering Babylon by David Malouf.

. . . *

THANK YOU, JENNY!

{ The Zigzag Walk } The Adventure Is Not the Getting There, It’s the On-the-Way …*

{ The Zigzag Walk } The Adventure Is Not the Getting There, It's the On-the-Way ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

I’ve just finished reading Stephen Graham’s splendid book, The Gentle Art of Tramping that Alastair Humphreys recommended in his interview. The Gentle Art of Tramping, which was first published in 1927, is a delightful meditation on the themes and values of the vagabond and, more broadly, on the gentle art of living (or the art of living gently). In the last chapter, Graham describes what he calls the “Zigzag Walk” – a little set of constraints he designed for himself to allow for chance and serendipity to guide his explorations. I’ve just arrived in San Francisco, where I will be staying for the next month and can’t wait to give the Zigzag walk a go in this lovely city.

g e t   l o s t,   e x p l o r e   &   r e t h i n k   . . . *

A frequent wish of the traveler and wanderer is to obtain genuinely chance impressions of cities and countries. He would trust neither his own choice of road, nor the guide’s choice, nor the map. But if he goes forth in aimlessness he inevitably finds himself either making for the gayer and better-lighted places, or returning to his own door. The problem is to let chance and the town take charge of you, for the world we travel in is more wonderful than human plan or idle heart’s desire.

One day in New York, wishing to explore that great city in a truly haphazard way, I hit on the following device–a zigzag walk. The first turning to the left is the way of the heart. Take it at random and you are sure to find something pleasant and diverting. Take the left again and the piquancy may be repeated. But reason must come to the rescue, and you must turn to the right in order to save yourself from a mere uninteresting circle. To make a zigzag walk you take the first turning to the left, the first to the right, then the first to the left again, and so on.

[…]

How unusual and real and satisfactory were the impressions obtained by going–not the crowd’s way, but the way of the zigzag, the diagonal between heart and reason.

[…]

At the same time, it may be said that you will not know the name of the place until you get there. You can put no destination label on your rucksack, and if anyone asks where you are going, you may tell him in confidence, whisper the dreadful fact in his ear–“honestly, you do not know.” The adventure is not the getting there, it’s the on-the-way. It is not the expected; it is the surprise; not the fulfillment of prophecy, but the providence of something better than prophesied. You are not choosing what you shall see in the world, but are giving the world an even chance to see you.

I am still on that zigzag way, pursuing the diagonal between the reason and the heart;

. . . *

Source: The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham

Microadventures: Short, Perspective-Shifting Bursts of Travel Close to Home …*

This ‘advertisement’ from The School of Life makes a very poignant point about one of the great motivations to travel: “The real desire to travel isn’t to go anywhere. It’s to leave parts of ourselves behind.” In reality, of course, it is impossible to just decide to shed the bits of ourselves we dislike and magically, on the spot, be done with them. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say impossible, but it certainly has never happened that way in my own experience or the experiences of those around me, from what they’ve reported. For example, a few weeks ago, I shared a short animated video of Brené Brown talking about how blame has absolutely no adaptive value and how stopping ourselves from blaming confers some very attractive outcomes like better relationships and a stronger capacity for empathy. Compelled by the research, I decided to stop blaming but the desire to do it still arises and I have to actively stop myself from blaming, over and over, each time that desire comes back. It takes work, not just willpower, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but that’s what it takes to leave the unwanted bits of ourselves behind. What travel does afford us is the mental space from our nearly automatic cognitive and emotional habits and ingrained responses. In new environments and engaged in new experiences, we are more able and often more willing to question our assumptions and to pause our reactions.

Which is where microadventures come in, giving us an opportunity to benefit from the mental space of travel without the financial costs or time requirements of traveling to faraway places. Microadventures, a term coined and championed by British explorer Alastair Humphreys are, “short, perspective-shifting bursts of travel closer to home, inspiring followers to pitch a tent in nearby woods, explore their city by moonlight, or hold a family slumber party in the backyard.”

Originally I set myself on a course of being a quintessential heroic British explorer and did that sort of thing for quite a few years. But a couple things happened. During the motivational talks I give, the audience would call themselves “normal people,” while I was “the adventurer.” But I’m a normal person, too, and I wanted them to see they could go on their own adventures. Also, I have a wife and two young children, and I couldn’t go off for months at a time. To stop myself from going stir-crazy, I came up with adventures closer to home.

[ . . . ]

Yeah, the first was when I decided to walk a lap of the M25 motorway, the 120-mile road around London. I live quite near it and while it seems rather boring, I started to get curious about where it went. It was also a metaphor for finding pockets of beauty wherever you are, one of the things I love about adventure. I absolutely loved that walk. My original idea was to try to do the most epic things I possibly could without going far, but I found that “epic” limited people from participating in the idea. The key is getting beyond the excuses. If you can’t climb a mountain, climb a hill. –Alastair Humphreys

Source: The Virtues of Microadventures 

{ [re] discover & [re] think } Next Week Is Rethinked Archive | Inspiration Week Over On Our Twitter …*

{ [re] discover & [re] think } Next Week Is Rethinked Archive | Inspiration Week Over On Our Twitter ...* | rethinked.org - Photograph: Elsa Fridman

Hiya, rethinkers *

Just wanted to give you a heads up that I will be unplugging a bit next week and going on an adventure (need to nurture my cognitive diversity!) Karin, Jenna and I will be posting a new post daily on the blog as usual but I’m going to be doing something a little different with our Twitter—Rethinked Archive / Inspiration Week. I’ll be tweeting some of our most intriguing and popular posts from the archives and sharing inspiring quotes on play, creativity, curiosity and other topics we get particularly excited about here at rethinked *

Here’s a little sample of the inspiration to come on rethinkedteam this week:

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

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“Before familiarity can turn into awareness the familiar must be stripped of its inconspicuousness; we must give up assuming that the object in question needs no explanation. However frequently recurrent, modest, vulgar it may be it will now be labeled as something unusual.” -Bertold Brecht

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“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” -Albert Einstein

{ Curiosity, Restlessness & Creativity } The Case for Wandering …*

{ Curiosity, Restlessness & Creativity } The Case for Wandering ...* | rethinked.org

I haven’t got any special religion this morning. My God is the God of Walkers. If you walk hard enough, you probably don’t need any other God. – Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia

May is National Walking Month in the UK (it’s National Biking Month in the US) If you’ve spent any time on the Internet in the past two weeks, chances are you’ve come across some article describing a newly published Stanford study which found that creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter:

Stanford researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat. A person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.

Walking is experiencing somewhat of a Renaissance as the business world is embracing its value and function in promoting creative thinking and thus enabling innovation while scientists are decrying the health risks of immobility. Standing desks, treadmill desks and walking meetings are all the rage.

But walking isn’t just a fashion or a means to an end, it’s an innate human drive according to Bruce Chatwin, whose birthday is today. Chatwin argues that:

in becoming human, man had acquired, together with his straight legs and striding walk, a migratory ‘drive’ or instinct to walk long distances through the seasons; that this ‘drive’ was inseparable from his central nervous system; and that, when warped in conditions of settlement it found outlets in violence, greed, status-seeking or a mania for the new. This would explain why mobile societies such as the gypsies were egalitarian, thing-free and resistant to change; also why, to re-establish the harmony of the First State, all the great teachers–Buddha, Lao-tse, St. Francis–had set the perpetual pilgrimage at the heart of their message and told their disciples, literally, to follow The Way.” – I Have Always Wanted To Go To Patagonia, 1983

This notion of our migratory drive appears again and again throughout Chatwin’s work, who professed to having, “caught a case of what Baudelaire calls “La Grande Maladie, Horreur du domicile.” Chatwin spent his short life giving in to his restlessness, trying to make sense of it and to harness it as a creative force. To celebrate his birthday and walking month, I’ve gathered some of my favorite quotes of his on restlessness, wandering, journeys and the importance of walking. Enjoy! And while you’re at it, go for a walk. You never know what creative brilliance may strike you on the way as you walk yourself into a state of relaxed attention, better known to scientists as transient hypofrontality.

wander & rethink

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“I stayed at the Estacion de Biologia Marina with a party of scientists who dug enthusiastically for sandworms and squabbled about the Latin names of seaweed. The resident ornithologist, a severe young man, was studying the migration of the Jackass Penguin. We talked late into the night, arguing whether or not we, too, have journeys mapped out in our central nervous systems; it seemed the only way to account for our insane restlessness.” – from In Patagonia, 1977

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“And there are those, like myself, who are paralyzed by ‘home,’ for whom home is synonymous with the proverbial writer’s block, and who believe naively that all would be well if only they were somewhere else.”  – from A Tower In Tuscany, 1987

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“What is this neurotic restlessness, the gadfly that tormented the Greeks? Wandering may settle some of my natural curiosity and my urge to explore, but then I am tugged back by a longing for home. I have a compulsion to wander and a compulsion to return–a homing instinct like a migrating bird. True nomads have no fixed homes as such; they compensate for this by following unalterable paths of migration.” – from The Nomadic Alternative, 1970

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“In one of his gloomier moments Pascal said that all man’s unhappiness stemmed from a single cause, his inability to remain quietly in a room. ‘Notre nature,’ he wrote, ‘est dans le mouvement…la seule chose qui nous console de nos misères est le divertissement.’ Diversion. Distraction. Fantasy. Change of fashion, food, love and landscape. We need them as the air we breathe. Without change our brains and bodies rot. The man who sits quietly in a shuttered room is likely to be mad, tortured by hallucinations and introspection.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“Some American brain specialists took encephalograph readings of travelers. They found that changes of scenery and awareness of the passage of seasons through the year stimulated the rhythms of the brain, contributing to a sense of well-being and an active purpose in life. Monotonous surroundings and tedious regular activities wove patterns which produced fatigue, nervous disorders, apathy, self-disgust and violent reactions. Hardly surprising, then, that a generation cushioned from the cold by central heating, from the heat by air-conditioning, carted in aseptic transports from one identical house or hotel to another, should feel the need for journeys of mind or body, for pep pills or tranquilizers, or for the cathartic journeys of sex, music and dance. We spend far too much time in shuttered rooms.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“I prefer the cosmopolitan skepticism of Montaigne. He saw travel as a ‘profitable exercise; the mind is constantly stimulated by observing new and unknown things…no propositions astonish me, no belief offends me, however much opposed to my own…The savages who roast and eat the bodies of their dead do not scandalize me so much as those who persecute the living.” Custom, he said, and set attitudes of mind, dulled the sense and hid the true nature of things. Man is naturally curious.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

“He who does not travel does not know the value of men,” said Ib’n Battuta, the indefatigable Arab wanderer who strolled from Tangier to China and back for the sake of it. But travel does not merely broaden the mind. It makes the mind.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“Children need paths to explore, to take bearings on the earth in which they live, as a navigator takes bearings on familiar landmarks. If we excavate the memories of childhood, we remember the paths first, things and people second–paths down the garden, the way to school, the way round the house, corridors through the bracken or long grass.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“Travel must be adventurous. ‘The great affair is to move,’ wrote Robert Louis Stevenson in Travels with a Donkey, “to feel the needs and hitches of life more nearly; to come down off this feather bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot, and strewn with cutting flints.’ The bumps are vital. They keep the adrenalin pumping round.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

“The best thing is to walk. We should follow the Chinese poet Li Po in ‘the hardships of travel and the many branchings of the way.’ For life is a journey through a wilderness. This concept, universal to the point of banality, could not have survived unless it were biologically true.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“All our activities are linked to the idea of journeys. And I like to think that our brains have an information system giving us our orders for the road, and that here lie the mainsprings of our restlessness.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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What are some of your favorite Chatwin books and quotes?

Neil Gaiman: Make Glorious & Fantastic Mistakes, Break Rules, Leave the World More Interesting For Your Being Here …*

Now go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes, break rules, leave the world more interesting for your being here, make good art.” – Neil Gaiman

I’ve finally had the opportunity to watch Neil Gaiman’s splendid commencement address to the 2012 graduating class of The University of the Arts In Philadelphia. In his speech, Gaiman shares some of the things he wished he had known starting out and the best piece of advice he’s ever received and completely failed to follow. To the extent that [ being | becoming ] an artist is about developing one’s voice (and perhaps, most critically, the courage to share and own that voice) this is an essential talk for any individual invested in living up to their full potential. I’ve transcribed some of my favorite bits below in case you don’t have the time to watch the video just yet, but I highly recommend watching it in its entirety when you get the chance.

watch & rethink …*

Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.

[ E M B R A C E   S H O S H I N ]

First of all, when you start out on a career in the Arts, you have no idea what you’re doing. This is great. People who know what they’re doing, know the rules and they know what is possible and what is impossible. You do not and you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the Arts, were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can. If you don’t know it’s impossible, it’s easier to do. And because nobody’s done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that particular thing again.

[  K E E P   W A L K I N G   T O W A R D S   Y O U R   M O U N T A I N ]

Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you’re doing the correct thing because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get. Something that worked for me, was imagining that where I wanted to be, which was an author, primarily fiction, making good books, making good comics, making good drama and supporting myself through my words—imagining that was a mountain, a distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain, I’d be alright. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money, because I knew that attractive though they were, for me, they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come earlier, I might have taken them because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at that time. I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work.

[ M A K E   M I S T A K E S ]

Fourthly, I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you make mistakes it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be very useful. I once misspelled Caroline in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, “Coraline,” looks almost like a real name.

[ M A K E   G O O D   A R T ] 

When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician–make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor—make good art. IRS on your trail—make good art. Cat exploded—make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before— make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.

[ C R E A T E   &   L I V E   A S   O N L Y   Y O U   C A N ]

And fifthly, while you’re at it, make your art—do the stuff that only you can do. The urge, starting out, is to copy and that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have, that nobody else has, is you—your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build, and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

[ E M B R A C E   U N C E R T A I N T Y ]

 The things I’ve done that worked the best, were the things I was the least certain about. The stories where I was sure they’d either work or more likely be the kind of embarrassing failures that people would gather together and discuss until the end of time—they always had that in common. Looking back at them, people explained why they were inevitable successes and when I was doing them, I had no idea. I still don’t and where would be the fun in making something you knew was going to work? And sometimes the things I did really didn’t work. There are stories of mine that have never been reprinted, some of them never even left the house. But I learned as much from them as I did from the things that worked.

[ L E T   G O   &   E N J O Y   T H E   R I D E ]

So when I agreed to give this address, I thought, “what is the best piece of advice I was ever given?” And I realized that it was actually a piece of advice that I had failed to follow. And it came from Stephen King. It was twenty years ago, at the height of the initial success of Sandman, the comic I was writing. I was writing a comic people loved and they were taking it seriously. And Stephen King liked Sandman and my novel with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, and he saw the madness that was going on, the long signing lines, all of that stuff and his advice to me was this: he said, “this is really great, you should enjoy it.” And I didn’t. Best advice I ever got that I ignored. Instead, I worried about it. I worried about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story. There wasn’t a moment for the next fourteen or fifteen years, that I wasn’t writing something in my head or wondering about it. And I didn’t stop and look around and go, “this is really fun.” I wish I’d enjoyed it more. It’s been an amazing ride but there were parts of the ride I missed because I was too worried about things going wrong, about what came next, to enjoy the bit that I was on. That was the hardest lesson for me, I think—to let go and enjoy the ride. Because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places.

[ F A K E   I T   T O   M A K E    I T,   I F   Y O U   N E E D   T O ]

Someone asked me recently how to do something she thought was going to be difficult–in this case, recording an audio book. And I suggested she pretend that she was someone who could do it. Not pretend to do it, but pretend she was someone who could. She put up a notice to this effect on the studio wall and she said it helped. So be wise because the world needs more wisdom. And if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise and then just behave like they would.

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Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org | Photo by Elsa Fridman

READ

Why video games may be good for you ~ “Game research has tended to get sucked down into a black hole of people yelling at each other, saying either games are good or games are bad,” says Gentile, who studies the effects of video games on physiology and behaviour. “I think we are starting to move beyond this inappropriately simplistic idea to see games can be powerful teachers that we can harness.” via BBC Future, published August 26, 2013.

Debunking the Genius Myth ~ Unlike sports or music, where students can see others practicing, much of schoolwork practice happens at home, builds slowly over time, and goes unseen. “You don’t see the work others are doing, so it looks like it never happened.”  via MindShift, published August 30, 2013.

Cognitive Science Meets Pre-Algebra ~ Interleaving has become an especially hot area of interest among researchers. It mixes distinct but related problems or ideas — long division, say, and multiplying fractions — in daily homework assignments. A growing number of cognitive scientists now believe that this cocktail-shaker approach could improve students’ comprehension of a wide array of scientific concepts, whether chemical bonds, parallel evolution, the properties of elementary particles or pre-algebra. via New York Times, published September 2, 2013

Is School Enough? Documentary Film Delves In ~ “Connected learning suggests that there should be a learning ecology, and that what we do outside of school should be connected in very strong ways to what we do inside of school,” said Jenkins. “School has to respond to the informal learning that’s taking place at home and in the community.” via MindShift, published September 3, 2013.

Abraham Maslow and the pyramid that beguiled business ~ “He really was ground-breaking in his thinking,” Lachman says. “He was saying that you weren’t acting on the basis of these uncontrollable, unconscious desires. Your behaviour was not just influenced by external rewards and reinforcement, but there were these internal needs and motivations.” via BBC, published August 31, 2013.

Why Kitchens are Better Than Conference Rooms ~ Just this morning, I was reminded how food has the power to bring people together. As I sat down to write this post, a delicious aroma came wafting through the studio. I closed my laptop to investigate. Nearing the kitchen, I saw a large group gathered around a simmering pot of homemade soup. Everyone had the same instinct I did—taking a much-needed break to joke around and get reenergized. After a few minutes, the group broke up and returned to work, creative juices flowing, excited for the meal we would soon enjoy together. via Tim Brown on LinkedIn, published September 3, 2013.

Design Your Class Like A Video Game ~ While there is no single way “school is,” there are general patterns that reward compliance, thoroughness and punctuality while stifling learner-centeredness, abstraction, and play. What would happen if a student was required to unlock the next assignment in a project-based learning environment? via Teach Thought, published September 4, 2013.

Study: To The Human Brain, Me Is We ~ A new study from University of Virginia researchers supports a finding that’s been gaining science-fueled momentum in recent years: the human brain is wired to connect with others so strongly that it experiences what they experience as if it’s happening to us. via Forbes, published August 22, 2013.

LOOK

Artist Collaborates with her 4-Year-Old Daughter to Create Amazing Illustrations ~ Professional illustrator Mica Angela Hendricks has been collaborating with her 4-year-old daughter on a series of wonderful drawings that pass back and forth between mother and daugher until reaching an always unexpected final form. “Kids’ imaginations way outweigh a grownup’s, and it always ALWAYS looked better that what I had imagined. ALWAYS.” says Hendricks. via Colossal, published August 31, 2013.

J.K. ROWLING: The fringe benefits of failure ~ via Zen Pencils, published August 14, 2013.

Graphic Design Tool Offers Skills To The Masses ~ Canva is a new online tool that aims to lower the barrier of entry to graphic design, allowing anyone (from professional designers to novices) to design projects including business cards, presentations, blog graphics and posters, with an easy-to-use interface and a vast library of fonts and images. The tool is not intended to replace designers, or professional design software such as Adobe Creative Suite. Rather, the platform allows users who don’t have the resources or sufficient need to purchase design software, to create more sophisticated designs than they would otherwise be able to. via PSFK, published September 2, 2013.

Grown-Up Tinker Toys Let You Build Your Own Everything ~ Turning his back on the IKEA model, designer David Graas invented a building kit called “Everything But the Manual.” It is, in essence, Tinker Toys for adults. It isn’t just for fun, though – this set is meant to build furniture, creative accents, and anything you can imagine. It consists of 260 oak sticks, each 415 mm long and 26 mm square, full of evenly-spaced holes. via Dornob Design, published September 3, 2013.

These Interactive Maps Compare 19th Century American Cities to Today ~ via Gizmodo, published September 2, 2013.

The Mµseum Is A Truly Puny Contribution To The Arts ~ The world’s tiniest museum is designed to tackle some of the biggest problems facing art institutions today: space and accessibility. via FastCo.Design, published August 29, 2013.

WATCH

Five-Year-Olds Pilot Their Own Project Learning ~ Learning as adventure…* via Edutopia, published July 22, 2010.

An Introduction to World Literature by a Cast Of Literary & Academic Stars (Free Course) ~ via Open Culture, published September 1, 2013.

A Man’s Quest To Skype Someone From Every Country In The World ~ Comedian Mark Malkoff challenged himself to connect with people all over the globe via Skype, proving that you don’t need air tickets to travel the world.  via Design Taxi, published September 4, 2013.

How Do We Live A Remarkable Life In A Conventional World? Start by Pushing Past What You Know…*

{This is the first article in a series of posts synthesizing my experiences and insights from the 2013 World Domination Summit }

rethinked.org

This past Thursday I took off for Portland, Oregon to attend the third-annual World Domination Summit. Even on the plane ride over, I still was not entirely sure what WDS was other than that it centered on the key question “How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” and the themes of community, adventure and service. Founder Chris Guillebeau and his team made clear in their communications that this was not a business mixer nor a convention but rather, a “coming together of unconventional, remarkable people for a weekend of adventure.” I was excited and a little bit apprehensive to find out just what that meant.

Weeks before the summit, we were asked to think about and articulate some personal goals for the event. My main goals were to get outside my comfort zone, and disrupt my routine.

On Friday afternoon I made my way to Director’s Park to register, hoping I would get a better sense of what this was all about. As I stood in the D-G line, waiting to get my pass, I noticed a man one line over in a full gorilla bodysuit, overheard another attendee explaining to an inquisitive Portlander that WDS is about establishing a new world order, “corporations are over and it’s time for everyone to wake up to that reality.” When I finally made it to the top of the line, I was handed my name tag, a collection of notebooks, maps and a schedule, and a sheet of ten stickers to “customize” my badge. I began to have serious doubts about the summit, worrying that this was not my brand of ‘remarkable’.

That evening, at the Oregon Zoo for the opening ceremony, I made the acquaintance of a delightful man named John. John was kind, friendly, passionately curious and easy to talk to. I finally started to relax. In the course of our conversation, he made an intriguing observation that resonated deeply with me. A local Portlander, he was sharing his love of the city and the thrill of being able to go skiing year round. I told him that I was a dreadful skier and he corrected me saying, “you’re not a good skier…yet.” Several times during our conversation he reframed what I had said with this little ‘…yet’ framework. He asked me what my goals for the summit were and I shared with him how I had hoped to get outside of my comfort zone.

As I sat in my hotel room that evening wondering why I had been feeling so negative all day, I realized that the discomfort was stemming from my uncertainty–I was in a completely new city (in fact, it was my first time on the West Coast), attending an event that persisted in evading definition, with some die-hard WDS fans who considered themselves part of a tribe and many of whom seemed to already know each other. I am quite shy and felt overwhelmed with meeting so many new people in one go.

If you have spent any time on rethinked…* or checked out our Twitter stream, you know that embracing risk and uncertainty is a very big theme for us. I am constantly reading, writing, talking and thinking about the importance of being fluid, adaptive and open to the potential of uncertainty. But here is my dirty little secret, while I am knowledgeable and well-informed about the immense potential and opportunities that embracing uncertainty creates, I have an incredibly difficult time translating that knowledge into action in my own life. Dominic defines wisdom as the ability to translate one’s knowledge into impactful, salient action, and the truth is that I am not very wise when it comes to embracing risk and uncertainty in my every day. I have a very low threshold for uncertainty and when I find myself in situations that push past that threshold, my primary goal becomes getting back to my comfort zone. One of my strategies for doing that, I’m dreadfully embarrassed to admit, is to dismiss what I do not know, to refuse the possibility that I may learn something and grow from embracing and exploring that unknown.

As I looked down at my name tag, still hanging around my neck, prominently displaying my name and “traveled 2475 miles”, it became very clear that I had a choice to make. I could keep playing it safe, dismissing these different views and frameworks, or I could embrace this opportunity, realize that there was no actual risk or threat to my being and go with the flow. I chose the latter, because I had traveled across the country for this opportunity, but more importantly, because I knew I would not be able to deal with the uncertainty of wondering, once I had returned to New York, what may have been if I had opened myself up to this experience.

The rest of the weekend was a blast, I met fantastic and inspiring people and was exposed to a whirlwind of intriguing ideas, many of which centered on the very theme of embracing and redefining risk, failure and uncertainty, such as Jia Jiang’s brilliant talk on reframing and embracing rejection (more on those ideas in the following post).

On my last day in Portland I decided to visit the Japanese Gardens (which, alone, are well worth a visit to Portland). I went to the Visitor’s Center in the hopes that they would be able to help me make sense of the MAX, Portland’s transit system. The lady at the counter was very helpful and provided me with maps and a detailed explanation of how to reach the gardens. We chatted about the Washington Park station, which is the deepest subway station in the whole of the United States and she promised that I would get to experience the fastest elevator ride of my life (at which point, I turned a bit green). As I was thanking her and getting ready to leave she asked me where I was visiting from. When I answered, Brooklyn, she burst out giggling and looked at me with a sense of genuine surprise, exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, a friendly New Yorker! Imagine that!” I laughed along with her, feeling awash with gratitude and excitement. Pushing past what I knew and rethinking…* assumptions–my own and helping others, in however small a way, rethink…* their own–was what a weekend of “community, service and adventure” had meant for me.

Friday Link Fest…*

READ

Relax! You’ll Be More Productive ~ via The New York Times, published February 9, 2013.

In praise of failure: The key ingredient to children’s success, experts say, is not success ~ On grit as a key component of success. via National Post, published February 2, 2013.

Social Emotional Learning Core Competencies ~ Rethinking…* the definition of academic success. via Q.E.D. Foundation, published February 11, 2013.

How to Save Science: Education, the Gender Gap, and the Next Generation of Creative Thinkers ~ via Brainpickings, published February 12, 2013

Arbonauts: of trees, data, and teens ~ The challenges & rewards of rapid prototyping as pedagogy. via Harvard’s MetaLab, published February 6, 2013.

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper: A Low-Cost, High-Impact Approach ~ Rethinking…* the way that we do development. via Project for Public Spaces.

How Malawi is improving a terrible maternal mortality rate through good design ~ via TED News, published January 30, 2013

Tina Seelig On Unleashing Your Creative Potential ~ via 99u.

Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight ~ Rethinking…* the instructions we give to professionals to account for the fact that what we’re thinking about — what we’re focused on — filters the world around us so aggressively that it literally shapes what we see. via NPR, published February 11, 2013

LOOK

Artist Can Only Draw in his Sleep ~ via PSFK, published February 13, 2013.

Landscape artworks at Hogpen Hill Farms open house ~ photographs by Fredrick K.Orkin of Edward Tufte’s Hogpen Hill Farms LLC, his 242-acre tree and sculpture farm in northwest Connecticut. via EdwardTufte.com.

Four Amazing Mini Libraries That Will Inspire You to Read ~ More accessible to a larger population than a classic library, the Pop-Up Library preserves the intimacy and experience of the book. via GOOD, published February 13, 2013.

In Photo Series, When Math Meets Art ~ Nikki Graziano’s photo series, ‘Found Functions’, defies the commonly-thought notion of the boring and geeky subject. via Design Taxi, published February 9, 2013.

A Floating School That Won’t Flood ~ On cultivating a new type of urbanism on water in African cities. via FastCo.Exist, published February 8, 2013.

Pixar Artist Designs New Facebook Emoticons ~ Matt Jones is creating a set of digital images that reflect more complex or subtle emotions. via PSFK, published February 11, 2013.

WATCH

David Kelley on Making ~ via General Assembly, published February 2012.

The Scared Is Scared: A Child’s Wisdom for Starting New Chapters (Creative or Otherwise) in Life ~ Delightful meditation on embracing uncertainty. via Openculture, published February 11, 2013

Michael Jordan on Failure ~ via Nike, published August 25, 2006.

Color Me____ by Andy J. Miller & Andrew Neyer ~ via joustwebdesign, published October 23, 2012. (h/t Swissmiss.)

Tiny Sugar-Covered Bandaid Could Replace Needles For Vaccinations ~ Rethinking…* vaccines ~Scientists at King’s College London have developed a new way to administer vaccines, using a pain-free microneedle array. via PSFK, published February 12, 2013.

DO

25 Mini-Adventures in the Library ~ via Project for Public Spaces, published 

Want to Start a Makerspace at School? Tips to Get Started ~ via MindShiftKQED, published February 12, 2013

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