Tag capacity

The Thing Is to Become a Master & In Your Old Age to Acquire the Courage to Do What Children Did When They Knew Nothing …*

The Thing Is to Become a Master & In Your Old Age to Acquire the Courage to Do What Children Did When They Knew nothing ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

I have been reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life-a treasure-trove of meditations on the creative life culled from Tharp’s long career as one of the world’s most acclaimed choreographers. Each chapter relates to a different aspect of creativity–think: Skill, Ruts and Grooves, Rituals of Preparation– and is accompanied by a handful of exercises to practice flexing your own creative muscles. It’s a quick, lovely and insightful read, which I highly recommend.

I’d like to highlight Tharp’s insights on one of the fundamental paradoxes faced by artists and rethinkers everywhere–that of finding the fragile equilibrium between seeking expertise and cultivating a beginner’s mind.

Every artist faces this paradox. Experience–the faith in your ability and the memory that you have done this before–is what gets you through the door. But experience also closes the door. You tend to rely on that memory and stick with what has worked before. You don’t try anything new. Inexperience is innocence, naïveté, and humility. It is a powerful ignorance that is summed up for me in an obituary I read of the All-American football player Ellis Jones. Jones, who died at age eighty in 2002, lost his right arm in an accident when he was eleven years old. But that didn’t stop him from playing guard offense and linebacker on defense in the 1940s at the University of Tulsa and later in the fledgling National Football League. “I played football before I got hurt,” said Jones of the accident that cost him his right arm. “It never occurred to me that I couldn’t keep playing. I guess I was too dumb to think I could not do it.” Inexperience provides us with a childlike fearlessness that is the polar opposite of the alleged wisdom that age confers on us, the “wisdom” telling us some goals are foolish, a waste of time, invitations to disaster. In its purest form, inexperience erases fear. You do not know what is and is not possible and therefore everything is possible.

It is that perfect moment of equipoise between knowing it all and knowing nothing that Hemingway was straining for when he said, “The thing is to become a master and in your old age to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing.” You cannot manufacture inexperience, but you can maintain it and protect what you have.

This balancing act–between confidence and humility, knowing and not knowing, fear and courage–is intimately tied to the concept of mastery.

Mastery is an elusive concept. You never know when you achieve it absolutely–and it may not help you to feel you’ve attained it. (Alexander the Great wept when he had no more worlds to conquer.) We can recognize it more readily in others than we can in ourselves. We all have to discover our own definition of it. 

I particularly love Tharp’s definition of mastery–mastery as courage and optimism to face the unknown and faith in your own capacity to transform your discovery into something of value.

More than anything, I associate mastery with optimism. It’s the feeling at the start of a project when I believe that my whole career has been preparation for this moment and I am saying, “Okay, let’s begin. Now I am ready.” Of course, you’re never one hundred percent ready, but that’s a part of mastery, too. It masks the insecurities and the gaps in technique and lets you believe that you are capable of anything.

Mastery then, in the creative realm at least, is more mindset than benchmark, like that of the child at the edge of the forest, excited and a little nervous to get lost in the woods but confident to face and transform what she will find.

Source: Tharp, Twyla. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.

Learn To Grow Your Happiness Muscles With Positive Psychology On This International Day of Happiness …*

Learn To Grow Your Happiness Muscles With Positive Psychology On This International Day of Happiness ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

Wishing you all a very happy International Day of Happiness. Through my exploration of Positive Psychology last year, I have come to reframe happiness not as an emotional ‘destination’ but more as a capacity. The good news is that a) emotional and cognitive capacities can be cultivated and strengthened in much the same way that our physical muscles can be–through work and proper training; and b) the field of Positive Psychology has a lot of easily implementable hacks and interventions to guide us in training our capacity for happiness.

So to celebrate International Day of Happiness, why not learn more about what Positive Psychology has to offer in terms of growing our happiness muscles (plural, because there are various kinds of happiness).

Want to learn even more? Check out this upcoming MOOC, fittingly titled A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment, which will start June 15,2015.

{ Start Walking } Rethinking Uncertainty …*

{ Start Walking } Rethinking Uncertainty ...* | rethinked.org

A few weeks ago, I shared a list of the top five things that walking 500 miles helped me understand in a deeper or different way. Here is a bit more context around the second lesson- start walking.

My biggest personal goal in walking the Camino Frances was to practice growing comfortable with uncertainty. My decision to walk the Camino had been very last minute and, frankly, when I set out I had no idea what I was doing (seriously– did you read my post about how it wasn’t until about 10 pm the night before I was setting out that I realized my sleeping bag wouldn’t fit in my pack?!), where I was going or how I would get there.

WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND A PLACE TO START & BEGIN 

Luckily for me, I got plenty of opportunities to practice being/thinking/doing uncertain. Each day was an unknown, which, of course, they always are, but the stakes felt a tiny bit higher when out on the road. Most days I didn’t know where I would end up or if I would find a place to sleep. I would just start walking and go from one yellow arrow to the next. I had bought a greatly detailed (if insufferably sentimental) guidebook and hoped it would get me to where I was going. It turns out however, that I didn’t even need the guidebook as there are yellow arrows pointing the way to Santiago all along the road. All I needed was to find the first arrow and go from there.

Picasso famously remarked, “To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” Drawing, walking, living–all require that one starts somewhere. Often, when we start, we don’t know what we will make, where we will go or whom we will become. We don’t know because we can’t know, because the acts of drawing, walking and living are transformative– we grow and change as we act. And while we may not know whom we will be at the end of our journey, we can be sure that we can make it the whole way one line/arrow/decision at a time.

BE AWARE OF HOW YOU FRAME UNCERTAINTY & RETHINK AS NEEDED

The second thing that I understood from my daily experiments in the uncertain, is that uncertainty is not an either-or proposition, it is a spectrum of options. This seems like an obvious statement, and perhaps it is to you, but whilst walking, I realized that I was unconsciously framing the idea of uncertainty as a highly reductive binary of what I could know, predict and affect versus utter catastrophe. It was a tremendously valuable insight as I realized that I hadn’t even been aware of how I was appraising the concept of uncertainty until I felt my unease and sense of impending doom relax and fade each time an unexpected outcome proved less than catastrophic (which they always did.)

Throughout my journey, I sometimes arrived in tiny towns where every last bed was occupied, but something always worked out–I slept on dusty mattresses on gym floors and wrestling mats in locker rooms. While neither of these options come close to my idea of an ideal place to sleep, I must say that those nights spent on gym floors were some of the best sleeps I had the entire journey and some of my fondest memories of laughs and bonding with fellow pilgrims. Not only was the uncertain and unexpected not catastrophic, it often proved delightful, better even than what I could have been certain of.

start, take a chance & 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

Stanford’s Dave Evans & Bill Burnett on Using Design Thinking to Address the “Wicked Problem” of Designing Your Life & Career

Here’s a great ‘open office hours’ chat with Stanford’s Dave Evans and Bill Burnett, who co-teach a course called “Designing Your Life ” at the d.life lab. The course uses design thinking to address the “wicked problem” of designing your life and career.

Reminds you of anything? That’s right–rethinked*annex! For those of you unfamiliar with rethinked*annex, it is a side project that I started last year in which I experiment at an individual and personal level with some of the methodologies that we explore on the blog. In particular, design thinking, integrative thinking and positive psychology. My goal had been to do three months with each and while I completed the design thinking and integrative thinking cycles, I never got around to experimenting with positive psychology. Get excited, because starting this week, I am getting back into the swing of things and will post about my experiments in positive psychology here on rethinked …* every Thursday.

Check out Bill and Dave’s course website for tons of other inspiring resources on design thinking your way to the life you want.

Stanford Open Office Hours: Dave Evans and Bill Burnett via Stanford University, published January 30, 2014.

– Passion is a capacity that can be developed, not an inherent attribute –

The research says that maybe only two or three out of ten people actually have a passion that they’ve identified, that they can work into. We believe that actually, passion turns out to be what you develop after you find the things that you enjoy doing.

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– Shedding Dysfunctional beliefs –

These are two, what we call dysfunctional beliefs, and once you get rid of both of those –that your major is linked to your job and that your passion is somehow an innate quality–once you realize neither of those things are actually true, you’re really free to use design thinking to start designing the life you want to have.

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– Counsel vs. Advice –

Do we give advice or do we give counsel? And we make a distinction there, by the way, which is counsel is when we help you figure out what you’re thinking and advice is when we tell you what we think and they’re very different.

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– Start where you’re at –

If you’re in the situation where there’s lots and lots of things you’re excited and interested about but you can’t pick one, our advice, again, is to start where you’re at. There will be one or two things that maybe have a slightly different emotional energy in them than the other ones. So you go find somebody who does something like that. You look at the future you–someone who’s already living the you you might become–and you go talk to them.

There’s a place again where the design thinking really impacts reality. We kind of go with prototype iteration, try stuff, see what works, bias to action.

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– BIAS TO ACTION & REFRAMING THE PROBLEM –

Bias to action — don’t try to decide your way forward, just do something. Design your way forward. And the second is reframe. Reframe the problem from, “Gee, I can’t figure out which one of these is my most favorite to all of these are good, I’m just going to start doing them.”

So if i’m a generalist with equal interests, I’m in a much more powerful position because I have lots of available starting places to begin to understand what it is I really want to do. As opposed to “I can’t possibly choose,” you’re not choosing yet, you’re just starting. Which is a very powerful reframe. In the old position, since I can’t choose, I can’t start, I have no power. In the reframed position, I’m in a better situation than a specialist. Which is the design point of view, you know you don’t know the answer. Many people in this vocational way-finding, we call it, think you have to know the answer at the beginning and then you implement. And then you’re screwed. But what it really means is, “I just know what I know,” take the next step, it will be revealed as you go.

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– On Figuring Out Who You Want To Be When You Grow Up –

It’s a pretty common question, and again, it’s one of those things where we’d like to sort of reframe the answer. Because you can’t know, ultimately, who you will become when you, quote, ‘grow up’. And by the way, that’s the good news –do you really want to be able to know at twenty-two who your sixty year-old self should be? I mean do you really want this twenty-two year old running the next fifty years of your life? We hope to find out things we couldn’t possibly have imagined. The design perspective is, when I’m starting a new design, I don’t actually know the answer. I’m going to design into that possible future. So we reframe the question not as, “what do I want to be when I grow up?,” it’s like, “where am I right now and what is the next step I can take to move towards the best possible version of me?”

– NAVIGATING VS. WAY-FINDING –

We frame that with language. So the way the question is usually posed, assumes you could navigate to where you should be. That you know the end point. I need to get to Fresno so I just GPS myself to Fresno. But we can’t, because I don’t know where I’m going so I can’t navigate, so I have to way-find. What’s way-finding? It’s moving from where you are to the next available place that you can make a decision about. It’s the same thing as the generalist deciding, “hey, what’s available to me?”

– COHERENCE –

By coherence we mean, you know, “who am I? What do I believe and what am I doing?” If I understand what those things are–what do I think about life and who I am, what I’m actually doing and where I’m trying to go–if I can describe those things articulately and interconnect the dots, not that they’re perfect, but even understanding where the compromises are, I’m living coherently. Who I am, what I’m doing all lines up for me, that’s the coherent life and even positive psychology research demonstrates pretty clearly, if I can articulate what those things are–who I am, what I believe and what I’m doing–and I can understand the interrelationship between them, my chance of feeling good about my life, that it’s a meaningful experience, is much higher.

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– ENCORE CAREER –

Usually the best place to start is what did you notice that you’re already doing that you could grow into a new thing? Or, who’s that person you used to be that you left behind and do you want to bring her back out of the freezer and give her another shot?

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– The Courage to accept the truth about yourself  –

You’ve got to accept the truth about yourself. So we have all of our students write two things: a work view and a world view. What do you think work is for and how does that connect to why you’re here? And it takes a lot of courage not to sell out those two ideas about yourself.

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{ Growth Mindset } The One Thing I Wish I’d Learned A Decade Ago …*

{ Growth Mindset } The One Thing I Wish I'd Learned A Decade Ago ...* | rethinked.org

Last week I wrote about a question- What’s the one thing that you learned in the last decade that you had wished someone had told you 10 years ago?– that Wooster Collective posed to several graffiti artists and curated some of my favorite responses. I’ve been thinking about how this question applies to my own experience of the past ten years and started brainstorming a list of possible key insights. After sitting with my list for a bit, I realized that most of the items on it were directly related to the concept of growth mindset, championed by Carol Dweck. Growth mindset is the belief that capacities—whether intellectual, emotional, physical, etc.–can be learned and acquired with effort over time. That potential is unknowable. Thinking back on the past ten years, I have no doubt that if I had known about and embraced a growth mindset, I would have saved myself much heartache and worry. I would likely have taken more chances and been more compassionate and patient with myself and others. I wouldn’t have been so bogged down by an unattainable quest for perfection, which means I would have procrastinated a lot less and not engaged in as many other self-sabotaging behaviors to save myself from facing my crippling fear of failure. I would likely have been able to keep things more in perspective. Learning about the growth mindset was an utterly transformative experience for me. It allowed me to translate what I know about motivation, effort, and goal-setting into tangible behaviors. But most importantly it has set me free emotionally—free to experiment and fail gloriously and free to find the strength and will to try again. In the words of Carol Dweck, “It’s a learning process—not a battle between the bad you and the good you.”

What about you? What’s the one overarching thing you wished you’d known a decade ago?

reflect & rethink …* 

What At Your Age Is Called Fantasy & Imagination Is Called Creative Thinking Later On, Don’t Lose It …*

What At Your Age Is Called Fantasy & Imagination Is Called Creative Thinking Later On, Don't Lose It ...*  | rethinked.org

In the past few months, there has been much focus in education circles on the issue of creative confidence. There seems to be a general consensus that the ways in which mainstream traditional education processes and systems are set up strip students of their natural capacity for creative thinking by undermining their creative confidence. Core77 is running an ongoing series with Moa Dickmark, an architect and designer, on working with kids. I was particularly grateful to read Dickmark’s advice to remind students to hold on to their natural capacity for fantasy and imagination as it is a skill that they will need for the rest of their lives. While it is important to find ways to ‘rehabilitate’ those who have been robbed of their natural creative capacity and confidence, we may save future generations a lot of time and unlearning, if we warn kids to hold on to their natural abilities, no matter what demands the system puts on them.

Another thing that is good to think about is to tell the students when you start working with them that:

There’s no right or wrong! If you want to write down your idea, write, we don’t care about the spelling, or grammar for that matter. If you want to draw down your idea, draw. If you want to build your idea, we are going to do that too! 

AND:

What at your age is called Fantasy and Imagination is called Creative Thinking later on, and is something older people go to university to learn more about. So don’t lose it, you will need it now and for the rest of your life! 

Source: Co-Creative Processes In Education: The Small Things That Make A Big Difference, via Core77, published March 10, 2014.

The Importance of the Interval Between What We Are & What We May Become & Why Our Capacity To Fail Is Essential …*

 

“Our capacity to fail is essential to what we are. We need to preserve, cultivate, even treasure this capacity. It is crucial that we remain fundamentally imperfect, incomplete, erring creatures; in other words, that there is always a gap left between what we are and what we can be. Whatever human accomplishments there have been in history, they have been possible precisely because of this empty space. It is within this interval that people, individuals as well as communities, can accomplish anything. Not that we’ve turned suddenly into something better; we remain the same weak, faulty material. But the spectacle of our shortcomings can be so unbearable that sometimes it shames us into doing a little good. Ironically, it is the struggle with our own failings that may bring the best in us.”

In Praise of Failure by Costica Bradatan | via The New York Times, published December 15, 2013.

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