Tag flow

Rethinking How We Define Passion & Why We Should Cultivate A Craftsman’s Mindset …*

Rethinking How We Define Passion & Why We Should Cultivate A Craftsman’s Mindset ...* | rethinked.org

I am reading a fascinating book on the history of the color palette and one of the chapters I was just reading addresses the historical shift of the perception of painting as a “craft profession to an art one.” This shift was accelerated in the mid-seventeenth century with the nascent field of ‘colormen,’ professionals who mixed raw materials into paints, something artists had mostly done themselves until that point.

“For “craftspeople” the ability to manage one’s material was all important; for “artists” the dirty jobs of mixing and grinding were simply time consuming obstacles to the main business of creation.”

[ . . . ]

“What was the good of painting a masterpiece if its constituent elements would spend the next few years fighting together chemically on the canvas, and ultimately turn black? The early seventeenth-centuy painter Anthony Van Dyck knew how to employ varnish so that colors that would otherwise react with each other would be safe from ruin; Victorian artists, however, did not, and this was, Holman Hunt predicted, to be their downfall. Part of the issue was that he–and his teachers, and his teachers’ teachers–had rarely had to mix paint from basic materials. He had never had to grind a rock, or powder a root, or burn a twig, or crush a dried insect. Nor, more importantly, had he observed the chemical reactions involved in paint-making and seen how colors changed over the years.”

Source: Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

This reminded me of advice I read from Cal Newport about shifting from a ‘passion’ mindset, which has been a dominant cultural trope these past few decades–“what do I love to do and how do I do only that?”–to a “crafstman’s” mindset, a relentless focus on activating one’s unique potential by continually pushing to develop one’s skills and acquire new ones.

My advice is to abandon the passion mindset which asks “What does this job offer me? Am I happy with this job? Is it giving me everything I want?” Shift from that mindset to Steve Martin’s mindset, which is “What am I offering the world? How valuable am I? Am I really not that valuable? If I’m not that valuable, then I shouldn’t expect things in my working life. How can I get better?“ Like a craftsman, you find satisfaction in the development of your skill and then you leverage that skill once you have it to take control of your working life and build something that’s more long-term and meaningful… When I talk about the habits of the craftsman mindset, it’s really the habits of deliberate practice. So someone who has the craftsman mindset is trying to systematically build up valuable skills because that’s going to be their leverage, their capital for taking control of their career and they share the same habits you would see with violin players or athletes or chess players.

The craftsmen out there are not the guys checking their social media feeds every five minutes. They’re not looking for the easy win or the flow-state. They’re the guys that are out there three hours, pushing the skill. “This is hard but I’m going to master this new piece of software. I’m going to master this new mathematical framework.” That’s the mindset, the habit of the craftsman.

Source: Cal Newport on how you can be an expert and why you should *not* follow your passion

I think there is something about the craftsman’s mindset that is particularly important in our age of instant gratification and seemingly constant technological innovation. The abundant research on flow states is just one potent reminder of the joys and rewards to be found in taking the long road when creating something, whether it is a painting, a life or a career. Working through challenges is not a guarantee for reaching a flow state, but without an appropriate degree of difficulty relative to one’s skill level, without stretching past what we know, flow is impossible.

We need a collective rethink in how we define passion. Passion is not easy nor instantaneously gratifying and it is certainly not always joyful. When we ignore the painful aspects of passion, we lose out on the chance to ferociously pursue the possibility of living meaningful and fulfilling lives where we have the potential to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. 

“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.” – Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves 

learn, practice, create & rethink …* 

{ Wondrous Wednesdays } Using Painting to Keep Zoo Animals Happy & Healthy …*

{ Wondrous Wednesdays } Using Painting to Keep Zoo Animals Happy & Healthy ...* | rethinked.org

Artist: Jack, Western Lowland Gorilla | Source: BioParkSociety.org

The abstract masterpieces of such unlikely artists as Prehensile Tail Porcupines, goats, hissing cockroaches and vinegaroons (had to Google that one) are sure to infuse your Wednesday with a hefty dose of wonder and delight. This budding art collective is the result of an enrichment program from the ABQ BioPark Zoo. The therapeutic and enriching benefits of painting, it would seem, extend to animals. “Getting them to use their brains and to figure things out keeps them happier and healthier,” says zoo manager, Lynn Tupa.

The animals at the ABQ BioPark Zoo have learned to paint as an enrichment activity, purely for their own pleasure and mental stimulation. To ensure that painting remains enjoyable for the animals, the opportunity to paint is an occasional treat, not part of their daily routine.

From primate Picassos to buggy Botticellis, our stable of talented animal artists has increased this year to provide an even greater variety of original masterpieces that will thrill collectors and animal enthusiasts alike. Choose from a number of genres and styles that include (but not limited to) elephants, gorillas, parrots, marsupials, alligators, insects and more!

Head over to the Bio Park Society website to view (and perhaps purchase) the paintings (all done with non-toxic tempera paint) by this unlikely band of artists. All proceeds from the paintings directly support that animal’s program at the ABQ BioPark. You can also ‘meet’ some of the artists through their endearing online bios. From Shona the Warthog, who has found the activity “very therapeutic since her mate, Chip, recently passed away,” to Sarah the Orangutan who, “reserves her favorite colors, like silver, to paint her hands and feet and uses her least favorite colors on the canvas,” (a girl’s gotta have her favorite things), you’ll learn about the unique manner in which each artist approaches his or her craft and some intriguing facts about their species. Some of the animals, like Crocket the Raccoon, have instantly taken to the activity while others, like Tonka the Orangutan, are more reticent. “His appearance is very important to him. He will pick up his very long hair as he tries to avoid mud puddles. This is why we are still working on his painting. He goes to great lengths to avoid getting his hands dirty and will continuously wipe the paint off them.”

delight, wonder & rethink …* 

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Artist: Calloway – Banded Armadillo | Source: BioParkSociety.org

{ The Neurochemistry of Flow States } Boosting Creativity, Learning & Motivation …*

The state of flow doesn’t just feel good, it produces quite a powerful cocktail of performance-enhancing neurochemicals. Watch the Big Think video below to find out how flow facilitates and enhances learning, creativity and motivation.

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{ MAKE ME THINK } Sometimes, Harder Is Worth It – The Link Between Difficulty, Intention & Enjoyment …*

{ MAKE ME THINK } Sometimes, Harder Is Worth It - The Link Between Difficulty, Intention & Enjoyment ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

“I love my camera. I love it even though I took terrible pictures with it for a month. I love it even though I have to adjust the aperture, worry about depth of field and annoy my family while I twiddle with its metal knobs. I love it because it makes me think: about light, colour, composition. I take fewer pictures with it than I take with my phone, but much better ones. And I’m not alone in my love for my camera. While sales of point and shoot technology continue to decline, the market for fiddly manual cameras is growing nicely.” -Brian Millar

I read a thoughtful article on The Guardian the other day, in which its author, Brian Millar, makes an important point about the need to retain some degree of complexity and difficulty in certain realms of existence in an age permeated by “a kind of religious belief summed up in the mantra: don’t make me think.”

When everything around us is designed to be simple, it stops us thinking and takes away the fulfilment and satisfaction that come from mastery

I’m not suggesting that everything should be designed to be more difficult to use. Toilets have a perfectly good user interface, except in Japan (why do Japanese toilets have a remote control? Where else are you going to be when you flush them?). It’s one of the miracles of the modern age that we are able to wield extraordinarily powerful tools without having even to read manuals. However, sometimes designers have a duty to make us think about that power. When we do, we’ll use things better and enjoy them more.

Source: Why We Should Design Things to Be Difficult to Use

Millar highlights an important point about the seemingly inverse relationship between efficiency and intent. As more and more aspects of our daily life become simplified or downright automated, it does seem increasingly important to be intentional about designing prompts for awareness and well, intention, throughout our day. Besides, one of the key components of reaching a flow state (and reaping its numerous emotional and cognitive benefits) is finding that sweet spot where a task challenges us to stretch a bit past our current skill level.

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{ Rethinking Engagement } Cultivating the Rage to Master, Job Crafting & the Impact of Our Environments on Motivation …*

This week had me thinking about motivation and engagement: how do we trigger, cultivate and enhance our level of engagement and that of our students. It started a few weeks ago when reading 7 Secrets Top Athletes Can Teach You About Being The Best At Anything, I learned of a fascinating term coined by psychologist Ellen Winner: RAGE TO MASTER. The rage to master is a term that Winner coined to describe a common trait found amongst child prodigies– an obsessive and insatiable desire to become better at something. I found fairly little more information on this concept and would really appreciate it if any of you could point me to an article or other online resource that gives a bit more context around the term.

Anyway, the reason engagement and motivation emerged as a theme for me this week, is because as I was walking around thinking about the rage to master, I walked past a public school which stopped me dead in my tracks. The building looked so dreadful: square, brown, with heavy meshed bars on the windows, that at first I thought I had stumbled upon a prison. I happened to be thinking about Winner’s Rage to Master at that precise moment, wondering what strategies and influences might help children develop this insatiable desire for improvement, and the contrast between what I was thinking about and this building where students go to learn and flourish every day really took me aback.

I understand that there are issues of safety, especially in places such as Manhattan and that funding is limited, but there must be accessible alternatives to this block of brown and grills that would be more conducive to cultivating passionate engaged students, obsessed with learning and mastery.

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So how might we go about starting to hack our way to creating more opportunities for increased motivation and engagement? Well, the Association for Psychological Science highlights new research that suggests that Just Feeling Like Part of A Team Increases Motivation on Challenging Tasks

Across five experiments Stanford psychological scientists Priyanka B. Carr and Gregory M. Walton concluded that even subtle suggestions of being part of a team dramatically increased people’s motivation and enjoyment in relation to difficult tasks, leading to greater perseverance and engagement and even higher levels of performance.

“Simply feeling like you’re part of a team of people working on a task makes people more motivated as they take on challenges,” says Walton.

Carr and Walton hypothesized that a sense of working together would fuel intrinsic motivation by turning a tedious task from work into play.

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Earlier this week, my father gave me some interesting prompts for job crafting from the School of Life — Roman Krznaric’s How To Find Fulfilling Work and the 100 Questions: Work Edition Kit:

100 carefully composed questions designed to help you start a conversation about you and your working life. Use them to sharpen your understanding of who you are and what you should be asking of the world of work.

I haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet, but each morning this week I’ve spent about a half hour picking out some cards and thinking about my answers to the questions. I’ve really enjoyed the exercise, finding that it allows me to think about my work life from completely new angles that I would not have considered on my own. For example, all of the cards are broken up into several categories, and this morning I was reflecting on a prompt about what I would have to do in my working life to make my children proud. Because I’m not at all thinking about any potential future children, this is not a question I would have asked myself nor is it an angle I would have considered when thinking about how to craft my career. Yet, after spending some time with the question this morning, I found it was quite a productive prompt that allowed me to expand how I frame and approach the concept of a meaningful career.

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Want to Boost Your Mood? Learn Something …*

Want to Boost Your Mood? Learn Something ...* | rethinked.org

Just the other day, a good friend was telling me about the delightful experience he just had of picking up a book on a subject he already knows much about and discovering new insights and ways of thinking about this particular topic. “Learning feels so good,” he said. I agree, and so does neuroscience.

Neurologically, learning is inherently rewarding. Acquiring new information increases our production of dopamine, which improves our mood and heightens our interest in related activities. It makes everything we do more interesting.

– Why Work Should Get a Little Harder Every Day via Harvard Business Review

David Shrigley on Trusting the Process, Experiencing Flow, & Showing Up To Do the Work No Matter What…*

Read a great interview with artist David Shrigley on Dazed yesterday and thought I’d share my favorite bits on the blog as they relate to several key ideas we’ve been exploring in our work and writing these past two years.

enjoy & rethink …*

FLOW – 

I think when there’s somebody who is going to come and take the drawings away on Monday and you still have 20 drawings to do that does tend to hinder the enjoyment of it – and that’s the situation I’m in right now! But, in essence, the moment when I’m working is still the moment when I feel most free in the eye of the storm that is around me. I feel very at peace when I’m working, it’s a very meditative and cathartic thing for me.

TRUST THE PROCESS – 

I tend to write lists of things that I’d quite like to make but I’ve no idea how they’ll resolve themselves. They’re usually a list of very banal things: for example, two things on my list today are the words “pissing” and “human heart”. I will interpret those two instructions as I see fit. Something will happen eventually but a lot of it gets discarded so I try not to put any pressure on one particular image. If you’re making something and you know that there’s a high probability that it’ll get thrown away, it gives you the ability to make something that isn’t contrived. Well, that’s the strategy.

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SHOW UP & DO THE WORK –

I have more successful days and less successful days but I don’t allow myself to have creative blocks because I don’t stop creating. Sometimes I make things that aren’t very good but my rules dictate that I make it anyway and just having that attitude seems to work. I still make the work even if I don’t want to. Somehow eventually something happens.

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Source: David Shrigley: ‘I’m quite happy being a ponce!’ via Dazed, published October 24, 2014

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 …* 

{ Creativity & Happiness } An Overview of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience …*

{ Creativity & Happiness } An Overview of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot from Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s 2004 TED talk – Flow: The Secret to Happiness

 

As I’m nearing the end of the Positive Psychology cycle of the rethinked*annex project, I have decided to include two additional ideas–flow and growth mindset–before moving on to the next and final cycle. Because the meaningful happy life is so deeply dependent on the successful and recurring deployment of one’s signature strengths in as many of life’s arenas as possible, I have decided to turn to Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi‘s concept of flow for some additional guidance on how to nurture and cultivate my pursuit of what Seligman terms, “the gratifications.” And because the nurturing and deployment of strengths and skills can be so radically improved by the cultivation of a growth mindset, I have decided to reread Carol Dweck‘s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I’ll share a couple more interventions to experiment with based on these two ideas in the coming weeks.

For now, I invite you to watch Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s TED Talk – Flow, the secret to happiness, in which he gives some context to his research around the core question of “what makes life worth living?” and gives an overview of the flow experience.

Martin Seligman – An Overview of Positive Psychology …*

Taking a quick break from writing about my experiences with the Positive Psychology interventions given by Martin Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, to share this TED talk he gave in 2004, fittingly titled: The new era of positive psychology. In this talk, Seligman provides context for the development of Positive Psychology while sharing a compelling overview of many of the ideas discussed in his books.

watch, learn & rethink …* 

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