What we want determines who we are and who we become.
This just in: Stay curious
“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” ~Leo Burnett
If there’s one attribute I’d like to see held up above all others in our society, and especially in our schools, I would have to say curiosity. It’s where every exploration, internal and external, begins. It’s a trait that never goes out of style and I believe if we keep after it, it’s always rewarded in ways great and small. It boosts our happiness, our sense of accomplishment. Curiosity connects us to people and places, even ones we may never see in-person. It provides the path to contribute to our world in a meaningful and profound way that will last far beyond our own existence. Curiosity is the root of everything meaningful, and isn’t that what we’re all after?
Inspired: A madwoman’s (writing) life
Writers live many lives—1 foot in the manufactured world around them & the other in the worlds they design for their stories. I love that finally I live a career and life that doesn’t admonish me for pursuing everything that interests me, whether it connects or not. It’s opened my mind to possibility in wild and wonderful ways, and made me feel truly free.
Beautiful: Where the Wildest Things Are
“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.” ~ George Eliot, British writer
I love the movie, Hugo. I was hooked when I saw the preview and Hugo asks Isabelle, “Do you want to have an adventure?” I couldn’t think of a more perfect question to ask a friend! Curiosity brings people together.
We often think of adventures as travels to far-flung sites around the globe, escapades into places that are strange, new, and even a little risky. But the greatest adventures lie not “out there somewhere” but within. They are in our imaginations. There we will find fantastical worlds that no one has even dared to dream of yet, much less build. Our creativity knows no bounds. It doesn’t limit itself. If we close our eyes, turn our attention to the breath, and tap in, we can go anywhere.
That’s my kind of adventure.
Beautiful: Learn to Love the Questions
“Having all the answers just means you’ve been asking boring questions.” ~ Joey Comeau
We have such a desire to know. Why did something happen to us? Why are we in our current situation? What will happen next? We dig for answers. We hypothesize, experiment, discover, and document.
There are some things that cannot be explained. There are some things that we only understand with the gifts of distance and time. There are some things that are mysteries and will remain that way. We cannot know it all, at least not right now. And there’s something reassuring in that; something that’s even kind of fun.
No matter how much we learn or how much we have, there will always be more questions. And where there are more questions, there are more discoveries to be had. There will always be fuel for our curiosity, a need for our imagination and creativity. There is always hope that tomorrow the picture will be a bit clearer than it is today. Interesting questions give us a reason to keep going.
Beautiful: The Pi of Life
Have you been watching the TV show Person of Interest? Filled with quirky characters, nerdy testaments to the power of technology and programming, and a healthy dose of espionage and government secrecy, it consumes my complete attention during every episode.
Last week’s show, 2πr, began with a lyrical discussion of Pi. Yes, that Pi: 3.14159265359… or said another way, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi randomly repeats with no end. Finch, the main character of the show, explains that Pi contains every number combination possible. It contains all of creation – past, present, and future. Somewhere, it contains our phone numbers, birthdays, social security numbers. If those numbers were translated into letters, it would contain every word, every sentence ever written by anyone. Mind-blowing.
This is why I find math and science so intriguing, inspiring, and endlessly fascinating. We don’t need to ask, nor wait, for answers to any of our questions, curiosities, and confusions. They are all around us. All of them. What we need is an open heart, a discerning eye, and a clear, keen mind to see them, recognize them, and then put them to good use.
Leap: Take Time to Be Curious
“What we need is not the will to believe but the will to find out.” ~ Bertrand Russell
A company I know recently went through a very large reorganization due to significant changes in leadership. My friends there who kept their roles are being asked to trust the vision and strategy of the new leadership team on blind faith. They are being asked to believe in something that has not yet been proven, that doesn’t even have any results on which to base their belief. In the face of such significant change, this is a tall order.
The company recently surveyed the current employees to ask how they feel about the new strategy. Many felt positive about the changes, though they had a lot of doubt about the ability of the new leadership team to make good on their promises. I smiled when my friends told me that. It is exactly the right answer. We may not be able to control all of our circumstances, at work or in life, but we always have the right to our curiosity. We always have the right, and I would go so far as to say the obligation, to say, “Let’s see how it all unfolds.”
Any time we are going through change, we experience a bit of seizing up. That seizing up can be physical, emotional, or mental. It is just resistance, and we can breathe through it. It’s a very natural part of change. It’s from fear of the unknown. It’s meant as a protective device, though too often it becomes a weight around our necks that keeps us from moving in the direction we’re meant to go.
Our curiosity is a potent tool to use during these moments of seizing up, second only to our breath. When that resistance to change finds us, as it always does, we take a big inhale, then exhale, and then give ourselves the permission to be curious about the outcome. Have the will not to believe that this is the right thing to happen but the will to find out if it’s the right thing to happen to us right now.
Let the questions rise up. Why? How? When? Where? With whom? Dig in to the answers and don’t let anyone tell you that you must follow along simply because they said so. Question until you get answers you can believe in. And if your questions aren’t met satisfactorily, you have the right to walk out and carve your own path. Only you own your time and only you get to decide how it’s best spent. Seek, and eventually, you will find.
Beginning: Learning How to Breathe, Run Barefoot, and Ditch Conventional Wisdom
Last week I attend my first class at The Breathing Project with Leslie Kaminoff. I used his anatomy book as a part of my yoga teacher training, and since then have been curious about his renegade style and obsession with how we breathe. In traditional yoga classes, we learn the 3-part breath by filling up the belly, then the chest, and then the collar-bone area. Leslie flips that around, literally and figuratively. He advises students to fill up on breath from top to bottom. At this suggestion, my brain began to twist and turn, trying to rewire its thinking about breath.
Similarly, last week I began reading intensely about barefoot running after an article in the New York Times Magazine, The Once and Future Way to Run. I’m entering the lottery to run the New York City marathon in 2012 and looking for the most efficient way to complete my training and beat my time from the Chicago marathon that I ran in 2001. For a number of years, I’ve heard about these barefoot runners and mostly written them off as just a hair shy of completely insane.
Turns out I may be the crazy one. Heel-to-toe running, which most of us do, is just about the worst possible way to beat up our bodies. Making contact around the mid-foot / toe region takes advantage of our bodies’ natural springing motion, protecting the body from undue injury, increasing our speed, and making our motion more efficient. Like Leslie’s class on breathing, this idea from barefoot running sent my mind happily reeling toward new possibilities.
Both of these ideas ask us to harken back to childhood, remembering how we used to act as children and how we have been misled as adults. We pick up so many bad habits on our journey into adulthood and sometimes we forget to question the new learnings that generate these bad habits. The result of losing our courage to question conventional wisdom? Harming our own bodies and minds.
This questioning of how to breathe and how to run, two very basic actions that we all do all the time, got me thinking about all the other “truths” that I may have accepted to easily. Business is loaded with them. “Experts” tell us that we MUST have a fully baked business plan, perfect products, and so much market research that we scarcely have time to look at all of the findings, much less make sense of them. Phooey!
What if we try this: go against the grain. Go ahead and put some kind of business plan in place, and then be prepared to change every blessed word of it. Launch good-enough products as quickly as possible to get real-time input on design from a live market, and then commit to iterating future versions just as quickly with real feedback. Forget market research composed of focus groups and other traditional methods. Make the business one giant market research experiment.
Here’s what would happen: our rate and level of innovation would increase, more people would create things of value to others, more people would take their futures into their own hands through entrepreneurship, and we’d all learn more. Oh, and we’d have a greater rate of jobs creation – quite possibly the biggest hot-button economic issue in our country today.
What do we have to lose by ditching conventional wisdom? Bad habits – we’ll breathe more fully, run with greater ease, and have a healthier economy. The value of taking conventional wisdom at face value? Staying right where we are.
Which option sounds better to you?
Beginning: Discover Your World
“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” ~Buddha via Tiny Buddha
There is something to be on your dharma, your path. This week I had a number of experiences as I met with potential partners for Compass Yoga where I was conscious of being truly alive, truly living my practice. I came to realize that what I offer as a teacher afford me the opportunity to be a part of everyday miracles. I have the opportunity and the privilege to help people shape their days, their lives.
Brian has been encouraging me to focus not on what I think about my experience but how I feel about it. And when feelings crop up that seem confusing, he’s asked me to go more deeply into them, to use yoga to get at the fear and discomfort that arises from time to time. His hunch is that the yoga will replace any uncertainty or fear I may feel about taking a step away from the crossroads and down a newly imagined road. He’s asked me to consider the idea of willing what I need from the universe and being open to the response.
Discovery is found at that junction between crafting our lives in the image we desire and being open to all of the ways that image can manifest itself. We are lead in different directions for reasons that we think we understand, and yet when we arrive we find that the picture isn’t exactly as we thought it would be. The lessons are different, and what we learn is rarely what we expect and always exactly what we need.
To discover, we need an open heart and a curious mind, a relentless pursuit of the new and unfamiliar. It takes equal amounts of courage and strength. We need to let go of fear, and just sink down into the flow that is all around us. We work so hard to find our way, to find our purpose and calling. When it’s found, we owe to ourselves to give our lives over to it. There’s something really beautiful and really freeing about letting our path guide us. We’ve done the work; we’ve done our part. Now let the universe hold up its end of the deal.
Step 351: Beauty – One of Life’s Non-negotiables
“I think “beauty” has a (prominent) place in every project.” ~ Tom Peters
I’d go one step further than Tom Peters and say if you are living somewhere, doing something, or learning something and you can’t find any beauty it, then move, do something else, and pick another topic. I know that this week I espoused about how life is long and we have more time and space than we actually realize. But your life and the amount of time you have is not enough to warrant the wasting of it.
I’m one of those efficiency junkies. I despise waste of any kind, whether the resource is tangible or intangible. I especially hate having my time wasted. I kind of self-implode without a vertical learning curve. Actually, I don’t know how to live without one so if I feel even a tinge of boredom, my mind is off and running. What never fails to captivate me is beauty, and I especially treasure ironic beauty – moment and places that don’t seem beautiful on the surface but with a little digging have a great abundance of beauty underneath.
In 2011, I’m not doing a single personal project that doesn’t have a kind of beauty that inspires me. Truly, I refuse to struggle through projects or experiences or someone else’s decisions that don’t make any sense to me. I can’t do that anymore. I’m done with dreading any place, or project, or event. If what I’m doing isn’t useful to me, or you, or the world at-large, then I’m going to find something else to do. The world needs so much help right now and we need eachother.
I have a lot to offer in the way of resources. We all do. Talent, time, experience, care, and concern (perhaps the most underrated resource of all!) We can no longer afford to do work that doesn’t matter. We are what we do.
The beautiful image above is not my own but I think it’s stunning. It can be found here.