Make Time to Explore

“Exploration is really the essence of human spirit.”

Frank Borman


Frank Borman was one of the first humans to go around the moon.  He was able to live the common fantasy of many children.  And many adults too!

There is something about new experiences which is thrilling.  We have people like Felix Baumgartner who chase after the thrills.


We also have people with neophobia, which is a fear of trying new things.  For them, the thrill is just too much!

The majority of us enjoy new things, yet we get stuck in our routines.  We come home, have dinner, and then sit on the computer or watch TV.  Finding new thrills is not part of the routine.

Plan to Be Curious

We love surprises.  Let’s modify our environment to help get them.  One thing we can do is set aside time to pursue questions we have.  For example, I set aside two hours this week to explore any questions that came to mind.  Did you know Einstein and Bohr had debates over the validity of quantum theory?  Anyway, in order to get your mind in the frame of asking questions, act like Wondercat did by starting with, “I wonder…?”

I wonder...?

There are other types of surprises we can plan.  Buy a new food that looks interesting.  Abbie and I once bought a spikey-fruit for the sole reason it looked funny.  I forget its name, but I remember the fun experience.  And as you browse the aisles in the grocery story, say hello to a stranger.  Being talked to randomly is surprising.  If talking to someone is too terrifying, then begin by keeping eye contact with someone longer than they do with you.  Warning: this mini-game can become addicting.

Want a day of surprises?  Then break your routines and have a “No-electronics Day.”  See what happens when digital technology is off the table.

Enjoy the surprises!

Read Often

The Amazing Technology

How has being able to read helped your life?  We communicate daily with text messages.  Thank-you cards are written and, hopefully, received.  The Harry Potter fantasy world was gloriously entered time-after-time.  Plus, the significant other is impressed with all the new foods cooked thanks to the countless recipes on Pinterest.  Oh.  Sorry.  That was my life, not yours.

Well, how has reading benefited the greater civilization?  Violence has been reduced.  This is caused by better understanding of desires between people because reading and writing forced our languages to become standardized.  Also, political laws are easier to uphold when written and agreed upon.  Reading has also advanced technologies.  This was done by spreading knowledge across not just living people, but generations of people.  Our entertainment has benefited because novels, plays, movies, and shows are almost all written down.  Lastly, reading has been shown to benefit the well-being of people.

So, Reading Helped.  Why Should I Do It?

We love being creative.  Reading is a very creative past time.  For one, our minds create the setting and the characters — obviously the author helps a bit too.  Second, we modify or build our ideas about how the universe works by using ideas from the book.

We love feeling important and reading books can cause this feeling.  Finishing a book is satisfying.  I can’t describe the feeling wholly.  Moreover, a book does not progress unless we are engaging it.  This is the opposite of a movie which can be turned on and will play regardless if we are there to watch it or not.  Also, I’ve never experienced the Yes! feeling after finishing a movie.  Lastly, we become more important when we read to others.  This is something Abbie and I do on occasion — on car trips or before bed.

Reading Suggestions

Below is a list of books I encourage you to read.  If a link is present, then my personal reflection on the book will open.

Create Time to Create

Where does the time go?

We tend to get distracted quite easily.  For example, I just watched an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee which I didn’t have planned.  I just happened to see Jerry Seinfeld on an episode of The Daily Show.  Then there are the times when I start looking at Facebook and find myself continuously scrolling down absentmindedly.  Been there too?  This also occurs at our jobs.  Microsoft surveyed their workers and reported that 2 out of 5 days per week were unproductive.  Yet, we often times wonder why “there just isn’t enough time in the day.”

So where does our time go?  I encourage you to make a list of what you believe are your key distracting activities.  Then, spend two or three days tallying the number of times you do the distracting activity.  I think you’ll be amazed to see where the time goes.

Create Life Standards

Remember the easy days when parents controlled our life?  Just one cookie for dessert.  Just one hour of TV tonight.  We spent time complaining, sure, but we also did something amazing.  We did other things!

Look at the list of distracting activities you made.  Choose one activity and set a limit for how many times you can do it.  Maybe only check Facebook once per day.  Watch only one episode of The Big Bang Theory instead all six on TBS (yeah, that used to be something I did.  No wonder I didn’t keep that first job).

I decided to limit how many hours I spend playing video games per week.  I decided on limiting myself to 4 sessions and/or 5 hours, whichever comes first.  Here is the document I created to help myself keep track.  It is currently on our counter where I see it daily to help remind me.  As a side note, I noticed a benefit to limiting the activity: I allow myself to be fully immersed in it.  The internal nagging voice saying, “do something productive!” is no longer present.

But Now I’m Bored!

Good.  The purpose of this is to create time to do other things.  Let go of your crutches and security and start being the person you deeply want to be.  Being creative is challenging.  But, think about how good you will feel by living up to the image you truly want to be.  Let me know what you are starting to limit.  We can do this together.

Measurement – One Key to Growth

Why Measure?

The feeling of growth is one of our motivators in life.  This is according to Tony Robbins, an extremely successful self-development guru.  As an example, let me share with you a personal story from my last summer.

Fitness has always been one of my goals.  Last summer, I decided to base my fitness on four criteria: 1. pushups; 2. pullups; 3. mile time; and 4. soccer ball juggles.  I had a set routine which consisted of me doing what I considered regular workouts every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  Then on every Sunday, I would take my measurements.  Everything was great.  I was consistently seeing improvement and feeling good about myself.  Then, I decided to stop measuring.

Here is what caused my decision to stop measuring.  I was reading many books, articles, and blogposts about “being in the present moment.”  There is a beauty that shows itself when we are in the present moment.  So, I decided that I am going to work out solely for the beauty of the workout moments.  Boy did this little experiment fail!  As it turns out, there is a lot of pain when you work out.  Guess what ended up happening to my workouts?

I stopped!

What’s the Benefit in Measuring?

Measuring allows us to visualize our growth.  When I was working out and measuring, for example, I saw my pullups, pushups, and juggles increase.  I saw my mile time decrease.  I was able to clearly visualize my progress.  The visualization leads to realization.  Realization leads to the feelings of accomplishment and importance.

To sum up: “Measurization” –> Visualization –> Realization –> “Feelings-of-accomplishment-and-importance-ation.”

How Can We Use This?

Come up with a way to measure any new goal or habit you want in your life.  More importantly, take and record the measurements!

Here’s a recent example from my life.  I set a goal to reduce the amount of water I use while showering.  During a water unit I was teaching last year, I found out that Africans use, on average, 5 gallons of water per day!  To bring this back to showering, I found out that the estimate for water use for showers is 2.5 gallons per minute.  Also, with one of my roles being an environmentalist, I wanted to reduce the amount of time I spent in the shower.

What did I measure?  I measured the amount of time I spent in the shower.  I also measured what my showerhead’s flow rate is (1.7 gallons/min).  After my measurements, I was able to create the graph below to help me visualize my results.

Water per shower

I was able to see, or realize, the progress in decreasing the amount of water I was using (the two spikes were when I shaved in the shower which didn’t happen during the other showers).  And, this caused me to feel great!  Woohoo!  The feeling of accomplishment!

Back to Create to Know

When we record our measurements, we are creating an artifact of our life.  I figured this was a good time to be reminded of the importance of creating artifacts.  Furthermore and on a related note, I wanted to share my complete write-up of this experiment.  If we truly are to be the roles we want to be, then we must create things which support them!

The Art of Listening

The Untaught Skill

Listening for feeling is a rarely taught skill.  Within the Common Core, listening is found.  Here is one of the standards:

Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.

I have a feeling people assume that only facts are being said.  But, how often do we say something we don’t really mean?  Or, there is a hidden meaning in what we say?

Empathetic Listening

In order to understand a person, we must understand his/her emotions.  Human behavior stems from emotions.  Throughout our lives we are told to be empathetic, or to try to put ourselves in the other’s shoes.  Empathetic listening is actively being empathetic.  But, it has a bonus!  We get to check if we are correct almost immediately.

Below is an example of empathetic listening done by a father to his son.  This is taken from Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

S: Boy, Dad, I’ve had it!  School is for the birds!

D: You’re really frustrated about school.

S: I sure am.  It’s totally impractical.  I’m not getting a thing out of it.

D: You feel like school’s not doing you any good.

S: Well, yeah.  I’m just not learning anything that’s going to help me.  I mean, look at Joe.  He’s dropped out of school and he’s working on cars.  He’s making money.  Now that’s practical.

D: You feel that Joe really has the right idea.

S: Well, I guess he does in a way.  He’s really making money now.  But in a few years, I bet he’ll probably be ticked off at himself.

Note the responses by the dad.  They contain both the content of what the son was saying and the feeling the son had.  This is a great model of how to show someone you understand them, both in content and in emotion.  Now, if the dad was wrong in either the content or emotion, the son would correct him.  That was the added bonus I mentioned earlier.  Also, compare this to how a “normal” person would respond.  A normal person would likely argue with the son as soon as leaving school was brought up, which is a non-productive dialogue.

  Why is Empathetic Listening an Important Skill?

People are far happier when they are understood.  By showing, or at least attempting to show, that you understand, the other person feels important.  This develops trust, which is required for complete honesty.  And with honesty, we get all the data we need to solve problems.  Who doesn’t like solving problems?  Boom.  Happy.