Archive for March, 2014

Bring your passion with you in whatever you do

March 30, 2014

Here are two beautiful Greek words that I learned watching the wonderful TED talk by Mike Rowe (the person who created the TV show, Dirty Jobs):

anagnorsis: the transition from ignorance to knowledge.

When a veil is lifted off your eyes and you suddenly realize that some aspect of what you had been thinking your whole life is totally wrong and you suddenly see the truth, that is anagnorsis.

peripetia: a discovery that leads to a sudden realization.

In the movie The Matrix the main character Neil suddenly realizes that he is living in a computer, that is peripetia.

In the movie The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis spends the whole movie helping a small child and then at the end Willis suddenly realizes that he is dead, that is peripetia.

Here’s a paraphrase of something that Mike Rowe said, which I think is great:

From our childhood we are told: “follow
your passion and if you do that, everything
will turn out and be great.” I realized (anagnorsis)
that that is wrong. These people that I worked
alongside on Dirty Jobs aren’t following their
passion; yet, they are some of the most balanced
and happy people I’ve met. Instead of following
your passion, bring your passion with you in
whatever you do.

Humans did not evolve to be inactive

March 27, 2014

Humans evolved to do
a variety of activities,
from low to high intensity.
Most of the time, early
people were resting or
walking long distances,
but sometimes they
had to run or sprint,
climb trees, and throw
things. So a degree of
high-intensity ability was
important in terms of
natural selection. What
we did not evolve to be
is inactive.

Daniel Lieberman,
professor of human
biology at Harvard

Write it down to understand it

March 19, 2014

Yesterday I was listening to a talk and the presenter said:

I can’t understand anything
until I write it down.

That resonates with me. I learn best when I write it down and mull it over.

When I first started my career I wrote very little. Over the years the amount that I write has steadily increased. Now I write every day. Writing is like breathing: I must do it to live.

Do not perform, just be yourself … to be yourself is to be child-like

March 15, 2014

Recently I listened to a fascinating interview of the musician Bobby McFerrin (perhaps best known for his song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”).

During the interview he said something that really struck me as profound: when on a stage he doesn’t perform, he tries hard to simply be himself. He said that we spend our lives constructing and putting on various masks: we have our professional mask, our home-life mask, and many others. Children don’t have this. They are just themselves. He talked about spending a lifetime trying to tear down all the masks that we’ve built. He quoted Picasso: “It has taken me my whole life to learn to draw like a child.”

Here is a portion of the interview [1]:

Bobby McFerrin: When I do workshops with students, we talk a lot about performance because they all want to perform. And I tell them to do their best — not to perform, simply be themselves: the same voice, the same self that they are when they are simply walking from class to class or standing in, you know, line waiting to get on the bus or whatever.

It’s extremely difficult to do because when you are on stage in front of a lot of people who are looking at you — and you are aware of them, looking at you and thinking about you and listening to you — it’s difficult not to perform or to do something that’s safe and easy.

Interviewer: In some ways, that’s what we all work to do all of our lives is just to be ourselves.

Bobby McFerrin: Yes, to be ourselves is to be childlike. Picasso said something like, he spent his entire career learning how to paint like a child again.