Curiosity Journal, Making a List

Movement

I went for a walk in the woods yesterday. It was a noisy-quiet morning, with a low racket of avian chatter and the gentle hush of a breeze in the taller tree’s branches.

I looked for movement in the stillness.IMG_4204

Birds escorted me along the path, dusting up the litter of the forest floor. Squirrels did the same, just a little further removed. A butterfly’s lemon-yellow wings caught in the dappled sunlight. A single sassafras leaf, angled and perfectly attuned to the soft wind’s frequency, vibrated wildly.

Immobilized by my approach to the tidal edge, tiny crabs rewarded my stillness with renewed activity. A charismatic doe, disarmingly large in comparison to all the other wildlife, lifted first her head and then her white tail before bounding off across the wetlands. In the sunny distance, heat waves shimmered above the slightly roughed bay as the water lapped at the distant shore.

IMG_4203Up, beyond the doe or the soaring osprey and playing gulls, a few stray clouds floated lazily by. A jet stream bore witness to mechanical movement now past. I thought about the earth’s rotation and our fierce hurdle through the vastness of space. All there, in the deceptive calm of the late morning’s blue sky.

Back under the canopy of soft new green, I marveled at the movement of growth, the barely discernible but still obvious changes, day by day, as the woods around me return to life.

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Curiosity Journal, Life Lessons

Truth / Ode to Odinaka

My conversation with Felonious Munk, Calvin Evans and Odinaka Ezeokoli on curiosity, comedy and the power of observation was supposed to air today on WERA 96.7FM “Radio Arlington” but clearly the Christmas Elves were in a post-holiday lull and got up to some serious mischief, so you’ll have to hear the show on Friday, December 29 at 2:30pm ET here — and, after broadcast, the uncut version here. But in the meantime, there’s this…

Odinaka walked beside me down the corridor. “The word I would use is truth,” he said.

Odinaka, whose name replays with unexpected musicality like a staccato mantra in my head.

Odinaka, of the sinewy, elastic frame, equal parts expressive and exuberant.

Odinaka had hit upon something.

I had asked if he saw the observations that are central to comedy as an expression of curiosity. “That’s not the word I would have used,” he replied, “But I think it works.”  The conversation moved on. But he held onto the question and I’m glad he did.

It’s not the word I would have used, but I think truth works.

So: curiosity is the search for truth.

Patricia Hunt hopes to teach her students to find it among the stories masquerading as news. Writers Laura McBride and Tom King strive for some version of it in their own stories. So does Detective Sara Bertollini.

Which begs the question: if curiosity is truth seeking, what’s its future in a world that is less and less so inclined?

No wonder I’m out there making the case. Choose to seek truth.

Odinaka, self-described loving conscience and comedic sculptor.

Odinaka, younger, perhaps a little more deferential, a little less outspoken, proved to be the poet among them. Too much of him ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. You’ll have to listen to the uncut version to appreciate what others will have missed.

Odinaka may get less air time in the conversation on curiosity, comedy and observation, but he’s the one who lives on in my imagination.

Odinaka, literally “in the hands of God,” for me now synonymous with truth.

 

Curiosity Journal, Life Lessons, Making a List, UnComfort Zone

Curiosity & the Fluid Career

surf2Yes, that’s me. On a surf board. In Hawaii. Admittedly, ten years ago. I thought it was a good image for a conversation about fluid careers and catching the curiosity wave…

I was delighted to be invited back by Dana Theus and Mary Brodie at InPower Women for another conversation about curiosity – this time in the context of the fluid career. When they invited me on the show, I think they expected to explore my own fluid career – which is a fine tale, but I offered something both personal and more universal. Let’s talk, I suggested, about “choosing to be curious about futures one might not yet have contemplated, about being intentionally open to the unknown, asking more questions about what emerges, and doing some rapid prototyping to see what might work, using that information to build and (re)shape that emerging future.” 

I hope you’ll listen to the whole show (30 minutes), but here’s some of what we covered and what has worked for me:

Following threads and finding fellow travelers. One of the biggest and happiest surprises for me has been the discovery of rich new networks and communities of people to whom I’ve become attached as I’ve chosen to be curious and entered into many entirely new realms of activity and interests.

0.8 Prototyping. Borrowing from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, I’ve learned to try new concepts out before they are fully cooked (even before they are at “1.0” stages of readiness [hence: “0.8”]), and letting things fail, be messy, listening to and learning from others — and then trying again, with all those lessons in mind.

My simple rules: Drawing on the work of Donald Sull & Kathleen Eisenhardt, I like to think about the simple, most foundational guidelines that govern how/what I do:

  1. Choose to be curious.
  2. Change my point of view to see something new.
  3. Ask myself “how might I….?”
  4. Go toward the fear. (Fear, broadly defined, as the things to which I feel resistant)
  5. Iterate, reflect, repeat.

Curiosity Walks: I made this thing up, the “curiosity walk” — a mix of mindfulness and scavenger hunt. It’s a way to be more intentional and attentive going about a place, whether as a tourist or in our workplace. What can I see or learn by being just a little more curious about wherever I am? What’s actually going on? How do I feel about it – specificallyHow might it be different?

Aldous Huxley: Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you. — This reminds me to stay fully present with whatever is going on. What I choose to do with what happens will shape the lessons I learn, the patterns I discern, the habits I form, the possibilities I believe open before me.

Elizabeth Gilbert: Isn’t there something that interests you, even just a little?  A reminder that we needn’t be “passionate” about everything we pursue and that, sometimes, the best discoveries come from following a loose thread that interests us just a little, just enough that we choose to be curious…and see where it takes us.

Listen to InPower Women Coffee Break: Curiosity and the Fluid Career

Choose to be Curious, Curiosity Journal

Curiosity to Go, a debut

Going into Year two of this Choose to be Curious adventure, I’ve been wondering where the stretches will come — which way I’ll decide to push myself and the show — and where those efforts will take me.

Opportunity knocked.

The morning show hosts at WERA asked me to put together “shorts” for their use during the drive-time program. Ever the station enthusiasts, they see it as an opportunity to highlight programming, but they concede they actually like Choose to be Curious, love that it’s gotten them thinking, and they’d like to share that with their audience. Who am I to stand in their way?

So this is my first effort with previews and highlights, all in under five minutes. Turns out this format is an entirely different beast. Listening to it on the air, I heard all the room for improvement, had second thoughts about construction, saw where else I might have gone with it. And there’s the beauty: it’s another chance to learn, to stretch, to test.

I think what I like best about this format is the chance to link very different shows in new ways. In an interview for InPower Women’s “Coffee Break” series earlier this week (more on that later), I shared my “reiterate, reflect, repeat” mantra. These “Curiosity to Go” segments are just that – an opportunity for reiteration and reflection, coming to me from entirely unforeseen source.

Just me, listening to the universe again…

Listen to “Curiosity to Go – Ep. 1 – 2017.05.17”

 

Choose to be Curious, Curiosity Journal, Life Lessons, Making a List

#analogy

red : fire truck :: blue : ___________

A friend recently shared an article about diagramming sentences, a lost art we both loved in adolescence, a place where we found comfort in the orderliness and structure of language that was lacking elsewhere. It got me thinking about my love affair with language in general and analogies in particular.

I may have been alone in my mourning, but I was sorry to see analogies go from the SATs. I loved parsing the comparisons, playing out the options. I didn’t always agree with the “right” answer. Who were those College Board writers, anyway?

Analogy is in the eye of the beholder. 

And therein lies the charm. We see the connections we see. Facets of an idea reflect back the light from others in ways that vary based entirely on our perspective. And analogies create relationships that might not otherwise be there. They encourage us to play, to expand our understanding of a thing, to rethink. Embracing someone else’s analogy feels especially intimate, a channel straight to the soul.

bjaw2At the end of each “Choose to be Curious” show, I ask my guests to make an analogy to curiosity. We draw words from an enormous mason jar, my Big Jar of Wannabe Analogies. There is no way to prepare and — unlike (ahem) the SATs — there are no wrong answers. I warn everyone this is coming, but there’s nothing quite like the moment you pull out a neatly folded slip of paper, read “ukulele” and face the mic in front of you.

No one disappoints. People come up with the most amazing insights. That, like jellyfish, curiosity can sting; that, like embers, curiosity bursts into fire when given just a little air. That popsicles require the same attention, rain offers similar cleansing power,  salt water taffy benefits from comparable patient savoring.

So the new year turned and I tried to think of an analogy for 2016, a year many of us were happy to see in the rear view mirror, even as we regarded 2017 with deep trepidation. I came up with this:  Curiosity is like 2016 because they have both taken me places I didn’t expect.

May 2017 be like curiosity as well: savor-worthy, playful like puppies, full of connecting like staplers, helpful as a spork!

Curiosity Journal, Making a List

Best Laid Plans

New year, new resolve. I thought I was going to get a blog post out yesterday today. I’ve got one percolating, slowly, on analogies. Loyal readers will understand.

With the grey skies and cold drizzle, I wasn’t the least tempted outside. I have sat at the computer most of today. But the Blog Fairy must have a hangover: a total no-show. Instead, I’ve spent the day playing with graphics, creating a virtual scavenger hunt around Rehoboth Beach. I’ll rationalize it as part of my campaign to make people more intentionally curious about their surroundings; a way to engage, learn and build new skills; an entertaining way to sort through photos and fantasize about balmy weather; an amazing time suck. Bystanders, beware.

Happy New Year friends, may the year take you on many wonderful and rewarding scavenger hunts!

Click on any image to start a slide show.

Curiosity Journal, Life Lessons, UnComfort Zone

Whatever You Do, Choose to be Curious

pix-whatever-you-doHonestly, I don’t know what to do, other than to do what I know to do.

I can’t bear to rehash it. I can’t listen to the pundits. I can’t dive down the catastrophe rabbit hole. I’m done with speculation.

I’m going back to curiosity.  Or, maybe, I’m going forward to curiosity.

I don’t mean the how could this happen hand-wringing that risks just more confirmation bias. I mean going to a deeper, more sober contemplation of the gaping, ghastly unknowing between world views, our willful ignorance about one another that seems to have both won and lost this race and is our undoing.

How different might this whole process have been had we all been asking ourselves what am I not seeing? What more is there to know?