The stifling of creativity

I find myself very inflexible when it comes to my son’s behavior, particularly in public. He’s truly a wonderfully-behaved, polite and compassionate child. But yet, I often react to the ways he expresses himself as if he were a supposed to be an overly serious 50-year old actuary instead of a creative, energetic six-year old. Why am I doing this to him? Am I killing some sort of creative impulse in him?

Ken Robinson’s TED talk on how the public education system stifles creativity has me rehashing some of these questions — not just about the education system, but how I as a parent influence how he develops his talents and creativity.

Perhaps I should lighten up a little and let his creative juices flow a little more freely than I normally do. Perhaps I should free my mind from the constricts of adulthood and my education, and rekindle some personal creativity as well.

Sixth sense

Earlier this week, a friend’s status questioned how far away we are from having artificial devices think for us. I’m wondering if he had just seen the Sixth Sense demo by Pattie Maes at TED.com.

I can most certainly see myself using a device like this once they hit the mass market. Short of the heads up display, the iPhone serves many of the same purposes for me already. I’ve always been an information sponge and often incredulous towards people who settle for ignorance when answers and information are easily accessible. While there will always be unknowns in life, why settle for not-knowing when the answers are often right in front of us?

Asking for thank you

I just watched a quick three-minute TED talk by Laura Trice called “The Power of Saying Thank You” and am struck by its fresh approach and poignancy. So often we feel unappreciated by those around us — an emotion that can become self-destructive if kept bottled inside. While I will always promote a proactive attitude towards expressing our appreciation to others, Trice flips the coin and offers a novel solution — make sure that those around you understand your need for appreciation, too.

 

Hard work

By all accounts, this has been a very long week. Perhaps I should have seen the foreshadowing that lie buried within the quote that greeted me on Monday (in the form of a friend’s Facebook status):

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overall and looks like work. – Thomas Edison

Throughout the week, this concept of work — and the attitudes, processes and ethics that surround it — continually demanded center stage in my consciousness. Several times, I found myself in defense of my work habits; not that they were lacking, but rather that they were too intense.

I have always been dedicated to the task at hand. I love hard work. It is simply how I’m wired. There is something ultimately satisfying in the process and completion of a job. It matters very little what I’m doing, as long as I see the productivity, efficiency and usefulness of the task. My greatest disappointment is ending a day during which I can’t say I’ve done something. I’ve often thought I would have made a great factory worker, taking pride that every one of my widgets rolled off the assembly line exactly as expected.

It has been very disconcerting to have to defend my work ethic against claims it is too intense. If anything, I’ve recently felt that my focus has been slipping. With that as a background, I found Mike Rowe’s TED lecture particularly interesting. It’s not the most coherent logic I’ve heard on TED.com, but he’s struck a nerve with me at the end of a tumultuous week.

The quest for real real

It’s Saturday again — time my weekly mental calisthenics over to TED.com.

Today I listened intently as Joseph Pine talked about the challenges of the authenticity-focused modern economy (full video embedded below), an economy whose goal is to provide authentic experiences for consumers, instead of just providing one-size-fits-all goods and services mass produced from basic commodities. Pine’s focus is on the business as the provider of this experience, but he draws on Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

This advice perhaps applies as much to us as individuals as Pine applies it to businesses. After all, we cannot achieve individual authenticity without being true to ourselves and being who we claim to be to others. Who are you to yourself, and who do you think you are to others? Do they see you that same way?

Potential or passion?

How many times have you heard someone accused of wasting his or her talent? Of not fulfilling their god-given potential? Of shirking the responsibility that comes with being able to do this or that? In all of these questions, we imply that being adept at something brings with it the responsibility to use that gift. But we never seem to consider whether these gifted people carry the passion to match their special capacity.

I think that many of us fall into the trap of trying to live up to our talents — doing what we think our family, our friends and the rest of society expect of us. We fall into a routine of doing what we need to do to please others, to fit into the inflexible stencil of expectations. We allow others to define our success, or lack thereof. The victim in this repeating process is our passion, our energy for doing. After enough time in this societal gerbil wheel, our ambition lays broken and worthless.

Continue reading Potential or passion?

A little ounce of immortality

It has been a few years now since my last remaining grandparent passed away. Both of my paternal grandparents were gone before my high school graduation, and — although they lived into their 80s — religion and family politics separated me from my maternal grandparents for the last decade or so of their lives. Great aunts and uncles were similarly unfamiliar to me. So, as an adult, I have barely known a member of what Tom Brokaw coined the Greatest Generation.

Continue reading A little ounce of immortality