Ask More Questions

What percent of spoken sentences are questions? How does this rate change with age? How does this rate vary based on personality, gender, level of education, or even time of day? Questions are the engine of curiosity and the fuel for understanding, innovation, and social connections. We need to ask more of them from the day we are born to the day we die.

calvin question

So why are questions so important? Six obvious reasons:

  1. Education: At their core, questions are the basis for learning and understanding new concepts (as well as confirming one’s understanding of a particular concept).
  2. Advancement: Beyond the education of localized individuals, questions push the advancement of society at a regional and global scale, motivating large groups to build upon answers of the past to find new truths about life and living.
  3. Creativity: Some questions, no matter how tangential they may be to a core topic, are the sparks for creativity and innovative thought for both individuals and groups (no matter how large).
  4. Connections: Questions create dialogue and are two-way (and often multi-way) streets that create bonds between people.
  5. Assessment: Questions are tools through which one can gain a remarkable amount of information on an individual – seeing how they react and respond to certain situations – to determine fit for friendship, collaboration, leadership, or even love.
  6. Identity: Questions do not need to be spoken, but often are the most powerful when internalized in an effort to formalize one’s beliefs, attitudes, and values.

Relevant Links/Articles

while the world sleeps

while the world sleeps
i’m sitting here thinking
bout making a brighter day

where the trees and stars
the birds and breeze
move with harmonious sway

where the strangers we meet
the folks on the street
share laughs like long lost friends

and the places we go
through the highs and lows
give happiness that never ends

one minute for happiness

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. All it takes to make a difference is just one of those. One minute. That’s all it takes to make someone change their state of mind. One minute. That’s all it takes to make happiness contagious…

One minute. That’s all it takes.

One minute represents approximately 0.07% or about a fourteenth of a percent of the entire day. What else does it represent?

  • The time it takes to brush your teeth.
  • The time it takes to sing a national anthem.
  • The time it takes to check the weather.
  • The time it takes to heat up leftovers.
  • The time it takes to download and install Firefox.
  • The time it takes to write the Schrödinger equation, twice.
  • The time it takes to build a Jenga tower.
  • The time it takes to take out cash at the ATM.
  • The time it takes to pump gas.
  • The time it takes to derive any non-relativistic, Newtonian equation of motion.
  • The time it takes to chug 2 sodas.
  • The time it takes a space shuttle to go about 300 miles when in orbit.
  • The time it takes to make a sandwich.
  • The time it takes to take your temperature.
  • The time it takes to stretch your hamstrings.
  • The time it takes to watch two commercials.

Okay so I got a little carried away with that one. But that’s a good creativity exercise! Anyways, it really does put into perspective what you can do with a minute of time. So if you could take one minute each day and devote it to making someone else happy, could you do it?

Happiness is truly contagious. You see a man smiling on the bus and it makes you happy. An elderly woman making a wise crack about the speed of her shopping cart in the condiments section and you’re chuckled (that happened yesterday). Two people hugging on the street and you feel a rush of comfort. And that’s the funny thing: happiness comes in such simple forms. It doesn’t take money or success or fame or victory but just a simple act of kindness, show of emotion, compliment, or generally positive vibe.

With that I do want to be clear of one thing. Happiness is not always something gained or transmitted through external means, but on some days that minute is surely well spent through internal reflection and thought. That’s not selfish – that’s normal. But in a balanced world what you take is what you should give – double the amount you give back the next day.

So obviously transmissible happiness can be for yourself or for someone else, for a group of people, for a company, for a stranger, for an imaginative thought, for a spiritual state, etc. So what are some examples of transmission routes?

  • Make a phone call or send an email.
  • Give feedback on a paper, post, product, service.
  • Offer directions to someone lost.
  • Read an article and write your thoughts.
  • Carry something.
  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Give up your seat.
  • Laugh at yourself.
  • Double your tip.
  • Doodle.

The constant transmission and contagiousness of happiness. Mathematically, that makes me think of epidemic models. Well, that’s not far off. I’d propose that happiness could easily follow a modified epidemic model:

S = Susceptible = those who aren’t aware of how contagious it is
E = Exposed = those infected but keeping it internal
I = Infected = those hit by the smiling bug and actively passing it along
Standard Contact Rate (Susceptible –> Infected/Exposed) = 1 per day

Everyone starts as Susceptible, and the Exposed and Infected can toggle as they generate happiness internally some days and expose others the next day. You could take into account the doubling of internal happiness to double the Contact Rate on a subsequent day for the Exposed group. A new Susceptible population would emerge each day through birth, and most everyone would die happy. A pretty fun, dynamic model of happiness transmission.

Note: If happiness started with one person and simply doubled each day, it would only take a little over a month to infect or expose happiness to the entire global population (obviously ignoring geographic and other constraints).

In the end, my main point is that you can do something every single day to create happiness, and the mechanisms by which you can create happiness are very simple ones. It only takes one minute each day to give that purest gift of all. Because with a heart and a smile, the world’s happiness is truly in the palm of your hands.


Quotes/Links

  • “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” – Aristotle
  • “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
  • “Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.” – Maxim Gorky
  • The Happiness Epidemic – by David Hernandez
  • Bhutan and the measuring of quality of life through Gross National Happiness

on creativity

Overview


It’s imperative that curriculums (especially for early education) are built on more than just core subject matter. They also need to be strongly founded upon core ideals, values, and principles. The teaching of such values (although much harder to guide, manage, and track) is absolutely essential to the intellectual growth and prosperity of emerging generations.
What values are most important to push early in a child’s development? Honesty & trust. Altruism & empathy. Individuality & originality. Happiness & humor. Confidence & faith. Creativity & innovation. Innovation & creativity. Creativity!

I’ve posted about holistic education before and creativity is one of the three main pillars of such education – It’s seen in the SunWALK model of holistic education as “one of the three intrapersonal ‘primary colours’ or modes of engagement, of the human spirit, that are utilized in facing, individually and interpersonally, progressively more challenging tasks to nurture the development of abilities.”

Creativity is essential to the development of other abilities and the fundamental ability to engage/interact with people, nature, and the world in which we live. It’s from creativity that the purest dreams and ideas are born.

Definitions


So how is creativity defined? Let’s look…

Wikipedia: “Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight.”

Children’s Health Encyclopedia: “Creativity is the ability to think up and design new inventions, produce works of art, solve problems in new ways, or develop an idea based on an original, novel, or unconventional approach.”

Some more definitions can be found at a great post by Dr. Leslie Owen Wilson of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point “On Defining Creativity”.

It’s important to note that creativity and intelligence are not synonymous. There are plenty of studies addressing possible correlation between IQ and creativity, but the main point is that with a positive surrounding environment and culture, we must believe creativity can exist in any individual of any level of intelligence.

Qualities

  • Impulsivity and spontaneity – Just do it! / Just think it!
  • Nonconformity (not going with the majority) – Stray from the beaten path.
  • Courage – Naturally be unafraid of trying new things.
  • Self-Confidence – Have no susceptibility to peer pressure.
  • Persistence – Learn when to maintain thoughts or set thoughts aside.
  • Balance – Convergent / divergent thinking – Learn to hypothesize, speculate, and evaluate multiple conclusions while reserving the ability to logically find and support a single conclusion.
  • The “One Brain” Concept – Right brain thinking and left brain thinking together are the best engine of creativity.
Some Take-Aways

  • Need to create good inner resources in children. Multi-dimensionality is key.
  • Give children an active role in their own learning.
  • Educators need to be aware of the “blocks to creativity” or things that can interfere with it. SunWALK says there are two types of blocks: Environmental (the lack of a motivating physical surrounding, trustworthy acquaintances, or positive leadership) and Cultural (the fear of making bad choices, lack of an appetite for chaos, and the general lack of enthusiasm). It should be noted that the positive case of “blocks” would be that Environment and Culture become “enablers” of creativity.
  • In order to foster creativity in schools, education should be based on the discovery of knowledge and the development of critical attitudes, rather than on the passive absorption of knowledge.

Simple Creativity Exercises

  1. Spell all the letters of the alphabet using letters other than the one you are spelling. Now try it without using any vowels. CAY-YII-FEE-EYE-EHDT (that ‘N’ was very hard)
  2. Draw an adjective, act a noun, describe a verb.
  3. Create an equation that has never before been created. Describe its elements, fundamentals, and purpose.
  4. Contemplate a newly-shaped earth. What would a cubed earth be like? What if the world really was flat? How would business, transportation, politics, weather, etc change?

Quotes

  • “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – Erich Fromm
  • “The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “Creativity is the ability to see relationships where none exist.” — Thomas Disch
  • “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook
  • “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
  • “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pierce
  • “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” — Goethe
  • “To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” –Osho
  • “We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own and other’s people’s models, learn to be ourselves and allow our natural channel to open.” — Shakti Gawain
  • “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” – Einstein
  • “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” – George Bernard Shaw

balancing education

Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning.” 

– Ron Miller, founder of the journal “Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice”

In my post titled “adsideology 2 and the one brain” I talk about the rise in interdisciplinary subjects and departments in higher education, and the need for the same in the K-12 educational system. Driving “thought mixtures” at an earlier age begins to weld the foundations of math, english, history, etc. while expanding the intellectual capacity of individuals at a young, developmental stage. Making connections for a new perspective of the world will better position the individual and those around the individual to find meaning, value, and purpose in life.

I think that’s why there needs to be a more balanced educational system. I’m not getting into the politics, inefficiencies, and the educational and opportunistic gaps that currently exist throughout the world, but am sticking to the foundation of education systems in general for now. Holistic education involves an understanding that self-actualization and the development of one’s character comes through different means and speeds. The grade number doesn’t matter, but building upon yesterday and striving for a better tomorrow does.

There needs to be more holistic education in the developmental years. The current K-12 education system emphasizes the teaching of facts, rules, skills, and discipline. However, it is missing the necessary methods of transformative learning and experiential learning. Sure, plenty of schools these days act as a community and teach about human interaction. But too much focus is on subject pillars and meeting quantifiable goals. The verticals, although important, need to be connected with horizontal layers of experience that encompass the facts and skills learned in the classroom. More emphasis should be put in teaching compassion, peace, self-respect, self-esteem, and community involvement. In my post titled “wearing other people’s shoes” I talk a bit about transformative learning and why that’s important for personal growth. A change in perspective can sometimes make all the difference, and that notion should be introduced at a young age.
I want to make it clear that holistic education is just one approach to a very large issue in education but by no means is the solution. The solution involves a balance in educational concepts and methods, and this balance should be institutionalized in the school system. A mesh of traditional, holistic, and other educational approaches is more dynamic. This allows for optimization of resources and methods for each individual student.
In the end, it’s the experiences and the relationships that make us who we are. It’s who and what we impact, not what we know. Understanding this at the earliest age will most certainly result in a life of significance, personal happiness, and community prosperity.
“Good grades show you’ve done your work; great deeds show you’ve learned your lessons.”
-Me
i. Top picture is the SunWALK pedagogical model of holistic education, by Dr. Roger Prentice. 
Arts, Science, Humanities + Creativity, Criticality, Caring.
ii. Bottom picture is from a Wake Alternative Break (WAB) trip I led in Spring 2005 to Virginia Beach. We were fortunate to work with the local parks & rec dept to clean up some parks and tutor in a local school. Good times.

wearing other people’s shoes

It’s just as easy to get tunnel vision as it is to be blinded by the light. And most of the time, these metaphors hit us hand-in-hand. That’s why it’s imperative that we find a way to step back from the lives we live and experience the minds and lives of others. We all need to live in perspective of neighbors, a community, a country, a world, a universe, and beyond – the positive impact on health, compassion, and a greater good are infinitely realizable.

I find myself stuck in my own head quite often. Not that my cognition has devilish control over my body and soul, but I frequently think about my life, my goals, my history, my future, my lunch, my finances, my vision, my health, my hobbies,… well, you get the point. That tunnel vision not only limits my knowledge of and interaction with the outside world, but also puts me in a dangerous position to hit a one-way mental road block. I can only find opportunity to avoid that road block if I create the highways, byways, and multi-directional pathways through which I can creatively navigate.

Adsideology encapsulates that notion of universalism – that most concepts are applicable to all people. This isn’t an all-encompassing theory by any means, but rather a concept of wearing other people’s shoes. I exist as does the person next to me, and I make decisions as does the person next to him or her. My life exists not in a vacuum, but in alignment with the lives of billions of others. We all have obstacles and achievements, goals and passions, ups and downs. The realization of all those other feelings helps contextualize the life I live and it’s not until I am standing in someone else’s shoes that I can more clearly see the footprints that I am making. Lose the tunnel vision, blind yourself with compassion, and jump in someone else’s shoes – you’ll be a better person for doing so.