I just finished reading an article online, a National Geographic article on genius.
Like Tai makes us look at billionaires to learn from, I am looking at genius to learn from how to teach you.
I’ve read the article. I found it occasionally irritating.
It’s not a conscious irritation, like “nooo, you don’t know! or Nooo, not true!” you often experience when you hear something or read something you don’t like.
This was an irritation I just noticed… after I read the article.
So let me deal with this first, so I can get to what I want to say:
Researchers and their questions are pedestrian.
Pedestrian is that semi-conscious individual who uses the streets to get to places, and everything occurs to them as a distraction.
I could also say, instead of using the word “pedestrian”, a driver of a car.
The essence is that they are up to some mundane task, getting from one place to another, and that occupies all of their brain capacities.
And then they write books, or articles, or make a documentary about it.
Most people are one plate spinners.
Everything that is not that one plate, to them, seems undeserving of their attention, or their effort.
That one plate can be simply getting through the day. Or getting pleasure.
Now, let’s look at people who are many plate spinners…
We all have the potential to spin more than one plate… some people have more potential than others… yet most people end up remaining one-plate spinners.
Depending on the environment, personality, interactions, and how early you get hooked on not being good enough.
The earlier you get hooked, the more energy it would take to look at things without them being about you.
When I look back at my own childhood, I had early incidents, and none of them were about me… so I remained curious, I remained interested in the world.
What creates a multi-plate spinner is the number of different activities one participates in fully.
Dabbling creates no brain connections…
And multi-plate spinning requires a lot of brain connections.
It’s very apparent in my own family. I wasn’t born the smartest. I wasn’t nurtured, but I did an awful lot of activities fully. Ballet. Musical instruments. Swimming. Climbing trees. Reading. Singing in choir, singing in competitions, singing with a band, singing on talent shows. Competing in swimming, gymnastics, ping pong. Rowing. Kayaking. Movie clubs. Photography. Pantomime. Stage dancing. Stage playing the guitar. And on and on and on.
Tai uses the analogy of cooking. What he doesn’t say is this: how many skills have you used habitually?
In my work with people who are lost and directionless, the most important insight is: they dabble at best. They have events. They don’t have regimens. Practices. Habits.
All the things I did, and the list is partial, I did it for a long time. The shortest would be one year: ballet. One year. Nothing shorter. Even if I wasn’t advancing, I stuck with the practice. Danish, Arabic, Russian… I was pitifully bad at them. But I did not abandon them. Why? I don’t know.
I don’t have rules that I must continue, or that quitters are losers… I just see that something is happening, inside, and that is what keeps me on. I didn’t have an outside ambition for any of these activities, not even the guitar, none of the languages.
I was looking at this yesterday as I was doing the toughest session on Duolingo, where I learn Hebrew. I was looking why I was doing it. I have no intention to go back to Israel, it’s too stormy for a sensitive empath. Not a good environment for me. And I saw that as innocent as it seems, the Duolingo process, it is actually creating new circuits in my brain.
In MY WORK I need to glean “stuff” from as wide a field as possible, much like Einstein. Much like Newton. To see more of the nature of reality than one can see sticking to one direction.
So diversifying, being taken to trips, in health, money, history, psychology, physics, mathematics, is mandatory if I ever want to be able to see things not visible while you travel the same route from work to home and from home to work…
It takes time and intensity for brain circuits to change. To evolve one more ingredient in your soup.
So, so far this has been bad news. Right?
You are, most of you, one-track ponies.
Most of my students have started to learn a new language on Duolingo. And as long as it is consistent, at least five times a week, it is going to develop new circuits. 66 days is said to be the magic length of time.
In addition to the new circuit, this Duolingo is habitforming. The habit of consistency.
Consistency is really satisfying. It is sweet. It alters your self-image. It makes you like yourself. Makes you begin to change your opinion about yourself.
And in addition to that: it takes you out of your head…
Duolingo makes you use your brain and prevents you from being in your head.
And that is how you build new circuits.
One more thing: as long as you have an agenda in your new activity, you are still in your head…
Do things that serve no purpose. I mean it.
- Learn communication because it’s life affirming… not because you need it.
- Learn mathematics not because you need it, but because mathematics is amazing.
- Learn to play a musical instrument not because you’ll need it, but because learning anything gives you a new ingredient in your soup… and trains you to spin more than one plate…
It is impossible to have a good life with just one plate.
And dabbling won’t get you access to another plate… to the illusion? Maybe.
Lots of you imagine yourself and you think it’s real.