Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It takes time to build great things

On a recent trip to Cádiz, Spain, I visited an amazing cathedral and learned that it had taken 116 years (a hundred and sixteen!!) to build it. As I admired the stunning detail of the exterior as well as the internal architecture, replete with cupolas, gargoyles, stained glass, and statues of saints, it brought to surface a very simple but important truth: it takes time to build great things. No prefab-design execution on this one, no strict deadlines, and certainly minimized egos needed to be involved...ones that understood that the legacy and appreciation that would be associated with their efforts (and the project's completion alone!) would likely only come long after their time. Experiencing first-hand what an impression this colossal construction makes engenders confidence in doing things correctly and not rushing to complete something for completion's sake. And when you think of the daily grind of it all- the labor in executing such a vision, the precision which this necessitated, and the coordination that such an undertaking entailed, the builders perhaps couldn't even have known how much their work would be enjoyed later on. Or maybe that is just it: they did.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Mental Diet

Any future post you see will not have been posted within an hour of my getting up in the morning. Why? Because I will not be using the Internet during my first waking hour. In the same vein, the idea behind any future post- though necessarily delivered through the computer- will not be conceived on it. I am finally taking heed to those morning television commercials that incessantly admonish us to "start your day right with ___...": but while the blank is typically filled with a breakfast product that will supposedly help you do just that, I am filling my blank with "being on the right mental note." I mean, I know this may seem like a stretch, but seriously: the quality of mental energy is the coefficient (determinant) on the quality of all of your day's outputs. Anyway I'd don't think you- I mean, I hope you don't- wake up in the morning with the objective to start your day off on the wrong mental note...
So how is my daily, inaugural-hour-refrain-from-the-Internet going to help me attain this objective? Quite simply, the buck has to stop here- as in, myself. Relying on websites for various kinds of information doesn't give much confidence in oneself for generating anything useful: yes, you may be better informed on certain topics, but the origin of the information wasn't found within you. I don't think this improves self-efficacy beyond a check-mark next to web-surfing. Also, getting information from the Internet doesn't seem the most authentic, root-based- way to learn, and I'd argue that the highest-quality ideas and work derive from authentic learning.
Have you noticed that many teens today have no clue how to spell? Likely, orthography (spelling) class has been supplanted by "accessing information on the Internet" class, and these poor kids' formal resources become blogs (I do realize the irony of this statement), which may contain a plethora of spelling errors, in lieu of classic literature. rockergirl672XOX- a very plausible candidate behind a webzine- may become your child's favorite "author" instead of Shakespeare...No wonder I'm slightly unenamoured with "new age" learning approaches and values.
The art of thinking (deeply) acknowledges the most fundamental and philosophical of principles: the good stuff is at the bottom. Kind of like when you eat an Italian ice and to your surprise (for better or for worse) you have stumbled upon this cache of syrupy sucrose that has settled at the bottom- so are the ingredients for your best thoughts. The proverbial kitchen for brewing them, then, is located deep down; to get to the kitchen, you cannot stay on the floor you entered...that would merely be "surface-level thought" (which, coincidentally, is the floor where automaticity and the Internet reside!). To access the clearing of deep thought, you have to remove all of the distracting weeds- this need not be technology-related; you can get distracted by pretty much anything. The point is, in order to think at the highest level (which, I believe, even serves a competitive advantage in business, no??) you have to engage and put effort into every facet of a thought. There's an authenticity and ruggedness about a mind at work, and that's exactly what is needed; a good core-workout- just like pilates, but for your mind.
Sure, at first my new mental diet will crave the processed sugariness (of instant access) of Internet knowledge, but the natural sweetness and greater ROI of my own thoughts will eventually be more satisfying and in a more sustainable way. Growth and capability in the most quality sense are conceived through authentic learning, and I don't see how having five web browsers open and shifting attention among them will help me get to the real sweet stuff at the bottom. The heightened self-efficacy (as well as mental athleticism) of placing myself at the epicenter of thought, as opposed to relying on the Internet, should be sufficient reason to stay on this mental diet...