Saturday, July 16, 2005

Personal Meta-learning Toolkit

The boys in the back room
Who discovered the light bulb?

Now reflect on how your mind came up with an answer. You don't know, do you? "Edison" just appeared. Actually coming up with the answer took place behind the veil of consciousness. Deep inside your head, neurons are shooting electrical charges bacl anf forth in a chemical soup, connecting pieces of stored patterns. All you see is the output.

Your brain is forever churning through patterns, making connections, figuring things out: it's always learning. It works while you sleep. I call this subconscious learning "the boys in the back room." They're always up to something, always out of sight, and sometimes they seem to have a mind of their own.

When I'm seeking a better understanding of an issue, I'll often delegate the task to the boys in the back room. At bedtime, I tell myself that I will awake with an answer. While I sleep, the boys mull things over. Most of the time, I awake with the understanding I was looking for.

Parking affirmations
Seek and ye shall find.

The City of San Francisco has more cars than parking spaces. When I drive in, I visualize an empty parking space. Invariably, I find a great space when I reach my destination.

This is not some mystical power. Rather, visualizing something heightens your attention. If you believe the space is there, you'll open your mind to finding it. You will see spaces you would have otherwise overlooked.

You can visualize anything you'd like to find, from a lost dog to a co-worker's support.

The late Gordon MacKensie, former "creative enigma" at Hallmark Cards told me that when he headed out in the morning with nothing particular to accomplish, he would tell himself that during the day he would be astonished. He always was.

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