Many times my husband will ask me whether or not the things I am choosing to do are focused or not. He sees some of my projects and interests as being distractors from the core mission. I often think he is right, but other times, the core mission is not just one project or focus, it’s me, as a whole package.
Sometimes I’ll go to a conference and think that I’m not going to get that much out of the experience, or that it’s a waste of time. But inevitably, there’s some connection, incident, or some piece of knowledge that comes out of the experience that makes it 100% worth my time and then some. Sometimes, it’s using that fragment or connection to help someone else. Sometimes, it’s being aware of something new that becomes useful in a week or two, or further down the line.
This means that whenever I start to consider narrowing my focus, or limiting who I follow on Twitter, or adding friends on Facebook, or whatever goes into the “more” category, I get nervous that I am going to miss out on one of these great moments where I can really help someone, or get something special accomplished. It means it’s hard when I miss evening events in Philly because I live so far out in the suburbs, and our schedule makes it almost impossible to do. It means I wish I could go to more and different conferences, to learn more and explore more.
My friend Mark Blevis and I started talking about Curiosity when he came to Podcamp Philly. If you are fundamentally curious, your brain automatically starts to ask the next question- Well- what about this? Have you ever thought of that? The boundaries of possibility and probability fall away to imagination and creativity, and can lead to some of the most exciting talks and ideas I’ve ever had.
Exploration, curiosity, critical and creative thinking are all neighbors, and all they require is that you leave your fear at the door. You have to be willing to be wrong, to make naive suggestions, to take some risks, to be open and emotionally vulnerable, to be willing to be wrong, to fail and to even feel silly.
This is not always easy. In fact, it often feels like you are walking a highwire without a net. I often have to walk myself through the scary, fear driven stuff by saying “what’s th worst thing that could happen?” Usually, it’s that someone would say no. But more often than not, I find that No can be motivating to try something different- tinker, improve and try again, or try a different channel.
All of these things are a key part of having a resilient mindset. It’s what we all need to have, especially kids- a place where we can try and fail and try again, in an effort to make things right. We have to make it safe for them to try and fail, and not to be humiliated in the process. We have to be willing to be seen as foolish, a dreamer, an idealist, or even quixotic, tilting at windmills to try to make things happen. It may take a lot of work and a lot of tries to get things right, but when they are right, they are spectacular.
And – here’s the big secret- once you start taking risks, the whole fear of humiliation lessens. To the point, almost, where it’s even hard to imagine what would make me humiliated about anything that I’ve tried to accomplish, even if it fails. Those mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow, and that’s what we all need- kids and adults alike.