2023 May 30 Think freely!

May 30, 2023

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me tonight to talk about discovering what's right in front of you. So let's get started. If you like what you hear tonight, please leave a like and tell your friends and send me a message.


I hope everyone had an excellent US Memorial Day weekend, and we all took time to stop to remember all the people who have lost their lives in an effort to help keep our country safe. We can never bring them back and never replace what was lost, but we should never forget what Memorial Day is all about.


Tonight will be a discussion on searching for what is right in front of you. As I've mentioned before, my career by training is as an engineer. So true to the stereotype, I love to research things, and often spend quite a bit of time searching for the optimal solution for any given problem.


Of course, it's quite irrelevant if the search to save time takes longer than the time saved. It's an engineering thing. But the corollary to that is that I also tend to get focused on the solution, and sometimes I'll miss alternatives right in front of me. That's partially just a bad habit, but it's also partially from training, since I'm often called upon to defend my professional choices, so I have to be pretty confident in them. 


This is known in science. It's a bias towards your own ideas. You try to avoid it, but sometimes it sneaks in anyway. Happily, as I've become more experienced in life, as I've gotten older, I'm often more aware of the time invested to complete my search for perfection. So I’m more likely to settle for expedient, particularly when time is of the essence, like when something has to be done before sunset. 


So as I continue to work on my upcoming course, Your Future Transformed, I’ve been struggling to find an editing tool that works the same way my scattered mind does. I tend to do a lot of things all at once, so I needed something where I could throw down thoughts and move back and forth between sections really easily, but still keep a clear, high level view of things. I like simplicity, but not really spartan. There are many super-focused tools for book and course creation.


There's one called Scrivener that people just rave about. I hated it. But that's me. I researched tools of all flavors like Obsidian and Notion, and a great tool from some Ukrainian developers, the XTILES .app. But it’s kind of like Goldilocks. They all seemed either to be great at some things, but missing critical features, or had all the features in a layout that only a developer could love.


So I was getting pretty frustrated, and I had the general course layout done in a few different tools. But every time, I found it was very difficult to work with and really create content with. Then I remember that Microsoft Word, good old Microsoft Word, has an outline mode where you can condense body text and move whole sections using drag and drop via the overview pane.


In other words, I can have a whole paragraph or a whole chapter, just grab it and move it somewhere else. It has nested levels that you can work in, including the material you're actually writing, section headings, all the things that I was looking to do. It has rich formatting, which I really like.


I can highlight text to help me remember important points. You can embed pictures. It supports linking. Actually, I know it really well and it does everything you want it to do. So I redid the course outline in under an hour in Word, and have been adding content since. But it kind of made me laugh. How could I miss such an obvious solution right in front of me? 


The next example is from this past weekend. On the holiday weekend, I spent most of it moving a statue from a closed parish, because two churches merged and we've been moving all the religious and useful items, either to my own church or donating them to churches in the US, Poland, Central America, and elsewhere.


So it was a real adventure, like I said, since I was working alone, and the statue combined weighs about 650 pounds. It's in two pieces: the base and the statue itself, and I don't weigh 650 pounds. There were lots of learning experiences there, and many different things, but it was fun on a lot of different levels.


But it was taking forever to load the base of the statue onto my pickup truck just by pushing it up a ramp. That piece weighed about 350 pounds. It started off with this very good picture in my mind of how it was going to work. I had this nice, neat, simple idea of how I was going to roll it up the ramp. Not just pushing it, but I had some things. It was going to be very simple. After almost two hours of work, that bad boy was still sitting firmly on the ground. So I'm thinking, What's going on? I finally jury-rigged a block and tackle, and then moved it up into the truck in about 10 minutes.


Later on, I realized that, fairly recently, I'd moved a whole piano into that same truck up those same ramps. I used a strap and a come-along, so I just hooked it up inside the truck, ratcheted it up, and there I was. So why didn't I do that this time? The answer to both those questions are nearly the same and very much related.


I had a preconceived notion, in the first case, what Microsoft Word was good for. Everyone said how bad it was for things like writing a book or a course and how all these other tools are better. In my mind, I had eliminated them based upon common knowledge and wasted quite a bit of time looking at alternatives that weren't a good match for what I wanted to do.


I inadvertently let other people's experiences guide my thinking and didn't look at what was the best match for my needs. Similarly, for the statue base, I already knew the best way to do what I wanted to, and never thought about how I had approached a similar problem in the past. In my defense, physically the problems seem very different.


Concrete is very heavy, so the statue base is physically fairly small, while a piano is physically fairly large. But in reality, most of it is air. However, the statue base and the piano weighed close to the same - probably within about 50 pounds of each other. I had focused on the wrong aspect of the problem, the size, and ignored the most significant piece, the weight. I let my own experience guide me down the wrong path by focusing on the wrong aspects. The answer was right in front of me, and I had dismissed it.


So you should see where this is going right now. How often in our own lives do we let other people's preferences or even our own biases lead us astray? I can't tell you how many program reviews I've read that started off with some form of, You want a book at the end, then you certainly don't want to use Microsoft Word.


Subliminally, I just got with the program, that Word was no good for that, even though I've used it for a very long time, for very long submissions. Equally fascinating was when I tricked myself into using an ineffective loading solution, even though I'd used it before, by reframing the problem incorrectly.


Now, think about our lives and how many messages we see every day - about hundreds and thousands of topics. Think about how many things are common knowledge that turned out to be completely wrong. Whether it's in the health fields, in the sciences, in politics, the lists are huge. But in most cases, there were times when if you didn't agree with that common thought, you were just considered a fool.


Think about all the self-talk you do to yourself and the types of things you say. In my example, it was just me convincing myself that something that had worked before wouldn't work again, because there was something different that it turned out was completely irrelevant to the problem. Think about the negative self-talk you do, where you criticize yourself for things that don't matter.


I can't speak in public because I don't have a degree. I can't learn math because I'm a woman. I can't get that job because I grew up poor. If you're saying those sorts of things, you likely already have the solution, but you're focusing on the wrong aspects and ignoring all the knowledge and confidence that you have inside you.


So here we are again, back to our beliefs and our belief system. Sometimes it's obvious, like a political ad, but many times they can be very subtle, such as terms used to describe a situation, even if the situation is unrelated to the discussion at hand. Still, even if it's unrelated, it influences how you think about it.


You can also stop for your own willingness to think about other options,because in the back of your head, there's this little voice going, You know, everyone else is talking about it this way. I don't want to try and talk about it this way because now I'm going against the common thought. So I hope you found it interesting that while many times we are strongly influenced by external sources, we can even influence and limit ourselves by our own thoughts and beliefs.


I would encourage you to always try and think of different points of view, even ones that you don't think you'll agree with. It will not only build knowledge, but you may also come up with solutions that you thought were impossible, like being the poor child who grew up to become a public speaker in math, like Mary Everest Bull. 


If you do anything with computers or logic, it's George Bull's wife. She didn't become a mathematician because she married one. They got married because they met while studying mathematics. Mary Everest Bull was not allowed to teach at university because she was a woman. Only men are good enough to teach at universities.


She still went on to write numerous teaching texts for children on mathematics, and had many mathematical theorems recognized and other advanced works. However, since she could only get a job as a librarian at the Queens College of London, she worked on the side tutoring the college students at all levels in their mathematical studies through that same school that wouldn't allow her in.


Or like Benjamin Banneker, born in 1731 as the completely uneducated son of a free woman and former slave who, two centuries before Einstein, started to work on the theory of relativity, and also debated President Jefferson, in letters, related to slavery and other things of that nature. He was also the one who surveyed Washington DC (the entire territory), was an astronomer, wrote an almanac, and many, many other talents. 


I think you should realize the only thing holding us back is ourselves. Think freely and confidently, and be amazed at what you can do. If it all seems too hard, then think about it from another point of view.


That's it for the evening. Thank you very much for stopping by. Please remember the war in Ukraine and the people there. You can still donate through links at UKR7.com. There are lots of links up there. World Central Kitchen is up there. WCK.org. They do work throughout the world in a very humanitarian way. They bring food to people in need, 


Remember, one of the best ways to care for yourself is to care for others. So if you can and you're able, please check it out and help people in some way, no matter how you can.


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along and please hit that like button. If not, please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dream of, because that’s the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you.

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