Archive for July, 2006

Slow down, you move to fast.
You got to make the moment last. – Simon and Garfunkel

Ten years ago I bought a book entitled Slowing Down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey. The fact that it took me ten years to finally read it is a hint about the speed at which I’ve been living. Or perhaps, I really needed to read it this year.

I do know the importance of being fully in the moment, and yet, somehow, I haven’t been living that way. I’ve experienced extended times where my thoughts, beliefs, values and actions are in synch. Like a well oiled machine, everything falls into place, work feels like play, and I feel like I’m living on purpose. Ahhhh, yes…those are the good days. And once you’ve tasted this way of life, it is hard to live without it.

Remember a time when you were overflowing with enthusiasm, imagination, exploration, and curiosity? Life was just one big adventure. When you fell down, you got back up, full of confidence and energy. What if you could experience this groovy state of being most days? Is it possible? I think perhaps it is. And no, I’m not living a charmed life (trust me). But I’d like to share the ingredients with you for living in a state of creativity and serenity.

Real Time

This is where Slowing Down to the Speed of Life comes in. The premise is to be fully present in the moment, not one step removed from life. Take a deep breathe and be where you are. Clear your mind of all other activity except the one thing you are focusing on. For now, stop worrying about tomorrow and reliving yesterday…because the only thing that is real is right now. This moment is real, every other moment (past and future) is just in your imagination.

The Power of Perception

Our thoughts create the reality we perceive and we can control our thoughts. So what channel are you tuned in to? What if your innate happiness is like a 100 watt light bulb, burning brightly every day? “The light we see in our lives is limited by the aperture of our thinking in the moment.”

There was something about the light bulb metaphor that woke me up. Now, when the world starts looking dark, I realize that I can open my eyes and find the light by the way I think.

Two Modes of Thinking

The biggest lesson for me in this book was the importance of recognizing the two modes of thought and learning how to shift into the most effective mode based on the moment. The two modes of thought, according to Carlson and Bailey are:

  • analytical – resembles the way a computers process information, storing existing data and dealing with situations that require solutions where all variables are known. Analytical thinking works extremely well when we have all the pieces of the puzzle. The downside comes when we use the analytical mode when we don’t know all the variables; this leads to mental churning and rethinking the problem without results. The repeated use of process thinking when all the variables are not known can cause stress, anxiety, worry, depression and many more negative emotions. The analytical mode of thinking is so highly valued in society that we overemphasize it and neglect the free-flow mode
  • free-flow – best suited for solving problems when one or more variables are unknown. It is also known as effortless thinking, creative intelligence or reflective mode. The primary purpose of free-flow thinking is to enjoy life while operating at peak performance and efficiency. Perhaps you think of it as intuition, creativity, inspiration, wisdom or insight. Flow thinking allows us to use info we have in memory but in creative and efficient ways. In free-flow, thinking takes no effort. Effort, in fact, will shut down the free-flow mode.

After reading these definitions, I realized how much energy I’ve been wasting applying the analytical mode at the wrong time. So, time for me to recognize that I’m in the driver’s seat and live life at my speed, right here, right now.

Now, I leave you with two quotes:

Instead of living at the speed of life, we move too quickly, missing what we already have, right in front of us, and look for something else. It’s almost as though we’d rather be anywhere other than where we are.” – Slowing Down to the Speed of Life

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not when I die, discover that I had not lived. –Henry Thoreau

P.S. In case you wonder, I don’t think any one book has the complete solution to living life fully. This is an important piece of the puzzle for me that I balance with lessons from Getting Things Done and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (to name two).

Oooooooo! Do you love books? A friend shared a new toy with me called LibraryThing. It is a place for you to catalogue the books you’ve read, tag them and rate them. But LibraryThing doesn’t stop there…it is oh so very Web 2.0 when it connects you to other people through recommendations, groups and friends.

And just when I thought it couldn’t possible be any better, I found LibraryThing Mobile. You can check your bookshelf quickly and easily from your mobile phone while you are standing in the bookstore trying to remember which books you’ve read by a prolific author.

Catch me quick, I’m about to faint. I heart LibraryThing. Thanks Ladd for sharing!

The web she is a changing. Audio and video are becoming common…so common that iTunes is partnering with universities to create iTunesU. What is iTunesU? It is a discovery tool, a one-click easy content distribution tool and it even has a content contribution interface for students and faculty to upload their own content. How totally delicious is that?

As my iTunesU t-shirt says…”It is like having a prof in your pocket.”

Standford and Berkeley are already on board. Now, I’d like you to put on your “big dream” glasses and tell me what you would hope to discover in a UT Austin version of iTunesU. Imagine you are a student, faculty, alumni, lifelong learner and/or sports fan. No idea is too big or too small!

Some good byes are harder than others. Oh, I know, you can’t make time stand still…but damn it…I’m soooooo not ready for 5pm today. Guess it is the cumulative effect…and you know who you are (meg, jen, ro, randy….).

So, saying farewell to Ben today is harder than usual on me. I’ll miss our brother/sister rivalry and grabbing the occasional lunch at O’s to ponder deep thoughts. But I know to trust the strange rhythm of the world…to look for the true path…not just the one I’m used to. Labyrinth, labyrinth, labyrinth…it is like a walk on the labyrinth. Our paths will cross again.

Good thing I believe in forever friendships.

In the midst of this far from perfect world, there is so very much to be grateful for. Today, I learned that Walgreens is actively seeking employees with disabilities for their new distribution centers. They have developed a site called Walgreens Outreach with accessibility in mind. Their goal is to have at least one-third of the distribution center workforce be employees with disabilities.

Listening to Randy Lewis, Senior VP of Logistics and Distribution, I instantly knew that this isn’t a marketing ploy. This is a man with a vision to help others. Talk about a win-win situation. He is opening doors for people to give them an opportunity to be productive and I predict that this will be a very wise business decision with an excellent return on investment.

And while I could play devil’s advocate by pointing out accessibility issues on their regular web site that might prevent these same applicants from having equal access to online services, instead, I’ll say this. “Awesome idea, Randy! I can’t wait to hear what you learn in this process and see the ripple effect within your own company as well as others.”

Because you see, with this many new employees coming in to Walgreens with disabilities, I bet the web team that built walgreensoutreach is already itching to make changes to walgreens.

a lime wearing a green ipod

Friday’s are perfect for fieldtrips. Time to get out of the office and explore technology in the real world. This morning I found myself at Whole Foods with Megan checking out the iPod audio tour of the store. What? An audio tour of a grocery store? Mmmmmhmmmm. And, let me say, Whole Foods is more like a food exploratorium than a grocery store.

Whole Foods has teamed up with Apple and KUT to create a 20 minute tour highlighting some of my favorite features of the store like Beer Alley and Candy Island. And if that isn’t enough, Waterloo Records loaded the iPods with tunes that will have you dancing through the aisles.

Now for a little plus delta review.

Plus

  • Quality Audio – A lot of thought was obviously put in to the tour script. I found each segment to be interesting and the variety of voices made me feel like I was on a backstage tour. Audio production was obviously done by experienced professionals.
  • Perfect Length – What is the right length? For me, it always leaves me wanting a bit more. I actually listened to the whole 20 minute tour and found it enjoyable.
  • Sweet Music – I love the idea of being able to check out an iPod preloaded by Waterloo Records with delicious music to shop by.
  • Cool Factor – Ya gotta admit, an iPod tour of a grocery store is hot!

Delta

  • Shuffle – my iPod was set to shuffle, so after listening to the introduction in the produce section, it then skipped to the conclusion…oops! I was able to turn shuffle off, but an inexperienced iPoder would have been lost.
  • Continuous Play – iPods are designed for listening to music. The continuous play feature made me feel rushed. It wasn’t until I got to Beer Alley that I thought…hey, I’m not ready to leave here yet, and pressed pause. Easy for me, but not obvious to iPod neophytes
  • Start Point – When Megan was handed her iPod, it was set to the architecture tour, rather than the store tour. It took her a while to realize that my tour must be different (as I left her in the dust over by the artichokes). Finding the store tour took some sleuthing on her part that could have been a brick wall for other users.

So, my overall experience was very positive. The only issues I had were inherent to the iPod interface itself. Reminds me of a wonderful quote from Peter Samis’ recent paper on artcasting:

Podcasts are a new format and require a new way of thinking about audio tours – it’s best not to use podcasts as object-specific guides. Unlike keypad-based tours, iPods require familiarity with the clickwheel at their center. For visitors who have never used an iPod – and there are millions of such elders in the museum-going population – the clickwheel can be utterly mystifying. What do you click? How do you adjust the volume? What happens if you inadvertently press the back arrow or, worse yet, hit the Menu button and leap out of the playlist altogether? Such uncertainties can leave a visitor feeling hopelessly lost. (Moss, 2006)

So, the next time you are in the Whole Foods in Austin on Lamar, stop by customer service and get your hands on a hot iPod mini to enhance your explorations of this market mecca.