Taking a Break

“Give me a break.” In the vernacular, ‘give me a break’ means “Oh, come on.” On the other hand, taking a break has no second meaning. Does that mean it’s more serious? Taking a break is so important that it is mandated by law to protect employees from being forced to work without eating or taking restroom stops.

Taking a Break from WritingTaking breaks makes us more productive. Coffee/tea breaks make life livable. Meditation breaks fill the screen of your mind with a pleasant je ne sais quoi. However it is positioned, taking a break helps balance body, mind and spirit.

One way of taking a break is to have someone do your work for you. Wow, wouldn’t that be cool? This strategy is usually a win-win. Why? The person doing your work often does it better because they don’t consider it work. They like it! And they’re often paid for it, which is good for the economy.

When we’re super busy, we like to convince ourselves that breaks are unnecessary. Been there, done that. However in my saner moments, I figure that if we weren’t supposed to take breaks, we wouldn’t have been designed to eat or to sleep.

“I think I can, I think I can,” says the little train filled with good intentions as it chugs up the steep hill. Of course we all think we can. We’re good. We’re professionals. We’re adults. Mostly, though, we’re invincible. But we’re not. Scientists know. The bad guys are certain: Starve people and keep them from sleeping, and they’ll crack.

Trend Alert: Taking breaks must be important: Google returned 729,000,000 results on the keyword string “taking a break.” This post will make at least 729,000,001! If those were seconds, the time to open up (without even reading) each of the separate results would require 12,150,000 minutes. Gee.  That’s 202,500 hours or 8,437 days. That comes out to 23 years. Taking a break is a very significant concept, evidently. We all need breaks, and more than one every twenty-three years.

Taking a break is essential. Standing up, taking a walk, stretching, reading a book for five or ten minutes. Meditating. Seeing a movie. Going out for a meal. Vacationing.

Breaks refresh, renew, revive, reinvigorate, restore, recharge, revitalize. We all know this. We just need to make time for it, schedule it on our calendars, find a break partner, and make taking a break a habit.

Or we’ll break.

Knowing

Knowing. Hah. That’s almost funny. No one really knows. We like to approach knowing, and as professionals we know more than non-professionals. However,  there’s a reason the doctors, dentists and lawyers all have “practices.” They practice  because they have not ‘mastered’ their professions. In fact, mastering is almost a nasty word to the good ones. Knowing—really knowing—is the opposite of what professionals profess. I don’t even think professors profess that they know everything.

Knowing
Image by  debo243

They are still or (they should be) continually learning. We can always be better, right? In fact this post on the word perfect riffs on this same fact. No one knows and no one is perfect.

 

So what is knowing? Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines it as: (1) having or reflecting knowledge, information, or intelligence; (2a)  shrewdly and keenly alert: astute <a knowing observer>; (2b) indicating possession of exclusive inside knowledge or  information <a knowing smile; (3)  cognitive; (4) deliberate <knowing interference in the affairs of another>

Trend Alert: More folks these days think they know things because they have access to so much information. Information by itself does not necessarily impart knowledge, because having access to it and owning it are two different things. I think we’re confusing access with acquisition. Just because you walk into a bookstore doesn’t mean you know or have a command of what’s in the books. Osmosis doesn’t work for knowledge (note the word deliberate in the definition above.) Effort and work are needed to attain a level of knowing that passes us off as experts.

Furthermore, society and academia sanction doctor or dentist, professor or attorney titles by administering tests and bestowing degrees and titles upon the folks that pass the muster for their industry. But true professionals don’t stop there. They begin there. True professionals know more than many, but we will never know it all. We can just hope to keep learning, and be better at our work and at our selves than we were yesterday.

This guy said it best:

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”~ Socrates

Summer Spiders

j0178905In summer, countless spiders dot my front and back yards. They look like little Christmas ornaments hanging from tiny invisible hooks, and they cast miniature, blurred shadows against the walls behind them when the morning sun hits them just right.

Last week, a particularly plucky spider stood guard at my front porch. She was there every morning as I opened the door to pick up my newspapers. She seemed to taunt me, knowing full well, as spiders do, that we humans hate to pass through a spider web. Reluctantly, I dismantled her miraculous (how in the heck do they DO that?) all-night construction wondering if it was her dream home. Mostly I felt regret knowing it was her source of breakfast, or at least an early lunch.

I was pleased to note that she was able to learn, at an ever so rudimentary level, as the week wore on. Every morning for the first three mornings, I broke her landlines and disturbed her semi-sleep. After I broke the line, she would scamper to the safety of the nearby bush, mumbling an arachnid epithet under her breath. Finally on the fourth day, she heard my front door open and scuttled to the bush before I broke her bracing line.

I told Mrs. Spider she could spin her meal-trap elsewhere, but she was not as sharp as her ancestor Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web. Stubborn yes, smart, no.

A few days ago, I opened the door to reassert my human superiority when I saw she was gone. Had she learned the final lesson—that this was not a good place to build? Or had she gone to that big spider web in the sky?

At first I thought that summer spider season might be over. Nope. We still have webs aplenty everywhere else. Hopefully she’s just found another spot, having learned the mantra of real estate in a relatively painless way. Location. Location. Location.

I miss her.

Perceived Fear vs. Real Danger

I listened to Chris Hadfield’s TED talk today. He’s the one who went completely blind while OUTSIDE the space capsule miles above the earth’s surface. Um. Hm.. That’s probably something that would be a cause of fear for most people. He didn’t panic. He continued his work. His partner (you know, the buddy system—like in Boy Scouts and scuba diving) came to his side, made sure all was relatively calm, and Chris lived to tell about it. The other Boy Scout motto that slipped unseen into the speech, but I heard it very plainly, was “Be Prepared.” The astronauts had practiced all measures of scenarios, from “this is fun” to “this is the worst that could happen,” and everything in between. They were prepared for the “completely blind” incident… not specifically, but psychologically, allowing them NOT TO PANIC.

The point is… there is a point… had Chris Hadfield been unwilling to displace his perceived fear, and to prepare for the real dangers, he never would have seen the unimaginably beautiful vistas, nor experienced the gloriously satisfying accomplishment of his goal of being an astronaut. As I look at the perceived fears I have, I know that the real dangers are few. In fact, living is inherently dangerous, as no one gets out of it alive. No one.

Therefore, the best course is to practice and prepare for the worst so you can react appropriately when (and it usually does) the worst happens (only because that’s one of the unwritten rules of life and drama, for gosh sakes), and go for it. Whatever it is.

Meditation — Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

OHHHMMM. Some believe that meditation started 1500 years BCE, give or take. Meditation could be traced to Buddhist India and Taoist China in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, although it is still open for debate. Fast forward to present day, and the practice was not a  large part of Western culture until the Beatles popularized meditation in the 1960s and 70s.  There they go again … changing the world!

Most recently, the cacophony of today’s society is trying to offset itself by meditation. Indeed, Goldie Hawn, Dr. Andrew Weil, Harvard Business Review’s Peter Bregman, Good Morning America’s Dan Harris, and many more espouse its benefits for mind, body and spirit.

Meditation is trending higher for business people, the media, Hollywood stars and just plain folks. It’s an important trend to combat a scary trend. Maybe it will keep us sane.

Tesla Motors, Autopilot Cars, You, Me, and Them

 

For starters, if you want to find out more about Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, head over to the TED Talk for a recent interview. Otherwise, stand back to witness the future unfold before your very eyes.

 

I hear you from all the way over here in my blog cave.  You’re saying, “Hah! Auto-piloted cars will never work.” And that’s what they said about toilet paper, airplanes, cordless phones (not to mention cell phones), and anything else that wasn’t here until it was.

 

The really cool part is that the visionaries that define these types of futures are “scientists” (or at least champions of the scientific method)  and dreamers all rolled into one. The Wright Brothers come to mind. Benjamin Franklin. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. John Lasseter of Pixar.  (Is he a scientist or just a dreamer?)

 

Medical scientists do not radiate the pizazz of an electric car or a cell phone or an airplane, but they are visionaries all the same.  Example: People rarely die of infections any more thanks to Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin back in 1928.  His claim to fame was that he paused to consider a fuzzy Petri dish on a vacation-neglected workbench. Visionary indeed.

 

Thank goodness we still have these folks in our midst. We are lucky to have people that believe they can do what they set out to do, and that they don’t give up.

I like to believe that you and I have the vision to stay out of their way.

IBM makes a movie!

Did you read that IBM has made a movie? It’s called “A Boy and His Atom” and it’s a 90-second tribute to science, creativity,  and (re)invention. IBM was the lumbering pachyderm star from the book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. written over eleven years ago now. The book was a testament to the fact that people and companies can change, even if they’re big and slow.

So what’s best about the movie? It doesn’t really have a lot to do with computing, but rather to do with science, trying something new, and putting it out into the world. Because they can.

So put something creative out into the world. Because you can.

I will if you will.