October 25, 2016
Thoreau, torture device inventor?
Henry David Thoreau is best known for living simply in nature while writing transcendentalist essays contemplating life and civil disobedience. But like most writers, his writing didn’t pay the bills. Well, not exactly. For most of Thoreau’s adult life, he ran the Thoreau Pencil Company—founded by his father—turning it into the preeminent pencil manufacturer in pre-Civil War America. Henry David even invented several crucial optimizations to the pencil-making process, including the modern American pencil numbering system. To this day, American school children are required to use a “Number 2” pencil on all standardized tests like the SAT. Thoreau created a one through four numbering system to categorize the softness of his family’s graphite, which had unique properties compared to traditional English graphite. Thoreau also was the first to use clay as a binding agent for graphite, allowing good pencils to be produced from inferior raw materials. He can also lay claim to inventing a superior grinding mill design, better pipe-forming machines, and a new water wheel. It’s funny to think that Thoreau’s most memorable impact on the world is probably not his compositions Walden and Civil Disobedience, but instead the creation of the dreaded instrument which has haunted millions of SAT-taking youths long after his death.
October 24, 2016
Tommy gets locked up
Pinball seems pretty harmless. But from the ‘40s to ‘70s, pinball was outlawed in several major US cities because it was “a game of chance.” When pinball was invented in the late 19th century, it did have a small element of gambling. Early machines were so primitive, they were difficult for even skilled players to control. There were no flippers, just a ball launcher and random holes. Adding to the perception of gambling, store and restaurant owners would allow winners to cash out their “free plays” for store credit. The cost to play was so small—typically 5 cents—it hurt the game’s credibility further by appealing to minors. New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia declared pinball “penny thievery.” In 1942, La Guardia wrangled a group of policemen, coined the pinball squad, to confiscate thousands of machines. Most of the public was on his side, partly because World War II was in full swing and the machines were made of critical raw materials including wood, wire, steel and glass. The ban on pinball lasted all the way until 1976 when it was ended by one fortunate shot. The NYC city council invited pinball historian and expert Roger Sharpe to demonstrate that pinball was actually a game of skill. In front of a large audience, Sharpe showed he could perfectly arc a ball right down the middle of the machine, on his first try. I know what you’re thinking: “Hwwhat, pinball wasn’t legal in NYC until seven years after The Who released the song Pinball Wizard?” No wonder that song was so popular with the kids!
October 23, 2016
Meet Madame Perfect (SMC #2)
Make sure to read SMC #1 first, or this Sunday Mindset Curio won’t make sense. Today, you’re going to meet your fixed mindset "persona." As I like to say, first you claim it, then you name it, then you tame it. Here we go…
Claim it: Your fixed mindset is there, but it’s only trying to help
Our fixed mindsets are not our enemies. They mean well, but they can still ruin our lives! They are trying to keep us safe and within social norms. The problem is they inhibit our growth, and prevent us from reaching our potential. Not to mention happiness. So we need to recognize what “triggers” that naysaying voice in our head. Common triggers include: big decisions, stretching to learn new things, meeting new people, taking a new job, building intimate relationships, or messing up at anything. Anything that creates anxiety or potential shame.
Name it: Say hello to Madame Perfect
Now, who is that persona that emerges in the face of the triggers? Try to identify your fixed mindset persona—the one that says “Watch out!” “Give up—it’s safer!” Now, give your persona a name. Is it someone from your childhood? Maybe a past coach or boss? (My colleague Susan Mackie, the inventor of the fixed mindset persona, decided she has two!) I’ve named my fixed mindset Madame Perfect, because she always wants me to be flawless. I can see Madame Perfect vividly: a 19th-century fancy French lady, with a frilly dress and parasol. And a snooty voice. Try to imagine your fixed mindset persona.
Tame it: Engage and charm it, don’t banish it
The final step is to engage with your fixed mindset persona. It’s trying to help you, so don’t just shoo it away when it appears. Engage. Try to understand its motivation. Let’s say you’re considering taking up the piano again after twenty years. Your persona might say: “Oh great, something else you’ll start and never finish!” or “Hah, you’ll look ridiculous playing recitals with little kids who are better than you!” Instead of shunning it, thank your persona for its advice and recruit its help in accomplishing your growth goal: “Maybe you’re right, but I’d really like to put music into my daily life. Can I count on your support?” or “Thanks for the input, but I love kids and I’ll be inspired by their spirit! Will you join me in this effort?”
EXERCISE: Who is your Madame Perfect?
I think you’ll find that engaging with your fixed mindset persona—and exposing it’s naysaying to the light of day—will lead you toward a growth mindset. To practice some of these methods, try the challenge below.
  1. Think about your fixed mindset persona. Does it have a gender? An age? Is it a bully, or more subtly manipulative? Loud or soft?
  2. Give it a name that captures its attributes. Is your fixed mindset persona inspired by a person in your past? Someone in a TV show or movie? A teacher? Someone in your career who shot you down?
  3. What does it say to you when it shows up? How does it make you feel? Anxious? Angry? Depressed? Ashamed?
  4. Write down a list of triggers for your fixed mindset persona. What specific situations/interactions summon that naysaying—or defensively arrogant—voice in your head?
  5. Vividly imagine one of your trigger moments. Now have your first conversation with your fixed mindset persona. What does your fixed mindset persona say? Talk back, but be respectful. Thank it for its well-meant guidance, but sweetly tell it what you need. And let him/her know you’re going to be having more two-way conversations from here on out!
An amusing daily fact from Justin Kitch, Curious CEO. Learn something amazing and unique every day!
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