This week, my company zagged. Unfortunately for me, I was still zigging away, deep in many interesting projects and didn’t see the course correction coming.
On the flip side, the timing was rather lovely. I’d just arrived for a week with my husband at the lake house. Working remotely with a magnificent view across the water and of the surrounding fall foliage is a treat. But it doesn’t compare to the freedom to follow a whim to hop on a bike, go for a run, take the convertible for a spin through the back roads, shop for pumpkins and snuggle up during a rainstorm with a book.
I have a lucky life, and it’s always pretty easy for me to find a silver lining during the occasional freak storm. But on Monday, when this little twister landed on my lakeside retreat, I was struck with a new revelation. Rather than just indulge in my well established list of go-to experiences, perhaps I could use this time for a little zag of my own. Find some new tricks, push some new experiences, explore my “someday” list.
And so, I’ve started. I plan to use my blog to keep myself accountable to coloring outside my own lines. Here are a few categories I’ve started with in the 55 hours since I learned that I’ve been freed of my corporate obligations:
Adventure with food. When it comes to eating, I am fearless. I haven’t met much I haven’t tried, or haven’t liked. My decade of vegetarianism might have contributed to the giddy, reckless abandon with which I now approach food — especially pork products.
Besides eating, I am very accountable in the kitchen for food prep and dish clearing. But I’ve long abdicated the actual preparation of food to my patient and creative husband. In fact, when our son was about four, he told some of our friends that in addition to his daddy (who had just produced a lovely mushroom risotto for dinner), his mommy was a great cook too: “she makes cereal!”
So this week, I am taking baby steps toward self sufficiency in the kitchen. Monday, was Red Curry Shrimp (okay, it was with the help of a fabulous boxed kit from Marion’s Kitchen—but I selected and managed not to mangle the seafood and veggies). Last night: jalapeno vegetable casserole (my own making, and therefore meekly reviewed by my spouse). Tonight, I’m counting on divine inspiration for the small pumpkin awaiting its fate on my counter.
Make something tangible (and useful). Confession: my family does a collective groan every vacation when after a few days of idleness, I make my way to a craft store in search of yarn and knitting needles. It is not ever a well-planned initiative (I’ve always surmised that this is a good thing on vacation, because I plan —in detail —everything in my work life). This usually means I find a few skeins of yarn in a color or texture that makes me happy and then I just while away my vacation downtime making nothing in particular. Or at least nothing that anyone in my family would ever want to wear.
So this week, I started with a plan to learn to do more than a scarf or to sew together squares of knitting into something that causes my family to gasp “not it!” when I appear with my finished crafty confection. Through the glory of Ravelry, Google and YouTube, I’ve learned to do a “tops down” raglan sleeved sweater designed by the talented Carol Feller. Since dinner last night, I learned to read the hieroglyphics of a knitting pattern from RS and WS to kfb, and ssk to k2together and CO. So far, my efforts look to have the potential to actually clothe a human form.
Learn, More Broadly. Ironically, for nearly 2 1/2 years I have marketed learning technology. I’ve written countless articles and blogs and tweets and produced educational videos about the power and potential of new tools to engage business people in more meaningful learning and development. So, along the way I’ve learned a lot about learning. But my own learning has been incredibly focused on technology and marketing.
So this week, I enrolled in a UC San Diego neuroscience course on Learning How to Learn. The professor, Terrence Sejnowski — just a few clicks of a mouse away —is one of the top ten experts in computational neurobiology on the planet. And I get to learn from him and his colleague on how to train my brain to accept — and perhaps enjoy —topics that have otherwise unnerved me, using a few exercises.
The first tip: the Pomodoro technique. My brilliant professors counseled me and my virtual class that includes a high school student, a Filipino teacher, a Russian marketer and a number of call center reps — that less is more when it comes to learning new, complex topics. They say that research shows if you want to absorb something into long term memory and build a foundation around it, limit the amount of time you focus on the new information. Ideally, no longer than 25 minutes at a time.
The decidedly low-tech way to support this process: set up your focused learning time (reading, reviewing, looking at anecdotes and visual examples) with a kitchen timer; the most common one happens to be shaped like a tomato. Pomodoro in Italian.
So far, I’ve got an A in my first Coursera online Learning to Learn quizes. And I’ve got an appetite from the Italian food mnemonics.
Must be time cook: little pumpkin, I am coming for you!
Looking forward to the next 55 hours.