My father told me a story that sounds exactly like me.
My parents were called to have a parent teacher conference over my refusal to accept I was wrong. Apparently, the teacher had asked a question and the answer I gave was not the one in the textbook. However, I insisted that I had the right answer because I had read in a science magazine not long before about a new discovery.
My father said he counseled me to not challenge the teacher in front of the other kids. Thinking back, I really never took that lesson to heart.
One of my favorite high school stories is in science bowl answering that Saturn had more moons than Jupiter. The teacher (the superintendent a couple years later) was excited I got it wrong. I argued Jupiter had sixteen. But a few more were discovered for Saturn bringing it up to 18. To this day we are still still finding moons for these planets and who has more flip flops. The question depends on current knowledge.
Thankfully, the student teacher was aware and came to my defense. I got the question right.
Fleur has lots of science books already. I already explain science concepts. We will do many experiments together. And, she will be kept current on the state of knowledge because I get excited when I learn about a new discovery.
Fleur loves trucks. Especially the garbage trucks. There are commercial trucks coming through the neighborhood Tuesday through Friday. I can yell “Garbage truck!” and she comes ru.n.n.ing to the living room window to watch them get a trash and put the contents in the truck.
I never see her run that fast. Not when she is hurt. Not when she is scared. Not when she is upset. Just when she is the most excited she can possibly be. About a garbage truck.
She also loves the package delivery vans (UPS, FedEx, Amazon) and mail trucks. One neighbor washes delivery vans in their yard. She can watch that for as long as that takes. Her week was made one day to be allowed NEXT to the delivery van.
This particular interest was unexpected. But, we did take her to see the firetrucks and other large vehicles at a park back when she was just walking. It was amusing to see her fascinated by these things both then and now.
Lately on walks Fleur insists on carrying stuff. I try to limit it. A few houses down she then wants to place the stuff in my pockets.
Good thing I wear cargo shorts. It makes it easier. Well, except when she decides she wants to run while I have a packet of pineapple chunks, a baby water bottle, and three rocks in one pocket with her water bottle in the other.
At times I wonder if this is about slowing me down. But, really, it is about freeing her hands so she can do stuff.
This got me thinking about persuasion and the effective use of repetition. We tend to overlook it because we think that simplistic things we know and understand are reasonable. And frankly, the only way it could be. They are facts. Objective. The way things are. However, repetition has a sneaky way of becoming things we know and establish in our heads as facts. This is the Illusory Truth Effect messing with us.
I find myself carrying things for Fleur. Typically, it is her water bottle…
To where she is playing
With us outside to play
On a walk
After taking away her access to the sink
For a babydoll
Okay, the last one is fake water. But, still, it is important.
The spouse keeps well hydrated and Fleur seems to have the same need. So, we try to ensure she has enough. And, she tends to get cranky if we fail to keep up with it.
It also means there are a few bottles with fresh water around the house as we lose track of the one she was using and just fill a new one. Thankfully, we have plenty of them.
Years ago, I ran into a college friend with his wife and kids at brunch. I noticed one of the kids left their water bottle after they left so I ran to get it back to them. At the time, I assumed that surely that is like their one bottle. Nope, they had around dozen to cover both kids. So, being one down would not be catastrophic. Being a parent now, whenever I find myself frustrated with being able to find a water bottle, I check the sales and get another couple.
In adding the “hydration” tag to this post, I noticed the suggestion carbohydrates. This is perhaps the first time I noticed the root hydrate and connected them. Carbo- means Carbon. Hydrate means an Oxygen atom plus two Hydrogen atoms. So, carbohydrates, aka sugars, more literally are sooty-water. Lol!
Flow happens when you do something that completely captures your attention. A lot of people would call this “being in the zone,” in other words: full absorption in something and complete happiness while you’re doing it.
For me, this has always occurred while writing / editing, playing video games, or solving a computer problem. I also find it while driving, which is why I always enjoyed going places far away. A crutch I use is familiar music to drown out sounds that might distract me.
But, yeah, achieving the happiness of being in Flow is as worthy as the product that might be produced. I can say that I work in IT in part because I enjoy the feeling of being in Flow and having some skill in the work allows me opportunities for doing work that gets me there.
Working from the office has numerous distractions from flow because of emails, instant messages, people stopping by, phone calls. They all interrupt flow and it takes around 15 minutes to get back into it. People try to be respectful of others.
Working from home is worse:
Flow, unfortunately, is rare in family life. The father of flow research, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, told me so point-blank when I wrote my book. (All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood) When kids are small, their developing brains actually conspire against flow, because they’re wired to sweep in as much stimuli as possible, rather than to focus; even when they’re older, they’re still churning windmills of need.
The toddler needs what she needs RIGHT NOW! Some times it is funny. Like, there is an obsession with trucks, especially the garbage trucks. (One comes through the neighborhood every week day. She comes flying to a window to see it stop or pass by.) Other times she is just cranky and infecting the rest of us with it.
These are reposts of a series I did years ago on mental shortcuts.
We humans laud our superiority over the rest of the world. We even claim to be better than other humans. The chief attribute we compare is intelligence.
An interest of mine regarding Psychology in college was failures of the mind. Phineas Gage suffered a brain injury that drastically changed his behavior. That was really cool! Yet, that and other cases are relatively rare. More universally, the brain works much more nuanced than most people give credit. I think much of the problems of society tie back to how the brain works and maybe even societal attempts at glossing over the limitations.
Rather than one really long post, I am going to break these up into several. And much of this has been bumping around in my head for months, but I took a few hours to lay it all down.
For going on a decade, I have called these Cheating. Rather than taking in all the information, completely processing it, and strategically acting upon it, our brains selectively attend to a small portion, throws out even more, and acts upon incomplete information. Most of the time it works. Much of the time it doesn’t and we have no idea so we just think it works. Every once in a while we get burned by our brains not following the rules we expect them to follow. So to make this more palatable, I am going to try calling these Shortcuts.