No wonder(ing)

During my first proper summer internship, working in Washington DC, some colleagues and I got into a friendly argument over lunch about whether pinball was a game of skill.

To resolve this heated debate, we agreed that the “ayes” would have it if and only if we could prove, by the end of the working day, that there was such a thing as pinball competitions or tournaments.

“By the end of the working day.” Can you imagine such a thing? That it might be hard to get this sort of answer in five hours?

But it was the early 1990s, so we dutifully thumbed through the yellow pages, called up pinball shops, and eventually tracked down the answer (yes, with apologies to the taxpayers for our wasted time).

Today this would never happen. Being able “to Google” anything instantly means all knowledge is at our fingertips. Which feels like an unabashedly good thing until we discover that we’re letting our brains off the hook: our memories are actually getting worse.

Plus, kids who have grown up with devices in their hands exhibit shallower information-processing. It’s not surprising. Even around something as trivial as an argument about pinball, we had to do more than state our opinions and look up who was right: we had to imagine the steps we would take to solve the problem, and then walk down that path. Even for an argument about pinball, meta-cognition (thinking about how we would think about the answer) was a required behavior.

In terms of practicing the skills that ladder up to leadership, today’s instant-information world is losing the daily tension of not-knowing. We spend less time holding and exploring two equally-plausible outcomes. We have fewer genuine moments of “I wonder.”

Instant gratification is indeed gratifying, but let’s be careful not to forget what it feels like not to know. Let’s not atrophy our “how would I figure this out” muscle in a world in which it’s gotten so easy to figure out the easy stuff, yet the hard stuff looms as big and as complex as ever.

One thought on “No wonder(ing)

  1. Another wonderful post, Sasah and timely as you’ll see below . . .

    On Tuesdays I help my eldest daughter Kristi Eve (born on Christmas Eve) with her two children; Eve who turned one yesterday and Flynn who will be three in May. Yesterday was no different and I’m elaborating a bit as my daughter and I just yesterday had a similar conversation about being in the moment and how we can learn from our children.

    For anyone who is struggling with being mindful or in the moment, just take a walk with a two-and-a-half-year-old . . . they stop ever few dozen feet and just “wonder.” They smell flowers, look at rocks and letters/numbers etched into concrete, pointing out to Papa which is the “T”. They run in the grass and laugh. They drop small rocks in a drainage cover and listen for them hit “rock bottom” and they yell into that same drainage cover to hear their own voice echo back. They play in the sandbox and bring you sand-creations along with a huge smile. They look at you and say your name . . . “PAPA” . . . seemingly to assure themselves you are still there. They run in the grass again and again and laugh and tell you to run as well and they laugh some more. They hear a noise and say “PAPA”, so we investigate a truck backing-up to a new home being built. They sit with you in the grass and look up at an airplane and then and a helicopter passing far from us but close enough to hear their presence. We’ve been gone for an hour and fifteen more minutes have passed with the two of us just sitting in the grass smiling and being alive together.

    The “Wonder Years” was always one of my family’s favorite shows to watch together when my three were very young and we’d all sing along with Joe Cocker to “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Some thirty plus years later, God has again blessed me with the presence of “wonder” in my amazing three grandchildren Eve, Flynn and Kennedy.

    As we arrive back to my daughter’s home after about ninety minutes, Flynn-man (as we call him) explains to “MAMA” in a precious language, sounding like a mix of abbreviated English words and Swahili . . . all about our walk. I look at my new Fitbit Iconic (a gift from my other daughter) and notice my resting heart rate is now fifty-two as I’ve just enjoyed the best part of my entire week . . . time with my Grandson and being in the moment of “wonder.”

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