I hate math. Always have, always will. I will never get fractions and don’t want to. I can calculate tips in my head and balance my budget, and that’s as far as it goes. But back in the day, as a liberal arts undergraduate major at Purdue University, I had to take two math classes. I chose computer programming and a class I’d never heard of before, statistics. Surprisingly, I adored statistics and aced the class. And while I still hate math, I have found statistics to be one of the most important classes I have ever taken – and one that has had a profound impact on the way I make decisions in my life. Continue reading “struggling with a problem or decision? three simple ways math can help. yes, math!”
When I studied fiction in graduate school at Columbia College Chicago, we focused heavily on objects. When brainstorming or warming up for writing exercises in our four-hour evening classes, after long days at work and home and caring for families and tending to our lives, we were asked to visualize what objects were in a given space that we wanted to write about.
This is how I came to see the power of objects in fiction and life.
Disclaimer: I am not one who saves things. I am the one who always smacks myself in the head three days after pitching something I realize I needed. When I was young, my mother gave me objects to show her affection. It was her way. A Virgin Mary statue that she made in ceramics. A coffee cup with my name on it and a different adjective for each letter in my name (still have that one). Bookmarks. We had a difficult relationship. I came to see objects and gifts as something to be wary of.
Okay so here’s a surefire way to clear out a room and freak people out. Ready? GO:
Step 1: 10:06PM Let cockapoo (this is a dog) outside to go pee before bedtime.
Step 2: 10:08PM Watch in horror as skunk confronts dog, lifts fluffy yet lovely black tail, releases its stench, and scurries away under your fence and disappears into your yard.
Step 3: 10:08:02PM (If you are sensitive like me) freak out as your dog cries and paws at its eyes, then let dog inside feeling so sorry for it and hoping its eyes have not been burned out of its sockets.
One of the cool parts of my job is that I get to learn about some really cool, complex stuff that is completely outside of my realm of expertise or reality. The second coolest part is that I get to work with a lot of really smart people who take the time to explain it to me. 🙂 (They are *mostly* very patient of my questions and ignorance.) The reason I am invited to this party is because I have a knack for translating complicated stuff and making it easy for people to understand. One concept that I am learning about right now is the open platform. Here is a more ‘formal’ explanation from Wikipedia:
In computing, an open platform describes a software system which is based on open standards, such as published and fully documented external application programming interfaces (API) that allow using the software to function in other ways than the original programmer intended, without requiring modification of the source code. Using these interfaces, a third party could integrate with the platform to add functionality. The opposite is a closed platform.
Now, being a thinker (much to my detriment at times, especially when I OVERthink), I started thinking about this concept of open in terms of real life. Some people are too open; translated, we call this over sharing, TMI (too much information), PIA (pain in the ass), etc. (Not sure what this looks like? Find a hypochondriac on Facebook.) Some people are too closed; translated, we call this shut down; small-minded; or someone in need of a stiff drink.
But what if we applied the concept of an open platform to our own lives and way of thinking? We’re all born with a certain temperament, aptitude and skill set. Putting the nature vs. nurture debate aside, what if we could open our minds to different ways of thinking, problem solving, and basically our whole approach to life? We’re already halfway there with our standards and systems: structured education programs, religion, hell, even books like All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (we start young, don’t we?).
I recently attended The Art of Marketing conference in Chicago featuring Seth Godin and the question was posed to the audience: how many of you feel like technology is isolating us as a society? I did not raise my hand. I looked around and was shocked to see the majority of hands up. Now, I’ve seen this question posed in forums like TED, NPR and other thoughtful, intellectual places. But I hadn’t really formed an opinion. Until now.
I think technology is driving the need for people to come together more urgently than ever before. Children are on Facebook and Twitter doing what one expert described as “self revealing before self reflecting.” Technology changes are eliminating some jobs yet creating new ones. Our economy has been turned inside out and upside down. The business climate changes faster than Chicago weather in two hours. The changes driven by technology are happening so fast, we don’t have time to process it, let alone buy the next generation device.
As a marketing professional, I’m excited. So many new opportunities! So many new ways to communicate and share! So many new things to learn and master! As a wife, mother and regular person who regularly forgets to water her plants, yells at my kids when they get on my last remaining nerve, and can never seem to remember where I last placed my coffee or my glasses, it terrifies me.
That’s why I feel the basics of connection are more important than ever before. Saying good morning, please and thank you. Taking time before a meeting for personal chat before diving into the project at hand. Making time to meet for coffee. Asking someone, “How are you?” and meaning it – then listening thoughtfully to the answer. Picking up the phone and calling instead of emailing or texting (once in a while, anyway – I’m not really a phone talker). Sitting down for dinner with the kids with the TV off, cell phones/iPads/iPods/laptops put away, and taking turns asking how everyone’s day was. We ask questions and listen to the answers: what’s something good that happened? Bad? Sad? What is something new you learned today? What surprised you?
One of my proudest moments as a parent was when my then 11-year-old son came home from school and said he had good news to share. “What is it?” I asked excitedly. He smiled secretively and said, “I’ll save it to share at dinner.” This from a kid who believes MineCraft is a metaphor for life. 🙂
I think that technology is a reminder that as much as things change – or no matter how fast – we can get through it if we stick together. And remember that no technology can ever replace the basic need we all have: to connect. To share. To belong. To know our place in the big, bad, technologically savvy world. And to know that at the end of any day, someone will be sitting at the table waiting to hear about your day.
Back to the Art of Marketing conference, the first speaker: Keith Ferrazzi, best-selling author and thought leader, who spoke about relationship marketing. Technology might enable relationships. But people sustain them.
What do you think? Is technology driving us apart or driving us closer together?