My sense of place is blurry. I blame growing up in the air force and having a hard time answering the question, “Where are you from?” I still get itchy feet every three years and have managed to build a career changing jobs or locations within that time frame.
More than anything I like the idea of philosophy. Growing up extremely religious I drew a thin line between theology and philosophy. Socrates appealed to me both because of his thoughts and his method.
For Socrates philosophy was a way of living. It was a process in which we made sense of our limited time. Because of that, he took the streets to ask everyone why. Why they did anything. He wanted logical reasoning, not just the standard, “...because…”
I hope this letter finds you well. As we begin this new year I can’t help but think about where I’d like to make improvements in my life. Society makes this hard to ignore as we ask each other about new years resolutions. As much as I hate cliches I enjoy any opportunity for self-reflection.
I stumbled across David Chang on Netflix 6 years ago. I was scrolling for a food show. Because I am an Anthony Bourdain fan PBS’ Mind of a Chef was recommended. I became an instant fan. Soon I made my first ramen from scratch. And it wasn’t a complete disaster.
David Chang is the kind of character that you either love or hate. He had some radical ideas for the food industry he brought over from Asia.
I was the kind of kid who would take apart a pen to see how it worked. The mechanics fascinated me, but more the liked taking it apart and putting it back together.
This interest pushed me to toys like Lego and Constructs but my attention never lasted. I was more interested in playing with the objects that were already built.
We are living in unprecedented times. Nothing is what it used to be. Every thought I have had about the pandemic has been wrong. Which has caused me to second guess myself. This causes me to hesitate to make decisions.
California is cool. I’ve always known this. But, the last time I went to California I started to understand why.
I stayed in Costa Mesa for few days to talk to art students about going to college. One of the things that I didn’t realize was that I was down the street from Newport Beach. The only reason I found that out was because I was Yelping for places to eat.
Cool thing number one about California: the variety of places to eat. I found a fast Vietnamese place a block from the beach.
I didn’t end up eating there my first night because right next to it is a Greek place. I’m a sucker for a gyro. When the sign said gyro and fries for $8.99 I walked in, ordered and walked to the beach.
I was listening to an audio book while I walked (gotta utilize my time to productive). As I was sitting down to eat my headphone fell out. Then I dawned on me, I’m at the beach. I should be listening to the waves.
The sound of the ocean is magic.
I watched families play in the sand and the surfers surf. There were so many surfers.
I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like 100 years ago. When the film industry started to move it. The excitement of being in a new place and doing new things. It must have been contagious.
That spirit still lives there.
The first time I went to California Adventure I felt the same way. Walking down Main Street and trying to imagine what it was like for Walt Disney to be a part of that. To imagine what was possible. Recognizing the potential.
After eating I walked down the beach and felt the air. The heaviness of the humidity. It’s palpable.
The wet air of the Pacific Northwest sinks into my skin. I can feel it through to my bones. But in California it rests on top. Hydrates my skin. It’s refreshing.
When I get into a place like that I get excited about being a part of it. I want to be in it, living the life; surfing, frisbee on the beach, biking down the boardwalk, skateboarding, breathing the air, and eating the food.
The interesting thing is that I felt the same way on that same trip to Disneyland I talked about earlier. I get into the park and I want to work there. Be part of it.
A few weeks after that Disney trip I realized that that’s not what I want. As I walked across the Newport Pier and watched the sunset I realized the same thing. This is not what I want.
I don’t want Southern California. I don’t want to work for Disney.
I want the excitement that they represent. I want to do work that makes an impact. I want to help make the lives of those around me better. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.
Then It dawns on me that that’s exactly what I’m doing. I have a job that I enjoy, in an beautiful part of the world, working with wonderfully creative people. I am married to a beautiful and smart woman and together we have two incredibly different and amazing kids. I have had some incredible opportunities to meet great people and visit places around the world.
While there are plenty of days that I wish I made more money, and that things were different than what they are, when I really think about it…what I’ve got is really great.
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Art is not the most lucrative career path. It is uncertain, exhausting, and yet, can be incredibly fulfilling.
When artists get together and talk they understand that art is not always going to pay the the bills and so they’ll throw around this phrase that I didn’t understand at first. They’ll ask each other about their studio practice.
It’s essentially asking if they are still creating work. Working on their craft, continuing to get better.
One of the benefits of working for an art school, or in any college or university setting are the educational perks. Things like lectures, classes, discussion groups, panels, or workshops. I’m up for anything new, interesting or insightful.
I had the opportunity to attending a class that a colleague of mine was teaching on mind-mapping. I was mostly interested in seeing her teaching style and to gain a better understanding of how classes work on campus. I wasn’t expecting to learn as much as I did.
I love that.
My mind-mapping experience was from 7th grade and it was used for organizing thoughts and ideas into a paper. Like an outline only more visual. I didn’t get it. I got that people might prefer using a mind map over an outline but I didn’t understand the specific benefits of mind-mapping as a technique over outlining.
A few years ago I watch a webinar where the guy used mind-mapping software to go through the concepts he was talking about during the webinar. The software allows you to open and close different section of the mind map so that the concepts were unrolled in an organized way. Instead of just seeing a whole bunch of random ideas at once.
The software is called X-Mind. It impressed me enough that I downloaded it. It didn’t hurt that it was free. I’ve been using it to organize different projects ever since.
But that’s all I was doing, organizing thoughts on project I already had. I wasn’t fully utilizing mind-mapping.
The photo above is of my colleagues mind map from her thesis year at art school. I just assumed that she used it the same way that I use X-Mind until she said that while prepping to teach she pulled out this mind map and added to it.
For her, that particular mind map was a living document.
There’s an exercise that I like to do with students to help them recognize the natural connections our brains are capable of. It’s called Point at Stuff and Name It. The title is pretty self explanatory. There are three different phases.
Students walk around for a minute pointing at different things around the room. When they point at something they say what it is.
Example: (pointing a door) “Door”, (pointing at window) “Window”, (pointing at floor) “Floor”, etc.
Students walk around for a minute point at different things around the room. This time when they point at things they say what they previously pointed at.
Example: (pointing a door) “….” (pointing at window) “Door” (pointing at floor) “Window”, etc.
Students walk around for a minute point at different things around the room. This time when they point at things they call it anything except what it actually is.
Example: (pointing a door) “Chicken” (pointing at window) “Marsupial” (pointing at floor) “Abraham Lincoln”, etc.
What happens on the third phase after the previous two warm ups, is that our brains will categorize. When we point at things we’ll go through every farm animal we know and then switch to football teams. It’s not something we try to do we just do it.
For me the untapped potential of mind mapping is organizing free association brain storming. I love free association because it opens the gate to our subconscious, which allows us to connect things we might hesitate to bring up. But, because everything is spur of the moment, it just happens.
When creating a mind map of whatever topic I’m thinking about I can connect the initial ideas with the roots that triggered my thoughts. When I go back and review it provides a clearer picture of my initial process. I can then edit it and make more logical sense of it so that I can clearly communicate my ideas to others.
This is a mind map that I made for an upcoming post about building a relationship with my son.
Before starting it I just had ideas without a clear way of how they were connected. Later I will edit this into the actual blog post, expanding the ideas and writing through their connection.
It’s another tool that I can use to accomplish my goals. Hopefully the more I use them the more proficient I will be and the more “work” they will accomplish.
How have you used/do you use mind mapping?