I miss being in an office environment where I have dedicated wall space for hanging snapshots of wisdom & knowledge. In those days, the first thing I’d do, coffee in hand, is look at each of the displayed artifacts and let the underlying knowledge that I had learned before and which these exemplars served to encapsulate wash through me like a good morning shower.
The idea, of course, was to get my mind directly into the stream wherein it would be operating for the day. Warming up the synapses for specialized, focused, and tuned thinking. Maybe that’s the way to think about it : tuning your instrument before playing. Actually, that doesn’t quite cut it, because tuning doesn’t necessarily warm up the muscles for a particular type of activity. But it does sharpen the instrument for accurate and harmonious execution.
The reason I found this exercise so helpful is that I knew that I would be drawing from different, learned perspectives in order to form new ideas within their bounds or in accordance to their principles. And I knew from self-observation in college that any deep conversation I had with anyone always seems to draw examples and clarification from the subjects that I was studying in that same timeframe. In other words, I draw content that is closest at hand from my mental shelves. So it made sense (upon realizing this) to stack those shelves strategically.
I seemed to have learned a primitive and unprocessed version of this concept in High School. I remember there was a guy who was the brainiac of the school, always having the right answer or thoughtful reply to the teacher’s questions. I asked him as we excited one class what his secret to being so smart in class was. His reply: I start thinking about the subject matter before I get to the door. He didn’t go in cold. I’m sure that this bit of information got stored in my headplace for later, college days.
The idea of priming beforehand also works after hand. That is, after studying something with any degree of motivation, I’ll (try to) “rest” for a while on the new information I attempted to assimilate. That is, I sit and try to tell a story with or about the new information This ensures that what I had done simply wasn’t passive comprehension but rather active assimilation. It also pre-primes my mind for when I take up the topic later because I have a narrative in place to channel the priming.
Passive comprehension was something else I observed that I do. I can read through something and understand what it’s saying, and a few seconds later, re-read the paragraph with the sense that I was reading it for the first time. In other words, I had understood it, but it hadn’t penetrated the chalk-layer filter of my brain. I hadn’t shelved the information — I had been merely scanning and appreciating the content.
For that reason, it takes me a while to read content I wish to assimilate because I stop and consider the boundaries or significance of what the content is communicating. What are the ramifications, applications, considerations…then move on. Doing this also helps me to evaluate the information following the spot I just considered: does it add to and/or support what was said previously; is it believable.
Anyway, I’m a bit out of practice since I’m no longer in a formal office environment and I don’t have my primers hanging all over. I’ll find other ways, like continuing to read industry blogs and articles with the hopes that someday I can use something there as primer.
Filed under: Reflection |