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Good morning everyone:

We're well into the summer and the heat has got me stepping back and taking stock. Over the past week, I've been thinking about Emily and kids generally. The values and work piece this week is about how having a child deepens the level of our engagement when we go to work.

There are also items below to get you thinking about book clubs at the office, childlike distractions, how to pick the perfect melon, and finding another reason to like where you live.

Here goes.

1.         Training with stories
 
The best thing about a story is getting to live it through one or more of the characters. Novels and biographies, in particular, can put you in someone else’s shoes while they try to fend off disaster, seize the day or attempt to get a good night’s sleep. Stories work their way through every imaginable challenge and opportunity.
 
When the challenges and opportunities at companies involve technical skills, the business people and professionals handle the training pretty well. But when it comes to better communicating, collaborating and innovating, critical thinking, workforce engagement and ethical behavior, they are often clueless. Just think of all those team-building exercises that have left you where they found you.
 
A different solution is being offered by a thoughtful organization that calls itself exactly what it is: Books@Work. It sponsors a book club within a company for 12 to 16 weeks, where 20 workers from across the organization read a book that is likely to trigger animated discussions about current challenges. A local teacher helps keep the exchanges on track.    
 
What a terrific idea! The Books@Work blog post this month is about the business advantges of reading science fiction. And it makes perfect sense. (You can check it out here.)
If I were the teacher choosing the book, I’d bring Moonglow by Michael Chambon. With vivid storytelling about conflict resolution, tenacity, developing your vocational interests, working while caregiving at home, and a half dozen other valuable things, 3 to 4 months would go by in no time and everyone involved would have real food for thought about how to be more productive at work.
  
2.         There is good distraction and bad distraction
 
Do kids see more of what’s around them than grown-ups? Well psychologist Alison Gopnik thinks so. Early research made her think “that children’s consciousness might be more like a lantern [than an adult's] illuminating everything around it.”  She feels much the same today. Kids are so intent on learning about the world around them “that they get distracted by the distant airplane in the sky or the speck of paper on the floor when you’re trying to get them out the door.” Their eyes just happen to open wider than yours.
 
That's because grown-ups are often so focused on immediate goals that they miss unexpected developments and opportunities. It can be a real loss. “Sometimes by focusing less,” she writes, “we actually see more.”
 
Knowing when to expand your field of vision (and when to narrow it) is a skill you can pick up once you think of it as an option. It’s like opening or closing the camera’s lens.  Because there’s is a time for more attention and a time for less—not by being caught up in yourself, but as a child who's glimpsing wider worlds.
 
Consider following @AlisonGopnik on Twitter for new Mind & Matter posts.

3.         A child expresses your hope that the world is worth your engagement
 
When you decide to have a child, there is a question of whether it is fair to burden her with the risks of the world. She doesn’t have a say in the matter and yet you’ve brought her into a place with political conflict, environmental pollution, widespread inequality, even physical danger.
 
Maybe you’ll decide to spare her, because this is simply no place for an innocent child. But if instead, you decide to bring her into a world that’s full of such terrible risks, what do you owe her in return?
I had never really thought about it before, yet friends and family members had decided long ago that they would never bring another child into a world like this. They already knew what living here was like from their own experience.
 
So when an article this week asked “Is It Unethical to Have Kids in the Era of Climate Change?” I substituted “all the world’s risks and problems” for “global warming” and started to think about it.
 
My answer ended up relating to the work that every parent is duty-bound to do. Fairness requires that you share the burden of confronting those risks when you’ve decided to impose them on an unwitting child.
 
It’s an obligation to confront death with life, violence with peace, and hatred with love along with your child.
 
It’s an obligation that changes the work that all of us have to do—but in particular, the work that parents do.
 
No one has the right to assume that the mess we’ve made of things is the next generation’s problem.
 
You can read the full post here,  and let me know what you think.


4.         The sound of a ripe melon
 
This is the part of the newsletter where I like to write about senses other than seeing because in a relentlessly visual world it’s easy to forget how enjoyable the rest of your senses are.
 
Moreover, this is an excellent time of year to talk about ripe fruit, including every kind of melon. For example, when you bring a watermelon onto your porch or down to the curb in many Philadelphia neighborhoods during the summertime, everyone who sees it knows that it’s party time.
 
But how do you know that the melon is ready to party? Well that’s where some practical science comes to the rescue by helping you pick “the most mouthwateringly delicious one.”  According to Everyday Physicist Helen Czerski, “there’s a huge amount of information about the structure of a solid object hidden in its acoustic structure.”
 
But she’s barely gotten the words out before she goes on to say that melons aren’t really solid at all. They simply gain more density as they ripen. In fact, it’s the sound of space within the density that you’re listening for when you tap it.
 
You’re not listening for a dull thud but a healthy echo. Line your candidates up, start tapping away, and you’ll start hearing the difference. Tell on-lookers what you’re doing and they might get into the act too instead of looking at you like you’re crazy. Czerski actually gets quite lyrical about it. Listening to a melon “opens the door to the richness of the acoustic world,” she says, “where even a brief tap causes every object to sing its structure for all to hear.”  
 
Oh, and it gets you out there touching and tasting too.
 
 5.         More hometown pride
 
I mentioned that Philadelphia’s skyscrapers were higher than those in Phoenix a few weeks back, so perhaps it's only fitting to mention another Philly distinction.
 
Philadelphia is where the Godmother of Rock & Roll died and was buried, although few here know very much about Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
 
An amazing BBC documentary that’s called “The Godmother of Rock & Roll” tells you why paying Sr. Rosetta this kind of homage is justified. After you watch it, you’ll probably think so too.
 
But if you don’t have an hour or so just now, perhaps you have a couple of minutes to watch her play a mean guitar to a delirious audience that’s literally on the other side of the tracks at a Manchester England train station.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born in Arkansas but died in Philadelphia, which at that point in her career she called home. We wasted no time in claiming her forever.
 
In 2008, a concert was held in the city to raise funds for her gravestone, and according to an article called “Sister Rosetta’s Stone” that appeared at shoutsistershout.net, a historical marker honoring her was placed near her house in the Yorktown neighborhood shortly thereafter. When former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell was governor, he proclaimed January 11 as Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day in Pennsylvania.
 
Whoever says this isn’t a great place to live would be wrong. I hope you can find more reasons to say that about where you’re living too.


That's it for now. Have a good work week, and let me know what you're thinking either here, when you're on the website, or visiting via social media.

All best,
Copyright © 2017 David Griesing, All rights reserved.


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