The Fun (and Necessity) of Physical Things

the fun of physical things

Would you rather play or watch?

Over three decades ago, I worked as a day baker for a retired professional athlete in my hometown, Lake Orion MI. This man was an interesting character. After playing Major League Baseball, he went into the food business but kept his hand in baseball. He did fantasy camps, consulted young athletes and their coaches, did color commentary on broadcast baseball games, signed autographs at card shows, etc. However, he let me know more than once that he’d rather play than watch baseball any day. (Detroit Tiger pitcher Mickey Lolich was my boss, for those interested.)

We are physical creatures. We have five senses, all clamoring for stimulation. The essence of feeling more alive, not less, is to be fully, bodily involved in life, whenever possible. An actual, rather than a virtual, existence.

The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax is easily the most interesting read I’ve come across in the past few years. This is not simply a book about the resurrection of the vinyl LP market. It includes that, but also has chapters on board games (Settlers of Catan), film photography (FILM Ferrania), longhand writing and sketching (Moleskine) and much more.

Sax is a journalist in Toronto, ON. The opening of a new vinyl record shop near his apartment renewed his lost love for 33⅓ hot wax. He bought a turntable and began bringing home records. Inspired by his experience with turntable and record albums, he ventured out into the world to places like Nashville, London, Milan and New York to understand why people—many of them born after turntables, rotary phones and typewriters were ubiquitous and who’ve been raised in the speed-of-light, digital world—are turning back to simpler, more archaic forms of hobby and interest. What he found was stunning.

Physical things like record albums, pencils, chess boards, film and brick-and-mortar bookstores are not dying; they are attracting interest and market capital. Oh, and making money. Sax uses analog as a metaphor for things that involve physical, face-to-face interaction, with as many senses involved as the experience will allow. An analog approach and technology is about the experience of the participant.

There are many benefits to analog technology but here’s just one: It slows you down as you use it. Analog things cause you to be in the moment due to their slower and ungainly nature. They don’t depend on fiber-optics and binary number combinations. 1’s and 0’s have their limits.

What are some of your favorite analog things? Records, real print books, Monopoly, hand woodworking tools? And how can adopting or revisiting analog technologies and practices give you a richer life in addition to your digital, online world?

Tell us in the comments!

 

Suggested Resources:

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day (Michael Gelb)

Measure Twice, Cut Once: Lessons from a Master Carpenter (Norm Abram)

 

Image Credit: Christian Fahey

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Think It Through!

IBM founder Thomas Watson became famous, in part, because of a slogan he’d picked up as a young sales manager for National Cash Register Company.  He made it the defining motif for Big Blue from the 1920’s to the present.

Think.

“Think” signs were plastered all over IBM so that every employee, from the janitor to the senior vice president, would capture the vision that strategic thinking would help the company to grow and flourish.  He made a forceful case that the phrase “I didn’t think” was one of the main reasons why companies lost millions of dollars.  Many IBM employees—engineers and others—would carve out big chunks of time every day simply to think.

One of the reasons why things tend to stress us out us is the bad habit of not thinking a thing through and solving the problem by thoroughly understanding it.  We tend to be impatient and want everything now, especially solutions.  This applies to any area of life, not just mechanical headaches like a malfunctioning smartphone.

In his book The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, M. Scott Peck points out that simplistic thinking, which he labels simplism, is the plague of our times.  And the reason for not thinking challenges through is that real thought is hard work!

I know a dad who regularly counseled his adult sons when first entering the real world of work to “think it through” when considering possible courses of action.  My wife likes to call this process “playing the tape to the end.”

Here are some tips to improve your own strategic, solution-based thinking:

  • Create an undistracted atmosphere.  Turn off your smartphone for a while and give yourself to the task at hand.
  • Think with pencil and paper in hand.  Or pen and Moleskine. Leonardo Da Vinci is famous for his Journals, filled with math, drawings, aphorisms and sundry jottings.  Writing things out clarifies your own muddy thinking.
  • Look at your challenge from multiple angles.  Da Vinci again.  He used to sketch things from three different angles, including upside-down, so that he would not miss details and had a better picture of the whole.  Thomas Aquinas, in his famous Summa Theologica, used to state a thesis. Then he’d come up with every possible argument against his thesis.   Then he’d finish with even more powerful arguments in favor of his position.
  • Try seeing your riddle through the eyes of a child.  Albert Einstein was famous for this.  His child-like approach to physics gave us his theories of special and general relativity.  A true “outside-the-box” thinker.

Remember that thinking is hard work, but well worth the effort.  You will be surprised how many more solutions will emerge as you give patience and focus to thinking things through.

 

Suggested Resources:

Good Thinking: What You Need to Know to be Smarter, Safer, Wealthier, and Wiser (Guy P. Harrison)

Leonardo’s Notebooks: Writing and Art of the Great Master (Leonardo da Vinci & H. Anna Suh)

 

Image Credit

 

Get Organized!

I’m a very organized male.  I have many weaknesses, but disorganization is not one of them.  (My friends say I’m a retentive.)  Time is something that none of us gets back once we squander it.  And disorganization is a big time-eating monster.  When you are unable to find what you’re looking for, time is a casualty.

Being a messy is very costly.

There’s an old adage that goes “ a place for everything; everything in its place.”  This is a real key.  How many times have you gone to your local Wal-Mart or Home Depot to buy something you know you had around the house somewhere, only to find out when doing a thorough cleaning that you had three or four of the thing you were looking for?

Disorganization also costs money.  I bet that got your attention.

Our public and collegiate libraries have very specific systems for classifying books—the Dewey and Library of Congress decimal systems respectively.  Why? So patrons can get the materials they are looking for with dispatch and little stress.

You can implement the same kind of thinking to declutter your life and take better care of your stuff, your money and your time.  And as a corollary, your life.

Here are some suggestions that have helped me.  Perhaps they’ll help you.

  • Allocate drawers and specific spaces in your house for your tools, clothes, cooking utensils.  Try to keep each thing with its family.  Sockets with sockets, chisels with chisels.
  • Make files for nearly everything.  Emails, news articles, documents, spreadsheets.  Files are indispensible.
  • If you’re a collector, alphabetize your collections by author or artist.  I do this for my library and music.  You can also classify by topic.  I have different sections of my library—over 3000 books—and can point borrowing friends right where they want to look to find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Use your smart phone, a PDA, or a day planner to organize your days and appointments.  If you use Microsoft Office Outlook, you can use the calendar to remind you with messages for upcoming appointments.  As far as day planners go, if you like bulk, go for Franklin Covey.  I used one for about sixteen years.  Moleskine and others have scaled-down versions that are very helpful.  Check out your local Staples or Office Max for a whole lot more.
  • Use spreadsheets.  Microsoft Excel has all sorts of neat features that allow you to keep track of everything from your stocks to collections to family budgets.

Get organized!  You will find you get a lot more done in less time and have less loss as you get things in order.

Have at it!

Image Credit

 

Organization 101: A Place For Everything

I’m a very organized male.  I have many weaknesses, but disorganization is not one of them.  (My friends say I’m a retentive.)  Time is something that none of us gets back once we squander it.  And disorganization is a big time-eating monster.  When you are unable to find what you’re looking for, time is a casualty.

Being a messy is very costly.

There’s an old adage that goes “ a place for everything; everything in its place.”  This is a real key.  How many times have you gone to your local Wal-Mart or Home Depot to buy something you know you had around the house somewhere, only to find out when doing a thorough cleaning that you had three or four of the thing you were looking for?

Disorganization also costs money.  I bet that got your attention.

Our public and collegiate libraries have very specific systems for classifying books—the Dewey and Library of Congress decimal systems respectively.  Why? So patrons can get the materials they are looking for with dispatch and little stress.

You can implement the same kind of thinking to declutter your life and take better care of your stuff, your money and your time.  And as a corollary, your life.

Here are some suggestions that have helped me.  Perhaps they’ll help you.

  • Allocate drawers and specific spaces in your house for your tools, clothes, cooking utensils.  Try to keep each thing with its family.  Sockets with sockets, chisels with chisels.
  • Make files for nearly everything.  Emails, news articles, documents, spreadsheets.  Files are indispensible.
  • If you’re a collector, alphabetize your collections by author or artist.  I do this for my library and music.  You can also classify by topic.  I have different sections of my library—over 3000 books—and can point borrowing friends right where they want to look to find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Use your smart phone, a PDA, or a day planner to organize your days and appointments.  If you use Microsoft Office Outlook, you can use the calendar to remind you with messages for upcoming appointments.  As far as day planners go, if you like bulk, go for Franklin Covey.  I used one for about sixteen years.  Moleskine and others have scaled-down versions that are very helpful.  Check out your local Staples or Office Max for a whole lot more.
  • Use spreadsheets.  Microsoft Excel has all sorts of neat features that allow you to keep track of everything from your stocks to collections to family budgets.

In coming posts, I will share more specific tips.  You will find you get a lot more done in less time and have less loss as you get things in order.

Have at it!

Image Credit