Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at CFUNITED 2009 (Lansdowne, VA) with: Phill Nacelli

The School Of Practical Philosophy: Philosophy Works - Week Five

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: Life

I just finished week five of Philosophy Works at the School of Practical Philosophy. Things are going quite well; as the class has progressed, you can really feel the group coming together. Tonight's class, especially, felt very conversational. While the teacher still remains the class lead, we've definitely developed a solid camaraderie as a group and are now using each other's thoughts to branch off in new conversational directions. This pleases me greatly.

As I am just getting over a cold, my week hasn't felt all that philosophical. But, being that our exercise was to be aware of that which we give our attention to, I wanted to share what I did this weekend. For starters, I watched about twelve episodes of Law & Order. No joke - I was clearly indulging in my cold-induced state of malaise. This was a lot of fun, but I certainly didn't feel any better afterward.

Then, come Saturday, I got the urge to start writing some poetry in the spirit of Valentine's day. Between Saturday and Sunday, I probably spent about 4 hours rhyming, part of which became my Ode To ColdFusion, which I posted yesterday. As I was writing, I definitely felt invigorated; while my Law & Order stint felt relaxing, my writing felt energizing.

As I sat in class, reflecting on the weekend's activities, I theorized that the poetry had an additive effect because I was producing something; I was performing an action which resulted in a meaningful outcome. While I enjoy Law & Order greatly, once it is done, I have nothing to show for my time. Writing, however, feels deeply satisfying.


 
 
 

 
Dave Staring Kevin Kline.  
 
 
 

This got me thinking about the movie, Dave, staring Kevin Kline. In the movie, Kline plays a character whose job it is to find other people jobs. At one point, while standing in as the President of the United States, he brings up his experience helping people:

If you've ever seen the look on somebody's face the day they finally get a job, I've had some experience with this, they look like they could fly. And it's not about the paycheck, it's about respect, it's about looking in the mirror and knowing that you've done something valuable with your day.

Even as a young teenager, this quote touched me in a profound way. At that age, I already had a sense that pride and the feelings of self-esteem stemmed from one's ability to produce - to build, create, fashion, and solve problems. No doubt, I would be happier if I added more value-producing activities and removed those that left me empty handed.

After a while, the class went off on a bit of tangent about Acting vs. Reacting. To some degree, this is a huge part of everything that we've been talking about; but, I think it can be summed up beautifully as such:

Reaction is a prison; the road to freedom lies in Action.

The idea here is that we spend so much time being subjugated by our reactions - that they are the things that control us. Many of the exercises we've received in this class are all about gaining consciousness of the moment and thereby allowing us to Act without Reacting; to gain control and therefore a sense of freedom.

Once we got past our weekly reflections, we started to talk about Listening; about listening to ourselves and to others. I won't get into that stuff too much, but towards the end of class, the teacher asked us to write down the things we wanted to keep in mind this coming week. Here is what I put down:

  • Listen to tone and nature of my voice. What is my mode of speaking telling me? Am I rushed? Am I thinking? Am I nervous? Does the way I am speaking align properly with the thoughts that I am having?
  • Don't feel like you are sacrificing your time by listening to people pontificate. Rather, take responsibility to steer the conversation in a direction that is mutually beneficial. This approach will provide much more value over the long-run.

This week's exercise is to become more conscious of the things we say; and, should we realize that we are saying things that don't add value, stop talking and start listening. This sounds like a really good way to be.




Reader Comments

I think those productive moments are the same as the "aha" moments you get when you figure something new out. Both contribute to your own self-worth.

The quote you mention I think not only has to do with self-worth but others perception and the satisfaction you get when they find you as valuable as you believe you are.

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@Robb,

Most agreed. I think a good portion of your self-worth comes from how you think others perceive you. One might argue whether or not that is healthy; but, I think it's a fact.

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@Ben,

I believe the majority of it needs to come from yourself, but a certain amount of confirmation from others is healthy and needed.

A perfect example would be from the movie Hancock. "GOOD JOB!"

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While I enjoy Law & Order greatly, once it is done, I have nothing to show for my time. Writing, however, feels deeply satisfying.

What is it about us that we can't just sit and relax and we're constantly nervous if we don't have something to show for our time? Why must we be grinding the grindstone 24/7 these days? o_O

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@Todd,

I certainly enjoy my down time. Especially things like movies - I loooove movies. I don't mean to imply that entertainment is bad.

Likely, there is a lot of personal background behind my statement. Lately, I have been feeling less than effective when it comes to getting some things in my personal life done. I guess switching over to something a bit more measurably productive just felt a bit refreshing.

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Very interesting. For me, I really, really hate sitting around in places where there is a group conversation going on and I have no clue what is being talked about (can't hear). So, I usually bring my knitting along with me so that I can at least feel like I'm getting something done. Sure, it may seem rude to some other people, but for situations like this, I will usually select a project that doesn't require me to look at my knitting so much; I can then look at whoever is speaking and process the info that I can catch while setting my hands on autopilot.

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@Lola,

I have a lot of trouble picking voices out of crowds; as such, I try my best to avoid any conversations in crowded areas. Otherwise, I miss a lot of what is going on and it makes my uncomfortable.

I definitely don't think it's rude to try to avoid situations where you can't give people your attention. Seems like the right move.

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On this week five reflection of listening to others and "steer(ing) the conversation in a direction that is mutually beneficial"? Have you, by chance, read Quiet Leadership by David Rock? [My disclaimer: no kick-back, plug or otherwise, I just enjoy David's approach that speaks to this very thing and it has changed the way I used to focus during conversations.] Like Quiet... by S. Cain (your July 13th post 2012), there's brain studies at work in what David suggests and it's compelling stuff.

Kind regards,
Dawn

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