Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on April 4, 2009 at 01:28 PM

We must give enormous credit to the potential and the power that children possess. We must be convinced that children, like us, have stronger powers than those we have been told about, powers which we all possess — us and the children, stronger potential than we give them credit for. We must understand how, without even realising it, we make so little use of the energy potential within each of us. — Loris Malaguzzi


Comment by Queen of Carrots on April 3, 2009 at 03:29 PM

Two thoughts/questions, both related to the idea of finding your passion and pursuing it.

1.) Is it really possible for the world to work with everyone doing work they care about? Aren't there a few nasty jobs someone would get stuck with? Not that I would want to volunteer for them or train my children with that expectation. But there's a part of me that wants to make sure this option is available to everyone before I can promote it wholeheartedly. On the flip side, every unpleasant job I can think of, I've met or heard of somebody who enjoyed it. But--would there be enough people who develop a passion for scrubbing toilets or digging ditches for all the toilets and ditches needed? Maybe I shouldn't try to solve all the world's problems from here. :-)

2. How do you help an adult find his passion? My DH is a deeply abstract and imaginative person raised by very practical and prosaic parents (homeschooled, but in a just-finish-the-assignment kind of way), and he is just now waking up to realize he's done things because he was supposed to and has no idea what he really enjoys. But at 30 with four kids there's not much time or money for experimenting. How can I help him explore to find out what he really cares about?

Comment by Alison Kerr on April 3, 2009 at 04:02 PM

I think it's true, for most of us so much energy is directed negatively. If we just learn to turn that around and send the energy in a positive direction it's amazing what we are capable of. I've always felt I need to master this kind of thing for myself first before expecting my kids to fully thrive, become capable, and master their abilities. It's a daily journey.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 3, 2009 at 05:23 PM

Q.o.C., i love these questions. here are my thoughts.

“Is it really possible for the world to work with everyone doing work they care about? Aren't there a few nasty jobs someone would get stuck with?”

yes, i think it *is* possible. first of all, hypothetically, if a job exists that is *so* unpleasant that on one is interested in doing it, you can either make that job more lucrative (pay more $) or attractive (offer benefits) to entice someone to do it. or maybe we’ll just have to invent a way to get the job done more pleasantly!

second, the aim is for people to feel good about the work they do and find the meaning within it — not give everyone a posh job that pays a lot of money or makes the neighbors jealous. i truly believe that discovering meaningful work makes you appreciative of *all* work that people care about — not just jobs that look glamorous and/or have a big salary. a master craftsman in any line of work is going to feel a connection to another master craftsman, is going to see the beauty in work done well and with passion, whether that’s making a chair, a garden, an alternative fuel, or a home.

we can say we want to help our children find their meaningful work, but if we’re really thinking secretly that we want that work to be something lucrative and impressive, we’re on the wrong path. there are many, many people who, if everything was stripped away — people’s expectations, their duties, their responsibilities, their embarrassment, their egos — would be very happy to be doing something simple.

i hope other people chime in to share their feelings about this!

“How do you help an adult find his passion? … How can I help [my husband] explore to find out what he really cares about?”

again — what a fantastic question to think about.

i think this is absolutely key, because i really don’t believe you transmit values to your children that you don’t have for yourself. you can talk and talk and talk, but what you do is what is going to have the greatest impact.

on a really practical level, i think exploring your interests as an adult requires time, space, and attention — and we’re always short of time. but this kind of exploration requires relaxation. you have to be able to play. and you need time.

time can be easy to find if you examine your schedule and find you watch a lot of tv, say. but maybe you don’t, and you really don’t have much free time. in that case, i would say you need to remember that times can overlap — you can spend time with your children and still explore an interest; you can even be thinking about things at work, reading during lunch, etc.

in terms of opening up your mind to new possibilities — again, i have *my* thoughts about this, and i hope other people will chime in. reading — books and internet, getting out in the community and seeing what other people are doing, watching inspirational films, *journaling* (sometimes you tend to only see something once you’ve written it down), doodling or sketching, getting out in nature. i think breaking your routine is essential. do things differently, even little things. it wakes up your mind and lets you see the possibilities.

i think the hardest thing in doing this kind of work as an adult is shaking off those little voices in your head that are saying no-no-no — you should be working, you should be serious, this will never lead to anything, you can’t do that, you have responsibilities, you are already the person you are going to be, it‘s too late, etc.

but there is a phenomenon i call the “reverse spiral” — if you can get yourself to change one thing, it becomes exponentially easier to change something else, and then things start falling into place on their own. it’s like the domino effect, but in a positive sense — work hard at knocking that first domino over, and momentum will help from there.

excellent discussion topics, Q!

alison, that’s funny, what you wrote echoes what i was saying to Q.o.C. and i believe it completely — turning the boat is the hard part. thank you!

Comment by Stacey on April 3, 2009 at 08:05 PM

I have some ideas too on QoC's Questions.

A job's meaning may come from it's value to the community. While most people think garbage carriers have one of the dullest and gross jobs around, they are keeping their hometowns clean, they often are aware of what is going on (think of the old lady who lives alone and who didn't put out trash one week). That same job could be enticing when framed not only by the salary and benefits but also because of how much outside time it involves and how when the day is done work doesn't come home with them.

In terms of exploring personal creativity I would second the journaling/ sketchbook idea. I always have mine with me, as well as some colored pencils, if there are a few moments free I fill play. Another method, one we all use is the internet, think about how following one blog to another can bring new ideas (of course they can also drain an entire evening). My Dh is very linear while he was in grad school he only had time for his Tai Chi practice in his mind, so I explored what else might go with his acupuncture studies, tai chi practice and ended up getting him a beginners Chinese Caligraphy set ($20 max), he now mixes that into his practice schedule. I'm not suggesting buying exactly or buying anything, just apporach it the same way you would with your kids what does he seemed drawn to? Then make it around, take a few books out, rent a few documentaries on artists who knows. Or just send him to the library for an afternoon of browsing (oaky maybe that's just my dream afternoon)

We spend so much of our time trying to remember that children are not just little adults that we forget that adults still have a lot of wonder still left in them.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 3, 2009 at 08:39 PM

stacey, yes, that is what i was working toward — the idea that some jobs are considered not-good but if you could strip away the value judgment they might definitely appeal to someone. and also — a society consists of a population in flux. just because you are working as a garbage remover today doesn’t mean you will always do that job or want to do that job; maybe you are studying or working toward a different career, maybe you are supporting yourself as an artist, maybe you are on your way to owning a garbage removal company. a job may be much more palatable if it is temporary and answers your currrent needs well.

i love that tai chi / calligraphy suggestion … look for connections! excellent.

and library browsing would be my dream afternoon as well. ;^)

“We spend so much of our time trying to remember that children are not just little adults that we forget that adults still have a lot of wonder still left in them.” — beautiful, and so true. there was a book or something about the three (three?) boxes of life — learning/working/retirement, i think. and how most of us move from one to the other, but really we need to make sure our lives *always* contain work + learning + play. and likening adults to children again — what i was trying to express was that adults need to ease into this process in the same way that children do — through play, through exploration. that part of us that is creative and most tuned into play and the flow state.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 3, 2009 at 08:53 PM

Laura interviewed me over on her blog — anyone who is interested can check it out here:

thanks laura! :^)

i’ll put a note about this up on the main blog, too, for those who don’t participate in the open thread.

Comment by Amy on April 3, 2009 at 09:42 PM

Hmm. I think maybe I am better at identifying passions for my husband than for my kids? What does he talk about? For months my husband had been talking around brewing his own beer: "Hmm, maybe, that would be fun, if I had time, nah..." that sort of thing. So finally for Christmas I bought him a book, suggested some websites to look for supplies (because I know he likes to research and would enjoy figuring out what he needed), and tried to help make it a priority. Lord knows we are all short on time here. Right now I'm so short on time and space for myself that I'm just short with everyone as a result. But... he brewed a batch, spent loads of time researching before, during, and after, bought more ingredients, has a second batch going, and is musing what to do for the next batch. He's ordered another book that contains recipes, for when he's ready not to use kits anymore. I had been feeling bad that I was the only one with a hobby; now he seems to have one that he really enjoys. Also, in my make-believe fantasy parallel life, in which I'm raising sheep on a farm in Vermont for their organic wool, he now has a role. He is running the micro-brewery.

It occurs to me that I enabled my husband to begin a project. I wish I was as good at helping the kids.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 3, 2009 at 10:26 PM

amy, srsly, stop being so self-deprecating! your first foray into projects has been awesome.

it's wonderful that you were able to nudge him into taking on the new interest. have you ever had that experience (with kids *or* adults) when you try to do that and the other person says "thanks!", then never touches your gift, and you realize later you evidently killed their interest? maybe it's just me.

Comment by Annika on April 4, 2009 at 12:24 AM

My husband works on a loading dock. He used to be an executive at a production company, making mainstream comedy features. He is ten thousand times happier now. The salary sucks, the benefits are about the same, and he has time to do what he loves, which is write, during the week, and does not take his work home, which means he spends more time with his family. So I'd say there are always reasons for people to take a job that is not their passion and be happy doing so. (Our dream is for me to get enough freelance work that he can quit and go work part-time at UPS. Seriously.)

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 4, 2009 at 12:43 AM

agree. there are a whole host of reasons why a job might work for us. and meaningful *work* doesn’t necessarily equal meaningful *salaried employment*.

i have owned two businesses and raised a family and in all three of those situations, i was “CEO” *and* the guy who got to clean the toilets. so … sometimes (always?) a good or great job has its less-pleasant components, too.

Comment by Barbara in NC on April 4, 2009 at 12:58 AM

Thanks for sharing this quote, I swear just reading it I can feel my heart opening a little at the joyful possibilities!

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 4, 2009 at 01:16 AM

thank you, barbara! :^)

Comment by reneegrace on April 4, 2009 at 05:27 AM

Amy, interesting... my husband and two of the church guys (yes... :)) began brewing their own beer last year. They love it. Its bonding. Its a hobby. It cracks me up, and as long as they clean the kitchen when they are done, I'm good.

Now... for the kids...

Comment by JoVE on April 4, 2009 at 03:08 PM

Rushing out but saw your Tweet and thought this might be a useful contribution

(also retweeted so my small biz crowd might drop by)

Comment by Queen of Carrots on April 4, 2009 at 04:53 PM

Thanks for those thoughts. I was actually thinking the other day that I would love working as a letter carrier. OK, maybe not during bad weather. :-)

I like the journaling idea. I brought it up and he had thought of it, too, but perhaps I can help make it happen by making the stuff available. Like I said, he's very internal so he doesn't just bring things up; I have to dig. Recently he's started playing with Legos again--getting the sets he always dreamed of having and actually taking them apart and putting them together independent of the directions, which he never did as a kid. I think that's the corner. It's not quite as respectably adult of a pastime as beer brewing, but at least the kids love to watch him. What he really loves, I think, is fantasy world-building and I'm not sure where he'll go with that but it's exciting to see him give it a try.

I realize I'm going to have the same issues with our older son who also is very internal, they just haven't hit yet because he's still in the preschool stage of talking out loud to himself. Once that dialogue goes inside, it's going to take a very light touch to support his passions in a way that doesn't override him and leave him going along on the outside and living a completely separate life internally.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 4, 2009 at 05:52 PM

i love to play with LEGOs and have my own sets. :^P

that’s an interesting observation about your older son and the internal/external life.

Comment by Amy Chionis on April 4, 2009 at 08:58 PM

hot damn I am happy to have internet service again. I love these discussions.

I have recently started a new workout routine that has totally cracked open potential in me that I just never had the nerve to acknowledge. It has been all about setting ego aside and doing the work, and acknowledging and working with failure, practicing discipline, and celebrating success. It is amazing to me, what I am able to achieve, now that I am looped into my own potential - and am doing something that has deep value to me. At the same time, I am stepping back and very actively but quietly arranging all these pieces to get Benen into a language acquisition program and hook him up with hearing aids in the next few weeks and when I read the open thread quote it clicked in me that this is the fundamental belief that is driving me right now to do things I never considered doing for him before - that he has enormous ability and I have to be creative and flexible about how to help him unleash it. It is nice that our lives have paralleled a bit so that I can step back and see this as a parent; that he needs the space and resources to *get busy* just like I do.
I love how this discussion has focused on adults and the meaning in their work. I see in my own experience right now how the situation is no different for my son. Nice discussion, as usual!

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 4, 2009 at 09:56 PM

amy, i’m glad you’re back in!

i love this discussion, too — we need to live the values we want for our children. “do as i say, not as i do” doesn’t work. children are more likely to learn the lessons reflected in our real, everyday lives.

there is a sweet spot to challenge — you need to feel like it‘s difficult, but doable. like you’re stretching, but you can get there. if we experience this ourselves, we can help our children find it more easily.

thank you, amy!

Comment by trish on April 5, 2009 at 08:29 AM

hmmmm, maybe for the particularly unappealing jobs that don't require specific knowledge, everyone should just pitch in? a little utopian maybe, but perhaps to realize potential not just as separate individuals, but as healthy communities - group effort is needed. if each person in a community takes a turn at the "nasty" jobs, it would give some space to each individual to follow a passion, and then in turn, further contribute back into that community. i don't think that any life is comprised solely of doing work that is deeply cared about. life is little bits and pieces of this and that, and revolve around a life's passion.

i think one way to discover or rediscover a passion is to do the equivalent of "deschooling". i call it "de-living". that's not really a word ;) - but really, modern living is so noisy, most of us can't hear ourselves think, and just be able to "be". we're so bombarded - tv, internet, bosses, acquaintances, societally imposed restrictions - they all take pieces of us and our attention. alternately, spending time in our own skins, turning off the noise, engaging with friends and family and turning the idle down a few (or many) notches creates room for reflection and then, then, ideas and dreams have a place to take root.

i think kids benefit from this, too - maybe during the quiet times and spaces, they can learn how they want to use their power and creativity, dream and plot.....

okay, it's late and i'm rambling, please forgive spelling and the loose thoughts.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 5, 2009 at 06:20 PM

why not be utopian? obviously we are working toward something better … may as well be utopia!

we can’t stop trying to achieve because we can’t figure it all out right now; we are a long way from an ideal world where everyone is self-actualized and no one wants to scrape up road kill.

trish, i love your suggestion of a grown-up version of deschooling — stepping back from all the things that take up our brain space, the information overload, etc. beautiful!

your “quiet times and spaces” reminded me of my posts on white space:

and — kind of an aside — sometimes people talk about those enforced quiet times, whether it’s a power outage or a camping trip, and how mellow and relaxed and connected everyone was … we don’t necessarily need to wait for these things to happen once in a blue moon!

thank you, trish!

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