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I’m Full of Hot Air: The Chemistry of Creativity

8 Feb
Nothing like walking around with my head in the clouds aka being full of hot air!

I LOVE being full of hot air.

My hot air-head is usually filled with new ideas popping in my brain as my feet prance in step. Creativity – new ideas – is chemistry, and easily explained with the Gas Laws.

Boyle and Charles, scientists at the end of the 18th century took these intuitive, every day principles (i.e. the chemistry of weather) and solidified them – put them into writing and chemistry books everywhere. If you don’t remember the chemistry itself (PV=nrT anyone??), no problem because I think, you’ll get how the principles themselves can take (my) brilliant ideas that pop to a solid book/workshop. Science is REAL and following gas laws, and really, applying any scientific principle to our everyday life is a guide to success.

Teaching the Gas Laws as a first year chemistry teacher was terrifying; I procrastinated and didn’t teach it till the end of the year. But the Laws are intuitive and FUN – ever seen an egg sucked into a flask or thought about why popcorn pops? While I won’t re/teach the Gas Laws here, I can summarize the basics using water as an example – and one we deal with on a daily basis:

This is the very simplest way to think about the gas laws: clouds (gas) to rain (liquid) with cooling temp. Decrease the temp even more and it all turns to snow/ice (solid). Technically, it’s more complicated: Pressure (P) and Volume (V) (space) come into play and impact change from one phase to the next.

THE GAS PHASE

Emotionally and metaphorically, it’s simple and starts with a ‘kernel’ of an idea that gets planted in your brain:

It all starts with a ‘kernel of an idea’ that gets my brain going.

Head full of hot air like me? That ‘kernel of an idea’ generates energy and hot air floats your head in the clouds. And it’s not just your head – but your whole body feels like it’s floating on a cloud – fueled by a new idea, opportunity, planning a special event, or, a new crush. It’s wonderful!

Kernel of an idea + energy = ‘Popcorn Brain’

Meanwhile, back in my head, my ideas pop and expand my brain and way of thinking. As a brainstorming technique, ‘pop-corning’ gets people sharing ideas that zip, pop, and, collide to create new ideas and possibilities (without dismissing any idea!). (My definition of ‘popcorn brain’ is self-generated ideas – not ideas from too much time in cyberspace!)

Then that kernel of an idea, with all that energy from the hot air in my head – starts popping!

Ideas pop all through the night….

Turns out even my dreams ‘pop’!

Of course there is a downside to a ‘popcorn brain’. Constantly evolving ideas keep (me) from finishing projects, since new ideas keep exploding and killing off the old. My ‘popcorn brain’ has expanded Human Nature Concepts while keeping it floating in hot air for nine years!

The upside is a ‘popcorn brain’ energizes and allows each ‘kernel of an idea’ to fully expand. But an idea is just that unless there ACTION. ACTION is the only way to ultimately get to a solid product, and, that means leaving the gas phase.

MOVING OUT OF THE GAS PHASE

How to take action? Gas Laws strategies guide the transition from gas to solid phase. Technically, I know I need to apply pressure and SIT, decrease volume of words. Emotionally, the steps look easy…

I’m challenged to actually sit and write.

It’s so hard though to move out from gas to the solid phase; otherwise there wouldn’t be so many self-help books/youtube videos to help us get to this next step, right?

That’s why the Gas Laws are so brilliant, if followed. Somehow all I need to do is transfer energy (aka decreasing temperature) from the idea from inside my head to the outside world by talking and/or writing (this blog). I’ve found combining words and pictures is what I needed to move into the liquid phase.

CONDENSING IDEAS TO BABBLING TILL FLOW

FINALLY! I’m blogging and talking my way through the liquid phase, CONDENSING my words, till they easily flow in a concise-ish way (like condensation on your car windows as warm breathing form droplets).

With a little pressure and transferring energy from thought to talk, my idea enters the liquid phase: babbling a bit until my ideas start to flow. Not all ideas ‘pop’ – there are always some duds that deserve to lie on the bottom of the pan (continuing with the popcorn metaphor!)

For some, talking is easy. As an introvert/internal processor, my initial entry into the liquid phase is babbling – with ideas flying around, and begging to be tamed into a nice flowing stream of thought. It takes time, and very patient people to listen.

GETTING TO THE SOLID PHASE

Working ideas through the liquid phase takes time, work, and practice to get the key concepts to gel. You’re helping me by reading this, as is everyone who listens to me talk. Thank you.

Writing is hard, but somehow it’s even harder SITTING in one place and focusing – really transferring all energy to the end project. YIKES! Gas Laws tell us it’s about decreasing volume: aka sitting in one place, preferably with few distractions. And adding pressure: pressure in the form of an external deadline helps – a lot. The pressure of a deadline is what gets so many of us to stop talking and finally acting: even if it means pulling all-nighters studying or finishing taxes!

This is me today taking ACTION, Sitting in a ‘contained space/volume’, and focused on a deadline, I’m transferring energy from babbling into a flow of ideas (with lots of tea and coffee breaks…).

I need pressure (and accountability) to sit and write – so my goal: self-publish a workbook for doing workshops by 31 May!

In summary, here are 3 steps to move ideas from gas to solid:

  • Give your ideas time to ‘pop’, expand, and get worked out inside your ‘popcorn brain’ head.
  • Take your ‘hot air’ energy and focus thoughts (condense ideas by decreasing their volume) by writing and/or talking. Keep babbling whether speaking or writing until ideas start to flow smoothly. Sit.
  • Last, keep adding pressure: sit – find a place to sit and write (if that’s what you’re doing), find an audience and focus your flow until ideas gel into a ‘solid’ and compact form. Add deadline pressure, even if self-imposed. Ask others to keep you accountable! Find the ‘right’ environment to sit, focus and work- complete with coffee/tea/snacks and materials you need to work.
From start to finish before it starts all over again, this is a summary from gas – to liquid – to solid. See the above pic for the most important step – sitting and working it all through.

Remember SCIENCE IS REAL and the Gas Laws as guidelines work! It’s definitely a process I’ve continually relearned while hovering between the gas and liquid phase.

Remember: pressure + volume + ACTION = solid product.

Working through the phases is a team effort. I’m thankful to all who have listened to my ‘hot air’ thoughts, listen and read my babbling/flow of ideas in person and on this blog. That includes you, my reader. I appreciate you and would love to hear your thoughts.

A SOLID PRODUCT

My solidified idea – will be a workbook/guide for workshops. I’ll be in a contained volume/space by April and added the pressure of a 31 May deadline.

Solid ideas are ‘written in stone’ (or on a bowl of popcorn??). YET, solid ideas are always open to change, evolution, and, expansion, whether it’s a hard science, or the ideas we create and ‘publish’. The best solid idea, and the purpose of Human Nature Concepts, is a beginning to spark new thoughts and new ideas.

Ideas have power: power to change, create, and recreate as they spark and new ‘kernels of ideas’ and creating new ‘popcorn brains’.

Treat your popping ideas with respect and care. Little ideas can change the (your) world – it’s E=mc2: a small amount of energy creates a huge ‘boom’!

Let’s all do our part to solidify our ideas and share with the world.

What ‘kernel of an idea’ is ready to pop in your head? How can the process help? How can I help?

Decomposing Failure: 2020 Vision

7 Jan

I believe: ‘Everything I need to know in life I coulda, woulda, shoulda learned from Mother Nature’.

So why not think of failure the way Mother Nature does?

Nature’s dead stuff is whisked ‘away’ and recycled into spring’s fall fling (aka new growth) as I wrote about decomposers being the unsung heroes of the forest. Failure, like dead stuff on the ground outside our house has to go somewhere, otherwise it builds up and drowns us. It makes me wonder: how do we recycle OUR personal ‘dead’ stuff? Mother Nature brilliantly has decomposers to keep nutrients flowing – surely we can do something similar, right?

Dead stuff is how we may feel inside when we’ve failed. Failure being the death of us, or more likely a dream.

When did ‘FAIL’ and ‘LOSE’ become such bad 4-letter words. And why???

Failure may not be fun, but it can be a wonderful experience. Really – it’s not just something someone says who’s successful.

Imagine failure in nature, whether a plant dying, a giraffe captured by a lion (and dying) as natural; little experiences that feed into the future. (I live by my emotions, yet our human emotions separate us from nature in an unnatural way.)

Like nature, we can break down the ‘dead’ stuff from our experiences (aka failure) and grab the leanings to recreate our actions, thoughts, and, lives. It’s all about working out the ‘bugs’ (sorry, a decomposer pun…).

Not all flowers blossom; just like not all dreams bloom. Nature doesn’t give up and neither should we!

There may be reasons for failure, but also things that can be changed. It feels horrible to be sure, but think of the stories!

So here are four thoughts as we head into 2020 to think ‘naturally’ about failure and cultivate your life and grow your dreams:

  • Face it: failure happens.
  • Look at what went wrong: OUCH!
  • Make a change or two: tending to your life is like tending to a garden, even if like me, you don’t garden…
  • See what grows and do it all over again!

Change sometimes happens by being open and acknowledging failure – and the reasons for the failure.

Celebrating what you’ve learned, rather than wallowing in the shame gives the confidence to move forward and try again – and again – and again.

Mulch those learnings and remember to supply the right resources for growth!

Like all good (metaphorical and other) scientists, I view my life as an experiment. I fail – a lot. In fact, I view this blog as an experiment to work through my ideas. Each post is a seed I’m planting; finding ways to nurture that idea to blossom in the best way. I expect to make lots of changes as I mulch and decompose what doesn’t work. (And as my drawing skills improve.) Most of all I’m finding that putting these ideas ‘out there’ after thinking and talking about them for almost a decade is freeing and FUN! So please, join my exploration of how human nature mimics the laws of science and nature!

AND

Build on what you learn – don’t drown in OTHER PEOPLE’s voices. Listen to your own voice and GROW!

TAKING ACTION IS NEVER A FAILURE! TO FAIL MEANS YOU PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE. BRAVO!!

Wishing you the happiest of risks, the best possible learnings – failures be damned in 2020.

10 Characteristics to ensure a Big Bang Life!

21 Jun

Today’s the day to nurture and flaunt your inner scientist!

Do you diligently watch Big Bang Theory reruns?  Sneak into Star Trek conventions in strange cities?

While TV’s Big Bang nerds are cast as socially inept, it’s likely the coolest kids would be envious of their social network.

Like most things in life, it’s not what you know  but how you use it.

Time to rethink scientist’s bad rep.

Chemist from NYC Tech Day (google???)

Chemist from NYC Tech Day (google???)

Believing human behavior mimics the laws of science,  what makes a good scientist?  Is it biology or chemistry?  Alchemy at birth?

Here’s a compilation of the best scientists 10 characteristics.  For fun, insert your name for the word scientist:

1. Curiosity:  good scientists are insatiably curious about life’s ‘every things’.  I imagine their favorite word, like most 2-year old’s is ‘WHY’, marrying curiosity with child-like wonder.  (Hmm, picture the progeny!)  Curiosity can turn any experience into an adventure:  it prompts us to act, to take risks.  Though I wonder:  how will our ability to google everything impact our pursuit of curiosity?

Do we love George because he's a monkey - or because of his mischievious and enviable curiosity?

Do we love George because he’s a monkey – or because of his mischievous and enviable curiosity?

2. Open-minded and free of bias:  Great scientists are objective.  Imagine entering into situations and interactions without prejudice or tight and tiny opinions.  Open-minded scientists suspend judgement about findings until they are sure (and scientists really never are).  Wait – are eggs good or bad for us this week?  That’s one way to look at it.  Suspending judgement, like oil in water, allows scientists to continue observing and gathering data, while continuing their search for the best solution and opportunity.   Staying open-minded would lighten our load vs. carrying judgements and opinions.

3. Keen observer:  Scientists look and listen at information/data.  Never knowing what is most important, everything is considered and noted.  On the simplest level, it’s applying curiosity, watching and listening, for example, to loved ones behavior and actions, without bias.   Improved relationships anyone?

Observing life through a kaleidoscope

Observing life through a kaleidoscope

4. Resourceful:  Scientists look for avenues to explore in unexpected ways.  Have you ever seen some of those projects being funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the Federal Government?   For starters, I’m sure if I was a scientist I could get the NSF to fund my training for developing these characteristics in students!

5. Purposeful:  Scientists (often) believe they can change and improve the world through their research.  We’ll assume it’s not all about money or the plot of a Hollywood sic-fi thriller.  Imagine applying curiosity and resourcefulness to improve the world:  we could be styrofoam free, greenhouse gases would be relegated back to greenhouses, farmers applying the art of fallow could grow pesticide-free crops, and well-written sitcoms would edge out reality TV.  Perhaps we could  achieve world peace.

6. Good communicator:  While scientists are competitive due to funding and Nobel Prizes, they also need to communicate and share information, especially to us, non-scientists.  How is that doctors can’t explain a procedure or an ailment without an interpreter?  Sadly there are a handful of scientists who make it to the small screen and are deemed understandable:  Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan to name a few.  As I see it, scientific rules and laws simply and clearly mimic our human nature (shameless plug here for all the posts to come on this blog!).  And while it’s a scientist’s challenge:  science is simple at its core.

7. Persistent:  Scientists don’t give up when proving their passion.   Consistently, they can pursue the same hypothesis for many, many, years, following good scientific protocol changing one variable at a time.  Over time they learn through experimentation, slowly building evidence to prove or disprove their hypothesis.  It’s about  following dreams – logically.  Unlike (me), constantly drenched by chasing rainbows (or butterflies?) muddying my purpose.

Ever notice how all the really cool science stuff is for kids?

Ever notice how all the really cool science stuff is for kids?

8. Creative:  Scientists, through observation and open-mindedness come up with new problems and new ways to problem-solve.   Einstein said it best:  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Personally I am victim to old biases and protocols clogging my creativity.  Sadly, the great boxed science experiments on store-shelves and in classrooms all have a set protocol and a ‘right answer’.  Creativity uncovers MANY right answers.

9. Critical Thinker:  Of course to get the most bang from experimental buck, scientists know all about logical analysis. What’s most critical, is remaining emotion-free, a challenge to many of us.  This is problem solving blended with creativity and an exacting methodology, while examining the observed.

10. Courage:  Scientists ‘get’ being laughed at for beliefs and hypothesis (even outside of social situations).  Is the world really round?  Imagine holding strongly to a belief and persistently plotting to prove and accomplish your passion?   REAL courage is all about staying open-minded and living without judgement.

Perhaps what I love most about this list is how ubiquitous these characteristics are for any person interested in a full life.  Including every manager, parent, friend, and human being.  I would be a better person by being a ‘better scientist’.  An exploration I can apply purpose and curiosity to!

Sure, scientists may be ‘different’ than you or me, but it’s not what you have – or even who you are:  It’s all about what you do with the qualities you posses!.

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