One of the many joys of parenthood is sharing the joys of discovery with your child. With my three older children, I was not as attuned to this discovery phase. Looking back, I find it ironic that discovery and explorer Dad weren’t recognizing the joy of discovery that was present in their everyday lives. Thankfully, with my 2-year old daughter, I am right with her as she discovers the world around her.
To her, the entire world is wide open and just waiting for her to observe and experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a run in the backyard, down the street, a trip to a farm or even walking around a room in someone else’s house. It is all new and exciting to her and in many ways, I envy her. Of course, when her discovery causes trouble (her “real” middle name) it is difficult for me to be too upset. After all, this is all part of both her discovery and her version of Intelligent Fast Failure. It takes diligent effort to guide her discoveries to accentuate the positives and minimize the negatives. After all, the last thing I would want to do is squelch her discovering.
But somehow as we grow older, the taking on of life’s responsibilities and the better understanding of risks and reciprocal actions, takes us further and further away from those unbridled discovery days. And even though I personally enjoy rafting down an unknown-to-me river, hiking on a new path or even piloting my plane to a new-to-me destination, I feel less likely to go boldly in a new direction than perhaps in years past. Perhaps this is why I relish landing at airports that I haven’t landed at yet. To me, this is discovery and exploration, albeit in a quasi-controlled environment.
I also recall a particular trip taken in the pre-GPS days (only 20 years ago) where the only directives were to travel on non-interstate type roads going in either a north or west direction. We had maps with us but they were banished to the glove compartment and not to be consulted until we decided to return home. We (my buddy Jake and I) left Chicago on a fall Monday morning and three days later found ourselves in Miles City, Montana.
Along the way, we discovered fantastic little towns with odd claims to fame (one town claimed on their welcome sign 654 people and 1 old grump), crossed over the majestic Missouri river in South Dakota, enjoyed Mount Rushmore left practically to ourselves, hiked partially up Devils Tower in Wyoming and visited Home on the Range, North Dakota. It was one of the best trips I have ever taken comparing favorably with other more exotic destinations. We never consulted any map and just took whatever road we fashioned, truly exploring and discovering the entire trip.
So here’s the challenge to recreating this discovery, albeit, without the risk of actually getting lost: First, turn off the GPS in your vehicle and don’t consult the GPS on your smart-phone (at any point in the trip you can always turn it back on to navigate home). Then set off on any road in any direction and just keep going. The trip could be an hour, a day or however long you wish to travel. The world outside of your familiarity zone beckons. What will you find and/or discover? What new or creative thoughts might be inspired as a result?
But getting lost doesn’t have to involve a physical journey. We can get lost in a good book, while listening to music, even while dining on a great meal. All of these serve the purpose of damping the active conscious and with that, accentuating the sudden awareness of everything the subconscious has to offer.
Furthermore, all of these activities, and especially music, is likely to trigger memories and thoughts of people, places and things from the past. All of us can likely listen to a particular song and immediately be reminded of another time. Perhaps it was something or someone present when we first heard the song. Or perhaps there was a special memory of that song. We are especially attached to our songs. Our personal playlists can’t help but conjure up these warm happy memories. The resulting feelings are likely to inspire our subconscious with the resulting idea spigot turned on and running rapidly.
There is more to music than simply getting lost in the songs and memories. I started a personal experiment several years ago regarding personal theme songs. We can all probably hear a theme music/song from a television show and instantly recognize the show. Any further introduction is not necessary as we instantly recall everything we used to know about the show, its premise, actors, etc.
Using this premise, I have asked people I know the following question: If a certain music or song could play prior to your entry into a room and upon hearing the music, everyone in the room would instantly associate it with you, what would that song be? In other words, what is your personal theme song?
This question can provoke considerable thought. First, we need to honestly assess ourselves, our personalities and that special something that uniquely identifies us. Then we need to reframe that in how other people view us. Finally, we need to marry the two and find a song/music that captures that conjoined view. The answer should be obvious enough to both you and your friends/family/acquaintances so that assent is assured and no further explanation is necessary.
In other words, to answer this question, we need to undertake three distinct discoveries. These three are self-discovery, discovery of self as viewed by others, and musical discovery.
For some people, the answer will be quick and obvious. For others, the answer may be quick but not obvious. Remember, if it’s not obvious, then the discovery has not unearthed an optimal answer. The answer should require no further explanation. And for others, the answer will be neither quick nor obvious. In fact, I have still not received an answer from some of those that I have asked (was it something I said?).
In all fairness and in effort to further clarify the concept of personal theme songs, I will reveal my personal theme song. But first, let’s go through the discovery process.
I have always had an affinity to drive much faster than the posted speed limits, primarily on interstates, but sometimes even on surface streets. While I have recently significantly tempered the extent of my speeding, I still have difficulty staying at the speed limit, electing to use the unofficial tolerances (up to 8 miles per hour faster than the speed limit). In fact, in the past, I have had my driving time between Chicago and other points such as New York, Baltimore, Louisville and even San Francisco challenged as not fast enough. Being young and stupid (at the time), I took on the challenges and usually beat the previous times and without a citation.
Many of my friends have traveled with me and personally witnessed my speeding. I think it is safe to say that speeding is part of who I am and is recognized as such by my friends and family. So what song best personifies this trait? The quick and obvious answer: I Can’t Drive 55 by Sammy Hagar (CBS Records, 1983). I have as of yet to find a friend or family member that doesn’t agree that this song is me; in other words, the perfect personal theme song.
Try this one out on yourself and while asking others as well. You will be surprised at what you self-discover and discover of others.
So if you ask me how can and should we self-inspire ideas, my response would be to get lost!
Author: Moe Glenner