Surprise!

“Joy has a way of showing up when we least expect it. As we move through the stream of daily life, tiny moments can capture our attention and turn our thoughts in a joyful direction. These moments can be especially powerful in times of stress or sadness.” – Ingrid Fetell Lee

So, I was just reading articles on designer Ingrid Fetell Lee’s blog when I clicked a hyperlink that led me to this website:

Then, I moved my mouse a little while reading the title page then, I was surprised to found out that a few words were “washed” away.

It put me out of “calm” mode. I was back to my kid-like self wherein I began to notice something novel and I want to see where it ends. And after “washing” away the letters. This is what remained:

Oh gosh. Something that brought me joy at that moment.

Designer Ingrid Fetell Lee wrote about surprise and how it can improve your mood throughout the day in her book, Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness,

“Surprise has a vital purpose: to quickly redirect our attention. It acts like a warning bell for the brain, alerting us to a gap between what’s happening in front of us and what we had anticipated. In stable, predictable situations, the parts of the brain that attend to our environment slip into a kind of background mode. Our awareness of our immediate surroundings recedes while our conscious mind thinks through a problem, carries on a conversation, or daydreams. But an unexpected noise or tap on the shoulder brings the mind and senses into a state of sudden vigilance.” wrote Lee, “the increased alertness and arousal of the surprise response can also prepare us to take advantage of joys that come from out of the blue: serendipitous events (e.g., Ryan Gosling shooting a movie down the street), unlikely windfalls (ooh, free ice cream!), or changing circumstances (say, an early spring) that could influence our happiness for the better.”

She explains, “While these moments of joy might seem fleeting, they can have lasting effects because they help to promote upward spirals of positive emotions. Joyful surprises bring our attention away from ourselves and back out into the world, prompting us to approach and engage. They incite curiosity, spur exploration, and increase the chances we’ll interact with others in ways that keep the positive vibes flowing.”

Though in time of my discovery of that website, I wasn’t sad or anything but just merely reading articles when suddenly I discovered something out of the ordinary.

What joy I felt when I began to realize how great I felt in being surprised. And surprises are great especially when you are having a bad day.

It pulls your mind out of cruise control and heightens your focus on the surroundings around you. In times of overthinking-ness and anxiousness, surprises keeps you out of ruminating. And hence, I’m always on a look out for them.

I realized that when I started actively and consciously choosing joy, joyful things starts coming out of my view more often.

A while ago, while I was looking up the sky. A bird landed on the roof below me and then the bird flew in my direction that I started closing the window immediately because it may be go and be trapped inside our room (thank goodness, it did not). Thankfully, it went in an another direction. Then, I just chuckled at how I reacted.

I cannot control what life will give me but I can control in how I perceive them. There are more surprising things out there and I’m on a mission to find more of them!

Looking Up The Sky

Studies have concluded that looking up the sky can make you feel “small” and that is not a bad thing. It actually gives you perspective- that you are just this tiny thing in the universe who will be dead in the next century or so hence, most of the thing we worry about are unimportant in the face of death anyway. So, we should just live life.

In the book, Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, author and designer Ingrid Fetell Lee wrote about a study about people feeling “small” beside a grand landscape like a mountain, rock formation, grand architectural building, or anything that makes them look up,

“In a study led by researcher Yang Bai, tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and Yosemite National Park were asked to draw pictures of themselves. When the researchers compared the resulting drawings, they found that people drew themselves as much smaller when immersed in the grandeur of Yosemite than in the hubbub of San Francisco. This study offers a striking illustration of the experience many people have in moments of awe: the feeling of being “small or insignificant.” Keltner calls this phenomenon the small self, and while it may sound unpleasant, in fact for most people it comes with a euphoric feeling of resonance and oneness with other beings. People in this state often say that they feel the presence of a higher power and that day-to-day concerns recede from their attention.

Well, that is also why churches need to be big because it represents God (and of course for practicality reasons too- seating capacity, to store valuable artifacts, etc.).

That is exactly why when you are having a bad day or bad mood, take a break and look up the sky for a few minutes. A lot of research studies concluded that looking up or even going up is correlated to joy.

Look up in the sky. It will not solve your problems, however, it will make you feel joy and feeling joy is important to your overall well-being. It takes you away from your concerns but to just be in this present moment right now.

Another thing, looking up gets you to daydream. And daydreaming is one of the ways to get your brain into default mode network (DMN) and this is great especially if you are brainstorming, or looking for solutions to a problem.

Journalist Celestee Headlee writes about DMN in her book Do Nothing,

” The default mode network, or DMN, becomes active when we allow our minds to wander. When the DMN is engaged, it works on our memories, putting past events into context and making moral evaluations about things that have happened. It also imagines the future, tries to understand the emotions of others, and reflects on our own emotions and decisions. The default network is crucial for empathy, for self-reflection, and for Theory of Mind, the ability to imagine what others may be thinking. Allowing our brains to switch into default mode is crucial for our well-being. That’s the source of much of our creativity and innovation, since the brain actively reshuffles the puzzle pieces of our memories and emotions when it’s not directed to solve a problem or complete a task.”

Right now, I given myself a few days to brainstorm ideas before starting my research paper for a proposed corporate tower design. A while ago morning, while I was looking up the sky, I got another idea for what I should put in my design. This is another moment that proves why daydreaming and taking a break is important.

Things are starting to pile up as school days passed by, and this is where taking a break needs to be a constant conscious decision. There are days wherein taking a break can make me feel guilty but no. Preventing myself from overworking and overdoing is significant than anything.

I hope you are doing well and remember to take breaks every now and then. Look up.

We move forward because we have faith.

Paulo Coelho:
None of us know what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have faith.

This is my 100th post (yay!). My creative journey started last April and six months later, I made it alive enough to write my 100th post. Reading the book Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley made me start my creative journey.

When I started, I remember how I was terrified that I might not have anything to write in the next few weeks, that I would have a flock of people hating me for how bad my writing is, etc.

But this is just me overthinking and people are busy worrying about their own lives.

A few things that I got from Creative Confidence that I kept reading everyday as I journey the last 7 months until now:

  1. “Doubts in one’s creative ability can be cured by guiding people through a series of small successes. And the experience can have a powerful effect on the rest of their lives.”
  2. “The real value of creativity doesn’t emerge until you are brave enough to act on those ideas.”
  3. “That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them.”
  4. “When you open your mind to the possibility that your capabilities are unlimited and unknown, you already have your running shoes on and are ready to race forward.
  5. “Albert Bandura used the process of guided mastery—a series of small successes—to help people gain courage and overcome deep-seated phobias.”
  6. “Facing failure to wipe away the fear.”
  7. “A subtle excuse lies in the idea of “trying”. It’s as if today is for attempts, and the real action will happen at some vague future moment. To achieve your goal, to topple the barriers that stand in your way, you have to be focused on getting it done now.”
  8. “If you want to make something great, you need to start making.”
  9. “It’s hard to be “best” right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements.”
  10. “All the overplanning, all the procrastinating, all the talking are signs that we are afraid, that we just don’t feel ready. You want everything to be “just right” before you commit further or share something with others. That tendency leads us to wait rather than to act.”

The sentences aforementioned are all from the book and I read them daily. When I have an idea for an article, I write it, never minding whether I “ran out” of anything to write. I just write. And then, before I knew it, I’m writing more than what I intended.

I committed to only one post weekly and then, suddenly it became, whenever I wanted. I post two to three times weekly, sometimes even more.

During those early times, I was able to get through even if I barely had any ideas, even if I fear of a lot of things because I had faith. I trust my intuition that by doing what I wanted to do, I will not regret my decision.

And boy, I did not. Words flow faster right now and I’m posting daily (wow). I read a lot than I ever had and write a lot. From sharing my personal experiences, I ventured to writing about design, prisons, books, movies, etc. Just by starting my creative journey and doing what I love, in spite of the thoughts that I’m not ready or experienced enough, my future seemed so unpredictable. And that thought is amazing!!

Because of following my curiosities, I now have a life that’s full of magic everyday. I do not know what will happen the next day and I do not intend to think about it because I’m living for today.

I’m barely seven months in this journey and I have already loved so many things. It’s just mindblowing how there are always things out there or here in the internet in which you will love like a book, architecture, movie, show, article, a person, or a song. I intend to keep writing about them as much as I could.

Lastly, thank you for reading. I hope you’re well as well as the people you love. just like I am, you are in your own journey too. I hope you are living your best life. Whatever you are currently doing or planning, as long as you really want it, you will be able to do it. Believe in yourself. Do what you can at this moment right now. Do that everyday, and I promise, you are in a journey to the unknown.

You cannot predict how smart or skilled a person can be.

In the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol Dweck wrote,

“Benjamin Bloom, an eminent educational researcher studied 120 outstanding achievers. They were conert pianists, sculptors, Olympic swimmers, world-class tennis players, mathematicians, and research neurologists.

Most were not that remarkable as children and didn’t show clear talent before their training begain in earnest. Even by early adolescence, you usually couldn’t predict their future accomplishment from their current ability. Only their continued motivation and commitment, along with their network of support, took them to the top.

Bloom concludes, “After forty years of intensive research on school learning in the US as well as a broad, my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all person can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.“”

And in connection with this, do you know that Ted Geisel aka Dr. Seuss (author of many children’s books like The Lorax) was voted by his classmates as the “person least likely to succeed” among their class? Because he was never the studious type. He would rather watch a movie, go to the zoo, or just draw. (Basically, he followed his interests and hobbies.) And this is why using a compass (with your interests and hobbies leading the way) is important instead of a map.

Also, this proves that you can’t predict what a person may become in the future. Aside from “not to be judgemental to anyone” message of this post, having the knowledge that you cannot predict anyone’s future, is good for ourselves.

We do not know what will happen and that thought alone is exciting! We may have mediocre work right now but given enough time, we may produce something great occasionally. But ultimately, its all about just loving what you do and being excited to where it just takes you. So just start. It doesn’t matter if you failed, what is important is you had fun doing it. As author Srivinas Rao wrote in The Art of Being Unmistakable, “We often do not know where stories end, where unpaved roads lead, and who we’ll become along the way. Therefore, you just have to start.”

Use a compass instead of a map

In an episode of Workman (one of my favorite Korean variety shows), they went to a daycare and through that episode, I found out that they rearranged their education system for kindergarteners.

They adapted child-centered education wherein children are free to do and follow their curiosities in the daycare. They can play an instrument, play with toys available in the classroom, they could read a book, etc. Also, I don’t feel that “classroom” is even the right term for their space because it doesn’t look like a classroom at all.

This overall system promotes creativity as well as it builds up this confidence within the kid. In here, teachers do not say “sit still” or “behave”. Rather they encourage them to follow their desires and whatever they found interesting. They aren’t taught to score well during exams or be the best among the block. They promote communal activities (playing games with the whole class) and just being.

Honestly, even I think that kids as young as them should not take exams as soon as they have to go to school/daycare. They are too young to just sit still and I think the best thing that a school can instill in a child is to love learning. As they grow older and started taking exams, they will remember that how you do in a exam is not related to how much you learned.

I hope this could be applied to higher education as well. Personally, I am interested in psychology, biology, history, and journalism. I am currently in architecture program and I hope that there would be ways in which I could take up courses from other programs. Unfortunately, that does not exist yet lol

What I found interesting among a lot of master designers is that they integrates various subjects into their work. Some have took courses from other programs (ex. Steve Jobs), there are others who took up science programs but shifted to a design-related program, etc. Basically, they have knowledge on other subjects and that’s how they are able to design what they are designing right now.

In connection to everything I read, a few months ago this is what I started practicing: I used my hobbies, interests, and desires as my compass and disregarded the “map.” The map is pertaining to the pre-ordained life that society expects me to follow.

Since then, I never felt guilty of not following “the map”, I went my own path, following my inner soul. I read about psychology a lot, I read essays about creativity, I read novels, I read fiction and non-fiction, I write, etc. Anything that I found interesting or what I am curious in, I just follow it. And I never felt so happy and satisfied. Everyday I will learn something new. Gosh. If there is just any option to design my own curriculum, I would. And I would design it in a way that is filled with courses that I am interested in.

Srivinas Rao, author of The Art of Being Unmistakable, wrote about kindergartens and using a compass,

Kindergarten classrooms are utter chaos and true genius at the same time. The potential to discover a calling is available every single day. Then something happens. Somebody decided that you might stray too far off the beaten path, and gives you a map. They decide what is important for your future and these decisions become the destinations on the map.

….However, if I want to do interesting work, take risks, and see what I am really made of, I have to be willing to use a compass instead of a map.

Promoting self-learning and using a compass, allows each and everyone of us to just be ourselves. This is what I missed the most during summer breaks, it is when I just learn things without having to be graded for it.

And if you have been reading my previous posts, I mentioned this quote a few times now but it is amazing how each and every time I wrote this quote, I have something new to add. This is basically how curiosity starts, it starts as a small idea and over time as you search and search, you would have a lot of things related to it already and this is just basically it. This means that I am following my compasses very well.

Here is the quote from Austin Kleon:

“The lives of great thinkers teach us that learning is the verb of life. The trick to lifelong learning is to exercise your curiousity as much as you can and to let it guide you where it wants to go. To pay attention to what you pay attention to. To not worry too much about where things are going to lead. To learn for learning’s sake, not because it’s going to get you something, necessarily, but because you have faith that the things that interest you will help you become who you need to be.

Your interest and your desire and your instincts are your compass. They show you the way.

It’s a hard things to internalize, but once you do, it’s one of the most powerful things. It sets you free.”

Slow down

Fred Mitchell: Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.

Last week, classes has started and God, I just adjusted quickly to synchronous learning. I barely remembered how I used to wake up 4 am in the morning to go to class and go home at around 7 pm (for 5 days a week) before pandemic. (How did I even kept up with that for my whole freshman year??)

Now, I am living my best life. I wake up, not being hurried or anything. I spend the day at my own pace. We have classes in less hours now. The lectures do not even pass the 2-hour mark. I have time for my hobbies (and that’s amazing!) Though ofcourse, there are days when the workload is heavier than usual but that’s okay (I mean I’m an architecture student, that is expected).

Though what I did not expect was how I adjusted so quickly. I am so grateful to have time for myself or better yet, I am grateful that I make time to slow down. When I know, I spent so much time on academics, I rest and watch my favorite k-variety shows or read. 

Last week (and for the following weeks), I make ‘slowing down’ my priority. And Rick Ezell best explained it why. In Defining Moments May 5, 2020 issue, he wrote,

Slow down. It has been said, “Don’t just sit there, do something.” Well, often we need to do the opposite: “Don’t just do something, sit there.” Regularly we need to be still. Stop what we are doing long enough to reflect on what is most important right. If we stay busy continuously, we lose sight of the significant in life. The important is tossed on the altar of a busy and hurried life. That sacrifice is much too great and utterly useless.

In those ‘unproductive’ times, that is where I get clarity- that I am more than my academics and productivity. I am a human being with hobbies and a soul. Also, slowing down is where I get energy by asking myself, “Is this important? Is this something I want to do right now?”

Slowing down is where I can breathe. To be human in this world conducive to anxiety and busyness.

Albert Camus, in Notebooks 1951-1959, wrote, “Do not be afraid or spending quality time by yourself. Find meaning or don’t find meaning but ‘steal’ some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self. Opt for privacy and solitude. That doesn’t make you antisocial or cause you to reject the rest of the world. But you need to breathe. And you need to be.

Rethinking Prisons

Imagine kids going to a school designed like a bunker: drab walls, bare concrete, metal bars everywhere. How can we expect children to learn and enjoy being in school in an environment that isn’t conducive to learning at all? Similarly,how can Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) rehabilitate and improve their behavior if they live in a hostile environment?

According to the Section 2 of the Revised IRR of RA 10575 aka The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, “It is the policy of the State to promote the general welfare and safeguard the basic rights of every prisoner incarcerated in our national penitentiary by promoting and ensuring their reformation and social reintegration creating an environment conducive to rehabilitation and compliant with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners (UNSMRTP).”

However, according to the account of Marco Toral, a former inmate and former consultant for the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), the prison he spent in is anything but conducive to rehabilitation. “I find it very frustrating na wala kang ginagawa. Day in and day out, nasa loob ka lang, nakaupo ka lang.” Marco Toral shared his thoughts during the 7 years that he spent inside a prison.

FULL: https://philippines.makesense.org/2020/10/08/rethinking-prisons/?fbclid=IwAR3rPGT8aO7mHZ5J6ilZbrNJUr_8_IrDq52nONtS21tOHO0ghWcSML-ARNw

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My article is published yey! Anyways, I had an idea for this article around July and I started working for this article mid-August and finished it last month. I almost reject this idea because I have no confidence in writing this article at all. (James Clear: Lack of confidence kills more dreams than lack of ability. Talent matters—especially at elite levels—but people talk themselves out of giving their best effort long before talent becomes the limiting factor. You’re capable of more than you know. Don’t be your own bottleneck.) Good thing I did not. I followed my inner soul even if its scary. It feels good to overcome something— to have done something I thought I cannot do.

This speaks so much to my future endeavors and ideas. This year, I followed my gut more and I had never felt more alive and joyful.

Also, I had read about human-centered prisons around April. And I have come to realize that the prisons we have in the Philippines barely even meet the basic human rights of prisoners. As an individual, I wonder how can I help? And this is something that I tried to answer on the article.

Just a reminder that prisons are built not to punish but to rehabilitate people deprive of liberty. How we treat an individual is how we treat all.

Life always works out.

I read a post from wholesome-suggestion on Tumblr:

“Life works out. I cannot stress this enough. It always turns out in your favor even if it doesnt go according to the original plan. You may be utterly confused and lost right now, it may feel like everything is falling apart and there is nothing you can do to salvage any of it. But believe me when I say that this is just a transition period. Things are constantly changing and evolving around you even if you can’t actively see that. Life is changing you to prepare you for what is to come. You are growing and as you grow, you are being built into the person that you are going to be. Because see, life always has this funny way of working out.”

There are a lot of moments this year wherein I felt ‘Ohmygosh. How am I gonna get through this? I can’t see the end!’

But today, here, I am like, “I made it.” Life really did work out. What I thought was impossible to do, I did and I passed by it.

And everyday, I continue to surprise myself. When I looked at the things I need to accomplish for the day, I will be like, “Omy. How am I gonna accomplish this?” But again, I reminded myself to just think about this hour or minute that I am right now and do my best to have some progress. I never know what may happen by the end of the day but what I’m gonna do right now is focus on the now. Somehow, I made it.

Today, I did something I thought was scary. Well, it is. But I’m just so glad that it was now done.

Tomorrow, I’ll be facing another one but that’s for tomorrow to worry about. Right now, I’ve got the present.

Its hard to go by everyday, hence, Neil Gaiman answered, when asked how do we get through these dark times?, “One day at a time. Sometimes a minute at a time.”

Dealing with this current minute I am in makes the whole thing bearable. The only responsibility that I have right now is the present and I’ll do my best to stay on it and live.

Casual Magic

Mary Oliver:

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

Around a week ago, I moved into a new bed and that bed is positioned where you can soak in the first rays of the sun every morning.

I noticed that and since then, I get excited at seeing sunlight every morning. I tried grasping it as if it was something tangible.

Lately I have been thinking why am I taking this granted for years. But then again, I think it means that I am growing. Appreciating the environment I am in right now is a reminder that I am growing.

Even though this may seem mundane, I believe this is a casual magic of my everyday. Casual magic is a term , from the youtuber Unjaded Jade, which means finding magic in the mundane. It can be as simple as cooking meals for your family or cleaning your room after weeks of putting off your tasklist.

Everyday is not your birthday or Christmas. But you can treat it like one. There are research findings that says that when you are younger, you find ‘extraordinary’ things fun (ex. concerts, birthday parties, roadtrips) but as you get older, you started to feel joy out of the ‘ordinary’ things (ex. talking to a friend over the phone). And what bridges the gap through the ages is how you frame your life.

For instance, I may be young but I am not usually into parties or roadtrips (because of financial reasons). However, that doesn’t make me feel sad at all. I believe that they are just not something that I would like to do, hence, what I do is I continue to do things that bring me joy (ex. I read a book, spend time with my family, write a journal, etc).

And framing your life is certainly essential to how your attitude will be.

I got rejected so many times for various job applications this year and yes, I still feel joy in my life regardless and I think its because of how I framed it.

I have no job and it means I have more time to follow my curiosity, learn what I want to learn, and partake in volunteering opportunities. I would neither have learned what I learned nor read the books that I had read if I was accepted to a job during this pandemic.

The whole idea is amor fati, which means loving everything that happens (yes, even the bad ones). Though it could have been different but it’s in the past and I learned from it.

Again, today I saw the first shine of the sun. Everytime I see it, it gives me hope. Today is a new day to live, to see magic in the mundane, to forgive, to love, and to do. This is my casual magic.

What’s yours?

Keep a notebook wherever you go

Aristotle Onassis (according to Britannica, “Greek shipping magnate who developed a fleet of supertankers and freighters larger than the navies of many countries”) suggested:

Always carry a notebook. Write everything down. When you have an idea, write it down. When you meet someone new, write down everything you know about them. That way you will know how much time they are worth. When you hear something interesting, write it down. Writing it down will make you act upon it. If you don’t write it down you will forget it. THAT is a million dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!

And this is why I carry a notebook either physical or intangible. If I left my notebook, I make sure I have a gadget with me wherein I can write ideas or things down as I go. It doesn’t really matter if the idea is good or not, I just write it down because I never know when will I need it.

Most of the time, I use Google Keep to write down ideas. And whenever I write something new, I will look back at other things I wrote and hopefully, making sense with them. Sometimes, I feel that some ideas are not yet ready to be “realized”. Hence, I just keep them there. For example, for blog post ideas, I will keep them written and stored, and once I read a lot, I will go back and find that I can write it now.

My another blog: Empathy In Design, was just a simple thought that flashed in my mind. I wrote it then, after a week, I realized that there aren’t websites or blog dedicated solely for human-centered design and I even researched more products/architecture that empathizes with people during that week. Thus, after that, I started making preparations for it and launched it last July.

Leo Wildrich called this the inner-outer technique, in an article posted in the Buffer:

I will do all the research, jot down notes into my word editor and not worry at all about the actual blogpost. That is the first outer task. Then I have a few inner task follow. I will respond to emails, might have a brief chat with the team and do other tasks. Then, towards the end of my day, I get back to the second half of the outer task. I would sit down and then actually write the article, edit pieces and put into publishable form.

The amazing thing that happens is that even I don’t work on the blogpost during my inner tasks, my subconscious brain does. It will do all the work, and then gradually present the solutions to me when I get back to working on it later on.

But, first, how do we get ideas?

So, in my case, I get ideas during a time wherein I let my mind wander and when I let my mind wander, it is when I’m doing something “unproductive” (aka leisure).

Drew Hansen wrote in the Forbes, tips on notetaking ideas:

“2. Write down your thoughts immediately. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t, and you’ll forfeit all the thoughts that flood you after you’ve freed your mind from remembering the initial spark. Don’t judge them at this stage, either. There’s a reason they occurred to you this way.

3. Expound on your thoughts later. Don’t let your flashes of brilliance wither from neglect. Find a quiet time to explore your initial thoughts in more detail.”

Do not reject the idea at first glance just because its new to you. Just write it down. Carry a notebook and just write them all down. After a few days, come back to it and you’ll start seeing connections.

Drew Hansen: “Start small. Write down what you’re thinking and build on it. Follow it wherever it’s supposed to go, and one day your small thought could change the world.”