5th Station – We see it when we reach new heights
Find yourself a quiet space in which to work. You will need access to the internet to watch some TED Talks, a paper and pen for making some notes and a copy of the Engineering Design worksheet. You will also need some craft resources and the contents of your recycling bin for the creative activity at the end (exactly what you need will depend on what you invent… or perhaps what you invent will depend on what you have…)
When you visualise success what do you think about? Passing exams? Crossing a finish line? Winning? Gaining a place at University? Landing the job of your dreams?
When we think of success we tend to think in terms of tangible goals, beyond which lies happiness and a positive sense of achievement. A quick dictionary search tells us that success is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”, and “the attainment of fame, wealth or social status”. By those definitions we are told it is an end point.
There are important lessons to be learnt through achieving goals. When we set ambitious goals they provide direction, keep us moving forward, help us to structure the steps we need to take to get to where we want to be, and provide a means of measuring our progress. Setting and writing down our goals can make our dreams tangible and possible. And when we achieve our goals or make steps towards them we gain confidence and self-belief through demonstrating to ourselves that we can do it – perhaps we find that there is more in us than we know.
But is reaching new heights only about setting and achieving goals or is there something more to it? If there is more in us than we know, can the goals that we visualise really take us beyond our comfort zone or do we need some new tactics and approaches?
Watch and Learn:
Watch the first of the following three films (Eduardo Briceño), and then at least one of the other two. As you watch, consider the following questions (and make notes according to which film or films you watch):
- How can alternating between Eduardo Briceño’s learning zone and performance zone help us to reach new heights?
- Why does Reggie Rivers say we need to focus on our behaviours rather than our goals? Do you agree with his assessment of what we can and cannot change in our lives?
- How does Paul Rulkens say we can take ourselves “out of the box and move to the happy place where cool innovation happens” and why is it important to do that?
Eduardo Briceño: How to Get Better at the Things You Care About
Working hard but not improving? You’re not alone. Eduardo Briceño reveals a simple way to think about getting better at the things you do, whether that’s work, parenting or creative hobbies. And he shares some useful techniques so you can keep learning and always feel like you’re moving forward.
Reggie Rivers: If you want to achieve your goals, don’t focus on them
Former Denver Broncos running back Reggie Rivers discusses how focusing on your goals is the one sure way NOT to achieve them. With a story from his 6th grade crush he goes on to explain how focusing on your behaviours is how you achieve goals.
Paul Rulkens: Why the majority is always wrong
In this talk, high performance expert Paul Rulkens explains that normal behaviours bring normal results so if we want to have results we’ve never had before we need to start doing things we’ve never done before. He explores what it means to go beyond our norms and think outside the box, and why the object of life is not to side with the majority.
Consolidate your learning with an activity:
When we set goals we tend to focus on outcomes: pass my exams; win the race; get fit; climb the mountain; reduce my carbon footprint; learn to play the guitar; write a hit record; become an internet sensation.
These goals can be debilitating if we don’t break them down into smaller, more doable and controllable actions. As Reggie Rivers tells us, if we focus on changing our behaviours rather than achieving our goals, before we know it we can make steps towards realising those outcomes, and before long our changed behaviours will become new habits that will take us on beyond our goals to reach new heights. In this way you can replace your finite goals with infinite possibility.
Let’s test that theory. Divide your page into two columns. Head one of them “OUTCOME GOAL” and the other “BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE”.
Think about one thing that you want to achieve and write it in the “Goal” column, including a comment on why you want to achieve this goal e.g. “My goal is to get fit so that I can lead a healthier life” Now think about 3 or 4 behaviours that are within your control that you would need to change to make progress towards achieving your goal (to continue the example above you might need to take up more sports, walk, run or cycle to school, build a fitness routine into your day, or make healthier food choices etc). Think about the obstacles that stand between you and your Outcomes Goal and include some behavioural changes that would help you to overcome them.
This technique helps you to stop focusing on how scarily high the mountain is and concentrate on enjoying the journey instead.
Adventure through Invention
Whilst single-mindedness in pursuit of goals is an important part of the process of achieving what you want from life, do we run the risk of being so focused on the journey towards our objective that we don’t take the time to experience, and learn from, the journey, to notice alternative paths or go beyond the finish lines we set for ourselves? And what if you don’t really know what you want? Clarity of focus can take you so far, but you also need to be open to possibility, to be ready for adventure, if you are going to avoid tunnel-vision.
When we talk about adventuring beyond our comfort zone to reach new heights, we are not just talking about a physical challenge, of course, but also adventure of the mind, for example exploration in science, and through creative pursuits.
The most important inventions in human history came about as a result of people taking risks and venturing into the unknown with a positive mindset and a preparedness to try. As with mountaineers and wilderness explorers, inventors discover the ability to overcome fear and a readiness to learn from failure. A creative journey also involves digging deep for tenacity and resilience, being open to exploring new ideas and trying new things.
Sometimes, of course, inventions are complete accidents – a discovery made by mistake on the way to another discovery (you can find out about a few of them here). Had their creators not been working with a Spirit of Adventure perhaps we might never have had the slinky spring, chocolate chip cookies, the microwave or Penicillin.
Watch and Learn:
Watch the first of the following three films (Sarah Lewis), and then at least one of the other two. As you watch, consider the following questions and make notes according to which film or films you watch:
- How does Sarah Lewis define the difference between mastery and success?
- Can you think of an example of a “near win” of your own that propelled you on to greater success the next time you tried? Would you have reached the same height if you had succeeded the first time?
- Simone Giertz talks about coming up with setup – a goal – that would guarantee success 100% of the time. What was it and what does she say was smart about it?
- When Jay Silver taped a fork to a drill at the age of 7 what profound effect did it have on him and why is this an important lesson?
Sarah Lewis: Embracing the near-win
At her first museum job, art historian Sarah Lewis noticed something important about an artist she was studying: Not every artwork was a total masterpiece. She asks us to consider the role of the almost-failure, the near win, in our own lives. In our pursuit of success and mastery, is it actually our near wins that push us forward?
Simone Giertz: Why you should make useless things
In this joyful, heartfelt talk featuring demos of her wonderfully wacky creations, Simone Giertz shares her craft: making useless robots. Her inventions — designed to chop vegetables, cut hair, apply lipstick and more — rarely (if ever) succeed, and that’s the point. “The true beauty of making useless things [is] this acknowledgement that you don’t always know what the best answer is,” Giertz says. “It turns off that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works. Maybe a toothbrush helmet isn’t the answer, but at least you’re asking the question.”
Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard
Why can’t two slices of pizza be used as a slide clicker? Why shouldn’t you make music with ketchup? In this charming talk, inventor Jay Silver talks about the urge to play with the world around you. He shares some of his messiest inventions, and demos MaKey MaKey, a kit for hacking everyday objects.
Consolidate with an activity:
As the speakers of these three films demonstrated, the path to invention and innovation lies in setting aside preconceptions, making the most of near-misses, and being ready to play. In order to discover something you have never done before you need to try something you have never tried before and explore the possibilities that sit just beyond your comfort zone.
Read this article to find out more about the Maker Mindset here.
A Creative Activity: Dare to Share
We are now going to put the theory into practice by coming up with a new invention or musical instrument or way of making music using “found objects” within your home and surroundings.
Find your Engineering Design Worksheet. This sheet sets out the engineering design process, a common series of steps that engineers use in creating functional products and processes. It works as a cycle but you might stay at one place in the cycle repeating many times before you move on to the next part – it all depends on what you are designing. Follow the instructions on the sheet to use it in conjunction with this activity.
Take a look at the three short films below to give you some inspiration. Don’t be afraid to play around with lots of different ideas and take your inventions through the engineering design process to improve them through several iterations.
Sharing your creativity:
You are invited to share a photo of your invention on social media and tag us in the post using @RoundSquare or #RSdaretoshare.
The playful wonderland behind great inventions
Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well, not always. Steven Johnson shows us how some of the most transformative ideas and technologies, like the computer, didn’t emerge out of necessity at all but instead from the strange delight of play. Share this captivating, illustrated exploration of the history of invention, and how much of the practical convenience we enjoy today stems from musical inventions of the past. Turns out, you’ll find the future wherever people are having the most fun.
Michael Jackson Billie Jean Remix with Bottles
Bottle Boys were founded in 2005, when the four professional musicians Martin, Kaspar, Johannes and Philipp decided to break some boundaries and create something no one had done before them. With creativity and resilient vigour the vision has since then been to entertain and inspire as many people as possible. This they do with a world-class musical performance on bottles and other unlikely instruments.
The Vegetable Orchestra Literally Play with Their Food
In Vienna, Austria, there is an orchestra that performs with instruments made from vegetables. For the past 18 years, these musicians have been purchasing produce from a local market, turning that produce into instruments and performing with them in front of a live audience. The vegetable scraps are made into soup, which the group then serves to the audience at the end of each performance.