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robertogreco : howtolisten   4

reading and thinking, one more time - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"The link is simply this: that one of the most reliable ways to sharpen your own thinking is to find out what other smart people have thought and said about the things you’re interested in — that is, to take the time to read. But the content-hungry world of online publishing creates strong disincentives for writers to take that time. Almost every entity that has an online presence wants to publish as frequently as possible — as long as the quality of the writing is adequate. And often “adequacy” is determined by purely stylistic criteria: a basic level of clarity and, when possible, some vividness of style. That the writer may be saying something indistinguishable from what a dozen or a hundred writers have said before is rarely a matter of editorial concern. Get the content out there!

And of course, writers want to be published and be read. If they can’t have their work in print magazines or books, then having it tied to a URL is the next best thing — sometimes even a better thing. The passion for self-expression is incredibly powerful. Consider, for instance, the unvarying lament of literary journals: that they have far more people submitting stories and poems to them than they have readers. (Would-be and actual creative writers rarely read, and often know nothing about, the journals to whom they submit their work and whose approval-via-acceptance they so desperately crave.)

So between the writers who desperate to be published and the editors desperate for “content,” the forces militating against taking time — time to read, time to think — are really powerful. So writers tend to trust the first thoughts that come to them, rarely bothering to find out whether others have already considered their topic and written well about it — and in fact not wanting to know about earlier writing, because that might pre-empt their own writing, their publication — the “content” that editors want and that will keep readers’ Twitter feeds clicking and popping with links. In the current system everyone feels stimulated or productive or both. And hey, it’s only reading and thinking that go by the wayside."

[See also: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2014/01/the-confidence-of-elect.html ]
publishing  alanjacobs  reading  writing  listening  noise  2014  learning  thinking  howtolisten  attention  reputation 
january 2014 by robertogreco
You Are Boring — The Magazine
"Everything was going great until you showed up. You see me across the crowded room, make your way over, and start talking at me. And you don’t stop.

You are a Democrat, an outspoken atheist, and a foodie. You like to say “Science!” in a weird, self-congratulatory way. You wear jeans during the day, and fancy jeans at night. You listen to music featuring wispy lady vocals and electronic bloop-bloops.

You really like coffee, except for Starbucks, which is the worst. No wait—Coke is the worst! Unless it’s Mexican Coke, in which case it’s the best.

Pixar. Kitty cats. Uniqlo. Bourbon. Steel-cut oats. Comic books. Obama. Fancy burgers.

You listen to the same five podcasts and read the same seven blogs as all your pals. You stay up late on Twitter making hashtagged jokes about the event that everyone has decided will be the event about which everyone jokes today. You love to send withering @ messages to people like Rush Limbaugh—of course, those notes are not meant for their ostensible recipients, but for your friends, who will chuckle and retweet your savage wit.

You are boring. So, so boring.

Don’t take it too hard. We’re all boring. At best, we’re recovering bores. Each day offers a hundred ways for us to bore the crap out of the folks with whom we live, work, and drink. And on the Internet, you’re able to bore thousands of people at once.1

A few years ago, I had a job that involved listening to a ton of podcasts. It’s possible that I’ve heard more podcasts than anyone else—I listened to at least a little bit of tens of thousands of shows. Of course, the vast majority were so bad I’d often wish microphones could be sold only to licensed users. But I did learn how to tell very quickly whether someone was interesting or not.

The people who were interesting told good stories. They were also inquisitive: willing to work to expand their social and intellectual range. Most important, interesting people were also the best listeners. They knew when to ask questions. This was the set of people whose shows I would subscribe to, whose writing I would seek out, and whose friendship I would crave. In other words, those people were the opposite of boring.

Here are the three things they taught me.

Listen, then ask a question
I call it Amtrak Smoking Car Syndrome (because I am old, used to smoke, thought that trains were the best way to get around the country, and don’t really understand what a syndrome is). I’d be down in the smoking car, listening to two people have a conversation that went like this:

Stranger #1: Thing about my life.
Stranger #2: Thing about my life that is somewhat related to what you just said.
Stranger #1: Thing about my life that is somewhat related to what you just said.
Stranger #2: Thing about my life…

Next stop: Boringsville, Population: 2. There’s no better way to be seen as a blowhard than to constantly blow, hard. Instead, give a conversation some air. Really listen. Ask questions; the person you’re speaking with will respect your inquisitiveness and become more interested in the exchange. “Asking questions makes people feel valued,” said former Virgin America VP Porter Gale, “and they transfer that value over to liking you more.”

Watch an old episode of The Dick Cavett Show. Cavett is an engaged listener, very much part of the conversation, but he also allows his partner to talk as well. He’s not afraid to ask questions that reveal his ignorance, but it’s also clear he’s no dummy.2

Online, put this technique to use by pausing before you post. Why are you adding that link to Facebook? Will it be valuable to the many people who will see it? Or are you just flashing a Prius-shaped gang sign to your pals? If it’s the latter, keep it to yourself.

Tell a story
Shitty pictures of your food are all over the Internet. Sites like Instagram are loaded with photo after photo of lumpy goo. What you’re trying to share is the joy you feel when the waiter delivers that beautifully plated pork chop. But your photo doesn’t tell the story of that experience. Your photo rips away the delicious smell, the beautiful room, the anticipation of eating, and the presence of people you love.

Instead, think of your photo as a story. When people tell stories, they think about how to communicate the entirety of their experience to someone else. They set the stage, introduce characters, and give us a reason to care. Of course, that’s hard to do in a single photo, but if you think in terms of story, could you find a better way to communicate your experience? How about a picture of the menu, or of your smiling dinner companions? Anything’s better than the greasy puddles you have decided any human with access to the Internet should be able to see.

Expand your circles
Several years ago, my wife and I went on a long trip. We had saved a little money, and the places we were staying were cheap, so we could afford private rooms in every city but one. Guess where we made the most friends? In Budapest, where we were jammed into a big room with a bunch of folks, we were forced into situations we never would have sought out. I wouldn’t have met Goran, the Marilyn Manson superfan who was fleeing the NATO bombing of Belgrade on a fake Portuguese visa. Or Kurt, the Dutch hippie who let us crash on his floor in Amsterdam. Stepping out of your social comfort zone can be painful, but it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do.3

As you widen your social circle, work on your intellectual one as well. Expose yourself to new writers. Hit the Random Article button on Wikipedia. Investigate the bromides your friends chuck around Twitter like frisbees.

When you expand your social and intellectual range, you become more interesting. You’re able to make connections that others don’t see. You’re like a hunter, bringing a fresh supply of ideas and stories back to share with your friends.

The Big Bore lurks inside us all. It’s dying to be set loose to lecture on Quentin Tarantino or what makes good ice cream. Fight it! Fight the urge to speak without listening, to tell a bad story, to stay inside your comfortable nest of back-patting pals. As you move away from boring, you will never be bored."
interestingness  interestedness  listening  scottsimpson  2012  uniqueness  hivemind  echochambers  noise  howtolisten  howto  storytelling  cv  homogeneity  diversity  exploration  interviewing  instagram  twitter  blogs  blogging  podcasts  dickcavett  boringness  interested 
october 2013 by robertogreco
The Qualifier (b) Big Ears
"Jazz musicians have a term for fellow musicians who are exceptional listeners. That term is Big Ears.

Big Ears is an individual who is somehow able to hear beyond the boundaries of what is being played and discover its hidden possibilities. He brings sensibilities and forges connections in a way his fellow musicians cannot. Jazz legend Duke Ellington once said, “The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether or not he knows how to listen.” Ellington looked for Big Ears."

"To be a good listener, you have to want to listen. Ask yourself what motivates you to listen? Do you listen to understand so you can become a part of what is being said, or do you listen to gain control of the conversation? 

Reread Jake’s words and let their meaning sink in. If you are someone who worries that you’ll find yourself not knowing what to say next, listen well and you’ll always know. Learn how to expand on what you hear."
music  howto  howtolisten  dukeellington  via:jenlowe  bigears  jazz  listening 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Learning How to Eat Like Julia Child : The New Yorker
Julia learned how to eat. She did not preserve and shelter her plain, perfectly good Pasadena palate by moving to France and then cooking there, then writing books. She let herself taste and smell differently. She took seriously the smells and rhythms around her, and noticed how they changed her perception—and she came to like them.
thinking  food  cooking  juliachild  noticing  taste  smell  observation  presence  hwotolive  howtolisten  howtonotice  children  curiosity  attention  2012  via:litherland  senses  seeing  feeling  tasting  smelling  touching 
august 2012 by robertogreco

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