Monday, March 23, 2015

Dancing up the stairs

Can the words fun, interactive, health, music and climbing stairs ever be used together? Well in Stockholm Sweden it is reality. The stairs leading out of the Odenplan subway in Stockholm were overnight transformed into a giant functioning piano keyboard under the premise that applying pressure on each step would play a musical note. Having filmed the behaviors of commuters previously, it had been noted that people preferred to use the adjacent escalator next to the stairs rather then the stairs. In an attempt to bring fun into getting healthy and exercising, Volkswagen sponsored this initiative and the next morning, the results were unassailable. More people opted for the black and white stairs to make music while climbing up previously strenuous and snubbed stairs. Commuters found the concept intriguing, fun, exciting, different and worth their effort and hence took the challenge of the stairs rather than the escalators. In total 66% more people than normal chose the musical stairs over the escalator.

This initiative caught my attention both from a innovation and mental behavior perspective. What the mind views as pain will be avoided while that which is viewed as fun will be sought out. This is undeniably true if one looks at what people do repetitively. We try to minimize strain in such actions that everything becomes automated in our lives. When there is an element of mystery, fun and intrigue in anything, this becomes enough motivation for someone to do it with some level of enthusiasm. Removing monotony is one way of innovating fun into what we do daily and trying to keep an interest in otherwise actions that would seem like hard work. Good lesson on how easy something that feels heavy, difficult and hard can become easy when your mind sees it differently. Everyday e face potentially difficult situations and people, but if we change how we view them in our mind, we can climb those obstacles with ease and create a melody while we do.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Free body, caged mind?

A story is told of a big grizzly bear that was enclosed in a small cage of  5 square feet for years. A new mayor came to town and visiting the zoo saw this huge bear stuck in the small cage and touched by its plight quickly ordered that a larger enclosure be built for the bear so that it would have more space to walk around, explore and play. Work began on this initiative and after some months, a big ceremony was organised with the Mayor coming to give a speech before the release of the bear from the cage to the enclosure. After all the formalities of the day, the mayor cut the ribbon to the enclosure to large cheers and celebration with the door to the cage being opened to the new habitat. As everyone held their breath with quiet anticipation, excitement and anxiety, the bear took the steps to enter the new home, albeit hesitant and with some motivation from the zoo staff. It walked out into the enclosure and stood for a while, then walked 5 feet to the right, another 5 to the right again and another till it returned to its first spot. I am sure there was an anticlimax of sorts for those who could read the poor bear's mind.

The sad story is that this bear represents a lot of people in out world today. They have been freed from many a situation in various ways but have remained stuck in that cage in their minds and can only take the 5 square foot walk in their lives without seeing the opportunities around them. Whether it be safety in comfort or being oblivious to what is possible, the story of a caged mind is a sad one and before we believe we are free to be anything we can be, we need to free our minds to the possibilities, that is when we can truly take advantage of them and rise to succeed in various spheres of life. As TD Jakes spoke on the CD album Woman Thou Art Loosed, the mind is the battleground. He says you can sleep tired and still wake up tired, not because you were working all night, but because you fought a large battle in the mind while you slept. If it cannot be done in your mind, it cannot be done anywhere else. Any battle you win in your mind is already won when you take action. If the shackles have been taken off your feet, let them come off your mind as well and you will achieve greatness. What ever is happening in your mind will be seen in what you do outside. All the best in freeing your mind.

Here are some great mind quotes.

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!

What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.

Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.

Image credit

Sunday, March 1, 2015

You cannot measure courage

Force is measured in kilograms. Speed is measured in seconds. Courage? You can't measure courage". Derek Anthony Redmond is a retired British athlete who during his career held the British record for the 400 metre sprint, and won gold medals in the 4x400 metres relay at the World Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Games. Derek was blighted by a series of injuries and during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona he tore his hamstring in the 400 metres semi-final but continued the race limping and, with assistance from his father, managed to complete a full lap of the track with a standing ovation from the crowd. This has become a well-remembered moment in Olympic history and the subject of one of the International Olympic Committee's 'Celebrate Humanity' videos as well as used in advertisements as an illustration of the Olympic spirit. Redmond had started well, but in the back straight about 250 metres from the finish, his hamstring snapped making him hobble to a halt and he fell to the ground in pain. Redmond decided he wanted to finish the race anyway and hobbled along the track where he was joined by his father, Jim Redmond, who broke past security to get to his son. Jim and Derek completed the last lap together, with Derek leaning on his father's shoulder for support. As they crossed the finish line, the crowd of 65,000 spectators rose to give Derek a standing ovation. Derek was officially disqualified from the race because his father helped him finish and Olympic records state that he "Did Not Finish" the race. When I heard the story of Derek I was not  much focused in him not winning the race as anticipated, but on the fact that for him, finishing the race mattered more than winning and he ended up being the greatest winner from the perspective of being courageous. Considering the way many people start what they do not finish in today's world this is a great lesson on completion from Derek. What I like is the statement made by the Olympic Committee about courage on measurement. Since it cannot be measured, it can be very short or infinite and so where one can give up after one attempt, another will keep pursuit until a desired outcome is achieved. Quite challenging for me as well right now, but need I say more?