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Zooming Out: Embracing the Context

12 Aug

Looking for clues in the context can help you orient yourself and figure out how to prioritize information.  Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

Yesterday in Zooming In, you got little bits of text and your challenge was to try to figure out where each was printed.  First example was this:

1ZI pc program

There are several clues here. The first line is in bold so that would indicate some kind of listing — in this case a workshop title.  The words “Exhibit Hall” and “affords participation” also point to a conference.  Here is a the conference brochure.

exhibit book



Entry #2:

1zi bookjacket


The purple background and white letters here tell you that this is probably not a newspaper or traditional magazine.  Probably not a the interior of a novel either.  The words “visionary with strong…” and the attribution to  “Miami Herald”  indicate a review. It is a book jacket covered with reviews.

2 seth godin out


Zoomed In bit #3:
1ZI bookmans

The clues in this are found both in the writing and printing styles.  Times New Roman letters on an off white background indicate traditional printing. The language is loose and feels a bit conversational so this is probably not  a news vehicle or a piece of business writing.   It is a page of novel.  One of my recent favorites, The Bookman’s Tale, that I won on one of my favorite blogs, Books Is Wonderful,  with one of my recent favorite lines, “One day when, without prior notice, life changes is a fundamental way.”

bookman out


And this delicious bit….

1zi menuThe words were a good indicator that this had something to do with food.  The type style changed as well and the tells you that this was probably not a food review.  The informal use of a + gave further clues and the textured looking paper sealed it that this morsel came from a menu — a menu from an amazing restaurant Bo Beau in Long Beach, CA.

bb menu out


And the one you could hold in your hand….

1ZI pc bc

Phone number? It is the back of my business card!

bc out

This one is something I see all the time….

1ZI pc of research

What are the clues here?  Could this be some kind of reference to the piece?  Article 245 on page 1something? “me 8 indicates volume?  I spend entirely too much time reading journal articles but this is a good one — a study about what happens to the brain when you listen to music every day!

2 res paper out


And the final entry….

1ZI pc inside boook

Clues here are in type style and wording.  Times New Roman so maybe a book or newspaper. The phrases “business dinners”, “by spa doyen Deborah” and “first wellness ret(reat)” point to a review of location.  This happens to be in a great book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” that my friend from Midlife at the Oasis sent me in book box.  This description really makes me want to go to the Golden Door….

1000 out


You can get so much information just by paying attention to the context!

Moving Beyond What You See: Engage Your Senses

20 May

Your personal brain health hinges on what you do each and every day.  The ingredients in the recipe are basic: be active, be social, be engaged, and be purposeful.  Today’s focus is Be Engaged.

Brain engagement is pretty simple – think about, sense, analyze what is happening, and the process just begins.  All you really need to do to fire up the chemical and electrical systems in your brain that protect and nourish it is to start the process.tune into your senses

Thinking about a topic, item, task, feeling, plan, relationship, or whatever grabs your attention, will set in a motion a sequence of events that triggers a chemical release and that release sends messages to prompt more activity.  Pull in more sensory data beyond what you see – sound, tastes, smells, temperature, texture – and you are activating/engaging more brain processes and fueling more activity.

One key to staying well balanced is to intentionally focus on processing different kinds of data – pay attention to all the sensory information, not just what you see. Vision is, for the vast majority, the primary sense.  We get nearly 75% of our information about the world through sight.

Let’s try an exercise that illustrates the value of opening multiple sensory pathways in your brain.

Find a thick piece of material that will fit around your head, cover your eyes, and block out the light. Tie that across your eyes and close them so you are not trying to adapt to any visual images or zeroing in on changes in lighting.

cover your eyes (2)

Sit quietly and pay attention to all that is going on. This may be an uncomfortable feeling. Sit with it and just breathe.

As you are adjusting, think about what cues you are using. Think about what you are doing and what information is allowing you to understand your world, keep you safe, and get through the next moments.

When you cut off your primary sense, in most cases, you are cutting off your lifeline to the understanding the world.  Chances are your brain was trying to create mental images and use visual cues. How long did it take you adapt and start using other senses.

Here is another way to think about this. Processing information works in very much same way as using the muscles in your body. You have to work in many directions in order to function at your best. Long distance runners train specific sets of muscles to withstand the rigors of the run. Even though that runner is, by most standards, in great physical condition, his body will be sore after a mountain climb or bike ride or day of dancing at a music festival if these are unfamiliar activities. He is using a whole different set of muscles – ones that he has not trained to be in prime condition.  If you train your brain to try alternative routes and use other pieces of information to understand the world, in a crisis, when a pathway shuts down, you can then zig or zag as needed while limiting the strain and pain of doing something in an entirely different way.

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