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Core Values



After going through the divorce, it was very clear to me that I both could create any life I wanted and: what I needed to do was reconceptualize who I was as a man and a father. One of the first ideas that came to me was to create our new family's crest. This lead me to the idea of including virtues in that crest.


And that idea was maybe the initial spark that began creative adventuring. For what I found next was that I wanted to outline my core values and my family's new core values.


After three years of thought and exploration and testing, here's our twelve core values:


Be Curious

This is the cornerstone of our paradigm. I think it should be the cornerstone for all early educational models; for if you instill the power of curiosity, students become lifetime learners. And when they do that, they organically acquire the necessary skills to move forth in a progressive and wonder-bound way.


What curiosity yields is an ecstatic understanding. This type of cognition is one of the primary human motivations and fills in the landscape where ecstasy lives.


Jason Silva defines cognitive ecstasy as “an exhilarating neural storm of intense intellectual pleasure.”[1]


This exhilaration occurs when we connect patterns—to do so is one of the delights of the mind. This process is something that children experience … a lot.


To be curious is an ancient, primal, and childlike quality. It’s often trained out of us through acculturation. It’s something seen as an interference in the social world: “See, she can’t sit still. She’s always distracted by things. She probably has ADHD.”


What if, instead of that, we took a counterintuitive route and said: “She’s very curious about a lot of things, and she’s maybe overwhelmed with curiosity right now. Watch her. We should help her navigate her wonderment.”


If you instill curiosity and the sense of wonder and mystery and adventure into learning, education then moves out of the factory of the public school and into the realm of magic and exploration, along with all the great books, films, songs, and virtues of higher consciousness.


I have long believed that if we instill curiosity in our children, everything else will fall into place.


In a 2019 study titled “Within‐Person Variability in Curiosity During Daily Life and Associations with Well‐Being,” researchers Lydon-Staley, Zurn, and Bassett explored the correlation between curiosity and well-being.[2]


What did they find? Curiosity blunts depressed mood and encourages physical activity. In summary, curiosity creates happiness. And happiness creates an ability to be more curious. They go hand in hand. They nourish each other.


Curiosity is an active function. In order to be curious, one must be in movement. More than that, one must not be afraid of that movement.


In trying to define curiosity, I like Lydon-Staley, Zurn, and Bassett’s definition. They, piggybacking on other researchers’ work, state: “Curiosity is the propensity to seek out novel, complex, and challenging interactions with the world (Kashdan & Steger, 2007; Loewenstein, 1994). Curiosity facilitates engagement with unfamiliar information (Silvia, 2008), even if that in­ formation challenges existing beliefs and instills uncertainty” (Kashdan et al., 2009).[3]


Curiosity is synthesis. Curiosity is dynamic.


Curiosity is a process. To be curious is to challenge existing beliefs that are yours and most of which are not yours. Curiosity is not an end goal. It’s not a neatly drawn X on any map.


Curiosity is the road and the path and the journey. To exist in a state of inquisition is its own challenge and reward.


As is the case with love, being curious isn’t a given. It’s not just one thing, one sensation, or one drive. It’s a nexus of many different skills.


Being curious means you will end up in unknown places and new situations. In other words, being curious is an undertaking. And with every experiment, every adventure, comes the risk of failure.


To be good at being curious you must first be good at failing.



Flow State

Flow state is the goal.


Flow state is when you feel amazing and when you are able to do amazing things.


Sometimes we call it “the zone.”


Jason Silva defines it with an acronym: STER.


STER stands for:


Selflessness

Your sense of self vanishes. The dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain responsible for all that monkey chatter, the self-conscious editor in your brain all the time—goes quiet. Flow state is the ultimate presence experienced without a sense of self, without a sense of ego. It’s agelessness.


Timelessness

Time becomes wonky. It can speed up or slow way, way down.


Effortlessness

Your actions don’t require effort or push or pull. They just … flow.


Richness

You are privy to more information and data.[4]


Performance and risk and lateral thinking all increase while you’re in flow.


Flow is the ideal human state.


So how do we get there? You need to find what triggers you and what triggers your children.


Silva, an expert on flow state, says that universal flow triggers all require a little novelty (curiosity) and risk (adventure).



Adversity

The point is not to lessen fear but to become more courageous.


This is another central value to creative adventuring. To adventure creatively also means to adventure bravely.


Simply put, things are not always going to work out. If you master this, you will master yourself. And if you don’t master yourself, somebody else, or something else, will master you.


To be good at failing, you must understand your emotions. This is one of the core goals as a creatively adventuring parent: teaching and embodying emotional intelligence.


I will explain the techniques that I’ve learned about this for little ones and big ones alike a bit later on.



Be a Lifetime Learner

Believing that “curiosity is the propensity to seek out novel, complex, and challenging interactions with the world” means that one must possess the ability to cope with change.


The world is in motion. At times we get stuck in a bubble, and things appear stagnant.


At times we feel stuck, even bored.


But the truth is that the world is in motion. Life is about motion. Everything changes. Objects and ideas aren’t things—rather they are processes. Everything is in motion.


It’s difficult to remember moments of triumph, to encourage the kids to remember when they were successful, why they were successful, and what it took to succeed in something. What is demonstrated here is that fundamental presupposition: Everything is in motion. Here, the idea is that success is about being in motion and going with the current of life and challenges, not resisting it.


Teach your children how to be lifelong learners who


  • seek out novel situations, locating them, confronting them, and then handling them,

  • appreciate subtle novelty and nuances and find wonder in the mundane,

  • open gaps, instead of closing them,

  • intentionally create discomfort,

  • acknowledge that negative emotions exist to try to protect them from something and know how to transmute those scary emotions into positivity,

  • move forward with new personal insights instead of getting mired in the negative, and

  • evoke curiosity.


Be Inspired

Inspiration is creativity in motion.


The qualities work together in symbiosis. By engaging in creative pursuits, you’re welcoming inspiration to arrive. And by welcoming inspiration to arrive, you’re therefore already in an organically creative state of exploration and adventure.


Psychologists Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot have found that inspiration consists of three main qualities:


Evocation

It’s evoked spontaneously, without your control.


Approach motivation

It gives one the feeling that you must make your vision happen in that instant.


Transcendence

It gives one the sense of clarity and single-mindedness when the rest of your life fades away and you’re present in that moment and inspired.[5]


Profound inspiration means that you are both inspired by something and, at the same time, inspired to do something.


The thing is, inspiration just happens. But it’s about putting yourself, or your children, in the position of inviting innovation to appear in each moment.


Researchers believe there are a couple of ways to do this.


One way is to be open to experience. You need to accept the consequences of your engagement, the risk, as opposed to trying to control your children and trying to make them fit some prescribed mold. You need to go with the flow of the moment and the flow of them, the actors in this play.


Another way is to be intrinsically motivated, not extrinsically. The motivation must come from inside you—not because of something, like a reward that exists outside of you. This is also to say that simply being inspired is its own reward.


Another way is to cultivate skills enough so that you have enough mastery to put yourself in a position of breaking through to an inspired place. Master painters are more able to put themselves into a space of inspirational breakthrough quicker and more often than novices. Practice does indeed make perfect.


Inspiration is spontaneous. But by cultivating other skills of exploration and work mastery, you invite its presence into your daily life and the lives of your children.



Agnosia

I am agnostic. And no, I don’t just mean spiritually or religiously.


I believe this is one of the cornerstones for curiosity and exploration: to not know.


“Agnosia,” from Greek, means a special kind of knowledge, a dark knowledge. More than that, this is where a knowledge of the big things like God resides. This actually may be one of the places where the Christian idea of faith comes from, from a 14th-century text on the great cloud of unknowing.


“Agnosia” is often construed as a lack of knowledge. I do not believe in that pejorative interpretation. For me, in this place of unknowing, this is where all the magic and all the knowledge actually comes to us from.


As with the other core values, this idea of agnosia will be unfolded a lot more as we go, throughout the book. Primarily, agnosia is about being open to adventure and not front-loading it with meaning or expectation but instead going into the unknown with courage—that is to say, without (the need for) knowing what everything means. The greatest adventures are mysterious. We have this urge to know, but it’s actually beneficial for us if we don’t have the plot spoiler now.


Enjoy the ride. Enjoy your journey.


In the simplicity of our daily lives, this idea means several things to me:


I am not a cockalorum. I don’t know everything. In fact, I know very little. I am Dad in our unit, but that does not mean I know everything. I don’t even want to know everything. More than that, I don’t want to pretend I do. It is a wonderful, exciting thing to embrace the mystery.


I want to yearn in the same way that they do: for discovery, for learning. I want to get excited about an idea or a concept that I don’t know anything about. When they become excited about something, I do too. Their curiosity fuels mine.


Deeper than this, I believe that there is a world of knowledge available to us that is beyond rational. It’s not materialistic. I believe this is where we get to places of understanding around consciousness, enlightenment, and ultimate discoveries about God and existence. We only have five senses with which to experience this world. Imagine all that exists that we cannot know fully. The butterfly can see hundreds of colors that we cannot.


To exist in the great cloud of unknowing is a powerful and undervalued place to be. Our society pushes us away from this. We are told that we must know. And if you don’t know, find out. What if we were to simply enjoy standing in that place of agnosticism, at the cliff of discovery, not in the false comfort of perceived comprehension?



Make Collections

Collections keep you engaged with the world.


Collections are an easy vehicle to make inspired moments happen.


I was taught this notion many years ago and live by it.


If you collect things—rocks, leaves, critters, or (like me) music, ideas, concepts, words, and moments—you have these easy magic lenses with which to explore the world at all times. Because if you’re constantly looking for that next perfect leaf, heart-shaped rock, or song that becomes that day’s anthem, then everything becomes a treasure. Everything searched for then takes on meaning.


The idea of collecting things is the idea of keeping you in motion, moving forward, and being open to experiencing the world in your own, idiosyncratic way, driven by your own internal reasons.



How to Change and Edit

In our staunch and naked individualism, we are taught to pick a side, have an opinion, and stick to it. And if you change your position on something you’re said to be a waffler—unstable, unsure, or wishy-washy.


This, to me, is nonsense.


The world is mutable, and so are we.


We should teach our children that they can change their minds, that they can change their position, and that they should. That is the very definition of learning, growing, and being open to the world and those around them.


And we should help them learn how to do that—especially in the face of differing and challenging opinions—with integrity, courage, vulnerability and an internal confidence and compass. This is how we can inspire others around us to do the same.


This idea is best encapsulated by one of the greatest retorts ever:


“When the facts change, I change my mind—what do you do, sir?”


— Popularly attributed to John Maynard Keynes


Sometimes our old maps and stories and myths, although having been of service to us for some time, lose their value. Times change. Our disposition changes. Our attitudes and beliefs shift.


You can feel what’s honest to you by concentrating on your body and how it makes you feel. You can feel what’s right more than knowing it sometimes, and this is the perfect place to experiment with that.


Try this experiment: when you say something, try to sink into your body. If you’re repeating some old story that you’ve repeated a hundred times but know that it may not be true for you anymore, you can feel it in your body. That’s when it’s time to assess this old map and maybe find the courage to either burn it, adapt to it, or edit it.



Play

For us, the notion of play is about remaining excited and engaged with the world around us.


Even on a car ride to the boring store, it’s about finding something new—a new song, a new sighting along the road, a new path that we will go back and walk some other time, or a little shack that we haven’t seen before buried in the trees.


The idea of play is to say: Tread lightly. Bound. Bounce. Bubble up joyously. Keep looking forward. Keep your head on a swivel.


Being around children, I’ve had to loosen up, be goofy, and use silly voices. I’ve improvised when I was feeling sad or moody and joked around when one of the kids was having a hard moment. Sometimes I’ve even (eek) danced.


Realizing that the world is a playground and that we’re actors in our play at all times—able to shift costumes and attitudes and accents and positions—opens up the world to a fun land full of light and endless possibilities.


If you need help getting to this space, just watch your children play.



Zone of Proximal Development

The Zone of Proximal Development [ZPD], created by Lev Vygotsky, is defined as “the space between what a learner can do without assistance and what a learner can do with adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.”[6]


Another way to explain Vygotsky’s concept of ZPD is to say that growth only happens in that place where chaos meets order.


Practically it occurs in the kinds of tasks and challenges you place in front of your child. It also happens in the way that you speak to them: you don’t speak to them like a baby, but you should speak to them just a bit above where their intellectual skills currently are—as though you’re tugging them along into higher and higher dynamics of thought and speech.


This is moving from a beginning point to a new, unnamed point.


In layman’s terms, we call this going into the unknown.


The point is not to lessen fear, but to become more courageous.


The point is to grow alongside your children in tandem, together.



Path and Process

Believe in your path, especially when the night is darkest.


This may be one of the greatest skills I’ve learned as an adult.


And when the night is so dark you can’t read these words in your own mind, then remember:


Amor fati.


Love your fate.


Love where you’re at. You’re exactly where you need to be for some reason. As uncomfortable as it is, this is where you’re at. Find meaning in it—if not now, later.



Pay Attention

We are meaning-making machines. We are story-making machines.


It may just be one of the oldest fundamental truths: Our lives are directly aligned with our motivation for meaning. How we’ve gone about searching for meaning, what meaning we’ve gone after, and how well we’ve succeeded on our soul quests for meaning is mirrored in how we live and who we are.


Stories help link meaning together. We could not survive without the notion of narrative.


The search for meaning and stories is instinctual.


It may even be spiritual.


Conceptually it’s the antidote to suffering in all ways. It gives us purpose. Moreover, it may help us clarify existence and the notion of being on our own path. Looking at life this way gives us the indication that there are only patterns and processes. Nothing is stagnant.


When you go about deconstructing a moment, an object, a word, or a phrase, it’s the same as when you create a goal: You become an artist, a builder, your base primal self. You begin ordering chaos. In a cosmic collision inside your head, you begin aligning stars and planets and orienting their spin and stepping back every now and then to see if it makes sense.


Sometimes meaning and story are that abstract. Sometimes meaning is like a painting. It’s an aesthetic.


Sometimes meaning and story are concrete and become part of your foundation, part of your space-time fabric.


Pay attention.


Be aware.


Notice the details. Spot the nuances. Find the beauty.


Make meaning and create stories to link meaning together, despite or because of the absurdity of it all.

[1] Jason Silva: Shots of Awe, “The Ecstasy of Curiosity,” YouTube video, 3:13, September 16, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOVmVMJEhg8. [2] David Lydon-Staley et al., “Within-Person Variability in Curiosity During Daily Life and Associations with Well-Being,” Journal of Personality 88, no. 4 (2020): 625–641, https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12515. [3] Lydon-Staley et al., “Within-Person Variability,” 625–641. [4] Jason Silva, “Selflessness, Timelessness, Effortlessness, Richness…. this is FLOW,” Facebook, July 2, 2017, video, 2:29, https://www.facebook.com/jasonlsilva/posts/selflessness-timelessness-effortlessness-richness-this-is-flow/1874656286131981/?_rdr. [5] Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot, “Inspiration as a Psychological Construct,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84, no. 4 (2003): 871–889, https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.871. [6] Elsa Billings and AÍda Walqui, “Zone of Proximal Development: An Affirmative Perspective in Teaching ELLs,” WestEd, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.wested.org/resources/zone-of-proximal-development/.

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