A Sense of Wonder

Four of our grandchildren are between 9 and 12. If you ever want to understand Edward De Bono’s idea that there are three ages of reason, that’s the age to study.

According to De Bono, people have these stages:

  1. The Age of Why begins with speech and lasts to about age 4 or 5
  2. The Age of Why Not begins next and lasts to about 12 or 13.
  3. After the Age of Why Not comes the Age of Because.

The trick is to stay in the Age of Why Not, at least part of the time.

Some aids to support, Why Not

As Yogi Berra has pointed out, “You can observe quite a lot just by watching.” It is especially true when something or someone inspires you to do something that you will find both exciting and worthwhile. The Why Not response.

Here are five YouTube videos that I propose make the Why Not point. Each puts your mind in a different place than you would usually allow it to go.

It shows how a single thing can be the beginning of discovery. A layer of clay in some rocks. Much work follows and much help from others. Isaac Asimov has postulated, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny …”

It shows the value of curiosity, persistence, and teamwork. Plus, it explains what happened 65 million years ago. There is no news at 11, you could watch.

About 34 minutes

If you ever want to understand how there are ingenious solutions to near-impossible problems, go here.

Not every goal you might have will be easy to achieve. Persistence, ingenuity, and bravery solve many problems. Even ones that involve building a way to move equipment and ore over a 2,000 foot, near vertical cliff. It speaks to the idea that people can accomplish far more than anyone would think reasonable. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress, therefore, depends upon the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw.

Pay attention to the insight of management, too. It is not always about people doing things on the ground. Someone has to make the pieces available before you can solve the puzzle.

Time, believing you are on the right track, looking for ways to do the impossible, finding others who know how,  and persistence, achieve the impossible. “If you think you can, you might. If you think you can’t, you’re right” My 9-year-old kids baseball team’s theme.

About 52 Minutes

Have you noticed complex situations have simple solutions, but the solutions are usually on a large scale?

How hard is it for Amazon to deliver orders in 24 hours? Each step in the process is simple enough, even though the problem is too big to think about in total. How many pieces in a gas-powered engine must work in perfect time?

The same is true with the airport in Atlanta. How would you go about handling 250 takeoffs and landings per hour? That’s easier than getting the passengers to the right gate at the right time. And even that is easier than getting their luggage to travel with them.

The Atlanta airport is a vast machine with many moving parts. They work in synch because the system has been designed to make the desired result happen.

Attention to detail and breaking big problems into manageable pieces is a way of thinking. You don’t solve enormous, complex problems. You build systemic solutions piece by piece. Many solutions have “evolved”, and they often look nothing like the way people thought they would when they started. You must start, though. Waiting for a perfect answer usually means no answer.

About 67 minutes

Did you know Orcas have their own language? Pods sometimes have their own dialect. Did you know Orcas’ brains are more folded than ours? Folding seems to give the brain an advantage. I have been told that Corvids, the class of birds where crows and ravens can be found, have highly folded brains too. Did you know Orcas hunt much like wolves do? Did you know Orcas are descended from a wolflike animal? Neither did I. It never occurred to me that there might be creatures in the sea that evolved from land animals.

Curiosity and understanding that more is possible than our limited understanding permits is an excellent place to be.

Scientists are using AI to try and decode the Orca language, and they think they may be able to communicate with them once solved. AI may give us more than smart vacuum cleaners.

About 26 minutes.

Few of us pay much attention to how our world came to be the way it is. It is effortless to take for granted things that are actually not so easy.

What do you know about potash and potassium? If you are like me, not a lot. This video is easy to watch and instructive. If you want children to find science interesting and exciting, this video would be a start. “Veritasium” is a series of videos on interesting things few of us think about. Anyone who watches a few of them will be unable to hate science afterwards.

People learn that even straightforward things have an interesting backstory. It helps people to think about systems that produce what we use.

Things I learned:

  1. You can see the ponds on Google Earth. Go to Moab, Utah and then southwest about 15 miles.
  2. Patent #1 in the United States was for a process to extract potash. Why had I never wondered what patent #1 was for?
  3. Sometimes you need an invention to allow another to be used successfully. Did you know about the Davey Lamp?

For added interest, find out how Saskatchewan produces immense amounts of potash.

About 20 minutes

The bit to take away

Children are curious and enthusiastic. That’s where the “Why not?” spirit comes from. Use every opportunity to delay the Age of Because.

I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning. I have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at don.shaughnessy@gmail.com.

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