Do Your Strengths Have a Color? Talents and Synaesthesia…

Synaesthesia is one of my new favorite words and concepts.

As Wickipedia defines it, synaesthesia (or synesthesia) “is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.”

Synesthetes often experience this phenomenon in the course of every day life – vowels, for example for many synesthetes have colors where as consonants don’t. But I’m particularly interested in the intersection of synaethesia and strengths and talents. What if your strengths and areas of talent have a color or a sound, or both?

For years I’ve been describing my feelings when in a state of “flow” or deeply immersed in an area of strength as having a color – often a vibrant blue or yellow or orange and conversely moments of weakness as colorless, black or red. What I never talked about and never knew how to articulate is that in these “photisms” or “chromesthesia” episodes I actually SAW these colors, tasted and heard these colors. In fact, my personal form of synaethesia involves color and sound – a hum, or thrumming permeates my brain and I see what I’m doing tinged with vibrant colors of orange, yellow and violet blue that has a fractal nature about it. Examples:

“The pixels of light and darkness captured in the mind’s eye are filled with the pallet of color of the results – hence the memories of winning somehow pull from the yellows, blues and golds, success and color implying a relatively easier effort, while the losses are inevitably painted with the charcoals of those chiaroscuro efforts – blackened, brutish, pain and disappointment closely linked.”

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“I choose to repaint this race differently. And in so doing what I did accomplish was a unique mastery of the instrument of my body. For over two hours, I played it like the first violinist – drawing out of it with every lash of the straight bow every possible note, every emotion, every tremble of resonance the space of ribs and air and bones was capable of producing.”

Conversely when I’m suffering or pursuing a weakness, color and sound disappears… an example:

“The halls of pain echo for an experienced athlete. The suffering is nothing and yet is everything. The pain is white. It is black. It lacks color or sibilant sound – just reverberations reflecting off the porcelain tiles of the stony discipline of the psyche. But blood, glittering red-black blood, pulses through hidden rivulets in the gutters of the mind.”

As a kid when I would ride my bike – whenever there was a sprint or an acceleration I would hum inside my head. In the early days it was sort of a motorcycle sound and I assumed it was an artifact not dissimilar to putting a playing card in the spokes to sound like a motor, but over time I just realized I did the same thing when skating or when painting or when working certain subjects in school. Now I get it when I’m writing, riding, racing or traveling.

So an oft repeated question is, “how do I know if something I’m doing is a strength?” “How do I know if something I’m doing is a weakness, or just a skills gap?”

Perhaps one way to know might to be to simply ask, “what color is it? what does it sound like?”

I close every speech on finding your strengths with the following advice: When seeking your strengths, “pay attention to your internal hum: you’ll know it when you see it, feel it, hear it.”

PS: this whole post was a medium blue, tinged with some yellow.

A Story of Really Living: Guest Post by Neil Sprackling

A Moment of Really Living

I grew up with an undying passion for soccer and in particular my team Crystal Palace FC, the club where I was born and raised in South London. This has everything to do with my father and my obsession seems to have become greater the older I have become.

Fast forward 40 years and I have a son of my own, Julen, born and raised in Australia and now living in the United States. No reason at all that he should either like soccer or be a blossoming Crystal Palace FC fan. Fortunately for me he is both (which might have a sneaky bit to do with me).

As his loyalty with the club increased, I realized I wanted to do something special for him that I never did at his age: be a match day mascot. Now of course when I was 11, being a mascot was not the experience it is today. So on the eve of the 2012/13 season I called the club to inquire about Julen becoming a mascot. I was told that as long as I wasn’t looking for a game in the coming months, it would be no problem. So I chose a game towards the end of the season, mindful that I would need to organise a weekend and flights to London for the occasion.

I waited for a special moment at one of our traditional family Sunday evening roast dinners to tell him. I wasn’t even sure whether he knew what a mascot was but on sharing the news of our impending weekend, his face said it all as he broke out into a huge beaming smile. I’ll never forget the moment.

Fast forward a couple of months to our weekend together in London. I was intent on making it a weekend we’d never forget so on arrival in London, we spent the afternoon at the Natural History museum and then caught a sci-fi movie. The next day we did an open top bus tour of London, visited the Tower of London and finished the day with my brother and best friend at the theatre seeing Beatlemania. We spent so much quality 1:1 time together, just chatting about anything that came to mind.

We saved the best for last of course. On Saturday April 13, we headed to Selhurst Park, South London, home of my beloved Eagles. We got there 3 hours before kick off to be greeted at the players’ entrance and taken to the VIP lounge for lunch. Julen changed in to his full Palace gear  and was shepherded away to meet the team in the dressing room (the only part I couldn’t join!). He returned beaming from ear to ear, with the white T shirt we had bought (that said “Love Palace, Love Football”) signed by all the players and manager.

I had also arranged for my Dad and my brother to join us on the day and they arrived as Julen disappeared back into the dressing room to prepare for the team’s pre-match warm up on the pitch. I was allowed to go pitch side to take photos and much to my delight, I was even given permission to stand by the players’ tunnel with my video camera as both teams entered the stadium. As Julen came out hand in hand with the club captain, I had tears in my eyes.

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It was a wonderful game that finished 2-2 and the icing on the cake was that Palace went on to the play off final that year, won the game and got promoted back to the Premier League. The stuff that dreams are made of.

On our last day in London we met up with my Dad and step Mum and they took us on a mini road trip around the area of South London where I was born including the town where my Dad was raised . This was made all the more special by stories from my Dad about growing up in London during World War 2

On our return to the US, I had his signed T shirt framed together with photos from the day and the ticket stub. It was a day that neither of us will ever forget and was truly a “moment of really living”.

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The “Really Living” Manifesto

There’s no such thing as chronological time
There’s no such thing as chronological time
There’s no such thing as chronological time…

  • How long did summers last as a kid?
  • Splashing into the lake, riding bikes across busy streets
  • Crushes, broken hearts, bruises and dirty knees
  • We all know summer lasted “forever” as a kid..
  • Everything was new – we really lived everything we did
  • And now? How long do they last, in this world of the mundane?
  • I don’t know about you but I ache to live endless summers again
  • Neuroscientists tell us that the experience of time is relative
  • And that the drivers behind its flexibility are cognitive
  • Kahneman calls it, “Thinking Fast and Slow”
  • Csikszentmihalyi, he calls it “Flow.”
  • Regardless, it is a paradox we all can see
  • That when time accelerates in the present, it expands in memory
  • This thing here: (clock) it’s a lie.
  • We’ve been lied to, side-tracked, distracted, manipulated
  • This ticking, this tocking – this terrible terminal tracking of the ticking of time teaching us trivial untruths:
  • It taught us that each second is exactly the same,
  • That each minute, each hour, each day,  progresses in a linear way
  • And that each is the same distance from the last
  • That these clicks are an equal measure of the past
  • But wait, time, time is like a river right?
  • Sure time is a river all right, but not this kind of river
  • No, time is river; that ebbs and flows, from trickles to rapids, waterfalls and pools, they bend, they bow, they curve, they dry up,
  • In the brain it is the same game, the river of time is to blame, the fact is that we don’t experience time always the same.
  • This thing here (the brain) is quite different than this thing here (watch)
  • As it turns out, this thing (brain) doesn’t have one of these (watch)
  • Or more accurately it has a whole bunch of these running at different speeds
  • Time in our brains doesn’t tick tock tick tock with equal density
  • Time in our brains is dependent on our experiences – and their relative intensity
  • Physics teaches us the theory of relativity:
  • In a massive gravitational pull there’s a change in activity
  • As we accelerate towards the speed of light
  • That there is an “event horizon” where we lose all sight.
  • Time inside stops relative to the outside world
  • Under the massive forces and compression even time itself is swirled
  • It’s a slinky on a staircase, a complex blue fractal
  • It’s a radical rollercoaster, string theory in a cats cradle…
  • It is bellows and helixes and event horizons at the ends
  • Time stops when it speeds up, it accelerates when it bends
  • What about your life – is time speeding or slowing down?
  • 98% of adults feel life is accelerating, I don’t know about you, but that brings me down
  • HOW.IS.THAT.OK?
  • Who ordered the code red? (who let Tom Cruise in this monologue? – he’s too short – just like your life)
  • You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth
  • Here’s your code red:  Here’s the truth: Experiential time, absent aggressive action to reverse it, will keep speeding up
  • So… Go ahead, avoid the highs and lows of life – and here’s what you are going to get :
  • Each September will come faster, leaves piled at your feet
  • and no one, NO ONE will warm you or sing you to sleep
  • Want to speed through life with nothing to remember? Here’s how to reap another pale September:
  • Watch lots of TV, sit on the couch,
  • Eat the exact same foods, develop a pouch
  • Meet no new friends, become a stay at home grouch
  • Do the same damn thing every single day, walk with a slouch
  • Your arm chair? The gauze of advil, and air conditioning, Your staid routines and complacent pace?
  • These things are the warp drive to temporal hyperspace.
  • You think you are half done with life or even less?
  • No, only 10% of your experiential time is left for you to save
  • You have one foot, a torso, two hands, and a watch in the grave
  • Be safe, stick with your routine, be comfortable, live “the dream”
  • and die in a few temporal seconds. Goodnight, you’re dead, end of scene.
  • It is time.
  • It is time to either get busy dying or get busy really living
  • It is time to get dirty, to get sick, to burnout and recover, to fall in love, to have a broken heart, to fall apart and then get back up again
  • Time to eat a moruga scorpion pepper without milk.
  • Time to get back out there, get back in there,
  • Time to get off the hedonic treadmill,
  • Time to unclimb the corporate ladder
  • I want to climb the ladder of my internal clock
  • I want to clock the ladder of my internal climb
  • I want to slow the hands of father time
  • and time the slow hands of my fatherhood
  • I want to kiss my young child’s forehead and wake to find her still a child
  • I want to love the loves of my life and live a life that I love
  • I want to sleep the dreams of heroes and be the hero of my dreams
  • I accept this kind of life may mean suffering for me
  • I will choose this suffering rather than let it choose me
  • It is time to create event horizons where meaning supercedes all
  • It is time…. to create moments of such gravity where time ceases to exist at all
  • For the people we truly love, this one sacred gift we can give
  • The gift back of time: It is time… to “really live”

“Every man dies, not every man really lives.”

It is Time: To Slow Time, to Expand Time, to Create Time

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I want to climb the ladder of my internal clock

I want to clock the ladder of my internal climb

I want to slow the hands of father time

19145795_m

And time the slow hands of my fatherhood

I want to kiss my young child’s forehead and wake to find her still a child

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 2.23.25 PM

I want to love the loves of my life and live a life that I love

I want to sleep the dreams of heroes and be the hero of my dreams

I accept this kind of life may mean suffering for me

I will choose this suffering rather than let it choose me

It is time to create event horizons where meaning supersedes all

It is time…. to create moments of such gravity where time ceases to exist at all

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.55.31 PM

For the people we truly love, this one sacred gift we can give

The gift back of time:  It is time… to “really live”

 

“Every man dies, not every man really lives”

“Time” is the most common word in the English Language

It is time.

It is time to either get busy dying or get busy really living

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 8.52.12 PM

It is time to get dirty, to get sick, to burnout and recover, to fall in love, to have a broken heart, to fall apart and then get back up again

Time to eat a Moruga scorpion pepper without milk.

IMG_8800

Time to get back out there, get back in there,

Time to get off the hedonic treadmill,

Time to unclimb the corporate ladder

I want to climb the ladder of my internal clock

I want to clock the ladder of my internal climb

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.00.26 AM

I want to slow the hands of father time

And time the slow hands of my fatherhood

Your life is 90% over… when you think it is half done

You think you are half done with life or even less?

No, only 10% of your experiential time is left for you to save

You have one foot, a torso, two hands, and a watch in the grave

Be safe, stick with your routine, be comfortable, live “the dream”

and die in a few temporal seconds. Goodnight, you’re dead, end of scene.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 9.56.36 AM

How to Speed Through Life With Nothing to Remember

So… Go ahead, avoid the highs and lows of life – and here’s what you are going to get:

Each September will come faster, leaves piled at your feet

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 1.18.13 PM

and no one, NO ONE will warm you or sing you to sleep

Want to speed through life with nothing to remember?

Here’s how to reap another pale September:

Watch lots of tv, sit on the couch,

Eat the exact same foods, develop a pouch

Meet no new friends, become a stay at home grouch

Do the same damn thing every single day, walk with a slouch

Your arm chair? The gauze of advil, and air conditioning, Your staid routines and complacent pace?

These things are the warp drive to temporal hyperspace.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 9.52.15 AM

Is Your Life Speeding Up or Slowing Down?

What about your life – is time speeding or slowing down?

98% of adults feel life is accelerating, I don’t know about you, but that brings me down

21812447_m

HOW.IS.THAT.OK?

Who ordered the code red? (who let tom cruise in this monologue? – he’s too short – just like your life)

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth

Here’s your code red:  Here’s the truth:

Experiential time, absent aggressive action to reverse it, will keep speeding up

So… Go ahead, avoid the highs and lows of life – and here’s what you are going to get:

Time Stops When it Speeds Up

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 9.39.26 AM

Physics teaches us the theory of relativity:

In a massive gravitational pull there’s a change in activity

As we accelerate towards the speed of light

That there is an “event horizon” where we lose all sight.

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 9.06.47 AM

Time inside stops relative to the outside world

Under the massive forces and compression, time itself is swirled

It’s a slinky on a staircase, a complex blue fractal

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 6.57.46 PM

It’s a radical rollercoaster, string theory in a cats cradle…

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 1.00.21 PM

It is bellows and helixes and event horizons at the ends

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 6.42.35 PM

Time stops when it speeds up, it accelerates when it bends

Thinking Fast and Slow: A Paradox We All Know

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 1.21.02 PM

Neuroscientists tell us that the experience of time is relative

And that the drivers behind its flexibility are cognitive

Kahneman calls it, “thinking fast and slow”

Csikszentmihalyi, he calls it Flow.

Regardless, it is a paradox we all know

That when time accelerates in the present, it expands in retro

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