May 11, 2011

Give your brain what it wants

Filed under: 20-minute,meta,skills — Mark Dalrymple @ 12:05 pm
Tags: , ,

Grumpy badger

You feed your body what it wants. You want to feed it what’s healthy. I know when I have a craving for something like broccoli, I treat myself to broccoli. There must be something in those wonderful tiny little trees that my metabolism is jonesing for.

The same thought applies your brain. Feed your brain what it wants. If you’re lucky, your brain will want what’s good for it. I know my head goes on kicks: “I want you to read as much about iPhone programming as you possibly can.” Reading programming books at this time is very pleasurable. I drop lots of money on books and end up reading all of them cover to cover, usually in my “leisure time”.

Later on brain says “OK, I want to learn as much about photography as you can.”. When that happens, I absorb photography books and websites. If I tried to feed my brain programming books now, it’ll balk, complaining like a 4 1/2 year old. “no no no no I want Photography NOW.” So I shelve the rapid learning of programming and dive into photography. Currently my brain is on a kick learning about the process of writing long-form fiction. I have no idea why my head wants that, but I’ve been having a great deal of fun reading about how to write mystery novels and NaNoWriMo.

I’m a huge fan of throwing lots of data at my brain, hoping some (or most) of it will stick, but I’ve learned that force-feeding my brain what it doesn’t want doesn’t always work well. Sometimes life interferes and I have to learn about Location Services or the MapKit when I’d rather be reading about f/stops and lighting ratios, but for the most part, I keep my discretionary reading time on stuff my brain wants.

I directly attribute my better-than-average skills in balloon twisting, programming, and photography to feeding my brain what it wants when it wants. All of these hobbies require direct physical application, but without that fundamental layer of information I build, I know I would have wasted a lot of time in the application and practicing phase of learning my crafts.

Just like you shouldn’t always feed your body pizza and delicious soft-serve non-dairy ice-cream-like cold sweet substances, you should be choosy what you throw at your head. An occasional snack of Jersey Shore or America’s Next Top Model won’t destroy your mental health, but you’ll want to consume higher quality materials for the sake of your brain.

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