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Boost Your Speed of Thought With This Technique

Boost Your Speed of Thought With This Technique

Are you looking for a way to increase your speed of thought? If so, you should start using metaphors and analogies. They are powerful tools that drive and steer the way we think and act.[1]

The use of metaphors and analogies assist us in connecting the dots. Jane Hirshfield describes them as a way to feel and know something differently. She says that they are a way to talk about one thing by describing something else.[2] Essentially, they give words a way to go far beyond their meaning.

Let’s take a look at how metaphors and analogies create the handles to open doors to new understanding.

Cognitive Jigs: Simile, Metaphor, and Analogy

In Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems, Derek and Laura Cabrera describe cognitive jigs as common underlying structures of systemic thought which can be used over and over again to create meaning and understanding.

Cognitive jigs save us cognitive effort and increase our speed of thought.

Let’s take a brief look at the three types of cognitive jigs: simile, metaphor, and analogy.

Simile

The Cabrera’s explain the difference between three specific cognitive jigs in a series of videos found at the Cabrera Research Lab.

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So, what is a simile? I built a diagram to further my understanding of a simile (using the videos via the Cabrera Research Lab). Let’s take a look.

    Metaphor

    The “conduit metaphor” explained by Michael Reddy is a great example of how a metaphorical concept can hide an aspect of our experience.[3]

    Reddy explains how our language about language is structured by this complex metaphor. Let’s take a look at the parts of the “conduit metaphor” then the metaphor itself.

    • Ideas (or meanings) are objects.
    • Linguistic expressions are containers.
    • Communication is sending.

    Reddy explains this metaphor in more detail,

    “The speaker puts ideas (objects) into words (containers) and sends them (along a conduit) to a hearer who takes the idea/objects out of the word/containers.”

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      Analogy

      The Cabrera’s discussion of analogies as cognitive jigs provide us a remarkable way to view what they call – analogy-technology. They explain that,

      “The genius behind the invention of analogies was that they gave us a mental model of a common way we understand things by comparison to a known thing.”

      Furthermore, they provide a simplistic (yet extremely helpful) view of the structure of an analogy: A is to B as/like C is to D.

        Let’s take a look at a few examples of innovative metaphors and analogies.

        Brain Internet Metaphor

        A great resource for using, sharing, and understanding analogies and metaphors was developed as a Wikiversity Learning Project by the Global Education for Sustainable Development found at GlobalESD.org.

        They offer a list of example analogies and metaphors. Let’s take a look at one: Brain Internet Metaphor. As a society, we typically look to the latest technological advancement to compare the brain to. It’s popular to compare the brain to a computer; however, comparing it to the Internet seems to be more appropriate.[4]

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        In this metaphor, we are referring to the Internet and not the World Wide Web. The Web is merely an application used on the Internet. The Internet, like the brain, is a network of interconnected links.[5]

        In essence, we can learn more about the brain by comparing it to the vast number of interconnected links within the Internet.

        Biomimicry

          In her book Biomimicry, Janine Benyus defines Biomimicry as imitating or taking inspiration from nature’s forms and processes to solve problems for humans. Biomimicry is a phenomenal field, one that has the potential to completely reshape our entire reality.

          The team at GlobalESD.org identifies the following: Biomimicry is adapting the designs of nature to solve the design challenges facing humans. Furthermore, they discuss how we can think of it as a way to develop and refine analogies between nature and society.

          Benyus demonstrates this by way of analogy. She argues that we should run our businesses like a redwood forest. She says that a mature forest is a fully self-sustaining producer of diversity and abundance. Instead, we seem to run our businesses similar to invasive weeds.

          Center of Gravity

          Famous military strategist Carl von Clausewitz introduced a physics analogy into warfare in his magnum opus On War. He wrote,

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          “Just as (in physics) the center of gravity is always found where the mass is most concentrated, and just as every blow directed against the body’s center of gravity yields the greatest effect, and – moreover – the strongest blow is the one achieved by the center of gravity, the same is true in war.”

          The center of gravity in physics is the point where the forces of gravity converge within an object – the spot for which an objects weight is balanced in all directions.[6] For the most part, military strategists have taken this analogy literally. Right or wrong, it does offer some merit.

          I recently came across an article on this topic from the Naval War College Review. In the article, Lieutenant Colonel Antulio J. Echevarria provides a deep look into the center of gravity analogy. He presented what was, to me, an extremely interesting discussion on where the center of gravity of a boomerang is located. Regarding a boomerang, the center of gravity does not lie on the actual object, but in the V-shaped space between a person’s arms.

          My question is, if taken literally, is this a more appropriate example of a center of gravity in warfare? Meaning, could the center of gravity be unseen and not visible (i.e. ideology or culture)? This question demonstrates the profound impact an analogy can have on just about anything.

          Finally, in her TEDEd video The Art of the Metaphor, Jane Hirshfield describes how metaphors give words a way to go beyond their own meaning. She ends her video with a deep and profound metaphor,

          “Metaphors are handles on the door of what we can know, and what we can imagine. Each door leads to some new house, and some new world that only that one handle can open. What’s amazing is this: by making a handle, you can make a world.”

          Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

          Reference

          [1] Analogies for Sustainable Development: Wikiversity
          [2] Jane Hirshfield: The art of the metaphor
          [3] George Lakoff and Mark Johnson: Metaphors we live by
          [4] Baronchelli, Ferrer-i-Cancho, Pastor-Satorras, Chater, and Chrisiansen: Networks in Cognitive Science
          [5] Chris Woodford: The Internet and the Brain
          [6] Echevarria: Clausewitz’s Center of Gravity. It’s not what we thought

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          Dr. Jamie Schwandt

          Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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          Last Updated on April 22, 2021

          How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

          How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

          Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

          Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

          In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

          One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

          “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

          Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

          Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

          Motivation Is Not the Answer

          How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

          If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

          We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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          Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

          Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

          How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

          Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

          1. Define What a Win Looks Like

          In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

          Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

          Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

          When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

          4 Steps to Define a Win
          • Know the outcome you desire.
          • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
          • Write the outcome down.
          • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

          Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

          As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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          Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

          2. Evaluate Your Activity

          Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

          Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

          Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

          Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

          • Do now
          • Plan to do it later
          • Delegate to someone else
          • Delete it

          Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

          • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
          • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
          • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
          • Does this activity have to be done at all?

          Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

          3. Prioritize Your Calendar

          If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

          First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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          It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

          “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

          Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

          “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

          Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

          It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

          4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

          We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

          Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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          Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

            But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

            “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

            Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

            Use these questions to reflect on your day:

            • What went well?
            • What didn’t go well?
            • What can I change?
            • What do I need to start doing?
            • What do I need to stop doing?

            The Bottom Line

            Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

            Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

            “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

            Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

            That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

            More on Creating Healthy Routines

            Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

            Reference

            [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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