What moves you? Writing, sound, pictures?

swimmer headphones

At the Rio 2016 Olympics, swimmers were given free sets of “Beats” headphones. Brilliant product placement, as it had been realised that almost all swimmers like to close themselves off from the world before their race and do so in a cocoon of sound.

Recently I arranged for my two older sons, both veterans of swimming at the Commonwealth Games, to meet the teenage daughter of a friend, a young swimmer who is now very fast for her age nationally. They had a great chat, with one of the biggest sparks of connection coming when they discussed what songs they put on their playlists to listen to before races!

It got me to thinking about how we learn, and also what moves us, speaks to us, inspires us.

All too often we rely too much on only one tool to connect to others, being the written word. This is a hugely deep topic, so today simply a few connected riffs that I hope get you cogitating!

As I said, a few riffs inspired by thoughts on styles of learning and on what moves us, speaks to us, inspires us.

First, In learning, how we prefer to learn and to process information is itself a huge topic.

Today I’ll simply note the idea of “VAK” or visual, auditory and kinesthetic styles. There are loads of self-tests online to identify your personal preferences, worthwhile for self-awareness.

For me, I am highly visual, and so I recognise I may model this in learning tools I recommend for others. Hmm, sometimes I am therefore following the golden rule and not the platinum rule!

A favourite book is “Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us” by Dan Pink, yet I rarely recommend people read it. Instead, I almost always point them to YouTube and ask them to search “Dan Pink RSA Animate” and watch the wonderful ten-minute animation of his talk. To me, it is the combination of the words and pictures drawn on the whiteboard with his voice that connect me closely as I learn from him that the three core drivers for humans are “Purpose, Mastery, Autonomy”


Next, to one of my favourite movies, High Fidelity, a great film adaptation of a terrific book by Nick Hornsby (and yup, have read the book once, though watched the movie countless times). A fantastic movie, not least because it marked Jack Black bursting onto the scene. At the centre, though, is the lead character (friends know I love the work of John Cusack!) and his obsession with music.

I thought of High Fidelity as my brain leapt there after thinking that these days one way we connect to music is via Spotify playlists and one way we connect other people is by sharing them.

Those readers old enough will remember the days of mixtapes, of taking a cassette and recording songs to fill it, then giving the tape to someone.

A clip from High Fidelity:

As I love riffs in threes, the last one reflects on a very recent post from me on Quiet Leadership. The memory I write about there is brought forward for me clearly by the picture below, yet it is really made most vivid when allied to hearing the song “Nightswimming” by REM.

We humans do process information in so many ways, so let us not always and only use the written word to teach and to motivate. Sounds, pictures, movement, even smells, sensations. We have many options to lead others in learning and work, use the whole toolkit!

Ian nightswimming


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