Recently on my wanderings as a Laughology trainer, I was asked, "What is a tree", by a rather inquisitive Yr 6 student, whose preferred learning style was definitely talking, (an affliction I have since turned into my career).
When faced with this seemingly innocuous question, I did, what any self-respecting adult in a position of responsibility would do, I proffered an answer.
"Well it's clearly a........you know, it's definitely something that's........always..... been...... I have absolutely no idea".
Now this came as quite a shock to me for I am a man who prides himself on always having an answer ready or at the very least a witty comeback when faced with this sort of articulate, neotenous onslaught of deep questioning.
What is a tree?
I should know this; after all I'm 41 years old, I drive a car and I've been around (not like that!) Over the years I have seen lots of trees; I can point one out to you from my office window as I sit here writing this. I even have a favourite! (It's a weeping willow, I do so love a weeping willow)
And yet there I was left, bereft of any basic knowledge of what these oxygen producing, perennial giants actually are.
After having ruminated on this question and indeed spent an inordinate amount of time just thinking about trees; I have begun to realise how much time I spend in and around them without really giving much credence to their existence.
What is a Tree?
Well, they come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, colours, textures, I have 5 in my garden, across the road from me is a forest full of them, I have climbed loads of them, I have fallen out of two of them, I have swung from them, one of my favourite literary figures purportedly lived in one of them, the football team I supported as a child has one as it's badge ( Nottingham Forest if you're interested). I have drawn them , dressed up as one of them, done bark rubbings on them, carved my initials into them, hidden behind hundreds of them, built with them, chopped them, burnt them, trimmed them, pruned them, removed them, pretended to be one of them, used them as goal posts and my next door neighbour has built house in one!! (so very jealous).
But why, I hear you ask, am I wittering on about trees. Well there are a couple of reasons, thanks for asking.
1– Definitions are really important. We throw language around all the time and yet, our understanding of certain words may be very different to the understanding of the person on the receiving end. For example; if I was to ask you, the reader, what love is? Or, what is happiness? You may well give a very different answer to me. A lot of thinking/knowledge is based on assumption, we assume we know what things are or the way people are but do we really? Where's our research. It is an incredibly valuable exercise to regularly challenge our thinking and assumptions as doing so enables us to unlearn and relearn which in turn allows our brains to grow and retain its plasticity. Creative thinking development in workplaces is essential for growth.
2 - I have also begun to rediscover that everything and I mean everything is exciting if you look at it long enough, but what happens to a lot of us as we grow older and get more set in our ways (or 'plateau' to give it it's correct term) is that we simply forget to look. I mean really look at the beauty, power, complexity, splendor and sheer abundance of everyday things and experiences that surround us. The simple pleasures such as a smile, a compliment, a shared laugh or the feeling of a real connection to people, our jobs and the world around us, can be so easily missed as we go about our day to day business, blinkers on, heads down.
And so as I look to conclude this small yet defining acorn to oak moment, I ask you as you embark upon 2015 and all it has to offer, to just take notice, be more curious, look again, ask more questions of the people you work with and really take stock of what you already have in your life and enjoy It. Savor moments of achievement, joy and happiness, relish it and share it with colleagues and friends.
Just for fun, go and sit down somewhere and take a moment to really become aware and take stock of everything therein contained.
How many objects contained in that room could you make yourself?
How many living things are there?
What's your favourite object/why?
What could you live without?
How many red things can you spot?
The more we become aware of people, environments and objects around us and understand how they impact on us emotionally and what they mean. The more engaged we become with our environments, people, life and work. Children have this wonderful ability to fully relish being in a moment, they ask questions we fear asking as we get older, but in doing so they engage in the world and how they develop in it. Engaging your team is paramount to productivity, are you doing enough?
As Goethe once said
"Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking"