Monthly Archives: March 2017

Day 211 – Sticking with something

Yesterday I wrote about Andrew Wiles and how he spent every free moment for seven years working on his solution to Fermat’s Last Theorem. He has talked about accepting the state of being stuck as part of the process and learning to enjoy that process. I wouldn’t say I’m stuck exactly, but I may be entering the labyrinth of Austrian bureaucracy as I look into where to take my business now. I suspect I’ll need a good dose of curiosity to keep me going. I wonder what is around the next curve. 😉

Day 210 – Learning to enjoy being stuck

Andrew Wiles is the Cambridge mathematician who gained international recognition for solving Fermat’s Last Theorem, a proof that took him seven years but which, until he solved it, had remained unsolved for 356. Years ago I saw an interview with him, which I sadly have never found again, in which he described what it was like to see the light after devoting every free moment to the proof for those seven years. He started to cry and then, being a very proper English academic, apologized for crying.

Here is what he said about doing mathematics at a high level: “What you have to handle is … accepting the state of being stuck … it’s part of the process, and you have to accept, you have to learn to enjoy that process. Yes, you don’t understand, but you have faith that you will understand and that you have to go through this. It’s like anything. It’s like training in sport. You want to run fast, you have to train.”

That willingness to stay with something even when you are stuck takes an awful lot of curiosity, if you ask me!

That quotation is from a presentation he made at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum:




Day 209 – Using all five senses

One idea that came out of my recent analysis of seven posts was: Consciously engage all five senses.

I have been trying that out to see if it helps me move through my day with greater curiosity. For my own benefit here is my definition of curiosity again: A state of experiencing a situation … with openness and a desire to see what happens and without feeling the need to influence the outcome. (It’s so easy for me to lose sight of that.)

What I have discovered so far:

  • After sight, hearing is, hands down, the sense I use most frequently. That is easy. In this case I try to do “wraparound listening” (as described here) to get a wider sense of what is out there.
  • In this context my sense of smell is next in frequency. That is also easy for me to do.
  • I could more consciously check in on how I’m feeling, inside and out. Test the air, so to speak, which does still have a hint of winter in it.
  • I could also more consciously check in on taste. As I have mentioned before, that is the biggest challenge for me. It is the least awake of my senses unless I am actually eating or drinking something.
  • Spring is a good time to work on this aspect of curiosity because there are so many tempting things, especially to hear and smell—birds singing ecstatically and grass, flowers, and trees coming out.
  • Having something so concrete to focus on (ironically, perhaps) does help me be curious. It also helps, I suspect, that sounds, smells, and weather are things I wouldn’t expect to have any influence over. 😉


Day 208 – The Physicality of Openness

A few days ago I rediscovered something that I used to feel regularly when I was going to tai chi classes regularly, namely, that openness feels different in my body than being closed. I first noticed it in my face, especially the eye region. It was almost as if I went from squinting to looking out into the world in a relaxed way. Then I started to feel it around my breastbone, as if that area was opening up. Then I felt it in other parts of the body as relaxation. My hands opened up, my shoulders dropped, my legs felt more solid but less tense.

Amy Cuddy and her colleagues at Harvard Business School (here is the TED talk) have discovered our body language not only communicates with others. It communicates with us, too, and can change the way we feel. For example, the use of what they call “power poses” (the Wonder Woman pose is a well-known one) for only two minutes can reduce the level of stress hormones in the body and increase the level of testosterone. From that, I am tempted to believe that opening and relaxing my body may help me encounter the world more openly or with greater curiosity. Something (else) to test.

Day 206 – A manner of traveling

After a very long post yesterday, I just want to give you a nice quotation to take into the weekend with you today.

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.”

Margaret Lee Runbeck

For me, curiosity, like happiness, is a manner of traveling.

Thanks go to for making it available.