A Pocket of Curiosity

“I’m just very curious—got to find out what makes things tick… all our people have this curiosity; it keeps us moving forward, exploring, experimenting, opening new doors.” – Walt Disney

Percy Spencer only had a fifth-grade education. His father passed away when he was a toddler and he left school to get a job to support his family when he was only 12. His formal education may have been cut short but that didn’t stop his learning.  He began to experiment with electricity and learning at night, after work.  He became intrigued with wireless radio when he read how it was used to direct the ship Carpathia to rescue the Titanic passengers. He joined the Navy and managed to get ahold of textbooks to teach himself mathematics and science. After his service, he was hired at Raytheon, a newly formed company designing and manufacturing vacuum tubes.  Percy was particularly interested in producing radiation, specifically the use of magnetrons to generate signals used in radar.  That was something the US Government was keen to get for the war efforts.

One day in 1945, Percy showed up at work with a chocolate candy bar hidden in his pocket. While standing in front of the magnetron he was working on, he noticed the candy bar was melting.  He was fascinated by this behavior so he sent out for some unpopped popcorn and put it in front of the magnetron.  When it popped, he knew this small wave radar radiation could be used for cooking. He put the magnetron in a metal box and thus was born the first microwave oven.

Curiosity leads to discovery.  A disadvantage can often lead to a profound benefit.  What makes the difference?  In the case of Percy Spencer, his self-guided education taught him to ask why, to experiment and learn.  An unexpected occurrence, which by all rights could be viewed as an embarrassing disaster by many of us (melted chocolate pocket anyone?) turned into a critical discovery that has brought about an amazing benefit to humanity.  His creative idea was born out of curiosity, observation and action.

This year has been challenging for all of us. The new ways of working and the difficulties before us can be perplexing and discouraging at times.  But don’t give up.  Turn that melted chocolate bar into a discovery.  Ask, what can we learn from this crisis?  What experiment can we conduct to lead us on to discovery?   Are you limiting yourself or your thinking by the echo chamber we can easily find ourselves in?   Don’t.  Try something new this week.  Observe, ask why and then seek to answer it.  I suspect we are all sitting on a goldmine of new discoveries that we have yet to entertain.  Tap your opportunities and explore the unknown to see where it leads.

The next time you heat something up in the microwave remember how a melted candy bar and an inquisitive person handed us that useful invention.

Transforming Hope

"Light in the Darkness" by Julia R. Cox

“You will do something outside yourself, something to repair tears in your community, something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself, but for one’s community.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Fall begins tomorrow. There are just 66 days until Thanksgiving and 95 days until Christmas!  Can you believe it?  As I thought about it, I felt a sense of joy.  I love the holidays!  I’m looking forward to the festive fall decorations, family gatherings, seasonal food, menorah lighting and Christmas lights.  It is a time when the world turns from its selfish bent to a time of giving and giving thanks.  It is a time of joy and a time of hope.  It is a hope that we as a people can be better, be just and kind, truthful and compassionate, strong and loving, cheerful and optimistic.  It reminds me of a community, a world that “can be”. It is a hope.

Hope.  It is a powerful thing that is often underestimated, undervalued and underused.  Hope powers us to go beyond ourselves, shatter artificial ceilings, endure painful hurdles to reach the finish line and wake up each day renewed to go on.  Hope is transformational fuel.  Fixing our mind on hope literally changes us.  Our outlook, efforts and character are changed when we hope.  The science behind hope is real. Hope causes the brain to release neurochemicals called endorphins and enkephalins. These chemicals allow the brain to overcome barriers, manage pain, accelerate healing and bring happiness.  Hope is nitrous oxide for our brains!  

Do you want to see a change in yourself or the world?  Unleash some hope. But what do you hope for?  Have you thought about it?  By faith we can believe there can be a better tomorrow.  Take a moment today and think about what could be, what should be.  Can you believe it?  If not, there is no hope.  Hope requires faith and step by step perseverance.  It knows the road ahead is challenging but the destination is real. When we believe, we can make a difference. Everything we do can be transformed by hope: our projects, our businesses, our families, our world and ourselves.  Apply your mind to hope.  Plug in and feel the power surge propel you forward.

It’s coming! The future is ahead and tomorrow is one more step towards our dreams.  Take hope!

* Image Note: This painting is “Light in the Darkness” by the incredibly talented Julia R. Cox.

Make a Difference

Aurora see in Wisconsin

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” ― Fred Rogers

Joan loved science.  When she was 8 years old, she declared to her family that she wanted to be a scientist.  Her mother scolded her, “Women’s brains can’t do science.”  She was crushed and went sobbing into a pillow, wondering if she had to let go of her dream.  On her 14th birthday her brother, Richard, gave her a college textbook titled “Astronomy” which included an impressive chart of scientific data produced by a female astrophysicist.  That was what she needed to encourage her to pursue her career. 

Joan earned her doctorate in physics in 1958 and went on to work at NASA and JPL where she made critical discoveries about the nature and cause of auroras, specifically the interaction of the Earth’s magnetosphere and the magnetic field of the solar wind.  She was recognized and awarded many honors for her contributions to astrophysics, sunspot cycles, environmental hazards to spaceships and climate change.  Before passing away this past July, Joan Feynman had pushed through the barriers of bad advice she had received as a child and went on to make a dent in the universe of human understanding, space travel and our world.  

We are often told what we can and cannot do.  Our families, others and our jobs can intentionally or unintentionally cast us into roles that limit our potential.  I think many of us can relate to bad advice that we have received from others or have given to ourselves.  There is a tendency for us to undervalue our significance or limit our own potential. We are surviving but are we thriving?  We turn the cogs of the machine, but are we living our potential?

You are important.  You make a difference.  The truth is that you individually bring a distinctive value to our human family.  Your individual contribution, diverse traits, history, strengths, challenges, specific talents and nuanced skills fit together into the unique puzzle that is us.  You belong.  Our teams, our organizations and our world would not be the same without you.  That is the incredible truth.  The collection of our uniqueness builds the fabric of who we are as individuals and as a group.  When someone leaves, we become less. 

What are you doing to challenge the barriers you or others have placed upon you?  What would you change?  Are you hiding any of your talents or distinctives that could make us better as a group?  Please don’t!  Bring you.  Make us all greater by being greater yourself.  Embrace the strengths and unique talents of yourself and others as part of our collective power.  Our gaps and our strengths combine to make a diverse spectrum of formidable capability that will help us, our companies and our human family become even greater.  

Each one of us has a unique opportunity to make a dent in the universe.  Encourage yourself.  Encourage others and leave a bit of yourself behind at every encounter.  Together, we become even greater. 


“Hear me well on this day… when you are deciding on next jobs, next steps, careers, further education, you would rather find purpose than a job or a career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.”  – Chadwick Boseman

A wealthy man in the neighborhood passed away. He was known for his business prowess, cunning frugality and perpetual seclusion.  His neighbors assembled at the funeral, more out of curiosity than acquaintance.  Many were discussing his shrewd business dealings and began to speculate among themselves on the accumulation of his wealth.  Finally, one neighbor approached the minister and asked, “Do you know how much he left?”  The minister looked up at the gathering, smiled sadly and said, “All of it.”

Our book began with our first breath and it will close with our last. What happens between those first and last chapters defines what we leave behind: the epilogue.  It is the sum of what we have done in this life and the mark we have made upon the shelves of history.  So much of life can seem like inconsequential progressions of putting one foot in front of the other.  We are surviving, following and reacting to external forces.  Those narratives leave no permanet mark in our story or on those around us.  What story do we want to leave behind?

What is your mission?   What is your purpose?  I remember being asked those questions many years ago and frankly, I struggled with the answer.  I had fallen into the mechanics of living, breathing, moving, and working, but it was without direction or purpose.  My friend challenged me, write down the statement of your purpose and define your mission.  It was transforming.  I suddenly had a compass and a light to guide my path.  I was writing the script instead of letting the script author me.  Meaning and clarity brought gifts of peace, passion and proactive planning. I knew where I was going and how I could shape the epilogue of my life.

What is your purpose? What do you want to leave behind?  What is the reason you get up each day?  If you haven’t done so already, I challenge you this week to write down your purpose and mission. Make it aspirational. Like mine (see here) it won’t  be perfect and you will tune it over time.  But from your purpose, you will develop your mission and steps that will guide you in your work, family, community, career, faith and leisure.  We don’t get to write our own epilogue but we can shape it.  Invest in eternity, starting today, by pouring yourself into your purpose and be the person you were always meant to be.