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The Magic of Reading, The Epistemology of Learning, & The Value of Incubating Ideas

Resource: The Big Green Book: Robert Graves and Maurice Sendak’s Little-Known and Lovely Vintage Children’s Book About the Magic of Reading
Description: The tale of a little orphan boy who discovers a magical book that transforms his life


A little orphan boy named Jack is condemned to living with his Aunt and Uncle who don’t treat him very nicely. They force him to take long walks when he’d rather be left alone to play. To make things even more monotonous, the family eats rabbit pie nearly every night because their dog is constantly, and successfully, hunting down rabbits.

One day jack sneaks into the attic to play and he discovers a big green book. The book turned out to be a grimoire filled with magical spells. Jack spends so much time experimenting with the spells in the book that he becomes a master magician and transforms himself into an old man. When his Aunt and Uncle come looking for him, they find a little old man who tells them their nephew has disappeared. Jack then engages them in conversation and invites them to play cards with him. Using his magical ability, he wins game after game and bet after bet until he ultimately tricks his aunt and uncle into gambling away all their possessions to him. He also casts a spell on the dog and the rabbits that results in a reversal of the tide: the rabbits down spend their time chasing a frightened dog.

After having fun with his family, Jack returns to the attic, changes his form back to that of a boy, and then convinces his family that it was all an illusion. Everything returns back to normal….except for one thing: the dog is still afraid of, and chased by, rabbits. And that means Jack no longer has to suffer through anymore rabbit pie dinners. This is symbolic of the fact that even though we have to return to the real world after reading a book, the real world that we return to will never be the same.

Bad news: Whenever I finish reading a great book, I have to return back to the real world.
Good news: Whenever I finish reading a great book, the world that I return to is never the same.

Favorite quote:

“…although we inevitably return to the real world when the reading experience ends, books always transform us and leave traces of themselves in our real selves, to be carried forward beyond the last page.” -Maria Popova

Resource: Nuts and Bolts: Learner Beliefs About Learning by Jane Bozarth
Description: How our assumptions about learning alters the way we process information


Our ability to learn is affected by our beliefs/assumptions about learning.

If someone believes that learning should happen quickly, they may feel behind or be less patient with themselves when they tackle complex subjects requiring a great deal of time. If someone believes that are dumb, they will react to the experience of failure as evidence that nothing can help them.

The connections and conclusions that are obvious to you are not necessarily obvious to another. Different epistemologies produce different reactions to information.

When sharing information, take into account other people’s epistemology.

Analyze your own epistemology of learning.


“When you’re frustrated with the adult learner who refuses to learn to use [technology], or doctors who quickly prescribe a drug without thinking through your unique medical history, or your mother who insists that child care is a simple black-and-white issue, think about the role that epistemological beliefs play in your dilemma.” -Marlene Schommer-Aikins

“Schommer-Aikins outlines four belief areas. Think about your own beliefs in each space. What are your inclinations? In each area, is your belief all-or-nothing? If not, what percentages or proportions would you assign to each choice? And think past your gut-reaction academic, “correct” answer: What are your own beliefs, really, when you are trying to learn something new? “

– How much control do you believe you have over your own learning? Is that inherited or acquired, or both?
– What do you believe about the speed of learning? Do you think learning is a slow process requiring practice and reflection, or is it something that should happen quickly if it is to happen at all?
– How is learning organized in your brain? Do you believe it exists in compartmentalized chunks, or in complex networks?
– How stable is knowledge? Do you believe information is fixed and unchanging, or does knowledge evolve and change over time?

So how might beliefs play out? Well, a person who believes that knowledge primarily exists as discrete pieces or chunks would probably see recall as “learning,” would see memorizing as a good study strategy, and would likely do well on tests but struggle with application. You don’t have to look far to find an instructor who believes knowledge, being simple and fixed, is easily handed down by authorities: In their view—and their practice—recall = comprehension = learning. On the other hand, those who see knowledge as something contained in interrelated networks would define “knowing” as being able to apply, and studying as integrating and elaborating new information. They’d probably do well on application but have trouble with testing on facts. People (like, ahem, me) who believe, or want to believe, that learning should happen quickly are likely to have trouble with patience and persistence. Those who believe they weren’t “born smart” will have little faith that instruction will help them improve. They’d likely ascribe mistakes to an innate lack of ability rather than see them as an opportunity to learn.” -Jane Bozarth

“Apart from understanding, as we do, ideas around structuring and organizing instruction, we can also bring our understanding of learner beliefs about learning to bear on our work. Can we find new explanations for why learners misinterpret information or fail to connect it to something else when we feel that connection should be evident? Can it help us explain to stakeholders why passing a multiple-choice test won’t necessarily guarantee improved work performance? To take that a step further: Can we craft better assessments and tests of application? Can we design in such a way as to help learners understand that learning can be gradual, and may become easier with experience and time? Can we find more opportunities to encourage and state the value of reflection?” -Jane Bozarth

Resource: Getting Things Done by David Allen
Description: Someday/Maybe Lists


Some ideas are not actionable right now, but you may want to act on them in the future without making a commitment right now. Your someday/maybe list is for these kinds of things.

Your someday/maybe list is not a throwaway list where you just dump creative ideas. It’s a highly valuable source for some of the most important and interesting projects you’ll ever work on.

Without a regular period of review, your someday/maybe list will lose its functionality.

When you capture your creative ideas in a place you know you will regularly review, it eliminates to cost of having ideas and makes you more willing to brainstorm. When you don’t have a capturing system for someday/maybe items, your creative ideas will distract you and make you feel stressed.

Two sources for teasing out items for your someday/maybe lists: 1) Take a look at your current projects and identify the ones that are optional or that you might not realistically get to in a few months. Take them off your plate and put it on your someday/maybe list. 2) Creative imagination — what would you like to learn? what do you need to master for the sake of your professional life? what would you like to experience before you die?

Don’t rely on a nebulous “hold and review” system. Most things that get held, don’t get reviewed. Run everything that commands and demands your attention through the clarification process and incubate the \interesting things you don’t want to commit to.


“Someday/Maybes are not throwaway items. They may be some of the most interesting and creative things you’ll ever get involved with. “

“It’s highly likely that if you did a complete mind sweep when you were collecting things from your mental space, you came up with some things you’re not sure you want to commit to. “Learn Spanish,” “Get Marcie a horse,” “Climb Mt. Washington,” “Write a mystery novel,” and “Get a vacation cottage” are typical projects that fall into this category. If you haven’t already done it, I recommend that you create a Someday/Maybe list in whatever organizing system you’ve chosen. Then give yourself permission to populate that list with all the items of that type that have occurred to you so far. You’ll probably discover that simply having the list and starting to fill it out will cause you to come up with all kinds of creative ideas. “

“Activating and maintaining your Someday/Maybe category unleashes the flow of your creative thinking—you have permission to imagine cool things to do without having to commit to doing anything about them yet. “

“You may also be surprised to find that some of the things you write on the list will actually come to pass, almost without your making any conscious effort to make them happen. If you acknowledge the power of the imagination to foster changes in perception and performance, it’s easy to see how having a Someday/Maybe list out in front of your conscious mind could potentially add many wonderful adventures to your life and work. We’re likely to seize opportunities when they arise if we’ve already identified and captured them as a possibility. “

“People have at times found it useful even to subcategorize their Someday/Maybe projects. There might be a significant difference for you to think about projects you really want to do around your home as soon as you have the resources versus your “bucket list” kind of fantasies, such as climbing a mountain in Nepal or creating a foundation for disadvantaged kids. “

“What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.” —Aristotle

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