My Discovery Day

Date October 26, 2007

Pursuit of Happiness: Work & Play

This is a journal style account of my day off, taken to learn more about my interests and passions and unique way of viewing the world. I’m sharing the day in detail to encourage you to take a day off and see how much you can learn about yourself.

I was talking with my friend Henry Packer about a telecourse we were planning called The Ferris Bueller Approach to Career Choice when Henry asked me a big question. He said, “Are you going to take a ‘Ferris Bueller’ day off before the telecourse?”

The correct answer was obvious: Yes, of course I’m going to do the exercise we’ll recommend in our telecourse and take a day off for spontaneous fun. But honestly, until he asked, I hadn’t realized I should. More importantly, I hadn’t realized I could. So I found a day where my wife could drop our sons at school and my mother could pick them up so I would be free to head out and explore without a schedule.

Henry is the mastermind of this idea, although he had an enormous amount of inspiration from the John Hughes film. Henry’s idea takes the template of a slightly rebellious, brash, but whimsical teenager who packs a lot of fun and limit-pushing adventure into one day and rewrites it for adults who feel stuck in an unfulfilling routine. Henry first used this model to give himself permission to take all the chores and projects off his schedule and focus on fun while his wife was out of town with a group of friends for a couple of days. No, it’s not that kind of fun. It’s Ferris Bueller, not Risky Business.

Henry, wise man that he doesn’t realize that he is, has included a Ferris Bueller day in his life once in a while to help keep himself connected to the things he loves but misses in his daily life. He understands that by taking time away from repetition and demands and opening the day to possibilities, he can reconnect with himself and hear his heart telling him what he enjoys.

As I approached my day off, I didn’t make any specific plans, just tentative ideas so I had the freedom to follow my interests. I got online that morning and looked up the Ron Mueck exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth. I had read about Mueck after seeing the signs for the exhibit. I also checked out foreign and independent film listings in the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area. I enjoy seeing small-release films but only go once a year or less because they’re usually far away. Unfortunately, nothing was showing that sounded compelling.

I headed out thinking about what I wanted in my day. I thought about driving the two hours to a small town I know where the river meanders through rocks and trees and carries away daily stress and brings in grander thoughts. I compromised and decided to go to a park in Fort Worth near a river. I bought a chocolate chip croissant on the way. The park sits high up on the bank of the river, which has been reshaped for flood control. The trees are far back from the benches along the trail at the top of the bank. I like rivers, and I like being right next to them and in them, so the arrangement was somewhat lonely.

I had time to think about the upscale older neighborhood where the French bakery is. I was seeing things more like a traveler in a new city. The people were more interesting and I wondered about their lives instead of focusing on the long lines and lack of parking (I didn’t ignore those, obviously!).

I thought about biking one time on the trail along the river with a friend many years ago, and how I was worn out at the end. He was biking for fitness and some sort of timed accomplishment. I was biking for enjoyment at first but had to focus on trying to keep up and breathing. I had a similar experience with a different friend who was into mountain biking and took me to a seven-mile course on the edge of a lake. I enjoyed the trails and the trees and the views of the lake, but I was wobbly and sore at the end. I didn’t ask to go on any more biking trails with him, which was probably a good thing, because he wound up crashing into a tree and getting a concussion shortly after that. Some people take fun way too seriously.

What I rediscovered in that half hour or so by the river is that I love being outdoors (when it’s not too hot) and that I love outdoor activities—just not strenuous ones! I thought about bringing my bike to the trail and riding for fun—just fun, with no number of miles to cover or time deadline to beat. I left thinking of taking another day off to drive the two hours to enjoy the river with the rocks and the trees and the rapids.

I headed straight for the Museum of Modern Art eager to see the Ron Mueck exhibit. Mueck makes sculptures that appear lifelike of people in different ages and stages of life. Some are small scale and some are huge. None are exactly life-size—that’s part of the magic when he shares his perspective. Some look annoyed, some fearful, some very content, and others contemplative. They are made of materials carefully tinted to look like skin, with detailed contours and wrinkles and toenails. And other parts of anatomy, as many of the pieces are nude. I was amazed at the ability of one man to conceive of a piece of art with such detail, figure out how to make it look exactly correct, and make it happen.

I discovered that I enjoy approaching things by deconstructing them, understanding something about how they are made, to entertain the sequential and logical part of my mind. Then I back up and experience them as a whole, using emotion and intuition and symbol to entertain the creative and intuitive part of my mind.

For lunch I went to a Lebanese restaurant which I don’t often have a chance to visit. Discovering different cultures, and especially different styles of food, is enjoyable to me for the immediate taste pleasure and for the more subtle pleasure of thinking about how people live. I was reminded I have an ongoing interest in cultures of all kinds that I want to include in my life more often.

Part of me was pretty tired from the intensity of the Mueck exhibit. I needed to use a different part of my mind so I went home to look at all the movie listings, not just foreign and independent films. None of them grabbed me, and then I remembered I had received the Pedro Almodóvar film Volver as a gift and hadn’t watched it yet. I made my plan to watch it that evening and headed to the bookstore.

I enjoy the bookstore but always have my sons with me and have to keep up with them and suit my schedule to theirs. Going on my own I got to enjoy a frozen coffee drink, thumb through a magazine on new cars (a passion of mine since childhood), and look through thesauruses. It might be hard to understand, but I know people who love reading dictionaries so a few will understand. During the day I had a dictionary and thesaurus in my car because I was thinking of different words to express the coaching and training business I am starting. Following one word through its meanings and related words leads me to distant connections. This helps me get a bigger understanding of how to describe things, and it’s like gymnastics for my brain. Reading huge thesauruses for a while was playful fun.

I talked with my wife and she suggested Indian food for dinner. It was my second choice for lunch, so having it for dinner was a wonderful idea. This left me with time to consider another whimsical pleasure—test-driving a new car. In college I was able to test-drive a BMW with no chance of being able to buy one. Over the years I’ve always volunteered to go with friends who are looking at cars. I love new cars, fasts ones, sporty ones, luxurious ones, and even quirky ones. But something was different. I didn’t want to test-drive a BMW or Mercedes because they were no longer completely out of reach. They can be affordable purchased three or four years old. I wanted to test-drive a smaller, fun car since my older son will be driving soon. I didn’t have enough time to drive all the cars I had in mind, but I had the chance to visit one dealership and look at one car. I realized I can do this for fun every month.

Dinner with my wife was a rare treat. We ate at a small Indian restaurant we recently discovered and tried new things—more adventure! I talked about my day, what I had done and what I had figured out so far. She had stories from work and from her riding stable and we laughed a lot.

At home she settled into some computer work and something on fashion or home makeovers on television so I put on Volver. The television in the family room is seventeen years old and the picture is not always clear, but I loved the movie. Almodóvar has a quirky, even twisted view of the world, and sometimes I have this eerie feeling he’s directing my life, especially when I see a hatchback full of clowns drive by (which happens far more often than it should). I remembered that I not only love story—the structure, patterns, symbols, and resolutions—but I especially love stories told visually so the meaning is in color and movement and juxtaposition and composition.

Sounds like my ideal career would be to make a film like A River Runs Through It set in an interesting foreign town with clowns delivering chocolate croissants in new cars to people reading thesauruses to each other. All the extras would be Ron Mueck style sculptures. But that’s not how the Discovery Day works!

It points me to what I love: words, associations between ideas, strong personal vision, detailed work, artistic meaning, visual composition, people in all their differences, great food, and discovering new things. A lot of it fits into coaching and community building, but I will keep looking for ways to bring more of my interests into my life, especially those things that make my brain and heart dance. And I will take more days off to make more discoveries.

3 Responses to “My Discovery Day”

  1. Darcy said:

    I so want to see that movie you dreamed up! Great account of a Ferris Bueller day, thanks for sharing it.

  2. Steve Coxsey said:

    I hope it’s the first of many more. I think at least once a year I’ll do that to help expand my viewpoint. It think it can be much more effective than a New Year’s resolution.

  3. On The Twisting Road : Twisting Road Travel Log said:

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