Unfurl yourself to new beginnings
Around my third year anniversary in SF, I started to feel like things were flatlining a bit, stagnating a bit, and just settling down. The rush and allure of a new city wore off. So instead of moving to New York as a jaded San Franciscan, I tried to fall back in love with my life in this majestic city. If you can’t change your surroundings then change your perception and response to it, right? These were the steps I took to fall back in love with SF:
Learn new stuff:
1. Improv — taking my first improv class helped me get out of my structured, process-driven mindset. As an introvert by nature trained by society to be an extrovert, I find it very hard to break out of my comfort zone. However, it’s so refreshing to find yourself in a situation where you can’t anticipate or expect a certain behavior or code of conduct. So much of daily interactions are based on some implicit premise, structure, modus operandi; improv throws all that out the window. My favorite exercises in improv are the most cathartic ones. In a circle, we practice our samurai screams, raising our katanas to kill each other, and slicing the other person to pieces. In another exercise, we go around saying “Zip, Zap, Zop” in a randomized, rapid-succession. If someone messes up, he/she has to start up the alphabet with “Bip, Bap, Bop”etc. It’s a lot to keep track of but also a great brain exercise flexing muscles you didn’t know existed.
One thing I learned from improv is the power of the agreement clause. It’s a lot easier to keep a conversation flowing with someone when you agree with their remarks first saying,“Yes, and…”. This I found to be particularly helpful engaging in lengthy UX and product decision-making dialogue. First you agree with someone’s point of view, acknowledge that you’ve heard them, and then expound my own opinions by incorporating their stance. This technique has worked out well in ironing out and reconciling diverging points of views and vehement opinions.
2. Practice applying principles from books — oftentimes ideas don’t always translate to reality. Reading is a great way to exercise to test that disconnect. I picked two books to translate to reality—Nudge and Law of Simplicity. A lot of the decision architecting principles from Nudge apply well to user research, usability testing, and understanding user habits. So much of our daily decisions and habits are subconsciously driven by smart decision architecting where there is a clear default nudging you towards a dominant option. I began seeing more anchoring in my daily life e.g. Trader Joe’s putting the $3.99 Fage yogurt next to the $2.99 Trader Joe’s greek yogurt so you end up buying their trademark yogurt. It surprised me how much selection bias and confirmation bias influenced my daily purchasing decisions.
Law of Simplicity, similar to Enoughby Patrick Rhone, preaches great design principles and thought processes to mitigate the clutter and complexities in life. I’m a big fan of Maeda’s mnemonic devices for simplifying processes. Also, his love for fitting MIT into words like siMplIciTy and CoMplexITy is adorable.
3. Cooking — taking some time once or twice a week to cook helps me feel human again. I like to think of it as building domestic IQ. There is no Wikipedia for Mom + Dad so you have to learn by doing certain things. This applies to cooking and housekeeping. I made apple cobbler for the first time this weekend only to find out how therapeutic it is. There are certain nuances, tips, and tricks you pick up like making homemade whip cream with the right tool— a whisk not a batter mixer! Chill the heavy whip cream first otherwise it won’t fluff. These things you learn from experience.
4. Ayurvedic Medicine — morning rituals are so important to start your day right. I started studying Ayurvedic medicine this month when a friend told me about the health benefits of pairing the right diet to your body type (dosha) and starting your day off with a meditative ritual. Every morning I wake up and rub Melvita’s L’Or Bio Oil (not patchouli mind you) on my wrists, temples, shoulders, lower back, navel, and soles of my feet like a hippie. It’s a self-pampering way to start the day. This practice actually increases the circulation around your pressure points similar to massaging and acupuncture in traditional Chinese medicine. Afterwards I make green tea and add slices of lemon and ginger. Having a ritual helps mitigate the Pitta (fire) in my mind and resets my equilibrium.
After making minor adjustments, learning more, and changing my default mode, I started falling back in love with SF. This love is now a deeper, more grounded, and mature one. Gone are the honeymoon, infatuation, and lusting days. By delving deeper into myself, expanding instead of contracting, I started to see the layers of urban strata, renewed sense of possibilities, and appreciation in my surroundings. Guess learning something new just helped me see what was there all along.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl