The Importance of Mental Flexibility
Will Shortz has been the crossword editor of The New York Times since 1993 and the puzzle master for NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday since 1987. He's also the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Shortz sold his first puzzle professionally when he was 14. He is the only person in the world to hold a college degree in Enigmatology, the study of puzzles, which he earned from Indiana University in 1974.
Will Shortz: Keep your mind flexible. Any challenge you have think of all the possible ways you can solve it or go about accomplishing what you want to do, and figure out which one is the best.
I find having mental flexibility helps me all the time. An example that jumps to mind, this was about 20 years ago, something really important to me. I was flying cross-country. I was going to JFK Airport. I was a little late. I was parking my car in the long term lot. I pulled into the lot and a ticket was supposed to come out of the machine automatically, but it got stuck inside. I heard the whirring sound. I looked in and saw the little horizontal bar and my ticket is stuck in there. The bar won’t go up. Meanwhile cars are piling up, are stacking up behind me. I can’t go into the lot. I'm about to miss my plane. What do I do?
Well I got out of the car, looked around and saw a paperclip, so I picked it up. I untwisted it, reached in, poked it in that hole in the machine, hooked in one of the holes of the card, extracted my ticket, raced to the airport, and I literally got to the plane as they were shutting the door. So I made my plane because of my puzzle solving ability.
Crosswords and Sudoku aren't just a nice way to pass the time; they could train you to think more flexibly about the problems that come up in your everyday life.
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
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In the face of seemingly unstoppable gun violence, Americans could stand to gain by looking to the Swiss.
- According to a recent study, the U.S. had the second highest number of gun-related deaths in 2016 after Brazil.
- Like the U.S., Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership. However, it has a considerably lower rate of deaths from gun violence.
- Though pro-gun advocates point to Switzerland as an example of how gun ownership doesn't have to correlate with mass shootings, Switzerland has very different regulations, practices, and policies related to guns than America.
We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
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