Charles Starrett


Blog, links, and…

Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.


Learning as a distraction

I love to learn. You could call me “jack of all trades, master of none” but I prefer “renaissance man” or Emilie Wapnick’s term, “multi-potentiate.” A glance at my LinkedIn profile shows a variety of education and roles, and that’s only what I’ve felt are worth putting up there.

One reason my path has meandered is that I was misled by the adults around me when I was growing up. Nobody reflected back to me the person they saw, they only projected onto me the person they wanted me to be. This led to decades of frustrated searching as I thought that the future I was pursuing was where the world wanted me to go, but some part of me knew that I was going the wrong way.

Another reason is that I truly am a curious person. I’ve enjoyed learning to compose film music, to build pipe organs, to code simple programs in a dozen different computer languages, to write a chapter of a children’s book, to speak Korean, to consult on organizational culture, to self-publish an art photography book, to be a church music director, to create process architecture, and to teach ethnomusicology, organizational communication, piano, meditation, English as a second language, and emotional intelligence.

I also recognize that there are many times when my brain says, “Oooh! Shiny,” and wants to learn something new as a distraction. A way to move away from the discomfort of the now: the self-doubt when I can’t write my daily blog post; the the self-criticism when I have to undo a mistake and start over, or the fear that I don’t know enough to take the next step that I know I have to take. (The feeling of not knowing enough is a very strong siren call to go down the rabbit hole of learning.)

So I practice noticing when my attention is drawn to learning something new and I try to sense into my motivation. Is it genuine curiosity? Is it something I really need to learn myself (and can’t delegate)? Or am I looking for a distraction away from a path that is uncomfortable in the moment, but will lead towards the direction of my well-being.

Of all the tips and tricks for staying focused, noticing where my attention is (putting my attention on my attention) has been the best. And noticing my attention is usually all I need. If I can notice that I’m getting distracted or off-track, re-focusing and getting back on track happens almost automatically.

Or maybe I decide to take a break and have some fun learning that new, shiny thing! Sometimes that can be a good choice, too.

15 August 2022

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