explore, connect, and engage

Ahhhh…. summer! Extra time to check off my unfinished spring tasks? Nope, not for me! Taking the time to engage my mind in new and different ways pays off when I return to work rested and inspired. 

As I look back on other summertime posts I have written (here, here, or here), my message has been surprisingly consistent: explicitly engaging in non-work activities is invigorating and inspires creative thinking and energy that will fuel your productivity when you are back at work! So that’s what I’m busy doing.

This summer, I was lucky enough to hear a series of lectures on Invention, including a children’s author/prolific inventor at IBM and the co-founder of Stanford’s d.school. Now, I don’t really have plans to file for any patents (at least not that I’ll share here!), but I do know that my job as a school-based SLP requires lots of creative thinking and new solutions to old problems. My favorite speaker of the week was Pagan Kennedy, author and “Who Made That” columnist for the New York Times Magazine. I’m reading her most recent book, Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World. Here are some of the points that are inspiring me as I read:

  • Your most innovative ideas may not be in the area where you are an expert, but instead where you have a unique perspective. For example, the person who developed seat belts was not an automotive safety exec, but a plastic surgeon. Maybe my most innovative ideas are in teaching math to language disordered students? 
  • Capitalize on your “outsider-ness”. Are you the only male in your yoga class? The only language specialist in your building? What do you see that others might miss?
  • “If you want to understand a problem, ask a community.” (p. 11) Want to know about kids’ experience with prostheses? Parents’ struggles with getting AAC vocabulary from school? Ask.
  • To invent, we must predict the future. What new problems will exist soon? Maybe I am struggling with a situation now that soon millions will experience?

Sometimes the shadow of my end-of-school, springtime task list is long and I wonder if I shouldn’t use my extra time in the summer to just finish off all those nice-to-do tasks (laminate those cards? play with that new AAC app? prep the social stories I always wish I had ready?). But this is not the best way to use my summertime! Whether you have 3 months or 1 week off, you’ll reap the most long-term benefits from exploring other interests, making connections, and engaging your mind! Happy summer!