Where creativity grows

Tag: #timferriss

Why I’ll never read another menu again

It has been a rough week here in the oodle universe. My summer break is rapidly drawing to a close and while I have had a full summer, I am far from feeling ready to start my 18th year of teaching. Yesterday I did what I do most Saturdays—rolled out of bed and met my running tribe. We ran just shy of six miles and I was feeling reenergized and excited to be alive. I got home and asked Tom if he wanted to go out to breakfast— to try a place called SYRUP in St. Charles. Two of the most powerful aspects of the creative mindset are: 1) expose yourself to new environments and 2) have new experiences. I was hoping that a breakfast outing would kickstart a mini creative adventure— I was not wrong! 

We arrived at SYRUP smack in the middle of the breakfast rush. Every table was full and there was a long line of hungry diners stretching out into the parking lot. The staff was bustling from table to table. The food smelled and looked delicious! After a short wait we were seated— a gigantic menu placed in front of each of us, but neither of us looked at it.

Our server, Amber, greeted us with an offer of coffee and juice. While waiting for our drinks, Tom asked me if we wanted to do our standard of ordering one sweet and one savory dish and sharing our meals— of course!  When Amber returned, we popped two questions that we ask every time we dine out: 1) What is the most frequently ordered item on the menu? 2) What do you think is a hidden gem that is not ordered enough? The first question yielded five or six relatively normal responses (it’s a HUGE menu). The second question is really the money question— where the unique and amazing culinary experiences are hidden. She suggested two items: 

Without even knowing it, Amber had suggested a sweet and a savory and two items that we NEVER would have picked out on our own. We love eating, but never would have looked at the items listed as “healthy.” Without even blinking, we ordered one of each item and grinned— excited to see what this adventure brought.

When the food arrived, I told Amber I might just hug her. The Home Sweet Home was exactly what we were looking for— a uniquely flavorful AND savory delight that introduced us to a new breakfast experience. I cannot overstate how delicious this entree was. We both had to stop ourselves from just shoveling it in our mouths. The Lemon Berry crepes were equally as heavenly— the perfect compliment to the savory Home Sweet Home. We both made mental notes about how we could recreate both of these items again at home. 

We have been asking these questions for a few years now— ever since Tom read about it in The Four Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss. If you are in a high-end restaurant, you could ask the server to ask the second question to the chef. Those two simple questions have completely changed our dining out experience— so much so that we have pretty much sworn off looking at menus. Sure sometimes we get a server who simply suggests the most expensive item on the menu, but in most cases they are tickled to be asked their actual opinion. Amber was grinning ear to ear as she was telling us about her two favorite items. She even went back and asked her manager the same questions— who was intrigued by the questions! We had an amazing new breakfast experience and we brightened what might have otherwise been a super busy and stressful morning rush at work. We have tried this out in restaurants throughout our travels and we have NEVER been disappointed. We tried Tri Tip in Wyoming (didn’t even know what tri tip was), lamb at an Afghani restaurant in Montreal (Tom NEVER eats lamb) and so many more! 

Give it a try! You’ll likely discover something you might not have otherwise had. Who knows where that creative exploration will lead.

Until next time, oodle on!

Jen

The Personal Offsite

My husband and I are avid fans of the Tim Ferriss podcast where in each episode, Tim interviews world-class performers from eclectic areas to tease out the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. His wide ranging conversations include favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more. In early 2019 Tim interviewed Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. 

While their conversation covered a myriad of topics, my husband and I honed in on the idea of a “quarterly personal offsite.” You are probably familiar with the concept of the annual review—  an opportunity to reflect on your performance over the last year and set goals for the upcoming year.  Despite their ubiquity, few people find the annual review helpful.  What if you dedicated some time on a regular basis away from home and work to check in with where you have been and where you are going in your life? McKeown calls it a quarterly personal offsite based on the idea that “every three months you take three hours to identify the three things you want to accomplish over the next three months.”

We were all in. Our goal was to evaluate where we were at in our lives and look forward without the distractions of our every day lives. I found us a quaint AirBnb in Durango, Iowa. The description promised the perfect place to get away from the world and unwind. Now just to set the ground rules for the weekend. 

  • No technology. Even if we did not come away with any clear direction forward we knew that a digital detox would be beneficial. The cabin was remote enough that there was no cell service or wifi.
  • Although the cabin did have sattelite TV, we did not want to fall into our old routine of wasting hours watching shows.
  • This was not a vacation. We were not going somewhere to sightsee or dine out. Our cabin had a small kitchen and we brought the fixings for simple meals. We would spend our time reading, writing, talking, meditating, doing yoga, hiking, or relaxing. 
  • We brought stacks and stacks of notebooks, post-it notes and pens. 

As soon as we arrived we knew we had selected the perfect location. The cabin was remote enough to feel like we were away from the world, but well appointed so that we were comfortable. We both did a lot of reading, writing and talking about our lives— where we were and where we wanted to go. After hours and hours of writing, I started to transfer my main ideas to post-it notes so that I could more easily sort and organize what I had uncovered. Tom followed a similar system. After two days we felt reenergized and extremely hopeful about the future. It was absolutely one of the best decisions we have ever made. We had clear action items to address when we returned home and a promise to reconvence in three months to check in again. 

About six months later, we decided to schedule another off-site to a different location. In the months since our initial “event” we had made a lot of changes in our lives. We were much more positive and upbeat about how life was going. That made the workshopping aspect of the weekend a bit more challenging, because we felt we were on the right path already. This weekend was less successful. We returned home a day early and resumed our lives.

Fast forward to last summer (2019) when we went on a driving trip around the Great Lakes. It was fourth of July weekend and our home for the next two days was a beautiful cabin in Chassell, Michigan. As soon as we walked into the cabin, we decided to put our vacation on pause for a few days and have another personal offsite. This one was much more similar to the first one— lots of writing, reading, talking and self-discovery. I honestly think the second one was a fluke and perhaps much too forced. 

What we have learned from the personal offsites:

  1. Taking the time to make your life is a priority is incredibly powerful. 
  2. If you get nothing out of the offsite other than a digital detox it is worthwhile. 
  3. Selecting your location with the intention of making the most of the experience is vital. These trips are not about sightseeing, dining out or even adventures.
  4. It helped to sort through all that was overwhelming us and focus on the 3-4 items that were most important to us over the next 2-3 months.  We left with clear action items.
  5. We left incredibly reenergized and most importantly more hopeful about the future.

My goals for the weekend were not creativity minded in general, but the positive effects of the weekend would have still held true. Checking out of the universe for a few days and getting away from the grind absolutely will free your mind and allow it to resume making unique connections between ideas. Stepping away from the constant barrage of negativity will give your heart and your mind some much needed rest and an opportunity to revitalize itself. You have an opportunity to hone your focus for your future giving you a much greater feeling of control.

I cannot recommend this experience highly enough!

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