There’s Your Problem Right There: Someone Stole Your Battery



The car wasn't starting, and he and a stranded collaborator swaggered around, "being all macho and cool and talking automobile talk."

I approached them, and, as explained in the story, asked if they had jumper cables. They nodded.

Then they looked under the hood of the car, and they saw there was no battery. "'Hell,' I said, 'there's your problem right there. Somebody stole your battery.'"

With this simple story about cars, Robert Fulghum shows the fallacy of gender encoding — the Y chromosome does not mean a man knows how to use jumper cables.

This is one of the stories in a collection of life anecdotes All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten by bestselling author Robert Fulghum. Now in its 15th edition. And it all started with one story, says Fulghum:

"A part of this — the part about what I learned in kindergarten — was passed around the country until it took on a life of its own. One day it was sent home in the knapsack of a child whose mother is a literary agent…"

The core concept of this enjoyable collection is treating ourselves and others with kindness, exploring everything with wonder, and giving each other the special consideration and props that say: I know you're there, and I'm glad you are.

Everyone can relate to the stories, which is what makes the book so enduring. Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. The distance, what is in between is often culture — also the result of the environment in which someone was brought up.

It's what makes us unique, and either brings us together or sets/tears us apart.

Facts need connections to gain significance, said neuroscientist Susan Greenfield in one of the talks from the School of Life Sermons, and stories are easy ways to package lots of connections into a short space.

We like stories, we like to summarize, and we like to simplify, that is to reduce the dimension of things. In Nicholas Nassim Taleb's words, "the fallacy is associated with our vulnerability to overinterpretation and our predilection for compact stories over raw truths." The type of interpretation depends on context.

Culture is a dominant part of language and identity.

I publish in both English and Italian, and with a little joyous effort, I could go back to becoming proficient in German and French. Being able to communicate your ideas in more than one language expands your horizons, in addition to growing your brain.

In March, The New York Times published an article that discussed some recent research that supports what many people who speak more than one language have experienced to varying degrees:

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people.

The brain grows by use. I saw tangible and daily proof of that when working with early child brain development in the first years of my career.

Back then, I was logging in forty hours of simultaneous interpreting and a hundred or more in written and consecutive translation per month. Going to-and-from one language to another literally requires a constant adjustment to thinking in a different context, based upon cultural references.

I used to laugh because it took about twice as long to say anything in Italian than it did to say the same thing in English. Italian is a descriptive language. When you do that day in, day out, you learn to identify patterns early and to connect meaning quickly.

It also influences your business relationships.

Extrapolating the lessons for business in digital media and on the social Web means being attuned to the opportunities that develop to form relationships in the moment. It’s as much an art as it is a science.

In an interesting article in the New York Times, Sherry Turkle says:

We expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship.

As much as I'd like to think connections are inevitable, I still consider them the most rewarding aspect of learning when with ideas, and relationships when with people.

I've also noticed that when we think we know someone just by having seen their avatar online, when we take a simple idea for granted because it seems easy to do… until we actually do it, we have a disconnect. Just like when the car doesn't start, because someone took the battery.

We are the missing part for connections to form, and they still happen over time, by doing things for each other, mostly after sitting across from one another to bring some measure of dimension to what is otherwise mainly a story we tell ourselves.



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