How airport Newsstands feed curiosity ...

I have flown my fair share, particularly for business; most within North America, but also across the "pond"... and mostly in economy. Standing, waiting, sitting, standing, more sitting and waiting... did she say "delayed again"? With all of that said, other than LAX, there has never been an airport I didn't like; yes I am aware of the issue of pricing, but that is just microeconomics at its finest. What I am really drawn to is the airport Newsstands and the books they offer. They have best sellers of course, but once you get past those, they seem to have an array of the most unexpected titles and topics. They feed my curiosity!

A little while back, I wrote a post called "Along came awareness" , offering a perspective as to how Awareness is an important component of effective problem solving and execution; I then suggest Awareness is born from Curiosity. So now you can see why I am so excited about the airport Newsstand. 

It isn't my intention to offer a book review of my most interesting airport newsstand books, but I did want to offer a sampling, as they have expanded my awareness in very interesting areas... so here goes:

"It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be" by Paul Arden. Bold font and insights from a successful advertiser makes this an easy read. "Life's Creative Circle" offers great perspective.

  • 0-1 yrs: Nothing
  • 1-3 yrs: Minimalist
  • 3-5 yrs:  Fantasy
  • 5-10 yrs: The beginnings of copying
  • 10-15 yrs: Art becomes grown up
  • 15-20 yrs: A need to change the world
  • 20-25yrs: Beginnings of political awareness
  • 25-30 yrs: Maturity
  • 30-40yrs: Hell bent on success
  • 40-45 yrs: Repeating success
  • 45-50 yrs: Trying to keep up with the 25 year olds
  • 50 yrs: Watershed
  • 50-60 yrs: Reinventing yourself
  • 60-75 yrs: Gentle decline into senility
  • 75-85 yrs: Youth regained
  • 85 - 100 yrs: Inhibitions lost. Don't give a damn. Me,me,me

"Universe on a T-Shirt", by Dan Falk. A very readable and entertaining book about the great physicists of the ages and the ultimate search for the theory of everything that is so concise that it could be put on a "T-shirt.

  • "The answer to the Great Question... of Life, the Universe and Everything ... is Forty-Two*

"Genghis Khan and the making of the Modern World" by Jack Weatherford. Offers great insight into the man who subjugated more lands in twenty-five years than the Roman Empire did in four hundred.

  • At the age of almost sixty, after being provoked by a neighboring Sultan, Genghis Khan took part of his army across two thousand miles of steppes, mountains and the feared Red Desert; doing what no one thought could be done. He completely out flanked and surprising his foe, and as you might guess, it did not end well for the Sultan. 

"SWAY - The irresistible pull of irrational behavior" by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman. This is a fascinating book as to why rational people will do irrational things... interesting insight into the human condition.

  • The chapter, Anatomy of an Accident is a stunning account of the contradictory actions of a veteran pilot, and the attempt to understand why he did what he did, which in the end, resulted in the loss of 584 lives.

"The Procrastinator's Handbook - Mastering the Art of Doing it Now" by Rita Emmett. I really should get around to reading this book. (Feel free to roll your eyes)

"The logic of Failure - Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations" by Dietrich Dorner. This is a heavy book to get through, but it does a great job of illustrating the relationship between things and the ripple effect that changes can have.

"American Prometheus - The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer" by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin - The complex story of the man, the Manhattan Project and ushering in the Atomic age.

  • Prometheus stole fire and gave it to men. But when Zeus learned of it, he ordered Hephaestus to nail his body to Mount Caucasus. On it Prometheus was nailed and kept bound for many years. Every day an eagle swooped on him and devoured the lobes of his liver, which grew by night.**

"Resilience - Why Things Bounce Back" by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy. This offers an interesting perspective on systems, behaviors and their relationships which allow for resiliency through adverse situations, be it in nature, communities or as individuals. 

  • There is some interesting commentary on "gaming theory" and what you need to win. If you are playing a computer it's a "tit for tat" strategy. But if you are playing a person, it's a "tit, tit for tat" strategy, as people sometimes do things not appreciating what they have done - It's all about the benefit of the doubt when it comes to people it seems.***

This is a great age to satisfy your curiosity as everything is a "click" away on our smartphone, but I think there is a depth that comes from reading a book which feeds awareness a little bit better. No matter how you satisfy your curiosity, the awareness that is born will help with your creative problem solving.

As I flip through these books, I still find an old boarding pass or two that I used as a marker. 


* From the "Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" and 42 fits easily on a T-shirt.

** By Apollodorus, The Library, book 1:7, second century B.C.

*** Page 160-162. Tit for tat is an English saying meaning "equivalent retaliation". It is also a highly effective strategy in game theory for the iterated prisoner's dilemma. Anatol Rapoport first introduced this strategy in Robert Axelrod's two tournaments, held around 1980. Notably, it was (on both occasions) both the simplest strategy and the most successful in direct competition. (Wikapedia)

Along came "awareness"...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here

About mid way through this prose you will ask "where the hell is he going with this?"... you will have to be patient but we will get there*.

Ok, anyone who knows a German Scientist please raise your hand? Well I do... she is quite brilliant, lovely and is everything that you would expect that comes with having a PhD in geophysics - Intelligent, exact, disciplined, intellectually challenging... wait, did I say exact?

A number of blogs ago, I offered some thoughts as to how the smart phone had done away with the value of having "knowledge for knowledge's sake" (A Samurai and his Smartphone). To this post she offered some comments and I shall quote in part, "...being a smartassy scientist, I have to state here that one should never (really never!) confuse knowledge with information. And in my opinion you are talking here rather about information than about knowledge. It's the access to an almost boundless amount of information that characterizes todays life..."(sic).  She was of course correct and I very much appreciate her thoughts!

In my defence, as lame as it was, I told her that it was "artistic license" on my part, as the root of knowledge is "know" and therefore if you know something it is by extension knowledge - Deep down though, I said to myself, "damn I should have used the word information". I will be the first to say I feel that I learn from my mistakes, so I have done some "smartphone research" and the definitions of information and knowledge are as follows:

  • Information is that which informs, i.e. that from which knowledge and data can be derived 
  • Knowledge is an understanding of someone or something.

So technically speaking, I should have said the SmartPhone did away with the importance of having information, facts and figures in your head... it's all about knowledge. 

As I worked through this situation of loose language and artistic licence, it got me to thinking that "Knowledge for knowledge's sake" might as well be brought into question. What about that old saying, "You don't know what you don't know" - How do you know that you don't have knowledge? How can you gather information to build the knowledge that you may not be aware of in the first place?

And so along comes awareness - 

  • Awareness is knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists

The magic word for me in the definition of awareness is the word "exists". It is the understanding that something exists that leads to gathering the information that "knowledge" can be developed from.  Awareness, knowledge and information... the triad is complete and the world is now a better place. With "awareness" thrown into the semantical mix I feel a little obliged to discuss it somewhat. (I know... it's just getting better isn't it?)

When looking at these three words I think it's fair to say that the importance of information, although the building blocks of knowledge, has been minimized with the advent of the internet and that the focus really lies with knowledge and awareness. So what's more important to have? The ideal answer is to say both, but in the real world it is of course, "it depends". Like almost everything, it depends on context; awareness may be more important in one situation and knowledge in another... and remember knowledge can be acquired from awareness given enough time. In a practical sense you want knowledge when you need to "do something" and awareness when you want to "determine what to do". Awareness leads to better understanding of a situation, as well as solution and opportunity development whereas Knowledge leads to better execution of plans and ideas. 

Ultimately knowledge is a specialized form of awareness and in a simplistic sense it all starts with being aware. It is here where I smile to myself as the next obvious question is, "where does awareness come from?"  Oh that's easy - Curiosity, And that leads to everything. Curiosity leads to awareness which in turn leads to knowledge. The more of one, leads to the more of another**. 

So be curious***. Be it yourself or within your teams; it leads to broader awareness and ultimately knowledge. Search out the curious, particularly if you need to look at your situation and the world differently. 

I bet you didn't see that coming.


* I will be very surprised if you could have ever guessed we would end up at curiosity.

** I have no data to support the ratios of "curiosity to awareness to knowledge" or aspects of diminishing returns but on a day to day basis it's safe to say if you are curious about something and have a smart phone you almost instantaneously have a working understanding and knowledge.

*** this will be a topic for much further discussion