A couple of months ago, I read in the newspapers about how this woman in her late fifties, with heavy make-up, colored hair and the trendiest clothes had been denied entry in one of the hippest clubs in town. She and her friends were eventually allowed in but the club denied them free complimentary drinks on “Ladies Night”. The free drinks on Ladies Night was meant to attract much younger ladies to the club which would in turn entice men to come patronize the club. That article set forth some rather heated debates on local forum websites with some netizens suggesting that she and her older friends should patronize other community clubs meant for older folks.
I for one did not understand why a person at her age would put herself through such an embarrassing episode. Then a few days ago, a picture of her appeared in the newspapers again. Apparently she had died of cancer and she had been fighting for her right to party and have a good time before the curtains came down for her. And because of her and the publicity generated, the club eventually set up a separate section where people of all ages could have a good time drinking and dancing on the club premises.
The example I cited above demonstrates how our narrow thinking can be if we set ourselves up into believing what seems to be the obvious. If we look beyond the obvious and ask ourselves “what if” questions, we may be surprised to discover that there can be many interesting answers and solutions to any problems. Life can be like a big noisy party. With music blaring in the background, people laughing and shouting and glasses clinking. But even with all these going on, it’s still possible for you to understand the person across from you. Or even one from twenty feet away. That’s because our attention is selective and we can tune out certain things and tune in to the things we want to focus on.
You can test this for yourself. From where you are seated, find five things that have “red” in them. Suddenly your mind starts to focus and things with red starts jumping out around you. With your “red” mindset, you see red on a book, red on a cup or red on a picture and so on. Likewise, whenever you learn a new word or phrase, you suddenly hear it being used around you. Or after you bought a new blouse, shirt or skirt, you might start seeing it around town. That’s because people find what they’re looking for. If you’re looking for beauty, you’ll find beauty. If you’re looking for conspiracies, you’ll find it. It’s all a matter of tuning your mental channel to find what you’re looking for.
We learnt how to set our mental channels from our formal education. Other important sources comes from our family and friends we hang around with. Through the years, you learn what is appropriate and what is not. Through this, you learn many of the questions you use to find out about your environment. You learn how to probe and search for information, which ideas to pay heed to and how to think about these ideas. Your educational background gives you many of the concepts to understand and put order to the world around you.
For example, if you were taught the right memory techniques to train your memory, you’ll discover you can suddenly memorize long chains of numbers like credit card numbers or telephone numbers. As a student, your study skills will improve and you will experience accelerated learning. You’ll remember complicated road directions easily and can memorize long grocery lists. As you progress with your memory training over the years, sometimes even unknowingly, your friends may even accuse you of cheating in poker games or bridge. This is because you can remember the card sequences and what hands are being played. People with memory training are also protected against Alzheimer’s disease or dementia much more longer than people who don’t have mental skills.