The Art of Noticing No. 12: The 10-second Mr. Rogers Ask; Dancing to Hold Music; Icebreaker of the Week

Hello again,
The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday (coming in May: Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Knopf) offers exercises and prompts and games and things you can actually do to build attention muscles, stave off distraction, pick up on what everybody else overlooked, and experience the joy of noticing. This newsletter offers related news and ideas that have come along since I finished the book. 1. Ten Seconds of Doing What Mr. Rogers Wants You To Do: In a conversation the other day, my friend (and Art of Noticing source!) Lucian James, founder of Zen7, mentioned this short clip of Fred Rogers accepting an Emmy back in 1997.

He does a remarkable thing. At about the 1:30 mark, he notes he has many to thank, and then says:

All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who helped you become who you are: Those who have cared about you, and wanted what was best for you in life. Ten seconds of silence. I'll watch the time."

He looks at his watch — and we look at a variety of celebrities holding back tears.

We think of "noticing" and "attention" as primarily visual, and focused on the physical world. The Art of Noticing starts out with exercises geared in that direction. But then it moves to include other senses, and connection, and finally a more interior form of noticing. (My editor once summarized it this way: "First you look around; then inside." Or at least that's how I recorded her thought in my notebook at the time!)

So I admire Rogers' suggestion. Spend those ten seconds — just ten seconds — thinking of those have cared about you. At the end of his time, Rogers looks up from his watch and says:

Whomever you've been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they've made.

Rather lovely. (Thanks for the pointer, Lucian!)

2. Well Noticed!: Dancing to On-Hold Music. Nina Katchadourian is a true Hero of Noticing, and another AoN source; the book describes a number of her amazing projects. But this one was news to me:

For several years, Katchadourian recorded the music she heard while placed on hold during phone calls. She then collaborated with two New York-based DJs, Julie Covello (DJ Shakey) and Gabriel Willow (DJ Stylus), to sample, chop, loop, and mix this music with other “phone matter,” such as dial tones and voice prompts, transforming our usual experience of on-hold music into something highly activated, energized, and physically engaging.

On March 7, 9:30–11 pm, Fridman Gallery will host Katchadourian’s On-Hold Music Dance Party. Via Hyperallergic. Sorry for the short notice, but If you are in New York, I really, really think you should go. I sure wish I could.

3. Icebreaker of the Week: I'll get back to your icebreaker submissions next week, but I've got a few others I've saved up, and wanted to share this one. It comes from Mike Kim on Twitter, via Tyler Cowen's blog.

Ice-breaker question I came up with a few years ago that I call the “off-diagonal” question: Tell me about something you love doing that you’re terrible at. And tell me about something you really do not like doing that you’re great at.

Send your favorite icebreaker (whether made it up or got it elsewhere) to

4. Random Endorsement: Minding The Gap is a stunner documentary about some young skater guys in the Midwest. That sounds so banal, I know. And I've consumed a lot of "young skater guy" material over the years. So frankly I went into this pretty skeptical. But it's beautiful and surprising and sweet and heartbreaking. I saw it on the PBS iPad app, via the POV series, but it looks like now it's streaming on Hulu, and screening in various cities. Anyway, find a way to see it, it's amazing.

Okay, that's it! As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals (and your icebreakers). Reply to this email or use

Thanks for reading!


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