also born on a blue day

OK, here is a book for you English readers. Born on a Blue Day by

Daniel Tammet. When I started it, I had not known anything about

the author, who is an autistic savant with amazing creative and

cognitive talents. In this memoir, he covers a range of topics,

including his successful challenge to recite from memory the first

22,514 digits of the mathematical constant pi (let's see if I can do

three digits: 3.14 - yes!).


Most interesting for me are the parts when he describes his visual and

emotional experience of numbers - what scientists call "synesthesia".

Can you imagine this going on in your mind?


"Numbers are my friends, and they are always around me. Each one

is unique and has its own personality. The number 11 is friendly and

5 is loud, whereas 4 is both shy and quiet - it's my favorite number,

perhaps because it reminds me of myself. Some are big - 23, 667,

1,179 - while others are small: 6,13,581. Some are beautiful, like 333,

and some are ugly, like 289. To me, every number is special." (p.2)


Fantastic, isn't it? In a very small way, I can almost feel what he means

- 289 is kind of ugly, don't you think? Daniel Tammet also sees days

of the week as  certain colors - thus the book title, which refers to his

birth on a Wednesday - always "a blue day". After a quick online

search (again, I don't have quite that kind of brainpower!) I was

comforted to know that my birthday, May 10, 1967, was also a 

Wednesday - because blue is my favorite color, and that just feels



But beyond this exposure to a fascinating story, what I got from the

book was a renewed incentive to understand how other people learn.

One of my company's main business areas is in professional training,

most often for multi-national corporations and audiences that include

a wide range of scientists, marketers, researchers, etc. We work

hard to get our key messages across to these many types of people,

but sometimes it is easy to forget that the individuals do approach

problems very differently, depending on their own innate abilities,

experiences, and cultures.


The passage that really brought this home to me in the book comes

when Daniel Tammet is talking about his elementary school days:


"I often found it confusing when we were given arithmetic worksheets

in class with the different numbers printed identically in black. To me,

it seemed that the sheets were covered in printing errors. I couldn't

figure out, for example, why eight was not larger than six, or why

nine was printed in black instead of blue... When I wrote my answers

on the paper, the teacher complained that my writing was too uneven

and messy. I was told to write every number the same as the others.

I didn't like having to write the numbers down wrong."


So next time I am explaining something for the third time in a lecture

setting, repeating myself, not getting through and sensing frustration on

both sides, hopefully I will remember to step back and try a different

approach. Maybe ask the group to gaze out the window at the

massive 9's that dot the Shinjuku skyline, to try to imagine which

number might sound like "a clap of thunder or the sound of  waves

crashing against rocks" (5), or which one could feel "lumpy like

porridge" (37). At the very least, the conversation wouldn't be boring...


jeffjapan at 00:05コメント(0)トラックバック(0) 


itv-japan interview

I recently did an interview for itv-japan in their new feature area "Training

for Success", hosted by fellow Tokyoite Bernd Kestler. The finished

version is a good summary of key points regarding the application of 

business simulations in corporations across Asia. Take a look and tell me

what you think!  

jeffjapan at 10:15コメント(0)トラックバック(0)