If You Had Unnecessary Superpowers, What Would They Be?

Practice eccentricity instead of optimization

Most of your self-improvement initiatives have probably failed, because that’s not the way we’re made.

There’s something to be said for experience, for knocking our heads while being in the midst of something that we’re passionate about, not adamant about. What counts is to be engaged, curious, interested—those are the flavors of experience that bring us to be better. Not the hamster wheel of endless optimization.

So what if you walked without your shoes for a day, where would your feet actually take you? Or tied a cherry stem with your tongue only because you have a tongue? Or started peeling a papaya when someone delivered you difficult news? What if you just did things for the simple sake of doing them, for no other reason than for a moment of experience to actually exist?

Here are other “unnecessary” things to try and think about:

Give someone a mullet
The ultimate trust means letting someone hold a knifelike object behind your back. Or is it letting someone use that object to mess with your hair? What then, would be the trust involved in going one step further, as in, giving someone a mullet haircut? The “business-like” at the front, “good times” at the back 80s emblem of hairstyles takes a certain amount of frivolity to pull off (and cut off).

Microdose children's songs
Too many will drive you to dark thoughts, a total absence may turn your soul to plastic. But just the right amount of Mother Goose Club, just the right dose of Raffi’s live sessions will set you on a lighter foot that could sustain you through the day.

Learn the song of a cerulean warbler
Imagine hiking through the foothills of the Appalachian or the Andes Mountains: you hear a bird song, and you know that it’s a “cerulean warbler.” Just like Jonathan Franzen (who put this bird on the cover of Freedom.) Go get lost in the wildlife and become ensconced in a new lifestyle, with its argot, its forays into the night, and its meticulously kept lists of bird song variations and the plumage nuance. Check out Song Sleuth to identify birds around you. Or this platform, Bird Sounds, built by Google Creative Lab together with Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where thousands of bird songs are visualized into a canvas of modern art using AI.

Put your personal motto onto a t-shirt
We all have that one phrase that we live by, the encapsulation of our beliefs that we may or may not have told anyone, ever. Live your truth by walking around with your “self slogan” burned onto your chest. Observe how the world around you responds (or not).

Tip on the tightrope
Take inspiration from Philippe Petit whose 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center is the subject of a brilliant documentary called Man on Wire. To start, balance on one foot, then try on your chair, then walk across a tree log, Dirty Dancing-style. “The key to balancing on a tightrope is to lower the body’s center of gravity toward the wire,” says Sonja Harpstead, a tightrope instructor at Circus Warehouse in New York City. So don’t lean forward; stand up straight and lower your hips by bending your knees. Gradually move to a sturdy rope tied between trees; take a deep breath, clear your head, and trust your body.

Give a one-minute speech
Georgians value hospitality, and their love of hosting, cooking, and drinking wine results in huge gatherings at almost every dinner, where toasts can go on for several minutes and turn into a whole story, fable, or song. There’s even a profession of a “toastmaker,” or tamada. Every dinner is like a celebration, and once you take part in it, you realize how unassuming toasting really is. It doesn't have to be a competition in eloquence; simply a spoken gesture of appreciation. It’s about being sincere. So take the time to practice this summer—for example, host a 15 Toasts dinner.

Sit in silence with someone you don’t like
There’s a technique for dealing with conflict where both parties will sit next to each other, in a room for 30 minutes. The only rule? Total silence. Then, without curation or direction, allow yourself and your partner to express yourselves in any way you want, about anything you please. You will hear a difference in how you approach each other, there will be a new distance with your discord.

Help a friend using the tarot
Have you ever heard Alejandro Jodorowsky do tarot readings for his fans? There’s a hilarious story about his session with Kanye West. And why don’t you do the same for a friend or colleague who is going through a rough patch? Why not make sense of things by learning how to read the minor and major arcana cards? Start interpreting the cards. Start a conversation by sharing insights. Ask: What should you be aware of right now? What wants to be seen?

Run a lemonade stand
Coined by a Christian anarchist writer Elbert Hubbard in a 1915 obituary for dwarf actor Marshall Pinckney Wilder—“He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand”—the phrase has many iterations, but it all comes down to the same thing, and a pretty cliched one, too. So to feel inspired by it, once again, why don’t you, literally? When was the last time you ran a self-made stand on your block? Make a sign, get to know your neighbors, chat with strangers. 1 cup sugar; 1 cup water; 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice; and 2 to 3 cups cold water, to dilute.

Forget your shoes
We give little importance to the feeling of the things beneath us because we walk around with the feet of zombies. Ditch the shoes for a day and allow your feet to feel what it really means to be loose. Do you move faster? Slower? Are the textures under you what you had imagined? Where do you feel comfortable now? Allow your feet to take you wherever they want to go, based on what they sense.

Tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue
As this tutorial suggests, you will need “one cherry stem, one tongue, and at least a few teeth.” Start with a maraschino cherry because its steam is softer. Soften the cherry stem with your saliva for a few seconds. Bend or even gently chew the stem before getting down to work. Push down on the middle of the stem with the tip of your tongue, so that it bends upward into a “U.” Use the back side of your front teeth as a stabilizer, cross one end of the stem over the other, forming an “X.” Hold one end of the “X” with your teeth and push the loop upwards with your tongue towards the loose end of the “X.” Then push the loose end through the loop using the bottom edge of your available front tooth. Once the tip of the stem is through the loop, release the other end of the stem from your teeth. Now position the stem so that the loop is flat against your four front teeth and the tip that is sticking out of the loop is pointing out. Push the end of the stem further through the loop until you can’t push anymore. And if you can’t tie the knot tight, here’s a trick: use a little sleight of hand as you remove it from the mouth, holding one end with your teeth as you pull on the other end. Now put the knot in your hand and show it off!

Bring a tropical fruit to a sad event
You’ll never see a watermelon at a funeral, you’ll never prune a papaya during a breakup. Why not? The mighty coconut’s exotic smell invokes sunshine, waves, and the sound of palm trees in the wind. There are multiple layers to anything we’re living. There are ways to zoom out of things to gain perspective. Something completely unexpected can be an interesting way to reframe what’s in front of us.

Be a weekend Pastafarian
Ever heard of Bobby Henderson’s The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Well, that’s the Bible of the Church of Pastafarians, them people wearing colanders on their heads. The religion states that first Pastafarians were actually pirates, and that global warming is the result of the decline in the number of pirates since the 1800s. So get dressed in the pirate regalia, and live by the eight “I’d Rather you Didn’ts” of the Pastafarian Church on the weekend.

Forage mushrooms with an encyclopedia
There’s a certain thrill to matching up a mushroom with a photo in a book. Drop yourself in the middle of the forest somewhere, pack a mushroom encyclopedia, and see whether you can figure out the fungi. Bonus points if you cook one up and eat it. Double bonus points if you do it as a group. Triple bonus if everyone checks up on each other the day after.

Ps. If you’re interested in a few more “superpowers”, we have three new in-person House learning and development programs for you and/or your team:

How to Embrace Emotional Diversity at Work, your offices, your dates.

Becoming Uncertainty: An Embodied Exploration with John Michael Schert
, Berlin, September 22, 2022

How to Become a Beautiful Business Thought Leader, Barcelona, September 28-30, 2022


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