Have you seen Matt Cutts’ TED Talk on trying something new for 30 days? Cutts is an engineer at Google – a self-described ordinary guy who uses 30-day challenges to supercharge his life. In this short and cheery talk, Cutts argues that setting 30-day goals is an effective way to achieve powerful results in life. One of the selling points of doing these challenges is that 30 days is short enough to be doable, yet long enough to form a new routine. [In reality, there is no magic number for how long it takes for a new habit to form. Depending on the behaviour you want to adopt, it could take anywhere from a few weeks to the better part of a year. On average, a good rule of thumb is to stick with a new activity for two months to make it habitual.]
One of Cutts’ 30-day challenges was to take a picture every day. As an avid fan of photography, this challenge resonated with me. I especially liked his observation that photography helps to make time more memorable. Cutts contends that a picture lets you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing on a particular day. A photograph is a simple, yet powerful way to reconnect with a past experience.
While I like to think of myself as an enthusiastic shutterbug, the truth is my Nikon spends most of its days collecting dust bunnies at the back of my bedroom closet. So, to help rekindle my interests in photography, I challenged myself to take a picture everyday this past February. Okay, first a disclaimer: February has only 28 days. I readily admit this isn’t technically a 30-day challenge. Close enough, I’m not going to split hairs.
I chose February, in part, because I was going to be on the road for a big portion of the month. With trips planned to Seattle for Super Bowl weekend and to Providence to participate in a conference, I anticipated a lot of good photo ops during my travels. [I also planned to bookend my trip to Providence with short stays in Boston and New York.]
Here’s one small story from Boston. One morning, pining for a java fix, I decided to search Yelp for the “best coffee shop” in the city. Up sprang Polcari’s Coffee on Salem Street, earning an astonishing five stars. Sold! So, in the midst of a minor blizzard, we set off to find this mysterious caffeine mecca. After zigzagging through the streets of Boston for well over an hour, we finally reached our destination in the heart of the city’s historic Italian neighbourhood. Waltzing through the front door of the quaint shop, we were surprised to find not a single espresso machine on site, but rather a vast assortment of coffee beans, tea, spices, as well as deli meats, candy, pasta and nuts. I’m such an airhead. Polcari’s is a coffee store, not a coffee shop (darn semantics). After browsing the wares for a few minutes, we walked down the block to find a more run-of-the-mill café. Once we got our brew, I took out my camera and snapped this shot from the doorway:
One thing I love about this photo is how it picks up the falling snowflakes, reminding me of the beautiful snowy streets we explored on our quest to find the perfect cup of coffee. Sure, we never did find that elusive five-star cappuccino, but the photo reminds me of one of life’s important lessons. To quote author, Greg Anderson: “Focus on the journey not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” May all my bungled adventures – both big and small – bring so much joy.