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Velcro or sieve?

This week my husband Paul and I are getting a thingie installed in our house that circulates fresh air (an HRV for you HVAC geeks). We’ve looked at the diagram showing different ducting options many times because there were some strategic choices to be made. For the life of me, I cannot keep it all straight in my mind. Even though I understand it conceptually, I don’t retain it. I can finally remember the difference between the return and supply ducts, but that’s about it.

When it comes to this kind of information, my mind is a sieve. The information flows on by with me remembering very little of it. Every time I think about it again, I’m starting from scratch, as if I’ve never seen it before. But in other situations, my mind is velcro where certain information sticks to it. The sieve and velcro in your own mind have a lot to say about your Native Genius.

Take my yoga teacher. The other day, she calls out on Zoom, “Kristen, yes your backbend is looking great. You’re getting the hang of how to set up your props in a way that works for you.” Whaaaa? She sees me in class once or twice a month. Of all the students she has, she remembers what my body does in this pose and my progress with the props. I was floored. When it comes to remembering students and their progression through the yoga poses, my yoga teacher’s mind is velcro. The content sticks to her mind, probably without even trying. It’s not like she’s doling out grades in yoga or was consulting notes for heaven’s sake.

The same thing happens with Paul’s mom when it comes to remembering what people like to eat—even people who rarely come over. One time we were home and Paul’s college friend Jason called and said he would stop by. JoJo said, “Jason’s coming over? Darn, I don’t have any Pepsi.” “Why Pepsi?” I asked. “That’s what he likes to drink,” she answered. My mouth went agape. “How do you remember that?” “I don’t know, he also likes his lettuce with no dressing.” When it comes to remembering what people like to eat, JoJo’s mind is velcro. The data just sticks to it.

It would be easy to say that whether we’re a sieve or velcro for certain types of information is based on how we’ve been trained. My work tells me it has more to do with what’s Native vs. Non-Native in our intelligence. I have expert level training in accounting and I don’t remember what I earned last year. Sieve. It’s not that I don’t care, I actually do. I just don’t retain it. On the other hand, when it comes to remembering a bit of research on vulnerability or a client’s Native Genius from a workshop five years ago? Velcro.

Each of us has Native Genius that pays attention to certain things and ignores other things. What’s pleasurable for us to pay attention to and what matters to us velcros to our mind. If the data or activity makes our eyes glaze over, then our mind is likely a sieve when it comes to that information.

Back to Paul’s Mom. We were FaceTiming a few weekends ago and pointing out her mind’s velcro for remembering what people like to eat. Can you imagine her response? Her head tilted to the side slightly as if we had said she had just flown to the moon and back. She said, “Yeah but that’s normal. Most people remember those things.”

Paul and I looked at each other and laughed because this is a comment I hear constantly in my work. It starts with “Yeah but” and is followed by remarks about how their Native Genius isn’t anything special at all. She tries to convince us further, “I get this from entertaining. It’s because I do a lot of entertaining. When you entertain a lot, you remember what people like and what they don’t.”

“Maybe so,” I say, “but have you ever thought that these two are linked? Maybe you entertain because you like remembering and you remember because you like entertaining?” JoJo does what we all do. The Native part of Native Genius has most of us “Yeah butting” the Genius part—overlooking and dismissing our velcro memories and the value of our unique intelligence.

Here are three things you can do with velcros and sieves to nurture Native Genius...

  1. Notice what data and information are readily available off the top of your head. Your velcro memory is pointing to your Native Genius.
  2. Have compassion for yourself and others for their sieves. They’re not broken (neither are you), they have velcro for other things—just not this, because it’s not their Native Genius.
  3. If you’re hiring, and the person in that role needs to retain certain knowledge, ask questions to find out if they’re velcro for that kind of information from past projects. If you know they have this kind of velcro before you hire them, they’ll be way more successful in the role. If they don’t have it, don’t talk yourself into thinking they’ll build that velcro skill. Instead, think sieve. Then look for someone who has the innate velcro.

All hail the velcro and forgive the sieve!


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