Roger von Oech

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Roger von Oech

I sometimes do a similar exercise on rainy Tuesday afternoons after I've finished a major project. I'll look at photographs of myself from long ago and "see" things which are barely discernible but which later manifested themselves in a major way in my personality.

What advice would I give myself? I'll think about that and check in later

I sometimes do a similar thing when I look at my children's photographs from when they were children (they're now 26 and 23). I'll think to myself: "Oh yeah, I could see that coming all they way," or "Where did that come from?"

Matt Dickman

Roger -- Very good luck on your part to have such a wonderful, talented person leave that comment!

Valeria -- You are a translator of a different sort. You take ideas in life and translate them to make us think in new ways and you're educating us in the process.

If I look back now to the past it's tricky. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a marketer. It rang out to me as fun and rewarding. I made decisions from education to job choices to further my education and combine it with technology. Things happened along the way that I would probably change, but you never know the ripple effect that would have.

I'm happy now and that's what matters to me. I do, however, think it's vital to learn from the past to move forward. Regretting and living in the past is a dangerous game that I don't play.

Valeria Maltoni

Roger -- my mother has been a great accomplice in this exercise. We have these amazing conversations about philosophy and people dynamics and she reminds me of traits she witnessed in me that showed up or developed later as strengths.

Matt -- another word for that is communicator or conversation agent ;-)

"you never know the ripple effect that would have" -- this is a good observation. Small decisions and choices can make a big difference in how we look and things and consequently how the things we look at are different or mean something else to us.

Lewis Green


Congrats on 1000. My blog registered its 1000th comment today.


Great post! It would be difficult to connect the dots back to my youth, as my childhood is remembered as an unhappy one.

However, when I look in the mirror, I see my parents clearly and the values they instilled in me. Those values and their hard lessons allowed me to live a life as a writer and a life of many adventures, from airman, to rock n roller, to college student (again and again), to journalist, to teacher, to editor, to publsher and so on.

Although my youth was hard in many ways, thanks to many friends and mentors I reinvented myself into one of confidence and a risk-taking spirit built on a foundation of values.

Sorry. Sounds a bit self-serving and a bit true confessions, but that is due to your brilliance in making me think about and look back upon my life. As a person always looking to the next adventure, I seldom think about the past.

Jeffrey Mordan

When I was a kid, I remember going to the barber and seeing a picture in the window of a gray haired, older man. It might have been something in the eyes, but I remember thinking that I was looking at myself in the future. Everyday, on the way home from school, I would stop to look at myself.

Years later, when I was in seventh grade, I wrote a short story about meeting myself in the future. The older me showed the younger me around, but never said anything about who I was to become. I could see it by looking at him. A calm, contentment. That was all I needed to know.

Everyday when I look in the mirror, the slow changes of life creep in. A wrinkle here, a gray hair there. The change is too slow to witness consciously. But don't we always feel the same to some degree? Behind my eyes, I am that same child looking in the window at myself.

And if I were to meet a younger me, I wouldn't give him the 'answers' or help him to change a thing. For it is the journey, both the highs and lows, that make who I am today.


Huge congrats for the 1,000th comment and for a fabulous hostess/goddess. I'm so pleased to see how this community is growing and yet staying so close--so bravo (Roger) and brava (Valeria)!

I hope you're enjoying a wonderful 4th (it's a bit rainy and grey here but it will clear up).

Valeria Maltoni

Lewis -- you are such an interesting and interested person. That was the characteristics that popped at me when we met. You are curious and opinionated (in a good, searching, way). Values are the foundation and centering principles for many of us.

Jeffrey -- I do not know if this is your first time here. It is the first time on my guest post so welcome to the conversation. And thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful story. It's fascinating how we start from different points are arrive to many destinations... the meeting points being what count.


Dear Valeria,
(Must start my comment with you -sorry Roger- Ladies first, plus you're the hostess, right!)

Very challenging mind twister indeed.
I just wanted "to be an inventor" and create: new... objects, ideas, things that never were. I used to do it in my own child's universe by combining, linking "stuff" that I could find around me.

If I translate it now... I see "finding and combining existing resources that linked together make the creation of something new possible". Today, I'm doing it in a way when I think about the creative part of my job as a producer.

But to be honest, I can see many more dots and believe that the journey has not uncovered the "global shape" yet.

Dear Roger,
Congratulations! I'm really happy for you. The odds pointed the perfect guest for this post. Valeria's style is here and yet it could have been one of your posts (Valeria... you're fantastic!).

PS : The picture is really appealing, creative, post-relevant, graphic, feminine, metaphorical. Perfect pick!

Valeria Maltoni

CK -- your Italian is coming along nicely! Thank you for the kudos.

Luc -- my first publication was at six, a poem. My first magazine was at 8, complete with illustrations and story plots. My first staged pupped show (costumes and story board) was at 8 and a half. The neighborhood kids paid to attend. I can so relate with you. And thank you for the high compliment.

I used to make doll houses for my sisters out of cardboard boxes... I would love to hear more about the global shape you mention. The picture is Roger's find. He's such a good editor ;-)

Roger von Oech

If I (the "me now") had to the opportunity to give the "me when I was 16" some advice, I don't think I'd say that much because the "me when I was 16" was pretty headstrong and probably wouldn't listen to much.

I'd say something along the lines of, "Things get better as you age just as long as you take advantage of the various freedoms that you earn and discover — and respect them."


Funny, I actually had a similar realization fairly recently. I always thought I'd be a writer or media person of some description. Everyone figured I'd either be the next Christiane Amanpour or Oprah, or write the next Pulitzer-winning best seller. My sister and I had a plan: she gets the Nobel for Science, I get the Nobel for Literature, together we get the Nobel for Peace.

Some time ago, I became very passionate about alternative education. The concept that there is more to learning and education than school, tests, grades, or degrees. That people have the right to learn whatever they want however they want. Even now I'm still with that passion. While I do write as a hobby, it's now not my main passion; even though I'm doing a Creative Writing submajor for my degree, it's education that fascinates me more.

When I was in school in Malaysia, every year we had to fill up these information cards with our grades, our personality development, health matters, and so on. The one bit I got to fill was our "ambitions" - what we wanted to be when we grew up. You had to choose 3 and every year they kept a record of it.

I got to look back at those cards recently. I thought I'd have "writer" as the one consistent ambition (I tended to have wild dreams too - chemist one year, fisherman the next). To my surprise, I only wanted to be a writer in Std 3, and even that wasn't consistent. The one consistent ambition that stuck to me all throughout my school years?


I don't aspire to be a teacher nowadays. But I see that my passion with alternative education had earlier roots than I expected.


You pose an interesting question and one I grapple with on a regular basis. As a child I loved birds and art and being outdoors and I wanted to be a tomboy forever. I was made fun of relentlessly and by the time I hit high school I hid behind pot and painting and majored in art and angst in college. Since then I have worked as an artist but about 10 years ago the naturalist in me popped up and said, hey, remember me? So now I work as a naturalist with kids and adults as well as my work as an artist. Oh, and I started to write again, even though professors told me I had to choose between art and writing. I write two weekly nature columns and free lance articles on art and nature when I see my pictures of myself as a kid I know she would be pretty happy with me. I'm a wife and mom and now a grandma and life is good, very good....but it took awhile for all the pieces to come together and they are constantly rearranging themselves. What a fun and interesting process, this thing called life....

Valeria Maltoni

Roger -- you being headstrong? I cannot imagine! I think we have all been there to some degree in our teenage years. I'm pretty sure that your creative and playful nature showed up at an early age.

Tiara -- welcome to the conversation. I had a dear friend from Malaysia with whom I shared a room in the same building before life called her back to her native country. She was a very thoughtful thinker. "Teacher" is a wonderful ambition. I look at everyone who comes my way as someone who can teach me something.

Mary -- writing is a form of art, isn't it? And being a naturalist you are faithful with the artist in you - what better art than nature. Welcome to the conversation.

Cam Beck

Valeria - This is an awesome post, and quite fitting for Roger's blog. I'm so glad you got the nod. :)

The question is very difficult for me to see objectively... but when I try to put myself in... well... my shoes... in the scenario you described, I think my past self would have had difficulty connecting the dots between then and now. I wasn't ready to know what I know now.

I always have problems answering questions about changing the past, because reflecting on Chaos Theory (not to mention "It's a Wonderful Life"), I understand that I only have so much control over the things that would have changed as a result of my newfound knowledge.

Of course, had I known then what I know now, I would have done things differently. But it is because I did those things wrong that I now know they were wrong. Our imperfections in this life and our ability to reflect on them are invaluable teachers to us. The fact that we can't go back should be sufficient motivation to try to get it right the first time -- and to understand and latch onto a worldview that makes our endeavors more fruitful.

Valeria Maltoni

Cam --

Maybe there are some things of you now that you can trace back to then. An example.

When I was six (it seems like it was a nice age) I went to a school reunion with mom. It was a meeting of the board, teachers, and parents on the text books used by students -- my text book. So everyone was discussing the text book, yet it was pretty clear to me that nobody bothered asking a student (the user) for their opinion.

Well, I'm sure by now you can imagine what I did. As a side note, I was quite shy growing up. I stood up and walked on stage to speak. I was on a step to reach the mike, and my heart was beating so fast that is all I could hear.

But I spoke up adding my opinion to the mix. I confront that same emotion a little every day I post, every time I make a comment on someone's blog, every time I speak up with my opinion somewhere. If I look back, I chose to do then what I choose to do now.

Being heard and thinking that one voice can add to the conversation is one way I can see me now, then. Maybe what I said was not world-changing per se. What changed for me was the confidence the act built in me.

When you talk about mistakes, when we think about things we do, or don't do, as mistakes, we inject judgment into the equation. What if we took that away?

Cam Beck

Now that you put it that way, I think I can answer a little more completely.

If there is anything about my youth to which I can trace some of my defining characteristics, it would be my inquisitiveness... a desire to understand nearly everything -- every decision, every trait, even if that means I ultimately have to accept something I don't like. If I don't understand something, I ask questions until I do. I have been that way for as long as I remember, much to the chagrin of people who don't share that quality with me. :)

If I could tell my past self anything, it would be to try harder. I dismissed the value of reading classics as something old people do. Now that I'm an older person, I wish I put the time in then so I wouldn't have to do it now.

Roger von Oech

What a fun "what if" question! It certainly made me and a lot of other people think!

Valeria: thanks for both creating such a good post, and also for being a gracious hostess. We may have to do this again!

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