Open Curiosities & Questions: Crystallizing Experiences, Sampling Periods, & Match Quality

Kevin Votaw
3 min readMay 16, 2022


Photo by Ana Municio on Unsplash

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. ~Voltaire

Tonight, I’m short on content, but not short on questions. Thus, a three-section post on the open curiosities that come to mind.

Crystallizing Experiences

Studied by Dr. Howard Gardner, crystallizing experiences are, “are defined as those which involve remarkable and memorable contact between a person with unusual talent, or potential, and the materials of the field in which the talent will be manifested.”

The study goes on to say it’s a fragile phenomenon and all children should be exposed at an early age to a variety of domains to pique their interests.

Furthermore, there are two parts to crystallizing experiences: initial and refinement.

The initial phase is literally the first contact with a curiosity whereas a refinement is an even further specified interest within the interest. For example, playing a coding game in elementary school would give way to studying cybersecurity or participating in robotics.

Questions that still loom are:

  • Where is the research on crystallizing experiences now? What would an updated paper or book look like? Similar to how Scott Barry Kaufman updated Maslow’s hierarchy in Transcend?
  • What is the relationship between crystallizing experiences and curiosity? Flow? Awe?
  • What ultimately moves the needle to qualify as a crystallizing experience? A flow state? A person? Awe?
  • If we studies crystallizing experiences within a single domain — say the medical field — what would we find as the initial and refined crystallizing experiences? Commonalities?

This is an area of keen interest to me and I’ll more than likely be digging into it more formally this summer.

Sampling Periods

Sampling period are blocks of time to try a given curiosity or activity which first came on my radar in David Epstein’s Range.

My questions stem from a lack nitty-gritty details on the subject:

  • How long should a sampling period be?
  • How many activities can be tried in comparison to one another for?
  • What is the relationship between sampling periods and the Big Five personalities?
  • In regards to Openness to Experience, do these individuals struggle to commit and be gritty over longer periods of time?
  • Similar to the above, when is it a question of grit and when it is time to quit?

Match Quality

I had another post recently on my favorite ways to measure match quality.

Since then, I discovered the EduFlow survey, which parallels the STER acronym (selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness, and information-richness) describing flow and altered states of consciousness in Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal’s Stealing Fire.

That said, I still have more questions about match quality in relation to crystallizing experiences, sampling periods, schools, and stages of development:

  • What’s the ideal match quality diagnostic tool for an initial versus refined crystallizing experiences?
  • Across a sampling period, does match quality change per the domain (fitness, breathwork, career-related, etc.), or would it stay the same?
  • How have schools measured match quality across time: K-4, 5–8, 9–12, & college?
  • Would we use different match quality measurements in adulthood? Or would flow-based metrics suffice?

These are a few open curiosities and questions I’ve been having lately, and can’t wait to dig into in due time.



Kevin Votaw

Flow Coach. Applying flow in school, sports, and life: ❌ Flow x Fiero ♦️North of Happy ⚾ The Pitching DJ 🧠