Category Concepts

Une Noix

Hitchhiking

“It echoes one of the general paradoxes of hitchhiking, which is also a paradox of romance: The less desperate and needy you seem, the more likely you are to be picked up, and thus the people who probably need a ride the most are the least likely to get one.”

The World’s Best Hitchhiker on the Secrets of His Success, Wes Enzinna, The New York Times

The End Game

The following is an email I wrote to a friend speaking in some depth about what I describe as “the end game.” I will expand upon several aspects of this communication in future posts, but I think sharing the original message here is valuable in itself.


The question you posed – “what is the end-game?” – is one that I have considered for many years. Ironically, you are the second to ask this within a 2-month timeframe (a friend of mine, whose personality is somewhat similar) asked me the very same thing.

I think what I enjoy most in life is the ability to think critically.

The inner struggle that I have been in for as long as I can remember is to “get closer to” sources of complex subject-matter. I think that will pursuit will always be a source of discontent in my life, with varying degrees. At some level, I have learned that this underlying discomfort is normal.

To elaborate, I find myself concerned when things get too “easy” from an intellectual or creative standpoint. In the past, this would equate with abandoning the topic for another. Now, I’ve adjusted my approach in that I will try to stay engaged but do so in a different way. That could be something as simple as getting the work done more efficiently or approaching the topic in a completely different manner. But, at some level, and for certain topics, I feel I am simply pushing the same pieces around on the same board. My goal is to find “boards” that allow for expansion; I have found “design” to be one.

This belief was further reinforced by a quote from Garry Kasparov in his book “Deep Thinking:”

“It’s also a better of opportunity cost. If the focus is too heavily on optimizing, nothing new is created and stagnation can result. It can be too easy to concentrate only on making something better when we might be better served by making something new, something different.”

Two years ago, I went to the GPU Technology Conference in San Jose to explore topics that are beyond my (current?) reach. I went to a talk where the speaker was giving a talk about personal performance. The question I raised in the session was essentially:

“How are some people able to rise to such a level where they are giving talks about complex topics, as discussed in this conference, while others are merely spectators?”

Needless to say, not everyone can be a visionary, but it was a question that I have been thinking about for a very long time. The answer he offered was one in a book called “Deep Work” by Cal Newport.

At the heart of deep work is an intense ability to focus, particularly on challenging subject matter. The book goes into a fair amount of detail in terms of overall strategy and the underlying benefits of “deep work.” Over the past several years (even prior to this talk) I have been steadily working to improve my ability to concentrate and deliver work of increasing quality and depth.

To this point, I recently formulated a deep work “spectrum” to help me understand where I fit within this journey. I have included some early notes about this below.

[Author Note: The details of this spectrum will be discussed in a separate post.]

To bring this email to a close, I fundamentally believe that everyone has untapped potential. As an example, if I look back at my personal training (read: exercise) journey over the past decade, I have made material progress. Surprisingly, I am at a point where I am comfortable with where I am in this space. I could go further on this journey (and likely will), but I have reached a point where I feel I don’t have to.

The difference for me in the intellectual/creative space is that I have not reached a similar juncture. In fact, I feel like I am still far away. Fortunately, I fundamentally believe that the principle of “deep work” is a clear path towards reducing this gap. And while I have made material strides over the past several years, I am really only at the starting line in terms of how deep my concentration ability can go. The benefit of this ability is a greater likelihood of producing new and innovative “work” which is very important to me.

(To be sure, there are other many other (psychological) barriers to realizing “greatness” but I am trying to address those separately, although they play a critical role nevertheless.)

> 10bn

“There are, at a conservative estimate, 100 billion stars in our own galaxy. With an average 1.6 planets per star observed so far, we can estimate that there are more than ten billion Earth-like, rocky planets in our own galaxy alone. Statistically, this makes the discovery of a life-sustaining planet very likely. We already know that many planets orbiting distant stars might be very much like those we find in our own solar system. All we need to do now is ascertain whether or not they support life. When we do, that will radically alter the understanding of our place in the Universe.” – Kai Staats, Exoplanets will become a reality” (Wired – The World in 2018)

The End of Incubator.

After considerable thought I’ve decided to mark a completion to Incubator and embark on the next chapter in my journey – one that I call Territories:

It’s very clear now that what I have been going through can be best described as a “valley”, although the period (2007-2010) can be described in both the positive and negative:

The Bad relationship failure . shattered dreams . borderline personality disorder . abandonment . loss . depression . post-traumatic stress disorder . downsizing . monetary loss . depression . therapy . loneliness . isolation . breakup . negative feedback . extreme stress . panic attacks . internal conflict . analysis paralysis . miscommunication . poor decision-making skills . poor sense of self . lack of direction . life crisis . past self-realization

The Good design . values . industrial design school . sense of direction . renewed sense of self . peaks and valleys realization . education . graphic design . portfolio creation . advanced creative thinking . writing . photography . illustration . exercise . talent . strengths

As it relates to “peaks” and “valleys”, the following key points have been added to my personal “rulebook” (from the book with the same name):

  • The errors you make in today’s good times create tomorrow’s bad times.
  • The wise things you do in today’s bad times create tomorrow’s good times.

I may never forgive but I am ready to forget.

The Black Box.

Over the past two years, I’ve contributed more than 100 posts spanning over 600 different subjects.  For me, writing has given me the opportunity to think about ideas, events and people in new ways.  It has also allowed me to heal.

In some respect, Incubator has been a black box.  The inputs to this “black box” have been my experiences and ideas.  The resulting outputs could perhaps be best summarized via the tag cloud located on the right-hand side of the page; as of the date of this posting, “awareness” and “design” are the two most popular themes.

However, to boil the past two years into this discrete summary would do some injustice to my contributions to date.  Thus, I think it’s important to call attention to several key outputs:

  1. You haven’t believed in yourself as much as you’ve should.
  2. You have a lot of talent, but you are not using it to it’s full potential.
  3. You fail very slowly.
  4. You have trusted others to “make” decisions for you.

To take a lesson from books I’ve read, it’s perhaps more positive to state these outputs in a slightly different way:

  1. Believe in yourself.
  2. Maximize your talent.
  3. Fail quickly.
  4. Make your own decisions.

Of course, these are four outputs – summarizing down to one leaves the following:

You can do better.

AcD: Digital Specimens – Sphere

One of the benefits, not just of Modo, but among nearly all 3D packages is the ability to utilize procedural textures when surfacing a 3D object.  In layman’s terms, procedural textures are small mathematics-based routines that simulate such surfaces as wood, marble and other natural (and unnatural) textures.

One technique that I recently learned involves the use of gradients as an input to the variables behind the procedural texture.  When you alter the gradient curve, you end up with varying points of “contrast” which allows for some very interesting and creative textures.

The result of this experimentation is what’s shown here – something perhaps that could be found under a microscope in the digital age:

Duality.

Digital Oils.

After spending a month in Modo, I decided to switch gears and experiment some in Corel Painter.  While my digital illustrations created in the summer of 2010 were created using Photoshop, I wanted to branch out into a true painting application.  While it takes some getting used to, I am really impressed with the digital oil brushes that are just a few of the tools contained within the application.

Being able to use “natural” digital mediums is extremely helpful when attempting to visualize a concept without introducing the complexity of 3D into the picture.  The combination of the Cintiq and Painter’s digital oil arsenal makes for a very fluid and rewarding workflow.

While my latest injury has taken me off the court for the long-term, it will not steer me away from running!  In the spirit of footwear design, I sketched two sneaker concepts using digital oils.  The first is one I call “Y-Axis” and the second “H2O” given it’s clear origins to water and fluid motion.

(Coincidentally, I started using Painter in 1999-2000, but quickly abandoned the program when a few of my early paintings became corrupt after the program crashed.  Ironically enough, while this version does not exhibit this particular issue, it is still problematic.  Frankly, I’m puzzled why this program is still plagued with issues – particularly after more than a decade of experience.)

AcD: ION Arcadia I (Early Prototype)

This is another (science-fiction) concept focusing primarily on composition and scale.  You’ll see this theme fairly often as I find it fascinating!  This concept is a spacecraft that is used primarily for human transport.  If under attack, the ship can actually break apart on its own and then regroup into a single entity once the intruder has departed.  The ship can also hover while on land and does not require explicit landing gear (as shown below).

This craft is part of a larger “ION” world I have been thinking about over the past several weeks and thus, I decided to create an early-stage logo to reflect this new environment.

To see the original renders and full set, please visit my digital illustration site at Ink.