Tag advancement

Parallels: 1984+2012

A Mind Forever Voyaging I.

One of the challenges I’m facing now is assessing where to focus my creative and intellectual energy, both in the short and long-term.

While this statement makes it appear I am absent of direction, this is incorrect. My journey over the past four years, documented within Territories and Incubator, has ultimately established a new operating foundation for my personal and professional lives.  On the flip side, this increased awareness has also introduced some level of uncertainty with respect to the next course of action.

Over the course of my career, I’ve tended to use the phrase “foundation” as a way for me to maintain a high sense of humility and to continuously reset a logical “starting point” so that I can advance with greater depth and efficacy.

Looking at this phrase from an alternative perspective, while a foundation is essential for continuous growth, remaining at this foundation can be potentially limiting.

I use the word “limiting” to describe several things.

The first is that one’s future is largely based upon one’s belief system.  If you choose to believe that you are always operating at a “foundation” level, it’s unlikely that you’ll also see that you have moved well beyond this foundation and are capable of much more.

The second is that building a foundation that spans beyond the norm (i.e. a foundation exhibiting greater breadth vs. depth within any particular topic) allows one to operate in many areas, but can ultimately limit one’s potential along any one particular path.

I’ve reached a point in my career where I’ve labeled myself a “solutions builder” first and foremost, followed immediately by “designer” and “technologist;” the latter two ranked in no particular order.  I am comfortable with this self-imposed labeling right now, but question its long-term validity.

The challenge that I am facing now is determining where I fit within a fabricated specialization/generalization spectrum, and whether that placement is the best fit for long-term success.

What do I truly wish to become and how do I get there?

Early Concept: “T2”

Sometimes, but not always …

This is so hard for me
To find the words to say
My thoughts are standing still

Captive inside of me
All emotions start to hide
And nothing’s getting through

Watch me
Fading
I’m losing
All my instincts
Falling into darkness

Tear down these walls for me
Stop me from going under
You are the only one who knows
I’m holding back

It’s not too late for me
To keep from sinking further
I’m trying to find my way out
Tear down these walls for me now

So much uncertainty
I don’t like this feeling
I’m sinking like a stone

Each time I try to speak
There’s a voice I’m hearing
And it changes everything

Watch me
Crawl from
The wreckage
Of my silence
Conversation
Failing

Tear down these walls for me
Stop me from going under
You are the only one who knows
I’m holding back

It’s not too late for me
To keep from sinking further
I’m trying to find my way out
Tear down these walls

Every time you choose to turn away
Is it worth the price you pay
Is there someone who will wait for you
One more time
One more time

Watch me
Fading
I’m losing
All my instincts
Falling into darkness

Tear down these walls for me
Stop me from going under
You are the only one who knows
I’m holding back

It’s not too late for me
To keep from sinking further
I’m trying to find my way out
Tear down these walls for me now

Tear down these walls for me
It’s not too late for me
Tear down these walls for me

– “These Walls,” Dream Theater

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.

Mental Evolution IV (“Discovery”)

After determining that what I was ultimately dealing with was a underlying belief of “learned helplessness” (pessimism), I decided to purchase Martin Seligman‘s book entitled “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life.”  Within the first fifty pages of the book is a “test” that explores the degree of pessimism one possesses.  While the overall results were not surprising to me (“average” to “moderately pessimistic”), I found Seligman’s framework for understanding the degree of pessimism very interesting.

According to John Teasdale, Seligman’s colleague, the premise behind one’s degree of helplessness ultimately boils down to the manner in which one explains bad events; this is known as one’s explanatory style.  Seligman outlines three dimensions to one’s explanatory style:

  1. Permanence – How long does someone give up after failing?  Explanations that are more temporary in scope translates into increased resilience – i.e. “This failure is just a minor setback.  What’s next?”
  2. Pervasiveness – Does someone utilize universal or specific explanations for their failure(s)?  Those that employ a universal perspective for their failures give up on everything, while those that describe their failures using specifics can compartmentalize their failures in one area and progress naturally in others.
  3. Personalization – Does the individual blame themselves for their failures or the circumstances?  Those that internalize their failures tend to have a lower self-esteem than those who place blame on external circumstances.

Not surprisingly, the test is structured around these three dimensions.  Below is a more detailed view of my results:

Permanence – I have a tendency to think about bad things using extreme descriptors (always, never, etc.).  When good things happen, I tend to believe that these events are not long lasting, but they are also not necessarily fleeting.

Pervasiveness – I tend to believe that bad events have specific causes, and are thus not universal in breadth.  I also believe that good events enhance everything that I do.

Personalization – I fall in the middle of blaming myself and external circumstances for my failures.  However, when I believe that I cause good things to happen, my self-esteem is much higher than the average person.

Overall, when bad things occur, I’m moderately pessimistic and when good events occur, I am just the opposite.  If you guess that this is “average”, you are correct.  So, perhaps the problem of pessimism or “learned helplessness” isn’t to the degree that I had imagined – or is it?

When one experiences a stream of continuous failures, one’s ability to remain optimistic becomes more difficult.  While there are those that have “bulletproof” levels of optimism, I unfortunately do not currently fall in this category – at least not yet.

Crises that I can “plan” for (e.g. burglary, fire, etc.) are easier for me to maintain a high level of optimism than those that I cannot foresee.  Since there will be many challenges that will not display a “early warning signal”, my main challenge is to learn how to develop the skills necessary (i.e. an enhanced explanatory style) to ensure my optimism remains high independent of the crisis encountered.


Past, Present and Future.

“Ink” is LIVE.

As promised, the latest addition to the creative family is live.  Digital illustrations of people, objects and environments: http://ink.adriandaniels.com

Perception = Reality. Really?

Once you get a label in mind, you don’t notice things that don’t fit within the categories that do make a difference.  But we pay a price for these mental shortcuts.  “The baggage that comes with labeling is the notion of the blunders, really.  It prevents you from seeing what’s clearly before your face; all you’re seeing now is the label.”

An NBA player is labeled as a low draft pick.  Thanks to our diagnostic bias, it doesn’t matter whether he plays his heart out: he’ll always be viewed as subpar.  Once a professor is described as cold, his personality and teaching ability cease to matter: his students dislike him anyway.  The diagnosis bias causes us to distort or even ignore objective data.

Sway, The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

Several years ago, I was presented with the argument “perception equals reality”.  At the time, I had to agree – I could not see any way around it.  If people perceive you or something in a certain way, then there is perhaps little you can do to change that initial perception.  In most circumstances, I still believe that this is (unfortunately) true.

In my last post I introduced the concept of an advancement or development path.  I argue that if you can understand this concept and construct an advancement path focusing on your perception of the world, then you will start to question whether perception is reality and what aspects of your perception require alteration in order to see what truly is.

Here is an example of what such an advancement path could look like:

What happens if you are being perceived in a way that is not reflective of reality?  There are really two main options: (with varying degrees in between)

Option #1: Is there any truth in the perception?  If so, face the perception head on and outline what you will do to correct this initial perception.  Show the advancement pathway to highlight your understanding of the situation and use it as a vehicle for positive change.

Option #2: If there is no truth in the perception it’s probably best to figure out how to remove yourself from the situation.  This isn’t to say that expending some effort to correct this initial perception won’t add any benefit, but if the core perception is completely wrong, then it’s likely that it will remain in this state independent of your actions – no matter how admirable they may be.

One thing to be aware of is the downward spiral of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If the degree of the invalid perception is significant (i.e. you are classified as ‘A’ and you are really ‘Z’), then the sheer disconnect (left unchecked) could result in behavior that becomes aligned with the initial perception – and that’s exactly what you don’t want!

Understand the model.  Understand what is truly “real”.  Make adjustments for positive change or disconnect from the situation at hand.

Advancement Pathways.

“On the other hand,” said Randa, “my uncle used to say, ‘All knowledge is one,’ and he may be right.  You may learn something from meteorology that will help you with your psychohistory.  Isn’t that possible?”  Seldon smiled weakly.  “A great many things are possible.”  And to himself he added: But not practical.

– Prelude to Foundation, Isaac Asimov

One of the concepts that I’ve explored over the past several years is something called a development, or advancement model.  The purpose of such a model is to determine where you are in terms of an “ideal” state, and what changes you may have to employ in order to reach that state.

Since several of my recent posts have focused on digital illustration, it only makes sense to show an advancement model in this area.  On the left side of this model is a “starting” state while the right side shows an ideal “end” state – in this case a digital matter painter (who would be employed doing matte paintings for movies, for example).

(As you can see, I am pretty far from this particular end-state!)

This is a good start, but it’s not particularly useful other than showing where one is within the advancement “spectrum”.  For example, it doesn’t really tell us what we need to do to get to this ideal end-state.  Here is a potential improvement:

This version highlights at least five levels of advancement one needs to achieve in order to become a professional “digital matte painter”.  But this model is also rather limited in that it assumes an ideal growth path is linear – which, in many cases, it is not.  In fact, sometimes the best advancement path is anything but linear! (although it can take longer to get that ideal state)

Here is an advancement model that is more dynamic and perhaps more reflective of “real-world” development:

As you can see, we’re still intent on building the skills and aptitude necessary to become a “digital matte painter” but the path is less structured and more dynamic – potentially allowing one to become an even more advanced (rounded) matte painter at the end of this “journey”.  Some paths, as you can see in this visual, diverge completely from the originally defined end state.

Needless to say, this model is created partially in hindsight as one may not know all of the paths that she/he can take on this development journey.  Which begs the question: if the creation of this model is partially in hindsight, what is the relevance?

The relevance of this type of advancement model is that it forces one to look at the pathway they are on to assess whether their current direction will ultimately converge towards the end state.  If not, is this a temporary deviation or a permanent one?  Has the goal changed?  Does it make sense to reverse course and try another path?

As one gains greater knowledge about the “ideal” end state, they will have a greater ability to introduce new and alternative pathways that may help broaden their experience and understanding.  Having multiple pathways is a good thing as it can provide new advancement channels to explore.  The key is not to get “lost” in this “web” and ensure that the paths one follows is done with a true sense of purpose.

Advancement models are useful constructs for helping one improve in a given area, and can also help expand one’s understanding of the experiential and educational landscape associated with the core subject.  Start with your career – what does your advancement model look like?  What does the “ideal state” look like for you?  How will you get there?