Tag challenges

Visuals: “The Pursuit” (DRAFT)

(And I still don’t have a clear sense where all of this is going …)

Additional Thoughts.

Waiting (for what?): A friend of mine passed away about a month ago.  Her passing gave further support to beliefs and opinions planted months, and perhaps years prior.

In short: you don’t want to leave this earth without doing things that you have always wanted to do.  For my friend, the desire to leave an unfulfilling job and to retire were goals that were never realized.

Having attempted to put myself in her place, I don’t think there is anything worse than to lose the option to make your life better and more fulfilling.

Giving and receiving advice: For many years I gave considerable weighting to others’ opinions and suggestions, only to find myself disappointed when things did not work out.  Now, I solicit feedback and advice from a select few and even then I use that information in the context of a greater whole.

On a similar note, I’ll always have my opinions but I am considerably more reluctant to share any advice unless explicitly asked; in fact, many times I don’t give my opinion at all because ultimately everyone knows inherently what they need to be doing in any given situation.  I believe my opinions or suggestions are supporting an existing path that has already been decided by that individual.

Dealing with undercurrents: I’ve placed less emphasis on the desire to become a “leader” and instead placed greater emphasis on core creativity, research, development and innovation.  I don’t know if my goal has ever been to climb the corporate ladder, but amazingly I found myself attempting to do just that.  It’s like an undercurrent that you aren’t aware of until you realize you are far from shore.

I think where this goal started to fragment (for me) was the fact that increased “responsibility” was moving me farther away from what I was interested in doing.  The sheer nature of forward movement was masking who I was and what I ultimately wanted to be doing.  While I am not 100% on where I’m headed (I may never know), I do know that I was headed in the wrong direction.

Dealing with oneself: I’ve learned to be comfortable and content alone.  Frankfurt and Paris reinforced this through complete isolation from family, friends and even technology.  The freedom and flexibility I had during that period was something that allowed me to think and “experience” without any constraints.  Now I’m living my life assuming this situation has permanence.

Belongings & Money: After spending years eliminating belongings that I no longer use, and experienced the joy that “Escape 2011” brought me, the vast majority of my purchases from here on will be experiential-based (Tokyo continues to be on the immediate radar).

Physical & Mental Challenges: Successes (full or partial) in past physical challenges (flight training, triathlons, mountaineering, and foreign travel) help set the stage for future challenges of increasing size.  What could this look like?

Questions.

When Incubator was in its infancy, I was hesitant to open myself to the “world” and initially restricted its access.  After a few weeks, I decided to remove this “barrier” and it, along with Territories, have remained “open” ever since.

The second tier of openness focused on the books I was reading at the time.  Many were interpersonal in nature and several were admittedly “taboo” in a professional setting, ranging in topics from marriage “counseling”  to personality disorders.  Uncertain whether to include such texts in my published reading list, I consulted two colleagues who suggested that I either remove them completely or bundle them within an “interpersonal” section.

I always found this latter recommendation intriguing; did “bundling” somehow dilute or minimize what I was learning about at the time?  It’s as if this aspect of my life could somehow be packaged neatly in a box to focus greater attention on the “important” aspects of my Internet presence.  What is, of course, ironic is that this “box” was ultimately the catalyst for my electronic presence in the first place.

The third tier of openness focused on posts (essays?) that pushed the boundaries of what an online diary could look like, but never reaching that tipping point.  Or have I?

Now half-way through the book Alone Together, I am forced to reflect on where these online posts are heading and what value they are providing me.

While the “negative” examples focus heavily on the use of Facebook, the “positive” can be perhaps summarized by the following excerpt:

“In thinking about online life, it helps to distinguish between what psychologists call acting out and working through.  In acting out, you take the conflicts you have in the physical real and express them again and again in the virtual.  There is much repetition and little growth. In working through, you use the materials of online life to confront the conflicts of the real and search for new resolutions.

As originally intended, my online experience over the past two and a half years has been about the latter.  But what else is there to work through now?

One could argue that I’ll always have something to work through, and that writing will aid in my ability to successfully navigate through these challenges.  And given my success using this approach, I completely support this claim.

Snapshot.

“Human beings act, feel, and perform in accordance with what they imagine to be true about themselves and their environment.  What you imagine to be true becomes, in fact, true.  Hold a given picture of yourself long and steadily enough in your mind’s eye and you will become that picture.  Picture yourself vividly as defeated and that alone will make victory impossible.  Picture yourself vividly as winning and that alone will contribute immeasurably to success.”

Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko

The Red Tide.

Plus ca change Plus c’est la meme chose

My mom recently shared a few documents from when I was in nursery school and kindergarten many years ago.  These documents essentially provide a glimpse of my behavior and personality at that time.

As I was reading through the narratives, I was intrigued (actually – amazed) on the behavioral similarities between then and now.  In some strange way, these narratives confirm what this multi-year journey has shown me:

Who I believed I was is indeed who I really am.

Nursery School

  • Even tempered, tolerant and friendly, Adrian is well accepted by the group and usually involved with social play most of the morning.  He is willing to try everything and especially enjoys blocks, dramatic play, books and woodworking activities.[2011 Commentary: My professional career and personal interests have spanned numerous and diverse areas, and will likely continue to do so for the remainder of my life.]
  • He has marvelous ideas, but is easily distracted and remains only semi-involved much of the time. [2011 Commentary: Exclusive focus in one particular area is still, and will always be, a challenge.]
  • When approached by adults, Adrian is friendly, spontaneous; responds well to suggestions and directions.  On the whole, he appears to be independent and self-reliant. [2011 Commentary: Perhaps too much so.]
  • Adrian takes pride in whatever he makes in school, e.g. when he does a painting or art activity, he often informs us he is finished and proudly shows us his finished product.  He likes to make constructive things out of the materials e.g. airplanes (out of the nuts and bolts; odd pieces of wood), buildings or boats out of hollow blocks.  He likes to work in a group, rather than on an individual basis.[2011 Commentary: The showcasing of work will always expand, although I do most of my best work when working independently.]
  • Adrian has most of contact with Benjamin and Billy because they also spend a great deal of time in the hollow block corner. [2011 Commentary: Exclusivity in friendship and relationships is still the norm.]
  • If he feels uncomfortable after a disagreement, he usually moves onto a different activity. [2011 Commentary: I don’t like conflict and I tend to focus my energies on something creative or positive when I am able to.  Incubator started with this core personality trait.]
  • He is very capable of expressing his thoughts and feelings through language. He enjoys talking to others about experiences he has or something he has just made. [2011 Commentary: My written ability to share these thoughts is perhaps stronger than my verbal ability although I hope one day this will change.]
  • New situations don’t upset Adrian.  He is flexible and adapts to whatever is taking place in the room.

Kindergarten

  • He is particularly fond of block building and art.  Adrian is also quite creative with materials. [2011 Commentary: Scary! :-)]

If you have similar materials from your childhood, perhaps one day you will go back and take a closer look.  The expression “the more things change, the more they stay the same” may hold true for you as well as it has for me.

Immersion: Core Objectives (Preview)

While I’m still working through the details of the Immersion strategy (estimated duration ~2 years), I am certain of the primary objectives which are listed here:

I’ll post further details of the Immersion strategy in the next several days.

Immersion: Challenges & Opportunities

Portfolio Development: My portfolio has evolved fairly well over the past several years – particularly in the graphic design arena.  The evolution from where I began and where I am today shows a clear positive trajectory.  Recent digital illustration work using the Cintiq and Photoshop also show tremendous potential.  The opportunity here is two-fold.  First, when solid progress is being made, I tend to move on to another challenge without spending additional time to further develop / refine my existing skills.  In some strange way, the possibility for greater success deters me from moving forward.  Second, while the portfolio is looking increasingly professional, it is heavily weighted in graphic design and less so in other disciplines (e.g. 3D modeling, rendering).

Community Engagement: The past several years have focused heavily on portfolio development and the creation of my personal brand.  While there has been significant success in both fronts, the communication and level of engagement has been unidirectional.  My original belief of “build it and they will come” places heavy responsibility on external parties to not only learn about me, but to engage in further discussion.  There is an opportunity to change this unidirectional approach through increased engagement / participation on my end.

Process of Elimination: One of the challenges that I’ve faced with Big Generator is that it has lacked clear direction.  While it started out as a pure information design firm, it quickly expanded to become involved in brand strategy and other related offerings.  The opportunity is to refocus the company and establish a clear business strategy so that it can truly be successful over the long-term.

Out of Balance: One of my biggest challenges that I’ve been working to correct over the past two years involves a clear imbalance between my professional career thus far and the skills that are required to move beyond this realm of expertise.  While my efforts have shown true promise in correcting this “right brain / left brain” imbalance, there is still more work to be done.  The opportunity here is to take greater and more strategic steps to bridge this gap and clearly convey my strengths and potential as a design leader.

Emphasis on Innovation: Being creative for creative’s sake is beneficial, but leveraging creativity to solve real-world problems can be extremely powerful.  While my thoughts and designs are truly “mine”, the bulk of my efforts has been focused inward (self-development, strength building, creative exploration).  The opportunity is to shift gears and transfer more energy towards addressing real-world challenges and designing and creating with true purpose.

Mental Barriers: One of the keys to one’s success is the ability to maintain a high-level of optimism independent of the challenge faced.  With a realization that my optimism level is classified as “average”, there is a clear opportunity to employ constructive techniques to quickly move past barriers that would have normally impeded progress.  With the world moving at a faster pace, there is no better time to find ways to accelerate my ability to navigate through these challenges.

“True” and “False” Advancement Experience

Ten years ago (yes, I think all the time), I wrote the following article about two concepts that I labeled “true” and “false” advancement (learning) experience:

True advancement experience (TAE) is experience that is pro-active and “real”.  Information is obtained on the way to a clear goal.  The more information and experience that is turned up along the way strengthens the overall advancement experience.  A goal must exist in order for true advancement to occur.

False advancement experience (FAE) is experience that is wasteful and potentially meaningless.  FAE occurs when there is no key goal in place.  Information that enters the system becomes quickly assimilated, but due to the increased flow, the retrieval and retention rate is decreases dramatically.  Information overload will always occur in this type of learning environment.  An example of a FAE is spending an increased amount of time configuring a windowing system when the command-line interface is already sufficient.  Experience gained from system-specific configuration is mostly FAE since most of the time spent is due to lack of planning and documentation more than anything else.

Knowing the differences between TAE and FAE is very important to overall advancement.  Time is always a commodity; therefore it must be used wisely.  Know exactly what you are attempting to learn and what you need to accomplish, and your advancement and success rate will increase.

Ten years later, has my perspective changed about TAE and FAE?  Yes and no.  Let me explain.

Let’s say that you are interested in computer graphics, and you have an interest in animation.  One potential starting point is to acquire a 3D animation program and start learning the basics.  After installing and launching the application, you are overwhelmed with the number of features.  This is where things become interesting.

If you start investigating other aspects of the program that have nothing (or little) to do with animation, you could label this “false” advancement experience since what you are learning is not essential to your end goal.  In contrast, if you stay true to your goal of becoming an animator (or at least learning how) and just focus on aspects of the program that involve “animation”, you will gain the experience that you were originally interested in and thus have gained “true” advancement experience.

One possibility of course is that you could choose to learn about other aspects of the program first and then eventually get back to the core “animation” functionality.  In this way, you are just taking a slight “detour” from your destination to gain broader context.  Is this really “false” advancement experience?

Another possibility is that you choose the second path – i.e. “true” advancement experience – and find out that you have to learn other aspects of the program to be able to start animating.  More specifically, you may need to learn how to create a 3D model that you can eventually animate!  Is this really “true” advancement experience?

As you can see here, labeling one’s learning (or advancement) experience as “true” or “false is perhaps too restrictive.

Given my pursuits of numerous goals, I think learning effectively comes down to awareness (“what do I want to learn?”) and focus (“how do I want to learn the material?”).

For example, in order to gain the most from your learning experience, you need to know what you want to accomplish.  The answer could very well be “I don’t know”.  This is a perfectly acceptable answer as it provides you with a lot of freedom to explore different areas.  In contrast, if you know that you want to be an animator (using the example above), this at least gives you a “learning beacon” towards which you can navigate.

Once you have awareness, you now need to focus.  Assuming you know you want to learn animation, you can still explore other areas of the software application without feeling that you are veering off-course.  The trick here is that the degree of your focus will determine how much time and effort you spend in a different area, and whether you ultimately return to your original “path”.

For example, let’s say that you need a 3D model to animate.  Instead of taking a separate path to learn how to model, you could instead focus your efforts on using an existing 3D model.  This would save you time and get you back on track.  But here again, there is some risk in being “too” focused on your end goal.  At some point you will eventually need to learn how to model new objects to further broaden your experience.  Should you do that now or later?

At this point, you can start to understand some of the challenges I’ve personally faced in learning new things.  My personality is one that loves to learn and build connections between unrelated topics.  Because I understand the benefits, I allow myself considerable freedom to explore new areas and concepts to formulate new ones.  However, as I learn new material, I take time to continuously refine where I am going (i.e. “awareness”).

In summary, when taking on a new challenge, take the time to gain awareness of what you want to learn and try to map out a strategy on how to accomplish your goal.  Once you get into the learning process, you will find new “pathways” that you need to consider taking.  Don’t be afraid to take these paths but keep your destination in mind, and don’t be afraid to change the destination.