Tag education

Concept: Territories HD

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?

Recalibration II.

Motivation: … the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior.” (Source unknown)

In my last post, I highlighted three main areas where I would like to improve – self-motivation, perseverance and connection.  In this post I’ll continue my exploration of motivation.

All too often, the word “motivation” has a positive connotation.  After all, how often do you hear public speakers or other leadership types exclaim “Be Motivated!”  Because of this, how can one not assume that being motivated is always the right thing to do?

In contrast to public opinion, I believe that being motivated to do something isn’t always the right decision.  Why?  Because you could be motivated to do the wrong thing – i.e. something that is misaligned with your core values and/or for the wrong reasons.  In the above definition, it’s easy to assume that the goal or “reason for the action” is clearly known, but in many cases it may not be.

In thinking about this concept, my belief is that truly understanding what motivates one to do something can ultimately help one achieve a particular goal faster than if that level of awareness is left unchecked. Along a similar path, gaining this understanding early on can also highlight whether the goal should be abandoned entirely – i.e. is being motivated truly the right path in a given situation?  In short, I think one needs to have a clear understanding of the goal (and the reasons why achievement of that goal is worth the pursuit) before being motivated to act.

Let me share a personal example to illustrate this concept in more depth.

I grew up in a family where education and success went together.  Over time, I started to believe that my success (the goal) was primarily dependent upon my education.  Not withstanding my desire to learn, even after my master’s degree I continued to take classes in the hope that I would eventually acquire enough knowledge to be “successful”.

My business coach challenged this long-standing belief late last year when I started formulating the basis for Big Generator.  Up until that time, I never thought that I was truly ready to move forward.  Did I know enough?  Did I have enough experience? The answer is that I’ll never know enough.  Thus, I consciously decided to accept this fact and the rest would need to come with more experience.

This example is relevant because being motivated to continue with my education vs. moving forward with my business could have been the wrong decision over the long-term.  Thus, being motivated to carry out the wrong goal for the wrong reasons doesn’t make the activity right.  Instead, being motivated to advance the business while continuing to gain knowledge is the right decision for me at this time in my life.

Formal education, while deemed worthy in nearly all contexts, is actually the direct opposite in this example.  In essence, formal education was employed as a “motivator” to help me meet a goal that I call “success”.  However, “success” takes more than being well-educated.  Thus, taking inventory of what I wanted to do and identifying the right motivators allowed me to break out of this cycle and make alternative decisions.

This isn’t to say that there will not be times when the mantra of “get motivated” doesn’t have value – particularly in situations where you aren’t excited about the path you’re on, but there really isn’t any choice but to use an alternative (positive) perspective and go ahead with the task at hand.  However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s important to understand what it is that you want and build a motivation framework to help you achieve that which you are seeking.

In my next post in this series, I’ll go into more depth about this framework and show some guidelines to make sure that you are motivated for the right reasons.

Recalibration I.

I read an article in a recent issue of The Atlantic which focused on the worsening employment outlook for today’s economy. The article painted a fairly dismal picture connecting unemployment with a vast number of downstream impacts, including socio, interpersonal and self that had negative consequences many years after the economic downturn.

The article sheds light on several impacted demographics – including recent graduates looking for work. This particular demographic – known as the “Millennials” or “New Boomers” – is referenced in a book called “Generation Me” by Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

In her book, Twenge ties the manner by which this generation was raised, their resulting high self-esteem, and their potential long-term success, particularly when faced with a jobless economy.

She notes that “… self-esteem in children began rising sharply around 1980, and hasn’t stopped since.  By 1999, according to one survey, 91 percent of teens described themselves as responsible, 74 percent as physically attractive, and 79 percent as very intelligent. (More than 40 percent of teens also expected that they would be earning $75,000 a year or more by age 30; the median salary made by a 30-year-old was $27,000 that year.) Twenge attributes the shift to broad changes in parenting styles and teaching methods, in response to the growing belief that children should always feel good about themselves, no matter what. As the years have passed, efforts to boost self-esteem—and to decouple it from performance—have become widespread.

“These efforts have succeeded in making today’s youth more confident and individualistic. But that may not benefit them in adulthood, particularly in this economic environment. Twenge writes that “self-esteem without basis encourages laziness rather than hard work,” and that “the ability to persevere and keep going” is “a much better predictor of life outcomes than self-esteem.

This really struck a chord with me as I have always believed that the key to success is self-confidence.  The fact that “… the ability to persevere is a better predictor of life outcomes” is a refreshing perspective.  In fact, I wonder if my challenge isn’t more about perseverance than it is about confidence.  This is an opportunity.

In thinking more about my development in 2010, I would like to improve my skills in three main areas – self-motivation, persistence and connection.  While I am not necessarily lacking in these three areas, it can be difficult to measure progress without a clear understanding of the underlying maturity model associated with each.  This exploration is also key to further push the “advancement envelope”.

The concept of motivation is something that ultimately drives one to achieve something. If you aren’t motivated to do anything, then it’s unlikely that positive things will happen to you (or anything for that matter).  However, motivation can be measured on a scale all of its own.

Of course, the two extremes are obvious – you are motivated to act, or you aren’t.  But what’s in the middle? How do you measure motivation?  And is there just one dimension to this motivation scale?

Let’s explore this concept in more depth.

A wish to learn new things has been a primary motivator in my life.  To go a step further, formal education can be an excellent motivator all on its own – you pay someone to teach you and indirectly hold you accountable through deadlines, quizzes and exams.  Through the process, you naturally become motivated to get a good grade.  In essence, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own – i.e. I want to learn so I take a class, which pushes me to learn more through the identification of a “grade” which allows me to achieve the goal I originally set out to do.

Another commonly heard motivator is money or material wealth.  While money does not bring happiness, studies have shown that people who have a reasonable amount of wealth are generally happier than those who do not.  Thus, attaining money is a powerful motivator.  But is money the motivator, or is the happiness that seems to come with it?

A third motivator is the simple act of pleasing others.  Your relationships with your family and friends may be important enough to drive you to act independent of goal.  Doing something to please others can be its own self-fulfilling prophecy  – i.e. your contributions give a sense of happiness to the other party which can improve the relationship (you are both happy).  The complexity in this case arises when the motivator begins to take on a life of its own.  Using the example just described, this motivator can start to work against the actor if the entire reason for acting is the underlying happiness of the other.

As you can begin to see, the concept of motivation is fairly complex.  What may be labeled as the motivation “source” may in fact be a mask for the true motivator (i.e. is it money or happiness?)  Motivators can also be deceiving – a genuine motivation source may begin to erode over time if the aim isn’t becoming increasingly visible.  Motivators can also be visualized to gain a greater understanding of what is driving (and perhaps what should be driving) the activity.

In a later post under the same title, I’ll explore this concept in more depth.  I’ll also start to introduce the concept of perseverance as I believe the two are closely related.

Reference Library.

Reference Library While I am an avid reader, there are several books that aren’t necessarily geared for start-to-finish reading, but are used more often as reference material. To help organize this library and increase transparency, I created a new page aptly labeled “reference library”. The current library consists of the following texts:

1. Layout Essentials by Beth Tondreau

2. Typography Essentials by Ina Saltz

3. The Designer’s Graphic Stew by Timothy Samara

4. Type Style Finder by Timothy Samara

5. The Information Design Handbook by Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady

While these texts give a wealth of educational information, they are also excellent sources of creative ideas. I’ll make changes to this page as I discover new reference material.

New Concept Art DVDs.

When I first became aware of the Gnomon Workshop many years ago, most of my DVD purchases were focused primarily in the 3D realm.  Over the past several years, and especially now, my interest has shifted less from the computer and more towards more “traditional” art and design concepts.  Interestingly enough (and perhaps not surprisingly), I have found my “analog” training over the past several years has given me a new perspective when creating images digitally.

It’s even more interesting that my journey began using mathematics to render shadows, and many years later I am using traditional media to accomplish the same (e.g. Prismacolor and NuPastel).

To continue my education, I recently added several DVDs from the Gnomon Workshop to my collection:

With the near conclusion of Design Drawing I, I plan to explore these videos in more depth and begin to take advantage of the lessons contained within.