Tag energy

Lyrical Self Portrait.

He’s a rebel and a runner
He’s a signal turning green
He’s a restless young romantic
Wants to run the big machine

He’s got a problem with his poisons
But you know he’ll find a cure
He’s cleaning up his systems
To keep his nature pure

Learning to match the beat of the Old World man
Learning to catch the heat of the Third World man

He’s got to make his own mistakes
And learn to mend the mess he makes
He’s old enough to know what’s right
But young enough not to choose it
He’s noble enough to win the world
But weak enough to lose it —
He’s a New World man…

He’s a radio receiver
Turned to factories and farms
He’s a writer and arranger
And a young boy bearing arms

He’s got a problem with his power
With weapons on patrol
He’s got to walk a fine line
And keep his self-control

Trying to save the day for the Old World man
Trying to pave the way for the Third World man

He’s not concerned with yesterday
He knows constant change is here today
He’s noble enough to know what’s right
But weak enough not to choose it
He’s wise enough to win the world
But fool enough to lose it —
He’s a New World man…

Rush, “New World Man

Momentum.

In an earlier post, I made the claim that most people are lazy.  And of course, that’s not intended to be presented in a negative way; I simply believe that no one wants to work harder at something than they have to.

In thinking more about this concept, I realized that there is an important example that further exemplifies this point, but is far more relevant than examples presented earlier.

Several months ago, I finished reading Tim Brown’s Change by Design – an interesting book on design thinking inspired primarily by Brown’s experience at IDEO where he is CEO and President.

There is an excerpt from the text where he describes his “barometer” for supporting new projects spearheaded by IDEO staff:

“… when I receive a cautiously worded memo asking for permission to do something, I find myself becoming equally cautious.  But when I am ambushed in the parking lot by a group of hyperactive people falling all over one another to tell me about the unbelievably cool project they are working on, their energy inflects me and my antennae go way, way up.  Some of these projects will go wrong.  Energy will be wasted (whatever that means) and money will be lost (we know exactly what that means).”

Browns’ comments immediately resonated with me.

In the past, I found myself taking the former route for initiatives that seemed significant enough to warrant some sort of “approval” (whatever that really means).  Not surprisingly, many of these ideas were put to rest before they even began.  Why does this happen?

Remember, most people (not all) don’t want to think – *especially* for ideas that are foreign or new.  As innocent as it may seem, the very act of asking for approval means that you aren’t sure whether your idea is a good one – and if you aren’t sure, your colleagues / manager / etc. is likely to be even less certain of your idea and the “difficulty meter” starts to rise.  Negative momentum is a likely outcome.

If you have an idea for something that you believe in, don’t ask for permission to do it.  99.9% of the time, no one is going to stop you. If you have energy and enthusiasm, you’ll already have momentum on your side.  And it’s much more difficult to stop something while it’s moving than keep it stationary.

Design: “Evolution”

Immersion: Operating Framework and “Post Digital” Concept

The concept of an operating framework is to organize your time and effort into specific areas of focus.  In theory, and with appropriate discipline, an operating framework can accelerate one’s development in one or multiple areas.  The very nature of writing down one’s goals (or visually representing them) can plant these ideas and objectives into one’s subconscious, and this becomes a very powerful motivator even if you aren’t explicitly thinking of the framework on a daily basis (you shouldn’t be).

For example, here is an example of a partial framework from 2007 (Plane 6 – “Foundation”):

(Click on the image to enlarge)

While I listed electronics and software development within this framework, I didn’t end up spending a lot of time in these specific areas.  And that’s where the evolution of an operating framework becomes relevant; where are you focusing your energy?  And if you aren’t spending your time in certain areas, is this necessarily a problem?

In the Immersion (Plane 10) framework shown below, there is now a clear separation of what I’ve focused on in the past and what I ultimately need to focus on in the future.  This is a radical shift given that I’ve typically had to justify and take on multiple, parallel tracks that had little relationship to one another – other than the fact that one path was for survival, and the other more aspirational.  By logically separating these skills from the “core”, they will eventually become dormant and by default, the skills that I want to develop will have developed due to this increased focus (i.e. a self-fulfilling prophecy).

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Layered above these “dormant” skills are multiple layers of activity – all leading to a radically advanced portfolio along with an increased level of interaction weighted more heavily in the real-world than in the digital realm. What’s truly important here is that this increased interaction ultimately stems from a broader range of experiences.  Not surprisingly, this has a dual purpose; the greater one’s experiences, the greater one’s ability to learn, identify challenges and design solutions to those challenges.  Experiences represent a designer’s playground.

Finally, one concept that perhaps serves as the basis for this framework is John Maeda’s concept of “post digital”:

[Post Digital] is a term that I created as a way to acknowledge a distinction between those that are passed their fascination with computers, and are now driven by the ideas instead of the technology.  […] the “post digital” generation refers to the growing few that have already been digital, and are now more interested in Being Human.

Ultimately, this is exactly what Immersion is all about – I’m less interested in the technology for technology’s sake.  Rather I am interested in using technology to increase idea generation to make people’s lives better.

What makes you happy?

Can you become happier through analysis of what makes you happy?  Can you gain greater understanding of other people’s happiness through similar analysis?  I think the answer to both questions is “yes.”

I recently purchased the second season of George Lucas’ The Clone Wars.  Overall, I’m completely thrilled – so much so that I am starting to think the series is better than the original trilogies.  As I progressed through each episode, I found my level of happiness directly linked to a few select scenes.  While I was happy watching every episode, I couldn’t stop but wonder why certain scenes were more “joy-provoking” than others.

Let me share a few examples to further explore this concept.

In the episode entitled “Cargo of Doom”, there is one scene where a bounty hunter named Cad Bane has jumped into a parked spaceship to flee from Anakin Skywalker.  Once Bane jumps into the spaceship, there is some brief animation as he turns on the ship’s power.  This is visible through the illumination of lights within the ship’s cockpit.  What really excited me was the sequence of lights that illuminated within the 1-2 second interval.  Instead of just showing a single illumination (i.e. the ship is now “on”), the animators took the time to show a purposeful sequence of illumination (spatial relationship and number) giving the sense of multiple subsystems and overall complexity.

Once the ship has taken off, and Anakin is forced to jump off the wing to avoid injury, the camera follows the ship briefly as the wings are lowered and the ship accelerates.  While difficult to convey here, the chosen camera angle illustrates the significance of the situation, the complexity and acceleration of the ship, and the sheer size difference between the ship, the hangar and humans on the ground.

So, what are the themes that comprise this scene? (i.e. why do I like this scene in particular?)

Themes: technology, complexity, purpose, attention to detail, “part of something larger”, perspective, power, energy, spatial relationship, design

In another episode (“Landing at Point Rain”), there is another scene that I simply love.  The Republic is taking heavy losses against the Separatists.  After much delay, Y-wing fighters are deployed to the planet to provide critical assistance.  The scene begins with a surprised Obi-Wan Kenobi followed quickly by a ground-level camera angle that shows the rapidly approaching Y-wing (a “fly-by”).  While the scene lasts all of two seconds (~60 frames of animation), the sheer power and acceleration of the spaceship combined with an equally powerful sound effect makes for a very immersive scene.

Themes: “feeling of being there”, magnitude, realism, sound, surprise, immersion, perspective, uniqueness, influence, control, sense of scale, speed

While I could describe other scenes that produced similar euphoria, I’d recommend renting or purchasing the series to witness this creative masterpiece for yourself.  What’s important here, however, is the opinion that one’s ability to describe the themes associated with feelings of joy and happiness can ultimately open up new opportunities for oneself and one’s connection with others.

To expand upon this latter point, when interacting with others – either as friends or as colleagues – you can learn about people by truly understanding the facets of the things that provide them with joy.  For example, the statement “I enjoy watching The Clone Wars” is one level of understanding, but as you’ve just seen, it’s simply scratching the surface.  Uncover the themes behind one’s enjoyment and you can learn a great deal.

Think about movies you’ve watched, books you’ve read, or places you’ve visited.  If you find yourself in a state of euphoria, ask yourself why.  What are the descriptors behind the event?  What do those descriptors say about you, and can you increase those feelings through additional exploration?

Mental Evolution II (“Turning Point”)

I recently came to the conclusion that what I have been dealing with for an extended period of time (years) is something called learned helplessness.  Learned helplessness is a condition where you find yourself believing that you have no control over the outcome of your actions.  It stems from a stream of negative events that demoralize and ultimately cause one to give up – albeit temporarily.  While I don’t know when this period began, I do know that this period is ending.

I have always labeled myself as a realist – which, in my mind, has been a balance between optimism and pessimism.  The challenge that I have been facing over the past several years – particularly in 2010 – is that when reality presents you with continuous challenges, one can become overwhelmed with trying to make sense of what has happened.  I’ve found that this original sense of realism has become replaced with that of pessimism and extreme caution, both of which has resulted in stagnation and an inability to advance into territories that will ultimately make my life more fulfilling and positive.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, I have been amazed at my recent ability to quell feelings of positivity when they arise because I no longer trust these feelings will last.  By default, these positive feelings rarely have a chance to develop and a self-fulfilling prophecy is created.

This is a turning point because feelings of learned helplessness and the tendency to employ a pessimistic perspective can both be overcome.  Setbacks no longer need to be classified as disasters.  I have too much potential to allow this pattern to continue any longer.

The Crystal Ball.

“Begin with the end in mind” is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things. – Stephen Covey

One of the many things I’ve learned in project management is that “starting with the end in mind” is one of the best methods to ensuring a successful outcome.  When your team has a clear sense of what need to do from the beginning, task definition and assignment activities come naturally and the team is able to spend more time focusing on the “day-to-day” issues vs. continuously wrestling with an ever-changing scope definition.

A similar approach can work extremely well when envisioning your future.

An article in the Futurist magazine entitled “Envisioning your Future: Imagining Ideal Scenarios” suggests that:

… having a vision is to be an idealist.  This idealism should not be confused with unrealistic ideas; it should be used synonymously with having “a standard of excellence”.  A person that is by nature a visionary looks into the future as though it is filled with possibilities, not probabilities.

If I look at my future based from who I really am, and document a clear description of what that future looks like, my life starts to become what I’ve created for myself.

After much thought, I came up with the following personal vision:

“My vision for the future is comprised of positive experiences that intertwine my ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ lives into a single life structure.  Because of this, the long-held notion of “work-life” balance is lessened, and at its extreme, no longer required.  By thinking strategically, I am able to spend my energy on activities that pay dividends over both the short and long-term.  A continuous and purposeful stream of explicit and implicit challenges allows my mind to expand at an accelerated rate.  With this expansion comes possibilities, and possibilities spark further action towards an ideal state called “Ultima”.  My relationships are continuously expanding, but only at a rate where the relationships themselves are developing at a natural and lasting pace.  My ability to see the unique qualities of each person and strive towards relationships that are, at their core, genuine, helps build strong partnerships that ultimately become central figures in a life structure built around growth, energy, complexity, awareness and intensity.”

Fortunately, I think this is fairly representative of what I want my future to look like.  The next step is to take this concept and apply it to my design firm.

What does my business vision look like?  I’ll talk about that in my next post.

Evolution.

As I mentioned in my last post, this blog will start to focus more attention to the evolution of my new design firm, Big Generator.

As this blog has significantly helped me with my personal challenges, I think it will offer a similar benefit towards helping me keep up the level of motivation, persistence and energy that a new business venture requires.  I also think that the sheer transparency of what I am thinking about and how I am going about improving my business and design abilities can ultimately serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own.  If I think positively, the majority of the work that I do, both from core design and business perspectives, is also more likely to result in positive outcomes.

While increasing the level of transparency is important, it’s unlikely that I’ll mention specific clients within these posts at least until the project has concluded.  If the client maintains all rights to the work, then I won’t, of course, be allowed to publish any related information about the engagement.  Independent of the situation, the process of approaching a new design challenge and coming to a final solution is worth documenting.  In many circumstances, the process of documenting your experiences can refine your level of understanding and push you to think about the situation in new ways.

At this point, the business “foundation” is nearly built – this foundation includes the core brand, web site, portfolio, letterhead, many project proposal letters, and a supplemental graphic visual suite.  The next step in the process is to develop a comprehensive client building strategy – to do this I am reading a book called Get Clients Now by C.J.Hayden.

After reading the first fifty pages, I’ve learned the key to a successful client building strategy is persistence.  To achieve persistence, the development of a formal plan is required.  To summarize here, there are five such steps that need to be followed every month:

  1. Marketing Strategies – selecting two to four client-building strategies
  2. Marketing Stage – identifying the stage of the marketing cycle where you are having difficulty
  3. Program Goal – identifying what you want to accomplish during that time period
  4. Success Ingredients – identifying the missing ingredients that you need to be successful
  5. Daily Actions – documenting the specific steps that you are going to do

In addition, there are six marketing strategies discussed in the text (from most effective to least effective):

  1. Direct Contact and Follow-up
  2. Networking and referral building
  3. Public Speaking
  4. Writing and Publicity
  5. Promotional Events
  6. Advertising

At this stage, my next step is to finish reading this text and start developing a monthly plan of my own.  In my a future post, I will share additional details about what my client building strategy looks like and how well it’s working.  As indicated earlier, sharing the strategy in this manner will help increase accountability and will provide a history from which I can learn.

Press Release.

The following is a press release that was recently sent to my personal and professional network.  It calls attention to the launch of my personal branding web site as well as a new business venture focusing on information / graphic design.  I’m including this information here as the majority of future posts will center around these two creative endeavors.

The first is the formation of my personal “brand” via the web site www.adriandaniels.com. This is a project that I have been thinking about for nearly a decade and it was only after much thought that I decided to finally push forward with its release.

While www.adriandaniels.com is my primary site, it’s ultimately intended to serve as a jump point for three other portals:

Incubator: (This site!)  A non-fiction / experiential blog that is primarily focused on the generation of new ideas. Incubator incorporates personal and professional experiences and transforms them into formal essays and narratives.

Microcosms: A blog that allows for unrestricted exploration of new concepts in a “fictional” setting.

Pixeldust: A visual portal that shows how my art, design and photography portfolios have evolved over the past six years – and how they will continue to evolve and ultimately improve.

As these sites ultimately encapsulate my creative strengths, this web portfolio is something I collectively call a “Supercharged Creative Exploration”.

The second development that I am very excited about is the launch of a new information (graphic) design firm called Big Generator (www.biggenerator.com). For those of you who have seen examples of my work, you already have an understanding of what information design is all about – visuals that make complex information easier to understand and to use.

I made the decision to launch this part-time endeavor after considerable reflection into my strengths, interests, and values and combined this reflection with more than a decade of experience in graphic design and related disciplines (e.g. computer graphics, illustration, industrial design).

Ultimately, I am interested in doing what I can for my clients whether that need is strict “information design” or is classified under a general “graphic design” classification. In essence, I want to provide quality and effective visual solutions for my clients that simplify understanding and enhance and strengthen the customer experience.

Altitude Sickness.

In November of 2006, I decided to climb Mt.Rainier.

Given that I have never climbed a mountain, my first and only concern was ensuring that I was physically strong enough to reach the summit.  Thus, over the subsequent six months I practiced climbing stairs in local arenas, walked for miles in the darkness of winter, and eventually walked thirteen miles with a loaded backpack with forty pounds of weight.  In May of 2007, feeling confident in my physical ability, I packed my gear and headed to Seattle, Washington where I was to meet up with other climbers at the Alpine Ascents office.

I arrived fairly early to the planning session, and given the few climbers who were already there, the relative “intimacy” of the environment helped boost my confidence and comfort level.  Interestingly enough, this level of comfort remained fairly static until three new team members arrived fairly late in the session.  In retrospect, the combination of their collective personality along with the seeming “collapse” of the team dynamic led to a rather abrupt decline in self-confidence.

During the van ride to the mountain, I also noticed that I was becoming somewhat withdrawn from the group.  Being consciously aware of this, I took steps to “return” to my original self and was able to gradually interact with other team members without any problems.  However, it was at the first camp (Camp Muir – elevation 10,188 feet) where things started to become much more challenging for me.  Granted, the physical undertaking to climb ten-thousand feet was both physically and mentally draining, but the real struggle involved not my legs or body, but my mind.  Even though I was with approximately ten other climbers, I felt extremely isolated and alone.

It was only after the climb where I reflected why my primary barrier to reaching the summit on Rainier was not physical, but mental.

A person’s mental state is influenced by a wide range of factors – energy level, family history, personal experiences, etc. – but at it’s core is one’s personality.  Everyone knows fundamentally who they are, but exploring the underlying facets through a formal personality test can further expand one’s awareness of their modes of operation and what they can do to bridge connections with others.  A common and fairly reliable test is known as Myers Briggs, or as it is more commonly known – the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

When I first took the MBTI back in 2000, I was amazed with the results – the correlation to my true personality was striking.  At the time, the test told me that I was of personality type “ISTJ“, which can be explained via the following descriptions:

  • Ways of Gaining Energy: Introversion – You focus on your inner world and get energy through reflecting on information, ideas and concepts.
  • Ways of Taking in Information: Sensing – You notice and trust facts, details and present realities.
  • Ways of Making Decisions: Thinking – You make decisions using logical, objective analysis.
  • Ways of Living in the World: Judging – You prefer to be organized and orderly and to make decisions quickly.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided to take the MBTI a second time.  This time my results were actually much different – I was now of personality type “INFP” (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving).  Interestingly enough, this change in type felt right.

While there is a free test available online, the benefit of taking the official test is that you are provided with an eighteen-page report that provides in-depth analysis of the key facets of your personality as well as tangible suggestions on how to improve your communication style, ability to manage change and conflict, and ability to make decisions.

Not surprisingly, the introversion element of my personality was a key determinant in my discomfort on Rainier.  Fortunately, I can interact with strangers without any difficulty and engage them in decent conversation, but if I don’t have the ability to (eventually) form any true connections with the people I am with, I am going to start to withdraw.  The fact that I was unable to step away from the group on Rainier to replenish my sense of “self” made it all that much more challenging.

I used to think that my inability to rapidly “connect” with strangers was a deficiency that needed to be overcome.  After much self-reflection and research, I no longer believe this.  To be sure, if I felt this was a genuine barrier that needed to be overcome, then I would take immediate steps to expand my personality “container” to better adapt in these types of situations.  However, it’s important to recognize that all personalities are created equal and trying to “fix” a personality trait because it doesn’t “fit” isn’t necessarily the right thing to do.  A personality isn’t something that needs to be “fixed”.

What is the lesson here?  When faced with new challenges, having inventory of your values, strengths and weaknesses are useful tools, but the true foundation of understanding is a keen awareness of your own personality.  If you take steps to explore your personality through formal or freely available personality tests, explore related literature about your personality type, and integrate the suggestions and information into your mode of operation, you will find that your sense of self will be that much greater and you’ll have an enhanced ability to deal with conflict, make important decisions, and communicate with others who have personality types different from your own.