Tag goals

Attention IV – Habits and the Objective

In February 2013, I decided to begin working with a personal trainer.

From 2007 up until this time, I had been steading improving and expanding my training regimen having completed my first marathon and my fourth triathlon. I made this decision to push myself to the next level of fitness, and I needed formal guidance to get there.

Over the next three years, I learned an incredible amount about strength training and was able to significantly improve my overall condition through consistent and dedicated effort. In early 2016, I was awarded “Most Improved.”

Then, in early 2017, I learned that my trainer was relocating. Coincidentally, it was around this time where the purpose of our working relationship was beginning to lose its meaning. After all, we had gone through similar routines for an extended timeframe, and I didn’t require any further instruction or guidance in its current form. I was also operating within a fairly consistent routine.

Fortunately, via this foundation, I was able to maintain, and even expand upon, our original routine and continue to do so today.

While I set out to take my fitness to “the next level,” I never really defined what “the next level” really looked like. I just knew instinctively that I was operating well beneath my potential.

I am thankful to have had the financial means and opportunity to work with an experienced athlete for so long, and while his expertise contributed a great deal to my success, I discovered that the sheer habit of meeting with him represented half the effort.

Ironically, when coming up with the idea for this post, I came across an article by Marcia Reynolds entitled “Stop Making New Goals, Create Habits Instead.”

When I stop to consider this experience, and aspects of the book “Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective” by Kenneth Stanley, I’ve learned you don’t need a specific “objective” to get started, but you do need to plan and repeat small shifts in behavior to experience positive, and lasting change, regardless of what the “change” entails.

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?

Visuals: “The Pursuit” (DRAFT)

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

The White Flag.

After much consideration, I resigned from my job of twelve years nearly two weeks ago.

There are many who would question such a decision given that I don’t have another opportunity lined up, and I’m also not 100% certain what, or where, that opportunity might be.  I just knew that this was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

For someone who has historically placed logic above all else, admittedly many who hear this news are taken aback.  Unfortunately, after what I’ve experienced over the past five years, I’ve learned that life has other plans regardless of what you may have wanted to happen.

Thus, I’ve stopped trying to make any real long-term plans and to accept whatever comes into my life.  I don’t look years into the future; right now, I operate on a day-to-day basis (that’s 24 hours), perhaps because I don’t have any other choice.

I recently read an excerpt from a business text published by the Harvard Business Review where the author describes the attitudes of POWs during the Vietnam War.  Those who believed they would be in that situation forever fared much better than those who believed they would be released within a certain period of time; the former group’s ability to accept their current circumstances increased their resiliency.

When things aren’t “working,” I think it’s natural to envision a time when things will be working again.  Interestingly, it’s a mistake to think this way.

Since 2006, thoughts of a “better future” have centered on a relationship that no longer exists.  More recent situations have involved my career and where I live: “This will get better in a few months …” or “I’m only going to live here for a short while …”

Anger and frustration at what “should have been” becomes draining and meaningless in time, but difficult to relinquish all the same.  Unfortunately, these same feelings erode one’s resilience, and it’s a downward spiral from there.

Based upon my experience, I think one’s ability to “weather the storm” requires resilience, and surprisingly a pessimistic attitude (i.e. things may never change, but eventually everything ends).  The ability to “live life” centers around the ability to “fail quickly” (i.e. perseverance) and a strong sense of one’s self / purpose.  Everything else is supplementary, and should be considered a “bonus” because nothing in life, and no one, is guaranteed.



It’s not how fast you can go
The force goes into the flow
If you pick up the beat
You can forget about the heat
More than just survival
More than just a flash
More than just a dotted line
More than just a dash

It’s a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race
More than blind ambition
More than simple greed
More than a finish line
Must feed this burning need
In the long run…

From first to last
The peak is never passed
Something always fires the light that gets in your eyes
One moment’s high, and glory rolls on by
Like a streak of lightning
That flashes and fades in the summer sky

Your meters may overload
You can rest at the side of the road
You can miss a stride
But nobody gets a free ride

More than high performance
More than just a spark
More than just the bottom line
Or a lucky shot in the dark
In the long run…

You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don’t burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you’ve got to last…

Rush, “Marathon

New Beginning.

Territories is my new blog from which most all other creative endeavors will originate.  Territories will be a continuation of the journey described in Incubator, but the subject matter will focus less on healing / introspection and more on pure exploration – both from a concept and design perspective, as well as physical locations across the United States and around the world.

Below are some of the themes that you’ll see over the next year:

THEMES: electronic music . industrial design . graphic design . product management . emotional intelligence . advanced concept design . going beyond . HD . instructional . personal . travel . environments . deep-thinking . socialization . advancement . education . next generation . ideation . radical thinking . evolution . inspiration . post digital


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.

The Visual Journey

As you may already be aware, this blog is one of several projects that I have been working on over the past several years.  The underlying goal has centered around building a foundation onto which I can layer in new creative projects and pursuits.  This is why I’ve branded my main web site and bundled these projects within a title I call “Supercharged Creative Exploration.”

The original home page design launched earlier this year showcased the three original projects – Incubator, Microcosms and Pixeldust.  Since that time, I’ve also included a few other projects to the list – including Ink.

Not surprisingly, one of my goals has involved designing a new home page that provides visitors with a complete inventory of these projects along with a modular format that is easy to update.

With this goal in mind, I’ve formulated a few graphic designs that do just this.  While the current design solves the current objective and is easy to update, I consider it an early version and will eventually be replaced.  Over the next several months, I plan on eventually migrating to one of the site designs show below: (or some derivation thereof)

If you visit the new site, you’ll also notice a new link – something that I call “The Visual Journey.”  This is a design that encapsulates who I am, what I am interested in, and some more information about the history of my professional career and my interests.  I think it will help people understand what motivates me and what I am passionate about.

Due to the nature of the design and purpose, I’ve left it in a PDF format.  It’s best read using the official Adobe Acrobat reader but aside from a few minor graphic inconsistencies on the title page, the Preview application available in Mac OS X should also work well.

The combination of this new design along with the Visual Journey supplement symbolizes the next chapter in my creative and intellectual journey – it’s a chapter I call “Immersion.”

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?

Next II.

I thought of a few other things with respect to 2010 goals …

Japan – One of my travel goals this year is to visit Japan, more specifically Kyoto and/or Tokyo.  Although with the prevalence of shinkensen (bullet trains), I’ll probably visit both!  Japan is somewhere I have always found intriguing and strangely enough,  one place that I feel some remote “connection” to.  While my initial interest in Japan was centered around their advanced railway system, the first chapter in the book I am reading now – “Japan Rising” – seemed to suggest an almost surreal tie to my own personality – a blend of opaqeness, paradoxes, power and purpose.  While I have much more to read, I may explore this connection in more depth in a future post.

Since travel to Japan will likely happen in the summer, my primary goal now is to start learning the written and oral Japanese language.  Today, I purchased Rosetta Stone’s Japanese Level 1 as it is highly rated and thus a good starting point.  I started working on it this evening and am very impressed with the simplicity of the interface and overall design.  After only fifteen minutes in using the software, I am actually able to comprehend simple sentences!  Future posts will be designed to reinforce what I have learned on my own or through the course.

To provide some foundational context, I learned there are four “writing systems”: Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana and Romaji.  Here is a brief description of each writing system from Rosetta Stone:

Kanji (漢字) is used for nouns, parts of adjectives and verbs, and Japanese names.  Hiragana (ひらがな) is used for words that don’t use kanji, in certain word endings, and in place of kanji characters that are difficult to read.  Katakana (カタカナ) is used for foreign words, countries, names, and technical words.  Romaji, which uses the Roman script, is often used for acronyms, company names, foreign words, or as a transliteration of Japanese characters.  Romaji allows learners of Japanese to read Japanese without learning the characters.

Since I am interested in learning the kanji writing system, I will primarily use Rosetta Stone with this method, but will switch to romaji if I can’t grasp what is being said – i.e. for me, it’s sometimes easier to read what is being said vs. a sole reliance upon the audio.

I also configured my Macintosh to switch between U.S. and hiragana (I don’t know exactly why kanji is not listed) through the System Preferences > Language and Text option.  Once configured, you’ll see the relevant language icon located at the top right-hand corner of your screen – as shown here:

When I switch to the hiragana input type, I can start typing in that character set using the set of Japanese typefaces that are installed within Mac OS X.  For example, these are the vowels a, e, i o and u: あえいおう.  I think it will be good experience to learn how to enter these characters as well as to physically write the kanji / hiragana symbols by hand.

Edward Tufte – In my earlier post, I mentioned that I was going to focus more of my attention in the information design realm.  Edward Tufte is considered a pioneer and leader in this space, and thus I recently acquired two of his books – Beautiful Evidence and Envisioning Information.  While I have considerably improved upon my graphic and information design skills over the past decade, I think it’s appropriate to take my development to the next level through books such as this.  I’ve updated my current reading list to include these new additions.

AdrianDaniels.com – With hosting plan finalized, I spent the past week refining the design and ended up taking a completely different approach to the design overall.  I recently posted a placeholder page which represents the overall “look” of the site – the lettering shown is “Adrian” in katakana lettering. If you are interested, you can visit the web site where I was able to obtain this translation.  While the design is nearly complete, I still have a fair amount of work to do in terms of the Flash conversion, thus I’ve set a deadline of February 1 to release the final version.

Incubator – You may have noticed that I’ve changed the title of this blog from “Big Generator” to “Incubator”.  This is actually part of a larger strategy which will be discussed in the upcoming weeks.  In any event, you can now visit this blog via the new URL which is http://incubator.adriandaniels.com.  You can also visit my other site via http://microcosms.adriandaniels.com.  If you have a WordPress blog and are interested in taking advantage of this subdomain mapping, visit this link for details.