Tag values

Preview III: “Ink”

One final preview before official work begins:

This is my first attempt of a sunset with clouds overhead.  While the illustration is not photo-realistic, I think the composition is good (foreground = land, middle ground = water, background = sunset and clouds).  I am also pleased with how the colors are working together.

Preview II: “Ink”

Yes, another preview – and perhaps a few more before the official site is launched.

I’m starting to develop a decent workflow using the Cintiq and am really enjoying the process.  This illustration shows that a few brushes and a condensed palette can work well in developing a final composition.

Recalibration III.

In my past post, I started to explore the concept of motivation and called attention to why being motivated isn’t always a good thing.

In thinking about my personal and professional lives over the past decade – particularly as it relates to the concept of motivation – I’ve learned the concept of motivation cannot, and perhaps should not, be discussed without a keen focus on the “goal” or objective.  In my opinion, you cannot be motivated to do something if you aren’t sure what you’re motivated for, and goals don’t become real unless someone is actively doing something to make sure they are realized.

Of course, this sounds obvious, right?  In my opinion, it becomes less obvious when there is misalignment between the two.  The purpose of this post is to further explain this connection, highlight the risks when there is misalignment, and illustrate what it means to have “ideal” alignment.

I think achievement of a goal or objective comes down to five things:

1. Understanding what it is that you want and why.
2. Understanding the pathways to bring you towards that goal.
3. Introducing appropriate motivators to push you towards your goal.
4. Periodically ensuring the motivators are working appropriately or need to be replaced.
5. Advance towards a place where supplemental motivators are not required.

Let’s use an example to walk through this process.

Let’s say that you are trying to lose weight.  In order to keep you moving in the right direction, you share your goal with your family and friends.  After all, you may need them to help you stay on track.  And of course, there are many other “motivators” including rewards that you give yourself for reaching milestones in your weight loss journey.  Collectively, this is what I call a motivation framework or motivation support system.  In most cases, having a support system is a good idea.

If your goal is aligned with your values and mission, you’ll find that your motivation level and your ability to reach your goal feeds upon its own successes.  Because your mind is not bound within a self-justification cycle (“I want to lose weight because …”) the energy pathways between mind and body are in alignment and you can ultimately achieve a state of “flow”.  By achieving this state of being, your need for supplemental motivators decreases rapidly and you become further empowered to take on greater challenges (i.e. “I lost ten pounds, but I feel good enough to lose another ten!”).

If however, your wish to lose weight is indirectly connected to your values and purpose, a number of things can start to happen.  First, your support structure may start to “overrun” your initial desire – i.e. your motivation support group may end up being more motivated than you are!  When and if this occurs, you may find that your own motivation starts to plummet and you end up doing less than before.  This downward spiral can proceed even further when your support system begins to run out of energy (i.e. they are no longer providing any motivational support) and/or begins to show its disappointment that you are not reaching your goal (showing evidence that perhaps your support structure wasn’t the right choice to begin with).

As you can start to imagine, this single disconnect between goal identification and values/mission has the potential to negatively influence other aspects of your life – i.e. “If I can’t lose ten pounds with support, how can I do anything?”

In order to have true alignment between goal and motivation, I think one needs to pay close attention to the following:

  • Understand what it is that you want. Keep in mind that this can be a moving target – that’s okay.  If your desires change, ensure that your motivation and motivation support structure changes as well.  If your goals are changing frequently, it might be appropriate to revisit your values and mission.
  • Make sure that your motivation does not require constant support. If it does, it’s possible that don’t want to achieve the goal in the first place.  Along similar lines, if you are tackling the right goal and have the right motivation framework in place, you’ll find that your pursuit of the goal will be natural and the need for motivational support will be much less.
  • You are human. Waning feelings of motivation are normal and may not require significant changes to your goal or support structure.  Instead, you may need to look elsewhere to understand these feelings.

In my opinion, the ideal state is having a goal that is directly linked to your core being and ultimately drives you. It’s the catalyst and energy source for all action.  Without this source, your source for motivation will always need “supplemental power sources” (at least to some extent).  I think that achievement of the farthest end of this motivation maturity scale is the identification and pursuit of a goal that is ultimately self-powered.

In my next post within this series, I’ll spend more time focusing on the human aspect of motivation and goal attainment – this is ultimately where I’ll introduce the next area of “recalibration” which is persistence.

Contrast Ratio.

While the year is not yet over, 2009 has ultimately been a lesson in contrast.  In 2006 I went into a relationship with unique optimism, hope and love (marriage) to end up with feelings of terminal loss, distrust and despair (death).  Fortunately this experience has served as a catalyst to help me advance to a new level of consciousness and awareness.

While the phrase “experience” leaves considerable room for any sort of time measurement, for reasons of simplicity let’s assume there is a measurable start and end to the experience at hand.  For those who go into a situation that turns out similar to their original expectations, one can leave the experience with a sense of increased confidence in her/his ability to predict an outcome.  If these experiences repeat themselves – i.e. one is able to repeatedly predict an outcome – their confidence can grow.  In essence, these “positive” experiences begin to build a self-fulfilling prophecy where predictability and success go hand in hand.  After all, if I can look into the future, by default I have greater “control” over that future and my own destiny.

If, however, the experiences in which I partake have a different outcome than originally foreseen, then I may find myself taking part in an alternative self-fulfilling prophecy where “failure” and “unpredictability” are the norm.  In essence, I am losing the ability to predict the future and thus my feeling of “control” over my own destiny can and will likely erode.

Of course, what I am describing here are macro views and do not address the numerous nuances that can affect either scenario.  For example, one “bad” (or “good”) outcome does not necessarily mean that all subsequent outcomes will share a similar fate.  In addition, my ability to learn and adjust after each situation can significantly affect future experiences and their eventual outcomes.  While a continuous string of failures will eventually have a negative impact on one’s self-confidence, failure of any frequency or magnitude can be a powerful catalyst for action and innovation.

The ultimate goal is to find a balance between predictability and unpredictability, the latter of which resulting in some form of “lesson” that maintains this equilibrium.

So, what does an experience entail and how does one build the skills to achieve positive and more predictable outcomes?

An experience has a beginning, a “core” and an end.  A determination of whether the experience is going as originally planned or is deviating “off course” can occur in any of the three phases.  At a fundamental level, the basis of an experience is time.

While one can argue that there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” path for a given experience, at a basic level you have a sense of where you want that experience to go.  For example, if a relationship is showing signs of erosion, not doing anything may eventually lead to its failure.  Thus, making corrections to the experience “course” to enable its long-term success may be right thing to do.

Whether to begin a new experience depends a lot upon your values and your goals.  While this decision is usually subconscious, if you don’t have a clear sense of either, your experience will be somewhat random. However, if your goal is to experience things with purpose, then your ability to choose experiences that provide a foundation for the “predictability/unpredictability balance” will become that much greater.

Let’s assume that you have chosen an experience with purpose – you are now operating within the experience “core”.  Your next logical goal is to participate in the most meaningful and positive way that you can – i.e. striving to reach a “self-actualization” phase of consciousness and operation.  In order to achieve this state of being, you need to pay close attention to the “hierarchy of needs” structure – not only in its original definition but one that is applicable to the experience at hand.

Focusing on the concept of self-actualization – and the supporting hierarchy – are both important because they can determine the quality and duration of the experience.

For example, in attempting to reach self-actualization, the mind becomes overly concerned with reaching that pinnacle, and virtually ignores everything else.  When layers of the hierarchy become eroded, and you no longer have the direction that your goals were providing, your reality crashes to the ground.  It’s similar to climbing a mountain, reaching the apex, and then realizing that you are out of oxygen (i.e. your support structure).  How are you going to get down?

The aspect that is central to avoiding this dilemma is time.  Time is the only thing that is constant through your journey across the hierarchy.  It’s the measurement that you need to be focused on to ensure your long-term “survival”.  What is happening in the “core” of the experience?  Is the hierarchy “intact”?  If it is not, what are you doing to ensure its overall stability?

If you are able to identify with these questions and answer them objectively, the quality of the experience for not only you, but others that may be involved in that experience, will be that much greater.  At a basic level, it’s synonymous with an individual vs. team mindset – focusing on the former is appropriate, but not focusing on the latter is not.

It’s worth noting that simply because you believe an experience is worth the investment doesn’t mean that the operating environment will work in your favor.  Forces can work with or against you in all phases of the experience.  Being able to clearly recognize these forces and how they impact your experience (and your hierarchy of needs) is another valuable skill.

Making a decision whether the experience needs to “end” depends a lot on the experience itself.  Taking inventory of whether the experience is obligatory or optional, and/or if it continues to align with your values and goals are both excellent barometers to appropriately close or abruptly terminate the experience.  Delaying a decision to bring closure to an experience can ultimately erode aspects of the hierarchy of needs without it being obvious that you are doing so.

What’s the lesson here?  In order to benefit from any experience, you need to have a clear understanding of what you value, what you want to achieve and what you desire.  Once you have this level of understanding, your ability to benefit from and self-actualize within the experience is dependent upon your awareness of the experience itself.  It is this level of awareness and the resulting decisions which will pave the way towards experiences that ultimately build self-confidence through a unique balance of predictable and unpredictable outcomes.

While you don’t have control over the future, you do have some level of control over your own destiny.

(While I’ve used my career and relationship as a basis for the “experience” definition, it’s important to recognize that the use of this phrase is applicable for all experiences regardless of classification.)

PLANESCAPE Generation 3: “Regeneration”

As mentioned briefly in the BIONIC post, I have been working fairly consistently on defining the next generation of PLANESCAPE, which I call “Regen”.  Over the next several posts, I will share the details behind this new approach as well as its multiple “advancement subsystems”.  I believe this new framework will allow even more intellectual and interpersonal growth over the coming years, so I am excited to share this here!

Q: What is Regeneration (or “Regen”)?

“Regen” is the third major release of the Planescape advancement framework.  It is an evolution based upon personal and professional experiences over the past 3-4 years, extensive research and intense self-analysis.

Q: What was the catalyst for Regen?

It is difficult to pinpoint “one” main driver.

At some point in 2008 I came to the realization I was not taking care of myself.  Unfortunately, by the time I realized this, my overall self-confidence and self-esteem were at an all-time low.  Recognizing this, I took steps to read more about the challenges I was facing and what I could do to better understand who I was, how to manage my thoughts, and advance to the next level of “life”.

I also came to a realization that I didn’t have a clear sense of my values.  In fact, up until this point, I really had not taken the time to identify values that were ultimately important to me.

Finally, I think came to the conclusion that things in my life were not “working” and I needed to make significant changes to make things better.

Q: How does Regen differ from previous Planescape “releases”?

When I first came up with the idea for Planescape, there was no real concept of an advancement “framework”.  Or if there was, the framework was quite simple – it consisted of dividing my life into short-term “phases”.  Each phase served as an entity for identifying and tracking goals for a 3-6 month time period.  It was a way for me to document my history and to learn from that history.  I call this “Version 1.0”.

Version 1.5 introduced the “Plane” concept.  At this point, I realized that the phases seemed to exhibit a natural “evolution” all on their own.  I wanted some way to capture this evolution while at the same time identify a long-term vision and align these phases within that vision.

Version 2.0 saw the introduction of numerous “foundational” elements.  It was at this time where I realized that having short and long-term goals was not enough to be successful.  In this version, I introduced “containers” for a formal self-esteem framework, standards and values, principles and “modules” for dealing with crises and even death.  This version also started to explictly define “areas of concentration” – i.e. what were the key things that interested me and that I wanted to pursue?

Version 3.0 (“Regen”) takes many of the ideas first explored in Version 2.0 and takes everything to the next level of refinement.  The main elements contained in this version include advancement “subsystems”, a “living rulebook” and value / strength / principle “inventories”.

My personal leadership philosophy

My personal leadership philosophy focuses on empowerment and setting people up for success.

Empowerment means that a person has specific responsibility over a particular area or effort / project, and that everyone has a clear understanding of her/his role.  This latter piece plays a significant role in setting them up for success.

In contrast, leveraging people to simply “help out” with a particular task is ill-suited for true long-term growth.  I encourage people to not just “help out”, but to “take ownership” over a specific deliverable and ensure that all aspects of that deliverable are analyzed and managed accordingly.

(The key precursor to doing this is to analyze the problem at a high-level and partition accordingly.  Utilizing a “divide and conquer” strategy is key.)

Another aspect to this leadership philosophy is to leverage an individuals strengths AND interests.  For example, if an associate excels at requirements analysis but loathes the activity, it’s not going to be in either party’s interest to put that person in that particular role.  You might be empowering them, but you are not setting them up for success.

From a managerial perspective, I focus more heavily on “foundational” elements before empowering associates to take on new tasks / assignments.  One of these foundational elements focuses on valuesWhat an associate values will play a significant role in helping them choose one direction over another.

For example, if an associate values “harmonious relationships” over “advancement”, it’s likely that the associate will be happier in a group with a good team dynamic than vs. being promoted within a team  lacking such a dynamic.

Once a person’s value assessment is complete (there should be 10 core values), a formal “talent builder” and “skills assessment” should be next on the agenda.  This will help the associate refine their current tasks to align with their interests, and it can also help guide the associate towards a new role if there is existing misalignment.

It’s only after these two steps where both short-term and long-term plans can be formulated.  Once this is performed, then the leadership principles discussed earlier can be applied.

Why values are a key component for success.

Earlier this year, I came to a realization that I didn’t have a clear sense of where I was heading – both on a professional and perhaps personal level. After much research and thought, I realized that I did not have a solid understanding of my values, and because of this, my ability to make clear decisions about my future was limited.

While I do not recall the exact source, I found the following excerpt to be very enlightening:

“Research shows that high performance and high productivity are frequently linked to people who work in concert with their values. Some people find that the older they become the harder it is to work or to live when they are out of harmony with their values. Choosing organizations and positions in sync with your values assures both productivity and happiness. Being out of sync can result in sickness, depression, anger, and a sense of disappointment or discontentedness.”

Knowing your values makes it easier to formulate career and development choices. It also facilitates decision-making outside the workplace.

Because there are numerous values from which to choose (here’s a good starting list: http://www.gurusoftware.com/GuruNet/Personal/Topics/Values.htm), it’s important that one take considerable time to narrow down this list into a reasonable “top ten” (or five). One suggestion is that you list all available values and then continuously refine the list by removing ones you don’t feel are “core” to your being.

Once you have the list at a reasonable number, you can then ask yourself – if I could only choose one value, would this be it? By using this type of comparison scheme, you can finalize your “core” values.

If you take the time to pay attention to your values and what’s ultimately important to you, you will find that success is inevitable and you will gain greater enjoyment on the journey.