Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Spiritual" Economy

Most adults in relatively free economic countries have a sixth sense about the value of money. The reason is less magical than it may at first appear. The closer a person is involved with the "making" of money (i.e.: generating value in trade for capital), the more they "feel" the worth of a unit of currency.

For example, if a person makes $10 an hour performing some skilled labor, then he understands $1 as being worth the strain of 6 minutes of work. Therefore, when a person is deciding to buy or not to buy, they are subconsciously considering whether it is worth the equivalent labor.

In this way, the value of goods is commonly understood throughout the world (despite varying currency rates). This is very important, but simply works by the same rules as conscious economic choices—insofar as no one is trying to abuse the customer's ignorance. However, value escapes its material bonds and grows exponentially when it is transfered into an act of charity.

When a person feels the strain each dollar represents, he naturally desires to keep it to himself. When he denies himself this gratification and instead sacrifices the dollar(s) to another person, then something magical happens. He hands over the money and transfers its value along with it, however, when he expects nothing in return, he is left with a duplicate of its value in his soul.

Furthermore, he is seen by others as a giver and is marked by value equivalent to the gift. This has a multiplying effect, because each person who appreciates the giving of the one gift attaches this value to the giver. Therefore, one $10 gift appreciated by ten people who heard about it makes the giver feel like he gave a $100 gift. So whatever high feeling the initial gift gave the giver, the spread of the story multiplies.

To top it off, when the receiver of a gift appreciates the gift, he is likely to return the favor whenever he can (in whatever form). The emotional impression made on him is likely to prompt a disproportionately large return. This, in turn, constitutes a gift—and the cycle compounds.

As abstract as this might sound, I have a real-life example. Several years ago, I was leaving my apartment on a mission to buy a pint of ice cream—about $4. Because it was a house divided into four apartments, there was only one other unit on the top floor besides mine. As I prepared to decent the stairs, I noticed a $10 bill lying on the floor.

I'll admit, my first thought was "free ice cream!" but I recovered myself. It didn't belong to me, so it must have belonged to my neighbor. I simply slipped it part way under the door, and went on my way—feeling pleased with myself.

To make a long story short, my neighbor found out that I had put it there, though I never learned for certain that it had belonged to her. Nevertheless, the dynamic between us noticeably shifted—particularly because she hadn't had much apparent experience with good-willed people in her life.

It is difficult to put a price on such "spiritual" qualities as good-will, but if one can equate money to the strain of acquiring it, then the ease that came over our neighborly contact was worth more than $1000. And really, it cost me nothing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Dystopian Machine

The following is a personal examination of dystopian concepts that I wrote as part of an attempt to understand the world of a story I am writing. I am certain to be somewhat mistaken in my observations, and therefore, this is to be taken as a topic for discussion, but not necessary an essay on asserted facts. Nevertheless, I hope my reasoning is structurally sound, and would appreciate any feedback by those more informed than I am.

The machine of society, and by extension its apparatus, has been created for the specific purpose of organizing society. The eternal argument is to whom ought go the benefits of such an organized society. The debate has such a wide range as to include "everyone" and "one top person."

The former ranges in another dimension from Socialism and Communism to Libertarianism and Anarchy. The latter does not range much in actual practice, but includes a variety of titles from "Emperor" to "Dictator." There are many things wrong with such extremes. By definition, Socialism and Communism keep people "down" in the name of equality, unfortunately, someone has to be the oppressor, and usually becomes a "Dictator." Libertarianism and Anarchy cast off any notion of oppression, but create such ignorant individualism as to allow the strongest to become an oppressor, or "Dictator."

Either way, extremes end up producing a two-class system based upon some kind of coercion. A person or small group of people who have "absolute power" tend to corner the market—as it were—on happiness as well. The masses, supposed to be "secure," seethe with frustration and jealousy at their inability to advance. As a result, the elites impose more force upon the "unruly" people while giving themselves more freedom from the people.

And so, the ultimate goal of those who seek to mechanize society is to create a taught system that responds instantaneously to the will of the pilot(s). In order for this to happen, such a system must be "bled" of all turbulence in the order of individual preferences. These preferences come in two varieties: one has an interest in the system as a whole (and is therefore a problem to the machine) and the other merely has an interest in one's self.

This second variety includes the only "individual rights" that such a system allows. These are on the order of physical freedoms (what one does with one's own body or with a consenting partner). Freedoms on the order of the mental (such as political transparency, freedom of movement—across boundaries, etc.) and freedoms on the order of the philosophical (which open questions about the justice of such a system) are eventually strictly prohibited.

When each person cares only about himself, he becomes a predictable mechanism. He can be manipulated with "carrot and stick" rewards, and need not falter due to relational or other human considerations. He can then be pushed, abused, and used up without any worry of someone coming to his aid—because he is alone by his own design. Furthermore, this is seen as his own fault, because anyone who looks as his situation sees only the physical considerations—never the underlying causes of his faulty thinking.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Revenge of the Introvert"

I just read an interesting article in Psychology Today, entitled "Revenge of the Introvert." As often happens in the cycle of reading and thinking, this article did not so much inform me of anything I didn't already know or suspect, as it did give structure and terminology to an already developing idea. In short, it clarified and validated parts of my hypothesis on creators and performers.

As you may already know, personality types are universally divided into extraverts and introverts. I'll be brief, because the article explains this very well. Extraverts derive their energy from outside sources, and love crowds, noise, and excitement. Introverts derive their energy from internal sources, preferring one-on-one engagements, alone time, and quiet contemplation. What I call "creators" roughly aligns with the introverted personality types. The article points out that while extraverts (which would roughly align with "performers") seem more prevalent by nature, national studies suggest that it is actually a 50/50 split.

The success culture in the United States is extremely biased toward performance, or "the playing of a prescribed game." This entails some manner of competition between people or teams, and focuses heavily on sales and marketing. All-in-all this requires skills native predominantly to the extravert. This means that a great number of introverts are being forced or are forcing themselves into roles (particularly at work) that are "counter-dispositional." Either that, or they settle for mediocrity at work, keeping their passions as hobbies.

With the advent of so much information technology, I believe that a time is coming when marketing will lose its current value, and success culture will have to embrace the more introverted creators, who originate real value. Indeed, this is already beginning.

The reason is that as more and more people learn how to learn—about products, media content, political campaigns, etc.—from the internet and other sources, there will be a greater and greater skepticism toward someone "selling" something. Therefore, the creation of a truly valuable product will become more important, and will, through passive means, market itself through the recommendations of satisfied customers.

The difficulty, of course, is that creation is unpredictable. It is difficult to say when a breakthrough will occur. By contrast, marketing is a simple numbers game. One truly great product can be sold to literally billions of people, and is a simple matter of rapid exposure. The more exposure, the more people will learn, the more they learn, the more they buy.

In a global economy, where Sydney, Australia and Podunk, USA are in the same marketplace, the challenge is how to utilize the natural abilities of introverts to create without having too many products to effectively market. Given the 50/50 split, the ideal would suggest that there be one creator inventing and one performer marketing.

Certainly, this demands further exploration.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Willing to Change

You cannot course correct if you're not moving. So many people run up against unchangeable people who have seemingly unsolvable problems. We try to help by offering suggestions of what we did in our own lives, but the actions that brought us closer to success seem to be ineffectual in their lives.

This is particularly frustrating to people whose lives literally depend upon helping other make this change. Marketers and salespeople, lobbyists, counselors, activists, and evangelists alike make their living helping people to make a change. If we suppose these professionals are honest people representing an honest enterprise, then they are trying to help.

As the adage goes, one has to be "willing to change." This is true enough, but sometimes falls short of the total solution. A person can be self-deceived into thinking they want to change, but unconsciously undermine their own effort because they really don't want to. Even so, it is possible for a person to be willing to change, but not be able to change.

The reason is quite simply this: without a goal, dream, or vision that is vastly more desirable than the current set of circumstances, there is nothing to move toward. If there is nothing to move toward, there is no way to change your course. If a person is stuck in a rut of bad habits and bad thinking, the greater the rut the greater the need for a reason to overcome it.

A person can complain up one side and down the other about how terrible his life and the general state of things is, but without some clear picture of the better life he believes he can have, he will merely be swept to the grave on the conveyor belt of mediocrity. All the self-help books, therapy sessions, and liberal studies are just noise to a person who has no goal.

Help them discover their passion, then show (not tell) them how you can help them get it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

All People Love Popcorn

In Anna Karenina, one of Tolstoy's characters is said to have been acting rightly, but thinking wrongly. The author describes the way in which philosophers invent a structure of words—an "edifice"—to suit their developing theories. These words are common words, but have special meaning in the context of the philosopher's discussion. Tolstoy's character is described as suffering angst over the collapse of such edifices whenever he thinks too hard about them.

By its very nature, philosophy is hard to define. It deals with concepts for which we have a limited vocabulary of concrete words and phrases. For this reason, we must be very careful when choosing words for generalized statements.

When a person makes the statement, "All people love popcorn," he is asserting a broad generalization based upon his limited worldview. If he believes his statement is truth, then he necessarily founds some of his other assertions upon it. For this reason, he may see nothing wrong with serving it as the solitary snack at a party.

He can go on for some time, believing this—unchallenged. However, eventually someone will say, "I don't like plain popcorn." This doesn't shake his belief, but perhaps suggests it be amended to: "All people like some popcorn."

However, the more he mixes with a variety of people and cultures, and the more he reads and watches diverse media, the more likely he is to find someone who says: "I don't like popcorn." This shatters the edifice. What amendment can be made? "Some people like some popcorn"? No kidding. That's a non-statement, and not worth saying.

There are two reactions to this: denial and acceptance. Obviously, this is a silly example. However, to a person who hangs his entire worldview upon a similar general statement, the person who would disprove that statement is a scary person to meet. He changes everything, by collapsing the edifice upon which a life is built.

Consider the implications of the statement: "All people are evil." If all people are evil, then it follows that people are worthless and expendable. Therefore, the leader is he who can acquire the most and control the masses. This is a scarcity view of the world, and inundates everything the person does on the way to success.

On the other hand, if a person acts with good intentions, but thinks all people are evil, he necessarily smothers his own aspirations because he won't do evil, but believes it is the only way to success.

Too many good-hearted people are stopped by wrong thinking.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Other People's Failures

Have you ever wondered why it's interesting to hear of other people's failures? Inside, we all know we should be ashamed of "rubbernecking" at the calamities that befall others. Nevertheless, we hold a morbid fascination for them. It's part of what makes us so wonderfully human.

As I see it, there are two main reasons we gravitate toward stories of failure.

The first, is that when other people fail, it removes a tension on ourselves to measure up. By their failures, they have lowered their standard. This is especially the case in a working or other competitive environment. The star performer at work gathers a lot of envious eyes. The greater the gap between him and his colleagues, the more they desire to see him fail.

The second—and more admirable—is because other people's failures show us what not to do. It is always better to learn from other people's failures rather than from one's own. In the case of the star performer, it is likely that a person hearing his story would recognize that he has a blind spot. This makes him more human, and more sympathetic. It also makes the person hearing the story more of a team player.

The first mode of thinking is influenced greatly by the trend, mentioned in my previous post, of re-feeding the masses what they want to hear. When media does this, it has the effect of dampening the success of an organization. The people who are inundated with their own narrow thoughts, naturally rebel against anything that falls outside of the perspective it affords. Star performers are all but pulled down by mediocre individuals who are cynical about anything "unheard of."

The second mode of thinking requires an ambitious spirit, and belongs to the abundance mentality. When a person believes that opportunities to create value abound, they applaud star performers for their efforts. When others fail, one who believes in abundance absorbs the lessons, then gives a hand up to the fallen comrade.

We're all in this life together. Most failures are the result of the actor stepping outside his rightful territory, and treading upon others'. Why do we allow media and other influences to crush us into a win-lose competitive mentality, when we can work as a team to create win-win?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Everyone is Wrong

At least, part of the time. To be a singular, linear being in an expansive universe is to have a limited perspective by which to understanding that universe. Necessarily, we must draw faulty conclusions. Furthermore, being limited by lifespan, we must act upon those faulty conclusions or else run out of time to act—because it is impossible to know everything.

This is not the cause of human suffering, but perhaps of frustration, and certainly of failures. However, when individuals and small organizations fail, those with the clearest vision of their stated purpose can merely pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and correct their mistakes. These types of learning experiences are invaluable to the success process—whatever your success looks like.

This is where media is important, with its ability to capture and share stories, ideas, and other information. The great tragedies of Shakespeare teach us about the consequences of running with our faults—not so that we can fear them, but so that we can examine possible course corrections before problems arise. Much media content today boasts similar examinations, though most people are no longer looking for food-for-thought.

The trend in media is to re-feed the masses what they already think. Mostly because it is the easiest way to make a quick buck. This is true whether one sells his own media content, or uses it to develop a large audience for paying advertisers. The consequence of this is mass-stagnation. When the greater portion of the populace is encouraged to steep in its own ignorance, it becomes increasingly difficult to make any real progress.

Such stagnation means that those under the influence of such re-fed thought are unable to think "outside the box." To them, the world is as it seems to be, and will be going in the direction it is going permanently. Once, there was a time that new things could be created, but now everything has been.

Of course, the people outside this mindset are in the minority. These few that are, know that what there is to be discovered is infinite in both breadth and depth, as well as complexity. However, with the vast majority thinking what they think and patting each other on the back for thinking it, new information is met with extreme skepticism.

Nevertheless, the solution is not to back down, but to press forward. There needs to be a flood of truthful and diverse content into all media. More important than what people want, is what people need. To overcome skepticism, the people must be given a compelling reason to explore this flood of new content, whereby becoming liberated from narrow, stagnant thought.

Everyone has misconceptions, but the more widely everyone reads, listens, and views, the more likely each is to find pieces of the truth—and share them. Getting unstuck is the first step to progress.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Initiative and Ambition

The two types of producers are creators and performers. Creators are driven by a composition-focus. Performers are driven by an execution-focus. I have discussed this at length in part 1 and part 2 of an ongoing essay on the terms. Here, I want to take a side path to discuss another cross section of the success journey.

A person's motivation, or drive, is what moves them from the start to the finish of any journey. The specifics of an individual's drive are as unique as the individual's life, but they fall generally into a focus on either composition or execution as a method for reaching the end results.


There is a myth that creative people don't like to take initiative. In today's execution-focused, performance-based world of work, initiative is seen mostly as an interpersonal quality which sets a leader apart from the rest. In reality, creative people simply have a less visible form of initiative. Because they compose a work as their primary form of productive action, initiative isn't seen by outsiders until the work is completed. And even then, it isn't appreciated on its own merit, but dismissed as "you have to start somewhere."

Contrast this with performance initiative. Something needs doing and a person steps forward courageously and does it. This form of leadership is visible and, therefore, obvious. Its value is not in the hard work of conjuring the form of a solution, but in breaking through fear and actually implementing the solution. An organization which has problems with obvious solutions is already too far beyond its FIT state to be monumentally productive.

We're all only human, so it is natural that some problems would mature to the point of revealing their own solutions. The trick is to compose a system whereby the greatest flaws are addressed before they become problems. In that way, the less important flaws will mature to reveal less fearful solutions. Likewise, wars are prevented by diplomatically addressing acute differences from the start, then solving smaller crises with minimal suppression.

From the smallest family to the largest international organizations, these same rules apply. However, initiative is only the beginning...


The reason we need to understand our drive type is because of the two very different ways that our motivation is connected to our ambitions, goals, or dreams.

Performers seek success (however they define it) directly—either by reaching the goal itself, or by way of a goal that opens the door to success. In other words, a performer might battle to become a leader in his field. Either this is the success he seeks, or merely the means to purchase houses, cars, free-time, etc. He can latch onto a clear vision and pull himself toward his goal despite intervening obstacles.

The diametric opposite, which would entail being pushed toward a goal, is not in the least bit motivational to creators. Of course, neither is being dragged through brambles by a runaway dream. To be driven by a composition-focus is a different sort of animal altogether. It is neither direct, nor patently indirect.

In the words of Green Day, "It's something unpredictable, that in the end is right."

A creator cannot have a clear goal on which to latch, whereby motivating himself through the trials that he will face. The ambition of a creator is the defining of the ambition itself. When the goal is defined, the goal is reached. Ultimately, composition-focus is not about knowing the end in advance, then reaching it with utmost speed and skill. In fact, it isn't even about the end at all, except to say that at the end the creator has captured a thing which is to be his legacy.

"I hope you [have] the time of your life."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Composition and Execution, Part 2

Mechanical Relationships

Whenever an action is done without thinking—and particularly without heart—it can be said to be done "mechanically." This descriptive term calls to my mind a dazed expression on the face of the character in such a state. Such as when news was just passed about the death of a loved one, and the character begins to make coffee—mechanically.

Many people today simply "go through the motions" in their marriages, and in their relationships with their children. It is as if the greater portion of society is painfully aware of some weighty death, which is sapping the heart out of our relationships. Wherever connections are made, they are for the purpose of venting complaints, delegating duties, or giving correction for bad behavior.

People don't care what you've done, they care who you are.

Relationships are not about achieving certain goals, but the happiness of life regardless of achievement. While an execution-focus is a great asset in the world of work, it can prove fatal to a marriage. Similarly, a creator who is greatly composition-focused at work, can become distracted by this "second love," which can also prove fatal to personal relationships.

While a performer at the top of his game has difficulty "leaving the office," a creator in the depths of discovery has difficulty getting the "office" to leave him. Either way, this struggle produces a mental and emotional stress equal to that produced by a dying family member. The culture of material success places so much value on productivity at work, that a failure to move forward might well be the death of one's dreams.

Human relationships—engaged, connected, understanding—are meant to be a part of this success process. Though love be irrational, its call to relax one's pace is in the interest of regaining one's spirit and recharging one's "batteries."

Performers who seek to bulldoze forward in constant progress in every area of life, must necessarily find themselves thwarted when the relationships of these areas become taxed. Creators who desire to capture the delicate mantle of an great idea, must necessarily become frustrated with the lack of perspective afforded by outside relationships.

It is said that opposites attract, and in all ways (save necessary common interests), and in all happy couples (save few exceptions), this is profoundly true. The reason is because we want what we don't have, so we desire in a mate those things we know we lack. In this way, a loving couple (love as verb) can mesh their strengths, masking their weaknesses.

It is therefore plausible to consider that a performer might seek to marry a creator, or that the individuals' balances of focus might not be harmonious—hence the frustration and tendency to become mentally and emotionally absent.

Performers need to realize that their relationships are not a game to be won, but a jungle to be explored—full of mysteries. Creators need to realize the value of mystery in relationships, and to know when to reveal secrets (even unfinished ideas) to the people who want to share their hearts.

When composition- and execution-focuses are understood, and achievement and relationships meshed, then a third area of life can be used wisely to benefit the previous two: recreation.


Part 1 | Part 2

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Think of Others Thinking of Others

Having a charitable spirit means more than just giving monetary handouts. People can give whatever they have. Someone who has little money might give their time. Someone else might give their art. Ultimately, charity is not about handing over anything material free of charge. It is an attitude that desires to enrich another person's life, and a genuine action that comes out of that.

A wealthy person can give money to a charity, but actually be engaged in a transaction of purchasing good PR. Otherwise, he might perform the action anonymously, whereby getting nothing but satisfaction in return. Even so, it is still possible for him to be known for his charity, and yet for his actions to be of a genuine nature.

Another person can have a charitable spirit, despite being in debt and poverty. That person would manifest his charity in doing whatever little things he could for others. These actions are as simple and mundane as holding open a shop door to as taxing as volunteering in a soup kitchen. This person's willingness to help makes him easier to be charitable toward.

A third might volunteer his art. As I've said in past posts, art is anything done with a human touch, and nothing is more touching than genuine charity. This art has a spirit unto itself, and imparts that essence to those who receive it. To make great art, one must develop his skills and thoughts. To give great art, one must develop his character. Powerful creations spread their virtues like fallout.

The high aim of charity is to do more than fill a hole in someone's stomach or pocket—though these are often necessary stepping stones. The aim is help others in such a way as to compel them to "pay it forward." In essence, charity may ought to be thought of as contingent on the recipient's pre-existing thankful nature. To give to a person who feels entitled to it, is to merely fill a bottomless pit.

To put it another way: when we think of others, let us consider how they think of others. To be a good steward of resources or a greedy miser has nothing to do with economic standing.
FEATURED MEDIA: Pay it Forward - When his teacher challenges the class to come up with an idea that could change the world for the better, Trevor McKinney draws up a plan by which a person who receives a good deed "pays it forward" by doing good deeds for three other people, and so on.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Big Tease

An art teacher I once had asked her class the provocative question of which is sexier: the female nude, or a woman in lingerie? Mostly, the guys answered that the nude would be more arousing. Without a visual example, it was difficult to say for certain. However, she told us that someone had done a study and found that when a group drawing a female nude was compared to a group drawing a woman in lingerie, the latter group was significantly more distracted.

So the woman with parts covered is more distracting than the woman with parts exposed?

Yes. The reason is quite simply this: the nude presents no mystery. The lingerie keeps some things undiscovered—it stimulates the imagination. Mature reservation—the big tease—keeps us on the hook for learning more. What one does one step before the blowout, makes the difference between short-term satisfaction and long-term value. Children want the extreme, adults pace themselves.

Let me put it another way. Art is like a puzzle, the harder it is to solve, the more impact it has. Take the Rubik's Cube, for example. It has become a household name. It's notoriously difficult to solve, and there's a constant flow of newcomers trying to figure it out for themselves.

Yet YouTube is full of people doing amazing stuff with it (think you can do it in less than a minute? blindfolded?) Why not seek out expert advice? I have a program on my iPod that can solve a Cube in less than 20 moves when I input the colors. I've only used it once. Why?

Because there is value in composing a system by which you can solve the puzzle. Sure, you can learn from the experts, but where's the fun in that? What you learn from solving a Cube is not how to solve a Cube, but how to solve a mystery. It embeds a structure in your mind for juggling details and seeing the unseen.

The point of art is to instill something greater than an answer. By playing "hard to get," it teaches us how to search. The viewing of a nude breast or of the solution to a puzzle is of a very finite value. The struggle to get there and the growth that comes from the struggle is what creates lasting value.

The harder it is to accomplish, the more victorious you are when you do!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Parental Guidance

"Parental Guidance" implies the parents' involvement. It is not meant to serve merely as a gauge of whether or not a child is allowed to watch something. It is as foolish to keep difficult media from a child who may learn lessons from it, as it is to blindly hand any media to a child regardless of the content's rating or the child's preparedness.

Media is not a babysitter!

Parents who treat television, movies, and other media like a babysitter fall into two categories, which roughly align with political labels. "Conservative" parents desire censored, beige, moral-laden media content which they can trust not to harm their children in their absence. "Liberal" parents desire that their children be grown up enough to handle whatever it is they watch. Both views fundamentally suffer from the absence of parental guidance.

There is nothing wrong with either of these views in moderation. As a child grows up in such a diverse multimedia culture, it is only natural that they should desire and be allowed to learn from a mix of media sources—even a mix of true and false is useful with wise parental guidance. On one hand, parents have a duty to protect their children from the vulgar and the biased, but on the other hand, age is only a rule of thumb, and moderate roughness merely emulates life—if this view is taught by wise parental guidance.

This may be an overly general observation, but it seems to me that there are some inevitable dynamics here. Namely, that those whose parents let them watch "everything," eventually create rebellion among those whose parents let them watch "nothing." Without maturity, the first group will naturally indulge in extremes—and therefore recommend them. This creates poisonous biases and stunted emotional growth. As children, the second group is naturally curious about what they might be missing, and so defy their parents, secretly consuming the media recommended by the "everything" group.

Parents who are absent from their children's media diets—for whatever reason—cannot guide their intellectual and emotional growth. Parents of the "everything" group are absent in spirit because they tend to behave more as one of the kids than as parents. Parents of the "nothing" group are absent mostly in body because they have a strong work ethic, thought they live by a moral code which places value on their children.

Of course, there are a vast number of reasons that either parental group is absent in whatever form. Furthermore, the general descriptions I give of each group assume that the parents care enough about their children to have an opinion about the media they view. When physical absence means working to provide, and when spiritual absence means trying to relate, the parents are demonstrating love according to their own perspective.

The point is most media today—of whatever political ilk—tends to accomplish the same end of alienating children from parents. Whether this is by design, as some suppose, or merely collateral damage from the industrial career machine, I can't say. As certain as media is broken down into genres which exclude one cliche from another, so media is designed to capitalize on the gulf between parent and child. So either the child must become the parent, or the parent must become the child.

It seems to me that the solution is to teach parents to be children enough to explore, and grown-up enough to avoid pitfalls. It is not a solution to all the world's problems, but what is needed in the media war is not more extremes, but more moderation. Art transcends genre and, therefore, the human divisions associated with it. Kids won't understand serious literature and parents won't engage with sappy kids' shows.

I assure you: there is a middle ground.
MEDIA: Up - Pixar has a great track record for putting out films that bridge the gap between children and adults with enough meat for discussion. Up begins with a montage of two young people's life together: their dreams, their struggles, growing old, and finally the wife's death. The elderly Carl literally takes his house (the symbol of his whole life) on an airborne journey to realize his and his late wife's dream.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Composition and Execution, Part 1

The World of Work

In my last post, I arrived at the conclusion that the fundamental difference between what I call "creators" and "performers" is in their focus on either composition or execution, respectively. I think it will be valuable to further explore the implications of this conclusion for a variety of societal roles.

I hope to support the thought that there is a definite line between composition-focus and execution-focus. It is also important to point out that a focus on one does not exclude actions in the other. On the surface, there may well be no apparent difference between the actions of a creator versus the actions of a performer. That is, to be defined as a creator or a performer, one must merely desire to focus on one more than the other.

Drive is not about what one does, but about what one wants to do.

The most obvious place to start is where people spend most of their time: the world of work. People work at a number of different occupations in a number of different ways with a number of different approaches. Generally, there are four different approaches to productive work.

Most people work for some other people—either one or two employers or directly self-employed to numerous clients. Part of the remaining group build business entities which provide work (by whatever contract) to the previous two groups, while the other part works at skillful investing.

Fundamental to all of these is that an activity is done according to a certain skill set, and that the fruits of that activity are traded (which is more generally accurate than "sold"). When driven by composition-focus, an individual feels productive to the degree that his work is "outside the box." When motivated by a focus on execution, an individual feels productive to the degree that his work approaches his personal best.

Creators (driven by composition-focus) usually desire to avoid what appears to be competition with others in a fixed game. Instead, they favor working in areas and on projects which contain undefined parameters. The wisest creators understand that their work isn't so much creation as it is discovery. However, they do create a path within that what is otherwise an open field.

When they enjoy being employed or self-employed, their highest art comes in exceeding their employer or clients' expectations with regard to quality. Because they focus on the form of a given thing, the nature of their success is often hidden from view. The difficult labor and most of the failures happen privately.

When they transcend dependence upon others and enjoy an independent life, their highest art comes in the development of both charities and opportunities which succeed in helping others find independence. Their failures tend to be high-profile, and rest on their shoulders alone.

By contrast, performers (driven by execution-focus) usually seek out competition on a regulation track, whereby the difference between themselves and others is made readily apparent. Execution is easier to gauge than composition. The wisest of performers engage in win-win competitions, and know that their only real opponent is themselves.

As employees of both types, their greatest work is defined by checkpoints. The more levels they attain and the faster they attain them, the bigger star they become. Because they focus on activities and their results, the progress of their success is well-known to everyone around them. Likewise, their failures are a popular subject among the jealous.

As owners of businesses and nonprofits (or the money behind them), their greatest work is defined by an accelerated increase in whatever ends the organizations they lead seek to attain. If it is to be profitable, they increase its economic value. If it is to make a difference around the world, they fight to increase its influence. It is difficult to make a private blunder in any role at this level, and for a performer it is no different. However, the greatest performers reach high levels through the support of a team, and so have sustained influence despite setbacks.

This oversimplifies the complicated nature of the world of work, especially with regard to outside concerns, of course. What one does at work, and why one does so, are subjects for further discussion.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August '10: The Month in Posts

I must admit this has been a trying month for me, as evidenced by my diminished number of posts. Everyone has times when life's challenges cannot be put off until another time. These challenges are the sort that require one's creative engine in the production of personal solutions, and so, sap creative energies from outreach projects such as this blog. However, as I read back through the month, I realize that though the articles be fewer, the content seems to me to be growing in quality and clarity. I hope you agree.

New Faith Culture - August 9, 2010
If that one text is perfect, as an adherent must suppose, it cannot explain all the problems of the world. Cannot, because a perfect text cannot by definition contain imperfect thinking, which is at the root of all problems. To follow, but not adopt, a line of imperfect thinking is to education yourself in the art of repairing that thinking. (read more)
Force and Fallout - August 18, 2010
The problem is focus. An artist must possess not only the ability to dream up one idea after another, but also the ability to prioritize these ideas. His vision must include the full breadth and depth of an idea's potential. He must be able to separate the good from the great, and commit to finishing what is destined to be great. (read more)
If I Knew Then... - August 21, 2010
"If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have wasted all that time." This is a common thought for anyone who has persevered through some trial in life, and come out the other side with nothing material to show for it. Sometimes driven people can become so focused on their goals—particularly if it is a material goal—that they fail to address problems along the way. (read more)
Unity and Understanding - August 26, 2010
Unity and understanding are two terms which are critical to a civil society and its prosperity. Both are often applauded in the media, but not as a general rule—applying to everyone. It's one thing to desire unity and understanding within a tribe, and quite another to desire them between tribes. (read more)