Stripped of bias

Photo by Wells Baum

Mushy in the middle, stuck amid choices that cancel each other out. We all hear different things.

The pragmatist razor skins down contradictions and chooses the strongest case on both sides.

Rising above sidedness is a lofty goal, the aim of an idealist. But who’s to say one shouldn’t try?

Clinging to the past, never shaping the future. The biggest risk is doing nothing; virtuality is not a panacea for society’s ills.

No ifs, no buts.

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A studio state of mind 

Photo by Wells Baum

The studio satisfies the residue of attention.

It is a room with a view, one that faces up to the resistance, and compels us to push on with god-willing persistence.

But the studio can be anywhere. It is mobile, a canvass in hand, the imagination at play, anything that cultivates attention for periods at a time.

Deep work requires periods of focus and habitual disconnection.

We develop ideas by doing something — taking deliberate breaks — to discover new ideas by doing nothing.

Discovery begs to be lived out, beyond the studio and into the open space.

Give it some thought

Photo by Lukasz Saczek

There’s always a ‘why,’ even if the observation is visceral. Feelings are antecedents to descriptions. The problem is communicating your gut into words.

You already know the answer. What you don’t know is how to explain it. You can’t possibly understand anything until you give it some thought.

Reflection is at the core of all deeper understanding. If you’re still struggling to express it, grab a piece of paper and make a list. Reasoning starts from the inside out.

Get it done

…is what most leaders command. They care less about the thought behind the work than shipping the work itself.

But getting it done is an assembly line philosophy. The less skilled person with a little bit of grit is just as efficient as the smartest person in the room.

Most workers prefer to be busy bees and lemmings rather than innovators and unique thinkers. They rather focus on being productive than creative.

Conversely, some thinkers spend too much time debating possibilities and never ship anything. They get caught in beta.

Knowing what and when to work on something is the maker’s dilemma. The end-product ultimately speaks for itself.

Talking Heads

People learn through experience and clear examples. That’s why classrooms and meetings are full of images, maps, and graphs.

But the teaching only starts there. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to give context to the material. A good teacher communicates effectively and provokes different trains of thought amongst students.

Meanwhile, it’s the student’s responsibility to be curious and ask questions. A good student thinks alone but bounces off ideas within the classroom.

Teaching and learning are reciprocal relationships that lean on an open forum. So while visual examples explain everything, they don’t make sense until the material in them gets talked about or written down.

Reasonably Motivated

…is just enough motivation to get stuff done.

Money and fame often serve as motivation. So too does doing good for the world. Still, it’s impossible to be motivated every day.

Motivation is not a prerequisite to do work. People work even when they don’t feel like it. Some call this a habit. Others call it a profession.

Into the Jungle

Goals create focus. But those same goals can also crimp the pursuit.

Instead of focusing on the goal, focus on the process.

Instead of relentlessly pursuing positivity, happily chase failure.

A real goal is one that’s doom to fail. It probably is impossible. But no one succeeds in their first try. Life is a game of increments.

Summary

Skip progress and perfection and embrace process and uncertainty. Show up everyday, do the work, and ship it if it’s good enough. Keep the practice of patience and success will meet you on the other side.

Olana House

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting the Olana House by American painter Frederich Church.  

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He designed the house himself in the 1860s, inspired by his trips to the Middle East.  

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Sticking to Hudson School aesthetic, he built the home with views that mimicked his paintings.  Yes, this is a reflection selfie off the house into the backyard. 

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Two things stood out to me on the tour:  

1.  Frederich Church was a devout Protestant.  However, he prioritized his interests and curiosities over religion.  Since he was an artist, he may have also used his house to market/differentiate himself from the others. 

2.  The museum had a couple offices inside.  I would say that seeing those rooms tainted the illusion.  When you’re recreating stories, you should probably close the door on modernity.  

Story short, you have to admire Church for doing something different in a more parochial era of American culture.  But you have to do what no one else is doing if you want to stand out.  Uniqueness is timeless.  
 

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More Lead Time

  • For projects

  • For departures

  • For dinner

We start early in order to be on time, for lateness is due more to ill-preparation and indecision than needing more time.

Plan, do, and then deduce. Just avoid procrastination at all costs.

“Time is a great teacher, but it kills all its pupils.” — Hector Berlioz

Control-Alt-Delete

Cut and paste is more than a computer shortcut.  It’s the paradox of our times. 

Cut and paste can save you time and make you more productive. Why rewrite the same formula in excel 100 times over?  Why attribute the source when you can embed a photo and make it look like your own? The Internet is the world’s largest cut and paste machine.

However, reducing the brain to automata poses serious consequences.  It undermines thinking into desultory action.  It turns man into a machine.

Machines reproduce.  They don’t think and create new things, yet.  God gave humans brain to release them from the prison of biology. 

Everything is practice. Repetition is not an excuse to skip steps.  The power of habit compels the human to start all over again.

Passion Detector

There’s really only one way to make a decision: you either say “hell yeah” or no. There’s no in between, no fence-sitting.

People that say yes to everything sacrifice time. Time is the currency of happiness.

Of course, saying no implies that you have choice in the first choice. If you’ve got nothing going for you, you might as well say yes because you’ve got nothing to lose.

Decision-making is a gut choice. People know immediately when a new opportunity excites them. “Hell yes” is therefore your best passion detector.

Camera+

It’s what you look for and what you see.  If it was just what you see you’d go blind to your surroundings.  If it was just what you looked for you’d miss the subtle differences you see by focusing.  

Observation is the practice of zooming in and zooming out.  Your eyes write stories and etch memories with every sight.  No person’s vision is exactly the same.  Perspective is a singular experience in which everyone sees different things.

What’s obtuse for you may appear obvious and normal to other people.  And vice versa.  But vision is ultimately social.  People have to agree on the same things.  So we drive on the right side of the road and define cats versus dogs.  What you see is what you get, but that doesn’t mean you always have to agree.

Self-Competition

Competition convinces people to work hard for the wrong things. This is especially true in school.

Students compete for superiority because they have no other task at hand. School is their job. The SAT’s sole purpose is to further segregate the competition.

Corporate jobs emphasize similar desultory competition; instead of competing for grades employees compete for title and more money.

Why compete at all for anything that falls outside the personal mission? A word of advice: Don’t compete. Create.

Creativity emerges from the innate desire to make new things or make existing ones better. Creativity focuses on benefitting the social good rather than elbowing for extra credit.

Animals compete to survive. Humans already have plenty of food. Competition lies only within self, to fulfill one’s innate desire to do greater good.

To Be a Generalist

Generalists know a little bit of something about everything. They are curious and use their vast references to combine ideas. Generalists make good cratediggers.

But when it comes to goal-setting, generalists tend to be depressed. They struggle to specify exactly what they want and instead opt for the abstract.

Meanwhile, specialists excel at doing one thing. They tend to be confident yet defined. They only know what they know right now and can only see something as it long it connects back to their area of expertise. This is why accountants are matter-of-fact thinkers and creators can’t justify formulas.

The reality is that one has to be both expert and liberal arts student. The world admires interesting people with just enough flair for a good conversation.