Confronting reality đź‘€

Goal setting is like game setting. You start at level 1 and graduate into unforeseen directions.

If you’re lucky, you’ll ping-pong forward, making leaps and bounds.

But more often than not, declaring your ambitions acts as a compass, guiding you with mere suggestions on how to proceed.

The lighthouse may tease what’s ahead yet what remains murky is only cleared up when confronted in reality. 

Still, the opposition throws roadblocks, trying to flip your resiliency into a foot-dragging laggard.

On, in, or around — you’ll find a way to build a bridge or crush through the wall with a persistent hammer. Give into the resistance, and it will proudly celebrate your inaction.

The goose gets bones via experimentation, the same way an athlete strengthens their body through bicep curls or a monk jogs the brain through meditation.

Even the machine evolves to beat a chess master after learning from its own failed iterations. Wrongs accumulate until they make it right.

The choice is yours to either show-up and move or yield to imperious anticipation. It is recommended that one spend less time pausing and more time living en medias res.

Effort investigates the self and paves the road of life with a bunch of guesses. Fortunately, those assumptions appear to get more accurate with time.

3, 2, 1…action!

The gutless algorithm

In today’s age, you get picked (and judged) by algorithms and your number of social media fans.

No matter your unique talent, it is the statistics that predetermine your success.

But the element of surprise is not over.

John Hammond discovered Billie Holiday, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan at the clubs. As a staunch contrarian, he looked for talent that offered a fresh and rebellious sound.

Meanwhile, the Goldman Sachs algorithmic machine incorrectly picked Germany to make the World Cup final.

Data or gut, predicting future success is impossible because everything thrives on chance.

Truth happens to an outcome.

Read The Data Or The Hunch?

The hidden power of less

Less isn’t necessarily better than more. However, it appears that in most scenarios that it is most often the case.

  • Less participants, more effective meetings
  • Less worry, more action
  • Less ownership, more renting
  • Less eating, more exercising
  • Less internet, more human interaction
  • Less Instagram, more non-filter
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”1607747308″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Less stuff[/easyazon_link], more happiness
  • Less hate, more love
  • Less cheating, more honesty
  • Less work, more play
  • Less time, more focus
  • Less wishing, more invention
  • Less global, more local
  • Less volume, more silence
  • Less driving, more carpooling
  • Less fighting, more cooperation
  • Less success, more failure
  • Less men, more wom-en
  • Less print, more trees
  • Less self, more generosity
  • Less lizard brain, more confidence
  • Less lateness, more punctuality
  • Less shipping, more digital delivery
  • Less jpegs, more studio visits
  • Less quantity, more quality
  • Less sadness, more laughter
  • Less blindness, more realism
  • Less fright, more audacity
  • Less seeing, more insight
  • Less impulse, more abstraction

If you flip these around with more preceding less (e.g. more lateness, less punctuality), they reflect a bitter insight. Presentation predetermines the prism of observation.

Going first is not as bad as you think

No one wants to take the first piece of dessert because of the chance it’s been touched. People prefer the pieces in the back. The same goes for the first milk carton at the grocery. Why grab the first one we can see presumably untouched versions inches behind?

No one wants to sit in the front of the classroom because it increases our chances of getting called on. We prefer to sit in the back, hiding like a needle in a haystack.

No one wants to be the first to dance at a gala. But everyone starts dancing as soon as one couple makes the first move. People feel more comfortable in conforming when they can blend in.

Who wants to be first? No one, typically.

No matter how much we obsess with primacy, most people fear to take that first step. People desire success, but they refuse the extra attention that comes with it.

But being first can become normal quickly. The jitters fade after we decide to dive in. We halt the mind’s exaggeration and imaginary fears.

So that piece of cake is just as fresh. Buying the first carton of milk makes it taste no different than the rest. Sitting in front of the classroom is as equitable as the back. And taking that first dance becomes a pleasant rhythm everyone else wants to mimic.

No one actually cares about standing out as much as we think!

There’s no harm in being the first to make the leap. As opportunity dries up, hesitating to the end can even be more uncomfortable.

The longer we wait, the worse it gets. In some cases, it’s better to go first and get it over with than fueling a sense of doubt.

Blinded by closeness

You can’t make anything in the forest stand still. It is in constant flux, whether that’s in seasons, wildfires, or in the territory marking of a killer bear.

Nature is fickle. It calls for preparedness and a broad scope.

“You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

One must not only have a plan in trekking the forest also but remain on guard. As the saying goes, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Proximity can be blinding. Looking at the individual trees clouds the big picture just as the donut hole takes your eyes off the whole donut.

Linearity isn’t as important as a deliberate wandering, with eyes open to the vastness of seeing.

Let the forest speak.

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.

The window within

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Photo by Wells Baum (India 2014)

A restless creative mind, scatterbrained with curiosity and ruminating fecundity.

Where to look? What to see? Which to internalize and reinvent?

The window’s aperture compels focus, into an adventure that forces you to look outside your own existence.

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.

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.


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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